Dawdling Wisdom

When I was a teenager, Dad liked to quote the words attributed to Mark Twain: “When I was a boy of fourteen, my father was so ignorant I could hardly stand to have my old man around. But when I got to be twenty-one, I was astonished at how much the old man had learned in seven years.” My first reaction was how old fashioned the slang “old man” was because none of my friends used that term. I also knew my dad’s father well and they seemed to have a relationship unmarked with tension scars. So I grappled with a question of whether my dad ever really considered my grandfather ignorant dispute his lack of even a high school education. I assumed Dad embraced the quote mostly in response to my teenage arrogance. I do tend to make everything all about me. Sadly my brother Kevin is no longer around to keep me in check by reminding me of this tendency. But I do wonder if Dad ever recited this Twain quip to Kevin. As I aged, the quote stood the test of time. And when my own three sons were teenagers, I passed on the wisdom. I enjoyed their disdain and relished the thought of their delayed epiphanies down the road. They are all in their 40’s now and I am still waiting for those epiphanies.


First Time for Everything

First words. First steps. First time I struck out in Little League. First times are memorable. First day at Kindergarten. First time I dropped a fly ball. I was 19 years old the first time I did something unselfish. I wish I could remember earlier examples. I was born with a highly developed sense of survival which prioritized actions primarily by how effectively they furthered my own best interests. My focus on personal safety included acquiring and stockpiling resources at every opportunity. I did not overstep bounds or attract attention with overly aggressive tactics because playing by the rules was an essential component of my survival strategy. But one time at age 19, I gave up subsidized housing that had made my life and commute better. And not because I wanted to be more independent. This actually made me more dependent. But I knew I would be wasting resources even though my benefactor had plenty. I lost some time, money, and freedom but the sacrifice was not visible when measured against the standard set by classmates going to Vietnam. Many of my other firsts only I can remember. First ground ball going through my legs. First time picked off base. My first son went to a four week summer camp when he was nine. After three weeks, we could not locate him on Parents Day until we figured out he had been nicknamed Grimy. We did not allow candy in our house but he had a 40 cent per week candy allowance at the Camp Store. When he came home, he presented his two brothers with sweets he saved for them from his meager stash. That was the first time I realized he was better than me.

Vacation Contest

Barb Taub invited Bloggers to submit vacation experiences for a contest. I needed a Blog today and posted here instead. In 2006, my hiking partner, let’s call him “Mick,” phoned and suggested we spend a week stalking grizzly bears with our cameras in Canada. We could hire a guide and camp out in tents. I immediately scheduled a root canal to conflict with that torture. One mistake was telling my wife Mollie about the ridiculous idea because she was disappointed not to be invited. Another mistake was mentioning to Mick how hilarious it was that grizzly stalking was Mollie’s idea of a good time. That backfired. Mick resurrected the trip by convincing his wife, let’s call her “Patty,” to join us by promising motel rooms instead of tents. The drive to northern Canada was very long, especially on the primitive roads when you get past the North Pole. The guide, let’s call him “Psycho,” is annoyed that women are on this expedition because bears apparently avoid perfume and talking noises. I am not sure why caking our faces with mud helps. The women are informed they can “squirt” in privacy behind the van. By now, Patty is surely blaming each of us for maneuvering her into this trip, let’s call it “vacation,” where our leader Psycho wears a gun. He dislikes me just because I am a wise ass who talks more than any woman. Yeah, I do when I am trying to scare off bears. Psycho is going through a divorce and has anger issues. He frightens me more than grizzly bears and they terrify me. We spend days sitting still on river banks in waders and camouflage where I calculate how many people I can likely outrun. We were rewarded with many photographs of bear prints and dead salmon.

Einstein and Me

“Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance, you have to keep moving.” Donna Sarkar chose that as one of 20 Einstein quotations she featured in a May 19th posting on the Discover Magazine website. I have always tried to keep moving because hitting a moving target is difficult. But riding a bike is too dangerous for me. It does not keep me moving. It brings me crashing to the ground. As a teenager, my green Schwinn threw me over its handle bars when I had to stop suddenly while street racing. I probably punched the front brake in my panic. That cost me several stitches over one eye. As an adult, I remember picking pebbles out of my skin for days after sliding into a turn. The other Einstein quotes included mostly reflections on the inspirations found in science and music. I flunked chemistry in high school and received a “D” in Music in grade school even though “C” should be the lowest grade you can morally give a child in the Arts. Mrs. Laus knew my reputation as a class clown, so she must have felt like I was singing horribly on purpose. So I wore that “D” with pride although I was secretly crushed. At least I now understand exactly why I am no Einstein, not that I needed to know that. Bicycling, science, and music. All three endeavors are prime weaknesses of mine. Well, not exactly weaknesses. More like disasters. I wonder if Einstein ever spoke about water skiing.

Future of Blogging

Technology has made writing so much easier with spelling, punctuation, and grammar corrections. Autocorrects and autocompletes already allow the computer to do much of the composing for writers. What is the next logical step in a Technology Age where improvements are exploding exponentially? I envision a program where my 1740 posts are integrated with material from sources I designate, like daily news highlights, trending topics, quirky cartoons, and zany tidbits. Each day some algorithm produces an autoblog draft personalized to my style. I retain the final editing authority. This would solve my problem of not having enough time to produce legitimate posts. The only other option is for WordPress to hire me a researcher, proofreader, editor, comedian, driver, poet, photographer, personal shopper, and criminal lawyer. They are perfectly willing to do that but want to get paid for it. Unfortunately, they are unwilling to take payment out of profits from my Blog. They seem to want their money upfront. Do they seriously think my wife is going to go for that deal? She has read every single post of mine and knows better. WordPress has never read any of my posts but they like them anyway. I know that because they shamelessly recommend them to other Bloggers all the time. Hopefully the future process can be streamlined and the computer can assign and certify grades for each post. The scientific assessment could precisely render an equivalency score with a number like “134L,” representing Like Power. Okay, I should use a more realistic example, say “13.4L.” My own past posts, chosen sources, and follower count would provide enough variables to distinguish my writing from others accessing the same software.

Face the Facts

At about age 41 when Justine Bateman was writing her book Fame, she googled herself and found that the auto-complete for her name was “looks old.” She told People Magazine in the April 24th issue that she thought her face “looked fine” in the pictures used as evidence. Nonetheless, she became “ridiculously” ashamed of her face. It had not changed from the day before but she “felt totally different about it” just from reading the criticisms. She copied and pasted insults from two message boards and included them in a chapter of her book. She said, “Maybe someone will read it and think twice about slinging criticism next time.” I doubt such trolls will even think once about it. They surely celebrated that their words had such power. I am confident it only motivated critics to continue finding faults and looking for recognition of their power. I have a 73 year old face, so no longer have to worry about it looking old any more. All people my age and beyond have faces that look old. Some look much better than mine but they all look old. My face is like a well worn 73 year old baseball mitt. Brand new mitts are shinier. But my old mitt and face are broken in. My face can still hear, speak, smell, taste, and see. Best of all, it sticks to my neck like superglue and cannot be accidentally left at the playground or donated to Goodwill.

Moot Logic

Add my right foot to the left one and I do not have two foots. I have two left feet. Add a third foot and I do not have three feets. I have a yard. I can put a boot on my foot but two boots are not a beet. Perhaps I beat a dead horse, but two buckets of soot are not pails of seet. I chipped a tooth this week. My two buck tooths are actually teeth. I work around the issue by describing my mouthful of teeths as choppers. A goose with two legs is useful but a three legged stool with two legs is not. Gooses become geese. My head explodes with visions of coots eating fruits, newts nibbling roots and shoots, and all the ins and oots of this magnificent English language.

Seven Deadly Mistakes

I remember plastering Mr. Yuk stickers on all bottles of poison we stored around the house. I cannot recall why we had so much poison. Eventually we outgrew our poison phase. But in the days of toddlers, we had to label absolutely all poison because the absence of a Mr. Yuk sticker logically deemed contents safe. So we served guests alcoholic beverages from bottles clearly labeled Mr. Yuk. This totally undercut the whole Mr. Yuk message for our children. Responsible parents would have given up alcohol. My wife did that during pregnancy and nursing but had not read the fine print in the Good Parent Permit which seemed to ban alcohol forever and bind us to a Time Share Condominium even longer than that. No stomachs were pumped in the making of this post but some were turned while reading it. Now the tables have also turned and children must protect parents from the seven deadly mistakes made by old people: (1) Cooking any non food item accidently placed in the microwave or toaster oven; (2) Leaving any room while water is running or burners are on, no matter if you plan to return in a second; (3) Drinking milk or other perishables mistakenly stored in a cupboard instead of the refrigerator; (4) Ripping the smoke and carbon monoxide detectors off the ceiling or wall because they keep beeping; (5) Leaving the car running in the driveway while you run back in the house for just one thing; (6) Flushing the clogged toilet over and over, hoping that the next flush will be the one that magically works; and (7) Asking the disheveled pollster on the porch if he knows how to fix a broken front door lock because your husband is out of town for a week.

By the Numbers

Numbers have defined me ever since I was born at 9 pounds and 20 inches. I walked at 10.5 months. I have always been good at walking. Toilet training did not go so well but a number was attached to its completion. I earned grades and perfect attendance awards in school. My Intelligence Quotient, College Boards, and (allegedly) standardized test scores were not extraordinary but they exposed my grade point average as an underachievement. I was disqualified from earning a letter in high school by GUS (Genetic Uncoordinated Syndrome). At work, I received a 25 year service pin. Salary and bonus numbers were more important. But my crowning achievement was attaining job classification ranks of Grade 97 and E4 at a large international company with well over 100,000 employees. This was truly impressive because so many people thought I was incompetent. Think: Peter Principle. Leisure time was full of numbers. My golf strokes were too many to even qualify for a handicap. I only broke 100 if I left the course after nine holes. I ran 14 Marathons but finished an hour and half behind the winners. I even traded with other parents all the goals, baskets, and other numbers attached to our children. When I retired, I took up Blogging. I like writing and reading. But all the numbers seem a little crazy. Visitors, views, followers, likes, comments. The prominent display and cumulative celebration of them seems humorous. Easy for me to say because my numbers are paltry (for entirely legitimate reasons). But looking back on essentially meaningless numbers I treasured (E4?) makes me cringe. Why was I trying to weave my Marathon times into every conversation? My humility was diagnosed as false modesty. Is my tombstone going to include E4 after my name? Probably, if I forget to change my Will.

Welt To Do List

The other day I raised a large welt on my head by smashing my noggin into the open hatchback door on my wife’s Toyota. After the pain subsided, I rationalized this was just a freak accident and not another example of my declining mental state. In fact, it actually turned out to be all good news. I did not realize I had grown taller and could no longer clear the overhanging rear door. The welt made me taller still. So I called the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) and told them they could change the height on my Driver’s License back to six feet tall. My shrinking phase was over. After some additional questions, the DMV official told me to have someone drive me over to the testing facility as they were eager to make changes to my license. Before doing that, I consulted with a phrenology doctor online and according to the new preliminary measurements of my skull which I provided, he considers me a Welterweight Genius of the highest order. I plan to wire him funds for a complete set of tests as soon as my wife gets home and helps me resolve an issue with our bank. For some reason, I am blocked from making any withdrawals from our account.