A few quick memories of Dad

Happy Father’s Day all! I lost my Dad twelve years ago. Years of smoking did enough damage, even though he had stopped a dozen years before. Ironically, one of his best lessons was not to smoke, as any teen will tell you how could anyone do something that tastes that bad after they sneak a try?

When I think of my Dad, I think of how he loved his grandchildren. He would be the comforter and entertainer to allow us parents to have some needed time. He would invariably tend to children after a meal to let others linger over conversation.

I think of his dutiful pitching in my batting practice. He would throw a bucketful of baseballs and then we would collect them and he would throw them again. Doing that after working all day is a way he showed his devotion to his children.

I think of his company having potluck lunches at work. Dad would smoke a ham and turkey. He would get up during the night to check on the smoking process to keep the meat tender. As I recall, they would do this three or four times a year.

I think of his marvelous roast beef he grilled and terrific BBQ chicken. He would laugh when we told him the chicken did not have any wings. The chef would be sampling said wings outside before he brought the chicken in.

I think of him loving my mother. We kids would sheepishly hide our faces as they hugged and kissed in front of us. I remember the story of how my Dad fell into my Mom’s lap chasing a loose basketball when she arrived late to the college team’s game. She also accidentally pushed him in a pond at college when the Women’s Dean approached.

My Dad was a good man. He was not perfect and had a few demons in smoking and alcohol, but I remember him well. Happy Father’s Day, Dad.

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Unforced errors

In homage to our ever-professor and former tennis coach Hugh, the statistical term “unforced errors” is tracked during each tennis match. In essence, unforced errors are mistakes made by the player without much instigation from the other player. My guess is tennis pros detest this statistic more than any other.

Unforced errors are as good a description of the actions of the US President as can be found. I first thought of the term as it relates to his highly offensive idea of placing tariffs on our allies. The tariffs are poor form, but the bullying, lying to and lying about allies are far worse.

But, it is not just the tariffs. The US President claims the media is his worst enemy. That is not close to being true. The President’s worst enemy is the guy named Donald that stares back at him when he shaves. He cannot stop himself from lying and bullying.

If the news is good, he has to lie to make it better. If it is bad, he has to lie to make it good. If it is horrible, he changes the subject. It is all part in parcel with his sales schtick. It is why his measured rate of lying per Politifacts is 69%. In other words, for every three statements or tweets, two of them are untrue.

Just yesterday, he unnerved his staff by having an impromptu press conference. He was all over the place with statements and had to go back and amend several. I saw one of his sycophants in the Freedom Caucus say that is just the President being unpredictable. I strongly disagree – that is the President who does not care to know details and cannot keep up with his own statements. So, his answers to questions are a crap shoot.

An old friend used to say “Always tell the truth, you don’t have to remember as much.” If the President wants better coverage, he could begin with telling the truth. His lies would be reduced as he need not have to change his story. Or, as one insider said yesterday, “The President was confused earlier today…” Yet, he still has to answer for his actions.

A nice memory – Country Roads

As summer approaches, many states are airing scenic commercials to woo vacationers. I think the most clever is Maine’s where they play up the abbreviation of “ME.” But, the one that brings back memories is that of West Virginia. They use John Denver’s popular song “Take me home, country roads” as they reveal beautiful scenery.

Here are the first few stanzas and chorus:

“Almost heaven, West Virginia
Blue ridge mountains, Shenandoah river
Life is old there, older than the trees
Younger than the mountains, blowing like a breeze

Country roads, take me home
To the place I belong
West Virginia
Mountain mamma, take me home
Country roads

All my memories, gather round her
Modest lady, stranger to blue water
Dark and dusty, painted on the sky
Misty taste of moonshine, teardrop in my eye.”

While I have traveled often to the state, my evoked memories are of friendship. I have written before about three boyhood friends who remain friends today. As we tooled around in one of our cars as teens going to a ball game or event, this song would come on the radio.

We each would belt out our car karioke harmonizing with John Denver. Sometimes, we would not even need the radio. Mind you, none of us were even close to being good at singing, but that did not stop us.

We sang other songs of the day, but this one was special. I think it is due to the number of times Denver used his chorus lines. It may also have been the interesting descriptive words he used of the scenery and people.

Now it serves as a life mile marker. It immediately brings forward a joyous time. As you read this, what song or songs are mile markers for you?

Replacing bad habits with good ones

I was reading a post by M.L.Davis at the suggestion of our friend Roger of Woebegone regarding good things that happen when you make writing a habit. I have included a link to her blog below. As I mentioned to her, it reminded me of a book my niece suggested for me when I was discussing breaking a bad habit of mine called “The Power of Habit” by Charles Duhigg. I wrote a summary about the book in the link below.

Many of my older readers know that I am an alcoholic. But, I have not had a drink in going on twelve years. A blog I wrote on my sixth anniversary remains by far my most frequented blog (link provided below). I think we all suffer from a bad habit or two that we would love to change. I believe that is the reason for the post’s relative popularity. My reasons for change were the wife of a colleague dying from complications from alcoholism and the recognition I was a train wreck waiting to happen.

The best piece of advice I received came from another colleague as we waited in an airport restaurant/ bar for our planes in Cincinnati. When she noticed me not ordering a drink early on in my sobriety, she said her husband went through this. She then said he used the mantra “I am not going to drink today.” There is a reason alcoholics can count the days of sobriety. It is a daily struggle.

Even today, there is a faint whisper of wanting a drink. It usually occurs during certain trigger moments, which Duhigg references in his book. My greater triggers were getting home from work and grilling out on Sunday. Unwinding from a stressful day sent me down an easy path to drinking. And, watching football or golf, while starting the grill became a cue for Happy Hour.

Recognizing these triggers is a way to change the habit. You have to substitute a good habit for the bad one. My good ones were fruit juices, popsicles, and tonic water. The alcoholic brain craves something sweet, so this allowed me to respond to the craving. Non-alcoholic beer helped some, but those added more calories than I wanted.

Regardless of your bad habit, identify its triggers and what happens next. I recall from the book about a worker who snacked too much at work. His cue was going to the restroom that took him past the breakroom. When he realized this, he changed his route and went for a quick walk.

The book is a good read. The attached post does highlight a few examples and teachings, but falls short of what Duhigg’s writings instruct. And, if you are an alcoholic or know someone, please offer the final link below. I have heard good feedback on it as I share what helped me with my problem.

4 Things That Happen When You Make Writing a Habit

https://musingsofanoldfart.wordpress.com/2013/04/14/the-power-of-habit/

https://musingsofanoldfart.wordpress.com/2013/08/08/six-years-alcohol-free-but-still-want-to-drink/

A few more Sunday sermonettes

Happy Sunday. No, I won’t be preaching this morning, but I will be trying my best to speak a few truths.

It easy to blame someone else or some other entity for your troubles. The European Union is not perfect, but has helped many countries through hard times. When they are helpful, country leaders pat themselves on the back. When times are tough, it is nice to have a scapegoat. Relationships are hard work, but countries need to think hard if they want a divorce from the EU before they have the “what do we do now moment?”

Speaking of relationships, the man in the White House tends to have transactional ones. A pundit said he counts few friends saying he touts a “me against the world” mindset. If he keeps on ticking off our allies, this description will be very apt. Unfortunately he will drag the US down with him.

Two of the worst terms in America are RINO and DINO. They mean Republican (or Democrat) in Name Only. They are used by tribal party members as an insult to someone who is not towing the party line. As an unaffiliated voter who has been a member of both parties, I find these labels offensive. We pledge allegiance to the country, not some party. If someone uses this term, do yourself a favor and pay attention to what the target of their labeling is saying. It likely has more veracity than the claimant’s argument.

The United Nations came out with a report Friday defining how Trump’s policies are detrimental to the poor in America. America has a poverty problem that predates Trump. Too many are living paycheck to paycheck and some are even beneath that. This President and Congress’ solution is to give a huge tax break to wealthy people and companies. And, if the repeal of the Affordable Care Act went through, it would have been even worse. America has fallen in the global ranks on upward socio-economic mobility. It matters more to whom you were born than merit in getting ahead.

On a positive note, Costco raised its minimum wage from $13 to $14 an hour and Walmart increased theirs from $9 to $11 an hour. And more states and cities are making planned and new increases. These are steps in the right direction. It would have been nice for Congress to have increased the minimum wage along with the tax decrease which impacts corporations annually. It would have helped pay for some of the lost tax revenue if companies had to increase pay for those in greatest need, plus this money would be spent as they need it more than the 1% group.

Thanks for letting me preach. Any AmensĀ or rebuttals? Other truisms?

When people pull the Nazi card, they better have a good reason

Republican Congressman Peter King of New York has pulled the Nazi card. He said NFL football players who choose not to stand for the national anthem are being Nazis. The President said during one of his ramblings that maybe these NFL protesters don’t belong in our country.

Really? Exercising one’s 1st Amendment rights of free speech is being a Nazi and worthy of deporting? Do you guys know what the Bill of Rights says? I remember the country group The Dixie Chicks” being vilified for questioning the US invasion into Iraq. Not only did they have that right, but they were right to question it. Senator Jim Webb said on the floor of the Senate, if we invade Iraq, be prepared to stay for thirty years. And, Senator John McCain recently lamented invading Iraq was a mistake,

We have every right to civilly protest in our country, even against the actions and lies of our thin-skinned President or any of his predecessors. That is the way this Democracy works. That document it is attached to makes an important reference to “We the people.”

But, I have never been a fan of people pulling the Nazi card. It is a lazy argument meant to paint something they don’t like with an evil color. Unless you are talking about the genocide of millions of people, squelching dissension and invading other countries, pulling the Nazi card is an asinine label. In fact, Nazis were forced to salute allegiance to a murderous regime or be sent away with the intellectuals, Jews, gays, gypsies, etc. This makes King’s argument even more off base.

To be frank, both King and Trump owe these protesters an apology. They are exhibiting a courage that neither man seems to possess. These players are risking their jobs to say being Black should not deny people opportunity and safety in our country. Like The Dixie Chicks, these NFL players have every right to protest and are also right.

As for King and Trump, they may want reread that 1st amendment. It is the one that precedes the 2nd one, which they should read as well. By the way, there is a real life Nazi Party in the US, as permitted by our Constitution. It would be interesting to see who most of this party voted for in 2016?

Context is important with news

Context is key to understanding. It enables one to understand why a change or news item is important and when people are masking over a problem or blowing smoke.

Here are a few examples of why context matters:

Mark Zuckerberg, the CEO of Facebook testified to Congress of his concerns of privacy of data. He may say he is concerned, but his business model is to sell access to your data to marketers. Unless that model changes, our data will be exposed. Facebook was told to address these privacy issues five years ago and failed to act. It may be a new company, but it has learned to feign concern like an old one.

Football helmets are very high tech these days to soften the impact of blows to the head during this violent game. Yet, no matter how much cushion is offered, the problem is they cannot stop the fact the brain rattles around inside the head when it is struck. Unless football outlaws head hits, the game may have to require players to sign a waiver acknowledging the potential damage before they play and youth tackle football may be banned.

The changes needed in governments are obvious to many, including the legislators. But, they won’t happen. Why? Change will not occur if the people who need to make it are too aligned with what needs to be changed. Politicians are too enamored with keeping their job to actually do their job. Money matters too much in these equations.

Let me close with a final example. There is a difference between someone who does the right thing 19 times out of 20, but screws up one time versus someone where the opposite is more true. The one error for the first person may be similar to one of the second person, but they deserve a closer look. I have seen good people fired because managers ignored this kind of math. Context is key.