Thursday, July 27, 2017

I'm not distracted, I just can't remember.


Our country has been clobbered with a pandemic and it's not caused by mosquitoes, terrorists, or a childish Asian communist with a Moe Howard hairdo. This insidious enigmatic parasite has somehow invaded our consciousness (and the rest of the planet apparently) and folks are blissfully unaware it has taken up shop inside their head. The ultimate goal of this demon is to distract or make us forget stuff. I say stuff because I can't remember what it is exactly.

Take our leadership as an example of the stuff I'm trying to write about. Evidence couldn't me more apparent even if Donald Trump held up a huge sign with the words "I dinna ken!" boldly displayed. Of course, the far left would claim he does indeed dinna ken and then the argument would escalate. John McCain would somehow throw a gavel into the spokes of the argument by possibly agreeing with the President or not and Nancy Pelosi would demand to find out exactly what George Bush dinna ken. I know, right?

It's confusing to half of us and the other three quarters of the population are too busy to take the time to stop doing whatever it is we might be doing in the next ten seconds. People are losing their ability to not only retain, but as Jethro Bodine so aptly put it, "Cipher it out.". Take this question a fellow recently posed as an example. "Two rather odd-looking women moved in next door 3 months ago. They are different to put it mildly and I've never seen a man enter their apartment. Do you think they are Lebanese?"

I was speechless in that I had accidentally swallowed a fly and bobbed my head fiercely trying to dislodge it and I heard him yell out, "I knew it!" before he stormed off. I was going to say maybe Sri Lanka? You see, I didn't have a chance to actually answer his question because he was off on a tangent and this is where people are these days;   Tangentville, Texas.  "Honey, I'll be home sometime in the future! I'm going to Tangentville whether I want to or not."

This mysterious place exists only in our heads and Baby boomers are not exempt from a visit or 2 at the worst possible time. In our self-righteousness, we blast away at the younger Millennials over their constant need to text or stare at their phones, but the truth is we don't need electronics to forget what we are doing or to be distracted. All we have to do is have a conversation and blam!  Tangentville, Texas suddenly blocks out what we were talking about. We take a side trip and can't remember our way back into the conversation.

It's embarrassing to say the least until whomever we were talking to can't remember what the subject was and we stare at each other like a pair of potheads and giggle.  "Oh yea!" we suddenly exclaim and rush to get it out before another side trip hits us. More giggling follows until all of a sudden you realize you can't remember again.
I think this pandemic is caused by sensory overload. Those two words, if you could weigh them, come in right at 20 pounds. Trust me. I have a scale. I bought it on... a web site. It's guaranteed to be calibrated and everything and if it breaks I can return it for a full refund - if I can remember which web site I bought it from. Remember when everything came from Sears, JC Penny's or one or 2 grocery stores? I can't either and that's the problem. I've slept since then.

Too much info.  I now spell "information" as info. Just like I've shortened "Yes, indeed" to "Yup". The truth is half the time I can't remember how to spell information and frankly, I have side trips to take and just don't have time for propriety. For one, I have to drive on our streets. Do you realize how long it takes to strap into my Jeep so when someone texting slams into the side it won't kill me? I simply cannot go to Tangentville when I am driving if I want to survive and I can't control those who couldn't care less (read: apparently a whole lot of people).

Military and police keep their head on a swivel and that is how we have to drive these days, but is that what we see around us? Nope. What we see are glazed over eyes staring at their electronic devices as they pretend to pay attention to the road or they are sunk down so low in the seat all they can see is the top of the steering wheel. When people walk into light poles texting, why do they think they can do it going 40 miles per hour?

So which is worse, a momentary lapse of memory or a major distraction such as operating a smartphone in public? The first one is probably inevitable, but the second is preventable, or is it? Maybe not. The intoxicating lure of Tangentville is simply too strong to resist. Wait a minute! What were we talking about?
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Thursday, July 20, 2017

Customer service is not what it used to be




I was called by a local business today to pay for a maintenance service on my in-ground pool. My debit card on file had expired. I explained that the technician hadn't completed the job and they had accidentally broke an expensive valve on my pool equipment and I was told I would have my pool back in service today. This happened Friday. The guy was friendly and an expert and I thanked my lucky stars I didn't tackle the job.

The lady told me I was paying for the part of the job that was originally scheduled and I wouldn't be charged for the other repair. I told her that is not how it works. Once I pay, what is their impetus to finish the job? She informed me that they have other jobs scheduled and they would fix it Wednesday, but would I kindly update my information so they could be paid. At this point, I realized all logic was out the window and I told her I would get back to her.

Then she threw down this catch phrase, which any business or customer service should eliminate at all levels, "No problem" and she hung up. I will never, ever pay for a service until it is completed satisfactorily and her implication that there was no problem told me all she was interested in doing was clearing my ticket. I fully intend to make a very civil complaint to the owner.

I will pay extra every time for excellent service, but I have a problem in that until I experience it, I inherently don't trust it. In other words, I don't believe everyone who claims to be an expert, or a professional knows what they are doing. My pool guy was very good and an expert and seeing he is being paid to do what he was doing, he is a professional, so understand my complaint is not about him. Stuff happens and in my case, it meant replacing the entire pump motor, housing, and pump assembly.

It was a simple PVC job right? NOT and that's why I decided I would turn it over to the pros and just pay the labor charges, as I had the entire replacement assembly already. You see, there are specifications on how high the discharge of the pump is to maximize flow, etcetera and I could see that by cutting into the pipe, I would probably have to modify all that and sure enough, I could mess something up.

And it happened and the manual valve to direct flow was cracked on the bottom and I thanked my lucky stars that I did not do this. He assured me it would be covered and then schooled me to make sure the tech who worked on it did certain things if it wasn't him. Okay, I can let my 18,000 gallon salt pool set for 3 days, but then we had a lot of storms which blew a barrel of leaves into the pool. In our climate, letting your pool set for 5 days is a big no-no. No problem.

What I needed at this point was customer service calling me Monday morning checking on me, but this didn't happen. By noon I called and had the above conversation. No problem. No problem? Are you kidding me?  I have half a dumpster of leaves in my pool and my injured neck has more twists in it than a pretzel. I got my 15 foot pole with a net on the end and tried to get them off the bottom while my pool cleaner sat idly by laughing at me. No problem.

This company needs to worry less about closing out tickets and more on the care and follow up they provide, but am I just talking about a single pool company here? I think not. I think it is endemic these days and many businesses should see a red flag. The bottom line is people, customer service, and how they feel treated. I hate when someone tells me "No problem" when I have a problem. Tell me you will fix it, or that you are here to get rid of my problem instead. "I appreciate it!" "No problem..." Geeze. Spare me.

Note: Five days later my pool was restored and only after I asked for a complimentary pool cleaning, they agreed, but why did I have to ask?  No problem. 
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Thursday, July 13, 2017

Can't you smell that smell?




I guess I'm out of touch with current trends and basically uncouth and white trash when it comes to cologne, but I like the smell of Old Spice. I still like British Sterling and Hai Karate, Brut, and the clean scent of Brylcreem. I also like Lava soap and Mrs. Butterworth syrup, regardless of what it does or tastes like and I've tasted both, believe me.

Butch wax is still a smell like none other and if I caught a whiff of it today, I'd say, "What, that's Butch wax." It is akin to vanilla extract; there's nothing like it. Now I was at Como en Mexico the other day to get some authentic Mexican ice cream and I got a generous dip of Rum Raisin and I looked up and said, "Why this tastes like egg nog." Now whether it tastes like egg nog to anyone else, is relative, right, but that's what it tastes like to me. On second thought, what exactly is a nog anyway?

When I was in Southeast Asia, on more than one occasion I was around the odor of burning opium. It has a very peculiar smell and once you've been exposed to it, you would never mistake it for something else. The closest smell to it in my olfactory memory bank is slightly burnt peanut brittle.

Have you ever noticed how a certain smell can launch you back in time to a certain place or event? It may not have been anything to remember, except the smell took you there. The smell of fresh cement always sends me to Cleveland, Ohio when I was visiting my Aunt Jean. I was very small and riding a tricycle on the sidewalk near her house and cement workers were pouring forms. It is a very pleasant memory.

Certain ailments can give us bloodhound smell abilities and almost everything smells either way too strong or repulsive. I went through this not too long ago after doing a 32 day mega-blitz of prednisone. Coming down off that stuff took about 5 nauseating days of smelling everything magnified and very little of it was pleasant. I remember passing a couple of ladies in my favorite grocery store on North Main and their flowery perfume almost gave me nose rickets!

Have you ever noticed how some kids often complain about certain smells being too strong? We dismiss it, but what they are trying to tell us is they have magnified smelling ability and we don't recognize it. To me, it would be a curse to be able to smell 100 times what I currently can. Imagine your neighbor coming in from work and you pick up on every odor they've been exposed to for the last 12 hours.  Pee-you!

I knew a lady who was in a car wreck and after that, she lost all sense of smell. Food lost its appeal and she ate rice with the same amount of enthusiasm that she did spicy Mexican food. Another curse! If this happened to Charlie Farrar, his love of super hot chow-chow would be gone and he would lose something precious and be boring.

Hawaiian surf!  That was the name of the (cheap) cologne I bought when I was a senior in high school (yes, I bought it with money I earned working). Man, I thought I smelled like something a female couldn't resist and then the Air Force sent me to Montana and the Great Plains where there was purportedly a woman behind every tree. I never had a chance to prove it's worth. No trees and no women. Of course at 18, I was as clumsy around the fairer sex as I am now, so maybe I really needed that cologne. It's too late, they discontinued it just like the Hollywood candy bars I loved so much.

I worked a couple of years in a restaurant ran by a Greek and he told me that burnt food spells catastrophe in a restaurant. "If it ever happens, scrape the grill, throw butter and onions on it and within minutes, people's mouth will be watering."

Geeze, I don't ever want to loose any of my senses and it does look like my hearing is taking a hit, but to lose my sense of smell would be tragic. I remember being around cows as a kid and not realizing cow manure had an offensive odor to many people. It just smelled like grass and cows to me. To tell the truth, I kind of like it.

I heard that savvy real estate agents will bake cookies in the house they are showing and folks immediately want that house. Well, it sounds like a good idea to me, because I like cookies and have been known to eat a wide variety when given the chance. Throw in a cup of black coffee and I'll sign the papers.

Each of us have a signature smell or odor if you will. If you don't believe it, ask your dog. Many of us mask it with unnecessary deodorant, but it is a very subtle part of our identity and one that each of us with a partner unwittingly enjoy. That is the one smell that is the most precious to me and the one I never want to lose.

Thursday, July 06, 2017

"You ain't seen nothin' yet"



I've been duped! At least I think I may have been. Time will tell the full story. Mind you, I don't like anyone pulling the wool over my eyes, but when you are raised to believe one thing and then discover "it ain't quite like that" is suddenly revealed, it isn't mildly funny. Yes, I'm talking about turning or making 65 years of age. Racing to get to retirement is not all its cracked up to be. There. I said it.

Turning 65 has suddenly been a wake-up call where all I have to talk about is my aches and pains, my meds, the grocery deals, and yes, my bowel movements. My first indication that I had hit this mile marker was people quit asking me "How're ya doin' there big fella?"  Now they wave and mention the weather, which I've also become quite a sage on the subject.  "Back in the 70's..." I begin and they immediately get a text or a phone call and holding their communication device up to signal it's priority over actual face to face interaction, step off for a moment that eventually leads them away.

I talk to people in elevators and the grocery story, often grabbing at their arm when they fake how precious their time is. Never mind that we are strangers. What's more important than people? Any interaction with my fellow humans in now important and I have a witty anecdote to share and by golly, they should slow down to savor it.

"You ain't seen nothin' yet," half joked the old Korean War veteran who I met at the VA. Recently, I had CT scan to rule out other more significant problems so I could continue pain management via acupuncture for my neck issues. The good news is I do not have a tumor, but I have cranial calcification, which I immediately knew better as "bone head" caused by aging. So it appears, my narrow range of topics is a direct result of said calcium deposits.

I was afraid it would reveal the dreaded "dirty mind" deposits that go with being an elder male of the human species, but I guess they didn't run that test. Other men my age have explained to me that being a dirty old man is as common as litter and is fully excusable due to the fact that most of us are or will become inert and harmless and that is quickly recognized by intended targets of our risk-free witty banter.

I see this performance at the gym in the mornings when other "old goats" are drawn to the female gender to spread friendly double-entendre.  Before I turned 65, I would explain to my bride that "they really like women" and that's why they always come over grinning. The other day I was tempted to engage in this social behavior. Drat! At least I wasn't drooling. Not yet any way. The dang truth is, I am 65 and not 35 and I can't do a lot of the things that I did when I was younger. 2017 has been mean to me physically.

I was talking to Barbora Cole the other day and when I got on this subject (which is my new staple conversation), she laughed and explained how it was only going to get worse. Her husband Leo nodded in agreement. Yikes! I'm trapped. I was at their house repairing their computer and I swear, my first thought after I left was what was on sale at Aldi's and that I had to pick up a prescription at CVS.

I've done pretty well on getting away from the pain in my "nasty neck" and sure as the world, I semi-twist my back.  You know what I'm talking about.  It's that pain you get when you turn wrong, or step in a hole. I did it innocently enough by changing a flat tire on my Jeep. Never mind that the huge tire and wheel weigh 80 pounds. I was trying to stab the wheel on the carrier on the back while feeding the 3rd brake light cable through the middle of the wheel.

Of course it slipped a bit and I jerked to catch it and ouch! When all this stuff started with my neck on March 21st, I was on a single blood pressure med. Now I have 8 meds and 2 topical analgesics. "You ain't seen nothin' yet" comes to mind.

Our VA is a wonderful place in my experience, but the other day my doctor looked at my chart and declared, "Well, you get 2 shots today!"  I chuckled and asked what it was for and why.  "You are now 65, so you get a tetanus and pneumonia shot." Zap, I got em and 5 days later my arms are still sore. I guess I need to go get a walker from the prosthetics department, as at this accelerated pace, I'll most likely need it soon.

Here is the real skinny on all this aging business. It is inevitable and not entirely avoidable. I have to be smarter and admit to myself that I must back off some activities. Larry Houston told me he never gets hurt changing a tire because he calls AAA and I think he's right. I know he's right. I just don't know how to stop being 35.
 

Thursday, June 29, 2017

It's never too late to change

At the gym named after the clock, I got off my stationary bike and walked briskly to the front to see if I could locate more 2.5 pound hand-weights. I wasn't instructing this particular class, but we instructors often work together to help members achieve their fitness goals and we suddenly had more people arrive than we had weights.

I found a few in the stretching area and came back and at the door was a man watching the class. He appeared to be maybe 10 years older than me. I asked him to come and join us, as we had at least one bike left. "Oh, no, I think this is beyond my ability. I think I'll just stick to the recumbent bikes out on the main floor."

We exchanged a few more words where I explained that it is never too late to give it a go and that seeing the class is quite strenuous, he could come in and give it 10 minutes sometime. Well, it turns out he was 80 years old. Now he looked dang good for 80. In fact, he looked good for 75, but he was right. It was too much for him... at that time.

90% of people who venture into what we call a Group-X class is not prepared for what happens in the next hour. I know I wasn't when I first began and I thought I was in good shape. I took my first Spin class (stationary bike) about 3 years ago and this was after hitting the treadmill and elliptical machines 5 times a week. I figuratively crashed and burned every class for the first 6 months.

Now let me clarify this, because it sounds like the class is too demanding. The class is as hard as you make it. Being a competitive person, I felt like if I couldn't do every little bit that the instructor asked, I failed. When they said "give the resistance knob half a turn", I did. Every single time and usually 20 minutes into the hour, I looked at the clock and prayed for it to get moving. It took me 6 months of 2 times a week before I could "hang" and that is when I realized how much I loved spinning. Never mind that 80% of the people around me were half my age.

Spinning is the ultimate cardio Group X class, but you don't have to do the full 60 minutes wide open to benefit from it. You do not have to spend months preparing to make that first visit either, but using the treadmill and elliptical machines prior to attempting your first class will give you a measure of your fitness and boost our confidence.

Make no mistake, walking through those glass doors the first time is dadgum intimidating, but if you have an instructor worth their salt, they will welcome you inside and get you set up on a bike. This is crucial because if the bike is not adjusted for your body, you will either work yourself to death, or possibly get hurt. After I've helped a person get the adjustments just right, I always ask them to take a photo of the settings, "So the next time you come in and adjust the seat, you will look like a pro."
 
I took my first Zumba class last Saturday at a Group X Instructor event in Midtown and for 45 minutes, I did something that only slightly resembled Zumba - but I did it and was pretty danged proud of myself.  I'm not a dancer.  I'm a linear karate guy. This makes me look like a robot or an Egyptian when I try to do circular movements, like Salsa or Rumba. The good part is everyone in the room was an instructor of some discipline and all of us who aren't dancers looked like spastics. It was a blast and I laughed the whole class.

Since my neck became a medical problem, I've had to stop lifting weights for the most part and seeing I do not need weight lifting for my lower half, I decided to try Zumba for more cardio, flexibility, and just plain exercise. Now here is the intimidation factor I talked about and even though I instruct in this Group X environment, walking into a Zumba class to participate brings a certain amount of anxiety, even for me.

Now add in the fact that it is basically an all-female class, and this bumps it up considerably. Well, at my home gym, I know many of the ladies and they were happy to have me embarrass myself, so I went this past Monday and took a full hour with Emily Haynie at command. Wow!  I sweated a lot and like I realized last Saturday, it is all about the feet and having fun.

Is it too late in life to take something like this on you ask (and you stand staring at yourself in the mirror).  The answer is no.  It is not. The first step and the hardest part is walking into that gym and inside the gym are many doors.  You simple walk through them one at a time.
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Thursday, June 22, 2017

Withering Weather Wilts Writhing Woman



I was making chit chat with a customer at my favorite grocery store on North Main the other day and of course, the weather was casually mentioned by me. We both agreed it was hot and summer had arrived. The lady suffered from DVM - defective voice modulation and was talking real loud and I didn't realize she could be heard at the far end of the aisle. She was also hard of hearing and repeated the word "humidity" a number of times. She walked away and I proceeded to shop.

We were in the cold food section and when I first spotted HER, she was neck deep in the burrito case and as I perused the various frigid delicacies, I couldn't help but notice she remained frozen in place. I pretended to take an interest in the plethora of fish stick options as I obliquely observed her. Her dress was rather large and loose-fitting and she was wearing those old school thick brown nylons and heavy boots.

I couldn't stick around too long, or she might suspect I was doing something nefarious. I imagine a woman dressed like she was, suspects she attracts a certain amount of lewd glances. As if a premonition took her, she jerked her head out and facing me, gave me an icy glare. Now normally, I would have looked away and shuffled past, but as she pulled her head out of the frosty case, she had a package of frozen taquitos stuck to her forehead.

Being a responsible Baytonian and a past State certified emergency care attendant, I did the only thing I knew to do and that is laugh. Well as the frosty package fell away from her head, she deftly snatched it mid-air and like Otis Thorpe in his prime, she slammed it home with the other tasty treats.
 "You can have your humidity any day of the week," she said and pointed a bony ring-clad finger at me. I found it peculiar that the knuckle on my side of the ring was at least twice as big as the jewelry.

Holy smokes, this lady was not a fan of humidity! Is anyone a fan of humidity? The more she talked, the more I envisioned the wicked witch of the west when Dorothy threw water on her. Mind you, the sweating woman looked nothing like the gorgeous Margaret Hamilton... this lady was blond and missing her front teeth. "My humidity?" was all I could muster. I am usually pretty quick on my feet and back in the day, when it came to fast responses, I could go all night like a lumberjack.
"Yea, your danged humidity! I plan to move somewhere that I won't be sweating like this and do it soon!" With that, she opened the case and snatched two 3-pound packages of beef and bean burritos and put one under each arm. This effectively not only repulsed me, because I like bean burritos, but drove home her point astoundingly well.

"Ma'am, with all due respect, I happen to have a keen interest in our weather and checked it on the Interweb (I used this phrase to gain advantage and most likely convince her that I was indeed educated - possibly past her own level of study) before I left home. The humidity is low today at 48% because the wind is coming out of the north." I had just about decided the woman was afflicted with that aging virus women get somewhere in their 40's and attempted to deftly maneuver past her.

I guess my grin was taken wrong and she stuck her brown size 12 brogan out and blocked my buggy. "So you say. My great uncle was a radio weatherman and he always got the weather right and it runs in our family!" She drove home her point by raising her voice an octave and 10 decibels. 

Well, I've never been one to turn down a sound argument and I explained to her that I spent 2 years in the tropics and "this is really not that bad!"
 
With that, she opened the chilled case and with skills Tony Romo would admire, she launched them 2 bean and tortilla-wrapped projectiles back with solidly impressive impact.  I could see it in her eyes. The lady was heat stoned! I looked around for a manager and indeed I saw 2, but both of them had been observing the heated exchange and they took off like they were on a water slide.

Now I have quite a bit of grappling experience, but this was clearly a case of fight or flight and the person in front of me was beginning to assume charge mode. When a person drops into a 3-point stance and places their knuckles on the floor, it is a sound bet, they plan to go for it.  I've seen hormone-imbalanced women get this same look and everyone knows how unpredictable and violent they get.

She lunged and I side-stepped and she went down and such was her launch at me, that she slid a good 10 feet before piling up in front of the frozen pizza cases.  The last thing I heard her yell as I zoomed my cart toward the check-out line was "I'm moving back to god's country... Channelview!"


Thursday, June 15, 2017

You get out what you put in



 My dad was a man of many talents, but conveying them was not his strong suit. I've written about this before that I learned more from him by accident than instruction. It wasn't because he didn't try. I just couldn't see it the way he presented it. I suppose it was the same way he and his dad interacted.

My son in law and I were sitting on the back patio the other day after my grandson's fourth birthday party and we were tying knots. Mike Sievers is an Eagle Scout and I was a Scout master of sorts, but never learned all the stuff he did to get to that level.

I was showing him a short-cut to tie a clove hitch and realized my dad taught it to me. It is a quick way to make the knot and only works if the rope can be slipped over the end of whatever you are tying. I first realized this was odd when I did it during a training session at the chemical plant where I was employed and the goal of training was to educate us fire fighter/rescue team members to use rope for rescue.

Some of these guys prided themselves on their knot knowledge and with all of us being alpha personalities, it was difficult to admit they had never seen it. There was precious little actual mentoring present. It was basically every person for themselves. Learn it or not - who cares?

I asked Mike about a knot he used earlier to tie off a tarp and he called it a fisherman's knot and demonstrated it. I said "huh," and then showed him the way (once again) my dad showed me to tie that knot.  He looked at it and admitted it was superior. We talked about various knots for a bit and then got off onto other subjects.

The thing about Mike and I is he knows a lot of stuff that I don't and in this environment we both learn from each other. It is my experience that there is precious little of this one on one sharing of knowledge going on. What we have substituted is electronic instruction. Want to learn something? Watch a YouTube video. If you get it, fine. If not, fine. You can fake it till you make it.

“Tell me and I forget, teach me and I may remember, involve me and I learn.”
― Benjamin Franklin  Old Ben once again comes through with the simplicity of sharing knowledge.

When a person decides to become a mentor, things don't always go the direction they hope and here is a humorous example. My grandson who just turned 4 and I were having a one-sided serious discussion about dinosaurs, as he was having that theme at his birthday party. He has two small dogs that he really hasn't connected with, so to attempt to raise his understanding, I began like this, "What if you could have two little animals like dinosaurs living in your house to play with? These type of animals have been around for millions of years. Would you like that?" He looked me in the eye and just as serious as he could be, he said... "6 dollars!" I haven't laughed that hard in a long time.

The key is connecting and this is the hard part.  I like this quote to explain it: “The mediocre teacher tells. The good teacher explains. The superior teacher demonstrates. The great teacher inspires.” William Arthur Ward

The last few years of my career in the Chemical Plant industry, I observed there was precious little mentoring. It was completely absent at the top and of course, trickled down to the bottom rung. No one appeared willing to give anyone a boost. I mainly worked with chemical engineers and watched the new engineers flounder and fail and all because none of the veterans were willing to throw them a lifeline. When I questioned my friends, they shrugged. "Sink or swim".

The reality is they didn't need a simple lifeline, they needed someone to tie off next to them and teach them how to fight off the sharks until they could float on their own. Is it because people don't care anymore, or they simply don't have time? There must be some logical reason the golden rule is ignored. Way back in 1977 when I hired on with ARCO, I heard young guys like myself complain "No one will show you anything because they don't want you to take their job." Some of that was true I guess, but pales in comparison to modern times.

William Arthur Ward would spin like one of them newfangled gizmos if he could see the absence of compassionate instruction in today's society. Many appear to have had no guidance whatsoever. We met a considerate person of maybe 25 years the other day and my bride commented that they must have been taught to be polite from childhood. It was obvious that they "got it" and in their day to day interaction with other living creatures, they proved it. Each one, reach one, teach one. Boy, I wish it were that simple.

Thursday, June 08, 2017

No news is good news



Boy howdy, watching or reading the news is a bummer. Can I say bummer and not sound like a 70's hippie? Bummer: A - used to express frustration or disappointment, typically sympathetically. B - a thing that is annoying or disappointing. Yea, the second definition describes my reaction to what is being reported.

I'm a news junkie and gather my information from a wide range of sources, hopefully steering away from the wide right or left reports. The reason for this is I don't trust them to report the news, but interpret and spin them and the reason they do this is because they believe I am too stupid to decipher what I hear and read.

Bummer.  I might not be a genius, but I think I can read facts and based on the validity of said facts, draw a fairly accurate conclusion. I'm not a "Trump said it, so it must be right," or "Whatever Bernie likes, I like," kind of voter.

As a voter and a blue collar American worker, I found enough evidence in the last 8 years of Obama's administration to believe we did not share the same vision of where my tax dollars should have been spent. At no time did I feel like doing something violent. I just voted and wrote the politicians I felt would hear me.

When I saw a Obama sticker on a shirt or hat, I just walked past it or them and figured they were for his policies. During the last election, I saw precious few Trump bumper stickers and I did the math and surmised they didn't want their car keyed. Please explain to me that I got that wrong and that the Liberal party is truly tolerant of anyone who doesn't believe what they do and embrace, cause I ain't seen it.

There is so much finger-pointing and hatred in the news right now that it is confusing and painful to watch. I've decided its more fun to simply talk to strangers I meet and talk about the weather, traffic, or their pets. I was at Home Depot the other day and one of the employees looked at the sky and announced his next job was going to be a weatherman.  "I don't ever have to be right and I get paid like I am," he said and we laughed. I have no idea what he thinks about global warming or the Paris agreement or who he voted for. It didn't matter.

We chatted a few minutes like old friends. To be honest, I would rather talk to an interesting person, like a Rastafarian veteran vegetarian veterinarian, than argue with dogmatic people over their brand of politics. At least that hairy Vet person could talk with authority on a number of subjects and be believable.
Stock photo, but this is an example of how strangers can interact without arguing.
An hour later in the pet aisle of my favorite supermarket, a lady and I shared humorous tales of our dogs. It was a pleasant distraction from the bombardment of negative news I had earlier subjected myself to. Amazingly, the question of Donald Trump's tax returns were not discussed. Surprisingly, heavy relevant news, like Kathy Griffin and Ariana Grande baggy blue jeans never came up.

I helped a newbie at the gym get her spin bike set up before class and then we talked about fitness goals and not once did either of us suggest Vladimir Putin got the upper hand over Megyn Kelly in the must watch interview that lasted maybe 5 minutes or if the current President would stifle James Comey's testimony. I found this remarkable, because according to the press, these are things everyone is discussing.

Most of us are more worried about the price of avocados than most of these nail-biting world events that we can't do a thing to change. At least with the avocados, we can stop buying them and force the price down.

These world events that are pumped into our homes and computer screens give us a feeling of helplessness. If all the people in charge can't see mutual solutions, what chance do we have to make a difference? I am continually perplexed that the surrounding cradle of civilization is in constant war, turmoil, discontent, and various levels of destruction. Isn't this the oldest civilization on earth? They are killing each other and fomenting violence all around the world, even as I write this. You would think that after thousands of years, they would be an example of advanced civilization, right? Instead, many of them still live in dirt homes. Dirt homes mind you.

I would rather talk about my dogs, thank you.

Thursday, June 01, 2017

Why is illegal entry into this country an issue?



Let me start off with a bold logical statement. If you as a voting US citizen feel so strongly about allowing illegal entry into this country, show it to everyone by letting a bunch of them live in your house and subsidize them with your own money. Of course, this is also illegal, but ponder it just the same. I would appreciate your taxes funding them over my own.

In this scenario, it is okay to let them work outside your property for profit, but also in this scenario, you don't see a dime of the money they make. Being the generous and sympathetic soul that you are, you furnish everything for a husband and wife and a year later, you suddenly realize they have moved 8 other "relatives" into your house and 3 of the women are pregnant, which by law, you will adopt.

You of course will pay their medical expenses, diaper bills, education and everything else associated with having 10 people under your roof besides your family. You feel so strongly about their right to be here that you literally bankrupt your resources and make a trip to Austin to lobby for them to stay.

Now the question we've all been waiting to hear answered. How in God's name is this even a scenario anyone would agree to?

Months pass and many of the 28 people now living under your roof are good and hard-working people, who show how good they are by sending 90% of their earnings home to wherever their home country is. Their family's deserve to benefit from their hard work in the US, right? On top of that, because you have so much, you deserve to foot the bill. I mean, after all, nothing is more garish and vulgar than American privilege. You are rich and when it comes right down to it, you should literally be forced to share.

We can each save the world, one undocumented human at a time no matter the cost or our current set of laws!

Why can't other US citizens just understand that our hard-earned standard of living should be shared with the less fortunate? All the fat kids in America speak volumes of nutrition abuse to the hungry kid living elsewhere. Take from us obese US citizens and give it to that kid who simply cannot afford to eat at the Lone Steak Outhouse cafe every day. Because if we don't, they will be forced to consume the local food that has successfully sustained their ancestors for thousands of years.

I could cite instance after instance and lengthy articles explaining how allowing illegal entry into this country is both good and bad and people are so passionate about it that they are ready to kill each other over the issue, but forget all that. Seriously, forget about it!

Let's simply draw a line in the dirt right now. Let's change the immigration laws to allow anyone sympathetic to allowing illegals into this country (read undocumented citizens - forget the workers part) to let them move as many people into their house(s) as they can initially financially support. They must sign a binding contract to cover their food, transportation, medical bills, insurance (because everyone has to have insurance for god's sake), utilities usage, and all associated taxes with living in this country.

They must also sign a binding contract that if at any time they cannot fulfill this, they will face a non-negotiable 5 year jail visit per person. If the person they are funding commits a felony, they will share in the punishment. Also, the people they are funding will not be liable to pay back anything they receive from their sponsor and can send 90% of it home. This will allow their distant families to enjoy the same standard of living as their sponsor once did before being so financially burdened that they are in ruin.

To make it fair to the sponsor, each contract would expire after 5 years and must be renewed or the sponsored inhabitants will be deported at your expense.

I think it's a wonderful plan of compromise and I cannot for the life of me see how anyone sympathetic to the plight of illegals could find it offensive or - God forbid...racist!

Thursday, May 25, 2017

We don't know our left from our right.



I got my first real lesson on what being out of step means when I in was in Basic Military Training at Lackland Air Force Base, in San Antonio Texas. It was so obvious, a cave catfish could see it. I had many lessons prior to this, but marching drove home the point and further on, I'll explain.

When I am warming up a spin class I like to say. "Right arm out!' and then demonstrate it. I hold out my left arm and pull it across my chest and take my right hand and place it behind my elbow and stretch my arm. After ten seconds, I say, "Now your other right arm!" and perform the opposite exercise. The reason I do the opposite is I am facing them and I am a mirror image of what I want. The reason I say "the other right arm" is because no matter which arm you tell people, some of them will do the wrong arm.

One of my brothers would always take a turn to the opposite direction when we were driving someplace as a group. Because of this, we learned to point where he should turn, rather than speak "take a right at the next street." The reason for this is he is ambidextrous and right and left made less sense to him than most other people. When we played sandlot baseball, he was always the one that got the right-hand mitt if there was a spare glove and he throws and catches just as well with either hand.

Have you ever stopped and asked for directions and this well-intentioned person is the last individual on earth you should have queried?  "Yea, go down yonder and take three rights, a left after the curve, then two lefts, and blah, blah blah?"  Marco Polo would have become lost after listening to that fellow.

In BMT - Basic Military Training, we marched and marched and then we marched. When everyone was in step, magic took place. We moved as a unit and with each sharp step you heard the heel of one giant combat boot strike the ground with a precision you learned to love. It is music and the view is harmonious, as each head in front of you sways to the left and right until... What in tha?

Your head is going the opposite way of everyone else's? Is this a good thing under these circumstances? I would think not and I understand the various arguments about being your own person and sticking to what you believe is right, but sometimes, walking in agreement is the simple and best answer.

As a country, we have lost sight of this philosophy. Remember the old adage, united we stand, divided we fall? How about a biblical reference of, "... if a house be divided against itself, that house cannot stand"? We have went so far to the right or left that people are sticking their fingers in their ears and yelling, "La la la la!" rather than trying to find common ground. Geeze, folks, isn't common ground life, liberty, and the right to choose which App you load to your smartphone?
Is there anything we can agree on anymore without fighting, shooting the finger, and yelling the F word? People have become so passionate that they've forgotten that true happiness and peace comes from the simple things like a soft conversation with the one you love, or a sunset, or sitting around a campfire and adding a new log.

As a nation representing freedom, we have become a concern to our neighboring countries who fear we are ripping ourselves apart and I am with them on this. When a person is afraid to publicly admit who they voted for because they think someone will become violent, we have lost something as a nation. Sure, fisticuffs have went on for decades, but then again, you didn't get ran over by a car after they followed you for four miles either.

Lee College's professor Susan Cummings and I have debated social issues and politics for about 15 years and rarely have we agreed on anything, but you know what?  I like the lady and on many other issues we have chatted like old buddies.  Years ago, she made the statement that we have agreed to disagree and it is the truth. I would rush across the street to help her out of a bind if she needed me and this is how things are supposed to work in this country. We as a nation have lost more than we have gained by bickering and trash-talking each other and it is reaching a very destructive point where we will have to decide if we can actually walk in step or divide.

Debating has turned an ugly course where a brick in hand is needed as punctuation. In my mind, Ted Kaczynski was right in so many ways, but his methods were criminal.  Raise the red flag if you feel like something is wrong and pray for change, but don't become violent and destructive as a means to accomplish your goals. "Then join in hand, brave Americans all— By uniting we stand, by dividing we fall!" John Dickinson's "Liberty Song" published 18 July 1768, in the Boston Gazette.
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I'm not distracted, I just can't remember.

Our country has been clobbered with a pandemic and it's not caused by mosquitoes, terrorists, or a childish Asian communist with ...