Do you ever feel the world is watching when you stumble?

For those old enough to remember the early Saturday Night Live shows, the actor Chevy Chase would emulate then President Gerald Ford in his latest misstep, physically not politically. Ford was a very decent man who became president after Richard Nixon resigned. However, while he was a good athlete, playing football in college, he was also prone to clumsiness and would fall on on occasion. Of course, his falls were nothing like what Chase would portray.

Since I am just a tad shorter than 6’5″ I draw more attention when I misstep. Fortunately, many of my missteps are not witnessed or seen by only a few. I recall the time I was walking in a parking garage blinded by the setting sun. I walked right into a I-beam that was angled downward, with it catching me across the forehead. While I did not fall, I staggered backwards like I just took a punch from Muhammed Ali. That could have caused a concussion, but fortunately, it was just a big ouch.

One of my favorite Super Bowl commercials is of the Coke delivery man who puts all of his Cokes away in the store refrigerator and then is tempted by the Pepsi in the next door over. He looks both ways, then samples a Pepsi. To his surprise and ours, the entire shelf of Pepsi’s come crashing down on the Coke worker in his uniform. Oops.

I have shared many times about my double date to the community play. It was ‘Picnic” for those keeping score. After returning from intermission, I was drinking my plastic cup of wine and as I did, my date seemed to be moving forward in her chair. In actuality, one of my chair legs had scooted off the two feet high platform and I was going backwards. The entire audience heard this loud crash in the back as I lay across the now folded chair on the floor. Except for my pride, I was unhurt. But, it was funny. Fortunately, we dated again.

While I have seen this happen in commercials, it also happened to me, but not in such a dramatic fashion. In the grocery store produce sections, it is not uncommon for the store to stack rounded fruits or vegetables into a pyramid. The store hopes people pick one off the top. That is usually the case, but if you are getting more than one, sometimes you get more sloppy with your picking technique. I do, and on occasion, I have caused some spillage as a layer will come off. Mind you, I have not caused the entire pyramid to crumble as it does in the commercials, but I have drawn some attention, as I have to restore order to the structure.

Finally, this past spring, I shared that my wife and I went for a first beach trip as the pandemic was waning. (at least at the time). For some reason, I wore some shoes I don’t wear often, as they have a more slippery bottom than others. As we were leaving a restaurant, I paused to let the waitress come in with a tray from serving folks outside. As I paused, I could feel myself falling and said aloud “I am going down.” My wife and I chuckle at that phrase now, but fortunately, I caught myself on the door rails before I followed my prediction.

Stumbling in public. The best thing to advise others of my oafishness is try not to get hurt and laugh at yourself. If you laugh, the world laughs with you. If you cry, you cry alone. Someone famous said something like that.

Bipartisan compromise works in North Carolina on energy bill

In an article written by Lucille Sherman and Adam Wagner in The Charlotte Observer called “NC’s governor signs major energy bill, laying the groundwork for a budget compromise,” much needed bipartisan compromise is highlighted. It should be as this is the way things need to happen for lasting changes. Both sides must buy into the agreement.

Here are a few key paragraphs, but the entire article can be linked to below.

“With North Carolina’s top Republican lawmakers standing beside him, Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper signed Wednesday a piece of energy legislation that was years in the making. The long-awaited proposal, House Bill 951, solidifies Cooper’s goal of carbon neutrality in the state by 2050 and gives Duke Energy, the state’s dominant utility, a win it has long sought on multi-year rate-making.

Though some of North Carolina’s businesses and renewable-energy advocates objected to the bill’s passage, the compromise is a win for both the Republican-majority legislature and the governor, and it comes as both parties negotiate a spending plan for the state….

When you’ve had a successful experience in negotiating a deal, it makes the next deal between the same people much easier because you understand each other better and you understand that you can’t get all you want,’ said Senate minority leader Dan Blue, a Democrat serving Wake County.

The energy bill is not the first compromise between the two branches this year. Cooper signed a criminal justice reform bill with bipartisan support and worked with the legislature to create a plan to reopen schools amid the pandemic. But the energy proposal is one of the most complicated compromises between the two branches yet, and lays the groundwork for an even bigger trade-off in budget negotiations.

‘It creates momentum,’ Sen. Paul Newton, a Republican from Mount Pleasant, said after a committee meeting last week. ‘Having a bipartisan solution here on energy does help lead to a bipartisan solution on the budget.'”

As with any compromise, there is give and take. But, the key is something tangible and largely helpful got done. This is the way it should be. Getting helpful things done is what we are owed by their efforts. Kudos for making it happen to all involved. Please keep doing it.

https://www.charlotteobserver.com/news/politics-government/article254959687.html

Four more movies worth a look

I decided to mention a couple of movies that are more mainstream. Some of these, you may have seen. So, here goes. I will not spoil the endings, but must caution you on reading the comments.

A Perfect Man – released in 2013, it stars Liev Schreiber and Jeanne Tripplehorn, with a co-starring role for Louise Fletcher. I have always liked Tripplehorn, as she brings a vulnerability to the role of the wife of a womanizing husband played by Schreiber. She continued to give multiple chances to her husband until she finally leaves him. After over-hearing him talk to a perfect stranger on the phone as he canceled airline tickets for them, she decided to call him as a wrong number and fake persona to hear him flirt and open up with her. She learns why he is the way he is and that he does, in fact, love her. The movie is directed by Kees van Oostrin and is written by Larry Brand and Peter Elkoff.

The Good Heart – released in 2009, it stars Paul Dano, Brian Cox and Isild Le Besco. Cox is a cantankerous bar owner who has a bad heart, which is not a surprise given how he lives. He befriends Dano in the hospital who is his roommate after Dano tried to commit suicide. Dano is a kind soul who is in need of a helping hand, so Cox’s character brings him into the bar to help him. They learn from each other, but their relationship is tested when Le Besco, a woman who has no place to go, is invited to stay with them over the bar owner’s objections. Cox plays irascible characters quite well and Dano has this innocent countenance about him. The movie is written and directed by Dagur Kari.

Tully – released in 2018, it stars Charlize Theron, Mackenzie Davis and Mark Duplass. Theron plays a mother who is suffering from post-partum depression while nursing her third child with her husband played by Duplass. Theron has never hesitated to play roles of women who are struggling. Davis plays Tully who is hired to be a night time nanny, so the mother can get some sleep and recover. Davis tells her she is only there to help her get over this period. The two women bond as Theron sees a lot of who she used to be in Davis. The movie is directed by Jason Reitman and written by Diablo Cody.

The Sixth Sense – released in 1999, it stars Bruce Willis, Hayley Joel Osment and Toni Collette. Osment and Collette were nominated for Oscars as was M. Night Shyamalan as director. and writer, and the movie itself. My wife was puzzled that I had not seen such an acclaimed movie. Willis plays a child psychologist who helps a tormented young boy who we know from many movie advertisements, “I see dead people.” Collette plays Osment mother and there is a reason she also gets an Oscar nomination. Olivia Williams plays Willis’ wife who we learn is suffering from depression. While the movie focuses on the boy and his doctor, the mother-son relationship is also key. And, Willis and his wife’s relationship is not unimportant as we see him struggle with his wife’s depression wanting him to do more to help her.

All four movies are good, but the latter two get more acclaim and rightfully so. Let me know what you think below. Also, I will repeat to those who have not seen the movies to be mindful of spoiler alerts below in the comments. Commenters, please edit your comments to not reveal too much of the plots. .

Sunday soliloquys

Happy weekend to all, including our friends overseas where they are almost through. Today, I thought I would throw some random ramblings or soliloquys at you, hopefully brief ones.

  • why is a major whitewashing effort going on by one of its two political parties to make more not be aware that the US has an ugly racist past? I will paraphrase a recent banner over a picture of Dorothy Counts, a black teen who was vilified and spat at for being the first black high school student at a previously all white high school in 1957 in Charlotte. The banner said the folks who tried to prevent her from going to school with white kids are now advocating not teaching that they tried to prevent her from going to the school.
  • why is this same Republican party doing its darnedest to whitewash what happened on January 6, after claiming it was an ugly chapter in our history after it just happened? This is akin to the wizard telling us to ignore the man behind the curtain, but in this case, telling us the wizard had a role, then backing off months later. This process began well before January 6 and is still going on built on a Big Lie that the former president was cheated – he was not, he just lost because he got fewer votes.
  • why are Democrats routinely forming a circular firing squad to prevent legislation from happening? Please get the infrastructure bill over the goal line and pass something tangible, but short of hopes, on the tandem bill. The former is over due now. But, the Democrats will need prioritize on the tandem bill, as things cost money.
  • why are Republican states awakening the Kraken by pushing for more restrictive abortion rights in various states? The Kraken is women who do not like people governing their bodies more than they already do. I think women have gotten their hands around the current rules, but going further is a bridge too far. Even Republican leaders are worried over this push. They should be.
  • what I cannot understand is why even pro-life folks do not favor family planning efforts? The state of Colorado did a study a few years ago which revealed family planning efforts reduced the state’s health care bill, reduced the number of abortions, reduced the prevalence of STDs., and reduced the number of unwanted pregnancies. Other studies have shown a correlation with increased poverty and increased family size.

That is all for now. Have a great weekend.

Really?

Just a few very puzzling things that require some response.

While I am not a huge fan of Senator Lindsey Graham, I did call to thank him for being on the side of the Angels. I try to call to thank legislators to balance out when I call to ask them to change a position. What did the Senator do? He stood up in front of a Republican gathering in his state of South Carolina and recommended that folks consider getting vaccinated for COVID. And, he was booed. He tried to water down his recommendation and was still booed. He tried a third time and was still booed. Really?

This followed on similar recommendations by Reverend Franklin Graham, another person I am not a huge fan of due to his bigotry, but who nonetheless has done some good things in the world. Graham wrote about getting the vaccine online and he was promptly vilified by his primary audience for so recommending. The retorts were less than Golden-rule like from this religious audience. Really?

Now, I have read that teachers are getting death threats for being worried about teaching when their is no vaccine requirement for the school. Death threats. Teachers. Really?

I recognize that people have been led to tap their innermost feelings for something which should be so simple. I also realize that only a small group of people would actually be troll-like enough to offer death threats – these folks being hateful. But, it is the folks booing people for having the temerity to try to save their lives by suggesting getting the vaccines which stymies me. Booing. Really? Why?

Monday meanderings

I hope everyone had a wonderful weekend. And, for our Pacific Rim friends, I hope your Monday has gone well. Here a few meanderings on this first Monday in October.

  • A social media analyst said on “CBS Sunday Morning” yesterday that misinformation will be read and routed at a rate six times that of the truth. The only way to stop this is for readers to start asking more questions about what they read. Facebook won’t stop this as their model is to make money off more viewership.
  • An answer to the above is to read and watch multiple sources of information. And, we need to divorce ourselves from sources that are dubious. Infowars’ Alex Jones has now lost three court cases for defamation of Sandy Hook parents for continually saying the twenty-seven people (twenty whom were kids) killed was a hoax. Jones is still not remorseful. Opinion show hosts are not news reporters – even Fox News threw Tucker Carlson under the bus in court saying watchers should not consider what he says news, as he is not a news person.
  • Rudy Giuliani admitted in court under oath that he got his election fraud stories from social media, without checking the veracity. He has also been suspended in New York and DC from practicing law while the trials are going on. Wasn’t he an attorney for the former president? Did he not advise the former president on election fraud?
  • Even the folks at Fox News have banned ol’ Rudy. It does not amaze me that people who fly to close to the Trump sun eventually get burned. What amazes me is why they don’t know this going in? As Thomas Wells, an attorney for Trump once said, “if you are on Trump’s good side, don’t get used to it, as you won’t be there for long.”
  • As for our imperfect Democrat friends, please get something done. The infrastructure bill is over due and the other bill, needs to be made into law, but it will have to be cut back some, whether you like it or not. Do not cut it across the board, as that will water down the impact. Prioritize and pass the things that matter most.
  • As for our adrift Republican friends, please set aside your tribal politics and help get something passed. Democrats are also tribal, but with them I find myself arguing policy. With my Republican friends, I find myself arguing the truth. When a party vilifies its truth tellers and celebrates its liars, that is not compelling. We need a viable Republican party, but what we have now is one adrift and untethered to the truth.
  • I hope our British friends can get their petrol. One of our blogging friends, Roger, says his part of the country is getting more back to normal. Yet, there is still a ways to go. For those blaming only Brexit, it plays a role, but is not the only reason for the mess. There is a long slog ahead on Brexit transition which will last several years, at least that is what financial analysts said before the vote. I wish you the best.
  • There seems to be an interest in more naysayers to get the COVID vaccines. Something about people dying who are unvaccinated or maybe it is more friends sharing that it was not too bad. For those who are citing actual data that people have reacted poorly to vaccines, the percentages are quite small, even though the numbers seem large. We are talking less than 1/2 of a one percent adverse reaction when you think of hundreds of millions US vaccines and billions of global vaccines. Every medication, every vaccine and every surgical procedure has an error rate. The best two A-Fib surgical procedures only have effectiveness rates of 70%. And, just read the side effects on the sheets that come with your prescriptions.

That is all for now. Have a great week. Be safe. Get vaccinated if you have not. My extended family has been vaccinated and out of fifty or so people, we just had a few sore arms and headaches.

Walmart and Mars – a reprise on two environmentally conscious companies

This title is not an old Paul McCartney and Wings’ song, that would be “Venus and Mars.” This is a reprise of a post written three years ago. We need more companies like these two to make a difference. Fortunately, there are.

What does this title mean, you ask? Walmart and Mars are two global companies moving the ball forward to combat climate change. Mind you, it is not just altruism driving these efforts, it is creating a sustainable, more predictable and better cost model. And, companies care about cost.

On PBS Newshour yesterday, an update on an earlier story was provided.  Walmart has a goal of being 100% renewable energy powered which they established a decade ago under CEO Scott Lee. They started simply, retraining their truck drivers on better ways to shift gears and drive to save fuel costs and actually measure fuel efficiency in truck driver performance.

Walmart also is converting their 12,000 stores to renewable energy. The PBS Newhour update noted that almost 500 stores in the US have been converted to solar power. Now, 28% of their US energy needs comes from solar energy. Retail stores have a lot of roof space, so companies like Walmart and IKEA have growing numbers of solar powered stores. They are also asking their suppliers to be better environmental stewards.

Mars is known for its candy, the biggest seller being M&Ms. Their goal is to make decisions that are “good for the environment and good for Mars,” They are using combinations of solar and wind energy to power their manufacturing plants. They just rolled out a new wind farm in Texas, a state that produces more wind energy than any other. Mars has noted their costs are lower with the renewable energy.

Fortunately, Walmart and Mars are not alone. Google, Facebook and Amazon are driving forces behind renewable energy given their significant data and distribution center power needs. Their centers in North Carolina are a reason NC ranks so highly on solar energy lists.

Yet, we should not lose sight that the cost of renewable energy has decreased so greatly, the decision is not just environmental, it is economic. Paula Diparno of CDP said on PBS Newshour that addressing climate change is “no longer a punishment, it is an opportunity.”

That is a huge shift in mindset. She added that there are three stakeholders for companies – customers, shareholders and management. Customers are noticing, shareholders are becoming more insistent and management better be paying attention. To this end, Blackrock, a major institutional investor, is requiring its companies to define what they are doing about renewable energy and climate change.

To this end, because of Blackrock’s efforts, Exxon Mobil’s shareholders voted last year to require management to do more and report back on addressing climate change. Ironically, this vote was the day before the current US President announced that he was withdrawing from the Paris Climate Change Accord. That contrast speaks volumes.

Things you should not do, but do anyway

I was thinking yesterday about a good friend who tried to make a comeback as a baseball pitcher from a shoulder injury. I volunteered to catch for him sans a catcher mask – at dusk. As the baseballs were whistling toward me at 85 miles per hour in the dimming skies, I was thinking how unwise this is. One tipped pitch off the catcher’s mitt would not end well with my face as the only backstop. Yet, there I was.

As I was trimming some tall bushes, the last one was too tall to get the upper portions even with my various ladders and long electric hedge clippers. As I was putting away everything, I decided to give it one more go. Mistake. The one thing in my favor was I planned what I would do if I felt the ladder being uncooperative. So, as the ladder went one way, I tossed the clippers the other way and fell feet first toward the grass. I survived with a jolt and later soreness, but the lack of wisdom was duly noted.

I have always been a climbing fool dating back to when I was young. Two of my children are the same way. In fact, our daughter was on the climbing team in college. Fences did not present as many obstacles to me, but there is one lesson to be learned. As I was climbing a seven foot high fence, I felt I could navigate the prickly fence wires that were pointing up above the bar for some security, instead of being rounded off as with more neighborly fences. When I got to the top, the bar of the fence came out of its hosel and broke free. One of my arms now has a ten inch scar due to the prickly wires from this high school incident over forty five years ago.

At my age, one thing is for certain. I have made my share of mistakes. And, I will try to avoid future ones, but I am sure I will slip up from time to time. Many of our mistakes are not physical in result, even though they started out with a less than stellar idea. The more common mistakes are saying things you should not or acting rashly when the better idea would have been to sleep on it or not to act.

A key lesson for all of us is just because you think it, does not mean you have to say it. Some of the best retorts are the ones that you swallow and do not speak. And, you would be wise in so doing. Not everything needs to be an argument. In fact, your opinion may not be wanted, only your listening. You have two ears and one mouth, use them in that proportion.

As for the rash acting, the more important the decision, the better it is to wait, organize your thought process and garner input. One thing my wife and I do is delay a big decision until a few days or weeks pass. Should we move, should we try for baby, should one of us take that job, should we buy a new car, etc.? Try to avoid buying on emotion as that is what the sales person is wooing you to do.

With that said, some impulsive decisions just need to be governed by catch-all limits. Do not drive while intoxicated or let a friend drive such. Full stop. Do not have sex sans some means of birth control unless you are looking to have a child. Do not have sex if your partner says no, even if he, she or they seemed to be saying yes to that point. Do not take opioid pain killers unless you are in a real bad way pain wise and they have been prescribed – even then you may want to down two Tylenol or look to more herbal solutions so to speak.

And, do not get up on ladders when you are tired. If you ignore this suggestion, you may just well need those two Tylenol or one of those herbal solutions.

Five easy memory tricks – once again for emphasis

The following brief post has been repeated for emphasis, as we all could use a little help recalling names of actors, friends, places and events. Fortunately, my wife knows my shorthand and can ascertain whom or what I am speaking about with a few phrases like “do you remember that place we used to go to near the mall…” or “isn’t she that actress in the show we liked about the Australian doctor….”

With two of our four parents succumbing to complications due to Alzheimer’s, memory maintenance is of interest to my wife and me. Readers’ Digest ran an article by Andrea Au Levitt called “5 Easy Memory Tricks.” Her intro paragraph follows:

“You know that eating healthy, staying active, and solving a few brain games can help keep you sharp. But these lesser known habits work wonders, too.”

1. Sit tall – when slouching it follows or promotes defeated, anxious and depressive thoughts, which hinder memory.

2. Exercise – once – gains in memory after one exercise are similar to gains after regular exercise (note still do the regular stuff).

3. Limit TV – including online versions of TV, too much screen time can harm cognitive development and maintenance.

4. Doodle – people can remember things better if they doodle or draw a picture of what they are thinking of. Writing the words of the thing is not as memorable as drawing a picture.

5. Walk backward – real, imagined or watched walking backward or even forward, can help remember something. So, in keeping with #2 above, take a walk (and walk backwards on occasion).

Let me take one of the above and break it down more. One of the examples from Malcom Gladwell’s book, “Talking to strangers,” notes that torture is a horrible way to gain information. Why? Under trauma, people remember less than they would normally. The comment about sitting tall in #1 above, notes if we slouch we increase anxiety or depressive thoughts, a mild form of trauma.

Outside of the walking backward, I do the above things. The sitting tall actually helps this tall person with his back. As for doodling, for some reason when I work the various puzzles in the newspaper, I blacken in the circular letters (O’s, D’s, P’s etc.) in the title of the advice section (sorry Dear Abby). Maybe it helps me with the puzzles (or advice).

As I leave you, think of Barbra Streisand walking backward singing “Memories light the corners of my mind, Misty water-colored memories of the way we were.”

A BIrth Control Message – courtesy of Bruce Springsteen

The following is an encore performance for a post written nine years ago. This time it was inspired by our musically inclined blogging friend Clive, whose specific post is linked to below. He has a link to the song on his post.

With due respect and credit for inspiration to one of my favorite bloggers, Jenni at www.newsforthetimes.wordpress.com, who publishes a Tune Tuesday weekly post on the personal or societal impact of a favorite song or singer, I want to use one of Bruce Springsteen’s songs to embellish a point I have been making the past few months. I think I have cited the Boss on a couple of occasions, but I want to lift some lyrics from one of my favorite songs of his “The River” which is pertinent to my point of readily available birth control and education. This song is about a man remembering nostalgically how he used to go “down to the river” with his girlfriend and how life was much simpler before she got pregnant with his child.

The lyrics I want to quote are as follows:

“Then, I got Mary pregnant and man, that was all she wrote.

And, for my nineteenth birthday I got a union card and a wedding coat.

We went down to the courthouse and the judge put it all to rest.

No wedding day smiles, no walk down the aisle.

No flowers, no wedding dress.”

In my post “If Churches Really Want to Make a Difference” a few weeks ago, I suggest that the church should be more involved with legitimate sex education with their young teenagers, including the use of contraception. Kids don’t know enough about this subject and it is the thing they talk most about. The peer pressure is intense. It is more than OK to discuss abstinence, but if you remember your teenage years, that is not going to happen very often. I won’t repeat all of the points made therein, but informed teens should be aware of the need for protected sex as well as ways to say no, if they feel pressured (if a girl) and ways to treat a girl who is saying no (if a boy).

The LA Times reported just this week that data released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) showed the birthrate among American teens between  15 and 19, while decreased since 1991 is still at 34.3 births per 1,000 women. That rate is 5 times the teen birthrate in France and 2 1/2 times the teen birthrate in Canada. It is also higher than the rates in China and Russia. THe CDC reports that 80% of teen pregnancies are unintended meaning after unprotected sex or under protected sex. We have a higher incidence of sexual assault among teens as well.

Using Springsteen’s song, Mary did not need to end up pregnant. With birth control access and better sex education, Mary and the boy could have been more adroit at handling the issue before the heat of the moment caused a fate accompli. The rest of the song talks about how Mary and the boy go through the motions of life after being forced to do the right thing and marry. Their dreams were stifled. Yet, if she could say no, or have protected intercourse, then their lives need not be over.

My main point is so many issues could be better addressed through a better protected and more informed group of teenagers. There is high correlation to poverty and family size, especially if the family starts early. There is a high percentage of single parents in teen mothers, so in more cases than not, Mary’s beau would have left the building. With fewer unwanted pregnancies, then there would be fewer abortions. And, our teens would have a chance to grow up more before they start having babies. Finally, per Dr, Cora Breuner of Seattle Children’s Hospital, babies born to teens tend to fare more poorly than babies delivered to older age group parents.

I also believe the education part is just as vital. If the young girls and boys hear from respected sources about these very important life issues, they will be better positioned to handle them. More and more kids are not seeing churches in the same light as their parents. Some churches are actually driving people away with their evangelicalism. I firmly believe if you provide more venues to talk in an intelligent way with the teens about their problems, they will attend and listen. They don’t need to be preached to on the subject, but abstinence is an acceptable discussion point. I think it is important to note that you do not have to have sex if you are being pressured into doing so.

Per Dr. Breuner as reported by the LA Times, “We really can do better. By providing more education and improving access to contraception and more education about family planning, we can do better.” Note, Breuner helped write the new policy statement as a member of the American Academy of Pediatrics’ Committee on Adolescence.

Springsteen, as usual, vividly depicts a real world problem. I think his song could be played during the sex education classes. These kids loved each other (or at least thought they did), gave into passion and after unprotected sex, their dreams were over. This is reality. Why should we not finds ways to educate and help before the “point of reckoning” rather than to let the kids figure it out after it is too late. In today’s time, it can be even worse when a STD enters the equation.

Thanks Bruce for your terrific song. “The River” can permit the dream to continue with protected sex. And, for parents and church leaders who want to throw the bible at me, let me quote a truism that I said in my previous post. Teenagers are going to have sex. If you do not believe me, there is an evangelical university within a three-hour drive of where I live. These young church raised kids “go crazy” when they get away from mom and dad. I actually cleaned that up a little from the quote from someone who attended there. So, we should help them on their journey by giving them the tools and education they need.