Monday, July 27, 2009

Facebook--Taking Me Way Back

I was ecstatic the first time I wrote about Facebook and reconnecting with so many friends from the past. A month later I wrote that the thrill was gone. Now, some three months after joining the world of social networking, I have to say that I am thoroughly hooked! Facebook (and social networking in general) has to be one of the greatest innovations of our time.

I have more than 200 Facebook friends with new ones coming on board all the time. Nearly half--91 as of this moment--are friends from elementary, junior high, and/or high school. The next biggest group (at 56 now) includes coworkers from around the state. About 20 of my FB friends are colleagues that work in other states. Of the rest, ten are connected to a board I'm on, seven are kinfolk, about a half-dozen are former students and five were in my Boy Scout troop. Another dozen or so defy categorization.

The more friends you have, the longer it takes to read through all the posts that have gone up since the last time you looked. I had to pare down. I "unfriended" anyone that I don't really know and blocked several that either post too much or post crap I don't want to read. I also block all the quizzes and applications so that all that's left are posts from people I know. Still, it takes a lot of time to keep up with the day-to-day activities of some 200 friends.

I have a deep, abiding affection for all of my classmates from that era. I knew everyone in my grade in 3rd through 6th grades. We hooked up with kids from two additional elementary schools for what was then known as junior high (7th through 9th grades). I at least knew who everyone was by the end of 9th grade. Senior high mixed in kids from three other junior highs. I knew most of them by the time graduation rolled around.

It's interesting to see how much people change from the tweens and teens to the fifties. Among my classmates are a rocket scientist, a well-known political cartoonist, numerous doctors, lawyers and and professors at universities all over the United States, including Harvard. The closest thing we had to an anarchist (ok--maybe an exaggeration but you know how extreme everything was in high school) entered the military, became an MP and then a safety inspector for OSHA. I could go on. What and who people were in high school isn't much of a predictor of what they'll be doing more than 30 years later.

My affection today extends beyond those that were in my circle of friends more than 35 years ago. I've met several of my former classmates for the first time recently via Facebook. Maybe our paths never crossed, or maybe we ran in circles that would never intersect or overlap (again, remember how black and white the world was then). We've always had mutual friends but never really had the opportunity to get to know each other personally. In almost every case, I find myself wishing we had been friends way back when.

No matter what I may think about my youth and upbringing today, I had no awareness at the time that my world was any different from anyone else. That was probably true for all of us. No matter the circumstances, if that's all you have ever seen it looks normal to you. I was blissfully happy then mostly because I was too dumb to know any better. Reconnecting with friends and acquaintances from that time makes me feel good, probably because it plugs directly into those feelings from the past.

In truth, I have very little to bitch about. I've known for a long time how important my huge, extended family was and is to me. But it's only through Facebook and reconnecting with so many, many people from so long ago that I have come to appreciate how blessed I am to have had so many friends in my life. I mean it.

The Crotchety Old Man

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Cult Leader Limbaugh

Yesterday while driving back and forth to Atlanta I caught a bit of Rush Limbaugh on the radio. Call it me trying to understand why the other side is so opposed to everything. The man is definitely smart. He knows exactly what he's doing and I bet he believes very little of what he says.

He's obviously after an audience with limited critical-thinking skills. He spouts more crap than a poultry barn. That people buy his crap is just amazing to me. The point is clearly to incite rather than to inform. As I kept trying to get my head around the motivation of his followers, it dawned on me that Rush Limbaugh is really a cult leader.

So I Googled "cult characteristics" and found a great check list. You can make your own assessment and will likely find that I was overly generous. Rush and the dumb-asses that follow him meet at least 10 of the 15 criteria on the checklist. I decided they do not engage in mind-altering practices (at least as described on the check list), require members to cut family ties or live in a compound (though it probably happens all the time), and are not preoocupied with making money or recruiting new members. Like I said, I was generous.

In my opinion, the remaining criteria fit. The authors are clear that the checklist is not a diagnostic tool, but is intended for analytical purposes. And that's exactly what I was doing--analyzing my thoughts on Rush Limbaugh. My conclusion is that Limbaugh and his fans, while not exactly a cult, are detinitely cult-ish.

That gives me hope. You can draw your own conclusions about why. Ever yours...

The Crotchety Old Man

Friday, July 17, 2009

Sweet Georgia Peaches

When I was growing up, if we came through Atlanta during peach season we always stopped at the farmer's market for peaches. This was nothing like the markets you see in towns all over America today. There were no crafts, musicians or over-priced organic vegetables. The Atlanta Farmer's Market in the 60s was an enormous, sprawling complex with row after row after row of stalls. Farmers backed into stalls and sold produce right off the truck at rock bottom prices.

Now is the height of peach season here in Georgia. My partner and I have nearly polished off the grocery bag full of sweet, juicy peaches I picked up at a local orchard last weekend. These were a bit smaller than my vision of the ideal peach, but tasty nonetheless--especially in the delicious cobbler my partner made.

There are lots of different kinds of peaches. Mostly they are classified by how firmly the flesh attaches to the pit (clingstone vs freestone). Commercial peaches are often clingstone varieties. Nothing will put you off of peaches more than fighting to free the hard, dry flesh from a gas-ripened cling stone peach. Blech.

Around here folks assume when you talk about peaches, you mean free stone peaches. The debate revolves around whether white or orange peaches are the better tasting peach. They are both really good, but I'll pick an orange over a white every time.

If you have never had a tree-ripened peach, you really haven't had a peach. A good peach is never hard. Peaches that crunch like an apple when you bite into them should have had a few more days on the tree. Even canned peaches are a bit firm compared with a fresh, ripe peach.

White or orange, the best peaches are so juicy you need to eat them outdoors or over a sink. My partner (a native Georgian) always peels his. He doesn't like the texture of the skin and says it tastes bitter. I prefer peaches with the skins, in part because I lack the patience to peel them but also because I want every single bite.

We have a peach tree in our yard. It came up on its own from a discarded pit. Last year we harvested a couple of bushels of white, freestone peaches. Because of the drought they were on the small side but still sweet and juicy. This year the fruit fell off almost immediately, probably because of a late cold snap.

I'm glad to live where it's possible to eat peaches all summer long. You can keep your South Carolina and California peaches. Everyone knows there ain't nothing sweeter than a Georgia peach. Even...

The Crotchety Old Man

Friday, July 10, 2009

Life at the Top

According to one very small dog, I am the greatest person in the world. In her eyes, the sun rises and sets with me. Have to say that I'm loving life at the top.

With Tico I have always been the #2 daddy. He belongs to my partner. They have a great relationship and I wouldn't have it any other way.

I must admit that early on it bothered me a bit to be #2. But Tico made it clear that when my partner was not around, as the first runner-up it was my job to be the daddy. Over time Tico also let me know that the distance from #3 to #2 was MUCH greater than the distance from #2 to #1. So I relaxed. But I was and will remain #2 in his world.

Toodles loves me more than anything in the world--anything. There are few things sweeter than the greeting I get when I let her out of her crate. After that, unless she's sleeping or playing with Tico, she follows me everywhere. It's who she is.

She drops whatever she's doing and comes running when I get down on the floor to play. She's up for any game, with or without toys. Tico can play, but he's not allowed to come between me and Toodles. If he does, she turns into the Tasmanian Devil. The little bitch has a temper!

When she's through playing with Tico (or has decided she needs my protection), she will sit at my feet, look straight up, and wiggle until I pick her up. If I don't respond in a timely manner, she yaps to get my attention. It's the cutest thing I have ever seen in my entire life.

When she can't find me, she sits in the middle of the floor and cries. Hearing her calls, I come to see what's going on. When she sees me it's like first thing in the morning all over again--pure joy. What's not to like?

Sometimes I let her sleep with me, usually until midnight or so when I crate her up. On occasion (when I feel like getting up every two hours or so to take her out), she stays until morning. She is still so small (1 & 1/2 pounds) that she somehow manages to sleep underneath me, wedged between the pillow and my neck. If she wakes up, she tries to scootch in even closer. Adorable.

We figure Toodles is ten weeks old today. Tomorrow she will have been with us for four weeks and is still not as big as Tico was when we got him. Even so, it's pretty clear she is well on her way to ruling the roost around here. All I know is that it will be her fault if I lose all credibility as...

The Crotchety Old Man

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Heartbreak and Betrayal

You know that I absolutely adore little Tico. He is a beautiful, well-behaved little dog with a very sweet disposition. But our relationship has changed rather dramatically with the arrival of Toodles.

Tico has been my partner's dog from the start. He was the one that really wanted a dog. After 20 years of cats and nearly a lifetime of tropical fish, I was thoroughly enjoying a pet-free existence.

Tico won me over pretty fast. It's hard to resist two pounds of 8-week-old chihuahua pup. I dare you to try.

I have always been #2 daddy for Tico. It's never been a problem because I was a very close #2. Was. Now that Toodles has entered the scene, Tico has been more than a little aloof. Before Toodles he was almost always next to me or at my feet if my partner wasn't home. Now he's often asleep in his crate. I poke my head in and he looks at me with those sad, chihuahua eyes and I know.

His little heart is broken. I betrayed him. I just hope it doesn't turn him into the chihuahua version of...

The Crotchety Old Man

But I don't care for him. Nope. That's my partner's job. It is, after all, his dog.

Toodles, on the other hand, is my dog. More accurately, given her obvious desire to rule the household, I am her daddy. We're still trying to figure out who really is in charge.
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