You know the rules of the road going in

Last week, an airplane departing from Miami headed to London had to turn around after 500 miles due to an unruly first-class passenger who refused to wear a mask. The first-class ticket may have given a sense of entitlement or maybe the free drinks unleashed her inner jerk, but yet another plane had issues with a passenger. It should be noted being a jerk is not restricted to first-class as a plane has many passengers

What is frustrating to all of the other passengers is you know the rules of the road before you get on the plane, so all one has to do is abide by them. If a store says no shoes, no service, one should not be surprised if they get no service. If a club says a tie is required, one should not be surprised if the Maitre’d walks up with a selection of ties to wear for the dinner.

The same holds true if a store or airline says a mask is required. That means you should wear a mask or not be surprised if you are handed one to wear. Civility should not be an art. It should be usual and customary. That Jesus fellow said treat others like you want to be treated. So, if you are treating others poorly, it only reflects poorly on the actor not the victim. This unruly passenger will be temporarily banned from the airline pending an investigation, but is yet to be fined or charged with a crime. But, she also caused people on the plane inconvenience. If they had connections or important events, they may have missed them because of one person who chose to not follow the rules.

It truly matters not if you agree or disagree with the veracity of mask wearing. The rules you have been given say wear one to enter and be served. You may not like wearing a seatbelt, but you know that it’s a law you must wear one. On the flip side, I cannot believe there are some states that allow helmetless motorcycle riders. Given how fragile the human head is, if I rode a motorcycle in one of those states, I would be wearing a helmet even if not required. Yet, those who don’t are OK as the state permits them to ride sans helmet. Those are the rules of the road in that state.

Let me close with one final thought. People who treat wait staff, cashiers, maids, nurses, teachers, et all poorly do not impress me with some false level of importance. They actually are offensive to me. I have worked in business a long time to see how people treat others based on some perception of status, with some narrow-minded folks treating perceived subordinates worse than peers who are treated worse than more senior officials. Quite simply, being a jerk does not give you importance, it just means you are being a jerk.

Bat out of Hell – one of the finest rock and roll albums ever by Meat Loaf, may he RIP

I woke up to the news that Marvin Lee Aday had passed away. Better known as Meal Loaf, he was behind some of the most innovative rock and roll music. Here is a reprise of an old post to honor him and his Magnum Opus.

When you read this title, you may do a few double takes if you are unfamiliar with the music or the performer. Who is Meat Loaf and why should I listen to such an odd titled album? Yet, “Bat Out of Hell” is end to end one of the finest rock albums to which I have ever listened. And, it almost did not get promoted due to its theatrical set of songs during the Disco era. Did I tell you Meal Loaf, (Marvin Lee Aday) could belt out a song like few others?

Per Wikipedia, “‘Bat Out of Hell‘ is the 1977 debut album by American rock singer Meat Loaf and composer Jim Steinman. It was developed from a musical, Neverland, a futuristic rock version of Peter Pan, which Steinman wrote for a workshop in 1974. The album was recorded during 1975–1976 at various studios… produced by Todd Rundgren, and released in October 1977 by Cleveland International/Epic Records. Its musical style is influenced by Steinman’s appreciation of Richard Wagner, Phil Spector, Bruce Springsteen and The Who. Bat Out of Hell has spawned two Meat Loaf sequel albums:…Bat Out of Hell is one of the best-selling albums of all time, having sold over 50 million copies worldwide. It is certified 14x Platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America.”

Every song on the album has its own merits.. The songs tend to focus on young love, angst, passion et al along with some adult realizations the song characters figure out along the way. The song that was the biggest hit off the album is not its best song, but is pretty darn good – “Two out of three ain’t bad.” One reason others did not get played as much as singles is their length – the songs each told stories. Let me highlight three of the songs.

Two out of three ain’t bad – the chorus tells an all too familiar story about lust and love, but there is more to the song than that.

“…And maybe you can cry all night
But that’ll never change the way that I feel
The snow is really piling up outside
I wish you wouldn’t make me leave here

I poured it on and I poured it out
I tried to show you just how much I care
I’m tired of words and I’m too hoarse to shout
But you’ve been cold to me so long
I’m crying icicles instead of tears

And all I can do is keep on telling you
I want you
I need you
But there ain’t no way
I’m ever gonna love you
Now don’t be sad
‘Cause two out of three ain’t bad
Now don’t be sad
‘Cause two out of three ain’t bad”

If you focus on the chorus, you miss out that the lead character tried to make it work. What I also like is the song is sung in first person, so it is not gender specific. This could easily be a woman singing about a man or even someone who does not identify as either.

Paradise by the Dashboard Light – is the best song, in my view. It tells a story and involves in the recording Ellen Foley, who is much tinier than Meat Loaf, but whose voice can match his needed gravitas for this passionate song. And, when I say passionate, I mean two kinds – lust and eventually spite. I would add that talented Karla DeVito is seen in live performances, but the original recorded voice is Foley’s. Here are a few snippets.

“I remember every little thing
As if it happened only yesterday
Parking by the lake
And there was not another car in sight
And I never had a girl
Looking any better than you did
And all the kids at school
They were wishing they were me that night
And now our bodies are oh so close and tight
It never felt so good, it never felt so right
And we’re glowing like the metal on the edge of a knife
Glowing like the metal on the edge of a knife.”

This sets the stage, but the song describes what happens by the dashboard light using a famous baseball announcer for the New York Yankees, Phil Rizzutto. You hear Rizzuto’s voice as he broadcasts a game with the muffled foreplay going on in the background. To me, the best part of the song is when Foley’s character stands her ground and asks for a pledge of love.

“Stop right there!
I gotta know right now!
Before we go any further!
Do you love me?
Will you love me forever?
Do you need me?
Will you never leave me?
Will you make me so happy for the rest of my life?
Will you take me away and will you make me your wife?”

From there, I will leave it to your imagination, but the ending is worth the wait..

Bat Out of Hell – is also a story telling song as a lover leaves town, but the regret seems to drive him to be careless on the road. There are some lyrics my wife does not care for in the song as they are gruesome, but the song is vintage rock and roll.

“…Oh baby, you’re the only thing in this whole world
That’s pure and good and right
And wherever you are and wherever you go
There’s always gonna be some light”.

But I gotta get out
I gotta break it out now
Before the final crack of dawn
So we gotta make the most of our one night together
When it’s over you know
We’ll both be so alone

Like a bat out of hell
I’ll be gone when the morning comes
When the night is over
Like a bat out of hell
I’ll be gone, gone, gone
Like a bat out of hell
I’ll be gone when the morning comes.”

Two other songs which are also strong are “All revved up and no place to go” and “You took the words right out of my mouth.”

Give this album a try. When I read those lists of greatest albums, this one usually makes a top twenty list. It is different. It is excellent, if you are a rock and roller.

Note two sidebars: Meat Loaf appeared in the movie “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” in a small but pivotal role and Ellen Foley is also known for being on the comedy TV show “Night Court” with Harry Anderson.

Happy Easter, too – a reprise of an old post

While I did not grow up Catholic, my best friend did. So, one of our rituals that lasted about ten years was going to midnight mass on Christmas Eve. One of the traditions of that mass was the Father would also wish Happy Easter, as he knew he would not see more than a few parishioners until next Christmas.

While fewer people are church goers than before and some check the box “none” when surveyed, Christmas remains an important holiday for the promise it brings. Whether you believe that Jesus is the son of God, there was a man by this name who walked the earth and spoke to gatherings of people of all sizes. He reminded us of four key themes among his many parables and lessons. And, these themes can be found in other religious texts.

– Treat others like you want to be treated.

– Help people less fortunate than you.

– Recognize each of us is imperfect.

– Forgive those who trespass against us.

To me, if we live our lives doing our best to remember these four things, Jesus’ words will help us be better people. And, if enough of us do this, the world just might be a better place.

Mormon leaves the church taking his money with him

A technology billionaire has sent a letter of resignation to the Mormon church noting the reasons why he and his family are leaving. Jeff T. Green notes while there are some fine people in the church doing good things, the church itself is doing harm to people. He said the Mormon church is antagonistic to women’s rights, civil rights and the rights of the LGBTQ+ community.

In an article in Newsweek called “Utah Native Billionaire Jeff T. Green Quits LDS, Says Mormonism ‘Hindered Global Progress” by Danny Villarreal, the following excerpt can be gleaned:

“Jeff T. Green, thought to be the wealthiest person hailing from the state of Utah, recently wrote an open letter to Russell Nelson, president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS), announcing his resignation from the church along with 11 family members and a friend.

I believe the Mormon Church has hindered global progress in women’s rights, civil rights and racial equality, and LGBTQ+ rights,’ Green’s 900-word letter stated.

Although the Mormon Church has made modern efforts to publicly atone for its past policy positions, the church has funded anti-LGBTQ initiatives, including a 2008 ballot measure to overturn same-sex marriages in California. The church also has a long history of demonizing people of color. Official LDS policy banned Black people from entering Mormon temples until 1978.”

Green will be making an immediate $600,000 donation to support LGBTQ+ issues, but has promised the lion’s share of his $5 billion fortune will go to causes shunned by the church.

In another public display to get the Mormon church to treat the LGBTQ+ community better, Mormon Dan Reynolds, the lead singer of Imagine Dragons, helped lead a concert for at risk youth in the church. He has been trying to push the church in the directions that Jeff Green sees far too slow movement. Here is a write up from the online press Vulture in 2018 about Reynolds’ efforts.

“Dan Reynolds did everything right. He served as a Mormon missionary and attended the Church-owned Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah. He then got married and fathered three children. Reynolds also started a band, and now, at 31, he’s the singer in Imagine Dragons, arguably the biggest rock band in the world. Plenty of rock stars have nontraditional pasts, but Reynolds is different: He’s using his platform as a very famous straight man to advocate for LGBTQ rights, and in the process he’s alienating his band from its fans and himself from his own faith.”

This is how change occurs. It takes a grass roots effort embraced by some very public figures who can use their money and gravitas to get people’s attention. Regardless of faith, the words of Jesus can be found in multiple religious texts – treat others like you want to be treated. No caveats. No ifs, ands or buts. Let’s truly honor Jesus’ birthday by doing our best to remember those words.

https://www.newsweek.com/utah-native-billionaire-jeff-t-green-quits-lds-says-mormonism-hindered-global-progress-1661959

https://www.vulture.com/2018/11/why-imagine-dragons-is-fighting-for-lgbtq-rights.html

Be kind, be safe, be wise

With a new holiday season upon us as well as a new variance of COVID, we must remain cautious. My wife and I just learned her cousin and her cousin’s husband have now contracted the virus, with her cousin in the hospital getting treatment. Both were naysayers and neither got the vaccine. This makes us sad and concerned, and we are hoping for a recovery.

Since we Christians are celebrating the birth of Jesus in a few days, let me take a few minutes to encourage the deployment of the following three “wise men.” In my story, these three magi are kindness, safety and wisdom. Be kind, be safe, be wise.

Be kind. One of my favorite quotes is do not mistake kindness as weakness. As we travel and intermingle with others, do what Baby Jesus taught us later in life – treat others like you want to be treated. This rule is so important, Jesus called it “golden.” Jesus had no caveats regarding being selective or discounting those who are perceived enemies. And, Jesus was no weakling, as he agreed to be tortured to save us from ourselves. Please think of these golden words when you are considering being a jerk to someone because you do not like the rules you should have known beforehand.

Be safe. There is no plan B. You and your family only have one life. So, be safe. The best piece of advice I heard is you are better protected against COVID if you practice all of the layers of protection. Be vaccinated, get the booster, wear a mask indoors, practice safe distancing, and wash your hands. If not for you, think of your children. I would hate to have a loved one die from COVID. I would hate it even more, if they chose not to get the vaccine only to realize too late, they were just being stubborn as six naysaying radio shock jocks realized. It is akin to the people who died from AIDS who chose not to use condoms after clearly learning how it was transmitted.* It makes you sad.

Be wise. There are many people smarter than me. Full stop. But, I do know when people realize how much they still don’t know, they have reached a stage of enlightenment. I see way too many people speak with certainty about things they should not, me included. Please do not take my word for anything. I am sharing my opinion. Do your homework through reputable sources. Speak with your doctor. This is especially true if you have other medical issues you are dealing with. We will continue to restrict our travel. We have not been on plane since before the pandemic. Yet, we do drive and take day trips.

So, during this holiday season and even afterwards, be kind, be safe, be wise. That is the best gift you can give you and your family. Peace be with you.

* Note: It should be noted for the longest time, it was unclear how AIDs was transmitted. Because of this, there was a lot of confusion and misinformation bantered about and people died. Lessons were learned and eventually communicated, but once it became clear that using condoms helped, it would have been a community service for the wider dissemination of that information and free condoms – these last two tools were deployed in Third world countries to much success.

Always tell the truth – you don’t have to remember as much

An old friend named Mark used to have a daily updated greeting on his business phone, where he would include a quote with a life lesson. My personal favorite of his is the title of this post. “Always tell the truth – you don’t have to remember as much.”

As the truth is coming out about the horrible January 6 insurrection on the US capitol, there are a lot of uneasy folks who are having to explain things. These inconvenient truths are making people from legislators to opinion hosts to a former chief of staff to a former president squirm. Watching these folks do the backstroke is comically sad and not unexpected.

The truth matters. Or, at least it should. And, as Mark noted so clearly, when you tell the truth, you don’t have to remember as much. You don’t have to remember when and what you lied about. You don’t have to be hypocritical when your pattern of lying is discovered.

Whether it is politicians, churches, businesses, universities, sports organizations, etc., the failure to fess up and come clean from the outset is by far the worst way to handle things. When you know of something, tell people what happened and what you plan to do about it.

Richard Nixon got into most of his trouble covering up for the Watergate break-in. The Catholic church hid its pedophile priest problem for many decades and maybe longer. The University of Michigan has joined other major universities such as Penn State, Michigan State and Ohio State for covering up sexual misconduct by a doctor or coach.

The sad lesson is by waiting to be discovered is not only the wrong thing to do, it is the most expensive thing to do. More people get hurt. And, it costs money via settlements, lost revenue and devalued brand identity. Plus, people who care about the truth will leave. Just this week, Chris Wallace, the most respected journalist at a certain network joined three others who left or had to leave the organization as they care about the truth.

The truth matters. The truthtellers matter. When the truthtellers leave or are vilified that is a bad sign for the entity. Your name is the most important asset you have.

A rainy Saturday of reflection

We need the rain.Yet, December rainy days tend to be gray ones, rather than ones with peeks of sunshine coming through the clouds on occasion. So, it is a good day to write Holiday cards and finish the tree decorations, which usually evolve over three days.

When we moved here, we went from a house with a lot of basement storage to one with a lot of attic storage. We probably have ten years of different sets of Christmas decorations in our attic. This year, we are using one box that says 2014 Christmas on it and another box that is more generic. Not surprisingly, some of the small boxes of ornaments are unopened.

This is the second year we have gone with a smaller tree, about six and half feet tall. For our more accomplished metric friends, that is about two meters. The fact that I can recall a meter is 39.37 inches in length shows my mathematical (and maybe too anal) bent. By the way, it makes it harder to argue American exceptionalism, when the rest of the world has moved to the metric system, but I am just saying.

As a former runner, I know from experience that a 10K race converts to 6.2 miles, so if we Americans are ever traveling in Canada, remember to multiply by roughly 6/10 (divide by ten and multiply that by 6) to get the estimated number of miles before you run out of petrol from the kilometers’ signs to the next city. This is important when traveling north of the border to Montreal from New York state – make sure you fill up along the way.

Speaking of traveling to Canada, each time I have visited while driving, it never surprises me the number of Canadian cars you see going across the border. Citizens from the US are missing a great opportunity to visit a neat country with a lot to offer. I have been to Montreal three times, Niagara Falls twice, Toronto once and Ottawa once. My wife and I were going to Quebec City one time,but canceled that drive from Montreal due to icy road conditions. And, for those going to Niagara Falls, cross into the Canadian side, as the viewing is closer and more spectacular.

Our goal to travel more has been hamstrung by the COVID thief. Being vaccinated helps with the scare, but then we must face self-appointed martyrs for the mask and vaccine naysayers on planes who for some reason think WWJD includes being belligerent to flight attendants. We had planned on a trip north to see friends in Minnesota and along the way. We had planned to travel to the Seattle and Vancouver. And, our blogging friend Linda has helped with low road and high road routes along the US/ Canada border out west.

But, back to those Christmas decorations. We now have to get the decorations we pulled out for consideration, back into the attic. I feel like I am living in a salvage store with small aisles to walk through. Hopefully, we can pare some down, but I have a feeling others have similar messes in their attics. We have sold a few things from our attic on a “Next Door” app, so maybe we can get a few more things out the door for something tangible. That cash might help pay for dinner on our trips, when we feel more inclined.

Happy holidays all. Travel safely and with an abundance of patience and tolerance. You will need both for those martyred (and well lubricated) travelers, bless their hearts.

Watergate was bad, but that was not Nixon’s greatest crime (a reprise)

Thinking of the actions of the most recent former president which led to an insurrection on the Capitol Building and its occupants, which to me are seditious in nature, I am reminded that he is not the first president whose actions could be regarded as treasonous. I wrote the following post about four years ago about another act.

I have been watching Ken Burns and Lynn Novick’s excellent documentary on The Vietnam War. While tough to watch at times, the ten part series has been very informative, as it takes us through a variety of perspectives on this tragic war – American soldiers, Viet Cong soldiers, North Vietnamese soldiers, South Vietnamese soldiers and citizens, American parents and relatives of soldiers, draft dodgers, protestors, Presidents, military leaders, experts, etc.

What has been frustrating, JFK, LBJ and Nixon all were not very forthcoming with the American people or press on the Vietnam issues. They knew early on this was an unwinnable war and that we had partnered with a corrupt leadership in South Vietnam. And, as many American soldiers attested, we were fighting a very effective opponent in guerilla warfare. These leaders also led on the American people to believe we were winning the war, when that was not the case.

The two Presidents that frustrate me the most on these issues are LBJ and Nixon. For all the good LBJ did domestically, he went down a poor path that said we must stave off communism at all costs. As a result, he escalated the war. But, Nixon did something that was unforgivable that is actually worse than what he did with the Watergate break-in and cover-up that led to his resignation and jailing of over twenty of his staff members.

If it were not for Watergate, the Nixon Presidency would have been mostly remembered for its positives – opening up China, establishing better relationships with the Soviet Union and enacting the Environmental Protection Agency, balanced by the negatives of his widening of the Vietnam War and his iron thumb on protestors. So, what was worse than Watergate?

Richard Nixon committed treason and twenty thousand more Americans died and even more were injured. Nixon called the President of South Vietnam five days before the 1968 election against Hubert Humphrey to ask him to hold off on going to Paris peace talks that had been progressing and he would his influence on North Vietnam to get better terms. The encouraging news of the peace talks had brought Humphrey closer to Nixon in the election polls and Nixon felt the need to derail the peace talks for his benefit.

How do we know this? The CIA bugged the South Vietnamese President and recorded the conversation between him and Nixon (see below link). LBJ listened to the recording and called the most senior Republican Senator and a friend and they both spoke of Nixon’s treason, repeatedly using that term. LBJ decided not to act (does this sound familiar), but did get a call from Nixon where he noted to LBJ he had heard these rumors and they were not true. That was a lie, but LBJ did not call him on it. Maybe LBJ felt it would lead to his own lies on how well the war was going or maybe he felt like Obama did last year that it would look politically motivated.

The result of this treasonous act is the peace talks stalled and the war went on for four more years. Many more Americans died needlessly. To be frank, American deaths which occurred before then were needless as well, as we knew we could not win. Some folks may contend I am making this up or using inflammatory language. But, the word “treason” was used by the President of the United States and the lead Republican Senator to define what Nixon did. Intervening with a foreign entity to override our policy is far more than poor form. It is criminal. And, American people died or were injured.

Note, as an epilog in 2021, it matters not to me which member of which party defames the office he or she holds. As the Pentagon Papers revealed, from Eisenhower to JFK to LBJ to Nixon, four presidents gave a false impression that Americans were winning the Vietnam War when they knew we were not and could not. The old line of war is old men talking and young men fighting (and dying) hits home with me. Our leaders must exhaust every means not to send Americans to die in battle. But, at the very minimum, they must tell us the truth.

http://www.bbc.com/news/magazine-21768668

Imperfect American hero dies at age 98 – Bob Dole

In an article in Yahoo! Finance called “Bob Dole dies at 98, leaving lasting legacies on Social Security and food assistance,” by Bob Werschkul, the following brief obituary can be found:

“Bob Dole, a former Senate majority leader who unsuccessfully ran for president against Bill Clinton, died Sunday. He was 98 years old. He is survived by his wife Elizabeth Dole, who was also a U.S. senator, and a daughter, Robin, from a previous marriage.

One of the giants of American politics in the 20th century, Dole will be remembered for his heroism in World War II, his time as Senate Majority Leader, his 1996 run for president, and even his unlikely turn in a commercial for the maker of Viagra.

But perhaps two of his most enduring legacies on American life came earlier in his nearly 50-year-long career in public office. As a U.S. Senator, Dole was at the center of deals on the Social Security program and on food stamps (now known as SNAP) that have left lasting imprints on how Americans interact with these two programs.

In his memoir, “One Soldier’s Story,” Dole wrote that when he is asked about the accomplishments in the Senate he is most proud of, his ‘answer sometimes surprises people’ — he listed Social Security as his top answer alongside passing the Americans with Disabilities act, a civil rights law that prevents discrimination based on disability.”

I recognize fully that some folks may not appreciate Dole for some of his other stances, but even progressives should note his pride and help in getting three major pieces of legislation enacted that impact so many lives. Even without his legislative accomplishments, Dole served in the Army and survived World War II when many thought he would not. He was awarded a Bronze Star and two Purple Hearts for his courage and physical punishment that lasted the rest of his 98 years.

I was telling a retired neurosurgeon yesterday about Dole’s push for better access to healthcare. This neurosurgeon is among a national group of doctors pushing for Medicare for All. As we discussed the Affordable Care Act, I mentioned there are elements therein of Dole’s healthcare plans he was pushing in his 1996 presidential campaign. Some of these elements also found their way into Romneycare in Massachusetts, to which the ACA has similarities.

So, think about this legacy. Social Security, SNAP, the Americans with Disabilities Act and some elements of the ACA. But, of course, today we have more strident tribal politics, which flavor way too many things. What many folks need to better understand today is there is not one politician who will say and do things you agree with 100%. Nor should it be. This is a lot like all relationships.

We need to avoid taking people’s head off when they don’t agree with you. There is an old line that applies to any organization – be diplomatic when people disagree with you, as they may have supported your idea in the past and may very well in the future. Dole was imperfect, but he knew this. We should as well.

Monday morning you sure look “fine” – December 6, 2021

Since I believe I have used this title before, I will date this post. Fleetwood Mac fans will recognize the title as a lyric sung by Lindsey Buckingham in “Monday Morning.” The word “fine” has different meanings that fall in and out of favor. It also takes on different meanings with the tone of your voice.

It can mean things are going OK and don’t ask any more questions with a rebuttal tone. Or, it can mean a certain action is OK with you when askef permission. With a more welcoming response, fine can mean things are better than OK, actually pretty good or even good. And, it can be used as a noun to mean a penalty one must pay for a transgression.

My favorite meaning is from older times. Using a line from the Liam Neeson movie “Rob Roy,” about an honorable and heroic Scot, he would tell his wife, played by the lovely Jessica Lange, “You are fine to me.” In this case, he is telling her how beautiful she is to him. So, we have gone from OK to good to punitive to beautiful with one word.

It also finds itself in humor. I will avoid using a very funny, but very risque line from Richard Pryor in his bit the “Wino and the Junkie.” This is far from a PG line, so if you embark to hear it, you have been forewarned. Yet, it does address a couple of the definitions above in one sentence. One of my favorite cleaner lines about being “fine” comes from an unknown comic; “She is so fine the fine folks call her fine.”

After having my COVID booster shot on Friday, I am now fine after a sluggish Saturday. I may not look fine in the eyes of the fine folks, but I do feel fine and hopefully will avoid any fines in the future. Since it is the holiday season and we are eager to see friends and familly, let me quote two lines from the song “Fine fine day” by Tony Carey:

“It’s a fine, fine day for a reunion
It’s a fine, fine day for comin’ home”

Things are so fine, it has to be said twice. Have a fine, fine day.