Sunday, January 31, 2016

Pronouns Other than "I"

From long ago and far away and still, somehow, neither. 
I'm not sure our schools teach English grammar and vocabulary the way they did when I was a slip of a lad growing up in America before Edison invented the light bulb and Al Gore the Internet.

We learned about Walt Whitman, William Shakespeare and Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (and the more mature of us knew of Henry Miller and James Joyce), but they were all the stuff of English Literature and had nothing to do with diagramming a sentence or identifying the parts of speech that comprised a sentence.

Sentences that asked a question were always 
interrogatory; statements could be declamatory and/or expository and, of course, there were exclamatory remarks. Each in its place and in its moment.

There were nouns, verbs, predicates and objects surrounded by adjectives and adverbs, free-range propositions and grazing gerunds, predatory participles (my old friend, the future pluperfect back when I had more future than regrets) and infinitives, split and otherwise.

Sister Mary Jean had a diagram question on every English test every Friday and it never had anything to do with Walt Whitman's 
Leaves of Grass, James Joyce's Dubliners or (Lord, literally, forbid) Henry Miller's Tropic of Cancer.

When we left one of the least charitable of the Sisters of Charity's eighth grade, we had the souls of first shift torque-wrench turners at the Ford Mahwah assembly plant in terms of lyricism, but we could diagram 
Lincoln's Gettysburg Address in less than two minutes (or three less than it took Abe to deliver it ) while two fourth-period miscreants, sentenced, as penance, to accomplish the same for the remarks delivered by Lincoln's predecessor to the podium, died along the way.

And if you're keeping track, exactly ten, count 'em! ten, first person plural pronouns appeared and zero singular--by comparison, go 
here and grab at random. Sister Mary Jean was right-when we don't have to diagram them, our sentences are filled with worthless and meaningless words for everyone, but most especially and tragically for ourselves.

"Of Life immense in passion pulse and power,
Cheerful, for freest action form'd under the laws divine
The Modern Man, 
I sing." 

-bill kenny

Saturday, January 30, 2016

Taking the Scenic Route to Megadon

We often see ourselves, in a triumph of conceit, as the ‘Crown of Creation,’ so it makes sense in a way that we would be the ones to edge closer to putting the intelligence into artificial intelligence, AI. 

Left to our own devices we’ve made a right hash of things from centuries with an occasional ray of sun, the Renaissance and the Age of Reason, among the grey and black clouds of the Middle Ages and much if not most of the 20th Century. 

We could well use a hand, I suppose, as we wander this old earth but I’m not sure how happy we should be about this breakthrough.  We’ve not only developed machines that think (actually, that’s old hat) and can be trained to think like us (that’s been around for a decade or more) but now, as I read this and other articles on what the human intelligence behind DeepMind has done, we’ve created an artificially intelligent machine that thinks for itself.

It’s intriguing (at least to me) that ethicists worldwide have been engaged in a discussion on AI that parallels rhetoric about the unborn in American political life leaving at the core the same as yet unanswered question, at what point do we say ‘human?’

I’m more concerned with what we do with that answer (assuming it’s found and I’d wager it will be by AI itself) and am wondering if John McCarthy had moments of disquiet as he helped lead and develop the foundation for this Brave New World beyond imagination.

Whether that next world proves to be better or somewhat less than what we might have evolved to by ourselves is hopelessly beyond my ability to foresee, as is what could prove to be the disposition and deployment of “another toy that helped destroy the elder race of man.
-bill kenny   

Friday, January 29, 2016

Getting Older, Not Better

We’ve all heard of “the old boys’ network,” and have counseled that “you get along by going along,” and that while "taking up arms against a sea of troubles and by thus opposing end them" has its adherents (though Macbeth wasn’t thrilled at his outcome) more often than not, “you can’t fight City Hall.” 

You can call it grease, greed, graft-payola has a thousand names and a very long tradition, but no matter the rationalization, corruption is corruption and once you start down the road to perdition, your momentum propels you forward.

Just past the midway mark of the last century, John F. Kennedy, whom we elected President in 1960 and then murdered in the autumn of 1963, observed: “communism has never come to power in a country that was not disrupted by war or corruption or both.”

Considering the number of off-camera police actions into which we’ve injected our armed forces and the eye-roll shoulder shrug reaction when we hear of more institutional dysfunction in the public sector designed to do one thing that seemingly do so much of something else, maybe we can start practicing to call one another Comrade. My evil twin, Skippy, is not keen on the idea but will warm to it in time I’m sure.

I don’t think anyone gets up in the morning saying to her/himself, “I’m going to be the sneakiest, skullduggeriest, slimiest person seen on this planet since yesterday” but somehow it happens and then the next day it’s a little easier, and then in all the days that follow even easier until it’s second nature.

Money, drugs, drink, power, sex-everything under the sun and any variation of the Seven Deadly Sins you can imagine. We have to see it with our own eyes, and for what it is, evil, before we can start to repair and rebuild. It’s kind of a 12 step program of its own and it, too, starts by admitting there’s a problem. Kinda ballsy for someone living in a nation ranked only 16th least corrupt in the world, but, hey, at least, we’re in the Top 20. Gibts viel zu tun, packen wirs an.   
-bill kenny 

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Share the Message, Not the Mess

On my best day, I will never have enough resources, be it time, talent or money, to help everyone I feel a desire to assist. You’re probably in the same boat; and as we both know, we’re adrift in a very large ocean. But I fell over something yesterday, via Google, that will, I concede do little more than allow me to attempt to empty that ocean with a spoon, but still, that’s something. 

While I was at the search engine homepage, for a grin I clicked on the ‘I Feel Lucky’ button, but just as I did, I noticed it spun like a slot machine display with other ‘I Feels’ on the various tabs when you hovered over it with the cursor (don’t roll your eyes, I’m old). I hit the back button from where lucky had taken me and dinked around until the ‘I Feel Generous’ button was facing and then clicked that.

I have an android phone so I ended up here though I think a better choice of words might be I found a new starting point from which to focus my efforts. I contribute on a regular basis, when I think about it, to the Connecticut Food Bank, the New London Community Orchestra and the Veterans Village, San Diego.

About that last one, remind me sometime to tell you a truly twisted tale as to how I came to be a supporter. It had something to do with a matching pledge/bet with someone online (whom I didn’t know, but he was a friend of someone I did know, Lowell) remaining Master of His Domain for a certain number of days around the Christmas holidays. I’m not making this up, but enough for now otherwise should we ever meet, you’ll never shake my hand and I’m not even the guy in the story.

You don’t have to look at a headline or a TV news show to see the mess of this place we’ve made for ourselves. Just look out any window. And yes, there’s way too much going sideways for any of us to turn it around by ourselves but….two of us kicking in a dollar for a good cause is twice as many as just one of us doing it.

And a hundred helping hands or a thousand or a hundred thousand, or a hundred million is a damn sight more than just one. There’s dozens of these guided giving phone apps and I have little doubt that all of them work about the same whichever one you choose. It’s not where you start; it’s where you finish. And as species go, we’re a long way from finished, so let’s get started.
-bill kenny    

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

As though Nothing Could Fall

Wandering through the snow Saturday afternoon around Chelsea Parade, before the second wave of white stuff arrived and the winds turned from Southeast to Northwest rattling tree limbs and causing teeth to chatter, I was thinking about life here on the ant farm with beepers, just to stay warm.

That I never got hot may say something about the weather or even more about my mental acuity. In either case, it’s not anything you don’t already know.

The snowstorm was shared knowledge up and down the Eastern Seaboard for nearly a week. Everyone sort of knew what was heading towards us-the only uncertainty was the how much. Luckily in my case, my neighbor, Zak, cleared the uncertainty off our sidewalk on the very bright and clear Sunday we had following the storm.

But what I was thinking about as the wind and weather transformed Chelsea Parade into the inside of a snow globe was how much smaller our world is because of the invention and deployment of a variety of technologies. That old question about the sound a tree makes falling in the woods with no one to hear it, these days, between the drones and the satellite uplink vans, has a whole new answer and meaning.

We have more means to communicate with one another than at any time in history, but (perhaps just me) we have less to say (And you're reading more proof of that assertion). We could use the convergence of various technologies to build bridges with those like, and, also, unlike ourselves but for the most part, we’re content to send one another Grumpy Cat pictures and ‘gee, we gotta a lotta snow’ memes basically to people who shared the very same items with us.

We’ve confused celebrity with fame. And we use the terms interchangeably. How else to explain the disproportionate attention to TV like the Jerry Springer Show (a ‘guilty pleasure’ for so many of us; you don’t want to watch it, but you can’t look away) or the actions of media panda bears like ‘Keeping Up with the Kardashians’ (pandas are a much better symbol of the USA than the bald eagle. They have no actual purpose except to cause us to wrinkle our noses in amusement and say 'awwww.'). 

As someone told me decades ago, ‘according to the dictionary, a star is a ball of flaming gas.’

Meanwhile the efforts of a nineteen-year-old who traded a high school cap and gown last spring for a military uniform, currently walking a post in some far-off place we can’t pronounce or find on a map or here in our own backyard, a teacher working with an immigrant youngster in a reading class at one of our schools too often pass unremarked upon but both are, nevertheless, remarkable. And these deeds are done every day, times a thousand or even more, even when no one notices.

There’s a simple way to keep track of it all: Celebrities make headlines. Heroes make a difference.
-bill kenny

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Thanks for Asking, Though

One of the things I've discovered in almost a quarter century of living in Connecticut which is part of New England is that sports allegiances can be a funny and sometimes tricky thing.

At one time there was the Hartford Whalers who are now the Carolina Hurricanes though there's still some wistful murmurings about 'bring back the Whale' from people whose driver's licenses indicate their first names are not Ishmael.

Because of where Connecticut is, on either side of I-95 between New York and Boston, not so surprisingly fans for most of the major sports are  nearly evenly split. But loyalty seems to be stuck in duality; for baseball it's either the Yankees or the Red Sox; in football, the Patriots or the Giants and so on.  There's not a lot of room in fans' hearts for the Mets or the Jets among others.

I smiled reading a "Take Our Poll" online survey in one of our local papers about do you intend to watch the Super bowl now that the Patriots are spectators. Not surprisingly, two-thirds of the respondents said "no" meaning the road to hell around here is a dirt path, I guess.

I suspect newspapers in Arizona had a similar survey though since the Cardinals play in the University of Phoenix stadium, and (as you probably know) the University of Phoenix is an online enterprise I'm not sure what the responses would look like. I figure there's better than even money these guys don't even know a game was played and lost Sunday. (Though I do think Jason Keil is on to something when he's writing about Jane Lynch)  

Sorry NFL/CBS, I am calling it Super Bowl L, not 50 because you knuckleheads bought a ticket for roman numerals when this all started in the LA Coliseum five decades ago and when you buy a ticket I think you should get the whole ride.    

So for a lot of folks, here's an opportunity for some quality quiet introspection time before the big game. And in that spirit, consider this: there's more to life than pro football. Just how much more, you can find out about here.
-bill kenny

Monday, January 25, 2016

Maybe Inspired by Last Night's TV Debate

I wrote this a long, long time ago. I'd like to think the older you get the more it means, but I have no proof in support of that contention, just my faith that such a belief is true. But I've learned that faith will take you only so far in this life and no farther.

As countries go, the USA isn't particularly old, especially in comparison to some of the nations of the Orient or the traditional "Great Nations of Europe". This July 4th, we'll celebrate our 240th birthday. But the nation we are now and the nation we were when we told the most powerful nation in the history of the world (at that time) to go stuff itself, the United Kingdom, are very different nations.

We are different, obviously, in the size of these United States-back then we were thirteen colonies with about two and half million people clinging to the coast of the Atlantic Ocean on the eastern shore of the North American continent. Look at us now-over 330 million of us occupying a nation that sprawls from the Atlantic to Pacific (Gee, the traffic is terrific) and beyond, when you count Alaska and Hawaii. 

And we, the people, are very much different from those traipsing around here in 1776. To start with, we no longer own one another (I think that should be considered a positive development) and all those over eighteen (and not 21 and not property owners) are eligible to vote (whether or not we do is another matter, sadly). 

And while we are one of the more diverse countries on earth (I like to think that means each of us has been told to go back to where we came from at least once in our lives), we have paid a price for no longer living in a shoe box. 

You can read the same studies I have on how many houses we'll live in, how many different jobs we'll work, how many different schools our children will attend. I won't bore you with excerpting from those reports (which are nearly as numerous in number as we are) except to note that biologists tell us in the course of seven years we renew every cell in our bodies, so perhaps we shouldn't be as surprised that the country we grew up in is, by the time our kids are adults, very different than when we were their age. 

Alexis De Tocqueville who intimated the United States was as much an idea as a nation-state would, I'd like to think, be pleased with what we've done in the 160 plus years since he finished Democracy in America (and I dug up the University of Virginia's version not only because, I, too, am cavalier about history, pun intended, but the sections on Everyday Life in 1831 and race, help place that America in a larger perspective to where we are now. 

We seem to spend so much time fixated on what we don't have and who we aren't. We look at our national leaders and regret that 'he's no Abraham Lincoln' or 'she's no Eleanor Roosevelt' and forget, in their time, neither were they. 

Besides, more often than not, we can use a little more Millard Fillmore and James Garfield (and I don't mean the concert venue or the cartoon cat, but you knew that, right?) in our everyday lives. 

If we mourn not living in heroic times, it's not because we don't have enough heroes-perhaps it's because we don't have a large enough frame of reference to realize who they are. Stay hard, stay hungry, stay alive (if you can) and meet me in a dream of this hard land
-bill kenny

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Snow and Other Four Letter Words

Out for a brief walk yesterday in as close to a winter wonderland as I would like to get for some time to come, I started to wonder how words for Eskimo a snowflake might have. I know all about the converse even though I haven't had a pair of Chuck Taylors in years.

I'm grateful to not live in the Washington DC area every day but most especially this past weekend as they looked far colder and more snowed in than anything I saw going on in and around my part of the Original New England colonies. I don't recall seeing a lot of snow-clearing either.

But perhaps our friends to the South and in the Deep South have a different appreciation for snow and ice and cold. I've lived where there have been four seasons my whole life except for the year in Greenland where they had two, dark and incredibly cold and daylight all the time and not too bad.

Wish I could say I learned a life lesson north of the arctic but I didn't. I was shivering too much.

I realize that when you live where I do, snow comes as part of the deal. Sometimes it's early, we've had some before Thanksgiving and sometimes late, sort of like this year, technically, but we're always going to have it.

I try to remember, "snow itself is lonely, or, if you prefer, self-sufficient. There is no other time when the whole world seems composed of one thing and on thing only."

I'll spend a lot of time today cursing the white stuff, as I'm not allowed to shovel it, growing angrier and angrier until it hits me: let it go.
-bill kenny

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Pity or Envy

Maybe you're suffering through Snowmageddon or, braced for a bruising, you received instead a mere brush. I watched local news here last night and some of the reporters seemed almost gleeful about what was, or wasn't, heading into Southeastern Connecticut.

Places like Dodge City and Baltimore were barely mentioned so if you live in those areas you might want to talk to your Chamber of Commerce about elevating public awareness. Assuming you ever get dug out.

As a young fella from Minnesota (where they know whereof they speak meteorologically) once sang, you don't need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows, but if you have a weather app on your smartphone, you may have been wearing that sucker out since at some point yesterday.

We had a lot of snow here last winter. It arrived late in the season and it stayed until what seemed like Independence Day but I'm sure my trip to the hyperbolic chamber has something to do with that recollection.

Not sure when it's safe to look much less go outside so I hesitate to gloat or commiserate because I'm not sure what will happen around here next. And though there's no business like snow business, as it is in so much else in life, when the feces hits the ventilator, it's every man for himself. I've been burning my bell, book, and candle. And the restoration plays have all been goin' round.
-bill kenny

Friday, January 22, 2016

The Revenge of the Mighty Five Ninety

Our parents had a summer house at Harvey's Lake, Pennsylvania. Technically, they had a year-round house that we resided in only during the summer. Despite my oft-voiced lament at how hard my growing up years were, I cannot remember one kid from the neighborhood, actually, any of the neighborhoods we ever lived whose family blew out of town right after the school year ended and who didn't return until after Labor Day.

I didn't mean to rub my childhood in your face, or in mine (actually) but I was thinking about one of the most annoying thing of all those summers (the Summer of Love happened ohne mich and anybody else I knew) with the fitful musical companionship of The Might Five Ninety (AM), from Wilkes-Barre/Scranton (but it was really Scranton), W-A-R-M.

"Is it hot enough (or cold enough in the winter on the ski trips) for you? Well, it's only WARM for me!" Every stop set ended with that voice over and the TM jingle package singers would croon and somebody somewhere, maybe the guy with the business at the Avoca Airport, would sell us something and then it was back to the (Top 40) music.

Was thinking about warm, not the radio kind, more like the radiating kind while reading this news item. Suspect some of us, no names please (the junior Senator from Texas) are hoping tee-shirts will be given out. Though I suspect two agencies, NOAA, and NASA, might see budget reductions as punishment for telling their committee chairman he doesn't need new clothes because it is truly so (globally) warm.

And that's not the only bad news in our war on nature if that's what we're waging. I’ve shared in this space that I’m not a fast friend of fish on my menu. I eat fish sticks, drenched in tartar sauce and swordfish with lemon and that’s it.

I recognize I’m depriving myself of a vital part of everyone’s nutritional pyramids but unless or until Pepperidge Farms comes out with Flounder, Perch, and Bass in the way they did with Goldfish, I’ll stay on the shore and cast not my bread upon the waters.

That said, as a traveler on The Big Blue Marble, I found this story about our oceans becoming floating garbage dumps more than a little frightening.  And being one of the people who helps put the sap in homo sapiens, I know how competitive we are as a species so I can easily see us beating that 2050 date. 

I don’t know much about a lot of things (and it’s too late in the day for me to start now). About the only thing, I comprehend about the map below is that it’s definitely not to scale (that was a fish pun; the Gordon’s fisherman would be proud). On a more serious note, it looks like we can drop a Texas, or maybe two of them, into that space.   

We have a recycling program where we live and we make good use of it. Could we do be better? Yeah, I’m sure we could and after looking at what purports to be one of about two hundred gazillion pictures of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, I hope we succeed. 

This is all the planet we have, so far, and once we’ve finished spoiling our oceans with indestructible pollution, don’t expect the lights to come up and an usher to escort you from your easy chair to the nearest exit.  

We are slowly committing suicide, even those who are afraid of commitment, and will take the rest of the orb with us. It’s not just diamonds that are forever and at the rate we’re going, it won’t be us either
-bill kenny     

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Quite Contrary February

Because this is a leap year, we're having this conversation today rather than yesterday. Three hundred and sixty-five days from now we will inaugurate the forty-fourth President of these United States.

Assuming, of course, we haven't torn ourselves into fifty (or more) smaller pieces populated for the most part with smarmy obliviots so consumed with their own sense of self-righteousness that they are unable to see how the number of things we share in common is so many more times larger than our differences.

At some point on January 20, 2017, Barack Hussein Obama will watch as the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court swears in as his successor, whomever some, part or most of us elect the first Tuesday of this November.

If you're bracing for a #FeeltheBern sales pitch, sorry to disappoint you. I will most definitely vote and you probably know for whom but that's not my point today. We are just weeks away from the beginning of the 'presidential primary season starting with Iowa and New Hampshire' where afterwards in state after state across our country registered voters of the two respective parties will huddle and cuddle (okay, maybe not so much) and muddle their way to some form of a decision on a nominee for the Office of President.

You know what President Obama looks like; here are the forty-three (white men) who preceded him. Take a good look at the faces and the names then mentally put your choice in a frame and take a good look at what you see.

Get yourself an eyeful and decide if that's who you want. Your portrait choice is the face of who we were, in the space of who we are, becoming, before our very eyes, the who we are to be. Choose wisely and well.
-bill kenny

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Ten Thousand Craters Where It All Should Be

I fell across a great piece of advice scrolling and trolling on the internet the other day. Something that I felt could and should have been written for and about right here in Norwich even though I suspect all kinds of folks in all kinds of places other than Norwich looked at it and said the exact same thing.

Reminds me of an expression we had in the Air Force that went “wish in the one hand and spit in the other. See which one fills up faster.” Okay, we didn’t use the word spit. But I think you get the idea. We also didn’t do a lot of handshaking, for obvious reasons.

In Norwich, we yearn for that mega-million dollar investment, from a developer on the grassy knoll with a sure-fire silver bullet proposal which will return a downtown few of us living here now ever even knew from a half-century ago.

Perhaps soon we’ll take a shuttle bus from the Reid & Hughes Building straight through a rotary on Route 82 up to the new boat launch in the Chelsea Botanical Gardens. I have been known to take flights of fancy, barely and rarely grounded in reality.That may have been one; but if you’re gonna live, why not live large?

Meanwhile, back here on earth, progress is often low-key and a lot less glamorous. But it is still progress. 

It was in early February a year ago, the previous City Council and its-then employee, the City Manager went their separate ways. Fifty weeks later, our new City Council has selected a successor, just in time for the annual dreaded dead-of-winter drill better known as formulation of the next municipal budget. 

All I or anyone should say about the City Council’s choice is welcome aboard. We are in need of all the help we can get so grab an oar and put your back into it because we’re a long way from shore.

The City Council, Mayor and City Manager should promise one another, and all of us who live here and fund our city, to develop an honest budget, no blue smoke and no mirrors. Eyes wide open, tell us what it will cost us in taxes to do those things we tell you we want you to do.

Members of the City Council: You know more now about what we have and what we say we want than you did the night you were elected and you’ll know still more tomorrow and the day after that. You are the change many wanted to see in how we govern. We elected you to make hard choices.

As you gain greater insight into where our challenges are, it'll become more apparent where solutions are needed. Don't worry about credit or blame, those tend to be parceled out in a somewhat capricious, callous and unfair manner. Fix the problem. Be the change you want to be in/for our city.
-bill kenny

Tuesday, January 19, 2016


Until this past weekend, we in southern New England had been spared most of what we usually see and feel this time of year in terms of weather.

It started snowing Sunday afternoon and a series of squalls across the Long Island sound left us with about an inch of crystalline powder to crunch under our boots as we walked around on Monday.

Not helping at all were gusts of wind that made the temperature feel much colder than it was, and it was kind of cold to start with. Good walking weather, as long as you kept walking.

Walked to City Hall for the 31st Annual Observance of the Birthday of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and as always, afterwards, enjoyed how the building towers over the area.

Walking back home, into the wind, halted to contemplate a number of things as I watched turkey vultures gather on a rooftop, leeward side, of a large house on Broadway, probably wondering to themselves if it's really too late in the year to migrate south.

Speculated what a resident of the house might have been thinking had they looked out a window and seen that particular committee on their roof. Probably not wondering why they hadn't had a visit from one of the fine folks offering a copy of the Watchtower.
-bill kenny  

Monday, January 18, 2016

...or Perish as Fools

I'm never sure if it's proper to wish another person a happy Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s Birthday or not, but if so, I wish you one and I wish he could have had a few more himself. 

Few people in my lifetime have shaped circumstances and events as much as he--the election and then murder of John Kennedy, the murder of Robert Kennedy, the arrival of The Beatles (don't shake your head, what they did was reorder the universe) and, of course, the extraordinary life, lessons and death of Dr. King.

America could not possibly have been here now, in this place and time, if not for those (of all races and creeds) who struggled to set us on a better and bigger and more inclusive course 'back then'.

Today, as we observe Dr. King's birthday, I hope we remember all of those forced, to ride in the backs of buses, to drink from separate water fountains, to eat elsewhere in luncheonettes (and a hundred thousand other inhuman indignities from fire hoses, billy clubs and attack dogs to caustic, cutting remarks through flaming crosses and burned out churches) who helped us to be here.

It's important, I think, that we don't allow the passage of years to dim the memory of Dr. King's life and work. Those were dangerous times in which he (and we) lived and if you arrived on the planet after he was murdered, when you look at American history of that era it's hard to believe we were those people. 

But, and here's my glass half-full guy typing now, we've gotten from that place to here. There's a long road ahead of us, all of us, and these are not the easiest of times in which to continue our travels, but we can, because we have.

A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. Across the country today, there are nearly countless observances of Dr. King's life. I hope you have the time to partake and take part in one or more.

I hope to have to have the opportunity to join the others who will assemble in front of Norwich City Hall in the shadow of the Freedom Bell at David Ruggles Courtyard at one thirty to share a celebration of the life that was, and be saddened, briefly, for the life that is no more.

It's a short march after some remarks from City Hall around the corner to the Evans Memorial AME Zion Church at 2 McKinley Avenue. Join us if you can in person or in spirit. And afterwards when each of us then returns to the world we have created, why not try a little harder, a little longer and, if necessary, a little louder to not just make a difference, but to be the difference. 

"In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends."
-bill kenny

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Looking for Water

I was in my local grocer’s Wednesday on my way home. I’m a creature of habit and prisoner of my own routines. I always stop off to assemble and purchase a salad from the only grocer offering a make-it-yourself salad area. When I started a few years back, it was going for $3.99 a pound, which was a lot of salad; now it’s priced at $6.49. Thank goodness the dressings remain a bargain.

I assemble my salad the same way everyday with the lettuces (at least two different kinds, some purplish and dark green leaves and then really light, bright green and crinkly leaves), peppers (hopefully green), cauliflower, a few onion rings, the occasional cherry or grape tomato and pieces of pineapple and sliced strawberries. The latter two I never eat alone as fruits, just in a mixed salad. I don’t know why I like them one way and not the other.

As I was assembling the salad, I realized I was listening to Ballroom Blitz by The Sweet over the store’s loudspeakers (they were more like just about conversational tone, rather than loud) and smiled.  When I was a kid, shopping with our parents the music in the stores was all muzak, all the time. 

Not sure when pop and rock took over but I’d like to imagine a Target somewhere in China, filled with eager shoppers browsing the aisles while Eat the Rich plays. Talk about clean-up in aisle four. And five.

Anyway, an older (even to me) woman, perhaps keying on my smile, sort of nicked her head to the right and up and offered, ‘young man, isn’t it nice they’re marking the passing of Robert Bowie?’ Absolutely, I nodded (she had me at ‘young man’); good ole Bob, wherever he is right now, looking down on us back near the cheeses and imported Italian water chestnuts, concluding ‘dumb is forever.’

-bill kenny    

Saturday, January 16, 2016

When You Have Much Older Siblings

The problem of childhood, I once read, when you are a young child in a family with older children is that your growing up seems to be like having had too much to drink. Everyone else remembers your awkward and embarrassing moments better than you.

Let me demonstrate (and this will work a LOT better if you know one of my brothers or sisters). Today is our sister Jill's birthday.

Two words: goody bags. My lips are sealed, but my seals have lips.

Happy birthday, Jill. With many, many more to follow.

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Extremely Adult Stuff without Being Mature at All

I may or may not have mentioned I work for the federal government. In truth, I suppose I should state I am in its employ; how much actual work I do is a matter of sometimes unkind speculation by the people for whom I may work (I don’t pay a lot of attention, which I’m sure you’ve noticed). 

In the course of this summer past, the agency of the federal government which keeps the personnel records of (nearly) all its employees, the Office of Personnel Management (OPM), announced it had been hacked. It was a news story and you may have encountered it.

It was a slightly larger news story in my house, along with millions of others’ for understandable reasons. My favorite part, assuming  there’s a ‘good part’ in a car crash or a mudslide story, may have been how, eventually, the OPM revealed the hack had happened ‘sometime earlier’ (as in perhaps this century, because they didn’t really know) and had just been noticed.

That acknowledgment sounds to me a little bit like an airport spokesperson  offering to assembled TV cameras that ‘technically aircraft are NOT allowed in the arrival lounge so, yes, you could consider this a crash’ without anyone ultimately admitting anything. With due respect to Jennifer Warnes (among others), I know a quibble when I hear one. 

And since from a distance a smile and a grimace look sort of the same, let’s just say I smiled yesterday at work reading an email from the private company hired by OPM to monitor the records of federal employees watching out for any and all manifestations of identity fraud.

Brief aside: Those who know me know I am, all by myself, the best possible deterrent for anyone else pretending to be me since I am an asshat. I make NO apologies about that. I am merely acknowledging what everyone else has already found out. In essence, I discovered Columbus (Georgia, not Ohio).

Yep, had a note from the Sentinels of Cyber-Security, or whatever their name is this week. Telling me, unsurprisingly, no one had tried any shenanigans with my information and closed their report with this Pet Clark ‘Don’t Sleep in the Subway’ security tip, “Make sure to update your passwords across all of your online accounts regularly and choose safe password practices by including special characters and numbers.” 

Considering the circumstances that created “our” relationship with one another, this is a bit like having a visit to the Betty Ford Clinic paid for by a grant from the Jack Daniels Foundation. I am not a fan of Kool-Aid per se, so asking me to pick a flavor isn’t going to do much to get and keep me invested unless I get to watch you do the drinking. Big sips, c’mon.
-bill kenny  

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Education Is a Tree Planted by a Village

If you are willing to envision Norwich as a human body I think you’d agree our schools are pretty close to being the heart (as well as the soul) of who see ourselves to be and whom we’d like to always be (I will concede I’ve yet to ever see a sign anywhere that says ‘Welcome to Wherever, proud of our sidewalks’). One crack about 'okay, so then who's the butt?' and I will pull this blog over young person so fast it'll make your eyes roll faster than they already are....

My wife and I no longer have children in the Norwich Public Schools system-our two are grown and adults with lives of their own. But a not inconsequential part of who they are now was shaped and formed by the teachers and administrators within the school system then.

For the thousands of parents with children in Norwich Schools now, there’s a golden opportunity to create the next then in terms of what our local schools are and how they do what they do for the next generation of children who are entering their classrooms.  But the window of opportunity is closing fast.

The expression goes ‘A society grows great when people plant trees under whose shade they shall never sit.” It wasn’t all that shady last Thursday evening in Kelly Middle School at a less-than-standing-room only School Facilities Review Project-Community Forum sponsored by LEARN, the regional education agency partners with JCJ Architecture and O&G Industries, hired by the School Facilities Review Committee to assess current Norwich schools and offer recommendations for renovations, new schools, distance learning, virtual schoolhouses and a variety of other educational innovations.

What we lacked in numbers last Thursday, I’d offer as someone who watched but didn’t participate, we compensated for in passion and ideas. And next Thursday, the 21st, again at Kelly starting at six, it’s your turn to talk about our schools and our kids because that’s what this is all about.  

There’s to be a total of five forums including one yesterday with city leaders and department heads and one today with school administrators. After next Thursday’s session with you, a final forum will conclude with the Board of Education and the City Council on February 1. There will also be an online survey for all residents posted on the Norwich Public School’s website.

Do not dare think your opinion doesn’t matter, because if you think like that, it won’t. We each have choices; that’s why we each have voices. Make sure yours is heard next Thursday evening.

We have the city and services we have today because a generation ago, people just like us said ‘these things are important enough that we will pay for all of us to always have them.’

In the passage of time and the shifting of populations and overall wealth, our schools have made due, as have we all, but now it’s time to revitalize our thinking and rededicate our energies so that when our children are adults, they can look at what we’ve done for them and carry that work forward and work as hard for their kids as we did for them.

- bill kenny 

Tuesday, January 12, 2016


From our Ruth Is Stranger than Bridget file and its inexhaustible supply of both the insipid and inspired: Converse Unveils Its Sex Pistols' Line of Chuck Taylors.

"Don't know what I want but I know how to get it."
And it can be delivered in two days, free, with Amazon Prime!
- bill kenny

Monday, January 11, 2016

I Could Never Get the Hang of Thursdays

When I was a young buck and (far too) full of myself, I found an ideal way to put a pin in the balloon of my own ego was to stare up into a clear night sky filled with stars.

I never got distracted trying to calculate the distance their light had travelled to reach me or the time such a journey took; not because I didn't appreciate the math needed for such calculations but because I was so self-absorbed that lesson was lost on me.

Rather, I tried to place myself in the universe. I think (hope?) to some extent we all do that. For me, life is perhaps best defined as figuring out where I belong in a world where everyone else, consciously and unconsciously, is trying to do the same thing.

I think our efforts just became far more difficult but also way more wondrous.
This is the work of Pablo Carlos Budassi and you can read and marvel at his creation, perhaps or because he is a musician and not a mathematician here. Helps me remember my favorite quote from Douglas Adams' The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, 'time is an illusion; lunchtime doubly so.' Guten Appetit.
-bill kenny  

Sunday, January 10, 2016

A Reprise rather than a Reprieve

I wrote this a year ago. I wasn't wrong then. Much in the world has changed. But certainly NOT enough. I'm not wrong now. It's us. 'Murika. 

What prompted the rant was a Sir Paul McCartney and Kanye West collaboration that became all the buzz on the Interwebz for about five hours (seven hours less than the lifespan of  a moth, just as a point of reference). 

It was to actual news what Velveeta is to actual cheese. But who cares. 

We cannot tell news from noise but if we’d been paying attention, at least, we could smile knowingly as if we were in on the joke. Neil Postman, in “Amusing Ourselves to Death” published thirty years ago, forecast the American Intellectual Landscape in which we currently live (avoiding Newton Minnow’s well-known “Wasteland” characterization, but not happy at what he saw on the horizon).

He argued, suggests an article I am smitten with that those of us who struggled all those years ago with summer reading lists that had George Orwell’s “1984” were better served had we read Aldous Huxley. 

Let me steal an insight: “What Orwell feared were those who would ban books. What Huxley feared was that there would be no reason to ban a book, for there would be no one who wanted to read one.

Orwell feared those who would deprive us of information. Huxley feared those who would give us so much we would be reduced to passivity and egoism. Orwell feared that the truth would be concealed from us. 

Huxley feared the truth would be drowned in a sea of irrelevance.”

Somewhere I hear the strains of Yellow Submarine, almost the perfect vessel to navigate such a sea. Meanwhile, long story even longer, it turns out we do know who Sir Paul McCartney is, and Kanye West as well. These are truly days of miracles and wonder.
-bill kenny

Saturday, January 9, 2016

The Revolution Starts Now?

A picture is worth a thousand words. I'm thinking somebody owes me money.




But some little meatballs on toothpicks would sure hit the spot. 
- bill kenny

Friday, January 8, 2016

One Down

This is the start of the second week of the New Year. This time last week some of us were waking up and it was already afternoon and everybody needed to be really quiet, okay? Not really sure what happened since all of that became all of this? Life as we know it. 

We slice and dice time I suspect to convince ourselves we have some form of control over it. As a kid, I always looked forward to summer vacation and the older I got, the faster it went until it seemed I was starting a new school year just about the time I was finishing the old one.

School’s out for a lot of us, at least in the literal sense. I always enjoy learning, to this very day; I don’t always enjoy being taught, but that is a common refrain even among those of us who didn’t know we were singing the same song.

Meanwhile the seconds speed by, becoming minutes and then hours. Before we know it, today is done and tomorrow looms, and the tomorrow and the one after that (petty pace sold separately) all pile on.

I fell over a great quote from Pope Paul VI, capturing I think just the right amount of urgency not just for today, but for every day and for all the days that remain.

“Somebody should tell us, right at the start of our lives, that we are dying. Then we might live life to the limit, every minute of every day. Do it! I say.

“Whatever you want to do, do it now! There are only so many tomorrows.”
-bill kenny

Thursday, January 7, 2016

Right to Arm Bears

I wasn’t born in New Jersey but did very nearly all of my growing up there (my growing old happened in a variety of locations while the jury is still out on the growing wise part of the festivities). I’ve spent a LOT of my life listening to people react to my Jersey connection with, ‘what exit?’ and then snort derisively at their own cleverness.

Fork you. Not all of us from The Garden State grow up among the refineries off the Turnpike or have last names that end with a vowel. Friendly reminder that all the guidos and guidettes on Jersey Shore were from elsewhere. But I just stumbled across a factoid that helps me better understand why we really do have so much woods and forests, not to mention Charmin’ products,  in New Jersey.

It turns out we’ve got hellalot bears, all over the state. New Jersey’s Department of Environmental  Protection just concluded its annual bear hunt (I’ll wait while you re-read that part again) with the second largest number of bears ‘harvested’ (=killed) since 2010, 510, and that was still below the projected/desired target (perhaps an unintentional pun in there, somewhere).

All my brothers and sisters live there and nearly all of their children live there, too. I grew up worrying about greasers when it was grizzlies I should have kept an eye out for. If this keeps going on, you don’t think we’ll have to worry about Sarah Palin and crew moving to Linden, do you? I’m not sure you can see that Russian bakery near Saint Cecilia’s in Elizabeth from her house. 
-bill kenny

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Time Keeps Going By

We’re less than a week into this brand new year but rather than yield to a temptation to rue and regret what was in 2015, perhaps we might mentally better prepare for what is coming and already started (assuming we believe ourselves to have some control over what is to come).

I've met those who see themselves as hostages of Cruel Fate or an Indifferent Deity as if we had been plopped down on this orb and abandoned to our own devices. I'm not sure I can articulate specifically or enumerate to any detail, but I respectfully disagree.

Yes, we are each our own Captains, lashed to the mast of the ship that is our life, alone in an ocean of souls, but it's a big ocean and we've each found ourselves here somehow and, at least for me, coincidence isn't really going to ever explain the how much less the why.

Thornton Wilder's The Bridge Of San Luis Rey is regarded as his personal contemplation on the value of his own life, speculating that there's a land of the living and a land of the dead and his belief (or hope) that the bridge between them is love.

To his own question, would his death matter to God (Wilder was a veteran of World War I, with carnage and brutality never seen in the history of our species, who became in spirit, if not in fact, part of The Lost Generation), he was willing to ask the complementary question: how do we make our lives have a meaning beyond our own lifetimes?

Not the cheeriest of questions to ponder while the old year's days crept slowly to their appointed end and we embrace the next with the same wild-eyed frenzy we did the last, and look at how that turned out. And if the question disquiets you, what of the answer? "Between the idea and the reality. Between the motion and the act, falls the Shadow."

In New England, and across the United States, we are surrounded by memorials in stone, from monuments to buildings, dedicated to the selfless sacrifice of all those who have preceded us--who have set the bar for the rest of us to clear, each in her and his own way.

Not all of us will become a general, but all of us can be generous. Not every one of us will be President, but each of us can be present when a helping hand is needed, be it next door, around the block or halfway across the globe.

We each have the power to save the world, at least, the small plot of it on which each of us stands. Where can we be this time next year if we strive to be great from here on out in this year? We have a (leap) year to work on the answer and make one another forget the question.

"The Space Between the bullets in our firefight is where I'll be hiding, waiting for you."
-bill kenny

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

The Time to Rise Has Been Engaged

I head back to work today. I always cheat on Christmas vacation like that-I come back after the new year begins on the "second" workday so that all the stop and startness of the first one washes over everyone else.

I work by myself in a large organization; I tell myself it's my choice but I'm a lousy liar and each year I knew fewer and fewer people in my place of work so I think I might finally be old enough to take the hint I've been getting for years.

I don't take myself seriously-I take what I do seriously (someone has to and since no one else for miles has any interest in doing it, let it be me) and I'm actually good at it. Might I feel better about it if I were an astronaut or a baseball player or a cowboy or the President, all dreams when I still wore short pants and answered to Billy? Maybe.

The way things are going I could still be the President, at least in my office, until someone else showed up. I'm in the value-added business. I don't make the floor tile-I make it shinier (stolen from an old BASF commercial). Lately, I've been wondering more than usual as to why shiny tiles are important and to whom.

Anyway, if you didn't have a holiday break or it's already over, all of this today is yet another verse of FWP, I know. I do take solace from the thought that some at work may have concluded I retired or quit in the course of the last two weeks. To that, after I smile wryly, I'll just add, 'your better best to rearrange." And any of the office supplies you 'found' in my desk drawer need to be returned. Now.
-bill kenny

Monday, January 4, 2016

Pluto's STILL Not a Planet Anymore

I wrote this a year and a day ago. 

So. Should I be pleased that so little has changed in those three hundred and sixty-eight days, or dismayed at how we continue to have the same day over and over again? Really hope this time a year and a day in the future I've at least stopped shaking my head (the noise between my ears is making me even more cranky).

"I realize we're only three days into 2015 but for those who make their living from the body politic of the United States (sort of like constitutional fleas), it's more like it's already three days into 2015.

According to NBC, we have a baker's dozen (and some crumbs to spare) to keep an eye on in the race for the White House in 2016. Except, here's the thing and it's not personal, the list makes me throw up in my own mouth.

A parade of the gray suited grafters, a choice of cancer or polio-Mick and Keef nailed it and they're not even US citizens. No, that's not what I want to howl at the moon about so early in this year, not at all.

We've become a nation of ADD but such an ailment adds nothing to who we are and more importantly to whom we can be. Somehow we've managed to lose sight of "e Pluribus Unum" (from many, one) as close to a slogan as any nation has any right to have and have opted, it seems to me sometimes for 'Quia fried poma cum terra, vis?" (do you want fries with that?)

I hope my right of center friends (assuming I have any; an assumption that also can be made for those on the other side of the aisle as well) will forgive me when I opine that I have little to no interest in what your party does in either the House of Representatives or the Senate as long as whatever it is they believe is in the best interests of the greatest number of us who live here.

Instead of working on a 140 character tweet or an eye-catching bumper sticker for Hillary, Rand, Jeb, Chris or Marco (or Polo) or any of the other folks who called shotgun in the electoral college clown car, how about we spend at least the rest of this year with some words from a long time ago?

These are some memorable words from a thoroughly flawed man who did his best even when his best wasn't good enough, "My country is the great American Republic. My country, right or wrong; if right, to be kept right; and if wrong, to be set right."

As we've discovered for the last fifty years or so, our civil discourse has continued to coarsen and we've stopped listening to one another in order to discuss the issues of the day only waiting until it's our turn to talk, we have a long way yet to go and a finite number of days to get ourselves gone.

Worries about 2016 are distractions from the task at hand, getting through this day in 2015 and the next one and the one after that. I agree with the shriekers on both sides of the political spectrum, there is much "wrong" in this nation but not so much that it cannot all be repaired in a day by what's right. More sentences and paragraphs, and far fewer words. Starting now."
-bill kenny