Happy Diwali

Earlier this month I received my first ever “Happy Diwali” card. Diwali, or Deewali,  is a five day celebration often referred to as the festival of lights. The following from diwalifestival.org provides the briefest of overviews of this Indian holiday (with much more available at the site):

“Deewali is a festival of joy, splendor, brightness and happiness. It is the festival of lights and is celebrated with great enthusiasm by all Indians all over the world. The uniqueness of this festival is its harmony of five varied philosophies, with each day to a special thought or ideal. People celebrate each of its five days of festivities with true understanding, it will uplift and enrich the lives.”

We live in a country with a long Judeo-Christian heritage. One in which there is little understanding of Jews by Christians, and visa versa, or even amoung the many Chritian factions of each other. Oh by the way we are also currently trying desparately to understand Islam right now. In this slice of the world it is easy to forget that there are hundreds of millions of people that follow other religious beliefs including the Hindus, Sikhs and Jains who celebrate Diwali. So much to learn, so little time.

Fortunately for me I have friends with many different beliefs– some are even Republicans! I look to these friends to help me understand the beauty of their traditions.

Jews have their own festival of lights, Hannukah, which begins in less than 2 weeks. Though not named for the same reason I find it cool to have a holiday with the same moniker as a Hindu holiday.

Vive La Difference!

Hearing Maids

The title refers to a name given by a child to her hearing aids. An article about one 4 year old’s transformation upon being able to hear clearly connected with me on several levels. It was a heartwarming holiday story. I am experiencing hearing loss. The story describes how the parents defined their daughter before they knew she was not hearing normally and how they came to understand and experience her differently.  All this from one story. Let’s see if I can sort this out.

The story about Angeliki appears in today’s Chicago Tribune in the Perspective section. It is a touching story told by the girl’s mom. Two years to diagnose. High frequency hearing loss in both ears. No discernible cause. An entire article could have been written on frustration with the medical community or the pain of the lost years — half of a lifetime for a 4 year old and at a critical time in her development. Instead the story focused on the positive. On how her and their lives changed for the better. This story could have appeared at any time at yet it is in the Sunday edition during the beginning of the winter holiday season. I suspect that this is due to its uplifting message. Just right for now.

Another angle. I have been hearing progressively less for 3 years now. The incremental changes have been subtle but overall it’s noticeable. While the impact is very different on me at age 50 something than to a child who did not hear well to begin,  I relate to her story.

This affliction is annoying for both speaker and attempted listenee.  It particularly drives my teenage son to distraction. hearing_aid.jpgHe jumps from modest volume to a scream the moment I ask him to repeat despite my pleas to just take it up one notch. I suspect that he interprets this as not listening as opposed to not hearing. With my wife it can become a joke when I need 3-4 reps of the same words but too often I mishear instead of not hear and I can blow up at something that was not ever said. With the TV or at work I do the best I can and  have learned to live without knowing exactly what is being said around me. The worst is in a crowded room or anywhere with background noise. A word of advice. If you are talking to me in person please look straight at me unless you do not want me to feel the sting of your rapier wit or hear the astuteness of your musings. A second word of advice. This hearing thing is one of my few idiosyncrasies that I am unwilling to laugh about. (There is an implied threat buried in that last sentence. Beware.)

Many of us, if not most, begin to put labels on people we meet as we accumulate information. Most of the information is limited to behaviors at first. Words, the tone they are spoken in, the specific and very limited context we are in at that moment all begin to shape our judgements. Labels get affixed quickly. Nice, mean, intelligent, idiot, harmless, menacing, kind, fair, authoritative, autocratic, boring, fascinating, etc. These labels can get hard coded relatively quickly based on limited observations. Labels become our way of thinking about and interpreting the person.

Angeliki’s mom had labels for her daughter. Here is how Angeliki’s mom describes her. “For one thing, Angeliki had the loudest voice of any child I had ever known. Nevertheless, she didn’t talk much. She was a little slower to speak than other kids, and what she did say was difficult to comprehend. Although Angeliki was gregarious and outgoing, socially she struggled because she couldn’t seem to interact well in a group.” “Most of all, she was an extremely defiant, independent little girl. I referred to this affectionately as her “screw-you” attitude toward life: She would not be moved by any persuasion; she responded with the taciturnity of a boulder to basic requests; and with a steely-eyed gaze and expressionless silence, she would flatly refuse to do what I asked.” Well it turned out that much of her defiance, her screw you attitude and her social struggles were the result of her not hearing much of what was being said.

Lack of hearing is an obvious trait. Once we know it exists. It changes how we interact with a person, again, once we know. We tend to be more understanding. The labels change. Unfortunately, most reasons behind why a person is what he/she is, or even is at a moment in time, are hidden from us. We rarely take the time or spend the energy to find out. In the spirit of 48Facets, I believe that most of us are more than we appear. I also believe that in most cases there is substantial reward for finding out what lies beneath the surface.

Yet to quote that great paragon of philosophical deliberation, Grey’s Anatomy,

“Sometimes a jerk is just a jerk.” (Lexie Grey, 11/22/2007) 

 All this from one article.

Next $1 Million Idea

My friend Jeff and I misspent a good part of high school trying to think up the next idea that would make us fabulously wealthy. In the mid-1970s, $1 million qualified.

Here is my latest.

 I am going to develop an exercise routine for travellers stranded in airports and on planes. The content will be a videos in hi-def which can be a DVD for your laptop, downloaded as a podcast or sent directly to your phone.

Of course there will be attractive men and women demonstrating the exercises but instead of being outfitted in tight spandex, some will be in business casual and others in full business attire. There will be two versions. One for those wanting to be relatively unobtrusive or have limited space. These travel warriors will be doing yoga positions and related stretches modified in ways that they will blend into an already fidgety group of strangers tired of waiting…and waiting …and waiting. For the more gregarious around us there will be a set of wild gyrations sure to get your mojo working.

 I am in early stage development looking for angel invested. Interested? 

Flying Can Be Scary

There have been 2 near misses between planes in the past week. Both due to poor air traffic control. In the first, two planes came within seconds of colliding when the controller put them on a crash course. An alarm in one of the planes followed by great piloting averted tragedy.

Yet it seems that the U.S. system is still one of the best in the world–now that is scary. Almost as scary/funny as this report of passengers needing to refuse to get on a plane tey were asked to board at Heathrow airport. They noticed a piece of one of the wings was missing.

(The sources for these stories came from two very different sources. The first was from The Chicago Tribune. The latter from the NPR news quiz “wait, wait…don’t tell me“.)

Sittin’ On The Dock Of The Bay: Bizarro World Style


According to Wikipedia, Otis Redding “wrote the first verse of the song, under the abbreviated title “Dock of the Bay“, at a houseboat on Waldo Pier in Sausalito, California.” Have you been to Sausalito? It has gotten a bit commercial now but still a beautiful place to sit and contemplate life. In the mid-1960s it must have been idyllic. I had my first cappuccino there well before they became trendy. You could only find one in a specialty coffee shop and not on any corner with a green and white sign. On my first trip to this dock of this bay I enjoyed a calm moment after a stressful work day.

Ahhh. Tonight I can only dream of being there. Instead, I am in almost the opposite– or bizarro-place. (For those of you unfamiliar with the phrase find an old Superman comic book, a Seinfeld episode when Jerry describes it or click here.)

I am in the Westchester County Airport where I have been for the past four and a half hours and expect to be for 3-4 hours more. As I described in an earlier post, even though this county is one of the wealthiest in the country, it is a small regional airport. The best place to hang is either the small bar or the accompanying coffee shop. I swear the airport in Ceder Rapids, Iowa that I spent a lifetime in one day had a better menu and better food than this place.

Mainly I am peeved at United Airlines, specifically the woman behind the counter here tonight. My flight at 5 pm was cancelled. O.K. I am a frequent flier, that happens often due to weather in Chicago. The next United flight was scheduled for 7:40. They told me American Airlines was having similar problems. Liar, Liar. Two American flights left 30 minutes after I had made my way to the coffee shop. I rushed back to the the counter where Liar told me they did not have time to put me on those flights and that the next American flight which was scheduled to leave an hour before my new flight was risky. I would be on standby and would have to give up my guaranteed seat on United. Well of course the American flight left and my &:40 may leave at 11:11 pm…or may not. Best case scenario I get home at 1:30 am after leaving at 5 this morning.

I just checked Wikipedia. At the end of its description of the bay at Sausalito is a picture of me at the Westchester airport with the caption “Sausalito:Bizarro World”. Check it out if you don’t believe it.

 Now sing with me, “Sittin’ in the morning sun….”

Billy Crystal As Mark Twain

More accurately Billy as the 10th and latest recipient of the Mark Twain Prize for American Humor. Since no award is complete without an award show, Billy received the award on October 11 at the John F. Kennedy Center. The TV version aired November 12. Fortunately I was in a hotel room that night and stumbled across the show.  It was funny for both the presenters, including Robin Williams, Jon Lovitz and Martin Short as well as clips from Billy Crytal’s many TV, movie and theatrical performances. If you can catch it on PBS. I guarantee substantial laughter.

Some background on the award. It was first given in 1998. The award is “to recognize the art of humorists who have had an impact on American society in ways similar to the distinguished 19th century novelist and essayist best known as Mark Twain. As a social commentator, satirist and creator of characters, Samuel Clemens was a fearless observer of society, who startled many while delighting and informing many more with his uncompromising perspective of social injustice and personal folly.” No other criteria for picking winners is mentioned. Past winners in order are Richard Prior, Carl Reiner, Jonathon Winters, Whoopi Goldberg, Bob Newhart, Lily Tomlin, Lorne Michaels, Steve Martin and Neil Simon. The bar is not only set high. These winners are humorists that not only make you laugh out loud until you cry but also make you smile…and even make you think.

Billy Crystal’s best works clearly meet these criteria.  Since he is only a few years older than I am so I did not know it then but I wanted to be Billy Crystal when I grew up. Jewish, funny, an everyman that makes every man and woman crack up. His humor is very good but seems doable. I could never be Robin Williams who I believe is the funniest man ever for any 3 minute span. He is too frenetic. That’s not me. But Crystal’s humor? I think (or perhaps dream) that if my wit was just a bit quicker and a tad sharper maybe I could have made a living out of being funny and being funny in a very human way. 

OK maybe I am more than a bit and a tad away.

Whether it is characters from SNL such as Fernando, Sammy or Ali, movies such as When Harry Met Sally or City Slickers, his play 700 Sundays or even his acceptance speech at the Mark Twain Awards, this is one clever, funny man. I leave you with the famous fake orgasm scene from when Harry met Sally. In this he makes us laugh by being a straight man to the otherwise not so funny Meg Ryan. Billy, I salute you! (BTW doesn’t is seem just a little odd to call a fifty something year old man Billy?)

Going to the Gym

Since the biking season ended I put on a quick 8 pounds. I feel like crap and I look 10 months pregnant. Time to start doing something about it. I’ll let you know what happens.

What are the odds of dropping 8 pounds today and keeping them off?