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Friday, October 21, 2016

Rant #1,767: The Rain, the Cruise and Other Things

Yes, with all the worry we had--much of it created by the media, just looking for latest weather-directed panic attack--we did go on our cruise, in full, and the only thing we didn't do was leave Miami on time. But I am not going to cry about an hour or so's lateness.

it is always good to get away from it all, and cruises generally allow you to do that.

However, as you know, this time, Hurricane Matthew stood in our way, or so we thought.

While incredible doom and gloom was presented by the national media which focused on southern Florida, what happened is that the northern part of the state got socked--Daytona, Jacksonville--while the southern part of the state got lots of rain and wind and some flooding.

The Carolinas were also hit pretty hard, but all the computer models said that southern Florida was going to get creamed. They didn't, or at least not to the extent that they were supposed to get hit, and I guess that these warnings had to be made because of the information that the weather people had, which said that Miami was going to get it.

When we arrived in Fort Lauderdale, and then went on the ground to Miami, we saw very few remnants of what might have been. There were still big, puffy clouds in the sky, some puddles, but little else to alert us northerners that the south was supposed to have gotten saturated by Matthew.

That is not to minimize the devastation other areas felt, but for us, we basically dodged a very large bullet.

We ended up going to every port we were supposed to go to, and the weather at each port was amazing, in the 80s to the low 90s and terrific beach weather.

St. Maarten was particularly stunning, and even though the people can be very pushy there, certainly our time at the beach there was among the most fun times we spent on the cruise.

We also ate at the Hard Rock Cafe there, and really enjoyed the atmosphere at this restaurant, which was maybe one quarter the size of any Hard Rock we have been to.

The cruise basically ran out of steam during the last two days, which were sea days. There is only so much swimming one can do before one gets bored, and with my son under the weather and me hurting from ear to ear with my teeth, it got to be a grind after a while, and I can say that my family was pretty happy to come home.

That was the first part of my personal adventure of the past two weeks, and the second part was not that great, not that great at all.

As many of you know, I was slated for surgery to rid myself of a bothersome wisdom tooth, a problem that my regular dentist completely missed and for which I had to go to two other doctors to ascertain.

I made the surgery appointment for the very next day after our return, because I originally took it off, anyway, and I just wanted to get the procedure done.

Little did I know what I was in for, although I found out while in the surgeon's office before the surgery what I might have to go through on Monday morning.

I was told that based on the various scans and x-rays that they did prior to the surgery, there was a possibility that the entire wisdom tooth would not be removable.

It seems that wisdom teeth are to be removed when a person is a teenager or in the early 20s at the long end. The reason is that complications can set in after that age, making the tooth almost impossible to be removed in full in some cases.

One of the problems that I had was that because of my age--59 years old--and the position of the tooth, compounded by an infection that I had in my mouth, the surgeon could not guarantee that he could remove the entire tooth.

So, what the surgeon predicted came out to be reality.

The wisdom tooth, over time, had melded with my jawbone, making it nearly impossible to extract without upsetting nerves in my mouth, so I had only the crown of the tooth removed. This is called a "coronectomy," so only the top of the tooth was removed, and there remains the bottom of the tooth in my mouth.

The surgeon said that while my case "was the worst he has ever seen," I can live with this condition, but the surgery went from being a half hour procedure to one taking about 90 minutes.

The procedure was done, I was given specifics of how to handle this situation which I am following to the letter, and yes, I suffered on day one and am still suffering a few days into this and through my first day back at work, which was yesterday. I actually had to take off some extra time due to the severity of the procedure, so instead of going back on Tuesday, I went back on Thursday, actually a day earlier than the doctor signed me off on.

It is very sensitive on the side where the procedure was done, and it might be for some time. I will be eating on the right side of the mouth for the foreseeable future, even though that side is also sensitive, as I need to get a permanent crown put on a back tooth on that side. I have to wait for that to happen next month, and the whole situation is not a good one.

But I will make it. If I could make it through Korea and the Caribbean with my mouth killing me just about the entire time, I can make it now, now that the worst part may be behind me (I hope).

And yes, I am glad to be home, party because it puts me one step closer to finding a new dentist.

All of this should have been taken care of months ago, but it was neglected by my dentist, who I have no feeling of confidence for right now.

Let him put in my crown and I will be on my way (yes, I already paid for it, so I am stuck).

Anyway, good to be home, and I will be returning to write this blog regularly on Monday.

And yes, as I said, it is good to be back.

Classic Rant #420 (January 10, 2011): Back To Reality

After devoting Friday's rant to that bum who is sitting on top of the world, I think the world was brought back to reality with that gun rampage on Saturday.

The venom was directed at Arizona Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, but the gunshots also hit several other people, including a nine-year old girl who was the granddaughter of former Phillies, Yankees and Mets manager Dallas Green.

A suspect is in custody, and this individual, by all accounts, is a deranged person who faces one count of attempted assassination of a member of Congress, two counts of killing an employee of the federal government and two accounts of attempting to kill a federal employee.

He has not yet been charged with the murders he allegedly committed, but those charges are coming.

What would possess an individual to commit such an act? The man is obviously not of right mind, but since he did not turn the gun on himself, the police have had a chance to question him. But with a person in this mental state, I guess they probably won't get much out of him.

What they do know is that the alleged gunman was a loner, who kind of fell off the deep end. He read numerous books in his poisoned state, including Adolph Hitler's "Mein Kampf."

A lot of the news reports questioned the recent severity of politics in Washington that was seemingly fueling the alleged gunman's venom. One, in particular, was that Sarah Palin made it known that Giffords was on her "list" because of various policies that Palin claimed Giffords backed.

Believe me, I am not defending Palin, who I find to be one of the scourges of the country right now. However, I think the media is missing a much larger message here.

How was this guy able to purchase, and supposedly legally purchase, a high-capacity semi-automatic weapon, or for that matter, any firearm, so easily?

It seems that in some states, it is as easy as buying a bottle of milk.

The gun lobby would claim that Americans have the right to bear arms, but guns should not be as available as candy is. If a proper background check was made on this guy, he would never have been able to get a gun, and get one so easily.

If nothing else, the check would have found that he was charged with misdemeanor drug possession some time ago--and to me, that's enough to say that this guy should never be able to get a gun--and I mean never, I don't care how long he has been sober (and all accounts are that he was a regular pot smoker even after the misdemeanor charge).

National laws must be drawn up to prevent people like this from ever legally owning a firearm.

Sure, if they really want one, they can get one on the street, but let them go to the trouble of buying a gun that way--perhaps, the road to doing this will be so filled with potholes that a person like this will either be discouraged or he will be caught by the authorities.

I just don't understand people owning guns, feeling the need to arm themselves as if they are involved in their own private war.

I knew a person just like this idiot. He was in a deranged mental state, bought a gun before New York gun laws were stiffened, went into a local hotel and blew his brains out.

That was 30 years ago, and I see things haven't changed much.

Well, if nothing else, this latest episode demands that gun laws in all 50 states be stiffened, and perhaps a national gun law should be established.

How many murders will it take to get this point across?

Thursday, October 6, 2016

Rant #1,766: Be Good, Matthew

Hurricane Matthew is set to roar up the East Coast today and into the weekend, and since "hell hath no fury," as the saying goes, nobody really knows whether this storm is going to leave its mark or just cause some temporary discomfort.

Or be the male equivalent of Hurricane Sandy.

Matthew has made its mark on the Caribbean, and mainly on Haiti, although it has also hit parts of Cuba and some other areas in this system.

Poor Haiti, perhaps the poorest country in the hemisphere, it gets hit again, and again, and again, seemingly without respite.

Anyway, the couple of sentences I have just written are basically a prelude to a very different type of bon voyage post, because believe it or not, my wife, my son and I are scheduled to go on a cruise beginning on Saturday, and right now, at this moment, I don't know what is going to happen.

Our cruise is supposed to leave Miami on Saturday afternoon, and we are supposed to visit spots in Puerto Rico, St. Maarten, St. Kitts, and Grand Turk.

Matthew certainly had some impact on these areas, but only Puerto Rico was really directly affected, and that was a few days ago, and I haven't heard any reports of devastation like I heard happened in Haiti, so we should be good to go with where we are going.

That is not the problem. The problem is actually getting there.

We are supposed to take a plane out of Long Island's MacArthur Airport early on Saturday morning, and fly down to Fort Lauderdale.

Even if the storm is at its worst at that point, the plane should be able to fly over the storm, and we should get to Florida without a problem.

The hitch is when we are on the ground.

Once we get to Fort Lauderdale--hopefully, we can even land there--we have to get to Miami, which is minutes away. We are supposed to take a shuttle directly to the cruise ship dock, and we set sail in the afternoon.

Now, if Matthew rips through Florida, and there is flooding and other devastation, I can't see how we are going to get to our point of destination, which is Miami, which reports have said is battening down the hatches, preparing for a rough go while Matthew goes by--or unfortunately, worst case scenario--scales right into its environs.

Thus, we don't know if we can get to our destination, or even whether Carnival Cruise Lines will postpone or even cancel our cruise.

We have no idea at this point.

And if the cruise goes on as scheduled, if we can't get there, we do have cruise insurance, so Carnival will give us a stipend to fly to the first port of call to pick up the ship there.

What a hassle this has become! And to be in the dark about the whole thing makes it that much worse for my family and the others we are sailing with.

Look, I am not downplaying the devastation on the people who live in these areas in the least. I remember Hurricane Sandy and what it did to Long Island, which has still not fully recovered from that horrible weather disturbance all this time later.

But I am concerned about our cruise, a vacation that my wife and I paid for well before we knew we had won a trip to Korea.

I am most concerned about our son, and the others we are going with, more than myself or my wife. We at least have been away this year, they have not. A vacation that is scuttled is not fair to them, but it might be inevitable if Matthew does to Florida what it did to Haiti.

Several other cruises have already been canceled or had their destinations changed because of Matthew, and it could happen to our cruise, too.

(I did check yesterday with Carnival, and the company had this message:

From Carnival Cruise Lines ...
"Carnival Splendor – 10/8/16 Departure
The Carnival Splendor cruise departing Oct. 8 remains as scheduled. At this time, there are no changes to the ship’s itinerary. Should any changes become necessary, we will provide an update accordingly."

My worry is that we won't be able to get there in time, but I will be checking back with their site each day to see if there are nay changes being made.

I have to take a wait-and-see attitude, since I believe the port where the ship will be and where we are boarding has been closed due to the coming hurricane.

As for our own environs, right now, it looks like the hurricane will impact the weather in the Northeast, but not to a great extent. It might bring high winds and rain, but nothing like is forecast for further south, including the Carolinas.

Again, everything changes seemingly by the hour with this hurricane, so who knows where it will be--and what it has done--by Saturday?

So yes, this is my annual bon voyage column, but there is no swimsuit-clad Annette to wish us safe passage, because it looks like we might need a bit more than Annette to help us this weekend.

If everything goes according to plan, my next blog entry won't be until at least the week of Monday, October 17.

And that is a problem in itself, because I am slated to have surgery on my wisdom tooth on that very day, so I might actually be out of commission for a day or two after that.

But if the cruise is canceled, or postponed or somehow changed, I might just be back reporting to you on Monday.

Let's hope that does not happen. Speak to you again during the week of October 17.

Wish me luck!

Classic Rant #419 (January 7, 2011): The “Golden Voice” or the “Golden Fraud”

Sorry, I don't want to rain on anyone's parade, but the latest feel-good story of the year is a fraud.

Nothing but a fraud.

No, I am not saying homeless person (read "bum") Ted Williams (love the name, though) was not a former sterling announcer who let his life be ruled by drugs and alcohol. I am not saying that he wasn't forced to live on the streets until some enterprising reporter posted a clip of him demonstrating his voiceover skills while begging on the side of the road.

What I am saying is the question, "Is this really the feel-good story of the year?"

Offers are currently being thrown from every direction at this guy, this former homeless person, who chose a life of drugs and alcohol over that of an upstanding individual.

He has been in jail, fathered nine children, and ran away from life, and ran away from his responsibilities.

This is a feel-good story?

There are millions of people who are out of work today, not because they decided that they needed to run away from life, but because of circumstances beyond their control.

There are also millions out of work who aren't getting benefits anymore, and aren't even counted in the national averages.

They have mortgages to pay, families under their belts, and they don't run away, they do the best they can.

Former executives are mowing lawns for a living just to attempt to get by.

Now you have this bum, who decided that drugs and drink were more important than his career and family, all of a sudden becoming one of the most famous men in the country.

This fellow, who chose to run away from life, is not only getting a second chance, that second chance is coming at him like a herd of elephants.

The media has jumped all over this guy like a bees goes to honey.

He is now the voice of Kraft Macaroni and Cheese. He has a gig with a cable channel, and has been offered a job with the NBA's Cleveland Cavaliers.

Oh, how I wish the other millions who are unemployed were so lucky.

Somehow, I don't think that they are being drowned with offers left and right like this bum.

I think that since most people haven't had the experience of being out of work for any length of time, they are making this story into something it isn't. And that is really too bad, making those legitimately out of work into nothing more than an afterthought.

Let me tell you, several years ago, I was out of work, again not due to anything I did, but circumstances beyond my control.

I did everything I could to find work, and although I did odd jobs here and there, I couldn't find anything steady.

I have a college degree, as well as a master's degree.

One hiring "expert" actually had the nerve to say to me, "One day, you are going to become a millionaire, but right now, I have nothing for you."

I actually went on a television program and a radio program to try to find employment. I even handed out my resume at the local train station.

Nothing happened. I applied for upwards of over 800 jobs, and I couldn't find anything. Nobody would hire me.

After about a year and a half of this, and when my unemployment insurance was about to run out, and whatever other money I had was going, going, gone, I was forced to go to Social Services.

You are at the end of the line when you apply for Social Services. You are cooked. You have nowhere else to go.

I was turned down by Social Services. They decided, for some reason, that I had a pipeline of money to turn to in such circumstances, so they wouldn't help me. Not only didn't I have such a pipeline, but I was just about broke.

It must have been that I wore a suit at the interview I had--most indigent people there came in shorts and or sweats--and I was not the typical person who applies for such aid (I will let you read between the lines here).

Happily, right after this, I was hired. Although it was not a great job, and I was way overqualified for it, it lasted for three and a half year. Then, once again, I found myself out of a job not due to anything I did.

I was out for three months. My son was a newborn, just three months old, when I got let go.

I finally found work, again at a job that was far below my skills. I then found another job, and I have been employed by this company for the past nearly 15 years.

So, no, I don't think this guy is the feel-good story of the year. Nobody was throwing job offers at me, nor at the millions that are out of work right now.

I wish the guy luck, but please, let's not get all sappy and sugary about it.

This guy has done less to find a job, and get his life back in order, than the millions that are legitimately out of work, yet he is now on top of the world.

I have said it many times, and I am going to say it again ...

Only in America ...

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Rant #1,765: What Is News?

I ask that question because I don't think that there is a clear answer in today's world.

What was once non-news is news today, and that is evidently what people want to hear.

Most people, but not me.

I want to hear real news, not manufactured news generated by the media.

If I want to watch "Entertainment Tonight," I will watch it. I don't want that style of news on the news shows that I watch.

I will give you an example of how things are so asunder about the news today.

When my wife and I were in Korea, our TV time was minimal, usually in the mornings as we prepared for the busy day ahead of us.

And our choices were few, because, obviously, most of the TV outlets there are in the native Korean language.

So we had about three choices, and we chose CNN International, or International CNN, whatever its official name is.

The channel is much like it is here--a 24 hour news channel--but with an international bent.

Most of the anchors and reporters on the station speak with an "international" accent, and most of the news is geared to things that are not covered on the CNN we have over here.

Heck, the sports report was really the "football" report, talking about what we call soccer ad infinitum. The only thing that kept me going through the report is that they used the international reason for watching something that you have no interest in: a pretty, bleach blond, busty anchor with a nice speaking voice.

Anyway, to get to my point, when we were away, the story that was getting much of the airplay was the terrorist attack in New York City, as well as the attack in Minnesota. There was much going on overseas, too, with the Saudis and the North Koreans.

And there was one other story, which I will get to in a moment.

I was watching CNN, and one of the anchors actually admitted that the No. 1 news story in the world at the moment--and this was taking into account the stories I just mentioned--was the Angelina Jolie/Brad Pitt split.

That's right. Brangelina was more important to most people than a terrorist attack was, than possible nuclear war was.

This is where we are at with the news.

You want "Entertainment Tonight," you got it.

CNN measured this in a couple of ways, through social media, through posts and calls to their own station, and through the international coverage of such a catastrophic separation. I swear to you, they even devoted an entire half hour show to how the two movie stars will split their wealth.

Yes, this is news today, and really, is this news?

I remember that when Katie Couric became the news anchor of the CBS Evening News--the bellwether of evening national news reports on TV for decades--she was taken over the coals for making the show more "entertainment" than newsy.

She probably lost that gig because of that criticism, which I personally found unwarranted. I thought she did a good job as the anchor, but the tide was clearly changing toward media-created news from what had been.

Have you watched the CBS Evening News lately? Yes, its core is still the news, whether we are talking about terrorist attacks, nuclear bombs, or weather disturbances like Hurricane Matthew.

But Scott Pelley's show is not immune to what was shown on Couric's version of the show.

There is more entertainment news than one can shake a stick at, and the show constantly shills for its NFL football broadcasts, using feature-type news stories to bring home the point that CBS is the place to be to watch football.

And the local news shows follow suit on CBS, shilling for football at every turn and featuring news that Walter Cronkite or heck, even local newscasters like Bill Beutel, would never have allowed on their broadcasts.

Look, I realize you would probably put people to sleep if you had a newscast that dealt only with hard news. That's why even in Cronkite's day, there would be human interest stories to kind of make things easier to watch.

But when entertainment and sports news is integrated into the mix, and is taking up more of that mix than ever before, you know that something is wrong, very wrong, with what is considered to be news today.

I think it all has to do with the media and with the emergence of the Internet as our prime information source.

The media feeds us "news" that they think we want to hear, and even creates much of that news.

And with the Internet, we have forgotten to have patience with anything. Some news stories must be played out over time; the Internet allows us to pick what we want to hear about, and we can do it in a very short time, basically cherry picking what we want to read, and for how long we want to spend with a story.

And that is why "Entertainment Tonight" and "TMZ," and outlets like it, are news producers today.

Case in point is the recent Kim Kardashian robbery, which has become a major news event on both local and national news shows.

And personally, whether it is Brangelina or Kardashian, I don't like what I am seeing. What had once been the domain of gossip columnists is often today the top news story of a particular day.

That is not what I want to hear when I watch the morning or evening news, but evidently, it is what most people want to hear when they get their news, or so we are being told.

Ask most people who the vice presidential candidates are--in fact, ask them who the current vice president is--and I will bet that at least half those asked won't know.

But they will be able to tell you all about Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt, down to the last penny they have between them.

And that isn't even news anymore. That is, unhappily, a fact that I can't refute.

Classic Rant #418 (January 6, 2011): Lotta Lottery

No, I am not here to announce that I won the second-largest Mega-Millions lottery jackpot ever, and that I am abandoning my current life to spend my millions.

I didn't win, although I did play in the lottery. I don't play often, but myself and my entire department at work decided that it was time to play again. We had played in the past, but never won much of anything, so we figured we would give it the old college try again.

It didn't work.

There are two winners of the $355 million Mega-Millions national lottery payout, and both are in the Pacific Northwest, one in Idaho and the other in Washington State.

I put in $3. I figured that that way, I would get three shares of the booty when we won.

But we didn't win, so I guess it was all for naught.

I know people--my father, for one--who play each and every week. They just don't put in a dollar, they put in lots of dollars.

I kind of understand it. It gives them reason to dream, reason to think that they can better their lives if they could actually win the jackpot.

But how many of us actually win these things? The odds are ridiculous, but we, as a nation, still play, even though it's almost akin to throwing away your hard earned cash into the dumpster.

The money supposedly goes for a good cause--I know the New York lottery money is said to go to education--but I have my doubts about where the money really goes. Have you read about New York City schools lately? I guess money can't solve incompetence by itself.

Anyway, here I am, $3 poorer and without a lottery win.

What could I have done with the $3?

I could have gotten a one-way fare on New York City's subways, with a little change left over--unless they raised the fare again, which they might have done while I wasn't watching.

I could buy some items off the dollar menu at any fast food joint, but I have noticed that some dollar menu items actually cost more than a dollar.

I could go to my local dollar store and buy three items, but I wouldn't have any money left over to cover the tax, so I guess I could buy only two items.

And, I could just have kept the $3 in my wallet. It would have made for a bulkier wallet, but at least I could then choose what to do with the $3 I didn't spend on the lottery that I knew I was going to lose anyway.