Thursday, December 18, 2014

You think so, huh?

Life is full of ‘sayings’ – so they say [QED – there’s one right there!]

Some of the ‘sayings’, - wait, I need to have my Thesaurus at hand – for want of a better word. Eureka

Some of the maxims, aphorisms and adages are merely postulations or theorems, but others are axiomatic.
  
“What he say, fool?”   I’ll save you the trouble – some are just BS, others are as obvious on the nose on your face, Rudolph!

Take, for instance, this book:



If you have never read it, your spouse probably has – ergo, proving the point of the title.

Indeed, it does appear that we are derived from different planets – there are so many things / issues that we are logger-heads over or do differently. Let me see if I can identify and describe a few that pertain to my wife and I.

The kitchen counter

That is where the Martian of the house (herein after, 'I') put the mail when it arrives – so that the Venusian of the house (herein after 'she') can see it when she arrives home later. God only knows where she puts it (the little that remains after the junk mail is pitched in the recycling bin) after she has read it. If I need to see a mail item again – good luck!  Typically un-Martian-like, she has 3 or 4 places that she puts the retained mail. I (think) I know where all the places are – but darned if I can figure out her system; so on Friday, I just yell, "Where’s the bloody ‘so and so’ that came from ‘such and such ‘ on Tuesday!" She on the other hand, calmly retrieves it for me - or maybe sometimes, later places it on the counter-top and announces - "There - it's where you left it!" .  

I often empty my pockets (and transfer stuff from my computer desk in the basement) onto the kitchen counter. Things that go there include my comb, eye-glass cleaner-cloth, my door keys, car keys, truck keys, loose ‘pocket-change’, notes that I scribbled to myself so I would not forget stuff to do or things to buy, pieces of (finally) retrieved mail that I haven’t yet decided what to do with, the occasional beer-bottle cap, my camera, AA and AAA batteries that I had not completed ‘the does this bugger still have life in it or not?’ test – and various and sundry other items. In spite of the fact that I KNOW she does not like to see all that stuff there for days on end, it usually remains there. ‘USUALLY’ – funny word, that. It has an ‘us’ and an ‘ally’ in it – two words that should convey some level of cooperation or understanding. It’s that second ‘U’ that comes between those two notions that causes the trouble. ‘U’ never can be sure just when, out of the blue, she may decide to ‘clear the decks’ and secret all my stuff away. There are 3 ‘junk drawers’ beneath that counter top – my stuff (no IT is NOT junk) may end up in any one, two, or all three of them – and/or in any unknown other places. ‘U’ also CAN be assured that if anyone (who is ‘not family’) is scheduled to visit – even if they won’t be there for 3 or 4 days yet – my stuff does its disappearing act.

I must note that her planet must have passed very close to mine at some time, because she also piles stuff up on one end of the counter – but it rarely stays there for more than one day before she whisks it away. I, of course, being a kindly Martian, never move here stuff. Well, I DO kick here handbag out of the way when she leaves on the floor beside the counter - in exactly the right spot for me to trip over it. 

Another group of items prone to disappear is ‘dishes & cutlery’; to those not knowing what the hell that is, it is what some people call 'silver-ware' while others call it ‘eating irons’! Just this morning, after I emptied the kitchen sink of last night’s ‘dishes & cutlery’ and put most of the pile away into the drawers, I arranged 1 plate, 1 bowl, 1 knife and 2 forks [1 fork to whisk my egg-beater, 1 to eat with] between the cooker and the sink - that is where I always ‘set up’ to prepare my breakfast. Bugger me, if when I returned 30 seconds later from the outside ‘fridge where I went to get pack of turkey sausages, the assembled items had been put away by 'Mrs Vacuum-cleaner Venus'!

The ‘Master-bathroom’

Huh!  That’s what we (in the US) call the main bathroom. You’d think the prefix in that hyphenated term might be indicative of something, would you not?  Well, you just might be from Pluto - oh that's right, they de-commissioned it as a planet a few years ago, didn't they?  Well, you are from way out there somewhere – maybe Neptune. Yeah, that’s it – he was a ‘watery’ guy. ‘Master’, it seems relates only to the relative size of the bathroom and has nothing whatsoever to do with gender or dominance in the ownership of its contents. It’s odd that a creature from Mars and another from Venus should have so many bodily similarities. Aside from those bits on each of us that exhibit that horrifying whiteness - caused by adherence to customary ‘beach and/or poolside decorum and modesty’ during the summer - we are pretty similar: two legs, two arms, one head and one torso - containing those white bits. That is where the similarities end! Judge not these aliens by their bodies, but by the tools they employ to preen themselves!  This preening chamber has two sinks and one large mirror – aside from a shower stall, a bath-tub, a towel closet – and a ‘water closet’! Each alien utilizes all those facilities in a somewhat similar manner – though the latter sees far more of the front of the Martian than it does of the Venusian, of course. 

I should now whisk your mind away from that object in the room that is doomed to precipitate millions of episodes of an inter-planetary war - because of its hinged portion. Unlike in the song about the ‘Grand of Duke of York’ and the location of his men on the hill (see bottom of this article), that piece of hardware has no such midway position as ‘being neither up, nor down’. My Solomon-like suggestion is predicated on an unscientific assumption (excuse the prefix there) that the purpose of either alien’s visit to the structure is equally divided between functions ‘number 1’ and ‘number 2’.  It’s like this:

Finding that darned hinged seat where the Grand Old Duke’s men were when they were at the foot of the hill, Venusians (needing not to touch it) will be so happy, they could – well, ‘number 2’ – even if the intended purpose was to just – well, half of that!  The Martian, on the other hand, would be happy half the time – and though you’d think he should be unhappy the half the time, he may simply say ‘Oh, p*** on it!’ and then proceed to do just that! 

Now, take the opposite situation – when the Grand Old Duke’s men are on top of the hill. The Venusians, having to touch it, will be so ‘number oned’, they could ‘number two’ – regardless of their intentions. But, the Martians would be ‘number oned’ if their intention was to ‘number two’, and though you’d think, in finding it already where it should be if they intended to ‘number one’, they could ‘number two’, they’d probably say:  




Notwithstanding what the Martian is likely to do, and based solely on how he should adjust that seat, you can see that in all four situations, EACH alien will find the hardware where it is desired only 50% of the time. So, my Solomon-like solution, based on a population of equal numbers of Venusians as Martians, is ‘leave the bloody thing the way you found it’ – or leave it as you would like to find it on your next visit – and hope the other alien variety does not get in line before you.


Do you remember – I know, it was a long time (a 5 second scroll up) ago – that I prattled about ‘sayings’? Well, here’s another you must have heard: ‘A picture paints a thousand words’. Let me first say that I use the sink on the left – nearest the door – and the Venusian of the house uses the sink on the right – next to that towel closet. I’ll let you ‘paint your own two thousand words’ to express concurrence with the veracity of the book’s title as illustrated in the following two photos.

Martian's sink



Venusian's sink



A Martian 'orbits' that room in 5 minutes - more than enough time for the 'originally-alliterative-but-sanitized-here' proverbial 'Number two, shower and shave'.  A Venusian, however is usually in there long enough an any one of those function to be in need of decompression upon exiting the chamber! 


Now it's time for your homework: 



Sunday, November 2, 2014

Time for a change

No, this is not a call to arms for revolutionaries.  It is a commentary of the command that we, to whomever it applies, should ‘set our clocks back one hour at 2:00 a.m. today’.

That is easy for ‘them’ to say, but NOT so easy for (some of) us to comply. First, I never have any intention of staying awake until, or waking up at, 2:00 a.m. on the day which my calendar declares: ‘Daylight Saving Time Ends’.  I usually go through the ritual just before retiring for the night - which is usually about 11:30 p.m. - on the eve of that day. I say ‘I go through’, but that is not strictly correct. I ‘begin’ the ordeal at my retirement hour and complete the task at various times during the day on which ‘DSTE’.

You may have noted that I used the word ‘ordeal’. “Why?” you may ask - if you are curious – or if still a child and not yet divorced from that most common word of childhood lines of inquiry. “Heaven forbid that setting your clock back is ‘an ordeal’”, I can hear my grandmother (more likely your great-grandmothers) saying. Sure - they probably only had ONE clock in the darned house!  So, not meaning to be rude, but screw you, granny – I have 43 clocks / timing devices that need to be adjusted! 

You think I lie, but nay! Whilst it is true that 14 of those do need any action on MY part, adjusted (by the magic of technology) they are. To wit:

5 cable TV clocks
4 ‘satellite’ phone clocks
2 desk-top computer clocks
2 i-Phone clocks
1 lap-top computer clock

. . . and NO, the partridge in the pear tree is ‘sans clock’. Now, if that pear tree had a cuckoo init instead of a partridge, we just might have a different story!   

How was your arithmetic when you were in school – pre ‘New Math’ or ‘Common Core’?  I can tell you, that under this old geezer’s system, you would be able to deduce, in a nano-second, that 43 minus 14 still leaves an unbelievable 29 time-pieces to be adjusted!  Take this lot, and assume only 7 do NOT need adjusting: 




Where to begin to enumerate those 29?  As that famous poet, Dylan Thomas, (born 100 years last Tuesday in my home town of Swansea, Wales) once said, “To begin at the beginning”. Sharp buggers, we Welsh, aren’t we? Maybe a list and location is the best place:

Top floor of the house:

Master bedroom:

2 radios, each with digital a clock – ‘digital’ - that means, LED – no big hand & little hand nonsense, see?

Though infrequently used since I retired, 1 ‘Fax’ (that’s a modern term for ‘facsimile’ – just go to a dictionary) machine. If you are still of that childhood mentality, you may ask, “Why is your ‘Fax’ machine in your bedroom?”  Aren’t children cute?  There was a reason, but I have long forgotten it – something to do with available phone-jacks, I think

Master Bathroom – 1 battery operated ornamental clock with Roman Numerals. For the annoying child:  Because when my youngest son lived in our house, it was a subliminal reminder of just how L-O-N-G he had spent in the shower – or worse, ‘on the throne’!




The ‘Orange’ Bedroom – a ‘queen-sized’ bedroom now little used, but reserved for out of town family and guests – 1 of those clock-radios

The ‘Red’ Bedroom – another rarely used ‘queen-sized’ bedroom - the darkest on the floor, so good for sleeping off a ‘night on the town’. Has no radio, but does have an alarm clock – it can be unplugged!
  
The ‘Green’ Bedroom – regrettably, has NO clock (yet) – but does have two ‘single’ beds

Upstairs bathroom – Nope, no clock (yet) – but if my son comes back home, I may install one!

Main (Ground) Floor

Kitchen / breakfast Room – the most clock-infested room in all of Christendom!  There are 5 digital clocks winking their uncoordinated numerals at us. The one on the cooker is red, and looks up at the white display on an ‘under-counter radio/CD player’ that usually it tends to misplace a minute every week or two. To its right, is a blue (equally independent time piece) embedded in a coffee maker. The ‘sink area’ portrays a veritably patriotic, yet un-unified display of time! On the other side of the kitchen is another red-eyed clock – on that black box that emits sparks when foil or forks are inadvertently left on the plate within. On top of it, sits the best thing since sliced bread – the land-line telephone’s Caller ID and answering machine; the device that affords me to ignore every annoying telemarketer and ‘robot-caller’ and when they do DO ‘Leave a message after the tone’ - which they rarely do – allows me to see the time at which the annoying bastards placed their call. Thank God for the Irish – excuse the poor and unintended juxtaposition of nouns there (honestly, honey!) – but, on the ‘breakfast room’ wall is an analog, battery operated, 12” dish resplendent with a map of Ireland and a quiet sweep-second hand – just to remind me, as my wife always does when I beg haste, that “The Man who made time, made plenty of it!”



The ‘Family Room – next to the kitchen is where we gather to waste hours upon hours in front of that accursed invention, that the British affably call the ‘tele’. Just to be sure we are aware of the quantity of our collected wasted livelihood, on the mantle above the fireplace, sits a 100+-year old ‘chimes-on-the-quarter-with-one-of-three-selections-for-on-the-hour-melodies’ family heirloom ‘8-day’ clock.



The Living Room – doesn’t everybody have one of those rooms that nobody ‘lives’ in? We do!  Ours houses a hideous sofa, two large bookcases and – yes, a grandfather clock! Resplendent with three large ‘dangly things’, a tennis-racket sized pendulum, an illuminated celestial scene and Roman numerals, it too delicately chimes every 15-minutes and thunders manfully ‘on the hour’. As with the mantle clock, at this time of year, the preferred method of ‘setting it back’ one hour, is NOT to turn the hands counter-clockwise, but to halt the pendulum for an hour. [In Springtime, a 23-hour hiatus is required.] The Living Room has one other ‘time piece’ – an electric timer set to turn on / off the illumination of the celestial scene atop the grandfather’s face. No point burning a bulb after we have gone to bed, is there?      



The Dining Room – yes, another rarely used room – for dining that is. Its chairs often serve as coat hooks as guests come past it. It does get used at Thanksgiving and Christmas when it seems we have that crowd who once feasted on five small fishes and two loaves – aka, our kids and grand-kids all at once. The room contains other important items – hidden behind each of two glass cabinets housing Beleek China, Waterford Crystal and other delicate items waiting to be shattered by tiny inquisitive hands of tiny grandchildren is an electric timer to turn on/off the low wattage bulbs that illuminate the quaking items.

Main Hall – that stone-tiled passage from the front door to the kitchen and Family Room, the only function for which (aside from housing a clothes closet) is to provide a place for the HVAC’s programmable humidity-thermostat. Of course, it has a digital clock that had to be adjusted – in case my comfort level was not attained at the correct hour of the day.

Other main floor rooms - this would include the ‘half-bath’; for non-Americans, this simply means it is a ‘bathroom’ with no bath; a ‘loo’ (commode) and a sink; except that ours also has – yes, you’ve guessed it - a battery operated, complete with ‘Roman numerals, clock seated atop the flush-tank.



Also in this area – sandwiched between the ‘breakfast room’ and the garage – is the ‘laundry room’. Washer, dryer, storage shelves, plumbed-in sink – but no clock!   

Garage – ah yes, the place wherein nice automobiles are supposed to reside. Not ours; I leave ours outside where the neighbors have to suffer the site of the ugly, hail-dented, paint-peeling, fluid-dripping, rusting carcasses. Besides, the place is filled with trash cans, lawn-tending equipment, a dart board, tool-bench, junk my kids deposited and failed to remove - and an old refrigerator for excess beer storage – which I do my daily best to keep close to emptied. Plus one more item – yes, battery operated – just to remind me of when it is ‘Beer-30’!   
 


Basement 

This is the dungeon from which most of my musings emerge. It houses scores of books, two desk-top computers (not exactly labeled ‘His’ and ‘Hers’, but somewhat so), a lap-top and three battery operated clocks – a large one with a pendulum and Roman numerals,



a small one with a porcelain lout leaning on a lamp-post



and a medium sized one with a Guinness logo on it.



There is also a bathroom complete with shower-stall - but alas, that bathroom has no clock.   

Outside 

If you had been keeping count, would have taken off your socks long ago – we are now up to 22 of the 29 that need human tending. Put those socks back on and venture outside. There, and just inside the garage door, I have four timers set to illuminate, the trees, shrubs and other landscape paraphernalia from dusk till midnight. Not only do these need the bi-annual ‘Saving Time’ adjustments, but also the constant changes in sunset time. Mercifully, I do have one additional set that is ‘photo-cell’ activated – so it doesn’t count!

Lastly, the 27th, 28th and 29th clocks / timers that need adjustment are those within our three aforementioned vehicles. My pick-up truck and my wife’s car each have ‘compliant’ radios – that is, the dials work when pushed or turned and so their clocks are easily adjusted. On the other hand, MY car is the one that Adam Sandler had in mind when he penned that famous ‘P.O.S. car’ song of his! Actually, though it looks to every bit a hail-pocked P.O.S. car, it runs well and was well worth the $500 I spent for it 4 years ago. Its only problem – aside from the side-to-side cracked windshield, the non-functioning condenser, and the sticking ignition key is the damned clock!  I succeeded only once in 6 or 7 attempts to adjust the hour on it. I gave up – I accept that is it right for 6 months of the year; the other 6 months I put masking tape over it so I don’t get confused!  Today, I took the tape off. I now know what time it really is. I have a new plan for next year – if I still own it. In Springtime – when it needs adjusting ahead 1 hour. I’ll disconnect the battery cable for 23 hours; in the Fall, I’ll disconnect it 1 hour. I told you we Welsh are smart buggers, didn’t I?   

But not as smart as the Roman who owned this clock. I guess not only 'tempus', but 'manus' also did the 'fugit' thing! 
Maybe I'll move to Arizona, or back to central Indiana, or one of those other places here in the US where they do NOT change their clocks twice a year.





Thursday, October 30, 2014

My thoughts on baseball

I have never played the game - though twice I sprained an ankle playing softball.

Only in America could a sport that is played only a (small) fraction of the world's 160 or countries, and which hosts a league and tournament wherein 95%+ of the competing teams are from only one country, could that sport's pinnacle be called a 'World Series'.

In spite of those indisputable facts, every October I do tend to pay attention to the goings-on in the world of baseball. Part of that is the dominance of it on TV; part is due to the fact that the St Louis Cardinals (my 'home' team) are frequently involved in the 'play offs' for that jewel. This year, they succumbed (in what is effectively a semi-final) to the eventual winners of the trophy - as did their cross-State (and 1985 World Series Final foes and nemesis) Kansas City Royals team. I won't dwell on the fateful October nights of that season 29 years ago. You'll have to read about Game 6 - in which what has to be THE most egregious of  officiating blunders took place, denying the Cardinals the title - and the ensuing implosion by the Cardinals in Game 7 - for yourselves. Instead, I'll address the 2014 World Series - as seen through the eyes of one who has learned more about the game from his athletic 13-year-old  grandson (future Cardinals player, I hope) than I could imagine. Here, is my synopsis - play ball:



'Panda-monium' in KC!  OK - so the Royals get to rue decisions at first base for a change!  Were it not for an 'out' decision given after a LENGTHY TV-replay review of an initially 'safe' call at first base, things might have been different. Where was that technology in 1985?   [Groan]  Anyway, Hosmer had a better chance of being 'safe' had he 'ran through' instead of diving head first.  A dubious decision to have Escobar bunt instead of 'swinging' may also have led to the Royals undoing. An exciting (and oscillating) Series, no doubt. On the face of it, I think the Giants deserved their Series victory - but I disagree with the Series MVP pick. Whilst Bumgarner (I'd surely change my name if it were that!) may have pitched exceedingly well, his (as with any non-hitting pitcher's) role was one that could NOT bring about victory - it was a defensive role only.   A far more worthy MVP, though an unlikely looking athlete, would have been Pablo Sandoval. He not only made several fantastic defensive plays (stops, catches, throws) from his third base position, he got himself on base from lead-off position so many times in the 7 games that it almost became predictable at each successive 'at-bat'. Sandoval's hitting of balls out of the strike zone, running and affording that weird-looking dude, Hunter Pence (my candidate for MVP runner-up) a chance to perform is uncountable hits from a 2-strike count, gave the Giants the offense that is needed to score runs. No matter how brilliant a pitcher may be, you cannot win a baseball game without scoring runs. Sandoval (and Pence) each did that - numerous times; got the RBIs and and the runs. The 'Panda', is oddly (and enviably) a free-agent now - do the Cardinals need such a 'beast' in their zoo? Give him enough bamboo-shoots and he'll be wearing a Cardinals shirt next year - an XXXL, I'd say!  

For 'real media' accounts - start here: PANDA-MONIUM

Quotes about baseball abound - perhaps the most common, and true, one is that baseball is a 'game of inches'. It is amazing how so many 'plays' involve that razor-thin edge between a runner being 'safe' or 'out' - because of a matter of inches (or a fraction of a second if you prefer to view it temporally). That call in the 7th Game (mentioned above) was such an example that TV replays were viewed for more than two minutes to be sure.  The game would almost certainly be so much less exciting if the bases were to be placed 85 feet or 95 feet apart, instead of that magical 90 feet.

It is a game in which, for some reason, players from the Caribbean seem to excel. The list is too long to provide. but one such player, also famous for a quote was Cuban-born White Sox legend Minnie Minoso, who in 1951 became that city's first black major league baseball player - and later recognized as the first black Latin American baseball star. He was often heard say, "Baseball's been very, very good to me" - and so it has for many, especially from the Dominican Republic. However, not all the news is good. Shortly after the start of the 2014 World Series' Game 5 in San Francisco, came the word that Cardinals new outfielder, 22 year old Oscar Taveras, and his girlfriend died in a car accident near his home in Puerto Plata, Dominican Republic. Taveras had been considered "one of the game's top prospects".    

Baseball cannot be mentioned without reference to a St Louis-born baseball legend - with a name as unlikely as his innumerable quotes. The most famous of his quotes perversely describes his beloved game this way: "Baseball is 90% mental - the other half is physical".  The legend, with a ball-field full of 'Yogi-isms', is of course, Yogi Berra.  

Notwithstanding Yogi's 'fuzzy math', it is true that baseball  IS a very cerebral (mental) game. I used to be among those who did not understand the terminology, much less the amount of strategy involved in the 'cat and mouse' tactics associated with such things as:

a) using this pitcher to pitch ONLY to that player (but not to the previous one - or to the next one), or
b) by pitch selection, forcing a batter to more likely hit a 'fly ball', or a 'ground ball, or 'into a double play'. 
c) the value of a sacrifice 'bunt' versus 'swinging away'
d) the effects of 'a lead off' whether 'stealing' or in a 'hit and run' situation.
e) the selection made in a 'fielder's choice' - versus the one not made.

I have learned a lot - and have come to appreciate many facets that went by unnoticed in years past. Sure, not every baseball game is exciting, Frankly some can be as exciting as watching pine-tar dry on a rack of bats in the locker-room. But once a batter morphs into being a base-runner, then it's a case of 'Game on!' 

Perhaps equally as 'zany' as Yogi - perhaps not, is my notion for an alternate scoring scheme in the game. It arises from what seem to be the absence of that 'horse-shoe reward' - where 'closeness also counts! I would like to see a team be awarded 1 point each time a runner gets on (a) base. So often a team leaves two or three runners 'stranded' - and the offensive efforts (whether by bat or base-stealing) go without reward on the scoreboard. Leave a runner 'stranded' on third base and recoup 3 points; if there is another on second base, he also gets 2 points. Even a runner 'thrown out; at third still gets rewarded with 2 points for his success in getting safely to second base. Any nerds out there care to study the 'stats' from the games of the World Series and see how it may have panned out? OK - throw in an extra point for a run scored from a home run. I think it would make for more aggressive base running and hitting - but what do I know? I was raised playing cricket!         

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Labor Day

Here in the USA, that means several things:

  1. Last day to wear white shoes
  2. Most swimming pools close for the season
  3. Soccer season starts
I have a comment on each:

  1. No big deal – I don’t own a pair of white shoes – doubt they’d stay that color long anyway!
  2. Boo!  We will have perfectly acceptable sunning/bathing weather for another 3 or 4 weeks yet.
  3. I KNOW the season has started because I see it is raining and matches are getting cancelled!
For those who have no clue what Labor Day is, these may help:


. . . and this: 



Now, get back to work you buggers, it was only a holiday on Monday! 


Friday, August 29, 2014

Use your LOAF !

If you are from the UK, you’ll know that ‘your loaf’ is a Cockney rhyming-slang term for ‘your head’ – 'loaf of bread' = 'head'.  Got it?




I am a USSF (United States Soccer Federation referee – have been for more than 24 years – and have officiated in more than 6,000 matches in that time. USSF is an organization operating under the governance of FIFA (Federation Internationale de Football Assocation). I am also an NFHS (National Federation of High Schools) soccer referee – been doing that for about 20 years. In that time, there have been a number of changes in the ‘Laws’ (‘Rules’ in NFHS parlance), but none as great as may come to pass – if some people ‘have their way’.

In the US, we have long referred to the 17 Laws that govern the game, as the LOTG – ‘Laws of the Game’. Sometime in the past 10 years or so, the UK adopted that same acronym – having previously referred to that collection of laws as the ‘Laws of Association Football’ – with the obvious acronym: LOAF - and for participants in the game, the clear admonition to (in a cerebral sense) ‘Use your LOAF’ – meaning: ‘Follow the game’s laws as outlined in your 'LOAF' booklet; also, think; be smart’ That admonition was intended to apply to both players and officials alike. Though that phrase is no longer used by the FA, the cerebral admonition prevails.

Pardon this momentary digression: For those (hermits) who may be unfamiliar with game of football (which everyone in the world calls it - except the Yanks who prefer to say ‘soccer’ – a derivative of ‘Association’) – said sport is globally referred to as ‘The Beautiful Game’.    
 
But now, we turn to address one important alternate interpretation to the phrase, ‘Use your LOAF’: 

One aspect of the game is that a field player may make contact with the ball by using any part of the body (except the arms and hands) while it ‘is in play’. That means, they may also (in the physical sense) ‘use their loaf’ – I mean, ‘use their head’. ‘Heading’ the ball, or making ‘a header’, is an important and skilful aspect of the game – both in offensive and defensive modes. But therein, as Shakespeare (and maybe certain BBQ chefs) would say, ‘lies the rub!’   

Concussions!   That is the latest concern to hit (excuse the unintended pun) the sporting world. It gained momentum ‘Stateside’ in the past year or so with concerns for those helmeted – and otherwise excessively padded – participants in ‘pointy-ball’ – err, forgive me: ‘football’ (US-style). 



Too many players – mostly at the professional level – were being diagnosed (too late in most instances) with the damaging effects of earlier concussions. Why that level of concern was not raised when the likes of Mohammed Ali and Joe Frazier were ‘bashing each others brains out’ is beyond me. But that is another story.

Now, (again ‘State-sides’) there is movement – by the favored US methodology, litigation, calling for FIFA to change the laws (the LOTG); to ’use their loaf’ and ban (‘make illegal’) the use of ‘headers’ or ‘heading the ball’.

I’ll give you sufficient time to recover from an inevitable, ‘Say what?’ moment. I’ll leave you for a few moments to invent parallels in other sports: maybe not being allowed to catch the thrown ‘pointy ball’, or the hit baseball, or the basketball rebounding off the backboard, unless both your feet are firmly on the ground!  How about replacing hockey sticks (for field and ice versions) and hurleys (bless the Irish and their games) with those ‘noodles’ one sees at the swimming pool?  A whack with one of those would surely remove the endangerment that the other implements invite, would it not?


OK. Now you have had time to unscramble your own brains - trying to envisage not only how the appearance and conduct of the game may be affected, ‘sans headers’, but how it could be implemented - allow me to explain the latter. But first, let me elaborate: The lawsuit, let us be thankful that it uncharacteristically does NOT seek monetary remediation, is said to be intended only to ensure the protection of the ‘yet not fully developed crania’ of children. I am not sure whether (or if) a ‘cut-off; age is cited, but my guess is that it would (should) be at the Under-12 (or maybe U-14) age level.

So, the lawsuit seeks to obtain changes to the LOTG. However, I submit three alternative actions – in no specific order of preference – as different ways to cut it.



First: In the ‘The Beautiful Game’, Law 12 has long had a provision that protects players from each other – and from themselves!  It is what most people call ‘dangerous play’ – more correctly phrased as ‘playing in a dangerous manner’. It is applied far less restrictively at professional levels than at youth recreation levels – as it should. One (oft misunderstood) example is where a player, lying on the ground, traps the ball under his/her body or attempts to kick the ball whilst prone, thereby ‘inviting a dangerous situation’ should the opponent attempt to play the ball. The sanction for the action is that the opponent is awarded an indirect free kick. Maybe, if FIFA were to entertain addressing the calls of the litigation, that body could (without changing the LOTG) authorize its subordinate governing bodies (such as USYSA – United States Youth Soccer Association – under the authority of USSF) that for play at their ‘Under-whatever-age’ level, ‘headers / heading the ball’ should, by that body’s declaration, be construed to be one of those ‘playing in a dangerous manner’ indiscretions. Such – as with an outright change to the LOTG – would be a mandated action.

Second: Youth league coaches could, in the interest of acknowledging the potential risk of concussions from repeated ‘heading’, simply advise their players NOT to head the ball. They would have to do that if such action were to be made illegal. Such an action would be an advisory action.  

Third: Another course of action is one that promotes use of a simple education process, whereby parents / guardians of developing children can become informed of the nature of the game and its inherent risks - and be allowed to exercise some ‘informed parenting skills’ regarding their child’s participation. There are a lot of non-contact activities from which a child can acquire the concepts of competition, skill development, fair play, team-work, etc, etc. Such an action is a discretionary action – one requiring that they use their loaf – in all senses of the phrase.

Now, what do you think should be done?  



No matter how you may have decided to slice it, the issue of concussions in children's sports activities should be addressed. 

Use YOUR loaf’






Tuesday, August 26, 2014

The ‘Alice View’

They do say, ‘Mad dogs and Englishmen go out in the mid-day sun’.  I am neither one of those despicable beasts - though I have been known to share in their activity; usually accompanied by protection from the sun and a glass of cold beer – for the reason enunciated below this grand image:



It is also quite well known (in these parts, anyway) that August is one of the hottest and most humid months of the year in the St Louis area. It is frequently in the triple digits, temperature-wise – with humidity that any Swedish sauna-bath, or Calcutta back-street, would be proud of! Each day this week, we are suffering heat index readings in the 105-110F (41C – 43C) range. I shall very soon be immersing myself in the swimming pool - being thoroughly wetted inside and out! 

All of this is by way of a prelude to divert your attention back to my (6 volume) series entitled ‘Nature’s Palette’ – see link below.  But first, I need to explain.

Given the nature of the weather conditions here in August, very little change – other than a drying out and browning of the grass – can be seen in my yard. 'Yard' - that’s what Yanks call those parts of their property that is outside the house; in the UK, it is likely, ‘the ‘garden’. So, I thought: for this month, it may be interesting to look at each of my yards’ 12 locations from a different perspective – much as Alice (she of ‘. . . in Wonderland’ and ‘. . . through the Looking Glass’ fame) may have done – just as she did in these photos I took in Guildford (England) in 2009 - in August, no less!







Hence, the title of this piece, ‘The Alice View’.

To create the effect (which will give you a glimpse of the neighbors’ yards too) I stood (more or less) at the center of the scenes previously photographed in each of the 12 locations in the Nature’s Palette volumes, and looked back toward where I had taken the photos from – clicking the camera to capture those views – and in the process avoiding ending this sentence with a preposition! 

No Mad Hatter, I. So off we go, down the rabbit hole to see each ‘Alice View’ – start here, at 

Nature’sPalette – Volume 1 (of 6)  - scroll down to each pair of Mid-August - the 'Alice View' tabs, then follow the links at the bottom of the piece to access the other 5 volumes. Watch out for the Queen of Hearts!  


Sunday, August 10, 2014

World Wide Welsh Stwff

Maybe I should explain: ‘Stwff’ is what we Taffs (people from Wales – for those who don’t know what a ‘Taff’ is) say for ‘Stuff’, see?

OMG – don’t tell me I have to explain what / where ‘Wales’ is?  “Get a bloody clue and ‘Google’ it, ffs” as some of them (you, too) may say!  

Well, before you (if you haven't already) ask ‘What is this old fart ramblin’ on about now?’ let me further explain:

I spent several hours today pissing into the wind – as it were!  Ever done that? Not much fun, is it?

OK, I see that I now need to further explain myself – Jeez, this is like watching a Slinky going downstairs, innit? ['Innit' - that’s another word ‘Taffs’ say – kinda means “isn’t it” – see how easy it to get the hang of ‘Welsh-speke’?

First off, as agreed, early (6:15 am CDT) I phoned a friend a Wales (by now I hope you have discovered what and where that is) to chat about something we had ‘messaged’ about the day before. Well, although he said he’d be there, he was not! So that was a waste of time – though I did catch up with him many hours later – and spent about 75 minutes chatting; can’t wait for the bill. Anyway, not to get ahead of myself (I tend to do that sometimes, don’t I?) so on to project number two.  

Project number two was actually the higher of the day’s two - in priorities - but had to take second place due to the quirks of international time zones and US banking hours. Anyway, about 10:00 am (CDT) I went to my bank to put a few ‘shekels’ into my safe deposit box. Well, what I really wanted to do was to knock the crap out of the cobwebs that must have accumulated since the last time I opened it. “Hmm”, said the ‘bank-lady’, “Looks like that’s the wrong key”. As I show her my key-fob, plainly labeled ‘Safe Deposit Box’, I says “The F-it is! Look you by ‘ere, mun!” – more of that Welsh-speke, innit? Well, ‘square peg / round hole’, the bloody thing was not what I thought it to be. So, after she shows me what my key should look like, off back home to find the right key, I go.

Before I began the search through what transpired to be the proverbial haystacks, I made that second phone call to Wales. Ah! A delightful voice answers – and after a few pleasantries, I ask the angel to pass the phone to the ‘grump of the house’. Oftentimes, he is jovial, witty and good fun; other times, when he gets on one of his soapboxes, [do NOT mention County Councilors, please] he is like sciatica - but squarely in the ‘you know where’. Today, he was a little ‘down-in-the-mouth’ – somewhat despondent at a seeming lack of following (a euphemism for ‘purchasing of the fruits’) of his passion - photography. Well, I offered to plaster links to websites of his in whatever places I could electronically access – FB, group e-mails, this blogspot, etc. But, just to tease you, I’ll get back to that at the end of this missive.  We commiserated together over the fact that though (allegedly – as noted by ‘hits’) many people may ‘view’ our contributions (in blogs and websites), very few are compelled to offer comments on the content – either favorable, or otherwise – yet the populace seems unable to prevent itself from making a myriad of inane postings in such social media as FaceBook and Twitter. [Casting Director’s note: Jumps off soap-box and returns to important stwff:]   

Four hours, 15 dresser drawers, 5 file cabinet drawers, 21 pockets of 3 suits and 5 jackets later – not to mention a boat-load of cussing (by me) and several prayers (by my wife) to St Anthony (patron saint of lost causes / items, innit?), I found the bloody key! It was where I had cleverly hidden it some months ago – away from the eyes of anyone who may sneak into the house to steal it. Pity I had not been so clever as to remember where I had hidden it. “Eureka and halle-bloody-lullya”, says I to my wife – followed by “Let’s get ourselves a glass of wine and go the pool”. Oh yes, I admonished her that she MUST, in future, remember where I had now hidden it [It’s in the same place as before – surely I won’t forget twice?]  The bank was closed by now (Saturday, see?) so that project is shelved now until Monday.



Pool-flopping - accompanied by consumption of a couple of beers - done, off we go for a curry; hot lamb biryani for me, medium chicken tikka masala for the ‘missus’.  End to a day with muted successes.

Oh aye – now to the ‘commercials’!

Among the ‘creations’ of my friend in Wales (no, not Jonah! He was in a WHALE!), is a website that was intended to create and display an interest in Wales – particularly his small part of it. That site, World Wide Welsh Community, to which I had frequently contributed, morphed into one intended to include other Celtic communities and contributions from such peoples. But, maintenance of those sites required a little revenue for them to prevail - sadly they did not, and so they 'are no more'.  They had included postings by my photographer (and ‘jack of many other trades’) friend about an annual cultural event in Wales that concluded yesterday. It is called an Eisteddfod. [Google it, mun!] Anyway, here is a link to his blogspot about that cultural delight Llanelli Eisteddfod.  There are also photos from that event in his photography website – - Alan Evans Photography. I have three words of advice: ‘Buy his stwff!’ – I want him to be happy again – for the angel in his house!    

Update - November 5th 2015: Well, who'd have thunk?  Here I am a year or more later, just to announce the recent launching of my latest website - with a .cymru domain-extension no less, to append to that World Wide Welsh alliteration that follows www.  [My new website]

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Treasured memories of the tools of my trade

A ‘hair-myrrh’?” the ‘never-was-and-future-maybe’ TSA – more likely ICE - man queried. What I had actually said was more like “A ‘ha-muh’!”

But, I am getting ahead of myself already. This story began almost exactly 53 years ago, but I’d like it preserved for a lot longer – alongside its central ‘treasured character’, which I shall place in my safe-deposit-box.

So, what IS this treasured thing - of which I am about to wax? Read on and see for yourselves:

It begins sometime in the Summer of 1961 - between my graduation from Grammar School (Dynevor) and my enrollment into Coleg y Prifysgol, Abertawe - The University of Wales, Swansea.



    
The Geology Department's motto (‘Gweddw crefft heb ei dawn’) in Welsh translates as: ‘Talent is nothing without work’ – a sentiment my father fully endorsed – and in recognition of my admittance into the Geology Department, he bought me the tool of my trade-to-be: a brand new, shining Estwing ‘geology hammer’. That is the manufacturer's depiction of a new one, here is the appearance of MY treasured hammer - as it is today: 



For some reason, perhaps it was the first blow I struck with it, I vividly recall using it to unearth fossils from an outcrop of shale beneath Pont Walby viaduct in the upper Neath Valley, some 25 or 30 miles from home. It was in that area that I conducted geologic mapping for my undergraduate thesis.  

During my three undergraduate years, I carried that hammer with me to a number of famous locations around the UK. One year, our class spent a week mapping an area at the tiny village of Girvan in Ayrshire (prophetic, maybe), Scotland. Here I am (left) with fellow student Mike Thomas. 

                                                     

Another year we spent a week studying all kinds of rocks at numerous unpronounceable places all over Scotland. Other field trips had me carrying that hammer through the Malvern Hills in the middle of England, routing out sharks teeth with it at one place and chipping at trilobites in another. That trip also afforded the opportunity to marvel at the scenic beauty and geologic wonders of the Dorset and East Devon coastline – west of Southampton (again perhaps prophetic).

My trusted ‘Estwing’ could not be contained – it was destined to travel. So it was, in 1963, when I was selected by Marathon Oil Company to be in a group of two dozen geology students from across the UK for a two-week field-trip to hammer on the rocks across the English Channel. We traversed from the coastal area near Calais, through the clay-pits near Paris and down through the Jura Mountains into the French Alps. I walked past the American Embassy in Paris on July 4th and downed too much wine (a punster may say we got ‘hammered’) near Lyon on Bastille Day (July 14th).

I graduated in 1964 and contemplated the possibilities of using my degree to secure employment as a geologist in places as varied as a stone quarry in Abergele, North Wales and ‘God-knows-where’ in Africa looking for ‘God-knows-what’ mineral resources. Fortunately, neither position was offered. I was ‘destined’ for a sea-change!

I was offered a National Research Council Grant to conduct post-graduate studies in the Republic of Ireland - through the Geology Department at the University of Southampton. Do you recall I mentioned a possible ‘prophetic’ nexus to Southampton? I made my first ever trip to Ireland in the Summer of 1964 – riding the countryside on a rented bicycle! I began my first stint in lodgings in Southampton that Fall, returning to Ireland the next Summer. This ping-ponging rhythm was repeated over and over through the Fall of 1967 when I had to finally wrap up the studies and again address the next course of actions in my life – once again the prospect of getting a paying job for myself!

Again – I am getting ahead of myself.

In the course of my post-graduate studies in Ireland, not only had I progressed in my mode of transportation - from rented bicycle’ to my very own ‘motorbike’; a ‘Honda 50’; a 49cc, petrol-powered, automatic-clutched, 2-seated, 3-geared machine capable (wind assisted) of 45 mph – but had discovered certain features (see photo collage below - hammer used to indicate scale) that led to co-authorship of a scientific publication:

A tidal flat evaporitic facies in the Visean of Ireland - Journal of Sedimentary Petrology, Vol. 38, No. 4, p. 1079-1093.




If you are really that curious, I could send you an autographed copy of the publication - send me your address on the back of a $10 bill. Hey, it is still cheaper than getting it from geoscienceworld.- where only the Abstract is free.

After leaving Ireland at the end of the Summer of 1966, it faced the dismal reality of not returning until the next ‘routine’ field season at the beginning of the Summer of 1967. “Dismal? Why ‘dismal’?” you quizzically ask. Because I believed I had left something very precious there – in  Ireland - and was concerned it may be gone in a year’s time when I returned. However, compilation of data for that scientific publication fortuitously required an additional trip to Ireland - very early in 1967. I say ‘fortuitous’, because it meant a chance, maybe, to be reunited with my ‘precious trove’. But no, in spite of both return visits in 1967, there was to be no ‘fait accompli’ – yet!

C’est la vie – and so back to the future – to the Fall of 1967. My tenure in Southampton was done; I had applied for, and was successful in gaining, employment with the National Coal Board (NCB) – destined to work as a ‘Prospecting Officer’, in search of coal, in Wales; in the very area adjacent to that Pont Walby Viaduct where I had first used my precious hammer!   

In the Spring of 1968 – some 6 months or more after last leaving Ireland, I returned there – riding this time, not on a Honda 50, but as if I were donned in shining armor, seated on a huge steed. It was but a mere Mini-car that I had rented in Dublin, but it carried me back to the part of Ireland where I had left something behind. This time, I carried no ‘Estwing’, but instead I ‘hammered’ the gas-pedal 90 seemingly interminable miles westward - to be reunited with . . .

It had been almost two years ago - in the Summer of 1966 – when I made a decision of a lifetime – a trip to the enigmatic Shannon Pot, the source of the River Shannon, just 8 miles from where I had left my ‘treasure’ - the center–piece of my thoughts during each of those periods of anguish between 1966 and now, in early 1968, when I was NOT in Ireland.

My ‘treasure’?  My hammer?  No! I had made that trip – on my Honda 50 – with a far different treasure . . . my Anam Cara.



That early 1968 visit all too brief. I returned, saddened, to Wales – one day later than I had told my boss at NCB that I would be back. He was ‘not happy’ – but I was ecstatic to have had that extra day. 

There followed a seemingly interminable passage of yet another few agonizing months – until, in the Fall of 1968, she (my Anam Cara) made her own ‘sea-change’ and took up employment at Lloyd’s Bank in London – 200 miles away from my home.

Full speed ahead now! Frequent visits were now more possible – by train (no rough sea crossing needed) – and we became engaged on her 21st birthday. She relocated to my home town in mid 1969 and in late January 1970, ‘the hammer’ was sought once again!

I was sought after – by a company (remember that first mention of something ‘prophetic’?) named Ayrshire Collieries. No, it was located not in Givan, Scotland. This place was located in Indianapolis, USA!   

Impetuous folk that they are, the ‘Yanks’ who were to become my employers wanted me there (in the USA) ‘yesterday’. So, a whirlwind series of activities - entailing trips to the Canadian and US Embassies and Consulates in Birmingham and London, not to mention all the necessary arrangements associated with getting married - were conducted before the ‘Big Day’ – Valentine’s Day, 1970. 

Well, all feverishness on our parts accomplished, we than had to wait on bureaucracies on this side of the pond – mainly south of the ‘48th parallel’ to get their acts together, before we launched westward on March 31st, 1970 from Manchester, England to Ottawa, Canada. I was to work (hammer in hand), initially, in the foothills of the Canadian Rockies in Alberta.  

After a couple of days in Ottawa, our papers were signed, enabling us to travel to the USA, via Chicago, to Indianapolis - where, contrary to the song, it DOES rain in the summertime! Do you recall, at the beginning of this missive, a glib reference to an ‘ICE’ man? Well, that’s where (at O’Hare Airport, Chicago) he made his entrance – dutifully making sure that he knew just why (I had told him ‘what’) that strange (and strangely pronounced) object was doing in my suitcase.     

After a couple of weeks in Indianapolis, I went up to pound those rocks in Alberta - for less than 2 weeks - then was assigned to oversee drilling operations in Northern Illinois – similar stuff to my work at the NCB. I say ‘similar’ because on this side of the pond I was at work in the ‘private sector’ – no longer a ‘Civil Servant’ who was the recipient of catered tea-breaks in the morning and afternoon, permitted to spend much of the ‘work’ day solving the Daily Telegraph crossword puzzle, playing ‘ping-pong’ on the Board Room table at lunch time and generally waiting for my superiors to die – so that I could advance ‘up the ladder’. No, I was now in the ‘Land of Opportunity’. The world was my oyster and I was about to pry open its shell – with my hammer!

During the next five years, I carried that hammer, pounding on core-samples and outcroppings, from Alabama to Wyoming – both alphabetically and geographically! Other places that saw my hammer (and sometimes, our growing family’s) presence in those five years, included Montana, New Mexico, Tennessee, Texas, Utah and Washington. One round-trip, partially to pick up and transport a piece of e-logging equipment, had me driving 4,900 miles through 13 States in 12 days!  On that trip, the day after Thanksgiving, I helped dig a man’s pick-up truck out of 12” of snow in St George, Utah – and that same evening, I basked in the outdoor pool of my motel in Phoenix, Arizona. The vast experiences of those 5 years were incredible – maybe fodder for another blog sometime – but that one lengthy trip had another mini-tale to tell.

I had spent many months, over the previous year or two, driving a company station-wagon around the various exploration sites in Northern Illinois. I think the statute of limitations has expired, so I can now confess that one time (well, maybe more than once) I (unwisely) put that thing through its paces on the mile-long and straight country gravel roads, topping out at 120 mph! Yes – I ‘put the hammer down’ so to speak – in more ways than one!  

Two years later, on my long ‘equipment delivery trip’ out west, I was driving the company’s Jeep Wagoneer. I had to deliver the e-logging device to my boss, who was in the western foothills of the Rockies near Centralia, Washington. His vehicle at that time was that same company station-wagon that I had earlier used to send gravel flying in Illinois. Well, I’ll be damned, if when loading the ‘e-logger’ into the trunk of that station wagon if I didn’t discover something I had evidently lost two years ago – my hammer! Seems that is the story of my life – being separated from loved treasures!     

A year or two later, I was assigned to be Resident Engineer at the Ayrshire Mine - there’s that ‘prophetic’ thing again - near Evansville, Indiana. During my 5 years there, I had no work-related (I think I used it to build a shed in the back yard of our house) use for that hammer – but I kept it anyway.

The next time I probably used that hammer was sometime in the early ‘80s after I had moved to St Louis - to another ‘coal company’ - at that time named Arch Mineral Corporation. I most likely used it in the construction of a rudimentary tree-house in the woods behind our house. During the 15 years we lived there, my hammer pretty much sat idle, except for an activity that I only learned of only a week or so ago – almost 30 years after the fact! My youngest son told me that he, along with other neighborhood kids, likely his brothers too, had often made use of the chisel-end of my hammer to pry up manhole covers. I declined to ask what they did after they opened them. Pretended to be coal-miners, maybe?    

By about 1993, my 1980 Toyota Corolla had developed ‘starter problems’. It became ever more necessary for me to prop up the hood, take my hammer and give the starter motor a tap or two while the key was being turned in the ignition switch. I had developed a technique that enabled me to perform this task single-handedly. It involved the use of a pencil to wedge the ignition switch in place after I turned it; then I’d swiftly exit the car, rap the starter, then hastily re-enter the car to remove the pencil. The hammer had earned itself a place of honor once more – inside a car instead of on a tool rack in the garage.

We moved to West Virginia in 1995 – leaving the Corolla behind (sold for $200 the night before we moved; it had a leaking gas tank) – and moved back to the St Louis area in early 2000 after I was ‘retired from corporate America’ in 1998. During this period, our kids grew up and all but one, at various times, moved ‘out of the nest’. We have since had some of our kids temporarily move in and out of our house here as they acquired their own nests. Though rarely used in these latter decades, the hammer had become part of the family and I was determined that it remained in our nest.

Like I, my hammer is no longer as sharp-looking as it once was – we each bear the scars of time and appear ‘less GQ’ than in earlier days. Maybe it should be laid to rest with me – or maybe simply preserved for posterity, along with this story – for the enjoyment of my children and their children after them. Until that time, I’ll place it securely in my safe-deposit-box. You, my treasured hammer led me to many places since its first days in 1961, through the separations in 1966 through 1968, but the most wondrous of all (including the difficult and lengthy separations in the period from 1966 through 1968) was to this place in 1970:




  

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Summer Solstice

Today is the Summer Solstice - at least in this 'top' end of the world.

The First Day of Summer - it is all down hill from here for the rest of the year - as far as length of the days go. Well, if you ignore the antithesis (Winter Solstice) that will occur 6 months from now when we'll get the days growing longer again for 10 days or so.

Thinking of those annual events, it occurred to me that - at least in the past (very nearly) 48 * years - that certain of life's events are - well, in short, Predictable - and so we take them all for granted.

Every day, the sun comes up in the East and every day the sun goes down in the West
Every week has its hump-day - unless you live in France and have just a 4-day work week
Every month has at least 28 days in it - some (8 - not this one) excessively so, one barely squeaks by
Every year - well, we just discussed the solstices - and:
Every four years, England takes an early exit from the World Cup !

Ain't life so damned . . . Predictable

* Lest some forget (certainly German people would like to), there was that glorious day in July,1966 - it is possible that there may have been no solstices that year, that there may have been 32 days in that month, that every day was a hump-day in that closing week, that there was no East nor West.(not even in Germany!) - and I'm sure the sun shone all day long on that most unpredictable of days,



I'm glad I witnessed that celestial event - shown here in glorious black and white, though I'm almost certain I saw it color - on TV in a pub, in Ireland, with an Englishman.




Thursday, June 12, 2014

Never again!

Yesterday, I finally undertook a task that I had been avoiding for about two months. It was a ‘phobia’ that had caused the deferment. Not ‘claustrophobia’ – though that, as you will later see, could easily be understood.

No, it was ‘unpretzelphobia’ – the fear of having contorted oneself into a pretzel-like shape, that cramping – or providence, like when you were a kid poking out your tongue or making some weird facial expression causing your parents to say, ‘If you keep pulling that face, you’ll stay like that’ – would prevent you ever reverting to your ‘normal’ posture. At my age, it is difficult to make the contortions I once was more able to effect. Bending down is difficult enough; getting back up is close to impossible. You can’t believe who many quarters and dimes I have had to bide farewell to because of it.

I have met many, have often been accused of being one myself, and was also fearful of developing one – a pain in the neck, that is! So, what was it that was causing all of this angst and turmoil? Did I succeed? Did I survive? Would I do it again? The answers are: ‘Yes - amazingly’, ‘Obviously; I am here writing about it’ and ‘Never again! I’ll make sure to pester my handy-man son more frequently next time’.

I undertook the (for me) Herculean task of replacing the faucet and soap dispenser in the kitchen sink. “That’s it? That’s what all this fuss is about?” you ask. Well, in a word – YES! I had to crawl through the 15 by 20 inch aperture concealed behind the cherry-wood under-sink cabinet doors. Once there, the confines of the space that was not occupied the garbage disposal unit, the flexible piping of the existing fixtures, the hot and cold copper pipes and their shut-off valves, made the bodily ‘pretzel-making’ maneuvers exceedingly difficult – especially when each hand held wrenches, my forehead head a less-than-adequate light source (and an increasing amount of sweat) and my bi-focal spectacles were optimally aligned with the focal length of the distance from my eyes to the objects that I needed to focus on! Did I mention about a pain the neck?  My mouth, as my wife will attest, was also full – but rapidly emptying itself of a host of expletives!  

It was, we each concurred, well worth it. Not the cussing, but to once again have the sight and use of a functioning, chrome-finished, pull-down-self-retracting-two-stream-and-pause-action-spray-head with a single-control-handle-for-hot-and-cold-water-delivery - and attendant soap dispenser!      

Here is the fruit of my labor:  



Earlier, I had mentioned claustrophobia. My 'under-the-sink’ experience was devoid of that – because I was only half under it and so had readily available escape route to the spaciousness of the kitchen. But, while I was under there, in that confined space, I did think of my earlier days in the coal-mining industry. Fortunately, in that long career, I was only required to venture into an underground mine on two occasions. One was in Eastern Kentucky, where I did the 'duck-waddle’ in a mine where the coal seam was about 42” thick. The other instance was in Southern Illinois where I drove into the mine in a pick-up truck – the coal seam being about 6 feet thick. Neither of those experiences came close to conditions that many colliers (that is the real name for coal miners) experienced in ‘days gone by’ when miners lay on their sides hacking at coal seams only a little more than 12” thick!



Can you imagine the claustrophobia – not to mention the ‘what do you do if you get a leg or shoulder cramp’ in there? I'm reminded of the tale of Evan Evans, a not-too-bright Welsh collier, responding to his boss as he crawled a 1,000 feet or more back out from the coalface – having only just crawled in to it 30 minutes earlier with his 15” wide coal shovel. Some of them (shovels - and colliers) looked like these:



 “Why are back out here so soon?” said his boss. “I had to come back out” said Evans, “My bloody shovel was upside down!”  [Think it through – you’ll get it]

MY ‘sink ordeal’ was not nearly so arduous as that of those men (and boys) - the colliers.

I’ll leave you with thoughts (and claustrophobic images - at 2:14 and 2:19 into this video) of that tough occupation: