Archive for the ‘ Society ’ Category

CUBS WIN!

Want to know why I don’t watch sports? Well, mostly because I’m just not a big sports fan, but the other reason is games like the one last night. I don’t like stress, and if you are a Cubs fan and that game didn’t stress you out, then either you have ice water running in your veins or you are dead. Then again, I’m not even sure about dead. I bet my dear departed mother-in-law, a die-hard Cubs fan, was somewhere agonizing over the game, too.

I think that all Cubs fans were watching the season in a bit of disbelief, as they did last year. So close last year, but they were swept in the National League Championship Series by the Mets. While we all hoped the Cubs would win it and go on to the World Series, when they didn’t make it we fell back on the old “maybe next year” that we fallen back on for decades.

This year, with the best record in Major League Baseball, we had reasonably high hopes that they would make it to the World Series. They beat the Giants in the National League Divisional Series rather handily and advanced to the National League Championship Series, where they took six games to beat the Dodgers and move on to the World Series. And that’s when we really started biting our nails.

Beginning the World Series with a 0-6 loss was not a good omen. Hints of “maybe next year” started creeping into my thoughts. I mean, come on – 0-6? Ouch! OK, so game two is better, with a 5-1 win. Whew, we are back into this thing. But game three with a 1-0 loss and game four with a 7-2 loss meant that Cleveland only had to win one more game to win the Series. Sigh. Time to accept the fact that we were going to have to wait for next year for another shot at winning (or even getting into) the World Series.

On Sunday I couldn’t watch the game, and by “couldn’t” I mean that I didn’t want to watch the Cubs lose. Instead, I followed the scores on my computer while I did other stuff. Whoa! A 2-3 win! Not the kind of winning margin I would like to see in a score, but a win is a win. Still, they need two more wins to take the whole thing. What are the odds of that? Better than I thought, apparently.

Surely the next game they would lose the whole thing, so I didn’t even bother keeping up with the score. Some Cubs fan, eh? What can I say? It’s just my usual glass-half-full approach to life. But holy crap – they win 9-3. Now that’s the kind of score I like. Suddenly we are at game seven with winner take all.

Early games are a little easier to take, assuming that a loss can be made up later (which they were), but this was crunch-time. I know the Cubs are really good this year, but can they do this? OK, first inning – Bam! First run of the game, and Cubs are in the lead. Good, let’s hold Cleveland to no runs and increase our number of runs for safety’s sake. But then in the third inning Cleveland gets a run and it is tied up. No, I can’t watch. My stress levels are going through the roof. I had to leave the room, assuming the worst.

A little while later I had to at least check the score to see how badly the Cubs were doing. Wait a minute. The Cubs are ahead 3-1. Yay! Now let’s keep that lead, for cryin’ out loud. I watch for a bit and the Cubs score two more runs, but the Indians come back with two more of their own. I can’t watch. Gone again, but I can’t stay gone. Checking again, the score is 6-3 – Cubs are going to win this! I decide to watch again. Oh man, a mistake. Maybe it’s my watching that is causing problems for the Cubbies, because now the score is tied at the bottom of the eighth. Son of a bitch! Time for bed. I cannot handle the stress of extra innings, if they make it that far, and I need my sleep. Good night, all.

So I’m peacefully dozing when my wife takes a break from her tv watching to hit the head and stops by to ask me if I was watching the game. I say “no” and she says the Cubs won. What!?! Holy Cow! This is almost unbelievable, but I turn on the tv and sure enough, the Cubs are celebrating. I have to admit – and I guess I wasn’t alone last night – I shed a few actual tears of joy. I have never shed tears over a sporting event, ever. But last night, there they were. Yeah, it’s only a game, and you feel bad for Cleveland, but the idea that the Cubs have won the World Series for the first time in 108 years is overwhelming.

But there was a more personal reason for those tears. As I mentioned before, my mother-in-law was a true-blue Cubs fan. So much so that at her funeral six years ago, they sang “Take Me Out to the Ball Game.” That choked me up so much I couldn’t even come close to singing. The Cubs win last night was vindication for her faith in her team for so many years of her life. It was so sad that she hadn’t lived to see her team finally win it all. My tears of joy also encompassed that sadness.

They say that the Cubs are a relatively young team and that we haven’t heard the last of them. There should be more great years to come. I hope so, but to tell the truth, I am able to say that I saw the Cubs win the World Series and I’m happy with that. There are a lot of people who have never had the chance. Even if the Cubs were to tank next year (um, how do I prevent that from becoming a curse? knock on wood?), I still could face the year happy.

Now, if only the Bears could get their shit together.

Adding to the list of firsts in my life, today I received my first Social Security check, actually my first Social Security direct deposit. Even though I knew it was coming, when I checked online to see if it had been deposited it was the weirdest feeling to have money appear in my checking account without having worked for it. Of course, as my wife was quick to point out, I did work for it. I have been putting money into Social Security for many, many years (hmm, thinking about that, it has been fifty years – wow!). So while it may only be what is due me, it still feels a bit wrong to take that money.

I have to admit, though, that it is nice to have that income. Knowing that no matter what happens with my job, I at least have that monthly Social Security amount to carry me through, though it would be more like being carried through on a stretcher rather than riding in a limousine. Oh well, much better than the nothing that I would have otherwise.

As a senior citizen, now that I am receiving Social Security payments, you can bet your bottom dollar that I will fight just as hard as other senior citizens to keep that payment coming in, without being compromised by some cost-cutting politician. I don’t deny that the system needs changing, but you can’t yank something away from someone after they are receiving it. Well, they could do that, but talk about an open revolt! Instead, they really need to put individual retirement funds into the hands and management of the people who earn the money. No, not likely to happen. The government likes having those funds coming into their coffers. They can play games with that; they can’t when it’s in the hands of the people.

Odd how getting Social Security can change your way of thinking. Living on just Social Security (and that’s all I have for retirement) would drastically reduce my standard of living, but if I could accept that, or combine that with somehow reducing costs, it would mean that I could live anywhere and do whatever I want, as long as it doesn’t cost money. That kind of freedom is alluring, even if it means living close to poverty.

All my life I have given my job priority. I have worked some ridiculous hours at some boring jobs for asshole bosses, and yet I did it because I needed a job. Suddenly I’m in a position where I could tell my boss to shove it if he required more commitment from me than I am willing to give. (The job I am in now and have been for almost twenty-one years has been a good one, with good people to work for – it was earlier employment that is described above.) I have to admit that it makes me feel not quite as dedicated to my job and unwilling to take on extra projects. Give that to the younger people who still are building careers, and who still need the income to pay the bills.

I’m sure I will get used to receiving Social Security, and it won’t take long. There’s no shortage of places to spend money and this will only help. Nice to finally get something out of the system instead of just paying into it.

a parently thought

My son and his wife have decided not to have any children. They have good reasons for this and I totally understand and support their decision, not that my opinion should count in any event. Having said that, I was just listening to Peter, Paul and Mary and “Puff the Magic Dragon” just played. When my son was a child, my wife and I took him to hear PP&M live at Ravinia. Singing “Puff the Magic Dragon” along with PP&M and everyone else there is one of the best memories I have of my son’s childhood. Along with the happy memory, though, I found myself sorry that my son will never have those kinds of memories.

Again, I understand the reasons not to have children, and at one point in our lives my wife and I debated whether we should have kids or not. We decided that we would wait until we were financially able to afford a child, but the universe laughed at that and we found ourselves pregnant in spite of our best efforts at prevention, though it took us until the age of thirty for this to happen. We knew that it was then or never, and it was a decision that I have never, ever, regretted. My life would be so very much less fulfilling without having my son in it.

Not everyone is meant to have children. Having children is (or at least should be) a real commitment. This is a human life that you must shelter, feed, educate, and support in many, many ways, for many years. It is time consuming, expensive, at times frustrating, and something that you cannot just walk away from. (Yes, I know many do, but that’s not anything I could or would do.) But the rewards of parenthood outweigh all the disadvantages of raising children. At least that has been my experience. Of course, there are rewards for not having children, too, and everyone needs to weigh the pluses and minuses of children on their own scales, and sometimes the scales may be very heavily weighted on the “no children” side.

For me, when it comes time to live in my memories, that world will be all the richer for having raised a child along with my wife.

a life change strange

Today one of our twenty-plus year long employees retired. She had thought that the company might want her back occasionally for special projects or to help with issues that might come up, even though her replacement has been in place for some time and is well trained. One of our earlier retirees “retired” and then came back part-time almost immediately, so it’s not an unlikely situation.

I stopped by her office to say goodbye this afternoon and asked her if this was the official end or if she was going to actually be back at work next week. She said that the company had made no requests of her, nor seemed to have any expectations that her help would be required again. So that meant that yes, this was her last day.

Heading back to my office, I pondered that concept. I’ve never been one to define myself by my job. I do what I do for a living not because I love it or chose it intentionally earlier in life, but rather because it is just the job that I fell into when I first joined the adult employment world. It’s not a terrible job and, quite honestly, it’s not very difficult. Hell, I’m a subordinate desk jockey – how hard can that be? I’ve had my time in management, and at this point in my life, I don’t need that hassle.

Given all that, I still was struck by how very strange it would be to not do the same thing you have been doing for over twenty years (forty-five years for me, including time with other employers). It becomes so much a part of your daily routine that I can imagine feeling almost lost without it. Instead of being defined by the job, you become defined by the routine.

This isn’t to say that I haven’t thought about (and wished for) retirement, but I see no way that I could maintain anything like my current standard of living (even as low as it is) without working every day. So why retire from my “regular job” just to have to go work somewhere else or come back part-time? Makes much more sense to just stick where I am, and so far I’ve heard no grumbles from the company that they want me gone. Why should they? They would just have to hire someone new and train him/her and probably pay more money than they are paying me?

But disregarding the financial aspects of the situation, not going in to work would most likely mean that my world would shrink. Going to work every day, I see the people who have almost become like family (it’s a smallish company). But work is the only thing I have in common with pretty much every one there. I never see any of them outside of work. Heck, I don’t have any friends outside of work (except my wife), so I would be pretty much alone.

Would I change my way of living if I retired? I think so. Even on weekends it can get lonely enough that I sometimes go to the store just to be around people, even people I don’t know and don’t give a rat’s ass about me. I suppose I would join something, some kind of group oriented around a common interest. That’s what we old farts do, isn’t it? Well, there’s a good reason for it, I guess.

While retirement does have some attraction, I somehow can’t see myself doing it any time soon. Theoretically I can retire with “full” Social Security next year, but I have absolutely no plans to do so. Shit happens, though, and I know that at my age I can’t count out some physical complication that would make “retirement” a necessity. I sure hope that doesn’t happen.

And who knows? I may change my mind or circumstance may change, like maybe I’ll win the lottery (great financial retirement planning, eh?) Otherwise, I plan on getting up each weekday morning and going to work. It’s what I do.

a fond farewell – wayne dyer

I just found out that Wayne Dyer passed away on August 29. He was a young 75 years old.

If you are an old fart like me, you’ve known of Wayne Dyer for many, many years. If you are into self-help stuff, you most likely know him, too. And if you are inclined towards “spiritual” stuff, I’m sure he was on your radar. Heck, if you watch public television you cannot help but to have seen him. I’m not going to repeat what you can find everywhere else on the Internet, but I would like to make a couple of personal observations.

I’ve watched many of Dyer’s presentations and read many of his books. His earlier books, like “Your Erroneous Zones” were pretty popular. I always found something interesting and useful in his work. One thing that has stuck in my head is an example he used in one of his presentations. He was talking about a pair of running shorts, and said that you can stretch those running shorts to a degree that will allow them to return to their original shape and size, but that once you have stretched those shorts beyond that point, they will be forever changed. Even to the point of no longer being able to define them as running shorts.

This was an analogy of personal growth, or at least personal change. Many times since I first heard that, whenever something caused me to have a shift in mindset, I have thought of that example. Inevitably I think to myself, “There goes another set of running shorts.”

His thinking and his teaching became more spiritually oriented over time, and sometimes it got a little too much so for me, particularly as my thinking has traveled in the opposite direction, moving away from the soft fuzzies of “spirituality.” However, I admired the good that he was trying to do in the world and recognize that, in spite of the “new age” slant of his work, there was stuff of value there. Sometimes all it takes is translating the words he used into something more reality based.

My wife was the one who told me about his death, and forwarded a link to me to a movie, called “The Shift,” that they were letting people watch for free for a week, because Wayne had wanted to have a lot of people see it. I watched it – all two hours of it – and enjoyed it. I had to do some “translation,” but the message was valuable. Perhaps I appreciated it more so because of my stage in life, but there is something in the movie for everyone. I won’t post the link here. I’m not sure it’s even active still, but you can find Wayne Dyer’s page on Facebook pretty easily and find the link there.

Unlike many of his fans, I’m not convinced that he has merely moved over to another form of being, but I’m sorry that he is gone, and appreciate all that he did in his life.

a heavy heart

This video made me want to cry –

Repeal the Bill of Rights

My jaw literally dropped as I watched person after person signing the petition. I know there are stupid people in this world, but how can you have almost a whole page of signatures supporting the destruction of the Bill of Rights before you finally get one person who objects?

It is so disheartening to know that these people are voting in the same elections as I. Talk about cancelling votes. And yet, what choice do we have? If we don’t get out and vote then there is absolutely nothing standing in the way of the ruin of our country. Yes, you begin to feel like that lone guy standing in front of the tank in Tienanmen Square, but someone has to do it.

If I could, I would ship every one of those people signing that petition to a country that has absolutely no Bill of Rights protections. I wonder how long they would want to live there. Then again, maybe they would fit right in.

a guarantee giggle

I bought a small camera case today that brought some merriment into my life. Reading the back of the card the case was displayed on, I find that the card was printed in China and the case was made in Vietnam. No, there isn’t much humor in that, but there sure is in the quality guarantee of twenty-five years.

I paid $9.00 for the case. The likelihood of me using that case for as much as twenty-five years are pretty much slim to none. But let’s say that in a year or two a seam blows out or something. Am I going to save the receipt and guarantee from when I bought the case? Will I even remember there was a guarantee? Will I be able to find it again if I need it? Would I be willing to go through the effort it would take to fulfill that guarantee? Most of all, for $9.00, what are the odds that I wouldn’t just throw the damn thing away and go out and buy another case? In essence, that’s a pretty damn safe guarantee for the manufacturer to make. If they get even a tiny fraction of one percent of purchasers taking them up on that guarantee I would be shocked.

On the other hand, how many of the high value things that you buy today – particularly electronic goods – come with much more than a thirty-day warranty? You’re lucky if you even get that long a term. And when you have a problem and try to take advantage of the warranty, the company will do everything in its power to find that the problem was caused by you, the purchaser, and not a flaw in the product!

There are always exceptions to the rule but those exceptions seem to be further apart as the years go by. To tell the truth, with electronic gear, unless something craps out right away, the odds are that you are going to wind up replacing it with something newer, better, more up-to-date, more whatever, before you need to use the warranty. It’s the old planned obsolescence on steroids. Who (other than me) is still using the cell phone they used ten, or even five, years ago? Oh well, I guess it keeps us all employed . . . if you live in China or Vietnam.

tiresome ageism

Recently, while reading the PC magazine to which I subscribe, I came across a comment that the technology being discussed was something that you couldn’t expect “your parents” to be able to understand. Now, I’ve been building my own desktop computers for many years. The only PC I ever bought off-the-shelf was my very first one, back in . . . good grief – the early 90’s! (This does not count, of course, the Vic 20, Commodore 64, 128 or the very first, a Timex Sinclair 1000 – those do not qualify because none were a “PC” – an IBM PC or clone. Laptops also don’t count.) I’m of the age to be that author’s parent, but I can somehow muddle through the technical subject and handle it. But so what?

I don’t know. Maybe I just have a different perspective now, but I’m getting awfully tired of this inclination to deprecate senior citizens as doddering old fools who can’t handle modern society and are technologically stuck in the 60’s (or earlier). This is called “ageism” and sjust as tiresome as racism. I have a sense of humor, but when you start to become the butt of all jokes, it wears thin after a while. Are there older people who are incompetent, either or both physically or mentally? Of course there are. Do seniors have an exclusive claim on that? Hell no. Just check out some of the “reality” shows that reveal many young people as vapid, empty-headed goons or goon-ets. There’s a bell curve to pretty much everything. Let’s not treat everyone like they are at the bad end of that curve.

A special note to advertisers. We are a large part of the market and when you insult us, we remember. When you direct all your advertising to young people, we are alienated and more inclined to find alternative sources for your products that have the sense to include senior citizens as part of the overall market. When your product apparently can only be used by good-looking, hard-bodied young people, there is no reason for us senior citizens to take your product seriously. In spite of such bias, we seniors still buy and use technology.

Now, if I could only find my buggy whip I could get the hell out of here. Oh, wait . . . “Hey, son! How do I shut this damn electronic typewriter off? And what am I supposed to do with all this typing anyways?” I guess I’ll have to let him figure that out. I’m too old and stupid.

long may it wave

Stars and Stripes - Long May It Wave

Happy Independence Day – the 4th of July – to all Americans, everywhere. We declared our independence in 1776 and fought to achieve it. In the end we stood as an independent nation. Let us hope not only for continued success in defense against foreign nations, but also against those who would change the very character of the United States government to something totally foreign to our founding fathers.

I took the opportunity today to finally get my flag displayed on my house. I had the pole holder up some time ago, but the pole itself had no good way to mount the flag to it. I attached a couple of eye bolts to the pole and used a plastic tie to attach the flag to the eye bolts. I’ll stop at the store and pick up a couple of snap-type latches to use instead of the plastic ties, but those will work for now.

I hope you all have a grand day today, and in addition to enjoying a day off (unless you work retail – sorry about that, son) I hope you take a moment to reflect on the bravery, determination, and sacrifice of our forefathers in the founding of our country.

 

bank hack?

I’m working on a project I didn’t expect to need to do. I have an email address that I only use for financial matters. Any online banking, savings, 401K stuff, etc., is supplied with that address – no one else – no stores, casual contacts or otherwise. However, suddenly today I am receiving spam at that address. So one of two things has happened; either one of my financial organizations has had their customer email list hacked (or worse) or they have shared my address with a thoroughly unscrupulous or insecure “partner.”

In any event, today I have created a new email address for that purpose and I am going to all my online financial connections and changing my email address. I suppose the smart thing to do while doing that is to change my passwords, too. What a pain in the ass. Oh well, might as well get to it. One of the hazards of a computerized, on-line life.

Edited 7/4/11 – Further reflection on this incident makes me wonder if someone just took a gamble on what might be a valid email address at my domain. It was a common word that would have made sense to use for that kind of email, so maybe some spammer took a chance and one of the many variations they tried actually hit home. I haven’t received any further email at that address (I am monitoring it, even though I no longer use it) so I think that may be a possibility. Lesson learned? Don’t use common words for the first part of your email address.