Archive for July 2008

Old Books: 1911 Boy Scout Handbook

July 14, 2008

Boy Scouts of America, Handbook for Boys, Price 40 cents


BATHS: Besides exercises a boy should have simple, workable rules for living. A boy ought to take a good soap bath at least twice a week and always after he has played a hard game or performed work of a nature that has caused him to perspire freely. Each morning a quick sponge bath should be the first order of the day, in water as cool as he can stand it, followed by a good rub with a coarse towel.

PAIN: One thing that should be regarded seriously is pain in any form in any part of the body. If there is a dull headache frequently, find out what causes it. Pain in the knee, the arch of the foot, or at any point, should be taken seriously. Pain means something is wrong. It may be brave to bear it, but it is not wise. Remember that pain felt in one part of the body may be the result of something wrong in another part. See a wise doctor about it.


KNIGHT ERRANTRY: Scouts go out singly, or in pairs or as a patrol. If in a town, to find women or children in want of help, and to return and report, on their honor, what they have done. If in the country, call at any farms or cottages and ask to do odd jobs – for nothing.

Individual versus team athletes

July 10, 2008

How much teamwork is there in professional sports? Consider the following ten traits manifested by a hypothetical athlete. Do you think they depict an individual athlete, like a golfer, tennis player, swimmer, auto racer, or long distance runner? Or do they depict the behavior of a team athlete (as in “All for one, one for all”)?

1 Demand and receive a guaranteed annual salary regardless of their future success.

2 Get busted for DWI, assault, rape, torturing dogs, or beating up their woman.

3 Use unethical or illegal peformance enhancement substances.

4 Randomly cop a punk-ass attitude.

5 Fail to show up for, or out-and-out boycott practices.

6 Demand up-negotiation of an as yet unfulfilled contract.

7 Jump over a car that’s going 60 miles an hour.

8 Punch out a member of the opposition.

9 Accidentally shoot their bodyguard.

10 File for bankruptcy in spite of being paid millions.

Do you think a pole vaulter or a football player is more likely to display the above behavior?

I find the use of the terms “team” and “teamwork” ironic. Unless, of course, the “game” is Antisocial Behavior, and the position one is playing is God.

Washington State: eagles

July 9, 2008

Spanish explorers once made it up the west coast all the way to Canada. And left their mark. The Strait of Juan de Fuca, for example, is the name of the hundred-mile-long body of salt water that separates the state of Washington from British Columbia. It looks to be ten or twelve miles wide; you can see the Canadian shoreline from Washington.

The shoreline on the Washington side is mostly remote and fairly wild. Driving along Route 112 I think I see an eagle on the beach. I stop and back up carefully on the narrow shoulder. We get out and creep carefully around tall grass and there, not fifty paces away, stand not one, but two magnificent bald eagles. They immediately depart upon spotting us. After all the evidence of really bad logging practices I’ve seen driving through this state, seeing two eagles makes my day.

Back in the car I spot two more – in a tree, and two more – on a rock protruding from the surf – and two more… I stop counting after six pairs. They are more common than red-tailed hawks back east here sitting in trees along the New York Thruway; a little less common than gulls circling a landfill. We saw probably four eagles for every mile of coastline for about twenty miles along one particular stretch near Port Angeles and they were almost all in pairs.

I didn’t take pictures. To do so would be to reduce this spiritually uplifting experience, this knowledge that such a high member of the food chain is thriving here, to a mere photograph.

The gift that keeps on giving

July 7, 2008

I am not a shopper. I avoid stores; malls expecially. Maybe it’s because of a guilt complex I carry from having been involved – as a college student/summer laborer – in building one of the biggest malls in the northeast. That mall not only displaced woodlands and farm fields, but it has continued to spawn more and more peripheral stores over the years, turning into nearly half-a-square mile of consumer wasteland.

So when my wonderful daughter gave me a gift card to the Gap for Father’s Day, I realized I would have to go to the mall. I put it off for a week.

Finally, carrying my guilt (along with a heads up that Gap employees can be so obnoxious that Saturday Night Live even did a skit on them), I scanned the mall directory for the location of the Gap. Oh, there is was, right across from the mall directory.

A very nice woman waited on me, giving me as much unhurried time as I needed, as if I were the only customer in the store and there was nothing she’d rather be doing. When it came time to pay she rang up the sale and said, “Ah, you’ve got $2.55 in change, enough to buy yourself a nice cup of coffee!”

I left thinking, “Gee, that was pretty painless.”

When I got home I discovered the T-shirts were too small. I never tried them on. I didn’t take them back until about a week later when I was in the mall neighborhood. Another equally pleasant woman waited on me. I got my three replacement shirts and when she was ringing them up she noticed they’d been reduced 40%. So I got two more shirts and, ta da, another two-something in change.

I thought about walking over and checking out the pants I’d bought to see if they too had been reduced, and I could multiply them and parlay that into some more coffee money, but I’d already worn and washed my pants.

Seattle: Mexicans

July 4, 2008

Most home improvement stores in Seattle have a feature not found in my east coast city of Rochester. When you pull into a Loews you’ll likely find a small group of Mexican men standing off to the side. They’re looking for day work. If you come out of the store with lumber they’ll come running over, offer to help you load your vehicle, and ask if they can come to your house and help with the project. Generally, this system works. The Mexicans do okay work and don’t charge too much or try to rob you.

This particular day we pull into Loews and there are eight Mexicans standing under some trees at the edge of the parking lot scanning the American asphalt for opportunity. Inside Loews we wrestle several 80-pound bags of ready-mix concrete into a shopping cart with three-and-a-half wheels. We manage to tear a small hole in each bag and the cart is so loaded that the bad wheel won’t even wobble; it just shuts down.

This is turning out to be a Four-H day: Hot, Humid, Hungover, and, by the time I get to the cashier, I can feel my old Hernia operation. I wonder how little I can offer one of those Mexicans to hoist these bags into the trunk of our car. I’m willing to go five bucks.

Outside again, my eyes adjust to the bright sun and I search the shadows under the trees for the Mexicans. There are none to be seen. In their place are two young Caucasian men with the physiques of college lifeguards. Their tanned and toned arms are folded seriously across their chests, their sleeves rolled up tight. They wear Nike running shoes and have semi-automatic pistols and handcuffs strapped to their waists. They sport sunglasses and blue baseball caps with white lettering, two words of which I can just make out: “Immigration Control.”

Found items l: freelance sentence structure

July 2, 2008

I found this list neatly printed in blue ball point pen on lined notebook paper, on the floor in the lobby of my office building. There is a construction project underway on another floor and there are tradespeople and suppliers coming in and out on a regular basis.