Thursday, October 06, 2022

Maroons Online Blog Roll

 It dawned on me today that a collection of blogs would make a nice addition to Maroons Online.

Please let me know of any you come across. Thanks!



Sunday, June 13, 2021

Thursday, April 08, 2021

The Buddy Bench

      Who can't recall a time when they were odd person out? Nobody.

     My favorite moment was a time when I was 7 or 8. Mr. Jay Van Kempen, a sixth grade teacher  at Willard School, was involved in an after school touch football game with mostly sixth graders on each team.

     By the time I got to the field the game was well underway. I was carrying my baseball glove and a tennis ball. I watched the game passively for a while then I started throwing the ball into the air and then catching it. My tosses went higher and higher with no drops.

     I think Mr. Van, as he was known, must have been watching me out of the corner of his eye. I say this because he eventually stopped the game and invited me to be on his team. There wasn't much I could do except hike the ball but that didn't seem to bother anyone. The game went on like before with one extra player on Mr. Van's side. I couldn't have been more pleased or surprised when I was asked to join the game. We didn't have a Buddy Bench but we did have somebody who understood what these games we play are truly all about.

     Mr Van I am happy to say still lives in the area and remains married to the lady he met on The Dating Game over 50 years ago.



Thursday, March 11, 2021

The Calm of Childhood Memories

     It often calms me to recall childhood memories, which is likely why I have written this blog for so long. I am a high strung person by nature who needs the occasional non-caloric, non-pharmacological relief to sooth my everyday anxieties. A pleasant memory, however much it might have been changed by my recall, is a grand tonic that is sold in no store or mixed by any mixologist.

     The picture below is not one of the pleasant memories that serves to sooth. This particular Kodak is of a scorching hot Memorial Day in 1978. With the sunning beating down and the temperature in the 90s, the lead participants ran the first mile in under 5 minutes. For some reason beyond the kin of my recollection I was in that lead group. Considering the fact we had 5 more miles to run our initial burst of optimistic speed was an ominous sign. People who ran more slowly also felt the stress and one of my teachers at RHS literally collapsed and was taken to the hospital. Needless to say, the appeal of running races was lost on me forever after.  The number 909 finished well out of the race and I never competed with an "R" on my chest again.


Sunday, March 07, 2021

Asking For Directions

      Asking a complete stranger for help, or being asked by a complete stranger for help with directions used to be a normal occurrence. Sometime you knew and you gave good instructions. Sometimes you met someone who knew and they gave you good instructions.

     Nowadays we have the use of Global Positioning Satellites on our phone, watches, and laptops. Unless the satellites are malfunctioning you can be fairly certain about the information you receive. In fact, the information is so good and the use of GPS is so pervasive, it is quite extraordinary to be asked for directions by a stranger.


     Maps. At one time they were given away by gas stations and people gladly kept them in their cars for the security hidden inside them. People still needed to know how to read a map for them to be useful and then be able to fold them correctly if they were ever going to use them again. At any rate, every car seemingly had one or ten of them stashed into a glove compartment or strewn under a seat. Some people actually used to read them before they got in the car to drive, but from my viewpoint they were mostly used by a car in motion, and sometimes by the driver. It's probable a very good thing that cars are now equipped with GPS systems, even if they sound a little bit pushy when they are offering their directions. You really need to know when to turn them off or they will bombard you with useful and sometimes inaccurate instructions to places you have visited often and for which you require no assistance.
     Lastly, I have to admit that women have always been better about seeing the need to ask for directions. Now it can be said they are quicker to bring out a GPS of some sort when a general feeling of being lost pervades a group. I might go as far as to say that some things never change.

Wednesday, February 24, 2021

Long Distance Telephone Calls

      One of the many things which distinguishes my generation from the current one is the solemnity with which we used to bestow upon long distance telephone calls. If we received one at the house everyone was told to be quiet because "it's long distance!" The cost of the call was foremost in our minds. The fact sometimes the connection might be less than stellar was another good reason we had to listen carefully and everyone nearby had to be quiet as church mice.


     It similar to what a friend of mine from college days told me about his children. He is fascinated by stereo components, as we all were at one time. His ear for music demands that he have a high fidelity option in his life. His sons cannot conceive of why he wants this, as opposed to relying upon ear buds connected via wireless to their smartphones. I suppose if you've never heard music on the best equipment you just don't know what you're missing and simply accept the convenience which the smartphone offers.
     From my long experience working on and helping build the Internet one Cisco router at a time, I'm usually partial to the whole experience simply working! The times the traffic didn't flow as expected were always fraught with a bit of terror as to what the customers would think. Now that we have perfected the transmission of sound between two stations we expect sound so good you can hear a pin drop, from anywhere in the world. What's more, we have basically reduced the cost to nothing. Times have certainly changed, but  to tell the truth, I still am a little awestruck by a long distance call, and think to myself what it must be costing. Then I come to my senses and simply enjoy the convenience with we know to be so commonplace.

Sunday, February 07, 2021

Nabisco Factory

      The factory in Fair Lawn opened in 1958, and the 110-foot building is the tallest structure in the borough. You couldn't drive by it without smelling the Oreos or whatever was in the ovens that day. Though recently I have driven by and haven't been able to smell anything. Likely this is due to the car fumes on route 208, but I could have sworn we used to be able to smell the factory anytime we went by it. Maybe the ovens have a better filter system. I always thought it was great advertising to let all the smells out so as to encourage consumption.

     Just like many things of this era, once we figure out a more cost-effective way of doing something we discard our old ways. This iconic building with its ability to provide a pleasing aroma for miles around is so unlike factories built in 1958 or before. or those built today with no aromas at all. Wouldn't it be so incongruous with modern day Capitalism if they had kept this factory where it was and had marketed themselves as being a company known for "polluting the air" with a sense of nostalgia as well as the ever popular confections? I realize there is no chance of the money counters who work at the Brazilian hedge fund which owns Mondelez of having a change of mind. Sadly, they will trot out the old line about share holder value being paramount and forget entirely about the community and customers they serve. My favorite response to people who believe share holder value is the prime objective of a corporation is to ask, "How many executives have ever been prosecuted for failure to enhance the share holder value of the company which employs them?" The answer is none, but go try and convince them of anything else!

Tuesday, February 02, 2021

A Place We Don't Want To Lose

      On those rare occasions someone writes me personally about the blog I always sit up and take notice. In my world I never know when someone will provide me with food for thought, or even better, with some fully fleshed out, professionally crafted articles.

     This morning a local MD encouraged me to "keep on writing and bringing us to a place we don't want to lose." This person couldn't have been more spot on. The world which I briefly describe in this blog, and which is fleeing from my memory faster than I might like, is precisely a place I don't want to ever forget. I may not write about all the difficult times but they are all part and parcel of the era.

     When I am drawn to describe today's world in comparison to the one I knew, there is always a part of me which marvels at the simplicity of the times I can recall. In comparison to our new world which I find increasingly more complicated. At times I find life above and beyond my capacity for understanding. When these moments overwhelm I simply recall how my grandfather, an Eye Doctor in Fulton, Missouri might have described it from his window on main Street. Just imagine: He got paid sometimes with chickens and wrote a weekly column for the local paper describing the comings and goings outside the confines of his office. Looking at today's events I believe he would have come down on the side of mask wearing, social distancing, and getting a vaccination. He had been through World War I and knew too well the horrors of a pandemic. He also raised a family during the Great Depression so I think it would have some insights to keep us calm on our current economic calamity. Lastly, he saw the better days when his sons had returned largely unscathed from World War II, became professionals, and settled down to raise families just as he had done.

     The world may well be beyond my capacity to comprehend, but this fact has troubled better people with more worthy minds than mine so I usually can calm myself down these days by recollecting this simple but true observation. No doubt it might be the prescription my grandfather followed during a period of history fraught with the same kind of perils we see today.

     The Kingdom of Callaway County, circa 1944.

Monday, February 01, 2021

Snow Day 2021 (Updated)

     I wrote this post before checking to see whether or not schools were closed. Good old Ridgewood closed them and gave every student enduring online schooling a break for a day.




     Just when I couldn't think of another thing which the Internet hasn't disrupted, we had a snow day. In the NYC area we ought to receive between 12 and 18 inches of snow. This was plenty good enough for a snow day when I was growing up but now with people working from home and schools online, there is no stopping to admire the flakes. I think we learned as much sometimes on a snow day as we did when we were sitting in classrooms. 

      It wasn't just sledding, snowball fights, and shoveling snow. Though those were the best parts. There was the waiting by the radio for your town's school system to announce they were closing. In our house it was always the radio, not the TV which we used as proof of no school for the day. I guess we could have walked next door and knocked on the door of Willard School and asked but they didn't have the drama of waiting by the radio. The TV wasn't fast enough and was playing to a much wider audience than the radio stations were.

      When the good news finally presented itself there was the rush to get dressed and go see who else in the neighborhood was up and active. Usually we cleared our sidewalks first then maybe some sledding on the hill at Willard. Depending on the type of snow there might be a snowball fight or a snow fort built. Lots of things to keep young minds active, just like being in school but with better choices.

     I realize the pandemic will likely be over by next winter and in-school instruction  will return. But I can't help but feel sad for the kids who have been robbed of a snow day. Who's to say they won't eliminate snow days entirely, now that at home schooling is possible on those days when the roads are made unusable by an arctic blast and a foot of snow.  That would certainly be a loss.

Saturday, January 23, 2021

Henry Aaron

     Henry Louis Aaron, nicknamed "Hammer" or "Hammerin' Hank", was an American professional baseball right fielder who played 23 seasons in Major League Baseball, from 1954 through 1976. He spent 21 seasons with the Milwaukee/Atlanta Braves in the National League and two seasons with the Milwaukee Brewers in the American League.

     I watched the game on TV when Hank Aaron hit the home run to surpass the record of Babe Ruth. What wasn't emphasized was the hostility he faced from fans who didn't want to see the record broken and sent him all sorts of hate mail and shouted unspeakable epithets at him during the games.



     The record breaking had had to wait all winter as Aaron hadn't hit enough homers during the previous year in 1973. He spent the off-season thinking about it and hearing about it from everyone and their brother. It must of come as a relief when the season finally started. 

     When the season did finally begin, Aaron played three games in Cincinnati and didn't hit any homers. He returned back to Atlanta where a nation wide TV audience was watching.

     It was rumored that the pitcher on that historic day, Al Downing, a former 20 game winner and World Series star for the Yankees in the previous decade, was going to "groove one" to Aaron in his first plate appearance.

    Now I mentioned that I was watching the game on TV. I had no doubts that Al Downing had seen better days, but there he was starting for the Dodgers in this all important 4th game of the 1974 season. He walked him the first time he batted. The second time up Downing threw a fastball on Aaron's fists which would have broken the bat of a less accomplished hitter. The pitch was not "grooved" so that Aaron could hit the homer to break the record. I have watched the replay to many times to think otherwise.

    When it was all said and done Aaron had just the right words for fans and foes a like:

     He said. ‘I don’t want you to forget Babe Ruth. I just want you to remember Hank Aaron."

Friday, January 22, 2021

President Biden

      There is a palpable feeling of lightness in the air. It feels for the first time in a long time that there is a quiet in the public realm. No reporting of what the president said today on Twitter makes for a much needed calm. Perhaps journalism will return to its roots and simply describe what is going on, instead of taking sides and reporting the outlandish statements coming out of our federal government.

     We have a chance for a new beginning. Our 46th President was sworn in without a hitch, as was our first female Vice-President. This is a time for looking forward with hope and not backward with a longing for a past that wasn't so great as it might have seemed.

     Let's give the new administration the benefit of the doubt at first. Our problems are greater than they can solve on their own. We must all do our part to contain the virus, get the vaccination when it becomes available, and, above all, remain hopeful. Believe in the truth that "the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice."

Thursday, January 21, 2021

Democracy In Action

      We always had elections in for Student Council in Junior High School and High School. There was never a moment when the students were not represented by students. The elections for the following year’s officers were held in June and they officially assumed command the following September. It’s quite a stark contrast to the way we do things in our presidential elections.

      We can easily understand the history behind the date for an orderly succession because of constraints on travel and communications in the early days of our country. We probably all see why the need for speed and action was so pressing that the 20th Amendment to the constitution moved the inauguration by 43 days from March to January. Though what about our next election in 2024?

      The speed of the Internet would enable us to shave a couple of months off the time of presidential succession. Maybe November 20th. It would really give people something to talk about at Thanksgiving and would still allow time for recounts and challenges.


Friday, January 15, 2021

Elks Club

      The Elks Club is gone from the Village of Ridgewood. Though I learned today we have them to thank for the Ridgewood Borough Hall. I was doing a search through the Ridgewood Library   and found this priceless picture:


      Notice the Elk in the foreground. Makes sense after all these years. They sold their building to the town and moved into a much smaller place next store. They were able to keep an eye on their old haunt while hoisting a cold one at their much less expensive new digs.

     I'm not quite sure when the move occurred. The following picture is from the 1933 Chamber of Commerce Dinner. November 20th 1933


Wednesday, January 06, 2021

Maroons Online

      Yes, the new year brought new insights. Today I launched an Ezine dedicated to RHS Alumni and a web site to support it.

     The web site is

Friday, January 01, 2021

A Brand New Year

      Can't imagine a soul who can come up with something good to say about 2020. I'll try.

     Lot's of good TV.

     No end to the amount of music one can stream.

     No office Christmas parties.

     More software and tech gadgets than we have uses for.

     Well, my list is decidedly shabby and short. I admit defeat. I really can't think of anything about the year I will recall fondly. Let's look ahead to the New Year. Let's share what we know. Above all, let's build back better. By this I mean, let's use this opportunity, this reset, to try and get things right in terms of the environment, income equality, and racial/gender/age injustices. This is quite a bit to ponder, but since our quarantine will be in place much longer than anyone anticipated we do have the time to think of some new ways of living, working, and getting along with each other. Have at it. Happy New Year!



Sunday, December 27, 2020

The Hohokus Hill

       My Dad commuted to Wall Street for 17 years from Ridgewood. He usually walked and used the Hohokus Hill to access the train station. It's hard to imagine people still make this 3 hour a day commute.

     This photo is about 80 years old. I don't know if the sidewalk was put in after he started walking this hill twice a day. We used to explore the woods on either side of this feeble excuse for a road. Though my greatest adventure occurred shortly after I began driving. I was driving a stick shift car up the hill and at the turn my engine stalled. To compound the tension of the situation my passenger's Dad was walking up the hill and noticed us sitting in the stalled car. He showed no emotion and might have even offered a silent prayer to the saints for lost causes. I gave him a thumbs up from the driver's seat and gently took my foot off the brake and let out the clutch. We rolled backwards and miracle of miracles the engine turned over before we slid off the hill. I immediately put the car in gear and we both gave him a jolly wave as we sped up the hill. He never commented on that moment until some ten years later when I mentioned it to him. He just gave me a smile and said he knew I would pull through. I'm pretty sure he was fibbing but the smile on his face was priceless and I'm not one for being a know-it-all guest.

Thursday, December 17, 2020

Tin Ears

      My Dad taught me a lot of $50 words in his day. Two of the most memorable are Nepotism and Tin Ear. I learned the meaning of nepotism when I told him at the ripe old age of ten that I wanted to work at his law firm. He smiled and sensed what they call today a "Learning Moment" and told me that was impossible. It had nothing to do with my desire only that his firm had strict rules about hiring relatives. I went and looked it up in the dictionary and never forgot it. When I got to college and met the students at the nearby Dickinson School of Law, I was glad for nepotism policies. What a dull lot of people they were and what an equally dull profession they were seeking out. No offense intended towards all my friends who are lawyers and are not dim-witted by any means. I can only speak for myself.

     The second $50 word I recall is Tin Ear. I was explaining the antics of a particularly greedy president of the New York Stock Exchange. My Dad knew him well and wasn't at all surprised by his avarice. He added that the man had a tin ear. I asked him to explain and he simply said that with everything going on around him and all that was being written about him in the papers he had to be completely oblivious. I went to my trusty dictionary again to be sure I understood:

      Insensitivity to the nuances of current situation or subtleties of a craft; indifference to somebody else's attitudes and moods.
Yes, that pretty much described the man who was walking a way from a job in disgrace with a huge golden parachute.


Monday, December 07, 2020

Checking In

      Last weekend after looking through my Gmail contacts I decided to send an email to every person I hadn't contacted in a while. My family was excluded and anybody I had been on a Zoom call with during the Pandemic. In total I sent 28 versions of the same email. Though I personalized each but mostly wrote about how we were getting along and that if the person had a moment to let me know their status. I kept the note as brief as possible but not so short as to make it appear as a thoughtless exercise.

     The responses to date have been fascinating. The people I have known the longest were among the first to reply. It didn't matter if we hadn't spoken in years the connection was still there and they all appreciated the interruption to what has become a very boring time in our lives.

     I'll likely wait to respond to everyone and see if I can't draw some conclusion to share. Or I'll just respond to them individually and let the email trains go wherever. I realize that letter writing is a lost art but maybe we can improve upon email.

Tuesday, December 01, 2020

The Dignity of Work

      Yes, I'm quoting an elitist, Harvard political philosopher Michael Sandel, in order to make a point about the dignity of work. It seems we have forgotten that most people in this country and in Europe do not receive a college education. The fact that they now need one to earn enough to raise a family is another topic for discussion. When did we get so hung up with credentials? I can recall growing up in a town where most of the women did not have college degrees and a fair number of the men as well. You didn't need a college degree to deliver the mail, teach wood shop, or work in a retail store. These were respected jobs and enabled people to enter the middle class and own their own home.

...."On asking what we can do to make life better for people, whatever their credentials. That, however lustrous, however modest their circumstances, they can live dignified lives and be recognized. Not only rewarded, but recognized for the work they do, for the families they raise, for the communities they serve. Be recognized for contributions to the common good.


     We could simply blame globalization and our collective desire for flat-screen TVs which cost less than a $1000 but that would only be scratching the surface. We have to include all the cues we receive every day about having more stuff and why this is better than a life of simplicity. 

     This simpler life I imagine would be one where kids would say, "I'm bored" to their friends and parents. Being bored is fine and is a signal to use one's own mind to create a less boring outlook. I don't think we have the a single boring moment in our lives today. Children have so many choices in which to invest their time, and some activities like video games can take all of their attention and then some.

     Which brings me back to the need for bestowing dignity upon work. I understand that paper routes are never again going to be first jobs. I'd also include leaf raking, snow shoveling, and cutting grass on that list. What's going to take their place?

     First we need to re-establish a trust among neighbors to allow for today's youth to do things like teaching people how to use their technology safely. Or cleaning out an attic or basement; anything involving a bit of lifting and cleaning. But first a trust in one another must exist. In previous eras trust was created by participation in groups like Girl Scouts with their cookies. Unfortunately, this devolved into seeing who could get the most cookies sold by whatever means and the work aspect was completely lost. How much work is it to give your sign-up list to Mom and Dad to take to work? Not much.

     I don't have any good answers. I can only see that we have a great many lonely people who have the means to hire youngsters for their first paid jobs. Maybe it could be expanded to include hiring any under-employed adult. People would have to get over stigma of being under-employed and having to do manual labor. It's not an impossible suggestion though first there would have to be a confidence in the character, ability and truth in the people making the transaction. We've spent a lot of time denigrating manual labor by underpaying and not giving it the respect it deserves. A college education is not a lifetime pass from doing manual labor. Just ask all the former service workers who lost their jobs and now have student loans to repay.

Tuesday, November 24, 2020

Thanksgiving 2020

      We can all reminisce about memorable Thanksgivings and those which were not so notable. The older I get the more of these events I have to recall and some of these stand out for reasons I didn't appreciate at the time. For instance, the only time I saw the NYC Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade in person was when I wasn't old enough to see above the crowds. It was cold and we didn't stay too long. Instead, we went to my grandmother's apartment in Stuyvesant Town for an early dinner. 

     This year the parade is "virtual" a term so overused I can't imagine what they are going to do. To me, it would have been better just to tell people that a broadcast of a parade from the 1960s would be shown. Even better would have been to allow all the previous parades to be streamed on NetFlix and Amazon. A virtual parade has none of the entertainment value of watching it in person or even on TV. Let's simply add the loss of the parade to the long list of indignities which 2020 has imposed upon us all.

Friday, November 13, 2020

Kim Ng

      The Miami Marlins are expected to hire Kim Ng as general manager, a source tells The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal, making her the first woman to hold a GM position in Major League Baseball history. Jon Heyman of MLB Network was first to report the news of the hire.


      About time this RHS Distinguished Alumna received her chance. Bravo to Derek Jeter and the Miami Marlins for this long overdue hire.

My Problem

      How's this for a mantra: "The burden of citizenship is recognizing that what is not your fault may be your problem."

      Which leaves us all with the 72 million people who voted for the republican presidential candidate. As Anand Giridharadas wrote recently: "These voters are not our fault. It's certainly not my fault. But it is my problem." Yes, spot on.

     I'm not sure when the subject of Civics became Social Studies in the Ridgewood School system. Probably would have been wise in hindsight to leave the name alone. We certainly were taught Civics in our Social Studies classes but it wasn't the main emphasis. To tell you the truth I don't know what "Social Studies" means. I remember history being taught and some world events. If I were to guess about what is being taught today in Social Studies, it would be a far cry from the subjects which made up my cozy little world.

     This leaves us with the issue of Citizenship and why so many people believe that we can't trust our government to do anything right. There is ample evidence of government being more than capable to handle well defined tasks. Look at our interstate highway system and our National Parks as two of America's better ideas that couldn't have been accomplished by private enterprise alone.

     I know we can't convince everyone of the virtues of government but maybe we can gain a few more converts.  You would think with record unemployment and a bridge/tunnel/mass transit system in need of repairs it would be obvious where we might place our emphasis. If collapsing bridges don't capture your attention how about the forest fires in California and Colorado, or the annual flooding of the southeastern US?

     Part of being a citizen is knowing that we are all in this together and improvements in one part of the country do not take anything away from the rest of the country. I'm not saying these sort of decisions will be easy or should be done at the expense of our place in the world. Our global problems also belong to everyone and an "America First" opinion is not going to be enough. 

     You can argue with me about the details of what ought to happen first. Though please don't tell me that if we leave well enough alone our problems will take care of themselves. They won't.



Thursday, November 12, 2020

The Rules of American Democracy

        We require profound simplicity at this moment in the history of our country. The rules of presidential succession are spelled out in detail. We don't need to make up any procedures, what's more, the incoming president is well informed in how the process works. Age does have its advantages in cases like this.


     Unfortunately, we as a nation have never had such a sore loser before in a presidential campaign. Yes, it hurts to come in second but the lifetime perks he will receive remain. It's time to set the wheels of a new government in motion using Federal money. Currently, we are waiting for the GSA (General Services Administration) to authorize money for office space for the incoming administration as well as hundreds of details that need to be addressed during the transition from one ruling party to another. All we need is for the current occupant of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue to give the go ahead, as everyone of his predecessors have been obligated to do. 


      The confusion he is promulgating does nothing for his legacy and will without question never allow him to stay in office. He and his supporters may believe an overthrow of our Democracy is possible but they are overplaying a bad hand. The armed forces of our country have designated the airspace over Joe Biden's home as restricted airspace. In other words, they believe the election has been decided. Better luck in 2024.

Sunday, November 08, 2020

It Can’t Happen Here!

      But it did. Maybe not like the Sinclair Lewis novel of 1935 though just as scary. If the numbers are to be believed 71 million people voted for the incumbent. This was America at rock bottom. We have no choice but to do better. We face a global pandemic, record income inequality, and an economic prospect of a country that spent the last four years growing by a minuscule 1%. That's not enough to create the jobs which pay people a living wage. Please don't confuse this with the stock market which is not the economy. The economy is comprised of the majority of people in America who buy things and offer their services for hire. Mostly, people are finding low paying jobs without benefits in the Gig Economy. 


     The Middle Class of America has been eviscerated by mountains of student loan and credit card debts. They have known this is happening for years and their despair can bre seen in rising rates of suicide and opioid use. The Middle Class can't do much about it. This realization is contributing to a mental health crisis which was already bad because of Covid-19.


      It's easy to see and acknowledge our mistakes of the last few decades. How we have squandered our wealth on foreign wars and trying to be the world's policeman. How we have under-funded our schools, our infrastructure (roads, bridges, and tunnels) has been left to rot, and trust in one another is at an all-time low. 

     I'm not calling for a new isolationism. The world is too connected for that. What we do need is a new humility. America was a great country and could be again. Though it will need a lot of help from a great many sources. We can start by taking better care of the planet. Here in America, California is still on fire and the eastern part of the country is being overwhelmed by unprecedented storms which tax our abilities to recover. The kind of people we need are those like the ones who run into raging forest fires or violent storms. Our problems will require tremendous amounts of sacrifice and a kind, empathetic souls to solve them. Be part of the solution.


Friday, November 06, 2020

The End Of A Civic Nightmare

       I only wish my friend Laura Fleming had lived to see this day. She voted but died before the results were finalized.

     This is the end of our Civic nightmare. I don't want to go through this ever again and will be on the watch for the tell-tale signs of authoritarians in our midst. We have to do a better job of considering all of society. Our future actions whether they be in business of politics must reflect the ideal that we are all in this together.

     I am very grateful for the record number of people who turned out to vote this month, and the early voters too. Though it would be less stressful if all the states adopted some sort of uniform way of counting the votes. Some states counted them as they came in and others life Pennsylvania didn't start counting the mail-in votes until 7AM on Election Day.

    I called this post "The End Of A Civic Nightmare" to highlight the fact we can now begin again doing those activities which bring us together, which speak to the better angels of our nature. This will be long, deliberate process because we didn't forsake our duties all at one time and we won't acquire the new Civic habits that we require overnight. Though we can become more focused on those small activities which help to make our society a better place for everyone. I recall some of my earliest lessons in Civics were participatory and not so much a lecture from one of my fellow citizens. By these I mean my own engagement with our elementary school's Safety Patrol and the yearly bicycle inspections which were conducted by the police. Some and seemingly insignificant examples add up when everyone is doing something. My hope is that we will all find ideas big and small to pursue and contribute to so we never are in this sort of situation again.



Friday, October 23, 2020

Bad Apple

       It was recently announced that the three best Charlie Brown TV specials would no longer be presented via linear TV, instead they would only be seen on Apple TV. Linear TV is the original concept of one to many TV featuring the broadcast of the signal over the public airwaves. Apple TV is just another cable channel.

      This news trended on the Internet all day, and then like most news was forgotten the next. Nothing illegal was done and in Apple's defense you can watch these classics for free on designated days.

     What irks people, I believe, is the indescribable loss of something they might have hoped would never change. Maybe the estate of Charles Schulz could have stated that these shows would forever be shown on public access airwaves, meaning you could stick an antenna out the window and watch them. I doubt this even crossed their minds given the immediate production of Peanuts balloons for the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade right after "Sparky's death in February 2000.

      It's just another example of a huge corporation desperately trying to maximize their quarterly profit numbers with little regard for how their efforts will look. I own Apple products and consider them very good, though a company's management is not the same as they products they sell. Management decisions can cast products in an unfavorable light. This is one of those instances. We may not notice in the short run but in the long run when we have one less commonality to discuss, especially when we gather around the holidays, we'll probably notice the silence. Even if we figure out what's missing it will be hard to explain the timeless essence of these excellent TV programs to a younger generation. Maybe technology will come to the rescue and our future "Smart TV" will have the Apple TV app built-in. Then this loss of something special will be placed into the category of the vent window on the side of automobiles or the introduction of the DH in Baseball. Both created minor furors but then the next sound you heard was that of the crickets breaking the silence.

Monday, October 19, 2020

School Bake Sales

     I always liked the Election Day Bake Sales which were held in the hallways of elementary schools doing double duty as polling venues. It was common for stay-at-home Moms to bake sweets and also sell the goods which were baked. This contribution never found its way into Gross Domestic Product (GDP) numbers or was written about in history books as an example of civic pride. 

     Growing up not many people voted absentee and there wasn't any early voting. This year will be complicated by the fact Republican like to vote in person and Democrats are leaning towards voting by mail. It will make for a long election night and maybe even an election week or two. Neither candidate will gracefully bow out of the race before all the ballots have been counted. No doubt some ballots will be recounted to verify the integrity of the process.


      It's all over the news how armed men will in some states like Michigan will be legally patrolling voting places. The law might indicate that they must be thirty feet away but that still is close enough to intimidate. I don't know any reason why they feel compelled to dress up in broad daylight in camouflage meant for hiding in woods. Maybe it gives them courage like the masks they will use to hide their faces. I can't imagine how that must look to a child who really would be better off dreaming about what they plan to buy at the bake sale.

Sunday, October 18, 2020


       Libby is an app and it can be accessed via your web browser. If you have a library card you enter the number and then are digitally transported to the confines of your favorite branch. I am lucky to live in Queens New York which has 63 branches and a huge selection of online books.

     Now if this wasn't the era of Covid I would simply search for what I wanted and then walk over to pick it up when they said it was available. Living in the times of Covid I am less likely to want to visit any place for very long. Unfortunately, a library is a place I tend to visit for hours.

     With this new free access I have a limited selection of electronic books which I can increase the type size of to make them more readable. Reading a book digitally takes some getting used to but it's worth it. I missed the selection the library has to offer just as I miss going to book stores. This is a compromise which I am willing to live with, as should anyone who is a reader at heart.

     Depending upon your library and the title you want to read there might be a wait. Though that is explained in detail. Authors have to earn money so they can't have all the books of the world in unlimited copies. I view this as more than fair. It also makes you hunt for books and you might possible read something new and not your usual style. Well worth the effort.

Wednesday, October 14, 2020

Laura Fleming

      I got to know Laura long after we graduated in a class of over 550 students. She was a tireless worker for so many causes. I feel lucky to worked with her on a couple of class reunions. One of her former students, Sanjana Rajagopal, gave her a eulogy better than I ever could:


Woke up today morning to the news that my AP Euro teacher, History Bowl chaperone, and all around one of the sweetest people I knew passed away. I still vividly remember her encouraging my love for Russian history and taking a giant group of us to DC for History Bowl Nationals not once but twice. Even recently she told me she was so happy to see me teaching, and to see my research headed in a direction very much related to her class. Our last face to face conversation was in the library of RHS, where I was telling her about my plans to do the PhD.
When I see my students today on Zoom, I’ll keep your wonderful heart, patience, and care in mind, Mrs. Fleming. You touched the lives of so many at Ridgewood High School. 

Monday, October 12, 2020

Medical Mathematics

      I saw the term "Medical Mathematics" today in reference to our president. People are justifiably concerned with his health, especially less than 4 weeks to an election. They want some numbers with which to compare his health. These numbers have been around according to Fabrizio Bigotti since at least "the early 1600s, when a professor of medicine, Santorio Santori, helped perfect devices to measure body temperature and pulse rate." 

     The precision of our numbers today and the vast amount of literature available to analyze them with has led to a cottage industry of people making a medical diagnosis via the Internet. It's not the best method and we ought to be provided with the president's results if only to stem the conspiracy theories. This withholding of information is nothing new. Leaders of many countries have long done this so we're probably not going to know for years how the president is doing.

     What fascinates me with this term is the number of devices which will soon be relied upon to help determine our vital signs. I like wearable technology though the privacy and security of the wearable will require a lot of scrutiny. The hacking of driver-less cars is concerning but the hacking of medical devices raises my anxiety to a new peak! I'll still be testing them out though as a backup to my routine visits to the doctor. 

     The lesson from all our working from home is some human interaction can and will be replaced by automation. I am not in favor of everything being automated and in person medical care is a prime example. I am all for removing the headache of paperwork via automation from our medical professionals. This will soon be the norm as the insurance industry can't justify their inconsistency and often times incompetence for much longer. The clamor to replace outmoded practices from doctors and patients is going to be too much, not to mention the waste of time and money. I can only hope the additions to the corporate bottom line will be tempered by the realization that we are all in this thing called life together. The pandemic has also taught us that viruses do not respect gated communities or Secret Service agents willing to take a bullet. We have to steward our medical resources better in the future and automation is going to help.


Sunday, October 11, 2020

The End of Our Monoculture

      I'm not sure exactly when our single culture ceased being and our current multi-culture began but it happened in my lifetime so I'll try to give it the consideration it deserves. Truth be told I am only able to blog because the single set of circumstances which made up my youth are easy to remember. This makes my comparisons to today all the more stark. Like I always say and tell my nephews it is not that my childhood was better, only that it was different than what you can expect today. The starkest example:

  • CBS, NBC, ABC were the major networks throughout the country. You could travel around, flip on the TV, and easily find them. That is, if your antenna was positioned correctly. 
  • Today we have so many channels in so many different combinations that it is fair to say most TVs do not have the same channels.


     I think it's great we have more choice and wouldn't wish the summer TV rerun seasons we endured on anyone. This could be said about a lot of things like our music, choices of food, telephones... The list is long and hurrah for the difference. 

     My sole observation is; Can we somehow regain some semblance of coherence, a common ground which will help us work together to tackle the issues of the day? I'm not sure we can reach resolutions to issues of Income Equality, Climate, Racism, Ageism and many others if we don't begin with an agreed upon set of facts and cultural touchstones. Maybe we can and I'm just misinformed.

     My suggestion is to enjoy the vast amount of cultural choices and get comfortable with all the confusion. Figure out as best you can where you can find more of what you like. We all seem to be looking so take a friend or two along in your search.

Monday, October 05, 2020

Gettysburg Address

      It was once a part of every school's curriculum, the Gettysburg Address. Students had to memorize it. I had to do this fifth grade. Some students learned it earlier, some later. All recognized it as a moving tribute to an idea written into our Constitution in 1776. 

      According to Wikipedia: the Gettysburg Address is a world-famous speech delivered by U.S. Pres. Abraham Lincoln at the dedication (November 19, 1863) of the National Cemetery at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, the site of one of the decisive battles of the American Civil War (July 1–3, 1863).

     The speech only took a little over three minutes to deliver and consisted of ten lines. It was over so quickly that the photographer assigned to capture the moment missed it entirely.


     These days the final words inspire me the most: "and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth." I mention this because our democracy is not guaranteed to survive the coming election. Our democracy is a fragile construct held together with people's best intentions, or as Lincoln liked to say, the better angels of our nature. This appeared in the final paragraph of Abraham Lincoln's first inaugural address in 1861. He certainly had a way with words. I am going to put his address to memory again as I watch the events unfold around our forthcoming election and the all important count of votes which will occur afterwards.


Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.

Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battle-field of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.

But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate—we can not consecrate—we can not hallow—this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us—that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion—that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain—that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom—and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.



Friday, October 02, 2020

Bi-partisan Get Well Soon

      I would not wish Covid on anyone, even someone who misled our country about its potential harm. Though given Trump's bad luck in business as demonstrated by his numerous bankruptcies and never ending audit by the IRS, it's simple in hindsight to state that we could have seen this coming.

     The math, which by itself ought to frighten anybody from going to large gatherings of people without a mask, is too clear: the larger the group of people, the better your chances of contracting Covid. End of story.

Wisdom Workers

      Try Googling "people at work" and you will mostly receive pictures of people working inside and office environment. I guess the search engines will all have to do some house cleaning with the trend being towards WFH (working from home) for the foreseeable future.

     I miss very little about offices and cubicles. During my younger years when I traveled extensively as a consultant, all I saw were offices and people none too happy to be working in them. Hopefully, our Covid travail will teach us a few things. One being the necessity to take people into account when designing workplaces. Another would be a thorough questioning for the need to be in one location during a set period of hours, the old 9 to 5. All I am really suggesting is flexibility in our attitudes as to what constitutes work.We all need to be Wisdom Workers because the term Knowledge Worker doesn't make sense any more. Anyone with a smart phone is carrying most all the knowledge they need. More important is an idea of how and when to apply it. That is what Wisdom Workers do for us.

Tuesday, September 29, 2020

Tomato Plants in Autumn

      Nothing sadder than tomato plants in Autumn, even on a warm sunny day. Our garden this year had plenty of cherry tomatoes but the other, larger varieties were less productive. The herbs and flowers as usual were the most spectacular. The mulberry trees even with a pruning gave the birds and people walking by a consistent snack for the better part of three weeks.

     Now I have to compost the dying plants and turn over the soil. These jobs I like and they take my mind off the knuckleheads not wearing masks in my borough of NYC. A second wave of infections is coming and we are prepared to stay inside until Spring. Then I'll be able to plant some tomatoes and the whole process will begin again.


Monday, September 21, 2020

Critical Self-Reflection

    After being an advocate for technology, beginning in the early 1990s,  I now ask myself, "Is this technology really of any use?" The Smart Phone is a great invention. It is the fictional device used for voice communication from the television series Star Trek brought to life. But what about all the people now who stare at it incessantly while walking through traffic or on our pre-Covid-19 crowded streets? This use of the phone is annoying to say the least and dangerous a fair part of the time as people must move aside to make way for these distracted people.


     Another technology which I'll be holding my judgement on involves Artificial Intelligence (AI). I say involves because AI is a means a lot of things from chess-playing computers to self-driving cars. If you want to begin to understand AI go back and re-learn your junior high school and high school math because the basis of AI is Machine Learning. The study of the math behind AI answers that long ago questions often posed to Math teachers, "What is all this Math good for?" Take a look at the Introduction to Machine Learning from the Online school Udemy and you'll quickly find out!

     Back to my rant. I'm worried about Deep Fakes. These are videos and pictures created to give the impression of an individual saying something they never have said before. These are Fakes but created with the latest editing techniques available. They can make self-reflection look stunning---so that we believe our politicians have our best interests in mind. Deep Fakes can move people to action so they they make room for others in their lives, so they believe it is the highest form of humanity to have a publicly funded safety net for those unlucky enough to not carefully choose their parents.

      Deep Fakes can also be used to create phony evidence which might land people in jail for crimes they didn't commit. Or make people believe that certain politicians appear drunk in public. The list is staggering and a bit frightening. 

     We all need to understand that Deep Fakes are a part of our current reality and to make allowances for them by being less quick to anger or to judge. It is truly the challenge of our technological age.



Wednesday, September 16, 2020

Air Quality Index

       Here's something to check out if you are noticing all the clouds on the East Coast. The AQI or Air Quality Index is a service of the EPA Environmental Protection Agency. Our tax dollars at work and a good reason to support the idea of government programs. Knowing if the air outside is unhealthy is to state the obvious a good thing.

     Your friends and family in Los Angeles are currently breathing unhealthy air from all the forest fires.

     I am way past trying to figure out who is to blame. One side says it's because the forest floors need to be swept of dry debris. The other side says that the Federal Government owns 55% percent of these forests. I don't care who is most correct. I just want some institution to put the fires out! It doesn't appear to be a good case for market incentives but it does scream out for a coordinated government effort. We are all in this together. Where are you going to go if the smoke is drifting 3000 miles from the west coast?

     I learned today that the national parks in LA begin directly against the outer rings of the city. This means you go from Urban to forest very fast and is the reason why homes are being destroyed so easily.

Tuesday, September 15, 2020

The Man or Woman In the Arena

      Teddy Roosevelt was a man of 19th ideals. They hunted, they fished and thought nothing of making trophies out of their conquests. Teddy also collected nature. "His lifelong passion for the natural world set the stage for America’s wildlife conservation movement and  determined his legacy as a founding father of today’s museum naturalism."

     Teddy was also a Trustbuster. We don't even know the term anymore and nobody claims the mantle which TR established. Today's Trusts or companies with monopoly power include

Amazon, FaceBook, Google, Microsoft, Comcast, National Football League to name a few.


     On April 23, 1910, Theodore Roosevelt gave what would become one of the most widely quoted speeches of his career. I read this in high school and copied it to a piece of paper so I could carry it around for inspiration. I later traded it for sources of inspiration which I instead committed to memory, especially poets like Yeats,  and Keats.

"It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat."