Category Archives: Commentary

Christmas Reflections on Boxing Day 2016

Diana (Charlie) and I spent a quiet Christmas Day at home with Mist and Smoke. We hope you all had a Merry Christmas or Happy Hanukkah or, at least, a trouble-free day if you weren’t celebrating a holiday.

I picked up a Noble Fir last Monday and left it in the rain before moving it into the sunroom. Instead of decorating it with multi-colored strings of twenty-plus year old lights we used three strings of white, blue and pink LEDs this year — looks good. We then added the usual Christmas ornaments and Di’s British decorations. No tinsel, as we learned with Magic and Merlin that cats eat tinsel and I really didn’t want to . . .

After a morning of tea, coffee, exercise bicycle and then breakfast, the day unwound: opening presents; Skyping relatives in Britain; basketball, football and Dr. Who on my TV; movies and Bewitched (B&W) episodes on Di’s.

And, of course, fixing a turkey dinner.

Because Di’s ailments prevent her from standing for any considerable length of time, most of the cooking has become my responsibility — with some directions from her. Before Thanksgiving I picked up four Butterball turkeys from Aldi and Target (99¢/lb) — Di mandates a Butterball. Fifteen-pounds is just about perfect for us — fits in the oven, plenty of room for stuffing/dressing, a lot of meat for dinner and seconds and two large tubs of leftovers.

Christmas dinner would consist of turkey, mashed potatoes, peas and stuffing/dressing.

We made three different stuffings: Trader Joe’s Cornbread with added giblets and clams — cooked separately as Di is allergic to all types of shellfish; seasoned bread and onion stuffing which went into the turkey and under its skin; and bread and onion stuffing with diced British sausage added, which will be cooked this afternoon. All of this means that I’ll be able to snack on stuffing for several days without eating all of it before Di gets her fill.

About 1:30 pm I placed the turkey into a 400° (F) oven for thirty minutes — for browning — then put some aluminum foil over it to prevent burning and turned the oven down to 325° for the rest of the cooking cycle. Every thirty minutes or so, I basted it with melted butter. As there was still some ice in the turkey when I opened the package before stuffing it, I allowed it to cook until 6:oo pm — yes, I tested the internal temperature with a digital meat thermometer before taking the turkey out of the oven, and allowed it to sit for a while before carving and dismembering it.

Di came in to make her gravy, and I dished out turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes (Gold with melted butter, garlic and pepper) and peas for each of us. Yum. Everything was tasty; Di had one helping, and I had two. Following dinner, I put the leftover potatoes, peas, dressing (Di’s) and some of the turkey into a plastic tub and finished dismembering the turkey and putting its meat into another large tub — a week’s worth of leftovers for the two of us.

David, Di’s brother, gave me a bottle of whisky for Christmas — a 20-year-old Speyside Single Malt from the Un-Chillfiltered Collection (92 proof). I had one glass for dinner and two after — of course, I also missed the ending of the Laker game and the Dr. Who Christmas episode.

All in all it was a very pleasant day.

Reflections

Christmas is supposed to be a time of peace to people of good will — so why were several of the commercials for new movies, to me at least, ultra-violent? Maybe, because they were coming to theaters after Christmas? Hmmm . . .

There seemed to be a lot of discussion around Thanksgiving and Black Friday about people working in department stores on Thanksgiving Day. It seems that some people feel it is unjust to ask people to work on Thanksgiving just so we can shop for cheap(er) things before Christmas. Hmmmm . . .

How many of these clerking and stocking jobs are held by at, or near, minimum wage employees who can use every hour they get to support themselves and their families?

And why no outcry for those who work everyday regardless of holiday?

Police, Fire and other emergency workers are always on the job. Hospitals don’t close. People still go to work at our water and sewage departments. Electricity and gas employees still work as these utilities won’t run themselves. Gas stations and convenience stores stay open. Some restaurants, theaters, and recreational attractions (think Disneyland and ski resorts) run all day long. Airports, airlines, trains, buses, taxis, Uber and Lyft continue to move us from place to place.

Did you listen to the radio or watch TV or surf the Internet yesterday or on Thanksgiving — they don’t function without people working.

We’ve become — if we really haven’t always been — a 24-7-365¼ society. So how about we just thank those who have jobs that require they work on holidays rather than make ourselves feel better by complaining about it?

To those of you who work on those days most of us don’t have to (Sundays, Thanksgiving, Christmas, etc.) — Thank-You. I, for one, greatly appreciate the work you do to keep my world running.

 

Thoughts on the Election

Elections — the day after

Today is November 9th, 2016 — one day after local and national elections here in the United States, and I would like to offer a few observations.

The Earth continued to rotate and the sun rose on our beautiful home world. The apocalypse did not happen.

Donald Trump is the President-Elect and will be sworn in as the POTUS on January 20th, 2017.

We may be in for interesting times, but life will continue.

Newspaper, radio, television and other commentators and pundits will play “Monday morning quarterback” ad nauseam for the foreseeable future — and it will change nothing.

There will be recriminations, gloating and regrets — and they will also change nothing.Election Cats

Perhaps people will again become polite to each other despite their differing political beliefs or prejudices or fantasies. (My belief — your prejudicial and idiotic fantasies, of course, but I won’t hold them against you.)

Once again the candidate who got the most popular votes lost the election to the candidate who got the most electoral votes. Yet, I have heard no outcries to change the system so that our votes are actually equal and not distorted by giving each state, no matter its population, two additional electoral votes — one for each senator. Or, perhaps, doing away with the Electoral College via an amendment to the Constitution and going with a straight popular vote.

California keeps raising taxes — two dollars per pack of cigarettes and new taxes on marijuana that will combine to bring in more than two billion additional dollars yearly.

We now have another legal intoxicant in California and no legal definition on the blood levels necessary to charge a person with a crime when their smoking results in a motor vehicle accident and possible injuries or death to someone else.

California adult film performers do not have to use condoms while filming — now how did that get to be a state-wide proposition?

Proposition 61 failed to pass, thus allowing drug companies to keep raising prices for drugs. (Although if it had passed, there would still have been nothing to keep them from raising their prices. An expensive tempest in a teapot.)

California elected a female Democrat to the U.S. Senate to replace another female Democrat. Of course, if she had lost, California would still have elected a female Democrat to that position thanks to our top-two primary system.

It is going to be interesting to see how this Republican President and this Republican-dominated Congress/Senate will “work” together. Remember, we have a system of checks and balances in this country. And, no, these are not supposed to be checks with dollar signs in front of them.

If you voted, for either candidate, you have a right to complain about what happens now. If you didn’t vote, you still have a legal right to complain, but I don’t think you have a moral one. So, please, be quiet — grin and bear it until the next election. Then register and vote. If you’re not a citizen, become one if you wish to participate in our political process.

If you weren’t satisfied with either candidate and didn’t take part in the political process to select the candidates, next time participate. Get involved at the local level in the political party of your choice. Clinton and Trump were the results of too many of us leaving the selection to others for too many years. If you’re an independent and not a Republican or a Democrat, you have no say in who gets nominated — that say belongs to those who are actually registered as members of that political party. Think carefully about your choice when you register, and think carefully about whether or not you wish to get involved in the party or are content to merely vote on the choices of others.

A final thought

Election Day often falls during the same week as Veterans Day.

How about we make Veterans Day a true national holiday and combine it with Election Day. Think about it, a national holiday on which we can all vote. I think it would be a great way to honor those who have served and sacrificed to provide us with the right to vote and have preserved it for over two hundred years. (Oh, yeah and let’s keep it on a Tuesday so we don’t just make it another three-day-weekend and ignore its true purpose.)

Truisms or Not

Truisms or Not (shamelessly ripped off from a friend)

— If I had a dollar for every girl who found me unattractive, they’d eventually find me attractive.

— I find it ironic that the colors red, white, and blue stand for freedom, until they’re flashing behind you.

— Today a man knocked on my door and asked for a small donation towards the local swimming pool, so I gave him a glass of water.

— I changed my password to “incorrect” so whenever I forget it the computer will say, “Your password is incorrect.”

— Artificial intelligence is no match for natural stupidity.

— I’m great at multi-tasking–I can waste time, be unproductive, and procrastinate all at once.

— If you can smile when things go wrong, you have someone in mind to blame.

— Never tell your problems to anyone, because 20 percent don’t care and the other 80 percent are glad you have them.

— Doesn’t expecting the unexpected mean that the unexpected is actually expected?

— Take my advice — I’m not using it.

— I hate it when people use big words just to make themselves sound perspicacious.

— Hospitality is the art of making guests feel like they’re at home when you wish they were.

— Television may insult your intelligence, but nothing rubs it in like a computer.

— I bought a vacuum cleaner six months ago and so far all it’s been doing is gathering dust.

— Every time someone comes up with a foolproof solution, along comes a more-talented fool.

— I’ll bet you $4,567 you can’t guess how much I owe my bookie.

— Behind every great man is a woman rolling her eyes.

— If you keep your feet firmly on the ground, you’ll have trouble putting on your pants.

— A computer once beat me at chess, but it was no match for me at kick boxing.

— Ever stop to think and forget to start again?

— When I married Ms. Right, I had no idea her first name was Always.

— My wife got 8 out 10 on her driver’s test–the other two guys managed to jump out of her way.

— There may be no excuse for laziness, but I’m still looking.

— Women spend more time wondering what men are thinking than men spend thinking.

— Give me ambiguity or give me something else.

— He who laughs last thinks slowest.

— Is it wrong that only one company makes the game Monopoly?

— Women sometimes make fools of men, but most guys are the do-it-yourself type.

— I was going to give him a nasty look, but he already had one.

— Change is inevitable, except from a vending machine.

— The grass may be greener on the other side but at least you don’t have to mow it.

— I like long walks, especially when they’re taken by people who annoy me.

— I was going to wear my camouflage shirt today, but I couldn’t find it.

— If at first you don’t succeed, skydiving is not for you.

— Sometimes I wake up grumpy; other times I let her sleep.

— If tomatoes are technically a fruit, is ketchup a smoothie?

— Money is the root of all wealth.

— No matter how much you push the envelope, it’ll still be stationery.


Oh, yeah — please, no more political posts, calls, emails, ads, snail-mail, etc — I voted today.

Huntington Beach Airshow

p1010142bsmallSometime early this year of lat last year, I began seeing items touting an airshow involving the U. S. Air Force Thunderbird aerobatic team on the beach. Yeah, right. Well, last February (I think) an F-16 did a preliminary recon of HB — hmmm . . . maybe, maybe.

Well, this last weekend it became a reality.

Late Thursday morning I took Charlie (my wife) to an appointment at her hairdresser’s in Newport Beach. I returned home to read and wait for her call. About 1 pm I heard a tremendous roar and looked out to see a flight of jets (the p1010158bsmallThunderbirds) flying over our house heading southwest to the coast. It was their first practice flight over the beach for the Saturday/Sunday show.

Charlie called a few minutes later and I climbed into the car to pick her up. I saw a good deal of the jets practicing their maneuvers on the fifteen minute drive to the hairdresser and on the return pointed them out to Charlie. It was the first she had heard of their being a show and was thrilled to see the planes — and wanted to go.

p1010172bsmallI thought Friday, the practice day, would be best because the crowds would be smaller than those on Saturday and Sunday but as luck would have it Charlie wasn’t feeling up to it. Sunday was supposed to be cool so we decided to make the visit to the beach and show then.

Sunday dawned cool and moist. I had charged up her scooter (the same one we p1010200bsmalltook to Europe) and loaded it onto the Buick’s carrier. About noon we headed over to Mike and Sandy’s where we were going to park the car for a short, block and a half, “stroll” down Beach Blvd to the show.

After speaking with our friends for a few minutes, they were going to Long Beach p1010214bsmallto see a live theater show that afternoon and had already seen the airshow, we set out for the beach. Di had her British jacket and I had a USC hoodie and an umbrella in case it decided to rain — it decided to begin sprinkling just about the time we crossed PCH and got to the beach.

We missed the opening parachuting but saw several solo aerobatic acts and both of the jet aerobatic demonstration teams. In addition to the U. S. Air Force Thunderbirds the Breitling Jet Team also gave an impressive demonstration. p1010228bsmall

Airshow Jets

The Breitling Jet Team flies the Czech built L-39C Albatros. The Albatros is a sub-sonic twin-seat military jet trainer.

The Thunderbirds fly the Lockheed Martin Fighting Falcon F-16 supersonic single-seat air superiority/ground attack fighter.

There was also a demonstration flight conducted by a Navy F/A-18 Super Hornet.

At the airshow

p1010243bsmallThe weather turned steadily wetter and I quickly had to don my hoodie and unfurl our umbrella, but the rain was an inconvenience, not an outing killer — and we do need the rain.

We spent most of the afternoon around the Beach/PCH area and tried to stay away from tall people who could block Charlie’s view of things. She (I) bought a Thunderbird t-shirt and was most disappointed that she couldn’t get closer to the HB Police horses. p1010127bsmall

We were there for a bit over three hours and thoroughly enjoyed the show. It was the second time I’d seen the Thunderbirds. Dad had taken my brother and I to see the air races at Fox Field where the Thunderbirds were also performing. this was some fifty plus years ago when they flew the F-100 Super Sabre. The thing I remember most about that show was being able to walk up and “touch” some of the racing aircraft: P-51 Mustang, P-38 Lightning, F8F Bearcat, etc. I’ve also seen the Blue Angels perform.

p1010251bsmallWhen the Thunderbirds finished their show, we (and most everyone else) headed home. Many of those walking and riding their bikes were thoroughly soaked. Charlie got wetter on her scooter than I did walking. It took a few minutes to get the scooter secured to the carrier while Charlie waited in the car, but we still made it home by 4:30 pm. She changed into dry clothes while I made p1010272bsmallher a hot cup of tea.

And I, I poured myself a nice whisky . . . all in all, it was a very pleasant day.


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Election 2016 — Reading Level

Election 2016

California Voter Guide Reading Level Analysis

In my previous post I stated that I was thinking of doing an analysis of the reading level of the California Voter Information Guide. Well, I’ve carried through on my threat.

election voter information guide for californiaI am not a reading teacher nor a statistician, but I have used the Grammar Analysis tools available in various editions of MS Word to analyze the textbooks I have used as well as many of my assignments, tests and notes to both students and parents.

This involves either the typing or a Copy/Paste of the text to be analyzed into a MS Word document and then running the Spelling and Grammar check on the selected text.

MS Word gives you two measures of reading levels: (and, no, they do not move in lock-step with each other)

  • The first, Flesch Reading Ease, gives a number which indicates how easy or difficult the text is to read. A high number indicates the text is easy to read and a low number indicates that the text is difficult to read.
  • The second, Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level, gives a number which indicates the grade level difficulty of the text.

As an example, the text above has a Flesch Reading Ease number of 57.3 and a Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level of 11.1 with my edition of MS Word. (Word for Mac 2011)

In doing my analysis I used the on-line edition of the 2016 California Voter Information Guide which is available at: http://voterguide.sos.ca.gov/

The MS Word document I created to do the analysis came to some thirty-two pages in length and I am not going to post it to this blog.


Analysis — The California Secretary of State’s Letter to California Voters

  • Flesch Reading Ease:                        47.6
  • Flesch-Kincaid Reading Level:         9.9

Analysis — Quick Reference Guide to Proposition 51 (School Bonds)

  • Flesch Reading Ease:                        36.2
  • Flesch-Kincaid Reading Level:         10.9

Analysis — Quick Reference Guide Proposition 64 (Marijuana Legalization)

  • Flesch Reading Ease:                        32.6
  • Flesch-Kincaid Reading Level:         11.6

Analysis — Analysis of the Legislative Analyst of Proposition 51

  • Flesch Reading Ease:                        36.2
  • Flesch-Kincaid Reading Level:         12.0

Analysis — Analysis of the Legislative Analyst of Proposition 64

  • Flesch Reading Ease:                        30.7
  • Flesch-Kincaid Reading Level:         12.0

Analysis — Argument in Favor of Proposition 51

  • Flesch Reading Ease:                        41.6
  • Flesch-Kincaid Reading Level:         10.6

Analysis — Argument Against Proposition 51

  • Flesch Reading Ease:                        48.3
  • Flesch-Kincaid Reading Level:         9.7

Analysis — Rebuttal to the Argument in Favor of Proposition 51

  • Flesch Reading Ease:                        58.2
  • Flesch-Kincaid Reading Level:         7.4

Analysis — Rebuttal to the Argument Against Proposition 51

  • Flesch Reading Ease:                        52.1
  • Flesch-Kincaid Reading Level:         8.3

Analysis — Argument in Favor of Proposition 64

  • Flesch Reading Ease:                        30.8
  • Flesch-Kincaid Reading Level:         12.0

Analysis — Argument Against Proposition 64

  • Flesch Reading Ease:                        38.5
  • Flesch-Kincaid Reading Level:         12.0

Analysis — Rebuttal to the Argument in Favor of Proposition 64

  • Flesch Reading Ease:                        33.5
  • Flesch-Kincaid Reading Level:         12.0

Analysis — Rebuttal to the Argument Against Proposition 64

  • Flesch Reading Ease:                        39.2
  • Flesch-Kincaid Reading Level:         11.4

Analysis — Text of the first three paragraphs of Section 2 of the proposed law (Prop 64)

  • Flesch Reading Ease:                        19.5
  • Flesch-Kincaid Reading Level:         12.0

Analysis — Kamala D. Harris Candidate Statement (Senator)

  • Flesch Reading Ease:                        45.8
  • Flesch-Kincaid Reading Level:         11.5

Analysis — Loretta L. Sanchez Candidate Statement (Senator)

  • Flesch Reading Ease:                        41.2
  • Flesch-Kincaid Reading Level:         12.0

Analysis — California Voter Bill of Rights

  • Flesch Reading Ease:                        62.9
  • Flesch-Kincaid Reading Level:         8.6

Conclusion

As I stated earlier I am not a credentialed reading teacher nor am I statistician. I am an American citizen and voter with an interest in our current election and our nation’s future.

election bannerThe above “analysis” is not scientific; it is personal. I have taken what I believe to be representative sections of the Voter Information Guide and subjected them to an easy to use and verify reading level analysis. Other tools and sections may (and probably will) give different results.

If you are interested in the California Voter Information Guide, it is available at: http://voterguide.sos.ca.gov/

If you are interested in analyzing reading levels, there are numerous articles available on-line via any search engine.

If you wish to analyze any of the California Voter Information Guide for yourself, MS Word’s Grammar Check is easy to use. I do not know the status of reading level checks available on other currently available word processors.

If you are concerned about the “average” American being able to read the California Voter Information Guide you might start here: https://nces.ed.gov/pubs93/93275.pdf   —   It’s a 2003 document and I don’t know if there is a more recent study available.

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You might just enter: “average reading level of the American voter” or something like it into your search engine.

And, please, remember that your vote counts just the same as that of Mr. Trump or Mrs. Clinton (and just the same as that person you think is an idiot who lives down the street) so: VOTE!election - register to vote

Best Wishes for an “interesting” election season. Ho, ho, ho . . .