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Archive for July, 2019

So: A Perfectly Good Word Tarnished by Abusive Overusive

Lake Superior State has published its annual list of forbidden words. Words that have been abused, misused, or simply overused to a breaking point. Number 1 on this year’s list? “So”.

Yup. “So” is the new “um”, “uh”, or “like”, as annoyingly overused as any of these, but all the more obnoxious because it is especially favored by the young talking heads of the consultative and pundit class. Seriously, whether I agree of disagree with an “expert’s” opinion I can hardly listen to NPR, CNN, FOX, or even the NFL Today. Every sentence begins with “so”. It’s as if there’s a clause in every contract mandating that you do so.

See what I did there? That’s part of what makes it all so frustrating (see, I did it again). “So” is a perfectly good word, one that has so many legitimate uses it’s nothing short of criminal that it has been captured and held hostage by an undisciplined intelligentsia and associated wannabes. Just as you don’t hear truly gifted speakers pepper their spoken thoughts with “uhh” and “um”(I never found 44 to be all that impressive as a speaker because of this), so, too, should we be spared an assault by this more pretentious verbal tic.

Here’s a resolution (see what I DIDN’T do there): I am giving an instant downgrade to the value of whatever is begin spoken by whomever whenever and wherever if he or she insists on beginning the majority of sentences or new thought threads with “so”. Even more so (Huh? Huh?), I’m thinking that it’s perfectly appropriate to simply tune out or turn off anything and anyone who does that. They all tend to be uber-plugged in to screens and tech and such, and if I did I’d probably have a ton more time to do stuff like read a book, or pet Abby the wonder dog, or get on the floor and build a wooden block castle with “The Man Cub.”

So there.

The Man in the Moon: Sunday musings…7/21/19

Sunday musings…

1) Battery. A group of barracudas is called a “battery”. Did not know that.

2) News. Starbucks, once the 3rd space for people of all sorts, especially those who enjoyed reading the day’s news over some sort of fancy brewed beverage, announced this week that they will no longer sell newspapers. This says much more about the state our local and national print media than it does about Starbucks. People young and old get what they consider the news from myriad sources, none of which require the harvesting of trees or setting of presses.

A disturbing bit of news, indeed.

3) Fly. Which do you prefer, take off or landing? Me, I’m a landing guy. Landing means I’ve arrived. I just can’t ever remember a flight where I was mesmerized by the experience of being in the air. Maybe that one time when we were flying in over the top of the 4th of July fireworks.
That was pretty cool, but of course we were on the landing approach at the time.

The journey is not really the thing for me when I am traveling unless the journey is actually the reason  I’m actually doing the traveling. I like to get to my destination, and frankly I like to get home.

Count me as a “landing” guy.

4) Mountain. “You climb the mountain to see the world; you don’t climb the mountain so that the world can see you.” -Anonymous (as far as I’ve been able to tell)

With the exception of first ascents of real mountains (where the whole idea is for people to see you on top), this is, or should be, quite obvious whether you are examining it literally or figuratively. There are so many worthwhile reasons to do so many things, aim for so many goals, that to do so simply for the adulation seems shallow.

How much more meaningful are the goals and their ultimate achievement when the drive comes from within you and not your audience.

5) Lunar. This weekend marks the 50th anniversary of the first lunar landing. It’s been so long and we’ve talked about it for so many years knowing that Armstrong, Aldren, and Collins successfully pulled off the nearly unimaginable, it is hard for us looking back to imagine how much uncertainty there was during the Apollo 11 mission. From lift-off (there’d been an Apollo lift-off disaster that cost the lives of 3 astronauts) to the never before done landing and subsequent lift-off from the moon, some 500 million earthbound brothers and sisters of the astronauts held their collective breath again and again only to exhale in exaltation as each challenge was met.

There were so many ways things could have gone wrong, any one of which would have meant certain doom for some or all of the men aloft. Imagine the sorrow had Armstrong and Aldren failed to make it back from the moon. The possibility of a mishap that stranded the astronauts on the moon was so real that the Nixon White House actually had contingency plans in place. James Mann, writing for the Washington Post, unearthed the short but eloquent speech that William Safire had written “in the event of moon disaster”. It began, “Fate has ordained that the men who went to the moon to explore in peace will stay on the moon to rest in peace.” It ended with the, “For every human being who looks up at the moon in the nights to come will know that there is some corner of another world that is forever mankind.”

Mann: “What Safire wrote would have qualified as the most eloquent speech Nixon ever gave–and one of the most poignant by any American president. Thankfully, it never had to be delivered.” Having taken us all to the top of the the highest “mountain” yet scaled, it turns out that Armstrong, Aldren, and Collins were, like me, “landing” guys as well.

Imagine, once upon a time there really was a “man in the moon.” It is still astonishing to this day.

I’ll see you next week…

4th of July Craic: Sunday musings…7/7/19

1) Craic. Irish word for “good times”.

Had ’em in spades this week.

2) Lakeside. After 2 frustrating years of mostly lake watching rather than lake using we just spent the better part of a week in and on Lake Erie. My quite beautiful bit of nautical lawn art (refurbished ’71 Whaler) finally got wet again, at least for a little bit. Our pier, so badly damaged by historically high lake levels was repaired, along with our secondary sea wall, in time for friends and family to frolic.

The craic ran at all-time high levels as well.

3) Family. What it means to be family is tricky sometimes. For us, at least in the closest family circles, it’s pretty straightforward. That’s more than a bit of a blessing, but as I’ve gotten older it has become  more clear that family is less about the genetics of lineage and more about the expression of love and caring. Beth and I played a small role in raising a fine young man who was not born into our family. And yet our weekend was missing him just as much as it was missing our oldest son. Both Dan and his little (and growing!) family and Alex were in Colorado while we hosted Megan (and Ryan) and Randy and his little family for the weekend.

Family resides as much in our heart as it does in our genes.

4) Dress code. There is a budding non-controversy in a little corner of the CrossFit world. (What? You thought I was never going to muse about CrossFit again? Silly panda) 2010 CrossFit Games Men’s Champion  Graham Holmberg owns a box somewhere in the greater Columbus, OH area. He very recently announced a dress code for his gym which can be adequately summarized as one which asks for “modesty” in the attire of exercising athletes there. Holmberg is well-known within the greater CrossFit community–check that, within those who became aware of CrossFit prior to, say, 2015 or so–as a deeply devout Christian. (One should note for completeness sake that multi-time Games champion Rich Froning is as well). He is asking that his gym’s members adhere to a dress code that comports with his religious leaning.

What’s the big deal?

Holmberg’s box is a private business that is patronized by paying clients who can choose to be there, or not. He will either learn that his clients are aligned with his worldview, or not. This is no different than the owner of Rocket CrossFit in Seattle who expounds on the virtue of her “rainbow festooned” box, clearly signaling her version of “modesty” through her welcoming of a clientele that might prove troubling to Homlberg. She invokes a politically fraught term to denigrate his decision, calling it a “dog whistle”. Frankly, I find her repeated notes of her rainbows as no more or less a “dog whistle” for her audience than “modesty” would be for Holmberg’s. These are both small business owners who are planting a flag for a particular type of business while at the same time signaling that they are less welcoming of another clientele.

That is precisely why this is a non-controversy: this is commerce. Holmberg and the Rocket owner run private enterprises in which their decisions will determine the relative success of those businesses. This is neither an example of government or elected officials seeking to impose their worldview on a heterogenous public, nor is it an example of a religious group such as the Amish insisting on dressing their children “plain” regardless of their age or desire. Who knows if Holmberg has his finger on the pulse of as much of his community of potential clients as Rocket does in Seattle. We know that at least one of his members disagrees since an internal membership email found its way to the chatternet so quickly. There will be a natural consequence to his dictum which will be whatever it will be.

For whatever it’s worth I hardly ever took my shirt off at Comet, CF Bingo, or any of the other boxes I’ve visited over the years, mostly to spare my fellow gym goers the pain of looking at my soft, pasty white middle. Still, it would bug me to have my attire regulated or my worldview assaulted at a place I visited for refuge and rejuvenation. I would vote with my wallet and my feet. If I wanted a work out space that was solely dedicated to making me feel as comfortable as possible I would open my own box.

The larger issue for me is the “sign of the Apocalypse” feeling this gives me about the evolution of CrossFit as a “thing”, a movement. Once upon a time that which we shared (CrossFit) was much more important than those things about which we may have disagreed. Go back and read some of the early Rest Day conversations. Posters went for the throat on everything except WCABTMD and FMPRHC. After every Rest Day everyone “showed up” and did the WOD. In the few CrossFit gyms scattered around the U.S. you had warfighters doing “Fran” side-by-side with LGBT activists. Loud and proud Progressives and Conservatives supported each other through “Murph”. When you went to the box you suffered alongside the real, live person who held a set of beliefs, and you interacted with your fellow CrossFitter, not his or her beliefs or worldview.

Because both of you could only see the next rep or the next round.

Where CrossFit was a refuge precisely because you were united by your identity as a CrossFitter, CrossFit is the lesser for this trend of gyms catering to the like-minded who happen to be gathering to do CrossFit. It is the equivalent to the difference between a wine tasting and a party at which you happen to be drinking wine; at the former you are there for the wine. CrossFit gyms were once about CrossFit. CrossFit was what you shared. CrossFit was what brought you there. The proliferation of CrossFit gyms has allowed for the segmentation of the CrossFit exercising population along both fitness (strength vs. endurance; health vs. competition) and social lines. Gyms have always had “personalities” that followed that of the owner/founder that attracted some and made others look elsewhere for their dose. Though YMMV, that these “personalities” hue so closely to established social movements thus making “that which we already share” a more important label than CrossFitter is for me a net negative in the continuing evolution of the greater CrossFit movement.

Still, this is commerce; the market will let the owners know if they have an issue.

From my little garage gym, I’ll see you next week…

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