Things I Know

  • As I was walking out of the deli near my house, they were watching ““Good Morning America”” which was airing a story on orthorexia.  I had to go look it up because I didn’’t think it could possibly be an obsession with eating Ortho lawn care products.  I was right.  It isn’’t.

  • I was at the Baseball Hall of Fame last week.  I like it so much I’’m a subscribing member.  I recommend it if you can find it.  Cooperstown, NY is a pretty place, but it’’s not very easy to get to.  A bunch of people were standing around a TV laughing at Abbot & Costello doing their ““Who’’s on First”” routine.  Anything is new if you haven’’t seen it before.

  • If the people who run the Baseball Hall of Fame really believed that Abner Doubleday invented baseball, he would have a plaque in the Hall and he doesn’’t.

  • I want to see the Cardiff Giant.  I don’’t know why.  I just do.  But I’’m being thwarted.  It’’s at the Farmers’ Museum in Cooperstown.  Until last Friday, I never got to Cooperstown early enough in the day to see both the Hall of Fame, and the Farmers’’ Museum.  I always opted for the Hall of Fame.   Last week, I got there early enough to do both, but the Farmers’’ Museum was closed for the winter, and not scheduled to reopen until tomorrow.

  • The show “”Ghost Hunters” on cable’s SyFy Channel would be interesting if they’’d find Zuul or Gozer or something, but right now I find it boring and don’’t understand why anyone watches.

  • I saw what’’s supposed to be a ghost once.  I didn’’t get close, but I did see it.  It was a red light bobbing along railroad tracks in North Carolina.  It’’s supposed to be the ghost of a guy named Joe who was on a caboose and lost his head in a train wreck in the 1800’s.  The light is supposed to be Joe looking for his head.

  • The Mets #2, 3 and 4 pitchers all have high ERA’s and losing records in Spring Training.  I root for them and I hope I’’m wrong, but I don’’t foresee good things for them this year.  The baseball season starts for real Sunday night in Boston.

  • Element #112 has been officially named Copernicium, after the famous astronomer.  When Tom Lehrer wrote his famous Elements song, there were only 102.  I think it’’s time for an update, but Tom’’s going to be 82 on April 9th and he doesn’t perform anymore, so I doubt that an update is forthcoming. 

Things I Know

  • 13 days to baseball games that count.  Call me a reactionary, but I believe the first game of the major-league baseball season ought to be played in Cincinnati, on green grass, In the middle of the day, and the middle of April.  I’’m also a realist, and so I believe that will never happen again.

  • MS Word’s spell checker doesn’t include the word Cincinnati.

  • On This date in 1991, we moved into our house. 

  • On TV recently, I saw a commercial for the Dogpedic dog bed which is made of memory foam and has, according to the spot, a “custom, non-slip bottom.”  I found myself wishing I had one of those–not the dog bed—, the custom, non-slip bottom.

  • Andrew Cuomo is running for Governor of New York; he just hasn’t said so yet.
  • If you develop a reputation for sarcasm, you can say almost anything.
  • I told my friend Richard (not Feder) from New Jersey (not Ft. Lee) that I’’m having trouble thinking of things to be frustrated about.  This blog is, after all, the Sisyphus Project and I need some frustration to complain about in order to continue writing.  He suggested that I’’ve already found a really big and inexhaustible source of frustration:  I root for the Mets.

  • Once in a great while, I see another driver do something so stupid near me that I pull over, stop my car, get out, and check to see if my car is still visible.  So far, it always has been, but you never know.

Some Thoughts About St. Patrick’s Day

  • On March 17th, there are only two kinds of people in the world:  those of us who are Irish; and those of you who wish you were.

  • My grandparents all came from County Limerick and County Mayo.  So I qualify, okay?  In fact, I’’ve never made a point of wearing green on St. Patrick’’s Day because it’’s that obvious.  And, if it weren’’t that obvious, two of my uncles were named Cornelius and Robert Emmet.  Moreover, one of my aunts and one of my uncles were born on March 17th.

  • When I was a young child, my grandparents and their relatives from the Old Sod used to say things like, “Up Limerick,” and “Up Mayo.”  We kids thought it really funny when someone from County Down arrived and yelled, “Up Down!”  I always wondered, but never found out exactly where County Yours is.

  • If you asked my grandparents what nationality they were, any of the four of them would have told you (in a brogue, of course) that they were Americans.  If you asked their children what nationality they were, all of them (in a New York accent, of course) would have told you they were Irish, not Irish-American, Irish.

  • My mother’’s father came to the USA, like many immigrants, through Ellis Island.  He is the only man with his name who is listed in their records as a woman.  This proves that clerical errors are nothing new.

  • My mother’’s mother couldn’’t show me how to write anything in Gaelic because when she was in school, teaching Gaelic was forbidden by law.  I can say, “”Kiss my ass,”” in Gaelic.  In fact, it’s the only thing I know how to say in Gaelic, but I can’’t prove it here because I can’’t spell it.  I’’m not convinced anyone can spell anything in Gaelic or Welsh either for that matter

  • The Irish invented bagpipes as a military weapon, to scare people:  it works.

  • My father was in the crew that painted the first legal green line up New York’’s Fifth Avenue for a St. Patrick’’s Day Parade.  A bunch of guys got drunk and did it illegally for some years before the City of New York adopted the custom.

  • Family lore says one of my great aunts won a newspaper essay contest by writing a first-person account of being on the RMS Carpathia when it was the first ship to arrive on the scene as the Titanic sank.  She did come to the USA from Ireland on the Carpathia, just not on the trip when the ship rescued survivors from the Titanic.

  • My wife makes soda bread every year.  She’s not the only baker of soda bread who doesn’t like caraway seeds, but because she doesn’’t, I don’t get any caraway seeds in mine.  She got her recipe from someone who must have been much wealthier than my mother’’s mother was.  Hers is rich and very good, but I don’’t think it’’s too authentic.

  • I recommend drinking your Irish coffee black, with no coffee.

  • I contend that vendetta is a Gaelic word, not an Italian one.  After all, how many Italian people do you know who’’ve been fighting the same losing war for more than 900 years?  How many Irish people do you know like that?

  • I didn’’t kiss the Blarney Stone; we had a meaningful, long-term relationship.

  • Blarney is a much nicer word than bullshit.

NCAA Tournament

Here’s my idea on how to speed up the whole NCAA basketball tournament and maybe fit all of March Madness into March next year.  Just make the Big East tournament one of the brackets.

Thar She Blows

A nor’’easter is a vicious Atlantic coastal storm with high winds and lots of rain during which, because of the storm’s rotation, the winds over land are generally from the northeast.  Or, a nor’’easter was Saturday, Sunday and to a lesser extent, today.

Why was this one bad?  Well, we had more snow than average in February, and then we had a little warm weather which melted all the snow and softened the soil.  Next we had a lot of rain which softened the soil, and wind gusts at hurricane velocity that helped all those trees to go over.  Upstairs, my 100-year-old house shook noticeably in the wind.  It didn’’t feel as bad on the ground floor.  Seventeen foot waves were reported on Long Island’s ocean beaches.  I sometimes wonder who”s crazy enough to measure those.

Saturday night was a really bad time to be a pine tree on Long Island, or trapped beneath one.  Several people in the metropolitan area were killed by falling trees during the storm.  That, of course, is no laughing matter.  I also saw a Toyota that collided with a tree, but it appeared to be the tree’’s fault.  Another thing about nor’’easters, unlike hurricane, these babies stay around a while.  Saturday was the worst of it, but it’’s not supposed to be nice until Tuesday.

One day, in my high school physics class, I leaned too far back in a chair and fell backwards.  Everyone laughed at me and the teacher said, ““Tell us about center of gravity.””  When I see so many trees on the ground, I’’m reminded of that and marvel that all the trees don’t come down.  A 50-foot-tall tree might have a root system 12-feet around and nowhere near that deep.  It’’s kind of marvelous that all the roofs didn’’t blow away too.  Part of my garage roof went.  It’’s a corrugated metal roof and I managed to find it, but it was bent and partially torn.  I’’ve spent high five figures with one contractor over the past two years and he was nice enough to send someone over so I didn’’t have to climb on a wet roof in a brisk wind. 

If I want a permanent repair, I’’m going to have to go much farther because that kind of metal roofing isn’t available anymore.  The insurance adjuster is coming, but I don’’t know when yet.

I’’ll hold the big piece of aluminum trim in my back yard for a while in case someone wants to come looking for it, but I don’’t know who yet either.

Things I Want (Or Need) To Know

  • How did my empty garbage can wind up on the curb?  I don’’t think the wind blew it there.  And if the guys who collect the garbage don’’t leave the cans in the street, two to three feet from the curb, they’’ll get fired.

  • Explain this if you can; I know I can’’t.  I left my home in the morning, drove south on a two lane road to the nearest traffic light and stopped because it was red.  I activated my left turn signal to indicate that I intended to turn left when the light turned green.  A woman in a big, black SUV headed south toward the light on the same road.  My car is easy to see; it’s big too.  Yet she stopped to my left, headed south in the northbound lane.  I couldn’t see if her turn signal was on, but I really hoped she didn’t plan to turn right.  The light changed and she turned left.  Whew.  She didn’t expect me to turn with her because she turned into the extreme right lane.  She was in such a big damned hurry that she went one block and parked.  I proceeded to the nearby neighborhood deli, parked and checked my turn signals to see if they were working; they were.

  • The Marriage Ref:  didn’’t the prime time Jay Leno show teach NBC that to succeed, a comedy show should be FUNNY?

  • Someone on TV advised me that I would want to stay glued to my television set.  I never wanted to be glued to my TV set in the first place, so why would I want to stay glued to it?

  • I should have thought of this myself, but former radio personality Dick Summer did.  How can you possibly go to rehab if you’’ve never been to hab?

  • If you’’re out of context, where do you get more?     

  • Charlie Rangel stepped down temporarily as chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee.  I can’’t recall anyone stepping down from a committee chairmanship in Congress temporarily and getting it back.  Can you?

  • If super model Naomi Campbell’’s behavior is as bizarre as news reports, and police records would have you believe, my daughter wonders if it’’s because she’’s hungry all the time.

  • I’’ve noticed that the titles of many popular songs are in the form of questions, so when I want to pad my Things I Want (Or Need) To Know blog items, I will, from time to time, use one of those song titles beginning with this one:  Why don’t we do it in the road?

Politics in New York–Spelling It Out

New Yorkers, these days, are wishing they lived in New Jersey or Illinois.  The state Democratic Party is plagued with a Congressman accused of sexually harassing his male staff, another Congressman who has been in charge of writing tax laws who apparently didn’’t pay his taxes, a Governor who quit in disgrace after his involvement with prostitutes became public , another Governor who may be involved in trying to suppress domestic violence charges against one of his closest aides, and a State Senator who was expelled from the Senate after he was charged with slashing his girlfriend with broken glass.  Polls suggest the last guy has a shot at returning to the Senate when the special election is held soon. 

Have I left anything out?  Oh, yeah, Democrats control the Governorship, both houses of the State Legislature.  The Comptroller and Attorney General are also Democrats and the budget, which is due in three weeks, currently carries a projected $9 billion deficit.

Most disturbing of all, the New York State Republican Party is in such disarray that it doesn’’t seem to be able to use any of that to its advantage.  In fact, at this moment, the Republicans are talking about two possible candidates for Governor, an investment banker (not America’s most trusted or admired profession these days) and a Democrat.

Procrastination Problem

Former Arkansas Governor and candidate for the Republican nomination for President Mike Huckabee has a five-minute daily radio commentary program.  In New York it’s broadcast on WABC radio at about 5:55 AM.  This morning, Governor Huckabee informed his listeners that next week is National Procrastination Week.

No it’s not, Mike.  As already reported in this blog on Wednesday, National Procrastination Week is this week, March 1st to March 7th.  However, I don’t think anyone will mind if you don’t get around to celebrating it until next week.


I’ve been an appointed public official for more than half my life.  While I’m much more interested in government than in politics, I admit that makes me a politician.  Before I started in government, I reported on it.  After I started, I got a master’s degree in it.  I’ve taught it in college too.  I read about government on my job and in my spare time.  I don’t play golf at conferences; I attend all the sessions.  I’m something of a policy wonk, especially when it comes to property taxes and other government revenue.

Elected officials, and some appointed ones too, seek publicity.  So, when one of them is unethical, dishonest, immoral, does something illegal, or all four of those things, he or she deserves to get more publicity than someone who has spent his or her life out of the limelight.  I don’t know if there are more dishonest politicians than any other profession, but that publicity sure makes it seem as if there are.  And it reflects on all of us.

How much does it tear down everyone’s reputation?  Well, my late father-in-law, a good, decent, kind, and generous man, used to sit in my home and opine that all politicians are crooks.  He did that often enough that I became fed up.  Finally I said to him, “You can think anything you want to think, but if you say, ‘All politicians are crooks’ in my house one more time, you will no longer be welcomed in my house because I’m a politician and I’m not a crook.”

In my varied career I’ve done public relations and any competent PR person would advise a client to never frame an accusation.  Someone must have advised former President Nixon not to say things like, “I am not a crook,” but this was a private conversation among family.  I didn’t say it in front of cameras or microphones.  Until today, the fact that I said it was never in print either.

I believe my father-in-law never stopped thinking that at least the vast majority of politicians are crooks.  I don’t think he ever slipped up and said something like that in my presence again either.  I told you he was good, decent, kind, and generous.  I would not have wanted to grow up in that family.  I could never have married my wife if I did.  But if I had grown up in that family, I might be able to do a better imitation of normal than I can today.

So now we come to New York State government and the Governor of New York.  Mr. Patterson, there are negative stories about you in the news media every day.  All of them are about unethical behavior attributed to you.  Some of the accusations, if true, are felonious.  The last I heard, three top officials in your administration have resigned in the last week or so.  One of them may be implicated; the other two cited personal integrity.

Political capital is the sum of a leader’s various abilities to influence the course of government and political action.  Some of it is the ability to direct money, but there are many other aspects including charisma, respect, voter support in your last election, current support as judged by polls.  It’s a long list.

Governor Paterson, you have no more political capital.  You’ve squandered all of yours.  Your supporters’ strongest argument for you to stay is you’re going next January anyway.  You’re reinforcing the stereotype and giving the rest of the politicians a bad name.  I think you should go now.

Things I Know

  • This is National Procrastination Week.  Somebody’’s doing their job; I didn’’t find out until late Wednesday night. 

  • The website of “one of the country’s leading public relations and communications firms” (according to the firm itself on that very website) advises us that its training in public speaking can help people with their annunciation.  It really is a successful PR firm, so apparently they rely too heavily on computerized spell checking.  As far as I know, they mean enunciation.  Also as far as I know, the angel Gabriel is heaven and earth’’s only specialist in annunciation.  This firm couldn’’t have done PR for Gabriel.  It hasn’t been in business long enough for that.

  • The apple tree in back of my aunt’’s house was easy and fun to climb.  The pear tree in my back yard isn’’t.  If I was a lot younger, it still wouldn’’t be.

  • According to Garrison Keillor, March is the month designed by God to show people who don’’t drink what a hangover is like.

  • According to Rush Limbaugh, “Everybody should love baseball.”  If everybody did love baseball, I’’d have a hard time getting a seat for the game.

  • This morning on the Joe Scarborough radio show, one of his guests was Rafraf Barrak, an Iraqi woman whose story is told in a new book, Saved By Her Enemy.  She worked as an Iraqi-English translator for NBC news.  Since she is a native of Iraq, I expected her to speak English with a pronounced accent, but she sounds like a native speaker of English.  She even used the word “like” excessively, as if she were born in the United States within the last thirty or forty years.  I haven’’t read it, but based on the interview, the book sounds interesting.

  • In the classic book “1984”, George Orwell predicted the end of privacy, through interactive cable TV, although that medium had not been invented when he wrote the book.  I’’m sure Cablevision and WABC TV both have valid points and invalid ones too in their battle over fees and rights, but it really gripes me that Cablevision has reset my cable boxes so when I turn on the TV, I get their diatribe against WABC TV, even though I don’’t want it.  I set the boxes again so they turn on to whatever channel I was watching when I turned them off.  We’ll see if that sticks.

  • I was watching the closing ceremonies for the Winter Olympics.  I don’’t know why.  They were boring.  All of a sudden, the ceremonies were interrupted by this new show called ““Marriage Refs.””  After only a few minutes, I realized I didn’’t have enough giblet gravy or cranberry sauce to continue watching that turkey.