Thursday, October 29, 2009

The Singing Cop

Last evening I was privileged to attend a performance by Daniel Rodriguez, the "Singing Cop." Rodriguez became widely known in the aftermath of the horrendous attack on the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001.
I am not much of a fan of vocalists, so I was not particularly enthusiastic about attending last night’s event. I had the idea that Rodriguez was just a cop who happened to have a nice voice, and I was surprised and delighted to learn that he had been seriously studying music since he was ten years old.
And it shows. He has been blessed with a voice that one expects to be associated with an Italian name such as Caruso or Lanza, but his heritage is Puerto Rican, and he has trained with some of the finest teachers in New York. He performed in Carnegie Hall at the age of 17.
With a repertoire ranging from the sentimental style of Be My Love  to Nelson Eddy’s Stout Hearted Men, the range and power of Rodriguez’s voice is amazing. If I had to pick a favorite, I would choose his rendition of the theme from Exodus, although his every selection would have been in contention for the nomination.
Rodriguez shared the stage with the Soprano Twins, Marla Kavanaugh, Rodriguez’s wife, and her twin sister, Marissa Dikkenberg. Both have excellent operatic voices, and when they sang in unison, it sounded like a single voice. And when they sang in harmony, it was beautiful
In addition to the many high points of the evening as supplied by the principals, I must mention one other, the accompanist, Jesse Lynch. He performed Billie’s Bounce by Charlie Parker, probably my all-time favorite musician. His combination of the dissonant harmony of Thelonious Monk and his outstanding technical virtuosity would have made both Parker and Monk happy to know that there are still young musicians who carry on with their music. From the reaction of the audience I know that there are many who agree with me.
Without doubt the events of 9/11 jump-started Rodriguez’s career. Since that time he has brought not only pleasure, but also a return of faith to millions of people across America. To me it illustrates that even from the most terrible of circumstances it is possible to glean some good. Probably the converse is also true, but since I tend to be a “glass is half full” type of guy, I try to ignore that possibility.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Sister Evelyn

Just as individuals need to be nudged into paths of proper behavior, so to do organizations. In individuals, this task is performed by a conscience; Sister Evelyn Houlroyd, who passed away on October 15th, performed that function at Luther Acres.
Born 89 years ago in Trenton, New Jersey, sister Evelyn moved to our community 10 years ago. At a young age she became a deaconess in the Lutheran Church in preference to becoming a teacher. It is safe to say she has been dedicating her entire life to Christ.
Never bashful in presenting her opinions, when she rose to speak at any meeting, the other attendees could be sure of two things: (1) Her deliberate and forthright Sunday School Teacher’s delivery was going to take a little time and, (2) somewhere along the way we had strayed and needed to be brought back onto what she felt was the correct path.
Whether a new conscience will soon appear at Luther Acres remains to be seen; it is a sure bet that it will not come from another Sister Evelyn. She will be greatly missed.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Some Interesting People

One of the people we met on our recent trip was Sandy Balla, a history major and Hudson River buff. Sandy, who lives in the area, was hired by the cruise line to give us information about the sights we were seeing, and she is very good at the job. Whether it was West Point, Catskill or any other location along the route from NYC to Troy, Sandy was up to date with her knowledge.
She knew not only the history of the locations we visited; she also told us about the current local economy, as well as prior to the settlement by the Dutch and English;  the relations of the current and ancient populations with each other, and the names and works of local painters and artisans who did so much to popularize the region. She also told us stories and legends, e.g. Rip Van Winkle, during times when some of us had idle time aboard ship. Her knowledge and enthusiasm, and the professionalism with which she imparted it, did much to make the trip more meaningful and pleasant.
She also told an amusing story about herself. It seems she emailed the mayor of her town about some local event, and having sent it, she realized she had ended her name with an “s” instead of an “a.”  Embarrassed, she sent him a corrected email, and he told her afterwards it was the best laugh he had all week.
We also met a very interesting couple. Jack and Esther (not their real names) were a 95-year-old widower and an 82-year-old widow who were traveling together. Although he does not drive after dark, Jack recently had his license renewed; he is good to go until he is 102 years old.
The two have traveled together extensively, including a trip to Russia. When asked how they met , Esther, a retired school teacher, replied, “Four years ago we met at a program we attended, and on the way out he hit on me.” They exchanged addresses, and have been friends ever since.
When asked if marriage was in their plans, Esther said, “Oh no, there is no romance involved – we are just friends.”
Although they live 25 miles apart, each week they go out for a steak dinner. Since they often finish after dark, Esther drives Jack home. After sharing a bottle of beer, she drives to her home. Asked if she thinks it’s OK to drive after drinking, she replied, “It takes more than half a bottle of beer to give me a buzz.”
They danced together during the cruise, and Esther even danced alone as a penalty for calling a false “Bingo!”
They were a most interesting and entertaining couple, and a wonderful reminder that age is just a number.

Monday, October 26, 2009

A Trip On Amtrak

Well, I am back from my timeout. We cruised up the Hudson river for six days, saw a lot of beautiful foliage and met some really nice people. I will write more about that later, and perhaps put some of my 212 pictures on line.
We sailed from New York City to Troy and back. Naturally we had to get to New York, so we took the train. (Why do we say, “We took the train?” The train actually took us, but if I say, “The train took us,” it doesn’t sound right. I guess it’s one of those idiosyncrasies of the English language.)
Anyway, from 1948 to 2006 I rode the train only one time; since then I have had three train rides. Since then we have taken cruises out of Boston, Baltimore and New York, and if you are taking trip of up to say, eight hours, I highly recommend the train, especially if you do not have to change trains along the way. There is no traffic and no frustration. And it’s relatively inexpensive – the round trip tickets for two from Lancaster to New York cost just $153 (senior rate).
Amtrak has a highly efficient system for issuing tickets: you pick your dates of travel and the origin and destination of your trip, and a huge list of available schedule times and rates pops up. If there is a change of trains involved, make sure you schedule enough time between them to transfer your luggage without rushing. Then you print out a bar code, take it to the station whenever you are ready, stick it in a kiosk, and your tickets print out.
And unlike the airlines, Amtrak people are easy to deal with. When we got to New York, we found the cruise was returning on Friday instead of Saturday as we had expected. The hotel manager aboard the ship called Amtrak, and in ten minutes our tickets were changed to Friday.
And on Friday, when we got to Penn Station, the ticket clerk said, “Hey, we have an earlier through train if you would like to take that one.” We jumped at the chance to get home two hours earlier. (No extra fees.)
When I was young, I traveled on overnight trips several times, and I do not think I would want to do that again. But for one day trips, it’s Amtrak for me.
In the interest of full disclosure, there is one drawback: I am talking about east coast lines. I am not sure there are as many options available in the heartland.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Why Food?

“Why food?”
I recognized the voice immediately. I turned around, and there he sat, in full chef regalia, on my love seat.
Although I had not seen Hookie for quite some time, I was not particularly surprised that he was there. I have known him practically all my life; he was my imaginary friend when I was three years old. Eventually he disappeared for a long time, but for the past several years he has occasionally shown up wearing a costume apropos to whatever subject he felt like discussing at the moment. Obviously, this time it was food.
“Hookie,” I said. “What about food?”
“Why is it that whenever we meet with other people, we have to have food? On a date, attending a movie, playing cards, whenever we get together with someone else, we have to have food? Why can’t we just sit and talk, or walk in the park together, or take a long drive in the country? Even when we meet someone to discuss a business deal, we prefer to do it over lunch.”
The only thing I could think of to say was, “I guess it’s just a custom.”
“Well sure,” he said. “But how did it start? Why do we keep doing it?”
From past experience I knew he wasn’t going to give up that easily. “Well perhaps it started in prehistoric times, when man wanted a favor from his gods, like to kill an enemy or send rain, he figured if he wanted something, he had to give up something; sort of a quid pro quo. And it had to be something valuable – you just can’t hand a god a stone or a stick, and since he spent most of his time providing food, that was the most valuable thing he had.”
“Very good,” Hookie said. “But men eventually got beyond that. The Greeks and Romans even ate during their orgies. What about that?”
“Well, those things went on for several days. I suppose they had to eat a lot in order to keep their er, strength, up. Please don’t ask me any more orgy questions; I wasn’t quite finished with the god thing. Eventually the practice of propitiating the gods with food carried over into the Jewish Seder and the Christian Eucharist.”
“Sorry,” he said. “But we do it for non-religious meetings too. What about that?”
“Well for one thing, don’t think that orgies stopped during the Middle Ages. Also, during the wars of the period, it was an advantage to eat while negotiating with your enemy, because if he was eating, he had to lay down his arms.”
“I see.”
“And among the peasants, all of whom were Christians, their religion demanded that they feed the stranger.”
“OK, but most people aren’t that religious today. What about them?”
“I think we are back at the beginning. On a date or a business lunch we are obviously looking for something from the other person. And at other times, what we are after is approval, which is not quite as obvious.”
“Speaking of obvious, you forgot one thing,” Hookie said.
“Oh, what’s that?”
“It’s fun.” And with that he vanished with a tiny ‘pop.’

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Some People Will Believe Anything.

This blog is rated PG 14.

Let me present a brief physical picture of the universe. Astronomers estimate that it contains about 100 billion galaxies. Each galaxy is estimated to contain between 10 million and one trillion stars. Assuming an average of 500 billion stars per galaxy, that means that the total number of stars in the universe is somewhere around 5 x 1022 stars. That is 5 followed by 22 zeros, and in words it is fifty sextillion stars.
Suppose one in a million of those stars has a planet capable of supporting intelligent life. That figures out to one in five followed by 16 zeros. Would you buy a lottery ticket that you had a one in 5 x 1016 (1 in fifty quadrillion) chance of winning?
Now consider that the nearest star to the earth, Proxima Centauri, is over four light-years away; someone coming from that star would have to travel as fast as a beam of light to get here in 4.2 years! And that star is not known to have any planets. Practically all stars are so far away that even if aliens could travel at the speed of light, which is a physical impossibility, they would have had to leave home many thousands of years ago!
What are the chances that some of those intelligent aliens out there would stumble upon the earth.? I say stumble upon, because if they were scientifically advanced enough to make such a journey, what could we possibly have that they would want?
Today I met a lady who had a dream that aliens came to her while she was asleep, and in order to find out more about earthlings, they probed every orifice of her body. She told her husband about it when she woke up, and he said [Editor’s note: Hopefully in jest], “Well it’s possible. Maybe aliens really did examine you!” Now hold your breath – she believed it!
If her husband had been at our discussion, I am not sure I could have refrained from asking him what he was doing while all this “dreaming” was going on. (Shame on me for what I was thinking). I hope she enjoyed her “physical.” (Stop it, Glenn. “Sorry.”)
What ever became of common sense? Where have all the science teachers gone? Has critical thinking gone the way of the eight track tape?

Monday, October 12, 2009

Cross and Other Words

About ten years ago Barbara bought me a crossword puzzle book. Except for a short time when I was in grade school, I had never been much interested in crosswords. However, by 1999 I had been retired for about five years, and I guess she thought I needed something else to do. And she was right – I was hooked.

The local newspaper runs two puzzles each day, and I almost always work both of them. As for the New York Times Sunday Puzzle, I sometimes spend days on it; for example, last week I finished it on Wednesday. And sometimes I have to give up and look at the answer. I really don’t think it’s fair to include foreign words and phrases in American puzzles, but the Times’ editors apparently do.
I believe the reason I love crosswords is because I love words. While I was in the Army in 1947, I had lots of time to read, and it was during that time that I came across S. I. Hayakawa’s book, Language In Action, which was a book of the month selection in 1941. A sequel, Language In Thought and Action, was published in 1949, and the 5th edition is still in print today. I thought I understood language, but the book started me on a whole new way of looking at it: semantically; What a word means to a particular person at a particular time is more important than the dictionary definition.
Most of us are aware that “The word is not the thing,” and “The map is not the area,” but do we really put that knowledge into practice? Usually we have the feeling that if we learn the name of something, we know something about it. But do we? I can describe a sunset to you until I get hoarse, but is that the same as if you actually viewed it?
However, naming something, e.g. a sunset, does give us the ability to talk about a particular sunset, sunsets in general, the physics behind a sunset, the colors of a sunset, etc. But if we were speaking to someone who had never actually seen a sunset, would that person have the visceral feeling that would be experienced upon actually witnessing the event? We need to realize that for a given person such a feeling can run a continuum from indifference to awe-inspiring.
When we speak to someone about a given event, it is possible that that person is not feeling anything akin to what we are feeling. For example, suppose three people are in a hospital room: a doctor, a patient and a statistician. The doctor says, “You have cancer.” As a result, the patient is terrified, the doctor is planning courses of treatment and the statistician is deciding which box to check on his chart.
Of course it is possible to see an event almost exactly like the person we are speaking to, but we need to keep in mind that he or she may have a completely different idea about the subject. And losing one’s temper, yelling, etc. is not going to change things, but perhaps reasonable discussion will. At least it’s worth a try.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

The 2009 Nobel Peace Prize

President Barack Obama has been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for 2009. Throughout the world the announcement was greeted by varying responses; some hailed the selection because of his efforts to present a new picture of America, and his stated determination to pursue dialogue instead of saber rattling; others asked the question, “What has he accomplished?”
I confess that I understand the rationale for both lines of thought. But I also understand the Nobel committee’s comment. "Only very rarely has a person to the same extent as Obama captured the world's attention and given its people hope for a better future."
As to be expected, the Taliban, with which America is in the midst of an eight year war, condemned the award, saying:

We have seen no change in his strategy for peace. He has done nothing for peace in Afghanistan. He has not taken a single step for peace in Afghanistan or to make this country stable… We condemn the award of the Noble Peace Prize for Obama. We condemn the institute’s awarding him the peace prize. We condemn this year’s peace prize as unjust.

A few hours later, the Republican National Committee unexpectedly, at least to me, released the following statement:

The real question Americans are asking is, “What has President Obama actually accomplished?” It is unfortunate that the president’s star power has outshined tireless advocates who have made real achievements working towards peace and human rights. One thing is certain - President Obama won’t be receiving any awards from Americans for job creation, fiscal responsibility, or backing up rhetoric with concrete action.

I hate to say it, but the two statements show amazing similarities, and I am disappointed that the RNC would issue a comment such as that. Although I know better, it almost appears as if the RNC is agreeing with the Taliban.
My mother always taught me that if I can’t say something nice about someone, don’t say anything at all. (I must confess that I have not always followed my mother’s teaching.) But I can’t help thinking that the RNC is more interested in getting Obama out than in what is good for America.
But I digress. Even in the Middle East, the reaction was hopeful. For example, Ali Abkar Javanfekr, media aide to Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of Iran said:

        "We are not upset and we hope that by receiving this prize he will start taking practical steps to remove injustice in the world. If he removes the veto from the United Nations Security Council, then it shows the prize was given correctly to him."

OK, so the comment was conditional, but at least it wasn’t negative. Elsewhere, except for some areas of the far east, the reaction was one of hopeful expectation that Obama will act so as to deserve the honor.
As for me, I am proud that it went to an. American president – only three others have also received the honor – but I find it somewhat ironic that the Peace prize went to a man who is currently fighting two wars.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

The Late Pennsylvania Budget

Pennsylvania has a new budget, and it’s only 101 days late! It’s the last state budget in the country to be completed! What a distinction.
The geniuses that represent us in Harrisburg knew a year ago that the budget was required by law to be complete by June 30; actually they know it’s due by that date every year. At the speed with which they operate, they should immediately start on the one that’s due June 30, 2010.
Twice during the deliberations they had an agreement between the factions, and both times the agreement was abrogated.
I understand that each representative needs to adhere to his principles – they are what got him elected. By  the same token, he needs to set some priorities. If people are hurting, do you bend your principles a bit? At what point does standing by your principles become stubborn and shortsighted? How do you reconcile principles with priorities?
The interesting thing is that Pennsylvania has the largest legislature of any state, but the deliberations are conducted by only a handful of the representatives. The rest sit in the capitol day after day in the event they need to cast a vote. Even though their presence is not needed, they also collect per diem for doing nothing.
I think these proceedings are a microcosm for the way our society is becoming. In times past reasonable men could sit down together and discuss their differences, but now it seems that people who disagree with one another are enemies. In Harrisburg representatives on both sides of the aisle just dug in their heels and refused to budge. It was as if the usual disagreement between helping people and cutting costs was stepped up a notch or two.
I can recall arguments between intelligent people who disagreed on a subject, and eventually they came to some sort of a compromise. It may not have been perfect for either side, but at least it was something that both sides could live with. But the shouting and name calling in today’s public meetings are another thing altogether – a graphic illustration of heat generation with no light whatsoever. They don’t even seem to hear each other.
         Surely the founding fathers did not mean for problems to be solved in this manner. We can do better. If we don’t, we may as well learn to speak Chinese.

Friday, October 9, 2009

We Never Had It So Good

Barbara and I just returned from grocery shopping, and as I was pushing the cart down the aisles, I had a thought, “What would Ben Franklin or Thomas Jefferson say if they could have the opportunity to prowl these aisles?” In order to better understand where these thoughts came from, I am going to adapt a scene from the book which you see illustrated to the right of where you are reading.
Speaking about the book, it really is coming soon. It is finished, but the publisher and I can’t seem to get together on the printing of the cover. I swear it is coming soon, and after the problems we have had, I am getting very good at swearing.
Anyway, I am going to compare two hypothetical trips to the store – one in 1809 and the other in 2009.

A Trip To the Store - 1809

Smith1 discovered that he needed to go to the store for some salt. Since going to the store was quite a project, he made a list of everything else he needed in order to get it all done in one trip.
After selecting the pelts which he planned to trade for the items on his list, he hitched his horse to the wagon, picked up his salt container and his Kentucky Long Rifle, and drove for over an hour. The roads were little more than tree-shrouded paths through the wilderness, and were barely wide enough for the wagon.
The store was very small; in fact it occupied the front room of the proprietor’s home. The inventory consisted of staple goods: salt, molasses, flour, etc. still in the big barrels or wooden boxes in which they had been shipped.  There were also several bolts of cloth, some tools and possibly a few miscellaneous items.
The proprietor scooped the required quantity from the salt barrel, weighed it under Smith1’s watchful eye (Smith1 was sure he had been cheated on his last salt purchase), and poured it into the customer’s container. The other items on Smith1’s list were handled in more or less similar fashion.
While looking around, Smith1 remembered that his wife had been complaining about her worn out aprons, so he decided to add a couple of yards of material to his list. The value of his pelts more than covered the cost of his supplies, so after the proprietor gave him the difference in cash from a wooden box under the counter, Smith1 drove home.

A Trip To the Store - 2009

Smith2 discovered he needed to go to the store for some salt. Since the store was only a few blocks away, he started his car and drove for a few minutes. Although he was pretty sure he needed some other things, the store was so close that he figured it wasn’t worth his time to compile a list. He was too preoccupied to notice the beautiful elm trees and the lovely flowers lining the four-lane streets and median strip.
The huge supermarket was packed with tens of thousands of items, most of them prepackaged, and included a pharmacy, a bank and an optometry department. A security guard stood by the door, and a sign warned that surveillance was being conducted by cameras mounted in the ceiling, and that shoplifters would be prosecuted.
Smith2 found many kinds of salt: plain, iodized, garlic, seasoned, kosher, sea and rock among others. There was salt specially designed for curing meat; another type was made just for flavoring popcorn. Most contained additives to keep the product from clumping or sticking. Salt also came in several varieties of prepackaged containers, from little shakers to cardboard cylinders with metal pour spouts. There were large bags of rock salt, which was used to melt ice and snow.
Suddenly he remembered that tomorrow was his wedding anniversary, so he bought his wife a bouquet. Smith2 laid his selections on a conveyor belt, and swiped his credit card through a reader. The clerk picked up the salt and flowers, passed them by a scanner, and a bill printed out. Smith2 signed the bill and drove home.

Quite a difference. I hope that by comparing these two situations you will appreciate, as I momentarily did, how far things – some good, some not – have come in the past 200 years. Neither Franklin nor Jefferson lived in poverty (although Jefferson died owing huge sums of money), but there is no way they could have imagined the abundance of goods we enjoy today. Overwhelmed is far too weak a word to describe how they would feel if they were suddenly to materialize in, for example, the pet food aisle.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Humans and Nature

The next time you log on to the internet, or watch DTV, think of Charles Kao. It was his discovery of how to transmit light signals through glass fibers that led to these and other technological marvels in communications.
When you use your digital camera the next time, thank Willard Boyle and George Smith for their invention of the camera “eye,” which turns light into electrical signals.
As the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences declared upon awarding these three men the Nobel prize in physics, they are “the masters of light” whose work “helped to shape the foundations of today’s networked societies.”
We have done some wonderful things with their marvelous achievements: instant messaging and live news reports from anywhere in the world, transoceanic phone calls for pennies, remarkably clear pictures without film and quantum leap advancements in astronomy, to name a few.
And of course we have created the dark side: pornography on demand, sexting, résumé-killing MySpace photos and instant blackmail.
Why cannot someone come up with quantum leap advancements in human behavior? Is it because humans are unpredictable? But the more scientists discover, the more they realize that nature is also unpredictable.
A “eureka” moment – human beings are just as much a part of nature as trees and rocks! As such, we can expect the unexpected from humans for as long as nature itself exists.
Vive mankind!

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Health Care Dreaming

I am having a difficult time understanding what the problem is with fixing our present health care system. When Benjamin Franklin helped form the first fire insurance company in 1752, all policy holders paid the same premium in to the company. When any individual suffered a fire, the company reimbursed him for his loss. It was a simple idea, and it worked.
There was no thought of earning a profit. Why should there be? As I understand it, the function of an insurance company is to process claims. Period. It is supposed to be a mutual thing, designed for the benefit of the policy holders. Make a profit for helping people? Give me a break! Did the good Samaritan send a bill for helping the injured stranger? No, he actually paid the innkeeper to look after the man.
I realize that capitalists do not do things that way, but we are not talking about a product here; we are talking about promoting the general welfare as spelled out in the Preamble to the Constitution.
There is a lot of hesitation about a “public option;” the  idea that the government pays the bills. It would compete with private companies – perhaps even force them out of business. So what? All of the profits they are presently enjoying would go toward lower premiums. The government’s aim would be to break even – not make a profit.
But wouldn’t all those employees become unemployed if the public option is adopted? No – claims would still need to be processed, and the processors would work for the government. Those insurance company employees whose job it is to invent profit-making schemes would have to look elsewhere for work. Perhaps they could find employment with a Bernie Madoff knockoff.
I know I have vastly oversimplified the way out of the current health care mess,  but I am sure there is a much simpler solution out there, and nobody seems to be looking for it.
Wouldn’t it be great if our elected representatives suddenly decided to do what is right for the country, instead of what is right for their reelection? Dream on, Glenn.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Things Are What They Are

In 1930 the object, Pluto, was discovered in orbit around the sun. In the latter part of the 19th century it had been suggested that the orbit of the planet Neptune was being disturbed by another planet. Percival Lowell, who founded the Lowell Observatory in Flagstaff, Arizona began searching for this theoretical planet in 1906, but it was not discovered until 14 years after Lowell’s death in 1916. Until 2006 Pluto was considered to be the 9th planet in the solar system, although its status had been questioned after the discovery of the more massive object, Chiron, in the late 1970s.
In 2006 the International Astronomical Union defined the word “planet,” and according to the new definition, Pluto was demoted to “dwarf” planet, a category that includes any objects similar to Pluto. Pluto has been a regular planet for so long, however,  that its demotion has caused a huge controversy, not only among astronomers, but also within the general population.
Now McDonalds UK has entered the fray; the new Happy Meal boxes proclaim that "the solar system is made up of all the planets that orbit our sun," and that "there are 9 planets in total." This begs the question, “What are all those other things, e.g. asteroids and comets, that orbit the Sun? If they are not part of the Solar System, what are they?”
The German Aerospace Center now suggests that there are three types of planets: the eight regular planets, a growing number of dwarf planets, and a large number of irregular planetoids.
I do not wish to debate whether or not Pluto is a planet, planetoid, asteroid or hemorrhoid. This whole brouhaha is an illustration of a human problem that we don’t normally recognize: our language. Whatever these objects really are, we cannot even think about them until we give them a name.
So lets step back and ask, “What is a system?” Webster’s Encyclopedic Unabridged Dictionary defines an astronomical system as “a number of heavenly bodies, [Editor’s note: non-human, I presume]  associated and acting together according to natural laws.” So under that definition, the Solar System includes all celestial bodies operating under the influence of the Sun.
But my point is: they are nothing to us until we give them a name and put them into a category. It’s like the baseball umpire said, “There are balls and there are strikes, but they are nothing until I call them.” This is true whether we are speaking about planets, bees or automobiles.
The only exceptions to this rule are events that we feel internally, i.e. the emotions. In fact, we can actually destroy them by speaking about them. Think about it. And comment below.

A Last Look At Summer

I thought I would give everyone an opportunity to take one last look at summer before the really cold weather sets in. A bunch of us took a trip to Longwood Gardens in Kennett Square. Click here to see what we saw.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

An Ode To Phillies Phans

A few days ago the Philadelphia Phillies won their third straight National League East championship; a feat they also managed in 1978. The playoffs start in a few days. Although they were ahead most of this season, the team’s sometimes iffy performance had their fans on pins and needles much of the time.
They have always had great fans. Rowdy and raucous, they were always ready to cheer good performance, and also to ver-boo-ly let the team know when performance was not up to expectations. But their loyalty never wavered. And how has the team repaid them?
They have won the World Series twice: once in 1980 and again in 2008. It’s not hard to stick with a winner, but the Phillies fans deserve a special tribute because of some of the more trying times. A few examples follow:
1.)                          Phillies fans are forced to listen to sportscasters who have not learned one simple rule: When you have nothing to say, stop talking.
2.)                          In 2009, the closer the team was counting on to put out the fires of the opposing teams appeared to throw gasoline instead of water on the flames. He went into 41 games with a lead, lost eight of them, and blew another three. If he had saved all of them (a feat he accomplished in 2008), the team would have clinched the pennant at least a week earlier, and the fans would still have fingernails.
3.)                          In 2007 the team presented the fans with a very special first: It was the first team to lose 10,000 games. Admittedly this was due to a history of 100 years with a management that didn’t want to spend money for top talent in the early years, but it still was a dubious first.
4.)                          Need I mention the phamous phall of 1964? With 10 games to play the Phillies were 6-1/2 games ahead of the Cards. They lost all 10.
5.)                          Now I’m going way back to a game that I attended. In 1939 the Phillies were beaten 1-0 by a semi-pro team from Manheim, PA; semi-pro meaning the guys on the winning team kept their day jobs and received $5 to $10 per game on weekends and the occasional weekday exhibition game. In all honesty, since the Phillies were only 45 and 106 in the NL for the season, beating them was not such a big deal. To show how seriously the Phillies were considered even in Manheim, the winners fired their managers five days after the game because they didn’t win enough league games. Incidentally, the Phillies did better in 1940 – they again won 45, but had only 105 losses, with one tie.
Throughout all these and many other times that try fans’ souls, they have been loyal. Sellouts at Citizens Bank Park are almost routine. Hats off to them.