Randy Newman Headline last week.

The headline read that Randy Newman wrote a racist song and opinionated pundits discussed this latest musical creation as if it were news.  I fail to understand why, if a well known and respected musical artist, especially one who has written such gems as Political Science and Short People, pens a few words that may not fit with our expectations, the result is headlines in our national media.

Last time I checked, Randy Newman is a white male who has been creatively and eloquently satirizing aspects of our lives for decades using his significant musical and lyrical skills to make us laugh while pointing out that we all have imperfections.  This latest musical number that mentions a white president is simply one more logical and fun poke at our political climate and our willingness to be offended at anything that might appear “off color” (pun intended).

I suspect George Carlin may be doing flip flops in his grave at the political correctness of our current crop of media language police.  I hope that someday we may once again learn to appreciate the irreverence and creativity artists and musicians without trying to put them into a negative box for everything they say in their expression of work.

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Memorial Day weekend, how have we changed?

Around the time my age hit double digits, I recall marching in the Memorial Day Parade in my hometown.  I was wearing my scout uniform and home movies verify a “shiner” received by missing a fly ball during Little League tryouts.  During this time period, certain “things” seemed to be normal and etched into my brain as constants.

The ring of a telephone was always the same, unless it was a party line, and even then it was the length of the rings and not the tone that would differ.  Stamps were licked in order to stick to envelopes.  Men and boys opened doors for females of all ages and everyone opened doors for the elderly.  Grocery stores provided as many cardboard boxes as anyone wanted for free and there was an art form to bagging groceries and carrying them to the customer’s vehicle.  Gas stations sometimes gave away free toys to children and all of them were full service.

Many families had a “stay at home Mom” and these Moms would team up through some magic Mom force to make sure their children behaved at all times.  As children we were expected to mow lawns, shovel driveways by hand, deliver newspapers, assist with taking garbage to the dump, and we weeded gardens, brought in the mail, and waited for the school bus without adult supervision.  By the fourth grade I would ride my bike, by myself, the mile and a half to school and in the winter I was allowed to walk home if I wanted, without supervision.

When I sold Christmas cards one year I earned a Daisy BB gun which arrived through the mail.  My Mom immediately informed my Dad that he was going to teach me the proper way to use it and care for it.  There was no discussion of how I was able to obtain it because I had worked hard to earn my reward.

My Dad served in two wars and Memorial Day was very important in our house.  We had a flag pole and I learned how to fold the flag, and was told it was never to touch the ground, would be raised in the morning, and taken down at sunset.  I was informed that because of my Dad, and other men, I had freedom (despite my arguments against required school attendance).  I learned to cherish freedom and the responsibility that came with it, and to hold Memorial Day in a safe place in my heart to honor all Americans who fought for our country.

Today I see retail stores open on this weekend, and I am performing remote work on Monday on a client’s computer system.  My wife is working today and Monday at her sales job.  I can no longer tell what a phone ring sounds like, stamps are no longer licked, BB guns are no longer sold or earned by children, lawn services, snow plow services, and garbage services deal with chores, and children now have parental supervision while waiting for the school bus.

We have build a society where personal responsibility has taken a back seat and adulthood has become a perpetual arguments over rights instead of being an example of doing the right thing.  Our government is not only picking our pockets with taxes (which is normal) but has intruded on our freedom of travel without search (TSA), intruded into our bedrooms (same sex marriage), intruded into our physical appearance (racial profiling), and allows insurance companies to actively discriminate against the less economically fortunate by somehow associating the risk of having an automobile accident with a person’s bank account balance.

I believe we need to re-align our expectations to focus more on ourselves and what we can do to honor those who have gone before us, reaffirm pride in ourselves as individuals, keep our eyes in our own bedrooms, and better respect and appreciate those who may be different than ourselves instead of either putting them down or on a pedestal.  We are all equal in biology so end special privileges and treat us all as brothers and sisters of humanity.  We are a land of opportunity, not entitlement.

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The Loss of a Pet Friend

The morning of July 21, 2012 began a bit later than usual but in many ways was ordinary as I was awakened by my English Budgie about ten minutes before eight.  He suffered from epilepsy and was having a seizure as he did sometimes so I brought him to our kitchen in his “kitty cube” and gave him a little rub behind his head and he immediately calmed down, while I prepared his medication and cleaned his water dish.  As he was ten years old this was a fairly routine happening a few times each month and so I thought not much as I peered back into his cube holding his eye dropper with medicine.

However when I picked him up, instead of his usual “hey what are you doing” routine, he was very limp and did not move.  I simply stood quietly and laid him back down in his cube to see if he would rustle around or show signs of being uncomfortable.  The stillness and absolute quiet filled the air and I reached in again to give him another little rub but his head just rolled to the side.

I went to the sink and made coffee, then opened the doors to the house to let in the new sunshine and a breeze, and then I went back to the table to peer inside his cube once more hoping for a different result.  After waiting and hoping for a while, his body became stiff and I knew for certain his time had come to go to the land of endless seeds.

For ten years he was my constant companion through the loss of a parent, aunts and uncles, cousins and friends.  He loved to ride in the car on a rope perch tucked under the passenger side headrest, and he traveled on airplanes in the cabin with me and was always a rock star going through airport security.  He went to Canada to a Rotary District Conference and was allowed to be in our room at Rotary PETS in New Hampshire.  He rode in a bicycle basket in Hilton Head and even made multiple trips to many states.

He most loved the washing machine, dryer, kitchen sink, dishwasher, and vacuum cleaner sounds, and he enjoyed Queen, ACDC, and Paul Simon.  He would beg to go into the shower with me and would chill out in the water.

But it is when I am working from home he is missed the most.  We would both look forward to my coming into the living area and if I played any music he would start chirping.  If the house was quiet he would chirp, to find me, and if I did not respond he would often jump down to the floor and walk down the hall to my office for attention.

The house is quiet now and this morning when I played some background music I unconsciously got up and went to where his cage was located when I heard no response from him.  The table was bare as no cage (home) was there, and I looked at the empty table and bare wall, and quickly wondered where I put the credit cards he had received (in his name but not activated), and then I turned away to sit and write this farewell to a friend.  I know he thought of me as a giant head that provided seed and water, but my little buddy was always there with a chirp, filled with optimism and curiosity, and always wanting to step onto my finger and climb up my arm to preen my hair.  RIP my little friend.

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Conditioned by media and advertising (websites)

On my first website visit today a giant advertisement slowly opened on the front page of my local newspaper and I had to click to close it.  I then noticed the “like” advertisement had opened so I refreshed the screen to remove it.  When I clicked on the first article link another advertisement required a click to close and I then saw the poll to the right that wanted me to click a programmed answer (opinion) to the article I had not yet read.  And those we just the visible intrusions…  Somewhere my choices were being recorded behind the scenes, remembering how long I stayed on the page, the page I came from, the page I would go to, and associating those choices with an IP address which often provides the general area I am in, and the ISP provider.  My recorded statistics will also include the type of browser I am using and the type of platform (operating system) in use.  If I came from a search engine the search terms, search words, and phrases used to find and locate the article or page will also be recorded.

I have nothing to hide in regards to my online activities and so nothing to fear, or do I?

What concerns me is not that various components of information are collected for decent purposes as I suffer from the concept that most people have good intentions, are honest and ethical in their intentions, and that perhaps so good may come from the information my basic web practices provide.  My concern is targeted toward the vast data mining and marketing algorithms, sharing and selling of information between entities, and targeted use of that information for gain by corporations (or groups) based upon generalities.

I would be very upset if I found my picture used to advertise some product that I disagreed with because I failed to update my Facebook policy status (for example).  I would also be upset if some comment I made might be utilized by some special interest group whose actions or focus was contrary to my beliefs.

I received last week a “personal” photograph of Mr. Romney, a current presidential candidate.  It was addressed to me, personally, and had a laser based signature across the bottom as if he and I had been buddies in college.  Heck, he even used my “nickname”.  What?  How did he get my nickname?  All my legal documents use my full name and so I wonder just how far political parties, special interest groups, our government, and especially “unsavory characters” might go to put together the digital pieces of our lives.

Traditional publishing media is economically adrift and is embracing new revenue streams which we are being conditioned to accept as part of our online lives.  As we become conditioned to accept click to close, mouse overs, and those advertisements that run in “free” videos, it is how this information will be used that will ultimately enhance or diminish the online experiences of everyone that connects to the outside world.

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“The Media” Distracted Driving and the NHTSA

Television, newspapers, online news sources, and state and federal government appear to be giving a lot of lip service to the dangers of distracted driving.  Along with the snippets of information, it seems a lot of time and taxpayer dollars are being debated concerning legal limitations on cell phone use, texting devices, and visual navigation aids while driving a motor vehicle.

It is time for professional drivers to respond to the foolishness of what is being reported and regurgitated, what is being studied and quantified, and what is actually happening on America’s roads (and sometimes on private property).

It is well established that a drivers reaction time to respond to a given situation is slower in bright sunlight than at night.  It has been quantified by professional race drivers that items hanging from mirrors cause a lowering of driver response time in critical situations.  The effects of simply driving after a meal have been quantified at local drag strips across the country by drivers who track in great detail every variable that may reduce their efficiency at the starting line.

Snow, rain, traffic lights, signs and billboards, pedestrians, road markings, traffic, bicycles, skateboarders, school zones, speed bumps, high beams, passengers, radios and CD players, all play a role in distracting a driver’s eyes.  That said, many of us simply drive to work with a hot cup of coffee next to us, talking on the phone ( hand held or otherwise), tailgating the person ahead or being upset because the person behind is following too close for comfort.

The ultimate problem is priorities.  If we are preparing a meal and a television or radio show ends, we continue preparing our meal until we have a convenient time to change the channel but if the phone rings we are conditioned to drop everything and answer it.  If we are having a conversation with someone and the phone rings we usually answer the phone at the expense of our conversation and if we do not, we are distracted by it to the point where our concentration is diminished.

When driving a motor vehicle on a public way, that single activity needs to be our number one priority, to the exclusion of all else, if we are to protect ourselves and the safety of those around us.  My personal “right” to embrace my “freedom” stops when that right infringes upon someone else.

Forget about multi tasking.  It does not work in a driving situation on a public road because too many variables exist that can go wrong.  We have people who text while walking and sometimes do not look both ways before crossing the road.  I witnessed a person texting while riding a bicycle last summer while in traffic with no hands on the handlebars and while wearing headphones.  Sometimes I suspect modern medicine has achieved the pinnacle of allowing our species to survive to the extent of reversing the concept of survival of the fittest and we have entered into an era of diminished common sense to the point where we refuse to accept responsibilities for actions known to cause harm.

So what do we do?  First we require a driving test every four years for everybody who wishes to drive a vehicle, regardless of age.  Second we register and inspect every device that uses public roads, including bicycles, and require insurance for bicycle riders as well as drivers.  Third, we require wireless device manufacturers to implement technology to disable those devices when within a moving vehicle.  These devices would be cell phones, tablets, and laptops, unless the vehicle is in park.  This technology already exists and just like seat belts should be required of all mobile device manufacturers.  Automotive computers are fairly standardized in terms of capability and implementation would be far less difficult than many people think.

Education, limited legislation, and common sense can reduce that chance of an accident far more than grandstanding politicians, media rating “specials” or special interest groups who protect the pocketbooks of large corporations.

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Hopkins 24/7

I just watched this television show that airs on the New OWN network and am simply appalled at the blatant disregard for common sense and care of the patients and doctors during the period of internship.

I am a regular person and I know how ineffective my decision making and physical skills become when I am in a sleep deprived and high stress environment.  Apparently our the medical decision makers at Johns Hopkins were hiding under the bed when they supposedly learned about the effects of sleep deprivation on the human body.

Commercial truck drivers, in general, are permitted to work no more than 14 consecutive hours (and only 11 hours of that time may be actual driving time).  After the 14 hour period, truck drivers are required to have 10 consecutive hour off.  Additionally, truck drivers may only work 60 hours in a 7 day period or 70 hours in an eight day period.  Following these periods of work, truck drivers are required to have 34 consecutive hours of rest.

The laws concerning the hours spent working by commercial truckers are for safety.  Apparently the trucking industry understands the risks associated with tired truckers and so abides by these regulations.

I want to ask the people at Johns Hopkins why their interns, who are often tasked with intricate, highly technical, and time sensitive decisions while saving human lives why the decisions makers believe their interns are immune from the effects of sleep deprivation.

Why would a highly respected medical group knowingly and intentionally put their patients into the hands of interns who are not at the absolute top of their physical capabilities?

I am greatly disturbed by this show in that it appears to promote training practices in complete disagreement with documented medical best practices.

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A Friend has moved on.

Today (around this time) a respirator will be turned off and what happens next has nothing to do with modern medicine.  The importance of this event is in going forward and working through the feelings to become a better person.

As humans we all struggle with our beliefs, our “mission in life”, our perceived duties and our responsibilities.  Ultimately it is the communication we have with those around us that is our legacy.  Monuments eventually crumble (even the pyramids), and our legacy becomes what we have communicated to others.  Regardless of wealth or personal accomplishment, we all share the same stardust and how we share ourselves with others is (or can be) our greatest gift.

I met a young lady last night who embodies all the hopes and dreams of my Friend.  She is his daughter and through her he will live on, with his teachings and his love guiding her through the years ahead.  Maybe someday she will have children and will provide them the benefit his teachings, his strength, and his wisdom.

It is through this process we provide our greatest gift to humanity.  The details often are less important than the passage of wisdom.  As much as we use technology to document and remember details, photographs and videos of events, cards and letters with exact phrases, it is our memory and our feelings that come alive and truly pass on the spirit and love of those who leave this world.

When I see an older gentleman come alive when speaking of his father I can see the spirit inside.  When I see an older lady perk up and suddenly remember some long lost tidbit of emotion I know that love lives on.

The sadness of losing a friend temporarily overshadows the greatness of that Friend’s gift to us.  Yet as time moves on and we go forward, it is the strength of our memory and the treasures stored within that allow us to honor our Friend and to pass on to others the gift we have been given.

Rest in peace my Friend.

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Boxes of Memories

Like many people I have boxes of “stuff”.  Most of the things contained really do not matter to anyone, even myself.  However a few boxes contain memories that have strong emotion, whether they be things like jewelry, old letters, awards, newspaper clippings, or whatever and it is those items, and the most powerful memory magnet of all, photographs, that is my subject today.

If my elders had lived in the digital age I wonder if I would have any tidbits of their lives in boxes?  If my grandfather had a cell phone with all his contacts and messages would I see fit to keep it squirreled away, and even if I did would I have the proper battery and charger to glimpse into his life?

How many of us today embrace our digital cameras and phones, post pictures on Facebook or our personal websites?  How many of us actually have a real backup of our digital treasures?  And even more important, how many have a hard copy of these “things” we hold so dear?  And what of our children and grandchildren once we are gone?  Will they have a digital treasure of our lives to pass on?

I think not.  Perhaps I should spend some time at Wal-Mart, or the local pharmacy having copies made of digital pictures, or perhaps I should print out some particularly compelling message board posts that made an impact in my life.  Perhaps I should somehow believe there will be some sort of universal memory technology that will be developed so others may choose to see into my life once I am gone, or perhaps I should simply accept that whatever digital traces I leave behind will be flushed from some master archive a decade or so after I perish.

For all the convenience and immediate gratification technology brings, it does not come wrapped in a box.

So when one of my most trusted friends got married the other day I took the time to look through the old memory box, scan a couple of pictures, and post them online so they could be shared.

I doubt anyone will actually back up my file server or website once I am gone so I will keep my box, plus a few more boxes I don’t need, just so these memories might survive a bit longer than a delete keystroke by someone who just sees them as wasted space on a hard drive. 

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Racing Photographs

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Virtual Country

We all pretty much understand that current political structures bordered by geography.  People find a place to live and build a social, political, and military infrastructure to preserve a way of life.  We build ourselves a manner of living and that life is bordered by oceans, mountains, or negotiated property lines and that is simply how countries are allocated.

Who is to say that a virtual country could not be created?  A country whose lifestyles, values, political and social structure defined not by physical borders but exists totally in virtualistance (Ok, I created that word which means:  The virtual territory of a country).

Such a country could implement a management process that allows for a political structure to exist, monetary issues can be completely managed in cyberspace, taxation rules can be implemented virtually, and even military protection can be contracted through virtual means.

The citizens could be located anywhere, even in a worldwide system where different planets may someday be populated, goods and services exchanged through virtual means, and country wide judicial systems engineered and directed via technology.

This concept may seem far fetched, but a country created entirely in cyberspace could have almost instantaneous   decision making capability, extremely low overhead, and the ability to respond to needs, wants, and problems quickly and efficiently.

Although such a country may not be viable during my tenure on this planet, I suspect the day will come when such an entity exists.  How will our existing physical format respond to such a nation and how will such an entity change the way we live?

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