They Dwell Among Us

[A “Ripley’s Believe it or Not” repeat – minor edits – from August 16, 2013]

I’ve seen silly emails circulated with this title.  I always delete them as I’ve felt the stories are so far fetched as to be unbelievable.   Until Monday. 

Scout’s Honor.  I was on the train on Monday.  Heading home after a long day.  The train was crowded with a few folks standing in the aisles.  This 30’ish woman sits down next to me. She takes an orange VISA credit card from her purse and – holding it in her hand – pulls out her cell phone and dials a number. And then in a voice loud enough to be heard 3 or 4 rows away, she says she has a question on her credit card.   She needs detail on the last dozen or so transactions.  And she repeats the card number into the receiver. THEN (as if that’s not enough) after a pause, she repeats a family name and a calendar date (presumably security codes). THEN (of course) she read off the three digit security code on the back of the card (“uhmm lemme see. . . two three eight . . . yes – THREE eight“). For the next 15 minutes, with phone shouldered to her ear, she proceeded to dialogue on the telephone in this highly public place about questioned purchases (one charge was – I kid you not – 9 cents).  She’s writing them down.

We do not need – or want – educational tests or intelligence tests (other than citizenship) for a person to vote.  But maybe there is something to having a “Stupid” test.  This woman would be the poster girl.  Then again, we have no Stupid Test to be a Democrat (or Republican) in Congress.  Or to serve in the White House. . . . .  

By the way, I just bought a great bunch of new books on line, some shoes for Donna, a new Martin guitar, I booked us a trip to Europe and I . . . . . OOOOPS  . . . never mind. . . .    

Advertisements

Chinese Style

The Berghoff Restaurant at 17 West Adams Street in Chicago is an old, German, family restaurant.  The Berghoff has been in business since 1898.  It is where the classic “Men’s Bar” survived until 1969.  The Berghoff received liquor license number One in 1933 when Prohibition ended.  And three classic scenes from “The Dark Knight” (Batman) were filmed there. 

I recently hosted three attorneys from Beijing for meetings in my office. At the conclusion of the meetings, I offered to take them to lunch. They accepted and we walked across the street to the Berghoff.

We sat down at a table and perused the menu.  I asked my guests what kind of food they liked.  None had any limitations.  And no particular preferences.   They smiled.  And suggested I order for them.  Talk about pressure. . . . .  So I ordered three meals:  a duck platter; stuffed sole; and a sausage trio.  And we placed the three plates in the center of the table and dined.  Chinese style.   I stifled my appetite a bit – deferring to my guests.  Bottom line – everything was devoured.   But it did have me wondering how many times in its 120 year history the Berghoff had seen Chinese style dining with Chinese visitors. 

Frankly I like Chinese style dining.  Next time Donna and I have dinner with you, don’t be surprised if I reach across the table and fork a slice of your filet.  Make sure you order it medium well . . . . .  

The Albatross

I have spoken about my near miss of a hole-in-one. And my not-so-secret passion for par 3’s (“Five Feet from Glory”). I’d love to have a hole-in-one. But what sticks in the back of my mind is the rarest of golf shots — an “Albatross.” A double eagle.

A double eagle is 3 under par on any given hole. It is a hole-in-one on a par 4 and a “2” on a par 5. They are a rarity — even on the PGA Tour. The first double eagle on record was scored by Tom Morris, Jr. (1870 British Open – Prestwick). The longest albatross was scored by Andy Bean on a 663 yard par 5 (no. 18; Kapalua) in 1991. The longest double eagle/ace was by Robert Mitera on a 447 yard par 4 (1965).

Double eagles are not child’s play. Yet the youngest golfer to score one was a 10 year old girl. Line Toft Hansen scored one in 2010 in a Danish juniors’ competition (419 yard; par 5). In tournament play, 602 doubles have been scored since the first in 1870. The last one I watched on t.v. — Louis Oosthuizen on April 8th in 2012 on number 5 at the Masters. The only Tour player to have scored two in Major tournaments was Jeff Maggert (’94 Masters and ’01 British Open).

Only one golfer is known to have scored a hole-in-one and a double eagle in one round. Coach John Wooden of UCLA did it in 1939 (Erskine Park G.C. South Bend) (a good trivia question).  

I’ve read that the odds of a double eagle are one million to one (judging by the score of my last round, I should’ve had one. . . .). A hole-in-one is a mere 40,000 to 1.  If you want to watch a few on the PGA Tour, check out  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WKNs2jvmUYA  

I’d love that hole-in-one. But I’d love a double eagle even more. Maybe if I play from the ladies’ tees. . . .

Torn and Restored Paper

[A magical repeat from December 19, 2011]

This is a cool effect on which I’ve gotten a lot of mileage over the years. 

THE EFFECT:  Sitting in a restaurant, take a cocktail napkin and shred it to pieces.  You ball it up – and slowly begin to open a fully-restored cocktail napkin.  Your hands remain above the table at all times. 

THE TRICK:  Before you start, quietly (and unobservedly) take your own cocktail napkin, put it in your lap, open it, ball it up and secret it in your hand by your thumb.  You’re now ready to go.  Announce that you have a trick that will amaze and astound.  Ask for a cocktail napkin, open it all the while keeping the balled up napkin under your thumb.  No one will see it because it is small and any slip will blend with the other.  Shred the napkin and ball it up with the whole napkin.  Put them together and hold the two in front of everyone’s eyes.  The audience will “see” only one balled-up napkin.  Though you know that the torn napkin is on one side, the whole one on the other.  Reverse them and slowly begin to open the whole napkin.  Any dropped pieces can be picked up and reintroduced onto the torn side.   Once open, you can drop the torn ball in your lap or on the floor.  And take a bow. 

You MUST practice a dozen times or so (in front of a mirror) before attempting to wow the crowd.  And (raise your right hand) you may not tell anyone how it’s done.  

Perhaps some of you know that magicians actually run in my family.  They have to if they want to survive. . . . .

Mulligans

Speaking of golf, when I’m with my buds on the golf course and we tee off on the first hole, a “Mulligan” is frequently offered for an errant tee shot.  We call it a “breakfast ball.” It’s a do-over.  Even if we’re playing for a few coins, it’s “hit another – nobody saw that first one.” 

Wouldn’t it be nice if in life we had do-overs? Mulligans? For errant words or deeds?   We do in a way though the granting of a do-over often lies in the province of the recipient of the errant words or deeds.  It’s called “forgiveness.”  I’m sure we all have things we’d like to do over.  Words.  Deeds.  And we’re all grateful for the granting of forgiveness (or lack of ill consequence).  I’m sorry . . . . It’s okay.  No worries

But today, the poison of political correctness can sink careers.  Free speech is being crushed.  Do overs?  For the wrong word?  Forget it.   Accusations are often enough to destroy a life.  

I’ve said some dumb things and done some even dumber ones that I’d like to call back.  But in the words of the great poet Omar Khayyam:

The Moving Finger writes; and, having writ,
Moves on: nor all thy Piety nor Wit
Shall lure it back to cancel half a Line,
Nor all thy Tears wash out a Word of it.

Our futures lie within our own hands.  The “moving finger” business is probably a good reason to think twice before we act — or speak.  And knowing of our own fallibility – and frailty – a reason to consider the granting of Mulligans to others.   

Edward Everett Hale

Edward Everett Hale (1822-1909) was a prominent Boston theologian and author.  He penned the classic narrative – The Man Without a Country (1868) — the story of an American Army Lieutenant who renounces his country during a trial for treason.  The lieutenant is sentenced to life at sea — never again to hear news about or the word “America.”  The story was designed as an allegory about the pains of the Civil War. 

From 1901 to 1909, Hale was the Chaplain of the United States Senate.   While Reverend Hale was serving as chaplain, he was asked if he prayed for the Senators.  “No,” he said. “I look at the Senators and I pray for the country.”  Given the current chaos, perhaps we might all profit by extending similar petitions. . . .

As a collector and dealer of historic autograph material, Edward Everett Hale was long a focus of my collecting.  Over the years, I acquired nearly 400 of Hale’s original letters and signed first editions.    How I started collecting Hale’s original letters is a story in itself.  Among the letters were perhaps a dozen small cards – each carefully handwritten – with Hale’s favorite advice – “Look forward and not back.  Look out and not in.  Lend a hand.”  I couldn’t agree more. . . . .     

The Secret to Peace is YOU

I just had lunch at my desk.  And watched an 18 minute TED Talk –  http://www.ted.com .   In the past, I have applauded the value of TED Talks.  And I’ve posted on a few favorites (December 29, 2016 and February 5, 2017).  While I am frugal in my recommendations, today’s talk does not deserve frugality. 

I just watched “The Walk from ‘No’ to ‘Yes‘” presented by William Ury – an American author, anthropologist and negotiation expert.  Ury co-founded the Harvard Program on Negotiation and helped develop the International Negotiation Network.  He is the author of numerous books including Getting to Yes which describes the method of principled negotiation and establishes the idea of a “best alternative to a negotiated agreement.”  

Ury’s presentation touched on the divisive issues faced in the Middle East — between Israel and Palestinians (and others).  And the religious strife in the region.   And Mr. Ury offered ideas – that are being used today.  In short, he reaches out to each one of us to become a part of the peace process.  I know — sounds simple.  But if you’re having lunch, you’re bored or you want to see how you can make a difference – please — invest 18 minutes and watch  http://www.ted.com/talks/william_ury#t-1105977   The secret to peace is YOU. . . . .