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Friday, October 31, 2014

Mighty Oaks

By the time I was old enough to be beyond total self-absorption and recognize something ‘out there’ the rest of us were calling ‘the world’ the National League’s Giants were in San Francisco, playing in Candlestick Park. I rooted for them as a child for no other reason than my dad did; scarce realizing for him it was closer to a religious experience as he’d not switched allegiances when they switched coasts.

Dad cheered on the New York Giants and often saw them play on their original home turf, The Polo Grounds (actually and more correctly it was Coogans Bluff), and I never really understood how he made his peace with their carpetbaggery (along with those Bums from Brooklyn landing in the City of the Angels) but he was a complicated man and I ascribe all of that as something between him and the Big Umpire in the Sky.

He was probably all smiles yesterday morning as his team, fueled by Hunter Pence, Pablo Sandoval, and Buster Posey (and a cast of thousands as Cecil B. DeMille might say) and led by Madison Bumgarner, “Mad Bum,” rebounded from a 0-10 hammering in Game Six at the hands of the Kansas City Royals to capture Game Seven of the 2014 World Series and their third title in five years.

I’ve always thought the two most beautiful words in any baseball lexicon about the World Series are “Game Seven” because it doesn’t happen often enough and caps and crowns what has usually been a donnybrook (I’m channeling Keith Jackson, so ‘whoa, Nelly!’ you better step back) championship series. This one was no exception.

Sitting halfway across the country as the Electric Fire flickered in the living room and the lurid lights reflected off the walls, I smiled at the hometown connection to the World Series, right here where I live, The Rose of New England (okay, we gave ourselves that name, but still), Norwich, Connecticut.

Unlike the other big-money pro sports, basketball and football, baseball (and hockey as well) relies on an almost ancient idea of apprentices and journeymen toiling in what is called the farm system, who, with enough competitive seasoning and combined with talent and ability, are promoted to The Show.

Show of hands: how many devotees of the NBA Development League do we have in today’s audience? Sir? Oh. Out the door on the right and down the hall. And next time you don’t have to raise your hand or ask first, just go. Good to see you again, Isaiah Thomas. As for a nearly-pro football league? I’m thinking not so much and offer NO apologies to Arena Football unless they go first.

But Bumgarner won nine of ten games he started when he played for the Eastern League’s Connecticut Defenders, right here in Norwich in 2009. In early September of that year, he made the jump from Double A to the Giants and as Kansas City learned, has been pretty much a fixture on the mound ever since.

I don’t do a lot of “I remember when” (damn memory lapses!) but to my eyes he pitched as well Wednesday as he did when I’d buy six dollar seats to catch him at Senator Dodd Stadium. Sure hope I remember to tell some of those who complain about the dearth of recreational activities and attractions here that you can still be amazed by the things you can see on Mulberry Street even if we don’t have a Mulberry Street.

Which reminds me: 139 days until Spring Training 2015. Need to build up the pocket of my glove and make sure I have enough neet’s foot oil to get me through the winter because there's no snowflakes in baseball, among other things.              

-bill kenny

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Stamping Out the 21st Century

I bought stamps yesterday, not loose like cigarettes on an NYC street corner as seen in Law & Order, but in a book for a skosh less than ten bucks. It’s another book of “forever” stamps, these are wild birds so I’ll keep the book in the car because that’s where I tend to most often give others the bird and now I have a back-up supply.

I was buying stamps because I have a First World Problem with the folks from Frontier Communications who (seemingly VERY) suddenly purchased AT & T U-Verse television, telephone and internet services here in The Land of Steady Habits.

As a kid reading about how people would discover a wooly mastodon, hair and all, frozen solid in a glacier perfectly preserved for tens of thousands and more years, I used to wonder how that would ever happen since I assumed the temperature gradually dropped vice instantaneously and the animal would notice but chalked it up to Another of Life’s Mysteries.

I concede The Woolies were not meteorologists, but, flashing forward, you didn’t need a weatherman to know it would be an ill wind for somebody when months ago it was the AT &T operations were changing hands. 

Having spent a decade or more hating Comcast, while it was legally permissible to so do, I was pleased with my own patience in waiting while AT &T eventually built out their own infrastructure to deliver high speed everything and then jumped ship. I was very pleased; notice the tense of the verb.  

It seems to me that none of those in the new company fully grasped the vagaries of the calendar in planning the transition.  The cross fade happened at some point this past weekend. I’m a little fuzzy (yes, that was a mastodon reference, thank you for noticing) on exactly when, what with on-demand TV services “temporarily” not working (consistently through at least last night), and intermittent analog-like drop-outs on the TV signal that’s delivered digitally (I saw the van out front and a guy in brown shorts).

Smooth and suave are two words not used to describe the process anywhere in Connecticut. The anecdotes are universally painful with only the zip codes changing. It’s been an eloquent argument so far for the expansion of sock puppet theatre.

My personal favorite Welcome to the Seventies Moment was attempting  to pay my bill on line (as I have every month for the last two plus years). Yeah, this time not so much. Glad I was wearing pants with pockets so that I had someplace to put all the fun.

The website was being “upgraded” as of yesterday morning (when I last checked) and has been being upgraded for the last four calendar days. I called the toll-free number hoping to pay my bill, as outlined on the website, to learn that online payment is not possible “at this time” (as opposed to some other time, not actually defined in the message?).

The voice recording told me I would need to mail them a payment. Not sure why that couldn’t have been on the website instead of the “upgrade” statement, saving me and others no doubt (though egotist that I am, I only worry about other people in the abstract) four days. 

Which is how I came to be at the post office yesterday, purchasing stamps. Sure hope this effort to bring back the Seventies, the 1870's,  runs its course soon enough. I suspect they'll get it straight just in time for the next billing cycle because we're their customers now and as we learned in the last week, they can do anything they want to us. And will.    
-bill kenny

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

The Last Wednesday in October

If you haven't registered to vote, then the good news is that you can skip this space today and move on to the yard sales advertisements or the legal notices because I have no words for you.

Democracy is complicated and often messy and this year is no exception. Maybe the most sobering aspect for those who've chosen to absent themselves from the process is the belief  that voting doesn't immediately make our lives better.

That said, I'm not sure why you're content to live with the consequences of other people's choices, but if you're not troubled by your own lack of engagement and an absence of involvement in your own life and that of your community far be it from me to pass judgement on you, unless I just did.

For the rest of us, by this time next Wednesday, Election 2014 will be all over except for the lawn sign pulling up and collecting part of The Day After the End of the World because Our Candidate Didn't Win.

Except as we both know the world will not have ended (I admit to having no inside information confirming this but a conclusion based on statistical analysis of voter outcomes since the Founding of the Republic (and a wild guess)).

I'll admit our lawns probably needed the aeration the metal stakes on those campaign signs provided and they gave the wind this past weekend something else to blow around aside from all those fallen leaves.

If I could just as easily rationalize the sticky residue left behind on our cars and trucks from where we're removing those bumper stickers (unless we're poor sports), my life would be a little smoother.

Come to think of it, why the heck do we call them "bumper stickers" in the first place since most of us don't actually have chrome bumpers to stick anything on and so we end up attaching them to our back window or to the trunk or cargo hatch of whatever we are driving, somehow forgetting that what we are driving serves as a signal flare of our politics.  

I've read where political scientists (I have a sci-fi movie in my head whenever I think of a political scientist as someone in a lab coat mixing beakers containing the essences of an elephant with those of a donkey) are fearing for the future of our democracy because we the people seem to have lost both interest and faith in it, in nearly equal parts.

I don't pretend it's empirical data but I attended a number of forums, debates and conversations sponsored by all manner of civic organizations this election cycle and was never favorably impressed with the attendance.

Maybe there was a contest to see how many other things we could to do rather than attend, in which case it seems to me some of us won but ultimately all of us lost. Our elections may be free but we all pay for the results.

Don't be that person next Tuesday when the polls are closing who meant to vote but didn't find the ten minutes it takes to actually cast your ballot. Elections are about the future so make sure you have your say next Tuesday.

Too many people around the world would give their lives for what we have-far too many in this country have already sacrificed their lives so we can sit out election day because it doesn't make a difference. If you feel that way, you're right, it doesn't.
-bill kenny

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Made of Silver, Not of Clay

I took a vacation day yesterday-I'm doing this more and more often as I start to count down the days until I stop going to work (cynics would point out I stopped working years ago) not that I have a specific date in mind or a plan as to what I'll do with the rest of my life when I do.

I had a nice day to not have to go to work. It was a classic Autumnal Day in New England meaning that in light of the strong breezes we've had for most of the last week I no longer need to strain my neck looking up at the tree branches to see the colorful leaves, but, rather, can look on the ground where they all are now.

We have no trees on our property but we have plenty of leaves all over everywhere. If life were fair, in the summer we'd have shade from the same trees whose leaves we'll have to pick up eventually, but (as we both know) life isn't fair. Or South of Saginaw, as John Domanski used to say when we knew one another while assigned to Sondrestrom Air Base, Greenland.

I hate leaf blowers-I regard them as a more perfect symbol of America than a bald eagle. They are, to me, everything obnoxious that so many others around the world see when they look at us, and we're clueless as to the damage we're doing.

Leaf blowers make a large amount of noise, spew a huge amount of pollution into a shared environment and do not pick up any leaves at all, but blow them off our property and (usually) out into the street where they become every one's problem making for treacherous walking and driving in the dark and rain that ends so many of our already-shortened days this time of year.

I have two very large composting bins in our backyard and visit the Agway store to get the biologics to help decompose the fallen leaves (which I eventually gather up, though not today) and return them to the soil in the garden patch that our daughter has now taken over and works every year.

Yeah, the great mandela of life and all that jazz. I'll bet if I just stop typing I can hear Steve Perry.
-bill kenny

Monday, October 27, 2014

An Endorsement from a Recovering Knucklehead

I came across it originally on Facebook, Humans of New York.

It was love at first read and I've added the dot com site to my favorites and visit there often too, as well.

Don't get fooled by the title-the former part is more important than the latter though I do believe it could not have happening initially anywhere else in the world.

I also think that Brandon Stanton may have done more to improve the quality of life on this planet by himself than anyone else I can think of (Well, he has least improved my quality of life).

His celebratory affirmations of us as a species triumphant is in hardback, too, and I not only encourage you to buy it, I exhort and implore you.  If you follow his work then I'm telling you something you already know: we need more of him and more like him.

Everyday, starting today.
-bill kenny

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Gutenberg's Revenge

Yesterday afternoon I bought replacement ink cartridges for the printer connected to my computer (I'll pause while you process the idea of a fossil such as i owning a computer and, even more 1978ish, having a printer) because the ones in it were so dried out I thought I had invented a whole new way to create blank paper when running it through the printer.

For a mere $61.62 (my new Powerball number by the way), I bought cartridges with all three primary colors and an extra large black ink cartridge and felt quite pleased with myself. I then remembered that the printer I bought the cartridges for cost me $49.99.

Dear Hewlett-Packard, Lexmark, Epson, Canon and whatever other company makes printers: You need to get out of the printer business and start drilling for ink. If Johann Gutenberg had paid these kinds of prices back in his day, I'm not sure we would have ever had a New Testament and some of the Books of the Old Testament might have been more like pamphlets.

Now please stand, point your tablet cursors to page 104 and join your voices with ours as together we murmur and mumble our way through Onward Christian Shoppers.
-bill kenny

Saturday, October 25, 2014