Monday, September 22, 2014

"Forgiveness is the attribute of the strong." ~ Mahatma Gandhi

You'll recall the story from last month in which a New Jersey family, on vacation in Arizona, inexplicably concluded that their 9-year-old daughter's life would be immeasurably improved by a) taking her to a gun range called "Burgers and Bullets"   and b) allowing her to fire an Uzi.

So you remember how it turned out; the young lady lost control of the powerful weapon as it fired, killing instructor Charles Vacca, 39 forever.

Don't even try to turn this into a gun control forum, as we have been down that road and all of us pretty much have our minds made up one way or th' other.  No, this is a common sense thing. Children, no matter their gender, should not be firing weapons of this sort any more than they should be driving cars, operating the slicer at the deli or rewiring the basement for new outlets.  I suspect this lunatic idea came more from the girl's parents anyway, but I can't say that for sure.

Just before...
I can say that Vacca is dead and that many lives are affected forever.  Try to imagine the psychological impact on a 9-year-old, stricken with the guilt from being the one whose actions caused the death of a man.  We can only hope that her family will make some better decisions in the future, and get her the help she will need.

Speaking of help, I found it remarkable that the Vacca family -   two sons, Christopher, 11 and Tylor, 14, and daughters Elizabeth Vacca, 15 and Ashley Moser, 19, found it in their hearts to write to the young girl, who so far has not been publicly identified. “You're only 9-years-old,” they said in their letter. "We think about you. We are worried about you. We pray for you, and we wish you peace. Our dad would want the same thing.”

They also said this about their dad: “Our dad wasn't just an instructor. He was funny, strong, a protector, a hero, and our friend. He was a good man.”

“Like you, we are living through this tragic event that we cannot shut off,” the letter concluded. “It's with us all the time.”

I'm sure the cathartic release of just putting their thoughts on paper was good for the mourning family of the slain instructor.  Of course the whole thing was an accident, but the man is no less dead, no matter the intent of anyone concerned.  But the family is wise, and kind, and good enough to realize that in their darkest hour they can shine a little light on the young lady's gloom.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Sunday rerun: This is whey too crazy

I think that the people who sit in the bigwig offices at America's leading corporations sometimes sit around and think too much.

Witness this latest legal action, filed by Kraft Foods.  Kraft is the manufacturer of Cracker Barrel cheese.  This is the leading brand of big-chunk cheddar cheese; they make 20 styles of it in wedges and bars, and, God bless our laziness, they will even sell it to you in cracker-sized slices, saving us the arduous task of taking a knife and actually slicing our own cheese.

They've got their Roquefort in an uproar because the popular Cracker Barrel Country Store chain is planning to get into the grocery business, selling lunch meats, glazes, jerky and summer sausage.

(By the way, for all those so indignant about making English the official language of these United States, by cracky, you have to stop saying "jerky" now to describe your inedible dried-meat-that-tastes-like-leather.  The word "jerky" comes from the Spanish "charqui," meaning burned meat, so you are forbidden to say that anymore, capiche?)

So, the big cheese wheels  have decided that you and I are so dumb that we wouldn't know the difference between Cracker Barrel cheese and Cracker Barrel Sliced Liverwurst.

Cracker Barrel Cheese came into being in 1955; the restaurant chain started in 1969.  I have been an avid consumer of the former since I was just a little sharp cheddar, and have dined sumptuously at the latter since, I guess, the 1980s, when they opened shop around this way.

Maybe I'm unaware, but I have never confused the two entities.  Cheese at the grocery store and the highway-side restaurant with the great breakfasts and marvelous grits are two totally different things, clearly.  Have you ever thought they were one and the same?

Here's my idea:  have the lawyers from both sides meet up at a Cracker Barrel Old Country Store halfway between the two corporate offices.  As soon as everyone tucks into a nice Momma's Pancake breakfast (above) all this wrangling and feuding will seem like it was a long, long time ago!

Saturday, September 20, 2014

The Saturday Picture Show, September 20, 2014

The other day, someone asked me to list ten books that have stayed with me over the years.  The Catcher In The Rye has to be on any such list. Here is a photo of someone toting around the classic paperback edition on a cold winter day.
My jubilation continues unabated as I await the first day of fall, Nature's Gateway To Winter.  Even before the entire world fell in love with all things pumpkin-spiced, I was a big devotee of autumn.
After a rainy summer, it's been rather dry here in Bmore of late. While we hope for rain, you can always upload this to use as a wallpaper.
What a week for the hometown club!  The Orioles won the American League East division and look forward to the playoffs and beyond.  Here's All-Star Outfielder Adam Jones celebrating with fans.  This is why you love sports...winning makes you happy, and losing makes you want your team to win.  I've been an Orioles fan since the 1950s, so I've seen my share of both.  Winning is better.
Someone told him to stack the wood, so he had to go and get all fancy with it.  Problem is, now no one will want to burn this wood, for fear of messing up the cool display.
This week also saw Scotland vote to remain part of Great Britain, good news for bagpipers everywhere.  And for those of us who happen to look good in plaid.
 If you're a squirrel and you're reading this, well, thanks!  You are the smartest squirrel ever!  But as a reminder, it's time to start squirreling away some nuts for the winter!
This might be the last batch of Chex Mix I ever made. I found this picture from 2005, and now I want Chex Mix.  I know it's loaded with carbs, but hot-a-mighty, it's tasty!  Maybe I'll just make this my wallpaper.  See you next week!

Friday, September 19, 2014

Get ready for the largest lawsuit in the history of lawsuits

At 81, everything is risky, you have to admit. But now it's turning out that what seemed like a normal, everyday procedure that went wrong, ending in the death of Joan Rivers, was not quite so ordinarily handled.

Tech Times reports that Joan was having a endoscopy to check for digestive tract issues. In an endoscopy, an instrument (seemingly no smaller than a Louisville slugger baseball bat) enters the body to poke around and look for things gone wrong. When the camera was in her throat, someone noticed something wrong there, and a doctor who did not have clearance to perform procedures at the clinic in question went ahead with a biopsy - without permission from Ms Rivers, or the clinic, it seems.

And then! Her vocal chords began to swell, cutting off the oxygen and blood circulation to her lungs and brain, putting her in cardiac arrest.  And you know the rest.  She never regained consciousness and died a week later.

And now comes the allegation that Rivers's personal ENT specialist paused during the unauthorized biopsy procedure to take a selfie of herself with the unconscious comedienne.

To sum it up: an otherwise healthy woman comes to a clinic to have a look at her digestive tract.  Someone spots what he/she perceives to be a problem elsewhere and decides to have a whack at it, during which whacking the patient is caused to go into cardiac arrest and death.

And a doctor, a graduate of high school, college and medical school, allegedly decides to prop up the unconscious patient during all this so as to palm her smart phone for a selfie with the ill-fated patient.

All right.  Can we talk?

We don't know for sure about all of this, but as they say on the evening news, one thing is certain:  The smart phone was smarter than the doctor.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

In their fashion

I know what it's like to be young and dumb.  We all can, if we think about it, recall instances of sheer stupid behavior committed under the rubric of Knowing It All.  It's a sign of maturity (and I hope to get some sometime!) to be able to pardon the young for their brash excesses and the limits on their experience.

Still, I don't think it's a good idea for major corporations to turn their controls over to 17-year-olds who don't know the first thing about two things from the not-so-distant past. 

The clothing industry seems to be particularly vulnerable to letting the unschooled decide what to manufacture and sell.  Not to be blunt about it, but have these people read a book?

Case A - some Spanish clothing firm named Zara.  In 2007, their handbag line featured a purse that was dotted with swastikas.

How charming.  I'm not going to show you a picture of the purse, but there are swastikas - the symbol of Nazi horrors - all over it. And here is one of the most perfect examples of corporatespeak you'll ever see:

"Had the symbol been seen we would not have sourced that particular handbag," said Zara spokesperson Susan Suett.
"As a precaution we've obviously taken the decision to immediately withdraw the item from sale on being informed of this particular bit of information," she added.

Please read that again and savor the pure unalloyed bullhockey being spread by Ms Suett.  They didn't sell the handbag, you see, They sourced it!  Because they had not been informed of the information that would have told them not to! Zara is owned by the Spanish company Inditex, which is a branch of the multinational corporation Idiotz, I surmise. 

And then, last month, they put on the market a shirt for kids. They called it a "Sheriff's Shirt," and said it was "inspired by the sheriff's stars from the classic Western films."  But, with its stripes, even though they were horizontal rather than vertical, and a six-pointed star, they bore a certain resemblance to the uniforms worn by Holocaust victims from Nazi concentration camps.

Seeing a chance to be at least as obtuse as Zara, Urban Outfitters, a chain here in America whose stores are set up to make you feel as if you are shopping in a recently-abandoned Citgo gas station, decided to hop on the retro craze and salute those golden days of 1970, when the Ohio National Guard opened fire on Viet Nam war protestors at Kent State University, killing four people.  In America. Urban Outfitters offered for sale, at just $129.00 each, this disgusting sweatshirt, replete with fake bloodstains and bullet holes.  But their corporate spokesperson spoke right up: 

 Urban Outfitters sincerely apologizes for any offense our Vintage Kent State Sweatshirt may have caused. It was never our intention to allude to the tragic events that took place at Kent State in 1970 and we are extremely saddened that this item was perceived as such. The one-of-a-kind item was purchased as part of our sun-faded vintage collection. There is no blood on this shirt nor has this item been altered in any way. The red stains are discoloration from the original shade of the shirt and the holes are from natural wear and fray. Again, we deeply regret that this item was perceived negatively and we have removed it immediately from our website to avoid further upset.

I believe it was Sheriff Taylor who said, "It's all right to be stupid, but some people just plain overdo it."  I urge the fashion industry to go to school and learn some history, and I urge Zara and Urban Outfitters to go to Hell in a homemade handbasket.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Living the thankful life

Sometimes a memory just sticks with you, and we don't get to select the ones that do.  

I think all the time back to a day in the early 90's.  I would go now and then to talk to the kids in a Head Start program run by my friend Sue.  Head Start is a good idea for promoting the success and well-being of families, and it's helped lots of kids get on the road to competing in school and in life.  Not every child has the same advantages that many of us enjoyed in the early days, and it's for the good of all of us to give everyone a leg up on achievement. I pulled out the bag o' tricks for these kids. I still remember making our little egg heads.  I saved a few eggshells, we filled them with potting soil and added grass seed, and presto! homemade Chia pets.

I don't feel guilty about coming from a privileged background, but on the other hand, I never take for granted the things that have come my way just by being born into a family best described as "comfortable."  Lucky in life, lucky in love, as they say. Cosmic forces from the planet Lovetron sent Peggy my way when I was a roguish 21-year-old, thus assuring me a daily cornucopia of love and laughter that continues to this day.

Something else that continues: the reminders to be grateful.  Back to the Head Start classroom, I was down there with the kids when they were all putting on their coats to go outside for playtime.  A little girl walked up to me with her little white coat in her hand, which is kidspeak for "Please help me put this on!" so I held it out for her little arms, and she said, "How do you like my new coat, mister? I just got it!"

And the smile on her face and the gleam of pride in her eyes just melted this old man right on the spot, for the coat was obviously old, somewhat tattered, and could have used a good turn at the dry-cleaner.  But, in a country in which some spoiled teenagers publicly complain that their parents gave them the wrong color Mercedes SUV or last-year's iPhone or a "stupid local"  Sweet Sixteen, instead of one on the beach at Ibiza, I saw real gratitude, true thankfulness, in the face of little girl who knew that a cold winter was coming, and she had a warm coat to fend it off.  

She also had, has, a warm heart, too.  I have no idea where the little girl with the coat is today, but something tells me she's doing all right for herself, because she was proud that she had that white coat.  She would be old enough to have her own kids by now, if that was her choice, and let's hope they're just as happy with their gifts as their mom was.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Treat All The Same

I had only been a supervisor for about ten minutes when I learned a valuable lesson. Let's say you're supervising 17 people. You give one of them a break, let them off the hook for something, or give them a requested day off when you really shouldn't.

The other 16 people will not say, "Hey! What a great guy! Let's hear it for our wonderful and gracious boss!"  

Nor should they.  Fair is only fair when it's equally applied, which brings us to the current unpleasant state of the National Football League.  Players are in trouble for domestic/spousal assault.  Ray Rice of the local team here slugged his partner unconscious in a drunken fight in an Atlantic City casino and has been suspended indefinitely.  Other players are sidelined following similar foul events.  Adrian Peterson of the Vikings is on the carpet for walloping his four-year-old son WITH A TREE BRANCH and his lawyer is pointing out that Mr Peterson only did it in the name of better discipline among his many children.

It makes one almost miss the days when the biggest NFL scandal was lunkheaded wide receiver Plaxico Burress smuggling a gun into a disco in his pants (I know, what was a disco doing in his pants?) and the gun went off and he shot himself and ran into the night howling, also running afoul of a New York law designed to stop people from shooting themselves in the pants.  Burress served jail time to the tune of a couple of years, and New York's night life seemed a little safer for a while.

My point, and thanks for waiting for it, is that miscreants all deserve the same treatment. I recently found myself being hollered at by a couple of people who urged compassion in the Rice case and said that he is not a wife-beater, even though there is video tape that proves otherwise.

East Jersey State
Prison (formerly Rahway State Prison)
I know that rich and famous people sometimes get breaks from the legal system.  In Rice's case, he got a sweet deal from the New Jersey authorities and was allowed to attend a diversionary counseling session instead of joining the football team at East Jersey State (Prison). The program they found for him was supposed to be for non-violent offenders committing victimless crimes.  Wrong twice, New Jersey!

I urged strict punishment and was branded a "typical liberal," which makes as much sense as letting bad guys walk away unpunished. Any man who would hit a woman deserves firm sanction.  In fact, people of any gender who go around knocking out people of any gender deserve to be taken aside and given some time to consider other ways of dealing with their issues.

It's only fair.