Saturday, February 27, 2010

Blog #129: Who feeds me?

The Hands That Feed Me

I would like to put a plug in this week for the organization that feeds me five frozen, well-balanced meals a week. It’s called Interfaith Ministries, and it runs a program in Houston called Meals on Wheels. Those lucky people who happen to live in the heart of Houston get five hot meals a week, delivered daily to their front door.

Those of us who live out in the boonies get a one time delivery each week of five frozen dinners, prepared for us by the Houston Food Bank. I can’t say enough about the quality of these meals, and I credit this service with making a real contribution towards keeping me alive and relatively healthy since the illness which sent me to the hospital four years ago right as Hurricane Katrina was bearing down on Mississippi and Louisiana.

Hurricane Katrina’s tracking path.

I was in the hospital during Katrina, and missed those nightly tv shots of bodies rotting in the streets of New Orleans, after a flood wall constructed by the U.S. Army of Engineers collapsed during the hurricane, and flood waters roared in drowning at least 1,836 people, making it the deadliest U.S. hurricane since the 1928 Okeechobee hurricane. Economist and crisis consultant Randall Bell wrote: "Hurricane Katrina in 2005 was the largest natural disaster in the history of the United States. Preliminary damage estimates were well in excess of $100 billion, eclipsing many times the damage wrought by Hurricane Andrew in 1992."

As the Hurricane was bearing down on Mississippi and Louisiana I had awakened that morning with bleeding diarrhea and thanks to a call to 911 I was brought to a hospital by the Houston Fire Department’s emergency service. My son Joel, who was living in Houston at the time, later told me he had doubts whether I was going to live through it. But fortunately for me I did. Meantime, far above the flood waters which had devastated New Orleans that famous compassionate conservative George W. Bush was surveying the damage, after which he did little to nothing to aid its victims.

After returning home my health care provider, Texas HealthSpring, sent a social worker to give me some tips on rehabilitating myself. And among the things she told me about was Meals on Wheels, and she gave me a phone number to call. I called, they came to the house to interview me, and I have been getting a weekly meal delivery ever since.

The meals are well prepared and have a wide variety with many ingredients I would never think of getting for myself. If you know of a senior citizen in your neighborhood who could use a service such as this, I suggest you find out if the service is available in your city. If it is, you should give the person the phone number, and have them get interviewed. And you have a little extra money using some of it to support a local organization which is doing this remarkable service for the elderly in your community, then you need look no further than Interfaith Ministries or its equivalent in your city.

A lady picks through what was left of her house in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

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The Republican Version of Russian Roulette

Who Really Cares About Our Health?

In their zeal to keep the Obama’s administration’s agenda from having the slightest bit of success, the Republican leadership is playing a game of Russian Roulette with the American voter, and unfortunately it seems to be working for them. They are using this tactic in the fond hope that being fed up with the Democrats’ failure to govern (a failure, of course, brought on in large part by the GOP’s refusal as a man, to support a single one of the Democrats’ initiatives) the American voter will put the GOP back in control of the House and Senate later this year, and elect a Republican to replace Barack Obama in 2012. They have done this by as a man voting no on every Obama and Democratic initiative.

They attempt to justify this by claiming the Democrats shut them out of the initial planning of each piece of legislation, even though they did the exact same thing to the Democrats during the GOP’s own eight year autocratic rule, not only excluding Democrats from meetings where legislation was being honed, but also allowing lobbyists of the affected industries to actually write the legislation, all of this being done in deep secrecy behind closed doors. The energy policy which was overseen by vice president Dick Cheney, was written with contributions from energy company heads including the late, disgraced Ken Lay of Enron. And despite being a person hired by the public, thanks to an obliging court system Mr. Cheney has kept the information of who he met with secret until this day.

Because the Obama administration had published every detail of its health care bill on the internet so that it could prove it is holding nothing back from the public, that empty suit who speaks for House Republicans and answers to the name John Boehner, threatened not to show up for the president’s planned meeting with Congress on Thursday, asking, “why should Republicans show up if they’re going to put the same old crap on the table.” Mr. Boehner did show up, however, still prattling on about how the President and the Congress should throw out a year’s worth of work and start over with a blank sheet of paper. Perhaps Mr. Boehner is the one who needs to start over with a blank sheet of mind.

Republicans needed to show up because they have been sent to Congress to represent the voters back home, not hoe the Republican line by saying “no” to everything the Democrats attempt to do. Obviously Mr. Boehner is confused about who he is actually working for.

However, I’m sure this will come as a total shock to you, but this attitude is nothing new. Republicans have traditionally voted against every attempt to spend some of the tax payers money on the average tax payer. Republicans fought tooth and nail against Social Security, the Civil Rights Movement with its equal voting rights agenda, and Medicare and Medicaid. The fact is that Republicans seem to only support legislation which funnels money to corporations and to the very wealthy. And despite of the fact that the middle and lower classes pay the bulk of the taxes, in the eyes of Republicans money paid out for the benefit of tax payers other than the very wealthy is a sin and a waste of money.

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Better Late Than Never?

The President’s Health Care Meeting Thursday was a fascinating discourse in which both sides clearly and honestly had a chance to put forth their disparate views. As usual Democrats recited tale after tale of constituents losing their jobs and with it their health care, as they fell ill and eventually lost their lives. Republicans continued their mantra of “throw this bill out and start over with a blank sheet of paper.” However, they also raised legitimate concerns, which the meeting allowed to be aired in full.

Everybody got his or her chance to air their points of view at the meeting, which ran over about 45 minutes from its allotted time. And although it is doubtful that anyone from either side was nudged to the other side, it’s true importance was in informing the American people of the true facts about the Democratic plan, and the reason why Congressional Democrats and the President think that passage is necessary for their political future. That of course is the very reason why Republicans oppose their every initiative, in the fond hope that if the voting public sees that Democrats can’t govern, then they will throw the rascals out and put the GOP back in.

One voice not heard during the meeting was that of Senator Jim DeMint of South Carolina, the man who blew the cover on the entire Republican agenda with his gleeful comment early on that Health Care could be President Obama’s Waterloo if Republicans would just stick together and cause it to fail. And feeding off a national impatience in the speed of bringing something as complicated as Health Care Reform to fruition in Congress, and on fears of the spiraling national debt, the flames of which Republicans are fanning with all their might the GOP is merrily pressing on with its message, “throw out the bill and start over from scratch.

In an attempt to keep a little reality in focus the President pointed out that how Health Care Reform is viewed depends upon how it is presented by the pollsters. Whereas it may be true that the bill under consideration at this time is lagging at the polls, if people are asked about separate components of the bill, such as whether or not people should be bumped from a paid up policy because they suddenly get sick, of course they reply of course they should have access to insurance they have paid for. Even the so-called “public option” dropped in the Senate and President’s plan, is favored by a comfortable percentage of voters polled.

The President handled the proceedings with aplomb and made at least this one voter proud that he had supported the man for the presidency. Much of the newly minted Republican trepidation concerns whether having lost their 60 vote majority the Democrats will attempt to pass the bill under “reconciliation” which will allow it to pass with a 51 vote majority. GOP squealers cry that such a use has never been applied to a bill of this size, forgetting that Bush’s tax cuts for the rich were passed with just such a plan. And besides, as NBC White House correspondent Chuck Todd pointed out on Hardball, nobody is proposing to pass the Health Care bill under reconciliation, bill already passed the Senate with a 60 vote majority. What reconciliation will be used for will be to pass the various amendments needed to reconcile the Senate bill with the House version.

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A Follow Up on Chatroulette

Last week we (and most every other blog) reported on the latest program to capture the fancy of internet addicts, a program called chatroulette. This week in case you didn’t get around to trying the service out yourself we would like to follow up on that report this week by showing you a short video reporting on the chatroulette experience.

chat roulette from Casey Neistat on Vimeo.

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Tap Water Ignites in Plume of Flames

Imagine holding a blowtorch to the water running from your kitchen sink, and suddenly having it burst into a plume of flame. Good old YouTube presents this phenonemon in flaming color, and thanks to the fact that they include the code which allows for embedding, we can have it on our blog for you to witness. Our thanks goes out to son Daniel Badeaux, of Seattle, WA, for emailing us this.

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A Frontline Report on Laptops in School

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Since we are rapidly becoming top heavy with video clips this week, how about another one. This clip is from the PBS program Frontline, and discusses the use of laptop computers in a middle school in the Bronx. In it the video covers the many academic uses of the computers, and demonstrates the ability of the school to activate the cameras in the machine remotely, as in spy on the children, and they can even take pictures with the child’s laptop if they wish. In this case the use of the spy ability was benign, and observers were treated several shots of middle school girls using the laptops as a mirror while they combed their hair.

A Movie About Bullies

In my trolling the web the other day I came upon a video which I thought was well worth seeing. It’s a dramatic little video about a bully in a school situation, called The Price of Silence. It quotes Albert Einstein, “The world is an evil place, not because of those who do evil , but because of those who look on and do nothing.” It was produced by Shake State Productions in association with the Museum of Tolerance. A click on the arrow below will show you what I mean.

More Thoughts on Children's Camps

The video on bullies makes an excellent lead in for that part of our blog we dedicate to our camp memories. Not that bullies had any part in life at Killooleet, for in my six years there I can remember no child ever bullying another child. I believe that this was because of the peaceful spirit of the camp as projected by its leader and guru, John Seeger.

Last week’s news of the memorial service for John set off a flood of memories. Somehow we expect people we know and care about to live, if not forever, at least for as long as we live. John certainly lived a long and fruitful life. Long enough to see his offspring, Tony and Kate, grow into exceptional adults.

John and his wife Ellie made Killooleet into a laboratory for growing children into responsible adults. They were brilliant and ever experimental, and weren’t afraid to leave minor problems for their counselor staff to handle. As a result Killooleet has an excellent record in producing outstanding human beings, many campers have gone on to be counselors themselves, and many of those have had children which they have sent to the camp. You might call it a most fascinating, non-vicious circle.

I was inspired to leave the University Settlement Camp which is where I first leaned the craft of counselor and song leader when during my third year there the camp director seemed to be at war with the campers, almost daring them to act up so that he could demonstrate his command. He did this by sending a very popular camper home early because the boy walked his girl friend to her cabin after a dance, and was caught coming from the girls’ cabin. He also kept my cabin confined to their cabin for four days at the end of a trip because one camper carved on a window sill, and the boys would not say who had done it, nor would the guilty boy come forth.

In both cases I thought the punishment was excessive. In the case of the boy sent home, to me his walking his girlfriend home was a very sweet gesture, and certainly nothing to get upset about. If the boy had been found inside the girls cabin, and engaged in intimate behavior, maybe that would have merited some kind of extreme punishment.

In the case of my boys, the carving was a bit unsightly, but there was no structural damage, and the punishment was inflicted solely in an attempt to get someone to turn in the guilty boy, and of course the Settlement kids had a code which would never allow them to turn another one in.

When my complaints to Charles Cook, who was the head of the Settlement House in the city, and the Camp, he explained that the man had a master in social work from Columbia University, and that was that. And when I announced that I was leaving to work at John Seeger’s Killooleet Cook assured me that I would find out that they would treat problems the same way. Well, of course, when I got to Killooleet I found nothing of the kind. Staff and campers were never in conflict. An atmosphere of peace and security enveloped the camp. Attitudes are set at the top, and go down from there. And John and Ellie were both experts in child education and development, and ran a secure camp which allowed growth not only for campers, but also for counselors.

It’s a wide, wide world out there, and room in it for all sorts of philosophies on handling children. But I put my two feet squarely in the camp that says you can get more out of a child by challenging him than you can by browbeating him. And both of the two camps that I subsequently worked for, Killooleet in Vermont, and Blueberry Cove in Maine were practitioners of the art of child rearing which had the personality of the child as sacrosanct. It took nineteen years of the two before I became utterly convinced, but of course the fun was in the journey.

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And so another edition of Little Eddy’s blog gets put through the wringer, only to come out pristine and almost moisture free. We do this blog each week, at least until that greater power which I really don’t believe in, says “enough is enough” and shuts me down.

Unlike the ocean in New England, Gulf of Mexico waters are warm and refreshing, and we do invite you to come swim with us again any time next week. Until then, bye now, and don’t take any Republican Health Care talk seriously. They say throw out the bill and start over, because they want Obama and the Dems to fail. Hopefully the American people are smart enough to know better.

The Real Little Eddy §

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Blog # 128: The Cold and the Hot

What’s Cold: Skiing From the Top of the World

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Cold on the Winter Olympics

The Winter Olympics is going on all over the cable spectrum, but I have yet to watch one feat. For one thing, I’m from Houston, Texas. We don’t get an awful lot of snow here (in fact in Houston legend has snow falling once every 10 years, and Houston is filled with 9 year olds who have never yet seen a real live snowflake), and so I am just as happy to ignore the games that are played in one of the world’s largest outdoor freezers. I start to shiver just by looking at them.

This was not true with the regular Olympics two years ago. It was a little overwhelming to find just where a certain event was to be carried, as NBC distributed the games equally among its many cable channels, and I ended up missing some of games I had wished to see, but I did end up catching a lot of the events, and especially basketball which is my favorite. But the games of the winter Olympics leave me cold, if you will forgive me the rotten pun.

So what? you might well ask? So that’s what we do here in the world of blogs, discuss our likes and dislikes, as if anyone else on earth cared a tinker’s dam about what we like or dislike, and why. (For the origin of the expression “tinker’s dam” go here!)§

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What’ Hot: Rocket’s GM Darel Morey talks Trade

Twittering Your Life Away

At least we bloggers don’t practice the trivial excesses that Twitterers are known to practice, and that is share our innermost accomplishments, i.e. meals, and natural events with their followers in short “tweets” as they happen. Up to the present time, at any rate, twitterers are sparing their followers blow by blow descriptions of their sexual proclivity and/or bowel movements, but knowing the world-wide-web as we do, can that be far off?

However as a result of the large number of people with wireless cellphones being hooked up to Twitter at any given time, it is becoming the place to go for first news on phenomenon like earthquakes and other natural disasters. In fact, a couple of years ago several passengers on that ill fated airliner which crash landed into the Hudson river, were twittering about the event as they were standing precariously on the wings of the still floating aircraft anxiously awaiting rescue. And Twitter followers (Twitter-ites?) were the first to know about the aircraft’s ditching well ahead of the AP and the established news media.

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Playing Web Cam Roulette

One of the latest web sensations is a program called chatroulette.

From Time Magazine: I spent 15 seconds at work on the computer watching a man dance around his room in a gas mask while wrapped in the American flag. He was watching me back, and when he saw that I wasn't laughing, he danced over to the computer, clicked his mouse mid-beat and (I can only assume) continued performing for someone else. As for me, it only got worse from there; my video suddenly changed to a live stream of someone masturbating.

"Are you writing about all the masturbating guys on here?" one chatting partner, a high school student, asks when she learns I'm a journalist. "GROSS."

The N.Y. Times tracked down the source of the website, and it turns out that it’s being run by a 17 year old Russian teenager (who does all of the coding himself, and which he is running off of seven servers based in Germany), and evidently if you have a working web cam, microphone, and internet connection you can connect to it and the program randomly connects you to someone else who also has their web cam and mike likewise turned on. Imagine if you will in this day and age of random sex chatting and web exhibitionism, what that could mean? The lad claims not to like some of the situations his roaming program can put you in, but don’t you know that secretly he gets a kick out of the fruits of his creation.§

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Sunday Talk V.P. Wars

v.p. Joe Biden

And back in the USA, during the Sunday talk shows last weekend the Cheney vs. Obama wars escalated as present day vp Joe Biden took on the last administration’s vp, Dick Cheney. People are wildly speculating why Cheney is continually going public with his ongoing attacks on the Obama administration’s security programs, but it should be obvious.

ex-v.p. Dick Cheney

The flagrant use of torture and other highly illegal and immoral practices which were heavily promoted by Cheney during the first four years of the Bush presidency, are potentially punishable by incarceration, and so Cheney goes merrily on about how torture and other illegal practices were a very necessary part of the Bush administration’s fighting terrorism, and that Obama’s rejection of same shows he is being lax and endangering Americans one and all.

Of course, Cheney says nothing about how our use of such inhumane techniques enrages Muslims the world over, inspiring them to hate Americans enough to dream up and execute attacks against us. And not a single assault was prevented because of information derived from torture.

But if Cheney can prattle on loudly enough, and if enough torture wags pick up his call, perhaps he can keep himself out of the jail cell which is where he ultimately belongs, and thereby continue living among the wild and the free. Besides, Mr. Cheney is the ultimate “my way or the highway” kind of guy, and so given the present Republican’s current leadership vacuum it is not too surprising to hear Cheney beating the drum for the ear of the party.§

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”It’s Always SOMETHING,” the late Gilda Radnor’s only slightly obnoxious character Roseanne Roseannadana used to lament in the early years of Saturday Night Live. Yes, it is true. We do all have our little somethings, that quality which makes us different from all others.

My dear late mother’s thing was bowel movements. Or rather, her fear that one would not be forthcoming. She was obsessed with them and elevated them almost to the height of a religion, and as a child growing up everytime the road to my elimination was blocked, I got fed the gamut of laxatives. Milk of Magnesia, Oil of Citrenella, Ex Lax, you name it, I took it. Even those fake chocolate pills which almost, but not quite, cost me my love of chocolate.

This became almost humorous at times. Ma would leave orders with my Aunt Offie (whose real name was Ethel Forman, but whose nickname “Effie” I mangled as a toddler into “Offie,” a mangle which stayed with her throughout her life), who used to take care of me while Ma went to work, that I wasn’t to get up from my portable potty to go out to play until I had filled the potty up with my daily contribution.

One day when I was about six years old and pantslessly squatting on my portable potty, three of my neighborhood buddies, Jocelyn (5), Doodie (5), and Jimmie (5) came over to play. Offie thought it unfair to deprive me of company, and so she let them come in and play in my room for at least an hour, me perched on my potty sans covering below the waist, and the girls especially contriving reasons why they should play up close to me.

Finally, little Jimmie who could stand it no longer, announced to all that he needed to pee, and had me get off my pot long enough for him to peel down his shorts and spray in his contribution. The girls watched Jimmie with interest, but made no comment or comparisons on our respective endowments. Jocelyn then reflected for a moment, and seemed to have a strong compunction to add her own contribution to Jimmie’s, and so flipped dress up and panties down, and after making sure each of us got a good view, sat down adding her contribution to sweeten the pot. And Doodie, being a noted follower, soon followed suit. At least my pot ended up with something to show for my morning’s effort, although it was not what Ma had ordered. And the spirit of democracy ruled the day.

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I need to finish this little anecdote with another, quite a different one. Some years later when I was 18 I went into the Army Air Corps (I had enlisted in the Air Force rather than be drafted into the Army as a foot soldier) and I was sent from Ft. Sam Houston in San Antonio to take my basic training at the Air Force base in Amarillo, Texas. The army was such a shock to my system that once there, as unbelievable as it sounds, I went the first 16 days of my Army basic training without having a bowel movement. I know it was 16, I was carefully counting.

When my inner hoardings finally saw the light of day it was a mighty log indeed, but its passage though proving a painful one, was nevertheless delivered completely laxative free. But the incident, at least in my eyes, completely shattered my mother’s pet myth than anything short of a daily passage would be highly injurious to your health. As a result to this day I have never taken another laxative, and I can’t say I miss them the least little bit.§

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I Get a Sad Email

Tuesday, Feb, 16, 2010, I got an email from Bob Stein, who I had worked with at Camp Killooleet many long years ago, and who along with Joannie Lerner, my sister Mary, and myself, had sung on the Songs of Camp album I recorded for Moe Ash’s Folkways records. Bob wrote to tell me of the passing of John Seeger and to report on a memorial service that was held for him.

John Seeger – Feb. 16, 1914 – Jan. 10, 2010

Googling John Seeger brought up a news story from the Bridgewater-New Milford Spectrum.

John Seeger, 95, for decades a Bridgewater resident, died Jan. 10, 2010, in New Milford after a short illness.

Mr. Seeger was born Feb. 16, 1914. He was a popular teacher at the Dalton School in Manhattan in the 1950s and served as principal of the Fieldston Lower School in Riverdale, N.Y., from 1960 to 1976.

Mr. Seeger and his wife, Eleanor, purchased Camp Killooleet, a residential summer camp in Hancock, Vt., and ran it together for more than 50 years as a place where they could implement their philosophy of education and child development.

Mr. Seeger retired from teaching in 1976 and divided his time between Bridgewater and Hancock. Mr. Seeger inherited the Bridgewater house his father and aunt had lived in since 1959, and, like them, enjoyed walking the roads and pathways of town.

I quote from Bob Stein’s email, “Yesterday, in a white, clapboard New England style church, there was a memorial service for John Seeger, who died Jan 10. The little church was nearly full (well over 200 people). My wife Roni and I drove up with Jim Neuberger and his wife.” The email went on listing a lot of names of many of the people who were there, many of whom I had worked with lo those many long years ago.

Bob has an interesting observation about John’s younger brother, Pete Seeger. Bob remembered: “I recalled a day I had spent cutting wood at their house near Beacon, and Pete said, "That was a VERY long time ago. Now I have an electric saw, but I still split the wood by hand." Knowing Pete, the day he quits splitting the wood by hand will be the day he has no further need for heat.

When I recently got reconnected with Killooleet after calling Kate Seeger to get her email address, she told me that John eschewed computers, didn’t own one, but she further said she made printouts of my camp reminiscences of those of my blogs that she felt would interest John and she sent them to him by snail mail, and shortly thereafter I received a handwritten letter from John, which among other things, encouraged me to continue my writing up my camp memories. John was indeed a remarkable man, and working at his camp was certainly one of the high points of my camp working career.

As you can easily see, my memories of John Seeger will permeate this week’s camp memories. As I have written before, I knew Pete and Toshi Seeger, but I had never met Pete’s brother John. The Settlement Camp had been my first experience in working in a children’s camp, however, and when in my third year I became disillusioned over what I considered arbitrary disciplinary actions taken by the Settlement Camp’s director, John and Ellie’s camp near Hancock, Vermont came immediately to mind, and I wrote to them seeking employment. And I had myself a job.

In last week’s blog I told you of my first summer there, working with 14 seven year olds who were testing out the possibilities of profanity and its effect on the greater camp family. Our solution, worked out with John and Ellie, was to form them into a swearing club, but they could practice their preoccupation freely, but only deep in the woods, far away from the other campers. They were gleeful at first, but within days realized it was no fun cursing when only their own group was able to hear it, and so they willingly sanitized their language so as to be able to rejoin the rest of the camp.

John and Ellie were enchanting singers. They sang Broadway show tunes a cappello, John in his sweeping tenor and Ellie in her alto. As I remember Ellie mostly carried the melody while John soared above her with classy harmonizing. In spite of my coming up through the Pete Seeger/folk music regime, for me John and Ellie’s song stylings were always a highlight of every Camp Sing.

Camp Sings were held at a campfire every Friday night, and there was a couple who was leading the singing when I first came to Killooleet. However, they graciously introduced me to the camp, and playing my 5-string banjo I launched into my stock of camp songs, songs like The Ship Titanic and Sipping Cider Through a Straw.

After about a quarter of the summer had gone by John and Ellie announced a change in the campfire sing not by calling attention to a change, but by quietly giving the couple who had been leading the singing Fridays off.

However, sings were in no way limited to whoever the designated song leader might happen to be. I remember a lot of counselors contributing to Killooleet sings, including Rusty Simonds, George Ward, and many others. Years later when I had in turn given up song leading for photography, John and Ellie gave me Fridays off so’s I would not rain on my successor, Rusty Simond’s, parade. I have to confess, ham that I am, I missed participating in those weekly sings.

The first year I attended the camp John and Ellie were spending their winters teaching at the Dalton school in N.Y.C. Within the six summers that I worked at Killooleet John had gotten the position of Headmaster of the Ethical Culture School in the Bronx, N.Y. And after my sixth summer in camp he had me bring my camera to the school and take a lot of pictures of the students.

John and Ellie did not found Killooleet, that was done by another Dalton teacher, Margaret Bartlett, but the Seegers took over the camp from Margaret when her health would not allow her to continue, and they built the camp up considerably from its modest beginnings.

Killooleet took campers from 7 through early teens. Cabins usually consisted of 14 campers and two counselors. Camp had a large fresh water lake, complete with row boats and canoes. It even boasted a couple of handmade birch canoes crafted by a local Indian chief of the region, whose name I seem to remember as being WadJoe. He built the canoes in front of older groups of campers so that the ancient art of canoe-building would not be lost to the world.

There was usual art building, a riding program with a full complement of horses (beloved by many of the little girls), and various other programs you would expect to find in a children’s camp, including archery, shop, and the like. Campers went to activities with their own group except when they received individual instruction. I spent my first four years there spending mornings teaching guitar and banjo to individual students who wished instruction.

Although the camp had a regular routine it followed, there were special days in which the entire camp was focused on. One of these special days was “Capture the Flag,” a game which can be found in many camps. At Killooleet a pre-capture trip was taken to procure talc from a local talc mine.

The morning of the game the talc was wrapped into small pieces of torn bed sheets to serve as bullets, and larger amounts were put in paper sacks to act as bombs. The camp was split into two equal groups, each one with the purpose of trying to capture the flag which was placed in an area between the two groups. If you got hit by a bullet or a bomb you were marked in white and had to go sit in the other side’s jail for a specified amount of time. And of course, the first group to successfully steal the flag was the winner.

Later attending a Children’s Camp Convention in Washington, D. C. I came to find out that most camp directors weren’t a bit like John and Ellie Seeger. Killooleet was run on pacifist principles which believed in and strove to bring out the inherent best in each individual camper.

Children were not repressed, but were worked with by patient, talented counselors skilled in making sure groups got along as harmoniously as was possible. Discipline was virtually unknown. During my six years of working there I can remember no case of a camper ever being disciplined for bad behavior, which I attribute to counselors establishing understanding relationships with their charges.

Occasionally though, a child would have a homesickness problem or have a problem relating to other kids. After all, campers were people, just like the rest of us. Their problems might be discussed by the counselor group, in an attempt to find different ways to help the child.

At about the time camp life was getting to be routine the campers would leave camp to go on sleep away trips. Trips were taken included hiking, traveling by bicycle, or even by canoe. They would last two to three days, during which campers were responsible for cooking their own meals, as well as cleaning up their cooking gear afterwards. Trips usually had a purpose, like biking back roads in French speaking Canada (where campers got to practice their French), canoeing a quiet river, or climbing a mountain. All campers went on two trips a summer, which since camp was virtually deserted also served to give the kitchen staff a couple of days off.

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As an example of the extraordinary success of the camp and its influence on many generations of children, I would like to reprint an email I got a few weeks ago from a man named Michael Brandon with whom I had driven from Houston to camp with one summer many years ago.

I had been working with his mother Elizabeth in Houston on some recording project, and she had told me of a writer’s conference in Middlebury, Vt. that she was attending the following summer, and she didn’t know what to do with her two children. I suggested she send them to Killooleet, which was in Hancock, Vt., only a short distance from Middlebury, and she proceeded to enroll them and I ended up driving up to Vermont with the three of them.

That was 46 years ago, and I had not seen or heard from Michael Brandon since that summer, until his email arrived on Jan. 18, 2010. It said:

The ripple effects of your talking to my mom about camp have been life long, 5 summers at camp and another year as a kitchen aide. Went on to school at Colorado Rocky Mt School outside of Aspen. Ended with a 30 year career as a child psychologist.

You never know the extent of folks who cross our paths. I’m glad you crossed ours. All the best, Michael Brandon, Ph.D.

District Psychologist-Pearland I.S.D., Child-Clinical Psychologist, Licensed Specialist in School Psychology & Registrant-the National Register of Health Service Providers in Psychology.

I thank Michael Brandon for his ringing endorsement of the element of chance in which I played a small part by suggesting Killooleet to his mother. His five year experience there obviously shaped his life and his future, but his email really stands as a ringing endorsement of the dream that John and Ellie Seeger made their life’s work. I could not possibly imagine adding another superlative to his well chosen words.

My sincere condolences go out to Kate and Tony Seeger, and to their spouses and their children, for the loss of their father and grandfather. I also send greetings to all of the counselors I knew and worked with during my six years at Killooleet.

John Seeger lived a long, 95 years, and fruitful life. His life’s dream, the children’s camp he and Ellie took over and ran so splendidly for fifty years, is still alive and healthy, thanks to the efforts of his and Ellie’s daughter Kate. And I can think of no greater tribute to a life well lived than having a legacy like Killooleet to mark your passing.

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The first thing I did upon receiving Bob Stein’s email announcing the memorial service for John, was to email my condolences to Kate and her brother Tony to her AOL email address, only to receive the following notice from the AOL Postmaster: : host[] said: 552 5.2.2 E4.12 seeger05748 MAILBOX FULL (in reply to RCPT TO command).

I can certainly understand the problem. Kate is obviously too busy at the moment to get around to checking her email, and I’m sure that with the passing of her father her box filled up pretty quickly with people offering their condolences.

Every time I send an email to Kate and all of the other non g-mail users I correspond with, Google reminds me to invite them to g-mail. I usually don’t, but at this time I would point out to Kate and all other non G-mail users that in G-mail you never have to worry about your email box not receiving a new message because it is full. I don’t think it is possible for a normal user to come anywhere near filling up a Google account. That, plus it being free and completely dependable, and the way it keeps spam at bay, are the best reasons I can think of for consider using G-mail.

You don’t necessarily have to completely abandon your present email client. You can keep using your current service for your present day correspondence, just adding G-mail for new correspondence, and the load on your inbox will soon lighten notably. However, everybody I know who adopts g-mail soon abandons their original client because of g-mail’s truly superior handling of conversations and spam and the like.

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Tiger Woods on Friday made a good first step in his road to a comeback. He spoke of getting more therapy, and even though he didn’t rule out a return to golf eventually, he made no mention of it in his immediate future. The one thing we got out of the press conference was the true extent of Tiger Woods’ shame and sorrow. The most touching moment came after the completion of his speech when he interacted with his mother, who had sat on camera, watching his every word, and at the end stood for an embrace.

And so we come to the end of yet another Little Eddy Blog. Don’t forget to take us up on our offer to publish your favorite memories of your days in camp, either as camper or counselor. Just write them up and send them to the email address listed in our bottom line.

Our blog gets posted Saturday mornings at around breakfast time in Houston (around 8:00 am) and hangs out there for the entire week, although once in awhile we may bring it up to date if something notable happens. We hope you can find your way back here sometime next week to see what we’re ranting about then.

Meantime, don’t let yourself think for one minute about voting Republican this fall. We take that back, you can think any way you want about how you’re going to cast your vote. It’s just that we hate to see you getting taken in by the same old lies and fears and distortions that kept us in near tyrannical Republican regime that we were forced to live under from 2000 to Jan. 20, 2009.. But that’s more than enough politicking for now. Bye now. See you next time.

The Real Little Eddy §

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Blog # 127:Of first loves and Superbowls

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Shirley Temple at 3. According to her website the cheesecake photo of her above was taken by her father.

Little Eddy - Your Atypical Split Personality

I was born at 6:10 am on March 20, 1926, and grew up and became aware of people and things outside myself in the early 1930’s. I was a shy kid, very quiet and reserved in a public or school situation. So much so that once, when my 3rd grade teacher visited my home (teachers used to do that back when I was a kid) she was shocked to see me running around and playing in a loud, outgoing manner, a complete opposite of my persona in school. She was shocked to say the least, pointing out the difference between me in school and my at home persona, over and over again to my aunt Offie, who took care of me in those days while my mother worked.

A couple of days after that incident a ventriloquist came to Woodrow Wilson Elementary school and put on a program for the entire school. He was a typical ventriloquist of the time, in the image that Edgar Bergen would later project over the radio airways so successfully, the bumbling, straight-faced, reasonable, quiet talking ventriloquist with the big mouthed, wise-cracking, smart-ass kid for a dummy.

After the show when we were back in our classroom the kids all wanted to know how the ventriloquist did it. The teacher began explaining that the ventriloquist actually had two different personalities, his own very sober and straight forward one and the other one, that of a wise cracking kid. She had me stand up, and then used me as an example. She said, “just like little Eddy,” she said. “Here in class he is quiet and nondescript, you wouldn’t expect anything else out of him. But I was at his house the other day and he was a veritable wildcat. You would not believe how loud and forceful he became at home, playing with his neighborhood buddies. So in Eddy here, just like in the ventriloquist, you have a real life, true split personality.” Not that her assessment changed things for me in any way. My classmates just looked at me in a strange new way.

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My Very First Girl Friend

Who was your very first girl friend? Was she real? Or a figment of your imagination? As you just read, when I was a kid to the world away from my neighborhood I was this quiet, inwardly turned guy, a true introvert was the term society has assessed me. Only in my neighborhood playing with my buddies did my Mr. Hyde nature burst forth.

The shy, quiet to the world side of me mostly ruled, and so as I became aware of others besides me, the first little girl I fell in love with was an elongated, flickering black and white image projected onto the silver screen. She just a little younger than me, and went by the name Shirley Temple. She was pretty, cute, talented in song and dance, and extremely popular. She virtually eclipsed the other child actors of the time. I was a full fledged fan, and have warmed to girls who looked like her ever since.

So now you know the extent of my pathetic secret. My first girlfriend was 20 feet tall and existed only in flickering black and white. Shirley was cute, talented, and was attractive to both grown men and little boys of the day. And her image satisfied my personal need for a girlfriend until 1937 or so, when was 11 and was beginning to dream in color.

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Snow White holding her Magic Apple.

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With the release of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs in 1937, Walt Disney created a passel of dreams for lots of kids. Certainly it was the most ground breaking cartoon of its time, taking animation to an entirely new level. As you can tell by the above illustration, Snow White was projected on the screen in color, a real object of beauty, with a personality and also with a talent for singing and dancing. And the seven dwarfs were as engaging a collection of clowns that you could wish for. Even today, some seventy two years after its inception, Snow White is still capable of calling up dreams.§

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Super Bowl Sunday

Last Sunday was Super Bowl Sunday. Everything else on television comes to a early end on Super Bowl Day. Golf and tennis take the day off, and the NBA rushes to get its one Sunday network game over with well before coverage of the Big Game begins. And along with football fans the most interested group in the goings on of the coverage of Super Bowl are the members of the Advertising industry, for along with football fanatics the country over, it is THE big day for the nation’s Advertising Industry as well.

Beginning with Apple Computer’s iconic 1984 commercial which debuted in 1984, for many years technology companies have debuted their ads on the Super Bowl broadcast. This year a brand new technology company debuted an ad for the first time last Sunday. It was Google, and the ad was very much in it’s own unique style.

How was that? Subtle enough for you? It certainly must rank as the only story-commercial ever put to together as a series of Google searches. Notice how fast everything moved. Google is making a religion out of internet speed. Pretty telling ending, there, googling for directions to assemble a baby crib. A one of a kind tv commercial for damn sure.§

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Of course this brings to mind what many feel was the most influential Super Bowl commercial of all time, the one that created the genre so to speak. It was directed by film director Ridley Scott, and was intended to free computers from conforming to the tyranny of the dominating computer company of the time, IBM. It was so controversial that at first the Apple board of directors considered not running it. Steve Wozniac, co-founder of Apple along with Steve Jobs, was reported to have suggested to Jobs that should Apple refuse to run it the two of them pay to have it run. The board eventually capitulated, however, and it ran one time only, on January 22, 1984 during the third quarter of Super Bowl XVIII. And Super Bowl commercials have never been the same since. Here is what Wikipedia says about the commercial:

"1984" is an American television commercial which introduced the Apple Macintosh personal computer for the first time. It is now considered a watershed event and a masterpiece in advertising. It was conceived by Steve Hayden, Brent Thomas and Lee Clow at Chiat/Day, Venice, produced by New York production company Fairbanks Films, and directed by Ridley Scott. Anya Major performed as the unnamed heroine and David Graham as Big Brother.

Its only daytime televised broadcast was on January 22, 1984 during the third quarter of Super Bowl XVIII. Chiat/Day also ran the ad one other time on television, in December 1983 in Twin Falls, Idaho, so that the advertisement could be submitted to award ceremonies for that year. In addition, starting on January 17, 1984 it was screened prior to previews in movie theaters for a few weeks. It has since been seen on television commercial compilation specials, as well as in "Retro-mercials" on TV Land.

"1984" used the unnamed heroine to represent the coming of the Macintosh (indicated by her white tank top with a cubist picture of Apple’s Macintosh computer on it) as a means of saving humanity from "conformity" (Big Brother).

These images were an allusion to George Orwell's noted novel, Nineteen Eighty-Four, which described a dystopian future ruled by a televised "Big Brother." The rows of marching minions have direct cinematic parallels with the rows of marching minions in the opening scenes of the classic dystopian film Metropolis.§

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Oh yes, and back to this year there’s that brilliant 15 second promo for Late Night with David Letterman, with Dave, Oprah Winfrey and Jay Leno glumly holding down the sofa.

Tom Shales in his Washington Post column reported that the spot was conceived by Letterman, and recorded in his studio, and both Leno and Oprah were smuggled in there in disguise to fortify secrecy. It took 30 minutes to film, after which they were through. In spite of its short length, because of the rancor that had existed lately between Letterman, Leno, and Conan O’Brien in the months before, it will undoubtedly live long in the lore of the Super Bowl commercials. The shock value of seeing a completely down Letterman, followed by Leno laying the blame on himself, while in the tradition of feminine hood throughout the ages, Oprah vainly attempts to get them back on a positive plane.§

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Borowitz Reports New Toyota Slogans

It’s been a few weeks since we’ve brought you a Borowitz Report, although Andy keeps churning out at least two winners a week. His latest one takes on Toyota’s public relations department, and skewers them.

TOKYO (The Borowitz Report) – Hoping to reverse a series of public relations setbacks, Toyota today unveiled a new slogan, “Drive a Toyota. You’ll Never Stop.”

Company spokesman Hiroshi Kyosuke said that the slogan was chosen after the company considered several others, including “Toyota Puts the Pedal to the Metal. And Keeps it There.”

Mr. Kyosuke said that the company considered, but then abandoned, the slogan, “Toyota. The Last Car You’ll Ever Drive.”

(To sign up to have the Borowitz Report delivered to your very own email box, go here!)§

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Summer Camps as Laboratories of Creativity

Children’s summer camps are great laboratories in which to develop the adults of the future. They don’t have the mission that the school’s embrace, that of educating the coming generations. But they do educate, in a way that in some ways exceeds that of the schools. This is because although children’s camps do not have a mandate for education as do the schools, they put their campers in a situation in which campers have a maximized environment in which to develop their very own individual skills.

One factor determining eventual success is the size of the group, as well as the number of counselors available to supervise the groups. Camps with relatively large groups (12 to 15) of course will not be as flexible as camps with groups ranging in size from 4 to 6. Particularly if there is enough staff available in the latter to do a little experimentation when it seems to be called for.

What to do with Swearing 7 year olds

I remember when I left the rather traditionally disciplining University Settlement Camp over a disagreement in what I considered their over use of discipline in an attempt to use fear to establish their control, I thought some of the punishments were rather arbitrary for a camp designed to give campers an opportunity for a couple of weeks of summer fun. At the end of that summer I was in the market for a camp with a more progressive outlook and found myself attracted to, and applied to Camp Killooleet, run by two Dalton Teachers, John and Eleanor Seeger.

In my first year there I was assigned to a cabin of 14 seven year old boys. One thing that little boys usually discover at that age is the delight of using swear words. This is indeed swimming in unfamiliar territory, and it is behavior sure to get the approval of peers and a rise out of parents and other adults. And of course, that brings fresh attention to the kid doing the swearing.

It also brings up a slew of philosophical questions. Does our American constitution’s famous guarantee of the right to free speech apply to 7 year olds? Or does it only apply to those who have attained their majority? Interesting questions, right?

Don’t get me wrong, there was nothing malicious about the swearing these 7 year olds were practicing. It was in a purely experimental vein, as in seeing what one could get away with. But it was having an effect on campers outside our group, as well as bothering other adults.

What to do? Should we ban swear words altogether? Now that didn’t sound like a very adventurous path for a creative summer camp like Killooleet to take.

I had a long talk with John and Ellie about what the camp policy on swearing should be, and together we came up with what turned out to be the ideal solution. We wouldn’t outlaw cussing altogether, as that would be needlessly limiting every American’s, adult or child’s, inborn right to free speech. But on the other hand, nobody should possess the rudeness inflicted on them by those who would exercise their rights. As a result it was decided that my group would incorporate itself as a “swearing club,” with all of the time honored rights and privileges of cursers throughout the ages, but we would show our consideration of the non-swearing population by exercising our freedom of speech out in the woods away from all others.

Needless to say that worked like a charm. The novelty of being able to use language without impediment ran rampart for a couple of days before the boys realized that swearing by yourself wasn’t near as much fun as doing it before others. It was being able to do it in front of the others that had really made it worth doing. So soon my 7 year olds were back integrated into the rest of camp, the intensity of their speech exorcised from the general public, and only cropping up on occasions when the group was by itself.

I’ll follow that up with one further anecdote about the use of swearing. In case you might have noticed, 7 year olds aren’t the only ones that get a kick out of swearing. Boys of all ages have been known to covet the desire to shock their fellow human beings by way of their choice of words. I had a group of 14 year olds a couple of years later. One boy named Charley was really into swearing, and exercised his right of free speech as often as possible. He was discrete about it, and wise enough to keep it in our group, and so no one put any restrictions on him. But particularly around the cabin late in the evenings, as we were trying to get the group settled down for the night, Charley would find reasons to exercise his constitutional rights. Charley was also extremely adept in making himself obnoxious. In that group he was without peer.

On this one evening he was being particularly obnoxious. You could tell he was in a bad mood himself and was trying like hell to share it with the entire group. I went along with him for awhile, wondering if he was given enough rope, just how far he would take it.

Finally, at one point when he was in the midst of giving another camper a taste of hell, I decided I could take it no longer. “Charley,” I bellowed, “just what in hell do you think you’re doing? You’re being a major, high grade PissAnt, and that’s for damn sure.” Silence reigned as a stunned Charley instantly stopped what he was doing. He looked puzzled for a second, then his face lit up in the widest of smiles. “Piss-Ant,” he said, “That’s a new one. I never heard that before.”

That’s a Texas swear word,” I explained. “Means whatever you want it to mean.”

Thanks, Ed,” he said, his eyes lighting up. And for the remainder of that summer Charley made a certified attempt to behave himself, and when he found himself slipping back into his former mode he would stop, turn to me, and say, “I’m being a PissAnt again, ain’t I?” And I would agree with him and we’d move on from there.§

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Turning Around 8 year old girls

I remember one 8 year old girls’ group at Blueberry Cove which several counselors having had them for bed duty reported as being very disruptive, particularly at bedtime. It didn’t seem logical, for three out of the four were as mild mannered as female Clark Kents might be. It seems that the trouble was coming from Damni (not her real name), a Thai born girl who had been adopted by a C.I.A. employee father, a man who came from a noted family of New England nutcracker manufacturers.

I talked with our director, Ann G., about the situation, and she went along with my plan, which was to give the girls the same special treatment I was fond of giving my boy groups, a special overnight sleep out down by the shore.

It was a clear, crisp night, with not a sign of rain in the offing, and so we didn’t bother bringing down a tarp, only our sleeping bags. We went down before dinner, built a campfire on the beach, and had our meal of hotdogs. Kids do love hotdogs, and they will improve their morale without fail.

After eating it was dusk and we went in for a frosty ocean skinny dip, and afterwards, having had the frigid ocean to stimulate our blood flow, we gathered around what was left of the campfire to dry off, and sing songs and tell stories. We didn’t sleep on the beach, however, for the tide comes in pretty high at this time of year. Instead, after putting out our fire we trooped along the shore until we came to a stretch of woods, where we laid out our sleeping bags and settled down for the night. By then it was well after bedtime, so after a brief period of chatting, quiet crept over our little group.

The next thing I knew it was morning, and after quietly getting up to drain my tank, I crawled back into my bag. But others had been quietly awake, and soon one by one each girl had crept away to likewise take care of their overflow.

A moment later Damni had crawled into another girl’s sleeping bag, and since we had all been sleeping in our skin, there began a brief period of tickles and squeals and hysterical laughter. I pondered whether I should go break it up, but before I could leave my bag, it seemed to tone down of its own accord. After that we all got another coveted half hour of sleep.

After awhile I slipped on my swimsuit and checked out the shore. It was low tide. I roused the girls and suggested a morning muddle. (A muddle is where we all don bathing suits and decorate our countenances with mud, seaweed, and other artifacts of an ocean gone awol. Though it may sound icky to the average non muddler, the fact is that plenty of women pay through the nose to have mud applied to their bodies, citing its healing and medicinal properties.) The girls checked out the situation, and quickly agreed and they quickly put on their bathing suits and a’muddling we went.

For the next 45 minutes we were all creatively engaged in seeing how well we could disguise ourselves in mud and seaweed. And should they have been there to take in a view of their child, probably not a single parent would have been able to recognize his or her child in their present decorative state.

The morning ended in the shower, of course, with the morning’s creativity being somewhat reluctantly washed away. Afterwards since the group had missed the morning’s counsel, we had about an hour’s worth of free time before lunchtime. Fortunately BBC campers know how to enjoy, not fear, their free time.

Later their group’s regular counselor commented to me that no longer were their bedtime counselors complaining of their misbehavior, and so I figured that the activity had seemed to have turned the group around. And especially Danni’s sleeping bag hopping seemed to have calmed her down. Which goes to illustrate that sometimes, when situations get into the wrong kind of rut, maybe changing the routine and doing something special just might help set things on the right path again.§

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This week’s technical disaster consisted of my Comcast cable modem going out on Tuesday. No internet all day on one of the longest days ever. Picked up a new modem Wednesday morning, but though I spent much of the day wrestling with Comcast’s setup Wizard, we had no telephone until a technician came to plug in our phones. Things are now running smoothly once again, except for the fact that for some strange reason I lost all of my Safari bookmarks. I blame the Comcast Wizard, though what do I know? Strange, but at least I’m back on the internet. Funny how attached we can get to these services we couldn’t have dreamed of twenty years ago.

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And as we prepare to upload our weekly musings to Google’s Blogspot, we note that the Houston Chronicle is endorsing an initiative to place a Historical Marker to honor the fact that Lightnin’ Hopkins lived and worked here. From the editorial:

The recent news that Sam “Lightnin' ” Hopkins might finally get a historical marker in Houston surprised us. Could it really be true that our insecure city — usually so puppy-dog eager to proclaim its world-classness — has neglected one of our most legitimate claims to greatness?

And in his music, you can hear why. Those songs still speak directly to our deepest selves, to our bad-behaving inner whiners, to the no-account ids that good striving Houstonians do their best to repress. And, of course, we can't keep that stuff down forever.

So thank you, Eric Davis, for being the kind of blues fan who fills out Texas Historical Commission paperwork. Lightnin' deserves more than a plaque, but that plaque will at least be a start. By giving the bluesman his due, our city makes itself a little more balanced, a little more whole, a little more real.

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And so once again our blog runs out of space and time. We would like to remind you of our desire to open up the camp memories to any and all who have them and would like to share. Just write down your memory and email it to me at: I really am looking forward to reading your memories.

We will come back next week, Lord Google willing. Until then, have fun, think good thoughts, and don’t forget what the Republicans did to us for eight long years. How can our group memory be so short as to even think of voting Republican once again? It’s a depressing enough thought to make us not want to get out of bed in the morning. Well, bye now. See you soon.

The Real Little Eddy §

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Blog # 126: Here, There, and Everywhere

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Post Keynote Depression

From the Apple iPad Keynote

On Monday morning, as we try to wrap up our feelings on what was obviously the most meaningful technology product launch thus far this year, our thoughts return to a piece written by a certified geek, Jason McC. Smith, who is a self-described "software archeologist" who works at IBM's Watson Research Center in Hawthorne, N.Y. This post was republished by Nick Eaton’s P.I. Intellingser online’s Microsoft Blog, with Smith's permission.

Mr. McC. Smith attempted to explain Apple’s launch of its latest peek into the future of mobile devices, to all of his fellow geeks, many of whom pooh-poohed Job’s latest creations. After initially comparing the modern computer to an oversized SUV which few need but many want, he then says, “And not everyone needs a PC.

Think about it – the modern PC is a massively overpowered piece of kit for the average consumer. I don't mean the average geek, I mean the average consumer. Nearly everything we geeks love and adore about a general-purpose computer is a pain point for the average consumer.

* Browsable file system: They lose their files.

* Modularity and customizability: They have no clue where to start with the complexity.

* RAW POWAH: For what, typing in Word?

* Multitasking plus WIMP UI: They can't tell what app they're in.

Sure, some of them will adapt, but a lot won't. Think about how many times you've had a tech-support call from a relative, usually older, who is utterly lost.

The piece goes on to give Certified Geeks the most lucid reasons why whether they personally buy an iPad for themselves or not, they should thank the computing gods for Steve Job’s latest product launch. To read the full piece for yourself point your cursor and click here

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An Historic Conversion

If you’ve followed the Microsoft/Apple wars over the years and the more recent Microsoft/Google wars, you have to love this story. That is particularly true if you are skip-roping on Cupertino’s sunnier side of the street. A man by the name of Don Dodge, who spent five years traveling the country working as a paid Microsoft evangelizer telling businesses why they should use Microsoft products, was recently let go by the clever folks in Redmond.

Now, in less than three months, Dodge has gone from die-hard Microsoft evangelist to a Mac-using Google evangelist. You can read the complete article in which he describes his Microsoft to Apple transformation by pointing your cursor and clicking here! Because we found it an interesting read, to tempt you we would like to excerpt some of it.

For five years I was a Microsoft evangelist to the startup and venture capital community. That ended a couple months ago. I am now a Developer Advocate at Google and I love it. After years of defending Microsoft against the Apple fanatics I decided to go to the other side of the road to see for myself. The move from Microsoft was complete. From Windows to Mac, from Outlook to Gmail, from Explorer to Google Chrome browser, from Office to Google Apps, from Windows Mobile phone to Android, from Zune to iPod. But this post is all about the move to Mac.

Design matters – The most obvious distinction between Microsoft and Apple is design. Apple is quite simply the best hardware/software design company in the world. The video "Microsoft iPod" demonstrates in a very funny way the real differences in design attitude.

The Microsoft iPod

While funny, it is painfully true. My MacBook is sleek, elegant, fast, and efficient. The rounded edges are comfortable and smooth aluminum finish is beautiful. My Windows machine was a Lenovo X301 with Windows Vista. It was light and small for travel, but I don’t think anyone would classify it as beautiful. You see the design ethic in everything Apple does. The Mac, iPod, iTouch, iPhone and iPad are just beautiful, elegant, and imaginative designs that provide a delightful user experience. Design is probably the reason that high end buyers choose Mac.

End to end experience – One of the major advantages Apple has is controlling the end to end user experience. This means the hardware works perfectly with the software. Networks, printers, and other peripheral devices work out of the box without lots of setup, configuration, and preferences. For years this has been a major advantage for Apple. The downside was that Apple products cost more and you could only get software and peripheral devices from limited sources. Microsoft, in contrast, was the Swiss Army Knife of the tech world. It could do anything with any vendor of any hardware, software, of game maker. All these choices from different vendors caused lots of variation in design, installation, OS requirements, and overall user experience. The Apple experience was just easier and more elegant.

The screen on the MacBook is gorgeous. Bright and clear. Smooth edges. Just perfect. You can get beautiful screens on a PC too, but you usually have to upgrade significantly and pay extra.

The battery life is significantly better on the Mac. The Mac also starts up and shuts down faster than the PC. My guess is that because Apple designed the hardware and software they are better able to control all the variables that effect battery life, startup and shut down, and make it much more efficient. The magnetic power cord attachment is pretty cool too. It only takes one time where someone trips on your power cord and sends your PC crashing to the floor to appreciate this feature.

Do operating systems matter anymore? You may have noticed that most of the differences I mentioned are hardware design oriented. But what about the differences in the operating systems? Perhaps the best attribute of an operating system is that it operates silently in the background organizing everything automatically without end user involvement. Ten or twenty years ago users had to deal with the operating system to do anything on a PC. Today most people spend their time in the browser. From my perspective the underlying OS doesn’t matter much. All my applications run in the browser. Web browsing, email, documents, spreadsheets, music, photos … everything is in the browser.

He goes on from there listing the features he really appreciated about his MacBook Pro, including the track-pad and back-lit keyboard. He ended his post summing up this way. “My mother who doesn’t use computers, and doesn’t really understand them, asked me how the transition was going. I said “Imagine you learned to drive in the USA and had been driving a Ford Mustang for 20 years. Now imagine you moved to the United Kingdom and started driving a Jaguar on the left side of the road. The Jaguar is an elegant car, and wonderful to drive, but it takes a while to get used to the other side of the road.”§

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Ex-Microsoft Tells Almost All

And finally, the N.Y. Times ran an OpEd piece written by an ex-Microsoft employee named Dick Brass, who just happened to lead the team which attempted to bring Microsoft’s Tablet to market ten years ago. It says, in part:

Microsoft has become a clumsy, uncompetitive innovator. Its products are lampooned, often unfairly but sometimes with good reason. Its image has never recovered from the antitrust prosecution of the 1990s. Its marketing has been inept for years; remember the 2008 ad in which Bill Gates was somehow persuaded to literally wiggle his behind at the camera?

While Apple continues to gain market share in many products, Microsoft has lost share in Web browsers, high-end laptops and smartphones. Despite billions in investment, its Xbox line is still at best an equal contender in the game console business. It first ignored and then stumbled in personal music players until that business was locked up by Apple.

The article goes on to present an honest look back at the struggle to bring new products to light at the Redmond giant, and it is one of the more fascinating reads we’ve seen on Microsoft lately. It may be read in it’s entirety here

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Keynote Envy

We’re sure that all of you who are interested have already discovered the Apple Keynote which introduced the iPad and is featured on Apple’s website, and have watched it by now. If, however, if you are interested and haven’t as yet, we hereby offer you a link. To watch the complete Keynote click here! This brings you the entire event, so plan your time accordingly.

Don’t have the time to watch the original? The website boils down the original to 3 minutes, bringing you only the superlatives. Clicking the arrow below will hurtle you through it.§

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Presidential Masochism?

President Obama is certainly between a rock and a hard place with the nay saying Republicans, who now attempt to rule the Senate with their 41 person minority, with which they can filibuster each and every administration proposal. He did the unthinkable, he stepped in the lions’ den last week when he addressed the Republican Senate Caucus. No president had ever subjected himself to such an experience before, but Obama realized that nothing short of such an extreme event might stand a chance of breaking the total gridlock our political driven government is experiencing. And fortunately he was able to convince the Republicans to let the event be televised so that the country might witness it in real time.

The President answered every Republican question honestly, acceding that whereas there might be a second side for some of their objections, he ran on various platforms, was elected unanimously, as were the Democratic Houses of Congress, but he pointed at many instances whereby the House and Senate incorporated Republican suggestions into various bills, only to see each and every House and Senate Republican stolidly refusing to cast an aye vote.

21st Century Republicans, unlike either party in the past when the opposition was in charge, has evidently decided that the quickest way to get themselves back in power would be to loudly oppose everything President Obama proposes. What that means is although in theory all Republican Senators and House members were elected to serve the American people, when they refuse as a block to vote even on legislation needed to fund the military, it is obvious that they are working for their party’s ambitions, not for the American people.

They are confident that the American people are with them in this. However Newt Gingrich in an earlier Republican showdown with Bill Clinton tried to shut down the American government. Bill Clinton held his ground, and Gingrich was the first to blink. It will be interesting to see whether, after the Republicans continual attempt to block everything Obama tries to do to aid the country, whether or not the public will reward, or punish them. 2010 promises to be a most interesting political year. We pray that come November the American voter has a long memory.

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Sen. Collins Unblinkingly Aids Terrorists

The Republican leadership (we use that term loosely) has evidently turned over to Senator Susan M. Collins, Rep. of Maine, the task of trashing the administration’s security program. Ms Collins who seems to be the closest they can come to a regular human being, presented her (to our ears) rather air-headed reasons for opposing President Obama’s tactic of treating terrorist captives in the criminal justice system, rather than in military courts. Following in the jack-booted footsteps of former vice-president Dick Cheney, she implies that the policy of reading terror suspects their Miranda rights makes the country less safe.

On the other, rational side of the coin, are those who of us who believe that giving terrorists the same legal rights as our homegrown criminals is far less likely to give your overseas terrorist recruiter recruiting ammunition than if we continued treating our prisoners to water-boarding and other Geneva Conventions torture violations. True they are attempting to murder our citizens and disrupt our way of life, but whether or not we have to get on their level to resist them is a matter of dispute.

In their excessive zeal to question and demean every move President Obama makes, they won’t admit it but these Republican Red Necks are holding a loaded gun at the heads of all Americans. Why? Because such an attitude is just what terrorists want to hear, it encourages the hell out of them, and I along with the heads of our Intelligence Agencies are sure they are planning one or more attacks at this very minute.

During World War II “loose lips sunk ships” and it was a treasonable offense to leak information, or for that matter, to expose any part of the nation’s spy program. These days the Bush administration exposed an active CIA agent in order to try and demean her husband, and even though it is against the law to expose a CIA agent, no one really got punished for it. Meanwhile in the marble halls of Congress, it seems to be not “one for all and all for one” but “now is the time to come to the aid of one party by trashing the other party.

Are people going to buy into this tactic? It’s hard to say. Certainly Boston came down hard electing a Republican and former Cosmo centerfold to the Senate seat replacing Ted Kennedy. That comes as close to heresy as we can imagine, an obscene repayment to Kennedy’s memory after his many years of public service. However more recent elections in Illinois have failed to show obvious signs of voters punishing present office holders. Much will depend on the memories the American voter will bring to the 2010 elections. The image of GOP Senate Leader Mitch McConnell’s benevolent smirk as he spearheads his party’s jabs haunts my memory and will sure as hell shape my vote. What I wonder is “am I still in a majority?§

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Why in the World Combine Summer Camp

Memories Along with Political Rants?

I’m sure some who stumble upon this blog must wonder at the strange juxtaposition of political rants along with a sprinkling of Apple skewered technology news combined with memories of working in children’s camps. Aside from the reason that those camp memories vividly light up these so-called “golden” years of mine, I think many of the stories shine a light on situations that I feel are important to note in these somewhat twisted times.

In many respects today’s so-called “civilized” society is unbelievably sick. Middle and High School students taking automatic weapons to school and offing their fellow students along with a teacher or two, that occasional NRA fanatic who takes the cream of his collection of automatic weaponry and blows away 14 to 16 MacDonald patrons, not to mention those unspeakable assholes who kidnap little boys and girls and leave their lifeless bodies for the police to later find.

These plus the polarized political attitudes which today are doing their damndest to bring our federal government to a standstill, who can blame me then for turning my mind back to the sixties when life was simpler, and when I could counsel some of the cream of tomorrow’s citizenry, and also learn from the very campers I was hired to lead.

I was never one of those people who lived by slogans like “my way or the highway!” Some people live to lead others, whenever possible I liked to give campers a loose framework and see what they would come up with on their own.

In most children’s camps, as in the school system, most campers go to their assigned activities with their group. However if you have a tight enough structure, you could break this rule. At Blueberry Cove, a rather small camp with around 50 campers ranging in age from 7 to 11, the average group consisting of four campers, the entire camp came together every morning for a counsel whereupon both campers and counselors could partake of the morning activity of their own choosing.

Sure normal activities like horseback riding, art, and shop dominated. But fishing was a popular morning activity and seasonal activities like berry hunting walks were also popular at those times when the berries were ripe. And the campers who attended the more traditional activities, did so because of their own choice, not because their group was arbitrarily assigned to it. As you might well imagine, this produced, a wider variety of activities, as well as more interested participants.

I learned a lot working with children. One of the most valuable lessons I learned was that in order to give children the most freedom of choice, it must be handed to them from a stable framework. As free as the morning activities were at BBC, the rule was you must be back in time for lunch. It was important for the children to be fed at a consistent time.

Pierra with Sketchpad at Mr. Dennison’s Farm

One of my favorite photographs from my first year at Blueberry Cove was of a nine-year-old camper named Pierra walking up a field with some very Maine-ish looking twisted, weather-marked trees in the background. It was taken in the field at Mr. Dennison’s farm, the place from which the camp got many of its animals.

Pierra was holding a large drawing tablet, as she was returning from a field where she had been sketching the horses. She had been on a morning trip to Mr. Dennison’s along with a small group, some of whom had been sketching, others riding horses, and still others playing with small farm animals. It was an excellent example of the type of activity a small camp group could engage in on a short trip. And it was the type of activity which could only have been dreamed up at a morning counsel where children and staff alike choose the morning’s activities.

This is not to imply that this was the only way to structure activities. There are many paths to nirvana, and no one is favored over another. But in today’s overcrowded schools children are more often than not required to subvert their individuality to the group, by wearing a required uniform and being encouraged to quietly follow rather than develop their leadership skills. Camps, on the other hand, are excellent places in which to draw out each camper’s individuality. It is exciting, and it produces well grounded future adults in the long run.§

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And so as we make a rather desperate attempt to justify the joining together of the disparate parts of our blog, we have come to its inevitable end. Although we collapse into electronic nothingness at this point every week, we do spend the next week putting together yet another blog.

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As we fade away we take brief note of the so-called Tea Party phenomenon. Many splinter groups boycotted the Nashville convention because of it’s high price tag ($499 per attendee?), necessary we guess to pay Sarah Palin’s speaking fee.

Tea Party clowns got their share of attention on America’s news channels, and Republican’s understandably attempted to align themselves with them, although the T.P.‘s have about the same opinion of the GOP for running up America’s big debt in the first place, as they do with Democrats. A pox on both their houses.

Their policies might sound good to people without much sophistication and little imagination, but in the real world, their governing would undoubtedly complete our nation’s decay. However, Democrats everywhere are undoubtedly wishing them well in the election cycle of 2010, as they will undoubtedly pull from the Republican side, giving the donkey party a fighting chance at re-election in certain key areas.

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We would remind you that we would like to open up the camp memories section of our blog to all with meaningful memories of their own camp experiences. Perhaps if we get any takers we can grow that part of the blog, perhaps turning it into a blog of its own. Think about it, all camp memories, no lame political rants or third hand technology news. At any rate, to share your memories email them to:

We upload each week’s edition on Saturday mornings, usually at around 8 am CST. We hope you find your way back anytime next week to see what we’re going to be up to. It may be something quite different from what we wrote about this week, or then again it may not be. In any case, the only way to find out is to surf your way back. Meantime, bye now.§

The Real Little Eddy §