Thursday, February 22, 2018

Greetings from my television

Okay, I know that perhaps I'm a bit paranoid. I know that technology allows for things which aren't a big deal. Or aren't they?

As I laid back in my hotel room last night to watch a little TV after a long day, I saw something which continues to bother me. A line at the top of the guide page, in bold, block letters and an exclamation point, read "Hello Marty Cosgriff!"

I didn't like that. In fact, I was actually kind of uncomfortable. Kind of creeped out.

Yes, I know the point is to be welcoming. Yet I also know there's more than that. They're spying on me, the hotel people or the cable folks or whomever. They're trying to figure out, using this or that algorithm, what I'm watching so they can figure out what else I might want to watch. Just like Amazon with your searches and purchases there. Or Ebay.

But that's really only my business, unless I want their help. Why are such things automatic? Why can't I, if service is the purpose, be given the option whether to have it or not? Why does my TV presume I want it?

Really, my friends. It's creepy to have help foisted on you without being asked. It's either outright spying, or something worse: control

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Mom's mastery of the free throw

She does it with such ease, such grace. From six, eight feet away even. Just a flick of the wrist and nothing but net. Well, okay, the net is a garbage can. And Mom can nail it from the other side of the kitchen table.

Sitting at her chair by the stove with the garbage can on the opposite side of the table (and at an angle to boot) she never misses. Curl up an old napkin, raise her left hand, flick the wrist, swish.

Pick up a food wrapper, mash it into a ball, flip the wrist, swish. Effortless. And she does not miss. And she never, ever uses the cabinet behind the can as a back board. She always drops the article right down the center of the opening.

It's actually pretty impressive. I think she's impressed with it too. She never misses.

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

The Bridge in Brooklyn

I am currently reading The Great Bridge, the story of the building of the Brooklyn Bridge. It was penned by David McCullough as a follow up to his book about the devastating Johnstown flood. He wanted a happier subject as he didn't want to be filed away as the disaster writer. I get that.

What caused me to read this particular book is multi-faceted. I loved McCullough's biographies of Harry Truman and John Adams as well as his fictionalized account of the first year of American independence, appropriately title 1776. Too, having walked the Brooklyn Bridge itself just last summer, I was impressed with its grandeur and, I suppose, awed that such a thing could have been made in the ancient 1870s; no doubt a little modern arrogance at work there. But more than anything, I was piqued at an attempt to make a tale of bridge building interesting. How is that possible?

It's possible if you have a talent like McCullough's. The thing that makes it work is his ability to talk about the people, and the people of course made the bridge. I had a bit of a duh moment when that occurred to me. McCullough wrote about the people. As such, I have great respect for, for example, the father/son duo of John and Washington Roebling, the engineers behind the project. The past comes alive, it comes into the present, when we learn about the people from back then.

To be sure, McCullough spends some considerable time on the engineering aspects. He does well with his explanations: I *think* I understand how the caissons are used and the dangers involved, so well were his words woven. Plus there's other historical aspects behind the Bridge which are well explained too. But the bottom line is, make it about the people and you can make yourself a good book. Or in my case here, a good read.

Monday, February 19, 2018

President's Day 2018

Today is Presidents' Day. It is a holiday that I am not fond of, for a variety of reasons.

I'm nowhere near convinced that all Presidents deserve honor. If nothing else, I don't see where Washington and Millard Fillmore are on the same plane. I mean, some just weren't good presidents. There aren't particularly good reasons to remember those guys.

Then too (as I've lamented frequently) I don't like the whole Monday Holiday Law. What honor are we showing the honorable when we shunt them around to our satisfaction? Not much that I can see.

To be fair, Presidents' Day officially is George Washington's Birthday, so I take some solace in that. Still, I can't help but feel that, as with many holidays, it's become kinda shallow. An excuse for sales if you will. I'm just not into that.

Friday, February 16, 2018

Frying those fish

Do you know what time of year it is? Yes, of course it's Lent. And that means fish frys!

I haven't been to a church fish fry where I haven't liked the fish. To be sure, deep fried fish probably isn't particularly good for us. But it's a only a few weeks of the year.

First stop: St. Francis of Assisi in Detroit. I am on my way!

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Ash Wednesday 2018

Today is Ash Wednesday, the start of Lent for Christianity in general, and Catholics in particular. It is a time of penance, something we all need. We all need to atone for our failures, for our sins.

Humanity is fallen; the world around us is fallen. That's why people do wrong, and genes mutate into cancers and such. Nothing in our universe is perfect, but there is a difference between we humans and the lower animals and inanimate things nearby. We can choose. We can decide whether to do well or ill. It is what makes us special, and separates us from all else.

But surely these next few weeks aren't for Christians alone? It would seem that no matter what you believe, or whether you believe anything at all, you would still think it a good idea to improve yourself, or to do good things for those in need around you. Even if you cannot bring yourself to believe in something beyond humanity or beyond the universe itself, you can still make the effort to make yourself a better person and enrich the lives of those whom you come in contact with day in and day out. It's the one area where the seriously religious and the secularists can surely agree with each other, don't you think?

So try to become a better person this Lenten season. Smile, help people, discipline yourself in the positive habits of mind and body. You might be pleasantly surprised as the good habits formed become a part of you. The folks around you may be downright shocked. And we'll all be the better for it.

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Cloyce and women

A good friend of me Grandpa Joe's, I'll call him Cloyce just to give him a name, was notoriously poor when picking out the ladies. Grandpa Joe knew that very well; when Cloyce asked him to come along to meet his latest girlfriend Joe responded, "Nah. I ain't interested in none of your cattle".

"Ah, come on, Joe. This one's a real classy dame," Cloyce insisted. So Grandpa went along with him. I suppose his curiosity had been piqued.

The second clue was when Cloyce entered the wharf section of the town they were working in, parking in front of a seedy bar along the loading docks. "Why are we here?" Joe asked.

"She works here."

"Aw Hell", remarked my grandfather in one of his best Aw Hell tones. An incredulous Aw Hell I would imagine.

The third clue came when they were seated at the bar, with Cloyce's classy dame as their server. After a bit of chitchat the woman nonchalantly reached under the bar and pulled out a pair of pliers. She latched onto one of her molars and began working the tooth back and forth, back and forth, until she triumphantly yanked it from her jaw. Tossing the tooth into a nearby wastebasket she said, "That one won't give no more trouble."

"You sure do got a winner there, Cloyce", Joe said, as he made for the door.