Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Fourth Quarter's Second Quarter Quarterly Report

Today is March 31, the final day of the second quarter of retirement.

In keeping with custom, I am offering an overview of key accomplishments, challenges and trends in Fourth Quarter's retirement business.

In general the global economic crisis has had little impact on our business because we have chosen to act as if it isn't happening. While we are required to caution shareholders that this may have significant long-term negative effects on the retirement business, the short-term benefits are too appealing for us to worry about it. We remind shareholders that we are officially classified as a Baby Boomer Retirement, Type A, and thus are well within the boundaries of expected decision-making with our lack of preparation for the future.

We are required to report salary levels of all chief officers. In this quarter, the sole executive earned nil cash, but did receive three (3) free lunches from various media organizations.

We are also required to inform our shareholders of significant activities in the quarter and prospects for the full year. We have chosen to do so this quarter with a slideshow, which is attached to this statement. Simply click on the little arrow thingy to play it.

Respectfully submitted,

D Kennedy
COF (Chief Old Fart)


video

Monday, March 30, 2009

Bronze to Jorge


This has been a very disappointing weekend.

On Saturday night Jorge, our favorite contestant on Groomer Has It, got eliminated in third place. I know all this happened a long time ago in America, but we're just getting it here. Jorge was so clearly the best of the group that you just know that either he did something that pissed off evil judge Xavier. Or equally likely that one of the other two had done something that secretly pleased the evil judge. We will never know, but Jorge was robbed.

I am sure that part of the reason reality shows are so popular is because the formula for most of them is actually quite a cruel one. In real life, if we gave a test to people and they all did well, we would tell them they had all passed.

Why doesn't the show just say Jorge and the other two guys are all damned good groomers, so we're going to split the pot and give it to all of them. Of course the answer is that the show is less about grooming and more about the drama of people getting the chop one week after another. It's a plotline straight from Agatha Christie's "Ten Little Indians" only there's no mystery about who's killing off the cast. (And yes, UK friends, I do know the original title, but I ain't using it.)

(Of course, these shows are also about entertainment, and if you missed it you might want to catch Jorge's earlier comment on this blog here.)

I love all sorts of competition, but there is a nasty streak running through all these reality shows. The people who who go on these shows really, really want some recognition - top groomer, top chef, top designer, top model, top singer, top dancer, whatever. And to get the prize, they have to take heavy doses of criticism weekly, usually suffer some form of humiliation and almost always experience anxiety. In return, all but one of them finds out that this week they're the ones dancing with dead weight in "They Shoot Horses, Don't They".

It's as if some TV producer once upon a time stumbled upon Jack Welch's infamous HR formula at GE where once a year managers had to fire the bottom ten percent of their department. The policy helped make GE rich - and demoralized - but it has failed at many other companies, so who knows if it's good business or not. But put it on TV with a cast of characters, and it's all high drama and tension.

Of course, that all makes so much sense. I don't think you could get me to watch a television show about interior design. But tell me some goofball judges are going to be cruel to a couple of flamboyant designers and send one home, and I tune in every week. And as someone who doesn't even own a dog, it is a bit telling about LK and me that we kept watching Groomer Has It in the first place.

But, we're not happy about Jorge getting the boot. We will have to see if we bother to watch the final next week.

Well, OK. We will. But we won't enjoy it anywhere near as much.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Women Are from Venus, Mentors Are from Uranus

I started a new role yesterday. I was asked to be a mentor. I had no idea what a mentor does, so I readily accepted.

It turns out that it's one of those relationships where the other guy just wants to talk. Great! A perfect match with my skill set.

A lot of the time the conversation over lunch was just brainstorming, and that grew progressively better as we had a second glass of wine. The rest of the conversation was pretty much the sort of stuff you cannot talk about with the people who work for you. And you definitely do not want to talk about with the people to whom you report.

Most of the time it's just mates having a chat, but there is a little of the feel of therapy session with an amateur psychologist or perhaps confessional with a defrocked priest. Because of that it doesn't feel quite right to name the person, so let's call him My Mentee even though it's not any super confidential thing.

It's actually quite a bit of fun to hear about some of the problems and issues My Mentee is facing. I get to use some of those brain muscles that have been dormant since I retired, and I realized that I really enjoy dealing with business problems - especially when they're not mine. I'm not talking about the world-class Wall Street issues, but the nitty gritty problems where you can actually make something work if you make the right decision.

But don't get me wrong. I do not want to return to work. I just enjoyed the brainstorming and, I suspect, I will enjoy vicariously seeing how My Mentee copes with the stuff he is dealing with. He's an extremely bright guy with more energy than I have ever had, so I suspect I will be cheering on a winner as we continue.

And, you may ask, what does he get from his perspective? Well, to be honest, he doesn't get much. Mostly he gets my bullshit. About all I can bring to the table is my take on what's going on and 20 years in which I probably learned what not to do a lot better than what to do.

It's hard to know how much to value an old fart talking about the stuff he used to do. On 24-hour news channels, they're called commentators and analysts and make good money. In boardrooms, they're called business consultants and make an awful lot of money. But I think we all know that when all you're selling is hot air, you can price yourself out of the market pretty quickly.

The owner of my old company asked me to be an advisor after I left the job. We ended up with a bit of an impasse when I suggested one modest figure for my services, and the owner suggested another. He thought I should do it for free. Since he knew me well and probably understood my value, I figured I had better price myself more reasonably for My Mentee.

So the payment is a free lunch, and I get to pick the place. So it was back to Lee's Fortuna Court for the third time in three weeks. And each of them on the other guy's card. Which makes me think I could also consider starting a mentoring business to retired old farts who want to get other people to take them to lunch. Any takers?

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

The Parent Trap



I am starting to get just the teensiest bit concerned about my parents. Oh, nothing serious. It's just that they're starting to have way too much fun at my expense.

It started when my father sent an e-mail saying his toaster was not making the bread too dark on one side. OK, he was making fun of me in the process and I can live with that.

But then the next day I get another e-mail with pictures of the toast. As if he felt he had to prove it wasn't browning evenly. Which means my mother had to get out the camera and take the photos.

I do have my doubts, though. If you look carefully at those pictures, it seems as if there is a hole in the toast in the first shot that isn't there in the second. Call me suspicious, but I don't think this evidence would hold up before a jury.

And then yesterday I rang home and Dad answered the phone, "Don's Toaster Shop". My mother thought it was all quite a hoot. But this story would have been much more interesting if it wasn't me on the other end.

Since I tend to call around the same time, they're probably relatively sure that it's safe to answer with a joke greeting. However, my mother slipped up the other day. She was sure it was me ringing and answered "Duffy's" only to have one her friend get quite confused that they hadn't connected with Norm and Red's phone. I think it serves her right for assisting my Dad with those pictures of the toast.

(For those of you born after Dwight Eisenhower was president, you probably don't get the reason for her answering "Duffy's". Duffy's Tavern was a radio show in the 40s and a TV series that ran in 1954. Every episode began with "When Irish Eyes Are Smiling". The song was interrupted by a telephone, which was answered, "Duffy's Tavern. Where the elite meet to eat."

Anyhow, I don't really mind my folks having fun at my expense. If you can still get them laughing when you're halfway around the world, then it's not such a bad thing.
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

And before I stop with this post, I must tell you of an exchange I had with Linda this morning. It's got nothing to do with anything above, but I do think it will crack up my Dad`.

We were listening to the radio and some analyst started stating the bleeding obvious. "Looks like they're trying to teach granny to suck eggs," I said, as you do when you're talking about teaching something to someone who already knows it quite well.

But then it hit me. "LK," I said, "everyone assumes that grannies know how to suck eggs. You're a grandmother. But do you know how to suck eggs? I certainly don't."

She thought for a second and admitted she didn't know how to suck eggs. "No, I don't. But when we used to make those decorations for the little trees at Eastertime, I learned how to blow eggs."

See. You live with someone for a quarter of a century and you still don't know all of their hidden talents.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

The Man Who Came to Dinner

So there we were last night, watching TV. I had the notebook out and was writing an e-mail to Jaki and Robert and was then going to post a blog. It was around 7 when Linda said someone was knocking on the door.

(The cleverest among you are probably saying to yourselves. Oh, I see that he still hasn't got a doorbell. But that's another topic for another time.)

Anyhow, I open the door and to my surprise there is our friend, Bob. "What are you doing here?" I asked. "Well, you invited me to dinner, didn't you?" he said.

Well, to be strictly accurate we had invited him for dinner, but it was for the next night. But being a good host is all about making your friends feel welcome and happy to be with you. A bad host would have told Bob he had showed up on the wrong night.

"That was for tomorrow," I told him.

"No," he argued, "it was for tonight."

The good host in me took over. "Doesn't matter," I said. "Come on in and have dinner with us." Sat him down, got him a drink, and let the bad host take over again. My laptop was still on and I called up our e-mails. "Nope, Bob," I said, "definitely tomorrow night. But don't worry 'cuz we are ready to have a good time tonight." Or something to that effect.

Basically I called up the e-mails because I was concerned that maybe I really am losing it, that I am not quite remembering things that I should. I have to tell you I was happy to find out it was my friend who was like that, not me.

The best thing about it all is that it really and truly didn't matter that Bob had made a mistake on the date. Linda has not quite mastered the art of cooking for two. On most nights an entire football team could show up unexpectedly and there would be enough food.

So last night she had two pork loins in the oven when Bob came knocking. She threw in a couple more potatoes, and dinner for three was in the bag.

It also gave me a chance to raid the wine fridges and grab some old bottles. That's something I only do when we have guests. The rest of the time I proudly support my retirement during the global economic crisis by drinking $4.95 bottles that don't even bother putting a vintage year on the label. They actually start tasting good after the first two.

And at the end of the meal, I was able to pull out enough bits of cheese from the little sliding drawer in the fridge that we had a proper cheese plate. I even found some crackers to go with the cheese.

As I said, it really didn't matter to us if Bob came over Monday or Tuesday. And we had a great evening, chatting away until we actually made it to the day Bob was supposed to be here. So in a sense, we were both right.

But because he showed up unexpectedly, we were able to sit back today basking in the glory of actually being able to put on a proper dinner party with no notice and no preparation. Mind you, the next person to knock unexpectedly is just as likely to share a pizza that we have to order, but there's still going to be some nice wines.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Putting the Blah Blah Blah in Blog

One of the results of blogging is that you learn things from out of the blue. So here's just a couple of things I learned this week.

First, after writing about the fact that March 17 is the anniversary of the first date Linda and I were on, my mother couldn't wait to let me know that March 17 was the anniversary of the first date she and my father went on. Begorrah, it is truly a magical day for us Kennedy men.

Second, I learned several things about my father when I received this e-mail this morning:

Hi Don
I have A TOASTER THAT toasts heavy on one side of bread and very lightly on the other side.
If I send it to you could you fix it for us?
Love
Dad

First, I learned that he is a smart ass, which probably explains a lot about why I am the way I am. Second, I learned that he has a little trouble with the CapsLock key. And third, knowing how long it takes him to type, I know that he was willing to spend a massive amount of time just to send me an e-mail making fun of me. Which also explains a lot about me.

Well, I am going to teach him a lesson. I will not fix his toaster for him. He will just have to get used to one-side-soft toast the way the rest of us in the family do.

I also learned via the comment to the Hoop Dreams post that someone else who reads this is a Siena fan. They wrote:
Go the Saints! Through round one. I'm rooting with you.

Unfortunately, I am not sure who wrote it, but my detective skills come into play here. At least to the extent that I am pretty sure this person is an American, since no Aussie would tell me they are rooting with me. The reason why is in this earlier post.

I watched the Siena game. It was very exciting as they came back from a big deficit and had to go through two overtime periods to win it. Unfortunately their prize for all that is to play the top seed in the tournament tomorrow, so I am only a little hopeful. Nonetheless, it was still great seeing them win.

And finally the poll on the toaster held very little surprise.

55% said the toaster will be replaced with a new one
33% said it will remain the way it is and
11% said it will be fixed this week.

Interestingly, none of you thought it would blow up if I fixed it. But then that's probably because only one of you think it is going to be fixed. About all I learned from this poll is that you all have very little faith in me. As the Pythons said, He's not the messiah. He's just a very naughty boy. Just give me time, o ye of little faith. Some day I will get tired of one-side-soft toast.

Friday, March 20, 2009

A One-Sided Proposal

OK. I get it. I know you all don't care if I fix the damned toaster or not. You're just having a bit of fun with me. But really, 72% of the votes said that this blog would be better if I fixed the toaster. People, one of your options was more pictures of the most beautiful girl in the world. What were you thinking?

By now I wish I had never written about the stupid toaster in the first place. I know that if I am ever going to get it to work I need to go to the hardware store and get whatever it is I need. But I can't figure out how to do it.

If I bring the toaster in, I look like this big doofus who knows nothing about hardware. Which is true, but I don't want to look like that. Believe me, no guy wants the hardware people to look down their noses at him. And if I try to describe my problem to the people at the store, I cannot figure out how to tell them that I have very small nuts that I need to loosen without them laughing hysterically.

I thought of writing Peter Eland, the guy in the UK who did the picture step-by-step guide to replacing the Dualit element. But he was very, very safety conscious and carried warnings everywhere which basically said "Do not attempt to do this if you are an idiot. And even if you are not an idiot, do not do it unless you really know what you're doing."

How can I reasonably expect this guy to help me out when I tell him I need advice on getting past Step 2 - how to open up the toaster. A step, I might point out, that he considered so elemental that he wrote not one word about how to do it.

So I have been thinking of more creative solutions to this problem, solutions that don't necessarily require fixing the toaster as I originally planned. In the spirit of making lemonade when you get lemons, I am working on a series of breakfast dishes which will use toasted, crispy bread on one side of the slice and soft, untoasted bread on the other side. I will call it one-side-soft toast, so it sounds official.

I may be onto a winner here. After all, whenever you have a toasted sandwich, the outside is toasted, but the inside is soft. So why can't we just deconstruct toasted sandwich and have breakfast dishes that use one-side-soft toast? The combination of textures might even end up being quite pleasing. Some people like their eggs over easy, some don't. Isn't it time we started having the same options with our toast?

The only problem I can foresee is figuring out which side to butter, but I would guess the toasted side will be best since that will make the butter melt. But I should probably run some tests to see what happens when you drop a piece of my one-side-soft toast. It's just possible that the different surfaces and weights make the slice tend to flip over, meaning that one side tends to land face down more often than the other.

And much as Isaac Newton figured out gravity by observing apples falling from their tree, I may be close to also finally solving the problem so that bread does not always fall with the buttered side down. And all thanks to my toaster needing a new element.

I hope my idea works out because I need to do something. Today I made breakfast and LK left the room for awhile. When I was making toast (the old-fashioned, double-sided kind), I forgot to turn one of the slices around to toast the part facing the burnt-out element.

Needless to say, toasting the same side twice made it burn pretty badly. I threw it away quickly and was back at the stove when LK returned. She stopped in her tracks and said, "Something's burning." I tried to act as if she hadn't said anything, but then decided to face the issue head on.

That is to say, I tried to make her think she was crazy. "No, dear," I said. "Everything's under control. Nothing's burning." I felt bad misleading her that way, but I really couldn't handle another toaster discussion at the time. All will be well and we can avoid these marital pitfalls in the future, though, if only she ends up liking one-side soft toast as much as I do.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Big Brother Is Watching, But You Won't Be

Today was the first day I wish I was still at work.

Firstly, because I wouldn't be here at home constantly aware that there was that **!!$*$*! toaster sitting on the counter, taunting me with its burn-out element.

I also missed my old job a bit today because I had lunch with my old mate, John. We haven't seen each other in months, and yet we used to grab a business lunch every couple of weeks. You'd think with retirement I would have more time to get together with friends, but John is still working - and very hard right now - so I don't like to interrupt his busy day. (Funny how it didn't bother me when we both had busy days. Besides, we really did cover off a lot of business in those 90-minutes.)

But the real reason I wish I was still running the publishing house is because of a story Asher Moses just ran on the Sydney Morning Herald web site. I've let Asher know in the past that I had some serious reservations about his abilities as a journalist when he covered us, but in this instance he's onto a great story. Great, that is, because it is so unbelievably scary.

The Australian government has compiled a list of web sites that it intends to ban, forcing Internet service providers to block access to the sites. Oh, by the way, the list of banned sites is going to be secret and it will be a crime for anyone in Australia to publish it. And to think that 18 months ago we kicked out the conservative government and put in the left-leaning party!

The minister in charge of making sure Australia's access to the Internet is broadly and secretly censored tries to justify it by saying it was designed to prevent child pornography and other illegal activities.

But we all know what happens when bureaucrats and politicians have a chance to exercise a little thought control. Here's what Asher wrote:

But about half of the sites on the list are not related to child porn and include a slew of online poker sites, YouTube links, regular gay and straight porn sites, Wikipedia entries, euthanasia sites, websites of fringe religions such as satanic sites, fetish sites, Christian sites, the website of a tour operator and even a Queensland dentist.

That's right, the government is starting to decide which religion sites people can have access to. And they don't want people like me to play online poker, but almost surely not because they consider it unethical but because they haven't figured out a way to get their grubby cut of the action the way they do at racetracks and casinos.

And then of course, there are the inevitable errors, where totally innocent sites like the tour operator and the dentist somehow get included when they shouldn't.

And remember - the list is top secret, so if your perfectly good site ends up on this list in error, you won't even be able to find that out.

One more thing. Right now the list of web sites numbers about 2,400 sites. The government estimates, however, that the final list will be about 10,000 when it finally puts the censorship plan into effect.

And will the government use these powers to, say, stifle debate about actions they take that may be contentious? What do you think? And in case, you chose No from the list, you should know that they have already banned several pages from wikileaks.org, the web site that attacked their plans for censorship and today published a leaked copy of the list. That's right. They are banning a web page that criticizes them and reveals official government documents - none of which are in the least vital to national security.

Our prime minister earned his university degree writing about China and later spent much of the 1980s in Beijing at the Australian embassy. It's odd how this secret censorship plan reminds me of nothing more than that country's attempts to control information back in the bad old days.

Now I detest child pornography with absolute disgust. The animals that make it, show it or view it should be stopped and punished severely. And in fact, it seems that every year major international sting operations bring hundreds of them to justice.

But to use this vile practice as the excuse to begin a regime of secret censorship for the whole country - and to expand it to cover much more than pornography - well, that's not even politics as usual. It's total crap.

Boy, do I miss my old job today. Fighting this secret censorship is a campaign that I would proudly have made our chief emphasis until we had mobilized tens of thousands of Aussies to tell their government that, yes, they need to stop child porn, but not at the expense of the freedom of all of us. And no matter what, not to do it in the darkness of a star chamber.

Well, I've gone from a potential audience of hundreds of thousands six months ago to 30 or 40 today. It would be nice to think that's enough to get something going anyhow.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

A Date to Remember


Today is one of the key dates of my life. Sure, it's St Patrick's Day and I proudly wear buttons reading, "Kiss me. I'm Irish." But that is not what makes today so special.

This is the day that I began my life's adventure with the great love of my life. At the age of 60 - and 29 years after it all happened - I suppose I shouldn't be too worried about what anybody thinks. But even now I am aware that our parents, Norm and Red and Peg, read this thing. So let me just say it is the anniversary of our first - er - um - date.

From that memorable evening began a long, long run of incredibly good things in my life. Neither of us could have guessed how much fun the adventure would be. Hey, with my track record, neither of us could have guessed we would still be together a week later.

I believe we went to Burger King on that memorable evening. I am pretty sure that my subconscious mind was responding to their slogan, "Have it your way." Or perhaps I just needed to find out if this woman I was attracted to had the right stuff - a genuine love of Whoppers. She passed the test.

LK noted yesterday that, for better or worst, she had changed me in the quarter of a century-plus that we have been together. She thinks I used to do lots more intellectual stuff like read Updyke novels and watch foreign films. Now I read the MagnetoBoldToo and Ricky Gervais blogs and watch Groomer Has It.

What she doesn't realize is that I was already there by the time we met. Besides that, I don't know how she could think she's been the reason for the slow decline of DK's civilisation, since she has always been and still remains a voracious consumer of all sorts of writing. I pretty much am not.

Sure, we've both changed each other in lots of ways. I no longer wear green cardigans with pink shirts. She swears like a sailor. She developed into one of the country's top editors. I retired early. Little things like that.

But the fact is that we have had an amazing life together, going from one great adventure to another. And none of it would have been possible without loving and supporting one another. And always laughing lots in the process. And it all began on March 17.

So here's to a great date in our life, dear. Or, as we like to call it, Happy Forniversary.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Listing

A couple of lists tonight.

First, there is a great opportunity for people outside of Oz to understand a special part of our country - Queensland. I've written about its quirks before, annoying my friend Jon in the process so I will try to tread carefully now.

This weekend Queensland was in the news for all the wrong reasons. There had been a bad oil spill near Brisbane, and it was polluting the waters and the beaches. The story became the lead on international web sites, including CNN.

Meanwhile, the Queenslanders (affectionately known as "banana benders" by those of us south of their border), showed us something about themselves. At the same time that CNN was telling the world about Queensland's eco-problems, here are the five most read stories on the Brisbane Times' web site:

1. Inside Melbourne's sex slave trade
2. Seven-meter crocodile decapitates girl
3. Lost Aussie survives by getting naked
4. Workers hold boss of SONY France hostage
5. Horse bites off man's testicle

I really am not writing this to make fun of the Queenslanders. To be perfectly honest, I would probably read about the sex slave trade before an environmental disaster, even if the oil was closing down my local beach. But the totality of the list is quite telling.

If you think about it, this list of only five stories has everything a newspaper aspires to. There's national news (Melbourne sex slaves), local news (the croc), international news (the French workers), human interest (the lost Aussie) and the always popular animal story. I just hope that whoever edited the horse story had the good wit to write the headline, "Horse Gelds Man".

And while on lists, let's look at the results of the third 4Q Readers Poll. This one asked you to choose your favorite Don Kennedy. The results:

1. The champion stallion (35%)
2. An old fart in Sydney (28%)
3. The opponent of horse-drawn carriages (21%)
4. A creator of LEGO creatures (7%)

No one chose the atheist or the Obama campaign worker, and one person wondered who Don Kennedy is.

I wasn't too unhappy with my second-place finish since I was lagging well behind with only one day left. However, had I known I was only a single vote shy of winning, I would not have voted for the LEGO Don.

The one trend that is obvious from the 4Q Reader poll is that you all definitely love horses. Hey, 58% of you voted for either the stallion named Don Kennedy or the Don Kennedy who opposes horse-drawn carriages as cruel and inhumane. I can handle that, but it does make me wonder if you all haven't clicked through on the link about the horse biting the guy's testicle.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Hoop Dreams

Finally my Dad gets another sports post from me. This one's about the NCAA Men's College Basketball tournament, affectionately known as March Madness.

I have a double interest in this year's tournament since two of my old schools have qualified for the 64-team competition. One is Siena, a little Franciscan college in Albany, which I attended for a grand total of one semester while I was a new recruit in a nearby Franciscan seminary. Got the boot at that seminary faster than Mother Teresa's confession ("Bless me, Father, for I have sinned. Well, actually that's not quite true. Just bless me, Father.") Anyhow, leaving the seminary meant leaving Siena, as well.

The other school in the tournament is Binghamton, the New York state university where I did my masters and doctoral work. Binghamton didn't even have a basketball team that would have been eligible for this tournament when I attended, but they moved into the top level a few years ago. They qualified for the first time ever this weekend by winning their league. Unfortunately, their league also includes the University of Vermont, so I am a bit torn as to which team I would prefer.

In any case, make sure you watch Siena's and Binghamton's first games because a second isn't all that likely for either of them. Although, Vermont pulled off a shocking upset in the first round a few years ago to give us all hope for underdogs. For those of us in lands faraway, the NCAA does something really special. For a couple of years now, they have been streaming all the tournament games live online. I used to sneak a peek now and then at work, but being retired I have already purchased the little thingy that hooks the Mac to the big screen and I will be in March Madness heaven.

On the subject of colleges, Sandy wrote a comment on the last post. She didn't know that I had attended LeMoyne College, a small Jesuit school in Syracuse. I went there in 1968 after they kicked me out of the seminary - no, not the Franciscan one near Albany but another one in Ogdensburg. If you're seeing a pattern here, you're not alone.

It's pretty obvious to me that I had this compulsion to enrol in seminaries, and had absolutely not a single thing in my personality, mind or spirit that enabled me to do what you were expected to do once you got there. At one point, I briefly considered facing my addiction and attending some meetings, but the idea of having to stand up and say, "Hi. My name is Don and I am a serial seminarian," was just too weird for me.

Anyhow, back to LeMoyne. It turned out to end my seminarian addiction by introducing me to Mary who pretty soon thereafter introduced me to my son Ben. As a school LeMoyne was OK and it had the distinction of being the former home of the Berrigan brothers, two priests who were leaders of the anti-war movement.

But enough rambling. I am just blathering on to avoid discussing the real topic of this post -- the results of the second 4Q Readers Poll, which ended three days ago.

The results weren't even close. When asked what one suggestion you would give to me, none of you suggested I use a spellchecker and -equally surprising - no one thinks I should be nicer to Linda. (I say surprising because a friend of hers told her had voted for that one. Little did he realize that not one soul had voted for that, so now she knows he fibbed. It will be interesting to hear what explanation he comes up with.)

There was a tie for second place in the poll, with 20% of you saying I should go back to work (I think Linda voted twice) and 20% saying I shouldn't change a thing because I am perfect (OK. I voted twice, too.)

But the big winner, with 60% of the votes was "Fix the toaster today."

It's obvious to me that too many of you have far too much interest in this toaster thing. I am beginning to wish I had never written about it. I certainly wish I hadn't put it in as an option for the damned poll. And I did not expect so many of you to choose it.

Look, I am going to fix it, I promise. And when I do, you know I will tell you because I will be so proud of finally doing it. But I do have to tell you that it's really not that hard to toast one side of the bread, take it out, turn it around and toast the other side.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

What's In a Name?


I heard from Don Kennedy yesterday. He commented on the last post to point out that he of the burger and buffet blogs is not the same British Columbian Don Kennedy of the real estate and movie review blog. He does mention that he and the other DK both have been involved in radio.

There were a couple of Don Kennedys that I didn't mention in the last post, mostly because - although they were the subjects of lots of blogs - they didn't seem to be blogging themselves.

Probably the most famous Don Kennedy is the former president of Stanford University, the former head of the US Food and Drug Administration and the former editor of Science magazine. Just your typical overachiever, I thought. But then I realized that there's actually a bit of similarity with my life.

I am the former president of the student government at LeMoyne College, a regular consumer of food and drugs and the former editor of Computerworld Australia. And yet despite all that, my namesake has a Wikipedia page, and I don't show up in Google searches. Life's not fair for some of us Don Kennedys.

Don Kennedy is also the CFO of the Seattle school district. He features in a lot of blogs, especially when he was instrumental in a proposal for closing down quite a few schools. And although it's not on topic, I have to mention that there is a fantastically named blog about Seattle politics that covered some of this. It's called HorsesAss.org and should win awards for its name if nothing else.

My favorite Don Kennedy discovery, though, was the Atlanta TV performer who played Officer Don on The Popeye Club from 1956 to 1970. That's a picture of his 45 at the top of this post, and you can read all about him and what ooey gooey is at the AtlantaTimeMachine web site.

Don, however, was much more than just the host of the Popeye Club. He was a founding partner and president of an Atlanta radio station, the founder and presenter of the syndicated radio program Big Band Jump, and has been inducted into the Georgia Radio Hall of Fame.

Which brings us back to young Don Kennedy in Victoria who wrote that he and real estate Don Kennedy have radio in common. Come to think of it, I worked at the campus radio station when I was at university. Could it be that Officer Don is the clue that finally finds the common thread among all of us Don Kennedys?

Nahhh. Not for a second. Now go and vote for your favorite Don Kennedy. And Mom, I know you haven't voted yet because not one single vote has been cast for ME as the favorite DK. So hop to it, please.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Don of a New Era


I was named after two of the gentlest, nicest men ever. My uncle Don Kennedy and my grandfather Ken Kellogg were both wonderful people, and I appreciate that my name is in fact a legacy of some great people in my family.

It also means that from the earliest age I knew I wasn't the only Don Kennedy around. But this week I did a little research (that's 21st century speak for googling), and I am discovering that there is a tribe of Don Kennedys out there, and lots of us are blogging. Either that or there are two of us and one of us is having trouble writing stuff for a blog about retirement while the other one is contributing dozens of posts a day on a variety of topics.

Let's start with Don Kennedy's retired blog that he wrote for Organizing for America, the site that promoted Barack Obama's election last year. Don specialized in handling right-wing attacks on his candidate. Although the election is over, I suspect his task has only just begun.

Don Kennedy does a developer blog for Skype, and he states his goal is to share his knowledge of Skype so others will develop applications for the communication service.

Don Kennedy writes an interesting blog in which he reviews movies while promoting Vancouver properties, which he sells in his day job. I suspect he is also the Don Kennedy who shares writing in "The Victoria Buffet Blog", which not surprisingly reviews the various restaurants offering buffets in Victoria.

Faithless Don Kennedy has posted a blog or two on the NYC Atheists blog, although it wouldn't hurt if Don were to use his Shift key once in a while. Don Kennedy also piped up in a blog discussion about a proposal to ban horse-drawn carriages. In it, he suggested that people who put horses in front of carriages had better hope that God not recall this on judgment day. Which would say to me that either atheist Don is nuts or there are a couple of them out there.

Don Kennedy also runs a website devoted to helping people break their bad habits, especially smoking. This is more of a sales pitch than a blog, but Don is quite strong in urging retired people to exercise more. I think he's selling a book; I would recommend a Wii.

There is a creative side to Don Kennedy. Take, for example, his regular contributions to the social network devoted to 2001: A Space Odyssey.

Don Kennedy also has time to contribute regularly to the site where people show off their LEGO creations. In fact, that is a picture of Don's Legend of Zelda Custom Minifig at the top of this post.

If you prefer photography, Don Kennedy's pictures are at Flickr, and they are actually quite good. You can also check out Don Kennedy's video entry in the CamoSun competition, but I must tell you that a video of an overweight guy trying to drink from a water fountain and then picking blackberries and playing basketball was a little too experimental for me.

Don Kennedy also has numerous posts at "NitroMater.com - Where the Internet Meets Nitromethane." (That's drag racing, to most of us.)

And on the subject of speed, you may want to check out the video of a good-looking mare at Mefeedia. As the description explains: "This fantastically moving mare is sired by the young stallion Don Kennedy. Don Kennedy was Champion of the Oldenburger stalliontest 2003."

Funny. I don't even remember going to the Oldenburger stalliontest that year, but then I was very busy back then.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Arms and the Girl



This is just a quick post to report on Lily.

That's our Lil with her broken arm. As the pictures show, she isn't all that bothered by it now, but Rachael says she was quite tired and uncomfortable Sunday and Monday.

She had stayed overnight on Saturday at her friend's house, and they were on the trampoline Sunday morning when the accident happens. Lily is one of those kids who shows no fear - and often no caution - so I wasn't surprised when I asked her how she broke her arm and she said, "Bampy, I jumped too high."

If this had happened to me, my answer would have been because I fell over, so I am glad she has my love but not my DNA.

Anyhow, the break is near her elbow and the good news is it did not require wires to get the bones back in alignment. She's wearing this heavy cast this week because the doctor wants to really limit the arm's movement. She also is getting the week off from school to keep her activity level down.

Next Monday, though, Lil moves to a lightweight - and pink - cast, and the very thought of returning to school with a fashionable cast makes her happy indeed. And to top it off, she will be able to show the kids the Bravery Award the hospital gave her. It should be a great return.

Lil came over today for a couple of hours and we played cards. For the umpteenth time, she didn't lose a single game. When I asked her to let me win one game, she smiled a little smile that will destroy some guy in about 15 years, and said, "I don't think so, Bampy. I like to win every time."

I just hoping this experience may teach her to do that without jumping too high.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

4Q Poll: For Most It's a Pity Read


SYDNEY --- The results of the first Fourth Quarter Readers Poll confirm what many have been assuming. Most readers of the blog do so out of a feeling of either sympathy or superiority. A surprising 14% of the people taking the survey were at the blog by mistake.

"It is more or less as I expected," said blog poster Don Kennedy. "Reader polls like this help us fine tune our offerings." As a result of this poll, he added, readers should expect more posts illustrating his inability to do most things well.

"It's the proven crowd pleaser. We will give them what they want."

Kennedy noted that slightly more respondents felt sorry for him than those who felt superior to him (46% compared to 38%), but felt that this may reflect the voting of his parents, rather than the wider audience.

Kennedy noted that only 15% of the votes indicated people read the blog because they thought it was funny. "No, there's little doubt in my mind that my readers are laughing at me, not with me," he said.

The 4Q Readers Polls will continue, and readers are urged to vote as often as their computer will allow them to make it seem as if the blog has a large number of visitors.

Monday, March 9, 2009

The Nick of Time

Right now it is 11:30 am in Sydney, 11:00 in Adelaide, 10:30 in Brisbane, 10:00 in Darwin and 9:30 in Perth. Five time zones for a country of 20 million people.

Australia is so anarchic about time, I am developing a theory that there is a secret government plan to be the first country in the world where every individual has their own personal time zone. Oh sure it will be confusing having to remember stuff like it's 12 minutes earlier for Don than Linda, except in the summer when it is 72 minutes. But it won't be much more confusing than it already is.

The confusion starts because the states are free to choose to go on daylight savings or not. This has led to such oddities as the fact that it's earlier in Adelaide than in Brisbane even though Brisbane is about 1,500 miles to the east.

Apparently this has come about because farmers have this real hatred of daylight savings, so Queensland and the Northern Territory, our rural areas, don't adopt it. I have never quite understood their argument, since I am pretty sure the cows and chickens don't know what time it is when the sun comes up. I mean it's not like a rooster starts crowing in the dark because it's 5:30 already and it thought the sun should be up by now. And if ever there were a job where I would think you could readjust your starting time, farming would seem to be it.

No matter, it is obviously a touchy issue and isn't going to get resolved. But this confusion about time here in Oz gets even more convoluted because we have a half-hour time zone in the middle of the country. In the winter we have three time zones, but during the summer we get five because Queensland and the Northern Territory have the half-hour zones. (If you're not confused enough, be aware that it could have been six because there used to be a quarter-hour time zone on the border between West Australia and Southern Australia.)

And before you start to memorize all of this, don't bother. It could all change again because Western Australia is voting in a referendum later this year to see if they want to continue daylight savings, which they've been trialling for three years.

Anyhow, we will be back to our basic three time zones on the first weekend of April. But, as you may already suspect, it ain't gonna happen smoothly around here. Western Australia changes back a week earlier than the rest of us who have gone to daylight savings. So now we have five time zones, for a week we will have four and then finally three.

Of course, all of this is still easier to grasp than taking the 13-hour flight to California and landing four hours before you left Sydney. Somehow crossing the international date line still seems like a magic trick.

All this attention to time happened because the US went on daylight savings this weekend. For all of you, we in Sydney are no longer 16 hours ahead of the east coast. We are now 15 hours ahead, and after the first weekend in April we will be 14 hours. Pop quiz tomorrow.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Younger than Springtime

I just read this essay by Sophie Keller that promises to teach us "How to Really Look Seven Years Younger." To state the obvious, I don't often worry about how young I look. However, with all this recent attention to fitness, I thought it would be worth 30 seconds of my time to pick up some tips on looking younger.

Sophie starts out right away by letting you know hers is not a column about botox and collagen. No, she says she's not concerned with superficial stuff but about looking younger from the inside out. I think her main point is that baldness, liver spots and dry, wrinkly skin don't make you look old. It's the frown on your face that ages you.

I am not sure I agree with her premise. I don't know about you, but I am quite capable of thinking, "That's a very happy OLD person." And when I see a young person scowling angrily, my first impression is not that they look old but that I need to get away from them before they blow up.

Anyhow, I think it's time to compare Sophie's five tips with my five.

Her top tips:

  1. Love people more
  2. Get rid of your anger
  3. Stop focusing on what you don't have and focus on what you do have
  4. Drink lots of water
  5. Strengthen your spiritual life and know that you are not alone

Did you notice how she snuck in drinking lots of water in the middle of all that other hippy-dippy claptrap? It's like she couldn't think of saying the same thing five different ways so had to sneak in a health tip that, frankly, applies to everyone not just older people.

Well, I would like to counteroffer with five tips that will REALLY make you look younger. I think I will do them in reverse order, like Letterman does his Top Ten:

5. Wait until people have left the room before moving. This way they will have no ability to compare your speed relative to, say, a tortoise. In order to pull this off for a long time, it is important that you completely ignore Sophie's recommendation to drink lots of water.

4. Wait until people are looking elsewhere before trying to pick up something you've dropped on the floor. This does not apply, however, if an item of a highly personal nature falls from your body. In that case walk away as fast as possible. Even though this violates Rule #5, you have a better chance of getting away without notice than trying to pick it up.

3. Use your reading glasses in public. This may seem counterproductive, but trust me. It is far better to have a pair of half-frame specs balancing on the tip of your nose than reaching your hand out as far as you can and then squinting down the length of your arm in a doomed bid to focus.

2. Never use the bathroom your guests will be using later. Even if it means climbing the stairs to use the loo upstairs, the effort will be worth it. Otherwise, your guests will soon discover that you are not really younger from the inside out.

1. Hang around with much older people. This is easy and always helps to make you look younger. And that, after all, is the whole point of the exercise.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Old Friends

What a great day yesterday was. I caught up with my friend Bob from New Zealand for the first time in years. It was fun to see him again, but the best part of the day was to discover that the business he and some friends had started was doing fantastically well despite the gloom of the economy that is hurting so many other businesses.

He was nice enough to take me to lunch and let me choose the restaurant. There was really only one place to pick. Lacking an expense account, I hadn't been to Lee's Fortuna Court in months. As most of the people reading this would know, Lee's has been my favorite spot for lunch for much of the past 20 years.

So not only did I catch up with Bob, but also with Stan and the staff at the restaurant. Stan told me business had been holding up well this year. I was relieved since more than a few people had wondered if the restaurant would go out of business once I stopped going there. I believe they were only half joking.

Then last night, even more catching up with old pals. My friend John had flown in from the US and we had him over for dinner and asked Davy along, too. There is nothing better than having old friends, old wines and LK's cooking while we're sitting on the deck on a summer's evening. I am not sure the tokay that Davy brought was necessary (or even a good idea) at the end of this meal, and I almost certain it wasn't such a good idea to go out to the bar fridge after the tokay for one more bottle of red. On the plus side, I think we all probably slept quite soundly once we got to bed last night.

As much as I enjoy having friends over for dinner, I have had to learn that I am strictly the supporting act in this production. Linda really does make wonderful food and deserves the compliments she inevitably earns. Perfect meat! Great potatoes! Fantastic dessert! Wonderful meal!

I do not begrudge her these compliments. Hey, I am often the one saying them. LK is indeed the chief cook. And, yes, I am the bottle washer. I just wish that once in a while my supporting role in the great dinner party could earn some praise. I dream of hearing: "Hey, these chairs are really wiped down well! This tablecloth covers the whole table brilliantly! The forks and knives are on the correct sides of the plates!"

And a little applause would have been much appreciated this morning when I, feeling a wee bit the worse for wear, tackled a kitchen whose every inch of counter space was covered with piles of dirty dishes and pans and empty wine bottles and some gelatinous things I couldn't identify.

But I am a realist. No matter how great the dining experience has been, no one is ever going to say, "You have done a masterful job filling the dishwasher! Your stove top sparkles! You've filled the recycling bin like a professional!"

But it doesn't matter. I am happy to toil out of the spotlight if it means I get to sit around with old friends and eat a great meal.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Three Weeks of Wii

This morning my Wii congratulated me on 21 consecutive days of fitness training. I hadn't realized it had been that long, but it is amazing the changes that happen over that time.

For one thing, three weeks ago my body mass index measured me as obese. Today I am proud to report that -- oh, never mind. Apparently I am still obese, but a little bit less so.

You may recall that my Wii Fit age started out at 72 on the first day. After three weeks I have done a Benjamin Button and now measure in my early 40's. The Wii arrives at this figure by measuring your weight, your center of gravity and such skills as standing still and leaning to the right and left, so I am not sure that this age thing is all that realistic. I mean, I have always been quite good at standing still. And I certainly do not recall feeling anything like this when I was in my 40s - but then again maybe I had the fitness of a 60-year-old when I was 40 back then.

I have noticed several changes as a result of the fitness program. For one thing, the yoga exercises I do to improve balance and posture have really made a difference. One side effect is most noticeable.

A while ago I wrote about how I tended to grip the floor with my toes ape-like, as if I was subconsciously afraid that gravity might get turned off and I would float off into space. Well I don't do that much at all anymore. I think that toe-gripping thing was a reaction to how unbalanced I was when I was standing. Of course, it was also a reaction to being so top-heavy that if I leaned forward I was in danger of needing assistance to get upright again.

While I am not losing heaps of of weight right now, I am noticing my body shape change. Instead of one big round mountain of a tummy, I am now looking more like a series of gently rolling hills.

And all those sideways bends seem to be giving a bit of definition to my upper body. I don't exactly have a six-pack. It's much more like a full case of beer - or as we say here in Oz, a slab, which seems a very appropriate term in this instance.

But I have discovered that if I push my finger in really hard, I can feel one of my ribs. That's got to be a start.

But every journey begins with the first few steps. Which reminds me. The Wii no longer asks me if I tend to fall over when I am walking. CANI, as my mate Jon said after his weekend with Tony Robbins. Constant and never-ending improvement!

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Socket To Me

OK, let's deal with this toaster thing.

My mother asks every day if I've fixed it. Yesterday Steve and Andrew both asked Linda if I'd fixed it. My father's only comment to me was that he couldn't understand how anyone could spend that much for a toaster. Knowing me as he does, he hasn't even bother to ask if it's fixed yet.

Robert wrote to me a few days ago: "If you cannot get it back together why don't you ship it and/or bring it to CA. I can put it back in working order for you. It would be a lot nicer if it had an i-pod dock and speakers added while you have it apart. You could listen to your favorite Henry Mancini songs while making toast."

And last night Linda told me to just bring it to the people who repair toasters, and she would tell everyone I had fixed it myself.

That is never going to happen. By the end of this week, you are all invited over for a toast party (bring your own butter), because I am going to fix it. It's not as if I have been totally procrastinating. I've tried a couple of times to fix it, and in each instance I've reached the stage where I have to remove those two very small nuts you can see in the picture from Peter Eland's website.

All right, all right. I know this is only the second step - and the least complicated - and you might be thinking I would have made a bit more progress by now. But I just haven't been able to get these nuts loose with the few tools I have. (And do you know how hard it is to write about them without making it all seem like a dirty joke!)

So I went out yesterday and bought a socket set. It looked to have lots of little sockets and I figured one would be perfect.

Naturally, my next step is to go back to the hardware store, toaster in hand, and have the guy figure out what I really need to get it loose. I don't mind buying the socket set and not needing it. As I told Mom, you never know when you're going to need one. She was kind enough to agree and not point out that I hadn't needed one in the first sixty years of my life.

Going back to the hardware store is not a wasted trip, though. I have to go, anyway. While I was there yesterday I forgot to buy a new wireless doorbell. I had accidentally damaged our old one while trying to figure out why it was no longer ringing when the button was pushed.

I had assumed it just needed a new battery, but I don't think that's the case because I could make it work once inside the house. That is only convenient if you're happy to have visitors come in, ring the doorbell and then go back outside waiting for you. But I need a new one anyway since the one I removed can't be put back because I kind of ruined it while taking it down to see if I needed to replace the battery.

I must admit I like this handyman stuff, although I am finding it takes lots more time than I assumed it would. Anyhow, I will tell you when the toaster is fixed so stop asking. But if you come to the toast party, just knock loudly if there's no doorbell.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Broadcast News

For most people, it's music. For us, though, CNN is our background noise. It's the station we tune to while drinking our mandatory three cups of coffee to get our hearts started. And then we leave it on - often throughout the day. In fact, I am waiting for the inevitable burn-in of the CNN logo on our screen.

Even when LK and I are both upstairs, CNN is often reporting the news to an empty room downstairs. I know it's not very green, but we are both pretty well tapped into subconsciously listening for the noise that accompanies a Breaking News bulletin. Apparently we have some inner compulsion to know what's happening in the world as soon as it breaks - even though we are usually sick to death of the excessive detailed coverage that automatically follows any breaking news.

And it is that breaking news bulletin that must be driving this habit of ours, because with wall-to-wall news coverage we have also learned how to not pay attention. I torture Linda by giving her the Sunday paper's trivia quiz each week. She has near total recall about such things as where Vanessa Redgrave met Franco Nero in the late 1960s, but she draws a blank when the question concerns someone who has been the center of CNN reports throughout the week.

I think this typical exchange during a CNN broadcast on the weekend may very well explain why this is so:
LK - What did he just say?
DK - I don't know. I wasn't listening.

Here in Oz we get the International CNN network, which is actually quite a bit different from the one you see in the US. Although they do give us plenty of US coverage by carrying the shows anchored by Wolf Blitzer, Anderson Cooper and Larry King, most of the remaining news broadcasts are anchored out of London or Hong Kong and feature lots more international news than the US audience gets.

Even at that, it's still pretty US-centric. Much of the international coverage is about things involving the US overseas - especially places where the US encounters enemies (Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran, Korea, etc). The other remaining coverage is split mostly between coverage of wars, natural disasters, conjoined twins and other kids with medical probems. Their coverage of Australia has veered between disaster coverage (bushfires and floods) and things like beached whales and shark attacks.

The best thing for me with the International CNN network is the diversity of their anchors. In the US, you get anchors with names like Lou Dobbs. Not so over here, as our CNN personalities are a United Nations of Broadcasting.

I don't know how I can work it into anything I am doing but I have this idea for a family in a novel that is straight out of Dickens - raucous, eccentric and with a huge brood of kids. The parents have CNN International on in the background all the time, and because they so love CNN, they have named the kids for their favorite anchors: Ralitsa, Isha, Fionnualla, Hala, Monita, Anjali, Wolf and Larry.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Better Red Than Dead



Check Spelling













My Dad's name is John, but anyone who knows him calls him "Red". When he was young, he was a real carrot top, and the name has stuck with him his whole life. In England, they'd probably call him "Ginger", and over here in Oz he'd be known as "Bluey". Don't ask, because I really don't know why. It's got something to do with Australian humor.

I was called a ginger man once. The guy who did it was, in fact, named Guy. He was running one of the company's magazines in the UK, and he wrote trying to help one of his former staffers get a temporary job with our group while that person was touring Australia. However, Guy sent a separate e-mail to his mate, and forgot to remove my name from the cc: section.

In that he wrote, "Don is the biggest ginger man I have ever seen in my life. Wait until you meet him! It's awesome." Guy was one of the smallest pale towheads I'd ever seen, but it's not like I would write that for other people to read.

Anyhow, the picture of me at the top shows that I held on to my red hair almost as long as I held onto my hair at all. I was 30 at the time of that shot, doing my best Philip Seymour Hoffman impression and deliberately sitting in front of an orange curtain in the hopes that I would be invisible.

As you may recall, about two years ago several scientists speculated that redheads would no longer exist by the turn of the next century. Some thought we may have as little as 60 more years as a tribe.

That's because the gene that makes red hair is recessive, which means when we marry any of you darker haired people, you end up taking our precious DNA and discarding the most unique thing about us. And redhead thing is unique, because only about 2 percent of the world is red-headed. And only 4 percent of the people in this world have the gene to pass it on.

I was thinking about this because the UK website Don't Panic ran a report on an exhibition now showing in London by photographer Jenny Wicks called "Root Ginger". You really should click through to that site, as some of her photographs are absolutely gorgeous. Looking at the beauty of the redheads she has photographed does kind of make me sad to think that it may all be gone in a hundred years or less.

Mind you, some scientists say all is not lost. They point out that we barely understand the genes that cause hair color, and they add that probably the greatest hope for the future tribe of redheads is that the gene surely resides in lots of people who aren't redheads, but who have just enough of a percentage in their genetic makeup that every once in awhile out pops a little orange haired kid to a pair of brunettes.

My own hope for the future isn't dead. The other photograph at the top of this post are Ben and Tom when Ben was 2 and Tom 1. They wouldn't pass for anything but members of the dark-haired tribe today. But looking at that picture, I know that they were once redheads, if only for a year or two, and some day that odd bit of DNA may let them keep the pale skin tradition alive. Now if only we can find some nice Irish girls for them to date.