Global Warming

Experientiality does not count when discussing global warming. It works both ways.

People who do not believe in climate change claim that summers are as hot as the have always been and winters have been as cold as they have ever been. What climate change?

Believers contend that this summer is hotter than they can remember.

Both points of view are correct.

If I may digress a moment – and I will – the Scientific Method was pounded into me in high school and college. You experience, you observe, you measure and you come up with a theory open to all to prove or disprove.

Your experience is limited to you in a single place. Climate change is global.

Globally, sea level is rising. I can’t quote the numbers nor do I want to. The scientific theory is that global warming should be melting the planet’s ice caps causing sea level to rise. It is observable and measurable.

Digressing again, I was trained to be an Ornithologist – even though that degree was not offered at SUNY Stony Brook. I settled for Biology and Environmental Studies. More succinctly, I was a birdwatcher.

Over the past 50 years I have seen some things.

The Cardinal was considered a southern bird back in the day. Now, not only do I see them on Long Island, but they hang around all year – not migrating.

The Carolina Wren is a southern bird as the name implies. Interesting to hear them – they are loud – and now, they are pretty common here in the Northeast.

Canadian Geese: They breed here now, early in the season. Sometimes the goslings cross the road forcing all traffic to stop. Some still migrate to Canada but we have a resident population on Long Island that irritates some people. Goose dung. That sort of thing.

Mockingbirds: In old time days it was considered a southern bird. Now, you can see and hear them all day long here on the Island of Long.

Blue Jays: 50 years ago, they were ubiquitous and noisy all summer long. They like acorns – among other things. They are omnivores. Today, I saw my first one the other day. They like the colder climes it seems, and Long Island is too hot for them.

From my point of view, based on observation and the life of birds, I would contend that climate change affects birds.

And us too!

How is climate change affecting birds?


Uncle Paul

Paul Spina was an artist of the highest order. He was classically trained in drawing; still lifes; portraiture; oils and pastels. He told me that. He said before you branch out, you have to know the basics. He was astounded by the number of his students that “couldn’t draw their way out of a paper bag.”

We would have lively conversations together about art, politics – especially politics. He was active, involved and engaged. That’s the Paul Spina I knew.

The disappearance of Etan Patz – a child from his neighborhood – consumed him a bit. He would always talk about it when I was with him.

I got the sense he had a love hate relationship with a lot of people – family included. He was always good to me though.

He told me about the Good & Plenty candy and the Good & Fruity artwork he was famous for. The best times were the times he got to spend with Nunzi, his Dad, sharing candy at the movies.

That aside, his artwork is ironic, humorous, somewhat controversial – and that’s the way he liked it!

Rest in peace Uncle Paul. He would probably tell me to get out of town. But, that was Uncle Paul.

I’m Glad I Did That

Playing ball with my friend Tommy from morning to dinner throughout the summer.

Saving my friend Walter from drowning when I was a kid.

Seeing and photographing  the total solar eclipse on Prince Edward Island with a telescope I made. Dad did the driving. PEI. Beautiful. Go there.

Seeing the Yankees come from behind and win it all in 1978. The Bronx Zoo. Gossage, Munson, Guidry, Nettles, Reggie, Bucky Freakin Dent… and many others.

Seeing the New York “Football” Giants win it all in 2008. 

DX’ing through the night with my friend Larry.

Pinning the class bully in a wrestling match in high school.

Doing good work: Serving burgers during the dinner rush at McDonald’s; landscaping; painting for a living; organizing a warehouse; renovating a bathroom; programming insanely difficult solutions for companies, big and small.

Asking that special woman out to dinner.

Traveling to white sand beaches and turquoise waters.

Seeing Bluebirds in the Pine Barrens and listening to their song.

Camping in the middle of nowhere.

Hiking in the middle of nowhere.

Racing. Cycling hard.

Having a Zen moment.

Getting a one hour massage.

Drinking a 1985 Mondavi Cabernet Reserve.



Swimming with dolphins.

Seeing my daughter born.

Seeing my son born.

I’m glad I did that.

I Remember When

I remember when…

A man would deliver dairy products to your doorstep and place them in something called a milkbox.

I would always plead to have the milk cream, but Mom said she liked it too for her coffee.

You could get bread at a cheaper price from the bakery if it wasn’t sliced. This begets the question, what was the best thing before sliced bread?

The bread went into something called the breadbox which was an aluminum lined drawer built into the cabinetry

You could get a chicken for about half the price if it wasn’t plucked. Having done it, I can tell you the feathers and quills do not come out easily. As frugal as we were, it was finally decided that this was too much work.

You could fix your TV by opening the back, looking for the tube that wasn’t glowing and replacing it from all places, the drug store.

We would watch Disney in “living color” or just the NBC peacock between shows and be mesmerized. Color!

Antennas on roofs picked up television signals. When sunspots were active, New Yorkers could pick up WCCO in Minneapolis, Minnesota or KMOX in St. Louis. Two words: electromagnetic skip off the ionosphere. Okay, that’s like five words.

The Long Island Railroad was as crappy as it is today.

There was a president who ratcheted up a war he couldn’t win… kind of like today.

Just about everybody smoked cigarettes. You could legally smoke on buses, in offices, in stores and so on.

We figured if something tasted good, it couldn’t be bad for you.

Japanese products were synonymous with extremely poor quality. Take our Toyota Corona for instance:

Young men were drafted and had to serve two years in the Army.

No one had a computer. There was no internet. This is like the chicken or the egg conundrum.

There was no gluten-free food because somehow, we never met anyone allergic to gluten. Pass the pasta.

We drank water from a well. The water was pumped into the house via a well pump. If you wanted, you could dig your own well and lower a bucket. Sadly, even way back then, the ground water was becoming contaminated and we were forced to get “city water.” We hated the city water.

Penny candy was well, a penny. As kids, for 25 cents, we ate like kings and the dentists loved us. Who remembers Nik L Nips?

My friends said I was getting rooked since there was so little syrup. I liked chewing the wax bottle like gum.

Wild strawberries grew on the edge of the woods. If you wandered too far in, you could get lost.

Our construction skills came from building forts.

We would play cowboys and indians and I was never sure what role I liked best.

Cars had fins.

Gas was less than a dollar a gallon and there was no self-serve. Someone did the fill-up for you, cleaned the glass and asked if you wanted the oil and water checked.

Women wore slips. I liked women in slips.

There were culottes. Half skirt and half shorts… well, take a look:

adly, women can still buy them today.

I wore suede platform shoes to the local disco.

We stayed away from the brown acid, man.

Movie theaters had only one screen but, it was really big.

Cousin Brucie spun the solid gold hits on WABC radio.

Jean Shepherd told stories about Ralphie and his holiday adventures on WOR long before the movie A Christmas Story, which he narrated.

The old man’s leg lamp; the Red Ryder BB gun; the triple dog dare

Do you remember when?


Last of the Tough Guys

I never really thought of myself like that, but compared to today?

I call it the “wussification” of America. Get off my lawn.

Former baseball player Mark Teixeira sat out games last year due to a number of minor injuries like a bruised wrist. One was a bruised pinky. A bruised pinky. At the time I was thinking someone should put a sign in his locker: “What Would Mickey Mantle Do?” I’ll tell you what he would do. He would say, “Get me a Bud and tape it up a little tighter Gus.”

I once completed a fencing match with the rectus femoris muscle completely torn from the bone.

Basketball was not my sport, but it was for my tall friends. There were a lot of pick-up games where the black guys kicked our ass. Back then we’d get elbowed in the ribs, feet stepped on, smacked in the head but we gave as good as we got. At 5’9″ I had to perfect a running hook shot with either hand. Hook shots are hard to block. My buddies could hit the long jumpers. We could hold our own – sometimes.

One time we actually beat the big guys in a game of 21. Next game they just punched the hell out of us and made buckets at the same time. It was impressive. No hard feelings.

Back then, we drank at lunch and after work. Everybody smoked. We were invincible. We were tough guys.

There would be fist fights at work. I was only involved in one.

There was no Human Resource department back then. It was called Payroll. Usually some operations manager or vice president would step in, make us shake hands and promise not to do it again. Today, everyone gets terminated.

Today, if you were to actually hit somebody at work it would be automatic termination and a lawsuit.

Today you can’t look at a woman the wrong way or for too long. Termination. Yell at someone. Termination. Emphasize your point by slapping the wall. Termination. “Oh, I felt threatened. I can’t work under these conditions.” A part of me still thinks, “Suck it up, buddy.”

Incompetence used to make me mad. I have learned that people like sloths for example can’t change. Sloths can’t speed up and incompetent people can’t be any more energetic or competent than they are. It’s just the way it is. <shoulder shrug> <heavy sigh>.

We were raving heterosexuals back then. Our heroes were Hugh Hefner, Joe Namath and Wilt Chamberlain – who reportedly slept with over 10,000 different women. Chlamydia and mono were considered sexual boy scout merit badges.

We would do stuff and say stuff that would get us terminated today. But then, the women gave it right back whether it was critiquing our male attributes or slapping us in the face. The slap in the face always worked. I was a perfect gentleman after one of those.

I don’t dance.

I never had a manicure.

I never wore my wife’s panties when I ran out of underwear. Okay, maybe once.

I don’t know what a metro-sexual is exactly.

Bruce Jenner broke my heart.

I was taught how to box and how to fight dirty. My old man taught me. Ah, those father-son moments where I learned about brass knuckles and a kick in the balls.

I never backed down from anyone when things might get physical.

My old man was the same way. It got him killed. Apparently, at age 72, he laid into two young attackers pretty good. They were enraged. They had baseball bats. They beat him unrecognizable. 

Today, I’ll run away from cats on the sidewalk and old ladies with canes.

As we get older, we have two and only two choices: End up in a bad place or become civilized through learning, knowledge, money and success. At a certain age being tough is no longer a badge of honor. Infirmity eases the transition as well.

Tonight, after using all my strength to get out of the easy chair, I am feeling very civilized.

A hot shower and a couple of Advil – I’ll be fine.

Shark Tank 2 – Oh Hell No

I am just fascinated by the Mensch on the Bench. It is a Hanukkah doll for Jewish kids. The pitch on the TV show Shark Tank was that Christmas celebrants have the Elf on the Shelf. Why not a Mensch on a Bench?

The doll was so popular it was adopted as the mascot for the Israeli baseball team in the recent World Baseball Classic. It was like a Jewish Philly Phanatic.

Based on it’s popularity as a mascot, we now have a five foot tall mensch doll.

There must be other products we can bring to market that might just strike a chord like the MOAB.

Why shouldn’t children be part of home defense? Introducing the safe but deadly Rock in a Sock.

Swung like a medieval mace, it is safe to use by kids but will utterly smash the skulls of would-be home invaders.

The original TV series and recent movie ChiPs shows the adventures of the California Highway Patrol on motorcycles. Since that term is copyrighted, I propose… wait for it… the Chopper Copper. Batteries not included.

What about a flower pot shaped like a pair of pants? I give you, Plants in the Pants. You soil the pants with a potting mixture. Seeds included.

Doctor Donut. Batteries included – and internet ready! Tell Doctor Donut what ails you and he will prescribe a type of donut. Move over Alexa, Doctor Donut will also order your donuts over the web.

With a USB to PC cable, Doctor Donut will take you to sites explaining the history of donuts. Doctor Donut is your gateway to all things donuts.

If successful, the follow-on product would be Paulie Pizza.

You always have to have other ideas in the hopper. You can’t be a one trick pony. Shark Tank wants people with a vision.

I am that people.

What Programmers Want

1. Donuts

Do not underestimate the power of donuts. A Friday gift of Entenmann’s or Dunkin’ Donuts ensures we will go the extra mile on your next project.

2. Coffee

If you occasionally provide donuts AND coffee, we’ll be hyped enough to go through a wall for you. We’ll only ask, “Which one?”

3. Pizza

This is self-explanatory.

4. Free Food

In all the years I have been in this field, if there is a lunchtime executive meeting we know about it. If it’s catered by the gourmet deli from the next town over, we know about it. Then, we wait. 2:00. 2:15. 2:30. Bingo. Oh the humanity. Like a pack of wolves we descend. Growling noises. Food flying up in the air.

At 2:45, the company-wide memo goes out about the leftover food. We smile to ourselves.

We’ve actually had someone come into the IT area annoyed about how we always eat all the food. As they complain, we finish sucking the meat off the chicken bones, smacking our lips.

It’s bad form to say, “You snooze, you lose.” I like to give the wide-eyed innocent look and say something like, “Oh wow, there was so much food there when I left. Chicken wing?”

5. Bagels and cream cheese

See donuts.

6. A comfy chair

We spend a good part of the day on our donut laden butts. Comfort is a high priority.

7. Three monitors

You have to do what we do to appreciate the beauty and grandeur of three monitors.

8. Not to be called programmers

Software Developer or Systems Analyst are nice. Personally, I like Solution Architect.

9. Not having to interact with anyone outside the group

We refer to these people as “outside people” and feign a nervous breakdown as we leave the comfort of the IT area, donut crumbs and all. Always gets a chuckle.

10. High pay

11. Mentoring (as long as I don’t have to do it)

12. Cross-training

13. Education (and not on our own time)

14. Respect

When I enter a meeting, even with executive board level personnel, I am usually the smartest guy in the room. If I’m with a colleague who is smarter (and there are many) then they assume that unspoken role.

You see, we not only have the ability to manuipulate bits and bytes into something useful, we are also very smart people in general.

So often, IT is seen as a cost center or a necessary evil. Give me and the team a chance, we can generate profits. Whether it’s a new mobile app or a redesigned faster ordering site, give us the ball and let us run with it.

And don’t forget the donuts.


The Humpty Dance

Hello. I ‘m Alistair Cooke and welcome to Masterpiece Theater.

Even though I am still dead, I am compelled to comment on a seminal song from the end of the last century – The Humpty Dance by Digital Underground and MC Humpty.

“The Humpty dance
Is your chance
To do The Hump”

Startling lyrics indeed demarking the end of MC as the alpha male and the beginning of a more thoughtful Hip Hop narrated by rapping MC’s, often with a mesmerizing “hook”, sampled or otherwise.

The Humpty Dance was the first of its genre to innovate cross-marketing.

“I’m a freak
I like the girls with a broom
I once got busy in a Burger King bathroom”

Case in point, Burger King sales increased 17% during the time song was on the charts.

If you have heard their voices, you know that Tony Dungy and Humpty are one in the same person. Tony was a failed college quarterback and took two years off to pursue his true passion – music. The fake nose and glasses were used to protect his identity in case he later decided to resume his football career.

Sadly, after two years, Mr. Dungy got a job coaching in college which explains why Humpty was never heard from again.

And now, I give you The Humpty Dance.

The Hash Slinging Slasher

Hello, I’m Allistair Cooke and welcome to Masterpiece Theatre.

Even though I am dead, today, we pay homage to and recognize the genius that is Spongebob Squarepants and the classic Halloween thriller, “The Hash Slinging Slasher.”

In our episode today, our absorbent, yellow hero cheerfully agrees to work all night for Mr. Krab, the owner of the diner, The Krusty Krab.

Working through the night with his colleague Squidward, without customers, the bored and sleepy Squidward decides to spin a yarn about a demented night-shift fry cook who had an unfortunate life and returns to this day, to haunt and terrify his victims. Let’s watch!

The Whistler

I believe it was Rooster Cogburn who said, “DAMN a man that whistles.”

I am already late for work and I am patiently waiting for the elevator in the building where I work. So are ten other people. Finally, out of the four elevators available, the door to one finally opens and all ten of us scramble to get on. Just before the doors close, this happy go-lucky gentleman gets on, whistling a peppy show tune. I think it’s “Luck Be a Lady” from Guys and Dolls.

I work on the 8th floor. People are getting off on every floor. This is going to be a long elevator ride and this guy is intent on serenading all of us with his whistling prowess.

As I get off, he’s still warbling and doing tremolos and showing off his two-and-a-half octave range. Yes, he is quite a whistler. As I exit on the 8th floor, he is still whistling a happy tune.

My fantasy is that as the doors close, some warning klaxon goes off and the whistler plummets eight stories to his death in a pile of heated, twisted metal.

Now, I know that sounds a tad harsh. But, if the whistler were to somehow survive his death plunge, he would have to answer me this: If whistling is so great and so wonderful, and if everybody loved it so much, why aren’t there any whistling concerts?

I rest my case — and rest in peace, oh great whistler.