Thursday, November 26, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving Day

On this Thanksgiving Day, I'd like to express my thanks for family, friends, a job in this tough economy, a roof over my head, and in general the people who accept me for who I am and not what I have. 

While it's tough to pay the bills because the paycheck always seems just shy of catching up, I have a job and many people don't.  I have a warm apartment and many are homeless.  I have family and many are alone.  These things are very important but we sometimes take them for granted.  For the hundreds of thousands of Americans out there who have no job and/or no home, it's a daily reality.

Life is getting harder and harder for many every day.  People are still getting laid off.  Bank accounts are shrinking for those who have been out of work for months or even a few years.  Temp work is not steady work, even for those with the necessary skills.  Unemployment goes only so far, for those who were fortunate enough to get it and the several extensions they have made.  Some folks who were laid off earlier in the game did not receive any of these extensions.  They've been unemployed the longest and are getting the least help.

Many people who lived and worked quite normal lives, but may have had a mild emotional disorder, were hit hard by layoffs, little unemployment, and tough living situations have become "unglued," so to speak.  Their slightly fragile psyche has lost the mental guards they'd always put in place in public. Now they are lost in the shuffle of struggling to pay rent, always a little bit behind, find work, see if they qualify for any assistance anywhere, and maintain their dignity in the process.  It's a little like always being on stage and having to make wardrobe changes publicly.  They are exposed, emotionally fragile, and quite vulnerable to a host of issues.  A mild emotional disorder grows proportionately to the degree that their public facade slips, and the longer this continues the more difficult it will be to help them build themselves back to normal functioning.  Soon they will be homeless; these are the people who will not survive in a shelter.  Instead, they will become a statistic of the violence and abuse that occurs in some shelters when staff is not vigilant.  [I am not denigrating shelters; many are good.  But tight budgets that are getting cut even more mean shelters will be less able to be as vigilant as they need to be.  Good staff can only do so much and it takes a tough psyche to handle shelter living.]

I realize this Thanksgiving message may sound very dour.  It wasn't meant to be.  Instead, I see the very people I have described above wishing me and other staff a Happy Thanksgiving.   They come in with a smile more often than not.  They search job boards & apartment listings, network with each other, attend networking events to learn of other opportunities, and do whatever they can to get out of the hole they're in.  They are America's latest victims of greed, opportunism, and whatever you want to call the mess we're in.  They are facing it as gracefully as they can.

So what is the good news in all this?  The tenant association I advise collected food to give to our local food bank (Bread of Life in Malden, MA).  The food bank is hosting a complete Thanksgiving Dinner at the high school today and scores of volunteers will be there to assist in peparation and serving.  Some volunteers will be delivering those same meals to shut-ins.  Many other organizations are doing exactly the same, all across America.

One thing Americans do is help people in need. I'm thankful for that too because it means that when I work with someone who is just getting into this "system" of need, I can point them to resources that help them out.  Two resources in my area to find food pantries and soup kitchens, by the way, are listed below.  It's the same list of sites, but one is calendar-based and the other is a geographic map of locations.  If you are in need and live in my area, check them out.

Have a safe holiday folks.  Happy Thanksgiving!

Saturday, November 14, 2009

NASA Declares it Finds Water on the Moon

Last month (10/10/09) I posted a brief notice about NASA launching rockets into the Moon in its search for water.  Yesterday (11/13/09), after several weeks of analysis, NASA announced success in finding water.  A number of websites have interesting articles related to this and Google has modified its ever-changing logo to reflect this announcement. 

The revised Google logo will only be there a short time, so check it out now.  Google has also updated its Moon MapMashable has a brief article describing some of the new features, such as panoramic views, scientific charts, and more. 

Other articles on, CNN Tech, and all the major news outlets have articles, but be sure to go to NASA's website for articles on what this means to the scientific community as well as future space exploration plans.  One other site of interest, and it'll only take a few minutes to view it, is Live Science's page on the Top 10 Amazing Moon Facts.  And if you're an armchair scientist, be sure to read the comments as other readers discuss the science of the facts.  Just remember that many people talk as if they know their facts but that does not make it so.  Don't confuse assertiveness with correct facts.

Personally, I am excited about all this.  Having watched the space program grow from infancy - from looking up in the night sky to see Sputnik after its launch by the Russian space program and waiting for our own space program to develop, to Apollo missions, to today's missions - I eagerly await our next advancements in space.  Go NASA!  (Can you tell I'm off to homecoming today at NU?)

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Southwest owed no aplogy to woman kicked off plane

This morning's article about Southwest Airlines' apology to a woman who was taken off the plane because of her 2-year old's screaming irked me. Why should the airline apologize to someone who had no control over her child? The flight crew should have removed her, in my opinion, if the child's screaming outbursts,"Go! Plane! Go!" and "I want Daddy" really did prevent other passengers from hearing the preflight safety announcements.

An airplane is a very different environment and travelers need to demonstrate a certain level of controlled behavior if they want the privilege of traveling by air. Cabin crews (flight attendants and others) are not just glorified waitrons serving a blanket, pillow, or drinks. They are highly trained in safety and emergency procedures. They must make a judgement call regarding any situation that might affect passenger safety and that includes considering someone's preflight behavior and how that might escalate once in flight.

I have two sisters who between them had more than 70 years experience as flight attendants. The many stories they've told over the years about passenger behavior, dangerous situations (one was even highjacked to Cuba in the 60s or 70s), and overall airline regulations and safety make me a firm believer that I do not want to be on a plane with a passenger who cannot control their own behavior or the behavior of the children accompanying them. When I fly, I want to have confidence in the flight crew and the cabin crew. If they are not permitted to exercise some discretion over the risks posed by passenger behaviors, then we are removing from them one of the tools they have to ensure our safety.

But in today's society, it seems everyone wants an apology and they want money to accompany it. The mother in this episode is expecting reimbursement for having to rent a crib for her overnight stay in a hotel. If the mother had control over her child, she would not have been removed the from plane! So why should the airline cover the cost associated with her inability to control her child's behavior?

Watching some reality TV shows today demonstrates a marked shift in people's behaviors from when I grew up. In Parking Wars, we see people who state the city has no right to boot their car after they have xx number of unpaid parking fines and have shown no intent to pay. Then they try to drive off with or remove the boot, which they've just been told is illegal. In one episode, the man managed to drive off and in the process damaged three other cars. In Airline!, we see people berating gate attendants and supervisors or cabin crews over regulations the staff cannot break.

What makes people think this behavior is justified? In some cases, it is just to show off in front of a camera. But so much of it is also just plain ignorant, rude, selfish behavior that people engage in even without a camera present. Stand in any line and watch how people behave when they do not get what they want. Far too many people leave their manners at home when they go out, if they have any manners at all. They swear and scream at the window agent. They threaten. They broadcast their life story and personal business to everyone around them. The hope is that if they get mean and nasty enough, or just plain loud enough, they'll get what they want.

The standard today has become, "Since the best defense is a good offense, I'll be as offensive as I can be and get my way." Where I live, we have a gated entrance so you can only drive in if you have a cardpass or you are permitted in by a resident whom you buzz on an intercome at the gate. But people literally drive through the gate, breaking it, rather than stopping to buzz the resident. Or, they drive up your bumper when you're going through the gate and ride in on your cardpass. Hey, I'm not letting that person in and I don't want to be responsible for their behavior on the property. It's my cardpass they're coming in on. They have no right to do that and, technically, they're trespassing. I live here and they don't. But if I stop and get out and tell them to back up so the gate can come down, the first words out their mouth are, "Get the F---- out of my way, B----!" This is a total stranger and someone who has no right to be on the property until a resident permits them on it. And yet their first words are that.

This antisocial behavior is becoming the norm. And the norm is being channeled down to younger and younger children by parents who don't parent and older siblings and others who don't think about the effect their words and behavior have on children.

Parents who let their children run amuck and get in other people's way say nothing to them, but if you say something to the child, the parent comes screaming at you. "You have no right to say anything to my child! blah blah blah..." Well, if I even knew you were with the child I would have said something to you but you're on your cellphone and paying no attention, so how am I supposed to know you're the parent? You certainly are not in charge of this child's behavior! The old proverb, "It takes a whole village to raise a child," has been lost on entire generations. If you don't want others to make comments to your children about their behavior, then you need to be aware of and manage your child's behavior!

I used to live near a public school and parents who drove their children to school were so obnoxious I vowed never to live near a school again! One day I had to get out of my car and knock on a woman's window to ask her to move her car which was blocking me in my driveway. Her child was already in the school but she wouldn't move until she finished writing out her checks to pay her bills! What made her think that parking in front of my driveway was OK? Why should I be late because she wants to sit and write out checks? Interestingly enough, I now live near two schools, but there is more parking and access available for them so I don't have the same problem.

Earlier in this post I mentioned that flying is a privilege. We have lost sight of the fact that many things are privileges and not rights. Driving is a privelege. Flying is a privilege. Many things are privileges and owners/operators have the right to deny you that privilege if your behavior warrants it. It is not all right to come into my establishment and let your children pick up things off my desk or run around as if it's a playground. It's not all right to bring your child to a restaurant and let them run around and play unless you're at McDonald's and they are playing in a designated play area. Oh, and at the local buffet, it's not all right to make your children -- who are supposed to be accompanied by adult at the buffet table -- be your waiters and keep running up to the buffet to get your meal and dessert. And I see that a lot!

This post is long enough and I think I've made my point(s)! Adults must be responsible for their own selves and for the children with them. If they cannot or will not, then they should be denied these privileges until they grow up and act responsibly. No compensation is due for denying privileges or revoking privileges based on inappropriate behavior!