Don’t Come To Work Tomorrow. You Are “Non-Essential”

As a result of the possible (probable?) government shutdown, I learned this morning that the various agencies, including the military, are reviewing their work force to determine who will be furloughed and who will continue to work.  “Essential” workers will continue to work and “non-essential” workers will be furloughed.  What?  Non-essential employees?  How do you say “bloated government?”  Why do agencies have non-essential workers?  Who are these people and what does it do to their self esteem to be told “you don’t need to come to work tomorrow.  You are “non-essential”?  (What jobs do they have?  Non-essential in charge of filing staple guns?)  Imagine approaching your company CEO, your firm’s managing partner or the owner of the small business where you work and asking for approval to hire a non-essential employee for your department or office.  You explain the person is not necessary to the performance of the operations of the company or department and the non-essential will be provided with benefits and a salary in the tens of thousands of dollars.  Will you be rewarded for your clear thinking and societal concerns for the unemployed, or will you be asked to join the ranks of the non-essentials?

If  the government had to get along with only essential employees, how much lower might the cost of government be?  If we weren’t paying non-essential workers, what would the unemployment figures be?  Which is worse, higher unemployment or higher governmental costs?  ( I know, we have to pay unemployment benefits to the unemployed non-essential worker, etc. and we have their self esteem to worry about.  But, is an unemployment check harder on self esteem than working in a non-essential job?)  If a non-essential were not hired by the government would he or she figure out how to become an employed essential in the private sector?  Would lower taxes be derived from not paying non-essential persons?  Would tax savings result in more consumer spending, which would create more essential jobs in the private sector?  Would some of the out of work non-essentials use their ingenuity and innovate new products and services creating more essential jobs?  These Econ 101 arguments simplify the continual debate among economists.  But, not unlike the argument against deficit spending which says that the government should balance its budget and quit (at least reduce) deficit spending as we have to do in our homes and private businesses, sometimes simplified versions of the economic dilemma makes good common sense.

Maybe, like sequestering turned out to be not such a terrible thing, shutting down the government for awhile may not be so terrible either.  After all, the essential jobs will continue to be performed and, apparently, only the non-essential frills will be postponed.


On Tuesday I witnessed the bravest, hardest, kindest and most loving of decisions be made.  I spent the day with my friend at the local hospital where his wife of 48 years had been admitted in the morning and was with him in the afternoon when he told the doctor to take her off the machines that were keeping her (technically) alive.  She survived only a few minutes afterwards. God bless them both.



Sun Herald (MelbourneAustralia)

June 13, 20129:00 AM 

The United States plans to buy 21 Mi-17 helicopters for the Afghan military from Russia’s Rosoboronexport by 2016. The contract totals $375 million by 2016, with an option to buy additional aircraft worth $550 million. 

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton accused Russia of sending more attack helicopters to Syria and said Moscow was lying about its arms shipments.


Russian Helicopters toSyria A New Political Headache for Obama

U.S.News and World Report

June 12, 2012

The Pentagon has no plans to suspend or cancel purchases of helicopters for Afghanistan’s air force from the same Russian firm that is allegedly sending attack helicopters to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s loyalist military.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Tuesday that U.S. officials have pressed their Russian counterparts to stop sending the attack helicopters, which human rights activists say aid in “crimes against humanity.”

The Pentagon, under a controversial program, for several years has been buying Mi-35 helicopters from Rosoboronexport, a Russian government-run arms manufacturer.


Aside from the cross purposes of the DoD and State Departments, one must ask: Are there no U.S.companies that can make helicopters for Afghanistan purposes?  A billion dollars that will be spent on some Russian arms dealer surely could be spent in the U.S. thereby putting some folks to work at some helicopter plant somewhere here (or at a minimum, keeping some folks working).  Isn’t this the same administration that complains about the corporations that have kept their dollars overseas where there are favorable tax benefits instead of spending it here to create jobs and help our economy? 

This would be the same administration that had the unbelievably stupid program of selling guns to the Mexican Drug Cartels.  Wonder where those guns were produced?    

You just can’t make this stuff up.

May You All Be As Fortunate As I (on wedded bliss)

Corinne and I just returned from dinner at a favorite restaurant where we celebrated our 48th wedding anniversary.  An amazing occurrence and yet another longevity landmark in the family history.  We agree that we do not know where the time went.  For me, sharing the time with someone you love and respect erases all consideration of time.  It could have been that we met just yesterday except for certain observable facts, such as having three children in their 40’s. 

I cleverly married a woman who is the smartest person I have ever known.  Not only is she smart, but she is kind and generous to a fault.  Oh, and did I mention that she is beautiful?   The combination of these things made those 48 years pretty easy for me. 

The real reasons we have stayed together for these years, though, are due to her.  Not just her brilliance or her beauty (though maybe those too)  but her tolerance, forgiveness and  sense of what is important.   I can recall waking on certain Sunday mornings ruing my actions of the previous night and asking her “what stupid things did I say or do last night”?  Her response was: “why do you think you are important enough that anyone cares what you said or did?”  And that ended the discussion, salved my need for self flagellation and she would not again raise the subject.  

Moreover, she was truly “the wind beneath my wings” as the song title goes.  But for her encouragement, I would likely not have received the degrees I have and I would not have had whatever modicum of success I had in my career.  She never held back when I found what I thought to be better job opportunity, even though it meant moving from one state to another.  She willingly put her studies on hold for a year when we concluded that we should move to start my own practice.  She then went on to get her law degree while rearing our three children to be the wonderful people they are and all while providing me with the support I needed to create a successful practice. 

We have been very, very fortunate and I particularly so.  Our relationship has grown and strengthened over the years.   She is my best friend.  My one true love.   I can only wish for all who are married and read this the same joy that the last 48 years have brought me.  


Brooks’ Article – My Take (a bit belatedly)

A few generations ago no self respecting U.S.citizen would expect the government to provide him or her much of anything.  Employment, health care, old age support were not considered a function of the government.  These were matters taken care of within the family, church or neighborhoods.  But slowly socialistic thinking has gained traction in the U.S., primarily within the academic community and among those who classify themselves as liberal thinkers.  Europeans accepted these philosophies earlier than has the U.S.populace.  As a result Europeans have a much more extensive “cradle to grave” involvement of their government than do we and they face a more serious economic crisis, at the moment, than do we. 

Increasingly, politicians  have accepted the socialistic lessons of the academicians.  As pointed out by Mr. Brooks, it is easy to persuade too many of us that our welfare is the responsibility of someone other than ourselves.  That “someone” should be the government, the politicians say, recognizing that promising more of these services is likely to curry favor among enough voters that their re-election to office is, if not insured, greatly enhanced. 

We went from pride in self sufficiency to “a chicken in every pot” to “a car in every garage” to “a house for everyone”.  No one asked and no one said how the payment for fulfilling these promises would be made.  Meanwhile the chickens, pots, garages, cars and houses are less available to the citizenry and the answer to how will we pay for what has been promised divides the country. 

Unfortunately, no discussion of the very divergent views of the social role of government can be held by politicians or their surrogates (or perhaps by any of us) without demagoguery – on both sides.   Discussions invariably devolve into arguments about enhancing the rich on the backs of the elderly, middle class and the poor versus government’s Orwellian control of our lives under the guise of  providing social programs or screaming matches about protecting the 1%  vs. the creation of “death panels.”  Can we not have a rational discussion about extending the age for social security eligibility for those decades away from being eligible, without scaring those currently relying on social security checks?  Can’t we have a rational discussion of health care responsibility without reverting to death panel scare tactics?  

My father was laid off from his job during the Great Depression. There was no unemployment insurance and his “severance pay” was merely a “pink slip.”  He went out the next day and sought work.  He took on “odd jobs” that allowed him to feed his family.  It never occurred to him that the government should bail him out or provide him with anything.  Dad had only a high school education but he insisted upon his children obtaining college educations.  We didn’t go to expensive colleges.  We went to the local college and we worked part time to help him pay our way through it.  There were no student loans.  We took more than four years to complete our studies because we worked. But we did complete them – and then more and had no debt to pay off.  After graduation  we took jobs that paid the most and if they were in our “chosen field” we were lucky (assuming we had a chosen filed).  If those jobs were not in our chosen filed we worked until we either found a job in our chosen field or found a different “chosen field” to pursue as a career.  

So, when politicians and pundits tell us that we can have it all if only we tax those who worked hard to make themselves successful; tax corporations a little more so that there is less for them to invest in their businesses or to distribute to their investors (who they also want to tax more) and when the “Occupy” crowd holds up signs that they want “good jobs in their chosen fields” and demand  the  redistribution of wealth because someone who worked hard makes more than someone who doesn’t want to work at all, I see a future such as Europeans now face.  And I dispair for my grandchildren.

Brooks’ message is right even if a bit obtusely put.  We have to correct our current desire for things for “free” and we have to stop educating each new generations that their every need and desire will be fulfilled by their government.   Whether this is what our forefathers understood or not I don’t know.  I learned that the checks and balances system was to keep the few from tyranny over the masses as the monarchists had done and from whom our independence had been gained.  That aside, Brooks’ article is just another sounding of the alarm that we are on a path of self destruction.  I wonder if enough folks are listening?

What say you Richard, Russell, UJ?

Encomium To Maggie

Maggie lived with us for almost twelve and a half years.  Mom took most of the care of Maggie.  Mom’s do.  Maggie would sit patiently at Mom’s desk in the kitchen waiting for her piece of toast at breakfast and to share Mom’s sandwich at lunch.  But when I was home ol’ Mag hung with me.  She had the patience (or a tin ear) to come into my practice room and listen to my very amateur saxophone practicing and never once complain about the squeaks and squawks.  At cocktail time she was pleased to get an ice cube or two from me while I made a drink and then enjoyed helping me eat my cheese and cracker hors d’oeuvres.   

Maggie was good looking and very gentle.  She was a reverse brindle Boxer dog and, though gentle, was big enough to give pause to anyone who didn’t know her gentleness.  Grandchildren could fall on her, poke her and yell at her and she just stood patiently.  But, I  don’t think it would have been wise for anyone to try to do harm to the kids or any other family member, for that matter.

Oh, she was some bother too.  As is the Boxer’s wont, she slobbered a lot.  That meant when we were ready to go out without her, an activity which she didn’t much understand – why would we go without her? – she would invariably slime us with her muzzle while pushing to keep us in.  Boxer drool on black slacks is unattractive and embarrassing.  Then, every so often (like hourly) she would shake her head and the drool would fly around.  Thus, cleaning up walls and windows was a constant job.  And, like all pets, she needed cared for, taken for walks and/or allowed to roam the backyard to “do her business” which we then had to clean up. 

Some older Boxer dogs have a flaw in their genes.  A degenerative condition in their nervous system occurs in their later years.  It works its way up their spine from the rear.  First their rear legs stop working and then they lose control of their bladders and bowels.  Maggie had the flaw.  She lost control of her left leg first.  Then her right leg started to drag a bit.  She became incontinent, not always, but more and more frequently.  I had to carry her outside as she couldn’t get up and down the steps without banging her rear legs on the landing and sidewalk.  Her left foot had started to bleed  from being dragged.  

So, Monday we made a decision.  We decided it was best for Maggie if we ended her travails and put her down.  I suppose the last paragraph is an attempt to justify our decision.  It was a hard one to make.  We stayed with her.  She deserved to be with those who cared at the end.  The gentle dog went gently. 

I know, intellectually it was the humanitarian thing to do. Her life no longer had much quality to it, though she was still coming for the ice and crackers.   And she never complained. Ever.  She was a good friend. 

The pet cemetery just called.  We will get her ashes tomorrow.  When she was outside she liked to patrol the edge of our property along the bush line that separates us from the marsh, smelling the deer and the raccoons that had passed through during the night.  We think that will be a good place for her now – along the patrol route.  

We will celebrate her time with us, though, to be honest, breakfast, practicing the saxophone and cocktail time will never be quite the same.

Sometimes Nice Guys Finish First

Aunt Bebe, as she is known in our family, is my sister-in-law.  She has been a devout Ohio State Buckeye fan long before Bob was even a glimmer in his father’s eye.  She adores the Buckeyes.  I’m not sure why.  She didn’t got to school there.

When Jim Tressel became the coach at OSU, Bebe was ecstatic.  Bebe thought he was great – in part, no doubt, because in his inaugural introduction to the fans, players and students he promised a victory over the dreaded team up north (Michigan- to the uninitiated).  She wrote Tressel encouraging him and raving about the prospects for the team.  She continued to write him. She wrote him when OSU lost (not often) and she wrote him when they won (a lot).  She was his most ardent supporter.

A few years ago, she wrote Tressel before theMichigangame and warned him that they might try a statue of liberty play.  He turned the tables and put the play into his game plan and used it.  In a post game interview with Sports Illustrated,  Tressel mentioned the fact that Bebe, an elderly lady inAkron, had sent him the play and he used it.  The team had gained significant yardage and the story was great p.r.  Needless to say, Bebe was flabbergasted and thrilled.  The local newspaper picked it up and Bebe was a minor celebrity.

When Tressel came under fire for covering up his players misdeeds, Bebe stuck with him and continued to send him supportive letters. One can debate whether Tressel was right or wrong in his actions, but one cannot debate the value of having a friend who understands mistakes, forgives them and continues to be supportive of the errant person.  That’s Bebe.  She understands that to err is human.  She may not accept that she is divine  in her forgiveness, but she is.

Yesterday Bebe was invited, by some folks who also hold her in high regard, to a fund raiser at which Jim Tressel spoke.  Before the speech, the gentleman who was in charge, and who had brought Bebe to the affair, while speaking to Tressel, noticed Bebe standing across the room and said to Tressel: “Do you know this lady?”  Tressel immediately said “Of course, It’s Bebe” (or words to that effect) and he then went over to her and gave her a hug.

Talk about being thrilled.  But the story does not end there.  At the beginning of his speech,  Tressel introduced Bebe to the audience, had her stand up and made some nice comments about her and their years of correspondence.  But wait, that’s not all.  As it was a fund raiser event there was a door prize.  Tressel drew a number for the winner, but the person wasn’t there.  He drew again and – yep, it was Bebe’s number.  And for icing on the cake, Tressel spent a few more moments with her after the affair was over.  Oh, did I mention that Bebe is 85 years old?  .  Bebe probably won’t sleep for a week.

Nice people don’t always finish last.  Sometimes they win.  Maybe not often enough, but sometimes.  No one is nicer than Bebe.  She deserved all that happened to her yesterday.  But it is also clear that Tressel is a nice man.  Maybe his trouble arose because he was just looking out for his players.  I don’t know.  I do know that in my book, Jim Tressel will always be a great coach and a good man just for how he has treated Bebe.

Savannah Music Festival

Every March/April Savannah holds a Music Festival.  For seventeen days there are concerts, often three or four and sometimes more each day.  One of the highlights of the series in our view, is something they call Swing Central Jazz.  It comprises a number of high school jazz bands who come to Savannah for several days and are tutored by some of the name professionals who are here to appear in the music festival.  This year there were twelve bands that were invited to participate.  The professionals who tutored the kids included jazz pianist Marcus Roberts, saxophonist Jeff Clayton, trombonist Wycliffe Gordon, trumpeter Jon Faddis and drummer Jason Marsalis, to name a few.  Some of these professionals also travel to the high schools during the year to provide instruction in playing jazz.  The week culminates for these kids in a competition for a first, second and third place money prize on Friday.   The bands compete during the day, each playing the same three pieces that had been identified last Fall, allowing each to make their own arrangement of the pieces and how they would be presented.   Then the three top bands are announced and they perform again in the evening after which  the winning order is announced.  Following the kids performances the professionals play a concert of their own.

I went all day last Friday to hear these bands compete and my wife and I went to the evening performance as well.  The kids are terrific !  It amazes me that people so young can play so well.  To my ear, they are all professional level performers.  I don’t know how the judges are able to pick the winners.  One band from Fort Lauderdale,Florida – Dillard Cente rfor the Arts Jazz Ensemble – had won the last two years and this year it tied for first with a band from Agoura Hills,California.  I guessed that the Dillard group would be finalists again as they had a unique presentation.  As to the others, I really couldn’t pick one or two as standing far above the rest.

Some of the band directors, in thanking the festival organizers, parents of the kids and their school administrators for the support of the program mentioned that these kids met three or more times a week as early as six a.m. to get their practices in while attending their normal classes.   So often we hear of the early and difficult practices for the various athletic teams in high schools and even have them highlighted on the local evening news, but we seldom think about and virtually never see what the arts majors are doing to reach their potentials.  What is really troubling is to hear that the band, or art classes, choir or drama activities have to be cut from the public school curricula for budgetary reasons.

As an end note, it was amusing to see the kids, who are so professional when they are on the stage performing, sitting together in the audience before and after they perform, acting like teenagers.  I know that is what they are, but when they are performing it is hard to remember that their hormones are raging and that they are at that time of life when they are trying to devise their own personalities and independence.  These young folks are great ambassadors for their contemporaries.  When one wants to despair over “today’s youth” they need only see what thee kids are doing.

Vertigo or Acrophobia?

I get vertigo when standing near the edge of a high place.  I think that is correct.  Vertigo is not, according to dictionaries and internet sources, a fear of heights, it is, rather, the disorientation one gets from looking up or down from any height.  Fear of heights is acrophobia.  I’m usually pretty good at, say, curb side heights.  But put me on anything as high or higher than a second story roof without walls or windows around me and I get that funny sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach.   Then, sometimes if I’m up high enough, there is that really weird feeling of “I wonder what it would feel like if I took a step? ”   I don’t know if I have a serious problem or not.  I don’t go to the edge of that many high places so I don’t have to test my concern very often.  My son and I used to fight over who would hold the ladder so that the other would have to go up it.  I’m not to bad about going up, but coming down can be an issue.  Likewise getting on the roof isn’t so bad, but turning around and getting back on the ladder is altogether another story.  Now that I have successfully achieved old age, I don’t even consider getting on a roof and so, I thought, I no longer will be experiencing vertigo. 

Wrong.  I watch very little television – sports and news and some of the political junk that comes on.  It seems that on all of these programs there is an ad by run by Citi Bank in which a young lady tells about a vacation trip she and her boyfriend are taking (that alone – vacation with boyfriend not spouse – indicates how far we have come in the last decade or so of television advertising.  But that’s a topic for another time).  She talks about buying “nylons” which turn out to be rock climbing ropes and not buying a “rock” as in diamond engagement ring, but rather climbing a rock.  And then, sitting before my television, not higher than my couch, I get vertigo.  the ad shows the young lady, or a stunt person but clearly someone, climbing on top of a rock outcropping that appears to have about four square feet of room and be several hundred feet in the air somewhere in the West.  On this “pin head” she stands up and looks around as the camera on a helicopter or airplane circles around her.  I have to hold on to my sofa cushions.  Scares me on the one hand and fascinates me on the other and definitely causes that funny feeling in the pit of my stomach.  What it doesn’t do, though intended otherwise, is make me want a Citi Bank credit card.  

Shock and Horrors! Crest Sullied!

No appreciation of his heritage, that is what it is!  It’s who he is and he doesn’t know it and worse, he makes fun of it.  I am in a state of shock to learn that the original pencil drawing, made by my father, of our family crest was stuffed somewhere in that crowded “hoarder’s” basement of Bob’s and allowed to become coffee stained and curled.  Why, I wonder, has it not been carefully preserved, framed and hung in a place of honor?  And, what is with these slurs at the family heritage through the libeling of the crest?  Indolent?  Family yarn?   I am mortified.  It is our/his heritage he scoffs at.  Webby (Jim), on the other hand, took the time and interest to learn some of the Webner history.  He would treat the crest with significiantly more reverence, I am sure.

Personally, I have always been proud of the crest and the fact that an ancestor was nobility, even if only for a short time.  In fact, I have been considering formally adding “von” back to my name.  “Mack von Webner” has a certain aristocratic sound to it, don’t you think?   Well, maybe not.

In my house I proudly display the oil painting of the family crest.  Dad painted it after he did the pencil drawing Bob has.   It is hung in the bar right next to the vodka so that I can admire it at least once or twice a day at eventide while mixing my martinis.   Dad was very proud of the family crest.  Thus the pencil drawing (which needs preserving and a great deal more respect for his work, if not for the value of the family history,) and the oil.   As Dad understood it, and told it to me (I believe he had no hard information on which to base his belief), our ancestor was a scribe for some Austrian royalty  (perhaps some obscure Austrian prince) and was given the title  “von” for his good work.  As none blood line titles were only good for a lifetime, like knighthood in Great Britain, the von was only good for the scribes lifetime and long gone before the Webners came to America. 

The “oven mitts” are merely Bob’s derisive imagination.  Those images appear as a result of the breastplate shield over hanging on the purple colored (nobility color, of course)  background on which the helmet and armor breastplate appear.  Indeed if one felt the need to describe them otherwise, a more sensitive person of and with familial pride would have identified them as gauntlets, the metal gloves worn with suits of armor which only noblemen were entitled to wear.  The ostrich plumes were, of course, fashionable accessories available only to the wealthy i.e. nobility and often a part of crests.  The “Stars of David”, are fancy fleur de lis, more signs of nobility, though if they were  Stars of David, that would only add to the family mystique.  Indeed, the Webner that came to America, from whom we all on this blog descend, was David Webner, a tailor.  David is often a Jewish given name and tailoring is often a trade populated by Jews.  Moreover, I have been told, on no particularly great authority, that the “ner” as in Webner is common among Austrian Jews.  A non-Jewish version of the name would be “Weber.”  I find it interesting to contemplate that we do have  Jewish lineage.  We are Americans, for sure, with Scotch, Irish, English, Austrian and who knows what other nationality mixes in our background.  Why not some Jewish ancestory as well? 

Unfortunately, the “von” title was not one of inheritance and we later Webners have had to work for our maintenance with no particular fancy recognition.  But, it is fun for we proletarians to think that we had that one shining moment of entitlement.  There is other family lore of nobility, as well.  My grandmother was a Ferguson who, lore has it, were direct descendents from King Fergus of Scotland, as, I suppose, are all Fergusons.  I have been too “indolent” to find out who King Fergus was, when he was or how important or not he was.  (Don’t all families have such tales?)

I do trust that now that it has been re-“discovered” and rescued from Bob’s basement, the family crest will be given proper respectbe framed and appear in a prominent place in Bob’s home. 



Once again the great sports analyst, nephew Bob, has failed to comment on his beloved alma mater’s loss, this time to the really evil Northern Team.  It seems to me if one can provide pregame analysis with such assuredness, one should be able to suck it up when the team loses and tell us what went wrong.  Bob’s keen sports analysis comes form his long involvement in athletics.  As I recall, he took bowling (or was it ballroom dancing?) as his P.E. requirement in college and aced the course. 

In any event, my own basketball involvement (watching games)  had mixed results last Saturday.  I watched two live games and two TV games.  On the plus side, the Blue team handily beat the Orange team and my 10 year old grandson scored a couple of points.  In the other “live” game, the White team may have fared a little less well over the Green team, though my 7 year old grandson scored twice in that game making it, also, a plus game for me.  The 7 year old’s “league” doesn’t keep score (perhaps a good thing for us) and it is a little loose in its rule requirements.  There are no double dribbles, no walking or “steps” (they often just pick up the ball and run with it), and (in both games) there is a rule that you cannot take the ball out of the other team player’s hands.  You can only guard with your hands straight up.  All well and good for learning, I guess, but frustrating for grandfathers.  The result is that I can only attend one game a season.  That’s all my daughter will allow and the YMCA that runs the program probably wouldn’t let me back in for any additional games anyway.  I guess yelling at the ref in 7 year olds’ and 10 year olds’ games is a little over the top. 

In any event, my basketball fix was off to a pretty good start.  Then I came home to the television.  My alma mater, which leads its conference, was beaten by Oral Roberts.  I didn’t even know Oral Roberts has sports teams.  (Well, maybe I did.)    Then I watched the whole bitter struggle of the OSU/Michigan game.  (Did the Buckeyes ever lead?)  I don’t understand how they lose with so much talent.  Coaching?  Matta is a good coach, I think.  But how does he allow those guys to be so flat? 

Which reminds me of my own coaching career.  A man of absolutely no sports talent, (at least Bob had bowling) I did not hesitate to coach my kids basketball and soccer teams and was even on the board of a peewee football league for awhile.  Bob can affirm that I bought all of the necessary literature on how to coach these sports.  Unfortunately, coaching, like playing, requires something more than reading “how to” books. 

My claim to fame is that I coached Grant Hill, a star at Duke and subsequently great professional basketball player, when he was in fifth or sixth grade.  In our league all players were assigned to teams by the “commissioner” and all kids had to play at least one quarter.  The mix was interesting.  There were those reminiscent of myself – uncoordinated but eager, those who wanted to be at home with a book and Grant Hill a smart, athletic, talented kid.  As a testament to Grant’s interest in the sport and his focus on the game he continued to excel in, I tell you that our team lost every game except the one when I was out of town and Grant’s father (Calvin Hill, the great All-Pro football player) coached the team.  He probably hadn’t even read those books I had on coaching.

So, I don’t know why the Buckeyes fell down in the last two Michigan games.  I hope that our resident analyst will be brave enough to provide us an explanation if he can overcome his funk from the loss.


I’ve been waiting for Bob’s report on Saturday afternoon’s big game in Columbus.  You know, the one being played where the home team never loses?  Bob is good at pre-game analysis but silent despondency must set in when the Bucks lose.  Here’s my take.

Saturday’s game was purported to be basketball and the players all dressed in what seemed to be basketball uniforms.  There were the appropriate number of referees and more coaches than players, as is normal.  The fans were all dressed in numbingly stupid  attire and so it certainly appeared to be a setting for a basketball game.  Apparently, all of the appearance of a basketball game was only a  ruse to attract television money and viewers to see a game of “toss the brick”.  Maybe some organization needed the exposure to obtain standing to introduce it as a new Olympic sport. 

When the game started it looked like an orange round ball was being tossed in the air, but it turned out to be an orange rectangular piece of clay.  It seldom went in the hoop and through the net.  When thrown it clanged or clunked on the metal rim and fell, usually, into the other teams’ hands.  That team then ran to the other end of the floor and threw the brick at their hoop where it again clanged or clunked into the opponents’ hands and the same scenario was repeated again and again at the opposite end of the court.   There was one point in which neither team scored from the field for, as I recall the announcer saying, three minutes.  That is fairly incredible for teams that play at the high a level those two teams do and who have as much basketball talent as they are supposed to have. 

The Buckeyes couldn’t muster 50 points on their home court where they were supposed to be unbeatable.  They must have thought that the streak alone would carry them.  

Maybe the problem is they are basketball players and the game of bricks threw them off.   In any case, neither team had much to be pleased with – except of course Michigan State can be pleased it won. 

OSU’s redemption lies in the defensive play of Aaron Craft.  The Buckeyes can be pleased they have Craft.  A more tenacious defender is seldom seen.  Sullinger was disappointing, but I think that the announcing team was correct in saying that his team mates need to remember that he is a force to be reckoned with even if he appears to be covered.   Get the ball to him underneath and sooner or later, probably sooner, he will get it in the hoop. 

Finally, I didn’t understand why OSU’s guys thought they needed to run and shoot instead of moving the ball around.  It should have become quickly apparent that run and shoot was not the answer to getting their game on track.  In its losses, OSU does seem to lose focus  – a trait that doesn’t bode well for the Finals. 

If these are the two best teams in the Big 10, their play on Saturday is not a good sign that the National Championship will end up in that Conference this year.  For Bob and other OSU alums and die-hard fans, I hope Saturday was just an aberration.  Any more lapses from Matta’s boys like Saturday’s and Bob will be back to writing about Urban-ball and the “new” Buckeye football team.


Today I learned that I am old.  I guess I have been fooling myself for the last months (years?).  I turned 70 in November and marveled at passing that seemingly insurmountable obstacle for male Webners in my family line.  But, other than writing a new number on questionnaires asking my age, I did not find being 70 was any different than being 69 or 60 or, in fact, much different than being 50.  Well, a couple of things different, maybe.  But, overall, it hasn’t seemed to me that the fact of another year made any real physical or mental difference.  That is until this morning. 

This morning I went to the doctor for my semi-annual physical.  I go semi-annually because of a heart “event” of a few years ago and, I suspect, because the doctor gets two fees a year if I go semi-annually instead of annually.  But I don’t mind.  I have never been one of those males who doesn’t like to go to the doctor.  I don’t exactly like going, but I prefer to be told I am healthy than to assume it and find out too late I am wrong.  But, I digress.  This morning I learned I am old. 

After taking my weight and my blood pressure, the doctor’s assistant (nurse? Do they have real nurses in doctors’ offices anymore?) said she was going to ask me some questions. “Fine”, I said a bit curiously.  “What year is this?”, she asked.  I smiled and said “2012”.   “What month is it?”   I was tempted to say something smart mouthed, but thought better of it and responded “January”.  The next question, while obvious, was a bit trickier.  “What is today’s date?”  I never know the date without looking at a calendar and it is even less important since having retired.  I thought I gave the wrong answer and became immediately concerned.  I was partially rehabilitated with the follow up question of “what day of the week is this?”  I nailed that one.  On it went with her asking me what she was pointing to – her watch and asking me “what is this?”  A pen she was holding up.  Then to repeat three words three times and again to repeat those words a few questions later.  There was one tricky question or combination question: “Spell ‘world'” and then “spell it backward.”  I had to think a minute on the backward part.  There was also a drawing to copy – overlapping pentagons.  Not too difficult but then I’m not the artist that some family members are. 

Ultimately, the doctor advised me I had passed with a 100%  – 30 out of 30.  As you will have guessed, the test was for detecting early onset of dementia and/or Alzheimer’s disease.  Both are conditions associated primarily with being OLD or at least elderly (not that being elderly” is more acceptable than being “old”).  It seems that Medicare (also associated with “old”) wants docs to give the test to patients of a certain age.  That would be “old” people, ’cause that is mainly who is on Medicare.  According to the doctor it is an effort to detect these diseases at an early stage so that medication that slows the memory loss condition can be administered.  It is for the best interest of the family and patient and saves medical expenses in the long run, he said.   I know, however, having listened to the politicians and insurance providers, that it is just a part of the government’s death committee’s initial activities to determine which of us live and which of us die.  (Just kidding – I hope.)  

But now I can no longer avoid the fact that I am old.  I have been tested for it.  Though, I still don’t feel old, I do plan to study for my six month check-up, and concentrate on knowing the date – just to be sure I don’t get placed on the elimination list.

Lawn Service

I’ve just come in from doing my weekly “lawn service” chores. At this time of year that is reduced to “raking” leaves and pine straw off the yard and driveway. I say “raking.” That’s what it used to be. Now it’s blowing. No one rakes much of anything anymore, everyone blows their leaves, grass clippings (snow) with a gasoline or electric powered blower. It isn’t quite the exercise that raking was, but it is almost as satisfying to see the cleared area when you are finished.

I really enjoy doing yard work. For over 40 years I went to an office every day (a whole lot of weekends too) and at the end of the day was left with many things to re-do the next day. Everything required review, revision, further analysis, more editing, comments from the client and more revision. And, of course, the client wanted all of it “yesterday.” With yard work you can look back at the end of a particular chore and see what you have accomplished. You might go back and trim a little more but at the end of the day, the job is done. And there is no client. (There is a wife, but that’s different.) While you have to do the same chore again the next week, it’s not the same as arriving at the end of the day knowing you are not done and that tomorrow you will have to review, revise, redraft, correct, discuss, revise again and still wonder when you are “done” if you have adequately covered all of the necessary points. Then at three in the morning you awaken to again consider the myriad of details hoping that you have covered them all appropriately. Not so with yard work. Yard’s mowed. Won’t think about it again until next week. Yard’s trimmed, done for a week. Bushes trimmed, they look neat and I did it. Of course, if you were making your living doing yard work for others, you might worry about the business of doing yard work. But as a home owner, these are of no concern.

For some reason it irritates my wife that I insist on doing my own yard work instead of hiring a service to do it for me. She alleges that the reason she wants a lawn service is her fear that I’ll have a heart attack, stroke or something. I think it’s because she doesn’t think I do the same job those “professionals” do. After all, the lawn mowing part is done by me sitting on my Cub Cadet rider mower. The “raking” is accomplished with a gasoline powered blower and the bush trimming is done with a gasoline powered clipper (and some minor hand trimming). If I have a stroke out there, I was as likely going to have it sitting on the couch.

As I do these tasks with my enhanced power driven equipment, my mind often wanders back to when I was a kid and had my own fledgling lawn service in which I would go around the neighborhood asking to mow yards to get some spending money. In those days we had a push mower that had metal wheels, cogs , blades and a handle that was made of wood with a cross piece bolted to it for grips. At nine or ten or so, that bolt was just the right place to hit you in the chest when the wheels locked up from running over a stick. I’m surprised I didn’t grow a bone spur on my sternum. When I was “finished,” the old lady (probably all of fifty years old) would inspect the job and always find something I didn’t do right (usually a legitimate find). After I did or re-did what she wanted, while missing out on the pick-up baseball game the neighborhood kids were playing, she gave me the fifty cents I charged and said “don’t forget next week.” Shoveling walks in the winter had much the same story just different equipment (no snow blowers in those days). I haven’t seen a kid mow a yard in years. While we don’t have snow down here, I don’t remember seeing a kid shovel a walk in the last few decades I lived up North, either.

Around here it costs about $70 + a week for a lawn service to come do what I do. Granted with two or three people doing the mowing, blowing and trimming it gets done quicker, but I contend they don’t do as good a job as I do because it isn’t their yard. At $70 a week, it didn’t take long for me to amortize my mower, blower and trimmer and $70 worth of gas and oil covers most of the in-season work. Ultimately, I will no doubt reach a point in life where infirmities or the inevitable will put an end to my doing my own yard work. Then there will be plenty of time to hire “professionals” to do those enjoyable tasks they call work.

Diamond Grille (“DG”, “Diamond”)

Bob’s Diamond Grille blog struck a chord in me. The place and the people who frequented it is a subject near and dear to me.

I worked at the “DG” some 53 years ago when I was a junior and senior in high school. I was hired to bus tables but couldn’t do so fast enough for the waitresses. So, I was moved to the kitchen where I washed dishes and made the salads. I worked Friday and Saturday nights and during the week in the summer. I didn’t do a lot of dating on those weekends. By the time I got off work it was late and after washing dishes and making garlic salads I pretty much smelled like a garbage dump. Nonetheless the experience was great and the money I earned much appreciated. I return to it whenever I am in Akron.

The “Diamond was (and, in my view, still is) Akron’s premier steak house. But, in addition to its great steaks, the Diamond was well known for its “Diamond” salad dressing. It was heavy on the garlic, so you know it was good. About once a month I was relegated to the basement of the restaurant to make the dressing. In the basement was an enclosed room that probably once was a storage room or fruit cellar; in any event a windowless and airless room. There I would fill gallon jugs with oil and then stuff garlic buds into the jugs. I do not recall the proportions, but by the end of the session it was difficult to tell, by smell, the difference between me and a garlic bud. It kept vampires (and girls) away from me for years. At one time the dressing was bottled and sold to customers for home use.

The owners of the DG are the Thomas family. The current proprietors are brothers Nick and Ted Thomas. The restaurant was started by their father in the forties, I believe. Nick Thomas, the senior living Thomas and my brother, Bob’s Dad, were good friends, which is why, as Bob mentioned in his Blog, the Diamond was a favorite place of his father’s. It is also how I got the job there. Nick was a task master and put up with no nonsense from any of his employees, including his friend’s brother. The chef, at the time, was an older man named Dave who likewise put up with no nonsense. He and Nick expected everyone to do their jobs efficiently and correctly at all times. The waitresses at the Diamond were then, and always have been, extremely professional. Service at the DG is never an issue. Nick always saw to it that customers were served promptly. From Dave I learned that one does not put a sauce on a good piece of meat. Dave- would explode when a customer wanted his or her steak well done and/or wanted A-1 sauce or the like to put on it. “Ruins a perfectly good piece of meat” he would say. “If they want hamburger they should go to Swenson’s.” (Swenson’s is another classic Akron restaurant albeit a drive-in hamburger restaurant.) Though I must have rebelled against the demands at the time, I am certain that working for Nick and with Dave I learned a lot about how to work and created a foundation for establishing my own work ethic

Nick has always been a unique character. His loyalty to his friends is unyielding, and to know him is to love him, but he must be an enigma to those who don’t know him well. His demeanor is gruff – you would not find him working at a swank New York restaurant. When a customer comes in before a table is available for them, Nick’s greeting is “take a seat at the bar and we’ll call you when a table is available.” These instructions were given in a not particularly warm and fuzzy manner. Of course that meant you were to have a drink at the bar before you got to the table where you should also have a drink. The money is in the booze, after all. But good customers don’t mind a bit because there is always someone you know at the bar and lively, usually sports oriented, conversations ensue. The Diamond was and is the place to go to see friends and have a great meal.

When I worked there, Nick was dating his wife to be and sometimes, during my work shift, I would be tasked with going to pick her up and bring her to the restaurant. Their dates were spent at the “store.” I didn’t mind the break from the kitchen and moreover, I got to drive Nick’s car, a ’56 T-Bird. I was a happy teen age chauffer.

In the late fifties there was a group of guys, probably two dozen or so, who were Akron’s young Turks who used the Diamond as a club house. This included my brother. These guys had gone to high school, college or law school or all of these together and they were, then, the young businessmen and professionals of Akron. There were doctors, dentists, lawyers, salesmen, car dealers, and contractors in the group, practically someone from every walk of life. As far as I could tell they were all really good guys and most of them stayed friends for life. Unfortunately, there numbers have thinned, but in their day they surely had some good times at the Diamond Grille.

Over the years some of these friends of my brother, Nick for one, became my mentors and I looked at them as my own friends. A few years ago I had occasion to invite Nick to a dinner at which I was speaking where I pointed out to the group there how important he had been to me as my first boss. I think he enjoyed that and I certainly did.

I get to Akron once or twice a year for about two or three days each trip and I end up eating at the DG, always once and often twice on each trip. Underscoring the quality of the food there is the fact that when the PGA tour is in town for the Bridgestone tournament at the Firestone C.C. almost all of the golfers eat at the Diamond. The place is so popular for the golfers that the Thomas’s ask their regular customers to stay away that week so that they can take care of the out of town crowd. You can expect to hear the golf tournament commentators mention the Diamond on the air during the tournament.

Bob mentioned the décor of the restaurant. I believe that it has been changed only once since I worked there. The current look probably dates to the early seventies and is still the “new look.” Any change in the décor would be at a great risk as its retro appearance is a part of its charm.

Nick’s brother Ted is a year or two younger than I and he and I were Lone Star fraternity brothers. The last time I was there, Teddy’s daughter was the hostess and so a third generation is now involved in operating the Diamond. I hope there are Thomas’s willing to continue the Diamond tradition.

The connections of Webners to the Diamond Grille are full of great memories. I am sure that Bob’s mother could regale him with stories from the DG. I know that my wife and I have many and they are all positive, usually humorous and reminiscent of good times. Bob’s blog brought back a lot of memories and I have probably taken too much space to relate my feelings for the place, its owners and its denizens. Just thinking of the place makes my mouth water. Maybe I’ll see you there the next time I’m in town? The Diamond Grill is not to be missed if you are in Akron, Ohio. Its food and its character are the best.