There is growing concern that elderly drivers are unfit to operate motor vehicles safely and many states are now summoning them to the DMV to demonstrate their ability. Once upon a time you were considered qualified to drive if you could hear thunder and see lightning. Now they want to poke, prod, and examine you. No, I'm not talking about old people or even the retired. Hell, the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) is handing out memberships like candy to anyone, even those just turned fifty. If they think that's old, wait until they catch up to me.
What brought this on? I just received my summons to hobble on down and be examined. I have to pass a vision exam and a written test on the motor vehicle code. Some fun, huh? It could be worse. They could force me to pass a driving test as well. When was the last time you did that?
My last driving test was in Colorado. I was tardy in applying for my license after moving there from Hawaii and they made me take the full battery of tests. Of course, I passed all until we came to the final one. The clerk at the desk instructed me to drive my car to the curb outside the door and wait there for my examiner. The man who emerged from the DMV, clipboard in hand, was larger than my Datsun stations wagon.
Wait! I hear you cry. Didn't you say in your last posting that you traded your Datsun for a Javelin? Yes, and I destroyed it before I left Hawaii. I had a salt water fish tank there and decided that it was easier to refresh the water once each week rather than slave over an alchemy set attempting to maintain the proper pH balance for the benefit of my fish. I would drive to the shore and fill a forty gallon trash can with clean seawater. Once, on the way home, an idiot cut me off and the trash can spilled when I slammed on my brakes. The trunk began rusting away by the time I reached home. Besides, I traded a Datsun 510 sedan for the Javelin. I arrived in Colorado with a Datsun 510 station wagon and a wife and child.
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As I said, the DMV driving examiner appeared to exceed the cargo capacity of my Datsun and I worried over this as he walked around the car pretending to check it out as I flashed the lights and honked the horn. In truth, I suspect he was likewise considering whether or not the car would accommodate him. In the end, he decided to give it a go and entered the passenger seat. The car sagged.
Surprisingly, the cabin provided him with enough room that he was able to close the door. Unfortunately, the seat belt didn't. Actually, he ignored it and instructed me to proceed to the end of the driveway and turn right. For some reason I have yet to figure out, I refused to move until he secured the seat belt. After several game attempts including adjusting the seat to its extremity to maximize the seat belt's reach, he announced that he would just hold it and again instructed me to begin driving.
In for a penny, in for a pound. I refused. How did I know that this wasn't part of the test? I feared that he would fail me if I so much as started the engine before he was secure.
After a few more futile attempts to snap the belt into its receptacle, he left the car and disappeared into the DMV office.
I waited some more.
Finally, I followed him into the DMV and asked the clerk where my examiner had disappeared to. She informed me that he had gone to lunch.
The clerk looked confused when I asked if I should go to lunch too and come back later to take my test. “But, you already passed,” she said after checking.
I hope I will again.
Whenever I feel down, when the checkbook is as bare as Mother Hubbard's Cubbard, I have one memory that helps carry me through. It's the day I bought my 1969 AMC Javelin.
I stopped off in Hawaii following my tour of duty in Vietnam before taking a week of leave to prove to my mother that I was still alive. I rented a Datsun 510 sedan at the Hertz desk at Honolulu International Airport and drove it to Tripler Army Medical Center where I was assigned to be the Officer in Charge of Special Services (Post theater, craft shops, sports facilities, etc). The car impressed me and I purchased one to be delivered on my return from leave on the mainland.
That car didn't disappoint me. It was fast and handled like a sports car. It was everything I could want except a “babe wagon”. Here I was, a young bachelor officer, living in paradise. Truthfully, I didn't think about it until a senior officer at the hospital began kidding me about it. I suppose that is why this story took an unexpected turn.
I was shuffling papers at my desk one day when one of the enlisted men in my command rushed into my office and announced, “You've had an accident, sir.”
Reflexively, I looked down at myself to see what had spilled.
“No, no, sir,” the young man explained. “Your car. You've had an accident.”
Now I was truly bewildered. I hadn't had an accident. My Datsun was parked in front of the post gymnasium/bowling alley/pool complex where my office was located.
“Sir,” he insisted, “you've had an accident.”
I followed him outside to discover that I really had an accident. Another officer, a captain, had parked his Volkswagon Beetle on the hill above me and it slipped its parking brake. It had rolled backwards almost hitting the captain as he walked towards my facility, jumped a curb, avoided a huge Monkey Pod tree, then slammed into the side of my car.
In those days, you had to obtain three estimates and submit them to the insurance company before having the car repaired. The next day, I spent the morning on this errand. I had two in hand when lunch hour rolled around. I stopped at the dealer where I had purchased the Datsun for the third estimate and was informed that the service manager was the only person authorized to write estimates and he wouldn't return until after lunch. Given that everyone worked on Hawaiian time, I might be waiting several hours.
I'm one of those people who paces as he thinks. Thus, I found myself in the dealer's showroom as I considered my options. A young salesperson interrupted my thoughts asking if he could be of help.
To this day, I have no idea how it happened. I pointed and asked, “Do you see that car?”
The young man followed my direction and responded, “Yes, sir.”
“Can you have it ready for me by next Wednesday?”
“That car,” I said still pointing.
I took him by the wrist and walked him to the car. “Can you feel this car?” I asked.
I think he was worried at this point. I'm not sure. I wasn't paying attention.
“This is now my car.”
I handed him my card and said, “You sold me that Datsun,” I said pointing towards the service area door where my car could be seen parked. “That's my trade in. Don't worry about the damage. The insurance company will pay to have it repaired. It will be my down payment.”
“Yes, sir,” he replied, hesitantly.
The following Wednesday, a friend asked if I was going to pick up my car. Actually, I wasn't sure if I was. The whole incident seemed like a dream. I shrugged in response and decided to drive to the dealer and see if I had actually purchased it.
When I arrived, the salesperson was waiting. I believe his manager had rehearsed him in case I actually showed up. He sat me down in an office where all the paperwork was laid out. I signed. Transfered my personal effects from the Datsun, and drove away in my brand new 1969 Javelin.
It was a beautiful car. Even by today's standards. It was too much car to drive around the island, but I wasn't alone in that. Hawaii 50 had appeared on television and everyone else was buying Dodge Challengers with big block V8 engines. We all chugged around the island with our engines collecting soot. There wasn't a stretch of road where you could really run them at high speed and clean them out.
To this day, I don't know how much I paid for that car. What they allowed on my Datsun as trade in. I had a payment book and paid something each month. It seems that there were 36 payments of approximately $100.
Have you ever been that impulsive in your life?
Anyone who has a passion for history, especially those who would contribute to the human story, must pick up a camera. Thus, it must come as no surprise to any who have followed this blog, that photography has been my lifelong hobby. My first camera had a Cub Scout logo. By implication, that would indicate that I started at a tender age. I was a photographer for my high school newspaper - The Towson High School Talisman. Ultimately, I cashed in on the knowledge I had accumulated and wrote promotional literature and articles for Vivitar in the late 1970s.
Recently, as I was digitizing my collection of color slides, I found some of my favorite photos and decided to share them here. I hope you enjoy them.
All photos were taken with a classic Nikon F (no built-in exposure meter) which now resides on a shelf as a curiosity of another age when Kodak ruled the world of photography.
I have many others, but will save them for future blog postings when I am hard pressed for a subject to write about.
Somewhere lost in the rubble of Nazi Germany or possibly in some warehouse of captured documents and artifacts like the one depicted in Raiders of the Lost Ark, are the remnants of the propaganda pumped out during World War II by Paul Joseph Goebbels and his Reich Ministry. Somehow miraculously, two fragile filmstrips found their way into my hands and I'm wondering what to do with them.
Both filmstrips are Photographic Reports of the Week, one for Week 42 of 1939 and the other for Week 47 of 1941. My father claimed that they had been given to him by a family friend who had carried them back from the war among his souvenirs. I have wondered in later years if this was true inasmuch as he had been a Nazi sympathizer before the United States entered the war. He liked to pretend that he was German, indeed claiming that was his parents' origin. In fact, they were Slovak immigrants who worshiped at the German Lutheran Church. He hung out at the Deutches Haus German Restaurant and Social Club in Baltimore until it was closed during the war. (I have no knowledge or evidence that any organization that assembled at the Deutches Haus was guilty of crimes any more than the Japanese who were interred during WWII.)
Deutches House, Baltimore, Maryland
I can imagine these filmstrips being presented at the Deutches Haus. The filmstrip for Week 47 of 1941 could have arrived in the mails about the time of the attack on Pearl Harbor and America's entry into World War II. In later years, my father waxed poetic about the prospect of a better world had Hitler won the war.
I'm guessing that they were presented to the German public by members of the Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei (NSDAP) – National Socialist German Worker's Party (NAZI) – reading from prepared scripts. Unfortunately, the scripts didn't accompany the filmstrips and I have yet to locate copies through Internet searches. The time lines for these two weeks found on Wikipedia provide events that seem to align with some of the images.
Week 42/1939 – October 15 to 21
- Oct 16: First air attack on Great Britain, aimed at ships in the Firth of Forth, Scotland
- Oct 18: First Soviet forces enter Estonia. During the Umsiedlung (Resettlement), 12,600 Baltic Germans leave Estonia
- Oct 19: Portions of Poland are formally inducted into Germany; the first Jewish ghetto is established at Lublin
- Oct 20: The Phoney War: French troops settle in the Maginot Line's dormitories and tunnels; the British build new fortifications along the gap between the Maginot Line and the Channel
- Oct 20: Pope Pius XII's first encyclical condemns racism and dictatorships
Week 47/1941 – November 16 to 27
- Nov 17: Joseph Grew, the United States Ambassador to Japan, cables the State Department that Japan had plans to launch an attack against Pearl Harbor, Hawaii (his cable is ignored)
- Nov 17: Ernst Udet, head of the Luftwaffe's Production and Development, commits suicide over his perceived inability to properly perform his mission
- Nov 18: Operation Crusader: British Commonwealth and other Allied troops cross into Libya and at least temporarily relieve the Siege of Tobruk
- Nov 19: Australian light cruiser HMAS Sydney and the German auxiliary cruiser Kormoran sink each other off the coast of Western Australia. All 648 crewmen on HMAS Sydney are lost.
- Nov 22: Rostov-on-Don, an important hub on the southern front, is taken by the Germans.
- Nov 22: Britain issues an ultimatum to Finland to end war with the Soviet Union or face war with the Allies
- Nov 22: Rommel starts a counteroffensive, retaking Sidi Rezegh (south of Tobruk) which the Allies had taken a few days earlier. British tank losses are heavy.
Many years ago, I chopped both filmstrips into individual frames and preserved them in slide mounts for viewing in modern projectors. Inasmuch as these devices are now disappearing, I have digitized the images by photographing them while displayed on a homemade rear projection screen. Not the best reproductions, but the paid service I used returned tiny digital files that produced tiny images on computer screens.
I am willing to entertain offers from reputable historical scholars and institutions who would like to add them their collections. I would donate them rather than see them destroyed. The images will be preserved at least for a time on this posting in my blog, but I can't imagine that this website will outlive me by much...
The following came to me by way of an email from a family relation and I couldn't find any reasonable way of passing it on except by reprinting it in my weblog. It is attributed to John Cleese and the narrative sounds like his. I hope that the copyright owner will be forgiving. I included the attribution that came with it, but cannot verify it.
The English are feeling the pinch in relation to recent events in Syria and have therefore raised their security level from “Miffed” to “Peeved.”
Soon though, security levels may be raised yet again to “Irritated” or even “A Bit Cross.” The English have not been “A Bit Cross” since the Blitz in 1940 when tea supplies nearly ran out. Terrorists have been re-categorized from “Tiresome” to “A Bloody Nuisance.” The last time the British issued a “Bloody Nuisance” warning level was in 1588, when threatened by the Spanish Armada.
The Scots have raised their threat level from “Pissed Off” to “Let’s get the Bastards.” They don’t have any other levels. This is the reason they have been used on the front line of the British army for the last 300 years.
The French government announced yesterday that it has raised its terror alert level from “Run” to “Hide.” The only two higher levels in France are “Collaborate” and “Surrender.” The rise was precipitated by a recent fire that destroyed France ‘s white flag factory, effectively paralyzing the country’s military capability.
Italy has increased the alert level from “Shout Loudly and Excitedly” to “Elaborate Military Posturing.” Two more levels remain: “Ineffective Combat Operations” and “Change Sides.”
The Germans have increased their alert state from “Disdainful Arrogance” to “Dress in Uniform and Sing Marching Songs.” They also have two higher levels: “Invade a Neighbour” and “Lose.”
Belgians, on the other hand, are all on holiday as usual; the only threat they are worried about is NATO pulling out of Brussels .
The Spanish are all excited to see their new submarines ready to deploy. These beautifully designed subs have glass bottoms so the new Spanish navy can get a really good look at the old Spanish navy.
Australia, meanwhile, has raised its security level from “No worries” to “She’ll be right.” Two more escalation levels remain: “Crikey! I think we’ll need to cancel the barbie this weekend!” and “The barbie is cancelled.” So far no situation has ever warranted use of the last final escalation level.
A final thought – ” Greece is collapsing, the Iranians are getting aggressive, and Rome is in disarray. Welcome back to 430 BC”.
HT © 2009-2013 · 21WIRE MEDIA · ALL RIGHTS RESERVED WORLDWIDE
Schools and teachers tried their best to destroy my love of learning. It seems that the love of learning is innate in every child. We mimic virtually everything we see and hear others doing. However, it isn't long before our families begin putting restraints on us, forbidding us to imitate only them and certain specified members of the community. Then, when we reach school, teachers begin substituting their judgment of who we should emulate. Never has this been clearer than today. Ever since teachers banded together and adopted an ideology, they have been hell bent on substituting indoctrination for education.
Is it any wonder that employers aren't happy with the lack of skills evinced by graduates
Or that students are failing their tests
In fact, teachers and schools that attempt to educate are castigated and ostracized.
I am fortunate that the primary authority figure in my life, my father, was abusive. He taught me that all authority figures were suspect and, thus, I was able to resist the negative influences of the teachers in my life. I selected my own mentors and sought out my own authorities questioning everyone of them, testing their premises, and dismissing anything that was inconsistent with observable facts. Thus, I became an autodidact, a self-taught individual.
Leonardo da Vinci, an autodidact
It's a hard life, living as an autodidact, unable to trust anyone until they prove themselves. It's a lonely life, but a rewarding one. I only wish I had known that when I started. I was plagued with self-doubt and feared failure at every turn. After all, who was I to set my judgment above that of others? The answer didn't become obvious until much later in life when I looked back and reflected on the balance sheet of my successes and failures. Yes, it's been a good life, full of adventure and learning. An autodidact never stops learning and learning is an adventure. Isn't it sad that so many are dissuaded from it?
Do you get it? My teachers didn't. Shakespeare wrote plays. They were meant to be acted upon a stage. Actors are needed to interpret the words in action and emotion. Requiring students to read the dialog without the benefit of a cast to perform them makes about as much sense as attempting to fly with nothing more than a stack of aircraft blueprints.
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Author and illustrator Brooke McEldowney may be doing Shakespeare a favor by using the characters of his online comic Pibgorn
to act out the play Romeo and Juliet.
The visual clues provided by his illustrations make the play much more readable.
I doubt if school teachers would allow their students to read Brooke's version, especially if some of his more lascivious characters find roles in the play. I'm guessing that his fairy, Pibgorn, will play Juliet, but I can't quite decide how he will cast Drusella, the over-sexed succubus. However, they should either allow it or permit the students to act out the play themselves. Wouldn't that be a better way of teaching Shakespeare?
Growing old is not for the faint of heart. Don't get me wrong. Living a long life is a blessing. I celebrated my 70th birthday this year. That's not so long, is it? True, but it's longer than the majority of my friends whom I've already seen buried. They were denied the opportunity to enjoy a few more years with their life partners. They won't see their grandchildren grow and thrive as I have.
Scene from "Cocoon", the move (click to enlarge)
Do you remember the movie Cocoon? One scene in that film still resonates with me. As the band of old folks prepare to depart with the aliens, one refuses. As his friends attempt to persuade him to accompany them, he remarks, “I don't want to see all of my friends die again.”
But death isn't the only outcome. With old age come the afflictions of aging. Alzheimer's. Arthritis. Blepharitis. Cataracts. Coronary artery disease. Dementia. Emphysema. Hearing loss. High blood pressure. Hip fractures. Macular degeneration. Menopause. Osteoporosis. Parkinson's. Urinary incontinence. Are you dialing the suicide hotline yet?
Even worse, there are the con artists constantly hovering nearby to bilk seniors. Typically, those on fixed incomes see their purchasing power diminish as the general effects of economic inflation and the special effects of health care inflation attack their savings and pensions. They can ill afford scams and cons taking what little is left to them.
Then there are companies who take money for services that seniors don't want or need and refuse to deliver. Let me warn you of one such trap, mail order plans that promise to help alleviate the high cost of prescription medicines. In truth, I'm fortunate that I have been prescribed just five medications taken in daily doses. Many, especially those older than myself, take many more. All of mine are available in generic form that greatly diminish the cost. My spouse takes a couple that cost hundreds of dollars monthly. Thus, we were happy to subscribe to a service that provided these drugs at a significant savings and with the convenience of home delivery at no additional cost, OptumRX.
We were lulled into a false sense of security. First, this service was recommended by the insurance company that provides our Medicare Part E Prescription coverage, United Healthcare Services. Second, the system worked in the beginning. The prescribed medications arrived at our home on time and we could see a small savings. Unfortunately, we authorized OptumRX to debit our checking account.
You're cringing already, aren't you? You should be. The convenience of electronic funds transfers is a modern miracle. I well remember my class on negotiable instruments in law school when the professor spoke of the fact that one day we might pay for goods and services without checks or cash. That promise wouldn't arrive for at least another thirty years, and when it arrived we were surprised, though we shouldn't have been, to discover the opportunities for fraud and abuse that the system would provide.
It doesn't take dishonesty to bilk someone out of their money. In the case of OptumRX, I'm willing to allow that they made an honest mistake. They even admitted the mistake. However, once the mistake is recognized, it should be rectified. Delaying repayment should be considered criminal, especially when dealing with those least able to afford the loss. In this case, they promised repayment within seventy-two hours and now, two weeks later, we're still waiting even though we've called repeatedly and they keep promising.
Thinking back on all the on-line purchases we've made over the past couple of years, we've been very lucky. We've never before encountered such a problem with Amazon or other vendors that we've used. However, in the future, I will never again authorize direct payment from our bank accounts. I will use MasterCard exclusively. Thus, we'll have recourse to correcting errors without having funds taken.
This cautionary tale most likely appears remote from the heights of that hill that I passed over so long ago. If you pay attention to my warning at all, you may choose to retire rich. Surely that will save you the problems to which I refer. Good luck with that dream, especially with this economy. Better that you prepare yourself with knowledge of the future that awaits you.
Based on your total calories consumed for today, you are eating too few calories. Not only is it difficult to receive adequate nutrition at these calorie levels, but you could also be putting your body into starvation mode. Starvation mode lowers your metabolism and makes weight loss more difficult. We suggest increasing your calorie consumption to 1200 calories per day minimum.
Doesn't that sound like a boxing coach advising a fighter to lean into the punch coming his way? It does to me. But that's the message that I'm receiving from the experts at MyFitnessPal.
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I've lost sixty pounds thus far. (That's the real purpose of this posting – so I can brag.) Forty pounds of that have come off since I started tracking my diet and exercise on MyFitnessPal.com on August 9, 2012. I've recommended this website in the past because it's the best I've ever found and it's free! I started out with Weight Watchers but their screwy system doesn't count fruits and vegetables as though they don't have any food value.
However, I've hit a plateau. I've weighed in the mid-two-hundred and forties for six weeks now. It's been frustrating. So, I checked out the reports section on MyFitnessPal last night and discovered that my net calorie intake dropped about the time I stopped losing weight. Really? Really!
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Obviously, I have no lack of will power. It's just that, according to them, my net calories are too low. Net calories include the total food consumed less the calories burned during exercise. The dramatic peaks and valleys in this chart are explained by the fact that I try to workout on an elliptical machine four times per week and practice Hatha Yoga seven days per week. I just began the yoga in early May. Yes, I miss a day or two here and there, usually when I have grand parenting duties.
So, should I increase caloric intake? That is, eat more. Do you have any idea the danger in telling a person who has battled his weight all his life to “eat more”? Yeah, that's a recipe for disaster...
I'VE BEEN HAMMERED a few times in my life. Not many, but enough to know better. However, a recent email from a friend reminded me of one of my earliest misadventures. No, he didn't write about drinking. He sent me an email featuring photos of unusual recycling projects.
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Now, what the hell does recycling have to do with drinking, I hear you cry. Well, look at the item in the lower left hand corner of this montage. Those appear to be vases fashioned from bottles.
When I was a young man, barely into my majority (in fact, I may not yet have been 21), I was drinking some Michelob with my friends and we attempted to make drinking glasses from the beer bottles. Please, before you castigate me for my choice, I had not yet developed a palate for the better brews. Indeed, that brings to mind a funny story that I heard not too long ago. (Please forgive the aside.)
The story that came to me claimed that Michelob was crafted by assistant brewers during a strike. They failed several times before the company founders allowed them to bottle their product. The beer that they discarded was simply dumped into the streets and flowed down the gutters. Thus, it became known as “gutter beer”. The beer that they bottled was named Michelob. I'm not claiming that the story is true. However, if I had my way, all of the beer crafted by the mass marketers would flow in the gutters. I like ale that is found at the micro breweries now flourishing across the United States.
But, I digress... As we drank our Michelob in that distant time, I shared another story with my friends. I had heard that a glass could be fashioned from the Michelob bottle by following these simple instructions:
- Drink the beer.
- Tie a string around the bottle where you want to sever the bottom from the top.
- Soak the string in gasoline and ignite it.
- Strike the bottle on the edge of a hard surface (such as a concrete step) after the flame has had sufficient time to heat it
Had the first bottle merely shattered, the experiment might have ended there. Unfortunately, it didn't. In fact, it broke leaving a perfectly smooth lip around approximately ninety percent of the bottle. At the point where the string had been tied into a knot, a jagged peak extended above the lip of the “glass”. Success was close enough at hand to encourage us to try again. And, we tried again with every one of the remaining bottles in the six pack. I was then sent to buy another.
Every attempt produced the same results, just close enough to success to encourage us to try again. Another bottle. Another six pack. I lost count.
Fortunately, we lived in the country and only the trees were in any danger as I traveled back and forth. Well, the trees and the woodland animals. Well, those and my car. My father's car, actually.
I would really like to know if anyone else attempted this trick, however, please don't tell me you succeeded. I would like to enjoy a safe and sane holiday weekend. By the way, don't forget to pause for a moment of silence for those who gave “the last full measure of devotion” so that you too could enjoy it.