Category Archives: Society

Super Genius

Coyote

My daughter calls me Super Genius, but not in a good way.  She doesn’t mean Fruit Loops with marshmallows genius (If you haven’t tried this perfect breakfast cereal, stop denying yourself).  When she calls me Super Genius, the words are accompanied by a smirk and an eye roll.  She means Wile E. Coyote Super Genius. . . and I’m okay with that.  She even bought me this nifty shirt.

Genius shirt

I earned this designation by sharing all the trivia stuck in my head with my family at the dinner table.  So this means we made a habit of sitting down and eating dinner together, and even (gasp) talked as a family during that time.  So yeah, I tell too many “dad jokes” and spout off nonsense trivia, but it beats each of us burying our heads in our cell phones only coming up for air for a “pass the bread.”

Besides, Wile E. Coyote is one of my childhood heroes.  That dude never gave up!  Get blown up, fall off a cliff, get hit by a train—it didn’t matter, he always came back for more.  That coyote had a goal, and he was determined to reach it no matter what.  To be honest, I always cheered for Wile E. Coyote.  He was the underdog (or would that be undercoyote?), and that roadrunner was a bit too arrogant for my taste.

So when my daughter calls me Super Genius, I just smile.

That’s me.

genius

When the roadrunner finally slips up, I’ll be the one strapped to my Acme rocket ready to swoop in and finally reach my goal.  Or, maybe it’s off the cliff again.  Who can say, but you can’t stop trying.

Coyote Bye

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So What is Wrong with a School Bus?

School bus

The new school year just started up in my area, and the traffic to go with it. I had forgotten, as I drove around town over the summer, just how crowded the roads get when parents drive their children to school. It makes me wonder, not for the first or last time:

What’s wrong with a school bus?

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 58% of student traffic fatalities occur when teens are driving or traveling with friends, 23% when traveling with an adult, and 1% when traveling on a school bus. The odds of your child making it to school on a school bus is much better than when you drive them, so why must we drive our children to school?

I know the argument my wife used when our children were young. She was a stay-at-home mom and just felt better when she dropped the kids off herself. Also she was concerned about bullying on the bus. The bullying concern, I can understand. Still, isn’t that part of growing up? Kids should learn to handle themselves socially not just at school, but on the bus as well. I understand not all parents feel that way, but if bullying is the number one concern, isn’t there a better way to handle that as well?

Speaking from experience, bullying at the bus stop can be an issue. I rode the bus as a kid and was bullied at the neighborhood bus stop. It was not a fun experience, but I survived. Also, it occurred at the bus stop, not on the bus with an adult present. In those days (1970’s), parents didn’t walk their kids to the bus stop like I see them doing in my neighborhood today. Parents in my neighborhood will also wait at the bus stop with their children. I see this as a good change to ensure student safety and combat bullying at the bus stop.

It just seems to me that with the proper planning and safeguards in place, we could save resources and time by allowing our children to ride the bus to school. I doubt many would agree though. It seems that many Americans today want to raise their children in a bubble of parental protection. Even though the numbers show our children are safer riding the school bus to school, our parental angst tells us otherwise.

Has the world gotten that scary that we don’t feel comfortable letting our kids ride the bus to school? I would guess that the bus ride to school is no more dangerous than attending school itself. If you will send your children to school, why not send them on the bus?

I feel a bit hypocritical writing this post, because my own children were driven to school. My wife and I didn’t see eye-to-eye on this issue, and since she’s the one that prepared them for school in the morning, I conceded the point. Still, I think it’s a discussion that should take place. I feel that my children missed out on an experience that could have taught them to be more independent and confident. Of course, I wouldn’t mind having all that gas money back either.

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Why I’m not a Twit-ter

Look up twit on dictionary.com and you get the following definition:

to taunt, tease, ridicule, etc., with reference to anything embarrassing; gibe at.

Synonyms: jeer at, mock, insult, deride.

to reproach or upbraid.

Synonyms: chide, scold, rebuke, criticize, revile, castigate.

It seems a pretty accurate description of what appears to go on at Twitter.  I say appears, because I am not a member, but whenever twitter hits the news it’s all about trash talk.  This is enough to keep me away.

Besides the negative connotations that flood the internet, I don’t like the concept of twitter:

Get in-the-moment updates on the things that interest you. And watch events unfold, in real time, from every angle.

So I can be right in the middle of a twitter rant between two Hollywood starlets.  I don’t read that crap in the rag mags why would I want it instantly?  Also, twitter seems to encourage people to post in the moment instead of thinking through their posts.  How many times do you see people apologizing for their twitter posts?  I prefer well-crafted, thought provoking content.

To me, there is just too much negativity associated with twitter for me to want to join.  I’m sure there are people who love twitter and use it in a mature and responsible manner, but that doesn’t make the headlines.

Lastly, to be honest, I’m not a spring chicken.  I didn’t grow up with the internet and instant global news.  Sometimes I feel like there is information overload going on.  We become hardened to it.  In particular, it seems that too many people revel in the spectacle.  What does it say about our society when other people’s embarrassment or public humiliation becomes our entertainment?

Give me a good story any day.

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In The Mood?

I saw In the Mood last night at the Knight Theater in Charlotte.  The event featured big band music from the 1940’s.  There was comedy, dancing, singing, and awesome music.  The group tours throughout the year across the U.S.  My wife and I thoroughly enjoyed the show.  If you like big band era music, it is worth the trip to the theater.

I was a bit surprised that there were not many young people in the crowd.  Yes, it is the music of an older generation, like my grandparents era and I’m fifty, but it was entertaining and I expected a more eclectic crowd.  Ballroom dancing seems to be more popular today, and there was a swing dancing craze a few years ago.  I guess 1940’s music just isn’t a big thing right now.  No surprise, I’m totally oblivious to what’s popular.

I had to laugh when we asked our twenty-something daughter if she wanted to go to the show.  She gave me a look which basically told me just how out of touch I was.  So I asked her what she was going to do instead.  She was going contra dancing.  Contra dancing is basically square dancing like I had to do back in junior high school during recess on rainy days.  Okay, not quite the same, but close enough.  So square dancing is in, but big band music isn’t?  I think I’ll just embrace my old man, uncool, out-of-touch self.  Eventually that’ll be popular too, right?

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What Does a Half-Century Look Like?

I’ve officially lived for half a century.  It sounds much more impressive than it feels, especially on cold winter days.  I could say that I’m older but wiser, but this statement is only accurate for a small proportion of the population from what I can see, and I won’t try to claim to be the wiser.  Every year on my birthday, I typically review what I’ve accomplished over the past twelve months, but this year I find myself looking back even further.  What does a half-century look like?

I guess each generation has their group memories.  Here are the ones that stand out for me:

    • The Space Race (1969-1972)—I remember sitting in the school library watching one of the Apollo missions land on the moon.  It was a big deal, and the entire school squeezed into the library to watch.  Back then it was the only television on the campus.  I can’t say which mission it was, but I would have been in kindergarten, first, or second grade depending.  I’m thinking it was one of the later moon landings and I was either in the 1st or 2nd grade, but I couldn’t say for sure.  Also, my father had a picture of the Apollo 11 astronauts on the living room wall.  The three of them are sitting together in their space suits were like an iconic image of that period, except that guy in the middle had crazy eyes.  It seemed like his eyes followed me across the room.  Thanks to that picture and my over-active imagination, I had a few sleepless nights as a kid.
    • Vietnam War (1965-1975)—American ground troops were sent in in 1965.  Anyone growing up in that era has memories of that war.  It was constantly in the news, but I was isolated from much of the controversy being a kid growing up on a marine base.  Probably my strongest memory was waiting for my father at the airbase.  I remember watching the huge transport plane land (C-130 I’m pretty sure) and waiting with my mom and siblings for the line of marines to file out and head our way.  Of course, he was gone quite a bit during that time, so he could have been coming back from any number of places, but I remember how anxious my mother was so I’m thinking that particular homecoming was from Vietnam.
    • Watergate (1972-1974)—I remember my parents watching the Watergate hearings on television.  It was a pain in the ass because they kept breaking into our normal television shows.  I was ten, so I wasn’t all that interested at the time.  I remember it was in the news forever, and it seemed impeachment was on everyone’s lips.  Of course, Nixon decided to resign instead.
    • Roots (1977)—Just as my kids grew up in the internet age, I grew up during the golden age of television.  I can’t think of a television show that generated more buzz during this time than Roots.  We all waited impatiently for the next installment (it was a mini-series), and it was all anyone talked about.  Television did shape our lives, and I think this show had a positive effect on race issues in America.  I will say that I enjoyed Shogun more the following year, but Roots started it all.
    • Iran Hostage Crisis (1979-1981)—The image of the helicopter crash from the failed rescue attempt sticks out the most for me.  Why, I couldn’t tell you.  Maybe it was because after that there seemed no hope for the hostages.  The whole affair seemed cruel at the time, but at least the hostages kept their heads.  Does that mean those were the good old days?
    • The home PC (1984?)—I remember the first time I saw a home computer was around this time.  One of my navy buddies was married and had one at his house.  It was an IBM clone of some type and I was mesmerized.  Yes, there had been the TRS-80 and Commodore 64 before that, but they hooked up to your TV and were more limited.  Just two years previously, I had taken a computer class my senior year in high school and we worked with a card reader that fed a mainframe that was shared by the entire school system.  The home PC changed the world, and quickly.
    • Fall of the Berlin Wall (1989)—My kids weren’t even born at this point, and I’m sure they have no memory of the Berlin Wall besides in history books.  They have no concept of the cold war, nor the significance of this event.  It was a big deal around the world.  I remember watching them pulling it down on the news.  I’m guessing that if Germany hadn’t reunited, there probably wouldn’t be an EU today.
    • The Gulf War (1990-1991)—I have to admit that my thoughts on this war are pretty personnel.  I had finished my hitch in the navy in 1988 and had two years of inactive reserves where they could call me back.  I felt like a dodged a bullet when this thing kicked off.  Although I did have a few nightmares about getting recalled.
    • Dissolution of the Soviet Union (1991)—I remember taking world history my senior year in high school (1982).  A good part of this class had to do with the cold war, the iron curtain, and what was then the current world order.  I remember having a debate about the Cuban Missile Crisis—this stuff was part of our world then.  The first time I saw a map without the USSR, I thought it was a misprint.  Of course, Eastern Europe still has not completely stabilized from this.  The Ukraine is just the latest example of the fallout.
    • Rodney King Riots (1992)—Unfortunately, race riots are not a new thing nor are they likely to stop anytime soon.  The L.A. Riots weren’t the first.  My grandparents told me about the Watts Riots in 1965, and more specifically the riots that occurred in San Diego in 1969.  They lived in a rough neighborhood in San Diego and watched their neighborhood go crazy, it sounded about like what happened in L.A. in 1992.  This one stands out in my memory because I lived in the Mojave Desert at the time, about three hours from L.A.  A couple of guys I worked with decided to drive down to the city to see what it looked like.  Luckily for them, the National Guard was on the scene and turned them away.  Go figure, there are rednecks everywhere.
    • Bosnian War (1992-1995)—Yes, U.S. Troops went to Bosnia.  I remember it mostly because my brother was over there when he was in the marines.
    • 9/11 (2001)—We all have our memories of this day.  I was at work.  It may seem odd, but it didn’t seem to be the game-changer it was made out to be.  The Trade Center had been bombed before and let’s not forget the Oklahoma City bombing or the USS Cole.  However you feel about 9/11 it changed the world.
    • Afghanistan (2001-?)—Talk about 9/11 fallout.  This war seems odd to me.  I want to call it the war that never happened.  Not because it didn’t happen, isn’t still happening, but it seems that no one cares.  It’s like the polar opposite of Vietnam where everyone cared.  Whatever the reason, this war gets little media attention, maybe because it was eclipsed by the Iraq War and other Middle East issues.
    • Iraq War (2003-2011)—Nothing like lighting off a powder keg in the middle east.  Let’s just lump it all together and call it the Iraq Wars, and hope it doesn’t suck us all down the drain.  But to end on a high note, it ended in 2011 right?
    • The Order of the Wolf Published (2012)Okay this is a shameless plug, but it’s my list.  For me, the publishing of my first book was a huge milestone.  I guess I could have put Harry Potter in here instead, but I never read it.  If you don’t consider this a group memory, maybe it’s time to remedy that.

Wow, fifty years down the drain and all I have to show for it is this lousy list.  Maybe I need to put that on a t-shirt.  I did celebrate my 50th with family and friends though, and I guess that’s the real accomplishment after all—not just making it to fifty but having someone to celebrate it with.

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Who Are These Highly Successful People?

Growing up, I hated watching the news. News was for grownups, I liked watching my afternoon sitcoms.  At that time we had three channels, so it wasn’t as if there were that many shows to choose from.  Still, I had my favorites: Gilligan’s Island, Hogan’s Heroes, F Troop, and many others.  They were all silly shows, but they entertained us.

The evening news was not entertaining, and to make it worse, all the channels showed the news at the same time. No option then but to go and do my homework.  Anything that drives you to do your homework is bad, right?

Even after I became an adult, I didn’t enjoy watching the news. News was still boring.  All the news anchors had the same monotone inflection and I’m pretty sure they all bought their suits from the same tailor.  Also, I lived in a small town.  Top story tonight:  They ran out of ice cream at the Dairy Queen . . . News at 11.

Today, I get my news off the internet. I typically waste a good hour each day skimming through websites looking to see what’s happening (another sitcom I liked back in the day).  As I rummaged around today, I wondered:  Is this really any better?  Yes, there are more options to choose from, and you can find any perspective.  One would think this would result in better informed people, but I’m not so sure.  Like any other area of society, you don’t really have to have an open mind.  Just visit the sites with which you agree.  It’s just like having a hundred channels on cable and only watching six of them.

I think my biggest complaint about news in the past has not changed with the internet. Why must we fabricate news stories when there is nothing worth reporting?  Or should I say nothing worth wasting my time?  At least with the nightly news, I could understand they had to fill up the time.  On the internet, this problem has increased exponentially.  Who has the time to scour through all the crap?

Some of this crap is worse than the rest. With the internet has come my least favorite crap “news article.”  I call it the “Highly Successful People” article.  This article is designed to sell you something while at the same time, make you feel like shit about yourself.  Here’s one I saw today:

“11 Things Successful People Never Do At the End of the Workday”

First of all, I have come to hate these lists. Secondly, who are these “Successful People?”  Who decided they are successful?  And why should I read this crap and feel bad about my lack of success?  What are they trying sell me?  It might just be that I should agree with their assertions.  Maybe I’m supposed to conform to this author’s definition of success.

This whole “habits of rich people, successful people, people who are better than me” article is just annoying as hell. Maybe I should make my own list: “Top Ten Annoying Habits of Article Writers That Should Spend Their Time Doing Something More Productive.”

By the way, this post is not meant to teach you anything about success, making money, or feeling bad about your life. It is just a self-indulgent bitch session.  Isn’t that what the internet is for?

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