Tuesday, April 30, 2013

The wisdom of the old farmer (part 8)

"Good judgment comes from experience, and a lot of that comes from bad judgment."

Overheard on the farm

Making mistakes is a popular topic:

"A life spent making mistakes is not only more honorable, but more useful than a life spent doing nothing."

"Anyone who has never made a mistake has never tried anything new."

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Good morning, the sun...!

Volpone said it best, but I'll take my turn....it's a beautiful morning, the fog is rolling off the river, a few intrepid birds are doing bird things, green stuff is burgeoning everywhere, I think Spring is going to take another step toward the front of the stage...

Welcome, sweet Spring!

Friday, April 26, 2013

The wisdom of Benjamin Franklin (part 7)

"Avoid trifling conversation."

Now, usually I love quotes from old Ben, they are a dagger to the heart or a bolt to the brain, most of the time…

But this one gives me pause. I think the point is NOT to avoid "trifling conversation," or call it blather, or even perhaps ambiguously call it gossip….human beings do the chit-chat thing very well and very often, one researcher claimed that "gossip" comprises more than half of all human verbal intercourse, our mundane remarks to each other help to keep us decently human, in fact.

I'd prefer to interpret Franklin's advice as a warning to avoid giving undue meaning to our "trifling conversation" and,  perhaps, to strive for unadorned, candid, truthful communication, face to face, as often and wherever that's what's needed.

If you stretch the point and define "trifling" to mean "not true" or "poorly reasoned" or "carelessly uttered" or "deliberately obfuscatory," then by all means go with Ben and do the avoidance thing….

Thursday, April 25, 2013

I know, it's none of my business….

I think I'm decently tolerant of some of the very bizarre names of people I don't know.

I think I might not be thrilled to meet the self-indulgent parents of people who are stuck with names like "LaJarra" and "Christmas" and "Moon Unit," but usually I lie down and let the feeling go away….

 I just wasn't able to force myself to avoid commenting on a name I spotted in the most recent issue of Oxford American Magazine….among its offerings is a rather spasmodic and indifferently written piece on an apparently not exceptionally obscure writer named Breece Dexter John Pancake, AKA Breece D'J Pancake.

The mangled middle initials first showed up as a typo in The Atlantic Monthly, and Mr. Pancake decided to adopt them.

Sorry, I can't help myself, I refuse to wonder in silence about how to pronounce "D'J" and I ease my conscience about writing this tepid, tentative diatribe by imagining that you very likely feel the same way….

There, I said it, I'm done with Mr. Pancake.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

3,628 people killed by guns since Newtown....

In case you were wondering, more than 3,628 Americans have died from gunshot wounds since Dec. 14, when a crazy shooter killed 20 first-graders and several adults in Newtown, CT.

That's about 28 people each and every day.

And by the way, about 130 gun permits were issued to some of the 27,000 residents of Newtown last year. In the three months since the murders at Sandy Hook Elementary School, there were 79 applications for gun permits. "20 kids were shot, so I need a gun" ???????  That's not what I said when I heard about it ……

We have too many guns in America.
Too many dead people.

The average household in America has more guns than balloons.
We need more balloons, fewer guns.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

The wisdom of the old farmer (part 7)

"It don't take a very big person to carry a grudge."
Overheard in the old farmer's barn

…but remember, that grudge can get heavier as time goes by…

Just drop it off now, over there, in that dark corner, you can always come back for it later if you really need it.

Just don't send anyone else for the pickup…


Monday, April 22, 2013

Let's hear it for The Old Sock….

Now, I don't know Eric Clapton or David Bowie personally, but I wish I could know Clapton well enough to call him "Old Sock," which is apparently how Bowie thinks of him….

Anyway, Clapton decided to use the Bowie-inspired moniker for his latest album release, "Old Sock," handled by Surfdog Records. See some info here, it's available on iTunes for $10.99.

It's Clapton's 21st album, have to say it's not vintage Clapton by my lights, but it does have much more than a hint of Eric's infatuation with reggae, and that's not all bad….

This latest oeuvre is very definitely an "aged in the wood" Clapton, a wholesomely senior Clapton who's doing what he likes to do….the cuts are laid back, and, I guess, very personal.

I checked a coupla times to confirm that this release does NOT include "Mellow Yellow," but that oldie wouldn't be doing any harm in this collection.

Try it, enjoy, don't forget the single malt, that goes nicely….

Before there was Google….

For those of us old enough to have antebellum memories, this was Google before we learned that word….

I can't say it was better, but it was, in some ways, equally satisfying….

Learning to use the card catalog was a rite of passage….

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Look, Ma, one hand!

Some people make it look easy.

Reading books is not only easy, it helps prepare you for a career in the business world.

Friday, April 19, 2013

The wisdom of the old farmer (part 6)

"The biggest troublemaker you'll probably ever have to deal with watches you shave his face in the mirror every mornin'." 

Overheard in the old farmer's milk shed

Now, I'm pretty sure the old farmer didn't mean to exclude the ladies, gosh knows there is a troublemaker among 'em here and there…

Maybe the old farmer was just talkin' from personal experience.

Anyways, take a good look in the mirror tomorra mornin'…

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Plain truth: shame in the Senate

Plain question: why do we accept this?

Plain truth: 90% of Americans want expanded, more strict background checks for gun purchasers.

Plain truth: a majority of the Senate voted for more comprehensive background checks yesterday.

Plain truth: a powerful lobby representing gun manufacturers and a small minority of gun owners pushed a minority of 46 Senators to vote "No," and they prevailed because the Senate hobbles itself with the 60-vote threshold.

Plain truth: 46 Senators acted in their own self-interest (re-election) and continued to let partisan ideology get in the way of doing what's right for America and Americans.

Plain question: why do we accept this? why do we keep re-electing these people?

Plain question: why aren't the news media using the words "shame" and "shameful" in their dispirited reporting on this failure in the Senate?

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Every book is a new experience

Who dropped two books in the street and forgot to pick them up?

A new protocol for management hierarchy

I thought of saying "Management is going to the dogs," but you already know that.

Then I thought of saying "Look who's getting the short end of the stick," but that felt too obvious, and common…

Then it hit me: there is raw truth here. Could companies just stick with Beggin' Strips and Pup-Peroni, and get rid of those awful multi-million dollar bonuses?

Tuesday, April 16, 2013


The senseless violence in Boston.

My fear for the ones I love.

The black void of terror.

Life goes on, but changed…

Monday, April 15, 2013

The wisdom of the Cherokees (part 11)

"…Why be the other half of disagreement?...Most arguments are traps of one kind or another. But relax right out of it…the disagreement is on the other side—leave it there."
The wisdom of the Sequichie of the Cherokees

Why is it so hard to walk away from a silly or useless argument? What makes me want to jab my finger into the nose of the lunkhead who's standing in line two spaces in front of me and spewing ignorant garbage about "President Obummer"?

Harsh and repeated experience encourages me to understand that picking my battles is half the fun, oops, I mean half the fight…most of the time I remember to ask myself "Is this the fight you really want to pick?"

And here's another thought, from Jonathan Kozol:
"Pick battles big enough to matter, small enough to win."

Most fights aren't in that class.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

The wisdom of the old farmer (part 5)

A bumble bee is considerably faster than a John Deere tractor.
Overheard in the old farmer's barn

I already knew this when I read it the first time. And I know you already know this.

Seems to me I forget to remember it sometimes.

And, hey, I love John Deere tractors and all.

…usually best to let the bumblebee be, you know?....or at least pretend you're not paying attention, sometimes the little bugger will just go away…

Same with those irritating things and people…

Friday, April 12, 2013

Does Little Red Riding Hood wear camo?

Expanding background checks for gun buyers to include dealer sales at gun shows would be a good start.

It's a pathetically inadequate response to the murders of 20 first-graders at Newtown.

But at least it's a good start….

Let's do less banning of books, and more banning of automatic weapons.

...universal background checks

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Not fit for a king….

Americans take patriotic, sometimes whimsical and sometimes vicious pleasure in telling each other what the American spirit is all about, but I think we can agree here:

This is not what America is all about, never was, never will be….

George Washington was right: just say no.

Some common sense from Robert Frost

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Will you outlive your car loan?

It's none of my business, I get that part of it. The length of your car loan is a matter between you and maybe your spouse and certainly your bank and whoever you may confess to…

But I saw an item yesterday about folks signing for car loans that last as long as 8 years, zowie, that's a sockeroo of a loan.

The report said 8 years is the extreme, but still, about 1 out of 6 car loans these days is for at least 6 years.

Now, the average age of a car at trade-in is just over six years…unscientifically, that sounds to me like a lot of folks expect to be making a monthly car payment for as long as they live.

That's interesting. In fact, it's a lot of interest.

Here's an example: a nice lady in Palm Beach, FL, still owed several thousand dollars on her old car, but she decided last month to get a new car anyway. She bought a new Toyota Camry for $23,000. Well, to be more exact, she let her bank buy the car for $23,000 and also pay off the old loan, and she agreed to pay the bank a grand total of $36,000 over the next 75 months, at $480 a month.

That's more than six years. A sockeroo.

The nice lady had a baby girl shortly after driving her new Camry off the dealer's lot. Her daughter will be graduating from the first grade when the loan is paid off.

Again, I understand this is none of my business. But I think it's a bad business.

It was a somewhat simpler business in 1956, when Lee Iacocca helped to establish the great American tradition of auto loans. In that year Mr. Iacocca, then a Ford regional manager, made his mark with "a '56 for $56," selling a 1956 Ford car for 20% down and a 36-month car loan with a $56 monthly payment. Those were the days.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Why are "red states" the federal "welfare states"??

You can ask your mommy a lot of questions, including big questions like this one.

Mommy probably knows the answer to this one, or at least part of the answer….

Probably you do too….

For example, Mississippi is one of the states that sucks up far more federal spending per capita than it pays in federal taxes – and that's big time, Mississippians get almost $3 worth of federal spending and benefits for every dollar they pay in personal and corporate federal taxes. Only two states (New Mexico and Alaska) get more.

De facto, in the simplest terms of pocketbook politics, Mississippians actually love the federal government. In this simplistic view, they should be loving President Obama down in Mississippi.

I wonder why 90% of white voters in Mississippi went for the other guy last November?

Monday, April 8, 2013

Are we forgetting "majority rule"?

E. J. Dionne has an interesting piece on WashingtonPost.com – he mentions that Congress as a whole is persistently ignoring policies and concerns that are embraced by large majorities of Americans.

Nearly everyone thinks we need more strict background checks on gun buyers. Congress is waffling as the NRA and gun advocates pile on the pressure.

Most Americans think fixing the economy and creating more jobs is the highest public priority. Congress seems to be spending all its time viciously debating "the deficit" and trying to cut the benefits of the Americans who need them most.

A majority of Americans want their very wealthy fellow citizens to pay more taxes. Republicans and many Democrats don't want to touch that with a 10-foot pole.

Why do we keep re-electing these partisan, self-serving pols who are so spectacularly failing to respond to the guidance of a majority of Americans?

Next time, don't vote for your incumbent Senator or Representative. He/she is somebody's friend, but he/she isn't really your friend.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

The wisdom of your dog

OK, let's get my facts straight:

Dogs are not people. Dogs are not children. Dogs eat doggy treats, also peanut butter, but that sticks to their gums and stuff. Dogs will lick your feet, even between the toes. Dogs like to smell places that people do not like to smell.

Still, you know, dogs have that doggishly trusting potential in a relationship, dogs will meet you at least half-way if you treat 'em right, and dogs always look up to you.

Be the person your dog thinks you are.

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Equal pay….another point of view

When you think of liberal progressive political views, you don't automatically think of Ryan Gosling, at least I don't…

But here he is, speaking truth…

At first I thought the pin-stripe was a bit much, but then I thought, no, he loosened his tie, he's cool…

Friday, April 5, 2013

If you didn't read a book last year, don't raise your hand….

Instead, reach for a book.

Really doesn't matter which book. Any book. Wake up your mind. Wake up your heart.

The Atlantic.com reports that almost half of adults didn't read a book last year, outside of work/school requirements.

In fact, only about 20% of adults do almost 80% of the reading for personal reasons. Translation: most of the folks who said they read a book only read one book....

Regardless of format—"real" book, e-book, audio book—reading is a uniquely human experience.

It makes your brain more alive.

And if you're reading to a child, you can double your pleasure.

Read a book, get nuts about it, tell your friends about it.

a word from Franz Kafka

...and here's an addendum from my trusted personal advisor:

Schedule Your Child for a Play Date at the Library!

It's inexpensive, you probably don't have too far to drive, and you can introduce your child to the whole world. You can even give your child a sense of identity and self-worth by giving him/her a library card.

Make it a weekly event...go hog wild, read Curious George, don't just watch the movie, read Tarzan of the Apes (and when you are at home practice your Tarzan yell), read the Bobbsey Twins, read about Benjamin Franklin, read about Thomas Edison, read about a home-town notable.

When your child is done reading, have him/her write a book report. Pen on paper or fingers on keyboard, a real book report, complete the sentences that are generally grammatically correct. Writing is a much-needed skill that is getting lost in our high-tech, texting world.

When the book report is done, gather the family together after dinner, and have your kid read the report aloud. That's another skill that your child may need someday.


Your child will thank you for it.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Get 'em started with books….

It's not too early to start that beautiful little babe with books. Get that habit going….

Remember all the books you fell asleep with? That wasn't a bad feeling…

And see, this can be how it turns out….

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Teachers: who are the 2% who don't measure up?....

Funny thing happened on the way to the latest round of teacher evaluations….
Nothing changed.

By definition, technically, half of all teachers are "below average," and yet the kind of teacher you don't want your kid to get seems to be all but impossible to identify….

At the risk of exaggerating slightly, not too long ago nearly every state had a carnival sideshow called "teacher evaluation" that basically rated every teacher as "good" or "satisfactory" or "competent" or whatever the top of scale was….it was more or less impossible to get a "bad" rating, so it was more or less impossible to expose or get rid of unsatisfactory or incompetent teachers.

Let's face it: as an example, you could say that the "worst 10%" of teachers were out there somewhere, but officially they were invisible.

Now the New York Times reports that more than half of our states have implemented new systems for teacher evaluations, in many cases linking student performance and test scores to an individual teacher's performance assessment.

Jenny Anderson of the Times reports some early results of these new and improved teacher evaluations:
In Florida, 97% of teachers are "effective" or "highly effective."
In Tennessee, 98% of teachers are "at expectations."
In Michigan, 98% of teachers are "effective or better."

For the record, I love and respect good teachers. I am a teacher.
But, gee. Makes you wonder….

If we admit that, by definition, half of all teachers are "below average," then just exactly how astoundingly unspeakably incompetent does a teacher have to be to get a poor rating in Florida, or Tennessee, or Michigan?

If you believe these assessment results, then round up your kids and move to any school district in Florida, or Tennessee, or Michigan, and thank your lucky stars they're going to get a good education.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

The wisdom of the Cherokees (part 10)

"O, listen! Hear! Sing with me, for I am joy."

The wisdom of the Sequichie of the Cherokees

                                               Spent the weekend with my grandchildren.

                                                                   'Nuff said.

                                           The 2-year-old announced "My eyes are happy."

                                                           Every eye was happy.