Archive for February, 2013

Quadruple Arf

February 23rd, 2013

My wife and I went to Stony Brook today to watch the Boston Snow Dog Run. Two or three small teams of four, plus one solitary skijoring guy with his pooch, made the most of the remaining snow near the skating rink.

Two of the mushers apologized to us about the quartets’ seeming lack of focus. Those of us with images of driven Ititarod racers fairly devouring 1,000 miles of ice and snow were obviously amused at the huskies playing with each other and sometimes pulling in different directions. It seems they are largely pets who have a great time. Getting them competitive is not always easy.

They were beautiful in behavior as well as appearance though.

The huskies seemed to live for this stuff. Pets or not, when they got perking, they were enthusiastic.
A single skijoring fellow accompanied the dogs, first in the woods, then in the field. The huskies ignored him and his pulling dog. fieldmush
HPmush Not the typical Hyde Park dog walker.
Make your own dog tail/tale jokes. When the team got working in the open field, they became one. huskytails
dogskindofteam The huskies were frisky sorts and as the mushers said, there was some question about who was really in charge.
Mush, Mom! mushmom

Pix Notes: You’re welcome to anything useful. They are Creative Commons, so just cite Mike Ball once. Click images to enlarge.

That Big Old Why-Me Question

February 22nd, 2013

A good chum, who blogs as Uncle at Scratches, wonders on occasion on such as physical and sexual abuse. His latest was on bullying, rather on who does or does not become targets.

He wondered about the markers, perhaps brain, and other criteria that might lead to being the victim of others. I confessed on his site something he and I have discussed when bar-stool lubricated that I was pretty much out of these common cycles. Much like not overly regretting not having fought in Viet Nam, after hearing many decades of browbeating, bloody-faced, and unwanted sexual contact vignettes, I can’t say I would rather have experience those.

bullyHe did set me to thinking again in his vein though. Why did and do some boys and girls attract verbal, physical, sexual molesters?

Working backwards from my own life, I wondered how it was that I escaped and was not targeted.

Today I’m fairly large, with absurdly big shoulders and chest, and considerable muscularity. I wasn’t that way as a kid though. I was a bit shorter than others. While my Granddad nicknamed me Horse because I was strong, I was not the big, intimidating kid either in body or personality. I grew slowly and behind most other boys. Only at 15 and beyond when I was on the wrestling and then swimming team, did I bulk up.

I was also a scholarly, literary sort. Not only did I read everything and get good grades, I was out of sync with many classic boy pastimes, like stomping, stabbing and shooting small or large animals.

Seems to me that I ought to have been the target of the bad boys and men.

From another angle though, my family life was rather pacific. I have a single sibling, a sister 18 months my senior. She was as close as I came to being bullied, and that was in kindergarten and elementary ages. She’d take my stuff and hit me…what’s a sister for, eh? Our mother who had two younger siblings of her own kept telling her to cool it. The refrain was, “One day, he’ll be bigger and stronger than you.”  As almost always she was both terse and correct. When we reached physical equilibrium we quickly came to peace and have remained so since.

That very same mother did not beat us either. We came from a threesome that did not experience regular violence. My sister and I used to joke with each other as well as as friends who were regularly hit with hands, paddles, belt and sticks that we’d just as soon our mother was violent. Instead, she demanded to know why we had done something destructive or dumb or mean. We had to deal, actually deal, with our shortcomings. There was no catharsis of confession and penance that came with getting smacked around. It was a cerebral, emotional and moral experience.

Likewise, there was no sexual abuse in our home or our maternal grandparents’ where we spent our summers and vacations. Our deadbeat dad who remarried and disappeared was not a factor. Granddad and a set of great uncles delighted in playing the father role, particular to me. I had a gang of stable, long-term married men to mentor and watch out for me. None abused me in any way.

Thinking of my youth though, I do have a triple-sided theory of how I rolled to adulthood without the traumas it seems the bulk have endured.

  1. Always moving. With my absent father who did not keep up his child support (military out of country and irresponsible), my mother took work running Red Cross chapters. The pay was only OK for women (by policy half of what a man would make running the same chapter), but she made it work. The deal though was that we moved every few years to the next chapter a man had hosed that my mother would come in and turn around…at half pay. That meant we were never in a school system long enough to become part of the native cliques. We weren’t stereotyped and thus were not relegated to some out-group that “deserved” ridicule, ostracizing or punishment. We floated until we left. In fact, I was better at that than my sister. I hated not knowing people and had great anxiety, but unlike she, I’d suck it up and pick the people I wanted for friends…and make that work. It did work.
  2. Standing firm. Our mother was remarkable in many ways, not the least of which was teaching simple WWII-era virtues. She taught us to be honest and candid and responsible, without fail. If we goofed up, we admitted it and took our lumps. That also meant when someone confronted us or tried peer pressure to get us to behave in their bad ways, we said, “No!” That was always tough, but standing firm always paid off for me. (It still does.) In retrospect, I am surprised that the overbearing, bullying sorts took that from the shorter kid, with the glasses and armload of books. They did though. Resolve intimidates in its own way.
  3. Glibness. I am not an astrology/sign guy. I was always amused though to read that my Gemini house supposedly is a tricksy sign, quick with words and skilled at getting our way. Actually that fits. I had a double talent when I was around folk who might do bad things to me. I was skilled at reading intent and I could almost always verbally defuse situations. When someone was turning one me, I didn’t ignore it, rather if I could not remove myself, I’d whip out my considerable joking and nice-guy skills to get the bully and ideally any hangers-on jolly and harmless. 

I’ll kick it around with Uncle some more. The topic is intriguing, particularly as those types of abuse seem to be the norm for so many. Why is always a good question. Sometimes meaningful possibilities appear.

Benny Stays Responsible

February 11th, 2013

I am not Roman Catholic, have never been and don’t even play one on internet radio. Yet I have more than passing interest in Pope Benedict XVI, born Joseph Aloisius Ratzinger, 25 years running the Roman Inquisition (formally the Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith), and widely known in ecclesiastical circles as God’s Rottweiler. benny

It may be unfair in some emotional ways for a non-RC type to criticize him, but he’s long been a foe of marriage equality among other good trends. He’s also done his damnedest (most blessed?) to shrink the Church. He’s made it plain that he only wants to truly devoted and obedient congregants.

So, he announced that he’s stepping down on February 28th and has called for a conclave to replace him in March. The last time a pope resigned was 598 years ago, when Gregory XII stepped down to heal a major succession schism.

I confess, if I may use that term in its common meaning, that I admire and appreciate his reasons. Unlike many predecessors who literally limped along when they were ailing and both physically and mentally enfeebled. he admitted he doesn’t have the oomph to do papal duties. As he put it, … “After having repeatedly examined my conscience before God, I have come to the certainty that my strengths, due to an advanced age, are no longer suited to an adequate exercise of the Petrine ministry…”

He brother Georg Ratzinger said the Poper was having increasing difficulty walking and that his resignation was part of a “natural process”.  “His age is weighing on him. At this age my brother wants more rest.”

I of course hope for a new, improved version, one less doctrinaire, more compassionate, and more believing in using the Church’s resources for social action.

Snow returns to Boston

February 9th, 2013

Yeah, we had and are having some snow in Boston, over two feet.

I recall in the ’60s when I was on the South Carolina swim team and it snowed in Columbia during practice. We had guys from Florida and even Australia who had never seen the stuff. They ran outside wet and in their tank suits just for a touch and look. Good they did; it was all gone within the hour. That’s not likely happen here and now.

snowdacha Last night, before the real stuff, the deck looked like a scene from Dr. Zhivago’s dacha.
By this morning, we were at two feet and both storm doors were doing their job. They required considerable oomph to force open enough to get out. stormedin
stormsun Our touchstone for snow is the New Mexico pottery sun on the garage. Snow it is.
With the strong winds, much of the snow was horizontal overnight. Most of our windows were more ornamental than useful. snowvoc
Sarahscars View from the side to our neighbor’s. Those are two vehicles and not snow forts.
The warm and cozy backyard cafe is not as inviting this morning. notteatime

Pix Notes: You’re welcome to anything useful. They are Creative Commons, so just cite Mike Ball once. Click images to enlarge.

Snow to Come

February 8th, 2013

Little stuff in prep for the 2 to 3 feet and 70MPH gusts…

unstorm As a reference for the white nasties, our front looked like this before the flurries started.
Easter abandoned, perhaps with hope for future candy, in an open lot on upper Milton Avenue. Surely no one felt the need to discard old baskets in preparation for the storm. exeaster
birdswait The birds were not deterred by the flurries. Rather they crowed awaiting shots at the feeders.
No warning to the lilacs that are eager for spring. prelilacs

Pix Notes: You’re welcome to anything useful. They are Creative Commons, so just cite Mike Ball once. Click images to enlarge.

Waiting for God-Snow

February 8th, 2013

Extrapolating to the looming blizzard, I think power outages past.

In our former house of 21 years in the Jamaica Plain neighborhood, we had numerous localized blackouts. Some were a few hours, but an annoying and inconvenient number were days, up to five.

In the new place of four years, we fare much better.  It appears that the newer above-ground equipment, as well as the suplier — NStar rather than National Grid or Keyspan — have much to do with that.

Over in JP, transformers regularly got shorts, lightning strikes or taken down in tree falls. Those are very rare up here, long timers tell us.

cablesThe oddment is Boston’s blind acceptance of the ugliness, inefficiencies and even dangers of the power and comm cables everywhere overhead. Like in so many cities, we simply don’t see them. They are like the dreadful snapshots folk take and only notice later that there are poles appearing to grow out of someone’s head or the garbage truck as a background.

Facts are that keeping these cables up high has benefited the utilities and other providers financially…at stupid penalties for all of us. Boston keeps a third-world infrastructure by inertia.

In contrast, places like Manhattan recognized the perils of this and protected most underground. We saw the benefits when superstorm Sandy was so destructive. Repair and rejuicing the thin, long island was much quicker and cheaper than where the transformers and wires were on poles.

Yeah, yeah, yeah, it costs to put the cables under the street, but some cable TV/net/phone providers got it, sucked up the cost and have vastly higher uptime than the creaky alter kaker companies. If it costs, the provider should pay most or all of it, getting an ROI from longer maintenance and install outlays going forward. They can probably scam cities and states into letting them bump their rates, just slightly, to recoup some of that. Boo, but OK.

Sorry if this alters your perception. No, I’m not. People here from the pols to us ordinary folk should notice how hideous the poles, cables, boxes and cables covering our streets are.

Bury ’em!

Yes to a Winter Haymarket

February 2nd, 2013

Always a good time for the Haymarket, the winter can be special in small ways. When it’s 17F as it was before 7 AM today, YOU are the crowd. Sure, you need to peek to make sure the greens had frozen, but there is the ease of few customers offset by lifting the tarps to enter the stalls. There’s no quick walk through before returning to your day’s favorites.

The vendors are hardy sorts, who show and set up between 4:30 and 7, even in snow, ice, and whoa-cold! air.

haymarketcamp With the external look of an antarctic encampment, stalls get drapes of tarps to protect vendors and customers as well as produce.
At dawn, front and back sides of Blackstone street are bustling. blackstonedawn
blackstonebrr Restaurants also can’t get too hobbled by bad weather. They send folk to buy the cases of veggies and fruits regardless.
Many vendors create large room with hot-air heaters inside the tarps. It’s easier on customers too to lift one tarp and shop two, three or four stalls at once. antarctichavover
blackstonecavern A downside to the super cold is not being able to scan stalls quickly. An upside is knowing the fish vendors have well-chilled product.
“A balmy 36 degrees,” is the report here. Coming from the 17-degree street, it felt like spring inside. balmy

Pix Notes: You’re welcome to anything useful. They are Creative Commons, so just cite Mike Ball once. Click images to enlarge.

How’s Ed Doing?

February 1st, 2013

Can you believe it? Ed Koch died.

The former mayor, NY state rep and NYC councilman had lots of health problems and went out at 88. His perennial…and sincere…question to constituents was, “How am I doing?” He wanted to know and would either try to fix shortcomings or argue with you about the nature of the problems. Great guy.

kochThis morning, I only found a small printed pic I took in 1979 of him. We met numerous times and I interviewed him several, and he interviewed me once. Somewhere I have prints of good shots without the print dot pattern, but this is a fair representation. This was from an article I wrote as a staffer on American Management Association’s AMA Forum, the magazine I ran within the magazine were I worked, Management Review. The mayor squeezed some hot-shot execs to volunteer by bringing their biz expertise to making NYC more efficient. Of course it worked.

He was my mayor for most of my years in the city, but I remember him more for a time before that.

One rainy, cold, windy morning I was headed to a 14th Street subway entrance on my way to work when I met him for the first time. He was not physically imposing, maybe less so in his dark raincoat and standing under an apartment building marquee.

As is my wont, I was looking at people and he zeroed in on me. “Hi. I’m Ed Koch, your state representative,” he said. He asked whether I had concerns, anything I wanted to change. Well, I did, though decades later I can’t recall what they were.

What amazed me was that he pulled out a notepad and pen. He wrote down my issues, even repeating them to make sure he had understood.

He had a convert right there. I told people and talked him up. He was a savvy pol.