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Tuesday, February 28, 2012

The Joys of getting old


It's all coming to back to haunt me as I approach my 67th birthday at the end of the year. I can remember joking about the old men who came out to watch us work. I remember saying "don't they have anything better to do?" We obviously weren't doing anything interesting enough to watch. That all came to a head this morning when I walked down to Palmwood and Sam Houston, just to watch the progress on a small section of road our city crews were working on. It brought back memories of freshly turned over dirt moistened by the morning dew, the smell was refreshing, as I watched the backhoe operator dig up more dirt and put it into the waiting dump trucks. Yes, like the old men who used to come watch us, I had my cup of strong steaming coffee with me. I saw a couple of young men looking my way, I wonder if they were talking about an old man watching them work?

I remember my brother and sisters used to laugh when we went into the living room; the black and white television was snowy and ain't no telling how long my stepdad had been asleep. I'm starting to do a little of that; last night I can't tell you what went on between the hours of 8:30 PM to 10:00 PM when I finally went up to bed. My stepdad had an excuse because when he was my age, he was still working pretty hard. I guess instead of counting sheep, I see visions of Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum over and over in my head, until I just naturally drift off.

There were posters saying that old people should get tested on a regular basis (6 months or so) before their license could be renewed. One old timer was annoyed but I remember taking the keys away from a stepfather when he turned 85 years old because he kept getting in accidents and we feared that he would end up hurting someone other than himself. I don't know at what age our driving skills start to deteriorate but my night vision is not what it used to be, so I avoid driving at night if possible. A lot of it is on a case by case basis, making it very difficult to set up an age at which a more frequent testing period should apply.

I don’t have the qualms about getting older because I’m enjoying myself. As I joking told my fellow coworkers “I’ve reached this age; you can’t say that.”

Friday, February 24, 2012

Subliminal Messages



A little background is necessary before I begin to tell you how a subliminal message worked on me. My wife and I are always trying to come up with a meatless dish other than fish for Lenten Friday.

Yesterday, I came up with the idea of eating pancakes at Skillets for breakfast this morning. For those are you who been keeping up with the recent emergence of Jakiebrown2007, the words" pancakes" and "skillet" should be familiar to you. That’s weakness of mine, I remember watching the Sopranos and having a craving for spaghetti and meatballs. I'm not affected by brand names, so subliminal messages embedded in commercials don't work on me. In the example above, IHOP was mentioned but I've had too many bad experiences at that restaurant and besides its way across town.

Researchers claim that subliminal messages can have a short-term effect but not a long-term one. A blogger recently applauded the" 60 Minutes" segment about the placebo -effect being accepted as a cure for some patients; over the medication the patients were prescribed. I don't know enough about the subject but after watching the segment, I didn't come away convinced that placebo should be accepted as a medical cure. I won't even accept the fact that subliminal messages of any sort will make people stop smoking, lose weight, or quit doing anything unacceptable to them. I'm not saying that they aren't documented cases that prove subliminal messages work, but it still comes down to willpower.

The old timers may remember a procedure called "backmasking" where a message in a song played backwards was supposed to relay some kind of message. I remembered the clergy getting all upset over something that I had no idea of what they were talking about. In the first place, I would never play a record backwards because it would ruin it with scratches and the messenger already told me what the message was the supposed to be. It was a phenomenon like the pet rock, which I never got into.

Have you ever been a victim of a subliminal message?

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Ever have one of those days?


Yesterday, my nephew who was writing a senior thesis, called and asked if I could scan him, some old pictures, and I said I would.  I use an application called PaperPort  to store all my scanned documents.  It has an icon at the bottom of the application where I can drag whatever I want to Microsoft Outlook.  I have an older version of Outlook (2007) and the newer version of PaperPort  all running on Windows 7.  I don't know if all that information  is important, but it might be all connected.  When I dragged those pictures, it seemed to be working fine, but then it hung there for about 3 or4 minutes.  I had to use the" control+alt+delete to get out of the program.  I then tried to start up Outlook several times, but it wouldn't respond.

My nephew called and said it would be easier to come get the pictures, which he did, but I still had those saved emails in Outlook, and I wouldn't be able to use the software to write or receive emails.  I called Microsoft, but that was more like a sales pitch to buy the new Outlook 10.  I went to Sam's to buy the student version which costs $229.

Now I had three problems. The first problem was the lost information. The second was that god-awful price, and the third was a non techie wife offering her advice of rebooting.  I kept looking at the receipt for the unopened software box and went over to my laptop and looked at the settings for a working Microsoft Outlook.  I went back to my desktops but the settings were the same as those on the laptop, so I said, " what could it hurt" and shut the desktop down.  When it booted up, I had a working copy of Microsoft Outlook and a wife humming away all proud.  I guess I cleared the cache and memory when I shut the computer down.

I took the software back to Sam's but held my composure when she asked me, what was wrong with the software, I smiled showed her the unopened box and said," it's not what I wanted" but that was the wrong answer because then she said I could trade in for something else.  That's the second time in the last three months that they seemed reluctant to credit my debit card but rather do a merchandise exchange.  She called her manager who properly gave me my money back.
I felt good about the exchange, but as I was turning into the driveway,I noticed and I had to bring in the trash can.  You don't distract people who are prone to senior moments like myself because this morning, I was hunting all over the house for my keys and after about 45 minutes, I decided to go look for them in the truck.  There they were; I left them in the ignition with the door unlocked all night long.  I guess I was safe because the truck is too old and ugly for anyone to consider stealing besides crime rate is down in Victoria. It might have been a different story if I parked the truck alongside the Tanglewood Recycling Center;on second thought, maybe not.

Monday, February 20, 2012

When to respond?


I bet all of us have had a well scripted response at the ready but then a at the last minute decided, it's no use. I know I have and several have told me that they have been in that same situation. There are also many times that I've posted and wish I hadn't. Then there are those occasions where I had to eat crow. No matter how you cook it; it's still crow.

I always consider the source, if it’s a legitimate question or statement, I will generally respond and use the same tone as I received. Saturday, I was accused of saying that polls didn't matter or had any legitimacy. I quickly responded because the poster, although on a different political side, is not usually an attacker. I've must've posted something that got under his skin because his response was deleted before I got a chance to read it. I couldn't help myself because he placed the low hanging fruit right in front of me. It's too bad that I didn't get to see his response. I've been posting polls forever, probably a lot more than I should because people just don't pay attention to polls that don't go their way.

I guess my mood and the mood of the forum has a lot to do with my response. In a nonpolitical thread I usually make one comment and leave. There are several people I won't respond to, even if their post is on my blog. It's not because I'm rude but it becomes monotonous after a while, same characters, and same rhetoric, with or without my response. Politics will always become contentions but we always have that option of not engaging in the politics of personal destruction. I never wake up itching for a fight; it's a different morning each and every morning.

I'm not going to respond to every negative comment made about President Obama because that would be a never ending chore and besides everyone has a right to their own opinion. I'll have my turn to write a blog where I'll cover all those subjects that people were critical of. I don't think I wrote anything negative about Governor Perry before he ran for National Office because I really didn't know that much about him. I believe I criticized President George W. Bush everyday because of his incompetence, and yes the Iraq war. I know I criticize the GOP presidential candidates but that's bipartisan.

I felt I had to engage in the recent controversy over contraception and freedom of religion but not enough to post a blog. I didn't want to prolong the subject and besides I never felt comfortable. The subject was drifting from the church's teachings to the constitution. People were just talking past each other.

Do you know what we haven't had in a while? We haven't had an old fashion donnybrook where two posters would continuously go after each other for 2 hours or more. The posters that took part in those have been banned or simply left. I remember the DA and police chief daily fights, then there was healthcare, and Sheriff  Radcliff but not so much of those anymore. Maybe we're better off for it.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Say no to 18 year olds serving on city council


The issue over an 18 year old been able to serve on our City Council has become a one sided issue on our newspaper's online forum.  Some have made it a civil or voter rights issue and the old standbys were used such as " if you're old enough to go to war you're old enough to to do pretty much anything. " I think the issue is deeper than that, I stated my reasoning but I quickly saw that I was not going to make any headway with that crowd.  Some were getting out right angry.

I believe the rational thinking that went into making 21, the appropriate age to serve on the City Council was the right and I don't see anything that's happened to change that.  It was never meant to denigrate 18 year olds.  We do need to set some standards because we are a growing city and not a place for social experiments.  If we're going to do that, let's have a small committee of therapists to give us the pros and cons.

I'm certainly not an expert but in my dealings with 18 year olds, yes even in the military,  there's a lot of  immaturity that needs to be dealt with before giving them a in position of responsibility.  It's not fair to them or our city.  As the letter writer stated, these children need to learn from the bottom up not the other way around.  There may be some exceptions to the rule but we can't set of standards to exceptions. Don't you think they'll be people unfairly judging this young person ,if they happen to be elected.  We would be putting  them in a position to fail in an early part of their life.  That's why a college graduate like Jackie Robinson was chosen to be a trailblazer.  If an 18 year old gets elected and fails,  it will set them and  their generation back several years.  What would happen if  President Obama got involved in a scandal being the first black president and all. 

The likelihood of an 18 year old getting elected does not have anything to do with a standard. We do need an age requirement.  We always need to be prepared for a " what if " situation. I bet no one would question the reasoning behind Houston’s age restriction. We are not as large as Houston but that’s no reason we can’t use them a role model, rather than that of a smaller town that’s not going anywhere.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Just admit it


I admire the people that say that they're not interested in politics and generally stay out of  the subject.  I remember presenting my side of the argument to some that did not engage in our daily political arguments, to see if I was too far to the left.  Usually they were genuinely uninterested.  I could get the religious people to give me their opinion, but those types of arguments were few and in between.  I usually stayed out of those arguments because it's pretty easy to see that I suck at it.  I'm very uncomfortable discussing the subject.

I don't know what inspires me to get into daily arguments on our forum.  I have to think legion357 is right. I'm beginning to miss the daily jousting, I had at work.  If I did that at home, my wife would very likely tell me that I'm interrupting her soap operas.  She would probably encourage me to call up an old friend, but it wouldn't be inappropriate to call my old friends and say hey," let's go to Ramsey's and argue politics." In that situation, we would spend the first hour so catching up and an hour or so of trying to remember names.  Oh if I had a nickel for every time we said, " I got his or hers name on a tip of my tongue" and what's bad is  when we're trying to remember a friend's name that has recently died or is in the hospital.  I guess that I can put all that stuff in my iPad but my friends would have to do, likewise, and that takes the spirit out of catching up.  It would be like watching that scroll across the bottom your TV screen.

Politics and blogs are my hobbies now, because I'm always seeking information rather than enjoying life.  When I was at work, the hour or so of arguing satisfied me, so I only watched an hour of the news or politics, the rest was for family and leisure television programing.  On our forum, a number posters shoot from the hip and assume they are right, but it's something that I have not gotten used to.  My old compadres were very knowledgeable, so I had to bring my "A" game, every single day.  If the posters on the forum would simply admit their bias and present their case, we could have a decent discussion.  Over 70% of the time I'm having to post links merely to add a little credibility to the discussion.  If both parties understand the subject, they are arguing about, then quoting a source should not matter.  Most of the sources come from AP, hence you can read the same article in the Washington Times and the Washington Post.  It's when the opinionated journalist writes their viewpoint that the facts take a left or right turn.

I would be willing to bet that if we actually had a gathering, the hot rhetoric at the VA would subside tremendously.  I'm not worried  about BigJ, Pilot, Sugar Magnolia,EA,Rebecca,Legion or a few others because, if we haven't offended one another after all these years, the likelihood of that happening is small.  It's like the saying they had for the flamboyant baseball player named Manny Ramirez,"that's just Manny being Manny." We have occasional disagreements(as all humans do) but nothing earth shaking.  Every single person that I mentioned in the above paragraph has admitted where they stand at one time or another, and they all have above-average intelligence. They have all defined themselves instead of letting others define them.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Did I betray my faith?

I'm walking around with a sense of guilt because I'm not agnostic; I'm a proud Roman Catholic but again I find myself in disagreement with the church's hierarchy.  I didn't go to church yesterday because I suspected that they would try to get me to  oppose something I don't agree with.  I found myself watching a lot of television this week end, hoping to find some words that would give me comfort or prove me wrong.  I heard a lot of church representatives try and prove their case but  their analogies were not realistic.  I know I've been told more than once; you don't like the church teachings get out.  It's not that simple because it's like a marriage to me, I have a lot invested in it.  Right now feel like I betrayed my faith by being so adamant and going the extra mile to prove them wrong.

I strongly oppose any church's involvement in politics, not because I think they should be blind followers but because they should be a model of peaceful resolutions, not back room negotiations.  The church's involvement in politics started a long time ago during the crusades.  In United States, Father Coughlin.,took to the airwaves to speak about danger of  Social Security and socialism, way back in 1926.  He was the Rush Limbaugh of that time.  This time it's different, it's about the church's fundamental values, whether I agree with it or not. The church's hierarchy are conservatives and they will not evolve anytime soon.  Don't get me wrong, they still support the poor and are proponents of climate change concerns and I'm in agreement more than I disagree with the teachings.

When the church gets involved in politics both sides will use them.  The evangelicals do not like the catholic church per say but they will side with them on the social issues.The politicians will take the same path.

I don't get offended when someone talks bad about the president,Democrats, or in this issue the opposing party in an issue such as this. Everyone is entitled to their opinion.

I'm so frustrated with the work on Sam Houston but it's going to look super when it's all complete. There is not a single construction hand around because of the recent rain,so that's another two days or more of wait time. In the meantime I'll just have to get used to taking Airline or Teakwood to get to the main thoroughfares.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Black History Month


I don't know how long our local newspaper has been doing a feature on Black History Month, but I can only imagine it's been a longtime because it's been around since 1926. We used to see a few letters -to -the- editor complaining, but that's as far as it went. The complaints are much more visible, now that we have an online forum.

It's usually the same suspects who will try to make this a racial issue, saying “we are all Americans" but those people are usually the ones who have made remarks with racial overtones and put up blogs similar in nature. They certainly can't lead by example. A recent letter writer said we should only honor respected black heroes. That letter reminded me of an old timer I used to work with, who told a fellow black worker that he was one of the good ones. We looked at each and burst out laughing  but the old timer had good intentions, even though he was stuck in generational racism. He probably went to his grave thinking that his accident of birth gave him superiority over someone who was not Caucasian.

We are all Americans but unless you live in a superficial world, we all recognize that we come from different cultures and in some cases, we're often stereotyped. I'm glad I was born in Victoria because it's such a diverse city and except for a few, we embrace that. I can remember when Victoria first integrated. I was in junior high school at the time. We elected one of the students who transferred from Gross, to be our class president. At the high school level one of the transferees was elected to be the drum major at Victoria High. It wasn't long (a couple of years) after that when an old friend, Raymond Douglas Grant, became a starter as a freshman on the VSH team of 1961. I can remember the whole student body shouting “Raymond, Raymond, Raymond" in unison at the pep rallies. It's just a hunch, but I think the ones complaining about Black History Month are not from Victoria. I could go on and on by naming a local policeman “Willy Hill" everyone loved, a City Councilman and everyone's education hero, Harold Cade but my fella Victorians understand where I'm coming from.

I like the feature called Black History Month because that's a part of history that I was not taught way back then. I would be just as interested in reading about Bohemian, German, Italian, and Middle Eastern heroes and I wouldn't think twice about it being preferential treatment. That doesn't make me morally superior, it just makes me a product of my hometown and how it handled diversity.

One last thing about the recent controversy involving the White House and the Catholic Church. The last few days I've been reading the first amendment, especially the freedom of religion and free exercise thereof. I'm not a lawyer, and I didn't want to bother my brother-in- law for his interpretation, but as luck would have it, I found my answer last night. MSNBC's Lawrence O'Donnell had a constitutional lawyer David Boies as his guest. David Boies, argued Bush v Gore because Supreme Court and was instrumental in California's proposition 8 been overturned by an appeals court.Mr. Boies said that the recent conflict between the Catholic Church and the government has already been defeated in the courts. He cited the New York case. He said that the first amendment means that the government cannot force us to follow a religious belief. The government in the free exercise cannot restrict a person's free will to follow his religion. This case is about the subjecting an employer to follow the same rules as anyone else. He said that the church had every right to persuade their flock in not buying contraceptives. Several Catholic charities, hospitals, and colleges are already abiding by the new healthcare law. Republican legislators are already introducing legislation to stop Human Health Services at the Federal level. It will be a political wedge issue in the 2012 political season.

Monday, February 6, 2012

It’s all on how you phrase it


After the dust settled from Friday's rehash of religious persecution, abortion, and the first amendment of the United States constitution violation, I heard these discussions presented in a more civil fashion than we did at the VA. That shouldn't be surprising.

I'm going to dust off my old strategy book (not really a book) I used on my opponents at work. In fact it was the same tactics I used for parenting. First, we got to lay down some ground rules like staying on subject and not drifting off or trying to rehash old arguments.

I'll start off with the recent ruling requiring all nonprofits to comply with the new healthcare law. The catholic churches are nonprofit, but it is exempted from implementing anything they goes against their religious beliefs. Anyone working directly for the Catholic Church falls into that category. Catholic charities and hospitals do not, so they are under the same rules as anyone else under the healthcare law. I was watching and listening to Joe Scarborough and Micah Brzezinski agreeing with each other that this action by the government would alienate catholic voters. Their next guest, Governor Malloy, shot that theory in the water. He said it's already been approved by 28 states including Mitt Romney's Massachusetts's healthcare plan. Of course Joe Scarborough couldn't take no for an answer, so he started talking about the lunch bucket Reagan democrats up in the Philadelphia suburbs who will not vote for Obama. He doesn't have the slightest idea on what people do, when they close the curtain to vote. He's always saying "according to the democrats I spoke to" but name some names Joe, so it sounds more believable. The governor said that catholic charities receive the most of their money from Medicare and Medicaid. That lit a fire under Joe Scarborough, he then said the obvious" if you don't take Federal money then you won't be she subject to religious persecution." There are just some people that are locked in their beliefs.

Howard Kurtz of CNN’s "Reliable Sources" tried to have a civil discussion about the recent Susan G. Komen fiasco but you can't really separate ideology from the discussion. Mr. Kurtz said " if it was political to give to Planned Parenthood, then it's political to withdrawal that funding." He mentions that two of three times and I agreed at that time but in I thought about it. The funding should not have been political because even though Parenthood is the largest provider of abortions, according to their website they provided" doctors and nurses teach patients about breast care, connect patients to resources to help them get vital biopsies, ultrasounds, and mammograms, and follow up to make sure patients are cared for with the attention they need and deserve." Now we all found out that "Karen Handel, Komen's staunchly anti-abortion vice president for public policy, was the main force behind the decision to defund Planned Parenthood and the attempt to make that decision look nonpolitical." What a clever scheme they used, they had Congressman Cliff Stearns start an investigation of Planned Parenthood and then conveniently say that the new Komen policy was not to give money to those organizations that are under investigation. I was reminded that Dick Cheney fed information to NYT's Judith Miller about Iraq's WMD program and then go on "Meet the Press" and say the New York Times just printed an article about Iraq's WMD. The Susan G Komen foundation should be able to fund any organization they want to but if they are going to use ideology as a guideline, they should let their contributors know.

Another topic I'm itching to get into is "fracking" but I can see where the usual suspects have already demonized the environmentalist and one called them carpetbaggers or as they used to say in the south “outside agitators." This too is about ideology because some will fight tooth and nail for the retention of fossil fuels; as though it is an infinite energy source with no impact on the environment.