Please do not take my silence as consent.

When riding public transportation, there is always a segment of the population who pushes boundaries – boundaries a civilized person wouldn’t even know existed!

Today, a man in a suit attempted to occupy not only his seat, but a good portion of my own, an impressive display of his expanding manspread.

He then proceeded to loudly snort several times in succession – this, apparently, an alternative to blowing his nose.

His finale was to accept a phone call and loudly participate in a show that can only be described as a desperate attempt to indicate his importance.

Through it all, I said nothing – not because I am prone to accept abuse, but rather on the off-chance that the brute with whom I shared my temporary berth might be an executive of some fashion in the firm for which I toil.

It would be just my luck to tell the jerk off only to find him sharing the elevator up to the executive suite.

Thanks!!

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Reunited….

It was bound to happen.  Travel long enough, and you will run into someone you know.  Fortunately for both of us, the collision was minor, and no travelers were harmed in the encounter.Gussman sunglasses

It was while I was otherwise distracted on the phone attempting to have a shady charge reversed from a software vendor who by all indications was operating an IT sweatshop of sorts.

I looked up and saw a familiar face, grinning from ear to ear, slowly shaking his head in disapproval of my attempts to multitask. #NeilGussman of http://armynow.blogspot.com/ was standing in front of me at the 30th Street Station coffee and pastry shop, as if standing guard against any predilection I may have had toward the purchase of some unhealthy carb-laden baked good.

Even though, now as I look back on the encounter, a mere 19 or so hours ago, I don’t remember exactly what he was wearing, I automatically picture him wearing the Army Combat Uniform, complete with camo backpack.

I remember wanting to ask him why he wasn’t riding his bike, but being to afraid to hang up the phone without securing some modicum of pledge from the disconnected voice on the other end of the phone, however disreputable its representation might present, as an assurance that I would be refunded the monies his organization had just been caught red-handed siphoning off of my bank account.

As we both headed toward our departing train, I tried desperately to wrap up the call so I could give Neil the un-distracted farewell a friend deserves.  There’s little that adds bitterness to an already annoying phone call than an insincere, obsequious respondent making questionable promises, both parties knowing very well the statistical probability of meeting, let alone talking to one another on the phone ever again rendered any modicum of ethical sincerity unlikely.

Add to that the personal cost of robbing a real friend of the valuable commodity of time, and the bitterness becomes exponentially greater.

So, Neil, let me apologize here, publicly, for giving you short-shrift.  I hope I run into you again soon – possibly with enough time to actually catch up, share coffee (different cups, of course), and reminisce about some of the better times we’ve shared.

I’ll be keeping my eye out for the guy wearing the bicycle helmet.

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Trains (episode 1)

A lot of people ride the train.  At least it seems that way, now that I’ve begun riding it myself.  Apparently, a colorful minority are just as new at riding the train as I.

Here’s how I know: the ones who ride the train all the time know all about the stops, the electronic tickets, the wifi, the electric outlets, reading lights, and the unwritten, unspoken courtesy language of train-ridership.  The ones who are new stick out like sore thumbs.

This morning, an unusually tall gentleman boarded the car I was intent on boarding directly ahead of me.  As he entered the cabin, he stopped abruptly, in an evident need to take in this new vista in its complexity before choosing an appropriate berth.  He concluded his visual inhaling with a nesting ritual in the first row (naturally, as it offered the most leg-room, and its proximity to the on-board lavatory).

In addition to his youthfully exuberant discovery that his seat back reclined (just as I was setting up my laptop on the unfolded tray), he was the the subject of a telephone call which was from such a distance that he needed to speak loudly into the phone, and each time he was answered – on speakerphone – prompted the caller to repeat their last response.  It was a pleasant conversation… or at least I assume it was – I don’t speak French very well, and as much as I didn’t want to eavesdrop, it was unavoidable.

The gentleman concluded his call, and as I looked out the window, the reflection of his smartphone screen caught my eye.  Again, I promise you that I was not intent on knowing any more about this man’s life than I already knew, and that having been forced upon me unwillingly.  I do not work for the NSA, nor do I practice vigilante espionage.  Were I in the business, however, I would have been harder pressed to discover more information than was available without an iota of effort.

The gentleman in question was quiet thereafter for a considerable length of time, enraptured, as he was, in the images and videos scrolling past his thumb.  I was unaware that there was much of a market for viewing women engaged in aerobic exercises – my guess is that he was putting together his own routine and was looking for ideas (I applaud his ingenuity and creativity; I never would have thought of that particular solution).

Sadly, all good things must come to an end, and so we parted ways in Philadelphia, with hardly an acknowledgment of our brief acquaintanceship.

My forlornness was shortlived, however, as I contemplated that in a few short hours, I would be again introduced to a new character who would promise just as much – if not more – entertainment than the last.

Until then, bon voyage!

 

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Universal Healthcare – why it’s like giving your kids too much candy

This has been bothering me more and more. I’ve been silent long enough. I just sent the following letter to both Senators Casey and Spector of Pennsylvania:

Senator,

Recognizing that the current system in place to provide healthcare to Americans is flawed is no reason to adopt a system that promises to be even worse.

I keep hearing three constituencies being blamed for our current, flawed system; 1.) Trial attorneys, bent on ‘unfair’ lucrative lawsuits; 2.) Pharmaceudical Companies, raking in huge ‘unfair’ profits, and 3.) Healthcare providers, who routinely and ‘unfairly’ turn away needy patients, and employees who lose their jobs or change jobs wind up with huge COBRA payments if they want to keep their insurance.

The smokescreens that so-called consumer lobbyists are throwing up even now to confuse the issues cannot hide a few simple facts:

1. Today’s lack of portability in healthcare is the fault of the government, not the healthcare providers, any more than it is the fault of employers; remove that barrier by shifting the tax-benefit from companies to private individuals, and let the health insurance companies compete for our business as consumers, just as auto, homeowners and renters insurance companies do.

2. Patients are constantly barraged by patent-holding mega-pharmaceudical corporations to buy the next wonder drug, and the costs are exhorbitant. a.) The FDA is already in place to regulate what they can and can’t say and do. Let them do their job, and stop interfering by legislating more and more bureaucracy, and b.) the costs will go down if the pharmaceudical companies know that consumers will be paying out of pocket instead of getting ‘entitlements’ from the government. Costs ALWAYS go down when companies have to compete. The current system under which regulations require insurance companies to pay specific costs to doctors for specific medications undercuts the natural and good market order under which prices would settle to something reasonable.

3. Legislators are fond of blaming Health Insurance companies, when their own branch of government has left the industry little room to do much else than they are doing. DE-regulation of the industry, as I mentioned above, is the answer – not MORE stifling regulation.Supporting this bill is a sure way to remove yourself from public office; the general populace may not be paying attention now, but once this already bad environment gets worse, you can believe you will be rightly blamed for pandering to the polyanna expectations of a willfully ignorant constituency.

I have supported you in the past. If you support this ridiculous bill, I will be unable to do so in the future. I pray you will continue to earn my support.

Sincerely,

Tim Blosser

NOTE: We do NOT live in a democracy.  There’s a good reason for that.  The intelligent people who founded our great nation knew there is real danger in governments which pander to popular opinion, which is frequently ignorant of the facts and is capricious.

The job of our elected representatives is not to stop the car and buy the kids candy every time they whine.  The job is to make informed decisions in this greatest legislative institution of our time, and if that means informing constituents why ‘public opinion polls’ are wrong, I expect my representative to do the honorable thing and make a wise decision on our behalf – despite ourselves, if necessary.

Parents understand this.  Young, single knuckleheads frequently do not.  Why?  They’re too busy whining for more candy.

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Away from home… once again

Once again, courtesy of the United States government, I am on an all-expense-paid year-long holiday to exciting destinations.  The only catch, I have to wear the clothing I’m issued, eat the food I’m issued, and live in the tin can I’m issued.  I can’t take my family with me (nor would I necessarily want them to experience what I am experiencing), although from time to time I catch myself saying something like, "I wish Shelley and the kids could see this…."

Many things are unlike the last deployment.  While the changes ensure a lack of boredom, it would be a test of my veracity and a question as to my integrity to suggest the differences are positive.  While I have placed my foot in the political arena, I have never experienced politics to the degree of gusto with which it is wielded here, at many levels.

It is safe to suggest that nothing short of a land-grab is afoot which would make the US Westward Expansion in the early to mid 1800’s appear as nothing more than a picnic.  I’m speaking figuratively, in case you think I’m making some allusion to actual real estate acquisition here, although when it comes to work-space, on a somewhat smaller scale than full-scale invasion, the demarcations couldn’t be more clear than if the Alphas marked them with their own urine, in the manner of the canine.

Missing my wife and kids (all four) aside, the hours are long, but productive, and all-in-all, I feel as though I am contributing to a greater good; a sentiment that seems at odds with that of the majority of my compatriots within our little unit.

Since the Air Force mishandled three of my bags on the way here, I am sans camera, among other items, so I am alas unable to share with you vistas of Mesopotamia, and Ur.  You will have to be patient until I can acquire a suitable replacement.  I’m sure I will make up for lost time then.

Until that time, stay tuned (as they say in radio) for more updates.

A preview of coming attractions:

Encounter with a camel spider
The joys of the combat shower experience
TCN’s and the decline of the responsible soldier

… and more!

Until then, ma’a sala’ama (peace, out)



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The Potter’s hand

On my last deployment, my cousin sent me the following poem, which I pinned to the wall above my desk and read every morning for the rest of that year.
 
As I was packing up and getting ready to leave on this deployment, I found it in a pile of papers and salvaged it to once again adorn my workspace.  Here it is for your benefit:
 

Whom God Chooses

by Henry F. Lyte

When God wants to drill a man,
and thrill a man, and skill a man,
When God wants to mold a man,
To play the noblest part;
When He yearns with all His heart
To create so great and bold a man,
That all the world shall be amazed,
Watch his methods; watch His ways.
How He ruthlessly perfects
When He royally elects!
How He hammers him and hurts him
And with mighty blows converts him
Into trial shapes of clay
Which only God understands;
While his tortured heart is crying,
And He lifts beseeching hands!
How He bends but never breaks
When His good He undertakes.
How He uses whom he chooses,
And with every purpose fuses him;
But every act induces him
To try His splendor out —
God knows what He’s about!

Go then, earthly fame and treasure!
Come disaster, scorn, and pain!
In Thy service, pain is pleasure;
With Thy favor, loss is gain.
I have called Thee, Abba, Father;
I have stayed my heart on Thee.
Storms may howl, and clouds may gather;
All must work for good to me.

 

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The bottom line – how you live your life

I’m fascinated by how easily opinions of ethics students are swayed with the reading of each new assigned research paper.  It makes me wonder how many of us have actually taken the time to ask ourselves not only what we believe, but why.

I enjoy asking people what they believe about, oh, say – ethical relativism versus a universal standard of right and wrong, and then ask for reasons.  The response I usually get is a lot of hemming and hawing, and very little in the way of a coherent thought.

As they stammer around, I begin wondering whether they’ve gone through the exercise of reconciling their new-found belief with its practical application.  We all (with few exceptions) live within a society, and within that society, within any number of cultural groups (work, religious community, family, social).  I’m struck by how much of our activity is the result of our understanding of expectations within those groups rather than any deeply held convictions.  Within those groups we act certain ways – sometimes (maybe often) – dramatically differently than we do in other groups.

It’s one matter to gush about the latest study results which suggest this or that ‘truth’ about ethics.  It’s quite another to live consistently.  Do you know what you believe?  Do you know why?  How well can you ‘defend’ your point of view – or do you prefer to believe that the professionals (clergy, psychiatrists, anthropologists, sociologists) will come to the rescue, and save you the trouble.

More importantly, how consistently do you live your life with the theories you espouse?  In other words, how well do you practice what you preach?  It’s far easier to blow with the latest breeze than to set a deliberate course and commit to it.  The world is full of followers, and always in need of leaders (good ones, that is).

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