FREE OR AT LEAST VERY CHEAP

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The best thing about retirement is not working. It may sound obvious, but not as much as you think. Not these days when many people either start a new career when they “retire,” or need to take some kind of crappy job to supplement social security which isn’t enough to live on.

There are plenty of other life changes that come with retirement. Not working is only one of them, but it’s my favorite. Pity it means giving up a steady paycheck, but if you can do it … not working is wonderful. It’s particularly wonderful for those of us who have hobbies and never had the time to pursue them while we worked.

After you stop working, you never know what you will be doing in the future, but you know what you won’t be doing.

You won’t be slaving long hours for an unappreciative boss.Getting up at the crack of dawn to scrape ice from the windshield. Driving 60 miles through bumper-to-bumper traffic to be restless and bored for 10 hours. Then getting back in the car and driving another sixty miles in the other direction in the dark when you’re already beat. You may well be perpetually short of money, but you won’t be fighting traffic or grinding your teeth wondering if you’re going to get dumped for a younger, cheaper worker. Discover your job’s been eliminated to improve someone’s bottom line.

You never have to call in sick again, not because you are really sick or if you need a day to take care of a child, business, or just a day off.

Ever learn you’ve lost your job by reading the headlines in the newspaper? I did. Twice. It takes the savor out of that morning brew.

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Retirement is the good part of being older. It’s the payoff. You get to own your life. For most of us, it’s the first time we’ve been free.

When you’re a child, everyone owns you. Parents, teachers, strangers. You have to be clever, sneaky and lucky to get to do what you want. Then you go to college and work — often both at the same time — and your boss and professors own you. Deadlines, time clocks and ambition drive you  onward to goals you believe will make you happy. Maybe they will — for a while. Then again, maybe not as much as you thought or hoped.

You marry. Have children. And find yourself treading water in an ocean of obligations and responsibility. Children are a lifelong committment. Long after your legal responsibility ends, your emotional responsibility continues. You want to be there for your kids, then your grandkids. That’s the way it should be.

If you don’t have to work while you do it? It’s better. Much better. Did you know half the kids in the U.S. are being raised by grandparents? Parents are busy with work or whatever — unable, unwilling or unfit — to raise their own.  There are lots worse things that can happen to a kid than being raised by gramps and gran, but many of us find ourselves reliving the parenting years just when we though we’d finished with all that. Being retired makes parenting much less stressful.  You get to stay home. You aren’t imprisoned by commuting and The Schedule. You can finally take a trip to the zoo, help with homework. Play a game, talk about life. There’s time for fun, not just work.

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If you aren’t taking care of grandchildren? You have the gift of time and it’s no small thing. Be a blogger. Be a photographer. Sleep late. Stay up till the wee hours watching movies, reading, writing the novel you always wanted to write but never had time. Rediscover music. Join a choir. Retired people are busy people. I’ve been retired for quite a while and I have yet to be bored.

Do I miss work?

I miss the salary. Every once in a while, I miss the camaraderie of a good office environment. But most offices weren’t all that great. Many were thoroughly unpleasant.

I served my time. Whatever I have left, long or short, belongs to me and mine.

YeahRight Link

Daily Prompt: RELEASE ME? FEAR THEN NOTHING MUCH

PA Unite Against the War on Women Rally

Right before I released a long, heartfelt piece in support of the right of women to choose abortion — early in the ongoing War Against Women being waged by the GOP in Texas — I got a bit nervous. I’m not afraid of controversy, but abortion is such a visceral, hot-button issue. No one seems to be able to deal with it rationally. Including me.

So I did something I never do: I asked Garry to read it and tell me if he thought I or it was over the top.

Was I going to be getting hate mail and death threats? He thought it was well-written and not at all crazy.

Stop GOP War

As for hate mail and death threats? “The crazies are always out there,” he said. You can’t let them tell you what you can or can’t write.”

So I published it.

Controversy? I don’t think anyone read or commented on it. It was humbling and funny. Here was probably the most “dangerous” topic about which I’d ever written … and no one noticed. It lingered around then disappeared without a trace beneath a pile of other blogs.

So much for fear! I’ve never worried about releasing anything since. It reminded me I’m just not that influential or important. I can try, but that doesn’t mean anyone is paying attention or cares about my opinion one way or the other. Sometimes, it’s healthy to be put in one’s place. Puts everything into perspective.

 

Blogger in a Strange Land – MORNING UPDATE: HOTEL HELL

What a perfect prompt  for this bright and shining day. Waking up this morning on an old futon with the entire room buzzing and rumbling from the vibrations of heavy machinery.

We slept in the tiny living room of our seedy resort in Hyannis, Cape Cod. Outside, I can hear the machinery thrumming. I don’t know what it’s doing and maybe it’s better if I don’t know. It would just worry me.

The elegant, understated kitchen vent.

The elegant, understated kitchen vent.

In the middle of the night, there was the sound of little feet scrambling around near the bed by the kitchen.

“What the hell?” I said to myself, leaping out of bed but making a circuitous loop before checking out that noise. I wanted to know what that sound was but also I didn’t really want to know — or step on something soft, warm, full of teeth and tiny claws. The non-paying residents of Unit 17 had come out to play (dum de dum dum).

See? They repair stuff. The screen is carefully repaired with cello-tape.

See? They repair stuff. The screen is carefully repaired with cello-tape.

Garry had removed his hearing aids, so he was spared this. I think he might have fled screaming. A brave man and true, but not in the face of rats. He has met rats, figuratively and literally and didn’t like them.

News Flash:  Screams were heard drifting from the Cape Winds Hotel last night. Missing are Mr. and Mrs. Armstrong, of Uxbridge, Massachusetts … Film at 11.

Please, someone … tell me we don’t have rats living in here …. anything but rats (or spiders).

Please join us for coffee on on charming patio.

Please join us for coffee on our charming patio.

ITCH

Karma? Murphy’s Law? A deity that has it in for us? Bad things happen to good people, but annoying things happen to everybody. Constantly.

These daily annoyances are like an itch you can’t scratch. You try to ignore them, but they keep nagging at you. Why, why, why?

Why are we always behind the slowest vehicle on the road? All our roads are two lanes, one in each direction and rarely is there a safe place to pass. It doesn’t matter if we are alone or together, we will be behind the vehicle that ignores the 45 mph speed limit and chooses to drive at 25. And they are going the same place we are. Always.

Public Transportation

Why does the thing I can’t find always appear in the exact place I already looked a dozen times? Where was it hiding?

Why is the month always longer than the money?

Mar-iPhone-0nWhy, when I clear our a closet, is it instantly full again?

Why does nobody call me unless I’m out of the house? I’m hardly ever out and I rarely get phone calls.

Why can I never hear my iPhone ring? I can hear the microwave ding from another part of the house, but not the cell phone.

Why do doctors’ and veterinarians’ offices have to call at 8 in the morning to remind me of my appointment two days in the future? Especially since they are using robot calling devices … don’t these people understand about morning?

Why do I never spot the typo until after I publish the post?

Why is the medicine bottle for which I’m looking always the last one out of the bag? Why can’t it be on top?

My missing mug. If you spot it, please let me know.

My missing mug. If you spot it, please let me know.

How do the matching pillow cases always migrate away from the sheets with which they go? They start off together. When do they roam?

To where does the second sock in the pair vanish? They go together into the wash, but only one comes back.

Where is my granddaughter’s hairbrush? It’s a Mason-Pearson. It was expensive. It was still in its original unopened box when it vanished without a trace. Apparently forever.

How did my antique squash blossom wind up in the bottom of my husband’s underwear drawer?

How did my favorite bracelet wind up in the piano bench?

Where did my coffee mug go? I never take the mugs out of the house. I only drink coffee in my office or kitchen. I don’t understand. They keep vanishing. Tell me … is it the terriers again?

Why do I have a rash on my wrist? Am I allergic to my wristwatch? Talk about itch.

Why do you find that thing you’ve lost immediately after you replace it?

Why, when my keyboard stops responding, do I never remember to change the battery before I start running diagnostics? You’d think I’d have learned by now.

These are universal questions. We all could use a few answers, so if anyone out there has answers, I’m all ears. The big issues I will have to deal with, but these? They just itch.

WHERE DID YOU GET THAT THING YOU’RE WEARING?

“How come Gibbs is wearing a coat in Arizona in the summer?”

I was talking to Garry. It was an NCIS rerun. We watch a lot of reruns, though this new fall season of TV is shaping up better than I expected, so maybe there will be new shows to watch.

YLE Wardrobe

The question about costumes comes up often and on various shows. One of the more common “huh” moments is when the male lead is wearing a coat and the female lead is skimpily dressed. No explanation needed for that one. But more weird are when each cast member is dressed randomly, apparently without regard for the story in progress. One is wearing a heavy winter coat, another a light denim jacket. A third is in shirtsleeves. Some are clothed in jeans or other casual stuff while others look ready for Wall Street … or a cocktail party. Women are supposedly hiking and running from or after serial killers while they wear 4-inch spikes. My feet hurt just looking.

Garry and I have done a tiny bit of movie “extra” work so I’m guessing it goes like this:  “Go find something that fits in wardrobe and be on set in ten.”

Everyone hustles off to wardrobe, which looks like a jumble sale or the clothing racks at the Salvation Army store. Most of the clothing in wardrobe probably came from some second-hand source or other. Everyone dives in looking for something that fits. As soon as they find an outfit … any outfit … they head for a changing booth, then off to be on set before someone yells at them. Stars get slightly better wardrobe or wear their own clothing. Wearing ones own clothing, both on TV shows and movies is quite common. I understand why.

NCIS Filming

The real question is not why everyone on a show is poorly or inappropriately dressed. It’s whether or not the people who produce the show think we won’t notice. My theory is they don’t care if we notice or not. They are cheaping out on wardrobe figuring if you and I notice at all, we won’t care or we’ll keep watching anyhow.

It’s a bottom-line driven world and wardrobe is one area where corners can easily be cut.

The thing is, we do notice. You don’t need to be a professional critic or especially astute to see the incongruities of television costuming. Movie costuming is often no better. Whoever is in charge figures if you’ve noticed the clothing, you are must be watching the show. They’ve got you. Why worry?

The thing is, the overriding disdain for viewers adds up over time. Eventually it feels like a virtual slap in the face. As a viewer, I have to assume they think I am astoundingly unobservant or plain stupid … or so hooked on their product they needn’t worry about retaining my loyalty. They are wrong.

NCIS Filming

This nonchalance extends beyond costumes. Sloppy editing, crappy scripts, stupid plots that include blatant factual and continuity errors … Ultimately, we do stop watching. Because it’s obvious they don’t care so why should we?

You notice it on long-running shows that had good scripts and editing but suddenly don’t. The quality of the show starts to slide. Producers are baffled when loyal fans stop tuning in. It isn’t baffling to a normal person but is apparently incomprehensible to producers and network executives.

The most surprising thing is when quality stays high for more than the two initial seasons. Few shows survive more than 3 seasons anymore. An embedded disrespect for viewers is, in my opinion, the root of much of the illness besetting the television industry. They either treat us like morons or discount us because we are too young, too old  or some other incorrect and undesirable demographic. If you are under 18 or over 49, you literally don’t count. There are other, subtler forms of discrimination. Someone decided young people and old people don’t buy enough stuff. No TV for us!  Reality never intrudes into the decision-making process. I’m pretty sure I buy a lot of stuff and so does my granddaughter. Her and her friends are always shopping.

They should be nicer to us. We are, after all, the customers. Aren’t we?

BEWARE THE TREACHEROUS BLACK TRASH BAG

Long ago, when Garry and I were first married, before we owned a home, we rented a tiny, adorable and over-priced apartment on Beacon Hill. I had bought curtains and drapes — nice ones — for all the windows in the apartment. It was a building dating back to the early 1800s. The ceilings were high, the windows tall. That was the best part of the apartment … that and the fireplace in the living room and what was probably the nicest marble bathroom we’ve ever had. I could have lived without the other residents of the flat — the cockroaches who had apparently been there since Paul Revere made his ride. Quaintness comes at a price.

Parking is a real issue on Beacon Hill. So is trash.

Parking is a real issue on Beacon Hill. So is trash. We lived up the street on the left, ground floor.

I put all the new curtains in a black trash bag and warned Garry — or thought I warned Garry — this wasn’t trash. It was our new drapes. I either hadn’t actually warned him or he hadn’t heard me. We had just moved in and there was a lot of trash to go out, all in black trash bags. I’m sure you already know the punchline.

By the time I realized the drapes had been taken to the curb, the scavengers of Beacon Hill had snagged them. Everybody on Beacon Hill, rich and poor alike, scavenges. While we were still in the process of moving in, people kept coming by trying to take our stuff. I’m not talking about poor homeless people. I mean The Neighbors. Several times I had to remove lamps and other items of furniture from their clenched fists.

So, to no one’s surprise, the drapes were out there a nanosecond and then gone. Since they were all still in their original unopened wrappings with the price tags attached, whoever took them had to know they were not trash. In Roxbury, where we later lived — a poor, mostly black neighborhood — I’m sure they would have returned the drapes. They would have gone door to door until they found the right house. But that was Roxbury. Beacon Hillers have a different way of looking at things that reminds me of an old childhood chant “Finders keepers, losers weepers.” Just saying.

I had to buy new drapes and the second set wasn’t as nice — or expensive — as the first. I’d used up the money and couldn’t spend it twice.

We lived on Grove Street. This looks a lot like it.

We lived on Grove Street. This looks a lot like it.

Over the years, my penchant for storing stuff in black trash bags has cost us dearly. Christmas presents, out of season clothing, household items intended for the attic — have all vanished. Who done it? Me? Garry? One of the kids? It could be anyone. I’m inclined to blame the terriers. They are always sneaking around, up to no good.

As a family, we have a knee-jerk reflexive response to black trash bags. We throw them out. It could have been anyone. (I still suspect Bonnie, the Scottie.)

Last night, I realized that our down comforter (yes, stored in a black trash bag), had vanished. This is not an item that you can easily overlook. A queen-sized down comforter is big and fluffy, even in a trash bag. It had considerable size, if not heft. This is not like looking for a piece of missing paper. This was something that would be easy to spot. It should have been in the bedroom — but wasn’t.

I checked the closets and the attic. Nothing. No black trash bags.

When finally the dust settled (I really liked that comforter) and I had ordered a replacement from Kohl’s, hopefully to be delivered before the cold weather closes in, I apologized to Garry for accusing him of perfidiously disposing of our bedding and said: “I have to stop storing things in black trash bags. This isn’t working out.”

He enthusiastically agreed.

Do they make big bags like that in clear plastic? Just wondering.

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ONE NATION PRESUMABLY INDIVISIBLE

One nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all. Whatever happened to that? If you want to get a good look at the way we are, check out just this single page on Pinterest. If this doesn’t give you the willies, nothing will.

A conservative is a man with two perfectly good legs who, however, has never learned how to walk forward. Franklin D. Rooseveltradio address, Oct. 26, 1939, 32nd president of US

A liberal is a man who is willing to spend somebody else’s money.
Carter Glass

Conservative, n: A statesman who is enamored of existing evils, as distinguished from the Liberal who wishes to replace them with others.
Ambrose Bierce

I’m a social liberal. I believe it’s the obligation of government to take care of its citizens. It has a special moral obligation to protect those who cannot protect themselves, the most vulnerable amongst us. If government doesn’t do that, what’s it good for, really? Believing that doesn’t mean no one but me has a good idea. I learn stuff by listening, not by proving I have a louder voice.

The trend in this country toward demonizing anyone whose opinion differs from ones own has been eating the heart out America for a long time. The growth of cable and the Internet has sped the process until it seems there are no limits to which people will go to make their point. Civility, good manners and common sense no longer apply. We rant, shout, call names, and insult each other and apparently, it’s considered okay. I don’t think so. I believe almost everyone wants the same things: a good country, a better world. A place for ourselves, our children, our grandchildren to live in safety with reasonable prosperity and peace. We aren’t going to get it by denigrating anyone with whom we don’t agree. We are all Americans and we are constitutionally entitled to disagree.

No one gains by raising the level of hostility. Our world is not improved by rage. We can argue without name calling and accusations. People with whom we do not agree do sometimes have ideas worth listening to. Instead of treating each other as enemies, why not show respect to everyone on principle? Because being nice, being polite, being civil doesn’t cost anything and improves the quality of life for everyone.

Argue if you choose. Use facts, not invective and insults. If we don’t work together, we will lose everything important. Empires fall. Once-great nations lose influence and become historical footnotes. Most of us have watched it happen, so don’t believe we are exempt.

It can happen to us. We are well on our way to losing our position as a leader among nations. We have already lost much of the respect we enjoyed. Who could argue we don’t deserve it? We’ve done it to ourselves and refuse to rethink the road we’re on.

Election Day 2012

On a personal note, I don’t always live up to my best self, especially if I’m angry. But I do sometimes succeed — and these days, more often than not. That makes the effort worthwhile. Doing nothing is always the easiest path. It’s not better, though.

We won’t solve problems by hating each other. Meanness is contagious. So is kindness. Give kindness a chance. I’ll continue to believe (almost) everyone means well and deserves respect. Even people I don’t like. I promise to do my best to respect you. Remind me if I forget.

 

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LEDA DOES THE SWAN

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The happy couple.

Back in my bright college days, I was for the first 2 years, a music major. When my fellow wannabe musicians hung out on the quad on warm sunny days, we would plan projects that were going to make us famous. Symphonies were planned. Great achievements as conductors and composers were spun as glorious dreams, although I don’t know that my class actually produced anyone who really hit the big time. Medium time seems to be as good as we got.

But my dream, my great project, was a full musical comedy based on the story of Leda and the Swan. I thought Broadway because in those days, there were no computer generated graphics to make the impossible real on-screen. Now, I think perhaps Hollywood would be the correct venue for this masterpiece.

In the Greek myth of Leda and the Swan, Zeus, in the form of a swan, seduces, or rapes Leda. Which is never made entirely clear, but I vote for seduction since I have a lot of trouble visualizing getting raped by a swan. Even as Zeus, swans are not agile except in the water and their lack of hands and arms would seem to make rape difficult.

Regardless, Leda becomes pregnant by Zeus as swan. She bears Helen and Polydeuces, both children of Zeus in his swan modality. Simultaneously (I’d like to know how she manages this) she gives birth to Castor and Clytemnestra, children of her human husband Tyndareus, King of Sparta.

In the myth, Leda is able to convince her parents and husband her extra pregnancy was not the result of a lover. No, no! Honest to gods, really, no kidding, it was Zeus who did it. Not merely was it Zeus –not some guy — but he was in the form of a swan!

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Hey, Zeus? Is that you?

My favorite scene would be the first act closer. In a highly emotional musical extravaganza, Leda pours out her distress in a heart-rending lyric soprano rich with passion. She explains — to hubby, mom and dad —  it really truly was Zeus.

Leda: Even in the form of a swan, I knew it was Zeus. And you all know how much I love birds and feathers, right? I mean … what girl could resist such a gorgeous bird who is, after all, top God in the Pantheon? No kidding. I wouldn’t lie to you.

Tyndareus, King of Sparta: I want to believe you, but I’m having a few problems with this.

Leda: Trust me, dear. It was Zeus. He was disguised as a swan. You know how clever he can be.

Later, we all get to see the central event, Leda’s experience. In a carefully choreographed dream sequence, Leda relives the heady romance of the seduction. I’m assuming it was seduction rather than rape. I mean, how big was that swan anyhow? And, uh, some of the technical aspects of the experience make for interesting mental meanderings. How, exactly, did … well … Never mind. This is a G-rated site. Suffice to say it would make a heck of a scene. Now that CGI has come of age, with some well done special effects? Wow. This could have the audience on its feet!

There’s more. Depending on which version of the story you read, Leda either give birth to babies … or lays eggs. Lays eggs? Really?

Zeus and Leda?

Zeus and Leda?

Eggs open up a whole new world of possibilities. If she lays eggs, does she have to sit on them until they hatch? As Queen of Sparta, can she order her court attendants to sit on the eggs while she performs her royal duties?

Does she build a nest? In the palace? Do the hatchlings feel a compelling urge to dive into lakes and ponds? Are they born knowing how to swim? Or more to the point, paddle? Do they have webbed feet? How do they feel about feathers?

I no long feel up to writing a musical comedy, but I freely offer this amazing concept to anyone who feels inclined to flush it out. I think it might just launch more than one career. You think?

Criminals and Gun Violence – SUNDAY NIGHT BLOG, Richard Paschall

See on Scoop.itIn and About the News – Sunday Night Blog – Richard Paschall

Despite news stories that would suggest the opposite, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy are fond of pointing out that the city has endured less shootings than in recent years.  If that is truly the case, then the shootings in past years was under reported by local media.  You can believe that they are all over it now. Local news in most big cities follow the mantra, “If it bleeds, it leads,” and shootings have become the lead stories all too often in the Windy City and around America. Chicago has become the topic of national newscasts and unfortunate late night talk show jokes.

Mayor Emanuel and his predecessor, long time mayor Rich Daley, have worked hard to get guns off the streets and out of the hands of criminals.  They worked to restrict gun sales, limit concealed carry and ban guns at certain locations.  In light of gun violence, it seems logical that city leaders would lead the charge to get guns out of the hands of the type of people who would shoot up a city park.  Unfortunately their efforts have met the fight to let criminals have their guns.  “Who would be against the efforts of our elected officials to make the city streets safer?” you may ask.  Is it just the gangs?  Are the gangs using their drug profits to oppose the city in court?  Is it the Mafia and their high-priced attorneys?  Is it some Tea Party extremist?  No, it is none of those although the last might be close.  It is the National Rifle Association that is working hard to let criminals have guns and keep violence on main street America.  They have money.  They have lawyers and they like taking Chicago to court.

Yes, one of the roadblocks to taking guns away from criminals is the NRA.  They will now point to recent shootings as proof that we can not have gun control.  They will again try to force feed us the argument that gun control will mean that only criminals will have guns  and we will all be at their mercy, as if we are not now.  The NRA will use their usual scare tactics to defend their extreme position that actually allows criminals to get more and more guns.  They will then attempt to sell us on the idea that all of those guns in the hands of criminals means we can not have gun control laws.  Somehow they seem to think that arming the bad guys is proof that the good guys should not have to face any sort of restrictions on buying guns.  If you think this philosophy is a bit twisted, you are right (or perhaps I meant left).

The “slippery slope” argument is at the top of the NRA’s philosophy about gun control laws.  They seem to think that if there are any restrictions to buying guns, soon there will be more and more restrictions to follow and eventually  all the good guys will have to give up their guns to the federal, state and local governments.  It does not matter that this argument make no sense and the Second Amendment will protect them.  They continue to fight the State of Illinois and the City of Chicago through misleading pronouncements and court challenges.  Consider the common sense ideas of the state and city along with the extremist, Wild West position of the NRA.

Attempts at restricting private sale or transfer of guns to criminals have been challenged.  Reporting lost or stolen guns has been challenged.  Restricting concealed carry in certain public places has been challenged.  The NRA has won a battle against the State of Illinois in Moore v. Madigan.  That would be Lisa Madigan, Attorney General for the State of Illinois.  They claimed that the State efforts to enforce its laws left people “defenseless” outside their own homes.  They also backed McDonald v. Chicago in a fight against Chicago hand guns laws.  Their direct fight in NRA v. Chicago was later consolidated with the McDonald case.  While the Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit upheld the Chicago law, the fight went to the Supreme Court where the much of the Chicago ordinance was struck down, leaving the city to attempt a less restrictive ban in 2010.

The State of Illinois was forced in July to adopt a concealed weapons laws, which angered city officials.  The law forced changes on the City of Chicago.  City officials, however, refuse to roll over to the wishes of the NRA.  They are now attempting to ban guns in bars and restaurants that sell alcohol.  They feel guns and booze don’t mix.  They expect the NRA to back the Dodge City mentality and challenge them in court.  Apparently, there should be no checking of hand guns at the door, but Marshal Dillon is not around to toss the bad guys in jail like an episode of Gunsmoke so this may not go well.  Perhaps all disputes will be settled by a duel in the street rather than shooting up Chicago saloons.

If Al Capone were still alive he would be proud of the efforts of the NRA to let Capone and Frank Nitti keep guns on the streets of Chicago.  As for Eliot Ness, the NRA would keep him and the Untouchables busy in court with challenges over any attempts to enforce the law, even common sense laws.

Marilyn Armstrong‘s insight:

Despite all the palaver that the availability of guns does not affect crime levels, this is so obviously ridiculous and self-serving by gun enthusiasts that it really isn’t worth arguing. I think everyone who hunts, competes in shooting sports and has some kind of genuine reason to own a weapon should be allowed to do so. I also think that all guns should be better regulated, insured, and kept track of.  Here is an opinion from Richard Paschall, SUNDAY NIGHT BLOG. Well worth reading.

See on rjptalk.wordpress.com

HERE’S TO US … WE MADE IT!

I’m not one of those people who romanticizes the 1950s, but there are some truths worth remembering and revisiting.

I grew up in a very different world. Play meant using imagination. It mean physical activity. Jump rope, hide and seek, tag, Stick ball (no one owned a real bat). Stoop ball, jacks. Building a “fort” or climbing a tree. Cowboys and indians. Toys were simple, not electronic. Getting a new doll was a real thrill. She never needed a reboot, unless you count having to find her lost shoe.

If you were having a hard time with the bullies in school, you got up, got dressed and went to school. It didn’t mean you weren’t scared. I was plenty scared. It simply wasn’t a parent problem … it was mine. Yours. Ours.

Marilyn - Senior YearYou didn’t get a lot of pats on the back for “trying hard.” You might get an “attaboy” for doing exceptionally well, but you were expected to do your best. Nothing less was acceptable. Doing your best was your job. You took it seriously.

You learned your lessons in elementary school so you could go on to junior high school and then high school. You had to do well in high school because if you didn’t, you couldn’t get into college. We all knew — with 100% certainty — if you didn’t go to college, you wouldn’t go to heaven.

My son commented the other day we are raising — speaking of my granddaughter’s generation — a bunch of weenies. We are protecting from them everything, effectively from acquiring the coping skills they will need to survive when mommy isn’t there to bail them out.

I said this to my granddaughter too, because she needs to hear it:. No one gets a free pass. Even being rich doesn’t guarantee bad stuff won’t happen, that you won’t get sick, lose a loved one, a child, or for that matter, your own health. Nothing prevents life from happening. Pain is part of the package. Learning to deal with adversity is called “growing up.” If you don’t learn to fight your own battles, when you get “out there,” you won’t survive.

Just about every family has some members who didn’t make it. The ones who never got a real job, formed a serious relationship, accomplished anything much. If they happen to be our own kids, it makes us wonder what we did wrong … and usually, we have a sneaking suspicion the problem isn’t what we didn’t do. It’s what we did too much.

I don’t think we should be mean and uncaring. Nor am I an advocate of corporal punishment. But I think it’s important to recognize we didn’t get strong by being protected from every pain, every hurt. We didn’t get everything we wanted the moment we wanted it. Or at least I didn’t. If I got one really cool present, that was a big deal. Now kids get so much, it’s meaningless. They don’t appreciate anything because there’s always more where that came from.

P.S. 35

So, in memory of the good times, the bad times, the hard times, the great times. The schoolyard battles we fought and sometimes lost. The subjects we barely passed or actually failed and had to take again. The bullies who badgered us until we fought back and discovered bullies are cowards. Getting cornered in the girls’ room by tough chicks with switch blades, wondering if you can talk your way out of this one.

Being the only Jew, Black kid, Spanish kid, fat kid, short kid or whatever different kind of kid in a school full of people who don’t like you. Getting through it and out the other side. Being the only one who used big words and read books when everyone else was watching American Bandstand. Being the klutz who couldn’t do those dances and never had the right clothing or hairdo.

Then, finally, getting to college and discovering the weirdos and rejects from high school were now the cool people to know. Magically, we were suddenly part of the “in crowd.” Metamorphoses. No longer were we outsiders. What had made us misfits were now the qualities that made us popular. And eventually, successful.

The fifties and early sixties were not idyllic. Especially if you weren’t middle class, white and Christian. Yet it was a great time to be a kid. Not because we had more stuff, but because we had more freedom. We had time to play, time to dream. Whatever we lacked in “things,” we made up for by having far fewer rules. We were encouraged to use our imagination. We didn’t have video games, cable TV, cell phones and computers. Many of us felt lucky to have one crappy black and white television with rabbit ears that barely got a signal.

We learned to survive and cope, and simultaneously, learned to achieve. We weren’t scared to try. We screwed up enough to know if it didn’t work out, we’d get up, dust ourselves off and try again.

When we got out into the world, for at least a couple of decades, we had a blast.

Here’s to us as we limp past middle age into the laughingly so-called golden years. We really had great lives. We’re still having them.

WHAT’S THE SCOOP?

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It seems to me the importance of whatever is going on in the world has an inverse relationship to the amount of attention it gets in the press. By “press,” I’m referring to newspapers, radio, television and other traditional news outlets, newer stuff like social networks, websites and blogs. Plus even newer sources of information such as newsletters and email. “Press” is the collective dissemination of information from a wide variety of perspectives and mediums. These days, it’s a free-for-all. If you care about truth and facts, you will need to do some independent reality checking.

News is loosely defined as whatever news people say it is. Whether or not this actually is news is subjective. The control of news content is not, as many people think, in the hands of reporters or even editors and publishers. Whatever controls exist are defined in corporate boardrooms run by guys like Rupert Murdoch who have no vested interest in keeping us well-informed. The news biz is about power, politics and money. Mostly money. It’s business, not public service.

That would, in theory, make “independent” sources — bloggers, for example — more “honest” … but don’t bet on it. Everybody’s got an agenda. Independence doesn’t equate to accuracy or honesty. They may not be beholden to a corporation or sponsors, but that doesn’t make them neutral or fair. They may be … but then again, maybe not. I’ve read blogs so blatantly lacking in any kind of journalistic ethics it shocked me. I am not easily shocked.

Egyptian President Anwar Sadat and Israeli Pri...

Egyptian President Anwar Sadat and Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin acknowledge applause during a Joint Session of Congress in which President Jimmy Carter announced the results of the Camp David Accords. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I’m not sure exactly when news stopped being stories about important stuff going on in the world and became whatever will generate a big audience likely buy the sponsors’ products. Money has always driven the news to some degree, but not like today. Now, everything seems to be driven by the bottom-line. It hasn’t improved the quality of the news. Once upon a time, important issues and stories got a free pass, an exemption from needing to have “sex appeal.” Significant news got on the air even if it wasn’t sexy or likely to sell products. Not true any more.

For a brief shining period from World War II through the early 196os and perhaps a bit beyond, the “Ed Murrow” effect was a powerful influence in American news. Reporters were invigorated by getting respect for their work and tried to be “journalists” rather than muckrakers.

When I was growing up, Walter Cronkite was The Man. He carried such an aura of integrity and authority I thought he should be president not merely of the U.S., but of the world. Who would argue with Walter Cronkite? He sat next to God in the newsroom and some of us had a sneaking suspicion God personally told him what was important. If Walter said it was true, we believed. Thus when Cronkite became the guy to get Menachem Begin and Anwar Sadat to sit down and talk — the beginning of the Camp David Accords — it seemed natural and right. Who was more trustworthy than Uncle Walter? Who carried more authority? He walked in the glow of righteousness.

UncleWalterOld

He always made my mother giggle. It was not Walter, the reporter or man who made her laugh. It was his name. “Cronkite” in Yiddish means ailment, so every time his name was announced, my mother, who had a wild and zany sense of humor, was reduced to incoherent choking laughter. It was a nightly event. Eventually she got herself under control sufficiently to watch the news, but the sound of her barely contained merriment did nothing to improve the gravity I felt should surround the news.

To this day, the first thing I think of when I hear Walter Cronkite’s name — something that less and less frequently as the younger generations forget everything that happened before Facebook — is the sound of my mother’s laughter. That’s not entirely bad, come to think of it.

Walter was one of Ed Murrow’s boys, his hand-picked crew at CBS News.

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I can only wonder what the chances are of any of us living to see a return to news presented as news and not as entertainment. Where reporters and anchors check and doublecheck sources before broadcasting a story. Today, Jon Stewart’s comedy news The Daily Show gives us more accurate news than does the supposed “real” news, I like Stewart, but I don’t think this is the way it’s supposed to be.

For a look at the how we got from there to here, two movies spring instantly to mind : Network — a 1976 American satirical film written by the great Paddy Chayefsky and directed by Sidney Lumet starring Faye DunawayWilliam HoldenPeter Finch, and Robert Duvall. Its dark vision of the future of news has turned out to be very close to reality. Too close for comfort.

The other, for veterans of the TV wars, is Broadcast News, a 1987 comedy-drama film written, produced and directed by James L. Brooks. The film concerns a virtuoso television news producer (Holly Hunter), who has daily emotional breakdowns, a brilliant yet prickly reporter (Albert Brooks) and his charismatic but far less seasoned rival (William Hurt). When it first came out, it was almost too painful to watch.

And finally, Aaron Sorkin’s Newsroom …the HBO series that gives the most realistic look at how it works and sometimes, how it fails … and why it matters.

The world goes on. We think we can’t survive without this or that. We think the world will go completely to Hell without real news and serious reporters but we survive. Maybe the worse for wear, but trucking along. Nonetheless, I’d like real news back on the air. I’d like to see a return to fact-based reporting. I know how old-fashioned that is, but I wish I could believe what I read, what I see, what I hear. I miss being able to trust the information I get. I would like to be less cynical or at the least, discover my cynicism was misplaced.

Just saying.

Lips that touch liquor …

Once upon a time, Americans had national fit of self-righteousness and decided alcohol was the root of all evil.  To rectify the perceived problem, the nation rose up on its collective hind legs and passed the 18th Amendment to the Constitution. This amendment established a legal prohibition of recreational alcoholic beverages in the United States. The separate Volstead Act specified how authorities would actually enforce Prohibition including defining “intoxicating liquor” for anyone who needed an explanation.

VotedDry

The folks who needed an explanation were not your average Jill or Joe. Jill and Joe knew how to get drunk just fine, but apparently lawmakers, politicians and gangsters-to-be needed clarification. The gangsters needed to know what they had to do to cash in on this opportunity and the others, how to persecute people in the name of the law. Many beverages were excluded for medical and religious purposes. It was okay to get drunk as long it was accompanied by an appropriate degree of religious fervor or if you could get a doctor’s note.

That left a lot of room — a barn door-sized hole — through which an entire generation strolled. Many people began drinking during Prohibition who had never imbibed before and whereas previously, alcoholism had no social cachet, during prohibition it became fashionable. As with most things, making it more difficult, expensive and illegal made it more desirable and sexy.

Regular folks, society leaders, and criminals all basked in the glow of joyous illegality. A whole criminal class was born as a result of prohibition. If that isn’t clear proof that legislating morality doesn’t work, I don’t know what is. It didn’t work then and it won’t work now. Whether the issue is booze, drugs, abortion, prayer, same-sex marriage, or term limits … law and morality don’t mix.

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Passing a law limiting how many times you can elect a candidate rather than letting you vote for any candidate you want isn’t going to improve the quality of legislators. You’ll just wind up voting for a bunch of clowns and opportunists who don’t give a rat’s ass about government while dedicated potential candidates won’t bother to run because there’s no future in it. Making drugs illegal, especially marijuana, has created an entire drug culture — exactly the way making booze illegal created an entire criminal class.

There are no fewer gay people because we made their lives difficult any more than segregation made the world safe for stupid white people. Illegal abortions kill not only fetuses, but their mothers too. You may not approve of abortion, but do you approve of forcing women to risk their lives to not have babies they don’t want?

How is that better or more moral? This kind of knee-jerk “lets solve social issues by making bad laws” causes a lot of pain and suffering. And as often as not, you end up legislating your way into a vast sea of exciting new problems you didn’t have before. Throughout history, laws designed to force everyone to do what someone else deems “right” have failed. Monumentally and spectacularly failed. You’d think citizens and lawmakers alike would notice this recurring theme, but remarkably, we seem unable to connect the dots.

If you never drank before, bet this picture could change your mind.

If you never drank before, bet this picture could change your mind.

We haven’t learned anything at all, probably because no one is aware history is repeating itself. Many of our citizens apparently don’t know any history, so how could they?

Prohibition agents destroying barrels of alcoh...

Prohibition agents destroying barrels of alcohol

The 18th Amendment was ratified on January 16, 1919 and took effect a year later, on January 17, 1920. Immediately, the demand for liquor increased. Producers, suppliers and transporters were turned into criminals, but drinkers were not prosecuted. What could go wrong with that? The entire justice system — courts, cops and prisons — was buried under a landslide of booze-related busts. Organized crime went from being a minor group to a major social force. Progress?

Having achieved results way beyond the wildest dreams of the amendment’s creators, prohibition was repealed in 1933 via the Twenty-first Amendment, the only time in American history an amendment was repealed.

Every time I hear someone on Facebook declare how we need a constitutional amendment to solve a political or social problem, I contemplate how successfully we got rid of alcohol in 1920. No one has had a drink since! The next time someone tells you history is meaningless, tell them without history, they are meaningless. They won’t understand what you mean, but a bit more confusion can’t hurt them. Saying it might make you feel better.

Daily Prompt: Are you being served? Chaos and Madness at AT&T

Shortly before Christmas, Garry and I went somewhere and I forgot to bring my cell phone. I asked Garry if I might use Blackberry Torchhis. I was appalled when I could barely hear anything, even with the volume full up and using the speaker. I realized if I could barely hear it, he couldn’t hear it at all. Which brought me to the inevitable conclusion that Garry needed a new cell phone.

Good wife that I am, I figured I’d get him a new phone with better sound so he would not be stuck trying to hear on a phone with such awful audio.

This was early December and Christmas was a couple of weeks off. How long could it possibly take to get a new cell phone, right?

I went online at AT&T, our long-time carrier. I checked to see if he or I was entitled to an upgrade. It turned out both of us were entitled to upgrades, but my phone is just a year old, I don’t use it very much and although I’m entitled to a new phone, I don’t need one. Garry, on the other hand …

This seemed a fairly straightforward process. I checked to see what phones were available on super special, discovered he could get an updated version of the phone he already has for $29.99, with the usual 2 year committment, but we’ve been with AT&T forever anyhow and I don’t see that any of the other carriers are better … so why not? It was the middle of the night, but I called AT&T and was going to order the new version of the Blackberry Curve … but they wanted a credit card and I was already in bed, so I said I’d call tomorrow. I was too tired to get up and deal with it right then.

When I tried to access the website the next day, I couldn’t. Eventually, I called and discovered it wasn’t me, wasn’t a bad password or my computer. AT&T’s servers were being upgraded. I should have guessed. I should have sensed the crackling of crisis in the air. Why they picked early December to do a massive server upgrade is anyone’s guess. It would not have been my first choice.

Mar-iPhone-0nWhen I started to place the order, AT&T assured me that they needed to charge me $36 for the upgrade fee. “What upgrade?” I asked. “We already have all the services we need. The only service you are providing is putting the phone in a box and mailing it. You said it’s free shipping … but $36 is a shockingly high shipping charge. Since you aren’t providing any other services, that’s the only thing it could be.”

The young lady to whom I was talking said she couldn’t do anything about it, she was not responsible and everyone had to pay the fee. I said that I was not going to pay the fee and frankly, we’ve been long-term customers and this was shabby treatment indeed. I next learned that I was going to have to pay sales tax on the full list price of the phone, even though we all know that NO ONE pays full retail on anything, much less a cell phone upgrade. Thus this $29.99 had spiraled into around $100 …. which is more than our ultra tight budget could afford.

I said I wanted to talk to a supervisor. I was transferred and eventually, disconnected. Called back, went through the whole story again, was told — again — she couldn’t help me. Said she was transferring me to a department that could help me. When I got to that department, I was told it was the wrong department and I was going to have to go back and talk to the original people who had now two? three? times told me they couldn’t help me.

I would have been laughing but time was passing. I had started this on Sunday night and it was Tuesday. Christmas was creeping up on me and I had yet to actually place an order.

I don’t remember all the people I talked to, all the supervisors to whom I was transferred, all the deals I made only to find that the next person I spoke to had never heard anything about it. It has mercifully become a blur. My husband was cranky because he felt, since he hadn’t actually asked for a phone, I had no reason to expect a lot of sympathy or support. I pointed out he did need a phone and just being his wife ought to entitle me to sympathy and support.

It had indeed been my idea to get him a new phone based purely the uselessness of his old one. But that’s sentimental twaddle. I should have waited until he actually asked me for a phone, preferably begged me on bended knee. Generosity. That was my first mistake.

As the tale continued, it became the story without end. So many departments, so many disconnects. I ran down the battery on my cell phone and on the handset of my house phone, then switched to the other handset  And still, no order.

Finally, it was Friday, December 21st. AT&T agreed to waive the charge, give me back a few bucks to compensate for the insane sales tax, and include free shipping. By now, I’d changed from the Blackberry Curve to the iPhone 4 which was on clearance for $0.99 and they swore up and down the east coast I’d have the telephone in my hands on Christmas Eve. Shortly after this amazing promise, I got another call from someone who said whoever promised me Christmas Eve delivery should not have made such a rash promise because who knew if I’d really get the phone? It could be weeks away. Maybe never.

We had been planning to be away from the day after Christmas through the following weekend. If they delivered the phone during that period, it would sit outside in the ice, snow and slush until we got home. But not to worry, she said. If that happened, I could “just send it back.”

I could not cope with the idea of returning the phone. This was bad. Doing it twice would be unbearable. I had been on the telephone with AT&T for more hours in one week than I had been on the phone with everyone else I know during the entire previous year. Granted I’m not on the phone much, but this had eaten at least 25 hours of telephone time … and there seemed to be no end in sight. Ever.

Somewhere during this period, our plans for visiting friends post-Christmas were cancelled because my friend was ill. Despite assurances there was no way I’d get the phone by Christmas Eve followed by equally passionate assurances I definitely would get the phone by Christmas Eve, I simply had no idea when or if I was getting a phone. Would you like to take a guess?

I got the phone Christmas Eve. There it was, a little white box in a bigger brown box. Delivered by FedEx. No bubble pack. Just the phone banging around inside the shipping box. So I waited until the day after Christmas and called about the lack of padding in the box because I didn’t want to wind up with a dead iPhone 4 being told it was somehow my fault. I was assured by someone somewhere that this wouldn’t happen, so I went ahead opened the box and tried setting up the phone.

Nothing worked. What is more, due to the endless legal battles between Google and Apple, Garry’s gmail contact list could not be synchronized with the iPhone.

The first tech support individual, from AT&T, told me that Garry would have to enter all the information by hand. I said “up your nose with a rubber hose” or words to that effect. Garry’s address book has at least 300 entries and I think I’m being conservative. I pointed out that the iPhone is supposed to sync with Outlook and by now, a few disconnects later, I was on the phone with Apple tech support and my cell phone was recharging, the battery having run down to zero again and I was on the second of the two “house phone” handsets, having run through the first phone’s battery. We finally doped out, between him and me, that we had to delete the “cloud” function and NOT synchronize the two email addresses linked to Outlook because it created a conflict and would immediately spew error messages.

When I finally got the iPhone to synchronize with Outlook’s address book, it started demanding a password for voicemail. My head began making a funny buzzing sound that kept getting louder. Were those voices talking to me? Possibly … if only the buzzing would stop and let me think …

Neither Garry nor I has ever needed a password for our voice mail. Not his, not mine, not ever. We didn’t have any passwords to give them. When the Apple tech guy said I’d have to call AT&T to get it sorted out, I went into full meltdown. I could not face another long wait, multiple disconnects … and trying to interface with who knew how many morons before maybe … by New Year’s … I could get through to someone who would  know what the problem was and fix it.

Finally, the fellow at Apple who actually seemed to have at least a pretty good knowledge of the product managed to get the address book issue dealt with … said he himself would call AT&T and put us in a conference call and we’d sort the whole thing out. He said he’d call me back and I begged … I think groveling might better describe it … that he really call me back and not leave me hanging.

This was the day after Christmas, the busiest day of the year for tech support what with everyone getting a telephone, tablet, computer, or some other electronic widget under the tree. Likely this didn’t help. But he called back with a man who was obviously not an entry-level tech support guy. He was a Big Gun. You just knew it. He fixed it. He said it was a software artifact from older phones and he was going to delete it from the system and it would never trouble me again.

Then he gave me a $40 credit giving me a small profit on the transaction unless you count my time as being worth money in which case I’m far behind. Far, very far behind.

Garry has a new cell phone. He said “thank you,” and I said “you’re welcome,” but personally, I think I’ve earned a medal at the very least.

Image representing Apple as depicted in CrunchBase

Image via CrunchBase

So for all the people who told me to “Get a Mac” to solve my problems, I will agree the iPhone is a fine, well-made phone. Was it easy to set up? No. Did it have fewer glitches than my other phones? No. If anything, it had more issues. I got it for a great price and it has, as I had hoped, very loud speakers so Garry can hear it. Hopefully, he’ll get used to the virtual keyboard.

I hate it even more than I hated the tiny raised keys on the Blackberry. I never voluntarily write anything on a cell phone and why Garry does is beyond me.

This whole trial by fire has made me aware of how pathetic my older Blackberry Torch (first generation) is and how I need a new phone. When I’ve recovered from this experience, I will think about replacing it. Why do cell phones need replacing so often? They are so expensive, shouldn’t they last more than a year? Just saying.

Meanwhile, I need to rest and recover my perspective. I have to wait until the story gets funnier. At least until I find my misplaced sense of humor. Then I’ll buy another cell phone.

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Acceptance In Advance

Getting an award. Accepting an award. Waking up the next day and realizing that the festivities are over and wondering if anyone even remembers the day before … then being pleasantly surprised to discover …yes, they do. It doesn’t hurt to have a lot of pictures posted of the event. It helps the remembering.

With Harvey Leonard (WCVB, Channel 5)

With Harvey Leonard (WCVB, Channel 5)

As a photographer, event photography has never been my strong suit. I don’t have the right equipment and in this case, yes, it does make a difference. The right lens, a good flash unit … they make a huge difference. You want a fast lens or a good strobe that recycles fast and has oomph. And bounce. A really good, fast camera … one that focuses quickly even in low light. I had the camera. I had a lens. A portrait lens. No flash.

Well. I have pretty good equipment, but it was never intended for this purpose because this stuff doesn’t come up all that often. And I can’t afford it. A small matter, but crucial.

When Garry was still working, it came up a lot more often. He hosted events. We were guests at events. Regularly. I used to actually own (and need) a separate formal wardrobe. Garry owned more than one tuxedo. That was then …. not at all now.

Here, in sleepy Uxbridge, fancy dress is anything clean that matches. Or minimally, doesn’t clash. Wearing earrings makes it formal. For men, a belt rather than a drawstring is formal wear. I am not exaggerating. Okay, maybe a little. But not much. It’s more than merely casual here.

The best moment - Garry and Anton, together.

The best moment – Garry and Anton, together.

It’s dress down time every day of the year, but especially on weekends. You should see what people wear going to church. Even the ministers don’t wear suits or ties. So far, never seen the pastor in shorts, but I’m sure it will come soon enough.

Somebody out there hates you.

Nobody is hate-proof.

Regardless of your color, politics or sexual orientation. No matter what religion you do or don’t practice. Whatever your ethnicity or native language, level of education. City dweller, suburbanite or farmer. Somebody hates your guts because you exist. They don’t need to know anything about you personally. For whoever hates you, that you live is more than enough reason to want you dead.

Garry and I were watching an old episode of Law and Order tonight. The victim was a child murderer and pedophile, recently released from prison. In violation of his parole, he was living with a woman and two young children.

Blind-justice

The murderer was this sleaze’s former social worker and therapist. She murdered him because she believed him to be a serious threat to society and specifically to the two children with whose mother he was living.

The jury refused to convict her even though she did it and never denied it. They liked her and felt she had done society a favor. I can certainly understand why they would feel that way. The victim was the dregs, the kind of criminal who gives criminals a bad name. Meanwhile the perpetrator was a highly intelligent, educated woman, on the side of the angels. Or maybe not.

The problem is obvious and of course that’s what the show was about. That’s what this post is about too. Where do we, as a society, draw the line? If it’s okay to be a vigilante in this case, what if the victim is homosexual and the killer believes homosexuality is an affront to God … and the jury is composed of fundamentalists who agree him? You can see where this is going, or for that matter, where it has been. Ugly, uglier, ugliest.

Does law become optional if there’s a general social agreement that a particular victim deserved what he or she got? What about if the police are sure they know who done it, but can’t prove it? Should they plant evidence to get a conviction?

There has to be a line in the sand. Because no matter who you are, somebody hates you enough to kill you for being you. Somewhere, there’s probably a whole village full of people who hate you enough to kill you. If we erase or smudge that line, no one will ever be safe. Not me, not you. No matter who you are. No matter where you live. No matter how righteous or harmless you are.

Somebody hates you and wants you dead.

Daily Prompt: Non, je ne regrette rien … Well, not much, anyhow.

If I have any regrets — real regrets other than “gee, it would have been nice if I’d gotten around to doing that” which is not a regret, just something that got missed …. they are about money. The personal mistakes? They are part of life and although they may have been regrettable, they became a piece of who we are … and you can’t go back and fix life.

On the other hand, I wish we’d been better about money, a little more savvy. We didn’t expect to be unable to work so young. I’m not sure we ever really thought about it in a clear-headed way. It was always far off in a misty future, a “someday” that might never come. We planned to be young and healthy forever.

Sunlight through bright maple leaves by the lake's shore.

Then, one day, bang. There it was. I was disabled. Garry was retired. Where an income had been, we had a donut hole. We’d used our savings to buy the house we could no longer afford, which seemed like a good idea when we believed we had another decade of income from work. Not such a good idea without those salaries.

We had worked and paid taxes for a collective 75 years between the two of us. We worked until we couldn’t work any more. It was time to start collecting. Retirement was supposed to be the end of stress, the beginning of the rewards.

There are rewards. The freedom of time is the big one. You can go to bed and get up on your own schedule. You can do everything, more or less, on your own schedule. I don’t know what day of the week it is most of the time. If you don’t have a job, one day is very much like another. Weekends take me by surprise. If you are in a good marriage, you have time to really enjoy each other. You get to know your grandchildren. You read, watch movies, pursue hobbies, pet your dogs.

We worked hard, played hard, so our memories are a treasure trove. We did almost all of the things we really wanted to do and hopefully, there are still a few surprises to come. Good surprises, not the other kind.

Sadly, though, retirement has not turned out to be the end of stress. Just a different kind of stress. It’s no longer about meeting the expectations of the workplace. It’s about meeting the bills.

Our pension plans are inadequate to the world in which we find ourselves. When we planned them, they sounded good and probably were … then. But the cost of living went way up and what it takes to maintain a life that would free us from stress is probably about twice what we really have. After making huge cutbacks and eliminating many (most) things we used to do, we hang on. Barely.

So I wish we’d been smarter about money. The irony is we thought we were being smart. We did what we thought we were supposed to do. It just didn’t work out as planned. What made perfect sense 20 years ago doesn’t make sense today. We didn’t grasp that pension amounts stay the same, though the cost of living continues to rise. The meaning of “fixed income” hadn’t really grabbed hold. It has now.

We have adapted, but life after paychecks is not what we intended. Being poor is like walking around in shoes that are just a little bit too tight. They almost fit. Sadly, with shoes and budgets, “almost fits” is surprisingly different than “fits.”

But looking back … we had fun. I had fun. Garry had fun. We had fun together. We still have fun. We just need to fit our fun into an incredibly tight budget, taking into account our arthritic bodies and diminished energy levels.

Few regrets and great memories. We didn’t do everything, but we did a lot. More than most. We made some unfortunate — maybe stupid — choices, but we didn’t wimp out. If life were a movie, we would be on schedule for a previously unknown but fabulously rich relative to pass away leaving us gazillions of dollars and a mansion on a cliff in Ireland. Pity a team of Hollywood script writers isn’t in charge of our lives.

In the deathless words and music of Edith Piaf, I would like to say this about that:

Non, je ne regrette rien ... or at least, not much.