Thursday, October 20, 2016

No Place Better

We could take a plane or a train to enjoy the magnificent colors this weekend as New England hardwoods prepare for winter. Or, we could hop in our car and take a four hour drive into the heart of Michigan's Upper Peninsula to view similar woodsy splendor.

Or, we could simply look out our living room windows . . . .

Monday, October 17, 2016

Our Rare Little White Neighbors

Sunday's regional newspaper carried a headline: "Rare albino squirrel seen." The sighting was in a subdivision of Brighton, a suburban community northwest of Detroit.

The story said a representative of the Michigan Department of Natural Resources stated she was surprised to hear of an albino squirrel being seen. The albinos result from an unusual genetic defect. The DNR spokesperson said the defect is so rare that the state doesn't even have a record of sightings. In addition to a low birth rate, predators easily spot the white fur of  babies and few albinos live to become adults.

We were a bit surprised to see the newspaper headline. About eight years ago, beautiful wife Sandy spotted an albino squirrel racing through our side yard and into the woods. About two years ago, a women in our community about a quarter mile from us photographed an albino in her yard. Perhaps they are a bit more common in the western part of the state than in the east.
  Our neighbor's photo was blurred, but the color clearly was white
Making squirrel watching interesting for us are many resident black squirrels, another subgroup of fox squirrels and the eastern gray squirrel. The blacks are rare in parts of the U.S., but quite common in woods near us and elsewhere in North America. We guesstimate that about as many blacks as grays raid our bird feeders and frolic in the woods behind our house.

Our black and gray squirrels get along very well, and we presume the only problems the occasional albinos have are with predators. Perhaps some Americans who can't seem to accept neighbors of different colors could take a lesson from our furry friends.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Gd Gd Almighty, It Is Grand

Four summers ago, the Geezer posted the following lament with the full expectation that words here would have no impact on the highway gurus in Lansing.  Does the restoration of Grand to our signage signify the power of this blog to carry a message, or simply the dawn of common sense? I think the latter.

Thursday, August 09, 2012

Were I in charge of the Grand Rapids Chamber of Commerce, I would be irate and demanding change in the way the name of my city is routinely butchered by the Michigan Department of Transportation. MDOT consistently replaces Grand with Gd.

Yes, they could sneak "ran" in
Grand Rapids deserves a full ID.  It is known for several, admittedly not overly important, things.  Grand Rapids is Michigan’s second largest city.  Grand Rapids is the birthplace of former President Gerald Ford. Grand Rapids is a leading producer of office furniture.  More important to me, the city has two really good Mexican restaurants. 

How demeaning is a contrived Grand abbreviation? Can you imagine a sign saying: Gd Canyon--27 miles? 

Could MDOT put the “ran” back in Grand as a practical matter? Of course it could.  Possibilities include compressing the type, enlarging signs a bit, moving arrows, and changing the shape of arrows.

Because I am not the head honcho at the Grand Rapids Chamber of Commerce, the strange signage is of no personal concern. Anyway, it is starting to pop up all over, so Gd may be making a move toward supplanting Grand in common usage. A recent Google travel search yielded this instruction: Turn right to merge onto US-131 N toward Gd Rapids.”

                                           * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * 

Lo and behold . . . This summer MDOT decided to make things right. At least a dozen signs in our area suddenly pointed the way to GRAND Rapids!  Included was the one I photographed back in 2012. Here it is today. The picture was snapped from a slightly different angle because a tree limb had grown to block part of the sign from the original camera viewing point.

Isn't it grand?

Friday, October 07, 2016

How Do You Feel . . .

When I started this blog ten years ago, I had the misguided notion that it would provide some widespread benefit as younger readers thirsting for knowledge about life eagerly sopped up my accumulated wisdom. I simply forgot a truth about human nature, at least the nature of most Americans.

It is clear that young adults in the U.S. have scant interest in learning from the experiences of fully mature adults (AKA honey, sweetie, old man, granny, etc.). Advertising predominantly portrays the young enjoying life with the product being pushed. Television shows and movies glorify youth and often portray parents and grandparents as silly old people to be circumvented when necessary and ignored when possible.

This seems strange. It is obvious that people learn from experience. One would think, then, that the less experienced among us would want to avoid pitfalls by consulting the most experienced at every opportunity. However, as a teenager and beyond, the older a relative or friend became, the less inclined I was to ask them about anything. I've seen no evidence that things have changed.

Because we all obviously are subjected to the aging process, it also would seem that as they grow older the kids would ask fully mature adults how we feel at various stages of our lives so they would have an idea of what's to come. Yet, I've never had that sort of question put to me by anyone a generation or more younger than I.

Since we geezers are unlikely to be asked to provide serious information, we may as well offer some light-hearted thoughts about how we feel. Most of the time, I feel very good. There's a lot to feel good about. Blogging friend Ramana Rajgopaul provided a look at some of the less important positives with a list defining a "Seenager" a few posts ago. It brightened my day--perhaps it will do the same for you:

Friday, September 30, 2016

A True Spartan Sportsman

Amid all the sordid news about bad conduct by athletes and coaches throughout the sporting world, it is good to note there have been many instances of true sportsmanship. Two recent unrelated events caused me to recall one of my favorite positive sports stories.

Last Saturday, I watched the Michigan State University football team in action because they were hosting my Wisconsin Badgers. The next day, Arnold Palmer died. Palmer dominated professional golf for years, first on the regular tour and later as a participant with other older stars in the Legends of Golf tournament and similar events.

Throughout the 1980s and 90s I played golf many Saturday mornings at a course near our home in  Ogden, Utah, with a group of men who jokingly referred to themselves as the "Local Legends." Some of us were as old as Palmer and the rest of the real "legends," but none of us came anywhere close to their skill level. It was easy to join our group; anyone who wanted to play could.

By the luck of the draw, one Saturday I wound up in a foursome with a newcomer named Jones who was a professor at Weber State University. Dr. Jones was a big man who hit golf balls a long way, but not terribly accurately.

It was fall, and the chit-chat in our foursome naturally turned to football. "Did you ever play?" Jones was asked.

"Oh yeah," he replied, I was a  defensive tackle for a couple of years at a small west coast school."

"Which small school?"


That exchange got some laughs, and also led to a question about Jones' experiences on the gridiron. He said only one was memorable.

"We played Michigan State. They had a lot of talent that year; we were pretty lousy. They beat up on us every which way.

"After we took our licking, we were sulking in our locker room when the Spartan coach knocked on the door. He asked our coach if he could speak to us. No one I know ever heard of an opposing coach doing that.
Daugherty earned many well-deserved honors
"Duffy Daugherty stood in the middle of the room and told us we had nothing to be ashamed of. He said even though we were over-matched, we had played our best to the very end, and he was impressed. He told us it had been an honor to coach against us that day. He said if we lived the rest of our lives with the perseverance we had shown, we would always have reason to be proud of ourselves."

Although he didn't specify the contest, Jones probably was referring to a game in 1961 when the Spartans beat Stanford 31-3. That year MSU's record was 7-2; Stanford went 4-6.

Several years later, Daugherty's Michigan State team was named national champions in a poll of coaches. Dr. Jones' story led me to believe coach Daugherty was one of the true champions we sorely need today in sports.  

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

We Must Thump Trump

I watched the first televised presidential debate in 1960. It pitted Richard M. Nixon against John F. Kennedy. Nixon appeared sinister with his dark "five o'clock shadow" beard and evasive answers to questions. In contrast, Kennedy's image was one of a handsome, confident young man making clear, crisp comments.

As a confirmed Republican, I voted for Nixon anyway. That turned out to be one of the major mistakes of my lifetime.
She got it right, he got it wrong.
Last night, we watched a bully talk over his opponent and interrupt both her and the moderator increasingly as the debate wore on. Donald Trump's comments more often than not were exaggerations, inaccuracies, far off the point, or downright lies. Hillary Clinton stayed calm throughout the onslaught, made only two questionable statements I could detect, and was clear and crisp in presenting her positions.

Electing a deceitful racist whose interest appears to be limited to himself would be a tragedy for America and the world.

I'm not going to repeat my 1960 mistake. Hillary Clinton clearly is the candidate who as President will continue working hard to make America stronger and the world a better place.

Monday, September 19, 2016

Well, Well . . . Some Prices Fell

We fully mature adults living primarily on pensions are acutely aware of price increases, some of them enormous, for things we increasingly need such as medical and dental care. Any cost of living increases included in our incomes haven't come close to covering our expenses for some time. And any interest on risk-free savings has dropped 50 percent or more in the past few years. Sometimes it seems if we live long enough we are destined to wind up joining the ranks of the poor.

But some prices have fallen. Basic clothing prices have declined for years as the U.S. textile industry moved to countries with low wages. Gas prices are about half of what they were a year ago thanks to a glut in world oil supplies.

Last week, I was surprised to discover another area in which prices have dropped dramatically. The revelation started when my computer screen went black for no apparent reason. A visit to the Geek Squad provided a temporary fix, but when the problem returned after everything possible had been adjusted it became obvious a new monitor was needed.

My monitor was eight years old. I dimly remembered paying a fairly hefty price for it at a major electronics store. My recollection was correct; the old receipt for $319.00, including speakers and tax, turned up in a file. Considering eight years of inflation, I expected a heavy hit.

A bit of research showed the best price for a monitor of the same size and brand (Hewlett Packard) with new speakers, and again including tax, came to $192.00. And lady luck helped. The day I
Hey, geezers. "Old fashioned" electronics got cheaper.
headed out to make the purchase, the local Best Buy store ran a big sale. I bought precisely the monitor I wanted for $132.00.

Wasn't the quality lower as well as the price?  Heck no. The flatscreen LED picture is brighter and clearer than what my old monitor provided when new. The styling is far superior, making my office space more attractive. The sound from the new speakers has better range and can be controlled more precisely. The new monitor is better than the old one ever was in every respect.

How in the world can a store sell a superior product for less than half the price it would have received eight years earlier for a piece of equipment that performed the same functions?

Sometimes, "supply and demand" works to the advantage of consumers, and in the case of electronics I think that is just what is happening. Many companies jumped into the personal computer market as demand skyrocketed. That market now is saturated, both because of a higher production total by the competing firms and because laptops and smart phones are now all the rage among electronic gadgets. A lot of competition for fewer and fewer buyers of towers and separate monitors has driven prices down, and probably will continue to do so.

So, fellow geezers, take heart. When the kiddos chuckle at your old-fashioned computer setup, smile and secretly resolve not to change your ways. Staying electronically challenged may be saving you a bundle of cash you can use to pay some of that next dental bill. And your "computer" will never fall out of your pocket and break or be lost as you travel to your next doctor appointment.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Back to Blogging

It’s that time of year—back to school, back to work, back to leaf raking. So why not back to blogging? On June 14, I started a summer break from posting stories here. My thoughts at the time included the possibility of never returning.

Serious writers know that the act of frequently coming up with a new thought and developing it into a coherent story is mildly stressful at best and difficult most of the time. The reward for writing is not found in the act itself, it is in the good feelings authors experience when readers make their presence  known. And readers generate great pleasure for writers when they say they liked what was written.

In my 80th year, it was becoming harder to come up with new material, and anything that smacked of “work” was increasingly distasteful. Although my blog readership statistics continued to increase, the number of comments had been static for some time.

Reader reactions were bittersweet during the first weeks of my hiatus from blogging. It was gratifying to hear from friends old and new who said they hoped my summer would be enjoyable and they looked forward to my return. On the negative side, some people who I care greatly about showed they care very little about my work by not even noticing the absence of posts. Happily, the positive reactions were much more numerous than the negative.

Two anniversaries played the biggest parts in convincing me to return. The most important happened less than two weeks ago. Beautiful wife Sandy wrote on Facebook: “55 years ago today on September 2, Dick and I were married. WOW! It doesn’t feel like that long ago. It’s been a fun and adventuresome ride. . . looking forward to many more!”

Presiding over this blog has been part of the “fun and adventure” for me for a long time. The blog's tenth anniversary was July 11. During our traditional anniversary dinner, Sandy and I agreed that ten more anniversaries are quite likely in our future.

So how is an octogenarian to spend another decade? Embark on entirely new activities? Minimize all activity and concentrate on pure rest and relaxation? Stick with the activities that were part of the fun and adventure of the previous half century? 

I crossed the last item off my bucket list last year. New adventures are not on my horizon. I'm still feeling good, mentally and physically, so doing nothing at all would drive me batty. So, it's back to blogging with no guarantees about frequency or quality. Seeing how that works out should serve to generate some fun while continuing to pursue an old adventure

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

So Long for a While

Ah, the sun is shining in Southwest Michigan, the flowers are blooming, and the little patch of forest behind our home is green and growing. Spurred by the long-awaited warm season, the geezer petitioned the big blogger in the sky for a sabbatical. And the wish was granted.

So, I'll be taking an open-ended vacation from posting here. Until we meet again, may you enjoy peace, prosperity, and a full measure of  happiness.

Friday, June 03, 2016

Graduation Gifts to the Unworthy

It's graduation time once more accompanied by a spate of news stories on various aspects of the educational rituals. A few focus on the costs of speakers. The Associated Press did that on May 25, just as the commencement ceremony season was getting under way.

We did a brief survey within our small family. Not a single person could remember who was the featured speaker at their high school or college graduation ceremonies. To be definitive, a broader survey surely would be needed, but our little sampling seems to question the truth of statements by college leaders that paying for celebrity speakers serves to impress alumni who make donations and causes potential students to take an interest in their campus.

A representative of Kean, a small public university in New Jersey that paid two speakers $80,000, claimed it was a reward for the graduates: "It makes their commencement just that much more memorable." Well, not if the grads don't even remember who the speaker was, much less what was said.

Do you remember who spoke and what they said at a graduation ceremony honoring your class?

Regardless of the validity for doing it, paying stars to perform at college graduations has come under some heavy fire in recent years. Of course, private colleges and universities can do what they please. The questions involve public institutions, whose leaders constantly complain that they are receiving inadequate taxpayer funding. If they speak truth, why are taxpayer dollars being devoted to activities that are not directly related to educating students or performing important research?

The good news is that the practice seems to be declining, according to AP data from 20 public universities that were asked about paying notable speakers to perform, including providing travel expenses. As part of the study, a large speaker booking agency was questioned. A representative said the firm was getting fewer requests for paid graduation speakers. Growing criticism of the practice was thought to be the cause. Of the 20 universities responding to AP's request, 16 said they aren't paying speaking fees this year.

The bad news is some universities have joined the payola group in recent years, and some fees are a bit startling. Rutgers made its first payment in 2011, rewarding author Toni Morrison with $30,000 for her talk. The University of Houston paid astronaut Scott Kelly $35,000. The University of Oklahoma paid television personality Katie Couric a whopping $110,000 back in 2006.

Last year, my school, the University of Wisconsin, paid Ms. Couric $3,100 for first-class flights from New York to Madison to speak at commencement. I don't object to paying travel costs, but couldn't she have flown coach or business class? And why not travel on her own dime? Wikipedia says Katie Couric is worth about 75 million dollars.

The Couric engagement brings up another concern. She certainly is a successful person, and therefore qualified to deliver in inspirational message. But she is a graduate of the University of Virginia, not Wisconsin. Every issue of the Wisconsin alumni magazine carries stories about highly successful graduates in many fields. One would think the school could sign up any number of graduation speakers without any cost simply by offering an honorary degree, or perhaps even without the degree offer. Most grads would consider it a high honor. Wouldn't you?

There was no problem this year finding a Wisconsin grad who is both famous and successful. Russell Wilson did the honors. He graduated six years ago with a liberal arts degree after quarterbacking the Wisconsin football team for two outstanding seasons. He has gone on to a successful professional career with the Seattle Seahawks.

Some, of course, would question the selection of an athlete when successful graduates in more important venues were available. However, I listened to Wilson's speech and it was terrific. He did a marvelous job of relating how he overcame serious obstacles to succeed at what he chose to do, and linked those experiences to some good advice to the grads. The selection committee must have strongly considered the message and the speaker's ability to deliver it.

Perhaps members of the UW Class of 2016 won't long remember who spoke or what he said, but if some do, the memory will be of a message from a fellow Badger. And the taxpayers didn't have to pick up a hefty tab to make it happen.