Monday, January 30, 2012

She Killed Me Everywhere!

Aunt Anna

This is a short story from my last visit with Dorothy.

(If you're late to the party, and haven't been introduced to Dorothy yet, read THIS, from a couple of years back. Then, in order to get up-to-speed on the current situation, you might read THIS. You could read THIS, too, but it won't do as much good. I'm just giving you that link because I'm going to be embarrassed in the story that follows, so, to make me feel better, I'll embarrass her again.)

After a visit with Dorothy, any story I choose to tell will usually be some tale about her. In this instance, it is about me. She happened to witness it, and she asked me if I remembered it. I said I didn't.

(If I had any sense of shame, I probably wouldn't tell you this.)

(Thus far, I've told you I'm going to be embarrassed and ashamed. That should be enough to keep you reading, eh?)

The scene is Aunt Anna's kitchen. Aunt Anna was my great aunt, Dorothy's mother. From the way Dorothy tells the story, it appears I was being babysat while my parents were, perhaps, at a movie or something of that nature. I am two years old, Dorothy is thirty-two, and Aunt Anna is somewhere in her late fifties. The kitchen is just an ordinary sort of kitchen of indeterminate age. It has two sinks, though. That's important.

As Dorothy related the story to me, here's what happened:

Aunt Anna was busy in the kitchen, doing some laundry. She had a load of her husband's white shirts in one of the kitchen sinks. She had been scrubbing them by hand, as she did not have a washing machine. When she was finished scrubbing one in the first sink, she'd wring it out and pile it into the other sink. The plan was to hang them out to dry when they were all washed.

Meanwhile, I'm doing whatever sort of stuff a two-year-old boy does to amuse himself. I then realize I need to go to the bathroom.

I tell Dorothy this news, and she takes me to the toilet in their apartment. Problem is that Uncle Roy, Aunt Anna's husband, is using it.

Dorothy asks me if I can hold it for a little while. I reply that I can't, that I have to pee RIGHT NOW.

Dorothy sees the urgency in my look, and she knows her father's bathroom habits, so she weighs those factors and brings me into the kitchen. She tells Aunt Anna the problem.

Anna is a decisive woman, and she figures out an immediate solution. She hands me an empty Coke bottle and tells me to go in it, saying I can empty it after I'm finished. I'm two, and I'm desperate. No problem. I pull down my pants, make the necessary arrangements to accomplish the task at hand, and relieve myself into the Coke bottle. Meanwhile, Dorothy has gone to do something else, and Aunt Anna has left the kitchen, perhaps to retrieve a laundry basket.

I am standing there with a Coke bottle full of pee. I don't want to be standing there with a Coke bottle full of pee. I want to get rid of it and go back to doing whatever a two-year-old boy does to amuse himself.

Since I'm only two-years-old, I'm short. I can't see the sinks, but I can see where the sinks are. And I'm smart enough to know that sinks have drains. Water goes down drains. Pee is like water. Therefore...

I reach up and empty the Coke bottle into the second sink where Aunt Anna has been putting all of Uncle Roy's nice clean white shirts.

Just as I'm finishing doing that, Aunt Anna comes back into the kitchen. She sees what I'm doing and gets just a tiny bit peeved.

"Jimmy! What are you doing?!?", she says, and before I have the chance to give the obvious answer, she gives me a slight cuff on the back of my head and then a small one to my bottom.

(At this point in the story, Dorothy assured me that her mother was immediately sorry for having hit me, however slight the hits may have been, and would have taken them back in a flash. However, I have to say that I understand her actions completely. If somebody poured fresh pee all over something I had been cleaning for the past hour, I'd likely give them worse than what I got.)

Being two, and not knowing why I had been given a couple of love taps, I ran into the parlor, Aunt Anna close behind. I screamed, "She killed me everywhere! She killed me everywhere!"

Chaos reigned for about a half-minute, until Uncle Roy came running out of the bathroom to find out why there was a general insurrection in his living room. We all told our parts of the story, and it became clear that it was a case of not enough information all around. Aunt Anna had, of course, meant for me to empty the bottle in the toilet, but hadn't said exactly that (which would have been wise, considering she was dealing with a two-year-old.) Having no idea concerning the shirts, I had done what I thought was expedient and right. Dorothy had left the scene of the crime once the Coke bottle was introduced the first time, not having any great desire to witness the filling of same. And Uncle Roy was otherwise occupied throughout, until his serenity had been disrupted by the shouting.

I have it on good authority that I was given a chocolate, told why I shouldn't have done what I did (but also assured that it wasn't really my fault), and that I then quieted down and went back to doing whatever it is that amuses a two-year-old boy. I'm apparently none the worse for wear, since I didn't recall a single bit of it as Dorothy told me about it, and it affords me the opportunity to ask once again that you send Dorothy a card or letter, if you have the time, so it may turn out to be a very good thing that I peed all over Aunt Anna's clean laundry.

Dorothy's address:

Dorothy Luff, Room 103
c/o Milford Care & Rehabilitation
10 Veterans Memorial Drive
Milford, MA 01757-2900

She loves getting mail, and thank you very much to those who have sent her some. You're the best!

Soon, with more better stuff.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

5 Things I'd Like To Do Before I Die

Yesterday, I said, "I will soon return to my usual mix of stale jokes, non sequiturs, overly romanticized tales of my childhood, and occasional rotten photographs."

This qualifies as at least one of those things (and if you can't figure out which two, you deserve all four.)

This is the sort of list that lends itself to instant criticism. That's because it's so easy to think of someone as a no-good selfish bastard just because "cure cancer" isn't at the top of his list. Well, the cure for cancer probably won't be found by somebody lounging in his recliner eating fried chicken while watching a ball game, so I'm probably not going to be the guy who does it. I know my limitations.

(Yeah, wise guy, it's possible that some brilliant renegade scientist, on the run from hired gunmen of a major pharmaceutical company because he found that eating four pieces of Extra Crispy during a Patriots game cures lymphoma, may have hidden his notes in my KFC bucket. However, it's highly improbable. Anyway, the notes would be all greasy and stuff. Yuck!)

You also don't want to set the bar too high. For instance, what if I did say "cure cancer"? Then whatever followed (for instance, winning a lottery so humongous that I'd be able to spend the rest of my life blowing my nose on hundred dollar bills) would seem frivolous by comparison.

So, having said all of the above for no apparent reason other than to fill space, here are 5 Things I'd Like To Do Before I Die.

1 - Become Emperor Of The Known Universe

This has been a goal of mine for many years, actually. And I've done little or nothing to make it become reality, so I don't know why you'd believe that this might change in the near future. Maybe you don't believe it will change. And that's why I'm a miserable failure. You have no faith in me! You've ruined my life, you domineering bitch! You suck! You suck! You suck!

Whoa! Freudian slip! I meant to say, "Pass the gravy, please."

(That's the punch line to a really good joke - unless you've never heard it, in which case it's not very good at all. And now I've ruined it for you. That's what you get. Why? I don't know, but that's what you get. Am I making any sense here? I sure hope not, because if I am I won't be able to use this as evidence of temporary insanity at my trial.)

Now, where was I? More important, who was I? And, while we're at it, why are there gophers in my pocket?

2 - Become Emperor Of The Known Universe

This has been a goal of mine for many years, actually. First, though, I want to win a championship in softball. What sort of emperor plays ball for forty years and can't win one friggin' championship? Do I want people going around saying, "Emperor Suldog? Oh, don't even talk to me about that bum! Yeah, sure, he cured cancer his first day on the job, but did he ever win a championship in softball? Please! Hey, pass the Extra Crispy, will you?"

3 - Become Emperor Of The Known Universe

This has been a goal of mine for many years, actually. First, though, I'd like to buy a house. What kind of emperor doesn't own his own house? Do you know any emperors who rent? Of course you don't! Hey, what the hell is this greasy piece of paper at the bottom of my KFC bucket? Yuck!

4 - Become Emperor Of The Known Universe

This has been a goal of mine for many years, although I'd like to own a waffle house first. Who wouldn't want a house made of waffles, with butter and syrup melting down over the roof? Yum! But no gophers - they get in my shorts. Excuse me - I have to blow my nose. *BLAT* Sorry about that. Hey, do you want a hundred bucks? No? Hey! Who put this piece of chicken in my bucket full of greasy notes?

5 - Become Emperor Of The Known Universe

Actually, I am, but I have to keep it a secret until the Extra Crispy gophers eat their waffles. You sure you don't want a hundred bucks? How about a piece of chicken? It cures softball, you know.

Uh-oh. Here comes the nurse with my meds. Shhhh! Don't say anything. See you Monday (or a reasonable facsimile thereof.)

Soon, with more better stuff (but fewer gophers, as if that's any consolation for your loss of time.)

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Jon Stewart on Ron Paul

I promise you that I am NOT turning this into a political blog. I will soon return to my usual mix of stale jokes, non sequiturs, overly romanticized tales of my childhood, and occasional rotten photographs. But, as MY WIFE can all too readily inform you, every four years I must let this stuff out or else there is a very real possibility of my blowing a gasket and taking an axe to someone.

(If you think you've got it bad, it's nothing compared to the stuff I spout off about at home. MY WIFE has the patience of a saint. While I am a Libertarian Republican, she is fairly much a Socialist. That we will be married 20 years come February 29th is proof positive that love trumps politics.)

Anyway, the following may be old news to some of you, but it is new to me, and it is, by far, the best commentary I've seen on the media manipulation of the Republican nomination.

Thank you, Jon Stewart.

Soon, with stuff, but not much better than this, that's for damn sure.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Told You So

[L to R: Santorum, Romney, Gingrich, Paul]

Told you so. Sort of.

Before South Carolina's primary, it seemed that most major media pundits were expecting Mitt Romney to cruise to the Republican presidential nomination. Meanwhile, I said it was far from over. Gingrich won South Carolina convincingly, and now many are saying that whoever wins Florida (the next primary contest) will almost have a lock on the nomination.

Do I have to go through the math again? Maybe not for you, but perhaps somebody has Googled "politics, primary, Romney" and decided to visit the 557th listing that came up.

(I have no idea if I'm the 557th listing. That's probably an optimistic estimate.)

According to CNN, here are the numbers of delegates won, through the three primaries contested thus far:

Gingrich - 25

Romney - 14

Paul - 10

Santorum - 7

Those figures do not include unpledged RNC delegates, of which there are 123 who become delegates automatically. When those attached to a candidate are included, the numbers become:

Romney - 31

Gincrich - 26

Paul - 10

Santorum - 8

So, what do these figures tell us? If you don't hear them screaming "It's far from over!", then you aren't listening.

As of now, no candidate has accrued 50% of the total delegates available to have been won. The fact remains that it takes a majority, or 1,144 delegates to clinch the nomination (there are 2,287 delegates to be had, total.) Whichever delegate count you use, the frontrunner now has around 2.5% of the total needed to win. Florida has 50 delegates at stake. Assign those 50 to any one of the four candidates. It still leaves the frontrunner with only about 7% of the number he'll need.

Whichever way you look at it, if you truly believe this thing is near to over, you're an idiot (and I mean that in the kindest way.) Since lots of other dopes are making predictions, I may as well. I predict that there will be no clear winner and there will be a brokered convention. That is, deals will be made, between those candidates having accrued delegates, until such time as one emerges with a majority. And that means that anyone with meaningful hope of securing more delegates along the way, even if not enough to garner the nomination, may wield some bit of significant power come August.

Meanwhile, many in the media are still trying to sell us a bill of goods. The last two debates (one prior to voting in South Carolina, the other the first debate in Florida) have featured Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich front and center on the stage, with Rick Santorum and Ron Paul pushed toward the wings. The questions from the moderators and panelists have been overwhelmingly directed towards the center of the stage. In many instances, Paul and Santorum have been excluded from even being allowed to answer those questions or offer rebuttal to the answers given by the other two candidates. In South Carolina, there was an instance where moderator John King (of CNN) did not give Ron Paul the opportunity to speak until the crowd voiced its collective displeasure at such a tactic.

The arrogance of the media is stunning.

Are Gingrich and Romney the leading candidates at this point? Yes, obviously. Will the eventual leader in delegate count be one of those two men? Probably so. Is it the debate moderator's job to decide that those two candidates will receive, say, 50% more speaking time than the other two candidates? By no means. What that is, is a dereliction of duty. It is not the moderator's job to influence the vote, but that is what is being accomplished when any candidate is marginalized. And the people willing to pay attention to these debates, and thus the best informed voters, deserve moderators and panelists without agendas, with no preconceived notions concerning viability of any candidates, and with more sense of fair play.

Do I have any real hope of seeing such? About as much as I have for the Boston Celtics winning the NBA Championship this year, which is to say it's a possibility but not one I'd be willing to bet on at less than 25 to 1.

And now, having discussed both sports and politics, with much of it done via math, I trust I've bored the hell out of the great majority of you and I'll go away.

Soon, with more better stuff.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

The Disgraceful State Of American Politics, Among Other Things

This is where I thank someone, and give you a personal update. But, before I get to any of that, here's all you need to know about the pitiful state of American politics.

When I logged onto AOL this morning, to get my e-mail, their lead news flash said that Newt Gingrich's second wife had given a "bombshell" interview, saying some damning things about the former Speaker of the House. Perusing further down the front page, the fourth story listed, in type about one-quarter as large, informed me that Rick Santorum actually beat Mitt Romney in Iowa, rather than the other way around.

So, to sum up, the frontrunner in the race actually has won only one of the two states thus far contested in the primaries, and the media played up those supposed two wins, for the past two weeks or so, portraying his candidacy as an unstoppable juggernaut, basically making it one in the process. Meanwhile, the ex-wife of the guy who, of the remaining five candidates in the race, is currently dead last in actual delegate count, dissed him. What should we have expected? That she would be fellating him at a press conference?

Thank you, American radio, TV, and press! You certainly do make things clear for the voters! The next time you wring your hands, deploring voter turnout at some all-time low, please don't act as though you don't know why that's the case. Instead, look in the mirror. And then, would you please be gracious enough to offer us all an apology? Those of us still paying attention would appreciate it greatly.

Ah, but let's move on to happier stuff, shall we?

Clare Dunn is an artist, a marvelous painter, and she held a giveaway on her blog, xoxoxocd. Yes, that's more or less the name of it, although I think it's more formal name is Alldunn by XOXOXO CD, but either way it's fun to type! Be that as it may - and I think it is - the giveaway was of one of her original works of art. And I was the winner!

The title of the painting is Dunes II, and I love it. It will be framed and given a place of honor in our home. Thank you again, Clare!

(Some of her other pieces - either the originals or prints - are for sale. Please check them out. If you make Clare fabulously famous, my painting will become worth millions. I would never sell it, but I could then borrow against its value and never have to write again, thus making the world a better place. So, do your bit for humanity and buy Clare's artwork!)

Finally, some of you are no doubt wondering how I fared on the Jeopardy test. Unfortunately, I don't have a definitive answer. They don't tell your score, or even whether or not you passed or failed. However, I have some knowledge of the score needed to pass, and I'm fairly certain I did. Unlike the media in the case of Mitt Romney and Iowa, I won't proclaim it a certainty. I'll only find out for sure if the producers call me and arrange for an in-person test and interview. If and when they do, I'll be certain to crow about it.

And that wraps it up here at Suldog this morning. The final tally shows one rant, one sincere thank you, and one uncertain game show future. I thank you for reading, and you can now feel free to go see what hideous things Newt's wife had to say about him.

Soon, with more better stuff.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Possibly Putting Myself In Jeopardy

[Long damn post, but that's OK.
You've read it before, anyway.
And that sentence rhymes, so here's one more!
I won't take the credit, if you find it a bore.
If you do, here's who to bitch at.
It's all Craig's fault (who I don't want to snitch at),
but he inspired me (yes, he did)
to re-post this stuff about me as a kid.
So, go to his place and tell him to stop it,
'cause you're tired of tales about me as a moppet
(although, truth be told, that's not the point,
but you won't find it out 'til the end of this joint.)]

[Yeah, that was pretty bad, but it's the only new material you'll find here today, so don't expect it to get any better. Here comes the old stuff!]

Writing as I’m about to do has the potential to set me up for a fall. Every grammatical error will seem an indictment, and God help me if I misspell anything. Should my memory be faulty, someone might jump on me with both feet. I also have to be careful to keep my sense of humor, not letting my ego overrun everything. I'll need to throw in a joke or two, to keep it light.

I’m going to write about my being intelligent.

(No, wise guy, that wasn’t the first joke.)

There has rarely been a time in my life when I haven't felt that I was more intelligent than most of the people with whom I’ve been involved. That isn’t to say I’ve always been THE most intelligent person in a particular group, nor does it mean that I'm one of the smartest people on the planet. One look at me standing in the rain without a jacket, on a 40 degree day, smoking a cigarette, would be enough to tell you I'm not Einstein's successor. It's just that, when all factors are taken into consideration, I don't usually feel the need to take a back seat to too many folks in any crowd of which I'm a part.

Does that sound amazingly egotistical? I suppose it might. It’s true, though. I’ve always been in possession of more brainpower than most of those with whom I’ve associated.

(If you're a long-time friend or business associate, and you're wondering if I'm saying that I'm smarter than you, the answer is no. I'm talking about all of my other friends and business associates, not you. You're a genius!)

I suppose now would be a good time for me to trot out the proofs, if I had any. However, my best pieces of evidence aren’t available for scrutiny. You’ll have to take my word concerning them (and I'd say that your doing so would say a lot about your own innate intelligence and character, but that would be too blatant an attempt at flattery to sway someone of your obvious discernment.)

When I was an infant, my mother kept a small journal about me. It was within the pages of a how-not-to-kill-your-baby book published by Good Housekeeping. There was a section in the back for recording your child’s height, weight, accomplishments (reaching for things was one, so the bar wasn’t set very high), and so forth. There was also a section reserved for recording the diagnoses and/or pronouncements of doctors and other health professionals. My Mom recorded, in one of those sections, that some pediatrician had proclaimed me "... slightly more intelligent than most other children" after he had me perform some tests. Perhaps I was having a particularly good day reaching for things. Well, I've always been pissed about the "slightly" part of that statement, but I'll take the rest of it.

As I grew up, I found myself in situations that offered further proof concerning my general mental superiority. For instance, in grade school, I was always the best reader in my class. When the teacher called upon us to read aloud, I knew I could do it more easily, and with fewer stumbles (that is to say, none), than all of my classmates. I was good at it because of help from my mother, father, and other relatives. My mother taught me the basics of reading before I entered kindergarten. My other relatives - somewhat to my outer embarrassment, but very much to my inner pride – would have me read aloud from newspapers, almanacs, magazines, encyclopedias, and so on, every time I visited them. They always heaped inordinate amounts of praise upon me for being able to get through all passages, of whatever difficulty, smoothly. I owe my current job of voice-over professional to them (and you probably owe them your difficulty in plowing through some of my more painful constructions, since I glide through most anything and thus don't edit as neatly as I probably should.) Back in grade school, however, I was so much better at reading than any of my classmates, I would actually stumble ON PURPOSE once in a while. I was so self-conscious of my superiority that I didn’t want the other kids to be mad at me for making them look bad.

I was a voracious reader as I grew up. I read newspapers cover-to-cover; every bit of magazines, even the publisher's statement and copyright notices; encyclopedias were a constant source of amusement; and nothing could keep me so thoroughly entertained, for as long and with as much joy, as an almanac (but, you knew this already.)

As good parents would, My Mom and Dad fed this desire to learn. Whenever we went on a shopping trip to a department store, they'd allow me to roam off on my own to the book section. There, I'd pick one and they'd buy it for me. My Mom would often come home from work with some sort of interesting science or history book she had purchased for me. I was a frequent patron of our local public library, and I belonged to various book-buying clubs sponsored by the Gilbert Stuart, my elementary school.

For the fourth grade, when I was 8, I was taken from that elementary school and assigned to an advanced school in another neighborhood in Boston. Being smart doesn't always equate to emotional maturity, though, and I cried and wailed and made a general nuisance of myself for the two weeks or so I was there. I wanted to be back in my own neighborhood school with all of my friends. So, my parents, being good folks who valued their child's happiness over some abstract future earning potential, re-enrolled me in the Gilbert Stuart. I was happy as a clam when they did so. However, being assigned to the advanced classes was an ego boost, even if I hated being at that school. I was now more firmly convinced than ever that I was a 'smaht kid', as we'd say in Dorchester.

While in the 6th grade, I took the test for admittance to Boston Latin, the only 6-year high school in Boston. It was (and arguably is) the most prestigious secondary school in the country. It was founded a year before Harvard, and Benjamin Franklin was a dropout from the place. Imagine the graduates! Well, I passed the exam and entered the school for the 7th grade.

And now comes the moment when I humble myself. I flunked, miserably. Whereas I had been a straight A student in my neighborhood school, I was straining to attain passing grades at Latin. The main problem was that everything had always come easily to me before, but now I was being asked to apply myself. I did only as much work as I thought I needed to do to keep my parents and teachers off of my back. Because my travel time to and from Latin was 60 to 90 minutes each way, I was constantly more tired than I had ever previously been in school. And being an 11-year-old in a school with kids as big and old as 18 or 19 was not much fun; it was standard for the upper classmen to pick on the "sixies" as we were known. I truly hated most of my time in that school.

It appeared I might have to repeat the 7th grade. Talk about having your illusions concerning your intelligence smashed to rubble!

I was saved from being kept back by dint of the fact that Latin was such an amazingly hard school. Had I stayed there, I would have had to repeat the year. However, if I transferred back to my local junior high school for the next year, I would still be promoted. Although there was some argument between Mom and Dad concerning which course of action to take, I was finally transferred, much to my relief, and I was promoted to the 8th grade.

My parents and I didn't necessarily learn a lesson from my first stint at Latin. I once again took the entrance examination for 9th grade (as well as being a 6-year school, students could enter for a more-usual 4-year high school course.) This time around, I lasted half as long as I had the first time. I did so miserably in my classes that I transferred back to my local school midway through the year. Once back at 'The Woody' (Woodrow Wilson Junior High, the neighborhood school) I resumed my coasting, in the relatively relaxed atmosphere, and graduated easily.

I took another entrance exam, this time for the second-best high school in the city, Boston Technical. I passed it. And I graduated from there, too, although it was a closer call than it ever should have been. By the time I got there, I detested going to school. Whereas before, during my pre-teen years, I found school an alright place to be with my friends - not that I was overjoyed, but I didn't dread it - now all I wanted to get out of school was me. I was high half the time, didn't care at all, and I passed barely enough classes to graduate - after I made up one class in summer school.

Heck of a way for a kid who tested out at a 136 IQ to finish his schooling.

The shame of it is that I loved learning. It was school that I hated. I used to play hooky from high school because I abhorred being in those buildings and being graded, but do you know where I went when I played hooky? Most guys went to a ballpark or to a movie or did something normal. I went to the Boston Public Library and spent my day reading.

And from that reading, and from my devouring of encyclopedias and almanacs and dictionaries when I was a kid, I've acquired great storehouses of haphazard knowledge, most of it useless except for my own entertainment and with just enough unfilled gaps to get me into trouble. Which brings us to the present time and my fourth attempt to get onto the television show Jeopardy. This evening, I will be attempting to qualify for the show via an on-line test. I'll let you know how it turns out, of course (unless I make an absolute ass of myself, in which case I'll probably tell you about it in two or three parts, because why waste the opportunity to publicly display my utter humiliation and shame all at once?)

Wish me luck. I obviously need it.

Soon, with more better stuff.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Sometimes They Buy What You're Selling, Sometimes They Don't

Recently, I had a couple of op-eds published by the nice folks over at The Boston Herald. One concerned the commercialization of Christmas, while the other was a (somewhat) tongue-in-cheek list of New Year resolutions. I'm happy to have had them published (and even happier to have received payment.)

Yesterday, I decided to see if they were interested in something of a political nature. I wrote an analysis of what had thus far transpired during the Republican primaries. I sent it off to the editor who had bought my previous submissions.

Her response?

"Thanks, but I'll take a pass on this one."

Fair enough. I didn't expect her to buy every bit of writing I sent her way, and I figured selling this one to her might have been a bit more of a longshot than the others. The previous were benign; one was an opinion that few would have an argument with, and the other was a decent laugh. This was serious, political, and it treads upon ground that The Herald may not want trodden. They've already endorsed Mitt Romney, and my piece centered on not automatically buying into those opinions, from some analysts, that Romney has the nomination locked up. Expecting an editor to purchase a piece that somewhat goes against the paper's stated political preference is expecting a bit much. I gave it a shot, though, figuring that if it didn't sell, I could always turn it into a good read here.

And so I have, you lucky dogs! Enjoy my political punditry!


We've Barely Begun

I have a question for those of you who may like to consider yourselves politically astute: Do you know how many delegates are currently pledged to each of the Republican presidential contenders?

You might know the answer, but the odds are against it. Precious little has been said about it in most media outlets. And that’s a shame, as it is the most important part of the entire primary election process.

While some pundits have already declared Mitt Romney the eventual nominee, it should be noted that committed delegates – those won via the processes in Iowa and New Hampshire – amount to approximately 1.7% of the total amount of delegates available. Even if unpledged RNC delegates are counted (that is, those Republican National Committee members who do not have to indicate a candidate preference, but a majority of whom are elected just like pledged delegates) the number of delegates for all of the contenders now comes to only 2.2% of the total.

To declare Romney the winner, at this point, is a bit like predicting the outcome of a baseball game after two outs in the top of the first inning. There’s a long, long way to go. And much can happen during that time.

It takes 1,144 delegates to win the nomination. Here are the numbers of pledged delegates, thus far:

Mitt Romney – 14

Ron Paul – 10

Rick Santorum – 7

Newt Gingrich, Jon Huntsman, and Rick Perry – 2 each

If we include the number of unpledged RNC delegates, Romney rises to 25. Paul stays in second place, at 10. Santorum moves up a bit, to 8. The other three have a total of 9 between them.

In either scenario, the numbers thus far secured are miniscule. More important to note is that Romney has less than half the total of the small number thus far accounted for. And, since the nomination cannot be won without a majority, that means this thing is still way up in the air, no matter how much some may not want it to be.

Now, I’m not saying that Romney doesn’t have a significantly good start. Perception is mighty important heading into South Carolina and Florida, and the simple fact is that many voters will cast a vote for that candidate they think can win, rather than basing a vote purely on how much they like the stands and opinions of any other. Having won the first two contests, Romney will be perceived by many as the only candidate who has a real chance. But the fact is, he isn’t.

South Carolina will not be a slam dunk, and it is less important, overall, than it has been in years past. Due to the wrangling of certain states, in moving up their primary dates, South Carolina and Florida have had their delegate totals halved from previous years, a penalty imposed by the RNC for their actions. There are only 25 delegates at stake in SC, 11 of which go to the statewide winner and 14 proportioned from the state’s congressional districts. It’s quite possible that the attacks being made on Romney now, from most all of the other candidates (Paul being the lone curious exception) will come home to roost in South Carolina. If so, despite his frontrunner status, Mitt may find himself in a true battle. Some polls show his lead at a rather low 3%, fairly much a statistical tie. If the former Massachusetts governor absorbs a few more Bain body blows over the next week, who knows?

As Damon Runyon once said, “The race may not always be to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, but that’s the way to bet.” So, if you make your living via political predictions, it makes sense to tout Romney, the frontrunner, as the eventual victor. However, he hasn’t even won 50% of the delegates thus far available to have been won. We’d all do well to keep that in mind the next time we hear any predictions.

(Jim Sullivan is a former state chair of the Massachusetts Libertarian Party.
To his credit, he now is not, and may be reached at


Soon, with more better stuff.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Dorothy & The Handwriting On The Wall

I paid a visit to My Cousin Dorothy last night.

Since she first went to the nursing facility to live, I've visited her once a week. I missed a couple of opportunities during holiday weeks, due to the hectic nature of those times and the need to get other things accomplished, but other than that, it's been every Tuesday.

It's a pleasant routine, for the most part. Aside from the visit itself, which is always a nice conversation filled with family tales, the ride to and from the facility has also become something of a treat. I now know the route well enough to go on autopilot for the greater part of the 50 minutes or so, and, since I don't often find myself just sitting down and listening to music these days, the ride affords me that pleasure. Last night, it was Led Zeppelin IV on the way there, and Aerosmith's first album on the ride home. I recommend both, if you've never heard them (and, if you've never heard them, how old are you and what planet do you come from?)

On the return trip, I also stop and get something interesting to eat. Since I go straight from work at 5pm, and it's usually between 7:30 and 8:00 when I leave Dorothy, I'm pretty hungry by the time I'm headed back, not having eaten most of the day. I've tried a few different fast food places I never would have if not for these trips. I've discovered, for instance, that Five Guys burgers and fries are both magnificent and habit forming.

Well, that stuff is really neither here nor there, unless you're looking at my expanding waistline or you were driving next to a guy who appeared to be singing along to "Movin' Out" yesterday evening. The real point of this is to tell you a little story that Dorothy told me.

It seems that she and her family had moved to a new place to live, sometime during her teen years, and among the many chores that needed doing, to make the place habitable, was wallpapering.

[Dorothy, in her teens]

I realize that there are nowhere near as many papered walls these days as there once were. Wallpapering seems to be considered much less stylish than it was at one time. If you're in the habit of watching shows about home buying or selling, such as those shown on HGTV, the general reaction, when prospective buyers see wallpapered walls, is "Oh, this room needs updating!"

(MY WIFE and I, just for kicks someday, want to go to an open house and say the exact opposite of everything that is usually said on House Hunters. While the realtor shows us around, we'll exclaim, "Ugh! TWO sinks in the bathroom? We would much rather have just one. And why isn't there any carpeting? We hate hardwood floors! Also, this open floor plan makes us very uncomfortable. Is there some way you could put up three or four extra walls, so we could see what that looks like? Oh, and before we forget, the kitchen is way too modern. We prefer linoleum, knotty pine, and white appliances. And... Oh, My God! Is that a walk-in closet? There's no way in hell we could live here!")

Anyway, when people papered the walls, it presented an opportunity to write whatever graffiti one wished on the wall to be covered. Nobody would see it until the paper was removed.

Dorothy, then as now, was a learned person with a mischievous streak, which is a dangerous combination. While most young people presented with such an opportunity might scrawl their name, or a date, or perhaps (if particularly rebellious) some obscenity, Dorothy decided that wasn't good enough.

She wrote...

Mene, Mene, Tekel u-Pharsin

If you're as confused as I was when she told me this, go here:

Mene, Mene

Yup, she left behind a Hebrew warning from God taken from the biblical book of Daniel. The fact that this was a good fifty years before anyone would be able to Google such a thing, and find out what in hell it meant, didn't faze her in the least. She figured it would be a good joke for those who had the knowledge, a total mystery for those who didn't, and maybe a trip to the local library for some; a teaching moment for future generations. And that's why my visits to Dorothy are something to which I look forward. I not only get to listen to good music and eat great fattening food, I also get esoteric laughs and might actually learn something.

As usual, Dorothy sends her warmest "Thank You!" for the cards, letters, and whatever else you've been able to send her. As explained in other entries here, her eyesight is no longer good enough to reply via mail to each of you, but she truly loves each and every piece of mail she receives, and the staff get a great kick out of reading them to her. Since she's now bedridden most of the time (her osteoporosis is so pronounced, she can't stand on her own, let alone walk) mail delivery is a precious way to break up the monotony.

If you have the time, her address remains...

Dorothy Luff, Room 103
c/o Milford Care & Rehabilitation
10 Veterans Memorial Drive
Milford, MA 01757-2900

When I first started writing about Dorothy's move to this facility, I talked about how the prognosis was not good. She has osteoporosis, macular degeneration, arthritis, a bad heart, cancer, and weighs about 80 pounds. Her condition has changed little over the time she's been there, and that's a good thing considering all of her troubles. I firmly believe that your love, via gifts and letters - and your prayers - provide Dorothy with an invaluable uplift. You have truly made her life more pleasant, and have probably given her more days than she might have originally been allotted. For that, I thank you, deeply and sincerely.

Soon, with more better stuff.

Monday, January 09, 2012

Tebow 3:16

Tim Tebow is my favorite athlete. And I don't mean just right now. I mean ever.

I grew up with the eventually-tragic Tony Conigliaro as my sports hero. I've had others whom I liked, a lot: Babe Parilli, Larry Siegfried, John Havlicek, Murray Oliver, Steve DeBerg, Dunc Wilson, Rajon Rondo, Doug Flutie, and Tim Wakefield, to name those that come immediately to mind, have all had a special place in my heart, for various reasons I won't go into here. Tebow, though, is something entirely different and special.

There's a lot to like about him as a football player, of course. He's a fearless runner, with a fair amount of speed, and defenses have to plan to contain him in that regard. He's not a stumblebum when it comes to passing, despite what some critics of his would have you believe. He may not have the most beautiful throwing motion, but if you give him the opportunity to drive a stake through your heart, by showing him open receivers, he'll kill you just as effectively as any of the more highly touted quarterbacks in the league.

However, it's more than performance that makes him my favorite. He's also intelligent, personable, gracious, and humble. He always defers to his teammates and coaches, never pointing toward himself with a "Me! Me! Me!" as so many football players and other professional athletes do. He's a fantastic role model for kids, a non-drinking, non-drugging, non-womanizing college graduate. And he's just plain fun to watch.

And it's also undeniably tasty to see people who criticize him floundering about whenever he wins.

The biggest problem that some people have with Tebow is that he's a Christian, and a very vocal Christian at that. When a microphone is thrust in his face, he first takes that opportunity to thank Jesus Christ. He then answers whatever questions are asked of him, in a polite manner, usually praising his teammates, coaches, parents, or whomever else he feels like showering with love at the moment. And, as I say, some folks have a problem with this.

Why? I'm not truly sure. It seems like a waste of energy to me. But Tebow engenders absolute hatred from some corners. And the people who hate on him come off as the sort who would kick a puppy. Tebow does absolutely nothing to deserve such treatment, other than declaring his religious values in public. I can understand where it might become tiresome to hear him say such things, but the viciousness of some commentary is amazingly vitriolic. And that puts it over the top for me. I'm a sucker for almost any underdog, and Tim being batted around in the media, in on-line commentary, and kicked around by blowhard pundits, just makes him all the more loveable to me as a fan.

Here's the kind of kid he is. Your reaction to the following says a lot about you.

Chicago Bears linebacker, Brian Urlacher, following Chicago's loss to Denver, was asked what he thought of Tebow's play. He said:

"He's a good running back. He does a good job running for them."

(Tebow is a quarterback, not a running back, so that's what you'd call damning with faint praise. If you don't understand that, you don't understand football.)

Tebow's response?

"Coming from a really good player, that means a lot."

He could have gotten righteously indignant. He had, after all, just completed EIGHTEEN passes against Urlacher's team, in the fourth quarter alone. Instead, he was gracious in victory.

Even better was his response to the Detroit Lions.

The Lions croaked Denver. Demolished them. It was not a pretty game for Tebow or his teammates. During play, one of the Detroit players, following a sack of Tebow, got down on a knee and mocked Tebow's now famous posture of prayer. Asked about it in the locker after the game, Tebow said:

"He was just celebrating, having fun with his teammates, and I don't take offense to that."

Do you really want to denigrate a guy who says stuff like this? Really? You may not agree with his religion, or his way of displaying it, but I think the world would be a much better place, overall, if more people had the attitude that Tim Tebow displays. And if your mileage varies, that's truly sad for you.

The best thing about Tebow, though, the absolute best thing, is when a stunning coincidence occurs, such as happened yesterday when Denver beat Pittsburgh in the playoffs.

The winning play came in overtime, an 80-yard Tebow touchdown pass to teammate DeMaryius Thomas. With that completion, Tebow ended with a total of 316 passing yards. Now, if you don't immediately get why this is so delicious, consider this photo from Tebow's college days...

Notice the inscription on Tebow's eye black? While at Florida, he often would write such messages, touting one scriptural passage or another, knowing that the cameras would be on him. A favorite was John 3:16, which reads...

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.

Following Tebow's team winning the national collegiate championship, during which he displayed that message on his eye black during the telecast, there were over 94,000,000 hits on Google for "John 3:16". It pays to advertise!

He can't write such messages while in the National Football League, as they prohibit that sort of thing. But yesterday, on the biggest stage he's thus far been given, during a playoff game, his final winning pass brought his total yardage to 316.

Do I believe this is a message from God? To be truthful, I heard the number and didn't think anything of it. However, a whole bunch of folks in the media have latched onto it, and I suppose, if God really did care about sending messages via football games, that would be a pretty dandy way to do it.

(If you want more fun, tell a hater that the very first shot on TV, after those of the players celebrating, was of JOHN Elway, Broncos legend and current executive. Get it? John? 316? It's all too marvelous for words, really.)

Anyway, it's just great to hear the venom spewing from so many folks this morning. There was a fun article about the 316 yards and Tebow, written by a Boston blogger. Find it HERE. Good read, just fun stuff. But scroll down and read the comments. Yikes! You'd think this guy had just pissed on somebody's mother, by the tone of some of them. And every time I watch Tebow, and see him do something well, I know that there are thousands and thousands of these angry and miserable people pulling their hair out and gnashing their teeth.

You can't get entertainment value like that from any other athlete in the world.

God bless you, Tim Tebow (well, He does already, Tim, but you know what I mean.)

Soon, with more better stuff.

P.S. Yesterday's win by Denver brings them to play my New England Patriots next Saturday. Only one of them can win and move on, of course, and I'm a bit torn. I suppose, in the end, I'll be rooting for the Patriots, and I do see them winning rather handily over Denver. If Tebow pulls off another improbable win, though, I won't be heartbroken (or totally surprised.)

Thursday, January 05, 2012

Little Christmas Stories (2012)

[The title has a year included because some of this prose is being recycled from a similarly-named piece in 2011. Not all of it is old, though, and the photos are new, so you can't just skip to the end and say, "I saw this last year, you slug!"]

[Well, you could, but then I'd know you were the shallow sort of person who doesn't actually read all of my carefully-chosen words, poring over them for hidden meanings and universal truths.]

[I'll let you know, however, that there aren't any hidden meanings in this piece. It's just my usual murdering of the language. There may be a universal truth or two, but they probably snuck in without paying.]

[And now that I've satisfied my compulsive need to preface the obvious with superfluous explanatory parentheticals, here we go!]

[The Very Lovely Silver Tree]

Yes, this is The Very Lovely Silver Tree I told you about, but did not have a photo of, way back when. As usual, my photography does not do my subject justice. I truly think it's the most beautiful Christmas tree I have ever seen. MY WIFE bought it this Christmas as a present for me. She did exceedingly well in doing so.

She also bought a spinning color wheel that throws lights of varying shades onto The Very Lovely Silver Tree. Due to my ineptitude with a camera, you probably can't see much of that effect. That's OK. The Very Lovely Silver Tree is still damn nice. Here's the spinning color wheel, though.

As I’ve mentioned in years past, MY WIFE and I celebrate Little Christmas. That is, while we have our allotment of standard-issue Christmas merriment with relatives and friends during the traditional December holidays, we wait until January 6th to exchange presents with each other.

Some of you may wonder why we do this. That’s certainly understandable, given that January 6th receives little play from the merchants and media. As far as those people are concerned, the Christmas holiday is over at midnight on December 25th and it then becomes time to push Valentine’s Day candy out onto the shelves. January 6th, however, is The Feast of the Epiphany on the Roman Catholic liturgical calendar. It is sometimes known as The Feast of the Magi (the "Three Kings" of Christmas carol fame) or, by some, as Little Christmas. It is the date when, according to tradition, the wise men visited Jesus and bestowed upon Him the gifts of Gold, Frankincense, and Myrrh.

Are you one of those people who wondered why there were twelve days of over-the-top gift giving in the song "The Twelve Days Of Christmas"? Well, the actual Christmas season, at least in some European civilizations, runs from December 25th until January 6th. This being the case, it can reasonably be argued that the 6th of January is a more correct time to exchange presents in honor of The Lord’s nativity.

MY WIFE and I decided years ago that it made eminent sense to delay our own gift giving until that 12th day of Christmas. In that way, we would eliminate much of the stress associated with what should be a joy-filled celebration with friends and family. We would concentrate on others, during the more secularly-traditional Thanksgiving through December 25th time period, and then devote our efforts to each other during the 12 days following.

(This is, of course, another one of the reasons why I get so amazingly pissed off when Christmas advertising and holiday music begin in late October or very early November. Not only does it do a disservice to the wonderful American celebration of Thanksgiving [which occurs on the fourth Thursday of November]; it also utterly ignores the rightful 12 days of festivity that occur at the end of December and beginning of January. My Christmas runs through January 6th, so if I acquiesce to their greedy mercantile demands, I’ll be singing a stretched out and thinned-to-absurdity Hallelujah over perhaps a 75-day period. That’s far too much water in anybody’s holiday soup.)

Before our "Little Christmas", though, there is time with family on the 25th. Here are the only photos I took worth publishing.

(I actually shot about 35 of them. That there are only six [including The Very Lovely Silver Tree already seen] that I feel are worthy of publication should tell you all you need to know about my mad photographic skillz. Remember, these are the good ones.)

That's My Mom on the left, and my stepfather, Bill, on the right. Notice the somewhat doubtful expression on My Mom's face? That's the general look of trepidation that everybody in my family gets when I drag out the camera. They know that, more often than not, their reputations will not be done any favors by my photography.

The shot was taken at my Uncle Rick's house. All shots, except for The Very Lovely Silver Tree, are from there. Not only am I a crummy photographer, but I am also a forgetful one. I didn't take a single photo of any of the festivities which took place with MY WIFE's side of the family at our home. I exclaimed "D'Oh!" about four hours after everybody had gone home. Truly a shame, too, as it was a fun time with wonderful people, and even if the photos would have been as ridiculously inept as most of mine eventually end up being, I still would have liked to have had some for my personal recollection of the events.

My Mom and Uncle Rick.

This was the first Christmas since My Grandma (aged 105) passed away. She lived in that house for quite a bit more than sixty years, I believe. Uncle Rick did a magnificent job of decorating the place and making it a warm and wonderful home to be in for the holiday. I truly wish I could have captured that on film. Unfortunately, most of the shots I took are similar to this one...

... in which we see Uncle Rick's lovely tree destroyed by my tendency to not focus before clicking.

Honestly, I do try. I think I'm doing it correctly at the time. It's only when I see the shots, after the fact, that I realize a chimp on meth could have done better.

Speaking of chimps on meth...

This photo is decent because I'm in it. Not that I'm stunningly adorable or anything, but me being in the picture guarantees that I'm not the one taking the picture.

I'm a huge fan of Fred Rogers, as many of you are aware. I love the shirt. However, can you imagine my mug coming at you, wearing a shirt that says "Won't You Be my Neighbor?" Property values would dive as quickly as have Rick Perry's hope of becoming our next president.

This shot, of Bill opening a present, probably gives the best overall sense of how nice a place Uncle Rick's was that day. It looks comfy and friendly, doesn't it? Well, it was. Uncle Rick is sitting next to Bill, while my Cousin Scott and his lovely wife, Andrea (two of my favorite people, and that would be even if they weren't related to me) are in the background.

Finally, we have this...

MY WIFE despises having her picture taken. Surprisingly, it is not just when I'm the one behind the camera. In her lifetime, she has acknowledged, I believe, one good photo of herself (and, personally, I think she looks like she was just released from Dachau in that one, but I digress.) Anyway, in deference to her desire not to be shown on this blog, I have cleverly disguised her here. You probably can't even tell which one is her, and I hope she appreciates my hard work.

Merry Little Christmas, my friends. See you (relatively) soon with more better stuff.