Category: General

Ending the Great Recession

Take a few minutes to read this New York Times article by Robert B. Reich called, “How to End the Great Recession.

It is an Op-Ed piece for the Times dated September 2, 2010. It is so appropriate for Labor Day weekend this year.

Here is another article by Robert Reich titled, “The Defining Issue: Who Should Get the Tax Cut — The Rich or Everyone Else?

It is from the Wall Street Pit website.

Robert Reich’s website is http://www.robertreich.org

Take Me Out To The Ball Game

A lot of Americans, myself included, complain that everything is made in China today. What would it take to bring some of those jobs back to the United States?

Can a business like Rawlings Sporting Goods and Major League Baseball be shamed into bringing jobs back to the United States?

The baseballs used in Major League Baseball (MLB) games are made in Costa Rica by people being paid $1.60 an hour.
There is a 52 cent bonus for each ball made over the minimum 156 balls per week. Yahoo! Think about that the next time you are watching a MLB game on television. See the March 9, 2010 Reuters article by Leslie Josephs for more details.  Apparently, Rawlings Sporting Goods owns the factory and supplies the baseballs to Major League Baseball.

Imagine that, Americas’ national pastime relying on $1.60 an hour labor to exist. Disgusting. It just seems wrong to me. No wonder they can afford to use so many baseballs in a game. Think about that $1.60 an hour the next time you see an umpire throw the ball out of the game because the pitch was in the dirt and the ball now has a mark on it.  Think about that $1.60 an hour the next time you are forking over $27 to get into the ball park. ($27 is the average price of a ticket to a major league game this season.) Think of that $1.60 an hour the next time you pay $9 for a warm beer at a game.

Is this capitalism at its best or capitalism at its worst?

The average Major League Baseball player salary is $3 million dollars a year. The MLB season is 162 games. If you figure that the average game time, including warm up and practice before the game is 5 hours, MLB players work 810 hours a year. That works out to $3,703 an hour. Not including benefits and perks. Even if you add in the pre-season games, they are still making a boat load of money.

The owners of major league teams can afford to pay their workers $3,703 an hour and still make a spectacular profit, I’m sure.

Would it be too much to ask Major League Baseball to tell Rawlings Sporting Goods to have their baseballs “Made in
America”? Would it kill them to have to pay someone a decent wage to make a product that baseball can’t do without?

I know there are people in this country who could do this work and would be glad to have it.

Can Rawlings Sporting Goods and Major League Baseball be embarrassed into bringing back the manufacture of baseballs to the land where baseball was invented and to where the majority of its fans live and work?

What do you think? Where is Curt Flood when you need him?

Here is a link to a website called The American Chronicle. It has more information about the manufacture of baseballs in Costa Rica.

Here is a link to a website, Baseballs for Haiti, written by a man from Vermont who wants to bring the manufacture of baseballs back to Haiti.

My First Skype Video Call to See My Grandson

My wife and I made our first Skype video call the other day to see our new grandson Trent. My son and his wife live 250 miles south of us in Hamilton,  New Jersey, just outside of Trenton.  We drove down to New Jersey the weekend that he was born to meet him in person. It is at least a four hour drive for us, usually longer depending on the amount of traffic.

We can’t make that drive on a regular basis. Seeing and talking to each other on the computer is the next best thing.

The Skype software is free and easy to setup. The call is free too if you are calling another person who is using Skype. See the Skype website for details. You need a computer with a high speed connection to the internet. This won’t work very well if you are still using dial up. A lot of people already have a high speed connection through the cable or phone company. You also need a “webcam” camera that you can connect to your computer. You can get a webcam with a built in microphone for around $50. It costs me more than that just for gasoline when I make the drive to New Jersey.

My nephew set Skype up on his computer for a job interview. The job was several states away and an in person interview would have meant a drive of hundreds of miles or a flight on a plane. The employer suggested the video interview.

As a new grandfather, I can recommend Skype to any parents or grandparents out there who live a distance from their children and grand children and don’t get to see them on a regular basis. It is more personal than a phone call, so even if you live a short distance away, it’s a handy way to keep in touch.

There are other services similar to Skype that you can try. Sightspeed is a service of Logitech Inc. Logitech is the company that makes the webcam that I use for my Skype calls.

SnapYap is another video calling service.  I don’t have any experience with Sightspeed or SnapYap. Before you decide, check with the people who you intend to video call with to find out what, if any, software they are using.

I saw my first video phone at the 1964 World’s Fair in New York. It was at the Bell System exhibit and they called it the Picturephone.

This link at the Older Than Me blog has a film clip about the 1964 World’s Fair including some footage of the Bell System exhibit and ride at the fair.

Happy video calling.

The Fastest Kid in 5th Grade

I wrote this story and presented it for a Tall Tale contest at my Toastmasters Club.

I was the fastest kid in 5th grade. I was in Mr. Clappaloochi’s class at Hamilton Square school in the early 1960s. He liked to have races between students during our class recess.

We would just go out in the ball fields and run. He would pick a couple kids for a race and say run to that pole and back. It was good exercise before I ever knew what a gym class was. I kind of liked running because I was fast and I usually won.

I even beat Tommy Schrudenfaster and Carly Runallday on a regular basis. They came close, but they never beat me. Carly was a girl, but she was pretty fast too. I was smaller than I am now and I could run all day.

Eventually, Mr. Clappaloochi got bored watching me beat all of the other kids in our class all the time so he challenged another 5th grade teacher and her class. I beat all of them too.

Mr. Clappaloochi got tired of watching me beat all of those kids too so he went to the Principal, Miss Ezzler Mezzler. He asked her if she would challenge another school to a race against me. Ezzler Mezzler said yes. I beat those 5th graders too.

Miss Ezzler Mezzler challenged every grammar school in Hamilton Township to a race. One by one, I beat them all. I even got my name and picture in the Hamilton Tattler, the local paper.

It said, “John Tedder, The fastest kid in 5th grade.” The picture of me was posed with me looking over my shoulder smiling at the camera pretending I was running.

Mr. Clappaloochi really liked his races. He arranged for me to run at the Mercer County Fair. He took out a newspaper ad and he said I could beat any 5th grader in Mercer County. I was really feeling the pressure, but I won again.

Next, I raced at the NJ State Fair when it was a really nice fair with cows and everything. I got new sneaks for that race. I got a pair of white, high top U.S. Keds. They were $2 a pair.

At the State Fair, Mr. Clappaloochi and Miss Ezzler Mezzler cheered me on at every race. I beat all of the other 5th graders and it wasn’t even close. Well, some of the races were close, but nobody beat me.

After that, I got invited to race at the 1964 Worlds Fair in New York City. What an honor. It was there that I met, for the first time but not the last, —-Forrest Gump. Thee Forrest Gump.

Nobody knew who he was at the time. He wasn’t famous or anything yet. There was no Bubba Gump Shrimp Company. He wasn’t a ping pong champion. He hadn’t met Lieutenant Dan yet either. But he was fast.

It was a close race, but he beat me fair and square. I think it was Jenny cheering him on from the sidelines that did it. Mr. Clappaloochi was inconsolable. He wept. Miss Ezzler Mezzler said to me, “Ya done good John. Ya done good.”

Forrest, I found out later, wasn’t really a 5th grader. He stayed back a year in 2nd grade. He should have been a 6th grader.

So you see, I really was the fastest kid in 5th grade.

Food Banks and Food Stamps

There is a comment by Stanley Tucci in the Good Buzz section of the January 2010 Good Housekeeping magazine about the New York City Food Bank. It started me thinking. He says that, “right now, the Food Bank is feeding 2.6 million people in New York City, twice as many as two years ago–and the shelves at the warehouse are not as full, because donations are down.” According to the Department of Public Planning, the population of New York City was 8,363,710 in July of 2008. That means that 25% of the people in NYC depend on the food bank for food. That is an amazing number of people who can’t afford food in the wealthiest country in the world.

According to the Food Bank for New York City website, “In New York City, one of the richest cities in the world, food poverty is around every corner. Throughout the five boroughs, approximately 1.3 million people — largely comprised of women, children, seniors, the working poor and people with disabilities — rely on soup kitchens and food pantries. In addition, the number of New Yorkers experiencing difficulty affording food for themselves and their families has doubled to approximately four million since 2003.

There is an article in the November 28, 2009 New York Times titled, “Food Stamp Use Soars, and Stigma Fades.” The first paragraph says, “With food stamp use at record highs and climbing every month, a program once scorned as a failed welfare scheme now helps feed one in eight Americans and one in four children. That is another amazing statistic. The article goes on to say that, “Use has grown by half or more in dozens of suburban counties from Boston to Seattle, including such bulwarks of modern conservatism as California’s Orange County, where the rolls are up more than 50 percent.” According to the article, the food stamp program is now known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP.

All of this is going on while Goldman Sachs is planning to dispense $23 billion in bonuses for 2009. I wonder what these Goldman Sachs employees did to earn $23 billion in bonuses? What’s wrong with this picture? That money could fill the shelves for a long time at a lot of food banks. I’m willing to bet that billions of dollars are going to people who probably don’t really need more money anyway.

The U.S. government estimates that the deployment of more troops to Afghanistan will cost around $30 billion next year. That would supply a few food banks too. Here is a Los Angeles Times article about the cost of the troop build up.

I stumbled across this site while researching some facts for this story. It calculates the cost of Americas’ wars in real time. It’s called, “Cost of War.

Would it be fair to say that “Nero fiddled while Rome starved?” While there are probably not many people actually starving in this country, there are millions of people struggling to obtain food for their families. In the richest country on earth, this should be a national scandal. It is a national disgrace. Does this country have its priorities straight?

Hamilton Square, New Jersey

This is where I went to grammar school. I lost the 6th grade spelling bee to Tom Stackhouse here. I couldn't spell "colonel" and he could.

Hamilton Square School

There is a big difference between city life and country life.  I’ve lived in the country and I’ve lived in a crowded suburb and I’ve hardly moved more than a mile.  You can keep the traffic and the traffic lights.  Give me an open field or some woods any day.

I grew up on Fleetwood Drive in Hamilton Square, New Jersey, when it was still a rural area with lots of working farms.  There was a small farm behind my family’s house where my brother and sisters and I played all summer.  The farmer would plow his field several times a year.  In the early summer he went through his field on his combine and left behind straw cuttings that we would use to build little clubhouses.  We walked through the field pushing the straw with our legs.  When we had a bundle, we would pick it up in our arms and take it to the building site.  We organized secret clubs, played army and generally had a great time in our little forts.  I can still smell the fresh straw.

Somewhere in Guy Foy’s house there is an old movie that his father took of us playing army in the forts.  I saw it once, many years ago.  In part of the field there were five apple trees standing in a row.  We used to climb the trees for hours, picking the apples and having apple fights.  They weren’t any good to eat because they were sour, although we tried a bite every now and then.

When we grew older and were too big to play baseball in Billy McManimon’s backyard, we made a baseball diamond in the farmer’s field.  If you hit a ground ball you were out because nobody could field a grounder with all the tire ruts, straw stems and rocks on the uneven ground.  Billy, who was a few years older than the rest of us, liked to bat left-handed here.  He was a natural right-hand batter but because the right field “fence” was close, he liked to try and hit the ball onto Mercer Street.  The “fence” was a row of pine trees about twenty feet tall.  There was no center field or left field fence.

My mother used to send me on my bicycle to Hooper-McCabe, a small grocery store in the heart of Hamilton Square. Once, when my mother sent me to get a head of lettuce, I came back with a stalk of celery. (Hooper-McCabe became Heinz’s Market in the mid 1960s and then it became the Cookie Cottage). It was located about one mile from my house on Fleetwood Drive, where Mercer Street meets Nottingham Way.  I went past the Nottingham firehouse and Mercer Rubber Company mill to get there. (The red brick building that was the rubber mill is no longer there.)

Rose Ann, my first love, at age six, lived on Mercer Street. To get to her house, I walked through the field about 100 yards and crossed the street.  She had sheep, rams and probably other animals in her backyard and I was fascinated by them.  We often went out to watch them.  Rose Ann was in my first grade class at Hamilton Square School and it broke my heart when she moved away.

Just near the end of Mercer Street on Line Road was the Schilling Farm.  When we went there for fresh eggs, Mrs. Schilling  sometimes went right to the chicken coop to get them.  There is no comparison between a Schilling egg and one that is store bought.  Line Road is a dead end now, just past Mercer Street. You can still fish from the old bridge though and people do.

I used to ride my bike to Nottingham Little League games all the time.  There wasn’t much traffic then and my mother didn’t have a car.  When I got to the field, I just propped my bike against the fence and nobody ever bothered it. They used to play the 1959 Johnny Horton song “Battle of New Orleans” all the time before the games.

Sometimes, my next door neighbor, Bob Holcombe, would let my brother and me go along when he took Lady, his black Labrador retriever for a walk.  We would usually go to the woods at the end of Mercer Street and Miry Brook Road.  Bob used to tell us stories while we walked.  There was a small concrete boundary marker in the woods.  Bob told us that Chief Rain-in-the-Face was buried there.  We believed him.  Bob grew the best tomatoes that I have ever tasted. When I was a little older, I went camping in those same woods with kids from the neighborhood.  We didn’t have tents.  We just threw our sleeping bags on the ground. All of the woods are gone and houses are there now.

When my family had just moved to Hamilton Square, farmer Tindall put up a sign for free potato picking.  The field was too wet for a heavy tractor so Mr. Tindall let us dig up the potatoes by hand.  I can still remember being in that field on a rainy day and walking in all the mud.  The potatoes were a little mushy.

I live in Mercerville now, the next town over from Hamilton Square.  You really can’t tell where one town starts now and the other ends because the land has been filled in with houses.  But every day I drive past the old Flock Farm where my mother used to buy corn and peaches.  The farm was sold years ago to the developer who built University Heights.

The intersection nearest my home, Sloan and Quakerbridge, used to be a quiet corner with a stop sign.  Now it’s a major four lane intersection that’s always busy.  There’s a Burger King on one corner and on the opposite side, where there was once a small shack that sold pork roll sandwiches, there is a large modern Exxon gas station.  Hughes Drive, where I once delivered newspapers on my bicycle, is now so busy that I hope an adult does the route.  I remember when the Five Points had only stop signs.  If they didn’t have traffic lights at the intersection today, they would have to build a hospital right on the corner.

Even Hamilton Square has a traffic jam every day now.  They had to move the old War Memorial a few years ago to make room for a traffic light.  For years it had stood in the middle of the road.  They put the monument in Foley Park near the intersection.  The park was made when they knocked down the old luncheonette where Tommy Baumeister’s father once bought me a chocolate milkshake after a ball game. There used to be a barber shop near where the monument is today. My brother and I used to ride our bikes to the shop and pay a quarter for a hair cut.

About thirty yards from the park, my father used to operate the Nottingham Bookstore.   He was there about twenty years in the basement of the old Grange building.  The Grange building was sold about 20 years ago. The old farmers were dying off and those that were left were having trouble getting up the stairs.  I used to see old farmer Tindall go in there. My father’s store used to be the Post Office many years ago.  I remember going there as a little kid.  Across the street and a little to the left is where the library used to be.  I used to like a book called “Fierce John” when I was little. I read it a lot. Both the library and the Post office are now large modern buildings that serve thousands of people.

I guess what I dislike the most about Hamilton Square today is the traffic.  I liked it when there wasn’t a traffic light at every intersection.  I used to tell my wife that if they put up one more light we were leaving.  I stopped saying that years ago.  I liked it when you could ride your bike safely anywhere.  I liked the apple trees and corn fields.  I’ve been tempted to pack up and move.  I’m not sure exactly what stops me.  I guess it’s fear of the unknown.  Hamilton Square may not be the same, but it’s familiar.  It bothers me that my son will never have a field like I did to play in.  My field is now a housing development and my apple trees are long gone.  I hardly ever see kids playing baseball today except in an organized game with adults.  And forty years ago nobody ever gave you the finger from a passing car.

In my first grade reading book, the book after “Dick and Jane”, were two boys who lived in a rural community.  They played in fields and apple trees just like I did.  At the end of the book they are grown up and have children of their own.  The book ends when they take their kids to see the apple trees and a highway has been built around the trees.  I was crushed and felt so sad for them.  I had no idea at the time that my apple trees were also doomed.

Note: In 2005 I finally did move away. I now live in Washington County, New York, just outside the village of Schuylerville. There is a fifteen acre field behind my house that is planted every other year with feed corn or soybeans. There are woods across the street and beyond the trees, I can see the Hudson River.

I wrote this article for an English class at Mercer County Community College. My college professor thought one of the local weekly papers might be interested in it. It was eventually published in the Hamilton Observer. I think it was in the late 80′s or early 90′s. I could probably figure it out if I wanted to, but let’s just say it is over twenty years old. I have made some changes to clarify some things, but the basic story is the same.

Comments are always welcome and appreciated.

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