Archive for April, 2011

A question of taste…

Monday, April 25th, 2011

Rearing children is a daunting task and not one to be undertaken lightly, but is that a widespread attitude? A glance at passing crowds of young people flies in the face of this simple statement.

They say that a picture is worth a thousand words. If that, in fact, is true, then present patterns of attire don’t whisper, they shout.

The good old days had a lot of drawbacks, but in one sense they are head and shoulders above what we see as “accepted dress” today. To put it bluntly, “contractors’ crack” or “cleavage” were restricted to job sites and sleazy entertainment venues. Not so today, folks….

After an afternoon or evening among crowds of people of all ages, it isn’t hard to spot some of the causes. Women in their 30s and 40s, children in tow, sport apparel that — in many cases — is downright provocative.

Since parents bear the burden of serving as examples for their offspring, it’s easy to assume that the outfits on the kids are simply an extension of the old saying “monkey see, monkey do”.

When did it become good taste to wear low-cut blouses and dresses to church services? And what of the skirt lengths that mirror short shorts? It’s no wonder that assault and abduction cases are so common. If you put out an ad, someone will answer it.

It’s probably futile to even bring it up, but a view of feminism that extols the highest ideals of womanhood surely has a place in society today. I have nothing against working women. Been there. Done that. Yet, I have worked for women who are inordinately “bossy” and do nothing for the reputation of those of their sisters who toil using good manners and kindness.

Oh, there are prime examples of women who dress well and in good taste, but I fear that not only are they in the minority, but also that their numbers are shrinking.

If I am a couturier’s dinosaur, so be it. Some of the outfits remind me of airport artwork — easily attributable to a kindergartener. Go figure. To a large extent, the solution lies in school uniforms. Major studies confirm that behavioral problems decrease markedly within mere weeks of instituting such attire. Yet, school systems lag behind and fuel problems that have no place in the classrooms, hallways, restrooms, parking lots, at athletic or musical events and aboard buses. First impressions are everything. It’s apparent that not too many of us take that to heart. Think about it.

Finally – a movie with a message! And what a message…

Tuesday, April 19th, 2011

If you are a reader, then you know the visceral connection between you and a book. You envision the characters in your mind. They remain that way. With this in mind, you understand my quandary about going to see Part I of Atlas Shrugged, Ayn Rand’s monumental work that has not only withstood the test of time over the last 54 years but also connects so thoroughly to the current political and economic happenings in America.

Last week, the movie came to area theaters and I was very apprehensive about going. I wanted my husband to become more familiar with Any Rand’s work, but I hesitated to see major film stars as the main characters. Much to my delight, I didn’t know those playing the parts and that made the movie thoroughly enjoyable.

This film is important. The only downside is that all three parts will not release before the 2012 election. Another sorry point is that those who need to see it most won’t be in the theaters. They will be waiting for Uncle Sam to help them out in one way or another.

Now is not the time to ignore the wisdom Ayn Rand gives her readers. Her message is as pertinent and applicable today as it was in 1957 when the book made its debut in American literature.

I wonder if she could have known that her work would be so instrumental in lives yet unborn. Take the time to see this movie. If you are a reader and have read the book, you will be surprised at how the producers decided to break it up in portions. The “hook” to Part II is unique and Ayn Rand fans will understand why it was done.

For those who don’t want to pick up the large book and devour its pages, the film offers a great alternative. Like any work, the movie leaves a lot out — of necessity. To do it justice, it would run for days, not hours.

There aren’t a lot of movies today that offer Americans a wake-up call. This one does. It just might change your life — or at least your level of participation in life at one level or another. Go and see it. Then go home and think about it.


Tuesday, April 12th, 2011

One hundred fifty years ago today, America experienced the first military incident of the Civil War. A devoted Lincoln buff, I have read extensively on the conflict. My grandparents told stories of the Civil War days, and those have had a profound impact on me.

Because my mother’s ancestors lived along the Ohio River, they found themselves but a short walk (in dry weather) from Kentucky and Confederate sympathies. Long before the locks were installed, it was not unusual to wade across the Ohio in the summer. As a young girl, my grandmother did it routinely. When the war broke out, her family — like many others, split allegiances and fought against one another.

One old family residence still sits along the river and sports a patched roof — evidence of a cannonball launched from the Kentucky side.

We see many people disagree violently along political lines these days, but nothing we witness now approaches the virulent tempers that boiled over in the early 1860s.

The loss of life is hard to get one’s arms around in retrospect, but one visit to a National Cemetery gives pause. As we look back on the seminal events that transpired between the onset and the signing of the peace at a small rural church, it is important to remember those men — young and old — who gave their lives in defense of firmly held beliefs and loyalties. Pray that we never revisit such a conflict in America.

Time for the “Colonel”

Monday, April 11th, 2011

Once in a great while, I opt to draw inspiration from cinema. However, in contrast to prior columns that linked to vintage films, today’s discussion hinges on a movie that dates only to 1992.

Al Pacino is known for many roles and his versatility is legendary in the movie business, but my favorite Pacino film is “Scent of a Woman”. Most plots that center on a prep school student are lackluster and fairly boring. Not so with this masterpiece. When Charlie Simms takes a job to babysit a blind man who is medically retired from the US Army, he gets more than he bargained for — and that’s putting it mildly.

Over the course of the film, Lieutenant Colonel Frank Slade becomes more than an assignment, he becomes a mentor, a friend, and a tremendous influence on Charlie’s life.

Charlie, a student on scholarship at Baird, a fictional, albeit prestigious Eastern boys’ prep school, had witnessed a late night prank. The vandalism quickly became a thorn in the sides of the higher-ups at the school and they vowed to bring the culprits to justice — at least Baird justice.

Throw in a spoiled brat whose rich daddy shows up to defend him in a live forum before the entire student body, and you have a scene ripe for common sense and reason.

Charlie expected a quiet time in the simple apartment of his charge, but found himself on an unexpected trip to New York City and sumptuous accommodations at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel. Once he reveals his agenda, Charlie doesn’t know whether or not to take him seriously, but as their sojourn continues, he worries that Slade has told him precisely what he seeks to do — take a first-class trip, drop by his older brother’s home on Thanksgiving, have a great dinner at an exclusive Big Apple restaurant, make love to a beautiful woman and then blow his brains out.

Charlie learns that Frank lost his sight when juggling hand grenades when drunk and one of them exploded. His Army career was everything to him, and the resulting medical discharge proved lethal to Slade’s life and his mood did everything to alienate everyone with whom he came in contact — family or not.

In one of the most memorable scenes, Frank deftly led a woman in a hotel ballroom in a tango that rivals anything I have ever seen. The agility and grace of this blind man and his partner was riveting.

In an unbelievable sequence, there’s a Ferrari test drive. At first, Charlie drives, but then, giving verbal directions, Frank drivers. The high-speed trip through side streets among warehouses ends abruptly when Slade is pulled over for speeding. No arrest. No ticket. Why? The officer is never aware that Slade cannot see.

Occasionally, between wry cuts at society at large and the recurring theme of women and what he most remembered about them, Slade imparted his wisdom to young Charlie in fits and starts that kept the audience rapt with attention. Claiming a headache, Slade sends Charlie for aspirin. He returns too quickly and finds Slade with a gun to his head. Charlie grabs the gun and grieves for the older man who laments that there would never be a woman who would love him.

Charlie makes sure that Slade gets home safely and then returns to school to “face the music”. Sitting alone across from the weasel of a classmate and his wealthy father, Charlie holds to his morals and does not identify the vandals by name. In his words, they looked like just so many other “Baird men”.

As President Trask rants on, the limousine driver leads a very well dressed Slade down the aisle among all the students to the stage and seats him beside Charlie. What ensued was perhaps the best defense of character and integrity I have ever heard.

Just like Charlie who faced off against a smug father and his spoiled brat son on that stage in the movie, we face politicians who have no compunction to put our children and grandchildren at risk with debt of insane proportions.

How does the movie relate to this? What we need is today’s version of Lt. Colonel Frank Slade, US Army Retired to stand before a joint session of Congress with the President and Vice-President front and center in the first row and dress them down as Slade did in the film.

Slade claimed that the disciplinary committee held a young man’s soul in their hands. Well, our government holds the American soul — its future — in its hands. Well, it’s pretty apparent that they place no value on our future. We exist as merely a source of funds to fuel their insatiable appetite for spending.

What we need is plain talk. No catch phrases. No political speak. Common sense. Stress on character, integrity and honesty — and yes, responsibility.

Sadly, that speaker would need a receptive, open-minded audience. Somehow, that doesn’t seem to fit the Senate at all. While the House sees the cliff as we hurtle toward it, the US Senate remains divided down party lines and refuses to see the big picture.

Pray for that speaker. Surely that person exists. I have faith in America. Hope springs eternal. Voice of reason, come forth.

With our luck, the speaker would be shuffled off to the side and the media would tack on the “wacko” label. So much for good judgment… They say that insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result. The feds have spent and spent, telling us that spending would turn the economy around. Has it? Hardly. I never had an economics professor in my life that touted overspending as an avenue to fiscal security.

Maybe the change we need is in personnel and not in policy. If any of us ran our household like the government runs itself, we’d all be homeless or in jail.
We need you. Baird officials maintained that they knew best and everyone needed to toe their line. Sound familiar? Slade set them straight. Think about it.

More than a color…

Tuesday, April 5th, 2011

Blue. Blue II. Butler Blue! As a graduate of Butler University and the mother of a graduate, I take great pride in the school for doing things “THE BUTLER WAY”. As in the dictionary, academics come before athletics — assuring students and student-athletes a bright future.

As I watched Monday night, I couldn’t help but think of my first day on campus. Tony Hinkle was the basketball coach and Butler Fieldhouse stood guard north of Holcomb Gardens.

By the time I returned for a Master’s Degree, nearly forty years had elapsed, but the values instilled in Butler Students was still there. It will endure for far longer than I will, no doubt.

The poise exhibited by Brad Stevens and his team is only surpassed by the respect of the Butler family, and fans who hold Bulldogs dear to their hearts even though they did not go to the school.

It was hard to swallow when the basketball rim seemed to be covered in Saran Wrap in that game against U-CONN, but even a disappointing loss does not take away from the tremendous accomplishment of a school 1/5 the size of its competition on the court. Quality over quantity is the order of the day when you try to describe the men of Butler basketball.

Like their peers in years gone by, including legendary Bobby Plump of Milan fame, basketball is a passion, but it’s also viewed as just a game. They play, graduate, and go on to lead productive lives. Yet, while they are out there on the court, they influence untold numbers of youngsters, and you can’t put a value on that, folks. Coach knows that.

Brad Stevens is a class act. Teamwork is just as important in the workplace as on the court. He loves the game, but more than that, he loves his players. His players know that, and it shows. Like so many other great teams who had an uncharacteristically poor showing in a given game, there is always next year.

The future is anything but blue. It’s rosy! Next season, Butler’s returning players will be joined by new names. With them comes added height — adding to the excitement. Thanks for the memories, guys! Go DAWGS!

You want to do WHAT?

Friday, April 1st, 2011

Forgive the hiatus. Partial knee replacement surgery put me on the back burner for a couple of weeks. Greetings to all. I’m certainly glad they have spare parts!


It takes a lot to wade through the “hype” of the news these days, yet every once in a while a bolt of common sense lightning strikes and you shake your head in disbelief.
Twenty-seven years ago I was an adult student at Franklin College and had a marvelous science professor. The class of note was environmental science and it was launched in fact and void of the fervor of the naysayers who constantly push us toward a nineteenth century lifestyle
I wish I had kept my notes, because I made detailed drawings of a nuclear facility as we discussed the pros and cons of viable energy sources. Are there risks? Undoubtedly. You take risks when you get out of bed in the morning, if you open the door to walk outdoors, if you drive your car, ride your bicycle or shuffle off to the kitchen to get that all important morning cup of coffee.
It seems that no matter what you want to do to take advantage of modern technology, there is a shadowy figure in the picture that shouts gloom and doom. Given this as a premise sets the stage for an intriguing scenario.
We are so accustomed to our everyday conveniences that we take them completely for granted. Should we value them? Sure, but just for argument’s sake, let’s take this subject and, as Emeril Legasse would say, “kick it up a notch”.
What if Thomas Edison, George Westinghouse, Charles Goodyear, Henry Firestone, Samuel Morse, Michael Faraday, Elisha Otis and Nikola Tesla had lived in our time? What a scene that would be! Imagine the fight they would wage just to be able to launch their inventions!
Alas, poor Edison. Picture this — a brilliant scientist tries to persuade governmental panels to apply electricity to both the public and private sectors. After all, electricity is dangerous. Critics cite dozens of ways that a person could be electrocuted either in the workplace or at home.
Extrapolate that a bit further and envision what a challenge faced Nikola Tesla when he tried to explain alternating current (AC).
If you think it’s hard to get anything past a water authority, consider what Westinghouse would face today in order to build the hydroelectric plant at Niagara Falls. Yes, his project would be stopped in its tracks. The environmentalists would find some poor little creature that is threatened. No dam — dammit!
Samuel Morse struggles again and again to explain why he needs poles to hold his wires aloft to insure good communication using Morse Code.
Separated by an ocean, Michael Faraday of England and American Joseph Henry built the first laboratory models of electric generator in 1832. Frenchman Hippolyte Pixii built a hand-driven model of an electric generator in 1833, and American, Nikola Tesla built the first alternating-current generator in 1892.
How far do you think those men would get before a panel bent on denying innovation because of “environmental concerns”.
Goodyear would be frustrated when critics denied his work because he was tapping trees for their sap in order to make what would be called rubber. The name itself roots in the fact that early pencil erasers were made from his product and the name stuck as the name of the material overall.
Yes, all these men would be beside themselves at the ignorance of those in power to grant permission for applying new technology. I use these comparisons to highlight the shortsightedness of the environmentalists today.
The widespread bias against anything that could possibly harm a living organism had applied in their time, the United States would never have boomed to greatness in such a short time. Heavy manufacturing would never be approved. The smallest element of danger would doom a new invention.
Edison’s electricity in a home would pose highly hazardous. After all, in addition to electrocution perils, electricity could cause a fire. Happily, our heavy industries occurred when the population’s mindset meshed with those elected to positions of power. Everyone wanted growth and progress. If a few trees bit the dust, a few animals changed their migration patterns, or if people died while attempting to catapult an agrarian society into the future, the risks were worth the price.

In reality, of the top four causes of house fires, electrical places last. First is cooking, second is smoking and fourth is heating. All these causes are assumed to be accidental.
I find the statistics on accidental death fascinating, and so I pass them along.
The various causes of death are combined with the person’s odds of dying from a particular cause to determine the least likely way a person may die during his or her lifetime.
The list is arranged in descending order starting with the least likely way of dying followed by the next least likely and so on increasing the odds of dying.
This data on the least likely ways of dying is from the National Safety Council’s Odds of Dying statistics.
1. Fireworks Discharge
2. Flood
Lifetime Odds: 1 in 144,156
3. Earthquake
Lifetime Odds: 1 in 117,127
4. Lightning
Lifetime Odds: 1 in 79,746
5. Legal Execution
Lifetime Odds: 1 in 62,468
6. Hornet, Wasp, or Bee Sting
Lifetime Odds: 1 in 56,789
7. Hot Weather
Lifetime Odds: 1 in 13,729
8. Alcohol Poisoning
Lifetime Odds: 1 in 10,048
9. Accidental Electrocution
Lifetime Odds: 1 in 9,968
10. Accidental Firearm Discharge
Lifetime Odds: 1 in 5,134

Life is full of accidents. From spilling your milk to elbowing your loved one in the night. These particular accidents however result is something much worse than a black eye. These are the top 10 accidents that could land you 6 feet under.
10. Electrocution
~500 Deaths / Year
There is about a 1 in 10,000 chance you’ll inadvertently join the some 4,500 inmates who have died by electrocution. Better be careful next time you’re changing the light bulb.
Yes, electricity does pose risk in our lives, but its benefits far outweigh its risks. Think what our society would have been without the discovery of oil fields in the West. According to the Texas State Almanac, the oil discovery that jump-started Texas’ transformation into a major petroleum producer and industrial power was Spindletop.
Exploration in the area of the upper Gulf Coast near Beaumont had begun in 1892. After drilling several dry holes, Louisiana mining engineer and oil prospector Capt. Anthony F. Lucas drilled the discovery well of the Spindletop field. Initially, the Lucas No. 1 produced more than an estimated 75,000 barrels of oil a day. Peak annual production was 17.5 million barrels in 1902.
Spindletop, which was also the first salt-dome oil discovery, triggered a flood of speculation in the area, resulting in several other significant discoveries. The boom included an influx of hundreds of eager wildcatters – including former Governor James Stephen Hogg – lusting after a piece of the action, as well as thousands of workers looking for jobs. Right behind them came a tidal wave of related service, supply and manufacturing firms, such as refineries, pipelines and oil-field equipment manufacturers and dealers. It was California’s fabled Gold Rush of 50 years earlier repeated on the Texas Gulf Coast with rotary drill bits and derricks instead of pick axes and gold pans.
The boom turned into a feeding frenzy of human sharks: scores of speculators sniffing out a quick buck; scam artists peddling worthless leases; and prostitutes, gamblers and liquor dealers, all looking for a chunk of the workers’ paychecks.
Within three years, several additional major fields were developed within a 150-mile radius of Spindletop; Sour Lake, Batson and Humble were among them.
Today, great reserves of oil and natural gas lie beneath the United States and off its shores, yet the federal government has pledged $2 billion to Brazil to drill off her shores and scores of idle wells dot the waters in the Gulf of Mexico and off both Florida and California. Evidently, federal charity does not begin at home.
Along with common sense, government decisions backing American entrepreneurship are dead in Washington, D.C.
Be glad that you live in the twenty-first century. Had the nineteenth century’s major inventors petitioned for approval today, we’d all be having candlelight dinners. Ponder that one! Oh, and while you’re at it, contact your senator and representative and tell them to push for opening oil and gas leases. It’s time they did. Think about it.