FAMILY ‘SUMMER CAMP’ – BY ELLIN CURLEY

I did a fun thing with my kids in 1993, when they were eight and thirteen. My ex, Larry, and I took them to a three-day Family Summer Camp on Lake George in New York State. It was just like regular sleep away camp except it was designed for families.

My two kids on the dock at the camp

During the day, everyone signed up for different activities, with or without your other family members. The families came together at mealtimes and for the evening’s entertainment. I did several things with my kids. It was fun doing things I had enjoyed when I was in camp, with my own children. Things like archery and riflery, both of which I, strangely, excelled at.

We also kayaked together and went waterskiing. At least the kids went waterskiing, all around the picturesque lake. I had waterskied in grade school and found it easy. I didn’t anticipate a problem. However, neither Larry or I could even get up on our skis for more than a few seconds. We got three chances and struck out 0 for three. It was embarrassing and made me feel old.

The accommodations were sparse. They took “rustic” to new levels. And I’m not a ‘roughing it’ kind of girl. So this was really a stretch for me. Each family had their own cabin in the woods. Ours had two sets of bunk beds, plain wood floors, a dresser and a table and chairs. There were, maybe two light bulbs hanging from the ceiling. No air conditioning goes without saying (a big deal for me). Also lots of bugs and insects.

Sparse cabin like the one we lived in for the weekend

Then there was the bathrooms. There were two communal bathrooms, one for men and one for women, The problem was, they were at least two city blocks from our cabin. We had to walk through dark and thick woods to get there. There were exposed tree roots and fallen branches everywhere to trip over on the way. Making that trip in the middle of the night with a flashlight and an eight year old was not a picnic. It was downright scary.

One interesting camp rule was that every family had to do kitchen duty for one breakfast, one lunch and one dinner. That meant setting and clearing tables before and after the assigned meals. That was one of my favorite memories from the weekend – sharing KP duty with my kids and a few other families.

My daughter on the camp’s dock

On this trip, I was also introduced to the art of Storytelling. We were regaled one night by a professional Storyteller. We were all mesmerized. She was amazing. She told a wonderful old tale with a theatrical delivery that made you feel like you were watching a full cast enact a play. I’ll never forget that experience.

I don’t think I could have handled more than three days of “camp”. But as a family “adventure,” I give it five stars! Except for the fact that Sarah came home with lice! Maybe it should only get three stars.

AMERICAN VALUES, AMERICAN VOTING AND AMERICAN IDOL – BY TOM CURLEY

The American voting system is seriously fucked up. I think most of us can agree on this fact. Right wing nut jobs insist that millions of illegal aliens somehow got into thousands of voting booths and voted for Hillary.

I voted!

Thousands of illegal aliens somehow rented hundreds of buses and all drove to New Hampshire to vote for democrats.

New Hampshire or bust!

Our arcane system of electing a President has resulted in a minority of Americans voting in the two worst Presidents in American history.

Dumb and Dumber. (Dumber is on the left)

Republican states are bending over backward to deny more and more people (usually minorities) the right to vote. To top all this off, less than half our voting age population bothers to vote at all.


Interesting fact. In 2012, more people voted for the winner of American Idol than voted for President of the United States. 


This begs the question which is — what is American Idol doing right that the American government is failing to do?

I think the answer is that we as a nation have just become a big, big, really bad reality show. We have a really bad reality TV show President. And why? Well, apparently lots of people like reality shows. So, I say we need to change the whole system of voting.

It’s obvious. We need to change the way we select candidates for President and turn electoral politics into a giant reality show contest.

We start with the primaries. We have a set number of people to start with. Say … 16. Both parties do this. We then have 16 debates. The debates are not moderated by network news people. Instead, we have judges. Different judges for each debate. For the first debate, we can have the judges from The Voice, Master Chef, Junior America’s Got Talent, and so on.

Or we could mix them up. At the end of each debate the judges eliminate one candidate. Oh, and the audience can yell and scream all they want.

When you narrow it down to the top 10 candidates, that’s when you, the American public, takes over. During the debate and for one hour following it, you get to vote for the candidate of your choice. The one with the fewest votes is out.

Voting rules are simple.  You can vote by text, phone call, or online. You can vote 10 times on any of these devices. (Note: Message and data rates may apply.)

Eventually, we’re down to just two candidates.

Now they are free to travel around the country. Give all the speeches they want. But — they will have to go through at least four more debates.

Here’s where it gets interesting. They are not just debates! Depending on the judges, the candidates will have to compete in various competitions. When the America’s Got Talent judges are moderating, each candidate will have to do some kind of act. Magic, ventriloquism, hip hop dancing, or maybe a dog act.

When the Master Chef judges are moderating they will all have to make an interesting dish. Using shrimp.

They may have to design a line of clothing, flip a house or bake a perfect soufflé.

You get the idea. The candidate who wins these challenges gets an advantage for that episode, excuse me, debate. Stuff like maybe the winner gets an air horn he or she can blow whenever the other candidate is speaking.

When we finally get to election day all the networks agree to show a wrap up clip show of all the debates. The winners, the losers, the fallen soufflés.

Everything.

Now you, the American public have until midnight November 8th to vote. You can vote by phone, text, online, regular mail — or you can go to a voting booth. This time, you only get 20 votes. You can only vote 10 times on any given device. Except the voting booth. You can cast all 20 votes there. (Note: Message and data rates may apply.)

I realize at this point you think I’m joking. And I am. But am I? You say that it’s supposed to be one person, one vote. But is one person, 20 votes any different? OK, you say it’s too complicated. What if people don’t use all 20 votes? What if they don’t know how to text? What if they can’t get online? Well, too bad. That’s what makes the game interesting.

Is this any more difficult than having people stand in lines for hours on election day in poor districts with a few voting machines, many of which don’t work — only to find out that they’ve been thrown off the voting rolls because their name was similar to somebody else who had committed a felony and wasn’t allowed to vote?

WTF!! What do you mean I can’t vote!?

But, you say “How do we know people didn’t cheat?” Maybe they voted more than 20 times? Well, our technology seems to be fully able to handle the problem. I recently texted a donation to a hurricane relief fund during the telethon that all the networks aired the other day. I tried to do it again and I got a text back saying that I had donated the limit.

Maybe people could cheat, but it’s still more secure than the electronic voting machines we use. Machines we’ve seen repeatedly hacked by professionals trying to show us how easy they are hacked.

So this is it. My humble proposal. I think it would bring a lot more people out to vote, and it would be a lot more fun!

Tell me honestly, wouldn’t you pay money to watch Ted Cruz try to bake a savory cheese soufflé?

I’m Ted Cruz, and I approve of this soufflé. Food porn!

 

A FLAVORFUL ANNIVERSARY

CHINESE FOOD WITH SCULPTURE


This  is our anniversary. Number 27. There’s a special gift that goes with 27. Not gold, diamonds, silver, or other expensive metals. No, this is the “sculpture” anniversary. I was thinking a really large bronze or something in stone.

Otherwise, we are considering trying out a new Chinese restaurant in Whitinsville. For you non-locals, you may pronounce that “white-enz-ville.” Emphasis on the “white.”

There is no “wit” in the valley. The Whitens family were big mill owners and the pronunciation remains with us forever.

This particular restaurant is brand, spanking new. We know this because we got their publicity mailer only yesterday. Having been here such a short time, there’s an off-chance they’ll retain memories of how to cook Chinese food in a Chinese manner. New restaurants are pretty good for a couple of months, until everyone starts to complain how the food is too spicy.  Too spicy can mean the chef uses alien spices, like ginger and garlic. Even regular ground black pepper is viewed as a potential dangerous intruder to our local culinary style. Flavorful? We hope.

Today will be a largely a non-electronic day. We’ll be out most of the afternoon and possibly, if dinner works out, a piece of the evening.

Photo: Garry Armstrong

Maybe we’ll go buy a sculpture after all. A really big, extremely heavy bronze — or maybe solid granite. Something weighty enough to take out the front end of a snow plow. With its hands outstretched to hold a plaque with our address on it.

Thus finally, the FEDEX guy will stop delivering our packages to the neighbors, though not necessarily from tossing them into snowdrifts where I won’t find them until next spring.

PENCHANT – TOO DULL FOR GROWN UPS

Penchant is one of those words I use, but only with people who like words. My husband, for example. Otherwise, I don’t use them much because so many people don’t recognize them. This one doesn’t count as a $20 word, though, because it only has two syllables. To be a truly, official, fancy word worth at least a $20, you need a minimum of three syllables and a sense that the origin was Latin or Greek, or perhaps, Polynesian.

From the “Smart Dictionary”

I was hoping to discover a trail of the past taking us into French, maybe. Penchant, with a French accent, might have sexual connotations.

Alas. Neither the American nor British dictionaries led me down through history to when this word meant “a small Gallic flag which flies over the war chief’s tent when he is making love to his mistress” or “silken under garments worn by the wife of the Count de Toulouse circa 1274.”

It merely means “a fondness or preference or liking” for this, that, or the other thing. Ho hum.

If we are going to have to write about vocabulary words — this is like one of those they put in Reader’s Digest’s “Improve Your Vocabulary” articles — make them more titillating. Sexier. Bring on the black silk underwear! This is not doing it for me.

Raunchy words! Yes! Bring them on!

THE DISOBEDIENT DOG

Duke is a disobedient dog. He is sweet, funny, and smarter than a lot of people I know, but he doesn’t like taking orders. Or coming when called. Or stopping if told to “cut it out.”

He’s working on it, though.

He can’t figure out how come I know he’s trying to knock down the dining room gate even though I can’t see him. He hasn’t yet realized I can hear him, even from another room.

He is learning. Not as fast as I would like, but not bad, either. He connects the “time out” with the event that caused it … and not every dog does. We’ll work it out.

WORLD SHARING MID SEPTEMBER

Share Your World – September 11, 2017


I don’t know how come it’s almost the middle of September. This month started the day before yesterday. Summer went fast, but this is ridiculous. I am not ready for time to swing by at this supercharged pace. Slow down, world! Slow DOWN!

And now …

Would you want $200,000 right now or $250,000 in a year? It’s safe to assume all money is tax-free.

Now would be just fine, thank you. Who knows what will be a year from now?

Korea might bomb us. We might bomb them. The Chinese might bomb everybody. I might die or they might give the money to someone else. I’ll take it now, thank you. A new bathroom awaits!

There’s a story about this …

Once upon a time, there is a poor, old man living in a tiny settlement miles outside of Minsk. One day, the Czar and his minions ride into town. They are, of course, looking to see if anyone has money, because that’s what Czars did, back then. Unlike now, where our governments gets our money in other ways and don’t have to actually ride into town and confront living citizens.

The dog might talk!

The Czar spots the old man and demands he give him all his money. Every last kopek, and then some!

The old man says, “Your majesty, I have very little to give you, but of course as your subject,  I will gladly give you everything. But consider this. I have a dog who I am teaching to talk. If you give me a year, the dog will earn me a fortune and I will give it all to you.”

The Czar looks at the dog, then looks at the old man. “I doubt it,” says the high and mighty Czar, “I don’t think that dog is ever going to talk, but I will give you a year. Then, I will be back demanding payment. If that dog doesn’t talk, I will slay you on the spot.”

The old man bows as the Czar and his cronies ride off.

ARE YOU CRAZY?” screams the old guy’s wife. “That dog can’t talk! The Czar is going to come back and kill you!”

“Well,” says the man, “It’s a whole year away. In one year, the Czar might die. I might die. Or … the dog might talk.”

Is it more important to love or be loved?

Both, of course.

List things that represent abundance to you.

Enough money to live on and enough left over to cover emergencies.

And, finally, in answer to the unlisted question, I did NOT have a single inspiring moment this week. I’m not a very inspiring kind of gal. I’m pretty sure if I was inspired, I’d be writing about it — or shooting pictures of it!

ALL HURRICANES SHOULD BE CALLED DARWIN – BY TOM CURLEY

I’m not sure why we name hurricanes. I have no idea how the names get picked. I could Google it and maybe find out, but I’m too lazy to bother right now.

Regardless, I think all hurricanes should be named Darwin. Why?

Because nothing weeds out the gene pool and brings out the stupid in people like a hurricane. The bigger they are, the dumber they get. As I’m writing this, Hurricane Irma, or what I call it, Hurricane Darwin the 1st, is hitting southern Florida.

The worst is yet to come.  I’m watching the coverage, which is the exactly the same on all the networks. An anchor, who makes millions of dollars a year, is sitting in a warm cozy network studio. (Except for Lester Holt who was out there in the wind and rain just like a real reporter.)

He’s talking to the poor schmuck who drew the short straw and is standing in the middle of the hurricane telling everybody how dangerous the hurricane is and how nobody should be out in it. Except of course for him and his crew.

Now, granted, I know that they aren’t in as much danger as it seems. I worked for CBS News for 40 years and I know they set up in safe spots outside the wind. They only need one shot where the wind is howling and it looks like they are hanging on for dear life. When the live shot is over they all go back inside, smoke cigarettes, have lunch, play Candy Crush on their phones  and wait for the next live hit.

(I know Garry is nodding and laughing right now)

(Note: Garry is laughing — because he isn’t the schmuck out there in the storm.)

The really stupidest are the people who think they can ride these things out. I watched a news report a few days ago where they interviewed two people who planned on riding out Irma from a trailer park.

Excuse me? Did you just say A TRAILER PARK??? One guy said he already lost his mobile home two weeks ago in a run off the mill flood. They happen there all the time.  

His plan was to stay with a friend in another mobile home. They expected it to be destroyed too.

What was their Plan B? To hang out in a temporary construction trailer! A mobile home lite!

I’m looking at the screen screaming “Are you nuts? Don’t you know hurricanes and tornadoes hate mobile homes?! A tornado will go around an entire town to get at just ONE TRAILER PARK!!”

To a hurricane, mobile homes are just tasty little snacks!

I know it’s much more complicated than this.  Some people can’t get out for valid reasons — lack of anywhere to go or no vehicle or destitution.

But, for the guy who goes surfing as the hurricane hits, and dies ….

And, the guy who is kite surfing as the hurricane hits  …

Oh Boy! I’m heading right toward the tornado! Cool!

And, the family on the beach with their kids taking video of the guy kite surfing …

And, the poor schmuck interviewing them …

I hope you all survive Hurricane Darwin the 1st.

That wasn’t so bad.

I wish  mother nature could come up with a way, WAY less catastrophic method of weeding out the gene pool.

Seriously, folks — stay safe!