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Make a better life

And so…in keeping with the philosophy that Mother – with a capital ‘M’ of course – always knows best, I am pleased to inform you that I have now been on this earth for 82 years, three month, 19 days, seven hours, and 27 minutes, give or take a second or two here or there.

In all of that time, I have gained a little wisdom, lost a lot of knowledge, loved in many ways, made a number of very good choices as well as several that left something to be desired. I have learned that every time I wish to speak is exactly the time when I should keep my mouth closed and listen. I have learned that the person you love the most is, all too often, the person you will lose all too soon. Only then, after that person is gone, and I mean…is dead…only then will you realize precisely what you had held in your arms. And it hurts. No one can ever describe to you the pain of loss. Unfortunately, it is something that you will experience, and for that, I already feel badly for you. The pain of suffering that loss does lessen, but then, there will come times when the pain comes rushing back and you find yourself having to urge it back into its place in your heart and in your memory, and move on.

This is not, to use the old cliché, “life’s a bitch and then you die.” No, no, no, no, it is nothing like that. For one thing, the loss you suffered is the last thing that person would ever want for you. Every minute of every hour of every day is worth living and worth living to the greatest extent possible, no matter the memories or the pain of those memories. Maya Angelou wrote, “My mission in life is not merely to survive, but to thrive; and to do so with some passion, some compassion, some humor, and some style.” Amen to that.

To those of you who still have your parents, I would offer this bit of advice: Use them as a resource. Ask them the questions you think you or they will be too embarrassed to answer. Ask them anything. Ask about growing up. Ask about ugly Aunt Hilda they always whisper about. Ask, ask, and ask. My parents are long gone, and even today, there are questions that I have for them that I should have asked when I was younger. One of those questions is, “How did you guys make it through the Great Depression with two children under the age of five?” That may not seem like a very important question to you, but then, you weren’t a Depression-era kid. Your folks probably never stood in bread lines or had to seek work when there was no work to be found…anywhere. I remember a young woman from Hanover (MA) who borrowed by pocket tape recorder because she wanted to interview her elderly grandmother. It’s impossible to tell you the gratitude she showed after learning so much about grandma’s life. Older people are the raw jewels, polished to a fine finish, who can both enlighten, brighten, and increase the wisdom of the young merely by speaking a few words.

American actor, Bradley Whitford said, “Infuse your life with action. Don’t wait for it to happen. Make it happen. Make your own future. Make your own hope. Make your own love. And whatever your beliefs, honor your creator, not by passively waiting for grace to come down from upon high, but by doing what you can to make grace happen… yourself, right now, right down here on Earth.” You don’t have to accept every word, but accept this: To the best of our knowledge, we only pass this way once…that we know of. Why then would we want to do anything else but make it the very best ‘once’ that could ever be?

Kevyn Aucoin was an American make-up artist, photographer and author. In his forty short years on this earth, he lived every moment as if it was his last. His mantra was simple: “Today I choose life. Every morning when I wake up I can choose joy, happiness, negativity, pain… To feel the freedom that comes from being able to continue to make mistakes and choices – today I choose to feel life, not to deny my humanity but embrace it.” Aucoin died, officially, from a prescription drug overdose. His pain came because of an undiagnosed tumor, yet, he still embraced his life.

If every morning you get up and look in the bathroom mirror, be certain that you smile. That person looking back will carry that smile the entire day if you let it. Take it from an old man who has learned to love life, even through the pain of loss. Oh, yeah, one more thing…while you’re having a great time with your own life, try to make life better for someone else. You’ll make for yourself a better life by what you give rather than what you get.

Is a college education really worth the cost? Ha, you might as well ask, “Can tea leaves really predict my future?” As far as the answer to the question about college is concerned…yes…and no. A college diploma isn’t worth the powder to blow it to hell unless (a) you worked your ass off to earn it; (b) you recognized immediately upon entering the hallowed halls that every decision made by you would influence whether it was worth it; (c) you understood all of the advantages of gaining a college education; and (d) you were willing to put in the effort to gain that degree. Let’s face it, if you aren’t ready for college, it’s a friggin’ waste of money whoever may be footing the bill.

“You’ll make a million dollars more over your lifetime than someone with just a high school diploma,” has been said enough times to make me want to puke. It’s pure, unadulterated bullshit. Why? Because it’s just too broad a statement. If you are planning to attend a state school in your own state, you can figure on tuition, room, board, and fees at approximately $125,000 for your four years. If you attend a public institution outside of your own state, you’ll have to increase that cost to about $175,000 over the four year period. Want to go to a private college or university…good luck…you’re looking at well over $200,000…and that’s the low end of the scale. How long will it take you to make that money back and to begin to turn a profit? Sort of makes you stop and think a bit, doesn’t it?

Yet, despite all of this negativity, colleges and universities pour out thousands, perhaps, tens of thousands of newly-minted B.S., B.A., M.S., MA, MBA, and a whole pile of other initialed pieces of paper each and every year. President Calvin Coolidge said, “Nothing in this world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not: nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not: the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent.“ Therefore, if you are insistent that you are going to get a college education, you’d also better be persistent in your willingness to sacrifice yourself and persist as you move from level to level.

What does all of this mean? It means you’d better have a damned good reason about why you wish to attend college, what it is that you wish to study, where the best opportunities lie for you to gain the knowledge you need, and how it is going to help you reach the financial goals that you damn well better already have set for yourself. Wow, gee, golly, that makes the decision of whether you go to college or not a bit more difficult, doesn’t it? Most people don’t really talk about college that way, do they? Well, I’m not most people, and I’d hate like hell to see you piss away one hundred, two hundred or even more thousands of dollars just to get a piece of paper that does nothing for you if you haven’t paid your own dues. Remember, a degree is nothing more than a license to hunt for your dream…and too few of you will reach that dream because you really have no idea of what a college education really is.

I’m going to assume that a junior in high school is interested in attending college. Mother and Dad are college graduates. Mom worked until the kids came along, but decided to stay home after the third child was born. Dad must have a good job because you go to the Cape, the mountains, the lake, wherever for a week or two in the summer…or perhaps go skiing in the winter. There’s the stage, but what about this junior? What does he/she want to study in college? Has he or she talked to teachers or counselors in addition to talking with parents? A high school student I knew wanted to be a doctor…but passed out when he saw blood. Sorry, don’t think that’s gonna work for ya! Making a decision about what you want to do for the rest of your life is hard! I don’t care how mature others think you are, this is a really tough decision for a 16-or 17-year old to make. All of this makes the question of whether to go to college or not even more difficult.

Career decisions or not, college is a good choice for many people, not for all, but for many. There are many fields that require not only a baccalaureate degree, but further education and training, and even internships before one is ready to become a part of the field. If our junior wishes to become a doctor of some type, a lawyer, an engineer, pharmacist, minister, or any other profession that demands additional training beyond the typical 12-year education, then college is a necessity, and expense be damned. If our junior doesn’t have a clue but is going to college because Mom or Dan went there, they have great athletic teams, it’s where the person of the opposite sex in whom you have an interest is going [whew!], then forget it and get a job at Walmart or elsewhere, while you are making some money, growing up, a reaching a decision on how you will achieve the American Dream.

What everything comes down to is that being a college graduate does give one a leg up. Holding a degree, particularly from a prestigious institution, does crack open a few doors that would otherwise be closed. If our junior plays his or her cards right, he or she will achieve a couple of other benefits. Independent living “grows you up fast.” Residence hall living is a world apart from living at home, and exposes you to an entirely new group of people, customs, and cultures…some good, others, eh! But, you, our junior, will learn who and how to get along. You may or may not discover a BFF but you will mature. College teaches one how to learn, how to perform research, how to become a member of a team…or not. Finally, if our junior goes to college and has to work hard to get that degree, he or she is going to develop a feeling of “can-do-confidence” that will last for the rest of his or her life.

How do we believe?

How do we know that the earth was formed 4.6 billion years ago? Why couldn’t it have been 4.5 or 4.7 billion years ago, or even 5.2 billion years ago? Some argue that it was formed 4.54 billion years ago. I mean, how do we know these things? Oh, sure, scientists postulate and theorize and hypothesize and do their “by-guess-and-by-gory” thingie, but how do we really know? The answer then, is that we must take certain things on faith, right? I’m quite certain that if one were to use the word “faith” around many scientists that they would go into shock and drop dead immediately. “It’s facts man, not faith! Are you out of your mind…you bloody fool?” Or some shit like that anyway.

I sometimes think about these things when I’m trying to go back to sleep after one of my many excursions to the bathroom in the middle of the night. Often, these thoughts are very helpful in inducing blessed sleep’s return, and I don’t have much time to ponder. Other times, these thoughts actually serve as more of a stimulant than a sleep narcotic. For example, who even created the idea of time? If we say that the earth was formed…whenever…how do we put a measurement on that, and what is that unit of measurement anyway? In addition, why should we believe anyone who tells us when the earth was formed? What special powers of thought do they have that entitles them to give us data that we should just accept? Are we now back to this “faith” thing?

Man, in theory, evolved from a single-celled organism. But what gave that organism life. Biochemists and other researchers are certain yet uncertain of just exactly how life began. Well, that’s not quite true either, because “Using computer models and statistical methods, biochemist Douglas Theobald calculated the odds that all species from the three main groups, or “domains,” of life evolved from a common ancestor—versus, say, descending from several different life-forms or arising in their present form, Adam and Eve style. The domains are bacteria, bacteria-like microbes called Archaea, and eukaryotes, the group that includes plants and other multicellular species, such as humans. The “best competing multiple ancestry hypothesis” has one species giving rise to bacteria and one giving rise to Archaea and eukaryotes, said Theobald, a biochemist at Brandeis University.” Theobald’s study was published in 2010, and I really don’t know if anyone’s done anything more recent.

All of these questions and a little bit of research came about because of the word, “faith.” We’re supposed to have faith in what these ‘brilliant’ scientists tell us because they are, supposedly, much brighter than we are in their particular area of expertise. I accept that. I accept that because I have some faith in what they are doing. They might have a difficult time planning a graduation exercise, throwing a football 60 yards or even running a marathon, but when it comes to telling us how life began and how old the earth is, bingo, they have down to a science, so to speak…and we have to take that on faith.

What an interested word that word, “faith” is. Having complete confidence and trust in someone or something is the way it’s defined. As children, we have faith in almost everything our parents tell us, until, that is, we find that our parents can be wrong. Wow, how does that blow our faith out of the water…our parents…wrong? Lately, I find myself putting my faith in something or someone I can’t see, feel, touch, or even hear. You know the old expression, “Let go and let God…”? That’s what I’m trying to do with more and more of my life. Oops, this is where some folks get really turned off and stop reading, but that’s okay, because my life isn’t their life, and they’re free to do as they wish. Anyway, getting back to this whole God and faith thing, the way I figure it is that there has to be something beyond what we experience while we are here on earth – however old it is – because I don’t believe that when we die, it’s like turning off a light switch. I have absolutely no justification for saying this. I just have faith that there is something beyond life. I like to think of it as a “soul.” It’s something within one that goes on living after the whole death thing takes place. You may ask, “Without scientific evidence, how can you be so certain?” and it’s a damned good question. However, that brings us back to the word, “faith.” If we can have that faith that says man came from that single-cell and became what he is today, why can’t I say that I have a thing called a “soul” that doesn’t die when I do?

Perhaps I’m talking about the whole chicken and egg problem, but I believe that (a) there is a higher power that exercises some control of our lives; (b) that we are both natured and nurtured to be the way we are; (c) that death is not the final step in the evolutionary cycle; and (d) that this higher power recycles our souls in new life that may very well not be the life we knew before.

Our youngest child was born shortly after her paternal grandfather died. I distinctly remember my late wife saying to her one day, “Oh, I wish to could have known my father. You are so much like him.” Janet, who was only about five or six at the time, replied, “I met him on the way down. He was nice.” Factual or fictional? I don’t have a clue. Is it possible…or not? What does your faith tell you? Are the scientists right about the age of the earth? How about the single-celled organism? What about “faith?”

Our President-elect is now, formally, our President of these…, even though the transfer of power will not take place for about another month. Despite his nearly three million popular vote loss to Hillary Clinton, Trump says that his is a landslide victory…interesting, scary, but interesting. His “victory tour” of the United States once again highlighted his narcissistic tendencies, in that the way things are going would lead one to believe that he did the entire thing all by himself, even though, as he said, “The election was rigged.” Oh, wait a minute, that’s what he said before the election. I guess that means he was in close touch with James Comey and his buddy, Vlad, the Impaler.

What has really caused me some concern has been Trump’s choices for Cabinet positions. While I was somewhat irked by his choice of white supremacist, Steve Bannon. His “win at all costs” attitude is frightening and that’s being very mild about it. As the former head of Breitbart News, Bannon has not been above planting phony stories about ‘leftist’ Democrats and any others with whom he has a grievance. This is in keeping with the manner in which Mr. Trump tweets out half-truths and outright lies, as he did about the recent “swamping” of The Apprentice hosted by Arnold Schwarzenegger. He failed to mention that the show was up against some pretty stiff competition in bowl games, nor did he mention that people are probably so fed up with him that anything to which his name is even vaguely attached – he’s still listed as an executive producer – is a turnoff for the majority of Americans.

Naming Rex Tillerson to be the next Secretary of State is dangerous on at least two fronts. The first is that Tillerson has absolutely nothing to bring to the table. Granted, he has been at Exxon for 41 years and risen to the top of his company by effectively making deals which have given the company a notable position of achievement in the U.S. business world. I’m sorry, but the rest of the world (a) doesn’t give a damn about the manner in which U.S. companies are recognized on their own turf; (b) plays by an entirely different set of rules peculiar to their own country; and, (c) will be perfectly willing to lead this unwitting lamb to slaughter by deceit, lies, and unfulfillable promises. It’s just another example of letting one more of Mr. Trump’s millionaire buddies into the big boy’s playground.

Jeff Sessions is a wonderful choice for Attorney General. He’s been denied a federal judgeship because of his racist comments. He has twice voted against laws that would include sexual orientation as a hate crime, and he was a proponent of a Constitutional Amendment and would define marriage as being between one man and one woman. The Senate, in response to the outrage of the VA treatment of servicemen and women, voted on a bill to allocate resources for 26 new VA facilities in 18 states and $500 million to hire additional doctors and nurses. Sessions was one of only three senators to vote against the bill, citing excessive government spending as his reason. Sorry, Senator, that’s a wimp-out!

It seems to me that in any confirmation hearing any candidate can say anything that he or she wishes. Words are just that, words. Billionaire Tillerson, can ‘say’ that he has no greater interest in Russia than anyone else. He can ‘say’ whatever he has to say to be confirmed. The same is true of Jeff Sessions when it comes to his record on Civil Rights, Immigration, and LGBT issues. Betsy DeVos can deny that she is in favor of Common Core, but that doesn’t mean a damned thing if she is confirmed.

I look at Steven Mnuchin’s confirmation as putting the fox in the henhouse. Anyone who believes that he will do anything to straighten out Wall Street is a dreamer. He appears to me to be one of these multi-millionaire idlers who is supportive of whomever gets the top dog sea, and he has given money to both Republicans and Democrats alike. His trustworthiness meter registers just above zero for this writer. In addition, my only other experience with a former Goldman Sachs executive led me to take an early retirement rather than try to work with the son-of-a-bitch!

Wilbur Ross, the candidate for Secretary of Commerce, was quoted as saying, “I think the reason why the Trump phenomenon has become so important … is because middle-class and lower-middle-class America has not really benefited by the last 10 to 15 years of economic activity and they’re sick and tired of it and they want something different,” Excuse me, but I don’t believe billionaire Ross gives two hoots in hell about the American middle- or lower-middle classes. Keep a close eye on this one, folks, and see how he benefits those who are ‘below’ him in this economic class.

When it comes time to talk about General James “Mad Dog” Mattis, you have but to listen to one of his quotes: “You go into Afghanistan, you got guys who slap women around for five years because they didn’t wear a veil. You know, guys like that ain’t got no manhood left anyway,” said Mattis. “So it’s a hell of a lot of fun to shoot them. Actually, it’s a lot of fun to fight. You know, it’s a hell of a hoot. It’s fun to shoot some people. I’ll be right up front with you — I like brawling.” Those are the words of our proposed next Secretary of Defense. While he later admitted that he should have chosen his words more carefully, the remarks give you some insight into the mind of a true militant who, I fear, would have no compunction about sending military wherever he thought that might “have some fun shooting some bad guys!” While he might stand on the tarmac at Andrews and salute, it wouldn’t do a hell of lot of good for those people in the caskets.

Granted, I have only touched on a few potential Trump Cabinet nominees. Hopefully, we’ll get around to more as the confirmation hearings move along. Just remember one thing…what is said in the hearings and what will actually take place if these people are confirmed and very well be two different things. After all, that’s the Washington way.

One must give credit where credit is due. Donald Trump has picked up the political lingo of Washington much faster than I thought possible. For a long time, it was “Obama can’t be President because he wasn’t even born in America.” Even after the President showed a birth certificate, Trump questioned its authenticity. After Obama visited a mosque, Trump commented, “Maybe he feels comfortable there.” And, in a tweet on October 25th, Trump said, “Obama is a disaster.”

Ah, how things have changed following the “rigged” election that is now not rigged because Trump won the Electoral College vote. Trump now speaks of the President as “a good man.” Of course, Trump had to add that “the feeling is mutual.” For his part, When Obama was asked about Trump, he responded, “You know, he is somebody who I think is very engaging and gregarious.” Asked point blank, “Do you like him,” Obama said, “You know, I’ve enjoyed the conversations that we’ve had. He is somebody who I think is not lacking in confidence…” The President added, “…it’s probably a prerequisite for the job, or at least you have to have enough craziness to think that you can do the job….I think that he has not spent a lot of time sweating the details of, you know, all the policies…”

In Washington politics a “good man” is another way of saying, “This asshole couldn’t sell air conditioners in Florida in August.” A “good man” in Washington parlance is like calling someone a nebbish. For those not knowing the term, it’s akin to asking, “Did someone just leave,” when a “good man” or “nebbish” walks into a room. A “good man” is a nobody, a nothing. It’s about as backhanded a compliment as one can offer. Even Obama didn’t stoop to calling Trump a “good man.” However, his digs were, perhaps, deeper and more Washington—ese in their delivery. “He is somebody who I think is not lacking in confidence” can be taken in many ways. It might be interpreted as “You may think the ice is three feet thick, but two steps out and you’ll be up to your neck in muddy water.” Or, “not lacking in confidence” may be interpreted as, “Oh, you poor cocky son-of-a-bitch. If you only knew what awaits you over the next four years.”

You see, in Washington, “yes” when heard from a Representative or Senator, means, “No way in hell,” in part because those people never, under any circumstances, give a direct answer to any question. It’s just something that is not done, whether in polite company or not. “Well, that’s a good question, and our committee is looking into that right now.” This indicates that, “I don’t have a friggin’ clue to what you’re talking about, and how do I get the hell out of here…right now?” If caught a couple of weeks later by the same reporter with the same question, that reporter is likely to get, “Well, I’m glad you brought that up because I spoke with…and he or she will name some other sucker…and they’ve sent that back for review by…” some other committee you’ve never even heard of. Then, the reporter might ask about some freshman Senator or Representative who’s been attempting to make waves, and guess what the response will be. You got it, “Well,” this is the word that can be drawn out for close to ten minutes while the inquisitee gathers what are supposed to be his/her thoughts, and eventually comes out with, “He’s a good man.” Doesn’t really matter that you, as the reporter, were asking the question about a woman. It’s just the politically correct thing to say.

Now, I really should not castigate all Representatives or all Senators for the manner in which they respond to questions when on camera or in front of a print media person with a tape recorder in hand. [Whew, that’s a long sentence.] No, the old timers, those who have taken the course on “Correct Speaking in the Halls of Congress 101,” usually offered by any one of number of lobbyists, can come back at you and turn the tables faster than you can say “money under the table.” No, it’s always best to grab a ‘newbie’ who’s just gotten his or her feet wet with a few committee hearings, and then smack that person with a question about something completely foreign to what they are currently doing. With luck, you just might mine a nugget that you can either use as blackmail for getting something later on, or that you can take to the folks back in East Overshoe, or wherever you come from…but…first and foremost…you must know the lingo.

You may feel that Mr. Trump messed up when he called the President “a good man,” particularly after reading this primer, but you would be in error. The reason behind this is, quite simply, because Mr. Trump went on to say, “The feeling is mutual because it takes two to tango.” I have to tell you, Donald, that’s a bit limp. It’s weak because, as Trump may recall, when Jack Ryan (Harrison Ford) was told by the President in A Clear and Present Danger that he now had “a chip in the big game” and could do the Washington two-step, Ryan replied, “I don’t dance.” Yeah, that was a bit weak too. However, President-elect Trump will learn quickly enough from those around him, that “No” means whatever the speaker wants it to mean; “Yes,” is always no way in hell; and “I’ll look into that right away Mr. President,” means “I hope to hell I can disappear for a couple of weeks so he’ll forget it.”

Anyway, you won, Donald…good luck, God speed, and if someday you are feeling weak and under the weather, have someone check your back for what might be one of the “thousand cuts” mentioned in Chinese torture books…I’ve been told.

Wake up world!

No one ever accused me of being an environmentalist or a ‘treehugger.’ Heck, I smoked and threw the butts out the car window, and, like you, I peed in the ocean when I felt the urge to go. And while I don’t remember it really well, I probably left a few empty beer bottles behind in my younger, wilder [Ha!] days.

Of late I have come to realize that I was not the only slob in the world. From the time man first set foot in North America, it appears that we have been trying to destroy the world in which we live. We have polluted our land and air, our lakes and streams, our oceans, and have been responsible for the near extinction of certain animal species that are our very life blood. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not jumping up on a soap box here, but I just find it difficult to believe – now that I’m in my dotage – that we all have been such idiots to believe that we could take the “business as usual” attitude and not realize that somewhere along the way there would be consequences.

I suppose that anyone can come up with a definition of pollution. This one was pulled from the Internet: “Pollution occurs when pollutants contaminate the natural surroundings; which brings about changes that affect our normal lifestyles adversely. Pollutants are the key elements or components of pollution which are generally waste materials of different forms. Pollution disturbs our ecosystem and the balance in the environment. With modernization and development in our lives pollution has reached its peak; giving rise to global warming and human illness.”

We’ve been polluting our environment for centuries, over-fishing, over-hunting, over-planting, and using rivers, lakes, oceans, and land as dumping ground for some pretty serious stuff. If the environment itself cannot find a way to eliminate an element that man has created that element can screw up the ecosystem and raise hell all over.

I won’t bore you with talk of how the South over-planted cotton and tobacco and caused much of the land to become infertile. I won’t even discuss what happened in the thirties when the dust bowls came along and blew the top soil off the mistreated land. However, I do want to mention a several things that I find exceedingly disturbing in light of the minimal research I’ve done on our much screwed up environment. The two that bother me the most are radioactive waste and oil pollution.

In reading Climate Viewer News, I came across this little tidbit: “The Hanford Site in Washington, was an integral part of the US atomic bomb project, manufacturing plutonium for the first nuclear bomb and “Fat Man,” used at Nagasaki. As the Cold War waged on, it ramped up production, supplying plutonium for most of America’s 60,000 nuclear weapons. Although decommissioned, it still holds two thirds of the volume of the country’s high-level radioactive waste — about 53 million gallons of liquid waste, 25 million cubic feet of solid waste and 200 square miles of contaminated groundwater underneath the area, making it the most contaminated site in the US.”

As if we hadn’t screwed things up enough in our dealings with Native Americans, the largest radioactive spill in the United States occurred in Church Rock, New Mexico in July 1979 when a dam at an evaporation pond broke on the Navajo Reservation, releasing 94 million gallons of radioactive waste to the Puerco River, which flowed through nearby communities…that’s according to a 2014 report from the United States General Accounting Office. The radioactive material was a mixture of water and mill tailings, leftovers that retained toxic contaminants from the mining process that converted mined uranium into yellow slurry, known as yellow cake. The tailings were “placed in unlined evaporation ponds at the mill site,” the report says, meaning the radioactive goop that washed into the Puerco River and flowed through communities downstream was a public health hazard. Just how bad was it? According to former L.A. Times reporter, Jody Pasternak, writing in her book, Yellow Cake, “The water, filled with acids from the milling process, twisted a metal culvert in the Puerco and burned the feet of a little boy who went wading. Sheep keeled over and died, and crops curdled along the banks. The surge of radiation was detected as far away as Sanders, Arizona, fifty miles downstream.” Today, nearly “…30 years after the spill, the majority of mines await clean up while thousands of Navajos lead lives potentially in harm’s way due to the legacy of uranium mining on the reservation.” That is an absolute sin.

Is America the big bad wolf of radioactive waste? Not by a long shot. Russia, China, India, Iran, Brazil, France, Spain, and the Middle of the Mediterranean Sea, have their problems with radioactive waste materials. Once more, man has developed an element that cannot be destroyed by the natural environment without creating harm to itself, and we are left with pollution that could have a half-life of thousands of years and wind up killing or mutating man himself.

Let us move on. On March 24, 1989, the oil tanker Exxon Valdez entered Prince William Sound in Alaska. The ship hit a reef, tore open its hull, and released eleven million gallons of crude oil. A storm blew in and blew out the oil, spreading it over more than 1,000 miles of coastline. Hundreds of thousands of fish and animals perished. Even today, on many Alaskan beaches you can still find remnants of the tragedy that was the Exxon Valdez.

More recently, the Gulf of Mexico became a site for a disastrous spill. On April 20, 2010, the oil drilling rig, Deepwater Horizon suffered an explosion on board, cause the leakage of 200 million gallons of crude oil into the Gulf. This spill, the largest in U.S. history, killed wildlife, damaged fisheries and severely harmed the overall economy of the Gulf.

As I read and research some of these frightening things, I find it difficult to believe that we, the human beings of the world, the animals that are supposed to be the most intelligent of the species, can so badly harm the world in which we live. Okay, some folks don’t give a damn…the win at all costs mentality. The only problem with that is that there are no winners. We are killing ourselves and other living, breathing species on the planet and we’re too bloody dumb to realize it. We can’t begin to reverse our stupidity during the lifetime of my children or even my grandchildren, but somewhere, somehow, someone has to begin to speak up, or it may well be that I will never have any great, great great grandchildren. Naw, I won’t be around anyway, but I sure wish they could be.

Ah, yes, winter

In the spring, when the rain falls gently upon the seedlings in the garden, a purpose is to be served. When summer arrives, the rains aids the plants in their growth and prevents the drying up and shriveling of all of your hard work in trying to reap what you have sown. Even the rains of fall aren’t too bothersome, particularly in making up for the drought which a hot summer may have brought. However, when the rains of winter come, they are nothing but…a colossal pain in the butt.

Winter rains are generally followed by a winter freeze, turning driveways, walkways, streets, and sidewalks into treacherous, dangerous, and, all too often lethal travel areas for pedestrians and drivers alike. Whether a winter storm begins or ends with a winter rain, the results can be catastrophic. When starting as rain, the following snow becomes heart-attack heavy, and ergonomic shovels to the contrary, if the unwary shoveler is not cautious, the weight of the snow can pull back muscles, herniate discs or worse. Should the rain follow a liberal sprinkling of the white stuff, say about a foot or so, it glazes the white covering, much as Ye Old Donut Shoppe, glazes the fluffy artery clogger, and, at times, with the same painful result…note I did not say lethal result, largely because I have survived four heart attacks and still enjoy a good glazed donut from time to time.

Yes, rain is the bane of winter existence. While white and fluttery snow is a thing of beauty and a joy forever, the moment the temperature rises, and white becomes ‘dropinated,’ (don’t worry, I just made that word up…clever though, eh) the trouble begins. If the winter sun appears immediately following the storm, the glare from the ice atop the snow can be exceedingly dangerous, causing snow blindness, as well as keister contusions.

Please don’t misunderstand. Winter is my fifth favorite all-time season of the year…yes, I am aware that there are only four recognized seasons. That is exactly why winter is my fifth all-time favorite. It’s so easy to walk out the door, step into the driveway and go flat on one’s butt…with luck. Without luck, one will fall in such a way that one or more of any number of bones in one’s body will imitate Kellogg’s Rice Krispies and go “snap, crackle, and pop,” although the ‘pop’ is usually reserved for joint dislocations and muscle tears. Let us assume, however, for the moment, that you have made it to your vehicle without undue injury. You have even managed to remove the snow and scrape the ice from your windshield, side and back windows while staying fully erect. Why, you’re so polite, you even brushed the snow from the roof of the car, unlike some of the idiots who drive in front of you and let the wind clear their roofs by blowing it on to your windshield. The worst case scenario is getting behind an 18-wheeler when the snow has frozen and it leaves his roof in huge slabs of a snow/ice combination, a potentially deadly combination.

Traffic may be moving so slowly that you will be tempted to take those “back roads” that you and every other commuter in the world knows about. A word of advice: DON’T! Main roads are the first to be plowed, sanded, salted, and worn down to asphalt by the drivers who precede you. Should you wind up on your favorite back road alone, chances are fair to middlin’ that you may also wind up becoming friends with a local tree or telephone pole, perhaps even a neighborly fence, front yard, or house. This is not a good thing, ergo, stick to the main roads. If you haven’t left sufficient time to get to work or wherever it is you are going, well, as they say, tough! Better to get there late and in one piece than not get there at all…and possibly in many pieces.

Ah, yes, winter…winter rain, winter snow, winter ice, winter be damned! I can hardly wait for Spring!