“Bend Over. Grab Your Ankles.”

corporal punishment (noun): punishment administered by an adult (as a parent
or a teacher) to the body of a child ranging in severity from a slap to a spanking.

For no apparent reason, I recently found myself wondering about the state of corporal punishment within the American educational system.  I grew up in a time when corporal punishment was a well accepted and oft administered practice, the exercise of which could be found in nearly every school teacher’s tool kit for maintaining order, decorum, and a focus on learning in their classrooms.

I wish I could say that I was surprised, when after a conducting a quick Google search on the topic, I learned that corporal punishment is not only discouraged in today’s overly litigious society, but that it has now been declared to be illegal in 22 states.  Such a shame; for it worked so well.

ShopThe autumn of 1966 found me enrolled in my junior high school’s Industrial Arts class.  Industrial Arts, more commonly known as “Shop“, was on virtually every boy’s short list of elective classes to take.  It being the course in which one learned the basics of woodworking, along with the use of table saws, band saws, lathes, drill presses, and belt sanders.  Before being turned lose in the shop, the curriculum at my school included six weeks of technical drawing or drafting.   This was a necessary prerequisite to flipping the switch on a band saw because we were required to create a detailed three-dimensional orthographic design of each item which we planned to create.

By now, you’re probably wondering what does this have to do with corporal punishment.  Let me explain.

It was a Friday, the last day of school before the beginning of the 1966 Christmas holiday break.  I was in Industrial Arts class, sitting at my drafting table in the classroom which adjoined the woodworking shop.  A good friend of mine, let’s call him John, was sitting at his drafting table just to my right.  Both of our tables were in the front row.  As class began, our instructor Mr. Carpenter, no pun intended, walked into the classroom from the shop and promptly told everyone to pass their completed homework up to the front.

Being a keen observer, Mr. Carpenter noticed that my friend John was not pulling the required paperwork out of his notebook.  “Where’s your homework, John?”  Mr. Carpenter inquired.

I don’t have it.”  replied John with eyes cast down at the work on his drafting table which suddenly had become of the utmost importance.   

“You don’t have it, or you didn’t do it?”  asked Mr. Carpenter unwilling to leave the subject at hand. 

“Uh, well I, um, … didn’t do it.”   

“Hmm? ”  replied Mr. Carpenter as he finished picking up the papers which had been passed to the front of the class.  We all could feel the slight yet unmistakable tingle of electricity in the air.  We all knew that on the weekends, Mr. Carpenter participated in rodeo events.  As such, we all were quite certain that he didn’t believe in taking “Bull” from anyone.

Mr. Carpenter walked over to his desk, dropped the homework papers, and instructed us to continue working on our drafting assignment.  He turned slowly, paused theatrically for a moment, briefly looking directly at John before walking to the door leading out into the woodworking shop.  The top half of that door contained a window which was normally closed from view by a venetian blind.  As Mr. Carpenter proceeded through the door, he nonchalantly pulled down on the string opening the blinds as the door closed behind him.

By pure happenstance, my drafting table was the only one in the classroom which provided a view into the shop.

John motioned to me and under his breath whispered, “What’s he doing out there?”

I glanced out the window.  I could see Mr. Carpenter standing at a large rack on which wood was stored.

“He’s picked up a piece of 1″X6″ about four feet long and is looking at it to make sure it’s straight.”  I replied.

As small drops of nervous perspiration began to appear on John’s brow, Mr. Carpenter walked over to the table saw, flipping the switch to turn it on.  Startled by the raspy, metallic sound of the saw coming to life, John gasped “Oh damn!  What’s he doing now?”

From that point, and for most of the 45 minutes remaining in that class period, I provided John and my classmates with a running commentary on Mr. Carpenter’s activities out in the shop.  With the table saw, he cut a piece of the 1″X6″ pine to a length of about 18 inches.  Mr. Carpenter’s actions were very slow and methodical.  While I never noticed him looking back into the classroom through the window in the door, I’m confident that he was totally aware that his every step was being duly noted and carefully reported to his charges in the drafting room.

Next he walked over to the band saw.  John’s body convulsed again as the band saw began to whine.  When I realized what was happening, I reported that it appeared that a handle had been shaped on to one end of the 18 inch board.  A sigh of total despondency slowly escaped from John.

Using the belt sander, Mr. Carpenter very carefully sanded the board and its handle; rounding and smoothing the edges around its entire perimeter.  Then it was over to the drill press, where a series of holes were drilled through the rectangular portion of the wood above it’s handle.

After giving his work a thorough visual examination, Mr. Carpenter took the device by its handle and quickly slapped it once or twice against the palm of his other hand, the sharp stinging sound of which seemed to awaken us all from a trance.  Suddenly, we realized that there were only 5 minutes left in the period.

Slowly, Mr. Carpenter opened the door.  “John, ….. can you step out here for a moment?”  Realizing that the statement was a command rather than a question, John stood and very deliberately walked out of the classroom and into the shop.  None of us were willing to make eye contact with John.
Paddling
As the door closed, Mr. Carpenter led him into an area of the shop which even I could not observe.  In the drafting room, you could have heard a pin drop.  As we all sat at our desks, eyes fixed on our three-dimensional orthographic drawings, we heard the unmistakable “Thwack!”  of pine meeting rear end, followed in slow succession by two additional “Thwacks!”

Judgement had been decided.  Justice had been served.  All homework was completed for the remainder of that year!

As we filed out of class that day, Mr. Carpenter, paddle stored under his arm, wished us all a Merry Christmas.

“You too, Mr. Carpenter.  Merry Christmas to you.”

OM

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Photo credit: buzzle.com

Things Aren’t Always What They Appear

News is anything that makes a reader say, `Gee Whiz’! “
- Arthur MacEwen, American editor

You may have heard or read about the CBC (Canadian Broadcasting Corporation) news story on the youth soccer league in Midlake, Ontario, Canada which has decided that they want to improve the experience of the children playing on its teams.  In order to achieve this goal, the league’s administrators have decided to eliminate what they consider to be one of the more damaging aspects of sports; that being competition.
youthsoccersmall
Helen Dabney-Coyle of Midlake’s Soccer Association explained the objective this way, “This year to address some of the negative effects of competition, we’ve actually removed the ball.  And the kids are loving it.
(I added the emphasis)

According to the story, Helen went on to say, “By removing the ball, it’s absolutely impossible to say ‘this team won’ and ‘this team lost’ or ‘this child is better at soccer than that child.  We want our children to grow up learning that sport is not about competition, rather it’s about using your imagination.  If you imagine you’re good at soccer, then, you are.

Here in the U.S., several major media outlets including The Washington Times and USA Today picked up the ball-less soccer story, running it in their print and on-line editions.

There’s only one small fly in this particular ointment.  Nothing about the story is true.  It was originally broadcast on the CBC’s “This Is That ” program which, by the way, happens to be entirely satirical in nature.

Sadly, I don’t find it surprising that so many people were hoodwinked into believing that this story was true.  After all we do live in a culture which, far too often, is guided by ill-advised, but politically correct philosophies.

As an example, some school systems have eliminated the use of the letter grade “F” because it might serve to label particular students as not performing up to minimal standards.  No matter that those students are in fact not performing up to minimal standards!   We just wouldn’t want their egos damaged by their having to face the truth regarding their own lack of effort nor to hold them responsible for making an attempt to improve their study habits.

In the world of youth sports, political correctness is responsible for the now common-place practice of awarding every child on every team a trophy at the end of each season regardless of how they or their team performed.  Apparently, it’s now considered bad form to only recognize the hard work and achievement of those teams and individuals who actually put in the effort to excel.

From my perspective, those individuals who are wearing their rose-colored, politically correct glasses fail to understand the simple and age old truth that when events are structured so that everyone wins, in actual fact, everyone ends up losing.

The winners soon learn that their extra effort gained them nothing at all.  While the losers learn that little or no effort is required to achieve the same level of reward and recognition as those who did put in the extra effort required to achieve.

Hear that loud slamming sound?  That’s everyone being forced to the lowest common denominator at exactly the same time.

But enough about programming subsequent generations into being under achievers who expect to be rewarded for their (lack of) effort.

The really sad thing about this story is that main stream media in the U.S. picked it up and reported it as being factual and newsworthy.
Newsroom
There was a time when news stories weren’t published unless the facts contained within them could be thoroughly substantiated by at least two reliable and independent sources.  In those days, journalists actually worked very hard to vet, or to confirm, the truth of their stories before they were reported as being factual.  Apparently those heady days of journalistic accuracy and excellence are going, if they are not already gone, the same way as the “F” letter grade and the awarding of trophies only to actual winners.

Even if The Washington Times and USA Today had just taken the time to have an intern Google “Midlake, Ontario“, they would have learned that the place simply doesn’t exist.  Good job Main Stream Media.  I’d give you an “F” on this one if that grade still existed.

Edward R. Murrow most certainly is turning somersaults in his grave.

OM

Photo credit: SportsGrid.com
Photo credit: newspaperalum.com

A Hunter’s Tale

deer
I’ve personally never been a hunter.  I have absolutely nothing against hunting.  In fact, I believe that when properly exercised, it can serve the very useful purpose of regulating wild game populations.  And since my neighborhood seems to be increasingly overrun by white tailed deer, referred to locally as “white tailed rats“, a bit of well regulated hunting here on the cul-de-sac might be just what the game warden ordered.

Even though I’m not a hunter, I do own a .22 rifle.  I acquired it many years ago when I was in college.  In a moment of weakness, I traded a set of really nice Koss stereo headphones for it.  The good news is that during a subsequent bartering economy session, I reacquired the Koss headphones in lieu of something which I can no longer remember.  I still have both the headphones and the .22 rifle.  The headphones have long since been replaced by a set of ear buds and to my knowledge, the rifle has never been fired at anything other than empty beer bottles, old milk jugs filled with water, and pieces of wood standing on end.  And before anyone asks, “No, it wasn’t me who shot up all of those road signs.

Over the years, I’ve known and worked with many avid hunters.  I’ve sat through countless lunchtime discussions during which these later day Allan Quatermain’s relayed tales of their latest treks through the nearest woodlands in search of elusive game.

Of all the stories that I’ve heard, only one remains with me; as vivid in my mind today as the first time I heard it.  Before I relay it, I feel it necessary to warn the faint of heart that now would be the time to avert one’s eyes or better yet, turn the page.  And yes, what you’re about to read actually occurred exactly as I’ll describe it.

It was a late fall afternoon in the hill country of Texas.  As he tells it, my friend and his father had been out since before dawn stalking deer.  Listless hours of sitting in their deer stand had yielded nothing except the occasional sighting of an armadillo.  They both had resisted the temptation to take a pot shot or two at these armored oddities because they feared that the sound of their guns would scare off the deer which were almost certainly just about to crest the closest hill.

As the sun sank lower in the western Texas sky, they reluctantly gave up, having never laid eyes on a deer.  Disappointed, they returned to their car for the trip home.  My friend’s father, being worn out from the day’s inactivity, decided to climb into the back seat, stretch out, and take a nap.  Even though the late afternoon autumn temperature was beginning to drop, he decided to leave the car’s backseat windows rolled down.
highway
About 30 minutes into the trip, with dusk rapidly gathering and his father snoozing pleasantly in the back seat, my friend was driving down a long stretch of narrow highway.  In the distance, he could see a lone tractor trailer truck barreling down the highway coming toward him.

According to my friend’s account, just seconds before the truck and his car were going to pass, his perception of time momentarily shifted into super slow motion.  From the right side of the road, he saw a large deer bound out into the highway in what was to be a vain attempt to cross it safely.   At the exact moment that the deer crossed the center line, it was met from it’s right by the truck and from it’s left by my friend’s car.

In a manner of speaking, and perhaps thankfully, it’s safe to say that the deer never knew what hit him.  The combined speeds of the truck and car each traveling at 60+ miles per hour in opposite directions had the net effect of neatly severing the deer in mid-torso.

It would probably require an applied physicist, well versed in the laws of bodies in motion to explain what happened next. As my friend told the story, as soon as the truck and his car had passed each other, time returned to it’s normal speed and he became aware of frantic motions in the back seat accompanied by strange gurgling noises.

Pulling over to the shoulder of the road, he turned to see what was going on and found his father attempting to extricate himself from under a large mass of deer entrails.  When his father’s head finally appeared out from under the deer’s viscera he said, “Dad, I told you it was too cool to roll that window down.

I’m pleased to report that father and son have reconciled and returned to hunting together.  The last time I checked, they were still looking for someone willing to make a good trade for the car.

OM

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A Fool and His Money Are Soon Parted

There’s a sucker born every minute.”
- P.T. Barnum

Do you ever really listen to the “As Seen on TV ” genre of commercials that proliferate on radio and television these days?  I’m not talking about just being aware that one of these commercials is playing in the background.  I’m asking if you really pay attention and think about what the announcer is saying and what it really all means.  Sadly, I have to admit to the fact that there are times when I do just that.
incredulous-phil_l
Sometimes I find myself listening very intently.  Not because I’m actually being seduced into parting with any of my money in order to obtain a bottle of the latest instantaneous weight loss miracle drug or the newest high technology skillet to which nothing, not even its own non-stick surface, can adhere.

No, what grabs my attention is the rampant application of illogic, mumbo-jumbo, and slight of hand which marketers employ in their attempts to entice people to purchase items for which they really have no need and which, in all likelihood, will not function as advertised.  At least not for very long.

I find myself wondering how anyone could be so gullible as to fall for the claims that are made on these commercials until I remind myself that the ever-suffering widow of that recently departed Nigerian Finance Minister shows no sign of backing off in her never-ending attempt to find others with whom to share her wealth.
Sham-wow
But back to the commercials.  What do you think it actually means when you learn that the product being promoted, “…..is a $199.00 value, but it can be yours, not for $150.00, not even for $100.00!  It can be yours today for the amazingly low price of only $19.95! 

Now you might be thinking that it means that the true value of this “$199.00″ item is actually $19.95.  “But Wait!”  

It’s really only worth a paltry $9.98 because, “If you call now, we’ll send you a second Gee-whiz Whatchamacallit at no additional cost! ”  (….you just pay shipping and handling.)

“But remember, you have to call within the next 10 minutes to take advantage of this incredible offer.”

Unless of course you happen to change channels and come across the same advertisement a couple of hours later, in which case your 10 minutes of opportunity have been miraculously restored.  It’s interesting to note that this same phenomena occurs whenever we learn that “….supplies are limited!  So act fast! ”

And don’t ever forget that, “Operators are standing by! “

OM

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Photo credit: Jessica Watkins DeWinter / Foter / CC BY-NC-ND

Reality Denied Comes Back to Haunt

Remember, it’s not a lie if you believe it.
-  George Costanza

Today’s sports headlines have led me to consider Alex Rodriguez as my latest candidate to be the poster child for the practice of Situational Ethics.
ARod
Now in case you don’t know who Alex Rodriguez is, he’s been the New York Yankees starting third baseman since 2004.  The Yankees thought enough of his talents at playing the hot corner to sign him to a contract in 2007 which will pay him a total of $275 million for his services through 2017.

Alex, aka ARod, is also a baseball player who for years vehemently denied using PEDs (performance enhancing drugs) only to recant and confess in 2009 that, in fact, he’d been lying about his drug use and had “experimented” with PEDs back in 2001 through 2003, but only because he was under such tremendous pressure to perform.  Subsequent to his contrite mea culpa, the presumption was that Alex had clearly seen the error of his chemically augmented ways and that he has been performing as an “unenhanced ” athlete since that time.

At least that’s what we were supposed to have believed.

Fast forward to Monday, August 5, 2013.   Based on an extensive investigation and what can only be assumed to be overwhelming evidence, Major League Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig announced that Alex Rodriguez was being suspended from baseball through the end of the 2014 season; a total of 211 games.  His offense?  The continued use of PEDs and his attempts to mislead representatives of major league baseball who were conducting the investigation.  As a footnote, twelve other current MLB players were suspended for inappropriate drug use at the same time.

cheatersEnough about Alex.   What really concerns me is our society’s continued and growing acceptance of what I refer to as Situational Ethics.  I think that it’s safe to list Rodriguez as a practitioner of this particular philosophy.

I subscribe to the simplistic belief that ethics can be defined as doing what is right, even when no one is looking.  I believe that rules are necessary and that in most cases they are based on well-established behavioral norms which society has put into place as a means to clearly define the difference between behaviors which are acceptable (right ) as compared to those which are unacceptable (wrong).

On the other hand, Situational Ethics assumes that the situation in which a person finds himself, rather than the behavior itself, is the ultimate determining factor as to whether or not a particular behavior is ethical.

I’ve always believed that cheating in any form and in any situation or context is wrong; whether it’s done while taking a test, playing a game, or in any other activity where one can manipulate the rules or circumstances to improve one’s advantage.

Using the behavior of cheating as an example, Situational Ethics, enables one to engage in the following type of rationalization:

In general, cheating is an inappropriate behavior, unless      (fill in the blank with a situation
or circumstance in which you believe the desired outcome justifies engaging in the behavior)     .

It’s interesting to note that this line of thinking is often reinforced with the addition of a quick,  “Besides!  Everybody does it! 

Alex Rodriguez, my designated poster child, has already given us a hint as to what verbiage he’s used to fill in his personal blank – the tremendous pressure he felt to perform.

I suspect that there may well have been at least 275 million other enticements which were vying for room in his blank space as well.

OM

Thanks to the writer Philip K. Dick for the title of today’s blog.
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Something’s Rotten in the State of Football

I live in what is locally known as SEC country.  No, I’m not referring to the Securities and Exchange Commission.  In these parts, SEC is synonymous with the Southeastern Conference.  And as any true sports fan can tell you, the SEC means college football.
Alabama-Stadium
Arguably, in recent years the SEC has been the most dominant NCAA college football conference in the country.  An SEC team has won the NCAA football championship every year since 2006 and the odds on preseason favorite to win the 2013 title for the third consecutive year is the Crimson Tide of the University of Alabama.

I would consider saying “Roll Tide! ” at this point, but my personal college sports allegiances actually reside within the Atlantic Coast Conference.

Perennially, the college footballTop Ten lists, such as the AP and Coaches polls, are dominated by SEC teams.  At the moment, five SEC teams are listed in a 2013 preseason composite listing of the top 10 college football teams.

Regrettably, there’s another less well known listing which is filled with the names of athletes who play football for SEC schools; presumably institutions of higher learning.  That would be a listing of those individuals who have been arrested on charges ranging from misdemeanors to felonies.
handcuffs
At the moment, the Universities of Alabama and Florida (both SEC schools) lead the nation with arrests of athletes who play football for their school’s teams.  Both Alabama and Florida have had five current players arrested during the period January through June 2013.  The University of Kentucky comes in a close second with four players running afoul of the law during the same period.  The University of Georgia and Texas A&M have each placed three players in the pokie so far this year.  I won’t belabor the point by listing those SEC schools which have had only one or two players charged.

In total, between January and June 2013, there have been 25 Southeastern Conference football players arrested on a variety of charges.

Now before you think I’m picking on the SEC, this is a problem which is plaguing college football regardless of the conference in which teams play.  So far this year, there have been a total of 76 arrests made involving college football players across the country.  In 2012, 264 college football players were arrested; in 2011 there were 226 players arrested, with 88 such arrests being made in 2010.

Equally alarming are the numbers of college basketball players being arrested each year.  Year to date in 2013, 38 college hoops players have been taken into custody for one thing or another.  In 2012, the number charged was 74.

Given the fact that the number of players on a college basketball team is a mere fraction of those found on a football roster, the arrest percentage found among college basketball players may actually dwarf that of their football playing classmates.  I just don’t have the time nor the inclination to do the necessary analysis.

So where am I going with all of these arrest statistics?  No where in particular, other than wondering aloud if this trend is the direct result of the “win at all costs” attitude which predominates these days in college sports; particularly within the big conferences such as the SEC, the Big Ten, and the PAC 12.

After all when coaches, who have posted winning records for multiple seasons and are 9-2 during the current season, feel that they’re in jeopardy of losing their jobs – it just seems to me that there’s something badly out of balance.  Is it any wonder that they recruit and play anyone, regardless of past or present behavioral issues, who they believe can help their team win?

Here’s to simpler times.

Rickety Rack, Rickety Rack – Go State!

OM

Arrest statistics available at: arrestnation.com
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Photo credit: The.Comedian / Foter / CC BY-NC

 

 

Teeing `em Up at Muirfield

“It was named by drunken Scots after listening to barking dogs.  Golf is played by twenty
million mature American men whose wives think they are out there having fun”
- Jim Bishop, syndicated column, 1970

Having managed to make it through another week, I settled into the recliner on Friday afternoon to watch the ESPN replay of the second round of the British Open golf tournament which is being played at Muirfield overlooking the Firth of Forth.
gothicgolf
I’ve always enjoyed watching the British Open when it’s played north of Hadrian’s Wall in the land otherwise known as Scotland.  In addition to being the place where the game was first played, I’m able to trace my own lineage back to Sutherland and Caithness in the far northern highlands of Scotland and I find it refreshing to take in scenes of the homeland from time to time.  I also occasionally have an urge to don a kilt and run through the neighborhood swinging a sword longer than I am tall, but generally I’m able to control that one.

But back on the subject of golf, there are those who would criticize me for referring to the tournament as “the British Open.”  Golf purists tend to speak of the event in reverential tones as simply “The Open.”  This appears to be based on the somewhat pretentious assumption that there are no other golf tournaments which equal the majesty, legacy, and heritage of the British Open; which of course, in my humble opinion, is simply not the case.

For anyone who follows golf or cults of sport celebrity in general, it’ll come as no surprise that many, if not most, sports media golf pundits are predicting that Tiger Woods will be the victor come Sunday evening.  Notching another win in a major tournament would move Tiger one step closer to equalling Jack Nicklaus’ astounding record of 18 major tournament championships.  For the uninitiated, the current “majors” are limited to the Masters, the U.S. Open, the British Open, and the PGA Championship.  But of course the golf world’s talking heads have been making similar and equally inaccurate prognostications pertaining to Woods’ next win in a major for the past five years or so.  Sort of reminds me of that old story about the boy who cried wolf, or was it that he cried tiger?
claret-jug-(1)
Frankly, I wouldn’t lose any sleep if Tiger were to never win another major championship.  In this year’s British Open, I’d much prefer to see a veteran player of the likes of Lee Westwood, Ian Poulter, or just an unheralded journeyman from the field pick up the Claret Jug on Sunday afternoon.  We’ll just have to wait to see how it turns out.

In the meantime, I’ll have to reach deep in order to find the patience to endure the apparent compulsion which every ESPN commentator has to make lame jokes about the Firth of Forth, not to mention to periodically demonstrate their astounding lack of knowledge and understanding regarding the game of golf.

“Excessive golfing dwarfs the intellect.  And is this to be wondered at when we
consider that 
the more fatuously vacant the mind is, the better the play.”
– Sir Walter Simpson, The Art of Golf, 1887 

Fore!

OM

Photo credit: usgtf.com
Photo credit: ayrshiregolf.blogspot.com

What’s in a Name?

Log-cabin
Back in the late 1700s, a few hearty pioneers established a trading post in the foothills of the north Georgia mountains and gave it the name of New Prospect Camp Ground.  The “camp ground” moniker was very apt as the settlement, which grew up along side of an indian hunting trail, originally consisted of little more than a handful of tents, a single log cabin serving as a school of sorts, and an open arbor which provided shelter for a trading post at which settlers and Cherokee Indians met to exchange goods.

As time went on, others migrated into the surrounding area, cleared the forests, and discovered that cotton grew remarkably well in the local soil.  By 1858, the population had grown sufficiently for the area to be chartered as a town. Apparently feeling somewhat classical, the town fathers chose to use Greek as the source language from which to derive a name for their new municipality.  They christened their new town: Alpharetta; which they declared could be translated as: “First Town.”

But wait just a minute.  There’s a couple of problems with that derivation.  First of all, the newly charted entity wasn’t actually the first town in the area.  Five or six miles to the southwest, the larger and perhaps more affluent Roswell, had been established and chartered earlier than Alpharetta.  In 1865, when General William Tecumseh Sherman swept through the region on his way down to burn Atlanta and begin his infamous March to the Sea, the Union army pretty much ignored Alpharetta, opting for the more lucrative pickings to be found over in Roswell.  Perhaps there are times when it’s beneficial to be viewed as just an “also ran“.

Secondly, stretch and bend the Greek language as much as you will, there’s simply no way to translate the city’s name from Greek into “First Town.”  The Alpha part of the equation works perfectly well as alpha does in fact mean first in Greek, but the remaining retta component, can’t mean town given that it’s not even a Greek word.  One can only imagine what resource the original founders were using when they came up with the name.

These days, the once remote trading post which grew into a sleepy farming community and eventually a county seat, is just one of the many towns which have been absorbed into the ever expanding megalopolis known as metro-Atlanta, Georgia.  The motto for the area should be something along the lines of “Resistance is futile, you will be assimilated.”  The hive has now grown to somewhere around 5.4 million souls and shows no signs of slowing down any time soon.
Road-hog
As I’m out and about running errands in my adopted home town of Alpharetta, I often find myself thinking of just how close the original founders came in choosing a really meaningful name for the town.  Given the very questionable automobile driving skills, habits, and practices exhibited by many of the current residents, I’d suggest that Alphamou might have been a more appropriate alternative name.  With alpha being Greek for first and mou meaning me, the town’s name could have easily been translated as “Me First! “

But I guess that no one could have seen that clearly into the future.

Buckle Up!

OM

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Sometimes a Little Dab Will Do You

Mowing the lawn, I felt like I was battling the earth rather than working it; each week
it sent forth a green army and each week I beat it back with my infernal machine….
I ruled a totalitarian landscape.

- Michael Pollan, Second Nature: A Gardener’s Education

A week ago on Friday, being a diligent homeowner and wishing to stay in the good graces of the Poo Bahs who run my neighborhood’s Home Owner’s Association, I mowed my lawn.  Since I typically perform this task on a weekly cycle during the summer months, I fully intended on mowing my yard again on this past Friday.

GulfUnfortunately, I was totally unaware of the vast meteorological forces which were even then gathering over the Gulf of Mexico and casting a leering gaze on the southeastern United States.

Fueled by large bands of moisture pouring northward out of the Gulf, rain began to fall here last Wednesday.  As of Sunday afternoon, the rains were still falling.  Given our recent history of summer droughts, this is certainly not a bad thing. But when combined with the fact that I heavily fertilized my yard in the early spring – I find myself faced with an ever thickening growth of luxuriant, emerald green Bermuda grass which is going to be a real bear to mow, if and when the rains ever decide to subside.

These events caused me to reflect on the summer, many years ago and in another town, when my wife had the County Agent come out and take soil samples from our lawn.  Based on his thorough analysis, he provided us a recipe for a customized mix of fertilizers, lime, ammonium nitrate, and other additives which would turn our patchwork quilt of seasonal vegetation into a lawn worthy of the cover of
Southern Living
magazine.

The week before we were to leave on vacation, all of the ingredients arrived.  Much to my amazement, the bags filled one side of our two-car garage.  I just couldn’t imagine that we needed that much fertilizer, but when questioned, my wife assured me she had ordered the supplies using the information given to her by the County Agent.

Buoyed by her confidence, I got up early on Saturday and began to spread the mixture over our yard. By mid-afternoon, I’d spread so much fertilizer on the lawn that it was beginning to look as if we had experienced a freak mid-summer snow storm.  And there were still many more bags remaining in the garage.

I stuck my head into the house and called to my wife, “
Dear, am I supposed to spread all of this stuff or is some of it to be used later in the summer?


No, spread it all.  It’s how much the County Agent said that we needed to put down.  Don’t worry about it.  I’m sure it’s right! 

Enough said!  I completed spreading the mixture on the yard and eagerly shifted my attention to completing preparations for our vacation trip to Disney World with our two sons.

I will never forget the sight that greeted us as we turned into our driveway on returning home from a week at the Magic Kingdom.  Our lawn had been transformed from a scruffy, earth-toned patch into a thick, jade green expanse of incredibly healthy grass.  The stuff was at least eight inches tall.  It was so tall that as soon as I finished unloading the car, I went out and mowed the lawn.
Lawnmower
For the next two months, the grass continued to grow at such a rate that I had to mow the lawn twice a week just to keep it under control.  I could swear that I could hear it growing as I lay in bed at night.

I was wearing my lawnmower out, not to mention myself, from the exertion of mowing the grass every three days.  Neither my wife nor I had ever seen anything like it.

By the time autumn arrived, the speed with which the grass was growing had tapered off to the point where I could return to mowing it once per week.

One evening, I noticed that my wife was sitting on the sofa poring over a folder containing several sheets of paper.

What are you doing? ” I asked.

“I’m just going over the information the County Agent gave us last summer about our lawn. You know, I may have made a mistake when I ordered the stuff to put on the yard.” she replied.

What do you mean? 

Well, when I was computing how much ammonium nitrate to buy, it looks like I moved the decimal point one place too far to the right.

Being a wise husband, I just smiled as my suspicions were confirmed.  The bad news was that I’d spread something like ten times as much fertilizer on our yard as was needed and as long as we didn’t let the Environmental Protection Agency find out; we would probably avoid prosecution.  The good news was that I, and all subsequent owners of that home, would never have to fertilize that lawn ever again.

Happy Mowing!

OM

Photo credit: NASA Goddard Photo and Video Foter CC BY
Photo credit: aperture_lag Foter CC BY-SA

Grasping for One’s 15 Minutes

In 1968, the pop artist Andy Warhol uttered his famous words, “In the future, everyone will be world-famous for 15 minutes.

Frankly, that’s not an achievement that I’ve ever been interested in pursuing, but it’s very clear that the woods are full of those who are consumed by their personal vision of claiming even a momentary level of notoriety.

I was watching Stage 8 of the Tour de France earlier today.  This was the first mountain stage of the race and that got me to thinking how long will it be before I would catch a glimpse of “The Devil“?
Devil
If you haven’t been a regular viewer of past Tour’s de France, you might be asking yourself, “Who the devil is the Tour de France Devil“?

Well, I am a regular Tour watcher and I’ll be happy to bring you up to speed on this topic.  Since 1993, Dieter “Didi ” Senft of ReichenwaldeGermany has been attending the Tour de France dressed in a red devil suit and carrying a trident.  He’s an expert at postioning himself along the Tour’s route each day so as to optimize his opportunities off being picked up by the mobile television cameras capturing images of the riders.  He’s typically seen during the mountain stages of the race when the slower speeds of the riders in the peleton ensure him of maximum on-camera time.  A few seconds here – a few seconds there, pretty soon you’ve tallied up your personal15 minutes.

Unfortunately in 2012, poor health kept Didi away from the Tour for the first time since 1993 and so far this year, I haven’t had any Devil sightings.  But there’s still two weeks to go, so I remain cautiously optimistic.

I have absolutely no idea why this gentleman feels compelled to dress up like the devil for three weeks each July. Likewise, I have no idea how he manages to get so much time off from whatever his normal occupation may be to attend the Tour with such regularity, not to mention longevity.  But I do find him to be a leading candidate for becoming the poster child for Warhol’s prediction that fame will ultimately become an entitlement for all who desire it; even if it happens to be fleeting.

Didi is certainly not the only example of sport’s fans engaged in the pursuit of drawing attention to themselves at athletic competitions.

As a sports photographer, I’ve had many opportunities to capture images of other latter-day Didi’s pressing the bounds of fashion and decorum to the breaking point.  I often wonder if these folks truly believe that their efforts inspire higher levels of performance from the athletes and teams that they are supporting or if they would they be honest enough to admit that their real motivation is simply to draw attention to themselves.

BuzzCaptAmericaHokieTony

Here’s to those valiant sports fanatics who continue to confuse sporting events with the celebration of Halloween.  May their efforts at unbridled and unique self-expression continue unabated; for both events would be less enjoyable without them!

OM

Photo credit: TchmilFan Foter CC BY-NC-SA