Monday, July 21, 2014

I'm Left To Mourn

I can remember the day about four years ago when the sign went up on the construction site near my home:  Five Guys Coming Soon !.  I texted Mrs. Grumpy right away.  The famous Five Guys was going to be a two minute drive away.  I'd read about it, heard people rhapsodize about it and seen it in the media, but had never had one of their famous burgers.  They had opened a location in our greater metropolitan area, but it was at least a half hour away and we hadn't made the pilgrimage yet.  Now we wouldn't have to.

I kept close tabs on the construction and was there opening day.  It was all I expected.  Made to order while you watched.  Unlimited toppings.  And the fries.  A small order was a drinking cup full of fries and then an extra scoopful thrown in the bag.  The fries themselves would have made a meal.  The cheeseburger was juicy, the cheese melting everywhere and the grease dripping with every bite.  I was in heaven.

Mrs. Grumpy not being a big burger person, I would usually get my fix at lunch, getting there at 11:30 to beat the rush and taking it home to savor.  The smell from that bag as I drove home was tantalizing.  More than once I would dip in for a few fries.  Five Guys lived up to all the anticipation and expectations.

Then last Friday, driving home through the main neighborhood business district, I glanced over and to my surprise Five Guys was gone.  Signage, fixtures, everything gone.  No sign that it was ever there.  It was as if they had just packed up in the night and left.  I was stunned.  Why would this happen?  I had noticed on recent visits that they weren't very busy and had seen a nearly empty lot around dinner time on more than one occasion.  Maybe it was the pricing.  A  double cheeseburger and a small order of fries would set you back about $9.25.  Maybe impatience in our fast food society; since everything was cooked to order, the wait for your food could sometimes be 10 minutes.

So my neighborhood is filled with impatient cheapskates.  I shouldn't be punished for that.

Friday, July 18, 2014

My Mideast Peace Plan

Simultaneously, Hamas or the Palestinian Authority (whichever is the "government" this week) and the Arab League release the following statement:

"We recognize the right of the State of Israel to exist."

Problem solved.  Killing stops.  You're welcome.  Have a nice weekend.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Cleveland


By The Big Guy
Senior Contributor

I was born in Cleveland. Born and raised as a matter of fact. Cleveland was a great place to grow up back in the middle of the last century. It was a great place to grow up in and get out of also, which is what I did. I’ve been gone so long I have no idea if it's still a great place to grow up in but I have a feeling it’s still a great place to get out of. I know this because back there in the middle of the last century it was the seventh largest city in the country. Today it ranks forty-fifth. Of course I suppose it depends where you’re getting out to.

Back when I was growing up in Cleveland, the city had two well-known slogans. The first was created by the local electric company: “The Best Location in the Nation!” Wow. Six words that were at once both inspirational and aspirational. The second was the one you heard from your friends or your cynical Uncle Harvey: “The mistake on the lake.” Not exactly what the electric company was going for, but the one everyone would remember because Cleveland seems to be a city that wants to hold on to the bad stuff.

The city can’t shake its image as the place where the Cuyahoga River that runs through the center of town caught fire in 1969. Every industry, and there have been lots of heavy industries in Cleveland, used the Cuyahoga as their personal garbage disposal and oil slicks and other debris had been catching fire on the surface of the river for one hundred years prior. However, Time decided to make the river on fire its cover story in June 1969 and that was that. Clevelanders have been ashamed ever since, even though the notoriety led to the Clean Water Act becoming law three years later.

This week Cleveland was suddenly all over the news on a national basis. First, the Republican Party announced that their 2016 Presidential Convention would be held in Cleveland. Definitely a plus for the city, even if it is just a ploy to win the state for their candidate in the November election. Next was the demolition of a major interstate highway bridge in the downtown area via controlled explosion to make way for a modern, wider replacement. TV news shows just love their controlled explosions. Then there was the video of a lovely SUV lying on its side completely submerged at the bottom of an in ground home swimming pool, apparently the result of a loss of control on the part of the driver who was relatively unharmed. TV news shows love their submerged SUVs also. Finally but probably not least was that little LeBron James thing.

I am reasonably sure that even the casual sports fan can remember the uproar from the mistake on the lake four years ago when a certain basketball player, a native of the regional metropolitan area, decided to do what many professional athletes do, which was to find a place to play where he felt he could win the league championship he so seriously desired. It was as though LeBron James had personally called each and every person in Cleveland just to personally give them a two word message, the first word being a verb and the second a pronoun. There were jersey burning events, all televised. The owner of the team posted a letter to Clevelanders that remained on the website for years. It used words like “betrayal” and “cowardly” and went on to make a promise to fans that could not and would not be kept.

And now? The letter is gone from the website. Cavalier tickets are sold out. People stand in line waiting to buy new jerseys and tee shirts. All is forgiven. In fact, one very popular tee shirt available for sale just has a large “Forgiven” across the front. So just who is doing the forgiving and who is it that requires to be forgiven? Perhaps it’s time for the residents of Cleveland to knock it off and remember that once upon a time they lived in the best location in the nation.           

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Hero Of The Week

Army Spc. Nicholas A. Taylor
Age:  20
81st Troop Command
Indiana National Guard
Died 16 July, 2012
Jannan, Afghanistan

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

I Am Depressed

A couple weeks ago I detailed my decision to binge watch Breaking Bad.  The show ran for five seasons comprised of 62 episodes.  In the space of two weeks I watched 61 of those episodes.  As Peruby noted at that time, it became an obsession.  I mapped out my watching schedule, usually two episodes each afternoon followed by two more after dinner and the evening news.  If Mrs. Grumpy interrupted during my Breaking Bad viewing I got pissed.  I was hooked and couldn't wait for my next fix.  No pun intended.

The characters were finely drawn and superbly acted.  I can't think of a single performance that I would find fault with.  The story lines were incredible; many nights I would lie awake thinking about the plot lines and how they intersected with each other, often not fully understanding the twists until I had replayed them in my mind.  Probably the best series I've ever watched.  I never thought anything could surpass The Wire, but Breaking Bad does, by just a nose.

Note how I said I watched 61 episodes in two weeks.  For two days I put off watching the finale.  I didn't want it to end.  Ending would mean not just the end of these characters and their part in my life, it would also leave a big chunk of time to fill in my day.  On Saturday I finally watched the final episode.  Many times the finale of a series will disappoint (think Seinfeld, Dexter).  This one didn't.  Debts were paid.  Revenge was taken.  There was even an act of redemption.


Now, also as predicted by Peruby, I'm depressed.  I want those people back in my life, to have their lives go on; I want to see how it plays out for the survivors.  It has been announced that in 2015 there will be a prequel, Better Call Saul, featuring the sleazy, amoral lawyer, Saul Goodman.  Featured along with Saul will be his fixer, Mike Ehrmantraut.  I hope they bring back Saul's bodyguard Huell.  This time I think I'll watch it week to week.

Monday, July 14, 2014

I Won't Be There

Over the July 4th weekend friends who now live in Las Vegas came to Cincinnati to visit with their 4 month old son.  The paternal grandparents had people over Saturday night to meet the baby and congratulate the new parents in person.  Really cute kid, very photogenic and nary a complaint while being passed among strangers.  But here's what I was thinking:  In 18 yrs., when Jake graduates from high school, I likely won't be there to see it.  It's simple math, really.  It's how I've started to view the future, by doing the math.

During what little of the World Cup that I watched they talked about the 2018 World Cup in Russia.  I did the math.  The 2022 World Cup in Qatar.  I did the math.  My favorite NFL player is 32.  If he plays five more years and then has to wait the mandatory five years to be voted into the Hall of Fame, that's ten years before he's inducted.  Do the math.  My granddaughter turns 21 this week.  Probably don't need to do the math on that one.  But what if she gets married some day?   Just thinking about the possibilities gets me started on the math again.  Same with my grandson's high school graduation, now six years away.  That makes his college graduation ten years out.  Do the math.

I was never good at math, but I'm becoming a whiz at doing addition quickly.

Friday, July 11, 2014

The Gift That Keeps On Giving

A neck holding up nothing but air
Whatever you may think about Sarah Palin, the half-wit, half-term former governor of Alaska, you have to admit that she is an endless source of amusement.  I guess we all owe a debt of gratitude to Sen. John McCain (R-State of dementia) for making her a national figure.  Whenever she opens her mouth you can count on her to a.) Say something stupid b.) Show her ignorance c.) Lie.

Her latest beauty is a column for Breitbart.com in which she calls for the impeachment of President Obama because of, among other things, his handling of the current immigration crisis on our Southern border.  She once again shows she doesn't understand the grounds necessary to bring articles of impeachment, doesn't read any more papers or news than she did in 2008 and is still a liar.

If she picked up a paper or checked online news sources Ms. Palin might know of the William Wilberforce Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization  Act.  The act mandates that undocumented immigrant children from non-contiguous countries (that would be anywhere but Canada and Mexico, Ms. Palin) must be handed over to the Dept. of Health and Human Services for care and are entitled to legal counsel as well as an advocate to explain asylum options and other ways to remain in the U.S.  Again, minor children who enter America without documentation are required by law to be cared for by an American agency.

What Ms. Palin either doesn't know or chooses to lie about is that this act was signed into law in 2008 by President George W. Bush.  So when President Obama provides food, water, medical care and counsel for these children, he is following the law.  The other thing about this issue that Ms. Palin fails to mention or willfully ignores is that President Obama is trying to get the law changed so that these undocumented children would be treated the same as undocumented immigrants from Canada or Mexico who are caught; they would be detained and sent back to their country of origin. 

In reality, President Obama has deported more undocumented immigrants than any president in U.S. history.  In spite of that truth, we have Ms. Palin and Gov. Perry of Texas implying that the president is purposely encouraging undocumented immigrants to come here, toward what end only their tiny, bigoted brains can know.  Endlessly amusing.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Imagination

By The Big Guy
Senior Contributor

Okay, so the other day I’m at the gym (yes, really) and I’m listening to Yours Truly, Johnny Dollar on my device. It’s a radio program from the 1950s. Johnny was an insurance investigator who traveled around to investigate cases where big payouts were made under suspicious circumstances. The show was on five nights a week for fifteen minutes. It took all five of the week’s episodes for Johnny to solve a case. In this one he was trying to find out who murdered a kindly, gentle woman from a tiny little Vermont town in her own living room. Turns out it was her neighbor. I figured I didn’t have to worry too much about a spoiler here.

The thing that was so enjoyable, so refreshing about this radio program that was over sixty years old was that it provided me with an opportunity I have less and less often. It allowed me to “see” things however I chose. Whether the town was one of those places with a single flashing yellow light where two roads crossed, whether there was a railroad track that ran parallel to Main Street, whether there was a public green with a gazebo at one end, was all up to me. Was Johnny tall or short? Did he wear a hat? Did he blink his eyes more often than most? My choice. Everything and everyone looked just the way I expected them to look. That’s the best thing about imagination.

When we’re kids people are always telling us to use our imagination but I’m afraid that when we’re kids we don’t really understand the concept. We learn to read from books with pictures and it feels like the day we get handed a book without any pictures is the day reading becomes drudgery. We don’t see it as providing us the opportunity to use our imagination.

Now I’m not saying that people don’t read books anymore or that anyone who chooses to find themselves amidst a work of fiction can go anywhere they want in an instant. I’m just saying that somewhere along the way our lifestyle or our technology or the combination of the two began to pair up virtually everything we do, everything we encounter with a specific visual component. And with that pairing the image in your mind’s eye is defined for you. Imagination is no longer required.

Do you have a favorite book? Was it made into a motion picture? Did it live up to your expectations or did it take the wonderful images you had created for yourself and burn them to the ground? What if The Cat in the Hat or Horton Hears a Who, as wonderful as they are, didn’t come with pictures? Do you think your imagination would be up to the task?

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Hero Of The Week

Army Sgt. 1st Class Terry L. Pasker
Age:  39
334th Brigade Support Battalion
2nd Brigade Combat Team
34th Infantry Division
Iowa National Guard
Died 9 July, 2011
Panjshir province, Afghanistan

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

The Slippery Slope


I'm just waiting for a Muslim business owner to require his female employees to wear head scarves or burqas because his religious views are offended by women dressing immodestly. 

Monday, July 7, 2014

I Need Some 'Splaining

Where were all the autistic children when I was a kid?  If you're over 50 do you remember any mention of autism when you were young?  Why are so many children today considered to be on the "autism spectrum"?    Somebody explain.

Where were all the kids with food allergies when I was a kid?  If you're over 50 do you remember any of your friends having peanut allergies?  Wheat allergies?  On gluten free diets?  What has changed?  Somebody explain.

Where were all the kids with ADD when I was a kid?  If you're over 50 do you remember lots of kids with ADD?  Were they just considered the class clown in those days?  Why are so many kids now diagnosed with ADD?  Somebody explain.

Where were all the kids with traumatic brain injuries from riding bikes without helmets when I was a kid?  If you're over 50 do you remember friends suffering head injuries from falling off their bikes?  Did any of you suffer a head injury from falling off a bike?  Do you remember anything more serious than scraped knees and elbows from falling off a bike?  Somebody explain.

Where were all the kids with dodge ball injuries when I was a kid?  If you're over 50 do you remember a lot of kids being injured from playing dodge ball?  Other than a bruise, were you ever injured playing dodge ball?  Why are so many schools outlawing dodge ball?  Somebody explain.


Thursday, July 3, 2014

Had Enough Now?

By The Big Guy
Senior Contributor

The price of a free lunch continues to rise. In fact this past week it took a precipitous leap. Proprietor of the Free Lunch CafĂ©: Facebook. And for those of you who haven’t heard me say it the previous twenty times in this space, Facebook will be the end of humanity as we know it.

If you missed the details, Facebook conducted a psychology experiment on a number of their members without their knowledge but with their permission (more on that permission thing in a minute). By “a number of members” we’re talking about just short of seven hundred thousand of them (or you as the case may be). Simply, members’ daily news feeds were tampered with and adjusted so that they would receive either more positive stories or more negative stories. Then Facebook scientists, along with researchers from the University of California, San Francisco and Cornell University analyzed whether the posts left by these members were also more positive or negative. By the way, they were.

Outraged yet? It apparently is Facebook’s opinion that the permission granted by these members is buried in the multi-paragraph epistle you agree to without reading when you sign up for Facebook. Of course, the deal is you click on the “agree” button or you don’t get to use Facebook. It’s that simple. Somewhere in that agreement is a reference to the fact that they may use the information they receive about you “for internal operations including troubleshooting, data analysis, testing, research and service improvement.” Nothing in that phrase quite says that they intend to manipulate you without your knowledge to see if causing you to be depressed makes you leave more depressing posts or even less posts. I’m reasonably certain basic ethics dictates that if someone is going to be part of an experiment they have the right to prior knowledge that the experiment exists and can then choose whether or not they are going to be part of it.

Outraged now? And why would Facebook do this? Since word got out they haven’t said much. They’re sorry. They didn’t mean to upset anybody, blah, blah, blah. Undoubtedly it has to do with cash. What doesn’t? It’s all about the content. The more content members generate, the more things you post, the more things your friends and your friends’ friends post, no matter how stupid, shallow or superficial, the more advertising Facebook can sell. And it appears that if you’re happy when you sit down at the keyboard or pull your device out of your pocket or purse, the more you will post. 

The tests were conducted over two years ago in January 2012, so it’s going to be a little tough to go back and see if you can figure out if you were one of the manipulated. Here’s something to consider. Maybe now is the time to leave Facebook behind and take up something less harmful, like just sending emails to one person at a time like people used to do back at the turn of the century. There are dozens of places on the web that will give you detailed instructions on how to fully delete Facebook from your life. As you may have guessed, it’s not easy, certainly not as easy as it was to click on that “agree” button way back when.