Monthly Archives: November 2011

Family, food and football — a very nice Thanksgiving weekend!

It’s Sunday evening of the Thanksgiving weekend, and Mrs. Poolman and I are just “chillin.’”

We had a very nice weekend. My sister, brother in law and recent-law-school-grad nephew came down from Greenville, South Carolina for the weekend, and we all had a great time.  Maggie is the middle of my three younger sisters, and the only of my sibs within a reasonable driving distance.

Mrs. P and I both took Wednesday off to shop, clean and generally get ready for the weekend. Company arrived on Thursday. Both our children and their significant others came over and contributed to the feast. We spent the day “visiting” and watching a little football. Dinner was all the usual – turkey, gravy, dressing, mashed potatoes, vegetables, etc. Son-in-law made the pies. Poolboy contributed about 20 pounds of mashed potatoes. Yummy!

We have two adult children, both of whom also have other family commitments. It’s interesting that we have absolutely no problem coordinating holiday schedules with one of the families. With the other, it’s nearly impossible. Every holiday becomes a minor drama. I think the major issue is the other family cannot organize their own lives, which makes it impossible to coordinate with someone else.  A while back, we got frustrated with the whole deal. Now, we stake out our meal time and plans well in advance and just let it be known, so they can work around it, or not, as they will.

On Friday, we drove downtown and walked around River Street and the historic district.

The World War II memorial in Savannah's River Street

We stopped into one antique-salvage-junk store. My sister and both bought an interesting looking old window frame.

We'll see what I can do with this.

I’m not sure what I’m going to do with it. I may print up some individual family photographs and mount them behind the glass in each frame. I’m not a really “craftsy” person, so we’ll have to see how it turns out.

For Friday dinner, we cooked a low country boil (shrimp, potatoes, sausage and corn.) It broke up the non-stop turkey and turkey and ham sandwiches.

On Saturday, we watched football from lunch time to bed time. In our group, we had alums of Penn State, South Carolina and, of course, Florida. We were one for three on the day. How the Gators held FSU to less than 100 yards of total offense, and still managed to lose by two touchdowns is just amazing.

The Steelers are on Sunday Night Football. Maybe they will bring our weekend effort up to .500.

Back to work tomorrow. It hasn’t been the most exciting of weekends, but it was a very good one all the same.

Another winner from John Sandford

If you are looking for a Christmas present for a reader, try “Shock Wave” by John Sandford.

I make no bones about it – I am a big John Sandford fan. His  reading his latest cop-thriller, “Shock Wave,” is outstanding.

Sandford has written about a thousand books, but his two primary series are both crime-police-mystery oriented. The Lucas Davenport “Prey” series takes place in the Minneapolis-St. Paul metro area. The main character is Lucas, a brilliant, rich, good looking, sophisticated, etc. cop. His other series revolves around state crime investigator Virgil Flowers, who works for Davenport, but investigates in the rural parts of Minnesota.

Sandford’s plots are good, but his characters and dialogue are even better. With only a few exceptions, even his “bad guys” are engaging and frequently charismatic. Virgil is definitely the kind of guy I’d like to hang out with, even though the opportunity only comes in a book.

In “Shock Wave,” someone is planting bombs in small town to prevent the construction of a new big box store there. Virgil is trying to figure out who it is.  The plot is compelling and moves along. It gets “two thumbs up.”

I won’t tell you who the guilty bomber is, but here is a hint; Sandford’s antagonists are usually engaging and frequently charming.  Figure it out for yourself.

 

 

What a difference a year makes!

Last year this time, I was moaning and whining about my class of 5th grade CCD (religion classes for kids who do not attend a Catholic school) students.

Last year’s class was quite a handful. When I was asked to come back and teach again this year, Mrs. Poolman reasonably asked me if I had lost my mind. I agreed to return for year #7, and I’m glad I did.

This year’s class is a large one – 25 students on a full night. And they have their moments, both individually and as a group. There are at least two boys, whose mothers tell me, are ADHD but they are trying to deal with it without using meds. I applaud the effort, but it can make Wednesday nights interesting.

Overall, this is a nice group of kids. They are active and full of energy, but I have been able to keep them more-or-less focused and engaged on whatever we are discussing at the time. They are full of questions, occasionally to an extreme.  Sometimes we have had to arbitrarily cut off discussion simply because the “what if…?” questions just become outlandish.

For the most part, I don’t really mind it. We don’t have a strict schedule of topics we must follow from week to week. So if they want to talk about something that is vaguely related to Catholicism, religion, God, morality, or just issues they encounter in their daily lives, we run with it.

Last night was interesting. When I arrived, the director, Pamela, handed me a sheet of paper with seven or eight guidelines to teach the class to help them avoid becoming abuse victims. (Think Penn State.) I went over these guidelines (good touch, bad touch, etc.) with the class, and then the lid came off the can of worms.

It was obvious this is something they have discussed with their parents (as they should) and their friends. Everyone had a question or a comment. It was active and rowdy, and while there were many times when three or four students were trying to contribute simultaneously, the comments and questions were all related to the main topic. What I expected would take five minutes ran on for 35 minutes, and could have gone to the end of the class.

I have an outstanding co-teacher, who is also the mother of one of the students. She is “the bomb.” She isn’t really interested in doing much teaching, but she actively participates in the discussions and is a major help with “crowd control.”

We may not be teaching the kids everything we are supposed to, but hopefully, they are learning something important. And we are having a good time.

And this is a good idea?

Sometimes I have to wonder what some people are thinking, or if they are even thinking at all.  One esteemed member of the Georgia General Assembly thinks the answer to combating crime on college campuses is to arm the students.

This is not a new idea, but it doesn’t get any better with age.

That is a wonderful recipe for safety.  (For my friend, Ned, who has difficulty discerning whether I am being serious or sarcastic — I am being sarcastic here.)

1.) Take a group of immature (18-23 years old), young adults and provide them access to guns.

2.) Do so without providing any training.

3.) Tell them you are doing so in order for them to be able to use the guns to protect themselves and their fellow students.

4.) Insert them into a situation involving close living quarters (college residence halls, fraternities, etc.) and frequent opportunities to consume large amounts of alcohol. (College students? Seriously?)

That sounds like a really good plan. (More sarcasm, Ned.)

I have heard people comment that the shootings at Virginia Tech would not have happened if the student body had been armed. Actually, I wonder how many other innocent students and faculty would have been shot by the untrained and unskilled would-be vigilantes who have watched too many shoot-em-up movies and played the same genre of video games. Scarey.

Keep the shootings to the DVDs and the video games. It will keep the body count down.

A humorous explanation for the mess we’re in

I just finished a great little book. Michael Lewis’s (The Blind Side, The Big Short) is “Boomerang.”

I think like many people, I only partially understand the reasons the economy has gone down the toilet over the past three years. While I get the general idea behind the housing boom, loose credit and CDO’s, I still have trouble getting my mind around them. Lewis did a great job in “The Big Short” of telling the stories of some investors who anticipated the big bust of 2007-08 and profited greatly from their insight.

In “Boomerang,” he takes a look at several countries and examines how they reacted to having massive amounts of free credit in the early 2000s. He looks at:

  • Iceland, where everyone wanted to become an investment banker, whether they knew anything about investment banking or not.
  • Greece, where the government created a massive entitlement state on borrowed money and with a population that doesn’t want to pay their taxes.
  • Ireland, where the Irish took the free money and created their own housing bubble.
  • And Germany, where the bankers pretty-much financed most of the other countries.

He finishes up in California – another economy with a population that wants massive government services without having to pay taxes to pay for them.

The best part of the book is Lewis’s writing style. While “The Big Short” and “The Blind Side” were both serious, straight-to-the-point narrations, “Boomerang” is tongue-in-cheek to the point of being almost whimsical. He pokes some serious fun at the cultural tendencies of the people in all those countries. In every chapter, I found myself chuckling over his observations and analysis. I’m not sure anyone in the subject-countries would appreciate his sense of humor, but I sure did.

“Boomerang” is fairly short, and you don’t need an MBA to understand it. If you are curious about what is happening right now in places like Greece and Italy, Lewis has some answers…and a few laughs too.

Like PSU needs more bad news!

I’m the only one in our family of five siblings without strong ties to Penn State. Three of my four sibs and one brother-in-law are alums and, pretty much bleed blue and white. They have all been shocked and devastated by the events in State College this week.

The students there aren’t helping the university’s image. This video caught my eye because I spent 27 years in the TV news business. Stories of accidents with live microwave news vans are legendary. They usually involve raising the antenna mast into an uninsulated power line. (My last company had an intensive training and certification program to try to avert just that kind of very dangerous accident.)  There are the occasional cases of older vans without a cut-off safety switch where the driver drove off with the mast up and ran under a tree branch or overpass. That is never a good thing.  I don’t think I was ever seriously concerned about one of our vans being “flipped” on a college campus.

That’s pretty ugly.

The time-change strikes again!

Where I work, most people bring their lunches. The closest restaurants are a 10-15 minute drive away, so that makes it a hassle on a daily basis. I typically see the same group of people gathered in the small kitchen between 11:45 am and noon. It’s a regular little gathering.

So on Monday, I was a little surprised to see one of our accounting guys, John, fixing his lunch in the kitchen around 11 o’clock. I didn’t think anything of it until he stuck his head into my office around 12:15 pm, as I was finishing up my lunch.

“I wish you had asked me why I was eating lunch so early,” he said.

“Huh?” asked I.

He said he had forgotten about the semi-annual time change over the weekend. So he hadn’t changed the wall clock in his office back to regular time when he got to work in the morning. At 11 am, his clock told him it was actually noon.

“I had been working and I just looked up and saw it was lunch time. Gee, I thought — the morning sure had gone quickly. I also wondered why I wasn’t very hungry, and why the usual crowd wasn’t in the kitchen.”

John said that when the time changes again in the spring, he will organize a clock-changing party so he won’t have to eat lunch alone again.  Good idea.