Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Park Closed Over Head Scarf? Arrests? Lesson Learned? We'll See....

You have to admit, it's unbelievable, huh?  An amusement park actually closed over a head scarf?  Arrests were made?  Yes, all of the above are true....and this is a story that generated some fairly adamant responses, too.  Here's how it went down: Rye Playland, and amusement park in Westchester County, NY, was closed Tuesday after police scuffled with Muslim women that were upset that they were barred from riding certain rides while wearing their head scarves.  I know, I know...but hold on for a second and let me finish telling this one.  Seriously, you'll love it.  The park, as the story goes, was packed with Muslims celebrating one of their holidays - the one that marked the end of their holy month of Ramadan.  One of the Muslim women began arguing with police over the park's rule about the head scarves.  It's important to note that the rule is not Muslim-specific and was put in effect about three years ago to prevent hats from falling on the tracks of roller coasters and certain other rides.  Fair enough - makes sense to me.  Why should one John Deere cap-wearing dude put everyone at risk because he was 'yee-haw'ing' it on a coaster?  So here we are with a Muslim arguing with a cop...and it gets better.

The woman was arguing with police and things began to get louder.  She was yelling at the police officers, they were trying to arrest her and, while this was transpiring, her sister, "went to try to protect the woman and was beaten by cops and also arrested.  Her brother, 20, was pushed to the ground and taken into custody when he tried to help his cousin."  Got that, right?  You read those things thoroughly?  It's important and we'll come back to that.  The woman being interviewed went on to say, "She just wanted to get on a ride.  That was it.  It's clear, this all happened because we're Muslim."  Keep in mind that, with over 3,000 Muslims in attendance and this getting our of control, there were about 100 police officers that responded.  Two park rangers were injured in the scuffle.  Another woman said her brother, husband, and father were all tackled by police and put into handcuffs when they tried to help her sister.  The two women that initiated this fracas said they were unaware of the park's rule until they attempted to ride the ride.  After hearing o said rule, they asked for a refund and it turned into this situation.  She also said her 4-year old was traumatized by seeing his father put into handcuffs.  It is important to note that Peter Tartaglia, deputy commissioner of Westchester County Parks said the Muslim American Society of New York was warned about the rule banning head scarves and, "we painstakingly told them over and over again, is that certain rides you cannot wear any sort of headgear.  It's a safety issue for us on rides.  It could become a projectile."  You know what?  I don't care what these scarves, hats, etc could become.  If it's a rule, it's a rule.  Of course, the president for the Council of Islamic-American relations-New York felt that, "in this heightened state of Islamaphobia, a woman wearing a hajib is an easy target these days."  So there's the story.  Now, somewhat like Paul Harvey, I'm about to spout off with my own personal opinion...and for those that know me, you know you might want to buckle your seat belts and keep your hands and feet inside the ride at all times.  Hats, too, apparently.



I read the article, then combed through the replies at the bottom of the page...then the next page...then the next.  I am still waiting for someone to voice an opinion that says this was anything BUT a group looking for a reason to fight.  The rules are the rules, especially if they pertain to safety.  I don't care if it's a cap, a scarf, or a handkerchief.  If it's a rule of the park, it's a rule.  Period.  The other point that was made, and I am certainly one to agree with it is, when a police officer is making an arrest, don't mess with them.  They tried to "help" their siblings while the cops were arresting them?  Seriously?  Are you insane?  You actually wonder WHY they arrested you?  Here's a news flash - Even we white Americans would have been slapped around and arrested for such a stupid, thoughtless move.  Let me ask it this way - if this had happened in your native country and you tried to "help" while they were being arrested, do you think it would have stopped with another arrest...or a bullet?  Along those same lines, what if an American woman went to and Islamic country and tried to get away with NOT wearing a hajib?  Do you think your homer countrymen would be so understanding?  We all know the answer.

I feel it is important to note this - I, and most everyone I know, am not racist or anti-Islamic.  It's not for lack of reason.  Ask us how we felt ten years ago.  Yet here we are, ten years later, and you expect us to be sympathetic when you pull THESE stunts?  I find it, quite honestly, appalling that you are that intolerant of our feelings.  Why, if it is so hard to live here, did you move to America?  If our rules are so incredibly hard to follow, why not move home?  What brought you to this country?  Was it, per chance, that there is freedom here?  Was it because, no matter what you do, you are not locked up or persecuted?  My guess would be a resounding, "YES!!!"  Listen, we can be very understanding and, more than most others around the world, tolerant of your beliefs and customs.  We might not understand, but we can be tolerant for the most part.  Please do not push it.  The most refreshing comment I read in regard to this story came from a Muslim woman that said, in part, that she believes they should have been abiding by the rules and their actions were unacceptable.  Thank you.  If you want to live here, in peace and harmony, do NOT expect us to give you any more than we expect.  Unfortunately, the American way is not to 'expect' things, but, rather, to work for what you want to achieve.  THAT is the America we know...and the one for which you came.  Respect it...and us, please.  We'll do the same.

Until next time............

Monday, August 29, 2011

ADHD? ADD? Real or Imagined?

Yahoo! today posted an article titled, "Top 10 Myths About ADHD," in which they refute much of what we believe.  They talk about ADHD being something that many kids do not outgrow.  They talk about how 10% of children ages 5-17, as well as 4% of adults, have this disorder.  They also mention that it is NOT caused by bad parenting, that medication isn't the ONLY method of treatment, that is IS a real disorder, and that it is (in the author's opinion) underrated and under-diagnosed.  They purport all these things to be myths about ADHD and cite many of their responses as fact.  Okay, I get it.  I understand it may very well be a real disorder and it might best be treated with medication.  I also understand there is great debate, the world over, on whether our methods are appropriate.  There are many clinicians in other countries that feel we are over medicating our children.  They do not believe the American model is what should be used in diagnosis and treatment.  There's a reason 85% of all the ADHD medications are sold in the US...and it isn't because this same problem is not an issue in other countries......is it?

Every time I read or hear about ADHD, I wonder about its origins.  It wasn't until 1998, in fact, that the NIH released a consensus statement regarding the validity of the ADHD diagnosis and treatment with stimulants.  My question has been, and will always be, why now?  Obviously, the physiology has not changed in the human body, has it?  Have our brains physically changed so that the kids today are different from a previous generation?  I always jokingly say that my father had his own ADHD treatment he used on me.  Quite simple, actually.  It involved a quick smack on the back of my head, followed by a stern, "Pay attention & stop daydreaming!"  Controversial, but effective.  Really, think about it - was I the kid that you wanted to medicate with stimulants?  I think not...and many educators are grateful, believe me.

My concern is not really with the diagnosis or that we're treating a 'phantom' disease.  I believe, to answer some of my own questions, we might be noticing an increased awareness and prevalence because we had not studied it enough, or there was a widespread ignorance of the validity of the disorder.  My concern, truly, is with the fact that, yet again, we are treating symptoms with meds, especially in our youth.  I believe we are resorting to pumping medication into them to compensate for our collective shortcomings.  What do I mean?  Well...glad you asked.  I used to joke, about 25 years ago, that Nintendo was Japanese retaliation for the bomb years ago.  Think about it.  While there are many beneficial uses for video games, we have not been the same since the arrival of the Nintendo.  'Pong' could only keep us occupied for so long, right?  Oh, but Super Mario Brothers?  We were in front of the television for hours.  Seriously, hours.  We stopped going outside to play.  I mean, I hate to revert back to sounding like my parents (no, I did NOT walk five miles to school, uphill both ways), but when we were kids we were outside constantly.  We were still part of the generation that, during the summer months, would leave the house at 7:30 or so, head to a friend's house, get their brothers and the neighbor kids, head to a ball field, and play baseball for hours.  Then we'd go ride our bikes.  Then we'd take time off to eat something, usually while running out the door, until mom called us in for dinner.  At that point, when the sun was up until at least 9:00 or 9:30, we'd be back outside finding ways to both exercise and entertain ourselves.  Video games?  I don't think so.  The other thing we can point to as a possible source of issues we face might very well be the foods we eat.  hey, I took a nutrition class in college, too, and believe me, a Big Mac is always the cure for something eventually.  The problem is that a steady diet will kill you.  Don't believe me?  Watch the movie, "Supersize Me," where the movie maker spent a mere 30 days ingesting nothing but McDonald's foods.....super-sized.  At the end of the 30-day period, the doctor feared he would have a heart attack.  He was polluting his body...and we're not sure this might be a cause?  let's rethink that one, eh? 

One thing I gleaned from reading this that many folks do not believe in the diagnosis.  I read the comments from people after they, too, had read the article.  Most of them believe this is, indeed, a phantom disorder designed to help two groups of people - doctors and the pharmaceutical companies.  While it has definitely helped both monetarily, isn't it time we demand real diagnoses for problems like this?  We need to stop, if possible, the doping of our children.  We need, as I have said so very often, to hold them accountable for their actions rather than simply using the tried and true, "He hasn't had his medicine today."  Really?  Nothing like giving kids permission to misbehave.  I'm NOT saying this is 'made up' - I'm saying we need to find as many alternative treatments as possible before we start sticking pills in them, that's all.  Our kids deserve better and, quite honestly, we're not doing them any favors for their future years either.  Just a thought, but maybe it's worth a try, huh?

Until next time...........

Friday, August 26, 2011

As With That Day, This Makes No Sense, Either

First, my usual apologies - I've been on the road traveling and was unable to write. Also, there's been a relative shortage of thought-provoking, gritty topics, too. Oh, I could've written about Irene or the economy, however we're waiting to see how we fare with Irene, while the economy remains in the tank. These are a given. What was NOT a 'given', though, is the story that was sent to me by a beloved young lady that attends the University of Florida. I love this young lady to pieces and have known her since she was born, but we're about to embark on another few months when we will bicker....if only a little. Roll Tide - love ya', Steph! Anyway, she sent a link to a news story suggesting I might want to read, and use, the enclosed facts. I knew before I read it that it would be something that I would find unbelievable. It was...and is. I'm shocked and, quite honestly, cannot believe it has not been rectified. Sadly, I cannot believe it is even possible.
The story I am referring to was captioned, "9/11 First Responders To Be Excluded From 10th Anniversary Ceremony." Wait....WHAT? I had to read it and, before I got through the first paragraph, felt my blood pressure rising. The story said that, due to security and space issues, the first responders will not be invited to the ceremony. They will be invited to a private ceremony on a different date. Really? How nice. While honoring those that died on that tragic day, we'll make room for the families of the nearly 3,000 people that died, however the men and women that rushed into those buildings will not be able to attend. I am astounded that the city, most notably Mayor Bloomberg, cannot find a way to honor the lives that were lost, while at the same time honoring those that made certain the death toll would remain as low as possible. What if they had decided, on that late-summer day ten years ago, that there was no room for them at the Twin Towers? What if they had decided it would be best, as security was definitely an issue, that they should stay away? That would not happen, though, as they know it is part of the job.


Let me put this into perspective. Obviously, in the photo at the right, the towers have already collapsed. Not only did the FDNY & NYPD stay on the scene after this, searching, rescuing, and recovering bodies, they had been in those building prior to the collapse. While the upper floors were smoldering and burning, they rushed into the towers, ran up the stairs, and carried people out. They were there to make sure that everyone got out alive. They were there to provide a sense of safety and security while everyone around them ran, panic-stricken, from those buildings. These brave men and women had no way of knowing, though surely some of them had a fairly good idea, that this would be their last day on this earth...yet they kept moving. They continued to battle the looming collapse of these structures, making trip after trip, until the towers fell....on them. Take a good look at that picture and ask yourself, "Would I be able to rush in, in an attempt to save lives, while waiting for the concrete and steel to come down?" I'm not sure many of us would answer in the affirmative. Fortunately, they could...and did. Now, however, we cannot find room for them.

This picture is the kind of thing firefighters face every day. They must go into a building or home, knowing they may well be killed in the line of duty, yet they continue. They rush in because there may be someone in that fire. There may be a child that could die. Often, they can only reach a body whose breaths have been exhausted, and they must wonder, "What if..." We're going to thank them by telling them we cannot make room for them? We're going to offer them a 'private ceremony' at a later date? How dare you, Mayor Bloomberg? How can you do anything BUT have them in attendance? I am feeling a sense of collective guilt on the part of the American people in general, as if we are all letting them down. For hours and days after this horrific tragedy, they remained, working and searching, never asking for anything other than the ability to pull yet one more survivor from this mass of steel and concrete. We cannot make room for them 10 years later.


This final picture says it all. In the face of a National Tragedy, THIS is what they wanted to show the world. DO NOT discount this message - the message these firefighters, perhaps unknowingly, sent the rest of the world that day is that we are still here! They raised our flag that day to tell anyone that might be associated with the horrific attacks, "Nice try. You can knock us down, you can come at us in your cowardly fashion, you can attempt to strike fear in our hearts...but we are Americans!" You see, even as they were trying to find survivors, this picture, as many of us remember, was inspirational. These men did more for us that day than save lives. They did more than give their lives. They, more than anyone involved, gave us a resolve to defeat terrorists worldwide. 343 Firefighters gave their lives that day. We cannot find room for them, though, at the 10th anniversary ceremony. I would think, if you ask the families that will be in attendance and lost family members on 9-11-01, they would want them there to say a solemn, "Thank you." Sadly, we're going to thank them by saying you cannot be there. This isn't sad, it's a travesty. Mayor Bloomberg, and anyone associated with this decision, should be ashamed of themselves. Thank God there are brave men and women that are members of the FDNY and NYPD. Were it not for them, how high do we think that number might have risen? While we honor those whose lives were lost that day, just as with the flag above, we need to honor those that saved even more lives. They've earned it. They're heroes....and, as such, deserve to be treated with the respect and honor that entails.


Until next time..........

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

I've Kept It In Check For Weeks...and Can't Anymore....

See?  Another 'teaser' title for this posting and you're all wondering what I'm talking about.  Here it is, folks...it's time for another....a season of....SEC Football!!  At this point, I'm actually watching (or hearing) some ladies clicking the little "X" in the upper corner.  Actually, I'm hoping not that many.  I've seen quite a few ladies, especially when discussing NCAA rather than pro, that are HUGE football fans.  Some have even argued their case quite eloquently when discussing their favorite teams.  By "eloquently," I obviously mean they want to throw down after telling you "colorfully" how they really feel.  You have to admire it, too.  "You go, Girl," is my attitude...only because I don't want to get slapped around.  So here it is - only 10 days until we get ramped up again watching our beloved college programs and players take the gridiron.  For a few short months, we'll get to anticipate those Saturday afternoons when we dress in team colors and cheer on our favorite teams and players.  We'll get so wrapped up in the Polls that we'll barely notice the color of the leaves changing as summer fades to fall then winter.  We'll notice, and long for at times, that first Saturday we have to wear a sweatshirt rather than t-shirt.  That will last about a week, maybe two.  That's when I, personally, will start complaining about the weather and how cold it is.  Fortunately, it takes a little longer to get cold here in the south.  Yeah, I know...that was the 'kiss of death'.  It'll turn colder, and stay that way longer, now that I've thumbed my nose at the weather Gods.  No worries - we'll be fine and decide not to complain as long as the Crimson Tide continues to win.  It's how it works down here.  They win, we don't complain.  About anything, mind you.  Nothing.  Just win.



I really hadn't decided what to post about tonight until I checked the "Saturday Down South," website.  It's filled with everything SEC and, if nothing else, provides some good reading about the strongest conference in college football. Check it out (if you choose, of course) at www.saturdaydownsouth.com.  I seem to gravitate to the site because, well, they're saying good things about Alabama.  One of the top stories?  The Heisman pre-season predictions.  Not important to all, mind you, but they are talking about the the top 5 contenders from the SEC.  As a matter of fact, they predict that, if the trophy does go to a player in the SEC, it will be one of these 5...so remember I'm saying it here and now.  That is unless they're wrong.  Then you never heard it from me, I'll delete this post, and you can forget I said anything.  Here are the five I will reference when the winner is crowned - 1) Marcus Lattimore, RB - South Carolina, 2) Trent Richardson, RB - Alabama, 3) Alshon Jeffery, WR - South Carolina, 4) Mark Barron, FS - Alabama, and 5) Russell Shepard, WR - LSU.  There they are - two from SC, two from AL, and one single thug from LSU.  Yeah, I know...that wasn't quite fair....or was it?  Before I go there, look at one thing - there's a Free Safety in this mix.  Mark Barron could actually win the Heisman, a trophy typically reserved for quarterbacks and running backs.  Barron, if he's recovered completely from the injuries sustained in last year's Auburn game, could actually pull this off...and that would be huge.  Now, about that 'thug' comment.....

LSU, in my opinion, has become the 'Miami of the 2010 decade'.  Many of us remember when Miami was saddled with the image, and rightfully so, of being brawlers and thugs.  They were winning and they were playing, well, a little 'differently' than other teams.  They were common street thugs, period.  Yes, it is a personal opinion...shared by many.  LSU now has a starting QB, Jordan Jefferson, that was one of several involved in a bar fight.  Here's what we do know - they broke their 10:30 p.m. curfew and were at a bar.  No big deal, except it was 2:00 a.m....and several people went to the hospital.  The only other thing we know as fact is that Jefferson should have shown better leadership skills.  he should have kept the team away from trouble...and unwanted publicity.  Big mistake.  Huge.  As a matter of fact, it might cost him the starting position in the first week.  You know, the week that #4 LSU plays #3 Oregon, last year's runner-up for the BCS Title.  Interesting game with bowl implications.  My only questions - Jefferson, what were you thinking?  Oh, you weren't?  I get it.  On behalf of the Tide, let me say a hearty, "Thank you!"



So there it is.  I, along with more than a few others, are geared up for another thrilling season.  We're ready.  We've waited a long time (almost a whole year!) for this time to be here again.  The best part is having tickets (thank you, Pam) for the Week 2 game in Happy Valley.  Penn State and Alabama, JoePa & Nick.  We cannot wait for that game.  More importantly, we cannot wait to be tailgating, hanging out with old friends from PA, wearing our colors as they wear their's, a rivalry reborn with respect and friendship.  How can I say 'rivalry' and 'friendship' in the same description?  Easy - look at what they're doing in State College, PA.  Raising money for tornado victims, still.  This is why it's a friendly rivalry born of respect.  They have character and class...and we cannot wait to get there.

Until next time...........

Monday, August 22, 2011

Royal Wedding? Seriously? How can you compare....

...Kim Kardashian's wedding with the Royal couple in Great Britain?  I realize that makes for great tabloid fodder, but really?  Kim Kardashian used the Royal wedding as her inspiration, yes.  I understand that part.  I would imagine most any young girl imagined, in a moment of wishful thinking, imagined herself getting married to a prince.  William is heir to the throne and together they looked the part of 'Future King & Queen'.  Let's get one thing perfectly clear, though - Kim Kardashian is NOT royalty.  She is a reality-TV personality.  It is hard for me to even call her a 'star' as she is simply going through the motions of her day-to-day life while a camera films it.  I will acknowledge one thing - she and her family have made a small fortune (and then some) marketing, well, their family.  Quick, think of ALL your friends.  How many of them do you know that can turn their lives into a TV show and rake in millions?  How many of them can sit and think, "Hmm, we know a lot about________ (fill in the blank).  We ought to start a business selling the associated items," and make that work?  Hey, I like riding motorcycles - think I can simply go out and open a dealership that will be successful because they know me from my nights out partying?  Yeah, I didn't think so.





The other thing I heard today, while listening to the comparisons to the Royal Wedding, was that Kim and her husband will rake in a cool $17.9 million from the proceeds.  The WHAT???  Proceeds?  From a WEDDING??  Okay, another quick show of hands - how many of you have ever known anyone that made money on their wedding?  They had $400,000. of donated Perrier-Jouet champagne.  Kim wore three different Vera Wang gowns.  They are selling their wedding pics to People magazine.  Sold the rights to their engagement announcements and bridal-shower photos.  They were even paid to have the bachelorette party at Tao Las Vegas!    Can anyone else even imagine this?  Hey, you are absolutely correct - I am not faulting them.  If you can get it, get it.  You know they're laughing all the way to the bank and we, as "common folk" have no right to complain...for it will be us, the American commoners, that pay for the People magazine.  Others will do whatever they can to wear a Vera Wang.  (stop giggling) Amazingly, we will be the ones to watch, too, the 4-hour, two-part TV show on the E! network sometime in October.  That doozy alone got them a cool $15 million.  I am still dumbfounded.





Consider this last point, though.  When William and Kate, future King and Queen of England, wed earlier this year they asked that they not be given gifts.  Instead, they raised money for charities.  My question to everyone is, "How much do you think Kim and her husband will give to charity?"  I'm guessing, if they were any version of "America's Royalty" they would have given much of it away.  This, however, will probably be their 'little' nest egg for the future, right?  Well, I , for one, am glad they did it this way.  In a time when our children expect (and most often, demand) whatever they want, this should help a lot.  I hear kids now, at the age of 15, saying they want a Range Rover for their first car.  Seriously?  Uh, yeah...me, too.  Now, every father in America can thank Kim and the fellow Kardashians for allowing them the opportunity to say, "No," to their daughters in the future.  When a young girl bats her eyelashes at daddy and begs for a more lavish wedding, they will point to Kim and ask how she got it and they don't.  It's at that point, dads, that you need to make sure your kids know they should have been reality-TV stars so they could afford such a thing...because, quite honestly, that's where the comparison ends.  Please, too, do NOT compare these two to Kate & William.  You remember Kate - still thrift-shopping even after her marriage.  Think we'll see Kim doing that?  And what about hubby?  Oh, yeah - NBA star.  William?  He's a lowly helicopter pilot out saving lives.  I have to say, if my kids ever wanted role models, I'd certainly point "across the pond," first.  They are some classy, centered young people that are providing an excellent example around the world.

Until next time.....

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Enough Already - Questioning the Administration's Strategy in Afghanistan

When I sit down to read the news or (as I've mentioned often) watch the important stories of the day on the Today Show, I wait until a story jumps out, grabs me by the shirt collar, pulls my face close and says in no uncertain terms, "You WILL write about this, right?"  Yeah, that's the one that gets my fingers to the keyboard easily.  I find, too, that the bigger the impact it has, the easier it is for the words find their way to the screen.  This story is NO exception.  The headline was enough to get me to ask, "Are you....no, no, that HAS to be a typo.  Surely, what I am about to read cannot say what I think it will."  Guess what?  I was wrong.  There was no typographical error.  The headline said it all - the article simply made it worse.  This is called, "The Tease."  Getting you, as readers, to beg me to reveal the headline.  Either that, or you've closed the page already.  On the chance you haven't left yet, here it is - "$360 Million lost to insurgents, criminals in Afghanistan."  So I don't misconstrue anything or make any erroneous comments, I'll share the first two paragraphs of this story, word for word.  The article began with this:

WASHINGTON (AP) — After examining hundreds of combat support and reconstruction contracts in Afghanistan, the U.S military estimates $360 million in U.S. tax dollars has ended up in the hands of people the American-led coalition has spent nearly a decade battling: the Taliban, criminals and power brokers with ties to both.
The losses underscore the challenges the U.S. and its international partners face in overcoming corruption in Afghanistan. A central part of the Obama administration's strategy has been to award U.S.-financed contracts to Afghan businesses to help improve quality of life and stoke the country's economy.
So, now I have to ask of everyone, both Administration supporters and detractors - how did THAT make you feel?  $360 Million (with an "M") of our tax dollars ended up in the hands of...The Taliban???  How did THAT happen?  I know, I know...just as it says in the article, "Hey, we're still facing a few challenges over there," right?  A few challenges?  Oh, and what about that last part?  The segment that says that a central part of the Administration's strategy is to award US-financed contracts to Afghan businesses to help improve quality of life and STOKE THE COUNTRY'S ECONOMY??  Uh, Dear Mr President, I'd like to share a fairly well-known fact here.  We, here in America, would really enjoy it if you could...you know, improve OUR quality of life and, perhaps stoke OUR ECONOMY!  I'm not trying to say I disagree with your......wait, yes I am.  I DO disagree with this effort.  At a time when our economy is in the tank, isn't it time to give a little less foreign aid and concentrate on domestic problems?  Basically, as this story goes, it's a case of what has been billed, "Reverse money-laundering."  We give money to the contractors for construction, transportation, power projects and other services to help rebuild Afghanistan, then they get it to the insurgents.  Clean money being turned into dirty money.  What a concept. 

I realize Foreign Policy is necessary.  I realize we have more than a vested interest in what happens everywhere in the world.  Really, I get it.  I also understand that we have more people than ever, right here in the United States, living at or below the poverty level.  We have children that are homeless and going hungry.  We have more people out of work than most of us can ever remember.  We have record foreclosures.  Semi-serious question, Mr President - Are we TRYING to turn the USA into a third-world country, too?  We're selling our country off to others.  We are giving more away in social programs for illegal (always have to highlight that word) immigrants, and now, at the height of the worst economic time many of us can recall, we're still spending Billions (with a "B") on our military in other countries.  Weren't our boys supposed to be on their way home already?  Weren't we supposed to show them how to set up a democracy and rebuild their country, then wish them well and get the hell out of there?  I, for one, am ready for those very billions to be spent here at home.  Oh, wait.....we don't really HAVE that money.  We're borrowing it, right?  We can't repay it....but we're borrowing and giving it to other countries.  Wait, what?  Am I missing something?  I am, by no means, a rocket scientist or PhD, but I have to ask how this makes sense.  Quick analogy to make sure I have this right - this would be like me going to the bank, borrowing money to give to other families so they can buy a house, food, and clothing, then wondering why my wife and kids leave me when our house is in foreclosure.  Am I close on that one?

Somewhere along the one, someone has to answer these questions.  We, as your constituents, are asking often, yet we have no real response.  I hear you have a new plan to fight unemployment, too.  Sadly, we can't hear it for another three weeks.  Kind of reminds me of an episode of, "The West Wing," when a reporter asked the Deputy Chief-of-Staff if the President had a plan to fight inflation.  The answer was, "Yes," however he couldn't share it with the reporters.  Another reporter then asked, "Why not?  Is it a secret?"  The Deputy Chief responded, "Yeah, the President has a 'secret plan' to fight inflation," when, in reality, there was no plan at all.  I guess my point to sharing that little passage is...do we really have a new plan or are we faking it?  I'm assuming we'll all know in three weeks.  In the meantime, we're going to take the time to read this entire article...and, hopefully, remember it come next November.  We'll let our feelings be known, not just for the occupant at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, but for the guests working on Capitol Hill as well.  So, I submit to you, dear readers, the article that can be found at: http://news.yahoo.com/360m-lost-insurgents-criminals-afghanistan-150450640.html

Until next time.........

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

I'd Talk About The Kangaroo...But I Got Nothin'.....

Yeah, so....a kangaroo walks into a bar.  That really didn't happen.  I made it up.  Like I said in tonight's title - I got nothin' today.  Not actually true, but it's been one of those days.  You know the kind.  You sit down after work and think, "They don't make enough....well, anything...to cope with days like this."  Then you turn on the Evening News and just know it's going to be better, right?  Seriously?  None of you thinks that, do you?  Ever seen a good story on the news?  Neither have I...or so I thought.  Amazingly, Brian Williams and NBC choose to make a liar out of me tonight.  Their lead story, as a matter of fact, was about Joplin, MO and how, after a mere three months, they honored their vow of opening the schools on time.  This, after the town was nearly blown off the map by an F-5 tornado.  Nice story.  The kids have moved into their new school, they all received new computers and, most importantly, the teachers seem to have incorporated 'hugs' into the new curriculum.  These kids are still scared and are returning to normal lives.  The district, wisely, built new concrete shelters behind the school should these vicious storms ever attack again.  So there you have it - thanks Brian.  Great story.  Sadly, that's where it ended.

The next story was of the 17-year old student in Tampa that planned, according to his minute-by-minute details, on killing many at his former high school.  Police received an anonymous tip and found a lot of bomb-making materials at his home.  He had been expelled last year and this year decided he wanted to make them pay.  He actually, in his manifesto, stated that he wanted this to be bigger than Columbine.  Maybe it's time to ask again - Parents, where are you?  How does your kid get bomb-making materials into the house (and a large quantity at that!) without your knowledge?  My only guess is that maybe, just maybe...someone's asleep at the wheel here.  Maybe mom and dad were working too hard to give this kid everything he wanted...and things he didn't need.  I wouldn't be surprised if the kid drove a new BMW, had a Rolex, and was selling drugs which, by the way, he listed as what he wanted to study later in life.  How to grow marijuana.  Mom?  Dad?  Ever SEEN this kid's Facebook page?  Really?  I didn't think so.  Just a suggestion - pay closer attention, please!!  The lives you save might be mine or my families.  Thank you.  AAAGGGHHHHHH!  Thanks - much better now.

Lastly today, there's the story of the brain-eating amoebas that have killed three people already.  really?  This isn't a Dustin Hoffman-type movie where everyone runs around in those yellow suits and the funky headgear?  It's...REAL?  Okay, then I'm done.  When there are those little amoeba things killing kids, I'm at the end of the line.  I thought this was going to be a slow week...and even thought I didn't have anything to write about.  Actually, it appears I really didn't.  I used these stories as filler.  You enjoyed them, though, right?  At least I didn't delve into the Real Housewives husband that hung himself.  Yeah, don't ask.  Like I said, though, it's been one of those days.  Time for me to "put 'em up in front of the TV and relax."  We'll see.  I expect the phone will ring next and I'll be stuck hiding from the IRS.  Wait....already doing that.  Forget I said anything.  About....oh, never mind.  We'll talk soon.

Until next time..........

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

You Might Have Seen This Story...But It's Worth Another Look.....

Again, I sat transfixed this morning while watching the Today Show.  I know...but it's on as I sit at my desk.  I can't help but listen.  As Natalie Morales broadcast the news, I heard a story I was going to tell last evening after reading about it.  It involved the horrible murder of a three-year old little girl.  Maybe I should have written about it.  Then, a few minutes later, I heard Matt Lauer discussing another little girl whose story I had read a couple of weeks ago.  THIS would be the story I should write about it.  It was motivational, heartbreaking, and inspirational all at the same time.  Many of you might have heard of this incredible young lady already.  Her name is Rachel Beckwith and she was from Seattle, WA.  Rachel was, as it turns out, anything but an ordinary girl who was about to turn 9 years old.  You see, Rachel found out that many children across the globe don't live to see their 5th birthday simply because they don't have access to clean water.  What did Rachel do?  Not much, really.  She simply decided that, one her June 12th birthday, she wanted to skip birthday presents and ask people for donations so she could help kids everywhere gain access to that water.  She set a goal - $300.00.  Unfortunately, she only raised $220.00.  Not a problem - she vowed to do it again the following year on her 10th birthday.  This time, she'd make her goal.

Then, in July, there was an accident on I-90 that involved twelve cars...and took one life.  Yes, it was Rachel.  The story is told that her family and friends were grief-stricken beyond belief.  She'd made a huge, lasting impact on them all and they were inconsolable.  The mere fact that a 9-year old little girl had her life cut so tragically short was enough, but to make things worse, she was the kind of child that every parent hopes for.  Caring, kind, giving, and unselfish.  She'd shown that only a month before when she started her campaign to raise a simple $300.00 in lieu of presents.  How many children her age do that?  How many adults do that?  Those same family and friends decided the best way to honor her memory was to keep her dream alive and keep the water drive going.  Then, it happened.  Her story was told on Facebook, Twitter, national news - everywhere...and the donations kept coming.  This little girl that wanted to raise a few hundred dollars made it happen...and so much more.  As I write this, I have checked the site three times.  The total has risen each time.  Her total?  It now stands at a hefty....are you ready?...$1,142,497.00.  The number, so the story goes, is enough to provide drinking water to more than 50,000 people for life.  Her website is Charitywater.org and can be found at: http://www.mycharitywater.org/p/campaign?campaign_id=16396.

So there's the story that should be told.  Simple, actually, right?  I don't think so.  Look at her picture.  This loving child was taken from this earth far before her time.  At nine years old, I think she accomplished more than some that are five times her age.  In a time when we have seen the "Me Generation," how incredibly humbling and wonderful that a child can teach us all about how to live.  How to care about others.  How to make a difference in the world.  That's it, I think.  She taught us, by deed alone, that anyone and everyone can make a difference.  Children die before they're five because they don't have access to water?  How many kids today think the world is coming to an end because they didn't get the newest video game?  How many kids today pout and get upset because they didn't get more money for their birthday or holidays?  How many kids even think about others in distant lands?  How many kids, seriously, take their lives for granted?  I cannot look at Rachel's picture and imagine how her heart got so big.  In a time when I have stated, more than once, how kids are less than appreciative and are less than grateful, this child has done more than bring water to those without. She is, I think, a beacon of hope.  A sign that there is still truly good in the world.  She is a symbol of hope for parents throwing up their hands in despair over how to raise their children.  It CAN be done!  The Beckwith's are proof.  It's easy to think, in light of her death, that this young woman might have changed the world had she grown to adulthood.  It'd be really easy to think that...until you see what she did in her short nine years.  She changed the world.  It isn't simply about the water, either.  More importantly, in my opinion at least, it's about the hope.  She gives us hope.  May this angel now rest in peace...and know she had a profound, lasting impact on many far outside Seattle.

Until next time.........

Monday, August 15, 2011

Seriously....Consider A Motorcycle...In Several Ways

Okay, maybe it doesn't sound like the best advice.  When I say "consider" a motorcycle, I mean buying one...as well as considering them when you are in a car.  I know, I know.  It sounds a bit strange after we had them under us for about 1800 miles just over a week ago.  It was a great trip to Dallas and, after only a week of parking it in the garage, it was time to go again.  Not to Dallas - just riding.  This past weekend was perfect for riding and we decided a trip out o frown was in order.  I have to say, I drive a lot.  I mean, really - A LOT.  The car, though, only lets you experience the road a certain way.  Well, yeah, it's true you don't get bugs in your teeth when your in a car, but they're mostly protein anyway.  Few carbs, really, depending on which specific....why am I even discussing this?  Forget that part.  It's true, though - you're behind a windshield and enclosed in a car.  I realize air-conditioning is a plus when it's 117 degrees outside, but you don't get to 'feel' the experience.  When the weather is good, the roads aren't crowded, and your mind is clouded, there is nothing better than a trip on the bike.  Imagine it - a winding country road with fields on either side, the sun shining down on you, the music turned up enough so you don't sound bad when you sing along.  IF I sang along.  Not me.  Never.  I said, "If," you sang along.  There is absolutely nothing that beats it.  The country road winds past the fields and farms, then turns past the hills to an area that has overgrown trees on both sides, providing shade and cooler temps.  You get to smell all the scents you cannot experience in a car, too...which is fine provided none of the farms are chicken or dairy farms.  The road winds down and around the bend and crosses over a small creek.  You can almost hear the sound of the water against the rocks over your singing to the....wait, I wasn't singing.  Never mind.  You grasp the concept.  It was, and will remain, one of the few times and places I can clear my mind and block out any distractions.  You and the road - seriously, consider it.  Consider that my 'mental health' tip of the day.


The other thing, and it might be a drawback when considering a bike, is the lack of consideration on the part of our four-wheel friends.  Seriously, everyone please watch for motorcycles.  We experienced some of the biggest, well....I can only say it one way - inconsiderate idiots...on the way home from Dallas.  It happened this weekend, too.  I know I complain often about people getting in the passing lane and not passing.  For those that need clarification, the left lane on the Interstate is considered the "Passing Lane."  If you get into that lane, please use the right foot and push the big pedal a little harder.  make the car go a little, well, faster.  get it past the other cars and then...get back to the right!  I know - a little harsh, huh?  No, it's NOT!  You people sit in that lane and...wait...those people sit in that lane and ride side-by-side for the next 40 miles.  You are definitely #1 in my book.  No worries, I'll let you know, too.  Please use your mirrors and, more importantly, your TURN SIGNALS.  If I had to guess, based on yesterday's ride, I'd say that they were making turn signals an option on most cars.  Friends, it's typically the lever on the left side of the steering wheel.  You either push it up or pull it down to indicate you're turning.  There - your remedial lesson for the day.  Sarcasm?  You betcha'!  Anyway, it was just a great day on the bike, even considering the people that were out for a Sunday stroll and decided to take their car along.  We had a good time.  Oh, and if you seriously DO consider getting a bike, make it a REAL bike.  See photo attached below!

Until next time............


Saturday, August 13, 2011

Longing For Days Gone By...That Can Be Again......With A Call To Arms

Not long ago, I wrote and shared a few memories of my hometown, Hanover, PA.  It was based, largely, on the majestic theater that stands downtown, an icon of years gone by.  The downtown area itself was a bit iconic, too...in those long forgotten days.  I left town in August of 1981 and headed to Philadelphia to attend Temple University.  Ah, Philly.  One of our larger cities that is also extremely rich in history.  I fell in love with it and stayed, after graduation, to live and work there.  I returned to Hanover a few years later, in 1986, to work in York as a dental hygienist by day, as well as a bartender/manager in Hanover by night. Obviously, I was young enough then to work both jobs and have fun at them...as well as pocket some good money.  Being single, as I recall anyway, had some serious advantages.  I moved again, in 1988, to Richmond, VA before heading off to Birmingham, AL in 2006.


I've been away from "home" for many years, yet always head back to visit, safe in the knowledge that, "I'm coming home."  It's the same for many of us, I presume, that have left our roots and wandered across this incredible country.  The anticipation we feel on the drives and the flights is incomparable, and the expectation of spending time with friends and family, for me at least, is rejuvenating.  Soon enough, I'll get to see my 85-year old grandmother, Mom (sorry, can't share her age - she'd kill me), Step-dad (if I catch him), and countless friends.  My step-father once told me, when trying to impress upon me how I would never get away with anything, that, "You're going to get caught.  If someone in this town doesn't know your mother or I, they know your grandparents.  If they don't know them, they know your dad's family and your other grandparents.  Don't even bother trying."  He was right.  No, of course it didn't stop me from trying...but he was right.  The town and its outlying areas, at that time, had a population of about 40,000, and my family was fairly well-known.

My great-grandfather started a dairy back when milk was delivered to your door.  I was only a kid then, but Little's Dairy was THE place to get your milk and assorted dairy products.  My grandmother, when she remarried (okay, we have a slight history of that), was the sister-in-law of Art Kuhn, owner of Kuhn Motors, the Dodge/Chrysler/Plymouth dealer in town.  The ultimate 'There's a target on me' move, though, was made when my mother remarried and my new step-father adopted my sister and I.  His grandfather, you see, started the Famous Hot Weiner downtown at the  corner of York St and Broadway.  Yes, I say it like you should know it - if you've never been there, it's one of the truly amazing culinary delights you'll find.  The second location on Dart Drive is probably the most popular and run by friend and cousin, Tim Keriazes.  One grandfather worked as the head mechanic at Snyder's of Hanover for countless years and mom was a dental hygienist at one of the busier dental practices in town.  I was done.  I realize, too, that I seem to be digressing, however felt it important to help illustrate how close the ties are that bind many of us to this town.  My parents were born and raised here, as were my sister and I.  It was the same with many of my friends and their families as well.  We all have a certain sense of pride about this area and, quite honestly, wish we could share the "Hanover of Old," with our kids.  We, like others from many small towns across America, actually loved this place.

Sadly, though, "progress" happened.  The small stores and businesses that thrived in the downtown area during our youth are fading.  They gave way to the shopping centers and the mall.  The Clearview Motor Lodge, with all of its 10-12 rooms, has given way to the Hampton Inn and Holiday Inn Express.  That once-majestic theater with its single screen gave way to a multiplex theater with HD and surround-sound near the mall.  The hardware stores and lumber yards are gone and have been replaced with Home Depot and Lowe's.  Buildings and storefronts downtown are boarded up and stand empty, along with a few businesses trying their best to lure patrons back to this quaint area.  The tree-lined streets are begging for people to walk them again, either in the shade offered during the day or the streetlamp-lit shadows by evening.  You could do that...in days gone by.  It was safe and pleasant.  We'd stop at McCrory's or Woolworth's.  We'd go shopping for school clothes at Benn's, stop by Staub's Drug Store, or go to one of the hardware stores that carried sporting goods while mom went to Baker's Dress Shop.  This downtown area was the center of the town, the hub, and we remember it fondly.  I think I can safely say, too, that our fondest memory (for those of us that were 'band-geeks') was the night we got home from Philadelphia after having won the State Championship Competition.  Ever seen a parade at 3:00 a.m.?  It was something we will never forget - throngs of people waiting for us as we marched into town, going the wrong way on a one-way street, until we turned the last corner and played a concert right then, right there.  Amazing.  The 'old' Post Office, too, was a thing of beauty.  Marble and concrete that later became a clothing store when Trone & Weikert moved in and did their best to save it.  The Lucky Spot was (and still is) a great place for a Saturday morning breakfast, and Posie's Sub Bar was the place to get the best grinders in town.

Now, it's gone.  Not completely 'gone', as much as it is fading...fast.  There are those, though, that are making an effort to revitalize it.  They want to return this small town to its' former glory, yet seem to be met with as much apathy as anything.  I find it ironic, in this day and age, that larger cities, in their personal quest to provide a "hometown feel and atmosphere" are building these areas.  I've seen them in Newport News, VA and Richmond, VA.  They're actually building business-lined streets with sidewalks and street lamps.  They have common areas and parks.  The buildings, though only covered with facades, are made to look exactly as our small town did so many years ago.  In my opinion, doesn't that mean a town with the actual buildings has a head start on this type of development?  These developers are now selling what we once had!  It's sad, for many of us, that the Borough Council and leaders of the community have allowed an apathetic attitude to take over.

This is an area billed as the "Snack Food capital of the World," because they have Utz Quality Foods, Snyder's of Hanover, Revonah Pretzels to name a few.  Hanover canned and frozen vegetables are sold everywhere in the country.  There is more money in this town than one can imagine...yet they seem to forget one thing - you can't take it with you.  It's time for that to change.  It's time for the apathy to be replaced with caring.  It's time to remember that it takes a village to raise a child...but it takes people to raise the village.

I don't have the answers, but many do.  It's going to start with the Borough Council.  Why not incentivize businesses to return to the downtown area?  Why not put a committee together to bring manufacturing back so that their corporate money can help rebuild the town?  Why not offer any incentives you can think of to volunteers?  I would have loved to have stayed in the area and raised my kids there.  It's THAT kind of town...and it's been good to many.  Isn't it time to repay that debt?  It doesn't only have to be with money...because, honestly, it all starts with a dream and a plan.  Based on what I've seen and read, it looks like a man named Sonny Eline has a handle on just such a dream.....

Until next time.........

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Robbers, Elephants, and Seals. C'mon, I'll Get There....

Well, it finally happened.  The sibling bank robbers have been caught.  Aged 21, 26, and 29, these two men and a woman, known as The Doughertys, were finally apprehended in Colorado earlier today.  What were they carrying?  A MAC-11 machine pistol, two AK-47's and a handgun.  All this after they left Zephyrhills, FL and a police pursuit, then robbed a bank in Valdosta, GA.  My guess is they were going hunting, however I don't think it was for wildlife.

Okay, when can we decidedly say that we've lost the battle in disciplining our kids?  Yeah, I know - there are "bad eggs" everywhere.  The parents probably spanked them and caused this behavior, right?  Wrong.  When a 21-year old leaves a note for his mother that says, "There's a time for us all to die," I think it's safe to say they were hellbent on destruction.  I'm guessing that, at some point, mom thought it best to discipline them and remembered that if she struck them in any way, she'd be going to jail.  I love that law.  I'm sorry...was that sarcasm actually 'dripping'?  Okay, you cannot hit your kids because, as we all well know, the system has redefined abuse.  Instead of it being an ongoing, chronic, long-term problem, abuse is now defined as laying a hand on your child.  Yeah, well....I still think paddlings aren't necessarily a bad thing.  I might be wrong, but it sure got my attention as a kid.  I knew better than to act up because, well....let's just say I knew the back of my dad's hand like....the back of his hand.  Met it a few times close-up, too.  NOT a fun time.  Did I do those things again?  I'm breathing, aren't I?  THAT is your answer.  Let's just say my picture was never on the Post Office wall.....and the thought of shooting anyone...much less an officer of the law...NEVER crossed my mind.  Okay, there was one traffic stop that....no, never.  He was still bigger and had a rather large handgun.

Elephants......why am I bringing up elephants?  For those that know me, it's because (yeah, you'll hear more of this over the following months)...it's FOOTBALL SEASON!  Elephants...as in the Alabama Crimson Tide.  Showing up in the preseason polls at #2 is okay - they like being the underdog.  So this year it's Oklahoma as the new #1.  Good team that might end up winning it all.  Then again, as we saw last year, anyone can win it all....especially if they hail from the SEC.

 Either way, the Crimson Tide are ready and, thanks to a very good friend, we'll be heading to Happy Valley on September 10th to watch, as they are billing the matchup, "Gridiron Legends Collide."  To see Penn State head to the field behind the incomparable Joe Paterno is something beyond moving.  "Legendary" is an understatement.  No, Bear Bryant never had 400 victories.  We get it.  Bear cut out in the early 80's, though, too....and had well over 300.  Geez, give him those extra years and Bear might've had the team wearing a '20' on the side of their helmets for the logo.  Not to worry - Nick Saban can get us there.  Saban has two Championships under his belt and will get the Tide more.  We believe it.  The kool-aid he served was shared by players and fans alike.  And, as I mentioned last year, there will never be another Bear, JoePa, or Bobby Bowden.  There will, however, be someone that leads this newest group of younger coaches and reestablishes the bar.  That man, in my opinion, is the CEO in Tuscaloosa.  See?  Told you the kool-aid was good.  Cherry flavored, too!

Finally, I wanted to share a bit about a show I watched last evening - "Secrets of Seal Team Six."  We all know these are the fabled characters that killed Osama Bin Laden.  We also know, as the dedication played at the beginning of the show, that these were men that were killed on August 6, 2011 in a helicopter crash after they were fired upon.  I wanted to share this story as we have a good friend that has a son that joined the Navy SEALS.  We know little of what he does...and I really don't care to.  What I need to know is that he's there.  That ALL these men are there.  The description I loved was when they likened these brave individuals to surgeons.  Many in the military use brute force and superior firepower.  These are the surgeons that can go in, extract, and leave with few, if any, knowing they were there.

Make NO mistake - these men are trained killers...and I want it to stay that way.  Remember the Maersk Alabama that was hijacked.  The civilian ship that eventually saw three pirates holding the captain at gunpoint.  Here's what they didn't tell us - the snipers from Seal Team Six were lying prone on a Naval ship hundreds of yards away for more than 24 hours before they got their orders.  Their "GO" order came after they were in position for over a full day.  Have that in you?  Seriously - anyone got a sandwich?  They didn't waiver.  Then, when the time ultimately came, three extraordinary men lying on a bobbing vessel took their shots.  In a coordinated fire with all three shots ringing out at one time, the three bullets each struck their targets with NO collateral damage.  The pirates, too, were on a similarly bobbing vessel...and it was not in unison with the Naval ship. How many men in the WORLD do you think could make those shots?  Personally, I don't care - I just know they're based in Virginia...and they're Americans.  If you get a chance to catch this show, I highly recommend it.  To let you know how secretive they are, even President Obama, when asked, was denied the identity of the actual shooter of Bin Laden.  Their response?  "Assume we all did."  Imagine the personal pride in doing a job that affects  not only the lives of their teams, the lives of Americans everywhere, but actually changes and writes history.  Who among us would not want to feel that pride if even for a day?  What an incredible honor...and, quite honestly, that's why they do it.  For God, For Honor, For Country.  You'll probably never know what these men do or even who they are.  Just know that THEY ARE.  I want to know, as Jack Nicholson said in "A Few Good Men," that they stand on that wall every night and tell us it's okay to go to sleep.  They'll protect us.  So...because we will, most likely, never know these men or their families, we can only thank them in our hearts and prayers.  I try to thank the mother of the SEAL member we know every chance I get.  She is a lot of fun as she takes delight in watching his Saturday morning 'fun trips' - jumping into the ocean from a helicopter or swimming underwater from, probably, country to country.  Yeah, they're that good.  To all active and retired military - I don't want you to think we need a national holiday to say it - We appreciate everything you do and have done.  We are in awe of the freedoms you have given us and the jobs you have done.  YOU are the ones that truly preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States.  On behalf of a grateful nation, we thank and salute those SEAL Team Six members that so valiantly gave their lives this week.....and for every mission in the past.


Until next time....

Monday, August 8, 2011

And I Was Worried About MY Credit Score.....

So, you're all watching, I know.  The Dow plummeted today, along with the other markets.  Our credit, so I've heard, is in the tank.  I decided, on our mighty little jaunt from Dallas, to listen to the news rather than my iPod.  Wish I'd rethought that one.  The news came across my radio at 7:20 on Saturday morning - "The US credit rating has officially been downgraded."  China feels it necessary to state their opinions as we seem to owe them some scratch.  Okay, I get that, too.  They feel we need to stop spending money on our military and our "bloated social programs."  Yep, I get that one, too.  We seem to have our military stationed in more than a few hot spots right now...and have for some time.  Those costs are draining us.  Our foriegn aid is draining us, too.  I suppose that is one of the social programs of which they spoke.  Sadly, the President made his comments know as well...and that's when I thought I was going to fall off the bike.  Yes, after hearing this news, all the president could come up with was, "We're attributing this to a clerical error."  Really?  Seriously?  Mr Presidnet, PLEASE tell me you have something better than THAT.  A clerical error.  Like, someone moved a decimal point 16 places too far to the right?  Are you KIDDING ME?

Folks, I have to say what I hope we're all thinking - we're in trouble here.  We're hemorraging cash and it isn't stopping.  What was the other report I heard last week?  Apple has more money than the United States.  Granted, an iPad from the governement would have taken 12 years longer to get to market, would have had to go through so many different agency-approvals, and would have come in well over budget.  Apple, meanwhile, has Steve Jobs telling people to, "Make it happen," and "Get it done," and they do.  Go figure.  The economy is still in the tank and I, for one, am extremely tired of hearing everything blamed on President George Bush.  I'll give you this one - he might have been a bit of a, well....buffoon, at times.  He said things that were Saturday Night Live fodder for 8 years.  Face it, we loved to hear him screw things up, BUT I submit this to you - President Bush, just as with President Obama, is not the sole reason we are in this predicament.  Let me explain a bit of what I learned from Ira "Bud" Geiselman, our POD (Problems of Democracy) teacher in case any of us forget - Our system is comprised of checks and balances.  The three branches of government keep the others "in check" and provide a measure of "balance."  If we want to look at how we truly got here, my friends, we need to examine not only the White House, but the good ol' boys on Capitol Hill.  The President cannot control everything that happens (as was evidenced by last week's fiasco and everything leading up to it), and the House and Senate have considerable control, too.  They have at least as much influence on our nation's demise as the houseguest residing at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

So, here's my question to you, my fellow Americans - Are we going to sit blithely by and watch this incredibly beautiful country with a democratic process that is the model for the world perish?  Will we allow not only the President, but the esteemed members of Congress take this country down a path that provides little, if anything, for our children and grandchildren?  WE have the control...and we have it every 2-4 years.  Only we can stop the madness of this ridiculous wasteful spending.  Want a real eye-opener?  Get your hands on the Congressional Record.  Check a bill and see how much "pork" there is.  We have wasteful spending that would make you weep...yet we continue to elect the same people again and again.  Enough already!  I do not care if they inhaled, snorted something, took an LSD trip - as long as that was in their past and they don't do it now.  As long as they know the difference between spending and theft of the American people.  As long as they consider that we have far too many homeless individuals, notably children.  As long as they realize that there are ways to spend our money that do not line the pockets of individuals.  As long as, quite honestly, they want to save our country and can say, without a doubt, that they have the interests of the country above their own and their reelection.  Those are the people I want leading us.  Seriously, do you care of they smoked marijuana in college...or do you care if they can run a business and keep it in the black.  My guess is that Steve Jobs lit up a time or two.  He seems to be doing fine.  There...I've said my peace for the evening.  Let's see if anyone agrees or disagrees.  Yep, you can tell, can't you - I'm baaacccckkkk!

Until next time.................

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Ah, Dallas - Thanks For The Memories.....I Think

First, I should apologize for not writing sooner.  I was....gathering info and material!  Yeah, that's it!  We'll say that's why I didn't write!  Actually, when you're in meetings from 6:00 a.m. until near 10:00 p,m., you find it difficult to do anything other than walk into your room, turn on the television, fall face first into pillows and sleep.  All this because the breakfast bell rings tomorrow at 6:00 again.  It's over now, though, and we can proclaim everything a success!  We made it back from Dallas in one piece.  Not that any of us doubted we would, but.....okay, maybe I did for a few moments during the outbound trip but it's all in the past.  It's officially over as we got to Birmingham earlier today.  I'd say, "Gee, you'll never guess how hot it was, " but I kind of ran that into the ground earlier in the week.  It was blazing.  I think, during our ride home last night, that I have it figured out now, though.  Dallas IS hell.  Now, before you go jumping me for that comment, let me get the explanation out there and see if you don't agree.  As with any of my explanations, though, you know it won't be anything simple and surely requires background information.  Where to start?  Well, when last we left our road-weary travelers, they had just arrived in Dallas, TX to the heatwave-temps around 108.  That would've been enough, however they turned UP the heat.  The following day was 110!  A new record!  I saw the news this morning that over 1500 locations set a new record this week.  Dallas did it twice in one week...and has had over 35 days with heat in excess of 100-degrees.  Follow that?  I'm still headed toward my explanation.

We decided that, as the heat was anything but forgiving and kind, we'd head out of town in the late afternoon/evening hours of Friday.  After all the proceedings had taken place, with the exception of the Sales Meeting finale pool party, the four of us headed to our rooms for our luggage, a quick wardrobe change, and then the bike retrieval.  All fancy ways of saying, "We ran to our rooms, changed, then got the bikes loaded."  We finally got moving out of town at about 8:00 p.m. last evening.  First, though, we had to make a quick stop at the Hampton Inn of earlier in the week.  Apparently, I either misplaced, lost, or had a leather pouch for the bike stolen and thought it might have been at the Inn.  The crew was gracious and stopped by so I could check.  At this point, it's important to note a motorcyclist's words to other bikers as they depart for a journey.  Much like actor's say, "Break a leg," to wish them luck, a biker will offer a simple, "Keep the rubber side down," to imply a safe journey.  Literally, too, it means 'don't take a spill or drop your bike.'  For the record, stopping your bike sideways on a steep incline is a bad thing if you've got short legs.  Also for the record, there are semi-steep inclines in front of a hotel.  Yes...I'm setting this up to say that, in all fairness, I was trying to avoid Bill's bike when I stopped on said incline...and watched the bike go leaning left.  Then a little more left.  Then a little more.....down.  It's hard to stop 800 pounds when it decides it wants to go down, too.  Smart people simply let it go.  Smarter people get out of the damn way.  Consider me brilliant.  I jumped.  Fortunately, Kevin was there right away, followed by Bill.  The three of us got the thing standing as Jeff gave instructions.  Management - go figure.  I'm kidding...that was just an easy joke.  Seriously, part of the reason these guys are so great to ride with is the way everyone jumps to help the others.  The senses of humor help, too.  It's always a good time, even with weather conditions as they were.  I know, some of you are still waiting for the explanation of Dallas being hell on earth.  Patience, my friends, patience....

We got out of town, as I said, and the temperature was 107 when we left...at 8:00.  We rode for a few hours and got gas and food.  Still 94 degrees - at 11:00 p.m.!  Finally, when we stopped in Monroe, LA for the evening (a few hours) at 2:00 a.m., it was down to 86 degrees.  Beautiful riding weather, however not easy to do with your eyes closed.  Best to stop, right?  In at 2:00, back up at 5:45.  Me?  How did I feel?  Oh, Mr Happy Camper?  Of course I was!  Really, it wasn't bad...as there's nothing to keep you going at that hour like the wind whipping past you at 80 mph.  One more gas stop until we got to Jackson, MS where Jeff and Kevin headed south and Bill and I continued our journey east toward Birmingham.  We stayed cool, actually, until about 11:00 this morning when the sun was high in the sky and the humidity took over again.  Fortunately, we were only an hour and a half from Birmingham.





I'm sorry, what?  Oh, yeah, the explanation.  Well, we were heading out of Dallas last night and we noticed all the drivers I speak of when I am in the car.  You know, the ones that gravitate to the left lane...then stay there going just as fast as the cars they were pretending to pass?  The same drivers that are, motorcycle-blind?  Yeah, well, I thought of these things, as well as everything else I have ever known of Dallas.  My sister went to school at the University of Dallas in Irving, TX, a suburb.  I saw signs for Las Colinas, and the bell tower they had on campus and it brought back memories of visiting her there once.  I was so hoping to call and share the memories with her.  Then the temps hit 100-degrees and I saw commercials on television for the Cowboys Cheerleaders.  That's when it hit me.  Though the cheerleaders are fine, the Cowboys aren't.  Let's see.....Cowboys here in Dallas, temps as high as hell, and then satan must be...Jerry Jones!

See?  That's the explanation!  Anyone of the owners, players, or fans of the NFL knows that Jerry Jones is the not the most appreciated owner in the league.  I'm sorry, but it was the ONLY conclusion I could come to that made sense.  Seriously, Jerry Jones?  You agree, don't you?  See?  You're nodding and smiling.  I knew it!  Well, it might not be the actual truth...but I hope it made you smile and you enjoyed the entry!

Until next time.............

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

And The Heats Just Keep On Comin'.....

I could say, "Wow, it's hot," but I'm thinking most of you got that news flash yesterday.  Hot doesn't even seem to describe it.  I'm not sure I can even give an example of how it feels.  I will, however, give it a go.  So imagine standing in a room facing a wall that has air blowing in toward you.  The wall behind you is an exhaust - it's allowing all the air to move past you and out of the room.  Did I mention that, on the other side of the 'intake wall' there's a furnace?  Think one of those high-powered blast furnaces whose air temps are about 120 degrees.  Stand there....for hours.  That's fairly close to what the ride has been like.  Don't misunderstand - this is NOT a complaint.  I don't want anyone thinking we'd rather be cramped in a plane with people sneezing, kids whining, and flight attendants bemoaning the fact that I'd like another cup of lukewarm light brown liquid masquerading as coffee.  No, thank you.  I'll take my chances on the road.

Today was a better day, though.  We were out of Shreveport, LA at 7:00 CST and in TX before 7:30.  You have to love mile markers, too, don't you?  In most states, when traveling east to west and the numbers decrease, you usually enter the state and see their first marker that reads, "231," or "188."  Great, only 231 miles until we get to the next state.  Uh-huh.  Get to Texas and the first mile marker you see starts with a "6"...as in, "632."  Day-umm....that's a LOT of miles for one state.  Dallas is close, though.  It was a quick 3-hour jaunt from Shreveport and we got here relatively unscathed.  Relatively.  Immediately after the first refueling of the morning, roughly 80 miles after departure, we headed back to the highway.  That's when I found out the cruise control failed.  Miserably.  Yeah, I know - cruise control certainly isn't 'old school'.  When you're riding over 1,000 miles one way on the journey, it's a necessity.  Kind of hard to kick back and relax without it.  This information, however, was withheld from two of the other riders - the Honda-riding contingent.  I was thankful yesterday that Bill's tire went bad....so to speak.  It took a lot of heat off me (figuratively, of course).  No way was I telling them there were more Harley issues. 

So there we were, almost to Dallas - the sign showed only 31 miles to go.  That's when the idiocy began.  I'm not sure I've ever seen this kind of madness before.  The traffic through downtown Dallas was fun...if you consider dodging moving projectiles shaped like cars to be fun.  Lane change?  They had 'em.  Turn signals?  Them, they ain't got.  This was unreal!  I did think a few drivers were important enough to let them know they were #1 in my heart, though.  Hard to do with no cruise control, too.  Finally, we arrived.  Relief at last.  Wiat...cruise control.  Damn it.  One quick call to the Harley delaership and all is well - they can fix it.  Fast.  I left Bill and headed on my way - a mere 14 miles.  Yes....it was still HOT.  Shocked, I know.  I get there and find out right away why they can get me in so quickly.  I met Al, the Service Dept. Mgr - "How you handling the heat?"

"We're not, Al.  I want to know how you guys handle it."

"We don't.  It's never been this hot.  108 should be a record."

"Good to know.  Thanks for sharing.  Still, thanks for getting me in so fast."

"No problem.  We're slow lately.  No one down here's riding.  It's too hot."

"Yeah, Al.....I gathered."  I really needed no one telling me it was hot, nor letting me know we're idiots for riding in said heat.  We all know it.  I waited a short hour (as if there's a difference between a 'long' and 'short' hour) before heading back in the now-suffocating heat.  I mentioned the temperature earlier, right?  Hot.  I was seriously expecting a dude with red cape, horns, and a pitchfork laughing as I rode down the highway.  He would have been the Honda rider.  Anyway, we're in for the night (I think) after sampling true Mexican food (who knew in Dallas, right?) at, of all places, the Shell station.  Before you think I meant microwaveable burritos, let's reconsider.  It was the Green Chili Grill...something like the Subways or Wendy's they put in our gas stations over yonder in the east and north.  These burritos were made to order and were absolutely huge....and great.  We sat and talked with the owner for about a half hour asking about his business.  Trust me, we'll be lucky to see these popping up in other areas if you like Mexican food.  These places are Taco Bell-devastating.  Like spicy?  They got it?  Like taste?  They got it?  Want to....wait.....there it is again - more of the taste.  A few hours later and it's still there.  THAT good.  So, we're off to the Sales Meeting tomorrow.  Two days of intense education and learning.  Something like that, anyway.  At least we'll be inside.  It will be cool...I hope.  You've heard the last of, "It's HOT," for a few days.  At least until we head home Friday night.  Then I'll whine because I can't see.  Always something, right?

Until next time............

Monday, August 1, 2011

The Ride Is On....and So Is The Heat

We made it...almost.  Wait...maybe it'd be better if I backed up and started from the beginning.  My apologies - I have not written for a few days because, well.....there's been a lot going on.  I know that's no excuse.  I also know you're saying, "Stop already and let's hear these tales of getting to Dallas."  Okay, here's the story - it's hot.  Seriously hot.  Hotter than I ever remember while riding.  HOT.  You get the idea, right.  Two of us left Birmingham yesterday morning, Sunday, at 9:00 a.m.  It was already 84 degrees and, though we were riding a brisk 75 mph, the heat could be felt but was also bearable.  Did I mention it's hot?  Made it to Mobile, AL mid-afternoon and settled in.  No reservations.  Yeah, I see.  THAT'S how this trip is going to go, eh?  We can handle it - no worries because they had rooms anyway.  Seriously, did we have to go through the whole ordeal of looking up reservations if you have empty rooms?  It's hot - let's just get it out of the way.  Pool, huh?  Fine...you're forgiven.  Moments later the other duo of this foursome made it to the hotel.  "No," to answer your question.  We did NOT tell them about the reservations.  Always fun to share the irritation.  if I could, I'd share the pictures taken in the room on the third floor that had a pillow semi-covered with ants.  Brand new hotel - ants.  Hey, it was good for a free night.  No, no...in ANY Marriott Courtyard.  Wait...I wasn't supposed to say which hotel.  Forget I mentioned it.  Thank you, Hilton.  I will continue to stay at your hotels.

This morning saw us up at 5:00, breakfast by 5:30, then back in bed until 8:00.  Okay, that's a lie, but why should the Marx Brothers have all the fun?  Seriously, we rolled out at 6:00 after a quick cup of coffee.  Bill tried starting his bike as it was 'iffy' yesterday.  Beautiful - it turned over.  Bill, it's 6:00 a.m.  perhaps it best to turn it off until we're all ready to leave.  Remember how the trip was going with the reservations?  Class participation part - who can tell me what happened when we started to take off for Shreveport and it was time for Bill to start his bike again?  Exactly - no juice.  Ah, the Keystone Kops head on a bike trip.  Fifteen minutes later, bike's fixed and we're on our way.  Loose battery wire.  Minor issue and we're headed to Jackson, MS for a work day.  The first gas stop was a bit interesting, too.  It seems Bill noticed he might have a cut on his front tire and, lo and behold, there are a few cords coming through the rubber.  Let's see...we need a new tire now and have only, oh...180 miles to ride.  Did I NOT say this was an adventure?  Again with the "iffy" part - me riding behind him waiting for the tire to blow and wondering if I can be evasive enough to miss him should the bike hit the pavement.  Yes, just the kind of "fun" we live for apparently.  We finally made it to Jackson, breathed a quick sigh of relief, and headed to the Harley dealership.  Upon entering the Service Department, Clyde (name withheld to protect the idiot) says to Bill, "You are planning on leaving it with us, right?"  Bill, you better figure something out.  You will NOT be riding bitc.....I mean, on the back, of our bikes.  Get it fixed.  That was when we found out what they consider a "minnow" in Mississippi.  Actually, the pronunciation is the same, the letters are different.  It's a MINO - Money Is No Object.  A mere $253.86 later, we're back on the road...at 2:30.  Anyone know how hot it gets at 2:30 in Jackson, MS?  We do...and it ain't pretty.  Our last gas stop came at about 4:15 and, after checking on the elaborately-equipped Gold Wings, we heard the good news - 117 degrees in the shade.  This is the temperature with, apparently, the heat coming from the asphalt.  I can tell you, too, how long you can ride in that weather.  Not long.  We finally hit Shreveport at about 5:30 where I, personally, had to climb of f the bike and lie down.  Heat stroke was well on its way.  Again, it's fu.....it's hot.

Now, because I thought I'd better let all know I still exist, I wanted to write to share these adventures in madness with everyone.  I have to make it short, though, because my fingers are getting numb.  We have the room temperature set, shall we say, low for the night.  Better for sleeping.  Quite honestly, I'm hoping it takes until about 11:00 tomorrow morning for me to thaw.  Why?  Yeah...it's hot.  Say a prayer, please, that the rest of the trip is adventurous so I have something to share.  Something other than the damn heat, anyway.

Until next time............