Monthly Archives: October, 2014

Throwback Thursday: Most favorite and least favorite Halloween treats

13371_Detail

Given that trick-or-treating is a hallowed Halloween activity for kids, I thought I’d take a stroll back to my childhood and list out what made me cheer and boo when I checked out the goodies in my stash. How does my list compare to yours?

Favorites

1. Baked goods (donuts, cupcakes, cookies, or Rice Krispy treats) or caramel apples — These items were the gold standard. However, by the late 60s and early 70s, urban legend paranoia about poisoned homemade treats and apples containing razor blades had invaded suburban Indiana, and some parents warned their kids not to consume anything that wasn’t pre-packaged. Properly warned, we made sure to eat those items before we got home. For some reason, I retain a memory of an exquisite, fresh hot donut given out by an older couple in the neighborhood.

2. Kit Kat bars — Kit Kats didn’t make their appearance until the early 70s, if my memory is correct, but I remember being pleased to see them in my Halloween sack!

3. Nestlé’s Crunch bars — I’m developing a theme here of chocolate with crunchy stuff.

4. Money — Yes, cold hard cash. Every once in a while, someone would give out money, usually a quarter, which back in the day was real money to a little kid.

5. Nestlé’s $100,000 bars — Add gooey stuff to the chocolate and crunch.

Honorable mentions — Peanut M&Ms, Milk Duds, Whoppers, Almond Joys, and Milky Ways were solid staples. I would develop an affinity for Reese’s peanut butter cups later in life.

I was indifferent toward Snickers bars, Mars bars, Hershey bars, and various peanut candies.

Overall, chocolate ruled the roost.

Least favorite

1. Anything with licorice, especially Good n’ Plenty — I just couldn’t deal with licorice as a flavor. I still feel that way!

2. Necco wafers — Bleeecccchhh!

3. Candy corn — I never understood the appeal of what tasted like pure chewy sugar.

4. Chewing gum — Serviceable, but it didn’t rock my trick-or-treat world.

5. Lollipops — Eh….though Dum Dums and Tootsie Roll pops were okay.

As you can see, I was less crazy about the super sweet stuff.

 

Throwback Thursday: Dorm living

End of semester: Packing boxes in Brandt Hall, Valparaiso University, 1980

End of semester: Packing boxes in Brandt Hall, Valparaiso University, 1980

This morning I clicked on a Facebook posting from New York University, my legal alma mater, to a short piece about dorm living for law students. A photo of one of the NYU Law dorm rooms (see below) reminded me once again that many universities have upgraded their residence hall accommodations considerably since back in the day, especially in terms of private rooms and bathrooms. (Of course, this has contributed significantly to rising tuition costs, but that’s for a more serious post….) In any event, the article sent me into a brief trip down nostalgia lane.

Valparaiso University

In many ways, dorm living tends to look better mainly with the passage of time, at least when it comes to furniture, décor, and creature comforts. During college at Valparaiso University in Indiana, I lived in dorm rooms throughout my stay, first in Wehrenberg Hall, and then in Brandt Hall, two rather plain vanilla buildings built sometime during the 50s or 60s. The VU dorms were typical of undergraduate dwellings of their era, offering small shared rooms with pullout beds and bathrooms down the hall. During my last year of college, I qualified for a shared Brandt Hall first-floor room with a private bathroom, a nod to the fact that I was a good student who managed to stay out of trouble.

In the photo above, I’m standing in front of my desk. The boxes and papers to the right obscure the mattress of the pullout bed. I was packing my boxes at the end of the fall semester of my senior year, in anticipation of departing after the holidays for a final semester in England. My roommate Chris’s furniture configuration was exactly the same, the main difference being that he was a very disciplined and neat pre-med student who periodically and politely would push my growing piles of books and papers to my side of the invisible Mason-Dixon Line, as we jokingly called it. Every evening, when Chris would dutifully turn in after watching the Johnny Carson monologue, I would gather my books, papers, and — if necessary — typewriter to join other more nocturnal students in the cafeteria, which served as a nighttime study hall.

NYU

When I got to NYU in 1982, I had a much fancier address, Hayden Hall at 33 Washington Square West (yes, that Washington Square). The toney Greenwich Village exterior masked the spare accommodations similar to those of my collegiate days, with a few New York cockroaches tossed in as free bonuses. At the time, Hayden Hall was the primary dorm for first-year law students. A converted old hotel, it had a few interesting nooks and crannies in addition to the drab rooms. Its first floor cafeteria and TV room provided opportunities for breaks and socializing.

Modern view of NYU's Hayden Hall (photo: DY)

Modern view of NYU’s Hayden Hall (photo: DY)

I would spend my second and third years of law school living in NYU’s Mercer Street residence hall, a (then) brand-new building featuring small apartments with individual bedrooms and kitchenettes. While I didn’t do much cooking, the fridge and stove made it possible to store and heat up Chinese take-out and delivery morsels. With some physics-defying moving around of beds and furniture, apartment units could host pretty decent parties, replete with room for dancing to Michael Jackson, The Clash, and other 80s music artists. We also had waifs’ Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners for those of us too far or too broke to return home for the holidays. The Mercer dorm provided my nicest accommodations during 12 years in New York.

In fact, they remained among my nicest digs ever until I moved into my Jamaica Plain, Boston condo in 2003. For the longest time, I was satisfied with a sort of enhanced “grad student” standard of living. It took me until well into adulthood to do an upgrade!

Of ghosts, goblins, and the Great Pumpkin

(Picture: abc.com)

(Picture: abc.com)

Tonight I took a short break to watch an old favorite, It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown, one of the classic Peanuts TV specials. It’s funny, sweet, innocent, and clever. As a kid, I so wanted the Great Pumpkin to make an appearance! Nowadays, I especially enjoy Snoopy’s adventure as a First World War flying ace.

This particular appearance of the Peanuts gang means that we’re into the heart of October, and Halloween beckons. Ghosts and goblins are also part of the story. To get the supernatural atmosphere right, it helps to be in a part of the country that experiences genuine changes of seasons, and New England certainly fits the bill. Although today happened to be a tad on the warm side, we’ve already had several days of fall chill.

To help capture the season, I’ve included this photo of Joseph A. Citro’s Weird New England (2005). You see, in New England, that Halloween feeling is about more than simply the weather. This is an old part of the country, and old stuff tends to bring a lot of haunted spirits, or so they say. (By contrast, while I’m sure they have ghosts in Los Angeles, it’s just not the same.)

Halloween still has the power to bring out the little kid in all of us, so here’s to ghosts, Peanuts specials, and maybe a candy bar or two to top them off.

weird.2

Have our gadgets sapped some of the adventure out of travel?

You'll find a lot of advice about gadget management in today's leading travel guides!

You’ll find a lot of advice about gadget management in today’s leading travel guidebooks

During my recent trip to Chicago, I was talking with one of my friends about how our digital gizmos — cellphones, tablets, laptops, and so forth — have changed the experience of travel. In some ways, they have greatly enhanced travel in terms of access to information, safety & security, and keeping in touch with folks back home. But at the same time, I suggest that they have sapped some of the adventure out of travel by shrinking the world so much that it’s harder to get that sense of exploring the Great Elsewhere.

You could be visiting a wondrous National Park, while talking to a friend back home on your cell. You could be gazing at a beautiful European cathedral, while texting a family member with a reminder to water the plants at home. You could be sitting on a beach with the Pacific Ocean before you, while reading an e-mail about a pending project.

The fact that our electronic gadgets now tend to follow us everywhere is hardly a cutting-edge insight. But I submit that we haven’t fully appreciated the trade-off between the advantages of instantaneous communications and the sense of being away that even the most modest of sojourns once could deliver more easily.

Perhaps you have to be of a certain age to get this. If you are old enough to have experienced travel during the B.C.E. (Before Cellphone Era), then it’s much more likely that you understand where I’m coming from.

My most formative travel experience was a semester abroad in England back in 1981 B.C.E. Now, I would’ve killed to have access to something like the Internet back then, when even long-distance international phone calls were student budget busters. But I also know that the sense of distance I felt, while sometimes a source of homesickness and anxiety, was part of the grandness and personal growth of the experience. It also was a time when the art of letter writing was not lost on us, and daily mail deliveries were filled with anticipation. Quite a different experience than checking your inbox.

Sometimes our gadgets create interesting twists. A few summers ago, I was part of a storm chase tour in the heart of America’s Tornado Alley. While the storm we were on showed promise of developing into something big, the real action was back in Massachusetts, where a freak severe tornado captured the weather headlines for the day. Two of us on the tour were from Boston, and we followed the breaking news with cellphones and iPads. Cool that we could do this, but it distracted our attention from what was right in front of us.

We can’t go back on this one. Oh, I suppose it’s possible that on my next longer trip, I could leave behind anything that has a microchip and requires recharging, but I know darn well that I won’t. And try as I may to ration my time online, I’ll be taking regular looks at my e-mail and favorite Internet sites. Even progress has its compromises.

Throwback Thursday: Steve Anderson’s “Retro Football Games”

football.frcover

Those who want to play a game of simulated football today are likely to fire up Madden Football on their video game systems or check the status of their fantasy football teams. But before these brands of fake football became all the rage, gridiron fans who wanted to coach their very own teams could opt from a rich variety of board and electronic football games.

For a grand stroll through these offerings, check out Steve Anderson’s Retro Football Games (2014), an illustrated look at vintage tabletop football games from the last century. It’s a beautifully done book, featuring hundreds of games, ranging from very simple recreations of the sport, to complex statistical simulations that incorporate actual player performances and play calling options. Interspersed with the photographs and brief descriptions are short sections on football trivia and collectibles.

football.whitman

The Whitman Play Football game from the 1930s is an example of a simpler version of tabletop football. It’s activated by a spinner, with the play results obtained from the game board.

football.electric

If you were a young fan in the 60s or 70s, it’s very possible that you played some brand of electric football. A vibrating field and quarterback figures who could “throw” a tiny felt football were the supposed keys to the plastic players executing their plays, but for many of us the results included mainly wrong-way runs and errant passes.

football.apba

Eventually tabletop football became more complex and sophisticated, with game systems that used real player performances translated into player cards and roster sheets with statistical ratings that would be taken into account when determining play results. No longer did you have to imagine your star player overwhelming the opposition based on generic result charts like the Whitman game. Instead, games like APBA Football would allow you to pick your lineups and plot game strategies.

football.cover

Steve’s book arrives just as the current football season is in full swing. Especially for those who grew up during this era, it’s nostalgic eye candy and a fun read. For more information and ordering details, go to his website, here.

***

For more fun

Tabletop football is not dead — far from it! In fact, buoyed by consistent demand from a lot of guys around my age, many of these games continue to be offered, with new offerings popping up all the time. There’s also an active after-market on e-Bay and sites dedicated to tabletop sports games, such as this popular site on Delphi. In addition, the second issue of a new tabletop sports zine, One for Five, features a cover package including descriptions of currently available football games.

All photos (including the blurry ones): DY, 2014

Three great websites if you’re over 40 (or will be someday)

photo-98

I wanted to highlight three websites that I keep going back to for information, advice, and wisdom. All give us information and ideas about how to live with more meaning and even happiness. They’re especially useful for folks in the second half of life who may find themselves more receptive these notions, but I’d recommend them to virtually any adult.

All of have excellent newsletters or e-mail bulletins that you can subscribe to for free.

Next Avenue

First up is Next Avenuea site hosted by public television staffers:

You’re aware that many years of life lie ahead of you and, very likely, you have a different set of expectations for these “bonus years” than you had for earlier adulthood. You sense that you can somehow apply your knowledge and experiences in a meaningful way. Yet you may not know exactly how to achieve this new vision or see all the many possibilities available to you as you navigate the physical, health, work, and financial shifts that inevitably accompany this phase.

Enter Next Avenue. We’re a group of public television people and journalists who, for the most part, are experiencing the very same things you are. Like you, we see both challenges and opportunities and we recognize that what we could all use right about now is an abundance of reliable information that can help us figure out what’s, well, next.

Beyond its home page, Next Avenue has major sections on  health & well-being, money & security, work & purpose, living & learning, and caregiving. I’ve highlighted it before on this blog, and I’m happy to do so again. For me it has become a “go-to” site.

photo-95

Greater Good

The second site is Greater Goodhosted by the Greater Good Science Center at University of California, Berkeley. The Center:

is unique in its commitment to both science and practice: not only do we sponsor groundbreaking scientific research into social and emotional well-being, we help people apply this research to their personal and professional lives. Since 2001, we have been at the fore of a new scientific movement to explore the roots of happy and compassionate individuals, strong social bonds, and altruistic behavior—the science of a meaningful life. And we have been without peer in our award-winning efforts to translate and disseminate this science to the public.

On this site you’ll find pages devoted to family & couples, education, work & career, mind & body, and Big Ideas. It’s a great example of how academic researchers can translate their findings and insights that inform all of us on how to live better lives.

photo-96

Brain Pickings

Finally, Brain Pickings is the devoted and intellectually eclectic work of Maria Popova, who describes the site this way:

Brain Pickings is my one-woman labor of love — a subjective lens on what matters in the world and why. Mostly, it’s a record of my own becoming as a person — intellectually, creatively, spiritually — and an inquiry into how to live and what it means to lead a good life.

…The core ethos behind Brain Pickings is that creativity is a combinatorial force: it’s our ability to tap into our mental pool of resources — knowledge, insight, information, inspiration, and all the fragments populating our minds — that we’ve accumulated over the years just by being present and alive and awake to the world, and to combine them in extraordinary new ways. In order for us to truly create and contribute to the world, we have to be able to connect countless dots, to cross-pollinate ideas from a wealth of disciplines, to combine and recombine these pieces and build new ideas.

The site is “full of pieces spanning art, science, psychology, design, philosophy, history, politics, anthropology, and more; pieces that enrich our mental pool of resources and empower combinatorial ideas that are stronger, smarter, richer, deeper and more impactful.”

***

Note: This article is a slightly edited version of a piece posted several days ago on my professional blog, Minding the Workplace.

%d bloggers like this: