The Right Answer – Our Worst Enemy

July 23, 2009

As I race toward my sixty-fifth birthday, I’m reminded of the many things I’ve learned in my lifetime. One of my most significant discoveries is that the right answer is a terrible thing. For many of us, the quest for knowledge ends as soon as we think we have the right answer.

I sometimes joke that I found an object in the ‘next to last’ place I looked. How many times have we heard someone report that the lost object turned up in the last place he or she looked. Well, sometimes I go the extra mile just so I can make a silly comment.

When lost objects are the subject of the search, it doesn’t make any sense to continue the search after the object has been found. However, when it comes to knowledge, it’s extremely important to continue seeking a more definitive answer. Quite often, the additional probing turns up additional facts that, at times, totally alter our thinking. That’s when we realize our first conclusion was absolutely incorrect.

Case in point, a 1939 reference book listed uranium as a worthless metal.

It doesn’t take an in depth study of history to recognize how many times the scientific community has been mistaken. Yet, every time they ‘prove’ a theory, they’ll defiantly defend their findings as the ultimate truth.

It took an amateur paleontologist to prove that many dinosaurs were more akin to birds than lizards. The established community laughed at him until he found nesting grounds and eggs.

Lately I’ve been accused of being a right-wing FOX News watcher because I dared to question the universal health care plan being shoved down our collective throats by a President who seems to have little trouble spending tax payer money.

I’ll be the first to admit both parties seem to enjoy throwing around our tax dollars – especially when it can win additional votes for them during the next election. But the quantities of cash in question with this administration are beyond comprehension. We were told the stimulus package would turn the economy around. Thus far, it’s hard to say. Has it or hasn’t it? That all depends on who is doing the talking.

(Do you know how to tell when a politician is lying? His or her lips are moving. Trust me!)

The fact that the Administration is delaying the mid-year budget report until after the August recess of Congress seems to me to be a bad omen. Do they not want us to know how deeply in debt we are headed? It would be much harder to pass legislation to add to the financial burden if the public knew just how heavy that burden might already be.

And yet, when I question and try to determine the truth behind the news reports (on FOX, CNN, ABC, NBC, CBS, and PBS) I’m accused of being right-wing.

I consider myself a moderate. If I were to be identified with any political party, it would be Libertarian. I have never voted a straight party ticket and consider anyone who does so to be a complete idiot who refuses to take the time to learn about candidates of opposing parties.

Nancy Pelosi condemns the corporate executives who fly on private jets. Yet she does the same on a regular basis – at tax payer expense. Is this acceptable behavior? Might this be called hypocritical?

George Bush was accused of being arrogant. The way Barbara Boxer treated Harry C. Alford, the president and CEO of the National Black Chamber of Commerce, was a true example of arrogance. He tried to tell her how condescending her remarks to him were and, instead of taking the time to listen to what he was saying and, perhaps apologize, she interrupted him repeatedly to explain how wrong he was.

Sean Hannity does the same thing when he ‘debates’ someone who sees things differently. Bill O’Reilly is even more arrogant… but in a more polite way. I once heard him speak out against the Fair Tax. His comments proved that he had never read the bill and had no idea what he was talking about.

This country has forgotten the meaning of debate because we no longer listen to one another. We are so positive that we have the right answer that there is no need to listen to any facts that might prove us wrong.

We need to get back to being a civilized society that respects a person’s right to speak. We need to stop the protests that occur whenever someone from the opposition tries to explain his or her view of the issues.

Am I correct in my arguments? I think so, but can never be sure. If I’m off base, hopefully someone will come along and tell me where I’ve gone wrong. I promise to listen.

By the way, how many of you have taken the time to contact your friends and acquaintences in countries that have Nationalized Health Care. Do you want to get some honest answers from people who live under that system… or will you simply take the word of Glenn Beck?

Cap & Trade or Michael Jackson

July 7, 2009

Regardless of which side of the issue you’re on, it should bother you that the news media is spending far more time keeping the American people up to date on the Michael Jackson memorial service than they are in informing us of the progress of the Cap & Trade legislation.

And why are they placing so much emphasis on a dead celebrity? Why are they ignoring more important issues that could affect all tax payers?

Some right wing conservatives would have us believe that the left leaning media is intentionally taking the focus away from Congress so the Obama administration can shove another giant spending (and taxing) bill down our throats.

The left wing radicals would argue otherwise.

Naturally – and unfortunately – the truth has nothing to do with politics. Sadly, the media is giving the American public what the American public wants. I’ll admit I haven’t checked, but I’d bet that any broadcast of the American Idol show garnered a much larger share of the viewing public than any of the Presidential debates.

The truth is a large portion of our population doesn’t care about what goes on in Washington, D.C. In fact, they care even less about what goes on in their own state capitols.

Many years ago I attended a Key Club convention in Philadelphia. Each delegate was given a key ring. On one side was the Key Club logo. On the other was the phrase, “Combat Complacency.”

I believe we’ve lost the battle. In the 1960’s, college students stood up and voiced their opinions. While many of them were wrong in their beliefs, they all had the courage to stand up for what they believed. As a result, many things in our society were changed.

The youth of my youth took the time to learn about things that mattered. Sometimes they heard one side of the story and jumped to incorrect conclusions, but in most instances, they looked at both sides and came to good logical conclusions.

I’m afraid today’s youth are too busy twittering their lives away.

Perhaps that’s the major difference. While we didn’t have CNN, FOX News Channel, C-SPAN, or… come to think of it, we didn’t have any cable channels because we didn’t have cable. We also didn’t have lap top computers and the Internet. But we did have newspapers, news magazines, and the library.

We paid attention to the world around us – sweat bullets during the Cuban Missile Crisis – and felt a responsibility to speak out against what we saw as injustice.

Perhaps that was the influence of John F. Kennedy. I know we all admired the man and took the “New Frontier” very seriously. And we all deeply mourned his passing.

Until President Obama came along, we hadn’t had another President who could reach out and stir the interest of the youth as JFK did. But it appears that the interest of our current youth petered out once their man was elected.

It’s a shame because, the way I see it, it’s the youth and future generations who will be most harmed by what is currently happening in Washington.

The U.S. Government has no business being in business. Every time government has taken over an industry, that industry stops being self-sufficient. For example, independent bus and trolley companies operated in major cities for decades. They competed for riders and most of those companies were profitable.

The companies that couldn’t compete went out of business and their assets were bought up by the other companies. Then, the government decided to take over. The two ‘companies’ I’m most familiar with – the Port Authority Transit (PAT) in Pittsburgh and the Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit  Authority (MARTA) – have both operated at a loss for decades. Taxpayer subsidies are the only way they stay afloat.

Will General Motors be any different? Will taxpayer subsidized pricing put Ford, Chrysler, and others out of business?

The Federal Government has put itself in a very awkward position. Congress is talking about passing a ‘clunker bill’ that will give citizens a tax break for trading in an old car for a new, more fuel efficient, car. Will the tax break be higher for those of us who buy a GM product? It would make sense if the government wants their ‘company’ to flourish.

But wouldn’t that be unfair to the other companies? Does the government care?

There are many people who believe the economic crisis could’ve been solved months ago simply by the government letting workers keep their entire paychecks. Think about that. The typical worker has almost a third of his or her paycheck withheld every pay day. If that money had been available to the individuals, they would’ve spent it. Even if they simply paid off some bills, the economy would’ve improved.

Foreclosures would’ve been reduced dramatically and banks would’ve had more money for other loans. Consumers would’ve bought more cars, televisions, and other big ticket items… which would’ve resulted in more jobs.

If consumers bought Fords and Toyotas rather than Chevys and Buicks, GM would’ve had to fix their problems or go out of business. With increased sales, the other auto makers would’ve been able to buy GM factories and put the former GM employees to work building other makes of cars.

Is it too late for the government to get out of the auto business? I hope not. And while they’re at it, they should also get out of the banking and investment businesses.

Come to think of it, maybe it’s time for MARTA and PAT to liquidate and let the private sector show the politicians how it should be done.

Considering the business acumen of most politicians, it wouldn’t take a business genius to repair the damage done by congress. Think of it! How many politicians have held a ‘real’ job during their adult life. There may be a few, but most of them were borderline lawyers who recognized they could make a lot more money supporting the causes of special interest groups.

If they were intelligent enough to be successful business people, why would they even consider becoming a member of Congress?

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to go and see if Michael has been buried yet.


September 4, 2008
Frequent Visitors

Frequent Visitors

Growing up within the city limits of Pittsburgh, the critters we encountered were few and far between. We, unlike many city dwellers, never had any real rodent problems, but we certainly had our share of bugs. Again, we were fortunate in that most of the bugs we encountered were outside. I’d say my Mom did a good job of keeping things clean and less than inviting for unwanted guests.

I don’t recall many butterflies, but I do remember lightning bugs, bees, wasps, and hornets. By the way, did you know that the original name for butterflies was flutter-bys? That name seems much more appropriate to me.

I don’t recall ever seeing a garden spider until I moved to Imperial, Pennsylvania. The only raccoons and possums I ever saw were around my sister’s home in Ingomar. Back in the neighborhood of my parent’s home, we’d see an occasional stray dog, but I don’t ever recall seeing a stray cat. Perhaps the stray dogs took care of that.

Very early in my life, we’d sometimes see a horse and wagon, but those sightings were very infrequent.

While birds were abundant in the warmer months, very few of them wintered in Pittsburgh. Our assortment of species was limited to wrens, robins, starlings, and a rare crow or two. The only time I heard the call of a Blue Jay was when we were visiting my Uncle Lewis in New Jersey.

Moving to Castle Shannon, a suburb of Pittsburgh gave us the joy of watching Ring-necked Pheasants pass through our back yard almost daily. Of course, had I been an avid hunter, I may have seen them in a different light.

But moving to the woods of North Georgia has broadened our horizon. There are times when I think we might be living in the middle of a wildlife sanctuary.

Our Wildlife Sanctuary

Our Wildlife Sanctuary

I’ve been living on this plot of land since 1993 and have seen everything from turtles to geese. We’ve been visited by foxes, squirrels, lizards, hummingbirds, blue jays, cardinals, Baltimore Orioles, Penguins, yellow finches, snakes, and some of the strangest insects you’d ever want to see.

Bug Eyes

Bug Eyes

I should add this picture to my list of contests. If you know what it is, feel free to tell us with a comment.

The most recent visitor managed to find his or her way inside.

A Cousin of Kermit?

A Cousin of Kermit?

I always thought frogs ate bugs. Wasn’t it Kermit who said, “Time’s fun when you’re having flies.”?

Perhaps the frog realized that the bug was bigger then he or she, and opted to drop in for a visit rather than face the uncertainty of trying for peaceful coexistence with an insect.

At any rate, we’ll continue to keep our camera handy and see what else might drop in to visit with us.

And yes, I lied about the penguin, although we have been visited by Pittsburgh Penguin fans.

Mixed Bag Monday

August 18, 2008
Fox in the morning!

Fox in the morning!

This is not the way I planned to begin today’s post. However, when I looked out the window, my plans changed. There were two young foxes rolling around in our yard. I managed to get several pictures before something spooked them.

In truth, I was going to begin this Monday morning with another song. While the words do not express the views of the author – nor this blog site – I always loved listening to Karen Carpenter.

Here in Georgia – in the midst of a drought – rainy days would not get me down. In fact, we’re hoping Hurricane Fae comes and dumps about six or seven inches on us. As for Mondays, when I was working full time and had to sit in traffic trying to get to my office, the mornings did get me down, but things usually improved as the day wore on.

Last night my bride and I sat on the other side of the table and it was marvelous!

Allow me to explain. Lu and I are very active with our church’s Out-reach committee and get heavily involved in various fund raising events. The last two years we’ve been serving gourmet dinners to raise money for various charities. Several times we’ve prepared Beef Wellington with all the trimmings and attempted to provide a memorable dining experience to the people making substantial donations to our causes.

Last evening, we were among the guests. Bob and Gail Trimble took over as chief cooks and bottle washers. They were ably assisted by Bob and Marilyn Young, and Doug and Alaine Linebarger. And we sat at the table and allowed them to serve up a sumptuous meal. Naturally, we ate far too much, but loved every bite of it.

Perhaps that’s why I feel rather bloated on this Monday morning.

If this is your first visit here, welcome! I’m glad you took the time to stop by. There’s a little something for everyone here, including a joke contest and a mystery picture. The picture can be found on the ??? page.

In the meantime, I’m going to go look out the windows some more. We never know what we might see passing through. The picture below was taken of a deer that Lu eventually had to chase out of the yard. The deer was fearless of humans – a bad sign – and eating Lu’s prized plants.

A descendent of Bambi?

A descendant of Bambi?

Fox in the Morning

July 12, 2008

In 1950 I began my formal education at Schaeffer Elementary School. At the time it was located at the corner of Elmont Street and Stratmore Avenue. Shortly after our class moved on to Langley Junior-Senior High School, the building in which we’d spent six years of our young lives was condemned. A year or so later it was torn down and a replacement building was erected on Clairhaven Street.

A number of my classmates were starting their second year of school in 1950. They’d gone to kindergarten. I’m really not sure why I wasn’t sent to kindergarten. I’ll have to ask the old lady – that’s the nickname my brothers and I have given to our older sister. If memory serves me right, she’s about to celebrate her eighty-fifth birthday, but she still has the best memory in the family!

I believe one of my first friends at Schaeffer was Gary Smith. He lived farther away from school than I did and had to walk past my house every day. It wasn’t long until we were walking together. Bob Sipe was another boy who had to walk past my house. The group that made the daily trek grew quickly, although it never included any of the girls who lived close to Gary and Bob.

One thing that might surprise many younger people is that most of the students at Schaeffer walked home at lunch time. We had no cafeteria. There was an area that could’ve been used as a lunch room, but I don’t know if it was ever used by anyone other than the teachers. For that matter, I don’t know for sure that they used it.

I don’t recall how long we had for our lunch break. I do remember sitting down to a bowl of hot tomato soup and a grilled cheese sandwich. Strange… I remember eating, but I don’t remember my brother being there with us. He was only two years ahead of me; he should’ve been there for at least four years.

There was a playground behind the school. It was paved with either asphalt or concrete and two sides included concrete terraces as the one corner of the block was much higher than the other. We’d use the area before school and during physical education – as long as the weather was decent. If it was cold or wet, our Phys Ed classes were held in the gymnasium, which was located on the third floor. That was the first area that was condemned. That happened when we were in the sixth grade. That’s also the year that someone snuck up to the condemned part of the building and left a rather large turd on the floor. It gave us boys something to snicker about for quite a while.

Most of the students tried to get to school at least a half an hour before classes began so we could play “Fox in the Morning.” This game started with one person being selected to be “It”. I don’t recall the exact process to name the first “It” person, but it must have gone rather smoothly because we didn’t waste much time getting started. The “It” person would stand in the middle of the playground and shout, “Fox in the morning”. At that point, the rest of us, all lined up on one side of the playground would shout back, “Geese in the evening!”

“It” would then ask, “How many are there?” Our response was “More than you can catch.” The game had now begun and we had to run to the other side of the playground. Naturally, “It” managed to tag a few children as they ran past. Those who were tagged were now obligated to help “It” catch the rest of us. As we ran back and forth, the number of children tagged grew and the numbers of geese decreased. Eventually, everyone was in the middle helping “It” and it was time to pick a new “It” and start another round.

We loved that game and would play it until the bell rang and we were forced to go into the building. While outdoor Phys Ed was suspended due to inclement weather, our pre-school game of “Fox in the Morning” was simply modified. When the ground was covered with snow, “It” had to do more than tag his victims. He or she had to tackle them! I wouldn’t be surprised if some of the girls found other things to do before school once the rough stuff started.

I mentioned in an earlier post that there was one boy who wore knickers in those early days of my schooling. As I recall, his name was Biff Bracy. He moved away early on. I always wondered what happened to him. He was very athletic.

Many of the children in my first grade class continued to be my classmates until we graduated from high school and moved on to college. I have pictures of our classes somewhere, but I’m going to see how well I can do from memory.

The girls I remember included Carol Bock, Claire Scott, Nancy Nelson, Sandy Korbel, Sondra Flaherty, Bonnie Arlett, and Charlene Munro.

The boys included Gary and Bob who were mentioned earlier, as well as Herb D’Alo, Ron Cartwright, Ed Nikolaison, and Stanley Swartz.

I now realize how poor my memory is. Part of the problem is that people like George Reinhart and Tony Civello joined us sometime after the first grade. We also had classmates like Lillian Martucci, Betty Donahue, and Bobby Ward who left before we completed our schooling. There was also a young girl with leg braces. I don’t think she was in our class and I believe she was a victim of polio – one of the last thanks to Jonas Salk! She disappeared at some point. I just hope the family moved. I’d hate to think she died and we weren’t told.

Another thing that clouds my memory is that, for some reason, our class was combined with another for about three years. As I recall, we had Miss Beggs in the first grade and Mrs. Jacobs in the second. Miss Kraft was our third grade teacher. After that, things got confusing. Fourth grade found us with Miss Dolan for part of the year; we shared that room with the fifth grade. At some point we moved to another room and had Mr. Carroll as our teacher. We also had a substitute named Miss Bindyck (I’m guessing at the spelling!). Her favorite song had something to do with swinging a sickle and cutting the grain. Of course, some boys might tell you it was cutting the grass.

We eventually wound up with Miss Ryan for the sixth grade. As we neared the end of that school year, the boys discovered we could sneak out early by sliding our desks up to the cloak room, sneaking to the other end – closest to the door to the hall – and bolting while Miss Ryan had her back turned. Looking back, I think she was glad to see us go!

Hopefully this bit of reminiscing will be read by some of those old classmates and they will correct any mistakes I might have made. We’ll just blame it on senility. Fox in the morning. Geese in the evening. How many are there? More than I care to remember!