Call Me Teddy or Freddy, Anything but Muhammed

November 29, 2007

A British teacher in Sudan was convicted Thursday of inciting religious hatred for letting her pupils name a teddy bear Muhammed, and she was sentenced to 15 days in prison and deportation to Britain. Gillian Gibbons, the teacher in question, could have received 40 lashes and six months in prison in the case.

I have never heard of anything so asinine! Sudan expects other nations of the world to respect it and then they do this.

I have nothing against any religion, but this incident just makes Islam look plain silly. For such a major religion to spawn this type of foolishness is regretable.

Several news sites have actually had letters from Islamic readers who agree that this is not what their religion is about.

So if you ever get a teddy bear name it Teddy or Freddy, anything but Muhammed.

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Replay: One Do-It-Again Dad’s Story

November 27, 2007

fatherhood.jpgAt age fifty, divorced and single-again for 14 years I met the love of my life. She was twenty years younger than me and had also been married before. She had not had children as yet. She told me she wanted children, but I really didn’t feel I needed more children. I made the decision  not to let her get away and if happiness between us involved children, then I would take the plunge.

Today I am 58 and we have been happily married for over seven years now. We have three wonderful children, a 6 year old son and twin 3 year old daughters. I have two children by my previous marriage who I love dearly, but I can’t imagine life without my new family.

The most common question I get asked as an older father is: “Are you more patient now than when you had children the first time?” The answer is definitely yes. Sure there are still times when they try your patience, but overall I find that I seem to be able to handle it better providing I make time for myself and that my wife and I ensure we have lots of one-on-one time with each other. I don’t care how much you love your kids, husband and wife have to keep their marriage strong using the friendship and intimacy that attracted you to each other in the first place. Keep the passion. After all if our relationship is strong, then the family will be strong.

One comment that I get really annoys me. So many people when they hear about my personal situation immediately say, “better you than me!”  Well I say to them, “better me than you too”. My life is filled with love. What is more important than that? Nothing!

Two of the most important lessons I have learned and am thankful for are:

1. Support from extended family, aunts, uncles, nieces and nephews is a key element to making my family and our marriage work.

The first time I was married and had children we had no family support at all. We lived where all our relatives were far away and friends are just not the same. The ability to leave the kids with family and get away for a date night is to me just fantastic. When I take my wife out for the evening it always reminds me what a sexy and interesting woman I married and how lucky I am. Sometimes with all the parenting this gets obscured because you get so wrapped up in the kids and their problems. God knows I love the kids, but I love being with my wife for those special times together. My children are better off for those times.

2. If you have problems get help. I have always been the type of person who hates admitting problems and sure wouldn’t seek professional help. Well, I had an anger problem and am by nature a high strung person. With the support of my wife I sought professional counselling. It was the best thing I ever did. That along with medication for my hyperactivity (diagnosed adult ADHD) have made my parenting and marriage function to its best.

The challenge for me is to look after myself and try to give my wife and children as many more years as possible. Fortunately the odds are pretty good. I have good genes age-wise, and don’t smoke or drink. Eating right and exercising can be tough, but I try.

Life is good. I intend to be around for a very long time yet to enjoy it. The lesson is that you take happiness wherever and whenever you find it.

Thanks to my loving wife for making me a better person.


Kennedy Assassination, November 22, 1963: Reflections

November 22, 2007

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(Frame from Zapruder Film shows Kennedy clutching his throat as the first shot strikes him.)

November 22, 1963 – where were you? I know exactly where I was when I heard the shocking news of the death of the young American President. I was in high school and just finishing classes that Friday afternoon when the announcement came over the public address system that President John F. Kennedy had been shot and killed in Dallas, Texas.

I for one can’t believe it is now 44 years later and still the man and the event fascinates. To my children it is just something they hear about in history books, but to me it is living history. The events of that tragic weekend created a new awareness in my fourteen year old mind. History, politics and world affairs were suddenly thrust into my everyday consiousness. Seeing world leaders from almost all the countries of the world marching in the solemn funeral procession made me realize how deeply we can be affected by world events.

We gathered around the television that entire weekend like moths to a lamp, hungering for news and trying to come to grips with the reality of the fact that Kennedy was dead. For me, as a young person, it was disbelief that this young and vital world leader had been cut down in his prime and replaced with a much older leader.  All this in just six seconds of gunfire in Dallas.

In 1963 the Cold War was at its height and to have the leader of the so-called Free World assassinated was chilling. At the time no one had any inkling of what would happen next. His successor, President Lyndon Johnson, did an admirable job of reassuring the American people and the world that an orderly transfer of power had taken place. He made sure his taking of the oath of office was photographed and witnessed by the media and others. He did this almost immediately after Kennedy was pronounced dead. It was imperative that the world know that government in the United States was still functioning and able to respond to any threat.

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(Dealey Plaza, the scene of the assassination. Where the people are standing on the sidewalk in the middle of the photo is the location of  Kennedy’s limousine when he was fatally struck. The red building in the middle, top is the Texas School Book Depository location of the alleged assassin Lee Harvey Oswald.)

To understand the fear and panic of the moment let’s put this tragic story in the perspective of todays high-tech news world. This event occurred before camcorders, the internet, and cable news like CNN. On that fateful day television cameras were not even covering the president’s motorcade through downtown Dallas. Besides the cameras of that era were so bulky and unwieldy that their mobility was severely limited. Remote broadcasts with the portable video cameras of today were non-existent. People in the crowd along the route certainly did not have video camcorders. Pictures that do exist of the event are primarily from photographic stills. Fortunately Abraham Zapruder had his 8 mm home movie camera running from a relatively good vantage point in Dealey Plaza. He managed to capture the moment for posterity. This is the famous “Zapruder Film” now held by the National Archives. It is the only film record that captured the entire event. This inability to see live news feeds only added to the uncertainty of what was transpiring.zaprudercamera.jpg (Abraham Zapruder’s home movie camera, state of the art in 1963)

In our time this same event would be instaneously covered by the media. Many of the spectators lining the motorcade would be actively recording the scene with either a camcorder or a high quality digital camera. Images and reports from the scene would be transmitted live as they happened to the world via television and the internet. The unknown would clearly not be a factor. A significant amount of photographic evidence would exist that would show more clearly what happened that day. The assassination would certainly have been recorded as it happened from a myriad of angles and viewpoints throughout Dealey Plaza. Contrast the Kennedy Assassination with coverage of the 9/11 Terrorist Attacks in 2001 and you can see the point I am making. Historical events in the 21st century come into our lives in more detail because of today’s technology. Always remember though that we still need to draw our own conclusions based on the evidence presented from various viewpoints. This is sometimes difficult when we are being bombarded with so much information so rapidly.

If only CNN et al had been there on that fateful Dallas day in 1963.


Perfect Season for the Pats?

November 19, 2007

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(Superstar quarterback Tom Brady of the New England Patriots.)

As a huge NFL football fan I am amazed at the current edition of the New England Patriots. This team seems to have everything, great quarterback, quality receivers, impressive defense. The running attack is potentially the only weakness, but with their passing game who the heck needs to run the ball. First let me say that I am an Oakland Raiders fan, but most of all a fan of great football. Right now it is hard to be a Raiders fan, but it is still fun to watch great teams and players in action.

Dare we say “perfect season”?  Looking at the Patriot’s remaining schedule it is possible. As this is written the rest of their season shapes up like this:

Nov 25 – Philadephia Eagles (5-5)
Dec 3  – at Baltimore Ravens (4-6)
Dec 9  – Pittsburgh Steelers (7-3)
Dec 16 – New York Jets (2-8)
Dec 23 – Miami (0-10)
Dec 29 – at New York Giants (7-3)
Playoffs – at least two games
Super Bowl
Total Games = 19

It would appear that Pittsburgh and the Giants have the best chance to grab a win, but it would take a minor miracle. A perfect regular season would give them 16-0. Playoffs would be extremely tough, but they seem to be very focused. In fact they are on a mission in my opinion based on the interviews and games I have seen.

The only NFL team to have a perfect season including playoff and a Super Bowl win for a final record of 17-0 was the 1972 Miami Dolphins. They had an extremely well-rounded team both offensively and defensively. The Dolphins had great players on both sides of the ball and on special teams. They stumbled a couple of times along the way and overcame a key injury to their great quarterback, Bob Griese, to prevail in the end. Griese did return and helped them finish the rest of the season. Earl Morrall formerly of the Baltimore Colts came through as a super backup to keep them going.

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(Above: Hall of Fame running back Larry Csonka of the 1972 Miami Dolphins)

So far, six players from the team are enshrined in Pro Football’s Hall of Fame: Nick Buoniconti, Larry Csonka, Bob Griese, Jim Langer, Larry Little, and Paul Warfield. In July 1997, Head Coach Don Shula joined them in immortality in Canton, Ohio.

The Chicago Bears of 1934 (13-0) and 1942 (11-0) had undefeated regular seasons, but in the end lost in the NFL championship game on both occasions. Still and all very impressive. No one else has ever had even an undefeated regular season, except the 1972 Dolphins.

It is my prediction that the New England Patriots will go undefeated in the regular season and further that they will win the Super Bowl for a true undefeated mark. So I will now watch with great interest the crusade for this team’s immortality.


Inverted “Jenny” Sold for $970,000

November 16, 2007

jennysingle.jpgOne of the rarest and most popular U.S. stamps was sold at auction November 14, 2007 for a whooping $850,000 plus 15% buyers premium for total of $970,000!!

This was one of the famous 24c U.S airmail stamps issued in 1918. Yes that’s right the face value was 24c which was actually quite expensive in those days.

There was only ever one sheet of 100 of these stamps, the inverted error, sold to the public. The post office did find some others but they were defaced and then shredded to prevent profiteering.

I won’t go into the complete story because a book and many articles have been written which detail its fascinating history.

It was sold by the auction firm of Robert A. Siegel Auction Galleries, Inc. of New York City on behalf of the owner. In 2005 they also sold a plate block of four of the same stamp for a record of $2,970,000 for a U.S philatelic item. How much higher can these go? Only time will tell. Read more at the Robert Siegel Auction website:

http://www.siegelauctions.com/2007/946a/s946a.htm

The sale catalogue (sale #946A) has wonderful write-ups on the history or the invert error by Scott R. Trepel (“The Allure of the Inverted Jenny”) and a great introduction by Joe R. Kirker ((“…and my heart stood still”). The catalogue can be downloaded in PDF format.


Nuclear Guinea Pigs: Canadian and American Troops At Ground Zero

November 13, 2007

dog2-alt1.jpgRecent articles in national and local newspapers have brought attention to a hidden and shameful part of American and Canadian military history. 

(Left: A-bomb and troops at Nevada Test Site. In this photo they are only 6 miles away. Official U.S. military photo.)

During the Cold War in the 1950s the United States was actively testing nuclear weapons in the Nevada desert.  As part of these atmospheric tests it was decided to see how ground troops would fare at ground zero of the explosions. At the request of the American military Canadian troops were sent to take part in the tests. The Canadian troops were exposed to at least six atomic bomb detonations in 1957 at the Nevada Test Site. “Operation Plumbbob” was a series of 29 atomic explosions conducted from May 28 to October 7, 1957 at the Nevada Test Site. It was the most controversial test series because military troops were heavily involved.

The troops were placed within several miles or less from ground zero. The wore normal field uniforms with no protective gear other than masks to protect against the dust of the explosion. Oh yes, foxholes were dug and the troops tool shelter in them. Once the explosion took place and the dust settled they were then ordered to walk into the center of the explosion.  All this while technicians dressed in spacesuit-like outfits monitored them for radiation. Most troops were very young and newly enlisted. They wondered why these alien-like scientists were dressed in all this gear and they weren’t, but most said that they were trusting in their superiors and willing to follow orders. They trusted that their superiors knew enough to protect their safety.

pbsmoky2.jpgApproximately 18,000 members of the American and Canadian military were exposed to these explosions.

“The military was interested in knowing how the average foot-soldier would stand up, physically and psychologically, to the rigors of the tactical nuclear battlefield.

(Above: A-bomb test “Smoky” which exposed several thousand troops to radiation. Part of Operation Plumbbob tests held during 1957. Official U.S. military photo.) 

“These exercises exposed the servicemen to relatively high levels of radiation. A survey of these servicemen in 1980 found significantly elevated rates of leukemia: ten cases, instead of the baseline expected four.” (Source Wikipedia article – see link below)

The atomic weapons being tested yielded more than twice the explosive power of the Hiroshima bomb. Because the tests were mainly ground bursts the resulting dust storm was highly radioactive. Scientists conducting these tests were well aware of the effects of such bombs to humans. In fact many of them had visited the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagaski to see first-hand the effects of a nuclear bomb on humans. They had seen what radiation sickness was doing to the surviving citizens of these cities. There can be no excuse for their callous use of these troops for their self-serving experiments. They knew full well that the men were being exposed to dangerous radiation levels.

American troops that took part in these tests have been officially compensated, if that is truly possible. Canada has done nothing so far to even attempt to compensate the troops. In fact the Canadian government has not been forthcoming with information on the tests that the troops participated in. These is actually much more information on the internet from official sources. The men are slowly dying off which seems to be fine with the government because then they won’t have to compensate them. This is shameful and reeks of coverup.  All this at a time of year when we are honoring our veterans. Veterans of the testing of these horrible weapons of mass destruction deserve better.

First of all both governments need to admit that they were wrong in using human guinea pigs in these tests. Then they need to compensate them as best as possible for their service.

More Reading:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Operation_Plumbbob

http://nuclearweaponarchive.org/Usa/Tests/Plumbob.html

“Victim of A-bomb testing dies awaiting federal redress”, by David Pugliese, CanWest News Service, Calgary Herald, November 13, 2007. (This article was the inspiration for my post, but no quotes have been used.)


The Fallen: Remembrance Day is Personal

November 7, 2007

poppy_3001.jpgWith November 11th, Remembrance Day in Canada, and Veterans Day in the U.S. approaching, I reflect on how war has affected me. Although I was born after World War II and have not myself served in the military, I have been personally impacted.

My father and two of his brothers served during World War II in the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF). One of them, his youngest brother Ken, was killed in the service of his country. My mother also served in the RCAF.

Growing up my Dad always told us stories of his brother Ken. The stories were fascinating to me as a young boy. Ken was killed in a flying accident while training to be a pilot. We were shown pictures of him. He was a handsome young man who stood 6’6″ tall and who was a very talented artist. Dad had some of Ken’s drawings that were done while in the air force. In high school he was the editor of the school newspaper and apparently very popular. After his death the new school cafeteria was named after him.

My uncle Ken was only 20 years of age when he was solemnly buried in the cemetery near his home in New Brunswick in 1944. My grandparents never fully got over the devastating loss of their “baby boy”.

Another way I was impacted was the meeting of my father and mother. They were both in the air force serving in Ottawa when they met at a party New Years Eve 1943. Both had other dates for the evening, but Dad was smitten. He pursued her and eventually they were married in September 1944. The rules at the time forbade officers (my Dad was a Flight-Lieutenant) from fraternizing with enlisted personnel, so Mom had to resign from the RCAF. After she resigned she ended up doing the same job for them, but as a civilian. Talk about ridiculous. So it is quite likely that without the war my parents would never have met. She was from Toronto, Ontario and he was from Fredericton, New Brunswick.

After the marriage Dad shipped out to a posting in London, England for the next two years. When he returned they were able to start a family and I became part of the post-war “baby boom” generation. Mom and Dad remained married until he died in July 2004. They would have celebrated 60 years of marriage in September 2004.

The point is that war affects not only the participants, but it has a trickle-down effect for generations to come.

This time of year I always wonder what the uncle I never knew would have been like and what he would have accomplished in his life had he lived. It is odd, but there is an empty spot in my heart for not having known him. I also proudly remember the service that my Mom and Dad and countless others gave and continue to give to Canada to make things better. Below is my personal favorite Remembrance Day tribute to those who paid the ultimate price in the service of their country. Whenever I read this it never fails to bring tears to my eyes. It should be remembered that when you see the now aged veterans marching on November 11th, that many years ago they gave their youth for us. The vast majority of the war dead were very young indeed, in their teens or early twenties. That is why this verse is so poignant.

They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning,
We will remember them.
(from “For The Fallen” by Laurence Binyon, 1914)


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