Ban Video Games?

In my post of December 5, 2011, I lamented my daily experience on the train where I see young people with earplugs in, IPhone in hand, listening to music.  No books.  No newspapers.  No mechanism for learning.   Heads are occasionally bobbing to some random melody and eyes are constantly darting to the Iphone screen to adjust volume or tune selection.  Some of these people have the volume up so loud that one wonders why they are not already deaf. 

In the 7 months since that post, I have also noticed an abbondanza of young people sitting on the train playing video games or playing solitaire (us “older folks” are usually reading). 

Now unless you are going to be flying F-35 Lightnings in Afghanistan or Iraq, there is probably a limited benefit to honing the video game skills of avoiding falling bricks or blasting mutant centipedes.   I frankly like the idea of banning video games for anyone under the age of 65 (with special dispensation to retirees who may be under that age).    While we’re at it, all railroad cars should probably be staffed with an educational “monitor” who walks through the car with a ruler – ready to crack anyone on the knuckles who is not engaged in some educational pursuit.   My 6th grade teacher (see 11/23/11) would be ideal at this task . . . . .    

Bicycles on Streets

I don’t mind occasional bicycles on streets. Riding single file. Obeying traffic laws. Staying out of the way.  Bicycle lanes are fine and seem to work.  But the groups of bicyclists who take up whole lanes of traffic (riding 2 and 3 abreast), ignoring traffic signals, scaring pedestrians and essentially creating havoc with the 4 wheel and 2 legged traffic?  They are a problem.   The pelotons. . . .

Violate traffic laws in my car?  I’m toast.   As a pedestrian – I can be ticketed for jaywalking, for crossing against a red light or for going around a railroad crossing gate.  Yet bicycle riders thumb their noses at red lights, stop signs and other traffic signals.   Pedestrians wait for them.   They often arrogantly deprive others of the courtesies they expect.  I have to say that this is one of my pet peeves and a pet peeve of a growing number of others. 

Bicycle bans are becoming more popular — and I’m hoping that they become even more popular. . . .      


Two years ago, Donna and I were slated to go to Machu Picchu in South Central Peru.  Machu Picchu is the iconic home of a pre-Columbian Inca nation.  However, in the week before we were to leave, Machu Picchu and the surrounding area was inundated with torrential rains.  The Bingham road was washed out in parts and nearly 2,000 visitors were stranded (they had to be helicoptered out).  What to do. . . .

The question was – do we head for Buenos Aires or do we try to go somewhere else in Peru.  We decided to go to the second most populous (though infrequently visited) city in Peru — Arequipa.  All I can say is “Wow.”  It was too bad that Machu Picchu was rained out but it was oh so good to make the choice we did.  

We stayed in a beautiful hotel — the Casa Andina.   It is the largest hotel in Arequipa.  And we stayed for 3 nights.  Traveling around the city and seeing the sites (e.g. the truly amazing Santa Catalina Monastery where 450 nuns lived).  And trying new and really unique restaurants.  We dined once in the hotel (wonderful) and at a place down the street — Zig Zag Restaurant (sat upstairs).  Wow!  Want an experience?  Go to — or plan to get stuck in — Arequipa.  Pretty special.   Oh – and yes – I would go back. . . .         

The Parrot

A man was looking for a present to buy his elderly mother. What to get he thought. An idea came to him. His mother had lived alone for years.  Maybe a pet?  Not a dog or cat – too much work.  So he went to the pet shop.

The owner said “I’ve got just the thing. I have a parrot. Smart as a whip. Speaks seven languages. Friendly.   She can talk to him.  Great companion.  Bird likes to watch t.v. too.”   The owner named a hefty price.

The man grimaced but said “I’ll take him.”  He had the pet store deliver the parrot to his mother.  And he called her the following week. 

Hi Mom!  Hey how did you like the parrot I sent you?”

He was delicious,” the mother said.

WHAT!  Don’t tell me you ate him!” 

Of course I did.” 

Mom – that parrot was supposed to be a pet!  He spoke seven languages.”

Well he should have said something.”

Henri Nouwen

One of the great inspirational/spiritual writers of all time was Henri Nouwen (1932-1996).  Henri Nouwen was born in Holland.  At an early age, he felt a call to the priesthood.  He was ordained as a diocesan priest in 1957.  He studied at the Menninger Clinic in Topeka, KS.   And he went on to teach at Notre Dame and then the Divinity Schools at Yale University and Harvard University.  He died suddenly — and all too early — in 1996. 

For several months in the 1970’s, Henri lived in a Trappist community at the Genesee Abbey in New York.  In the early ’80’s, he lived in Peru among the desperately poor.  After a time of contemplation, he left the seemingly bright world of academia — to go and work with mentally handicapped adults at L’Arche Daybreak in Toronto.  It was at L’Arche that Henri felt his greatest fulfillment.  He was a prolific writer and in 2003, a Christian Century survey rated his works number one among Catholic and mainline Christian clergy. 

I was referred to Henri some years ago by my old friend David.  On his recommendation, I have read most of Henri’s works.  Wow!  Spiritual.  Inspirational.  Moving.  And somewhat melancholy – knowing that Henri died at such a young age.  Return of the Prodigal Son is one of his most famous – and probably my favorite.   I was given a copy by my friend and priest – Fr. Bob.   Return is worth a second read. . . . which I’m planning. . . . .  If you have to pick one of Henri’s books to read — this is the one. 

The Dirty Dozen

It has to be 30 years or more that I started reading about how “water-based” fruits literally soaked in the water along with everything that was in the water.    As apples, blueberries, strawberries and grapes would grow — and become flush with their liquid nutrient — they would also absorb high concentrations of the pesticides, weed killers, insecticides and fertilizers that were dumped on them to make them grow.   

These toxic chemicals would then be ingested (often unwittingly) by the masses.  And the ingestion of these toxins has been linked to cancer, lower birth weights, shorter pregnancies and other maladies.   

There was a time when I stuck pretty much with bananas.  And then came organic. . . . .

I love blueberries.  I have them on my cereal nearly every morning.  But the blueberries I buy (often from Fresh Market) are organic.   If organic blueberries are not available, I will break down and buy “conventional” but only those blueberries grown in the U.S. 

I am convinced that my daughter and her family should buy organic of the really (and truly) “dirty dozen”:  apples, peaches, blueberries, grapes, nectarines, spinach, lettuce, potatoes, green beans, strawberries, celery and cucumber.  

The “safe” fruits and vegetables are onions, corn, grapefruit, mushrooms, watermelon, pineapple, avocado, mango, peas, asparagus, cantaloupe and bananas.

And then there’s the (pretty one-sided) debate on grass-fed beef. . .   

The Secret Weapon. . . .

As you might have guessed, I enjoy golf.  I play at a Club where we have caddies.  Many are young men and women from local schools who tote bags for good exercise, good company, a nice wage, and a decent tip.   There are “B” caddies (the newbies), “A” caddies (some experience) and “honor” caddies (older caddies – often “pros” – with experience and wisdom).  Many of the young men and women go on to apply for Evans Scholarships for college (most courses and many players generously support this fine program). 

When playing in any competition (or just for fun), I have come to realize that a good caddy can be a secret weapon.   They don’t just carry the bag, rake the trap, give yardage and clean your Pro V-1.  They also read the greens, talk strategy and give wise counsel on golf course management. 

Lawrence is one of the best.  I can see why Tiger, Bubba, Bo, Phil and Rory and all the others lean heavily on their caddies for second opinions and sage advice.  There are times when I was sure the “break” on a green was left to right.  Lawrence would shake his head — “right to left cup and a half” — and he was always right.  That’s why you learn to trust your caddy.  Especially the ones who have earned that trust.  They can really be a secret weapon.   Shhhhhh . . . . don’t say a word about this to anyone. . . . .        


Wine Pairings. . .

I have received mild — but friendly — criticism about my wine suggestions with recent postings on cooking fish (I suggested Caymus cab with walleyed pike and Wild Horse pinot noir with tilapia).   The criticism can be distilled into the following – “white wine always goes with fish.”   

I am aware of the conventional (though in my opinion, somewhat archaic) wisdom which suggests white wine is mandatory with fish and red wine with red meats.  However I am also guided by the old Danish saying De gustibus non est disputandum.  Meaning – there must not be debate concerning one’s tastes (yes I know it’s not Danish. . . . ).  And I am guided by more contemporary articles on the subject such as the Wine Enthusiast which suggests that a pinot noir may be just ducky for lighter fish and more bold reds for fish with sauce (see ). 

Perhaps I should also share my bias — that I do not drink white wine unless it is served to me in which case I smile and sip.  This predilection probably has a lot to do with my wine recommendations.