Thursday, March 31, 2011

Totally Random 5.4

* Fog and light snow were part of my ride home from work yesterday. March came in like a lion and is going out like a confused paranoid schizophrenic.

* Travel is one of my favorite activities but an upcoming 4-day road journey may be my only trip this year; although it is likely that I’ll play hometown tour guide for a few friends this summer.

* Sometimes reality is a pain in the ass. Specific case in point: too many things on my personal agenda over the next few months and I know from experience that prioritizing keeps me sane. Result: Italian lessons are coming off the list again, at least for the spring.

* Thirty years ago this week President Reagan was shot outside a hotel in Washington DC. He was only ten weeks into his presidency. He survived and went on to serve two full four-year terms. Tough old guy.

* If you want proof that country music is growing in popularity again, check out this sampling of artists from other genres who have either recorded country songs in the past five years or have had hit songs on the country charts because they did duets with country stars: Bon Jovi (duet with Jennifer Nettles of Sugarland), Dave Mathews (duet with Kenny Chesney), Kid Rock, Cheryl Crow, Kid Rock and Cheryl Crow together, Kelly Clarkson (duets with Reba McEntire and Jason Aldean). Cher and Lady gaga are rumored to be recording country songs. Darius Rucker has successfully transitioned from lead singer of rock/pop group Hootie & the Blowfish into a solo country career. And don’t forget the country artists who also have had pop hits recently: Carrie Underwood, Lady Antebellum and Taylor Swift.

* OK, that last paragraph could have been a whole post on its own, but I’m featuring random lengths in this one, not just random observations.

* Almost spilled wine on my keyboard.

* Do you put decals and stickers on the rear of your ride? I did that for years, went for years with naked rear bumpers, now I’m sticking stuff on again. Just added one last week for a total of four. A friend sent me a magnetic ‘decal’ last year which would also be on the bumper except I misplaced it. It’s around here somewhere, I know it is.

* That’s enough randomness for now. It’s past my bed time, although I won’t actually post this till Thursday morning.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Celebrity Crushes

Have you ever had a celebrity crush? (OK, in case nobody uses that term any more, alternate opening question: have you ever been infatuated with a celebrity?). Please post a comment telling me who yours was/is. I will now admit two of mine: Dana Delany (China Beach, Desperate Housewives and many more) and Marg Helgenberger (China Beach, CSI and others).

I first noticed these two actresses when they were both in the cast of China Beach which aired from 1988 to 1991. I liked their looks and their characters. I knew nothing about them as real people, but that isn’t really the point of a celebrity crush anyway, is it? It’s usually about how they look and act in their characters.

Dana and Marg then, in China Beach:



Dana now, in her new series Body of Proof:



Marg now in CSI



OK, so who was/is yours? Inquiring mind wants to know.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Miles and Carlos

I was never much of a Miles Davis fan but I have always liked Carlos Santana. A facebook friend posted this today (he's actually a co-worker and more of a music freak than I am). This is a 1980's performance featuring Santana with Davis's band. Awesome. Enjoy.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Random Quotes, Mostly About Friendship

Out of your vulnerabilities will come your strength.
- Sigmund Freud

We have enough youth, how about a fountain of smart?
- ??

I'll lean on you and you lean on me and we'll be okay.
- Dave Matthews Band

At the shrine of friendship Never say die, Let the wine of friendship never run dry.
- Les Misérables

Two may talk together under the same roof for many years, yet never really meet; and two others at first speech are old friends.
- Mary Catherwood

Life is partly what we make it, and partly what is made by the friends whom we choose.
- Tehyi Hsieh

See you and me have a better time than most can dream of, better than the best, so we can pull on through, whatever tears at us, whatever holds us down, and if nothing can be done, we'll make the best of what's around.
- Dave Matthews Band

Only your real friends will tell you when your face is dirty.
- Sicilian Proverb

A good friend is a connection to life - a tie to the past, a road to the future, the key to sanity in a totally insane world.
- Lois Wyse

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Carpe Diem Update

A month ago I wrote about an attitude I was trying to adopt in which I would do at least one thing per day that is out of my normal routine. I admit I haven’t done much pattern changing since then but I instinctively have done a few things.

Different wines. I like merlot and cab savs, so I continue to drink them. Last year I added Spanish wines to my list and have always sampled pinot noir, shiraz, pinot griggio and chardonnay. Recently I added Zinfandel to the collection. I’m sipping one as I write this.

Workout routine. I got into a fairly specific pattern at the gym so I decided to break the pattern. I did a completely different routine during each of my three most recent visits, including today. A few more months of this and I might actually look like I’ve been going to the gym for the two years that I actually have been going.

My temporary SUV. The friend who died over a month ago owned an SUV. It has been in my driveway for several weeks and occasionally I take it for a spin. Did that today. I love my usual ride but I definitely miss having an SUV.

Ray. I posted something the other day about reading different types of books. But this week I did return to an old favorite: science fiction. Ray Bradbury is one of the best sci-fi writers out there and his work is incredibly vivid. That friend who died had an extensive book collection and Bradbury’s “Something Wicked This Way Comes” is among the books that were retrieved from her house. I started reading it yesterday. I haven’t read it in decades. Awesome stuff.

Another book. Also in the book collection that has migrated to my house: vegetarian cookbooks. I thumbed through one with Greek recipes and found something that looks good (and is easy enough for me to make). It’s on my menu for tomorrow. Wish me luck.

OK, I guess I broke my patterns more than I thought. It’s little stuff but it all adds up. Carpe diem!

Friday, March 25, 2011

Other People's Agendas

Why do we so often live our lives on other people's agendas? Parents, friends, bosses, society - all are entities that influence our choices and often we spend so much time living up to or down to those expectations that we neglect our own goals and desires.


I have been lucky to dig myself out of that pattern in my professional life. I initially dove into my career against the advice of parents, the first media pros I met and even my first managers. More than thirty years later I am still in that career, at the top of my game. Many of those naysayers are doing something else. Plenty of my work is evaluated at the whim of others but I do get a great measure of freedom to reach their goals in my own way. The balance works.


Living on my own agenda in my personal life has been more of a challenge but I am determined to get what I want. Those who take the journey with me will benefit from my tenacity as I do from theirs.


In life you generally have to ask for directions from time to time, but you should strive to choose your own destinations, investigate the options for getting there then pick the routes you like.  Live on your own agenda when you can.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Totally Random 5.3

Just a few random things swimming in my head tonight:

- Liz Taylor died this morning. I know who she is, know she is a famous and well-respected actress, know she had seven husbands during her life and actor Richard Burton was two of them, know she had a diamond collection, but I don’t think I ever saw one of her movies.

- There are storms in my area tonight. Great lightning show in Middletown Valley.

- Bought a bottle of Vampire Cabernet Savignon tonight. I liked the label. Turns out it tastes good.

- Went on a client call with a sales person from work today. The meeting only took an hour but the ride there and back was almost two additional hours plus 30 more minutes for a lunch stop. We had a great non-work conversation about everything from real estate to relationships. I learned about her boyfriend and her attitude toward dating and marriage. I have determined that when it comes to women, I am a sensitive, romantic caveman. Hopefully that’s a good combination.

- Snow is in the forecast for tomorrow and Saturday. Not much but any amount is too much for me right now. I am ready for 70s and 80s.

- That client meeting, by the way, was at a car dealer. I’m loving the latest Mustangs. I’m overdue for owning a mid-life crisis car.

Where No One Has Gone Before

Television: the final frontier. These are the voyages of the Starship Shatner, an actor who turned 80 this week, who became an icon, then an unemployed actor living in a truck for awhile, then an icon again.

There are many places online where you can read all about actor William Shatner. My observation in this post is to note where he’s been, connections he made then and how those connections return in the present. I am always impressed by people who survive in their chosen profession for decades and continue to make a living long after others have given up. They serve as great role models for the rest of us.

While digging for info and pictures, I learned a few things I did not know about Shatner and others he has worked with.

Before Star Trek, Shatner and future cast mate Leonard Nimoy both appeared together on an episode of the TV spy show The Man from U.N.C.L.E. Here they are with Robert Vaughn, one of the show’s two main stars.



Here is Shatner with the other U.N.C.L.E. star David McCallum.



Do you recognize McCallum? Yep, he’s Ducky (Dr. Mallard) on N.C.I.S. Still acting and in this case playing one of the main characters on TV’s current Number One show.




By the way, Robert Vaughn is still acting, appearing on some episodes of Law & Order a few years ago.

Boomer Bonus … an ad graphic from The Man from U.N.C.L.E. series.


Bonus Boomer Trivia: U.N.C.L.E. was a fictitious spy organization called United Network Command for Law and Enforcement. McCallum’s current ‘agency’ is based on a real one: Naval Criminal Investigative Service.

Back to Shatner for a minute.


His most notable current roles include Priceline commercials and a new TV show called $#*! My Dad Says. At age 80 he still makes a living on the journey he began more than sixty years ago, along with those other actors who are in his age universe (Nimoy turns 80 this weekend, Vaughn is 78 and McCallum is 77).

May they and their careers live long and prosper.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Writing Bug

Several months ago I went through a bit of writer’s block but another blogger (Eliz, who is now an actual in-person friend) suggested a few story ideas and I’ve been on a roll ever since.

Today I’m writing about writing, one of my favorite hobbies. I started this blog just over two years ago as a successor to my first blog and I am proud (and shocked) to say that March 11th was the 5th anniversary of my first post on the original blog. Five years of blogging and more than a thousand posts! Hard to believe.

I write and produce commercials for a living and I started this as a creative outlet to give me something to write about other than my most frequent clients (my radio station, a garden center, a window and door company and a car dealer) and numerous other one-time advertisers. I’ve written about aging, music, travel, friendships, NASCAR, dreams, myself, politics, religion, media and random things I see and think about. There is no compensation. I do this for me but there are actually a few people who drop by and read this stuff, for which I am grateful.

This blog has helped me keep in touch with two old friends and we’ve caught up in very interesting ways through this writing. One of them has her own blog. I’ve made and grown a whole new incredible friendship (the afore-mentioned Eliz). Apparently I have bored the original two friends who encouraged me to start blogging five years ago because they no longer read me. But I have seven followers, five of whom I’ve never met (thanks for visiting) and a few other folks drop by too (thanks).

Writers write a lot to keep the craft sharp but writers also read and my literary horizons have expanded thanks to suggestions by you. I used to read mostly biographies, self-help strategies, history and urban planning books (leftover from earlier college majors) and science fiction. Now I also read warped humor (Christopher Moore), intricate maybe-it’s-true fiction (Dan Brown) and contemporary mystery/drama (Julie Compton, who I discovered when she commented on one of my music-related posts last year).

I have been bitten by the writing bug and this little blog has rekindled my dream of writing for a living, or more realistically writing as part of my living. I have a long way to go before that can happen, but this is a pretty good start. Thanks again for your visits and encouragement.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Class Of

I hated high school. There is no better, more succinct way to phrase it. Those naturally volatile years of my life coincided with volatile years in our society. It was a time when youth questioned and rebelled against everything and I was right in the middle of it all. I questioned authority, religion and parental expectations and developed a type of sarcasm and skepticism I employ to this day.

I was one of those nerdy “picked last for teams” guys who looked as goofy and awkward as I felt at the time. I reached my present 5’11” height as a freshman, which means I towered over my classmates, making it difficult to be as invisible as I wanted to be. To make matters worse, I was smart and did well in class during my freshman and sophomore years, something I’d respect now but hated then because it made me stand out even more. My junior and senior years were filled with doubt, distraction and lack of motivation and I nearly ‘flunked’ out. My final grade ranking upon graduation was dead center: half finished ahead of me, half behind me.

This is on my mind today because I just looked at the newly digitized version of an old high school yearbook online. My high school has just begun this process and only my freshman year is on the site so far (background: Catholic schools then were 8 years of elementary and 4 year of high school; no middle school). I did not buy any yearbooks back then, so this is my first exposure to the old pictures and captions and I am not even sure why I decided to look it up today.

Admittedly there are two aspects of high school life that I did like; both had a positive influence on me and I cherish to this day.

One is my high school girlfriend. I was late to the dating party; my first date with her was during fall of senior year and that was only my second date ever. I had a couple of dates with other girls that fall but pretty soon she and I were inseparable. Did I mention she was hot? I still don’t know how I got such a fun, great looking girlfriend then. Our relationship only survived partway into college but our friendship still exists. We are in touch by email or text once or twice a week and in person for lunch every year or two. And she still looks good, by the way.

The other good part of high school was the band. Despite my shyness I had the balls to walk into the band hall during my first or second week and ask the director if they offered music lessons. Most band members already knew how to play but if the lineup was short on any instruments, they would teach. We settled on trombone, partly because of my height and long arms and partly because the only other options were flute and French horn. I spent most of the first year learning and the remaining three years playing. Music was already a big part of my life. Learning to play an instrument enhanced my appreciation, expanded my music tastes and helped reduce my shyness. By senior year I was in the concert band, the marching band and a smaller jazz-based ensemble. I even directed a few times at basketball games and became the music librarian, developing a few leadership and organizational skills along the way.



I will not share my geeky freshman portrait but there is a chance that I’m one of the trombone players in the photo above. I honestly don’t remember when I started practicing with the marching band and I can’t tell if that’s me in there or not. My school is planning to digitize a new yearbook each year, so it’ll be three more years before I stumble across my senior pic, which is probably better than the others (translation: less goofy looking).

Decades have a tendency to soften painful memories of a jagged youth so in a way I am glad I looked up this yearbook. Plenty of bullshit and drama has filled my life but inside I am about as grounded as a person can be and I reluctantly give some of that credit to my high school experience.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

The Shooting Has Begun

It appears that a United Nations-sanctioned air strike has begun in Libya. One of the planes doing the shooting is American, but a French plane took the first shots and the British military is also involved. It does appear we have learned something as a country, in that this truly appears to be an international coalition. What I see, however, is American military involvement in another Middle Eastern country.

Right or wrong, we are involved once again in being the world’s police. Why is that our role? Yes, conditions are horrible in Libya. Yes, innocent citizens are being harmed by their own government. Yes, something should be done about it. But were all other options exhausted? It this the last resort? Will this ultimately solve the problem or will it only make matters worse?

The U.S. is not the lead nation this time but our involvement may still lower our status in the world court of public opinion. We don’t have to make decisions based on international popularity but we certainly do have to live with the consequences. When I finally take my dream trip to Italy, a place which is much closer to the action than the state of Maryland, I do not want to be a target just because I am American. More important than that, I don’t want to see more American military lives lost in the name of dealing with another nation’s problems.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Extra Full Moon

Tonight the moon appears bigger and is actually closer than usual. It’s called a ‘perigee’ moon and this is the biggest and brightest since 1993. Here is my attempt to photograph it through the trees in my yard a little while ago. CLICK HERE for more info on the moon.


Interesting Quote

"Every human being should keep alive within them the sacred flame of madness but should behave as a normal person."
~Paulo Coelho~

Friday, March 18, 2011

Thursday, March 17, 2011

The Unexpected

I’m early for a meeting so I stop for coffee. As I sip on delicious dark roast, I notice the pleasant earth tone wall colors, pleasing abstract wall art and a light brick fireplace. The chairs are comfortable, seat cushions are black leather (or high-end vinyl).

Classical music flows from the speakers; light, flowing melodies, piano mostly, Mozart perhaps.

Where am I? Panera’s, believe it or not. Big surprise because my normal Panera experience is at the crowded, noisy location near work at lunch time. An unexpected, pleasant start to what turned out to be an otherwise frustrating morning.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Money Randomness

I paid $3.63 per gallon for gasoline tonight, up another four cents since Sunday.

$5 is a trendy price for lunch food. I’ve had many “5 dollar foot-longs” at Subway and tonight I saw an ad for a $5 lunch special at KFC.

I paid $10.50 EACH for a glass of wine tonight. I often buy entire bottles for that price. My first time at that restaurant/bar; possibly my last.

A recent Toby Keith’s song includes the line “I put a dollar in the jukebox and played that girl a tune.” I could download that song for a dollar! Remember when a song in a jukebox cost 25 cents? Remember when it was even less?

I worked in the hotel business one year, just long enough to know first-hand that room pricing is all about supply, demand, expectation, location and timing. Two hotels I regularly use on southern road trips (I’ve stayed in each six or seven times) have cost me as little as $74/night and as much as $115/night for exactly the same class of room.

The hotel next door to work has charged me as little as $49/night and as much as $125/night. Their regular rate is between $159 and $189 and sometimes they get more.

My last three cell phones were FREE with a 2-year contract renewal. There are several available at no cost for my next renewal but I am about to order one for $100. I’m told that is actually a low price for a smart phone. The phone may be smart but am I?

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Old? What the Hell Is That?

He travels with his wife on a motorcycle. The expiration date on his driver’s license is six years from now. He regularly drinks martinis, rides 17 miles a day on a bicycle and is a competition skier … in a 70+ Ski club in Michigan. But wait. That’s not the best part. He just celebrated another birthday, which moved him into the next age category in the ski club. Lou Batori is now 100 years old. OK, so he is the ONLY person in the 100+ category, but there are many skiers in that club with 90+, 80+ and 70+ designations. Next time I hear a 45-year-old co-worker whine about being old, I will give her this link.

I have said many times that I plan to throw a 100th birthday party for myself. My friends who read this are mostly in their 40s and 50s … you know who you are and you better well stay alive and healthy because I expect you to be at that party, even if I have to drive over and pick you up myself.

My friends of all ages know how much I hate talking about my own age and they probably know it is partly because of the not-so-subtle age discrimination boomers are beginning to face. Honestly it pisses me off that anybody thinks people between the ages of 47 and 65 are old. I’m sure that people the age of boomer’s parent thought 65 was the end of the line. Boomers, however, often look at that number and the first page of Chapter Two. Ask me when I get there; I’m sure I’ll be one of them.

People under age 47 should keep in mind boomers still rule the world; we have the money, we spend the money. We are probably spending it at your businesses or buying something for you.

Here are a few random statistics about boomers to help back up my claim: There are 78 million of us, we account for half of all spending on goods and services (an annual average of over $42,000) and we’re not dying off (many of us can expect to live into our 90s).

A few more examples of why aging ain’t what it used to be:

A friend’s 70+ parents recently got a divorce. As sad as that is for all concerned, it does show that those two septuagenarians are moving on with their lives and not letting an arbitrary number stop them. They apparently plan to be around to live through whatever is next for them.

My mother started art lessons in her 60s, still walked to the grocery every Wednesday for mid-week shopping in her 70s and rode her stationary exercise bike into her 80s. Through much of that time she did her best to keep up with the world by reading the daily newspaper cover to cover and watching the local TV news twice a day, even though she had significant vision and hearing problems.

My mother’s youngest brother became a widow in his early 80s, met a “younger woman” a few years later (by “younger” I mean in her 70s). They fell in love and married shortly after his 86th birthday. I’m betting there are some things he did not need help with in their assisted living facility.

What’s the point of this? “Old” is a state of mind and people like Lou Batori serve as role models for staying young. And unless you’re just kidding around, don’t call me old till you’re at my party watching me blow out 100 candles.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Totally Random 5.2

I am warming up to the idea of socklessness. I wore my new sandals nearly all day Sunday, even though it was 55 degrees. My warm weather attire is usually shorts, low-rise socks and walking shoes. I usually do not like wearing sandals but these are great.

Hawaii does not recognize Daylight Savings Time, which means they did not change their clocks Sunday.

I just got the latest brochure from the place where I started Italian lessons a few years ago. I dropped out that time after only 4 weeks. I plan to start again next month and will not drop out this time.

Hawaii and Italy are on my mind because those are two places I want to visit. A ‘situation’ prevents me from booking either trip at the moment, but I am determined to find a way.

Arizona also does not observe Daylight Savings Time, except for the part that is Navajo Nation where they DO spring forward and fall back. If you take a summer drive from Flagstaff AZ to Moab UT along Highways 89, 160, 163 and 191, which take you through part of Navajo Nation, you change time zones three or four times and because the Navajo Nation borders can be hard to determine at times, there are times when you have no idea what time it is.

Yes, Arizona is also on my mind for travel dreaming reasons.

I‘m taking a 4-day mini-road trip in a few weeks. It might be my only vacation this year so I plan to fill it with photography, vino and laughter. And there is a good chance it’ll be warm enough for my shorts and sandals.

It is going to hit 75 here this Friday. Do you think I’m thinking about warmer weather?

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Sports Randomness

Despite all the fitness talk I spew on the blog I actually don’t play any sports. I used to run and hope to take that up again. I wanted to learn tennis but my recurring right shoulder problem combined with how ridiculously right-handed I am makes that a challenge. I used to bowl, but I have the same shoulder issue; at least that’s my excuse for not showing off how bad I am at bowling. Tossing a Frisbee is something I can do, as long as I’m not going for distance or accuracy; my dogs look at me and seem to say “hey, I’m over here – there is no dog where you threw that thing.”

I do, however, like to watch some sports, but not with the intensity of ‘real’ fans. I like basketball but haven’t paid much attention to March Madness yet. My 5th favorite NFL team did well this season but not the 4 I really like. Baseball hasn’t begun yet but at least I have a ticket connection for my local team; going to those games is a pretty good excuse to drink with friends outdoors.

NASCAR is one of my favorite sports to watch. I know, you’re thinking “but they just go around an oval for 3 hours.” True, but I like to watch the strategy, drama and crashes. I’d like to say it’s a guy thing but some surveys indicate that more than 50% of NASCAR fans are women. Maybe the drivers are cute; I’m not qualified to comment on that. Maybe the fan percentage will change if Danica Patrick figures out how to be as successful in stock car racing as she is in open-wheel racing.

Walking and hiking are two sports activities I truly do like and still participate in, at least more than the others. I started what I hope will become a regular thing by entering a charity walk last year. This week I’m signing up for another one. I’ve done plenty of tourist hiking over the past couple of years but hope to add trail hiking to the mix again this year.

The real randomness of this post is that I originally planned to write about today’s NASCAR race. Problem is, there is no race today. Hmmm, I should have known that. Guess I’m less of a fan than I thought.

Enough about me – what about you? Do you follow any sports? Do you play any sports? Just curious, as always.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Eventually

This post is partly about creative aging, even though I still hate to admit that I’m over 50, uhh, I mean 40. If you’ve been following along, you know I’m trying to lose some weight and gain some strength, balance and the appearance of being in good shape.

This is me a little more than twenty years ago, when I was in pretty decent shape:



Here’s another shot (these were taken on a vacation to Jamaica):


This is me now:

OK,

did you

really

expect

me to post a

current picture?

I’m making progress but I’m not quite ready to be photographed shirtless. Maybe this summer. Meanwhile, I’ll just say that going to the gym on a fairly regular basis for two years now is finally starting to pay off. I feel and see a difference. I’ll never be in the shape I was in my 20s but I’ll defy the stereotype for my real age. And very few people in my circle of friends know the exact number. I’m OK with that.

I Still Want To Go There

I was thinking about my friends on the Big Island as I watched a Hawaii TV station website’s live coverage of the first and second tsunami waves washing ashore yesterday. It was 9 AM where I was and 4am there. I wanted to call but didn’t want to wake them, although I was sure the tsunami warning sirens already had.

When we did make contact later via email I learned they were up. She had been helping out at the local radio station and online news service for several hours. I keep forgetting that her ‘retirement’ job is in the media, something she was not involved with during her career.

There was definitely water damage in Kona but she and her husband are fine. Their beautiful house has a view of the ocean but from a nice high spot well up from the shoreline. I am still hoping to visit them again someday, maybe next winter. If I’m lucky I can stay at their house again and not at an ocean front hotel in the tsunami zone.

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Related item: The American Red Cross has set up several easy methods for donating money to help with disaster relief related to the earthquake in Japan and the tsunamis there and in Hawaii. The easiest: send a text with REDCROSS to 90999 and $10 will be donated to the relief efforts.

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CLICK HERE for a few news stories from Kona.

CLICK HERE for more stories including some written by my friend.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

People I May Know

I stumbled onto an interesting part of Facebook tonight called “People you may know.” This feature now lists a link and profile picture for everyone you may know. The reason you may know them is apparently because you have mutual Facebook friends. I was surprised by how many hundred people I may know (and don’t, by the way) as well as who they are.

I did look at every name and picture. The list includes people I used to work with and like and people I used to work with and, well, don’t like. I saw former networking contacts, executives who have interviewed me for jobs (and did not hire me) and two former managers who I’m not sure I want to keep in touch with.

The lengthy list informed me that I may know some famous people like a guy that owns two local professional sports teams, for example, and the Governor of Maryland. I don’t know either but maybe I should “friend” them. Apparently I may also know a few attractive local female TV reporters; I would like to meet them but isn’t that just a little creepy?

Facebook is probably the most significant phenomenon in the history of the internet and as reluctant as I was to get sucked into it, I’m glad I did. I have re-connected with many people I had lost touch with and have actually grown a few friendships partly as a result of the regular contact and communication FB affords. I admit I spend too much time hanging out on Facebook but that’s my fault, not theirs. I am happy for the good parts of that crazy thing.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Women: Good News Bad News

Yesterday (March 8) was the 100th anniversary of International Women’s Day. According to a press release I received from a local Senator, this day celebrates “the economic, political and social achievements of women past, present and future and is a day to recognize the obstacles that women still face in the struggle for equal rights and opportunities.”

Celebrating women is a good thing, in my opinion, but why should we set aside a special day to celebrate women? Shouldn’t we do that every day? Setting aside a specific day to honor women seems to indicate that women are not yet considered equal to men; if they were, then there would be no need to set aside a day to honor something we should consider the norm anyway. There isn’t an International Men’s Day, is there?

My opinion: women and men are different but they are definitely equal. I am not saying this to impress any women; I truly believe it. The first time I had a female boss was decades ago when I was in college. The two best managers I have had in my entire career are women, including my current boss. There does seem to be a pattern to their management style that differs from the typical male manager, but the result is the same and very effective.

Yet study after study, including a new one I scanned just last week, indicates that American women still earn less than men for the same job. My current boss and her boss are both women, but most managers further up the line in my company are men, as are nearly all the top brass in the company. That scenario is typical. The opportunity is there, however, and the ‘glass ceiling’ is definitely cracking.

Women in several other countries are not so fortunate. A few statistics from the press release that inspired my blog post: According to the World Bank, women account for approximately 70 percent of individuals living in poverty worldwide. According to the International Center for Research on Women, there are more than 60,000,000 child brides in developing countries, some of whom are as young as 7 years old. According to the World Health Organization, as many as 1 in 5 women report being sexually abused before the age of 15. Those three statistics alone tell me there IS a need for an International Women’s Day.

Women’s rights in the United States made great strides since the 1970s, in part because media attention was focused on the issue. But there have been many highly successful and well-recognized women throughout American history. These names are top of mind for me: aviator Amelia Earhart, Red Cross founder Clara Barton, ‘Underground Railroad’ leader/ex-slave Harriet Tubman, “First Lady” Eleanor Roosevelt, women’s rights activist Gloria Steinem, photographer Annie Liebovitz, Senator Barbara Mikulski and “first Lady”/Senator/Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. There are many others.

And, of course, my mother gets plenty of credit for my respectful attitude toward women. On one hand, she was a product of her generation in that she knew when she had children she would become a stay-at-home Mother and willingly accepted that housewife role. On the other hand, she dared to have children in her 40s in an era when most first-time-moms were 20, her last job before getting married was virtually the same job as my Dad (in fact, they met at work), and even though she was a ‘housewife’ she was very independent and opinionated and in a subtle but strong way she was a 50/50 ruler with Dad when it came to family matters. With that as a role model, it should surprise nobody that I am attracted to strong women.

So while I am happy to acknowledge International Women’s Day, I believe every day is a day to honor women.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Dream Quote Randomness

A good friend got good news today about something she has dreamed about and struggled to achieve for years. She has a long way to go before reaching her career destination but this first step is a big one and her persistence has a lot to do with getting to this point. Even in the face of many obstacles she stuck with the dream and that tenacity has begun to pay off.

We’ll toast the good news next time we see each other, but meanwhile here are a few quotes about the power of dreaming.

Dreams are like stars … you may never touch them, but if you follow them they will lead you to your destiny.
- Unknown

Dreams are illustrations … from the book your soul is writing about you.
- Marsha Norman

There are some people who live in a dream world, and there are some who face reality, and then there are those who turn one into the other.
- Douglas H. Everett

So many of our dreams at first seem impossible, then they seem improbable, and then, when we summon the will, they soon become inevitable.
- Unknown

If one advances confidently in the direction of one’s dreams, and endeavors to live the life which one has imagined, one will meet with a success unexpected in common hours.
- Henry David Thoreau

Somewhere over the rainbow, skies are blue, and the dreams that you dare to dream really do come true.
- Lyman Frank Baum

Mardi Gras Lagniappe

Lagniappe, pronounced LAN-yap, is a common Louisiana word and custom that means ‘something extra’ at no extra charge, sort of like a baker’s dozen (13 or something instead of 12). Here is some musical lagniappe to help celebrate Mardi Gras today.

There are several songs by New Orleans artists that boomer-age New Orleanians associate with Mardi Gras. These three are my faves because they embody the spirit of the day and are done in a style unique to that town during the years of my youth. Enjoy!





Monday, March 7, 2011

Your Inner Yat

Mardi Gras is tomorrow (Tuesday) in New Orleans and I was thinking about that goofy town where I grew up. Here are a few observations.

How are you, what’s up, how yoo dooin’ and wazzup are typical American English greetings, questions that do not necessarily need an answer, faux interrogatories that are used in the same way as the words hello or good morning. A typical greeting in parts of New Orleans is where y’at. It is used in the same way as the others but is unique to New Orleans.

Sometimes people from New Orleans refer to each other as yats. I have lived away from New Orleans for long enough that most of my accent is gone; I didn’t have that much of one anyway. I don’t remember if I greeted my friends with 'where y’at' but the term was so ubiquitous there when I was growing up that it does roll off my tongue easily when I say it to make an example or to mimic the New Awlins dialect.

Yat is interesting enough to some people that it is the subject of detailed study. As I began to write this I looked up yat to see if others have the same impression I do about the origin and current linguistic and cultural associations of the term. Looks like they do. (click here for more).

If you ever visit New Orleans or just want to understand the culture or its influence, try to embrace your inner yat. Sample some of the food, like seafood gumbo or jambalaya made with andouille sausage. Have a drink, like a Hurricane (rum and other sweet juicy stuff). Soak in the humidity, literally, or immerse yourself in the music. Study the history of southeast Louisiana to help you understand the survivor mindset, to help you comprehend why the hell anyone would still want to live there after Hurricane Katrina. I claim that I never want to move back but I do consider it every time I visit. Fortunately for me, common sense prevails. I love helping friends see the ‘city that care forgot’ through my eyes, partly because it helps them to understand me a little better.

Yats speak a whole different language.

See if you know what this narration means:

"When you’re makin’ groceries don’t’ fuhget the mie-nez fuh da moo-fa'-lotta. It don madda to parain but everybody else wants some. When we get ova by ma Mama’s we gonna put chairs in the neutral ground so we have a good spot fuh da pahrade. We gonna pass a good time dis year."

Translation:  "When you go grocery shopping, don’t forget the mayonnaise for the muffuletta (a specific local sandwich). It doesn’t matter to my godfather but everybody else wants some. When we go over to my mother’s house, we’ll put chairs in the median so we have a good spot to see the (Mardi Gras) parade. We’re going to have a good time this year." (click here for more translations)

The spirit of Mardi Gras is interesting in that you spend a whole day acting as if you are someone else, with the masks, costumes and debauchery, yet in doing so you are totally conforming to being, well, a yat. There is probably some part of you in that behavior and on Fat Tuesday you can let it show, albeit while disguised as someone else. The crowds are reason enough for me to not seek it out any more. I almost got trampled in a flash mob once in my college years and that truly scared me. On the other hand, the experience is so unique that I might have just one more in me before I die.

I do willingly tolerate the crowds of Jazzfest, however. I am disappointed that I can’t go this year but one way or the other I am going next year. That is a multi-day festival based on a gumbo of music influences far beyond jazz, engulfed in a setting that showcases the food, drink, art and culture of New Orleans. My favorite parts include: the blues tent, the gospel tent, barbequed alligator, jambalaya, artist Terrence Osborne’s booth, the seemingly spontaneous parades and the Plum Street sno-ball stand.

When you wake up tomorrow, dress in purple, green and gold (those colors go together in New Orleans), wear your beads, watch some of the Mardi Gras coverage on one of the local TV station web sites (maybe this one) and laissez le bon temp rouler! (translation of that last part: let the good times roll!!!)

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Politics and Busting

The situation in Wisconsin annoys the hell out of me. The Governor claims that he has to bust the unions to meet his budget. I think he just wants to bust the unions, period. How dare he! The right to bargain collectively is one of the sacred rights of American workers, in my opinion.

Doesn’t this jerk realize that those union members are citizens of his state? They are voters. They are the people who make his government work. Some of them probably helped elect him. If he believes that the current collective bargaining agreement is hurting his ability to meet his budget, then he negotiates. It’s that simple. He works with the union to make things happen and the union has the same obligation to work with him. Busting the union should be out of the question. The whole purpose of collective bargaining in that situation is to prevent exactly what he is trying to do: take away rights. The big, bad government is trampling on the individual citizens in the same way large corporations used to trample on the rights of individual workers back when unions first began.

As a member of a union myself, I know these organizations can be unreasonably stubborn and often are slow to recognize changing realities of the workplaces they represent. The point, however, is to negotiate terms that are fair to both sides. It’s time for the Governor to stop interfering with the rights of citizens and maybe it’s time for that union to rethink some of the terms of the agreement. It is NOT time to deny the rights of citizens.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Dig That Crazy Beat

If you play music, you know what a time signature is.  The typical song is in 4/4.  It's counted as 1-2-3-4, 1-2-3-4.  Waltz or some western swing is in 3/4 time ... 1-2-3, 1-2-3.  But this song, one of the most famous jazz compositions ever, is in 5/4 time ... 1-2-3, 4-5, 1-2-3, 4-5.  Very cerebral.  Very cool, daddy-o (to borrow phrasing from the era).  Enjoy.  Follow along if you can.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Worth Repeating

This quote lives in the left column of this blog but I'm featuring it today because I think it is worth repeating.  I want this to be how I describe my own life and every day I get just a little bit closer.

Live like there's no tomorrow,
love like you've never been hurt,
and dance like no one's watching.


-- Unknown

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Positive Quote

"Keep your thoughts positive because your thoughts become your words. Keep your words positive because your words become your behaviors. Keep your behaviors positive because your behaviors become your habits. Keep your habits positive because your habits become your values. Keep your values positive because your values become your destiny"


--Ghandi

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Just Positive Stuff

I've been posting plenty of frustrating and negative depressing things lately. Let me change that, at least for awhile.

Today is the start of 'meteorological spring.' The weather forecasters call this the beginning of spring but the 'official' start is March 22nd, which is only 22 days away. Spring is a great season because it signals the end of dark, cold winter. There is rebirth and color all over the place, which serves as the ultimate photo opportunity.

I'm going somewhere soon, for just a few days, to either mountains or beaches. It's a pattern-changer that will involve one of my favorite non-work passions: photography. First choice is mountains because they are more colorful.

Staring at women's breasts is apparently healthy for men, possibly adding years to a man's life. That story, claiming to be from a medical study, keeps popping up; I saw it again this week. And you wonder why I think I'll live to be 100.

If I thought the truck in this picture I took last Sunday was actually full of coffee I would have followed it to it’s destination.

Back to spring for a moment: the Cherry Blossom Festival in DC and the actually blooming of cherry blossoms is just a few weeks away. My camera and I are ready.