Common Sense on Draft

Sometimes in my life, things happen in which I find myself laughing, shaking my head in wonder, and angry all at the same time. Every once in a while a law gets passed that brings about this type of reaction. Will Rogers once said: “The trouble with Congress is that every time it tells a joke it becomes a law, and every time it passes a law it becomes a joke”. Rogers would probably see that in many ways not much has changed since his passing in 1935.
Some laws were just never taken off the books. Time goes on and people go “there’s actually a LAW for THAT?” It would be very easy to cite laws in states where I have never lived. However, let me talk about some states where I have lived (and loved living in most of them). For example, I am currently a New York state resident. In New York, a marriage cannot be dissolved for irreconcilable differences unless both parties agree to it. HUH? Supposedly, in my home state of Georgia, legislators are given a unique form of protection. Supposedly, members of the Georgia state assembly cannot be ticketed for speeding while the state assembly is in session. After all, legislation is just as important as an ambulance transporting a mother in labor. NOT! The beautiful state of South Carolina reportedly has a law that states a permit is required to fire a missile. Thanks, South Carolina. I will feel much safer the next time I cruise the Mark Clark Expressway. I also must not leave out the beautiful state that is known as the Heart of Dixie – Alabama. In Alabama, it is allegedly illegal for a driver to be blindfolded while operating a vehicle. I must say that, out of everything I have cited, this last law from Alabama is the one that provides the most amusement to me. Alabama had to pass a law to tell grown people not to drive while wearing a blindfold. The same state that gave us Joe Louis, Helen Keller, and Hank Aaron HAD to tell its constituents that one watch the road while driving. This is not a shot against the legislators in Alabama. Alabama is a beautiful state and I made some friendships there that still stand today. It is just one example among many throughout our great United States where common sense had to be legislated.
It is with this thought in mind that I get back to my current state of residence, New York, and a driving law that has once again been updated. A law has just passed in New York that mandates hands free operation of a cell phone WHILE DRIVING. This means that New York drivers MUST use a hands free device to use a cell phone WHILE DRIVING. Technically, under the law, using a cell phone’s speakerphone instead of a hands free device is a violation. The law even specifies that sending text messages WHILE DRIVING is a violation. Just like Alabama, the state of New York had to legally mandate that people who are old enough to know better to keep their hands on the steering wheel and their eyes on the road WHILE DRIVING. Yes, it makes me laugh a bit and shake my head in wonder. It also angers me a bit.
The reason why I am angered by it is that I see evidence for its need daily. Just the other day, I pulled out of the office park where I work. This office park is about a quarter mile from the expressway. Shortly after I pulled out of said office park, I see a young lady in a sporty little car. Two things were clear about this lady. She was very irate and she spoke with her hands. I know this because this lady was in the car behind me. Every time I looked in my rear view mirror, I could see her ranting on her cell phone. Presumably, she was talking to the source of her ire. She held her phone in one hand and waved her other hand about wildly to express her very apparent indignation. She did all of this WHILE DRIVING. As I merged onto the expressway, she remained behind me ranting and waving. I even noticed her correct her steering a couple of times as her car veered while she spewed her wrath into her phone. This new law is designed to protect us all from drivers such as these. It is designed to protect us all from other drivers who feel their rights and convenience is more important than the safety of others.
In closing  I’d like to air one final thought. To the angry driver, I hope you get pulled over soon. I hope you get slapped with the $150 fine and 3 points on your drivers license. I know that would be very unpleasant for you. However, I find that a much better alternative than the strong risk of police needing your family to identify your body and what remains of your car.
P. S. To New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo, thank you for passing this bill into law. This is a very important step to protect New York drivers from distracted drivers, Now, if you’d be so kind Governor, please stop dragging your feet on the Autism Insurance Reform Bill and pass it into law. Thank you.

Cursive Foiled Again

I have been sharing my essays with readers from all over the world (those happy, happy few). I have made it a point to write pieces that are intended to be humorous. Some are even intended to be informative or thought provoking. I have also intended to write pieces that are family friendly. If a 9 year old child reads my work, I don’t wish for his parents to pull him away because my material is too “adult” in nature. My sister has even commented to me that I self censor my writing. This may be true but I feel I get my point across well enough.

Occasionally in my writing, I may even stand on my proverbial soapbox on a particular issue. Again, the point is to get my thoughts across and generate a laugh at the same time. I would like to address an issue that is really sticking in my craw. The issue of this writing is….well the issue is writing. To be specific, the issue is handwriting. Handwriting has been a talent I have sorely lacked all my life. I have always admired people who so seamlessly let their thoughts flow from their mind to a piece of paper. Legible handwriting has never been a strong suit of mine. As a result, the only thing I write cursively is my signature. If I actually use a pen and paper, I print everything else. Many of my teachers during childhood squinted, changed their eyeglass prescriptions, or shook their heads in disbelief. In spite of my obvious shortcomings in the area of writing, my teachers (and my parents) still insisted that I continue practicing.

This now leads me to an issue that I have found to be absolutely reprehensible. At the current time, some districts in the United States and across the world have decided to remove cursive writing from their curricula. Some other districts, while not removing it altogether, allow students to learn cursive writing AS AN ELECTIVE. That’s right. Cursive writing in some schools will be the same as taking drama, band, or a foreign language (such as written English).

I realize that technology makes it easier for kids growing up these days. I must admit that I am grateful for some of these advances. I have typed many a college paper in my adult years that would have costs my parents a lot of typewriter ribbon from all the editing. Remove the typewriter from the equation and you would have seen a lot of crumpled paper and pencils broken out of frustration.  Technology has also helped many kids with learning disabilities to more effectively complete assignments. This is not a bad thing.
Nonetheless, I still question the logic of removing such teaching from kids who do not have the aforementioned disabilities or disorders. While it’s true that I rely on my computer for a lot of things. I know that if my power went out and my computer was not available….
You may scoff and say: “That printed. It’s not cursive”. Touché, I say but the following is also true…..
PSM_Hand_Write I agree that it is not the most legible writing in the world. That’s OK. By my own admission, I am very out of practice. I would like to offer however that for a child to learn to do cursive writing there are quite some advantages. First of all, such writing can prove to be a great therapeutic exercise. When one writes in cursive, all the letters in a word are connected. There is less stopping and less less movement of the writing instrument from the surface. This allows much more flow with writing. Such writing also helps to build and improve eye to hand coordination. Also, such writing has a more personal touch if one does it well. This makes things such as greeting cards and thank you letters to appear more “from the heart” and less like a form letter. As I stated previously, I admire people who write their thoughts well with just a pen and paper. If schools refuse to teach this, parents should continue to encourage the practice to their children. I realize it can be a time consuming process. The same can be said for teaching a child how to play baseball, bake a cake, or drive a car.  I truly worry that we may become so dependent upon technology that kids will no longer draw in the dirt to plan a play of backyard football because their phone has an app for that. I worry that kids will not acknowledge gifts with a thank you card because their printer is down. I even worry that a kid will stand at the candy counter of a movie theater with a confused look because neither he (nor the kid helping him behind the counter) know how to break a $20 bill for a $19.47 purchase of a 6 ounce box of chocolate covered peanuts and a soda that could fill a cow’s bladder. I believe that technology should be a supplement and aid to a child’s education. It should never replace it.

I shall now step down off my soapbox on this issue (for now). I pray that five years from now, a young adults can use a pen to fill out a job application. I pray that young adults can balance a checkbook without a spreadsheet. I pray that parent’s will have the fronts of their refrigerators will have at least one creation from their child that was actually created with their child’s own hands. If schools and teachers continue to make decisions such as the removal of cursive writing. We may have little recourse other than prayer.
In conclusion, to my parents who insist that I not do my writing homework on the school bus (or math with a pen) and to all my teachers who insisted that I practice to improve my handwriting, I’d like to say…

Rock of the Aged

I went through my teenage and early adult year’s in the 1980’s. Just as it is today, music is an essential element for daily living. I have been a frustrated guitar player since I was about 10 years old. I am very out of practice and no one will ever confuse me with with the late, great Les Paul. Nonetheless, my red Squier Affinity Telecaster remains at the side of my desk so that I can play some chords until my tendonitis makes it hurt too much. My love for the guitar has driven me toward great guitar sounds. I have always enjoyed listening to many different genres of music. I love the wonderful chords and beautiful vocal harmonies that come from acts like Simon & Garfunkel, The Eagles, and Dan Fogelberg. I also gravitated toward the harder rock edge from a young age to bands such as KISS and Queen. This harder rock edge and my love for great guitar tones, rockin’ guitar riffs, and rippin’ guitar solos made the 1980’s a great time for music in my life.
Some of my obsession with guitar driven rock music probably started when I got a 45 record of “Don’t Stop Believin’” from Journey. [NOTE: For those of my readers who don’t know what a 45 rpm record is, ask your parents.] I already liked Journey’s music at the time. But that song is one of many in their catalog that features the perfect blend of Steve Perry’s vocals, Ross Vallory’s bass, and the smokin’ guitar of Neal Schon. I played that record constantly as I started my air guitar career. If Neal Schon was unable to fulfill his duties in Journey, I wanted to be READY.
During my sophomore year in high school, another band released a great album – Foreigner. Their album, “4”, had some GREAT songs on it which included: “Urgent” and “Waiting For a Girl Like You”. Once again, it was that perfect blend – Lou Gramm’s vocals and Mick Jones’ guitar. This culminated in my attending a concert in 1982 at the Savannah Civic Center. Foreigner was promoting their “4” album with (then unknown) Bryan Adams as an opening act. I went to the concert by myself. I was so close to the stage I could tie Lou Gramm’s shoelaces if he needed it. At one point in the show, they told us they were playing a song from their new album – “Juke Box Hero”. I stood there as my chest rattled from Dennis Elliot’s bass drum and Rick Wills bass guitar. You could feel the crescendo build as Lou Gramm’s vocals began. Then, Mick Jones brought me to the crest of the wave. I HEARD ONE GUITAR (JOOOOOOOOOOOONG) AND IT BLEW ME AWAY (JEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEENG).  I could see stars in my eyes. So, the very next day, I walked around sporting my overpriced Foreigner shirt that I bought at the concert. I saw Foreigner again three years later. The second time, I was in the nosebleed seats with a group of friends. I would have loved to have been closer to the stage but among this group of friends were some very pretty girls. Sorry, Mr. Jones. SOME things have priority over watching you play the chords to “Feels Like The First Time” from 15 feet away.
I am now in my mid-forties and I still love those songs. Next month, I am going to have the pleasure of seeing Journey and Foreigner live. They will be accompanied by another great band from the 80’s – Night Ranger. The bands and I have all gottten just a bit older. None of them have the original lineups intact. Neither Journey nor Foreigner have the singers that helped put them through the stratosphere. That’s OK. Arnel Pineda and Kelly Hansen quite superbly handle the lead vocal spots of Journey and Foreigner respectively. Even Night Ranger has a different guitarist these days (Joel Hoekstra replaced Jeff Watson). Obviously, it won’t be the same as it was in the 1980’s. Then again, neither am I. I know that once the chords start playing, I will be back in 1985 (minus the Members Only shirt).