Today is a day to remember those who fell in service to our country, but I do not believe the ghosts of those who gave their lives would begrudge you your barbecues and parties.
So enjoy your holiday. Feast on burgers, ribs, and steaks. Play frisbee in the park. Go to the beach or pool if the weather permits and that’s what you want to do. But take a moment sometime during the day to remember those who passed. Raise a toast to those who made the ultimate sacrifice so that you could have the freedoms you enjoy today.
In Flanders Fields
John McCrae, 1872 – 1918
In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place, and in the sky,
The larks, still bravely singing, fly,
Scarce heard amid the guns below.
We are the dead; short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.
Take up our quarrel with the foe!
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high!
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.
Short one today.
In the past, I have pointed out that there is no right to protest per se. I.e. there is nothing that is normally not permitted which suddenly becomes permissible if done as “protest”. There are rights which you have which can be used as protest–speech, peaceable assembly (don’t forget the “peaceable” part), the press, and petitioning government for redress of grievance–but “protest” on its own is not an enumerated right.
Still “speech”, which also includes physical actions for the purpose of conveying a message, is one of the rights. And so, in the wake of the NFL ruling on the “kneeling” protests during the National Anthem, people are complaining about violating the player’s “free speech.”
Okay, the players have a right to speak. What they don’t have is a right to force people to attend/watch NFL games and buy NFL merchandise. And, since they don’t have the right to force them, the people _do_ have a right to turn away from the NFL if they don’t like what the players are doing and the League is allowing. (And that’s exactly what has been happening–people have been staying away from NFL games and licensed NFL merchandise in droves, leading to the league hemorrhaging money.) They don’t have a right to require their employer–their teams and the League of which they are a part–to provide them a venue for their speech.
Which leads to that the players with the protests also don’t have a right to keep earning multi million dollar salaries when they’re costing their employers money.
If I were to engage in political protests on company time that cost my boss business and therefore money, I’d be fired and rightfully so.
They’re getting off easy.
Hit with a 14 hour day at work yesterday (so no post yesterday), then a frantic rush today to get a shipment out before a deadline today that, if missed, would cause the funding that’s paying for it to vanish. So here’s another “Blast from the Past”.
Back when I was assigned to Fort Meade I had a motorcycle, a little Suzuki GS400 that was about 10 years old then. Great bike until a Yugo pulled out in front of me without looking and…well, you should have seen the other guy, but the bike was totaled. And me, I was on crutches (right knee between my fuel tank and his fender) and dizzy for days (impact head first with the pavement but…helmets save lives).
But that’s not the story I’m talking about today.
Fairly early in my ownership of that bike I ran down to one of the local malls. Now, the bike has this lock on the side of the seat where you can hang your helmet. The “D” rings that are used to secure the strap when you’re wearing it hang on a latch and the lock secures it in place.
I come out of the mall sometime later and…no helmet. I see the D rings hanging from the latch but the helmet is gone. Apparently someone cut the strap and absconded with the helmet. Of course, by cutting the strap they rendered the helmet useless since it would come right off in an accident. They just basically stole themselves an oversize and cumbersome paperweight. So they weren’t even getting any benefit from the theft, ending up with a worthless piece of plastic.
Why do people do things like that?
I had recently gotten contacts and couldn’t drive back without something to shield my eyes from the wind. I ended up buying a cheap pair of sunglasses. And once I got back to the dorm I had a spare helmet so I was good to go for the future.
Of course, I do know why people do things like that. Some people are just…broken. They’ll steal something just because they can, whether or not they actually get any return from it or not. Probably stuck on a shelf somewhere as some kind of “coup marker” until later forgotten about and thrown out. The other possibility is that someone thought he could pawn the helmet for the price of his next fix and didn’t realize by cutting that strap he was rendering the helmet worthless. But that’s just a different form of broken.
Another incident, later (after the motorcycle was totaled) I was doing my shopping trip by bicycle. On the way back to post I was hit by a car. I have no memory of the incident. I remember waking up first in the hospital at Fort Meade–Kimborough Army Hospital. Then, later, I woke up again at Walter Reed. Broken collarbone, concussion (duh, I was rendered unconscious). Some cuts on my face. And something happened to my other knee this time. My clothes had been cut off so when I was returned to post it was wearing one of those hospital gowns. Well, since my clothes at the time consisted of a bicycling jersey and shorts and I wasn’t going to be riding for some time (never did learn what happened to my bike–or what was left of it) it wasn’t a great loss.
From the injuries, it looks as though I was struck from the left, probably by an overtaking car, and then knocked to the right where I hit the pavement.
Okay, it was an accident. These things happen except I’ve managed to avoid them happening every other place I’ve ever been. (If I have to offer any driving advice it’s “Stay away from Laurel, MD.”) The weird part was when I tried to track down what happened. My first stop was the NCOOD–that’s the NCO (Non Commissioned Officer) Of the Day. That’s a slot that has someone all duty on all times to, well, among the duties is to field calls like the one from the police about my being in an accident and transported to the hospital.
The NCOOD report was very brief. It said a call from civilian police reported that I’d been in an accident and transported by ambulance to Kimborough. That’s it. It didn’t name any officers, refer to any actual police reports, or even name which police department made the call.
So, I start calling the various police departments. There was the Laurel police, since I was going to Laurel to pick up things. Some of what I was going to pick up was my “pick list” of comics from a comic store. I was able to confirm that I had picked them up and, therefore, had been on my way back to post when I was in the accident.
Laurel police had no record of the incident.
So next I try the Prince Georges County police. Laurel is in Prince Georges County. No report.
Anne Arundel County police. Fort Meade is in Anne Arundel County. No report.
State Police. No report.
That covered every department whose jurisdiction I could have gone through.
Nobody had any report that a serviceman had been hit by a car and taken to the hospital.
I was never able to find out what happened. I didn’t remember the incident. I was never able to learn who hit me because I was clearly hit by a car. There’s no way a “single vehicle accident” could have led to the injuries I had, not on that route. And there really was only one route as well.
So I was always left to wonder: was the car in the incident owned or driven by somebody with the clout to squash the report? This was in the Baltimore/Washington corridor after all. Or was this simply incompetence/laziness on the part of the civilian police, not bothering to do paperwork once they passed me back to the Army, figuring I was there problem then? I don’t know. Never will know.
Maybe if I’d been able to find out who hit me I could have won a substantial settlement which would have…dramatically changed how my life went after leaving the military a month later. Again, that’s in the “we’ll never know” category.
One thing I have learned from these incidents, however: Stay away from that part of Maryland.
Oh, lordy. A couple of years ago there was this ridiculous article on the New York Times’ website “27 Ways to be a Modern Man”. It was so risible that I simply had to fisk it. So, here it is again, the fisking of “27 Ways to be a Modern Man:
Usually I leave the fisking to others. By the time I get around to thinking things through, others have done the job said all I would care to say on the subject. But this one I couldn’t leave alone.
So, text from the original article will be in Bold. My comments in Italics.
Being a modern man today is no different than it was a century ago. It’s all about adhering to principle. Sure, fashion, technology and architecture change over time, as do standards of etiquette, not to mention ways of carrying oneself in the public sphere. But the modern man will take the bits from the past that strike him as relevant and blend them with the stuff of today.
Okay, this sounds like a reasonable approach, at first. Learn from the past and apply it to today’s situations. Practically the definition of conservatism.
1. When the modern man buys shoes for his spouse, he doesn’t have to ask her sister for the size. And he knows which brands run big or small.
“When the modern man buys shoes for his spouse”? His spouse isn’t capable of buying her own shoes? Does he also tie them for her? Yes, some brands run big and small. But so do individual patterns. And a shoe that looks good on the shelf or in a catalog may not look so good on ones feet. And there is simply no way to tell how they will feel until she actually tries them on.
How about this: instead of buying shoes behind her back which may or may not be what she wants, why not take her with you to buy shoes. Or go along when she wants to buy shoes. Or, if she’s asking you to go because she needs new shoes right now and for whatever reason can’t get to the store herself, then he should have her tell him what she wants, including size.
In that case, the modern man will go from store to store until he finds what she asked for because making his wife happy pleases him.
But the elephant in the room here is shoe buying? Really? That’s what you put on the list of what makes a modern man?
2. The modern man never lets other people know when his confidence has sunk. He acts as if everything is going swimmingly until it is.
The modern man knows when he needs help and asks for it. The manliest of men once said “A man’s got to know his limitations.”
3. The modern man is considerate. At the movie theater, he won’t munch down a mouthful of popcorn during a quiet moment. He waits for some ruckus.
The modern man can eat quietly.
4. The modern man doesn’t cut the fatty or charred bits off his fillet. Every bite of steak is a privilege, and it all goes down the hatch.
The modern man knows how to cook a steak. If it’s prepared improperly at a restaurant, he. sends. it. back. If they’re taking his money, the least they can to is provide good value in the form of a properly prepared steak.
Oh, and incidentally, a properly prepared fillet doesn’t have fat to trim.
5. The modern man won’t blow 10 minutes of his life looking for the best parking spot. He finds a reasonable one and puts his car between the lines.
The modern man can do elementary arithmetic and determine whether it’s quicker to just park here or look for a better parking spot.
Or, if he wants to be quick about it, he starts close, works his way out, and parks at the first spot he comes to.
6. Before the modern man heads off to bed, he makes sure his spouse’s phone and his kids’ electronic devices are charging for the night.
The modern man can trust his spouse to see to her own phone. As for the kids, if they’re old enough to have a phone, they’re old enough to see that it’s charged. If they forget, well that will be a lesson for next time, won’t it?
7. The modern man buys only regular colas, like Coke or Dr Pepper. If you walk into his house looking for a Mountain Dew, he’ll show you the door.
The modern man drinks whatever he wants. If it’s Diet Cherry Mountain Dew, it’s Diet Cherry Mountain Dew. The modern man does not apologize for his choice of beverage.
If a guest asks for something the modern man does not stock the modern man says something like “I’m sorry but I don’t have that. Would you perhaps like…” and then offers a selection of what the modern man does have. If a modern man knows in advance that a guest has a particular preference, the modern man will insure that he has a supply of it. See “considerate” above.
The modern man’s guests never leave hungry or thirsty unless it’s by their own choice.
8. The modern man uses the proper names for things. For example, he’ll say “helicopter,” not “chopper” like some gauche simpleton.
The modern man uses words appropriate to the context and audience. That might be “helicopter”, “chopper”, “Huey”, “Blackhawk”, or “Our ride” depending on the situation. Words are tools that serve the user. They convey more than just dictionary definitions but feelings and connotations and are chosen with that in mind.
9. Having a daughter makes the modern man more of a complete person. He learns new stuff every day.
The modern man appreciates whatever children the Gods grant to him. He does not keep trying until he has a daughter. He loves any and all children he may have, each as an individual.
10. The modern man makes sure the dishes on the rack have dried completely before putting them away.
Come on. It’s the 21st century. The modern man has a dishwasher. If he doesn’t (poverty does not render one less of a man) he has a dishtowel.
11. The modern man has never “pinned” a tweet, and he never will.
Okay. Can’t argue that one.
12. The modern man checks the status of his Irish Spring bar before jumping in for a wash. Too small, it gets swapped out.
The modern man may well use body wash. And Irish Spring? Perfume in soap form? If you must use bar soap, then Ivory all the way. (I kid. The modern man uses whatever he wants.)
And again, really? Manhood defined as avoiding the possibility of having to hop out of the shower to grab some soap?
13. The modern man listens to Wu-Tang at least once a week.
The modern man listens to whatever the hell he wants. But if that playlist doesn’t include bands like Dragonforce, Hammerfall, and Man O’ War, I have to raise some questions…
14. The modern man still jots down his grocery list on a piece of scratch paper. The market is no place for his face to be buried in the phone.
Rubbish. The phone has a note taking app for a reason. The modern man is not afraid of modern technology. See that “modern” in there? That’s a hint.
15. The modern man has hardwood flooring. His children can detect his mood from the stamp of his Kenneth Cole oxfords.
Once again, the modern man has whatever flooring he wants. If his children need to hear his foot stamps to determine his mood, he’s doing it wrong.
If you really want people to understand what you think and how you’re feeling, there’s this wonderful invention called “words”. Use them.
16. The modern man lies on the side of the bed closer to the door. If an intruder gets in, he will try to fight him off, so that his wife has a chance to get away.
The modern man and his spouse decide between them who sleeps on which side of the bed so that both are happy with the arrangement. The modern man understands that compromise and mutual accommodation is one of the keys to a successful relationship. The modern man has dogs, a security system, locks at least, and weapons to deal with the unlikely event of someone breaking into the dwelling intent on harm.
17. Does the modern man have a melon baller? What do you think? How else would the cantaloupe, watermelon and honeydew he serves be so uniformly shaped?
The modern man couldn’t care less how neatly balled the melons are. They all taste the same. If, for some reason, he has a fetish for neatly rounded melon balls (not that there’s anything wrong with that) he may have a melon baller. Or he may not. It’s hardly an essential of manhood.
18. The modern man has thought seriously about buying a shoehorn.
The modern man buys shoes that fit that he doesn’t have to cram his feet into.
19. The modern man buys fresh flowers more to surprise his wife than to say he is sorry.
Okay, I’ll give you this one too.
20. On occasion, the modern man is the little spoon. Some nights, when he is feeling down or vulnerable, he needs an emotional and physical shield.
There is nothing that lifts a man’s spirits more than being able to support and protect someone else.
21. The modern man doesn’t scold his daughter when she sneezes while eating an apple doughnut, even if the pieces fly everywhere.
This is something you worry about? Sneezing is an involuntary reaction. Hell, our Training Instructors didn’t gig us for sneezing in basic military training (but it had better not sound like a fake sneeze).
22. The modern man still ambles half-naked down his driveway each morning to scoop up a crisp newspaper.
The modern man has internet allowing him to sample a variety of news and opinion sources. (But I see what you did there New York Times.)
23. The modern man has all of Michael Mann’s films on Blu-ray (or whatever the highest quality thing is at the time).
Eh. They’re okay, but I’ve seen better.
John Wayne’s and Clint Eastwood’s films on the other hand…
(Ed: And if you don’t have John Wick…)
24. The modern man doesn’t get hung up on his phone’s battery percentage. If it needs to run flat, so be it.
But the modern man obsesses about his spouse’s and children’s phones to the point of checking that they’re charging every night? (Point #6)
The modern man plans ahead. He has a phone with sufficient battery life for his needs or he has extra battery capacity–either an external battery pack or access to a charger–to insure that he has power when he needs it.
25. The modern man has no use for a gun. He doesn’t own one, and he never will.
The modern man recognizes that he is ultimately responsible for his protection and that of his family. He is responsible for not putting his family under the hardship that his own death or injury can cause. The police cannot always be there. Crime and the threat of violence will, indeed, appear when the police are not at hand (criminals not wanting to be caught will generally act where the police are not. Until the police arrive, which can take some time, the modern man is on his own.
The modern man arms himself against that need.
26. The modern man cries. He cries often.
Perhaps at times but often? The modern man has other tools in his kit for dealing with problems. The modern man puts on the gloves and hammers away at the heavy bag. He splits wood. He does woodworking projects. He runs. He works on his car. He goes to the range and puts holes in paper. He does any of a variety of things to redirect frustration and sadness and cleanse his mind and spirit.
27. People aren’t sure if the modern man is a good dancer or not. That is, until the D.J. plays his jam and he goes out there and puts on a clinic.
If the modern man likes to dance, he dances. He doesn’t worry about what other people think about it. He may be good at it. He may be bad at it. But he dances. At the least, however, he knows some basic, general purpose steps so that he can teach his children so they won’t feel totally helpless in social situations that involve dancing.
The original article wasn’t describing the modern man. It was describing the modern milquetoast. The essentials of manhood have not changed. Courage, honor, providing for and defending ones family. These are the constants that have not changed however much some folk want to denigrate them these days.
For those unfamiliar, here’s a brief history of Goths, the Gothic subculture and why “Goth” even though they, we, were nowhere about when Rome was being sacked. (I’ve got an alibi!)
And some pictures of Goths, being Goth (what can I say, I like couples):
If this interests you, Toxic Tears has some tips on getting started:
My daughter has been in ballet since this past, October I think. In March the class she’s in was in a big competition. Today, Athena collected her awards for that:
The trophy was for a competition that, unfortunately, Athena did not attend. (Miscommunication so I didn’t get her there.) The plaque sitting on top of it is for the competition she did. That one goes to the school. The medal she’s wearing is her personal award, along with a pin. She’s wearing the costume she wore for the competition.
Here’s the video I took of the ceremony:
Going into the Summer session, Athena will be continuing Beginning Ballet, on Tuesday nights now, with a later additional session called “Pre-Pointe”. She’s really enjoying it, at least for now. Mind you, I can remember plenty of other things she was really excited about in the past and perhaps this, too, shall pass but for now I’ll let her see where she wants to, and can, go with it.
People on the left (it’s always the left for this one) who claim that if you do away with minimum wage it means wages will plummet to nothing while the evil business owners gloat over their fat profits.
The fact that employers will need to compete for good workers seems to escape them. If that other company over there has good workers who are making them a bunchaton of money, you might like to hire a few away from them (unless there’s a glut of equally capable workers so that you have your pick–don’t worry; I’ll get to that soon). How are you going to get them to quit that job and come work for you (making a bunchaton of money for you)? In olden days you might launch a raid, steal their workers, and chain them in your factories, but that tends to be frowned upon these days.
These days you only have one option, you need to offer them a better deal, either in pay or in other benefits so that they can tell current employer, “I’m outta here” and come work for you instead.
Of course, other guy wants to keep the workers making them a bunchaton of money and not lose them to you. So what to they do? They see your offer and raise their own so the workers say “on second thought, I’ll stay here.”
You, of course, still want to make money so you have to increase your offer still further. Now, you eventually hit some point where it’s not worth increasing your offer because the bunchaton of money you’d be spending for the workers reduces the bunchaton of money they’d make for you to “not worth it”.
That’s called “market value” for the labor.
Maybe you can play with things a bit. The other guy offers more money but you offer better medical (for instance) and some folk will like your deal better and some folk will like their deal better. Both of you get people working for you, maybe not all you would like, but some. Not an ideal situation for either you or your competitor but, hey, at least your still making money if not quite the same bunchaton of money you might if not for that pesky guy over their competing for the same workers.
Now suppose there is that glut of workers. There are a lot of workers sitting idle. They don’t have jobs. They are earning nothing. As a result, you can offer less to get them to work for you because something is better than nothing. That, however, is what you find in mindless “unskilled labor” where any warm body will do the job. Even there, however, not all unskilled labor is the same. There are those who will throw themselves into the job giving it their all, and there are those who will do the bare minimum they can get away with, and there are those who you have to stand over every second to get them to work at all. The third group, you want to get rid of as soon as possible. If you have to constantly stand over them, you’re not doing the things you could otherwise be doing–finding customers, finding suppliers providing the best value, arranging for other workers. You’re losing all that for the “gain” of a worker doing not just the absolute minimum, but requiring your constant attention to get even that much. That worker is a net cost to you. The worker in the middle, might be okay to keep, but only just. The workers in the first group though, ah, they’re the ones that can be quite valuable to you. You want to keep them. And since you already have them and they’re already familiar with our operation, you want to keep them happy and maybe provide training so they can move up to jobs requiring more expertise where they can make more money for you. But to do that, you have to increase their compensation because there’s always that competitor ready to hire them away once they show themselves as having more value than that “glut” of “interchangeable warm bodies” workers.
This is why as of 2017 only 2.3% of all hourly paid workers earn at or below the Federal Minimum Wage. The belief that reducing or eliminating the minimum wage will lead to a precipitous drop in earnings is, to put it simply, ridiculous. The market doesn’t work that way (when it’s allowed to work).
There is a flip side, however. Note that the whole argument is about good workers who make money for their employers. But what about the guy who doesn’t have the skills and expertise of those folk. Is he forever locked out of getting a good paying job, of having employers compete for his labor?
While this worker might not be able to compete in skill and experience with those established workers, there’s one area he can compete on: price. An employer who would not be willing to chance this less experienced, less skilled worker at the same price as the established, skilled workers, the employer might be willing to give him a shot at a lesser level of compensation. This provides an opportunity to gain the experience and skills, to demonstrate the work ethic, to show that, yes, the worker has value to contribute to an employer and, thus, get into the position where employers have to offer him more to avoid losing him to competition and taking that value with him.
Now this is where things like Minimum Wage and Union contracts and other things that limit how much the worker can compete on price come into play. By requiring a certain level of compensation regardless of skill, experience, or work ethic, they limit the new, inexperienced, unskilled worker’s ability to compete against those who have more experience and skills. And so it becomes harder for these folk to enter the work force in the first place. You end up with an increase of “under the table” arrangements which is less useful for establishing value to employers (being illegal and therefore secret).
Thus, Minimum Wage ends up hurting the very people it is claimed to be intended to help–those on the bottom, having difficulty transitioning from unskilled “interchangeable warm bodies” jobs to jobs earning higher compensation.
Sure the “raise” from an increased Minimum Wage or a new above-market-value contract is great for those who have the jobs. Not so much for those fired, or laid off, or never hired in the first place because of the enforced distortion of market forces.
The result of all this is that Minimum Wage is one of those things that sounds good if you look at it quickly and don’t think too much about it but just doesn’t work in practice.
I’m rather small potatoes for this to matter much in my case but yeah, pretty much this.
Short one today.
Many years ago I was a big comics fan. Not a collect comics and keep them carefully in mylar bags to preserve them in mint condition, type fan but a grab everything I could get my hands on and read it until it falls apart type fan.
I loved comic books. I loved heroes. People who’ve read some of my other posts should understand that about me. People with amazing powers who use those powers of their own free will, nobody outside forcing them to do it, to help others. Awesome. Can’t get enough of it. (And if some get paid for it–I’m looking at you Heroes for Hire–that’s fine too. Just so long as they’re helping people along the way.)
One of those heroes was Green Lantern. The Green Lantern of my childhood was Hal Jordan. And every time he had to charge his Power Ring (every 24 hours), he said his oath:
In brightest day, in blackest night, no evil shall escape my sight. Let those who worship evil’s might beware my power, Green Lantern’s light!
And so I went quite a few years. I encountered other Lanterns from other space sectors (these Green Lantern’s were kind of like space cops, each with a sector of space to patrol). I saw that the other Lanterns had their own oaths. Okay, fair enough.
Times changed. There was a “backup” Green Lantern on Earth (to take over if anything happened to Hal) named Guy Gardner. Then something happened to him (don’t remember what) requiring another backup to be chosen. John Stewart–the one people know from the Justice League and Justice League Unlimited series.
But then, some years later I encountered the Golden Age Green Lantern, Alan Scott. His ring was quite different. Where Hal’s was the product of alien super-science, Alan’s was from an ancient magic lantern prophesied to flare three times, once for death, once for life, and once for power. We get the tale of the first two flares and the third flare is where Alan Scott gets his power. He makes his ring from a part of the lantern (I know that doesn’t make sense. It was the 40’s. Just go with it.) and becomes the Green Lantern. Instead of being vulnerable to the color yellow (in the sense that it can’t directly affect anything of that color), his ring is vulnerable to “natural things” (likewise) as opposed to manufactured which soon morphs into “doesn’t affect wood.”
His oath, too, was different.
I shall shed my light over dark evil, for dark things cannot stand the light. The light of the Green Lantern.
That rocked. For that oath alone I prefer the Alan Scott Green Lantern to the Hal Jordan one.
Hal’s oath is about power. I don’t disparage power. It allows one to do great things. But Alan’s? Alan’s is not about power. It’s about being a light, a beacon. Light that shines forth. Evil cowers from it. Good is drawn to it.
Power can be countered with power, but light? Darkness can only retreat from it. It can try to extinguish the light but it cannot defeat it. As the metaphor goes, a single candle defeats the deepest darkness.
Not all of us have power, but all of us can be a light that shines in the world, the light of freedom, of courage, of ideals soaring high.
Be like Alan Scott, let your light shine forth.