One Graham's View

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Reflections on Christmas and fatherhood

Good morning,

The date is now two days beyond Christmas, but my stomach is still trying to put this year’s feasts and festivities behind it. We here at OGV house have had a most blessed and enjoyable Christmas with both sides of the family. We have literally eaten our way through a six-day road trip that included one quick overnight at OGV house followed by a speedy departure Christmas morning, enjoying fabulous foods all along the way.

With all that said, I hope that each of you have been able to appreciate the same joy of family that we have. The only thing that could have made this better would have been to have my sister and her family here. That would have capped everything off really well.

A couple of thoughts occurred to me while I was on this road trip that I want to share with you. Both of them revolved around being a father.
Just before Christmas, while we were visiting my parents and brother in Central Texas, my brother received a day planner from the local dry cleaners when he picked up his laundry. There was one particular sentence offered among the collection of quotes in the planner that stood out to me. This one was one that Bill Cosby offered in his book Fatherhood.

“Fatherhood is pretending the present you love most is soap on a rope.”

I didn’t get soap on a rope this year, but I did get a gift from Austin that he picked out for me. He gave me a new coffee cup for Christmas that is emblazoned with the words “No. 1 Dad.” (He gets extra points in the sucking up to daddy department!) Contrary to Mr. Cosby’s words of wisdom, I don’t have to pretend. I have a new favorite coffee cup, even if it only holds half the amount of the larger mug I’ve used for several years. Even if it means I have to get up twice as much to drink the same amount of coffee each day, I’ll use this coffee cup every day. ..until he gets me another one that will, no doubt, become my new favorite.

The second thought involves something I’ve learned while trying to motivate a child. I have learned to used different techniques to get Austin to do tasks such as cleaning up, paying attention, or going to the potty. One of my tools is to say to him, in my most commanding and assertive Daddy voice, “Austin, I’m going to count to three and you better start (doing whatever the targeted task is) by the time I get to three.”

This technique worked well for a short while. Then Austin really began to love counting. Oftentimes, when I try to do this now, Austin will answer by saying, “No daddy. Count to ten.” He’s so happy that I want to play the counting game that he wants to count with me and go beyond the simple little one, two, three that has become so passe.


This was followed up with a final step last night, when I was putting him to bed. He didn’t want to hear any bed time stories. He wanted to count. He went up to 30, then told me he wanted to go on. I think we made it to 78. One of us fell asleep. I think it was him, but am not sure. I was pretty drowsy and that’s the last number I can remember saying with him.

Anyhow, these are some of my favorite memories from this year. I hope your Christmas was also very joyous and you have memories of your own to recall.


Thursday, December 21, 2006

Matilda Ziegler Magazine goes on-line

Good morning,

The latest offering of the
Matilda Ziegler Magazine for the Blind,
an on-line version of the publication, is a decision which is past due and notable, but the web verification process leaves me a bit curious.

I am personally very pleased with the magazine’s editors for embracing the advent of technology and the internet as accessible media, but their decision to produce an on-line version comes at a time when many blind people have been on-line for several years already. Perhaps I shouldn’t ding them for this as this decision may have been a hard fought and protracted legal battle to present copyrighted material on the internet.

However, given this potential premise, I would think the editors would ensure access is granted to only those who have some form of registration with the site, much like their other versions are mailed out. This would ensure that only verified blind readers are getting their material and cover any question legalaties, I would think. On-line, this could be easily achieved with a registration process where readers would log on using a user ID and password, much like thousands of other web sites already do. However, the Ziegler has curiously made their magazine accessible with only a single mouse click on a dialogue box stating, “ By clicking, I certify that I am legally blind.”

On the surface, this might meet the letter of the law for verification, but I would think that, given the historical tenacity of publisher’s to protect their printed works, the publishers of the magazine’s original copyrighted content would press diligently for tighter access controls.

A personal note: When I hit the escape key instead of the enter key on the dialogue box, the page of content loaded just as if I had clicked the verification that I was legally blind. Maybe this is a fluke in the web page’s development, but I would think that by pressing escape would cancel the requested page to load. Instead, it lets someone who basically says, “Oh, no. I’m not legally blind,” gain the very access the site is attempting to control.

I have been a subscriber and reader of the Ziegler for many years. With my personal love for the magazine, I’ve been surprised with the large number of blind people I’ve met that have never even heard of this fine publication. I personally believe that the magazine works hard to present articles that have broad appeal and are interesting to a broad scope of readers. There are always included humor pieces at the end and a reader’s forum.

With all this said, I hope my above comments don’t come across as negative of the publication. I think it is a fine magazine and applaud any efforts to maximize its readership. I am just scratching my head over their seemingly flawed access control to copyrighted material.

For the uninformed, The Ziegler, as it is commonly referred to by its readers, is a monthly magazine produced for the blind in an alternate format; braille, 4-track cassette, floppy disk, email, and, in the latest offering, an on-line version. The magazine began production in 1907 by its namesake matriarch and is a collection of recently published articles in popular magazines reviewed and gathered by the Ziegler editors, and then produced in an accessible format for the target audience.

According to the magazine’s web site:
“The magazine's peak circulation was reached in 1936, when its three editions went to 12,400 readers. Despite the many new channels of entertainment and information now accessible to blind people, circulation is as high as it has ever been since then. Almost 10,500 names are on the subscription list, with almost 4,500 taking the braille edition, and more than 6,000 taking the four-track cassette.

With the above referenced number of braille subscribers, the Ziegler Magazine claims to have the largest braille circulation of any secular publication, which makes it worth noting in its own right.

While tightening the access controls to the on-line material may initially cause some to grumble about setting up another on-line registration, it will show a good faith effort of the Ziegler to respect the copyrighted material. If changes occur, then both access to copyrighted works can be restricted and another accessible format can be offered blind readers.


Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Who would you be?

Good morning,

Monday night, Samuel L. Jackson was on the Tonight Show and told host Jay Leno something that caused me to think and I feel compelled to post it here. He said that if he could be anybody else, he would choose to be Tiger Woods and then went on to explain why.

This got me to thinking…given the opportunity, who would I want to be. More than who, I pondered why I would choose to be that person.

I thought this was an incredibly thought provoking subject and that’s why I wanted to post it here. I’ll explain whom I chose in a moment, but who would you want to be?
Don’t forget to say why.

I don’t know if that thought provoker has rules, like if the person has to be living or dead, or if you get to be that person for a particular moment in time or if you would just assume the rest of that person’s life. Or, can you be somebody for a particular moment in time? Or, does that person have to be somebody living today or could you go back in time and live in another period?

I discussed this topic with some family members while heading to dinner last night. My father in law thoughtfully said, “If I had to live the rest of the person’s life, then I’d pick a baby.” Mrs. OGV said she wouldn’t necessarily want to be Mother Theresa, but she would like to be somebody who gets to spend some time with the noted and renowned nun, just to understand her insight on life and people.

For me, when considering the subject, I let my mind run. I first thought that I would love to be Sammy Hagar, a rock singer I’ve been a fan of since I first heard him at a concert in my high school years. I used to think it would be so cool to be this guy who went from venue to venue, singing the songs I loved. This feeling was magnified when he joined the already monster rock group Van Halen, which was one of my favorite groups. When that first happened, I thought how cool it would be to get to hang out with that band. I’ve read a lot about Sammy and followed his career from his early days with Montrose, to a successful solo career, to VH front man, and then again to being a solo artist once more. Along the way, he also opened The Cabo Wabo Cantina, a restaurant/concert venue and popular destination in the tourist city Cabo San Lucas, Mexico. I think his creative processes and business acumen would only be rivaled by the joy of performing his songs in concert, living out the mantra of discovering something you love to do and then finding a way to get paid for it.

However, after a few seconds of reflection, I discounted that selection as being very one dimensional and rooted in the rebellious and raucous male self from the days of my youth that has rumbled secretly inside of the calm and conservative me that everybody else has seen most of my life. I would need more depth for this venture.

Then I thought about Jimmy Buffett. His life presents a situation very similar to that of Sammy Hagar, but goes beyond it in many ways. Buffett is a musician who has crafted a unique cultural place and developed attributes that I think would be great to have in my own life. Aside from still being a top concert draw throughout a thirty-plus year career, regularly bringing out tens of thousands of ParrotHeads from coast to coast, he has also done so much more to transcend the musical landscape. He has authored several books, including a novel, a collection of short stories and an autobiography. He has co-written a Broadway musical, Stop the Carnival. He has successfully launched an international string of his Jimmy Buffett’ Margaritaville Cantina theme restaurants. Additionally, he has launched a line of frozen foods from these restaurants marketed under the Jimmy Buffet’s Margaritaville brand.

Those are an overview of his personal accomplishments, but he has always worked to redefine who he is. He began his life living near the Mississippi River and developed a love for boats and sailing. He incorporated that love into his music and launched the laidback Key West sound to pop music with his two chart hits in the 1970s, Come Monday and Margaritaville. Outside of those two songs he wasn’t known by a large part of the American public. Still, he persevered. He continued building his musical following to grow into the entertainment magnate he is today. Along the way, he took his love for boats and made the natural transition to a love for seaplanes that can both fly and land on water.

Then when all that had been done, he recreated his musical styling to fit a natural target, the contemporary country music fan. He partnered with some of the biggest names in Nashville and got his first professional award for his work, an ACM award for his song “Its Five O’clock Somewhere,” a duet he recorded with Alan Jackson.

Along the way, he has continued to put on the major production concerts his fans have come to love. Whether it is the banana-shaped air cannon shooting rolled up t-shirts into the cheering crowd, or the carnival atmosphere that his the Buffett show, or if it is the intermission featuring Buffett’s home movies of flying in his personal seaplane, he has continued to give his fans what they want. And they keep buying, which means he is doing it right.

All the while, he still gets to come out on stage wearing shorts, a t-shirt, and flip flops, singing the songs he loves and doing what he started more than three decades ago.

Yes, this is who I’d love to be. More for the life he has led, though, than where he is heading. He’s older than me and I’d much rather prefer to have my years ahead of me than his.

Now, that choice is made on the assumption of being one person for their life. That choice would be different for me if I chose one person to be at a particular moment in time. If that were the choice, I would love to have been Neil Armstrong when he first walked on the moon. What a wonderful and unique feeling that must have been. What an incredible place in history to hold. All that and he got paid to do it!

Now, what about you? Who would you be and why? Rules don’t exist. It could be somebody alive or dead, for a particular moment of time or for his or her entire life.

Please tell. As the old television ads used to say, “Inquiring minds want to know!”

And, if I don’t get to say it to you personally, Merry Christmas! I hope the spirit of the holidays bless each of you and your families.


Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Some bad news, but lots of good for Texas football

This past weekend was a sad one for Texas football fans, in one sense. I say this as a fan of both the Houston Texans and Dallas Cowboys.

Vince Young, the rookie quarterback of the Tennessee Titans, handed the Texans their lunch when he capped a comeback by personally scrambling for a 39-yard touchdown in overtime. That last, best effort on VY’s part was somewhat of a signature thing he was known for in his years leading the Texas Longhorns to a national championship this past January. When the NFL draft came around, scores of Texans fans called for Vince as the obvious choice for the Texans #1 draft selection. Besides being the heralded champion hero of the Longhorns, Vince first got attention in the Houston area when he played QB at Houston’s Madison High. So, I’m sure it was a sweet thumb Vince got to stick in the Texan’s eye when it was his valiant scramble that was the difference maker in his homecoming game on Sunday.

Before the Texans were formed, I was raised a Cowboys fan. As a result, I’m always cheering on the Boys…unless it is that once every fourth year game where they play the Texans. I still feel their pain any time they lose and Sunday night was no different. After the Texans’ heartbreaking loss, I was hoping for solace from quarterback Tony Romo and the rest of the Pokes.

Their opponent was the feel-good team of the season, the New Orleans Saints. BTW, the Saints have the other much-ballyhooed rookie this year, Heisman winner Reggie Bush, who other Texans fans felt we should’ve drafted if we weren’t going to take Vince Young. The Saints were an impressive force, dismantling the usually stalwart Dallas defense, upending the Cowboys 42-17.

In the opening paragraph of this post, I said it was a sad weekend for Texas football. That one sense is for the two professional teams. In another sense, fans of Texas high school football really had many points to celebrate because some of our best young players are out there taking the national spotlight.

In the Monday sports section of the Houston Chronicle, three of the six featured sports articles on the news page were about NFL games of the previous day. Each of those three headlines prominently featured the name of a former Texas high school football standout. Aside from Vince Young, whom I’ve already said played at Houston Madison, there was also Drew Brees (QB for the Saints) and San Diego Charger’s star running back LaDainian Tomlinson.

Brees led the Saints in the offensive field day at the Cowboys expense. He played his high school ball at Austin Westlake. Before Sunday’s game, he recalled the last time he played in the Cowboys’ home, Texas Stadium. It was when he quarterbacked the Westlake team to the state 5A championship.

Tomlinson, or LT, as he is commonly referred to, made headlines for breaking the record for the number of touchdowns scored in a single season by a player. He scored #29 on Sunday, surpassing the mark of 28 set last year by Sean Alexander of the Seattle Seahawks. What really gets my attention is that there are still three more weeks in the regular season and he doesn’t look like he’s slowing down. That means he will probably raise that bar a good bit higher before he’s done this year. LT played high school football in Waco. He still goes back there in the summers and runs a camp for teens to work on their football skills.

So, like I said, while it might have been a bad weekend for the Texas professional teams, our brand of football is all over the place in the professional league. Continuing that tradition, I will proudly brag on my hometown Copperas Cove Bulldawgs. For the first time in school history, they are playing for the state championship this Saturday in the Alamodome. It is the first year the Dawgs are playing in 4A, but I think it is more a proper fit for them than 5A. Like my sister commented when I told her how the team was doing, “See what they can do when placed in the right division.”

Go Dawgs!