Thursday, December 31, 2015

My favorite blog from 2015

December 31, 2015: the last day of the year. We're expected to write retrospectives today, right? Well, I'm not going to. I've looked back over what I've written during twenty-fifteen and decided I'd rather put my own spin on that practice. I'm reprinting my favorite blog from the year, first offered back in April. I hope you like is as much as I do.

-Marty Cosgriff

John Cosgriff and the Masters

I don't watch golf very often. But I always watch the Masters. Although I do find that I like the game more and more as I grow older, there's a part of me which still doesn't really see the allure. Hitting a small ball hundreds of yards into a cup maybe twice the size of that ball just doesn't seem a very entertaining way to spend an afternoon. Still, I find that golf and I have a history. Lately that's been played out through 'swing and sweeps', combined golf and curling tournaments. They're great fun, especially if, as a curler (as I am) it gets you two more curling games per season. I do look forward to them.

But more than that. My father's youngest brother, my Uncle John, liked to golf. He always bet something or other with a coworker on the outcome of the Masters. He and his boss would pick five guys alternately, and who had the winner won a sleeve of balls. I'm not sure who won most often. But I know my uncle was always proud of his picks.

I golfed with him many times years ago, when he was young and I was younger. We'd go out for nine holes after work many a summer's day. Those evenings were always good fun. If I could relive just one...we would joke and laugh, and simply enjoy the quiet and the game.

He was a lefty. That was fairly rare in golf at the time. His swing seemed unusual even to me, but for a duffer he was okay. I scored my only birdie to this date while golfing with him. The Eighth hole at Dearborn Hills, a 180 yard par 3, a Thursday night in an August the exact date of which escapes my memory just now. I made the green off the tee with a four iron, and hit a 25 foot putt which ran hard left to right right into the cup. I made him sign the scorecard to attest that I had birdied. He remarked, "No one will believe us, because I'm family". It was lightly drizzling as he signed the card under the glare of my car's headlight after that round. I still see him doing it, him down in a squat using the bumper for backing. Why do such things stay in our memories? But when he died, the first thing I did was dig up the scorecard and the ball that I birdied with.

When he had decided he was through with golf he gave me his left handed clubs. Several times I played rounds with them. If you have any idea how poorly I golf, you would know that it hardly mattered from which side of the tee I would address the ball. Might as well play lefty.

I kept those clubs for years. Then I bought a better-than-mine set of used right handed clubs (used better than I ever will), and decided to sell Uncle John's clubs at a yard sale. Who needs two sets of clubs, especially opposite sided ones, right? A young left handed guy practiced swung a few of them, decided that he wanted to golf enough so that it mattered that he ought to have his own clubs, and bought them.

I watched him walk away, dragging Uncle John's clubs behind on the cart which went with the deal. I felt a pang of remorse as the man disappeared with his new found treasure.

I sincerely hope that he has golfed well with them. And I wish I still had those clubs.

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

More about customers

And other things about customers...

They always round down. Always.

"How much is that part, Cosgriff?"

"Thirty-three dollars."

"Okay, thirty dollars." No, thirty three. And then remember there's sales tax, doofus.

Then there are the ones who believe inflation is almost a daily event with my prices. They ask things like, "How much is that part, Cosgriff?"

"Thirty-three dollars."

"Wow. They done gone up since last week." No, they haven't. That part has been $33 bucks since 2012. If you paid more than that last week, you bought it from someone but me.

Then there are ones who haven't bought a cable in a couple of decades. "How much is that cable, Cosgriff?"

"$49.30."

"What? Last time I paid $33 dollars!" I don't doubt you did: in 1989.

Ah, customers.

Sunday, December 27, 2015

The toenail trimming consumer

Customers, they are the most important part of any sales business. They can be (they ordinarily are) the best thing about sales, and at times the worst. At other times they can be downright odd and unusual, and even slightly disgusting. Disturbing, really.

I remember one guy who sat down while I was welding an end on his drain snake cable. He asked for a pair of wire cutters. So I gave him one, and commenced upon the repair.

He began unlacing his boots. I didn't think much about that; I really only barely noticed it and dismissed it immediately, almost without thought. He was probably just tightening or adjusting the boots, right?

Pulling enough steel cable out of his machine so as to be able to work with, I ground the end flat and secured it in my bench vice. After screwing in a fitting and tacking a weld to ensure it would stay, I shut off my torch and turned to tell him his repair was done. But my voice caught in my throat. He had his boots off and was trimming his toenails with my wire cutters. Talk about being a little too comfortable in your surroundings.

I said nothing. I turned back to my workbench and began tinkering with another repair. Eventually the man said, "Well, what do I owe you?"

'A new set of wire cutters', I should have said. Instead I just stammered something like, uh, ten bucks.

It was surely overreaction, for they were only wire cutters and had been used to cut far dirtier things than someone's toenails. In fact, that idea by itself added to my disgust at what he had done. But after the man left I picked the tool up with a pair of pliers and threw it away. I replaced them with a new pair that afternoon. I simply didn't want to use them after that incident, and boiling work tools (if you're not a surgeon) seems stupid.

To this day I cringe at the idea of someone arbitrarily trimming his toenails with my tools in my workshop. I mean, really? Why would it even occur to anyone to do that?

Saturday, December 26, 2015

The Day After

Today is December 26, the day after Christmas. Boxing Day in Canada and many of the old British Dominion countries; a day of extra sales in these United States.

I can't speak for Boxing Day but I can speak a bit about the consumerism of my own nation. As if five weeks of bacchanalia wasn't enough, immediately after the Holiday to end all Holidays (so far as the merchants seem to think) we are told that that isn't all. There's still bargains to have to slake your lust for ever more and ever newer baubles and bells. We lament the tax and spend tendency of government; we encourage an earn and spend mentality on our selves. I'm not sure the one's any better than the other.

Take a breath, America. You surely have everything you need and a great many things you simply want, and a great many of those unnecessary. Why not sit back on the 26th and enjoy all that? Revel in the wonderful times and even, yes, the nice things you got for Christmas. Be happy in your family and friends. Don't go after the Next Best Thing. There will always be another once you settle into that shallow mentality.

Take a breath. Enjoy the leftovers and seek more conversation, more interaction with your family and friends. WalMart and Best Buy won't go out of business if you don't taste of their wares today. You family and friends may of necessity go off on their own. Be with them now. Your computer simply can't be made made that much faster and the picture on your new TV can't be made that much clearer. But the rest will go all to quickly and all too certainly.

Friday, December 25, 2015

Christmas 2015

Born to raise the sons of earth

Born to give them second birth

Hark! The herald angels sing

"Glory to the newborn King!"

Merry Christmas everybody!

Thursday, December 24, 2015

What? Pay sales tax?

"How much is this cutter, Cosgriff?" he asked.

"$40".

"Okay, I'll take it."

"Thanks. That'll be $42.40".

"What?" he asks in shock. "You just told me it was forty dollars!"

You haven't heard of sales tax, buddy? But we get that reaction all the time when making an over the counter sale. Whether you like sales taxes or not, why wouldn't you expect me to charge it? Do you ask the cashier at Target the same things when she rings you up? Why do you ask me?

Apparently some customers believe that our store is in some time warped part of Michigan where the state sales tax doesn't apply. To this day it amazes me when guys express dismay at my collecting it. I don't get it. If you have a rational explanation for that, I'd love to hear it.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Judging book covers

They say you can't judge a book by its cover. Then why bother to put a cover on one?

Well, to entice folks to buy it. That's why there will be photos or a painting or fancy script on a book's cover. Writers and editors and publishers want the cover to sway your judgment.

So, then, the axiom actually means nothing useful. So why employ it?

So that you may feel guilty when you judge something on appearance. Usually this involves something that would generally bring contempt upon itself.

Think about the next time you are blithely told that you can't judge.

Monday, December 21, 2015

Me Grandpaw Hutchins gonna scare them crows

There was me Grandad Joe, and there was me Grandpaw Hutchins. They was both great men; they both mean much to me, more than I might explain. I was graced with more alone time with me Granddad Joe. But me Grandpaw Hutchins, we had a few moments which were treasure.

One of the clearest, it was this day when I were blessed to be up early, afore the rooster crowed as they say, and it happened to be whilst I was in North Caroline, when the family were stayin' with me Mother's folk one summer.

I rub the sleep from me eyes this one day, and I sees the front door ajar. I go up to it, and I sees me Grandpaw Hutchins sittin' on the porch, a small porch it was, with bright white pillars holdin' the roof up at the corners, a loaded shotgun layin' across his lap. That is the home of me Aunt Bobbie today, but it were his back then, along with me Grandmaw. And I asks if I might sit with him.

Sure, he says, and he produces a chair from somewheres. I sit to his left upon it. "What are you doing, Grandfather?", I ask, speaking in some obscure talk and with this odd tongue which were by itself maybe grammatically right in highfalutin' circles.

"Gonna scare them crows from my crop," he explains in a properly rural dialect which I rightly understand. He spits snuff into the plants aside him right after he says that, as if it were the most natural thing in the world.

I see straight away what he means. He's gonna blast that shotgun at the sight of a crow so darin' to steal his corn.

I search the skies for them crows. I search it for hours for any speck of predatory bird. I find myself wishing they would come, darin' them to come. I wish to see me Grandpaw blastin' them corn thieves from the sky. I wanna hear that shotgun blast.

If it had ere occurred, it woulda scared me more than them crows. I know that now. Back then, I wanted that old man to rise up and blow them bottom feeders from the sky.

It didn't never happen. That's prolly just as well. It woulda spoilt a great few hours sittin' alone with me Grandpaw Hutchins. A truly quiet hours where I truly felt one with him. To this day, it's been me favorite hour with one o' me two favorite grandfathers.

Sunday, December 20, 2015

It's coming: the world's greatest joke

We all have one, don't we? That one favorite joke which we find hilarious but which anyone else would only roll their eyes over. But we think it the world's greatest joke.

My personal favorite is rather convoluted. It takes a few minutes to tell, but for my money it's worth the punchline. You must appreciate puns to appreciate it yourself. In this case, it's a very clever pun more than worth the set up. Honest!

It has produced groans. It has produced, I swear it's true, laughter. Genuine, heartfelt laughter; and not just from me. It has also produced "You kept my attention for five minutes for that?" from a good friend. Hey, good jokes run the spectrum of reaction.

One day I'll tell it. I'll write it down right here and you can judge for yourself. Once I do, you will love me or hate me for it. It's that good of a joke.

Hopefully you're hating me right now for whetting your appetite but not telling the tale right here and now. Gosh, I hope so. If I haven't done that, then what's the point?

But I'll tell you what. I'll tell it in ten days. Is that enough to keep your attention?

Friday, December 18, 2015

Grandma was a spy

I have spoken a time or two around here about my grandfather. Well, his wife, and obviously my grandmother, was a wonderful grandparent in her own right. Like her husband, she had her quirks. She simply wasn't so loud about them. And as she was a spy, I understand her not announcing it to the crowd.

The first I realized she was a spy was back when I was all of 16. I was getting home late one night, about 1 AM. Okay, early one morning. As I was putting the key in the front door I couldn't help but feel that I was being watched. Turning around, I saw no one, but I thought I saw the curtain at the corner window of my grandparents house next door flutter a bit. So I waved at it, tentatively. Grandma pulled the curtains back and returned my wave with a sheepish grin.

So that became our ritual for the rest of the time I lived at my parents' home. If I was late arriving, I would put the key in the lock, step back and wave at the window, and she would invariably appear from behind the drapes and return the greeting.

It seemed however that she was determined to keep an eye on me even after I had married and moved. My wife and I had bought a house down the block on the far side of the street. One day while walking home Grandma asked if I was busy that night. "No," I answered, "Do you need something?"

"Well, I need that tree trimmed," she replied, pointing at the one in her front yard next to the porch.

"I'll be here at six," I told her, moving along.

So I returned then with my saw, and set to work at her direction. After about an hour I asked, "So what's wrong, Gram? Why do you need this tree trimmed?"

"I need to see all the way down to your house," she explained matter-of-factly.

From that night on, when getting home late at my own abode, I would turn towards her house from my front steps and wave. I wonder if she ever noticed?

Thursday, December 17, 2015

How to annoy your wife

My wife, Gail, puts up a with a lot from me. With my, shall I say, unusual, sense of humor, she has to. Or she'd just kill me.

How do I annoy thee? Let me count two ways.

We were driving up north to our place in Michigan's glorious Upper Peninsula when I began singing Johnny Horton's classic Sink the Bismarck, which he wrote for the movie about the Allied pursuit of that famous German battleship from World War II. I sang the first two verses along with the refrain and then stopped, the third verse having slipped my mind.

After a couple of miles Gail asked, "Well?"

I, having no idea what she was asking about by then, answered, "Well what?"

"Aren't you going to finish the song?"

"Um, I can't. I forgot the third verse," I replied apologetically.

"But I want to know what happened!" she demanded.

"They sank the Bismarck!" I responded incredulously.

My cheek still hurts from the smack it received.

On another occasion, we were at home at the dinner table eating fish patties. For some reason Gail had the box in her hand, and she read to me, "Do you know that one of these patties has 150 calories?"

"Really?" I asked. "Which one?"

So now you why Groton's is tattoed on my forehead.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

What's in a name?

Me old granddad insisted it was true, and who am I to argue with me old granddad?

We get called Cosgrove a lot. We do. It's a natural enough occurrence. The name, she's close to Cosgriff, but Cosgrove being a bit more common, folks gravitate towards it. We get that. But we resent it too. Cosgrove, you see, he stole horses. A horse thief he was. A scoundrel if there ever were one.

Me granddad, he told a tale of the family which dated back to the old sod, to County Tipperary. Why the Irish be so concerned with not merely bein' Irish (who'd not want to be Irish, I ask ya) but with bein' Irish down to the county, well, there's a certain sophistication to that which most of the world cannot understand, their not bein' Irish and all.

So the tale goes, real short here, is that in years gone by we were Cosgroves. Real, true Cosgroves. Then one of them old relatives, he decides that making an honest livin' did nothing to suit him. Dishonesty was his call. Dishonest beyond covetin' someone's property but actually absconding with it. In his case, their horses.

That were bad. Real bad. Folks needed their horses, they did, for plowin' and travelin' and gettin' into minor mischief well short of horse thievin'. That could not be tolerated.

You could not be associated with such foul people and keep your good name. So you change your name, make a good new one. With us, it was to Cosgriff. Cause we could not in no way be associated with a horse thief.

Me granddad insisted it were true. Who I am to debate such a tale?

Monday, December 14, 2015

Living the middle aged life

It all began innocently enough this past Friday afternoon. I arrived home from work tired so thought I'd have a nap. I went up stairs, crawled into bed, and fell asleep.

I woke up at 2:45 AM Saturday.

Well, whaddaya do that early on a Saturday? I picked up the remote and channel surfed, landing on a neat little old movie called Here Comes Mr. Jordan. So I watched it. A neat old flick. Wholesome, clean, a movie like they don't make anymore.

Later in the morning I showered and went to play in a curling tournament. We curled two games, had a few beers and ate fried chicken. You know, enjoying stuff that ain't good for ya. Coming home I was tired, having been up for 17 hours by then, and went to bed.

I woke up at 3:30 Sunday morning.

Well, whaddaya do that early on a Sunday? I channel surfed and hit up a few consecutive episodes of Phineas and Ferb. So I watched them. It's a clever, literate show. Then I logged onto the computer and blogged, checked my e-mail, played a few hands of online poker, and fell asleep on the couch watching an on demand episode of the middle.

I woke up late for 10 o'clock Mass, but had time to shower and make another one at 11. So I did that, stopping on the way home to get a Sunday paper. And a bacon double cheeseburger. You know, food that ain't good for ya. But I was hungry, and I did not get fries or a soft drink because I have some concern for my health.

Being a Sunday afternoon, I began watching American Football, dozing in and out until supper, then dozing more until I woke up at around 2:30 this morning. And it all began again. Ah, the middle aged life.

Huh? You say it sounds like a lifestyle a few years older?

I ought to box your ears for that sass, sonny.

Sunday, December 13, 2015

The curling ambassador

He is now 91 years old, and he shuffled into the Detroit Curling Club yesterday afternoon just minutes after I had told a story about him. The same story in fact which I am about to tell you, in an abbreviated version. Joe's got curling in his heart, and is the reason I curl. That is, the reason after my wife put my name in for an open house at the aforementioned DCC. He's the man who came up to me after my short introduction to curling that day to make sure that I had had enjoyed my first curling experience and, hearing that I had, invited me back. He is Joe Livermore, and I'm very glad I was able to see him today.

He was a bit of an imposing figure 30 some years ago, yet he was friendly and earnest. Seeing me standing at the glass watching more curling from the viewing area after my time on the ice was done on the evening of that open house, Joe came over and asked, "Ya have fun?"

"Yes I did", I answered honestly.

"Come to Sinners this Sunday at 9," he said. Often, for a joke, I like to make that sound as though it were a command. But it wasn't. It was an invite, and I knew by his voice that it was sincere. Heartfelt. Joe wanted me to curl. He loved the game and wanted me to love it to.

I should tell you that Sinners Breakfast is an old tradition at the Detroit Curling Club, obviously because it is held on Sunday mornings when you should be at Church. But I fooled them. I'm a Saturday Catholic, so my Sunday obligation had been seen to before Sinners.

Breakfast was served, and I remember distinctly that Joe himself had made up a great batch of friend mushrooms as part of the meal. After breakfast, anyone who wanted to play signed up for a curling match. I did, of course, and enjoyed it more than I had my introduction to the game a few days before. When it was over Joe found me and asked again, "Ya have fun?"

I sure did, I told him. "Be here tomorrow night at 6:45 for the Monday league. We'll get you in a game." I went the next night and have not stopped curling since. Yeah, at times now I think I want to hang it up, but I'm probably fooling myself. It's a grand game. It has grand people playing it.

Joe's first question to me yesterday was, "Are ya still curling?" He knew I didn't curl out of Detroit anymore. He didn't care. I still curled, and that's what mattered to him. We chatted a few more minutes, and then it was game time for me; I was curling at Detroit in a tournament. He let me go, knowing that the game's the thing.

He always taught that curlers should be ambassadors for the game. Joe, in my book, you are the Curling Ambassador.

Saturday, December 12, 2015

The Bilbo Baggins imperative

I had an interesting conversation with a few friends yesterday concerning what we would like do before we die. You know, what was on our so-called 'bucket lists'. It turns out that mine is rather short, if it exists at all.

I am not a thrill seeker, so hang gliding and parachuting and mountain climbing are way out. Putting myself at risk even in safe activities just for the adrenaline rush just doesn't do anything for me. It honestly strikes me as nonsense. My lone participatory sport, outside of catching and hitting a softball with my granddaughter, is curling. I'm that exciting.

Other than day trips, I do not particularly care to travel either. Simply put, thrills are overrated, folks, and so is travel. You aren't living any better by making your heart race, nor is seeing the world certain to make you appreciate it more. It may, as Chesterton says, make you appreciate it less, for if you've been raised well you know there's no place like home anyway.

Not that there's anything wrong with the things I mention. If you want to see Europe or leap off a cliff with a rubber band tied to your feet, fine. But for me, stuff such as enjoying a conversation with my friends over bucket lists suits me well. A curling match, a day at the ballpark, a good book, being with people; that's what I look forward to.

Call it the Bilbo Baggins outlook. If adventure finds me I might just surprise you, run the risk, and go along with it. Generally, though, as the dear Hobbit believes, adventures only make you late for dinner. If there's something of this Earth better than food and friendship I can't imagine what it is.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

The dead frog analogy

Teaching adult education for twenty odd years was fun, and occasionally rewarding. Yet certain moments are bound to stand out. I will never forget the two funniest incidents I have ever had in a classroom.

While grading a short essay for an Economics course, the student was asked the difference between stocks and bonds. In an obvious yet hilarious cut and paste off the Internet (a practice we frowned upon of course and graded accordingly), the answer began: "Stocks were medieval devices of public humiliation and torture." It went on to explain, in some, ah, fascinating detail, the exact nature of certain forms of torture. Reading this challenged my attempts to stay calm and professional, to not laugh out loud at my desk in a room full of students. I had no trouble keeping control until the last sentence: "Bonds are government issued interest bearing securities."

Well, the student was half right in his answer, and I was able to keep my professional wits. Barely.

On another occasion, I had an English assignment to grade. With that one, I did go on to completely lose my composure in peals of laughter which I tried valiantly to hide but to no avail. I had to leave the room for ten minutes initially, hiding in an empty teacher's lounge while leaving the other instructor (there were two of us at all times in our teaching arrangement) to lament my having abandoned him. Luckily it was a slow night.

The assignment was to make comparisons in the form of analogies. The first prompt read: "Tom's car was old." Expected responses were along the lines of, 'Tom's car was older than baseball.' Instead I was treated to, "Tom's car was older than a dead frog."

I was okay at first; I stifled my giggles, although it took it a few seconds of tongue biting to maintain myself. But I was good.

The next prompt was, 'Abby was hungry.' Harmless enough. Until I read the student's offering.

"Abby was very hungry, like a sad clown who had fell off his bike."

I immediately roared uncontrollably. Shawn, the other teacher, asked what was up. Giving him the paper I replied between guffaws, "Read the first two sentences and I'll be back in a few minutes."

On my return, finally beyond any wild laughter, the first thing Shawn said was, "I can see why you didn't give credit for the first analogy. The frog may not have been dead that long."

I returned after another twenty minutes. Good times.

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Religion and Mercy

If it isn't obvious enough by now, I am a huge fan of Mr. C. S. Lewis. My wife found a copy of The Screwtape Letters at a garage sale almost 30 years ago, and I read and was hooked. As is my usual habit when I discover an author I like, I proceeded to seek out and read all of his books.

I haven't quite made it. Not being interested I have never read any of his books in his academic specialty, Medieval and Renaissance literature. And two of his books, Dymer and Spirits in Bondage, being published early on in his career and before his reconversion to Christianity, well, I haven't honestly looked very hard for them. I have read a passage from Dymer and it sounds interesting, though.

I cannot begin to tell you enough about a later edition of Screwtape which includes the addendum Screwtape Proposes a Toast. As it happens he was addressing American education, and was dead on in his assessment. I have used his arguments there quite often in my dealings with, ahem, modern educators.

The Abolition of Man may be the best work of nonfiction outside of the Bible. Mr. Lewis' defense of the doctrine of objective knowledge is far more fantastic and profound than the small book in which he delivers it. In short, I adore the man, and must credit him to a great degree in cementing my belief in God.

Yet there is a skeleton in the closet which most of his admirers, Catholic and Protestant alike, tend to downplay or ignore. And that is his refusal to make pronouncements about certain particulars of Christian doctrine. He asserts that he is not enough of a theologian to do so.

I am not aware that one must be a theologian in order to understand most theology. I understand, as a Catholic, that the consecrated host is really the Body of Christ. Lewis famously says in regards to this that Christ's directive is, take, eat, not take, understand. I say with all due respect that he rather begs the question. Why would God not want us to understand? Wouldn't we want that closer relationship with Him?

Much of it can be linked to the psychology of Mr. Lewis I'm sure. Dr. Joseph Pearce wrote a very good book called C. S. Lewis and the Church of Rome which deals with the issue of why Lewis never became Catholic as he certainly was very close to it. Dr. Pearce's answer was, essentially, because of Lewis' background and his Ulster stubbornness (he was from Northern Ireland).

I would have to agree. And I don't mean that without sympathy: sometimes, and I say this with absolutely no disrespect intended, invincible ignorance gets in our way. Lewis may not have had the capacity to take that next step; it's the same as I think of my dear maternal grandfather who, though he came to accept and respect my father's Catholicism, could not be expected to easily let go of his Southern Baptist background. Thankfully, God will accept us on those terms, if the situation is real and sincere, and not an intentional blindness.

That question used to plague me yet now I can accept it. But even in that light, we still must address our skeletons as honestly and openly as we can. C. S. Lewis did what he could with what he given, and had accomplished with it a far sight more than anything most of us have managed. So he perhaps could not take that last step towards full Christianity. How many of us can? It is an area in which we must be supremely grateful for God's mercy.

Friday, December 4, 2015

He had a way with words

I loved me Grandpa Joe. He had wisdom, he did, and he had humor too. He had a sense of self which belied description.

He was literate, he truly was. He had a way about him. You understood him. If you looked.

If you was unloading a truck with a hoist, when the load was secured, you would raise her down. Raise her down, I tell ya. That's how you done it.

Raise her down. I'll not forget that phrase. You want something on the ground, you raise her down.

Ah, me Grandpa Joe. He had a way with words, he did. And a special kind of wisdom. He had that too.

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Father the baseball player, Father the priest

It's funny how in life there are times where a person or an event from your past comes back into your mind seemingly out of nowhere. Just this past weekend I found myself telling my son how Fr. Willoughby, a former pastor of our church (St. Dominic in Detroit, MI) used to drink cola warm. He believed that you tasted the flavors more fully with warm pop. For whatever reason, the story had simply 'popped' into my mind.

Then yesterday, an old friend from the parish called my mother to say that Father Willoughby had passed away on November 19.

I'm not intending to be maudlin nor am I trying for an 'aw, that's too bad' moment either. But I'm interested in why I would be thinking of him recently to then hear the news of his death. I wonder if we are being told something, or reminded of something when such things happen.

In Father's case, it is with fondness that I remember his faithfulness to the Church, his straightforward yet friendly instruction, and his friendship itself which I recall well. What really struck me was his obvious humility, his willingness to accept that he wasn't the center of human history. He could see that it wasn't him or his opinions which mattered, but rather what was right. A little story he told on himself one day might illustrate that trait.

Before joining the Dominican Order in 1942, Fr. Willoughby among other things had played semi-professional baseball. He was a first baseman, I believe he said. One day, his team was involved in a game where Walter Johnson, whom baseball fans know was a quiet, flamethrowing pitcher for the old Washington Senators, indeed that he was part of the first class selected for enshrinement in Cooperstown, would be the home plate umpire. Needless to say, Father and his teammates were excited about that.

As it was, Father came up in the bottom of the first with the bases loaded and two out. He worked the pitcher into a full count, then let the next pitch go by. Johnson promptly called him out on strikes, ending what turned out to be his last chance at baseball semi-immortality. "I was sure it was a ball, but I guess it was a strike", he said, and in truth matter of factly, at the end of the story. Indeed, it was profoundly self effacing.

My wife teased him, "That first part was the ballplayer talking, but the second was the priest talking!" Father just smiled, and kind of nodded his head. He could take teasing too.

Requiem æternam dona ei, Domine. Godspeed, Father Willoughby.

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Granddads and smartphone games

Temple Run. If you haven't heard of it, haven't yet got the fever, it's a game you can play on your smartphone. And it's addicting: I can blame my granddaughter for that.

One day while she was visiting she asked, "Grandpappy (yes, Grandpappy; I chose it myself, it's unique) can I borrow your phone?" So I lent it to her and she helped me set up an online account with Apple or somebody; I haven't accessed it since so I really don't remember. She then downloads Temple Run and shows me how to play. Then she laughs at how inept I am at the game.

I'll show her, I thought. Between that visit and her next, I played that game all the time. I played until the battery died on my phone. I gathered coins and bonus points and leveled up several times. I upgraded the game with the coins I had won. I kept playing until the day came that I was in a zone. I ran and ran through that temple, missing nary a turn nor a jump, outrunning the ape like creatures which guard whatever that temple is or is supposed to be, and went farther than even I had imagined I could play. When that particular game was over, to my amazement and deep pride I had scored Three Million Seven Hundred Thousand points. I write it that way because it sounds better than 3,700,000.

I could hardly wait for my granddaughter's next visit, when I would have her in awe with this feat of smartphone derring-do. After her and her family had unpacked, she went and plopped down on the living room couch. "Ahem," I coughed, then announced, "I scored 3.7 million points on Temple Run."

"I don't play Temple Run anymore Grandpappy. It's boring." She said that with her eyes glued to whatever game she was playing then.

I visibly deflated. When you can't impress your grandchildren, who can you impress?

Monday, November 30, 2015

Coming home from curling

Well. I'm returning from Windsor last night after my Monday night curling league. And I cleared customs more easily than I cleared the toll booth, which is where you pay the Ambassador Bridge toll between Detroit and Windsor after the Department of Homeland Security has graciously allowed you to return to your own country. I should be scott free by then, right?

I offer the toll to the toll taker. She doesn't take it. Instead she asks, "You're the curling guy, aren't you?"

"Uh, I curl, yes", I respond uncertainly.

"You're the coach. You're Mike" she says, with a certain triumph in her voice. I did not correct her that I am the skip.

"Um, Marty", I corrected her instead. I did not mention that I had lost to a curler named Mike last night, though her words fanned the flames of defeat and I burned inwardly at her mistake.

"What? No. I have you down as Mike." She began then to look over some papers in front of her.

"Uhhh, you take notes on the people who pay you tolls?"

"Sure. I like to know who they are, so I can talk to them friendly".

That's okay, I guess. I in truth remembered her, and as gregarious and friendly. I really believe her to be innocent enough. Only not enough to take notes about. "You're not Mike?" she asks.

"No, honestly."

"Then you have a twin you can frame for a crime."

So all I have to say is, Mike, who and where are you? Just in case I have to pull off grand larceny and need a fall guy.

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Long live orthodoxy

Embracing change is easy. Embracing Orthodoxy is the real challenge.

-a paraphrase of Mr. G. K. Chesterton

We hear it all the time, don't we, fellow conservatives? We hear the importance of embracing change, of being willing to change, of the need to alter our beliefs and desires to the will and whim of the current society. That's all we need to do is embrace the change which the modern society wishes us to do.

If they meant for us to change in the sense of becoming truly better persons, of changing from bad habit to good, of learning to like what we ought and dislike what we ought as well, of becoming more truly and usefully charitable and kind, there would be no problem. But they don't mean that. They mean, 'accept our ways of thinking and acting'. Or, more precisely, accept the change we want imposed on you.

But the trouble with accepting change merely because it's change, merely because it is what modern society may want rather than what may really help both the individual and the world at large, is that it will leave us we know not where. For accepting it is simple. Do nothing, reflect on nothing, question nothing, and change will occur. There's no effort involved.

Yet embracing Orthodoxy, and we capitalize it on purpose, accepting and living by proper traditions, now that's the challenge. That's where we grow and nurture our selves and our souls. That's how we create better people and a better world. By living right according to the just precepts which have been with us since the dawn of time. Change is all right, yes, if done to that purpose.

Otherwise, it will happen anyway. But would you rather do what you can to control change, or merely be stuck in its tight and unwieldy (and worldly) groove, as Mr. Chesterton also suggests? For you will lose control of yourself by merely agreeing to eternally change. Yet tradition works. That's how it became traditional in the first place.

Friday, November 27, 2015

Let's end Black Friday

Once there was a day called Black Friday. It was meant to launch the holiday shopping season, and was known to start as early as 4 or 5 in the morning on the day after Thanksgiving. Yet that, it seems, was not good enough. We have reached the point where the sales are encroaching so far into Thanksgiving itself that there are stores opening as early as 3 or 5PM Thursday afternoon. We are now faced with Black Thursday.

There is something seriously wrong with this picture, something which speaks to a serious ill in American society. Why do we need these sales? Why do people think they have they right to them? And before all the rabid libertarian free marketers go livid about it (no one makes them do it, what about freedom?) let's ask you two things: aren't some folks (if not most involved, quite frankly) being made to do things?, and, isn't their freedom thus being sacrificed?

It is hard to imagine that the bulk of sales and support staff at stores would rather be working than at home with their families and friends on a major holiday. The same can be said of those working arenas for sporting events as well, or even at television stations and entertainment establishments. Why do we think we have the right to expect those people to have to work for our leisure?

This isn't capitalism. It's consumerism, and it's the worst example of bacchanalia. It is the time of year when we least like free markets, and perhaps the best time to remind those who do preach them that economics aren't everything. Simple, unfettered economics may well infringe on someone's freedom as well as any government attempt to stifle a reasoned liberty. Yet there is a difference. There's at least a small chance that, with a bit of discipline at the voting booth door, we might actually stop government. Is there any way we might stop the Invisible Hand?

Anything which does not practice a decent amount self examination and a reasonable self discipline will become a devil. The free market is no different. Yet it does create quite the hypocrites among its defenders, doesn't it? They express a disdain for coercion. Yet they sure don't mind the coercion which the markets force upon people.

That strikes us as violence against the person as hateful as any government encroachment upon the person. But the free marketers won't see it. They have their own god attending to their business. And it is not constrained by care for humanity.

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Thanksgiving 2015

Giving thanks means a lot of different things to a lot of different people. Sometimes I wonder if it might help if we were to whittle that down to one or two specifics, simply to emphacize what we really should be thankful for. You know, find something small and specific as an illustration of a broader point.

We might say as a general point that we are thankful for family. That's a good thing, right? Yet how about a concrete example of that? For me, one such example is Thanksgiving 1984.

There were only just the three of us in the immediate family at the time. We had Thanksgiving Dinner at Nana and Paw Paw's, and waddled down the block home in the late afternoon, and hour or so before dark. There had been about a two inch snowfall, enough so everything was covered in a nice and clean white blanket. We went into the backyard to play in the snow a bit before actually going inside.

My wife and I began tossing snow up in the air, and Charlie followed suit as best an almost two year old could, all of us laughing and giggling. Then we found an old slat from an old picket fence and I made a snowball, while Gail took the piece of fence and held it like a bat in Charlie's hands. I pitched the snowball gently; Charlie 'swung' mightily with his mother's help. The ball exploded when hit, and all three of us laughed out loud. Charlie laughed especially hard, as small children can laugh, without holding back, in a more free spirited manner than us adults. We did it again and again, several times over, each time cackling madly when the snowball vanished in a spray of white. We did it, I don't know how many times. But each time was a laugh riot. It's a memory that even then, thirty one years ago now, I knew I would never forget.

It's a prime example of being thankful for family. You'll hear more from me involving everyone else in the family as time goes on. But this being Thanksgiving, I felt it a good place to start.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Cat people

So we're keeping my daughter's fiance's cat. I'm not quite sure how this happened, but it has. So be it. The cat has so decreed, it seems.

She's a really good cat. She stays out of my way except to mew when she's hungry, or, better, when she just wants food. At those times when she mews I hear myself saying, sorry, honey, only mommy can feed you, as I stroke her fur.

What?

Last week, when I was staying overnight with my son and his family (who have three cats who tolerate their presence) I found myself looking for their cats. Just to pet them, you know, and say things things like, How are you sweetie? Are you okay? She's a good girl, she is. And the like.

Now my daughter's fiance's cat sits on the paper return tray of my printer as I want to print something. She sits there like she owns it. And what do I do? I sit at the computer patiently, stroking her back. And saying, how are you sweetie? Yes, she's a good girl.

Good girl? I'm trying to print something and you're in my way. I would have knocked my own children aside screaming, 'I want to print this. I need to print this. Go play Super Mario!' even though I thought video games a waste of time when they played them. And then I think, Oh Dear God I'm becoming a cat person.

Please make it stop. Please. I'm still brushing fur off my Big Dogs fleece hoodie.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Aw Hell and fresh oranges

Grandpa Joe swore quite a bit. Most of it was rather tame compared to what we hear these days, however, and it consisted mostly of 'Aw Hell' which by his inflection could express anything from mild distaste to complete disgust. If he really thought you were full of it, he said, "Ain't that a crock of stuff." Yes, stuff, he said, not even using the obvious expletive in the plainly obvious context. In great distress he was bellow, "No, no, no, Hell, no", with a profound and almost indescribable emphasis on Hell, drawing the word out as though he had to force it from his lungs. But those stories are for another time.

Joe was rough and difficult to deal with, yet he had a soft side. Once when out and about with a friend, I'll call him Cloyce just to give him a name, Joe asked Cloyce if he wanted a soda pop. Told yes, they found a store, parked, and went headed towards the door. Clyde remembered a street urchin, a sad and frail little boy sitting over to the side with his knees tucked into his body, trying to stave off the chill in the air.

They went into the store. Clyde went to the refrigerated aisle and grabbed a bottle of pop. Realizing next that Joe was not with him, he found him trolling a stack of bagged oranges. You know how they would bag oranges in those mesh bags, right? Orange mesh bags, I suppose to blend with the oranges. Joe took one, then got a drink for himself, and they went to the checkout and paid. So he wants oranges, Cloyce thought.

When they were outside, Joe went over to the urchin and tossed him the oranges. Cloyce said the boy looked up at Joe in surprise and joy and said, "Mister, when you dies, I hope you goes straight to Heaven." Joe replied ironically, but in a quiet voice, "Aw Hell". It was perhaps the only time and manner in which such words could sound humble.

So Aw Hell can mean a lot of things. You just have to have the right emphasis. Joe was a master of that.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Jimmy's a grand old Scotsman

I first met Jimmy about 25 years ago, a grand old Scotsman with many a fine tale, after a bonspiel (curling tournament) at the Detroit Curling Club. We were talking after a game. He noticed my name tag and he comments, "Cosgriff? Is Welsh is it?"

I replied, "I don't think so. My cousin Beth has traced our family to north Tipperary in Ireland."

Jimmy replies, "Ah, Irish, Scottish, Welsh. All Gaelic. We all have the one thing in common."

"What's that, Jimmy?" I asked in curious reply.

"We hate the English."

We have been good friends ever since.

Just saying...

Democracy is the worst political system...except for all the other political systems.

Capitalism is the lousiest economic system...outside of all the other economic systems.

Why are they the best, yet the worst? Because they are based on human freedom and dignity. People have a great capacity for good, but a terrible propensity to do ill. Freedom unfortunately feeds both these notions.

But I wouldn't have it any other way.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

The old barn

I drove by that old barn last night, late, when I was coming back from curling in Windsor, Ontario. I needed to be sure she was secure, and she was.

That old barn means a lot to me. Me Grandpa Joe, he rented it first, back in 1960, the year I was born. Later, he bought it outright. It had been a stable back when actual horsepower still drove the world. It had then been a mechanic shop, then an auto detailing shop. Then a place to store welding equipment and pipe threaders, things necessary for fabrication in an era before prefabrication. Things me old grandfather owned and rented.

There was many folk what worked there. Some was relatives. Some were neighborhood friends, some were folk who needed one more week of work to make their full Social Security. Me Grandad, he did that for an old friend from Illinois who for whatever reason needed one week of work to qualify for a whole Social Security check. Miles Fitzpatrick his name was. Grandad helped his old friend from Jacksonville earn his full Social Security with the one more week of work he needed to collect before earning his whole Social Security.

Me Dad, he brought me in there when I was 13 and expecting a whole summer off schoolwork. Baseball and all, you know, what kids then wanted to play. I still remember Pops knocking on me door at 7:30 on that Monday morning after seventh grade let out and saying simply, 'Marty'. I was up straight off, and soon into clothes I didn't mind ruining, and went to work. I can honestly say I have 42 years experience in the business. It was me Pops what saw to that.

It was in that old barn wheres I learned to appreciate them folks around me. Grandpa Joe, we lost him in Nineteen Ninety One, two days before his eighty sixth birthday. We lost Pops in Twenty Thirteen, on the Twenty Fifth of June. I learned what great guys they were whiles workin' in that old barn. Now, that old barn, it's mine and me brother Phil's.

And it's secure. And I'll go to sleep being secure myself tonight now.

Friday, November 13, 2015

Swagger is shallow

You don't brag on yourself. You don't. I'm not saying that it's a moral wrong. But it is crude.

Everyone in Detroit remembers Kirk Gibson punching his fists in the air when his three run shot off Goose Gossage sealed the 1984 World Series for our hometown Detroit Tigers. Some would call it an iconic moment. But what did it actually accomplish? The Tigers were already leading the game 5-4 in the bottom of the Eighth and the series 3 games to one. A smarter manager than Dick Williams would have walked Gibson. Who drove in the actual Series winning run? Who was the MVP of the 84 Series?

You had to look that up didn't you? But aren't their accomplishments really more important than a moment caught on camera when the series was at least arguably already over? Gibson may have been the icing. But he was not the cake.

We're too much for show in the U.S. and in many other parts of the world today. Yet show rarely accomplishes anything. It's the grunts what do that. It's the little things which add up to great things which ultimately matter the most.

Rusty Kuntz and Alan Trammell BTW. You had forgotten that until now I'm sure.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

A holiday on an actual holiday

Did my eyes deceive me? Did we just have a holiday on the day of the holiday and not on the nearest Monday?

I went to the bank yesterday and it was closed. We had no mail delivery. The school across the street from my workshop was closed. It seems as though we actually (well, some of us anyway) celebrated a holiday on the holiday. Veterans Day was actually on the traditional Veteran's Day.

Of course, that's how it should be. But as we have gotten into the habit of remembering special days on the nearest Monday (you know, for our convenience rather as an honor to the person or subject at hand) it took me awhile to realize that Veteran's Day was different.

That's good. We should treat all holidays the same. That would actually respect them rather than just giving some folks a day off work.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Veteran's Day 2015

Why is it that we often only appreciate the American Soldier when he is fighting Nazis?

That is the fault of the Hollywood Left, quite frankly. For whatever bizarre reason, and knowing them it must be somewhat bizarre or selfish, it seems that the soldiers most fondly recalled are those from the WWII generation. Without a doubt, they deserve their praise of course. This isn't to doubt their service or their bravery. We should recall them. The American Soldier, and his compatriots from Canada and Great Britain and France and China and dozens of other nations from around the world fell while fighting the menace of Nazi Germany and militarist Japan. They may have been at least to that time the worst threat the entire world had faced, and a threat to the United States as well, to be sure. But were they only reason the American Soldier fought and died?

Did not the American Soldier fight and fall at Lexington and Concord? Citizen soldiers, yes, they were. And they stood their ground, refusing to allow the Redcoats to secure a garrison of patriotic supplies at Concord, pestering the British all the way back to their garrison at Boston. Did the American Soldier not fall at Fort Ticonderoga, or Bunker Hill, or at Saratoga? Did he not fall at the retreat from Manhattan, or while fighting the Hessians at Princeton or Trenton, or was their blood not shed as they attacked redoubts numbered 9 and 10 at Yorktown, the attacks which were key to victory at that famous battle? Why should we not remember that American Soldier?

During the Wars which we do not remember so fondly, at sea against the French in 1798, at the Raisin River right here in Michigan in 1813 during the War of 1812, did he not fall? At Tripoli during the Wars in 1804 and 1815? Why do we not remember the American Soldier from then?

Do we remember Fort Sumter? Do we remember Antietam? Do we remember Bull Run, battles One and Two, or the siege of Vicksburg? Do Chambersburg and Gettysburg, Gettysburg, the battle which many historians argue is one of the ten most critical battles of World History, World History, mind you, mean anything these days? Do we appreciate what that means to our nation even today?

The doughboys in World War I; do we know them these days? Yes, they are universally gone now. They should not be forgotten.

World War II and Korea live in our memories. Yet we forget Korea. That is, other than with the greatest cynicism, as presented by M*A*S*H. Why do we recall only with disdain the great victories of the American Soldier in Vietnam? Why do we not acknowledge the tremendous victory of the American Soldier of the TET Offensive during the New Year of 1968? The Viet Cong were blown off the field of battle as an effective fighting force for a year, an entire year, and the media (which hates conservative America) called it a military loss. Why do we forget you? Why do we forget the American Soldier of Operation Iraqi Freedom? Why do we forget the American Soldier who toils each day in Afghanistan? Why do we forget the American Soldier who toils each day holding the Al Qaeda militants at bay at Guantanamo, safe from attacking their fellow citizens?

We should not. We should not forget you any more than we should forget the veteran of Granada or Operation Desert Storm, of Panama or Haiti or the 200 or more military operations in our history. Has every action of the US been right? No; we are human. We have made mistakes. Where we have, nature and nature's God rightly demand we regret them and make amends where we can. Yet even then we must not forget that our sons and daughters have not died in vain. There were part of the greater cause, willing to serve their nation whenever or wherever it called. We must give them their due too.

The Nazis have not been the only evil in the world. They may have been not the worst evil, either. Other evils have arisen; evils whose blood soils the hand of the American Soldier. They was always and everywhere concerned with rightness and justice no matter what. And that, dear friends, is how we ought remember them.

Sunday, November 8, 2015

What's behind me doesn't matter

A few weeks ago the rear view mirror on the windshield of my van fell off. Well, that was no big deal; in forty years of driving I've had that happen before. I went to the auto parts store and bought the primer and adhesive I needed, applied the bracket which holds the mirror to the window onto the window, waited the 24 hour curing period, installed the mirror the next day, and drove away satisfied at a job well done.

A few miles down the road the mirror falls off again.

Well, so what? No problem. I might have done something wrong, or there was something wrong with the adhesive, or whatever. Anything made or done by human hands is subject to failure. That's just the way things are. So I went back to the auto parts store, bought more stuff, blah, blah, blah, install mirror a day later, drive a few miles...and the mirror falls off.

Hmm.

Later that same day I was talking to my daughter about it, and she told me about some kind of super adhesive which she and her mother used on their various arts and crafts products which might work. It certainly seemed worth a try. So I took some, applied it to the bracket, put the bracket on the windshield, waited the appropriate curing time, and installed the mirror. I drove a bit, and everything seemed fine.

When I got in the van to go to work the next day, the mirror was lying against the gas pedal. And I swear it was mocking me.

Okay, it was time to go to the pros. Yesterday morning I took the van to the auto glass specialist whom we have went to for, well, my grandfather and father before me went to him, and he really is a great glass man, and asked what he could do. He used his gunk, and told me in about 15 minutes that the car was ready. He wouldn't take payment for it though I, being a noble sort, tossed a twenty on his desk over his protestations. I climbed into the van and went to start the rest of my day, beginning with a trip out the freeway to my barber. As I took the Ford Road exit off of I-94, the mirror fell off. I exploded in laughter. It really was hilarious by that point.

So my question now is, does anyone out there know how to hang a stupid mirror to a windshield?

Saturday, November 7, 2015

Curling and Fr. Smith

I have a bad habit when curling. I tend to jog down the ice when it's my turn to throw a stone, and that's something you should never do: run on ice. I've injured myself quite spectacularly more than once doing that. So even as I tell new curlers not to run on the ice, I turn around and do it myself. With abandon.

Last night as I curled I religiously followed that old habit. And I had a lot of change in my pocket. It jingled heartily as I jogged down the sheet. Shing, shing, shing was the sound I made as I ran toward the far hack to deliver my curling rock. And halfway down sheet six last night, as I jogged to throw my shots in the second end, I found myself reminded of a Sunday afternoon quite a few years ago.

When I was young, my dad would often take my brother and I to a field right across the street from our Church and we would all take turns hitting and fielding a baseball. One such day our Pastor, Fr. Smith, saw us as we pretended at baseball and asked if he might play along. And as we had extra gloves and only needed one bat, and as he was our pastor (and good friend of Pops), we said sure.

Fr. Smith took a glove and we all tossed the old pill around to warm up. Then Father hit a few, then grabbed a glove and went out into the field. And I learned very quickly that he was a serious ballplayer.

He tracked down every fly ball anywhere near him. His keys gave away his determination. As pastor of our parish, he had all kinds of keys, and seemed to have them all in his pockets that far ago Sunday afternoon. He stalked every fly ball with almost reckless abandon, running down whatever dared towards his territory. And his keys made this emphatic sound, shing, shing, shing, as he tracked down the baseballs which challenged him.

He was a great guy, Fr. Smith. And of all things, I found myself remembering him and that day fondly last night while on the curling ice. Funny, eh?

Friday, November 6, 2015

This Napoleon was truly funny

While surfing around Wikipedia this morning I decided to look up a few unimportant things which are nonetheless of interest to me. I searched for Napoleon XIV, as I had always liked his novelty song They're Coming to Take Me Away and was curious about the songwriter/performer who came up with it. As it was, the song made the billboard top five in 1966. It likely would have stayed longer except that radio stations stopped playing the catchy little ditty after advocacy groups for the mentally ill alleged that it made fun of people with psychological issues.

I do not know what to think of this. No, wait, I do: such things are simply far too politically correct for their own good. For starters, the song is just an attempt at humor. Why can't it be accepted on that level? Then, too, it isn't making fun of anyone. It's a parody about the overreaction of a guy who's girlfriend dumped him. It does not, that I can see, make fun or light of mentally ill people. I simply can't see anything wrong with it.

Part of the trouble in this world today is that too many people won't lighten up, and that's especially galling where there's no true ill will expressed by a song or a joke. I will grant you that anything done with venom, something done with malice aforethought intended to actually offend a person or group, may well be indefensible on its own merit. But when someone can't use a common reference for the sake of a laugh, I have to conclude that we have too many folks out there who worry too much about stuff which doesn't rate the amount of concern they think it should.

Busybodies, that's what they are. Fortunately those of us with lives know how and when to laugh. Let's start by laughing at them.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

The rush to judge social conservatives

I am a conservative; that point I've never hidden from anyone. But what's more, I am also in the eyes of many the worst kind of conservative: a social conservative. As such, I am frequently told that I must not judge. If by that charge the accusers mean that I cannot judge people as good or bad I will readily agree. Yet they don't mean that. They only mean that I must not judge actions with which they sympathize. And to that I readily do not agree.

To begin with, isn't arguing that we should not judge in itself a judgment? If it is, then isn't the idea intrinsically contradictory? Doesn't it pull support right from under itself? It is simply an entirely untenable position, especially with questions of God or right and wrong. If God doesn't judge, or at least expect us to act certain ways, then why did he bother about those pesky Commandments?

That is perhaps the most critical point in having to make judgments. From that idea, we surely must see that the concept goes all the way down. It would be awfully hard to be a good parent if you could never judge the actions of your children. Society could never make the first law for the simple reason that laws make judgments. Indeed if judging is wrong then how might I ever decide which contractor to repair my home or car, for in the act of choosing Mechanic Sam ahead of Mechanic Kyle I have judged Sam's talents superior to Kyle's. But if sort of judging is wrong, then my car shall never get fixed. No; we simply must judge actions (and histories and abilities) if we are to get on in this world.

It is interesting that those who assert that we cannot judge never condemn judgment over things they believe good. They encourage it in fact. They say things like, we should accept everyone no matter what. Well, accept me and my judgmental ways then; of course, they won't do that. I can't help but think it's hypocrisy, however inadvertently or unintentionally it may be done. If judging is wrong, then judgments about what is good are as invalid as judgments about what is bad. At that point, as with picking our mechanic, we couldn't get anything done because even a good judgment, would be, by obvious inference, out of the question.

The bottom line is that non-judgmentalism is an impossible scientific, philosophical, theological, or even merely practical position to hold. But I bet that won't stop the no judgment folks from judging my words here, will it?

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Must there be life on other worlds?

The SETI (search for extraterrestrial life) folks have decided that they're going about the search for alien life in the wrong way. They've been listening to distant star systems for steady radio signals which would theoretically would indicate intelligence. Yet a newer view is that intelligent life would sent out short, powerful bursts of radio energy based on the idea that other smart fellows would be sending out those rather than the steady, lower powered energies we've been looking for. It's really quite interesting. The sad thing is that it will almost certainly lead to nothing.

I will go on the record as saying that I don't believe that there is other intelligent life, indeed that there is not any life at all, elsewhere in the galaxy. That is not etched in stone, for if the universe is huge and expanding as we're told then other life is admittedly not out of the question. Still, that old saw, that with the sprawling and expanding nature of the universe there must be intelligent life besides our own, isn't really that impressive of an argument. Space and time do not necessarily mean that other life forms can or must have developed.

For starters, our immediate experience is that nothing else is there. We've found no hard and fast evidence of life in the local planets and solar systems; it would be more logical to assume that the more worlds without life, the less likely that there are in fact others with it. Further, why is it so outlandish to think that maybe, just maybe, we were touched by the Divine for a very singular purpose? Perhaps, only perhaps, we will allow, the rest of creation is there simply for our marvel, to appreciate the immensity of the Supreme Being? And there is certainly no law of physics which states there must be life elsewhere.

Yet if there is, it isn't as though such a discovery would alter what should be our proper view of things. If there are intelligent aliens, they would have been created by the same God. They would face the same issues which we do: seeing to their needs, their daily bread, and considering their responsibilities to their fellow creatures and to whomever else they may find. In short, SETI is interesting as an academic device. But would any discoveries it may make be, shall we say (we do so love puns), Earth shattering?

Of course not. So keep looking, if that's you life's work, and I will readily concede my error if proved wrong. But don't make it too much of a mission. There's an awful lot here on our world which could be as rewarding. Indeed, if you want to get to know others, there's plenty of them around here for your entertainment.

Sunday, November 1, 2015

The Leap of Faith

There is only one thing which it takes courage to say and that is a truism.

- G. K. Chesterton

Chesterton had a way about him, didn't he? He could cut to the chase better than anyone, and today's quote is a prime example of that.

Why is it so hard to mouth a truism? All truth is built on things so obvious that no rational mind would reject them. Call them truisms, axioms, first principles, self evidence; it's all the same thing. And all reason is built upon them. All that an anti-abortion activist need point out is that human beings have human babies and all other truths about the pro-life issue fall squarely into place. For the rational mind, that is. That's why so many pro-abortion activists are simply shrill. They have no rational option to offer.

Still, I can see where speaking a truism can be difficult. There is a degree to which they appear too simple, and simplicity can be scary exactly because of that. Another great British Christian, Mr. C. S. Lewis, famously remarked that he was never less sure of an issue than right after he had successfully defended it. That makes sense to me. It's daunting to believe that's that's all there is to it, so to speak. There's a part of us which has trouble believing the great questions have simple answers. The questions seem too great to have answers so obvious.

That's where trust comes in. No matter how obvious something may be, scientifically, philosophically, or theologically, we have to take a leap of faith to fully accept it. We see what seem to be apparent complications in the world and have a tough time cutting through all that noise to understand truth. That is why, to employ Mr. Lewis again, we must be obstinate in belief. Until the proof is incontrovertible that our position is wrong, then believe it is right. There's no shame in that. Why ought anyone abandon a position merely because the wind might be blowing against them?

There's no point making the world a more complicated place that it may seem, and certainly no point complicating issues through nothing more than ignorance and human frailty. The truth is indeed out there. It can be expressed in the most simple ways as well. Take strength in that. Take that leap of faith.

Saturday, October 31, 2015

Halloween 2015

Tonight is Halloween, a day that I've come to look forward to more and more as time goes by. I think maybe it's the atmosphere: we simply don't have many days when there is a true party feeling throughout the neighborhood. It comes to life in a manner which simply doesn't happen often.

Oh, they'll be the occasional annoyance, mild pushing and shoving, even an adult or two who want free candy. That last one used to burn at me, but not so much anymore. You can't let the twerps ruin your mood.

My family will take turns passing out goodies and walking around the hood. I'll wander a bit through my mother's yard, where my brother Patrick goes to town with the outdoor decor, and just be happy to be around it. Then when we're done we'll go inside and order the Charlie Brown Halloween special to cap off the night. And this year we have the added pleasure of falling back, as Daylight Savings Time ends overnight. I always liked that feeling: looking at the clock at 9 and thinking it's really only 8.

With a bit of luck maybe the rain will hold out until we're done. If not, ah well. Let's have a Happy Halloween anyway!

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Thursday rambling. Or rumbling? Grumbling?

The guy throwing vice for me on Mondays pointed out as curling started this week that the last time we curled together, he had a heart attack. Literally. An actual heart attack! Then my play that night nearly gave him another. Keep your nitro pills close at hand Jim.

They're calling for a 100% chance of this rain this coming Halloween in Detroit. Really? All this relatively nice weather we've had this October and we're talking almost certain rain on Halloween? And a half inch at that. That's just not fair, rain gods. Or fair weather gods, or whomever we're expected to blame for this travesty. And it's supposed to be warm and sunny from next Sunday through Thursday too; beautiful weather for November. I can appreciate irony, but this is simply wrong.

I'm looking forward to falling back this weekend though. I know that it means night will fall earlier, but I'd rather have the daylight in the morning anyway. The extra hour of sleep isn't so bad on the nerves either. It's more time to lament the water logged Halloween as well.

Have I mentioned that I'm not happy with the Halloween weather forecast? Well, I'm not. It'll make my Heath Ledger Joker makeup run.

For years I hadn't watched much prime time TV. Now I find myself being sucked back into that vortex. To be sure, I have tuned into NCIS almost religiously for years now, but as my interest in sports wanes I find that regular television can fill the void nicely. Or should I drop this new devil for the devil that I know? After all, there are no time clocks, time outs, and poor officiating to be found in the Middle. Although the writing for that show has fallen off so far this season.

Still, I liked Brick's Halloween costume on last night's episode. He was the Rod Serling from Night Gallery, not Twilight Zone. Anybody should have seen that. Nice comic turn, I thought. And it didn't rain in Orson, Indiana on Halloween either.

Have I made clear my disgust with the likelihood of a rainy Detroit Halloween? Then my work here is done.

Until next time, folks...

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Pops and the Steel Mill

There was this bearing, see? It would not come out of the end of the armature of an electric drive, a 300, and it would not come out, even with the bearing pullers. Even with the sledge, okay? It would not come out. Then my buddy, he said to me, "I bet that would come out a lot easier after some cold lemonade, wouldn't it?"

So we went out onto the roof of that old building of the Ford steel mill at the Rouge plant. It was a hot day, but there was this ledge, and it had a picnic table, and the guys would sit there on their coffee breaks and enjoy the cool breeze on their breaks. And we had some lemonade. And it was good and it was cold. And it sure tasted good.

So then, I go back to that electric drive, and I put the bearing pullers in, and I hit them with the sledge. And they break loose. I pull the old bearing, I put the new one in, and that old Hobart works like a dream.

That was one of Dad's favorite stories. Simple, and to the point. He replaced that old bearing, which was sounding off like a banshee, after a break with some friends on a common job site. He liked the story well enough to tell me the tale many times.

I hope that I did it justice.

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Pops expresses an opinion to Joe

My dad and my Grandpa Joe got along well, despite the fact that Grandpa could be difficult to deal with (something which I will attest to from years of personal experience, and I really loved the old coot). Dad explained to me once that both he and his father had poor tempers, something I would never have accused Dad of having, but as Joe was here first, Pops had made up his mind early on that he would be the one to hold his tongue whenever he didn't see eye to eye with his old man. However, that didn't mean he couldn't get his point across when necessary.

Joe rented welding equipment and Pops worked for him. This was back in 1940s through the 1980s, before prefabrication, when a lot of fabrication had to be done right on construction sites. So Grandpa had for rent arc welders, torches, and things which I think were called buzz boxes. As that's good enough for the point of this tale, we'll leave it at that.

These buzz boxes were intended to make instant welds. As I recall, you would hold the thing up to a rivet on a steel girder and it was supposed to make three quick welds to secure the rivet in place. Supposed is the operative word here. The boxes were notoriously finicky, and it was Dad's job to go out to work sites to repair the them when they didn't work.

Pops hated them. They were as difficult to repair as they were to operate. Over a few years Dad learned to fully and completely despise them.

One day as he came in from a particularly tough repair of one of the buzz boxes, Joe could see that his son was not in a good mood. As Pops saw it, his father thought that maybe he could lighten things. He remarked with a slight chuckle, apparently trying to make a joke of it, "Those buzz boxes are tough to deal with, eh?"

As Dad told it, he replied quietly, firmly, and without looking up at his dad, "Old man, when you die, I'm selling those buzz boxes. Then I'll bury you." It's an old line, but used rightly, an effective one. Perhaps Dad had been holding it back, waiting for the teachable moment.

Joe laughed at it, but kind of nervously. The next day he began selling the buzz boxes.

Pops could let Joe know what he felt when he had to, and without the arguments Joe often had with others. And I think they respected each other because of it.

Friday, October 23, 2015

Football: not the only flawed sport

I've spent likely too much energy complaining about flaws in sports. Okay, I suppose it's more accurate to say I've wasted that energy lamenting flaws in American Football, not that those hardheaded players and fans care to listen to reason. Yet all sports have their weak points, and I've realized that they all might benefit from my wisdom. So I will now, from time to time, vent about those others. And I will begin with my favorite, the greatest game ever, baseball.

Let's start by helping the pitchers, shall we? How about calling the whole strike zone for starters (okay, and relievers too)? Why must they get only half to two-thirds of what the rule book says is a strike? It's no wonder that pitch counts are getting so high: if a hurler doesn't groove a pitch he doesn't get a strike. If the human umpires can't figure out what Fox Trac (or whatever they call their strike zone guide) clearly sees as a ball or a strike, then replace them with technology. It's no different than using instant replay really.

While we're talking about pitchers, let's make them bat again. It's only right. Everyone else has to play the whole game, and commentators regularly and rightly opine that, once a ball is pitched, the pitcher becomes an infielder. Make them bat too. Yes, the lament will be that who wants to see pitchers bat? I don't care. Baseball is a game where everyone else plays two ways. Pitchers should too. I hold the same for what is something of the converse: designated hitters don't play the whole game either. Get rid of them.

Throw the sabermetricians out of the ballpark too. Quite frankly, we knew who the great, average, and mediocre players were before Bill James came around, and with a lot less pointless analysis. I admire his love of and commitment to the game, but all he's really dealing in is minutiae. Which means trivia. Use the basic rubrics by which baseball has judged players for a century. They almost always point to the same conclusions as the number crunchers do.

And please stop changing pitchers so often. I've reached the point where I think each team should be limited to four pitchers per nine inning game, barring injury. Take the limit off in extra frames as well. If we help the pitchers with a true strike zone, they'll throw fewer pitches and not be so tired anyway, and can go longer. Get rid of that situational left hander too. He's another sabermetric invention we could do without.

Baseball is a great game. The best ever, by any honest and rational consideration. But like all human constructs it could be improved. Consider these ideas a start.

Ask the right questions

There are many things which no one seems to oppose. We're all for peace, correct? Education? The environment? Observing the Golden Rule, perhaps, if such references are not too religious? Yet so often these claims ring hollow. They must, you see: for peace and education are just words. By themselves, they really mean nothing.

It is critically important that we bring up and discuss the important questions which must follow these words if our actions are to mean anything; indeed, if the words themselves are at some point to be of value, of good use. WE must ask: peace under what circumstances? Peace for whom? Because of course peace in the sense of a lack of war was very useful for Hitler and Stalin yet was a rather poor mantra for Austria or the Communist Bloc.

Simply put, the next time someone asks you if you are for peace, or education, or the environment, ask them relevant questions before you answer. Ask them peace under what conditions? Education to what purpose and in what manner? The environment for whom and how? Before these issues are addressed we have nothing but a shallow and insipid pool of vacuous semi-thought. Yet afterwards, we may actually accomplish things.

Monday, October 19, 2015

What makes good counsel

Counselling has become a big issue in recent years. Indeed it's reached the point where whenever tragedy strikes one of the first things we are assured is that counselors are on the way. Not that's there's anything wrong with that of course. But what bothers me is when I hear that we are expected to counsel people in a value neutral atmosphere. The idea cries out for greater discussion.

So, there are those who suggest that the role of the counselor is to offer value neutral advice to the person being counseled. But that idea is not itself value neutral and thus self contradictory. It can dismissed out of hand as useless to the arena of valuable, helpful counseling. Still, people seek counsel, and often very wisely. Therefore, we must understand what counseling means, so that we can offer good counsel ourselves when and if asked. After all, it is not a realm given solely to the supposed professionals. Often, perhaps generally, family and friends with no actual training in the field can offer the best advice and support.

Counselors, as we understand value neutral counsel, are expected to make recommendations which are in line with the advice seeker's worldview. This must be seen as nonsense. What good can that approach achieve, especially on the rather safe presumption that the counselee already knows what their worldview expects of them. Yet should they not and desire clarification, wouldn't it make more sense for them to go to an adviser of their own stripe? Should not a Christian, Buddhist, Muslim, seek a counselor who is Christian, Buddhist, Muslim? Why go to some sort of generic counselor if what you want to hear is best offered by someone of your own stripe?

Indeed, that brings the whole idea of a generic form of counseling itself into question. How could such a counselor possibly be an expert in all areas: Christianity in all of its forms, Buddhism in its, Islam in its, and even secularism in its? Indeed again, what kind of a counselor would they in fact be if they merely told the person before them what they wanted to hear?

There are two basic ways in which we approach counsel. One is that we want to be told what we already believe is true. The other is when we need an objective, impartial observer to show or tell us why, and in no uncertain terms, our current approach to an issue or problem is errant and must be changed or altered. This is because if all we need of a generic counselor is essentially to be told that what we are doing is right based on the options our own worldview already allows, then such a job is superfluous. It must only encourage selfishness and self centeredness within the minds of those seeking counsel.

There is nothing wrong with being a yes man when the boss is right. Yet obviously when he is wrong it displays a complete lack of integrity. A decent and useful counselor must be willing to tell you you're wrong when you are. That must mean making judgments brimming with proper values. It means calling right things right and wrong, wrong. It does not mean that a counselor shouldn't be charitable towards the counselee's feelings nor inconsiderate of their background. But a refusal to call bad ideas bad and good ideas good, to wit, to be value neutral, fails on all levels. It leaves the advice seeker at best in Limbo and at worst in Hell. Meanwhile, it makes the counselor a sort of devil when he should be a friend.

Sunday, October 18, 2015

What if they played a football game and nobody showed?

This afternoon, as I write in fact, there is a big football game in Ann Arbor between in-state rivals Michigan and Michigan State. At one point in my life I would have been drooling over the match up. Today, I have no intention of watching a single down. I won't say I don't care, but I don't care nearly so much as I once would have.

I've watched very little of my beloved Detroit Tigers this past season, and I saw very little of the Red Wings last year or so far this year. I've watched hardly any of the Major League Baseball playoffs which are currently going on, and baseball is the greatest game there is by far. I only pay enough attention to the NFL to see how my fantasy league picks are doing, and I'm not sure I should be bothering with that. I've missed the last two Super Bowls, and probably will not watch the next one unless I like one of the teams playing. I'm not sure I'll watch even at that. Even curling, a game I've played for thirty years now and whose season for me begins October 26th, doesn't have the appeal to me that it has in years gone by. I love the curlers, of course, and everyone I've met through the game; they're my greatest friends as a single group. Hell, they're my greatest friends, period. Only family is closer. But the point is that I find increasingly that sports are, well, a waste of time and energy.

Some of it has to do with the games as they now stand. They need improvement, and could make themselves better with a little effort. I've complained about that before, primarily about football, yes, but they all could use a heaping dose of integrity quite frankly. Why can't baseball give Armando Gallaraga his perfect game? It would be so easy to do, no one would argue, yet MLB doesn't do it. How can we expect sports to teach sportsmanship if the powers that be won't serve simple justice? Justice very easily served, I might add.

I've gotten tired of game officials blowing calls where the response is, essentially, oh well. That isn't fair play. And shouldn't sports be about fair play? Unless winning is indeed everything, at which point, damn the whole lot of it.

I've blogged before about my Grandpa Joe's attitude: drop the ball for all it matters. He's right to the point that sports shouldn't be so dominant in our culture although wrong, to be sure, so far as you should play your best if you do choose to play. But I've reached the point where the only games I care about were the ball games with my kids as the grew up, and pitching, catching, and batting with my granddaughter now. Tossing the ball around with Pops back in the day. The rest? It's just kinda become noise.

A lot of the fault is with me. I know that. Sports meant too much to me for too many years and it may well be that I'm overcompensating in this reaction. Still, that doesn't mean that I and the world as a whole haven't reached the point where sports and games have become bread and circuses, especially at the highest levels. That idea works fine in a completely secular world.

And that, perhaps, is what bothers me the most. I fear sometimes that we've become too much of an eat, drink, and be merry world, and that that's becoming institutionalized through sports. I can't help but wonder if we'd be better off if they become mere diversions rather than passions. Because as it is, and as I've said it before and recently, I feel that anymore the games play us more than we play the games. That speaks ill of both us and the games we watch.

Saturday, October 17, 2015

You gotta stand for something

The people who are the most bigoted are the people who have no convictions at all.

-G. K. Chesterton

Ayn Rand, though a very entertaining author, has her philosophical flaws. But if she is right about anything, she is right about this so far as it goes: you must have a philosophy to live by or you will have no bearings for judging your actions. You will have no way of interpreting what to do or when to do it.

Too many people lack this. Set aside for the moment whether any given philosophy is right. That is surely the next question to ask, but it isn't my point just now. The thrust of today's commentary is that a framework is necessary for us to determine the value of our life's, in fact even of our daily, work. Certain frameworks will prove to be wrong; indeed I suggest that there can only be one right, basic set of guidelines when all is said and done. But again, I am veering from the issue at hand.

Rand says, if I remember her correctly, that if you do not discipline yourself towards thinking about things at the least within a context of ideas which you take as a given, you will eventually merely wander from day to day, from idea to idea, and find yourself eternally at the influence of other forces without regard for what you may actually want or need. You will discover, if the thought ever actually develops in your mind, that you have not become an individual of any value. You will be a sheep. The time of slaughter will one day consume you, and you will have no way of defending yourself from it.

Or something worse will happen. You will become a petty little dictator, self assured that all that you wish do is itself the standard of right and wrong. And why not? You would be at the point where whims and passing fancy will guide you, or, more correctly, you will be the flag proudly fluttering in the wind, too proud to know that it is the air which unfurls you and not your own knowledge or will. As the breeze fades and dies, so do you. And what will be seen of you as you are opened to the world?

So you need a philosophy. You need some way of determining whether the people and events around you are evolving into things useful or things destructive. You need coherency in your life. You need to, in the words of that old saw, stand for something lest you fall for anything. This approach may well leave you standing for the wrong things in the end. Still, it's better than nothing, and indeed your only chance of being found by the just and true lies in the firmness of your stance.

Friday, October 16, 2015

Science wants too much to be right sometimes

There has been for years a tremendous hue and cry from certain quarters about how science is the answer to all of our questions, and religion and philosophy are dying. Even the revered (perhaps overly revered) physicist Stephen Hawking has recently came out and said the the universe didn't need God for its creation. That is all very well; he is, after all, trying to sell a book, and it seems that whatever must be done for publicity is all right. That's hardly a reasonable approach to truth, however. Any truth, in fact: scientific, philosophical, or theological. Yet why should we stand on moral grounds when science and progress are all that matter?

Well, perhaps because what we need to do in this day and age is to take a step back and ask ourselves: can we indeed trust science?

It can be found that the scientific world is rife with scandal, should the media decide to take as a hard of a look at the world of science as they do with religion. Indeed, scientific fraud is at least as well represented within our history as scandal sometimes seems within things religious. The Piltdown Man comes to mind, or the Cardiff Giant. And before you begin grousing that those are old news stories made in times where we hadn't progressed enough scientifically to see they were frauds, let us remember two things: it was decades before science acknowledged the error of the Piltdown Man, and that science can be as rigorous in its unwillingness to bend as they accuse religion of being.

Piltdown Man was made of the jaw of an orangutan on the skull of a human. It is difficult to believe that anthropologists way back in 1912 could not have noticed that with little more than a cursory review of the evidence. Yet that did not happen. Why?

Could it be because the purveyors of science, and by that we mean the people who make money off of it, at the time were so married to the Theory of Evolution that they would not even think of it as a hoax because it seemed to blend so well into their pre-established arguments? It could be easily alleged that their desire for, ahem, orthodoxy, could not allow them to search for the actual truth, until it was so obvious that even the priests of science had to yield.

But it is not only the older hoaxes which call attention to the arrogance of what often passes as modern science. As recently as the late 1990's we had the fraudulent researches of Jan Hendrik Schön, who made up his research yet was hailed as a rising star among scientists. And there's Shinichi Fujimura, a Japanese archaeologist who buried his own artifacts to be dug up later. His fraud went on for almost 25 years before discovery.

Then, in 1996, we had the Sokol Affair, where physicist Alan Sokol submitted and had published a paper in the journal Social Text which was totally fraudulent. He had announced on the day the article appeared later in Science Wars that his work was an experiment to “publish an article liberally salted with nonsense if (a) it sounded good and (b) it flattered the editors’ ideological preconceptions.” The experiment was quite the success. Yet he was basically accused with a violation of academic ethics rather than hailed by exposing the lack of a healthy skepticism which is supposed to be so important to the scientist.

A similar incident occurred in 2006, known as the Rooter Paper, where a computer randomly generated a paper which then submitted to and accepted as legitimate by a scientific conference.

This is not to say that all science and all scientists are bad. Yet it is interesting to note that the fraudulent scientists are viewed as outside of true science while the sins of religion are seen as inherent to religion. Is that good science, or bad philosophy?

The bottom line is that science, like religion, is practiced by human beings. Human beings who are as subject to lie and cheat if they feel sufficiently threatened as anyone else. Our lesson is not to take science at face value merely because it clothes itself in the garb of truth any more than we take religion as purveyors of truth without an honest review of their credentials. Because the biggest liars might just be on the biggest stage, and may be wearing, not robes, but lab coats.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Ladies: ask for what you want

I am today intent on venturing into dangerous waters. I am about to offer a little bit of relationship advice. As a rule, I don't care to get into such things. Commenting on the, ah, eccentricities of the male and female mentalities tends to merely leave men cantankerous and women upset, a situation which I find rather uncomfortable. At least, that is, when the women are around. My male counterparts, being of like and sound mind, are fun to be with when lamenting issues involving the fair sex. Yet as my mind is otherwise a blank at this moment, something that my women readers will surely agree with not only for right now but as a general rule once they've read this ill-advised commentary, I am hoping, perhaps (or, as is more likely) foolishly, that will be enough to excuse what is surely poor judgment this morning.

Ladies, do not hint about what you may want in life, for a birthday, or right at the moment. Do not leave clues as to the thing which would really make you happy now or in the coming days. If you want something, ask for it. Point blank and straight up: men do not read clues well. We do not take hints. We are, by and large, willing enough to do the things which will make you happy. But we need to know what they are.

You may say that we men, or people in general, ought to be able to read hints and understand clues. I will venture deeper into the muddy strata of Venus and Mars, I will risk drawing your ire (and much worse than that, I fear) and say, I do not agree. If you want something and you don't ask for it in a straightforward and even bold fashion, and as a result you do not get what you seek, that is your fault. I will not allow that others, any others, mind you, male or female, young or old, single or married, should have to read signals. If you do not get what you want because you did not make your wishes clear, that's on you.

Maybe I am getting too far into the realm of the famous Professor Henry Higgins. Maybe I am asking his admittedly arrogant question: why can't a woman be more like a man? I do not mean it that way. I only mean that if you want your friendships of any kind to blossom you need to establish the boundaries in a clear and understandable fashion. Men understand, 'I want to go to Chez Richard for my birthday'. They do not get 'We haven't been out in awhile', as that could translate into, in his murky brain, 'She wants to go to the sports bar for hot wings and a big screen playoff game'.

So help us out. Throw us a bone; you may be right and we are dense. But would you rather have what you want, or chance that what you'll get is something far less satisfactory? Do you really want to be mad at him for the next two weeks for reasons he can't fathom? I hope that I do not know the real answer to that.

This has been a public service announcement. I will slither back under my rock now.

Monday, October 12, 2015

Humility

I only remember him as Father Ralph. He was often rather unkempt, rather unfocused. More so than I'd ever thought a priest should be. Yet he had a quality which I cannot quite put a word to. His hair was usually uncombed, his appearance nearly always unrefined, and indeed shallow.

I suspect he had his demons. That's okay, though. We all have our demons, if we were ever honest enough with our selves to recognize it. His demons seemed quite apparent that day, his countenance unsure.

I met him unexpectantly at the back aisle of a neighborhood grocery store. He seemed confused; his collar was askew. He had in his hand a package of hot dogs. He was looking for dinner that Sunday afternoon. I think he had settled on hot dogs for supper right before I had seen him.

We spoke. I had seen him first, and greeted him. He answered, "Hi Marty". I replied something like, "How are you, Father Ralph?"

We spoke for a few minutes, the small talk of the confused having stumbled upon one another. He eventually began to talk about, for whatever reason, humility. He opined that it is the most difficult virtue. He said to me that what is most difficult about humility is that once you realize that you're humble, you aren't humble anymore. He seemed at that point very humble. Far more so than I have seen among anyone I've ever seen.

I think that I am too familiar with his demons. That is, of course, presumption. I am being far too unfair to Father Ralph. He, however, is far more humble than I represent. It is a lesson which I pray I do not forget.

Sunday, October 11, 2015

I said I'd recycle this post

Seeking something to write about, I decided that I would look up what I had written on previous 11ths of October. This is from October 11, 2009. I have fulfilled my promise. But I did add a word or two. You know, for freshness sake.

My wife and daughter are very into recycling, and that's okay. There's certainly nothing wrong with it, and they do it all themselves, so it doesn't even really affect me.

Still, our son while on leave from the Army commented on it in a way I had never considered. Watching his mother prepare tuna cans and milk jugs for recycling he remarked, as she was rinsing the items out and even putting the cans through the dishwater, "So we have to wash our trash?"

Which leads me to my point. Do we really need to recycle things for which there is no demand? Steel, aluminum, copper; these things all get paid for by people who have a real use for them. They're worth money, therefore they get recycled. Paper, plastic, even tin cans aren't worth anything and therefore do not get recycled so readily.

Unless the government encourages or demands it, or your friends and neighbors try to shame you into it. Many recycling projects are underwritten by government or commanded by it through things such as curbside pickup. In short, they wouldn't exist without coersion. Things worth doing generally get done without any hint of force.

Think of that when you're washing your tuna cans, using extra water, or burning extra gas to take things to a recycling center. Are we really doing anything worth such effort? Indeed, perhaps we are adding to the supposed problem in the name of feeling good, and nothing more?

Saturday, October 10, 2015

You say you want an evolution?

Mr. G K Chesterton is quite an interesting man. I've read several of his writings and have yet to walk away unsatisfied.

I am currently a few chapters into The Everlasting Man, and I have to say I am happy to find, as we all are I'm sure in such cases, someone whom I agree with who can say the things I wish I were able to say as well as they do. Mr. Chesterton is speaking about evolution, specifically the evolution of man as a thinking being but also about evolution as a scientific theory.

His most significant point is that evolution is not a particularly scientific theory, something that the science community would be all up in arms about. Yet the Englishman is right: if science, as we were all taught in school, is based upon observation over time, then what is truly observed when bone fragments and skeletons and fossils are discovered and catalogued?

Bone fragments and skeletons and fossils, that's what. These things do not actually tell us anything about evolution: they only tell us, in and of themselves, that we have artifacts of the past. To put in place a grand scheme of evolutionary development in an attempt to explain a connection between them is putting the cart ahead of the horse; it is presumption. That so many skeletons have similar structure may well be a hint that we are in fact linked: the skeletal structures of the human hand, bird wing, and whale fin are somewhat near to one another. Yet it may be that an Intelligent Designer knew that a certain basic bone structure was what worked best in putting together flesh and blood creatures and thus employed it across the board, with certain variances.

Can we prove either of these from the standpoint of scientific evidence? No; it's that simple. We must step outside of science and into philosophy: we must get metaphysical about the origins of man and look at what science gives us under the light of a reason.

What science is doing is superimposing a belief system upon its discoveries of human and animal remains while assuming that all the questions will be one day answered. Scientists at one time spoke of the Missing Link which will tie it all together: yet that must, at this point in time at least, be seen as unscientific talk. It is like discussing in a literature class the play Shakespeare never wrote. What can we usefully say about what is not there? Or at least, not there yet?

We may well find it someday. Or we may not. But do we want to make the very unscientific mistake of assuming something's already present? How might that cloud our science, particularly if, as I've long understood, the real scientist is expected to put as much effort into disproving his theories as affirming them?

The short story is that too many moderns want evolution to be true, so they go about purporting that it is. And it may well be: my point here is only that I must agree with Chesterton and say that for any objective study of the truth about evolutionary theory, the jury is still out. Science is going beyond the evidence present, a fact which should not be overlooked in the consideration of our origins.

I am not saying that a certain amount of useful conjecture is not a good scientific tool. I am saying however that it must be seen as conjecture only, until and if something more concrete appears. A hammer is all well and good when you want to drive a nail, but I should much rather have a wrench when I am tightening a bolt. I will abandon in a second the wrong tool if need be. Will science, I ask, ever consider dropping the hammer?