Mirror’d Morning

IMG_4930The day dawned crisp and clear in Chicago today, and when I looked out my hotel window I enjoyed the reflections in one of the mirrored towers of the hotel complex.  Mirrored windows are a common feature in those hotels that are so ubiquitous around large American airports, but even so the reflections looked pretty indeed on a blue sky morning.

Before And After The “But”

If you were lucky, you grew up in a family that had at least one blunt older relative.

It could be an aunt, or an uncle, or a grandparent, but the truth-telling senior citizen fulfilled a crucial role in any family.  They were past the point of worrying about whether people liked them or not, and they didn’t care whether their comments caused other family members to roll their eyes.  They obviously thought young kids were better served by being exposed to the truth about the cold,hard world rather than sugar-coated fairy tales.  So, while your Mom might care pretend to like your ’70s-era long hair, your Aunt Mabel would tell you you looked like an idiot — and, as anyone looking back on ’70s photos knows, Aunt Mabel was right.

The plain-spoken family curmudgeon, freed by advanced age from compliance with all social niceties were worth a careful listen.  Their wisdom drew upon years of brutal human experience and typically was expressed in memorable one-liners that packed a punch and stayed with you, always.

I recall talking to my grandmother about some conversation with a co-worker.  The co-worker had made some mildly encouraging statement, then said “but” and went on to stake out a position contrary to my own.  I interpreted the initial part of the sentence as a hopeful sign that I might persuade the co-worker to come around to my position.  My grandmother chuckled, shook her head, and said:  “Pay no attention to anything that comes before the ‘but.'”  And, of course, she was right.  The initial comments were meaningless blather and just an effort to soften the hard core expressed after the “but.”

I still think of my grandmother whenever I hear someone use “but” in a sentence, and I remember that it is what comes after the “but” that counts.

That Generic Hotel Lobby Atrium Look

IMG_4918Some time in the distant past, someone designed, for the first time, a hotel lobby with a towering atrium and glass elevators and concrete walkways that allowed you to look down on other patrons far below.  It apparently was a hugely successful design, because it has been copied again, and again, and again.  My current hotel is just another example.

So many hotel interiors have that interior atrium design that the look has become generic, giving business travel a kind of mind-numbing sameness.  It’s one big reason why I like to stay in old hotels if I have that option.  At least the old hotels tend to have a dash of individuality and flair.

O’Hare

O’Hare.  Mention it to any business traveler, and you are likely to hear a groan and a war story about some travel mishap.

O’Hare.  The fifth-busiest airport in the world.  Named for World War II flying hero and Congressional Medal of Honor winner Edward Henry (“Butch”) O’Hare, who bravely faced down a group of bombers heading for his aircraft carrier.

O’Hare.  It’s unavoidable if you live in Columbus and need to go just about anywhere to the west.  You’re likely to be routed through O’Hare on the way out and on the way back.  You keep your fingers crossed that there won’t be a line of thunderstorms, or snow storms, or wind storms that blow out your travel schedule and bring the nation’s air traffic system to its knees.  Otherwise, you’ll find yourself wandering through one of the bustling concourses at O’Hare, wondering how you’re going to get to where you want to go.

O’Hare.  I spent the night there once, after my flight in from the west coast was delayed and I arrived at O’Hare at about 1:30 a.m. to learn that every hotel room in the airport was booked and my flight out would leave at 5:40 a.m.  There was no place to sleep and no where to go so I walked back and forth on the concourse, like one of the dazed passengers on The Poseidon Adventure, counting down the minutes until my flight left.  It was probably the longest four hours of my life.

O’Hare.  I’m heading there today, and I’m hoping it doesn’t rise up and bite me, again.

The Arugula Initiative

Every year, when I go to the doctor for my annual physical, I hear the same thing:  you need to change your diet.  Consume less red meat, try to eat more fish, and — especially — eat more vegetables.  So, as the date of my annual physical nears, I always find myself trying to choke down some green, leafy item so that I can tell my doctor, in good faith, that I’m trying.  I’m like the kid who hopes to make up for months of complete inattention to dental hygiene by brushing and flossing diligently on the morning of his dentist’s appointment.

IMG_4810The doctor isn’t fooled by this charade, and I feel bad that I am not more compliant with his instructions.  He’s a doctor, after all, and has gone through years of education and training that allow him to say, with absolute conviction and sincerity, that I should eat more vegetables.  The problem is that I just don’t like vegetables!  At a restaurant, I’ll always order soup rather than salad — or if the soup options are of the gazpacho variety, I’ll just eat bread until my steak, medium rare, is brought to the table.

Fortunately, my lovely wife has come up with a solution to this problem.  It’s called arugula.  When she first asked if I liked arugula, I thought she was referring to that part of the human body that hangs down from the roof of your mouth at the back of your throat.  Instead, it is a leafy vegetable that looks like a weed from your garden and has a spicy taste.  Who knew?  It turns out that if you apply some tart vinaigrette dressing and add some parmesan cheese and blueberries or nuts to a bowl of arugula, it is reasonably edible.

So, we’ve been eating arugula lately, to the point where we must be mindful of arugula fatigue.  Arugula farmers the world over are celebrating the arrival of another convert to arugulaism.  And, when I go in to see my doctor for my check-up in a few weeks, I’ll be able to tell him I’ve been eating more vegetables — and for once my statement will have the incidental merit of being true.

Who’da Thunk It?

I ripped the Browns and their management earlier this week when they traded Trent Richardson, accusing them of giving up on the season and disrespecting their diehard fans.  So it’s only fitting that the Browns somehow figured out a way to score 31 points today and beat the Minnesota Vikings on the road, 31-27.

IMG_4861Let’s not kid ourselves — Minnesota isn’t very good, and the Browns aren’t either.  But I am amazed that this Browns team could figure out a way to score 31 points against any NFL team.  Of course, they frittered away lots of opportunities and had incredibly ill-timed turnovers, but this was the first time a lot of these guys had ever played together.  How in the world did they manage to gain more than 400 yards on offense and win on the road?

This week Browns fans everywhere will be tantalized.  Brian Hoyer looked a lot more comfortable in this offense than Brandon Weeden — could Hoyer and his quick release be legitimate?  The Browns D held Adrian Peterson below 100 yards, forced a fumble from him, and recorded six sacks.  Could the defense actually keep the Browns in games this year?

That’s the maddening thing about the Browns that only charter members of the Browns Backers can fully appreciate.  They usually don’t just stink up the joint — they always manage to raise your hopes before crushing them with an embarrassing loss or an impossibly inept play, and you look back on seasons and see countless losses that could have been wins and wonder about what might have been.  With today’s win, that process will start all over again.  Browns fans everywhere will see their hopes raised — at least until next week.

The Effect Of Concealed Carry On Crime

Ohio has had a concealed carry law for years.  More than 250,000 Ohioans have concealed carry permits, and the number of people applying for permits to carry firearms continues to rise.  The logical question is:  how has the law worked?

DSC04115The answer to that question is surprisingly unclear.  It’s hard to find any studies about the effect of Ohio’s concealed carry laws on the commission of violent crimes.  If you simply look at crime statistics since 2004, when Ohio first passed a concealed carry law, the number of violent crimes increased during the first few years and then declined; in 2012 there were about 4,000 fewer violent crimes than in 2004.  But is there any cause-and-effect relationship between thousands of Ohioans walking around with guns and violent crimes?  Gun proponents believe the numbers are connected, but how do you determine whether a drop in crime is attributable to gun laws, or more effective police work, or increased use of security systems, or other ongoing efforts to combat crime?  Much of the debate seems to be based on anecdotal evidence of incidents where a person with a gun foiled a robbery or an abduction, and simple but-for causation arguments that reason that criminals must be thinking twice before committing crimes in the midst of an armed citizenry.

On the other hand, opponents of concealed carry raised public safety concerns about shootouts on public streets and innocent passersby being cut down in hails of bullets launched by quick-draw vigilantes.  After nearly 10 years, there doesn’t seem to be much evidence of that, either.  Ohioans who want to carry guns have gotten their training and their permits and seem to be complying with all legal requirements.  They’re apparently comforted by their ability to carry guns.  Some business owners even advertise that they’ve got a gun behind the counter, as shown in the above sign I saw last year in the front window of an establishment in Vermilion, Ohio.  If you believe that criminals will avoid confrontations with guns, why not advertise that you have one to maximize the likelihood of that anticipated effect — even if it might scare off a few skittish patrons?

Ohio’s concealed carry law was, and still is, a big political issue.  Isn’t it about time some neutral body did a study to try to determine how the statute has actually worked, and whether it has had the effects that proponents and opponents forecast?

76-0

Today the Ohio State Buckeyes trounced the Florida A&M Rattlers, 76-0.  The game was expected to be a rout — and it was.  Ohio State had more than 600 yards of offense and only had to punt once.  Florida A&M put up only 80 yards of offense and never got close to the Ohio State goal line.  Ohio State was favored to win by 57 points, and it almost exceeded that line by halftime, when the Buckeyes went into the locker room ahead 55-0.

IMG_1440People here in Columbus complained about the quality of the game.  It wasn’t a much-heralded match-up, to be sure, but it’s not entirely the fault of the OSU Athletic Department.  The Buckeyes had scheduled Vanderbilt, but the Commodores backed out.  So, Ohio State went looking for someone to fill the open date, and the Rattlers agreed to be the sacrificial lambs.  We shouldn’t feel too bad for them, though — they got a nice fee for coming to Ohio Stadium and getting pulverized.

Although games like today’s aren’t competitive, they still can be interesting.  You get to see players you’ve only heard about until now.  Today, freshman running back Ezekiel Elliott had his coming out party, rushing for 162 yards and two touchdowns, and we got to see third-string quarterback Cardale Jones run the offense.  They both look like they may be able to contribute in the future.  Other players who’ve been working hard in practice had their chances, too.  Carlos Hyde came back after a three-game suspension and got some touches, the OSU defense manhandled the Rattlers’ offense, and Braxton Miller got another week of healing as Kenny Guiton put up another OSU offensive record.

Next week, the season starts in earnest as Wisconsin comes to the Horseshoe.  After next Saturday night, we’ll have a better idea of how good this Buckeyes team really is.

Soggy, But Independent

IMG_1460It’s Independents’ Day in Columbus.  At work this morning I watched from my office window as independent organizations, band members, and other right-minded folks were dodging the raindrops on Gay Street, getting their tents and stands set up. Now the rain has stopped, the sun is out, and its a beautiful day for a little downtown partying.

This year, the Independents’ Day celebration has expanded to three days.  If you’re in the downtown area, stop by — it’s a great event and just another example of why Columbus is a great place to live.

Trying New Toilet Techniques

The other day Kish and I got some of those mailings that send you new product samples, except this one was a little bit . .. different.

IMG_4913It was a little package from Cottonelle that provided a free sample of “Cottonelle Flushable Cleansing Cloths.”  Apparently the “cleansing cloths” are part of the “Cottonelle Care Routine” that you are supposed to use in conjunction with regular toilet paper, although the order in which these products are to be applied isn’t specified.  The delivery box trumpets “Try the routine that gets your bum clean,” and the inside coupon promises that “nothing leaves you feeling cleaner & fresher than the Cottonelle Care Routine.”  The end panel of the box says “let’s talk about your bum at Facebook.com/Cottonelle.”

I think I’ll pass on Facebook postings about my “bum,” thank you very much — although there is such a page if people are so inclined.  At first, I found it a bit insulting that Cottonelle is even raising questions about the cleanliness and freshness of my “bum.”  I’ve been perfectly happy with my current “routine.”  But then I wondered if I’m being a bit old-fashioned.  After all, there haven’t been significant developments in toilet techniques since rolled toilet paper was invented and marketed back in the 1800s.  Rolls of toilet paper always will have certain advantages over “flushable cleansing cloths” — for example, the latter can’t be used to decorate trees in the yard of your high-school friends — but maybe we should be more receptive to change in this sensitive area.

Now that I think about it, I’m proud to live in a land where a faceless corporation cares enough about my “bum” to spend millions on new product development.  It’s certainly preferable to the situation in Venezuela, where the government just seized a toilet paper factory in an effort to end chronic shortages of the product that have left the country teetering on the edge of riot and panic.  America, land of the free, home of the Cottonelle Care Routine!

The Penny Chronicles

My name is Penny.

IMG_4911Yesterday the Leader let Kasey and me jump into the wagon.  When that happens, we know it will be a good day.  We only go in the wagon to go to play with other dogs, or to go to a room to wait with other dogs and then visit a nice lady.  Either way, we get to spend time with dogs.  What could be better than that?

Yesterday it turned out that we went to visit the nice lady.  Kasey and I like that.  We always get washed and cleaned.  That is a good thing, too, because after a while Kasey could use a good scrub, if you know what I mean.  Ha ha, Kasey!

Our favorite thing of all comes at the end, when the nice lady ties a scarf around our necks.  The scarves are always pretty and bright.  When we get home we know the other dogs in the neighborhood are jealous.  My favorite scarf of all had little dog bones on it.  When I saw Kasey in that scarf, it always made me hungry.

That reminds me — time to go see if the Leader will give me some more food.  Why not?  I am hungry!

Out, Damned Spot!

I like taking pictures — so much so that my lovely wife gently kids me by making a snapshot button motion and the sound of a shutter closing whenever she knows I’ve seen something I think is photo-worthy. For the last few years, I’ve used a Canon PowerShot SX260HS to give me my photo fix.

IMG_4586It’s been a great, dependable camera, with only one problem.  A few months ago I noticed a small dust spot on the interior of the lens.  Over time, the spot grew and became more noticeable in my photos.  I tried cleaning the outer lens, blowing air into the lens area, and even jarring the camera to try to dislodge the spot.  Nothing worked, so I asked Kish to take the camera to a shop for cleaning.  That night she reported that the shopkeeper said that cleaning the camera would requires shipping it somewhere for at least two months and would cost more than the camera’s original purchase price.  Why not buy a new camera, she said.

Ah ha! I thought.  That’s obviously the camera manufacturers’ planned obsolescence gambit.  They know there is dust in the world, and they design a camera that doesn’t keep out the dust and a lens that can’t be cleaned.  Then they sit back, satisfied, knowing that a noticeable interior dust spot will form on the lens and eventually the camera owner will yield to the inevitable.

Initially, I resisted this latest evidence of our “disposable” world.  We don’t live in the Sahara.  I take reasonably good care of the camera, and there’s no reason why it shouldn’t last for more than a few years.  I continued to fiddle with the camera, hoping for improvement.  I specifically framed my photos so that the dust spot smudge would be in a darkened area and therefore less noticeable.  But the spot continued to grow even more distinctive, ruining many an otherwise fine photo — until, like Lady Macbeth, I could abide the spot no more.

So now I’ve got a new Canon PowerShot camera that we picked up through our rewards points program.  I guess I’m going to have to keep it in a hermetically sealed container — and maybe even read the instruction manual, too.

Learning From “Obamacare”

Some people are ardent proponents of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act — known to many as “Obamacare” — and others are equally ardent opponents.  People on both sides of the issue feel passionately about whether the concept and purpose of the statute is good or bad, and it’s hard for a moderate to find common ground.

I think there is one thing, however, that fair-minded people on both sides of the issue might grudgingly accept:  the implementation of the statute hasn’t gone as its advocates forecast.  There have been delays in promulgating regulations, and developing systems to audit and enforce the different provisions of the law.  There have been unexpected consequences, as employers have considered the economic impact of different potential approaches to compliance with the law — a process that has resulted, for example, in some employers deciding to focus more on part-time workers.  The allegiances of former supporters of the bill, such as labor unions, have in some cases shifted as regulations are promulgated and the potential impact of the statute has become clearer.

None of this is particularly surprising, but it does teach a valuable lesson.  The American economy is extraordinarily complex, and whenever Congress promises to take an action that “fixes” a problem, we should all show a healthy skepticism.  Health care is a significant and complicated part of the economy, but it’s not appreciably different than, say, the mortgage loan sector.  People are, perhaps, more aware of the issues with the Affordable Care Act because it has been the continuing subject of withering public attention and because, in certain respects, its implementation is having an impact on everyday Americans — but I think it’s quite plausible that the financial institutions regulation that Congress enacted recently, or for that matter the Patriot Act passed in the wake of 9/11, are having similar issues and producing similarly unanticipated effects.

This has nothing to do with the party affiliation of the sponsors of legislation, or even the competence of the administrators trying to draft appropriate regulations.  It’s just reality.  The American economy is intertwined and interdependent and interconnected that broad-based regulations are going to have a ripple effect that could go far beyond whatever the politicians promise.  All of us, Democrat and Republican, should remember that the next time Congress makes confident predictions about the effect of a significant statute.

Looking For New Parking, More Than 20 Years Later

I’ve parked in the same parking garage on East Long Street in downtown Columbus for more than 20 years — until today.

IMG_4906Tuesday night a colleague and I were walking out to our cars when we were approached by a guy who asked if we were monthly parkers.  When we said yes, he said that city inspectors had, apparently without advance notice, posted a small sign declaring that the parking garage was unsafe.  The colleague and I looked at each other and shook our heads in wonderment at this news, because the structure has always had a distinctly aged, rusted, ramshackle, crumbling character to it.  But the price for a monthly spot was very affordable, our expectations were adjusted accordingly, and we had hadn’t noticed any sudden drop in parking quality.  So we shrugged and drove home.

Yesterday morning when I pulled into the garage news vans were out front, broadcasting about the city’s action.  I parked there anyway.  Why not?  I’ve paid for my spot for this month, and I had nowhere else to go.  But when I walked to the garage last night cheap white plywood barricades, with blood red danger warning signs from the City of Columbus Department of Building and Zoning Services, were placed across the entrance — giving the garage an even more decrepit, condemned feel.  Clearly, parking there is no longer an option, unless you want to feel like a squatter.  I think I’ll pass on that.

So, after two decades of not giving parking a second thought and driving to my garage on autopilot, I’ve got to figure out where to park my car.  Of course, so do all of the hundreds of other people who parked in the same garage.  Suddenly, in a downtown area where surface lots are ubiquitous, parking is at a premium.

The Birds Of Midway Island

Watching the video above will take about four minutes.  They will be a poignant and powerful four minutes, and after they are over you will never think of littering in the same way.  More information about the filmmakers, and their latest trailer about their film Midway, are available here and here and here.

Thoughtless actions can have tragic consequences.