Friday, January 28, 2011

Camping and that pesky squirrel

All of this winter weather --snow, sleet, below zero temperatures--has made me long for summer. This week, I was thinking of all the wonderful times I have had in past summers, and I remembered a summer camping trip we took when my three daughters were all in elementary school. The youngest was kindergarten age.

We, my family and my wife’s sisters family, were camping along the southern shore of Lake Ontario and had one of those prime campsites with an amazing view of the lake. At night the sound of waves lapping the shoreline at the base of the twenty foot drop off lulled us to sleep. The days were filled with activity under the warm sun.

Much of that daily activity centered around preparing meals, enjoying them together, and watching out for the children running around. Everything was wonderful, except for that one pesky squirrel. He made himself known during lunch one afternoon. Boldly, he approached the picnic bench where we were eating and begged for food. My daughters were intimidated by this small grey hairball, and let me know it. “Daddy, he is going to eat my sandwich.” Daddy, he wants my juice box.” Daddy, can’t you do something?”

Not wanting to be a neglectful father, I faced my own fear of squirrels, swallowed hard, stood up, and commanded the squirrel to leave, “BEGONE!” I intoned loudly, commandingly, and dramatically, my finger pointing to the vast wilderness around us (ok, so the vast wilderness was really a bunch of other campsites, separated by a few yards of trees and brush). At which the fur ball simply sat up on hind legs, cleaned its whiskers, and glared at me. Undaunted, I raised the volume of my command a few more decibels and yelled firmly, “Go away you darn varmint!” At this I am sure he rolled on the ground in squeaks of laughter, although my wife insists he just cleaned his whiskers again.

Now I was angry, so I growled deeply, and yelled “SCAT!” as I stepped forward and slammed my size 11 tennis shoe on the ground in the general direction of the offensive, nut-hoarding, sandwich-envying, drink-box coveting pest. I don’t really wear ‘tennis’ shoes, but I am not sure if Reebok would let me use their name here, especially if it raises the ire of the squirrel lovers. As the cloud of dust settled, the squirrel scurried back into the brush and I was able to sit down to eat. After a few moments, my littlest daughter bravely announced, “Daaaadeeeee, heee is baaack.” This is how the entire meal went; I scared fur ball away and one daughter or another announced fur ball’s return.

Between lunch and dinner, we kept hearing the deep boom of a cannon firing. After much discussion amongst the adults on the trip, we came to the conclusion that the farmers must have some motion controlled electronic cannon in the vineyards to scare away the seagulls.  In between booms, we planned what to do about our uninvited pest for the next meal.

By dinner we had a plan of attack, we politely watched our neighbors progress in meal preparation. When they sat down to eat, we waited a few moments and then we sat down to eat. Success! Fur ball elected to eat with the neighbors that evening.

The last morning of camping, we were awakened at 4 a.m. by distant rumblings. Standing at the edge of the escarpment, I looked across the lake and watched as distant flashes of lightning lit up the angry looking cumulonimbus clouds slowly lumbering our way. I checked with the National Weather Service and heard what I already knew, thunderstorms would overspread the forecast area from west to east in the early morning hours. After intense discussions at the escarpment, punctuated by shining flashlights across the open water (as if the little lights could somehow illuminate the miles of water), we adults decided to pack up before the storm hit.

At 5 a.m. we roused the children and explained the situation. They, being curious and independent girls had to examine the sky over the lake for themselves. Solemnly they informed us that despite our being parents, and  as everyone knows, parents are usually wrong, we were actually correct. As we packed up, the storm over the lake drove seagulls inland, the seagulls tripped the electronic cannon, which boomed incessantly.

The eldest daughter, being much more geographically aware than her sisters announced, “That farmer must think the Canadians are invading.”

To which the youngest replied, “He probably thinks he can scare the storm away.”

The middlest offered her insight, “Wrong!, He is trying to scare that pesky squirrel away!”

Friday, January 21, 2011

No good thing.

There is nothing funny about nineteen people‭ ‬being shot,‭ ‬six of them dying,‭ ‬in Tucson Arizona.‭ ‬The details of who died and who was injured have been hashed and rehashed,‭ ‬and there is nothing amusing‭ ‬in any of that.‭

There are however,‭ ‬some positive aspects to be found in reactions to the shootings.‭ ‬For instance,‭ ‬two men who are old enough to be his grandfather tackled the shooter.‭ ‬Seventy-four year old Bill Badger,‭ ‬a retired U.S.‭ ‬Army colonel,‭ ‬and sixty-one year old Roger Salzgeber restrained the alleged shooter,‭ ‬after someone hit him with a folding chair.‭ ‬Another sixty-one year old,‭ ‬Patricia Maisch,‭ ‬prevented the shooter from reloading his gun.

This information completely shatters notions that old people only play‭ ‬shuffleboard and complain about bursitis.‭ ‬Imagine the conversations at the local senior center over lunch.‭ “‬Hey Fred,‭ ‬how many crazed gunmen have you tackled today‭?”‬

“Only one,‭ ‬you‭?”

“Dude, I almost tackled a mass murderer,‭ ‬but some‭ ‬90‭ ‬year old gal body slammed him first.‭”


The American Chapter of Lawbreakers Unite‭ (ACLU‭) ‬has issued a statement condemning old people‭’‬s thwarting of badness.‭ “‬This is an outrage,‭ ‬our members work hard to steal money from the elderly.‭ ‬We condemn any tackling,‭ ‬hitting with purses,‭ ‬canes,‭ ‬or any other adaptive equipment,‭ ‬by the elderly, against our members.‭ ‬It is our intention to file suit,‭ ‬with impunity,‭ ‬against any attack on our members, while they are engaged in thievery or causing general mayhem.‭”

Reading the ACLU‭’‬s statement highlights another positive aspect to this national tragedy,‭ ‬the new words and phrases added to our national vocabulary.‭ ‬Firstly,‭ ‬the word vitriol.‭ ‬I suppose I have seen this word before,‭ ‬but until the relentless droning by the press,‭ ‬I was never sure of‭ ‬its meaning,‭ ‬and am absolutely convinced that it could not be used in ordinary conversation.‭ I was wrong. ‬Normally I would say,‭ “‬My boss complained about my‭ ‬3‭ ‬hour lunch.‭”‬ Now I say,‭ “‬My boss was full of vitriol when he ascertained the amount of time I spent in gastronomic indulgence.‭”‬

Another  example is the term “Blood libel‭”;‬ a phrase used by Sarah Palin,‭ ‬to answer the criticism much of the press has leveled against her because of a map with crosshairs on it. The crosshairs‭ ‬indicating democrat controlled congressional districts she would like to see controlled by republicans.‭ By definition, blood libel‬,‭ ‬according to‭ ‬Rabbi Shmuley Boteach,‭ ‬refers to holding a general population responsible for murdering,‭ ‬or being an accessory to murder.

This brings up the next aspect of this tragedy,‭ ‬namely the Press,‭ ‬which is like the ubiquitous,‭ “‬they‭”‬,‭ ‬and‭ “‬them‭”‬.‭ ‬The Press must think we are all a bit daft to believe that one map with crosshairs scattered across it would be a major motivator for this horrible tragedy.‭ After all, o‬ur conversation is loaded with shooting references.‭ ‬We shop at Target.‭ ‬When asked what time we will arrive,‭ “‬We are shooting for‭ ‬4‭ ‬p.m.‭”‬ When giving short salient points in an outline we use bullets.‭ ‬When I stub my toe I say,‭ “‬Shooooot‭!”‬ While passing a slow motorist I‭ ‬‘gun‭’‬ the engine.‭

In this case the alleged shooter was a loner who played video games.‭ ‬These two items alone are more of an indicator of a leaning to badness then a webpage with cross hairs.‭ ‬How many times‭ ‬after‭ ‬the law has caught some bad person have you heard neighbors say,‭ “‬Oh,‭ ‬I knew something was wrong with him from the beginning,‭ ‬he was always so friendly and outgoing.‭ ‬There‭ ‬were always people in his‭ ‬life‭;‬ he was so easy to get along with.‭”‬ No,‭ ‬normally you hear things about how much of a loner,‭ ‬quiet,‭ ‬keep to‭ ‬himself kind of a guy.‭

‭The shooter not only was a loner, he was a gamer. Which, I am told by young and groovy people, means he played video games. We are all well aware of the dangers posed by video games, carpal tunnel, bad eye sight, obesity, and homicidal tendencies.

In the midst of all this vitriol,‭ ‬heated debate,‭ ‬and general tongue-sticking-out at‭  ones ‬enemies,‭ at least ‬one person seems to be leading by example.‭ ‬The senior,‭ as in elder‬,‭ ‬senator from Arizona,‭ ‬John McCain,‭ ‬has been unusually silent.‭ ‬He has been,‭ ‬according to reports,‭ ‬visiting the injured and those who have lost loved ones.‭ ‬He has been extending personal condolences and warm words of kindness.‭ ‬In a time where people observe a moment of silence,‭ ‬he is demonstrating days of silence.‭ Silence ‬terrifies The Press, particularly the Broadcast ‭Press, ‬whose sole purpose is to fill every waking moment,‭ ‬on a multitude of outlets,‭ ‬with a‭ ‬never-ending flow of words.‭

Words did not tackle the shooter in Tucson.‭ ‬Words did not restrain‭ ‬him from reloading his gun.‭ ‬Senior citizens of action tackled and restrained him.‭ ‬So,‭ ‬if like me,‭ ‬the vitriol‭ (‬wow,‭ ‬I actually have used that word three times in this post‭) ‬is giving you acid indigestion,‭ ‬follow the example of these silver crowned men and‭ ‬women,‭ ‬get out and do something.‭ ‬Go tackle a maniac gunman.‭ Y‬ank bullets out of a deranged‭ ‬assassin‭’‬s hand.‭ ‬Find a loner and befriend him or her.‭ ‬Do not be a talking head,‭ ‬do something.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

The wandering pole

I am overjoyed to report that no pilots have stopped their Boeing 747 in front of my house to ask for directions. In light of recent developments at the north pole, this is a relief.

This was a concern when I read, according to FOXNEWS, the north pole had moved. Thankfully, it did leave a forwarding address. Because of the move, however, the Tampa International Airport is putting up new signs along it’s runways to tell pilots which way to the north pole. A spokesperson was quoted as anonymously saying, “In this troubled economy, it was fiscally prudent to simply install new signs, rather than to have a moving company move the entire runway to point the right direction.”

Apparently pilots do not watch where they are going, they pilot by a complex mixture of GPS coordinates and compasses and so need to be told which way to the north pole. I am fuzzy on the details, but perhaps you remember the pilots a short time ago who missed the turn for an airport in the Midwest and almost ended up in Albuquerque. This was due to “inattention in the cockpit”. Which is why I tell my eldest daughter, who is learning to drive, “WATCH WHERE YOU ARE GOING!!” On a side note, she has never missed a turn and ended up in Albuquerque.

Unless I underestimate lawmakers insatiable need to hold hearings and initiate investigations, the lawmakers in Florida will launch a full scale investigation into who moved the North pole, why they were not informed, and how it could move without prior approval from the Committee in Charge of Pole Location.

The article did not specify exactly when the pole moved, although apparently it did not hamper Santa Claus from his flight of December 24 and 25. Additional investigations will most assuredly be conducted to ascertain whether Mr Claus had prior knowledge of the pole’s move, and whether this amounts to insider trading. Additionally, Federal Authorities are poring over Wikileaks to see whether any information regarding the move had been leaked to the web site and Congress is launching an investigation.

I am of the opinion that all of this hullabaloo about the north pole is half-baked. The real issue is the south pole. My third grade teacher demonstrated that the north and south poles of a magnet are always opposite each other, to further illustrate this fact he showed us the globe, where very plainly the north and south poles were on opposite sides of the globe. This would mean that if the south pole moved, the north pole would have to move as well, since even though they are magnetic relatives, like some family members, they don’t get along all that well.

With this information in mind, I did some research on the south pole and the Antarctic region. It appears that this anomaly is the work of the penguins. Those flightless birds of the southern polar region moved the south pole. Apparently the move was in support of the Pittsburgh Penguin Hockey Team, to whom the Penguin Business Association of the South Pole licenses the penguin likeness. This likeness-franchise brings needed financial support to the antarctic region, since most of the regions assets are frozen.

This fearless blogger has uncovered the following facts. First, as of the end of November, the Penguins have met the Tampa Bay Lightning two times. The Penguins lost one, and they won the other game. Their next scheduled meeting was in Pittsburgh on January 5. I believe the north pole, forced to move by the movement of the south pole, which was pushed from it’s normal resting spot by a bulldozer, stolen from McMurdo station, by a band of renegade Penguins. This happened sometime prior to the January 5 match up between the two teams.

It would be fairly obvious that the airplane, carrying the Tampa Bay Lightning, upon leaving the airport, got lost due to the new location of the north pole. The brave pilots of the aircraft, with nerves of steel, found Pittsburgh. But, the delay and added stress of being lost bewildered the usually flashy Lightning, who lost to the Penguins in a thunderous 1 to 8 score.The next meeting between the two teams is not until March 31, in Tampa, by which time the airport in Tampa will have completed putting up the new signs, allowing for the safe and timely landing and departure of the Penguins. As was, undoubtedly, the plan of the antarctic penguins.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

The problem with classical music

There are several problems with classical music. I know this because I am a self proclaimed classical music afficionado. As I sit here writing this piece I am looking over at the piano, with a large classical music score opened on it. I can tell it’s classical music because there are no words between the line-thingys where the notes live. On the bookshelf next to me is a pocket sized Dictionary of Musical Terms, I think there is an old violin lurking in an upstairs closet, and at various places throughout the house we have four recorders, a couple of harmonicas, and a penny whistle.

I don’t think the harmonica and penny whistle are classical instruments. I wasn’t sure if recorders were, so I attempted to call an actual expert on classical music. I looked in the phone book and found no entries under the “Classical Music Expert” categories. So I did the next best thing and found someone listening to classical music on their MP3 player. I did this by going to a public place and randomly pulling ear pieces out of peoples ears and then listening to what they were listening. This endeavor proved to be fraught with peril as apparently some people thought I was trying to actually steal their music, and I apologize to the elderly gentleman whose hearing aid I accidently broke. Thankfully, before the police came to haul me away, I found a young man listening to classical music. “Young man,” I asked, “is this recorder a classical instrument?” showing him the recorder I had brought for illustration purposes only. He replied cautiously, looking around for hidden cameras, in case this was Candid Camera or some other show of that ilk, “Well, no, I think its baroque.”

“Umm, no, I think it works perfectly fine.” I replied, giving a couple of healthy toots on it to demonstrate its playability.

“No sir, not broke, baroque, b-a-r-o-q-u-e.”

That nailed it, recorders have to be classical music instruments, because everything about classical music is fancy, and if this young man insisted on misspelling broke in such a fancy manner then it only confirmed my theory.

That brings me to my second point about classical music; most classical music is old. My children say I am old, and classical music is even older than I am. Some of it was written before America’s revolutionary war. This is problematic for two reasons. I have noticed that as I mature and collect more birthdays, that I get forgetful; so does classical music. I have noticed in listening to an orchestral piece, that at times it seems to totally forget the melody and just keeps wandering around aimlessly looking for it. “Hmmm, now where did I put that melody, is it under the violins? Nope, its not there. Hmm, maybe in one of the big kettle drums.” Even when the man standing up front with the pointer keeps waving it around and pointing at where the melody is hidden, the music never seems to find it. On and on, it keeps wandering, until finally the melody is discovered. The second reason that it is problematic is (urgh, I forgot second reason, note to self: when you remember second reason, put it here before posting this).

Now most classical music was written by non-English speaking persons, making the titles hard to spell and pronounce. For instance my eldest daughter is playing a piece by D. Busy, entitled, “Clare the Loon”. I am certain that something has been lost in the translation of the title of this beautiful piece of music. It seems that the title would be more fitting for a piece composed by Mr. Yankovic, rather than the proper D. Busy. Some of classical’s composers were proactive enough to eliminate translation troubles that have brought irreparable psychological trauma to Clare, who by all accounts is definitely not a Loon, by simply using numbers. Beethoven is the most admirable example as he has all his works listed as numbers: Symphony #5; Piano Concerto #4; and Love Potion #9.

The last, and most certainly biggest problem with classical music, is that most of the men and women who compose it are dead. Not only does this mean they are no longer composing any great music, but as is proven scientifically, they now are decomposing. This writer has uncovered the horrifying truth that this is actually the reason for so many composers having unfinished symphonies. As soon as they died, they immediately began to decompose rendering once finished symphonies--unfinished. This has lead to the formation of the Society to Conserve, Restore, And Preserve Classical Music or also known as SCRAP Classical Music.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Those annoying lawyer commercials

I enjoy watching tv, not so much for the shows as for the entertaining commercials. My favorite genre of commercials are the ones for lawyers. One would think that a law firm, a collection of people whose primary purpose is to examine every word and phrase for any loophole or misrepresentation in order to win their clients dumptrucks full of cash, would be very careful how they phrase their advertisements, but they are not.

My very favorite, and most law firms have corrected this egregious error, is “Have you, as a result of using (insert name of drug or medical device here), suffered any of the following medical conditions, (list a bunch of stuff here) or even death?  Then call us now, you may be entitled to significant compensation.” Yes that is right dead people, you too could be entitled to lots of cold hard cash. I see that now the announcer, who seems insistent upon yelling at me, says, “Have you or a loved one..."

Those verbal gymnastics has led the announcer, who also seems to take great pride in seeing how many times he can yell the firms telephone number at me in 30 seconds, to commit a rather grave statistical error when he announces, “Using (insert drug of choice’s name here) has been linked to a greater chance of death.” As my middlest middle school daughter observed, “Oh look dad, they have raised the bar. Now your chance of death is not 100%, it is like 110%” At which my youngest daughter chimed in, like a circus barker with a large conical-- and perhaps comical too-- megaphone, “Step right up, step right up, try the amazing Ride of Doom. Yes folks on this ride your chances of dying are not 100%, not 105%, no siree-bob, your chances of dying on this ride are a spectacular 110%! Yes folks you heard me right, ONE HUNDRED AND TEN PERCENT!” Which makes me wonder, is it possible to die of laughter, even if it is the best medicine?