Category Archives: Personal

The Kid Who Batted 1.000 (almost)

My MLB At Bat app brought the above video to my attention today.

The brief description:

Jaime Barria and Brandon Belt face off in a 21-pitch duel to set the record for the most pitches in an MLB at-bat in the modern era

Here’s the NYT’s report on what happened: “21 Pitches, 16 Fouls, 12 Minutes: Brandon Belt’s Marathon At-Bat.”

Now that’s what I call some baseball — not these towering home runs the app usually tells me about.s-l225

It reminds me of one of my favorite books from my youth, The Kid Who Batted 1.000, by Bob Allison and Frank Ernest Hill.

I read it over and over when I was a kid, checking it out from the school library multiple times to do so. Then I went years without seeing a copy, and had thought it was something I’d never see again, until my wife found a dog-eared copy that had belonged to one of her brothers. So I got to read it as an adult, and enjoyed it just as much.

If you’re not familiar with it, it’s the story of Dave King, a farmboy who is discovered to have a weird talent: He can foul off any pitch thrown by any pitcher. He gets signed to a Major League team and leads it out of the cellar because he always draws walks — usually after wearing down and shattering the nerves of the opposing pitcher.

Finally, in the last game of the World Series, he hits a home run, thereby earning a batting average of 1.000 — albeit only in postseason play.

It’s great. If you can find a copy, I do recommend picking one up…

By the way, the real-life batter, Brandon Belt, didn’t quite equal Dave King’s achievement. After those 21 pitches, the Giants first-basemen flies out to right field…

Help the children of Dominica learn to dance again

dancers

Still from a video of one of Becca’s classes.

Y’all know that my youngest daughter did a two-year Peace Corps tour of duty in Thailand awhile back, because we went to visit her and I posted about it. There, she did the usual kind of Peace Corps work, like something out of the movie “Volunteers,” only Tom Hanks and John Candy weren’t there to help her. She was way out in the countryside on her own, teaching such things as English and basic life skills in the local schools. She was the only farang for many miles around. When someone had an event and wanted to draw a crowd, they invited her to present the award or cut the ribbon or lead the parade, and people were sure to turn out, just to see the blonde foreign girl.

You may not know that before she was in the Peace Corps, she was a classical ballet dancer. She had spent her last year of high school in Pennsylvania training intensely at a respected school there, stayed another year after graduation, then came down to USC to study in its dance program. But some of her teachers persuaded her to leave school and turn pro. So she did, dancing with companies in both North Carolina and Columbia before having to “retire” because of injuries. She went back to school, to get her degree from College of Charleston, then joined the Peace Corps.

She had no way of knowing those two paths would combine in a unique opportunity.

After she had been back from Thailand a short while — she worked for a dance company in New York during the interval — she saw an ad for a position in the Peace Corps Response program. The island nation of Dominica in the Caribbean, a place with few economic advantages, wanted someone to teach its children to dance. With Peace Corps and professional dance experience, Becca — being uniquely qualified — got the job, and started in January 2017.

The wrecked arts center.

The wrecked arts center.

Everything went fine (here’s a piece Becca wrote about her work a year ago) until Dominica was hit by Hurricane Maria in September. There was no chance to evacuate ahead of time. As it bore down on the island, the storm started the day as a Category 1, and by landfall was a Category 5. Everyone knows what Maria did to Puerto Rico. But Dominica, a former French and then British colony before gaining independence in 1978, doesn’t get as much press. And Dominica was hit first — and harder.

Dominica was devastated. The island, which is rocky and mountainous and lacks the attractive beaches of some of its neighbors, had been building a bit of an ecotourism industry, but its forests were torn up by the roots, the trees littering the island. Agriculture was completely destroyed, plantations losing 100 percent of their crops. And practically no one had a roof that hadn’t been ripped open to the sky.

The almost 20 Peace Corps volunteers on the island had been summoned together to ride out the storm in a hotel in the city of Roseau. It was a harrowing experience. For days after, their only water was what had collected on the roof. Eventually, the Peace Corps hired some fishing boats to take them off and transport them to St. Lucia, from whence my daughter came home to stay with us a few weeks.

And then she went back. She was one of only five Peace Corps folks to return, and she did so at the particular request of local officials, who still wanted their children to have a chance at cultural enrichment.

Becca’s efforts have drawn some attention recently. Buzzfeed did a feature on her and seven other Peace Corps volunteers who were “Using Sports To Strengthen Communities Abroad.” Never mind that ballet isn’t exactly a sport, they had nice things to say anyway (mainly derived from the piece she wrote last year):

For Rebecca Warthen, ballet is everything that makes life worth living: beauty, romance, music, joy, passion, and physicality. So when she saw a Peace Corps Response opening for a ballet instructor and teacher trainer on the Eastern Caribbean island of Dominica, she applied immediately, hoping to change lives with the art form that changed her own.

Warthen said one of the best things about dance is that you don’t need expensive equipment. “All you really need is your body, space, and the desire to learn, and your future is yours to determine… More importantly, they’re learning something new from a culture different than theirs, from a person with a different skin tone and different background, and through that they will become more accepting, open-minded people, which is what this is all about, isn’t it?”

No, you don’t need much special equipment to dance, but you do need a place to do it. And the one dance studio in the country — the Dominica Institute for the Arts — had been destroyed in the storm.

Since her return, Becca has been teaching in the schools — those that remain — and other spaces as available. But she’s determined to restore the island’s one studio, a beautiful facility that had been donated by a Dominican who had had success in the wider world and wanted to give back.

Here’s a story on the Peace Corps website about her effort. It will cost a little more than $28,000. The people of Dominica, who don’t have much to give, have come up with $20,000 of it themselves. Becca is trying to raise the rest.

If you can, please help. You can give at the Peace Corps site. The people of Dominica, who want broader horizons for their children, will appreciate it. So will I.

Becca and some of her students.

Becca and some of her students.

Your Virtual Front Page, April 6, 2018 — Beach Edition

Detectorists

Sorry I haven’t had a chance to blog. We’ve brought four of our grandchildren down to the beach for a couple of days, since they’re on spring break from school. That keeps you busy.

This will be an actual news-free post. Although maybe someone will take an interest in one of the things that have interested me the last couple of days…

I saw a whale from the beach for the first time ever! — This was pretty exciting, and totally unexpected, even though I’d read about sightings in the area. I’ve been coming to Surfside Beach for six decades, and I’ve never seen a whale out in the water before. Yesterday, we had taken the kids out onto the still-busted Surfside Pier (you can go out about halfway), and just as we got to the barrier that marked our limit, my wife said “Look at that black shape moving through the water!” It looked like it was just a foot or so beneath the surface, and it was moving at an amazing speed. It streaked past the end of the pier, maybe 100 feet away, and headed parallel to the beach toward Garden City. It looked to be about the size of a school bus. Within 10 or 15 seconds it was out of sight. Absolutely amazing.

Have you watched “Detectorists” on Netflix? It’s great — We watched both seasons recently, and it was fun. The comedy, about some Brits who are really, really into metal detecting, is written and directed by Mackenzie Crook, the guy who played Gareth Keenan on The Office. He costars with Toby Jones. In some ways it’s vaguely like “The Office” (we’re talking the original, not the American copy), only kinder and gentler and easier to watch. The humor is low-key and not as cruel — you don’t have to watch the over-the-top, painful humiliation of a David Brent. Anyway, yesterday on the beach we ran into a trio of kids who were real-life detectorists, searching the sand. At the very moment we met them, my grandson, 5, announced he’d just dropped his Lucky Penny. The detectorists pitched in and tried to help, but to no avail. Still, they were nice kids and we appreciated the effort.

Debris on the lawn.

Debris on the lawn.

Who even uses phone books anymore? — Later in the day, we were walking back toward the house when my wife remarked how something, perhaps a carelessly manned garbage truck, had strewn debris all down the street. Then, she noticed it was white plastic bags, and she supposed they were those freebie newspapers everyone throws away. Both guesses were wrong — they were phone books. Yellow-page-style phone books that probably no one on the street had asked for, and probably no one had ever used. But someone had convinced people to advertise in it, which is what such publications are about. Would it pay off for any of the advertisers? Seems doubtful. Who uses phone books?

Meanwhile, perfectly good books get thrown away — This was also yesterday. We were playing around on the public tennis courts when a lady from the Surfside library came wheeling out a loaded book cart, took them straight to a recycling bin, and threw them all away! After a moment, I went over to see what I could scavenge. By the time I got there, a lady who lived across the street had beaten me to it. This was a routine for her — she said they throw away books every week. Most, but not all, were books about writing — how to write a novel and such. I grabbed the two you see below. I thought my mom would enjoy having a manual to help her get the most out of her iPad. I couldn’t resist the title of the other one: As someone who has never been tempted to become a runner, it entertained me on a couple of levels. (No offense, if you own this volume…)

books

‘Breakers’ above Columbia

tulips

I’m having a busy day with little time for blogging, so I just thought I’d share a picture that I like.

This is what I saw from my table at breakfast Monday morning. They were left over from the Capital City Club’s Easter dinner the day before.

They struck me particularly because the night before, we had started to watch a new Netflix movie called “Tulip Fever.” It’s about the market bubble in tulips that drove Europe, and particularly the Netherlands, mad in the 1630s, before the inevitable collapse.

We didn’t make it all the way through — it started to devolve into one of those tiresome plots in which bad things happen because of mistaken identity. But I watched enough to learn that multicolored tulips like the ones above were called “breakers,” and were particularly highly prized. Or at least, that’s the way this film told it.

Of course, right after I took this picture, I moved the flowers so I could pull down the blinds so the sunlight wouldn’t blind me while I read the papers on my iPad.

Beautiful vistas are sometimes wasted on me…

An image from the film, "Tulip Fever."

An image from the film, “Tulip Fever.”

 

Everybody without mustaches stand in the back!

Treasury Department law office

Remember my post about how all the men on my family tree in the late 19th century had big mustaches?

Probably not, since it drew no comments. Nevertheless, here’s a sequel.

One of my great-grandfathers, William Oscar Bradley, was an attorney who left South Carolina to take up a presidential appointment with the Treasury Department. (That’s how his daughter, my grandmother, ended up meeting and marrying my paternal grandfather. The Warthens were from Montgomery County, Maryland, and were the only part of my tree not from South Carolina.)

Anyway, one of my cousins recently posted this image on Facebook, labeling it “Treasury Department Law Office.” That’s my great-grandfather William O. in the center of the photo.

There’s no date, but obviously this was smack in the middle of the “everybody’s gotta wear a mustache” period.

And if you didn’t, male or female, you had to stand in the back of the picture.

Actually, I’m sort of guessing that it was a status thing based on something other than facial hair — maybe the seated guys in the front were the lawyers, and the folks in the back were the clerks who worked for them. Or maybe the people who arrived first for the photo got the seats. But I kind of doubt that. Surely if where you were in the picture meant nothing in terms of organizational structure, the gentlemen in the front would have given up their seats to the two ladies — right? I hope so.

I love old pictures. I wish I knew more about this one….

Here’s an idea: Why not just leave out the allergens?

Why would SOY sauce contain more WHEAT than soy?

Why would SOY sauce contain more WHEAT than soy?

Normally I would not post to ask the world to adjust to me and my food allergies, but here’s a case where it seems to me it wouldn’t cause anybody any trouble, or not much trouble, so I’m going to ask….

On the whole, this is a great time (if there ever is a great time for such a thing) to have food allergies. The world has become a far more understanding and accommodating place.

When I was a kid, eating out was like walking through a minefield. And if I tried to enlist a server in my cause, all I would get is a blank look. I came to believe that most people on the planet had never heard of food allergies, and when I tried to tell them, it was just the most outlandish thing they’d ever heard of.

And usually, they didn’t get it at all. Sometimes, they’d try to show they understood by saying, “So you don’t like cheese…” To which, if I were in an explanatory mood, I’d say, No, that’s not it. I don’t have the slightest idea whether I would like cheese or not. I’ve never had it. I suspect, based on the smell and my knowledge of how it is made (by letting milk spoil), I would not like it at all. But that is entirely beside the point. If you serve me cheese and I don’t know it, and eat it,I may die. At the very least, I’ll get really sick here in front of you, and it won’t be pretty. So just don’t bring me anything with cheese on it or in it…

… you freaking moron, I didn’t add, athough I wanted to.

But often, I just let it go, not wanting to converse about it any more than necessary. In fact, whenever possible, I’d avoid the conversation altogether. I didn’t eat out any more than I absolutely had to, and when I did I went to places I had been before and ordered things I knew were safe.

Now, at the slightest mention of an allergy problem, most waiters and waitresses become so attentive it’s slightly embarrassing. Some of them go fetch the chef and bring him out to interview me at some length.

As I say, embarrassing. But it’s gratifying to have them on board in the cause of not poisoning me.

Sure, there are some idiots out there who are dismissive of these things — watch, some of them will comment on this post — and regard allergies as a character flaw. But their ilk is rapidly become extinct as our species evolves.

This is also a good era for avoiding hazards with prepared, packaged foods. When I was kid, if I wanted a milk substitute for cooking or just to put on cold cereal, I had to use soy-based baby formula — something I had to make sure the other guys never knew, because they would have given me the business, as the Beav and Wally would say.

Now, there’s soy milk and almond milk and coconut milk and cashew milk and several other kinds, and it’s available everywhere, not just in specialty food shops. You buy it and take it home, and nobody looks at you funny.

Better than that… and here I’m finally getting to my point… makers of prepackaged food have started calling attention to allergens in their ingredients! You don’t have to read all the ingredients any more — just look at the boldfaced listing of allergens at the end! This saves a lot of time.

But it makes me want more…

There are a lot of food products out there that are sometimes made with allergens and sometimes not. And I suppose sometimes the allergens make a difference. Other times, I doubt that they do.

Take soy sauce, for instance. What would you think would be the dominant ingredient in soy sauce, aside from water? Soybeans, right?

Wrong. Unless it’s listed as “gluten-free” soy sauce, as often as not, the next ingredient after water is wheat. Which, aside from being a threat to people with celiac disease, is also an allergen. And while I don’t have celiac (although some in my family do), wheat is one of the things that I’m allergic to. Not as dangerously allergic as I am to milk and eggs, but it can cause my asthma to act up. (One of the things about having a bunch of food allergies is that you become a connoisseur of reactions — I know what allergen I was exposed to by how I react. With wheat, my breathing passages tighten up.)

To my knowledge — and if you know different, say so — there is no appreciable difference between soy sauce made largely with wheat and soy sauce that’s all soy.

So, here’s my question: Why not just leave the wheat out of all the soy sauce? Why go to the trouble and expense of purchasing and adding that extra ingredient, then having to put warnings on your labels about it?

It would never have occurred to me years ago to ask this, because I assumed that to most people, food allergies were such a mystery that it would be asking too much for a food product manufacturer to know something was an allergen and leave it out.

But now I can see, on every prepackaged food, that manufacturers know which ingredients are allergens — they point them out on every label.

So… why not just leave them out? Granted, few of us out here are allergic to this or that ingredient, but why not just make a product that everybody can safely eat?

This won’t work with everything — for instance, soy itself is an allergen. (In fact, I’m slightly allergic to it myself, but so slightly compared to my real allergies, I ignore it and just try to consume soy in moderation.) I’m not asking that anyone leave the soy out of soy sauce.

But it seems eminently reasonable to me to ask, why not just leave out the wheat, always?

Why not just make ALL soy sauce "gluten-free?"

Why not just make ALL soy sauce “gluten-free?”

This Pew typology quiz isn’t nearly as good as the old one

needy

Remember the Pew political typology quiz of a few years back? It was an attempt to classify people by their actual beliefs, getting beyond simple “left” and “right.”

It posed a lot of questions with only two answers and both of them wrong, but I found it intriguing. It placed me in what it called the “Faith and Family Left.” That bugged me because I didn’t like the “left” part — but I thought the “faith and family” part was fair enough. In fact, I liked it. And how often are any of us comfortable with the ways others describe us? Here’s how that category was described:

The Faith and Family Left combine strong support for activist government with conservative attitudes on many social issues. They are very racially diverse – this is the only typology group that is “majority-minority.” The Faith and Family Left generally favor increased government aid for the poor even if it adds to the deficit and believe that government should do more to solve national problems. Most oppose same-sex marriage and legalizing marijuana and most say religion and family are at the center of their lives. Compare groups on key issues.

Sounds kind of like me, doesn’t it? Even though it’s the group with the highest percentage of African-Americans (I joked at the time that Pew thinks I’m a black preacher) and I’m the whitest white boy at Bypass High, it felt more or less right. I chafed at some of it, but not all.

But Pew has a new typology quiz now, and I hate it. (Actually, it’s relatively new. I tried last year and hated the results so much I didn’t even write about it. Today, I decided to give it another chance, but it came up with the same stupid answer.) The questions demanding one of two wrong answers are even more egregious, and I simply refused to answer some of them. Which means Pew assessed me on the basis of incomplete information. And this time, it decided I was one of the “New Era Enterprisers,” which right off sort of makes me want to gag.

I ask you, does this sound like me?

This relatively young, economically conservative, Republican-leaning group tends to be relatively moderate on immigration and views about America’s engagement with the rest of the world. Most say U.S. involvement in the global economy is a good thing and that immigrants strengthen the nation. As is the case with other GOP-leaning groups, a majority of New Era Enterprisers reject the idea that racial discrimination is the main reason many black people are unable to get ahead. Nearly two-thirds favor societal acceptance of homosexuality. New Era Enterprisers are less critical about government than other Republican-leaning groups.

Really? “This relatively young, economically conservative, Republican-leaning group?” I try to picture that person, and I see John Dean before he started ratting out the Nixon White House. And if I were really a member of this group, I would have little memory of Howard Dean, much less John.

OK, yeah, I favor engagement in the world. But doesn’t that make me more of an old school postwar internationalist? More of a John McCain type? Or a Scoop Jackson, among the Democrats? And yeah, I’m less critical about government — but how does that put me in this group?

The only way it fits, overall, is that this category seems to be less ideological all around.

Pictured above and below are two of the questions I refused to answer. How could I?

Of course the country can do more to help the needy — such as passing single-payer. And it does NOT have to go further into debt to do it. False choice.

The one below is worse. I don’t think racial discrimination is “the main reason” many black Americans have trouble getting ahead. Nor would I for a second say that folks trapped in multigenerational poverty are “mostly responsible for their own condition.” There are many forces that can frustrate a poor person’s best efforts, and to say racism is “the main reason” is to blind yourself to all the others.

Anyway, I don’t have time to think about this any more. I need to run out and start a tech company and make a billion dollars. Because that, apparently, is the kind of young fella I am. A New Era Enterpriser. Sheesh…

racism

Memphis knows how to throw a party (or something) for St. Pat

catechismNo doubt some will cite this as evidence that my Ménière’s has reached the point at which I need a hearing aid.

But in my defense, my wife was out in the hallway when she said this, and I was in the bathroom with the exhaust fan running — although the door, I admit, was open.

Anyway, she had come upstairs to tell me that her youngest brother was on his way to the St. Patrick’s Day parade in Memphis (my wife’s family, the Phelans, are real Irish Catholics, not pretenders like me), and that he had told her something alarming about that parade.

She said the people on the floats throw catechisms to the crowd.

At least, I thought that’s what she said. I considered it a bit odd — most such parades aren’t that, shall we say, holy — but nevertheless arguably appropriate, since St. Patrick converted the heathen Irish to Christianity.

Then my wife said something odder. She said she thought that sounded “dangerous.” I reflected that maybe so, if they were hardbacks. But they could throw paperbacks, and maybe there are some abridged, pocket-sized versions…

Then she said other things that made me wonder. I asked her to repeat the first thing she’d said.cabbage

This time, I thought she said they were throwing “catechists,” and that did sound dangerous. If you go throwing people, religious education teachers, off of floats, someone could get hurt.

But something about this version sounded even more suspicious, so I finally asked her directly whether she had indeed said they were throwing catechisms or catechists.

She roared with laughter at this point (which frankly I don’t think is the kindest way to deal with my affliction). She had been saying, “cabbages.” They were throwing cabbages from the floats.

Yeah, OK. That could be dangerous.

You can stop laughing now…

Look out! What's that they're throwing? The St. Patrick's Day parade on Beale Street.

Look out! What’s that they’re throwing? The St. Patrick’s Day parade on Beale Street.

Look what I found: My old press cards

press cards

I was digging around in the closet in my home office, trying to find a staple-plucker to use on some multi-page documents I was digitizing, when I ran across these.

They are:

  1. My Tennessee Press Association press card from the late ’70s or early ’80s.
  2. My Secret Service press card from the 1980 presidential campaign (the one with the beard). I probably got this before going up to Iowa to cover Howard Baker’s unsuccessful bid in the caucuses.
  3. My Secret Service press card from 1984. I was an editor by this time, but I was the sort of editor who didn’t believe in letting my reporters have all the fun. Also, I had a weekly column to write, so I couldn’t stay tied to my desk. I liked to go check out interesting events — such as when presidential candidates came to town — myself. The schedule of a p.m. newspaper allowed this, especially if the event happened in the afternoon or evening. Morning newspaper editors can’t get away from the office as easily.

Halcyon days…

Hey, alla you kids get offa my campus!

Horseshoe

The Horseshoe.

Part of my daily routine of getting in at least 10,000 steps (and preferably 15) is to take an afternoon walk around downtown, usually through the USC campus and around the State House before heading back to ADCO.

This has been particularly peaceful this week, with the kids gone for spring break — even though it’s not, you know, technically spring.

I suppose I’ll be tripping over them again next week. But it was nice to have it mostly to myself for awhile…

The Russell House -- a student center with no students.

The Russell House — a student center with no students.

Thomas Cooper Library.

Thomas Cooper Library.

There must have been a law that men had to wear mustaches

my greats

Remember this bit of narration at the start of Johnny Dangerously?

Immigrants poured in from all over the world, looking for a better life. Over 97 percent of them settled in a two-block area of New York City. There was a law that said that immigrants who wanted citizenship… had to stay out of their apartments and walk around the streets, with hats on.

Well, apparently at about that same time or a little earlier — say, the 1890s — there was a law even more strictly enforced than the one about hats, and it didn’t just cover immigrants.

It just struck me the other day that all four of my great-grandfathers had rather prominent mustaches (above). There was a serious lack of variety in approaches to grooming at that time. None of them had beards, none were clean-shaven — just big, sometimes carefully waxed, mustaches. I conclude that that was the heighth of fashion in South Carolina and Maryland.stache

But wait — it was the case in Tennessee, as well, as I see from the three out of four of my wife’s great-grandfathers that I have pictures of (below). Maybe it was a federal law.

For a time — throughout the ’70s — I followed my forebears’ fashion lead, as you can see at right.

It’s a silly little detail, but I wonder — was there ever another time in which men’s look was that standardized?

Js greats

 

 

 

Watch out, Shute! I’m coming for you…

Brian Shute. Don't you think he looks scared? I think he looks scared...

Brian Shute. Don’t you think he looks scared? I think he looks scared…

As y’all know, my usual standard for “getting in shape” involves getting my weight down so I can “wrestle Shute.” (For the uninitiated, that’s a reference to “Vision Quest,” which I love because I, too, was a high school wrestler.)IMG_3359

That means getting under 168.

Yeah, I know — I’ve set that goal before, and when it wasn’t that far away. This time, when I started working out on the elliptical and walking around town, I was up to 187, which is big for a guy with my frame. (Which is about where Louden Swain was when he started losing, since he was in the 190 class.)

But now, averaging more than 15,000 steps a day (in February, so far) and sorta kinda following a paleo diet, I’m as close as close can be.

Note my weight yesterday, at right. Remember when, in the movie, Louden strips off his shorts and blows out all the air in his lungs to pass the weigh-in (below)? Well, I’m right about at the point where a good exhalation would do it.

This morning, I was back up to 169.5. Probably that bucket of popcorn from going to see “Black Panther” yesterday. But give me a couple of days.

Then, Shute better watch out…

My most intense workout yet

intense workout

Yesterday, wanting to get a jump on my steps for the day and knowing I’d be busy later, I set my elliptical trainer for a full hour’s workout, instead of my usual 45 minutes.

I also decided I’d try to push the speed, and see how many calories I could burn (the machine calculates that based on, I guess, my weight, time, speed and resistance level). Usually I stay around 60 rpm and tend to get about 10 Calories per minute. The one time I’d ever done 60 minutes at once before (the previous weekend), for instance, I’d burned 609.

But on Saturday, I’d done more than 500 in 45 minutes, and I was curious whether I could maintain that pace for an hour.

I did so without ever breathing hard — although there was a lot of sweat. I also did it with a relatively slow average heart rate — 119 bpm. (Which sort of surprised me. I had looked down in the last few minutes of the workout, and it was at 135.)

The result? 671 calories.

That’s the good news. The bad news is that I didn’t get to do a second workout, so my total for the day was only 11,460 steps. Before that, I’d done more than 15,000 each of the three days in February.

I’m going to try to top 15k again today. We’ll see…

Henry and Mac: ‘Who’s that?’

Henry Mac

I’m still doing the 10,000 steps-a-day thing — actually, averaging more like 12,500 the last couple of months. I do more than half in the morning before heading downtown, on my elliptical.

Then, most days, I take a walk downtown in the afternoon — usually around the USC campus and then a lap around the State House before heading back to ADCO. That puts me well over my goal, and whatever I do the rest of the day is lagniappe.steps

Inevitably, I run into people I know. Funny thing is, they usually don’t know me. I always wear a hat, plus my flip-up shades, to keep the sun out of my eyes (I hate glare, something that has kept me indoors most of my life). Then there’s the fact that I haven’t shaved since Christmas Eve. So everyone I run into says “Who’s that?” Earlier this week, for instance, that happened with Dwight Drake as he was walking back to Nelson Mullins from the State House.

I also run into people I don’t know, make new friends. Yesterday, I was crossing the Horseshoe when a USC cop was taking down the U.S. and state flags. He was struggling to handle the SC flag alone — holding it above his head while he tried to neatly fold it lengthwise — so I went over and helped him. As we folded, he asked whether I was a professor (the beard, I’m thinking), and I told him no, and we chatted and learned we had a mutual acquaintance.  I’m not sure the triangle we folded the U.S. flag into was quite regulation, but we got the job done,  more or less the way you see honor guards at military funerals do it in the movies.

Then today, I ran into our governor. His bulldog puppy had just run to the top of the State House steps — I overheard someone say “11 seconds” — and photos were being taken to mark the occasion.

As they were descending, I said “Hey, Henry,” and he squinted and said, like everyone, “Who’s that?” So I told him, and he came over and we talked about the dog. He’s about 11 months now. News reports have called him “Mac,” but I think Henry introduced him as “Mac II.” Anyway, neither of us brought up politics, and after a moment I continued the walk.

Exercise is making me more sociable…

Imagine the flip-up shades being deployed, and you can see why the incognito thing works.

Imagine the flip-up shades being deployed, and you can see why the incognito thing works.

Oh, the words I’ve wasted!

Hannah presents her young son Samuel to the priest Eli. By Gerbrand van den Eeckhout

Hannah presents her young son Samuel to the priest Eli. By Gerbrand van den Eeckhout

Today’s first reading on the Catholic liturgical calendar is from 1 Samuel, chapter 3. It gets me every time I read this part at the end:

Samuel grew up, and the LORD was with him,
not permitting any word of his to be without effect.
Thus all Israel from Dan to Beersheba
came to know that Samuel was an accredited prophet of the LORD.

Imagine that. If I were offered a super power, I might choose that one — that no word of mine would be without effect. Good effect, worthwhile effect. Effect that is pleasing to God.

But as it happens, I’ve wasted thousands upon thousands. And although one gets to utter many, many words in a lifetime on this Earth, the supply is not infinite.

I hang my head at the thought of all those wasted ones…

Check out my son Matt’s new video

There’s a lot of talent in my family (which probably makes people wonder whatever happened to me).

My son Matt certainly has his share. He’s always been involved with music, both on the stage and at the soundboard in the studio. He was a leading creative force with the legendary local revival-punk band, the Megameants. (Those of you who used to mosh at the fabled club 2758 on Rosewood will remember them; others probably won’t.)

His newer work is a good bit more sedate than the punk stuff, with more of a folky, acoustic feel.

And then there are his video creations. You may recall the one he did about the flag rally a couple of years back, for which I provided narration.

I thought I’d share with you what he posted on Facebook this week. I got a kick out of it. He wasn’t entirely satisfied with it. He says there’s something wrong with the sound, but I can’t hear it.

And no, he’s not twins….

I just realized I have a mental block on ONE word…

words

About a month or so ago, my wife was riding with me in my pickup truck, and for whatever reason started writing down words that can be derived from “petroleum.” When we got to where we were going, she clipped the pen to the folded sheet of paper she’d been writing on, and left them on the floor of the truck, right behind the manual gearshift.

Periodically, as I’ve gotten into or out of the car, I’ve glanced down at the paper, and thought of another word, and taken a second to add it to the list. The column on the right-hand side are my additions.

I hadn’t added any new ones for a couple of weeks, and then yesterday, it suddenly hit me: I was missing a biggie — a nice, fat, five-letter word that for some time has been more on our minds than a sane person would want it to be.

I guess I’ve just had a sort of mental block, an urge to will that word away.

Can you see what it is?

Respect noon! Do away with DST for good…

Rep. Norrell at Smith announcement last month.

Rep. Norrell at Smith announcement last month.

I’ve heard good things about Rep. Mandy Powers Norrell. She seems to be something of an up-and-comer in the S.C. House. She gave a nice speech at James Smith’s campaign kickoff last month.

But boy, has she taken a wrong turn on this one:

Aaargghh!

You see, she was responding to this:

Alan Clemmons

Rep. Alan Clemmons

I had meant to write when I first heard of Mr. Clemmons’ bill a couple of weeks back, to give him my full support. At least, for the idea. I’m not so crazy about the referendum part. Lawmakers should just bite the bullet themselves and end this unnatural abomination called DST. Every referendum on a nonconstitutional issue is a step toward direct democracy, and that of course would be worse than year-round DST.

But the basic idea of doing away with DST altogether? Good one. Hear, hear.

Mind you, I’m slightly more sympathetic to the cause of the DSTers since I started my thing of walking 10,000 steps a day. I had a nice routine going in which I’d do 5,000 on the elliptical trainer before work in the morning, then take care of what was left with a nice, long walk with my wife when I got home.

The end of DST ended that. (So I’ve replaced it with a walk downtown in the middle of the day. And my wife and I still walk together on weekends.) But there’s a bonus on the other end: I’m not getting up in the dark — or at least, it’s not quite as dark — to do my morning workout. And that counts for a lot.

Mostly, though, it’s the principle of the thing. Noon is when the sun it at it’s zenith, or these man-kept hours have no meaning, no point of reference in the natural world! It’s the midpoint of the day (or, if you’re a captain in the Royal Navy during the Napoleonic Wars — and you probably aren’t — the start of the day). And if your clock strikes 12 an hour before the sun is at his height, then your whole day is a lie.

It’s just wrong, don’t you see?

No, you probably don’t. Few do. But I will fight my rear-guard action as long as I can. And thanks for doing your bit for the cause, Rep. Clemmons. I may not always agree with you (on, say, bills such as this), but you chose the side of the good guys on this one…

Merry Christmas, Baby: Now, SPIT!

dna kitOK, so maybe it wasn’t the most romantic gift idea ever. And maybe it was more a present for me than for her.

But I had to give it a shot.

I called my wife a little while ago on this Cyber Monday and mentioned that she hadn’t told me what she wanted for Christmas. She replied that I hadn’t told her what I wanted for Christmas.

After a little back-and-forth about that, I said, Not that this is a related question or anything, but have you ever… thought about having your DNA done?

“I knew it!” she said. She, too, had seen the ads that said there was a special deal ending today: $59 for an Ancestry DNA kit, instead of the usual $99. “You want me to spit into a tube!”

See, I’ve been working pretty hard on her family tree as well as my own. And I’ve had some real success. For instance, one of her great-grandfathers had been kind of a dead end for her, as he died young far from his family. But I’ve managed not only to find his parents, but to carry his line back another five generations before that, back to Germany (we knew the name as Smith, but it was originally Schmidt).

Which is pretty cool, right? And with the data that a DNA analysis would provide, the sky would be the limit! Right?

What an exciting present! At least, I thought so.

She’s thinking about it. She’s probably also wondering what it is in my DNA that makes me this way…

DNA deal

The hawk that sat on the head of Pitchfork Ben

Then I realized it was too BIG to be a pigeon.

Then I realized it was too BIG to be a pigeon.

Yesterday afternoon, knowing I had somewhere to be that night and wouldn’t have time for my evening walk, I left the office for awhile to get the rest of my 10,000 steps around downtown.

As I came around the State House on the Assembly Street side, I saw a pigeon sitting atop Ben Tillman’s statue. I decided to approach and get a picture.hawk closeup

Then I realized it was too big for a pigeon.

It was a hawk.

There’s lesson to be inferred here somewhere, one fraught with symbolic meaning, but it’s escaping me. After all, my former newspaper was founded to fight Tillman — my professional forebear, the paper’s first editor, was shot and killed by Tillman’s nephew over his editorials. My grandmother used to live next door to Tillman in Washington as a little girl, although her family despised him.

So it must mean something that this vision appeared to me, of all people.

Or maybe not. In any case, I thought it was an interesting sight. I see hawks soaring high above all the time, but I seldom see them perched so near the ground. What caused this one to choose to sit there, of all places?