Monday, April 21, 2014

End Of An Era

Some of you may remember (or not) my decision of a few years ago to drop the daily home delivery of my hometown newspaper, opting instead to read the online version.  It was less expensive, could easily be accessed away from home and there were no longer piles of old newspapers with which to deal.  As someone who had read the paper cover to cover since about the age of 10, it was a big change.

A couple months ago the paper began a huge ad campaign touting the big changes on the horizon.  They promised more national and international news, a new look with easier to read type (which matters not online), more sports and broader, more in-depth coverage.  Oh, and more color.

So the Day 1 of all the big changes comes and I felt like I had been poked in the eye with a stick.  They provided more national and international coverage by inserting portions of USA Today, also a Gannett publication.  Same with sports, just stuff in part of the USA Today sports section.  The Local section no longer had its own space in the online edition, instead being somewhere in the middle of a USA Today section.

I had already cut back on my reading of the local rag, primarily because there are so many news sources available on the internet.  Sometimes I would go 3-4  days without ever accessing the paper's web site.  To my own surprise, I didn't feel I was missing much.  So I'm dropping my online subscription.  No more hometown paper for me.  There's just too much of it that I either don't care about or can find elsewhere.  I still have access to 20 free stories each day on their Cincinnati.com site.  Between that and the local TV station sites I feel I'm getting enough local news.

We'll see how it goes.  Maybe I'll miss it and go back.  But if I wanted a USA Today I'd buy one, which I often do anyway.

Friday, April 18, 2014

The Enemy Within

Peter Bergen of CNN.com had an interesting observation the other day regarding Frazier Glenn Cross (a.k.a. Frazier Glenn Miller), the alleged shooter in the three killings in Overland Park, KS last week.  Mr. Cross, after being apprehended, was filmed in the back of a police cruiser shouting "Heil Hitler".  Mr. Bergen wondered what the reaction of media and the public would have been had Cross shouted Allahu Akbar.

We have become conditioned since 9/11 to believe that the greatest threat to our safety and security are Islamic jihadists.  If Mr. Cross had shouted something that led us to believe he was motivated by Islamic beliefs, it's not hard to imagine the media frothing at the mouth and devoting every minute of airtime to the story.  We would be looking under every rock for possible accomplices.  There would be talk of sleeper cells and suitcase nukes.  Heads at Fox News would explode.

But Cross yelled "Heil Hitler" and so we dismiss him as a lone Neo-Nazi, extreme right wing nut job, as if he lived and plotted and planned and acted in a vacuum.   But as Rachel Maddow pointed out on her MSNBC show, these extreme right wingers are organized, stay in touch online and often turn to crime, such as robbery, burglary and counterfeiting to fund their activities and weapons caches.  They are not lone nut cases who just go off one day.  They have web sites, online forums and message boards where they feed each others hate and paranoia, support each others objectives and trade ideas on creating havoc and opposing the government.

Ms. Maddow also had a chart showing an interesting stat.  Since 9/11 jihadists have killed 21 Americans.  In that same period right wing extremists have killed 34 Americans.  And yet we don't pay the right wing nuts the same attention we do the Islamic jihadists.  It's as if they are hiding in plain sight.  These people and groups are filled with hate, extreme in their anti-government views and they're well armed.

It seems to me that I'm much more likely to be harmed by one of these wing nuts than I am an Islamic fanatic.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Very Special Friends

By The Big Guy
Senior Contributor

Not really a lot for me to say this week. I’ve been preoccupied. I bought myself a book and believe it or not I am reading it, even though I have mentioned in the past that I just buy books and don’t read them. But this book is different, mostly because it’s about seventy-five percent pictures, maybe eighty percent. The book reminds me of some of the funniest moments in a small portion of my past and the joy of sharing those moments with some of the wackiest characters I ever met. Their pictures and the myriad details of how they came to be so well known are spelled out in this volume. Perhaps you might remember them yourselves. Perhaps they touched you as they touched me. 




                             
The book is The Art of Jay Ward Productions by Darrell Van Citters. It will take you on a trip in the WABAC Machine to Los Angeles and Mexico City and Madison Avenue from the 1940s to the 1980s. And all the time I’ve been gone one phrase kept echoing in my head.

Hey Rocky, watch me pull a rabbit out of my hat.

C'mon.



Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Hero Of The Week

Army Sgt. Angelo L. Lozada, Jr.
Age:  36
2nd Battalion
17th Field Artillery Regiment
2nd Brigade Combat Team
2nd Infantry Division
Died 16 April, 2005
Ramadi, Iraq

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Can't Even Get Hate Right

A 73 year old man who has long held and publicly expressed anti-semitic views, shows up in Kansas City and shoots to death a man and his grandson at the Jewish Center and later shoots to death a woman at a predominantly Jewish nursing home.

The doctor and his young grandson gunned down in the Jewish Center parking lot were both Methodist.  The woman killed at the nursing home was Catholic.

I guess you can't identify Jews by their appearance.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Families Are Fun

We just got back from a family gathering in Indianapolis.  The occasion was the Bar Mitzvah of my 1st cousin twice removed.  That would be the son of my 1st cousin's son.  Whatever, it was a happy gathering, with lots of food, drink, photo ops and gossip.  We arrived by dinner time Friday and left after a nice brunch on Sunday.

Sandwiched in between was the actual Bar Mitzvah on Saturday morning.  My religious observances could politely be called non-existent.  The only thing that kept me seated for the 21/2 hour service was the promise of a free lunch afterwards.  The whole thing was enough religion to last me for a good, long while.

All of this is just to set the scene for my weekend with the family.  With my aunts and uncles all having died off, the family for me now consists of cousins.  My first cousins range from early 60's to early 80's.  Their children are mostly between mid 30's to mid 50's and their children are generally between 10-18.  Needless to say, my first cousins and their spouses are the ones I know best, having seen a lot of my cousins when we were kids and being the closest in age and interest as adults.

Family gatherings present an interesting dynamic.  Let's just say you don't want to be the first to leave; you will be talked about.  Actually, you don't have to leave to be talked about.  At the Sunday morning brunch, held at the home of the Bar Mitzvah boy, I'm sitting on a screened in porch talking with one group when I pick up the distinct dulcet tones of Mrs. Grumpy in the house explaining the meaning of my tattoos to the group at her table.  They could have asked me, but nobody did.  A short time later my sister yells across the room "You have a blog?".  Uh, yeah, for almost 6 years.  Thanks for your interest.

Lots of gossip.  Did cousin so-and-so's ex remarry?  I don't know, but she's right over there, why don't you ask her.  Another cousin's son is getting married in September.  Don't you think they are spending an extravagant amount on their wedding?  Don't care, it's their wedding and their money.  I'm just along for the free food.  The awkward moment when you realize one cousin is a certified Tea Party supporter.  Or the talk about the uncle who was a known philanderer, but has been dead for 15 years.  He his story gets re-hashed at every gathering.

My sister rode home with Mrs. Grumpy and I and we talked about everyone else.  Best part of the trip.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Huh?

I read a number of blogs written by individuals and nearly all of them use Captcha, a system that requires commenters to enter two words or two series of numbers to root out robots and spam.  Hell, I use it here and it's effective.  But many times it's a pure pain in the ass.  Some of the words are just plain unreadable.  There are times I've hit the refresh icon 4 or 5 times before I get two words I can decipher.

I've also found a few oddities in the way Captcha works.  More and more I'm being asked for numbers instead of words.  Which I applaud; the numbers are much easier to read.  But there is a blog I read every day and the Captcha will differ from one device to another.  If I comment on the desktop or iPad it asks for numbers.  But if I use my phone I get words every time.  Why would it differ depending on the device used?  My guess is that The Big Guy will know.

I know Captcha is a necessary evil; when I didn't use it I was inundated with spam on this blog.  But why do so many of the words have to be so difficult to read?  If the robots can't read the easy words, are they able to read two easy words?  Can they only be stopped if one word is unreadable by robot or human?

Actually, soon none of this will matter because the Heartbleed Bug is going to wipe out our complete online presence.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Why It's Time for Dave to Go

By The Big Guy
Senior Contributor

David Letterman makes me laugh…frequently. I’ve been watching him late at night since he started thirty some years ago. His humor is my humor. His sensibilities are my sensibilities. I think we are very much alike in temperament. It may have something to do with us both being born in larger midwestern cities within months of each other. Doesn’t matter. He makes me laugh.

I feel like I have spent a good portion of my life hosting my own personal talk show. Not so much the interview part but more the monologue part. From an early age I am pretty sure I was class clown. I made funny faces at the drinking fountain just to see if I could get classmates to crack up and shoot the water out their nose. If the teacher was out of the room before the bell rang I’d write funny things on the blackboard for my own personal amusement…and I guess to entertain everyone else. I was the guy who got an unsatisfactory in the report card category “Makes good use of his free time.”

This didn’t stop when school ended. I got into a profession where there was a certain appreciation for the quick-witted comment, the well-honed bit of sarcasm. And there’s been our personal life, where I have expressed to Mrs. Big Guy on more than a few occasions my feeling that we have been invited to gatherings with the expectation that I would be a significant part of the evening's entertainment, opportunities I wound up enjoying because I guess that’s just the way I am.

But you know, something has happened in the dozen or so years since I actually held a paying, full-time office job. There's no longer an opportunity to exchange jokes with people. It must be a school thing or a workplace thing. Most of my TV time used to be spent watching half hour sitcoms. Now it’s spent watching hour-long dramas. Every time I try to get interested in a sitcom I don’t find it very funny. The Office was my first clue. People raved about it. It did nothing for me. Then there was 30 Rock and Modern Family. Nothing. And just the other night I sampled Silicon Valley on HBO. Halfway through Mrs. Big Guy looked over from the sofa and said, “I don’t hear you laughing.” I explained that I got it, I understood what they were trying to do, that it was clever and all but it just didn’t make me laugh. The curse of being clever but not funny. That’s the worst.

Our sensibilities are determined by our life experiences and the longer we’ve been around the larger our life experiences library. What may be new, or at least fresh, to my friends the millennials may be something I saw forty years ago and then again twenty years ago. Plot lines or punch lines that may have once surprised me now just remind me of when I first heard them. Nothing’s really new, just different. And every individual of every generation eventually comes to that realization.

That’s why it’s time for Dave to go. It breaks my heart to say it because I will miss him and all of his idiosyncrasies. But he is of my generation and even though he still makes me laugh, just like I may still kill at my fifty year high school reunion a few years from now, it’s time to turn the show over to some millennial who will do things Dave has done a thousand times but in a fresh way that will make other millennials laugh. And that’s what matters.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Hero Of The Week

Army Pfc. Casey M. LaWare
Age:  19
2nd Squadron
11th Armored Cavalry Regiment
Died 9 April, 2005
Landstuhl Regional Medical Center
Landstuhl, Germany
From injuries suffered April 6 in Mahmudiyah, Iraq

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Driving Mrs. Grumpy...Crazy

I got into the classic car hobby in 1996 when I bought a beat up old '60 Impala.  I had long been interested in old cars and trucks, but never really thought about owning one until I saw the Impala parked in a driveway with a "For Sale" sign in the window.  Car had rust in a lot of places, a bad starter, ripped headliner and the extremely undesirable Straight 6 engine.  But it was a start and I was hooked.

Three years later I moved up considerably with a '54 Chevy Bel Air.  The car had a mild custom look; it was nosed, decked, shaved, California one piece bumpers and had a beautiful Lt. Aqua body with a white top.  The interior was rolled and pleated.  A Chevy 350 engine with headers, Flowmaster mufflers and air conditioning.  I added my own touches, replacing the American Racing Torq Thrust wheels with smoothies and having the trunk finished to match the interior.  I thought I would own that car forever.  I was wrong.

In 2003 I started to get antsy for a different car.  That ended with selling the '54 and buying the '67 Camaro.  I had loved the body style of the first generation Camaros since I was a kid and unlike the '54, which was built to be a cruiser, the Camaro was built to go...fast.  I've improved that car too over the years, adding headers, a new clutch and transmission, new glass all around and in 2011, a complete re-paint.

Now, after 11 years, I'm ready for something different.  Going fast doesn't hold the allure it did when I bought the car and I've gotten the rear end loose a few times too many.  I'm ready to settle into something that I can cruise into the sunset.  I want a pick up.  I've been searching for some time and just haven't found the right combination of quality and price.  I'm headed to another auction in May and their preview has some interesting possibilities.  Like the 1950 Ford F1 shown above.  Looks mostly original and the flathead 8 engine only puts out 139 hp., enough to cruise the highway, but not enough to get into trouble.

Mrs. Grumpy would rather I stand pat, but I have a plan.  Find and buy the right truck and sell the Camaro.  If done right, I'll have the last classic of my life and make a few bucks on the deal.  It's the definition of win-win.  Don't tell her what's going on.  Let's make it a surprise.

Monday, April 7, 2014

Annoying, Entitled Millenials

Mrs. Grumpy and I are in the habit of being in bed by 10:00 (feel free to insert your own old people joke).  Most nights we watch House Hunters on HGTV.  If you haven't seen it, the premise is that a couple (sometimes a single person) is searching for a new home.  They are invariably between 23-34 and are house hunting for a variety of reasons.  Sometimes they need more room for a growing family, or they want to be closer to work, or they recently married and want to merge households.   The show can and does take place almost anywhere in the country.  The home buyers are shown three homes that fit their criteria in terms of budget, location, size, layout etc.  Then, at the end of the half hour, they pick one to buy.

I liked this show a lot better before it was leaked that the episodes are often staged, with the buyers having not only looked at many more properties, but in some cases have actually made their choice and closed on a property before the filming even starts.  You never know which ones have done that so it all now has a somewhat phony feel to me.  Many of the buyers have realistic budgets for first time home seekers, say $150-$200K.  But it's surprising how many of these young couples have budgets of $400-$500K.  The show describes their occupations in general terms, so you never have a clear picture of exactly what it is they do for a living.  Even with two incomes it seems a stretch to think that two 26 year olds have incomes to support the mortgage on such expensive properties.  Or even the traditional 20% down payment.

Then when they tour the homes all they do is whine about what the home doesn't have, mostly the wives.  "Well, it doesn't have the granite counter tops I wanted".  "I really wanted a double sink in the master bathroom."  "These are laminate floors, you know I wanted hardwood."  "I have to have a walk-in closet."  And on and on and on.  They're never happy.  It's never enough.

To me, this is what you get from the "trophy generation", the group that was raised to believe that they were winners just for participating, and at the end of the season everybody got a trophy.  Now they think they deserve a trophy house on their first trip to the plate.

Friday, April 4, 2014

Coffee And Guns

A few days ago my good friend kden at Feel Like Complaining, a blog you really should be reading, wrote a post about a coffee shop in her city that had armed its' employees in response to a rash of coffee shop hold ups.  She didn't think it was a good idea and that it might even encourage criminals to prey on this shop to see if the female employees can handle their guns.  I respect her opinion, but I disagree.

Numerous studies have proven that criminals will pick the path of least resistance.  For instance, installing an alarm system in your home and displaying signage to that effect, has been proven to be an effective deterrent to home theft.   It would take a special type of stupid to pick the alarm protected house over the house with no security.

It seems to me that the same would apply to a business.  Why try to rob someone who is armed when there are plenty of unarmed targets out there?  How many times do you hear of gun shops being held up during business hours?  It doesn't happen because criminals know the employees are armed. 

If I owned a small business I would only arm my employees if I felt they were in an environment that would lend itself to being a target, ie:  located in a high crime area; open late hours; large amounts of cash on hand etc.  Even then I would make carrying a weapon optional.  I would never force someone to carry a gun against their will.  Any employee wishing to carry would be required to take the CCW class, get a CCW license, put in a certain number of hours on the range and take a tactical defense class.  I don't want people in my employ running around with guns without extensive training in their safe and effective use.

I understand that some people would choose not to patronize my business because they have a fear of guns or are afraid they are going to get caught in a shoot out if a robbery does occur.  I honestly believe that if an armed robber enters a store while I'm shopping, my chances of survival are better if the employees are also armed.  I'll take my chances that the employee with the gun will take out the robber before he/she starts randomly shooting people.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Who's Going to Jail?

By The Big Guy
Senior Contributor

There’s something I will never understand about corporations and it’s probably because I never partook of the rarified air they must breathe in the boardrooms on the high up floors with the scenic views. Apparently it’s that air that shakes your brain and reorients your instincts to the point where you clearly believe that people don’t matter.

At the pinnacle of the corporation is the chief executive officer, the CEO. She/he is put in place by the chairman of the board and his/her fellow board members to run the joint, to not fuck things up, and to announce to the world every ninety days that the corporation has turned a profit.

What amazes me about the CEO club is that its members seem to be able to do no wrong, even when they do wrong. They are paid enormous amounts of money, as much or more than your high priced ball players, yet they seldom work up a sweat or tear an ACL. And all they have to do is announce that profit every ninety days. If they don’t, they’re out. Of course they’re not fired. They leave to take advantage of other opportunities. And they leave with an even gianter wheelbarrow of cash and stock than they got in the first place. Within a short period they wind up as CEO of another corporation and that’s why it must be a club.

You need to know that there are two basic ways that a corporation can show that profit. They can make more money or they can spend less money. So, when the ninety days that ends after Christmas is going great and you’re selling rattan bar stools like there’s no tomorrow, you’re making plenty of money and you announce your profit. Along comes the ninety days at the end of March. Everybody has all the bar stools they need. So you lay off two hundred people in accounting, three hundred from the assembly line and let your Indonesian rattan supplier know that you’re cutting your order by seventy percent. You spend less money and you announce that profit. See? People don’t matter. It’s all about the money.

And that brings me to General Motors. Fourteen years ago someone, or several someones on one of those high up floors with the scenic views, decided that it would really screw up that quarterly profit announcement if they had to admit that they had a problem with ignition switches and issue a recall. They weighed the odds and said nothing for fourteen years. People died. People were seriously injured.

So here we are. Money on one side and human life on the other. Profit versus people. This is evil corporate philosophy. Why don't we look over the roster of names from the last fourteen years and pick someone or two or three of them who were in a position to make the wrong choice back when this whole thing started. And then let’s charge them with murder or negligent homicide. Because it’s not just GM that is guilty of the practice. It’s just GM this time.

This needs to stop.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Hero Of The Week

Marine Lance Cpl. Tenzin Dengkhim
Age:  19
2nd Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion
2nd Marine Division
II Marine Expeditionary Force
Died 2 April, 2005
Anbar Province, Iraq

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

What A Blast!!

Ready to roll.
Having never been to an Opening Day Parade, much less participate in one, I had no idea what to expect.  I knew it was a big deal to a lot of people and for many attendance has become a family tradition.  We boarded at the Newport Aquarium on the Kentucky side of the river and after crossing into Cincinnati the driver had to take a circuitous route to avoid traffic and all of the street closures.  Still, the amount of people on the streets at 10:30 a.m. was incredible.  Our destination was about 15-16 blocks north of the river where the parade units were staged on the streets.

We had about a 45 minute wait until the parade kicked off so we got off and walked around near by to see some of the other units.
These guys were just around the corner waiting to be hitched to a carriage.
This group was on an antique fire engine.  They said I could ride with them, but Mrs. Grumpy said that wasn't happening.

The staging area was in a part of town that some time ago had fallen into disrepair and disrepute.  It is in the process of a transition and revival, with construction on a number of old homes and business buildings.  In a few years it will all be gentrified.  When we started out the number of people on the street was small, maybe only 2 or 3 deep. 
After a few blocks of this I was beginning to think this wasn't such a big deal after all.  People were smiling and waving and the kids were excited, but it wasn't the crowd I expected.  Then we came to Washington Park, a relatively new park built across from our world famous Music Hall.  This is the crowd at the park.
Suddenly, everything changed.  From here to the end of the parade route the crowds on both sides of the street were overflowing into the street and packed like sardines.  It was truly overwhelming.

My take on the day?  Unfuckingbelievable!!!  It was 65 degrees and sunny.  The crowds were enormous, 95% of them wearing Reds gear or red clothing.  The people of my city, of every ethnic group, every economic level, all smiling, laughing and having a good time.  The little kids in front were the best, some waving and excited, some shy and unsure, some still dancing to the beat of the high school band in front of us. 

It was a day to be proud of my city, proud of the heritage, proud of the  tradition, but mostly proud of the people.  I'm ready to ride in the Opening Day Parade every year.