Friday, August 26, 2016

Happy 100th, National Park Service

If not for clicking on yesterday’s Google Doodle – something I rarely do – I never would have known that August 25th marked the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service.

I’ve been to a number of the National Parks, mostly in 1972 when my friend Joyce and I drove cross country, camping along the way.

I remember the National Parks as grand and glorious. We drove through Wind Cave, where the buffalo were roaming. We drove through Black Hills, and gawked at the stone faces on Mount Rushmore.

Ah, Mount Rushmore. Goofy, yet so magnificent. George Washington. Thomas Jefferson. Abraham Lincoln. Theodore Roosevelt.

How does TR get to keep company with those greats?

Ah, well. Teddy Roosevelt might have been a jingoistic nutter. And I’d rather see his cousin Franklin D’s visage on Mount Rushmore. But he was one hell of a conservationist. And while it was Woodrow Wilson who founded the National Park Service to oversee our national parks, monuments, historic sites, etc., Teddy Roosevelt played a major role in raising our collective national consciousness about the environment, and during his administration, established a number of new national parks.

We camped (and had a flat tire) in Yellowstone, and camped (with no flat) in Grand Teton. When we were in Yellowstone, did we see Old Faithful? If we did, I don’t remember it. What I do remember was that, on the outskirts, we passed a motel called The Flamingo. Or The Palms. Or something that seemed – neon sign and all – spectacularly ridiculous in that setting. I guess the names like Mighty Pine, Grizzly Cub, and Old Faithful were taken. What I also remember was the breathtaking beauty of those western parks. And that, Grand Teton became one of my two favorite national parks.

We breezed through Crater Lake, and Redwoods, and camped at Yosemite and Sequoia. I suppose we saw El Capitan. Mostly I’m thinking about the road signs that posted a speed limit of 5 MPH. They don’t call them hairpin turns for nothing.

At Yosemite, we spent one night ‘camping’ in the confines of our Karman Ghia. After spending some time visiting with the folks at the next camp site – okay, we were sharing a joint – we came back to our spot only to find two bear cubs playing in the well of our tent. We didn’t wait for mama bear to come back and fetch them. We hopped in the car and spent a fitful night trying to get a bit of shut-eye.

In Arizona, we buzzed the Petrified Forest which disappointed me. Somehow, I had imagined that the trees in the forest would be full standing, not the logs and stumps that make it up.

We did not hike down to the bottom of the Grand Canyon, but did (sort of) peer over the ledge.

It was cold and rainy when we camped in Rocky Mountain.

We spent a night at Hot Springs but, even though a ranger encouraged us to take the waters, we didn’t.

I think that our last national park was Shenandoah which ties with Grand Teton as my favorite. Just beautiful. Although scary. We were the only tent in a large site (it was late September, mid-week), and a ranger came by to warn us about bears. We knew all the precautions to take: no food on the ground, don’t sleep in the clothing you cooked in, don’t use scented hand cream. Still, Joyce and I were a bit nervous. We didn’t want another repeat of our night at Yosemite.

Then, in the middle of the night, we were both awoken by the sound of an animal sniffing around our tent. This was it. We reached out to each other across the space that separated our sleeping bags, and held hands while we tried to remember if we ever knew what to do when a bear is sniffing your tent. Scream? Play dead? Bang a pan? Oh, the pans were well away: washed up and stowed in the car.

Just as we thought we might be breathing our last, the clouds parted and, in the bright moonlight, we saw that what was sniffing around our tent was a skunk.We weren’t quite sure whether it would be better to be mauled by a bear or sprayed by a skunk.

I’ve been to a few other national parks since then. A couple in Arizona. Catoctin, where Camp David is, and where I spent a week winter camping a million years ago. (We were in an very rough, uninsultated cabin, and we did have a fireplace, but, boy, was that cold.)

When I worked for Wang, I went out to Tacoma, Washington, with a colleague to meet with a client to spec out a project. The schedule had been set up by a business development guy, without our input, and he planned for three days. We were done in one day.

Because it was going to cost a few hundred bucks to change our plane tickets, Wang wouldn’t approve our coming back. This was in the days before laptops and the Internet, so there wasn’t a lot of work we could get done. So we decided to go up to Mount Rainier National Park and spend the night. We did, in a rustic hotel at the base of the mountain. We couldn’t do much hiking in our business clothing. Even my travel outfit didn’t quite work: a pair of silk slacks and some Cole Haan loafers. But we did have a very nice meal at a nearby restaurant: just-caught trout, and blackberry pie made with just-picked blackberry. Yum. Best business trip ever…

I haven’t been to Acadia in Maine, which is the only – I think – national park in New England. We have a whole bunch of national historic sites, and I’ve been to plenty of them. Boston is one big national historic site, and there are plenty of national park rangers floating around.

So since it was the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service, I went to one of those national historic sites: the Museum of African American History, Boston. It’s just up the street, and I’ve been planning on stopping in for years.

They had a wonderful exhibit of photographs of Frederick Douglass, who was the most photographed American of the 19th century. (Now you know.)Talk about fascinating. The most interesting picture wasn’t a solo portrait, but a crowd picture of Abraham Lincoln giving his second inaugural address. In the crowd: both Douglass and John Wilkes Booth.

A National Park Service ranger gave us a tour of the African Meeting House, which is part of the Museum. It’s the “oldest black church edifice still standing in the United States.” Frederick Douglass spoke there many times, as did abolitionist William Lloyd Garrison.

Maybe not as magnificently scenic as our magnificently scenic national parks, but magnificent nonetheless.

Happy 100th to the National Park Service. May you have many more years of preserving our amazing physical, historic, and cultural heritage.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Grave robbing. (Let sleeping dog tags lie.)

I remember a few years ago, reading – and blogging – about auction houses that subspecialize in Nazi paraphernalia. I can’t remember the details, and I’m too lazy to look them up, but there was some Goering-related stuff: teaspoons, ashtrays, coasters. Crap like that.

Goering memorabilia is apparently a real catch. In June, his silk underwear fetched $3.4K at auction. No comparison with his boss, however. A jacket worn by Hitler went for over $300K. (All part of a major purchase made by an anonymous bidder from Argentina. Is Josef Mengele still alive, or was that Paraguay?) (Source: Newsweek)

I can’t imagine who’d want any of this ghastly stuff, but there’s no accounting for warped taste and infinite pocketbook.

It’s not just objects associated with über Nazis that are drawing interest. Some collectors are after relics of plain old rank and file German soldiers from WWII. Which has gotten some enterprising Latvians to dig up gravesites looking for something worth selling.

Around 100,000 German soldiers were killed in Latvia in the waning days of the war. When it comes to long-dead soldiers, Talis Esmits is a good guy. He and a group of comrades see to about 700 reburials each year, helping landowners properly dispose of remains they find in their backyards and fields, working without compensation out of the goodness – or sheer weirdness – of their hearts.

“In Latvia, it is normal for you to have dead soldiers on your yard,” Esmits said. “When people came back to their homes after the war, they saw there was a dead soldier here and a dead soldier there, and they just buried them.” (Source: Bloomberg)

But while Esmit and his guys are going about their morbid, yet well-intended, tasks, there are others at work, and they’re looking to make a buck off the remains of the day.

…in recent years, the often illicit market in Nazi memorabilia has intensified, creating a new class of diggers across eastern Europe that is at odds with Esmits’s work. Of particular interest are relics—items dug up from the ground. “When we first started, the market for relics was a local one—you couldn’t even call it a market,” Esmits said. “Then the internet appeared, and Europe and the world opened up, and many things changed.”

As they say, the Internet changed everything.

And one thing that it’s changed is the market for low-end German leave behinds: dogtags, medals, uniforms, helmets.

This stuff doesn’t demand a ton, but they’re not making any more, say, Wehrmacht helmets, which today demand almost four times what they did just three years ago.

So the scavengers today compete with Esmits to grab up those helmets. And dog tags. Regular soldier dog tags go for $60. Creepily, SS tags can bring in several hundred bucks. When Esmits finds dog tags, he sends the information on them to a German group that focuses on reburials and “closure” for families. Some of the commercial grave robbers also give over the info, but others aren’t so concerned with the niceties. They want the cash.

All of this is making not just those whose have loved ones whose bones are being dug up, and their belt buckles pillaged, upset. It also makes war historians nuts, too.

Even though they were part of the Nazi war machine, I have some sympathy for the families of those dead soldiers. Most of them were probably not ardent, rotten to the core Nazis, but just plain grunts.

I also have some sympathy for poor Latvians trying to scratch out a living selling German dog tags and helmets. But

But what a grim and disgusting way to make a living. Why not just let those sleeping dog tags lie.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

How to stay rich in Europe? Too late for that…

Like any good red-blooded American with visions of fleeing to Europe, based on an at least remotely possible election outcome, I was intrigued by a Bloomberg headline that read: How to Stay Rich in Europe: Inherit Money for 700 Years.

The article was about how a larger proportion of European billionaires – remember when millionaire was a big deal? – got their money the old fashioned way: they inherited it. In the US, “only” 29 percent of our billionaires are scionics. In Italy, the figure is 37 percent. In Germany, an astounding 65 percent.

The richest Florentine families today were already at the top of the socioeconomic ladder almost 600 years ago, according to a recent study by the Bank of Italy. And research by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development shows that in many European countries, not only wealth and income but even occupations tend to be “sticky,” passed on from generation to generation.

Six-hundred years? Or is it the seven hundred years of the title? What’s a century, I guess, if you’ve got all that money, not to mention your “sticky” occupation behind you?

Six-hundred years back, I’ll venture to say that both my German and Irish antecedents were peasant farmers. This is a pretty safe bet, given that what they were leaving when they came in the 1870’s (the Irish) and the 1920’s (the Germans) were peasant farms.

So I’m just as happy that those occupations didn’t stick.

I’ve only been to one antecedent town, Ballintubber (officially Ballintober) in County Mayo, where my great-grandmother Margaret Joyce hailed from. I saw the restored, 13th century Cistercian Abbey (quite lovely), and a graveyard full of Joyces, but I don’t recall the town. Ballintubber (officially Ballintober), County Mayo, is not to be confused, by the way, with Ballintober (officially Ballintober), County Roscommon, which is where my great-grandfather John Rogers came from. He met Margaret Joyce in Amerikay, and the rest is history.

The other Irish side, the Trainors, were from Ballymascanlon, County Louth. My cousin Barbara breezed through years ago. It’s one of those “blink you’re out” villages, but they do have a hotel, and it’s on my bucket list.

My more recently arriving family, the Wolfs of Neue Banat - a German settlement in the Austro-Hungarian empire that, after WWI, became part of Romania, hit our shores in the 1920’s – came through Ellis Island with all those other tired, poor, and huddled masses. I can only imagine what this little outpost looks like today (Neue Banat, not Ellis Island; I know what that outpost looks like), between WWII and all those decades under the Ceaușescu fun fest. I don’t imagine I’ll ever get there. (Romania is not on anyone’s bucket list, unless they’re a Dracula fan.) But my Aunt Mary did get there as a kid, when my Grandmother Wolf made a reverse pilgrimage to see her family in 1937, before all hell broke loose. In keeping with family dynamics, my mother – the oldest child, the drudge – had to stay home and tend to my grandfather. Grandma took Mary and my Uncle Jack.

Thanks to my cousin Ellen’s salvaging some family pictures of that excursion, I do know what Neue Banat looked like in the 1930’s. You can find them on her wonderful blog post, European Vacation: 1937, on her wonderful blog, Hello, Lamppost.

No billionaires there, I can tell you that.

Anyway, back to the Bloomberg Euro-billionaire story, the piece highlights two fellows, Lamberto Frescobaldi, of the wine- (and money-) making Frescobaldis of Florrence, and Count Alexander Fugger-Babenhausen of Germany.

I guess another part of being rich is not just the money, it’s the names. Jacob Wolf. Magdalena Folker. Mary Trainor. Charles Rogers. My grandparents. Not a Lamberto or Fugger-Babenhausen in the bunch.

Although I will say that, if my German family had been wealthy, I’d like to think that they would have been Fuggers. In the fifteen-hundreds, the ur uber-rich Fugger, Jacob, founded the Fuggerei, and affordable housing complex in Augsburg, Germany.

The Fuggerei’s 140 apartments have survived innumerable wars and partial destruction during World War II. While they have been renovated, they still follow the original floor plans and feature some unique Renaissance decor, such as a lever-activated door-opening mechanism that in the past let tenants allow visitors in without leaving the apartment’s only heated room.

Count Fugger-Babenhausen still keeps the Fuggerei up. Good for him.

Sometimes it pays to be rich, in more ways than one.

Meanwhile – and alas – it’s too late for me to become a rich European. Should have thought of that six (or is it seven?) hundred years back.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Greetings

I’m a big greeting card person.

Christmas. St. Patrick’s Day. Birthdays. Baby. Get Well. Sympathy. Thanksgiving. Easter. Halloween. Valentine’s Day.

Other than at Christmas, these aren’t mass mailings. But I do send out a lot of cards. Sometimes I send an e-card, but mostly I send something physical – personal note, signature, address, stamp and all.

And I like getting cards back. It’s nice when my birthday rolls around, and Christmas, and there’s something in the mail besides a bill or a tin cut letter from some outfit that I don’t actually owe anything to asking for money. Since so many of my bills are sent and paid electronically, I don’t even get that many bills these days. At least bills are somewhat personal… Not so the letters asking for donations, even if they have some kind of fake “Dear Maureen” in them, or are addressed using a faux penmanship font.

So I was interested in a recent article on Slate, by June Thomas, that clued me in on Postable. June checked Postable out when she got a birthday card that was a bit “off”. Sure, it was personal – she knew the sender, and he wasn’t asking for money – but what was up with the handwriting. So she followed the URL on the return address.

Over at Postable, I learned that the site bills itself as “snail mail heaven.” It notes that postal mail seems special and surprising these days precisely because “it’s a pain in the ass to send.” We’re all familiar with that particular PITA. In the case of a friend’s birthday, you have to remember the date, acquire a card, find the time to compose a message—if I’ve spent money on a card, I generally want to write more than “Happy birthday”—dig up an appropriate stamp, and take it out to the mailbox. Postable claims it was “created to alleviate that ass pain. We make sending seriously stylish snail mail as easy as sending an email. You type it and we handle all the annoying stuff. We print, stuff, stamp, address and mail all of your cards directly to everyone for you.” (Source: Slate)

I followed June’s trail over to see for myself, and I have to admit that most of the card designs are pretty good. They didn’t make the egregious “Happy St. Patty’s Day” error. (It’s St. Paddy’s Day, yez amadan, yez.) But there were some under the Sympathy section that were a tad bit questionable. Would you send someone a sympathy card that had a picture of a sheep on it, and the words “Thinking of ewe”? Or one that read “Ugh! This sucks.” Not me. (It does remind me of a group card signed by the office mates and sent to someone in my sister’s office who’d just lost her husband. One of Trish’s colleagues – apparently unfamiliar with normal expressions of sympathy – wrote “Bummer!” and then signed his name.)

For whatever reason, I send a fair number of sympathy cards. (What do I mean “for whatever reason”. I know exactly what the reason is. I’m getting to the age when the few people I know who still have parents are losing them, Greeting cardand when my friends are starting to lose their spouses, sibs, and friends.) Lately, I’ve mostly been sending the same card, which has the words of James Joyce on the cover: “They lived and laughed and loved and left.” Given that a lot of my friends and family members have a bit o’ the Irish in them, the Joyce quote makes sense. And I like the fact that the quote well may be the only words in Finnegan’s Wake that actually make sense.

Anyway, the Postable cards are also reasonably priced – especially when compared to what cards cost at the pricey card stores that I tend to drift into. (I do save on Christmas cards, however, in that I buy them for the next year on the day after Christmas, for half price. And I definitely try to avoid the cards that require extra postage. Recently, I did make a poor card choice when I bought a b-day card for my niece Caroline that I didn’t notice had a black envelope and black paper on the inside. Alas, I did not have any silver ink. Since I gave her the card in person, however, I was able to narrate what I’d written in invisible black ink on it.)

While the Postable cards look nice, and the price is right, I think I’ll keep with my practice of sending real physical cards, personally signed, personally addressed, personally stamped by me. In my personal, not so great, Palmer Penmanship handwriting. I like sending them, and I like receiving them. Sure, it may be a PITA to take care of all this, but I’ll take a page from my 91 year old Aunt Mary. Mary has a booklet where she has written down all the birthdays she observes, by month. Each month, she buys cards for the birthdays-of-the-month. My niece Caroline was a recent recipient. We were all thrilled, and getting my birthday card from Mary is an annual highlight. Nothing from Postable will ever do quite the same trick.

Monday, August 22, 2016

Retiring Minds Want to Know

As I drift into my Golden Years, visions of fully and intentionally retiring are starting to dance in my head. Most likely, I will “retire in place.” After all, Boston has been my home for most of my life, I have a beautiful condo in a great neighborhood, my front yard has the Swan Boats in it, I can run most of my errands by walking around the corner, and I can get to most anyplace worth getting to on my own two feet, including Fenway Park, the Gardner Museum, and my internist, eye doctor, dentist and Mass General Hospital.

Yes, Boston is colossally expensive. And, yes, as the climate continues to change and the oceans continue to rise, my ‘hood will be under water at some point. With luck, I will have sold my condo and moved to higher ground by the time that happens. But I haven’t given a ton of thought to where that higher ground might be.

Kiddingly (or not so kiddingly), I have occasionally mentioned that my home town of Worcester might be a fine place to retire.

Yes, almost all of the family I still have there are of the six-feet-deep variety. And you pretty much do need a car to get around. Not to mention that, in terms of weather, Worcester – although a scant 50 miles down the ‘pike from Boston - has the world’s worst weather. But housing-wise, you can get a lot more for a lot less than in Boston. There’s a decent hospital. Good restaurants. An excellent museum and other culture-vulture-y things to do, thanks in large part to all the colleges that are there. And it’s on the train to Boston. Why, there’s even a stop for Fenway Park.

You could do worse than retire to the Heart of the Commonwealth.

Alas, according to an outfit called WalletHub, the only way you could do worse than Worcester, Massachusetts (ranked 149), in terms of retirement, would be Providence, Rhode Island (150).

Providence? Huh?

As any Providence-watcher can tell you, this is one city that has really turned itself around over the years, going from what was pretty much a dump in the early 1970’s to the vibrant and interesting place it is today. I got to watch Providence change via second-hand up close and personal, as my great and good friend Marie moved there in 1977, settling up on The Hill, near Brown, where she and her husband had both gone. So I’ve been a regular visitor over the years. Like Worcester, Providence is a city I can actually see myself retiring to.

Unlike any of WalletHub’s Top Five: Orlando, Tampa, Miami, Scottsdale, and Sioux Falls, South Dakota.

Sioux Falls, South Dakota? I get the affordability part, but, gee, how did Sioux Falls get to be ranked #1 for health care?

And I’m guessing that I should take back what I just said about Worcester’s weather. It may be Massachusetts’ worst, but it’s probably not any worse than what you experience in Sioux Falls, South Dakota

WalletHub, of course, used its own methodology to decide where it’s best to retire, some no doubt arbitrary combo of proxies (“key metrics”) for affordability, activities, quality of life, and health care.

Boston ranked a lowly 92 in the rankings, after “achieving” – make that underachieving – the same score as Chattanooga and Lubbock. Those scores, I suspect, is the only answer to the question “What do Boston, Massachusetts, and Lubbock, Texas have in common?”

My husband had always talked about retiring to New York City. Apparently, at position 88, a slightly better bet than Boston.

Meanwhile, I’m staying put.

(Lubbock, Texas…Hah!)

----------------------------------------------------------------------------

Where this was spotted: Huff Po.

Who did the spotting: my cousin Ellen, who grew up in Chicago (43), one step ahead of Jackson, Mississippi. Thanks, Ellen!

Ur Source: WalletHub

Friday, August 19, 2016

Division of Labor

Last week, the fire alarm went off in our building

The firefighters came and checked it out, but they can’t turn off the blaring alarm, which is skull splitting. It’s okay for someone “authorized” to turn the alarm off once the firefighters have given the “all clear.” That someone used to be my husband, but I never bothered to watch how he did it. It pretty much goes without saying that no one else who lives in this building has a clue, so I had to figure it out. Now I know.

On Sunday night, around 10:30, when I was taking the recycle out, I smelled gas coming from the laundry room. That’s the only place where there’s anything fueled by gas – the water heater and the communal dryer – and I thought that maybe the pilot had gone out in either one of these appliances. That wasn’t the case. Since paying the gas bill is the responsibility of the condo association’s management company, so I didn’t even know what our gas company is. I took a chance that it was Eversource, which provides my electricity, and called their gas leak number. They put me through to National Grid, and within a half hour, two National Gridders were here to figure out what was going on. What was going on was a gas pipe coupler, located in the recently-vacated apartment of an elderly man who died last month at the age of 99, wasn’t really coupling. I got the National Grid repair guys into Jack’s vacated apartment and hung with them for a couple of hours while they made the fix. What I wanted to do was go to bed, which is what I probably would have done if Jim were still alive. Dealing with emergencies like the gas leak were his thing, not mine.

Earlier this week, I got the plane tickets for Venice for me and my sister Trish. (We’re heading there this fall.) Given that Trish has a full time job, a kid, and a dog, I put my hand up to do the trip planning. It’s not a big deal to make plane reservations, yet I kept putting it off. Jim used to do all the trip planning. I’ve been on plenty of trips since Jim died a couple of years back – Ireland, NYC (three times), Chicago (twice), Scotland, Dallas, Tucson (twice). But for some reason, I’m not that wild about taking care of the details. Jim was really good at it, and I do believe he actually enjoyed it.

Like most couples, Jim and I had, over the years, worked out a division of labor.

Jim dealt with the repairmen. He planned the trips. He worried about retirement. He turned off the fire alarm. He was vice president in charge of television. He made the restaurant reservations. He took the trash out.

I was vice president of information technology. I dealt with painters. I remembered birthdays. I got the pictures framed. I bought the sheets and towels. I did the laundry. I took care of the recycling.

I suppose that, other than my being the vice president of information technology, our roles were more or less gender driven, but we never sat down and figured out who was going to do what. It just happened over time.

Most of what I miss about my husband is not that there’s no one other than me-myself-and-I to see to the little “stuff” Jim took care of.

I miss the hanging out. I miss the laughs. I miss having someone here when I come home. I miss taking the trips that Jim so meticulously planned.

But I do have to admit that, however wonderful it is to be completely self-sufficient and independent, it’s kind of a drag to have to take care of all of life’s little stuff. Plus, when I find myself having to deal with the National Grid guys, it’s just another reminder – as if I need one – that Jim’s gone.

Not that I sit around boo-hooing about it. It’s just that it really does make me sad when something comes up that was on Jim’s side of our division of labor.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Bucks for the Bang

Two gun-related stories caught my eye when I was blog-idea grazing last weekend. The first was on the nerves of some University of Texas professors that are on edge, now that that concealed carry on campus has gone into effect in their state. I don’t blame them. I wouldn’t want to be in a workplace where people were packing, even if the guns were out of sight/out of mind. One professor in an article I read said that discussions in her classroom sometimes became heated, and that she did have people sign up for her class just so they could attack her ideas. She’s understandably afraid. But there’s a long way between attacking ideas and attacking the professor. And if someone’s going to use a gun when a classroom bull session gets going, they’re probably not going to bother with the niceties of whether carrying a gun on campus is allowed or not. But we’ll see.

Maybe there’ll be some instance where a kid who never would have put his Smith and Wesson in his backpack if it were against his school’s code of conduct will start doing it now that it’s okay. And maybe if the debate really becomes charged he’ll decide to do more than just shoot his mouth off. Could happen.

For me, though, I’m a lot more nervous around open carry. When I’ve been in open carry states, I really get queasy when I see someone with a gun holstered to their hip. It just seems like such an aggressive, f-you thing to do. I am never going to be comfortable in any place of commerce where anyone other than the security guard is armed.

The other story that I picked up on was on the fact that the Olympian shooters aren’t feeling much love from sponsors outside of the gun industry.

The first medal that the US won in the RIo Olympics was a bronze in skeet shooting, won by Kim Rhode, who has medaled in six straight Olympics. The first woman to do so.

But Rhode’s agent can’t get any of the big time sponsors – like Coke and P&G – to back her.

Coca-Cola Co. didn’t respond to a request for comment, and Procter & Gamble Co.’s spokesperson Damon Jones said in an e-mail the company receives hundreds of sponsorship requests so it must be selective. Rhode and other shooters on Team USA think the reason they’re passed over is obvious. The rise in gun violence and mass shootings in the US have attached a stigma to shooting as a sport, they say. So while companies like Winchester, Beretta and Otis Technology support Rhode, she doesn’t have a single sponsor from outside the firearm industry.

The same is true for USA Shooting, even though the sport has since 2000 been the fifth-highest medal producer for the US team at Summer Olympics. The very first gold medal for any sport awarded in Rio went to 19-year-old Ginny Thrasher, competing in her Olympics debut. (Source: Bloomberg)

Skeet shooting and the other firearms related events aren’t exactly considered prime for the American Olympics-watching audience. Not that I pay such close attention to the Olympics, but I hadn’t even realized that they were Olympic sports. For some reason, they don’t actually seem like sports to me. But I suppose most things related to non-sexual physical activity that’s done for pleasure and/or entertainment is considered a sport.

Thus, I’d like to propose that jacks or jump rope – the only sports, by my lax definition, I’ve been any good at – should be included in the Olympics.

Lack of interest on the part of the TV audience is one reason why the P&G’s and Cokes – who tend to glom onto the athletes in the Olympic sports we do watch: swimming, gymnastics, track – don’t sign the shooters up. The other, of course, is the negative associations that Americans understandably have with guns.

The balance beam,the butterfly, and the javelin just don/t seem to get implicated in mass murders and other crimes in the same way that guns do.

Still, I don’t really associate skeet shooting with violence, either. It seems like a pretty goofy yet harmless thing that a certain class of folks take to. When they’re not watching their cousins in dressage competitions.

Anyway, the Olympic shooters just don’t get too much financial love. Which is too bad, given that they can’t exactly perform their sports with Saturday night specials or zip guns.

Competition-level firearms price between $8,000-20,000. Between ammunition, clay pigeons and range fees, a day of training can run as high as $450. “It really adds up,’’ said Vincent Hancock, one of Rhode’s teammates. “I’ve only found two sports that are more expensive -- anything to do with a horse, and car racing.’’

Because of the contribution that the shooting team makes to the US medal totals, the US Olympic Committee does fund the sport. But it doesn’t cover all the costs, and the team and its members are looking for more bucks for their bang.

I’m no big fan of guns, but even I can recognize that shooting for sport is benign and probably fun. This is “good” shooting, and, given that these athletes are representing the country (and winning plenty of medals) it’s too bad that they’re not given a shot by the advertisers. I can understand that major consumer product firms don’t want any association with gun nuts, all those accidents in which the two year old shoots his mother, cop killings,innocent civilian killings, gang murders, assassinations, mass murders, and all sorts of other madnesses that our gun-besotted culture is so understandably known for. But skeet shooting? Come on. They shoot at clay pigeons.

Good luck getting sponsors next time, guys. Maybe winning a lot of medals will give you the ammunition you need to break through.