Friday, December 30, 2011

A Happy New Year to One and All

Well New Year's Eve is almost here in Penang. I just finished posting New Year's greetings in my two other blogs, Senior Neurons and Retired in Malaysia. It is going to be a very warm New Years Eve here, as was Christmas and every holiday. At times like these I sometimes miss the cold weather and fluffy white snow from back home, but only briefly. Snow is beautiful, when fresh, but you have to drive in in and shovel it. It's good exercise though. Speaking of exercise I managed to drag myself to the gym for the last time in 2011. It was a difficult time, as the A/C wasn't working that well and it was extremely humid.

I suppose just about everyone is planning on some sort of New Year's Eve celebration, either staying home for a quiet early night, partying at a friends home of going out for a night on the town with hundreds of party goers. For me, I am celebrating New Year's Eve with a Mexican flare to include chili and tacos. Of course there will be a lot of beverages as well. After dinner we will watch fireworks over Gurney Drive from our balcony. With all of that Mexican food I don't want to get that close to the fireworks.

I hope that before everyone celebrates the New Year's, resolutions have already been made. Some people will give up or try giving up smoking, some will go on a diet (once again) and many people will start going to the gym to work off excess holiday weight. At the beginning of January gyms are packed with those complying with their resolutions, but by the beginning of February they have given up already. This year, as last year, my New Year resolution is not to make any. This way I never break my resolutions. I hope whatever resolutions anybody they can try hard and keep them, for a happy and healthy 2012.

However you celebrate, or even if you don't I wish all of my family, friends and everyone a very safe, healthy, prosperous and happy New Year. Please celebrate sensibly and drive carefully. I want everyone around for 2012.


                                         HAPPY NEW YEAR 

Thursday, December 29, 2011

My Facebook Friends?

For a long time I paid no attention to Facebook and had no desire to join. Finally I caved in to my nieces, who both had accounts, and joined Facebook. It took me a while to navigate the site and at first I didn't spend too much time on the site. Since I wanted to keep in touch with my nieces and nephews I had to utilize Facebook. Absolutely no one uses snail mail anymore to keep in touch and email is fading, so I had no choice. I befriended my family right away and then began searching for more "friends". I was amazed to find that very, very few friends of my age were on Facebook. I found only a few friends from high school and none so far from the many colleges I attended. I found a long lost relative, who I had not seen in about 30 years. I sent him a friend request and he evidently didn't like my profile and rejected my invitation. Well screw him. I didn't want him as a friend anyway. Most of the friends I have are former colleagues or students living in the US and young people from the gym, whom I have met here in Penang.

I get friend requests from quite a few people I do not know and have never heard of. This really intrigued me until I checked out the number of friends they had. I have seen some people who have friends in the hundreds and even thousands. I have about 139 friends. I really don't like to call them friends, because I consider them to be Facebook acquaintances.  What is really sad it that these people with hundreds of friends actually think they are really friends. Do they have such a sad life that they have to ask people they don't know to be their friend? Is their self esteem so low that they have to collect artificial friends to feel wanted or popular?

Many people on Facebook post a lot of nonsense or crap which I don't think anyone cares for.  Some people publish a post every time they fart or or have something to eat. I think a lot of people post just because they are lonely and need attention. I must admit that I have been bored and posted something just to see if anyone would respond. Most of the time I usually received only one response, probably out of pity.

I know with the hundred or so friends that I have I am not that interested in much that is posted by them, so I hide them. I also know that probably all, except for family and a few close friends hide me too. I can tell on special occasions such as my birthday, Christmas or other holidays, when I receive very few special greetings. When I first began to write blogs, all of the information I gathered from the internet said that promoting your blog on Facebook and other social networks would greatly increase traffic. Well this is only true if you friends on Facebook actually pay attention to what you post. I get about 10 or so hits on my blogs from Facebook, which is okay I guess. Some of my friends here in Malaysia don't post in English, so I can't understand what they are doing. And they can't speak English well enough to understand what I am talking about.

Personally it doesn't bother me that most of my "friends" ignore me or hide my posts, because they are only acquaintances, not real friends and I don't expect them to be interested in my life. I am not crushed. But sadly I think there are many young people, and probably a few lonely old farts, who really think that their Facebook friends really are their friends and really care.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Oh My God, I Am Old.

Even though I retired about 4 years ago I never really considered myself a senior citizen or old. I just considered myself retired at a young age.  I still referred to retirees older than myself as "old farts", especially when they got in my way in traffic. I can still remember my mother yelling at my father for calling a fellow motorist an old fart, even though my father was probably older than the victim of the verbal abuse. I have been living here in Penang, Malaysia since I retired and somehow I think I have gotten older.

I go to the gym 3 or 4 times a week, but somehow I can't do what I did before I retired. My body has forgotten how to bound up the steps or climb over a traffic barrier. My mind can still do it, but not the body. My bladder seems a hell of a lot smaller than it used to. Sometimes I find myself forgetting my cell phone, my watch, wallet or keys, but I think I have always done that. If you ask me what I had for dinner yesterday, it might take me a while to remember. Either I am starting to forget more, or my life just isn't that interesting.

I am finding that I don't need as much sleep as I used to, which really doesn't bother me, even though I have to get up to pee a number of times during the night. What is really strange though is when I dream, I am in my thirties probably, no gray hair, very physically fit and at the perfect weight. But when I wake up and look into the mirror I find that I have turned into an old fart. Strange.

Here in Malaysia the retirement age is 55 and anyone over that age is considered really old. When you read in the newspaper about someone in their late fifties or sixties, they are referred to as elderly. I remember once when a reporter interviewed me about a missing manhole cover in my neighborhood, I gave her my name and told her not to call me "an elderly foreigner". She didn't. One thing that annoys me here about being an older person is that they are called "auntie" and "uncle" by people even a few years younger. Excuse me, but when someone calls me uncle I can only think of a senile, perverted old man, who likes little kids to call him uncle and sit on his lap.

I can remember how when political correctness came into vogue and the names of many things changed. I guess I was still in high school or college when "retirement communities" or "senior citizen housing" or "assisted living homes" became popular. One of the older terms I was used to was "nursing homes", which is still being used today.  I was shocked when I first moved to Penang and I drove past a facility with a big sign that read " Penang Old Folks Home". Now that's way beyond politically incorrect. Scary is more like it. Am I doomed to be put into an old folks home?

Well Penang may be a little behind the times in the appellation of residences for seniors, but at least there are many restaurants that offer senior citizen discounts for those over 55 or 60.  I still have my own teeth and I still can eat. Luckily my middle finger still works and I can still remember my  collection of 4 letter words, which comes in handy when trying to cross the road and nobody even slows down, or when getting on an elevator and I am almost trampled by young people exiting. As long as my teeth, my mouth, my middle finger and my mind still works, I guess I will have to accept the fact that some body parts are wearing down and I might be becoming an old fart.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Merry Christmas or Should I Say Happy Holidays?

I will be celebrating my fourth Christmas in Malaysia soon. I have been asked by family and friends many times, if it is the same celebrating Christmas in a tropical country. I usually answer "not much, except for the temperature". Recently I have been thinking of the differences and I will try to explain them to everyone back in the US.

The most obvious difference is the weather. I grew up in Watertown, NY where there was usually snow and cold temperatures for Christmas. I lived and worked for many years in Boston, where there is also a lot of snow and cold temperatures, but not as cold and snowy as in Watertown. Here in Penang, Malaysia, the Christmas season has sunshine, temperatures in the 90's and fairly high humidity. Some may think that this is the biggest difference, but it's not. I would say the biggest difference is one of attitude and tolerance.

I grew up as a Roman Catholic in Watertown, a small city in upstate New York. I would say that this area is very predominantly Christian, as is the rest of the USA. I can remember going Christmas shopping downtown and the few malls that were there at the time. It was a good feeling, hearing the Christmas Carols as you shopped and seeing all of the decorations and  greetings of "Merry Christmas" in the stores, in the streets and on peoples' houses. There was a nativity scene in Public Square in the downtown area of the city. You wished everyone you met a Merry Christmas and they wished you Merry Christmas in return. I shared these greetings with everybody, including my Jewish friends. Well that doesn't happen any more. No I am not talking about Malaysia. I am talking about the US.

In the years after I left college and my home town the celebration of Christmas changed. I do not consider myself a religious person, but I do know what Christmas is. Christmas is the holiday which celebrates the birth of Jesus Christ. It has been traditionally celebrated on December 25th, since the middles ages, in Europe. As European Christians spread to to North and South America and even Asia, this tradition followed them. Each country's culture celebrates Christmas in a different way, with different customs and food. My family was no different. We had our own traditions, with Tom and Jerry's, made by my father, to drink and moms homemade cranberry sauce for dinner. Now my brother Pete makes the Tom and Jerry's for the family. The tradition continues.

By the time I got to Boston, the country began to change. I worked in a Jewish hospital and saw Christmas turn into "the Holidays". The hospital and department Christmas party became a "Holiday Party", even after the hospital was no longer Jewish affiliated. Even wishing a person Merry Christmas was frowned upon. Sadly people who were raised in a Christian family and were in positions of leadership strongly and spinelessly discouraged using the word Christmas. The more you shopped in the malls during Christmas, the less you saw the word, Christmas.

Is this just political correctness gone astray or just complete stupidity and ignorance? I think the latter. I remember in the hospital you could still wish your Jewish friends a Happy Hanukkah, but you were discouraged from wishing your other friends a Merry Christmas. Christmas trees became holiday trees, Christmas parties became holiday parties, Christmas vacation became a holiday vacation, Christmas cookies became holiday cookies and Christmas presents became holiday presents! What a crock of dung! I suppose next Jesus Christ will become Jesus Holiday!  This country was founded on religious freedom and tolerance, and what is happening with Christmas is totally out of step with what our country stands for.  Many Americans fought and died for the right of people to practice their religion and to celebrate their cultures and traditions. This country is made up of people from every religion and from every country of the world. Their customs and traditions are what make this country a great, diverse and tolerant country. Who the hell are these people telling us we can't celebrate a holiday the way our families have done for generations?

Reasons given for changing "Christmas" to "the Holiday Season" are that saying "Merry Christmas" may offend someone or that saying "Happy Holidays" is more inclusive.  How can a greeting which imparts nothing but kindness, goodwill and happiness offend someone? How can wishing that someone have the same happiness and joy that you have, not be inclusive?  Here in Malaysia, which is a predominantly Muslim country, Hari Raya, Christmas, Chinese New Year and Deepavali are celebrated by everyone, regardless of race or religion. It's is part of the culture and no one is offended. Being forced to say Happy Holidays, during my Christmas holidays is like a bride and groom sending out xeroxed thank you notes for their wedding gifts. Insensitive, thoughtless, ignorant and selfish.

Cinqo de Mayo, Chinese New Year, Ramadan, Hari Raya, Valentine's Day, Halloween and any other religious or ethnic tradition that may offend you.

So in the meantime, I would like to wish all of my friends and family and all of my followers here a very Merry Christmas. If I have indeed offended anyone, I sincerely and honestly don't really give a damn. Spend your next Holiday Vacation in North Korea.


Friday, December 9, 2011

Do We Really Have a Choice?

Well election season is here in full force in the United States. While writing a post for my other blog, Senior Neurons, I started thinking about our political system. We have one of the longest, if not the longest, political campaign season of any country. It is certainly the most expensive, costing billions of dollars.  It is funny how we Americans are so arrogantly proud of our democratic election processes and think we are the only democratic country of the world. We are neither the largest democracy, nor the oldest. India is by far the largest democracy and probably the title of the oldest democratic form of government goes to the Six Nation Tribes of the Iroquois, the Native Americans of the US. Iceland has a very long history going back to the early 900's. Of course we all know, at least I hope we know, that democracy started in ancient Greece. America has it's own concept of democracy, which is not necessarily shared by the other democratic countries of the world.

During our election campaigns we are always reminded by politicians of both parties of how lucky Americans are, compared to Communist countries, such as China. We are told that in China and other communist countries or countries run by authoritarian governments, the people may vote in elections, where there is only one party on the ballot. We are told that we are lucky because we have a choice. Do we really? Are we really that much different than a communist country? Yes it is true there is only one party, the Communist Party. But in the United States we have two parties, Democrats and Republicans. Big deal. One more party!

Sure there have been elections where there has been a candidate from another party. We call this person the third party candidate. Where are the fourth, fifth, sixth and so on party candidates. If they exist we don't hear about them. Why? The answers probably are that these parties don't have any money and the media pays no attention to them. Another Abe Lincoln or FDR could be out there belonging to a party with no assets. We would never know.

That brings to mind something else we hear about quite often during elections. That is "any kid can grow up to be president of the US". Really? Let's take a look at that. If you look at all of the candidates in this years election and all previous elections in modern times, you find that they are extremely wealthy and have extremely wealthy backers. So in reality only the very rich can afford to run for president. According to the US constitution only citizens born in the US can become president, so naturalized citizens cannot run for president. How about a gay person becoming president? That's a laugh.  Gay people can't even marry each other in this country or sponsor their same sex partner to immigrate to this country. There is no chance in hell one will become president. How about a Muslim becoming president? Absolutely not. In order to be president you have to be a church going, bible thumping Christian to even run for the presidency. 1960 was the first time a Roman Catholic was elected with JFK becoming president. I remember as a teenager all of the Southern Baptists and other fundamentalists predicting the Pope would take over the country. Now Mitt Romney is fighting the bigotry of these so called Christians. The republican candidates are constantly questioning just how Christian their opponents are. So if you are Jewish, Buddhist, Islamic, Hindu or God forbid an atheist, forget about ever becoming president. Up until the last election we all thought it would be impossible for a Black person to become president. Well Obama broke that barrier and he's been paying for it every since. Republican conservatives and other racists and bigots have been trying to destroy him from the day he became president.

Okay now let's just look at an average person, who happens to have a superior intellect and unquestionable honesty. He hasn't got a chance. To be a good politician you have to have a certain level of arrogance and a hidden streak of dishonesty. Remember Jimmy Carter? Nobody liked him because he was too honest. Now no one is perfect, but in order to run for president you have to have an appearance of perfection. In each election campaign you find at least one candidate who is forced to drop out over accusations of sexual misconduct or some illegal financial dealings. Herman Cain was the latest victim. The rest of the candidates are by no means angels. They just have enough money, lawyers and strategies to keep the skeletons in their closets hidden. They also probably have some good dirt on their opponents that keep them quiet.

So what is the difference between the communist system and ours when it comes to elections? Well in communist countries like China the candidates for leadership must be a member in good standing of the Communist party, which means you have to strictly adhere to the Communist ideology. In American politics, you can be president as long as you are Christian, rich, preferably white and a man, definitely heterosexual ( or have the outward appearance of being straight), anti-immigrant, a little bit crooked and against any kind of social change benefiting minorities. All others need not apply.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Leave the Kids at Home.

The other night I went out to eat at a neighborhood restaurant and expected to have a very relaxing evening. I was going out alone, as all my friends were busy and I just wanted a quiet evening alone, so I could enjoy having a few beers and taking in the scenery. It was about 8 o'clock in the evening and when I first entered the restaurant there were only a couple of lone patrons, also sitting alone.

I must tell you that I live in Penang, Malaysia, where most people go to food courts and hawker stands where the local food is very good and cheap. They also have the tendency to bring their children with them. The restaurant I went to was more or less a medium priced restaurant selling both local and Malaysian style Western food.  I was enjoying a cold beer and a plate of beef stew and was thinking of ordering a few more beers after dinner and just kicking back relaxing. Suddenly the calm ambiance was shattered by a family of 2 parents, 2 grandparents and 4 screaming miserable little brats,under the age of 4.

One kid was stomping up and down the wooden floor as her grandfather stupidly looked with delight at her obnoxious behavior. One little boy was not crying, but just screaming for no reason at all. The other 2 kids were pounding on the aquarium in the restaurant, terrifying the poor fish. I am sure the owner did not appreciate this, as these fish were by no means cheap. The ignorant adults made no attempt to discipline the children, but smiled and actually encouraged their behavior.  I was amazed at their stupidity and complete lack or respect for the other patrons of the restaurant. They definitely lacked any kind of parenting skills.

At home this type of behavior would not be condoned in a restaurant other that fast food chains or family friendly restaurants. If someone wants a quiet meal back home they know better than to go to such family friendly restaurants. Also back home, it would be considered abusive or neglectful to keep children awake so late at night. Most children I know of go to bed about 8 PM, but here it is quite common to see them falling asleep when they are out with their parents at 11 or 12 at night. I know this is a different culture, but I still think forcing kids to stay up all night and not disciplining them for unacceptable behavior in public is a form of neglect.

Needless to say I did not order another beer, but instead I went home in complete disgust. The only thing that made me feel better was the knowledge that these ignorant adults will have to live with these kids, who are destined to grow up to be selfish, spoiled and undisciplined teenagers.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Are Those Walmart Shoppers in the Internet Pictures and Videos for Real?

I am sure that almost everyone who has an email account and friends has received an email with an attachment that includes numerous photos of strange or weird looking people, who are supposedly shopping at Walmart. The people in these pictures have to be the oddest people around. Mostly they are extremely overweight or obese, yet dress as though they are petite young teenage girls. They oddly enough think that they are gorgeous. Many of these people come out in public, minus their teeth and wearing outfits, most of us would not be caught dead in. Obviously none of these people have purchased a mirror on  their previous trips to Walmart.

My nephew Jon loves these photos and is the main source of the photos I receive. Sometimes I think he secretly wishes he could dress like that and join these people shopping. Who knows maybe he does. My question is where the hell do these people come from? Why do you only see these people at Walmart, not in K-Mart, Sears or Target?  I remember the first time I ever went into Walmart, a number of years ago, when I was living in Boston. I had to drive a few miles south of Boston on Route 1 to Walpole, MA. Walpole is a quiet, upper middle class town with a population of about 24,000 people, living in mainly single family homes. When I entered the parking lot of Walmart I noticed a variety of automobiles, including Mercedes, BMW's, Hummers, Lexus, numerous rather expensive SUVs and pickup trucks and some older cars. Frankly I thought the stereotype of the Walmart shopper was overly exaggerated. Upon entering the store I was proven wrong. My first thought was that these people just crawled out from under a rock. I saw many far from good looking older women wearing fake leopard skin outfits with gaudy sequined jackets and garish outlandish eye glasses. I was more amazed at the bizarre appearing people than the great bargains in the store.

I often wondered where these people came from. I didn't think they lived in Walpole, as I had never seen them in any of the surrounding stores. Where were the drivers of the expensive luxury vehicles? Where do these people go when they are not shopping at Walmart? I had a theory. I have a friend who worked with me who constantly berated Walmart and the people who shopped there. Now everyone knows you can't beat the prices at Walmart, especially on electronics, cleaning supplies and things you use every day. For those people, like my friend, who wouldn't be caught dead in Walmart, I think they disguise themselves to shop there and not be seen by people they may know. This would explain why one never sees these shoppers anywhere else, but Walmart.

I still love looking at the pictures my nephew and others send me and when I go back to the US I still love to go to Walmart, for the scenary and the bargains. The bottom line is Walmart has a great variety of products at an affordable price. As far as the Walmart shoppers go, I can only say "beauty is in the eye of the beholder".


Thanks to You Tube for this video.

Ablog about liberal politics andsocial issues