Ramblin’ Man: May 16, 2013

by David Porter

The big wedding is less than two weeks away. Our baby girl will be moving out and moving on.

She’s been counting down the day for months now. I’ve been treating it like an appointment for a colonoscopy. You know it’s coming up but you just don’t want to think about it.

Our son came with our marriage, so my wife and I have never been together without kids in the house for the 22 years we’ve been married. What are we going to talk about when it’s just the two of us?

That’s just one of the questions that Laura’s denesting brings up. (Yeah, “denesting.” It’s a real word — that I just made up.) Other questions include things like: What will we do with all the money we save? Who’s going to clutter up the staircase? And what am I going to do with her bedroom?

She seems to think that her bedroom will continue to be her personal storage space for as long as she wants. I’m thinking it will make a nice office. Her mother is thinking it should become a guest room that is actually a guest room instead of a multi-use room with a bed. I don’t know how long we’re obligated to keep her room looking like it’s her room, but I’m thinking two days should be sufficient.

The soon-to-be newlyweds have already secured an apartment and have been moving stuff into it. Blending two people’s stuff together for the first time in their lives is always an interesting and challenging thing. They’ll have to decide what to keep and what to leave behind. In many ways, it’s leaving childhood behind and moving into adulthood. When you have to share space, your priorities change as you negotiate and make concessions. For the groom, it might not be as bad because he has a slew of siblings. Except he’s the oldest, which means having the ability to pull rank that he might not be able to pull anymore. Laura has a brother but he’s much older and has been out of the house for 12 years. She’s been raised like an only child. We’ll see how she does in her new sandbox.

We helped her move a few things last weekend. The apartment is on the third floor which is another challenge — for me, anyway. When Penny and I married, we lived in a third-floor apartment but we were 22 years younger then. Third-floor apartments should come with their own oxygen masks.

The apartment is in an old school, so it has really wide hallways and stairs. I think they could take half the width of the stairs and put in slides. That doesn’t help climbing up the steps but it would make the trip back down more fun. And faster.

Maybe if I make enough trips up and down the stairs, I won’t have the energy to walk her down the aisle. And if I can’t do that then they can’t get married, right? Isn’t that how this works? It’s not that I don’t want her to ever get married; I think when she turns 35 or 40, it would be a great thing. She’s barely 21. Which means there’s not a dang thing I can do about it.

I know we’re at the end of this chapter, and she’s ready to turn the page. But I want to go back and reread the first half of this book. I guess I’m having a little trouble letting go. When they ask, “Who gives this young woman away?” I’m liable to shout, “Not me!” I just hope I set the foundation right — solid and level — as she and her groom build their new life together. Life: singular. They’re not building their lives together. They’re building their life together. One life. If they can understand that, they’ll do all right.

The Ramblin’ Man: April 25, 2013

by David Porter
There’s a house I want in Tallula, Illinois. I’m never going to buy it, though, mostly because it’s in Tallula. Where’s Tallula, you ask? Exactly.

I can tell you where Tallula is not. Think of the place where you’d most like to be. Tallula is nowhere near there.

It’s a town of about 650 people half an hour northwest of Springfield. It’s not far from Petersburg, which is a nice little town. The problem with towns the size of Tallula is that they can’t afford the luxuries of a larger city – like police patrol and code enforcement.

But, in the middle of Tallula, and off to the side, sits a gorgeous, grand mansion that’s for sale. The price is actually less than I paid for my house. I could afford this mansion, I tell myself.

It has five bedrooms and two bathrooms in the main house, plus a library and a parlor, eight fireplaces and a full basement. Then there’s the guesthouse with two rooms and a bath. And there’s a separate 3-car garage.

Inside, the ornate fireplaces have been converted to natural gas. Outside, there’s a wood-burning hut that supplies hot water heat for the house. There’s a heat pump on the other side of the house for another source of heat. The exterior is mostly brick with two round rooms – the dining area on the first floor and part of a bedroom upstairs. Think of the parties we could have and you’re all invited.

It’s a grand old home, but it needs a lot of work. The brick needs tuckpointed and the front porch floor is gone. There is water damage to several of the eaves, which would take a whole lot of scaffolding or a manlift to reach. The roof looks like slate covered with an aluminum paint to seal it.

This is the type of house you’d call a money pit. You could work on it your whole life and never be done. I don’t have that kind of time or money.

The big thing, of course, is that it’s in Tallula. My wife has to be at work before dawn most days; adding a 30-minute trip through the country on a snowy day would not be too good.

I’m just drawn to this house, though. I love big, old, Victorian homes and had the honor of being caretaker of one in Tuscola for three years starting when I was 19. I hope someone buys this monster in Tallula and puts the work into it that it needs. It would be a shame to lose such a hidden treasure. There’s even a thin Abe Lincoln connection to the house, but in these parts, every building has a thin Lincoln connection.

It occurred to me that this is the type of house that would have been built by the richest guy in town. It also occurred to me that I’m not that guy. We’ll let somebody with more money take on this project. But it’s nice to dream, isn’t it?

Ramblin Man: April 4, 2013

by David Porter
I’m proclaiming Sunday’s snowfall in Springfield, which totaled about 16 inches, to be the best snowfall ever. I have to confess, though, that I like snow. For a lot of people, a winter without snow would be the best ever. Not me. I like all the seasons, and I think spring is appreciated more after a snowy winter.

I will back up a little bit, though, and qualify my liking the snow. I don’t like ice and I don’t want the snow to hang around all winter. That’s partly why Sunday’s snow was so good.

It was a nice, gentle snow without too much wind and without bitter coldness. There was a lot of it, and it was a heavy, wet snow, but the temperature was into the 30s, so it was not bone-numbing cold. Plus, by Monday, it was melting off pretty well.

The best part, though, was using it as an excuse to take a vacation day. I take my computer home on the weekends, so if the office really needs me, I can do everything from home that I can do at work. I didn’t have anything super pressing at work, so I took the day off.

My wife, though, wasn’t so lucky. Not only did she have to go to work, she had to leave the house around 5 a.m. Worse yet, she wanted me to take her. So much for vacation time.

You can read into this all that it entails. A) I had to get up way early; B) I had to have the seemingly mile-long driveway cleared, which I do the old fashioned way with a shovel, an aching back and lots of breaks; and C) I had to get up way early, which deserves a second mention.

Add to that the fact that our street is not on a priority list for snowplows. We did not see a snowplow on our street until after noon on Monday. That made it an interesting trip downtown at 5 o’clock in the morning.

I had shoveled the walk and drive Sunday afternoon and again Sunday evening. The first time had about 6 inches of snow in the drive; the second had another 9 inches. I shoveled again Monday morning with another inch or so on the drive.

Fortunately, a truck had gone down our street leaving its tracks and skimming off the top layer of snow. I had to shovel 25 feet into the street to get to the tracks, and then shovel a wide enough area for the car to make a turn. The snow in the road still scraped the bottom of the car the whole distance down the road.

We live about three quarters of the block from a main road, which had three wide lanes neatly plowed. I wondered why they couldn’t have made a side trip down our street before cleaning off the third lane. I’m sure it has to do with traffic counts, emergency vehicles, loss prevention, saving lives and that sort of the thing. But c’mon, we need to be able to get to the main roads.

Fortunately, at 5 a.m., there’s not a lot of traffic, especially with a foot and a half of snow on the ground, so we pretty much ignored stop signs. If the car is moving, you’re not stuck. A good way to get stuck is to stop moving.

I left the house a little afternoon to go hang at the coffee shop where I’m taking lessons in the fine arts – you know, poker, and, uh, just poker, really. Sometimes I give the lessons. Sometimes I get the lessons.

Anyway, I arrived home late Monday afternoon to find that the plow had gone by and filled most of my driveway back in. Where I had shoveled loose, fluffy snowflakes, there now stood heavy, dense blocks of ice two feet tall. I really appreciate the plow driver taking special care to make sure these boulders were neatly placed in my drive and not, say, in the ample grassy area where the city exercises a right-of-way. This way, I could place those big blocks wherever I think would be best, which is anywhere but inside the threshold of my driveway.

I drove Penny’s car Monday since it’s garage-kept and didn’t need cleaning off. I left mine until Monday evening. By that time, Mother Nature had taken nearly half of it back through compression and melting. I’m thinking that if I stay home tomorrow, I might not have to brush off the car at all; just park it in a sunny spot.

With no little kids at home anymore, I didn’t get to do any sledding or build a snowman, but I did make a couple of delicious batches of snow ice cream. I figured the first few inches of snow cleaned out most of the pollutants in the air. I’m a little leery of eating snow these days what with all the environmental issues. I won’t use blowing snow because it picks up dirt. As long as the snow is fresh and not yellow, we’re good.

By the end of the week, it’s supposed to be into the 50s. The only snow we’ll see will be the mountains pushed together by the snow plows and left to melt in the corner of a grocery store parking lot. Some of those stick around for weeks. Hmm. Maybe I can get in some sledding and snowman building after all.

Ramblin Man: March 28, 2013

by David Porter
I’m taking a vacation day tomorrow. I’ve got too much work to do to really feel like I can take vacation, but sometimes you need a little “me time” before tackling the big jobs. I haven’t taken off except holidays and a couple of sick days since before the first of the year, and it’s looking like July before I could take a week, so I figured I better get a day in here and there.

I have a bad habit of taking my computer with me and checking my email while on vacation, which drives my wife nuts. I’m just afraid that if I don’t do at least a little work on my days off, they’ll figure out that they can get along without me. There’s nothing like mutual dependency to stave off unemployment.

I don’t have any plans. I might end up down at the coffee shop. I have to call it the “coffee shop” now because my mom gets the newspaper and I wouldn’t want her to concern herself in regard to my bad habits. Hi, Mom.

I’ll probably sleep in tomorrow then stay up late in my mancave out in the garage. I’ll wake up groggy on Wednesday wishing I could take another day.

That’s the extent of my exciting vacation plans. Or, maybe I’ll get motivated and do something different like bake bread from scratch or organize my tools. You and I both know that’s not going to happen, but for now, the possibility exists. Let’s be optimists for a moment.

Being on vacation for a day makes me think back to the vacations I took in my youth. It’s not hard to remember our family vacations because there was only one. We only took that one because my dad had gotten laid off from his job, and he was looking for work. He knew a guy in Wisconsin for whom he’d worked before, so we went up there for a visit and made a couple of other stops along the way. We never stayed in a hotel. If we didn’t have family or friends on a route, that route just wasn’t going to work out.

My dad was not the vacationing type. Maybe if it had just been him and mom he might have traveled more, but with six kids in the family, we didn’t go too far in one car.

That one car, back in the 70s, was an old, white Cadillac. My oldest brother was at least six feet tall by then, so stacking us six kids into any car was tricky – even a boat like that Cadillac. Here’s how we did it: Mom and Dad rode up front, of course, and my youngest brother rode between them. Remember the old armrests that would come down between the front seats? He’d sit on that. The four oldest would sit in the back seat, and I, being the smaller fifth child, would lie across the ledge in the back window. It was my favorite place. I had plenty of legroom, I could see the world behind us, and it was someplace where the others couldn’t go and didn’t want to go.

Think how many traffic tickets one would get today for that arrangement. No child safety seats. Not enough seatbelts to go around. Me in the window. I’d probably get put into foster care for that today.

Somewhere on Facebook, there’s a picture of the six of us posing with our cousins in Oak Forest, and that old Caddy is visible in the background. I look positively bored to be in the picture. I probably just didn’t want to stop whatever I had been doing to take a picture.

This wasn’t the only vacation I took as a kid; it was just the only one we took as a family. I went a couple of times with the neighbors since they didn’t have enough kids of their own. We got to stay in hotels and rode to Florida in a camper mounted in the bed of Mr. A’s pickup truck. That was deluxe, but that’s another story for another day.

My vacation day has officially started, so I’m going to go make the most of it. Translation: It’s naptime.

But just to make this feel like a real vacation, I turned off the thermostat so I can’t regulate the temperature in the room, and I hired the neighborhood kids to run and scream outside my window all night. Then in the morning, I’ll get dressed before walking down the hall to my living room where I’ll enjoy a warm glass of orange juice that has been sitting out all night. Then I’ll go down to the Big Mart store and wait in line for 30 minutes while pretending that the cash register is a carnival ride that will break just before I get to the front of the line.

By the end of the day, I’ll be ready to go back to work.

Ramblin Man: March 14, 2013

by David Porter
My granddaughter says she had the best day of her life Saturday. I had little enough to do with it, but I did put her in the right place at the right time, so Pawpaw scores some points.

She’s 10 years old with a precocious interest in politics and government. She’s also very big on family — she enjoys learning about her genealogy and meeting extended family members. So it was a double whammy Saturday when I took her to meet Congressman Bill Enyart, who is her third cousin. She had not met him before but had campaigned for him as she lives in his district; she passed out 23 bumper stickers at her school. She was pretty excited to meet him.

The occasion was Congressman Enyart’s retirement from the military. He served as the head of the Illinois National Guard for the past 10 years and is a 2-star general. We attended the “change of command” ceremony. I kept looking over at Kelsey; I thought she might be getting bored, but she was enthralled. After the ceremony, we waited in the reception line so she could get her picture taken with the congressman and get his autograph. The congressman didn’t disappoint. Already, Kelsey was proclaiming this to be the best day of her life, but there was more to come.

We went to lunch along with some other family that had driven over for the ceremony. We were waiting for our food when the congressman and his wife walked into the restaurant. We weren’t expecting them, but the table next to ours was open, so they joined our party. Now Kelsey had a chance to spend more time with him. He gave her a business card and offered to visit her school. She told him what she had told us earlier: “This is the best day of my life.” He took the comment humbly, pointing out that her life was relatively young and that she will undoubtedly have many more “best days.”

After the meal, she went over to him to show him one of her many bracelets. She was wearing a charm bracelet with a star and a flag. The emblems reminded her of him, she told him. “Well, here,” he said. He pulled the flag patch off his uniform and handed it to her. The little chatterbox was rendered speechless. I think the whole table was speechless. I was a little jealous. Not really jealous, but I didn’t know what to say. I thought maybe, “Hey, General, you’re out of uniform,” but that seemed a bit ungracious. No, this was a serious moment. It was, after all, the best day of Kelsey’s life. I could have bought her a pony and it would have paled in comparison.

I’m sure the congressman saw it as a small thing, but he also knew it was a huge thing for her. Days later, her feet still haven’t touched the ground. For a few days, at least, some boy band out of England called One Dimension was not at the top of her hero list.

After lunch, we had the photo of her with the congressman developed and bought frames to put all of her souvenirs in. She planned to take them to school, so I wanted to make sure they would stay together and secure. She will keep these mementos for the rest of her life.

With her zest for learning, she was on the Internet that afternoon researching why the flag on a uniform is backwards. She wanted to be able to explain it to her classmates. I expect that this kind gesture will continue to pay dividends well into the future. You just never know when a small act will pay off big. Knowing that, maybe we ought to perform more of them. Of course, it helps if you’re a 2-star general and a congressman. That gives you a leg up. But anyone can make the world brighter for someone.

What’s that saying? To the world, you are one person, but to one person, you’re the world. So, if you want to change the world, I guess that means you’d start with yourself? And if you want to be the world to that one person, I reckon you’d need to plan it. Get it? Plan-it. Planet. Inside, you’re laughing right now. I know it.

Ramblin Man: March 7, 2013

by David Porter
In this space, I like to joke around a lot, so I thought, hey, let’s write about the postal service. I apologize in advance to all my friends who work for the postal service; you’re all wonderful exceptions, I’m sure.

The United States Postal Service doesn’t want to deliver mail on Saturdays, anymore. They’d rather design and sell fashion clothing. Who is the Postmaster General these days, anyway? RuPaul?

That’s right. The USPS is launching a fashion clothing line. Nothing says “fashion” like a post office uniform. They don’t want to deliver mail on Saturdays, but they want to look good not doing it.

The new gear is called “Rain Heat & Snow.” That’s a bit misleading, I think. We didn’t have mail delivery in my town one day last week because we got about 3 inches of snow. The USPS says the name of its clothing line is meant to signify resilience. Ha!

The USPS says it lost $15.9 billion last year – more than 3 times the previous year, which saw a loss of $5.1 billion. The same press release from the USPS states that the $15.9 billion figure includes $11.1 billion to prefund its pension plan, which it was unable to do. It states that it defaulted on those payments.

Using a cash accounting system, one can see that the USPS actually lost $4.8 billion last year, which is better than it had done the year before. But, when you’re trying to spin a catastrophic outlook, you want to use an accrual accounting system that treats unpaid bills as a loss. I get that the $11.1 billion in pension payments is an obligation, but that obligation could change legislatively or be paid over a period of time. Plus, the USPS previously overpaid this obligation by some $50 billion. If you’re going to call the $11.1 billion not paid a loss, then you need to count the $50 billion not paid back as profit. Makes sense, doesn’t it?

Cutting Saturday deliveries would reportedly save the USPS about $2 billion a year. Which means, if they want to really tackle their debt, they’ll need to cut out delivery on Mondays through Fridays as well.

The postal service said they’d stop most Saturday delivery in August but would continue to deliver packages. They’re apparently more concerned about you receiving your box of postal fashion clothing than they are about your pension check.

I realize that mail is down. Nobody writes letters anymore. People get their checks direct deposited and pay their bills online. Well, not everyone. Who still uses the postal service? Elderly people. Poor people. Disabled people. Rural people without high-speed Internet access. These are the people who would be hurt by the loss of Saturday delivery.

And newspapers. A lot of newspapers deliver store coupons and fliers on Saturday. Come August, those important pieces of mail will be worthless by Monday – or Tuesday if there’s a Monday holiday.

The postal service recently cut a price deal with a large direct mailer to encourage businesses to use direct mail instead of newspapers. Now, the USPS wants to eliminate Saturday delivery, too, which, by the way, they can’t legally do without Congress’ approval; but they say they’re going to do it anyway. Who do these people think they are?

Now, I know some really dedicated, hard-working postal employees. But I know some slackers, too, and I’ve seen some inefficiency. One day, three different USPS trucks pulled up to the back door of our office at different times throughout the day. Maybe they ought to get their heads together and make one trip.

A co-worker pointed out the difference between our USPS delivery guy and the UPS lady. When the UPS lady comes in, she seems to be in a hurry. She is cheerful, but she doesn’t waste any time. The daily postman, on the other hand, pulls up in his jeep and sits outside talking on his cell phone for 20 minutes or more. Then he comes in and engages everyone he sees in conversation, sometimes regaling us with stories of the bargains he found at the antique mall while he was delivering the mail.

The whole time he was talking, I couldn’t help but think, dang man, I want a fashionable uniform like that. Ill-fitting navy shorts with a blue-and-white striped shirt, a boxy hat and my name sewn on a patch over the pocket? That’s stylin’.

The Ramblin Man: Februrary 7, 2013

by David Porter
Somebody sent me an email: “You should write a column about atrotious spelling.” OK, let’s start with the spelling of “atrocious.”
But the problem with writing about failed spelling is that I kinda live in a glass house in that regard. I misspell words all the time; sometimes on purpose, sometimes not. I tend leave words out sometimes. (That one was on purpose.) I treat punctuation as if I am the maker of the rules.

Another thing about pointing out some of the boneheaded spelling mistakes people make is that there is a Murphy’s Law that states: Any article about mistakes will contain misteaks.
Still, one can’t help but wonder if our civilization is devolving and how low it will go. When baristas can’t spell the word “coffee” right on their marquee, is there any hope for mankind?
We interrupt this dissertation for an announcement. I’ve just been informed that my copy editor, disenchanted by my chastising others about spelling in light of my own typographical missteps, will be going on strike in three, two, one …
Weigh too leave me hanging, dood. Whose goin fix all my spelling errs now? Your gitting a rare glimpse now of the Ramblin’ Man unmasked. The raw version. This is a [what’s the word I’m looking four?] event in the history of newspapers. A behind-the-scenes look at how writing really takes place. Their have never been a event like this befor.
We all make mistakes, and I reckon we ought to be a bit more tolerant. But c’mon. “Loose” when you mean “lose?” “Then” when you mean “than?” I can forgive “to” versus “too” because that’s just a slip-up. Even “it’s” versus “its.” Sometimes, there’s a blip between the brain and the fingers; you know what is correct and you intend to write it but your fingers go on autopilot and write whatever they want. But really, everyone should learn the difference between “their,” “they’re” and “there.”

I know “affect” versus “effect” is difficult for a lot of people. But “weather” versus “whether” should be a no-brainer.

A big culprit in our spelling degradation is the autocorrect function on smart phones and tablets. We type the right word, but our device thinks it knows better. About 90 percent of the time, when I type “want” on my phone, the phone changes it to “wasn’t.” It changes “you” to “thou” for biblical effect. Oddly, it sometimes changes “you” to “me.” Freudian, perhaps?

Then there’s the influx of British English in our American culture. Have you noticed how many people on TV speak with a British accent? Did we run out of homegrown personalities?

So, we see words like “jolly” and “loo” circulating when they otherwise wouldn’t. But we also see more British spellings as in “colour” and “theatre.” I think a lot of people don’t realize that when they use the word “towards,” they really should be using “toward” with no S. The S is preferred in England.

On the upside, there is no correlation between spelling and intelligence. True, dumb people may also be poor spellers, but a lot of smart people are poor spellers, too. Being a good speller can make a person seem smarter than he is. It sure helps with Scrabble, too.

So, what’s the point? Why should we care about spelling at all? If it’s not an intelligence indicator and everyone makes mistakes, why should we spend any time at all worrying about it?

Clear communication is essential. Lawsuits are won and lost over the interpretation of words. I don’t know that any wars have been fought over a misspelled word, but certainly, troop deployment and activity relies on clear communication.

Besides, we’re not cavemen. We don’t have to sit around and grunt at each other. But we like to. In fact, that’s one of my favorite things to do – sit around a campfire and grunt. It’s a guy thing. It usually involves adult beverages and Dominican exports. Spelling isn’t foremost on our minds during these rituals.

But I digress. Spelling is important. Yes, it is. It’s what separates us from monkeys and gorillas. Or is it gorilas? Gorrilas? Gorrillas? Monkeys. It separates us from monkeys.

Ramblin’ Man: December 20, 2012

by David Porter
I was reading a newspaper article at lunch about how to remember things. I was so engrossed in the material that I forgot what time it was.

I’m getting old, but I don’t forget that much, really. My problem is that I remember too much. I remember the same stories over and over and over. I just forget that I’ve told them already.

I’ve told the same jokes so many times that my family has assigned numbers to them. Now, I just shout out a number. “Thirty-seven,” I shout, and everyone chuckles. In a hushed tone and with a wink, I say, “One hundred and two.” People giggle sheepishly.

We were demonstrating this for my friend, Freddy Farkenstumple, and he said, “Hey, let me give it a try.” I handed him the proverbial reins and he shouted out, “Twenty-two!” Silence.

He tried again: “Ninety-eight!” Nothing. Nary a guffaw nor a snort in the house.

“What am I doing wrong?” he asked. “Did I tell it wrong?”

“No, buddy,” I said. “It just that some people can tell a joke and some can’t.”

Oh, you’ve heard that one before? Did I tell it?

I repeat jokes so much that my wife dreads meeting new people. She’s an outgoing, social gal, but she knows she’s going to have to hear the entire set again.

Lately, my jokes have taken on a mean spirit. I like to think that you have to sacrifice “nice” for “funny.” But mean is mean. I will make a point to be nicer.

Ha! That was a funny one.

Ramblin’ Man: December 13, 2012

by David Porter

Like many offices across the country, my office pooled their spare change and bought a few tickets for the recent Powerball that promised a $588 million payoff (minus taxes and lump sum discount). And like most of those office workers, we all came back to work on Monday.

As many of you know, I like to have meaningless fun with numbers, so I started analyzing our computer-generated picks. I made a grid numbered 1-59 and then eliminated all of the numbers we had picked. I figured our luck was such that we wouldn’t get any numbers right and I should, on my own, play the numbers we weren’t already playing.

I looked the list over and realized that I’d have to spend about $20 to cover all the unused numbers, and I’d have to have one ticket with all the right numbers in order. That didn’t seem very likely to me.

I had a gut feeling about the number 6, which was on the list of unpicked numbers. I thought 6 would be the Powerball number. I felt pretty good about it. I felt pretty confident, too, that none of my other numbers would hit.

I wish I had had a better gut feeling about the other numbers because, as it turned out, the 6 was the Powerball number. Had I bought a ticket using 6 as the last number, I would have won $4 on every $2 bet even if no other number had hit.

So, my $20 investment would have paid $40 had I actually bought tickets.

Turns out, the 6 was the only number among the office’s unpicked numbers that hit. Maybe that’s why I didn’t have a good feeling toward those orphaned numbers. None of them hit.

I did pick out six numbers that I intended to play, but I left the note at work and didn’t want to make a trip back across town to get them. Had I played them, I would have won $7 on my ticket. Had I retrieved my numbers, I would have spent close to that on gasoline.

So, the office numbers were all good numbers, except the Powerball number. Had we put them in the right order, we would have won $1 million. Add my Powerball number and we’d have struck it rich. And if turkeys could fly worth a darn, we’d all be eating chicken for Thanksgiving.

I guess I’m stuck with all my old friends; if we’d won the $588 million, I suspect there’d be a few new ones lining up.

Ramblin Man: November 22, 2012

by David Porter
In Pennsylvania, a high school hockey league has banned the playing of The Star-Spangled Banner because it takes too long. Apparently, it costs as much as $300 an hour to rent the ice rinks, so the group wants to get as much play time on the ice as possible.

The decision came after a hockey match was cancelled in the third quarter because the school’s rented ice time had expired. The game had started with a particularly lengthy rendition of the National Anthem, which was then blamed for the time expiration and, ultimately, the ban on playing the song.

Are you as incensed by this as I am? Is this not the stupidest thing you ever heard?

First of all, when you make a commitment to host a sporting event, you make a commitment to pay for it. If it runs over budget by $300, figure that out later. Or take up a collection in the stands. Surely, the two teams could have raised a few Benjamins to finish out the game.

Secondly, learn from this and keep the National Anthem to its normal run time. Or, maybe cut out some of the other pre-game festivities. Everyone has a program, so maybe you don’t need to announce every player as he skates onto the ice. Or maybe halftime could be shortened. Maybe work it out with the rink owner to donate the amount of time that the National Anthem plays so it doesn’t cut into rented time.

Maybe people don’t care about the National Anthem. A lot of folks want to change it to God Bless America because God Bless America is easier to sing and would irritate the atheists, the Muslims, the Buddhists and other groups. So, why sing The Star-Spangled Banner at all?

I read an online comment that I think summed it up pretty well. The National Anthem reminds us that we are all part of something bigger than ourselves.

During a sporting event, there are parallels to politics. There are two sides and people generally root for one side or the other, sometimes irrationally so. They talk smack, make promises they can’t keep and cheer when someone on their team does something good that they couldn’t do themselves. And, on occasion, the opposing team will have a moment that everyone can appreciate.

The National Anthem reminds us that while we root for different teams, we’re also on the same team. It adds a civility to the games that risks being lost without it. It also reinforces the benefit of tradition. Pride, patriotism and tradition are woven like the threads on the flag. When you break tradition, you tear at pride and patriotism.

So, do the right thing, Pennsylvania. Play the song and rent a little more ice time. The students need to know that ice time is not worth more than their nation’s anthem.