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Sunday, November 23, 2014

Ducks on the pond

Mallards are handsome birds, but it's nice to see something different.

Recently a pair of hooded mergansers have been visiting the pond.  They're a diving duck which makes them all the more interesting to watch.  They're also wild and skittish, so it's hard to get close enough for a decent picture with my modest equipment.

Friday, November 21, 2014

We are what we do

For some time I've thought that people should be judged morally on their actions, what they say and do because we don't really know what's in their hearts.  A person, for example, may have bigoted and prejudiced thoughts, but if they don't talk or act on those thoughts, to me they are not bigots.  I cannot look into souls.  I've come to believe that, in my case at least, self-identity is similarly determined by actions.  For the past forty years this identity has been as a husband, father, businessman, fisherman, etc. because most of my daily actions were in accordance with those categories.  While I have my political beliefs, taste in music, and other things important to me, those are subordinate to the more important categories above because there are less actions associated.

I'm thinking these thoughts because of a passage in a novel I just read, Richard Ford's Let Me Be Frank With You.  On his way to visit his ex-wife, the protagonist muses that she is an essentialist who believes we all have essential selves, a character we cannot do anything about.  This contrasts to his beliefs that "we have only what we did yesterday, what we do today, and what we might still do."  He is about my age and has come to act and view himself according to what he calls his "Default Self" although he concedes "it's not that different from a bedrock self, except it's our creation, rather than us being its."

This Default Self concept sounds similar to thoughts I've recently had about a certain freedom concerning the stage of life I share with Ford's character.  In the role of a manager in business and as a father, I felt I had to act at times in ways I would have preferred not to, to enforce rules and push people away from or in line with certain behaviors.  Now, my children are grown and I no longer work, so my actions are more consistent with what I want to do rather than what I feel I have to do.  Ford's protagonist would probably say that whatever I do now is consciously my creation of a Default Self whereas his wife would probably say I'm acting now more in line with my essential character.   Whichever the interpretation, it is one of the better aspects of growing old.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Big Ten Football

After 60 some years as a charter member of the Atlantic Coast Conference, the University of Maryland is now in the Big Ten which is a disturbance in the lives of long-time fans such as myself.

For some time, I've made it and point to attend at least one football game a season, but this year I waited too long.   Early in the season I could have basked in the sun very comfortably as opposed to shivering in a cold November evening which is what I did last night. 

Not surprisingly, my team lost to Michigan State.  I've always heard that those Midwestern teams "travel well", that is, many of the fans attend away games.  I've attended games in Byrd Stadium for half a century and never before have I seen so many fans from the visiting school.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

The "N" word

Last night I attended an annual sports journalism symposium at University of Maryland that featured a panel discussion on racism in sports.  As part of the discussion, the question was posed on the acceptability of the "N" word in sports or in general society.  The Washington Post also recently printed a long article about the history and present usage of this loaded racial epithet.  Some of the panel participants felt that the word is acceptable for African-Americans to use among themselves but not generally acceptable coming from someone outside that group except, perhaps, among close friends.

The last point made me think of the three different occasions while working that I dealt with situations that a white employee aimed the word at a black co-worker.  The black workers in at least two of the instances didn't want the white employee fired or severely disciplined;  they just wanted me to make them stop.  Both times when I confronted the employee who had said the  "N" word their defense was that the blacks use the word with each other.  I remember once responding that I knew they did, but he still couldn't call them that, and the other time I believe I yelled out angrily that I didn't want the word said by anyone.

The subject makes me feel old.  Growing up in Maryland in the 1950's, I commonly heard the "N" word used.  I'm not proud to admit that I sometimes said it myself but not within earshot of my mother who forbade its use.  I'd also admit it having used it a few times in the late 60's when it was commonly thought among college students who viewed themselves as hip and above prejudice which somehow made it cool to say the word.  My decision to stop was vindicated when I heard the comedian Richard Pryor say that he was getting sick of hip white people using the word.  I also noted the reactions of close African-American friends to those situations.  They may have chosen not to make an issue of a white using the word around them, but I knew them well enough to determine that they didn't like it.

Yeah, I'm old and I guess I'm set in my ways, but I'm not going to ever resume using that word no matter how society may change in attitudes about it.  I'm comfortable with my choices.

Friday, November 7, 2014

Autumn in the Park

 This great blue heron has been hanging around the pond for a couple of weeks:

Autumn: front yard and back

Front Yard


Monday, November 3, 2014

Migratory Canada Geese are in...

Or at least they seem to be.  After months of not seeing more than 30 or so geese at a time, Saturday I counted 150.  I also noted some squabbling which I interpreted as territorial between the residents and the newcomers.  On the other hand, I believe in the past I have noticed that the migratory geese were spookier around humans than the residents who have lost all fear and barely get out of your way.  None of these were spooked by me, so I suppose it could have been a large gathering of residents.

Sunday, Pam went with me on my walk, and I brought my camera.