Ralph Higgins

Ralph Higgins
color pencil sketch by Gayle Higgins

Quotes I Like

"If you do not take an interest in the affairs of your government, then you are doomed to live under the rule of fools."

– Plato

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Friday, January 31, 2014

Super Bowl Sunday

      Evidently Sunday is the Super Bowl.  I still haven’t gotten over last years debacle when the Niners couldn’t take the ball into the end zone with three or was it four downs. They were close enough that Gore could have taken the ball and simply fallen forward for the winning touchdown.  Kaepernick took the blame, but I think it was coaching.  I’m still disgusted. 


            Then there was the playoff game this year when the officials gave the game to the Seahawks.  I’m sure that extinguished my enthusiasm for this year’s Super Bowl.  I’ll admit that these are two excellent teams with great quarterbacks and I’m sure I’ll be glued to the TV despite my anger that the 49ers aren’t playing.  But I’ve resolved to never again invest emotion in a game.

            There was a time in my younger days when I ran around with a wild group of guys, some whom were players in the NFL, mostly the 49ers.  This was during a somewhat rowdy time for me between marriages. Maybe it takes a woman to tame a man, because, left to his own devices he will get into all kinds of trouble.

            We were known as “the Animals.” I, along with my friend and racquetball partner, who was a Psychologist, tried to distance ourselves from some of the activities while serving as the voice of reason, moderation, and therapy when needed. Those Super Bowl weekends were just a big party and the game itself was incidental.  I’ve written about the weekend at a New Orleans Super Bowl.  On a rating system that would have been a ten. 

            I still remember the brawl on Bourbon Street when two of our guys, (one was a big lineman for the 49ers) ended up bloody and in jail for instigating a fight inside Pat O’Brian’s.  Between bouncers and cops they barely survived a brutal beating.  I don’t know how I escaped jail after jumping the cop who was clubbing them.  And that was just the first night. Then there was the time on Bourbon Street that one of our guys fell in love with a pretty “woman” only to find out later she didn’t fit the definition of a female anatomically. He threw up in an alley while we laughed mercilessly.

            I remember a Super Bowl in Houston, where it was so cold that a few of the guys stayed in the hotel and watched the game on TV.  I solved the weather problem by going to a concession stand where I grabbed a large cardboard box.  I sat in that box to get out of the wind and managed to fit one of our flight attendants in with me to help her survive the cold.  My altruism knows no bounds.

            I sat next to a professional gambler on the flight to a Super Bowl game and got inside information on how these gamblers take advantage of guys with money, like professional athletes, who are rich and high on confidence, but unschooled in the gambling trade. They all pour into the Super Bowl.  It's big business.

            Gambling is a big deal at Super Bowls. Not just betting on the games, but also high-stakes Poker in elegant hotel suites.  I think it was the Houston game when my good buddy Dick Whitaker discovered a big card game downstairs in our hotel.  I distinctly remember him saying, “They’re giving away money.” It was three in the morning, but you don’t sleep much on Super Bowl trips. You had to know someone to get in the gambling suite.  Dick knew someone – he always did – and we entered a beautiful suite with a large table surrounded by guys in suits and ties, a bar, food, and numerous high-end hookers.
                                                                                                                                    
            O. J. Simpson had just lost a bundle at the table and left, looking for someone to kill.  Dick jumped in and after two hands he had lost all his money. This wasn’t penny poker.  He had to borrow money for the rest of the trip. I was content to watch the action and wasn’t even tempted to get in the game.  “A man’s gotta know his limitations.”

            So when you watch the Super Bowl on Sunday, be aware that you are only seeing the surface action.  It’s like watching the actors in a play, while all kinds of stuff is going on back stage.


Thursday, January 23, 2014

You May Be Smarter Than You Think

     My wife gets on me for being too “negative.”  I usually respond by saying, “I’m not negative,” which makes her case.  So I decided to find something positive to write about and I found an article that those of you in my generation may find encouraging.

            When a person’s name doesn’t come to you or you can’t remember a place you visited on vacation or you can’t recall the name of a movie, don’t worry.  It happens to everyone who has lived a few decades past puberty. It’s funny how the information may pop into your mind when you stop trying and move to something else.  But sometimes it never “pops.”

            Sarah Knapton is a Science Correspondent.  Unfortunately, I can’t remember where I read her article (See? That’s what I mean.), but I’ll give you the essence of her research.  She states that scientists now believe that the brains of older people only appear to slow down because they have so much information to compute.  She relates it to a computer hard drive that gets filled up and slows down in the course of processing information.

            In my studies of psychology way back in college, I remember “retroactive inhibition” and it’s opposite, “proactive inhibition.”   Retroactive inhibition is the idea that retention of learned skills or material is impaired by subsequent learning.  This is especially common when the material is similar in kind to the new material learned. In other words, things you learn now are contributing to further burying or altering related information you may have learned years ago.

            Proactive inhibition is the tendency for earlier memories to interfere with the retrieval of material learned later. So information you have stored interferes with new information. 

            Think of it as facts and information piled on top of each other with old stuff more difficult to access having been buried by new stuff. The longer you live, the more information you’ve accumulated and the less readily available old information becomes or maybe the more it interferes with new learning and recent memories.  Both processes create cognitive “inhibitions.”

            Dr. Michael Ramscar, a researcher in this field, says that this normal slowing down is not the same as cognitive decline.  The brain just slows down in older people and he claims that the brains of older people don’t get weaker.  It’s just that they simply know more.  He says older people are actually smarter.  I love that part.

            Scientists at a German university used computers to compare the accumulation of information to the human brain.  They found that the computers also slowed down as the data base increased. More data requires more time to process.  Young people, for example, do better pairing unrelated non-sense items than older people.  This is due to the fact that older people have learned that such pairing is illogical based on experience.

            I’ve also read that when you pass from room to room, in your house for example, thoughts are sometimes left in the room you just left.  It’s some sort of “doorway” phenomenon. Maybe that’s why I can’t remember where the car keys are when I walk into my den and leave the keys in the kitchen.

            Then this morning I read about brain shrinkage in older people.  I guess you start to worry when you can feel your brain bouncing around inside your skull.  Who knows what to believe?  I know people actually shrink in size as they age.  I’m not as tall as I used to be.  I literally ran into a friend I haven’t seen for many years and knocked him over. He had shrunk to the point that I thought he was further away when I ran right into him. 

            Without going further, just rest assured that when names, dates, places, and things don’t immediately come to mind, you’re not losing it.  In fact, you may just know too much.  As you age, you can’t run as fast as you once did, but you learn shortcuts to get to your destination.

            Getting older can actually be fun.  No one freaks out if you have socks of a different color or forget to zip up your fly. (That actually happened to me once.)  When you’re a certain age, people expect you to have your pants on backwards. Having gray hair is liberating.

            In short, I was looking for something positive to write about today and I thought this article by Sarah Knapton was encouraging.  I just wish I could remember where I read it.


Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Baby, It's Cold Outside

     The old song, “Baby, it’s Cold Outside” sung by Louis “Satchmo” Armstrong with the great Ella Fitzgerald still rings in my ears as the sun begins to warm things up here in the mountains.

            The cold weather has created a lot of serious problems, but there is humor here and there amidst the ice.  My neighbor George claims that his dog lifted his leg on its favorite tree and got stuck when his glorious stream instantly froze, immobilizing the poor dog with one leg dangling in the air. George says he ran outside and broke the bond with a stick, but then again, old George does exaggerate when he drinks.

            What is actually true and more humorous is the fact that a shipload of global warming scientists, mostly Australians, went to Antarctica in a Russian ship to confirm their theory that the polar ice cap was being depleted due to global warming. 

            Expecting to see sweating penguins covered in sunscreen, they found themselves frozen in an ice cube. This happened on Christmas Eve.  Thanks to a cadre of rescue penguins with little kegs of brandy tied around their necks, those brilliant scientists survived long enough to call for help. 

            The sympathetic Chinese sent an icebreaker to break them loose, but it got stuck too. There were plenty of penguins, but not enough brandy.  The Chinese settled for hot tea and took their turn at calling for help.

            The good old U.S.A. then sent a coastguard icebreaker, called the Polar Star, rushing to the scene and, after about two weeks faced with the chill of reality, the global warming guys were freed from the unexpected expanding ice of Antarctica.   You can’t make this stuff up.

            The irony of that event seems to have been lost on the main stream media.  It doesn’t fit their template, but for the rest of us, this event provided a good laugh.  Have you noticed that the buzz word has been changed from “global warming” to “climate change?”  Interesting.

            The fact that the earth’s climate has been in flux since the beginning of time, won’t inhibit the zeal of those who believe that insignificant little bipeds, crawling around on a small planet, have more influence on the earth’s climate than volcanic activity, solar events, and the massive power of nature. 

            Ever notice that when you haven’t talked to a friend for a while, the conversation sometimes starts with the weather.  I guess I fell into that trap, because Gayle accidently erased the article I had written for this post and I wanted to get something out there today.  So how’s the weather?

            On a serious and belated note, I hope 2014 is a good year for you and don’t worry about the penguins.  They’re doing fine.  The global warming scientists left suntan lotion and tiny dark glasses for them - just in case.