How I Banished Dog Maching

If you don’t know what dog maching is, welcome to the club.  What I can tell you is that my old buddy Joe The Dog has some annoying habits.  He either likes our visitors or he doesn’t.  If he doesn’t like them, he begins to bark and growl the moment he hears the doorbell.  On the other hand, if he likes them, he seems to think it’s all right to invade their space and smell them in places I don’t want to describe.

I’m a good dog trainer.  I can teach a dog to do almost anything.  I can teach a dog to not do things.  With Joe, however, I may have met my match.  I would swear he knows what I’m doing and is choosing to annoy me.

A week or two ago, I decided to try a different approach.  I purchased a device online that emits an ultrasonic noise, which is apparently unpleasant to dogs. In other words, I’m going to annoy him when he chooses to annoy me.

The device arrived the other day.  It’s pretty simple:  Put a battery in it, choose between two different levels of dog annoyance, then use it sparingly to be effective.  It even has a built-in flashlight.  I guess that’s so you can annoy your dog at night.

That’s not why I wrote this column today.  I received the device the other day, installed the battery and have already annoyed Joe once, when he barked at the doorbell.  We are well on our way to imprinting his little conniving dog brain with WHEN DOORBELL RINGS, GO QUIETLY TO YOUR ROOM AND SIT THERE UNTIL THE BOSS SAYS OK.

The device works fine.  It’s the instructions that drove me to write this.  I know the thing was made in China, because there wasn’t a word of English on the box.  I’m a forgiving guy.  I’ll smile when I see an odd or misplaced phrase in instructions.  We’re all used to that.  But this little pamphlet is trying to make sure I don’t understand how to use the thing. It’s as if they know me, and are trying to push my buttons.  They could be related to my dog.  This is a piece of literature that should never have been written.

I don’t want you to think I made this up, so I’ll leave a picture of the instructions.  You will then know I have not lost my mind yet.

It’s titled Training Dog Banish Dog Maching.  I am still laughing over that because I cannot figure out what dog maching could possibly be.  There’s a photo of a happy dog with a leash in his mouth.  That’s not the expression Joe had when I punched the button on this thing.  Your dog is not going to grab the leash and be like “Please, please take me out for a walk so you can damage my ears!”

Here are just a few examples (and I’m quoting here):

  • This product uses micro electronic technique and integrate multiple high-tech. The work pattern is pulse modulation scan which produce 12db ultrasonic wave and 28000 lime bast light.  This product is only valid for dog and cat (inaudible to humans)

I don’t know what most of that meant, but why is it valid only for dogs and cats?  Do rabbits and squirrels simply refuse to be annoyed by it?  I had thought about using it on them, but if they’re just going to stand there with their arms folded, I’m not putting myself through that.

  • The button for expel can effectively expel dog and cat, the training button can produce weaker and stable ultrasonic wave to train pet dog, army dog and police dog to accomplish the particular action, the light button can be used for illumination.

I don’t know how you look at these things, but that seems offensive to any non-police dogs or dogs who haven’t served our country.  Is the Army using this thing exclusively?  And I didn’t buy this thing to expel my dog.  I don’t want to banish him or drum him out of the corp.  I just want him to behave. And what else could the light button be used for?  Introspection?  Weight loss?

  • 9V Alkaline Battery. (This product don’t have battery)

It don’t have much use for proper grammar, either.

  • Judge weather the trumpet is normal: use it to a piece of paper, press the dog expel button and watch the paper, if it swings, then the trumpet is normal.

Huh?  What? Trumpet? What does the weather have to do with it?  Apparently I’m supposed to check the forecast and stare at the paper, listening to Taps while Joe The Dog sadly leaves my home.

But here’s the one that made me fall out of my chair:

  • Use it to the dog’s eyes and ears to reach the best effect.  Do not use it to the ear and eyes directly in case of injury.dbsig2

I suppose I could take it outside each time the dog barks, and point it across the street at the neighbor dogs.  I’ve never liked them.

Dog macher-1

 

The Sky Is Falling

The stock market has been in freefall for a week or so.

I get up every morning and look at it, which depresses me.  So I get some coffee and wait about five minutes and check it again.  Seems like it went down a little while I went for the coffee.  I always tell myself that I should stop looking at it, but I usually sneak in once or twice more during the day, just to see how bad it is.

Saint Mary and I are investors.  We’re not “day traders” or stock adventurists by any stretch. In more fortunate times, like the past year or so, we’ve taken any profits and re-invested.  We’ve never spent a dime of it.  That may seem overly-conservative to some, but we own our home, thanks mostly to her doubling down on the payments for many years.  It’s a good feeling.

What’s causing this recent “correction,” as they like to call it?  I can listen to any number of talking heads on the news and get their opinions.  I like to listen to them, and then turn off the television and ask myself if it made sense.  I’m not an expert, of course, but I keep getting this feeling that their ideas are no better than mine.  So I’ll give you mine.  Then you can turn me off and ask yourself if it made any sense.

The stock market rides on top of the economy.  The economy, in the short view, is good. The long view isn’t as pretty.  It ain’t rocket science; you can’t spend more than you earn. If you think you can, well, there’s a lot of people out there today who agree with you, and I’d like to see all of your math grades.  But the national debt is grist for a different day.

Some people think the market highs and lows are all due to Trump.  I think they’re due to trust. There are probably lots of different kinds of people in the market, but I like to think of three groups.  Group One are the people who pour tons of money into the market, sell when it’s high and buy it all up again when it’s low.  They’re having fun right now and I’m not in this group.

Group Two are the people who are frightened and selling every stock they own.  Group One likes these people.  Group One may have started the selling, but it was all done to scare Group Two and get the selling started.  Group Two is not having fun right now.  I’m not in this group either.

Group Three is where I call home.  Saint Mary and I didn’t invest in the market to make billions of dollars.  That would be nice, but we invested for our children.  I’m not sure the other groups know the meaning of the word investment, but they can look it up.  You may be in Group Three.

Group Three knows what Group One is up to.  Group Three will sit tight while Group One buys up the market from Group Two at bargain basement prices.  And eventually, Group Three’s value will rise again like the fabled Phoenix from the flames of its pyre.  Won’t happen overnight, but it’ll happen, sure as you’re reading this.

dbsig2

Group One will be fabulously wealthy or deeply in debt.  Group Two, who knows? Group Three will be fortunate and have time to do the things they intended without checking the stock market every five minutes.  They have realized that time is more valuable than money.

 

 

Cars For Mars

CommonSense-4

My good friend Rick Lee and I are spacemen.

We’ve never walked on the moon or actually participated in an EVA. Technically, we’ve never crawled into a lunar module, or transmitted a Christmas message as we orbited the moon. We’ve never been in ticker-tape parades, waving at the adoring crowds.

Fact is, nobody has ever asked us to be astronauts, but we’re still willing. Since we were kids, we’ve watched the space program since they were putting monkeys up there. We watched as Al Shepard spent the first fifteen minutes in space in 1961. We knew that Gus Grissom either did or didn’t blow the hatch and lose the Liberty Bell 7 to the ocean depths. We listened as John Glenn went from Godspeed to Zero G and around the earth. And all the others.

We’ve talked about this many times and agreed that, if they would only ask us, we’d go to space right now. We would drop what we’re doing and be at Cape Canaveral or Cape Kennedy, whatever it is today, ready to kick back in those seats and say cool things like “Let’s light this candle.”

Rick and I are believers.  For about fifty years, it seems to us that space exploration has become dull and boring to a younger generation. If we mentioned it, they would look at us as though we were talking about whether the Lindbergh boy would make it or not. That got me to thinking. The time between the Lindbergh flight and the moon landing was 42 years. The time between the moon landing and today is 48 years. It’s no wonder they look at us like we have six heads. We probably sound like Gabby Hayes in an old western.

Elon Musk could change all that. Two days ago, he launched the SpaceX Falcon Heavy into space. The two rocket boosters detached and made soft landings—right on the bullseye. And literally on top of that, he put a Tesla Roadster, complete with a dummy spaceman, in outer space. I’ve seen the pictures. That brand new automobile is floating out there like who wouldn’t have it.  It was supposed to sail to Mars, but it’s off course and likely headed to an asteroid belt. Some experts say it’ll be destroyed by micrometeorites and radiation.

I wish Elon Musk had talked to me. I would like to have a Tesla Roadster. I looked up the price. They say it’s $109,000. Now I have a perfectly sound 2002 Ford Explorer sitting in my driveway, just longing to go Mars or an asteroid belt. To look at it, you’d think it already has micrometeorite experience. I have checked with Rick, and he doesn’t want to ride in it on terra firma, much less outer space.  It leaks oil and the shocks aren’t good, but I think it could’ve made the trip. I would have gladly traded this car to Elon Musk in exchange for a Roadster.  It seems to me we’d both be happy.dbsig2

So Rick and I will keep waiting. Now that I’ve published this, Elon Musk knows we’re out here. We may not have fancy new cars, but we’ve got the Right Stuff.

The Slam Book Of The Millennium

CommonSense-4

My good friend Bob Eaton says he is removing a few Facebook friends because they continue to bombard him with their political histrionics. I know exactly how he feels. I usually clean them out on a regular basis. Yes, I actually unfriend them. My friends tell me to simply unfollow them, and remain friends. But I figure, if I decided they weren’t my friend in real life, why would I let them keep that label on Facebook?

Let’s pretend that there is no Facebook. Let’s say you had a friend that you really enjoyed seeing. One of those people who light up your life. One of those friends who, when they walk in the room, simply make your day better. And then, they get politics in the same way that others get religion. They seem to think it’s their duty to proselytize and persuade you to their way of political thinking every time they see you. So, sooner or later, you begin to avoid them. If they walk in the room, you think to yourself “Oh man, it’s Jerry again.” You manage to say hello and escape. You go home, and tell your wife or husband that you “managed to avoid Jerry.”  (if anybody out there is named Jerry, this is not about you.)

In defense of Bob Eaton and me, stop doing this. It’s really a non-partisan issue. I realize we are in the middle of a highly divided political era. You may feel this way or that way, I don’t care. But I can promise you that if you feel the need to spout endless political diatribe, you are becoming one of those people who are to be avoided. Seriously.

Now let’s be partisan for a moment. I have close friends who are politically aligned with me. We love nothing better than to talk privately among ourselves, patting each other on the back and reassuring ourselves that we’re right. Far right, in my case. Private agreement with one’s opinion is one thing. Projectile-vomiting it on the rest of the world is another thing altogether. In generations past, the rule for proper manners was “Don’t discuss politics or religion.” We ought to pull that one out of the mothballs and have another good long look at it.

When I was in middle and high school, we had a thing called a Slam Book.  It was a simple, spiral-bound book. We each had a page with our name written at the top. As the book was passed from student to student over a month or so, everyone wrote their opinion of us–right there on our page. And of course, the book eventually made its way back into our hands.  Sometimes they wrote nice things. Nobody under 60 is likely to remember Slam Books.  No one over 60 wants to.

Social media has become the Slam Book of the Millennium. Some of us feel unrestrained to spout opinion, much of it harmful, to anyone in the world. Some of it is directed at individuals in a malicious manner and some of it is simply thrown out there with no regard and apparently, no concern.  Thinking about that reminds me of another baby thrown out with the bathwater: “Just because you can doesn’t mean you should.” And that reminds me of Elvis:  Don’t be cruel.

Maybe our current, incredibly divided political troubles exist because we, as a society, broadcast our opinions to the world before we think about them. We ought to be careful; those opinions are probably going into outer space and we’ll never get them back.  And here’s another thought: How well-regarded is our opinion adbsig2nyway? Do we expect to change the world with it?  I don’t know about you.  But in 67 years, I don’t think my political opinion has ever changed anyone else’s mind.  Not once.  That’s sad, but it keeps things in perspective.

I’d rather make people laugh once in a while. And I’m keeping Bob Eaton as my Facebook friend

The Harvey Weinstein Era

CommonSense-4

 

Since Harvey Weinstein was accused by multiple woman of sexual assault earlier this year, a sweeping series of accusations has occupied our headlines for months. What follows is by no means a complete list:

Tavis Smiley, television host, multiple accusers

Marshall Faulk, NFL analyst, multiple accusers

Ike Taylor, NFL analyst, multiple accusers

Heath Evans, NFL analyst, multiple accusers

Ryan Lizza, correspondent The New Yorker, at least one accuser

Mario Batali, celebrity chef, four accusers

James Levine, Boston Symphony Director, multiple accusers

Matt Lauer, NBC Today Anchor, multiple accusers

Charlie Rose, CBS television host and journalist, at least nine accusers

Glen Thrush, NY Times journalist, four accusers

Russell Simmons, music mogul and producer, multiple accusers

Jeffrey Tambor, actor, two accusers

Al Franken, U.S. Senator, multiple accusers

Matt Zimmerman, former senior vice-president NBC News, more than one accuser

Andrew Kriesberg TV producer, nineteen accusers

Roy Moore, U.S. Senatorial candidate, at least nine accusers

Louis C.K., comedian, five accusers

Steven Seagall, actor, three accusers

Ed Westwick, actor, two accusers

Brett Ratner, director, seven accusers

Dustin Hoffman, actor, six accusers

Jeremy Piven, actor, multiple accusers

Michael Oreskes, NPR News Chief, eight accusers

Garrison Keillor, creator, Prairie Home Companion

Kevin Spacey, actor, multiple accusers

Mark Halperin, political analyst, twelve accusers

George H.W. Bush, former President, seven accusers

Terry Richardson, photographer, multiple accusers

Leon Wieselter, news magazine editor, multiple accusers

James Toback, director, at least 238 accusers

John Besh, celebrity chef, multiple accusers

Bob Weinstein, brother of Harvey, one accuser

Oliver Stone, director, one accuser

Roy Price, Amazon Studios chief, one accuser

Ben Affleck, actor, two accusers

Again, that is by no means a complete list, because it’s changing daily. What is going on? The easy answer is that all of these deflowered women have been treated horribly and it is a good thing to finally shine the light of truth upon the depravity of their story.  Maybe.  And maybe not. I hear and read the statements by accusers and holier-than-thou pundits. Nearly all of them hope this exposure will help future victims come forward in the future.   I hope for that too. But I hope they come forward immediately and with proof. Please don’t assume I’m on any particular side of this issue. But I do have questions.

Life has taught me that of these untold numbers of victims, a certain percentage of them are telling the truth and have every right to be angry. I hope that percentage is large, because another percentage of them, I’m sorry to say, are not telling the truth. A third percentage are “sort of real.” “Sort of” means that something happened a long time ago, and only recently has the victim noticed that the gravy train is rolling by without them. They’re hopping aboard with dollar signs and an exclusive book deal in their eyes.   I suspect their motive today is not unlike their motive when the alleged abuse occurred ten—or forty—years ago. Life has also taught me that, after much time has passed, truth is nearly impossible.

I suspect every living male above the age of fifteen has, at one time or another, broken one or more of today’s “sexual appropriateness” rules. Most of us were in high school or college at one point. Runaway libido and alcohol have proven an unfortunate mixture for many, if not all of us, at one point or another. But if there are men out there who are proud of everything they’ve done, I admire and respect them. For every insane and inappropriate male I’ve known, there was an equally insane and predatory female. Babies were usually the result. Eventually, most of us grew up. Judging from the headlines, some of us didn’t make it.

So is it about sex, or is it about the abuse of power? I’m going with the power thing, because it makes more sense and I suspect that sex and adolescent hormones will always be with us.

Let’s consider two environments: Holly wood and Washington. What do they have in common? They are both places where extreme power exists in different forms. Some people are drawn to these places—some because they desperately want something. A percentage of those people are willing to do just about anything to get it– a role in a movie, a position as a Senator’s assistant or to influence a particular bill.  A President’s intern, for example.   In those environments, there is, and always will be, someone who has what they want. Someone who understands that people will do anything to get it. Someone who becomes enamored with that power and is able and willing to abuse others in a perverted display of it. Someone who believes that displaying that power will further it. When a powerful man—or woman—forces another to have sex, or gropes another person, I believe it is about far more than sex. I think it’s a display of power. Or maybe it’s a distorted way of reassuring themselves that they still have the power to do such a thing. It happens in a variety of ways—this is why I don’t think it’s about sex. I have personally witnessed the obscene treatment of other people by a superior in the workplace.  I believe it to be the same obscenity with clothes on.

Make no mistake: I do not defend any person who has hurt another and I have no respect for these individuals making headlines today. On the other hand, these rapid-fire accusations –this epidemic need to immediately denounce—gives me a cold feeling in my gut.  Political talking heads have, over the past few years, made a great deal of hay out of calling the other side Nazis or Nazi-like. I thought it was all silly. Yet here—right now—seems very much like the Third Reich. That episode in history resulted in a culture of denunciation, of neighbors reporting on neighbors, of children condemning their own parents. The effect was the destruction of family and of goodwill among people living in peace together. It replaced tolerance with suspicion, acceptance with paranoia and ultimately destroyed civil society. I believe that when it becomes the accepted norm to denounce others at will on a daily basis, we will have become sick. Of ourselves.

And now you probably understand that I am not one of the world’s great thinkers. I see the problem, but I don’t know the answer. I know only that our current response to it is wrong and will lead us all into being afraid of our neighbors and friends. That can’t be right.

Let’s Let Boys Be Boys

CommonSense-4

“Boy Scouts Will Allow Girls To Join!”

Now that the media has written a few headlines about the Boy Scouts, it has rather quickly found other things to talk about.  That is typical of our media today;  it never thinks too long or hard about anything.

Having been directly involved with Scouting for over fifty years, I take the media’s collective ADHD with more than a little disappointment.  Are Boy Scouts no more important than a four-day media blitz?  I don’t know about you, treasured readers, but the organization is important to me.  Read this whole thing today, my friends, just as a favor to me; it’s my attempt to persuade you.

The BSA exists by law.  In 1910, the U.S. Congress issued a charter to the organization, specifically stating  that “The purposes of the corporation are to promote, through organization, and cooperation with other agencies, the ability of boys to do things for themselves and others… and to teach them patriotism, courage, self-reliance, and kindred virtues…”

The Boy Scouts existed for sixty years as a relatively unique youth organization—not only because they were for boys only, but because the general feeling was that Scouting wasn’t for every boy.    It was for the boy who enjoyed being outdoors, fortified with skills for survival.  Even more importantly, the idea was that these boys would grow into men of good citizenship and character. We understood, in those days, that some boys wouldn’t be interested in camping and cooking and the myriad activities of the BSA.  And everybody was OK with that.

By the  1970s, Scouting was suffering the same membership decline as other youth organizations—problems which still exist today:  There were simply  too many other youth activities competing for the membership of the country’s youth.  Scouting then made a decision which, until today, has remained its worst blunder.  It decided that it had been wrong—that Scouting was for every boy. The outdoor skills were de-emphasized as the national scouting board and leaders told us they would make Scouting “more relevant.”  The new Scout Handbook and other literature tried to be inclusive, and trained us, for example, to treat rat bites in the inner cities. (Locally, we referred to the new idea as “Rat Bite Scouting.”)

Well, they didn’t make Scouting more relevant.  They made it much smaller. The new idea was a disastrous failure and membership plummeted.  It took seven years for Scouting to realize the error, and they reversed course, returning to their traditional “Scouting Is Outing” structure.  They stopped the hemorrhaging membership, but never again rivaled the golden years of the 1960s.

I write all of the above so you understand that Scouting was able to back away from its error in 1979.  It will never be able to back away from this one. Scouting isn’t, and never has been, for everyone.  It’s single unique attraction has always been a program for boys only.  We will never be able to tell a nation of young girls that we’ve changed our mind. (“We’re so sorry, we’ve decided you’re not Boy Scouts after all.”)

Once done, it cannot be undone.

If the current decision stands, it will be eventually marketed to us as “Family Scouting.”  When you hear and read that phrase, you’ll know what’s coming; nothing short of a full court press for total integration of females into the Boy Scout program. I believe the organization may experience an initial surge in membership, followed by a decline, for it will be battling the same enemy as before:  intense competition for young peoples’ time.  Ultimately, it will be required to fight the same endless battles for membership.  But this time, it won’t be unique.  It will be just like everybody else.  If  “family scouting” is a good idea, then why not start a new and different organization called Family Scouting Of America?  There are plenty of us already in this youth business; one more competitor isn’t going to hurt. Why will this nation not let boys be boys?

Not every new idea is a good one.  There are old ideas of inestimable and timeless value.

If Congress started the Boy Scouts, why cannot Congress demand that it stay true to its original reason for existence?  I urge you to give this some thought—more than what the media offered you. Why not send an e-mail to your representatives in Congress, if you agree with me, and tell them simply that you think Boy Scouts should be boys?

I thank you for reading this.  I don’t usually take up serious issues with this space.  But I owe Scouting more than what the media apparently owes.  Let boys be boys.

The Murder Of Our Meaning

CommonSense-4

You know what I hate? I hate it when our use of the language makes us look like idiots.

If we would begin to talk honestly with each other, it would help things. If we could learn to communicate simply and clearly without being caught up in how we sound, we might be able to make a better world. I don’t know if it would solve world hunger, cure cancer, or stop Trump from Tweeting. But I’m sure things would be better.

You’re probably wondering what put the burr under my saddle. I’ll tell you.

The other day, I had a question about retirement benefits. I attempted to call the personnel office of a former employer. I couldn’t find Personnel in the company’s phone listing. I tried searching for Human Resources. That’s the name they gave it decades ago. It always made me feel like I was being processed rather than accommodated. But, alas, there was not a resource to be found, human or otherwise. I finally called the main number, so I could speak with a real human resource.

“XYZ Company, how may I direct your call?”

“I’m trying to reach your personnel office.”

“I’m sorry?”

“Your personnel office. Maybe you call it Human Resources.”

There was a long silence. I assume the young lady was checking a list. Maybe she was new.

“I’m sorry, I don’t find a listing for that.”

“That makes two of us. OK, let me ask you a question. You got hired by the company. Did you have to fill out an application?”

“Well, yes.”

“And what office did you go to, in order to fill out that application?”

“Ohhhhhh! You need our Talent Agency.”

“Your what?

“Our Talent Agency! I’ll connect you.”

If you detect a note of sarcasm here, it’s entirely intentional. It appears that companies are now calling their personnel department a Talent Agency. It makes me think that if I opened the door and walked in there, I would find a sleazy looking guy with sunglasses and a checkered sport coat, asking me to come back in and play it a little differently.   Do they still do interviews in there, or do they hold auditions? I understand the message in the name change. The message will be all about how they are searching for the best employees, and how they’re trying to match talent with job duties for the best fit, etc. But that’s exactly what a good personnel office was trying to do fifty years ago.

I find far too many instances today where a group or organization has changed the name of something without fundamentally changing what the thing is. This isn’t to say that personnel departments don’t behave properly or that they need to change. I’m sure they do a wonderful job of finding the right employees. But the sign on their door should say HIRING AND FIRING. That sign would probably cause the self-esteem of a million millennials to plummet, but that’s what a personnel office does. They hire and fire people. I doubt very much that their purpose has changed.

This annoying need to constantly re-brand things says a lot about our society and its attitude toward real change and improvement. I worked fifty years for a variety of companies and organizations.  My experience teaches me that when I run across a new name or a new title, it’s almost always a new person trying to make a name for himself. Literally. If the thing hasn’t really changed and improved in some fundamental way, then Talent Agency in our companies is no better than New And Improved on a box of detergent. It’s meaningless. We’re no different than Pavlov’s dogs and if you don’t give us meaning for a long enough time, we’ll come to expect the lack of it.

If a sword has been beaten into a plowshare, then by all means, call it a plowshare. But if it’s still a sword, well, there are plenty of people where I live who know the difference. And if you think it’s a plow, don’t take up farming except as a hobby. Changing the name of something without changing the thing itself will fool only some of the people some of the time–until that Pavlov’s dogs thing kicks in. And it’s just stupid. There really isn’t any other word for it.

I will loosely quote Strunk and White’s writing advice in The Elements Of Style here, but I think it’s really advice for life: “If you want to be obscure, be obscure clearly. Be elliptical in a straightforward fashion.” That’s good advice. The important thing about your name or your manner of speaking or writing is not you. The important thing is that the person seeing or hearing or reading understands who you are and what you said. It ain’t rocket science and it doesn’t have to be pretty. It has to be understood.

Having gotten that off my chest, I would like to know why, in the past few years, people are telling me to “reach out” to someone, when what they really mean is ask.”

“Sir, I don’t know the answer to your question, but I am going to reach out to my associates for the answer.”

“I checked with my associates, and our best advice is for you to reach out to Social Security for the answer.

Did they need two words where one worked just fine? Here are two words: check with. Wouldn’t that be more clear? Reaching out makes me feel like I’m on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. It makes me want to reach out through the telephone line and strangle the person who said it. I’m not that helpless. Yet. All this reaching out is just more of the notion that “if we call it something different, it may not change, but we’ll feel good.”  It’s the millenialistic mantra of people who, rather than working hard and feeling good about it, tend to sit in a circle and sing kumbaya.  I suspect somebody with low self-esteem got it all started.

dbsig2 I hope those of you reading this will reach out to everybody else and get all of this resolved, hopefully by next week. My wife says I’m not a patient person. Maybe it’s a good thing I am retired.

What Is This About?

CommonSense-4Two of my readers have taken me to task this week. One of them said my column is supposed to be about common sense, not “invented drivel about Bigfoot and Amelia Earhart.” The other said I am turning this “serious platform” into “something else altogether.”

Ouch. This is all news to me.

In these essays or postings or ramblings, I’ve tried to stay away from the subjects that divide us, or at the very least, treat them lightly and with reasonably good humor. At times I’ve tried to give readers something to laugh about; they say it’s the best medicine.   Maybe I’ve also said some things that you wanted to say. This blog has been available to the public for quite a while now, and I’ve failed and succeeded at all three objectives. So, in other words, I ain’t that good and I ain’t that bad.

So why write these things? English literary critic and writer Cyril Connolly once wrote “better to write for yourself and have no public, than to write for the public and have no self.” Larry David, co-creator of Seinfeld, says “You write about what you know.” French essayist Joseph Joubert said “Never write anything that does not give you great pleasure.” But maybe my favorite inspiration is novelist D.H. Lawrence, who said “I like to write when I feel spiteful. It is like having a good sneeze.”

That having been said, I’ll defer to my critics and tackle a subject sure to touch all the hot spots. My instinct is shouting Trump! Trump! Trump!

Here are some things I’ve recently read about the President:

“The [President] has continued during the last week to make a fool of himself and to mortify and shame the intelligent people of this great nation.”

“His…efforts, imbecile in matter, disgusting in manner, have made us the laughing stock of the whole world.”

“[He] may live a hundred years without having so good a chance to die.”

“Obscene ape, idiot, tyrant, teller of dirty jokes and…an incompetent commander-in-chief.”

Oh, wait. Those things weren’t said about Trump. They were said about Abraham Lincoln. My mistake.

All right, well, here’s another hot topic: the uproar over Robert E. Lee’s statue in Charlottesville. I read where somebody said the monument offered “little to be proud of.”

No, that’s not right.  It wasn’t Robert E. Lee’s monument. It was the Washington Monument. My bad.  Some people didn’t want to have Washington’s example or memory used to legitimize a symbol of strong central power.” Can you believe it? They let a silly monument develop into a political issue. Somebody else said it would look like “a stalk of asparagus,” and several people thought it would look “like a chimney.”

Saint Mary and I had family here last week.  We were sitting in my living room, talking about the craziness of the world today.  My niece sat quietly and finally said, “I think everybody needs to just calm down.”  Out of the moudbsig2ths of babes.

Well, now. I feel as though I’ve had a good sneeze and I’m going to enjoy the day.  It sure seems like people are liable to just say anything about anybody or any thing at any time and it’s all about as relevant as bumps on a board.  Everybody needs to just calm down. That’s just common sense.

 

My Call On It’s Your Call

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Our local newspaper, the St. Joseph News-Press, has a section titled It’s Your Call. People can phone in and state their opinions without identifying themselves. In other words, it’s a way to voice your opinion irresponsibly. Apparently we enjoy reading it, because it’s there every morning. Here’s a sampling:

Aug 20:

Do St. Joseph drivers know how to use turn signals? It is very frustrating and dangerous. I have never driven in a city that uses less turn signals than St. Joseph.

I agree with the sentiment here, but I doubt it’s limited to our hometown. Probably younger generations aren’t aware of the proper use of turn signals. It is dangerous. It’s very frustrating to people my age, who use proper signaling automatically. But just for the record, they’re using fewer turn signals, not less.

Aug 18:

I have an idea on how the St. Joseph Police Department could make some money. Just go to any store in St. Joseph, especially the Wal-Marts, and hand out tickets to the three to four people who are parked in the fire lane at any given time.

The current population of our city is 76,780 people. Apparently three—or four—of us are responsible for this violation. Does this caller think it’s the same people? He claims it’s occurring “at any given time.” So maybe it’s like a little club or something and they rotate their illegal parking in shifts. I’m betting that two—or three—of them are older or physically limited, and probably would not park in the fire lane if there was an actual fire going on. That narrows it down to one—or two—people committing this heinous crime. So I’m trying to calculate how much money can be made. I calculate not much. I’m retired and I think I would like to join this club.

Aug 14:

I don’t know whether we can change this or not. Today when making a purchase I was told to sign using a black stick on a small glass screen. I stated, “I really don’t like doing this as this is how people get the flu” as I reluctantly signed for the purchase. The cashier then put both hands together, coughed in them then handed me my receipt. We really need to do something about this.

We really do.  We need to eliminate It’s Your Call. Wouldn’t using a real pen and a real piece of paper present the same germs? And seriously, what good was telling the cashier?  The result was a germ-laden receipt.  People like that just aren’t fixable.   I’ll let you decide which one I’m talking about. Buy some disposable latex gloves and stop wasting my oxygen.

Aug 13:

Stop laying on your horns when I am stopped at a yellow flashing light. Listen fools, there are cars coming from the opposite direction and I can’t make a safe left turn in front of them, so lay off your horns. You can’t see all that because you are behind me. I am old and I look easy to bully, but I carry a concealed gun.

If we could learn to identify road rage in its incubation stage, I think we could reduce gunshot wounds at the hospital.  Apparently if you want to honk your horn, be prepared to duck.  By the way, I was the third car back. I was the one honking and shouting “Pull!” Ten of us could have turned left in the time you had available.

Prison education funds cut by Greitens pushed for funding the day before. He isn’t any different than Trump. They are both two-faced.

With a nod to Abraham Lincoln: If Trump is two-faced, do you think he’d be showing you that one?

Aug 22:

I saw a bunch of people on TV pulling a statue down and kicking it and stomping on it. Don’t they know they weren’t hurting that statue one bit? They were only making fools of themselves. Don’t they know that the statue has no feeling and they weren’t hurting anybody but themselves?

I think they’re crazy too, but I’m pretty sure they knew it was a statue.

And this, from today’s newspaper:

I frequently see in the newspaper and on television where Sen. Claire McCaskill is involved in different things, committees and programs. She seems to take an interest in our state’s well-being. I never hear anything from or about Roy Blunt. He is always the guy standing in the background with nothing to say.

 
There’s more than a little irony in using an anonymous platform like It’s Your Call to complain about somebody else “standing in the background with nothing to say.”  It made me shoot my morning coffee out my nose.dbsig2

Believe It Or Not

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I was out on my deck at one o’clock yesterday. Even if it was wet and cloudy, I know that most of you saw an event you’ll remember for the rest of your lives. Me too.  I understand that that you saw something you’ll never see again and I feel the same way.  But I’m here to tell you that what I saw yesterday in the dark eclipses anything you ever saw.

Saint Mary and I had family here for the event. I had only two rules for eclipse-viewing at my home: 1. No parties and 2. No cameras. As to the partying, I simply didn’t want any distractions. I also know from experience that if you’re trying to record an event with a camera , you’ll tend to miss the event itself. So these were my rules. I did, however, allow my dog Joe to join the viewing party. And I’m glad I did.

At one p.m. we donned our eclipse glasses and stared at the sun. The moon’s silhouette was sliding across our view, nearing totality. As that magnificently dark disk slid into place for two minutes of history, I heard something much closer. It seemed to be coming from the direction of the garden shed in my back yard. I wouldn’t call it heavy breathing, because I think you need a phone for that. It was a hoarse, guttural, feral rumble. A sound that makes the hairs on the back of your neck stand straight up. Right there in my own back yard.

I looked down at the shed.  As my eyes adjusted to the darkness (I was still wearing the eclipse glasses, mind you), I could make out an obscure figure standing at the southwest corner of my shed, staring at me. Joe saw it too and it probably goes without saying that the hair was standing up on the back of his neck, too.  I don’t know how to tell you this except to just say it: we were face to face with Sasquatch. I know I’m old and I don’t see well in the dark, but I’ve known about Sasquatch, or Bigfoot, as they like to call him, since the early 1960s–over fifty years. I doubt he was seeing as well as he used to either, but I know a questionable legend when I see one and there he stood, all the same.

Now here’s the unbelievable part: the creature was holding something that appeared to be a piece of paneling or aluminum foil. I thought he’d torn a section of siding from my shed. I couldn’t make it out. I wanted to take those eclipse glasses off, but I remembered the dire warning printed on them: “Do not remove glasses EXCEPT DURING ECLIPSE TOTALITY!” So he had me there.

Joe and I stood absolutely still so as not to startle the creature, and waited until that distracting eclipse had reached totality—and then I whipped the glasses off! In the darkness, I realized he was holding—and eating–what appeared to be a portion of an airplane wing. Silver in color, it occasionally caught the light from the corona of the sun. I could make out a series of numbers upon it: NR160 followed by what looked like a partially-eaten 2.

Now, I’m old and I know a few things. And I just happen to know that NR16020 was the registration and call sign of Amelia Earhart’s plane when she disappeared over the Pacific Ocean in 1937. And before you even start, I understand your so-called logical objections; those last two digits could have been 21 or 27 or 29 or what have you. They could have been anything. You can argue till who wouldn’t have it, but if you’d seen what I saw, you would know from the expression on that creature’s face that he knew what he was doing. When you find Amelia Earhart’s wing, you don’t just run off somewhere and eat it.

My mind raced. I had to get a photo. My family was still staring at the sun, but this… this was not something you see every day. And of course, I had banned all cameras. I ran into the house and found my cell phone on the kitchen table. Racing back to the deck, I fumbled with the phone as the sun began to emerge from behind the moon. Damn. I had to stop and put those eclipse glasses on again.  It’s difficult enough to take a cell phone photo in the dark. You try taking a one with your phone at night wearing eclipse glasses and you won’t see what I mean. I pushed the button once before Joe growled; he’d had enough of this Bigfoot business. The creature turned quickly and I heard a distinct pop. A small blue flash of light appeared near his big foot. Unbelievably, he looked to be on fire.

You may find this farfetched, but as Joe is my witness, I am probably the only human being on the face of the earth to have witnessed an actual SSCDE—a Sasquatian Spontaneous Combustion During An Eclipse. (On a side note, I now believe this is why Bigfeet are so rarely seen. They’re quite shy, and in the privacy of their forests, they’re just burning to be left alone.)

As the creature and his half-eaten airplane wing fell to the ground, consumed by blue flames, I distinctly heard him cry something. It sounded like “Fake the Aryan race of men,” which may or may not have some historical bearing. It made no sense to me at the time. But now I realize what I heard.  As the last of him disappeared, he was frantically pleading “Make America great again,” which makes more sense.

Well, the sky began to lighten. I whipped off those glasses and ran to the corner of the garden shed. Sasquatch and the airplane wing were completed combusted. Nothing remained but a burned spot upon the ground. My entire family was still staring at the sky. And wouldn’t you know it, that’s the only thing they saw–a rather ordinary total eclipse of the sun, if you ask me. I thoroughly questioned them all and described what I’d seen. Of course, they all looked at me like I had six heads.

I still have the photo, and I’ve included it here. It’s a little hard to make out, but if you look closely, I think you’ll see the facts are on my side.  And I have a witness here, each of us wagging his tale.

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August 21, 2017 1:06 p.m. Sasquatch Eating Amelia Earhart Plane As Spontaneous Combustion Begins

 

Witness
Witness

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