Hanging On By Our Fingernails…

By now the images from Paris have permeated our consciousness and burrowed deep in to the valley of our soul. Close our eyes and we see thousands huddled together on a soccer field, bloody bodies on sidewalks, bullet holes in café windows, the moment of recognition by the band on stage.

Fleeing the horror of the terrorist attack on the Bataclan concert venue, a pregnant woman clings perilously to a window ledge.
Fleeing the horror of the terrorist attack on the Bataclan concert venue, a pregnant woman clings perilously to a window ledge.

Of all the horror we’ve seen these past three days, for me the most haunting of all is the desperate concert goers hanging, literally by their fingernails from the windows of the Bataclan venue; dangling two and three stories above the street. In one frame we can see someone rush to a window and grab the wrist of a pregnant woman who appears to be slipping. The video ends without our knowing whether those people were rescued or whether they fell to the alley below.

It is an image of total panic and desperation, reminiscent of the last time evil came to call on this scale. None of us will ever forget the photos from 9-11 of people facing such horror that jumping from a window was the best option.

I hate to admit it, but on some level the terrorists are succeeding: One need only to see the news footage from two days after the  Paris attacks, where a crowd who had gathered to hold a vigil was sent in to a screaming, rampaging panic by a random noise, to acknowledge that underneath the facade of resistance is a deep seated fear.

Heavily armed police and military patrols are a common and reassuring sight on our city streets, yet we know they cannot be everywhere. Gatherings of sport and entertainment will go on, but underneath is a wariness not present before.

Paris has changed us in some ways even more than 9-11, because after all these years, we have been shown that carnage can still happen on a mass scale.

One thing I’m changing: I won’t be using the expression, “Hanging by my fingernails” ever again.

What I’m not changing is my fervent hope and prayer that good will ultimately prevail over evil.

Conspicuous Consumption…

The technology bounty of just one Christmas...half of which was never used. Technology recycling day was an eye opener.
The technology bounty of just one Christmas…half of which was never used. Technology recycling day was an eye opener.

The smallest moments can sometime have the largest impact on the way we see life and ourselves. One of those moments happened recently for me when our community held a free electronics recycling day.

Instead of paying someone to pull the precious metals out of our old computer’s brain and guts, we could hand it over for free – our tax dollars paying us a small return on investment.

My first impression was, “this will be easy”. It wasn’t. Once the hunt through the house began, it seemed nearly every room held some outdated device. From telephones that hung on the wall with cords connected to a handset, to an ancient electronic Rolodex, to an almost as ancient fax machine, several generations of cell phones, all the way to a huge computing tower and even larger monitor weighing over a hundred pounds, years of old technology was removed from closets, drawers, and desks.

By the time we finished, the entire back compartment of our SUV, with the second row of seats flattened, was filled to the roof with extinct dinosaurs, victims of technology’s evolution.

Looking at the tangle of plastic, metal, glass and wires, I started running a tab in my head: When the total reached $6000, I stopped counting.

As I watched burly big men toss our hard earned dollars into bins, heard the smashing of once glorious machines, I tried to rationalize the loss. Those things were not luxuries, they were necessities that made it possible for us to do our jobs, be more efficient, and overall have a better quality of life. But oh, wouldn’t I like to have those six plus thousand dollars, now. Exotic locales await…

That money, and the money that followed, did not take me to the Greek Isles, instead it bought an entire new generation of machines that no doubt will someday end up tossed in a bin of no return.

Every experience in life is a lesson. What this one has taught me is, going forward; I will be very selective with my purchases. Do I really always need the latest and greatest or would I prefer to cruise to Mykonos.

Bon voyage my friends.


Children Are Starving in China…

When I was growing up, one of the most frequently uttered threats from my parents was, “You will sit right there until you eat everything on your plate. Don’t you know children are starving in China”.  My knowledge, at the time, of starving children was limited to hearing about them over cold, soggy peas and I couldn’t find China on a map. But the American middle-class message, imparted to my generation of Baby Boomers by millions of Great Depression/WW II parents was clear: Waste not, want not; Be grateful for what you have; Remember those less fortunate, which, along with the country’s Judea-Christian values, is likely why the United States ranks as the most charitable, generous nation in the world. 

That generous nature seems to have trickled down to the following generations with a slight twist: If I set up a charitable foundation and give to the less fortunate, I can spend as much money on myself and live as lavishly as I please. To wit… The recent wedding of, according to Vanity Fair, “social media baron”, ala Facebook and Napster, Sean Parker, to singer – songwriter Alexandra Lenas.

A fantasy wedding path into the forest... Photo property of VF.com
A fantasy wedding path into the forest… Photo property of VF.com

Now don’t get me wrong, I’m a free-market capitalist. If you earn it fair and square, it’s yours to spend however you like. Mitt Romney has an elevator in his garage, John Kerry and Teresa Heinz between them own five expensive houses, and David Tepper, of hedge fund fame tore down a perfectly good mansion in the Hamptons to build an obscenely bigger one with a sunken tennis court.

But in shear “I have it so therefore I spend it” fantastical audacity, the Parker-Lenas extravaganza takes the cake, the nine foot wedding cake that is.

A cake fit for a faitytale wedding in the woods. Photo property of VF.com
A cake fit for a fairytale wedding in the woods. Photo property of VF.com

The theme was “Lord of the Rings”medieval and the backdrop was a primordial forest that cost over $4.5 million to rent. The photographs, which appear in the September edition of Vanity Fair magazine and at VF online are simply breathtaking.  They also stretch credulity that mere mortals could create such a scene in the middle of nowhere for the sole purpose of one night’s revelry.

As I clicked through the photographs, followed by reading the story in the magazine; I’m a long-time subscriber, I had mixed emotions about the amount of money expended for such a self-aggrandizing reason. My artist’s soul was mesmerized by the beauty and creativity, the attention to every detail resulting in the closest thing to a living fairytale most of us are likely to ever see. And then there was my practical head which in I heard my mother’s voice saying, don’t you know there are children starving… if not in China, then somewhere.

Press 1 for a Nervous Breakdown…

GetHuman Megaphone Graphic Technology is wonderful except when it isn’t. One of the times it isn’t is when you need information or customer service and you find yourself hopelessly tangled in a maze of “Push 1 if your problem is X” options or even worse, you hear the dreaded “Welcome to the automated attendant service where we have answers for all your frequently asked questions” . No you don’t, and I want to speak to a live person, NOW.

With necessity being the mother of desperation, I recently went online searching for a phone number that would lead me to a human being who could resolve the issue I was having with my Verizon FIOS service.

I’m a pretty savvy online explorer; being a good researcher is the life blood of being a writer. After nearly an hour of clicking every link and every page of the Verizon site map, I came to the conclusion they do not want to have those nasty customers bothering them. There was no information that would lead you to real time answers. Even the “automated attendant” said he wasn’t available. It’s pretty bad when a cartoon character and a computer won’t talk to you.

I turned to Google and it was there that I found a wonderful place; GetHuman.com. Here is a company whose motto is “Get Customer Service Faster and Easier”! It’s FREE….and to make it even better, it works. I typed Verizon FIOS in to the search box and up came a choice of five numbers to call and it even rated them according to site user feedback as to how effective that number is at getting a real person on the phone, average wait time, and satisfactory result of the call: Manna from Heaven.

The first number I dialed produced exactly the desired result, a very nice man who said he was located in Pittsburgh in the Pennsylvania Verizon Call Center, solved my problem in ten minutes. Why that number is not readily provided by Verizon, I have no idea.

So if you’re looking for information on a product or service, or resolution to a problem, I highly recommend going to GetHuman.com. They even have an app for mobile devices. I hope the remainder of your holiday will now be merry and bright…and much more stress free.

Cosmo or Coma: al Qaeda Offers Women Both

Literature is rife with stories of people who made deals with the devil for youth, beauty, riches, or success in exchange for their soul. Usually the devil seeks them out in a moment of weakness, like he did Faust or Joe Boyd in the Broadway hit, “Damn Yankees”. Today, the always adaptable Lucifer entered the communication age with a new way to seduce his victims; a glossy magazine complete with assault rifle on the cover.

al Qaede mag cover When I first read the story that al Qaeda had launched Al-Shamikha, loosely translated to “The Majestic Woman”, aimed at recruiting women jihadists, I thought it was funny: I actually laughed at story lines like how to have a lovely complexion by “not going out more than necessary and always wearing your niqab as protection against the sun”. This had to be a spoof…a parody worthy of Stephen Colbert . But the story kept popping up on MSM sites throughout the day. The laughing stopped when I realized there was no joke.

According to the UK newspaper, “The Independent”, this new version of how to be a mid-east Cosmo girl includes advice on finding the right man ("marrying a mujahideen"), and provides tips on first aid and etiquette, along side interviews with martyr’s wives and praises those who give their lives in the name of a twisted interpretation of Islam. "From martyrdom, the believer will gain security, safety and happiness".

For those readers not quite ready for such a drastic step, it argues the pros and cons of honey facemasks and lobbies against "toweling too forcibly": My goodness we wouldn’t want to damage that lovely skin of yours before we convince you to splatter it in little pieces all over a street or cafe.

In full “media launch” mode, the editors of Al-Shamikha, when asked why they started the magazine, replied, “"Because women constitute half of the population – and one might even say that they are the population since they give birth to the next generation – the enemies of Islam are bent on preventing the Muslim woman from knowing the truth about her religion and her role, since they know all too well what would happen if women entered the field of jihad… The nation of Islam needs women to know what is expected of them."

Media analysts say the idea is to market global jihad with the same slick feel as Cosmopolitan Western culture to young women. So there you have it girls: Launch in to spring with a new lipstick or a new Kalashnikov. Either way you’re bound to make a splash.

Upon Reflection…Pretending to shoot the President is not a game

I’ve spent the past couple of days thinking about the incident in Roseto where the local church carnival made the national news for a game where people shot foam darts at a likeness of President Obama holding a “healthcare bill”.

It’s important in these times of real problems and real dangers to not overreact to things so I thought I’d “sleep on it” for a couple of nights before writing about it.

Seventy-two hours later, I feel exactly the same way as I did the first time I heard about it: What the hell were they thinking? The game company manufactures the thing in the first place, then the parish church in little Roseto no less actually allows the game to be displayed, and then hundreds of people use it shooting at the heart and head of the President before some woman from NJ blows the whistle. That’s a new low, no not the game; well yes, the game, but that we here in Pennsylvania had to have the error of our ways pointed out by someone from New Jersey.

And don’t give me that guff about First Amendment rights. This has nothing to do with what is legally allowed and a lot to do with what’s right in a civilized society. What kind of example are we setting for our children? No wonder bullying and violence are up in school .

More thoughts on this subject in my latest column for The Daily Caller….

A Quick Observation From The Peanut Gallery

girl-scout-red-flag-sash-scouting1921 Honoring one’s social obligations is not always convenient but as my mother used to say, “Good manners is what separates us from lesser creatures”.  (My mother was one-of-a-kind)

Tonight, despite lots of work and a pressing deadline, such an obligation required my attendance, so I washed off the writer’s grime of the past few days, covered the sleep-deprived circles under my eyes with makeup, and went off to the Girl Scout “Take The Lead” dinner at Lehigh Country Club.

The evening began with a reception that included the usual sponsor thank you remarks, followed by a group of really cute little Girl Scouts singing a song. The entire time all this was going on, Allentown’s Mayor Ed Pawlowski sat in the middle of the room, not in the back or off to the side, reading his Blackberry…other than when his and his wife’s name were called, he never looked up once.

Call me old fashioned but I think when you’re in the room, you should also be in the moment…we’re only talking about a span of 15 minutes.

Once seated for dinner, the color guard marched to the stage, presented the flags, and everyone rose to say the Pledge of Allegiance and to sing God Bless America. It was right at about “Land that I love” that Mr. & Mrs. Mayor got up and walked out. Yes, you read this correctly. They couldn’t wait two minutes till the song ended. They got up from their table in the center front of the room and walked out.

When the emcee began to acknowledge the politicos who were in attendance, and the Mayor was no where to be found, the woman said, “Oh someone just told me he had to go to a city council meeting”. She looked perplexed when some people started laughing.

It’s a shame my mother is not here; She could make a lot of money as a consultant to politicians who obviously have no concept of “good manners”…or good politics either.    

Worse Case Scenario

Technology is not my thing; I’m fairly adept at operating my computer and my smartphone…as long as they work the way they’re supposed to. But the minute there’s a problem, I need to call in the experts. As the regular readers of this blog know, I just recently rejoined the blogosphere. Happy to be back and proud of my pretty new blog, I should have known things were going too well.

Last week, as I went to put up a post, my virus alert went off, and I mean it went off…I have a system that literally blares out a loud alarm. I decided to pack it in for the night and try again the next day. When I booted up in the morning, there was a message from a friendly fellow blogger, telling me that when he went to read my blog, he received a warning that the site was corrupted. Now it was time to panic.

I called in my very smart, very nice “blog guru”: It has taken six days to get it all straightened out.

In the midst of this meltdown, my husband and I had dinner with some dear friends that we affectionately refer to as the “international club”. For both business and pleasure, they spend much of their time traveling the world. They are well read, well informed, and very interested in politics.

When I regaled them with the tale of the cyber attack that had taken down my blog along with many other websites hosted on the corrupted server, the story brought forth a unanimous consensus from the group, and in the case of one member who is an international businessman, some inside knowledge, that the physical terrorist attack we all fear, is not the real threat: The true danger lies in the bad guys launching a massive cyber attack that shuts down power grids, ATM machines, Wall Street…the list goes on, succeeding in paralyzing the country.

Apparently, this is not so far-fetched. Turns out that just two months ago, the U.S. government participated in a simulation complete with “operations center” to deal with just such a cyber attack. I guess the good news is that they’re trying to be proactive. The bad news is such an operation is an indication of just how serious the threat must be.

Oh good, another thing to worry about. Well at least my blog is up and running again…for now. 

Technical Difficulties….

Having some serious technical issues with the blog. Thought at first that it had been hacked , which may still be the case. There also seems to be technical issues with platform; not sure if the two things are related.

The “Blog Guru”, that’s not me, it’s a real blog guru who does this for a living, is trying to straighten it all out.

Hope to be back up and running, “soon”. Thanks for checking in.


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