Sunday, October 28, 2012

Should Have Done It Sooner

I finally started blocking Facebook friends who post extreme political views. They have the right to say whatever they want to and I have the right to ignore them.

The first one was easy … a DJ I used to work with who I don’t really care all that much about anyway. The next one was more difficult … husband of a good friend. I only wish I had sent him a picture of my Obama yard sign before deleting him. Third one was tough … an old friend from twenty five years ago who I only reconnected with in recent years. The next few will be more challenging because their views are closer to mine, but they’re getting blocked too.

I respect people whose political views are radically different from mine IF those views are well-thought-out. But I have seen more stupid, mean-spirited commentary this election cycle than at any time since the late 1960s and early 70s when race and war were the issues. Some of the comments attempt to make Obama supporters seem unpatriotic. Others are racist while others ridicule certain religious faiths. All are hypocritical.

Neither Obama nor Romney has all the answers; if either did, they wouldn’t be tied in the polls right now. Both have some answers and both would serve our country better if they at least listened to the other’s ideas. Both care about America. Both are patriotic. Both are rich and well-educated with means neither truly understands what middle-class citizens are experiencing right now (although Obama at least has lived that life at some point). Obama seems weak at times but when you add up his actions so far, he is strong – just quiet about it. Romney seems strong but his commentary and actions over a decade or more makes him seem to be an opportunistic flip-flopper.

On the whole, the choice is clearly NOT clear because 47% favor Romney and 47% favor Obama. But each voter’s personal choice IS pretty clear and nothing on Facebook is going to change their minds about who they will vote for. No Facebook post I’ve read has changed my mind about who I am voting for … but MANY have changed how I feel about the persons making the post. That is truly sad.



Friday, October 26, 2012

Didn’t See This One Coming

Wow, a hurricane at the end of October. That rarely happens and most drift out to sea. But Hurricane Sandy has her sights on the Mid-Atlantic states, with her center predicted to hit Maryland, Pennsylvania and New York.



Earlier today the forecast map had a line right through Washington DC but the latest line crosses further north, closer to New York City. Sandy is ‘only’ a category 1 or 2 storm right now, with sustained winds around 75 miles per hour, but it’s a big storm dumping plenty of rain and it is likely going to merge with another weather system in a couple of days. The potential for flooding is high and power outages are likely.

Storms like this are dangerous and exciting at the same time. My media job includes helping to get useful storm preparation information out to the public, which adds purpose to the excitement and danger. I was in two different meetings today in which various staffers outlined storm plans and I am in awe of some of my co-workers for the great lengths they go to in order to keep our radio stations on the air and functioning.

All is calm tonight as I write this. I’ll check back with you Monday night when we might be in the middle of the action.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Remember Blogs?

I was going through a few old links to blogs tonight and realize many of them, including some I’ve listed on this blog, no longer exist. A few years ago there were many blogs out there but it seems that social media sites have begun to fill that need and blogging is less popular. Or maybe it’s just less trendy. People write creatively in short bursts to their ‘friends’ on Facebook or Twitter instead and of course we all read along.

Blogging is a creative outlet for me and I still enjoy doing it. I do not write for an audience; these posts are mostly random thoughts and topics that interest me and this hobby feeds a childhood fantasy I had of being a newspaper columnist. Yes, I realize that is a bit odd but I’m OK with that.

This blog has software and counters that tell me how many visitors I get and what countries they are in. Hope that doesn’t feel too creepy to you. I get between one and ten visitors a day, on average. Most are from the United States but some are from places like India, Australia, Romania, Canada and the Russian Federation. Some visitors appear to be regulars and some stumble on this blog while searching for something else. Regardless of the reason, thank you to all who visit. I appreciate it.

‘Memes' were a blog feature I used to like. If I understood the term correctly, a blogger would list some things in a specific category then ask readers to post their own version of that list on their blog. So here is one for tonight. Do this on yours and let me know where it is in Comments.

Ten contradictions about me:

1) My favorite color is red but I rarely wear red.

2) I love being around people but I hate crowds.

3) Music is always playing in my car but rarely in my house.

4) I love dogs but I’ve only had dogs with wives or girlfriends; never had one on my own.

5) I own a saxophone and a bass guitar but I haven’t played a note on either in fifteen years.

6) I own enough hand tools and power tools to start a small hardware store but in the past two or three years the only tools I’ve used are a chain saw and some screw drivers.

7) I work for five radio stations but I cannot pick up any of them inside my house (because I live in a valley 45 miles from work).

8) I used to do my own basic car maintenance and even did a clutch adjustment in a parking lot once and changed a fan belt on the side of a busy highway during rush hour while wearing a suit … but I don’t know if I could even change a tire on my current ride without reading the owner’s manual first.

9) I love being around oceans, rivers, lakes and streams but I can’t swim.

10) I’ve been the driver in four car crashes in my life; in the two that were my fault my speed was less than ten miles per hour.

OK, that’s enough ego randomness for tonight. See you next time.

Monday, October 22, 2012

‘Tis the Season, Almost

It is mid-October but I’m already thinking about Christmas season. And I’m not alone, am I? Many stores are already decorating and my boss is already asking if my department is covered for the holidays. And my most pressing personal question: to road trip or not? My original plan involved staying here for the holidays but I’ve changed my mind. I’ll be on the road again.

I have more days off this year so I might add a stop or two to my usual places. New Orleans is the main destination, of course, and Asheville NC. I usually also stay in Birmingham because it’s convenient but I might add another city like Nashville or Memphis … or maybe a beach place like Pensacola or Biloxi.

More details later. Hohoho.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Guys and Shopping

I went to a nearby outlet mall today and realized I have a shopping pattern that works for me, more or less. I am a focused shopper. I nearly always know exactly what I want, I know my sizes and I have a clear idea of what’s already in my closet. I go into the store, head straight for what I’m looking for, try stuff on if I see my targeted items, decide right away whether or not to buy and I’m done. I give myself a little room for spontaneity but I don’t do a lot of random browsing.

My clothing is neither in style nor out of style. I buy clothes that fit my own sense of style and that I can wear for years. I think I dress like a ‘casual Friday’ 45 to 50-year old and you and I both know I’m older than that. If you know me in person you also know I don’t especially care. I do like to dress appropriately for various situations and most of my shirts go with most of my pants. I actually like dressing up but I don’t have much reason for that so I don’t own a lot of dressy clothes.

When it comes to money, I tend to pay more than I should for housing and cars but I’m fairly frugal with clothes purchases. There are men’s jeans selling for $70 - $150 or more in some stores but none of them are in my closet or at this outlet mall. A hundred dollars for a shirt? No way. I don’t like to spend that much on shoes either although that is a harder goal to hit. Those are reasons I shop outlet malls. I buy clothes that were sort of stylish a year or two ago and are now priced half or less than they were when new. And yes, I know that some products sold at outlet malls were made specifically for outlet malls and are sometimes lesser quality than other items in the same brand. I’m OK with that. If certain outlet mall brands fall apart too soon I simply stop buying those brands.

Today’s outlet mall shopping list included casual slip-on shoes, jeans, a couple of shirts and some socks. I discovered just how out of shape (or out of style) I am when I couldn’t fit into the same Eddie Bauer jeans I buy every time I go to that mall. I also looked at many shirts there but found none that I liked or that fit right. So I bought socks, gloves (good price) and sleep pants (also good price). Found exactly what I wanted at the shoe store (another good price).

I was in another store looking at shirts when I came across a suit sale. I only wear a suit six or seven times a year but it has been at least five years since I bought my one and only suit, so I looked at what they had. And found one I liked at half the already low price I paid for my current suit. BUT … I usually don’t buy suit separates. Those are jackets and pants sold separately, but supposedly match, which is what a suit is supposed to do. And because they are in various sizes, you don’t necessarily have to have them fitted and altered, which is a plus. I found a jacket and a pair of pants that fit and in the store lighting they looked like a match. When I tried them on at home, however, something didn’t look right. I checked the label and sure enough one was charcoal and one was black. Ugh. Now I have to go back tomorrow to exchange one or the other. Either is alright with me I just need them to be the same. I didn’t see the difference in store light and the clerk didn’t see the difference in the light or on the price tag.

Other random outlet mall observations and discoveries:

- Outlet malls get crowded in the middle of Saturday afternoons. I usually go when the stores open but broke my rule this time.

- I almost always buy Eddie Bauer, Dockers and Rockport/Reebok. This time I bought Eddie Bauer, Bass and Van Heusen.

- I used to like Calvin Klein but I am convinced they have narrowed their product line to specifically appeal to skinny gay men. I am NOT skinny or gay. So much for that brand.

- The specific outlet mall where I shop must sell a lot of plus sizes.

- Not only am I a targeted shopper I am also a fast walker. Outlet mall shoppers seem to be strollers and browsers. Another reason to go when the stores first open.

- I own more shoes than most guys but not as many as most women.

So there you have it. Real guys do shop, but not all that much.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Randomania 2

Well, it’s fall. Leaves are turning but it is not at the pretty stage around my part of Maryland yet. Hey, Mother Nature, my camera and I are waiting.

I bought Diana Krall’s latest CD today. She is hard to define, isn’t she? She’s young but plays old music or music inspired by old music. Her style is old-school jazz, unlike the music of her husband Elvis Costello.

I accepted an invitation to a Halloween party next week. I haven’t been to a Halloween party since the mid 1990s, when I was the DJ at a Halloween party at a nudist club. I’m serious. Now THOSE are some creepy costumes … the woman dressed as Lady Godiva was memorable … actually she was wearing only her long hair and gold body paint … but I digress. Not sure what I’m wearing to this one, however. I only know the host and her husband, I might be going alone and I don’t really have a costume. Suggestions?

You know those signs on the Interstate that read “Slow Traffic Keep Right”? Shouldn’t they really say “Get The Fuck Outta The Left Lane”? Just sayin’.

What are your plans for this weekend? Mine include errands, breakfast at a nearby cafĂ©, shoe shopping at an outlet mall, packing CDs and books in advance of an upcoming move … basic stuff, ey?

Wow, I got through a whole post without doing anything political.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Last Time, I Hope

I plan for this to be the last commentary I make about Presidential debates. Wish me luck.

Who won the debate tonight? Dems think Obama did, Repubs think Romney did. I think Obama did a great job and more than made up for his poor performance in the 1st Presidential debate. I think Romney more or less held his own. Neither of them did a great job of actually answering the questions that the audience of undecided voters were asking.

But here is what really pisses me off … some people actually believe what extreme political commentators say.

A Facebook “friend” clicked like on a very stupid commentary by Rush. The commentary claimed Obama was lying. Instead of ignoring this, I chose to actually click on the link to see more. Of course what I saw were the thousands of Rush lemmings diving off the cliff with Rush. How can somebody with any intelligence at all believe that Rush is anything but a clownish blowhard? Rush doesn’t represent anybody but Rush. In real life, away from a microphone, he probably actually is a conservative Republican. But in real life he doesn’t really give a shit about any of this. He is all about himself and about how his stupid commentary can affect his insanely large salary and ego.

I happen to enjoy watching liberal commentator Rachel Maddow. But hey!!! … she is a clown on the left side. More entertaining than Rush and less ego-driven, but still an extremist.

You can listen to either of them but don’t make your decisions based on anything either of them says. They are entertainers, not experts. E N T E R T A I N E R S!!!

Research facts, real facts from non-partisan sources, then decide for yourself. Don’t follow the entertainers.

Obama is NOT a liar. Romney is NOT a liar. They say things based on sets of ‘facts’ that are not in sync. Facts that are difficult to truly verify. Unbiased indicators show that the economy is improving … at a snail’s pace. Unemployment is down, a tiny bit. Gas prices? Geez. They more or less agreed that gas was $1.85/gallon at the beginning of Obama’s term. NO IT WASN’T! When is the last time either of these guys drove their own car to a gas pump and filled their own tank? 2008 was the year I traded my Ford SUV for a Honda sedan because gas was $4.25/gallon.

This Facebook friend I refer to is only a friend because he was smart enough to marry a real friend of mine. I don’t want to question his sincerity but I have to challenge his intelligence when I see and hear that he bases choices on what Rush says. He spouts Rush crap and doesn’t really research things independently. His wife, my friend of many decades, does look into facts. She often chooses to support and vote for candidates who can never win elections … but she believes in them based on real research and not on rants from conservative extremists or liberal extremists. I disagree with her choices but I respect her process. We can all learn from that example.

There are no simple answers to the challenges we face as a nation this year. The economy will improve no matter who wins the election. The world will not be a safer place no matter who wins the election. The environment will continue to suffer no matter who wins the election. No candidate can single-handedly fix everything. The Republican led House is partly to blame because their mission was to make Obama a one-term President and not to actually do what they were elected to do. The Democratic led House back in 2008 is partly to blame because they let their egos guide them rather than their constituents.

The bottom line: research the candidates and stop following extremist commentators. And vote!! Don’t skip the election. Every vote counts.

And I promise to stop commenting on the election.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Habits

I am a creature of habit. Many of us are. Habits and patterns can be helpful paths guiding us in life or destructive behaviors blocking our journey.

The habit I am thinking about right now is neither, but it is formerly a rock solid milepost in a typical Bernie week. It's my Sunday Routine. In years past I began nearly every Sunday with coffee and a daily newspaper. The habit began in my 20s with coffee and chickory and the New Orleans Times Picayune. My Sunday Routine moved across the country with me ... Milwaukee Journal, Chicago Sun Times, Dallas Times Herald, Baltimore Sun and Washington Post. The coffee part varied but eventually became mostly Starbucks.

My life got busy and complicated in recent years and my Sunday Routine evaporated (except for the coffee). I cancelled newspaper subscriptions in favor of reading online, but that is a pain in the eyes so I eventually stopped reading. I get basic news from TV and radio and deeper details via occasionally checking web sites.

All of this crossed my mind as I walked past a stack of newspapers at the grocery this morning. I bought my coffee at the Starbucks counter in Safeway and tossed a Washington Post in the shopping cart. My Sunday Routine is back, for today at least.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Debatable

Some random notes about the VP debate this week:

Looking at Facebook posts by friend of various political beliefs, it is hard for me to believe we were watching the same debate. So many diverse opinions about who 'won'.

I'm close to deleting some of my Facebook friends because of the incredibly derogatory remarks about the various candidates.

Maybe the reason Congress is so deadlocked along partisan lines is that we all are. That is sad.

Considering my own Democratic views on most issues, I am surprised by how many Republican friends I have.

Obama, Biden, Romney and Ryan are all very intelligent people. I disagree with Romney and Ryan on many issues but I give them credit for their well-thought-out beliefs. That is more than I can say for one previous President (Bush 2), one previous VP (Quale) and one previous VP candidate (Palin).

People who are comfortable in the spotlight sometimes show subtle signs of mild nervousness during moments when the stakes are high. Biden's 'tell' seemed to be that overused laugh and Ryan's 'tell' seemed to be the constant reaching for a cup of water.

I wish the election was today. I am so disgusted with the ads on all sides.

The consensus among less biased reporters was that Biden more or less won, especially because he put Ryan on the defensive, but Ryan held his own.

I think moderator Martha Raddack was the real winner and she had a better command of the issues at times than either candidate.

Ok, that's enough about this for the week. Just make sure you vote on Election Day!!

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Typos Clarity and Verification

I am somewhat obsessed with clarity in life. I do not like ambiguity. In the same breath I can tell you that sometimes I confuse people and occasionally seem to send mixed signals.

When it comes to directions, however, I am usually clear and I expect (or hope for) geographic clarity. I also usually verify directions with a map. Usually.

Washington DC is a confusing place until you understand how the streets are laid out. I've lived around here long enough to have a clue but that doesn't always help. And one letter difference in an address makes plenty of difference in where you're going and how you get there. Directions I received for a meeting in DC this morning said 3rd Street SE. That seemed odd because most government buildings are SW. And this time I did not verify; I merely looked up the address I was given and located the nearest Metro Rail stop. It seemed odd that this building would be in a residential neighborhood near a school but I've seen stranger things.

I also build in plenty of extra time when I go to morning meetings anywhere around here because traffic sucks. I laughed at myself as I got off the Metro 25 minutes early for my meeting... until I arrived at the block where I was directed. It was a neighborhood park. Geez. I then checked the website for where I was going (like I should have done in advance) and realized it was the same street but SW instead of SE. There was a typo in the original directions.

Fortunately I know the area enough to know I was only one Metro stop from where I was supposed to be. All the extra time I allowed was a blessing because despite the mistakes I arrived at my meeting on time. Exactly on time.

Moral of the story: verify.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Sunday, October 7, 2012

OK, So Maybe I Am One

It really bothers me that ultra-conservatives use the term ‘liberal’ as a curse word. I usually describe myself as liberal-leaning moderate, partly because some of my views are more conservative and partly because the term liberal implies some kind of negative.

Look through history, however, and many of the greatest achievements of our government and politicians were at one time considered liberal. Here are a few examples:

- Thomas Jefferson, main author of the Declaration of Independence, and the noteworthy idea that all people have the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

- Abraham Lincoln and his Emancipation Proclamation.

- Susan B. Anthony and her radically liberal idea that women should have the right to vote.

- Theodore Roosevelt and his liberal anti-trust laws, assertion of the right for workers to form unions and the eventual formation of the Food and Drug Administration.

- Franklin Roosevelt and Social Security.

- Lyndon Johnson and the Civil Rights Act, the Voting Rights Act and medicare.

Much of this is on a web site that dares to defend Democrats. Another post by that same columnist dispels a few myths about Democrats. Two that got my attention:

The rate of job growth. Here is the top ten (note the party affiliations of each President on this list):

Roosevelt (D)…………...5.3%
Johnson (D)……………...3.8%
Carter (D)………………...3.1%
Truman (D)…………….…2.5%
Clinton (D)…………….… 2.4%
Kennedy (D)…………....2.3%
Nixon (R)………………....2.2%
Reagan (R)……………….2.1%
Coolidge (R)……………..1.1%
Ford (R)……………..…….1.1%

The other myth is that liberals can’t balance a budget. Hmmm … quoting the web site:

"Yeah, right. If anyone can say that today with a straight face, after reviewing the record deficits of the Reagan and Bush II administrations, and comparing that with Clinton’s reversal of the Reagan deficit, then it’s hard to know what to say to such nonsense."

So if those ideas and people are liberal, then I guess I am too.

My real point, however, is that Dems believe their stats and Repubs believe theirs, but nothing will get done if the two sides (and some who are on neither side) stop playing party politics and start listening to each other. Somewhere in all the noise on all sides are some ideas that will get us out of this mess.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Ever Hear of this Guy?

For many years Chris tried to convince his government leaders they should fund his crazy idea. He knew there would be significant scientific, economic and social benefits from that kind of exploration he wanted to do, not just for his country but for the whole world. Completing successful missions would raise the standing of his country in the world view, which of course would benefit the government. He had a few points to prove but he needed his country’s help to accomplish his goals.

His country wasn’t interested, however, so he pursued other governments, some established, some emerging. One of those countries, an emerging one, understood his vision and agreed to fund it. They knew that his mission would result in a shorter path to prosperity and there could be many side benefits from things he and his crew would ‘invent’ to make their mission possible.

Chris was a bit of a daredevil and wasn’t afraid to explore new places, even very distant ones that others said couldn’t be reached with existing technology. He grew up in a middle class family and had a thirst for knowledge, especially astronomy, geography and religion. He had always looked to the stars for inspiration and knew if he landed alive, he would pray out loud and probably leave a bible there with other pieces of evidence to prove he had made it (just in case he didn’t make it back).

So in the early 90s he began his mission. The launch was successful; he reached his destination (more or less), gathered a few items that he found there and returned safely. Government leaders were happy at first and funded three more missions. Eventually he fell out of favor and was forced to retire from that career. He wrote a few books and died fairly young (around age 54). His heirs filed suit to recover money he and they said the government owed him but were mostly unsuccessful, despite the world-wide impact of his adventures.

Did you ever hear about this guy?

Although he is quite controversial in some circles, the impact of his missions is unmistakable. Towns and countries are named for him, thousands of books have been written about him and there is even a holiday in the USA commemorating his first mission.

Yes, you definitely have heard of this guy. Chris was born in what is now Italy back in the mid 50s … the 1450s. His birth name is Cristoforo Colombo, but we know him better as Christopher Columbus. His four missions were funded by what is now Spain. He is credited with ‘discovering’ America, which sadly ignores the obvious fact that people were already living everywhere he stopped. He even captured some of them and brought them back with him to Spain. And he wasn’t really looking for a “New World” when he first set out … he was looking for Japan; Europeans didn’t know there was another continent in the way (damn GPS).

We now have Columbus, Ohio, Columbia, Maryland and Washington DC (District of Columbia), to name a few. Monday we celebrate Columbus Day. There is no question that back in the 1500s Spain’s standing in the world was elevated because of Chris’s missions and many new countries were formed over the centuries, including the United States of America. But don’t forget that the price was high. Entire civilizations and societies were destroyed, wars were fought and atrocities occurred; all of that is part of our history. On the positive side we turned out to be a great country and we fight to make things right in the world.

I can say Happy Columbus Day with pride but also with mixed feelings. I guess that complexity is part of what makes out country unique.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Debatable

One thing that bothers me about Presidential candidate debates these days is that neither candidate answers the moderator’s questions. Each candidate works their talking points. They spew statistics ‘backing’ their positions. Fact-checkers plow through the ‘facts’ and generally report that each candidate gets some of them right and some of them wrong.

What this election really comes down to is this … will a new guy be any better than the current guy? My own cynical question is this … can any President create jobs and fix the economy? Sure, a President is a leader and leaders have influence on people, therefore a leader can make things happen even when he or she doesn’t actually control events first-hand. But does that influence create jobs? Does it make the economy better? No, at least not directly. There are many other factors. If you believe a President has that much control, then you better be blaming the previous President for getting us into this mess in the first place!!

Being an incumbent is a dual-edged sword. On one side, you’re already there, you know how things work, there is no learning curve for the day-to-day duties – you’ve already been through that. You can focus your energy on the tasks at hand. On the other hand, you have a record of accomplishments and failures and an opponent can attack you on that record and try to persuade the voting public that he or she is an alternative to the incumbent.

Clearly Romney did well in the first debate. Will that change anybody’s mind? Hell no. Will it help sway any undecided voters? Probably. Of course there are two more Presidential debates and one Vice-Presidential debate. Biden and Ryan … wow, that should be some great entertainment.

I predicted back in the spring that this will be a close race and that Obama will win by a very small margin. I hold to that prediction. Time will tell.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Learning from Dogs

I am beginning to buy into the idea that everything important in life can be learned from dogs. I saw this on Facebook and decided to share. So much of this is true. Live like a dog and you’ll be a happy human.

01. Never pass up the opportunity to go for a joy ride.

02. Allow the experience of fresh air and the wind in your face to be exhilarating.

03. When loved ones come home, always run to greet them.

04. When it's in your best interest, always practice obedience.

05. Enjoy it when someone wants to show affection.

06. Take naps, and always stretch before rising.

07. Run, romp, and play daily.

08. Eat with gusto and enthusiasm.

09. Be loyal, filled with grace, and grant unconditional love.

10. Never pretend to be something you're not.

11. If what you want lies buried, dig until you find it.

12. When someone is having a bad day, be silent, sit close by and nuzzle them gently.

13. Delight in the simple joy of a long walk.

14. Avoid biting when a simple growl will do.

15. On hot days, drink lots of water and lie under a shady tree.

16. When you are happy, dance around and wag your entire body.

17. No matter how often you are criticized, don't buy into the guilt and pout. Run right back and make friends.