Friday, November 21, 2014

My grandparents, immigrants all, would today be very proud of their adopted country and our president.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Now What?

By The Big Guy
Senior Contributor

I am not paranoid. I am cautious. However, the world is conspiring to get me. The problem is that internet fraud is so rampant, things that are most likely legitimate I automatically assume are fake. If I get an email from my bank I just know it’s fraud. As soon as I have trouble with a website I’m convinced someone has figured out a way to reach down that cable into my home and manipulate my keyboard while I’m watching State of Affairs. And forget surveys. I used to think it was helpful, perhaps a bit cool for me to give some of the companies from which I purchase services some suggestions for improvement. I have deleted my name from all those lists. They’re already sucking information out of me at an alarming rate without my permission as it is.

Speaking of deleting, I have been making a conscious effort to cut back on the number of emails I receive from companies that I seldom do business with any more. Of course, unsubscribing has become an adventure in itself as anyone who has tried to get facebook’s tentacles out of their throats can attest. The simple “unsubscribe” link has been replaced with a “manage your email preferences” link. This gives the vendor an opportunity to go through the five stages of begging in the hope that you will change your mind before you can actually delete them.

Of course, it really doesn’t matter if you unsubscribe because long, long ago this company, and pretty much any other company you’ve decided to go visit, even for just a moment, has dropped a cookie (and let’s remember here that this cookie is not necessarily a good thing) in a folder on your computer so that they can find you whenever they feel like it, not to mention keep track of who else you visit on the web. Gosh, isn’t that alone creepy enough?

I was having trouble with a website the other night on my computer so I figured I’d just eliminate the cookie and start over to see if that would fix the problem. I opened up my browser to find that there were 2,865 cookies in the browser file. Really. I was horrified. I spent some time looking down the list and didn’t even recognize half of the cryptic names I saw. I started to eliminate them and then thought I could click on that button over there and eliminate all of them at once. Of course then I would have to deal with the pain of no website I still needed knowing who the hell I was. I didn’t have the patience for that so I just left it alone. Suddenly I feel like American industry and those scumballs in Kazakhstan are working in tandem to destroy my credit rating and empty my bank account.    

I got a letter from American Express this past week. I am not making this up. It read something like, “It’s not our fault (of course) but we’ve been tracking your purchases and you’re pretty much screwed. While we’re not certain, you should assume with all that’s going on that the bad guys have your name, address, phone number, email address, your card number, the card's security code, your mother’s maiden name and your social security number.” Yes, that sacrosanct identifier that kept us all safe, the social security number is now just as worthless as everything else. When does this all stop? Or should we just go back to using shiny beads to buy things?

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Hero Of The Week

Marine Lance Cpl. Demarkus D. Brown
Age:  22
1st Battalion
8th Marine Regiment
2nd Marine Division
II Marine Expeditionary Force
Died 19 November, 2004
Anbar Province, Iraq

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Another Sign Post On The Way To Death

I called my family doctor yesterday to make an appointment for something very minor; I mostly wanted reassurance that it wasn't anything to worry about.  I didn't realize I hadn't been there since I went on Medicare over two years ago.  The woman on the phone asked about my insurance and told me to bring my Medicare and Supplemental Plan card as well as a photo ID.  Amazingly, she could get me in an hour later.

Presented all my cards upon arrival and had to answer the questions about other's bodily fluids and travel out of the country.  New questions in the age of Ebola.  Since I hadn't been there in awhile they also had me fill out a new form with name, address, phone, emergency contact etc.  Five minutes later the young assistant calls me, weighs me in and shows me to an exam room.  Starts with the usual questions about drug allergies, am I still taking the drugs in their history, why have I come in.

Then it gets weird.  She says "Since you're now over 65 I have to ask you some questions."  I say go ahead.  First question:  Do you feel you have lost interest in everyday activities?  Second question:  Do you still take pleasure in hobbies or interests you had before?  Third question:  Do you ever feel depressed, anxious or isolated?  So far I didn't think much of it; they want to make sure senior citizens are feeling OK mentally.  Then comes the big one:  Have you fallen more than twice in the past year?  At that point I blurted out "Oh my God, this is the elderly test, isn't it?"

So there you have it.  Another reminder that I've crossed someone else's arbitrary line.  First the guy at the football game who assumed I needed a shuttle ride and now the 22 yr. old medical assistant wants to know if I've fallen.  Should have asked if she'll come pick me up when I do.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Just Do It

President Obama has signaled his intent to use the privilege of executive order to allow some 5 million undocumented immigrants to remain in the United States.  Most of these would be people who have children who were born here and are thus American citizens.  It would prevent splitting families, leaving many minor children to depend on family, friends, neighbors, the frayed safety net or to fend for themselves. 

Of course the president's plan has set the homegrown Taliban into a frenzy.  Speaker Boehner, appearing as always to have just awakened from an alcoholic fueled bender, threatened there would be no immigration reform in the next two years if the president acted unilaterally.  I guess that's his idea of "governing".  And that's what's so aggravating about the Republican position on immigration.  Other than deporting everyone, they don't have a plan.  They are scared to death that if immigrants are allowed to stay and given a path to citizenship, they will become Democratic voters in the future.  So instead of getting out front on the issue and working toward some type of equitable reform, they just dig in their heels and say "no".  In the process they further alienate a large and growing segment of the population. 

So while the president will almost surely act, all we hear from the right is veiled threats of government shutdowns and impeachment.  For six years they have stalled government and this country, all because they and their moronic base don't like the president.  Well, the time has come for this president to just say screw 'em.  Issue the executive order and dare the idiots to follow through on their threats, action that would thrill their Tea Party zealots but harm the party and lose them an electorate that currently is giving them an 11% approval rating.  Besides, I love to watch Ted Cruz in full illogical fury.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Net Neutrality Simplified

Just this week President Obama voiced his support for net neutrality.  That was enough to send the Republican Taliban into a tizzy, falling all over themselves to oppose regulating the internet.  They would like you to believe that the internet should be subject to their "free market" principles, because we all remember how well the free market and deregulation worked when applied in other areas, like the banking and financial industries.  Just think 2008.  Or look around at all the small banks and saving and loans that used to be in your neighborhood, but have been sucked up by bigger banks.  Or how few cell service providers are out there.

I didn't do very well in Econ. 101 but I did grasp that less competition in any market means less selection for the consumer and higher prices.  And that's what will happen if providing internet service isn't regulated, if the net doesn't remain neutral.  Pricing for internet service will become tiered; those paying more will get faster speeds.  That means that big businesses will gain a competitive advantage over their smaller competitors.  They have the ability to pay more for higher internet speeds, allowing them to operate faster and more efficiently.  Sounds good in theory; in practice they will squeeze their smaller competitors out and eventually pass the increased cost on to the consumer.  Same with school systems.  Private schools or those districts in affluent neighborhoods will pay for the faster service.  As a result their students will have an advantage simply because they can pay for that edge.

Here is the simplest analogy I can think of:  The next time you drive onto the interstate you find that the highway has been divided into two lanes.  You can pay $50 for a pass that allows you to drive in Lane 1 for a month, but your speed is capped at 45mph.  Next to you is Lane 2 where drivers who can afford to pay $500 a month get to drive.  They are allowed to go 70mph.  Without net neutrality most of us will find ourselves in Lane 1.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Where To Put The Money

By The Big Guy
Senior Contributor

In San Diego the other day a shopper came out of a grocery store and gave some cash to a pregnant woman who was panhandling in the parking lot, holding a sign about her plight (homeless) with one arm and her child in the other. The shopper moved on to load her groceries into her car but something just didn’t feel right. So she decided to sit in the lot to see what might transpire. A bit later the panhandler gathered up her sign, the kid, her alms cup, stepped into the passenger side of a Mercedes sedan and off they went, all captured on cellphone video by the deceived shopper.

The shopper called the cops, figured she’s doing her civic duty, provided the video which included a darn fine likeness of the panhandler, not to mention the license plate on the Mercedes. The police went to the home where the Mercedes was registered but the house was vacant. That was where law enforcement pursuit ended, not sure why. Apparently there is no real crime involved, or at least no crime worthy of pursuit with people on the street asking other people for money. Fortunately for America we have local TV news crews and one found the woman and the baby doing their thing at a different location. They chose not to answer questions (not sure the baby was speaking yet anyway). This time they were spirited away in a Toyota minivan rather than the luxury vehicle. So the panhandler must be from a two-car family.

You can live in any size metropolitan area (I can’t speak to rural areas having never spent any time in one) and you will come across people legitimately down on their luck who have chosen to ask others for cash donations on the spot. They’re on street corners in the business districts, just outside the doors to the mall or the health club, at the end of the exit ramps on the freeway. Some with cups, some just holding out their hands. Many have signs so you know what got them there (assuming it wasn’t a Mercedes). A few are in wheel chairs or on crutches. Some are sitting on boxes close to the sidewalk. Most people walk by, try not to make eye contact because eye contact changes everything. Some small percentage will hand them cash, put it in the cup. I’ve seen some people stop to counsel, talk to them about getting help from social services or the VA or a nearby house of worship. I’ve seen others stop to pray with them. For my own part I don’t really know what to do. Most times I just walk by. Sometimes, usually with the encouragement of the little lady, cash makes it into the cup. I guess I find myself looking at the grand scheme of things and wondering if this is the “right” thing to do. The people on the corners have no grand scheme of things, except perhaps to get something to eat.

Unseasonably cold temperatures remind us that there’s no longer anything standing between us and the next round of holidays and the winter weather to follow. So here’s a holiday suggestion from that part of me that dwells in the search for what's right in the grand scheme of things. I’m sure everyone lives closer to a local food pantry than they realize or would like to admit. Put some cash in their cup and if you have a problem handing over cash I’m sure a nice big box of canned goods is a fine second choice. Today’s a good day for it. Tomorrow's okay, too. Thanks.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Hero Of The Week

Army Staff Sgt. Stephen J. Sutherland
Age:  33
4th Squadron
14th Cavalry Regiment
172nd Stryker Brigade Combat Team
Died 12 November, 2005
Qadislyah, Iraq

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Bad Parenting

Laundry gel pods are back in the news.  We went through this months ago and the industry responded by making their packaging more child (and senior citizen) resistant.  Apparently the packs, being colorful and squishy, lead young children to believe they are candy or food.  The child pops it in their mouth, the pod breaks open and the kid is swallowing concentrated detergent.  There are reports that calls to poison centers regarding this problem are averaging one an hour nationwide.

I can see how a toddler or young child might be attracted by the packaging and bright colors of the pods themselves.  But why in the Hell is this product within reach of any child?  Don't the parents bear some responsibility for keeping dangerous products out of the reach of their children?  Every one of these homes has multiple cleaning products, all of them dangerous and toxic if ingested.  My guess is that most parents keep those products either out of reach or behind child proof cabinet locks.  Why not do the same with your laundry pods?

Wake up people.  The package designers, the manufacturers, the purveyors of these products are not to blame.  If you are a parent and you bring a hazardous product into your house, it is your responsibility to protect your children from that product.  We make certain toxic materials are not within reach of our dog; you need to do the same for your children.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Hello, I'm Grumpy And I'm A Junkie

A few months ago I began experiencing sleep problems.  I had increasing difficulty falling asleep at night; I would sometimes watch the clock hit 1:00 a.m., 2:00 a.m., 3:00 a.m.  I would at some point finally fall asleep, only to have the dog get me up at her usual 6-6:30 time.  As a result, I would at some point during the day find myself overwhelmingly tired.  The result would be a nap, which sometimes would last up to 4 hours, thus increasing my difficulty getting to sleep at night.  I felt like I was on a treadmill and couldn't get off.

I started researching sleep aids online and finally settled on Melatonin, a naturally occurring substance in the body.  Like any drug, you can find supportive research and research that makes it sound like it will kill you.  There really haven't been any studies of long term use.   So I settled on the lowest possible dosage, 1mg.  I take one pill about 20 minutes before bedtime.  Stuff works like a charm.  I fall asleep naturally; no more clock watching.  I awaken feeling fresher and don't feel the need to sleep during the day.

My only problem is now I don't want to stop using the stuff.  I'm afraid the first night without my fix will result in lying awake for hours and starting that treadmill again.  The smart thing to do would be to consult my family doctor and get some educated input.  But I never claimed to be very smart.  If the need arises to see the doc for something else I'll bring it up.  In the meantime I'll enjoy my sleep.

Friday, November 7, 2014

Would You Hire This Guy?

Yesterday they had a hearing to determine if Ray Rice should be reinstated to the NFL.  Mr. Rice was most recently seen decking his now wife, Janay Palmer,  with a straight left cross to the face.  For that offense he was given an indefinite suspension by the league.  He has now applied to be reinstated and allowed to resume his football career.

Let's hypothesize a best case scenario for Ray Rice, that he is reinstated and can once again play in the NFL.  Tell me, who is going to hire him?  What team wants to weather the firestorm of bad publicity that would surely follow signing him?  The blow back from their own fans?  It's pretty much a given in the NFL, and really all professional sports, that as long as a player can still produce teams and fans are willing to look the other way about most any transgression.  But most all previous bad acts by players happened in private, behind closed doors.  Very seldom is the offense caught on tape.

This isn't a classic case of he said-she said; we have indisputable video evidence of Ray Rice knocking a woman out.  I think his football career is over.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

The Question and The Answer

By The Big Guy
Senior Contributor

The question and the answer. Yeah. We’ll get to that. As usual I was up late watching election returns and commentary Tuesday night, probably without nearly the enthusiasm as in elections of the not too terribly distant past. Quite early in the evening, discussion turned to what one side had done right and what the other side had done wrong. This is a subject that only pertains to those who intend to engage in the practice again in the future. For everyone else it’s a waste of time, probably why talk turned just as quickly to what happens two years from now.

Besides that, I can’t say I saw much right being done in the past two years by any side but I can certainly see plenty of wrong to go around. Gridlock implies a certain amount of intransigence on the part of every car stuck in the intersection. Nobody’s moving, nobody’s helping and nobody’s changing their mind. As much as Team D wants to see their side as the ones holding out the olive branch, Team R feels a boot on their throats, and vice versa.

Of course, I suppose that being one of about a hundred and fifty million registered voters in the United States would at least qualify most of us as future participants in the process, although statistics will say that only about forty percent of us showed up to pull the lever, punch the card or touch the screen this time around. Does that make us culpable? Does the lack of accomplishment on the part of elected officials infect us with a lack of desire to go out and vote for them? Do we indeed get the government we deserve? Perhaps we do.

In these heady days for one party and introspective days for the other there is plenty of lip service paid to cooperation and bipartisanship. The election just past is characterized as a mandate from the people to get things done, as was the one before that and the one before that. Yet in the same twenty-four hour period there are those setting limits on bipartisanship. I’m thinking the next two years are going to look a lot like the previous two. And remember, the pundits have moved on to 2016, as though the waning years of this administration should be spent packing up books and old photographs and getting the place ready for the next tenants. That is a shame.

So, from a practical standpoint, when the question is, “Can an African-American be elected President of the United States?” the answer is “No, not yet.”

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Hero Of The Week

Army Lt. Col. Thomas A. Wren
Age:  44
Multi-National Security Transition Command-Iraq
Died 5 November, 2005
Talil, Iraq

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Bring On Another Whacko

It's Election Day in America.  Most pundits are predicting that the Republican Party will gain control of the Senate and thus control both houses of Congress.  That may or may not happen and we may not really know until sometime in January if run-offs are required in some states.

But amid all of the close races and polls and talking heads on TV, there is one race that could send the craziest candidate ever to Washington.  Joni Ernst is the Republican candidate for Senate in Iowa.  She is so far out there on most issues that even some in the whacko wing of the party (which anymore is about everybody) want nothing to do with her.

She has stated that impeachment of the president "Is on the table...".  She doesn't believe that man has done anything to harm the environment.  She subscribes to the views of the Agenda 21 conspiracy nuts.  She wants any doctor who performs an abortion prosecuted.  She supports legislation to arrest anyone who tries to enforce The Affordable Care Act.  She believes in the rights of states to nullify Federal Law.  She would abolish the EPA and the Dept. of Education.  Gay marriage?  You can only imagine.

Watch this race closely.  If Joni Ernst is elected we are in for 6 years of hilarity.  She makes Michele Bachmann look sane.

Monday, November 3, 2014

The Moment I Officially Turned Old

I was at my alma mater's home football game Saturday and had one of those moments that let you know you've passed a milestone in your life.  Mrs. Grumpy didn't go since it wasn't 70 degrees and sunny and we weren't going to tailgate.  It was in the upper 30's but the windchill made it feel a lot colder.

I parked in my assigned spot and it was obvious that the weather had deterred many people from tailgating.  I had decided I was going to grab something to eat from the stadium concessions so there was no reason to hang around the tailgate lot. 

The main parking lot is situated directly adjacent to the basketball arena and from there a long hill winds its' way down to the stadium.  For that reason the athletic department has a fleet of modified golf carts and ATV type vehicles to shuttle people to and from the parking lot.  They generally hold anywhere from 3-5 people and the drivers will cruise the parking lot during pregame activities so that those wishing a ride can easily find one.

I decided to stop in the basketball arena to use the bathroom since it's warm inside and it would give me a few minutes respite from the wind.  As I was crossing the main drive from the lot to the arena one of the shuttle carts stopped right in front of me and the driver said "Are you ready to go down?"  I looked around; surely he wasn't addressing me.  I've never taken a cart ride to or from the stadium.  That's for old people or people with disabilities.  But this cart driver had clearly looked at me and said to himself "That old man looks like he's waiting for a ride". 

I politely declined and he responded with "There will be more carts around when you're ready".  Seriously?  This guy was convinced that I was the most obvious candidate for a cart ride that he had seen.  And so, in a brief moment, in a football parking lot, I officially crossed into the elderly zone.