I Cannot Accept Sharia Law in a Modern Society

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I am still fuming from yesterday over the issue of the pregnant woman being sentenced to death in the Sudan for not converting to Islam.  That is not to mention the sentence of 100 lashes for adultery.  This was handed down by a court based on Sharia Law.

I read a little about Sharia Law, including a page defending it.  As you know, I try my best to respect all religions and believe everyone has a right to what they believe.  What I don’t like is when people try to impose their beliefs on others, either by coercion or by force of government.

This incident yesterday is an extreme example of forcing ones religion on another and it goes right back to the middle ages.  This is Sharia Law and it does indeed go back to the middle ages.  There are extremist in every religion.  Just a few days ago I read an article about extreme Jewish people in Israel vandalizing Christian churches and protesting the visit by the pope.  They were upset that he was going to hold services at one of the sacred sites.  It also happens to be the site of the Last Supper.  These were extremists; most of the country was planning a welcoming celebration for the pope. 

My problem with Sharia Law is that it is not just practiced by extremists; it is part of established governments.  Many will say that we only hear of the extreme verdicts handed down by Sharia courts and not how it works most of the time.  I my opinion, any law system than can allow the hanging of a pregnant woman for not accepting a religion is not a civilized law systems.  I don’t care if it is done every day or if it is done once every ten years, it is not a civilized system.

A law system that regulates someone’s person life beyond their actions being detrimental to others is not a democratic system.  One that does it through the means of barbaric penalties like death, dismemberment, and flogging is not a system that belongs outside the sixteenth century.

We don’t have the right to tell people in other countries how to run their business, but we do have a right to be horrified by their actions and to avoid doing things to support their ideology.  I do not believe that the United States of America should have anything to do with any nation that supports Sharia Law.  When I say nothing, I mean nothing.  No political or business ties, no foreign aid, no trade, no nothing.  How’s that for an extreme view.  I know politically it is better to be talking than not talking; you can’t get any intelligence if you don’t have someone on the inside, but I don’t see how we can without publically accepting their notions.  I know our economy would take a serious hit on the energy front but maybe it’s time we took that hit and began the process of weaning off the fossil fuel nightmare.

There are people in the United States that feel that have the right based, on religious freedom, a to impose Sharia Law on their families.  The answer is no you don’t.  The most basic of all rights is the individual right to the pursuit of happiness.  No organization, including the family may impose extreme punishments, even if they are based on religious principles.  We will not allow beatings and killings of women to protect a family’s honor.

This is not me, most people know that.  I am always for understanding the other side of an issue and taking the middle of the road approach to things, but not this time.  Any nation that feels they have the right to force the beliefs on others to the point of murdering them, is not worthy of the attention of the civilized world.

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Posted in Current Events, International Issues, Opinion, politics, Social Issues

Taking Care of Our Veterans

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Okay this one is right off the top of my head.  This is just an emotional reaction to the stories about veterans having a hard time getting the treatment and the compensation that they deserve.  I don’t think that there is a person in this country who isn’t deeply grateful for the sacrifice that our men and women in uniform make for us.  I cannot even imagine what it would be like being in a war zone knowing every minute of every day that there were a whole lot of people, not too far away, who want nothing more than to put a bullet in you.  To spend days witnessing all of the terror and heartbreak that war brings.  Our men and women in uniform do that for us.

I spent a good part of my life around the military.  I flew on training missions with the fleet air recon squadrons, but, when I flew, the crew didn’t do all the tricks that they would do if a civilian wasn’t onboard.  I have no illusions, I didn’t do their job; I was a tourist.  I saw enough of it to know that they deserve the best when their time was over.

The system set up to help our veterans is overwhelmed.  It cannot handle the thousands and thousands of cases with the care that our heroes need.  Why is that?  It seems like it is because they didn’t take into account the reality of modern warfare.  This is going to sound harsh; please don’t take this the wrong way.  One of the reasons that the system is overwhelmed is that our medical services in the field have gotten so much better.  In earlier wars many of the people that return injured today would have not returned at all in the past.  This means that there are a lot more physically wounded veterans to take care of. 

The second reason is that we now know what we do to our men and women when we plunge them into war.  When you require people to live in a nightmare and then make them go back to that nightmare two, three, four times and more; you cannot expect them not to be scarred mentally and emotionally.  In the old days P.T.S.D. was not recognized and our veterans suffered without support.  Now we know that can they be helped and they must be helped.

We all want the government to cut their budget.  The Republicans claim that everything needs to be cut.  So how do we take care of our heroes and still cut the budget.  You can say we can cut the fat in other programs and we should, but I don’t think that will be enough.  I think people ought to put their money where their mouth is.  There should be a one percent Veteran’s Tax to pay for the services that out heroes need.  I know, people will say that the government will just waste the money but, I’m sorry, I think that is just an excuse not to pony up.  Yes, hunt down waste and mismanagement, but also give the VA the budget it needs to do the job and give our heroes the treatment that they deserve.  They need more than lip service.

Here’s a thought for the future.  We may be able to reduce the VA budget in the future if we are  a bit more careful about sending our people in harm’s way.  Let’s make darn sure that there is no other way, and make sure that our people our fighting for the right cause before we subject them to the nightmare of war.  If you don’t want to do it to have our heroes the pain, then do it because it is a way to cut the budget.

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Posted in Current Events, Opinion, politics, Social Issues

Thoughts about Being Retired

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I’ve been retired for five years now, yeah, that’s right, I dropped out early.  Many people are worried about retiring, even if they are prepared financially.  They worry that they won’t be able to adjust to life without work.  I think there are several factors that can be looked at.  First is your home life, and that’s your business.  Second is, are you financially prepared to be without a regular paycheck, this I’ll address briefly latter.  The third is your focus in life.  Is your focus more on your career or more on your life outside of work, or is your focus balanced between the two?  Clearly it is best if your focus is balanced.  One or the other will suffer if not given the attention that it deserves.

In the movies and on TV shows the heroes, whether they are police, doctors, or lawyers, are working day and night.  They are there first thing in the morning and they are ready to make a bust at midnight.  I always wondered, don’t these organizations have shifts or watches?  Can’t other cops chase the bad guys now and then?  I actually know people that work in that mode in software development and engineering.  I believe those are the people that would have the toughest time adjusting.  Work is their life.  Being at home is so momentary that they hardly establish a presence there.  I have heard of people I know that retired and went back to work within a year because they were going crazy at home.

That’s not me.  In my forty years of creating software for the Navy I have done some interesting and, at times, exciting work, but it was work.  If there was not a deadline coming up and or problem that had to be solved immediately, I put in my eight hours and I went home.  To me work was work and relaxation was done outside of work.  I always said that it is a smart person that allows time in their schedule to do absolutely nothing.  For me retirement was and still is a great pleasure.

Cathy and I have no problem being together all day.  We have things we do together and we have our own things to do.  Cathy goes to Arena Stage with her friend once a month to see Broadway plays, and I play Dungeons and Dragons with my friends once a month.  That’s right, I’m a geek.  I’ve been playing D&D for over thirty years.  Cathy goes to her exercise classes at night and I go to martial arts; we go to the gym together weekday mornings. Most of the time we are together at home or going out together and we haven’t got sick of each other yet.

Some people wonder if they will miss the rat race.  They wonder if it will feel like they are standing on the sidelines watching the world go by.  The way I see it, when you retire, you trade the rat race for life flowing at a gentler pace.  There is a whole society among retired people with chances to meet new friends and hundreds of new interests to discover.  I received two of my black belt ranks since I retired.  I am very happy to let the younger generation take charge of the rat race; I never one that was going to change the world anyway.

I will just make a brief mention of the financial aspect; you have heard me preaching enough on this topic.  I had talked about using fear to keep you in line health wise.  I suggest that the younger generation do the same thing when it comes to retirement.  Imagine being sixty-five years old and knowing full well that your savings would last you more than a year and then you would be living on social security.  You can’t plan many cruises on that budget.  Now imagine being even older and still having to get up every morning and go into work afraid that this will be the day that company forces you out.  Keep those images in your head when you look at your contribution to your 401-K, or your lack of contribution.  Those images will come true if you don’t do something to change the future.

Don’t fear retirement.  There is a whole new world of living to do out there.

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Posted in Aging, Opinion, Retirement

Memories of May

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Boyd Dodson Elementary School 

May is my favorite month.  The weather is warm and I can finally close that coat closet door and not open it again until October.  The bushes around our house are in bloom with explosions of red and pink.  The trees have lost their blossoms and now show their brand new leaves of tender light green.  I have mentioned before that I like to keep active but I also like to spend time relaxing.  Recently I have gotten back into reading and I have been spending some quiet afternoons sitting on my deck reading.  Yesterday I was reading and the gentle scent of lilac drifted to me on a breeze.  The scent took me back to the spring days of my youth. 

 There were lilac bushes around our neighborhood on Moyallen Street in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania.  As I kid that scent let me know that summer was on the way.  May was a special time when I was a kid.  The anticipation of summer vacation was growing and all of the kids started talking about making that trek to Purvin Dairy on Hazel Street after we got out on the last day of school. 

 In the schoolyard at Dodson Elementary we played a version a baseball called Atlantic City.  It was played with a large soft ball that was pitched on one bounce to the batter.  The batter hit the ball with his or her fist.  The swing set bars in the schoolyard were objects to be climbed.  Those were the sturdiest swings sets I have ever seen.  They were made out of heavy metal pipe firmly cemented into the schoolyard pavement.  The swings weren’t added until summertime but the bars were good enough to play on.  I had mentioned in an earlier post that my brother and our older friends taught me how to do hand springs before I joined the Meyers gym team. Well one day, when I was in sixth grade, I did three handsprings then grabbed the bars of the smaller swing set and did and skin-the-cat.  I was surprised I got the skin-the-cat in.  I remember a girl in my class called me a showoff.  Yeah, I guess I was a bit.  Her name was Dorothy and I believe she was the daughter of the librarian up at the library.

 It was in May of 1962 that my sixth grade class went to Meyers for Orientation Day.  When I first went in I thought the place was gigantic.  I didn’t know how I was going to possibly navigate those long halls.  I felt silly walking around the classrooms with the big kids sitting there.  I had heard stories that the big guys would stick out a leg and try to trip you, but that didn’t happen when I went through.  A few years later I remember sitting there watching the little kids walk through my class.

 I wrote a novel called “Champions of Redland.”  In the beginning of the story a small group of middle school kids are walking home from school on a bright spring day and I describe how happy they were to be walking along in the sunshine after a long cold winter.  I wrote that even the houses seemed brighter and more colorful.  Those lines came straight from my memory of walking home from Meyers on a bright May afternoon.  Everything did seem more colorful, even the line of kids walking up Hanover Street added brightness to the day.

 When the weather got warmer we once again began to wander further from home.  It was time for fishing trips up to the Ashley Reservoir.  We walked up Blackman Street and along route 309, which was the big highway at the time, and down the dirt road to the reservoir.  I wasn’t all that big on fishing but I like being in the forest.  We would look for snakes on the way and we would find a few garter snakes now and then.  The greatest snake event happened right at the reservoir.  One of the kids caught a fish and began to pull it out of the water.  Attached to the other end of the fish was a water moccasin and it had no intention of letting its lunch be taken from it.  We knew that water moccasins were poisonous so the fish was dropped back in the water and the line was cut.  The snake easily won that argument.

 At the end of May was Memorial Day.  Every year we would go down to the river common to watch them blow up the little boat on the river.  I guess it was a small simulation of the blowing up of the U.S.S. Maine in Havana Harbor.  I really don’t remember a lot of the other festivities; maybe I wasn’t paying much attention to them.  I do have one memory that may not be real.  I remember a small plane actually flew under the Market Street Bridge.  Maybe someone can tell me if that is all in my mind.

 When I was a kind, May always held the promise of a fun filled summer to come and, in Wilkes-Barre, that promise was always kept.

   

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Posted in Growing Up, Memories, Wilkes-Barre

No One Plays Air Guitar Anymore

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I do believe this is my 100th post.  I didn’t think I would keep it up this long.  We’ll see how long I continue.

Okay, I know this is an old folk’s rant.  I’m sure my father would have complained that no one pretended to be a big band leader anymore.  Well I am an old folk so I am going to rant.  Air guitar was the one instrument that we all could play perfectly.  We would drive through those riffs banding way back and jumping in the air.  Our fingers would automatically begin to move when we heard “Sweet Home Alabama” or “Smoke on the Water.”

Sometimes air guitar led to actually a real guitar and that was a real thrill.  I had strived to be a mediocre guitar player but I never reached that lofty goal.  I will have to settle for being just plain awful but, when I play, I feel like a rock god.  When I do “House of the Rising Sun” and it almost sounds like the tune, I think I am ready for the stage.  I’ll go back there to the sixties to the tunes we used to play in our band back in Billy’s basement.  I will do my basic chords to long forgotten tunes like “Girl, You’ll be a Woman Soon” by Neil Diamond or “Too Much to Dream” by the Electric Prunes.  I’ll just play away on a guitar that is way out of tune because my other little problem is that I am pretty much tone deaf.  It doesn’t matter that I’m awful and that I’m tone deaf, there is no other feeling like banging away on a guitar.

Air solos were not just limited to guitar.  Who hasn’t ripped out a killer drum solo with no instrument in sight.  I’m sure you can pick out parts of at least a hundred songs that you have hammered the air on.  How about that part in Steppenwolf’s “Born to be Wild” right at the end of music cut and it does the buda dum, buda dum, buda dum, or in “More Than a Feeling” by Boston at the end of the verse when he hits the drums bum, bum, bum, and the crash of the cymbal.  My favorite band for drums, and actually for driving rock and roll is Deep Purple.,  I believe Ian Paice was the hardest working drummer in rock and roll, you never hear him just play a regular beat.  He was an air drummer’s dream.

The tunes that are now on the top forty remind me of disco tunes.  There are a lot of great singers and I know they are talented and hardworking but they are it when it comes to the tune.. The band doesn’t count anymore and, sometimes, the band isn’t there at all.  Sometimes there is only an automated disco machine playing behind the singer.  This is nothing to air guitar to.  There is nothing to air drum to.  Of course you can sing along but my awful guitar playing is a huge step up from my singing, Cathy can tell you that.

My son tells me that musicians are coming back to popular music, I certainly hope so.  I would hate to think that my career of air guitar playing is over.

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Posted in Entertaiment, Opinion, Rock and Roll

A Mother’s Day Verse

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This is one of the last good pictures of my Mom.  She passed away on March fifth 2014.

If there is one thing in this world that every human being can agree on, it is the love of a mother for her children.  It is a universal truth and maybe a place to start to see some light in this contentious world of ours.

Take a look around the world,

other’s lives are so different from ours.

The different flags that are unfurled,

and how we wish on different stars.

The life of a Bedouin on the land,

is different from a factory worker in Moscow.

A child in Poland sees very little sand,

and people in the Sudan survive somehow.

It was Kennedy that said that we breath the same air,

is that all that we have in common?

What we see as wrong they see as fair,

we need something to prove we’re all human.

There is one thing that is the same,

no matter where you roam.

The one thing that takes credit, not blame,

for turning a house into a home.

Everywhere you look on this planet of ours

you see one thing that rises above,

the difference in politics, religion, and cars,

and that’s the constant of a mother’s love.

There is nowhere you can go and not see the scene

of a mother rocking a child to sleep.

From the desert sands to Ireland’s green,

a mother’s love is a love we all keep.

We have one day in May to thank Mom for everything she has done;

it should be a celebration of our common thread.

Mother’s Day should be a world day for as sure as we’re lit by the sun,

that all over the world, at the end of the day, it’s Mom that will put us to bed.

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Posted in Mom, Mother's Day, Opinion, Social Issues

Thoughts about Aging

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I have been thinking about aging recently.  I guess that is no surprise considering my age.  I think it also has to do with losing my mom in March.  It is that time for our generation that, if we were lucky enough to have our parents until late in life, that we face the inevitable event of losing them.  It is not at all a pleasant thing to contemplate, or to do, but it is part of the cycle of life.

It is hard to believe that the referee is about to blow the whistle starting the fourth quarter of my life.  Of course, I’m being optimistic, that whistle might have been blown years ago.  In any case that time has come and now we know how quickly it goes by.  At times I feel like that wise guy that hung out at the Parrish Street Pool in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania.  Other times I am quite aware of my age. I’ll look down at my hands and see the large veins, the three heavy tendons and, of course, the rattle snake like skin.

I also now spend time pondering how to keep it going, how to extend my life for a long as possible and have years full of vitality.  When you’re young and immortal, you don’t give much thought to your health, but it is part of the game plan in the fourth quarter of life.  It’s no secret; we all know what has to be done. 

I won’t go on again about my methods of diet and exercise.  I have rattled on about that enough already.  I will just mention two phrases.  The first is the classic, “Use it or lose it.”  The human body acts opposite of other things.  You cannot preserve strength, stamina, and endurance, by not using it. You have to use it in order to keep it.  As we get older we lose strength every year.  The average 40 year old can’t do more than twenty pushups and, late in life, he or she can’t carry a bag of groceries.  The only way to avoid this is to do strength training, and this is especially important for women.  The other phrase is, “What you put in your body will either help it or hurt it.”  This obvious and it becomes more meaningful as we get older.  This doesn’t mean I’m going to be on a strict diet of celery and live in the gym.  I have, and plan to always, pound down a foot long Philly cheesesteak and a large order fries, but I also know I won’t do it every day.

Physical fitness it only part of what we need to take care of in the fourth quarter of our lives; our mental and emotional state are just as important.  My rock is Cathy.  She has been with me through the years helping me, encouraging me, giving me more love than I ever hoped to have.  She definitely is the quality in my quality of life.  In my opinion having a good mate is key to a healthy mental and emotional state.  Next is family and friends.  Never underestimate the value of human interaction when comes to fending off the nightmares of dementia and Alzheimer’s. Finally, you have to keep your brain active.  This is done through activity, hobbies, games, and travelling are all good ways to keep you thinking.  Reading and writing engage your mind and make it work.  What you have to do is exercise your mind the way you exercise your body.

All the diet and exercise doesn’t guarantee anything; they just put more odds in your favor.  It’s like a game of draw poker.  The older we get the more frequently we are dealt a hand.  I think, based on my doctor’s reports so far, that I am generally holding three of a kind and asking for two cards.  No matter how much I work at it, there is still a chance that I’ll get two cards that won’t help and the Grim Reaper will fill a straight or a flush.

I didn’t actually want to get into preaching about fitness.  Yeah, I know, it’s too late to say that.  I can go through the classic thoughts we all have like, “How did I get so darn old?”  Just remember there is only one alternative to getting old and most of us aren’t ready for that.  There are benefits to being in the fourth quarter.  I am retired and I get to sit at home and listen to reports about the backups on the highway.  I get to do what I want when I want, and Cathy and I can do all the things we didn’t have time to do through the years.  It’s great to be alive.

 

 

 

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Posted in Aging, Diet and Fitness, Health and Fitness, Life and Love, Opinion, Social Issues