How goes the world?

I have not posted in a while, so I thought I would throw a little text at the screen.

It is hard to believe that this site is rapidly approaching ten years in operation.  More important to me is the fact that in the ten year, I have considered shutting it down several times and then decided to keep it up and running.

My reason for keeping it has not been my loyal following, of which I think I have none, even the people I consider my closest friends do not appear to notice whether or not I post anything.

Nor is it the vast amounts of money I make from the site, since to date I have been banned by Google and their tyrannical approach to running ads on sites and not allowing any forgiveness when a mistake is made and then using other programs I have only made about $19 dollars.

Nor is it the support I have received from the people that I have asked to join me in this mission of expression, having had three people that I have asked to be guest writers and then, then they accepted, never received any work from them.

No… this is, at its core, a labor of painful love.   I do love writing, even though there has not been a lot of it going on her and I am sure that this has cost me some of the few readers I did have.   At its core this has and will remain a place for me to discuss issues that concern me, talk about current affairs and problems.

For those of you that MIGHT still be reading this site, and checking in from time to time, thank you. I plan on working more on it in the near future. For those of you that are finding it for the first time; Welcome… please stick around and give me a chance to amuse you.

To everyone… thanks again.


Guest Writer program

I am thinking about bringing back the guest blogger/writer program.

If you are interested in being considered, please send me an email or tweet and I will add you to the list.   Decisions will be made on July 1st for whom I will accept.  There may be more than one, depending on the response and quality of the contributions.

Thanks.


A Fairwell to Oskar

Oskar_2005

It never ceases to amaze me the affect that our pets can have on us.  The range of emotions and feelings that they can inspire or provoke from the people that they have chosen to live with.  And face it, in most cases the choice is just as much theirs as it is ours for taking them in in the first place.

This week we lost an important member of our family and one of the best dogs I have ever had the joy of knowing.

Oskar came to us about twelve years ago, at a point in my wife and my life when we were feeling a little down and needed something to cheer us up.

It was about this time that we had decided to try to have a child.  But after failed attempts, had finally gone to the doctor and was told that it just was not going to happen for us.  This was a bit of a blow for us and we walked away from the experience somewhat dismayed.  And it was about this time, when we were at my wife’s parents house that this little ratty puppy came onto the property.

The puppy was cute, but barked incessantly, anything and everything would set it off on a tirade of barking at whomever it seemed that might have caused him some distress.  In fact, at one point, the only way that my father-in-law and his son could shut the dog up was to sick him in a garbage can.  Strangely enough, the dog seemed to like that and actually fell asleep in the trash can.

When they decided that they just could not take a dog in, they asked us if we wanted it.  My wife, without my agreement at the time, said yes.  And thus we had a dog and what would turn out to be a very fun companion.

We could not decide on a name for him for some time.  We thought about the old stand-by names that people give their dogs, but we were never into the cliche names for our pets.  We never had a cat named Fluffy, Mittens, Socks, etc…  Our cats had names like Smuckers (my wife names ALL black cats “Smuckers”), Clearance, Clara, Harvey, Sally…  We did have one cat named Critter-Bug, but that was not mine, nor her, fault.  Oddly enough, our inspiration for Oskar’s name came from two sources that matched something from his past and from a work of fiction.

We decided on the name for this dog because of two things.  Whenever we would take the dog for a walk, he had this habit of running ahead of us a bit and then, out of nowhere, would do a 360 degree circle.  I jokingly said once that he was “Clearing his baffles”, and since I am an avid reader, and I, at the time had been going back through my Tom Clancy books, I mentioned calling him Oscar, after the Russian subs.  We then thought about it more, and saw the name worked for another reason.  Oscar the Grouch, from Sesame Street.

We opted for a different spelling in the name so that he would be a little different, so it would be something that stood out from other dogs.  And over the years, it was not just the name that would stand out.  It would be everything about him.

Oskar bonded with my wife more than me.  Everywhere that she would go, he would need to be right there.  He became known as her little shadow because there would be times she would walk through the house and stop, and he would bump into her because he was following so closely.  This is something that he never did to me, but he would come to me if he was hurting, or something was wrong.  He also listened to me when I told him to stop doing something, like barking.

Oskar loved to play, and he would, for the most part, play harder than most dogs twice his size.  Add to this that the dog did not have an “off-switch” and we would have to hide his toys to get him to stop so that he could do things like, oh… I don’t know… drink water, eat food… REST.   He was also the first and only dog that I have ever met that would have been diagnosed as Obsessive Compulsive.  He knew the locations of all his toys and there was no hoping he forgot that he left a toy someplace.

There was a time when one of his toys rolled under the couch.  We forgot about it and we thought that he too had as well.  About a week later we are in the livingroom and he is sitting there, grumbling at the couch.  We asked him what was wrong and he would look at us, shift his body around and then look at the edge of the couch.   This would go on until one of us, I think it was her, looked under the couch and saw his toy.  When she pulled it out and handed it to him, he was happy.

When we brought in our second dog, Eliza, Oskar was the best big brother that a dog could have.  Even if, as in this case, she did not want a big brother.  Eliza, as you may know if you are a regular reader, is a special needs dog.  She has had health issues her entire life and we have always had to keep a watch on her.  When we brought her home, Oskar was very curious about her and when we introduced them, the first thing he wanted to do was play with her, and would bring his toys to her.   Her, only being a few weeks old, and suffering a sever infection as a result of Mange, she was not interested in anything but sleeping.

As she grew, Oskar would defend her and protect her, even though when we were at home, she would treat him like dirt.  While he was the Alpha, of their little pack, she was certainly the one that wore the pants, so to day.  One of the funniest things about their relationship is that there would be times that she would cause a problem, or get into trouble, then go and hide with Oskar when there was heck to pay for it.  And as always, he would step in.

One of our other names for Oskar was “Our Rough and Tumble Dog.”   It did not matter how big the other dogs were or, within reason, how hard you played with him, he would keep up with you.  Even though he would be panting so hard that his whole body would be heaving, he would not want to give up the game.  In fact, he would be so insistent on playing that he would bring you the toy and grumble at you… if you STILL did not play, he would cry… if you STILL would not play, he would pick the toy up and set it on you, usually your arm, or if you happen to be laying down, your head.

Age did not slow him down any at all.  All the way to the end, playing was his primary goal in life.   You could see that there was a little arthritis creeping into his walk, and he was not able to run and jump the way he used to, but he still put every effort into it.

When the time came that my wife and I proved the doctors wrong and did have our first, and only as I write this, child, Oskar accepted the child as just another person to play with.  There was an incident when Gideon, our child, was only a few month old and we had him sitting on the floor in the living room.  Oskar walked over to him with a toy and set it down and started to grumble at him.

Gideon had not, at this point, even mastered control over his own toys, yet here is Oskar trying to get him to play with him.  Meanwhile Gideon would reach for the toy, because it seemed interesting to him, and Oskar would snatch it away, always careful not to hurt or nip Gideon.

In 2006 we found another dog at the place where we board our pets when we travel, a great little place called Fur and Feathers.  They had a Cairn terrier mix that had been in and out of a few homes and in need of a new one.   We decided to take him in and when we got him home, there was a little conflict between him and Oskar, but over time, Oskar accepted him and they would play, though Oskar seemed more interested in dominating him, for you dog owners, you know what I mean.

The first sign that there was a problem was a couple weeks ago…  Oskar developed a little cough.  It would kick in and he would cough for a while, then it would go away.  For the most part it was so small an issue that we did not worry about it, and then, it would go away for a while.  Then Monday night, October 7th, he started coughing continuously, barely able to stand.   That night I slept in the living room with him on my lap.

Every time the coughing would start again, I would talk to him until he would lay his head down.  At this point I knew the time was coming and he would not be with us much longer. And several hours later, at 1:24pm, October 8th, he took his last breaths in my lap and with my wife petting him.   You really could tell that he did not want to go and was hanging on for as long as he could.   We just kept petting him and telling him it was ok to let go.  And finally he did.

I know that dogs and humans do not live life the same way.   I understand that we are not both emotional creatures in the same way.  But there is a connection made between an person and their dog, or dogs.  There is a connection that goes beyond the traditional “Man’s best friend” mantra that has always been there.  Oskar, and our other dogs, know when we are sad, hurt, angry or just need someone.  Oskar would come to us when we needed the cheering up and try to help when we were hurt.

He was, and in a way still is, a very HUMAN part of our family.  The loss of him is one that hurts and will hurt for some time.

On that note, I would like to encourage everyone reading this to donate to the Humane Society or to organizations like Hearts United for Animals, Best Friends Animal Sanctuary, or any other, documented and reputable, No-Kill animal shelter.  The best pets you can get are the ones that in those placed and they need homes.  All three of our dogs are rescues, and we could not have hoped for better.  I have included some links below.

Thank you for taking the time to read this.

Hearts United for Animals

Best Friends Animal Sanctuary


Westboro Bapist Church…

It has been said that nothing does more to bring people together, than a common enemy.   And while I think it would be going a to a bit of an extreme to call someone like the Westboro Baptist Church an “Enemy”, I would say that they are enough of a foe to the people in general that they almost qualify.

So if you have been reading my work for any length of time, you know my opinion of homosexuality.  For those of you just tuning in, that is to say that I am really rather apathetic to it.  I pay about as much attention to it as I do any heterosexual couple’s relationship.

With that being said, Westboro seems to place all the wrongs in the world squarely on the shoulders of the Homosexuals, or “Fags”, as expressed in their own words.  If there is some wrong in the world, anything from Soldiers dying in the middle-east, to a kid shooting up a school to an educator going on a murderous rampage.

Through their unique class of extremism, this is a group that seems to have done something that others could not, and that is that they have brought people together that would normally not have joined forces.  Think about this, when the Klu Klux Klan comes out and counter-protests a group like the Westboros, then you have to stop and consider that their brand of hate actually outweighs the ideals of the KKK.   THAT is, in itself, impressive.

The Westboros and their zealots have found a formula to single handedly annoy, anger and generally piss off (pardon the french), almost every group out there.  Even some people that I know to be pleasant and menial, get there hackles up when I mention this group to them.

So what does this group gain by their actions?   It is said that there is no such thing as bad publicity, and yet if you do a Google search for this group, you will certainly not be disappointed in the plethora of articles you find.   There are so many out there that the mind swims.  They are not all bad either… there does actually seem to be some that agree with them and what they are doing, but the percentage, thankfully, is low.

I personally have no grudge against this group as an entity… they have the right to exist just like all other quasi-religious groups in the United States have the right to exist.  I see them in the same light that I see the Moonies, Scientology, Church of Satan, etc…  They all have the right to practice what they want, as long as it does not hurt others.

And THAT is where my problem DOES start with these people.  

Through their actions, they ARE causing harm to others.  No, not physical injury, but emotional.   By protesting the funerals of fallen soldiers, police and others with their “God Hates Fags” and “Thank God for Dead Soldiers” banners, they are not sending anything BUT a message of hatred and anger.  There really is no good in what they do, and it is beyond me how they can, in any way shape or form, see a positive message in their actions.

What seems interesting here is that the rights that they have to do what they do are protected, even though a majority of people out there agree that what they do is considered, hate speech, they are, as the Supreme Court has upheld, protected to do so.  Thankfully, that right does not include trespassing on private property, which most cemeteries are,  and does not preclude others from COUNTER protesting them when they do show up.

Some of the best examples of these counter-protests have been from groups like the Teamsters, The KKK, The Patriot Guard Riders (Bikers), Anonymous, and students, among others, have found some common ground in the need to stand up against this group.

One can look at the diverse groups that are rising to curtail the WBC and say that maybe there IS some good in what the WBC is doing, as a byproduct.   That good would be that providing us all with a common evil that we can agree on, we find a way to work together.

I recently posted on my Facebook page a request for people to tell me what they thought about the WBC, and though the response was weak, and briefly overshadowed by someone diverting the subject, I saw responses like this:

J.E.C writes:

“After a major earth change, these people will burn you as a heretic if you disagree with them. Every civilization has thugs like this, unfortunately.”

S.V. writes:

“Most of us seem to feel that they are bigoted idiots and lunatics who preach hate & violence (which they proudly do), and that doesn’t mean people aren’t for equal rights. If WBC is in their church, preaching whatever brand of venom they want, that is their business. When they spew it onto the rest of us, especially those grieving the loss of a loved one, then it becomes the business of the rest of us. By forcing their way into our view, aren’t they violating our rights to not have to put up with their crap?”

Finally, T.D. wrote:

“WBC and those like them are, or should be, the bane of Christians everywhere. They have set Christianity back at least 500 years. If you ask me, about the only difference between them and al-Qaeda and groups like them is that they have not yet taken up arms. I fear that if left to their own devices, they one day will. It is the duty of Christians everywhere to stand up against them. To let the world know that the vile poison they spew is in no way Christianity. That they in no way represent Christians or the God of the Muslims, Jews and Christians.”

There are more on my FB site and you are welcome to visit it… for the sake of time and space, I only put a few here.

In closing… I wish no ill will to the members of the WBC… They are, still, humans like you and me.  They have hopes, dreams, wishes, ideals, just like you and I do.  I just wish that they could see that what they are doing is hurting more than helping people.  Their actions are selfish and hurtful to the people that the protest.   No matter what your religion, I cannot see that as how G-d would want us to act towards others.

Thanks for your attention and time.


Same-Sex Marriage

OK… so I have been told that my view on this subject is everything from dismissive to discriminatory.   I have had people criticize me names for this view and even had a couple people “unfriend” me on Facebook.

Do you know what this earth-shattering opinion of mine is, on the topic of same-sex marriage?

I DON’T CARE.

Yes…  you read that right.   I could care less about the whole topic anymore.  I think that were you to really look into the minds of many of the politicians that spoke on the issue, one way or the other, they might not really care either, but since the issue makes great political fodder for distraction from real issues, they use it.

Right now, at this moment, what is going to affect you, the general populace, more? weather the two guys next door can get legally married or if the state cannot manage it’s budget and pay the Highway Patrol?  If Mary and Jane can get on one or the others insurance as a same-sex couple, or if there will be another tax increase voted in that will take a little more of your money and give it to a group of people that have a history of mismanaging money to a spectacular level?

I am not saying that the issue is not important to some.  I am sure that it is, and to those people, I tell you to keep working for what you believe in.  Personally, I do not support it but that is not the point of this piece.  I am not talking about my personal views on the topic here as to whether it is right or wrong, I am talking about what is more important.

When you look at all that is happening politically, there are some things that are so much more important than this right now.  We have budget issues on a national level, we have border security issues, problems with the people that we put in office abusing that power with which we have trusted them, we have a nation that is, piece by piece getting itself into hock with China and it is only a matter of time before they start calling in some of those debts.  Considering all this, and the many things that I have not touched on, is the issue of same-sex marriage really THAT important that we all have to fight about it, keep resurrecting it in the courts, etc???

I am fairly certain that my writing here will cause some of you reading this to think that I am attacking homosexuals, but I am not.   I am simply saying that the fact that you like someone of the same sex is not important enough to me to warrant setting it above the more important issues of state.  Issues like making sure that the country is not going to drown itself in debt to foreign powers, surrendering the sovereignty of our borders to anyone that wants to cross without going through the proper processes because asking them to do so might offend someone, especially if we have to tell them no.


Penmanship – A lost art?

I recently read an article by Louise Brown called “Why Johnny can’t sign his name”, and I have to admit that it was a little disheartening.

I can, personally, recall many hours as a child trying to get my cursive looking like something vaguely similar to what the teacher was showing us.  I recall with a certain amount of horror the many hours, or so it seemed, of practicing curves and loops on lined paper so that I could be ready for my days of writing everything in cursive.

If, through the course of these lessons, I fell off some, it would show in the form of a note on my report card.  I would always fall a little short on this part and never brought home anything better than a C or C+ for cursive.  This was mostly my own fault, I think there may have been part of me that sensed I was going to be in computers or engineering when I grew up, so I did not try as hard at the time.

I do not use cursive today, in fact, I have not written in cursive for many, many years.  It was just never something that was comfortable to me or for me to do.  It felt, for lack of any better explanation, alien to me.  But then again, I was never a fast writer and cursive, while being sold to us as a fast alternative, never really helped me write any faster.

All this being said and my personal demons with this way of writing aside, I am dismayed that this is not being taught in schools as much these days.   I see it as an important program that is being taken away, not so much for the intrinsic value of being able to WRITE in cursive, but the fact that there is something so much more human about writing.

If I receive a letter or note from someone that is written in longhand, it means so much more to me than if I am sent an email.  For example, I occasionally get “E-Cards” from people for my birthday, and I do appreciate that, but it seems so… disposable.   When I get a real, paper, greeting card in the mail, that means something.  Someone took the time to buy a card, sit down and write a message to me.  Even if it is something as simple as “Happy Birthday Sam, hope you are doing well.”   That means they took the time and effort for me.  In my opinion, that is a perfect example of quality over quantity.

I will get letters from my mother from time to time, and she still writes longhand and cursive.  That beautiful script that they taught so many years ago with the long sweeping arcs for the letters and flourishes here and there.  Letters that look like maybe they should have come from nobility or royalty.  Well… she is my mother, so to me, they are.  But I note that even in my time, when I was a child, penmanship was not taught with the level of importance that it was in her time.  And when my son goes to school, I wonder if they will even bother with pens, pencils or paper at all.

One thing in her article that stood out to me was this quote:

“Under the language curriculum, it’s mentioned briefly about six times between Grade 3 and 8, so it’s a choice for students,” she said — not a must. “The real focus is to be digitally literate and to think creatively.”

While I do agree that we need to make sure that the youth in school needs to have a good grasp of the IT world, I think that to deprive them of the basic ability to convey their thoughts on paper is foolish.  There is strong evidence that people retain more by writing it down and organize their thoughts better of they have a habit of writing, than if they merely make a note in a Word document.  Further, the quote leads me to think that someone out there thinks that by writing longhand, we are limiting our creativity.  This is pure silliness.  Some of my best ideas have some from hashing things out in longhand and then translating them to the PC.

In short, penmanship is a dying discipline, so while the schools seem to be withdrawing from it, I think that we, as parents, need to break out the pens, pencils (quills if you have them) and start teaching this art ourselves.

Special thanks to Louise Brown for a great article.  I hope that you do not mind my citing your work here and linking to your article.


Muslims…

With the stories that I see each day, I find myself struggling with my own convictions and beliefs with regards to the Muslim community as a whole based mostly on the actions of a few.

As a Jew, I have a personal reason to know better than to dislike a group for their religious followings and beliefs.  To understand that by picking out a group for their religious beliefs and casting them in a shadow or shunning them BECAUSE of their religious following, would make me no better than those that have done the same to me and my people.

As I have posted in the past, I KNOW that there are good Muslims out there, and I am not talking about the recent converts.  I am talking about the people that are “Multi-Generational” Muslims who have practiced in the manner that their predecessors have before them.  People for whom this is more than words on a page, but a part of their culture.

With the events in England and Boston over the last couple months, as well as the other rumblings, it remains my focus to explain to people that these are the actions of a few, militant, groups within the Islamic community and certainly the exception and not the rule.  But it would be so easy for me to cave… to give in to the anti-Islamic uproar and fall in step with them to condemn the Islamic community as a whole for this.

But that would be wrong.  It would also be wrong for me to allow others to take this attitude without my trying to explain to them, like I am trying to here, that you cannot hold an entire group accountable for the actions of a few within it whom have decided to act on some misunderstanding that they have picked up from their readings.

This is usually the point were someone points out how violent the Qur’an is and how, but I would ask those same people, mostly Christians, to review their own texts and tell me that there are no violent or outdated actions that are suggested to carry out in the Bible.  But I am not writing this to argue religious texts.

The point of this to not hate Muslims, or any other group, for the actions of a few within it.  All this does is raise distrust among all of us and create more hatred, thus giving other groups the feeling that they have earned some right of revenge against the other, and so the hate and anger become self-perpetuating.

I will say, to all servicemen and women everywhere, to please watch yourselves carefully.  With the horrific attack on Lee Rigby and the suggestions that the Radical Islamism are going to carry out more such attacks on soldiers, I worry for all of you serving out there.  Keep your guard up and I would suggest, as I think many commanding officers should as well, to not travel alone, if you are in uniform.

As always, I thank you all for reading.