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Saturday, March 10, 2018

Common Courtesy: Endangered or Extinct?

Has common courtesy become extinct?

Do parents no longer teach manners to their kids? I'm not talking about knowing which of three forks on the table to use first. I'm talking about simple basic manners: things such as saying 'please' and 'thank you.' Holding the door for the person behind you. Letting someone with two items check out of the store ahead of you with your cart full of groceries. And acknowledging the person who let you go ahead of them in line.

This came to mind recently after a couple of experiences. Someone helped me return a defective television set twice because the first replacement was also damaged out of the box. The set was too big to fit into my small car, so this person offered to bring his truck to transport the television to the store and bring the replacement home. He also set the television up for me. I thanked him in person, and I also sent a text message the following morning reiterating my thanks and appreciation. I never heard back, not even a "You're welcome" or "Happy to help."

Another person had asked me to send her a couple of cookie recipes that I make every holiday season. I scanned them, sent them via e-mail, and texted to let her know the recipes were in her in-box. Again, I heard nothing.

These are little things, granted, but illustrative of a definite lack of common courtesy among our society. I always thank someone who holds the door for me, or who lets me go ahead in a checkout line if I have only a couple of items. If somebody lets me into traffic, I acknowledge the kindness with a friendly wave.

If I do something for someone, I expect a 'thank you.' I don't expect an award or a ticker tape parade, but some recognition of my kindness is appreciated. Maybe I should expect nothing more than the knowledge that I did a good thing. But that isn't the way I was raised.

I once volunteered to photograph some incoming dogs for a local animal rescue group. I photographed all 35 dogs just an hour or so after the request was made on Facebook. I then e-mailed the photos within an hour of arriving home, and I got ... nothing in response. I did this on no notice because I saw a need and knew that I could help. Another time, I dropped off several large bags of dog food that had been donated to another rescue group that decided to share the bounty. The staff, sitting outside at a picnic table, acted totally disinterested. Nobody offered a receipt or a word of thanks. Guess who doesn't offer any assistance to that organization any more?

Being polite and courteous costs the giver -- and the recipient -- nothing. How much effort does it take to say 'thank you' or to hold the door for someone? How much effort does it take to thank someone who brings a gift from another country or who pays for lunch? 

I have a local friend who has driven me to more eye appointments than I can remember. She expects nothing in return, but I always thank her. I take her to lunch from time to time to express my gratitude. And I bring her a bag of coffee beans (she loves coffee) if I visit a coffee-growing country. These are small gestures, but they are important to let her know I really do appreciate her kindness.

Common courtesy means more than simply saying 'please' and 'thank you.' It means holding the door for the person behind you. It means letting someone with just a couple of items in the line at the grocery store go ahead of you. It means not cutting another driver off in your rush to grab a parking spot. It means letting another driver merge in front of you (I will do this, but not if the lane ahead is closed, the closure was announced half a mile back, and the driver waits until the last second to pull into my lane). Courtesy means being nice to cashiers and clerks even when you are having a bad day. It means not making a right turn on red into oncoming traffic, then flipping off the driver of the oncoming car (who clearly has the right of way). 

Courtesy means not tailgaiting me when I am driving down a two-lane road in a residential area and driving the speed limit. Riding my bumper won't make me speed up. In fact, it just might make me slow down a bit. Courtesy also means not driving 25 mph when the speed limit is 35 mph and there is a long line of vehicles backed up behind you. How about putting your phone away when you're having a meal with a friend or family member? Unless you're a physician on call at a local hospital, that call or text message can wait. And how about not subjecting the rest of the world to your one-sided phone conversation when we're on an airplane waiting to take off? If you bump into somebody, have the decency to say 'excuse me' or 'sorry.' I was on an airplane flying from Moscow to Tyumen', Russia, with my daughter a few years ago. A Russian woman barged up the aisle and nearly knocked me over. When I said "Hey!" in surprise, she muttered 'Sorry', but I don't think she meant it.

Common courtesy, it appears, is no longer common. It appears to have gone the way of common sense. Common courtesy is a little thing, but it can make the world a much nicer place. What has happened to basic manners? Are we Americans so self-absorbed that we no longer realize that we share this planet with others? Have saying 'please' and 'thank you' gone out of style? Has our obsession with cell phones created our glaring lack of manners?

Readers, what do you think? Have you noticed the increasing lack of manners in our world?

Friday, March 2, 2018

Say 'No' to All Tax Increases!

Why don't governments, at all levels, live within their means? Why is the only solution ever considered a tax increase?

It doesn't matter which level of government we're talking about -- local, county, state or federal. No government entity is capable, or at least willing, to live within its means. 

If my bank account gets a bit low, I cut back on spending. I purchase only what I absolutely need. I delay major purchases or home improvement projects.

Every year I am told that there will be little or no cost of living increase in my pension and Social Security payment because inflation is nonexistent or very low. Yet every year my Medicare premium increases. Each time I go to the grocery store, prices are higher than in the past.  A loaf of bread? $4. A gallon of milk? $3. A box of cereal? $4-$5.

Today's newspaper has a large, front-page story about how Albuquerque's newly elected mayor wants to impose a 3/8 percent tax increase without a vote by the citizens, something he promised when he was campaigning for the office.

I don't live in Albuquerque, but I do much of my non-grocery shopping there. When I go to the dentist or get my hair cut, I pay the Albuquerque sales tax (called, for some unknown reason, a 'gross receipts tax') on everything, including services. When I take one of my dogs to the veterinarian, I pay the Albuquerque sales tax. 

Has there ever been an agency that feeds off the public that doesn't want more money? A special addition to our property taxes to support the building of a new hospital was supposed to last only four years. When the increase was about to expire, the hospital, as expected, came back to the public trough for more money, despite the building having been in use for several years. Each election brings with it a bond issue for the schools or roads or police.. 

As a matter of principle, I vote against any and all bond issues that will result in a tax increase. Call it a 'gross receipts tax' or a 'mill levy' or anything else, it still is a tax increase. It still takes money out of my pocket. 

Private citizens are expected to live within their means. Non-profit organizations live within their means. Why do government legislative bodies feel they can simply raise taxes on others because they can't live within the funds allocated to them? And if funds are in such short supply, why do elected officials keep voting pay raises for themselves? The mayor and city council of the city where I live voted pay raises for themselves (although they won't take effect until the next batch of crooks is voted into office). The state legislators just voted themselves a 10 percent pay raise, while voting teachers a mere 2.5 percent increase.

Quite simply, it is time for the citizens to say 'enough!' The vast majority of elected officials do not represent me or the average citizen. A few years ago, the newly elected mayor and city council overturned an ordinance that would have forbidden the selling of animals by pet shops unless the animals were from local rescue groups. The ordinance had been developed with a great deal of citizen input. The tea party majority then chose to overturn the ordinance. So much for 'representative' government.

So no, I will not vote to support any request that will taise taxes in any form. Government officials need to learn that the public well is limited.

Thursday, March 1, 2018

Step Away From the Computer and Experience Life

I spend a fair amount of time on Facebook, although I have cut back considerably over the past few months.

Part of the reason is that it just hurts too much to read the never ending stories of cruelty to animals, trophy hunting, trapping and many other manifestations of the black hearts of so many people.

Another part of the reason is reading still more examples of the greed, corruption and incompetence of the current administration, along with its grab for more power.

Finally, I have noticed that some of Facebook's tactics have become ever more intrusive.. Some examples:
  • The constant reminders to "boost this post" or "similar posts that were boosted got more views." Boosting, of course, means paying Facebook to increase the number of people who see a given post.
  • "Suggested groups" reminders show up incessantly, especially on my mobile devices. Most of the groups are either located several states away from me, or are groups in which I have absolutely no interest.
  • The same goes for "people you may know" suggestions.
  • "Get more likes, comments and shares."
  • "Pages you may like" 
  • "Promote page"
  • Suggestions to add another page administrator to my two writing and photography pages. Why would I want to give someone else control of my pages?
  • Ads, ads and more ads.
I get it. Facebook founder and billionaire Mark Zuckerberg wants ever more money. But if I want to promote my page or find a group to join, I will do that without being badgered by Facebook. I don't need the constant badgering.

Social media of all sorts (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and others) is great up to a point. But it appears that people have become so consumed with social media that they are losing contact with the people and events in the real world. Combine social media with the 24-hour news, and one's mind can easily become overwhelmed.

I suspect I will continue to limit my exposure to all forms of media. It's far healthier for me to be outside taking a walk, playing with my dogs in our yard, taking a trip to someplace new, or reading a book, than to sit in front of a computer or tablet being bombarded by negative stories. 

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Finding Good in an Evil World

In the aftermath of yet another school shooting (the 18th in the US so far this year), and a Congress that does nothing more than offer useless thoughts and prayers, I need some good news for a change. 

One group that inspires me is called the Black Mambas. The Mambas include 32 women and two men who operate within Balule Private Nature Reserve, part of the greater Kruger National Park. They search for and destroy poachers' camps, snares and bush meat kitchens. Since 2013, the number of rhinos lost to poaching has plummeted, and snaring and illegal bush meat incidents have dropped by 75 percent. Mambas also work to educate local school children and villagers about the importance of wildlife through the Bush Babies environmental education program. You can learn more about the Mambas, sponsor a Mamba or donate if you wish, at

Through the education program of Save the Elephants (, I am sponsoring the high school education of an impoverished student in Kenya. She, like the other students chosen for a scholarship, is a bright by poor student who otherwise wouldn't be able to afford to attend high school. I got to me my student during a trip to Kenya last summer. I believe that education is the key to raising these students out of poverty and helping them go on to help their country. My student hope to either enter medicine as a doctor, nurse or pharmacist, and help her people after she graduates.

Another wonderful organization is Noah's Arks Rescue of South Carolina. This all-volunteer organization takes in the sickest and  most abused dogs in the southeast, providing whatever veterinary care is needed and finding new homes for dogs that survive their horrendous abuse.  This wonderful organization "supplies emergency medical, surgical and rehabilitation to abused animals. We are not a shelter. Our wish and lifelong hope is that our Society becomes educated in the ethical treatment of all animals and to stop the senseless killing of animals that have been tortured and abused." Noah's Arks takes in animals that other rescue groups, animal shelters and animal control facilities can't or won't take on. Visit for more information, to apply to adopt a dog, or to donate.

Still another organization I greatly admire is the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust in Nairobi, Kenya. This wonderful group takes in orphan elephants, usually orphaned by poaching or because they got trapped in wells, treats their physical and psychological wounds, and over a period of 8-10 years prepares them to return to the wild. After spending time in the Nairobi nursery, where each baby sleeps in a stockade with a keeper who feeds it and reassures it, the orphans are eventually transferred to one of three reintegration facilities. There they begin to interact with wild herds, learning about elephant society and food. Eventually they leave for good. But several of the former orphans have returned to show off their own babies to the keepers. They even have brought injured wild elephants that have been injured, so their wounds can be treated by a Kenya Wildlife Service veterinarian. I sponsor three elephant orphans. If you would like to sponsor a baby elephant for only $50/year, visit

I provide financial support to all three of these organizations. I have visited the elephant orphanage several times. There are many other worthwhile organizations doing good works around the world. For me, supporting these organizations and helping fund the important work they do is one way for me to counteract the neverending acts of murder, cruelty and destruction that fill the news each and every day. I can take some comfort in knowing that there are great people who are doing everything in their power to make this world a safer, kinder, healthier place for all.


Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Food, Glorious Food

I went to the grocery store early this morning in search of a couple of sale items (Greek yogurt and vanilla almond milk).

While there, I cruised the aisles in search of other sale items, and in search of something interesting to eat. Eating has lost most of its allure since a terrible upper respiratory virus robbed me of my senses of taste and smell nearly 2 years ago. I haven't lost any weight, because I still eat, including things that aren't especially good for me. I find that I have replaced the flavor of food with the texture, specifically, the crunch of foods.

I always have loved crunchy foods such as peanuts, flavored crackers, chips and popcorn. I suspect I got this from my father, who always liked popcorn and crackers. But since losing the ability to taste (I occasionally can taste cinnamon and garlic), I have found great gustatory pleasure in eating movie theater buttered popcorn. 

In addition to not being able to taste anything I eat, there is a fairly lengthy list of things I won't eat. I stopped eating pork decades ago due to the cruel way in which pigs are raised on factory farms. I gave up lamb a long time ago because -- don't laugh -- they are just too cute. And I stopped eating beef a couple of years ago to protest the ongoing attempts by the American cattle industry to eradicate wolves, bears and mountain lions from their habitats. Cattle ranchers and their bought-and-paid-for elected allies also are responsible for the annual slaughter of hundreds of Yellowstone's native bison population. And I am not really a fan of seafood other than fish. 

So I eat chicken, turkey and vegetarian meat alternatives, many of which are quite good (especially as I can't taste much of anything). What makes sausage taste like sausage? For me, it's the spices, not the type of meat (or meat substitute) that's used. Stand-alone meat substitutes such as Chik Patties by Morningstar Farms, chickenless nuggets, etc., are great, but they're not meant to be the center of a meal. They are great for sandwiches and snacks.

I love fresh fruit, but vegetables are more work to prepare so I eat fewer of them. But I do like salads and baby carrots with ranch dressing dip. I've also made a point of incorporating vegetables in whatever dishes I prepare at home.

Between my inability to taste foods and the list of things I dislike or won't eat for ethical reasons, finding interesting foods and dishes to prepare has become quite a challenge. So much of our enjoyment of food is psychological, which is why I continue to eat things I used to like and avoid things I don't like, even when I can no longer taste them. But I have pretty much given up desserts. Why consume the calories if I can't taste the dessert?

It isn't likely that my sense of smell and taste will return, so until then, I will continue to enjoy crunchy foods and the occasional taste of garlic and cinnamon.

Saturday, January 20, 2018

Dear Congress: You're Fired!

Dear members of Congress: YOU'RE FIRED!

You are fired for gross incompetence. And you're fired for failing to do the job for which you were elected, and for which you are well paid.

One of the basic responsibilities of Congress is to pass a budget to fund government operations, and to pass said budget on time. This you have failed to do repeatedly. Passing continuing resolution after continuing resolution is not acceptable. And this time around, you failure to pass even a temporary spending bill has resulted in the shutting down of the federal government. Meantime, you continue to collect your fat paychecks, while federal employees are furloughed. They may or may not be paid retroactively. 

Each and every one of you should be fired. I hope retribution will come when the voters go to the polls in November and vote all incumbents out of office. 

We need to do several things to deal with this ongoing incompetence:
  • Enact term limits for all elected officials. 
  • Put members on Congress on the same pay scale, and provide the same benefits, as are provided to federal employees. 
  • Prohibit the tacking on of unrelated legislation to any bill. Burying controversial legislative actions and proposals in other bills will be strictly prohibited. If a bill is worth considering and voting on, it should stand alone so it is obvious to everyone what the proposed legislation would do. The current budget disaster could have been avoided if the budget bill were considered on its own, rather than being wrapped up with legislation to fund Drump's wall with Mexico and action to extend DACA protections and to fund the CHIP program that provides medical service to low-income children.
  • There should be a minimum amount of time allotted for members of Congress to read and understand each and every piece of proposed legislation. There will be no recurrences of what happened with the recent vote on revisions to the health care law, when Democratic members were not allowed to read the legislation or proposed amendments before voting.

There are many, many -- I dare say most -- Americans who are fed up with members of Congress acting like royalty. They should not receive pay or benefits not available to the federal workforce at large. They should have the same earned vWgacation time, and the same pensions, as federal employees receive. If members of Congress wish to settle sexual harassment or any other charges with individuals, those settlements should be paid for from the personal fortunes of the accused, not by the American taxpayers, as is currently the case. Congress no longer represents the public interest. Members of both houses of Congress are totally out of touch with the average working American. 

According to Newsweek magazine, "House Republicans issued a fact sheet about their new tax cut plan that referred to Americans earning $450,000 a year as “low- and middle-income”—even though that income level would put those taxpayers in the top 0.5 percent of all individual Americans."

Of course, these things will never happen, as the changes would have to be implemented by members of Congress. Whatever cost of living increase is given to federal employees should be given to members of Congress. As it now stands, Congress gets an automatic pay increase every year. Federal employees and retirees have received little to no increase some years.

America fought a war to free itself of royalty. It is time for another war -- done peacefully -- to free ourselves of our current crop of would-be royals.

Thursday, January 18, 2018

Unlikable Words

Are there words in the English language that you really dislike?

Maybe its the way the words sound, or maybe it's what they represent. Here are my top 10 words that fall into that category:
  • surveil
  • slather
  • crotch 
  • hack (as is 'life hack', something that makes doing a task easier)
  • panties
  • phlegm
  • mansplain 
  • pus/pustule
  • man cave
  • f***

Some of these words bother me because of what they represent (phlegm, pus), while the very sound of others is annoying (surveil, hack, crotch, slather, panties, f***). 'Mansplain' is just a stupid word. And what about 'man cave'?

Interestingly, the word several Web sites list as the most objectionable is 'moist.' That word, which I seldom use and then only in reference to a cake, doesn't bother me at all. But apparently it does bother many people. 

There is a variety of explanations about why people hate certain words, something known as 'word aversion.'  Apparently certain words actually create negative physiological responses in the body. Certainly some words are disgusting because of the things they represent. That doesn't explain, however, why I despise the word 'panties' or 'slather.'

I guess it doesn't really matter why people have an aversion to certain words. Advertisers, however, might want to reconsider using the word 'moist' to describe their cakes or other baked goods  But what other word could Duncan Hines print on its box of cake mix to convey the moistness of its product? My daughter, whose native language is not English, would sometimes refer to something as being moist rather than damp. The concepts are similar, but we can't refer to a cake as being 'damp.'

Are there certain words in English that make you cringe?