Volpone said it best, but I'll take my turn....it's a beautiful morning, the fog is rolling off the river, a few intrepid birds are doing bird things, green stuff is burgeoning everywhere, I think Spring is going to take another step toward the front of the stage...
Now, usually I love quotes from old
Ben, they are a dagger to the heart or a bolt to the brain, most of the time…
But this one gives me pause. I
think the point is NOT to avoid "trifling conversation," or call it
blather, or even perhaps ambiguously call it gossip….human beings do the chit-chat
thing very well and very often, one researcher claimed that "gossip" comprises
more than half of all human verbal intercourse, our mundane remarks to each
other help to keep us decently human, in fact.
I'd prefer to interpret Franklin's
advice as a warning to avoid giving undue meaning to our "trifling
conversation" and, perhaps, to
strive for unadorned, candid, truthful communication, face to face, as often and
wherever that's what's needed.
If you stretch the point and define
"trifling" to mean "not true" or "poorly reasoned"
or "carelessly uttered" or "deliberately obfuscatory," then
by all means go with Ben and do the avoidance thing….
I think I'm decently tolerant of
some of the very bizarre names of people I don't know.
I think I might not be thrilled to
meet the self-indulgent parents of people who are stuck with names like "LaJarra"
and "Christmas" and "Moon Unit," but usually I lie down and
let the feeling go away….
I just wasn't able to force myself
to avoid commenting on a name I spotted in the most recent issue of Oxford American Magazine….among its offerings is a rather spasmodic and indifferently
written piece on an apparently not exceptionally obscure writer named Breece
Dexter John Pancake, AKA Breece D'J Pancake.
The mangled middle initials first
showed up as a typo in The Atlantic Monthly, and Mr. Pancake decided to adopt
Sorry, I can't help myself, I
refuse to wonder in silence about how to pronounce "D'J" and I ease
my conscience about writing this tepid, tentative diatribe by imagining that
you very likely feel the same way….
In case you were wondering, more than 3,628 Americans have
died from gunshot wounds since Dec. 14, when a crazy shooter killed 20
first-graders and several adults in Newtown, CT.
That's about 28 people each and every day.
And by the way, about 130 gun permits were issued to some of
the 27,000 residents of Newtown last year. In the three months since the murders
at Sandy Hook Elementary School, there were 79 applications for gun permits. "20
kids were shot, so I need a gun" ??????? That's not what I said when I heard about it ……
We have too many guns in America.
Too many dead people.
The average household in America has more guns than balloons.
Plain truth: 90% of Americans want
expanded, more strict background checks for gun purchasers.
Plain truth: a majority of the
Senate voted for more comprehensive background checks yesterday.
Plain truth: a powerful lobby
representing gun manufacturers and a small minority of gun owners pushed a
minority of 46 Senators to vote "No," and they prevailed because the
Senate hobbles itself with the 60-vote threshold.
Plain truth: 46 Senators acted in
their own self-interest (re-election) and continued to let partisan ideology
get in the way of doing what's right for America and Americans.
Plain question: why do we accept this?
why do we keep re-electing these people?
Plain question: why aren't the news
media using the words "shame" and "shameful" in their
dispirited reporting on this failure in the Senate?
"…Why be the other half of
disagreement?...Most arguments are traps of one kind or another. But relax
right out of it…the disagreement is on the other side—leave it there."
wisdom of the Sequichie of the Cherokees
Why is it so hard to walk away from
a silly or useless argument? What makes me want to jab my finger into the nose
of the lunkhead who's standing in line two spaces in front of me and spewing ignorant
garbage about "President Obummer"?
Harsh and repeated experience encourages
me to understand that picking my battles is half the fun, oops, I mean half the
fight…most of the time I remember to ask myself "Is this the fight you
really want to pick?"
And here's another thought, from Jonathan
"Pick battles big enough to
matter, small enough to win."
It's none of my business, I get
that part of it. The length of your car loan is a matter between you and maybe your
spouse and certainly your bank and whoever you may confess to…
But I saw an item yesterday about
folks signing for car loans that last as long as 8 years, zowie, that's a
sockeroo of a loan.
The report said 8 years is the
extreme, but still, about 1 out of 6 car loans these days is for at least 6
Now, the average age of a car at
trade-in is just over six years…unscientifically, that sounds to me like a lot
of folks expect to be making a monthly car payment for as long as they live.
That's interesting. In fact, it's a
lot of interest.
Here's an example: a nice lady in
Palm Beach, FL, still owed several thousand dollars on her old car, but she decided last month to get a new car anyway. She bought a new Toyota
Camry for $23,000. Well, to be more exact, she let her bank buy the car for
$23,000 and also pay off the old loan, and she agreed to pay the bank a grand total
of $36,000 over the next 75 months, at $480 a month.
That's more than six years. A sockeroo.
nice lady had a baby girl shortly after driving her new Camry off the dealer's
lot. Her daughter will be graduating from the first grade when the loan is paid
Again, I understand this is none of
my business. But I think it's a bad business.
It was a somewhat simpler business
in 1956, when Lee Iacocca helped to establish the great American tradition of
auto loans. In that year Mr. Iacocca, then a Ford regional manager, made his
mark with "a '56 for $56," selling a 1956 Ford car for 20% down and a
36-month car loan with a $56 monthly payment. Those were the days.
You can ask your mommy a lot of questions,
including big questions like this one.
Mommy probably knows the answer to this
one, or at least part of the answer….
Probably you do too….
Mississippi is one of the states that sucks up far more federal spending per
capita than it pays in federal taxes – and that's big time, Mississippians get
almost $3 worth of federal spending and benefits for every dollar they pay in personal
and corporate federal taxes. Only two states (New Mexico and Alaska) get more.
in the simplest terms of pocketbook politics, Mississippians actually love the
federal government. In this simplistic view, they should be loving President
Obama down in Mississippi.
why 90% of white voters in Mississippi went for the other guy last November?
E. J. Dionne has an interesting piece on WashingtonPost.com – he mentions that Congress as a whole is persistently ignoring
policies and concerns that are embraced by large majorities of Americans.
Nearly everyone thinks we need more
strict background checks on gun buyers. Congress is waffling as the NRA and gun
advocates pile on the pressure.
Most Americans think fixing the economy
and creating more jobs is the highest public priority. Congress seems to be spending
all its time viciously debating "the deficit" and trying to cut the benefits
of the Americans who need them most.
A majority of Americans want their very
wealthy fellow citizens to pay more taxes. Republicans and many Democrats don't
want to touch that with a 10-foot pole.
Why do we keep re-electing these partisan,
self-serving pols who are so spectacularly failing to respond to the guidance of
a majority of Americans?
Next time, don't vote for your incumbent
Senator or Representative. He/she is somebody's friend, but he/she isn't really
Dogs are not people. Dogs are not
children. Dogs eat doggy treats, also peanut butter, but that sticks to their
gums and stuff. Dogs will lick your feet, even between the toes. Dogs like to
smell places that people do not like to smell.
Still, you know, dogs have that
doggishly trusting potential in a relationship, dogs will meet you at least
half-way if you treat 'em right, and dogs always look up to you.
...and here's an addendum from my trusted personal advisor:
Schedule Your Child for a Play Date
at the Library!
It's inexpensive, you probably don't
have too far to drive, and you can introduce your child to the whole
world. You can even give your child a sense of identity and self-worth by
giving him/her a library card.
Make it a weekly event...go hog
wild, read Curious George, don't just watch the movie, read Tarzan of the
Apes (and when you are at home practice your Tarzan yell), read the Bobbsey Twins,
read about Benjamin Franklin, read about Thomas Edison, read about a home-town
When your child is done reading,
have him/her write a book report. Pen on paper or fingers on keyboard, a real
book report, complete the sentences that are generally grammatically correct.
Writing is a much-needed skill that is getting lost in our high-tech,
When the book report is done, gather
the family together after dinner, and have your kid read the report aloud.
That's another skill that your child may need someday.
Funny thing happened on the way to
the latest round of teacher evaluations….
By definition, technically, half of
all teachers are "below average," and yet the kind of teacher you
don't want your kid to get seems to be all but impossible to identify….
At the risk of exaggerating
slightly, not too long ago nearly every state had a carnival sideshow called
"teacher evaluation" that basically rated every teacher as
"good" or "satisfactory" or "competent" or
whatever the top of scale was….it was more or less impossible to get a
"bad" rating, so it was more or less impossible to expose or get rid
of unsatisfactory or incompetent teachers.
Let's face it: as an example, you
could say that the "worst 10%" of teachers were out there somewhere,
but officially they were invisible.
Now the New York Times reports that
more than half of our states have implemented new systems for teacher
evaluations, in many cases linking student performance and test scores to an
individual teacher's performance assessment.
In Florida, 97% of teachers are
"effective" or "highly effective."
In Tennessee, 98% of teachers are
In Michigan, 98% of teachers are
"effective or better."
For the record, I love and respect good teachers. I am a teacher.
But, gee. Makes you wonder….
If we admit that, by definition,
half of all teachers are "below average," then just exactly how
astoundingly unspeakably incompetent does a teacher have to be to get a poor
rating in Florida, or Tennessee, or Michigan?
If you believe these assessment
results, then round up your kids and move to any school district in Florida, or
Tennessee, or Michigan, and thank your lucky stars they're going to get a good