Monday, September 29, 2008

The Playoffs

After I posted yesterday’s Blog I turned on the television to watch the Marlins play the Mets. But at 2PM I switched over to the Cubs/Brewers game. I think that the Cubs gave this game to the Brewers. For the Cubs it was a meaningless game and it meant the playoffs for the Brewers. I toggled back to the Mets game during the commercials. I was happy to see them lose. Now a Milwaukee win would put them into the Playoffs.

Most Cubs fans have an extreme dislike for the New York Mets. Every time I see them play I’m reminded of 1969 and the Miracle Mets. This dislike is instilled in new Cubs fans by the older generation Cubs Fans. My Dad disliked the New York Yankees for beating the Cubs in two World Series in the 1930’s. I grew up hating the Yankees. And that was long before George Steinbrenner (a man you love to hate) bought the team.

Chicago baseball fans have a natural dislike for teams from New York. The Cubs fans that I know will cheer for their cross-town rivals, the White Sox, when they play the Yankees. I don’t know too many White Sox fans, but I sure that they root for the Cubs when they play the Mets.

I would imagine that the players, coaches and managers of both Chicago baseball teams feel the same way.

I’m not saying that the Cubs intentionally lost the game yesterday, but they had nothing to gain by beating the Brewers and a warm feeling inside if the Mets did not make the Playoffs.

The Beach Bum

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Equal Pay

After watching the Ballgames yesterday I change channels to TMC in time to catch the ending of the African Queen, ate supper and took a late afternoon nap. When my daughter awakened me, I put the boob tube back on to see if there were any good movies on the commercial free cable channels.

There was nothing worth watching that I hadn’t seen at least 20 times. There are some movies that you can watch 100 times, none of them were on last night. I noticed that there were 5 episodes of House, MD on the USA Network. I’ve seen most of the episodes at least once, but even with all of the commercials they are worth watching a second or third time.

In the first set of commercials, there were two for other USA programs and one PPA (see yesterdays Blog below). The PPA was for Barack Obama. It showed several clips from his speeches and was obviously directed towards women voters. In the AD he repeats twice “Equal pay for equal work”. I am sure that he was targeting Senator McCain’s opposition to Senator Edward Kennedy’s Bill proposal in the Senate last spring.

McCain said “I am all in favor of pay equality for women, but this kind of legislation, as is typical of what’s being proposed by my friends on the other side of the aisle, opens us up to lawsuits for all kinds of problems, this is government playing a much, much greater role in the business of a private enterprise system.” Spoken like a true Republican!

Politically I am what is called a Conservative Liberal. But I do not agree with Kennedy’s proposal. On the other hand, I also do not agree with Senator McCain’s retort.

I do agree with equal pay for equal work. But what does this phrase actually mean?

For example, if I am making widgets and a fellow employee is also making widgets and we are both getting the same amount of pay per hour that is equal pay for equal work. However, if I am making an average of 2 more widgets per day than my fellow employee, shouldn’t I be making more money per hour?

Let’s take this one step further. Let’s say that my fellow employee is a minority or a woman. And that my employer is an Equal Opportunity Employer. A widget making supervisory position becomes available. Although I am more qualified for the position because I can teach the other employees how to make more widgets per hour, the other employee gets the job because of their minority status. The other employee, now my supervisor, is now earning about 50% more then I am earning. Plus has a much easier job than I have.

A year later I still making widgets, but my piece count has improved by 1 more widget per day. A managerial position opens in the front office and my supervisor, who once was my widget making co-employee, gets the job (because upper management needed a minority in the front office) with a hefty increase in pay. This leaves the supervisory position open, but I get passed over again because the company needs a minority supervisor.

Now let’s go into the real world!

I have a friend that was a High School teacher in Maryland. Although he was more qualified, he was passed over twice for an administrative position within the school system. Why? Because they needed a minority person as an administrator. He went on to get his second Masters Degree, this time in Library Science and is now making more money as a College Liberian than he would have as a High School administrator. He sez “there is a way to beat the system if you try.”

Equal pay for equal work is a good idea, but as George Orwell wrote in Animal Farm, “All animals are created equal” but some of them are more equal than others.

The Beach Bum

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Sunday, September 28, 2008

Mindless Drivel

With the Presidential Election coming in less than 40 days, we are being bombarded with Paid Political Announcements (PPA) on television. I don’t watch a lot of television (except for baseball games) and yet I saw at least a dozen or more yesterday in 8 viewing hours.That is almost as many as the GEICO and AFLAC (I like the Duck but detest the Lizard) commercials that I had seen.

I really don’t see the need for PPA’s. Are we so shallow that we need to be reminded what the candidates stand is for or against any issue? Do we really need Barack to remind us of what John said and vice versa? Even those people that do not read the newspapers know what’s happening from watching television news. Unless you live in a cave (and some my friends claim that I do) you have many television news channels that you can view.

PPA’s are a waste of money. In my opinion most television commercials are insulting to our intelligence and a waste of money. My buying habits (or voting habits) have never changed because I saw a good commercial. But they pay for the programming that I watch and therefore I endure the mindless drivel. What happened to all those good commercial from the 1960’s and 1970’s? I didn’t buy the products, but at least I enjoyed some of the commercials and didn’t feel compelled to leave my chair and go to the Kitchen or Bathroom.

I am The Beach Bum and I approve this message!

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Thursday, September 25, 2008

Bad for Baseball

I’ve been reading a lot about what Suze Orman said on the Oprah Winfrey show the other night. I rarely watch talk shows or television news programming, especially the ones with political agendas.

Plus I do not particularly like Suze Orman although I have never seen her program. But the mere mention of her name makes me quiver.

There are many reasons why I should like Suze. We were both born in hospitals on Chicago’s southwest side. I was born at Saint Anthony’s Hospital and she was probably born at Mount Sinai Hospital about 3 blocks north. We share the same Birthday (I’m a few years older/OK a several years older). Her nickname Suze (Susan) is the same nickname that I gave my sister (Suzanne) many years ago. She is an economic liberal (same as me). She can be pompous at times in her writings (I’ve read two of her books – both given to me as gifts). I’m told that I am a very pompous person. And she is a Lesbian; I like lesbians, in particular, if I get to watch.

So why do I dislike Ms. Orman?

It’s my wife’s fault. She lives in Maryland and I live in Florida (some of my friends have called it the ideal marriage). But it never fails that when I am watching a baseball game or something important like that, she calls to tell me to tune into the Suze Orman Show. If I don’t do it immediately she gets nasty and I have to listen to a 10 minute lecture. If I pretend to change the channel, I get a 10 minute recap of what I missed earlier. After I say “OK, I can’t hear the program, I have to go/talk to you later” about 5 times, I finally hang up.

Suze Orman is bad for Baseball!

The Beach Bum

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Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Trimming the Fat

A few weeks ago I was planning to write a Blog about the Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac bailouts. I waited because I wanted to see repercussions to what I saw as being a signal to encourage more of the same action in the banking and mortgage industries.

Then the government bails out AIG to the tune of 85 Billion dollars. I was aghast and horrified when I heard this news. What’s next was looming in my mind. I feared that the worst was yet to come. And it has.

Now the Secretary of the Treasury, Henry Paulson (read this as the Bush Administration), wants congress to authorize another 700 Billion dollars to bail out our financial institutions. That is $700,000,000,000.00. Look at all those zeros!

The total cost of the 3 bailouts will exceed 8 Hundred Billion Dollars. It’s mind boggling to say the least. This is more than $250,000 per person living in the United States. Now if you redo this figure to exclude non citizens and people under voting age, it escalates to over $420,000 per person (and this includes the guys who got us into this jam – of course they wouldn’t really need it because they have already raped the system).

Screw the people that created this mess, if there is a spare 800,000,000,000 lying around, give to the people who toil for a living. The people that are trying to make ends meet during these chaotic financial times.

Oh yes, I feel sorry for those that put their financial lives in other's hands. But they did it as a gamble that they would increase their money at a higher than expected return on their investment. Should the people that didn’t follow this path, pay for their mistakes?

The Bush Administration and probably the Congress believes so. According to them, bailing out the Fat Cats is good for the general public (that's you and me). It will save our economy. But I know that the Fat Cats will always get fatter; and the idiots that listen to them will stay lean.

The Beach Bum

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Friday, September 19, 2008

A Matter of Life and Death

Late last night I took an online quiz. I enjoy taking quizzes and tests online as long as they are free and they don’t ask me for a lot of personal information.

The last online IQ test that I took (about 5 years ago) gave me a score of 143. That was 9 points lower than the last real IQ test that I had taken in 1973. But the real test was at least 16 pages long and the online test was about 56 questions long. It's like trying to compare Apples to Oranges!

The test that I took last night was not an IQ Test. It was a test that determined your real age. The questions were about health factors and lifestyle habits. As they don’t really know who I am, I answered all of the questions honestly.

The results were that my biological age was 12.8 years higher than my chronological age. I wish that I had taken the test years ago. I could have submitted the results to the Social Security Administration and started to draw benefits long before I actually did.

According to actuarial table for the life expectancy of the average United States Male, I died sometime last winter. But, of course, I’ve always considered myself to be above average.

In the spring of 2004 the learned Doctors at the VA Hospital in Saint Petersburg (Bay Pines), Florida gave me 2 to 3 years tops to live if I didn’t radically change my wicked ways and lifestyle. I didn’t, and by the grace of God I am still here to write this Blog.

As I have argued the point before with my Born Again Christian friends; God must love the sinners more than saints! Either that or the Devil is keeping me alive to make me suffer here on Earth before I go to Purgatory (remember, I was raised as a Catholic).

Either way, I’m not worried because I don’t believe in the Heaven/Hell concept.

The Beach Bum

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Thursday, September 18, 2008

A Balancing Act

I have a good friend (the Captain) that is a firm believer in the balance of nature hypothesis. The theory is; the forces of nature attempt to create equilibrium in an ecosystem. Many modern day Ecologists no longer believe that a balance of nature exists because of man’s disruption of these ecosystems.

The Captain states “If the Fishies and Frogies in Florida are happy, Florida will have a mild hurricane season.”

What makes those “Fishies and Frogies” happy? It’s a simple question with a simple answer. Food! In Ecology 101 we learned about the food chain, the predator/prey relationship and how it affects an ecosystem.

To sustain life you must have water. More water equals more food for the lower members of the food chain.

Florida has had more rain, this year, than usual during the Spring and early Summer. Central Florida had a lot more rain than normal, therefore less than customary brush fires and no need for a Hurricane to batter the coastal areas of the State on its way to make the “Fishies and Frogies” in Central Florida happy.

When looking at our back yard as a microcosm of an ecosystem, I have seen this theory play out. We had a lot of rain during the months of March through July. About 18 inches (of rain) above the normal average during that period.

First of all there are more insects (both the flying variety and crawling variety). Therefore there are more lizards; the Anole and Gecko populations have at least doubled since last summer. More tree frogs (who tend to sing with joy at 0500 hours). More birds (a new family of Blue Jays and a new family of Cardinals have moved into the yard).

In addition we have two new families of snakes (Black Racers). We had a family of Armadillos (I didn’t know that they were indigenous to Florida) earlier this year, but my daughter put Moth Balls around the perimeter of the yard to keep them from digging up the ground.

The Mole, Squirrel and rodent population is down thanks to the snakes.

The bottom line is that we have no Fishies in the back yard, but the Frogies are very happy this year. There must have been a lot of unhappy Frogies in Texas.

The Beach Bum

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Monday, September 15, 2008

I Missed Number 7

To say the least, I was extremely aggravated last night. My hostility stemmed from the fact that four of the major Sports sites that I visit (including said that the Cubs would be on WGN last night. My cable company disagreed and they were correct. No Cubs on WGN (at least not here in Florida).

I have seen my fair share (more than in a normal year) of Cubs games this year. So I shouldn’t be complaining.

But I am, because Cubs "Pitching Ace" Carlos Zambrano pitched a no hitter last night and came very close to pitching a perfect game.

No hitters are very rare. In my lifetime (and I’ve seen thousands of baseball games) I have seen six No Hitters. I’ve seen one in person (Nolan Ryan at Memorial Stadium in Baltimore – June 1975) and the other five on television. One of the others was a perfect game thrown by Sandy Kofax against the Cubs. But I’ve have never seen a Cubs pitcher throw a no hitter.

I feel that a No Hitter is far more enjoyable to watch than a Slugfest. In modern day Baseball, where complete games and shutouts have (due to pitch counts) become a rarity, the no hitter is the ultimate pitching feat.

A tip of my hat goes out to Carlos as well as Geovany Soto who called the game. If Soto previously wasn’t a cinch for NL Rookie of the Year, he now is. He might even be in contention for the league MVP.

Go Cubs Go!

The Beach Bum

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Sunday, September 14, 2008

You Deserve a Break Today

I am writing this Blog at the risk of offending/alienating several (4 to 6) friends and semi-regular readers (of this Blog) who live in Wisconsin.

Last week I read a news item about a man from Fond Du Lac, Wisconsin. The 54-year-old man, Don Gorske, says his obsessive-compulsive disorder drove him to eat 23,000 Big Macs in 36 years. That averages out to be about 1.75 Big Macs per day; he has eaten as many as 5 per day.

MacDonald’s Headquarters should be sending him a gift certificate to the local Hospital’s Cardiac Ward or at least a lifetime supply of Lipitor. Of the 540 calories in a Big Mac, 270 are from fat. Add to this an order of French Fries (who can eat a MacDonald’s burger without fries?) and you are looking at some serious cholesterol problems.

Not to mention, that being from Wisconsin, Don probably eats a lot of cheese. The only thing that is saving him from a multi-bypass surgery is probably the fact that he, more than likely, also drinks a lot of beer. I have great cholesterol numbers and I attribute this to my consumption of alcoholic beverages.

I don’t believe that Mr. Gorske suffers from an OCD (obsessive-compulsive disorder) as he has stated. Any food that has that much fat in it must taste good. And, as the sign on my cousin’s (The Admiral) refrigerator sez “If it tastes good, don’t eat it”.

I have been to Fond Du Lac, Wisconsin and unless it has drastically changed in the past 45 years, which I doubt, there is virtually nothing to do in this town except to go fishing on Lake Winnebago, eat cheese, drink beer, dine at the local MacDonalds or hang out at the A&W Root Beer stand.

I rarely eat MacDonald’s food. Not that I don't like the taste; my digestive system just can't handle it. During the past 5 years I have probably eaten 4 Double Cheeseburgers (a real tasty bargain at 99 cents), a Filet of Fish Sandwich and a few orders of French Fries (the greatest fast food fries available). I never liked Big Macs because they were just a shadow image of the Big Boy burger. Our local Big Boy (Tops) just outside of Chicago, in Berwyn, had Car Hops, MacDonalds didn’t.

The Beach Bum

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Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Happiest Days of My Life

At the behest of my daughter and her husband I have been going through my possessions which have been cluttering up their garage for the past 13 months. I was told to do this before I moved last August; but somehow I would always find something more urgent to do with my free time.

The bottom line is that I do not relish this task. Why do today what you can put off until tomorrow? But tomorrows tend to turn into weeks, then months and finally years.

Given the ultimatum that either I start doing this extremely unpleasant chore or having my prized possessions and keepsakes all end up in a dumpster; I chose the former. So now, every 5 days or so, I get a Rummermaid storage container to sort through. I am almost finished.

I divide the stuff into four categories. Stuff that I want ready access to. Stuff that I cannot part with, which can be sequestered into the attic (where I will probably never see it again). Stuff to be shredded. And stuff to go directly into the dumpster.

Unsurprisingly the last two categories have amounted to 60% of the stuff that I brought here with me when I moved in August 2007.

I now have a very large pile of paper that requires shredding. Two years ago my daughter gave me a shredder as a Christmas present; it was still a virgin when I moved here (at least I had taken it out of the box - I think that I had done this so that my daughter would think that I was actually using it, when she came to visit).

The trash pile was the largest. As I was going through my stuff, I wondered why I had kept some of this stuff. The were many computer and peripheral manuals including a 300 or so page DOS operating system manual and one for a Dot Matrix Printer. At least 150 Floppy Discs, a goodly amount of homemade audio cassette tapes (Fortunately I had gotten rid of my eight track tapes years before) and CD ROMs (including 5 different versions of AOL).

I saved photographs, books and other things that had a special meaning (such as items that I collected during my illustrious 4 year military career).

One of the photos that I didn’t even know that I still had, was of the first “Love of my Life” It was a professional photo probable taken for her High School Yearbook. I showed it to my daughter and she knew who it was without me uttering a word. She even remembered her name. I was impressed!

Viewing the photo reminded of a song from the early 1980’s (I associate many things and events with music). The song is by Chrissie Hynde and the PretendersBack on the Chain Gang. The lyrics that were running through my mind – “I found a picture of you; those were the happiest days of my life”.

The picture reminded me of my age of innocence; a time with very little worries or cares. It was before I ventured out into the real world. And that is why those were the “Happiest Days of My Life”.

The Beach Bum

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Sunday, September 07, 2008

Clicking for Dollars

The other day I read a comment that was placed on one of my favorite Blogs. The comment was concerning the Google Ads on the top of the opening page of his Blog. The commenter cited the three Ads and asked the Blogger how much was he getting paid by Google to have these Ads placed on his Blog.

The commenter is a regular visitor to the Blog and probably was just being facetious. The relevancy of the Ads was far off the nature and general topics of the Blog. Google takes pride in their bots ability to place relevant Ads on Websites and Blogs. But on occasion the bots screw up.

According to Google’s Ad Sense Terms of Service (TOS – you know, those things that you never read and just click on “I Agree”) he is not allowed to answer the commenter's question.

I’ve been barred from Google Ads. I wrote a Blog about this in December 2006.

Why? Because. I inadvertently violated the terms of service that I had never read.

How did I do this unforgivable act?

First, even before I let them put the Ads on my Blog, I made mention in a Blog that I was placing them there and that I would be making money by readers clicking on these Ads. (Big TOS Violation)

Then in another Blog I suggested that people who were reading the Blog (at the time mostly my friends and family) check out the Google Ads. (Bigger TOS Violation).

The last straw for Google was that I had a 48% click rate (a very good click rate is between 5 and 8%). This was unfair to their advertisers. However, (in their cancellation notice) they neglected to mention that I had a good conversation rate.

My Amazon Link on the Right Side Bar has a 63% conversion rate. Why? I occasionally promote it and all my friends and relatives use it for their Amazon purchases.

Why? Because. They know that I am making a few cents off of every one of the purchases that they would be making nevertheless.

Now, here’s what I do.

On the Major sites (including Google and Yahoo) that I visit, I click often. This helps to keep them free. I actually read the ads (they know if you are just clicking and leaving), but I rarely buy. On the Blogs that I enjoy, I click their Ads at least twice per week and I try to pick the Ads that will give them the most revenue per click.

Everyone should do the same. It doesn’t cost you but a few minutes of your precious time per week. You will be keeping the free sites free and putting a few cents in some blogger's pocket.

The Beach Bum

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Thursday, September 04, 2008

Magical Mystery Memories

Yesterday afternoon I watched a movie on IFC (Independent Film Channel) that I hadn’t seen since the summer of 1964. It was the last movie that I had seen with the first “Love of My Life”.

We traveled by El to Downtown Chicago to catch the matinee showing of the movie. I believe that it was playing at the old United Artists Theater on Randolph and Dearborn, across from what is now call the Richard J. Daley Civic Center.

The theater had about 1700 seats and was more than half full when we arrived (it was almost at capacity when the Movie started). I couldn’t get an aisle seat (my preference) in a desirable location, but we were dead center screen about half way between the screen and the last row of seats.

The average age of the audience was probably 16 years old or less. I was one of the oldest people there except for some parents that had brought their children to see the movie. Although it was filmed in Black and White it was thoroughly enjoyable and I never left my seat (no need for that aisle seat).

The following summer I saw the four stars of the movie live in concert at Comiskey Park with the second “Love of my Life”. Our seats were in the upper deck with a very good view of the stage on the infield. I enjoyed the movie much more than I did the thirty minute concert; you could hardly hear the Beatles sing with all of the girls screaming.

The movie, of course, was A Hard Day’s Night. And I sincerely feel that it was much better than the Beatles follow up movie (filmed in color) Help!, which premiered in Chicago about a week or so later. In watching "A Hard Day's Night" you get the feeling that you know these four guys. They are regular people, they are just like you, but celebrities.

I was and still am a big fan of the Fab Four. I have every album (vinyl) that they made before they broke up as a group. This includes two versions (British and US) of “With the Beatles”, "Introducing the Beatles" and “Sgt. Pepper”. Plus I have a few compilation CD’s.

My friend and former neighbor, fellow Chicagoan, Dave Corzine put them all on audio cassette tape in 1979, it was great listening to them all again.

I will never forget the Beatles and the impact (through their music) that they made “In My Life”. The third “Love of my Life”, later to become my one and only wife, enjoyed the Beatles as much as I did.

Thank you IFC for bringing back such great memories!

The Beach Bum

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Monday, September 01, 2008

A Labor of Love

In 1969, the same as in 2008, Labor Day was celebrated on September First. Although the Autumnal Equinox is 2 plus weeks away, Labor Day is considered to be the official end of the summer season.

The “Summer of ’69” evokes many special memories. I was in the last year of my four year enlistment in the US Army and stationed at Fort Meade in Maryland. I was living off-post in an apartment complex in nearby Laurel, Maryland with three former members (civilians) of my unit. Our apartment was the ultimate party mecca. The focal point of our living room was a wall rack stereo system and a three keg beer cooler. It was more like a Frat House than an apartment.

They call the summer of 1967 “The Summer of Love”, but for me it was the summer of 1969.

We would have theme parties (e.g. the Moon Walk party in July) at lease once a month and sometimes more often. It wasn’t unusual for 60 people to crowd into a 860 sq ft apartment on a Saturday night. The liquor and the beer flowed and the young ladies were hot to trot.

We had a diverse crowd, but mostly, military personnel and Government employees predominately from Intelligence and Law Enforcement Agencies working in the Washington DC area.

Our last party during the summer of love was held on the Saturday before Labor Day. It was our farewell to summer party. Without knowing it, at the time, I would meet my future wife at this party. She came with the girl that one of my roommates was seeing at the time. Being the perfect host, I offered her a drink and then roamed off to find the girl that I was sleeping with at the time, never getting her the drink that I promised.

The mornings after were usually brutal. The place would be a disaster and bodies could be found just about everywhere (on and under furniture).

One of my roommates had awakened before I had and had brewed some coffee. I grabbed a cup and sat down in the living room. He was watching TV; it was a telethon for MDA featuring Jerry Lewis. By noon all of the roommates (as well as left over guests) had risen and were watching the telethon. We decided to take up a collection and make a pledge. We later collected (from our friends) more money than our original pledge.

This afternoon, after the Cubs game on WGN, I saw that Jerry was still doing the telethon. He looked very old and haggard, and spoke with a voice more raspy than mine. For Jerry this is truly a “labor of love”. God Bless Him.

The Beach Bum

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