Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Are You Driving a Pick-Up Truck For the Right Reason?

Toyota Tundra
All right. I know. I really do. By broaching this subject, I’m really going to piss some people off. I might even lose some readers and followers, but someone has to have the cohones to tell you. Someone has to say it. Bear this in mind, my brothers; I am genuinely just trying to help.

What is today's topic? Pick-up trucks.

So, here’s the deal, gentlemen. Unless you are a plumber, drywaller, pipe-fitter, steamfitter, electrician, mason, boilermaker, carpenter, welder, farmer, rancher, general contractor, automotive repair or service specialist, landscaper, laborer, logger, installer, demolition expert, surveyor, oil rigger, or employed in any other related working man’s profession or if you are a woman, then you should NOT be driving a pick-up truck. Period. On the other hand, if you aren’t a plumber, drywaller, pipe-fitter, steamfitter, electrician, mason, boilermaker, carpenter, welder, farmer, rancher, general contractor, automotive repair or service specialist, landscaper, laborer, logger, installer, demolition expert, surveyor, oil rigger, or employed in any other related working man’s profession or if you are a woman and you ARE driving a pick-up truck, well, how can I say this? Um . . . you’re compensating.

YOUTUBE: Pick-Up Truck Driving Fails

That’s right. If you’re a working man who drives a pick-up truck, you’re saying, “I AM a working man.” As such, you are entitled to all the rights and privileges conferred therein. On the other hand, if you’re a gym teacher or barista or customer service representative or insurance agent or retail manager and you drive a pick-up truck, you aren’t just telling people, “I’m compensating. You’re screaming, “I’M COM-PEN-SAT-ING!” You’re making a transparent and misguided attempt to stand on the shoulders of the men whose work-hard/play-hard image has actually been forged over generations by walkers the talk.

If you're not a working man and you are driving a pick-up truck, you are communicating, however, “Look at me! I can borrow $40,000 at too high an interest rate. Oh, by the way, I live with my parents, and I’m compensating! Whoohoo!”

Don't misunderstand, if you work for your money, regardless of the profession, then you are absolutely entitled to respect. However, by pretending to be something that you're not, you are communicating with unspoken clarity a fact that you probably want to keep to yourself. As such, posers, please stop posing.

Lazy Comic Randy McDaniels:
Not terribly funny, but right on target.

Of course, if any woman drives a pick-up truck regardless of age or profession, she’s sexy as H – E – double hockey sticks.

Every girl is pretty when driving a pick-up truck.


Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Ol' Abner's Done It Again

The Favorite Son: Tee-Ballin'.
Well, it is The Single Father’s Guide to Life, Cooking, and Baseball.

If you’re a regular reader of this this blog, then you know I’ve coached or managed The Favorite Son’s (TFS) Little League Baseball (LLB) team since he played tee-ball. I’ve even written about some of the ways that I think Little League Baseball provides valuable parenting opportunities, like in “Life Lessons Learned in Little League Baseball,” not to mention a great way to spend quality time with your sons and daughters.

This year is TFS’s last year of Majors and he’s playing with a very special group of kids. There is an unusual number of very talented baseball players who were born in 2004 around here and I think this group will have a lot of on-field success during their playing careers. I think a few may play baseball past high school and one or two may even have a cup of coffee in the Majors someday.

By the way, TFS is having fun, as always. He’s a solid defensive player, but TFS has more fun when he gets to run the bases. As I write this, more than half the regular season is complete and TFS is third on the team in batting average and on-base percentage, first in stolen bases and tied for first in runs, but I digress.

Youppie: Mascot for former
Montreal Expos franchise.
I'm managing one of the seven teams in the Warwick (NY) Little League Majors Division. (Of course, we’re the Cardinals, but there is a part of me who wishes I’d picked the Expos. That would have been kinda cool, I think.) I enjoy seeing a player be successful, regardless of his skill level. When a kid makes a great catch . . . or an easy one, hit a big home run or makes contact to move a runner from second to third, I’m having fun.

I had a lot of fun at a recent game.

Back in the day, a LLB manager might have had just one strong player on his team. That manager, who perhaps thought of himself of the LLB version of Casey Stengel, in an effort to win at all costs, would make that kid his workhorse and pitch him every game. A lot of young and talented players injured their arms and needed (Tommy John) surgery. It didn't make sense, financially, for a lot of families for their 12 year old son to have arm surgery, so some kids stopped playing baseball all together and that was a shame.

So, LLB now has rules governing the number of pitches a player can throw in a game with associated days of rest. Some managers still take advantage of the rule and have players throw 85 pitches in a game. I think that is still think that's a lot of pitches, especially during the early part of the LLB season in April or the first part of May. My general guideline is 35 pitches per player followed by at least one full day’s rest during the first three weeks of the season, 50 pitches with two full day’s rest for the second three weeks, and up to 65 pitches with three full day’s rest for the last part of the season. On one occasion, I've allowed a more experienced and mature player to throw 85 pitches during the latter part of the season, but only speaking to the player and getting input and permission from the player's father.

Angry Cardinal
In a recent game at Koch Field at Veteran's Memorial Park in Warwick, the Cardinals were playing as well as they had all season. Our starting pitcher threw 38 pitches and after two innings, the Cardinals led by a score of 1 – 0 over a very well managed Orioles team. My middle reliever made 48 pitches and, after four innings, the Cardinals led the Orioles 6 – 2. In the bottom of the fifth inning, that day’s closer struggled with his control, walked three batters, hit another, and gave up four runs. In the process, the player, who is one of the most respectful, baseball-smart, and hard-working kids I've coached, threw almost 40 pitches.

Between innings, the he was visibly upset in the dugout. Obviously, he felt that he let his teammates down by allowing the O’s to get back in the game. As I went out to coach a base in the top of the last inning, I said to the player, “Shake it off. Keep your head up. We’re going to need you to close this out for us.”

In the top of the sixth inning in a tied, 6 – 6 game, the Cardinals had the top of the order up. TFS wriggled a single out of a sharp hit ball down the line that first baseman couldn’t handle. Our second hitter walked and the third spot reached on a dropped third strike to load the bases. Then, our clean-up batter added his fourth and fifth RBI’s with a clean single to left-center. The Cardinals tallied once more on a wild pitch and led 9 – 6 heading into the bottom half.

Ol' Abner's done it again.

Wearing the score book on my head during a game.
(Photo Credit: Michele Branch)

Our closer had 11 pitches to reach 50 and, although we were on the cusp of the last part of the season, I still didn’t think there was any reason to push any player. The Orioles’ lead-off hitter was the clean-up hitter who singled on the first pitch. Then, our pitcher walked the next two batters on eight pitches to load the bases. He was at 48 pitches; I called time and walked out to the mound. As the infield huddled around, I said to our pitcher, “Great effort to come back this inning and battle, but the next batter puts you over 50 pitches.”

As I was about to make the change, our pitcher looked up at me with a tear welling in his eye and said, “Please, let me finish. Please.”

For a moment, I was undecided. I didn’t want to tax the young man’s arm. It was clear that he felt intensely about finishing and I respected that. I saw how important it was to him. I considered also that this player was one of the physically stronger and more mature players and believed he was in a good place to throw up to 65. We were also late enough in the season when players arms are strong enough to handle more of a workload. So, after talking to the infield about positioning, I said, finally, “Okay. Go get ‘em.”

Our pitcher walked the next batter allowing the O’s to score a run and bringing the score to 9 – 7. The next hitter stepped into the box with the winning run on first base. Ball one. Then, something clicked. The pitcher found another gear, got the ball down, and struck out then hitter. Then, it seemed as if a light switch was flipped, started to throw nothing but strikes. The young man very efficiently struck out the next two and ended the exciting, well-played game with a 9 – 7 win for the Cardinals.

After shaking hands with the Orioles' players, the Cardinals players sat on the bench. The other coaches and I told the kids how proud we were of them to battle back, congratulated a player for getting his first hit of the season, and gave the game ball to our closing pitcher. He had his head down and was very upset after struggling, I think, may have learned another great LLB lesson, which may last him a lifetime, “Regardless of the things that have happened in the past - good or bad, work hard, give your best, and good things can happen.” 

Like I said, I’m having fun.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

5 Books Every Single Father Should Read (or Listen To)

So, in a world of mobile device recorders, cameras on every corner, and video blogs (vlogs), it seems the number of people who read for pleasure is shrinking. Yeah, even I will probably start vlogging for The Single Father’s Guide Blog and other projects that I have in the pipeline.

Original Dust Jacket for Steinbeck's Grapes of Wrath

Even though I don’t read as much as I used to or want to, I still read. As often as not, the books I’ve read have, in some way, found me rather than the other way around. When talking to someone I believe to be interesting and knowledgeable, I may ask that person, “What book that you’ve read has made the biggest impact in your life?” Then, I read that book.

Not necessarily implying that I am particularly interesting or knowledgeable, these happen to be the books that have made the biggest impression on me during my life.

The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck

The Story: Steinbeck masterfully relates the long and painful journey of the Joad family, farmers who are forced to leave their Oklahoma dust bowl farm and travel to California where they hope to start a new and better life.

The Lesson: The best, most heartrending, and most astounding end to any fiction I’ve read suggests that in the face of tragedy and profound sorrow, humans have a surprising capacity to love other humans.

His Needs, Her Needs: Building an Affair Proof Marriage by Willard F. Harley

The Story: Based on the premise that both women and men have specific needs in a relationship, the likelihood of an affair outside of a committed relationship increases when one partner perceives that one or more of those needs aren’t being met. Harley lists the typical top five needs for women and those for men. Not surprisingly, the women’s needs and men’s needs aren’t the same.

The Lesson: I've been told this book has been used by marriage counselors for couples who are dealing with an infidelity. Counseling after infidelity is like Feng Shui in the lobby after the plane hit the first tower. As such, I suggest this book for my brothers who are in a relationship and who want to prevent infidelity. Not surprisingly, a woman’s most important need is communication and that need is often most effectively met by her partner listening to what she says. By the way, a man’s most important need, obviously, is physical intimacy.

The Millionaire Next Door by Thomas J. Stanley

The Story: While the term, millionaire, doesn’t carry the gravitas that it once did, amassing assets in excess of one million dollars isn’t anything to sneeze at. Americans who are able to accumulate wealth measured using seven figures or more frequently have a number of important behaviors and characteristics in common.

The Lesson: Ironically, the kind of committed relationship one has with a romantic partner is a significant variable in creating wealth. The make of car one drives, whether a person owns a small (or large) business, and other seemingly unrelated factors are also correlated with wealth accumulation.

Mother Night by Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.

The Story: Howard W. Campbell Jr., who moved with his family to Germany from the United States when he was a child, is a renowned playwright, one-half of a “Nation of Two” with his actress wife, Helga, and a Nazi propagandist during World War II. He’s also an American spy. Now that the war is over and he's living in New York, Campbell narrates the the series of improbable events including reuniting with his beloved wife, being discovered by a Nazi hunter, and his trial as war criminal.

The Lesson: “We are who we pretend to be, so we must be careful about what we pretend to be.”

For Whom the Bell Tolls by Ernest Hemingway

The Story: The plight of young U.S. Army officer, Robert Jordan, who is charged with rallying a band of Spanish guerrillas to help him dynamite a bridge during the Spanish Civil War.

The Lesson: Includes the best-written chapter of any novel in the history of fiction. The chapter depicts, with unusual candor, the meaning of love and love’s place in a man’s heart in the context of fighting life’s everyday battles. (Reading Hemingway is like getting repeatedly punched in the face with a wet boxing glove. If the reader can endure the beating, the story and the lessons are worth the effort.) P.S. It tolls for thee.

Well, I guess that’s enough for now. It’s not likely many folks will have time to read these books, anyway. I believe they’re all available via audio book, though. If you do read or listen to one or more of these books, maybe you’ll say to a friend during a conversation, “I learned about this book in a blog post that I read. You might enjoy it.”

Mention the blog, too.

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Fidget Spinners Are Here

If you haven’t yet heard about the Fidget Spinner from your kids, you will.

Fidget Spinner
Likes its predecessors, Slinky, Magic 8-Ball, Rubik’s Cube, Pet Rock, Beanie Baby, and Furby among many others, the Fidget Spinner has been the unmistakable and somewhat unexplainably hot toy, particularly among middle schoolers here in New York.

According to Addictive Fidget Toys website,

For some people, fidget spinner toys can provide a sense of comfort and peace in stressful situations. They can also provide a way to concentrate during a dull meeting. Because our fidget toys fit in your hand and are made with the best materials, you won’t ever have to deal with a lack of tactile stimulation again.

Would you buy a Fidget Spinner
from this face?
The Favorite Son bought a few Fidget Spinners with one of the gift cards and loves the things. A budding entrepreneur, he even bought a few extra and passed them on, with a reasonable mark-up, to a few of his friends . . . , but not at school, of course.

The highest customer rated Fidget Spinner on Amazon is the Colovis Fidget Spinner Tri-Hand Spinner Fidget Toy - Stress Reducer EDC Focus Toy for Kids and Adults. It retails for $16.99. There are Fidget Spinners for sale for as low as about $2.00 and for as much as $50.00. It appears prices are based on the ball bearings used at the center. Many of the descriptions and sales materials claim that Fidget Spinners reduce symptoms of ADHD. I doubt there have been any definitive studies done, so, I'm not sure how any seller can say that.

No, I don’t get it. Then, again, I didn’t get Pet Rocks or Stress Balls either. Anyway, I just want to keep you apprised of what your kids are (or will soon be doing) and will want for birthdays and holidays.

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

The Horrible Message of Disney's Beauty and the Beast

Okay. I saw Walt Disney Picture’s Beauty and the Beast this weekend with a date. Yeah, yeah. I get it. The things we do for love, huh?

Walt Disney's Beauty and the Beast
The movie’s musical score is nice and Emma Watson is just about as adorable as she can be, but I am baffled by this movie's message. I'm not the first to connect the dots between Belle falling in love with the Beast and Stockholm Syndrome. You know, Stockholm Syndrome, right? It's the feelings of love, trust, and affection that captives and hostages tend to develop toward their captors. In this live action version, Belle's feelings for Beast start to change from disdain to affection after he defends her from wolves who are trying to eat her. That's really going from the frying pan into the fire, but never mind Beast's intention was preventing her escape. Later, while still his captive, Belle, who is an avid reader, takes another step toward a love connection after Beast "gives" her his priceless library. As a Beast’s literal prisoner, the gift of the library to Belle is like giving a caged parakeet a bell to ring or a mirror for amusement.

What the absolute fuck?

Stockholm Syndrome aside, the second and equally disturbing message of Beauty and the Beast is the suggestion that a woman’s love can change a man. If a man is an uncouth and ill-mannered beast, then, by all means, marry him. Your love, ladies, will change him. Alcoholic? No problem. Drug addict? Go for it. Spouse abuser? Child abuser? The strength and purity of your love will change that beast into a god-damned prince.
FedEx Ground 2016 Player of the Year, Adrian Peterson
entered a plea of no-contest to abusing a four year old.

Um, that’s not really the way it works. Just ask any wife or girlfriend of any man on the roster of the NFL's Minnesota Vikings.

These are terrible messages for girls and young women. Look, there are monsters in this world and they look just like people. So, if a woman meets a monster, knows the person is a monster, and chooses to make a commitment to the monster, well, who’s fault is it that there’s a monster in the castle? According to Disney, it’s not really a problem at all. With her love, the psychologically abused woman can change the monster into a prince. Is this the message we want for our daughters?

I just got my vagina hat. Let me know when we march on Hollywood.