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Memory Test: How Many Can I Recall from LHS Class of ’71?

August 15th, 2020 · No Comments · Lutherans

I have been kicking this around for years.

“How many kids from the 1971 senior class at Los Angeles Lutheran High School could I recall by name?”

Wouldn’t that be fun? Maybe?

There were 132 of us in the senior class, by my count, 66 boys and 66 girls. A small-enough class that I had a shot at naming at least half of them — if I really am good at this sort of thing.

People have told me I have a pretty good memory. (Some of them also notice, in these latter years, that I cannot recall what I had for dinner last night, and that I often refer to my younger daughter by my younger sister’s name.)

So, finally, I went for it. It happened a long time ago! I can do this!

I got a clipboard and a pen and got down to some serious dredging of the depths of my brain, with the aid of my trusty assistant, who was armed with a nearly pristine copy of the brilliant (no, really) LHS 1971 yearbook, “Paw Prints”.

I created some rules.

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Deaden the Ball and Give Baseball New Life

August 11th, 2020 · 2 Comments · Baseball

We have far more serious things to worry about than the future of Major League Baseball. A pandemic, for example. The growing threat of climate catastrophe. Etc.

But we can make a little room on the side for ball, which still likes to be known as the national pastime, even if it has been eclipsed by the National Football League and now the National Basketball Association, as well.

Baseball’s record season at the turnstiles was 2012, when it drew just shy of 31 million paying customers. In 2019, attendance was down to 28.3 million after a fourth consecutive season of declining numbers at the gate.

This is a game in trouble. Or will be soon if it fails to realize Something Must Be Done.

First, let’s figure out where baseball is losing fans, and then we will have a very concise explanation of how to fix it.

So, what is wrong with the game? Plenty.

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The Other Grandfather I Never Knew

August 8th, 2020 · 1 Comment · Uncategorized

Four months ago, I posted an item on this blog entitled “Pandemics and the Grandfather I Never Knew”. That grandfather was Alfred F. Oberjuerge, who died in 1940, 22 years after the Spanish flu nearly killed him in his 20s.

Even before I had completed the Alfred entry, I knew I needed to circle back and write about the other grandfather I never knew.

Edward in 1970, some 30 years after the mine explosion. He died in 1972 at age 78.

Edward Lewis Smoot. 

My grandfathers must have had many happy moments — weddings, births, holidays.

But each of their lives were marred by physical traumas that eventually left their families in crisis and, as the decades rolled by, turned each of them into hazy figures not well-known by their descendants. Certainly not well-known by this descendant.

Alfred’s burden was dealing with the after-effects of the Spanish flu, which he contracted in 1918, at age 28, while in the navy during World War I. The illness weakened him, and almost certainly contributed to his death at age 50.

For Edward, the disaster was a mine explosion in California’s high desert, circa 1940. It left him with significant brain damage. But he was a tough cowboy and he survived 35 days in a coma.

However, from the moment a compressor in a tungsten mine exploded, he could neither write nor speak nor support his young wife, Natalie, 26, and a daughter who was 6 and a son who was 2. 

The medical people diagnosed Edward with “global aphasia” — the most severe form of the condition: “The total loss of the ability to articulate ideas or comprehend spoken or written language, resulting from damage to the brain from injury or disease.”

Edward rejoined his family in Long Beach, California, probably in 1941, and Natalie worked with him, trying to open a line of communication. But he soon became deeply frustrated, and in a matter of weeks or days overwhelmed his family’s ability to care for him. One family member described him as “abusive”. His son said: “He was mentally unstable and destructive as well as suicidal.”

Soon, he was committed to the Veterans Administration hospital in Los Angeles. He lived inside the system until his death in 1972, largely unaware of anything around him for the final three decades of his life, practically forgotten by his own family.

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Football 2020 Looks Like a Lost Cause

July 11th, 2020 · No Comments · College football, coronavirus, Football, NFL

The dominoes are falling now. Nearly every day over the past two weeks has brought news of some other school or conference or league announcing reduced schedules, with the reductions going all the way down to not playing football this season. At all.

Back in the spring, noted U.S. immunologist Anthony Fauci was asked about the chances of playing football during a pandemic.

He said football was particularly at risk against Covid-19 because of the collisions and heavy breathing and flying aerosols that are ever-present in the game. Football does not lend itself to “social distancing”. To say the least.

–College football has its own challenges, and one of the most significant is creating an environment where upwards of 100 players dress out every Saturday, especially if sports (especially football) are played while the scholastic side of colleges and universities appear headed toward a semester of online school.

–The superintendent of Dallas schools a few days ago said high school football is unlikely to be played in his jurisdiction this fall. And Texas is the citadel of prep football. If they don’t play, who will?

“That’s a true contact sport, I don’t see how we can pull that off,” Michael Hinojosa told, a local media outlet. “There’s been some discussion of moving it to the spring, but we’ll have to wait and see. … I seriously doubt that we can pull that off.”

–A bigger national story was the Ivy League, a few days earlier, canceling all fall sports. Harvard, Yale, Princeton … none of them will play football — or anything else — before the new year.

–The professionals in the NFL continue to behave as if their season will begin and finish, but players are getting skittish about their safety during the Covid-19 pandemic, and the “optics” of attempting to play while the U.S. is in the throes of a coronavirus surge are unflattering.

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Channeling Hansel and Gretel in the Black Forest

July 5th, 2020 · No Comments · Germany, tourism

This is what happens when you don’t do enough vacation planning. You get there and something does not match expectations … and you end up wasting a day, or most of one, trying to solve a problem or abandon it in favor of some patch job. Or a witch appears and plots plans for putting lost tourists in a pot.

We were in the suburbs of Stuttgart, in the southwest of Germany, and instead of rushing back to the south of France, with three days of paid car rental yet to spend, we decided to meander a bit, going south into the renown Black Forest and then on into Switzerland.

Ach! Should have paid closer attention to a batch of roadwork signs near the center of Germany’s miles and miles of trees.

I had decided we would look for Titisee, a Black Forest lake known for great views and often mentioned as a top destination, but whenever we got close … we ran into another closed road.

Thus, we were driving around and losing track of where we were.

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American Dream Moves Over for German Version

June 29th, 2020 · No Comments · Germany

It looks like suburban America. Single-family housing, block after block. Free national health care. Good schools. A chicken in every pot and two cars in every garage.

That is what much of modern Germany looks like, to a visiting American. Pretty much everyone living the good life. The German Dream, which seems to have eclipsed the American version.

Hard to imagine that Germany was in desperate shape at the end of World War II, in 1945, within living memory of thousands of Germans, even now.

Hated, scorned as murderous Nazis who followed Adolf Hitler to disaster. Shattered cities. Millions dead. The blood of civilians, including 6 million Jews, on their hands. Starvation at the front door.

Germany has made a remarkable comeback since then. Instead of trying to rule the world Germans seem to be intent on instructing it. Setting an example … of stability, of economic success … for everyone else. Including America.

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A Bigger Continent Than We Thought

June 28th, 2020 · No Comments · France, Germany, Road trip

It is not unusual for Americans to look at a global map and say, “Gee, Europe isn’t all that big, considering how often we talk about it.”

By U.S. standards, Europe is semi-dinky, especially if you don’t include the European half of Russia in the Euro lineup. The U.S. is a bit shy of 10 million square miles. Europe (minus Russia) is about 6.6 million square miles.

With a little imaginative planning, a person could drive over half a dozen European countries in a day. Thinking Denmark, Germany, The Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg, France. Or Switzerland, Liechtenstein, Austria, Italy, Slovenia, Croatia.

But, if you look again, and consider a drive that involves covering nearly the length of France, the biggest nation in Europe that isn’t Russia or Ukraine … well, that’s a pretty long ride. Which is what we did today.

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Big League Sports to Return? Ask the Virus

June 25th, 2020 · No Comments · Baseball, Basketball, coronavirus, Football, NBA, NFL, Sports Journalism

Baseball is on the way back, we were told this week. “Spring” training camps will open on July 1, a 60-game mini-regular-season will begin play on or about July 24, and the World Series will finish no later than October 28.

The NBA’s plan for a return-to-play “bubble” in Orlando was made public on June 4, and it will include 22 teams, with 16 of them getting into the playoffs and the latest possible date for a Finals Game 7 on October 12.

With one massive question to be answered:

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So Long, Souplantation

June 20th, 2020 · No Comments · coronavirus

A guilty pleasure of mine, back before Covid-19 changed just about everything … was eating at Souplantation,

And now it is gone.

It was a buffet restaurant with a twist.

It was largely vegetarian, with a wide selection of raw vegetables, and lettuce types, at least three kinds of soup and — this is crucial — soft-serve ice cream on tap.

Little or no meat. OK, a smidge of clam in the chowder and some skinless chicken breast in the soup. Maybe some bacon bits in the Joan’s Broccoli Madness salad.

I probably ate more sit-down meals at Souplantation than anywhere else. I couldn’t hazard a guess at what chain restaurant might be second on my list.

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NBA’s Return Means Title Shots for Lakers and Clippers

June 5th, 2020 · No Comments · Basketball, Clippers, coronavirus, Lakers, NBA

The NBA returning to action this season?

For a while there, it seemed unlikely.

Everyone’s attention was focused on the killer Covid-19 virus, as it should have been, and during the harrowing height of the pandemic it was easy to forget this salient basketball fact:

Los Angeles’s two teams would have lost a chance to win an NBA title.

When the league turned off the lights on March 11, nearly three months ago, the Lakers (49-14) and Clippers (44-20) sat 1-2 atop the Western Conference standings.

And the idea that a once-in-a-century (we hope) pandemic would leave the 2019-20 season unfinished … that was going to be hard for L.A. basketball fanatics to accept.

The Lakers were streaking along with their best team in a decade, led by the ageless LeBron James, 35, and Anthony Davis, and the Clippers seemed to be easing their way toward second place in the Western Conference behind Kawhi Leonard and Paul George and a great defense.

And the NBA season was going to end with L.A. fans playing “what if?”

Thankfully, it looks like enough progress has been made against the coronavirus/Covid-19 that the NBA plans to finish up things, resuming play on July 31.

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