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Sunday, November 29, 2015

Growing Up in the 1960's

If you read virtually any history of the sixties, you will think that every young person was a hippy and went to Woodstock, everyone protested the Vietnam war, and everyone was listening to psychedelic rock. That's not how I remember it.

I was born in 1960, so this period accounts for the first ten years of my life. I was doing what kids that age typically do. I occasionally saw long-haired teenagers called hippies, but most of what the sixties are known for was not a part of my life. Superman, Batman, comics, Bewitched, Adam-12 and the NASA rocket launches and recoveries were. I had a cool 5-speed Stingray bike that I rode constantly all over the neighborhood. I loved climbing trees; we had a couple of awesome trees in our yard for climbing. Eventually we put a rope swing on one. My parents listened to country music of the day and so did I.

I remember President Johnson. I didn't really understand who he was or what he did, just that "President Johnson" had a nice ring to it and couldn't imagine saying "President-anybody-else". I was too young to remember Kennedy. I once asked my mom what I was doing when the word of his assassination came on TV. She told me I was playing in the living room. She remembered Walter Cronkite breaking down on TV, so I guess I must've seen that. On November 22, 1963 I was a few weeks away from my third birthday. I do remember watching the episode of Bewitched in 1968 that was interrupted by a news bulletin about Martin Luther King being shot. Before then, I didn't know who he was. I also remember watching the long train ride of Robert Kennedy's funeral and my mom crying.

Just to see how the music of 1968 compares to today's version of history, here's the top 20 hits of 1968 according to Billboard Magazine:

1. Hey Jude - The Beatles

2. I Heard It Through The Grapevine - Marvin Gaye

3. Love Is Blue - Paul Mauriat

4. Honey - Bobby Goldsboro

5. People Got To Be Free - The Rascals

6. (Sittin' On) The Dock Of the Bay - Otis Redding

7. This Guy's In love With you - Herb Alpert

8. Mrs. Robinson - Simon & Garfunkel

9. Love Child - Diana Ross & The Supremes

10. Tighten Up - Archie Bell & The Drells

11. Hello, I Love You - The Doors

12. Judy In Disguise (With Glasses) - John Fred & His Palyboy Band

13. Grazing In the Grass - Hugh Masekela

14. Harper Valley P.T.A. - Jeannie C. Riley

15. Green Tambourine - The Lemon pipers

16. (Theme From) The valley of The Dolls - Dionne Warwick

17. Young Girl - Union Gap featuring Gary Puckett

18. Those Were The Days - Mary Hopkin

19. The Horse - Cliff Nobles & Company

20. Born To Be Wild - Steppenwolf

Saturday, November 28, 2015

I Kicked the "Coke" Habit

In order to avoid any issues with name brands, I'll simply state that I gave up drinking cola on April 2, 2010.  Truth is, I drank a lot of different brands of cola. I chose that date part intentionally and partly by coincidence. Earlier in the week, I had purchased a 12-pack of cola. After drinking a couple, I got seriously disgusted by the addiction I felt I had with cola. I then decided I needed to stop drinking it cold-turkey. I would finish off the 12-pack and be done with it. I realized that at the rate I would normally go through cans of cola, the date would be April 1, "April Fool's Day" when I stopped. I didn't like that combination so I rationed out the cans to make my last one on April 2. I drank my last can of cola on April 2 and I haven't had one since. I'm the first to admit it was not easy.

My addiction to cola began on a family vacation in 1969. At eight years of age and with spending money for my vacation, I came across a machine in the hotel that sold small bottles of cola for a dime each. They weren't my first colas, but I don't recall ever savoring the taste as much as I did on that vacation. I kept going back and buying more.

Through my teen years, cola became my favorite drink but it never got out of control simply because my parents only bought a couple bottles a week and I never had much money to spend on it. When I got to college is when the real problems began.

In college, the soft drink fountains were at every point of sale for my meals; all the dining halls and at the grill in the College Union. It was too easy to order a meal and get a cup of cola. I loved the taste of cola and drank it with every meal.

Within the first year, I began having stomach problems. I was too naive to make the connection. Somehow I even got the wrong impression that cola was good for a bad stomach, especially if you had a stomach bug.

I continued drinking cola for every occasion; meals, parties, and at the college town bars. While other college students were binging on beer, I was binging on cola.

My cola habits continued long after college. I always just loved the taste of cola. But through it all I knew it wasn't good for me. I began joking that I had an addiction, which probably was quite true. It affected my personality a bit; there were times when if I didn't get my cola as expected, I would get angry.

In February of 2010, at age 49, some 40 years after obsessively drinking cola all the time, I finally decided to stop drinking it. I knew it had to be cold turkey. There were other times when I had tried to cut back, but it never lasted long.

After I stopped, the first three or four weeks were the toughest. Slowly the cravings began to diminish. The sight of the brand's logo on a can or a bottle was enough to instill a craving in me for a few minutes. Only a few minutes. I had heard that if you have a craving for something you shouldn't eat or drink, it will usually pass within a few minutes. That wasn't the case for me during the first few weeks, but it did become true after that. I had dreams for many months where I would sip a can of cola and then all hell would break loose. I'd start binging again.

I had to change my way of thinking for many activities for which I associated cola. For example, movies, popcorn and cola. Pizza and cola. Grilled food and cola. Pretty much any social occasion involved having a cola or two. As a substitute, I usually chose water, a mixed drink, or once in a great while, ginger ale. I tried ice tea but I just don't like the taste. At first, water seemed very bland to me but now I am used to it. I truly enjoy drinking water. Another example of association is on cruise ships. Previously I'd purchase the soft drink plan, which allowed me to get unlimited refills for the duration of the cruise. On our last cruise, we purchased a stock of water bottles instead, and I enjoyed a couple of mixed drinks each day.

At this point, 2.5 years since my last drink of cola, I have virtually no cravings at all. People have asked me if I lost any weight from not drinking cola anymore. To be honest, maybe 5 pounds. I came to the conclusion that any weight loss for me doesn't have much to do with my soft drink habits, but my snack food habits. For that, I still need some self-improvement.

What really changed was my bowel habits. I had chronic problems with IBS for many years. Several months after giving up cola, I realized that IBS was not a problem for me anymore. I still don't eat some of the IBS trigger foods that I had previously given up, but the real difference with my bowel habits has been giving up cola.

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Thanksgiving Memories and Thoughts

As far back as I can remember, we always had the Macy's Parade on for Thanksgiving.  When Santa appeared at the end, that was the signal for me to start playing Christmas music for the season.

I loved it when Thanksgiving dinner was at  my house.  My mother got out her special wooden box of silverware.

For 32 years I worked in a TV station and worked almost every Thanksgiving Day.  I worked Master Control for a lot of Macy's Parades.  Then we had the dog show, followed by "Miracle on 34th Street."

I think the obsessiveness over Black Friday is nuts!  It's even nuttier that people now go shopping on Thanksgiving Day.  It's America, they are free to do what they want, but I won't be a part of it.

Since I worked so many Thanksgivings, all I have to say is, if you don't like working Thanksgiving, find a job where you don't have to.  There's a lot of people outside of retail who work Thanksgiving.

I AM Thankful I no longer have to work Thanksgiving.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

The Truth Behind Pi

I have uncovered the awful truth behind the number Pi, which mathematicians claim is a mathematical constant whose value is the ratio of any circle's circumference to its diameter in Euclidean space. That is pure poppycock, designed to bring grief to generations of high school math students.

I now know that Pi (3.14159265....) is the multiplier used to determine the true cost and time that a home project will take. For example, you may plan for a weekend project to take 16 hours, or 8 hours both days over a weekend. Any home handyman knows, but won't admit that any project he begins will not finish as planned. So take that 16 hours and multiply it by 3.14159265..... Include all the decimal places. Yes, I know that's a transcendental, or never-ending number, but home projects are never-ending, aren't they? Pi is supposed to have something to do with it being the value of the ratio of a circle's area to the square of its radius, but that fallacy is based on the fact that home projects just keep going around in circles.

Therefore, your 16 hour project multiplied by Pi will actually take 50.265481.... hours. Much longer than a single weekend! A project you expect to take a week at 8 hours a day (going well into the night after working your regular job all day and commuting), will come to a realistic amount of 175.92918.... hours. The good news is that these figures include the 3 or 4 extra trips you make to Home Depot to pick up the things you forgot, plus the time standing around chatting with your buddies who came over to help.

Pi is also used in budgeting the cost of a project. Think your weekend project is going to cost $500? When multiplied by Pi, it's really $1,570.7963..... Oh yeah, keep adding those transcendental decimals! Home project costs are never-ending, aren't they?

Again, there's good news on the cost, too because you won't actually spend $1,570.7963..... of your imaginary credit card money on materials. This calculation figures in the beer consumed during the project, the gas wasted on those 3 or 4 extra trips to Home Depot, the Happy Meals purchased to keep the kids entertained while you ignore them, and the propane used for the steaks plus wear and tear on the George Foreman grill.

So, there you have it! The truth behind Pi!

Sunday, November 22, 2015

My Political Philosophy

After one too many political discussions on Facebook, I decided several years ago to go back to my policy of NOT discussing politics.  For the most part, I've stuck to that policy.  I plead guilty to being actively involved, and in some cases the instigator of such discussions, but the end result is always the same: I do NOT enjoy those discussions. I know better than to argue with people who have extreme political views because nothing I say is ever going to change their minds. The one advantage to having political extremists is that they cause the political pendulum to swing back and forth a bit; in the long run, that's probably healthy for the U.S.

So for those who want to know where I stand on the political spectrum, the answer is Moderate. I believe in capitalism with reasonable regulations; I believe in a mixed economy. I believe in public education and social security. I believe welfare should be abolished. I believe health care should be available to all American citizens, but I don't care whether in the end it's run by the private sector, the government or a mix of both. Just as long as it gets done. I hear too many pundits blaming unemployment and lack of health insurance on lazy welfare recipients, etc. Sure, they are out there, but my own exposure has been to mostly decent, hard-working people who are unemployed due to no fault of their own. I believe people have the right to live their lives as they wish as long as it doesn't interfere with other people.

I find the polarizing talk shows and bigmouth one-sided pundits to be very discouraging and a threat to America's well-being. I admit to being a huge fan of Rush Limbaugh for a couple of years in the early 1990's. After awhile I started to realize that I was only hearing one side of an argument; the fact is there are always two sides to an argument. The truth lies somewhere in between. Hence my "moderate" status. I believe people who only listen to pundits on one end of the spectrum are doing themselves a huge disservice. I rather like the concept of "equal time," but with the proliferation of all media beyond traditional broadcasting, it's unlikely to be workable today.

There is no way that conservatives can be right all the time or liberals can be right all the time. Society, industry, technology, communication methods and transportation methods are always evolving. What may work in one era may not work in another era. While we must learn from history, we cannot set in stone that past methods will or won't work today or in the future. It is through true, honest DISCUSSION and not mudslinging and attacks that we will find compromise on these issues.

I am very proud to be an American. It may not be a perfect country, but it is better than any other country and there is no other place I'd rather live in.