Wednesday, February 27, 2013

There and Back Again

...with apologies to Mr. Tolkien and, of course, Bilbo Baggins.

As you may have read here recently, I have been away for a fortnight. Yesterday I returned. And all throughout I have been thinking. About the familiar.

The familiar is what bores us. The familiar is waking up and doing much the same thing we have done for God knows how long. The familiar is what drives us away, seeking fresh adventures and something to put a little extra zing in our step, a little bit of a rush in our blood. The familiar is often despised.

And yet, when our sojourn is over and we return to the place we call home, the familiar is warm and comfortable to put on, like a favorite shirt or a comfortable pair of shoes. It's a balm, and a peace, and the feeling of safety.

It's a rest from the road, a surcease from the strange, and a warm embrace from and for arms too long empty.

As the saying goes, it is two different sides of the same coin. The familiar is both foe and friend. It's the crazy uncle you avoid at reunions and a favorite aunt you just can't visit enough; the one who makes you wish you never had to leave.

The familiar is what I left behind two weeks ago and the familiar is what I joyously returned to yesterday.

It was, simply, a fabulous vacation.

It is, simply, a delight to be home.


Mark's Musings is published on a periodical basis - right now on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays - but that may change without notice. Find me on Twitter at This blog is considered to be a digital periodical publication and is filed as such with the U.S. Library of Congress; ISSN 2154-9761.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Travels with Dad: The Road Home

In the past two weeks, I have driven the length of Indiana, the small end of Kentucky, the width of Tennessee, the length of Alabama, and darn near the length and width of Florida.

Dad and I started out visiting family and friends, worked our way down through the Everglades, rode the inter-coastal highway all the way to Key West, visited the southernmost tip of the continental United States, took video of roosters crowing just down the street from Ernest Hemingway's house, counted cats, bought way too many souvenirs, were within an arm's reach of a zebra and a good spitball from a grown tiger, fed a real live giraffe, hung out with friends, played in a euchre tournament (and lost), watched dolphins, ate too many over-priced and crappy hot dogs, looked at items we grew up with that are now in a museum and it made us feel ancient, watched a bi-plane fly, actually touched a piece of history, had the best strawberry shortcake of our life, and finished up by watching two major league teams play in a lovely minor league stadium.

I think it was, hands down, one of the best vacations I've ever had. And to think, all I had to do to get it was retire.

Now, we head home. And it's a race. As I write this, we are in northern Florida on a Sunday night. On Tuesday afternoon, back in our home state of Michigan, a snowstorm bringing 4-7 inches of snow is predicted to blow through. Our goal is to beat that storm home.

We have an awful lot of driving to do on Monday, the day this blog entry is published. So forgive me if I'm brief, but I need to hit the sack so I'll be a safe driver as you read this.

Thanks for tagging along on my retirement vacation this past week!

Friday, February 22, 2013

Travels with Dad: The Way It Was

Today is going to be mostly a photo essay, with a few tidbits that I picked up along the way during our visit to Heritage Village - which sounds like a retirement community - but it's a 21-acre compound in Largo, Florida run by Pinellas County Parks and features a gaggle of turn-of-the-twentieth-century buildings from the 1900s and a few older, some newer.

It seems to me to be a near-perfect opportunity for us to see just how far we've come as a society and to let those whippersnapper kids we've got know just how easy they've got it, so they'd better shape up.

The photo up top is Dad pointing to a railway depot run by the Railway Express Agency, which also happened to be the first company for which he worked. He drove a truck delivering freight that came off the trains in the early 1950s.

Back in the day, pretty much every store was like a Wal-Mart, carrying just about anything and everything your household might need. And in case anyone is interested, that's a 1921 Dodge Brothers automobile parked out front.

The store would usually house the town's switchboard, as well. If you wanted to place a call, kids, you would pick up your phone (see photo) which would automatically ring the operator who would then connect you to an outside line and dial for you. (Note on the phone pic there's no dial.) Back then, *all* your calls were 3-way calls and there was no extra charge. The town switchboard operator also doubled as the town gossip and their information was pretty reliable, considering they could eavesdrop on every call, if they wanted.

Next comes your kitchen. You get one cupboard, seen in the left foreground. Your refrigerator - called an icebox, because it was cooled by one honkin' big chunk of ice - is in the left background. Your stove, in the right background, was usually a wood stove. The little dustpan you see leaning against the door was for cleaning out the ashes. Your countertop space is in the right foreground. No luxury granite counters here.

When it was time for laundry, you lugged everything into the laundry room - outside - and dropped it, one at a time mind you, into a tub filled with water that was usually heated on top of a small fire. You dropped in your corrugated washboard (Google it, kids), then scraped a bar of soap help in a wire trap against it until it was clean. Then you rinsed and wrung it out by hand and hung it on a line strung between two trees.

In those days, men's shirts didn't come with collars. Collars were stiff cardboard and linen creations, sold separately (about a dime apiece). A man would wear the same shirt for three days in a row, but he'd put on a fresh collar every day.

Next you see an old-fashioned, seven-foot long tub in its original condition, circa 1907. You would only bathe about once a week because it was thought that "getting wet all over" would leave you vulnerable to all manner of illnesses; chills, ague, consumption, etc. And in this tub, you could wash three children at a time.

Church was usually just once a week, unless a revival preacher was in town, and it was on Sunday morning. There was no coffee or lattes in the lobby, no plush cushions on the pews or theater seating, no worship band, no audio/video presentations ... just a big wooden box with great acoustics that make a few people singing sound like a gigantic choir.

And God said it was good.

Women didn't get to go out and work with the men in those days, and when the chores were done, they couldn't be allowed to just sit and take their ease because, you know, "idle hands are the devil's playground" and all. So women all took up a hobby that occupied their hands ... knitting, crochet, cross-stitch, calligraphy, and some type of musical instrument (generally piano if a family was wealthy enough to own one). With no television and no radio (no iPod, iPad, Gameboy or Internet, either), music was the primary diversion back in the day, and everyone knew how to sing.

They were certainly simpler days, and probably better days, in so many ways. But there were definitely drawbacks. It took a long while for bathrooms to move indoors because, "who wants that stuff *inside* the house?" Segregation and prejudice relegated whole races to second class and worse living standards. (Still does, in some places.) And unless you were lucky enough to be born into a wealthy family, every day was a scratch for survival, living hand-to-mouth.

But still, it was a more innocent time. People didn't need to lock their doors. Gangs meant groups of friends hanging out together, not seeing how much trouble they could stir up. Profanity was never heard in public and rarely heard at home. 

As science and technology relentlessly drag us into the future, let's remember those days with fondness, and then, perhaps, also be thankful they are behind us. Because today can be pretty awesome, as well.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Travels with Dad: Edison Museum

The gentleman to your left, his likeness forever cast in stainless steel, is Thomas Alva Edison. The man was an inventor and came up with patents for 65 years straight; 1,093 in all. The tree you see in the background is a banyan tree, a gift from Harvey Firestone, planted there in 1925 and flourishing 88 years later.

Edison is most well-known for inventing the light bulb but he created oh, so much more. There is a fairly well-researched Wikipedia entry here, for those who want to read more. Some of Edison's inventions my father and I witnessed today were the coffeemaker, curling iron, toaster, phonographs (the grandfather of the music CD, kids), mimeograph (the ancestor of the copy machine most well known by the brand name Xerox), cement, baby furniture, rubber from plants, batteries, and a high-quality iron ore.

And those are just the ones I can remember.

Since both Dad and I grew up in Michigan, we felt an affinity for Edison, as he grew up in Port Huron, Michigan. He fell into the telegraphy business, but his entrepreneurial spirit had blossomed before that. His first patent was for an electric voting machine, to help the legislators in Congress cast votes more quickly and easily. This was, of course, the *last* thing they wanted to do and so it was a commercial failure. One historian on film at the museum suggested that was Edison's best legacy: that failure is often a prerequisite for success; picking yourself up and trying again.

The first big hit of Edison's was the phonograph. The thought that sounds could be captured on metal (he used tin foil at first) and then replayed was from so far out in leftfield at the time that Edison was dubbed, "The Wizard of Menlo Park" (his lab was in Menlo Park, New Jersey). The phonograph to the right was built in 1904 and we heard a demonstration where it still sounded pretty dang good. The tinfoil - which tore far too easily - was eventually replaced by a hard waxy substance called "blue amberol," from which the cylinder here is made. The motor ran off a spring that you hand-cranked with the device seen on the right. There was no volume control, so to soften the sound coming out of the horn, people would stuff a bit of cotton - or a wadded up sock - down the horn to quiet it (this was also demonstrated for us). And that, gentle reader, is where the expression, "stuff a sock in it" originated.

 Eventually Edison switched to the 12-inch plastic round disc we know as the "Long-Playing Album" (or LP), because his main competitor - Victrola - had started using them. The advantage to the disc was that you could flip it over and record a second song on the back. The technology was improved until you could get up to 40 minutes of music on each side, instead of 3-4 minutes.

Ultimately, that's what Edison really became good at doing - improving his own inventions. As he grew older, the demands of his fame, and his family (which his second wife sensibly insisted he attend upon) took away much of his time from inventing and the world's technology was changing around him so fast that he couldn't keep up and lacked the energy to try. So even though he built a laboratory that was 10 times larger than his original, he never really struck out onto new ground.

Interestingly, Edison was nearly deaf. He had to rely on the ears of others to fine-tune his recording devices. Once, he had a phonograph placed into this wood frame, where he would actually bite the corner (see the photo) and feel the vibrations of the music to make sure they were being reproduced.

By the way, if these pictures aren't crystal clear, chalk it up to the fact I'm using my cell phone. It's a pretty good camera (Samsung Galaxy S-II), but not as good as, say, a *real* digital camera, like the one my father uses.

Speaking of cameras - oh, wasn't that smooth? - Edison began experimenting with motion pictures in 1888. So yeah, he sort of invented Hollywood, too.

To accommodate his new invention, he built the world's first soundstage and movie studio - in West Orange, New Jersey. It was built on a circular railroad track and both sides of the roof opened so the interior could be flooded with natural sunlight.

 Edison's work ethic was incredible. He thought himself no higher than his workers - here you see him punching the clock, like everyone else - and on this particular day, if you could see the plaque below the photo ... it was his 74th birthday.


His last project in life started in 1929. Edison, Harvey Firestone, and Henry Ford  realized that the country imported nearly all of its rubber, a critical component to all of their businesses (Edison used rubber in the manufacture of battery cases). And realizing that the rubber supply could be cut off and was out of their control, they began searching for ways to make rubber right here in the United States. The three of them created the Edison Botanical Research Laboratory, each contributing $25,000 in start-up costs. Edison went to work testing different plants for a potential rubber source. He tested more than 17,000 varieties, finally settling on the goldenrod weed as the best potential source. At the time, it grew to about six feet, and approximately 4% of the leaf would yield rubber.

Through cross-breeding and hybrid pollination, Edison created a variety of goldenrod that grew to 12 feet, and 10% of the leaf would yield rubber. In 1930, Congress rewarded him by naming this new hybrid variety after him, calling it the Solidago edisoniana, but before it could move to the mass-production process, DuPont discovered a way to make artificial rubber, calling it neoprene. The laboratory remained in operation until 1937, six years after his death.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Travels with Dad: Hemingway House

Today I'm going to take you on a virtual tour of the Ernest Hemingway Home in Key West, Florida. Of course, you can get a much better one here, but it won't be nearly as personal. Heh.

Key West is celebrating their *500th* anniversary. You read that correctly. The island was settled in 1513. Three-and-a-half centuries later a former ship captain-turned-merchant named Asa Tift built this home (in 1851). It has stood for more than 160 years with no hurricane damage. The reason? Asa built the walls out of 18" thick limestone blocks. He quarried the blocks from the property the house sits on. What did he do with the hole he made? Turned it into the only basement in Key West. And it's a dry basement. Why? Because Asa built this home on a "hill." The Hemingway House is a whopping 16 feet above sea level. The average for the rest of Key West is 5 feet above sea level.

The house was purchased by Ernest Hemingway and his wife, Pauline (nee Pfeffer), in 1931 by paying the $8,000 back taxes owed. By then the house needed major renovations and Pauline - a former fashion editor with Vogue magazine in Paris - undertook the task with relish. The first thing she did was get rid of all the ceiling fans. She thought they were tacky. And she replaced them with all manner of chandeliers. Some very fancy, some that looked like they belonged over a pool table.

The couple wanted a large bed, but in the '30s, the king-sized bed hadn't been invented yet. So they made one. Problem? No king-sized headboard. The couple solved the problem by adapting this piece you see here to the right ... it's the gate from a Spanish monastery.

During the renovation, they also added a second floor bathroom. The first one in Key West. They were able to do it by adding a pair of I-beams to the ceiling and putting a 500-gallon cistern on the roof to provide water for flushing and bathing. Worked great during the rainy season....

Hemingway was given a six-toed (polydactyl) cat by a local ship's captain, which he named "Snowball." There are now 45 cats on the property (all of whom are used to people and quietly oblivious of them), and all of the cats are supposedly descendents of Snowball. They are all six-toed cats or carry the six-toe gene. Toby here, is an example. He was asleep on the bed above as we walked through the room. You can see the sixth toe - it resembles a thumb - on his front left paw.

The cats are cared for extensively by staff and a local veterinarian. There is even a cat cemetery on the property.

In 1938, Hemingway went to Europe for 10 months, and Pauline decided to surprise him by putting in a pool. It was the only pool within 100 miles. The cost, however, was exorbitant. Pauline spent $20,000 on the project. When Hemingway came home, he angrily told Pauline, "You've taken all my money. You might as well get the last cent." And he took a penny out of his pocket and ground it into the still-wet cement. You can still see it there.

This final picture is, basically, of a urinal. A local bar was doing some renovations and Hemingway saw an old men's urinal laying there. He was struck by the idea that it would make an ideal watering trough for the burgeoning cat population on the property. Pauline was, needless to say, less than thrilled at finding a man's toilet in her backyard. So she tried to dress it up by adding colorful mosaic tile to the sides and capping it off with a large Spanish olive jar brought home from one of their trips abroad.

Hemingway divorced Pauline in 1940 and married journalist Martha Gellhorn. You may have seen this all detailed in the recent HBO special. The house remained in Pauline's care and when she passed in 1951, it reverted to the Hemingway family. When Hemingway committed suicide in 1961, the family put the estate up for sale and it came into the hands of the philanthropical organization that runs it as a tourist attraction today.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Traveling with Dad

Dad, if you read this, forgive me. I am perhaps giving away too much, and some of it you may not find complimentary. But know that I think you are a great man, and I only hope to be considered as wonderful by my own children. When I think of what my life will eventually look like without you in it, I am bereft. The thought makes me feel like a ship lost upon the waters without a captain. Remember that as you read the next few paragraphs.

For the rest of you, here are the five things I've learned if you want to travel with my Dad.

1. Be prepared to live out of a suitcase. Dad is something of a vagabond when he goes on vacation. A tumbleweed. When he travels, the man travels. He rarely stays in one place more than a few hours or overnight. We generally travel day-by-day, targeting a place to be by dinner, which means we then usually spend 6-7 hours a day inside a car and watch the world go by, snapping photos as we go. He drives in the mornings, and I take the wheel after lunch, when his energy is beginning to flag. The upside is that we cover more ground than most people and see more sights in a day than many see in a week. It's certainly a change of pace from how I usually travel, and it is occasionally exhausting, but I wouldn't trade the time with Dad for anything. To be fair, all I would have to do is give the word and we'd stop and stick and stay for a day or two, exploring a place, but so far I haven't had the heart to detour Dad's traveling bug. For Dad, getting to a place is just as important as seeing what's there.

2. Traveling with Dad sometimes means "Adventures in GPS Programming." Occasionally Dad will program Shortest Route into the Global Positioning System (GPS), instead of Fastest Route. Usually this is by accident, but sometimes we do it intentionally. Setting your GPS for Shortest Route is about the same thing as saying, "I want to get there, but I want to see every backwood, neighborhood, county road, train crossing, and two-lane track in between where I am and there." We have literally gone through neighborhoods where I did not feel safe and where the road has gone from blacktop to gravel to dirt road and back again. It's the scenic route, for sure.

3. Traveling with Dad requires the ability to sleep through a snore storm. Dad snores. Saws logs. Runs a buzz saw. Sounds like a flatulent pig tying balloon animals. And he goes to bed long before I'm ready to hit the sack. Usually. In the end, however, this all works out because when it comes to snoring, I fear I am just as bad. Possibly worse.

4. Traveling with Dad means putting up with the occasional awkward moment. Dad is 80 years old, pushing 81. This means he grew up in a completely different era than the one in which we find ourselves. Some of Dad's social mores - completely acceptable by society in an earlier time - are now considered prejudicial. Sometimes they truly are prejudices, but ones he has picked up and learned through hard experience. To his credit, he does his best to set these aside and deal with everyone he meets honestly and fairly, and it is only when they prove his prejudices that I hear them pop out. And oh, he does like to call people when we stop at a restaurant. And because he's been partially deaf for most of his adult life, he's a loud talker on the cell, which garners us the occasional nasty glance. But really, this minor social faux pas is ridiculously easy to ignore.

5. Speaking of awkward moments, traveling with Dad means frank and open discussions about bowel movements. And that, gentle reader, is all I will say about that.

My father deals squarely with strangers, and is extremely generous to his loved ones. This is our third trip together, and Dad foots 99% of the bill each time we go. He is still smart as the proverbial whip, he is funny (and punny) and never fails to say a table grace that moves my heart, no matter where we are, or what manner of repast is set before us.

I hope I grow up to be just like him. Mostly (I'm fond of what hair is left.)


Mark's Musings is published on a periodical basis - right now on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays - but that may change without notice. Find me on Twitter at This blog is considered to be a digital periodical publication and is filed as such with the U.S. Library of Congress; ISSN 2154-9761.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Lent, 2013

Ash Wednesday, 2013. The beginning of the Lenten season, which will run 40 days (not counting Sundays) through Easter, which falls on March 31 this year.

Some people give up something for Lent. Common items are coffee, or chocolate. One friend of mine gives up cake and cookies, I think, two of her favorite sweets.

Others add something. They do something special or different for Lent. Read more Scripture. Help out at a soup kitchen. Fast for lunch and spend the time in prayer.

I'm sure that over the years I've mentioned my view on Lent. I see it as a personal "40 days in the wilderness" -- all right, a spiritual wilderness -- to prepare for Easter. To make certain your spiritual house is in order, that you may fully partake of the depth and height of Holy Week and it's joyous culmination in the celebration of Christ's resurrection at Easter.

This year I'm beginning Lent on the road - as I write this, I'm in Florida with my father on another road trip together, our third since Mom passed away. Yesterday was not only the end of Mardi Gras and Fat Tuesday, it would have been Mom and Dad's forty-second wedding anniversary were she still with us. I'm glad that Dad didn't have to spend that day alone.

I'm not sure if we'll do anything to set tomorrow apart from our normal routine, but I'd be interested in your thoughts.


What do you do - or not do - for Lent?

Mark's Musings is published on a periodical basis - right now on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays - but that may change without notice. Find me on Twitter at This blog is considered to be a digital periodical publication and is filed as such with the U.S. Library of Congress; ISSN 2154-9761.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Miscellaneous Monday On the Road

Hey, all ... I'm sitting in a motel in Athens, Alabama, on the road to Florida with my Dad, as I mentioned last time. So today won't be anything specific, just some random observations as I spent 10 hours in a car today.

Goodbit: First off, there's good news! In 2009, I blogged about a study that suggested global warming was just a natural cycle of the environment. Now there's a study that is nearly proof of that theory. The hole in the ozone is healing! (See picture at left and follow the links.)


Daughterbit:Secondly, here's a bit of something my daughter and her friend Jordan (also known as "Daughter #2") taught me while we had supper at a fast food joint last night. If you take the little paper ketchup cups and stretch them out at the top, they will hold, like, twice as much! I was pleasantly flabbergasted by this simple and effective tip. Now I will do it all the time. (I took the photo at lunch today. Dad and I eat cheap lunches on the road. Don't hate me.)


Dadbit: Here's a tidbit Dad taught me today. In the photo below, see where the sign on top - the one that says, "Exit 227" - is located? Over on the right side of the sign? That's a hint. That's the state telling you that the upcoming exit is on the right side of the road. Exit # signs at the top left indicate the exit will be on the left (of course). Exit signs in the middle generally mean your exit isn't the next one, it's just giving you a heads up on what number exit you'll need.

Mark's Musings is published on a periodical basis - right now on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays - but that may change without notice. Find me on Twitter at This blog is considered to be a digital periodical publication and is filed as such with the U.S. Library of Congress; ISSN 2154-9761.

Friday, February 08, 2013

The Real Lower Peninsula

By virtue of the fact that Michigan juts out into the midst of the Great Lakes, we are a state known as a peninsula. The word "peninsula" is a Latin portmanteau, or a combination of two words. Paene, meaning "almost," and insula, meaning "island." Michigan actually has *two* peninsulas ... the Upper Peninsula (or "Da U.P., eh?") and the Lower Peninsula, wherein I reside.

But anyone with half a brain looking at a map of the United States would clearly see that the real lower peninsula of this country is, in fact, Florida.

And that's where I'm headed for the next couple of weeks. Yes, it's another road trip with Dad. This time to see friends, family, and basically just bum around somewhere warm that didn't just have half a foot of snow dumped on it. By virtue of my postal retirement, I'm available, I'm ready, and I'm willing; a good combination.

So look for the next few blog posts to be about the road trip, and yes, I'll try and upload a picture or two. For now, however, here are some facts about Internet use in 2012, gathered from Royal Pingdom.


  • 144 billion e-mails were sent every day.
  • Of these, 61% were considered to be "non-essential."
  • Google's G-Mail is the #1 e-mail program, with 425 million users.
  • Just over 50% of all spam was about pharmaceuticals.
  • There were 634 million websites.
  • 51 million of these were new last year.
  • 48% of the Top 100 blogs are on WordPress. (This blog uses Google's Blogger.)
  • Google is the #1 web property in the United States, with 191 million visitors.
  • There were 100 million ".com" domains at the end of the year.
  • At just over 32%, GoDaddy is the largest domain name registrar in the world.
  • There were 2.4 billion Internet users in 2012.
  • Almost half of that number are in Asian countries.
  • The U.S. has the greatest access to the Internet (see chart).
  • Brazil is the most active country on Facebook.
  • 47% of Facebook users are female.
  • There were 300 million new photos added to Facebook every day.
  • Facebook - started for the college crowd - now has an average user age of 40.5 years.
  • Twitter has 200 million active users.
  • There were an average of 175 million "tweets" sent every day in 2012.
  • Google's Chrome is now the #1 web browser in use.
  • There were 5.3 billion cell phones in use last year.
  • 1.3 billion of those are smartphones.


Mark's Musings is published on a periodical basis - right now on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays - but that may change without notice. Find me on Twitter at This blog is considered to be a digital periodical publication and is filed as such with the U.S. Library of Congress; ISSN 2154-9761.

Wednesday, February 06, 2013

Word Rescue

You know how every year this or that group comes out with their annual list of words that should be banned, or phrases we never want to hear again? (I believe I have run those type of lists. Here. And here.)

Well, the clever folks at Wayne State University - just a click of the big hand south of my home - issue annual lists of words that have fallen out of favor and deserve a second chance.

Words like:
Cerulean ... Dragoon ... Mawkish ... Natter

These are words, say the WSU Word Warriors, that are "some of the English language's most expressive - yet regrettably neglected - words."

You can find the complete list, with definitions, here.


As seen in "The Writer's Almanac"
by Mira McEwen

Committee Meeting.     Burden Of Proof.
     The Simple Truth.          Trying To Be Nice.
Honestly.   I Could Have Died.     I Almost Cried.
         It's Only A Cold Sore.
It's My Night.       Trust Me.       Dead Serious.
I Have Everything All Under Control.
              I'm Famous For My Honesty.
     I'm Simply Beside Myself.           We're On The Same Page. 
         Let's Not Reinvent The Wheel.
For The Time Being.    There Is That.
              I'm Not Just Saying That.
I Just Couldn't Help Myself.                   I Mean It.


Mark's Musings is published on a periodical basis - right now on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays - but that may change without notice. Sliding your mouse all the way to the right where you see that sliver of black will get you a few more links and ways to follow me and/or find out when a new post has been published. This blog is considered to be a digital periodical publication and is filed as such with the U.S. Library of Congress; ISSN 2154-9761.

Monday, February 04, 2013

Super Bowled Over?

(Remember to click the title above to read the entire post!)

The Baltimore Ravens defeated the San Francisco 49ers in yesterday's Super Bowl. I admit that I was pulling for the Ravens, but only because they had Michael Oher playing for them and I greatly enjoyed the movie about his early life, "The Blind Side."

But enough about the game. Let's talk about the commercials. Because, really, that's the big draw for this event, am I right? Ad Blitz has them all up on YouTube here.

On the whole, I was disappointed. We generally gather together with friends and the only time everyone is paying attention to the television - as there are many, many folks at these things who couldn't care less about the game - is when the commercials come on. You can tell by the crowd reaction which ones are hit and which ones miss. It felt like there were a lot more misses this year.

Most of the typical ad strategies were represented: the "aww" ad featuring the Budweiser Clydesdale. Bud is even sponsoring a "name the pony" contest via Twitter. Then there's the put-a-lump-in-your-throat patriotic ad. Last year it was Clint Eastwood, this year it was one narrated by Oprah Winfrey for a combined Jeep/USO ad. There's usually some kind of "sex sells" ad, but this year was notoriously light on those (thankfully). The closest one was probably the Axe astronaut ad. There's generally a cute babies or cute animals ad ... I think Kia cornered the market on both in one commercial this year. 

There's always at least one ad that makes you scratch your head and wonder why any company would blow $3 million on *that* ... for me this year it was the one from Mio featuring Tracy Morgan. Speaking of which, there are always ads that feature celebrities; sometimes these click (as in the Best Buy ad featuring Amy Poehler), and sometimes they don't (see the near-unwatchable Bud Light ads featuring Stevie Wonder or the Samsung ad with Paul Rudd and Seth Rogen, with a LeBron James cameo).

Though there were several ads that I thoroughly enjoyed, for me the one that I'm remembering best is this ad for the Hyundai Sonata Turbo:

THOUGHT TO CHEW ON: Experts tell us that watching a 2-hour movie filled with violence and profanity has no discernible effect on our behavior. If that's true, why do these companies pay more than $3 million (plus some rather large production costs) on something that lasts only 30 seconds ... all in the interest of changing our behavior?

So which commercial(s) did you like?

Saturday, February 02, 2013

The Blog Returns!

(Click the title above for full post.)

So. Yeah. That happened. The Postal Service offered a VER, or "Voluntary Early Retirement," to qualified personnel. I qualified, and I accepted their offer.

At just 55, I'm much too young to think of myself as retired ... but then again, a few months back some kid working the counter at McDonald's gave me the senior discount on a cup of coffee, without my asking for it, so ... maybe I'm not too young?

Hmmm. Maybe I *am* too young, but look old enough to be retired?

Ugh. I don't think that's any better.

Anyway, it's a brave new world for me and so far the only thing I've done with my eight extra hours each day is sleep 'em away and spend even more time exploring the World Wide Web and playing Facebook games. But I will choose to be okay with that aimless "me time" for a bit. No need to rush into anything new, I suppose.

My father and I will be heading off to sunny Florida in just over a week. Hopefully I can blog a little about that from the road.

Eventually I'll be structuring the blog back into the old "Mark's Musings" three-part format of an interesting slice of life, a joke, and a bit of trivia or wordplay ... but I'll probably start slowly -- three times a week, say -- rather than daily.

As the modern proverb goes, I don't know what the future holds, but I know Who holds the future. So like the character of Mr. Henslowe, the theater owner in the movie, "Shakespeare in Love," I don't know how everything will work out -- it's a mystery -- but I know it will all come out fine in the end.

Tune back in Monday for another installment.

Mark's Musings is published on a periodical basis - right now on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays - but that may change without notice. Sliding your mouse all the way to the right where you see that sliver of black will get you a few more links and ways to follow me and/or find out when a new post has been published. This blog is considered to be a digital periodical publication and is filed as such with the U.S. Library of Congress; ISSN 2154-9761.