Friday, November 30, 2012

Rant #855: Happy Birthday

At this blog, I have celebrated the birthdays of those who are famous, and those who are not so famous, those who have changed our lives and those who have changed our lives maybe just a little bit.

Today, I am going to celebrate a birthday that is very important to me.

This guy may not have changed or shaped anyone else's life, but he certainly did mine, and for that matter, my sister and my mom too.

Today, my father turns 81 years of age.

He was born during a different era, when things were simpler, but still pretty hectic. The Depression was a time to reflect on how or when you might eat your next meal, and times were tough, really tough.

He lived on the Lower East Side of Manhattan with his immigrant parents and three younger siblings.

When the family became too large, they ventured out to the then uncharted area of Queens to live, which was quite a hike for them, as my grandfather owned a butcher shop on Delancey Street, and rather than it now being in the neighborhood, they now had to trek there by car.

My father was very smart in school--he skipped a grade or two--but his role was destined. He was going to work in the butcher store, and he became a butcher upon graduation from high school. He tells us he barely got out of school, but I really think he was too smart for school.

He served in the military during the Korean War. He was a Marine Corps cook, which is funny, because up until that point, I don't think he had cooked a day in his life. But the war effort saw he was a butcher, so they figured he could cook. Go figure.

He never went to Korea. He was supposed to go, but he had two sets of papers, and while the Marine Corps sorted this out, they put him in jail, so he says he has a jail record.

He did serve in Cuba, and he tells stories that I cannot repeat here about his dalliances with the natives. Very funny, but XXX-rated.

What I can tell you is that he served during a time when the Armed Forces were slowly being integrated, but very, very slowly. He says that the Marine Corps put him with others they considered "malcontents" because of his religion--Jews, Puerto Ricans and blacks were often lumped together--and he tells of the time when he was one of the few, if not the only, white person on a Marine Corps bus in the Deep South, and he was sent out to get sandwiches for his troop, because he was the only person that would be served.

Anyway, after he served his time in the Marine Corps, he went back to the store. My father could have gone to college, and in another time, he would have. But during those days, the oldest child, especially the oldest son, went to work to help support the family and to allow his siblings to continue their education.

That is what my father did, in fact, the day after he was out of the Marines, he went right to work.

His brother became a doctor and a teacher. His two sisters became teachers. 'Nuf said.

In the mid 1950s, he was set up on a blind date and met the lady who would become my mother. They will be married 57 years come January.

I came around in 1957, and my father gave up smoking cold turkey for me. The doctor told him to stop, because my mom was pregnant with me, and he did.

As I was growing up, I always looked up to my father. He worked long, hard hours as a butcher, but he was home on the weekends. He slept a lot on the weekends, but he always had time to play with my sister and me.

We played lots of ball, and his influence really made me a sports fan. He loved competition, and while he was a very good athlete, I wasn't, but it didn't stop him from pushing me, and I loved it.

He was my coach for a couple of seasons in Little League, and we won a couple of championships in our league. I vowed as a child that if I ever had a son, I would also coach him, and I kept my vow, coaching my own son for a few seasons. I hope my son, if he ever has a son, will follow this direction, too.

In the mid 1960s, faced with the loss of the butcher store because of some grand plan New York City had to build a highway right through it--which they never did--he became a full time, licensed New York City medallion cab driver. It took a lot of gumption to change your career in midstream like that, but he did it, and did it very successfully.

He owned his own medallion for decades. He still drives a cab a few days a week to this day.

He has been very successful as a cab driver, and I still remember that I picked out the colors--blue and white--of his first cab. In those days, cabs didn't have to be yellow, now they do.

Anyway, we later moved ourselves, from Queens out to the wilds of Long Island, and the move initially wasn't easy, but it all worked out for the better for our family.

Through it all, my sister and I graduated high school, college and graduate school. We are both pretty successful at what we do in life. My mom is the most active person I know, and she enjoys life to the fullest with my dad.

They have five grandchildren, four boys and one girl. I contributed one boy and one girl to that mix. And the kids love their grandparents, and worship their Zaydee.

My father lives downstairs with my mom in the same house as my family does. It has become a good arrangement. My wife and I help out when we can, and yes, my parents help us out too.

My father is every bit as competitive as he was when he was much younger. He has that spirit that will never leave him, and that keeps him going.

His hearing has deteriorated, he doesn't seem as tall to me as he once did, but his work ethic has never left him. Honestly, with his hearing in the state that it's in, I don't know how he drives a cab, but he does, and he still is a top booker. And he is honest as all hell. He won't take you 20 miles out of the way to get to your desination. He never did that when he was younger, and he won't do it now.

He is the patriarch of our family, and although he has weathered the years, he is as strong as an ox in at least mind if not body. But that body continues to allow him to do pretty much what he wants to do, so it is OK, too.

That picture I included here is my father in 1969 on his birthday in that year, when he turned 38. More than four decades later, he hasn't changed all that much.

So I salute my dad on his 81st birthday. He is probably the most important male figure in my life, bar none, my link to my past, my present, and yes, my future too, as is my mom.

I am so damn lucky to have both of them around. I love both of them so, even if we mix it up from time to time. That is the competitive nature in me, I guess.

Thanks to him, and my mom, for being there when I've needed them, and my family has needed them.

I don't know if we could have done it all without them.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Rant #854: Pong Ping

No, I did not win the Powerball jackpot. I think the winning tickets were purchased out west.

Oh, woe is me.

So let me move on from that to a day in history that will be immortalized by some, and for others, it's a day of infamy.

And for still others, well, it doesn't mean anything to them.

In 1972, 40 years ago, the so-called first video game, Pong, was introduced to the world.

No, it wasn't the world's first video game--even though it is identified by many as the first--but it was the first to be widely accepted by the public.

Created by Atari, the video game debuted at Andy Capp's Tavern in Sunnyvale, Calif.

Pong was the simplest of video games--basically, akin to tennis, it was just hitting an object back and forth--but it set the stage for later video games, the explosion of these games in the 1990s, and today's video game market, where not only are the games more life-like, but you can play these games online with people half way around the world from where you are.

I did play Pong. It was a real novelty at the time.

I remember playing it in a bowling alley, probably in Queens, maybe around this time or maybe in 1973.

It was kind of neat, but I never really got into video games at all.

Later, in the 1980s, I remember playing Qbert and Space Invaders and PacMan and lots of other video games, but I was a pinball machine guy, really.

Not a wizard, but I always found those games more challenging.

And they were more "real" to me. There was actually a ball darting down this maze.

With a video game, it was nothing but electronic figures going all over the place.

Not real to me, I guess.

My daughter and son got into video games, got out of them, and got back in them.

My son likes the sports-oriented ones, like the ones with the NBA and WWE stamp on them.

I know my daughter plays them, too, but I don't know what she goes for, certainly not the sports one.

My son as the Wii, and he is firmly content with what he has.

But he is too young to realize that the leap from the simpleness of Pong to the complexity of NBA 2012 took about 30 years to happen.

And it all stemmed from the popularity of Pong.

Once Pong took off, a new way to spend our time was created.

Board games survived, pinball machines survived, but well, it was never the same anymore.

And we can both blame and applaud Pong for helping to change the shape of the gaming world forever.

It's been 40 years, and things have changed a lot during that period of time.

Could I play Pong now? Sure I could, but honestly, I have better things to do with whatever free time I have now than to sit down and play a game where I am simply hitting a figure back and forth.

Here's to Pong, though. It's sort of the father of the video game, the link where all video games started, so for that reason, I have to give it its kudos.

Now onto more important matters ...

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Rant #853: Skywriting On the Wall

Today is the 90th anniversary of something so innocuous that I figured I would write about it here.

I am sure that this is probably the only place that you are going to be reading about this, so here goes.

In 1922, 90 years ago, the first skywriting demonstration was held.

Capt. Cyril Turner of the Royal Air Force spelled out "Hello USA. Call Vanderbilt 7200" over New York's Times Square.

The result: about 47,000 calls in less than three hours were made to that number, and so was born an advertising vehicle that exists to this day.

This was the first public exhibition of skywriting, so I assume that it had been tested and used prior to this, probably by the military.

We have all seen skywriting in the air, usually over very public events, or when we are at the beach.

The skywriting lasts a few minutes, and then goes away literally in a puff of smoke.

All different messages have been put in the air this way.

I have seen ads for suntan lotion, and I have seen marriage proposals.

It is a very unique advertising vehicle, because it's only readable for a few minutes, and then, it's gone.

Sometimes, these things are easy to read, while other times, you really have to stare at them for awhile to make them out.

Not being a pilot, I could never figure out how these things are done, anyway.

How does the pilot know what he is writing? How does he know to cross his t's and dot his i's?

I am sure there is some type of planogram that he uses so that he knows exactly what he is doing, but it's something I never figured out.

Maybe that's why I find skywriting so fascinating, in a subtle type of way.

It's something I simply don't get, and I wonder how someone one day decided that you could actually write messages in the sky.

No, it's not a morbid fascination, it's just one of those things that make life interesting.

You know, it falls into the "head scratching" category for me.

And to me, that's not a mere puff of smoke.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Rant #852: Cyber Fun Day?

So, did you spend scads of money on the Internet during Cyber Monday?

I didn't, but I know that millions did just that. And they did it while they were at work.

Cyber Monday is a day that has been created by the retail industry trade groups to kick start sales on the Internet.

Of course, this is commonplace now, but several years ago, it wasn't.

People couldn't imagine shopping electronically. Heck, you couldn't see and feel what you wanted, and you wouldn't get the extra rush of actually having the stuff immediately, rather than waiting for it.

Well now, shopping on the Internet has become commonplace. Seemingly everyone does it.

I have personally bought dozens of things on the Internet, mainly CDs and DVDs.

And today, people can get those types of things immediately, electronically.

Everything is a file nowadays.

The thing I can't figure out is how people buy more personal things on the Internet.

I am mainly talking about clothing, whether outerwear or underwear.

How do women know if a bra will fit properly if she buys it on the Internet?

How do you know if pants will look right, if tops will look right, heck, even if shoes will fit your foot right if you buy it on the Internet?

I guess it is the modern extension of buying from catalogs.

Since the first Sears catalogs in the 1800s, people have been buying somewhat blind when it comes to clothing.

But they buy ... and buy ... and buy.

I can't buy clothing like that, but millions of people can.

As it is, Cyber Monday has become a multi-billion dollar business.

Personally, I have all my gifts for the holiday, and my holiday is Hanukkah.

It comes on the evening of December 8, so it is a bit earlier than Christmas this year.

But happily, I did not have to buy into Cyber Monday this year.

For me, it was simply a normal Monday. I didn't interrupt my workday to buy like it was going out of style.

Did you?

Monday, November 26, 2012

Rant #851: Back to Business

Today we all get back to business after a long Thanksgiving Day weekend.

I had plenty of turkey this weekend. First, we had our own annual Thanksgiving Day feast.

I ate so much turkey that I was ready it explode; it was that good.

Then, on Saturday, we went over to my brother in law and had more turkey.

I watched myself at this one, what with the long drive and coming home late. I didn't eat much turkey, but enough to make me content.

Mix that in with turkey salad leftovers, and I was really happy that my wife cooked my son and I meatballs and pasta last night.

Did you shop 'til you dropped?

This morbid fascination with buying everything in the store at all hours really doesn't do anything for me. I didn't think there were that many bargains out there, anyway, although the way the department stores were advertising them, you would think they were giving up the store.

They weren't.

And as I thought, those protests about workers having to work on Thanksgiving fell to deaf ears.

Sure, the stores should not be open on the holiday, but until people stop wanting to shop on that day, the stores will be open.

And nobody says anything about other people who have to work that day. What about those working in restaurants, supermarkets, and the like ... why do they have to work?

The protests were nonsensical, and when I heard that many were manned not by people directly involved in the stores, but by Occupy New York imbeciles and their brethren around the country, I knew that the whole thing was a bunch of nonsense.

But anyway, we are all back to business today.

The holiday is but a memory, and now we have to go back to work.

I woke up at my usual time, went through my usual ritual to get ready for work, and in about 45 minutes, I will be off to the races.

Even though the holiday is a relatively long one, it goes fast, and this year, I had lots to be thankful for.

This was a good holiday, and I hope your holiday was as good as mine.

Now, "Back to the salt mines," as Mr. Rutherford used to say on "Leave It To Beaver."

The digging begins ...

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Rant #850: It's All About the Turkey ... and Family

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving, so this is my last Rant for the week.

I am taking a few days off. And that makes me happy. I need to relax, and I am very thankful for this little break that is coming my way.

I am also thankful for lots of other things as we enter one of the year's best holidays.

I am thankful that my home was not severely damaged by Hurricane Sandy.

I am thankful that my family is intact, there have been no major illnesses or injuries, and that we are all relatively healthy.

I am thankful that my pinched nerve seems to be responding to the regimen that I have adopted, and physical therapy too (I am still in a bit of pain, but it's not as bad as it was).

I am thankful I have a job to go to each workday. I complain about it, there are things that aren't right with it, but at least I bring home an honest paycheck.

I am thankful that my daughter, at long last, just told me that she found a job.

I am thankful that the Knicks are off to a great start, and that you always have a good shot with the Yankees.

I am thankful that the Nassau Coliseum will not be razed, and it appears it will be reconfigured to showcase concerts and high school and college athletics. The final word isn't in yet, but it looks like the Coliseum will live on.

I am thankful that I have the best wife, and good kids, and that my parents are still around to enjoy all of this.

And I am thankful that I bought a big enough turkey to fill the brood that is coming here tomorrow: in addition to my family, my sister's family too.

I had to haggle a bit, but I got a decent turkey. Don't ask. A certain supermarket chain runs an ad that they "can't be beat," on the price of turkeys; I beat their price, and they still give me an argument about the definition of what a "frozen" turkey is.

But I prevailed, which was nice.

So to all of you, have a nice holiday.

And remember, it is all about the turkey ... and family.

You can't have a real Thanksgiving without both.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Rant #849: Thanksgiving Day Turkey

Thanksgiving Day is right around the corner, and I am looking forward to all of those Black Friday sales (not).

But something has come up this year which might just spoil the dressing, if you know what I mean.

Numerous stores have decided to open on Thanksgiving Day, and begin their Black Friday sales a couple of hours early.

This has numerous people happy, because they can begin their shopping early.

This also has numerous people livid, because now they have to go to work on a day that is supposed to be dedicated to family.

Black Friday is bad (or good) enough; now we also have Black Thursday to contend with.

It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out why the stores are opening on Thursday.

It is to get a competitive advantage.

And yes, people will shop on Thursday, all full of Turkey and with, what they feel, is nothing else to do on the holiday once all their guests have left and the leftovers are firmly tucked away.

But those that have to work, to keep their jobs, protest. They believe that this is the only day of the year that they can really spend top to bottom with their families.

Two major chains, Wal-Mart and Target, are opening on Thursday, and this has riled their employees.

From what I read, there will be protests at these stores. Target employees already have a petition out against opening on Thursday, with thousands of signatures.

Yes, I do feel it is wrong to open on Thanksgiving Day. That is a day that is supposed to be wholly about family, not about sales.

But on the other hand, people will shop 'til they drop if given the opportunity. And stores have a right to play into that, by staying open.

I don't know how the workers are getting paid that day, but I am sure they are not making their normal rate, in particular if they are hourly workers. Anybody hear double and triple time?

But the bottom line is that what makes opening on Thursday any different than the idiocy that goes on the very next day?

Stores open early, real early, on the Friday after Thanksgiving.

And idiots line up to shop, bursting upon the stores hours before they open.

All that some stores have done this year is to push the hours up a bit.

Yes, it is wrong, very wrong, to open on Thanksgiving. But the stores make oodles of money on Black Friday, pushing them into the black, hence the name Black Friday.

They just want to make oodles more, and that is why they are opening on Thursday.

Again, I don't like it, and no, I won't be shopping on Thursday and hopefully not Friday.

But I have to look at both sides, and both sides are right in this case.

I, myself, have worked in the past on Thanksgiving, and it isn't too much fun.

I do feel for the workers, and I hope that this is the only Thanksgiving they have to work.

Maybe, if people stayed away, then these stores would see that it is not economically feasible for the stores to open on that day.

But you just know that shoppers won't stay away that day.

They are full of turkey, figuratively, literally, and stupidly, as far as I am concerned.

Stay home. Show the stores that Thanksgiving is one day that everyone should enjoy, and enjoy on their own terms.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Rant #848: Twinkies Fallout

I am sure that you have read that Hostess Brands, the maker of the eponymous Twinkies franchise, has gone under.

Yes, they have gone out of business.

Their unions were told of their plans last week, told if they didn't accept what the parent company was offering, they would have to terminate business.

In one of the stupidest union moves ever, the union called the parent company's bluff, and now, they have no jobs to fight for.

Stockholders of the parent company will make millions off this deal, as brands like Wonder Bread and Ding Dongs will be sold to the highest bidder.

And that include Twinkies.

What happened after the company went under is one that you have to scratch your heads about.

People ran out and bought every Twinkie they could fine--the regular vanilla filled ones, even the chocolate ones.

The bought boxes and boxes of the stuff, and figured now would be the time to make a killing.

They put their purchases up on eBay, asking for upwards of $100 for a box of Twinkies.

Don't get me wrong, I enjoy Twinkies. I just had a few last week. I didn't even realize we had them, and my son and I ate them before all this nonsense started.

It isn't the same Twinkie that I grew up with. Yes, they are good, but they are a bit more dense than I remember them to be, not too fluffy anymore. That's probably because they use corn syrup, not real sugar anymore.

Anyway, would you spend $100 a box for a Twinkie fix, especially when it is almost a certainty that these things will come out once again in the near future through another manufacturer?

People knock Twinkies because they aren't healthy, but heck, if you are eating these things, you are not looking for their health benefits.

I saw that someone on Facebook said the reason that the company went out was because they didn't make their products healthier.

Come on. There is no such thing as a healthy Twinkie, and there will never be a healthy Twinkie.

You want healthy things, eat granola, or real yogurt.

You are not going to reap any health benefits from a Twinkie, and its makers knew that.

People knock Twinkies, but people love them too. If you don't want to eat it, just don't.

But $100 for a box of Twinkies? No, I draw the line.

Where's Little Debbie when you need her ... err, it?

Friday, November 16, 2012

Rant #847: Working For the Weekend

It's Friday.

Thank goodness.

The only problem is that Friday is not Saturday nor Sunday. Friday is not the weekend.

I may have Friday on my mind, but I really have the Friday after work on my mind, and the two days that follow it.

It has really been a rough few weeks for everyone in my neck of the woods, what with the hurricane, the nor'easter, and adjusting to life after that.

And as I have said, my family was really, really lucky. I can only imagine what others have had to go through, and will continue to go through.

As for me, these weeks have been long and rough, and I am just looking forward to some relaxing time.

It has just been announced that gas rationing will end this weekend, so the odd/even thing is out the door.

It seemed to work, and the only question I have to our governor is why it wasn't imposed earlier?

I waited 10 hours for gas one weekend on four different lines. Ridiculous, but it was me and thousands of others who killed a weekend doing that.

There is nothing special about this coming weekend, no Knicks games, no celebrations of birthdays, nothing like that.

It's just a time to relax, and although you can't fully relax as a parent, at least you can wind down a little.

And that is what I hope to do.

So I will see you Monday.

And you know what? Next week is a really short week with Thanksgiving coming up, so relaxation looms.

And no, I won't be running out on Black Friday to do my shopping.

That wouldn't be very relaxing, would it?

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Rant #846: Baseball, Anyone?

In the midst of all of this hurricane stuff, sports remains as one of our personal outlets for our frustrations.

Sure, sports fans do live through their teams and individual players, but in the middle of the rubble, it is almost comforting to know that sports are right there for us ...

That is, unless you are a hockey fan. The National Hockey League lockout continues, with no end in sight.

On other fronts, football and basketball are in full swing, and on my end, the Knicks look real good. Is it a mirage or is their 5-0 start--including one victory that my son and I saw in person--the real thing?

And then we go onto baseball, our national pastime.

Yes, lots of baseball news in November.

If you like trades, the Jose Reyes trade from the Marlins to the Blue Jays is a blockbuster, once again totally depleting the Miami team and fortifying the Toronto team, making them contenders with just about every other team in that division (except the Red Sox).

And to make matters even more interesting, the leagues announced their respective Cy Young Award winners yesterday, signifying that these two pitchers were the best at what they did last season.

David Price of the Rays won in the American League, and R.A. Dickey of the Mets won in the National League.

No real surprises here. Price and Dickey dominated their leagues, even though neither team they pitched for made the playoffs.

In fact, the Mets were so bad last year--only prevented from ending up in last place in their division by the totally awful and now dismantled Marlins--that Dickey was probably the one and only bright spot they had last year.

And the two pitchers couldn't be different.

Price is a sleek, classic pitcher with an assortment of nasty pitches. He throws hard.

Dickey, once a pitcher to kick around, throws just about one pitch now, and he throws soft.

He throws a knuckleball.

Not too many knuckleballers are successful, and not too many win the Cy Young Award.

None did before Dickey, but Dickey was so dominant most of the time, that voters simply could not ignore him.

So right in the middle of November, with frost on the cars that survived Hurricane Sandy, the focus is on baseball.


The national pastime lives on and on and on.

No matter how many ignorant people knock it, it stands as the only 12-month-a-year sport.

And I love it, I really do.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Rant #845: Getting Better All the Time

Yes, things are getting better all the time.

In the wake of Hurricane Sandy and the nor'easter that followed, things are really getting better, at least for most of us that were greatly impacted by those weathre disturbances.

Just about all of us have power, which is a major step in the right direction.

Gas lines have either shortened to next to nothing or they don't exist at all.

Yes, things are getting back to normal.

But for many, that just isn't the case.

Those who have lost their homes or are still flooded out of their homes don't know what normal is yet, and they won't know what it is for some time.

Many seaside communities are still without power, and many are so lacking that you can say that they are without hope.

Each home has to be inspected to see if it is safe to start up the power again.

The problem is that the water is still so deep in many cases that it isn't safe at all to turn on the juice.

And the inspection process is slow and arduous, and, of course, that really rankles people.

And that's for the people that still have some semblance of their homes.

Others are homeless, and will remain homeless for some time.

Housing has to be erected, to keep those people in their communities while they rebuild.

I am sure some people will just throw up their hands and leave, but others will stick it out.

Where they will stick it out is another problem, and that is why temporary housing is severely needed in some seaside areas.

This might be a somewhat nasty thing to say in light of these peoples' problems, but I am going to say it anyway.

If I had the money for a home, I would never, ever build near the water.

And I do mean never.

As a teenager, I had friends who lived right on the water. Their backyard was the Great South Bay.

I remember the mother saying that anytime there was a heavy rain, their basement leaked, and there really wasn't anything they could do about it.

That was a long time ago, and that family isn't there anymore.

I presume the house still is, and if it is, you can just imagine the damage that the hurricane inflicted on that house this time around.

Years ago, when my family was moving from Queens to Long Island, our family was supposed to live near the water, not on the water, but very much near it.

Happily, those deals fell through, and we moved to an area that is close enough to the water but far enough away.

Water is a great thing, it keeps us going, but as we saw this time, it can take away things from us too.

I hope those that have been ravaged by these weather disturbances can get their lives together, but as we have seen, it is going to be tough.

But for the rest of us, things are slowly, very slowly, getting better.

And that's good.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Rant #844: Diversions

Last week was an extremely hard week for everyone in my neck of the woods.

Hopefully, we are all getting back to a semblance of what we used to call normal.

But good or bad, this past weekend was planned by me months ago, and although Hurricane Sandy and the nor'easter may have put a damper on it, my family and I still dove right into it.

On Friday evening, my son and I took in an NBA game, the New York Knicks versus the Dallas Mavericks at Madison Square Garden.

The Knicks won, 104-94, and are currently the only team in the league with a perfect record.

But what's more interesting is that another phase of Madison Square Garden's renovation in in force, and for the life of me, I didn't know where I was going when we tried to get to our seats.

Evidently, certain escalators, entrances, and what I found out later, exits, are closed during the renovation, so it isn't a clear path to your seat anymore, especially if you sit in the fabled upper deck 400 seats.

So my son and I walked around, were completely lost, and even some ushers didn't know where we should go.

And for the first time in my life, I actually took an elevator in the Garden.

Finally, we found our seats, only to be told that they weren't our seats. We were in the wrong section, and had to move.

Funny, but we later found out the people sitting ahead of us in the were also in the wrong section, and had to move, too. They were from Ireland, and it was their first NBA game there.

On Saturday, it was my wife's birthday. She is five months older than me, but to me, she looks at least five years younger than she actually is.

Anyway, we did everything we normally do on a Saturday, and then in the evening, we went out big.

I spent a bundle at a local fish restaurant, and then we came home, and watched a movie that was better than I thought it would be, "Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter." This movie was out for about a day a few months back, but it kept my interest and was much more engrossing than I thought it would--or could--be.

Not the new Spielberg film, but a pleasant surprise.

On Sunday, we went to see the new James Bond movie, "Skyfall."

It was good, not great. Funny, the beginning of the film was good, the ending was good, but the middle was putting me to sleep. They could have cut at least a half hour from the film, but all in all, it was a good film.

It demonstrates the "bond" between boss "M" and her favorite agent, and that bond actually saves both of them throughout almost the entire film ... almost. I won't go into it if you didn't see it yet.

Daniel Craig is growing on me as Bond, but he is no Sean Connery, and he is not even George Lazenby, to be honest with you.

But he is OK, just not in the same league with the top Bond portrayers.

And if you see the film, the title song is OK, but Adele is no Shirley Bassey. The song needed the oomph Bassey would provide, but Adele just doesn't have it.

The other uncredited song in the film, which is not on the soundtrack as far as I can see, is "Boom Boom," but I couldn't make out what version this John Lee Hooker song was. It kind of sounded like the Animals' version, but I might be wrong on that one.

So, all in all, it was a great weekend after a horrible week. I was able to get gas with no problem, although the prices are starting to get crazy.

But at least I have gas.

I might add that my daughter and sister finally have power in their living quarters, just getting it this weekend. Thanks goodness for that.

Let's see what the week brings. It can't possibly be as bad as last week was.

(I'm off to the doctor, so I will speak to you again on Wednesday.)

Friday, November 9, 2012

Rant #843: Odds and Evens

New York City and Long Island--Nassau and Suffolk counties--have implemented an odd/even gas system based on your license plate number.

They have done this to alleviate the long lines at gas stations since the coming of Hurricane Sandy and then the coming of the nor'easter afterwards.

Based on your license plate, if you have an odd number, you can fill up on odd numbered days; if you have an even number, you can fill up on even numbered days.

Those with vanity license plates can fill up either by whatever number is used on the plate--using the odd/even scheme--or if they don't have a number, they are considered to be odd (which isn't all that much off for people like this, by the way).

This program has worked in New Jersey, and hopefully, it will work in New York.

Last weekend, I waited a total of 10 hours on four lines, about two and a half hours apiece on these lines.

Only two of the lines proved to be worth it, as I was able to fill up my gas tanks--for my car and my wife's car--at two of the stations.

But I wasted five hours at two other stations, sitting there and doing nothing.

I am hoping that this process won't happen again, but since I am an even person, I can't get gas until Saturday, November 10.

My wife is an odd person (no, not really, but in this program she is), so she can get gas today or on Sunday.

This is the life we have to live now, and hopefully, it won't be that long before we get to normal.

But what is normal?

Is normal to be without electricity for more than a week and a half, like some people have been--my sister and my daughter included in that bunch?

Is normal to go to sleep in a house that is as cold as it is outside, in the 40s?

Is normal to see your house in ruins, and you are, in this instance, homeless?

Just what is normal now?

I don't know, but for those people whose lives have been incredibly changed by these weather events, I hope normal gets back to normal soon.

This is a catastrophe, one that will cost in the billions of dollars to fix. It has ruined lives, irreparably damaged our greatest resource, our people.

Maybe this is just a minor first step, but I think the gas rationing is a great idea.

Sure, it is a first step, but it could lead to something better.

Like getting back to the way we lived before these weather disturbances took that away from us.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Rant #842: Just When You Thought Things Couldn't Get Worse ...

I mean, the Northeast has had enough already.

First, we get Hurricane Sandy, our own Hurricane Katrina, and it tears apart our infrastructure like no other storm in my memory.

Then, yesterday, as if to add insult to injury, we get a nor'easter that dumps several inches of snow on us, brings massive winds, and further delays any normalcy that was brought down by Sandy.

What's a poor region to do?

My sister and my daughter still do not have any power in their respective living quarters.

My son has no school again.

It is a real mess.

I went out there today to clean off my car, and we got plenty last night.

It appears to be mainly wet snow, and as a further insult to injury, it will probably be all gone by the weekend, as it is supposed to hover in the 60-degrees range starting tomorrow.

We have had it up to here in my neck of the woods.

We can't stand it anymore.

And the frustration of people who have had nothing for the past week and a half is starting to show on their faces.

These are weather disturbances, so you really can't blame any one thing for them.

The people who have been entrusted with fixing things are doing the best they can under very trying circumstances.

Unfortunately, we just have to wait things out.

Things can only get better, because they can't get much worse.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Rant #841: Congratulations

Congratulations to President Barack Obama, who won a second term as our commander in chief yesterday.

I guess people like the "same old, same old," because the President won in a race that was close until about 11 p.m. last night, when he took the bull by the horns and thrashed his opponent, Mitt Romney.

I think we all know what "swing states" are now--I am sure that Romney certainly knows that now.

I think the problem with Romney is that he never really connected with the people, the common people, the people like you and me.

He came off as brash, aloof, looking down at much of the populace, even if that wasn't exactly true.

That is how the media portrayed him, so that is what he was.

The media was much more friendly with the President, and you just know that that helped his campaign tremendously.

Romney also did not connect with Hispanic voters, the voting block that is growing more than any other.

Bob Schieffer on CBS said something to the effect that one senator said to him that the country was having a "lower number of white guys" voting than ever before, but more and more Hispanics.

And he never connected with them, or a good number of the populace.

So what do we have in store for the next four years?

It is hard to say.

The economy remains a shambles, and unemployment is high.

We are still fighting overseas, and we are still dependent on others for oil.

Will any of these things change during the next four years?

I really don't know.

We voted for the "same old, same old," so will these areas remain the "same old, same old," and not move an inch?

Now that the race is over, my neck of the woods can concentrate on other things, like the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy and the coming nor'easter, which can't help matters that are already unmanageable for so many people in the Northeast.

My sister and daughter still are completely without power, gas lines are long, and people's nerves are starting the reach the breaking point.

Now that the campaign is out of the way, I don't know what President Obama can do about these things, but we need help here.

Let's hope things for the people in need get better real quick.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Rant #840: Vote, Vote, Vote

I have voted.

My polling place was lucky enough to be open and with power, and I voted there earlier today.

I am going to tell you who I voted for.

I voted for the guy that I felt could lead this country the most competently during the next four years.

I voted for the guy who I feel will make my life and the lives of my family and friends better over the next four years.

I voted for the guy who I felt most comfortable with, even though both major candidates give me the shakes.

I voted for the guy who I think can help us out of our economic doldrums, the guy who will lay down the law and tell big business what is right and what is wrong.

I voted for the guy who I believe will lead us out of Afghanistan, and let those people do their own governing ... and killing.

I voted for the guy who seemingly has a nice family, a solid marriage, and practices good values.

I voted for one of the two major candidates, because while I don’t really like either candidate, I feel that since the race is so close, every vote will, in fact, count this time around.

I voted for ———— as President of the United States.

And if he wins, I hope he can do the job.

I really do.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Rant #839: Over and Out

I am going to make this brief, because my eyes are bothering me big time once again.

But this weekend was bad, really bad.

As I predicted, getting gas was like finding a needle in a haystack/

I waited at a total of four stations for two cars. Two I was able to get gas at, two I wasted hours and hours of time and came up with nothing.

Most people were civil.

However, when I filled up my wife's car's tank, I had a slight incident that was perpetuated by the police who were there to patrol such things.

I was sent over to a specific pump, and someone cut the line and took my place.

I got out of my car, and screamed, "Someone cut the line!"

A cop came over and shouted to me, "This is a gas station, and there is no shouting here."

I reiterated what I said, and he told me to get back in the car or he would physically remove me from the premises.

The guy who cut me off not only fills up his car, but takes out a few gas cans.

I get out of my car, and talk to another person pumping gas.

The same cop tells me that if I don't get in the car, he would throw me out of there.

I went back into my car.

I should have known.

As I approached the service station, I asked another cop what price gas was here, because many places had been price gouging.

He tells me, "80 dollars."

Yes, I should have known.

Better luck next time.

But at least my wife and I have gas.

So many people don't, and the lines haven't gone away so quick just yet.

Hopefully, we will only have to bear with this until the weekend--when I probably will need gas again.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Rant #838: Gas Attack

Yes, I consider myself and my family to be very, very lucky when it comes to Hurricane Sandy.

Other than two hanging wires on our block that will have to be fixed, as well as a tree that toppled over on our neighbor’s lawn, we really didn’t have too many problems with the storm.

But just go about one-quarter to one-half mile away from us, and you will be in God’s Country. It really is that bad.

The one obstacle that we are going to have to face is the lack of availability of gas.

Lines are long, people are getting nervous, and gas deliveries are being handled as almost the second coming of the Messiah for those without gas.

I fueled up my car on Saturday morning, not because I felt the coming storm would disrupt matters so much, but I was most worried about the jacked-up price of gas after the hurricane.

Now, I don’t think too many people are really caring that much about the price; they just hope they can get the gas.

Right outside our window at work is a gas station, and the lines at this station have been something I haven’t seen since the gas crisis in 1973 or 1974.

And people’s tempers are starting to flare up. It’s one thing to wait for gas, it’s another to wait a whole day for gas.

The people who own hybrids are probably laughing their butts off now.

That is, unless, they need to charge their cars. With so many people not having electricity now, where does it leave these owners who don’t have any power?

It’s a mess, a real mess, and it doesn’t look like it is going to improve anytime soon.

Me, I still have a little less than three-quarters of a tank, so I am not in need of gas right now.

But come early next week, I will need to refuel.

Where do I do it and when?

I will probably be better off to find a 24-hour station that has gas and go late at night or in the early morning, which means I will have to fill up on Saturday evening-Sunday morning.

Me and a million other guys.

What a pain in the butt this is!

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Rant #837: Back to Normal (?) Part 2

Everything is trying to get back to normal after the devastation caused by Hurricane Sandy, but it isn't going very quickly.

Mass transit is trying to come back to order. There are some limited trains--Long Island Railroad and New York City subway--but the going is still tough, as most of the lines are still out.

More and more people are now able to get back to work. This was a "vacation" that nobody foresaw or really wanted.

But there is still lots to go before we can be back to "normal."

For one thing, the schools have yet to open, and I seriously doubt that they will be open again this week.

In my community, many continue to be without power, and probably won't have power for days, if not longer.

Most banks are not open, so if you want to make a deposit or take money out or pay your bills, you may be stuck (my wife's bank is one of the few that is open).

Supermarkets are open, but most without power. You can forget about chill or frozen goods. You can't get them, and the availability of canned and shelf-stable items is dwindling.

Driving continues to be hazardous without lights to guide you.

People are doing funny things on the road, because they don't have the lights to slow them down.

And gas. That has become another problem.

Many people didn't take this thing seriously, and now find that their car's gas tanks are low. So they are filling up now, but so many are filling up, that gas availability is low and getting lower.

The lines are unprecedented, reminding me of the gas lines we experienced in the 1970s during gas rationing.

Right outside my place of work is a gas station that remains open, but after yesterday--with hundreds of cars trying to fill up--I wonder if they will be open again today.

Yes, I went to work yesterday. We were fortunate to have power, but no Internet or email, which hampered us to a degree. Most of us were there, and most of us still do not have power at our homes.

No, we are not even near normal right now.

It is going to have to take baby steps to get back to normal.

So right now, I don't even know when that will happen.

(And as a sidelight, this Sandy is a "he," not a "she." So why is everyone, including the so-called informed news media, referring to it as a "she"?)

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