Thanksgiving leftovers abound

We sent many leftovers home with our guests, but we also have samples of what they brought. So, we will have to delay the calorie reduction for a few days. The weight has creeped up the last week with the combination of casseroles, pasta, bread and the wonderful desserts. I hope I can find a walk in-between the possible rain today.

The weight is also increased by the diplomatic desire to sample everyone’s dishes. When I see my plate, it looks like a series of two dollops of everything. My rule for judicious eating is homemade stuff gets priority over heated purchased stuff. The one exception is a honey balked ham, which gives a great alternative to turkey, which I also like.

The fellowship was wonderful. We had sixteen in total and since it was the day after Thanksgiving, the rule was to sit where ever there is a place. We have a new niece who we saw for the first time. She was quite animated as she looked around the room while being held. I got my chance to hold her and sing softly like I did with my kids. My wife thinks she likes my voice coming through my chest for comfort. She seems to like the Righteous Brothers better than Elvis and Bread. So, “Unchained Melody” may be her new theme song when visiting.

Fun was had by all. We even called another niece and had a live chat with sixteen folks on our end. The final thing we do before everyone leaves is get a photo shot of all present. I think we have about ten of these pictures over the years.

I hope everyone had a great holiday. Have a wonderful weekend. Pick out a good tree if that is in the works.

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Let’s be different and call it an Orange Friday

Black Friday started as a day of shopping for others, but has turned into a month long inventory close out event for personal shoppers. Oh, a few gifts are bought, as well. I have never cared for Black Friday, so when we visited my grandparents for Thanksgiving, I would always take my cousin and sister to a movie on Black Friday. It was a lot quieter then.

So, rather than call it Black Friday, let’s call it Orange. As per the show about women in prison, “Orange is the new black.” I am not saying we are all prisoners of the retail engine, but we should just use a more fun color and do something different. Orange is brighter and more vibrant.

In our family, we have a larger dinner gathering with multiple siblings and cousins where we can knock out more leftovers after our smaller Thanksgiving meals. Yes, I will be eating more today. So, more hiking, Yoga and Pilates will be required.

A few odds and ends for this Orange Friday are as follows:

In Alaska, the votes are tallied and the results are favorable. Republican Senator Lisa Murkowski, one of the few Republicans with the courage to stare down and call out the deceitful actions of the former president, won her Senate race. And, Native Alaskan and Democrat Mary Peltola won her Congressional seat defeating former governor and vice president candidate Sarah Palin. It should be noted the former president endorsed the opposition in both races, so this adds two more to the tally of failed candidates under his purview.

In Oakland, a new mayor was voted in named Sheng Thao, a progressive who defeated the moderate Loren Taylor. What proves interesting is Thao was at one time a homeless person after a split up from her abusive husband fifteen years ago. Plus, she is the first woman of Hmong descent to ever be elected mayor. Her parents were refugees.

I find these two sets of stories very compelling. To me, they show more glimmers of hope that Democracy can survive when too many folks are trying to bully, lie and cheat their way into office. It is not surprising that outgoing Brazil president Jair Bolsonaro is contending his election loss (this was an easy prediction of a few weeks ago), nor is it surprising that Kari Lake won’t concede her Arizona governor race loss, even though the existing Republican governor is welcoming incoming Democrat winner Katie Hobbs. Both Lake and Bolsonaro like to emulate the former US president and his penchant for tossing the checkerboard when he loses.

So, let’s celebrate an Orange Friday. Enjoy your families, enjoy the day and enjoy that the candidates who emulate the orange hair guy did not win.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone

Even for our friends who do not celebrate Thanksgiving, peace be with you. Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday, bar none. Sixteen of us will sit down to dinner and fellowship tomorrow with a smaller gathering tonight.

If the rain cooperates, we will do tomorrow in a picnic shelter as we have done the past two years. Otherwise, our house will be crowded once again. We moved outside when the pandemic hindered us but liked it so much we did it again.

This will need to be short as more preparation is required. We have been at this for a few days, but thank goodness people will be bringing food, drinks or ice.

Please remember this season all of the things to be thankful for. Also, note good news is vastly underreported and bad news is vastly overreported, so things are never as bad as they seem. With that said, there are too many who do without or less than we do in this country and world. There are too many that live in a more dangerous area than we do and are ostracized and disenfranchised daily.

Let’s be thankful for what we have and remember those who are not as comfortable as we are or are in severe need. And, let’s take time to remember the empty chairs at the table. This is a way for our beloved family no longer with us can be celebrated. All the best.

Welcome to America – I hope you are packing heat (a second reprise)

Second reprise in November, 2022: Two more mass shootings have occurred in America in the past few days. Maybe it will be easier to post when there have not been any shootings that day. Today, it was reported that seven were killed at a shooting in a Walmart in Virginia. Last week, five died in a nightclub in Colorado Springs. Yet, it is still early in the week. A watered down gun bill was passed earlier this year. It was something, but not enough. In the US, the real danger is not even the mass shootings. It is the everyday killings over a fight, crime, or escalated disagreement. Or, it could be when a four-year old finds a gun and thinks it is a toy. As for the mass shootings, it not ironic that the two that just happened dovetail the reference in the first reprise in May, 2021.

First reprise in May, 2021: The following post was written almost eight years ago, but as you read it, the events seem to come right out of today’s headlines. This is one topic I am truly tired of writing about, as lobbyists have hobbled the ability for legislators to act like parents and spouses and do something. Americans have said in surveys they want, yet nothing gets done. It reveals who butters the bread for these politicians. At this moment, one more shooting has occurred in Virginia. After Colorado. After Atlanta….

I have written several posts about our excessive gun violence in America. We lead the world by far in gun deaths and children gun deaths. Yet, we continue to do nothing about it. We have a parade of children led shootings at schools the past few weeks, yet we continue to do nothing about it. Pick up any US newspaper anywhere in the country and count the number of gun death or violence stories. I wrote a post about Googling a “six-year-old kills four-year-old” and counting the number of stories that pop up. Yet, we still do nothing about it. We have mass shootings, which are horrific tragedies, but dwarfed by the daily killings of kids, yet we still do nothing about it. And, Americans by virtue of reputable surveys, clearly want better background checks and more elongated waiting periods, yet we still do nothing about it.

Here are a few links to these previous posts.

I am thinking of the person who finally asked Senator Joe McCarthy during his communist witch hunt trials, “Senator, have you no shame?” That was actually the beginning of the end for McCarthy. I fully recognize the complexity of what is causing gun deaths, but the NRA and strident gun amassers would like you to believe that guns have little to do with gun deaths. Responsible gun owners know this not to be the case, which is why they take great pains to teach their use and put them away for safekeeping. So, using the McCarthy line above, “NRA, have you no shame?”

We are well past the time to act on these issues. It is a poverty issue, it is mental health issue, it is a lack of civil discourse issue, it is a violence in entertainment issue, but make no mistake about it, it is an access to guns issue. Without access to a weapon, the child does not kill his sibling or cousin. Without access to a weapon, the depressed teenager, college student or adult does not act on an impulse and end a life. Without access to a weapon a drunken patron at a bar or ball game does not go to his car and come back guns a blazing because they were offended.

NRA, have you no shame? You could have acted responsibly like the majority of gun owners, yet you decided to fan the flames of a fervent crowd and crow about Second Amendment rights, which I still have not seen anyone threaten. You have also usurped the leadership of the GOP and taken them down a darker path along with some other fervent misconceptions. As a result, we cannot have the long overdue civil, appropriate debate about this topic looking at all issues, including what Americans, even Republicans want by far – better background checks and elongated waiting periods. We should do more than that, but those two issues are no brainers and largely popular.

It is past time. NRA, have you no shame? NRA, stand down. We need to have a better conversation without your involvement, as you violated the trust of Americans and responsible gun owners, whom you no longer represent.

What a real hero looks like (an encore performance)

Two years ago I wrote about the latest act of heroism from Dolly Parton. Last night, we watched a host of popular, rock and country singers honor her as one of the latest inductees into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. From Pink to Brandi Carlisle to Sheryl Crow to Zac Brown to Pat Benatar, we saw a loving and admiring tribute to this talented woman. She also played a new rock and roll song she wrote for the occasion, “Rocking til the cows come home.” It was pretty good. Yet, she might be remembered more for her humanity.

I have written before about this hero primarily for her book gifting program for young kids, which is now an international program called “Imagination Library” (see second link below). Her name is Dolly Parton. I heard she could write songs and sing, as well. Yet, Parton just received some new acclaim for helping fight COVID-19.

In an article in The Hill by Judy Kurtz (see first link below) called “Dolly Parton among donors behind Moderna’s coronavirus vaccine,” her efforts are revealed. Here are a few paragraphs from the article.

“Dolly Parton can add another achievement to her résumé: helping to fund research for Moderna’s coronavirus vaccine.

The ‘9 to 5’ singer was one of several donors listed Monday as part of the announcement that Moderna’s coronavirus vaccine candidate was 94.5 percent effective in an interim analysis. The ‘Dolly Parton COVID-19 Research Fund’ was named as a supporter in the footnotes of a New England Journal of Medicine report.

Parton, 74, announced back in April that she was giving $1 million to researchers at Vanderbilt University Medical Center toward finding a vaccine to fight against COVID-19.

In an April Instagram post announcing her contribution, the Grammy Award winner said she was donating in honor of her longtime friend, Dr. Naji Abumrad, a researcher at Vanderbilt who informed her ‘that they were making some exciting advancements towards research of the coronavirus for a cure.'”

Parton will be remembered many years from now for her Imagination Library where 147 million books have been provided to young children. Currently, there are 1.7 million children signed up for the program. Yet, seeing her do things like the vaccine funding adds to her legacy.

Seeing her interviewed on multiple occasions, the depth of her kindness, integrity, and approachability is heart warming. Her ability to laugh at herself (both the stage personality and at home one) reveals a very smart woman that disarms people. She does not need to solicit attention for her good deeds, it just spreads.

Well done, Ms. Parton. You are a credit to the human race. Thank you for your music and big heart.

https://www.msn.com/en-us/news/politics/dolly-parton-among-donors-behind-moderna-s-coronavirus-vaccine/ar-BB1b6aIj?ocid=msedgdhp

https://imaginationlibrary.com/

From the Holocaust to Hogan’s Heroes – Robert Clary’s story – an encore (may he RIP)

The following is an encore post from this summer to honor the amazing life of actor and holocaust survivor and advocate, Robert Clary, who passed away yesterday at age 96.

For those of us who grew up in the 1960s or watched a lot of reruns on television, there was a comedy show about a prisoner of war camp in Germany during World War II called “Hogan’s Heroes.” One of its stars was a diminutive and funny character named Corporal LeBeau, played by French actor Robert Clary. Yet, while a POW camp is a not a concentration camp where Jews were exterminated, Clary also had the horrid experience of being a survivor of the real Holocaust in a camp called Buchenwald.

I learned this watching a movie made in 1982 called “Remembrance of Love” starring Kirk Douglas, Chana Eden and Pam Dawber where two young lovers were split apart by the Nazis and Douglas’s character went to a Holocaust event in Israel to see if she was still alive. Clary played himself in the film as an ambassador to these Holocaust survivors.

Per Wikipedia, here is Clary’s early story:

“Born in 1926 in Paris, France, Clary was the youngest of 14 children, 10 of whom would die in the Holocaust. At the age of twelve, he began a career singing professionally on a French radio station and also studied art in Paris. In 1942, because he was Jewish, he was deported to the Nazi concentration camp at Ottmuth, in Upper Silesia (now Otmęt, Poland). He was tattooed with the identification ‘A5714’ on his left forearm. He was later sent to Buchenwald concentration camp.

At Buchenwald, he sang to an audience of SS soldiers every other Sunday, accompanied by an accordionist. He said, ‘Singing, entertaining, and being in kind of good health at my age, that’s why I survived. I was very immature and young and not really fully realizing what situation I was involved with … I don’t know if I would have survived if I really knew that.

Writing about his experience, Clary said,

‘We were not even human beings. When we got to Buchenwald, the SS shoved us into a shower room to spend the night. I had heard the rumours about the dummy shower heads that were gas jets. I thought, ‘This is it.’ But no, it was just a place to sleep. The first eight days there, the Germans kept us without a crumb to eat. We were hanging on to life by pure guts, sleeping on top of each other, every morning waking up to find a new corpse next to you. … The whole experience was a complete nightmare — the way they treated us, what we had to do to survive. We were less than animals. Sometimes I dream about those days. I wake up in a sweat terrified for fear I’m about to be sent away to a concentration camp, but I don’t hold a grudge because that’s a great waste of time. Yes, there’s something dark in the human soul. For the most part, human beings are not very nice. That’s why when you find those who are, you cherish them.'”

Clary published a memoir, From the Holocaust to Hogan’s Heroes: The Autobiography of Robert Clary, in 2001. Rather than summarize his career before and after “Hogan’s Heroes,” I encourage you to link to the Wikipedia article on his behalf. He was often asked to distinguish between the fictional POW camp and the real concentration camp he survived.

“Stalag 13 is not a concentration camp. It’s a POW camp, and that’s a world of difference. You never heard of a prisoner of war being gassed or hanged. When the show went on the air, people asked me if I had any qualms about doing a comedy series dealing with Nazis and concentration camps. I had to explain that it was about prisoners of war in a Stalag, not a concentration camp, and although I did not want to diminish what soldiers went through during their internments, it was like night and day from what people endured in concentration camps.”

To this day, there are people with hard-hearted and hateful motives who want people to believe the Holocaust did not happen, that over 6 million Jews, gays and lesbians and gypsies were not exterminated by the Nazis in World War II. This is not only a blatant attempt at disinformation, it truly is evil. It is on par with people trying to white wash all the bad things in history committed by humans against one another and the Holocaust ranks as one of the greatest atrocities in our history. These Jews and others were arrested, stripped, starved and gassed, because of some lunatic idea set forth by Adolph Hitler and his henchmen.

Interestingly, Clary remains alive and well at the age of 96, one of the last two survivors from the “Hogan’s Heroes” show. Yet, he said he still has nightmares at this age and lost many of his siblings due the Nazi genocide. We must never forget what happened to Clary and his family among the multiple millions of Jews and others that were impacted.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robert_Clary

We need religious leaders not cult leaders

One of my pet peeves is witnessing bigotry from the pulpit. To me, it is one of the more egregious abuses of power, as we look to our ministers to be among our better angels. One thing I have sadly learned over my worship, volunteer and business life is just because one is portrayed as pious, does not mean they are without fault.

To be frank, we need our ministers, rabbis, priests, imams, and other faith leaders to be religious leaders not cult leaders. We need our religious leaders to inspire us, counsel us, and guide us to be on and remain on a good path forward. We do not leaders to tell us who to hate, who to distrust, or who is less deserving of grace, using religious text as a weapon.

Former president Jimmy Carter is arguably one of the best ex-presidents we have ever had. His good works and good deeds around the world have helped eradicate exposure to a parasite in some third world countries, have helped shape peace agreements, and have bolstered Habitat for Humanity as he has been an ambassador for his country and the disenfranchised. He has also written around thirty books and taught Sunday school on a routine basis.

He is the kind of religious leader that we need. He often cites the context of the Christian bible rather pulling excerpts to demonize people with. He notes, taken out of context, almost any religious text can be used to put people down. In his words, that misses the point. He would look to those words in red in the Christian bible that say something like he who is without sin shall cast the first stone.

There is a reason some churches are seeing fall off in membership. Some of it is a self-fulfilling mission – when you teach a message of exclusion, people feel excluded and stay away. Even those who feel included may stay away as they don’t like the exclusive messaging. Religion is at its finest when it includes, but it is at its worst when it excludes.

A religious leader can make that kind of difference.

To little hype, several climate change initiatives passed in last week’s elections

In an article by Frida Garza of The Guardian called “Voters pass historic climate initiatives in ‘silent surprise’ of US midterms,” some very good news occurred while we weren’t paying too much attention.

The full article can be linked to below, but here are a few paragraphs that summarize the story:

“While the economy and abortion rights drove momentum behind the midterm election this year, voters in cities and states across the US also turned out to pass a number of climate ballot initiatives .

Among the measures passed were a historic multibillion-dollar investment into environmental improvement projects in New York state, including up to $1.5bn in funding for climate change mitigation. This election also saw a $50m green bond act pass in Rhode Island, and in Colorado, the city of Boulder approved a climate tax as well as a ballot measure that will allow the city to borrow against that tax to fund climate projects.

‘Climate voters were the silent surprise of election night,’ said Nathaniel Stinnett, the founder of the Environmental Voter Project. ‘We weren’t loud, and nobody saw us coming, but we showed up to vote in huge numbers.

The electoral support at the state and local levels for more climate action comes at a time when world leaders meet in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt, to discuss the climate crisis at Cop27. Joe Biden and the House speaker, Nancy Pelosi, were both in attendance last week, urging leaders at home and abroad to meet the moment and take action against the climate crisis now. Because of the timing of the global summit and the US midterms, the Biden administration also had the pressure of a political shift that could mean stagnation of any further climate action after the president’s signature Inflation Reduction Act.

It is nice to see such movement, as we need a lot more of the same. With a split Congress, we will have to rely on the states and the implementation of the Inflation Reduction Act which has climate change mitigation in its midst. To this independent voter, we lost twelve years with the Bush and Trump White Houses to fight climate change, years we will never get back. So, we must act now. I am encouraged by offshore wind projects that are gaining footing, to catch up to the great strides in onshore wind projects in the plains’ states and elsewhere as well as the solar energy development keeps on going strong.

Please push our lawmakers at all levels to move forward. If someone is a naysayer, move on to those who share your concern. We are already late to the party and we unfortunately still must combat a mountain of money being put in some folks pockets by the fossil fuel industry to deter the fight and keep their profit margins.

https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2022/nov/18/climate-initiatives-passed-us-midterm-elections

A few odds and ends this Friday before Thanksgiving

A few odds and ends on this Friday before Thanksgiving.

– I think Representative Liz Cheney should be a candidate for Time Magazine’s Person of the Year for her political courage to hold the former president accountable for his role in the insurrection on the Capitol Building on January 6, 2021. My guess is Ukraine president Volodymyr Zelenskyy will win the nod given his bravery and leadership in standing up to another autocratic individual, but I wanted to mention Cheney.

– I saw where the Republican Party will spend most of its time with its House majority doing endless hearings to discredit people, rather than performing actual governance. This is a waste of taxpayer money and does not serve the American people very well. Sadly, my former party has not voted on a platform, so what it stands for is a good question.

– Republicans like to point out the hearing on the former president as a “what-about-defense,” but that involves an insurrection against the Capitol building endangering incumbents of all stripes. Getting to the bottom of the former president’s culpability on that is a matter of national security and must be done. Republicans made a huge mistake by choosing not to be involved in this process, with the exceptions of Cheney and Adam Kinzinger.

– There is irony that the new Speaker will be Kevin McCarthy under this mission. He would have been Speaker instead of Paul Ryan after John Boehner retired a few years ago, but he blabbed in an interview the real purpose of the endless Benghazi hearings were to discredit Hillary Clinton not get at the truth. So, Republicans had to replace him with Ryan. It is not appropriate to use taxpayers’ dollars for political reasons and this was an obvious example.

-I saw where Nancy Pelosi will be stepping down from Democrat leadership in the House in January. To be frank, I have never been a huge fan of Pelosi’s as she tends to grandstand, but she is nonetheless a very effective Speaker of the House. She does have a knack for getting things done. So, she deserves respect for that.

-Finally, in one of the most bizarre campaign speeches, candidate Herschel Walker when off on a long tangent about werewolves and vampires. Not only did it not make much sense, but why on earth would you talk about that analogy in the middle of telling folks you have credibility? To be honest, it reminds me of a 2010 New Jersey senate candidate named Christine O’Donnell who felt the need to do a TV commercial saying “she was not a witch” as a past issue arose where she claimed such.

Since, Halloween is behind us, we can put away all the werewolf, vampire and witch costumes. And, now we can move on to Thanksgiving. Safe travels all.

Many successful people have failed – a repeat performance

I wrote the following post about three years ago. I was reading about business failure today and was reminded of this post on failures of some very public figure. It still resonates.

Recently, my wife and I watched three separate music documentaries – the eight part series on Country Music, one on Motown and one on David Bowie. What I find interesting is how many artists had to fight failure to get a chance and gain eventual success. These failures reminded me of other similar stories I have been exposed to.

Garth Brooks, one of the biggest selling artists of any genre, was turned down by every studio in Nashville. The night of the most recent “no, thank you,” Brooks performed at a small venue and that same record producer was in the audience and saw something.

David Bowie made records and even albums, but they went nowhere for years. He never lost hope. After much experimentation, he came up with the idea about a man in space. “Ground control to Major Tom…” became the lyric that peeked our interest in “A Space Oddity.”

The Beatles intrigued a young record producer named George Martin, but he recognized the band needed to practice to learn how to play. Many people don’t know that a fifth Beatle named Stu Sutcliffe was very inexperienced. So, Martin sent them to Hamburg, Germany to play seven shows six nights a week. They had to learn new material.

The Supremes led by Diana Ross were called the “no-hit Supremes” for years as they could not break through. Eventually, Berry Gordy and his writers came up with the right song, “Baby, baby. Where did our love go…”

Michael Jordan is arguably the greatest basketball player of all-time. Yet, Jordan was cut from his high school basketball team before making the team the following  year. As Dean Smith, Jordan’s college coach would say defending his decision to start Jordan as a freshman, “I put him on the blue practice team and they won. I put him on the white practice team and they won. It did not take a genius to realize we had a better chance to win if he played.”

Steve Jobs was successful with the Apple, but failed to develop the next generation machine. Fortunately, while the team he led was failing, another Apple team plodded along and developed the Macintosh. Jobs took it over and it made history. We should also note, Jobs was later fired from his own company, but  returned to save them and launch the hand held I-series of devices.

Hewlett-Packard failed at its first business. It was a bowling alley scorekeeping system. Yet, they created an organization that allowed the development of new products and were hugely succesful with computers and printers.

Everyone fails at something or even more than a few things. The key is what do you do next. When life knocks you down, you have to get up, dust yourself off and move forward. Or, as Winston Churchill famously said, “When you are walking through hell, the key is to keep walking.”