He would have been 51 years old today :(
Saturday, August 29, 2009
Thursday, August 27, 2009
Edward "Ted" Kennedy was a U. S. Senator of Massachusettes and a member of the Democratic Party. In office from November 1962 until his death, Ted served nine terms in the senate. At the time of his death, he was the second most senior member of the senate, and the third longest-serving senator in U.S. history. He was best known as one of the most outspoken and effective senate proponents of progressive causes and bills. He died of brain cancer on Tuesday, August 25, 2009, at his home in Hyannis Port, MA, two weeks after the death of his sister Eunice Kennedy Shriver. He is survived by his wife Victoria, his sister Jean Kennedy Smith, and his three children.
For many years, Ted was the most prominent living member of the Kennedy family. He was the youngest brother of President John F. Kennedy and Senator Robert F. Kennedy, both victims of assassinations, and the father of Congressman Patrick J. Kennedy. The oldest Kennedy brother, Joseph P. Kennedy, Jr. (not seen in the above photo), was killed in 1944 during World World II while serving in England. Ted was the last surviving son of Joseph P. Kennedy, Sr. and Rose F. Kennedy. The couple also had five daughters... Rosemary, Kathleen Agnes, Eunice Mary, Patricia, and Jean Ann Kennedy.
As far back as my mind will take me, I have always known about the Kennedy family. Even though I was only 6 years old at the time, I remember the day that President John F. Kennedy was assassinated. My mother, after a hard day of work, was climbing the stairs up to the apartment where we were living at the time with a Daily News in her hand and tears streaming down her face. I asked her what was wrong and she told me that something really bad happened to the president. After she had a chance to collect herself, she sat me down and tried to delicately explain the circumstances surrounding his death.
By the time Robert "Bobby" Kennedy was assassinated, I was old enough to watch and understand the news on my own so, the memory of what happened to him is much more vivid in my mind. It was a very turbulent time and we lost several prominent leaders (white and black) back-to-back over the course of a few years. We were no longer living in an apartment by that time and had moved into a house. My mother still lives in that house and to this day, she still has those old 8 x 10 glossy photos of presidents and prominent leaders (that were tucked inside the Sunday newspaper from time to time) hanging on her front porch. Among them... John F. Kennedy, Robert F. Kennedy, Lyndon B. Johnson, and Martin Luther King, Jr.
My thoughts and prayers go out to the remaining members of the Kennedy family at this time. Even though there are lots of vivid color photographs of Ted Kennedy and his brothers floating around on the internet, I deliberately chose to use these older black and white photos for this post. Somehow, I felt the need to say "something" about the loss of the last remaining Kennedy brother and I guess it's because the Kennedy family has been the closest thing that the United States ever had to a "royal family". It is truly the end of an era and they were an intricate part of our past history that is now gone forever.
Footnote: Armorial bearings granted by the Office of the Chief Herald of Ireland to the descendants of Patrick Kennedy on Saint Patrick's Day 1961.
Wednesday, August 26, 2009
Missing Date: Monday, August 10, 2009
Missing From: Oakland, CA
Missing Country: USA
Age: 5 years old
Height: 3' 0" (91cm)
Family members describe 5 year old Hasanni Campbell as a sweet, affectionate boy with intelligence beyond his years. For over a week, Hasanni's family, friends and police in Northern California have been looking for the boy, afflicted with cerebral palsy, after he went missing from a family member's car on Aug. 10, 2009 at approximately 4:15pm. He was last seen wearing a gray sweatshirt and gray pants. Authorities say that Hasanni, his foster father, Louis Ross, and Hasanni's 1-year-old sister were headed to a shoe store, Shuz of Rockridge (6000 College Avenue) in Oakland, CA. Ross was at the shop to meet with Hasanni's aunt, who was going to take the children for the evening. Ross told police he left Hasanni in his late-model BMW while he took Haasanni's sister with him towards the shop. When he returned to the car, Hasanni was gone. Police say Hasanni suffers from cerebral palsy and has trouble walking. He uses leg braces to get around. Authorities have confiscated Ross' BMW and are now looking at Hasanni's Fremont, Calif. home for clues. Cops have also been searching fields and wetlands in nearby Hayward and Fremont. So far, they say there have been no substantial leads. Police say that the family have been cooperating with the investigation. The FBI has joined the search for the missing boy.
Anyone with information should contact:
National Center for Missing & Exploited Children
1-800-843-5678 (1-800-THE-LOST) or the
Oakland Police Department (California) 1-510-777-3333
Tuesday, August 25, 2009
Monday, August 24, 2009
For the most part, I agree with the mayor and the agenda that he would like the city to focus on will help to make things better. In addition, there are many other long-standing social and economic-ills that need to be addressed. Further, it goes without saying that the recession has only made a bad situation worse for many people who were already "behind the 8-ball". However, there is another issue related to senseless violence that is largely being ignored, not only in Philadelphia, but EVERYWHERE.
The police in Philadelphia have complained for many years that, contrary to popular opinion, drugs and other media-induced beliefs are not their most difficult challenge when it comes to the violence in this city. For example, in most cases, police already know where all of the drug "hot spots" are in the city and they can monitor them accordingly. This effort cuts down on the number of violent occurrences because most people involved with drugs generally want to keep a "low profile" anyway. As for many of the other media-induced beliefs for Philadelphia violence, some of them are too ridiculous and stereotypical to even waste time on.
Annville, PA - A central Pennsylvania woman has been charged with fatally stabbing her live-in boyfriend of five years during a dispute that reportedly began as an argument over her feeding the dog before serving him dinner. Pamela Poorman, 55 years old, is charged with killing Larry Coletti, 51 years old, in Annville Township. Police said that the couple had come home with takeout food and began arguing, then physically fighting. Poorman told police that she picked up a knife to scare Coletti and then stabbed him. She later said she was being beaten and "had to stop it." Poorman was taken to Lebanon County Prison without bail.
2. Wal-Mart Worker Accused Of Beating Boss With A Bat
New Haven, CN - Police in New Haven accused a Wal-Mart worker of beating an assistant manager in a store aisle with an aluminum baseball bat after getting reprimanded for the second time in a few days. The police are still looking for the 26 year old suspect. They plan to charge him with first-degree assault and breach of peace. Police said that the worker grabbed the bat off of a shelf and hit the 29 year old assistant manager, George Freibott, nearly a dozen times, after Freibott wrote the worker up for poor job performance. Freibott suffered a possible broken arm and many bruises. Police said the store was closed to shoppers at the time.
Thursday, August 20, 2009
Follow these simple tips to communicate politely and effectively while using Facebook, Twitter, Instant Messaging, Text Messaging, Email, and Voice Mail.
There's no shortage of ways to irritate friends on Facebook. These tips will help you avoid some of the biggest etiquette pitfalls. On sites like MySpace, anything goes (or seems to), but the rules of etiquette on Facebook seem to be a little more refined so, keep these tips in mind.
1. Who should you friend? Some people adopt an everyone-welcome policy on Facebook and accept all friend requests; some want only real-world contacts in their friends list. In deciding on the right approach for you, bear in mind that the bigger your friend network is, the more application, event, chat session, and cause invitations you'll receive, which can lead to some uncomfortable moments and the occasional friend purge.
2. Easy on the updates--As on Twitter, oversharing on Facebook can be a problem. Every meal eaten, every TV show experienced, and every weather condition observed need not be the subject of a status update. Ask yourself whether anyone is likely to care about your comment before you start typing.
3. "Now, choose 12 friends ..."--It's fine if you want to take a "Which serial killer are you?" quiz. When you complete all of the multiple-choice questions, however, you'll almost certainly be asked to invite a dozen or so people to take the quiz, too. There's no need for this unless you think they'll really enjoy it. Look for a "Skip this step" or "Continue to result" button (in tiny type) somewhere on the page, click it, and you won't have to send invitations to anyone as a precondition to getting your quiz results. Clicking the "Skip" button on the following screen will prevent the quiz from showing up on your wall or being shared on your friends' walls.
4. Limit Facebook chat-- Just because someone has a Facebook window open doesn't mean they're automatically available for a chat session. Facebook chat is like any other instant messaging platform... use it appropriately and recognize that your friends may be too busy to respond immediately, especially during business hours.
5. No pokes--If you are over 16 years old, don't "poke" people, seriously.
6. Avoid "group think”--One disconcerting trend among many Facebook users involves creating a group for a business concern and then inviting everyone under the sun to join the group. This is a misuse of the feature and bad manners. groups are designed to serve as gathering places to discuss genuine leisure, cultural, social, or other common interests and not as ad hoc copy shops. Common courtesy should deter you from creating a group for your business, but if you insist on doing so anyway, please invite only employees to join the group. If your business needs a Facebook presence, create an official page for it. Then, if you must, invite friends to becomes fans of that page.
7. Beware of embarrassing photos--Resist the temptation to post every last photo from your birthday party on Facebook, particularly images that may cast your guests in an unflattering light. If you have any doubt, ask the subjects of any "iffy" pics in advance whether they'd mind your posting the shots. Then, simply abide by their wishes.
8. Tag lightly--The same thing goes for tagging. The people in a picture might not object to its being online as long as their names are not associated with it.
9. Or…untag thyself--It is no breach of etiquette to untag yourself from any photograph. Remember, though, that untagging is permanent and you can't be retagged to a photo once the tag is removed.
10. Ignore away--You are under no obligation to acknowledge a Facebook friend request, whether it comes from a stranger or from someone you know but don't want as part of your digital life. After all, you wouldn't be obliged to seat visitors at your dinner table if they showed up without warning at your house at 7:00pm. (One alternative way of dealing with this situation is to add "iffy" contacts to a severely restricted limited-profile list.) On the flip side, if (for whatever reason) you want to friend a stranger, add a note of explanation to your friend request, explaining who you are and the reason for your request.
Abiding by a few simple etiquette rules can help keep you and your followers happily tweeting along. Because it's just a messaging platform, Twitter is far less complex than Facebook. Nevertheless, misuse and abuse seem at least as common on the former as on the latter. Here are Twitter etiquette rules follow.
1. Reconsider the running commentary--Live tweeting sporting events or conference speeches may seem like a public service, but who's listening? If you normally use Twitter to post once-a-week status updates but then abruptly let fly with 80 tweets in a day, you'll annoy followers who aren't expecting their account to be inundated by your sudden outpouring. Consider composing a blog post instead or offer a single succinct observation each hour.
2. Understand @ replies--Twitter's biggest failing is its inability to organize conversations, and in this regard, overuse of @ replies can be extremely confusing to your followers. The proper time for an @ reply is when you're adding to a conversation publicly, preferably with a tweet that can (more or less) stand on its own. "@Bob: Yeah, I know." is a waste of everyone's time. For simple responses, use a D message instead.
3. Go easy on the abbreviations--Twitter was designed for cell phones, but your iPhone has a full QWERTY keyboard, so there's no need for the abbreviations unless you are severely crunched for space and/or really are a kid. Fitting tweets into a single message is a polite and admirable practice. No matter how many people fail to take it seriously, spelling still counts on Twitter.
4. Think about the venue--As one reporter learned, it's not okay to tweet at a funeral. Tweeting during a solemn ceremony (wedding, court proceeding, etc.) is generally a no-no. If you're unsure whether a tweet or two is permissible, check with the event's host. Although, be prepared to receive a funny look in response because you really should know better.
5. Learn the lingo--Check out the "Twitter Commands Reference Guide".
6. Up-to-the-minute spoilers--Since Twitter concentrates on the current moment, it is unreasonable to expect tweeters to suppress or censor their comments for fear of spoiling a surprise. Users should simply avoid the medium if they don't want to know the outcome of a sporting event or the ending to a movie.
7. Following the followers--In Twitter's early days, it was commonplace for all users to follow anyone who followed them, regardless of whether they had anything interesting or relevant to say. But, Twitter has gotten too large for this and Twitter long ago disabled the account option that lets tweeters automatically reciprocate when someone chooses to follow them. Today reciprocating a Twitter follow is strictly voluntary and there is no discourtesy in choosing not to follow someone. Even still, it's a good idea to look at the follower's profile before you decide.
8. Retweeting in 140 characters--If a tweet that you'd like to rebroadcast with an RT exceeds 140 characters once you've added the RT @username prefix, the recommended course is to meet the character limit by truncating the end of the message. It is also acceptable to edit the tweet as needed to fit, while retaining as much of the language of the original as possible.
9. Mind the plugs--If your feed consists of nothing but plugs for yourself and your work, most of your followers will unsubscribe. Exceptions exist for automated news-feed services (like @cnnbrk), which function more as the voice of a site than as a means for a person to share thoughts.
10. Twitter is public--Don't forget that, unlike a Facebook update, a Twitter post can be read by anyone. If you don't like the implications of this situation, either don't use the service or set your updates as protected (although, this largely defeats the purpose of Twitter).
"Don't text-message during church" and other favorites. Perhaps the wildest, most unpredictable area in the realm of high-tech etiquette, text messaging is fraught with pitfalls that can turn otherwise sensible people into rude and thoughtless jerks. Try these simple tips to ensure that you'll never annoy others or embarrass yourself with your cell phone.
1. Too many texts? There is no agreed-upon maximum number of text messages you can send to someone in a certain period without becoming a pest or a source of dread. How often you can safely text someone depends on how close you are with that person, the importance of the information you are conveying, and the timing of the texts. A good rule of thumb is to consider how many times you would be comfortable calling the same person in a day. Think of each text conversation as a phone call and ask yourself whether you are imposing on the other person.
2. Reconsider that texted marriage proposal--When it comes to texting, the medium truly is the message. It is almost never appropriate to conduct important conversations about relationships, major life events, or critical work issues via text message, where the conversation invariably comes off as flippant. Pick up the phone or use email to engage in a more thoughtful discussion. Never, ever break up with someone via text.
3. The "other people" factor--It is not necessarily rude to text while you're in the presence of others if the point of the text message is to involve the recipient in the physical gathering. On the other hand, communicating extensively via text when you should be fully engaged in what's going on in the real world will surely annoy those around you. Again, the comparison of a texting session to a phone call is apt and should give you a sense of how to behave.
4. Keep it simple--The hassles and the cost involved in texting justify considerable informality. Extended hellos, farewells, and unnecessary back-and-forth messages can be aggravating and counterproductive. So, get to the point quickly and confine protracted conversations to email. Common abbreviations (LOL, LTR) are okay, but radical shorthand that careens toward unreadability (i.e. "I M TTLY BRD RT NW") should be avoided if you're over 17 years old.
5. A reply is not always needed--It is acceptable to respond to a text message with a phone call, an email message or any other form of communication. The recipient is free to choose the medium of the response or even whether to respond at all. Similarly, there is no strict rule governing how promptly a person should respond to a text or instant message. The recipient may reply at any convenient time. In general, text messaging and IM are most appropriate for subjects of some urgency.
6. Never be "that guy" (or girl)--Don't try to send a text message during a public performance (movie, theater performance, etc.). The light emanating from your cell phone is a rude distraction to those around you. In public situations and even in private gatherings, excuse yourself and slip away to a secluded location before engaging in text messaging.
IM is huge at work and at play and there are faux pas to avoid in both spheres. The popularity of instant messaging has grown exponentially in the past decade, but the communication platform's immediacy presents users with endless opportunities to come off the wrong way. These tips will help you stay in the good graces of your IM buddies.
1. Respect limits in IM--Not everyone can interrupt their day for a 30-minute impromptu chat session with you. Try to be mindful of the time you are spending on an instant messaging session, especially during office hours, when excessive IM dalliance can land a person in trouble at work.
2. Avoid crosstalk--It's common for IM sessions with a single contact to split into two or more simultaneous conversations, since thoughts arrive faster than fingers can type them. Things get tricky when one side writes "I hate that" and it isn't clear what he or she is referring to, potentially offending the other participant. If a session starts getting unduly complicated, table one discussion and return to it later.
3. Be cautious when IMing strangers--Even if an IM account is made public, IM to it more cautiously than you would send an email to an email address. Like a phone call out of the blue, IM operates in real time and puts the recipient on the spot. If you do IM a stranger, introduce yourself and explain the point of your contact in your first message. Don't be offended if the recipient ignores you. If that happens, try sending an email message instead.
4. Respect IM status updates--If someone takes the trouble to set their IM client to "away" or "BRB," respect that status notification and send your message later, unless the situation is so urgent that you need the recipient to see the message the minute he returns. Instant message windows sent and left open on the recipient's screen while people are away can cause them embarrassment, too.
5. Multiple IM sessions are OK--It can be awkward to carry on multiple IM sessions with different people at the same time, but if you manage to keep the conversations straight and you're competent enough to type in the right window, it's no more rude than playing several chess games simultaneously.
Don't be someone who annoys friends and co-workers with inconsiderate email habits. The rules for handling email messages properly and considerately may be old hat to you, but it doesn't hurt to examine some of the newer and lesser-known tenets of polite emailing.
1. Mind the spam--Distribution lists are a godsend for getting the word out about something en masse, but take care not to spam your recipients. A problem may arise if you have multiple lists and send the same message to all of them. For example, if an individual appears in each of your lists and you email the same message to several of your lists, that person will receive multiple copies. Pay attention to the memberships of your various lists and carefully consider how you plan to use the lists.
2. Carefully consider who gets a reply--"Reply to all" is a powerful but widely abused email feature. When more than four or five recipients are involved, you should use "reply to all" only if the message is of critical importance to the vast majority of those listed. Misuse of the "reply to all" feature is a primary culprit in environments where the flood of email is out of control.
3. Out of office messages are more useful than you think--Arranging to send an automated "out of office" email response to anyone who sends you a message can be a big time saver for people who are trying to get in touch with you. Make sure, however, that you know how the "out of office" system works so that the response goes out only once per sender and not as a "reply to all".
4. Message recall doesn't work--Except in a few corporate email systems, once you press "Send", your message is gone. By broadcasting a "Joe Smith would like to recall this message" notification, you are telling your recipients not only that you don't know how to compose an email message properly, but that you don't understand how email systems work.
5. Forget not the power of the pen--These days, whether you're sending a thank you note or a simple greeting, a handwritten note will have a much greater impact than a dashed-off email message. As of May 11, 2009, postage for a first-class letter costs 44 cents.
Yes, people do still make telephone calls. These tips and tricks will make your voice mail system work for you and not against you. Here are five rules (some new and some of long-standing) for dealing with the perils of voice mail.
1. Brevity is key--The average person can read a message at least three times faster than you can speak it, so most listeners find every second they spend listening to voice mail agonizingly tedious. One commonly cited maximum tolerable length for a voice mail message is 30 seconds.
2. Simplicity swings both ways--Having a short outgoing message is a simple but extremely important to avoid angering your callers. Don't fill your outgoing message with alternative phone numbers and email addresses. Instead, offer callers one alternative means of reaching you (either a cell phone number or an email address). If someone urgently needs to track you down, he will find you.
3. On following up--If you feel the need to follow up on an email message you sent by making a voice call, go ahead... but, keep a tight rein on what you request in return. For example, don't leave a voice mail message asking the person to return your call "to make sure you got the email." It's enough to remind the recipient to check his or her inbox for your message. Many busy people dislike follow-up calls of any sort so, tread cautiously here.
4. Use the technology available--Most voice mail systems permit you to erase or otherwise "do over" a botched message. Don't be shy about punching the pound key (#) if you forgot to leave your area code or if you misspelled your email address the first time around. Press the correct button (it's usually #) to access those "more options" that you normally don't inquire into, and you can leave a corrected or revised message.
5. Just pick up the handset--Never leave a voice mail message for someone while you're speaking through a speakerphone.
Tuesday, August 18, 2009
I, like most of you, was not alive during the period known as "The Great Depression", which took place between 1929 and 1940. The little that I do know about it came from the history books, movies, TV shows, older members of my family, and (of course) my parents, who were children at the time. I especially remember one of many conversations that I had with my mother about the depression, which took place when I was visiting with her about 10-12 years ago. The reason that this occasion sticks out in my mind is because, for the first time, I think I really understood just how poor my mom and her family really were back then. She was one of eleven children and yet, they somehow survived that difficult period in time. A family of that size is practically unheard of now... the most obvious reason being, who could afford to clothe, feed, and house that many children, given the cost of things in today's world?
On this particular day, my mom and I were looking through some old photographs (as we often do when we get together) and she came across one that she had never shown me before. Somehow, the photo wound up underneath the drawer where she normally kept all of her pictures and she accidentally discovered it when she pulled the drawer out too far and it fell to the floor. After she scooped up all of the photos that had fallen on the floor and put them back in the drawer, she turned toward the dresser to put the drawer back in place and noticed that one lone photograph was lying in the open space where the drawer needed to be placed. She reached in, pulled it out, took a look at it, and said... "Oh, my God. I haven't seen this picture in years." Then, she turned around and handed it to me. She told me to look at it very carefully and tell her if I noticed anything odd or strange about it.
At this point, I should probably tell you that I've never been very good at doing things like this... seeing the handwriting on the wall, reading between the lines, discovering hidden meanings, figuring out riddles, etc. Sometimes, by the time I "get" the punch line of a joke, everyone else in the room has moved on to another conversation. I'm the one who will burst out minutes later and say, "Oh, I get it!" Anyway, I looked at the picture and studied it as hard as I could. It was a very old black and white photo and it was not in the best condition. What I saw was two little girls standing on the running board of an old pick-up truck. One of the little girls looked to be about 3-4 years old and the other one looked to be about 5-6 years old.
My mother pointed to the obviously younger little girl and said, "That's your mommy!" She also told me that the other little girl, who was a couple of years older, was her cousin. Then, again... my mom told me to tell her if I noticed anything odd or strange about the picture. After a few minutes, I shook my head and said, "I give up. Just tell me what I'm not seeing." She looked at me and asked, "Did you notice that we have on coats and hats?" I told her "yes" but, I still had no clue what she wanted me to see. Then, she asked me, "If it was cold enough for us to have on coats and hats, don't you think we should have on shoes too?" Shocked and embarrased that I had missed something so obvious, I looked at the photo again and, indeed, saw that the two little girls had no shoes on. I got very upset because it was cold and these children had no shoes to wear. The fact that one of them was my mother, caused tears to stream down my face. But, more importantly, it helped me to fully understand something else that my mother had said to me many, many times prior to that moment... "God had brought her from a mighty long way."
Now, it is 2009 and I am trying to "ride the tide" of this new version of the depression called "The Recession." In spite of everything, I feel blessed that every time I had a coat and hat on this past winter, I had shoes on too. My parents generation, which is also known as "The Greatest Generation", did whatever they had to do to make sure that their children never had to suffer in that way. For the most part, they succeeded in that quest and we are eternally grateful. Unfortunately, they had no way of knowing that another form of the depression would rear its ugly head again many years later and we can only "hope" to pull through this difficult time with the same degree of dignity, grace, and perseverance as the generation before us. I have always felt that one of the most valuable lessons that they learned as children growing up during the depression is "how to do without". Thanks to their many years of sacrifice, we never had to learn how to do that until now. For most of us, this is a difficult thing to learn and it remains to be seen how we are going to come out at the other end of this dilema. And, we have already been told that things will probably get worse before they get better.
In spite of ourselves, it might interest you to know that we are making progress in our efforts to do without and I found an interesting article yesterday that supports this fact. It stated that American households are substantially poorer and, as a result, a whole lot thriftier than they were when the recession started. Many families are cutting expenses that once seemed hardly worth worrying over. They're avoiding ATM fees, eliminating extravagances such as delivery charges, declining to pay extra for the more-convenient parking space at ball games, etc. Further, the article listed 15 things that are obviously overpriced and have caused the American people to "rethink" spending what available cash they do have on them at this time. The article suggests that we are "learning how to do without" and making better decisions regarding how we spend our money. I thought the list was quite interesting as well and worth sharing with you. If we continue to stay the course and, above all, trust that God will help us to "weather the storm" the way our parents did, we might just make it through this new depression called "The Recession".
1. Movie popcorn--Theater popcorn is a movie staple, however, it is costing us more than $1.00 an ounce. Microwaveable popcorn costs less than 10 cents an ounce and this could be the reason that some people are waiting for DVD releases to watch at home instead of going to the movies.
2. Event parking--The cost of parking has been a pet peeve of the general public for a long time. For example, some people will park miles away and/or take public transportation to avoid the cost of parking close to a stadium. Parking prices have also kept some people away from other venues and the recession appears to have raised the anger over such charges to road-rage levels.
3. Printer ink--Much of the real cost for a home printer is the ink. It is no wonder that many people now refill cartridges at office supply stores or print out only essential documents. The executives of a leading printer manufacturer recently acknowledged that fewer Americans are printing at home.
4. Drinks at restaurants--People have plenty of reasons to bark about the cost of drinks at restaurants. Prices for beverages have increased significantly over other restaurant offerings and, in particular, soft drinks, juices, and coffee. This could be the reason that many people are drinking in moderation.
5. Bottled water--Prior to the recession, the convenience of buying a bottle of water seemed to justify its $1.00+ price. Now, some people are becoming more reluctant to cough up cash for something that is virtually free from the tap. And, in light of reports in recent years that the bottled water you are drinking may originate from the tap anyway, it is causing many to rethink the need for buying it.
6. Gourmet coffee--Apparently, elaborate coffee houses have lost some of their appeal. Some people would rather brew coffee at home or buy a regular ol' cup of joe instead of shelling out their hard-earned cash for gourmet beans and higher-priced espresso concoctions at these pricey establishments.
7. Restaurant holiday specials--Some restaurant prices are much higher on holidays such as Mother's Day, Valentine's Day, and New Year's Eve? Why? Because more people want to go out on holidays, this enables restaurants to increase prices without ending up with empty tables. Now that the "jig" is up, some people are actually celebrating these special days in creative ways at home.
8. Movie tickets --When the going gets tough, the tough (and the not so tough) go the movies. It seems that movie theaters are benefiting from folks trading down. Although many people complain about $ 10.00+ ticket prices, a movie is still one of the most affordable dates around. Yet, there are some people who have taken advantage of recession sale prices to purchase big-screen TVs and they are opting to stay at home.
9. Oil changes --This might surprise you but, apparently, more people are doing things such as this themselves. The folks who can't do it themselves are keeping a sharp eye out for coupons.
10. Airport food--Airport food is very high. Airline retailers have "got you" and they know it. But, what people might not know is, the closer you get to your gate, the more the food generally costs. This is because food options tend to decrease farther from the main terminal areas and that is where the more dollar-conscious people are eating.
11. Ticketmaster fees--Some people are gladly eliminating the "middle man" ticket sellers and buying directly from box offices to avoid the so-called convenience fees.
12. ATM fees--Some people don't want to pay banks a single penny to withdraw their money because many banks have increased their ATM fees to generate additional revenue. Many banks also charge their customers additional fees when they use an ATM outside their network. It has been reported that people are being more deliberate about using ATM machines that are linked to their banking institution.
13. 401K management fees--People are angry about paying money-management fees on their retirement savings. Many investors are beginning to feel that they would have done better if they had tucked their money under a mattress. Could this be the wave of the future?
14. Airline baggage fees--People are getting less but paying more. The free food is gone and legroom will cost you extra money. Some airlines charge for blankets and pillows but, no fee has ruffled more feathers than baggage fees. It just doesn't make sense to some people and they are finding ways around paying it.
15. Hot dogs at baseball games--Many people maintain that they will never buy ballpark food because of the high prices. The prices have steadily risen in recent years.
Friday, August 14, 2009
Story #1 (Yesterday's News): There were signs comparing President Barack Obama to a Nazi and showing him with an Adolf Hitler-style mustache, but federal officials believe another sign referencing the president and his family went too far. A man who was holding a sign reading "Death to Obama" on Wednesday outside a town hall meeting on health care reform in Hagerstown, MD has been turned over to the Secret Service. Washington County Sheriff's Captain Peter Lazich said the sign also read, "Death to Michelle and her two stupid kids." Lazich said that U.S. Secret Service agents took the unidentified 51 year old man into custody Wednesday afternoon, after deputies detained him near the entrance to Hagerstown Community College.
Story #2 (Recent News): An ad campaign using The First Daughters' private school lunches to make a point about children's nutrition has upset the White House. The Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine is pushing Congress to give public school students healthier food options like the vegetarian option offered at Sasha and Malia's Sidwell Friends School. The posters at D.C.'s Union Station show a young girl with the text, "President Obama's daughters get healthy school lunches. Why don't I?" The Obama girls' names and faces don't appear on the poster, but White House officials want them out of the debate altogether, and they want the posters pulled down, saying they violate the privacy rights of The First Daughters. Dr. Neal Bernard of the Physicians Committee said, "I think the president absolutely has to protect his children and that's why you don't see the children's names or pictures at all on here. What we're comparing are the schools. The school that the first family has chosen provides healthy meals and public schools aren't in the position to do that."
Story #3 (Old News): The First Lady had to defend her daughters in the first week of President Obama taking office. Ty Inc., the same company that is widely known for their Beanie Babies collection, released these dolls resembling The First Daughters, Sasha and Malia. Michelle Obama’s press secretary released a statement stating, “We feel it is inappropriate to use young, private citizens for marketing purposes.” The dolls are part of the TyGirlz collection. Although the dolls were named “Sweet Sasha” and “Marvelous Malia,” Ty Inc. insisted that the dolls were not made to be exact replications of the president’s daughters and were not based on the Obama girls at all.
Monday, August 10, 2009
For those of you who don't know me personally, it might surprise you to learn that I don't drive and have traveled on public transportation all of my life. When I was growing up, my father was the only driver in the house at the time and the luxury of owning a car was an "on and off" thing for him. As a child, it seemed to me that we had a car for 5-6 years and then, the next 5-6 years we didn't have a car. This pattern of car ownership continued for my father into my early adult life. After I got married and moved out of the house, my mother decided that she wanted to learn how to drive. She wasn't too keen on the idea of my father teaching her how to drive because his level of patience would have been a big issue between them. So, around the mid-1980's, my mother got a driving permit, went to driving school, passed her driving test, and got her driver's license in (what seemed to me) no time. Shortly thereafter, she purchased her first (used) car and my parents consistently had a car from that point on.
During the early years of my marriage, owning a car wasn't exactly at the top of our "things to do" list so again, I went through a prolonged period of time without having access to a car. I could have called on my parents to take me places but, I never wanted to rely on them too much once I became an adult. I really did understand that it was not their responsibility to get me and my family where we needed to go. So, I only called on them when I absolutely had to and public transportation was the mode of travel we used most of the time over the years. This included back and forth to day care with my daughter, back and forth to work, back and forth to the grocery store or any other type of shopping, back and forth to church, back and forth to the movies, etc. When we attended family events (parties, picnics, funerals, graduations, weddings, etc.), other family members were always kind enough to pick us up and take us home. We even took short-distance trips during the summer months to places like Atlantic City, Wildwood, Great Adventure, Dorney Park, Hershey Park, etc. using various modes of public transportation. Surprisingly enough, we really didn't let any grass grow under our feet just because we didn't have a car. We just picked up, packed up, and went wherever we needed or wanted to go without a second thought... and, in spite of the various challenges that we faced using public transportation.
Finally, in 2004, we got our first (used) car from, believe it or not, my mother. By this time, my father had been deceased for two years, mom was on the move, and it was time for her to "upgrade". I must admit that having a car made life a lot easier in a way that I had never "consistently" known before. My husband and I often look back on all of those years when we were raising our daughter without a car and we get "exhausted" just thinking about all of the different things we had to go through to get around. We laugh when we think back on those days and wonder how in the world we did it for so long... and the amazing thing is, it didn't seem to bother us too much at the time. Now that we are 50+ years of age, we know that we could never do all of those things without a car, even if our lives depended on it because we just don't have the energy anymore. But, we reason that when the time was right, God made it happen for us and not a moment too soon. We didn't know it then but, we were going to become grandparents in a couple of years and we shutter to think what our life would have been like, trying to get around with "The Booga Wooga" without a car (smile).
My reason for reflecting on all of this is because I read a disturbing article this past Friday regarding the wheelchair population of disabled persons in the city of Philadelphia who have no other choice for getting around and depend on public transportation. It seems that a group of wheelchair riders staged a protest against SEPTA on last Thursday between 11:00am-1:30pm, which caused the El trains to stop running for approximately 90 minutes from 15th to 40th and Market Streets. This protest temporarily caused other SEPTA riders to use shuttle buses or make other arrangements for getting around. In explanation of the protest, the wheelchair riders have been experiencing problems boarding the El trains at three train stations, in particular, because of the gap in between the platform and the train. The three El stations posing the problem are located at 69th & Market Streets, 30th & Market Streets, and 2nd & Market Streets. The wheelchairs are constantly getting stuck when riders try to enter the train and, despite numerous complaints to SEPTA, nothing has been done to rectify the problem.
While I was reading this article, I learned about a SEPTA policy that I didn't even know existed. I'm sure that there are others that I'm not aware of but, this one struck a nerve with me. Apparently, it is the case that the conductors operating the El trains are supposed to come off of the trains and help wheelchair riders enter the train safely and they have not been doing it. Right off the top of my head, I would say that the reason I didn't know about this policy is because I've never seen any El train conductors do this in all of my years of travel on public transportation here. As to be expected, SEPTA responded that they had not received any complaints before the protest but, promised to make sure that all of its El train conductors are made aware of the policy and adhere to it in the future. A SEPTA spokesperson, Richard Maloney, said... "We assured them that we'll put out a directive to remind them of the policy." One disabled rider from South Philadelphia said that he has relied on the kindness of other riders to help him board the train. I guess this means there is still some "brotherly love" left in this city after all.
I confess to not witnessing a whole lot of wheelchair riders getting on and off the El trains over the years but, I am a constant witness to how they are treated when they board and exit buses. I would have to say that, most of the time, they do receive assistance from SEPTA bus drivers. However, I have also seen instances where some bus drivers drove by and did not stop to pick them up, even during inclement weather. On other occasions, I have seen bus drivers pick them up but, not assist them properly once they were on the bus by securing and stabilizing their wheelchair, etc. There have even been some occasions in which the other riders on the bus have been impatient and nasty to wheelchair riders. So basically, if you are disabled and need assistance, your commuting experience on public transportation in Philadelphia depends on the mood, personality, temperament, and tolerance level of the SEPTA employee operating the vehicle and not necessarily on any policies, rules, regulations, etc. that the organization may have in place to protect you as a disabled rider.
Because I don't drive and, even now, it's not always feasible for me to go some place in a car for various reasons, I thank God that my life is of such that I can still get around pretty well on my own two legs when necessary and board buses, trains, and trollies without assistance. And, most recently, I am thankful that we were able to make the move from having a used car to a relatively new one... so, God is still (very much) in the blessing business. But, I will never forget the many, many years that I/we totally relied on public transportation to get around and how different and difficult that experience would have been if we were disabled and had to get around in wheelchair.
I sincerely hope that the wheelchair riders win this battle and, hopefully, receive the assistance and consideration that they need to make their commuting experience as pleasant and dignified as humanly as possible. I would imagine that this would not only be a victory for them, but for all disabled persons who depend on public transportation. Perhaps, a simple solution would be for SEPTA to invest a few dollars in repairs to lessen the gap in between the platforms and the trains at the three stations in question. Given the fact that they still hold the title for being "the most expensive transportation system" in the country, I don't think that these few modifications are too much for their riders to expect in return. In the meantime, I pray that no one is seriously injured or, God forbid, killed before SEPTA solves this problem (which is usually what happens). Even one life further mamed or lost is totally inexcusable.
Wednesday, August 5, 2009
A Child Shall Lead Them... 07/31/09
I went down to Orlando today to greet the 65 kids from Philly at Disney World.
I gotta tell you, I thought I was giving them a gift, and boy was I wrong. These beautifully faced children of all shades brought tears to my eyes. I'm still feeling it as I think about them. They had so much hope, and they were so excited and happy, it was as if nothing bad had ever happened to them in their lives.
I prayed with them and I challenged them to do well in school. Then I asked a question, I asked, "if one black person robs a bank, does that mean all black people will rob a bank?" They said no. Then I asked them, "if one white person is mean and disrespectful to them, will all white people be mean and disrespectful to them?" They said no, and I was so happy to hear that! I went on to tell them that there was good and bad in all of us, so we are all the same - black, white or whatever. I asked them not to judge everyone by what a few people do to them. I think they got it. I think they understood my point.
Part of my prayer for this situation is that the parents, not only at the Valley Swim Club, but also the parents of these children will walk away with what I walked away with after being with them. Children are resilient. They don't hold on to things, they will mostly take time on the positions and opinions of their parents. And we need to be smart enough as adults to teach our kids to judge by character and not by race. I think they got it. Let's hope we ALL do. It was beautiful...
Apparently, Tyler Perry was so angry about the recent incident between these 60+ inner-city day campers (mostly Black and some Hispanic) and the private suburban swim club, that he decided to send all of them to Disney World for a few days. Further, he wanted them to know that for every act of evil that a few people will throw at them, there are millions more who will do something kind for them.
Creative Steps Day Camp and The Valley Swim Club have been caught up in a national media frenzy and legal battle (class-action lawsuit) ever since early July because of "alleged" racial discrimination. The day camp paid $1,950 to the swim club for the use of their pool on Mondays during the summer. However, after the campers arrived on the first day to use the facility, some members complained and the club revoked the camp's privileges to swim there and promptly refunded their money.
Several of the campers said that they heard some of the members making racial remarks while they were there, which the members later denied. The swim club president only made matters worse with some of his subsequent remarks, which he later claimed was taken out of context. He explained that the incident had nothing to do with race but rather, overcrowding at the pool and he publically apologized for the “misunderstanding”. Senator Arlen Spector (D-PA) responded to the incident and asked the U.S. Department of Justice to look into the matter. After much protest and media attention, the swim club invited the kids from Creative Steps (and two other day camps that were turned away under the same questionable circumstances) to come back and use the facility but, the camp declined.
I commend Tyler Perry for the kindness and generosity that he has shown the kids (and parents) of Creative Steps Day Camp. While this saga has simmered down somewhat in the media, you can rest assured that it continues to rage on behind the scenes and top stories of the day, as well it should. Right after this incident occurred, I told my hubby (and now, fellow blogger) over at Keith's Space about it and he was livid. Some of you may recall his post about the incident. I followed some of the online discussion that took place for a few days on our local NBC10 News website. I was thoroughly appalled and disgusted at the comments going back and forth between people of all races and the amount of blatant, vile hatred that is still very much alive and well in this so-called "City of Brotherly Love" and its surrounding suburbs. Ironically enough, when I checked the national MSNBC News website, the comments were much more tempered, sympathetic, and supportive of the children. But, unfortunately, the place that these kids call home (Philadelphia), was nothing but a cesspool of bigotry, ignorance, and intolerance. And yes, there were even those who begrudged any consideration and/or concessions being given to these kids, following the ordeal.
It is my understanding that Creative Steps Day Camp has made other arrangements for the kids to go swimming. Girard College and others, offered the use of their pool to accommodate them during the summer. They also received an invitation from a local shop owner to stop by for some free ice cream, to help soften the blow. As soon as the story aired locally, it took on a life of its own and within 24 hours, it was reported on the national news. As I take a moment to think ahead, I wonder where these kids will be swimming next summer or the summer after that even, when all of the media attention has died down? I sincerely hope that other prominent black entrepreneurs, entertainers, politicians, sports figures, etc. with the "ways and means" to follow Tyler Perry's lead, will pull together some financial resources and provide these kids with a pool that they can permanently call home. A weekend trip to Disney World was a great beginning but, there is "work" to be done. I say... God bless the child that's got their own (pool).
Saturday, August 1, 2009
Well, you know what they say about first impressions and Dr. Conrad Murray didn't make a good impression on me from the start. Ever since I learned about his presence at Michael Jackson's home and prompt disappearance on the day of his death, I have been suspicious of the good doctor and I'll tell you why. I have seen veterinarians care for a dying animal and show more sensitivity toward the grieving family of a pet than Michael and the Jackson family received from Dr. Murray. I speak from experience when I say this because I had to go through the gut-wrenching loss of a family pet we had for 16 years in 2004. The care, concern, and sensitivity that we were shown during that process by the veterinary hospital and staff was unbelievable. They even sent us a sympathy card a few days after our beloved "Pebbles" (a Tabby cat) passed away. Did Michael and his family, who are human beings, deserve any less?
On that fateful day of June 25, 2009, my husband and I heard on the radio that Michael had been rushed to the hospital because he had gone into cardiac arrest, just as we were returning home from work together in the car and pulling into the parking space in front of our home. We quickly got out of the car and promptly went into the house to turn on the TV so we could stay informed about his condition. Within approximately 20 minutes of cutting the TV on, we learned that Michael was in a coma and things were not looking good for the "King of Pop". About 10 minutes later, it was announced that he had passed away. We were both shocked, and stunned, to say the least, just like everyone else around the world. As the sequence of events that occurred at Michael's home prior to his death began to unfold later that evening and in the days that followed, I couldn't believe what I was hearing. What? There was a doctor there and he just "upped" and left him there to die? Where did the good doctor go?
Even though it pains me to say it, in hindsight, I feel that Michael probably died in his home, before the 911 call was made and he was taken to the hospital. At the very least, the Michael Jackson that all of us had come know and love was lost to us forever because the response time to cardiac arrest needs to be quick and expedient. Supposedly, there were two key players with Michael in his home at that time... the person who called 911 for help and Dr. Conrad Murray, who was (no doubt) trying to frantically "revive" Michael but, to no avail. Apparently, when it became obvious to the good doctor that Michael wasn't responding, instead of staying with his patient until the ambulance arrived and accompanying Michael to the hospital, his thoughts immediately turned to himself and he decided to abandon Michael, for reasons that I'm sure will manifest themselves to all of us in the days to come. If you put the sequence of events that lead up to Michael's death in a more "normal" context, this is what should have happened:
(1) Michael goes into cardiac arrest at home with his doctor and another person present.
(2) The doctor responds by trying to save his life anyway that he can.
(3) Michael isn't responding so, the other person present calls 911 for emergency assistance.
(4) The doctor stays with Michael and continues to do what he can for him until the ambulance arrives.
(5) The ambulance arrives and paramedics do what they can to save Michael's life.
(6) The decision is made to take Michael to the hospital.
(7) The doctor accompanies Michael to the hospital or, at the very least, agrees to meet the ambulance there.
(8) The paramedics and doctor let the hospital staff know about Michael's condition upon arrival.
(9) The doctors and staff at the hospital take over and do what they can to save Michael's life.
(10) The doctors and staff at the hospital staff are not successful in saving Michael and he is officially pronounced dead.
(11) The hospital doctors, along with Michael's doctor, go to the family together (or appoint a spokesperson) to give them the news.
(12) The hospital doctors, along with Michael's doctor, stay with the family long enough to answer questions and respond to any concerns that they might have surrounding Michael's death.
I know that I'm not a doctor and I don't work in a hospital either. I'm even willing to admit that some of what I outlined above may stem from the fact that I am guilty of watching too many medical shows on TV over the years. But, what I can tell you is that I have received enough care from doctors, in and out of the hospital, to know that Dr. Murray's response and behavior toward Michael while his life was "hanging in the balance" didn't even closely resemble what a doctor would do who is genuinely concerned about his patient's welfare. When you add the good doctor's total lack of sensitivity and regard for Michael's family to the mix, it doesn't take a brain surgeon to figure out that something was dreadfully wrong about the way all of this happened.
I know that here in America, everyone is supposed to be presumed "innocent" until they are proven guilty so, I must refrain from outright accusing Dr. Murray of anything. However, it does appear that the police are finally beginning to take a serious look at the good doctor. My only question is, what in the world took them so long? I also think that before this is all over, we are going to learn about many more doctors who did not have Michael's best interest at heart over the last several years of his life and played a prominent role in his ultimate demise. It has always been my understanding that doctors take an oath to save lives and, therefore, should not participate in any activities that would help their patients to destroy their lives. If you know that someone is on a path that will ultimately destroy them, you shouldn't walk down that road with them and be an active participant in their destruction.
If it turns out that Dr. Murray did, indeed, have anything to do with Michael's death, time will surely tell. Recent reports indicate that the good doctor is in extreme financial debt and jumped at the $ 150,000-a-month offer made by Michael's promoter to "keep Michael healthy" during what would have been a series of upcoming concerts in London. Well, it's beginning to look like Dr. Murray did anything "but" keep Michael healthy and even the way he handled his death is questionable. As for any other doctors who assisted Michael over the years in doing things that were completely unethical to their profession, they should and will be held accountable to a much higher authority. Their only saving grace (according to "man's law") is the fact that Michael didn't die under their watch but, they contributed to his ultimate fate just the same. It should also be said that the justice system should not try to make Dr. Conrad Murray "take the fall" for all of the previous doctors that treated Michael. The bottom line is, only one doctor may be responsible for the lethal events that occurred on June 25th and I hope (for his sake) that it is not Dr. Murray. Would you want to be forever remembered as the man who "had a hand" in Michael Jackson's death?
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