Monthly Archives: May 2016

Memorial Day

Graves at Arlington on Memorial Day.JPG

 

I don’t celebrate Memorial Day.

I do cook out and consider it to be the summer season and I enjoy the three-day weekend, but celebration brings to mind happier events. I do not wish people a “Happy Memorial Day.” Instead I observe Memorial Day as a day of remembrance, when we honor those who gave, in Abraham Lincoln’s words, “The last full measure.”

There arguments as to how it started, but even though decorating the graves of fallen warriors is an ancient tradition, it took root in America after the Civil War. The Civil War was devastating not only in terms of bullets, but disease that swept through the armies before, during, and after the battles.

The North credits the Grand Army of the Republic—the veterans of the Union military—for starting it in 1868. They called it “Decoration Day” because of the flowers on the graves; its first observance was on May 30th because that date did not coincide with any significant Civil War battle.

There are others (including the US National Park Service) who claim that it began in Columbus, Georgia in 1866. There it was called “Memorial Day,” although after the North co-opted the idea (and the title), they called it “Confederate Memorial Day.” There was not a specific date throughout the South.

There is one other theory.  In South Carolina, Union soldiers were held in a makeshift prisoner of war camp that was actually a race course.  At least 257 Union soldiers who died in the camp were buried in unmarked graves. In 1865 freedmen—African-Americans who had been slaves—cleaned and landscaped the site and built an enclosure with an arch that said, “Martyrs of the Race Course.”

Regardless of its history, we now celebrate it on the last Monday in May with lots of sales at every retail store, and not enough thought of those who died in while in the service.

For clarity’s sake:

Memorial Day—the last Monday in May—honors service members who died while serving.

Veterans’ Day—November 11th commemorating the Armistice of World War I, which occurred at the 11th hour on the 11th day of the 11th month—honors all who served in uniform.

Armed Forces Day—The third Saturday in May—honors those currently serving.

 

 

Virginia!

Flag of Virginia.svg

I live in Virginia—which, in 1610, became the first permanent English settlement. I’m not a native, but then neither was Captain John Smith, founder of Jamestown (who was such a troublemaker that almost everyone he dealt with had sufficient grounds and every intention of executing him).

Our native sons and daughters are a virtual “Who’s Who of American History.” Native Virginians include Pocahontas, George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, James Monroe, Clara Barton, Robert E. Lee, Dred Scott, Nat Turner, and Booker T. Washington.

General of the Army Douglas MacArthur wasn’t born in Virginia, but he liked it here, so the old Norfolk City Hall was remodeled and is now his tomb and museum, with the upscale MacArthur Mall located nearby.

Virginia is dripping with history, it was here that Patrick Henry exclaimed, “Give me liberty or give me death!” Virginian Richard Henry Lee proposed that the “United Colonies are, and of right ought to be, free and independent States.” Virginian Thomas Jefferson drafted the Declaration of Independence, and neighbor James Madison became known as the “Father of the US Constitution.”

British lord and Lieutenant General Charles Cornwallis surrendered to General Washington at Yorktown, VA—the last major land battle of the American Revolution. Robert E. Lee surrendered to General Grant at Appomattox Courthouse, VA, ending the American Civil War (although some still refuse to accept that fact).

Of course, having so much history means that politicians in Virginia have had time to figure out how to, well, do what it is that politicians do. Virginian John Tyler, tenth President of the United States of America was declared a traitor and an enemy of the state.[1] Virginia’s current governor is being investigated by the Justice Department for campaign fund irregularities; our previous governor is appealing his conviction for influence peddling.

States are very competitive; Illinois is definitely a contender in the Governors Gone Wild contest, even though they impeached Rod Blagojevich before he was convicted. Louisiana’s Edwin Edwards had some good moves, but couldn’t hold a candle to his state’s colorful and outrageously powerful Huey P. Long.

For some odd reason I feel compelled to publicly announce that I will not run, nor will I accept any party’s nomination for any elected position, anywhere, at any time, under any circumstance.

 

 

 

 

[1] As William Henry Harrison’s vice president, when Harrison died, Tyler—referred to as “His Accidency,” became the first to hold the office of president without being elected to it. When the South seceded from the Union, Tyler remained loyal to Virginia and served in the Confederate Congress. At his funeral in Richmond in 1862, his casket was not draped with the Stars and Stripes, but with the Confederate flag—the only American president buried under a foreign flag.

01 Swodniw

You have got to hand it to Microsoft. No matter what version of Windows you’ve used, sooner or later it builds up enough junk—leftovers, temporary files, etc. that the system needs to be completely reloaded.

Windows 10 has done that to me on two computers so far. The latest one is telling me that the main disk is locked, which makes me believe that a reinstall won’t see my registration and will want me to purchase a new copy of Windows 10.

Oh, gee! How unlucky! I guess I’ll have to reinstall Windows 7– one of the few versions of Microsoft’s operating systems that worked reliably. Woohoo!

You Can Use My Bathroom When You Pry My Cold, Dead Fingers from the Toilet Paper!

I love to keep my tempests in teapots—it keeps the rhetoric hot, even if there’s no real substance. For example, the brouhaha regarding who gets to use which bathroom. Last report that I heard on NPR was that in the state of North Carolina, where the sexes are separate, but equal, the number of complaints regarding use of the inappropriate bathroom was zero. Nada. Zilch.

I suppose that between NPR and myself, our comments will encourage someone somewhere to complain. So be it.

Those who served in Iraq or Afghanistan either had various choices for conducting urination and defecation. Some had the pleasure (?) of field latrines, others the ubiquitous porta-potties, or, around places like Al Faw Palace near Baghdad, the existing bathrooms were declared co-ed. The stalls were first-come, first-served (oddly, there was no competition for the urinals). That’s what was there, so that’s what the Americans used. (Of course there were the Arab toilets, a hole in the ground with footprints marked on the surrounding concrete, and a short garden hose. I’ve used them–works for them, not for me.)

The reason that it doesn’t matter was best described by that Great American Canadian, Bill Murray in Stripes, when he said, “We’re all mutts! See—his nose is cold!” And it’s true, we are mutts, and that’s what makes Americans, well, Americans.

Don’t believe me? The following is a true story:

A senior Marine officer was at one of the detention sites shortly after the fall of Iraq in order to make sure that the prisoners were being properly treated (for every Abu Graib there were dozens of facilities that were run in accordance with international law and reasonable civility). An Iraqi general kept frantically motioning that he wanted to talk, and although the Marine officer was not really interested in getting into a debate with the Iraqi general, he realized it was his duty, and courtesy demanded that he acknowledge the general. The Iraqi spoke English with a heavy accent, so it took a while before the Marine understood what he was being asked.

“Why do you conquer us with this confederate army?” the Iraqi general wanted to know. He pointed to the enlisted Marines who were with the officer. “This man,” the Iraqi continued, “is obviously from Asia. That one from Africa, and the other probably from somewhere in Central or South America! Why did you recruit these foreigners to invade us?”

The officer looked around; until that moment, he had never given a thought to their different ethnic backgrounds; he had always seen these people as fellow Marines.

We are not a nation bound by common ancestors; we are a nation bound by an idea. Every one of those Marines had sworn an oath to that idea—the United States Constitution.

We Americans are all different from one another. My recommendations to survive this great challenge are, when using a bathroom:

  • Don’t trash the restroom (which for teenagers will be a HUGE challenge)
  • Be polite to whoever else is in, entering, or leaving the restroom

Oh, and this may shock you, but everybody without four legs or wings, who visits my home, regardless of ANYTHING, all share the same bathrooms.

Schizophrenia as an Aid to Writing

Writers of fiction need to be a bit schizophrenic; they live partially in this world and partially in the world that doesn’t exist except as printed words. It’s the characters that are to blame. As I’ve mentioned before, when I’m writing, if I know my character—and for clarity’s sake, let’s stick to just a single character—when that character is placed in a certain situation, it’s easy to write, because I know what that character would do. I can even anticipate when that character is going to do the opposite of what would it would normally do.

As a writer I unconsciously develop the character’s back story. In the story I’m working on now, I’ve got a pretty good understanding of what the protagonist’s life has been like up till now. I may not have thought through details, but since I have the overview, the events that led to a particular trait reveal themselves fairly easily when I need them.

I wrote one column for nearly twenty years, and I knew one character intimately. On the other hand, these stories included a narrator—think Dr. Watson to Sherlock Holmes. The difference was that I never really knew who this narrator was. Was it me? Was the narrator male? Female? Caucasian? Ethnic? To this day, almost 33 years after I first began to write that story, I can’t tell you.

Why? I don’t know. Perhaps it encouraged everyone to identify with the narrator. It might have been that as a character, the narrator was merely a mechanism—like the plucky comic relief character in a movie. The narrator might have been the human version of Alfred Hitchcock’s McGuffin. Hitchcock explained that a McGuffin was something like the microfilm that all the characters tried to get; what is on the microfilm is unimportant.

For that matter, the narrator back then might even have been named McGuffin. Who knows?

Graduation Time

It’s graduation season, and unless you are soon to graduate or have a relative who is graduating, you probably just ignore the whole thing. However, it Is important to realize that we all benefit from the education process, and the product of education.

 

The American Revolution resulted in a democratic republic while the French Revolution’s outcome was Emperor Napoleon I. Why? The North American Colonies had an effective public education system, France did not. France had titled nobility, while America did not, but male landowners were most definitely elites; most were well educated and traveled, they had wealth and the means to acquire more, and they could vote. Even though women and workers who were not wealthy could not vote, they had at least a modicum of education, while the French peasantry did not.

 As students progress through the education system, they acquire the tools to benefit society as a whole, and the higher the level of education, the greater potential benefit they bring. How?

– Learning is a lifelong endeavor, and the education one possesses is the key to further learning.

– Education gives people the ability to produce some type of good or service, and for which they will be paid.

– People who earn a wage also contribute to society through taxes.

– With the right to vote, an education provides the skills to make a decision.

 When it comes to voting, decisions are made in many different ways. Some will decide based on their emotional reaction to a candidate or an issue. Some will adopt a certain general philosophy–liberal, conservative, libertarian, socialist, labor, or whatever–and vote with the party or group who they feel represents that philosophy. However, educated people have the ability to critically evaluate the facts–not commentary or marketing–and then make a decision.

 Each political party has its base who will vote along party lines regardless. Then there are those people whose decision is not so easily influenced, the so-called swing voters. These are the people who decide elections. Today, many are still acquiring data and will not decide until sometime in the fall. Some will easily reach a decision with which they are comfortable. Some will struggle with the facts and realize that to obtain their desired outcomes, they may have to vote for a person or an issue they personally find repugnant. Logic leads to the best alternative, not the most attractive.

However, because of education, they have the tools to use in this process, so celebrate graduation season for that reason.

A Good Day

Today, I figured out a few technical issues that had me perplexed. Nothing major, mind you, things like rejuvenating an older—but perfectly functional laptop. I use that particular computer for programming various pieces of radio equipment. These programs have a tendency to conflict with so-called “normal” programs, so I don’t want to put them on my other computers. That was a relief. However, I’m finding that I have various computers that are specifically dedicated to a particular task. Remember when one DOS computer could do it all?

I decided how I’m going to handle some of the administrivia issues for the radio operators’ assignments in the event of a hurricane or whatever. Who’s who; who goes where; and, who does what.

I was successful in getting my clock set to Greenwich Mean Time, now known as UTC based on the French for “Universal Coordinated Time,” or “Zulu” time and connected it to the temperature sensor. This had all been working before, but the outdoor sensor, carefully located where it SHOULDN’T get wet, did. It became a mass of non-functioning corrosion. This meant I had to replace the sensor, and resetting everything with a new sensor was not exactly plug-and-play.

Nevertheless, I made forward progress.

That’s a good day, thank you.

Panic! Bugs! Cicadas!

The Cicadas are coming! Look to the Old North Tower for a signal! One if they are digging up from under the land, and two if they’re, uh, digging up from under the land.

About five years ago (more or less—I’m temporally [that means “with regard to time”] challenged) we had the scourge of the cicadas, but that was THOSE cicadas, not this year’s THESE cicadas, which will be a scourge of Biblical (or maybe even CNN proportions)!

Cicadas are noisy insects that most of us of see like this:

 cicada3

That’s not really the cicada, but the exoskeleton that splits open to allow the cicada to grow. This is less practical than humans who have our skeletons on the inside. You think it’s expensive to buy new shoes for your teenager? Imagine if over a period of seventeen years they suddenly appeared–all at once–in a much larger body. Okay, never mind, they keep reappearing in larger bodies, and it doesn’t just happen once in their first seventeen years but about every fifteen minutes. However, at least teenagers aren’t bugs with funny looking eyes. Well, at least they’re not bugs.

In any case, any moment now billions, (YES! The media reminds us, Billions—with a CAPITAL B!) will emerge from the ground, make a lot of noise, and try to devour all of our trees. They‘ll look something like this.

 17-year-cicada-leaf

I’m not sure if that cicada is eating its younger sibling, some other juvenile insect, or if its appearance is just naturally gross.

Please note, though, that while I find nature, including cicadas fascinating, I’m particularly protective of all the botanical species in my little, tiny portion of this universe referred to as “my yard.” I LIKE my trees, my plants, my vegetables, and my lawn, and I am prepared to defend them against tent caterpillars, mold, fungus, and whichever seventeen-year cicadas are this year’s vintage. So, cicadas, be warned. Feel free to be as noisy as you want. I’ll accept your freedoms of speech, assembly, religion, etc.

However, you have no right to eat my trees. Remember that.

The Candidates (Revised)

After being politically correct for the past few weeks (some by omission), here we go.

The Clintons at the Trumps’ 2005 Wedding

 

Now that the presumptive candidates (and, they’re both quite presumptuous, thank you [rim shot—bada-bing]) are in place, the world is beginning to react.

Great Britain: “I say, old chap, do you miss King George the Third yet?”

Vladimir Putin (AKA Russia): “Of course this is all according to my plan, but I assure you that no Russian military troops were involved!”

Mexico: “Here’s our counter offer:

  1. “We are willing to pay to build a wall, but we propose a different—but better—location. The wall would be more beneficial to the citizens of both countries if it were constructed about fifty meters outside the right-hand lane of I-495, thereby encircling Washington, DC. This would help maintain control of politicians’ entry into the United States of America mainland.
  2. “The wall will be funded by charging a toll for travel through the numerous tunnels that already exist under the border between our two countries. Since the tunnels are well-engineered, structurally sound, well lit, and either paved or equipped with rail service, it should be easy to add electronic toll transponders. Of course, after the election, there may be many US citizens who will utilize the tunnels to head south in a search for a more placid place to call home, and they would be responsible for paying the toll as well. Please ensure that the EZ-Pass transponder system deposits the fees into Los Estados Unidos de Mexico National Bank.
  3. “Incidentally, we revised our immigration laws in 2011. If you’d like a copy, you can easily get it online.”

North Korea: “As a gesture of confidence in our future relations, we would be most willing to host any of your e-mail servers. I assure you that the DPRK has many well-trained computer specialists, and we would treat your computer as we would treat one of our own.”

Canada: “Hey! No way, hoser! Take off, ay? There are reasons that we prefer to be neighbors rather than family. We like our prime minister just fine, thank you, since he’s cultured and refined. Besides, our beer is much better than yours!”

Mayonnaise

As promised, in order to be completely politically correct, this blog is devoted to mayonnaise. Perhaps devoted is too strong a word, but it will be about mayonnaise—I don’t want anyone thinking I have some kind of mayonnaise fetish.

Wikipedia says that mayonnaise is, “a thick, creamy dressing often used as a condiment. It is a stable emulsion of oil, egg yolk, and either vinegar or lemon juice, with many options for embellishment with other herbs and spices.”

I say that mayonnaise is politically correct, non-controversial and slightly bland.

Many of us grew up being told that the most dangerous thing at a picnic was not the poison ivy, the fire ants, or even hungry bears. We were warned to avoid any potato salad that had been out of the refrigerator for more than ten seconds because it would spoil, cause food poisoning,  and we’d die a slow, painful death. Some years later I heard on the radio that because mayonnaise contains vinegar and/or lemon juice—both acting as preservatives—this was unlikely. Of course the guy on the radio might have actually intended to be a mass murderer and slaughter thousands of gullible listeners,wielding spoiled potato salad like a deadly weapon.

There’s phony mayo, labeled either “Salad Dressing” or “Phony Mayo.” Considering that a dab gets added to a sandwich filled with several kinds of meat, cheese, lettuce, tomato, pickles, and jalapenos, I’m sure most people couldn’t tell which dab had been added to  the sandwich they were eating.

Spices are often added because mayonnaise is slightly bland. You must be careful, though since adding things to mayonnaise, changes it. Add mustard to mayo and you have remoulade. Add chopped cooked potatoes, eggs and celery and you have deadly potato salad.

I hope you have enjoyed today’s politically correct, non-controversial, and slightly bland blog. Please do not leave this blog outside in the summer sun as it may spoil and kill you.

Choosing a Subject

Today, let’s discuss politics

Some bathrooms are designed

With having my blog, I’ve considered my own server

I like to play music because the relaxation may help me live longer. Look at professional musicians

It’s spring! Let’s enjoy the sunshine, except for the risk of melanoma and climate change

I’ve always enjoyed Pink Floyd, especially their greatest album, The Wall

Has political correctness gone too far?

We just had our local elections

 

It’s not that I’ve had writer’s block, it’s just that most topics have just gotten, for lack of a better word, too icky. So, I’m working on a serious piece, and still working on that story I mentioned earlier. Today I put together a number documents that might be helpful to the radio operators in the event of a hurricane—after all we’ve had about four years of relative peace and quiet. So, alas, I have not been parked in front of the television being mindlessly entertained.

On the other hand, I read lots of fascinating things: National Geographic’s take on life and death; Popular Science’s interview with President Obama, which I thoroughly enjoyed; Wired’s coverage of computer security—which I would have enjoyed, but they take a fascinating article and print it in weird fonts, low contrast inks and hinky graphics. That takes all the fun out of it.

So I’ll try to come up with something that is intellectually stimulating, but not controversial, that respects diversity, individual preferences, and is, of course, politically correct. Therefore, you can look forward to my exciting coverage on

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WAIT FOR IT

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Mayonnaise.