And In This Corner……El Rushbo

Posted March 7, 2009 by tigerdad
Categories: Now You Got Me Pissed

Tags: , ,

I have confession to make.   In my youth, I was a professional wrestling fan.  Oh, I knew that it wasn’t real…mostly.  But, I really enjoyed the drama of the match.  It was good against evil and good almost always won.

My favorite good guy was Bruno Sammartino.  He was quiet and soft spoken, always told the truth and always did what was right.  He was a good role model.

On the other side of the ring was “the evil guy”.  My two favorites were Ivan Koloff and George “the animal” Steele.  I say favorite only because I really enjoyed watching them being beat to the mat.  The thumping that they got was retribution for all the evil that they did to the poor innocent opponents who only wanted to have a good match.

Koloff was the typical loud mouth bad guy who constantly spewed nonsense and venom during interviews.  His goal was to piss the audience off enough that they would come back next week to see him get thumped.

George Steele seldom said two coherent words back to back.  He slobbered, growled and snarled he way through every interview.  That made the fans come back too.  It wasn’t that he pissed them off; they just wanted to see what stupidity he would do next.

Professional wrestling then and now was a grand show and the wrestlers were actually pretty talented entertainers.  They took their parts seriously during the show, but shed them quickly in their personal lives.  I’ve seen George Steele interviewed several times out of the ring in his non-wrestler persona.  I was amazed to find that he’s actually a very articulate person and used to be a high school teacher.

Shock jock political commentators remind me a lot of the bad guy professional wrestlers.  Left wing or right wing, they create and keep their audience by spewing polarized nonsense that ignores the realities of life.  Periodically, when ratings dip a bit or the last controversy that they created starts to die down, they say something outrageous to get their name front and center once again.  Rush Limbaugh has this loud mouth act perfected to a science.

Limbaugh doesn’t bring any special qualifications to the job he fills.  He isn’t schooled in political science, economics, law or science despite the fact that he opines about each of those subjects daily.  His lack of qualifications notwithstanding, in his early days I enjoyed his show and agreed with many, although not all, of his opinions. But, somewhere during the mid-nineties he bridged the gap between self-assured opinion and megalomaniacal arrogance.

In the last few weeks, he’s made a couple of comments that clearly illustrate his over-inflated self-opinion.  The first occurred on his January 16, 2009 radio broadcast where, in response to a request for 400 words on his hope for the Obama presidency he replied, “I don’t need 400 words, I need four: I hope he fails.”  On several occasions since then he has tried to “clarify” his words, generally by saying that it was the failure of liberalism he wanted not the failure of the President himself.   Let’s look for a minute at what that really means.

His hope that the President’s plan fails means that he wants the stimulus program, the financial sector bailout, the home foreclosure prevention program and the health care initiatives to fail.  Limbaugh’s response to that statement would be “Yep, government shouldn’t be involved in any of that.”  That’s a load of ultra right wing political bull shit.

The effect of President Obama and our current government failing would be a deepening depression marked by increasing business and personal financial meltdowns, millions upon millions of additional job losses and home foreclosures (most of those home losses unrelated to the sub-prime mess) and millions of people unable to get basic medical care because they’ve been dropped from employer medical insurance programs.  Of course Mr. Limbaugh would still be getting his $33 million a year, eating well, have a roof over his head and be able to buy his viagra prescription, so I guess “I hope he fails” is his version of  “qu’ils mangent de la brioche”.

A responsible commentator would have said something like, “I don’t agree with the President’s plan.  For the country’s sake I hope he succeeds, but I don’t think that he will and here’s what I would do instead.” His laughable  “Limbaugh Stimulus plan 2009”  notwithstanding, to boost his audience Limbaugh chose the sensational, obstructionist path instead. What a patriot.

The second comment he made was just this week when he challenged the President to a debate.  Actually, in a neutral forum where Rush couldn’t end the conversation with the push of a button, a debate would be an entertaining  idea. At the very least, it would be an interesting ninety minutes.  But idiot as he is, El Rushbo didn’t stop there.   During his kind offer to debate, Limbaugh described himself as the “last man standing” among the Republican pundits and opined that if Obama bested him in a debate then the President would “own” the country.

By claiming the title “last Man Standing” Limbaugh appears to have bought into the thought that he is the defacto leader of the Republican Party.  I’m a Republican, albeit a moderate one.  Given the current disarray of the party it’s my humble opinion that we don’t have a leader and if there is an heir apparent to that position it’s certainly not Limbaugh.  As to who owns the country, it’s not the President, the Congress, big business and , God forbid, not the likes of Rush Limbaugh.  While defining the ideals of right wing conservatism, Limbaugh once wrote, “at our core we embrace and celebrate the most magnificent governing document ever ratified by any nation – the U.S. Constitution.”  Apparently while reading that document, which effectively defines who owns our country, he missed that it begins with the three most powerful words ever written….”We the People”.

As citizens of the United States we elect our leaders and allow them to run the country with our proxy.  We’ve had our election and the majority’s will has been decided.  Given the abysmal job that the last administration did with that trust how could a even a conceited person like Rush Limbaugh have the arrogance to suggest that a new President take five minutes of his time to debate policies that have failed so spectacularly.

Rush Limbaugh has been steadily crossing over a line for the past few years.  In 2003 he had a regular audience of 20 million listeners.  By last year that number had dropped to 14 million.  When times are good, people have the luxury of moving to one end of the spectrum or another and the commentators who espouse right wing conservatism or left wing liberalism can find ready audiences.

These aren’t good times and to survive until prosperity returns our politicians and our people must accept the reality that success is found in true cross-fertilization of ideas and compromise.  The days of rigid conservatism are numbered, as is the importance of an obnoxious pundit like Rush Limbaugh.  Survival of my party depends on distancing ourselves from the likes of Rush Limbaugh and recognizing that we’ve moved into a new era.  We have the option of either sticking our feet in the conservative sand and being left behind or pulling our feet out of the sand and taking a step forward.  Moving forward makes more sense.

As for Limbaugh, well he’s going to need another job after his audience drops to a level that can’t justify his $33 million dollar salary.  Where does a loud mouth pundit go to find job these days?    Hmmmm, maybe they have an opening at the WWE.  I bet he’d fit right in.  Too bad Bruno Sammartino isn’t still performing.  Bruno vs. El Rushbo, now that’s a match I’d pay big bucks to see.



Really, I Didn’t Know Buffalo had Wings

Posted January 31, 2009 by tigerdad
Categories: Just Life

Tags: , ,

There was no joy in our home two weeks ago.  I wandered from room to room looking for something to do, something to occupy my mind.  I couldn’t focus enough to read and music was little more than rhythmic noise.  I tried watching a movie but the actors seemed to be wooden caricatures of the parts they played.  Above all, I avoided television.  I couldn’t return there yet.  It was too soon.  Television was the source of my pain, for it was a scant few hours before that I watched as color and music left my world.  It was a few hours before that my beloved Carolina Panthers lay down, rolled over and bared their soft underbelly to a screeching red bird from Arizona.

OK, the mourning period is over.  There’s always next year.  But, football season IS one of the highlights of my year.  I love the Panthers and I seldom miss a Clemson football game.  The exchange students that we have hosted sometimes don’t understand this obsession.  Given the popularity of soccer around the world, that surprises me a bit.

This lack of understanding has its upside though.  It gives me a chance to spend some quality time with our new family members teaching them about our culture and finding a safe subject to argue about.  I actually encourage them to pick a different team to follow.  That makes life interesting on weekends in the fall.

A few years ago we hosted a young lady from Japan named Sara.  Her real name was Sayaka, but she wanted a more “American” name, so Sara it was.  Sara was an extremely bright girl and good student.  More than that, her laughter and joy of life made our house a wonderful place to be.  sara3But what made her a perfect addition to our family was the fact that she also had a tendency to be gullible.  In January of 2003, football season and her gullibility crashed together in a perfect storm and therein lay the tale of “Buffalo Wings”.

It was a cold Indiana afternoon on a Saturday in late January.  Sara and I were doing the grocery shopping that week.  She loved to get the groceries because it gave her the opportunity to make sure that I got all the proper snacks and treats.  As I was getting a few things in the deli, Sara looked here and there seeing what new delicacies she could find.  When I was done I found her looking at a display in a refrigerated case.

As I got to her, she looked at me and said, “Buffalo wings, buffalo wings….what are buffalo wings?”

Now, I have pretty good self-control, but I am human.  That door was just too big and inviting to ignore.

“Well,” I said,  “do you know what a buffalo is?”

“Of course.” She replied.  “I have studied it in American History.  It is big, furry cow.”

“Exactly.” I said.  “But, I bet that you didn’t know that buffalo are the only hoofed animals that could ever fly.” I continued.

“Really?  How could cow fly?” Sara asked.

“Well, that has a lot to do with geography and survival of the fittest.” I said.  “Have you studied about Darwin?”

“Hmmmm, I have studied him a little.” She replied. “But, sometimes the teacher spoke too fast and I didn’t understand her English.”

That was my big green light and with a quick movement I cast my line into the water, “That’s OK, I’ll give you a short course right now.”

“Thousands of years ago North America was filled with giant herds of Buffalo, especially in the middle and western part of the continent.   Now, if you think about the geography of the west, you’ll remember that there are many mountains and plateaus.” I said.

Sara nodded, hanging on every word.

“Well, if you look closely at a buffalo, you’ll notice that their front legs are shorter then their back legs.  This makes it easy for them to climb up a hill but difficult for them to walk down one.  Over time, some buffaloes developed lighter bones and flaps of skin near the humps on their back.  Eventually these flaps of skin evolved into medium sized wings. The wings weren’t strong enough for them to fly, but they could use them to glide from the top of a plateau to the valley below. This allowed the gliding buffaloes to find food faster and also allowed them to avoid being killed by native Americans when they were hunting for food.  Because of ‘survival of the fittest’, buffalo with wings soon became the dominant species.” I explained.

“But,” Sara said, “These wings are very small.  How could a buffalo glide with these?”

“Ah!” I said.  “That’s where ‘man’ enters the picture.  When the Europeans settlers came, they over-hunted the buffalo and then domesticated the few that were left.  Wings weren’t much of an advantage for a domestic buffalo, so over many generations they became smaller and smaller.  Eventually the wings were too small to allow buffalo to glide.”

The key to telling a good tall story is to mix in just enough fact that the story has a ring of truth.  It was time to set the hook so I took a deep breath and yanked hard.

“Today, buffalo wings are very, very small.  They’re about the size of a turkey wing and are useless to the buffalo.  Actually, they get it the way when buffalo run.  So, when buffalo are born the ranchers clip the wings off.  It doesn’t hurt much if they do it when the buffalo are little.  The wings that you see here actually came from baby buffaloes.”

Sara glanced down at the trays of buffalo wings and said. “There are lots of wings, there must be many baby buffaloes.”

“Well,” I said, “It just looks like a lot.  Most buffalo have their calves in January, so that’s when there are many buffalo wings.”

Now I slipped the net into the water so that I could land the fish.

“At first, ranchers just threw the wings away.  Then someone discovered that, if you covered them with different sauces and cooked them, buffalo wings were very tasty.  Since buffalo birthing season and the football Super Bowl come at about the same time, it’s become a tradition that we eat buffalo wings for a snack during the Super Bowl.”   I got her, hook line and sinker.

“Ah!”  Sara exclaimed.  “ May we get some for snack?”

“Sure!” I replied.  “Pick out a couple of trays with different sauces.”

She did and we took them home with the rest of the groceries.  It was still a week until the Super Bowl, so that evening I suggested that we warm up the wings and give them a try.  Sara liked that idea.  The trays she had picked each had two different flavors of wings.  One had a traditional hot sauce and a Teriyaki flavor.  The other had wings covered in a pineapple-Hawaiian sauce and more flavored in Cajun style.  After she had sampled them all, I asked her which she liked best.

“I like the Cajun style the best.  It is spicy but not too hot.” She said.

“So, you don’t like the other flavors?” I asked.

“Oh, they are good too.” She replied. “The teriyaki wings taste a little like chicken.”

Did you know that you can pull a groin muscle stifling a laugh?  Neither did I.

As it turns out, Sara got invited to a Super Bowl party that weekend.  She loved parties and she loved making new friends.  So, it was only natural that when the wings came out at the party she took the opportunity to show her new acquaintances how much she had learned about American culture.  She told them the story about buffalo wings.

I was sitting in my recliner watching the news when she got home that night.  The slam of the door was followed quickly by the sound of her running down the steps to the family room.  She stopped just short of the chair and stood staring at me with malice for what seemed an eternity.  Finally, with a red face and breathing heavily she said, “You are evil, evil man.”  With that she turned and stomped off to her room.

She forgave me in a few days.  It wasn’t in her personality to stay angry.  But, from that time forward, whenever I launched into a story that was more than a few sentences long she’d say, “Pinocchio, your nose is long.”

Of course, the Anchor Bar on Main Street in Buffalo, New York is the real origin of buffalo wings.  There have been many imitators over the years.  Some of them are good; some are better.   But the best wings are still the originals.  If you’re ever in Buffalo, stop by the Anchor Bar and have some.  It doesn’t have to be around January.  Apparently the buffaloes in New York mate all year long.

If you do stop in, tell them Tigerdad sent you and make sure to try the Spicy Barbecue wings before you leave.


See Ya


It’s Time to Fix the Roof

Posted January 18, 2009 by tigerdad
Categories: Basic Truisms, Let's just fix it

Tags: , , , ,

While they didn’t originate it, both Franklin D. Roosevelt and John F. Kennedy popularized versions of the quote “The time to repair a leaky roof is when the sun is shining”.  Unfortunately, most people don’t follow that advice.  I know that I’m often guilty of putting something off until life and circumstances force me to act.

Given that quote, it’s ironic that both Roosevelt and Kennedy are often referenced when people speak of Barack Obama and list the challenges that he and our country are facing now and will face for some time to come.  Obama’s charisma and personality are often compared to John Kennedy’s and the economic depression that Roosevelt faced for much of his tenure are seldom far from thought when describing our current economic problems.  The United States has a lot of leaky roofs that have been ignored over the years.  Maybe fixing those roofs will be part of the solution to this economic crisis.

As a moderate republican, the financial bailouts that both the financial sector and the automotive industry have received rankle me to my core.  But I’m realistic enough to concede that governmental intervention was and is necessary to control the problems created by un-tempered greed, imprudent lending practices, poor individual financial planning and abysmal corporate management.  I wish that the current administration had kept a closer eye on how the first $350 billion dollars have been used.  I’m hopeful that the new administration learns from those mistakes and makes the needed adjustments.

Free market economics has always been the basis of republican economic policy and to a large degree I agree with the concept.  Markets do have the ability to self-correct, but only while they are generally running on the road and can see the warning lines. This market got of the road because greed and stupidity created a negative feedback loop that over rode normal movement. Once a market is off the berm and into the brush it often takes heroic outside intervention to get it back on the road.  That’s a basic tenet of Keynesian economic theory.  John Keynes, general wacko that he was, has never been a poster child for proponents of republican doctrine, but his theories have proven themselves time and time again when an economy has gotten off track.  We ignore them at our own peril.

It’s clear that Obama wants and will have a program to provide such intervention soon into his tenure.  His first shot across the bow is an $800 billion stimulus package.  That’s a number too big for me to fully grasp and I suspect that I’m not alone in that regard.  The only way that I’ve been able to make sense of it is to look at where he plans to spend the money and compare that with the need.

We haven’t seen the specifics yet, but by all reports the plan is a combination of tax cuts and spending on infrastructure, schools, scientific research and alternative energy projects.   I’m not enough of an economist to know whether that’s a good mix or whether the dollar amount is right, but I do agree on where the money will be spent.

For decades we have been giving roads, bridges, schools and scientific research short shrift and it’s long past the time for a major investment in alternative energy.  It’s long past the time when these roofs need repaired and replaced.  Unfortunately, instead of doing that a little at a time while the sun is shining, we’re going to be crawling up on the roof in the middle of a torrential rainstorm to fix it all at once.

But, that’s OK.  As another old adage goes, “You have to spend money to make money.”  If congress can avoid the trap of pork spending and reserve these funds for truly worthwhile projects then maybe we can come out of this with a trifecta.  Maybe we can get the economy back on the road, fix a dilapidated transportation network and truly prepare the United States for the technological journey into the Twenty-first century.

That’s a big “if” and a bigger “maybe”.  For it to work, Obama’s plan for the $800 billion stimulus package has to be well developed and well executed.  That’s a tall order for a government that has seldom shown that fiscal responsibility is one of its gifts.  I guess that we can only hope that new leadership and fresh blood will make the difference.  Time, hopefully a short time, will tell.

So, grab your hammer, nails and a square of shingles.  We’re all heading up on the roof to do some work.  Oh, don’t forget the raincoat, it’s wet up there.

See Ya


I’ve Been Staring at Four Walls for Too Long

Posted December 24, 2008 by tigerdad
Categories: Absurdities of Life

Tags: , , , ,

Posts like this are what happens when someone is bored and cooped up in a house for two weeks in the winter.  If you don’t leave now, I am not responsible for any damage done by further reading.  You’ve been warned!

Don’t Mess With Cats

From the day we were married, my wife and I have always had pets.  Our current stable includes two cocker spaniels, two mongrel cats and a four foot blacksnake named Herbie who has taken up residence under our house.  Over the years I’ve come to understand that cats and dogs both have a well-defined sense of right and wrong.  The difference comes in how they arrive at their definition of “right”.

Dogs have a very simple method.  They wait until their human does the same thing twice.  From that point forward, whatever the human did is the way it must be.  For example, I fell into the habit of giving each of our dogs a biscuit as I left for work in the morning.  As long as I follow that habit, when I come home from work everything is fine.  Woe to me on the day that I’m late for work and forget to give them their biscuit.  I can forget reading the newspaper when I get home unless I have a roll of scotch tape and a couple of free hours to piece the paper back together.  Dogs balance transgression and retribution.

Cats have a different and more direct method of deciding what is right.  They simply tell the human.  If a cat, using whatever method it wants, deems “right” to be a cool bowl of milk in the evening, then that’s what “right” is.  They don’t wait for the human to give them the milk; they grab him by the scruff of the neck, drag him to the fridge and meow until he complies.  If they meet resistance, cats don’t express their displeasure in a benign method like shredding a newspaper.  An angry cat will do something like jump up on your bed and piss on your pillow.  Cats think that retributions require exclamation points.  I guess it’s the feline equivalent to leaving a severed horse head on your front porch.

I have two theories about cats.  First, they all have a cousin named Vinny who lives in Chicago.  Second, the CEO’s of all financial institutions are cat people.

Ice Cream and the Roman Empire

There are three perfect foods.  Those would be pizza, Twinkies and ice cream.  I enjoy all three, but I’m addicted to ice cream and I make no apologies for that.   Creating a good dish of ice cream is a talent and it involves not only the ingredients (ice cream, fudge topping, whipped topping, nuts and cherries) but also the perfect placement of those items.  A good dish of ice cream is a work of art.

When I was young, ice cream came in half-gallon containers.  According to common measure, a half-gallon equates to two quarts.  Unfortunately, the ice cream industry has been playing games with us for several years on this.  A while back and without any notice, they dropped the size of an ice cream container from 2 quarts to 1.75 quarts.  They accomplished this by making the containers the same height and width but just a little bit shallower.  The price didn’t change, so no one really noticed.

Last week I had an urge, so I stopped at the grocery store on the way home to get some ice cream.  Most of the containers were marked $3.25 each, but the Breyer’s ice cream was marked two for $6.00. This was a deal!  Not only were the containers less money, but Breyer’s has the really good stuff like Cherry Cheesecake flavor and Triple Chocolate Chip Moose Tracks.  I bought four.

That night, while I was creating my masterpiece, something felt wrong.  I KNOW how many dishes of ice cream that I should get out of a container.  There should be precisely four.  When I finished with the first dish, I could see that dish four would be seriously light.  Imagine my surprise when I read the label and found that it was only 1.5 quarts.  Again, the container height and width were the same but the depth was less.  If you didn’t read the container it would be unlikely that you’d notice the difference at the store. Insidious!

I’ve done some checking, and there’s a growing body of evidence that suggests the true reason for the fall of Rome was that the government started to fool around with the size of wine flasks and containers of pomegranates.  Both of these treats were staples for a relaxing Roman evening.  When climate change reduced the grape and pomegranate harvests, the government tried to cover up the problem by selling smaller quantities at the same price.  The populace caught on, rioted and the rest is history.

Those who ignore the past are doomed to repeat it.  Heed our warning Breyer’s.  These may be trying economic times, but there are limits to what we will take.  Give us back our 1.75 quarts. We’re watching!

Whatever It Takes

I’m always impressed by the ability of small companies in America to roll with economic punches.  Just a short while ago I saw yet another example of this amazing resiliency.

I live in an area of the country that is closely tied to the racing industry.  Because of that, the countryside is dotted with small businesses that cater to one component or another of servicing NASCAR.  Last Monday I was running an errand in small nearby town and I was traveling on roads that I seldom use.  As I rounded a bend, I passed a small building that had a weathered sign in front that read “High Performance Engine Parts” surrounded by logos from a variety of companies that make such things.  That’s a common sign for a common business and if that’s all there was I would have continued on my way.  But, there was more.  Just below the large sign was a newer, smaller one that made me stop the car to read it twice.  That sign said “Fantasy Lingerie” and was surrounded by……other graphics.

Now, this is an example of American ingenuity at it’s best.  Obviously this guy had a long time existing business that had fallen on hard times.  As often happens with American dreams, it was probably a hobby that slowly grew into a moneymaking enterprise.   Now, with racing running on a rocky track, the moneymaking aspect was becoming difficult.

So did this seasoned entrepreneur give up?  Not in America!  He picked a different hobby, converted it to a business and combined the two.  Only here in the land of opportunity could a guy combine short block Chevy engines and lace panties to make a profit.  How do I know it was working you ask?  Well, there were six vehicles in his parking lot.  Two of them were large pickup trucks loaded with engine parts.  The other four consisted of two BMW Z3s, a Mazda Miata and a powder blue Ranger 4×4 pickup that had a bumper sticker that read “GIRLS like to play in the mud too!”

He may get more money for the engine parts, but I’m bettin’ that the lingerie side makes up for it in volume.

See Ya


Is it Better to Kill a Tree or Save a Toe?

Posted November 29, 2008 by tigerdad
Categories: Just Life

Tags: ,

OK, I know that I said that I was short on time for a while and that I wouldn’t be posting.  But, my son threw down the gauntlet with the latest post on his blog, “Methodical Mayhem”.  He was writing about getting a Christmas tree and he began by saying that he didn’t know why we had always had artificial trees when he was growing up.  Well, the truth is that we didn’t always have artificial trees.  For his first three Christmas’s we had real trees and the story of why we moved to a plastic tree is one draped in pathos and pain.

It was Christmas 1976.  To be more precise, it was a Saturday morning three weeks after Christmas and long after the tree had come down and all the Christmas paraphernalia had been packed away for another year.  At that time, we still had a live Christmas tree each year.  Well, I suppose “live” is a relative term.  It was live sometime during the autumn months but well on the way to dying a noble death by the time we bought it to celebrate Christmas.  It was dead and buried by three weeks after Christmas.

Our son Brian was three years old in 1976 and Saturday mornings were a special time for both him and me.  We’d get up at seven AM, make breakfast of Fruit Loops with sliced bananas and then sit in front of the TV for the next 5 hours and watch cartoons.  Bonding at it’s best.

This particular Saturday, everything started out according to plan.  I awoke at 6:50 with Brian sitting on my stomach, cereal bowl in hand.  I rubbed enough sleep out of my eyes to navigate and we shuffled off to the kitchen, barefoot as usual, to make our breakfast.  Having done this many times, I had it down to a science and at 6:59 we were heading for the Bugs Bunny and Road Runner hour.  We made it through the kitchen, dining room and about half way through the living room without incident.  Did I mention that the living room had a green long shag carpet?

Just short of the coffee table where we would vegetate for the morning, things went bad, really, really bad.  A pine needle, from the Christmas tree now long gone, jumped up from the carpet in a kamikaze attack on my big toe.  As I remember it, it was twelve inches long, and pointed like a medieval lance.  It entered just under the toenail and shot through my toe like the dagger it was.  This was a logical point of entry as it kept the needle going straight until it exited at my heel.

Surprise pain being what it is, I reacted by jerking my foot off the floor.  On the way up, my foot struck the coffee table, breaking the dried out needle off flush with the front of my toe.  This extra little jolt of pain caused me to throw my left arm and hand up in a futile attempt to maintain my balance.  The cereal bowl was in my left hand.  Did I mention that the ceiling fan in the living room was on?

The blades of the fan struck my hand, breaking one finger and bruising three others.  The cereal bowl, filled with Fruit Loops, bananas, milk and prodigious amounts of sugar, was caught and flung across the room.  A ceiling fan moving at 300 RPM has an impressive ability to disperse medium quantities of liquids and small solids.

Things get a bit murky after that.  I remember Brian yelling, “Mommy, Mommy, Daddy falled down an’ he’s saying bad, bad words.” I remember screaming in agony for the ten minute drive to the hospital.  I remember the emergency room doctor looking in awe at my foot and then laughing uncontrollably after he found out how it happened.  Finally, I remember promising Linda, through a drug-induced haze, that we would never, never have another live Christmas tree.

It took almost a month for me to fully recover from that experience.  Even today my big toe throbs when the weather gets cool and Christmas approaches.   I’ve only broken my vow one time in the intervening years and that was under incredible duress.  My goal is to make it for the rest of my days without ever again causing the premature death of a pine tree.  It’s not that I have any deep-seated conviction about killing trees; It’s just that I don’t think that it’s prudent to tempt fate.

Unfortunately, I have the world’s cutest granddaughter.  My fear is that someday she’ll crawl on to my lap and look at me with a pouty face and adorable big brown eyes while asking “Grandpa, can’t you get a real live Christmas tree, just for me”?  That won’t be a good day for me.  I know my limitations.  Oh well, I suppose I could get a pair of steel-toed house slippers.

And that Virginia is why, while there may be a Santa Claus, he’s not going smell fresh sap dripping from the branches of the Christmas tree in our house any time soon.

See Ya,


See Ya Around

Posted November 15, 2008 by tigerdad
Categories: Just Life

I want to take a minute to thank all my loyal readers (27 at last count), who regularly stop by to read my ramblings.  When I started this blog, it just seemed like I had a lot of things to say about life and what goes on in the world around us.  It was fun doing that and I’m glad I took the time.

But, as often happens, life has intervened and I’m not going to have time to write as I have for the past year.  Rather than make this a hap-hazard place to visit, I think that it’s better for me to take a hiatus.  Lord willing, I’ll be back someday.  I still have a lot of things that I want to say.  If I’m lucky, maybe there will still be a few people who are interested in listening.

Take care and be safe!

See Ya,


Darning Needles and Shopping Carts

Posted October 11, 2008 by tigerdad
Categories: Choices, Just Life, Soothsaying

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My mom was a single parent for most of my life.  Because Mom worked full time, my grandmother had an important place in my upbringing.  I spent a lot of time at Gram’s house and her way of looking at life became an integral part of mine.

She did things much differently than Mom did.  If I had a hole in one of my socks, mom would throw them out and get me another pair.  If Gram saw a hole she got out her darning needle and fixed them.  Mom thought nothing of going out to a restaurant for a meal.  The only times that I ever saw Gram eat out was when I begged her to let me take her out for lunch.  Mom would hop in the car and run to the supermarket for a loaf of bread.  Gram would walk ten blocks pulling a wire cart behind to get a week’s worth of groceries.  It’s not that Mom was careless with her money, she wasn’t.  The point is that Gram took every opportunity she could to save a penny.  It was years later when I realized that the reason for her frugality was that she raised a family during the Great Depression. Surviving times like that will change a person for the rest of their life. It most certainly changed my grandmother.

I’ve been saying for months that this election was about the economy and that nothing else was going to get fixed until the economy was on the mend.  In those months the economy has gotten progressively worse with each passing week, to the point that we’re now at the convergence point of a perfect storm.  How we got here and how we get out is a topic for another discussion.  This discussion is about who will lead us through the wind and rain.

My son, whose opinion I greatly respect, recently lamented that the whole country seems to blame George W. Bush for every bad thing that’s happened in the last eight years.  His contentions are that the President doesn’t pass laws, his job is to implement them, and that the Democratic congress bears most of the fault.  That’s true to a point, Congress does have the responsibility to pass laws, enact taxes, set the budget and declare war.  But it’s also true that the President has the right to suggest a direction for the Congress to follow.  Moreover, his veto authority under the concept of checks and balances gives him immense influence on what laws are passed what taxes are raised and whether the budget is implemented.  Finally, he appoints the judges who interpret the laws and he defines our foreign affairs policies.  The President is never the entire problem, but he has to be the champion of any solution.

The economic turmoil that we’re all experiencing has all the earmarks of being a life-defining event for many of us.  I’m close enough to retirement that I’m sure it will be for me.  The value of my home, the value of my retirement savings and when I can retire are all being affected.  They’ll never be what they could have been. To me, more than ever, this election is all about whom can best shepherd us until the sky clears.

Negative ads notwithstanding, Barack Obama and John McCain are both capable of being President.  Eighteen months of campaigning have vetted them both for the job.   The character issues with which we are being bombarded from both camps are merely distractions and are of no value.  Also not considerations are their hopes and plans for non-economic issues.  The truth is, it will be years before we have the discretionary income to implement any significant non-essential systemic improvements.  So, if the economy is the game, let’s look at the players.

A leader has to realize that his ability comes not solely from his strength, but also from the strength of the team that surrounds him.  Senator McCain is by his own definition a maverick.  Under a different set of circumstances, that would be appealing to most voters, including me.  But, after the last few weeks, I want someone in office who recognizes that he doesn’t have all of the answers. I want someone who surrounds himself with the best and brightest, listens to what they have to say and then makes a valued decision on a course of action.  Eight years ago, the maverick label was a strength.  Here and now, not so much.  I don’t want a maverick; I want a team builder and an organizer.  The Republicans have tried to make a joke of Senator Obama’s work as a community organizer.  I disagree.  He helped people get through some hard times doing that and honed a valuable skill set in the process, a skill set that you and I are going to need.  Score – Obama one, McCain zero

A leader has to be an effective negotiator and able to take control without unnecessary alienation. Senator McCain has shown himself to be a capable leader for many years, but he’s prone to anger and ineffectual sarcasm on a regular basis. He often succeeds by intimidation.  Senator Obama has less leadership experience but his actions are carefully measured and he has tight control of his emotions.  I think Obama is more likely to walk out of a meeting with a majority of the participants in consensus.  In another time and under different circumstances I might have gone with McCain on this one.  But now, being able to broker a deal and convince everyone to pull the same direction is a big plus.  Especially when you realize that there are going to be a plethora of differing ideas about what needs to be done in the next few years.   Score – Obama two, McCain zero.

A leader has to be able to calmly and rationally evaluate each situation or problem.  McCain couldn’t have made it to the position that he’s in without being able to do that, but he’s also shown an unnerving impulsive streak.  I can think of three recent examples to support that.  Last spring he called for a summer moratorium on the gas tax.  He did that in a knee jerk effort to appeal to voters.  It only took ninety seconds of basic math to show that moratorium would provide no real relief to anyone and would greatly restrict our road-building funds.  A few weeks ago he made a grandstand play of suspending his campaign and returning to Washington to be part of the bailout negotiations.  He had no real role there and, by all independent observations, made no significant contribution.  He went because he thought it would make him “look” decisive.  Finally, just last week he offered up a plan to buy up individual mortgages from distressed homeowners and renegotiate the terms and principles of the loans. Comforting idea, but he put no thought into the magnitude of that task, the mechanics of implementing it or the long-term effects to the rest of the country.  He presented that snap idea because it sounded good at the time and he hoped it would turn the polls in his direction.  Barack Obama resisted each of those ideas or actions on their lack of merit and has floated no similar “shoot from the hip” ideas of his own.  He has shown himself and his plans to be thoughtful and delibrate.  Score – Obama three, McCain zero.

The leader we need is going to have to be at the top of his game.  There are going to be tough decisions to make and often little time in which to make them.  He’s going to have to make evaluations with minimal information and in situations that are not as controlled as he would like.  He’s going to have to think through the problem and examine multiple potential outcomes. It’s going to be a game of chess.  We have a choice between an aging politician who graduated near the bottom of his class at Annapolis and a middle age politician who graduated cum laude from Harvard.  With every passing year, I get a little slower and my thoughts get a little fuzzier.  Since it became age appropriate for me, my mantra has always been, “age and experience beats youth and talent every time.”   But, in this case, the scales are tipped too far.   I want someone in office who has an abundance of synapses that are all firing at their peak.  Score – Obama four, McCain zero.

With the vice-presidential candidates that are on the tickets, health and age are big issues for me.  The presidency ages people quickly.  If you doubt that, look at before and after pictures of the last five presidents.  Each one aged two or three years for every year that they were in office.  I have a real fear that McCain won’t make it through his term and the thought that Sarah Palin would take over scares the crap out of me.  As I said in my last post, under different circumstances she could be a good leader.  But the reality is that she hasn’t taken the initiative to educate herself about national and international issues over the years.  She took the lazy way out and concentrated on the subjects that she needed to understand to operate in remote Alaska.  She’s trying to play catch up now.  She may be a quick study, but that’s not enough for this job.  McCain and Biden gained their experience from years in national office.  Obama took the quick course with eighteen months of campaigning for president.  Sarah Palin needs remedial training.   Score – Obama five, McCain zero

This last point is something that most people will consider superficial but, with what we’re facing, I think that it’s important.  The next president is going to ask us to accept and do some very difficult things.  He’s going to ask us to make some serious sacrifices.  In a very real sense, he’s going to be like the inner voice that convinces the fox to chew off its foot to get out of the hunter’s trap.  When John McCain is speaking he has a lilting, pleading tone that reminds me of my grandfather telling me a story about how it was in the old days.  When Barack Obama speaks it’s with the calm, self-assured tone of a doctor who understands the issue, has a solution and knows how it affects the person he is talking to.  Neither of those tones has an impact on who can best solve the problem.  But, any solution is going to require that the country work as a team.  In the quiet of the evening, when I’m listening to a presidential address, I’m more likely to nod my head in agreement and follow the person who inspires confidence than the one who pleads. I think most people have the same inclination.  Franklin Roosevelt knew this.  John Kennedy knew this.  Ronald Reagan knew this.  So does Barack Obama.   Final score – Obama six, McCain zero.

I learned long ago that any election is about which candidate can convince enough voters that he is good for them personally.  Some voters will look at entire platforms and decide which one is best for them as a whole.  Some voters will focus on a single issue that they feel strongly about.  Some voters focus solely on the candidate and make their decision on a more personal level.  I think that we live and function in an interconnected system so I’m usually a platform person.  But circumstances make this election different.  This President will be focused on one major issue for four years.  For me this is a one-issue election. The mechanics of the economic recovery plan are for the experts to develop.  The President can only direct that process.  His real role as a leader, as always, is implementation.  John McCain is a good man. Eight years ago, in a different time, he was my candidate.  Today, here and now with the choices we have, Barack Obama is the better leader and gets my vote.  Lord, give him strength, courage and wisdom. He, and we, will need it.

Eighteen months of observation and soul searching have brought me to this. I’m leaving my moderate Republican ideals behind and laying my trust and prosperity in the hands of a liberal Democrat.  Just as important, for the first time in my life I’m voting for someone who is younger than I am.  That’s a defining moment for anyone.  Hold on to your hats everybody, we’re in for a bumpy ride. Linda, do we even have a darning needle?

See Ya,


P.S.  It’s not Florida, Florida, Florida this time and despite the pundits and polls it’s not Ohio, Virginia, Nevada or New Hampshire either.  If it’s close on election night, people are going to be saying Indiana, Indiana, Indiana.  Watch!