My grandmother had two large clocks that chimed. Not like the fancy grandfather clocks today. But, they were solid wood and chimed on half hours and hours. She had to wind them — once a week, I think.

As a child, I kind of regarded them as sentinels. They were high on the walls and very dignified and sturdy.

Her maiden name was Anna Margaret West. She was what was referred to as Pennsylvania Dutch — German — I’d say. Possibly the surname had been changed from Westberg or something like that. I just told my granddaughter about her to pass along some of her family history.

My grandmother’s house was always clean. Laundry and ironing were always done. She canned the dill pickles that lined the shelves in the basement. She gardened. I never saw her do any of it, but I imagine she was up before dawn doing these things. She always wore a dress, apron, cotton hose, shoes with ties, and her hair was combed and held close to her head with a gossamer hairnet — gray, like her hair. She never swore or yelled.

She was thrifty and even saved the tissue that the toilet paper rolls were wrapped in individually. (In the 1950s, toilet paper was wrapped in white tissue that was itself covered with a stiffer wrapping paper.) She smoothed the tissue out and folded it carefully before putting it away. For dishes, she would measure out ONE teaspoon exactly of dish powder. If she received Christmas cards with pencilled signatures, she erased them and sent them out the next year! She had lived through the Depression and it had left its impact on her.

She married an Irishman, John Kelly, who was a farmer. In later years, they moved to town (population 1,500) and he presided over the bar at the Moose Lodge. Little things I learned about him indicated he was lots of fun and had a great many friends. But, he had a stroke and I don’t remember him except for him sitting by the window in a rocking chair, day after day, and twiddling his thumbs. My grandmother took care of him: dressing him, shaving him, making his meals, etc. He never spoke, or laughed or smiled.

My father was adopted and was their only child. His lead soldiers — some kneeling with rifles, some standing — formed neat battle lines in my grandmother’s china cabinet long after he had married and had children of his own.

This is a kind of tribute to her. To thank her for the memories and for the positive influence she had in my life.


Changes for the good that have occurred because a great number of people online have lent their support for them have been too long in coming.

This year, we have seen the power of many like-minded people. Ordinarily, most of us would not have spoken out or supported these issues.

It’s interesting that all who supported StopSopa, OWS, Planned Parenthood through social networking, did so without direct coordination. As long as people do what they do from the standpoint of goodness and in harmony with others, there is no down side that I can see.

It’s when hate, intolerance, and destruction of people and ideas are forcibly projected by a few vociferous people or groups when the power becomes a hammer and its consequences are feared.

I was thinking about this this morning. There is an “anti” segment of society and a “pro” segment. It’s interesting that more conservative-thinking people are generally against things: ideas, words, change. Liberal-thinking people have more of a “live and let live” behavior. Neither side will ever convert the other. We have to learn to accept and respect each other.  Somehow we have to be willing to meet in the middle if America is to survive as a democracy.

Until then, it is important that we know this type of power exists and how it can be used, because we may be called on for something far more important. We have to be ready to give our whole-hearted support and to sustain that support.

I have in mind an American Taliban-like movement. We are seeing its effects right now in smaller areas. This is not about religion or conservatives. This is about radical beliefs that relentlessly strive for the subjugation of women in society and financial/economic oppression of the masses. How like the middle east much of this thinking and these actions are.

Possibly, I’m beginning to sound more like a zealot. But, my actions are caused by anger because of inequalities that, up to this time, have not been acted upon and improved or removed.

And, I’m finding that there are many people who share my desire for independence and compassion and who oppose anything that restricts freedom of thought and limits our rights and abilities. This is a tipping point. We have discovered “we” and the power to change things.

Almost Gone

A recent comic tweet on Twitter was: “iPhone > Android > Land line > Typewriter > 2 cans with a string > Message in a bottle > Pigeon with a note taped to it > Blackberry”

It prompted a friend to say, “It’s sad, because Blackberry was the original leader in the industry. I had one of the original Blackberry text pagers, when all other pagers were just using numbers.”

It has actually been happening more often in recent years to companies that fail to innovate or maintain a cutting edge. In graphic arts and desktop publishing, it is QuarkXPress. It was once untouchable and the gold standard for graphic designers and publishers. Now, Adobe InDesign has surpassed QuarkXPress and taken the lead. I doubt Quark will ever reach more than a corner of its former market, if it continues to survive.

And, with a real sense of personal loss because of memories I have of using Kodak products over the years, I think of Kodak filing for bankruptcy this past week. Again, its longtime business has been overtaken by new technology.

I remember in 2002 there was a book, Love, Greg & Lauren, written by the husband whose wife was terribly burned at the WTC. He frequently mentioned how he was sitting at her hospital bedside writing long emails about her condition to family and friends on his Blackberry. (The compilation of all those emails was the basis of the book.) At the time, it was the first I had even heard of Blackberrys.

Now, in 2012, the Blackberry appears to be on the wane, even among businesses that have been the largest portion of its users.

Censorship and Twitter

After years of touting itself as a champion of free expression on the Internet, Twitter Inc. on Friday touched off a torrent of criticism after it announced it can now remove messages from the online service within specific countries if asked to do so. via Twitter’s Censors Provoke Backlash – WSJ.com.

With the world becoming one in communication, this shouldn’t be surprising that some countries already controlling its populace would want to control their social networking as well.

Maybe to its credit, Twitter will point out when and where it has exercised its censorship, so that users will be informed of it.

I’ve also read that there are easy workarounds that would reveal the contents of the parts that are censored. It’s difficult to say if these loopholes will be plugged or will provide Twitter with a facesaving means of providing uncensored information to users while at the same time using censorship procedures as required by different countries.

Finally, thoughts turn to users here in the United States. Is there a chance that the government or big businesses in the United States may put pressure on Twitter to censor information that they believe should not be shared publicly? As it happens to others, so it may also happen to us.  All it takes is for people to accept one small change, then another, and another.  In retrospect, you can see how sweeping changes can take place with almost no opposition. Keep that in mind.

Two Americas, or maybe none

Extreme divisions in ideology, which have increased in the past 20+ years in the United States, have reached critical mass.

They have stopped Congress in its tracks this year. Worse, the differences have bred hatred, contempt, and intolerance for those not sharing the same beliefs among Americans in general.

Moreover, it seems as if the splits will be permanent. There is no one strong enough, persuasive enough, or universally trusted and liked to bridge the deepening chasm and bring various viewpoints to agreement.

What then is our future to be? We have no shared dreams or goals. We are buffeted from every side by politics, money, greed, inequality, poverty, bad economics — and the list goes on. We are split in so many areas: emotionally, intellectually, politically, religiously, morally, and financially.

Maybe it will become clear in time that we need to physically split — as in a divorce. Maybe there will be two halves of America: the Atlantic United States and the Pacific United States. Or perhaps four parts, or more, to encompass various ideologies.

Maybe we will finally achieve cohesiveness within the smaller portions. Maybe there will be shared effort at long last. And, peaceful coexistence. If we cannot live as one in one land, we may be better off living in separate lands.

Alternatively, if a physical split becomes inevitable, maybe our country will be ripped apart by a civil war. And, very possibly,  it will signal the end of America in any form.

This is a looming problem.  An answer will not be that long in coming if this country continues to move in different directions and on different tracks.

People we have elected to represent us get sucked into a corruptible political system once they are elected. The promises they made and the character they showed to get there fade fast. The newly-elected now must please not only their constituents, but their party and lobbyists. (Not in that order.)

They learn the taste of authority and influence, and to expect the perks that their positions bring to them.  It’s heady. It’s stressful. It’s addictive. It requires walking fine lines and calculation: How much resistance to show the other party? How much support to lend to the other party? Can I fudge on my expenses just this once? Can I take that all-expense paid trip the lobbyist is offering without anyone finding out about it? How much will the voters forget by the next election?

Moves are calculated for the most advantage to the politician, the party, and lobbyists. And it becomes a never-ending cycle of calculation and gearing up for the next election.

What once seemed like a “calling,” is now a business venture. No moves are made spontaneously or from a passion to do what is right or needed.

The public hopes that the decisions the politician makes will have their best interests in mind. As time goes on and few decisions are in their favor, people become angry and frustrated. But, they remain hopeful that the next bill or policy will be favorable to them and will be fair and reasonable.

When more time passes without that happening, people are still somewhat hopeful, but become skeptical that the government and their representative is working on their behalf. As even more time goes by, hope dies and people become resigned, or even apathetic, to the scant attention to their needs and desires.

We’ve seen it happen over and over.  We don’t have to worry about taxation without representation. We have to be concerned about representation that is calculating and self-serving.

In other words…

I still laugh with embarrassment when I recall once writing a headline for our college newspaper. Our instructor asked me if I was sure that was what I wanted to say.

Geez. I mean geez. Of course, I wanted to say that “Vandals wreck havoc on the campus”!

Unremembered now, is the moment I discovered my 30 point all caps front page mistake in print. The correct word should have been “wreak” not “wreck.” But, I learned something. And, the instructor taught me without explaining.

So, it is with varying amounts of sympathy and understanding that I see frequent misuses of words or phrases in today’s news stories. I’ve started writing them down. When I get hundreds of them, I’m going to…what? Write a book about them? Or, maybe file them away to chuckle over someday when they are rediscovered in a yellowed folder?

Anyway, the small handful I have now include: Double walk when double talk was meant; defined the odds instead of despite the odds; glances over instead of glosses over; easy amble instead of easy gamble; and pull something over instead of put something over.

Here’s an update from a friend:  “…young illegal immigrants clamber for work permits.” The national news service really meant to say clamor.

And, perhaps the best one so far, is when the writer had an unpleasant task and had to be the bear of bad news.  (Wouldn’t that make him a Bad News Bear?)

These all occurred in English-speaking newspapers, magazines, and online news services. Otherwise I could overlook the mishandled terms, as I did when an Indian friend told me he was just going to stand on his own foot.

(Please feel free to post more of these in your comments so everyone can savor them.)


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