Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Birthday--Good news and bad news.

As this well worn announcement attests, today is the anniversary of my birth.

The good news is that I am healthy and on this side of the curtain.  There is much more in the way of good news that is specific, but essentially the good news is that I am here.

Here is the bad news.  My computer opens to Google.  I went on line as I do multiple times each day.  I saw the Google screen.  Above the Google bar there occasionally is some graphic indicating the nature of the day. A turkey on Thanksgiving.  A flag on Memorial Day.  A picture of Mount Rushmore on President's day.

Today there was a picture above the google box on my screen. It was a picture of several birthday cakes and candles.

How did Google know today was my birthday? I like Google. Find it useful. And while it is nice to be greeted with happy birthday messages, it is disconcerting to know that Mr. and Mrs. Google are aware of when I arrived on the scene.

What is next?  Will I be congratulated on a healthy report from the medicine man?  A dancing patient pointing to a low blood pressure reading.

Will I open up Google and see a picture of a new car that I have purchased, or a basketball court if I plan to attend a game that night.

Will I see a picture of a gas tank when my car is low on fuel?

If I am vacillating about going out to dinner or working out will I see a picture of a justice scale with a steak sitting on one side and an elliptical machine on the other?

I appreciate the birthday greeting Mr. and Mrs. Google, but let's keep some stuff between us.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

odd time

I am now listening to Pandora and a particularly plaintive rendition of "Who Knows Where the Time Goes."  The crooner is Kate Wolf and she is killing me.

Usually I have to hear a song a dozen times before I get it. The first time I heard "Who Knows Where the Time Goes" it was as background in the movie, "The Subject Was Roses." Then, I was only 23, and it nearly ripped my belly out.  Didn't have to hear it a dozen times to get the message.

Last night I was on a flight back from Newark.  It was a beautifully clear day and for nearly the entire flight I was able to see the land below.  We flew over Manhattan and I could make out Central Park so well that I could count the baseball diamonds near the south end of the park where I once sat blissfully on a sweet summer day.  The plane continued north of course and I saw the rest of the park and city.

I must have turned my head away for a spell because the next time I looked down I saw a bridge that I could not quite recognize.  It was not the George Washington because right next to it was yet another bridge.  Eventually I got it, but not before something unnerving occurred.

When I could not figure out what bridge it was, I tried to get a sense of the flight path.  We were flying over a body of water of course (the bridge was there for a reason). I knew that Boston is on the ocean and the flight up to Boston must go up the coast.  But as I looked from the coast across the water--that was now too wide to be the Hudson--I saw a body of land that, ironically, I could not identify.  It looked, from way up, to be desolate--as if uninhabited. As we continued in a direction that I knew had to be north, the land continued and it became even more desolate looking.

Where in the world in 2014 near New York City could there be a land mass so close to the coast on which there was not much but trees?

I kept staring out the window and then probably audibly gasped when I saw the land fork in a v shape.  Then I knew where I was.

I knew where I was because that fork represents the end of Long Island and I grew up on this long island in the 60s. So it was ironic and a bit embarrassing to admit that I did not recognize that the body of water beneath me was the Long Island Sound, duh, and the long land mass was where I journeyed through adolescence. (The Bridge I saw had been the Throgs Neck which is adjacent to the Whitestone bridge)

But my ignorance was not the most astonishing thing.  What was/is, is that I did not see any homes on the island. It looked uninhabited. When I was a kid the eastern part of the island was desolate, but not this way.  And in 2014 there are suburban communities that go to the tip of Orient Point at one fork and Montauk on the other point.  Sure I was way up in the air, but it was a clear night and I saw nothing.

The moment reminded me of an old Twilight Zone episode where a plane breaks the time barrier and the travelers look over Queens in 1958 and instead of seeing LaGuardia airport they see the 1939 worlds fair grounds. Then to try to get to 1958 they break the barrier again and now there are no fair grounds, but dinosaurs instead.I saw no dinosaurs, and I know Rod Serling was not in the pilot's seat, but it was an odd moment and momentarily unsettling.

Coincidentally, I will very soon be concluding my annual lap around the track, and beginning a new journey.  It is always an interesting and unusual time to be reminded of one's emergence on the scene and, as we get older, realize the inevitably finite nature of our stint on this side of the curtain.

The plane trip view and the odd sense of another time fueled my musing about the time I have spent inhaling and exhaling, and what I have/have not accomplished. Who knows where the time has gone.

I knew that time had gone and that it was 2014 when I landed. I had to pay 58 smackers for parking at Logan for a grand total of one day and a few hours.

Monday, October 20, 2014


Today all are marveling at the genius of Jeff Fisher, the coach of  the St. Louis Rams.  Yesterday on fourth down from his own 15 yard line, with only two minutes left to go in the game, Fisher called a fake punt.

The Rams were up by two points at the time. Fisher figured that to punt the ball to the skilled, smart, and crafty Russell Wilson of the Seahawks would have amounted to a guaranteed three points for Seattle.  Those three points would have resulted in victory for the Seahawks and a loss for the Rams.

So Fisher took a gamble and faked the punt, threw a pass, and earned a first down.  The play sealed the upset for the Rams. And today, Fisher is being regaled as a hero.

And he should be; it was a gutsy call. But what makes him a genius is that it was a successful play. Had the punter  botched the pass or the receiver dropped the ball, you can be assured that Fisher would be skewered by those loaded with retrospective wisdom.

Several years ago, this precise series of events took place.  The New England Patriots were playing the Indianapolis Colts.  There was a fourth down deep in New England territory.  Bill Belichick figured that by punting the ball to the Colts he would be all but guaranteeing a defeat, with the skilled, crafty, and smart Peyton Manning at the helm for the Colts.

So, he went for it.  Not a fake, he just went for it on fourth down.   Officially, Kevin Faulk who received a pass did not make the yard to gain for a first down.  Indianapolis got the ball deep in New England territory and ultimately came out of the game with a victory.

Was Belichick regaled as a genius for a gutsy move? No he was reviled as an arrogant fool.

The difference between deferential treatment as a wizard and excoriating criticism for a fool is the result of a play.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Piling On

I am writing this about an hour before the Bengals-Patriots kickoff.  Last Monday night the Patriots were shellacked by the Kansas City Chiefs who, just moments ago, lost to the San Francisco 49ers.

For those of us who have cheered for the Patriots and enjoyed their successes, the game last week was the anomaly of anomalies.  The home town team could not stop anyone or move the ball anywhere. Tom Brady, one of the best quarterbacks ever to play, looked less than pedestrian. He threw one interception that was just horrible and another that was returned for a touchdown.  What made this stinker of a performance more pungent was that  it was such an aberration.

Since 2001 the Patriots have been just great. Only twice since then has the team NOT made the playoffs. They have gone to 5 superbowls, winning three.  In addition, they have gone to at least two other championship games.  This means they have been the best team three times, the second best team twice, and one of the top four teams two other times.

So, it was shake your head stuff to listen and read the media pounding the Patriots took and are taking.

  • Belichick is a stiff.
  • Brady is over the hill.
  • The team has no talent: 
    • Nobody can catch the ball
    • Nobody can tackle
    • There is no running back worth a damn
    • Revis is overrated.  

Today we hear that Brady is so upset that he wants out of Boston to finish his career.

One columnist during the week wrote that the Patriots have not had a meaningful win in January since 2005.   That is an interesting statement since the Patriots went to two super bowl games since 2005; two other championship games; and the only year they did not make the playoffs was when Brady was injured in the first game of the season. (And that year the team was eliminated on the last game of the season).

I think the Patriots will win tonight against the currently undefeated Bengals. (A) I don't think the Bengals are so extra (B) the Patriots are not as bad as they played last week and (C) the Pats will want, I assume, to shut a few people up.

Even if they get shellacked tonight like they did last week, this week's piling on by the pundits has shown little class. Everyone feels crummy when they get their ass kicked.  Last week, the Patriots got their ass kicked.

However, the team has been regularly successful since W was in his first year in the White House. Go ask Jacksonville, Detroit, Cleveland, Jet, Bengal, Houston, Oakland, Redskin, Viking, Buffalo, Atlanta, Carolina, and/or Miami fans if they think the Patriots have had any meaningful wins in January since 2005.  Those teams have a parade when they finish above 500.

The press has been immature this past week.  The Boston folks are just spoiled so when the team loses it is time to announce that the apocalypse is on the horizon.   Last January in the championship game,  the Patriots lost to the Broncos in Denver in a game during which Peyton Manning played like the Almighty.  I think the final score differential was eight points.

We will see what takes place in an hour. But even if it is another pummeling, the critics might be wise to check out a mirror and ask themselves if they themselves have ever had a streak of successes like the Patriots have had.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Rocking Chair

I bump into a guy today who I have seen at the university forever. We always smile, share hellos, and how are you's.  Today he says, "30 years as of two weeks ago".

We stop and talk some about our longevity at the u.  I started a few years before he did.  I asked him if he got his watch.  He says he did, but he was disappointed because he had been hoping for the rocking chair.

For years the gift for 25 year old associates was a rocking chair.  They were quite nice. I recall seeing a colleague's in his office when I had been here for just a few years.  Very classy chair. Had your name on it and your years of service at the school.

I remember when I was to be feted for my longevity.  I, and a few others, sat in an anteroom where we were to receive our gifts. Then, the seven or so of us were taken to a room where multi yeared others--who had previously received their chairs--welcomed us to the club.

They have changed the choreography since my date, but still the honorees receive a gift.  Starting with the year that I was to receive the chair, however, the school eschewed the snazzy chairs and handed out watches instead. The watches had your initials on the back, but still were a bit of a disappointment.

As it happened, during my next lap--the year after I received my watch--I was reminded one day that there was a function out in the suburbs that I was supposed to attend. The function was for a complementary unit at the university that I was working for at the time, and had worked for sporadically during the time I have been employed in Boston.   I had forgotten about the event and had to switch some things around to get out to the burbs on time.

When I arrived to the satellite location I picked up a program for the event and noticed that my name was on the program. This was news to me.   I asked around and found that I, with others, were to be recognized for years of service with this complementary university unit.  And, this unit, was giving out rocking chairs for 25 years of service.  And I was going to get a chair.

This was great, but the thing is--it was a mistake.  While I had been working at my day job for 25 years--for which I was rewarded with the watch--I had NOT been working for the complementary unit for 25 years. I had done some work for it a quarter of century ago, stopped, started, stopped again, and was now back.  Probably all tolled I had worked there for 15 years.  But the records showed I was there for the requisite trips around the track.  So, I--incorrectly--got the chair which now sits in my living room.

So, the point?  Sometimes you don't get what you should.  But sometimes you do get what you do not deserve.

Thing is--it doesn't really even out.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Peace Like a River

I noticed on Facebook that a few people had posted a list of the top ten most influential books they had read.  A few of these listed the book Peace like a River by Leif Enger.  And those who identified this book are people with whom I share similar sensibilities.

I'd never heard of it.  I saw it was published in 2001, a time when I was not--as I recall it--living under a rock.  I bought the book from Amazon and when the paperback arrived I noticed that the first pages were filled with beautiful words of support and praise for the novel.

The story is told from the perspective of a boy in North Dakota who has a sweet precocious sister a few years older, and a several years older brother.  Their dad is a single parent who had a revelation while studying to be a doctor. The revelation was such that he quit studying to be a doctor and became a janitor. At that point his wife fled to Minneapolis.  All this is background.  Then something happens which causes the older brother to escape and the rest of the remaining family to try and find him.

Much of this book refers to the power of a superior being and the value of praying to that superior being.  The father prays a good deal after his epiphany which had him leave the world of medicine. Very early in the book we read of another event that seems miraculous and a result of some super being's hand.

The story is engaging in parts.  Reuben is the boy narrator and he can turn a phrase. His sister Swede is nothing short of delicious and the Dad, a wonderful man, and endearing.  This said the book did not do it for me in the same way it did it for others.

I imagine the story is meant to be fantastic (in the sense of a fantasy) and not literal.  Still too many parts of the plot don't fit and one character's whereabouts at the end ought to be a matter of concern and does not seem to be.  Swede, Reuben, and Davy (the older brother) do not appear to be as bruised by their mother's fleeing as you would think they would be (though there is a reference to such bruising).  The mother, despite some serious ongoings with her children, does not factor into the events.   The story is set in 1962 and there appears to be a lot of wild west in it, even for North Dakota. Lots of folks on horseback and very remote towns. The remote towns would make sense in this part of the country, but not sure the absence of modernity.  The Cuban Missile Crisis was 1962.  John Glenn had already orbited the earth.

And then there is the suggestion throughout that a super being had a hand in the events, not so much predestination, but a responsiveness to prayer. I think this is dangerous stuff. I think we pray, if we do, to help ourselves feel whole and conduct ourselves respectful of the others in our universe--with sensitivity and love.  I don't think we pray to get us out of a jam or even help us see the light to a right decision.  By feeling and being centered and sound, which may come from prayer--if one is a prayer--that might help one make decisions.  But suggesting that there is merit in asking the Lord for directions is dangerous stuff. We have to make our own choices when we come to the fork.

I had the book on my desk at work while I was reading it. Two colleagues noticed it during that time and told me what a great book it was.  I liked Peace Like a River, but can't recommend it as effusively.  I had no problem putting it down.  I am glad I read it to get to know Swede, the sister, and to read about rural North Dakota (even if it seemed more like 1862 than 1962).  But the book would not be any where near my top ten list.

Friday, September 26, 2014

To Life

If my parents could weigh in from their graves, they would tell me that they are glad that I am posting this photo.

My mom and dad have both passed in the last 15 months.  Before their deaths they would frequently talk about the importance of life and enjoying time.  From their place wherever they may be, they are urging all--whether you just celebrated a new year or not--to live, enjoy time, and seize the day.

My folks would have also enjoyed hearing about an experience I had in Dublin last week.  I walked onto the campus at Trinity College. It is a beautiful campus, majestic buildings and inviting grounds. The day I arrived happened to be student fair day.  Readers will remember this from when you were in college.  Early in the year, club representatives would sit behind tables urging newcomers to join their organization. So, the chess club, theater people, society for the study of Ayn Rand, French club, groups like that were arranged in a common space. Must have been 50 of them.   I walked past the Christian student club table and it reminded me that I wanted to go to a Friday night Shabbat service while in Ireland. So, I asked the woman behind the table if there was a Jewish student association booth. She said there was and very willingly, started walking with me around the various tables, looking for the table for the Jewish student club.  Before we found it, we ran into the Islamic Student Association.  So she asked there if they had seen the Jewish student table. The Islamic students also said they had seen the table. So now myself, the Christian student rep, and two Islamic students went looking for the Jewish student table. And we found it.  And there we stood, all three major religious groups smiling. The Jewish student behind the table thanking the Christian and Islamic students for steering me in the right direction. The Islamic students and the Christian student saying, no problem, as they smiled and went back to their booth.  My parents would have liked that story.

They would also be happy that I am wishing all who read this a good shabbas, and encouraging all to celebrate life.