Saturday, February 27, 2010

Yet another birthday

I'm 59 today. I feel a lot better than I thought I would at this age. When I was a teenager, 30 seemed old and 40 seemed ancient. Only grandparents got older than 50 and they could barely move. Now I'm getting close to 60 and in a lot of ways, I've never felt better. I'm definitely happier than when I was younger.

Being married and having children has definitely helped. When I was single, I spent 99% of my time trying to get women interested in me and worrying about my inability to do it. I spent the other 1% getting things done that needed doing. While there was a lot of free time to do whatever I wanted when I was single, I never found the "exciting" things I did as much fun or as fulfilling as the things I do now with my family.

We're not going to do much today other than go out to lunch at The Olive Garden. There will be cake, cards, hugs and kisses. There will be some presents. But nothing beats waking up this morning and seeing my wife next to me and having my kids wish me a happy birthday. My birthday wish is that everyone could be as happy and as fortunate as I am.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Why NBC bought rights to the Olympics

I was listening to a story on the radio on the way home tonight about how many people are complaining about the coverage of the Winter Olympics by NBC. Most events cannot be seen as they are happening. There is too much talking and analysis and not enough action. Many events are only partially covered. We see only the highlights. This was contrasted with coverage in other countries where, as one Norwegian said, if they didn't fully cover all the events there would probably be riots.

I was thinking that while one of the obvious strategies for NBC is to have the Olympics for their drawing effect so they could compete against what the other networks are showing during this time. But I think a another part of their strategy is to keep other networks from getting the Olympics. It's almost as if NBC feels it wins by the other networks not being able to use the Olympics to beat NBC in the ratings. It's like a chess match where one player will play to a draw just so they don't lose a game in which they are not doing well. They think they'll win another time. Is that what NBC is thinking? With the kind of coverage they are showing us, I find it hard to imagine when they might win.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Taking the blame

A few weeks ago, I needed something to make it through the rest of the afternoon but I'd already finished the pot of tea I'd brewed that morning so I thought I'd have a cup of coffee. I went to the cafeteria to the coffee machine and found a mess. Someone had made coffee but had spilled the old grounds and some coffee on the floor and on the counter and had just left the mess there. So, I decided to clean it up, take my cup of coffee and get back to work.

Why is nothing ever simple? As I looked into the mess I saw it was more extensive that I first thought so it was going to take longer than I first estimated. I guess this is why the person who caused it had just left it. But the problem remained and if I didn't clean it up, someone else would have to handle it. So, I got down on my knees and started to work. It didn't take long for other people to come in and the first thing out of everyone's mouth was, "Oh, look who made a mess!"

Isn't that the way it always is? For as many times as we see the person who made the mess just scuttle off and leave it, we all seem to think that the person cleaning up the mess was the one who made it. A similar thing that happens, usually in grade school or with people of that mentality, when someone leaves off some gas and then doesn't admit it. Of course, the Grade School Judicial System has come up with a way to deal with these things, "He who smelt it, dealt it." Whoever mentions the smell is immediately blamed for it. So, everyone stands there ignoring it or leaving if possible. There's not much to be done to remedy the situation without seeming to have "smelt it" so no one will start fanning or opening windows for fear of being labeled as the one who caused the problem.

Back to me cleaning up the coffee mess. I gave up explaining that I hadn't made the mess. Besides taking time away from working on the problem, I wasn't about to try to justify myself to the people who I imagined were thinking that I'd made the mess. But as I worked and more people came in for coffee, I was getting in their way. Some were mad that I would get between them and their coffee just to clean up the mess. So, again, my clean up was slowed down as I had to move to let them get their coffee. Some, who knew I hadn't made the mess, said I should just leave, "You're just enabling the mess makers. They'll never learn if you just clean up after them." Others said, "Don't you have something more important to do?"

Then people started offering suggestions of where I'd gone wrong - both in making the mess to begin with (you know my thoughts here) and in cleaning it up incorrectly. "What you should have done" and "I'd do it like this" being thrown freely around. I finally finished and got back to my desk (after reheating the coffee that had gone cold). It really makes you less likely to jump in and help the next time you see something that needs to be done.

That night, watching the news about the handling of the recession we're in, the arguments about how to handle it, who's fault it is and how long it is taking, it dawned on me that I'd lived the life of a politician for a short time that day. I won't be running for office any time soon.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

A Prairie Home Companion

I see that today is the anniversary, in 1979, of the first national broadcast of A Prairie Home Companion on National Public Radio. The show itself started in 1974 by Minnesota Public Radio. I think it must have been carried by other public radio stations before 1979, though, because I remember listening to it on WETA in Washington DC during the three years, 1975 - 1977,  I lived in Northern Virginia in Reston, VA.

In case you don't know, A Prairie Home Companion is a radio variety show. It is modeled on the old radio programs of the early to mid 20th Century. It has a great house band and a large number of famous musicians as guests. It almost always has some comedic radio "drama" segments and always has storytelling section about the mythical hometown of the host, Garrison Keillor, Lake Wobegon. That is always my favorite part.

The music is most often folk or country style but often they throw in big band music or opera or something else to keep you guessing. Once in a while they will have a special show like their annual joke show where most of the show is filled with jokes sent in my listeners. If you've never heard it, you owe it to yourself to tune into a National Public Radio station in your are on Saturday night from 6 - 8 PM and just sit back and listen. You can find a station that carries it at this page. I know you'll enjoy it.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Once in a while, I have a good idea

I bought the pendant pictured here for my wife for Valentine's Day.

The heart is made of amethyst. That my birthstone. I liked the idea of thinking about it as my wife capturing my heart.

For as nice as this looks, it looks even nicer when she is wearing it. I wrote this in the card I got for her:

"You get prettier every year, you get smarter every month and you get me food every day." 

Was that a bad thing to say? I thought it was kind of clever but the room got quiet when she read it. Maybe I should have just signed it "Love" and left it go at that.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Snow moval

Yes, I titled this "Snow moval" not "Snow REmoval". That's because, in spite of what our town calls it, no one is removing any snow from the roads or sidewalks. They are just moving all the snow onto our property and expecting us to clean it up. I'm not removing it, either. I'm just moving it to a different place in our yard - preferably not in our driveway. Snow Removal would mean someone is picking up the snow and taking it somewhere else. Or even melting it and letting the water drain away. Now there's an interesting thought.

I'm sorry to keep ranting about this but it drives me crazy to take about a half hour to clear the driveway up to about ten or fifteen feet from the road and then take another half hour just to get that last ten or fifteen feet done. That's not only because the town plows have piled it up so high but because it is slushy with salt-melted snow and has pieces of rock and pavement in it. One of these days I hope to get before and after picture of this. Before the plows come and after the plows have done their work. After I've calmed down. Perhaps some day I'll get over this.

Perhaps I won't.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

The burden of responsibility

I was waiting in line to use one of the three microwaves in our company's kitchen when a coworker walks up behind me, puts her food on the table and says, "I'm after you. Don't let anyone go before me." and walks off! Now, what. I didn't have time to protest or say anything. So, now, a microwave opens up and I put my stuff in. I've got one minute and forty-five seconds to worry. Another guy comes up and I say, "You're in line after her," pointing to the food sitting on the table. "If she's not here, I'm next," he says.

I hate these kinds of things. It reminds me of the Seinfeld episode when the Elaine character is asked to save some seats for the others. She says,

"No! I don't want to save seats. Don't put me through that! I once had the fleece just ripped out of my winter coat in a seat-saving incident!"
from the Seinfeld Scripts site

That's how I feel when someone asks me to save their place. In this case, more people were coming into the cafeteria and I didn't feel like arguing with anyone. Luckily, this time, the coworker who had asked me to save her place returned just as two microwaves opened up. So, she and the fellow who had arrived after her were both able to heat their meals without further waiting. But that never happens in the movies or on TV.

Sunday, February 07, 2010

A "Getting Stuck in Something" story

On Friday this week, one of the fellows at work was talking about heading for a week-end trip to Washington DC just as weather reports were saying there was going to be a huge storm there (and there was). That led to a bunch of stories by everyone about getting stuck in the snow at various times. It brought to mind a time I got stuck, too, but not in the snow.

I had recently moved here (about thirty years ago!) and had never lived near the ocean before. So, one morning I decided to drive down by the beach before heading to work. There was a storm offshore that was supposed to be stirring up the waves and I wanted to see them. Well, not only were the waves high but it was high tide, too. Water was coming over the road. The waves weren't crashing over the road, though, so I figured it was not dangerous. I kept going but there was more a more water and in a few places, the water was depositing sand on the road. The sand and water weren't deep at this point but I didn't know what was up ahead. I was on a section of the road where no roads entered to take away from the shore. The only way out was to move forward into the unknown or back through the bad conditions I'd already been through.

In January last year, I wrote a post called Almost made the Third Mistake. I was walking through the woods behind our office in icy conditions and ignored two warnings but finally wised up and turned back before it got too bad. I did that, in part, because I learned my lesson from this story almost thirty years ago.

In this case, with sea water getting deeper and waves crashing just short of the road and sand building up on the road, I had made the first two mistakes:

1) I ignored the bad conditions and went anyway 

2) I assumed the conditions would get better up ahead

I didn't think I had to worry about the third mistake:

3) I was going to have to go back through all the mess I had already gone through

I was just going to plow ahead because I knew there were roads away from the shore ahead. They were closer than if I turned around and headed back. But oh that second mistake! Surely things wouldn't get worse in the next 100 yards or so. Well, they did. As I made the next turn, I could see the turn-off that led away from the beach but then, as I got closer, I could see a sand bar all the way across the road about 20 yards before that turn-off road. What to do? I didn't have a lot of time to think about it. The waves were getting higher and throwing more water over the road and the sandy areas were growing and getting deeper. I gunned the engine and headed for what looked like the lowest part of the sand. I'd just blast through the sand like they do in the movies.

The car stopped as soon as it hit. There was no way out. So, I had to walk up the rad about a quarter mile to a pay phone (remember, thirty years ago - no cell phones) and called the AAA tow truck. At least I was covered for the towing.

The final indignity was that by the time the tow truck got there, the town Department of Public Works guys came by and put up Road Closed signs. Where were they a half hour ago? The tow truck driver couldn't even get to my car by then and had to walk the tow cable about 10 yards back to my car and drag it through the sand bar. Then, as we're driving to my house he said I owe him the full amount because AAA doesn't pay when the road is closed and you make a stupid decision. I argued that the road wasn't closed when I got stuck but it was no use. And I did feel pretty stupid anyway. Maybe having to pay the full towing fee made the lesson sink in.

Thursday, February 04, 2010

The trouble with dogs learning things

Here's a picture of our dog Charlie. You can see that he is interested in something. Well, it's that small pile of leaves. Sometime when he was a puppy, he learned that mice and other things sometimes make their homes under piles of leaves.

Now, whenever I take him for a walk, we can't pass a pile of leaves without him thrusting his snout into them and taking a whiff to see if somebody lives there. That's all well and good but when I'm taking him for a walk...for makes it hard to keep going and work up your heart rate. But I hate to drag him along because he enjoys it so much. So, I just have to walk longer to make up for it. Or maybe I should jog in place.

Today is a good day to enjoy Hound Dog Thursday at my wife's blog.