Weather Forecasting By Flag

I put up a flag every morning that I can see from the window next to my computer where I spend a significant part of every day. My initial idea was to put up a weather vane, but I could not find a suitable one, so I put up a flag instead. I’m glad I did. I always liked flags, particularly the American flag. Passersby often ask if I had been in the military. No, I tell them. I just like flags.

I put up the flag every morning and take it down every night.  I don’t mind this daily chore.  It bookends my day, and I would step outside at those times, anyway, just to sample the day.

For many years I worked with a guy who was in the military.  His pet peeve was every local fire station who flew the flag at half-staff whenever they pleased, whenever they thought they had a reason, such as when an over-weight former chief died of a heart attack in a local bar. My friend claimed only the President could declare the flags be flown at half-staff, and then it was mandatory for all of the flags.  It was not a local decision.  (He seemed to know what he was talking about.)

Once the leaves are down, I will be able to see a flag flying over a business on Concord Pike. Two are better than one.  Longwood Gardens has a flag flying near the tour bus parking area.  I think I have photographed that more than any flower or tree.  There is also a flag flying over the fire house by the entrance on Baltimore Pike. That’s not strictly part of Longwood Gardens, but that fire house was also started and paid for by Pierre du Pont.

I am surprised how accurately the wind direction forecasts the weather. If the wind is from the north, it will be cold, south, it will be warm. East, it will be wet, and west, variable, maybe wet, maybe not.  Even if I have the forecast from my computer, the wind direction tells me precisely when it applies to my location.

(My computer now runs on Windows 10 that comes with a built-in weather site. All I need to do is click to bring up a complete hourly forecast, with wind direction, humidity, radar maps and all. Very convenient, but often wrong! This surprised me because I thought they all used the same data from the weather bureau. I think they do, but they interpret it differently. or are far more accurate. My flag, even better.)

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Confusing the Role With the Actor

Years ago, I lived close enough to work that I could bike home for lunch. The young female clerical staff of our group ate a packed lunch in the building where they evidently had access to a TV set. We both watched the same soap opera, The Young and the Restless, as we ate. Later, we would often discuss the plot that, of course,  moved at the pace of a glacier.

The plot at the time (as I remember it) was about a rich, elderly couple, the Chancellors, and Jill Abbot, an 18-year-old manicurist intent on stealing the affections of Mr. Chancellor. (In the mix somewhere was Snapper, played by a young David Hasselhoff.) It was a good-guy, bad-guy plot with Jill as the bad-guy. Very, very bad.

One of our young clerks said, “Oh, that Jill! If I saw her in the street, I would punch her face.”

“Whoa, whoa,” I replied. “She’s an actress playing a role.  She is probably a very nice person.”

“Oh, no she’s not! She must really be that way.”

I left it at that, taking it as a complement of the acting ability of the actress who played Jill so realistically. But since then, I have seen many instances of how people assume the actor’s role is their real personality.

(As an example of how our memory fails us, I was so sure Jill’s name was “Lori, ” I only Googled the show to check the spelling.  That was my “Oops” moment.)

One of the more famous examples is the actor Art Carney and his role of Ed Norton on the old TV series, The Honeymooners. Carney often said his real personality was very shy, the exact opposite of Ed Norton. Late in his career, he played the lead in my all-time favorite movie, Harry and Tonto, where an elderly Harry doted on his beloved cat, Tonto. Carney hated cats, and only slowly learned to tolerate the several cats who played Tonto.  He said appearing to like cats was his greatest achievement as an actor.

But now I see it again in comments on my posting about Megan Messmer, the actress who plays Kim, the Ford matchmaker. Several have said they could not stand her hyperactivity. They can’t stand the hyperactivity of the character she plays. She, herself, seems very pleasant and grounded. Her hyperactivity is required by her role. An advertising agency director was probably standing behind the camera, telling her, “Bigger smile! Move faster, talk faster! Give me over-the-top!”

(Some want to know what she gets paid.  Lots, I’m sure.  More than a retiree blog-writer will ever see, but I have no problems with that.) (the old and the tired)

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The Older You Get, The Easier You Can Lose It

For many years, I have known a woman in our senior center, who by now must be in her early 90s. She lived alone in her own home which was now far too big for her needs. Her husband died about 7 years ago. (He held two bronze stars for combat in the WWII European campaign, which you would never guess from his later appearance.)  She has two adult sons but they live far away. We were more acquaintances than friends, but she was talkative and I know much about her and her family. She has plenty of money, but hates to spend it.  She thinks a hearty meal should cost about $2 (Tip? What tip?).

Considering her age, she was living in denial. She had macular degeneration, and getting her driver’s license renewed required a note from her eye doctor. Without her license, she would have to move to some sort of assisted care.

The last time I saw her, about a month ago, she told me her family doctor said she was paranoid. Her doctor (a woman) went on to say she had recommended her driver’s license not be renewed and she be put in an assisted care facility. Her doctor is a friend of her one son, who is also a doctor. But paranoid? Certainly, not that.

Unfortunately, our legal system takes the word of any doctor on anything. My friend’s house, with its furniture, carpets, silverware, and hand-painted dishes, much of it brought from her home in Austria, formed her whole life, and has now become a burden. (What did Thoreau say about us dragging our riches through life on our backs?)

She rarely mentioned her deceased husband. I don’t think she liked him much.

When I mentioned her situation to a friend who is a retired judge, he confirmed my outrage. Her family doctor is not a specialist in psychiatry and did no psychological evaluation to come to such a momentous conclusion. Her doctor was her doctor, no matter how friendly with her son, and had no business acting behind her back. He was sure, legally, she could object through the courts.  The problem is that legal action would be expensive, would attack her family who she looks to for future care, and any successful action would only postpone the inevitable.

When her husband died, her two sons stepped in and quickly sold her trouble-free Buick for a new one, then discarded her computer for a new one.  The new computer was an Apple, while her old one was a Window system.  She never did become familiar with the Apple, and I could not help her, either. This was all done with her money.  She passively signed whatever papers were put in front of her.

She had a treasured cuckoo clock that was no longer working.  Her one son, on a visit, took it apart, could not get it back together, and flew home leaving the parts spread out on a newspaper.

The bottom line is that I have not seen her for over a month (very unusual). I even emailed her, but have not received a reply. This, too, is unusual. She understands computers better than most her age and stays in contact with relatives in Austria with frequent email and Skype connections.

So, now she is just gone. Maybe someday I will know the full story, but maybe, too, I never will. Even if others are acting in her best interests, it all seems cruel. I suspect she is somewhere in a place totally foreign to her, her daily routine gone forever and not understanding the longer-term benefits.

Mercifully, people do not live long under such stress.   It could happen to me. It could happen to you. The story illustrates how easily the best plans can go awry as we age.

Note 10/9: I spoke to someone who had heard from her, and she is still in the area, “trying to get her car back,” whatever that means.  Her sons mean well, but lack common-sense understanding.  Many would consider it none of my business, and they may be right.

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Phil Herr Died

Classmate Phil Herr died October 5. His obituary was in the Inquire ( under “Death notices,” linked to

He died in Ocean Grove, NJ, but had been living in Radnor, and was a partner in the law firm of his father and grandfather, Herr & Herr. He had graduated from Dickinson College.

He married Karla Marie Rueckert (still living) in 1960, and left two sons, a daughter, and eight grandchildren. (The family seems to have mostly settled in New Jersey.)

I recollect reading somewhere long ago, that his family home on South Lansdowne Avenue was sold to Mercy Fitzgerald Hospital.

Here is his entry in our 50th high school reunion booklet:

HERR, PHIL Spouse: Karla R. Herr
232 Berwind Road Children: 3
Radnor, PA 19087-3702 Grandchildren: 8

After Dickinson College ‘58 & Dickinson Law School ‘60, I made the smartest move in my lifetime by marrying my wife of forty-four years. I was admitted to the Pennsylvania Bar in ‘61 after 6 months of active duty with Army Reserve. We stayed fairly close to home, living in Haverford Township and then Radnor. I joined my father’s law practice and went back to school for a Masters in Taxation at Villanova U. I am still “practicing” law – one of these days I will get it right. Our three wonderful children are happily married, the husbands being gainfully employed while the wives are “stay-at-home moms.” I have served as a director of many public companies & a large foundation in the Philadelphia area. I am active in our local church and a board member of the Ocean Grove Camp Meeting Assoc. of Ocean Grove, NJ, where I served as President for six years. These have been rich and wonderful years – but where did they go so quickly?

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The Unitarian Buddha

The Unitarian Buddha

The Unitarian Buddha

Several years ago, the Unitarian church across the street put up this bigger-than-life bronze statue obviously representing Buddha brought into our modern times and culture, which is a worthwhile goal since Buddha, as most often represented, is a concept, not a person, a concept that lies within us all, and is accessible by all with a little searching internally.  You don’t become enlightened.  You uncover what has been there all along. It just gets covered up with the dry leaves of disappointing desires.

The artist is Charles Parks, a local Brandywine artist, respected world-wide for his realistic bronze statues. It was said Parks’ works are to sculpture what N.C. and Andrew Wyeth’s works are to painting.

But this statue is an expensive blunder that misses the point. I would roughly guess it originally cost something well north of $100,000 to have the famous Charles Parks make the model and then have it cast in bronze, but his family donated many of his statues for public display as part of liquidating his estate, and this may have been one of them.  Unitarians, like the rest of us, do not look a gift horse in the mouth, especially a valuable gift by such a well-known artist.  They tastefully display it among shrubbery on the side of their building, although I find it is spooky and startling as it looms out of the bushes on a moon-lit night.  My grandson will not look at it.

On a recent Sunday, I  was talking with one of their parishioners, an elderly lady, who was very enthusiastic about the statue.  If only one person is inspired by it, she said, and they got it for free, it is all worthwhile. I have to agree with you, Granny.

A Meditation Buddha

A Meditation Buddha

The typical Buddha statues the Unitarian’s statue is based on are not meant to depict the actual, human, historic Buddha. The Buddha statues we often see are called “meditation Buddhas,” and are to aid in meditation (“worship” would be the wrong word). They represent the state the practitioner is trying to reach. The practitioner is meant to identify with the statue, so the true meditation Buddha purposely presents a blank slate, vague on the details.

The meditation Buddha wears an unadorned robe that can be of any time or place. His age could be anywhere from his late teens to his fifties. What is his race? And is he even a “he?”  (The women’s rights groups could stir up publicity by claiming the historic Buddha was a woman.) All of this vagueness makes it easier for the practitioner to identify with the statue and the state of enlightenment it represents where all differences fade away.

(The long earlobes are an artistic shorthand to indicate a holy figure, much like Western art uses a halo.  The hairstyle indicates the Buddha.  There is no record that the historic Buddha had long earlobes, was plump, or looked anything like this.)

The Unitarian statue, however, is of a very distinct, modern hippy. It is definitely of a young man, perhaps still in his teens, not someone I would identify with for deep existential understanding. True, he is only wearing jeans that could be of any culture, but his features mark him as northern European, certainly not Asian or African. He is physically in exceptional shape with a mop of curly hair. He is in his prime of life and has yet to deal with any decline (which is a big part of life for those of us experiencing it).

I would like to know more about this statue.  Why did Charles Parks still have the statue?  Was it rejected?  Can you do that with a commissioned statue by a famous artist?  Perhaps it was rejected by Parks, himself, but couldn’t he see the flaws at an earlier stage of production?

I just don’t know.

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How To Feel Old–Quickly

In a recent BBC news item on the Internet, a reporter showed a portable FM radio to several teenagers and asked them to tune in a station (Radio 1 of the BBC, of course). All were totally mystified by the radio and had no idea how to do it. A few were mystified by the very question. Tune in a station? What could that possibly mean?

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Bill Rumberger Dies

Bill Rumberger

Thanks to Fred Weinstein for alerting me to Bill Rumberger’s obituary in the October 2 edition of the Philadelphia Inquirer. (For some reason, I am prevented from adding a hyperlink to it.  You will have to look it up yourself.  Sorry.)

Rumberger graduated from Drexel in mechanical engineering and worked for Boeing in Ridley Park all his life. He never lost his religious zeal we knew him by in high school and was active in several churches. His obituary said he was known for “singing hymns with his face tilted toward heaven.” Sounds like the Rummy we knew.

“Mr. Rumberger met Bethel Powell through a youth group at the Aldan Union Church. They married in 1957 and reared a family, first in Secane, and then Newtown Square, where they lived for the last 50 years.”

He died of cancer. “In addition to his wife, he is survived by children Timothy, Deborah, Lisa Livezey, and Bryan; 13 grandchildren; three great-grandchildren; a brother and sister; and nieces and nephews. A sister died earlier.

“A memorial service was held Sept. 30, at Proclamation Presbyterian Church in Bryn Mawr.”

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