Monday, April 28, 2008

My weekend.

I did some canal hiking again this weekend. And although I'm not sure I'll ever be in that euphoric state I was in a month ago, Saturday was still a really good time. Some highlights...
  • Saw and walked under a nesting tree for Blue Herons. If you've ever seen one of these magnificent birds either by water or in flight, you know how large and amazing they are. Imagine over thirty five all sitting on individual nests way up in this white-barked tree. It was a sight to behold.
  • Hiked to and documented two more locks I'd never seen before.
  • Saw some of the most intact prism (canal channel) anywhere on the Eastern division of the Sandy & Beaver Canal.
  • Hiked to three of the locks that I visit often with Ell and Brad. I ended up being the leading expert in the group despite the fact the people I was with usually know so much more than I do. They had never been to any of those locks so they were eager to hear about my trips.
  • Ended up hiking for five and half hours and almost eight miles. I was sore and worn out when I got home but it felt so good.

Saturday night we had our dearest friends over and did a little grilling, drinking, laughing, talking, napping... and a whole bunch more. I got up at 5:15 Sunday morning to go to a concert with my friend and realized the whole family was still in our house, asleep on our couches. I took a shower and my friend Mike got up and we enjoyed a cup of Starbucks at the kitchen table at 6am. Nothing like it.

I spent Sunday morning and afternoon traveling and then Sunday night working in the garden. It was a really busy weekend, but a good weekend. I hope for many more like it.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Friday Funny

I'm sure many of you have heard at least one "Little Johnny" joke. Some of them are a bit crass but most of them are just downright hilarious. I'll share some of the cleaner ones with all of you today.

A new teacher was trying to make the use of her psychology courses. She started her class by saying, "Everyone who thinks they are stupid, stand up!" After a few seconds, Little Johnny stood up. The teacher asked, "Do you think you're stupid, Little Johnny?"
"No ma'am, but I hate to see you standing there all by yourself."

Little Johnny watched, fascinated, as his mother smoothed cold cream on her face. "Why do you do that Mommy?" he asked. "To make myself beautiful," said his mother. She then began removing the cream with a tissue.
"Whats the matter?" asked Little Johnny. "Giving up?"

Little Johnny's kindergarten class was on a field trip to their local police station where they were shown pictures tacked on the board of the 10 most wanted criminals. One of the youngsters pointed to a picture and asked if it really was the photo of a wanted person. "Yes," said the policeman. "The detectives want very badly to capture him."
Little Johnny asked, "Why didn't you keep him when you took his picture?"

Have a great weekend everyone.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Joint forces

I went to the grocery store yesterday for the usual milk, eggs, bread, and cheese. Instead of the milk I opted for another dairy product a little further down the chain from the original cow and bought some Klondike bars. I also bought some Jewish Rye bread and extra sharp Cheddar which is a sandwich we used to eat at my Grandparent Thompson's house when we were kids, and I was craving that memory. Then I bought some Vitamin Water for Ell; she loves that stuff. I tell you all that to say my usual under $20 grocery bill was quite more than that. And so my purchases required a few more bags as well.

As she reached for the now usual plastic bags, I asked the young girl cashier if she could instead use paper. I'm pretty sure it was her first time using a paper bag because she looked up at me more than once with this helpless, "I have no idea where to put stuff" look on her face. She still ended up putting my frozen pizza (did I mention Ell's been away for a few days?) and the water into plastic bags; but she made a valiant effort.

When I got home I noticed the paper grocery bags seemed to have been scribbled all over. The scribbling turned out to be the handiwork of local elementary school students who had decorated them for Earth Day. In every color of crayon there were sayings like, "Let the earth blossom like a brand new flower" and, "Use compact fluorescent light bulbs" and my favorite from a more locally thinking lad, "Save our Town Don't be a clown." On the sides were lists like, "Ways to reuse this bag" and, "Save our Earth." The latter had things like, "take shorter showers, air dry your clothes, plant a tree" etc. Pretty cool stuff, really. It's good to see that school administrators are getting kids involved and attentive at an early age.

This might be a surprise to some of you, but I've never really been into Earth Day. Sure, I think it's a great idea and at least a small step in the right direction in making people aware of this place they call home, but I've never done anything to promote or encourage it. This year though it's kind of intrigued me because it falls on the calendar during "Turn off your TV" week. Not sure if that's a coincidence or on purpose, but it's got my attention.

Imagine the energy savings if every American didn't use the electricity the TV soaks up, even if only for one week. It would be huge! And not just because of the TV, but I imagine more people would be going for walks or playing sports or sitting on their porches if they weren't tied to the invisible restraints TV usually had on them. So if all those people are outside there would be less energy usage for lights and heating/cooling and microwave dinners, etc. (Like how I threw in the assumption that all TV viewing accompanies the eating of TV dinners? Sly, aren't I?) My point is, with Earth Day coming up on April 22nd, and the result being a focus on the environment, turning off all the TVs makes perfect sense towards that goal.

But we all know energy savings aren't the first thing people think of when someone mentions turning off the tube. That strikes a much deeper cord with a whole lot of us. How dare I even mention it, right? But I have to ask, if there's some "thing" you'd get so violently up-in-arms about that isn't actually vital to your survival as a human being, is there a possibility that "thing" has a bit higher priority in your life than it should?

In no way am I saying I can't relate. I used to have at least two shows (usually more) each night that were "must see TV" for me. So I know what you TV-junkies are thinking. Thankfully, I've weaned myself off that diet of hypnotic trance and have only one show I really want to see during an entire week. And much to my surprise, I miss it more than I catch it and my life seems to go on just fine. The older I get, I just see TV as such a crutch for some and a time-stealer for others. I hate the addictive hold it seems to have on so many people I know. While I recognize there's a lot of great stuff on there, I just see so much other great stuff outside of the talking box that I would rather do.

Please know I'm not challenging or ridiculing anyone, these are just my thoughts for today. I'm not going to watch TV this week; join me if you want.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Mr. Professor at your service

I don't want to make more of this than it really is, but I wanted to share something pretty cool I got to do last night. A few weeks back I was asked to be a guest speaker for a college class at Kent State University and last night was the scheduled night. Guest speaker sounds a little tame to what actually happened, though. From the moment I walked in the door I realized I wouldn't just be speaking, I was actually going to be teaching the class. (read--the professor was kind of a stump--) I don't mean for that to sound bad, because the whole thing was pretty enjoyable.

The class was called "Professional Selling Techniques" and had only about ten to fifteen students; all of them in their early to mid twenties. I had planned on speaking about Banking sales since it's such a unique process compared to other types of salesmanship. But then I found out there had been another speaker a week or two earlier who was also a bank manager. So in an effort not to bore the students, I decided to speak on the all-too-often cliche selling tips and ideals and rules as they are usually presented, and whether or not the lot of them really matter. I figured these students were taking the class for only two reasons: 1) to fill an elective, or 2) because they wanted to be a good (or better) salesperson. So in the hopes that the majority were there for number two, the most effective thing I could do for them was share what worked and what didn't.

I'd prepared about fifteen minutes of material, but the class went for an hour and ten minutes. Partly because I talk a lot, but more largely because I really got the students to interact and have discussions around the topics I presented. I'm fairly good at getting people to talk, so this was fun for me. I've been told on many occasions I'd make a good teacher, and I have to say... last night was great. Maybe in my next lifetime. For now you can call me Professor Sam.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Blood and air and such

For some reason, probably nothing more than the weird phenomenon we call coincidence, a repeated theme has been circling me for almost a week.

It started Tuesday night as I sat eating one of the best deli sandwiches I'd ever had and watched three other guys eat a less than best meal of fast food goodness. Within a half hour the same guys, in the midst of studying a book primarily about helping the homeless, discussed the topic of fasting. (Not surprisingly, it wasn't a lively topic.) Later that night, the theme continued as I caught up with a friend about some garden seeds. I finished Tuesday with a strange yearning for some of that yuck my friends had been stuffing into their jowls earlier in the evening.

Wednesday night I sat in the Cafe and listened to two women discuss how they could eat a certain cake as long as they substituted it with a certain drink. And if they could find the right graph, their points would most likely add up. During my eavesdropping, I also entertained a conversation with one of Ell's workers about the dangers of artificial sweeteners and the benefits of true sugar. Later on I broke open a book DAVE gave me called "The Omnivore's Dilemma" which I (on purpose for the irony) bookmarked with a build-your-own-panini menu.

Yesterday I watched as one, then another, then a third, and then a fourth co-worker headed across the street to Yorgo's Gyros. Not because they were in the mood for Greek, but because the Chinese place was too expensive. Oh they didn't want Chinese either, but they were tired of what the vending machine had to offer. Not that the vending machine ware was their first choice, but it wasn't PB&J. And goodness knows PB&J isn't high class enough for a banker. (That last part made me chuckle.) Last night I entered into a pros and cons conversation on whether a friend and I should indulge in large milkshakes even though we were stuffed from the Greasy-Spoon-Diner meal we'd just finished.

The theme? Of course all of those have to do with food. While I think about food a lot, the last few days my brain seems to have been intensely keyed in on the topic. And starting this book seems to be making it worse. Goodness knows the U.S. of A. could use to reexamine their food choices, and maybe all these thoughts and conversations surrounding me mean I need to be doing the same.

Even though I'm a fat Irishman who often overeats, I still find the topic a bit silly. Why should we even care about what we're eating? We don't think about breathing do we? We don't focus on our spleen or appendix or liver and making sure they are working right do we? Can you remember the last time you had to make sure your nerves had the right synapses in them? So why do we think so much about food? The human body is made to work on it's own, and in turn the stomach and intestines. If your feel hunger (notice I said "feel" not "think"), eat. When you feel full, stop. If you crave something, eat it. If something makes you sick, don't.

Of course I know the topic can be, and often times is, much more complex than those simplicities, but I can't help wondering if it needs to be. Medical conditions aside, eating should never have grown into the mess it's become. Eating is eating as much as anything is just what it is. If we take it too far, well, that's just too far. What are your thoughts?

Friday, April 04, 2008

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Forty years ago today was a sad, dark time in our country's history. On that day, Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. was shot as he stood alone on the balcony of a little motel in Tennessee. He was in town to try and re-convince the people of Memphis that his ideal of peaceful demonstration and protest was more effective than the riots and turmoil that had happened in that area in the previous weeks. But before the march could continue, he was cut down by a faceless bullet from a cowardly killer.

I cannot begin to understand what it's like to be black, or negro, or African-American, or colored, or any of the other terms used over the years. I cannot begin to feel the pain at watching better paying jobs and better opportunities pass me by because of skin pigment. And I cannot begin to feel the frustration that must come when young black people see and read the history of their ancestor's struggles and the triumph of the Civil Rights Movement, but then watch the self-destruction of the current drug/welfare/project/AIDS generation which has plagued their current culture.

I am the antithesis of the sexist, racist attacks that have made up so much of this country's past. I am a white male. The devil, as some would call it. I'll admit there have been times I've grown sick and tired of the reverse racism the media and other outlets have raised against my demographic. But if I choose to dwell on those thoughts, or propagate them further, I know it causes more damage than it could ever produce good. There are decades and centuries of pain that have come at the hands of white males, and just as much as I know that blaming the current generations for those atrocities can bring anger and defensive posturing, so does ignoring that they never happened. I choose to hope that we can live in a better time with more promise and a brighter future. All the while being willing to offer apologies for the sins of our fathers.

And maybe that makes me naive. In the same way I grew up ready to fight if someone said my sister's couldn't do and become whatever they wanted, I will now fight for my nephew's Isaiah and Isaac that they will have every opportunity and possibility they can imagine. And I will fight that fight without using vocabulary like, "despite" or "because" or whatever else gets thrown into conversations about people of darker pigmented skin. Those two boys are humans and as such can tackle the world however they want to. And so if I'm naive in hoping for those things, then I naively hope for that better world.

And so as I ponder the words and dreams of Dr. King, I celebrate that his dream of little white girls and little black girls has become a reality. I celebrate that his desire to see equality in jobs and pay is finally becoming a reality. And I celebrate that we live in a country that is learning to see beyond color but is still able to enjoy the culture it brings. Of course I know we aren't perfect and I'm not so naive to think we'll ever achieve complete harmony, but I'd rather gaze on the good we've achieved than mope about the problems still around. Dr. King's message was about hope, and I have hope our racial divides will one day be a memory. Until then, we still have work to do.

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

My Mom

My dear sweet, short little Swedish Mom has started her own blog. I mention short so you can get a mental picture of her, and Swedish because that's what she named her blog: Swedish Mama. She's an ornery little Swede who runs her family with authority, love, and a good dose of loud. (Anyone who's met her for even a few minutes can probably add more to that list.) So if you feel so inclined, go to the bottom of my blogroll and click on "My Mom" and see what she has to say.

As an addition to my last post, I'll be posting some pictures from my trip last Saturday. Ell put them on our home computer and I haven't had a chance to go through them yet. Once I do, I'll share.

If I haven't said it in a while, I love each and every one of you.