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Divided We Stand, United not so much…

July 2, 2017

divided_states_of_america_tshirt“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

The above quote is one we are all familiar with, it is part of the foundation upon which this nation was built. Setting aside the gender bias, it is meant to remind us all that no one of us is better or less than another. Part of the naming of this country included the word united, as in The United States of America. The question must then be asked, why are we doing so much to divide us?

America was built by people from all parts of the world. Germans, Irish, English, Chinese, Dutch, French, African (although not willingly), and Italian, just to name a few. Once here, and settled, all these nationalities became American. They did not give up their heritage but blended it with those around them and embraced this unique identity. Were there cultural clashes, bigotry, racism, divisions? Yes, but for the most part this country became a melting pot and an example of what a free society could be.

Today there are so many forces trying to divide us, to pit us against one another, it seems we are destined to fall apart. Whether it is political, religious, skin color, or economic, there is no end to reasons we can’t use to separate ourselves from each other. One that puzzles me came up in a news story about a woman registering her children for school.

The parent was asked not only to classify her child as Asian, but as to which Asian: Chinese, Japanese, Vietnamese, Filipino, Hawaiian, Samoan, or one of nine other choices. She responded by saying her children were born in the United States and are American. The school said that according to Assembly Bill 1088, government code 8310.5, the school is required to ask. The funny thing is that only Asians are subdivided. Under white, it does not ask German, Irish, English, Italian, etc.

While the reasoning for always having to classify ourselves on forms, government or otherwise, may be sound and of value, just doing so keeps us in a divisive mentality. Once an individual becomes a citizen, either natural-born or otherwise, they are an American. When we lose sight of this fact, it is then division begins.

As Americans we can be Democrats, Republicans, Independents, Jews, Catholics, Protestants, Muslims, pro or anti abortion, pro or anti firearms, climate change deniers or believers, but no one is better than the other. The moment we use any category to claim superiority, we divide.

The current political climate seems hell bent on dividing us, inflamed rhetoric on both sides fuels the differences between us and tries to erase the fact that we are all Americans. It is too easy to fall into the trap of believing one group has the answers and another the cause of our problems. Rational discussion has become nearly impossible as both sides shout to be heard over the other. It reminds me of the Buffalo Springfield song, For What It Is Worth, where it says, “There’s battle lines being drawn, nobody’s right if everybody’s wrong.”

So as the Fourth of July comes upon us, maybe this is a good time to reflect on who we are as a nation. We may have originally come from Europe, Asia, Africa, Australia, or some other part of the world, but as citizens we are all American. As Aesop said in the fable of The Four Oxen and The Lion, “United we stand, divided we fall.”

Lest We Forget, Or Have We Already?

May 29, 2017

Memorial-Day-Images  Memorial Day is a time to pause and reflect, to honor and pay respect to those who fought and died, preserving this nation and the freedoms that we often take for granted. Men and woman who died to protect us from fascism, Nazism, communism, and the tyranny these ideologies promote. Sadly, it is tyranny that is once again at our door, this time from within.

Recently, I read and reviewed a small book entitled, On Tyranny: Twenty Lessons From the Twentieth Century by Timothy Snyder. I called this the second book all Americans should read, the U.S. Constitution being the first. The twenty lessons are to help us prevent tyranny from raising its ugly head here, allowing what all who have died to protect us, be for naught.

A patriot is defined as one who vigorously supports their country and is prepared to defend it against enemies or detractors. Maybe the key word here is vigorously. In the book, Snyder gives concrete examples of how we can be vigorous.

One point he makes that is worth reflecting on, especially today, is in lesson 18 – “Be calm when the unthinkable arrives.”  Snyder points out that “modern tyranny is terror management.” When an event occurs, such as 9/11, it is easy for us to be willing to give up freedoms hoping to prevent a similar event. Think of all the things we used to be able to do, that have been taken away. From being able to walk a loved one to a boarding gate, to being able to enter a plane without being groped. These are minor compared to what could happen if we are not vigorous patriots.

History has shown that tyrants use such events to take control of governments and people. Hitler did this in Germany, Putin did this in Russia, Trump is attempting to do this here. To be fair, Trump is too stupid to do this, but his advisors are not, and his ego is allowing other tyrants, such as Putin, to pull him into terror management. In this case terror management being “the exploitation of real, dubious, and simulated terror attacks to bring down democracy.”

Whether it is the Muslim ban or the border wall, alternative facts or discrediting the media, chanting “Lock her up” or denying climate change, we have a president seemingly determined to undermine the very freedoms the men and women who died, who we honor today, gave their lives to protect.

My hope is that as we reflect on the lives sacrificed for democracy, that we will become vigorous patriots. No longer content to sit on the sidelines, to simply hear opinions like our own, but to read for ourselves, to investigate truth, to seek out those who think differently and listen. No longer label makers, going beyond left or right, conservative or liberal, Democrat or Republican, and working together for the future of our great nation.

Snyder ends his treatise with a quote from Hamlet. “The time is out of joint. O cursed spirit, /That ever I was born to set it right…..Nay, come, let’s go together.”

 

 

A Couple of Small Tweaks Can Mean Awesome Service!

May 9, 2017

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Being a server in a restaurant is not an easy job. J.Q. Public can be demanding, infuriating, and downright rude. While the majority of people may be pleasant, a server needs a tough skin to keep that smile on their face at all times.

Having said that, there are a couple of things servers can do to take a night out from good to awesome, at least in this writer’s opinion. Admittedly, some of what I am about to say may not apply to every eating establishment, but imagine how awesome even a Sizzler might be if servers there followed these simple ideas.

The first has to do with the wine. Yes, I just eliminated more than a few places to eat but bear with me. Every server should be trained in how to open a bottle of wine, it is not that hard. It is painful watching a server struggle with such a simple task, often ending up with a broken cork. I blame management for this one, all they need to do is have a server open a few with them and voila!, mission accomplished. Once the bottle is open and someone has tasted it, pour some in each glass, but if it is white two things to remember. First, white wine has been chilled and pouring too much in a glass means that it will warm before consumed, so pour less than you would with red. Second, since it is chilled it will need a cooler, and here is a simple trick to make that experience better. Most servers put ice in a bucket bring it to the table and try to force the bottle into the ice. The problem is the bottle is now sitting on ice, not in ice. The trick is to use less ice, add a small amount of water, then the bottle sits down in the iced water and stays cool.

The second idea for taking an evening out from okay to great is pacing. If I order a salad and an entree, I want to be finished with the salad before the entree appears. Having had too many negative experiences with this one, I tend to order my salad and after finishing it, order my entree. A good restaurant will have the pacing down so this is not an issue but a good server should be the fail safe here. If I want to be rushed I can go to a fast food joint, but in a restaurant I want to be able to enjoy the great food they prepare.

The last point is a simple one, listen to the customer. This, for me, is usually when it is time for dessert. My wife does not eat dessert, she does not have a sweet tooth, she has no problem watching me but she does not eat dessert. So when I order a dessert and say she does not want one, don’t bring two forks and say just in case. Because then I have a pissed off wife and you just lost part of a tip.

Which brings me to the last point, tipping. If the service is bad, I leave zero tip. I was told once by a restaurant manager that this is the best way to communicate dissatisfaction. Leaving a small tip just implies one is a cheapskate and the point is lost. If the service is good but you brought two forks I will probably leave you fifteen percent. If the service is good, if you paced things correctly, then I use my special formula for tipping. It goes like this. Let’s say the bill is $132.00. I round to the next highest whole number that is easily multiplied, in this case $140.00. I take ten percent of that, which would be $14, then I double that, which would be $28, divide that amount by two, which is $14, and add the $14 to $28, resulting in $42. Astute mathematicians will realize what I just did. $42 is thirty percent of $140.00. Some might think this is over tipping. While some restaurants do pay servers better than others, not all do. Also, I have no problem acknowledging a job well done.

So my basic point here is that while serving is a hard job, sometimes thankless, it only takes a few tweaks to make it an awesome and rewarding experience for both you and the customer.

Bon Appetit

Side note: As a Scotch drinker who likes it neat, I am surprised at how this term is so misunderstood. Neat is simply “a single, unmixed liquor served without being chilled and without any water, ice, or other mixer.” As a server, I realize you are not a bartender, but for us Scotch drinkers, please learn this term or at least if you hear it, ask the bartender before showing up with a glass of Scotch violated by water or ice or God forbid both.

 

A Minor Pet Peeve

March 25, 2017

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There are many things to enjoy in life, and some that just get under your skin. Keeping a positive attitude makes each day go smoother. It makes the day more fun and leads to a good night’s sleep. Most days are like that, at least for me, but occasionally a small thing can be just enough to make me question the intelligence of the human race. Long ago, I failed to be surprised by the things that people do, but still have to shake my head at times.

One of my minor pet peeves is going up to a cashier to make a purchase and having them ask, “Did you find everything you were looking for?” On the surface this is a legitimate question.

Except for two things. First, asking the question implies I am too stupid to have sought out help in finding what I may have been looking for. But second, and more important, is what the cashier does when I answer the question.

If I say, “Yes I did”, we both go on with our day and no one has been hurt. If I say, “No I did not, you were out of so and so, or you don’t seem to carry so and so”, it is the response that sends me over the edge. Usually it is, “Oh sorry”, and that is the end of it. If that is the response, then why ask me in the first place?

A better answer would be, “Oh let me make a note so I can tell the manager”, or “Did you want to speak to our manager?” At least give a response that implies some kind of action will be taken.

My most recent experience with this was at our local #Ace hardware store. I went in looking for a spring door hinge and a Kidde smoke alarm. The hinge was easy but they did not carry the brand of smoke alarm I was looking for. Okay, no big deal, I knew I could get it online (which is a future blog).

At the register, the cashier asked if I had found everything. I told her no, they did not have type of smoke alarm I wanted. Her response was, oh. Being used to getting this as an answer would have been ok except for two things.

One, I had been looking in the store for the alarms and after a time ran into a worker and asked where they were. The response was gruff and I felt like I had asked for their first born. Second, and this was the kicker, at the cashier after the caring concern for not having the product, I was asked if I had an Ace rewards card. I said yes and gave her my phone number, part of which is six-one-two. She punched my number in the register and said it didn’t come up. She asked for my name and zip and with those found me in the system. She then said, it didn’t come up because my number was six-twelve.

I’ll let that sink in for a second.

I couldn’t help myself, so I said, “Wouldn’t that be the same as six-one-two?” She looked at me as if I were stupid and proceeded to ring me up for the hinge. So with these three events, I would say my experience was not up to expectations, and I left the store asking myself, did she just say what I thought she said?

I have been in stores and have asked clerks if they can check into carrying certain items, and have had great responses. They either pass the word or get the manager who then is very accommodating and the next time I shop, there is the product. Sometimes they say they can’t get the product and that is fine.

Bottom line, if you’re going to ask if I have found everything, at least make some attempt at caring if the answer is, No!

#45’s Version of “Imagine”

March 17, 2017

45                   Imagine there are no Muslims

It’s easy if you’re white

No blacks, or immigrants

Around us only light

Imagine all the people living to hear what I say.

Imagine there is only one country

It isn’t hard to see

No welfare or anyone poor

Only the rich, those just like me

Imagine all the people living to serve me

You may say I’m a dictator and

No, I am not out of line

I hope some day you’ll bow to me

And the world can be all mine

Imagine I own all possessions

I wonder if you can

No need for truth or kindness

A brotherhood called the Klan

Imagine all the people giving me all they own

You may think I am joking

It’s only a matter of time

I hope someday you’ll succumb to me

And the world will be all mine

Why Trump Has Been Good For America!

February 20, 2017

url  The Electoral College has placed Donald J. Trump in the presidential seat. In spite of the fact that the majority of Americans had a different idea, the reality is Mr. Trump sits as the 45th president of the United States. Whether this makes you mad or glad, either way the truth is, this is reality. Whether one looks at this as a good or bad thing is another matter.

It is easy to see the bad. We now have a babbling, narcissistic, misogynistic, lying, dictatorial, con-artist representing the greatest country in the world. Our allies are fearful, our enemies are emboldened, and our nation is divided more than any time in history, with possibly the exception of the Civil War. But before we all go running off to Canada, we need to realize how much good 45 has done for the good ol’ USA.

Not since the Sixties have so many taken an interest in the politics of this nation. It has been easy for many of us to ignore much of what was happening in Washington, D.C., until now. Suddenly, people are talking, reading, and researching just how our government works. Copies of the Constitution are appearing in households where no book has darkened the door for years. Words like emoluments are rolling off tongues as easily as non-fat latte.

We are seeing the strengths and weaknesses of being a democracy. The system of checks and  balances is keeping us from succumbing to a potential tyrant. At the same time, we are seeing the failure of career politicians who seemingly are more power hungry than concerned for the American people.

People who were content to sit idle, watching shows like American Idol, are now marching, rallying, calling, tweeting, and posting. They are speaking out, demanding that representatives, senators, and local politicians hear what they have to say.

In spite of the media being labeled “fake news”, subscriptions to newspapers and viewership of nightly news programs are up. People are reading more. The novel 1984 by George Orwell is so popular it is hard to find a copy in a brick and mortar bookstore or on Amazon.

The questions of who are we as Americans and what does this country stand for, are topics being examined as never before. The issues of racism, women’s rights, religious freedom, and gender identity are at the forefront of daily discourse. The lid has been ripped off of previously hidden groups of fascists, racists, misogynists, and neo-Nazis.

Groups that fight daily for human rights, such as the ACLU and Planned Parenthood, have seen donations increase in staggering amounts. Neighbors are organizing, forming grass root movements to figure out what they can do to make a difference. Some people are learning for the first time who their local and state government officials are, and are engaging in constructive dialogues.

The plight of immigrants, legal and illegal, is becoming more apparent. The reality of their contribution to this country is being made evident. Cities are stepping up and declaring themselves sanctuaries. Churches are opening their doors, that should have never been closed. Actually, a distinction is being made between those who only give lip service, and those who live as Christians.

The final good thing has yet to be seen. The real good that could come out of 45 sitting in the Oval Office, would be for this nation to realize if we are to survive, if we are to remain a democracy, we need to be able to debate, discuss, disagree, yet somehow find a middle ground where everyone is respected, everyone is equal, and everyone working together can keep this country great.

 

Our New National Anthem

February 2, 2017

Per executive order 432.1, dated February 2, 2017, I, Donald J.Trump proclaim the following as the new national anthem of the United States of America.  Heretofore to be sung at all public gatherings, sporting events, and school assemblies.

The Nationalistic Banner

Oh, hey, can you agree, that The Donald’s so bright.

And so proudly we hail at all of Trump’s streaming.

Whose broad ban and bold strokes, we promise not to fight

And under Bannon’s constant watch, we’re so gratefully beaming.

With the borders secure, the Muslims no longer here.

Giving proof thro’ the night that our flag is still pure.

O hey, does that nationalistic banner show our might

O’er the land for those like us and the home of the right.