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Football Memories And ’61 In The Rearview Mirror–Part II

The varsity guys were tired from beating up on each other for several days before we freshmen arrived.  It was hot and dusty.  The practice fields were right next to the stadium which was only used for special workouts and the games.  It had great grass and most of it was marked off in five by five yard squares to accommodate those awful drills where we hammered each other inside that dimension.  Of course we barely knew our assignments for lining up on defense and were completely disorganized but we were enthusiastic and ready to show our mettle against the varsity.  They naturally ran rough shod over us, over and over.   Every few plays another group of us was thrown into the mix.   The game we all quickly learned was much faster than it had been in high school because everyone was good if not terrific.   The varsity knew their assignments by heart and would pound into us as we were trying to adjust to that speed and “see” the play development at the same time.  When we would occasionally make a good play and stop them we weren’t congratulated by the coaches.  Coaches are pretty universal with praise and criticism.  Mostly when we did finally do a good job even if by accident the coaches would unmercifully deride the varsity for screwing up against a bunch of rag knot freshmen.

When it was time to go on offense it was even worse.  We always ran the upcoming opponents offense to let the varsity get a look at how they set up and ran their plays.  In the huddle the coaches would hold up and cardboard with the play designed for each man on offense and we had to use the signal system for the snap count from the opposing team.  With only a few seconds to see the play and being nervous about that different signal and snap count we were terrible and usually made no yards or very little.  When we finally would run a decent play again it wasn’t because we did anything right but rather because some poor schmuck on the varsity screwed up.   After 30 minutes or so we went back to our own workout routine trying to learn offense and defense, more drills and then those God-awful wind sprints to close out the workout.  We would do them in increments starting with five yards, then ten, all the way up to 100 yards.  You could really be sucking for air by the end of those.

We repeated the same pattern for several days then classes started and we at least only had to work out once a day around 3:30 but you had to get to the locker room by around 2:45 at the latest to get geared up and your ankles taped.  They were fanatical about taping our ankles every practice.   As the season wore on it got into a regular pattern.  Our workouts were all hard through the entire week.  After all we were learning and there for the varsity and only had two games of our own at the very end of the season within about 5 days of each other.   The varsity’s workouts tapered off on Thursday and really did so on Friday but not ours.    They had a game and we didn’t.  Our Friday workouts were as miserable and hard as Monday.  But we were young and healthy and survived.   But we all kept an eye on the calendar looking for those two games against Tulsa and Oklahoma State at the end of the season and the release from football purgatory.  I guess I should remind you that in those ancient days freshmen were prohibited by rule from playing on the varsity during their freshman year.

For the most part we freshmen weren’t treated badly by the varsity off the field and in the dorm.   We all ate together in the athletic dining hall and had mandatory study hall.  It was required for all freshmen and the upper class men also if they had less than a C average.   It was three nights a week and was for two hours right after the dining hall closed for dinner.   It was  drag as you can imagine but good for us.  That freshmen coach was there to supervise and there was no horsing around.  You didn’t have to study of course, you could sit there and merely stare at your books but you would sit there for the whole two hours.  I should have opened that French book more often.

For some reason that I truly don’t understand I got along very well with the varsity guys from the get go.  They accepted me pretty much as an equal.  Probably  because I had always been mature; I was born an old man.  The other freshmen were mostly ignored.  The star of the team that year was a fellow who made All-American at tackle.   He weighed around 225 if you can believe that; that was pretty normal for that day.   I was the interlocutor for introducing him to his future wife.  We had some kind of open house or picnic at the athletic quadrangle.  Must have been on a Sunday because Saturdays were game days.   We all went along with the other athletes, I believe it was a required show.  Anyway during this function a really pretty girl flirted with me.  I suppose she thought I was a varsity player.   Later Billy who was the All American and a senior asked me about her and if she was my girl.  I explained no.   He liked the way she looked and wanted to know if I would introduce him and recommend him to her.  Just like high school, he was so nervous.  But hey it was a way to ingratiate myself with the most prominent guy on the team and a senior so why not.  I did talk with her and let her know Billy would like to meet her and gave him a strong thumbs up.   He did, they did and far as I know they remained married happily ever after and I had a real pal on the varsity for the rest of my tenure at Oklahoma.

“Ambition destroys it possessor” The Talmud.


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Football Memories And ’61 In The Rearview Mirror

In August of 1961 I was stepping out for a new phase in my life.  I had just graduated from High School, gotten engaged to the child bride that has endured me for over 50 years and was set to leave kith and kin and the neighborly confines of home for the University of Oklahoma on a football scholarship.   The omens during that month were most propitious.  A major hurricane hit the south coast of Texas near Houston.  A not rare occurrence but certainly not the summer norm.   During the ’40s and the ’50’s we in fact had many more hurricanes than we have had during the last couple of decades.  Don’t take my word for it, look it up.  In Dallas we got some rain which was always welcome and indeed rare during August.  Then only a day or so before I left my gal and me were out parking and sparking in the fields not far from home when a giant meteor (relatively speaking) slashed through the night sky and lit everything up and produced a very loud bang and rolling thunder sound.  Scary as the devil.  Thought the damn Russkies were attacking for a few seconds.   Of course I was anxious about leaving my gal. We spent lots of time together and except for a few days here and there weren’t really apart for over a year.  I was already missing her without having left.  You ever miss something you still have but know won’t be there in the future?

I had visited the campus already during my recruiting trip with my mom and dad and my gal so I knew at least the lay of the land and what my dorm would look like its location.  The morning came in mid August and off I went in my ’56 Chevy the folks let me have for college.   Picked up my future roommate who lived about 75 miles away.   We weren’t like girls going to college so we easily got everything packed into the car with room to spare.   When we arrived we were met by the Freshman football coach who in addition to coaching was the point man for discipline for all football players and running the dorm and our study hall requirements.  We were assigned a room on the third floor which was actually pretty good, some guys were all the way up on the fifth floor so we didn’t have to carry our stuff as far. The one elevator was for freight and strictly taboo for our use.  It was so darn hot.  I knew it would be but worse than I expected.  The dorm room had everything built-in and nailed down–bunk beds, desks and the one dresser.  The only m0vable items were the two plastic chairs.   Don’t faint but the dorm was not air-conditioned.  That is hard to believe I know.  Our first purchase was a small rotating fan to move the hot air around.  Today of course many of the major schools don’t even have athletic dorms and the guys live in apartments or other student housing.

At that time going to OU was a big deal.  They had won two national championships in recent years and Bud Wilkinson was still the coach and as big a name as there was in the game.  There were 48 of us in the freshman class.  We were all at least good or outstanding or we wouldn’t have been there.  OU pretty much got the pick of the litter for players in the entire southwest along with Texas.  I was probably one of their last selections and near the bottom of their acceptable range but I was there.   The guys from Texas were used to spring training and two-a-days workouts but they had no spring training then in Oklahoma and most other states.  That first afternoon after getting unpacked we were sent to the dressing room and equipment room to get fitted and outfitted with our football gear.  While this was going on the varsity team came in from practice.  They weren’t bigger than us but the revealed all those tell tales signs of bruising workout in the hot southwestern sun and the helmets and facemasks of the day.   More than on had a tooth or two missing and since the facemaks of that era were almost exclusively a single bar almost everyone of them had those cuts and bruises on their noses and forheads from the helmets smashing into their face or an elbow shoulder pad or cleat.   Gee, they looked like survivors from the Bttaan Death March and they were understandably in no mood to be friendly.   They wanted  a shower and hot meal and as much rest as they could get before the early morning call the next day and doing it all over again twice in the same day.

It wasn’t intimidating to see them or scary just a real reminder of what was in store for us.  Like those replacement troops going up the front and passing by the walking wounded on the way.  A bit disconcerting.   But we buckled up the next morning and were off to do our thing which was nothing but drills and then more drills.  The old bull-in-the- ring and other assorted torments to see who could deliver and take a blow. In those days everyone had to play both ways so the pain was evenly spread.  No prima donnas.  The star halfback or quarterback had to also play cornerback or safety on defense.  In addition to our drills we learned our basic offensive formations.  I remember spending about 15 minutes doing nothing but aligning the huddle and getting out of it to the line of scrimmage, over and over till the coach was satisfied we wouldn’t embarrass him the way we lined up.  You can get pretty tired doing that over and over after having gone through the crash and smash drills for 45 minutes or so.   Once we could huddle up correctly then we were sent on our next assignment–cannon fodder for the varsity.

“Dance with the girl you brung”   Darrel Royal.

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The Happy Pill And The Democrats–A Fable?

There was this nerdy little fellow who went to work in his garage with his cochemistry set from Toys R Us and after months of laborious endeavor created a pill that would make people happy. The manufacturing process was simple and cheap; it could be made in vats mputers and the with the right mix of chemicals and herbs and then poured out into molds for the pills.  The costs were incredibly low.  He figured it would cost no more than a nickel per pill and he could sell them for a dime.  They would last for a day, so for $3.00 a month everyone could be happy regardless of their circumstances or difficulties in life.   The beauty was that there were no adverse effects either physically or emotionally.  Everyone was aware of their lot in life but were happy with it even those in jail or on the bread line. 

He rushed off and filed his patent application and with only a few thousand borrowed dollars from his family he was ready to go into production and get rich.  A dime a day from millions in the US alone would make him a fortune not  counting the rest of the world.  Alack and alas someone close to him started talking about the miracle he had created and the vast wealth to be reaped.  Sure enough the sleuths in the White House got wind of the pill and its imminent opening on the market.   An emergency White House meeting was convened with all hands on deck.

BO opened by saying that this product had serious consequences and they had to figure out how to take advantage of the situation and he wanted ideas about how to respond to this development of the Happy Pill and its implications for the elections.   HHS went first with a proposal to stop the sell of the pill with regulations.  Even though it was herb and natural chemical based and wasn’t directly regulated she was sure that they could draft new rules right away and use emergency powers to prevent its distribution for a very long time, at least through the election cycle.  They could ring the tocsin that it was dangerous and even hint it was a terrorist plot.  The media would gladly be their megaphone.  This could keep the Pill from affecting the upcoming elections but they would have to work hard to keep the lid on the story and downplay the reality of the Pill.

Treasure was next and took the opposite approach.  The Pill was too valuable and vital to be left in private hands.   The government badly needed revenue and if they could co-op ownership and reap the financial benefits it would dramatically reduce the deficit for years to come.   They suggested maybe a GSE would be the way to go and offer the inventor a plum job with the new GSE to placate him.   Tim said that even the poorest would be able to afford the three dollars and month but multiplied by 300 million and that was a huge number and that was before they began to market it worldwide.  They would offer special discounts to the Third World and still make billions.  Besides the country didn’t need anymore of the 1 percenters.

DOD was adamant that the Pill should never see the light of day.  How were they going to recruit and train and army or navy if everyone in the world was happy all the time?  That would be the end of wars.   They believed the Pill should only be distributed to the countries that were hostile to the US and banned from any sell or use in the US.  We had to maintain a class of warriors or the happy people would swarm the world and subsume all government.  

State jumped on that last immediately by observing that governments would become irrelevant if everyone was happy all the time.  Who would they be able to negotiate with around the world?    Such a development would diminish the role and function of government world-wide.

Last was the political advisor.  He didn’t care whether they used a GSE or bought off the inventor but the Government and thus the Democratic party MUST have complete control of the Pill.   Regulations, taxes or condemnation proceedings didn’t matter it was just the result.  With control of the Pill they could allocate it to those they wanted.  He asked everyone to imagine a polity that was composed of the un-pilled in their Party but the rest of the country was happy all the time.   Those happy people wouldn’t be motivated to vote.  Hell, we’ll give the pills to them free if we have to he said.  They would be in charge forever he declared.   We’ll take as much from the happy people as we need to make our un-pilled Party partisans happy too without the Pill.  We’ll take all their wealth and keep the happy and subdued and transfer the wealth to our folks in exchange for votes.  All our various special interests groups will be merged into one and they will support us.  What is so great about this is that those happy folks won’t even complain as we steal them blind and impoverish them.  We just keep shoving the pills to them even after there is nothing else to take.  The only problem will be when we run out of their money but by then they will be our wards and will  be happy about it even if they all live in tents and go to our designated soup lines for their meals.

The group broke into applause after the politico had spoken.  The President nodded sagely and had that Cheshire cat smile on his face.   “Ok, we have our direction, let’s make it happen.”

“Those wo voluntarily put power into the hands of a tyrant or an enemy, must not wonder it it be at last turned against them.”  Aesop.

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Why? Men, Women and Valentine’s

The question why is age-old and very useful in many circumstances.  That inquiry has led to the great developments in man’s history.  In math, physics, engineering and all the sciences that is the starting point for most improvement and advances.  The relationship between objects, things and forces of nature all are subject to that inquiry.  The why is important.  That is how we got atomic energy and even learned to make a fire.  If we can figure out the why to something we can build it, improve it, or even invent it.  It is the fundamental starting point for man and the world he lives in and the world out to the fringes of the universe (assuming it has fringes).

Alas, that question and pursuit of learning about things is of no use when it comes to the relationships between men and women.  At the personal and emotional level women are very concerned about the why; they want to know the motivation behind the actions of their lovers, husbands, friends and acquaintances.   Those motivations, the why someone acts the way they do is very important to them.   They take that data about “why” and turn it over, examine it from every angle and ponder on it and it gives them pleasure, pain or some other emotional reaction in between.   They thrive on those emotional reactions.   They don’t just cry they enjoy crying and often believe it is good for them.

Men are indeed from Mars and the gals are Venusians.  We may share a common tongue but the emotional connection from actions and inactions is often confused and blurry at best.   We don’t get it.  No doubt there is a chorus of feminine voices out there singing hallelujah to that notion.  Men mostly aren’t interested in the “why” when it comes to personal relationships.  Guys are much more focused on actions, what people do are don’t do.   Motivations don’t get on the male radar screen like they do for females.  Guys would twist and turn the possible motivations in a business negotiations but rarely look to those with their significant other.  Men are much more into evaluating actions than they are motives.   They believe actions reflect what you think or believe.  The gals like to hear it. 

No doubt this difference is the biggest reason are so much better at nurturing than me.  They’ll listen forever.  Guys lose interest about the third time they have heard the same lament.  Gals will ask a new question after each version.  With a guy you’ll do good to get a grunt.

So, fellows it isn’t enough to give her that little peck on the check.  You need to whisper in her ear at the same time something tender and sweet.  I know most guys think that the peck sends a sufficient message and is complete in itself.   Trust me, it ain’t so.   If you don’t believe me then guys recall those times when you did get the candy, the card and the flower and gave them to her with a brief “Here Baby” and the response was less than warm.  Somehow we have to try and go beyond the actions and hit those motivations on occasion.  Let her know why you gave her the gifts; you do have to explain the why.  Actions speak louder than words for business partners but for the little lady in your life you are better off adding to them a bit of explanation. 

There you have the abridged version, which guys always like, and you didn’t have to pay a therapist.  I promise there is no down side guys and the upside might be as good as those daydreams you harbor.

“If thou dost love, pronounce it faithfully”  Juliet, Act II, Scene II

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The Bus Ride

There are times, places and circumstances that create a distinctive and unique ambience of their own.  They are peculiar to that time and place.  The social interaction at a family viewing or funeral for a loved one has a specific type of atmosphere from any other social gathering.  The words used the attitudes demonstrated by word and body language are special for that setting.  One of the special settings is the bus rides to and from football games for the team members.

That bus ride from the team locker room to the stadium has its own social norms that are quite different from a ride of the usual teenagers when grouped together.  Normally they are a rowdy and noisy bunch as to be expected from kids that age.  But if you’ve never been on a bus before the game you would be surprised how those young men behave.   The bigger the game and the tougher the opponent the more subdued the atmosphere.  It is always pretty quiet in any event.  That is the first thing you would notice on that bus.  There is not the usual horse-play and jousling that you would anticipate with those young men just getting on the bus.  Every0ne lines up without even being told and boards like condemned men. 

Today I hear that many of them take their Ipods with them and listen to music.  That may be true but mostly they are in their own world.  The coaches go up and down the bus talking quietly here and there to a few players.  In the ancient days there was no music.  Everyone was tense and concentrating on their assignments and the opponent.  In a purely social setting we often talk too much which is an expression of our nerves to impress someone or appear witty or clever.   But on the bus to the game you know that the only way to impress someone will be how you perform on the field and that is yet to come.   There will be hushed whispers here and there between team mates and the coaches but mostly you can hear a pin drop in the back of the bus if it fell in the front.  Everyone is going over in their mind their equipment that they packed on the travel bags to make sure they brought everything they need.  The quarterback is normally with the coach going over the game plan one more time and the defensive captain or linebacker is with the defensive coach reviewing what to watch out for.  You can smell the lineament and tape in the air.  They have a peculiar odor that you will never forget.  Mostly you are in your own world with your own thoughts and worries at that point. 

When you get off the bus at the stadium the noise level begins to increase.  The voices become harsher and louder.  Everyone is beginning to rev up for the kick off.   The locker room will be louder and after the pre game warm ups will become boisterous with enthusiasm and pent-up energy.  The adrenaline is flowing now and there will be the third or fourth pit stop in the restroom right before you take the field for kick off.

After the game the bus ride home is a true tale of two cities depending on the outcome of the game.   In victory the atmosphere is frenetic and frenzied.  Everyone is shouting and hollering about that great play–the tackle, that run, that catch, or that touchdown or goal line stand.   There are slaps on the back and immediately tall tales begin exaggerating the achievements just done.   It is not only a sense of joy that is escaping after being bottled up for so many hours it is also the relief you feel for having done something you weren’t sure could be done only a few hours before.  Any player will tell you how relieved they were after the game and the win.  Now it is the smell of sweat and mixed with the lineament the permeates the air.  The coaches will sit together and allow the guys to ramble and yell.  They will have already had their say in the locker room right after the game.  They are relieved also.

In defeat it is a death march on wheels.  Heads are down.   If it was a big game or one that maybe you put you out of the playoffs then there will be a few tears here and there.  No one ever says anything about the tears then or later.  It just happens but the young men have already learned that men don’t talk about tears with each other.  There won’t be anyone holding some one and telling them it is alright.   It’s not alright, at least not on that ride home.  It takes time to get some perspective on the game and the loss.   A laugh or mostly any comment after a defeat will draw the dagger eyes from the nearest coach.  Most of the guys will feel like there isn’t much to say.  Everyone is thinking “did I play as well as I could”?   All are seeking some confirmation of their worth and solace somehow. 

After those defeats the locker room is cleared quickly.  There is no lingering around and going over the great plays during the game.  Mostly, just a few words here and there telling your buddy he played well even if that is stretching the truth a bit. 

But youth is wonderful and within a day or so they have it behind them and they start gearing up for the next game or the next season.  They are resilient.  If only we could learn to apply that resilience to all our lives’ ups and downs.  There is the next day, the next challenge and the next opportunity even if it is disguised as a problem.

“The first duty of man is that of subduing fear” –Tom Carlyle

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He was relieved like he always was when he stepped off the ML transport.  They had started building them before he was born and now in middle age he had been riding them for a couple of decades.   He understood the science and engineering behind them and was comforted in knowing that so far only one accident had occurred.   That one had killed over a 1000 people and disrupted the network for months.   He just couldn’t get it out of his head that when you got into one it was like stepping into a bullet that was fired down a long barrel about almost supersonic speeds.  Since the carriages were elevated by the magnets and propelled by the electrical pull of the that field there was no friction and speeds could be accelerated almost without end.  The trip from LA to Denver could be done in not much more than two hours if it wasn’t for the stops.  Even though there were slots for each transport he couldn’t help but think that some day there would be another transport going the opposite direction on the same slot as his.  That hadn’t happened yet.  He always felt better when it ran above ground even though the view was dizzyingly blurry because of the speed at least you could get some perspective of time and distance.

He knew the scanners on the doors of the transport wouldn’t pick up the carefully plastic- wrapped bundle in his waistband but those random searches by TSA personnel made him anxious.  Those searches could happen anytime, anywhere in or near the station.   The exist was uneventful and he emerged into the sunlight on the main level of the station facing East.  In the distance you could see the Nuke Park as it was called where twelve plants were grinding out power steadily.   There were ten more parks just like that one spread out from Denver to western Kansas.   G had decided that geography dictated that the central location for the plants and transmission lines running like a spider web out to the hinterlands.   He went to the minicars lot and inserted his ID card into the receptacle and was issued a start card for car 117.  It was going to cost 12 Units a day.  He was only allocated 980 Units a month so he would have to be judicious with his use of the car.   When he got to 117 he found that the charge was low.  Typical.  That meant at least another hour or more for the free charge or he could pay 20 Units for the battery exchange.   He didn’t have the time, he couldn’t be late for the delivery he had to make and the backup plan made he wait another three days and he couldn’t afford that.   If only a Cleanser made more money but his position was considered clerical by G.

He spent hours a day going through old websites and taking them down based on the criteria in his manual.  He had been doing it for years now and rarely had to refer to the manual anymore.   Sometime he deleted and erased only portions of the site depending on the content.  Over the years he had come across most everything and every conceivable subject.   At first almost all his work was vetted by his supervisor but as the years went by those audits of his work became rare because he was dependable and had never had more than a couple of mistakes in tens of thousands of deletions.   The pornography was the easiest because he could take them down as soon as he saw the nature of the site and that took just one click of a key for total elimination.  

In the early days he was so concerned about pleasing his supervisor and collecting his monthly Units that he didn’t focus on the content he was reviewing other than to note it as acceptable or not.   Since about 99% was unacceptable it was easy work and what he took down was nothing more than words on the screens without meaning to him.   G had insisted that the Web be open, fair, educational and inspiring.   The Content Committee had Lord knows how many thousands on its staff to ensure those goals.

It was the new sites that came up that got his attention.  It was easy to find them with key words–freedom, revolution, individual, literature, Founding Fathers, personal rights, civil rights, tyranny, corrupt government, and others on his list as warning signals to be investigated.   Some of them talked of “libraries” filled with books on history, economics, science, politics (such an antiquated phrase) and religion.   He didn’t understand why they made such a big deal of libraries.  There were libraries in every town he was told.   They had one in LA, you just had to apply for a permit.   Someone had told him there were lots of restrictions on using them but he didn’t know because he had never tried.  

Slowly and bit by bit he had started reading  some of the links and content on the sites he was reviewing.   One of the first that got his attention was a biography of Thomas Jefferson.   He was intrigued  that a man of such wealth and means would be absorbed with political ideas and had such an expansive and curious mind about science.   Something about that stuffy and stilted language was beautiful to him.   Over a period of time he was now spending as much as an hour a day reading the “forbidden” fruit of the Web.  Forbidden to the public but it was his job to discern what was acceptable and what was not and the supervisor couldn’t fault his research on Twain, Churchill, the Bible or histories, lots of histories.  He never realized that so much had been recorded about history for millenia.   G liked for the public to look no further back than the Transformation Period.

Thankfully, there was no line for the battery replacement and he was out the front gate and headed north in minutes.   He knew his ID card would track him constantly but he had a legitimate reason to go to Boulder.   He was almost desperate to meet her after so long with clandestine messages and the promise of what she represented.

to be continued…

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Song And Memories Of Times Past

Here is a listing of some songs that surely bring your mind and your heart back to other times and places that have been burnished and dimmed with the mist of time.  You will have your own favorites of this variety but most of you when in that reflective mood of life’s journey will enjoy these.  They evoke happy and sad thoughts but good or ill though those memories may be they were in fact our walk in life.  Hopefully, your memories these bring to mind will be those that make you glad you where there when those remembered events came to pass.  There is no order of priority or worth; this is merely the musings of one man’s mind.

1. Can’t Stop Loving You–for all those who had their heart-broken at one time.  Those who won and kept their love can enjoy it also because of the relief for not having that heartache.

2. I’ll Be Seeing Y0u–this is broad enough to cover all sorts of relationships.  When you hear this it will recall those times with loved ones or close friends that touched your life.

3. The Way We Were–certainly not my favorite but many of the ladies seem to love it.  It is just too, well, Streisand, for my taste but  acknowledge it power to make one reminisce.

4. Softly and Tenderly–this old hymn will make you pause for sure.  The best rendition was by Maureen  O’Hara in Spencer’s Mountain.  It has that rhythm and soothing words that recall a simpler time for all.

5. Memories–again not my favorite but it will be for many.  You can almost fill in the blanks with about anything you want with this one–the birth of a child, the wedding, your child’s wedding and even those tender moments of childhood.

6.  That Old Gang Of Mine–a personal favorite of mine because it brings to mind all sorts of associations and friendships you formed during your lifetime.  The circle of relationships it recalls can be very close or more diffuse but still powerful.

7. The Night They Brought Old Dixie Down–even those north of the Mason-Dixon Line enjoy this one.  It conjures up images of a better time regardless of circumstances or tradition.  We all like our traditions and that is what this one is about and sacrificing for something besides ourselves.  Who would have thought Joan Baez would be the artist on this one?

8. Time Of Your Life–Whatever you did or hoped to do this one will bring back the memories of those failures and the successes in life.  It will comfort the hard memories and make you relish those times of peace and contentment.

9. The Things We Did–for all the lovers out there, young and old.   When your hair turns gray, as it will, this is the type of song you will relish even if you do it privately.  It is a bit saccharine but what the heck sometimes that is just what you are in the mood for.

10. Auld Ang Syne–you couldn’t have a listing of nostalgic songs without the supremo, numero uno song  of the category.  If you have a pulse you have to get a little mellow when this one is started.  The flood of memories and emotions will overwhelm even the most jaundiced heart.

The trick is to lead your life without regrets.  That means mostly being there for the others that you love.  Also remember that a dreamer is hopeless but a man without dreams is without hope.

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The Miracle of Moving Stuff

From the most ancient of times the transport and sale of merchandise has been of the utmost importance to whole nations or societies and to the merchants engaged in trade.  More than one battle has been fought over the rights of trade and trade routes.  More than one nation or city-state has been established based upon the ability to trade and the geographic facility to transport goods.  The Phoenicians were traders and they couldn’t have succeeded as well as they did without customers and having a reasonably reliable transport system.  Every time there is another discovery of an ancient galley in the Black Sea or the Mediterranean Sea they almost always find evidence of cargo being transported–oil, wine, salt, spices, wheat or raw materials like lumber or metals.  

It didn’t take very long for systems to emerge to regulate the shipment and sell of these goods.  People naturally wanted to receive something of value in exchange for their merchandise.  A straight barter system was often used but it didn’t take long to realize that method was often inconvenient and coinage came about so the merchant could use the coins or other forms of value to exchange for something else he wanted closer to home.  Today we have computer systems that monitor and regulate the flow of goods literally around the world.  Every ship, truck and train is today under some control of computer systems for identifying the cargo carried, its destination and the intended recipient of the goods.  The old guys were pretty efficient in their control systems even without computers.

As trade increased and the need to move as quickly as possible and to have maximum flexibility in dealings various types of paperwork came about to give instructions and identify ownership of goods in transit and who was to receive the goods and the final sale purchaser.   For centuries merchants and sea captains and the nations that taxed by import duties or excise taxes used the manifest to determine cargo on the seas.  The manifest would be a complete inventory of the cargo on board and the port of call for the ship and what country was its flag and the captain.  It was a very important document.  The mere absence of having a manifest on board was prima facie evidence of piracy.  All legitimate trade and cargo would have the manifest  and was required to be displayed to the harbor master or his equivalent around the world.  Sugar, tea, coffee, spices, lumber and all manner of goods were shipped in this manner.  Goods found on board not listed on the manifest were considered evidence of smuggling.  The US and other nations often issued letters marque which authorized the use of private ships and crews to enforce embargos or to engage in battle with the enemy of the day.  That is were the phrase “privateer” came from.  There was a huge difference between being a pirate and a privateer, for one you were hailed and rewarded with a percentage of your capture and for the other you were hung.

A similar document was a bill of lading which identified cargo on land shipments.  Sometimes the two phrases were used on land or sea but mostly the manifest was for the sea and the bill of lading for shipment by wagon or later train.  It served the same purpose of designating the cargo, its destination and the intended recipient.  The railroads as they became common got this down to a pretty precise system that worked for over a century.  The yard master would receive the cargo and fill out the bill of lading and even which boxcar would carry the merchandise.  The owner-shipper would get a copy of the bill, it was his proof of ownership and his receipt.  Under the manifest or bill there would usually be a phrase that the goods were received in “good order” and were to be delivered in like “good order” to its recipient and destination.  The recipient would have his own copy to verify he was entitled to receive the goods along with a purchase order or sale’s slip in most cases.  The boxcar after loading would be sealed with a soft metal alloy made mostly of tin.  Only the yard master at the destination was allowed to break the seal.  Any evidence of tampering was considered a crime and suspicions would rise quickly.  By the way most trains had very few if any empty boxcars.  That was dead heading and a waste of money and resources.  All those movies you see about people jumping into empty boxcars are Hollywood not reality in the vast majority of cases.  If you owned a railroad would move any more empty boxcars than absolutely necessary?  

Sometimes the seller of merchandise would already know what he was going to do with the proceeds of his transaction and would have arranged for the purchase goods to be shipped back to him.  This sale would likely be from someone other than the person he sold and shipped his goods to.  Thus the bill of exchange came about.  It was a written instruction from A for B upon receipt of goods to make a payment to C and not A the seller.  This could be because A was buying from C or A owed C due to an earlier transaction.  It enhanced and sped the flow of commercial transactions.   The bill of exchange would be with the bill of lading or delivered separately by mail or telegraph.

It is odd that after almost 250 years the amount of interest on our foreign debt is about the same. In the year 1782 the interest charged by the Dutch for their loan to the Colonies was 4%.  That was foreign debt of course and curiously the domestic debt we owed to our own citizens was at 6%.  May the locals were less confident of repayment that the foreigners.

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Professionally Speaking….

It is hard to bear the degradation of our language and the use of certain words or phrases due to the intrusion of popular media or so-called pop culture. Soon those subtle changes become embedded and even make their way into the dictionary of the day. One striking example of this is the modern use and abuse of the word “profession” or “professional”.

Historically, there have been only four recognized professions. That agreed consensus goes back for centuries. They are: doctor, lawyer, teacher and preacher. Those are the professions. Those are the only true professionals. Today all manner of folks are called or self-described as professionals. We have professional athletes, professional plumbers and hair stylists. At least we do as they are depicted by the media. Merely appending that word as an adjective to their work or trade does not make them professionals.

The best definition of profession or professional was given by a law school professor some time ago. He stated it was a calling requiring specialized skill and academic training; it was a calling that benefitted society generally and not merely the practitioner; it was practiced because of a passion for the calling and the compensation was coincidental to the calling. Sure there are doctors, lawyers, teachers and preachers who don’t live up to that standard but that doesn’t diminish the standard. This definition does not demean the work or worth of other callings, trades or labor. When I have a leaky water line I sure want a really good plumber to come fix it for me. I want my car to have been assembled correctly and with competence by the people on the assembly line. I enjoy watching some athletes perform on the football field or the golf course but none of that enjoyment or appreciation makes what they do a profession and they are not professionals.

Sinclair Lewis made a pretty good career writing about several of the professions. He covered three of them with Arrowsmith (doctor), Gideon Planish (teacher) and Elmer Gantry (preacher). All those characters certainly had their flaws just as he did with his own life. It is sad to think that such a good mind and great talent was squandered by his alcoholism which eventually killed him. I suppose some of us are too idealistic for our own good. No doubt many see nothing wrong with using the phrase “professional” when describing their car mechanic. I hate to see the erosion in our language and the precision it offers but we often ignore.

For every miserable lawyer around we must also recall that our history is replete with ones who advanced civilization and human progress. Moses was the original lawyer. He in fact is referred to as the “Lawgiver”. Cicero was a lawyer. Charlemagne is remembered for his laws. John
Adams was lawyer. Thomas Jefferson was lawyer. Jonas Salk didn’t get rich off of his discovery of the polio vaccine. He gave it away. Aristotle, Plato and Socrates were all teachers. Billy Graham brought great good and solace to literally millions during his career. Remember him every time you see one of those PTL type money grabbing pulpit thumpers.

At one time or another you have probably used the phrase “False colors” or flying under false colors. It means of course a deception or a deceptive act. It comes from the nautical lexicon. For more centuries than we know, it was common for all navies to use flags to identify themselves and their foes, just as armies wore uniforms that could be recognized by their countrymen so they wouldn’t shoot each other. Sea captains would sometimes fly the flag of another nation as a ruse to get in close and launch a surprise broadside into their opponent. That has been done countless times over the last few centuries by navies of all stripes and the privateers hired by sovereign nations. It happened during the first and second world wars. It was always considered not gentlemanly and not cricket to do that. That is why captains would use their scopes to carefully view any ship approaching them to see if they could detect anything that didn’t match up with the flag (colors) being flown. Even the worse offenders would almost always lower the false flag and rise their true colors right before they opened fire. That way they could maintain that they didn’t take hostile action under “false colors”.

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Mail Box Surprises And Other Ad Oddities

Unless you have been on some kind of TV abstinence program you have certainly seen all those ads for Viagra, Cialis, etc. It makes one wonder just how much of that stuff they are selling. Those ads can’t be cheap. On the other hand it is encouraging that the older set is at least getting some exercise program going. I mean those intimate moments that are constantly discussed as occurring must burn some calories and produce a bit of aerobic benefit for the participants. Those ads have become so pervasive that I pretty much tune them out like most ads on TV. I might “see” them but they don’t really register on my consciouness. Success breeds copycats. That is truism for marketing one oh one. Those ads to enhance male performance and cure all those wilted desire syndrome have now produced offshoots in other media.

Just yesterday I opened the mail and found a new ad for me, just me. How wonderful to be noticed and written to by name. It was a product offering me a veritable baccanalian paradise of pleasures if I tried this product. It featured a “vacuum therapy” method. I am not making that up. Immediately images came to mind of some dark dungeon and all those devices used to torture the unfortunates who were taken there. Furthermore I was informed that this method and device was “proven” to be 98% effective. I wonder who exactly sat there and monitored those situations when it was tried to verify that information. I mean is this some type of Rasmussen polling system? Surely, since this a medical issue there is science involved and the verification process is more stringent that anecdotal reports of success.

If they really wanted to make money they should charge guys to sign up for the testing program to assure the success rate legitimacy. No doubt there would be a line at the door. Of course there is always the question of exactly what do they consider “success”. Don’t worry I am not going to detail the possible speculation on what that could be. But informed minds do wonder.

This offer even had an extra. I was told that if I ordered right away that for a limited time I would also receive free with my purchase of this vacuum therapy device “accessories” to go with it. Now that really does open up even the clogged brain. Other than a willing partner exactly what “accessory” does one need? You think they are sending out blow- up dolls or ear- marked copies of the Tropic of Cancer? Now I thought about asking the little lady if she thought this would be a good purchase for the household but hesitated. Um, the answer might be fraught with disparaging remarks. Remember that old cliche about not asking a question that you don’t really want to hear the answer to. Would it be a great thrill for her to say sure let’s give that a try or would it be a huge kaboom on my ego?

I just wish those guys had sent out there stock symbol with the mailout. It might make a great addition to my dwindling IRA portfolio. It would sure be doing better that US Steel and their forward earnings projections are probably off the charts.

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