Ramblings and Revolutions

I think, therefore I'm dangerous.

Some Thoughts on 9/11

Thirteen years.

That’s how long it’s been since our nation changed, perhaps forever, at the hands of terrorists.

Thirteen years that nearly 3,000 people have been gone from our lives. Mothers. Fathers, Brothers. Sisters. Lovers. Husbands. Wives. Children.

Thirteen years today since that horrifying morning that at first seemed just like any other — but would be like no other in our recent history.

The only near-parallel is the Dec. 7, 1941 attack on the U.S. military base at Pearl Harbor. The shock, the anger, the horror. But even that fails, because the 9/11 attacks targeted not soldiers, but civilians.

In less than two hours, our complacency, our sense of security was shattered. We were forced to reckon with the idea that there are people in the world who want to kill us just for being Americans.

Beyond that, there was also a sense that we take too much for granted. People doing nothing more than living their everyday lives saw their worlds change in an instant. Those of us with friends and loved ones in New York or Washington were jolted by scenes we couldn’t have begun to imagine.

Here’s the thing — cataclysms like that can happen to any of us, at any time. Just about anything can shatter our orderly existence — a stray bullet, a wet road, a blocked artery, a loose wire. Any of them can take away someone we love, instantly.

OK, so what’s my point? That we take too much for granted. Take time to appreciate the people in your life. Let them know how much they mean to you. Tell them you love them.

You never know when you won’t get another chance. Tell them. Now.

What Ever Happened To…

For many years, I’ve wondered whatever happened to that great 1980s backup singer, N. Yoletta.

A major talent. Still waiting for the VHI Behind The Music that N. deserves.

Music for a Rainy Friday

It’s raining this afternoon in our little corner of Florida, and for once, it’s cool enough to actually feel a little bit like autumn.

For some reason, it feels like an ’80s music kind of day. But I’m torn — not sure whether it’s time for semi-mopey New Wave or classic Hair Bands.

Decisions, decisions. The Cure’s “Lovesong”? Poison’s “Fallen Angel”?  Synths? Guitars?

Just kidding. Guitars, a pounding beat and howling vocals win that battle every time.

“Win big, Mama’s fallen angel

Lose big, livin’ out her lies”…..

Crank it up and dance in the rain!

R.I.P., Joan Rivers

May she find the peace she apparently lacked in life.

Wristband Awareness Day!

No, there’s not really a Wristband Awareness Day. But there a LOT of worthy causes that wristbands can be used to promote in fun, creative ways.

A little bit of history is in order.  Silicone wristbands became a popular means of increasing awareness of and fundraising for charity with the introduction of the famous yellow “Livestrong” wristband. That simple device, sold for a dollar each, has raised millions for cancer treatment and research worldwide.

The thing to remember with wristbands is that they are incredibly inexpensive to purchase. They can be resold with a high profit margin, so the dollars add up quickly.

October is the traditional American awareness month for both domestic violence and breast cancer. With different colors, wristbands can convey the message you want to a wide audience.

Red Ribbon Week, the anti-drug education event for schoolchildren falls in October as well. Silicone wristbands are a great, fun way to remind young students of the importance of staying drug-free for life.

Inexpensive, eye-catching and popular. What’s not to love about awareness wristbands?

 

Time to Get Serious

Happy Day-After-Labor-Day!

OK, so that doesn’t really have much of a ring to it. That’s only natural. The calendar’s turn has brought us to what feels like a more serious time of year.

The summer’s not officially over, no. But it seems most people consider “summer” to be the period between Memorial Day and Labor Day.

Summer’s a time for frivolity. Sun, sand, rock n roll. Kids are out of school. It’s a time for beach parties, family vacations, trips to the mountains, or the shore.

But now the kids are back in school, as are the college students. It’s a time to get serious about learning, teaching and planning.  The leisurely pace of baseball season gives way to the more aggressive pace of football.

So let us bid a gently nostalgic farewell to Summer 2014 and embrace the possibilities that Fall 2014 and beyond will bring. Thanks, Summer ’14 for some great times!

Friday Funny

The past, present and future walk into a bar.

It was tense.

With A Little Perspective, Today Doesn’t Look Too Bad

Seems like Americans just can’t agree on anything these days. News stories tell us we’re polarized to a degree never before seen in history. We’ll never get anything done. We’ll never improve, become our better selves.

Bad news is on the television, and the computer screen and the dwindling number of newspaper front pages. Black and white, Republican and Democrat, liberal and conservative, all at odds with one another.

Indeed, to many Americans, times look bleak.  But stop and think for a minute. Were the “good old days” really that good?

Let’s start at a nice even 100 years ago.  By this date in 1914, World War I was well underway.  That little adventure killed some 16 million people by the time it was over, making it one of the deadliest wars in world history.  And it sowed the seeds for World War II two decades later.

And let’s not forget the 1918-19 worldwide influenza pandemic. It killed up to 50 million people.  No vaccine was available. My maternal great-granparents both caught the flu. While they were fighting to stay alive, four of their children lost the same battle.

Seemingly minor injuries  could kill — there were no antibiotics until 1942.

World War II and its attendant horrors drew to a close only after the introduction of atomic weapons to the world.

In terms of civil rights, “separate but equal” was the order of the day, especially in the South.  By the 1950s, activists began working to change things. It became a bloody, decade-long battle from Rosa Parks’ refusal to give up her seat on a Birmingham bus to implementation of the Civil Rights Act.

The ’60s brought political assassinations, the Vietnam War, calls for revolution, and protests in the streets. Hard to imagine we’re more divided today than we were by 1969.

The ’70s gave us the Kent State shootings, Watergate, two energy shortages and the kidnapping of American hostages in Iran. The 1979 Three Mile Island nuclear plant accident brought us lies from government officials and corporate officials. Sitting in gas lines, we grew more cynical.

The 1980s led to the Challenger space shuttle disaster,  And Iran-Contra. Vicious attack ads sank political careers on the left and right.  The ’90s saw the impeachment of a president for only the second time in our history, the O.J. Simpson trial and its aftermath and an attack by American terrorists in Oklahoma City.

The last 15 years have seen terrorist attacks on our nation, a global economic meltdown, wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, instability in the Middle East, and the aforementioned divide among our citizens.

But I suspect that divide isn’t nearly as wide as it was when black and white Americans couldn’t marry each other freely, or sit in the same classroom, or even drink from the same water fountain. It’s not as wide as when some young Americans went to war, others burned their draft cards or moved to Canada and some marched in the streets against the war. It’s not as wide as when being “out of the closet” meant one risked their employment, their housing and all too often, their lives.

In other words, we have made progress. As the events of Ferguson, Missouri in the past few weeks demonstrate, we still have a long way to go. We are not perfect. But as Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., said, the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.

Safety vs. Success

There’s a little shop I visit where the cashier always wishes everyone a safe day when they leave. Not a good day — a SAFE day.

I’m not pro-disaster by any means, but her comment, although well-intended, always grates a little. Yes, I appreciate the wish that I remain free from harm.  But great accomplishments aren’t won by staying safe.

You have to risk to reach the pinnacle, no matter what you’re doing. It applies to just about anything in life.

Take typing (or in modern parlance, “keyboarding,”) for example.  If you’re a touch typist, you doubtless have reached a natural, comfortable typing speed. It’s a good pace for you, one that enables you to get things done reasonably efficiently with the fewest mistakes possible.

Yet that comfort zone means you’ve reached a plateau. The only way to get faster, and more accurate, is to go beyond, to type faster than you’re comfortable with. Eventually, you become proficient at an even higher rate until you reach your peak.

It’s the same with mechanical products. Just about any high-performance device that operates at a level far beyond the ordinary, more mundane counterpart does so at the increased risk of breakage at the performance peak.

Cars are a good example.  Honda Accords are perfectly good automobiles. They do most things well, at an acceptable level of performance for the vast majority of drivers.  But if you want the performance of say, a Ferrari, you have to accept the fact that it will be far more likely to break down than the Honda will.

The Honda is designed to a median, a performance level that most folks will find acceptable. The Ferrari is designed for ultimate performance, even at the sacrifice of day-to-day reliability.  It’s a trade-off some people are willing to make.

Same thing with sports. The only way to reach the pinnacle of any sport is to take risks. Want to be the world’s best surfer? Then you gotta ride the biggest waves. Want to be the best skateboarder? You have to get the most air off the half-pipe. And to do those things, you have to go right up to — and sometimes beyond — the edge of disaster.  True, some men and women lose their lives trying to master their chosen passion and be the best they can be. But many more don’t, and go on to reach the peaks of their lives.

Think again of the typist. The faster his fingers are moving, the greater the possibility of a spelling error. Sometimes, it happens. Yet the only way to get even faster is to be right on that edge of going over the line.  Anything less and you’re back in the comfortable rut.

Necessary risk isn’t limited to sports. Remember the first time you asked someone out? Was it scary? Sure. Did you get better at it the more you did it? You bet. How did you get better? You took that risk again and again, learning as you went. It’s how we all realize our fullest potential as human beings.

So thank you for wishing me a safe day, dear store clerk. But I must take risks to grow, to learn, to be alive — to be human.

 

Stranger in a Strange Land

I’m an Android guy. Have been since I got my first smartphone four years ago. Yeah, I know I’m a late adopter — which is probably at least partly why I’m an Android guy. The “other” phone just never appealed to me.

The Android universe has been good to me. I learned the OS quickly, with all its quirks and capabilities. I came to depend on it for all my texting, email and Facebook posting needs. Oh, almost forgot — for making phone calls, too.

All was well in my little world. My phone worked great. Case? Nah, I’m not gonna drop it. Replacement plan? Unnecessary expense. Why worry about something that’s not gonna happen?  After all, I’d dropped my previous phone onto a blacktop parking lot on more than one occasion with no problems.

You see where this is going?

Three months ago, I dropped my trusty phone. About 3 feet, onto a vinyl-over-concrete floor. Disaster. The screen shattered, never to work again. Not to worry, though. We had an extra smartphone that had been my wife’s before she upgraded, so I could make do with that until I was eligible for an upgrade in 9 months. Sure, it was an older phone, so it would be slower, but nothing I couldn’t handle for less than a year, right?

In the words of a 1980s video game, try again, space cadet.

Have you ever tried to go backward with today’s technology? You can’t. Once you get used to working at a certain speed, and with certain features, what was totally acceptable a year before is just intolerable.  Trying to use the slower phone made me crazy. It stressed me out on a daily basis. I started yelling at it, threatening to throw it onto a certain vinyl-over-concrete floor. Nothing worked.

Until the past weekend.  Getting the price right (which is to say nothing out-of-pocket) required gaming the system a bit, so our oldest cat is now the beneficiary of the third line we added, with her own number. And her Daddy-o got a bright, shiny new phone — of the “other” kind.

It’s intended for those who “think different.” So it works differently. Lots of stuff in unexpected places, a different Web browser,  a different keyboard.

The keyboard is an issue. I’m accustomed to having control over what keyboard I use, and strongly prefer one that works by swiping my finger over the keys, much like handwriting. Sorry, no.  The fruit vendors won’t let you do that. They insist the only way to write is to tap something out one letter at a time. Trust us, we know what’s best.

Frankly, that’s very close to a deal-breaker for me. Or it was until I got to work this morning.

The trusty old Android model could never pick up a signal while I was sitting at my desk. The new one does. OK, maybe there are some good things about this mysterious new beast after all. So I’ll adapt and make the best of it.

But Siri-ously,  they’re still dead wrong about the keyboard.

 

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