Archive for January, 2011

“Winter in New England is the most beautiful season of the year!””The icicles that hang three or four feet from the gutters are just absolutely stunning!” “It’s great watching the kids across the street plow out various driveways…aren’t they enterprising!” “The winter cold isn’t half as bad as the summer heat!” “Driving in the snow when the streets aren’t completely bare is really exciting.” Okay, that’s it for the bullshit. My nose isn’t going to grow long enough to touch the computer monitor so let’s let that fairytale rest in its grave right now. If the lies told above are enough to get me into Hell, trust me when I tell you that they are quite minor to some of the whoppers I’ve passed along over seven plus decades of life so I probably have a “Do not pass go; just jump on the express elevator down at your earliest convenience” pass tattooed on my ass or somewhere else where it’s not quite so obvious. And why is it ‘down’ anyway? How do we know that those people who don’t like cold weather but who have committed all sorts of mortal sins don’t go to someplace like the Arctic Circle and those who don’t like the heat are sent somewhere such as our common perception of Hell? Oh, stop worrying; I’m not about to get off on some religious rant about Heaven and Hell or anywhere in between; I was just making a point. Come to think of it, however, one’s own personal heaven or hell could well be based on climate. Maybe if you never committed a mortal sin, just a few venial ones along the way, you might be like reverse “snowbirds,” spending the summers in Florida and the winters in New England…ah, well, I leave it to you to figure out; you probably already have your ticket punched as well. There was a time, many years ago, when New England winters didn’t bother me in the least. When the “Blizzard of ‘78” struck, I was at work…in a new job…that I’d started just two weeks prior. We were told around noon that the college would close at three. From what I’d been hearing that sounded a bit late, so I told my folks to get out now, while they could. I had one person who lived about thirty miles away, and we were already being told that some roads were closing. I found that blizzard or that series of storms to be absolutely thrilling. I walked nearly a mile to a supermarket, dragging a sled; loaded up with groceries and walked back home – up hill both ways, of course! I didn’t even try to shovel; heck, there was no place to go; even plows got stuck. Believe it or not, there was no cable TV – it didn’t exist; no one had a home computer, but we still had fun. Those days, when blizzards and snowstorms of a more minor annoyance; when cold and ice didn’t seem to matter a great deal; when you stood around for hours chatting with other parents while the kids went down that huge hill at the Brae Burn Country Club…yeah, those days…they’re gone. They are most certainly not forgotten, but they’re gone. Looking back on it, those are probably the days when you earned “heaven points,” but I’m not so sure about that. In my case, we’d get home by noon and I’d be sipping Drambuie by quarter after. What took so long you ask? I had to torch the liqueur and let it warm my hands first, you fool! After the third snifter, the heaven points were undoubtedly gone, but what the hell, I felt better. As I have aged, I’ve learned that the human body, beyond 70 or 75 does not react well to cold. There was a time when I pooh-poohed snow birds as being wimps. You know the kind; they spend the summers here in the Northeast and the winters in Florida, Southern Texas, or Arizona. Now I look on them as being exceptionally intelligent. They have rheumatoid arthritis and they do something about it. I have the same damned thing and all I can do is suffer and bitch about it…now who’s the wimp! My only pleasure from constantly freezing fingers and toes comes when I discreetly slip my hands under the back of my girlfriend’s sweatshirt and touch her shoulders. I swear if I wasn’t holding her down I’d be scraping her off the ceiling. Not nice, I know, but what the heck, there has to be some pleasure in my pain. I find that during the winter months, every joint in my body either dries up or the fluid that’s supposed to lubricate them freezes and refuses to thaw. This makes everything from walking to holding a fork an exercise that requires tremendous effort. We eat a lot of baked potatoes in the winter; when an oven has been on at 4500 for an hour, the residual heat received from leaving the door open while eating simplifies things a great deal…waste not, want not; that’s my motto! Getting up in the morning is another adventure not for the faint of heart. Like most New Englanders, I like to conserve heat and depend on blankets, quilts, comforters, etc., to keep me warm at night. The house isn’t equipped with a programmable thermostat – I’m also cheap – and in the morning, when one throws back the covers to greet the new day – another lie – paralysis is nearly immediate. Would I ever leave New England in the winter? What, and miss the opportunity, which is the God-given right of every New Englander to bitch about whatever season we happen to be in? Never; never, I tell you; never in a million years! The way I’ve got this thing justified is that there were 51 survivors of the first winter after the Pilgrims. Two and maybe a third were my ancestors. As stupid as it may sound to you, I figure I owe them; nearly 400 years and many, many generations later, I owe them…George Soule, William Bradford, and a possible other; I owe them the honor of sticking it out during these months when things are really pretty damned miserable. Things are not half as bad for me as they were for them. These were the people who made my today possible. Do you think I really have any right to leave?

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It is extremely difficult…nay, I’d have to say that it’s impossible for the average or even slightly above average human being occupying this earth today to identify and place in some kind of order the challenges that we as a planet are facing. Each of us has a microcosmic view of what is wrong and what needs to be done, but every single one of us bases his or her ‘list’ on a subjective view and that is from our own narrow little life. We all have built in biases regarding what is important; what is of minimum importance, and what isn’t particularly important or has an adverse effect on other than a small group of people, places, or things, and may easily receive slight consideration.

Given this as a backgrounder; given the fact that I am far from being an above average human being – the day I qualify for Mensa is the same day that Hell freezes over – and given the fact that I’m not above tackling any subject anytime, let me take a crack at what I see as some of the most important problems facing planet earth and its inhabitants.

It has been said that no person can possibly feel a form of freedom unless their bellies are full. This would appear to make the elimination of hunger as a primary concern to mankind. However, what is hunger? Is it sorghum and wheat germ or is it filet mignon and escargot? Rather depends on the region of the world and what one is used to having, doesn’t it? Therefore, before we determine that the elimination of hunger is among our primary problems, we must first determine what hunger is? Oh boy that brings us back to a whole new set of problems doesn’t it? Who eats what? The diet of the Great Andamanese is, I’m almost certain, quite different from the Aborigine in the Outback or the average New Yorker. The point that I’m making here is that solving the problem of world hunger – as high on our priority list as it might be – is not a problem that is within our overall capability to solve. What it requires is the cooperation of governing bodies in each location where the people are indigenous to recognize that these are “their” people and it is not a universal problem so much as a local or regional condition. Now, the very second that you begin to believe that governing bodies are going to recognize the problem and take steps to correct it is the very moment I introduce you to Tinker Bell and allow her to take you off to Never Never Land. It’s just not going to happen. Using my own country as an example…there is a little thing called prejudice. Fortunately, we are not the only nation that can be accused of this. It’s common throughout the world. As a consequence, majorities determine which minorities should be (a) fed, (b) slaughtered, (c) allowed to become extinct through some other means. So much for world hunger topping our list of major problems to be solved. My personal reaction is that there are too many obstacles, most of them surrounding the character of mankind in general. The thought is a good one; the idea that all of mankind is the responsibility of all of mankind is a wonderful concept. In the real world it just doesn’t work.

Because the problem of world hunger cannot be solved, that means that the next major problem, that of world peace, will never be solved. However, hunger is not necessarily the cause of ‘war.’ If we define ‘war’ as an armed conflict between peoples, I think that will probably satisfy most of us. So, why do we fight and kill each other? Well, we do it because the ‘other side’ has something we want. We do it because we want the other side to behave as we do; believe in what we believe in, or stop waging an aggressive campaign against us for the same reasons. War is a bitch! Sometimes it begins because of one thing and expands to take on an entire group of new things. If you study the history of the wars about which you have some clue, e.g., World War II, it has a strange beginning…a despot who wanted to do the whole land grab thing; a country in the Far East that thought America was trying to hold them back, and an Italian who got the railroads running on time, but who was afraid of the despot. Now, if that isn’t an oversimplified definition of WWII, I don’t know what is…but roll with me here. Then we have the political wars where one country believes that another is trying to impose its form of government on those who are too weak to resist…enter Korea, Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan, etc., etc., etc. War is not complex; war is simple. War is also quite stupid. I suppose it’s a way to lower the gene pool, but I think there are probably better ways to do it. You, I, We cannot solve the problem of war. As long as there is mankind, whether he is separated by thousands of miles of oceans or a river that’s less than a mile wide, we will have ‘war.’ OMG, that’s two problems we’ve tried to attack and we’ve failed on both counts.

Perhaps it’s time to confess that there really are no equitable solutions to the problems facing planet earth. Since time began, we have been a planet in conflict. It will always be so. Our only hope is that mankind will, one day, wake up to the fact that each of us is responsible for the other. I’m not going to be sympathetic to the son-of-a-bitch who tries to take what is mine away from me forcefully. However, I am going to have empathy for the person who has tried and failed so many times that the system has beaten that person into the ground. I will show no mercy to the bastard who attacks my country because he or she doesn’t like the way we comb our hair or wear our clothes, or the way in which we pray to a God who is not their God. I’m willing to sit down and talk through our differences, but not at the end of a gun. If we cannot reach an agreement, that’s fine; just understand that if you strike at me, I will strike back with everything at my disposal…and I’m not certain you’re going to like that very much.

The upshot of all of this is that, at least in my country, when elected officials cannot decide on how to make health care available for everyone; when these same people bicker over how we should go about rebuilding our nation’s ‘infrastructure;’ when we weep and moan and wring our hands because we can’t stop the drugs coming into our country, we’re really talking about minor problems. America, the United States, is one country. We have some pretty damned smart people living here. We can solve our problems if we’ll stop being such a bunch of dilettantes’ and begin working together – not talking about it, actually doing it. Let the rest of the world solve its own problems; Christ only knows we have enough. If they want to bring their problems to our shores, we retaliate in such a way that the next time they will think thrice! We can do these things, America; you know it and so do I. The only people who seem oblivious are the idiots we have elected  to lead us.

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Eureka! I have discovered America’s problem. As a people, we don’t have attitude! Oh, sure, we’d like to believe that we can have as much attitude as the next guy but truth to tell, our cohones just cannot match up with peoples from other parts of the world. Let me give you a couple of examples: In 1972, when Israeli athletes were killed at the Olympics, the Israeli’s put together a task force for the sole purpose of eliminating – killing, making dead, no longer among the living – every single one of the people involved in the planning and execution of the massacre. They did not rest until each and every one had been eliminated. They did not look for approval from the rest of the world to do this; they merely went out and did it. Some might call it invoking the code of Hammurabi; some decry it as violent and not part of a civilized code of laws. There is and there was a great deal of wringing of hands and gnashing of teeth as this was taking place. The world of public opinion was not truly on the side of Israel. Israel didn’t care. I am quite certain that America would not have reacted in the same manner. We would have issued sanctions against those we thought might be behind the slaughter. We might have tried to bring a ringleader or two to justice, but I have strong doubts that we would have taken action as decisive and final as that taken by the Israeli’s.

Now,35 people have been killed at Domodedova, Russia’s largest airport. What will Russia do about it? According to Russian President Dmitri Medvedev, Russia will emulate the Israeli actions. “We will find them and we will eliminate them,” he has said. All I can say is, “Damn, brother, good for you; get that team together and take out those bastards. If there happens to be a bit of Islamic collateral damage along the way that, too, is okay.” I’m not advocating a terrorist squad that will go after anyone who happens to be Islamic; I am saying, “Do your homework; find out who the bad guys are, and; waste them.” There is no reason for them to continue to walk the face of this earth; breathe the same air that decent people do, or remain around to boast about their exploits.

“We don’t do that in America because we’re civilized.” No, we’re not. We allow gangs to flourish all over our country and terrorize others. We’re not civilized; we’re cowards. We think a cop should be punished for smashing a woman in the face because she won’t take her foot off the accelerator. No, no, he’s doing his job. We think gangbangers should be given chance after chance after chance until they finally wind up killing someone or committing a crime so heinous that they are given a ‘life’ sentence. That’s just plain wrong. Little Johnny is a poor, misguided youth because of his family and his upbringing; he’s a little shit who deserves to understand that his form of behavior is unacceptable and will not be tolerated.

Don’t get me wrong; I’m not for stoning some young lady because she didn’t obey some of the archaic laws of the Middle East. I’m not for chopping off the hand of the thief or any of that other ridiculous nonsense that seems to be in so many codes. I do believe, however, that we – America, that is – knew who was responsible for the World Trade Center bombing and instead of taking direct action, we cried. We did nothing. We finally decided that we should go after Saddam Hussein for what reason I’ve never understood, but that was our answer. Go get the big, bad dictator who tried to have Daddy killed. That’s a great response to an attack. It almost makes America look like it’s doing something…almost, but not quite. Can you imagine how the Israeli’s or the Russians would have responded in a situation like that? In the quiet backrooms, you’d hear that we didn’t want to upset the Saudi’s. Screw the Saudi’s! Maybe that’s been our problem right along. We don’t want to upset those who are, supposedly, doing things for us. However, that does not entitle them to train terrorists to come over here and attack us. I absolutely refuse to believe that those directly responsible for the planning and execution of the World Trade Center bombings have not been directly in the gun sights of teams that could have taken them out.

I’m giving three cheers for the Russians. I hope you find those bastards soon. I hope you put them on display in Red Square or take them down into the bowels of the Lubyanka. I hope you don’t stop until you have the names of every single person involved in the bombing. Then, feel free to kill the bastards…right after you force feed them the pork loin washed down by some good Russian vodka. That’s pretty much a sure fire guarantee that their virgins won’t be waiting for them.

Take a lesson America. The Israelis show no mercy to those who attack their people. Now, the Russians have indicated that they, too, will show no mercy toward those who wish to commit atrocities on their soil. Do you really believe it will embolden others to take revenge? It won’t if we kill enough of them and let their masters understand that we’re no longer going to tolerate terrorist training grounds on their soil.

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If you are sick and tired of television series where everything is brought to a successful conclusion in less than an hour, I have a different piece of TV for you. This piece will be just as fictional as Law and Order, CSI, NCIS, the Closer, or any of those wonderful shows that many people watch. It won’t be as funny as Two and a Half Men or The Simpsons, The Family Guy or many others. It may have moments of humor as well as moments of tragedy. Oh, hell, it’s the State of the Union Speech by our 44th President, Barack Obama.

I call it fictional because the truth, in this case, is only in the eyes of the speaker. It really isn’t possible for the rest of us to determine what is truth and what is bombastic behavior masquerading as truth.  This President doesn’t seem like a bad guy. Yeah, okay, he’s a Black guy and the bulk of the American population doesn’t trust anyone who isn’t exactly like them; therefore, you can’t trust him. Excuse me but I really have a problem with that. I think a number of Americans would bristle at that statement, but unfortunately, there are still too many who take it at face value as the gospel truth. A couple of points here: There are just as many whites, Asians, Latino’s, and other ‘species’ of Americans who cannot be trusted, so let’s get the color thing off the table. Second, he’s a pretty smart feller that he was able to become a United States Senator from Illinois and then parlay that into a successful campaign to become the leader of the free world, so let’s give the guy credit for a few brains.

The greatest fiction that will be portrayed when President Obama speaks will be ‘date night in Congress’ with some Democrats crossing the aisle to sit with Republicans and vice versa. Perhaps hypocrisy is a more accurate word. Yes, they will sit together tonight but tomorrow they will go back to being the same party hacks they are this morning. I recently heard comedian Martin Mull sum it up very well. He said, “The country has become so polarized that anything said by the people on the left is regarded as bullshit by people on the right. On the other hand, the liberal left regards anything said by the conservative right as complete bullshit.” He didn’t go on to explain how that problem can be solved but I think he summed it up fairly well. As a consequence, those who sit it the Congressional well tonight will be of two minds; those on the left will believe that every word out of the President’s mouth is an utterance from on high. Those sitting beside them – to the right, of course – will believe that everything articulated by the President will be a bold faced lie. Following the speech, a member from each ‘team’ will have the opportunity to appear before the television cameras and explain exactly what the President just said. One will say he’s full of crap; the other will say he’s a genius. That will be a small part of the humor of this whole television fiasco.

Am I sounding cynical? Yes, I am being a cynic but not to the degree that one might believe. We are a nation in trouble. We have a very high unemployment rate and for those people who are not yet back working, the jobs they held may no longer exist. They may have to be retrained to do something that will not pay as well or that they will have to become ‘expert’ at to command similar monies. Americans, by and large, are a stubborn group. Retraining people who are in their forties and fifties is a challenge not to be addressed lightly. In addition, many people had become used to a certain lifestyle and that is going to have to change. So, there’s our first problem; how do we get our people back to work in jobs that may be strange to some of them but that are necessary. There isn’t a band aid that can be slapped on that problem to make it go away; it takes time, and time is something the conservative right does not wish to give this President.

Another part of our problem lies with an economy that is struggling to get back on its feet. Yes, we are making small, positive steps in that direction. Companies that almost went out of business but that were bailed out by the Federal Government are now making profits and are hiring. The Federal Government, for the most part, has received the funds it invested. The government has, however, racked up a tremendous debt in trying to bring us out of our economic morass. The conservative right doesn’t like that and uses it as a weapon against the conservative left. “Keep big government out of America,” they cry, but I really haven’t heard any alternatives to letting “big government” do its job until “little America” can get its own ass back in gear.

The State of the Union speech will be criticized by some and praised by others. It will serve as the first step in this President’s quest for a second term in office. It’s a “This is what we inherited; this is what we’ve done about it, and; this is where we’re going to take it in the next two years” speech. The really terrible thing about it is that it will probably contain some decent ideas that opponents of this President will totally disregard. I loved it when the House of Representatives was taken back by the Republican Party. From this moment on, the 44th President can use the excuse that this whole concept of working together is nothing but hogwash on the part of the right. What was the first thing that the House Speaker and his colleagues did when they took office? Was it to put together a jobs bill for America? Was it to put together a stimulus package to get the economy moving? Was it to go to the President and say, “Look, we now control the House. We know we don’t have the Senate, so, given the disparity, how can we work together while appearing to the more radical sides of our party that we’re still at odds.” It was none of these things. It was to go after health legislation that had been passed last year in an attempt to repeal it. Excuse me, but you are not going to get it through the Senate. Therefore, why are you wasting time on a situation you cannot possibly win? The Health Care Law has a great many earmarks in it. In the overall, it is a piece of legislation that requires revamping and restudy. However, it is the law of the land. Work within it to change it. Work with the opposition to change it. Don’t shout from the rooftops that the whole thing must go. Other than prohibition, not too many laws get repealed in Congress, so let’s get with the program.

In addition to repealing health care, the House of Representatives would like the President to run the country with a budget that is the same as it was in 2002. Either I misinterpreted that comment the other day or the representative who said it is doing drugs. Prices have risen, my friend. Even the cost of conducting a war has gone up, so stop smoking that fine weed and let’s come back to earth. Is the US budget too large? Probably it is. Are there intelligent ways to reduce it? Certainly, but the reductions are not seen the same way by Democrats and Republicans. The result, as it always seems to be in Washington, is a little problem called ‘gridlock,’ a word that is so overused that it should be listed in the Thesaurus as a synonym for ‘bullshit.’

So, enjoy the State of the Union friend; enjoy the after show. I wish you well in trying to make sense of what is said…before, during, and after our President addresses the nation!

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Of all of the thousands – some say it was only 275 – of quatrains written by Persian mathematician, astronomer, and poet Omar Khayyam in his Rybyaiyat, there have only been two that have stuck with me over the years. I was fortunate or unfortunate enough to be in the class of a teacher who wished to teach us rhyming; thus I learned that Khayyam’s verse was in iambic pentameter. Perhaps the first of these quartrains is very familiar to you; it goes like this: “The Moving Finger writes; and having writ moves on/ Nor all the Piety nor Wit/ shall lure it back to cancel half a line/ nor all thy tears wash out a word of it.” I have always interpreted that to mean that what is done is done; what is said is said. We cannot undo that which we or anyone has said or done. Engage brain before opening mouth. Think twice before taking action. Are these the ways of the coward or are they the wise man’s methods? Wouldn’t it be wonderful to think that we have the answers to those questions? Then again, we must ask, would we want that kind of knowledge? How would we use such vast understanding? Would we have the Wisdom of Solomon or the greed of dictators? As I approach middle age – when compared to a ripened forest, of course – I begin to reflect on such dangerous and, some might call them pernicious thoughts.

“For want of a nail, a shoe was lost; For want of a shoe, the horse was lost; for want of a horse, the rider was lost; for want of a rider the battle was lost; for want of a battle, the kingdom was lost; And all for the want of a horseshoe nail.” Throughout history, it’s been the “nails” that have determined the direction of the world. In many cases we may compare the nail to the moving finger. If Washington hadn’t pushed on to Trenton; if Napoleon and Hitler hadn’t thought so little of Russian winters; if the Japanese hadn’t attacked Pearl Harbor; if, if, if, if. There have been so many ‘if’s’ in our own brief lifetimes, it’s sometimes fun to imagine what the alternative outcomes might have been. As horrible as the thought might be, what if Bill Gates or Steve Jobs parents decided they couldn’t afford a child and abortions had been performed. How technologically would our world have been deprived? Would others have come to take their place? I have no idea. Certainly, we could carry that hypothesis all the way back to the invention of fire and the wheel if we were so inclined…by the way, did anyone ever get the name of those two guys; you know, the fire and the wheel guys; they were pretty neat!

There are so many people out there who are both the Moving Fingers and the “nails.’ Most of us – I guess I’m talking about most of you who are younger now – don’t have a clue as to how great you are; of the wonder that lies within you. My father-in-law saw the invention of the telephone and of the automobile. He even saw the early beginnings of commercial aviation. I’ve watched man land on the moon and today I have a cell phone that has more power than the computers that sent Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins on their journey. I’ve seen from a distance more wars than I ever hoped to see. Hell, I’ve even seen Jerry Springer and Geraldo Rivera and there’s a combination I could have done without. I’ve lived through the age of 78’s, 45,s, and eight-tracks (look it up). I find it inconceivable that there are not people out there right now who cannot or will not try to make life better for all of mankind. I hope you’re one of them.

I mentioned that Khayyam had given me two quatrains. The second one is as follows: “Here, with a loaf of bread beneath the bough/A flask of wine, a book of verse– and thou/ beside me singing in the wilderness…/and wilderness is paradise enow.” I’m a great believer in soul mates; I’m a great believer in food and my own kind of wine; I’m a great believer in music to soothe and calm the thinking processes; and, quite frankly, I’ve always done my best thinking in the wilderness, whether that wilderness has been the shore of a lonely beach in the winter or the woods during the golden autumn days of New England.

I’m making a request of you, dear reader. Our world – not our country, but our world – is in trouble. We have, it appears, stopped being capable of loving our fellow man. By loving, I don’t mean the act of physical love; we have stopped caring. We seem to kill with greater ease; we seem more willing to let “them” get away with their drugs and their murders and their greed. Thomas Jefferson said that the tree of Liberty must be refreshed now and then by the blood of patriots and tyrants. When a community closes ranks to deter the police from investigating a child’s murder, that is a sin; When drug cartels kill innocent civilians and nothing is done about it, that is a sin; when corporate leaders take money that belongs to the people who work for them, that is a sin. When politicians become so polarized in this, the most advanced society on earth, that we suffer a gridlock that not inhibits, but prohibits forward movement, it’s a sin; when guns are easier to get that fireworks, that’s a sin. We have so many sins in this country and around this world, I’m surprised the planet still exists.

It will take us well over a century to bring the world to a place of peace. In fact, it may never happen. You have the opportunity to make a new beginning; a new beginning in your life and how you affect the lives of others. To paraphrase President John F. Kennedy, “Ask not what this world can do for you; ask what you can do for this world.

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(Sung to “It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas)

“It’s beginning to feel a lot like old age; everywhere I go. Take a look at my balding head; some people think I’m dead. They think I’m artificial and I’m old!

But…I’m beginning to think you’re kind of stupid; doing the things you do. Putting yourself out there; Facebook and who knows where; seems that you don’t care who knows ‘bout you!”

This would be funny if it wasn’t so true. I’m fully aware that there are younger people who may form opinions that anyone who looks or acts a certain way is a dinosaur and can’t possibly understand the importance of social networking. However, social networking appears to have led to a complete loss of privacy and a definite increase in stupidity. When I see someone on Facebook telling me that she’s going to be away from her apartment in New York City for a few weeks because she has an assignment in Bern, Switzerland, I think, “Wow, how many burglars are salivating over this one.” I kid you not; that is an actual Facebook note that one of my younger acquaintances sent for the entire world to see.

Mark Zuckerberg, in all probability, believes he has done a great favor to the universe by creating Facebook. In the majority of cases I think this is true. However, I believe that even he must be flummoxed by the stupidity of those who use it in ways of which he could never conceive. This young man is bright. I’m quite certain he would not be laying his complete life story or innermost secrets on the line on his Facebook page. I’m not certain why others feel the need to do so. However, that’s me, and for that I am called old fashioned and a dinosaur.

It would be nice to believe that it’s only the younger generation who use You Tube and Facebook and whatever else to make fools of themselves. Unfortunately, that’s not the case. There are many people my age and older who think it’s funny, hip, cool, young, and trendy to open themselves up for the world to see. I want to scream, “Folks, there are some nasty people out there who are just looking for fools like you. They want to explore your weaknesses; they want to rip you off; they are not nice.” Perhaps that comes from working with and teaching so many police officers over the years or perhaps it’s just an innate sense of privacy that tells me to hold back…I can’t really say which it is. However, I get very concerned when I see the degree of naïveté that appears daily on public places in my computer.

Two examples of misuse of the social networking pages come to mind immediately. I was watching some crime show the other day and it showed a man confessing to sixteen murders. His face was blurred but he appeared to know intimate details of some of the killings. Eventually, he was traced. The intimate details were what he had been able to infer from newspaper accounts. It reminded me of the military intelligence reserve unit a few years ago that had been asked to determine America’s strengths and weaknesses by examining papers such as The New York Times, The Washington Post and a few others. When the report was completed and read by some muckey-mucks where the unit was stationed, an armed convoy went to the unit’s meeting place and removed the report, classifying it Top Secret. Isn’t it amazing what one can learn from the newspapers?

The second example I would cite regards Cathy Cruz Marerro, the Pennsylvania woman who fell into a fountain at a mall. Okay, she should not have been texting and walking; I agree with that. However, to put that video on Buzzfeed.com or whatever the hell it was, is an insult to this lady. Is it funny? Sure, but I didn’t see anyone trying to help her. As a matter of fact, it appeared as though the television screen showing the episode was part of a security setup for the mall…nice job, folks…way to do your job.

Am I being a prude about this whole thing or am I just a bit more sensitive to the privacy of others? I’d like to believe it’s a little bit of both. As Voltaire said, “Common sense isn’t all that common,” and too many people aren’t using good old fashioned common sense when they post certain things on the web. I can’t help but wonder if that sixteen-year old who showed herself in an orgiastic situation is going to think it’s ‘funny’ twenty years from now. I wonder if the guy who confessed to the murders is having second thoughts now that he’s serving a ten-year sentence for his actions.

The Internet is a wonderful tool. The social interaction or networking pages that have been made available are magnificent. Unfortunately, human judgment still leaves a great deal to be desired. There are some great video clips that are truly educational and truly hysterical – if you haven’t seen Billy Connolly’s description of preparing for a colonoscopy, you’ve missed one of the funniest clips I’ve ever seen – but if you view yourself as being able to compete by doing something stupid and foolish, give it up; it’s not worth it. All I would ask is that people think before they post something that others can use in a manner that might be detrimental to your health.

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It’s time to take homophones seriously. Now, before you think this topic has to do with gay marriage, let me clarify exactly what a homophone is. A homophone is, according to Mr. Webster, “One of two or more words pronounced alike but different in meaning or derivation.” There, now aren’t you glad you read the entire paragraph…or maybe not.

The topic of homophones came up several years ago when Joan, my late wife, and I were discussing the English language, its usage and its complexities. Before you make some nasty comment, you have to understand that Joan had been a high school English teacher and that we would often go off on one esoteric tangent or another dealing with our time in the classroom. I happened to mention a treatise that I had been sent on the difficulty that non-English speaking people have learning the language. For instance, when do you say, “to,” “too,” or “two” in a sentence? We all think that we know the rule of usage, but we sometimes get confused, particularly with the first two. Try explaining the following sentence to someone unfamiliar with the English language: “Since there is no time like the present, I think it’s time to present the present.”

Imagine yourself, with a smattering of English, being asked if you’d like some “fried eggplant.” You know what an egg is, and you know what a plant is. Surprise! You get neither an egg nor a plant if you accept the offer. Certainly, there is no ham in hamburger, nor is there any apple or pine in a pineapple. This little English language treatise also raised questions about why is a boxing ring square and why is a guinea pig called such when it is neither a pig nor is it from the Republic of Guinea.

The English language is thoroughly bewildering. If the plural of tooth is teeth and the plural of goose, geese, why isn’t it acceptable to say that more than one moose is meece, which could be baffling if you say that more than one mouse is meese – have to come up with a different spelling I would imagine. Isn’t it strange that we can make amends but we can’t make an amend? In what other language do people recite at a play and play at a recital? Why do we ‘ship’ by truck and send cargo by ‘ship?’ Why do we have noses that run and feet that smell? It’s just all too – there’s that word again – complicated.

How can you justify a language in which your house can burn ‘up’ while it’s burning ‘down?’ Where else would you fill ‘out’ a form by filling it ‘in?’ Why do we say that an alarm goes ‘off’ by going ‘on?’ If you’re not totally flustered yet, wait, I’m not through. How can a slim chance and a fat chance be the same, while a wise guy and a wise man are opposites? This little treatise on the English language was beginning to make my head spin…but not all the way around.

Consider the following story: Computers are now available that can translate any language into another.  Ideally, if the translated passage were then translated by computer back into the first language, the original words ought to be regained.  This, however, does not allow for the ambiguity of languages, particularly our own. There is a story about a computer that was ordered to translate a common English phrase into Chinese and then translate the Chinese translation back into English. What went in was “Out of sight, out of mind.” What came out was “Invisible insanity.” That’s the English language for you. Computers, of course, did not invent English. It was invented by people and thus, it reflects the creativity of the human race…which is not a race at all.

Now that we’re all homophonic – being in unison, that is – let’s have a little fun with some sentences that use homophones. These are reprinted directly from the ‘treatise,’ which has, to the best of my knowledge, no author.

  • “The bandage was wound around the wound.” I wonder who the wounded was who was so wound up.
  • “The farm was used to produce produce.” Think they grew eggplant?
  • “The dump was so full that it had to refuse more refuse.”
  • “The soldier decided to desert his dessert in the desert.”
  • “Today is so fair, I think I will pay my fare to the fair.”
  • “When shot at, the dove dove into the bushes.” Speaking of which, do you think that a pigeon can be ‘people-toed?’
  • “I had to subject the subject to a series of tests.” This may happen to me very soon.

There are many, many more homophones that could be quoted. However, right now my head is spinning completely around, as Linda Blair’s did in The Exorcist, and I’m seeing stars. Speaking of which, why do we say that when stars are out, they’re visible, but when lights are out, they’re invisible. Yes, you may be right…I’ve been doing this much too – oh, no, not another to – long; time to call it a day…or week…or whatever.

You are not encouraged to write to Dick about this article. He was sent away for a very long rest following its completion. The doctors have every hope for a complete recovery!

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