altara

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

College Savings Accounts


"Obama drops proposal to cut tax benefits of 529 college savings plans"

At a time when Obama is proposing free community college, I wonder who came up with this bright idea to increase the cost of college attendance.

Friday, January 23, 2015

family stuff




HIGHLIGHTS & LOWLIGHTS FROM THE TEENS AND BEYOND

In my last year of elementary school, I was part of a relay team that was victorious at the Ardmore Relays and received much publicity, including photos, in local and Philadelphia newspapers. Perhaps inspired by this, I went out for track in Junior High. But for some reason, perhaps lack of sufficient speed, the event I chose to compete in was the pole vault. “Compete” is hardly the correct word choice because I failed to vault higher than 7 feet, a height that many high jumpers can clear.
But the competitive spirit never dies and I later found myself captain and high scorer on the junior high chess team. More informally, I did learn some gymnastics and also finished second in the school’s wrestling tournament.
Junior high (then eighth and ninth grades) was also a time of interacting with other cultures, learning that there were dirty comic books, and haltingly making my way socially. Academically, it turned out quite successfully resulting several awards including one for highest average ever achieved.
I can sum up a history of high academic achievement, from grammar school to state bar  examinations, as the result of being a quick learner and an excellent test taker. I was never a thinker or scholar.
World War II. We all remember where we were at the time of a fateful event, such as the Kennedy assassination, or the 9-11 attack. When we were attacked at Pearl Harbor, December 7,1941, I was engaged in an inter-neighborhood touch football game we called the “Toilet Bowl”. Since I was just 15, the impending war did not mean immediate military service, but it soon affected our lives in a variety of ways.
As the war progressed, my father became more and more involved. He was a local air warden but, more importantly, he was an active armchair general. He had maps and battlefield area layouts on our dining room table and hung on dining room walls. With these, he could follow the progress on various war fronts and speculate on future actions.
Other changes were the hanging of blackout curtains, gathering in our blanket-enclosed living room to save on heat, following war news closely, and rationing, including gas rationing. Shortages of butter and nylons did not mean much, but gasoline was something else. At least I developed an important skill – siphoning gas from other cars.
So now it was high school, a time of great fun, some social trauma, and some sports. Although I mostly enjoyed playground basketball, my sport turned out to be wrestling. I was quite good at it, serving as co-captain in my senior year, and continuing to participate and do well in college at Princeton. Although I did not do well in post-season tournaments, in individual meets I did once defeat a Pennsylvania state champion and later an Eastern Intercollegiate champion.
Back to high school.  I also played on the high school soccer team one year and one year went out for track. I guess that neither I, nor the track coach knew my premier event since, when he was asked what I was out for, he replied “I think fresh air”.
Did well academically, but not outstanding. A couple of “deportment” issues. In Miss Fuller’s Latin II class, I must have talked too much for her taste since she made me move my desk to the corner, where I sat in her class for the entire year. Near the end of our senior year, a time of pranks and other foolish behavior, I took to roaming the space above the classrooms. Unfortunately, on one of these excursions, the accomplice I took that time put his foot through a classroom ceiling panel and we were caught.
College.  Since my father and his father had gone to Princeton, it was natural for me to   apply there. But in 1943 there was a war on, and so military service was both obligatory and desired. Along with many of my classmates, I tested for the V-12 program to be assigned to a college for an 18-month program in preparation for service as a naval officer.
V-12 notices came out, but none for me; and so I enrolled in the freshman class at Princeton. I obtained a room assignment and shipped my clothes and other items. About a week before my planned move to college, I received my Navy V-12 notice, assigning to me to  -- Princeton! Not only that, but in the barracks (nice dormitory) I roomed with three of my friends from high school. The navy contingent, about 100 of us, was housed in Little Hall, one of the many handsome housing dorms at the college.
Except for a few drills and some required courses such navigation and engineering subjects, life in the Navy at Princeton was not much different than freshman civilian life. We were awakened early each morning to assemble in front of the dorm. There were few other required events but once we and the Marine contingent had to do a “strength” competition featuring push-ups, sit-ups, and timed events such as an obstacle course with climbing over walls, crawling through pipes, and other tests. I finished first in the competition, but hurt for days. We could do college sports (I was on the Princeton soccer and wrestling teams), wander on campus, go out most evenings and away most weekends.
In summer months, I went a few times to our parents’ house in Stone Harbor at the New Jersey seashore. Took various friends with me. Also, during this Princeton stay, I often went to New York to go to jazz clubs or to see performers such as Mort Sahl and Lenny Bruce. Among the musicians I was able to catch were Louis Armstrong, Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie, Charles Mingus, and Thelonious Monk.
I did quite well academically, especially in history, taught by an excellent professor, “Beppo” Hall.  We really liked him; one evening, three of us visited him at home to apologize on behalf of classmates who had insulted him that morning. I had a personal problem with calculus, which I could handle very well (although I never really understood the point of it all). Our professor was a fine German mathematician, quite dogmatic. The problem was that on the first test I mostly just put down the answers without showing my work. He accused me of cheating and from then on to the end of the term we never spoke and I mostly just wrote letters during class. However, he did give me an A, because I could ace the exams.
In my first year at law school, I encountered the same problem, receiving a poor grade on the criminal law exam because I tended to write down only the conclusions.
Much later, I learned that Michael Bloomberg had the same problem throughout his schooling. In examinations, he often did the work in his head; failing to show it on paper, and he consequently received lower grades. Fortunately, we both overcame these obstacles and became billionaires.
Military service. When I completed the 18-month Navy program in November 1944, World War II was still raging. I wish that I could regale my children and grandchildren with heroic tales of combat and valor, but I cannot. After a brief period of desultory training in cold, dreary Asbury Park, NJ, I was sent to midshipman school in Chicago.
This was a time of easy courses and much fun. I frequented jazz and blues clubs and for a time dated the beautiful daughter of a Chicago reporter, Jake Lingle, who got involved with the mob and was murdered in the ‘30s. She was my date for dining and dancing one evening at the Palmer House hotel to the music of Les Brown, with Doris Day on the vocals.
That was a good Spring in Chicago. A few of us were excused from final exams because of good grades and there was concentration on the popular prom ending our term. Many Chicago girls hoped to attend. I had 3 possibilities: my “steady”, Jane, a nice, nice- looking girl from New Jersey, who had visited me here one weekend, Ann, a very young and attractive girl from my hometown, who had stopped by Chicago with her parents, and Lore Lingle, my pretty Chicago companion who was a bit more sophisticated and advanced than this callow midshipman. Had a great time, with Lore.
Near the end of Midshipman School, I volunteered to serve in a navy unit called Scouts and Raiders. At the time, this unit’s mission was to sneak into Japanese-held Pacific islands prior to invasion by our forces and bring or send back tactical information.
(“The pigeons always came back”) However, by the time I was commissioned and sent to the training camp we had about run out of islands to invade and so the mission had been changed to fighting as guerillas against the Japanese in China.
Although we did do some of the original training, such as strenuous swimming and carrying rubber rafts through swamps, the type of training had changed. We had classes to learn the Chinese language (but Mandarin only) and lots of training in judo and other hand-to-hand combat.
My fellow volunteers were mostly a rough and ready lot, big football players and other athletes. One older guy had fought in the civil war in Spain and tried to recruit some of us for the International Brigade. We all partied strenuously. In my more foolish moments, I several times “stole” the Elk head from The Elk Club, carrying it back on my lap on the bus to the base. So I looked very foolish.. I always did return the trophy. A welcome respite from our daily training was when the base commander would summon several of us to his “office”. This meant that he wanted to play an hour or so of volleyball.

On to more war stories. As the war was ending, our training camp was closed and we were all sent to various other naval assignments. I was assigned to an LCFF ship (an LCI landing craft fitted out to be a flotilla flagship) and sent to San Francisco to await further travel orders.
A high school classmate, Ted Friel, happened to be sent there by the Navy at the same time. He knew well a classmate, Ginger MacDonald, who had moved with her family to San Mateo and arranged for us to stay with them. Ted stayed with the MacDonalds and I stayed with nearby friends, the Griffins.
I got along well with the son, Merv Griffin, a witty and talented friend of Ginger’s. He was maybe a year older, at 20, and had already achieved some success as a local radio personality. He and I went out to San Francisco a number of times to various shows and clubs, some seeming a bit strange to me. One evening, we went to a small party in a luxurious apartment. The hostess was a sophisticated lady who may or may not have been the notorious Peaches Browning.
After a couple of weeks, the Navy sent me in search of my ship, which was moving around the Pacific. First I travelled to Samar, in the Philippines, staying in a small base at the edge of a forest. While waiting for further orders, I often trekked through the forest, carrying my large Navy knife and sort of pretending that I was in deep, darkest Africa. But I saw no dangerous beasts and the few “native” settlements I encountered were not inhabited by cannibals but with friendly people who cared little that I was passing by.
The Navy had a habit of sending me to a port where my ship was at the time the orders were cut. So began my chase aroung the Pacific. The next destination for me was Shanghai, China. Travel there was no fun. It was in a crowded troop ship that encountered a small typhoon. Needless to say, my tendency to get seasick returned in full force. By an odd coincidence a  one of the ship’s crew members was a guy named “Whitey”Bennett, a boy I had beaten in a high school dual wrestling meet. A day after the meet, I had learned from newspapers that Bennett had been state champ the year before. We had a couple of good chats.
But then, Shanghai!  A bit run down, but exotic. Historic, teeming harbor, shops, rickshaws, famous bars.  Of course, my ship was not there, having departed for some Pacific island. So, I spent a week or more enjoying this storied city. I wandered around the streets and alleys, and probably foolishly trying some of my Chinese phrases. Foolish, not only because of my limited ability but especially because I learned only Mandarin while in Shanghai they speak Cantonese.
Shanghai had become a haven for White Russians and other émigrés. For some reason, probably the uniform, I found myself invited to some swank parties in fancy apartments. White Russians and others there seemed ever so worldly and sophisticated. Some were quite attractive and charming.
Finally, my stay came to an end as I was sent to Okinawa to meet my ship. The ship had gone so I had almost a week there. I met some friends from high school and enjoyed visiting with them at the Officers Club. Off I went to Guam to meet my ship. Instead, I was sent directly to the hospital, with pneumonia. After 3 or 4 days, I was released so that I could, finally, join my ship as it set sail.
Our LCFF was small, about 150’ long by 35’ wide. Its complement was 3 officers and 11 crew. The captain was Eddie Doyle, the son of a New Jersey bookmaker. He was an engaging, wise-cracking guy, who ran a very informal ship. Also, an inveterate girl chaser. (If I declined to go bar-hopping with him, he sometimes returned to the ship to get me, bringing 2 young ladies with him.) But he was a smart captain as witnessed in Galveston when he docked the ship facing seaward so that we were the only ship that escaped unscathed from a dockside fire. The executive officer was a serious, competent guy who kept things in somewhat good order.
As I said, our ship was informal. Music blared all day long. (I can still hear Evelyn Knight singing “Let him go, let him tarry”)..We had an open galley.; if available, the crew could go there at any time to get a steak, strawberry shortcake or other goodies. One day the first mate and I had a boxing match ( a draw). One time, while in port, this same first mate had his girlfriend staying with him on the ship.
My job, mainly, was to stand 4 hour watches (4 on, 8 off throughout the day and night). This meant running the ship from the conning tower, up top, mainly just staying on course or staying in position when travelling in formation. The conn was open to the sky and in the Pacific, at night, it was beautiful.
Because of my illness, for the first week or so I just stood watch and went to bed. A crew member later told me that for my first 2 weeks, he thought I was a passenger. Our destination was Hawaii.  On the way, we encountered some really bad weather. I can still feel the big thud as the ship lurched from one swell to another. Each time, it felt that the intense shaking would tear the ship apart.
Docking near Honolulu, we spent about a month there. Among other enjoyments, the captain and I drove to the North Shore and played golf at a beautiful little course in the middle of the island. With tongue in cheek, I like to say that I learned to surf at Waikiki Beach. Not really true, for riding a surfboard there was like descending on an escalator.
Then, off to San Diego, an easy trip. An attractive and busy town. Lots of Navy there. As recounted elsewhere, that is where I, as a neophyte commissary officer, ordered 144 gross of doughnuts. Early the next morning, when I got back to the ship, the crew and boxes and boxes of doughnuts were waiting for me. Looked as though these stacks and stacks of boxes would sink the ship,  I spent the next few days selling as many doughnuts as possible to other Navy ships.
Next, we were ordered to Galveston, Texas and set off along the coast of Mexico to the Panama Canal. This was indeed a beautiful trip.  The weather was good, the coastline was interesting and we encountered dolphins, flying fish, birds, and much other sea life. At one point, we stopped the ship so that I could go overboard and catch a sea turtle. Not a real big one, shell maybe 15-18 inch diameter. We got it aboard, took photos, and let it go.
Crossing Panama through the Canal was a great experience; actually the only canal I have ever encountered.  Great locks filling up, interesting terrain, etc.  A night out and about in Panama City was different sort of experience. Seemed to be mostly brothels, seedy bars, and similar establishments. This city was not alone in this respect, but all bars seemed to have young women (“B girls”, I believe) who would join you, engage in suggestive talk, and order copious amounts of expensive drinks.
Out of Panama and on to Galveston, an easy trip. We were docked next to warehouses, stocked with sugar cane and other tropical products. Lots of stevedore activity (in fact, one day I joined the shape up hoping for a day’s work, but was not chosen.). Lots of fun there.  Played a lot of basketball. One player, an Illinois grad, tried to recruit me, talking scholarship but probably just full of it.
In Galveston, I spent a lot of time at a jazz club listening to music and talking with guys who knew so much more about jazz and singers than I did. And, at least once I managed to visit a swank nightclub. It seemed to be a protected place where politicians and other shady characters could gamble and do business.
Leaving Galveston, we headed for Jacksonville, Florida.  When we neared Key West, we received orders changing our destination to New Orleans.  The air was warm, the water was clear, and so we decided to stop at sea and have a swim. As the ship slowed, the first mate jumped overboard to start the swim.  Unfortunately, the ship was still moving and so he, not much of a swimmer, was soon some distance behind. I was up on the conn and mostly for fun, but probably also for show-off, made a high dive into the water. All I recall was that I went really deep. Swam back to the sailor; he was fine and we were soon joined by most of the crew.
To dock in New Orleans, you have to travel many miles through the Mississippi River delta. An interesting trip, the ship being piloted by a seasoned pilot who joins the ship before entry.
Spent several weeks in New Orleans,  awaiting my discharge and becoming Captain when Dolan left. Not a bad place for a young man to be. One memory is of two or three evenings spent with a very attractive dancer I met named Stormy. She and her friends kept inviting me to join them at a “tea party”.  I thought this meant marijuana and although I never bought “Reefer Madness”, declined in order to avoid trouble. (My suspicion that Stormy was an exotic dancer was confirmed when, years later, she appeared on the cover and in an article in Life Magazine.)

Iran sanctions

"Netanyahu to address Congress on March 3, Obama not planning to meet with him"

House Speaker John Boehner undercut his own government by inviting Netanyahu to speak to Congress. The idea is to denounce opposition to an increase in sanctions on Iran, which the Administration opposes as a threat to the promising negotiations about Iran's nuclear. This invitation, made without approval of the White House or State Department, violates international protocol and may well harm our own country.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Thoughts on Language

F---  You!

There seems to be now frequent use of the F word, and I don't much like it.  When I was growing up and for much of my life it was rare and disdained. It was used at times by high school kids and low level workers from the rough side of town. Now, it often serves as an all-purpose adjective used by executives, housewives, students, actresses, and authors.

The first time I encountered prevalent use of the word, in various forms, was during the summer of my high school junior year. I worked in a lumber yard in South Philadelphia, which was largely devoted to creosoting railroad ties. My main job was hammering "S' irons into the ends of the ties. The work was a bit hard and the stacks of ties seemed endless. Work began at 8 a.m. and I remember that on my first day, after hours of work, I checked my watch and saw that it was 9:15.

The workers there were mostly from difficult neighborhoods nearby and a quite rough group. They picked on me a bit, as a "rich college guy", but most were  very friendly and quite helpful. And nearly all had a large vocabulary of uncouth words.

A later encounter with frequent use of the F word was during Navy training. We were a group of college kids but were joined by a few veterans from the fleet who brought with them a supply of curse words.

After that, it was a long, long time before the F word became so widespread and, I guess , somewhat acceptable. Although the word is still a bit jarring for many of my ancient generation, I fear that it has lost much of its sting.

GOP caring

"Mitt Romney's Re-Invention As Anti-Poverty Warrior"

Jeb Bush and other GOP hopefuls have expressed similar sentiments.

I'm eager to see they and their Republican colleagues support legislation dealing with minimum wage, paid sick leave, food stamps, medicaid, social security, etc.

 

Friday, January 16, 2015

Family StuffSnapshots from Youth For my grandchildren and others who haven’t experienced much of a carefree youth, I offer notes and short vignettes from one suburban person’s childhood in the 1930s. From age six on, I lived in a quiet neighborhood in suburban Philadelphia. This was before the housing boom after World War II; and so quite a few homes were bordered by fields. Most lots were a half-acre or more and many were shaded by old and very tall trees. Substantial wooded areas were close by. This was heaven for a young boy who climbed trees, caught snakes and lizards, created hideouts in tall field grasses, and wandered through the woods. There was space for dogs to run and for kid to play Capture the Flag and other games. The elementary school was about 2 miles away over a couple of quiet roads, with one stretch of a major road. However, at that time traffic was not heavy or frantic; and so soon I was allowed to ride my bike to school. The school was fairly large and attractive, serving grades 1-7. The principal was a woman, as were all the classroom teachers except for Mr. Turner in 7th grade, a large and somewhat intimidating man. I recall having a crush on the attractive second grade teacher, Miss. Jarrett. She was very nice to me. The atmosphere was quite different in 3rd grade, taught by a very strict Miss Baer. After one incident, which I forget, she taped my mouth and locked me in the closet. I’m sure that I deserved this, and suffered no aftereffects, but fancy that working in these litigious days. Also, it may have been in her class when, one early morning, the teacher entered to find me leaping from desk to desk exclaiming “I’m King Kong”. Movies can be very influential. During these early grades, my report cards invariably contained all A’s except for a category then called, “deportment” I don’t recall many misdeeds besides talking too much. At one point I did help lead a student strike, against some administration injustice that I now suspect was trivial. I also participated in a major fistfight against a class bully, staged in the schoolyard and surrounded by student spectators and cheerleaders. When authorities broke it up, we were both bloodied and still swinging. Typically, we then became great friends. In fifth grade, taught by a wonderful Miss Hayes, I learned all the grammar I ever needed to know. She was a stickler for correct grammar, punctuation, and sentence structure. Those many hours were spent parsing sentences paid off in later years. Meanwhile, late afternoons, weekends, and summers were times to play. By myself, or with buddies, many, many hours were spent at the creek that flowed through nearby properties. When not catching crayfish, we were racing tiny, makeshift boats through narrow channels . These homemade vessels were carved out of bark or other wood or fashioned out of small household items such as little caramel candy boxes. Animals were a particular lure. I caught rabbits, squirrels, lizards, snakes, and turtles. I probably shortened my mother’s life by occasionally bringing in a snake and putting it in front of her on the kitchen table. Often my long-suffering parents had to help me keep these in boxes, cages, and in our laundry tub. Some were liberated, some died, and some were our guests for a long time. One memorable event arose from an unidentified cocoon that I placed on the kitchen windowsill. One morning, my mother came down to fix breakfast and found the kitchen overrun by thousands of tiny praying mantis babies that had emerged from this cocoon. They were everywhere, windows, walls, stove, table. My mother spoke to me about this experiment Another particular memory is of Gunter, a German boy who, at age twelve, came to the U.S. from Germany, perhaps as a refugee. We became good friends as I helped him learn English and the ways of our pre-teen world. A word he learned early was “dead”, as I reenacted the expiration of the injured squirrel that I had been caring for. After school, most hours were spent outside - at the creek, in various forts, exploring the woods by myself or with friends. In winter there may well have been sledding, on hills or on the street. Before school, on cold winter days, I often met a friend at six a.m. to go ice skating on a pond about a half a mile away. This pond was also the site of some rudimentary ice hockey and occasionally a brief plunge through thin ice into cold water. Climbing roofs For some reason, I was attracted to climbing roofs and scaled most of those in the neighborhood, a habit not always appreciated by the neighbors. Never fell but had some close calls, as when a tile on our steep slate roof would slip away. Never had a climbing injury; closest was when a poplar tree branch broke giving me a sharp drop but luckily just missing some sharp rocks. I had a great little sister, Betty, who was game for most anything, including boxing me in the attic. A pain that she always wanted to follow me; a plus that she had some very cute friends, which I noticed. There was a tough bully, Felix, who would occasionally ride his bike into our neighborhood, teasing girls and intimidating boys. One day he went after my sister; and so I went after him. He never returned



Snapshots from Youth
 For my grandchildren and others who haven’t experienced much of a carefree youth, I offer notes and short vignettes from one suburban person’s childhood in the 1930s.
From age six on, I lived in a quiet neighborhood in suburban Philadelphia. This was before the housing boom after World War II; and so quite a few homes were bordered by fields. Most lots were a half-acre or more and many were shaded by old and very tall trees. Substantial wooded areas were close by.
This was heaven for a young boy who climbed trees, caught snakes and lizards, created hideouts in tall field grasses, and wandered through the woods. There was space for dogs to run and for kid to play Capture the Flag and other games.
 The elementary school was about 2 miles away over a couple of quiet roads, with one stretch of a major road. However, at that time traffic was not heavy or frantic; and so soon I was allowed to ride my bike to school. The school was fairly large and attractive, serving grades 1-7. The principal was a woman, as were all the classroom teachers except for Mr. Turner in 7th grade, a large and somewhat intimidating man.
 I recall having a crush on the attractive second grade teacher, Miss. Jarrett. She was very nice to me. The atmosphere was quite different in 3rd grade, taught by a very strict Miss Baer. After one incident, which I forget, she taped my mouth and locked me in the closet.
I’m sure that I deserved this, and suffered no aftereffects, but fancy that working in these litigious days.  Also, it may have been in her class when, one early morning, the teacher entered to find me leaping from desk to desk exclaiming “I’m King Kong”. Movies can be very influential.
During these early grades, my report cards invariably contained all A’s except for a category then called, “deportment” I don’t recall many misdeeds besides talking too much. At one point I did help lead a student strike, against some administration injustice that I now suspect was trivial. I also participated in a major fistfight against a class bully, staged in the schoolyard and surrounded by student spectators and cheerleaders. When authorities broke it up, we were both bloodied and still swinging. Typically, we then became great friends.
 In fifth grade, taught by a wonderful Miss Hayes, I learned all the grammar I ever needed to know. She was a stickler for correct grammar, punctuation, and sentence structure. Those many hours were spent parsing sentences paid off in later years.


Meanwhile, late afternoons, weekends, and summers were times to play. By myself, or with buddies, many, many hours were spent at the creek that flowed through nearby properties. When not catching crayfish, we were racing tiny, makeshift boats through narrow channels . These homemade vessels were carved out of bark or other wood or fashioned out of small household items such as little caramel candy boxes.
 Animals were a particular lure. I caught rabbits, squirrels, lizards, snakes, and turtles. I probably shortened my mother’s life by occasionally bringing in a snake and putting it in front of her on the kitchen table.  Often my long-suffering parents had to help me keep these in boxes, cages, and in our laundry tub. Some were liberated, some died, and some were our guests for a long time.
 One memorable event arose from an unidentified cocoon that I placed on the kitchen windowsill. One morning, my mother came down to fix breakfast and found the kitchen overrun by thousands of tiny praying mantis babies that had emerged from this cocoon. They were everywhere, windows, walls, stove, table. My mother spoke to me about this experiment
 Another particular memory is of Gunter, a German boy who, at age twelve, came to the U.S. from Germany, perhaps as a refugee. We became good friends as I helped him learn English and the ways of our pre-teen world. A word he learned early was “dead”, as I reenacted the expiration of the injured squirrel that I had been caring for.
 After school, most hours were spent outside - at the creek, in various forts, exploring the woods by myself or with friends. In winter there may well have been sledding, on hills or on the street. Before school, on cold winter days, I often met a friend at six a.m. to go ice skating on a pond about a half a mile away. This pond was also the site of some rudimentary ice hockey and occasionally a brief plunge through thin ice into cold water.
 Climbing roofs  For some reason, I was attracted to climbing roofs and scaled most of those in the neighborhood, a habit not always appreciated by the neighbors. Never fell but had some close calls, as when a tile on our steep slate roof would slip away. Never had a climbing injury; closest was when a poplar tree branch broke giving me a sharp drop but luckily just missing some sharp rocks.

I had a great little sister, Betty, who was game for most anything, including boxing me in the attic. A pain that she always wanted to follow me; a plus that she had some very cute friends, which I noticed. There was a tough bully, Felix, who would occasionally ride his bike into our neighborhood, teasing girls and intimidating boys. One day he went after my sister; and so I went after him. He never returned

Soccer

Yaya Toure fails to commit long-term future to Manchester City

So, maybe Barcelona can pick him up (for big money).

As I've said before, I think that Barcelona needs a marauding midfielder such as Toure, to go along with their excellent tika-taki  game.

 

 

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

"House GOP Votes To Block Protections For Undocumented Immigrants" 

Guess we need that compassionate conservative back.

politics

"Virginia lawmaker wins election from jail"

Maybe General Petraeus can start his political career from a similar location.

Old family stuff

Old Family Stuff



The Best ofTimes
Throughout modern history, there have been many memorable eight-decade periods. Think of the times of the Magna Carta, or the Renaissance, with its great artists, or the American and French Revolutions, In the 19th century, there were the Napoleonic Wars, the American Civil War, the Emancipation Proclamation,  the assassination of Abraham Lincoln, and the rise of the Industrial Age. 
Why these few examples and the eight-decade spans? Because one of my daughters pointed out that my eighty-year life span has included events of much more interest and importance than hers promises to be. Without predicting the future, I can agree that I have been fortunate to live in a period of eighty-plus years since.1926. This period may not be the most eventful and memorable in history, but I’m sure it comes close. 
So I reflect – somewhat randomly. 
In 1926, we were in the middle of the Jazz Age and the stock market boom. Lindbergh crossed the Atlantic. Then came the 1929 crash and the Depression, unemployment, hobos, bonus march, dust bowl.  Although too young to comprehend these, I did see the newsreels of breadlines and encounter the occasional hobo.  
And I got to see many of the movies of the 30’s, a memorable decade for Hollywood movies. In came talkies, with The Jazz Singer. Then color. Along with Tom Mix and Zorro at matinees, I saw gangster movies like Little Caesar, Busby Berkeley musicals, Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers, Shirley Temple, The Good Earth, Gone With the Wind, and the early careers of movie stars such as Bette Davis, Katherine Hepburn, Spencer Tracy, Cary Grant, and Humphrey Bogart.  
Beginning in the late forties, movies became the cinema, with auteur directors, and we began to see great foreign films such as The Bicycle Thief. And movies continued to be a part of our life, with classics such as Casablanca and The Godfather influencing how we saw the world around us. To this day we enjoy some great movies each year along with at least a few excellent TV programs, such as The Sopranos,
More serious stuff.  During my lifetime, we had the Spanish Civil War, World War II (the “Good War”), Soviet Union occupations and gulags, Mao Tse-Tung’s triumph in China, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, Rwanda, and Darfur, as well as 9-11, Iraq and Afghanistan. . We also had FDR, Churchill, independence for India and many other nations, as colonialism waned. Apartheid ended peacefully in South Africa. We saw the beginning and end of the cold war, the break up of the Soviet Union, the rise of China and its opening from the West.. The developed and developing nations have had long-term prosperity, despite a few “bubbles” and recessions. The U.S. became the world’s major power.
Inventions. We didn’t discover fire or the wheel, and evolutionary theory and the theory of relativity preceded me, as well as the invention of the automobile and airplane, But my time has seen nuclear power (and bombs), the double helix, transistor, laser, the God Particle, and transformational growth in car and air travel. We have seen space flight, man visiting the moon,and the Mars Rover. Life is better on earth as a result of advances in medicine such as vaccines, penicillin, CAT scans and MRI’s. 
The inventions of television, the computer, and the internet have changed the way we live and work. Television gives us our news and entertainment, but the computer and internet have completely transformed business, communication and our daily lives. 
Our social fabric and culture have undergone other monumental change: the sixties, the civil rights movement and, perhaps the most profound of all, feminism and recognition of the equality and capability of women. That new role for women immeasurably changed the home and the workplace. Civil rights and women’s rights have reversed the practices of centuries. 
Literature during these eight decades has been wonderful, both informing and engrossing. But I would hesitate to make any claims against decades that include writers such as Dante, or Shakespeare, or Dickens, or Yeats. Nor would I venture into the world of art, trying to compare with Monet or Matisse.
Back to entertainment. I have been privileged to watch great ballets, listen to world-renowned orchestras, and experience inspiring theatre.. I have lived through the heyday of Broadway plays and musicals in the 30’s and 40’s, up to the still vibrant theater of 2007. From Eugene O’Neill and Arthur Miller to Tony Kushner, from George Gershwin to Andrew Lloyd Weber, from Kaufman & Hart to Mel Brooks.
Music colors our memories. My life span has been blessed with the likes of Paul Robeson, Marion Anderson, Louis Armstrong, Billie Holliday, Frank Sinatra, Miles Davis, Charlie Parker, Ella Fitzgerald, Judy Garland, Lena Horne, John Coltrane, Duke Ellington, Elvis, the Beatles, Bob Dylan, and the Rolling Stones. (some of these seen in person) And this is just a short list.
So the past eight decades have been eventful and exciting. Would that I had confidence that each eight-decade span for my children and later generations could match this one. They will undoubtedly see more inventions and advanced space travel. Blogs, facebooks, and information will be plentiful, but breakthrough inventions may be scarce. And they have been left with a seriously degraded earth, with fewer coral reefs, glaciers, and species. My generation has been a poor custodian of our planet. I hope they do better.
Addendum. Brief notes in 2013. We have seen the end of the disastrous Iraq war and the long, inconclusive war in Afghanistan, as well as the establishment of the International Space Station, a housing bubble and worldwide recession, and the Arab Spring. In the U.S. the election of the first African American President, intractable opposition causing gridlock and slow recovery. Also, exposure of excessive spying. The world lost Nelson Mandela. Our culture embraces the Iphone, apps,  Facebook, Twitter and other social media. Google and Amazon continue their quest for world domination.


Wednesday, January 07, 2015

Barcelona president Josep Maria Bartomeu calls early elections

Management changes, rumored fallout between star player Messi and coach Enrique, and recent spotty play may have sparked this call for elections.

I worry most about recent poor play. This club, my favorite, has highly skilled, small, quick players including the incomparable Messi. They pass the ball superbly and always dominate possession time. But, despite stellar strikers, too often Barca has trouble scoring.

 What they need, in my opinion, is one big power midfielder such as Yaya Toure. Hope that they can get him or another of his caliber.                                                        

 

 

 

Monday, January 05, 2015

Politics


Republicans Say They’ll Act Fast to Push Their Agenda

Frightening. Only the President's veto will prevent substantial damage.  How did we get here? Partly because money and weak Democratic efforts let Republicans take over so many states, providing an opportunity to influence national elections. Then, last year, too many Democrats failed to emphasize, or even support, the successes of the Obama administration.

You have to win, Hillary.