Nov 30, 2009

Dissertation Defense Date

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It looks like I will be defending my dissertation this Wednesday, which represents the last hurdle in my quest for a PhD. I now get to spend the next 48 hours or so of my life preparing for the academic inquisition, so I suspect I will have little time or motivation to update the blog.

When we next converse, I will either have passed my defense or be booted from the world of serious academia.

Excuse me while I vomit... I don't suppose they make a human version of the 4396841 filter, do they?

Nov 29, 2009

The Quote Shelf

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Medieval text with Latin script A frequent feature on this site; feel free to comment on the quote or to supply a competing quote.

One foot in the door
The other foot in the gutter
The sweet smell that you adore
Yeah I think I'd rather smother.


-- The Replacements, "I Don't Know"

Nov 27, 2009

Jap Restaurant?

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I doubt that the owners of this restaurant intentionally manipulated their neon sign, but I am reluctant to assume that it was just mere chance that caused the sign to malfunction in such a derogatory fashion. Yoko Japanese Restaurant restaurant is in a strip mall off Dussel Drive near Arrowhead Park in Maumee, Ohio, but its neon sign is reminiscent more of anti-Japanese sentiment during the Second World War.

The sign's colors seemed festive, as it was lit up like an artificial Christmas tree. However, my eyes kept returning to the letters, and I wondered why the proprietors would not race to get this sign fixed. Then again, perhaps the strange neon outage is cause for conversation, working like negative PR.

It certainly caused me to pause and blog.

A 100,000 Mile Odometer

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While driving up to visit with my grandfather today, the odometer on my 1995 Hyundai Accent rolled over past the 100,000-mile mark. Since I had my camera with me, I pulled over to the side of the road and photographed the occasion.

I liked how the odometer crisply and quickly changed past the 100K mark, unlike some previous vehicles that started turning the digits around 98,000 miles or so. This appealed to the part of my that likes symmetry and balance, though others might refer to this tendency in a disparaging manner, such as "anal retentivity" or excessive geekiness."

Anyways, this vehicle has been quite a bargain. I purchased it about 30 months ago with 79,000 miles for a mere $700, and the car has required less than $600 in repairs over that time. In fact, this vehicle has been so sturdy that I may next look in the Yellow Pages for RV repair instead of regular auto repair.

OK, a bit of hyperbole, that.

Nov 26, 2009

On Thanksgiving Dinners and List-Making

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My lovely wife is one of those people who really enjoys cooking Thanksgiving dinner, and her excitement is contagious, though not to the extent that I actually engaged in cooking anything. Her planning begins many days before the holiday, and she multi-tasks in the week prior to Thanksgiving to make sure the meal is as close to perfect as possible.

She is also one of those people at whom I marvel who prepare and follow thorough lists for projects. I noticed her detailed list of Thanksgiving dinner preparations on the counter this morning, and I snapped a photograph for posterity. And yes: she continued to check off items as they reached the desired phase of completeness.

I have never been able to cultivate the habit of list-making, though I am awed by people like my wife who regularly use this intelligent activity. Too much of my life has been spent regretting items I forgot to purchase at the store or errands I failed to remember to carry out. List-making is an excellent tool to prevent befuddled people like me from screwing up, yet we just cannot seem to get it together long enough to actually compile such lists.

In years past I possessed the mental clarity to be able to keep everything straight in my head, but I no longer can manage even an average day without forgetting some tasks. Perhaps instead of writing about list-making I ought to force myself to actually create lists. I will start as soon as I find my pen, which fell on the kitchen floor tiles and rolled under the refrigerator, where I noticed that there was a lot of dust and crud, so it will have to wait until I scrub this area down, plus the inside of the microwave, which is covered with speckled pasta sauce from my son when he reheated a leftover arrabbiata dish the other day.

What did I say I was going to do again?

Nov 25, 2009

An Obnoxious Bill Collector Tale

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One of my adult children who moved out has wound up in some financial difficulty, and bill collectors have recently been tying up my home phone line with a series of annoying calls. Over the years my other kids have also struggled at times, and unfortunately I am no stranger to listening to these collection efforts for other peoples' financial woes.

Many collection agencies are quite amenable to removing my number from their databases after I explain that Person A no longer lives here. A few will try to glean a new address or new telephone number, but in the end the calls usually cease.

That is, until a "Mr. Parker" from a collections company called OMNI Credit Services (OCS) began bombarding my house with calls. I know that bill collection is difficult work, and that these collectors likely take some serious abuse, but "Mr. Parker" is in a league of obnoxiousness far beyond anyone I can recall.

After I returned the call and explained that Person A no longer lives here, that I had only an old cell phone number for Person A, and that I wanted my number removed from the database, he insisted he could not make this happen until I gave him a current phone number and address for Person A. This of course is a complete fabrication, as the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act clearly note that collection and location efforts are limited to a single inquiry. Yet it was the way he tried to grill me, cop-style, that really irked me; he told me that if I "would just cooperate and give me the contact information, we could remove your number."

R-i-i-ght.

Then it was a series of really personal questions far beyond the scope of a collection effort:

"Do you still talk to the the mother of [Person A]? Can she get a message to her?" (Like it is any of his business about my marriage)

"Is [Person A] homeless? That is the only reason why you wouldn't know the address." (THAT's a great way to get me to do his investigative work - make me feel like I need to defend my kid's financial status)

"Why don't you have a current contact number for [Person A]? Aren't you on speaking terms?" (Again - the status of my relationship with my kid is none of his business)

On and on. I just kept sticking to my monotone mantra: "This is not my bill. Take me out of your database."

Finally, he said that "he just wanted to find someone who cared about the debt, since it is obvious you don't care."

I lost my cool: "You're right I don't care, motherf***er: IT'S NOT MY BILL!"

He hung up.

Of course, now that I blew my cool, "Mr. Parker" had the high moral ground. I hit redial and got the twit back on the phone, where he proceeded to tell me that he "deals with rude people like you all the time, and since I didn't want to cooperate, OCS would continue to call my house." This time I hung up.

Yet a moment of insight hit me, and I called back the main number at OCS and asked for a customer service representative. This new rep was polite, took the same information, and promised me that my number would be removed from their database, as easy as ordering industrial supplies from an online vendor.

So if you run into a bill collector who refuses to follow federal law, simply hang up, call back, and find a different collections rep. This was much easier than getting into a shouting match with an idiot like "Mr. Parker." Of course, if you have time on your hands, you can record these calls and document the abusive behaviour, as § 813 - Civil liability of FDCPA calls for fines up to $1,000 against bill collectors who knowingly violate the law.

Me? I have better things to do with my time.

On Institutional Administrators and Empty Sentiments

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I came across a gift that an employer gave me a few years ago in lieu of a pay raise or some tangible benefit. I am sure that the small gift was intended by the administrator who approved the multi-dollar expenditure to convey some sort of gratitude for the services I and other part-time employees provided, but the "Great Job" ribbon pictured on your left seemed a bit hollow and insincere.

Mind you, when budgets are tight I understand that there is not much room for employee appreciation gestures, and any effort to thank employees is better than nothing. However, this ribbon seemed impersonal and meaningless, and some coworkers considered it an insult.

I mostly found my ribbon to be puzzling.

I always believed that a lack of money did not mean an end to demonstrations of gratitude, and a heartfelt note or letter would have carried a great deal of significance. We taught our children that some homemade gift created by loving hands meant more to us than a store-bought item, especially if they were short on cash. Perhaps this administrator never learned such a lesson: heck, even a package of leftover humidifier filters would have greater value than a generic piece of printed fabric.


Or perhaps this person is simply far removed from the lives of regular folks, and never considered how strange it might be to receive a ribbon instead of a raise. Anyways, for some reason I saved this gift, and it may one day remind me of the importance of recognizing the hard work of my coworkers or subordinates in a meaningful way.

Nov 24, 2009

Wired for Sleep: Continuing My Apnea Saga

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In a previous post I discussed my first sleep study, which documented my until then undiagnosed problems with sleep apnea. Last night I participated in another sleep study, and the picture on the left depicts me with dozens of electrodes glued to my body.

The purpose of the second study was to evaluate my sleep while wearing a full facial mask supplied with airflow from a Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) machine. It took me a while to get used to the mask and the changes in breathing associated with this device, but I eventually wound up with about five hours of decent sleep (I eventually fell asleep while thinking of mundane topics, like types of RV insurance and the number of ceiling tiles in the room). I was actually disappointed when the technicians woke me at 5:30 am, as I would have liked another 3-4 hours of such deep sleep.

Now I wait for the sleep doctor, the medical supply company, and the insurance to finish their haggling. With a little good fortune I will be able to procure a mask and a machine tomorrow, though I suspect the Thanksgiving holiday may delay until next week the commencement of CPAP-aided sleep.

Still, if it improves my quality of life (at least my constant tiredness), it will be worth the wait.

Nov 23, 2009

The Quote Shelf

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Medieval text with Latin script A frequent feature on this site; feel free to comment on the quote or to supply a competing quote.

Even in a perfect world,
Where everyone was equal
I would still own the film rights
And be working on the sequel.


-- Elvis Costello, "Every Day I Write The Book"

Nov 21, 2009

Taking in a Red Wings Game at Joe Louis Arena

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Photo by historymike

My dad called me yesterday afternoon to inform me of his sudden acquisition of two tickets to see the Detroit Red Wings on home ice at the Joe Louis Arena. Despite the outcome of the game - the WIngs lost 2-1 in overtime to the Florida Panthers - I enjoyed the evening for a number of reasons.

It is always great to spend time with my dad, a person I wish I would have made more time for when I was younger. He is knowledgeable about the game, and he helped me catch up to speed on the 2009-2010 Red Wings, as I have been so absorbed in research and writing that I paid little attention to non-dissertation matters the past four months.

And of course, he is my dad.

Yet this was something of a homecoming for me at Joe Louis, as I managed some of the food and beverage operations for the Ilitch family for eight years after Mike Ilitch bought the team. There were of course many changes, and Olympia Entertainment (the newer name of my old employer) has spent millions over the years improving the facility. When I first started working there in 1982, the building was mostly a drab gray edifice with only the barest of accommodations for patrons. Ilitch continued to pour cash into Joe Louis Arena in the almost 20 years since I moved on, and I was impressed with the amenities.

A 21st century hockey game is of course different from the games I remember from the 1980s, and there are non-stop video and audio components to the way that hockey is packaged for its current fans. This reflects the growing influence of digital consumers, the kind of fans who grew up playing video games and wearing iPods from early ages. Every stop in play means either a multimedia advertisement or some form of on-ice entertainment, and I found it difficult to talk hockey with my dad.

Of course, at age 45 I am on the older edge of the targeted demographics for NHL marketers. It should not be surprising that I found somewhat annoying the sound and visual accoutrements of the modern hockey game, and it is also telling that one of the high points of my visit to Joe Louis Arena was learning that 92-year-old Budd Lynch still serves as the public address announcer.

Yes, I am becoming a fogey, although I am still young enough to be proud that I pranked Budd Lynch by calling in a fake patron page (this was in the days before the omnipresent cellular phones). There is a special joy that a 20-year-old goofball experiences when hearing Budd Lynch make the following announcement during a stoppage in play:

"Dr. Harry Ness, please call your office....Dr. Harry Ness, please call your office."

I figured that the people who passed messages to Budd would be too smart if I used the funnier "Dr. Harry P. Ness." If you do not get the puerile joke, say the names out loud and imagine how it would sound when 2,000 people laugh at your idiocy.

Sigh.

Budd Lynch, I apologize for my shennanigans - you deserved better from a company employee.

Nov 19, 2009

Meet Petey, a Rescue Yorkie

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Pictured on your left is Petey, an 8-pound Yorkshire terrier mix who was rescued from a local dog pound. We think Petey is about nine months old, and he is a friendly and affectionate little guy who has a lifetime of love to give his forever family.

This puppy has one heck of a rough time the last few weeks, and he contracted parvovirus while in the pound. Petey almost died last week (serious, but not quite the automated external defibrillator ( AED) kind of event), and he is slowly working his way back to good health after a stay in the animal hospital. It will probably be at least two weeks before he is well enough to be adopted. He has already started eating again, and his energy level is close to normal, but we want to make sure that he has truly whooped the dreaded parvo.

Petey bonds quickly with people, and he really enjoys sitting on a couch or chair with his favorite humans. Despite his small size, Petey is surprisingly quite adept at standing up for himself, and he does not allow the bigger dogs to push him around. He also has quite a personality, and he wags his tail and grins when you talk to him as if he understands every word you say.

To learn more about adopting Petey, or if you want to help financially support Planned Pethood's mission to rescue dogs and cats in Northwest Ohio, visit the Planned Pethood website for more information.

Nov 18, 2009

Wacky Things Professors Say

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My students in one of my courses kept bugging me the last two classes about the semester evaluation, and it was not until after they finished that I learned the reason for their interest. You see, I have a self-deprecating comment when I mis-speak or say something controversial that goes like this: "Make sure you put THAT on the evaluation so the dean and the provost will have a brain aneurysm."

Today they brought in a list of bizarre-sounding statements I made over the course of the semester, and in good fun they shared the list with me. Luckily for them I poke the most fun at myself, and I chuckled as I looked over the meticulous set of statements that - if taken out of context - might have me tossed from the academy or locked in an asylum.

Here, then, are some of the lowlights of a semester teaching labor history, or at least as the students remembered them:

1. "The liberal wing of the modern Democratic party are socialists." This was mentioned to remind students that Progressive-era socialists stood for policies that today would be considered more mainstream, such as an end to child labor and universal suffrage.

2. "In this day and age it is important to have a good package." This statement referred to the use of beautiful people to sell concepts, not the colloquial term for a well-stuffed pair of pants, but it was not until the students started hooting that I realized my rhetorical faux pas.

3. "Pull my finger." I must admit that I uttered this line in response to an image I found of AFL founder Samuel Gompers:

However, in my defense I should add that I initially caught myself from uttering the crude lines, telling the class: "I refrained from putting an inappropriate caption on this image when I designed this PowerPoint." But oh no: they just HAD to keep bugging and pestering me to tell them the redacted punchline, and now I am the bad guy. Sheesh.

4. "Study the Communist Manifesto so that I may convert you all to Marxists." This was a stretch, as my statement was taken from a larger discussion about how educators have to worry about being denounced as radicals for merely inspecting the historical record. Still, the words seem to be in the right order.

5. "I pal around with Marxists, but only because they pay for lunch." This was a wry comnmentary about the current mini-McCarthyism running rampant in American politics, referencing Sarah Palin's comments that Barack Obama spent time "palling around with terrorists" like Bill Ayers. And yes: I have allowed Marxists to buy me lunch on more than one occasion. Call your local chapter of the Young America's Foundation and denounce me as the Marxist pal-around type that I truly am.

6. "I can say that I am situationally dishonest." This was a moment of candor related to...I forget what. It had something to do with robbing banks, and I admitted that if there were no prison penalties for bank robbery, I would take a gym bag down to my local branch and say: "fill 'er up." At the same time I would never think of stealing an old woman's purse or some other crime where the connection was so clear between me and the victim.

But every word captured above was true, and I thank my sharp-eared class for the good-natured list, even noting how I say "but I digress" about every nine lines when I ramble off-topic.

But I digress.

Nov 17, 2009

A Workday without Internet and Email

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For most of the day I was unable to access my email and Web accounts in my job at Bowling Green State University, a problem that the IT people indicated was due to a severed fiber optic cable in central Ohio. Especially problematic for me in particular is the fact that I am teaching three online sections of history classes, meaning that my courses were essentially dead today.

Luckily for me (though not necessarily for my students), Tuesdays are quite slow, as many online students use the weekend to complete their assignments and take quizzes. Still, it was quite odd to be staring at DNS error messages all day and not being able to visit my course shells, and the outage today was a reminder of just how dependent I have become on computers and computer networks.

Even stranger was the lack of email access, as most of my communication with my students and colleagues occurs via email. I suspect that I have experienced only a few weekday work hours without email access this semester, and today there was a span of over eight hours when messages did not get through to me. Of course, they still piled up and caused a virtual avalanche this afternoon when I finally accessed my account, but it was a rather surreal day for me.

This also happened to be a day when I guest-lectured for an ROTC class at BGSU, giving a brief overview of the history of the Middle East for the next generation of military leaders. So I traveled back in distant time to the era of face-to-face lectures and telephone communications, living the old-school academic life for a day.

And everything worked out in the end.

Nov 16, 2009

I'm a Sleep Apneac

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I posted late last week about participating in a sleep study to determine if I have sleep apnea, and today I met with the sleep specialist. He confirmed my suspicions about having a sleep disorder, which was not a surprise, but it was the magnitude of the severity of my obstructive sleep apnea that intrigued me.

Specialists developed something called the Apnea-Hypopnea Index (AHI) to measure the number of apneas and hypopneas per hour. Scores above 30 events per hour are classified as severe sleep apnea, and I averaged a whopping 51 events per hour.

My average apnea event lasted 23 seconds in duration, and I have times in my lousy sleep where my oxygen saturation level falls below 90 percent. Put another way, I typically manage to sleep for only 45 seconds or so before my obstructed airways cause a fall in oxygen levels to the point where my body forces me to wake up.

Even simpler was the summation my physician provided: "You probably haven't experienced a decent night's sleep in five years."

So next week I get to repeat the sleep study, except this time I will be fitted with a CPAP machine. Assuming that I show some signs of improvement in the next study, I will get to take the machine home with me. I am looking forward to once again experiencing some semblance of normal sleep, as well as a reduction in the incessant sleepiness that has been my lot for many, many months.

Nov 15, 2009

On Lost Keys and the Power of Motivated Search Parties

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At some point early last week I lost my keys, and thus began many days spent in frustrated searching for them. I searched all over my house, retraced my steps to a variety of external destinations, and still there was no sign of my keys.

Part of the problem is related to my lack of interest in driving, as the last few trips I made out of the house before losing the keys were while my wife drove. Thus, a span of about three days existed between the times that I definitively knew my keys were missing and when I knew that they were gone.

I hit upon an idea and carried it to fruition that helped solve the mystery today, though. I announced to my visiting children that anyone who found the keys would be the recipient of $25 in reward funds, and within 10 minutes my youngest daughter - who paused from her participation in a live chat - found the keys in the couch cushions. I would have sworn that I thoroughly searched that couch, but found is found.

Besides, I would have spent four times that amount of money in getting new keys and locks made, since three of the keys were for one of my employers, and they charge a hefty fee to replace keys lost by careless employees. Add to this the peace of mind in knowing that my keys have not fallen into criminal hands, and I say that $25 is a small price indeed to pay.

Nov 13, 2009

Puggle Wars!

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There is not much fighting or barking in this three-for-all between a group of male Puggles, and the lighting is lousy, but you could find worse ways to spend 47 seconds than watching this video of several of my dogs in action.

Oh, the caninity:


The dogs almost always bring a smile to my face when they act this way, unless of course it deprives me of sleep. Such was the case this afternoon, when they recreated Puggle Wars! while I foolishly attempted to take a 10-minute nap.

Nov 12, 2009

Studying My Sleep

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I have been putting off the sleep tests my physician ordered for a couple of reasons, not the least of which is the fact that I sleep most poorly away from my own bed. However, I am tired of always being tired, and tonight I am taking the somnolent plunge and letting the technicians spend 30 minutes hooking me up to machines that will assess my ability to sleep.

The suspicion is that I have sleep apnea, and I will not be in the least surprised if I add this diagnosis to the other health problems that puzzle me and keep area health specialists gainfully employed. However, the fine folks at the Pulmonary and Critical Care Specialists might actually be able to help me better manage my sleeping difficulties.

Yet I am still skeptical that I will actually sleep tonight, given my existing track record of tossing and turning when I am not in my own bed. And if any of those other insomniacs or apneacs keep me awake tonight, I am going to be doubly irritated tomorrow.

Nov 11, 2009

Random Wikiness

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When I am looking for inspiration in my writing - or when I am bored beyond redemption - I visit Wikipedia and use the Random Article function. Located on the left sidebar of the main Wikipedia page, clicking the Random Article link sends the visitor into unknown and often fascinating journeys into the accumulated knowledge hundreds of thousands of Wikipedians have generated.

I first found myself on a Wikipedia page about Erprobungskommando, which was a Luftwaffe unit responsible for testing experimental aircraft and weapon designs under operational conditions. Among the more noteworthy devices that the various Erprobungskommando units tested were the Messerschmitt Me 163 rocket fighter and the Messerschmitt Me 262 which was one of the most advanced German aviation designs that reached the operational stage before the end of the Second World War.

My next destination was to a page describing the National Superconducting Cyclotron Laboratory (NSCL), which is located on the campus of Michigan State University, my wife's first alma mater. Scientists at the NSCL investigate properties of rare isotopes and nuclear reactions, simulating the reactions that take place in stars, novae, and supernovae. However, in my many trips to Lansing in the 1980s to visit the beautiful young woman who later became my wife, the only isotopes I investigated were those that happened to be inside a tequila bottle.

For some reason my random searches kept directing me to pages with technical themes, and I next learned about the Boeing X-37. This is an experimental spaceplane that flew its first flight on April 7, 2006 after being delivered to the edge of space by a White Knight that lifted off from Edwards Air Force Base. This vehicle, part of a classified NASA project, has the potential to become the first operational U.S. military spaceplane, and the X-37 is expected to reach a top velocity up to Mach 25.

But I bet my 1995 Hyundai can kick its arse off the line at a red light, since where the hell are you going to find a gas station that carries the X-37's special fuel blend of hydrogen peroxide and JP-8 around here, Bubba? I think not.

Nov 10, 2009

The Quote Shelf

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Medieval text with Latin script A frequent feature on this site; feel free to comment on the quote or to supply a competing quote.

Permanence, perseverance and persistence in spite of all obstacles, discouragement, and impossibilities: It is this, that in all things distinguishes the strong soul from the weak.

-- Thomas Carlyle

Nov 8, 2009

On Canine Hoarding

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Pictured on your left is my oldest Puggle, a handsome three-year-old male whose name is Eddie Haskell. In this image Eddie is hiding under my work desk, and the reason that he lurks at my feet is that he has accumulated portions of five rawhide chew bones, at least three of which came from the other dogs in the house.

For a Puggle like Eddie Haskell this must seem like a vast treasure, and he growls at any dogs who dare to come near his stash. Evidently he chose my desk as his hideout because it also offers him some human cover for his hoarded bones, as the curiosity of other dogs will elicit warning growls from Eddie and an irritated response from me at the minor dog wars that occur in my workspace.

Eddie's behavior is especially curious since he is far from a dog used to deprivation, though I suspect he endured some abuse before arriving at our home a few years ago. The flip side of Eddie's cached wealth, though, is that he must remain vigilant in his efforts to prevent canine interlopers from taking his ill-gotten gains.

There are probably some lessons to be learned by the human beings who read this post, but I am too tired to compose the possible morals to this sordid tale of Canines Gone Rogue.

Nov 7, 2009

On Off-Ramp Panhandlers and Believable Begging Scenarios

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I frequently pass the pictured panhandler at his regular post, which is at the off-ramp from southbound I-75 at U.S.-20 (Fremont Pike). Though I consider myself a relatively generous person, I am much more discriminating when I encounter people cadging money on the street, and I typically pay little attention to this individual on my trips to Rossford. He appears to be able-bodied, and seems to have at least a functional level of literacy, at least gauging by his signs.

Today's sign caught my eye, though, as it indicated that he was "on the road" and "out of luck." Both of these statements may indeed be true, but this particular beggar has been "on the road" at the same corner since at least April. Judging from the many kind folks who toss him some loose change or a buck, his "luck" seems to be decent enough to keep him at this corner.

Anyways, far be it from me to pile on the down-and-out crowd, but if the guy is going to become a panhandling fixture, he ought to develop a shtick that can withstand the test of time. "Out of work" is always a good line, especially in tough economic times, as are pleas to "feed my family" or the simple "God bless you for your help."

My wife and I like to tease each other about our responses to panhandlers. There used to be a one-legged beggar who propped himself up with crutches on the off-ramp from eastbound I-475 at Corey Road in Sylvania Township. I started to roll down the window one day to give him a buck - figuring a one-legged guy had it worse than me - and she said: "You shouldn't give him any money - he'll probably spend it on drugs or booze."

She was right, of course, but I have to admit that a panhandler with an obvious physical disability is much more likely to get me to open my wallet than someone who looks like they could at least be working as a temp or at one of those day-labor sites. When we traveled in Europe last year I was tossing Euros to every paraplegic and blind person I passed in the subways, and every major city we visited in Portugal and Spain had tons of maimed beggars: people missing two or more limbs, people with horribly disfigured faces, and every other manner of human disability.

So the Perrysburg Panhandler faces a tough sell with me, which might be why he put the sign in front of his face when he saw my camera.

Nov 6, 2009

Irish Baby Carriage

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My grandfather has an ancient wheelbarrow in his yard, a device that has to be at least two decades older than me. I took a picture of the rusty cast iron wheelbarrow this afternoon, and I hollowly chuckled when he referred to the garden implement as an "Irish baby carriage."

Yet my grandfather seemed puzzled at my amusement, and to his ears the term "Irish baby carriage" was simply an out-of-date expression. I found the phrase of course to be a demeaning commentary on the historic poverty of the Irish, for whom a wheelbarrow would have been an important possession in the harvesting of potatoes. Thus, an "Irish baby carriage" would imply that poor Irish peasant women dragged along their infants in the potato fields as they tended their meager crops, or as they traveled to their Philadephia jobs.

At least, that is how I interpreted the origin of term "Irish baby carriage."

Nov 5, 2009

Meet Louis, a Rescue Puggle

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On your left is the one and only Louis, a 24-pound male Puggle we just rescued from a local animal shelter. Louis is a younger dog, probably just over a year in age - far too young to worry about such matters as eye cream - and he has the higher energy level typical of Puggles, though he is not overly excitable.

Louis gets along well with our other dogs, especially our younger Puggles, and he loves to run around the yard and chase anything that catches his attention. Louis is very affectionate, and he seems to crave being hugged and petted, suggesting that these were somewhat lacking in his previous home. When we got home he ran and played for an hour with the other Puggles, but as soon as I started rubbing his chest, he rolled right over on his back and was mesmerized by the affection.

I just started working with Louis on training, and it appears that he has had little to date, so his new owners will need to be patient as Louis gets accustomed to a leash. In his first day he has been using the outdoors for his restroom business, though it is too soon to officially pronounce him "housebroken."

To learn more about adopting Louis, or if you want to help financially support Planned Pethood's mission to rescue dogs and cats in Northwest Ohio, visit the Planned Pethood website for more information.

Nov 4, 2009

Hilarious CNN Headlines Tying Obama to Serial Rapist-Killer in Cleveland

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Screenshot taken November 4, 2009 at 6:31 pm

I doubt that it was an intentional pairing of top news stories, but I found odd CNN's simultaneous display of news about suspected serial killer Anthony Sowell right next to a story asking the question "Is Obama inspiring black men?" The implication, of course, is that the brutal killing of at least eleven Cleveland-area women was somehow related to the historic presidency of Barack Obama.

After chuckling, I had to make sure that it was the website of CNN that I visited and not FOX News. Ba-da-boom!

Ahem.

Anyways, I did not PhotoShop this CNN faux pas as some sort of a traffic-building stunt. However, any links to the post are always appreciated.

Nov 3, 2009

On Ronald A. Bradshaw, Sr.

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It was with sadness that I learned this morning of the death of Ronald A. Bradshaw, Sr., who passed away at his home at the age of 78. I first met Ron in 1989 when I was starting a career as a franchise owner, and I purchased five Little Caesars restaurants from him in 1990. Over the years Ron Bradshaw provided me with a great deal of wise advice on business and life, and this unassuming man touched the lives of thousands of people in the Toledo area.

I spent a decade trying to scratch out a living as a restaurant owner before getting out of the business and going back to school. Ron, however, survived and thrived in the business for 39 years, and he was always willing to learn and adapt to the changing business climate. Ron recognized the power of computers as a tool in the retail pizza business long before many of his contemporaries, and he actually convinced me - a techie and someone thirty years his junior - to take the plunge and invest in point-of-sale systems in my restaurants.

One of Ron's most endearing qualities was his diplomacy and tact. He refrained from speaking poorly of other people, even when they deserved (in my opinion) the full wrath of the Almighty. Ron was a positive and upbeat business owner who never let a sales slump or business crisis kill his enthusiasm for the pizza business. He even opened a new store in the last few years at the age of 74, an age when most folks are kicking back and relaxing.

Since leaving the pizza business, I did not stay in contact with Ron, though every once in a while I considered looking him up and stopping in for a conversation. Unfortunately I did not follow up on this idea, and I thus never took the opportunity to thank Ron for his advice and friendship over the years. So this is a belated "thank you" to a kindhearted man who took me under his metaphorical wing and who tried to pass along some wisdom to me. I did not always take his advice, but I suspect that if I had listened more to Ron Bradshaw, I would be wealthier and wiser today.

My condolences go out to Ron's family as they grieve the loss of a truly fine human being and a hardworking businessman.

Nov 2, 2009

Ohio Issue 3: Media Overkill

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Left: No rest for the ad-weary

In a span of fifteen minutes I found myself subjected to a relentless barrage of advertisements related to Ohio Issue 3, which would legalize gambling in four casinos in the Buckeye State. This would not be so unusual were it not for the fact that I was engaged in research and did not have a television set or radio turned on.

The first ad was a recorded telephone message from Mary Ellen Withrow, former Treasurer of the United States under President Bill Clinton. The caller ID read "Private Caller," and I only listened to her spiel for about 10 seconds before hanging up the telephone. Withrow managed to get about as far as "Treasurer of the United States" before my tepid willingness to listen completely evaporated.

Just a few minutes later I received another canned phonevertisement from Jamie Farr, the actor who played Klinger in the television series M*A*S*H. Farr is a native Toledoan, and it is not surprising that the pro-casino forces would purchase his reassuring voice to persuade some on-the-fence voters to pull the lever for casinos in Ohio. Jamie managed to get in something like "Can you believe it is 2009 and we still don't have a casino in Toledo" before I punched the button to terminate the call.

The most surprising advertisement, though, came when I was accessing the New York Times archives for the World War II class I teach at Bowling Green State University. The site had animated banner ads on the top of the screen and on the right sidebar from a group called TruthPAC. The advertisements assured me that a "yes" vote on Issue 3 would lead to prostitution, drug addiction, and organized crime in Ohio, as if these were new phenomena to residents of this decaying industrial center.

So to the folks who are in charge of marketing for the various forces aligned for and against Issue 3, you have been quite effective in reaching geeks like me who spend little time near a television or a radio. However, you are also annoying the hell out of me, and I look forward to Wednesday, when your shrill and shallow attempts to influence opinion will finally disappear.