Tuesday, December 24, 2013

A CHRISTMAS PRAYER

God give us grace. . .

to see
beyond the gleam and glitter
of our tinseled trees
a dim lit stable
not at all like these,

to hear
above the clash and clamor
of the market throng
an angel's call for peace 
in silent song,

to feel
in all the merry madness
of our festive cheer
the Savior's presence
in our hearts this year.

(from Now, That's a Miracle!)

Monday, November 25, 2013

SAD NEWS

Margaret Childs Armstrong
03/21//1926 - 10/30/2013
        It has been several weeks since my last post. The reason, I am sorry to report, is that my wonderful wife Margie died on October 30, after a long battle with leukemia.Caring for her and treasuring our time together has been my primary vocation for the past nineteen months.
        Some of you have already heard this sad news, but others have not. I haven't informed my Facebook friends of her death until now. I apologize for that, but I have been totally preoccupied with all the matters relating to her burial, two memorial services (one last Monday in the Princeton University Chapel and one this past Saturday morning at our congregation at Pennswood Village in Newtown, Pennsylvania), and a host of other necessary details.
        Although I have experienced the death of many family members and close friends, I have learned much more about suffering and about grief through this experience, and I hope in the near future to share some thoughts about that and about Margie's inspiring courage and amazing grace throughout her long ordeal.
        For now I simply wanted to explain why you haven't heard from me for a long time. I hope to begin posting articles again shortly. There has been so much to write about, but it will have to wait until I catch up on some other important matters I have neglected in the past several weeks.
        In the meantime, I urge you to savor the time you have with those you love, for life is a gift, and we can't take anyone for granted. Never neglect to tell your loved ones how much they mean to you, for once they have died, it's too late, and regrets are hard to live with.
        The last words Margie and I always said to each other, whenever we were parting even for just a short time, were "I love you!" I miss her terribly, but I have no regrets about our marriage of nearly sixty-six years ---except that it has ended.




Thursday, October 17, 2013

THE SHUT DOWN HAS ENDED ---FOR NOW!

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid
        The nation and the world breathed a huge sigh of relief as the Senate and the House took last minute action last night to end the government shut down and to permit the raising of the debt ceiling at least temporarily, by kicking the can down the road.
        The Senate voted 81-18 to end the shut-down by funding the government through January 15, 2014. The bi-partisan bill also allowed the debt ceiling to be raised through February 7, 2014, while leaving the Affordable Health Care Act virtually untouched. The one minor exception was the inclusion of a "no subsidies without verification" provision.
        Republican Senator Ted Cruz and his Tea Party allies were terribly unhappy with the bill and they vowed the fight isn't over.
        The bill was then sent over to the House, which voted 285 to 144 to accept the Senate's compromise. 87 House Republicans sided with 198 House Democrats in favor of the bill, while no Democrats voted against it.
        To their credit Democrats and the President are not gloating over what has to be seen as a major victory for them and for the nation. They are viewing it as a bipartisan effort. At the same time, they are not hesitant to lay the blame for the whole fiasco at the doorstep of the Tea Party, and their supporters.
        The shut down has already cost the country 24 billion dollars, and the nation's credit rating is in jeopardy. Some big questions remain: will the Republicans ever again force a government shutdown in order to attain their legislative agenda, in this case repealing Obamacare, or have they learned their lesson? Their approval rating has never been lower!
        Will moderate Republicans cease to be intimidated by the radical right wing of the Party, or will they move ahead with their own agenda? Will they work with Democrats and the President to correct the flaws in the Affordable Health Care Act, or will they continue to insist that the law must be completely abolished?
        Will the House finally turn their attention to all the other important legislative matters that have been on hold for so long, such as immigration reform, the infrastructure, jobs, gun regulation, and many other important issues. Will John Boehner continue to be the Speaker of the House?
        We'll soon know the answer to these questions.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

A DISTURBING PROTEST

Ted Cruz and Sarah Palin reciting the Pledge of  Allegiance
        Tea Party spokesperson Senator Ted Cruz (Rep., Texas) and former Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin joined a group of veterans who were protesting the closing of World War II Memorial in Washington yesterday. The boisterous demonstrators broke through the barriers and carried them off to the White House, where they flaunted a Confederate flag, as they denounced President Obama for shutting down the national parks, an action for which Senator Cruz and his party were themselves  responsible when they shut down the entire government! They criticize the park rangers for simply doing their job —without pay!
        That kind of blatant hypocrisy is what infuriates fair-minded Americans and has resulted in the deservedly high disapproval ratings of the Republican party. As a World War II veteran myself, I’m embarrassed and ashamed that some (not all) of my fellow veterans could be so ill-informed about what’s going on, not to mention their being so disrespectful to their commander-in-chief.
        Cruz and Palin were followed at the microphone by Larry Klayman, founder of the ultra conservative political advocacy organization Freedom Watch. Klayman told the crowd that our country is now “ruled by a president who bows down to Allah,” and he called upon his hearers to join him in waging “a second American nonviolent revolution, to use civil disobedience, and to demand that this president leave town, to put the Quran down, to get up off his knees, and to figuratively come up with his hands out.”  I’m sure he meant to say “come out with his hands up”!
        I don’t know if Senator Cruz was there to hear Klayman’s racist remarks, but when asked for his reaction, Cruz’s response, unlike that of some of his Republican counterparts, was anything but a denunciation.  Republican Scott Rigell of Virginia, for example, emphatically repudiated Klayman’s comments and called them harmful to the country.
        As disgusted as I am with Confederate flag-waving racists, I am even more repulsed by American flag-waving bigots, whose attitudes and actions are a disgrace to our flag and to the country for which it stands.      

Sunday, October 13, 2013

THIS WILL WARM YOUR HEART

        Here's a nice change of pace. In case you haven't yet seen this video on YouTube, click here to see and hear a father (Benjamin J. Ames) and his four-year-old-daughter sing "Tonight You Belong to Me." Turn the sound up and enlarge your screen, and be sure to watch the entire video. It will warm your heart and brighten your day!

Saturday, October 12, 2013

IMAGINE THAT!

Rep. Congressman Paul Ryan

        Here's a weird piece of political irony: Who has emerged as the potential spokesperson for the Republican Party? None other than Republican congressman Paul Ryan!
        We remember him well the from the last Presidential campaign, when he was anything but reasonable. But in recent days he has actually sounded like a moderate, to the extent that he is drawing criticism from some Tea Partyites. Imagine that!
        Recalling Ryan's proposed budget and his outlandish comments about Obamacare, it's not easy to imagine it. But I must say, it's a welcome change ---if it's genuine!
        Let's hope it is.          

Thursday, October 10, 2013

PRESIDENT’S LATEST APPROVAL RATING

        Republicans are glowing because President Obama’s approval rating has hit a new low.  An AP poll yesterday showed it at 37%.
        There are two principle reasons for that, in my opinion. Part of the disfavor is due to the “buck stops here” syndrome. People are tired of the stalemate in Congress, and even though the fault lies with the House Republicans, the frustration and anger of the general public will eventually land on the chief executive’s desk. It is happening under Barack Obama’s watch, and he can’t escape being the target, albeit it unfairly, of some of the public’s dissatisfaction with our dysfunctional Congress.
        Never mind that it has been the House Republicans who have adamantly refused to support any of the President legislative proposals, no matter how helpful and necessary they might be, and despite their having been approved by the Senate. The Republicans have been “the Party of No” from the start of the Obama presidency, and they have obstinately refused to accept even the main piece of legislation that was enacted into law and upheld by the Supreme Court, viz. the Affordable Health Care Act.
        The second and even more influential factor in the decline of the President’s approval rating is, in my view, the persuasive power of negativism. The effectiveness of negative advertising and political rhetoric cannot be dismissed. The consistent and persistent blame-casting by the Republicans and their hate-filled supporters was bound to have its effect. They are experts at the karlrovian tactic of accusing the President of the very thing of which they themselves are guilty. Their false accusations, misrepresentations and outright lies, all of which can easily be refuted by the facts (see The Grand Old Party Is Anything But Grand), were bound to influence the thinking of some Americans, whose frustration with Washington has trumped their objectivity.

Friday, October 4, 2013

OUT, DAMNED SPOT!

        Here’s a helpful household hint of which Lady Macbeth might not have been aware: while cold water and soap will remove most recent blood stains, for tougher and older blood stains try squirting some hydrogen peroxide on the spot or spots. White foam will appear instantly on the blood stains. Then scrub and rinse with cold water.
        This suggestion is nothing new to many homemakers. But what I want to say next might be, and that is, it may take three or four applications of the hydrogen peroxide to get rid of some older stains. So don’t give up if the stains don’t disappear after the first application and rinse. Repeat the process three or four times, if necessary, and even the worst stains should disappear. You have to soak and scrub each time.
        That’s what I learned recently, after I had just about given up on some old blood stains following just two applications. But I kept at it and was amazed when they finally disappeared completely after the fourth rinse and scrub.
        So my message is: don’t give up too quickly.  

END THIS SENSELESS SHUT DOWN!


    Michele Bachmann commented yesterday that Republicans couldn’t be happier about the Government shut down. “It’s exactly what we wanted, and we got it!”
       Republican Congressman Marlin Stutzman of Indiana told The Washington Examiner: “We’re not going to be disrespected. We have to get something out of this, and I don’t know what that even is.”
       Another Republican Congressman, Rep. Randy Neugebauer, of  Lubbock, Texas, scolded a National Park Ranger for refusing to allow some World War II veterans to pass beyond the barricade that blocked people from entering the WWII monument in Washington. The National Monuments around the Washington Mall are closed as a result of the government shut down, and she was simply carrying out the orders for which he and his fellow Republicans were responsible!
       Such comments and actions would be ludicrous if they were not so outrageous. The Tea Party fanatics are glowing about their achievement. Some have even commented that the shut down is good for the country! “Think of the money we’re saving!”
        What is especially infuriating is to hear the Republicans blame President Obama for the shut down. There is no way that the President deserves any share of the blame for the current debacle, and many Americans are very upset to hear some “pundits” speak as if both parties are equally to blame. I have signed more than one petition calling upon the network news commentators to stop letting the Republicans off the hook.
        Some G.O.P. leaders are not happy about the way things are going, but because of their fear of the Tea Party, they went along with the government shut down. They’d like to end it, but they don’t know how to do so and save face.
        I wish they’d worry more about saving the country!

Saturday, September 28, 2013

MY REACTIONS TO “42"

Chadwick Boseman as Jackie Robinson
       I have seen the movie “42" twice, and I must say that I enjoyed it even more the second time than I did the first,
       I had been looking forward to seeing the film, subtitled "The Jackie Robinson Story,” because from my baseball days I had known and admired the central figures in the story, Jackie Robinson and  Branch Rickey. I was eager to see how the two characters would be portrayed and if the portrayals conformed to my recollections of the two men and of the events of the times.

Branch Rickey and Harrison Ford as Branch Rickey
        Chadwick Boseman’s nterpretation of Jackie Robinson was certainly acceptable, but Harrison Ford’s impersonation of Branch Rickey was simply amazing! His resemblance to the Brooklyn Dodgers’ General Manager was remarkable. Though his face was thinner, Ford looked and sounded like the Branch Rickey I knew, and except for a few times when the popular actor's well known smile was recognizable, I felt as if I were watching Mr. Rickey himself.  In my view, Harrison Ford should be nominated for an Oscar for his role in “42.” There is an excellent supporting cast as well, including especially Nicole Beharie as Rachel Robinson and Andre Holland as journalist Wendell Smith.
        The movie is commendably accurate. To be more true to life it would have to have been at least an R-rated film, because what the real Jackie Robinson had to endure was far worse than what was shown in the film. In August of 1946 following my discharge from the Navy I was invited to go on the road with the International League Orioles. I did not want to sign a contract at that time, as I was planning to return to Princeton for my senior year and wanted to be eligible to play on the baseball team. But I enjoyed pitching batting practice for the Orioles and working out with the team.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

THE GRAND OLD PARTY IS ANYTHING BUT GRAND!

        The Grand Old Party is anything but grand!  
Republican Senator Ted Cruz of Texas
        The only thing they agree on is their hatred of President Obama. But they don’t agree on how to get rid of Obamacare. The right wing fanatics are willing to shut down the government to accomplish that goal. And their Senate spokesperson, Senator Ted Cruz of Texas, has the gall to blame that eventuality on the President for his unwillingness to cave in to their efforts to abolish the health care legislation he fought so hard to enact!
        What do Senators Cruz, Rand Paul, and their ilk care if people who depend on Social Security to survive won’t receive their monthly payments? What do they care if thirty million Americans will not have affordable health insurance? What do they care if millions of  Americans are already enjoying the benefits of the new law? What do they care if the Congressional Budget Office and the Joint Committee on Taxation have both estimated that the Affordable Health Care Act will eventually result in reducing the national deficit? What do they care that the nation resoundingly reelected the President who succeeded in enacting legislation that others had tried and failed to do? What do they care if the Supreme Court upheld the legality of the law, despite the Republicans’ concerted efforts to overturn it? What do they care if their misrepresentations of the Health Care law have been refuted point by point?
        Their more moderate colleagues are equally opposed to Obamacare, but they don’t want to plunge the nation into a disastrous financial crisis in order to repeal it. To be sure, their motives are not entirely altruistic, for they see the adverse political consequences of such a course of action. Despite all the misinformation put forth by the GOP, the public support for the new health program continues to mount, and the overwhelming majority of Americans do not want to see their government shut down. If it happens, they know whom to blame for it!
        As I write this, Senator Cruz is still speaking on the floor of the Senate in his effort to defeat Obamacare. They’re calling it a “faux” filibuster, because it is not technically a filibuster. But the Senator rants on and on, to the consternation even of some of his Republican colleagues. He’s a hero to his ultra-conservative right-wing ideologues, but to his moderate colleagues he’s a fly in the ointment, and to many if not most Americans, who now have seen the benefits of the Affordable Health Act, he is a deceitful demagog whose political motives are as obvious as his false statements.
        Our country needs a united not a divided GOP. But whatever became of the concept of the “loyal opposition”? The total lack of cooperation of the Republicans throughout President Obama’s entire tenure in office has been a huge impediment to legislative progress and is totally reprehensible and unconscionable.
        I hope they pay the price for their behavior in the forthcoming mid-term elections.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

FOUL WEATHER FRIENDS

When the sky is bright blue with clear sailing ahead.                      
when your worries are few and your troubles have fled,
you can bet that you'll find you're surrounded with friends,
as if on your favor their future depends.

When your pockets are full and the world's at your feet,
you will get invitations to join the elite,
for it's not too hard then for some folks to be nice.
They will wine you and dine you and seek your advice.

But the question to ask yourself once in a while,
when you're getting a slap on the back with a smile,
is, What will become of your fair weather friends,
when the going gets rough and your influence ends?

Can you count on them then, when you need their support,
when your luck has run out and your efforts fall short?
That's the test!  And the best are the foul weather friends
who are still by your side when the fair weather ends!

(from If I Do Say So Myself)


Friday, August 30, 2013

THE "GOOD HANDS" PEOPLE

By Bob Golon
Special Contributor

        I’m not talking about the insurance company people that we hear about in television commercials. Instead, I’m referencing some real-life heroes in whose “good hands” I found myself yesterday morning.
        My wife and I were riding on a subway in New York City, on our way out to Citi Field, for a nice day at the ballpark that we had planned for quite a while. Suddenly our train took an unexpected, violent turn. People were straining to keep themselves seated or hanging on to the balance poles trying not to fall, myself among them. When I instinctively “dug in” to keep my balance, my left hip dislocated with a distinct pop. Thankfully it popped right back in again, but the sharp pain told me that the damage had been done.
        The train stopped at the next station shortly thereafter, and with the help of my concerned wife, I managed to drag myself to a bench on the platform. She then went to get help. After a few minutes that seemed like hours, she returned and told me that she had walked in to a firehouse ---Engine 8, st Street, and asked for their assistance.
Ladder 2, Battalion 8 on East 51
        So, here they came, four young, smartly dressed, uniformed public servants. A couple of them had 9/11 patches on their uniforms, and I immediately realized the caliber of help that had come to me. I could not have felt better or more confident. These were truly the “good hands people” and I trusted them comp;letely.
        I apologized to one of them for disrupting his morning, and he said, smiling, “Hey, we’re here for you.” I totally believed his sincerity. They put me into a special chair, tied me in, and the four of them lifted me up the two banks of stairs necessary to get outside to an ambulance waiting on the street. I thanked them profusely, but I could tell that for them, it was all in a day’s work.
        Every day.dependable.like clockwork!
        As for me, I was taken to Lenox Hill Hospital. X-rays were negative for fractures, and I am now awaiting an appointment with my orthopedist to make sure there was no other damage to ligaments or cartilages. Hopefully, I’ll be better in a few days, but for the rest of my life I will never forget being in the hands of the “good hands people,” the FDNY. These public servants deserve our gratitude for all that they do, and I personally cannot thank them enough.
95 FDNY Paramedics and EMTs  are been sworn in at their graduation from the EMS Academy today.
        By the way, the Mets won the ballgame without me, 11-3!

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

DON'T DESECRATE OUR NATIONAL ANTHEM!

        Why can't those who sing our National Anthem at sporting events and on other occasions sing it the way it was written? I get so tired of hearing those who are given the honor of singing The Star Spangled Banner at the start of a World Series game or the Super Bowl or some college football or basketball game massacre the inspiring melody of the song for which we Americans are supposed to rise to our feet in solemn respect.
Artist's rendering of  the flag over Fort Mchenry
        Instead of being inspired I am more often than not infuriated by the end of the song. What a difference between the stirring strains of the military band arrangements I saluted to when I was in the Navy and the vocal meandering of most of the soloists who perform the National Anthem these days. One wonders how they dare to desecrate the beautiful poem written by Francis Scott Key during the bombardment of Fort McHenry by the British in 1814. What an appropriate twist of irony that it should come to be associated with the stirring song by British composer John Stafford Smith. Thus the words of our National Anthem celebrate one of our legendary victories over Great Britain in the War of 1812, while the music symbolizes the strong alliance that since then has existed between our two nations.
        We traditionally sing only the first stanza of the song, but my favorite stanza is the fourth and last, which reads as follows:
                 O thus be it ever, when freemen shall stand
                 Between their loved home and the war's desolation.
                 Blest with vict'ry and peace, may the Heav'n rescued land
                 Praise the Power that hath made and preserved us a nation!
                 Then conquer we must, when our cause it is just,
                 And this be our motto: "In God is our trust."
                 And the star-spangled banner in triumph shall wave
                 O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave.  
        The melody is admittedly difficult to sing, with an octave-and-a-half range that challenges many soloists. That may explain why some of them sing their own tune ---to avoid having to hit and to hold the high notes! When it is sung right, audiences invariably express their appreciation by cheering and applauding vigorously.
        Their celebrity status might earn some vocalists a polite response from their fans, but not a very enthusiastic one from those who love and appreciate our National Anthem, and who expect it to be sung the way it is written.
Marnie and Gray have two very cute little 
boys, Gabey (3) and Julian (3 months).
        My granddaughter-in-law, Marnie Kanarek, who has a lovely voice and had planned on a career in music before switching to medicine, was invited to sing the National Anthem at the start of the last home game of the regular season of the Philadelphia Soul arena football team last month. They were playing the Utah Blaze. Her husband Gray (our grandson) video-taped Marnie's a cappella performance, and if you listen closely you can hear her Mom say excitedly at the very end of the video, "My daughter!"
        If you want to hear the National Anthem sung as it should be sung, click HERE. Note the reaction of the fans and that of the players, as Marnie hits her high note at the end of the song, her one thrilling departure from the written melody. That dramatic note, that sopranos often insert, represents a two octave range. It does not detract from but adds to the inspiring impact of The Star Spangled Banner
        

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

IT WORKS!

        Right after posting the brief item about the easy battery test, my mouse battery went dead! I immediately got a new battery and tried the test. It worked!
        The two batteries performed exactly as the video said they would. Don't ask me how it works, but it does! I wish I had known about this years ago.
        Here's the link again: battery test.
        PS It would make a nice parlor trick to show those who don't know it. Eg., "I have three identical AA batteries in my hand. One of theme is dead, and two are good. I bet you I can pick out the dead one without using a tester or inserting them in any kind of gadget."    

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

AN EASY WAY TO TEST A BATTERY

        A friend sent me this link that suggests an easy way to test a battery. I haven't checked it out with a dead battery yet, but if it works it is a very useful bit of information.
        Click on battery test to see the video.




Thursday, August 1, 2013

THE GOLD STANDARD OF BASEBALL BROADCASTERS

By Special Contributor Bob Golon

        I hope everyone is having an enjoyable and safe summer. I’m sorry I haven’t written in the past few weeks, and I will readily explain why. I have found myself to be in a “bad place” recently concerning the topics that I normally write about. Every motivation that I’ve had to write has been the result of anger; anger at the way money and greed is ruining the game(s) that I love, anger at the ongoing steroids saga in Major League Baseball, anger at the boorish behavior of some of today’s athletes, and so on. Quite frankly, I’d rather withhold my anger and not burden you, the reader, with it.
        Oh, there have been some bright spots. Seeing “the Franchise,” Tom Seaver, throw out the first pitch at the All-Star game at Citi Field was a treat and a wonderful trip down memory lane. Seeing “the Captain,” Derek Jeter, hit a home run on the first pitch he saw on returning from the disabled list this past Sunday is a reminder of just how much we’re going to miss him when he finally hangs up the spikes. And, he certainly trumps some of the recent actions of his more inglorious teammate, Alex Rodriguez.
Vin Scully
        Last night, a reason why I’ve found joy in baseball was there for all to see, and I’d like to share it with you. Log on to the YES Network web site at www.yesnetwork.com, and watch Michael Kay’s interview with the legendary baseball broadcaster, Vin Scully. Kay describes Scully as “the Gold Standard” in the baseball broadcasting industry, and Kay is absolutely correct. 
        A native of the Bronx, Scully joined the Brooklyn Dodgers broadcast team as a mere 23-year-old in 1950, at the invitation of the great announcer Red Barber, and has been spreading the joy of baseball to his audiences for 63 years since. Scully is credited for the success of the Dodgers in Los Angeles after their move from Brooklyn in 1958, as the early LA fans used to bring transistor radios in to the

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

HERE'S ONE YOU SHOULDN'T SIGN!

Michele Bachman is still an outspoken
opponent of Obamacare.
        Republicans are asking people to sign a petition calling for the defunding of Obamacare. Why would anyone in his or her right mind sign such a petition?
        They wouldn’t if they knew the facts. Over a hundred million Americans have already benefited from the new law. On October 1, just two months from now, millions more Americans who are not now covered by health insurance will be able to buy affordable health care insurance, and they cannot be turned down because of previous health issues.
        Republicans in the House of Representatives keep trying without success to repeal the Affordable Care Act. It's the congressional version of the Chinese water torture. The right-wingers are even threatening to shut down the government over the issue.
        Instead they should be working with the Democrats and the Administration to try to fix

Saturday, July 27, 2013

MORE ABOUT COOPERSTOWN

        Over the past several months I have posted articles about and mentioned Cooperstown. New York, on a number of occasions. To substantiate further my high regard for that picturesque and surprisingly cosmopolitan village on the south shore of beautiful Lake Otsego, I am attaching a link to a series of brief articles written by Jim Caple for ESPN.com.
        The link was sent me by my grandson Ryan Kanarek, who shares my love for baseball and for Cooperstown. The articles cover many aspects of life in the village of Cooperstown and are worth reading by anyone who has ever visited the town or has contemplated visiting there some day.
        For a fascinating look at life in what I have argued is the most interesting town of its size in America, click here, and don't stop reading after the first article. Keep scrolling down the page for lots more really interesting reading.      

Friday, July 26, 2013

WELCOME ABOARD, HUGO!

        I am delighted to welcome my friend and Princeton Windrows neighbor Professor Hugo Walter as the newest member of our MINDING WHAT MATTERS team. Dr. Walter has taught at Drew University, Fairleigh Dickinson University, Rhodes College, and Yale. He has published three important monographs and several volumes of poetry. Since 1999 he has been serving on the Faculty of Berkeley College as a professor of English and Humanities. For more information of his impressive background click here.
        As a Special Contributor to MINDING WHAT MATTERS Dr. Walter's first offering is his very latest poem, which will touch your heart, especially if you have ever bathed in the beauty and breathed in the history of Stony Brook Bridge. As a long-time resident of Princeton, I have crossed the bridge countless times, but I'll have a new appreciation for it, after reading the way Hugo has captured the spirit of that beautiful setting.
        We are honored to present to our readers for the first time in print . . .

THE SPIRIT OF STONY BROOK BRIDGE
by Hugo Walter, Special Contributor

Glistening in russet-saffron dawns
Of emerald-gray stones
Hovers over me gently
In a fine mist of jade-lavender whispers
Wondering if his stones are as old
As the stones of Monte Cassino, Chorin Cloister,
Westminster Abbey, Notre Dame, the Alhambra,
Or the bridge over the Delaware;
The Spirit of Stony Brook bridge
Flowing in amber-lambent reflections
And twilight arpeggios of crescent-ochre spells
Flowing in perpetual silences of ancient evenings
Flowing in autumnal tremors of odyssey-divine tears
And purple-ancestral waves of cherry-trancing blossoms,
Wondering if his stones are as old
As the sun, wondering if his stream is
As old as time.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

WHAT ABOUT WILLIAMSBURG?

        In response to my claim that Cooperstown, New York, has more to see and do than any other town its size in America (see my post MY FAVORITE SMALL TOWN), a friend said to me, “What about Williamsburg, Virginia?”
Colonial Williamsburg
        I love Williamsburg! My wife Margie was born in Williamsburg. We celebrated our 50th wedding anniversary with our entire family in Williamsburg. We’ve always enjoyed our visits there, and there is certainly much to see and do in Williamsburg. Colonial Williamsburg has always been one of our
favorites places to visit at any time of the year.
        There is also the well-known and very exciting amusement park Busch Gardens, which is lots of fun for people of all ages. Margie loves strolling the beautiful campus of William and Mary, where her father spent two years as a
Princeton's Historic Nassau Hall
professor of political science, before joining the faculty of Bucknell University. and finally Princeton University. He spent most of his teaching career at Princeton, New Jersey,which is another town with much to see and do.
        On one of our visits to Williamsburg during the turbulent early 1970's we were amused to see the college coeds wearing T-shirts labeled “Mary and William”! Well, why not?
        There is lots of history in and around Williamsburg, as there is in Princeton and Cooperstown, so none of the three towns has an edge over the others in that respect. Williamsburg and Princeton are both college towns, and that’s a big plus over Cooperstown, although there are two colleges in nearby Oneonta, New York.
Cooperstown, New York
        My original assertion about Cooperstown, however, does not need to be withdrawn or modified, because both Williamsburg, with a population of more than 15,000, and Princeton approaching 30,000, are much larger communities. All three towns are beautiful, but with respect to natural scenery Cooperstown has the decided edge, nestled in the foothills of the Adirondacks on the shore of Lake Otsego.
        Now, there could well be another town of 2,000 or less that someone would like to nominate as the best small town in America. But until some advocate steps up and makes the case, I shall continue to lift up Cooperstown as my pick for the top town of its size in the USA. Everybody I've spoken to so far, who has been there, agrees with me.
        What about you?
                 






Tuesday, July 23, 2013

HOORAY FOR HUSTLERS!

        I’m talking about ball players not con artists.
        If I were managing a baseball team, any player who didn’t hustle to first base on a fair ball, no matter where it went, but especially on a ground ball to an infielder, would be gone in a hurry!
        It bugs me the way so many Major  League players don’t hustle down to first base on a grounder,  when first base in unoccupied. Oh, they’ll try hard enough to prevent a double play most of the time. But when they assume the fielder is going to make the play, they slow down noticeably.
       Really fast left-handed batters can make it from home to first in less than four seconds. They are a couple of steps closer to first than right-handed batters, a decided advantage, especially when bunting for a base hit. On a routine ground ball the infielder has to field the ball cleanly and make an accurate throw to first to get the batter out. Most of the time they do that in the Majors.
        But not always.  Think of all the things that can go wrong on any given ground ball. The ball can

Monday, July 15, 2013

THE 2013 WINDROWS WONDERS

        Here we are ---the 2013 Windrows Wonders:


        Our group is composed of residents and staff members of Princeton Windrows, a community for  independent seniors just outside of Princeton, New Jersey.
        A few of our team did not arrive in time for our photo and some didn't arrive at all, because they over slept.
        But those who did show up had a great time, and so far we have raised $6,370 for the Eden Autism Services Foundation. I say "so far" because we're still hoping some other caring folks will want to add to our total contribution to the fight against autism.


Wednesday, July 10, 2013

HELPING IN THE FIGHT AGAINST AUTISM

        My wife Margie and I live in Princeton Windrows, a community for independent seniors located on the outskirts of Princeton, New Jersey. For the past several years some of our residents and members of our staff have participated in the annual one-mile Eden Fun Run for the benefit of Eden Autism Services.
        Last year 114 of our residents and 31 members of our staff took part in the event either as actual participants in the Fun Run or as donor-sponsors. With some of our residents in their eighties and nineties, we call ourselves the Windrows Wonders, and at the start of the "race," as we are announced over the P.A. system, we are always loudly cheered and applauded by the onlookers.
        Last year we raised a total of $7,317 toward Eden's wonderful work with autistic children and adults and their families. A few of our staff members and one of two of our residents have competed in the 5-K race immediately following the Fun Run.
        Every year we have our "team" picture taken before the race. Not all of the 51 persons who did the Fun Run last year got there in time to pose with our group, but here's a picture of those who did:

(I'm kneeling in the front row, second from left, and wearing a Baltimore Orioles cap.)
        The annual event will take place again this Sunday, July 14. The starting gun for the Fun Run goes off at 8:30 a.m. The 5-k starts at 9:00 a.m. The starting line for both races is on Main Street in Forrestal Village, just north of Princeton. If you live in the area and would like to participate in either the one-mile Fun Run or the 5-K race, you can sign up on line (click here). There is also a registration table, where you can sign in on the day of the race. Hold on to your ticket stub, as there is a drawing for some wonderful prizes following the race. If you don't win the race, you may a prize! All runners receive a nice T-shirt and a "goodie bag" of surprises.
        If you can't do the run but would like to support the cause, you can make an on-line donation at the same site. In filling out the registration/donation form, please indicate that you are part of the    
Windrows Wonders team. You gift will be gratefully acknowledged and is, of course, tax deductible.





Thursday, July 4, 2013

SOME THOUGHTS FOR INDEPENDENCE DAY

        In preparing this Fourth of July article I did some on-line research on the history of our use of the words “In God we trust” on our money and stamps. The original motto of the United States was secular: "E Pluribus Unum,” which literally translated is “out of many one," pointing to the fact that we are one country formed from many states.
        In 1814, Francis Scott Key wrote what eventually became our national anthem, The Star Spangled Banner. The final stanza reads:
               "And this be our motto: 'In God is our trust.'                                  
                And the Star Spangled Banner in triumph shall wave
                o’er the land of the free and the home of the brave."
        In 1864 by an act of Congress the words "In God We Trust" were applied to a newly designed two-cent coin. The motto has been in continuous use on the one-cent coin since 1909, and on the ten-cent coin since 1916. It also has appeared on all gold coins and silver dollar coins, half-dollar coins, and quarter-dollar coins struck since 1908.
        President Theodore Roosevelt disapproved of using the motto on coins or stamps.  He thought that cheapened the motto.  In 1956 at the height of the cold war, and in declaring its opposition to

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

HAVE YOU SEEN THIS ONE?

       If you haven't, it's worth watching. If you have, it's worth watching again. Click here to see Bob Hope (52) and James Cagney (56) tap dancing at the famous Friars Club in New York City in 1955. It's great fun ---and for me nostalgic--- to watch these two old pros doing their routines. Turn up the volume, enlarge your screen, and enjoy the show!  


Friday, June 28, 2013

THE COURT TAKETH AWAY AND THE COURT GIVETH

       On Tuesday the Supreme Court by a 5-4 vote declared Section 4 of the 1965 Voting Rights Act unconstitutional, thus paving the away for red states to pass laws restricting the voting rights of African Americans and other minorities. The court taketh away.
       The next day the Court, again by a 5-4 vote, declared the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) unconstitutional, which decision in effect guarantees same sex couples the same rights under the law that heterosexual couples enjoy. The court giveth.
       In refusing for procedural reasons to rule on an appeal against California's Proposition 8, which banned same sex marriage, the Supreme Court Court, once again by a 5-4 vote but with a different alignment of justices, in effect paved the way for California to become the thirteenth state to allow same sex marriage. The court giveth a little more.
        So now we await the impact of these decisions. Will Congress act to pass new legislation to restore the Federal government's role in protecting the rights of all citizens to vote? Will more states
pass laws to legalize same sex marriages?
        We'll see.





     

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

A BIG WIN FOR VOTER SUPPRESSION, A BIG LOSS FOR AMERICA!

        How can any fair-minded person not be concerned if not outraged by this morning's action of the Supreme Court in throwing out the heart of the Voting Rights Act of 1965?  By a vote of 5 to 4 the conservative justices on the court, despite their rhetoric, showed their total insensitivity to and lack of concern for the African Ameraicns and other minorities who will be adversely affected by their action.
        I hope the justices are listening to the reactions of those for whom their ruling is a serious set-back to the equal voting rights they struggled so long to attain.  The fact that voting rights activists are so outspokenly opposed to their ruling should tell them something!
        It is one more glaring example of the fact that racism is still alive and well in America. That Justice Scalia should defend the decision to eliminate Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act by referring to it as "the perpetuation of a racial entitlement" is utterly astonishing.  
        We who were infuriated by the egregious voter suppression efforts of so many Republican-controlled state legislatures in the last election have every right to be terribly concerned about the next election, when those states will have free reign to pass any legislation they have a mind to. State voting laws will still be subject to review by the Justice Department, but only after the fact, when the damage has already been done.
        Given the experience of recent elections, the constitutional rights of millions of Americans will be violated, unless we the people do something about it. We must let our voices be heard. One way to do that is to sign the petition that is already being circulated by Credo. Click here to read about it and to become a citizen sponsor of a constitutional amendment to restore the protective provisions of Sec. 4. 
        To read more about today's Supreme Court action, click on the following links: NY Times; Daily Beast; Huffington Post.

SHOPPING ITALIAN STYLE

       I enjoy watching flash mobs. Have you seen this one? Click here, turn up the volume, and enlarge your screen.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

AN EERIE EVENING OF LOST JERSEY ICONS

By Bob Golon
Special Contributor

        My life-long affection for baseball history began long ago on Sunday afternoons. My father would pack my mother and me into the car at our Kearny home. Our firs stop would be at his favorite Kearny Avenue deli to pick up a barbecued chicken (made with Lawry’s seasoning salt, a recipe that I use to this day) and, along with a container of my mom’s homemade iced tea, we’d head to a parking lot adjacent to Newark Airport. There I was allowed to engage in one of my favorite pastimes – watching the big planes taking off and landing at the airport, at very close range.
Ruppert Stadium, Newark, NJ
        Many times on the way home my Dad would stop at an abandoned baseball stadium with huge light towers in Newark’s Ironbound section, the old Ruppert Stadium. After parking the car, he would tell me stories about the Newark Bears baseball club of his youth in the 1930s – of Tommy Henrich, Charlie Keller, Joe Gordon, Marius Russo, and other stars, and of those magical times when the AAA affiliate of the New York Yankees was one of the dominate teams in minor league baseball. From those days on forward, I always wished for a rekindling of baseball in the city of my birth, Newark, New Jersey.
Bears and Eagles Riverfront Stadium, Newark, NJ
        In 1999 the “Bears” finally did return to Newark and a brand new, 35-million-dollar Riverfront Stadium, financed by Essex County. The stadium was the dream of ex-Yankee and Newark native Rick Cerone, who also sought to rekindle his father’s memories of the Bears.
        It has not gone well, however. Low attendance has plagued the Newark Bears from the very beginning. Playing in the high-level, independent Atlantic League, the Bears struggled to attain a thousand fans per game, while the nearby Somerset Patriots, also in the Atlantic League, were drawing five thousand or more every night.
        Forced to leave the Atlantic League, the Bears became members of the Can-Am League, another independent league whose quality of play is a grade below that of the Atlantic League. But in the minor leagues the level of play should not matter so much. The “affordable family entertainment” factor does, however, and even though the current Bears ownership and staff have done a good job of sprucing up the stadium and providing a bona fide minor league experience, the plain and simple fact is the community does not support the team.
James Gandolfini
        Last night, I sat, with 313 other dedicated souls at Bears and Eagles Riverfront Stadium, watching the Newark Bears lose a doubleheader to the New Jersey Jackals. Around 8:30 PM they announced over the public address system the death of James Gandolfini, star of the “Sopranos” television series. As they proceeded to play the Sopranos theme, I looked at the Stickel Bridge towers beyond left field, the backdrop of so many Sopranos Essex County based scenes. I was immediately overwhelmed by the empty seats, and the eerie feeling of the loss of some of my personal New Jersey icons – the Bears, James Gandolfini, and my Dad’s memories.

        But, I’ll keep going back. 

BASEBALL AS A ROAD TO GOD?

        Baseball as a road to God? I can buy that.                                                      
        I haven't yet read John Sexton's book, but my friend George Betz sent me John Timpane's review of it in the June 9, 2013, Philadelphia Inquirer. You might want to check it out. If the book is as good as the review, it ought to be worth reading. 
        My Dad taught me to throw and catch a ball when I was two years old, and I have loved baseball ever since. I thought it would be my life-long career, but God had other plans.
        In my own book, A Sense of Being Called, I have recounted the story of how I got from professional baseball into the ministry. It's not exactly an illustration of what John Sexton has written about, but it explains why I am intrigued by his title and look forward to reading his book.  




Tuesday, June 18, 2013

NO TALKING TO PASSENGERS?

      A few days ago the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety released the results of a recent study indicating that using voice-activated hands-free wireless technologies like Blue Tooth and Siri while driving may be even more dangerous than using a hand-held iPhone. It’s easy to understand why texting with a cell phone while driving can be terribly dangerous, but to hear that using hands-free technology is equally if not more dangerous is quite surprising.
        I haven’t read the report, but the news item made me wonder if that means we shouldn’t talk with passengers while driving. Why is talking on Bluetooth any more dangerous than talking to someone sitting next to you in the front seat?
        In either case, it is certainly true that while driving you must keep focused on what you’re doing. Distractions can be hazardous, but ordinary conversation doesn’t have to be a distraction.
People have been talking while driving since they first started using automobiles.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

A FATHER’S DAY MESSAGE

”When I was a boy of 14,” wrote Mark Twain, “my father was so ignorant I could hardly stand to have the old man around.  But when I got to be 21, I was astonished at how much (he) had learned in seven years.”  (Quoted from an old “ Reader's Digest”)
Tomorrow we honor the fathers of our nation, though Father’s Day has become another   commercial promotion. Millions of greeting cards are still being mailed or hand-delivered, despite the huge increase in the use of on-line greetings and e-cards. It’s the fourth largest card-sending occasion, according to the Greeting Card Association that represents the greeting card industry.
Despite the commercialism, it is appropriate and good for us to honor our fathers and to celebrate the estate of fatherhood. To the best of my knowledge the United States was the first nation in the world to do that. The precise origin of Father's Day in our country is not certain, as the idea of honoring fathers on a special day was actually begun independently in several places, each locality thinking it was starting something new. Certainly one of the first and foremost promoters of the day was Sonora Smart Dodd, of Spokane, Washington, who, not surprisingly, came up with the idea while listening to a Mother’s Day sermon in 1909.
She wanted to honor her own father, a courageous, selfless, and loving man, so she

Friday, June 7, 2013

MY FAVORITE SMALL TOWN

        
        I told my Facebook friends that in response to my post on America the Beautiful someone  asked me what's my favorite place to visit. I said that there are many, but if I had to name one it would be Cooperstown, NY. I think there are more things to do and see in that beautiful little town than any other small town in America.
National Baseball Hall of Fame
        Let me justify that statement by describing some of the highlights, starting with the most obvious one, the National Baseball Hall of Fame. The Museum is simply amazing, with constantly changing exhibitions that are a marvelous history not only of baseball but of America. Equally impressive and of even more interest to baseball historians and researchers is the Hall of Fame Library, which is a matchless source of information.
        But the Baseball Hall of Fame is not the only attraction that Cooperstown has to offer. There is also the Farmers' Museum and Village, where a visitor could easily spend a half a day experiencing a rural America village on land that has been a working farm since 1813, originally owned by James Fenimore Cooper.
Glimmerglass Opera complex
        Diagonally across the road from the Farmer's Village is the impressive Fenimore Art Museum,  where one can view the works of Howard Pyle and the entire Wyeth family, and many other art treasures.
        Journey a few miles further on the same road and you come to the spacious grounds of the hugely popular Glimmerglass Festival (formerly the Glimmerglass Opera), with performances of operas and musicals featuring renowned vocalists like Nathan Gunn, who is starring in Camelot this summer. In the nearby Glimmerglass State Park you can visit the Hyde Hall State Historic Site, the handsome estate built by George Clarke (1768-1835). It is said to be the largest privately owned mansion built in the United States between the Revolutionary and the Civil Wars.  
       On the opposite edge of town from Glimmerglass are two quite different sites well worth visiting. One is the Ommegang Brewery, which you don't have to be a beer lover to enjoy. You can have a great lunch there, and then take a guided tour of the property. During the season thousands of contemporary music lovers gather on the spacious property to attend outdoor concerts featuring top bands and vocalists from New York and elsewhere. 
        Returning to town you can, for a complete contrast, stop by the lovely Carefree Gardens Nursery, where you can get a healthy meal of home grown organic foods at the Origins Cafe and hear about the wonderful work the two enterprising young female owners are doing to educate the broader community about healthier eating and living.   
Fly Creek Cider Mill
       Just north of town is the village of Fly Creek, which you must visit before leaving Cooperstown, to see the Fly Creek Cider Mill, whose products are shipped all over North America, It is a great place to shop for gifts and to have a snack. Their homemade caramel apple pie a la mode is out of this world! We've made a lot of people happy with the things we've given them from Fly Creek!
Dreams Park
        Here is something that will stagger your imagination: from the time school is out until it begins again in the fall, every week a new horde of eleven hundred twelve-year-old-and-under baseball players with their coaches and parents descend upon Cooperstown's Dreams Park to compete in a week-long tournament. Believe or not, there are twenty-two fenced in baseball fields on the huge property, with ample parking for cars and buses, lodging and restaurants for the participants and their accompanying adults. It is a mammoth operation, and of course they all want to visit the Baseball Hall of Fame. That helps to explain the Hall's 350,000 visitors every year! 
High rope course at the Clark Center
       Another impressive complex is the Clark Center, a very large sports, fitness, and recreational center, with a swim meet size indoor pool, a fine gymnasium with an indoor running track, bowling alleys, squash courts, a table tennis room, a sizeable and well-equipped fitness room, expansive athletic fields, and many other facilities.
        Just to drive in and around Cooperstown is a delight. The tree-lined streets, the lovely houses, the stately churches, the restful parks and picnic areas, and the surrounding wooded hills and meadows, would be enough of an attraction in themselves. To top it all off, the town is situated at the southeastern end of beautiful Lake Otsego, and during the summer season any visit there should include a boat ride on the lake. It takes only about an hour, during which the passengers are given a very informative and most interesting narration over the P.A.system. It's just a short walk from the boat dock to a picturesque little park, where you can view the source of the Susquehanna River.  
Doubleday Field, Cooperstown, NY
        There are plenty of motels, elegant inns, charming bed and breakfast homes, and attractive restaurants. It's fun to stroll up and down Main Street and window shop or patronize the many souvenir shops and other quaint stores. Just off Main Street is Doubleday Field, where the Hall of Fame Classic is played. It's also the home field of the Cooperstown Hawkeyes of the 10-team PGCB League. There's a farmers' market near the center of town, where two days a week you can purchase the fresh produce of local farmers.
        Another treasure up the hill from Main Street is The Smithy. Built in 1786 by Judge William Cooper, the founder of Cooperstown, it is the town's oldest building, having survived the great fire of 1860. It is now a multi-arts center, with a gallery displaying the works of contemporary and traditional artists, and a courtyard for concerts, theatrical productions, and other events.  
The back porch of the Otesaga Hotel
        Not far from the center of town and overlooking Lake Otsego is the majestic Otesaga Hotel, a luxurious resort hotel, where my wife Margie and I have sat in rocking chairs on the huge back porch on summer evenings to listen to band and orchestra concerts by very talented local musicians, and where we love to eat in the delightful Hawkeye Grill. The food is delicious and surprisingly reasonable, especially in the off-season. Golfers love the Hotel's beautifully manicured eighteen-hole course. 

        Cooperstown is a very cosmopolitan community with year-round programs of various cultural interests. Most of its citizens are well educated and are socially and environmentally conscious. There are active service clubs, a fine public library, an excellent public school system, a large fire department, and the 180-bed Bassett Medical Center, a regional hospital, which is one of the top forty health care centers in the United States.
        All this in a town of fewer than 2000 permanent residents! There are, of course, many people from surrounding communities who are employed in Cooperstown, and with the constant flow of tourists, especially from Memorial Day to Labor Day, one gets the feeling of being in a much larger community.
        I should mention that Margie and I love the scenic drive through part of the Catskills and the Adirondacks to Cooperstown.  It's not a place you drive through en route to somewhere else. It's a destination! There are any number of ways to go, via so many country roads through the mountains; or you can go most of the way on Interstate Highways, with only the last 20 miles or so on a two-lane road.                                                                                                                                           
First Presbyterian Church
        Do you wonder why I think it is the most unique small town in America and my favorite place to visit? There are other interesting places to visit in the area, but I hope I have listed enough of them to justify my choice. And I haven't even mentioned the fact that my daughter, the Rev. Elsie Armstrong Rhodes, is pastor the First Presbyterian Church of Cooperstown. It was she who introduced us to many of the places I've mentioned in this post as well as others I haven't mentioned, although we had visited Cooperstown more than once before she was called there.
         If you haven't been there, why don't you plan a visit? If you do, by all means visit the Baseball Hall of Fame, but be sure to stay long enough to take in as many of the other attractions as you can.



Monday, June 3, 2013

AMERICA THE BEAUTIFUL

        For two decades I participated every summer in the national conferences of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes. In the first fifteen of those years that always included the conferences at the YMCA of the Rockies near Estes Park, Colorado, on the edge of the Rocky Mountain National Park. Within a few years additional conference sites around the country were added to accommodate the rapidly growing program, including Ashland, Oregon, Lake Geneva, Wisconsin, and Henderson Harbor, New York. Today there are scores of campus and conferences served by a staff of more than four thousand instructors, and the FCA is the largest sports program in the world.
       Although I am a Trustee Emeritus of the National Board, I'm not as actively involved in the FCA as I was for many years on both the national and the local level, having helped found four local chapters, and having served in just about every role in the summer conferences, from huddle leader to song leader, from platform speaker to devotional leader, from editor of the camp newsletter to Conference Dean. In my book A Sense of Being Called I have related the story of how I came to be involved in the FCA at the very beginning of the program.
        But that's not what I want to talk about in this article. Rather I want to talk about our country, about America the Beautiful. This is not about politics, or sports, or music, or any of the other topics I'm usually writing about. The reason I mentioned the FCA and my participation in the national summer conferences was to explain how it came about that my family and I in the course of the first ten of those fifteen years were in every one of our contiguous forty-eight states.