Saturday, April 23, 2011


That's the total I have virtually lost on that Blackjack app. Definitely helping to show me I'm not fit for the casino scene.

Friday, April 22, 2011

The best $2 I've ever spent . . .

Okay, perhaps that's an exaggeration.

Recently I've been feeling the itch to play Blackjack. I'm not much of a gambler, yet I've had a few chances to play black jack at casinos. I lose more often than I win. However, once or twice a year it's something I really feel like I think I want to do.

So, I decided to spend $1.99 on an App for the iPod that lets me fritter away time playing it without putting any real money at stake.

Great move.

I'm reminding myself of how relatively slow and naive I am when it comes to the game. With the iPod I'm being reminded of how I do have a hard time concentrating enough to instantaneously add the numbers and calculate the odds. It's a lot easier to have the computer prompt me to place a bet or make a decision than it is to have a dealer or the other people at a non-virtual table push me. At no cost (well, other than time and the $1.99 price) I find out how I really don't know the strategy of the game that well.

For $1.99 I can feel foolish in front of my computer screen rather than paying $50 or $60 to feel foolish for an hour at a casino.

I like gambling. I like playing the odds. But if I do so for real, it seems better to do it with real people I know at a cabin rather than with non-virtual strangers in a casino. Or, better yet, it should involve moving some plastic or wood playing pieces across a board and using dice to see who wins Karelia, the Cold War, or gets punished by the robber.

Monday, April 18, 2011


So one of the ideas being bandied about to reconcile the budget is to raise the Social Security retirement age to 69 by 2075. My first reaction was to say that it's no matter to me. I'll be long since retired by then, and perhaps not even on this earth anymore. But then it struck me . . .

Sam is 69 years old in 2075.

Okay, now I'm paying attention.

One of the great generational dialogues we're in the throes of having regards the value of the older worker. Contradictory forces have presented us with a dilemma. Most journalism about the potential for economic disaster regarding our national debt involve raising the retirement age for Social Security. Seems logical. The longer we work, the more we can save, the more output we can generate, the less time (gulp) we have to blow through our savings.

I guess the cynic would say we aim to work longer so our money can outlive us.

Yet the business world has for a decade or so been eager to push those in their late 50s and early 60s into retirement as quickly as possible. After all, older workers have a higher labor cost. Ironically, as we have made the transition to a service-oriented economy, and where a greater proportion of us find ourselves in white collar positions, we're actually able to work longer. And, our bodies can last longer once we have retired. After all we haven't been worn down the way our factory-working forebears were.

So, though I hear the calls for Americans to save more and work longer, I wonder what attempt is being made to reshape the managers and entrepreneurs of the world and get them to differently value the older worker.

Sunday, April 17, 2011


I had been so earnest this year about commemorating anniversaries on this blog and then I slipped in not even mentioning the 150th anniversary of the Civil War's start. Shame on me.

A century and a half ago the states of our nation were going through quite a crucible. The seven core states of the Confederacy were, of course, out of the Union already. But in the aftermath of Sumter the remaining states had to cast their lot with one side or the other. So if we were reading the news on April 17, 1861 the news would have been of fiery debates in the border states, and of enthusiastic crowds in the north sending off regiments of infantry to answer President Lincoln's call for 75,000 volunteers.

On both sides the men who rose in legislative sessions to argue for one side or the other were certainly motivated by partisan instincts, but partisanship fueled by a profound love of country and a conviction in what the country's founding and identity meant. Even though for some that identity was marred by slavery.

Monday, April 4, 2011

This Day In History

Fifty-two years ago today Dr. King was shot to death. A tragic event within a tragic year. Some thoughts regarding it:

One of the more moving historical sites one can ever visit is the museum that was built from the hotel where Dr. King was killed. It's the National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis at the Lorraine Motel. If I were to make a list of required stops for an American to visit, it would be on the list.

Dr. King's death occurred in the same year as a great deal of turmoil: RFK's assassination, the Mexico City Olympics, the Vietnam War's stalemated climax. I wonder how Americans must have felt bouncing from startling story to startling story.

I once read an interesting thesis that President Johnson, who announced his intention to not run again for office came a few days before King's death, was hoping to conduct a victory tour in his last year as a lame duck. He would ride a circuit of bringing Vietnam to a close, passing more substantial civil rights legislation, and extending his war on poverty. King's assassination upset the political momentum he had tried to build.

Dr. King was born on or near the year my dad was born. I wonder what more he could have done with his life had he been granted another 52 years to still be with us today.