Monday, December 31, 2007

Happy New Year

In less than two hours, Eastern Standard Time, 2007 will be done. Out with the old, in with the new.

New Year’s Day is my favorite holiday of the year. It symbolizes fresh starts and opens the door to positive changes and new opportunities. New Year’s Day is a communal, global celebration, cutting across most of the barriers we put up between us. There is no particular religious, political, racial or class connotation associated with the day. We can all enjoy it in some way.

As I watch TV coverage of the clock striking twelve in various cities and countries around the world, I try to picture what it is like being there. It’s been 2008 in Australia since 8:00 am here near Washington DC. It’s been 2008 in China, Russia, Iraq and Europe for several hours now.

Every year I go through a month-long goal-setting ritual, starting with New Year’s Day and ending on my birthday near the end of January. It’s not a rigid, formal thing – just a “taking stock of last year and looking ahead to next year” process. I did hit a couple of goals this year but it was a mostly uninspired twelve months. I’m hoping for a more engaging year in 2008.

Happy New Year to you and thanks for visiting.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Restless Creativity

Did you notice that I changed my blog a little? No reason. Just felt like it. A little restless creativity.

Most of what I do for work and fun involves creativity of some kind and sometimes I get restless. My friends and coworkers might laugh at this because they probably see me as consistant, almost boring. But I never get tired of trying to create something and sometimes I just change things for the sake of changing them.

I write, voice, produce and edit radio commercials for a living. I surround myself with music, sometimes editing it, other times playing it on the radio. My hobbies include photography and writing. My writing includes blogging, journal keeping, proposal writing and poetry. Sometimes I build things around the house, like storage units. If I had to describe who I am, using very few words and no job descriptions, I'd call myself a story teller.

Where do these creative interests come from? My Dad was an engineer and Mom was a housewife. In my younger days, before I obsessively analyzed every last element of my life, I would have stopped there and assumed my creativity was a fluke. How could I learn creativity from a man who designed plumbing systems for shopping centers and a woman who washed clothes and cooked meals for her kids?

Upon further reflection (or analysis), however, I see that I grew up surrounded by creativity. Part of my Dad's engineering and design job involved drawing plans and creatively locating pipes, restrooms, water fountains and fire sprinklers. Mom was in the same line of work at one time. Dad's hobbies included photography and furniture making; in his youth he played piano. When Mom wasn't doing housewife stuff, she was painting. Two of her five paintings that survived the Katrina flood are on the wall of my home office.

Mom and Dad both liked to tell stories. Dad wrote a short autobiography during the early days of his battle with Parkinson's because he wanted to chronicle as much of his life as he remembered before it would be lost to dimentia. Mom told her stories of her life each time I visited her in the nursing home. She told some of the same stories many times, then out of the blue she'd tell a new one.

So I just added this little story while taking a break from the decidedly uncreative chore of straightening out my perpetually messy home office. My restless creativy impulse dragged me from the closet to the keyboard.

That's my story and I'm stiking to it.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Instead of a tree ...

I mentioned in an earlier post that we didn't put up a Christmas tree this year. We did decorate, however.

This is the fireplace this morning, complete with fire.

And these are the gifts. Some are for the dogs. Many are for me - my wife gave me some new tools, one individually-wraped tool at a time. We spent an hour opening gifts, even though it's just the two of us and three dogs.

Here I am with one of the dogs.

M e r r y C h r i s t m a s !

Monday, December 24, 2007

Then One Foggy Christmas Eve

Sometimes cultural icons become so much a part of our lives that we forget how they started. Maybe we never knew how they started.

Case in point: Santa’s reindeer and Rudolph. We all know the song and the basic story, but do we know how each began?

I looked it up on Google and here are a few things I found:

- According to at least one website, there were eight reindeer in the original story but no Rudolph.

- This website says the extra reindeer was created by an advertising guy at Montgomery Ward Department Stores in 1939 and his brother-in-law wrote the song a few years later. Gene Autry had a big hit with the song in 1949 and the legend took flight, so to speak.

- The same site also says the story changed over the years and in the original, Rudolph’s parents were not embarrassed by his red nose.

- Rollo and Reginald were also considered as names for the character, according to this site. Hmm, Reginald the Red Nosed Reindeer? I think not.

- And this site points out that the original eight reindeer were all female.

Christmas isn’t the only holiday each December. Although it is named for the holiday, the site All Things Christmas does a pretty good job of providing background information on many celebrations.

The origin of Christmas is religious but in American culture it can be viewed as a center piece celebration for family, friends, love and nature. For me, the Merry Christmas greeting and the good wishes that go with it include sentiments involved in Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Winter Solstice ... even Festivus.

So to quote the last line in another famous poem, “Merry Christmas to all and to all a good night.”

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Christmas Meme

I saw this on DeeJay’s Age Is All In The Mind blog and thought I’d do this myself. Post your version too and let me know where.

1. Do you put up a real tree or artificial?
Artificial – much less messy. No tree this year, however, because we’re in the middle of a huge ‘reorganize the house’ project. We did put up some decorations on the fireplace mantle and on some shelves and there are lights in some of the trees in the front yard.

2. When do you put up your tree?
At the end of November, usually on Thanksgiving weekend.

3. When do you take down the tree?
New Years Day.

4. Do you like eggnog?

5. Favorite gift received as a child?
A plastic kid-size steering wheel/instrument panel thing so I could pretend to be driving a car. It was similar to this:

6. Worst Christmas gift ever received?
No one thing, just the occasional shirt or sweater that didn’t go with anything else in my wardrobe.

7. Favorite Christmas movie?
It’s A Wonderful Life

8. Have you ever recycled a present?
Do you think I’m going to admit that here? I know some of my readers in real life. :)

9. Favorite thing to eat at Christmas?
Pumpkin pie

10. Favorite Christmas song?
The Christmas Song (Chestnuts Roasting On An Open Fire), especially the classic Nat King Cole version and a 1990s version by Trisha Yearwood

11. Most annoying thing about this time of year?
Crowds at the mall and too many parties.

12. What you love most about the holiday?
A chance to think about friends and family.

13. How many reindeer did Santa have?
Uhh, I’m not sure. So I looked it up ... eight plus Rudolf. More about this in another post.

14. Best Christmas memory?
I can’t name a best, but one of the most memorable was the first one with my wife. We had a nice meal, opened presents and then I lit a fire. It was our first fire in that house and I didn’t realize the fireplace flue wasn’t fully open. Smoke started pouring into the room, the smoke detector went off, we opened the door to vent the room – the outside temperature was in the teens that night. Fortunately the only damage was to my ego and the only injuries came from laughing so hard it hurt.

15. If you could have one Christmas wish what would it be?
To have one more Christmas with my parents. The last few years they were alive, I was never able to be back home on Christmas Day and if I could relive those years, I would be there every Christmas.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Summer Is Coming

Here is a very interesting quirk of nature. Today is the Winter Solstice, the day with the shortest daylight and the longest amount of night; it is the official first day of winter.

Here is the quirk part: the coldest two or three months of the year are ahead of us, yet each day from tomorrow till June, there will be more daylight than the day before. More sunshine, colder temperatures … go figure.

As is often the case, nature provides an interesting balance. Winter is a pain in the butt, with depressingly cold temperatures and bad weather conditions including ice and snow. But each day is longer, providing more depression-relieving sunshine as well as the optimistic reminder that summer is coming.

Of course, all of this applies to the Northern Hemisphere. In the Southern Hemisphere, today is the longest day and the Summer Solstice.

Santa Claus could be wearing a Speedo in Sydney.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Tonight’s Channel Surfing

My new computer has a TV tuner, which means I can surf the channels while I surf the net. I could just stop on the Guide channel and read the list of what’s on, but nooooo – I’d rather stop at each channel to confirm my suspicion that there isn’t anything on tonight that I want to watch.

Care to join me for my channel surfing tour? Here’s some of what’s on:

Home Alone

Mary Poppins

Jingle All The Way – Friday must be movie night.

Man vs. Wild – if you catch a ParanĂ¡ for food, make sure you cook it thoroughly because it has many parasites … I’ve always wanted to know that.

CSI: Miami – does David Caruso ever face the camera? For nearly every scene he is standing sideways. And do you think that just once … he could say the words to … a whole sentence … in a row … without … pausing?

A Crown Royal commercial – does it taste as good as it looks? I don’t remember. I mostly drink wine and sometimes beer.

White Christmas – Bing sings the classic to soldiers in the middle of a war zone. Hmmmm.

History Channel - a promo for a show about the hunt for John Wilkes Booth.

VH1 – The 100 Greatest Songs of the 1990s – You do know that the singer’s name is NOT Hootie, don’t you?

City SlickersI’ve had two mid-life crisis periods and in neither case did I want to go on a trail drive.

Him - Four people arguing about Drew Peterson and his missing wife.

Rachel Ray – any day now, she’ll be on more channels than Law & Order reruns.

Travel Channel – a program about a haunted lighthouse

NUMB3RS – that’s how they spell it. A drama about numerology geeks who solve crimes. Isn’t it cool that geeks are finally stars? CSI, CSI: Miami, CSI: New York, Law & Order: Criminal Intent, Cold Case – all shows with science geek characters in prominent roles.

Him again, on Dateline - a discussion about Drew Peterson and his missing wife. Him again! This is almost as annoying as the OJ case was.

BBC World News. Why do people who speak English with a British accent always sound so intelligent? This anchor’s story about a little girl’s missing goldfish sounds like a doctoral dissertation.

Weather Channel – patchy drizzle? Is that a meteorological term? And why are they playing the Charlie Brown music during my Local On The 8s?

ESPN – Dallas is winning, with 6 left in the 1st half.

ESPN2 – FLA ATL is ahead of MEMPHIS. Who is FLA ATL and why are these teams playing in the Louisiana Superdome? Guess I’m not much of a sports fan. Where is the NASCAR Channel?

Comcast SportsNet DC - with all these sports channels, I wish I was more of a sports fan. Where is the Dog Agility Channel? Can I get that if I buy the top shelf package? Or would I have 300 channels and nothing to watch, rather than my current 78 channels and nothing to watch?

Under The Mistletoe – looks like every Christmas movie except It’s A Wonderful Life is on tonight.

The 40 Year Old Virgin – OK, not every movie tonight is a Christmas movie.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Deanna Bogart Is So Cool

Because of a computer crash a few weeks ago, I am reloading my iPod. I decided to dig deep into my collection this time and find music I haven’t listened to in a long time. This little project led me to a performer I used to see a lot but haven’t seen in many years. I even knew her at one time, but I don’t know that she’d remember me.

Here is a video that showcases only a small part of Deanna Bogart’s amazing talent. She is an outstanding piano player, a great saxophonist, singer and writer and does some amazing live shows. Her style is blues and boogie with country, swing and a bunch of other things mixed in.

This is not a commercial; I’m just a big fan and I plan to go see her again soon.

Take a break and enjoy, then check her website to see if she is playing anywhere near you.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Life Lessons In A Song

Songs have always had the potential to provide advice and inspiration. Songs often champion a cause, portray someone’s life, serve as an anthem, paint a picture, conjure up a memory or lead to love.

My favorite song these days gives advice. The singer sees a news story about a man who just turned 102; the man is asked what he thinks is the secret to life. This is part of his answer:

Don't blink
Just like that you're six years old and you take a nap and you
Wake up and you're twenty-five and your high school sweetheart becomes your wife
Don't blink
You just might miss your babies growing like mine did
Turning into moms and dads next thing you know your "better half"
Of fifty years is there in bed
And you're praying God takes you instead
Trust me friend a hundred years goes faster than you think
So don't blink.

These lyrics are part of a fairly new song by Kenny Chesney, and as with many country music songs, the message is basic and direct. In this case: life goes by fast, don’t blink or you’ll miss it. There is nothing particularly original about the concept, but these lyrics give it a nice twist and Chesney’s voice has exactly the right amount of emotion to bring the message to life.

There are two other songs that I believe offer life lessons in a fairly simple, but powerful way (in spite of questionable grammar). In Tim McGraw’s “Live Like You Were Dying,” the singer looks into what someone might do if he found out he had a life-threatening disease and would die soon. Part of the answer in the song:

He said I was finally the husband
that most the time I wasn't
and I became a friend
a friend would like to have.
And all of the sudden going fishing
wasn't such an imposition
and I went three times that year I lost my dad

I went skydivin', I went rocky mountain climbing,
I went 2.7 seconds on a bull named Foo Man Chu;
and I love deeper and spoke sweeter
and I watch an eagle as it was flying,
and he said someday I hope you get the chance
to live like you were dying.

Another “life” song is “The Dance,” from the first Garth Brooks album.

And now I'm glad I didn't know
The way it all would end the way it all would go
Our lives are better left to chance I could have missed the pain
But I'd of had to miss the dance.

Boomers often wake up to the realization that more of our life is behind us than ahead of us. Songs like this serve a great purpose in that they remind us that life is short. There can be much pain in life, but don’t avoid it; the experience makes us stronger.

Don’t miss out on life, live life. It goes by faster than you think, so don’t blink.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Life in 2007

A fifty-something friend sent me this. I don't know the origin, but I do know how true it is, no matter what your age.

You know you're living in 2007 when...

1. You accidentally enter your password on the microwave.
2. You haven't played solitaire with real cards in years.
3. You have a list of 15 phone numbers to reach your family of three.
4. You e-mail the person who works at the desk next to you.
5. Your reason for not staying in touch with friends and family is that they don't have e-mail addresses.
6. You pull up in your own driveway and use your cell phone to see if anyone is home to help you carry in the groceries.
7. Every commercial on television has a web site at the bottom of the screen.
8. Leaving the house without your cell phone, which you didn't have the first 20 or 30 (or 60) years of your life, is now a cause for panic and you turn around to go and get it.
10. You get up in the morning and go on line before getting your coffee.
11. You start tilting your head sideways to smile. :)
12. You're reading this and nodding and laughing.
13. Even worse, you know exactly to whom you are going to forward this message.
14. You are too busy to notice there was no #9 on this list.
15. You actually scrolled back up to check that there wasn't a#9 on this list
AND NOW U R LAUGHING at yourself.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Even If You Know How It Ends

Tonight my wife and I did something I’ve wanted us to do for as long as I’ve known her. We saw a live performance of the Charles Dickens classic A Christmas Carol.

I often feel the effects of holiday depression or holiday blues. I was on a slow, downward spiral this week, feeling worse as the days progressed, not sleeping well, losing interest in many things and feeling unmotivated. Friday was a fairly crappy day at work, ending with computer problems, followed by having to handle a work problem from home in the middle of my very late dinner. One of the radio stations I work with plays all Christmas music each December and the words “bah, humbug” formed on my lips each time I walked through their hallways this week. In short, I was feeling like a Scrooge. Merry Christmas, indeed! Christmas is a humbug!

Somewhere deep in my head, I was happy that my wife finally agreed to see A Christmas Carol with me after 13 years of saying no or making some excuse. It’s not that she doesn’t like plays or going places with me, she just doesn’t usually like going out. And my previous requests involved seeing this classic at Ford’s Theatre in Washington, DC – yes, the Lincoln assassination theatre. I saw it there once, more than 20 years ago, and have always wanted to repeat the experience. She just does not like to go into DC. What made things different this year is that there was a performance at the theatre right here in our county.

For me, A Christmas Carol is a lot like It’s A Wonderful Life. Even though I know how it ends, I enjoy taking in all of the steps leading to the end. Sometimes I get a little misty-eyed at the end because I see someone realize there is value and joy to living. Both of these stories put me in a good mood.

To add to the enjoyment of this evening, we saw this performance in a restored old movie house from the 20s or 30s. We share a fondness for these old buildings. This place is the heart of cultural life in the county; it might very well be the only cultural life in the county.

So with ten days left till December 25th, my Ghost of Christmas Future is pointing to a season that I might actually survive with smile on my face.

Friday, December 07, 2007

She's Fifty

If you know that the woman in this picture ...

is the same person as the girl in this picture ...

you might be fifty-something or older. Or you just might be a student of American history. Maybe you just watch a lot of television.

Caroline Kennedy turned 50 last week.

For me, this is the most memorable photo of the daughter of the 35th President of the U.S.

Friday, November 23, 2007

8, 6, 4 or …?

Years ago, the most debated holiday question was, “how early is too early for malls to decorate for Christmas?” Now the question is “how early is too early to open on the day after Thanksgiving?”

The last time I was crazy enough to shop on Black Friday was more than ten years ago. I was at the mall when they opened at 8 a.m. and finished buying presents by 11, just as it started to get crowded.

Now 8 is late. Many stores opened at 6 a.m. today, some at 5 a.m., Kohls and Penneys unlocked their doors at 4. Wimps!! Valu City opened at Midnight, as did some of the outlet malls. And people were already standing in line at many of these locations as the doors opened.

I did my shopping at 5 … p.m. on Tuesday. Black Friday sale prices were already in effect ay many stores and there were no crowds and no lines.

One of my favorite places to shop, however, is never crowded. In fact, I usually shop there alone and they are always open … the internet.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

It’s Thanksgiving Already?

When did we get so busy? There isn’t enough time to do all the things we want to do and have to do. As recently as a few months ago, for example, I was posting to this blog a couple of times a week or more, but now I’m lucky to write something once a month. I know I’m not the only one who feels overscheduled. Several blogs I regularly visit have also been less active or inactive lately.

Sometimes I get so busy that I almost forget what month it is. For a brief moment yesterday I couldn’t quite comprehend the meaning of the letters and numbers I saw on my cell phone: Nov. 20.

There are certainly some tell-tale signs that it is indeed the third full week of November. For one thing, I’m on vacation this week and not really missing anything important at work. For another it’s cold and dark early in the afternoon. And the late-day traffic pattern I encountered on my way home from the mall yesterday was less commute and more holiday.

Oh, and the mall. There he was, in all his red and white glory, Santa Claus, alone in the middle of a large, festive display, waving at the few kids who were in center court the Tuesday before Thanksgiving. You know he won’t be alone this Friday nor any other day between then and Christmas Eve.

I was shopping for holiday gifts and for myself. As I’m writing this, I’m loading my favorite songs onto my brand new iPod. My purchases also included clothes and a CD for me and the main present I’m getting my wife.

I intended to buy gifts for co-workers while I was there but discovered I don’t really know the proper etiquette for gift-buying for co-workers. For several years, I have exchanged gifts with 2 or 3 people I work closely with. In addition, I get gifts from various people in the sales department, but I don’t always give them gifts, in part because I can’t justify the expense of getting a gift for all of them and partly because I have trouble choosing just a few and not all. Is that wrong of me? Or right, because sales people always get gifts for people? How do you handle this?

My standard gift for the co-workers I do get gifts used to be a calendar that relates to something they are interested in. Calendars are the perfect gift because it is a daily reminder of the person who gave the gift and it is nice but not too expensive. But I realized while standing in the calendar store yesterday that I don’t really know much about what interests my co-workers. Am I losing my touch or maybe just not paying attention? Or do people who work together mostly talk about work and not all that much about their personal interests?

And what do they know about me? My favorite gifts are gift cards from book stores, camera stores or Starbucks. Only twice have I ever received such gifts. If it’s the thought that counts, then I get wonderful gifts every year. But from a practical standpoint, it is unlikely I will ever use those wonderful weekend packages at a nearby ski resort that I receive from the sales department at least every other year. And a really nice dinner at a classy restaurant in downtown DC doesn’t impress my wife enough for us to actually use such a thing and I don’t think she’d appreciate it if I took a date there.

That last paragraph makes me wonder if anyone used the calendars I gave them.

Back to Thanksgiving and our busy lives. Admittedly I have been a bit depressed this Fall. Part of it is a mild case of seasonal affective disorder and part of it is memories of the Fall of 2001. That year started with the terrorist attacks of September 11th followed by moving my parents into a nursing home in October followed by Dad’s death in November followed by all of those happy festive holidays that I just didn’t want to celebrate that year. All of that still hits me hard, and when combined with an overscheduled life and shorter amounts of daylight … well, you get the idea.

On the good side, however, I do have plenty to be thankful for. You, for one – thanks for reading this. I have a wife and three dogs who all love me, an incredibly great job and good health. The weather was warm and sunny here in Maryland today and I don’t have to be in an airport or on a highway tomorrow.

And tomorrow is a very leisurely holiday with no turkey to cook (my wife is vegetarian so we have zucchini lasagna for Thanksgiving dinner). So I guess for at least one day this month, I will have time to do all the things I want to do.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Friday, October 26, 2007

The First Boomer

Did you know that there is actually a first Boomer? And she recently applied for Social Security benefits.

Here is a blurb from a Hartford Courant article on the subject:

Earlier this month, the nation's first Baby Boomer filed for Social Security benefits. Kathleen "Kathy" Casey-Kirschling, born one second after midnight on Jan.1, 1946, will be eligible for benefits beginning in January 2008. The retired seventh-grade teacher is on the leading edge of what the Social Security administration refers to as a "silver tsunami," nearly 80 million Americans born from 1946 to 1964 who will qualify for Social Security over the next two decades.

I’m in no hurry to apply for those benefits, if they even still exist when I reach retirement age. But articles like this might serve to remind us that most Boomers are horribly unprepared for living without a full time job.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Movies For Us

Boomers rule the world but no longer own the cultural landscape. Brittney Spears proves that point, doesn’t she? Tonight, however, I found evidence that Boomers are gaining a foothold on at least part of pop culture.

Two examples that help support my point: 1) there is at least one movie out there that doesn’t conform to the norm of fast action and simple plot lines and 2) there are new movies starring actors over 50.

First, the new movies: at least two of the dozen that were previewed before the main feature I went to see tonight star actors over 50 and have plots dealing with Boomerish interests and Boomer music. One of the movies is The Bucket List, starring Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman. A bucket list is a list of things one wants to do before kicking the bucket. You can see where this might be going. And the music-based movie I saw a trailer for is about the Rolling Stones and is directed by Martin Scorcese, of all people.

The movie I refer to that doesn’t conform to the norm is called Michael Clayton, starring Boomer-aged George Clooney. The movie moves along at a slow to moderate pace and features a complicated plot. There are no chase scenes, no sex, only one explosion and there is a great ending. The story begins with a short slice of the present, stopping at the explosion. Then the viewer is taken to four days earlier, and the complex story unfolds slowly back to the present, revealing pieces of plot and characterization in a deliciously slow manner up to the explosion again. The story continues to a mostly unpredictable and not completely tidy ending. They just don’t make ‘em like that anymore!

It’s nice to see there are movies for us out there.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Class Update

My first online college class will be done in one more week and I have to admit it is more challenging than I expected.

Some observations:

Dream come true. The online option makes my dream of finally finishing college a real possibility. My long work hours and the commuting insanity around here would make going to class on the main University of Maryland campus totally intolerable.

Cutting class. It is way to easy to “cut class” when the classroom is a laptop computer. The classes aren’t “scheduled” in the sense of 2p-3p M W F. But you do have to log in several times a week, and the courses are divided into weekly segments with readings, assignments and conference participation. The bad pattern I already have is that I don’t really hunker down till the weekend.

I need a bigger monitor. I had six windows open a little while ago for one fairly simple assignment, but could only arrange three at a time on this 14” laptop monitor. A 20” wide screen should do it. In fact, taking these classes has driven my decision to buy a desktop as my next computer rather than a laptop.

Beer and wine. When I was last in college, three decades ago, I spent Saturday nights drinking a lot of cheap beer while trying to ignore class work. Tonight, a Saturday, I spent two hours sipping some very good red wine while wrapping up this week’s class assignments.

I need new glasses. For a 50-something who reads books and magazines often, reading on a screen is a big adjustment. I already spend about 75 percent of my workday on a computer. My eyes are rebelling.

Time management. This class is only a 1-credit hour Library Science course and I’ve used the grace period for posting assignments three of the six weeks. What will I do when I start my first “real” 3-credit hour History course in two weeks?

Social isolation. My current class has about 70 students, but I haven’t met even one. In a brick-and-mortar setting, there would likely be at least some socializing. Online, it is just me and the instructor. Tonight was the first time where an assignment actually involved another student. I assume my next class will be smaller but will require more interaction. The instructor is setting up a cyber chat option for the class.

Potential success. Taking only one class per semester means I’m at least five years from a degree, maybe more. I’m guardedly optimistic about reaching that goal. With the overscheduled life I lead, sticking to studying will be a big challenge. I want this, but it is still too early to tell if I’ll get it.

Friday, October 05, 2007

This Thing is Fifty

A bright silver flying object changed our world fifty years ago this week. It was the size of a basketball and weighed ten pounds less than I do. Americans could see the small speck twice a day as it crossed the sky like a slow shooting star. Russians could brag about it constantly.

Sputnik was the first human-made satellite in space. It didn’t do much compared to today’s satellites but it scared the hell out of us because of what we thought it and its successors could do. Our morale was shaken too because we apparently lost the coin toss in the space race game and were now on the receiving end, defending our pride and global status. Over the next twelve years we took the ball and ran with it, to take this metaphor a bit further, and scored the ultimate game-winning moon landings.

Today there are nearly a thousand satellites orbiting the earth at any given time. Our lives depend on them in ways we may rarely realize. Weather forecasting, Tom Tom and Desperate Housewives enter our lives by way of satellites. Cell phones that teenage users, map photos clear enough to display license plate numbers, real-time troop tracking – all enabled by satellites.

We won the race to the moon but haven’t been back since 1972. Outer space exploration that once promised Mars colonies and lunar vacations is now limited to multi-national high tech constructions projects. The science that launched humans out of Earth’s gravitational pull continues to have positive influence on our ground-based lives but only connects to the final frontier in movies.

October 4th marks not only the birth of the space age but also the beginning of highly-visible acting careers for Hugh Beaumont, Barbara Billingsley, Tony Dow and Jerry Mathers.

Here are a few other things associated 1957:

- Celebrities Melanie Griffith, Matt Lauer, Paul Reiser and Geena Davis were born and Humphrey Bogart died.

- Liz Taylor’s 3rd marriage and I Love Lucy’s last episode.

- Buddy Holly and Tommy Dorsey shared space on the pop music charts and John Lennon met Paul McCartney.

- Dwight Eisenhower was president, gasoline costs 24 cents per gallon and you could buy a new Ford for $2000.

- My hometown New Orleans gets its 2nd and 3rd TV stations and the Governor of neighboring state Arkansas calls out the National Guard to prevent nine black children from entering a public school.

Boomers know first hand how much the world has changed in fifty years. But age doesn’t really matter. If you are reading this, your life has been influenced by a Friday night rocket launch in Russia on October 4, 1957. According to an article in the Washington Post this week, Sputnik led to the formation of a U.S. government agency that developed the computer network we now know as the internet.

Saturday, September 29, 2007


You’ve probably heard me say that I’ve spent most of my adult life working in the media, mostly radio. My main job for the last few years has been making commercials, hyping everything from cars to granite countertops to my radio station, WMZQ, the Country Music station in Washington, DC. But my first love was always to be on the air as a DJ.

I started my career as a Rock DJ in the 70s and have played many different kinds of music on the radio over the years. I like nearly everything, but Country has been my favorite genre since I “discovered” it during the Garth Brooks era. My 16-years-and-counting run at WMZQ began with DJ duties and gradually evolved into the commercial production job I now have.

A few weeks ago, however, my career came full circle. Sort of.

In addition to my regular duties, I have returned to the airwaves as a DJ – for 3 hours a week. Yes, Friends, three hours … 6am – 9am, Eastern on Saturday mornings.

And this little show features the twangy country. Most of what we play on WMZQ is from today back to the early 90s. The “America’s Music” show, my little 180 minutes, includes mostly 1980s Country, with a lot of 70s and even some 60s and 50s.

In other words, I play 3 hours of BoomerTwang.

So next time you’re up early on a Saturday and in the mood for some yeehaw and y’all, here’s what you do: if you’re within 50 miles of DC, tune in 98.7. If not, go to our website and click on Listen Live or type in Bernie in the keyword box. And soon we’ll be replaying the show a few times on Mondays and Tuesdays on our HD2 channel, which you can also find on that website.

Shameless self-promotion done. Time for some Conway Twitty.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

One More Time, Maybe

Did you see the first episode of the new Bionic Woman tonight? I had to watch. The plot was even more unbelievable than the original series, which was no surprise. The characters were OK but not terribly appealing. The special effects were better than in the 1976 series, but I didn’t hear that sound when the bionics kicked in.

I might watch one more time. Maybe.

But Life, the show that follows Bionic Woman, is very cool. It has an unbelievable premise too but the characters are incredibly appealing. It’s a drama but there are funny moments. Every other scene has another surprise. Twists and turns in plot lines and characterizations. Unpredictable. I definitely will watch this one some more.

And a cool technological side note for Boomers … the main character has been in jail since 1995, so a few of today’s commonplace items are new to him. He had to ask what an “IM” is. He didn’t realize that the ringing sound was the cell phone in his pocket. He was surprised to learn that a cell phone can take pictures. And he was amazed by Google.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Reality Check

I urge you to watch this video: Eyes of the Storm.

As you know, I’m quite obsessed with the impact of Katrina on New Orleans. I thought I had seen it all, but then I found this amazing piece of reality.

The video is a short documentary of the first few days after Katrina told by photographers from the New Orleans newspaper. They talk about their experiences and show pictures you’ve probably never seen unless you read that paper that week. The photos are two years old; the narrative is from this month.

It’s twenty-five minutes of mind-boggling images and emotion.

Monday, September 24, 2007

It’s Everywhere

Heard in the men's room at work today:

Bzzzzzz (pause) tap tap tap tap, taptaptap, tap tap ….


Blackberry on vibrate in the next stall. Person picks up, reads then responds to an email.


Saturday, September 22, 2007

The Top Ten Most Recent Searches That Brought People Here

I saw this on Ian’s blog and thought I’d try it for mine. The first nine were from Google searches and the last one is a Yahoo search.

1. Fifty something
This one is to be expected, although I’m surprised to show up near the top.

2. New wave dance clubs for fifty somethings
Uhh, wtf?

3. frigidaire electri clean
I mentioned Frigidaire refrigerators in a post once.

4. desert "remember your name" "first day"
The top 10 items in this person’s search referenced the America song “Horse With No Name,” something I mentioned in a post once.

5. Boomerville
I used this term a lot.

6. fifty somethings going back to school
… the topic of a few recent posts

7. fifty hits of the 60's
I used to make many references to 1960s songs that are remade.

8. ROXXXX-annne
I have no idea what they were searching for because mine was the only one related to the song by the Police.

9. what have you already acomplished? did you participate in athletics in high shool
What an odd search. And how did my site turn up on this search?

10. college at fifty something
Same idea as #6.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Boomerandomness 4

1) We’re all way too freakin’ busy. Can’t we just stop and smell the roses once in awhile? Or at least pause for a minute to acknowledge their existence?

2) Why is that attention-starved, former great football star with the initials for orange juice back in the news again? Maybe if he has to serve jail time for this incident it’ll make up for not having to spend his whole life there after murdering two people.

3) The Saints are playing like a high school team. And LSU is playing like a pro team. Maybe the LSU players should put Saints uniforms on this weekend.

4) Hitchcock was a genius. Did you see any of his old movies on AMC this week? Amazing technique and story-telling pulled together with an incredible balance of drama, suspense, psychology and humor. And in the case of “The Man Who Knew Too Much,” music plays an important role in plot development.

5) According to an annual study released this week, the Washington DC metro area again has the 2nd worse traffic gridlock in the country. Actually we’re tied for 2nd with San Francisco this time. Los Angeles is 1st. Come on, we have to try harder! Don’t we want to be Number One!!

Oh well, that’s all. Thanks for visiting. I’ll try to post more often.

Que Sera, Sera

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

The First Day of School

Today was the first day of my return to college. I could talk about how odd it feels to be back in school after a three-decade absence. Maybe I could tell you how unusual I must appear in my Dockers khakis, Bauer shirt and Rockport shoes in a room full of students wearing very long shorts, t-shirts and flip flops. You might expect to read about this fifty-something student’s opinion of a teacher young enough to be his daughter.

But none of that is applicable because this is my classroom …

Online learning is not new but this is my first experience with it. Virtual classrooms have been around for a few years, but the University of Maryland and many other schools have developed this format into a viable learning tool. I can actually get an entire degree without setting foot in a classroom for anything except final exams.

I like the classroom environment and engaging in face-to-face discussions with people, so I will eventually take some of my classes in the traditional classroom setting. For now, however, my learning environment is 12-point Arial on an HP laptop monitor.

It’s nice to have this option.

Saturday, September 01, 2007

Two Years Later

There is so much I wanted to say this week about Katrina, but the words wouldn’t come. I’ve talked about the hurricane that wreaked havoc on my original hometown so many times during the past twenty-four months that I feel I’ve said all I can say.

Yet bubbling just under the surface, I still feel shock, sadness and anger.

Shock is my reaction to the sheer magnitude of what Katrina did to New Orleans. Tens of thousands of homes were damaged or destroyed, but it doesn’t really sink in till you drive through places like Lakeview. All 7000 houses in this middle-class neighborhood sat in eight to ten feet of stagnant water for two to three weeks. During the past two years, owners of those structures had to choose between rehabbing their moldy, soaked homes or tearing them down and rebuilding. My sister chose to rehab. One third of the homeowners on her block chose to demolish; some of them will rebuild and some will try to sell their now vacant lots. There hasn’t been so much open space in Lakeview since the 1950s when our family moved into the house that is now hers.

Sadness fills my heart this week because in addition to devastating the city where I lived the first half of my life, Hurricane Katrina killed my Mother. She was living in a nursing home in suburban New Orleans. She needed too much medical attention to evacuate with my sister, so she stayed. The staff chose not to evacuate the residents. They survived the storm but then had to face a total power outage and rising water. The flooding there was only a few inches, but that still was an intolerable situation in 90-degree heat with limited food and medical supplies at their disposal. To this day, we still don’t have the complete story, but we believe the residents were evacuated to the hospital across the street the next day, then a day or two later, began a travel odyssey that ended in a nursing facility in another part of Louisiana. Mom died within hours of reaching the new place … two years ago today.

Anger consumes me on a regular basis when I think about the ongoing nightmare of Katrina. I’m angry that after two years of struggling with insurance companies, government agencies and contractors, my sister is still not able to live in her home. I’m angry every time the President spews more bullshit about progress and promises. I’m angry at the guy who invented the pumps that drained the marsh that allowed Lakeview to be settled in the first place. I’m angry with the engineers whose faulty levee design led to the break and the officials who ignored two years of repeated warnings from concerned residents who lived next to the 17th Street Canal that the standing water in their yards was not caused by a leaking pipe. I’m angry that millions of dollars of Federal and State money that did actually make it to New Orleans was wasted, lost or stolen before it could help everyone it should have helped. At least my sister will be back in her house in a few weeks and her neighborhood will survive, even if it’s only a shadow of its former self. Many thousands of people in other New Orleans neighborhoods will never be able to return home.

From a distance, it appears that New Orleans has healed. Mardi Gras and JazzFest have been held twice since Katrina. The Saints won enough games in the repaired Superdome last season to almost make it to the Super Bowl. Slick TV commercials play all across the country enticing tourists to visit the city. Those that do can spend a whole week there and not see one damaged home. Walk a few blocks past the end of Bourbon Street and you’ll see the edge of one neighborhood that looks like it did just a few weeks after the water receded. Only 7% of that neighborhood’s residents are back. Get off any I-10 exit east of the Industrial Canal and you’ll see even more striking evidence of how much has not happened in two years. And FEMA wants those trailers back, even though the people living in them have nowhere else to live yet.

I began this post thinking I had nothing else to say. Guess I was wrong.

Monday, August 27, 2007

I Finally Did It

If you were hanging out with me around this time last year, you might remember that I was seriously considering a return to college. You might also remember that I wimped out at the last minute with the same excuse I've used for decades - don't have the time. It's a valid excuse, but an excuse just the same.

Well this year I quietly did the research, filled out the forms and took the online tutorial class and as of today, I am officially a student at the University of Maryland University College.

I'll begin my return to higher education with online classes, something that didn't exist when I left school in the 1970s. I was in my third year of college, had changed majors at least five times and was on and off probation. I sat out a year, returned for a semester, made the Dean's list and dropped out again.

Like many Boomers, I am a life-long learner but I've always felt that not getting my degree was unfinished business. A degree might have helped me along the way - I don't really know.

I have declared History as my major because I like it. My fantasy future job in my 60s or 70s is to produce documentaries, so a History background could help me then. My current job is writing, producing and voiceing radio commercials. It's a stretch to think this degree will have much influence on this career.

At this point in my life, however, a degree is just for me and not for my career.

Go Terps!!

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Gone Now, Gone Soon

Boomers reminisce a lot; maybe everyone does.

I was thinking about some items and brands that older Boomers grew up with that are no longer around. I don’t miss all of these things; I’m just amused when I think that I never thought I’d see the day when they would be gone.

Here are a few examples for your amusement:

Already gone or almost non-existent -

- Phone booths

- Plymouths

- Phones with wires

- VCRs

- Oldsmobiles

- Manual Transmission – in America, but not anywhere else

- Film

Gone within the next few years -

- Checkbooks

- Tube TVs with 4:3 ratio

- Computers connected to anything with wires

- Cashiers

Would you like to add anything to the list?

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

He Would Be 72

Some iconic statistics are hard to believe. Here are a few examples:

- Elvis died thirty years ago this week. Thirty years!!

- If he was alive today, he’d be 72 years old. Seventy two!

- Elvis recorded over 700 songs. Sixteen of them reached #1

- He is one of the few dead entertainers who had a #1 hit song in this decade … the remixed version of ‘A Little Less Conversation’ from the Nike commercial was released in the UK in 2002 and went to the top of the charts.

- Over 75,000 fans have converged in Memphis for the 30th anniversary of his death. Sadly, one of them died because of the heat wave there this week.

- Elvis bought Graceland fifty years ago at age 22.

- More than 750,000 people visit the estate each year. I was one of them in 1996.

Elvis is The King. But I don’t know that he influenced music as much as he kicked open the door to a new style of music for a restless generation of pre-Boomers and Boomers. Love him or hate him, it’s impossible to ignore him. Thirty years after his death, he is still a commercial empire, making far more money now than when he was alive.

Of the thousands of Elvis-related activities happening this week to commemorate the 30th anniversary of his death, the most unique is the release of a duet with his daughter. Lisa Marie Presley, who is almost 40 now, laid down vocal tracks over the original recording of her Dad’s 1969 hit “In The Ghetto.” It’ll be available this week on iTunes as a fund-raiser for the New Orleans branch of Presley Place, a transitional housing facility for homeless families.

I don’t have anything else to say about him; I just didn’t want to let the week go by without some kind of mention. After I post this, I’ll be searching my collection for that double CD Greatest Hits that I know is around here somewhere.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Boomerandomness 3

That's Right

On a TV newscast, you often hear one anchor say to another “that’s right” in response to the opening sentence of a story. “There are delays at the airport, John.” “That’s right, Mary and people are angry.” Just once, I’d like to hear the anchor say, “actually, that’s NOT right, Mary.”

Seen It All

From time to time you hear someone make the statement “now I’ve seen it all” to describe some incredible, unbelievable behavior they have just witnessed. Well I can safely say that now I really have seen it all. The behavior I observed recently: a guy driving a motorcycle at a high rate of speed in heavy traffic during afternoon drive in I-270 in Maryland did a wheelie. I mean this guy, while weaving in and out of heavy traffic, passing cars that were already doing 65-70 in a 55 mph speed zone, popped up on just his rear wheel and sped up even more, looking back as if to say look at what I’m doing! Isn’t this cool? I question whether or not this guy should have the right to drive. Or breathe.

Just Do It

In response to the recent bridge collapse in Minneapolis, one expert was quoted as saying that it would cost about $9 billion a year for twenty years to completely fix all the substandard bridges and roadways in the United States. OK, what are we waiting for? Get started. And don’t tell me the country can’t afford it. The Iraq war is costing almost $9 billion per MONTH!

Sunday, August 12, 2007


I think I’ve joined a cult. After years of hearing about this “club” I decided to join it today.

They have meeting sites scattered all over the United States. When you visit one of their meeting places you have to prove you are one of them to get in the door, a bright orange steel mesh affair with big locks.

In a way, they are like survivalists. They move supplies by the millions of items every day, right in plain site… everything from paper towels to clothes to meat. Some members even turn to them for innocent services ranging from insurance to wedding planning. I guess some of their members marry each other; many members are already married and join as couples.

Members of this organization swear by it. They talk to each other and anyone who will listen about the benefits of joining. Unlike other cults, however, these crafty members are out in the open about what they do. But non-members have no idea what it’s like till they actually see for themselves.

Meetings aren’t actually scheduled, but the meeting place is available to members at selected hours and days. Their rituals include a friendly greeting at the orange metal door, followed by a casual walk in the same direction down an aisle through at least half of their meeting site. Somewhere in the middle, the members split off into various directions in search of who knows what. New members are easy to spot because they don’t make eye contact with other members at first; new members are usually overwhelmed by the enormity of the meeting place.

They use normal currency to finance their transactions, I assume to avoid detection. But they also have their own currency, similar in appearance to a credit card, with the name of their cult boldly printed right on the card for all to see: COSTCO.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Space Teacher

Barbara Morgan is a 55-year-old Boomer. That means she was an impressionable girl during the early years of space flight and might have been as fascinated with astronauts and launches as I was. Maybe she watched Walter Cronkite narrate the TV coverage of Alan Shepard, John Glenn, Buzz Aldrin and the other early space pioneers and thought that she’d like to follow in their footsteps one day.

For Barbara Morgan, that day is here; she is the Space Teacher on the current Shuttle Mission STS-118.

Ms. Morgan was an elementary school teacher in Idaho when she first joined the Shuttle program in 1986. She was Christa McAuliffe’s backup and we can only imagine how she felt as she watched Challenger explode, carrying McAuliffe, the first teacher in space, and six others to their deaths just seconds after the launch.

And we can only imagine now the thrill she must feel finally making it into space.

In addition to being a role model for students and teachers, she also provides an example of creative aging, showing fifty-somethings and all others that age does not have to be a limiting factor in achieving our dreams.

In a short video piece on, Barbara Morgan humbly states that, “I am just the next teacher of many to come,” but I think she will be remembered as the teacher who carried out the legacy and dreams teachers and the rest of us shared twenty-one years ago when we watched Christa McAuliffe first walk down the hall toward Challenger.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Still Here

I won’t bore you with another rant about how busy I am. I’m certainly not the only busy Boomer or Gen-Xer on the planet.

But it just amazes me how busy we as a society have become. We have more options for time consumption and seem to have a greater capacity than our parents or grandparents for doing many things, often all at one time. We have many interests and we have the desire to pursue them.

But does all this activity really improve our quality of life?

One good thing about the simpler days of forty or fifty years ago is that there seemed to be time to get things done. We could focus our attention on one or two things instead of twenty or thirty. In high school I studied, played in the band, participated in a film club and in senior year I had a girlfriend. Yet, I always had time for all of those interests. I accomplished everything I wanted to without the aid of a cell phone, cable TV or the internet. And I only did one or two things at a time: drive and talk, play in the band and hang out with the girlfriend, study and, uh, study.

Now in my fifties I have one job that incorporates duties formerly handled by four different people, I commute a long distance so I can live away from the fray, I write this blog, I’m writing a book, I’m taking another run at returning to college, I exercise and on the weekends I work around the house and yard. Honestly, I don’t have the time or energy to focus totally on any one of those things with the degree of attention I would like to. I’m always tired except on Saturday afternoons because I’ve pissed away Saturday morning catching up on sleep.

Whine, whine, whine.

OK, I’ll stop now.

You are probably going through something like this too, in addition to child-raising responsibilities that I don’t have.

All that to say I’m still here. Thanks for visiting. I’ll have something with more substance to post again soon.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

To Boldly Remember

Last week was the 38th anniversary of Apollo 11, the first space flight mission that resulted in a human lunar landing. During the next three and a half years, twenty four more American men visited the moon and twelve of them walked on the moon’s surface. No one has been back since December, 1972.

A whole generation has grown up knowing moon missions only as something in history books or boring stories from us fifty-somethings who were obsessed with the whole idea of spaceflight and what it might mean for our global future. The Apollo astronauts who are still alive are all over seventy.

The anniversary went by with barely a mention. I thought Boomers were running the world and the media. What happened?

Some of the national news casts on television and radio might have noted the anniversary, but the main stories were about Pakistan, Hillary Clinton and Harry Potter. The mentions this date did get were usually short and near the end of the newscast – something we media folks call “kickers.”

My biggest disappointment, however, is that I forgot the date too.

I was a space geek as a kid, spending hours watching the endless space flight coverage on the three television networks we had at the time, yet July 20th was just another Friday this year and no newscast I watched and no DJ I listened to mentioned anything about Apollo 11 or that magic moment at 10:56pm EDT on Saturday night, July 20, 1969 when Neil Armstrong climbed down the lunar landing ladder and said “one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.”

Today I searched the internet to see if I was mistaken about the lack of coverage. The ABC Nightly News podcast gave it 2 minutes. Predictably, National Geographic, Moon Today (that really is a web site) and made mention of the anniversary. But one space news site I saw didn’t and I couldn’t find any newspaper stories across the country. Admittedly that could be due to my lack of good search skills.

What if the Columbus generation had had the same attitude? Few Europeans would have bothered to venture across the Atlantic after 1495. Queen Isabella’s successors would have been spending their country’s money on fighting wars instead of exploring the vast unknown. The United States might never have happened.

I think remembering events is important, not as a vehicle for living in the past or reminiscing about the often misnamed good old days but as a reminder to pay attention to lessons we might have learned from those events.

Moon missions united our country and our planet and gave us a positive vision of how science could improve our future. The spirit of exploration is a key part of the spirit of humanity and to paraphrase the opening line of the original Star Trek television series … which, ironically, ended its run a month before Apollo 11 … space is the final frontier and provides us with the opportunity to explore new civilizations and to boldly go … well, you remember the rest.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Fifty Questions

Found this on Kim’s blog. She found it on myspace. KJ borrowed it from Kim.

Part of why I bother with these at all is that I’m obsessed with analyzing people, including myself. Another reason is to encourage other people to answer questions about themselves. I like reading them.

Sooo, please answer these questions on your blog and let me know where and when.

1) What holiday is your birthday closest to?
New Year’s Day if you count holidays that involve a day off from work; Valentine’s Day if you mean Hallmark holidays.

2) Favorite song?
I can’t name just one. These are songs I try to sing along with in the car: Friends In Low Places, You’ve Got A Friend and I Heard It Through The Grapevine. Dorky, I know.

3) Favorite fruits?
Nectarines, pears and strawberries.

4) Does it bother you when someone says they’ll call you and they don’t?

5) Are you allergic to anything?
Not that I know of.

6) Is there someone/something you want?
I want to take a year off from my normal life for a driving tour of the U.S. Ain’t gonna happen, but it’s something I want. Someone I want that I don’t already have? Do you really think I’d say it here? 

7) When was the last time you went swimming?
Fifteen years ago. Really. Unless you count wading in the ocean as swimming; then it would be about four years ago.

8) How many states have you been to?
36 – Maryland, Virginia, West Virginia, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Wisconsin, Iowa, Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Florida, Alabama, Arkansas, Tennessee, Oklahoma, Arizona, Utah, Nevada, California, Kansas, Missouri, Kentucky, New York, Rhode Island, Connecticut, Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Colorado, Hawaii.

9) How many of the states have you lived in?
5 – Maryland, Wisconsin, Illinois, Texas, Louisiana.

10) Have you ever lived outside of the US?

11) How many countries have you visited?
3 – Canada, Jamaica, Mexico

12) What’s your favorite kind of drink?
Coffee or Merlot

13) Does anyone like you?

14) Do you have any strange pets?
Sometimes I think my dogs are strange. They have incredible, unique personalities.

15) What is your dream car?
A fully restored ’67 Mustang.

16) What’d you do yesterday?
Mow the lawn. It’s almost an acre.

17) Who is the last person you fell asleep and woke up next to?
My wife.

18) Do you and your last ex have a good relationship?
Haven’t seen my last ex-girlfriend in years and I have no idea where she is. And I don’t especially care.

19) Where would you want to go on a first date?
Not applicable. :)

20) When’s the last time you were kissed?
Two nights ago.

21) Has anyone ever sang or played a song for you personally?

22) Ever been kissed under fireworks?
No, but what an interesting idea.

23) Have you ever bungee jumped?

24) Have you ever kayaked?

25) Has anyone ten years older than you ever hit on you?
Once, in college. She was drunk and I was disgusted.

26) What sound are you listening to right now?
The whirr of the laptop fan and some TV show in another room.

27) What’s your favorite song of the moment?
I can’t pick just one.

28) What was the last movie you watched?
In theaters – Da Vinci Code (I don’t get out much). On TV – Hunt For Red October

29) Where is the last place you went besides home?

30) Have you ever seriously vandalized someone else’s property?
No, why would I?

31) Have you ever been punched?
No, but I punched a guy in high school. He was trying to push me into a pool and didn’t believe I can’t swim. He never talked to me again.

32) Did you participate in any sports in high school?
I did everything I could to avoid sports in high school. If I had my current attitude about fitness back then, I might have gone out for track.

33) What do you usually order from Olive Garden?
If I ever went there, I’d probably order Veal Marsala.

34) Say something totally random about yourself.
Most people who know me in real life think I’m quite and reserved. They’d be shocked to see there is another side to my personality.

35) Do you have an iPod?
I’m certain I’m the last person on the planet who does not. I plan to get one later this year.

36) Has anyone said you look like a celebrity?
Back in the 90s when my hair was longer and darker I was told I look a little like Seinfeld.

37) Are you comfortable with your height?

38) How tall are you?
5’ 11”

39) Do you speak any other languages besides English?
No, but I wish I did.

40) Have you ever ridden in a limo?
Many times … funerals, weddings, some radio station promotions and parties.

41) Has anyone you were really close to passed away?
Family, yes; close friends, no.

42) Do you watch MTV?
Not since they traded in videos for teenage soap operas.

43) What’s something that really annoys you?
Drivers who tailgate.

44) Do you have a crush?

45) Do you drive when you go on long trips?
Always. I’m a nervous passenger.

46) What’s the longest time you’ve ever stayed out?
Around 6 or 7am. It’s been a long time since I did that.

47) Have you ever thought you were honestly going to die?

48) Were you ever rushed by an ambulance to the emergency room?
Yes, sort of. I fell down the stairs when I lived in one of those tiny row houses in Baltimore. It was 5 in the morning, they did have the lights on and maybe the siren, but I don’t think they were rushing.

49) Who is the best roommate you ever had?
Myself. I’m close to admitting that I’m hard to live with.

50) Who was the last person to text message you?
Deena at work; she was answering a question I texted her.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Twelve Steps or Three Hundred Channels

Have you ever watched a new TV show out of curiosity and instantly became a fan? I started watching Burn Notice, in part because of the relentless promotional efforts and in part because a friend’s son has a small role in one of the early episodes.

I didn’t want to like this show, nor did I want to begin to follow a new series. The plots are totally unrealistic but the characters are likeable and flawed, just like me.

Two shows I used to watch every week without fail finally ended … West Wing and NYPD Blue. Law & Order and all of its spinoffs are on so many channels that I don’t have to make an appointment or program a VCR or Tivo; I just turn on the TV any time, day or night, and there they are. Same thing with CSI and its spinoffs.

But Burn Notice intrigues me. So did the Mad Men premiere this week. Now I’m hooked on both. And The Closer.

They say teens and twenty-somethings are addicted to television and its computer and iPod counterparts. But I know at least one Boomer who is addicted to TV … me.

As addictions go, this one isn’t so bad. It isn’t a drug, it isn’t alcohol or gambling. My only addiction is television. And coffee. Every morning I feed both addictions, mixing Diane Sawyer with Starbucks. But that’s for another post.

How did we get this way? OK, I won’t speak for other Boomers. How did I get this way? I grew up on only three channels. Eventually there were five channels in my hometown. But that was all, till cable. There were two types of Parental Controls, my Mom and my Dad. The quantity and quality of what we were allowed to watch was strictly controlled.

I was thirty before I had cable and then it was only twenty channels. One of them was a new novelty that played only music videos. Another played only movies that at one time had played in theatres; it had the catchy name Home Box Office.

Now I have 78 channels and I watch them all. One day I will convince myself to subscribe to all 300 of them. I’m just a little old school, however, because I grew up in an era when TV was free. Now I have to pay for it. So I only pay for some of it.

Is there a 12 step program for television addiction?
1. We admitted we were powerless over (television)—that our lives had become unmanageable.
2. Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves (Comcast) could restore us to sanity (OK, it’s NOT Comcast).
That’s all for this post. The commercials are almost over. Back to the show.

(PS – I mean no disrespect whatsoever for the real 12 Step programs)

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Just Wondering

The most Republican thing about the 40th President was his dislike for big government. Ronald Reagan’s inaugural speech included the sentence, “government is not the solution to our problem; government is the problem.”

So why are there are two huge government-related facilities in Washington DC named for Reagan? Just wondering.

One is the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center. It’s a huge structure on Pennsylvania Avenue, three blocks from the White House. The GSA (General Services Administration) runs the place and many of the tenants are Federal government agencies, including some Homeland Security offices.

The other is the Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport. It was called National Airport or Washington National Airport for its first forty-one years, but was renamed for President Reagan in 1998. Why would they name an airport for the President who fired all the air traffic controllers?

He must be spinning in his grave.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Boomerrandomness 2

- What scares you more: reports that Al Qaeda is gaining strength and may be working in the US again or reports that the terrorists behind the recent UK bombings are doctors? DOCTORS!

- Were you ever really sure which one was Starsky and which was Hutch? Which one was Cagney and which was Lacy?

- I hope the co-worker who ate the lunch in the Safeway bag with BERNIE written in BIG RED LETTERS on the side, enjoyed the sandwiches Tuesday. The Snickers bar I had for lunch instead was quite tasty.

- We are at a moment in time when the two hottest trends in media are 1) the huge plasma TV that bring all the in-your-face action to an entire wall of the room it’s in and 2) the iPhone that brings you all the in-your-face action to a screen so small that it has to be in your face to view it.

Saturday, July 07, 2007


Are you watching the Live Earth concerts today?

Are you soaking in the messages as well as the music?

I was a little skeptical about the sincerity and potential outcome of this global concert event. One hundred fifty artists performing in ten cities on seven continents to draw global awareness for environmental issues is a noble cause, but will humanity look at this as just a publicity stunt for the music industry? Or will we learn something from the messages that are spread throughout the television, radio and internet coverage?

Holding a concert for a cause is nothing new. One of the first was George Harrison’s Concert For Bangladesh in August, 1971. The concert, the album and the film has raised millions of dollars for UNICEF. Live Aid in July, 1985 was a huge two-venue, two-country event to help provide famine relief in Ethiopia. The early Earth Day celebrations often connected music with the environment as today’s event is doing.

Boomers can take credit for initiating the trend but successive generations are as much a part of this one as anyone. Boomer Al Gore is one of the organizers of Live Earth. Musicians include a generational potpourri of styles and artists: Madonna, Metallica, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Genesis (and Phil Collins), Duran Duran, Keith Urban, Kelly Clarkson, Linkin Park, Garth Brooks, Snoop Dog and more.

The temporarily reunited Police are scheduled for later today. No doubt they’ll perform Message In A Bottle, including the line I'll send an SOS to the world.

S.O.S. is a major theme in the logo and marketing efforts of this event. Does anyone younger than a Boomer know what S.O.S. means? And what the …---… means?

Televised coverage of this event includes many examples of simple steps individuals can take to help reduce pollution and other environmental problems. I usually consider myself to be environmentally aware, but honestly all I really do is recycle cans, bottles and paper. And turn out lights in empty rooms. Living 42 miles from work and commuting alone five days a week in an SUV with a V8 engine certainly does not bode well for me when I claim to be an environmentalist.

Maybe the awareness part of today’s event will change some of my behavior. Will it change yours?

A New TV Show Set In 1960

Mad Men is a new TV series coming to AMC. It is set in 1960 and the characters are ad men (and women) who work at an advertising agency. The pre-show hype includes a cool behind-the-scenes look at how the show was put together and the lengths to which producers went to accurately recreate 1960.

I was a kid then. Now I’m an “ad man” – I make radio commercials. Some synergy, ‘ey?. Here is some of what I remember from 1960 and some of what I’ve looked up.

If you weren’t around then, you might think the entire decade was peace, love, drugs, hippies and Hendrix. That was all part of the mid and late 60s. The first year of that pivotal decade was more like a carry-over from the 1950s.

On the surface, 1950s society appeared to be simple, conservative and boring. As the decade neared its end, youth culture began to exert some influence in the form of rock & roll music of the Elvis style. The Space Race had begun to influence style, particularly in the design of automobiles and kitchen appliances.

The early 1960s were more a decade of attempted coolness and class. It seems that every one smoked cigarettes and the three-martini lunch really did exist in some circles.

In 1960, thirtysomethings had fought and survived World War II and were trying to make their mark on society. Twentysomethings of 1960 were kids during the war. Their fathers had likely served in the military during the War and their mothers might have had a taste of the working world briefly while the men were overseas but now they were mostly back to being housewives.

An older generation still ruled style and politics, a younger generation began to influence some aspects of the culture and the oldest Boomers were not yet in high school.

Women who worked in 1960 were likely to be employed in clerical positions and their male bosses might expect them to engage in activities that involved the prone position. It is hard to quantify this behavior because it didn’t really make the news and wasn’t especially part of TV show plot lines. But overt sexism is “documented” in some movies of the era and in this new TV show.

A typical American family in 1960 had a mom, a dad and two or three kids, all living together in the same house. Divorce was still unusual. The typical household had one TV, one phone and one car. Dad worked all day at a job and mom stayed home and cleaned and cooked. Many TV shows on the 1960 schedule, such as Leave It To Beaver, The Adventures of Ozzie & Harriet and The Flintsones, portrayed that idealized American family.

You could feel change in the air in 1960. Dreams of spaceflight were about to become reality. The civil rights movement began to get high-profile TV coverage of events when four black college students began a sit-in at a segregated Woolworth’s counter in North Carolina on February 1st. In November, Vice President Richard Nixon, part of the old guard, was defeated in his bid for President by the younger John Kennedy.

It will be interesting to see how Mad Men handles the various aspects of 1960. Will it be reasonably accurate in how it presents the era (as much as any TV drama can be) or will it be a stereotype drawn from the same kind of ‘skim the surface’ research I did for this post? We’ll know in a few weeks.

Meanwhile, here are a few interesting links that provide a glimpse into the ad world of the 1960s.

TV commercials from 1960s

More TV commercials

A Slinky commercial

A Chevrolet commercial

And here is a 1960 song survey.

Friday, July 06, 2007

Are You Smarter Than A 5th Grader?

The local TV station that carries the Jeff Foxworthy “Are You Smarter Than A 5th Grader” show has a quiz on its website. There are only six questions. I can’t resist a quiz. I went to college so I must be smarter than a 5th grader.

I only answered 3 of the 6 questions correctly. A fifty percent score on a quiz is an F.


Tuesday, July 03, 2007

The Fountain of Youth

“Maybe the Fountain of Youth isn’t a fountain at all.”

A character in a Twilight Zone episode spoke that line and went on to tell another character that maybe the secret to staying young is as simple as playing kick the can. “Maybe it’s a way of looking at things, a way of thinking.” He said that the two of them played kick the can as young boys and as soon as they stopped playing kid games they started to get old. This conversation takes place at a “rest home” (old-age home, forerunner to assisted living).

Isn’t that a great way to look at life?

I’m not suggesting that we should act like children or that we should never mature. But if we think we should feel “old” and used up at a certain age, then we probably will.

The coolest thing about the Twilight Zone is Rod Serling’s opening and closing statement in each episode.

Here is how he closes this one:

“Sunnyvale Rest, a dying place for ancient people who have forgotten the fragile magic of youth. A dying place for those who have forgotten that childhood, maturity and old age are curiously intertwined and not separate. A dying place for those who have grown too stiff in their thinking to visit the Twilight Zone.”

Monday, July 02, 2007

In Our Lifetime

Did you know that the first commercial jet airline service began in 1957, fifty years ago? Before that, airliners had propellers. During the prop days, air travel was an expensive luxury reserved for the rich, and although planes were faster than trains or cars, a flying trip was still an adventure that could take a long time.

The most popular passenger plane during the 1940s and early 1950s was the DC-3. A trip from New York to Los Angeles on one of those cost $1,000 ($7,500 in today’s dollars) and took all day, including at least three stops for fuel.

I love old planes and the DC-3 is my favorite. Douglas Aviation also made a military version during WWII called the C-47 cargo plane. I took these pictures at the annual Andrews Air Force Base air show a few weeks ago. This particular DC-3 is a flying museum based at the Carolina Aviation Museum.

The plane at the end of Casablanca is also a DC-3.

We take jet travel for granted now. NY to LA takes about 6 hours with no stops, and tickets can cost as little as $400.

I knew that commercial jet travel began in my lifetime, but I didn’t realize it was 1957 till I saw that detail on the History Channel recently. That got me to thinking about other things that began or ended in the lifetime of fifty-somethings. Here are a few examples that might surprise you.

- Two of our fifty states became states less than fifty years ago, Alaska in January, 1959 and Hawaii in August, 1959.

- Color television wasn’t available on a regular basis till 1961 (Walt Disney's Wonderful World of Color) and wasn’t full time till 1966 (on NBC, later on the other networks).

- Black and white children usually went to separate schools until fifty years ago. Racial segregation in public schools was declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court in 1954, although the practice continued in many states for many more years.

- Seatbelts became standard equipment in some cars in 1964. They weren’t even offered as optional equipment till fifty-one years ago.

- Self-service gas stations started to take off in the 1970s. Before that, one or two men (yes, it was always men) would pump the gas, check the oil and clean the windows. By the way, self-serve stations are not allowed New Jersey and Oregon. Those laws were passed more than fifty years ago.

- Telephones with buttons were first available to the public in 1962. Before that, phones used a rotary dial. In case young readers have never seen such a thing, here is a picture of one. (Now you know where your parents get the phrase “dialing a number”.

Commercial computers are also a product of our lifetime. The first UNIVAC computer made its debut 56 years ago and only 48 of them were made between 1951 and 1958. The average model was 25 feet by 50 feet in length and weighed 16,000 pounds. There are no typos in that sentence. And this is a picture of one:

It did 1,000 calculations per second; that’s less computing power than a musical Hallmark card. The UNIVAC could store enough characters to spell out 1,000 words.

The laptop I’m using to write this post is less than 12 inches by 12 inches and weighs about 6 pounds. It can store several thousand songs.

At the dawn of the commercial jet age fifty years ago, we were certain that passenger travel to the Moon would be a reality by now. That hasn’t happened, but we can keep dreaming. Many of the events and inventions that fifty-somethings have seen were made possible by dreamers who dreamed big. My dream is that forty, thirty and twenty-somethings continue some of these dreams.

By the way, this is my 150th post.