Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Sabre rattling

I grew up in a time when the world was drawn into one of two camps, either black or white. You were allied the United States or you were allied with the Soviet Union. My how times have changed. There are few communist regimes left in the world and the largest, China, really isn't a true communist nation any longer. Although still a highly controlled centralized state, they have discovered the successes of capitalism. And guess what; they don't want to jeopardize that new found success and wealth.

There isn't much left of the true communist states. Oh a few rogue countries in South America, Cuba and North Korea. But look at the state of their people. Their economies are completely reliant on others often with chronic food or other shortages. It has become apparent over time that the North Korean government is shaky at best and will do nearly anything to keep themselves propped up including starving their own people for yet another winter.

Those who continually propose, 'just talk to them and everything will be just fine', a blind peace-activist only position, don't understand how the real world works. You can talk to the bully down the street but when he doesn't want to talk any more or you make him feel inferior due to your intellect, the gloves come off. Any government (or person) who is in a weaker negotiating position can't argue from a point of strength. That's when talks break down.

North Korea won't sit down to talks because they have nothing to offer other than not shelling their neighbor. Give us want we want and we won't kill anyone. That's just not good enough any more. As I was formulating this ramble today I read an article concerning China's lack of influence with their ally. Even they can't strong-arm North Korea to start becoming a citizen of the world. It was suggested they could tolerate a unified Korea as long as U.S. troops were not on the ground.

The world isn't what it was in the fifties, sixties and seventies. Even communist China realizes communism doesn't work any more and it may be time to make the 'little bully' down the street put up or shut up. Wikileaks or not, you can't turn your back on your friends and allies no matter what you think of 'Uncle Sarkozy'.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Tis the season

Black Friday has now come and gone and the holiday season has officially begun. I for one am thankful it is over. The day is much over-hyped and just not worth the aggravation. With this day now passed I can look forward to enjoy the Christmas season. Yes, the Christmas season, not happy holidays mode. I for one say Merry Christmas to others, not some other neutered expression of the season.

That leads me to my ramble for today. I was speaking with an associate at work and he commented on a particular song playing over the store's speakers. He was surprised it was such a religious song. He was sure the company would only have non-ecumenical songs playing so not to offend anyone. I understood his reasoning as he is a rather bright young man then gave him some of my own home-schooled wisdom. Besides, who wants to go through this most joyous season if it is painted only 'beige'?

Although our government is prohibited by our founding fathers from establishing a national religion we are undoubtedly a Christian nation. That is not to say citizens can not worship how they please, but we generally follow the Christian fundamental principles. I have found most who protest Christmas trees and other symbols of the season on public lands are narrow-minded and can only see the world through their foggy focal prism. They are unable to see other points of view or are unable to rationalize them to their beliefs. Perhaps they are afraid their world will crumble if they must open their minds to others.

What makes this country great is the wealth of opinions present and the differing views that abound. Those who push for a religious symbol of the season to be allowed must then tolerate another's. I know of no other prominent religious symbols that spring up as things do in the Christmas season, but if one did during Ramadan or some other month-long celebration of faith it should be allowed to stand as well. Those who don't believe in a particular religious system must learn to tolerate it as others have done for the Christmas season.

If I say Merry Christmas and you have a snide remark about that holiday saying, don't look for me to apologize for my beliefs and say I'm sorry. That's a 'your' problem, not a 'my' problem.

Merry Christmas!

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Indiana Jones, where are you?

Every day this week My Beloved and I have paid a visit to the hospital. Her father is recovering from surgery and a fall. It has been touch and go but when you're eighty-four and break a hip, things aren't always smooth sailing.

I have wandered the corridors of this particular venue many times in the past twenty years for various family members. It isn't the closest but it is where I would prefer to be taken should anything arise. The building is older and has been expanded over the decades but the staff has always been excellent to my family.

That all being said, I can barely find my way around the place. Does anyone else have this issue? And it just isn't this hospital. Nearly every home of healing I have ever visited is like a hedgerow maze. Corridors twist and turn often with long stretches of hallway with no doors only to pop out into a lobby where you have five choices to go. I always seem to pick the wrong course when that happens. No matter how well signed these places are I become dubious when I walk the hallways.

Perhaps it is the medical field in general that has this issue. There are some doctor's offices I have been to that are just as confusing. Left, left, right and right again. It shouldn't take a map and a flashlight along with a GPS to get where you are going in an office no larger than my house. One of the tenets of architecture is to not only make a building functional and aesthetically pleasing but to make it practical to traverse. I suppose doctors and nurses get used to finding their way around but I'll bet the newbies get just as lost as the visitors. "I'm sorry nurse, I got lost on my way from radiology. What do you mean the patient died?"

Perhaps I will see if they have a map on-line the next time I visit. That and a compass could make the journey a little less confusing. And by the way, Pops is getting better. He's a tough old bird, like seven day old jerky.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

"See me, feel me-e-e-"

(Cultural note for MegaByte: that is from the "Tommy" album by The Who.)

If you thought the airport travel lines were a pain in the backside before, you ain't seen nothin' yet. Apparently, though, there are certain someones who do see everything a person has on offer, even if it is not being offered, all brought to you discourteously by the Federal Grab, Grope, Molest and Peek-a-Boo Agency, more formally known as the Transportation Security Administration (TSA).

Reports are flying in (pun intended) with regard to the so-called enhanced security procedures that are now in place in airports, unless you are a pilot, a politician with a security detail, or some other kind of Washington bigwig. It seems that the TSA people may be employing unconvicted molesters to do thorough "pat down" searches that are embarrassing, humiliating, and quite possibly unconstitutional (see 4th Amendment to the Constitution). All for refusing to go through a full body scanning device that can show in great detail every part of your body normally covered in public. It is akin to Superman using his x-ray vision to scope out everyone's anatomy.

Our political "betters" tell us that we must not profile people, as that is a form of racism or discrimination, so, therefore, nuns, 80-year old grandmothers, and 6-year old boys are being physically groped to see if they are concealing a bomb or other weapon before they board an airplane.

Don't want to be subject to a federal employee sticking his hand where the sun don't shine? Just walk through an image machine that can detect if you have been circumcised. Oh, but they cannot see a person's face, they say. Who cares about a person's face if you can get your jollies by looking at a woman's naked body or a man's or boy's package?

Rather than do something sensible like profiling or identity-checking for all passengers, such as the Israelis do, our government has decided all of us who fly should get to experience either having your body exposed to x-rays or having someone feel you up (and down).

It is too bad the election earlier this month did not displace the current president. It would be nice to have someone in DC say, Enough! No more enhanced "pat downs"!

It seems we will have to wait another two years before we can have a chance to put a stop to this nonsense. Even if the newly elected US House majority would pass a bill to ban these type of intrusions into our liberties, the Senate and president would never go along.

Unless THEY had to experience what we must endure! Then it would stop in a heartbeat!

Monday, November 15, 2010

The Wall

I had occasion yesterday to stop by the Traveling Viet Nam Memorial Wall exhibit that was at our local American Legion Post this past week.

This was built to a 3/5 scale of the original, the permanent Memorial in Washington, D.C. While I was there, I learned a few things about this exhibit. The one I visited was actually one of five that are traveling throughout the country. Each is slightly different, but all are modeled on the original. This particular Wall takes from 3 1/2 to 8 hours to assemble or disassemble and prepare for travel. The setup time varies because of the terrain on which it is displayed. A concrete surface, such as we had, is ideal, and leads to the shortest assembly time.

Each piece is numbered for assembly and breakdown, and has a designated spot on the 32-ft trailer for ease of packing. The Wall I saw was owned by a veteran's group from Florida.

Our local school district displayed a number of photographs and drawings from each school, and individual students contributed some of their efforts around the general military theme. There was also a display showing each of the young men from our county who had died in the Viet Nam War, complete with biographical details and a photograph of each soldier.

As I was making my way through the Wall viewing area, I was struck by the number of "Jrs" who were listed there. I thought, each of these families wanted to carry on the father's name, only to have it snuffed out while serving our country.

I also had several lines from the Statler Brothers' song "The Wall" run through my mind; most frequently was, "Oh Lord, could you tell him, he's more than a name on a wall?"

Viewing this exhibit was a moving and sobering experience for me. It gave me pause to think how fortunate I am that I did not have to go through what these brave young men did, and men and women like them still go through today.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Lost light

With the change in the season and our abrupt departure from daylight savings time we now begin the start of our hibernation for the winter months. I have never lived in southern states and therefore do not know if those residents suffer the same fates as we northerners. However, my personal changes have already begun.

There is something different about the change in this season. The colors are brighter and crisper and the sky is bluer. I suppose a scientist would likely explain it has to do with the angle of the sun. Perhaps. The light is not as harsh and the world just seems more vibrant and alive. Odd when you would think that all the plants are dieing. But with the shortening of the days we all begin a semi-hibernation. We all adjust to the cooler/colder temperatures with rituals. Some start in the kitchen with foods you wouldn't have in the summer. Big family meals with meat and potatoes wouldn't be regular fair on a summer's Sunday. It is internal. It is a warming we feel as we escape the rigors of the outside world and a cozy fire locked away from the cold nights.

We have returned to standard daylight time. I for one wish they would forget this process. What we gain in the morning we lose at night. We no longer live in a sun up to sun down world. The agrarian lifestyle has moved urban and we dwell in a virtual twenty-four hour world. I am though a creature of the light. Although there are times when the evening and night worlds hold my interest, nothing satisfies me more than a warm sun. It is harder in the winter to gain this satisfaction as the mid-western world is generally overcast and gray. Toward the end of winter I will take what few opportunities there are and sit in the sun in my den and let the light wash over me. It renews my spirit and to some extent my soul.

I do like the winter months. It is a time of great joy and festivals. It is Thanksgiving and the Christmas season, the start of a new year and an ending with Easter. I do not hate the snow as others do. I remember the fun times I had as a child and am looking forward to seeing how my grandson reacts to his first romp in the "white death" with his Paw-Paw.

As we hunker down for the end of the year, let it snow, let it snow, let it snow. And may Miss Texas enjoy her first down-home winter.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Well, duh

Time and technology marches on and no matter how much we may try to stick to the old ways, we become accustomed to the conveniences in everyday life.

I had a techno-challenge moment today. We were leaving to run some errands and meet with family for a fund raiser and were packing things into the car. I hit the trunk button on the remote and...nothing. Like everyone else, what do you do? You keep hitting the stupid button sure in your mind it will eventually work. Hey, the other buttons worked. At last I gave up and retrieved the second set of keys and the other remote. Same result.

Now I was beginning to get fuzzled. I opened the drivers door and hit the 'manual' button. Again, nothing. I hit it again, and again. Nothing. I was beginning to get worried. How are we going to load up?

Then, My Beloved hit on the solution. Uhm, you could put the key in the lock.


Thursday, November 4, 2010

Vox populi

Depending upon your point of view, Tuesday's election was either a Tidal Wave of Conservatism, a temper tantrum by the electorate, or a "who cares, they are all crooked" whoop-de-do.

If you chose to participate in the electoral process, Congratulations!

Regardless of whether "your side" won or lost, you did something that is a fundamental right for American adults. It is a privilege as well as a right to be able to do so. It may sound corny to some, but men and women have given their limbs and lives to enable you to vote for the candidate of your choosing.

Beloved Father worked for many years at the county Board of Elections, much of that time spent as a humble bookkeeper. While that may not sound exciting, over the years he did many things not directly related to his duties as the bookkeeper that helped to make the election process as smooth as possible. He worked behind the scenes, and it was not unknown for him to put in a 20-24 hour day, especially on primary election days.

He involved all of us at election time when we were of age, moving and delivering voting machines, tabulating results, and helping out with whatever was needed. We received payment, of course, but that was not the reason we did it. We helped him because he asked, and we could, such was our respect for him, and, by osmosis perhaps, we became ingrained with the notion that what we were doing was important; it mattered.

We were never preached to about voting and doing our duty as citizens; rather, it was expected by his (and Sainted Mother's example as well), that we would register, keep informed enough on the candidates and issues so as to make an educated choice, and vote. And then do it again when the next election time rolled around.

It was a lesson learned, one that I have been following for the 37 years it has been my privilege to be called a voter.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Fall of an American Icon

An era passed this week, one in which I was part of. Pontiac ceased to exist as a brand and a company. I grew up in the era of the muscle car. Pontiac started it all with the GTO and along came the next wave following after. It was a great time to have a fun car. But things change and what was fun then isn't fun now.

I read an article recently as to how the younger generations are not loyal to car brands. Back in my formative years there were really only the U.S. brands to choose from. Other than the VW bug there were not practical or affordable autos from other countries. Cars from companies such as Mercedes were (and still are for me) too expensive to afford. British cars couldn't be driven more than a month without a major repair and the offerings from Asian makers didn't hold up to the style and power of the American cars. Oh how times have changed.

Today's prime targets for automakers don't look at cars the same way I did, and to some extent still do. I use vehicles in the functional process such as just getting to work and hauling things to and fro. In years past the upgrades that were 'cool' were wheel covers, stereos and adding a tach to the dashboard. And if you really wanted to go on the edge you hooked up fog lights. Back then they weren't driving lights. I still own a twelve year old Isuzu that does what I need it to do. (And would look really cool with a set of fog lights).

As this blog should indicate, I understand the interconnected world. I try to move forward with it as best as I am able. But when does technology for technology's sake just not make sense. I have no interest in a car that 'syncs', parks itself or has a spot to drop in an iPod. Those extras have no value for me. These are the upgrades that appeal to the new generation of buyers, not a rambling fifty year old man. Sure, kids are likely cooler than I ever was.

It is a techie generation and it is the gadgets that the car buyers will flock to in the future. Our fathers purchased cars because their fathers purchased the same ones. Dear old uncle Herb would only own a Buick, I guess even if that same Buick fell apart as he drove down the highway. Todays buyers simply have more and better choices than we did growing up.

Still, I don't understand the appeal of the rice rockets that power away sounding like someone farting in a tin can. It just doesn't do it for me when I hear the deep rumble of a Mustang. I think I'll go to the parts store this week. I heard fog lights were on sale.