Saturday, January 31, 2015

No More Words to Write...

There are no more words to write.
The Hero is now gone. 
We must pull together, 
Stand and fight.
We must carry on...

On Thursday afternoon, in a room at Children's Hospital in Denver, Colorado, Kyle MacIntosh died. He was twenty-three years young.  At the moment his life ended he was in the company of those who he loved the most and those who loved him most of all.


Athletic Director Rick George's Tweet Honoring K-Mac

Cancer fucking stinks.  It is an equal-opportunity killer.  It pursues all of us with fervor and demonic zeal...even those of us who should be safe from it.  Those of us who are twenty-something athletes who take spectacularly good care of ourselves.  It is an infuriatingly insidious disease.  

Any one of us who is a parent has empathy today for Bill and Nancy MacIntosh.  It is the worst nightmare that any parent can endure - the death of one's child.  To my way of thinking, there is no greater disturbance in the natural order of things.  

Kyle MacIntosh is survived by his parents, Bill and Nancy, and by his sister, Kendra.  He is also survived by a legacy of courage and a legacy of love.  His good friend, Mitch Rivard, who created this site to raise money to help defray the family's medical expenses said it far better than I ever could, "Not a shadow of a doubt in my mind that Kyle beat cancer.  He never gave up and his strength inspired thousands, including myself. His battle will change the way I live my life forever, and I cherish the moments I shared with him. He may be gone but he certainly will never be forgotten."

Safe journey, young man.  


-AK 

Friday, January 30, 2015

The Thirty Thirty Club

If you know my daughter Suzanne, then you are likely not surprised that she has planned out her life with appropriate precision to ensure that today, the day on which she turns thirty, would be a Friday.  Happiness is having an entire weekend to set aside for the business of celebrating a special occasion.

She is a remarkable woman.  That is also not particularly surprising.  She is - in every hyper-prepared (and occasionally neurotic) inch - her mother's daughter.  She is - as importantly - blessed with the best of all possible combinations:  A superior intellect (she is what I refer to as "scary smart") that is wedded to an insatiable drive to work, to learn, to do more and to better herself and her life.  

Last January she celebrated her first birthday as "Mrs. Suzanne Aldrich".  In the twelve months since, she and Ryan migrated back to the State of Concrete Gardens.  Today, she celebrates her first birthday as a homeowner.  While I tend to lose track of such things, it seems to me that it was only sixty-plus days ago that M/M Aldrich moved into their home (I emphasize the pronoun because it is theirs and they have earned it).  Since the day they moved in, they have been painting and sprucing and updating as necessary to ensure that this special place - the place in which their life shall take its next steps and the place in which their family shall grow and prosper - is all that they want it to be and all that they need it to be.  What they have done thus far - adhering faithfully to the concept of "One Canoe, Two Paddles" - has been nothing short of remarkable. 

She is a force of nature, Suzanne.  It is one of the great undeserved bits of good fortune that serve as highway markers on my life's journey that at the time I fell in love with Margaret - a lifetime ago - Suzanne and Rob were part of the package.  Each was an extraordinary child and each has grown into a simply extraordinary adult.  Had I truly done much more than driven the car when we needed to be someplace and worked the necessary number of hours to ensure that the bills got paid, then I would risk dislocating my shoulder patting myself on the back.  I did not.  Therefore, I shall not.  

It has been my great pleasure and privilege to have been present and to have borne witness to Suzanne's journey.  A journey that on this very day has completed its thirtieth lap around the Sun. 

From where I sit, I get the feeling that she is just getting warmed up.  And the second act is absolutely going to be something to see. 

Happy Birthday Honey.  Keep wishing big...  


-AK 

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Men and Their Flying Machines...

First order of business on January's final Thursday is a shout-out to members of the CU community, including Athletic Director Rick George, and members of the Boulder community, including Kyle Ringo of the Daily Camera, for helping pay it forward for young, battling Buff Kyle MacIntosh and his family.  

In this space on Sunday, I wrote of Kyle's present battle.   I used Twitter to impose upon a number of folks - none of whom I know (including the aforementioned Messrs. George and Ringo) with a simple - yet invasive - request, which was to retweet what I wrote in this space about Kyle in an effort to spread the word even further.  To a person, they obliged my request, for which I thank them. If you want to help the MacIntosh family, you may do so here, here or (if you want to look incredibly stylish as you do so) here.  

Something extraordinary - and for my money wholly extraneous - happened in the State of Concrete Gardens on Tuesday.  When the blizzard that had been predicted to wreak havoc from one end of the state to the other failed to live up to its hype, meteorologists apologized for having predicted significantly more snow than most of us received.  One never needs to apologize to me for less-than-anticipated snowfall.  If they had predicted a blizzard and the day had instead dawned as eighty-five and sunny then perhaps I would hold them accountable for me flop-sweating while wearing my mukluks and parka.  But on Tuesday, while no one in New Jersey received the several feet of snow that had been feared to be heading our way, there were areas that received anywhere from six to ten inches of snow.  

From 11:00 PM on Monday the 26th through 7:00 or 7:30 AM on Tuesday the 27th, a Statewide travel ban was in effect.  Thanks to it, the hard-working men and women who spent their Monday night plowing, salting and sanding Jersey's highways and byways were able to do so with scant interference by the "civilian" population.  And since it appears as if the overwhelming majority of Garden State motorists complied with the ban, when I motored out of 'NTSG at about 5:00 AM on Tuesday morning to get to the office thirty-plus miles away, Route 287 was delightfully empty.  

I may be in the minority on this point - and if I am you can find me in the Crayola jumbo box in the slot reserved for the color "Could Not Give One Rat's Ass" - but I never take any issue with those of us we elect to govern us erring on the side of caution.  By preparing as they did - and perhaps in your area over-preparing - they did not strip us of our free will.  They simply did what they thought - based upon the best information then and there available to them - was necessary to protect us from ourselves.  Had they pooh-poohed the likely impact of this storm and Mother Nature had kicked us squarely in the nuts, then a significant number of the very same people who spent Tuesday venting their spleens about the over-preparation would have been cast in the role of insufferably whiny bitches, bemoaning the fact that our elected leaders let us down.

Proof  - even if of nothing else - that irrespective of the weather conditions, some airports are always open...




...the Captain has turned off the "Seat Belt" sign.  Please feel free to move about the cabin. 

-AK 

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

And I Really Used To Like Eating at Dairy Queen

I am into Week Four of my training program for this year's New Jersey Marathon (now less than three months away) and I continue to have what my brother Bill would refer to (and with just cause) as a decidedly "First World" problem.  The weather in these parts has been, well it has been January in Jersey, which has forced me to make each and every one of my four "long runs" to date on the treadmill in the basement.  

'Round these parts we have spent the past thirty-six hours or so dealing with some fairly lousy weather - although not nearly as dastardly as predicted or originally feared.  I went to law school to stay away from hard sciences such as meteorology.  Thus, I do not pretend to know where the line is drawn separating a very bad storm from a blizzard.  All I know is that for all of the technological advancements we have made to date in the 21st Century here in these United States we have yet to devise a way for snow to remove itself from my driveway and sidewalk.  And if we did have such a device, I would ship it north to New England so that the Connecticut branch of the Kenny Family Bramble Bush would have a far better chance than they do presently of seeing asphalt or macadam at some point earlier than Spring.  It appears as if every flake of snow that managed to miss us here in the State of Concrete Gardens descended upon Connecticut.

Given the less-than-spectacular performance of global warming this week (sorry, could not resist poking a little fun at all of my favorite Republican climatologists), I presume that I shall spend a part of my Super Bowl Sunday trudging ten miles on the treadmill.  Given how little interest I have in the game itself, it is not beyond the realm of possibility that those miles might be lodged shortly after 6:30 PM Eastern Time. 

I kid of course.

As if I would miss a single Super Bowl TV spot by running on the treadmill in the basement where I have no TV.

A basement with no TV.  Now there is a First World problem if ever there was one. 

-AK 

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

The High Cost of Ignorance

Nescire autem quid antequam sis accedrit, 
id et semper esse puerum. 

"To be ignorant of what occurred before you were born is to remain always a child."  So said Marcus Tullius Cicero.  And so said University of Colorado President George Norlin, in words deemed important enough that they are etched in stone above the west entrance to the library on the CU-Boulder campus that bears Norlin's name, "Who Knows Only His Own Generation Remains Always A Child".

Seventy years ago today, soldiers of the army of the Soviet Union liberated the approximately 7,000 remaining prisoners being held at Auschwitz Concentration Camp.  In expectation of the Soviet army's arrival, the Nazis had spent the previous days and weeks forcibly evacuating thousands of prisoners from the camp and marching them to their deaths.  

Today is International Holocaust Remembrance Day.   As part of the marking of the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz, a group of roughly two hundred survivors shall return to that place.  Most of them are in their eighties and nineties.  A considerable number of them are accompanied by a child or a grandchild - an individual to whom they have entrusted the responsibility of keeping alive the memory of what happened to more than one million human beings there, more than six million total, and the fact that it was other human beings who visited those atrocities upon them.  

Whether a member of our family was killed as part of the mass genocide that was the Holocaust or not, each of us alive today carries with us the responsibility of ensuring that what happened only seventy years ago on the continent of Europe is never permitted to occur again.  And not only never permitted to occur on the European continent but, rather, on any continent and anywhere in the world.  

-AK 

Monday, January 26, 2015

Every Day is Doubleheader Day

I've never worked a day in my life.
- Ernie Banks

I awoke early Saturday morning to the news that Ernie Banks, the legendary Chicago Cub, had died.  Mr. Cub - as he was deservedly and affectionately known by one of the best fan bases in all of sports - was eighty-three.  

Ernie Banks played nineteen seasons in the big leagues.  He was a Cub from mid-September 1953 until the final out on the season's final day in 1971.  In his nineteen years as a Cub, he never had a chance to play a single post-season game.  The team's lack of success was in contradiction to Banks' own.  He won back-to-back MVP awards in 1958 and 1959.  He had four seasons in which he hit forty or more home runs and eight seasons in which he drove in one hundred or more runs.  He retired with 512 home runs and 1,636 runs batted in.  

No player in Major League history has played more regular season games than Banks did (2,858) without playing a single post-season inning.  If, however, you are of the opinion that made him something other than a stone-cold winner, then you are mistaken.  One has to search long and hard to find an American athlete as beloved in the town where he played his games four and one half decades after he last played as he was when he said his goodbyes as a player.  Ernie Banks was the one.   

As a betting man, I am more than a little tempted to put down a bet on the Cubs to win the 2015 World Series.  The Cubbies have improved themselves substantially this off-season (something that my Yankees have curiously opted to not do).  And now?  Now they shall play not with a chip on their shoulder but with the smiling visage of Mr. Cub.  

-AK 


Sunday, January 25, 2015

K-Mac Strength

In the event you awakened today - as I admittedly do every now and again - feeling less than 100% and are contemplating not putting your best foot forward or - perhaps - are wallowing ever so slightly in a puddle of self-pity, then I have the cure for what ails you. 

His name is Kyle MacIntosh.  Although I have never met him in person, I am more than a little partial to this young man.  In the interest of full disclosure, a percentage of my good feeling about him stems from where he attends college.  Kyle is a Buff, a student-athlete who is a member of the CU Track and Field Team as a sprinter and a hurdler.  A significantly higher percentage of that good feeling, however, stems from who he is.  Kyle is a fighter.  

Cancer fucking stinks.  There is not a goddamned redeeming thing about it - irrespective of the type or the form in which it appears.  It is an invasive and insidious foe.  In a just world, it would not come for anyone.  It most assuredly would not come for twenty-three-year old college kids.  But it does.  And in the case of Kyle MacIntosh, it has. 

Kyle was diagnosed with Ewing's sarcoma on December 12, 2013.  It was first discovered in his hip and subsequently spread to his brain and to his lungs.  As a young man who spends a lot of time on the track, he has learned to run in only direction - and that direction is most certainly not "Away".  Cancer came hard after him and he, with the love and support of his family and friends, went back after it with a vengeance.  Today, spend the slightly less than four minutes needed to watch him document a day in his fight, which he did one day last summer.  

In the half year or so since he made that video, his condition has gotten perceptibly worse.  On December 26, 2014 he suffered an aneurysm and a stroke.  He had to be re-admitted to the hospital. He remains there still

This is one tough Buff.  Kyle completed work for his undergraduate degree and graduated in May, 2014, participating in the ceremony hours after completing a chemotherapy treatment.  The NCAA had granted him a sixth year of eligibility (secondary to a medical red-shirt), which enabled him to be enrolled at CU for the Spring semester, taking classes and planning on achieving his goal of reaching the finals in the 400-meter hurdles at the Pac-12 Championship.  

In the University of Colorado fight song, those of us who are Buffaloes sing of standing "Shoulder to Shoulder".  Words without deeds are mere gossamer.  That is not how we roll at CU.  Kyle's fellow Buffaloes have married actions to those words.  A web site has been set up to donate money to the MacIntosh family.  100% of the money raised goes to them to help them deal with Kyle's medical expenses.    On Thursday night and last night, as Coach Boyle's hoops team hosted Washington and Washington State directly, Kyle's fellow student-athletes had tables set up at the Coors Events Center at which a $10.00 donation netted the donor a white Colorado Buffaloes K-Mac Strength T-Shirt. 




This old alumni was happy to learn that for those of us who live a couple of days' drive from the Events Center, the very same shirt is for sale through the Athletic Department's web site with 100% of the proceeds going to the payment of Kyle's medical expenses.  This proud, three-decade (to date) member of the CU family - and my Missus - have put our money where my big mouth is above and beyond my t-shirt order.   I know that among those of you who come by this space on a regular basis there are several who are members of Buff Nation as I am. If you are and if you find yourself today in a position to lend an assist to this one, young member of the herd, then please do so - even if the assistance you are presently positioned to offer is measured in good wishes and positive thoughts as opposed to dollars and cents.

The Poet Laureate of Freehold once declared that we take care of our own.  If you bleed Colorado black and gold, then K-Mac is one of our own.   And taking care of him is part of our CU-Boulder DNA.  It is who we are.  It is how we stand.





-AK 





Saturday, January 24, 2015

The Tick-Tock People & The Inescapable Psi Of Boredom

I have stayed in the toy department my entire career 
because sports is a barometer of our society,
not a respite from it. 
- Jerry Izenberg 

We the people of these United States are - far too often for our own health and well-being - something akin to cats obsessed with a laser pointer with our attraction to whatever is bright and shiny and, by extension, our inability to prevent it from distracting us from the more important issues of the day.   At the risk of punching your ADD squarely in the face, among the things that might have sashayed right on by you while you were concerning yourself about PSI and other fraternities, was this minor piece of business.  

Only in America could a story about under-inflated footballs and their effect upon the outcome in which one team defeated the other by thirty-eight points be the #1 topic of conversation.  Had the pundits and the talking heads simply consulted George Costanza - THE acknowledged expert on the subject of the effects of cold and wetness on ball size - this entire inane debate would have been disposed of in a matter of minutes.


Then again, given that the Super Bowl is going to be played next Sunday evening in Glendale, Arizona, which is an area well-known for its bitter cold temperatures and its perpetual rainfall (scratch here for the inescapable whiff of sarcasm), and it is going to be played at the University of Phoenix Stadium (because every on-line university needs its own 72,200 seat football stadium), which has a retractable roof, how much concern is there exactly that weather conditions (a/k/a "Conditions that Cause the Patriots' Balls to Shrivel") shall be a factor?  

-AK 


Friday, January 23, 2015

A Well-Earned Rest

While it is never a good thing when someone you know experiences a death in his/her family, Evan Peterson's journey to New Jersey this week for the wake and funeral of his mom permitted me an opportunity to pay my respects to - and to catch up with - an old friend.  

I was pleased to hear him say that he is retiring at school year's end.  I was pleased not because I believe for one moment that he has lost even a hair of velocity off of his fastball.  Rather, it pleases me because he feels good, Gayle feels good and they shall now have more time to do whatever non-work things it is they enjoy doing - such as visiting their two adult sons and their respective families.

He told me the other evening that upon his retirement he shall have completed forty-one years in education.  I remember a lifetime ago when he started his career at W-H as a physical education teacher and as the coach of the Varsity Swim Team.  He left W-H for Texas not too terribly long after I graduated in 1985 although my graduation has little effect upon his decision, I assure you.  By the time he saw Inman Avenue in the rear-view mirror he was the #2 man at W-H.  While I do not recall if his official title was "Associate Headmaster" or something else altogether, the job he was doing at the Upper School was the job that Dad did at the Lower School right up until the day he died. 

My father loved Evan Peterson like a son. Truth be told, there were times he loved him better than one of his own.  My old man was not short on ego.  Nor, however, was he a pie-eyed dreamer.  He had a very firm idea as to who - thirty-plus years ago - represented W-H's future.  He knew damn well it was not the fifty-seven-year-old curmudgeon who stared back at him in the bathroom mirror every morning.  Had he lived to see it, Evan's departure to Texas all those years ago would have come damn close to breaking my old man's heart but the path that Evan carved for himself once there would have brought an ear-to-ear grin to Dad's face.  It probably still does. 

Dad died in the wee small hours of Sunday, May 31, 1981.  To this day, I have no idea how Evan Peterson knew what had happened but by not later than 8:00 or 8:30 that morning, his Chevrolet Caprice station wagon - with the "GATOR" plates - was in the driveway of our home in Neshanic Station and he was making sure that anything and everything Mom needed was done.  In the immediate aftermath of Dad's death, he looked after Mom as if she was his own mother.  If I live to be 100, it is a morning that I shall never forget.  

He was also instrumental in ensuring that my 9th grade year at W-H was not, in fact, my last.  I had some difficulty adjusting to life in the year following Dad's death and not being one who suffers in silence I quickly earned less-favored person status with the school's first-year Headmaster, Mr. Ayres.  So much so that a decision was made - at year's end - to inform my mother IN WRITING that I was not being invited back to W-H for 10th grade.  My attitude apparently was deemed to be insufficiently "Wardlavian".  Evan Peterson - and Doc Rud - spoke up in my defense.  Mom used to have the letter at home among her papers but since this June shall mark thirty Junes since I walked across the front field at W-H at Graduation, it long ago was moved to the circular file. 

It was nice to be reminded on Wednesday night that not only can nice guys finish first, when the stars align just so they can finish on their own terms.  

And where better to do it than in a place where the stars at night are big and bright...    

-AK 

Thursday, January 22, 2015

I Got A Cup of Coffee So I Don't Get Lazy

- James McMurtry

While it may be of no moment to you whatsoever, it is in fact of great moment to me that next month shall bring with it the release of James McMurtry's latest record, Complicated Game.  If I was a betting man - and I am (at least in limited increments) - I would wager that other than my brother Bill there is likely not a soul among you who owns all of McMurtry's music and unfortunately for Mr. McMurtry there is also likely not a soul among you - other than my brother Bill - who shall purchase his latest offering.  

It is what it is.  

It is also why Katy Perry plays the Super Bowl and James McMurtry plays dive bars and small clubs. 

Taste, there is truly no accounting for it.  

I want to help.  Really, I do.  And by that I mean I want to help you, not him.  Frankly, based upon everything I have ever read or heard, he seems damn comfortable with his life decisions, including his career arc.  To you, I give this gift and this one as well.    

Enjoy.  

-AK 






Wednesday, January 21, 2015

At the Point of Intersection Between Punch and Drunk

Apologies to anyone who I might have inadvertently duped with the title of yesterday's silliness.  This little piece of Prince Albert Gore's virtual playground received foot traffic significantly greater than it usually does and I have a feeling that its title played a role in that.  So, if anyone came by here yesterday in anticipation of something titillating or pornographic, I apologize for the disappointment.  Truth be told, I spend even less time giving due consideration to the title of each day's nonsense than I do to its contents.  Welcome, one and all disappointed humans to the swath of real estate perpetually occupied by my long-suffering wife - where disappointment lurks around every corner. 

But I digress. 

There is a commercial running on television these days featuring an assorted selection of little kids, all of whom are offering an answer to the question "What Do You Want to Be When You Grow Up?" The first one - a little girl - fills in the blank by saying, "I want to be a lawyer."  Every time the commercial airs and I hear those words pass through her lips, I want to scream at my television.  

In the interest of full disclosure, what I said in the previous paragraph is not entirely true. 

Every time the commercial airs and I hear the words "I want to be a lawyer" pass through the lips of that little girl, I do in fact scream at my television.  

This is the professional life I have chosen - this, this thing that I do.  It has brought me more than a modicum of financial stability, including helping get two kids educated and getting the girl child off and married, and at least as much success.  Yet, I loathe it.  Do not misunderstand.  I am far happier plying my trade right where I am presently than I would be anywhere else.  That being said, it remains a fairly inane way to earn one's living.  If any of my grandchildren ever express an interest in pursuing this as a career I shall nail a foot or two of theirs to the floor of the room in which they are situated when they verbalize such an interest and guard over them until it passes. 

Wednesday is - for me - survival day every week.  As long as I can get through this day each week without hatching a plan for killing another or myself, I have increased confidence in my ability to make it to week's end.    

As much self-loathing as I do daily regarding my chosen profession, I never lose sight of the fact that considering I am a man of exceptionally limited skills I am damn lucky to be able to earn a living doing what it is I do.  

I also never lose sight of the fact that I am damn lucky that at this point in my life the adults f/k/a my children are off on their own so that the whole notion of birthday parties and the timely RSVP is something to which I have given zero thought in more than two decades.  If some asshole had ever presented me with an invoice secondary to my five-year-old not attending their little snot factory's birthday party, then I am confident that my reaction would have been markedly less benign than the reaction of little Alex's parents.   

Punch, anyone? 

-AK 

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

On The Long Road to Orgasmia

'Tis time for my annual screech - no not this Screech - against the National Basketball Association for "honoring" Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. by requiring a significant number of its players (twenty-four teams' worth to be exact), a sizable percentage of whom are African-American, to play basketball on the Federal holiday paying homage to his life and to his legacy.  Twelve NBA games were played yesterday, including one in Atlanta and one in Memphis.   

In case you missed it on Sunday afternoon, the Green Bay Packers came very close to winning their Conference Championship game against the Seattle Seahawks.  Thereafter, on Sunday evening the Indianapolis Colts came not at all close to winning their Conference Championship game against the New England Patriots.  After the Patriots-Colts game, the Internet was aghast with allegations of New England having deflated their footballs to give them some sort of tactical advantage.  Indy would have been better off exiting New England in a manner akin to have they exited Baltimore all those years ago - under the cover of darkness and with their mouths firmly shut.  

Deflated balls were not the Colts' undoing on Sunday night.  Instead, having theirs kicked up through the roofs of their mouths were.  For crying out loud Indianapolis, Nate Solder - an offensive tackle and a CU Buffalo - caught a touchdown pass for New England.  And to add insult to injury, it was one of those "flip the ball three yards to the receiver and let him run with it" plays, which Solder did - scoring after catching the ball at the 13 yard line.  Solder, all 300+ pounds of him, caught more TD passes on Sunday than did the Colts' receiving corps combined.  

We the people of these United States will now spend two weeks resting up and gearing up for our favorite mid-winter holiday:  Super Bowl Sunday.  The hype, the six-and-one-half hour pre-game show, the commercials and the chance to be assaulted by Katy Perry at halftime.  Only in America.  Ms. Perry recently announced that Lenny Kravitz is going to be appearing with her.  I hope that none of the suits at NBC remember that once upon a lifetime ago Mr. Kravitz was married to the actress Lisa Bonet.  Ms. Bonet portrayed Denise Huxtable on the Cosby Show.  Hopefully that connection to former NBC money-maker Bill Cosby is tenuous enough that NBC shall not pull the plug on Kravitz's performance.  Actually, I could not - if my life depended upon doing so - name three songs that Mr. Kravitz has recorded but I presume that any time he spends on stage making noise cuts into whatever time has been allotted for Ms. Perry to do so, which makes him among the most important persons in Glendale, Arizona on February's first Sunday.   

While I have no rooting interest in the game, I shall watch it - at least until my bed time which I figure will be either at halftime or the very early stages of the second half.  I am the proud owner of one $100 box in a Super Bowl Pool.  I assure you that with every fiber of my mercenary heart I shall be cheering enthusiastically for one thing - and one thing - only, which is my numbers.    

Well maybe I shall root for two things.  My numbers to come up and and Margaret to neither read this nor to find out about my "investment" through other means.  In my experience, once that occurs there truly is no "MY" in "MONEY".  

-AK    

Monday, January 19, 2015

Woulda Coulda Gouda

Week Three of marathon training kicked off yesterday with little to no cooperation from that fickle bitch, Mother Nature.  I am on a Sunday/Tuesday/Thursday/Friday running schedule and - given my work commitments - the weekday/weeknight runs are in what I affectionately refer to as "the dungeon", which is our basement - and on the treadmill.  Miles on the treadmill during the week really make me look forward to Sunday and the opportunity to run in the great outdoors.  

Except three Sundays deep into my sixteen-week program I have yet to spend a Sunday outdoors.  Yesterday, Mother Nature decided that the State of Concrete Gardens needed to be inundated by freezing rain, which not only kept me from running seven miles outdoors, but nearly resulted in Rosie and I sliding all the way across the patio and into the back fence.  If I had managed to land that Triple Axel we might very well have earned a medal.  

I find myself already wishing really, really hard for good weather this coming Sunday.  I am not entirely sure that I can withstand the boredom associated with running eight miles on the treadmill - and eight miles is on the menu on Sunday...

...which means if rain is in the forecast for Sunday, a big block of cheese might have to be in the shopping cart on Saturday.

-AK 

Sunday, January 18, 2015

What Is the Point of the Return?

I am fortunate to have two adults f/k/a children whose intellectual curiosity and aptitude far exceeds my own because from them I can learn many things.  I am also fortunate that - to a degree at least - I am teachable.  The latter is important because I discover with the dawning of each new day just how much I have yet to learn. 

Friday night Suzanne telephoned me as I was on my way home from the office to inquire about what I knew of a State-mandated program entitled (with what upon further examination appears to be a deceptive amount of benignity) "Return Home New Jersey".  "Return Home New Jersey" (hereafter referred to as "RHNJ") is a program run through the State's Department of Human Services, Division of Developmental Disabilities.   According to the DHS web site: 

New Jersey’s Return Home policy brings back to New Jersey adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities – many of whom were placed out of state as students with special needs and who transitioned into costly, congregate residential facilities upon graduation.  At the time, there was no ‘trigger’ to return them to New Jersey when their educational entitlement ended, so they have been living in another state, in an institutional setting, paid for with New Jersey tax dollars for years, even decades.

Over the past several years, New Jersey’s system of care for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities has steadily evolved. Hundreds of millions of dollars have been invested into community-based homes and services to give people with intellectual and developmental disabilities opportunities to live, work and enjoy their lives in smaller residential settings, with appropriate staff and services to support them. This absolutely includes people with very complex medical needs and behavioral conditions.

It makes sense that with a growing infrastructure in place to serve them, we should return this group of people – closer to family, into community-based residential settings that are licensed and inspected according to New Jersey standards.

The goal of Return Home New Jersey is twofold: to ensure that individuals who have been placed out of state can return to a comparable or better setting in New Jersey that meets their needs and to better manage the state resources that serve the community of nearly 29,000 people with intellectual and developmental disabilities in New Jersey – which includes the waiting list and others who are transitioning from developmental centers into the community.

Full disclosure demands that I acknowledge the following.  While far too many families for me to accurately count deal day-to-day with a loved one who is him/herself dealing with intellectual and/or developmental disabilities and requires the special care found at the type of facilities identified by the DHS, mine is not among them.  I have never had any firsthand dealings with anyone at (a) DHS or (b) any facility of the kind encompassed by this program.  

Full disclosure demands, also, that I acknowledge the following.  The highlighted language above is reproduced verbatim from the State DHS web site.  However, the italicized and underlined sections are the product of my handiwork.  Experience has taught me that whenever one is dealing with a Governmental agency, an oft-repeated rationale for doing whatever it is said agency is doing is money.  Government may be loathe to ever tell we the people upon what trifles our money is being spent but it never hesitates to share with us any and all triumphs of the public fisc.  Every government official worth his/her paycheck will be quick to tell the public how his/her hard work and thriftiness just saved all of us a nickel...even if the cost of spreading the news is one thin dime. 

Again, as someone who has no skin in the game personally on this issue, I am hesitant to call "Liar! Liar! Pants on Fire!" on the section on the DHS web site entitled, "The facts are:"  for I have every confidence that before any of the nine specifically enumerated bullet points that follow it were permitted to see the virtual light of day they were checked, double-checked and cross-checked to ensure that at least one source exists that supports them...at least kind of, sort of.  

I also have every confidence that notwithstanding the confidence with which someone in web design for the DHS declared "The facts are:" that the facts set forth in the nine specifically enumerated bullet points that follow it are not indeed the whole truth.  If they were and if, in fact (I could not resist), they represented all of the known evidence on this particular issue, then the DHS web site would have so indicated.  

These days, here in the State of Concrete Gardens, it is difficult to get our elected officials with the letter (R) next to their names and elected officials with the letter (D) next to their names to agree upon anything, which task is clearly complicated by the fact that our Chief Executive (a/k/a "the Man who would be King") has spent more time traipsing all over the country sniffing around the job he not-so-subtly aspires to (and has as much chance of being elected to as do I and less chance of being elected to than my brother Kelly has of being elected Pope) than here in New Jersey doing the job that we the people (including Yours truly) re-elected him to do sixteen short months ago.  

So, when last year a majority of the members of our State Legislature - on both sides of the aisle - got together and sent two pieces of legislation to the Governor's desk, which legislation would have imposed a moratorium on the State's relocation of almost five hundred individuals from out-of-state facilities to New Jersey facilities, it was no small undertaking.  Neither bill was signed into law however.  Both were vetoed.    At no point in the past five-plus years has this Legislature mustered enough votes (sorry, I was going to write "balls" but thought that might seem unduly harsh) to override a veto.  More often than not, any opposition to a veto expressed aloud by those legislators with the (R) next to their names dissolves into vapor at the moment when talk and action arrive at the point of intersection.  

The times, though, may be a-changin' in Trenton.  Earlier this week, a State Assembly panel approved a bill, albeit a significantly less comprehensive version of the bill that failed last year (think protection for forty-five people as opposed to five hundred) that would block RHNJ from being imposed upon approximately forty-five people whose families have described them as the most medically fragile and whose safety would be the most at risk by a forced relocation from the out-of-state facility they have called home for years to a facility here in New Jersey.  Democrat Assemblywoman Valerie Huttle from Bergen County sponsored the legislation.  Assemblywoman Huttle expressed her concern that the practical effect of RHNJ shall be the realization of "minor savings at the expense of major consequences".  Consequences felt by families such as the Altruda family of Manalapan, the Loftus family of Hampton, the Clark family of Sparta and the Yip family from right here 'NTSG.   

Consequences that hopefully serve to remind all of us - including the wholly-uninformed among us (I am staring into a mirror while typing this so forgive any typos) - that while there may be significant decisions made by our elected officials that anger us for good cause, the NFL team for which they cheer is not now - and should not ever be - one of them.  

-AK 


Saturday, January 17, 2015

His Aim Was True

But I didn’t risk my life to bring democracy to Iraq. I risked my life for my buddies, to protect my friends and fellow countrymen. I went to war for my country, not Iraq. My country sent me out there so that bullshit wouldn’t make its way back to our shores. I never once fought for the Iraqis. I could give a flying fuck about them.
- Chris Kyle 

Today, the Missus and I are going to see Clint Eastwood's "American Sniper", which has (to my eye and ear) received almost universally-glowing reviews.  It is the film adaptation of the autobiography of United States Navy Seal Chris Kyle, who was the most lethal sniper in the history of the United States Military.  As someone who has always valued the printed page more than the silver screen, I bought the book last week and read it this week as I wanted to have read Kyle's words prior to viewing them through the prism of Jason Hall's screenplay and Eastwood's directorial lens.  

Irrespective of one's politics, one's point of view on the breadth of the American military industrial complex and/or this nation's commitment of hundreds and thousands of our men and women to wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, I strongly recommend that you take the time to read Chris Kyle's book.  I found it to be a wholly worthwhile read.  

Chris Kyle survived multiple tours in Iraq in spite of having spent a lot of his time in places not likely to found in Zagat's guide.  Ironically, having finally made it home to his family, he was killed here in the United States.  Whether it was irony or coincidence that the sniper who recorded more documented kills than any other sniper in the history of our military was shot to death on February 2, 2013 by a fellow veteran is for those far more intelligent than me to ponder.   

Do not purchase Kyle's book expecting to be entertained by tales about the glory of war for I fear you shall be disappointed.  The excerpt above fairly captures, I think, the very straightforward, matter-of-fact manner in which Kyle discussed what he did and why he did what he did.  Respectfully, any debate over the propriety or lack thereof of his position borders on the farcical if and when its participants include persons such as me - and perhaps you as well - who never have found ourselves in such circumstances.  Forget walking a mile in this particular man's shoes.  I, for one, have never even been called upon to lace them up.  

Kyle the Navy Seal battled with Kyle the Husband/Father for control of his own soul.  Among the most revealing parts of his book are his admissions of being torn between his duty to his unit and his duty to his family.  Equally revealing are the passages in the book his wife (now widow) Taya wrote. Her recognition of the warring camps alive within her husband was clear.  Both of them acknowledged that the three most important things in the world to him were God, Country and Family.  Both of them acknowledged further that in spite of his love for her and their two small children, Family was the third-most important of the three to him and the two of them battled long and hard over her unending campaign to elevate it to second place in his life.   

If I understood the last several pages of the book, by the time of his death Taya Kyle had done no worse than forged a tie for second place...

I was raised with, and still believe in, the Christian faith. If I had to order my priorities, they would be God, Country, Family. There might be some debate on where those last two fall—these days I’ve come around to believing that Family may, under some circumstances, outrank Country. But it’s a close race. 
- Chris Kyle

And on the subject of steps walked in the shoes of another, shortly after I finished reading "American Sniper" on Thursday night, I came across this photograph on-line (courtesy of my brother Bill).  It is a Memorial at Fort Hood, Texas.  

One boot for every American life lost in Iraq and Afghanistan.  


Memorial at Fort Hood, Texas 

-AK 



Friday, January 16, 2015

Hau`oli Lā Hānau to the Queen of Bedrock!

And if you ever wonder why you ride the carousel...
- Tom Petty

In the sextet of Kenny siblings I am the tail-gunner.  Closest to me in age is my sister Jill.  Next month shall mark my "Continental United States" birthday.  Today, Jill is halfway to one hundred.  I know not whether it is an occasion that she shall take a moment to celebrate but I hope she does.  

Wilma and I are not only rather close in age but we were thick as thieves as kids.  It was a product of deliberate design that for thirteen of the seventeen years I attended school, from Kindergarten at St. Paul's Prison Camp in Princeton through graduation from the University of Colorado, Boulder, she and I attended the same school.  The only two years I spent without her prior to college were my junior year and senior year at W-H.  Although CU was not my original #1 choice for college, her decision to transfer there following her freshman year at Notre Damned was a significant factor in my embrace of my inner Horace Greeley and my journey west to Colorado's Front Range.  

It was a journey I enjoyed immensely and have never once regretted making...although I think that she might still regret the day that she - as President of Baker Hall - had to admit to CU President E. Gordon Gee that she was in fact the big sister of the loudmouth freshman in Farrand Hall who had engaged him in a rather spirited debate an evening or two earlier.  In my defense, I claim merely to be entertaining.  I never have claimed to be perfect.   On this particular issue, however, I was and time proved that President Goober was as clueless about college basketball as he was about a score of other issues. 

Anyway, as the song goes, "Oh the stories we could tell."  And maybe, just maybe, a day shall arrive when those stories will all be told.  But it shall not be by me.  And it shall not be today.  

Happy Birthday Wilma - enjoy today and kicking the hell out of the next fifty years too. 


-AK 

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Presence and Presents

If Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was still alive, then today he would be celebrating his eighty-fifth birthday and presuming he was still in moderately good health we the people of these United States would be able to enjoy the benefit of his perspective on the issues of the day.  Were Dr. King still alive, of course, then those of you who are looking forward to a three-day weekend would not have a Federally-mandated reason for sleeping through your alarm on Monday morning.  

I know not whether it would sadden Dr. King - as frankly it does me - to learn that his three surviving adult children, for whom he had the most wonderful of all dreams ("I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character") are presently engaged in litigation.  The legal battle centers upon the ownership of the Bible he carried with him on his travels and his 1964 Nobel Peace Prize Medal.  At stake, according to the news stories I saw, may very well be whether Dr. King's Estate can sell the items.  Sadly, this is not the only time that Dr. King's adult offspring have required the intervention of the American system of civil justice to resolve a dispute involving and/or among themselves.  And if history is any guide, it shall likely not be the last.  

This is not, one presumes, the way in which Dr. King would have wanted his adult offspring to observe and to honor his birthday.   Their apparent pettiness does not - at all - diminish all that he did for them and for the little children of countless others.  His presence was his present.  Shame on them if they lack the wherewithal to recognize that and to honor him by acting accordingly. 


-AK 
   

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

No Bat, All Mitt

A random, unusual musing (in terms of its pseudo-political content) for a rather orderly (01/14/15) day on the calendar...

I pose this question as a man who is a registered Republican (although every time I write that or say that aloud - and especially so after hearing former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee open his mouth - I hear the voice of Captain Jack Ross in my ear, "Don't you dare lump me in there with Jessup and Kendrick just because we wear the same uniform!").  Is there anyone who actually wants to see Mitt Romney run for the third time this century to be the nominee of the Republican Party for the office of President of the United States?  Anyone?  Anyone whose last name is not Romney or is somehow financially beholden to someone whose last name is Romney?   

As someone whose undergraduate degree is in Political Science, I understand the appeal of the pursuit from Mr. Romney's perspective.  Generally speaking, people seek public office for the reward of winning the office.  We the people of these United States are a competitive bunch and when the arena in which an individual is competing is politics, there is only one #1 job to which to aspire.  To seek it with as much vigor as he has done in his two previous attempts and to fall short of capturing it has to be a tremendous blow to one's ego and to one's sense of self.  

That being said, the Party of Lincoln is doing itself - and by extension this nation - a tremendous disservice if the primary process plays out on the GOP side with Mr. Romney emerging as the Republican nominee.  Irrespective of what your personal opinions might be regarding what type of President you think Mr. Romney would be, it is difficult for me (one who has zero skin in the game) to envision him actually getting elected.  I do not embrace the notion of going backward as a substitute for going forward.  In Presidential politics, rare is the case of the third time being the charm.  Based upon nothing other than his track record, I have difficulty envisioning Mr. Romney being the exception to that rule.

That being said, if the former Governor of the Commonwealth wants to serve the interests of the American people while doing something for which he has - in the past - displayed more than a mere modicum of deftness, then let us recruit him to lead Boston's bid to host the 2024 Summer Olympics.  

Candidly, I think the latter is an especially inane idea.  But as a Yankees fan, anything that keeps the Sox on the road for two and one-half weeks in mid-July is not an idea without its appeal. 

-AK 




Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Miles and Hours

There is no Luck except where there is Discipline.
- Irish Proverb 

By day's end today, the first half of the second week of training for the 2015 New Jersey Marathon will be in the books.  One and one-half weeks completed.  Fourteen and one half weeks to go.  Twenty-three training miles in the rear-view mirror.  Approximately three hundred and sixty-five training miles are out there on the road ahead.  Too many hours to count. 

Ground that shall be covered between this day and Marathon Day, which is April 26th.  


If it was easy, then everyone could do it - although I suspect that even if everyone COULD do it, only those of us with some sort of undefinable mental illness would line up at the starting line.  That is fine.  It might in fact make it easier to chase down one's dream when everyone else is not chasing after it as well.  

-AK 


  


Monday, January 12, 2015

Let Freedom Ruck

I have never met this young man but I sincerely hope to one day make his acquaintance.  Maybe next January - when he embarks on Freedom Ruck 2016 - I will do so.  

In case you missed it, here are a few photographs from the last couple hours he spent on the road...including the journey's end at Arlington National Cemetery.  


Well done, young Mr. Wise, well done indeed. 




And thank you.  Your sacrifice serves to remind us that if it was easy, then anyone could do it.  It is not, which is why we are fortunate to have you. 

What a Hero Looks Like

-AK 


Sunday, January 11, 2015

A Train With Stops At Every Station

Ah...

January in New Jersey.  There is nothing of which I am aware that slaps the Christmas hangover snot out of people faster than bitter cold January weather.  It never ceases to amuse me that here in the State of Concrete Gardens, temperatures below freezing in December are "Christmas-like" whereas similar temperatures in January are "phucking cold".  Newsflash Slick:  They were phucking cold in December too.  You were simply too jacked up on visions of sugar plum fairies and other Noel-related nonsense to notice.  But for the Christmas-specific brain cloud under which you were living, you would have realized that you could not stand the weather then either.  

Although I have no heart I am not immune to the effects of cold weather.  Thus far, 2015 has come in like a polar bear attempting to jab an icicle up the collective arses of people throughout New Jersey and - based upon the national maps I have seen - essentially the majority of the continental United States.  Me, I have it pretty easy.  I have a climate-controlled roof over my head at the house that I presently call home.  As someone who works indoors I have a climate-controlled roof over my head the job that - based upon the amount of time I spend there - is my de facto home.  

I need merely to muster the resolve and the grit to endure the fifty to one hundred foot walks between my car and my home and/or my office.  It is an undertaking that must barely misses clearing the bar of Herculean but somehow I manage.  A lifetime ago, I worked outdoors with my older brother Kelly.  You want to experience cold?  Try building a six-story building in Hoboken located a block away from the Hudson River this time of year and working ten hour days doing it.  

For those of us who are - as I am - fortunate enough to both live and work indoors, at least while you are in my presence, do both of us a favor and STFU about the weather.  I would wager that the odds are great that six months from now, when the calendar reads "July 11, 2015" and it is sufficiently hot and humid so that you work up a sweat just blinking, you shall be among those whining about how phucking hot it is.  There are those who may welcome your whining.  I am not among them.  

Days like these, I keep a good thought for anyone who finds himself or herself homeless.  The world is a pretty cold and foreboding place when you have nothing - even on a hot, humid July day.  I cannot fathom what ceaseless exposure to the frigid January air does to one's well-being, be it physical or psychological especially when the homeless person is not an adult but a child.  

Days like these, I also keep a good thought for the men and women who earn a living outdoors - whether in construction, public works, public safety or any one of the countless other professions that require at least a portion of one's workday to be spent in less than ideal weather conditions.  Bridges will still get constructed, criminals will still get apprehended and fires will still get extinguished by men and women who place the needs of others above their own feelings of discomfort.  A young man will still walk one hundred and five miles with a fifty-pound pack on his back to raise money for - and awareness of - those who are in need of both.

It has been said that a picture is worth one thousand words...




....the remaining nine hundred and ninety-two are "Reader's Choice". 

-AK 



Saturday, January 10, 2015

In the Spirit of Boomerangs and Homing Pigeons

The Poltergeist that took possession of the Site Meter that monitors traffic on this little bit of paradise on Al Gore's Great Creation has apparently undergone a change of heart. 

The "traffic report", a little, weekly something-something I had grown accustomed to receiving via e-mail from Site Meter, which little something-something had ceased showing up about a month ago, suddenly reappeared on Friday morning - and it brought with it actual news regarding traffic on the site.    

Sure, this monitor is still so phucked up that in its little part of the world it is already February 9 but who am I to complain?  In the World According to Site Meter, it is thirty days closer to Spring.  

An application that fast-forwards a resident of the northeastern part of the United States thirty days closer to Spring?  If I could figure out a way to connect it to the real world, then at least one or two Saturdays a month I could afford to sleep through the alarm.  

Sadly, today is not one of them...  

-AK 

Friday, January 9, 2015

A Wise Man Walketh...

Vic Wise

At 7:30 this morning, the young man pictured above, Vic Wise, shall strap a rucksack weighing fifty pounds on his back and go for a walk.  Freedom Ruck 2015 is a walk of one hundred and five miles that shall begin at the Virginia War Memorial in Chesterfield, Virginia and end at Arlington National Cemetery.   

Vic Wise intends to replicate - actually to improve upon - his Herculean effort of January, 2014 when, in slightly less than forty-eight hours, he walked one hundred miles with his 50-pound ruck on his back in conditions that could charitably be described as horrendous.  

The undertaking last January was physically taxing enough that Vic Wise estimate that he lost twelve pounds while on his trek through Virginia.  The cause for which he does it is of sufficient importance to him that he is strapping the ruck on once again.  He walks to raise awareness of the sacrifices made by U.S. Navy SEALs and to raise money to help provide much-needed financial support to their families.  His maiden voyage last January raised more than $3,000 for the Navy SEAL Foundation

May those who control such things as the weather provide this young man with less-horrific conditions in which to complete his mission this weekend than they did last January.  And may this nation always be fortunate enough to count among its number those, such as Vic Wise, willing to do something that may be difficult for them simply so that others may rest a bit more easily.  




-AK


Thursday, January 8, 2015

The French Connection



So said Stephane Charbonnier, the Editor and the Cartoonist for the French satirical newspaper, Charlie Hedbo, in a 2012 interview with ABC News, which interview was conducted in response to threats made against Charbonnier and against Charlie Hedbo in response to the newspaper's publication of cartoons depicting the Muslim prophet Mohammed.  

Mr. Charbonnier was one of at least one dozen people murdered on Wednesday morning at the Paris offices of Charlie Hedbo by ski mask-wearing, machine gun-toting cowards who apparently shouted "Allahu Akbar!" as they rampaged through the offices, executing people.  

Murderous cowards won the moment.   It is a sad fact of Life that Evil can in fact enjoy the occasional short-lived victory.  But Evil cannot win in the end.  It is the moral imperative owned jointly and severally by the rest of us to lock arms against these fucking pieces of human refuse and eviscerate them and their effort at bullying a single, solitary one of us into ceding the freedoms that belong to each and every one of us.  

You are who you are.  I am who I am.  

And on this particular point, we are one.  


-AK 

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Swoosh, There It Is!

Happy First Wednesday of the New Year!  

Not quite an occurrence worthy of an exclamation point, is it?  If you think that today is uninspiring then just wait until tomorrow morning when the the alarm clock rings.  For a considerable number of us, tomorrow will be the first Thursday in three weeks for which we have had to get up for work.   Ought to make for a lot of happy faces around the coffee machine in the office kitchen.  

2015 is already seven days old and yet we still have to wait another five days for the last game of the 2014 college football season.  Between August 30 and December 5, which is a span of ninety-seven days, the University of Oregon Ducks played thirteen games - including the Pac-12 Championship Game.  In the ninety-eight day period (a period of time whose friends sometimes refer to it as fourteen weeks) from August 30 to December 6, the Buckeyes of The Ohio State University played thirteen games as well, which included the Big Ten Conference Championship Game.

To the extent that I have a rooting interest in Monday night's game, my allegiance lies with the Quack Attack for three reasons.  First - and most importantly - the University of Oregon and the University of Colorado have been linked to one another since at least 1984, which is when doctors at the U of O Medical Center saved the life of Buffs tight end Ed Reinhardt after he was injured during that year's game.  Second, the Ducks' Head Coach, Mark Helfrich, was not-too-terribly long ago an assistant at the University of Colorado.  Coach Helfrich is, by all accounts, a good coach and a better man.  Third - and least important - the Ducks and the Buffs are both members of the Pac-12 Conference.

In the not-quite-seven weeks between their respective Conference Championship games and the National Championship Game, which shall mercifully be played (finally) on Monday night in Texas, the teams will play a total of two games.   Perhaps the reason for the gap in time between games was to allow the players on both teams the chance to keep up with their academic commitments. I am constrained to point out that in the same period of time, the Oregon Basketball Team will have played nine games and The Ohio State Buckeyes will have played eleven games, presumably while, themselves, attending at least the occasional class. 

Nope, it is most assuredly not academic-related issues that are the cause for the absurd way in which the final acts of the college football season are dragged out.  It is far more likely that it was to afford Nike sufficient time to mass-produce the brand new uniforms it has designed for both teams for Monday night's game.   

Ain't no grab like a money grab, right?  Especially when the one principally responsible for grabbing it is the one who is the biggest benefactor of one of the two universities competing on Monday night.  

Or should I say Monday Knight...


University of Oregon:  Where Not All Ducks Are
Necessarily Birds of a Feather...

-AK