Friday, October 30, 2009

Quiz Question From Goodreads

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Book Review: Highest Duty

Highest Duty

I was very much impressed with Chesley "Sully" Sullenberger when I first heard of the tragedy he and the rest of his crew averted back in January.

After reading this book, I'm even more impressed with him. Not just a recounting of the Flight 1549 incident, this book is a biography that highlights the many experiences in his life that served as preparation for the role he played on January 15, 2009.

His book was motivational and inspirational without being preachy or religious. It was quite obvious that Captain Sullenberger has great compassion for humanity in general, as well as being a thoroughgoing professional. And, though he'd not apply the word to himself, a true hero in a time when Americans are in need of genuine heroes.

I give this book five stars.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

What Do You Think I Fought For on Omaha Beach?

The following is a transcript of a WWII veteran speaking out for marriage equality in Maine. I think this man's words speak eloquently enough for themselves, so I'll not add any comments of my own, except to ask for your thoughts after reading this:

Good morning, committee. My name is Phillip Spooner and I live Biddeford. I am 86 years old, a lifetime Republican, and an active VFW chaplain. I still serve three hospitals and two nursing homes, and I also served meals on wheels for 20 years. My wife of 54 years, Jenny, died in 1997. Together we had four children, including one gay son. All four of our boys were in the service.

I was born on a potato farm north of Caribou and Perham, where I was raised to believe that all men are created equal, and I’ve never forgotten that. I served in the US Army 1942-1945 in the First Army as a medic and an ambulance driver. I worked with every outfit over there including Patton’s Third Army. I saw action in all five major battles in Europe including the Battle of the Bulge. My unit was awarded Presidential Citations for transporting more patients with fewer accidents than any other ambulance unit in Europe, and I was in the liberation of Paris. After the war, I carried POWs back from Poland, Hungary, and Yugoslavia, and also hauled hundreds of injured Germans back to Germany.

I’m here today because of a conversation I had last year when I was voting. A woman at my polling place asked me, “Do you believe in equality for gay and lesbian people?”

I was pretty surprised to be asked a question like that; it made no sense to me.

Finally I asked her, “What do you think I fought for at Omaha Beach?”

I have seen so much blood and guts, so much suffering, so much sacrifice. For what? For freedom and equality. These are the values that make America a great nation, one worth dying for.

I give talks to eighth grade teachers about World War II, and I don’t tell them about the horror. Maybe I have to invite them to the ovens at Buchenwald and Dachau. I’ve seen with my own eyes the consequences of caste systems, and it makes some people less than others, or second class.

Never again. We must have equal rights for everyone; it’s what this country was started for. It takes all kinds of people to make a world. It doesn’t make sense that some people who love each other can marry and others can’t, just because of who they are. This is what we fought for in World War II, that idea that we can be different and still be equal.

My wife and I did not raise four sons with the idea that three of them would have a certain set of rights, but our gay child would be left out. We raised them all to be hard-working, proud, and loyal Americans, and they all did good.

I think if two adults who love each other want to get married, they should be able to. Everybody’s supposed to be equal in this country. Let gay people have the right to marry.

Thank you.

View his YouTube video at What Do You Think I Fought For At Omaha Beach?

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Buzz Words

I've noticed that our society gets hung up on trendy buzzwords, which are used to death for a period of time, then slowly disappear only to be replaced by the latest buzz word du jour.

When a word or a phrase is hot, one will encounter it everywhere: in want ads, names of businesses, product names, hear it on TV, and so on.

One of the more recent trendy buzz word seems to be "solutions". As if everything in life is to be viewed as a problem that one must find a "solution" for.

I've seen an employment agency listed in the want ads called "Staffing Solutions". I've also encountered, "Hair Solutions", "Breakfast Solutions", "Landscape Solutions", and the like.

Entering "solutions" at the Yahoo search engine brought up, among many others:

Ecommerce Solutions

Network Solutions

Privacy Solutions

Solutions for Your Home

Google Business Solutions

Climate Solutions

And so on, ad nauseum.

I remember back in the early 80s, one of the buzz words then was "interface". I'd see this word constantly in want ads, as in "Must interface well with others". Mercifully, this trend did not last long, and we no longer see "interface" used as a synonym for "get along with".

I imagine that "solutions" will have an equally short lifespan of trendiness, when it will be inevitably replaced by the latest inane banality.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Malpractice Insurance and Health Care Reform

Last night I was listening to the radio and came upon yet another right wing talk show. I didn't recognize the woman's voice; all I knew was that it wasn't Ann Coulter, as I've heard her voice, ad nauseum, on several different shows, on both radio and TV.

This unknown woman had the unpleasant quality of sounding both indignant and nervous at the same time. She sounded quite like she'd consumed an entire pot of coffee singlehandedly just before the broadcast. You know the sound: voice slightly raised in pitch, a haughy, prim tone, with a hint of a nervous tremor in her voice. Her voice almost hummed as she engaged in an inner battle as to what emotion would win: (self)righteous indignation or nervousness.

Though her voice was grating, I had to listen until she revealed her identity, as I wanted to hear the name of the woman who almost made Neal Boortz seem reasonable.

It was Monica Crowley, who, oddly enough, is the sister-in-law of Alan Colmes, the liberal half of Hannity and Colmes.

Anyway, enough background for now; let me get to the point of this post.

When I tuned in, Crowley was in mid-rant about health care reform. The thrust of her argument was that the Democrats are "lying through their teeth" about how much health care reform will actually cost. She mentioned tort reform. citing that malpractice insurance that doctors must carry was one of the biggest offenders in the cost of health care.

All right, I'll grant that this is no doubt a factor affecting the cost of health care in this country, but she completely lost me when she continued her argument.

She went on to say that the Democrats are against malpractice law reform simply because a large number of trial lawyers supported the Democrats in the last election and for no other reason. Paranoid, much?

If I thought I'd get a fair chance to air my opinion, I'd have called and asked her, "If malpractice laws are abolished, what do you propose be done to protect patients who are the victims of genuine malpractice and gross medical negligence?"

Naturally, she did not address this concern on her show and I'd guess that she really doesn't much care.


Saturday, October 17, 2009

You Can Never Be Too Rich or Too Thin?

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Says who? This has got to be one of the most disgusting pictures I've ever seen in my life. And, as far as I'm concerned, the one on the left is also too thin, though not as shockingly so as the living skeleton on the right, who probably has died by now.

For all you women carrying a few "extra" pounds out there, instead of taping a "fat" picture of yourself on the refrigerator as motivation to diet, tape this one to your fridge, instead, to remind yourself to practice moderation and that true self esteem must come from within.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Living at Home?

The other day, another blogger made a comment on her blog about "living at home". I knew what she meant -- "living with your parents" -- but I decided to play the devil's advocate and feign ignorance. I made a bit of a snarky comment saying that everyone lived at home and I'd not seen people living at the library or the bus station. I wrote this to see what she or another reader might say in response.

The reason for that was that I've never said, "living at home" in reference to living with parents. When I turned eighteen, I was eager to move out to go to college and start my adult life. I'd go visit my father on major holiday breaks from school, such as Christmas and Easter, but I'd stay in my off-campus apartment over the summers.

I never referred to these visits as going home for Christmas, but rather "going to my Dad's for Christmas". Well, I have to admit that one big reason for that was that my father had moved to a different state during my freshman year of college and I'd never lived in his new house, so it wasn't "home" for me.

A few years later, after my brief misadventure of a marriage, I moved in with my father until I got back onto my feet, mainly for my son's sake. I never once referred to this move as "moving back home", for the same reason mentioned above, but more importantly for the fact that I was an adult now and "home" was no longer synonymous with where my father made his home, but wherever I chose to make it. Amazingly enough, I've even heard people who are the age I am now refer to moving in with a parent after a divorce as "moving back home"!

Nowadays, if I considered "home" as being where my parents are, I'd have to go pitch a tent at the cemetery.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Is This 2009 or 1909?

Most people by now have heard of the justice of the peace in Louisiana who recently refused to marry an interracial couple. When I first heard the news, it boggled my mind, as I could not imagine such a thing happening anywhere in the United States in 2009. I'm not at all surprised that such racism still exists now, but it was a shock to see such an overt expression of it. One would think that he would be well aware of the Supreme Court decision of 1967 which made interracial marriage legal in all fifty states.

The judge, Keith Bardwell, said, "I don't do interracial marriages because I don't want to put children in a situation they didn't bring on themselves. In my heart, I feel the children will later suffer." Yeah, they might grow up to be, oh, President of the United States or something.

He added that he came to the conclusion that most of black society does not readily accept offspring of such relationships, and neither does white society,that most interracial marriages do not last long. Bardwell is also of the opinion that

My disgust for his racist attitudes aside, what business of his is it to speculate on how long any individual marriage will last, regardless of race or any other characteristics, or to predict how any children born of that union will fare? He's a justice of the peace, not a social critic or a psychiatrist/psychologist, and it's his job to conduct marriage ceremonies for anyone who requests it who meet the legal requirements, regardless of his personal opinions. If he will not perform a legal function of his office, then he needs to find another line of work.


Saturday, October 10, 2009

Morning Morality

Many people, especially those of a generation older than me, believe that there is something moral about getting up early every day, even if there is nothing that must be done at a specific early hour.

I had an aunt, even after she retired, who continued to get up at 4:30 each morning, even though she had nowhere to go and nothing more to do than sit in a chair. A religious fundamentalist, she always felt that staying in bed past dawn was a sinful thing. She was the type who would call a third shift worker at 11 am and ask, “Are you still in bed?” My response to such a question would be, “How about I call you at 2 am and ask you the same thing!”

The idea of the rightness of starting the day early is one that runs throughout our society. School days, and the majority of work days start early in the morning, even though studies have shown that peak alertness and productivity tends to come in the afternoon. Even nursing homes roust their residents up at the crack of dawn, which I think is insane. It’s not as if any of these people have anything to do and I’m sure a few more hours of blissful dreaming would be welcomed by many nursing home residents.

A corollary to the “early to rise” mentality is that one should always be doing something productive during their waking hours. Just relaxing, slacking, or hanging out is an offensive idea to the “up and at ‘em” crowd. My response to this is “I’m a human BEING, not a human DOING.”

When I’ve got something that needs to be done, I get it done in a timely fashion, but I’m not anal about schedules. Nor do I feel the slightest amount of guilt about sleeping until my body is ready to wake, just slacking on the couch, and so on. I know that saying no to a frenetic, fast paced life is better for my health, as it lowers stress levels and blood pressure.

At one time, getting up early made sense. This was in the days before electricity and most labor saving devices, so people needed to get up early in order to have light to work by. Though we’ve had electricity for well over a hundred years now, many people still attach a moral significance to rising early, even though the logical reason for it no longer exists. The “early to bed, early to rise” ethic has fallen into the realm of “that’s the way we’ve always done it”.

The hour at which one rises has no moral significance whatsoever. It’s just a personal choice, no more, no less.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Thoughts on Obama and the Nobel Prize

I woke up this morning to find that President Obama has been awarded the Nobel Prize, which left me scratching my head.

Don't get me wrong, I voted for the guy and think he shows a lot of promise. But I think it's premature, to say the least, to award him such a prize so early in his administration. I am sure there are others who deserve it more at this particular point in time. I'd been under the impression that the prize was awarded on the basis of actual accomplishments, rather than on the hope of promise.

It's quite possible that in a few years, Obama would rightly deserve the prize on the basis of accomplishment, but awarding it now makes me wonder if he's being given the award mainly because he's not George Bush.

Nevertheless, it's going to be amusing watching the indignant reactions from the far right wingnuts, as they get their collective boxers/panties in a wad while they froth at the mouth.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

I Hate "Alot" A Lot

I haven't done a language rant in awhile, so here goes.

The offense of the day is:


This spelling abomination is used by people to mean "a lot". It's a mistake I didn't see years ago, even by people with generally atrocious spelling and grammar. It apparently is a fairly "new" mistake, that I'm seeing more and more. And what makes "alot" different from other language errors, is that I'm seeing it used more often by people who generally don't make frequent spelling and grammar mistakes.

I've often wondered why people in increasing numbers have started to run the two words "a lot" together. First, let's look at the definition of the phrase "a lot".

A lot

Very many, a large number; also, very much. For example, A lot of people think the economy is declining, or Sad movies always made her cry a lot. It is sometimes put as a whole lot for greater emphasis, as in I learned a whole lot in his class. It may also emphasize a comparative indication of amount, as in We need a whole lot more pizza to feed everyone, or Mary had a lot less nerve than I expected. [Colloquial; early 1800s]

The American Heritage® Dictionary of Idioms by Christine Ammer.
Copyright © 1997. Published by Houghton Mifflin

Is it that they don't understand what a word "lot" means? Here's a couple of definitions of the word "lot" that relate to the phrase "a lot":


a piece of land having the use specified by the attributive noun or adjective: a parking lot; a used-car lot.

a distinct portion or parcel of anything, as of merchandise: The furniture was to be auctioned off in 20 lots.

a number of things or persons collectively: There's one more, and that's the lot.

Often, lots. a great many or a great deal: a lot of books; lots of money.

I'm guessing that they're confusing "a lot" with the bona fide word, "allot", which is a verb that has an entirely different meaning from "a lot":


to divide or distribute by share or portion; distribute or parcel out; apportion: to allot the available farmland among the settlers.

to appropriate for a special purpose: to allot money for a park.

to assign as a portion; set apart; dedicate.

Personally, I think the rise of "alot" has quite a bit to do with the fact that increasingly fewer people read regularly, so they are spelling "by ear", rather than imitating what they've seen in print.

So ends the spelling lesson of the day.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Misguided Indignation

This morning while idly surfing the net, I read one woman's rant about the latest sexual brouhaha du jour; that of David Letterman being blackmailed over the many sexual dalliances he's had over the years with women he'd worked with. In complete indignation, she ripped Letterman up one side and down the other.

She reviled him for his inability to be monogamous; that he'd been repeatedly unfaithful to his partner of 23 years. Calling him a "creepy, perverted old man", she jeered at him for his apparent inability to "keep in in his pants". And then she wrapped up with hand-wringing about the increasingly so-called "dying breed" of men who remain absolutely sexually faithful to their female partners who, unlike Letterman, in her opinion, were "upright, righteous, strong, moral men with integrity".

I won't take the time to address all her points here, because that isn't the main point of this post, save to say that infidelity wasn't something invented in the 1960s. People have been struggling to adhere to monogamy ever since it was imposed on us by religion countless generations ago.

What mainly struck me as absurd and short sighted about her post was the fact that the Letterman "sextortion" news has followed directly on the heels of the latest news about Roman Polanski's arrest.

If she wanted to vent her spleen on a "creepy, perverted old man", then she need not have looked any further than Polanski, who drugged and forcibly raped a 13 year old kid, then evaded justice for over thirty years. Polanski is the real deal when it comes to creepy, perverted old men and it's completely ludicrous to even attempt to put Letterman into the same category.

Unlike Polanski and his misguided defenders, (such as Whoopi Goldberg, who has said that Polanski did not commit "rape-rape", but "something else"), who have tried to minimize the seriousness of what he did, Letterman has stepped up to the plate like a man and openly admitted the dalliances without trying to explain them away. Unlike many other celebrity men who have been outed for adultery in recent years, was honest about his behavior.

Letterman was also involved with adult women in consensual encounters; hardly the crime of the century that will lead to the end of civilization as we know it. Polanski and his defenders, who somehow think he's special and not subject to the same laws as the rest of us, on the other hand, say something very sad about our society.