Sunday, May 24, 2009

It's Not Another Mattress Sale

Each year we celebrate Memorial Day.  The real Memorial Day, set aside to honor Civil War dead, is May 31.

[Surprise, it wasn’t designed as yet another holiday to have a ^%$#&@* mattress sale!  Not that I have strong opinions about that.]

As the Civil War receded in history, other wars claimed their victims, and the collective memory dimmed, Memorial Day became a day to remember all the departed and to especially honor all those who served in the military.

Neither my father nor my wife’s father died as a result of military service; but when I say neither gave his life for his country, I am not telling a complete truth, and I think we ought to honor them on Memorial Day.

Both served in the army.  My father was in ROTC in college, and was drafted in the late 1930’s, before the United States entered the world war.  He served until the end of WW II, and then, because he was an “unattached reserve officer” served another 18 months during the Korean Conflict.

Both of these events disrupted the life he envisioned for himself as a chemical engineer who began his work life in the laboratory at a large chemical company and created processes that the company patented.  After the war he did not go back into research; too much had happened in the intervening years.

Despite the disruption in his life, he believed in the United States, he worked very hard to raise his family, and he instilled my sister and me with standards that he valued:  hard work, patriotism, love of family.

He was discharged from the army for the second time in 1952, and got on with his life, first as an entrepreneur and then as a salesman.  He loved his family, remained faithful to my mother, and worked hard to support us - and when we had grown, to support her.  He attended church, he belonged to appropriate men’s clubs, he paid his taxes (and complained about them), and he lived a good life.  

He is buried in the military cemetery in Chatanooga, TN.

My father-in-law also served in the army, but on the front lines in Italy and North Africa.  When he was discharged at the end of WW II, he suffered from shell shock according to all reports.  The family did not acknowledge mental illness then - not even PTSD - because it was considered shameful.  And years later when he had to have a leg amputated, my mother-in-law wouldn’t take him out because of the shame she associated with any kind of illness.

His sister helped my father-in-law through the rough times and occasionally she spoke of horrible nightmares and subsequent long nights in 24-hour movie theaters because he could not sleep.  I’m not sure how he managed to overcome (or work through) his problem.  But he turned himself around and became a teacher, then a principal, and a good one.  I can’t think of a better description of a career in public school teaching than “giving his life for his country.”  He is buried in a small cemetery in Kane, IL, with my mother-in-law, and my son’s ashes.

Like my father, my father-in-law loved his family, paid his taxes (also complaining), and worked hard.  He retired to a small farm in the heartland of Illinois.  

Sometimes, it seems to me, when we honor veterans, especially those who have died, they turn into a kind of faceless mass. Thus, it’s important that we remember the people who gave their lives to this country in so many different ways as individuals.  

Today I honor two of them: my father Daniel R. Moser; and my father-in-law, H. Eugene Butler.

As always feel free to comment below.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Instant Wealth

I got a semi-interesting email this morning,which I'm posting below.  I suspect the Nigerians have gotten such a reputation that they no longer are able to bilk cash from unsuspecting old folks and the fake bankers in Hong Kong have taken over.  

I'm not following up, of course, by involving myself with Mr. Cheng.  And I've deleted his email address although if you really want it, I'll send it to you.  I half think that if thousands of replies arrived in response to his email, he might crash.  But he'd probably just get more names to scam.

I did hear a story on NPR about a guy who went to Nigeria and managed to turn the con around and hoisted the scam artists on their own petard, so to speak.  It was something like, "I'm here and I have an American cashier's check but I got put in jail and I need you to wire me bail money so I can get out of here and give it to you."  They paid.  That makes me laugh.

Anyway, here's the nefarious email: 

From Mr.Vincent Ch---
Email: xoxoxoxx

Good Day
I am Mr. Vincent Ch--- Hoi Chuen, GBS, JP Chairman of the Hong Kong and 
Shanghai Banking Corporation Limited.

Our Client, Gen Zaiki Taha Ab---, a businessman and also who was with the 
Iraqi forces, made a fixed deposit, of Twenty Four million Five Hundred Thousand
United State Dollars only in my branch, a number of notices was sent to him,
before the war which began in 2003 and also after the war but, no response 
came from him. We later found out that the General along with his wife and only
daughter had been killed during the war in a bomb blast that hit their home.

After more inquiry it was also discovered that the late Gen. did not declare 
any next of kin in his official papers including the paper work of his bank 
deposit.  What bothers me most is according to the laws of my country at the expiration of 6 years the funds will be revert to the ownership of the Hong Kong Government if nobody comes for the funds, Against this scenery, I have all the information needed to claim these funds and I want you to act as the beneficiary of the deposit, there is no risk involved in this matter, as we are going to adopt a
legitimate method and the attorney will prepare all the necessary documents.

All I require is your honest co-operation and I guarantee that this will be
executed under a legitimate arrangement that will protect you from any breach 
of the law. Please accept my apologies, keep my confidence and disregard this 
email if you do not appreciate this proposition I have offered you.

All confirmable documents to back up the claims will be made available to you
prior to your acceptance and as soon as I receive your return mail Via my 
email address: xxxxxxxx and I will let you know what is required of

Your earliest response to this letter will be appreciated.

As always, click comment below to add your two cents' worth.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

What Can't I Handle?

I am tired of people trying to censor ideas because they don't agree with them.

I don't agree with plenty of people, but I let them speak.  Voltaire said, "I do not agree with what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it."  I'm not so sure that I'd die for something trivial, but I still believe that people have the right to say things I don't want to hear.

I don't want to hear, for example, commentary ad nauseum about Barack Obama's speech at Notre Dame's graduation.  He said what he said, which I thought was pretty measured.  Let people think for themselves.

I don't want to hear the KKK or Nazi apologists spout racial and religious hatred, which includes hate speech against not only Jews but Muslims and Christians and whoever else they have in their sights.  I don't want to hear Bill Maher go on one of his anti-religion rants.  But the Constitution guarantees, despite the ill-considered Patriot Act, the freedom of speech.  If I get too offended, I can switch channels, turn off the television, read a book, poke Q-tips through my ear drums, listen to the Jonas Brothers, push bamboo splints under my fingernails, or whatever else I can think of.  

These people have the right to say whatever they want.  I have the right not to listen, or to disagree, or to speak against their ideas.  But I cannot shut them up or censor them.

I have close friends who tell me that they keep things from people, usually their parents, who "can't handle" their ideas or actions or beliefs. Self censorship is probably a good idea, and it's one of the reasons I don't drop my favorite F-bomb adjective throughout this post.   I never used that excuse though.  I didn't tell my parents things because it was either none of their business or they would try to use it against me or both.  I didn't try to justify that they "couldn't handle it."

I do not believe that government agencies should keep things from us because they fear we "cannot handle them."  [On the other hand, the previous administration managed to get itself reelected in 2004 by injecting and projecting fear.   It extorted votes from the population.  In the most recent election that tactic stopped working and they got voted out.]  We need to know facts that affect us.  If there is an anthrax - or swine flu - threat, we need to take precautions.  And I need to decide for myself what I can "handle."  

I don't want to hear about swine flu particularly, and for this reason I have stopped watching most television news.  When I do watch, I look for the information I need and then turn it off or switch channels.  

The right to free speech has two sides.  I can say what I want and listen to what I choose.  

On nine-eleven, for example, I did not have the television on until a relative called and told me to watch CNN.  I saw what was happening, was suitably horrified, and turned the television off.  I checked in every couple of hours, but most of what I saw was constant repetition, a devaluing, even trivializing in effect, of the event.  I did not end up with post-traumatic stress disorder from seeing the twin towers fall a gazillion times.  I did feel great betrayal, anger, fear, and distress at the event.  But I was not required to sit glued to the television having the tragedy imprinted over and over on my brain.

The graduates at Notre Dame last week had/ have the same two options I have.  Some of them chose to stay away.  They chose not to hear what our president had to say.  Others listened whether they agreed or not.   The two sides of the coin (should) apply equally. 

To comment, please click on the link below.  

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Electronic Chaos

Our lives have been in chaos because of electronics the past couple of weeks:  The internet has been out.  

We finally figured out it was the router, got it taken care of, and we're back on line.  

I used to say I hated having the electronic leash, and I still do, but I have a little more respect for it these days.  In any event, I'll be getting a couple of entries out early this week.

For those of you of the maternal persuasion:  

Happy Mother's Day!