Thursday, April 28, 2011

The Great Compliment Challenge

This morning I was chatting with some of my online friends when Jack, who was our moderator, read us one of his blog entries from a few years ago.

I was in the shopping centre the other day having lunch and I noticed a woman who I thought was very beautiful.  She was alone and eating her lunch near where I was sitting and I had a sudden urge to go over to her and tell her how beautiful I thought she was.  Why would I do that?  Well for no other reason than to pay someone a compliment.  That is all.  No ulterior motive.  No hoping she would ask me to sit down and join her.  I’m happily married and I love my wife very much, so my intention was just to give a compliment, walk away and hopefully leave that woman with a smile on her face and a story to tell her friends.
This wasn’t the first time I have had this urge.  I would estimate that over the last few years I have had the same urge a dozen or so times and each time I have not followed through.  So why haven’t I enacted upon it?  I think the simple answer to that is because I am too embarrassed to do it. — from A Blog About Nothing ... Much

After discussing it for a while he issued me a challenge. I was to approach a few people and give them a compliment and then to come back and blog about it. I enjoy paying compliments where and when deserved, so for me this was a no brainer. I accepted his challenge - my life is rather boring - and here is that blog.

First thing of course, is that the compliment has to be a true one. I won't say someone is attractive if I am not attracted to her. That's an absolute. So with that in mind, I went to the supermarket.

The scanner
Get your scanner here
Once in the parking lot I picked up my shopping cart and headed in. My supermarket has a great system where, if you have one of their loyalty cards, you can pick up a scanner when you enter, and scan and bag your items as you shop. Then, when you come to the cashier (or self-service checkout) all you have to do is point the scanner at a target and it all transfers to the register and you can pay and go.

I went to pick up my scanner and there was a woman there (a fellow shopper) who asked me if I needed help. I took this opportunity and responded, "Always happy to learn from a pretty young lady." This got me a smile and and explanation. I got my scanner and went about my business.

At the appetizing department I was served by an attractive woman, and I told her that she was looking particularly nice today. Again I was rewarded by a smile. However, this was not quite the "random compliment" situation that Jack was talking about.

In one of the aisles I had a chance to pay a compliment under a circumstance a little more similar to Jacks. A young mom with a baby in the cart was temporarily blocking the aisle. She gave me a smile, which I returned, but she wasn't a particularly attractive woman, at least as far as I was concerned. However she did have some interesting tattoos on her arms which I complemented her on. She responded with a big smile and thanked me, as we each continued on our separate ways.

No other opportunities afforded themselves this time, but as those who know me know, it is not unusual for me to tell an attractive woman that she is indeed attractive. The situation that Jack found himself in didn't happen, but three attempts today produced three smiles. A small sample to be sure, but there were three happy people in the supermarket today.

I think the responses may vary dependent on many factors. I would think that such an honest statement may be accepted faster in a smaller town than a large city. In today's age of increased focus on sexual harassment, may it be less welcome? Has PC (political correctness) gone too far? What do you think?

How about you? Have you ever received or given a random compliment? How did you react, or how did the person you were complimenting react?

Monday, April 25, 2011

On the road again ...

Today I am on the road. Well kinda. We are are the Borgatta Hotel in Atlantic City. My wife is a slot machine player, and often gets comp nights here. I, who usually sit at the blackjack table, don't.

But anyway here we are. Just one night. When we checked in we were given an upgrade to a suite. True, we have a view of the wind farm and not the rest of Atlantic City, but we didn't come here to look out from the room window.

Unexpectedly this week we found out that my son and daughter-in-law had received a comp room and had reserved it for tonight, so they are here as well. In fact, when they checked in he mentioned that we had gotten an upgrade, so they were given one as well. Sweet!

After the short drive - about 90 minutes from home - I decided to rest in the room for a bit before I head into the casino, but my wife, as usual, headed to her penny slot machine. When she arrived in the room about a half hour later, she was already up $40! I guarantee you that won't last for long.

We also got comp tickets for tonight's comedy show ... three stand-up comedians. If last time was any indication, it won't be the best we have ever seen, but hey - it's free and that's good enough for me. It's just nice to get away.

Well, I am now refreshed from my drive and am about to hit the casino ... wish me luck!

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Moving up through the generations

The other night, the family was together for the first night of Passover. (Well, almost all as my daughter was still in Florida so a little digital magic was needed for her to be in the picture.) These are the pictures that are so important to take when you have the opportunity, as there are four generations of the family represented here; My dad (1), My bother, sister and myself - and our spouses (2), our children (3) and my grandsons (4).

When I came home and thought about it though, we have been having four generational get togethers as long as I have been alive. Of course, while I was generation (4) then, I find myself in the postition of generation (2) at the moment. Of course it's the way of things, and eventually every one moves up on the family tree - but it seems to happen so quickly. So I started looking back at the journey that brought us here.

When I was a toddler, I remember visiting with my father's uncle's family. Living with them at the time was the matriarch of his side of the family, my great-grandmother. I do remember that she scared me although my memories of her include nothing but kindness from her. Yet she was OLD (remember I was a baby and then a toddler at this point), and she spoke with an accent which to me, was scary. Looking back now from my current perspective, I wish I were old enough to have appreciated her and the family history I could have learned from her. She came to this country from Russia - because she had to - think Fiddler on the Roof. My great-grandfather actually came first to get settled and then sent for her. Think of the amazing stories I could have heard her tell. I was generation (4) at that moment in time - the youngest generation on the tree. (Though I myself am the oldest of that generation.)

Moving along a bit, and staying with the Passover theme, there came a time where my grandfather would lead the seder ceremony, and we once again had four generations, though we all had moved up a bit. My father's mom had passed away shortly after my daughter was born, but my dad's father would see both of my children born and grow to school age. My son and daughter now were generation (4) and I found myself moving up the tree and was generation (3). Thanks to my brother, we have my grandfather sharing some of his memories - including witnessing the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire firsthand - on video.

Then last passover, another change came as my grandsons - born the year earlier - were now a part of the family. My grandfather had passed away more than 20 years previous, but once again we were back at a full four generations. In fact, generation (3) had also increased as my brother had another son earlier in the year. (My daughter, the first of her generation, so far is the only girl.) Generation (3) now covers a 31 year spread! And my grandsons were now generation (4). I find myself as the oldest member of generation (2) now. My dad still presides over the ceremony, but as he tires during it, that task fall to me.

Yes, it is the normal way of things, and at some point in the future (not too soon I hope) I will find myself as the oldest member of generation (1), the position my great-grandmother occupied when I was young. It will be another 2 decades from now until there is another generation (4) ... I am not in a hurry to get there.

(Update: On September 23 2013, my dad suddenly and unexpectedly passed away.)

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Believing Lotsa Other's Good Stuff (BLOGS)

This morning, one of my friends announced that she has started a blog. It made me think about how many blogs I have started looking at because my friends are blogging. Not only that, but how many people I have gotten to know simply because of a blog someone might have pointed me to.

What is a blog? This is what Wikipedia has to say about them:
A blog (a blend of the term web log) is a type of website or part of a website. Blogs are usually maintained by an individual with regular entries of commentary, descriptions of events, or other material such as graphics or video. Entries are commonly displayed in reverse-chronological order. Blog can also be used as a verb, meaning to maintain or add content to a blog.
Most blogs are interactive, allowing visitors to leave comments and even message each other via widgets on the blogs and it is this interactivity that distinguishes them from other static websites.
Many blogs provide commentary or news on a particular subject; others function as more personal online diaries. A typical blog combines text, images, and links to other blogs, web pages, and other media related to its topic. The ability of readers to leave comments in an interactive format is an important part of many blogs. Most blogs are primarily textual, although some focus on art (art blog), photographs (photoblog), videos (video blogging), music (MP3 blog), and audio (podcasting). Microblogging is another type of blogging, featuring very short posts.
As of 16 February 2011, there were over 156 million public blogs in existence.
One hundred and fifty six million? When did this phenomenon take off like this? I guess there were/are a lot of people like me who have been listening to the voices in their head for so long that this was the place to give them their own voice. For a few years in the 1980's I was a technical columnist and perhaps the internal blog started then. I would often find myself walking down the street (or in some other rather mundane circumstance) writing my next column in my head. These were the days before PDA's, laptops, or smart phones, so the notes stayed in my head until I was in front of my computer and able to start (or continue) the process of writing my column. The habit continues and I often "write a column" in my head about many different and varied subjects.

In the last few months I have learned about living in the country (with teenagers), self publishing, and cooking (among other things). I discovered that Jack thinks that 9-1-1 was poorly thought out, Erica is a tech geek and Mickey fan (okay, so I knew that before she started blogging), and what Kerri's husband wants when he does the dishes. And so many other things!

But you have to know about a blog before you can start reading it. So if you have a blog, here is your chance to let people know about it. I know, etiquette generally forbids you from promoting your blog on someone else's, but for one time only, I am offering all bloggers the chance for a mention here. In the comment area below, share your blog's URL address and a short description of what you blog about.

And while you are here, how about officially joining the people who read this blog. (See the side bar - under MEMBERS - for your chance.)

Nice to see you here.

Monday, April 11, 2011

My first time

Going to Disneyland that is ... did you think I was going to talk about something else?

Like most kids my age - in the US at least - I grew up knowing that my Sunday nights would mean watching Walt Disney and Ed Sullivan. Naturally I was more interested in Walt than Ed, though I did enjoy Topo Gigio. But of course it was a different mouse that I looked forward to seeing, and that was Mickey. Over the years Walt Disney's presence on Sunday night was legendary. Although the name of the show changed many times, my favorite segments were always those that showed Walt's little park, Disneyland. I loved watching all of the rides and attractions, and the people enjoying them. The only problem was that Disneyland was on the totally opposite side of the country, so while I enjoyed watching the shows about Disneyland, I never seriously thought I would be there. People really weren't in the habit of flying for vacations yet. And this being the fifties and the sixties, there was only one Disney park.

I watched with great excitement as Walt talked about four new projects though. He told us that a lifelike Lincoln who would stand up and speak was being developed. And how about that ride where you would drive a car through history, from the dinosaurs to the caveman to the present and the future? Or that other history ride where you would sit in a theater which moved from scene to scene from the beginning of the twentieth century to the very modern present of 1964!! And finally he told us about a boat ride through the countries of the world - with little children singing a wonderful Sherman brothers' song. (Shhhh ... I heard that!)

What made this so exciting for me was the fact that I would actually be able to experience all of these attractions! They were being prepared for the State of Illinois, Ford Motor Company, General Electric and Pepsi/UNICEF. They were going to be at the 1964/1965 New York World's Fair, and since I lived in New York City I knew I would see each of them a number of times. And I did.

And then, before school was out for the summer of 1968, my parents (teachers by profession) informed me and my brother and sister that we would spend our summer vacation driving cross country. You know what that meant? We would be in California ... and Disneyland was in California. (Oh yeah, a few other things as well, but ... Disneyland!!!)

The end of June came ... school was out for the summer ... and we were on the road! Yes indeed we saw some great things on the way out there, but Disneyland was the "wienie" as Walt would have put it. And then, on July 26th, 1968 the day came that I finally got to go to Disneyland. (I just realized for the first time that 10 years to the day later, my daughter - the current Walt Disney World Cast Member - would be born.) I remember the excitement as we saw the Disneyland sign from the highway ... the highway which had no signs about the park. How exciting it was to finally be in the parking lot, about to have my parents buy that booklet with the ABCDE tickets in it? The wonderful things I saw on my black and white television (we wouldn't have color TV until late in 1969) now appeared before me (as they would say on TV) in living color ... ready to capture with the same Ansco Cadet camera that I had used at the NY World's Fair!

As we walked into the park and underneath the Disneyland Railroad, Main Street and the castle (The Castle) appeared before us.

I couldn't wait to walk down the street and look into all the stores which I had seen on Walt Disney's Sunday night television shows.

How many times had I seen an animated Tinkerbell (who I still insist is a jealous/murderous sprite ... a strange choice as a corporate spokesfairy) splash the front of the castle in an array of color to start another Sunday night Disney show? To me it looked so large and amazing standing there at the end of Main Street - the famous "wienie" Walt wanted in the center of the park.

But of course, the most exciting things were the attractions. I wanted to ride the Jungle Cruise, which I had seen so much of on TV. I had to experience something that was still unique to Disneyland back then - the steel rollercoaster type ride that was the Matterhorn. I couldn't wait to ride the traditional dark rides which were not super scary as they were back home in Brooklyn (at Coney Island), but much more family friendly with Disney characters. And what about Walt's fleet of submarines - or the skyride ... or the monorail ... and the other rides and attractions that I had seen for so long?  I had to do it all. But I think the attraction that I wanted to see the most, was the newest. I watched it take shape over the years on the Sunday night tv program, and now I would get to see it in person ... The Pirates of the Caribbean! And I wasn't disappointed. (The Haunted Mansion, which became my all time favorite - and still is - wouldn't be open until my 1969 visit. My son would be working in the Walt Disney World version at the moment 1999 became 2000.)

I also had to see the four World's Fair attractions which I had experienced just a few years earlier back at home; Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln (Illinois), The Grand Canyon Diorama on the train trip around the park (Ford), Carousel of Progress (General Electric) and It's a Small World (Pepsi/UNICEF).

It was exciting finding out which type of ticket each attraction required, then ripping the appropriate one out of the booklet for admission. And as always ... the day ended much too soon. I would be back the next summer, and again a few times since I have been married, but nothing can match the excitement of that first time.

Today, as a frequent visitor to Walt Disney World, I get a completely different feeling upon walking in to that first park - whichever it is on that trip - from the excitement of my first time in Disneyland. Today is more of a comfortable "I'm home again" feeling.

But that first time in Disneyland .... ahhh ... that was something special!

How about your first trip to a Disney Park?

Saturday, April 2, 2011

By the book

When my daughter was born back in the 70's, my wife and I did what most first time parents of the day did - we bought Dr. (not Mr.) Spock's book, Baby and Child Care. First published in 1946, by the end of the 20th century it had sold more than 50 million copies and had been translated into 39 languages. Everyone knew that this was the "bible" of caring for your baby, right?

Our pediatrician, very early in the course of things, explained to us exactly how to use the book. You put it under a table leg to stop the table from rocking. You can also use the pages to start the charcoal in your grill during the summer months.

Now to be fair, her advice was not solely directed at Dr. Spock's book, but generally all "how to" books on parenting. Her reasoning was that new parents, especially first time new parents, will- among other things - read these books and start comparing developmental milestones listed in the book with their own child's development, and if they don't match, get unnecessarily worried. Every child is different and the developmental milestones are averages, not necessarily carved in stone event dates.

Sometimes these books will tell parents that something in particular must be done at a specific age. When "the book" said it was time to introduce fish to my daughter's list of foods, my wife diligently did so. My daughter hated it. When she discussed it with our pediatrician, she simply said to my wife,  "She doesn't like it, so don't feed it to her." 

And toys and games with ages on them are also just suggestions. A child may well be ready for a toy that says it's for a particular age before they actually are that age. This is where common sense and knowing your child become the real skills of parenting.

Yet, even today I still see parents reading books of this type and getting concerned if their child does not hit those milestones when the book says they should. I saw this recently with my own grandtwins, who today turn 18 months old. A year and a half! (At 2 years old we stop counting by months, right?) We knew that they were physically capable of walking, but neither of them had actually taken more than a step or two by themselves without holding on to someone or something. People were getting concerned. I said all along that one of these days they would simply decide it was time and then just take off. (My daughter almost "failed" kindergarten because she couldn't skip, though there was nothing wrong developmentally. She just never really had a reason. So we practiced skipping.) Sure enough, one day they decided to get going.

Life will never be the same for my son or daughter-in-law.