Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Happy Birthday President Kennedy

One of the most recognized American individuals of the twentieth century was President John F. Kennedy. His short life and Presidency impacted the country and influenced the baby boomer generation.

President Kennedy was born May 29, 1917.

Kennedy was a World War II veteran, young-ish and handsome. He came from a large, newly wealthy Irish American Bostonian family. He sported a beautiful, cultured wife and young children. He was very different from the President we vaguely knew as youngsters – an old (to us boomers), bald general.

We were very young and knew little about life beyond our family, school and neighborhood.

Another icon of the era was the blonde bombshell Marilyn Monroe. The two superstars of our youth came together on the night of May 19, 1962. Marilyn Monroe sang Happy Birthday to the President at a celebration in his honor held at Madison Square Garden in New York City. The performance became a sensation.

Below is a video of that infamous short piece sung by the era’s sex symbol. Peter Lawford (the actor), President Kennedy’s brother-in-law, introduces Monroe. She missed her cue (accidentally or on purpose we will probably never know), and Lawford made a remark about, “the late Marilyn Monroe”. The irony is that less than three months later she was dead by her own hand (allegedly); she died August 5, 1962.

An assassin’s bullet killed President Kennedy a year and a half after the Madison Square Garden show.

I think just about every baby boomer born before about 1957 remembers where they were when they heard President Kennedy was shot. Many of us also remember sitting in front of black and white TVs, watching grainy pictures of that November week’s happenings.

Suddenly there was a world beyond our cozy, friendly hometown. The global community, unknown and unfamiliar, impacted us. We were going to be a part of it whether we wanted to or not. Our lives changed forever.

But enough serious stuff. Enjoy Marilyn and a few seconds of President Kennedy.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Commenters Heads-up: You Do Not Have to Prove You Are a Human Anymore

I have not been keeping up with email and postings of blogs followed. The fast approaching summer season and the chaotic look of my garden heightened the urgency and necessity that it was time to head outdoors and tend the yard. I sorely neglected it the past couple of months. Travelling far afield and catching up when home allowed no time for the yard.

But warm, sunny weather coaxed me outdoors. And the work commenced. Pulling weeds, trimming bushes, planting. I am trying tomato plants in containers this year and bought some young plants. We receive a wonderful weekly variety of vegetables from our CSA, but there can never be enough tomatoes in the house.

But I digress. Getting back to catching up, I finally took some time to relax from weeding and planting to read blog posts accumulating relentlessly in my inbox. One blog prompted me to comment.

I spent a few precious minutes writing my comments. Like many blogs, there was the commensurate keying in of random letters to ensure I was a real human person and not some electronic spam machine playing havoc on the Internet.

 I typed the letters; there were two separate arbitrary combinations.

Then the trouble began. I made an error and had to do it again. Another combination appeared on the screen.

 Again my letters were rejected.

I tried again, typing slowly this time, assuming I was hitting the wrong keys in my eagerness to transmit my words of wisdom.

Once more my efforts did not match the magic combination.

I must have tried ten times. Then I gave up. I do not know what the problem was, but it was time to move on. My frustration was rising to a dangerous level.

There could be a number of reasons for my failure to complete the seemingly mindless, easy task:

·      I am not human. (I will not even consider this option.)
·      I am too computer illiterate and/or dumb to understand the instructions. A possibility.
·      I am going blind and cannot make out the letters on the screen. Also a possibility.
·      My Mac had a bad day.
·      I had a bad day.
·      Blogger had a bad day.
·      A combination of the above.

Then I had a revelation.

I also require commenters to prove they are human. How often do people give up because the letters are too blurry to see, or too close to decipher whether a letter is a c or an o or that line on the screen – is it a d or part of the next letter which might be a b?

So I decided to throw caution to the wind and end the roadblock to comments on my blog. No longer must oblique, blurry, too close, wavy letters and numbers torment would-be commenters annoyingly and irritably attempting to key in the correct characters.

I hope the spam machines do not find me.

If no new posts appear in the next week you can assume I have been buried by spam.

Meanwhile I wish everyone a wonderful holiday weekend!

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Graduation Congratulations and Speeches

My daughter-in-law received her Ph.D. on Saturday afternoon at Commencement ceremonies at the University of Vermont. Congratulations, Julie! We love you!

The Commencement speaker was Madeleine Kunin, the first female and first Jewish governor of Vermont, serving from 1985-1991. She was also deputy secretary of education and Ambassador to Switzerland during the Clinton administration.
Madeleine Kunin speaking at University of Vermont Graduate Commencement ceremony,  May 19, 2012.
Kunin’s speech would have been poorly received and quite possibly considered heresy in many parts of the country. Vermont is a liberal state; current U.S. Senators are Democrat Patrick Leahy and Independent Bernard Sanders. What is so unfortunate is that what she had to say had to be said in 2012 in the United States.

Kunin was born in Switzerland and came to the U.S. as a child. She stressed the fact that immigrants are an important part of our country’s success and we should not abandon them. She emphasized the fact that accessible education for all is a crucial component of that success.

Kunin discussed the erosion of women’s rights as laws against contraceptives and women’s health care make inroads in state legislatures across the country.

She exhorted all of the graduates – men and women - to make a difference, make a statement and take action against injustice whenever and wherever they perceive problems.

Discussing the speech afterward my DIL said, although it was a good speech, it was too female-oriented. 

Perhaps she is right.

Today young women enjoy most of the rights and privileges men enjoy. A time when it was considered unseemly for women to pursue certain professions, when they faced barriers and outright discrimination attempting to pursue an education and career, are ancient history to today’s young people. There are still problems, but so much progress has been made that women’s issues are practically non-issues for today’s younger generation. The idea the country is moving the wrong way may seem scary to many of us old folks, but has yet to keenly affect the lives of most young women.

I hope the country is not taking so many steps backwards that young women eventually face not just glass ceilings but brick walls.

There is another issue underlying Kunin’s speech. She realizes attacks on women’s rights would only be the start. Intolerance and prejudice spreads and attacks others. We are already seeing moves against immigrants and assaults on sexual orientation.

The graduates, clutching their Masters and Ph.D. diplomas, walked out into the bright, sunny, warm Vermont sunshine to begin another chapter in their lives. Greeted by proud, beaming family and friends, their thoughts turned to celebration dinners and barbecues, new jobs, and how they will spend vacation time and enjoy the summer.

We made it home incident-free on Sunday, driving a scenic route through Vermont and upstate New York before getting on the New York State Thruway and heading south through the New York and New Jersey metro area. We enjoyed dinner at a local clam bar in South Jersey and arrived home as dark descended.

It is time to look ahead and think about enjoying the holiday weekend – at home for a change. Barbecues, long walks, time on the beach, a bike ride. Summer is just about here. Hope for good weather!

Friday, May 18, 2012

The Most Unpleasant Car Trip

I was going to title this post The Car Trip from Hell, but figured that might be a bit too harsh. It only seems that it was that bad.

We are driving to Vermont for my daughter-in-law’s graduation. She will receive her Ph.D. and will be the first doctor in our family.

Yesterday we spent the afternoon at Temple University’s School of Law graduation. My niece received her Juris Doctor and is now a lawyer. When we ask advice she can now dispense it and end with, “That will be $150 please.”

We have driven to Vermont many times over the past fifteen-plus years. My son attended the University of Vermont in Burlington and never left the land of mountains, snow, skiing, beauty and long, cold winters. I love Vermont but hate the cold.

I am currently sitting in the car. Hub is driving. We are on I-91 and for the first time in hours driving more than 50 miles an hour. It is a beautiful, sunny day and the scenery is fabulous.

I drove the first tortuous four hours. Hub had business to do – a 1-½ hour conference call plus additional phone calls. We now have Bluetooth which makes car calls an easy activity. He could talk, reference documents on his computer and access the Internet with his wireless card. Isn’t modern life grand!

I, therefore, drove while he worked. The problem with traveling north to Vermont when you live south of New York City is getting beyond the Big Apple metropolitan area, which begins south of Washington, D.C. and ends close to the Canadian border. The hallmarks of the area’s roadways are traffic, construction, congestion, crazy drivers, an infinite number of traffic lights, broken roadways and did I mention the traffic and construction?

It is not unusual to hit traffic driving around or through New York City. I drove for four solid hours in stop-and-go bedlam. Construction and one accident caused some delays. But the biggest reason for the slow-moving, endless lines of vehicles was too many cars on the road.

Many of our leaders in their wisdom do not believe we need to spend money on infrastructure – an important element being roads. One way to reduce traffic is for fewer people to drive. The Republicans managed to achieve this objective by creating a Great Recession that curtailed everyone’s driving.

But now the economy is improving (sorry, Republicans, I know the truth hurts) and more people are driving again. There are also a lot of trucks on the road. Everywhere. Big, big BFTs (big F… trucks). Also a lot of smaller commercial vehicles. All hogging the roads.

But trucks on the road are a good thing (hub said I should add this). It means there is a lot of positive economic activity going on. And all that construction means jobs.

There was traffic and construction on the New Jersey Turnpike (that part of the trip we did last night). There was traffic and construction on the bridges around New York City and on I-95. I-95, for those lucky enough never to have experienced that road, is often one long parking lot.

We crawled through Connecticut on the turnpike. It got better when we exited onto I-91, or so we thought. False hopes. It was only a few minutes before we hit traffic again.

Finally the road opened up north of Hartford CT. We would be OK…

And then we approached Springfield, Mass and more traffic. Where did all these cars come from? Where were they going? Why were they all in front of us?

Finally driving north of Springfield we heaved a great sigh of relief. The major population areas were behind us. It should be smooth driving.

Except it wasn’t. We crossed the border into Vermont and found…

Construction. And traffic.

We just could not get a break.                                                   

A pleasant trip with stops for a bite to eat and a detour to a tourist attraction or two became a test of our patience and ability to survive modern day transportation headaches.

But the good news is that we are already moving forward. We are finally in the scenic state of Vermont. There is less traffic and our stress levels are slowly receding. We just made a quick stop for gas and a snack. Small local stores in this state boast helpful staff, reasonable prices and often unique and interesting merchandise.

We will soon be caught up in the excitement of graduation and seeing our almost ten-month-old granddaughter and other family members. It was definitely worth the hassle.

I just hope the drive home is better.