Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Perpetually Perplexing

Another year has come and gone.

With Christmas now in our rear view mirror, the sights are re-set to the road ahead – to the new year we will call 2012.

Time continues to march forward. The world continues to spin, the sun rising and setting continuing to march forward – never stopping – effortlessly plodding on.

The spin of the Earth – as with all the other planets in our local solar system – continue to their relentless path around the sun.

The ultimate perpetual motion machine.

Seemingly never slowing. Seemingly holding each component’s position perfectly.

Yet we believe that creating a perpetual motion machine here on our big blue marble to be impossible. The friction created by passing through the air, and the constant force of gravity created by the spinning of this planet we live on its axis and the pull from the planets around it – the very perpetual motion machine that makes life on Earth possible – is the reason we cannot reproduce perpetual motion of our own.

Or maybe we are just not smart enough yet?

We can remove the impact of air on such a machine by simply building the machine in a vacuum. But we don’t know how to turn gravity off in a given location.

We could build the machine in outer space?

“Why do you want to build a perpetual motion machine?”

Well, it’s the holy grail of engineering. Such a machine – one provided the right amount of energy to get started, would regenerate that same amount of energy with the completion of a cycle, an engine that would only need to be started that would run forever.

Learn how to make such a machine, and all our needs for energy would be answered.

“But we have solar panels now, and wind turbines powered by the slightest breeze, and water turbines that are powered by the energy of the oceans?”

Yes we do. But they are still very inefficient. They do not yet produce enough energy to account for the human races tremendous thirst for power.

But the good news is we are getting there. A perpetual motion machine would take us to that next level that could allow us to end our dependency on fossil fuels – and nuclear power.

“But wasn’t the universe created by nuclear power?”

The big bang? Yes I guess that’s likely true.

The universe appears to have harnessed that power tremendously efficiently, little if any wasted as our own Sun as an exhibit proves – continuing to burn for eons yet to come.

We as mankind are so arrogant to think how intelligent we are. But in comparison to the bang that God set off that one single bang those billions of years ago? We hook a couple of pistons and gears together and dig out the fossil fuels from the earth from life that lived here a millennium before us, and we make a big explosion to make the stuff move, only to have to make another explosion milliseconds later to keep it moving – to drive to the store to get milk.

What we have been able to accomplish however is to provide the means for all of humanity to connect their collective thoughts – ideas – dreams – concepts – stuff in our heads – headstuffing – so that we can collaborate on these next steps forward.

But in our most inefficient way – we squander this technology on menial sentiments – telling the world that we just had a bowl of Cheerios for breakfast – or that we are out walking the dog.

I am no better, do not get me wrong and think that I am spouting off here in some superior voice to say the rest of man is fat and lazy. I am a prime example of the epitome of inefficiency.

I take more than I give. I use more than I make. I am like a termite consistently eating away at the very resources – in my own gluttonous pace – until all are exhausted.

We need that perpetual motion machine.

We need that divine revelation – that inspiration that removes our dependency on fossil fuels. We need to be smarter.

I am not that smart.

Nor likely are you.

But if we put our collective minds together – and push full steam ahead to brainstorm on a singular common goal … we need to overcome ourselves.

We need to overcome what we have become.

And we had better hurry. Because the Earth continues to spin, and the sun continues to rise and set, the moon continues to circle us, as days to into months then into years.

Because time, as relative a concept as physicists insist it to be, time waits for no one. But while time is limitless – our quantity of time is not.

We expire.

And time will continue on without us.

Seemingly perpetually.

Sunday, December 04, 2011

Which Wolf Are You Feeding?

An old Cherokee is teaching his grandson about life.

"A fight is going on inside me," he said to the boy.

"It is a terrible fight and it is between two wolves. One is evil - he is anger, envy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego." He continued, "The other is good - he is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion, and faith. The same fight is going on inside you - and inside every other person, too."

The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather, "Which wolf will win?"

The old Cherokee simply replied, "The one you feed."

I love this story.

I read it the other day. It was taped up to a friend’s cubicle at work.

And I realized what I have been doing for the last four months. I have been feeding the wrong wolf.

But feeding the right wolf is hard. Especially when you face personal challenges. Feeding the wrong wolf is so easy, because the wrong wolf is always begging at your feet. And the wrong wolf rewards you with a lick on the face to say “it’s okay to feel that way”.

But it’s not okay.

The good wolf does not come to be fed so easily. He can be delusive. To the point that the bad wolf asks you why you bother to try.

You could carry this metaphor on forever. It fits so well.

We are measured by our ability to fend off the bad wolf – and banish him from our lives.

Or at least keep him at bay.

In our daily strife and toil, it is rare to find a person who takes bad wolf to task instead of rewarding him.

So how does one acquire such discipline? What drills can you do, or course can you take? Where does one learn discipline to the degree to fend off the bad wolfs.

Can it even be learned?

Or is it in you already, in some deeply hidden in small doses. Is it there for you to pull out and practice?

Do you simply have to spend time dwelling on why you let the bad wolf console you?

Or is it really better to dwell on the good dog and how to feed him? To go through the list of attributes the old Cherokee listed for the good wolf. One by one. And dwell instead on how each of those attributes could be better employed by you.

Dwell on the question that you have given so much attention as to how you want to be treated – how do you fare in treating others?

I’ll bet it’s like anything else you practice – as you exercise the muscles you need to make you better – exercise the muscle between your ears – it might resist the change in direction – but with time you will train it.

… if you can keep your wits about while you change them.

Wits are often the first to abandon you when you are faced with a conflict. When the bad wolf shows his teeth, your instinct is to calm the beast and reward them – in this case with your own self-pity.

The strongest defense one has from the consequences of consorting with the bad wolf is faith. Faith in the good wolf.

Faith in yourself.

Faith in your own self is the direct reward of self-confidence. And since self-pity or any of the other traits of the bad wolf destroy a person’s feeling of self-worth, self-confidence erodes like the sands of beach as tides of self-pity washes in and out.

Until the beach has no sand.

I have not mastered this myself.

Not yet.

But I do have faith that I will. Now that I know what the bad wolf looks like. And I will stop feeding him, saving my chow instead for the other one.

Now, let’s discuss cats …

The Legend of Two Wolves was borrowed from the website called “First Peoples - The Legends” -

Monday, November 21, 2011

The Simplest Act Of Kindness

I find it amazing sometimes how the smallest act of kindness can mean so much more than the most grandiose.

Often in ways that are often overlooked because they are not expected.

I had one of those wondrous moments just a minute or two ago - while simply sitting at my desk, eating a sandwich – a bologna and cheese with mustard on it – right from the little sandwich bag it was packed in.

It was a great sandwich – with three pieces of bologna on fresh buttered whole wheat bread.

I devoured it while reading my constantly growing number of emails that do not stop simply because it is lunchtime.

I took the last bite from the sandwich bag and I sat the mustard covered baggie over on the side of the desk as I reached in my bag to grab a can of Coke.

I enjoyed the sandwich especially this day because my youngest daughter Ashley-Rae had made it for me.

She packed my whole lunch for me – which I especially appreciated today because my lovely wife Darlene had come down with a horrible cold that sounds more like pneumonia – like a whole Scottish regiment being piped across St. Andrews on a bitter cold November morning – sacs of air all wheezing in that uniformed but frightening pitches and octaves that only a masterful piper could extract from such a convoluted instrument – those same sounds were coming from my lovely wife as she attempted again to catch some sleep amongst her sickness that morning and the crippling back pain each cough shot through her degenerating spinal cord.

So Ashley-Rae pitched right in to help – standing in her pajamas at the counter with the bread and butter strewn across the countertop madly working to assemble the lunches for not only myself but her and her older sister Alannah as well.

“How many pieces of bologna do you want Daddy?”, she asked as I stood at the sink in the upstairs bathroom shaving.

"Three", I replied as the razor ran across my cheek.

“What kind of pudding do you want, Daddy?”, she asked as I finished attending to my own personal hygiene for the day and ready to help her and her sister accomplish the same.

"No puddings - just one of those snack bars please", I replied to my nine year old short order chef.

Ashley was still standing there working away – no breakfast yet – still dressed only in her pajama’s adorning Justin Bieber’s hideous face. And only fifteen minutes to go until they had to be at the school for the final bell.

Ashley was just finishing cleaning up the mess as I came into the kitchen to urge her to get ready.

And in a mad frenzy, both daughters dressed, and brushed their teeth, and yelled and screamed in pain as they do each morning as I attempt to brush their mangled tangled mops of hair.

We hurriedly all grabbed our briefcases and back packs and luck boxes and bags as we ran for the door shouting out a hurried “bye Mommy” to my poor wife who was only half conscious and understandably unmotivated to follow us out to the door in her state of illness.

As we pulled into the school parking lot – seconds before the final bell would ring, the girls climbed out of the car stating the usual “love ya Daddy” as the door shut behind them.

And then I drove to work.

And then work became my main focus of the morning. And the morning passed quickly from the business that it entails.

Until lunch time, when still working, I devoured the wonderful bologna and cheese sandwich that Ashley-Rae made me. And the little chocolate cookie bar she packed in my lunch as a special treat.

And with little thought I reached to grab the cookie wrapper and the sandwich bag laying sloppily on my desk  to throw them away when I realized I stuck my finger in a big wad of mustard from the baggie.

I picked up the offending baggie and found it not to be so offensive after all.

It was one of those freezer storage bags – the kind with the white panel you can write on – stating what you're freezing and when you froze it.

But my baggie had neither written on it. Instead – in the unmistakable scrawl of my nine year old daughter were the words written in marking pen …

“I love you Dad”

And I realized that for the challenges in a day, be they professional or domestic battles being fought from the most tedious of exercises – that we really do need to pay more attention to detail.

Or else we might miss the really important stuff.

We might over look the most wonderful – the smallest - demonstrations of kindness.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Five Years and Counting

Funny how time flies.

Five years ago last night I wrote my first real headstuffing blog.

The parallels to then and now are pretty interesting.

Five years ago – in 2006 – I had my first inspiration for a headstuffing post while watching The Wizard of Oz with my little girls then four and five. My beloved Detroit Tigers had just days before lost the World Series to the St. Louis Cardinals.

Five years later, for the first time since 2006 – I find myself again watching The Wizard of Oz – the night before Halloween. And at the point where the Wicked Witch of the West is melted by Dorothy who accidentally splashes her with water while trying to put out the burning Scarecrow – again I found myself thinking “just like the Tigers against the Texas Rangers in the American League Championship Series”.

Only last time the Tigers folded in the World Series – handing the royal crown of baseball to the St. Louis Cardinals.

This year the Cardinals earned it in dramatic fashion – with Game Six of that series in serious contention as the greatest World Series Game ever played.

And I realized headstuffing had reached a milestone.

Is five years a long time for a blog to exist? To persist?

Perhaps not.

I hate the term blog anyways. It sounds so demeaning. This is really just a place for me to put the stories I write. And I hope it will always be here.

Not that anyone would miss it.

Or so I thought.

I mentioned last night to my little family of two little girls and a wife who loves bingo that maybe it was time for me to close the book on headstuffing. Call it quits. I would keep the blog up and running but post no more stories here.

The family disagreed. Loudly. You see it’s not so much mine as it is there’s. The stories are not so much mine as they are ours. And both my daughters – Alannah and Ashley-Rae – as well as my lovely wife Darlene – objected strongly to the demise of headstuffing.

They are the stars of the stories.

Even my faithful black lab Suzy gave a gentle grumble at the suggestion.

And I didn’t even raise the question to the two Grandmas.

Or the Good Doctor or the Nice Nurse Lady.

They are all characters of my stories as well.

Nor did I ask any of the seven hundred and fifty thousand readers who have stopped by over the last five years to read what’s going on. Although I am certain all of you would be less concerned as to whether headstuffing continued or not.

Even Pat “The Book On Sports” Caputo – who I still contend to be the best sports writer in Detroit – who was the inspiration for using a blog to write towards because of how much I enjoy The Books “Open Book” blog every day – and who has been very supportive of headstuffing the past - even The Book would likely be indifferent to the ending of headstuffing.

But I certainly had had a lot of feedback. A lot of good comments thanking me for sharing the cute stories about debating Santa Clause with my eldest daughter or my youngest daughter’s breaking a mirror and subjecting our small household to seven years bad luck – three of which are behind us now – or the little boy Raymond who stormed through Ashley-Rae’s birthday party only to get a kiss on the cheek from her for being such a great friend.

One story that touched many was a tribute to an old friend Bill, who passed away a couple of years ago – who I hadn’t seen since high school, who made such a big difference in the person I grew up to become.

Others caused debate as I referred to the natural way that trees deploy seeds into the earth as God’s Contraptions, or questioned why more attention at Easter is given to colored eggs and chocolate bunnies than the resurrection of Christ. Or that Santa Clause could also be considered to be the Holy Ghost personified – if one were only to believe so.

And others critique my want-to-be sports writer attempts at writing about Tigers baseball – calling my attempts sophomoric at best.

Far be it from me to argue that point.

Like Roger Ebert once complained when he started getting pushback on his movie reviews – “everyone’s a critic”.

There are two hundred and thirty three stories – each about two and third pages long – posted here. That’s about forty six a year. That’s approximately five hundred pages total. Some are just rambling about things in my brain (like this post). Some are personal treasures to me that I wouldn’t have had it not been for feeling obligated to write a post that week.

But I can’t see ever shutting headstuffing down.


And I still haven’t earned even a simple penny from my Google Ads – or Maybe I’m doing something wrong.

We’ll see where we sit five years ahead in time – in 2016 – the next time the Tiger’s challenge the St. Louis Cardinals and all teams in between for World Series supremacy – and the next time I plan to watch The Wizard Of Oz again.

We’ll see where we sit with headstuffing.

Maybe by then I’ll have published my book.

Monday, October 10, 2011

A Good Day To Be Thankful

It’s a beautiful morning outside.

There are a couple of scattered clouds in the sky. The maples that lie just beyond the fenced borders of my yard are turning bright reds yellows and browns. The dew sits heavy on the grass.

And it hasn’t rained for several days now.

The black tarpon that covers my pool is about six inches full now of its own water, and a few fallen fall leaves.

And my faithful black lab Suzy stretched out on the deck beside my feet.

It’s Thanksgiving Day here in Canada.

It’s Columbus Day to the Americans just across the Detroit River. Apparently this is now a reason for great shopping sales.

The Detroit Tigers are still playing baseball. They won their ALDS playoff series against the Bronx Bombing team that only money can buy New York Yankers. They played all five games of the series through rain and more rain – winning in the final game in a cardiac arresting fifth game pitcher’s duel score of three to two which had me clutching my chest like Red Foxx in a bad episode of Sanford and Son.

After the Tiger’s won, and I put the portable defibrillator away, I realized that I had made about twenty five promises to God of things I would do should he get the Tigers out of this mess and win this last game, only to realize I could only remember seventeen of them.

And hence the Tiger’s lost their ALCS series opener against Texas when God took away the vision from the right eye of home plate umpire Tim Welke who couldn’t call a strike on the right corner of the plate and then poured rain on the game twice forcing Tiger’s Cy Young award pitcher for 2011 Justin Verlander to come out of the game.

Sorry Justin, my bad. Next time I’ll write them all down.

And now I am emotionally spent; at least until four o’clock this afternoon when the game that got rained out last night will be played.

Life is pretty busy right now.

I’m running a men’s pool league that plays every Monday night, every Monday night except for tonight because today is Thanksgiving which ticked-off the players in my league because they either needed a place to go on Monday nights or because they needed reprieve from their own families after the viciousness that erupts at family holiday time.

I can identify a bit with the latter.

I also play in Wednesday night darts league, which I enjoy very much as the pace is quick and the darters throw triple twenties frequently.

It’s all very good stuff. As a married father of two little girls ages nine and ten, I am finding it refreshing to rejoin society after a decade of family and office isolation to hang out with the guys and say bad words and say “nice shot” as I take a sip out of my second pint of beer of the night.

But then Tuesday or Thursday mornings roll around, and I find myself groggily trying to help the girls get some breakfast in them, brushing their hair and enforcing statutory teeth brushing laws before we hop in the jeep for me to drop them both off at their school.

One year, four years from now, in October of 2015, my eldest Alannah will start high school while Ashley Ray remains behind one grade younger at the primary school. That year will be much more frustrating than this as both will need rides, and our morning battles will be much different.

At least until Alannah starts dating the high school senior twelfth grader who drives a fifteen year old Camero and simply refers to me as “old dude” as he picks Alannah up at the curbside of our house with me screaming from the driveway in front of all the neighbors “I forbid you to ride with that long haired hippy looking ear-ring wearing punk”. And as they drive away with some modern day rap remix of Lynard Skynard’s “Three Steps Mister” blasting through the open windows (open only because one of the windows doesn’t roll up all the way), I will stand there half furious with my daughter, half envious of the young man who kidnapped her from me – remembering my own senior year and thinking “those were great days”.

But those days are still four years away. I’ll cross that bridge when I come to it, although I started saving for the shotgun last spring when Alannah came home telling me all about the new boy in school she likes swearing up and down that she hates the guy.

It’s all very strange now as life continues to unfold.

It’s also very sobering.

I myself still feel like I am twenty six years old – at least in my mind.

The truth comes rushing back to me quickly as I try to teach Alannah and Ashley-Rae how to turn and chase down a long fly ball hit over one’s head – only to find my legs no longer simply glide me effortlessly under the ball – but now instead each stride is a challenge as I bounce up and down trying to keep the ball in jiggling sight only to reach up and barely snag it - instead of stopping and turning to make the catch easily, then panting out of breath as I try to spit out the affirmation “See … … it’s easy … … now you do it”.

But as I said, in Canada, today is Thanksgiving Day.

Here is a list of things I am very thankful for as I sit here this morning:

I am most thankful that my lovely wife Darlene and I still have this wonderful little family of ours, although some days that thankfulness is tested to its limits.

As well, I am thankful that I can still carve the seven ball into a tight side pocket leaving the cue ball to bounce off two rails and leave me a clean tap in on the eight ball in the corner.

And that I can double out from ninety seven by hitting triple nineteen and then double twenty.

I am very thankful that my daughters both love baseball enough to stay up as late as they can watching the Tigers playoff games, falling asleep on the couches in the living room in the third inning so that I have to carry them to bed; and when they wake up in the next morning the first question they ask is “did we win last night Daddy?”

And I am thankful that so far this playoff series I have gotten to answer that question by saying “yes we did, darling” more times than “no we didn’t sweetheart”.

Sunday, October 02, 2011

Still Writing My Book

I haven’t written much on headstuffing lately. Sorry about that.

I have been spending all of my writing time trying to get this book written.

I think it’s going well. To me it reads very well. It isn’t a struggle to read it. It’s actually pretty easy reading, a page turner.

But I’m pretty biased.

I think my characters are very well fleshed out. Complete people you know all about with just enough mystery to continue to make them interesting, and funny.

But what I really wanted to tell you about is how incredibly amazing this whole process has been as an experience. It’s incredible. I know when I’ve hit something good when the story tells itself to me, and I simply write it down.

After writing one of those parts, I sit back and have a sip of whatever I’m drinking, light a smoke, and I read it over again. And I wonder to myself “where the hell did that come from?”

The story literally tells itself to me as my fingers hit the keys on my laptop.

It’s like I’m channeling someone else – I don’t know who – who simply puts the words and ideas in my head.

There is nothing more rewarding in the world … to me … than getting snippet of the story written out and realizing as I read it over again that this is really good.

But as I said before, I am pretty biased.

I find myself reading my book over and over again, and when I get to where I left off, I wonder what’s going to happen next.

I guess I had better explain. I do have a known structure to the story, most specifically a start, and an end, and in between I have an idea – loosely formed in my feeble brain – about how I am going to get from one point to the next in the story.

The part that blows me away, that makes this story so much fun, is all the places this story goes in between all those points. And what makes it so rewarding is how much sense it all makes – how feasible such an unfeasible story seems to be- as I read it over and over again.

I’ve had a lot of friends ask me what the story is about. And I get disappointed when I try to explain the premise in summary form – only to find out how silly it sounds when I say it that way. But then I go back and read what I wrote to tell the story, and I am reassured because the story does make sense – very great sense – in a fantasy fiction sort of way.

I think people will really take to this story, if I can get it in front of them to read it.

A couple of people who have read the snippet I have shared here on headstuffing are intrigued and want to read more. And I feel bad that I can’t simply say “oh yeah? Here you go”.

The other part of this process that I have found so … incredible … is how many people have knowingly or unknowingly inspired my creation of these characters in this book. And since this story unfolds all around the world, I have had so much fun simply interviewing people to learn more about them, to help me flesh these characters out in a meaningful way.

It’s got a little bit of everything – a fantasy that we all have in common; mystery behind the scenes that keeps you wanting to know more; and great characters that everyone will enjoy.

As I have said before here on headstuffing, I simply love to write. And the greatest reward to me is to have other people tell me how much they enjoy reading what I write. That’s why it’s so hard not to simply give everyone who asks me a copy of the story so far.

There is something to be said for taking the approach of simply giving this book away, let people read it for free and hope that they like it so much it might generate revenues for my family in other ways. But what I really need is a writers agent, someone of influence who can present this story to a publisher so that they can see this story – and publish it.

That’s the part I haven’t figured out yet. Maybe you can help me?

I don’t ask for help very easily. It’s a character flaw I have. But I’m asking now.

My lovely wife Darlene has read most of the story so far. She thinks it should be a movie.

But she is pretty biased.

And my little girls ask me every night to read the story to them as they go to bed. So far they love it, all though I do have to skip some parts that they are not old enough for yet. But they love it to.

They are also pretty biased too.

There are components of this story that people will really enjoy.

A little black jet called the Fa├žade.

The Universal Communication Terminals.

And the Angel. Everyone will love the Angel.

But then – like I said earlier – I am pretty biased.

If you haven’t checked out the snippet of the book that I have shared, and you do find what I have described even remotely interesting, then I encourage you to click on the icon on the top of the sidebar to the right of my headstuffing site here, and read it online. It’s pretty short. And I bet you will want to read more.

If you do read it, please leave me a comment and tell me what you think. Even if you think it stinks. I post all your comments here – within reason of course – as long as it meets the standard clean language rule I apply to all headstuffing comments – and as long as your not spamming my comments trying to sell Viagra or something.

Give it a read. I bet you will like it … and you will want to read more.

But I should mention that I am a little biased.

Saturday, July 02, 2011

Cheers or Jeers?

My girls are playing a lot of softball this year.

Fast pitch – with base runners that steal second and third – and line drives and double plays – and some really good pitching.

It’s good stuff.

It’s finally their first year of real ball.

And my girls seem to be catching on nicely.

But they still have that age old problem of keeping their head in the game?

Young minds wander, I guess.

But how do you snap them out of it?

It’s so easy to stand in left center field with your hands on your hip and your glove by your side wondering what Justin Bieber is up to, or what you should wear to the sleep over the next night.

I’m talking about my daughters now, not myself.

Just to be clear.

But both girls have stepped up their play considerably this year. Ashley cracked one all the way to the fence that drove in two runs in a close game – and Alannah continues to surprise everyone as she continues to be in the right place at the right time to make a big play.

And Alannah has also shown herself to be a pretty good pitcher.

But they both still slip into that la la land mindspace when in the field during a game.

And then there are the dugout cheers.

Girl’s softball is full of cheers – coming from the dugout. Very long cheers that are almost complete songs – and our team seems to sing them the loudest …

She stole on you, she stole on you
While you were picking your nose, she was hot on her toes, and she stole on you
What a disgrace …. Right in your face .,.. yeah she stole on you ….”

I don’t care for that one much. But the other teams sing it to.

They must put out a CD or a song-sheet of girl’s fast-pitch dugout cheers because no matter where we go play – both sides are singing the same things. And there are enough of these chants to last an entire six inning game.

It doesn’t seem very sportsman-like, does it?

I’m all for rooting on your players – but these chants cross a lot lines to many in the sportsmanship category.

But then girl’s fast-pitch does seem to bring out the wannabe future pop-stars in these girls.

Sometimes I hear my girls singing these chants around the house, and I interrupt them and say “that doesn’t sound very nice”.

It’s softball Dad! You’re not s’posed to be nice”, replies which ever daughter I interrupt.

Nice, no … but calling the other team a disgrace doesn’t sound good. In fact it would just tick them off, donchathink?


So they will try harder


So if you tick them off and they try harder and they beat you, you look stupid

Every team does it, Dad

The Tigers don’t do it

They’re boys, Dad. This is girls’ softball”, they reply.

Thank goodness they don’t sing these in the big leagues. Could you imagine if the pros sang chants in the dugout during a pennant race?

Hey there hey there number four, you say you don’t use roids no more
But I just saw your trainer stick – a needle in your butt real quick …

True, boys don’t do it. Boys go out and show you. They don’t chide you in a sing-song format – they just whisper it in your ear when standing on first – or at the plate. Perhaps this is a difference between boys and girls?

This year Alannah made the All-Star B-Team for Turtle Club. There are three tournaments coming up in July, one out of town I believe – that she gets to play in. I’m very happy for her because she wanted this so bad, and I know that making such a team will take her to the next level of play – just from the experience of playing against real quality teams.

I hope she pays attention.

I know she will be leading the cheer chants from the dugout.

I’m certain they’ll be chanting from the same chant-book. All the old familiar ones.

But what do these chants say about sportsmanship to little girls? I think it says it doesn’t matter. And I don’t like that very much.

After all, they will all be wearing the big Turtle Club TC on their hats – and their green and yellow uniforms will say Turtle Club across the fronts. And their names will be on their backs.

And they will be singing about disgraced nose picking catchers when they steal a base.

Look, I am all for teaching kids to have a competitive spirit in sports and play to win and not get a trophy or ribbon just for showing up, I really truly am.

Hey number seven, I like your sox. I’d like to get some, do you still have the box?

No, that’s not what I’m talking about at all.

Girls, cheer your team on. Root for them with all the air in your lungs – but there is nothing to be gained by belittling the other team while you do so. Plain and simple – it’s just wrong – and it teaches everything I try to teach my own girls not to do. It undoes what I do.

You might as well just chant:

Hey number six, we think you suck. When I hit it at you, you better duck”.

Good grief.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Spread Too Thin

Thinly Spread

That seems to be my modus operandi these days.

It’s true right now at work.

It’s true right now at home.

It’s just that there are so many exciting things happening now that I find myself a part of.

Spare time is such a commodity. One day it will be sold – I am certain – on a global trade exchange. Sell your free time to someone else so they can relax while you do their work.

I think the smartest investment of the future will be to purchase robots – highly skilled machines that do your work for you – where you send them out to earn your living for you while you sit back and collect their pay cheques.

I really need a robot.

My lovely wife Darlene would like a robot – that much I am sure of. Our little girls aren’t very good at being housework robots – no matter how we try to re-program them. Likely we are using the wrong programming language – with words like responsibility and teamwork and duty. They prefer languages that result more in monetary and consumer rewards.

I’m afraid I don’t know those “Object-Oriented” languages – I prefer “Objective Oriented languages myself.

You know – that’s not really a bad idea.

I know the Japanese companies like Sony and Mitsubishi have some models that do housework.

“So how was your day today X15-R Model 39?”

“Blip blip Beep.”

“Well, rest over there by the recharging bar and I will reset your rotors and run some diagnostics … you like it when I reset your rotors …”

“Blip Bleep”.

My problem is not a problem really. And I certainly don’t say this braggingly – but almost despairingly.

I’m an idea guy.

If I come up with an idea, I can’t rest until I test the waters of the idea. And if the waters reply back with successful response – I then either saddle myself or get saddled with the work of engineering and driving the idea to a successful completion. A realization.

The same is true when others express an idea to me – one that I see real value in – one that the idea spawner can’t carry through with on their own. After I describe how the realization of their idea would come about – I find myself again saddled with either parts of realizing the solution – or taking the whole concept over – ensuring the idea spawner is still recognized as the genius behind the idea.

And in these exciting times both in my professional and personal life – ideas are coming to fast from all over the place – and I am finding myself spread too thin to devote the attention that each deserve or required to succeed.

Sometimes the idea is solely to automate a manual process – and therefore requires the inclusion of multiple skilled people – all to participate – and move in the same direction that I am trying to point them to.

Those are the easy projects.

Mostly these days – in my personal life anyway – my projects all seem to be more a creative collaboration of sorts.

And I struggle with those “what’s in it for me” responses.

Because more often than not – there is little to nothing in it for me … let alone the other person.

Those idea projects don’t usually fly to well, and I am left saddling the whole task myself – or with the assistance of my lovely wife Darlene – who is as quick to jump on board as I am … most of the time.

The problem is that I just can’t move forward after hearing or coming up with a great idea until I test those waters. It gets stuffed in my head until I perform some sort of action towards it to either realize of discard it.

It’s kind of like why I write headstuffing.

“Well, if that’s the case Fred, then why do you let yourself get caught up in all these …. Ideas?”

Because the satisfaction of seeing an idea realized is so personally satisfying. That alone is the reason to do it. And to know you did it very well. And to know that somebody out there benefited from your efforts – somebody who really needed the help – that is where the thrill in the end comes from.

That’s why it is so difficult to be spread so thin right now.

There’s no reward in seeing a great idea realized and come to completion poorly. It’s like a failure.

But there are only so many hours in a day. And now that it’s summer time in the northern hemisphere and daylight lasting to nearly 9:30 at night as we just passed the summer solstice – the days have gotten longer. And sleep time has gotten shorter.

Perhaps one day one of these ideas will really click – really catch on. Perhaps if I ever finish my book – or see one of my other personal objectives reach their desired result – I might be in a position to hire a staff.

You know – start a think tank – a group that could attack all of these ideas – and perhaps ideas of much grander scales – to drive them through to real completion.

To make a real difference. All the time. Making big strides instead of being content with “baby steps”.

That’s what we’re all here for really … don’t you think? To enhance the common good?

To make a difference.

Monday, June 20, 2011

My Baseball Dad

Baseball is a big deal at our house.

It has been since I was a little boy.

No matter where we were going, the ball equipment always sat in the trunk of our car – at the ready – should we pass an empty ball diamond along the way. And if we did, the car pulled over to the side, the equipment bag came out of the trunk, and we would hold a quick infield practice.

That’s just how my Dad was.

He was an excellent coach – and his forte was teaching technique. Acquire the basic skill, and then master the technique.

The one break-through day I clearly remember was when Dad taught me how to charge a hard hit ground ball so that you catch it just as it hit the ground – taking the ball just as it came up – eliminating for the most part the possibility of the ball taking a bad bounce and going by you.

That advice really worked.

That was when I was eleven years old.

Up until then, I would simply sit back on the ground ball and snag it as it came by – most often with success – but that waiting time both allowed the runner to move further up first baseline meaning he would beat my throw more often.

After I learned that technique of Dad’s and mastered it as an eleven year old, I made the all star team at short stop or second base every year after. It made such a huge difference.

I see a lot of coaches teaching the principle of charging the ball these days, but they seem to forget the point of taking the ball on the short hop.

He also spent a lot of time teaching us the individual techniques of hitting, all those little things like the proper stance – spending hours positioning us at the plate – and how the timing of shifting your weight from your back foot to your front foot so that your bat strikes the ball at the exact moment your weight shifts – allowing you to hit the ball hard with your weight rather than with your arms – and how to snap your wrists right at the point of contact to optimize your leverage and transferring twice the power of your weight into the ball. All these individual points of technique that when put together with keeping your eye on the ball and being able to tell a strike from a ball as it leaves the pitchers hand – add up into one beautiful swing that hits line drives over the infield and perhaps over the outfield every time.

That was my Dad. He knew baseball. He coached baseball. And he coached coaches how to teach these advanced fundamentals.

But nothing really clicked for me until I turned eleven – when my muscle and hand-eye coordination started to really allow me to apply these techniques. Until then, I never really felt like I had control – control of the ball as I threw it like my Dad taught me – control of the heavy bat as I tried to move it through the plane of the swing – control of my feet and my body as I went back for a long fly ball looking over my shoulder and watching it all the way into the webbing of my glove.

At age eleven – I gained the coordination of the muscles in my body to do what I was thinking – and what I was thinking came all that training.

Now I am a Dad. Not nearly as good a Dad as my Dad when it comes to baseball – or softball – as Alannah and Ashley-Rae are nine and ten years old. But I am trying.

But next year, Alannah turns eleven. And I am hoping her muscle coordination “kicks in”.

Friday Night – the Turtle Club team they play for was facing Windsor West – at Mic Mac Park – under the lights for the first time ever. And the girls were excited – and the Windsor West team was a good team with decent pitching.

Alannah hit a line drive right to the girl playing short stop – who caught it. Later – with girls on second and third hit another line drive up the middle and scored two runs. As well, Ashley-Rae ran out a close play at first to be called safe.

Later, Alannah in right field (all players rotate positions each inning to be fair to all) – a hard line drive was hit up the first base line – just inside the bag – a fair ball – and Alannah took off to chase it down. As she reached the ball the runner was turning first and heading full speed for second – and Alannah picked that ball up with her bare hand and threw it on a rope to the second baseman Danielle – hitting her glove perfect as the base runner ran into her glove for an out.

It was great.

Our Turtle Club team lost that match 9-10. But it didn’t matter.

There are signs that both are on the verge of their coordination “kicking in”.

Dad would be so excited.

And now, just starting right now, we can start to carry that equipment bag in the car, and stop and hit ground balls and take batting practice and work on all of these techniques my Dad taught me.

At least that’s what I hope will happen. Like I said earlier, I’m not as good a Dad as my Dad was. And it’s harder with our schedules now to find the time to just have fun anymore.

I can’t find any time to play golf – but maybe baseball will be different.

That all being said – my Dad could be a tough coach – insisting that you try – and repeating the same things over and over again each time he slammed a ground ball …

Get up on balls of your feet and off your heels

Keep your head down on the ball … it won’t hurt you

Charge that ball harder and keep that glove down

And sometimes my brother Paul and I would get plain frustrated – and we would say mean things to him. And sometimes we quit.

But Dad always inspired us to get back out there and try even harder.

I don’t know how all that repetition and frustration will play out with Alannah and Ashley-Rae – but we will see. They’re good girls and they really do love softball and want to learn more … but they both get frustrated very easily. And they cry … girls cry. I don’t remember me and Paul crying playing ball. Maybe we did.

But Dad was patient. More patient than I think I am.

I’m not as good a Dad as my Dad was, you see.

First Tee Jitters

Well, it finally happened.

It’s near the middle of June. It had to happen sometime.

But yesterday it finally happened.

I played my first round of golf.

No practice. No driving range. No putting on the living room carpet.

I just showed up to play golf.

In a tournament.

No, not a fun best ball drive around in a cart drinking beer with your buddies tournament.

This was a tournament for our local zone. Playing with a partner, our combined scores would have to be good enough to qualify and advance to the district tournament in July. And from there, the regional, and from there the provincial. Qualify there, and you go on to the national tournament.

I’ve known about playing in this tournament now since March.

But there is little time for golf now, with being so busy at work, and my new responsibilities to our local Legion branch. And of course there’s the girls softball schedules and all star try outs. That leaves me very little time for golf.

Or much else, really.

When I arrived at the local course in Windsor to register, I met my partner for the first time. Larry looked the part of an avid golfer, black pants and red shirt, weather beaten golf hat and worn glove. Looking at Larry I knew I had the advantage of a good player for a partner.

The combined scoring format meant Larry was counting on me to pull my share of the load. I felt ashamed as I introduced myself to Larry. But as we shook hands, Larry confided to me that this was his first round of the year too. He stopped on his way to the course to hit a bucket at the range to try to get his swing back.

I didn’t even do that. And I told him so.

I explained how unprepared I was to Larry. Larry simply smiled and said, “Don’t worry about it”.

We paired up with another pair to make our foursome, a couple of seniors from another branch in our zone. These guys –further advanced in their years – were both retired – and both played every other day.

Oh dear.

We were the first foursome off the tee – the starting foursome. This of course means the whole tournament would be standing there watching us – judging us – as we teed off. A group of forty or so ambitious golfers would be standing there watching me take my first swing of a golf club since last September.

What was I thinking?

Our foursome was called to the tee, and as I was I was putting on last year’s old golf glove, Ian of the other pair said to the crowd “Show us the way there Fred”.

Now I’m scared.

I pulled a brand new ball out of my pocket with a tee, and as I bent down to put the tee in the ground with the ball on top of it, I felt my knees shake. I moved the writing on the ball so that the words “Titleist” pointed down the line I was aiming to the left side of the fairway.

I was sure to slice the first drive of the year. That is if I even hit the ball. I might just dribble it off the tee box to the white tees just ahead of me. And this crowd would all laugh at me.

I stood up and took one practice swing as I stood behind my ball looking down the fairway to my target. I could hear the mumblings in the crowd – small talk amongst themselves – as I approached the ball – taking one final swing with my left arm only to get a feel for the weight of my driver.

The mumblings in the crowd stopped as I addressed my ball, slightly behind my left foot and gave the club a final waggle.

The silence was deafening. But the thoughts in my head were so loud I thought everyone in the crowd would hear them.

“you can do this … nice and easy swing … don’t lift your head … bring that right hand over … “

There was no wind. The air was still. The crowd was silent.

I drew back the club and it felt good. My club head was in the right place. I came down through the ball pulling hard with the left arm and bringing the right hand over exactly as I struck the ball, I watched the tee do a couple of flips in the air as I followed through.

Then I looked up as I followed through – in that pose one takes after hitting a drive. It felt great. But the sky was grey – and my ball was white – and I couldn’t find it in the sky.

But it felt great. Where was it?

Then I heard the crowd behind me. I heard “Nice shot”, and “it’s drawing nice” and “he got all of that one” … but I still didn’t know where it was.

As I picked up my tee, and turned to join the crowd so that a player from the other pairing could hit his tee shot, I saw smiles in the crowd and nods of approval from the other golfers. “Nice shot” said Larry as I stood beside him.

I leaned over and in a whisper I said “I lost it in the sky. I have no idea where it went”.

You’re about 280 down there – just past the one fifty marker – in the first cut off the fairway”, and he offered his fist for me to punch with mine.

When Larry hit his, he blasted it down the middle – and the ball took a bad bounce and ended up in the first cut on the right side. We were side by side on opposite sides of the fairway. Ian and Dave – the other pairing in our foursome - were side by side in the middle of the fairway – Ian playing a big slice – and Dave hitting straight as an arrow. But both were some fifty yards behind us.

As we got into our cart to drive away, both Larry and I breathed a sigh of relief in unison, and we both laughed.

“That wasn’t so bad, was it”, said Larry.

“I was trembling the whole damned time”, I confessed.

“Yeah, I know – I saw your knees shaking”, replied Larry. “Mine were too, but I’m wearing pants”.

We qualified to go on to the District tournament in July. But we didn’t shoot great. I had a nine on one hole, but I put together a string of pars and a birdie to offset it later in the round. Larry played bogey golf with the odd double. We only beat the other pair by one stroke. They qualified as well.

Later, drinking beers after the round, I confessed my terror on that first tee box to all at the table.

“You didn’t look scared to me” said Ian.

I saw your knees shaking”, said Dave.

But I’ll be playing and practicing before we go play District in July.

And I might just wear black pants like Larry instead of shorts – no matter how hot it is.

I don’t want them seeing my knees shaking at District.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Pat Caputo Still Reminds Me Of Lewis Grizzard

Pat Caputo

Lewis Grizzard

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again.

It’s posted all over this blog and my other sites for people to see – so I have no problem reaffirming this publicly yet again.

Pat Caputo is the best sports writer – best sports radio talk show host – best commentator on sports news in the greater Detroit Metropolitan area.

Including Windsor, which Caputo himself proclaimed to be “South Detroit” by way of expressing his displeasure for a specific Journey rock song played at the Joe Louis arena during Red Wing games.

Pat’s a personality to be sure.

He’s “The Book On Sports” – or simply “The Book” for short.

A character indeed.

He is a character of high character, in my personal and as always humble opinion.

I started following Caputo after hearing him on the radio, now broadcast on FM 97.1 The Ticket – Pat has been a mainstay on the radio waves keeping listeners involved in Detroit sports teams.

I’m a baseball fan myself.

Nobody in this town talks baseball like Pat Caputo.

Or hockey.

Or football.

Pat reminds me a lot – an awful lot – of my favorite sports columnist from The Atlanta Constitution and Journal – Lewis Grizzard. Grizzard was a masterful story teller who told you the story of the game as though you were sitting and talking to him. And he was deeply proud of growing up and being a Southerner – telling wonderful stories of growing up in his hometown Moreland, Georgia.

He loved and defended the area he grew up in – defending southerners against the often belittling Northerners who stereotyped all Southerners as … well … dumb.

That just plain ain’t true.

And Grizzard was also cited on several cases for being a racist – once being sued by a reporter who worked for Grizzard when he was the editor of a Chicago newspaper – a case Lewis won – although it didn’t matter much because once a stigma like being a racists is put in the minds of the masses – it sticks.

But Grizzard wrote exactly as he spoke. Charming, witty, and poignant.

And that is where most of all I draw the comparison between Pat Caputo and Lewis Grizzard. Both writers have been nationally celebrated and honored. Both writing with the same ease and manner in which they speak. Both personalities transcending the newspapers they wrote for to become easily recognized celebrities in their regions.

One a northerner who will stand up for the aching sorrows that Detroit has been through the last four decades; as the city tries so desperately to pull itself back up by its bootstraps to recover to the truly beautiful place it once was and in many ways still is at the corner of Lake St. Clair and Lake Erie – sitting in the middle of the mighty Detroit River.

The other a southern gentleman who stands up against the wrongfully projected stereotypes of what Georgia was by telling stories of his parents who divorced, and the local neighborhood population of Moreland.

Both do so with humor, with honesty, with some humility and with a little extra … panache.

But the days that Caputo writes and talks about are much different today than those of Lewis Grizzard some twenty years ago.

There’s more media today. And that media is interactive. There’s this whole Internet thing, you know.

The Book writes a blog online for the Oakland Press called “Open Book: A Sports Blog”. Caputo’s blog is the first I ever really followed – and is honestly the very reason I started headstuffing. Pat even helped me out here and there along the way.

Similarly it was Lewis Grizzard who inspired me to pick Journalism as a freshman in Georgia.

You couldn't really comment on a newspaper column in the old days - except by writing a letter to the editor. And lot's of such letters were written regarding one column or another of Lewis Grizzards. Sometimes Grizzard even wrote columns about the letters to the editor of readers despising him for one reason or the others.

I comment on Caputo's Open Book blog quite frequently. The collection of usual suspects that loyally comment are an eclectic bunch who really know their stuff and often expand the commentary from a single line of thought to a conversation that is held over weeks.

I’m the dumbest one in that eclectic crowd.

Conversations about who should hit second in the Tiger’s line up, and what’s really wrong with the bull pen and who could the Tiger’s get to play second base and who could the Tiger’s give up, and … well, you know … the usual sports blog / call in radio show kind of stuff.

But on the Open Book, we all kind of know each other – and we all kind of know the Book. And he kind of knows us too.

I liken it best to stopping into my favorite pub on my way home from work to sit and talk about the topics of the day with all the other guys like me who stop in the same pub – for a quick pop, but more so for the great conversation that is omnipresent.

But – as on any other blog – even including my own – are the anonymous commentators who insult and belittle the author – in stealth mode most often – not leaving a name behind their insults and put-downs.

Caputo publishes all these comments – wanting sincerely I believe to be transparent and allow his naysayers to have their say.

A lot of them are very rude. And Pat answers them with dignity – and usually with the response that everyone is entitled to an opinion. And the Book On Sports allows all opinions to be expressed.

I admire Pat for that.

I wonder – would Lewis Grizzard – should he still be alive today – would he have had a blog? I bet he would have – albeit he hated newfangled gadgetry like word processors – preferring the clicks of a typewriter and the ring of the carriage at the end of sentence flying back to begin the first word of the next paragraph.

And I wonder how Lewis Grizzard would have responded to such insulting comments posted about him on his own blog. I’m certain that he would have published them. But unlike Caputo – Grizzard would have cherished the opportunity to rip into each one just to hone his ability to craft the best retort.

Grizzard’s retorts would have been simple, sharp, and plainly stated in the tone of a true Southern gentleman:

“... And you sir are libelous scoundrel”.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Not Today

It’s such a beautiful day today.

The most beautiful day of the year here in Windsor. A day such as this makes you appreciate everything living and breathing.

Breathtaking. I don’t say this lightly.

It’s certainly not a day for the world to end on.

But if you gotta go …

Look, I think of myself as a spiritual person.

However I am known to my friends as a common sense rational and objective thinker. Some may even say cynical, but I dispute that.

I think I am both spiritual and rational in my beliefs. This causes great conflict within me. Because to so many it seems so black and white – it’s either heads or tails – you either believe or you don’t.

And that just doesn’t square with me at all.

The rational me is convinced scientific facts are not wrong – the earth is billions of years old, and what we have resulted to so far in this one big global ant farm experiment is what we see about us today. Of the kajillion possible theories out there about when the universe started – the big bang theory – from all we scientifically know now – does make the best argument – but I cannot tell you it is truth – but I bet parts of it are correct – and there have likely been billions and billions of big bangs since the last on a kajillion years ago.

But then theories of black holes and parallel universes pop up. And statements that in the end man is only worm food emerge. This makes me step back and reconsider for a second.

Science fiction is a new theology you know.

Stop me if I get too technical.

However that other rational side of me acknowledges that we are human beings – and that a hundred years ago we just figured out how to put four wheels and an engine on a box and pour cement all over the place to get places further – and the new global economic game is whoever has the most fuel to propel these mechanized boxes across the cement is the most powerful.

Stop me if I get to political.

In short, we are not perfect creatures – although we believe we are the masters of all we survey – and that we really just don’t know – but we think we make pretty good educated guesses.

In fact we are convinced these educated guesses are correct.

We can’t have any uncertainty, can we?

The spiritual side of me therefore acknowledges the wonders around us that seemingly appeared with no intervention or design by mankind – like those tiny helicopter seeds that fall out of trees to repopulate the earth – so perfect are their design to meet their purpose – like a hidden clue from somewhere smacking us down to say “you’re not so smart – check this out”. Back this up by watching a large Canadian goose take off and fly so effortlessly – forming a perfect V pattern with others – with no need for radios or radar or ground control – to get exactly where they want to go.

Look at butterflies that simply head to Capistrano.

How arrogant are we to think that there is not some kind of overseer to all this amazing design that fits together seamlessly – perfectly – spinning on a big blue orb in space keeping all life support systems in perfect alignment – even though mankind seems so intent on playing with the thermostat and messing with the air intake valves.

“We need answer’s damnit!”, proclaims the global masses. “We don’t like this level of uncertainty!”

“That sounds pretty good…”, proclaims each spiritual or scientific pundant as they answer the cries of the masses. The sincerity and certainty behind each proclamation is astoundingly genuine.

Stop me if I am getting too theological.

How incredible.

But then spoiled by a radio preacher’s proclamation that they have read an ancient text from thousands of years before – translated and interpreted and even amended by some to shift its meaning – that such a preacher can read the words of God and use poorly defined mathematical skills to calculate that the world is ending today.

He was wrong years before … but this time is different … he carried the two this time.

Today of all days.

There is arrogance in spirituality too – as much if not more so - than science – as each party who believes in a more powerful being – the same being in my eyes – to say they are right and you are wrong and since we don’t agree you must die. And we will be the chosen ones – riding off at the end of the game of life like a school bus full of high school football players riding home from after winning the big away game singing “We are the champions my friend” as they slap hands and proclaim how superior they are to the others.

“They should have thought like us”, they say as they congratulate themselves.

On a day like today of all days – when the sun is so perfect in the sky so blue and the breeze so feint and fresh with birds chirping beautiful songs and plants reaching out to show their brilliance from the ground.

On a day like today? I sure hope not. I like it here.

As I sit on the back deck this beautiful May morning – for the first time of summer – watching my faithful black lab Suzy chase squirrels too smart for her brilliant canine brain. Do the squirrels know today is the end of time? I think they do not. Today is for playing.

All from the arrogance of man, be him scientist or theologian – each has an agenda that suits his desires – and his desires plan his intentions and his intentions are realized by actions that influence others to follow their lead – and proclaim that they are right and everybody else is stupid and doomed.

Be it global warming or Armageddon that cause the annihilation

Pardon me if I get too emotional.

It just drives me nuts.

You – Scientist Guy – you are right! – a little anyways.

And you Preacher man – you too are right – a little bit anyways.

But to proclaim you have it all figured out and that you know the truth – truths that man will likely never know? Give you head a big shake.

Hear that rattle?

Wars have been fought and many good souls have died because two groups thought they were both right.

That applies to atheists, agnostics, and the self proclaimed apostles.

It’s some place in the middle. And the middle of this spectrum of truth is more vast than the universe. But it’s some where there. Not all the way to the left or to the right. Not at the top or the bottom – but hidden out there somewhere in the middle.

And the great designer of all that is is laughing at the arrogance of man as he quickly proclaims “here it is” and holds up as the final clue to all that is unknown to be know.

That’s how I feel anyway.

Someday I hope the that the truth is revealed to us. That somehow we understand what is really real – in either our final breaths as people on earth – or some how in an afterlife that I hope exists.

That someday somehow that we will know this great secret.

I mean this in no offense to you at all – I encourage you to believe what you do – either way – or even if you are like me and are somewhere in the middle. Think what your heart tells you, and what your rational mind derives for you. And follow it to the best of your ability.

But please don’t belittle those who come to different conclusions than you.

Because if the world does end for man one day – it will likely be from the evolution of spiritual and scientific arrogance's beating each other to a pulp.

Not today. Not today of all days.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Closing School Libraries Spells Illiteracy

They are closing the library in my daughters’ elementary school.

They are closing all the libraries in all the schools under the Windsor Essex Catholic District School Board. All Elementary and Secondary schools will no longer have a library.

Schools without libraries?

I can’t fathom that.

I can’t tolerate that!

I can’t tolerate the thought of my daughter’s in grade 3 and 4 not being able to go into the school library this year and checking out books like Charlotte’s Web, or The Mouse and The Motorcycle. Books like Where the Red Fern Grows, and Old Yeller.

These are just a couple of titles that come to my memory from when I was their age – reading amazing and exciting stories that made me want to read more and more and more.

But that will be gone.

I remember at a very young age walking through the bookshelves of my schools library looking for great books – and the excitement I felt when I found a really good one.

One that really stands out in my mind is a book I don’t even remember the title of. It was about a boy who would have been my age who tried out for the neighborhood baseball team – and how hard he practiced fielding ground balls with his Dad and hitting with his best friend – and how excited he was when he got his uniform after he made the team.

That book inspired me to love baseball even more.

Because that’s what books do, they inspire young minds – opening their brains up to ideas and opportunities – and experiences.

But that won’t be readily available to little kids in our local Catholic schools.

They plan to put some books in class rooms – pretty much deciding what the kids will read.

Who wants to read what you’re told to read?

I remember in high school, getting my hands on a copy of Catcher In The Rye. I read that book in the back seat of our family car as we travelled on a family vacation.

They will also be pulling out all those great books that teenagers use for research for various projects. In place of the libraries will be a common area for digital media devices – like computers.

Okay, we are in the 21st century now. And computers are definitely a powerful source for research. But we are nowhere near the point yet where computers and DVD players can even remotely adequately replace a card catalog to help kids find information based on the Dewy Decimal System.

Wikipedia is not yet a source of truly undeniably reliable record. And for as much as I love what Google has added to the Internet – I am not so blind as to know that Google searches also return information you probably don’t want your child to see.

How is this possible?

Why are they cutting out the libraries from these schools? Why do you think? This is not an exercise in advancing learning facilities to a new academic level of excellence – all though those that are pushing this change through will describe it as so.

It’s money. Or the lack of it.

Enrollment in Catholic schools in our county is down.

So instead of cutting other things – like sports teams – or better yet – take a very hard look at your administrative costs - instead, they chose what appears to be a big expense – on paper – a quick and easy choice looking at the list of options sorted by cost – libraries sit at the top of the heap.

I love sports, but I would never suggest them be more important than school libraries. And I am not proposing firing people of value.

Certainly not people as valuable as school librarians.

This is stupid.

It doesn’t take a genius to know the Catholic Church has been hurt in recent decades. Some of their decisions have just been … well … either arrogantly or blindly derived. As a result the number of parishioners continues to fall. But this time is not the time to go into all that. That’s also been in the headlines enough.

It just makes logical sense that a decline in members of the Catholic Church also results in a decline in the Catholic school student enrolments. And to me it does not make sense to reduce the quality of education that children will get in your schools by taking the libraries out.

If you were new to a community – and you had the option of two schools – which of those two would you likely choose for your kids best interest? A school with a library?

“Duh” – as my little girls so commonly say to me.

It would certainly be a pretty strong factor. It might even deter you from moving to the community.

If you happen to live in Windsor or in Essex County – and this issue is important to you – I strongly encourage you to visit the Save our Libraries Holy Cross Catholic Elementary LaSalle Ontario Canada on facebook to learn more about what you can do.

As well, I encourage you to sign the online petition.

I encourage you strongly to do something.

If you live in Windsor Essex and your kids don’t attend a Catholic school – I urge you still to do something, because these kids are the next generation of your community too. And I can’t imagine that a decision to remove libraries from schools is going to help make your community stronger.

Windsor and Essex County has had enough economic struggles that we are just now starting to recover from.

This kind of academic stupidity isn’t going to help.

We have some new decisions to make in our house.

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