Friday, November 20, 2009

The Fountain of Youth

“Life is short, stay awake for it”

(Caribou Coffee cup)

Every November since 1937, my father has had a birthday. This year it will 72 years. Ever since I have known him, he has been an early riser. Dad was often the last one to bed in the evening and easily the first one up in the morning. His average rising time was/is around 4am. I don’t think he ever used an alarm clock either (or a pillow for that matter). This quality/genetic defect did not get passed on to me.

I would guess Dad’s average night consists of 5 hours of sleep. Most experts recommend that adults get 7-8 hours of sleep per day. Let’s be conservative and say that he has gained 2 hours every day since the age of 18. The numbers are staggering. 2,365,200 extra minutes; 39,420 extra hours; 1642.50 extra days; 234.64 extra weeks, 54.75 extra months, 4.5 extra years.

Rip Van Winkle he is not. Dad inadvertently found the fountain of youth. Many people try to add years to their life through exercise, diet, etc. If they do add years to their life, those years are tacked on to the end of their life. Dad’s method added years to the prime of his life, and who of us would not want that? It is the ideal fountain of youth, although the medical community does not endorse it.

Dad has not wasted that extra time either. He has used that time to compose music, write poetry, write high school curriculum on various subjects, and become an expert in the field of education. I have always wondered how he had the time to do everything he did, but now I know. His life is an inspiration to me.

So I will wish him a happy 72nd birthday knowing he has lived 76 years worth of life.

Maybe I will stop using a pillow as well.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009


Baseball has the Steroid Era. The earth has the Ice Age. American muscle cars defined the auto industry in the late 60’s to early 70’s. The list is endless. Families have “stages” as well. It seems that our family has entered the “Pet Era.”

This era dawned anew in July with the arrival of three kittens – Rocky, Whiskers, and Pete. Rocky, being the adventurous one, decided the neighbor’s porch is a wonderful place to hang out. His influential personality soon convinced his siblings to join him in his daring escapades. It paid off for them, since the neighbors fell in love with them, let them into their house (along with their 15 cats), fed them, and gave them a warm place to sleep. We tried our best to woo them back, but to no avail. Our outdoor accommodations were no contest to the personal suite they had access to.

In September the rabbits arrived. Two of them, one black, one gray. Two females (we hope). The greatest thing ever (since the kittens). We did better with the accommodations this time. We set up the cage, and I built a nice box for them, as well as a frame to hold their dishes. Excitement was running high. They were well fed and cared for. For about two days. Now our daughter and I have a daily exchange that goes something like this:

Me: “Did you feed the rabbits today?”

She: “No. There were too many ladybugs outside and my boots are muddy.” (or similar excuses/variations)

Me: “I’ll go out with you now.”

She: “Well, I need to brush my baby’s hair, and it is cold outside.” (or similar excuses/variations)

She: “You can just go feed them without me.”

After 5-10 minutes of discussion, we go out and feed them.

Once it starts snowing and getting really cold, this will become a half hour process I am afraid. And I will do it myself.

Maybe the neighbors would like a couple of rabbits?

Maybe several chickens would be nice pets for us…or a pet rock.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Lazy Man's Garden Part II

“You get what you pay for.”

“There is no such thing as a free lunch.”

Both of these sayings apply to my garden this year. In a previous post I chronicled my gardening life, and my wonderful idea this year for maximum gardening enjoyment with minimal maintenance efforts (container gardening). It seemed like a good idea at the time.

Things started out perfectly. I filled my containers with potting soil. Later, I noticed the bag said, “Not For Use In Containers!” I was sure this was talking about other containers and not the kind I was using (old softener salt barrels and 5 gallon buckets). My plants grew beautifully. I fertilized, watered (sometimes), and pruned. One of my tomato plants was especially impressive. Ha ha, “Not For Use In Containers!” Ha ha! Even the carrots grew, despite the way they were treated by the invading cats. The weeding was easy and minimal. Low maintenance, high yield, perfect!

Except for the high yield part. As the plants began to produce, I noticed something; the size and quantity of the vegetables was quite a bit smaller than usual. The four tomato plants gave us enough to keep a fresh supply on hand, the peppers…well, we got about three peppers per plant. We had enough pole beans for one meal (about 4 servings), and the carrots were eaten before they made the refrigerator.

Container gardening is convenient and low maintenance, and best suited for the person who only wants a few fresh items throughout the summer. If you are expecting to do any preserving, container gardening is not for you.

I don’t know if the wrong soil made the difference or the size of the containers. My theory is that the size of the containers limited the size of the plants. For example, if you put a goldfish in a bowl, it stays small; however, put that goldfish in pond and you will soon have a sizeable fish. Thus, what is true for a goldfish must be true of a tomato plant. I am quite certain that the wrong dirt had nothing to do with it.

“Not For Use In Containers!” Ha ha!

Maybe I will try raised beds next year.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Of Dogs...and Cats

I like dogs. I have owned dogs most of my life. Currently, we do not have a dog, since in the winter, Misty died very suddenly and unexpectedly. She was replaced a month ago…with three little kittens. This is due to the lack of testosterone at our house. I have the lone male vote in the house against four female votes. That is a subject in itself…

I don’t mind the kittens right now, in fact, they are enjoyable to watch. They are very playful and chase each other all over the place. I do not enjoy the neighbor’s cats, who have discovered the food bowl and have decided that the deck would be a wonderful place to hang out. Of their twenty plus cats, about five are developing this habit. I guess I need to be happy that not all of them have adopted the deck as home.

I like dogs…most of the time. This past weekend, we spent three nights camping at a state park. I could not believe the throng of canines that came along as well. Just in the campsites around ours were an American Bulldog, three Pugs, two Australian Shepherds, two Beagles, and the smallest 7 week old puppy I have ever seen. We routinely saw two Great Danes (think small horses) being walked, as well as a German Shepherd that required two full-sized humans to control it. I would estimate that of the 300 campsites, about half of them had a dog(s) along.

I like dogs…most of the time. I do not like Beagles that go crazy every time another dog goes by (especially during the night), which turns out to be quite often, when there are limited places to walk a dog. Actually, I don't really like Beagles at all.

It was suggested that we go around the campground during the night and loose all the dogs, just to see what happens.

I still like dogs, and someday, we will have another one, if only to keep the cats at bay.

Monday, June 1, 2009

What is your number?

I always wondered what my number would be.  Well, now I know.  Six it is.  Six years is the number I have been curious about for a long time, and now I know. 

What was I curious about?  Actually, afraid would be a better description than curious.  Well, it’s like this, I have always wondered how long it would be before either my wife or I would forget about our anniversary, and in what state our marriage would be when that happened.  It happened.

Our anniversary was on Sunday, May 31.  I thought about the occasion on Thursday, then promptly forgot about it since we were busy getting ready to visit family for the weekend.  The next time I thought about it was on Sunday, THE DAY.  I was in the middle of cooking lunch when a thought entered my mind about June being just around the corner.  Then it hit me.  Today was our anniversary.  I came up behind her and said, “Hey, guess what!”  I wrapped her in my arms, gave her a kiss, and whispered, “Happy Anniversary!”  “Oh,”  she said surprised, “I forgot.” 

So I was off the hook.  I always thought that I would be the one to forget, but no.  Lucky me.  Lucky me for marrying such a wonderful woman.  Lucky me for having a great marriage, even if we almost forgot our anniversary.  Lucky me for being able to celebrate our anniversary with a weekend getaway several weeks from now.

My fears about the state of our marriage, should one of us forget our anniversary, proved to be unfounded.  I can safely say that it is better than ever.  Different, but better.  Lucky me!

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Lazy Man's Garden

Being lazy has its advantages.  Although it is a delicate balance.  If you work too hard at being lazy, the purpose is defeated-you are not being lazy.

It has been said that necessity is the mother of invention.  The need for being lazy requires one to squeeze all the creative juices available to create convenience.

This was the basis for sowing grass seed in our former garden area.  This was the basis for finding old plastic containers.  This was the basis for turning those containers into little gardens.

I have always enjoyed gardening.  At least the planting and harvesting stages of gardening.  The in-between part is the least enjoyable.  The weeding, hoeing, maintaining stage.  I do not own a power tiller, and weeding by hand, and hoeing is not fun, especially if half the garden is empty.  So generally, by July, my garden would be a solid mass of green, and I was the only one that could differentiate between the vegetables and the weeds.  At this point, the rows would be mowed with the lawn mower, or I would borrow a power tiller, and spend a whole precious evening tilling between the rows.  This would usually result in the fatality of about half of all the plants, vegetables and weeds.  Then, I would need to wait for the freshly tilled earth to dry out so I could weed the rows without me becoming a muddy mess.  By the time I was ready (motivated) to weed the rows, the mower/tiller was needed again.  Thus, the rows never got weeded.  This made for some interesting guessing as to where the vegetables were hiding.  It wasn’t too hard to understand why our harvests was small and pathetic.

Thus, I tilled the garden for the final time, and planted it again.  This time, the crop of choice was grass.  This is how I entered the brave new world of container gardening.  Last year was my first attempt, and I must say, it produced the desired result.  Low maintenance gardening.  Fill the container with rocks and dirt.  Top it off with potting soil.  Plant desired crop.  Wait.  Water.  Fertilize.  Pull the few weeds that pop up.  Water. Fertilize. Harvest.

Last year I only planted two tomato plants and three pepper plants.  I have become quite ambitious this year in spite of my laziness.  I have planted four tomato plants, four pepper plants, ten pole bean seeds, lettuce, spinach, onions, and carrots.  We shall see if my luck continues.  I do enjoy watering and fertilizing much better than weeding.  My biggest problem this year has been the neighbor’s cat using the carrot container as a litter box.  Maybe I will till up some of the yard and plant a traditional garden.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Of Cars & Colors

Have you ever wondered why auto manufacturers seem to have a flagship color for each model?  It seems you see for instance,  more of the tan/gray 1999-2003 Chevy Silverado trucks than any other color of that particular model.  They must have clearance sales on certain colors in the Detroit area Sherwin Williams stores.

One that I especially notice is the gold color that Chrysler used in the late 1990’s.  Many of the Chrysler Concordes were this (ugly) gold color.  In a Google Image search for a 1998 Chysler Concorde, the first four images are the gold color.  They must have thought this color would make the car look luxurious.  Um... it is an ugly color (on a not so pretty car).  One of my co-workers owns a car of this vintage and color.  He kindly refers to it as the “golden egg.”

So, all that being said…Chrysler is in deep financial trouble, and is on the brink of bankruptcy.  And if they do go under…will they have killed the goose that laid the golden egg?

Thursday, March 26, 2009

How Bad Is It?

How bad is the current state of economic affairs?  The news media tells me it is very, very bad.  People are losing jobs, and companies are declaring bankruptcy.  Consumers have stopped spending money, and employers have cut wages.  Homeowners are facing foreclosures in record numbers and housing prices have dropped.  It seems bad, but how bad is it really.

Many comparisons have been made to the time of the Great Depression.  I do see some key differences between now and the Great Depression.

We have significantly increased our standard of living since the 1930’s.  Necessities today include basic cable, a cell phone, a car, internet access, and all our convenient appliances.  In the 1930’s many of these items were not available or were very expensive luxury items.  Today, we take them for granted as must-have items.


We have much faster access to news and information.  We don’t need to wait to hear the latest round of bad news.  I also believe the negative information gets more coverage because it gets people’s attention.

We have more economic indicators.  It seems that several times a week, more numbers get released indicating the current state of things.  It seems when things are good, all the indicators confirm it; however, if things are bad, it feels like a continuing avalanche of negativity.

This recession has been one of the worst in our history, however I believe it has not yet reached the levels of the Great Depression.  It is very hard to compare due to the above-mentioned differences. 

Here is my measuring stick:  We will have reached the levels of the Great Depression when more than 50% of 2008 cell phone subscribers have canceled their plans.  That will be tough times.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Technology and the Future

How has technology changed in the past 10 years?  I bought my first mobile phone in 1998.  It was a cutting edge Nokia with text messaging, games, all the bells and whistles.  Today, I use my phone as an mp3 player, camera, internet, and sometimes to make phone calls.  In 1998, I didn’t even know what an mp3 was.

Thinking over how technology has changed in my generation, has caused me to think about how it will further change in my lifetime.  As with mp3s taking the place of CDs, I am expecting some sort of replacement for DVDs.  I would guess that by 2020, we will be carrying devices with technology we don’t even know about today.  I would guess that we will have a digital video format that will make DVDs obsolete.

It is hard for me to remember how things were when we weren’t so connected.  When traveling from one location to another, no one could contact me until I reached my destination.  Today, instead of “call home when you get there”, it is “text me while you travel.”  Today, we feel lost when we forget our phone when running an errand.

In my opinion, the convenience outweighs the negatives.  We are after all, still able to turn the phone off.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

The Inauguration of Barack Obama and Historic Events

Why was the historic inauguration of Barack Obama such a big deal? Can't we see an inauguration every 4 years?

I believe the excitement for this inauguration had everything to do with its historic nature. How many times in your lifetime do you experience historic events? I would classify historic events as things like the terrorist attacks of 2001, Hurricane Katrina, landing on the moon, and such events. You may experience a historic event every year of you lifetime. The difference between the inauguration and most historic events is that you could plan to be part of the event. Most historic events happen without much couldn't really plan to be part of Sept. 11, 2001, unless you were involved with a terrorist organization. You could plan to be at the World Series and hope the Chicago Cubs would win for the first time in 100 years, but they may (probably would) lose. It is unusual to have an event of this proportion with 2 months to plan for.