Cool Pictures That I’m In or That I Took: “I Haven’t Done This In Ages” Edition

Here’s another in a series of posts I’m going to make when I find some of these treasures. Some will be captioned, others will not. The only criteria for posting in this series is that:

a.) I’m in the photo or…

b.) … I took the photo.


While enjoying a ride on the canals in Venice, Italy, we encountered this guy who looks as though he’s enjoying his job piloting a gondola. (May 2008)


I took this on the Piazza San Marco in Venice. This small human was chasing the pigeons and he was adorable. He stopped momentarily and I was able to grab this photo. Always liked this snapshot. (May 2008)


Took this over the weekend. You may have seen it on Facebook already. It’s Nate, of course, Beth’s small human. Dude loves having his picture taken and it shows. Plus, it’s amazing how good cellphone cameras have become! All I did to this was remove the Toad tattoo on his arm and remove some chocolate.


From left to right, Rodney Leitzel, Carl Valente, me and John Scheneman, the drum line of the Valley Forge Military Academy Band circa 1973. I believe this photo came to me from Bill McKibbin, but I am unsure of its origin.


That’s me in the back row fourth one in from the left , this time playing trombone and being conducted by Eugene Ormandy, then the conductor of the Philadelphia Orchestra. Our band appeared on stage with the Philadelphia Orchestra at President Nixon’s second inaugural concert in January, 1973.

In Defense of the Underdog


Underdog, voiced by the great Wally Cox.

It’s only July of 2015 and already I’m disillusioned about the general election next November. I’ve pretty much resigned myself to the idea of President Hillary. Though you could do a lot worse, it’s not my first choice.

Watching the Republican field implode used to be so much sport. Now it’s just pathetic. Really pathetic. I blame Donald Trump who is turning what in my opinion ought to be a reasoned, intellectual process into a circus sideshow best documented in the entertainment section rather than the political section of the news.

Mind you, I am not a low information voter. Neither am I any sort of expert in the art and science of elections. Plus, it’s early in the race, so I haven’t done a ton of homework on too many of the potential nominees in any party. So I reserve the right to modify my position based on new information I may or may not acquire in the course of the next sixteen months or so. Hell, I may just stay stupid just to see what it’s like.

Back in this post, I made the case for the candidate who would get my vote in the upcoming elections. I stand by that list which I will recreate here for those of you too busy (lazy) to read the original. For those of you who are neither, I’ll wait for you right here.

All done? Cool! Now that you’re back, you can skip the following bulleted list. (It’s for the sick, lame and lazy in my readership. You know who you are.)

  1. Possesses at least SOME charisma.
  2. Is willing to change her mind or position when presented with new facts. (See what I did there?)
  3. Has government or corporate executive experience. Check that. Has SUCCESSFUL government or corporate executive experience.
  4. Demonstrates willingness and ability to build consensus.
  5. Is reasonable.
  6. Treats other candidates with respect. Bonus points if it actually compliments its competitors. (It rubs the lotion on its Super PAC.)
  7. Puts Nation over party.

No one candidate in any party has made enough of an impression on me to satisfy my criteria. In their collective defense, it’s going to be extremely difficult for any candidate to rise above the current level of noise, particularly for any candidate who dares to be reasonable. But I’m still watching in my own semi-informed, but critical thinking way. For the moment, I’m going to jump ahead to the general election and make the case for at least my third criterion above.


THIS is optics, bitches!

And I’m also going to consider the optics of the presidency. <shudder> I hate the word “optics.” Optics is the branch of physics which involves the behavior and properties of light, including its interactions with matter and the construction of instruments that use or detect it. But these days, optics in the political sense of the word matter greatly

I do think it’s time for a woman president. I just don’t think it ought to be Secretary Clinton. If (when) Clinton wins the nomination and the general, it will in my opinion usher in yet another eight years of politics and business as usual in DC. Secretary Clinton is well established in the Washington bureaucracy and I believe it unlikely that she will, because of experience, temperament and training conduct the Office of the Presidency with any innovation, any sense of urgency or any desire to really change the course of our nation. She’s too well entrenched in the existing systems of government. Washington today is what she knows and we all gravitate to that which we know best.

Now, the experience she brings is formidable and part of #3 is “SUCCESSFUL government or corporate executive experience.” I think successful government experience is one of the necessary tools that a candidate should have. And Secretary Clinton meets that standard.

But a potential President needs more than just an understanding of the federal bureaucracy. But how about the corporate angle?

Howzabout we form an administration that has both successful corporate and government experience? No one candidate is likely to do that, so that’s why I’m jumping to the general to propose that the Republicans nominate a Fiorina/Kasich ticket.

carly-johnNow before you dismiss me out of hand go read my opening few paragraphs again. You can’t possibly be too lazy to do that. Seriously.  You just can’t.

Carly Fiorina is an extraordinarily successful business woman having run tech giant Hewlett-Packard. From Wikipedia (granted not a bastion of absolute fact):

“Starting in 1980, Fiorina rose through the ranks to become an executive at AT&T and its equipment and technology spinoff, Lucent. As chief executive officer of Hewlett-Packard (HP) from 1999 to 2005, she was the first woman to lead one of the top twenty U.S. companies.

In 2002, Fiorina undertook the biggest high-tech merger in history with rival computer company Compaq, which made HP the world’s largest personal computer manufacturer. HP gained market share following the merger and subsequently laid off 30,000 American workers. By the end of 2005, the merged company had more employees worldwide than they had separately before the merger.”

Optics? Check – First woman President. Successful business leader? Check. Job creator? Check. Consensus builder? Check. Government experience?


This is where current Ohio Governor John Kasich comes in.

Again from my old pal Wikipedia:

In 1982, Kasich ran for Congress in Ohio’s 12th District, based in Columbus, Ohio. He won the Republican primary with 83% of the vote, and defeated [the] incumbent Democrat … in the general election by a margin of 50%–47%. Kasich was re-elected eight times after 1982, winning at least 64% of the vote each time.

As Chairman of the House Budget Committee, Kasich was the lead architect of the 1997 balanced budget deal. This marked the first time the federal budget achieved balance since 1969 and ultimately led to a federal budget surplus. Kasich also chaired the congressional conference committee that overhauled welfare, requiring new work/training requirements into the system.

Dude knows how to win an election and balance a budget. He can also likely deliver the critical state of Ohio in the general election because:

[As Governor of the Buckeye State,] Kasich utilized a number of cost-saving reforms without raising taxes and signed the new balanced budget on June 30, 2011. The budget included the elimination of the estate tax and the continuation of a previously passed income tax cut for all Ohioans.

… As a result of Kasich’s budgeting efforts throughout his first term, Ohio’s rainy-day fund (or surplus) went from $0.89 to $1.5 billion today.

… Kasich has cut taxes in Ohio by a net total of more than $3 billion. This includes the income tax cut implemented in his first budget, the 10% income tax cut in his second budget, the 50% income tax cut for small businesses, and other tax reforms that included a quarter-percentage-point increase in the state sales tax.

During Kasich’s first term in office, 316,800 new jobs were created in the state of Ohio and the unemployment rate dropped from 9.4% to 5.1%

Successful government leader? Check – both State and Federal. Job creator? Check. Government experience? In spades. Optics?

Well, that’s where I have issues and it’s a relatively minor one. In spite of Governor Kasich’s record of success leading large government agencies, it’s my opinion that the optics (there’s that word again!) of a former Fox News anchorman as President presents a problem for me. Then again, Tony Snow went from Fox to the White House for a successful turn as Press Secretary, but that’s a different animal than the presidency itself.

So to recap: A potential Fiorina/Kasich ticket brings to a potential administration:

  • Successful corporate executive experience.
  • Successful government executive experience.
  • Ability to build consensus. (Who merges HP and Compaq without being able to do that?)
  • Possesses at least some charisma. (True. I remember Kasich from his days in the anchor chair.)
  • Optics, in this case, the inauguration of the first woman president.

Now I’m not low informed enough to think that there aren’t negatives about either Fiorina or Kasich. I know of a couple. From my perspective at this point in the election, the combination of these two success stories is worthy of consideration by a party that can’t find its collective butt with both hands and a flashlight.

My point? Kasich and Fiorina are not getting any traction. They’re two of many underdogs among the crowded Republican field. And I think that’s unfortunate because the collective experience of these two people is an attractive combination. Together on paper, they have a resume that I believe could serve this nation unusually well.

I’m not willing to say this is the only way to go and that no other candidate is worthy of my vote. I’m saying that my relatively superficial evaluation has led me here. I will probably change my mind at some point, and it’s my right to do that.

But today, right now, how about let’s have a look at the underdogs.

Patty Mathias Ginsburg, 1930-2015

Week before last, I got word from my sons, Jon and Andy, that their grandmother and my former mother in law had passed away. She had been in ill health having suffered a stroke some years before and the second one that afflicted her on July 3rd finally ended the life of someone I loved and respected even though we hadn’t communicated in earnest since the first ex Mrs. Me and I divorced a lifetime ago.

I don’t want to concentrate on the loss, though of course I grieve with my sons and the rest of the Ginsburg family. I did want to recount a couple of anecdotes about life with Patty over the years that we interacted. In a nutshell, she was brilliant, articulate, caring and a delight to be around.

Deborah and I lived with her family for about six or seven months at their home in Augusta, GA while I was in the Signal Officers Advanced Course at Fort Gordon. It wasn’t long before we were fully integrated into life with Patty, Deb’s dad, Jack, and the rest of the family. Trying to be the considerate guy, I did what I could to help around the house, though I admit I could have been a much better houseguest.

One day, I was wandering about the house and noticed wet laundry in the washing machine. I says to myself, “Self? You can help out by putting those clothes in the dryer!” So I opened the machines and transferred the goods from the washer to the dryer, set the controls on desert and pushed the “go” button.

Sometime later, I hear this loud gasp from the laundry area. I don’t remember the words that followed – not that there was any profanity involved that I recall, but the next thing I remember is Patty standing in the laundry area holding up a teeny, tiny and particularly luxurious brilliant green cashmere sweater which had once fit her quite nicely. Post drying, it would have been a tight squeeze for my infant son, Jon.

I was horrified.

But I don’t think I was more horrified than Patty was. Here was this really gorgeous, soft, undoubtedly expensive cashmere sweater which had been one of her favorites shrunken down to the size of a dishtowel. Still brilliant green. Still soft as could be. Just a thousand sizes smaller than it had been at the start of the day.

All was quickly forgiven, of course. But I was pretty sure for a while there that I was going to be pitching a tent out in their steeply sloping back yard. It was one of the bigger of many faux pas that I inadvertently perpetrated against the family, but probably the most memorable.

I used to tease her mercilessly for watching reruns of “The Dukes of Hazzard” on cable TV in the evening hours. I know it wasn’t really destination television for her, but somehow I always seemed to catch her sitting in her chair in the family room, feet up on the ottoman and “The Dukes” on the TV. It became a running gag that, upon catching her in the act, that we’d both launch into words of great praise for Bo and Luke Duke, wondering if this were the time they’d finally get nabbed by the law.

When she was watching “The Dukes” or anything else on TV with her feet up, if she wasn’t wearing shoes, she would cross her little toes over the ones next to it. Now while this may seem odd at first to the casual reader, it was a habit I developed myself early in life. I thought I was the only one! I remember the first time I noticed it, I laughed and laughed – so much so that it was a few minutes before I could explain that I was not laughing at her feet per se (I was literally pointing at the time, if memory serves) but rather at the fact that I wasn’t the only one whose little toes got a bit of a workout in front of the TV set.

She was a botanist by interest and training. She was like a kid in a candy store when she came to Belgium to visit us and was able to observe the native foliage that she couldn’t see in the U.S. I remember she had a thick coffee table book on European plants in preparation for her trip.

While in Belgium, she also rearranged our kitchen cabinets and did a superb job. In fact, she did such a good job that when we talked on the phone over the years, I would ask her “Hey Patty, when’re you coming over to rearrange our kitchen cabinets again?” It was my way of saying “We miss you – come visit.” And I’m pretty sure she took it that way.

Even though my marriage to Deborah didn’t last, my respect for Patty did. Even though we didn’t stay in touch, I know through Jon and Andy that she continued to be the amazing woman I knew her to be. I’m sure that the high school students to whom she taught biology for decades would in retrospect also agree.

Patty was unusually kind to me, and for that I am forever in her debt. After all, I still owe her a cashmere sweater.

Patty’s Obit: