Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Post Game Show

It was a surprising relief that the Bengals held on to defeat the Broncos last night.  The result of the game puts my team, the Patriots, at home as long as they last in the playoffs.  Last year the Patriots had to travel to Denver to play the Broncos and lost.  Manning was brilliant then on a beautiful Denver day with the wild fans supporting him throughout. If the Broncos get to the championship game this year, he will have to play in Boston.  It might be chilly.

Some thoughts on the game last night and the upcoming playoffs.

The Bengals got every break one can get last night.  A facemask resulted in a personal foul negating a long reception which could have reversed the game momentum.  There was at least one offensive holding call which brought back a long Denver gain.  In the fourth quarter when it was Manning time to pass all over the place and carve up the Bungles, it started to pour like a monsoon.  Listen to your friendly blogger: this victory for the Bengals will be the highlight of their season.  I think they will lose to the Steelers next week and go quietly in the playoffs.

Manning looks like he is not himself. I don't get the sense he has too many long throws per game in him.  The Broncos look very beatable and I am not so sure they make it to Boston for the championship game. They will get by the Raiders next week, and consequently they will have a week off, and most of the other teams in the running are pretenders, so they will probably make it to the finals, but no fast track. The Broncos are a diluted version of who they were last year and at the beginning of the season.

The NFC looks very tough and Seattle scary good.  The Packers and Seahawks will play for the right to play the Patriots in the super bowl.

And on another sport note, the Rajon Rondo trade to Dallas gives them subtraction by addition. The whole is not always greater than the sum of its parts.  Sometimes an excellent participant can undermine an entity.  In the communication business when we examine teams in organizations or groups we refer to this phenomenon as "nonsummativity".  In other words, because of multiple factors the whole is unequal to the sum (hence non summative) and is as likely to be negatively nonsummative as positively nonsummative.  Rajon Rondo will not help the Dallas Mavericks win.  They beat San Antonio by a few points in his first game because San Antonio sat out all their studs who were either injured or exhausted because of back to back multiple overtime games.   Last night the Mavericks and Rondo lost to Atlanta.  Of course, I thought McGovern would beat Nixon, but I do not think the Mavs will be better with Rondo.

Last night of Hanukkah. Not too late to illuminate the darkness for those you love.


Monday, December 22, 2014

Two MInute Warning

I am watching the Denver--Cincinnati game. The Broncos are losing by nine.

If there is a team in the NFL that can blow a 9 point lead in two minutes it is the Cincinnati Bengals. They are not nicknamed the Bungles for nothing.

And if there is a quarterback who can make up 9 points in two minutes it is Manning.

Stay tuned.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Lit

I read Mary Karr's memoir, The Liar's Club, about a month after 9/11.  I remember this because I bought it in an airport to keep me occupied on my first flight after the horror.

It did keep me occupied.  Very good book.  I keep a list of books that I think are worth recommending and The Liar's Club is on it.    I can't remember much of the content other than her childhood was difficult; her parents more than just a little quirky and her parents' relationship more than just a little atypical.  When I found out that the author was a poet I was not surprised. More than the content I remember that she could create an image the way I think a poet does.

Karr wrote a second memoir called Cherry which I did not read, but when I was at a library book sale a few weeks back I spotted, Lit, the third memoir--about Karr's post high school years--and picked it up.

This one was not so extra.  Karr still writes well and sometimes you just shake your head at how she can make a scene so clear with language and metaphor.  But Lit did not seem to me to be consistently well written.  I got the sense at times that after the bonanza of The Liar's Club she realized that writing memoirs could support her poetry.  However, more than the style or writing, I found the content off-putting.

Lit begins with her journey to college; stops and starts there, goes onto her marriage, motherhood, bouts with alcoholism, and throughout, her journey toward God. The journey toward God part was foreshadowed nearly from the beginning.

Initially Karr depicts herself as more than just an atheist; but someone who considers the idea of a God absolutely ridiculous.  When attempting to recover from alcoholism she is told to believe in a higher power. She reacts then as if the counselors are suggesting that she believe in pelicans or cheese cake.  Yet the reader can sense that where we are heading is a realization that God is a superpower and it was praying that "saved a wretch like her."

I was not convinced she had been saved after finishing the book. I think the scars from having a wild mother and witnessing a crazy--if loving--parenthood are still in evidence.

Besides I am not taken by those who explain their irresponsible behavior--however self deprecatingly--as a function of some victimization.  Mary Karr's childhood was tougher than mine, but she has some real gifts.  One is that she writes well. I understand that this skill is something you need to hone and the industry involved is considerable. But she had the tools to start with. Second, she is a looker and that is a break she got that could not have hurt her along the way. Some of her college mentors and Cambridge friends were wonderfully supportive and loyal.  Perhaps she earned that, but not everybody has a Walt in their lives. Her first husband, while described as a bit of a cold fish, put up with some outrageous alcoholic behaviors and sort of seemed to me to be in love with Karr withal.  So, I found the book a bit too kvetchy.  She still can string together words --she can use slang and the king's English seamlessly in the same sentence.  Her ability to use yiddish expressions, for someone who I have to think did not hear a whole lot of yiddish growing up, is a reflection of something--my guess is that she both reads everything and can absorb all.  Another asset that gave her a leg up.

I could not sympathize with Mary Karr in Lit.  We have all had some bad breaks. Every single one of us can point to a deep bruise from parenting that we wish were different even if we were blessed with good souls as parents.  However deep the bruise, it does not justify irresponsibility.  And the just-you wait-you-will-see-that-praying-to-a-higher-being-will-be-your-salvation I could do without.  I pray in my own way and believe in my own way.  It won't, in and of itself, result in publishers/benefactors sending me money (as she intimates occurred when she was nearing rock bottom).

 I wouldn't be surprised if her next memoir is about how she realized that God was NOT the answer, but that romantic love is.

In sum, if you have not read The Liar's Club I suggest you go out and get it. Really excellent. But I cannot recommend this sequel with enthusiasm.

Friday, December 19, 2014

Illuminating

For those in my tribe, tonight is the fourth night of Hanukkah.

I read a note today from a friend who sent me a card about her recently passed dad, and how he had orchestrated several beautiful hanukkahs.  Knowing her father even to a limited extent, I am sure he did and did so with love for his family.

My parents would also gather my brother and me around a menorah and sing the prayers each night.  I am far less likely to so conform. This year I am two for three, having lit the candles on the first and second night, but forgot last night. I think my box of hanukkah candles filled with one year's worth of wax has lasted three years now.

Last year Hanukkah, coincidentally, fell out on Thanksgiving weekend.  And I had travelled to Florida to be with my dad for Thanksgiving. So we got to light a candle or two together.  He was at that point not really able to enjoy my presence because of the absence of his lifelong companion, my mother.  Very little he had shared with her, when he had to do it without her, seemed to illuminate the darkness.

My friend wrote today that her dad was an amazing guy--and I had only met him a couple of times but from my perspective he was.  Like my father, he was a guy who tried as hard as he could to illuminate the darkness for his family--at hanukkah and at other times. In my dad's case, it was ironic and sad that Dad could not find a way to illuminate his own darkness and I was unable to help out.

All our days are illuminated, but sometimes we are too busy to see the light, or are consumed with sadnesses and healing bruises to see anything but darkness.  What we can do during hanukkah is think of it metaphorically.  It is a time to try to illuminate the darkness for our families and extended families and sweethearts and friends, and just about everyone.  The story of Hanukkah is about a rebellion against a ruling group that attempted to impose its mores on the Jews and extinguish what Jews considered to be their essence, their emmess/their truth. The holiday celebrates the emancipation from the suppression of light.  In that way, it is illuminating and should encourage us to attempt to brighten the days for everyone.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Sweet Home Alabama

I am in Auburn Alabama on this football Sunday.  I have some business tomorrow at Auburn University.  It is my first time here.

I've been in town for only half a day but thus far the town is very impressive.  I am staying on a street called, appropriately, College Street.  Across the way from my hotel is a beautiful looking library.  Down a little bit beyond that is what I imagine was the very first building on campus. It is majestic and it is in front of this building where the sign for the university is displayed.  I took a stroll to a CVS and saw in the distance the football stadium which looks as professional as NFL facilities.

What readers of this blog might be most interested in is my experience in an establishment called Halftime.  It may seem like frivolous to some, but as anyone who read the Madness of March knows, I have written about sports fans and am one myself.  I arrived early enough today to watch the games and scouted out a place that had "the ticket" before I left Boston.  The ticket is the NFL television package that allows establishments to broadcast all the NFL games on football Sundays.  Halftime has the ticket. So there I went.  Above the bar, five televisions were broadcasting five different contests.

What was interesting to me was that here in Auburn Alabama I sat next to a man wearing a Tom Brady jersey who knew more about the Patriots than I do.  To his left were a couple swearing their allegiance to the Green Bay Packers. To my right was a man whose knowledge about all teams seemed encyclopedic and he was parked at noon central awaiting the 3 pm Detroit Lions game. And to his right was a fellow bursting alternatively joyously and with frustration as the fortunes of the Carolina Panthers ebbed and flowed.  Behind me was a very sad fellow who was from Erie Pennsylvania and watched unhappily as so called Johnny Football (aka Johnny Manziel) played like a pop warner substitute in the Browns-Bengals game.

Within twenty feet there were reps from many places east of the Mississippi.  What's more the conversation throughout the game could have taken place in hundreds of taverns that had the Ticket across America.  There was no difference about anything in Halftime than there is in places I have been to in Boston or Chicago or Buffalo or New York or New Jersey or Maine or anywhere.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Tiers

I had, at one point, become a decent competitive tennis player.  At my level I had won a number of consecutive tournaments, and had a string of victories against strong USTA players rated at my level.

I saw an advertisement for a tournament for those 45 years and older.  I was 48 or 49, in good shape, and had had the successes referred to above. So, I signed up and figured this would be a whole lot easier than beating the 20 somethings and 30 somethings who typically played in my league.

Very wrong. These tournaments were populated by former high school and college players.  Very strong players who, as time went on, kept their competitive energies active by traveling to these age-level tournaments.  I did not know this when I signed up.

As I warmed up with my first round opponent I saw that I was in for trouble. This guy looked good. My tennis game was about getting the ball back. I was a retriever who could find a way to stay in points and then when the opponent was tired from a long rally see him deposit the ball in the net, or get out of position so I could hit a winner. I figured that I would have to be at my retrieving best to have a chance against this guy.  And I was.  The first point itself took twenty or so shots.  And for each point I chased down the balls and retrieved as many as I could.  It was as good as I can play.

And he killed me. Destroyed. 6-0, 6-1.  He must have fallen asleep in the game I won.  The guy was just in another league.

In these tournaments, you have only an hour between matches if you are victorious. As the loser I had all weekend. So I went into the locker room and took a long shower.   Sat in the steam room. Dawdled. I came back outside to the courts to see how the guy who had pummeled me was doing in his second match. I figured this guy would win the tournament.  He just was great.

When I got to the courts, I saw his match was over.  He had been shellacked 6-0, 6-0. So the guy who destroyed me 6-0, 6-1, had been clobbered by someone else.  And I had had a winning streak going against very competitive players for quite a stretch.

So, the point is that in sports there are levels. And the amateur folks like me, have no real sense of how good the really good players are. When we yell at our tv screen at someone who we think is underperforming, the likelihood is that this underperforming object of our wrath--is great.  He or she is just playing against someone who is a level up.

Annually, I find myself following the Division 3 football championship tournament. Division 3 does it right. They have a tournament at the end of the year which involves the top 32 teams in the country.  And then each weekend beginning around Thanksgiving they play a one and done tournament.

This year I had an added interest because the Massachusetts Institute of Technology--the school that makes Harvard look like a third tier community college--had had an undefeated season.   There is a quip that it doesn't take a rocket scientist to play football. Well, (and this is not original, I read it in Sports Illustrated a while back) the MIT guys ARE rocket scientists--or at least rocket scientists in training.  Yet they were undefeated and were invited to participate in the Division 3 tournament.

The Engineers won their first game of the tournament with a thrilling overtime victory.  Then they went to play Wesley College in their second round.  Wesley won by over 50 points.

Fifty points!  The MIT Engineers had had an undefeated season and won a playoff game and in the second round lost by fifty points to Wesley.

Today Wesley is playing in the semi finals.  The last time I looked they were losing 42-0 in the first half.

This phenomenon of significantly different levels of skill is likely a reality in all fields: Teaching, Medicine, Lawyering.  You think you are a great lawyer.  Well, you may be. But someone else makes your ability to make sense of the law seem primitive.

Yet in sports it has seemed to me to be more glaring.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

eppur si muove

Eppur si muove

Sixty five laps around the track, a memory that is better than decent, and a tendency to read more than the average bear.  How is it that I had never come across eppur si muove.

I figure I have seen it, I must have--in one class or book or another--but it never stuck before.  And that is remarkable only because it stuck to my consciousness like the mother of all glue when I saw it, in all places, on an espn blog a few days ago.

Didn't know what it meant of course, so I looked it up.

It seems as if Galileo was forced by those open minded folks who brought us the Inquisition (descendants of those who brought us the Crusades), to take back his claim that the earth revolved around the sun.  They insisted that the opposite was true.

Eppur si muove.  And yet it moves, Galileo, allegedly said.

There are truths.  Whether we can explain them or not.  There are truths and when we try and suppress these truths the long term, if not the short term, damage is inevitable.

Go ahead and claim that the sun revolves around the earth.  Tell yourself that 2 and 2 is 5.  Try and suppress the truth.

Eppur si muove.





Monday, December 8, 2014

What About Never

What About Never, Is Never Good for You? My Life in Cartoons is, as one might expect, a funny book.  It is authored by Bob Mankoff who is a cartoonist for, and cartoon editor of, the New Yorker magazine.

The book is about half memoir and half examples of cartoons.  The cartoons are the better part, but the writing is witty as well.  He talks about his parents, start as a cartoonist, creation of the Cartoon Bank, and how to compete for the New Yorker cartoon contest.

I have a New Yorker cartoon-a day-calendar and every one in ten makes (or could make if there was enough room) the refrigerator.  One of my favorites is a picture of the grim reaper at a cocktail party speaking to an attractive woman.  The woman says to the reaper, "I must introduce you to my husband."  Another favorite is the cartoon from which the book derives its title.  A man is on the phone looking at his calendar and speaks into the receiver.  "Thursday is out." he says, "How about Never. does never work for you."  Apparently, the quip has been appropriated by various vendors.  The author illustrates this by including a reprint of an advertisement for a thong, with the "how about never, is never good for you" part written on it.

The author is appropriately self-effacing and I like that. And he really is funny as he describes the various stages of his professional, and sometimes, personal, life.   I recommend the book, but not if what you want is a conventional memoir. This is as much a collection of cartoons as anything else. The book will probably be fun even if all you do is read through the cartoons.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Who's In.

It will be


  • Florida State:  Despite just eking out victories all year long, they showed something tonight beating Georgia Tech.  It was only a two point win, but they had an ability to answer almost everything.  And they are the only team in the FBS that is undefeated.
  • Oregon:  They had a second opportunity last night to beat the one team that beat them this year, Arizona. And they did. They did not play as well as the forty point spread would indicate--and often looked sloppy.  But you can't leave out the champion of the PAC 12 when they beat the only team that defeated them this year.  I do think they are the weakest of the four.
  • Alabama.  I am not an Alabama fan. But they win. Their one loss was to Mississippi at Oxford where they lost by only 6. True, their game against LSU was not impressive and it required overtime, but I don't see how you can leave out Alabama--though I sure would like to.
  • Ohio State.  I wrote earlier on Saturday that Ohio State would find a way to beat Wisconsin today.   I did not think they would beat them by over 50 points.  Urban Meyer is probably the best coach in college football.   Ohio State should leap frog over TCU and Baylor and get into the playoffs.  OSU obliterated a good Wisconsin team tonight using a third string quarterback.  Don't be surprised if Ohio State wins the tournament.
TCU and Baylor will not be happy this afternoon, but FSU, Oregon, Alabama, and Ohio State are the best four.  I would be surprised if the committee announces any variation on Sunday at 1230 eastern.

Howard Schnellenberger coached the Miami Hurricanes to the most exciting victory in college football history--a 31-30 upset of the University of Nebraska on New Year's Day 1984.  The Hurricanes, ranked fourth going into the game, were declared the national champion afterwards.  At a college all star game a few weeks later, Schnellenberger was asked if he thought a playoff system would be a more fair way to determine a champion.  He said, it would, but it would not happen in our lifetimes.  I, and all college football fans--even those from TCU and Baylor--are happy that Coach Schnellenberger, now 80, was wrong.


Saturday, December 6, 2014

Oregon at number 2.

Can a team be unimpressive winning 51-13?

I saw most of the first half and third quarter of the Oregon (ranked 2), Arizona (ranked 7) football game as I fought against sleep last night.

Oregon looked disorganized, committed several sloppy penalties, and the coaching staff made at least one mind boggling decision on a fourth and inches from the goal line.  In that sequence, the Ducks committed one penalty to push the ball to the six. Then another penalty to push the ball to the 11. And then the kicker missed a short field goal.  This, by you, is a team ranked two in the country?

While the Duck quarterback, Marcus Mariota, made some good throws--he is supposedly the leading candidate for the Heisman trophy--he also made some very bad decisions and only got away with them because Arizona dropped potential interceptions.  Maybe last night was an aberration, but Mariota did not impress much.

Yet, Oregon clobbered their opponent 51-13--a team ranked 7th in the country.  And the last Arizona touchdown came on a meaningless play as time expired. It was really more like 51-7.

For years I have been a critic of college football. This year with the playoff system in place the season has become worth following and the eventual champion will have earned the title. The one concern I have about the system is that winning is not the lone criterion in determining who will compete; how much you win by has become a criterion.  It makes sense that this would have to be the case since all teams do not play a common schedule, but still in sports winning by one, or winning by forty, should not be a factor in determining champions.

Predictions for today. Alabama wins.  Florida State finally loses after tempting fate all year. TCU wins, but maybe not all that impressively.  Ohio State finds a way to beat Wisconsin.  Predictions for the final four will have to wait until the final four is determined, tomorrow, but I don't think Oregon--guaranteed a spot in the final four--will advance beyond the first round.

On another note and sport, in college basketball, Yale University beat defending champ University of Connecticut last night.  We are talking Yale now, not another major team.  Yale, who plays in the Ivy League.  Beat the NCAA division I defending champion.  A Yalie hit a three at the buzzer. And the game was played on UConn's home court.

Finally, if you are a junkie, there are a series of high school football games being played today on the New England Patriots home field.  From 9 am until about 10 tonight the so called super bowls of high school football will be played.  Somewhere in the crowd (and it will not be me) there will be someone or several who is/are parking their car right now and intends not to budge for 12 hours watching high school football championships.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Warmer, Sweeter, Be.

This is what I look like now, seven months since you've been gone.

Read last night that your former boss, Dr. Robert Savitt, the school superintendent died.  My first impulse was to call you and let you know.  As you used to quip, "That would be a long distance call."

Then last night I had a dream that I was in the hospital for something or other and you were there. Go figure. You being there for me.

You're missing some good football games.  The Patriots lost to the Packers on Sunday but it was a great game.   The Giants and Jets, however, are finding a way to lose in very interesting ways.  Your Dolphins are in the playoff picture.  Earlier this year they beat the Patriots on the day of your unveiling.  Maybe you had a way to pull for them there.

Not much new in the education biz.  We keep getting better and better. Our students are nearly as good as any students anywhere.  The school is ranked 41st in the country now.  Not even on the radar screen of USNews and World Report when I started.  Not taking any credit for it.  Just fortunate to have been here during the ride.

Missed seeing the mishbuchah on Thanksgiving. Hillel had the whole family down to Philadelphia, but it snowed on our route.  And it would have been a white knuckle haul even for a guy who lived in Buffalo for eight years.  Got a good picture of Sophie and Jack from the day.  Wish you could have hung on to see Sophie. She would have brought you so much joy; it could have illuminated the darkness.

Listening to some classical music now. They are playing an orchestral version of Danny Boy.  I remember when you told me about that song when I was a boy.  I'll switch some pronouns with the last verse:

"And you shall hear, though soft I tread above you, 
And your grave will warmer, sweeter be,  
For I will bend and tell you that I love you, 
And you will sleep in peace until I come to thee."

Regarding that last line, I am not getting there--wherever there is--any time soon. Trying to enjoy the days.  Wish you were here to share them.

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Caucasia

Caucasia is a novel by Danzy Senna who is the daughter of a black man and a white woman. The novel is about a woman, Birdie Lee, who is the daughter of a black man and a white woman.

It is a very good book and I recommend it.  Throughout I wondered if it was autobiographical. The character in the novel can pass for white, and photos of Ms. Senna similarly reveal that she can pass for white.  The father in the novel is an author and the mother a wealthy descendant of early settlers in Boston.  The author's real father is an author, and mother comes from a line of wealthy Brahmins. Ms. Senna's real parents separate.  The character's parents in the novel separate.  When I completed the book I read that in addition to this novel, the author has written an autobiography, so one imagines that while this novel may be based on her experiences, there are clear distinctions between it and the autobiography.

The novel is very well written.  A page turner.  We learn about Birdie's close relationship with her sister who is not white looking and the tensions that surface with classmates, her father's girlfriend, and even her parents to some extent because of the differences in their skin color.  At one point the "white" contingent of the family has to separate from the "black" contingent.  The reader follows the white contingent and discovers what it might be like to be black, look white, and be treated by racists as if you are white, privy to philistine jokes and slurs.

From the time of the separation, Birdie hopes to and tries to reunite with her sibling and father.  Much of the last section of the book is about her attempts to do so.  The plot in this part seems a bit unrealistic, like a just okay detective yarn.  Still, the story as a whole is a very good one.

When you have completed it you may have an even greater appreciation for how capricious is the construct of race. Consequently, it becomes even more clear how racism--this horrific blemish on our world which has spawned and continues to fuel unconscionable behaviors--is based on a foundation that has no foundation. Best line in the book has nothing to do with race however.  The daughter asks the mother if she loves her boyfriend as much as she loved her ex husband, the main character's dad.  The mother's response. "Someday you'll love like I loved your father, and you'll spend the rest of your life recovering."

Only real flaw I found in the book is that some of it deals with the late 60s revolutionary activity, yet the book is set in the late 70s.   Maybe there was still a lot of that going on in the late 70s and that fact has passed me by,

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Send in the Donkeys.

They are just worms. These pachyderms.

I read yesterday that Boehner and the posse of Republicans who blame Barack Obama for the weather even when it is beautiful, are suing the president over the Affordable Care Act.

If the Democrats want to resurrect their credibility, it is time to see the Democratic National Committee take a strong, strident, jaw to jaw, stance against these Republican dwarves.

Boehner and his cohort are behaving like spoiled prep school boys annoyed that the riff raff have somehow gotten a chance to play.  Judging by the last election, the spoiled elephants are getting away with this indefensible behavior. And they are doing so because the Democrats are smoking on their pipes, dismissing the noise as just that, and doing nothing as they search for their backbones.

It is time to send in the donkeys and put to pasture the clowns.






This and That

The Celtics lost again yesterday. Vu Den. With a player like Rajon Rondo as your main stud, no team will win. Rondo is an immensely talented player who does not have the win gene in him.  He is now shooting a jaw dropping 32.1 per cent from the foul line.  If you look out your window and wait for four adults to come by.  And selected the least athletic one. And told this least athletic one that she or he could make a million dollars a year, if they could average hitting six foul shots out of ten.  And told her or him to practice for a month.  That person, for a million dollars a year, could average six out of ten foul shots.  Rondo making many more millions a year. He is a tremendous athlete who can make plays that belong in a Hall of Fame.  And he just does not work hard enough.  Here is what happens when you go to the foul line. Nobody is there. Nobody can bother you.  You need to concentrate and take your time.  A player like Rondo has been at the foul line millions of times. For millions of dollars if not just to be a professional he needs to make his foul shots.

I read today that Ray Sadecki has passed away.  Sadecki was a pitcher for the Cardinals, Giants, and Mets.  What people should remember about him is how he won many clutch games in a Cardinal uniform. What many sports people will remember is that he was involved in one of the more controversial trades of all time.  He was traded for Orlando Cepeda, a star hitter on the Giants. The Giants got Sadecki. The Cardinals got Cepeda.  "Sadecki for Cepeda" became code for a bad trade. There even was an allusion in the obituary that the trade indirectly led to another Cardinal success. You wonder how references to the trade could have had an effect on Sadecki's psyche and behavior the rest of his life.  I don't know for a fact that it had any effect.  But I wondered today as I read his obituary if he was reminded, or reminded himself, his whole life that he once was considered a bad deal.

Today is a gourmet buffet for college football fans.  From noon to midnight today there are marquis games.  Ohio State//Michigan is an intense rivalry. Likewise, Florida/Florida State.  Mississippi State//Mississippi, Auburn/Alabama.  Each of these games can determine who may play for the championship in college football.  I have been very critical of the system for deciding the champion in division I college football. This year the NCAA made a change and it has had a very positive effect. There now is a four team playoff system to determine the best team.  With TCU winning yesterday, if Florida State, or Alabama or Mississippi State lose today, TCU will likely become a player in these inaugural championship playoffs. Predictions: I think Florida State could have a tough time today.  Alabama is one of my least favorite teams, but I think they will prevail against their rival Auburn.  I like Mississippi today to defeat Mississippi State.

Did not take out the garbage last week.  Lot of garbage in the can this morning for the sanitation workers. Got out there at 7 am and tried to jam all the bags into one rolling garbage can.  Pushed and jammed. Tried to get the cover on.  Eventually, I managed to, but was not sure that some sort of energy would pop it up.  A metaphor there.  If there is enough natural force, very tough to keep the cover on anything no matter how much we try and suppress it.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

overrated quarterbacks.

In the same way that some authors and books are overrated, there are some millionaire quarterbacks who are similarly overrated.  The difference is that in football the result of the quarterbacks' failures are posted on a scoreboard.  Consequently, it is difficult to understand how these players maintained or in one case still maintains a regular income.

The quarterbacks in no particular order of overrated-ness are.

Jay Cutler.  How does this guy keep his job?  Another stinker today on Thanksgiving.  Could a player play with less sense of urgency?  I have seen him have decent games, but when the going gets tough he is both a chicken and a turkey. Fowl.  From hunger.  A while back the Bears went to the super bowl with a stinker of a quarterback.  Fellow by the name of Grossman. He could not do much.  But his team won many games.  I would rather have a dozen Grossmans who could not do much but won, than one Cutler who is talented and plays as if he is some deity despite the fact that he loses.

Drew Bledsoe--Probably my least favorite on this list because I rooted for the Patriots while he was the quarterback there.  Bledsoe had a gun.  His ability to throw darts to a particular spot was something to marvel at.  If you gave him all day he would wow you with his throws. Problem is that in professional football you don't have all day.  You have to throw the ball with people bearing down on you. Bledsoe was not good under pressure. Also, he had no ability to read defenses at the line of scrimmage, so whenever he changed a play you knew you were in, at best, for a no gain.  As soon as Bledsoe got injured, the Patriots then at 0-2, went on to become superbowl champions. And then in the next three years, they won two more super bowls. Three superbowls in four years sans Bledsoe.

Jeff George- Jeff George was akin to Bledsoe, but not really as talented. This a very bad combination. Overrated, self inflated, not superbly talented.  If you gave Bledsoe time he would hit someone who was open. If George was playing two hand touch he'd find a way to make a dumb decision.

Scott Mitchell--The Lions paid a fortune for this guy who had had a few good games for the Dolphins as a substitute.  When Mitchell was quarterback the Lions had Barry Sanders one of the best running backs in the game.  Even with Sanders to use as a decoy which would send an army of defenders running away with Sanders who would not have the ball, Mitchell would find the wrong guy to throw to. When Sanders was the running back, you would think that almost anyone would have been a successful quarterback for the Lions. Not Scott.

The Big Four: Cutler; Bledsoe; George, and Mitchell.

old man winter

Old man winter was victorious last night.   Our plans to drive to New Jersey to stay at my brother's and then off to Philadelphia for a family Thanksgiving were undermined.

All day yesterday I checked the weather maps. Our route was marked by areas that would be hit with the worst part of the weather just about the time we would arrive.  I've lived in Buffalo and Albany and driven through some difficult weather.  This snow was not as heavy or deep as Buffalo storms, but the wintry mix made driving even around my home town dicey. Plus add in the factor that people in the northeast do not know how to drive in snow as well as folks in Buffalo, gave us pause.

The plan was then to consider if an early morning departure would work.  The streets were cleared at 6 am, but the temperatures were below zero.  We talked it through and said it was not worth the risk of a dicey ride and Thanksgiving traffic even for the overwhelming joy of seeing my clan.

We'll see.  Right now I feel like I do ten minutes after I buy an expensive item.  Did I really need that suit?  Or ten minutes after I don't buy an expensive item?  Maybe I should have bought that suit.

The thing is that when I go back in my history on the decisions I have made to do something, they are almost always the right ones. Decisions I have made not to do something, almost always--but not always--ones I wonder about.  Of course, when I have not done something one does not know what would have happened if I had done that thing.

(This is how my mind works early in the morning when I have not had a good night's sleep).

Some examples:

In 1983 I bought an expensive reclining chair and coffee table. Together they cost close to a thousand dollars.  I did not have a thousand dollars to pay for an expensive coffee table and reclining chair.  But I bought it.  In the middle of the first night after the purchase before the chair was delivered, I rocketed up in bed and said to myself, "Did you just spend 1,000.00 on a chair and a table?"  "How many times will you have to teach Introduction to Communication to pay for that chair and table?"

Meanwhile when the chair was delivered and I sat in it for two days, I decided that if someone would have stolen the 699.00 chair, in five minutes I would have gone to the store and bought another one. It was so comfortable.  Thirty one years later, with the chair as my mother would say "fashimilt" which means falling apart, I had to succumb to Donna's pleading, my friend Ken's ridicule, a family member's joke about the foam rubber coming out of the cushion, to finally bring the chair downstairs to the basement. It still is the most comfortable chair (and now sells for over 2K).

In early 1980 my nephew was having his first birthday party on a Sunday. I lived 9 hours away without any traffic.  Should I go, or should I not go.  I had a buddy who lived four and a half hours away.  On a wintry Saturday night I drove half way to the party. On Sunday morning I drove the rest of the way. I got a ticket en route.  So, exhausted and short 50 bucks for speeding, I arrived at the party at 1 on Sunday.

 In retrospect, having had the experience, the idea of missing that event and the joy I had there is beyond comprehension.  It was so much fun. I drove the nine hours back in time for my Tuesday morning classes.  No problem.

So, those are only two examples. On the other side.  I wonder what would have happened if I had done x or y, and decided not to.

Should I have followed up on a letter I sent that went unanswered.

Should I have taken the job in California.

As a general rule, I don't make big mistakes.  And I am willing to take risks. I think on the whole with a couple of glaring exceptions, I have made good choices.  Driving last night in an ice storm might have resulted in an exhilarating successful trip topped off with the deliciousness of spending time with my brother, cousins, nephew, and their children.  But I could have wound up around a pole.

Funny story. My dad always liked it when I retold this story. So, if you can access this dad, this will bring a smile to your face on this Thanksgiving Day.

In 1982 I rented a hoo hah apartment.  It was far beyond my means, but I rented it anyway. One bedroom, close to work, doorman, hallways vacuumed every time you turned around, super coming up if there was a fly on the wall, very hoo hah.  When I told my father I had rented it he made a speech.

He said, "Look. Spend some money buying furniture for it. Don't go cheap.  No second hand things.  You've got a nice apartment.  Decorate it. "

Now, I had just purchased a 120.00 mirror for the apartment. Very uncharacteristic. But it said "buy me" and I knew I would have it forever.  (And I still do).

So, I said to Dad, very proudly.  "Uh Dad. Not to worry.  I want you to know that I just bought a mirror for the place that cost 120.00."

His reply:  "You spent 120.00 for a mirror?  120.00 for a mirror? You know sometimes there are sales? What kind of mirror costs 120.00?"

I must have retold that story twenty times to Dad, and each time he smiled.

I'd drive to Chicago in a blizzard for one of those smiles today.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Boys in the Bar

Last night at O'Hare airport I checked on my laptop and saw that Boston College was tied with undefeated Florida State in the fourth quarter.  Across from where I was sitting there was your standard airport quasi sports bar.  I went over there and nearly all the games were showing either Wisconsin or Notre Dame.  No BC//Florida State in sight.  So I shlepped my lame leg down the corridor and found another place. There the BC game was on the air.  I parked myself on a bar perch, asked for an Irish coffee, and began watching.

While Sammy, the barkeep, was making the coffee I saw an egregious facemask penalty on Florida State. So, I shouted "Facemask!" Perfectly reasonable, no?

 Sammy looked up.  "Sorry" I said. "That was definitely a facemask." My best guess is that Sammy is an Americanized version of Sami and he is from somewhere near the Red Sea.  He did not seem to get the significance of my blurting "facemask."

I am not a fanatic Boston College fan. I will root for them because I live in these parts, but it has been years since I got worked up about a BC game.   There is, in fact, something offputting about BC as far as I am concerned because despite the college name, the school is NOT in Boston, but in a suburb. (As opposed to Boston University that is in Boston, and, of course, Northeastern University my employer which is located right in the heart of the city and is the best school of the three).  Still I was cheering for BC at the bar.

A fellow to my right asked me if was a BC fan. I explained the nature of my allegiance.  He then, very affably, said we might have some trouble. He, I found out, is from Florida, went to Florida State, and can probably tell you the name of the third string guard and the waterboy.  When BC looked like it might go ahead, this guy started buying shots to calm himself. When BC missed what would have been a go-ahead field goal, the fellow bought a beer to rejoice. When Florida State kicked a game winning field goal, he knocked back a final shot.  This guy was just a wonderful football watching companion.  He described Florida State's entire season and their chances for making it to the final four.  He was a great example of fandom.

Today I went to a place I visit occasionally during football season when I feel as if want to observe my sport loving brethren.  At this place, every week, or at least every single time I have been there,  a group of diehard Cleveland Browns fans sit at the same table and stoically watch their team.  When the Browns were terrible (which they have been for quite some time) they still sat there in silence. These folks are older than I am or at least look that way. Gray, as bald as I am, look quite healthy but look also as if they have been around the track.  The Browns prevailed today and one of the group popped up after the last second field goal giving high fives to his compatriots. Earlier I had to laugh when the quarterback for the Browns made a foolish throw that resulted in an interception.  One of the Browns faithful--a fellow who is likely retired, or if not may be (or may have been) a senior executive at a computer company pulling in a million dollars a year--shouted his opinion of the play loud enough for me to hear it on the other side of the restaurant. "You stupid bastard." he shouted.

My dad used to say that he feels sorry for those who do not enjoy sports because of the joy it can bring to the fandom who do so enjoy it.  Another wise comment from my father

Nightwoods

Several years ago I read a book called Cold Mountain by Charles Frazier.  It was very good and subsequently became a motion picture which I never did see but heard was similarly well done.  I was looking for something to read a few weeks ago and spotted, Nightwoods by Charles Frazier in one of the bookcases.

There is a library near me that has, four times a year, a book sale which brings folks from all over.  It is held in a tiny basement, smaller than most basements in single family homes.  The sales take place on weekends. The joint is packed on Saturday. If you can hold off until Sunday, you not only can breathe in the basement, but the books already reduced to a dollar or two on Saturday, become half priced.  So for half a buck you can get a paperback novel that sells for sixteen dollars in your local bookstore.  The classics sell for a dime.  (And what are passing for classics these days are books that were novels when I was a teenager).

That is how I think I came to have Nightwoods on my shelf.  Can't remember for sure. But I see the reference to Cold Mountain on the cover, and the excerpts from raving reviewers on the cover as well.  "Impossible to Shake" Entertainment Weekly, "Fantastic" Washington Post. "Astute and Compassionate", The Boston Globe.

Really?

I don't buy it.  To me this novel was more like a short story that had been inflated.  I rarely stop reading a novel half way through, but I almost put this one down.  I'm glad I didn't because the last section was well done and perhaps that is what the reviewers refer to.  However, so much of the background was unnecessary, and the descriptions much too much so. It takes a very long time to get to the chase and not enough time spent on the residual effects.

I'm not recommending the book, but if you want to read it for yourself you can stop reading this review now as I will give some of it away.  A reclusive woman who had been emotionally abused by her worthless mother and her twisted father, takes in the two children of her sister.  The children are homeless because the sister has been murdered by the second husband and stepfather of the kids.  The stepfather is a nogoodnik down to his ankles who somehow gets away with the murder.  He believes his sister in law not only has the kids but money that the bad guy believes is his.  He comes to town looking for the sister to find the money.  In the meantime a contemporary and former townsperson of the guardian sister comes back home and falls in love with the sister.

There you have it.  I set the stage in a paragraph. It will take you 150 pages to get there if you read the book, and then another 100 to find out what happens.

I do think the novel would have been good as a short story and could have been such. The end does have some gripping moments and I found myself wanting to know what happened, but for me the book was not impossible to shake.


Saturday, November 22, 2014

Unconventional Behavior

One of the "Classic 39" Honeymooner episodes is entitled, "Unconventional Behavior."  In it, Ralph and Ed agree, reluctantly, to invite their wives to join them and travel to the Raccoon Convention in Minneapolis.

In the second half of the episode, the men find themselves on the train without their spouses. Initially, they suspect that the women are elsewhere on the train and begin to review the various gimmicks they have brought along to dazzle their Raccoon brethren.  Bulging eyeballs, guns that squirt, funny masks, and something Norton just picked up on the way to the train--handcuffs.

The handcuffs are the piece de resistance as far as Norton is concerned. You latch them to an unsuspecting brother Raccoon and pretend that there is no key.  To prove the point, Norton attaches the handcuffs to Ralph.  When it comes time to extricate himself, Norton tries to do what he has been told to do in the store, i.e. say 1. 2. 3. boomf.

Problem is that while in the store, the magic word boomf separated the handcuffs. On the train, the two are attached and can't decouple. The rest of the episode is about how they are stuck together. And at the end of the skit, they realize that the reason the women are not with them, is that the boys got on the wrong train.

I'm in Chicago.  The national conference for those who examine what I do in universities is being held here this weekend.  The first time I went to this convention it was, in fact, in Minneapolis. This was 1978.   I like going to this conference.  It is enormous.  As many as twenty concurrent sessions every 75 minutes.  If you are interested in Health Communication, Mediated Messages, Nonverbal Communication, Presidential Rhetoric, Sports Communication, Interpersonal or Group, Crisis Communication...name a type of Communication and someone has given or will be giving a paper on it this weekend.  (I will comment that there were not enough sessions this time on Sport Communication).

A question that I have been mulling for the last few hours is this:  How different is this group than the Raccoons to which Ed Norton and Ralph Kramden belonged?  We are more educated for sure.  A Ph.D. here or an aspiration to get one, is the ticket for entry .   And we did not bring bulging eye balls or funny masks to the sessions, but I'm not sure that beyond this, the group is that much different.

At the very first academic convention I attended, I went back to my room after a few hours--and wrote the following little poem.

At conventions folks come to attend; to pontificate and contend, with peers.
An excuse for a weekend away, a time for the heart to convey//allay--its fears.

(At this time in my life I was writing these little ditties regularly. It is meaningful I know--and not in a good way--that I rarely do this anymore.  Not sure why).

Like I said, I enjoy going to this particular conference.  There is a good deal that I listen to that is worthless, but almost always something I listen to that is valuable.  Yet, I continue to wonder if we are just better educated Raccoons.

It is almost forty years since my first trip to Minneapolis.  I see some of the people who were the elders at that time.  They look older.  Go figure.  How is it that except for when I catch a glance at myself in the reflecting walls all over the Hilton, I feel I am the same age as I was in 1978?

As was the case in Minneapolis. the place is flooded with young-uns.  Young Ph.D.s and graduate students hoping to make a name for themselves.  I recognize the lot, as I was once them.  Their duds are different.  When I started coming to these--for a time right after the "revolution"-- folks were, counterintuitively, conservatively attired.  Now jeans are as normal as ties.  Profanities are uttered in the course of academic discussions.

It is interesting that so much of what is said in the coffee shops and lounges is exactly what had been uttered forty years ago. What people are teaching; what are the chances for tenure; where are people being hired; who is the son of a bitch making completing the degree difficult.

There is an exhibition hall where textbooks are displayed.  I have a few books out so it is heady to see my titles displayed and hear salesperson say how swell they are to prospective adopters.  And if you want to be obtuse for a few moments you can become buoyed hearing the salesperson blow smoke at you.

Adjacent to the exhibition hall are poster sessions. There, young whippersnappers, talk through studies they are doing.  I go to a number today.  I see a young woman and then a young man who are very enthusiastic about their work.  I listen to the young woman but for the first five minutes I can't get past the fact that she has a hook in her nose.  She is very attractive and what I would like to say to this 20 something person is, "why are you wearing that ridikalus hook in your nose".  And then the fellow, equally handsome, speaks about something which, coincidentally, I know quite a bit about.  What he is saying is not that profound and, while not egotistical, he is speaking as if he discovered the wheel. Similarly the woman with the hook has spoken about a phenomenon that is not real new.  And I begin to feel embarrassed because I wonder if at age 26 I was spewing wisdom enthusiastically that proved to someone who had been around the track, just how unwise I might have been.

So, are we Raccoons?

In some ways no.  We are better educated; don't think throwing balloons with water out of a window is hysterical.  And many of the papers I heard do or at least can make a difference in what we know about Communication.

But in some ways, we may be just Raccoons without the uniforms.  We frolic differently after the sessions are over. But we frolic. Probably knock them back as good as the Raccoons.  And I think symbolically we are handcuffed to assumptions about how we should be.  To boot, we sometimes. like Ralph and Ed, find that we are heading in the wrong direction.


Friday, November 21, 2014

Just saying


In case you missed the prediction in the last paragraph.


https://www.blogger.com/blogger.g?blogID=3402019349610325465#editor/target=post;postID=8353714960969442325;onPublishedMenu=allposts;onClosedMenu=allposts;postNum=0;src=postname

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Oakland Chiefs

The first year of Monday Night football, the fall of 1970, the New York Football Giants played the Philadelphia Eagles in late November.  I just checked on the net to make sure that my memory was accurate.  It was/is.

I remember the game because at the time I was a fanatic Giants fan.  (I remember everything-as long as it was more than fifteen minutes ago).  It was the Giants to whom my dad, brother, and I paid homage during our youth.  In the late 50s and early 60s the Giants were contenders. In the mid to late 60s the Giants were from hunger.

But in 1970 the Giants surprised everyone and had a winning streak of six games.  And on Monday night November 23rd the Giants were scheduled to play the then hapless Philadelphia Eagles. The Eagles were 1-7-1 at the time.  It looked like an easy game. A gimmee.  The Giants, inexplicably, were headed for the playoffs.

Except they lost.  On national television. They came into the game asleep.  And the Eagles who were flying barely off the ground during that season were the winners.  Because of this loss the Giants had to defeat the powerful Los Angeles Rams on the last game of the season in order to make the playoffs. Didn't happen. The Rams shellacked the Giants. No playoffs; Giants went home.

It is now 3 pm Eastern time, Thursday night, November 2014.  It is five and a half hours before tonight's Oakland Raiders, Kansas City Chiefs national telecast.  The Oakland Raiders are winless. The Chiefs have a head of steam going. The Chiefs are in a good position to win the tough AFC West.

But they will lose tonight.  You read it here first.  The Oakland Raiders who have a record of 0 and everything, will prevail against the charging Chiefs.  Just like the Eagles beat the Giants 44 years ago. The Chiefs will go to the playoffs, but they will lose to the Oakland Raiders tonight.


Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Thanksgiving 2014

Last year on Thanksgiving I flew to Florida to be with my Dad.  We hung around watching football all day.  He had clipped out a coupon for a turkey dinner at a diner about a half hour from his home. Then, instead, we decided to go to a Chinese restaurant close by.

So that's how we spent the last Thanksgiving we had together.  The fare was fine as far as I was concerned. Hot and sour soup, egg rolls, shredded beef or something like that in garlic sauce, and ice cream.  Bliss for me.

But Dad was glum--as he was for the entire nine month period between the time when my mother died and his own passing.  He could not get through the loss.  While I tried to point out the good news that was all around for which we should give thanks, like---we both were healthy, we were enjoying the day together, he had a nice home, both of his kids had done ok, he had enough dough in the bank to pay his bills and still go out for hot and sour soup whenever he so chose, the weather was good, Obama was president--no matter what I pointed out--it did not stick.

After the ice cream we went back to the house and watched another football game.  Dad and I always liked watching sports together.  And, if we want truth in history, that was not always easy to do when Mom was with us.   Still, he could not see the glass full.

Three months later he died from a broken heart. Three months after that his brother's wife, who was the last Zaremba standing from that generation, died in an automobile accident.

As kids, Thanksgiving was always at this aunt's home.  We would drive into Queens around 4 on Thanksgiving day and meet with my cousins, my dad's brother and sister in law.  My grandfather would come and sometimes my maternal grandmother would be invited to join us for the day.  We sat around their table in the duplex townhouse on Springfield Boulevard and, implicitly at least, gave thanks for each other's presence.

No more presence.  This year all of the parents are gone.  My cousins' dad--my uncle--died in the early 90s and now their mother is gone.  My folks gone in a nine month period.

So, my cousin has invited us all to Philadelphia.  We are all going down.  My cousin Sam from DC is coming up with his two kids to his brother's place.  My brother, nephew, his wonderful sweet kids Jack and Sophie, spouses, we are all meeting in Philadelphia.

Life goes on.  This life. We have it until we don't.  And when we don't we cannot embrace and give thanks.  As Andrew Marvel wrote in a poem with different motives, but appropriate words nonetheless "The grave's a fine and private place, but none I think in there embrace."

Embrace. Tell the ones you love, that you love. Give thanks.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

B AND B

I blogged last week about a facebook friend's posting after the election. He had written "the party without balls lost to the party without brains."

After I clicked on the link below, I felt that he would have better expressed the situation had he written, The party without balls and brains lost to the party without brains.

http://jeff61b.hubpages.com/hub/14-Facts-About-The-Obama-Presidency-That-Most-People-Dont-Know

Still cannot get over how the Democrats in the last election tried to distance themselves from President Obama.  It was akin to how Gore distanced himself from President Clinton in 2000. This, another brilliant tactic.  Clinton would have won that election for Gore and for all of us. Instead we had to endure George Bush who brought the country to its economic knees.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Post week 10

Some musings after watching games during week 10 of the NFL.

The importance of being ready to play was never more evident in the Jets defeat of the Steelers yesterday.  The Steelers, having walloped better teams in prior weeks, thought they could sleepwalk passed the 1-8 Jets.

Jay Cutler really is playing poorly. I don't know the man but it does not seem as if he can accept that he needs to work on his game. Rather, his attitude appears to be that he is great no matter what. Some horrible throws, bad clock management. Guy was defeated before the game started. 55-14 and one of the two Chicago touchdowns came on a special teams play.

Eli Manning's pass in the beginning of the third quarter was the one play that cost the Giants a chance at victory. Difficult to claim that one play in a game that ended with a more than one touchdown difference could have caused the defeat.  However, this did. The Giants were still in the game and he throws up a prayer.  Not sure to whom he was kvetching when he saw the throw was intercepted. Pretty good picture of Tom Coughlin on the bench after the play.

Speaking of good pictures, best of the day was the 49er head coach throwing up his play cards into the air when it looked as if the Saints had won in the last second on a hail Mary. As it turned out the Hail Mary reception was disqualified because of a push off.

Speaking of push-offs, it was a good call to call Graham for the push off in that game.  He doesn't push off he does not catch the ball. True, very good Marlon Brando acting by the offended defender, but it was still a push off.

Kansas City is a very well coached team and will beat the Broncos at home when next they meet.

Any coach saddled with an inept quarterback will look bad. And a coach with a great quarterback will look good. John Fox in Denver looks like a genius. Tressman in Chicago looks like a stiff. If Tressman has Peyton Manning, he gets coach of the year honors.

Arizona will do well with the back up quarterback.  Carson Palmer was erratic and did not come up big in big games.

Saw Birdman this weekend.  The difference between Theatre and Sport is that in Theatre you can pretend to be what you are not. In sport, if you pretend to be what you are not, you will be exposed and it will take an army of sympathetic reviewers to create a positive narrative from the actual one.


Sunday, November 9, 2014

Alabama-LSU

I have teams I root for and teams I root against.  And I root against Alabama.

Therefore the yelp you heard last night at about midnight eastern time was watching LSU find a way to lose to Alabama when they had the game won.  Hearing the coach of Alabama discussing the victory last night was such that I shut the sound off.  The better interview would have been to ask the LSU coach how his team managed to blow the game.

Actually, neither team played like a top four team.  If you are not following college football this year, the following may be news to you.  The top four teams in Division I will play at the end of the year in the first ever playoff tournament to determine the national champion.

One reason why I am not a big fan of Alabama is that a few years ago, after Alabama had lost a big game, the wizards that then controlled what was called the Bowl Championship Series, decided that Alabama deserved to play for the championship.  They did not so deserve to play because they had just lost a big game. Nevertheless a committee thought they were entitled to play for the championship, did play for it, and one the game. Zip zip they became the national champion. Ridiculous. Not ridiculous that they were victorious in that game. Ridiculous that someone decided who could be one of the two teams who might play in a championship game and Alabama was plucked from the unworthy to participate.

At least this year there will be four teams who will compete.

If either LSU or Alabama is among the final four, do some sleuthing to see who did the lobotomy on the decision makers.  People talk about how Alabama is so great and how their one loss this season was a fluke. Alabama could not move the ball the entire game last night.  They looked as punchless as an old drunk. It is true that at the end they were able to mount a drive that resulted in a tying field goal which subsequently allowed them to prevail in overtime. But LSU made so many mistakes at the end, you can't give too much credit to Alabama.

There was a great picture of the LSU coach after a gaffe by the LSU kickoff team.  Mouth open incredulously.  My sense is that his mouth is still open and his head has not stopped shaking since last night.  There are many insomniacs that got more sleep than the LSU coach and faithful last night.

My two cents. Alabama found a way to win. Good for them and a grudging congratulations for finding that way.*  But they do not deserve to be one of the final four if several other teams wind up their season with a similar one loss record.

*(Can't help but remind anyone who cares, that Alabama found a most unusual way to lose last year when they played Auburn, so they are not always as resourceful as they were last night.  Up by less than seven points with seconds left they tried a long field goal when they could have just punted the ball away. An Auburn player caught the short kick at the goal line and ran it back for a touchdown outrunning the fat Alabama field goal blockers. I still enjoy recalling that moment).

Thirteen Days in September

Thirteen Days in September is a new book about the Camp David talks in 1978 which, after a trying thirteen days, yielded the peace between Egypt and Israel which has essentially held up for close to forty years.

The book had received rave reviews. I am interested in the Middle East so I thought this would be a good read.  I am glad I read it, but I did not think the writing was as good as the reviewers suggested. When I am in a good book I take it everywhere and read whenever I have a spare moment. With this book I took it everywhere but found reasons not to read it.

You may remember that in the Fall of 1977, Anwar Sadat surprised the world by announcing that he was willing to go to Israel to make peace.   Israel welcomed Sadat and his entourage with open arms and this was the vestibule to the peace that exists now.  However, for a year after Sadat's courageous visit, not much had taken place to guarantee peace.  President Jimmy Carter decided to invite the leaders to his retreat in Camp David in September 1978 and attempt to hammer out an accord. The book is the description of these days. In addition to the day by day account, the book explains the history of the Middle East conflict.

I can't recommend the book with any real enthusiasm. I did not find it that well written and while many events in the thirteen days were recounted, there seemed to be gaps.  Maybe I feel this way because I could not maintain attention always, but that says something in and of itself since I am inherently interested in this subject.

Some takeaways for me.

(1) While I always thought of Sadat as courageous, the book makes this case convincingly.  Not a nuts and bolts guy--he was a big picture leader--and he saw the big picture from a perspective that was, from my perspective, a humanitarian one.

(2) The peace accord does not happen without the industry, perseverance, and commitment of President Carter.  There were so many times that a less committed leader would have said, "the hell with it. Let these stubborn guys go on killing themselves."  Carter did not and he did not because he felt compelled to try and bring peace to the region.  He deserved far more credit than he received for his work at Camp David.

(3) Intuitively I know that emotion runs the show and that logic typically takes a back seat.  This would be apparent to any reader of the book.  Begin was absolutely intransigent on an issue that would have ended the talks.  Carter was angry and had given up. But Carter had promised to sign some pictures for Begin's grandchildren. He did, wrote the names of each of the grandchildren on the photos. Carter brought the photos to Begin and told Begin that he, Carter, thought that Begin was being stubborn and had aborted the peace process.  Carter left Begin's cabin and when he returned to his own cabin Begin was on the phone. He had been moved by the photos, wanted peace for his grandchildren and signed a document.

(4) Begin does not come out so extra in this book.  Carter thought he had an agreement on an issue related to the Palestinians. Begin claimed that he had not agreed to that component of the treaty.  The author suggests that a different sort of Israeli leader would have accepted this, been able to trade land for peace, and the kind of peace Egypt and Israel have enjoyed might have been characteristic of the entire region.  Of course it is important to remember that Begin's entire family was butchered by the Nazis during World War II.  Still, even among the Israelis, there are some who feel that Begin was not the kind of leader who could take advantage of this opportunity.

(5) I wonder if the author, Lawrence Wright, has taken some heat for the book.  He has made me wonder if the American Israeli narrative regarding the Middle East should be reconsidered.  I had always thought of the Israelis as the victims in 48, 56, 67, and 73.  I am aware that Israel had its back against the wall from day one when in 1948, immediately after Independence Day, they were attacked.  But some Israeli actions described in Wright's book in the years and wars that followed are not wholly defensive or defensible.  And, in a number of cases--the 56 war for example--at variance with the narrative I've heard and read throughout my lifetime.

(6) Peace with Egypt might not have occurred at all if not for the input of Ariel Sharon.  Sharon-- a hawk if there ever was one--told Begin that withdrawing from the Sinai (one of Sadat's conditions) was worth it for peace with Egypt, so Begin agreed to withdraw.  Sharon is typically not considered a peace maker.

There is a very moving part of the book when injured Egyptians and injured Israelis from the 73 war meet at the signing of the peace treaty. Initially, the groups stay away from one another. But a blind Israeli asks his son to bring him to the Egyptian group of ex soldiers.  And when he does an Egyptian soldier in a wheelchair wheels himself out to meet the Israeli and they embrace. Then all the soldiers from both sides meet in the middle of the room and embrace.

The Egypt Israeli peace is not perfect. There are bumps. And nobody of my vintage is unaware that Anwar Sadat was assassinated by his own people because he had the audacity to attempt peace with Israel.

Still there is peace between Egypt and Israel. It is not impossible. A tip of the hat to Carter and Sadat particularly.


Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Sans Spine

There is a fellow who is a facebook friend whom I only know peripherally.  His sister and I were contemporaries in the 6 floor apartment building I grew up in until age 10.5.  At the time the facebook friend was a pipsqueak. Not sure he was able to walk by the time we moved away.

So I don't know him well, but I love his posts on facebook.  Today he wrote,

The party without any balls lost to the party without any brains.

In sports, whenever a team plays passively, defensively and is unwilling to stand strong they will lose.  John Madden the former football broadcaster commented regularly about the so called, Prevent Defense employed by NFL teams.  In football, the Prevent Defense is implemented when a team is ahead in a game and plays a passive defense hoping that there will be no quick scores against them. However, this passivity almost always costs them.  Madden famously quipped, "The only thing the prevent defense does, is prevent you from winning.

Throughout the country this fall the Democrats campaigned gutlessly.  The democrats were passive as opposed to proactive, and the result is that some people who probably would like to reconsider the virtues of slavery are now in office.  

The Democrats were afraid to be who they are, fearing the public did not like who they were. They distanced themselves from Obama because everyone supposedly disliked Obama.  Er, ladies and gentlemen, Barack Obama won two elections with a name like Barack Obama in a racist country.  Barack Obama mobilized the masses to vote. Barack Obama stood up strongly when a bunch of whiny petulant irresponsible bullies SHUT DOWN THE GOVERNMENT.  Hello.  That was all of about ten months ago.  They cost people their jobs, they cost the taxpayers millions, but they were upset because they lost the election and everyone now has access to health care. Barack Obama stood up to them and made them back down.


Where were the Democrats in this campaign?  They were busy hiding the family jewels is where they were. 

 "Ohmygosh, let me try to outconservative conservatives.  I'm not really for women's rights. Not really so much in favor of the affordable health care act (Who could be for affordable health care?) Some of my best friends are rednecks. Guns aren't all bad."

Meanwhile the stock market is at 17, 4 something. Unemployment is down.  Interest rates are absurdly low. And everyone has access to health care.  So, let's not run on our record.

Consequently we now have the likes of that great American, Mitch McConnell still in the Senate. Just great.

You may recall that there was a stretch when the main verbal weapon for Republican candidates was to call a Democrat a liberal.  And if you really wanted to ice an opponent claim that she or he hauled around an American Civil Liberties Union card. 

 Instead of fighting back and saying, Damn right, I have the card.  Civil liberties means citizens' freedoms.  And yes in a democracy one should support such freedoms. The Democrats wussed and shied away from acknowledging that yes, they were liberals.  Sans spine.

I don't agree with my facebook friend's assessment of Republicans. They do have brains.  And some Republicans are very good people with whom I sometimes agree and often disagree.   

But some are not very good people who attempt to fool the blue collar worker that the GOP is concerned for them.  A riot, that. And many Republicans, pure and simple, are racists who can not stand that a black person is in the White House.

My facebook friend, however, is right about many of the Democrats who ran during this campaign. They did not stand up for who they are. 






Tuesday, November 4, 2014

better team

On Sunday, after the Denver Broncos were shellacked 43-21 by the New England Patriots, a safety for the Broncos-TJ Ward-- made the following remark.  "We're still the best team" he said.

Well, er, Mr. Ward, you mean the "better" team.  Not sure how religiously you attended English classes at the University of Oregon, but when comparing two entities the word is better not best.  You only use best when comparing more than two.

Of course, that is a minor point.

However, there is a major point. And it is ignored by sport analysts on a regular basis.

The major point is that there is only one way to determine who is better than another in a sport contest.  And that mechanism has no degree of subjectivity.

The better team in a contest is the team that wins.  That is how "better" is defined in sports.

If some media wizard opines that, say, the Baltimore Orioles are actually the best team in baseball, or that they are better than the Kansas City Royals--just change the station.  The Orioles lost in the playoffs. The Royals advanced to the World Series. The Giants are the best team in baseball because they won the World Series.

As anyone who has followed my blogs would know, I find decisions made by experts to determine champions to be an abomination. This is why for years I argued that college football division I champions are illusory.  Until this year, a committee or a computer made the determination of who was the national champion in NCAA division I or who was invited to compete for the national championship. The situation is better this year with a playoff system in place that will add credibility to what had been a sham of a national champion.

Way back before I rooted for the Boston Celtics, during the years when the Celtics would annually beat the Lakers in the 50s and 60s, pundits would whine that the Celtics were not the best team.  Bill Russell the center for those teams in both senses of the word "center" would hear such remarks and quip, "We laughed all the way to the bank."  Of course, the Celtics were better than the Lakers when they defeated the Lakers.--regardless of how great Jerry West and Elgin Baylor played.

In sport, head to head is where it is at.  The better team is the team who, after the game or series is over, is victorious.  One could make the case that the 1984-85 Villanova Wildcats basketball team did not have nearly the talent of the Georgetown Hoyas.   But in the championship game that season Villanova won. This made them the better team.  In fact, this made them the best team in all of NCAA basketball regardless of any other factor. That they "should" have lost, had a bad record during the year, shot an incredible and atypically high percentage in the championship game--is irrelevant.

Last year in the AFC championship game, the Broncos defeated the Patriots. The Patriots did not have Rob Gronkowski. The Patriots' best defender was knocked out of the game in the first half by a questionable block, and Peyton Manning played like some sort of superhuman being.  All this does not undermine the reality that last year the better team between the Broncos and the Patriots, was the Broncos.

After Sunday's game TJ Ward was asked how come the Broncos lost. He commented that the wind was a factor.  He said, he's "not really a wind person."  Well Mr. Ward my first suggestion is that you consider Scrabble.  My second suggestion is that athletes who opine that they are better than another after a loss, might save the wind they expend with such an utterance.

Friday, October 31, 2014

Boo

Happy Halloween.

Today on campus there were more students in costume than I have ever seen before.  I may be out of the loop or maybe I did not get the memo, but it seemed as if a good ten percent of the student body--and staff--were going to classes in costume.  A woman came by the office in the early morning and while I thought I knew who it was, I had to check with a colleague when she left to make sure.  Never a witch in real garb, she looked like she might take off on a broom when she exited the area.

I saw the phantom of the opera, a cowboy, tinker bell, ghouls of several varieties, and costumed others who were not clearly identifiable.  It has been a while since I have taught a regular class, but I spent thirty years doing so. I must have taught on a Halloween or two during that stretch and I just don't recall this.

When I was a kid living in Brooklyn, we would get dolled up and then take paper bags around to the neighbors. You could come away with quite the bounty where I lived. There were thirty six families to a building and maybe as many as twenty buildings within a half hour walk.  Unlike today, very few families did not answer the bell when you rang it, so for weeks after Halloween a kid could get sick to his stomach eating the Mary Janes, miniature milky ways, tootsie rolls, and assorted products that were guaranteed to make the local dentists wealthy in a matter of time.

Now, in my neighborhood at least, a kid would have to walk miles to earn a similar treasure.  My block has, tops, twenty homes and it is a good bet that ten of these will not have anyone home in time to feed the tigers, and pussy cats, and pirates that will make the walk.

It has been a while since I have gone to a Halloween party. I will attribute that some to the company I keep.  Can't see too many professors and deans dressing up like hobos.  When I first moved to Boston it seemed like every year there were a few parties each Halloween that one could choose to attend. I saw my favorite costume of all time at one of these.  It was a couple each of whom were dressed as Hershey Bars.  His said with nuts. Hers said without nuts.

In the early 90s we went to a bar that had a costume requirement. There I saw many creative costumes. The best of the show that night was a guy who looked like he had a power saw through his stomach.  It must have taken him a couple of days to get that right.

There is always something fun about becoming someone else for a short time.  We are all dressed in costume daily.  Those who engage in halloween just change their garb for something atypical at the end of October.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Giants

According to family lore my father, at about age ten, was in a park when a fellow approached him and asked who he rooted for in baseball.  At the time my dad did not follow major league baseball, but a team he had heard about was the New York Giants.  So, in response to the question he said he was a Giants fan.

And that is how my clan became Giant fans. We lived in Brooklyn surrounded by Dodger fans, but we were clearly Giant fans.  My first game was at the Polo Grounds and my first arguments were with Gregory who lived on the first floor and, of course, rooted for the Dodgers.  My father and Gregory's father, Eddie, would go to the Polo Grounds or Ebbets Field to watch the Giant Dodger tilts and root for their different teams.

My father (and mother--who was hardly a sports fan) told me--when I was barely old enough to comprehend words--about the 1951 pennant race.  In that race (I could have told you this when I was 8 because of the repeated review of the events in my home) the Giants were 13 games behind the Dodgers in the middle of August, but tied the Dodgers on the last game of the season.  In a thrilling playoff series, the Giants defeated the Dodgers when Bobby Thomson hit a three run home run in the bottom of the ninth.  On his 80th birthday, my brother presented my dad with a signed baseball from Bobby Thomson which the three of us--dad, my brother and me--stared at as a child might look at a picture of something out of this world.

When the Giants moved to San Francisco in 1958 the whole neighborhood was crushed because the Dodgers that same year moved to Los Angeles.  We still rooted for the Giants. A guy named Les Keiter would "recreate" the Giant games from the west coast. It is tough to imagine in 2014, but in the late fifties and early sixties, it was possible for a follower not to know the score of a game that was played and completed four hours previously on the west coast. So Keiter would literally recreate what had taken place to east coasters still famished for news of the Giants, and we would listen to the games rapt as if the contests had not already taken place. Many a night at 11:15 I put a transistor radio under my pillow and listened like a sneak, since this was way past my bedtime, to Les Keiter telling me how the likes of Jim Davenport, Jose Pagan, and the greatest player of all time, Willie Mays, were faring in California.

In 1962 the Giants were again in a playoff with the Dodgers. And again the Dodgers were ahead going into the ninth. And again the Giants came back with a rally to defeat the Dodgers.  I was watching the game with my dad and brother. In the ninth, Dad got into a routine where he would hit the ping pong table, tap the bar, and dance back to a chair because this dance seemed to be bringing luck to the Giants. I am smiling now as I recount that moment.  It is clear that I come by my fondness for sports honestly.

In 1971, again, the Giants and Dodgers were engaged in a tight pennant race. This time it was the Giants who were in the process of blowing a substantial lead as the Dodgers kept winning. On the last game of the season the Giants had to win in order to avoid a playoff with the Dodgers. Juan Marichal, nicknamed the Dominican Dandy, pitched a brilliant game for the Giants to avoid the playoff.  I had met a woman a month before who watched with amusement my attention to that playoff race. On the day of Marichal's clinching victory when I was nearly maniacal, her gaze at me ceased to be one of amusement and became more like someone who began to wonder what kind of crazy person she had decided to spend some time with. I can still see her face on the day after the Giants clinched, looking at me like she might be dating a lunatic.

In his later years, Dad became disengaged from the Giants.  He would say that he did not know who the players were anymore. When my Uncle Max came east for a visit after a Giant championship run, he was stunned when he heard my father say that he was indifferent to the Giant successes. "Incredible" he muttered.  And he went on for some time about how my dad was a true fan of the Giants when he and my Dad had been dating the sisters who became their wives.

As for me, I also have lost my enthusiasm for the Giants.  Last night and throughout the week I found myself rooting for the Royals.  I have become a rabid Red Sox fan and now follow the American League almost exclusively. On the rare occasions when I watch a National League game it takes a spell for me to get adjusted to the pitchers batting.  So I was pulling for the American League Royals last night right up until the last out.

I think my dad would have enjoyed the series and enjoyed following the Giants during the playoffs--even though he had become just a general fan in his last years.  This series may have brought him joy and might have spurred recollections of his enthusiasm for the Giants.  By the seventh game I believe he would have been rooting hard and I wish he could have had the joy of watching the team celebrate exuberantly.

I remember one time towards the end. He was in the hospital and we were engaged in a long discussion about the current state of his health and his distress.  At one point he paused and then asked me how the Miami Heat were doing.

Can't tell you about the Heat, Dad.  Basketball season is too young. But the Giants won the World Series last night.


Tuesday, October 28, 2014

50 years later

I meet a fellow for coffee last week with whom I had gone to camp in the 60s.

He and I are contemporaries and were teammates in the Poconos on softball and basketball teams. We played sets of tennis together, had roles in camp plays, and splashed after shave on our pre peach fuzz faces in preparation for "socials" where we might meet 12 year old dolled up girlfriends.

It was remarkable to see him again.  Within a few moments, fifty years evaporated.  He has been extraordinarily successful by any measuring stick, yet was so genuinely humble and modest.

We shared reminiscences and asked about those with whom we had kept in touch.  It had poured while I was walking to meet with him.  And it was cloudy when we said our goodbyes.  But when we left I felt as I typically do when I meet those from past.  The present for me is often clearer and illuminated by the past.  

Monday, October 27, 2014

Leveled

This is happening with greater frequency.

I am again listening to Kate Wolf's searing rendition of Who Knows Where the Time Goes. I write again because in a blog last week I mentioned I was listening to the song.  I liked it so much that I went and bought one of Kate Wolf's cds.

So, now I listen to her again.

Across the purple skies, 
All the birds are leaving. 
But how can they know. 
That it is time for them to go.  
Before the winter fire, I will still be dreaming, 
I have no thought of time. 

Who knows where the time goes. 
Who knows where the time goes.

Today, as I am sitting in my office I see two people walk quickly by my door. I continue working on something that seems important.  A course someone has proposed.  This is one of the things I do.  Identify curriculum that will be good for the students who pay handsomely for their education.  When I was in front of the class teaching I felt an obligation to deliver, both for my self respect and also because that is what they sent me checks for.  Now, my job is broader. One dimension involves checking to make sure that well meaning course proposals will mean something to students.

So, I am sitting at my desk drafting a memo to some colleagues about concerns I have about a proposal. It seems important to me.  Earlier I was looking to make sure scholarship money was well spent. And then there was some work related to a grant proposal.

And let's not forget my thoughts about the New England Patriots and how they pummeled the Bears yesterday.  How good Tom Brady looked. Interested readers might want to read my blog earlier this month that I entitled "Piling On."  I wrote then, presciently for once, that the reports of the Patriots demise were premature.  Indeed the home town team looked like world beaters on Sunday. So, I spent some time today thinking about that important bit of news.

And then I was leveled when my two associate dean colleagues walked into my office somberly, and shut the door.  I had never seen one of them look so shaken. The other did not look like he was ready for a party either.  They tell me the news that one of the chairmen with whom I have worked for four years, died over the weekend. It was his son and ex wife who had walked down the corridor earlier to tell the dean the news.

I saw the dean later and his eyes were red.  How could they not be.  We work with the chairs daily here.  We meet and battle with each other, constructively for the most part.  This guy had been the unit head since 2002.  Nice guy. Hard worker.  Fought for his department and his students.  Was on sabbatical this term at Harvard working on a book.

I had no idea.  Spoke with him recently and he looked terrific.

I remember a conversation we had last year.  He opened up, a bit uncharacteristically, and told me that he was having lunch the next day with his ex wife.  He was hopeful and ingenuous. He said he was lonely and was hoping that the lunch would be a step towards a reconciliation. The next morning before his lunch, I wrote him a note wishing him well. And he wrote back thanking me.

My guess is that there was no reconciliation, but all year he seemed so up and there were no signs of illness.

The word is that he had had a form of cancer that was in remission and suddenly came back with a vengeance. So odd.   He never looked pale or weak. And like that, he is gone.

And for a while I felt leveled.  As if my head was filled with this sad news and there was no room for anything else in there.

A month does not go by now when I do not hear of someone I knew or someone who is kin to a contemporary, who has left us.

Tonight I go out with two other October birthday folks.  We have annually gone out in October to celebrate our arrivals.  I will enjoy the wine and company.

Won't count the time, but am aware of how precious these moments are. The chorus in my head singing Who Knows Where the Time Goes, has turned up the volume.


Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Birthday--Good news and bad news.

As this well worn announcement attests, today is the anniversary of my birth.

The good news is that I am healthy and on this side of the curtain.  There is much more in the way of good news that is specific, but essentially the good news is that I am here.

Here is the bad news.  My computer opens to Google.  I went on line as I do multiple times each day.  I saw the Google screen.  Above the Google bar there occasionally is some graphic indicating the nature of the day. A turkey on Thanksgiving.  A flag on Memorial Day.  A picture of Mount Rushmore on President's day.

Today there was a picture above the google box on my screen. It was a picture of several birthday cakes and candles.

How did Google know today was my birthday? I like Google. Find it useful. And while it is nice to be greeted with happy birthday messages, it is disconcerting to know that Mr. and Mrs. Google are aware of when I arrived on the scene.

What is next?  Will I be congratulated on a healthy report from the medicine man?  A dancing patient pointing to a low blood pressure reading.

Will I open up Google and see a picture of a new car that I have purchased, or a basketball court if I plan to attend a game that night.

Will I see a picture of a gas tank when my car is low on fuel?

If I am vacillating about going out to dinner or working out will I see a picture of a justice scale with a steak sitting on one side and an elliptical machine on the other?

I appreciate the birthday greeting Mr. and Mrs. Google, but let's keep some stuff between us.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

odd time

I am now listening to Pandora and a particularly plaintive rendition of "Who Knows Where the Time Goes."  The crooner is Kate Wolf and she is killing me.

Usually I have to hear a song a dozen times before I get it. The first time I heard "Who Knows Where the Time Goes" it was as background in the movie, "The Subject Was Roses." Then, I was only 23, and it nearly ripped my belly out.  Didn't have to hear it a dozen times to get the message.

Last night I was on a flight back from Newark.  It was a beautifully clear day and for nearly the entire flight I was able to see the land below.  We flew over Manhattan and I could make out Central Park so well that I could count the baseball diamonds near the south end of the park where I once sat blissfully on a sweet summer day.  The plane continued north and I saw the rest of the park and city.

I must have turned my head away for a spell because the next time I looked down I saw a bridge that I could not quite recognize.  It was not the George Washington because right next to it was yet another bridge.  Eventually I got it, but not before something unnerving occurred.

When I could not figure out what bridge it was, I tried to get a sense of the flight path.  We were flying over a body of water of course (the bridge was there for a reason). I knew that Boston is on the ocean and the flight up to Boston must go up the coast.  But as I looked from the coast across the water--that was now too wide to be the Hudson--I saw a body of land that, ironically, I could not identify.  It looked, from way up, to be desolate--as if uninhabited. As we continued in a direction that I knew had to be north, the land continued and it became even more desolate looking.

Where in the world in 2014 near New York City could there be a land mass so close to the coast on which there was not much but trees?

I kept staring out the window and then probably audibly gasped when I saw the land fork in a v shape.  Then I knew where I was.

I knew where I was because that fork represents the end of Long Island and I grew up on this long island in the 60s. So it was ironic and a bit embarrassing to admit that I did not recognize that the body of water beneath me was the Long Island Sound, duh, and the long land mass was where I journeyed through adolescence. (The Bridge I saw had been the Throgs Neck which is adjacent to the Whitestone bridge)

But my ignorance was not the most astonishing thing.  What was/is, is that I did not see any homes on the island. It looked uninhabited. When I was a kid the eastern part of the island was desolate, but not this way.  And in 2014 there are suburban communities that go to the tip of Orient Point at one fork and Montauk on the other point.  Sure I was way up in the air, but it was a clear night and I saw nothing.

The moment reminded me of an old Twilight Zone episode where a plane breaks the time barrier and the travelers look over Queens in 1958 and instead of seeing LaGuardia airport they see the 1939 worlds fair grounds. Then to try to get to 1958 they break the barrier again and now there are no fair grounds, but dinosaurs instead.I saw no dinosaurs, and I know Rod Serling was not in the pilot's seat, but it was an odd moment and momentarily unsettling.

Coincidentally, I will very soon be concluding my annual lap around the track, and beginning a new journey.  It is always an interesting and unusual time to be reminded of one's emergence on the scene and, as we get older, realize the inevitably finite nature of our stint on this side of the curtain.

The plane trip view and the odd sense of another time fueled my musing about the time I have spent inhaling and exhaling, and what I have/have not accomplished. Who knows where the time has gone.

I knew that time had gone and that it was 2014 when I landed. I had to pay 58 smackers for parking at Logan for a grand total of one day and a few hours.