Archive for the ‘Life’ Category

Queen’s Jubilee

June 10, 2012

Must be a Guinness world record.

Maybe it says a lot about the English diet.

Or why their teeth are so out-of-place.

But to be on the throne for 60 years, now that must be a record for sustained discomfort.

Guess that’s where the stiff upper lip comes from.

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Louie Zamperini-Just Another of the Greatest Generation of Americans

January 8, 2012

Just finished reading Laura Hillenbrand’s UnbrokenUnbroken was Unbelievable.  Probably won’t make a good movie since nobody would believe that so much happened to one person in his lifetime.

Won’t spoil the fun for you so just read the book.  What I take away from it is a few things. 

First of all, it continues to show how incredible Louie Zamperini and his generation is.  The World War II veterans are a unique bunch who heard the call and responded.  I am part of the next generation of Americans and an Army veteran but I don’t know if would have been able to survive and thrive as these men and women did.  Resiliency is what they had.

Secondly, the fact that I never heard of Mr. Zamperini before I read this book is a shame on me.  From Olympic participant to POW survivor, he has a truly incredible life.  Thank you Ms. Hillenbrand for providing subsequent generations of Americans with the reminder of how great we were and can be.  We need to be constantly reminded of their contributions and never forget how fortunate we all are to be an American.

Retirement Planning

April 15, 2011

As we get older, we all want to make sure that our later years will be worry free.  Financial security is important in attaining this goal.  This may not be totally possible of course.  But spending time planning where you want to go and how to get there is a required exercise for us all.  I am retired now and I thought I would pass on some strategies that I have found to be successful.  Hopefully, you can implement some of these suggestions.

First of all, you may need to consider how you will occupy your time when you do retire.  For some, this is spending more time with your spouse.  For others, it may mean continuing or beginning a new career.  Maybe you were doing something “on the side” for fun that you can turn into your new passion once retirement comes along.  For me, it was easy.  For the last 35+ years, I had a part-time job that I have successfully converted to a full-time venture. 

I used to drive my wife crazy on a part-time basis; now I do it full-time.  She’s thrilled.  What wife wouldn’t be.  You know, the 2 of us started out as soul-mates.  Now it is more like we are cell-mates!

Another thing to consider is how are you going to manage your expenses given that your income is reduced in retirement.  It takes planning to see where you cut back.  Food is one of those areas.  Obviously, you’ll be spending fewer nights out for dinner.  But you can also make changes at home.  We’ve found one significant way you can save money on food.  Here it is:

Attempt to acquire a taste for cat food.  Mixed grill on a Ritz cracker with a glass of chardonnay.  Not bad.  (Stay away from dog food; dogs palates are not developed enough).

Finally, the last thing anybody wants to happen when you retire is to outlive your nest egg.  You want to make sure that your funds will be available for you to use for as long as you are alive.  I have a strategy which addresses this problem.  It involves having knowledge as to your cash flows, both in and out, so you can project, in rough terms, when you make have exhausted your funds.  When you project that you may have just a few years left before the funds are gone, implement the final strategy as follows:

Take up smoking.  2 packs a day unfiltered cigarettes should do it just fine.

Implementing these strategy tips will go along way to a successful retirement.

McDonald’s World

January 7, 2011

I get a chuckle whenever I see certain McDonald’s commercials on TV.  They are the ones portraying life as they see it for their young 2o’s something guests.  The latest one shows two Generation OMG types drinking a McCafe Latte or whatever they are called and doing some sort of synchronized hand slapping.  You’ve seen that one.  What I find amusing is the disconnect that McD obviously has.  I’ve never seen any young adults like the one they show in any McDonald’s that I’ve been to.  This generation usually is at Starbucks and can be seen walking around with their head lowered staring blankly into their IPhones and occasionally rubbing their shins as they bump into things.  What I do see at McD’s are two extremes. 

The young one I see are the very young infants and toddlers brought there by their moms (and sometimes dads) who are there presumably because they believe that They Deserve A Break Today.  They use the playground for the kids to burn off their built up energy.  On the other end of the spectrum are our Elder Americans who use McDonald’s as a gathering place to discuss and decide the crucial political and economic issues of the day.  The Greatest Generation is drawn to McD’s for the atmosphere that allows them this forum.  They drink coffee all right but not the fancy ones, just the regular Joe.  Actually, it is the Senior Coffee that they are there for as it allows them unlimited refills.  This coffee is the fuel that propels most of their discussions.  But no young adults are to be seen.

I guess it is McD’s Field of Dreams motivation.  If they show it, they will come.  But it does make you wonder what they are thinking.

Just my opinion.

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Food Snobbery/Prejudice

December 16, 2010

Food prejudice.  Yeah, there is such a thing.  Obviously not between foods themselves but how people perceive certain foods.  Sometimes they are positive and other times they are negative.  Take truffle for example.  People love them.  Well not really people, but gourmets do.  Part of the appeal is their price and rareness.  The flavor is incidental and subtle at best.  The cost is so much more so they have to be good.  Saffron is in a similar situation.  There is just that snob appeal factor.

Sometimes the names themselves are the problem.  Not many people would eat the fish called Slimehead.  How about Patagonian Toothfish?  Sounds gross, eh.  But the marketing folks step in and you get Orange Roughy and Chilean Sea Bass, respectively.  Yummy.

There is also a regional or international prejudice.  I am bi-lingual.  I speak both Northern and Southern American having lived an equal amount of my life in New York and Texas.  We often go to Charleston.  A must see for everyone.  Beautifully preserved historical architecture, warm, friendly people and a very lively culinary scene.  A signature dish of the region is Shrimp and Grits.  Just hearing the word “grits”, a typical New Yorker would cringe and gag.  Blame it on Flo from Alice who liked to tell people where to kiss them.  But place that same New Yorker in a fancy Italian restaurant and have Gamberetti e Polenta on the menu and they’d order it in a minute.  (I know Shrimp and Grits contains more than 2 ingredients but just play along for now).  It is basically the same dish. 

And that brings up another prejudice, the naming of Italian foods.  We Americans love Italian food.  We may go a bit overboard at times.  Pizza is supposed to have only 3 ingredients but we seem to want to increase that number exponentially and try to stuff cheese in many unnatural places.  But we love the food just the same and especially how food words sound.  Polenta is much more appealing than Grits.  Risotto sounds more exotic than Rice.  Penne con Pomodori tastes so much better than macaroni with tomatoes.  Another example of positive prejudice.

Eat up and enjoy no matter how it sounds.  Try not to be too biased.  Not a good way to go through life.

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Proposed Changes to the Weather Channel

December 5, 2010

 

I love the weather channel.  It is especially good when you are just hanging around your hotel room.  You put it on and your mind goes blank.  The next thing you know, you are watching time-lapse videos of radars around the country.  All this accompanied by some jazz Muzak.  Very much like riding an elevator but you are horizontal in bed.  All this is good but lacking something.  I think I figured it out.  What it needs is this:

Profanity!

Not really R or X rated stuff.  Not talking about a Tony Soprano tirade.  Just PG 13+ language to spice things up.  Maybe like this:

Joe:  How are things out there tonight Jim?

Jim C:  This is one mo-fo of a storm.  Can’t tell you how crappy it is here now.

Joe:  That bastard storm!

Jim C:  You are right Joe.  I’m getting whipped around by the wind as we speak.  The storm is trying to make me its bitch but I won’t let it.

Joe:  Good for you.  You are one lucky bastard playing out their in the storm.  I envy you.

Jim C:  You son of a bitch.  Get out here!

Joe:  Can’t.  Gotta hold down the fort here.

Joe:  We’ll have more coverage of “Hurricane Bob The Bastard Storm” in a moment.

You get the idea.  It centers around using the word “bastard” more frequently.  It would make watching more exciting.  Let’s hope they are listening.

Just my opinion.

A Gaze from the Shore

September 20, 2009

I am getting older with each passing day.  The fact that everyone else is also getting older is not relevant to me.  I realize it is an adjustment we all must go through.

I retired last year on my own terms.  I wasn’t forced out or left because of “personal reasons” or “wanted to spend more time with my family”.  One of the most important factors was that I thought we could afford it.  We’ve maintained a modest life style, were able to put 2 kids through grad school (albeit at public universities who recognized and rewarded their scholastic abilities).  We never assumed that our house played any part of our retirement planning so when the bubble was bursting last year, it  had little impact.  In short, we are receiving our lifetime achievement award for doing what the ant did in the famous fable: work hard and your reward will come.  (I recently was contacted by someone who I served with in the army in Korea who had a very colorful life these last 40 years but who is not doing so well financially.   He’s paying for the choices he made).

But another important other factor was that I wanted to be able to enjoy my retirement years.  We are in fairly good health and are used to physical activity.  I don’t look forward to days when I would not be able to do what I want to do, when I want to do it.  It came to a head last year when we were on a trip to America’s greatest resource; our National Parks.

We went to Zion NP in Utah last year which was the last stop in the visits to Bryce Canyon and North Rim of the Grand Canyon.  (To show you how naive I was, I planned this trip and thought it was unique.  I found out that most of the people we met had either been to or were going to one of the beauties next).  Zion is unique as it is framed by the mountains on both side as you continue progress and see it narrow.  Not surprizing, the bus’ last stop (no cars allowed in the Park thank goodness) lets you off at The Narrows.  It is really a continuation of your  travel you just completed except that you can only access it on foot.  You can hike as far as you like and it is a series of traversing in and out of the Virgin river.   Land to water to land all the way through.

Older Americans are healthier than their predecessors and have more disposable income.  This combination results in you seeing them in large numbers (along with a healthy dose of foreign visitors, thanks to the weak US dollar) through the Parks.  God bless than for getting out and living life!  I saw them get off the bus at the Narrows stop and immediately look skyward at the breathtaking view of the sheer cliffs.  The entrance to the Narrows is a leisurely walk of about a mile on a paved path with the river on one side and the cliffs on the other.

The first group of older Americans, went no further.  These are actually active people since they are out and about and not bound to their homes or hospitals because of a physical or financial reasons.  However, they were “forced” to remain there as that was as far as they would go.  Others would continue the journey to the edge of the Narrows.  It is here where it hit me.

As I entered the water to begin our hike, I looked back to the shore as I began our trek in knee deep water across the river.    There was a group we were walking with but who remained behind at the edge of the shore.  Most were older that us, but I suspect some we were our age or younger.  It was a sad sight for me.  How many of them would have longed to join us?  Who were these people and when did they realize that they could not continue the journey?  I wondered how long it would be before I joined that group on the shore or worse, those left back at the bus stop.  The image that I was in the river and not on the shore validated why I retired when I did.

This image is exactly why I retired when I did.  I will try to do as much as I can for as long as I can.  I ask the Lord above two things: 1) to help me to attain this and 2) to guide me to acceptance when I no longer can fulfill my dreams.  That is the best each of us can do.  Until that time, just keep doing what you want to do for as long as you can.  It is our only choice.

 

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Wheel of ..”You F*$#^% B^%@#%(

August 2, 2009

America, it seems, is constantly looking for change.  We do suffer from a collective ADD.  All of us, at every age level.  We are bored.  Looking for the latest aps on iPhones.  The latest gadgets.  This also applies to entertainment and believe it or not, this boredom applies not only to the young, but older Americans as well.  I should know since I am one of them.  So I think it is time to make some changes to our game shows, the staple of older America.  I’ll start with Wheel of Fortune or as we know it, The Wheel or WOF.

The Wheel does try to add a little change by having theme weeks.  These are really just excuses for cost sharing ventures and are very effective from a business point of view.  They also have weeks that feature like best friends, relatives and military contestants etc. to break up their year and try to hold our attention.  But I think they need to go further.  Why not add something like Tourette syndrome week, where all the contestants are inflicted with this disease.  It might go something like this…..

Announcer and Music begin their fade:

The show opens up with a visibly shaked Pat Sajak who is trying to show his cool after he hears random shout outs from the contestants describing various body parts of Vanna White.

Pat S:  “Okay, now pick up your buzzer as we have the first Toss Up.  It is a PLACE.  2 words.  3 letters in the first word; 4 letters in the second word.

(An “N” comes up as the 1st letter of the 1st word; then a “Y” as the 1st letter of the second word.  BING.)

Pat S: Huey!

Huey (Contestant 1):  “You rat bastard!”

Pat S:  He looks down on his answer card, takes a deep breath and says “I’m sorry but that is not correct”.  He knows this is only the beginning.  BING.   Louie!

Louie (Contestant 2):  “Sotomayor is a slut!”

Pat S:  Looking less shocked, he looks around the room for helps and asks the judges “Can we accept this answer?  No? Okay.  Sorry Louie but that is not correct”.  BING.  Dewey!

Dewey (Contestant 3):  “I still think the Yankees deserved to win the 1960 World Series as they outscored the Pirates by 10, 12 and 13 runs in their 3 wins and barely lost the other games by only a few runs at best and if the grounder in Game 7 didn’t take a bad hop and hit Kubek in the throat, the Yankees would have won and Mazeroski wouldn’t be in the Hall of Fame today since his home run wouldn’t have been a walk off one”.

We see the life force drain out of Pat as he turns to camera and says “More Wheel in a moment.  We’ll be right back”.

Now wouldn’t this be better television?

Just a thought.

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Glimmer of Hope

June 8, 2009

Quote from Samiullah Khan of Pakistan:

“We are Muslims, we pray regularly and read the Koran.  Attacking a mosque is not Islam; They are not Muslims.”

These two short sentences that are the basis for hope in the region.

We Americans want to tell people what the right thing to do is even if they don’t think it is so.  It doesn’t work that way and has even backfired.  They have to come to the conclusion that the subverted version of what is called Islam preached by the Taliban and Al-Qaeda is not the answer and will not succeed in the long run.  We can help them in many ways, but ultimately, the Samiullah Khan’s of the world, have to reach this same conclusion and reject their distorted dogma.  We all pray,  that there are many more like Mr. Khan who share his vision.

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An Italian Hero

May 28, 2009

Heroes are interesting.  You don’t get to call yourself one; it has to be bestowed by others based on an act you do that they deemed is worthy.  Many times the “hero” doesn’t think he did anything special.  But it doesn’t matter if someone else thinks it is an heroic act.  This is a story of how I became an Italian hero.

My wife and I were in Florence and were looking for a late lunch.  The only place open was a tourist spot but we didn’t care. We were hungry.   We sat down and a waiter came by.  I think his name was Aldo.  He was in his early 40’s I’d guess and had a blank stare on his face.  After all, he was serving another middle aged American tourist couple so there was nothing to get excited about.  In fact, if I had committed a crime and the police were looking for me and interviewed this guy, it would go something like this.

Police:  Can you described the guy?

Waiter:  He looked middle age to me.

P:  How tall was he?

W:  He was about middle aged height.

P:  How much did he weigh?

W:  I’d say he was about middle aged weight.

P:  Thanks for your help.  This will go along way in tracking him down.

At any rate, we ordered our food and started chatting as the waiter disappeared into the kitchen.  Just then, a young attractive American women sat down at the next table.  As if summoned by radar, our waiter immediately appeared and started greeting/flirting with her.  We knew that from now on, we would not be getting the same level of service.  It was OK.   Who needs the constant “Is your meal prepared properly”, Do you want more wine”, “Can I get you anything else” or “I see your jacket is on fire as you reached over the candle, can I extinguish that for you?”.  Very much overrated.

We ate our meal and was amused by his carrying on with the young lass.  We finally finished our meal and were ready to go back to the hotel.  I don’t know about you, but it doesn’t really matter who pays for things when your a couple; it all comes out of the same pot.  So I asked my wife he she didn’t mind using her credit card since I wanted to give mine a rest.  I frantically waived to get the waiter attention and finally shouted “Il conto per favore”.  (The bill please).  Apparently I interrupted him at an inopportune time but he reluctant went inside and retrieve the bill and handed it to me.  I nodded to my wife, who reached into her purse, pulled out her credit card and gave it to me.  I in turn handed the card and the bill back to the waiter.

A moment of transition was about to occur.

The first thing I noticed was his eyes.  Since I met him, they were devoid of any emotion.  Suddenly, as if a light switch was turned on, they lit up and appeared to be dancing excitedly.  A slight grin came over his face.  He looked me straight in the eye and said “Che fortunato”  (How fortunate, how lucky you are etc.).

Apparently, all it takes to be a hero in Italy is to get a women to pay for your meal.  Hero may be a strong word, but I think I was one to that waiter that day.  The look of admiration on his face said it all.  As I passed the credit card slip to my wife and she signed it, I thought I saw him wink at me as acknowledgement I had just “closed the deal”.

It felt good to be a hero to someone even if you know you weren’t.  But it doesn’t matter what I think; all that was important was that Aldo thought I was.