Sunday, February 27, 2011

How It All Started

On  the first day, God created the dog and said, "Sit all day by the door of your house and bark at anyone who comes in or walks past.  For this, I will give  you a life span of twenty years."

The dog said, "That's a long  time to be barking.  How about only ten years and I'll give you back the  other ten?"

So God agreed......

On the second day, God  created the monkey and said, "Entertain people, do tricks, and make them laugh.   For this, I'll give you a twenty-year life span.."

The  monkey said, "Monkey tricks for twenty years?  That's a pretty long time to  perform.  How about I give you back ten like the dog did?"

And God  agreed......

On  the third day, God created the cow and said, "You must go into the field with the farmer all day long and suffer under the sun, have calves and give milk to  support the farmer's family.  For this, I will give you a life span of  sixty years."

The cow said, "That's kind of a tough life you want me to live for sixty years.  How about twenty and I'll give back the other  forty?"

And God agreed again.......

On the  fourth day, God created humans and said, "Eat, sleep, play, marry and enjoy your  life.  For this, I'll give you twenty years."

But the human said,  "Only twenty years?  Could you possibly give me my twenty, the forty the  cow gave back, the ten the monkey gave back, and the ten the dog gave back; that  makes eighty, okay?"

"Okay," said God.  "You asked for  it."

So that is why for our first twenty years, we eat, sleep, play and  enjoy ourselves.  For the next forty years, we slave in the sun to support our family.  For the next ten years, we do monkey tricks to entertain the  grandchildren.  And for the last ten years, we sit on the front porch and  bark at everyone.

Life has now been explained to you.

There is no  need to thank me for this valuable information.  I'm doing it as a public service

Friday, February 25, 2011


In my opinion, labor unions have shot themselves in their collective feet over and over again.  Wisconsin and Ohio government employees are picketing the respective Capitols and have called in recruits from other labor unions to add support.  These government employees would like to keep the status quo, however times have changed, the economy has changed and most of us have to budget our hard earned dollars.

At issue are things that have been common in private sector industries for many years.

Wisconsin and Ohio workers are now asked to contribute to their pensions, as the States cannot bear this burden.  I am extremely familiar with the way pensions work and current industry issues.  Most pension plans have not allowed individual contributions for years.

Many, many companies have frozen the employees pension, meaning the company no longer contributes, but allows the plan and trust to remain for employee retirement.

Some of these companies encourage workers to contribute to their 401(k) plan by offering a higher match.  Too many companies have recently had their pensions taken over by the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation (quasi government agent that acts as an insurer for pensions) since their pension plans have fallen at or below 60% funding.

401(k) plans have been around since the early 1980's as a way to save money for retirement.  The employee puts in a little money every payday and in many cases the company puts in some matching contributions.

However the picketing government workers do not want to have to contribute to their retirement plan as all the private sector employees must.  They have been used to being taken care of all these years.

They are squabbling about healthcare insurance.  Despite ObamaCare that promised us affordable health insurance, it is anything but.

Each year most private sector employees are asked to pay a larger share of the companies health insurance premium.  These union folks do not want this to happen.

I spent over ten years working in Middletown Ohio starting in 1977.  Middletown was the home of Armco Steel and was a strong union town.

Working at Armco was a rough and sometimes dangerous job. The workers took pride in the fact they were American and produced an American product.

Woe to anyone that purchased a Toyota or Honda vehicle.  They would find their car with a smashed windshield.  Armco folks didn't cotton up to no foreigners.

These workers were well compensated with many making $60 to 80,000 annually.  This is in 1980 dollars.

I knew many Armco employees that bragged about the fact they had twelve weeks of vacation.  The high salaries, the 3 month vacations and the other benefits the employees were given was a result of their union.

Several years after I left Middletown things began to change.  More steel was being imported from Japan and Korea by U.S. automobile manufacturers since it was cheaper.  Bethlehem Steel in Pennsylvania folded. Any stock given to the employees was worthless.

Armco tried to survive, but feared the worst. In 1989, Armco's management reached a deal with Kawasaki Steel of Japan to purchase 40% of the company.  The name changed to AK Steel.

In 2004 union workers threatened a strike and the company held a lockout that resulted in loss of unions jobs and eventually closed their Ashland Kentucky plant.  The company moved their headquarters out of Middletown to nearby West Chester Ohio.  The American and Japanese flags both fly over the plant these days.  The once strong union is now a shadow of things that were.

I foresee this happening with government unions throughout our Country.  The government is not busting unions, unions are doing it to themselves.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

It's Gettin' Crazy Out There

Self-described "civil rights advocates" say that a ballot proposition to ban circumcision is on track for gathering signatures, meaning that San Franciscans may vote on the measure this November.

It's part of a national push to end the procedure, which some say is steeped in tradition but poses risks and has little medical benefit. The American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Medical Association do not recommend routine circumcision.  However if you actually read their  policy statement  you will understand San Francisco politicians are making a mountain out of a Mohel hill.
Although San Francisco liberal gays whose lives are focused mainly on their weiner will not admit it, studies indicate that circumcision does reduce the risk of STD transmission.  Some say it inhibits sexual feeling.  But who knows.  If you have lived all your life without a hood on your winkie, face it, you ain’t going to miss it.

Several Jewish organizations have weighed in against the ban, as well, pointing out that circumcision rituals play an important historical role for many Jews. Those pursuing this to be law contend that adults would be free to opt-in to circumcision, but infants would not be allowed to have the procedure until they reach 18.

Whoa!  I used to be a surgical technician.  I have seen an adult undergo circumcision.  It is extremely painful. 

If it passes, those caught cutting foreskins would face a fine of $1,000 and a year in prison.

Why are they making such and issue over a small piece of tissue?

Arvada Colorado Police are defending the way they handled the arrest of an 11-year-old boy.

The boy was arrested, hauled away in handcuffs, and booked at the local constabulary for drawing stick figures in school.  He suffers from Attention Deficit Disorder and his therapist suggested drawing pictures as a way to deal with anger issues at school.

Last October, he drew stick figures of himself with a gun, pointed at four other stick figures with the words "teacher must die."
The boy drew the pictures to let out angry emotions.  Tim, his parents, and his therapist say it was not a threat and that Tim would never hurt anyone.

The school was aware that the boy was in treatment, determined he was not a threat, notified his parents and sent him back to class.

The boy calmed down and was throwing the picture away when his teacher saw him and sent him to the principals office.
However, Arvada Police showed up at their home later that night.

They put him in a cell, took his mug shot, fingerprinted him and charged with a third degree misdemeanor, interfering with staff and students at an educational facility. He is on probation now and once successfully completing this, the charges will be dropped.  However, the boys family has spent several thousand dollars on attorney to defend their son.
The boy and his parents were trying to do right by cooperating with the police, however they now feel they should have remained silent and hired an attorney.

I recall this same issue creeped up a couple of years ago.  What is wrong with the world these days.  The kid is only eleven. I realized this is Colorado.  But allow the kid some feelings.  

One would think the school talk to him about anger issues instead of arresting him?  

May the good Lord help him if he brings finger-nail clippers to class!

Monday, February 21, 2011


Television has played an important part in my life.  My own Grandmother left me her old Philco TV when she passed away.

When I was only two or three, Uncle Al, Captain Kangaroo, Pinky Lee, Howdy Doody and Skipper Ryle fascinated me.

So did Roy Rogers, The Cisco Kid, Wyatt Earp, Wild Bill Hickcock, and Rin Tin Tin.  As I grew older other shows caught my attention such as Perry Mason, Death Valley Days, The Twilight Zone, all the 1960's Warner Brothers western shows, Sugar Foot, Cheyenne and Maverick. Though I didn't actually understand it, Have Gun, Will Travel was a favorite, as was Bonanza.

I'm leaving out the cartoons with Tom and Jerry, Mickey Mouse and all the Disney shows, Huckleberry Hound, Heckle and Jeckyl, Yogi Bear, Quick Draw McGraw, Bugs Bunny the Flintstones, the Jetsons, Tom Terrific and Pixie and Dixie.  Sherri Lewis and Lamb Chop were great.  I grew up watching The Mickey Mouse Club with all it's great serials and music.

We even were able to pull in shows from Dayton, Ohio TV stations such as the Uncle Orie Show and Clutch Cargo. There were some locally produced shows from Cincinnati that fascinated me, such as Stringbean, Mr. Hop and every year during Christmas time someone from one of the local stations would dress up as Santa and a female staff member would be his elf.

Night time TV featured musical entertainment and variety shows with comedy, dancing and skits, with the likes of Sid Ceasar, Jack Benny, Jackie Gleason, Gary Moore, George Goebel and Carol Burnett.  Ed Sullivan brought us circus acts, opera singers, puppets and great pop music acts.

The Muppet Show was amazing. Perry Como, Andy Williams, Dinah Shore to name a few were very entertaining. This encouraged us to develop talent.

These were all well thought out entertainment with story lines, comedy writers, professional musicians and singers and professional voice talent.

So last night I took my mother out to eat.  We were too late to sit in the dining room of her favorite restaurant, so we sat in the bar which had multiple televisions featuring shows I have never seen.

First up was the Amazing Race, in which family and friends are pitted against other family and friends and made to chase each other around the world to see who gets to the correct spot first.  The plot and storyline were lacking. The actors couldn't act.

It would have been more entertaining to see Dick the Bruiser take on the Sheik in Big Time Wrestling.  At least that had some acting.

Next up was Undercover Boss.  This is where the chief executive officer of a company grows whiskers, dyes their hair and wears a fake mustache in order to interact with the lackies and schleps that work for him.

He becomes all dewy eyed at their hard work, dedication  and how hard their job really is.  He never realized this since he was on vacation or playing golf while his minions were slaving so he could take a vacation and play golf on company time.

At the end, he winds up promoting someone or sending another one some money to help their poor family.

At least this show has more of a story, although the reality is that this is the way business works and has since England created serfdoms.  I wonder if they will ever do an  Indonesian version of this in which the boss goes undercover and promotes a couple of twelve year old factory worker to shop foreman or gives them an hour off, or two potty breaks a day.

There are other excellent TV shows lately such as Iron Chef, Cake Wars, that stuck-on-an-island show which I never watch.  There is that gourmet restaurant show with that jack-ass that screams and embarrasses everyone. What art!

For the past several years we have been able to gather around the old idiot box and watch nightly autopsies on CSI, NCIS, Law and Order, Criminal Minds and others.

Perhaps one of these day, television will go back to good wholesome entertainment without reality shows or violence or violent reality shows.

Until then, I am reading books.


Friday, February 11, 2011

Sonny's Dream

Sonny's Dream is a folk song written by Newfoundlander Ron Hynes in 1976. It was recorded by him on "Living in a Fog" by the Wonder Grace Band, which was founded by Hynes, in 1981.  

The song was heard by Hamish Imlach, a Scottish folksinger, while on a trip to Canada, who modified it somewhat and played it in folk-clubs in Britain. There it was heard by popular Irish folksinger Christy Moore. He recorded it and passed it on to other artists in Ireland.

Hamish Imlach & Christy Moore
Though the song was written with the far northern Atlantic Island of Newfoundland in the mind of it's author, the songs descriptive verse is reminiscent of life along the Irish coast.
I first heard this song and like many listeners assumed it was about a boy who wasted his life taking care of his mother, after his father abandoned the family.  

Jean Redpath
I recall listening to Jeane Redpath sang it in the mid 1980's on Prairie Home Companion and was backed up by Chet Atkins, famous Texas swing fiddle player Johnny Gimble, mandolin player and songwriter Peter Ostroushko, and back up singer Prudence Johnson.  I thought the melody was as haunting as the lyrics.  The rolling 4/4 rhythm added to the songs appeal, making one think of the waves rolling soft against the piers.

Gimble * Atkins  * Ostroushko  * Johnson
Later recordings that I have come across play it too slow or too fast.
I love to learn the meanings behind the music.  This song is deceptive until you scratch beneath the surface.

Ron Hynes wrote this song about his autistic son.  It's not about boy wasting his life, but about the mother who has devoted her life to caring for her son.

Here is the songs author playing Sonny's Dream in Gander, Newfoundland.

Friday, February 04, 2011

Sixth Grade with Miss Bohn

My sixth grade year found me back in Ginny Bohn's classroom.  Let me describe it to you.  This was an large old school that was new in 1922.  The classrooms for the first through the third grade were all in a new wing. They were bright and shiny with linoleum floors and bright ceiling lights.

We had windows where we could see the outside world and cement block walls that were painted yellow.  The teacher had a large desk in the front of the class and the students had small desks that increased in size as we got older. Behind the teacher on the wall was a long green chalk board.

Miss Bohns class was
on this side of the building
Miss Bohn's class was in the old building. The old wooden floors that were showing their age. A wooden door with a window lead to the entrance of the room and to a short hallway that was about 7 feet in length.  On the right side was the cloak room with coat hooks along the walls.

The classroom was a very large area that was surrounded with windows on two sides.  Through the outer portion of the windows there were protective black metal screens.

I imagine they were placed their to keep balls and stones from breaking the windows, as well as keep intruders out of the school.  But back then I thought perhaps they were there to keep us kids from escaping.

The windows are
updated but that is
Woodfill School
At the front of the class was a very long black chalk board.  The fifth grade students sat in one end of the room facing the chalk board.  The sixth grade sat in the other end and were divided into two groups of about eight kids.  Eight or nine kids sat on one side of the room and eight or nine more sat on the other side facing each other. Our desks were perpendicular to the fifth grade.

 Miss Bohn's desk was on the far side of the room opposite the classroom door and hall.  Behind her was an American flag.  Each room had an American flag and a Kentucky state flag.  Each morning we began the day by reciting the pledge of allegiance and reading a scripture.  Generally it was one of the more popular psalms.

This may seem strange in this day where faith and worship have been strained out of school like juice through a colander

Note how I call my teacher Miss. There were only two titles for women in the 1950's and sixties; Miss was for non-married women and Mrs. was for married women.  "Ms" didn't come along until years later.  Faith and prayer were welcome in public schools back in these days. In fact on Thursday afternoons we were allowed to walk to the church that was behind the school to have an hour of Bible study.

But there were some downsides to growing up in Leave It To Beaver-Land.

For one thing there was a terrible disease that some knew as infantile paralysis or Polio.  Several kids that I went to school with had it.  They were fine one day and woke up the next to find they couldn't walk or use their arm.

The worst was the kids that became paralyzed in their diaphragm and could not breath.  Many children spent years in what was known as an iron lung.
A vaccine was finally developed to fight polio by a local doctor named Albert Sabin.  Then later Dr. Salk from Cincinnati Children's Hospital developed an oral vaccine.  I recall my family going to the neighboring St. Thomas School several times to swallow a sugar cube that was laced with the vaccine.  It was great since some of the kids that hobbled around on crutches were now able to walk again.

Another downside was the scarcity of air-conditioning. We did not have it at school during September or May when the temperature was sweltering.  But we didn't really notice it. Most of us didn't have it at home.

There were some restaurants and movie theaters were air-conditioned. Which was prominently displayed on their marque.

We survived the heat at our house with a big fan that Dad had installed in the attic and he also kept buying what he called hassock fans.

This was a round unit that sat on the floor and looked like something to set your feet on while sitting in a chair.

They worked great until someone in my family gave into temptation and stuck their fingers into the metal fan blades, or decided the flimsy plastic top would be a good place to sit.

Upon coming back to school in September of this year I noticed there was something very different about the girls.

Their bodies no longer looked like sausages with skinny legs, arms and a head with long hair.  We boys found their shapes were now...uh...very intriguing.

We guys didn't know exactly what to think about this transformation.

The girls quit playing kick ball and tag with us and started whispering to each other, which made the boys all that more inquisitive.

One time I came back from recess to find a note on my desk that said Cindy loved me.  I must have turned twelve shades of red and hid the note in my pocket before anyone else saw it.

By the way, Cindy was this really tall, dark haired, pretty girl that I had known since kindergarten. She had an incredibly soft high pitched voice. I always thought she sounded like a cartoon character.  Later in life I became great friends with her parents as we went to the same church.

One of the sadder days occurred when my friend Wayne came to class and was bawling his eyes out.  Miss Bohn attempted to calm him down, but there was nothing she could do.  Finally he blurted out that his grandfather had committed suicide with a gun to his head.  I think she took him to the principals office and someone drove Wayne to his home. I cannot imagine the trauma this poor kid experienced.

In the fifth and sixth grade some of us had started taking instrumental music class. We all went to Willis Music and rented instruments with an option to buy them.  I chose the clarinet.

Mr. Kaiser was the teacher. He was a middle aged bald fellow that taught us just enough about the instrument to be dangerous and loud.  If we wanted any more instruction we would have to seek it out ourselves.

We had graduated in vocal music as well to learning to sing in two part harmony.  Unfortunately pretty Mrs. Reif had left teaching several years earlier.  Miss Woolfolk was the music teacher. She was an attractive woman, but she was no Mrs. Reif. I did enjoy her company in later years when we both sang in St. Andrew's choir. She was a funny and charming lady

Occasionally Miss Woolfolk brought in her auto harp to accompany us.  We were no longer singing about The People on the Bus or Old Black Joe. (Yes we really did learn that Stephen Foster song in school.  In fact we sang the original words to My Old Kentucky Home.)  We had now graduated to such harmonizing songs as The Mule in the Mines, Drill Ye Tarriers, Drill, Lottie Walked and The Tortilla Song.  I always enjoyed vocal music.

Miss Bohn wanted us in the worst way to have great handwriting.  So she instructed us all to go out and buy cartridge fountain pens.  This of course was a huge mistake, as we all became stained with ink. You could identify the boys in her class by the large ink stains on their shirt front pockets.

In fact there was more ink on our fingers than on the paper.  My handwriting is still the worst way. So I print everything. I don't know what Miss Bohn would think of today's schools that do not even teach cursive writing.

She was determined that we also learn songs about science. So we sang about the colors in the rainbow, the sun and the order of the planets (this was before Pluto got booted out of the galaxy.) I can stil remember singing " ♫ Orange, Indigo, Violet, Yellow, Red and Blue and Green. ♪ ♫ "

One day she told us the school was adding a reading lab.  I was so excited.  We were going to go to a secret room in the school and all don white coats and safety glasses to mix up strange smelling chemicals and then read all about them.

Imagine my disappointment when the reading lab turned out to be a cardboard box that was divided into sections for the slower to the advanced students.

I didn't need a reading lab...

Because I was already reading Mad Magazine and all the great comic books of the day. By now I had made my way as an advanced reader.

Somehow my school district made a pact with the city's Churches that allowed students to spend an hour a week in an elective class as long as they had parental consent.  This elective class was a Bible class taught at the Church behind the school.

Once again the poor sisters, Martha and Esther were not permitted to go due to their parents edict.

I can't say I learned much about the Bible in this class.  I learned more about what songs the girls liked, what boys the girls liked and which girl had graduated from a triple A no cup to an A cup.
In these days we were old enough to be Boy Scouts.  A group of us had started out as Cub Scouts and wore our uniforms to school every Friday.  We now were Boy Scouts and wore khaki uniforms with large neckerchiefs. We wore these to school every Friday.  What is more, we could carry our Boy Scout knives to class without fear of being suspended.  We were stylin' in those days.

During this year, I learned the danger of having a hyphenated surname. A new girl came to the sixth grade. He name was Ann Dameron-Lackey.  However when she was introduced to the class, the note Miss Bohn received from the principal spelled out her name as Lackey Ann Dameron.  For the rest of the year she was Lackey Ann.  I think she straightened this out the following year in middle school.

We also had a new gym teacher this year.  The girls all thought he was hot, since he bore a slight resemblance to Ringo Starr.  He taught us a lot of new calisthenics and how to tumble.  I was pretty good at this for a while until I got the wind knocked out of me a couple times.

He wanted to teach us to wrestle.  This was to be after school.  So we had to all go to this small room in the gym and get out of our clothes to change to gym clothing.  I was mortified.  Changes were going on with my body and I was sprouting hair in extremely unusual places.

I figured I was the only one afflicted with this phenomenon.

I hurried after school to the gym room and jumped out of my clothes and into my gym clothes as quick as I could.  My fears were alleviated when I saw that all my friends were also beset by this strange plague of body hair.

A reward of being a sixth grader and a Boy Scout was to raise and lower the American Flag on the pole in front of the school.  I always made to the afternoon  lowering ceremony, but was usually too late for the morning raising of the flag.

I spent some great years at Woodfill School.  The teachers were all precious to me.  Those old boys and girls I went to school with were the best.  I'd hug 'em all if they were here.

Old days, good times I remember.  Fun days, days I'll always treasure.