Showing posts from August, 2011

Ode to a Brave Weed

You stand proudly in the lawn, strong, brave weed.
The grass is lifeless in the August heat,
The flowers, drooping, have all gone to seed,
The parched, thirsty earth as hard as concrete.
You, brave weed, ignore the sun and drought
And somehow survive Mother Nature's wrath,
Thriving in the face of adversity.
You, weed, without a doubt,
Will stand fearlessly in the mower's path
And once chopped down, rise with alacrity.

Don't forget, brave weed, you have a name - or two.
One in Latin, of course, for the scientists,
And one for gardeners, who turn the air blue
While doing battle with their antagonists.
You, brave weed, will not cower or bow down,
Kowtow, beg, grovel or give up one inch.
You'll take their best shot, but you will not die.
You will be back, and they'll frown.
They can whack, hack or just give you a pinch.
You, brave weed, will not whimper, will not cry.

Alas, brave weed, with your million virtues,
You are unloved and the object of scorn.
You spring to li…

This Does Not Compute

Compared to a computer, I'm pretty stupid. Of course, the vast majority of humans, quite a few dogs and Cuddles the Cat are also smarter than I. This is something I can deal with. After all, I've been dealing with it all my life, so I've plenty of experience. But I don't think there is any reason for computers to get snooty, which they seem to be doing more frequently.The computer's favorite deadly sin has always been pride. Every computer of my acquaintance has had the temerity to question my spelling. Not that that takes much temerity. My spelling is nothing to write home about, and if I did, using pen and ink, the missive would be full of misplaced letters, along with a sea of letters that don't belong there, which I make room for by leaving out a host of letters that do. But there is no excuse for the computer's I-can-spell-it-and-you-can't-nyah-nyah-nyah-nyah-nyah attitude. Still, gentleman that I am, I do my best to treat the computer with kindnes…

Going to the Doggerels

Good Dog

Little old Freda
From Alameda
Gave her Akita,
Who'd bit the cheetah,
A margarita.

Rich Whines

U.S. House Speaker, John Boehner's
Idea for tax code designers:
Just keep the rates low
For those with the dough.
The rich, you see, are such whiners.

They Report; I Deride

Neuro disorder
Brought on by FOX News.

Honey, I'm Home

"People died far more often in the towns than in the country, and so a path of emigration to urban Europe [for the Pilgrims] might well be a road to nowhere."Nick Bunker in Making Haste from Babylon: The Mayflower Pilgrims and Their World
These days, death is almost always a-once-in-a-lifetime experience. There is the rare exception, when a person is pulled back from the beckoning light by highly trained medical professionals and a vast array of medical equipment. But even then, the patient's return to the living is dependent upon his insurance company pre-approving the resuscitation before the Pearly Gates close behind him.In olden times, however, death for the average urbanite occurred more often than it did for his country cousin, who usually died just once. Should archeologists find a sprawling ancient city buried beneath the sand in the Middle East it could help explain how the men in the Old Testament managed to live for centuries and beget so prodigiously. Perhaps …

Fishing for Glory

Every once in a while, I am called on by the Intelligent Designer to assist him in keeping the grand design on track. For instance, in the summer of 1977, along with my wife and assorted in-laws, I packed up and headed for a lake near North Bay, Ontario, for a week of fishing and semi-roughing it in a cabin owned by Brian, my brother-in-law, and his family. I had been fishing just once before. One summer morning when I was seven or eight, my dad and two other neighborhood dads took six of us to an out-of-the-way spot, where we spent several hours watching bobbers float on a languid stream and never saw a fish.

Brian attempted to teach our father-in-law Bill, whose lack of experience with a rod rivaled mine, and me to fish. As students, Bill and I had trouble focusing. This was Canada, after all, and there was always a bottle of Molson's or LaBatt's within easy reach. And we did want to drink in the Canadian experience, eh. As a result, each time Brian pulled his line from the …

My Monday Morning

Monday mornings are supposed to be blue, but the only thing blue about Monday morning this week was the sky. Paying bills is also supposed to induce the blues, and on Monday I had to attend to the financial needs of the people who attend to my blood pressure, my teeth and my eyes. I put each check in the appropriate envelope, I think. There have been times when I have mismatched the statements and the checks as I put them in the envelopes. But, c'est la vie, the envelopes were sealed and stamped, and I was on my way to the mailbox in the Edgewood Plaza parking lot.    The trip wasn't necessary. I could have put the envelopes in our mailbox and let the mailman pick them up when he made his rounds. But I decided to take the electric wheelchair out for a spin. I might have been inspired to get out of the house by Mary, who walked by as I was writing the checks. She is older than I - well into her seventies, I would guess - walks slowly, has a pronounced limp and uses a cane. …

See How They Run

 Word is Team John has begun preparations for next March's Atlanta Run for Your Life 5K. That's the reason for this repeat.

Runners are among the greatest wonders in the athletic world. I wonder about them all the time. I wonder why they do what they do.

Running all day in pursuit of a ball is normal and healthy. Running all day in order to run all day seems a little perverse.

Runners brag that they do for fun what other athletes are forced to do when they upset the coach. Does the term self-flagellation ring a bell?

The runners I know, however, appear to be normal, more or less. They're hardworking, well-adjusted, pleasant, contributing members of society. How, I've long wondered, did they get that way when their idea of fun is so unlike anyone else's.

A few years ago at the state cross country meet, I searched out the Pymatuning Valley girls after the Division III race. When I found them, one of Gruskiewicz girls, I forget which one, was hunched over, exhibiting obv…

So Forlorn am I

If I were to don rose-colored glasses, and - in the privacy of my own home, of course - slip into Pollyanna's dress, I might be heartened when I consider last week and take solace because I did not become forlorn until Tuesday. But when I look back without the accouterments of foolish optimism, I realize growing forlorn on Tuesday is to spend the greater part of the week "desolate or dreary; unhappy or miserable, as in feeling, condition, or appearance," in the words of the Random House Dictionary.You see, on Tuesday I saw the doctor about my eyes. But my forlornness has nothing to do with my eyes; they are, the doctor said, in pretty good shape for the shape they're in. In truth, I was forlorn before I saw the doctor. Hoping that if Nancy and I arrived early I might get out early, I was in the waiting room nearly an hour before the scheduled time. Unfortunately, while I was excessively prompt, the doctor was exceedingly late. But that has nothing to do with my forlo…

Make His Eggs Scrambled

It is a sin, no doubt, to gloat over another man's mistake. But, life without a little sin is hardly worth living. So we shall proceed. One Saturday morning a few years ago, I was listening to Car Talk, and either Click or Clack asked, "What is the shortest measurable time span known to science?" The answer: The time between the traffic light turning green and the idiot behind you laying on his horn. Maybe that's right, but I have my doubts. I lean toward that fraction of a fraction of a fraction of a nanosecond between the Star Beacon hitting the streets and a reader finding a mistake made by some idiot sportswriter, such as myself. Readers who point out these errors do us a favor of, course, helping us to set the record straight while reassuring us that they do read what we write before they carpet the bird cage with our words.Suffice it to say, as soon as the game ended, the clock started ticking. The ticking grew louder as I checked the statistics I'd compile…

Andy and Me

How old is Andy Rooney, anyway? Doesn't it seem like he's always been old? Can you remember when Andy Rooney was young? I can't. I think he was born old.I like to watch his colleagues on 60 Minutes. They all have that chiseled nobility of a mannequin in the window of an up-scale boutique. And their facial expressions are always perfect. As the interviewee answers their questions, the faces of the 60 Minutes correspondents register the appropriate reaction: awe, disbelief, wonder, righteous indignation, delight, curiosity, incredulity, bemusement, anger, puckishness or astonishment. I think their facial expressions are controlled by some pimply faced technician.But Andy always looks like a cadaver that has been granted the gifts of speech and crankiness. And what about those eye brows? They remind me of wooly bears on Rogaine.But, you know what really bothers me? The less young I become, the more I sound like Andy Rooney. Where does all this cantankerousness come from? I…

For the Love of the Game

One day last June, there was an item in the Star Beacon about the Torch Run for the Ohio Special Olympics.

The annual Torch Run begins at the Ohio-Pennsylvania border and takes about four hours to reach the Ashtabula-Lake County line. From there, the torch wends its way to Columbus for the start of the Summer Games.

That same day, there was an article on the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette web site concerning the Knight Commission on Intercollegiate Athletics. Among other things, the commission found that spending on athletics at 97 public colleges in the 120-member Football Bowl Subdivision (the old Division 1-A) increased by an average of 38 percent between 2005 and 2008, while spending on academic programs grew by 20.5 percent. The commission also cited an analysis by USA Today that found that only seven of the schools had made money on intercollegiate athletics in each of the last five years.

Most college coaches are not rich, of course, and most college athletes are looking for little more …

Legendary Thoughts

For a few years now, I've been hanging out with bicyclers, and from time to time I tag along with them.Sometimes I even go along for the ride, or at least a small fraction of it. A few times this summer when Nancy's bicycling group started at Geneva State Park, I was there with my little chariot and managed to do four miles on the park's bike trail in the time it took the men and women on bikes to complete a 25- or 30-mile tour of western Ashtabula and eastern Lake counties.On a bike trail, both the Western Reserve Greenway Trail and the trail at Geneva State Park, you don't have to go far to get away from it all. Except for the birds singing, the wind rustling the leaves and the occasional distant car, the world is quiet. Who'd have thought a strip of asphalt through the woods could be so pleasant?And it can be rewarding. In August, Nancy and I participated in a poker run on the Greenway Trail sponsored by the Jefferson Rotary. It came as no surprise to me that I …

Regrets, I Have a Few

On a weekend not long ago, Bethany, my daughter, bagged a coyote and her man.

The gentleman who proposed often goes by Colt, his middle name. The mind swims with comments about horsing around and a possible resemblance to parts of the equine anatomy.

But Colt did a stint in Iraq as a recon sniper, which makes me think in this case a little discretion wouldn’t be a bad thing.

Besides, I’m more interested in the girl who shot the coyote. Ten years ago, I would have laughed at the notion of Bethany tromping around the woods, clad in camouflage and toting a gun, or wading into a stream with a fishing rod in hand. But, when she finds time to send an email, there is excitement and exuberance in every word she writes about her adventures in the outdoors.

I’m not sure how I feel about guns and hunting. Guns scare me, and thinking about the morality of hunting confuses me. Killing animals doesn’t seem quite right, but we humans have been doing it ever since we came down from the…

The Good Fortune of a Good Read

There is nothing like a dame, especially when she is Dame Fortune and she is smiling on you. In these weeks of all LeBron all the time and controversial calls on the baseball diamond and soccer pitch, the good Dame has led me to a couple books that put professional sports in a less glaring, less celebrity-filled light; books less about money and fame and more about people trying to do well in sometimes difficult circumstances.In 2005, Max Weber wrote a story about the Jim Evans Academy of Professional Umpiring for the New York Times. A year later, he signed up for the Evans Academy's entire five-week course, and after completing it, he spent a great deal of time over the next couple years in the company of umpires from the low minors to the Major Leagues. As They See 'Em: A Fan's Travels in the Land of Umpires, is the book that came out of that experience.The umpires, it turns out, are human. And the trip from umpiring school to the Major Leagues is a difficult trek on a r…