Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Still Addicted to Jeopardy

Jeopardy is the only game show that I watch. I remember watching the original daytime version with Art Fleming as host from my childhood days when I was home from school.

But it was not until Alex Trebek began hosting the daily nighttime version in 1984 that I became somewhat of an addict. And I still love Jeopardy.  Night after night if I am home at 7:30pm, I will tune in to watch Alex Trebek host the show that requires one to know the question to the answer.  My ears still perk up and my heart feel light when I hear the music that signifies Final Jeopardy! I love that Jeopardy promotes the pursuit of knowledge.  And I think it helps keep me focused on the continued pursuit of learning.

Some days the categories are so difficult that I feel like an absolute idiot. On other days the answers seem so simple as to make me wonder how the contestants lucked out to have such easy categories and then managed to muck it all up!

No matter what day, I am impressed and awed by those who even take the test to attempt to qualify to appear on Jeopardy. One of my cousins took the plunge and I give her huge kudos for her efforts. I have not been nearly so brave!

It is easy to watch at home and know the answers. But it must be so challenging to think quickly on one’s feet while the cameras are rolling and the spot light is on.  

Monday, July 30, 2012

The Olympics Coverage by US Media

I’ve loved watching the Olympics since I was  a kid and ABC Wide World of Sports showed the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat. The best part of the TV coverage for me was the ability to watch international athletes on the world stage who competed for gold or the best that they could be.

My problem with the coverage provided by NBC for this Olympics and the recent Olympic events they have covered is the narrow focus of the coverage in conjunction with the inane human -interest stories. Really – did the Today Show crew really have to subject the viewing public to their embarrassing foray into Olympic fast walking this morning?

I do not need to see American athletes standing on the podium as the Star Spangled Banner is played. I do not need to see a story about how somebody’s mom is disappointed because her child has been denied the chance to compete for a medal. I want to see coverage of the best athletes in the world competing in a variety of athletic events.

When I watch an event of worthy interest, I want to see the world class athletes in any event.  When focusing on gymnastics, as an example, I want to see the performances of the major competitors- not just the athletes from the USA. I also want to see less biased reporting. From my perspective the Olympics do not afford an opportunity to ratchet up medal counts and nationalism – instead the event should foster a spirit of international community that honors the best of the nations. I personally, want to honor and view the excellence wherever it originates.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

The Best Years of Our Lives is Still Relevant 66 Years Later

Saturday evening AMC showed “The Best Years of our Lives”, the first attempt to show a realistic portrayal of war veterans returning home- including nightmares, survivor guilt, trying to fit into a family that has continued to live, and coping with severe disabilities. The movie came out in 1946 and was risqué for the times. I’ve seen the movie on several occasions over the years, but certain aspects of the film resonate with me more today than in the past. The only thing that has changed is time and technology. People are essentially the same.

The movie tells the stories of 3 American servicemen returning to their regular lives after World War II, trying to cope with the horrors of war, having to accept their loved ones continued with  life and the kids grew up, trying to find jobs, trying to figure out if their loved ones can still love them as they now are, wondering if they still have a place in normal society.

I find the film relevant because we still haven’t learned how to re-integrate our veterans back into regular life. The trials and tribulations they face today returning from Iraq or Afghanistan are really no different than in 1946.  The primary difference is the progress in prosthetics for those who have lost limbs. However, we haven’t evolved all that much as a society in accepting those who have given their all for our great nation.

Harold Russell, who played Homer, the double amputee in the movie, has been a personal hero of mine since I was in high school and saw this film for the first time. Russell lost both of his hands in a training exercise for paratroopers. William Wyler, the director of “The Best Years of Our Lives” saw him in an Army training film and cast him in the movie.  Russell won two Academy Awards for his role – one for best supporting actor and the second for serving as an inspiration to returning veterans with combat injuries. Even today Russell is an inspiration. He didn’t allow his injuries to limit him. He didn’t give up and succumb to self-pity and throw himself on the mercy of the government and the taxpayers. He married, had children, and became an advocate for wounded warriors, helped found AMVETS and served as its national commander for three terms. Additionally, he was appointed to and also served as chairman of LBJ’s Committee on Hiring the Handicapped in 1964. Wow! This was an American hero and an inspiration to us all. Why are there no statues honoring heroes such as Russell?

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Musings on Grade Inflation in US Schools

Grade Inflation

After reading an article on Yahoo this morning about a student and his mother who sued a school system because he did not like his grade in conjunction with a situation my sister encountered where one of her university students threatened to sue the university because she refused to give the young woman an “A” she did not deserve, it has become clear to me why the USA can no longer compete academically. Parents have convinced themselves and their children that they are “special” or “exceptional” when in fact, they are average. This has inhibited striving for excellence in academics.

Study after study has shown that American students lag behind the rest of the world in math and science. And after reading business correspondence written by recent university graduates I can attest that schools at all levels have failed to teach Basic English composition, proper grammar usage and business writing.

My parents are retired educators. Even when I was a student in elementary school, my parents began to lament grade inflation. In the 1960’s an “A” ranged from 94% to 100%; a “B” from 85% to 93%; a “C” from 78% to 84%; a “D” from 70% to 77%; anything below 70% was failing. By the time I was graduated from high school in 1977 – an “A” was 90% and an “F” was 59%.  And the academic curriculum has been dumbed down to pander to various special interest groups. Really – calculators in class? Now computers?

Most studies have concluded that grade inflation is a symptom of the “Participation Trophy” mentality that advocates for a world in which there are no winners or losers. However, that is not the way life works. There are winners and losers in the real world. Life isn’t easy and it isn’t always fair and the earlier young people learn this valuable lesson, the happier they will be. Success after a failure is much sweeter. Learning to pick oneself up by one’s bootstraps builds confidence, fortitude, and an appreciation for what it takes to truly succeed and compassion for others who struggle.  Grade inflation has spawned an entire generation of young people who believe they truly are exceptional “A+” students who expect they should be recruited by corporate America for highly paid jobs immediately after graduation. It is not the 1% keeping them down! It is the attitude of entitlement without hard work and paying one’s dues.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Celebrating Home Grown Tomatoes!


I grew up in Indiana where the soil is black and rich and the tomatoes and cantaloupe are unequaled. As far as I'm concerned, a hothouse tomato purchased at a grocery store is about as tasty as cardboard. once I moved to the country, one of my greatest pleasures became growing and harvesting tomatoes. We built raised beds and filled the beds with good topsoil which has been enriched with manure, 10-10-10- fertilizer, crushed eggshells and coffee grounds. And I prefer the succulent flavors of heirloom varieties and a few select hybrids that have not had the taste bred out of them to make them more amenable to long haul transport.

There are two of us. So, realistically speaking, planting 2-3 tomato varieties would more than likely suffice. However, I like variety and love the concept of sharing the fruit of these vines - so I generally grow at least a dozen different varieties of tomatoes. Every year I try different heirlooms. The best, by far, are offered by the Tasteful Garden. The website link is on this blog. For the last few years I've ordered their organic tomato plants and have been completely satisfied. The variety of offerings is amazing and customers rate the various tomatoes for taste.

My parents always ask what we would like for Christmas. This year, my parental units gifted me with a selection of heirlooms from The Tasteful Garden. I am in tomato heaven.

The best of the best, thus far, are the Azoychka (the yellow tomato at the top), and the Orange Strawberry that makes an unrivaled BLT. The Pineapple Tomato also make a great BLT and salad tomato. Actually, I love them all. But these are the selections I plan to order again next year.

On a hot summers evening, nothing taste better to me than a lite dinner of a tomato salad with some Calamata olives, a sprinkle of feta, a few twists of fresh black pepper, a sprinkle of sea salt and a drizzle of fine Balsamic Vinegar from Modena. Sheer heaven to this doyenne of tomato fashion who must don elbow length goatskin gloves to even harvest these juicy fruits. Yes, I am allergic to the leaves of the tomato plant. But it is a small price to pay for such a delicious seasonal treat. And as of today, I have the prescription strength hydrocortisone cream needed to clear up the contact dermatitis caused by harvesting my treasures. Yum! Really, keep this place in business. The Tasteful Garden is a real gem!

Dealing with Grief By Moving Heavy Furniture

I’ve been restless today.  I knew my dear friend Catherine was in extremis and not expected to live. Yesterday I was notified that she passed into the light. While it was expected, it was nonetheless disconcerting.  I loved her dearly and will miss her laughter. I don’t often shed tears, but my drive to yoga last evening was tear filled and emotional. But I went to my practice because I knew it would be healing.

Catherine has been on my mind constantly since I learned of her condition.  I was so distracted during the afternoon that I managed to pour diet root beer all over my shirt and trousers. I IM’d my manager who suggested I take a break, which resulted in my decision to re-arrange the furniture in our bedroom.

For the 6½ years we’ve lived in this house, I’ve never been able to see the television in the bedroom without an obstruction from the four-poster rice bed blocking my view. I’ve always had to contort myself to see the screen. So, I decided enough was enough. I removed the drawers from the triple dresser and the chest on chest, cleared the dust bunnies that had, no doubt, contributed to my nasal congestion, and maneuvered the cumbersome furnishings into a more user friendly space. Naturally, I relayed my machinations to Todd after the fact by calling his cell phone. Fortunately, no hardwood floors were injured in this exercise or I would have had some splainin’ to do!

He didn’t hate it. That is the good news. And I am okay with the changes, because we can now watch “Downton Abbey”, “Boardwalk Empire” or “Game of Thrones” without my having to emulate Olga Korbet in  the Olympics of decades past to get a view of the screen.

Stress stimulates my organizing genes. Like the serenity prayer reminds me, I must accept the things I cannot change and have the courage to change the things I can. I cannot change the sad fact that I’ve lost a wonderful friend; I had to change my focus – so I decided to re-organize and move heavy furniture without help because that channeled by energy into something other than grief. Todd is a firm believer in the power of my OCD when channeled appropriately – that is why we have a Garden of Eden in small plantings throughout our shale desert of a yard.  I’ve come to accept the cycle of life. I may not like it, but  since it is inevitable, I might as well embrace it. I mourn the loss of my friend, Catherine, one of my earth angels; but celebrate the life she lived and count myself among the blessed that counted her as a friend.