and observations about our culture
By Jim Watson
A stupid phrase: "give back"
A current buzzword among celebrities is "I want to give back."
What did they take? I am concerned because using this phrase is a symptom that one is not a thinker, but a follower. They use the phrase just because its a trendy buzzword right now that sounds impressive and altruistic. But, for those who give to their community and are thinkers, the phrase doesn't make sense.
A good person doesn't give 'back', one simply gives of him or herself. That's impressive enough.
Average military compensation: $70,168 in pay and $52,095 in benefits for a total compensation of $122,263 per person in 2009, up from $58,545 in 2000 (benefits
include the value of housing, medical care, pensions, hazardous-duty incentives, enlistment bonuses and combat pay in war zones). From USA TODAY, August 17 2010
Percentage growth of compensation, 2000-2009:
. . . 84 % Military
. . . 37 % Federal workers
. . . 19 % Private sector
Some thoughts on the illegal immigration issue
Why do Mexicans risk their health and lives to enter the USA illegally?
To give birth to an American child.
Federation for American Immigration Reform: automatic citizenship for children born in the US is one of the main magnets for illegal immigration. While many illegal immigrants are searching for jobs, many others come here to have a baby who is entitled to a wide array of government benefits and can eventually help the parents become citizens as well.
USA TODAY: The number of children in the USA born to illegal immigrants jumped to 4 million in 2009. Those are automatically granted US citizenship and represent 5.4% of all children under the age of 18 in the US. An estimated of 8% babies born in the US in 2008 came from illegal immigrant parents.
Solution: Change the law that allows any baby born in this country to be considered an American. Immediately.
To escape violence in Mexico due to the drug wars.
Solution: Legalize marijuana. Remove the black market. Step up enforcement in Mexico and US border towns. Work with Mexican police to minimize corruption.
To work and earn money.
We actually like and want illegal immigrants in the US. Their willingness to work for low wages keeps prices lower in these industries: restaurant and food service, construction, roofing, and landscape and yard work. Myth: "But, they don't pay taxes." They pay sales tax, gas tax, property tax (through their landlord), and others. The only tax not paid is the income tax (some wealthy Americans pay very little income tax).
Solution: Not sure - how can we balance keeping prices lower and still manage the influx of illegal residents. Work visas? New working class designation with lower wages than minimum wage but still pay income tax?
It does seem apparent that a huge wall along the border hasn't yet solved the problem.
Remember how we cheered when the Berlin Wall came down and yet we are now building our own Wall. August 27 2010
My sentiments exactly
When i was Chair of the Department of Design, one of the tasks i enjoyed the least was having to write Strategic Plans (redundant words to begin with - a strategy and a plan are the same thing). We spent a disproportionate amount of time preparing reports for an administration that didn't know nor care what we really did. The university bureaucracy would have us write reports and fill out forms that had little-to-no value. Once, i had to call a meeting with the Design faculty and the admin to present the SSCI report - a huge paper that discusses our procedures for planning. The VP asked me to detail the ways in which i involved the faculty in the preparation of the report. I told him that i didn't involve the faculty at all - i saw nothing in the SSCI that would help faculty do a better job in the classroom and i wouldn't be so inconsiderate as to ask them to help with a useless report (no one in Admin read the entire thing or used it to improve teaching at the university). The poster above is from the Baltimore Print Studios of a quote from Herb Kelleher, the guiding force behind Southwest Airlines, a lean company that makes profits while other airlines lose money. Herb is a doer. May 26 2010
An idea whose time has come
For too long we have been too complacent about the workings of Congress. Members of Congress can retire with the same pay after only one term. They are exempt from many of the laws they have passed while ordinary citizens must live under those laws. The latest example is that members of Congress have exempted themselves from the Healthcare Reform legislation. Somehow, that doesn't seem logical. Here is a good way to stop this divisive self-serving:
Proposed 28th Amendment to the United States Constitution
Congress shall make no law that applies to the citizens of the United States that does not apply equally to the Senators and/or Representatives; and, Congress shall make no law that applies to the Senators and/or Representatives that does not apply equally to the citizens of the United States. July 27 2010
Sometimes, the old world ways still suffice
Saw this man looking for aluminum cans on Wall Street in front of Federal Hall and the NY Stock Exchange. He may be an immigrant from China. Compare him to the photo of the ancient Chinese farmer. April 28 2010
Poor implementation of handicap parking spaces
Providing easy access for people with hardships and disabilities is a good idea, but this execution at Walmart in Edmond is just too excessive. The loss of parking spaces for the rest of us cannot be justified here. March 17 2010
Really? No Parking? Not even in that safely enclosed space?
i assume that the railed ramp was added after the asphalt was signed with No Parking, but there could be better ways: a planter in the enclosed space or no ramp at all - it doesn't seem to be a big improvement over the covered sidewalk. Shot at an Edmond Shopping Center. March 17 2010
Just too many receipts - even when arranged neatly in symmetrical rows
What a waste of paper. The store/restaurant needs a copy and the consumer needs a copy. Shouldn't that be enough? Doesn't the technology allow the number of receipts to be reduced? The Apple store emails a receipt or asks if you want a printed one from the store at time of purchase. That reduces the number to zero or one. Much better. March 17 2010
gada goda wirk We often say, I have to go to work or I gotta go to work. This attitude of 'have to' can be a bit demoralizing. Like its an awful ordeal. One's entire outlook can change with a simple change of attitude about work. Given the option of not working, going to work is usually preferable. We like the benefits that work provides - a sense of satisfaction, service, and productivity and, often, a sense of self-worth. We also love the benefit of a paycheck. We love the money to pay bills and buy stuff that we want. So, maybe the a healthier attitude would be I want to go to work.
American English intrigues me - it is still evolving and adapting to cultural needs. I read the phrase I got to go to work on Facebook and wondered if it could still be read if it was translated into phonetic and slang: gada goda wirk. The unscientific survey confirmed that it could. i January 12 2010
I had gone out to eat with a group of nice people. Apparently, each of us had been trained to not take the last piece of food. Shown is our plate of cheese and fruit appetizers with one small bite of each item left on the plate. Jill then cut each of these pieces in half, so there would be no more 'last pieces'. So, we each could eat another bit of appetizer (we even took turns going around the table). i September 20
How to solve America's financial woes, lessen the national debt, save lives, increase sales of cookies and chips, and possibly lower everyone's taxes:
1. Tax the business of religion. More info
2. Tax the business of marijuana sales. More info
3. Tax the business of prostitution.
What are we waiting for? The country and many individuals and families are in serious financial trouble. There are easy ways to generate income. People smoke marijuana. Churches, synagogues, and mosques are tax-exempt. People are paying for consensual sex. Lets tax and control these multi-billion dollar businesses. i May 17 2009
Michael Jackson Memorial at the Apollo Theater. The media trucks continued around the corner and up the next block. The line of people continued the other direction, also around the corner and up a couple of blocks. 125th Street was closed to all traffic but buses and emergency vehicles. The photo below on the right is from the newspaper.
1967: Joe Jackson drove his sons from Indiana to the Apollo Theater so they could perform during amateur night at the famous Apollo in Harlem. They had very little money. He wasn't even sure where they would spend the night. The youngest of the Jackson 5 was Michael, 9 years old. They performed and won. The Apollo wanted them to come back but the Jacksons couldn't afford it. Soon after, Diana Ross saw them perform and she introduced them to the rest of us. The Tuesday after Michael died on Thursday, the Apollo Theater held an open house memorial from 2pm - 8pm. It was part respectful memorial, part party and celebration, and part shopping mall. I went to participate in the event. Michael Jackson's music formed much of the background soundtrack for me in the 1980s. Larry Lewis, one of my high school students, treated me to a ticket to the Victory Tour concert at Texas Stadium in 1984. It was a phenomenal concert. MJ can wow a crowd. Even in death.
Some facts: 1. MJ was acquitted - found innocent - of all charges in one of the 2 child molestation charges.
2. The other case was settled out of court to avoid negative publicity.
3. The mother of 2 of his kids, his family, and friends have all emphatically stated that Michael is not a pedophile.
There is no evidence that he molested anyone. There is much precedent, however, that some adults will exploit celebrity millionaires to get money.
4. He did not 'dangle' his baby off that balcony. He had a firm grip around the child. Dangle is the term the media used to sensationalize the event and millions of gullible viewers bought it, without thinking that it was the wrong term. I wonder how the media would report it when dads toss their kids, "Father abandons child in air" or "Dad lets go of child in mid-air."
Michael Jackson had an unusual childhood, a domineering father, success as a star at the age of 9, etc. Of course, he's going to be eccentric. But what talent. An incredible entertainer. And a great humanitarian. i July 1 2009
This is a foto of St. Mergerie, sitting reverently on my dashboard. She is the Patron Saint of Freeway On-ramps. I pray to her each time I am entering a freeway and about to merge into the traffic (while driving a car). She clears a path and provides great peace of mind for me. When I first saw this statuette at a dollar store in Dallas, I assumed it was entitled, 'Do these painted flowers make my face look fat?' I soon learned her true calling. I keep this delicately painted icon right on the dash, both as a reminder to have faith in her power and also so she has a clear view of upcoming traffic. Hail St. Mergerie. i March 1 2009
Great idea: wireless pizza. There are machines that can digitize photos and documents. Now we need a machine, about the size of a toaster oven with a USB or FireWire connection, that can digitize a pizza. The digitized info can then be transmitted wirelessly to another machine where the pizza is translated back to analog from digital. These machines could even be installed in cars. I am now looking for investors to fund this new Wi-Fi-Pi venture. Please contact me ASAP so we can get started. Thanks. i March 1 2009
Have you noticed how many homes have garages with no room for cars? Only recently have architects designed grojs with ample room for junk. Not sure why it took them so long to observe the obvious - that most American families have so much stuff that it overflows the closets and attics and fills up much of the groj. Similarly, architects are only now designing public restrooms with more stalls in ladies rooms than in men's rooms. The rest of us realized years ago that lines were longer to ladies rooms due to the fact that women took longer to complete their business than men. Architects have finally acknowledged this. i March 1 2009
Now, this is a beautiful Hummer with lots of accessories - about a $60,000 car. A woman saw me shooting these fotos with my phone and stopped to ask if I was admiring the car. I paused, not sure of how much I should tell her. I decided to tell the truth - that I was intrigued by the car and the LifeChurch decal on the back window - "I doubt Jesus would have bought a pimped-out Hummer." Her smiled drooped as she contemplated what I was saying about 'Christians' and priorities. She had no response to WWJD?
When Jesus returns to Earth, I hope he doesn't see this Hummer. He may get angry - just as he did when he saw the moneychangers in the Temple.
LifeChurch is a mega-church in Edmond, Oklahoma. $60,000 is well above the annual salary for the average American. Granted, most Christians are not very Christ-like, but this flaunting of one's religion and one's fancy vehicle seems too inappropriate. Christians can have 'nice things', but a Hummer is just blatant excess, well beyond a 'nice thing'. No one needs a Hummer (unless their psychiatrist has prescribed it to compensate for paranoid insecurities, low self-esteem, or a really small penis). i January 23 2009
Gist of a letter I sent to ABCNews.com
RE: the USAirways emergency landing in the Hudson River
Some reasons why the broadcast media has lost credibility:
1. The waters were not "icy" nor "freezing" if the water temp was 40 degrees. We would not tolerate a weather forecaster being so inaccurate, why do we tolerate it from news reporters? The water could be frigid, cold, or something similar, but not icy or freezing.
2. Calling the landing a "miracle" is an insult to the training, expertise, and intelligence of the flight crew. The safe landing and low injury count is due to humans acting appropriately, not to divine intervention (if it were divine intervention or a 'miracle' we have a tough time explaining the planes that do crash and kill people).
3. Was it really a "crash"? There was no wreckage and no damage (other than what the birds caused - the birds crashed, not the plane). Wasn't it just an emergency landing or a water landing? I realize that doesn't make for sensational copy on-air, but it does seem more accurate. i January 18
Why do we capitalize the word 'i'? Frank Nichols, a New York-based designer, posed this question to me a while back. I admit I had accepted the illogical practice for years without ever questioning it. It really doesn't make sense - we don't capitalize You or We when they're in the middle of a sentence, so why the pronoun i? I will be more aware of this and sometimes not capitalize i. I will try it and see how i feel about it. More info i December 24
I stood and pondered the message on this billboard. The only clue I can find to help me answer the question posed is that the sponsor seems to be the Special Olympics. I assume, then, that the 'R-Word' is 'Retarded'. This billboard asks the reader to wonder and figure it out - thereby making the word even more dominant and memorable. The result backfires - instead of encouraging the reader to erase a word, it is reinforcing the word and making it a part of our vernacular. There are also too many image messages - the eraser competes for attention with the prohibited symbol over the R - which is the dominant message? Is the content asking us to erase the word or prohibit it? Do we really need two messages? A reader typically doesn't have much time to read the message on an outdoor billboard. Is the message conveyed here that the 'R' is prohibited, but the word 'retarded' is okay? Should we replace retarded with the R-Word? Doesn't that seem a bit retarded? There sure is a lot of bad design around. Weak concepts. Weak messages. Weak communication of content. i Photographed on The Drag in Austin, October 25
We love burgers and fries, so here's a burger made of fries, with a delectable spicy sauce with a subtle yet robust hint of ketchup and pickle. This recipe was created and assembled in Greenwich Village, New York City, during the afternoon of September 20, 2008, by part-time chef Jim Watson. i September 25
Egossism - Egotism + narcissism. Remember when media pundits labeled the 1980s as the 'Me Decade'? It was due to our putting individual needs and desires first. But the 80s have nothing on '08. I notice so many people who are true narcissists - they are driven primarily by their own egos.
-- Definition: nar·cis·sism [nahr-suh-siz-em]
-- 1. inordinate fascination with oneself; excessive self-love; vanity -
------ being a normal condition at the infantile level of personality development.
-- Synonyms 1. self-centeredness, smugness, egocentrism.
It seems that many narcissists are hiding deeper insecurities and fears - the 'me first' is quite likely just a cover so underlying deficiencies can be masked. Maybe this is just an appropriate and expected result of this era of fear-mongering from the government and the media. This commitment to self may help explain why so few people are involved or seem to care about the consequences of The Worst President Ever, climate change, and other social issues. I wonder if facebook, myspace, blogs, and chats have an influence on this - much of this digital socializing encourages self-centeredness - 'tell what you are doing', etc. The illustration to the left, by Ron Barrett in The New York Times, July 2008, is so right-on. It portrays the extent of the universe in the minds of many people. It accompanied an article discussing this trend among us. i July 24
Drilling for oil should be allowed in the ANWR (Arctic National Wildlife Refuge) in Alaska. The USA depends on oil for transportation and plastics - we are a petroleum-driven society. The countries in the Middle East charge us for their oil and keep us beholden to them and their whims (gas costs 78 cents a gallon in Kuwait and 91 cents in Saudi Arabia). They are able to manipulate the world economy. If the USA would process oil from the Arctic National Wildlife Reserve in Alaska (a US state), we could lessen our dependence on imported oil. That would seriously impair the economy of the Middle East and force them to play by our rules instead of our playing by their rules. Peace is not likely to come to the Middle East nor the planet until the economic playing field is better balanced.
Look how tiny the land area is (the red square in the Coastal Plain in the map to the left) and look how desolate the area is (above). Drilling for oil on American land is more important than keeping pristine the land that has such minimal impact on the lives of humanoids. We consumers are responsible for the need to drill for more oil since we refuse to conserve energy, continue to buy inefficient cars, and are unwilling to compromise our excessive lifestyles. Americans have made it painfully clear through many gas shortages and price increases that we love our cars, driving 2 blocks to run errands, flying all over the world for fun, etc. We are excessive. No doubt about it. But we choose to do those things and we enjoy them. And, if we choose to do them, we must accept the consequences - that they require massive amounts of fuel. Having to import oil allows other countries and their power-mad leaders to exploit their bargaining hold over the USA and allows the Bush/Cheneys to attack and kill others in their quest to get more and cheaper oil for us to use. We must look for alternatives. No solution will be ideal - each comes with negative consequences. Those who stand in the way of drilling in Alaska (or offshore) seem to be okay with drilling in other lands, even at the high cost of lives, security, and money. That seems a bit arrogant and short-sighted. So, of course, we should allow drilling in the ANWR. More info. i July 14
Give back seems to be the new media and celebrity buzzword. Spokespeople talk about giving back. Just what did they take? Why do they have to give something back? I'm not sure its the right phrase. Giving of one's time, energy, and money to the community or a good cause is admirable - something we each should do. Continually. But we're not giving back - we didn't take time or money from the community or a cause, so how can we give back? i June 16
1 I don't understand the phrase, 'get a kick out of this'. Why would anyone want to be kicked? Why do we say that in reference to something good - like getting kicked is good.
2 In Manhattan, I take the two dogs to a nearby dog park. Once, while they romped with their pals, I realized that 'dog park' backwards spells 'krap god'. I'm not real sure what the cosmic connection is between these phrases. Holy shit? Supreme turd? I just don't know. Maybe it will come to me one day in the dog park.
3 Emily coined a neword in an email about my leaving New York City for Oklahoma - she referred to the home state as Oklahome. Nice.
4 Have you heard the phrase, "As much fun as a barrel of monkeys"? Help me on this one. Who has ever played with monkeys in a barrel? Wouldn't monkeys in a barrel be pissed off and desperate to get out? Is that fun? Doesn't it make more sense to say, "As much fun as monkeys at an amusement park." or "As much fun as a barrel of whiskey."
5 Since a teacher teaches, an actor acts, and a baker bakes, does a carpenter carpent? i May 24-July 8
6 Have you ever heard someone say, "I'm so hungry I could eat a horse" ? Yuck - what's that about? Horse meat, hooves, horse head? I don't get it. Why don't they just say, "I'm so hungry I could eat a big steak (or Caesar salad or a large pizza)", anything but a horse. i May 18
I found a new way to waste less. For years, I was getting a cup every time I ordered coffee at Starbucks. I requested 'no lid' since I didn't need one and it was just a waste. Then I bought a reusable plastic Starbucks cup that I took in with me and reused. In April, 2008, I was given a great gift of a ceramic cup that is all white and looks like a paper coffee cup. So, I started using that one at Starbucks. Then I realized, why not take it into every restaurant? Why get a new cup or glass every time I eat out (which is a lot). I keep the cup in my car and rinse it out at the restaurant before putting it back into the car. This eco-friendly ceramic 'I am not a paper cup' was designed by James Burgess and is a double-walled thermal porcelain cup with a silicone top. I used to get 12-15 cups per week. Now with this reusable ceramic cup, I am saving the materials, manufacturing, shipping, storage, disposal, and landfill of about 700 cups per year. i April 22 (Earth Day - a nice coincidence)
I have turned off the ringer on my landline phone at home. I have a recorded message that just says "I don't answer this phone anymore. Please call me on my cell." I had reached my lifetime quota of tolerating telemarketing spiels. I was never quite comfortable with hanging up on a sales rep so I would sit through the scripted pitch. But no more. Its also quite nice to not hear the phone ring at home anymore. i April 22
Two of the most influential men on the planet. The Pope heads an institution that doesn't allow its members to practice birth control, encourages large families, and practices delusional thinking and worship with fairy tale antiquated rituals. The other seems to have little regard for human life as he condones and authorizes murder and torture of those who stand in his way or disagree with him. Tyrants both. Together, these two have done much to inhibit the humanitarian progress of the human species and harm the integrity of the USA. i April 17
Eathan Harris, an 8-year-old Colorado boy has been suspended from elementary school for sniffing his Sharpie marker in class. The principal wanted to send a warning about inhaling solvents, which is “really, really, seriously dangerous. We’ve purged every permanent marker there is in this building.” Toxicologists, though, say Sharpies are nontoxic and cannot be used to get high. i From The Week April 15
This foto just baffles me. A parking area for wheelchairs? Providing a safe haven for them is considerate but how do the users move from here - do they hobble? i Febuary 10
My driver's license expired on December 31, 2007. Flying back to OKC from NYC on January 2nd, I was marked for special security screening - the whole package - double pass and hand search of my stuff, thorough pat down. So, I asked the pat-down guy, "Wouldn't a terrorist make sure they didn't have an expired license or anything to draw extra security screening? In fact, doesn't my stupidity about letting a license expire put me in a category of 'Least threatening'?" That made too much sense, so he just gave me a sheepish 'I dunno' smile. Security measures at airports have been and are absurd and completely unproductive. More about this i January 9
All men really are not created equal. Modern genetic science is finding evidence that the races are not the same. In evolving in different environments on different continents, Caucasians (primarily Europe), Negroes (primarily sub-Sahara Africa), and Mongoloids (primarily East Asia) developed a long list of differing traits that have enhanced their survival. Negroes mature much faster physically and have better eyesight while Mongoloids mature more slowly but live longer. Caucasians have an average IQ of about 100, Negroes (in Africa and in the USA) average 70-85; and Mongoloids from 106-113. i From William Saletan in Slate.com
The Christmas season is such a fun time of the year. The lights and decorations, the music, activities around town and at the homes of friends and families, movies and concerts, gifts, cookies, and treats. Unfortunately its also a time when some try to use the season for political or personal gain. There is lots of ignorance - Jesus really is not the reason for the season. The reason is the pagan Winter Festival celebrating the fall harvest. Constantine, emperor of the Roman Empire, declared the festival in honor of Christ. Years ago, people got upset over the word xmas, afraid it minimized Christ. They were then informed that the x is the Greek symbol chi, which means Christ. Xmas is just another way to write Christmas - they mean the exact same thing, just different symbols. Recently, the flap is over replacing Merry Christmas with Happy Holidays. Some people are alarmed. They may not realize that Holiday comes from Holy Days - Happy Holidays, while just as religious and reverent as Merry Christmas, does seem more appropriate in this religion-diverse world. i December 22 - Illustration by Mitch Baker of Los Angeles
Osama Bin Laden means Sama, son of Laden. Ben Hur means son of Hur. Although now the antiquated son of often means family of or descendant of. Here are a few name prefixes that mean descendant of:
m Mc or Mac - Celtic, Scottland
m O' - Celtic, Ireland
m Fitz - Norman
m Di or De - Italian and French
m Bar - Aramaic
Some name suffixes that mean descendant of:
m -ez - Spanish
m -ich or vich - Russian
m -sky or -ski - Eastern European
m -tse - Chinese
m -czyk or -wiak or -wicz - Polish
m -idas or -ides or -populous - Greek. i October 7
Concerning the issue of underage drinking - the problem is not one of underage drinking. If we state that it is, then we will likely fail. Alcohol doesn't force itself on us - we make conscious decisions to drink it. People not of legal drinking age will chose to drink - its a part of the rite of passage in American culture, whether we like it or not. The problem is drinking too much - more than the body can safely metabolize, often brought on by binge drinking. If we recognize that, then we might be able to address the problem and make things better, with the goal to help develop drinkers who are willing and capable of making intelligent and responsible decisions. We have learned (hopefully) that prohibiting something is simply not effective. Prohibition seems to increase desire, as it did in the early 1930s. Prohibiting the American teenager (no matter the age) from drinking is not working, nor will it ever work.
Some recommendations to consider:
1. Continue to educate young people through schools, churches (just declaring drinking alcohol a sin won't do it), and, especially, in the home. Provide materials and incentives for educators/parents to discuss the harmful effects of alcohol. We may then minimize ignorance - to help one make a more intelligent decision concerning their physical and mental health, the burden on society and the judicial system, the dangers of drunk driving, relationships, embarrassing behavior, and one's own dignity.
2. Change the legislation that requires 3.2 beer in Oklahoma. 3.2 often encourages young people to drink more in order to feel a 'buzz'. So, the 3.2 legislation helps develop habits of overdrinking - probably the opposite of what it was intended to do.
3. Remove inducements for binge drinking, such as Nickel beer night, Bottomless cup, Ladies drink free, Happy Hour drink specials, Half-price drinks, etc. These all encourage people to drink too much and/or to binge drink. Bar and restaurant owners should impose this on their own. If not, legislation may be necessary. i August 14
Fun trivia from the Internet
No word in the English language rhymes with month, orange, silver, or purple (other than, of course, bunth, flornge, pilver, and slurple).
• 'Dreamt' is the only English word that ends in the letters 'mt'.
• There are only four words in the English language which end in 'dous': tremendous, horrendous, stupendous, and hazardous (I can also add baldous and gregaldous to that list).
• There are two words in the English language that have all five vowels in order: abstemious and facetious.
• A 'jiffy' is an actual unit of time - 1/100th of a second.
• Almonds are a member of the peach family.
• If the population of China walked past you, 8 abreast, the line would never end because of the rate of reproduction. i July 12
When I drive to and from Edmond OK and Manhattan NY, I pass numerous Interstate highway interchanges that are full of services for motorists - fuel, food, stores, repairs, motels, amusements, etc. Some of these interchanges are small communities that rely on the traffic stopping for their survival. They are a unique part of the American landscape - created and maintained for the convenience and pleasure of mobile Americans - tourists, business people, and truckers. We need a name for these places. Travel Plaza, Services, Service Center. How about 'Stopping Center'. From Shopping Center but expressing the unique attribute - we stop at these places to interrupt our journey for a few minutes or overnight to take care of our needs and wants. i June 20
From the Not what it seems department: According to recent research studies - wearing a seat belt allows drivers to feel more secure and confident and, therefore, take more risks and drive more dangerously. Wearing a bicycle helmet allows automobile drivers to feel the cyclist is more experienced and more in control of their bike and, therefore, can be approached with less caution, resulting in more danger for the cyclist. i March 24 2007
Some names that were originally trademarked but lost their legal trademark status: aspirin, cellophane, dry ice, escalator, heroin, kerosene, linoleum, nylon, raisin bran, shredded wheat, trampoline, zipper. i March 24 2007
Okay, I'm confused - how should we drive when we're not in the Traffic Safety Zone? With unsafe driving skills? Shouldn't we be encouraged to always drive with safe driving skills? i March 14 2007
People were talking behind me at the conference. It was distracting, rude, and inconsiderate. Without thinking, I wanted to glare at them, hush them, or walk up to them and ask them to keep it down. I wanted to control those around me to suit me. Yikes. How disgusting. Instead, I thought more deeply and realized my life would be better (and theirs) if I just accepted what was happening, adapted to the new environment, and turned my attention back to the conference speaker. Those previously annoying voices now just became part of the environment, like air conditioning noise, coughs, rustling of papers, and scooting of chairs. That makes so much more sense. I felt so much better. Why, I wondered, was I conditioned to try to control so much around me? Seeking some control is normal and healthy for survival. Seeking to change threatening situations or those that impair good things from happening for the society is probably good. But there's a limit. Sometimes it makes the most sense to just accept, adapt, and move on. i January 20 2007
Mornfo - I'm still digesting this one - a combo new word for More Info. On websites, linking to another site for more information is quite common. Usually written just as More Info, it is becoming a single entity - visually and orally. So, maybe a shorter word - morinfo was the first suggestion, but then, mornfo based on the pronounced phrase, like 'seeya' for 'see you' and 'sup' for 'What is up'. i January 20 2007
Fun at the Oklahoma State Fair • Pizza on a Stick!
I don't quite get all the flack against Wal-Mart. Some say they pay low wages, have poor health coverage, and hurt communities where they open up a new store. When I was a kid, we had these same conversations about shopping malls - they were killing downtown shopping. And they did. But we liked the convenience, ease of free parking, and selection of stores and activities. Malls became the new 'Main Streets'. We flocked to the malls just as we now flock to Wal-Mart. Here are some statistics from George Will of the Washington Post:
325 jobs available at a new Wal-Mart in a suburb of Chicago - 25,000 people applied, 25,000 people who felt they would be better off with the alleged low wages and poor health coverage.
W-M accounted for 13% of the nation's productivity gains - makes W-M about as important as the Federal Reserve in holding down inflation.
W-M causes the loss of about 50 retail jobs among competitors - W-M creates 100 new jobs (net gain of 50 new jobs).
W-M saves shoppers over $200 billion a year - more than food stamps ($29 billion).
W-M saves grocery buyers 17% (W-M has 20% of the USA's grocery business).
September 14 2006
According to the American Federation of Teachers, teacher pay in 2003-04 ranged from a high of $56,500 to a low of $33,200. Another way to look at it: pick a corporate chieftain - Jeff of General Electric, for example, earns $15.4 million a year. Each day he makes almost what the average teacher makes in a year, a year of taming wild children, planning lessons, grading papers, helping to shape a generation, and helping to provide Jeff with a workforce of educated employees. Look at Oklahoma in the middle of the map to the left - it is surrounded by higher paying states and one of only three states in the lowest ranking with an average salary below $36,000. Many great teachers leave Oklahoma for higher paying jobs in Texas. Yesterday I saw one of my favorite bumper stickers - It will be a great day in America when the schools have all the money they need and the military has to hold a bake sale. (map and stats from the New York Times, September 3, 2006) i September 3 2006
Got this receipt at Braum's. They charged me 25 cents for a cup of water. Well, its about time. I often just get water to drink with my meals when I eat out and restaurants should charge me for a glass/cup of water. There are costs involved with buying the cup or glass, washing the glass, the ice, maybe a straw and lid, and the water itself. It seems very reasonable that the customer should help cover the costs for these items. Maybe just a dime or, at most, a quarter; but something. It just seems fair. i August 2006
Raising the minimum wage is not about paying workers more money - any employer is encouraged to do that at any time - its about the role government plays in telling business owners what they should pay their employees. From a letter in The Oklahoman, 9-19-06: "I work at minimum wage, have no children, and am able to support myself. These are all choices I've made in my life and I take full responsibility for them. I'm bothered by people who want to increase the minimum wage, saying they can't support their families. This is the wrong answer to a much bigger problem. When the minimum wage is raised, hourly employees have a little more money until inflation goes up again. But, salaried employees don't get a pay raise and, comparatively, will make less money than before. Raising the minimum wage also hurts small businesses. Example: a business with 10 employees at $5.15 - if raised to $6.15, the employers' options are to cut hours of the employees, lay off an employee, or raise prices. Not very good options. We should focus on improving higher education so people can get better jobs, lowering the divorce rate to reduce the number of single mothers living on their own, and, through education, lowering unplanned pregnancies and unwed mothers. Why focus on an unproductive answer to a much bigger problem?" i September 22 2006
When you pay the suggested admission of $8 at the Brooklyn Museum, you get this tag on a string to wear to show the guards that you paid. This is common practice in museums - to provide something to wear on your person. Most museums use metal buttons with fold-over tabs or an adhesive-backed sticker to put on your clothes. This was the first time I got one with a tie string, presumably to wrap around a button. I and my friend were each wearing tee-shirts. Where do you put it on a tee-shirt? I asked the ticket seller behind the counter. She said some kids wear it around their wrist. Not going to work for me - the loop was not big enough. She also mentioned she had heard others question this, also. This is just bad design - to produce a wearable tag that has to be tied or wrapped around something. Is this museum not aware of how many people wear tee-shirts. now, especially in the summer?
Note on museum admissions - I have long felt that teachers should get into any museum for free. Reasons: 1. Teachers don't get paid enough and this is one way for corporations to supplement pay and benefits. 2. Teachers are great salespeople for museums. They schedule field trips, encourage students to visit museums, share info from the exhibits in class. Some museum visits are necessary study and research for many teachers.
Anyway, here's how I wore the tag from the Brooklyn Museum - I slid my glasses frame through the string loop. The ticket seller laughed and the guards got a kick out of it. A few minutes later in a crowded elevator, a whole bunch of school-age kids were giggling and laughing at the silly old man with the tag on his face. I continued with a serious conversation, swinging the tag all over my mouth and face. That just made them laugh harder. Stupid, unresponsive design that turned into something fun (and silly). After I got tired of the annoying string in front of my face, I removed the tag and put it in my pocket. If I had been stopped by a guard I would have shown him/her the tag and commented that I couldn't find a place to tie it to my tee-shirt. Of course, the guard wouldn't really care, but maybe someday, someone will address this design problem and make it better - for the museumgoer and the museum. i July 30 2006
Got into a discussion with Beau (who lived in Australia) and Julie (who lived in London) about Aussie rules football, soccer, and American football. Calling soccer, a sport where the hands can't touch the ball, football makes a lot of sense - its mostly about running and kicking. American football is not really about the feet - its passing, running, and some kicking; but the ball is mostly touched by hands. Should we call it Handball? No, that's already the name of a game that uses hands extensively. How about Runball or Passball. That makes sense. Okay, from now on, I'll call it Runball. Or Passball. Or Touchdownball. Just not Football. i August 2 2006
Approved for Washington DC in 2006: a new African-American War Memorial and the new National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC). Should we then remove all references and exhibits concerning Negroes in the Museum of American History and other existing non-racist War memorials? Negroes have played a major part in the development and history of the United States and there are vital stories to tell. These contributions should definitely be recognized and included in our national heritage and archives. But, a separate museum? Why segregate Negro history and contributions? Why not integrate? What did MLK, Rosa Parks and the countless others fight for - segregation, discrimination, or integration? What a terrible insult to their suffering. More. i July 8 2006
A constitutional amendment to prohibit burning the American flag will be the first amendment (with the exception of the prohibition of alcohol - which was later repealed) that gives Congress the power to restrict individual citizen's freedom. It also will be the first to restrict a material object. Some proponents say the flag deserves special protection because it is the most important symbol of America and the constitution. However, if the amendment does pass we may likely see an increase in flag burning as it will become an even clearer and stronger form of protest. Those who favor amending the constitution probably don't really care about someone burning a flag (we have flag underwear, frayed flags on government buildings, and all sorts of disrespectful flag displays) - they probably are using this as a political issue in these paranoid times when Americans are deeply divided (thanks, George). As another said, "It is a sign of a democracy's fragility to use a constitutional amendment as a test for patriotism". If our government sees fit to amend the constitution to protect a symbol of freedom, then it will mark the beginning of the end of our democracy, a major turning point in the continued eroding of the effectiveness of the US government. There will be no clearer symptom of the downfall of the USA than creating legal protection for a symbol. i July 5 2006
There is now a serious police presence in downtown Manhattan - and not ordinary police, but these decked-out military style soldiers. There are also National Guard kids stationed throughout the city. Seeing these quasi-soldiers on street corners and in Grand Central reminds me of seeing soldiers in Egypt - a third-world, unstable government. This is the United States of America. What is going on? Is it paranoia? Security precautions? Overreaction? Have we yet acknowledged that terrorists have made a major impact on our culture and lifestyle? i July 30 2006
ratio of large corporation CEOs pay to the average worker's pay was 10
to 1 in 1980 (if a worker earned $100, the CEO got $1,000). In 2006,
the ratio jumped to 430 to 1 (the worker earns $100, the CEO gets
$43,000). That's a 4,200% increase from 1980 to 2006. The
former chief executive of ExxonMobil was paid $686 million over 13 years.
That is about $211,000 every single work day. The average annual salary
in America is about $32,000. This guy received that much in 1 hour and
15 minutes. Again - he got more in an hour and 15 minutes than the average
American got in 1 year. This disparity seems obscene and way out of balance.
Remember, ExxonMobil made more corporate profit in 2005 than any other
company ever in history. i Excerpted from Playboy magazine, July 2006, and The New York Times, April
Some of the stuff I thot about on the road from OKC
I sure do put a lot of trust in strangers. The Interstate is full
of people I never met who are in control of huge powerful machines that
can cause havoc if not maintained and manipulated properly. All of these
other people were trusting that I, too, was operating my hard driving
machine (not that, I mean the car) in a safe manner. There are so many
opportunities for accidental encounters that could be dangerous - I'm
amazed there aren't more wrecks.
I saw signs that read FOG
AREA. I was
confused about this acronym FOG. What could it mean? Maybe Free Octane
Gas? Or Fog On Ground or Fog Over the Grass? None of those made much sense.
I finally figured it must mean First OverGear - maybe a suggestion for
truckers to shift into first gear - the signs were always near the tops
of passes - where first gear might be better. I don't know. On the drive
back, maybe I'll ask a trucker at a rest area.
There were stretches of Interstate that had lines, convoys,
of trucks - a solid line of trucks for miles. I wonder if we should just
replace Interstate highways with conveyor belts. Large conveyor belts.
We would save on gas, there would be no speeding tickets (unless some
moron sped on the belt), and there would be less accidents as each driver
would simply put the vehicle in Park and be able to leave the seat - visit
with other passengers, sleep, or step out onto the belt and enjoy the
scenery. Vendors could drive along the belt dispensing snax, drinks, games,
My favorite billboard was The
DaVinci Code movie is mostly a lie. Geez, its a novel - why
so much fear and paranoia? Now, I'm beginning to wonder if those dinosaurs
in Jurassic Park were also a lie. And maybe Forrest Gump didn't
do all the things the movie said that he did. Maybe there are lots of
lies in movies. Now I just don't know. i June
There is a subtle move that people (mainly males) do in
New York City - I call it the Pocket Pat. Its to check, when leaving one's
apartment, to make sure one has keys and phone in the pockets before the
apartment door locks behind you. Its a quick movement to check for the
bulges - simple pats on the pockets. i May
The illegal immigration issue seems pretty much based on
greed. Mexicans risk their lives to come here to get more money. US companies
hire them in violation of INS laws in order to save on salaries and make
more money. Consumers prefer products with lower prices. Good ole fashioned
American greed seems to be at the root of the problem. Now people are
demanding something be done, yet they don't want prices to go up to cover
the higher salaries that will be required to hire American workers to
replace the illegal immigrants. Isn't it really our fault? i May
I was sitting at the
Border's Books on 59th and Lexington (I had just come from seeing the
Frank Gehry collection of jewelry at Tiffany's on Fifth Avenue). I was
watching people meander around the store when one person approached this
narrow passage, stood on the floor, and the floor moved. First it moved
her forward about two feet (her feet didn't move) and then - and I'm not
making this up - the floor she was standing on began to move up at an
angle, like a staircase but she didn't have to climb the steps. By golly,
she just stood there. What a great invention that is. You stand on the
floor, don't move, and the floor takes you up to the next level. You just
stand there. Holy cow. What's next - a small room that goes straight up
and down? i New York City, April 14 2006
other day, I got inside a machine that I store at my house in a special
room. I sat in a comfortable adjustable chair and by moving my feet and
arms this machine smoothly transported me to wherever I guided it to go.
I sat in a lounge chair, in a climate-controlled environment, and listened
to music on a custom sound system of songs that I had programmed earlier.
I was quite comfortable and without having to exert much energy, I was
transported to stores and restaurants, all in a matter of minutes. I call
this amazing machine my PTU, Personal Transit Unit. What a great
age we live in. We no longer have to walk or ride a horse to get around. i April
just authorized the euthanasia of my dog, Dallas. I signed one form. Now
I wonder - why is it socially acceptable and even encouraged that we euthanize
our pets to end their suffering, yet it is illegal to show the same respect
and consideration for our human friends? Is it because we are more sensitive
to our pets needs? Is it partly because we don't compromise any religious
values killing pets? I don't know, but this makes me more sympathetic
to the cause of allowing terminally ill people to die with dignity at
their own choosing. i March
credits for a movie after the movie has begun is like putting a picture
behind text in a print ad. Its annoying - if the director wants me to
get into the picture, don't interrupt with stuff to read - stuff that
I don't need or even want to read. And if the director wants me to read
these credits, don't interrupt them with dialogue, visuals, or plot. I
came to see a movie. Boosting the egos of the production crew and stars
is useless. Let me just watch the movie. If I really care or want to know
who the cinematographer, costume designer, or grip was, I'll sit through
the credits at the end. i March
Black professors at a university in Oklahoma complained that their percentage makeup doesn't match the percentage makeup of the general population. Here's how ridiculous that argument is - the NBA determines its starting lineup based on skill, talent, and expertise; not on the percentages of ethnic populations (which would probably be 3 white guys, 1 Hispanic, and one from black, Asian, Native American populations). Why are we okay with the NBA having racially unbalanced starters? Because we accept that a basketball team wants to win - they don't care about employing the underrepresented - they want to win. In education, apparently, its not about assembling the best, its about providing a job service. Educators don't care about 'winning', just fear of reprisals. i December
Christmas versus Happy Holidays? Gee, these people are getting desperate
- they now are making an issue of what people say at discount stores while
they go shopping. Is Christianity really so fragile that it matters if
someone says Happy Holidays rather than Merry Christmas? The word Holidays
is from Holy Days - quite a respectful and appropriate phrase. Again,
WWJD? Did he not teach us to spend our time and energy with our hearts
and loving each other and not making ostentatious displays of our faith.
Christians today seem to be more concerned with their arrogance than with
their faith and becoming more Christ-like. WTF? (Where's the fire?) i December
you noticed that the climax of Christmas parades is Santa Claus, not Jesus?
There are at least two versions of Christmas now - the minor spiritual
observance (who really celebrates a birthday at Christmas?) and the major
frenzy of consumerism and one-upmanship. The early American Puritans (who
were probably more religious than any of the Christian-right today) even
banned celebrations at Christmas as they felt it cheapened the birth of
their savior. They were so right. Almost all the traditions associated
with Christmas are pagan in origin - Christmas really is not about the
birth of a mythological character from a book. Its more about culture,
greed, pride, and excess. In 2005, some churches even canceled Sunday
services on Christmas day. i December
- what a phenomenal place, manufactured to be comfortable, satisfying,
and exciting. In LA, I took a walk in Walt's footsteps: houses and early
studios. An incredible experience. Walt Disney is one of my role models,
a mentor - his imagination, vision, talent, and persuasiveness to get
things accomplished. I had been a fan since watching the Disneyland TV
show, visiting Disneyland in 1956, watching the Mickey Mouse Club, and
enjoying his many movies. So, here I was in LA at the site of his first
home (he moved in with an uncle after he moved west from Kansas City)
and three blocks down the street was the first storefront studio that
he and his brother Roy opened - Disney Bros. Studio. I walked those three
blocks twice seeing houses that Walt saw, wondering what his imagination
was thinking while he made that walk every day.
In Griffith Park, I saw the carousel where Walt sat and watched his daughters
ride in the early 1950s. It was amazing to be in the same spot, almost
unchanged, where he was inspired to create Disneyland. I drove the route
he probably took from his home to the park. i Los
Angeles, December 2005
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