Thursday, September 29, 2016

Hold It Right Thar Cowboy!

I drink this stuff like water. I put it on everything. Eggs, beef, chicken, salads, fish, pizza, chilies, soups and veggies but I haven’t tried ice cream yet?

No food gets by without being splashed upon with Texas Pete Hot Sauce.

I’ve tried every other variation of spicy sauces but have settled on this one. Not too much garlic or vinegar or overpowering heat but enough to make your head sweat.

I’ve been using this staple of the kitchen ingredients for years and have noticed the changes in the manufacturing. It has become more watered down and there are vast species of different bottles with their own appeal, but I’ve stuck with the ‘original’ version.
TW Garner Food Company from North Carolina came out with this concoction in 1929. There was a recommendation of “Mexican Joe” to be the name of the product but Mr. Garner wanted an “American” name for this spice, so “Texas Pete®” was settled on.

So I go to the grocery today to restock when I notice the top of the bottle is different. A yellow plastic wrapper instead of the clear I’ve been used to for years. Also the top looked bigger.

What have they done now?

I double checked that this isn’t some new variation but it was the “Original” and there were no older bottles in sight, so I brought it home.

Being an investigator, I checked the website and this is what they said:
“We’ve made it easier to enjoy the bold, balanced flavor of Texas Pete® by adding a convenient flip-top lid,” explains Ann Garner Riddle, the Chief Executive Officer. “Adding a few drops of Texas Pete® to your favorite foods will be the same great experience with our new flip-top cap. You can also remove the top to pour Texas Pete® into a measuring cup or spoon for using our mouthwatering sauce as an ingredient in your recipe. We want everyone to know that while we have improved our bottles, the same great products you’ve come to know and love are inside.”

The new style bottles are now appearing on store shelves nationwide.

So it seems that there will be a pour cap that will provide a faster flow and quicker empting of the bottle than before. I still have some drops left in my old bottle but this weekend is football and pizza and I’ll test out this new packaging wonder along with the hot crushed peppers and the coarse black pepper I always use to adorn my lunch. Maybe I won’t have to shake the bottle so much or maybe it will flood my meal.

I’ll let you know Mr. Garner. Just keep them coming.

Cleaning Out Your Father’s Closet

We all have to do it at one time or another. Clean out the personal items of a relative who has died.
(Note: Mother, Grandparent, Sibling, Child or Spouse can be substituted here.)
Sometimes friends can help separate sentimental objects to be saved and cherished from thrift store rejects. Each piece of clothing or personal effect has it’s own story. These were the everyday arrangements this person wanted to use and save.
There are ties from decades old use. Some are showing the wear and tear of favorites to others still in the boxes given on Father’s day. Some have intricate hand sewn designs and others are simply utilitarian. Take some home to wear or take to the Vintage shop for sale? Wearing your dad’s tie might be a sign of honor or just kinda creepy?
Belts are the same. Socks, worn out shoes, underwear, pajamas are things that should go to the trash. They are a bit too personal to be washed and worn. Shirts and slacks of many different sizes through many different weights are usually 10 years old and out of style for older people don’t keep up with fashion but rather tend to practicality. Jackets and sweaters and sweatshirts generally show the gentle wear of favorites. A sports coat that my mother sewed patches on the sleeves was a go-to standard. Tuxedos and cumberbuns and ruffled shirts somewhat are useful if there are occasions to wear them or passed to the next generation as retro. The same is true for moldy service uniforms. Hats that were all the rage when he was growing up are no longer worn.
Then the bathroom items like toothbrush, shaving mug, two-sided razor, combs and hairbrushes are gathered to decide whether to keep or throw away. Gels, deodorants, and even pills and potions must be cleared out.
Tools, fishing rods, golf clubs, and anything else your dad decided to save but you mother doesn’t want around has to go. In many cases these items clean out her garage and fills up your garage. Sentimental value is costly.
Jewelry has the most heart aching decisions for future homes. These were items cherished by your father. Some are old fraternity pins or school tie clips or badges worn on certain occasions while others are merely shiny worthless bling. His father’s gold watch should be passed down to the eldest son for tradition but the other Timex watches given as Christmas presents that stopped long ago.
Cleaning out your father’s closet can often find surprises. A bundle of secret letters to someone you never heard of. Some intimate photos not expected from your dad. Maybe a trunk of family photos your father had stored away from a previous time, saved but forgotten. Maybe even a gun, but none of these artifacts were ever discussed but were revealed in your excavation.
When you open your closet door and look at all your tee-shirts and funny shirts and rows of shoes and boots, remember someday someone else will have to clean all this out.

Sunday, September 25, 2016

What Is Happening This Week?

Calendars. Remember Calendars? Day-by-day, week-by-week, life’s little actions and appointments and birthdays were recorded as a reminder of what to do each day.
So here is a record of what was reported as important this week.
Monday, September 19, 2016
Let’s see where to begin. Raining like a fuddermuster. BREAKING NEWS!: The guy law enforcement thought might be planting bombs in the upper East was caught in a shootout. The guy who was dressed as a security guard and was hacking people in a mall was shot dead by an off-duty cop. It is implied that both were Muslin so Don Trump can say, “I told you so.” Local police are looking for someone who carjacked a Chinese delivery service killing the driver in the process. Someone is around VCU/Monroe Park area punching folks early in the morning. Note to self: Don’t go into that area at 3AM. A another sexual assault at VCU but no reports of similar occurrences at UofR, W&M, VUU, VA. Tech? Oops! US bombed some Syrian soldiers. Sorry. Pipe leak closes gas stations and creates a state emergency. Thought those pipes didn’t crack? A guy on Southside was shot and left for dead at 1AM. Some dressed up folks gave each other gold statues. (See the best and worst online). And no one cares where the President was born. 858 immigrants were granted citizenship before being deported. Oops again. Seems another person on a lawnmower has been shot dead on Southside and there was a brawl at a chicken place and in a school.
Tuesday, September 20, 2016
Cloudy, muggy and sort of icky day. BREAKING NEWS!: Brad and Angie are splitting. One restaurant opens and another one closes. State doesn’t have enough cops. Governor is photographed with weed but he doesn’t know what it is. Crane crazes into overpass and clogs up the highway. Some guy grabs someone else’s booty then runs away. Bank CEO is grilled about employee practices and firing over 5,000 of them. Another unarmed black guy shot by cops. Big fire burns in migrant camp on Lesbos. Bankrupt laboratory sues it’s own employees. Streets run red in Bangladesh for ritual slaughter. Relief convoy bombed in Syria. 5000 are without power. Prisoner dies from dehydration. President talks to the UN. A possible suicide of someone jumping off an overpass onto the highway is investigated. The otter dies at Maymont. A late revitalized downtown plaza is finally finished for almost $3M. State is worried about city that wants to be bailed out of its debt might start a trend. Over 100 get Hepatitis A from smoothies.
Wednesday, September 21, 2016
Cloudy and humid (rain). Protestors clogged highway and shut it down over another police shooting. Woman’s body was found on Franklin Street. $6M renovation project for Monroe Park will begin soon. Cornbread catches fire and closes down the highway. Some more robberies and some more arrest. Stand, sit, kneel, take off hat, hand on heart, fist in the air pledge allegiance to a flag. Another sexual assault reported at VCU. Another pharmaceutical CEO is grilled in Congress. FBI is looking for luggage. High-speed chase ends in Chippenham crash. Someone shot at second night of protest in NC with a state of emergency? Blue Bell ice cream recalls pints.
Thursday, September 22, 2016
Partly sunny, partly cloudy, humid (from all the rain but cooler temps). Spike sticks used to stop a really fast driver. State delegate charged with assaulting child. Air Sex Championship National Tour comes to town. $1.2M lawsuit for not paying sewer bills. Creepy clown reports spread. At the Family Dollar a mother with her 2-year-old OD’s. Huge data breach at Yahoo! Hazmat fuel spill clogs up highway. Flipped car clogs up highway. U.S. Marshalls are looking for bad guy. Tulsa police officer charged with manslaughter. Power is out in Puerto Rico. Charlotte protestors are walking laps.
Friday, September 23, 2016
Sunny, mild, perfect. VCU “Make It Real” plans a $750M fundraising drive for endowments and athletics. Motorcycle going 100mph crashes, rider in hospital. State Water Control Board permits Chesterfield power plant to dump coal ash wastewater into the river. State Fair comes to town…. well sort of. $12K was charged at Target on credit card stolen from Pony Pasture. Health Inspector finds dog in coffee shop. Cease-fire is over in Syria. Bombs Away! BREAKING NEWS!: Wife of Charlotte shooting victim release her own video. The National Museum of African American History and Culture will open with three-day festival. Two men have been robbing two-dozen businesses on Southside. Teddy Cruz flip-flops on Trump. Federal judge who convicted now formally dismisses charges against former governor. Another person shot dead on Southside. Four people shot and killed in Burlington, Washington mall and suspect(s) at large.
Saturday, September 24, 2016
Sunny, mildly warm, perfect fall day. VCU buys a $500K plot of land for $2M. North side news: Man shot and another hit by a car. Couple more restaurants close. Another person dies from mall shooting and shooter is still on the lam. Protestors continue their Charlotte walking marathon. Jennifer Flowers will attend the Monday’s debate and no one cares. Charlotte police release videos. Washington State shooter arrested.
Sunday, September 25, 2016
Overcast and cool with sprinkles of sunshine. Woman killed in head-on collision. Bunch of folks shot at an Illinois college. 8 shot in Baltimore. Two planes collide in New York. A bunch of folks have been arrested for shootings and other violence. Marlin pitcher dies in boat crash. 2 people hit by car on Southside. Arnie gets a hole for one. A big rock was made a natural park.
Well that is about it for a week. I’m sure there was more news I missed and little details I glossed over, but a lot of stuff happens in a week. These were just highlights that I saw on the normal newscast.


So what is with all this (expletive deleted) profanity? When did we become all potty-mouthed?
Benjamin K. Bergen, linguist and author of ‘What the F: What Swearing Reveals About Our Language, Our Brains and Ourselves’, explained that the visceral emotions swearing elicits may be due to the unique qualities of swear words, which, he says, are in a league of their own as far as language goes. It’s the type of language we use to invoke and pull out the strongest emotions in other people.
This is because cussing comes from a different part of the brain than other modes of spoken communication. “It’s older, emotion-regulation part of the brain that we share with other primates and mammals,” Bergen said.
Bergen says most profanities belong to one of four thematic categories: Religious concepts; sex and sexual activity; body functions and organs therein involved; and terms for members of other groups, which are really just slurs.
  What is the difference between to cuss, curse or swear?
To swear? 
To swear is to make a solemn statement or promise undertaking to do something or affirming that something is the case. “Maria made me swear I would never tell anyone.”
To swear is to promise, vow, pledge, give one's word, take an oath, undertake, or guarantee. “They swore to marry each other.”
To swear insist, avow, pronounce, declare, proclaim, assert, profess, maintain, contend, emphasize, or stress. “She swore she would never go back.”
To swear expresses confidence in, have faith in, trust, believe in; set store by, value. “We swear by these all-weather tires.”
To swear is to take (an oath). “He was forced to swear an oath of loyalty.”
To swear is to take a solemn oath as to the truth of (a statement). “I asked him if he would swear a statement to this effect”
To swear is to make promise to observe a certain course of action. “I've been sworn to secrecy.”
To swear is to use offensive language, especially as an expression of anger.
To curse?
A curse is any expressed wish that some form of adversity or misfortune will befall or attach to one or more persons, a place, or an object. A “curse” may refer to such a wish or pronouncement made effective by a supernatural or spiritual power, such as a god or gods, a spirit, or a natural force, or else as a kind of spell. A curse can also be called a hex or a jinx. To reverse or eliminate a curse is sometimes called “removal” or “breaking”, and is often believed to require elaborate rituals or prayers.
To cuss?
To use words you would not say to your grandmother.
To say words that will get your mouth washed out with soap.
To use in conversation to another person who will probably give you a black eye.
To show you limited vocabulary.
To abbreviate a word by substituting asterisks for letters.
So the question comes back, why do we use these words? The words are offensive and utterly distasteful to everyone, so why don’t we change our habits?
Hit you hand with a hammer and say, “Wham-bam-Mary-had-a-little-lamb”
If your football team misses a pass say, “They are playing like a bunch of kittens”
Get back to an insulting situation by saying, “You are not going to monkey with me”
Turn the words around so it will keep the same cadenza like, “It is raining like a fuddermucker”
Give it a try. You might just make people smile?

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Ghost Town

They say, “You can never go back home.” What if you never left?
When I arrived this little rebuilt town was still the capitol of the commonwealth. It was a railway hub producing cigarettes, banking and the usual businesses surrounding a center of post-war posterity. Churches and schools peppered the area while Jim Crow still divided the Broad Street. Real estate was spreading into agriculture creating suburbia. Automobiles were being sold as fast as refrigerators and televisions. 
We stood, placed our hands on our hearts and pledged alliance to the flag every morning. We also hid under our desk to protect us from nuclear bombs. We walked to school and played on jungle gyms at recess. In the evenings we road our bikes around the neighborhood and rang the doorbells to Trick or Treat.
Each change of schools lost so many familiar faces and introduced strangers. College became the first reason to leave town, but I stayed. Marriage, employment, family were all good reasons to leave home and travel to another location, but I stayed. White flight drove people to the counties, but I stayed.
Some return and are astounded with the changes, but I’ve seen it happen day-by-day. Still I’m at awe to wander the streets I once knew and see them as if I’d traveled to the other side of the world.
My small college has turned into a university and is taking over midtown. Giant department stores that were the occasion to visit the bustling downtown area wearing white gloves and view the trains in the display windows are gone. No one ever explained why the escalators that were so much fun to play on got thinner on the third floor? More traffic required digging up the trolley tracks. Old limestone storefronts were covered in aluminum and they moved to the malls, leaving empty promises and forgotten wishes. Former tobacco warehouse have been transformed to swank condos and a slave disembark area now holds expensive bistros and riverfront high-rise hotels and offices. The schools are the same but the hospitals have all moved.
The city even annexed part of the land across the river, but I never crossed the river except for vacations. The ballpark was expanded and an entertainment area built but the feel of the city never truly changed. Some temporary housing neighborhoods were torn down for expensive condos while others turned into public housing. Other areas have not been touched. A ribbon of concrete has been wound around the city but the railroads still rumble at night with coal to keep the lights on.
As with any neighborhood one wishes to live, I found a spot that is quiet, comfortable and somewhat crime free. Neighbors’ come and go like old school classmates. Families and fences grow as fast as the trees. 
When I see the historical images of what was, I can relate to most of them. If you live long enough, you get old.
The place where the cool kids hung out for ice cream, the old dance hall over a bowling alley that didn’t standup to the test of time, the drive-in where the windows fogged up, the corner restaurant with the best double-cheese pizza, a row of movie theaters to watch Sunday matinee monster movies, and many more are only memories now.
Still the summers are as hot as I had forgotten and the winters are getting colder. The birds still wake you in the springtime and the full moon lights up the silent nights. Rocking on a porch with a silent conversation to yourself you can wave at the neighbors not knowing their names.
It is a ghost town.
Even if you don’t leave you can’t go home.

Friday, September 23, 2016


Avoidance can be a self-preservation technique. We avoid things for safety and we avoid pain and suffering. We try to.
We avoid getting too close to the edge in fear of falling. We avoid fire and sharp objects. We tend to shy away from gunshots.
We have become fanatical about avoiding. We shade ourselves from the sun and exam our food as if it is all poison. We give wide berth to dangerous animals and steer clear of lightning.
We lower our survival tendencies to get doctor exams and cannot avoid the daily stress of bills, family, taxes, work and other elements that we must deal with to live.
We can avoid traffic by finding a different route, but we can’t avoid love. We can teach ourselves not to hate, but there is no avoidance of love. There is no way around it when the love bugs bites. We can be awkward and shy about discussing our feelings with the other person, but we can avoid our attraction for whatever reason. It fills our dreams and becomes the air we breathe. We may try to avoid the temptation with the possibility of rejection, yet love is a drug and should be enjoyed and cherished while you have it.
One more thing before I go. Death! Sorry you can’t avoid it. It is inevitable. No one gets out alive.

Monday, September 19, 2016

Let’s Play A Game

It is called Conversation.
No it is not an app so you can stop Googling. It is not software to download but there are some requirements to agree to.
Hopefully this was taught to you growing up but with many variations and tongues. Many speech patterns, inflections and vocabulary may differ; it is still the best way to communicate.
Perhaps in school the art of arranging words into sentences using nouns, verbs, adjectives and adverbs along with those pesky dangling participles was learned. Now thoughts and ideas and reactions could be passed to another in a coherent structure.
While some like to follow the proper talk and listen and reply others might just want to yell and scream without remorse.
Ideas and thoughts can be shared and both participants become more aware of themselves and each other. It is done all the time. Pillow talk keeps many couples together.
Roll the dice and take your chances.
So put away the electronics, sit up straight and face the person you want to have a conversation with. Look them in the eye and take a breath. It may be as difficult as flirting or asking the most important question or it may be three little words than confirm your commitment to one another.
Conversation can bring laughter and tears and revel wonders of ideas without any emojis.
Don’t put this on your Twitter feed.

The phone call

I woke up one morning to the phone on the wall. I stumbled to answer trying not to get wrapped in the long curly cord.
“Hello?” I muttered wondering who would be calling me at this time or morning.
“John Lennon has been shot. John Lennon is dead” came the anxious reply.
It was a cool December morning and before the Internet, all I could do was turn on the morning news shows to confirm that a former Beatle had been assassinated.
So what do you do? How do you feel?
Personally I’d never known John Lennon except through the television and vinyl recordings. He was never my favorite Beatle. After the band broke up (and I blamed part of that on John bringing in Yoko) I never followed his solo music. Even his ‘lost weekend’ with Harry Nilsson didn’t catch my attention other than I thought here was another rocker who has lost his way. When I read he had gotten back with Yoko and was making some new music, I still wasn’t ready to listen.
But now a Beatle was dead.
The band will never get back together again because there cannot be a Lennon /McCartney without a Lennon.
By this time, many of our teenage idols had gone and the ones remaining were either living off forgotten fame or awash in cultural wishes. A few strong ones adapted to the changes and progressed and became wealthy while they continue to tour and feed the masses what they whimsy remember.
A few that have been remembered, like John Lennon, have formed a brand that continues recycling images and digging into the vaults for songs that might keep the vision alive.
Imagine that.

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Crowd of Strangers

What do you do in a crowd of strangers?
It is an everyday occurrence. When you leave your sanctuary of family to wander into the world to get groceries or buy gas you are surrounded by strangers. When you go to a restaurant, everyone else in there is a stranger. When they turn off the lights at the movies everyone else is a stranger. When you go to a stage presentation or an outdoor festival, everyone else there is a stranger.
It maybe a crowded elevator or a line at the bank, they are all strangers. Public bathrooms are full of strangers. Hotels have strangers sleeping next to you. Churches are full of strangers.
When you join a team everyone else is a stranger. When you get a job everyone else is a stranger. When you fly on a plane or ride a train everyone else is a stranger.
How we interact with this sea of humanity shows our cultural civility and polite etiquette for others. Then, at time, things just get unruly and we have to decide to join in with the masses or not.
We can take along family or friends as a buffer to the multitude. We can only attend events where we are part of the flock. Yet we cannot interact with strangers.
A stranger gave us all the forms to make your largest purchases. A stranger pulls us over for running a stop sign? A stranger diagnoses your ailments. A stranger works on your car. A stranger boards your kids all day. A stranger takes you to the hospital. A stranger handles all your money at the bank.
So while we have a brief conversation standing in line together or high five at the sports bar, that person is a stranger. That person could be a preacher or a bank robber. That person might be a domestic abuser or a CEO. That person could be a junkie or an animal adoption advocate. That person might be the person who programmed your phone or the last of the Mohicans. That person may become your next wife or best friend or hack your account and steal all your money.

Monday, September 12, 2016

My TV Is Dying

He’s been with me through four decades. After the decision was made that another television was necessary a quick trip to Circuit City and a black 15” Panasonic was purchased. It was state of the art with a remote control and a VCR .
My first luxury purchase when I moved into this house was a 21” color television from Miller and Rhoades. It was 1979 and my first color television. Carried the big box home on the bus, adjusted the antenna and punch the remote box and volia I was in heaven. Then MTV came out and I had to get cable and punch a hole in the wall and rig up some type of connection and another remote box on a cord. Cable became boring even with free movies and disengaging became even harder but finally went back to the normal three local stations for new, weather, and serial network entertainment.
It became apparent that there must be a television in every room. Then digital television came along and analog converter boxes had to be installed for each one. VCR and DVD players along with additional rabbit ears were wired with an array of remotes.
Yet my little Panasonic sitting on the wall has been a trusted friend through many cold winters and hot summers. It’s remote died years ago along with the VCR player and FM radio. The little speaker is also fading.
Now the screen is starting to shrink. I can turn it off and turn it back on yet the cathode ray tube is about done. It has been a faithful friend bringing me PBS adventures, football and music shows. It maybe sad I don’t turn it on as much anymore but there is not much worth watching? Maybe it is just getting too old?
So soon I’ll take him off the wall and replace him with a newer old model already in storage with finer detail for foggy eyes. This winter I can watch DVDs and VCR and have more remotes to fumble with.
Until then I’ll keep him up in the dusty spider webbed corner and try to make him go as long as I can. That is what you do with old faithful friends.


The generation with a motto of “Sex & Drugs & Rock & Roll” has changed, at least in my opinion. Have we just grown up and become mainstream and given up on our superior rightness to change the world?
Have we passed on our rebellious attitude to only bring out our starched tie-dye for a Grateful Dead cover band? Did we go too far or not far enough?
The drugs we take now for all our ailments maybe clouding our since of reality? Maybe we are too focused on our political rants and daily memorials to forget to breath?
The world is a strange place but it is where we have to live. Our generation has done some marvelous things like civil rights, women’s right, gay rights and even put a man on the moon (I still don’t get that one?) but we’ve also bombed the heck out of strangers all over the world and when that isn’t enough excitement, shot each other. We have marched and carried placards and given noble speeches but few have run for public office. We gorge ourselves on the most disgusting people and watch our evenings in reality shows.
So I observe and write.
Is it offensive? Perhaps to some. Is it provocative? Depends on the reader’s interpretation. Is it rude? To some. Is it sarcastic? Isn’t everything? Is it clever? Some think so. Is it cynical? Depending on the subject matter. Is it thought provoking? Hopefully. Is it politically correct? Certainly not. Is it revolutionary? No. Is it inappropriate? At times.
Like any creative type, we hear a noise or see a sight or even a taste or smell can trigger a thought. And the creative mind never turns off, so the thought is expanded and shaped and reformed into an expression. That expression can be through words or sounds or pictures or movement. Some may be joyous images of rainbows and unicorns while others are bloody explosions and fiery crashes.
It is your choice to like it or not.
And we all have a lot to say. Social media has certainly proved that. We can post our pictures of cute kittens and happy drunken selfies and turn away from the awkwardness or disgust, but it is still there.
With all the freedoms the Boomers have had, the freedom of speech is one of the most endearing. We were lucky enough to live in a country where women can drive and are not flogged for thinking impure thoughts and can wear tight clothing and spiked heels for the ogling male. That is just the world we’ve made for ourselves.
Now the critics would say our generation is well meaning and caring. We may plant a tree or sign a petition but mostly throw money at every organization, foundation, association and society that promises to find the cure or save the planet or put an end to war.
So don’t go into the shadows and turn away from anything that upsets our moral values, for this life business is hard and full of bumps and bruises. Some don’t make it long by chance or choice.
And don’t take your innocent children to the museum. There are a bunch of naked ladies in there. 

Friday, September 9, 2016

Hello Kitty

You know Kitty. She might be your neighbor’s daughter. She might just be a girl walking to school through the neighborhood. She might be seen at the mall shopping with a group of other Kitties. She might be seen at church handing out cookies.
Kitty is beyond dolls but not yet a woman. Kitty is seeking a way to fit in. Kitty wants to be popular but doesn’t know the rules.
Kitty follows the trends to fit in. Kitty speaks the language to fit in. Kitty wears the fashion to fit in. Who gave the instructions to Kitty?
Fathers don’t want Kitty to grow up from being a little girl. Mothers worry that Kitty will follow her path. Kitty doesn’t know this. Kitty doesn’t care. She is on her own.
Kitty starts to hang around with boys. Kitty’s chemistry is changing. Kitty likes the attention. 
Kitty may find a boy who respects her and takes her to the prom. Kitty may find a boy who takes indecent liberties with her. Kitty is growing up.
Kitty might go on to become a doctor or a lawyer or a computer technician or astronaut. Kitty might run with the wrong crowd and wind up a dead junkie in some back alley. Kitty might be a mother of four whom late one night after too many drinks wrecks the car and kills her family. Kitty might be the smiling neighbor living through domestic violence. Kitty might be the kindly grandmother who knits stockings for her grandchildren without telling them her history. Kitty works the check out stand. Kitty calls you to upgrade your electronics. Kitty cleans your toilet. Kitty hands you junk food. Kitty waits at the bus stop and wonders “What if?”
I know Kitty. You know Kitty. She might be your daughter? She might be you?

Where Did You Come From?

It is part of our identity. It seems where we come from explains who we are.
Where we come from is also a conversation starter. People can relate with place to associate their families or friends who live in similar places. Unless you were born in the place that your parents were born and their parents were born, there will be s string of where you come from.
It doesn’t matter where you were born because that is just where you parents were during that time. Where you went to school is always a good conversation starter. Where you live now may not matter except for the general region.
Most people will recognize a big city like New York or New Orleans or Atlanta or Los Angeles but few may know a rural Farmville or Ashland or Doswell or New Cumberland. Even fewer will know the neighborhoods of Colonial Place or Malvern Gardens or even the Fan. To dig down deep to street names would mean the other person or friend lived within the city limits and particularly in your area.
It is basically a starting point for a conversation of familiar places that may have been vacations, conventions, living destinations or grandparents homestead. If you are out of country, only your nation makes a reference of where you come from.
Genealogy also confuses the issue by defining a person of their ancestry. Not only the location but where the family came from decades of migration and integration with other cultures.
So where did you come from?
Third rock from the sun.

Thursday, September 8, 2016

A Simple Tool To Do One Simple Job

A capo (/ˈkeɪ.poʊ/ or /ˈkæ.poʊ/; short for capo d'astro, capo tasto or capotasto [kapoˈtasto], Italian for "head of fretboard"; Spanish, capodastro [ka.po'ðas.tɾo]) is a device used on the neck of a stringed (typically fretted) instrument to shorten the playable length of the strings, hence raising the pitch. It is frequently used on guitars, mandolins, and banjos.
The word derives from the Italian "capotasto" which means the nut of a stringed instrument. The earliest known use of the term "capotasto" is by Giovanni Battista Doni who, in his Annotazioni of 1640, uses it to describe the nut of a viola da gamba. The first patented capo was designed by James Ashborn of Wolcottville, Connecticut, USA.
Musicians commonly use a capo to raise the pitch of a fretted instrument so they can play in a different key using the same fingerings as playing open (i.e., without a capo). In effect, a capo uses a fret of an instrument to create a new nut at a higher note than the instrument's actual nut.
There are several different capo designs, but most commercial capos consist of a rubber-covered bar that clamps to the instrument's neck in some way to hold down the strings. Capos come in different sizes and shapes for different instruments and fret board curvatures.
The most relevant mechanical factors that vary by type of capo are ease of use, size, degree of interference with the player's hands, and ability to hold down strings uniformly without affecting tuning. All types of capo should be applied after a fresh tuning by laying the barre, descending from above, and directly behind the fret, so that all of the strings have uniform position and pressure. If the strings are bent or mispositioned, the instrument will sound out of tune in the new key. Some types of capo can mar the neck of the guitar if applied incorrectly.
Musicians use capos on many stringed instruments: guitars, mandolins, mandolas, banjos, bouzoukis - virtually any instrument that has strings suspended over a fretted fingerboard. Capos exist for square-necked resonator guitars, some of which do not contact the neck, but clamp above and below the strings.
Back-story: When I first starting playing a string instrument, I had no idea what a capo was. I learned three chords and was fine until someone decided to change the key. I was stuck. I had to learn a bunch more chords to stay in the same tuning.
Somebody taught me how to play a barre chord (which is basically a capo but using your fingers). I struggled because it is hard to keep the pressure down on all the strings. Now I could slide up and down the neck to find any chord necessary to play a song.
Then somebody showed me a capo. A steel bar wrapped in rubber connected to an elastic band. The band could unlock at one end and wrap about the back of the neck to hook again. The barre was placed in between frets and could be adjusted until all the strings matched pitch.
The 12-string had even more pressure so the capo had two elastic straps.
It was a wonderful system until the elasticity loosened.
Then there were mechanical metal barre that would slide over the next and lock in place. Unfortunately not all necks are the same and some didn’t fit the width.
Now there are dozens, maybe hundreds of variations that are spring loaded. Easy to move and take off, the capo has become as important a tool for a string player as a pick and a tuner.
After years of watching different techniques and styles, I learned to transpose. It was faster on the fly playing and kept the sound different. If someone wanted to play the chord C major, I know half dozen variations that don’t need a capo.
The capo is still in my toolbox and is a great tool to do one job and do it very well.

You’ve Been Served

Are you a lawyer? Do you know a lawyer? There are probably a couple living on your block.
They are everywhere and for good reason.
Whatever you say or do is under scrutiny of the law and you might not even know it.
Every day in every corner of this wide America country, laws are being passed that restricts or allows human behavior. What is legal in one county might be against the law in another.
Maybe you didn’t part you hair on the right side? Maybe using the wrong fork in one place is acceptable but not in another? Maybe the speed limit doesn’t seem possible but you get a ticket anyway? Maybe someone offends you so you sue him or her?
To sue seems the solution to every problem. Trip over a stick in the yard? Sue ‘em! Lose your spot on the plane? Sue ‘em! Get overcharged in a restaurant? Sue ‘em! Do not get a raise? Sue ‘em!
There are certainly enough variations of the law to give a lawyer enough to take your case to trial.
Whether it is a civil or federal case or an inquisition, the procedure is the same. Evidence must be accumulated. Witnesses must be questioned. A court time must be assigned and judges and juries rounded up.
Once the assigned time, show up in your best Sunday go-to-meeting garb and be polite. Possible outcomes may be fines or jail time or both.
Not knowing all the legislative requirements on our daily living, I hope I can make the wrong turn and without injuring property or persons can say “Sorry” and all is well again. Not so much if I pull out a weapon and wipe someone away.
Seems there are lots of levels of crimes or offenses and punishments. Not as many are put to the stake or drawn and quartered as a deterrent any more.
The parking ticket is paid or you go to jail. The late bill is paid or you go to jail. The homeless guy caught with a joint goes to jail. Do not pass go.
The judicial system grinds slowly through all these petitions to right wrongs with mistrials, hung juries, appeals, retrials and counter suites.
So everything we do from buying a car to a house or marriage or even employment requires a lawyer’s approval. Even dying requires a lawyer’s approval.
Go about your daily routine but look over your shoulder. There is an ambulance chaser just looking for an excuse to become the next Perry Mason at your expense.
You’ve been served.

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Are We Too Sensitive?

I keep hearing about all this sensitivity training political correctness everyone must take to understand the feelings of others. Really?
Have we become too fragile to not be able to take a few rude disparaging statements? Can we only handle warm and fuzzy?
Growing up with skinned knees and ragtag ruffian, people just threw around inappropriate slurs and everyone laughed and took it on the chin.
Tall kids were called “stretch” and smaller kids were called “shorty” or “runt”. Husky kids were called “fat” and thin kids were called “stick”. They became nicknames and badges of courage.
At the same time, we overheard our parents and society in general use terminology that just became familiar to our vocabulary.
Old kids would pants or give a noogie to the younger kids and that was just part of the growing up experience. Offensive names and behavior was part of being a kid.
Then like learning how to smoke or drive, we started learning how to be prejudiced against people who were not accepted in our community units.
Kids of other cultures or religions became “wop” or “hymie” or “kike” or “chink” or “cracker” or “redneck” or “hillbilly” or “jap” or “jungle bunny” or “pollock” or “sambo” or “spic” or “wasp” or “white trash” or worst.
The poor female gender got a pile of demeaning descriptions as “slut” or “whore” or poo-tang” while guys always focused as genitalia with “weenie” or “hung”.
The N-word has several variations depending on the age of the person saying it. Though the words were not in the dictionary, they were used everywhere, even in church.
Whether like going through battle or just accepting it as a right of passive, we became thick skinned until we became cultured enough to understand manners and proper behavior.
So now any slight or even vague interpretation of a slur or unacceptable statement becomes a “charge of bigotry” or “civil rights offense” or “sexual harassment” or any array of pubic or private offensive court cases.
Back in the day, if you offended another person might come to fist-a-cuffs but after the smoke cleared opponents would shake hands, apologize, and walk away the better for it.
Tomorrow’s lesson: How can I sue you?

Monday, September 5, 2016

The Elderly

So you are getting older? Be thankful you made it this far. Some of us haven’t.
Now as a senior citizen what do you have to look forward to?
Senior citizen is a common euphemism for an old person used in American English, When defined in an official context, senior citizen is often used for legal or policy-related reasons in determining who is eligible for certain benefits available to the age group.
Old age refers to ages nearing or surpassing the life expectancy of human beings, and is thus the end of the human life cycle.
Old people often have limited regenerative abilities and are more susceptible to disease, syndromes, and sickness than younger adults. The organic process of ageing is called senescence, the medical study of the aging process is called gerontology, and the study of diseases that afflict the elderly is called geriatrics.
Most developed Western countries set the age of 60 to 65 for retirement. Being 60–65 years old is usually a requirement for becoming eligible for senior social programs.
Gerontologists have recognized the very different conditions that people experience as they grow older within the years defined as old age. In developed countries, most people in there 60s and early 70s are still fit, active, and able to care for themselves. However, after 75, they will become increasingly frail, a condition marked by serious mental and physical debilitation.
The distinguishing characteristics of old age are both physical and mental. A basic mark of old age that affects both body and mind is “slowness of behavior.” This “slowing down principle” finds a correlation between advancing age and slowness of reaction and physical and mental task performance.  Physical marks of old age include the following:
* Bone and joint. “Thinning and shrinkage” mark old bones. This results in a loss of height (about two inches by age 80), a stooping posture in many people, and a greater susceptibility to bone and joint diseases such as osteoarthritis and osteoporosis.
* Chronic diseases. Older persons have at least one chronic condition and many have multiple conditions. In 2007-2009, the most frequently occurring conditions among older persons in the United States were uncontrolled hypertension (34%), diagnosed arthritis (50%), and heart disease (32%).
* Chronic mucus hypersecretion (CMH) “defined as coughing and bringing up sputum . . . is a common respiratory symptom in elderly persons.”
* Dental problems. Less saliva and less ability for oral hygiene in old age increases the chance of tooth decay and infection.
* Digestive system. About 40% of the time, old age is marked by digestive disorders such as difficulty in swallowing, inability to eat enough and to absorb nutrition, constipation and bleeding.
* Essential Tremor (ET) is an uncontrollable shaking in a part of the upper body. It is more common in the elderly and symptoms worsen with age.
* Eyesight. Diminished eyesight makes it more difficult to read in low lighting and in smaller print. Speed with which an individual reads and the ability to locate objects may also be impaired.
* Falls. Old age spells risk for injury from falls that might not cause injury to a younger person. Every year, about one-third of those 65 years old and over half of those 80 years old fall. Falls are the leading cause of injury and death for old people.
* Gait change. Some aspects of gait normally change with old age. Gait velocity slows after age 70. Double stance time (i.e., time with both feet on the ground) also increases with age. Because of gait change, old people sometimes appear to be walking on ice.
* Hair usually becomes thinner and grayer.
* Hearing. By age 75 and older, 48% of men and 37% of women encounter impairments in hearing. Of the 26.7 million people over age 50 with a hearing impairment, only one in seven uses a hearing aid.
* Hearts are less efficient in old age with a resulting loss of stamina. In addition, atherosclerosis can constrict blood flow.
* Immune function. Less efficient immune function (Immunosenescence) is a mark of old age.
* Lungs expand less well; thus, they provide less oxygen.
* Mobility impairment or loss. “Impairment in mobility affects 14% of those between 65 and 74, but half of those over 85.” Loss of mobility is common old people. This inability to get around has serious “social, psychological, and physical consequences”.
* Pain afflicts old people at least 25% of the time, increasing with age up to 80% for those in nursing homes. Most pains are rheumatological or malignant.
* Sexuality remains important throughout the lifespan and the sexual expression of ‘typical, healthy older persons are a relatively neglected topic of research’. Sexual attitudes and identity are established in early adulthood and change minimally over the course of a lifetime. However, sexual drive in both men and women decreases as they age. People aged 75–102 continue to experience sensuality and sexual pleasure.
* Skin loses elasticity, becomes drier, and more lined and wrinkled.
* Sleep trouble holds a chronic prevalence of over 50% in old age and results in daytime sleepiness.
* Taste buds diminish so that by age 80 taste buds are down to 50% of normal. Food becomes less appealing and nutrition can suffer.
* Urinary incontinence is often found in old age.
* Voice. In old age, vocal cords weaken and vibrate more slowly. This results in a weakened, breathy voice that is sometimes called an “old person’s voice.”
* Adaptable describe most people in their old age. In spite the stressfulness of old age, they are described as “agreeable” and “accepting.” However, old age dependence induces feelings of “incompetence” and “worthlessness”.
* Caution marks old age. Old people have less to gain and more to lose by taking risks than younger people.
* Depressed mood. When people are prejudiced against the elderly and then become old themselves, their anti-elderly prejudice turns inward, causing depression. “People with more negative age stereotypes will likely have higher rates of depression as they get older.”
* Fear of crime in old age, especially among the frail, sometimes weighs more heavily than concerns about finances or health and restricts what they do. The fear persists in spite of the fact that old people are victims of crime less often than younger people.
* Mental disorders afflict about 15% of people aged 60+ according to estimates by the World Health Organization.
* Reduced mental and cognitive ability afflicts old age. Memory loss is common in old age due to the decrease in speed of information being encoded, stored, and retrieved. It takes more time to learn new information. Dementia is a general term for memory loss and other intellectual abilities serious enough to interfere with daily life. Its prevalence increases in old age from about 10% at age 65 to about 50% over age 85. Alzheimer's disease accounts for 50 to 80 percent of dementia cases. Demented behavior can include wandering, physical aggression, verbal outbursts, depression, and psychosis.
* Set in one’s ways describes a mindset of old age. Old age prefers a “routine”. Old age takes a toll on the “fluid intelligence” and relies on a “more deeply entrenched familiarity”.
So does it suck to get old? What is the alternative?
So while there is still cognizance look ahead to what is to come.
Prepare a will? Talk to your children with hopes they will care for you better than you cared for you parents. Cover the grandchildren with gifts to persuade them you are worth remembering. Throw away all that trash your kids will have to go through and never understand the meaning of it. Your yard sale is not worth much to the next generation. Check your meds and see what you need to increase and what you just need to throw away for it will not save you. Start wearing comfortable clothing for you are no longer a fashion statement.
Get ready to be a Geezer. Recognize your statements will not be listened to and you will be assigned to the ‘old cot corner’ like some child who misbehaved. Learn to eat soft food. Pee in your pants. Take more naps. Trade in your skateboards and surf boards for canes and walkers. Learn that getting down is easy; getting back up is hard. Find out stairs are not your friends. Forget that old adage of ‘respecting your elders’; that ain’t going to happen. 
You are deteriorating and there is no way out.
Hope I die before I get old.