Extra! Extra!

Posted October 31, 2011 by richard shade gardner
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It’s important to keep a journal. In doing so, I have found there to be personal headlines almost every day.

Learning to Walk currently being updated 08-08-11

Posted August 8, 2011 by richard shade gardner
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I’m currently re-designing this blog. RSG 08-08-11ng this blog>

Mardi Gras with tanks

Posted February 25, 2009 by richard shade gardner
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Sections of the counter newspaper were being exchanged beteen customers. The guy next to me had the A section, the national news.

“They say yesterday’s Mardi Gras celebration was the biggest since pre-Hurricane Katrina,” he said aloud. “I went there once, when I was nineteen,” he continued. “Wild place. Million people from out-of-town.”

He spoke in short fragments. “College students. Military guys. Bars took out their windows and sold drinks to you standing on the sidewalk. People slept in the parks. Mardi Gras is really 12 days long. Each day named for a Greek god. The last day is Mardi Gras, the Day of Rex. Point is, bars don’t stay open all night like you’d think. They start shutting down around midnight because people are exhausted from partying for going on two weeks.”

He went silent as coffees were sipped, breakfasts were ordered, and customer checks were calculated.

“I always thought I’d go back, but I never did.”

“That’s what I said about Germany,” piped in an old timer a few seats away. “I wanted to see…” and he stopped.

“You visited Germany?” asked Mr. Mardi Gras.

The old guy smiled, “Yeh.”

“What was it you wanted to see?”

“Well, when I was there – Nuremburg – we drove over crumbled buildings in our tanks. I just want to see, well, what it looks like now.”

Society’s economic woes mirrored by waitresses

Posted February 12, 2009 by richard shade gardner
Categories: Uncategorized

I usually come to the diner weekdays, but last weekend I stopped in on Sunday with Annette for a late morning omelet.

Annette’s daughter waits tables here Sundays. She is one of three part-time weekend waitresses. Each is thirty or younger, went to college, and has another “main” job. This is in contrast to the three full-time waitresses who work here during the week. They are fifty-plus, didn’t go to college, and this is their main job.

I am familair enough with all six waitresses to know that they all own – or lack – approximately the same amount of material possessions. The difference in personal cash flow seems to be related to the amount of debt each has; primarily college loans and credit card balances.

I find it tragically ironic that today’s college-prepared young people, at least many of the ones I know, seem to be so saddled with debt that they must work two jobs to survive.

Searching for Jehovah

Posted February 5, 2009 by richard shade gardner
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Question: What do you call a person who is an insomniac, an agnostic, and is dyslexic? Answer: Someone who lies awake at night wondering if there really is a doG.

That may be an old joke, but it’s often how I feel. For centuries the idea of God has been presented to us by organized religion.  Presented by radical Fundamentalists who hate and kill in His name; presented by ineffectual Western denomiations who are only “religious” on key Sundays during the year; presented by odd sects, like Mennonites or Lamas, who mind their own God-blessed business.

In college I majored in biology and I can articulate the key arguments supporting evolution. But as someone with five senses, I watch a great blue heron fly through the mist at sunrise and convince myself there must be a Reason. I watch 350,000,000 Americans go through their day and wonder if there isn’t a Purpose.

In the song Counting Blue Cars, by Dishwalla, a child asks, “Tell me all your thoughts on God, ’cause I’d really like to meet her; tell me all your thoughts on God, ’cause I’m on my way to see her; tell me, am I very far, now, am I very far?”

Maybe it’s time for a paradigm shift. Maybe religion needs to stop leading men and, instead, follow women.

Graveside memorial service on a cold day

Posted February 3, 2009 by richard shade gardner
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Last Sunday I attended a graveside sevice for my very first boss, David “Scotty” Caplan, former owner of Scotty’s Shell Station at Twelve Corners in the Town of Brighton. I worked for him part-time from age 16 to 22.

Scotty was almost 97 when he passed away. Seventy people came to his burial. When you’re that old and seventy people show up to bury you on a bitter cold February morning, that’s proof you’ve “lived.”

He gave up his pilot’s license at 82. His wife died when he was 93. He was run over by a van when he was 94 – he should have stayed airborne where it was safer. The rabbi said, “He was aged, but not old.”

Scotty was a Jew. Ironically, he gave his Shell Station workers small Christmas presents each year. I remember receiving a pair of gloves.

This past Sunday seventy pairs of eyes watched as they lowered his coffin into the ground. In what the rabbi described as “the Jewish tradition honoring the cycle of life,” we were all invited to throw a shovelful of dirt on his coffin. I was early enough in line to have my dirt bounce off the bare wood of his coffin. A strange feeling it was, burying the man who taught me what “work” was – how to deal with the mechanical part and the people part of the job.

Sorry, Scotty, if that shovelful of dirt didn’t seem like the proper way to say thanks.

Bird feeder as a mirror of life

Posted February 2, 2009 by richard shade gardner
Categories: Uncategorized

A couple days ago I was sitting at the kitchen table eating breakfast, cognizant of the fact that there were birds at the feeder just outside the window, but paying them little mind since they were run-of-the-mill house sparrows. Suddenly there was a flash of movement at the feeder. By the time I looked, all I could see was a hawk flying off with what appeared to be a house sparrow in his talons.

My friend, Dale, said the snow is so deep in his back yard in Saratoga Springs, NY, that a squirrel can walk across the top of it, step right over the squirrel foil on the bird feeder pole, and help itself to more sunflower seeds than a whole flock of sparrows can consume.

The hawks and the squirrels don’t follow the system we had in mind when we installed the feeders: wait your turn…do unto others… 

Like real life, the big guys eat the little guys, and the freeloaders tend to take the lions share.

Paradigm shift needed #2: waiting room

Posted January 29, 2009 by richard shade gardner
Categories: Uncategorized

I needed new glasses. I usually go through a friend who owns a small eyewear shop with no in-house optometrist. So I made an appointment with an outside optometrist. I had to wait two weeks to get in. I made the appointment for the morning – 11:15 A.M. – so they wouldn’t be running too far behind. I closed my office and drove to their office. I arrived on time.

At 11:50 – I’d waited 35 minutes – I told the receptionist I was leaving. I apologized, “I have a client of my own – at 12:30 – and I need to be there when she arrives.”

The receptionist also apologized, saying there had been an emergency and the optometrist was running behind.

The last time I went there I waited an hour and ten minutes past my scheduled appointment. I’m sure most readers can come up with a story about how long they waited for a medical provider. Others may think, “That’s the way it is,” implying I should be accepting of this situation.

My point is, even though it is a common occurrence, I am not accepting of it. Consider a hairdresser: high school diploma, no back-up (nurses, aides, etc.), her/his clients showing up late and early, yet you seldom have to wait longer than scheduled. Why can’t a doc, with numerous degrees and support staff, be on time?

“Emergency” is really not the reason. These people are, after all, in the “emergency” business. This is the 21st century, time for business-not-as-usual.

Paradigm shift needed #1: passwords

Posted January 26, 2009 by richard shade gardner
Categories: Uncategorized

I had a new computer installed in my home office. I called my regular computer guy to install it, along with a printer and some software. I met him at the house to let him in and hung around to watch.

“We need a password…” he said.

“How about ‘Rich?'”

“It should be at least eight characters.”

“Okay, how about ‘RichardG?'”

“It really should be something less obvious, to keep people from breaking in…”

So it went. We needed passwords to log into this function and that program. Three passwords and one user names, alone, just to link my home computer and my business office computer. By the time he left I had a notepad sheet filled with passwords and user names for all the different technical maneuvers I might wish to make during the course of a day. Thanks to passwords, no one will be able to access my documents or system. Including me. Unless I have my notepad list.

Hackers are to computer users what terrorists are to air travelers. We should be able to carry anything onto a jet, write anything on our computer, and not worry about security issues. The concept of a “password” barely existed a generation ago. Now it’s involved in more daily transactions than not. The need to keep bad guys out has enslaved the good guys.


Posted January 22, 2009 by richard shade gardner
Categories: Uncategorized

Schadenfreude is a German term meaning, “taking pleasure in the misery or suffering of another.” Schadenfreude explains why, at the time of Christ, the Romans took pleasure in watching gladiators gored to death by lions. It explains why in the mid-twentieth century, America was enamored with the antics of the Three Stooges, who constantly hurt each other. Schadenfreude explains why, today, curious onlookers gather at an automobile accident; often the more serious the crash, the bigger the crowd.

Sitting at the counter, watching the sidewalk action behind me in the overhead mirror, I am experiencing Schadenfreude. I watch a young man, perhaps seventeen, walk past the diner. His pants are so large and low-hanging he will surely trip over the cuffs and fall. I watch this socially inept individual with what has to be be a warped self-image, work his way down the street – through life – as I might watch him fall and injure himself. This kid is a Stooge driving into a light pole. He’s hurting himself but only the onlookers seem to know it.

I dated a woman whose son wore his pants oversized and hanging off his butt. That was more than ten years ago. Today’s young man on the sidewalk is wearing them even bigger and lower. Where will the pants be in ten more years? Down around the ankles? Or maybe completely off, removed, and pulled along behind on the sidewalk with a leash? 

The waitress looks at me suspiciously, “Why are you smiling?”

“Schadenfreude,” I answer. “No, not on the menu!”