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".

The need to legislate morals

It is often said, when discussing certain social issues, that we cannot legislate morals. Do you know the right response to that question?

In a word, poppycock. There is a better word, to be sure, but decorum will not allow its use here.

We can and we must legislate morals. Further, every decision ever made by every legislature, parliament, congress, diet, knesset, or whatever else you want to call it, was an action predicated on a moral decision. Making us drive on the right side of the street is based on the moral axiom that we require order. Forcing parents to send their kids to school, let alone feed and clothe them, is a moral choice that parents are obliged to do that for their progeny. Trying to force health care down our throats is a moral decision by the government that we need it, however erroneously felt.

We can and we must legislate morals. We do it all the time. The only real questions are which ones, and under what circumstances.

Sunday, September 25, 2016

The one who could tame Grandpa Joe

I've spoken often about Grandpa Joe, and once so far, just the other day you might recall, about his father, Great Grandpa James. I've spoken too about how Joe seemed to always make his presence felt, quite emphatically and quite often. Only his own dad appeared to have any influence on that.

A tale me Pops told me may illustrate the fact. Great Grandpa James lived on the same farm in west central Illinois his whole 92 years. Grandpa Joe was born there. Naturally enough, every summer Joe would load the family into some old wreck of a car and they would head out to see the extended family. The trip made further sense because Grandma Cosgriff, me grams, was from the same area too, so they could visit both sets of relatives.

One year when Pops was still in high school, him and a brood of his cousins were out in a large field shagging flies. Grandpa James, 85 at the time, noticed them, and went out in the field to watch. Eventually he asked if he might try hitting the baseball a bit. Now, he had a hernia at the time, and the grandkids knew it. But they also didn't know how they could tell their grandfather no, so they dutifully let him hit.

He was hitting well by Pops' account, just another guy tossing a ball in the air and thwacking it with a bat as it came down towards earth. Indeed all them grandsons were impressed by the old man. But Pops noticed Joe watching from a ways off, by the house he was born in, as if deciding something but not sure how to proceed. Joe Cosgriff being uncertain about anything was very unusual.

Grandpa Joe finally muscled up his courage and strode out into the field where his father had yet to relinquish the bat. He walked up to Grandpa James and said timidly (Joe Cosgriff speaking timidly?), "Dad, do you think you should be doing that, with your hernia and all?"

His father paused a moment to reply plainly, "Joe, I believe I'm about old enough to do as I please." He then proceeded to hit another 15 minutes. Joe put up no argument. He simply drew on a cigarette and walked back to the house.

It was surprising, yes. But as I said the other day Grandpa James had his way with folks, and as to Grandpa Joe, every man has his parameters.

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Emotions in the rubble

Yesterday afternoon I felt all kinds of emotions, running the gamut from, well, the sublime to the ridiculous.

I watched like a giddy child as a demolition crew tore down an abandoned house in the neighborhood. It's interesting how destruction enthralls us. Maybe we wish we were handling the levers of that scoop shovel ourselves as it ravenously engulfed and tore down walls. It's easy to be impressed by such power over otherwise strong materials such as wood and brick. I even filmed through my camera phone four minutes of the work. The once magnificent house of the middle class was a pile of debris in less than an hour.

Yet there was a sadness in the air too. Most houses in my neighborhood have stood since the 1890's, so that old girl was in the range of 120 years old. Workmen, professionals like brick masons, carpenters, plasterers (everything was wet plastered back then), electricians, roofers and more had pried their skills over several months to create a tidy Victorian home which had served as refuge for who knew how many for over a century. It had all fell down in a matter of minutes.

And there was a piquancy as well. The folks I knew who had lived there were a sister and a brother. Miss Jeter always had a laugh, smile, or honestly pleasant how are you. She had a big blue Buick she loved. I still see her and that car rolling across the hood. Her brother, Mr. Wilson A. Watson, was about as unassuming an old gentleman as you could know. He lost a leg in World War II and hobbled around as best he could with his cane. He would laugh and joke with you quickly, and wore a grin which was all sunshine despite his obvious challenges. He never in my presence complained over them. I don't even remember when they died, and I'm ashamed that I don't know.

This world just keeps on turning. Yet every once'n awhile it does seem to stop to let us reflect.

Friday, September 23, 2016

Say NO to dumpster rentals

The Old Barn needs to be cleaned out; I've known that for years. We've been bad about letting clutter accumulate, and often for a very good reason: we've been busy working. But now that the clutter is interfering with the money making, the clutter's gotta go. So I began last night researching dumpster prices.

I hopped on the Internet. What better way to find out pricing, convenience, and availability than the good old World Wide Web? Yet after searching for over an hour I discovered that most companies (actually every one but one) didn't have their prices online. I was being told at virtually every website, 'Call our toll free number for a quote'. So much for convenience.

Damn your toll free number. Calling people was exactly what I wanted to avoid. Ain't I supposed to get information free and easy on the web? What's this with expecting me to interact with others? Why do you suppose I sit at the back of Church? If I want to in fact deal immediately with people, I'll choose when and how, thank you.

In the meantime, keep your dumpster too. I'll take my old boxes into recycling (as much as I don't care for that) and throw my junk out on bulk trash days afore I deign to call ya. You should make it easy for me to decide if I want to deal with you. That you do not, dumpster folks, tells me all I need to know about how much you want my business.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

To thine own self be not true

I've come to discover that I don't much like the phrase, be true to yourself. I find it ultimately, as I find so much else, conditional. Left unexamined, it begs a lot of questions, the most important of which is, what if you're a jerk?

I mean, if a guy's a jerk and he just stays that way, isn't he being 'true' to 'himself'? Why shouldn't he? He would be being true to himself. But we don't say that. We tell him, don't be such a jerk.

So I'm officially kicking a whole phrase into the pile of meaningless words (if unexamined) such as peace, freedom, education and so forth. I assert that you should not be true to yourself unless and until you have become a better person. That means asking yourself and answering honestly what actions and beliefs will make you positively better. Before you do that, I suggest that you should not be true to yourself. A child will always a child unless he grows into adulthood. And jerks will stay jerks until they evolve past that.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

The responsibility to speak well

We Americans boast routinely about free speech, being so proud of the right that we put it smack at the top of the Bill of Rights. So, perhaps, it should be. But there are unfortunately degrees to which it must be seen negatively.

There are folks who opine that free speech means the right to say offensive things. They forget that there are two ways in which someone is offended: either when the listener is a fool, or when the speech in question is genuinely offensive.

No one has a moral right to voice offensive remarks solely for the sake of making offense; that is simply rudeness at best and insulting and vulgar at worst. To say that they have such a right under the guise of free speech is really only to hide irresponsible behavior behind a pretty face. As rights only grow from responsibilities, it is reasonable to argue that the right to speak freely comes from the obligation to speak truthfully, in the reasonable interests of ourselves and the general society, and considerately, so far as circumstances may allow.

Still, the only way to really stifle morally offensive speech is censorship, and the problem with censorship is that it is only good when good people are in charge. When bad people hold the reigns, then good and necessary free speech will be prohibited. It is a risk we cannot take.

In the end, though, no one has the right to say offensive things, but merely the practical option of expressing them freely. No one has the right to be wrong in the truest sense of the term, but only the free will to be in the wrong. Until we understand that, we really won't understand the importance of a well regulated freedom at all.

Rights must be viewed in their proper perspective. They are not, not a one of them, open ended and subject to mere personal interpretation. We may treat some select few of them as absolute, but only due to abject necessity. Actions which beg the true nature of free speech do not promote but instead denigrate the right. They make us less than we can be and less than we should be. We should be good and decent people.

Saturday, September 17, 2016

Great Grandpa James

I tell tales about me Pops. I tell tales about me Grandpa Joe. But have I yet to tell tales about me great-grandpa James?

They says he could raise more hell without drinkin' or cussin' than anyone that ever was. He was a small man, it's true, less than 5'3", but that ne'er stalled him. He backed away from nuthin. I been told he participated in a thousand fights, and he lost them all. Each and ev'ry one. He opined one day, "If I find a guy I can whoop, I'd stay close by that guy, I'd follow him all over and whoop him each day". That's an Irish tude, idn't it?

But he remained just the same a dedicated peacemaker, never engagin' in battle save when necessary, no matter how often necessity occurred. A true, just peace, he believed in. And folks respected that.

In late 1800s west central Illinois where he was a farmer like so many, the barn dances circled from farm to farm each Saturd'y night. Many families and personalities competed poorly those days, and some to a disturbin', measured acceptance. Arguments and such, threats almost to McCoy-Hatfield levels, existed everywhere. Some tribes refused to appear at the weekly festivals when certain others intended to arrive; it was an upsettin' scene.

When it was me great-grandpa James turn to host the soiree, he sent out notice. Ever body was invited, and ever one must play nice. And perhaps most importantly, ever soul must attend and observe the rules. Ya know what?

Each body attended. Each family observed the rules. And indeed, a good time was observed by all.

A good time was had by all. It just depends sometimes, ye see, on the force of personality to influence attitude.

Friday, September 16, 2016

Sam and Joe

As I take my morning walks these days, I always pass Sam's house. When I do I always think of his relationship with me Grandpa Joe. It was, ah, an interesting friendship.

Sam would come by the old barn regularly. His mission seemed to be to needle Joe. It must be admitted, he was very good at that.

Once Joe had me younger brother painting a car of his with a sponge brush and a can of off the shelf paint. Now, I know that's not the best way to paint a car, but it was Grandpa's car and Patrick didn't mind to get paid to paint it however he was told. Sam happened by and exclaimed emphatically, "You can't paint a car like that!"

"The hell I can't!" Joe replied with an incredibly equal incredulity. And the fight was on.

Another time Sam was paying a visit and Joe was going on about something or other which concerned him. When he finished his rant Sam remarked sullenly, "Ah, I don't care, Joe".

Joe barked in response, in an incredibly accurate and proper response, "Yeah, but I do!"

"I just said I don't care!" Sam yelled in reply. And the fight was on.

Similar events occurred countless times over the years. Sam would show up, a conversation would start, sometimes slowly, sometimes explosively, and those two old coots would end up arguing, howling at each other over some kind of nonsense.

The darn thing is, I think they both looked forward to it.

Thursday, September 15, 2016

The dally in the alley

I spent an interesting Saturday night wandering around a local event known as the Dally in the Alley. It started years ago as, well, a dally in an alley, a big party where people sold things and communists and anarchists met to discuss how to change the world. Now it blocks off two streets and seems to concentrate more on selling baubles and trinkets and playing load, annoying music. I’m sure the reds and the anarchists were still there somewhere; the one value the music had was that it drowned them out.

Rarely have I seen such an eclectic mix of folks. Mostly it was weirdos from years ago and drunk college students simply out to party. More than once I wanted to tell one of the oddballs: ‘Hey, the sixties called; they want their tie-dye back.’ All were harmless enough though, despite the occasional sneer I got when passersby noticed I was wearing an Army T-shirt and a Military Police cap. Yes, I wore them to provoke, I’ll admit. Yet other than the sneers, nothing. It’s just as well. Aging hippies and drink addled sophomores wouldn’t be particularly challenging adversaries. It would have been fun, though, to have one little altercation. Just like cow tipping. “Hey, Fascist, what’s with the Army stuff?’ Then you just push them over and they flail and moo on the ground.

They had good beer, which was really all I went for. I had a nice bohemian ale from a local microbrewery which went down well. The guy manning the taps was one of those sneering at my attire, but he took the four bucks for the beer from me quickly enough. In fact, as he sneered, I asked for the brew, and his entire demeanor changed. He promptly poured it, and thanked me with a broad smile for the purchase.

I had made a point after all. Say all you want about the USA, but one hypocritical thing rang clear in that den of leftist iniquity: Capitalism rules! We are all capitalists at heart.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

A passive aggressive Cosgriff?

Grandpa Joe once had an old Packard that he really liked. He also had an older brother whom he was close to, and one day the car and the brother came together in what even Joe admitted was a funny story.

His older brother was Uncle Bill. Joe thought enough of him that he named his first son, me Pops, after him. Uncle Bill was as quiet and reflective as Joe was loud and abrasive. But if you told Uncle Bill something you'd better mean it, because he would do it.

One day someone's car had slid off into a ditch, and Joe and Bill went with Grandpa's Packard to try to pull it out. They hooked up to the car, and Bill got in the driver's seat of the Packard because Joe thought he was better at things like pulling vehicles out of ditches. Uncle Bill revved the Packard up slowly, and gently tried to get into gear several times, with no luck moving the stuck car. Joe become more impatient by the second, until he finally yelled, "Hell, rip the bumper off her!"

"I knew right after I said it I'd said it to the wrong guy," Grandpa admitted years later, retelling the tale with a laugh.

Uncle Bill's face drew into a huge grin. He raced that engine and dropped it into gear. The car leapt forward powerfully, as a 12 cylinder Packard should. And he ripped the bumper clean off.

As Joe said years later, "What could I say? I told him to do it."

He never did say exactly how they got the car out of the ditch though. But that really isn't the point of the story anyway, is it?

Monday, September 12, 2016

Red dog

Joe would always hold him by his lead, pronounced leed, that old red dog. And old Red Dog, he was waiting patiently all the time, holdin' himself back, chompin' at the bit. Never pulling, never a strain on the leed. Waiting to speed down that alley, very certain himself, wanting to be sure to protect Pops and Grandpa Joe from all the evils which might lie ahead as they made their way to the old barn. Then Joe would release him, and he would tear down the alley to clear it of dangers real and suspected. I saw that a lot.

You see, Joe had been threatened at the old barn recently, me grandfather havin' been held up at gunpoint twice within two weeks shortly before he discovered that dog. He had been surprised before then. He would be surprised no more.

So he found old red dog somewhere. And he would be surprised not again.

I've no idea no more where he found that old dog. I ain't yet seen a dog looked so unusual as he, even down to his fire red coat. Square head, medium body, medium build, he was an unusual dog. A mountain fiest, perhaps, thought that is a shot in the dark. He was too stocky. That old red dog loved me Grandpa Joe anyway, an unusual ideal itself. He would protect him.

Joe himself marveled at the how much the dog loved him. That old dog listened to all he said. That old dog stayed still in the old barn mostly during the day, but would quietly follow a suspected soul daytimes until it left, without being instructed. That impressed Grandpa Joe.

Joe would say, 'Hey dog' and the dog would play with him, dancing and prancing as Joe repeatedly said the refrain. 'Hey dog' was a mantra.

I saw it many times. That old red dog loved Grandpa Joe. It was perhaps unconditional love at its best.

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Fifteen years

Fifteen years have now passed since what may become the defining point of a generation. Fifteen years, almost to the minute as this is being written, terrorists attacked the Pentagon, the World Trade Center, and were overcome by the passengers of an airplane over the hills of Pennsylvania. All that time, and we still cannot make any sense of it.

The trouble is that there is no sense to be made. To be sure, we can understand the reasons for even such terrible actions, in the same way that we can understand the reasons Hitler did what he did. Yet that is not the same as understanding.

How do we, how can we, come to actually understand rape or murder or thievery, mass murder or any any other evil which may be added to such a gruesome list, if we are to be decent human beings ourselves? It is only in a warped mind where such heinous acts may be justified. As such, reasonable people simply cannot understand them. It is beyond their ability; it is to them pure nonsense.

So the goal today should be to remember. Remember the victims and their families, remember the countless acts of heroism that day, remember even the perpetrators of such despicable carnage if for no other reason than to remind ourselves that such twisted souls do exist, seeking the ruin of those those not in lockstep with them. But hopefully, remember even so that their redemption may be possible. If we are the good people we claim to be, even that shouldn't be so difficult of a task on so difficult of an anniversary.

Friday, September 9, 2016

The lure of the open road

The lure of the open road is as American as apple pie. Driving along a ribbon of highway gives you a real sense of freedom, an optimism about the future which little else can. It speaks directly of potential, of...great. I'm stuck behind a slow moving semi, and I can't pass on this two lane blacktop because there's a line of cars a mile long going the other way. This'll really throw me off schedule...

Stop. That's no good. Start over.

Traversing the highways and byways of our great nation offers a taste of adventure like no other. Motoring along in the hours before dawn, alone with your dreams and expectations, and seeing the endless possibilities before you ignites the imagination. The deep blue sky and the twinkling stars inspire quiet confidence. Headlights illuminate the way through the darkness as the aroma of a freshly manured farmer's field wafts through the window...

No, that's no good either.

You speed along the road, a modern cowboy, literally driving the American economy. The nation runs on your efforts; she survives on your work ethic. Her ideals thrive on your tireless endeavors which make life better gotta be kidding; a red light at 4 in the morning in this hick town? I'd run it but there's probably some redneck county mountie hiding behind a billboard who's nail me for that. Why isn't it flashing yellow at this time of day? I'm really gonna be late now.

Sorry, sorry, sorry. I'm trying to pen an inspirational post and I just don't have it today. I'll try again some other time. Sorry.

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Grandpa Joe's work ethic

Me Grandpa Joe was always proud of his willingness to work. Sometimes this led to impressive results; sometimes to the unusual; sometimes to the funny.

He never went more than two weeks without a job, even during the Great Depression. That's considering he would quit a job, when jobs were scarce. Why work for someone or something you didn't like, he reasoned.

Once he and a buddy found themselves working long hours. They decided, in friendly rivalry, to see how long they actually could work (this was before rules and laws forbade such things). The two of them concurrently pulled 61 hour shifts, which only ended when the foreman ordered, "You're both crazy. Get the hell outta here!"

Joe took a new job once while he was already employed; it paid twenty five cents an hour (significant at that time) more than the one he held. While getting his gear together his suddenly former employer begged him to stay, ending his plea with an incredulous, "So you'd leave me for a quarter an hour?"

"Hell, I'd leave ya for a nickel an hour," Joe said simply as he left.

I don't know about you, but I admire the man.

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Kids and sports

Note: I first penned this blog several years ago and rediscovered it as I went over some of my old writing. But I like it enough to re-post. Thank you for the indulgence.

Last night was a slow teaching night in my adult education class. We are nearing the end of our school year, which means that many students have already completed their coursework and as a natural result we have fewer attending, and those attending are at points where we can't do much for them. They're taking final exams and such, or doing their final lessons in preparation for the upcoming GED test as the case may be. There simply aren't the demands on an instructor's time as is the case the rest of our academic year. Consequently, it was pretty easy for my attention to drift. Especially as there was a group of T-ball players practicing outside my classroom window.

As I am far too sentimental for my own good, it was all too easy to mosey over to the window and check out the action. Action? Six-year-olds coming nowhere near to catching a pop-up or fielding a grounder, or, later, powerfully swinging a bat at a ball sitting stationary on a tee, missing mightily none the less yet looking majestic all the while. Too many adults, parents mostly, I'm sure, mixed in with the coaches, all properly encouraging the youngsters as they should. I could not help but smile.

It has been twenty one years - twenty one years! - since I was first in that position. We put our oldest in the T-ball league at Wish Egan Field (named after the old Detroit sportswriter) in northeast Detroit in 1988. I still see Chuck's first at-bat: a dribbler off the tee. He raced down the first base line, made it safely, then turned about frantically until he saw me and gave me a thumbs up as a huge grin ran across his little blond face.

Frank in his California Angels cap in his first T-ball league at Patton Park in the southwest side... Abby as a Philadelphia Phillie in the St. Thomas Aquinas league a few years later...Chuck with the game winning two run single he lined to left with the bases loaded when he was a Chicago Cub (that team was the undefeated league champion I'll proudly say)...Frank pumping his first as he rounded second base during a kids run the bases event at Tiger Stadium after a 1992 game at the old ballyard...Abby fouling off I believe 7 straight pitches against the fence in front of her own teams' bench at Porath Field, scattering her teammates as each foul ball struck the protective many memories streaming to the front of my mind that I would bore you to tears if I recited them all, if I haven't already. Good times, though.

Hey: the kid in the green t-shirt just made a neat little catch. There's hope for the next generation of baseball after all.

I hope they're practicing Thursday night too.

Sunday, September 4, 2016

I understand old guys now

I met an old friend for dinner yesterday, someone I've know, well, over 35 years now. We met in college, at the University of Detroit, (the University of Detroit Mercy be damned). We're Titans, the Titans of Dick Vitale and John Long and Terry Tyler. Y'all others are pretenders.

Over a few beers, which aren't healthy for us, supposedly, and with several plates of food not healthy for us either (say those supposedly concerned about our health) for either of us either, we discussed old times. We discussed new times too, and the conversation went something like this:

Oh, my back is tight. I took a fall a few years back and it goes out all the time.

I gotta watch what I eat. Diabetes runs in the family, so I worry about my sugar.

My last time to the doctor, my blood pressure's too high. So he says I can't eat anything I like.

You see my pinky? It swells up with rheumatoid arthritis so bad I can't hardly bend it. So does my thumb.

My left shoulder develops tendonitis from time to time. It hurts so bad I can't raise my arm.

I turn, just a bit, my back goes out. Poof, like that (snaps fingers).


You wanna golf? Let's golf. The senior rate is $25 with a cart after 1 PM, and seniors are over 55. 18 holes.

18 holes? Let's do that.

And I thought, man, he's old. Then I immediately thought, so are you. You just spent a two hour dinner talking about all your aches and pains.

Ah well. Not something a little nip won't cure. And I have just the remedy at hand.

If time's worth more than the money, spend the money

I worked for Grandpa Joe for about 17 years. Among other odd things he had this habit, which at the time I thought poorly of, where he would quickly give up the search for a tool or part he needed for a job at hand and simply go buy another whatever. He would end a search within 15 minutes, sometimes less, and even as a teenager who didn't care much about money I wondered why we wouldn't keep searching for something we knew we had until we found it? Joe, being Joe, did things his way. A scant few minutes would pass before he would say, "Aw Hell, let's go get another." Well, his money, right? His time too.

In recent years that last point has struck me as perhaps the important one. That thought came crashing down to me yesterday as I finished a repair on the back of my house.

I had spent about two hours on it and was a quarter hour from finished. I was down to doing a bit a caulking and that would be that. So I climbed down from the ladder and went into the basement, to grab the caulk and caulking gun I knew I had.

Of course I couldn't find the things. After about 15 minutes I actually said out loud though no one was there, "Aw Hell, I'll just go get another caulking gun". The hardware was only a mile away, a two mile round trip.

In fifteen minutes I was home, and fifteen later I was done. It cost me three bucks for a cheap caulking gun, two-ninety-nine for caulk, and all of $6.35 once the tax was added.

For that price, why keep thrashing about my basement? To be sure, I intend to keep closer track of the new tool; why spend three dollars each time you need a caulking gun? But I had no idea yesterday whether I'd find my old one in another ten minutes or for two hours. As it were, I was done in about 45 minutes; a third of that would have been burned if I had walked straight to my old tool and gotten right back up the ladder.

You see, your time is worth something. I'd rather spend just over six bucks perhaps unnecessarily and know I'd have the job done soon instead of taking who knew how long to search and still have to complete the chore. Or maybe have to go get a new caulking gun anyway.

Of course, if I'd have been needing a hundred dollar tool I'd have looked a lot longer. Joe would have too. But for relatively small change, save yourself the time.

I think that crotchety old man was onto something after all.

Saturday, September 3, 2016

Do the games play us?

Temple Run. It's a neat little game I play on my iPhone. In fact, I've completed the daily challenge (every day there's a 'challenge': run so far, collect x amount of gems, and so on) for 224 straight days, including today. I'm rather proud of that fact. Really too proud, all things considered.

The first I do in the morning when I wake up is reach over to the night stand, unplug the phone from its charger, and complete the challenge. Often it's just a matter of minutes, but at times I have to play for a good half hour to make the goal. On those days where it takes longer I feel relieved rather than excited that I was successful. One day last week it took over an hour to do the daily challenge. I swear I was sweating when I finished, despite sitting at the kitchen table and not putting out any real effort.

I don't make money at this. I don't earn credits towards purchases. I don't have the almost infinitesimal glory of beating my friends, as none of them play. But it's darn near reached the point of a mania: I've got to make the daily challenge in Temple Run no matter what.

Which leads me to ask: am I playing the game, or is the game playing me?

I think most athletes, professional but especially college, should ask themselves that too.

Friday, September 2, 2016

Lighten up folks

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

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

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

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