Torture

[A repeat from May 10, 2018] The current tsk tsking by some on whether to approve Gina Haspel as Director of the CIA reminds me of my post of August 7, 2014, which reflected on “Torture.”  Let’s say your spouse, your two daughters, your son and your four grandchildren have been kidnapped by [insert your choice of “Bad Guys“]. Your family has been beaten and abused.  Your daughters raped.  A grandchild butchered.  The rest are stuffed into an air-locked room. The air runs out in 12 hours. 11:59:59. 11:59:58.

One of the bad guys has been captured and knows where the air-locked room is. It’s 30 minutes away. Somewhere. The bad guy is seated in front of you. Tied to a chair. And when you ask him where the room is – he smirks and says %&#*x!.  “Gimme water.”  And he demands some food.

Now there are some who would shrug and go get a pitcher of water and a ham and cheese sandwich for the guy. “Not ham – lamb — you idiot.  And don’t forget the chipsAnd Oreos.”  But I’m sure that some of us, given a scenario that is this close to home, might narrow their eyes. And think how can I get this information?  I must save my family.  I heard Mr. Obama state casually that America had “tortured some folks” and that it’s “wrong.”  I wonder if confronted by the above situation, Mr. Obama might react differently. 

I’m not here to posit a moral judgment either way.  But simply to raise the question.  What would you do if your entire family had 12 hours to live?  How far would you go?  If you had the chance to save them.  Or save someone else’s family?  Using “enhanced interrogation.”  What if you had the chance to save 3,300 people from being incinerated?  A hundred thousand.   It is a tough question until it walks in your door.  And sits down at the table in front of you.  Blood on his hands.  Grins.  And spits at you.  What would YOU do?  The clock is ticking. . . . .   

English Leather

Do guys use after shave lotion anymore? When I was in high school and college, English Leather and Canoe were the “go to” after shaves (whether or not one shaved). I would slather it on – going through a bottle or two a week – whenever I’d go out with a girl. I thought it made me ummm. . . desirable. Instead – looking back on it – I have to wonder how they could stand the stench. At a dance or party – the competing smells of English Leather, Canoe, Skin Bracer and Old Spice took priority over everything else.

Today – I will occasionally detect a whiff of perfume from some (usually younger) lass – but I don’t recall having sniffed a men’s after shave in years. Maybe it’s because the old schnozzola is losing its sense. Or maybe that sense of recall? Either way, times and tastes change. If I were to go out today – and look for an after shave, it would probably have the scent of barbecue sauce or chocolate chip cookies.

As to English Leather and Canoe – perhaps they could be useful in dealing with the troubling smells left by our former and current Presidents. . . . .

Little Feet

[A valuable spring repeat from November 26, 2017]  When I was about 10 years old, I pestered my father to let me drive the family car.  Sooooo. . . . one Sunday, my dad let me drive home from Church.  Not all the way – but the last mile or so — on a road that was pretty vacant and ran in part along a corn field. I’d sit there peering over the steering wheel – my father with one hand on the wheel, one hand on the ignition and one hand on the gear shift.  From then on, I was the “Chuber” driver (“CHurch UBER“) on Sundays.  

Sometimes, my dad would take me to an empty parking lot and let me drive.  Round and round.  So I “learned” to drive at a pretty early age. When Lauren was about 12, I let her “drive” on occasional Saturday afternoons in our Church parking lot.  

My father had a lot of wisdom to impart to me in my formative years (which – Donna comments – are still in progress).  My dad always told me when driving to keep my “eyes moving.”  Watching.  Left.  Right.  Check the mirrors.  And he told me to always watch for “little feet.”  As I drive along a street, I was told to glance forward — under the cars parked along the street.  Why?  Because you can see if there are little feet — on the other side — below the car.  And you can slow down.  It’s easy to see an adult standing by a car.  But there’s no way to see a child unless you see the “little feet” under the car you are approaching. 

I’m always watching for “little feet.”  Try it next time you’re driving.  Keep an eye out for little feet. . . . .

Empathy

Could a greater miracle take place than for us to look through each other’s eyes for an instant?   — Henry David Thoreau 

[This is a repeat from April 14, 2018. The world needs a message like this. You will not smile. But you will think] The Cleveland Clinic is known as one of the great medical institutions in America and probably the world.  Two years ago, the Cleveland Clinic produced a powerful YouTube video on empathy.  I watched it for the first time in early March.  And I’ve watched it several times since.  

As I walk from the train station to my office, I’m sure I pass a thousand people.  Probably more.  Each one walks in his/her own world.  With their own thoughts.  Dealing with their own issues.   Health.  Fears.  Demons.  It is important to realize that each one of us has a story.  Each one of us lives with the cards that are dealt in the lottery of birth.  And the life that is thus given.    

Do me a favor – and devote 4-1/2 minutes to this video.   It’s hard to watch this video and not feel a sense of empathy for the human condition.  A sense of – that could be me.   You may want to watch it again. . . .   

How Can You Eat that Stuff?

[A repeat from August 3, 2017] De gustibus non est disputandum is a favorite phrase of mine (I know – “get a life RH“). It means “in matters of taste, there can be no disputes.”  We all have different tastes – in food, activities, temperature, friends, work, politics and other things.  Your “taste” in food may be way out of my wheelhouse but that doesn’t make it wrong.  Or right.  It’s just your taste.  

I love spaghetti carbonara with lean bacon, pancetta and peas.  I crave avocados (see 8/20/13) and smoked salmon with mustard.  You may hate the stuff (you poor soul) but – hey brother – de gustibus non est disputandum.  

I know a lot of folks swear by soft shell crabs.  But what is tasty about chewing on shards of broken plastic?   I’m not a fan of corned beef and cabbage.  I’ve never ordered it and on occasions when it has been served to me, I will nibble a piece of cabbage and bury the rest under a roll.  And pat my stomach “delicious!”   Ribs?  I mean what’s the point?  

I’m not afraid to try new things.  I’ve eaten worms, bugs, brains, innards, gizzards and goat tongue – often in business settings.  But when given the choice?  I’ll tee up something I like.  Or tolerate.  What’s your most unfavorite foods?    

Once Upon a Time

[A happy repeat from September 13, 2018] Once upon a time, there was a beautiful princess. She lived in a big castle and had a cat. The cat’s name was “Flashy.” One day, the beautiful princess stepped outside the castle with her cat – and THEN . . . .  

Donna and I happily entertain our granddaughters with regularity.  It’s always special to share time with them.  When we have a meal, we normally encourage some sort of interaction.  It’s more than “how was your day” or “do you like your spaghetti.”  Donna or I will whirrrrr our arms around and point to one of our granddaughters and say “You begin a story.”  The 3 or 6 year old will begin a story – often like the four lines above.  Sometimes – they’ll start a story on their own.   After “and then” — the obligation shifts to the next person at the table to continue the story.  We’ve had some verrrry interesting adventures come out of this round table authorship.   I often include the beautiful – yet powerful – princess going to the local golf course and shooting a sub par round from the back tees.  

Another staple for dinnertime discussion is “Rose and Thorn.”  Everyone is asked the “Rose” of their day — the happiest or most exciting part of the day.  Then we will  ask if there was a “Thorn” in their day — something that happened that wasn’t pleasant or happy.  We learn a lot – from our granddaughters and from each other from these simple yet insightful interactions of dialogue.  What was the Rose of your day?   

Mulligans

[A repeat from November 9, 2014] 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, there is a poison of political correctness that can sink careers.  Free speech is being crushed.  Do overs?  For the wrong word?  Forget it.   Accusations – even though false – 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.   

The Bakery

My father was of Danish heritage and my mother Swedish. I never had much in the area of Danish food but Swedish? Mercy. . . . . My favorites were Swedish meatballs, Swedish pancakes (my personal recipe is posted on January 31, 2020), lingonberries and Swedish baked goods. To this day, our family will have a variation of Swedish meatballs at Christmastime. But the baked goods have fallen by the wayside. . . . . .

So it is ironic that my mother’s grandparents got off the boat from Sweden in the early 1900’s. And shortly after arriving in Chicago, my great grandmother – Hilma (Johnsson) Sandell – opened a bakery in the basement of 4244 N. Crawford Ave. The family lived upstairs. From my earliest days, I remember devouring limpa bread, cardamom coffee cake and peppakakor cookies. On rare occasion – it was a sockerkaka – a sponge cake with strawberries and peaches (and the obligatory whipped cream). Ahhhh . . . “sweet” memories.

Chicago has a few good Swedish restaurants (Svea, Tre Kronor and Ann Sathers) and a Swedish area on the North Side appropriately called “Andersonville. ” There is the Swedish American Museum that chronicles the immigration of Swedes to shores of America. There used to be a Swedish Club (my dad was a member) but no more. There is a hospital (Swedish Covenant) and a college (North Park University) that have Swedish roots. For Swedish baked goods, I have had cross country deliveries from Hulda’s Swedish Baked Goods in Brookline, NH ( http://www.swedishbakers.com ). Plan to drool if you peruse the website. . . .

Every family comes from somewhere – and most families retain or at least recognize their culinary roots. I am no different. So you will excuse me while I wolf down a few peppakakor. . . .

Zungenbrecher

Sooooo. . . . in response to my post on tongue twisters, my friend John sent me a note offering a tongue twister in German. So I began practicing this Zungenbrecher. I think I’ve got it but don’t hold me to it. Anyway, it got my meager brain churning – and I checked out Zungenbrecher in other languages. I thought you might like to see a few – and practice with children or grandchildren.

German tongue twister

Eseln essen Neseln nicht, Neseln essen Eseln nicht.

Donkeys don’t eat onions and onions don’t eat donkeys.

Spanish tongue twister

Qué triste estás, Tristán, con tan tétrica trama teatral

How sad you are, Tristán, with such a gloomy theatrical tale!

Arabic tongue twister

Al mishmish dah mish min mishmishkum wa kaman al mishmish dah mish min mishmishnah.

The apricot is not your apricot and the apricot is also not our apricot.

French tongue twister

Si mon tonton tond ton tonton, ton tonton sera tondu.

If my uncle shaves your uncle, your uncle will be shaven

Chinese tongue twister

吃葡萄吐葡萄皮儿 – 不吃葡萄不吐葡萄皮儿。
吃葡萄不吐葡萄皮儿 – 不吃葡萄倒吐葡萄皮儿。

chī pútáo tǔ pútáo pí ér – bù chī pútáo bù tǔ pútáo pí ér.
chī pútáo bù tǔ pútáo pí ér – bù chī pútáo dào tǔ pútáo pí ér.

Eat grapes throw out their skins — don’t eat grapes don’t throw out their skins.
Eat grapes don’t throw out their skins — don’t eat grapes throw out their skins.