Sunday, May 2, 2010

An Absurd Logic

I wrote and originally published this here in September, 2007. It is still timely.

Jenny was pregnant — seven months and two weeks pregnant. Jenny was homeless. Jenny had no money. What hope was there for her baby? Her husband was on the road, looking for work. His poor language skills coupled with his shabby appearance made it difficult for him to find employment that would pay enough to maintain a family. He certainly was in no position to help his wife, several hundred miles away, with her situation.

Winter was approaching and already the weather was cold. Huddled under a bridge with only a flimsy windbreaker for outer wear, Jenny shivered and cursed the night. She had spent the day combing through trash cans looking for food. She barely found enough to make a meal and what she did find was not fit for humans. She ate it, nonetheless. Jenny had tried to get public assistance but because she had no identifying documents and could list no home address that was not forthcoming.

In her desperation Jenny hit upon a plan. She had seen some homes that to her were like mansions. Rich people lived there, she surmised. If she could get into one of those she could hide in the attic or basement and at least be warm. When the people were not home she could filch some food — just a little bit; it wouldn't be missed, she thought. The next several days Jenny spent watching some of these houses to see what the habits of the occupants were and how she could enter unnoticed.

It took several weeks, the weather getting colder and the food getting scarcer. One home in particular presented an ideal situation. The owners were often gone and she notice they seldom locked the door when they left. She packed her few belongings and broke into the house. In the attic she found an out-of-the-way corner where she could remain unseen if anyone ventured up. It wasn't long, though, before she was discovered, arrested, and put in jail.

At her arraignment the judge told the homeowners that they would have to allow Jenny to live in their house. He scolded the homeowners for their callous, cruel, and uncaring attitudes. Not only that, they would have to feed her and pay for all her medical expenses. When her baby was born, they were told that they would be responsible for the child. They would have to provide the child housing, food, medical expenses, and when the time came they would also have to pay for the child’s education. “And if Jenny stays in your home for seven years, she will automatically become a member of your family with all the benefits that come with it,” the judge intoned. “She can bring her husband and parents in, too, and you’ll also have to support them.”

“But that’s not fair! That’s not right!” the homeowners remonstrated. And it’s not. But some of our legislators and politicians want you to think it is. That is why we will never get a handle on illegal immigration.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Christmas Bells


Christmas Bells was written by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow on Christmas Day, 1863. We sing it today as a Christmas carol usually titled as “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day.” We sang it this past Sunday at church. Our hymn book, however, omits a couple of verses without which the carol loses much of its meaning.

This beautiful poem, song, carol was written by one who had endured and was enduring much grief. His wife had died only two years earlier and his son lay dying — or so he thought — from injuries sustained in battle against the Confederacy.

Here it is in its entirety:

    I Heard the bells on Christmas Day
    Their old, familiar carols play,
        And wild and sweet
        The words repeat
    Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

    And thought how, as the day had come,
    The belfries of all Christendom
        Had rolled along
        The unbroken song
    Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

    Till ringing, singing on its way,
    The world revolved from night to day,
        A voice, a chime,
        A chant sublime
    Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

    Then from each black, accursed mouth
    The cannon thundered in the South,
        And with the sound
        The carols drowned
    Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

    It was as if an earthquake rent
    The hearth-stones of a continent,
        And made forlorn
        The households born
    Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

    And in despair I bowed my head;
    "There is no peace on earth," I said;
        "For hate is strong,
        And mocks the song
    Of peace on earth, good-will to men!"

    Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
    "God is not dead, nor doth He sleep;
        The Wrong shall fail,
        The Right prevail,
    With peace on earth, good-will to men."

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

You Might Be From California if …


So as not to be outdone by all the redneck, hillbilly, and Texan jokes, somebody had to come up with this.

You might be from California if:

1. Your coworker has 8 body piercings and none are visible.
2. You make over $300,000 and still can't afford a house.
3. You take a bus and are shocked at two people carrying on a conversation in English.
4. Your child's 3rd-grade teacher has purple hair, a nose ring, and is named Flower.
5. You can't remember . . is pot illegal?
6. You've been to a baby shower that has two mothers and a sperm donor.
7. You have a very strong opinion about where your coffee beans are grown, and you can taste the difference between Sumatran and Ethiopian.
8. You can't remember . . . is pot illegal?
9. A really great parking space can totally move you to tears.
10. Gas costs $1.50 per gallon more than anywhere else in the U.S.
11. Unlike back home, the guy at Starbucks at 8:30 am, wearing a baseball cap and sunglasses who looks like George Clooney REALLY IS George Clooney.
12. Your car insurance costs as much as your house payment.
13. You can't remember . . .is pot illegal?
14. It's barely sprinkling rain and there's a report on every news station: "STORM WATCH."
15. You pass an elementary school playground and the children are all busy with their cells or pagers.
16. It's barely sprinkling rain outside, so you leave for work an hour early to avoid all the weather-related accidents.
17. HEY!!!! Is pot illegal????
18. Both you AND your dog have a psychic, therapists, personal trainers, and cosmetic surgeons.
19. The Terminator is your governor.
20. If you drive illegally, they take your driver's license. If you're here illegally, they want to give you one.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

All Is Not Gold That Glistens

This article appeared unsigned and unattributed in late August or early September 1947 in a metropolitan newspaper. Although modern life is different in many ways, what was true then is just as true now.

Many a young miss with a yearning for the bright lights, silk undies and fur coats is courting a trip to the skids, disillusionment and worse than a broken heart — a broken body. Almost every day we read accounts of some young woman's body being found in a secluded spot, under a culvert or in a deserted apartment, broken beyond identification or with a gaping gun wound. The story the district attorney or police unravels and gives to the public generally follows the same pattern.

Almost every one of these slain girls is described as a beauty, with curvacious [sic] body and golden hair. Her troubles started while she was still young and attractive, a play girl who declined to wash the dishes or otherwise aid in the family chores. She delighted in the attentions she received as she strolled the streets, or danced to enchanting music in a road house. If she could warble a little or disport in scanties, her way to the golden lights was made easy.

The lure of easy living, fine clothing and a ready smile for the playboys of questionable habits and morals are contributing factors and before the young miss is aware of approaching dangers, her downfall has been accomplished and in her aroused sense of shame she fears to face her parents and as a consequence the downward path finds her.

If you harbor the opinion that inmates of brothels are there from choice, banish the thought. Practically every one of these girls is a victim of a deep laid conspiracy. Too frequently they fall into the meshes of a well-organized gang and through promises of fine positions in the "city" where the gay bright lights are shining. Upon reaching the destination they are ushered into some "madame's" [sic] silken hideout, locked away from the relatives and friends and browbeaten until the powers of resistance are broken. Then some stalwart scion of wealth pays the price and ruin is accomplished.

It is an old, old story, but ever new to the sweet young girls who fall for the allures and traps so temptingly laid for them. The only hope of removing these temptations is for homes, churches and schools to play strong roles in educational fields, stressing the values of clean and simple living, spiritual wealth and the differences between tinsel and real values. It will not be a completely successful campaign for there are too many girls who see only the glamor of high living and enviously observe the comforts and pleasures of their wealthier neighbors.

Monday, March 30, 2009

An Alternative to Jail — for Some

Our penal system here in these United States is messed up. We used to send people to jail. Now we incarcerate them in "correctional facilities." Ain't that sweet. We've softened the name but they are still jails. I have, over the last fifteen years, had the pleasure of visiting two jails in two states, the second on a fairly regular basis. They are pretty much alike, as far as construction, manning, and inmates are concerned.

California has lots of jails and lots of inmates. Now they have been ordered to reduce the number of people under lock and key because of over-crowded conditions. Some states are considering reducing their inmate populations because of the high costs of hosting them. Most of the inmates I interact with admit their guilt (to me, not to the courts). Some have committed crimes for which they should be imprisoned for a long, long time while others have just made stupid mistakes in judgment. Some are repeat offenders while others are in for the first time.

There are some people that should not be locked up, in my opinion: petty thieves, forgers, check bouncers, pot smokers, prostitutes, and first-time convicted vandals. I'm not saying they should not be punished. I am saying that there are punishments more suitable and perhaps more corrective than sitting in a jail cell.

All crimes in which the victim has suffered loss of money or property should require restitution plus. A person who robs another, but does not cause bodily injury, should be required to pay that amount back plus a certain percentage — a percentage that would make it not worth stealing in the first place. If that person is caught with the stolen goods, he should not only have to return what he stole but should be required to add at least 50% more to it. If he (or she) has a family, the courts should specify a certain amount a week or month, leaving only enough to subsist on.

Some offenses, like panhandling, smoking pot and prostitution, while not in the public's best interest and sometimes a public nuisance, should not be awarded jail time unless committed along with another crime. Selling drugs and pimping, on the other hand, should be more severely punished. Perhaps a more suitable punishment, should that be desired, would be to require these offenders to perform community service under strict supervision. They could weed public gardens, pick up cigarette butts from public parking lots, and sweep streets and sidewalks with a broom, dust pan, and bucket. There are countless other social projects they could undertake that would be more beneficial than idling away ninety days in the clink.

We do have way to many people in our jails. Perhaps it's time to rethink our penal system to provide more beneficial forms of "correction" to not only unload our jails and save money, but also to provide a more equitable and practical means to minimize petty crime.

Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Anonymous Comments

Every once-in-a-while I receive an anonymous comment. I read and consider all the comments I receive, whether signed or anonymous. Some of the anonymous comments are favorable, some are not. So far, none have been nasty. I try to consider the merits of each comment, especially those from people that disagree with me.

I often wonder why someone would post an anonymous comment. I know newspapers usually will not publish anonymous letters to the editor and I have not made it my practice to do so, either. There are a number of valid reasons to hide behind anonymity.

The first reason that comes to mind is that perhaps the commenter is gun shy. Even the most nicely worded contrary opinion can, in some, evoke distressing emotions including rage — and nobody wants to be on the receiving end of that.

Another reason one may post anonymously is I may know them. The blogosphere is huge and the likelihood of this may be remote. I do, however, know some of my readers. Maybe they do not want to be personally associated with any umbrage taken at their responses to my posts. Or maybe they live close by and don't want a midnight visit.

Anonymous posters are less likely to end up with their e-mail address added to spam lists. That's a good reason to not reveal who you are.

Well, anonymous posters, I welcome your comments. Those things that I find hard to swallow I will still consider and make corrections as needed. Some remarks I will relegate to the “everyone is entitled to their opinion” pile. The good things I don’t take all that seriously, either. I don’t want to get too big a head. I am glad you read my entries and if I excite you to writing, I know at least that someone is thinking about the things that I’ve been thinking.

Monday, November 10, 2008

I'm the Pied Piper....

Even though I subscribe to the local daily newspaper I seldom read it. I like to wait a few days or even a week or so and then I can scan it for important things that I haven't read on the Internet or heard discussed in the streets. The campaign just concluded for the Presidency was not, in my opinion, newsworthy. On the one hand you had a liberal who tried to disguise himself as a moderate conservative and on the other hand you had a liberal that flaunted his colors. Not much of a choice, if you ask me.

I had concluded quite some time before election day that Barack Obama would win the election and that McCain did not have a snowball's chance. The President-elect did a grand job of rallying people behind him. I just can't understand why.

By his own admission, he is unqualified to assume the highest office of the land. He has no experience at anything that matters. Being a lawyer certainly does not qualify him. Being an absentee Senator does not qualify him.

Ah, you say, but he offered change and hope. What kind of change? On the few occasions I talked to an Obama supporter I never got a clear-cut answer on why they were voting for him. None could articulate what he stood for.
Looking at his record, will the change he speaks of repeat the disastrous Jimmy Carter administration? Not all change is good. Lenin offered change and look what happened. Hitler offered change and hope, too. We looked back on that era and ask, "How could the German people have fallen for him?" Someday, I think, others will look back on our day and ask the same thing.

Now that Obama has one the election I am following the news more closely. Some of the things I have read indicate my analogy to Hitler may not be that far off. I hope I am wrong.

"Come on, babe, follow me; I'm the Pied Piper, follow me...." and the people did.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Devastated woman

Photo courtesy of Chiara Angelini.

I pulled into a parking spot right in front of the grocery store. In the adjacent spot was an older Z-model Datsun (Nissan). The windows were down and a beautiful labrador retriever was stretched out across the passenger seat. It seemed to be comfortably sleeping, like the one pictured above. The car was filled with the driver's stuff and appeared to be a home for someone.

I was busy trying to get some stuff rearranged in my van and did not notice the woman come out of the store and return to her car, the one parked next to mine. I saw her leaning through the driver's side open window and moving things around. She extricated herself from her car and I commented, “Looks like a comfortable dog.”

“He's dead,” she said quietly, and went back into the store. He had died while she was shopping.

Several minutes later she returned, tears streaming down her face. I was not in a position to talk to her and could offer her no comfort. She got in her car and I noticed her steering wheel wobble like a top just before it falls over at the end of a spin. She drove off, wiping her tears. I imagine the dog and the car were all that she had.

We come into contact with all sorts of people every day. We never know the sufferings or the delights of most. I wish I could have consoled this poor woman. Those that could have, I later learned, did not. I thank God for the things I have and enjoy, having known both plenty and deprivation. That woman may not have had much by way of the world's goods but she had a heart and she had love — love for a dog who would never again return it.

Monday, June 30, 2008

Don't Correct Me

I take great pride in my command of the English language — or at least the American English language. I am better-than-average at spelling and pronunciation. Over forty years have passed since I graduated high school and I am still studying English.

It really irritates me when someone, especially an uneducated and ignorant someone, corrects my pronunciation. I know that grimace rhymes with face and the accent is on the second syllable. I know that dissect is not pronounced die-sect, but dissect.

I also have a familiarity with several languages, in none of which I can claim any proficiency. I know how to pronounce German, Spanish, and Latin. I am not so good in French (and a native-born Frenchman would tell me I never will be).

I know some words, particularly names, are pronounced differently depending where you are in the country. Bergen, NY and Bergen, NJ are not pronounced the same. Charlotte, NY and Charlotte, NC are pronounced differently as is Ephrata, PA and Ephrata, WA and the cities of Moscow, Russia and Moscow, ID. If I pronounce the name of a place wrong and am corrected by someone from that area or familiar with the proper pronunciation I take no umbrage.

I went to the deli at a local supermarket and asked if they had Lebanon balogna. I enunciated clearly: Leb-a-non, with the accent on the first syllable. The waif behind the counter said, "Leb-e-NON," to which I replied, "I pronounced it correctly." After ascertaining that they did not sell the product I asked for a pound of M√ľnster cheese, using the correct German pronunciation of Myunster (the the y and umlauted u being pronounced as one letter). You meant "Munster," didn't you?" she asked. Somewhat indignantly I told her that I had said it as it should be.

OK, most people use the pronunciations that the young lady working at the counter did. That makes it neither right nor acceptable. Where do these aberrant pronunciations come from? They come from ignorant TV reporters and radio announcers who seem bent on changing the way we speak. Grenada, that tiny island nation in the West Indies, was until the recent military engagement there (under the presidency of Ronald Reagan, for those to young to remember) pronounced with an "ah" sound. Now it is Gren-nay-da. Too bad Frankie Lane didn't know that. He would never have been able to rhyme it with Nevada — or will we be calling that Ne-vay-da ten years from now? Oh, just in case you are a public speaker, its English pronunciation is with the middle a as the a in at, not Nev-ah-da. Yes, I know, because I lived there.

If you are one of those people who feel it is your duty to correct everyone's pronunciation and use of the English language I have but one word for you: STOP! Sooner or later you will find yourself with egg on your face. If you are proficient in these areas and you want to save someone from future embarrassment, do it quietly and privately. And as for you, young lady behind the counter, remember this: the customer is always right — even when he's wrong.

Friday, May 16, 2008

How do they stay in business — Pt. 1

This is an advertisement in the Kitsap Sun for McGavins Bakery in Bremerton, Washington. Bremerton has a bad reputation, rightly earned, of poor customer service from its businesses. What once was a lively, productive city is now a moribund municipality gasping for its last breath as it applies cosmetic fixes that make it more appealing to the eye but do nothing to attract shoppers.

McGavins bakery is a fixture in Bremerton. It was there when I arrived in the Autumn of 1970. That was back when the city was booming. It advertises itself as the “home of the pink champagne cake.”

My wife saw the advertisement pictured above and called the bakery to place an order. Among other things, she specifically asked what was on the cake and was told, “nothing.” We do not ordinarily purchase cakes from a bakery because I can make my own equaling or exceeding the quality of that which you find in the majority of bakeries. However, this was for our thirty-fifth wedding anniversary, and it was a champagne cake — a little out of the ordinary. She placed an order and I picked it up several days later, on Saturday.

I arrived at the bakery and had to wait a few minutes while other customers were being served. When my cake was brought out from the back I do not remember if it was boxed or not. Because of the press of other customers I was not able to pay close attention to what was going on. I do remember looking at the cakes in the glass case and observing the skimpy icing covering some of them and that two were covered in what appeared to be either coconut or crumbs. I paid for my purchase and proceeded home where, without looking at the cake, I placed it in the refrigerator.

The following Monday was our wedding anniversary. That evening I got the cake out and told my wife that it appeared to have coconut on it. A pinch of the questionable matter confirmed my hunch. My wife was livid. She was disappointed. She had looked forward to having this cake for weeks. It isn't that she doesn't like coconut. It's much worse than that. Coconut ingestion can be fatal to her. Needless to say, it strained and dampened our celebration.

My wife later called the bakery and talked to a counter person while a man in the background provided the answers. Whether he was the owner, the manager, the baker, or the janitor I do not know. What I do know (the telephone was on the external speaker) was that he was arrogantly unconcerned. His bottom line was that if we did not want coconut we should have so stated that. Were we also to say we did not want catsup, mustard, nuts, meringue, whipped cream, etc. on it? When you are told nothing was on it, you expect nothing to be on it.

This is the mentality of many Bremerton businesses. This is the reason that Bremerton is now a fourth-rate city — a small metropolis of run-down, empty storefronts. “The customer is always right” never found acceptance here. I hope McGavins Bakery learns that customer service is what keeps a store in business. There are others who would gladly have their disgruntled patrons.