Friday, December 30, 2016

Home for the Holidays

But in this world everything is upside down. That which, if it could be prolonged here, would be a truancy, is most like that which in a better country is the End of ends. Joy is the serious business of Heaven.

- C. S. Lewis

Mr. Lewis famously laments, as I hope I have captured as much by the quote above, and I am paraphrasing Mr. Lewis very poorly, that the trouble with our world, if we are feeling it properly, is that we feel guilty when we take a moment to enjoy it. He then asserts that the glory of Heaven is that we enjoy good things, every good thing, things brought on only with melancholy by our human holidays, for all eternity and rightly. And I think he is on spot with that attitude.

We feel pain at the holidays (especially as they end) because there is a happiness about them which does not really belong here. We were pretending that all is well when all was not. Not all of our friends are here; not all of our family; not all of our happiness. Yet we pretend.

We are in Plato's cave facing the far wall and not the projector. We have a mere glimpse of how things should be. Yet that gives us a glimpse of how things will be.

So I find happiness in this fading holiday season. If it is but a glimpse of what is to come, then what is to come is splendid.

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Business relationships

I had a long phone conversation this morning with an old friend who owns a plumbing supply company. We talked a bit about the past, especially about how Detroit isn't as bad as its reputation and about how it seems to be rebuilding well enough. His business and mine are both in the city, though he has me trumped. He is the fourth generation owner of his; I'm only the third generation of mine. But we're both glad we stuck with Detroit.

Jeff's grandfather began their business 97 years ago. It was at the same location until last year, when he moved into a better building less than a mile away from the original. We're in our second place too, but we've been where we're at since 1960. But what struck me the most this morning was that we've developed a long business relationship. We've done business back and forth since 1945.

It got me thinking about the number of other long term relationships we've been in. There are plumbers I sell to where we're each the third generation: grandfathers dealt with grandfathers, fathers with father, and sons, sons. I find myself impressed with that thought. To be around helping each other over 60 or 70 years through new generations is I think something to be celebrated.

Long terms with people; long term with Detroit. I'm rather proud of that achievement.

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

I bet readers will judge this article

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 guys 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 any 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. No one ever says after a compliment, "Don't judge me!" Yet 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, December 27, 2016

Don't go Mungo on anyone

No, Mungo! Never kill a customer! -from Monty Python's Dirty Fork sketch

Those are certainly words to live by. I have never come close to killing a customer. At least, so far as the police know. But I have snapped at a couple of them.

Several years ago during a period when we were extremely busy and running about one week to ten days behind in repairs a guy walked into the old barn. He had a machine which wasn't running and wanted me to take a look at it. I said I would, but that if it required anything serious he'd have to leave it and I'd get to it as soon as I could.

I followed him out to his van and he produced a little General Sewerooter Junior which had wires hanging out of the motor in a terrible jumble. A real bird's nest, my Pops used to say. It would have taken an hour simply to sort everything out, to get all the wiring back in place so that I might then start diagnosing the real problem. I shook my head and said to the man, "You're going to have to leave that with me."

He began, "Well all you have to do is,"

But I cut him off right there. "Then you do it," I replied, admittedly rather harshly.

"I beg your pardon?"

"Then you do it," I repeated. "If it's all that simple, why are you bringing it to me? Why don't you have it done already?"

To this day I stand by that. Why are you bringing it to me if it's so danged easy? Why are you wasting both of our times?

I didn't kill him, but I haven't seen him since either.

Monday, December 26, 2016

The day after Christmas

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. Stores were opening this morning as early as 6 AM because there's still bargains available 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. It really only becomes a kind of Hell, keeping up with the Joneses.

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. Your family and friends will 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.

Sunday, December 25, 2016

Merry Christmas 2016

Christ by highest heav'n adored

Christ the everlasting Lord!

Late in time behold Him come

Offspring of a Virgin's womb

Veiled in flesh the Godhead see

Hail the incarnate Deity

Pleased as man with man to dwell

Jesus, our Emmanuel

Hark! The herald angels sing "Glory to the newborn King!"

Saturday, December 24, 2016

Karen Carpenter and the Detroit Tigers

You know how one song can often get stuck in your head for it seems like days on end? For me lately that song has been Close to You, sung by Karen Carpenter. It really is a nice little soft rock song, and I genuinely like it. Usually. But not after hearing it over and over in my mind during my waking hours of the last several days. Even at that, I used to hate it even more.

While it's almost certainly only my childhood psychology of the time at work, back when most major league baseball games were on the radio rather than television it seemed as though every time my beloved Detroit Tigers were in a rain delay the first song the emergency deejay played was Close to You. I came to despise that song, because when I heard it meant that I was trying to listen to baseball and the game was under a weather suspension.

It's nothing against Karen Carpenter, who had a lovely voice. It's surely one of those things which just stick in your mind for whatever odd reason. Karen Carpenter singing meant the Tigers weren't playing. I realize that that isn't even her fault. She had no control over what some radio station in Detroit played when it couldn't air sports.

Still, even right now, even about 46 years later, even three months before the next baseball season, I'm mad hearing the song solely in my own mind because it's means no Tiger baseball. I suppose that's little more than self imposed Pavlovianism. But man, I can't wait til the tarp's off the field.

Friday, December 23, 2016

The Sophie Stare

As many of you know, I taught adult education for 23 years. One of my favorite students was Sophie, a woman who had returned to academia in her sixties to finish her high school diploma. She had had to quit school as a teenager to work to help her family, and wanted the achievement of a diploma. She worked diligently and earned her sheepskin.

But perhaps the best thing she ever did for me as my student was help me maintain discipline. You see, while we catered to adult students we took in regular high school students who needed to make up credits to graduate on time. They didn't necessarily have the best academic ethic (they would not have been making up credits if they had) and could at times be as disruptive as high schoolers could be.

One evening two young men were sitting at the back of the classroom while Sophie had taken her usual seat front and center. The guys began to whisper to each other and chuckle lowly, and soon become enough of a distraction that I had decided to say something to them. Yet right before I could, Sophie set down her pen and turned around to glare at the guys. It took a few seconds, but when they noticed her staring them down they picked up their pens and got back to their schoolwork.

This pattern repeated itself two more times that night. The guys would get a bit rambunctious and Sophie would turn to face them, whereupon they'd sheepishly return to task. And after that night they never gave me any more trouble.

I had to ask Sophie how she did it. The elderly Polish matron squinted her eyes at me and said, "I give them the grandma stare."

I had never actually faced the Sophie Stare myself. Judging by its effect on those two lads, I'm glad I never did.

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Double negatives are a no-no

Pink Floyd says that 'We don't need no education', but I think they do. They're using a double negative.

Thank you, thank you. I'll be here all week.

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

This election got it right

I love the electoral college. It speaks to me.

Go on, carp about how Hillary won the popular vote. But we are the United States, you must remember. United States. Emphasis on States. Why should California and New York tell the rest of us how to live?

That's the forgotten, or ignored, part of the equation. The two largest fragments of our country are not our whole country. The rest of us, indeed together with them, we are the whole country.

Damn the popular vote. We are not one nation. We are a union of sovereign States, each with an existence which does not depend on the opinions of our other, sister, states. The vast majority of our sister states did not want Hillary Clinton as our President. So she is not.

And that it how it should be. The majority should not rule without the consent of the minority in their true rights. I believe someone named Jefferson said as much. The Electoral College allows the minority to be fully and completely represented in these United States. Indeed, it checks the power of the majority by ensuring that power will be diffused. It has surely been diffused this past election year.

Freedom is only won when power is properly checked. Power has been properly checked this election cycle.

Monday, December 19, 2016

You're pre-approved to read this blog!

Long time readers know that I've created something of a list of useless words and terms. Today I shall add another such gem: pre-approved.

We've all gotten credit card offers that boldly insist we're pre-approved for the card. This morning as I drove past a car lot it had a huge sign which said that every one was pre-approved for credit if they bought a car there.

What in blazes is it supposed to mean? 'Hey, you there, random person, you are pre-approved for this. Why aren't you filling out the forms already to see if you actually get approved?' Because after all, isn't that what pre-approved means? That you can do something which you could already do anyway?

Either advertisers these days are incredibly stupid or unimaginably brilliant. They seem to be counting on their targets to be stupid anyhow.

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Live by definition

In accordance with their textbooks, they are always in motion; but as for dwelling upon an argument or a question, and quietly asking and answering in turn, they can no more do so than they can fly. . . . If you ask any of them a question, he will produce, as from a quiver, sayings brief and dark, and shoot them at you; and if you inquire the reason of what he has said, you will be hit with some other new-jangled word, and you will make no way with any of them. Their great care is, not to allow of any settled principle either in their arguments or in their minds, . . . for they are at war with the stationary, and do what they can to drive it out everywhere. -Plato

We live by definition. Many folks will disagree with that even as they call us conservatives evil and racist and sexist, as if those terms had obvious definition. It's interesting to wonder whether all they're doing is living under an unclear definition themselves. It would seem so, despite the fact that, very often, they assert that they live under a banner of no definition.

What purpose can that serve? For starters, all it really does is put them into the category of relativists. All kinds of fun can be had with factoid, but we'll set aside for now. There's a more ominous idea at work under the auspices of no definition. If actions cannot be defined, then no human action can be called wrong as there would be no definition to fit it.

That's why so many folks now believe that marriage can be between any two (or more) people who love each other. It takes away from marriage by making the term meaningless, that is, without definition. It throws the point into the realm of love, whatever that means, as it is also a term rather loosely defined (if defined at all) these days. How many of us actually consider what love might be, or what it actually might demand of us? Very few, because it is now a term used merely to justify what we want to do and with whoever wants to do it with us.

Words mean things. They are the way in which we can most effectively communicate, and they can only be effective when we define them well and true, and hold people to those definitions. This is hardly a new concept. The ancient Greeks insisted that we must define our terms before discussing matters; more recently, Rush Limbaugh opined that, well, words mean things. If we are truly serious about understanding other people and other cultures then we have to be able to understand what is being said by ourselves and our culture. If we are really serious about ending war and injustice or even merely making our local community a better place, then we must admit that our words must be well defined in manners comprehensible and acceptable to all rational people.

If we do not do this, then we are not talking. We are not understanding. We are merely making noise.

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Marty, Disney XD, and the Cartoon Network

I spend a lot of my TV viewing time these days watching cartoons. It seems that one of my favorite cartoons from when I was a kid, Scooby-Doo, has been rebooted. There's more emphasis on humor and the characters look somewhat different from their initial incarnations, and Scooby's English is much too clear. Still, it's been entertaining, and I look forward to more episodes.

The fact is that in recent years I've found myself drawn (rim-shot!) more towards new cartoons than most any other type of new entertainment. Family Guy and the like exempted, the new shows are on the whole quite a bit more clever than comedies such as found on major networks in prime time, and particularly more clever than whatever Seth McFarlane may conjure up. I think in part that's because they have no pretense about drama of any sort, an illness which seeps into almost all live action comedies. They're just trying to be funny. I like that. I like comedies to just be comedies.

I wonder too if it's that the recent cartoons aim higher than simple children's shows. Dan Povenmire and Swampy Marsh, creators of Phineas and Ferb (perhaps the greatest episodic cartoon ever) have said that they weren't drawing for children but simply didn't want to forget a segment of their audience. They had each before worked on The Simpsons and the aforementioned Family Guy and wanted to create something which entertained without being quite so raunchy as adult oriented animation had become. Let's face it: too many adult shows in general have become too reliant on easy, low brow humor rather than fully attempt genuine wit.

Jimmy Neutron and The Fairly Oddparents began my animation rebirth, although several years after each had debuted. Phineas and Ferb likely sealed it, so much so that I look for new cartoons far ahead of any other new show. Penn Zero, Wander Over Yonder, Gravity Falls (not a full on comedy but often funny, and smart without pretense) all are high on my list when I'm seeking new episodes as I channel surf during the evening. And of course the new Scooby-Doo. I still snicker at one particular joke from a recent episode. When Fred was asked if he feared heights he answered, "No. I fear widths."

Too funny. I look forward to more.

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

The gift

Mom has told on herself a few times in her life. One time it amused Dad quite succinctly.

As Dad told it, they were sitting at the kitchen table. He was doing the Sunday crossword puzzle. She was sorting out her money, laying it in piles as she counted it out. A few dollars here, a few dollars there. But she was counting it all out loud.

This for the kids: Bill's book, Marty's baseball game, Susan's doll, this and that as she mentally but aloud went through her Christmas list. She ended with, 'And this for Bill's chair'. And Dad began to laugh out loud.

Mother was buying a recliner on layaway for the old man. She had let out the secret.

It was maybe the best Christmas gift Pops had ever gotten. But only because Mom had given it away a few days before December 25th.

Monday, December 12, 2016

Tis not the season

It's official. I'm calling it right now, just like an election.

After shoveling snow off and on for over 24 hours, after clearing it from my home and my work, and after digging three cars out, I'm calling it.

Winter sucks. And it's only December 12.

Christmas aside, it is no longer the most wonderful time of the year. Nope, not by a long shot. Spring cannot get here quickly enough.

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Bill Cosgriff and the adult movie house

The Globe Theater used to be on Grand River near Trumbull in Detroit. In it's heyday in the 1940s and 50s it was a typical, general audience, neighborhood movie house. By the 1970s however it had devolved into an adult theater. And now you have the necessary background information to understand today's story.

Back when he was still in high school, Pops and his friend Ben decided to go see a movie at the Globe. For whatever reason, when Dad got to where he had decided to sit, his Catholic training inexplicably kicked in and he genuflected before entering the row of seats. Ben, walking behind him, didn't see what he was doing and plowed straight into Dad. They both fell over, and the two of them then rolled down the length of the aisle, all arms and legs and trying desperately stop their free fall. It only ended when they hit against the wall at the bottom of the movie screen. Pops always told the story with a great laugh.

Fast forward to about 1974. Dad was very active in the Church and at that time was President of the parish council. He had become close friends with then Pastor Thomas Smith. One evening after a council meeting he and Fr. Smith were talking over a coffee and Dad decided to tell him the tale. He ended it with the usual hearty laugh, but then saw that Father was sitting quietly, staring daggers at him. Come on, Padre, Pops thought, that's a pretty good story that deserves a laugh.

But after a minute or so of awkward silence Father Smith finally asked, "Bill, what in God's name were you doing in that place anyway?" He only knew it as the X-rated movie house and was, properly so far as he misunderstood the circumstances, appalled that Dad had went there.

But once Pops explained that this had happened twenty years earlier, Father did agree that it was a funny story. And at that point it gave Dad's tale a whole new, and also funny in its own way, dimension.

Friday, December 9, 2016

Talking curling

All we did last night was talk curling. Yep. That's all we did.

We talked about the shots we missed and how that did not help the team. Yep. We did that.

The others of us, when not lamenting our own obvious and blatant fouls, assured the other guys that they didn't hurt our efforts all that much. If at all. Yep. We did that. Because that's what curlers do. We tell each other that they did okay.

Yep. It's what we do. It's the curling mindset.

I think we'd be a better world if more minds were set that way.

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Crossing the street should not be life threatening

I have a very simple request this morning to all drivers: if you're going to use your turn signals, you gotta mean it.

As I prepared to walk across the street this morning, at a corner of Buchanan Avenue and Wesson in Detroit, I looked to my right then left as I should. I saw a black PT cruiser approaching on Buchanan with its right turn signal on. It was obviously slowing down too. I took that to mean that he was turning right onto Wesson. I looked back to my right one more time and started crossing the street.

That's when that PT Cruiser shot in front of me. He only missed me by inches. I'm still not really sure how he missed me at all; it was honestly that close.

Pedestrians and other drivers depend on you using your signals correctly, buddy. I don't appreciate that I trusted your obvious intent yet still came within inches of being sent sprawling. Or worse. If you were turning too early, could you at least have let me on across, or even tap on your horn? And while I'm ranting anyway you might have had the dignity to stop and apologize and make sure I was all right. You must have seen me jump backwards. You might have heard my yell. But you probably didn't, did ya, and that, if true, is the whole trouble. Pay attention when you drive, mac.

Just use your signals and mean it, drivers, and pay enough attention to the roads to actually see what's going on around you. Thank you.

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

The second slash double

I'm gonna tell you what. This was one of the best curling matches I ever played in, and I didn't do nuthin. The guys did it all.

They hit the line, they swept like all hell, they called the weight; they made the game. That they made me look good in the process well, I appreciate.

Every time I needed a shot, they supplied it. Every time I needed a hit and roll, they called it and swept in into place. Every time I needed a sweep, they put my rock exactly where it needed to be. They made this game.

It all turned in the second end. I called a slash double for three on my last shot. Even I, when spying it from the throwing end of the ice, wasn't sure it was there. I threw it anyway.

Brian, my vice, calling the line as he should, from that far end of the ice, made a non call. And it was a perfect non call. I wanted him to yell sweep from early on, fearing I was inside, yet he did not call it. I wanted a sweep when my stone was near the hog, the line which a stone must cross to be legally in play, but he did not call it. I wanted a sweep when my thrown rock was within two or three feet of a guard, a rock which might deflect a stone from its target, and he did not call the sweep.

And we missed that stone by fractions and made that slash double for three.

That is the greatest non call of my life. Brian saw it, and said nothing, as a vice who saw the line perfectly should have.

You, sir, are the man.

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Raking in the winnings

Some guys, when they dream about hitting it big on the lottery, think they'll retire early and take big, bucket list trips. Others say they'll build that mansion on the hill and host fancy soirees entertaining foreign dignitaries. A few will shower family and friends with jaw dropping gifts. The better ones among us may even vow to become great philanthropists, helping the poor and ailing. For me, the first two words which spring to mind when I fantasize about coming into money are: lawn service.

I hate yard work. Despise it really. I like a well manicured lawn and brightly flowered gardens and great green trees. But I hate the chores that go into creating and maintaining them. I hate mowing the lawn and planting foliage and mulching gardens. And this time of year, I hate raking leaves.

Why can't we just let them rot on the ground? Isn't that simply nature's own recycling measure? Freddie the Leaf wants to become compost. He takes a bizarre, sublime, cloying delight in the thought. Shouldn't we stay out of the way and let him and his brother and sister leaves go back to be with Mother Nature as they wish? Isn't that what she wants too, to bring them home so that she can fashion them into more and greater leaves next summer?

I say, who am I to stand in Momma's way?

Saturday, December 3, 2016

Buying a dog's favor

For some reason, my son's dog Gaspode and I don't quite get along. I think I'm a likable guy. But as dogs can often sense things about people which people can't sense, perhaps I should tread lightly there. I think, though, that I have found the chink in Gaspode's armor. We each share an affinity for potato chips.

I discovered this during Thanksgiving weekend. My son's family were in town and brought Gaspode along. On Wednesday night, as I munched on wavy potato chips, I offered the dog one. He took it, tentatively, and crunched it down. I offered him another. He took that one less tentatively. Still, he wouldn't quite let me pat his head.

The next day I upped the ante. I bought a bag of sour cream and onion chips. Gaspode walked with uncertainty to our kitchen when he heard me open the bag. He stood in the doorway, staring at me plaintively. "Rule one, dog,' I began, asserting that I was the alpha male, 'I get the first chip'. I ate one. Then I offered him one. He took it gratefully, and waited patiently for another. I had a second before giving him his second. We alternated a few more chips each before I put them away. Gaspode, though, was still slow to let me pet him.

By Friday morning, every time I walked into the pantry he would follow at a safe distance, obviously hoping that I would give him some chips. Yet even when I'd give him a couple or three he remained unwilling to let me touch him, although he had reached the point that I could pet him. He wouldn't wag his tail though. It was getting to where I was almost insulted: sure, I can feed you, but I can't pet you and not get a bit of adoration in return? And geez, I'm supposed to be avoiding potato chips, on doctor's orders, and here I am eating more of them than I have in months trying to curry a dog's favor? I'm risking my health for you, Gaspode.

I'll have his loyalty next time though. Yes, I will. I'm going to go nuclear on him, and he will become my friend. When he visits for Christmas, I'm having honey barbeque potato chips. I defy him to not wag his tail at that.

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Throw them stones

It just gets into your blood. There's no other way to describe it.

I thought about not curling last night. It's been a bit of a rough week, and as I drove home from Toledo during the afternoon I was thinking, aw hell, maybe I won't curl tonight. Another player was on stand by, and the border (I curl in Canada) can be a hassle later in the week. It would have been easy not to curl. But I went on and curled anyway. I had missed last Thursday for Thanksgiving, and one Thursday before that due to car trouble. So I curled.

I'm glad I did. We caught the breaks and won, and the skip and sweepers made me look good. Go ahead: insert your favorite Marty and others make Marty curl well joke right now. I don't care. I can take a joke, and the guys did make me look as though I had a vague idea of how to play.

Few of my friends believed me when I insisted a couple years ago that I thought I was done with the game. Yet at the time, I really thought I was. I wasn't playing well. I was too intense, and it was affecting my attitude which of course will affect your game. But I was advised by a good friend to simply relax and remember why you curl.

That advice helped beyond my expectations. It got me back to the root of the game, and that was throwin' them stones. There's just something that gets into your blood about throwin' them stones and makin' them curling shots. Just relax and throw the stone.

It's a really satisfying feeling, I tell you what. I'm glad I kept playing.

The duck's back theorem of life

There are a few things he said which I try to live by. I was reminded of one such thing a few days back.

I was quoting a repair to customer A as customer B walked in. Customer A feigned a heart attack when I told him the price. He then turned to B and said that I was killing him. I jokingly told B that he may as well leave, that I wouldn't need his business after I was through extorting customer A.

Anyways, A says he'll think about it and leaves and I began to deal with B. To my delight, B being familiar with what A wanted, he first remarked, "I don't know what his problem is. That was a very good price you gave him." I said thanks. It's always nice to hear that you're actually an honest businessman. He continued, "How do you put up with that?". referring to customer's A's gyrations.

"Water off a duck's back, my Pops used to say," I told him. You can't let obnoxious stuff like that bother you. Let it seep away.

I try to remember that, because customers, hell, people in general, can be hard to deal with. Myself included, quite frankly. You just have to strive not to let it bother you. That whole incident was over in about 40 seconds. Why should it bug me? Okay, arguably I am letting it bother me right now, but to a purpose. I'm using the incident as an illustration. Don't let those things trouble you. Let them flow away like water off a duck's back.

I don't think it a bad way to conduct yourself at all. And by the way, A came back the next day and paid my price with no more issues. I like to think he realized he was being treated fairly after all.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

The DIY fallacy

I swear, if I see one more do-it-yourself show I am so gonna lose it!

DIY, HGTV, and all their sister stations, I hate them. hate them, hate them! It seems that every show I see on those networks all revolve around people redoing rooms and homes that DON'T NEED REDOING! A camera will pan slowly across a room in its 'before' state while an announcer bemoans the fact that SOMETHING simply MUST be done about those dreadful 90's COLORS!

What's wrong with 90's colors? Is the room still functional? I mean, Whiskey Tango Foxtrot people, it's a living room! If your friends care more about the appearance of the room than visiting with you, well, then, I say to Hell with them.

I mean, too, what kind of life do you have when you're embarrassed by a perfectly good living room solely because it hasn't been repainted since 2005? Can't you take a decent shower in a nicely tiled bathroom even if the tile dates to 1977? Come on, folks, get a life!

Decadence, that's what it is, pure and simple. What a crock.

I'll just sign off with mindless, incomprehensible grumbling now. Mumble grumble rackin' frakin' dipwads with too much time on their hands...

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Ariana Grande and the furries

Remember when Sunday mornings were for going to Church? Well, now that I'm firmly ensconced as a Saturday Catholic, my Sunday mornings are free for other fascinating adventures. Adventures such as taking my granddaughter to Tim Horton's for coffee and timbits (doughnut holes). I discovered they have red velvet doughnut holes. Oh joy oh rapture.

While we waited for our order a song played over the store's speakers. As I know little to nothing about popular entertainers, I asked my granddaughter if she know who it was. "Ariana Grande, I think", she answered. She then got out her phone and found the song and artist in less than two seconds and showed me the results. There was a picture of a young woman in bunny ears.

"Why is she dressed like a rabbit?", I asked.

"Maybe she's a furry." my granddaughter explained.

"A what?" the clueless grandfather responded incredulously.

The hip granddaughter patiently explained, "A furry. People who like to dress up like animals." Now that I'm home and online, I find that there's a whole culture of people who like to dress up like anthropomorphic animals.

And now I'm also thinking that I need to just go back to going to Church on Sunday mornings.

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Two remarks and an attempted joke

Cuban leader Fidel Castro has died. Not that I had supported him in any way, shape or form, but isn't it a little sad (or maybe pathetic is a better word) that someone who was going to change the world has passed on in relative obscurity? He was going to be the player in the Americas. But then the Soviet Union fell. So too went his real forum. Such is history; I sincerely hope he has made amends with his Maker and that all is now well for him.

Only 4 people shot, with two killed nationwide in Black Friday violence yesterday. That may be some sort of record. But if it is, I'm sure it ain't one to be proud of.

Did you know that I used to be afraid of those folks who went around with wax painted faces and red noses? I sure was, but now I'm cured. It turns out I was being Pennywise and clown foolish.

Please tell me someone gets that joke. Until next time...

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Thanksgiving 2016

Whereas it is the duty of all nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey His will, to be grateful for His benefits, and humbly to implore His protection and favor; and Whereas both Houses of Congress have, by their joint committee, requested me to "recommend to the people of the United States a day of public thanksgiving and prayer, to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many and signal favors of Almighty God, especially by affording them an opportunity peaceably to establish a form of government for their safety and happiness:"

Now, therefore, I do recommend and assign Thursday, the 26th day of November next, to be devoted by the people of these States to the service of that great and glorious Being who is the beneficent author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be; that we may then all unite in rendering unto Him our sincere and humble thanks for His kind care and protection of the people of this country previous to their becoming a nation; for the signal and manifold mercies and the favorable interpositions of His providence in the course and conclusion of the late war; for the great degree of tranquility, union, and plenty which we have since enjoyed; for the peaceable and rational manner in which we have been enable to establish constitutions of government for our safety and happiness, and particularly the national one now lately instituted for the civil and religious liberty with which we are blessed, and the means we have of acquiring and diffusing useful knowledge; and, in general, for all the great and various favors which He has been pleased to confer upon us.

And also that we may then unite in most humbly offering our prayers and supplications to the great Lord and Ruler of Nations and beseech Him to pardon our national and other transgressions; to enable us all, whether in public or private stations, to perform our several and relative duties properly and punctually; to render our National Government a blessing to all the people by constantly being a Government of wise, just, and constitutional laws, discreetly and faithfully executed and obeyed; to protect and guide all sovereigns and nations (especially such as have shown kindness to us), and to bless them with good governments, peace, and concord; to promote the knowledge and practice of true religion and virtue, and the increase of science among them and us; and, generally to grant unto all mankind such a degree of temporal prosperity as He alone knows to be best.

George Washington's Thanksgiving Proclamation, 1789

Anyone who claims that we weren't founded on Christian principles, read these words well and carefully. And have a wonderful and happy Thanksgiving in that light.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Wayne State police officer shot

I left the Roseland Curling Club tonight planning on writing a blog about our curling game. I arrived home to find that a Wayne State University police officer has been shot just blocks from where I live. Police officers were everywhere as I drove home, and I hear helicopters overhead as I write. I see their searchlights flash across my bedroom window.

This is a very sobering moment for me. A curling game sounds unimportant, trite, even, as I think about what's going on just beyond my walls. Someone out there protecting me is fighting for his life, two days before Thanksgiving, for no good reason. And worse, he's the fifth law enforcement agent shot nationwide in the last three days. It is clear that our police are being targeted simply because they're cops.

This is unacceptable behavior. It is symptomatic of an anti-authority streak in these United States which truly threatens our national stability. Yes, I know there are bad cops. But I also know there are worse felons than that relative handful. And I know they are a greater threat to our country.

Black lives matter? Of course they do. But blue lives matter too. All lives matter. Until we understand that, none of our lives are safe.

The Ballad of Marty's transmission.

It had begun so innocently. I was trying to get to a bon voyage party for a curling friend who was leaving Canada for an overseas teaching position. I crossed the border and my car stopped 'pulling', that is, going forward. A hose had ruptured in a transmission line, spewing transmission fluid everywhere and leaving my van immobile. C'est la vie. It happens.

That issue was calmed soon enough. A friend on that side of the river recommended a mechanic who could fix the problem. And he did, for $325 Canadian, including the tow from the Roseland Curling Club where I left my van to his repair shop. A good price, honestly.

I drove her from July until two weeks ago, when my van again stopped pulling near Muncie, Indiana. But two quarts of transmission fluid later, C'est la guerre, she pulls once more, all the way to home to Detroit.

Then she, my 2000 Chevy Venture, stops pulling right as I was about to get onto the ramp in Detroit from where there was no re-entry into these United States. I managed to get her off the expressway and onto a side street, where I might have her towed to my mechanic. He, my mechanic, found the same hose had ruptured as before. He fixed it, and all seemed well.

Then last night, for it is last night now, as I returned from my Monday night curling game, I could not pull away from the customs booth on the US side as I returned from curling. Now as I've complained much about US customs, it is only fair that I give them credit as due. They cleared me, quite succinctly and deferentially, as I hoped. But then my van would not move. And the guards saw that I had a transmission leak. And they pushed me beyond the toll booths so that I might have an easier time with a tow.

That tells me that the border patrol are not really bad folk after all. I'm not so ready to think the NSA evil anymore. They rushed to help a US citizen obviously innocent of any crime to simply get home.

And that is why I am dismissive of the fears of my libertarian and progressive friends. Innocence breeds trust. It's as simple as that.

Monday, November 21, 2016

The need for humility

People who overvalue themselves are generally not the people we want in leadership positions. Those who are meek about what they do may be our best citizens.

I have written before about the hazards of thinking too much about ourselves and our work. I have found and offer to you an excerpt from a neat little article penned by Richard Mitchell, who wrote under the moniker of The Underground Grammarian. The passage itself may be vaguely dated, having been published in 1983, but the point is universal. You may read the entire piece here: http://www.sourcetext.com/grammarian/

I encourage you to read more of Mitchell's stuff. It's pretty good on the whole. But for now, read this and let it sink in.

ONE of the most delicious ironies of our ironical time is the fact that schoolteachers often make less money than garbagemen. Although garbagemen seem to have reconciled themselves to this curious inequity perhaps out of a phlegmatic realism inevitably induced by their labors, schoolteachers have not.

How can it be, schoolteachers ask in letters to editors all over the land, that "society" holds them so cheap? Have they not labored mightily to make society exactly what it is today, clarifying values, facilitating appreciations, and teaching everyone how to relate? Have they not been the principal providers of universal public self-esteem, creativity, and social awareness? So how come they don't get no respect? What kind of society can it be that better rewards those who haul away garbage than those who produce it?

Such complaints seem, at first, indubitably justifiable. At least, they require of any thoughtful citizen a scrutiny of whatever differences can be discovered between garbagemen and schoolteachers:

While the work of garbagemen is of unquestionable social value, they never hire public relations experts to nag us about their selfless devotion to the common good. They don't even have a bumper sticker. That ought to he worth a few bucks.

When garbagemen ask for more money, they gladly admit that what they really want is the money. As to recompense for the self-sacrifice out of which they consented to become garbagemen rather than executives of multi-national corporations, they say nothing. Such reticence is surely worth a little more money.

Although they shouldn't be, garbagemen are just a little bit ashamed of what they do, and thus deficient in self-esteem. Schoolteachers are not the least bit ashamed of anything that they do. They have great big oodles of self-esteem. Would it not be an appropriately democratic redistribution of wealth to take some money, since they'll never part with that self-esteem, away from the privileged schoolteachers and give it to those emotionally deprived garbagemen?

The shame that arises from believing what the world tells us to believe is a form of slavery, but when shame arises from self-knowledge informed by a principled consideration of what is estimable and what is not, it is virtue.

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Shagging flies with Father 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 Friday 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 ones dared enter 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, on Friday while on the curling ice. Funny, eh?

Friday, November 18, 2016

I was a teenage pinsetter

I was once a pinsetter. Really. The grade school associated with the high school I went to had ten bowling lanes. On the third floor. Honestly. What possessed the builders of St. Hedwig Grade School to put bowling lanes on the third floor is beyond me.

When school was out for the day five of us high school boys would set pins. We got two lanes at a time, and would jump back and forth maintaining them, sitting on a perch in between throws. The lanes were actually semi-automatic. We'd take pins out the pit at the end of the lane and place them in a triangular rack, which was motorized, then hit a switch to reset the pins after the bowler's two throws. There was a track to set the balls on to roll them back to the player.

There were only two real drawbacks. One was that we might be hit by flying pins while on our perches. The second was that there were no rakes. You know, the sliding things which drop down after a ball has hit the pins. That was only a problem when and if a bowler wasn't paying attention and threw a ball while you were in the pit. We learned early on not to return a ball until we were out of the it. Yet that couldn't stop some anxious player from grabbing another ball to finish his turn.

I was only hit by a ball once. While down in the pit I heard the distinct rumble of the ball. I looked up through a window which allowed pinsetters to see the down the lane, saw the ball disappear into the bottom of it, and before any of my choicest expletives could clear my throat, the ball cracked me square in the left shin. Man did that hurt.

The guy who threw it ran to the back apologizing profusely, and it left one large welt. But I finished my shift, and other than that, I genuinely enjoyed pinsetting.

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Grandma was okay too

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.

The first I noticed was back when I was all of 16. I was getting home late one night, about 1 AM. 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 time I still lived at my parents' house. If I was late arriving home, 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. I bought a house down the block on the far side of the street. On 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, 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?

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

The Slash Double

Now, it wasn't the best shot I ever threw in curling. It maybe ain't the second best, nor the third. But it was up there, and it felt good.

My vice, Brian, saw it first. There were four stones in the back of the house, all in the back of the twelve foot circle, the lowest part of the scoring zone, but we were shots 2, 3, and 4, which meant our distinguished opponents were first shot, or the scoring stone of the end (the stone or stones closest to the center of the circle, the 'house', score all points) and we scored second, third , and fourth, if we scored at all. Then we caught a break, and our worthy adversaries threw short, into the top of the twelve, and were maybe third, maybe fourth shot. You see, you can't measure, that is, use a device to determine who is shot, the scoring stone, until all stones have been played. You have to guess based on eyesight beforehand.

Never mind that. Brian sees that if I, with my first skip rock, the third last thrown stone of the end (sort of like a baseball inning) throw normal takeout weight (a stone thrown with enough force to drive an opponents' stone out of the rings, the scoring circle) I could hit about a half of that last stone from where it lay and could slash under the face of our opponents' stone (which would have scored them one point and cut our then lead to 4-2) and leave us lying (scoring) 4. Then our friendly opponents, and our opponents are always friendly in curling, must make a very good shot to force us to make a better shot to keep control of the game and maybe make our game close.

I let the stone go after my delivery. I knew the weight (force) of the stone was close to what we needed. My sweepers, Bill and Keith, knew it was close. They said so. Brian, in the house calling the 'line', the path of the stone, as the vice-skip should, waited until it broke (that is, began to curl), ignoring my skip panic call to sweep (as he should have). The stone broke, Brian called the sweep, we hit half a rock...

...and it slashed across the back face of the original shot stone, both stones (the stone I hit first and their 'shot' stone) slid out of the house, and we then lay four.

Then we caught another break and our opposition skip drew short. We had a draw to an open house for five. Game over.

This. Is. Why. I. Curl. To play with friends who understand the game and call it that way. And, yes, to win for the guys who play for me. I love them like brothers. Because they are my brothers.

Monday, November 14, 2016

Thanks Obamacare; ditch it, GOP

Obamacare just came home to me in a very direct way. I've been informed that my monthly health care premiums will jump from $750 to $1175 in 2017. That's around 55-60% if my math is on.

As I'd been told that it was coming, it's not a complete shock. And I will certainly be looking around for better insurance at a better price, if, and I think that's a big if, there's actually something out there in that category.

Don't start about looking into government helping me pay for it. I don't qualify, and I'm philosophically opposed to that anyway. As with so many other things, food, clothes, housing, even education, if you can pay for it yourself, you should. What I want is a market system in health care which forces true competition among insurers and will drive prices down.

That's why I don't like rumblings from both President-elect Trump and House Speaker Paul Ryan about not completely scuttling Obamacare but, rather, tweaking or streamlining it. That's not why I voted Republican, folks. I have to deal with the jibes and grief which some of my more liberal friends are throwing at me for less than I expected from the deal with you? I believe I speak for many conservatives to point out and reinforce that point. Don't toss us aside for the sake of playing politics.

If you want me to be self-reliant (and you should) then give me the tools to do that. But if you're just going to be Democrat lite, don't look for my vote in 2020.

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Post election blues

The worst thing about the 2016 election being over is that now we have to deal with the excesses of the holiday season.

Just saying.

Saturday, November 12, 2016

What you mean

There are phrases which I hate, everyday phrases which we use all the time. Well, if you catch me using one, swat me across the side of the head with a halibut. Please.

I don't want to make you feel bad, but...

I already feel bad, with that lead in. So I think you did indeed want me to feel bad.

I don't wish to intrude...

Well, you just did. So I believe that you did mean to intrude.

I don't want to tell you what to do...

Haven't you already begun to do that?

Are you doing anything?

Well, yes. As I'm always doing something, then obviously I'm doing something just now aren't I?

I don't mean to interrupt...

Yes you do. Because you just did.

There's more to come. Just give me a minute.

And that also is a phrase I hate, because they usually need more than a minute.

Friday, November 11, 2016

Veterans Day 2016

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 that 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 that menace. The Nazis were awful, to be sure. 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 do 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? Was he not injured, did he not serve? 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. He was always and everywhere was concerned with rightness and justice no matter what. And that, dear friends, is how we ought remember him.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

The Angry White Marty

"Nothing like people creating a strawman of your positions and who you are, and then declaring you "disgusting", "anti-woman", "racist", "xenophobic", and "homophobic" based on that false idea of your beliefs."

I copped this statement from my son Charles because he hit the nail on the head. I am thoroughly disgusted that so many friends and family apparently believe I'm a demon when I'm not. I am a principled, albeit imperfect human being (most everyone is), who simply believes my philosophy best for everyone, as most everyone else does about theirs if they are intellectually honest. I firmly believe that principled American conservatism is good for all: women, minorities, homosexuals; every single one of us. And I want the best for every single one of them.

If you want to engage me, engage me. But name calling however indirectly is not engagement. It is insulting and nothing more, and degrading even to your own beliefs.

I am an educated middle class aging white male who voted GOP. I am not a demon. Stop calling me one.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

President Trump: congratulations, now govern

President Donald Trump. I did not expect it.

I suppose first that I owe an apology to the President elect and his supporters. I really didn't think that he could win.

The next thing I expect, that I demand, is, simply, prove me further wrong. Give me another Scalia on the Supreme Court; reduce the deficit, and govern on sound conservative principles. Drain that swamp. Talk is cheap. So don't talk anymore now, show me.

Too many Republicans have failed that test. I expect much from you. So do your supporters, Mr. Trump and the GOP. Finally, now that you have the opportunity, prove yourselves.

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Election 2016

Well, I cast my vote. I suppose that means in some quarters that I support World War III. Tonight I will substitute in a curling match in Canada, a game which I agree to play last week.

Right after my friend asked me to play, he then remarked that he hadn't thought of it being Election Day here in the States. I replied that I didn't mind curling for him as the distraction would be nice.

I do wonder if the border will be slow this evening. I intend to be home by 10 or so, and will likely watch a lot of the elections returns. Don't expect any live blogging; I don't intend to pay that much attention.

Who will win? I still believe that Clinton will win the White House but the GOP will keep Congress. I can live with that.

I'm just glad it's all coming to an end. Tomorrow will finally be just another day.

Sunday, November 6, 2016

Two golf balls

Life does change. Once I had one golf ball to keep all my life. Now I have two.

The first one is from my only birdie. The Eighth hole at Dearborn Hills with Zeke, my Uncle John. August 1991. On the green, 180 yards, with a 4 iron. Then one putt, a hard left to right, about 25 feet. Drained it. Still have that ball.

Yesterday I earned my only other keeper. I hit it off the tee and it drove hard to the right. Way to the right. My buddy Ron yelled, "Fore!", as he should have. It landed, took a hard bounce, grazed the brim of my friend Kevin's hat, whistled by my other friend's (yes, I have two friends) Scotty's ear, and landed in the basket of the golf cart they were in.

But the story does not end there. I ran over to them, apologizing profusely. Then I asked for my ball. Hey, those things cost, like, three bucks apiece. I wanted it back.

They said they left it off the fairway behind them. Jerks. So I walked back to the spot where it lay, and picked it up. And carelessly written on it, in indelible ink, was a message. It read: 'Nice try Marty, but we're still alive. Scott and Kevin'.

I'm keeping that ball.

Friday, November 4, 2016

All stove up

There are things which folks say which I never understood. Pops used to say, when disgusted at some tool or whatever, "Whoever invented that ought to be beat through Hell with a beefheart". O-kay.

Grandpa Joe used to talk about being all 'stove up' I never got that one either. Until recently.

What he meant, speaking in general terms, was that when you had been active for a while and then sat for a while, your muscles tightened up. You became stiff and sore; achy. It might take a few steps before you were walking comfortably because your joints weren't limber.

Well, after curling the last two days I came to realize exactly what Grandpa meant. Immediately after each game I felt okay, but well after each game as I stood up from the table after a pint and a bit to eat, my back was tight, my shoulders sore, my knees aching, and it took about 15 steps to walk fully upright comfortably. I was all stove up.

Sometimes you just have to experience something to get it.

Thursday, November 3, 2016

The Cubs, the Tribe, and the Lions

I'm happy for Cubs fans, and sad for Indians fans. Baseball has a way of playing the fates; as most of you probably know. Chicago and Cleveland respectively were the longest without a championship in their league. Now the Indians own the distinction of longest drought in the game. I was personally rooting for the Tribe. Now I content myself that, just maybe, they'll begin to get the attention that the Cubs and earlier Red Sox held for so many years.

At least the Tribe made the big show this year, and the Cubs had been the team to go the furthest without even appearing in their sport's championship. Now, unless I'm miss my guess (I'm being too lazy to try and look it up) are our own Detroit Lions. They haven't been in a Super Bowl at all, and last appeared in the NFL Championship in 1957. That's the year my parents got married. I blame them.

So the long cold winter begins. To quote Rogers Hornsby, the old baseball great for among others, the Cubs, commenting on the offseason, "People ask me what I do in winter when there's no baseball. I'll tell you what I do. I stare out the window and wait for spring."

I hear ya Roger.

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

The minority vote

The minority vote is taken for granted by the Democratic Party. That's a shame, when you consider how badly that group has played minorities over the years.

Democrats want to take credit for all the advancements in civil rights in recent times, indeed for any and all forward movements on civil rights in our entire history. Yet at the least, the GOP deserves more consideration in what it has done in that area over time.

It was a Republican President, Dwight Eisenhower, who sent federal troops to insure that minorities were allowed in public high schools. Going back much further, a Republican, Abraham Lincoln, did the most to free the slaves. Say what you want about what he said at the time, his actions were what ended slavery.

How quickly too we forget the Dixiecrats, Democrats who opposed civil rights legislation. They opposed the many rights which minorities now, rightly, have. It is interesting to note that Republican support of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was actually stronger than Democratic support. As a Party, the GOP voted for the Act by about an 80% - 20% margin; Democrats, while overall in favor of it, voted at about a 62% - 38% figure. Indeed, not enough Democrats in the Senate voted for the measure to have passed it on their power: only 46 Democratic senators voted aye. That means that it would not have passed the Senate without Republican support at a time the Democrats were the majority party by a tremendous number in that chamber, 67-33.

Why don't we hear about this in schools and the media? Because it's not history that they like. It's not the narrative they want to drive. It makes conservatives in general and Republicans in particular look too good. So much for the objectivity of the journalists and educators.

When you throw in the fact that many minorities are social conservatives, one cannot help but conclude they need to rethink their ties to the Democratic Party. But when the race card gets played, well, we'll see who's actually played.

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Curling: the good sport game

Living in Detroit, it's hard not to develop an appreciation for things Canadian. One of those things for me is the sport of curling, which I learned to love while watching it on the CBC (that's the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation for you neophytes) when I was in my teens. I've played for years now. It's not merely that the game itself is grand, but in playing I've discovered that, of all sports, curling is the most sportsmanlike and curlers are great people. At all levels.

As an example of this, I'll never forget a curling tournament in Windsor, Ontario I had quite a thrill: I was lucky enough to meet David Murdoch, a Scot who has now been the World Curling Champion twice: in 2006 and 2009. He was walking right past me and I said, somewhat stupidly I'm sure, "You're David Murdoch!" He replied, with huge grin, "I am! And who might you be?" We went on to talk for several minutes about curling as a friend snapped a picture of us. Too cool.

Though he was the only one I was fortunate enough to meet up close and in person, it demonstrated that virtually every curler at virtually every level is very approachable. The reason is simple: every curler is an ambassador for the game, and even the top ranked ones know and accept that. They are sportsmanlike on the ice yet, more importantly, sportsmanlike off the ice.

Murdoch could blown me off. He unfortunately had a poor tournament and there's a degree to which I would have cut him slack had he been terse in our meeting. His team had been eliminated by that point, and at 11 PM on a Friday who could have blamed him if he simply wanted a pint or two to drown his sorrows, as many of us may want at the end of a bad week ourselves. Yet he wasn't short or snippy. He was quite gregarious, and generous in giving my friend Ron and I the ten minutes of his time that he did.

Curlers are ambassadors for the sport. I'm not saying that there aren't athletes in other sports who think likewise and approach their game that way. Yet it certainly is a feeling which could be more widespread, and it certainly doesn't seem as ingrained in others as it is with curling and curlers. But the bottom line is this: in promoting the sport we are promoting the attitude which goes along with it. We are promoting the attitude of sportsmanship and fair play and proper consideration of others.

Curlers are a brotherhood, sisterhood, sorority and fraternity all in one. If we can promote that among ourselves it might eventually spread to everyone we come in contact with in our daily lives. It's hyperbole in this case, perhaps, but what's so bad about that?

Monday, October 31, 2016

Happy Halloween

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.

Happy Halloween all!

Saturday, October 29, 2016

November just got a lot more interesting

Can our election get any more, oh, I don't know, unusual, fantastic; bizarre? Less than three weeks after an October surprise appeared to doom Donald Trump's campaign, up comes news that the FBI (the Federal Bureau of Investigation) is reopening its examination of Hillary Clinton's e-mails from her tenure as Secretary of State. This mere days after news that Obamacare will go up substantially (59% in Minnesota, and well into double digits elsewhere, if this morning's AOL news feed is to be believed) and as questions about the Clinton Foundation's possible pipeline to government access have grown. None of these three points are good news for the Democratic nominee.

I must confess that I'm happy to see these developments. Quite bluntly, I think the FBI was cowardly not to indict Hillary Clinton months ago, or not at least send the case before a grand jury. I never understood why Director Comey was so hung up back in July on not being able to determine Mrs. Clinton's 'intent' anyway. I've never known that mere intent had any bearing on breaking a law; enforcement officers and agencies are supposed to follow the letter of it and let the jury worry about our if intentions had any bearing on a case at all. I feel more that the lack of indictment in July was more electioneering than yesterday's development. Why reopen the case if there's nothing there, particularly after surrendering it back then?

Trump's deficit jumped from 12% on October 23 to 2% this morning, according to ABC News. This is well within accepted margins of error, which are typically 3-4%. If this is a fair evaluation of a change in the wind (I'm not a fan of polls but accept that they can be insightful) it's too significant to discount. And the Trump campaign seems to be smelling blood: he's actually making campaign stops here in Michigan on Monday and then Pennsylvania, states given up for lost not very long ago. He too has the advantage that his October Surprise is fading in the rear view mirror while Hillary's troubles are closer in the sideview than they appear.

In short, this Presidential election isn't over. If I had to place a bet today, I'd say Clinton would win. But ask me again on Monday.

Friday, October 28, 2016

How you play the game

When we watch others playing games, it's kind of hard not to at least want to tell them what to do. Even when they're playing solitaire.

Klondike solitaire is the game of choice among my family. Grandpa Joe played it often; I remember fondly watching him play as we sat in silence at his kitchen table. Pops played it a lot too, sitting at our kitchen table contentedly reshuffling actual decks of cards for each new game. My 82 year old mother never played it that I know until Dad passed. Now she plays it all the time, I think because it connects her to him. But it's also good intellectual exercise, which is itself a good thing too.

I was visiting her the other day. We were at that same kitchen table where Pops played, and Mom was occupied playing Klondike even as we talked. And she had this four of diamonds which she could play on this five of clubs. Only she wasn't playing it. 'You could play that 4 onto that 5', I thought, but didn't say it out loud.

We went on talking about whatever. She kept on going through her draw cards yet doing nothing with that four of diamonds. Still I thought to myself, ever more insistently, you can play that red four onto that black five. Still also I remained silent.

The conversation went on. The four continued to sit untouched. The thought, 'Come on Ma, play the stupid four' repeated itself over and over in my head. Yet I still said nothing aloud, despite how increasingly anxious I was becoming.

Minutes passed by as we went on conversing. Finally she stopped, looked up from her cards and asked, "Do you want to me play that four?"

"Please, Dear Lord, yes. Would you play that four!" I responded emphatically.

"I knew it was there. We were just talking and I kept forgetting it."

I don't believe that for a minute. She sensed I was getting antsy and was driving that feeling along. Moms.

Thursday, October 27, 2016

We could learn from Old George

And let us with caution indulge the supposition that morality can be maintained without religion...reason and experience both forbid us to expect that national morality can prevail in exclusion of religious principle.

- George Washington, from his Farewell Address

I have said many times that morality, indeed any issues of right and wrong, must have a God of some sort behind them. Without an objective norm to fall back on, any and all questions of good and evil, even issues of simple prudence, are nothing more than your word against mine. In such a case, problems would be resolved only through might makes right, whether at the hand of a single tyrant or that old saw consensus, which is but a name for the tyranny of the majority. We must do right because it is right on its own terms as instituted by the Creator of the natural law.

Consensus cannot make something right. Consensus is merely what the majority of the people at a given time happen to want which they are able to subject the upon the minority. Do we honestly believe that such is the best way to create good law and rational public policy?

Obviously it is not. We require a Supreme Being, a supreme and final Law, in order to do well and avoid evil. To those who object, which God?, I say, the one whom philosophy, not religion, insists is there. From that point we can safely speculate on how such a being would expect us to act. It is then when we start to cross into religious principle because at that point we begin to realize that people are special, that doing wrong against them is an evil in itself because it is an affront to their dignity as individuals. A dignity they have by virtue of their humanity, as given them by God. It does not come from them or anything they do.

So there is no reason to base morality and law on anything slippery such as convention, which can and will change as generations do. We need that eternal sense, that eternal reality, if we are to make a good society, and become good people. For any ideal of dignity must come from the religious ideal that everyone deserves proper respect. That cannot come from any simple human act. It can only come from above, overarching each individual. We recognize that and live accordingly, or we slowly perish.

Sunday, October 23, 2016

The Harvard Business School is wrong

You know, people are stupid. Really, profoundly stupid. I'm learning that more and more with each passing day.

To be sure, there has been ample evidence of it the last thirty years of my life. What does, yet should not astound me, is how I can still be amazed when it happens.

The latest examples come from my sales job. In directing a potential new customer to my store, I cautioned him not to go beyond Warren Avenue here in Detroit; he would have gone too far if he had. An hour later I get a call from the guy's cell. He was more than a mile beyond our place of business. "I saw Warren and never saw you so I kept on going," he explained to me. You saw the street which I told you was too far and KEPT GOING? It never occurred to you to circle around?

My other phone started ringing, so I hung up on him. I employed Red Foreman's favorite phrase as I did.

Another fella called to asked if he could have his snake (slang for the drain cleaning equipment we sell) repaired by us. "Probably, but tell me what you have so that I can tell you if I have access to the parts you might need," I asked.

"A snake," he responds.

"Okay," I said, trying to be patient, "But what type of machine exactly?"

"Uhh, the kind that opens sewers."

I barked, "I need a make and model number."

"Uhhhhhh, y'all worked on it 'bout five years ago..." he began.

Click.

Dang. I hung up on my only customer from 2011. That was such a good year too.

I tell you, the Harvard Business School is dead wrong. The customer isn't always right.

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Change? Why?

I see no point in changing anything just to change. It borders on senseless, quite frankly, and is arguably childish.

There's nothing wrong with change per se either, I'll concede. Still, that being the case, why do it at all? is a fair question to ask.

Expand your horizons, perhaps? Well, what if the horizon isn't all that clear? Besides, it becomes fair to ask in answer to that, what's wrong with I'm doing now? I realize that either question calls for a certain amount of extrapolation, as it's ultimately all in the details. But remember the question is, why change simply to change?

When we took the kids out for ice cream I almost always got black cherry. Why? Because I like it. Why try something new when you can get what you know you like?

Am I being obstinate? Perhaps; but aren't you being equally obstinate in ordering me to change? I mean, what's it to you? It's not like I'm doing anything immoral (on the ice cream question, of course). Further, as I have the right in that sphere to order what I want, what argument can you possibly have against me?

It might be nice to change. Okay, but it might be nice to get what I want too. It's almost a moral wash; wait, no it isn't. It's my right to do what I want among legitimate moral choices. What you think I should do merits nothing for your position. It's only you being bossy.

Maybe I should have labeled this becoming a curmudgeon to the nth degreee. But so be it. Leave me alone where I've the right be left alone; that's all I ask.

Friday, October 21, 2016

Come hither?

You see many interesting things when your job involves a lot of driving.

This morning as I was delivering a machine to the Dearborn Sausage company, I glanced over at a pub while stopped at a light. The sign along the parking lot read, good friends, good food, good times. Innocuous enough, right? Only the words good times were highlighted with quote marks. The message read: GOOD FRIENDS, GOOD FOOD, "GOOD TIMES". That leaves me to wonder what such a emphasis is supposed to mean.

Are we too take the words wryly, as in: good times; right. Are we to take them euphemistically, as in, good times (happy sigh). Are we to take them drunkenly, as in: you won't remember anything anyway. Are we to take them as an order, such as 'mandatory fun'? Are we to presume that a reunion of the classic comedy from the 70s is taking place? (Dy-no-mite!) Or should we think, wink wink, as in: Do you want to come upstairs? I mean, really. What are we supposed to take from that?

I certainly don't know. There's really only way to test it, though. Let's go to the pub tonight, and have some "GOOD TIMES". Perhaps we'll remember them in the morning over our aspirin and water.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

The pharmacist's revenge

Bush's Pharmacy was across the street from the home where Pops grew up. It was where his family bought all their medicinal wares in the Forties and Fifties, a typical neighborhood drug store. As such, it sold products other than prescription drugs and over the counter remedies for your ills. Among those products were cigarettes. There of course was not the public disdain for smoking as there is now, so it meant nothing that your pharmacist sold smokes.

Late one Sunday a customer walked into the store and asked for a pack of cigarettes. Mr. Bush reached into the display and handed the man a pack, which happened to cost twenty five cents. The guy opened it, took a cigarette out, and lit it; again, it was no faux pas to smoke in a store back then. Next he drew his wallet out of his pocket and offered Mr. Bush a twenty. A Canadian twenty. "It's all I've got," he explained smugly. What he was trying to do was get American money in place of the Canadian without the trouble of going to a bank or currency exchange.

Mr. Bush didn't say anything. He merely reached under the counter, took out an old cigar box, and gave the man $19.75.

Canadian.

It seemed Mr. Bush had accumulated a bit of Canadian cash over the years and had kept it for no particular reason.

But things happen for a reason. In this case, to teach a smart aleck a lesson.

Monday, October 17, 2016

The pursuit of happiness

I've just found another phrase which I will toss atop the dung heap of useless phrases and useless words.

While watching an episode of Last Man Standing, a Tim Allen sitcom of current standing, heh, heh, (I love punny things, even things not actually very punny), I experienced an epiphany. He was explaining in this particular episode, apologizing really, that he only wanted his daughter to be happy. Yet something stuck in my craw.

Despite what his character in fact said, he didn't actually want his daughter happy on open terms. He wanted his daughter happy on more defined terms.

True, he didn't say that. But it was implied quite directly when he asked her to be open to the possibility of a Navy Seal as a husband or boyfriend ahead of her then current choice of boyfriend if one might then appear.

What are we to make of this?

For starters, perhaps, that Tim Allen in his television world is nodding to the PC police. But more than that. Do fathers, should fathers, ever wish for their children mere happiness?

Happiness without reservation is, after all, without meaning. The sadist and the pious are on even terms here. We then begin to beg the question of what, really, should make us happy?

And that is precisely the question which I want my children to ask, answer, and live towards, as they decide what to do with themselves and their lives. I want them to ask, what should make me happy? And I want them to work towards an honest answer to that.

So, should I be asked, do you want you children to be happy, I must answer no. I do indeed want them to want to be happy. But I want for them true happiness, and nothing less will suffice in answer. I should hope all parents want that.

Polka Mass? Really?

I boycotted my Church today.

Hey, now, I still fulfilled my Sunday obligation; Ol' Marty won't not do that. But I did go to a different Church rather than my parish sanctuary. I simply could not go there this week.

You see, they were having a Polka Mass, and I don't care how many reassurances I get about it being all right, it just doesn't feel right to me. I'm not even saying that it's wrong. It's merely beyond my comfort zone. But I am willing to entertain the argument that it's disrespectful.

Now, I like to polka, as ironic as that may sound to those who know how I brag about my Irish heritage. At weddings, I'm one of the first ones on the floor when the accordion sounds. But polka music in Church? I feel like we should be swaying in tune and clanking beer steins rather than singing hymns to the polka beat.

Sorry, folks, but singing a joyful noise just doesn't cut it in defense of such folly. There are too many joyful hymns more in (ahem) tune with worship.

Friday, October 14, 2016

Why I cannot vote for Hillary Clinton

I haven't discussed politics much lately, because it's just not as much fun as storytelling. But I am going to revert for one day to a great degree because I have to get my thoughts on the upcoming Presidential election off my chest. I will be terse and clipped, as getting into background reasoning would take forever, and let's be honest: most of us know the backgrounds anyway.

Hillary Clinton is pro-abortion. I cannot vote for a pro-abortion candidate when there's an option short of the anti-Christ. And Donald Trump is no more the anti-Christ than Hillary.

The respective candidates' treatment of women is a moral wash. Trump has said awful things about women; so has Hillary, in defense of her husband. My vote is not affected by this question.

Clinton will try to staff the Supreme Court with liberal justices. Despite popular thought, the America left is a greater threat to individual rights than the American conservative. A liberal Court will hurt, not help, the person.

Hillary will increase the size of government and attempt to raise taxes. I am thoroughly, completely opposed to both concepts. To echo my brief thoughts on the Court, big government and heavy taxation are great threats to individual liberty. Government is too large anyway, and should be cut severely.

Hillary will go farther with health care than Obama has. This will lead to health care questions being decided, eventually, by the Washington. This is not good, and contrary even to the liberal saw that health care should be between the patient and the doctor. With more government intervention, our health care will get worse, not better.

I do support the Second Amendment, and remind people that the right to bear arms is for individuals to protect themselves from others, including their government. Clinton will do what she can to erode this necessary right.

You get the drift. I cannot, in good conscience as an American conservative, vote for someone so totally against what I believe in as Hillary Clinton. And that's all there is to it.

Sunday, October 9, 2016

I'd rather go fast food

Buca di Beppo. The name sounds like a rejected moniker for a long forgotten Marx brother. Beppo Marx; think about it. In reality, it's the name of the restaurant I ate in last night with a group of friends. You know, one of those different things you try just to do something different. The trouble is, I hate different. I don't want to try new things.

The food is served, I think they call it family style, where you order large dishes and share them. It's supposed to be fun. But what's the fun of dinner being ordered by committee? If I had wanted that, I'd have voted for Obama and let him and Congress tell me what to eat like they want to tell me everything else that I need these days.

Yet as with acts of Congress, it took an insane amount of time to get anything done. It took forever to order because everyone had to debate which salad, which sides, which entree, and which style of plates and silverware to use. All right, maybe not that last part, but still. I don't want to eat what the person next to me wants, I want to eat what I want when I'm in a restaurant. This is America, by gum, and I can order my own food. If I want to have dinner family style I'll do the obvious thing and stay at home with my family for dinner. Sure, I may then have to eat what my wife sets in front of me, but hey, at least it came from my own larder. She cooks better than some 19 year old working their way through college anyway.

Then the food finally comes and everyone gets their first helping. After another fifteen minutes, that is. Passing dishes about among ten people squeezed around a tiny restaurant table is more confusing and frustrating than getting home to the suburbs during rush hour. You need an air traffic controller to keep the flying dishes in order. And the food isn't cold by the time you finally get to eat, oh no, sure. Then, since it's served the way it is, there's always those last two pieces of chicken which everyone is being too kind to take in case someone else may want one, when the truth is everyone at the table wants one because they haven't had enough to eat. The remaining veggies remain alone, pleading for attention, but who wants them? Family style without the family style portions, that's what it is. At home, where the real family style is, there's always enough for everyone.

I think that the next time I'm invited to such a place, I'll politely decline and have a beer and burger at home. The drink will be cold, the food hot, and all the atmosphere I need will be supplied by the ball game on the tube. Any new experience will be limited to who the Tigers play next. That's about all the diversity I care for.

Friday, October 7, 2016

I'm so witty, o so witty

My wife 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 she 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 she 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.

Thursday, October 6, 2016

Old Charley Hannah

Old Charley Hannah wasn't a bad sort of fellow. I always fancied he thought himself a storyteller. He was more a teller of tall tales, quite frankly, and at the heart of it I think he just loved to hear himself talk. That lead to certain lapses in continuity when he spoke.

He was in the Old Barn one day years ago while Dad was off somewhere. As I worked on his machine and my brother worked nearby Charley remarked, "I bet I'm about as old as your dad."

"Could be, Mr. Hannah," I replied. "Pops was born in 1936."

Old Charley began wistfully, "Nineteen thutty six,' and I felt a story was coming on. He continued, "I was fidteen years old in 1936..."

I don't remember the tale. I spent the whole time thinking, 'But, you said you were Dad's age, but now were 15 when he was born, and that's not that close, so how could you, why would you think...'

About that time Charley finished the story and broke into a laugh. I read the signal and laughed too. But I don't recall a thing about what he told. I only remember my confusion.

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

A strange border crossing

A couple of weeks ago I met an old curling friend for golf. After a short discussion we decided to play in Canada. I crossed over the border one Sunday, we played 18 holes, went to a pub and grub for a couple pints and some, well, grub, decided to hit the links again soon, and parted ways.

It was next, in my return to these United States, that the story became in my mind kinda weird.

I stopped at the guard booth and dutifully handed the attendant my enhanced license. "Citizenship?" he asked brusquely.

You just swiped my license, so you know the answer to that, I thought brusquely myself. But I obediently answered, "U.S."

"Purposely of your trip?"

"I was golfing with a Canadian curling friend."

The man turned to look at me and asked, I thought rather harshly, "What have you got against golf in the United States?"

"N, nothing," I heard myself stammer. "We just decided to golf in Canada."

He began staring me down, and I have to admit I was starting to feel intimidated, "Why would you decide that?"

"Well, no big reason. It seemed cheaper for me cross the border and pay in Canadian dollars, that's all."

"So what's your problem with US dollars?" continued the interrogation.

I wasn't sure how to answer that, as I love US dollars as much as anybody. So much so that I get paid in them. I responded meekly, "It just seemed cheaper."

The guard harrumphed, and turned to look at his monitor. "And how did you meet this 'curling friend'?" I swear you could see the quote marks in the air.

I really wasn't sure how to answer that; from his tone it didn't appear as though there was a right answer. "Uh, well, curling?" It even sounded to me like I responded with the lilt of a question. That's not gonna help here, I thought with no small fear.

He asked, "Do you have your clubs with you?"

"Yes. In the back of my van." I stupidly indicated where the back of my van was with a twist of my head. I told you I was golfing; why wouldn't I bring my clubs home?

"What kind are they?" he demanded.

I answered incredulously, "Clevelands." Where's he going with this?

The guard turned again to me, handed me back my license, smiled broadly and said in the happiest tone, "Good choice. Have a nice day!"

I don't know about you, but it struck me a rather bizarre return interview.

Monday, October 3, 2016

The curmudgeon in Marty: don't walk in the middle of the road!

I wish I owned the roads as much as a lot of pedestrians seem to think they do. I am sick and tired of folks walking in the middle of the road, only begrudgingly giving way to vehicular traffic as it approaches. Approaches slowly, mind you, because if Heaven forbid you hit them it's on you, despite the fact that they're where they should not be.

The lack of consideration for drivers as well as their own safety is appalling. This morning two people were blocking the farthest right driving lane walking towards me on a main artery four lanes wide, while the sidewalks alongside had no obstructions whatsoever. I could cut them slack if they were in the curb lane and the walks overrun with snow or debris or what have you, but they were clear and easy to step along. Why were two idiots in the road?

It's actually worse on side streets. I've come along high schoolers walking five abreast in the middle of the road, blocking it completely. Before you dismiss this as simply younger folks not thinking, I've seen it with adults all too often. Then, as I said, they'll only grudgingly part enough for your car, and I mean only just enough for your car to pass by, sneering at you as you do. They act as though you're the one intruding on their space.

I've been offered explanations but, quite frankly, none pan out. A guy told me it was to keep off the walks for safety: someone might run out from between houses and grab or rob them. Sorry, my friends, that's just grasping for justification. Why couldn't someone run from a crouch between cars and get you? Perhaps the walks aren't clear? But we've addressed that: it doesn't wash, either.

The short story is that it's arrogance. They walk in the street because they can, and it's a way of showing they own you. If you have a better explanation, I'm all ears. Until then, I hold that they ought to smacked upside the head and told to be considerate of how the road was intended to be used.

Sunday, October 2, 2016

Real love

We are often told that we are expected to love others unconditionally. It is a good and charitable approach to our relationships with God and man. But what does it really mean? How are we expected to use such a doctrine in our daily lives?

For starters, it surely means that we are to love everyone without reservation. We are called to love everyone as though they were ourselves, to paraphrase a great moral teacher. It is a difficult ideal; loving our enemies is not easy, and sometimes loving our friends and family is a challenge as well. Still, we are expected to overcome this obstacle, and find a way to open our hearts to all.

But there is a great misunderstanding to unconditional love, an error in its application which is at least arguably worse than failing to love everyone around us. Many people believe that unconditional love means loving others up to and including their faults. Indeed, it strikes me that we are sometimes expected to embrace those faults.

This cannot be a good and true interpretation of the standard. It cannot be a useful approach towards dealing with others. We can accept that we must love racists and sexists and criminals; but to love their faults? This is insanity on its face. Do we not want to see people become better people? Do we not want to see our children grow into mature adults? Then we should be instructing and cajoling and beseeching those around us, as they should towards us, to do better than they do, and to be better than they are.

When our children become drug addicts or alcoholics, we do what we can to change them. When our neighbors rob and injure others, we enforce laws to stop them. We can and should still love them, but that does not mean we are obliged to tolerate them.

It is more correct to say that unconditional love calls us to love those around us despite their faults. Real love does not embrace error. It understands sins and errors as a part of us which ought to be altered, and wants to see us move away from the lesser aspects of our being and into better men, women, and children. If it does not want that, it is not love. It is something which facilitates bad behavior; it is a cancer of character.

Thursday, September 29, 2016

English hillbillies

Now, me Irish heritage Pops, he married a hillbilly. A proud hillbilly. So being immensely proud of her meself, I'm a half proud hillbilly, me maw being from the western hills of North Carolina. And I do indeed wear that half badge fully proudly.

Now also me Pops grew up in the mixed village of nearly downtown Detroit. So mixed in fact that even a few pure Englishmen still survived there back in the day, when me Pops were young. One of them whom me Pops knew well was Mr. Britton. That be no joke, pun, nor misdemeanor. His name be Mr. Britton. Mr. Britton was a true, fine son of Olde England. And, having committed himself to the northern United States, he (to his shame) hated American hillbillies.

They was the scourge of the earth, them rapscallions of the Appalachian Mountains of the eastern U-nited States. He spewed venom at them always, everyways, and many ways in between.

Well, it happened that a long, tall, thin son of England, every bit of six foot one as it be, one appropriately monikered Slim, an emigrant himself of England as Pops recalled, delivered product to me Grandpa Joe's shop. And one fine morning, he came by with a truckload of fine product. And one morning, me Pops happened to see Mr. Britton opening his garage that he might take his fine Chevy out on a morning trek.

"Mr. Britton,' me Pops called, "I have here a son of your land."

The two exchanged greetings, after which old Slim asked, "So where are ye from?"

"Birmingh'm", answered Mr. Britton proudly, forgettin' the vowel.

"Ah, bloody hillbilly are ya?" responded Slim immediately. Apparently English folk from Birmingh'm were, in English parlance, hillbillies.

As Pops told it, Mr. Britton yanked his cigar from his mouth, tossed it angrily on the ground, stomped its flame out, and, falling into his Chevy, sped away. But Slim, he merely opined, "Ah well".