Saturday, December 31, 2016

Predictions end of year 2017

This year holds with it much uncertainty as we see the safety net come tumbling down and a follower of the Russian state take control of our country. The conventional wisdom is that it will be a good year for stocks and the capitalist class. The calendar dictates it is time for my annual economic predictions, so here we are.

In red are the numbers at the close of today, the last business day of 2016. In black are my predictions from last year and  this time next year.

Entity      No. today     My prediction a year ago     Prediction a year from now.
S and P     2239             2100                                      2400
Dow         19763          18500                                    20100
NAS          5383            5000                                      5500
MSFT        63.55           60                                         60
Oil             53.89           60                                          60
Unemployed  4.4%       5%                                         4.3%

So it looks like I under priced the market. This year I think things will get better too, at least for those of us who dabble in such things.

The Philadelphia Eagles will get in the playoffs this year. The left wing of the country will be noisy and hold lots of demonstrations in the coming year. For the Trump voters it will be a nerve wracking time, following the old adage "be careful what you wish for". Happy New Years. May we have a nuclear free winter.

Friday, December 23, 2016

Christmas clutter

I don't know why, but this year my place seems to be inundated with Christmas clutter. I just came in from the cold and the first thing I did was, crunch, step on three Christmas candy canes in a bow. They were so cute before I pulverized them. Where did they come from? They were a goodie bag that I was handed when I walked into the work holiday party. And last night I stumbled over wrapping paper. Why are there all those boxes blocking the way to the kitchen? They are the boxes my out of town gifts came in.

I have Christmas letters on the floor of the living room, empty candy boxes on top of the tv, and my one empty chair has Christmas record album inner sleeves that should go with the albums I hope to play tomorrow.

Things are worse for me since I am a December birthday baby and still have birthday cards and birthday gifts on the floor of my home office. Once I get all my Christmas gifts in the next few days I will have more clutter. Plus I have all the gifts I have yet to wrap. I hope the tape holds out.  If I can find it in all the clutter.

I know. The secret is organization. And getting rid of stuff. Tomorrow I'll try to get organized. Happy Kringles, Mr. Mustache.

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Adult school

Apparently, millennials don't know how to do some of the things we adults know how to do. I was just reading this article about how lame millennials are. Apparently they don't know how to make a bed, set a table or change a tire.
In horror, I realized that I have grown terribly rusty myself on these apparent life skills.
Skill:                     Last time I did it
Making a bed        The last time I really made my bed was in 1998 when my        mother was visiting from Texas.

Setting a table       The last time I set a table was in October.

Changed a tire       The last time I changed a tire was when I owned the Escort in                                1995.

Changing a diaper  I have never changed a diaper.

Put up Christmas lights outside     I helped put up Christmas lights the day after Thanksgiving in 2010.

Cooked breakfast for a hungry group of people   I have never cooked breakfast     for a hungry group of people.

Carved a turkey                              I have never carved a turkey.

Made dinner rolls for Thanksgiving dinner   Last month I made dinner rolls for a hungry group of people.

Put up a Christmas tree                   I helped put up a Christmas tree last week.

Chopped down a Christmas tree     I chopped down a Christmas tree in 1984.

Change a smoke detector                I changed a smoke detector last year.

Grow vegetables                              I grew tomatoes two years ago.

Fold sheets                                       I have never folded sheets.

Saturday, December 3, 2016

The four rules of life

Never play cards with a man called Doc. Never eat at a place called Mom's. Never sleep with a woman whose troubles are worse than your own. Never make a Secretary of Defense a man called "Mad dog."  Just saying. 

Editor's note: Nelson Algren wrote the three rules of life. 

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

The dilemma of the unwanted plant

I think we've all been in this situation. You go to a meeting and you have a nice lunch. Afterwards the speaker tells you to look under your chair. If you have a picture of a daisy you get to take home the centerpiece. I won the centerpiece, which, as it turns out, was a plant. It was called a gerbera, according to the plant tag.

I brought it home and it was pretty until all the flowers fell off. Now it sits in a prime spot in my small kitchen window, drinking up the winter sun and absorbing frequent waterings. It is always dry. I divided the plant in half (actually I think the centerpiece had several plants) and it is also taking up valuable window space in the office.

There it sits. I think to myself, if it died, I could really use that pot for one of the African violets that I grew from a leaf and is now getting big.

The dilemma of the unwanted plant. Like an unwanted dog or an unwanted child, it takes up time, space and resources. And how am I rewarded? By looking at its yellowing leaves. It has healthy leaves coming in, though. Oh what does one do with an unwanted plant. If it had flowers I could give it as a Christmas gift but it would be tacky to give someone that ugly thing.

Perhaps in the spring it will sprout more flowers. Then I'll be happy I didn't abandon it. Perhaps it will die. I could use that pot and window space.

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Happy turkey day

I've been lazy but here is a Thankgiving blast from the past. I promise to bring back Aunt Agnes and her views on our next president. Happy turkey day!

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Garrison Keillor on Trump

Garrison Killore had a nice column today.

I need to start hanging out in more old man bars. I thought Hillary was going to win. There's a world out there that doesn't read the Times or watch Colbert.

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Jack T Chick has died

It was the first week of my Freshman year at Rutgers. I was coming out of the Student Center when a man handed me what I thought was a comic book. It was called "This was your life". I read it and shared it with my dorm mates. In future weeks I got more of these comics. I had quite a collection at one time. These books taught me the meaning of irony. 

This past week he has been memorialized throughout the media. A cornerstone of American culture has passed. 

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Play dates

I am now working on another floor at work. The move has been long and hard and next week I'll get fitted for a back brace. One nice thing about my new lunchroom is I can eavesdrop on conversations, which allows me to get a new grasp on life as it is lived in our country.

Not surprising, I have found that young men still talk about sports at the lunch table. As they get older the conversation will move on to home projects and finally, health problems. 

The women's table has reassured me that women, at the end of the day, still talk about children primarily, especially children's health issues. I have learned that one daughter is both afraid of the dentist and getting shots. In my day my face would meet my mother's hand and all my phobias would have been solved. 

The other way I have of learning about life is through situation comedies. My favorite show this fall is Better Things,  starring Louie C. K.'s co star, Pamela Aldon. From this show I have learned that the real purpose of play dates is that it is a way for divorced Mom's to meet up with divorced Dad's. The kids are just the pretext.

Thank you Mother and Father. They never made me go on a play date. Since I was disliked by all the kids at school it would have been excruciatingly embarrassing to have to be involved in setting up a play date. Perhaps things are better now. Kids seem more worldly and are taught social skills at an earlier age. 

Nah. I went to two kids birthday parties in my life, never was the star of one, and don't regret it. I also never went on a play date. 

Editor's note: I made up the part about getting a back brace. 

Monday, September 26, 2016

Ellie and Hillary run for office

Recently I was watching the Andy Griffith episode where Ellie Walker runs for office and gets the women and men in Mayberry all asunder. Made me think of today and the upcoming Presidential election. Here you have the archetypal man versus the archetypal woman in a contest. Or to put it another way,  it's an interesting contest because it pits the type of woman men can't stand with the type of man that annoys  the women folk. 

Hillary is the assistant manager at work who writes in your review that you keep a messy desk. She is the school teacher who gives your son a C in algebra, which keeps him from playing sports. She is the sister-in law that doesn't allow smoking in the house and then hits you up for a contribution to the church charity. 

Trump is the loud mouthed guy at the bar who explains why a player should stand up for the National Anthem if he wants to play football. He is the guy who shows up at the party with a date the same age as his daughter while his wife is staying at home. He's the bragadocio who can fix everybody's problems but never pays the waiter a tip. 

So there you have it, a man that women don't like and a woman that annoys most men, certainly those over forty, who remember when women at work brought in the coffee and wives did the laundry.  Wonder if Ellie won that election.  

Saturday, September 10, 2016

Buying a t shirt for your grand neice

This is (trigger warning) a somewhat sexist appraisal of how to handle extended family purchasing situations.

The wrong way to buy a gift for your niece.
You are at the gift shop at Valley Forge and want to buy a cute t shirt for your grand niece. You buy it on impulse. Inevitably, the grand niece will never wear her t shirt. The size is wrong. She doesn't like the design. Anyway, she already has five hundred t shirts and on birthdays and holidays she always gets a few dozen more. The truth is your grand niece only shops at fancy schmanzy children's boutiques with designer names and prices. You have made a mistake. Your t shirt will be sold at next year's church rummage sale.

The correct way to buy a gift for a grandniece. Your wife calls your nephew's wife and they have a nice chat. Your wife tells you what she wants, she buys it, and you sign your name on it. Or, if you don't have a wife, you can buy her a cash card at Amazon.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Never lie to your mother

When I was a tot, I went playing with some of the older boys on Parker Avenue. When my mother asked me why I came in late for dinner I explained that I had been playing with the Mills girls on Kaplan Avenue.

The next morning, my mother said, "A little birdie told me that you were playing with some older boys on Parker Avenue yesterday afternoon." You always have to be careful about the neighborhood birdies who tell tales. Poor Ryan, losing all those endorsements. Just because, like the Rolling Stones in 1964, he had to take a leak in a gas station.  Moral? We should never lie to our mothers.

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Donut peaches

Yesterday I had my first donut peach. I saw them in the local farmer's market and the next day I bought them at the garden store in Morrisville, Pennsylvania. They actually are good. They are drier and less sweet than a regular peach and I guess are a treat partially because they only appear briefly in August.

The Morrisville Garden Farm market is always fun. It looks like it was last remodeled in 1961 and has no self check out. The floors are saggy and the place reeks of atmosphere.

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Goodbye Taj Mahal

When the folks first visited me in New Jersey in the summer of 1990 they wanted to see me, the graves, and some of the aunts still living in the area, but most importantly, they wanted to go to the Taj Mahal. They didn't want to hurt my feelings or anything but they had been reading about it and I always suspected that it was the real reason they wanted to go up north from their sweet retirement home in Texas. 

At the time, with all the hype and hoopla about Atlantic City being the great gambling mecca East of the Mississippi a lot of people wanted to try their hand at the slots and perhaps see what a casino looked like. I know when I came back the first time I wanted to see Merv Griffin's palace, Resorts, and the Taj Mahal was even bigger. Tastefully decorated in what was faux Hollywood style exoticism, the Taj Mahal was big and a once in a lifetime treasure. A wonder that brought to New Jersey, however briefly, the distinction of being one of the most written about sites in the country. 

We came, played the slots, and as a souvenir, my father decided to discretely carry his coin tub with him back to the car. He was stopped in his tracks by the site of Donald Trump marching through the casino and shaking hands. He put the tub behind him so Mr. Trump wouldn't notice. Later we saw the Trump helicopter on the sands.

Now we hear that the great mecca to gambling and culture is closing. A monument to the second golden age of Atlantic City its closing symbolizes the decline of both the jewel of the Atlantic and the would be president of this fine country. 

Monday, July 25, 2016

Conventions in ages past

Going through the vaults, I found two old posts of mine on political conventions for 1960 and 1964. Classics.

Sunday, July 24, 2016

On January 20

Well I listened to the Trump acceptance speech. It seems an awful lot of things will happen on  January 20 of 2017.

  • On that day illegal aliens will stop murdering American citizens
  • On that day people will stop shooting at police officers
  • On that day we will put an end to trade policies that hurt American workers
  • On that day Hillary will be handcuffed and put in a federal prison
  • Construction will begin on that day on a wall between the United States and Mexico
  • On that day terrorists will be deported back from whence they came
I might add a few things to my own wishlist

  • On that day Zillow will say I have made money on the condo
  • On that day I will get a raise from work
  • On that day my air conditioner will get a boost
Well we can dream. Next week the Democrats will get their turn in the beautiful I-95 corridor in south Philadelphia. I wonder if Hillary will have on a striped dress and say "Well they said they wanted to see me in stripes!"
Humor in uniform.  (for those of you who used to read Readers Digest)

I have a dog in my life

Living in a condo or an apartment you may think you are the king of your castle. However, all it takes to change your life is a new neighbor with kids, or a dog, or a boyfriend with a motorcycle. Suddenly you don't need to set your alarm in the morning. You wake to the sound of a motorcycle revviing. Or a kid screaming. Or a dog barking.

My life has changed. Well actually, my new neighbor has neither kids, a boyfriend with a motorcycle, a drunk ex husband who visits, or a rooster. But she does have a dog. Cute thing, actually.

I was trying to clean my porch (mini ten foot by five porch) and suddenly, a dog starting barking out of the place next door. His face stuck out of the French door. Then a lady in the garden below was walking her dog. The neighbor dog: Ruff ruff ruff.  The garden dog (an older dog with a lower voice) : Ruff ruff ruff.

So now, at least occasionally I get to hear the new dog through the walls. Mrrrr. Ruff ruff ruff, followed by a woman's voice. "Shut the f--- up!"

Life is full of adventures. Who knows? She may even have a drunk ex husband.

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

So what am I watching on You Tube nowadays

For people with time on their hands and too cheap to subscribe to HBO or Showtime, there is always YouTube. Here are some of my fav YouTube series.

We can start with the Sherlock Holmes tv show. Filmed in France in the 1950's, it's not terrible. Half hour long.

Piddleass is an old favorite. The trials and tribulations of a twenty something living in LA. Her cat, Thor, her new boyfriend, her trials (her air conditioner broke) lead to a pleasant slice of life with an Oklahoma native now living in L.A.

A fun video series by an American woman who is living in Germany. Dos and don'ts about an expats life in Deutschland. Wanted adventure.

A wilderness buff currently in Vancouver island by herself (but who's filming?) and sort of fun, if she doesn't get eaten by a bear. The part where she swims in the alltogether covered by an electronic Canadian flag is cute.

Two women, one straight, one bi talk about meeting men. Just between us, a good guide to Millenials for human resources staff.

Unsolicited Project. Two lesbians talk about life. Occasionally they promote their movie, Almost Adults. Sort of fun. The blonde isn't bad looking.

Monday, June 20, 2016


One of the real big issues going on in the world this week is the Brexit vote on Thursday. Then, people from Britain may or may not decide to leave the EU.
This could be very bad for Britain: International companies might leave, They will surely have to pay tariffs on French wine and Italian spaghetti. It may also affect London's status as a world banking center. 

On the other hand, many in the UK would love to get rid of those pesky French, Spanish, and Polish workers. And God forbid, they may have to allow in Syrians and Iraqis refugees. 

I can understand the Brexit argument. Right now the UK has a lower unemployment rate than most of Europe. They have their own oil and a special relationship with the Commonwealth countries. They would rather have bureaucrats in London make their laws than bureaucrats in Brussels. "He may be a bastard but he's our bastard". 

I understand the feeling about letting outsiders into a place. When I moved to Colorado in the seventies people muttered about New Yorkers were moving up the prices of everything from homes to ski passes. Perhaps the good old days were better. Americans complain about NAFTA, although we all eat a lot of Mexican fruits and vegetables nowadays without being aware of it.

At any rate the business community is very nervous this week. Britain could find itself with borders to Ireland and Gibraltar closed, at least till tolls are put in. Perhaps Britain could join NAFTA? They could make Bentleys in Monterrey.

Editor's note: Jade Joddle makes some interesting videos on YouTube. Her specialty is English grammar but she also dabbles in politics a bit.

Editor's note: I sold some stocks last week. I'm very proud of myself.

A chirping detector

One of the annoyances of modern life is being woken up at four o'clock with a chirping sound. The first time it happened I thought a bird had flown into my apartment. Eventually I caught on that it was the smoke detector. I figured out it needed new batteries.

A couple of nights ago, at four o'clock in the morning, I was woken up with a beeping sound. Five beeps. I thought it was the smoke detector but, upon closer examination, realized it was the carbon monoxide detector. In multiple dwellings in New Jersey you are required to have one of these and once in a blue moon the state sends an inspector to make sure you do.

I said huh, it must be the fan is spewing up dust. I probably should clean the blades on my fan. I did that, and the next morning, at four o'clock the smoke detector beeped five times. Then I said, oh, I guess it needs new batteries. I put in newly purchased batteries. Five minutes later, it started chirping.

Maybe I have carbon monoxide I figured. However I have an electric stove, the a-c was off and I have no cars within 60 feet, more or less. Then I went on the Internet. No quick advice there.

Finally I got desperate and read the instructions. Nothing there particularly helpful. I looked closely at the device. In tiny letters it said one beep means an emergency. Four beeps means new batteries. Five beeps means it's time to get a new carbon monoxide detector.  Guess I should get one of those. But it's almost new! Well five years old at the most.

Sunday, June 12, 2016

Television for aging baby boomers

I read somewhere that one of the rules behind Saturday Night Live is that they weren't going to be the
Carol Burnett show. As a youth I often had to sit through the Carol Burnett show because my mother thought it was cute, and at that time in history, parents still controlled the tv. I realized last week that I had become my parents. My generation had their own formerly hip stars like Tina Fey and Steve Martin. Now they were part of the establishment, just like Hillary and Bill. And we have our own show now, the modern day equivalent of Carol and Company. It's called Maya and Marty, and it allows us to enjoy humour that is more cute than funny.

Last night I watched PBS. There were more over the hill formerly hip stars like the Smothers Brothers and the New Christy Minstrels. An eighty year old Barry Maguire even sang the Eve of Destruction. It still inspires us.

Us baby boomers did so much. We ended the Vietnam war, fought in the civil rights movement and today even allow men to go into women's rooms after their sex change operations.  Some of us have our pensions, and money we inherited from Daddy. We are now able to get lazy, pop our prescriptions, and enjoy the humor of Maya, Marty, Jimmie Fallon, and say to ourselves, "Boy, that Tommie Smothers still has it!"

Monday, May 30, 2016

Boys in uniforms

Yes it's Memorial Day. I remember well marching down Main Street in Hackensack proudly wearing my Cub Scout uniform. A few years later I marched down Main Street in my Troop 5 uniform. In high school I was in band and wore a marching uniform while attempting to play the trombone.

My brother did the same. One year,  having finished my gig at the parade, I watched the high school band play before the court house. It must have been hot because a girl in the band fainted. Then two of the ponies fainted. It's the one thing I remember about those parades.

One year, my father put on his VFW uniform and marched in the Bogota Memorial Day parade. Then he went to the VFW and, according to my father, ate six hot dogs, and according to my mother drank far too much beer.

That night Dad was a little tipsie and my brother and I did the honors on the grill. The folks bickered a bit and the old man slept on the couch downstairs. Memorial Day in America.

Now as an adult I don't get to wear a uniform, march in a parade, or even go to a hall. I am now a civilian. I wish I was a fireman or a policeman. They have all the fun.

Editor's note: A pony is an attractive high school girl who wears a uniform, carries a baton, and adds flavor to the day.

Saturday, May 14, 2016

Where do you go to the restroom?

Right now there is a big debate going on in this country about where transsexual people should go to the bathroom. Apparently in the South there is a belief that the bible spells out that men have to go to men's rooms and for ladies, women's rooms.  Just like the bible spelled out the need for colored bath rooms in the fifties.

I have come up with a tentative solution to the issue but it involves a new government agency, perhaps one that could be funded by a tax on toilet paper.
When a child reaches their fifth birthday, more or less the time when parents can no longer bring opposite sex children with them in the restroom, they would go to the Motor Vehicles bureau. The child would lower their trousers and a photograph would be taken. After analysis by the staff a swipe card would be sent to the family with either a blue or a pink color.

When people go to the restroom they would swipe their card at the door. If the sex of the facility matched the sex of the person, they could enter the room.

If someone wanted to change their sex, they would go back to Motor Vehicles, lower their trousers, and a clerk would determine their sex. If they didn't like their designation they could have their case adjudicated, and a determination would be available within six months. It's amazing how government intervention can solve the most difficult of problems.

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Getting your license renewed

For the second part of my trilogy starting with waiting for the blood test I now move onto getting your driver license renewed. In a presumably safer and pre terrorist world (the world the Republican nominee says he can bring back) you could mail in your drivers license fee and get a new license a few weeks later. New Jersey, unlike most states, didn't have pictures on the licenses and everybody was as happy as clams with the arrangement.  

Then we entered the 21st century and everyone became security conscious and now most of us have to schlep down to motor vehicles to get a new picture and present proper credentials. Choosing which identification to use is sort of like a group dinner in a Chinese restaurant. You get one from column A, one from column B and one from column C. Those of us with passports like to use them (to show off) and state employees like to use their state id's. The people at Motor Vehicles seem to like the state id's, choosing mine over my passport. 

But here is where I experienced the shock of the new. When you go in a receptionist asks you for your phone number. They will then update you via text message on how soon it will be before you are called. I was 20th century, and, not thinking, gave them my home phone number.

Even not using this feature I did get to look at the screen and it listed the last four digits of every one's phone number and an approximate wait. I could follow my progress from an hour and ten minutes to zero minutes. I heard my number over the intercom, happily walked to the driver ID booth and had to wait for her to get through five other people. 

Getting through that I thought I would then walk to the picture booth but I was disappointed. I was told to go back to a seat. I looked at the screen and found out I had another hour to wait for the final step. 

This last bit went faster though, and soon I had a new picture, paid my twenty four dollars and got (a bit slowly I thought) a new picture driver licence. I don't look bad, grumpy, but not bad for an old fart. 

Editor's note: It's not often you get the shock of the new in a government agency. The blood test people should put in such a system.

Sunday, April 24, 2016

There are things men don't need to know about

Recently I was watching television and lawdy, I came upon Samantha Bee, those two Jewish girls from Brooklyn, and Amy Schumer. My oh my, things were different in my day. In those ancient times women didn't talk about tampons, bodily functions, or the baser things in life. Women were angelic things, well mannered, and deferred to their boyfriends on matters of politics and where to go out. 

I think I could spend the rest of my life not watching a television show about minstrel cycles and farting and not miss a thing. What is so funny about tampons anyway. Things have changed since my day. No wonder women have to work. No man would want to support them. 

Editor's note: Another blog from Aunt Agnes.

Monday, April 18, 2016

Charley couldn't get off of that lane

Just came back from a nice trip through Pennsylvania. Rode on the famed Lincoln Highway, saw Valley Forge, Gettysburg and a couple of historic towns off of Route 81. I read in a travel guide that Carlyle had a "hippie vibe". It definitely had a hippie vibe. Lots of antique stores, craft shops and Victorian architecture. Went to a luncheon spot that looked like someone's living room. Sort of a poor man's New Hope.

One development I noticed off the PA Turnpike is that they have EZ Pass only exits. I hope that trend doesn't come to the Garden State. It reminded me of the Kingston trio sixties hit "The MTA".

When he got to the exit it said EZ pass only Charley couldn't get off of that lane.

Friday, April 8, 2016

Postal rates went down

Yes, today postal rates on a letter went from 49 cents to 47 cents. For the millions of us who boughts stamps in bulk because the Forever stamps would always mail a letter no matter how high postage got, we are now losing money. If we bought first class stamps tomorrow we would only have to pay 47 cents. Gotcha!

Saturday, April 2, 2016

Waiting to get a blood test

I was asked the other day to think of the one place I'd like to be. I thought of watching a sunset at Key West, watching football at at Super Bowl party, hanging at the bar with male friends, hanging out in an art museum with female friends?  Walking around in downtown Lisbon? No, I decided, the place in the world I love the best is the waiting room at Labcorp.

I can think of no other place in my travels where you meet a happier group of people. Everybody is hungry, since most of them are fasting. The drinkers are starting to get irritable because they could use a drink about now. The old people are wondering if at the end of the day, this blood test will put them in a nursing home. The television is on too loud and appears to be aimed at the lowest level of intellect. Loud with clowns and lots of cheering. What's to cheer about at ten o'clock in the morning?

I walked in and wanted to fill in my name and the time. I couldn't find a pen. The clerk pointed at the daisies. Apparently the pens are disguised as flowers. They probably beep if you walk away with them. Some people cheat on the time. I guess they figure if they write an earlier time than it is you will get in earlier.

A scream, "help wanted in room one!"  Two staff people run into the crisis room where perhaps the patient is gushing blood. I think to myself, "Golly I hope this doesn't tie things up" instead of praying for the possibly dying person in room number one. It's every man for himself at the blood test office.

Now I am at the service desk. "No blood work done unless you can produce a current credit card!" is the sign on the desk. It is nice to know we live in a trusting society. I am given a small yellow plastic receptacle. That is for "you know what". At least nobody said the "p" word.

Soon I am out of the place. I can have a greasy breakfast of eggs and Canadian bacon and a few beers after 5. Suddenly the world is a happier place. At least until I get the results.

Monday, March 21, 2016

Cuba nostalgia

When I was a tot, I remember looking through my parents' rather dusty collection of books and finding a book called "The cabby took my rum" or something like that. It was an H. Allen Smith type of travelogue about Havana, but not, I think by him. I remember it started with how cab drivers in Havana always double their rates in "season". Then there is a description of various sites in Havana and surrounding areas with the emphasis on nightclubs, casinos, and bars. The book described a place where well heeled Americans could travel in the the winter, swim, hear some salsa, and perhaps even do things that the wives wouldn't need to know about. Needless to say, the book described the pre-Castro era.

About the same time I remember going to the Bergen County Democratic headquarters in Maywood to see Governor Richard J. Hughes with my parents. Everyone there was staring at the tv. Kennedy was speaking, and the news wasn't good. That night we all went home with the knowledge that the Russians had missiles in Cuba. For a week or two people were planning fallout shelters.

Little by little Cuba got off the front pages, until there was the occasional hi-jacking. We all got used to Cuba as it was, and the politicians knew not to change the status quo if they wanted to hold onto Florida. Of course there were a few hiccoughs along the way. There was the Mariel boat lift, the little boy who went ashore in Florida but was returned back to Cuba. I always said that Reno sending that boy back to Castro cost Al Gore the election.

Now we are entering a new era of relations with Cuba. The Democrats are willing to lose Florida this time around because it looks like the Republicans are going to lose big enough that one state won't matter. People are already talking about traveling to Cuba. I suspect that once most of us get there it will be ruined, and about as exotic as Hoboken. Still it would be something to talk about at parties. I'm holding out til they re-institute the ferry.

Editor's note: I was seriously thinking of bringing back Dear Aunt Agnes to talk about Cuba. The punchline would have been "and don't talk to me about Trump. He'll probably want to open a casino there."

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Irish egg rolls

When the British took over Hong Kong in the 1850's a few restaurants were established, including one by Wo Hop Harrigan, the Irish inn keeper. Here you could get a glass of Irish whiskey or draught and an Irish breakfast. One invention of Wo Hop Harrigan's was that of the Irish egg roll. This egg roll, with a filling of corned beef and cabbage, tofu, and soy sauce was a local favorite.

The Irish egg roll spread to America as American sailors hungered for this international treat. Irish egg rolls were served in San Francisco, Vancouver, and Chicago. Today I had an Irish egg roll in Morrisville Pennsylvania. So many things that claim to be Irish or Chinese are neither but the Irish egg roll is a true authentic Hong Kong delicasy. Happy Saint Patrick's day and enjoy your Irish egg roll!

Saturday, March 12, 2016

Philadelphia Flower Show

After hearing about it for years, I finally went to the Philadelphia Flower Show. It wasn't worth the $31 but I guess it was okay. The theme this year was "National Parks". In addition to the big displays I liked the little displays towards the back of the hall where ordinary people had submitted individual plants and had won awards. They had a Christmas cactus with a gold ribbon that was punier than my Christmas cactus. There was also a crummy looking geranium that looked as crummy as mine. I never knew I was such a great gardener.

I bought some cinnamon basil seeds that I planted once I got home. It will be fun to see how they do. Someone was making a fortune on selling brooms. It seems every other woman who left the show had one of those brooms in her hand. I bet you can find them all flying over Montgomery County at night.

Monday, March 7, 2016

Downton Abbey with a few revisions

My eyes are finally dry and I am recovering from one of life's most emotional moments. Yes I have seen the finale of Downton Abbey. I  used up all of the tissues and am now onto the toilet paper. I can tell them at work that I have hay fever.

Still I would have made a few changes in the finale. It ended too well with every character either getting married, in a relationship, with a new job or a new business. Here are a few revisions I would have made.

Lady Eve:
I would have the long missing Michael Gregson show up the day before the wedding. He would have wanted to take dear Marigold away. Eve would have had a stroke and spent the rest of her life in a wheelchair, unmarried and miserable.

I would have had Lady Mary's new husband Henry Talbot take one last trip around the track in his Rolls. He would have died, like the first husband.

I would let the Dowager have a slug fest with the step daughter of Lord Merton. She would go through the rest of the show with a black eye.

Right after have the birth of the baby, Inspector Vyner  would have entered the room, arrested Anna and Bates and kept the baby as a witness. The crime would be that of sabotaging Henry Talbot's car.

Finally for the last scene I would have a bevy of creditors come and cart off all the belongings of Downton Abbey. Lord Grantham and Lady Mary would be carried off in their chairs. And Thomas would leave England, headed for Tangiers. And we know what sort of Englishmen are attracted to there.

Thursday, March 3, 2016

Aunt Agnes on the Supreme Court

Dear Antonin Scalia isn't even cold in his grave and those women on the court are running things. They are even fighting the Texans on the safety of abortion clinics. 

Sunday, February 28, 2016

Why Americans are angry

Here is an article from the BBC on why Americans are angry. Nobody understands us like the British.

For us baby boomers, most of us grew up with these truisms:
In the old days, you didn't have to lock your doors. Everybody took care of everyone else. Nowadays...
In the old days, if the teacher yelled at a kid that kid got whipped by the old man when he got home. Nowadays the parents take the kid's side. How dare you give my kid a C in arithmetic!
In the old days, a man could spend a few days downtown and within a few days have a few job offers. Nowadays...
In the old days once a man had a job he could buy a house and a big car. His wife would stay home and make sure the kids did their homework. Nowadays ...
Once a man was married his wife did all the shopping, the laundry, the cooking, the vacuuming, and kept an eye on the kids. Nowadays ...
In my generation when you went to school you spoke English and only English. Nowadays ...
In the old days when you went to the store everything was made in the USA.
Nowadays ...
In the old days you went to the doctor and paid him five dollars for the visit. If you didn't have the five dollars he told you to pay him next time. Nowadays ...
And that, en mi opinion, is the appeal of Donald Trump. People think he'll bring back those golden days when a man was a man and t shirts were made in New Jersey.

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Thoughts on the Grammys

When I was a young tike I promised myself I wouldn't be like the adults who hated rock and roll. I promised myself I wouldn't change and I would still like the popular records of the day even when I was old. Now I know I was wrong. I've become like  the old guy sitting at the bar drinking Pabst with a couple of teeth missing. He stares at the television. "He looks like Davy Crockett!" he remarks. 

That was the first thought I had when I saw "the Weekend" on the Grammy's. It was like he got a haircut that made it look like he was wearing a coonskin hat. 
Okay en toto, the show wasn't all that bad. "The Thrill is gone" was okay, the Eagles salute was okay. I actually can see how David Bowie is a spiritual father for Lady Gaga. Still those parts of the show were specifically for us old guys. Even Alice Cooper no longer scares anybody anymore. And Alexander Hamilton? Reminds me of the time the Bill Cosby Show did an episode where the kids did history in a rap format. 

I've become an old man. A grouchy old man. "I'm for Donald Trump, he's the only one who says what's wrong with America!" Well I'm not that old. 

Monday, February 15, 2016

Holidays cost money

Holidays in America are different than those celebrated in most foreign countries. In America, except for mainstays like Christmas, Memorial Day, Thanksgiving and the 4th of July, holidays are a source of inconvenience and trouble rather than pleasure. This is because, in America, the public sector tends to celebrate more holidays than the private sector.

Today is President's Day. The schools, banks, and libraries are closed. Daddy is off, but Mommy has to go to work. As a state employee I am happy to be off but I can't go to the bank or count on getting any mail. The library is closed so I will probably drop by the used book store to buy a mystery. I could also get a Kindle book I suppose.

Daddy gets a day with the kids. He can't go to story hour at the library since the library is closed. The museum nearby is also closed. The mall is open, though, so there are options, but they all cost poor Daddy money. Another option is take the kids to Color Me Mine, where they can paint on plates, for a small fee of course.

I get it. The purpose of holidays is to help the economy and force parents to spend money on their charges. Well, off to the movies.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

The fluffy sleep commercial

Currently my favorite commercial is the fluffy sleep commercial. It seems a nice way to go to sleep by curling up with the cute white sleep creature.Then when you wake up those cute peppy wake creatures trot down with you to the mailbox where you meet your suburban neighbors.

I think you could use that commercial to put people to sleep without even using the drug that it is advertising. I wonder if there is a cute sex creature who visits occasionally.

Saturday, January 23, 2016

So what is an engagement manager

I was just looking at a listing of America's best jobs.

Table: The 10 best jobs in America
1. Data scientist1,736$116,8404.14.7
2. Tax manager1,574$108,0003.94.7
3. Solutions architect2,906$119,5003.54.6
4. Engagement manager1,356$125,0003.84.6
5. Mobile developer2,251$90,0003.84.6
6. HR manager3,468$85,0003.74.6
7. Physician assistant3,364$97,0003.54.6
8. Project manager6,607$106,6803.34.5
9. Software engineer49,270$95,0003.34.5
10. Audit manager1,001$95,0003.94.5
Methodology: The Glassdoor Job Score is determined by weighting three factors equally: earning potential (median annual base salary), career opportunities rating, and number of job openings. Results represent job titles that rate highly among all three categories. The Glassdoor Job Score is based on a 5-point scale (5.0=best job, 1.0=bad job). 

I can't figure out if these are really new careers or just hotsy totsy titles for traditional jobs. Sort of like old wine in new skin.  Nearest I can figure a project manager manages projects. I guess you could call a librarian a data scientist. Next time someone asks me what I do for a living I can say I'm a data scientist. Someone who wouldn't date a librarian might be willing to have a beer with a data scientist. 

Engagement manager I need to research. Is it like a wedding planner but someone who plans bachelor parties? A solutions architect? Someone who plans solutions? I could use one of these if he will shovel my car out this morning from the snow.

I looked up engagement manager. Apparently it is someone who nurses a deal between a vendor and a client. Sort of like if I was selling my car I'd enlist one of these people to mediate the sale and make sure all the i's are dotted and t's are crossed. Sounds like a good job to me. More fun than a ah counter anyway. 

Monday, January 11, 2016

Mother was wrong after all

I am actually quite happy today. Today I learned that I have been (not) doing something that I always believed I should be doing. My mother taught me that I should always make my bed every morning. Today I found out if you make your bed it will harbor mites. The moisture causes them to to grow if they are covered up with neat sheets and covers. Apparently bed mites are very neatness oriented.

Yes if you change your sheets and you can make your bed and have everything look "hotel fresh". However, if you don't change your sheets you should leave your covers sloppily draped around the bed to dry.

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

The love affairs of Nathaniel P

I have just finished the Love Affairs of Nathaniel P, the book that describes life among hipsters in Brooklyn the way Tropic of Cancer described hipsters in Paris in the 30's, or On the Road described hipsters hitchhiking into the 50's. Older people, long past their own pseudo bohemian youth, like to be kept abreast of such things.

I myself have gone to Williamsburg in Brooklyn just to see what all the excitement is about. Sadly, except for two trips where I saw over priced beer and the viewings of flannel shirts in summer, Brooklyn has remained somewhat elusive to me.

With this book the window is opened to privileged young people trying to make it in the publishing industry without borrowing too much money from Mom and Dad. We now can see what dating is like in this set of people. Hip, post feminist, post modernist people who hang out in expensive dive bars and organic coffee hangouts with wi-fi connections.

Nate is the protagonist of the book. He is in the situation of being a relatively decent male in a world where he is a rarity. He is not bad looking, straight, sexually experienced, and not a total a-hole which I guess makes him a hot commodity in this particular demographic in Brooklyn.

The book is a nice read but en mi opinion, it fails at its central conceit. I don't know why but the book pries into Nate's innermost thoughts and they don't sound like a guy's thoughts to me. Frankly Nate seems to be the image that women might have of a young man's internal workings rather than the actual thoughts of a young man.

For one thing he is too callous. Women are more cynical than men. Men are romantics at heart, at least while young.  Woody Allen movies show men as being more romantic than this novel.  I also thought that, in the real world, Nate's parents would have paid for his health insurance.

Editor's note: Another book about millennials in Brooklyn and the academic world you might like is Bad Teeth by Dustin Long