Religious Thoughts

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There are two apps I have on my iPhone that might surprise some of you: a copy of the Constitution of the United States, and the Bible.

My relationship with God – well, it’s complicated. Some of my best friends growing up were either very religious or weren’t when I knew them then as much as they are now. One of my girlfriends put a lot of pressure on me in the early 1990’s to become a Christian even though I considered myself Catholic, and I still do. I figured: what’s the difference, a question I still ask.

In the years I was growing up, my Mom and Dad didn’t take me to church, except for weddings, christenings, and what not. My Dad asked me one time if I wanted to go to church, and I thought against it at that time – even though there was a time in either the fourth and fifth grade I went to an afterschool bible class for a stretch. It’s not that I don’t believe – because I do believe someone had to have (or has) the intelligence to put us on this planet. I think we’re all meant to be here. Most of us go to heaven when we die – you have to do something incredibly evil not to. That’s what I like to think, anyway.

But as to what religion is “right” about what happens once we die – I don’t know. I don’t think it’s meant for us mortals to figure out. I don’t mind reading the Bible or getting an opinion on what has happened or what might happen. Maybe the Indians (as in from India, not the native Americans) are right in that we live our lives, then we come back as something else in the “next” life. Maybe I’m who I am in life for some reason that was meant to be in the “past” life. Maybe I was my mother or father in my previous life. Or maybe I’ll be my cat Harry, in the next life. I don’t know how all of that works, and it’s not like they left me an instruction manual.

I’m also a believer that the life we lead will have an impact on the past, present, and future, and that the history in each life we live can be different. For instance, if I come back as another being in another life – it might be a life where the Germans win World War II, or that Hillary Clinton is the current president. It could be something as trivial as the Patriots winning the Super Bowl last season, not the Eagles, or the Apollo moon landings never happening, or the Internet being totally different or non-existent in 2018 in some other life. Who knows?

Sometimes you have to admit, you don’t know everything. I think there are times we don’t admit that to ourselves for whatever reason – pride, I tend to think. We go on. We fight the good fight. We try to be the best we can, or at least we should. Temptation (especially these days) is always out there.

I do believe there is a God – but I don’t pretend to know the minutiae, like what happens when I die. I’m not looking forward to the moment, but I hope I get to see my father up in heaven when the time gets here.

 

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Making (North) American Soccer Great Again

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Growing up in the Tampa Bay area and remembering the popularity of the Rowdies, the NASL franchise, I get a little annoyed that our area with its deep soccer history doesn’t have a team in Major League Soccer. It seems to me that when you get past the popularity of the World Cup and English Premier League soccer here in the States, Major League Soccer seems at best to be an afterthought.

Monday night, I was looking at the structure of the MLS for the 2018 season and saw the first problem: it has an odd number of teams at 23, with plans to expand to 25. With an odd number of teams, every team can’t play in a given week.

There’s enough talent in the US for many more teams, so if anyone wanted my opinion, I’d use a version of the system used in Europe generally. Have two leagues of 16 teams each. I’d place every team that’s won the MLS Cup in the past five years in the top of the two leagues, then include the best teams over a five-year average excluding the cup winners. The remaining teams would go to the bottom league along with expansion franchises and maybe teams from the other current leagues. Like I said, there’s enough talent in American soccer for 32 teams, maybe more than that – I just use that figure as a starting point.

As they do in Europe, I’d have promotion and relegation, where the teams that finish the lowest get demoted to the bottom league, while the best teams in the lower tier subsequently get promoted to the top league. The MLS can still have their Americanized playoff system at the end of the season (I’d recommend having the best eight teams seeded into a two-game total goals playoff, again like done in Europe) and find a champion that way.

Will American soccer ever adopt the fall to spring calendar the other renown leagues use all over the world? I think that would be a tougher nut to crack with some teams sharing facilities with NFL teams. They would also have to have contingency plans in mind with teams in northern cities getting snow and winter storms with a bit more frequency as seems to be the case in Europe.

Anyway, that’s what I’d do with soccer if anyone gave me the ball, so to speak.

Whatever Your Source Of Stress Or Strife

We have had a wave of celebrity obituaries in the past ten days or so, and with so many passings it might have been easy to overlook the news that one of my work colleagues and bosses had died on Tuesday – Chuck Harder. A bit of an irony that Chuck died the same day former First Lady Barbara Bush had, as it never occurred to me that Harder was a fan of establishment politicians.

That being said, a lot of people considered Chuck a conservative wingnut and was often parodied and lampooned by hosts at rival talk station WFLA back in the 1980’s. I never felt that way. I think he discovered what many believe now – that there is an establishment class of politicians that run things up in Washington D.C., a class that many in the know now call the Deep State. These establishment politicians don’t want outsiders (like our current President) running things, and most times they team up to thwart such efforts. In the 2016 elections, they were not as fortunate. Chuck was a big fan of H. Ross Perot, the 1992 and 1996 third-party candidate – and he laid the blueprints for Trump’s successful run as a Republican infiltrator in 2016, I’ve always believed.

I worked with Chuck at the Sun Radio Network in 1991 – I believe (though I could be wrong) that it was around this time he moved from Cedar Key to the Telford Hotel in White Springs. After he helped with the formation of radio station WEND in Brandon and the Sun Radio Network, he had been rather unceremoniously dismissed there (no, I don’t know the details – my guess was he got in a power struggle with Liberty Lobby and lost) in the spring of ’91, replaced by the very capable Tom Donahue. In the proceeding years, Harder started up his own network, the People’s Radio Network – and he gave me a job and provided me with a room at the Telford Hotel.

The “For The People” show Harder hosted was not a small operation by any means. At one point in the 1990’s, the show was carried over 200 stations every afternoon – the only show on more stations in that era was Rush Limbaugh’s operation out of New York.

My memories of Chuck were pleasant ones, and one of the times in my life I wish I could do over again – sadly in life, most of the time you don’t get do-overs. It was just a bit of a culture shock for me as a 23-year-old to go from living in the Tampa Bay area to living life at a much slower pace. I’m not proud of how my stay there ended, and I always felt I had let Chuck down. Another instance of not knowing how good I had it, I suppose – which regrettably seems to have been a pattern in my career.

In all of my interactions with Harder, he was always positive and upbeat, always patient and not one to lose his temper as so many do in the radio business. One time up in White Springs in 1994, I was running the board for him on an afternoon shift, and my duties were mainly to run the commercial breaks and news updates at the top of the hour and on the bottom. Back then, everything wasn’t in electronic form – we used 8-track like “carts” on special machines. Harder always believed in using American equipment – but I was warned of a drawback in using these particular cart machines – that if you jammed a cart into the machine at the last moment, it would play the first few seconds at half-speed or thereabouts.

One day, I found myself in such a situation with Chuck’s bumper music – music used so stations carrying the show could identify themselves right before the host began speaking again. Chuck had a senior producer who screened the phone callers and coordinated with any guests he’d use – and I thought for sure “blooping” his bumper music would lead to consequences of some sort. Chuck mentioned my name on the air – but laughed it off. It was the kind of guy he was – if he ever castigated anybody for anything, I never saw it. At some other places I worked, had I done that – I would have been read the riot act.

I also think Chuck was an example of what happened to the radio business once the FCC allowed ownership consolidation took hold in the mid-1990’s under President Clinton’s watch. I mean this not as a political commentary per se, but to point out that when you have so few companies allowed to buy up so many radio stations, it’s generally not a good thing. The networks like PRN and Sun provided content for these “mom and pop” stations across the country – but once everything consolidated, these outlets withered away if one of the bigger corporations didn’t buy them.

Another quick example if I may: when I lived in Las Vegas in 1996 for a little less than a month, I could hear Chuck’s “For The People” radio show out there. Four years later when I went out there again, he was long gone off of that market’s radio dial.

Rest in peace, Chuck. You were a character.

 

Giants Among Us

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I’ll let you figure out who the giant is…

Thanks to a YouTube user named Nigel John for uploading the recent HBO documentary about the life of Andre “The Giant” Roussimoff. It was one of the better pieces about Andre I’ve yet to see, and there’s been a lot of work in “pop culture” in the quarter of a century since the big man has passed on that’s out there.

(Footnote: the documentary, as many seem to do, seems to forget that Andre was the WWF champion in February of 1988 very briefly, ending Hulk Hogan’s four-year reign with the belt. When Andre gave the title up to a fellow wrestler who didn’t earn it, the title was “held up” – not awarded to anyone – until “Macho Man” Randy Savage won a subsequent tournament.)

I’ve never seen Andre personally, but I once met the world’s tallest woman, Sandy Allen. I met her a few weeks before my ninth birthday in Niagara Falls, Ontario, Canada in 1980 on a New York vacation. I had relatives in Geneva, New York at the time, so off we went one day westward for my first and only (to date) trip to another country.

My mother still kids me about what I said to Canadian customs as we crossed the border. Remember, this was 1980 – long before 9/11, long before any President thought of building border walls. As was customary, the border agents asked if we have anything to declare.

The eight-year-old version of me didn’t seem to understand the gravity of the question. My cousins and I had munched on some bananas and Cheerios (without milk, because that could get messy) on the way to the border, so that’s what came to my mind.

“Only these bananas,” I said, holding the yellow fruit up for the agents to see. Everyone in the car looked at me as if I had somehow pledged allegiance to Satan or something.

There was a Guinness Book of World Records exhibit in Niagara Falls at the time. Around that time, I had gotten the paperback version of one of their yearly editions at a book fair at my elementary school, and that piqued my interest. There was also a short-lived game show around that time called The Guinness Game where contestants were staked with money and wagered on whether or not attempts at various world records would be successful.

(Footnote: I once had the home version board game of the show. No kidding.)

Two things I remember: a very big pinball game on display with a ball the size of a baseball moving around the electronic board, and meeting Sandy Allen.

One of the photos that didn’t pass the test of time was of me, two of my cousins, and Sandy towering above all of us. In the photo, I’m the tallest of the three children, but Allen is towering over me with ease, and still would if I had met her having reached my full height of roughly six feet and an inch.

In the photo, she’s resting the right forearm on top of my head – that I remember. I’m pretty sure my mother and aunt got a chuckle out of that. Meanwhile, I’m holding as still as I can – I don’t want to get this mountain of a woman mad at me!

I wish I still had that pic. It always brought out amazement whenever I showed it to friends. I’d tell them, no – I’m not that tall. But this woman, she’s huge!

Speedy Delivery

I’ve used the same computer now for most of the last five and a half years. It’s been a workhorse for me, but even workhorses have parts fail on it from time to time.

A couple of months back, I noticed an orange light in the upper right of this HP computer I’ve been using all of this time. It freaked me out for a bit – what did it mean? Oh, it’s the Wi-Fi adapter on it no longer working. Being the tinkerer I am, I consulted the oracle of Google to see if anything could be done, and trying a few workarounds – nope, it still wasn’t going to work.

It dawned on me that what I needed would cost a mere pittance – a USB Wi-Fi adapter. Amazon had them available to my specifications for under $10, and one company offered free shipping and handling. Works for me – click, click, click!

Amazon told me it wouldn’t get here for a week. It got to my home in two days.

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I plug the part into a USB port – and I have Wi-Fi on the computer again. I don’t use Wi-Fi for the computer all that much, I let my mobile devices and whatnot do the lion’s share of the usage on it, but if the situation occurs that my Ethernet plug ever stopped working, it’s a good backup plan to have around. On top of that, if I were to travel, I wouldn’t be S.O.L. with a computer with no working Wi-Fi.

While these online mega-companies like Facebook, Twitter, Amazon, and Apple are now facing government scrutiny, it should be noted that there are times where they go get things right and make things easier on us. This latest experience I had with Amazon was definitely one of those occasions.