Decency

The start of the first American Civil War occurred on April 12, 1861 when Confederate forces fired on Fort Sumter. The start of the second American Civil War started on January 6, 2021. In the first American Civil War, the battlefields included Gettysburg, Shiloh, Fredericksburg and Vicksburg. In the second American Civil War, the battlefields will be named vaccinations, Roe v Wade, science vs. superstition, income equality, Black Lives Matter, voting rights, Qanon conspiracies and Trumpism. One side comes with memes, verbal and violent bombast, the other’s armor are facts, data, science, rationality, experience and proof.

Eric Burleigh

“You’ve done enough. Have you no sense of decency, sir, at long last?” In 1954, these words at a Congressional hearing helped lead to the demise of the demagoguery of Senator Joe McCarthy. These same words can easily be applied 67 years later to a former disgraced President, U.S Senators from Texas, Kentucky and Wisconsin,  a totally incompetent female representative from Georgia and a plethora of anti-vaxxers from government and media. Not to mention clueless distributors of lies, propaganda and false information on social media.

Our culture, politics, economy and government have been subverted by irrationality, superstition, and stupidity. What is worse? That many of our politicians, business leaders, social media executives and  “journalists” are pushing lies, targeted exaggerations and  Or that so many citizens do not have the education, intellectual bandwidth and judgment to read between the lies.

The Republicans and the extremists are fighting the Second American Civil War with haymakers and head shots; the Democrats are content with soft jabs and body shots. Mitch McConnell likes the punchers chance.

Replay in the major sports such as basketball, football and baseball takes place in a matter of minutes. Upon this review, those involved in acts of violence are identified and ejected from the game. Depending upon the degree of the act of violence, an athlete may be subject to a long or short suspension or even possibly expulsion from the sport. We don’t need a 1/6/2021 Congressional Commission. The evidence is on various videos and media reports – – plain for any rational person to see. It’s time to mete out the punishment. Severe punishment. We are talking about treachery here.

Navigation Aggravation: Trying to Schedule a Doctor’s Appointment

My experience shown within a flowchart in trying to set up an appointment with my general practitioner. I can’t call the office directly. I have to go through a centralized portal. I waited over 20 minutes to get a representative and in that time I was barraged by their automated marketing and promotional messages.

P.S. I could not get an appointment within a period of time so that they could address my immediate issues.

Observations on reaching the last year of my seventh decade

From left to right, Sandra, Eric, Joanne and two other unnamed cousins

Feeling wistful, ruminative and a bit thankful…

If life is a train ride, my station may be coming up soon. Regrettably most of us don’t know when our ride will end. A few friends and family members have disembarked too early, leaving me sitting sadly alone in the train car. 

All of us have an “aha” or life changing moment. Mine occurred on the morning of February 14, 1960 when I was told about my father’s sudden death. At age 7, I learned about impermanence, self reliance and responsibility. Some people never receive those insights no matter their age.

I have not measured my life’s success based on my net worth, corporate executive titles or possessions I owned. Simply I wanted to be the best husband, son, brother, uncle and friend I could be. Largely that meant I needed to be “present” when someone needed help or encouragement.

My 44 years of marriage to a wonderful woman represents the best decision and greatest commitment of my life. The joy and love from this woman more than offset any disappointments, failures, and travails I have experienced. Life does not always offer an easy road but I am grateful for my constant and supportive companion.

Some of my life’s biggest disappointments, socially and in business, were as a result of women. This is not an indictment of women as much it shows my lowered expectations of the words, promises and actions of my brother man.

Coincidentally, but not surprising, my biggest supporters and influencers, in my youth, were women. Besides my wife Chris, my sister Sandra was a source of encouragement, love and motivation. Sandra’s death twenty seven years ago is my greatest personal loss.

Two biggest trends in my lifetime: (1) the explosion, breadth and advancement of technology in business and personal life and (2) the disintegration, coarseness and division of our politics and civility.

I have no heirs but I am sad about the type of world that my generation is leaving to those generations behind us. We’ve left them problems with government debt, climate change, rebuilding infrastructure, improving public education etc. Those are issues that we should have been focusing on instead of building walls, creating conspiracy theories and disputing fair elections.

I was looking at some pictures of birthday parties for me or cousins when I was 6 or 7. The black and white pictures were a bit faded, many of my family in the photo are deceased but the memories remain. Was there anything more exciting for a young boy or girl than to look forward to a birthday party with friends and family?

The basic evidence of humanity among people is simply sharing a smile.

I’ve lived 25,202 days. That’s a lot of opportunities to appreciate sunsets, sunrises, great conversations, varied travel experiences, meet new friends, and make social and business contributions. Success and appreciation of life are often measured by how close our results = opportunities.

Sign of the Times:  We need a Facebook prompt to remember and celebrate a friend or relative’s birthday. 

Why is it that despite much improved personal training and sports medicine that today’s pitchers can’t go beyond five innings and basketball players can only play half a season?

Greatest U.S. Presidents Survey

C-Span conducted a Presidential Historians Survey 2021. They judged Presidents based on the following criteria: 1. Public Persuasion, 2. Crisis Leadership, 3. Economic Management, 4. Moral Authority, 5. International Relations, 6. Administrative Skills, 7. Relations with Congress, 8. Vision, 9. Pursued Equal Justice for All, and 10. Performance within Context of Times.

My list is a small re-shuffling of the list. I am a huge admirer of FDR who pulled the U.S. from a depression, a world war and initiated a variety of badly needed social programs. My recent readings of books regarding the Truman presidency has moved him up from my previous lists.

Donald Trump is listed in the bottom four of the survey only ahead of James Buchanan, Andrew Johnson, and Franklin Pierce. On my list, he would be our worst President just based on his actions of 1/6/2021.

C-span Presidential HistoriansEric Amateur Historian
1. Abraham Lincoln1. Abraham Lincoln
2. George Washington2. Franklin D. Roosevelt
3. Franklin D. Roosevelt3. George Washington
4. Theodore Roosevelt4. Harry Truman
5. Dwight Eisenhower5. Thomas Jefferson
6. Harry Truman6. Theodore Roosevelt
7. Thomas Jefferson7. John F. Kennedy
8. John F. Kennedy8. Barack Obama
9. Ronald Reagan9. Dwight Eisenhower
10. Barack Obama10. Ronald Reagan

Dinks and Smashes III

Third edition of muses, thoughts and rants on pickleball…

If you measure your worth in recreational Pickleball by wins and losses, you are playing the wrong game at the wrong time.

I created an unscientific, no data included chart of how I view the estimated progress of many (not most) pickleball players in their first year of play. My chart is based on an older player, who plays 3-4 times weekly mostly for exercise and to meet new people and is not interested in tournament competiton. Every player is different and their rate of progress is contingent on the following factors below:

  • Health
  • Age
  • Experience with other racquet sports
  • Athletic Ability
  • Injuries
  • Attitude/Motivation
  • Level of Competition/Play
  • Practice
  • Mentoring/coaching

Chart Summary:

  1. The fastest rate of improvement usually starts when the player first starts learning to play pickleball. Credit beginner classes taught by Denise Donald, Cookie Sey, Lori Flickinger and others for the fast start in providing new players the basics of the game and more important, the encouragement to have fun and relax.
  2. One of the most effective ways to increase your rating from 2.5 to 3.0 besides lowering your unforced error rates is not hitting “out balls.”
  3. A performance plateau tends to occur between levels 3.0 to 3.5. Many of us start to pick up nasty playing habits and our performance tends to stagnate.
  4. Many players achieve level 3.0 within a year. Some achieve it within days. Depends upon the individual’s starting points, experience and talents. My guess is that Roger Federer would be a 5.0 as soon as he picked up a paddle.
  5. Many players are content with just reaching an intermediate level. Again due to age, health and time commitments, a 4.0 rating may be out of reach for many. However I am aware of the 60+ age players who invested the time, practice and dedication to reaching an advanced rating.

I’m amused by this description on Meet-Up describing an Advanced only session.  “Come play on 6 courts with like minded advanced players without worrying about the intermediates or beginners jumping on a court with you.”

For many of us, playing pickleball is a short time travel back to our youth…

Inflation: A Players Rogue 2 that I purchased for $89 in 2020 now retails for $124. It is a very good paddle but that is a 40% increase! Tournament fees, paddles, pickleball shoes, and classes are also experiencing significant rises in pricing. Given the sport’s popularity and growth, there must be a public company or companies that may be investment worthy??

Observation: I rarely see two of the same model paddle hanging on a fence or queue at Meet-ups.

Revised edition: With apologies to my past and future pickle ball partners, here’s what you may expect from playing with me (I have added two more to the original post shown in italics:)

  1. I will continually forget the score and you will have to remind me what the score is.
  2. I will poach at the most inopportune moments and leave you to cover the entire court.
  3. I will chase “out balls” like a dog chasing a flung chew toy
  4. My eyes are not what they used to be so my line calls may need a second review.
  5. I will play with anyone and at any level. Win or lose, I want my partner to have fun and to be willing to play with me again.
  6. I am not good enough to offer advice. My best and only advice to most players is to continue to play, have fun and your game will improve over time.
  7. When I “tag” someone on the opposite team, I will generally apologize and check to ensure they are OK.
  8. My hearing is as reliable as my third shot drop – – so you may have to repeat things to me.
  9. If I forget to bring it up before we play, let’s communicate how we will handle lobs and shots down the middle.
  10. I may sometimes forget your name if it has been awhile since we played. I apologize beforehand. The only two things I definitely remember are my wife’s birthday and our anniversary!

Finish Line

In my younger days, I ran 5K and 10K races. When I was able to see the finish line from a distance, I needed to make a decision. Do I finish the race strong with a last minute spurt or do I comfortably finish at a relaxed pace? My decision was not based on winning any medals or prizes as I was a “back in the pack” runner. My decision was personal, primarily based on how much energy I had left in my legs and what I wanted to accomplish in terms of my own goals. I mostly competed with myself and was interested in seeking improved race times.

As one gets older in life, there are a number of finish lines that need to be crossed. Generally, the first finish line is the end of your career or business. For many, the decision on how we finish that race is not made by them. Some don’t get the opportunity to finish but are pulled aside and told their race is over. The lucky get to finish the race on their own terms and with the plaudits and appreciation of their fellow employees and partners. They leave with a sense of satisfaction of a race well run.

Young people are not concerned with finish lines. They are at the beginning or mid-way point of their race. Time is on their side – – they have the energy, ability and opportunity to run more laps and circle the field if they are so inclined. They are in the early stages of a life marathon with many miles to go.

As I have gotten older, I appreciate that a final finish line may be looming. I don’t know its distance but I sense its presence. There are no mile markers in the final finish line. I still have the ability to decide if I want to walk or jog in my last miles or finish with a burst of speed and vigor. There won’t be spectators to cheer me on. How I finish that race will largely be my decision. There are no medals to win. But there is one more chance to make a difference in my life and maybe someone else’s. One more opportunity to overcome a challenge or make a contribution. One more opportunity to achieve a life well run…

Requiem

Sifting through old memories like a camper brushing aside dying embers seeking a spark

Where once there was warmth and comfort, has now grown cold and dark

Had the fire died from neglect, unattended? Had I failed to keep the fire’s glow?

Or had you simply moved on—and decided it was time to go?

A fire once blazed warmly fueled by logs of talk, laughter and caring

Pleasant memories of company, fun, concern and sharing

Now the flames are extinguished, a mist of thin smoke rising faintly from the ash

Mournful reminder of the flame that burned in the past.

Beach Read Recommendations: Summer 2021

With the start of the summer season, in addition to reaching for the sun tan lotion, many are looking for a good beach read. I have listed a few of my favorite novels that I recommend.

Picture by Karolina Grabowski (Pexels)

Dear Committee Members (Julie Schumaker) I found this book very funny about an acerbic professor in a small midwestern college. The recommendations he writes for students applying for jobs and post graduate school are hilarious.

Epitaph :The OK Corral (Mary Doria Russell) Historical fiction centering on the interesting lives and legends of Wyatt Earp and Doc Holliday.

The End of October (Lawrence Wright) This novel was written prior to the Covid 19 pandemic. Amazing how much the author got right about what actually happened.

Talk to Me (John Kenney) How one man’s public fall from grace leads him back to his family, and back to the man he used to be.

Fleishmann Is In Trouble (Taffy Brodesser Akner) Adventures of a man recently separated with two kids and a missing wife trying to figure out the rest of his life.

Babbitt (Sinclair Lewis) A classic. Written in 1920, this satirical novel about a man’s midlife crisis easily applies to today.

Forever and a Day (Anthony Horowitz) James Bond novel about his early spy adventures.

The Last Days of Night (Graham Moore) Historical fiction. Young lawyer thrown into one of the biggest legal battles in business, the patent around the light bulb.

Conclave (Robert Harris) Scandal, violence, sex, deception…and this is a novel about a papal election.

Our Souls at Night (Kent Haruf) Sentimental story about two elderly and lonely people dealing withe past and trying to work out their futures. Not my type of story generally but very compelling.

Disclosure (Michael Crichton) I literally did not put this book down until I finished it. A married male executive charges sexual harassment against his female boss, who also used to be his girlfriend. However he is being set up as a scapegoat in a corporate power play. Lots of corporate hijinks, politics and deception. Michael Douglas and Demi Moore starred in the movie version.

Senescence: Round 3

More reflections, thoughts, perspectives and broodings on being older. You can find earlier and similar posts here and here.

Old age: Current age + 10 years; Youth: Current age – 10 years.

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You  can only break my heart, once.

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The ratio of laughter to tears narrows as one ages.

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2:00 a.m. : (age 18) = 10:00 p.m. : (age 60+)

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The penultimate expression of acquired wisdom is when we value health over wealth.

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The value of what we don’t know > the value of what we do know.

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Britain’s greatest export was The Beatles.

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Baseball is this nation’s passed time.

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Picture by Keegan Houser (Pixels)

Many of our sweetest memories generally have a soundtrack playing in the recesses of our mind.

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Investing today is like playing a game at the carnival fair. You know the odds are stacked against you but the allure of winning a proverbial stuffed animal is too strong.

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I wish I had a penny for each time a person changed the channel or fast forwarded a program on their remote or Roku. Within a day or two, I would be richer than Jeff Bezos.

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Mother’s and Father’s Day is “Memorial Day” for many of us.

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Our portals in time travel include old polaroid pictures, a yearbook and ticket stubs from a decades old concert or sporting event.

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Do we ever really “grow up”?

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Not sure that this applies to many 1960’s era football stars, but Jim Brown definitely could have played into today’s NFL.

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In addition to Medicare and Social Security, one of the unheralded benefits for seniors are naps.