Thursday, November 28, 2013

Giving Thanks on This Day of Thanksgiving

As we give thanks on this day of Thanksgiving, I furnish you with an enumerated roster of things for which I give thanks, though this list be not all-inclusive.

1.    That it has been ingrained in me by family tradition that Sunday means family time, not just free time.
2.    Football, despite the consistently poor performance of the Cleveland Browns, the beloved team of me and my nephew.
3.    Homes with well maintained landscaping, although it would be swell if commendable maintenance required less effort.
4.    Weed-killing agents that leave the grass unscathed.
5.    Figs. I must’ve knocked back 20 or more of those delicious things this year, benefit of being on good terms with my neighbor and her bountiful fig trees.
6.    That the childhood memories of me and my siblings are a constant source of amusement for the whole family.
7.    That my balding head is a constant source of amusement for Cade and Kelly.
8.    That I was raised to behave according to a moral standard rather than a sense of entitlement.
9.    For sun tan lotion with SPF 50 so dad can still swim nude while maintaining a healthy degree of coverage for his previously defeated butt cancer. [Note for the gentle reader: A reference to a victorious bout with skin cancer on a very curious locale.]
10.The joy of the written word, despite the indigestible blather produced by the much heralded James Joyce.
11.That vegetarians willingly forgo the delectable helpings of meat dishes so that the rest of us barbarians may consume and enjoy their portions.
12.That stamps are now stickers no longer requiring a lick.
13.Plastic BIC pens, those things never fail.
14.The satisfaction that comes with completing a physical task or exercise regiment.
15.Pizza pie!
16.Sports talk radio.
17.Arch supports.
18.Gainful employment, despite the necessitated inconvenience of working 40 hours per week.
19.That I have family that I love and enjoy, because I prefer spending post-Thanksgiving dominated by feelings of being engorged rather than enraged.
20.That I have parents that I want to please rather than one-up.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Friday, October 18, 2013

Washington Redskins

The glory of the National Football League returned in September, much to my delight! With it comes the joy of Monday Night Football, the frustration of Thursday Night football (it’s on the NFL Network, we don’t get that channel), and the motivation to complete my weekend yard chores before the 10 am Sunday morning kick-offs. But it also brings a recurring drudgery, specifically, the talk of whether or not the Washington Redskins football team should change their name.

There are a number of people and groups who take offense to the team’s name alleging insensitivity to Native Americans. Similar talk occasional arises regarding Major League Baseball’s Cleveland Indians and the Atlanta Braves, but it’s the NFL’s Redskins moniker that absorbs the brunt of this line of conversation.

A name change to a professional sports franchise is not unprecedented. In 1998 the Houston Oilers football team moved to Tennessee and renamed themselves the Titans. That was a change decided upon by team ownership, the former Houston Oilers, looking for a fresh start. A catalyst for the move from Houston to Tennessee was money. The football stadium in Houston at that time left a few things to be desired. Namely, the team had an unfavorable lease agreement and the stadium did not have enough luxury amenities to benefit the Oiler’s team owner. The move to Tennessee fixed that, but I digress.

In 1972 Stanford University changed their mascot name from the Stanford Indians to the Stanford Cardinals; later dropping the plural, a reference to the primary color of Stanford’s athletic teams, not the bird. That was a scenario where the university consented to pressure applied by a group of Native American students and a vote by the student senate.

Aligning Stanford’s action to what some would like the Washington Redskins to do is not equivalent. While the Washington Redskins is a private company and Stanford University is a private institution, Stanford receives millions of dollars from the government in the form of grants and financial aid. They were not entirely independent, as is the owner of a professional sports franchise, to do what they wanted. The university has not a singular head to make tough decisions, but rather yields to a consensus decision-making process.

A name change, while it would make the complainers happy, would have the downside of a significant loss of value to the Washington Redskins football team. The Washington Redskins were founded in 1932, that’s 81 years of branding and team history. That’s time enough to build up generations worth of strong affiliations. Strong enough to keep fans buying millions of dollars in Redskins sweat shirts, jerseys, hats and season tickets. A name and logo change would put the owner of the team at risk of decreasing the value of the team by hundreds of millions of dollars. Yes, hundreds of millions. The team currently has an estimated worth of $1.7B! Yes, billion. A change of name and branding would mean fewer people interested in consuming the millions of dollars in team-related merchandise annually. The fan affiliation to the team would be significantly handicapped. This decrease in avid customer base, fewer customers consuming the product, would result in a decrease in team value.

I am in favor of the Redskins changing their name under one condition. The one condition is that the groups of people and individuals who desire a name change pool their funds, buy the team, and then change the team’s name to whatever they please. Do it with the team under their care, custody, and control. No way am I in favor of anyone requiring the current owner to do it. The complainers are welcome to blunder around and damage the value of their own investment, they should not be encouraged to pompously try to obligate someone else to knowingly sacrifice their financial standing. Do it themselves.

Sunday, March 31, 2013

The Prager. Constructive Talk Radio.

I do much driving in the course of my employment and quickly learned that listening to music all day can leave a fellow feeling mentally exhausted. Looking for a change one morning I discovered sports talk radio and found myself blissfully encapsulated in a sports broth for several months. But even that wore thin without an ever-changing landscape of topics being discussed.

It was during the two month lull between football and baseball season that I encountered political talk radio, and I was enamored. Rush Limbaugh held my attention for a few years, I’m almost embarrassed to admit now, on account of his aggressive and demeaning tones he often takes. [I would like to clarify that the tones ultimately became the source of my embarrassment, they were not the means by which I became enamored.] I vastly agree with his positions, but I turned the corner on my appetite for the way his positions were presented.

After the November 2012 Presidential Election, finding myself boasting of a bottomless sinkhole of disappointment, I traded in my drive time listening with Mr. Limbaugh for a new road companion, Dennis Prager, an AM radio talk host. My interest in aggressive and angry tones expired that dark night watching the election results stream in. I wanted out of the angst market and Prager offered constructive conversation for the disappointment I was experiencing. I offer this prelude because, while I would like to claim the following pieces of wisdom as my own, it important to source the wisdom as pieces gleaned from The Dennis Prager Show.

·       Treat people equally, not the same.
We hear much talk in today’s politics and culture about fairness and equality, but there is typically a vacancy where qualifications should follow. People should be treated equally based on their equal standing, but not equally just because it would be polite or kind.

Example: A mom and dad should be shown equal degrees of respect. But let’s be honest, a mom and dad cannot be treated the same as if they are interchangeable. Each fulfills different parenting needs to their kids. Sure, there is much overlap in what they provide, but to say that they are the same is to purposely ignore the fact that a significantly disproportionate number of young troubled males were raised in single parent households.

·       Results are more important than intentions.
It is necessary to discriminate between good and bad results, not good and bad intentions. Rarely will a person or organization consciously set out to do wrong or harmful deeds. But if good intentions yield bad results, the source of those intentions need be held accountable.

Example: Consider charitable organizations. Virtually every non-profit organization seeks to do good deeds. But when making a donation you may prefer an organization with a greater degree of efficiency. Would you prefer to donate to a charitable organization where a higher percentage of the donation actually affects good results? Or would you prefer to give to an organization with a better Mission statement while it consumes a higher percentage in administration costs?

The same could be said when voting or making governmental policy. Look beyond the intentions and vacant calls for fairness and equality. What will be the consequences? Is the topic in question better for the country? Or is it simply better for a group of citizens at a cost to everyone else?

·       Let your brain decide, not your heart.
Feelings and emotions render the heart the decision maker while rendering the brain a non-factor. Where reason and a logical train of thought are absent, feelings will be the decision maker. The great thinkers throughout history used their brains to argue and decide between right and wrong. They were not emotion-based waifs, the proverbial impulse buyers at the check out counter loading up on gossip magazines, beverages, and snappily packaged snacks as if loading up for a road trip.

·       Standards supersede compassion.
Standards (read, the law) do not have a sliding scale of right and wrong depending upon the reasons why the law was broken. An action is either right or wrong, the sliding scale applies only as it pertains to the level of punishment. Ill-placed compassion, on the other hand, would indicate that a sliding scale of right and wrong is applicable, provided the reason for wrong doing was deemed good enough.

Example: A person that vandalizes private or public property has done wrong. If, however, they do it as a declaration of war against ‘The 1%’ they are defended by too many public officials as having an important opinion that is worthy of being heard and respected. By the standards I wield, my compassion goes out to the law-abiding citizen whose property was damaged, not the self-styled victim striking out in ignorance.

When making decisions, whether they are to affect a small number of people or the country as a whole, it is necessary to consider what the consequences will be on society. Decisions need be made in favor of an improved whole, not an improved set of individuals.

Thanks for hearing me out.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

My Gripe With Global Warming

I’m a guy who’s not sold on the idea of global warming. I believe that the earth’s temperature goes through periods of warming and cooling, but I certainly don’t agree with Al Gore’s comical ‘hockey stick’ portrayal of rising global temperatures from his film. Having said that, I’m perfectly OK with folks who do believe in global warming, even those folks who believe in Gore’s version. People can believe in all kinds of things. Heck, I’m a guy who still believes that the Cleveland Browns will one day win a Super Bowl.

My gripe with global warming, or global climate change if you wish, is that it is a massive and unfortunate misallocation of resources with negligible, if any, positive results. I can make an argument, in fact, that ‘remedial global warming’ steps actually yield harmful results, but that takes me off point and would require a separate entry itself.

Global warming is an issue that receives discussion only in developed countries because in the global hierarchy of needs it is a miniscule issue. Much of the world’s population is simply bogged down with such inconveniences as survival. Food and clean water rank amongst the top priorities for them. It is an inconceivable luxury for much of the world’s population to even concern oneself with the possibility of global warming. And then, on top of that, to allocate resources away from food and clean water to commit them toward the uncertain possibility of global warming is a disgusting waste.

To concern oneself with the issue of carbon emissions and global warming is akin to elective plastic surgery. It merely makes a person feel better about oneself. The problem, to speak more clearly, is that sufficient amounts of food and clean water are two conundrums that could actually be toppled if this same money and attention were not being so massively misallocated to the bottomless pit that is global warming.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m a strong advocate for recycling, commendable MPG, not overwatering the lawn, minimizing waste, turning off the lights when not in use, incentivizing privately funded research for alternate energy sources, and reusable shopping bags. But if you want to save humanity, help a human.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

The End of the World!

Wife Klem and I enjoy our weekly routine of Friday Night Movie Night. Put the kids to bed, pour a glass of beer or hooch, a bowl of snacks and watch a film. We recently watched Seeking a Friend For the End of the World (2012) starring Steve Carrell. A fun movie about the world coming to an end by means of a huge asteroid on a collision course with earth. Got us thinking, what would we do?

So you have two weeks notice about THE asteroid. It is irrefutably going to crush us. What do we do? For me, it comes down to three stages of action: immediate, preparation, then the waiting.

[Stage 1] Immediate:
Immediately upon hearing the asteroid news, I would go to the bank and max out our ATM cards. Cash, I figure, could be crucial because some merchants may refuse credit cards under these circumstances where humanity would be gone by the time the bill came due. Next stop, the grocery store because I don’t know if this supply line (i.e., food) would be available all the way up until the asteroid collision. Wouldn’t want to come to an unsightly end due to neglect while the asteroid is still en route. And besides, if it can be arranged, you might as well enjoy some degree of comfort in these final days plying oneself with grub. Final major acquisition stop would be Walmart to stock up on a few additional key ingredients. A quick summation:

·       Bank - max out ATM cards
·       Fuel for cars - would be crummy if we had someplace to go, or family to see, but no fuel
·       Grocery store - grub (preferably stuff that can be eaten right out of the can or with little preparation just in case the electricity or gas were not available), water, fruit, meats (hot dogs and lunch meat – these things will last two weeks)
·       Walmart - batteries, walkie-talkies (would want ability to remain in contact with my people), flashlights, solar battery chargers (in case electricity and batteries become unavailable)
·       Propane tank refill (a few final barbecue outtings)

Drop off supplies at home then go back out for a second round amidst the rising chaos. Endure it now while there’s still a chance to acquire necessities . . . or bonus items such as frozen turkeys, pies, and video games.

[Stage 2] Preparation:
Once the immediate action is accomplished to the best of our abilities it’d be time to make a checklist and assess what other preparation is needed to make the final two weeks safe, secure, and enjoyable.

·       Fill a few tubs full of water. You don’t know how long water would be available, so this would be our emergency supply.
·       Water purification kit – get one from Walmart or a Sporting Goods shop?
·       Rechargeable batteries in use throughout the house – charge them full while electricity remains available.

[Stage 3] The Waiting:
What to do with oneself once safety and preparation are accomplished? First, a few things that I would NOT do, possibly ever again. Yard maintenance – mowing or watering of the lawn, raking leaves, honing the sprinkler system to maximum efficiency, and trim bushes. I wouldn’t pay any bills (or at least make only the minimum payment - you know, what if the asteroid misses us, wouldn’t want to have to contend with an overdue penalty), and I wouldn’t go to work. I wouldn’t quit, I’d just put in for two week’s vacation. Again, no need to quit, what if the asteroid misses and I need to return to gainful employment?

The bulk of the final two weeks, once stage I and stage II are secured, would be spent as if it were Thanksgiving. Big meals with family and friends (see turkeys above – turkey reference is to the food, not family members and friends). I’d intend to close this thing out by socially gorging on people I know and love. Phone calls and e-mails to those folks I couldn’t reach, provided these lines of communication remain operable. Reminisce on past joys.

Also, with things coming to an end, no need to save good food, beers, or assorted spirits for special occasions. After all, we’d be in a situation where there would likely be no more occasions at all. This is it! Candy bars, ice cream, hot chocolate, beef jerkey, and ‘sugar’ cereals. It’s time to zero it all out. Empty the cupboards of the good stuff right down the gullet.

Please let me know what I missed. Would be nice to know in advance so that I may update the checklists.