The Mob vs Gangs

This morning after mass I stepped into our parish hall for hospitality. I sat and had coffee with another “old guy” who is just a year younger than me. Bill lives in a community outside of Frankfort named Gateway. It is an over 55 community. He started discussing how he loves it there, and how he has suddenly become allergic to mowing the lawn. Age triggers many allergies you know. He took to hiring a sixteen year old grandson of a resident. The kid cuts a hundred lawns a month at $20 a cut. That is amazing money for a teen ager 20 x 100 = $2000. Our conversation drifted to where we grew up. Bill in the Bridgeport neighborhood, and me in Burnside. We both attended Catholic high schools, Gordon Tech and Mendel. Our sports teams competed against each other.

Our conversation drifted to how the mafia dominated his neighborhood. He told of being in a neighborhood restaurant with his parents when two men dressed in long black overcoats and black fedoras came in. One stood at the door to prevent anyone from coming or going. The other walked through into the kitchen looked at everyone there then moved into the lady’s room to do the same. Finally the guy went into the men’s room to search it. Evidently he didn’t find who he was looking for so the two of them left. “There is no doubt in my mind that the guy they were looking for would have died on the spot,” said Bill. I couldn’t top that story, but it brought to mind that even though we don’t hear about mob killings anymore like when we were kids, we hear about gang killings daily. They are so common we don’t even get upset about them anymore. Then the idea that killing people on the streets is a long time Chicago tradition came to mind. Shooting people on the street has been part of our culture, and has been for almost a hundred years.

The next time I read the shooting count, like this morning, six wounded, one dead, it will just pass like the mob killings of my youth. It isn’t about gun control it is about eliminating bad people within the community. I have to admit, however, that the mob limited killing to their enemies while the gangs will kill anyone in the way. Therefore, they are not the same and I shouldn’t compare the mob to gangs. Gang killing is not just the result of rivalries, it is often a rite of passage. In some cases killing is necessary to prove you are man enough to join a gang.

I also remember that if I had any ideas of joining a street gang to cause trouble, the trouble would have been mine. My Dad would have punished me in a way that hurt long and hard, killing would have been too easy on me.  I truly believe that the current gang problem is the result of kids being raised in fatherless families. There is one thing fathers are good at like dispensing punishment, deprivation, banishment, or some other form of misery to their kids who err. The problem is that mother’s never wait for the father to come home, and they dispense justice immediately. If the job was too big for Mom she relied on the famous standby  “wait until your father gets home.” That wait was enough to make me change my ways.

“Ah, the good old days!”

Remember When?


Children of the greatest generation

Born in the 1930's to the early 1940's, we exist as a very special age group.

We are the smallest group of children born since the early 1900's.

We are the last generation, climbing out of the depression, who can remember the winds of war and the impact of a world at war which rattled the structure of our daily lives for years.

We are the last to remember ration books for everything from gas to sugar to shoes to stoves.

We saved tin foil and poured fat into tin cans.

We saw cars up on blocks because tires weren't available.

We can remember milk being delivered to our house early in the morning and placed in the “milk box” on the porch.

We are the last to see the gold stars in the front windows of our grieving neighbors whose sons died in the War.

We saw the 'boys' home from the war, build their little houses - Jones Park?

We are the last generation who spent childhood without television; instead, we imagined what we heard on the radio.

As we all like to brag, with no TV, we spent our childhood "playing outside”.
There was no city playground for kids. Soccer was unheard of.

The lack of television in our early years meant, for most of us, that we had little real understanding of what the world was like.

On Saturday afternoons, the movies gave us newsreels sandwiched in between westerns and cartoons that were at least a week old.
Telephones were one to a house, often shared (party Lines) and hung on the wall in the kitchen (no cares about privacy).

Computers were called calculators, they were hand cranked; typewriters were driven by pounding fingers, throwing the carriage, and changing the ribbon.

The 'INTERNET’ and ‘GOOGLE’ were words that did not exist.

Newspapers and magazines were written for adults and the news was broadcast on our radio in the evening by Paul Harvey.

As we grew up, the country was exploding with growth.

The G.I. Bill gave returning veterans the means to get an education and spurred colleges to grow.

VA loans fanned a housing boom. Pent up demand coupled with new installment payment plans opened many factories for work.

New highways would bring jobs and mobility. New cars averaged $2,000 full price.

The veterans joined civic clubs and became active in politics.

The radio network expanded from 3 stations to thousands.

Our parents were suddenly free from the confines of the depression and the war, and they threw themselves into exploring opportunities they had never imagined.

We weren't neglected, but we weren't today's all-consuming family focus.

They were glad we played by ourselves until the street lights came on or Mom called us for supper - by hollering!

They were busy discovering the post war world.

We entered a world of overflowing plenty and opportunity; a world where we were welcomed, enjoyed ourselves and felt secure in our future.

Although depression poverty was deeply remembered.

Polio was still a crippler.

We came of age in the 50s and 60s.

The Korean War was a dark passage in the early 50s and by mid-decade school children were ducking under desks for Air-Raid training.

Russia built the “Iron Curtain” and China became Red China.

Eisenhower sent the first 'Army Advisers' to Vietnam.

Castro took over in Cuba and Khrushchev came to power in Russia.

We are the last generation to experience an interlude when there were no threats to our homeland. The war was over and the cold war, Muslim terrorism, “global warming”, and perpetual economic insecurity had yet to haunt life with unease.

Only our generation can remember both a time of great war, and a time when our world was secure and full of bright promise and plenty, we lived through both.

We grew up at the best possible time, a time when the world was getting better, not worse."

We are “The Last Ones”.

More than 99 % of us are either retired or deceased, and we feel privileged to have “lived in the best of times”!

A Lovely Afternoon With My Daughter

This afternoon I got to spend time with my daughter. We had lunch in downtown Joliet at the Joliet Junior College Culinary Arts Center. My grandson, (her son) was part of the staff in the kitchen. Joey, is in his final semester in the Culinary Arts curriculum. His station today was sandwiches. The school did an amazing job of designing a kitchen-restaurant for teaching kids to become chefs, and hospitality managers. Thank goodness Jacque made reservations because the place was filled to capacity. The once a week luncheon operates between 11:30 and 1:00 p.m. We arrived at noon, but it took me fifteen minutes to find a parking spot. Like most city centers Joliet is a menage of big buildings, separated by narrow streets which are laden with traffic.

After three circles around the block, I finally found a street spot a block and a half away from the restaurant. I parallel parked like a pro and we disembarked. I failed to notice a sign next to the spot which read “No Parking Special Event, vehicles will be towed,” oops! I told Jacque to wait there for me and I would go to the garage a block further up the street.

The garage was five floors high and had exits on three sides, with only one entrance on the west side. Of course I had to drive around the building to find that one entrance. I turned in to see a sign Hotel Parking. Joliet s a famous casino town and this garage was next to the casino. There was no gate nor a ticket vendor at the entrance. I found a spot of the second floor, and parked. I met Jacque and we walked back to the restaurant.

The lunch menu was great. We had a Thai egg roll for appetizer and she had a tomato, bean soup that resembled chili. There was a bread basket on the table with an assortment of home-made dinner rolls, and a plate of specially flavored butters. I sampled them all. Three of the four butters were very tasty, and one was bland. The rolls were excellent and fresh-baked. For my entre I ordered a bacon, cheese topped packed pork wrap. It was excellent. Jacque ordered a monster hamburger which she could only eat a small part of. A gob of very salty french fries sided each sandwich with a small cup of special catsup.   We brought most of it home. For dessert we ordered a chocolate mouse topped custard pie served with dabs of lemon, lemon sorbet, a dollop of whipped cream, and a small portion of orange marmalade. Wow! We did finish that.

The entire restaurant is a teaching laboratory, Waitresses took orders on a tablet connected wirelessly to the kitchen. Each chef received his work load electronically and the time to table measured as a metric of performance. The wait staff was measured on the time it took them to get to the table, then the time it took to take our order, and finally on the time between what it took the chef to finish an order to the time the order made it to the table. I thought, my God why would a person want to go to college to be a waitress? I quizzed our waitress, she was really attending the school in the curriculum of Hospitality Management, and was required to spend one semester working the restaurant for lunch. She went to school three days a week and worked three different jobs the remaining four days.  She is a typical energetic college kid.

Jacque and I sauntered back to the car crossing a couple of streets which had walk signs. We were waiting for the red hand to turn so we could cross safely.  “You know Jacque, the liberals of our country have overlooked a very racist government controlled feature of our transportation system.”

“What?”

“Look at us, we are waiting for the little white man to let us know it is safe to cross.”

“Da-ad, what do you expect them to do?”

The libs are always poking us about white privilege and how whites reign supreme over all other colors of people but they overlooked the most racist symbol of control over people, the little white man who allows us to cross a street. It is never a little black man, nor a yellow man, he is always white. He lords over all races, and the libs don’t say a word about it. Instead they demolish hundred year old statues, and confederate flags as racist symbols while completely overlooking the millions of these walk signs around the entire country. She changed the subject and I was glad she did.

Mosey sign on crossing.

 

Pita or Potica?

I challenged my grandson Joey to a bake-off last week and guess what? He beat me. Joey is a student in the school of Culinary Arts at Joliet Junior College. I really thought he could pick up a few pointers from the Old Man (me). He stepped into the kitchen, I handed him an apron which he donned immediately. I thought for sure he would wimp-out and hand it back to me, but he put it on and made me proud. The challenge was to bake a walnut-roll from the recipe found in my mother’s (his great grand mother’s) cook book.

Every year at Christmas and New Year I get a strange yen to eat walnut-roll. Most likely because Mom raised me eating walnut roll, and many other beautiful baked goods. She was an excellent baker. How she became one is a mystery. She came to the USA when she was sixteen, so she didn’t have a lot of time to develop epicurean cooking or baking skills while still in her native Hungary. She married my Dad when she was twenty-three. Until then she worked as a domestic for families in the Chicago area, and might have developed some experience during that period.

My parents lived in a neighborhood called Burnside on the far South side of Chicago. Burnside had a very heavy population of immigrants from many European countries: Hungary, Italy, Poland, Ukraine, Germany, Slovenia, and few I forgot. The name of the Catholic Church in the neighborhood was Our Lady of Hungary, so a lot of Hungarians lived there. My guess is that Mom learned to cook and bake from her girl friends in the neighborhood. If they shared something, or baked something at a bake sale which she liked she would ask them for a recipe, and make it for my Dad. He was a man who never disappointed her because he ate every experiment she put in front of him without a complaint. Being the observant type, she would notice how quickly he devoured her experiments. Being a quick learner she kept making the things that disappeared from the table fast.

My brother, sister and I were also willing test subjects. I can honestly brag that she brought me up on her walnut roll, blackberry and apple pie, poppy-seed or apricot kiflik, and a myriad of other delectable bakery. Her white bread was to die for. She didn’t bother baking small loaves in those wimpy nine by four-inch bread pans, but rather a turkey roasting pan. The image of a giant loaf of white bread still warm from the oven makes my mouth water.

We two Joe’s set out to bake the best walnut roll made by any human on earth. Because Joey was in a strange kitchen, I obeyed his requests for tools, and ingredients. He never looked back and jumped into the process with a vigor I had never seen him have before. Being a good grandfather, and a believer in the benefits of positive reinforcement I became his assistant. I never said anything, but observed as he steadily assembled the ingredients. I merely asked if he finished using the dish, spoon, pot, etc so I could rinse it clean.

When it came to deciding when the dough was ready he became frustrated by the elasticity, and I finally chastised him for his impatience with a “nothing is perfect comment.” He bought my argument and proceeded to work the dough into a beautiful thin sheet ready for spreading the filling and the last roll up. Finally, I was able to teach him my technique of rolling the dough on a sheet of waxed paper which made the last windup easy. We popped two finished rolls on a greased cookie-sheet slid it into the oven and anxiously awaited for it to bake. I set a timer for thirty minutes called for by the recipe. Joey just opened the oven door occasionally and lightly touched the surface of the dough with his fingertip. He pulled the rolls from the oven at twenty-five minutes declaring the rolls done. It seemed an eternity for the them to cool enough for us to cut, and when we finally did it turned out he was right, the rolls were fully baked and ready, and delicious; just like my Ma’s.

I sent Joe home with one of the rolls, and wrapped the other to keep it moist. There was enough filling left over to make another loaf. I decided to make it the next day, but I wanted to try a different recipe. My mother’s recipe did not use yeast in the dough, so I chose a Slovak recipe using the same ingredients plus yeast. To make this loaf totally different I added cinnamon and honey to the filling. This dough was very elastic and would have met Joe’s requirements. The recipe made enough dough for two loaves, but when I spread it out into twelve by sixteen inch rectangle I realized I could have made four loaves by thinning the sheet.

I used up all the filling on one loaf and baked it using a timer. My walnut-roll came out browner on the top but still very soft inside.

Another eternity passed as I waited for the loaf to cool enough to cut. To pass time, I cut a slice of Joey’s to make a comparison. The slice almost didn’t make the side by side as I had not yet eaten breakfast and my mouth started watering.

Eventually, I cut the new roll and took side by side photos. It is obvious to see which slice had the yeast. Next came a taste test. Honestly, they were nearly identical. I didn’t taste the honey or the cinnamon. Joey’s roll tasted a bit more of flour than did the yeast dough. Both were good and I look forward to devouring them in the days ahead.

So, which is it Pita or Potica? My mother’s cook book calls it Pita, the Slovenians, and Polish call it Potica.

Damn Toyota Let Me Down

It is the last day of 2017 and what am I doing? Nothing. I’m writing an angry blog piece about a car that let me down. Lately I’ve been bragging about how good my Avalon has been to me, but today that has changed. I’ve written about the lousy experience I had with my 1969 Corolla, and how it kept me from buying another Toyota, or any other piece of Jap-Crap for thirty-six years. Once I calm down I’ll be able to explain rationally how I really feel about my Avalon. Right now the bitter sting of having to fix a car in -5 degree weather still has my shorts in a bunch.

Yesterday, I left the house on my way to my stepdaughter’s sixty-second birthday party. I gingerly placed her gift on the back seat along with a walnut roll wrapped in aluminum foil along with a fresh bottle of Champaign to help with the celebration. The temperature in the garage was low at thirty degrees. Outside it was six below. We haven’t had a winter like this since the nineteen eighties. You know, the Liberals ordered the world to go into warming mode so they could impose exorbitant taxes on us to feed the tyrants of the world, and to enrich themselves by trading carbon credits. I’m here to say the warming trend is over. By next winter the pundits will be crying ice-age once again. I like global warming cycles they keep me comfortable in the winter time. I hate ice-age like winters when I freeze me ass off. Anyway, I pushed the magic button and the Toyota chattered at me. It is that bone chilling noise one gets when a battery dies and the solenoid clicks away.

This morning I mentioned to a friend that since I have owned cars I have had a streak of bad luck with break downs when it is cold. Below zero cold makes stuff break, it makes weak stuff fail, it makes tires split, and it makes car owners very upset. What can I do? I am so dependent on a car to get around that I don’t even think about walking two miles in below zero temps to get to Starbucks. I could spew another thousand words talking about my winter break down experiences but I won’t, I’ll speak of something good instead, like improved battery life. During my life with VWs, Fords, Oldsmobiles, and Mercurys It was not uncommon to have to replace a battery every two years. Since I bought the Avalon batteries have improved, and now last for six years.  My car is  thirteen years old, has 143000 miles on it, and the second battery failed. So even though I blame the Toyota for letting me down it is the battery that is the root-cause. Since the battery is not what I sit in to drive me places I have to blame the car.

I wish all who read this a very Happy New Year without any cold weather trouble.

 

 

Things I Have Forgotten

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Last week I dreamed I was at work. It has been sixteen years since I have worked for a living, and being at work in the dream was delightful, except for one thing. I couldn’t remember a specific word that I used daily to describe a special property of the material we used to make our number one product. That spoiled my dream. Up to that point I enjoyed being an expert on the material properties. I liked to call myself an expert on the material but I was, and am still far from it, but compared to an ordinary Joe I am an expert. The same holds true for today, I am far from an expert on the use or workings of a computer, but I am further advanced in know-how than the circle of friends I hang with, they consider me a computer guru. I am also one to try to do things with a computer that no one else does, and I get very little help from anyone I know. For example, recently I conducted a class in which the students gave answers to a questionnaire. The result of the answers are meaningless unless they are compiled into an aggregate. I used Excel to do the job. I tried showing the total result to the class via a projector connected to my PC. The results were totally unreadable on the big screen. Nevertheless projecting data on a screen from a computer was impressive. The next week I imported the Excel data into a Power-Point program to display, they were better. I had used Excel in my work but this new Excel was so different it took me some time and experimentation to learn how to work with it. At the end, I concluded that although I finally made some nice graphs that the new Excel didn’t have the capabilities of the sixteen year older versions I had used. In my work I made some really comprehensive and detailed graphs to display data just like engineers did before computers. As the class progressed I kept adding more results to the Power Point until the class concluded. The last session will use the total results to make decisions about improvement projects.

While doing all this it became clear to me that I would like to show the Power Point presentation to more people. I thought I could just plug it in and play it in a loop over and over to use as a backdrop during a dinner. After much experimentation I learned that Power Point is not capable of looping.  To do what I wanted to do I would have to make a movie of my presentation. Not a problem I thought, I am very familiar with iMovie having made a dozen or so movies from my old super eight films. Except the latest iMovie program is now five years newer than the one I used forcing me to learn how to use iMovie all over again. In the process of learning, I discovered it would be easier to save my Power Point slides as jpeg images. You don’t want to know how much I swore at Apple while learning that to be necessary.

As I developed this movie using bland data I added my organization goals into the mix, now the movie was really bland. To spice things up I decided to add some canned videos before, and after my bland data, short, colorful, and informative videos one before and one after. The movie got better, except that the videos would not draw everyone into the presentation, so I added home video snips from my organization activities. This added personality to the thing and tied it all together. Making the movie was becoming easier as I repeatedly experimented with the various elements.

When I had a finished product to my satisfaction I found the loop feature in iMovie and added it; wallah mission accomplished except it wouldn’t loop.

I was giving up at this point and said it is time to burn this project to disk so I can play it on any kind of player. I set it up to burn using iDVD. I’ve used iDVD successfully many times. This time I let the computer run for twenty-eight hours before I finally shut it off to try something else. I examined the disk and there is no evidence of any transfer. I tried playing the disk and it showed up empty. In the back of my head I kept wondering if using videos from YouTube had anything to do with it. Yep it does (most likely because it is copyrighted material). I removed the videos, and the movie burned albeit with out some key entertainment. In desperation I tried showing the original file which I had saved as an MP4 on my projector and it played, but it won’t loop. I gave up and have not touched it since. Maybe it will come to me in a dream.

Today, I was delivering food to a family in need with my Lions Club and the word popped into my head, hygroscopic! That is the property of nylon that gives it the ability to gain or lose moisture from the atmosphere. Then the words nucleated, amorphous, crystalline all popped into my mind; my dream is now successfully finished.

Have you ever heard the adage “I have forgotten more than you will ever know?”

 

A New Merit Badge

ALMKE, GERMANY – JULY 31: Scouts singing prior to their dinner at the camp on July 31, 2010 in Almke near Wolfsburg, Germany.

During my lifetime I spent twenty-five years serving in the Boy Scouts of America as a volunteer. I love Scouting, and all things Boy Scouts. As a father, I often wondered why my daughter had to belong to the Girl Scouts, and not to the Boy Scouts.My daughter loved going camping with us as a family, but never got a real camping experience as a Girl Scout. My beautiful wife Barbara served as a leader for her daughter’s troop, and I served as a leader for our son’s troop. So, we both knew what the other was doing, and we often traded experiences. Except, that Barb’s experiences with the girls were so different from ours in the Boy Scouts. I can only say, well, they were girly things. I often voiced my opinion that my daughter would have had a more meaningful experience had she been in one of my scouting groups. Actually, she was. She traveled with us to scout family camp, and had that close experience, and she visited her brother’s campsite with her mom, and got that experience, but it just wasn’t the same. Her merit badges were so girly while the boys had he-man type badges to work on.

Too many years have passed since my kids were in scouts and now I find myself in a conundrum about letting girls into BOY Scouts. I think the feminists are reaching too far into the man’s world. If God wanted girls like men he would have granted them testosterone instead of estrogen. Except, that once in a awhile nature screws up, and grants a bit too much of testosterone to women, and too much estrogen to men, and we have a new conundrum of knowing which sex we really are. I do know one thing, i.e. that boys of scouting age are developing their testosterone supply, and experiencing it’s effect on their bodies, like becoming basso instead of soprano, and developing huge muscles, with hair all over. In the meantime the estrogen is making women’s bodies soft, and their breasts big, and their voices stay sopranoish, and they learn their mother’s coy attitude toward men.

Now, I have a new conundrum, i.e. should the Boy Scouts add a new merit badge for sex, and another one for motherhood?

So many questions, so little time left to know what the future holds.

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