Goslings On Parade

It’s spring, so of course we’ve got hatchlings at the Schiller Park pond.  A family of Canadian geese has a brood of four goslings who have been strutting their stuff, to the delight of their proud and protective parents and passersby alike.

The brown goslings are almost unbearably cute, and their tumbling and waddling as they follow Mom and Dad around is fun to watch.  Soon they’ll be losing their downy coats and will emerge as full-grown Canadian geese — one of the most aggressive, loud-honking, crap-anywhere-and-everywhere, obnoxious species of birds that you find around these parts.

I prefer them at this stage.

Tweety Dick

Sometimes modern life in America is so weird it’s hard to really take it all in.  The increasingly bizarre twists and turns of our politics and political leaders, the corrosive effect of simplistic social media platforms, the constant craving for attention and celebrity status — all combine to create a world where the strange has become routine.

57cc54c17b55c9ceef53dff107138873Consider, for example, how the Richard Nixon Presidential Library and Museum reacted to President Trump’s decision to discharge FBI Director James Comey.  Trump’s abrupt firing reminded people of the “Saturday Night Massacre” during the Nixon Administration, in which Nixon’s zeal to discharge Archibald Cox, the special prosecutor investigating the Watergate scandal, resulted in the resignation of the Attorney General and Assistant Attorney General.

So what did the Nixon Library do in response to this newfound attention?  Did it supply the press with the actual background facts of the incident that the Washington Post called, at the time, “the most traumatic government upheaval of the Watergate crisis,” so that people could make their own comparisons and draw their own conclusions?

Nah.  It sent out a tweet that said:  “FUN FACT: President Nixon never fired the Director of the FBI #FBIDirector #notNixonian.”  Ha ha!  Boy, that Nixon Library is a laugh riot, isn’t it?  And a class act, besides!  And it sure helps to be reminded that, before Nixon resigned in disgrace after being impeached, there were some bad and ill-advised things that Nixon didn’t do, doesn’t it?

To its credit, the National Archives and Records Administration, which administers the presidential libraries, issued a statement about the Nixon Library tweet.  It noted that “[a]s a federal government agency, the National Archives does not condone or engage in partisan or political conversations,” added that the tweet “was not representative of the policies of the Library or the National Archives,” and noted that the Archives would be “examining the training provided to employees who post to official social media channels as well as reviewing work flows and approval processes to ensure that our social media efforts engage the public in constructive conversations in line with agency policies.”  Fortunately, there apparently is at least one adult in the room.

It’s hard to imagine that anybody in the Nixon Library gave much thought to the snotty tweet; they probably were reveling in the attention they were receiving in connection with the Comey firing and just couldn’t resist getting in a little dig that would boost the trending line of Tricky Dick and his library.  And that’s really the basic problem these days, isn’t it?  People just don’t think twice, or even try to resist their baser impulses.

I Have A Dumb Refrigerator

As the world reels in the face of another computer hacking attack, this time at the hands of the “wannacry” virus, I have come to realize that my refrigerator is dumb — and I really prefer it that way.

img_4173It sounds mean to say that my refrigerator is not “smart,” but it’s true.  It’s shiny on the outside but not very bright, if you know what I mean.  It keeps our food cool, or downright frozen, and it gives us ice and cold water at the thrust of a cup, but that’s about it.  It’s not linked to the internet or controlled by an app.  It’s not programmable and tracking data about electrical usage that I can access when I’m drinking coffee at the office.  It doesn’t stream music or take verbal commands or have an inside/outside video camera or suggest recipes when we’re trying to decide what to have for dinner.

It’s embarrassing to say it, I guess, but our other key appliances — the stove, the oven, the microwave, and the washer and dryer — are pretty much equally dumb.  It’s not their fault, it’s just the way they were made.  In fact, they probably even lack the self-awareness to recognize that they are . . . different from their more gifted cousins.

Now that I think about it, I’m not sure that we have any really smart devices around the house.  Our seven-year-old car has satellite radio and a GPS system, but that’s about it in the high-tech department.  These days, that’s kindergarten stuff.  Our TV allows us to access various content providers, so it’s probably at about the third-grade level.  And our 10-year-old desktop computer is so laughably backward that it might as well be sitting on a stool in the corner with a dunce cap on.

So in our household, we’re surrounded by dumbness.  But with each new hacking attack, I’m thinking that’s really not such a bad thing.  While our refrigerator might not get great test results in the smart appliance department, at least we know it’s not spying on us, or accumulating personal information that some hacker could access, or subject to being controlled by the next round of North Korean mischief.  When the next “wannacry” or “stuxnet” or “bindlehoffer” virus is sweeping the globe and paralyzing smart households, it’s reassuring to know that our refrigerator will still be purring along, keeping the cottage cheese and beer cold.

In The Cell Phone Lot

Thursday night found us in the cell phone lot of the Columbus airport, waiting for the arrival of a delayed plane at about 11:30 p.m.

When you think about it, the cell phone lot is a pretty weird place.  There you are, cheek by jowl with total strangers, with everyone’s cars packed tightly together.  And yet, while you are in close absolute physical proximity, in the sense that the cars and their drivers are literally right next to each other, there is a strong feeling of near complete emotional separation.  Everyone remains ensconced in their own little tightly controlled, specially heated or cooled vehicular cocoon, typically with their car in park and their engine humming, paying close attention to their cell phones.

In the cell phone lot, no one acknowledges the people in other cars.  No, even eye contact and a simple nod would somehow violate the perverse etiquette of the place.  In the cell phone lot, we’re all just there on our own, waiting for that call or a text, like lost souls in purgatory hoping to be summoned to our final destination.

At the Columbus airport lot, there are two curiosities.  One is a sign that says you can’t stay in the cell phone lot for more than an hour.  An hour?   In the psychically sterile cell phone lot, which gives off the ultimate in transient, leave me alone and get me out of here vibes?  Even 10 minutes in the lot is soul-crushing.

The other is a picnic table located right next to the lot.  I’ve never seen anyone sitting at that table, and I expect I never will.  Leave aside for a moment that a spot right next to a parking lot full of cars in idle, leaking exhaust, wouldn’t exactly be the kind of pastoral setting you look for in picnics — not only does no one in the cell phone lot want to leave their cars, they don’t want to see anyone else leave their cars, either.  If someone exited their car to sit at the picnic table, I’d predict that the other cars would immediately reposition themselves to form an empty buffer zone between themselves and the person who is breaching all perceived rules of modern behavior and is probably an axe murderer, besides.  In fact, the rest of us would probably leave the cell phone lot and take another lap around the baggage claim pick-up zone, just to clear our heads and get away from the unseemly misconduct.

Family Yard Art

There are tangible benefits to having a talented artist in the family.

Yesterday Russell presented us with a combination birthday/Mother’s Day present: this very cool granite piece for our backyard flower beds.  He made it using a machine that project a stream of high pressure water and a sand-like substance and can cut through just about anything.  The shaped pieces of granite then fit together to form this beautiful three-dimensional sculpture that shines brilliantly in the morning sunshine and changes in feel and appearance as the sun moves across the sky and shadows play upon its surface.  We love it and think it fits perfectly in our yard.

Thanks, Russell!

Happy Mother’s Day!

img_5099Happy Mother’s Day to all of the mothers out there!  Happy Mother’s Day to my lovely wife, who has been an awesome mother, to my own dear mother and to my two wonderful grandmothers, who live forever in my thoughts (and in the expressions and sayings I use every day), and to the generations of mothers who preceded them whose love, hard work, nurturing, perseverance, sacrifice, and daily guidance were instrumental in producing the modern-day Webner clan.

You know, when you think about it, a card, some flowers, and a box of candy really don’t adequately recognize what mothers do for us and for our society.  But then, some debts really can’t be satisfied with material items.  All we can do for our mothers is love them right back, and try to live up to the standards they set and the instruction they provided.  And take a day like today to think about how much our mothers have meant, and try our best to show them we appreciate it.