Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Captain Samaritan

I promised myself that I would never forget his name, and now I have - and it bothers me a lot. He was a man I met just once, briefly, about 35 years ago, but the meeting left such an impression that I have never forgotten it, but I want to remember his name.

It was a holiday weekend, Labor Day maybe, and we had just set out on the last day of a 3 day sailing trip from Freeport to Belfast, where my parents lived. The first two days had been miserable, wet and cold, but this day promised to be perfect - sunny and warm, with enough breeze to ensure a brisk sail up Penobscot bay to our destination. We rounded Owl's Head and pointed off toward Isleboro and it was a glorious sail until something quite unexpected happened - the tiller broke clean off at the base. A sail boat is difficult to steer with no tiller but somehow, with just the right combination of skill and good luck, I managed to get the boat pointed toward the mainland and we limped into Camden harbor.

I tied up to a dock at one of the marinas there, but their repair services were closed for the holiday. It was Sunday morning and the prospects for completing the trip before Tuesday were looking dim - until somebody helpfully suggested that I check with Captain Samaritan (which is what I'll call him until I remember his name), and gave me directions to his house, which was just a short walk up the hill from the harbor.

When we arrived uninvited and unexpected at the door, Mrs. Samaritan was very gracious and told us the Captain was not home, but he probably could be found on a particular dock back at the harbor so we headed back down the hill to the side of the harbor opposite the one where Deja Blue was tied up, and that's where we found him. We introduced ourselves and explained our situation, and Captain Samaritan without any hesitation at all replied that there was absolutely nothing he would rather do than help a couple of sailors who were in a fix. He told us to bring the boat over to the dock and he would see what he could do.

As soon as he got a look at the broken tiller and the fittings that secured it to the rudder post he knew exactly what was required. He took us into a workshop that I don't think he owned but he clearly had full access to it and its contents, and he rummaged around for a minute or two looking at old boards and pieces of wood. He settled on an oak board, a 2x6 I think, that clearly had been laying around for quite a while (years, maybe decades) and out of that he fashioned a perfectly functional new tiller, beautiful in its simplicity and elegant in its sturdiness.

We mounted the new equipment without difficulty - it fit perfectly as he knew it would - and within a couple of hours of our arrival in Camden, we were ready to set sail and leave. We offered to pay the Captain for his services but he firmly declined, saying that he wanted nothing for his time and allowing that it wouldn't be fair for him to charge for the oak board since it wasn't his to begin with. He did allow us to buy some flowers for his wife, since it was she that directed us to him. And with that we resumed our journey, feeling sure that we had just met a very special man.

I just wish that I could remember his name.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

"Big Blue" for President!

The 2012 Presidential Campaign is officially underway. President Obama has officially declared that he is running of re-election and presumably there will be no Democratic challengers to oppose him in the primary race. The Republican field of contenders appears to be wide open with an interesting array of challengers vying for their party's nomination although so far my own personal dream ticket of Palin-LePage seems not to be in the running. But Michelle Bachmann appears to be positioning herself as a serious contender so perhaps there is hope that a Tea-Party candidate will be in the running. But still, there seems to be an opportunity for someone else, someone completely new to running for political office but with a proven track record that demonstrates the ability to be a successful chief executive for the nation. Someone like IBM. That's right - IBM, the computer giant, the company that invented bar codes and PCs and built a computer that can play "Jeopardy!".

I know that technically speaking IBM is a corporation but I don't think that poses an obstacle to its being elected to the office of President of the United States. Let's consider the facts:

Section 1 of Article Two of the United States Constitution sets forth the eligibility requirements for serving as President of the United States:

No person except a natural born Citizen, or a Citizen of the United States, at the time of the Adoption of this Constitution, shall be eligible to the Office of President; neither shall any Person be eligible to that Office who shall not have attained to the Age of thirty-five Years, and been fourteen Years a Resident within the United States.

IBM is a corporation, and corporations have been recognized as "persons" by no less an authority than the Supreme Court of the United States: (per Wikipedia)

In the United States, corporations were recognized as having rights to contract, and to have those contracts honored the same as contracts entered into by natural persons, in Dartmouth College v.Woodward, decided in 1819. In the 1886 case Santa Clara County v. Southern Pacific Railroad, 118 U.S. 394, the Supreme Court recognized that corporations were recognized as persons for purposes of the Fourteenth Amendment. Proponents of corporate personhood believe that corporations, as associations of shareholders, were intended by the founders and framers to enjoy many, if not all, of the same rights as would the shareholders acting individually, such as the right to lobby the government, the right to due process and compensation before being deprived of property, and the right, as legal entities, to speak freely. All of these rights have been upheld by the U.S. courts. The corporate personhood aspect of the campaign finance debate turns on Buckley v. Valeo (1976) and Citizens United (2010): Buckley ruled that political spending is protected by the First Amendment right to free speech, while Citizens United ruled that corporate political spending is protected, holding that corporations have a First Amendment right to free speech.

So there you have it - IBM is a corporation, and a corporation is a "person" and it was "born" on June 16, 1911, in Endiciott, NY, as the Computing Tabulating Recording Company which became IBM in 1924. That makes it a "natural born citizen", which has attained the age of 35 Years (100 today, actually) and has been a resident within the United States for way more than fourteen years. Let the "Birthers" try to dispute its eligibility - the Articles of Incorporation are on file in Albany, NY!

IBM has a stellar resume and record of accomplishments that make it well qualified to be President: "They were kind of like a cornerstone of that whole enterprise that has become the heart of the computer industry in the U.S.", according to Bob Djurdjevic, a former IBM employee and president of Annex Research, In their early days they made cheese slicers and machines that read data stored on punch cards, which by the 1930's were keeping track of 26 million Americans for the Social Security program (that's the punch card machines, not the cheese slicers.) IBM introduced the magnetic hard drive in 1956 and the floppy disk in 1971. It created the magnetic strip technology for credit cards and in the 1990's IBM re-engineered itself to compete in fast changing times and it rose to become the world's biggest technology services provider. Damn - the whole U.S. economy as we know it today wouldn't exist without technology developed by IBM! It has annual revenue of around $100 billion so it will be able to finance a campaign without using public funds (it may also be able to balance the national budget.)

There it is: IBM for President. It's eligible, it's qualified, and you can be damned sure it will never tweet a photo of it's genitals to a 17 year-old high school girl or sneak an intern into the Oval Office for a little oral fun. And it knows a hell of a lot more about running a business, and maybe a country, than anyone else in the race. If we can line up Exxon-Mobil as the V.P. running mate, maybe we can just eliminate taxes altogether and run the government on their profits. And I'm sure there will be a place in the Cabinet for Apple.

I'm gonna have some bumper stickers made up!

Happy birthday, Big Blue, and many happy returns!

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Bumper sticker philosphy and other thoughts


Most of my fortune was spent on boats and women; the rest I just pissed away. - Me

If your philosophy fits on a bumper sticker, think harder. - Anonymous

I HATE TAXES - but I like roads, firemen, cops, National Parks, public schools, the Coast Guard, etc., so I pay them anyway. Oh yeah, I hate War, too. - Unknown

"I'm not easy to live with." - Willie Nelson (discussing his four marriages)

A person who is nice to you, but rude to the waiter, is not a nice person - Dave Berry

**Palin/LePage 2012** - (In my dreams)

"We must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex." - Dwight D. Eisenhower

If your dog doesn't like someone you probably shouldn't either. - Unknown

"Brownie, you're doing a heck of a job." - George W. Bush

"Eat me" - Alice in Wonderland/Animal House

Roast your own nuts for Father's Day - Headline in The Times Record 6/14/2011

"Salmon - the other pink meat" - Bumper sticker on a pick-up in my home town.

Monday, June 13, 2011

On male foibles, follies and faux pas

As a man who had done more than my share of really stupid things in the pursuit of female attention, I have a certain amount of sympathy for all the celebrities, athletes, politicians and other news-worthy types who wind up in the headlines after they have been caught doing something outrageous with, to or for a woman (or women) other than their wives. You know who I mean, men like Bill Clinton, Brett Favre, Tiger Woods, Mark Sanford, Chris Lee and, most recently, Anthony Weiner, to name just a few.

Less famous men pull knuckle-head stunts over women all the time but when they (we) get caught it doesn't make the news cycle so only a small circle of family, friends and co-workers know what morons they (we) are. There are consequences of course, small or large, but our relative anonymity protects us from widespread scorn and with luck the incident is soon forgotten and life goes on. I'm not trying to excuse these acts in any way, I'm just saying I know how they can happen (I'll leave it to the professionals to explain WHY they happen.)

The incidents involving men in the public spotlight do raise two questions that I totally don't understand, though:

1. What could possibly make them think that, with all the media attention focused on them and everything they do 24/7, they can get away with it without being discovered?! These men can't take a leak without it being reported on some blog if not in the main-stream media, so why do they think nobody will pick up on a picture of their pecker circulating on the internet? Which gets us to my second question;

2. Why do they think the object of their illicit affection is going to be turned on by naked pictures of various body parts? Now I have to admit to some bias on this point - every morning when I get out of the shower and step in front of the bathroom mirror I am faced with the reflection of my own naked body and nothing I see makes me think, "Gee, I shoud take a picture of that and email it to someone." But still they must know that eventually the whole world is going to be looking at those pictures, and every late night comic is going to be doing bits about them, and yet they still send them - why? Are they really that proud of what they have to offer?

Men have been doing stupid stuff since the days of cavemen (or Adam, depending on your understanding of creation) so maybe it's just that the digital age has opened up new ways of being stupid and getting caught, and the advent of cable news and social media sharing sites has made it a certainty that the incident will be instantly reported.

It's almost enough to make me glad that I am not a young man in the twenty-first century. But still, I'm due for an upgrade on my cell phone - maybe my new one should have a camera...

Friday, June 3, 2011

Civil Discourse and Rational Debate

I read the comics in the newspaper every day - they're my second-favorite feature, right after the crossword puzzle. Today two of the strips touched on a topic that I think about a lot: the state of discourse and debate of issues in the media today. I've reproduced the strips below, with apologies for any copyright violations I may have committed.

I think these comics illustrate nicely the problem that we face when it comes to discussing and resolving the issues that face us today. We can't discuss a topic in a rational way with the objective of arriving at a solution that addresses both sides' interests - now it's, "I'm right and you're an idiot" and there's no middle ground to make room for a negotiated resolution.

This phenomenom is especially prevalent on cable news and the internet where the divide is starkly apparent. In those worlds facts are secondary in importance to strongly held beliefs, and a falsehood if repeated frequently enough becomes fact. And winning the argument becomes more important than discovering and advancing solutions that are good for our nation and its citizens.

So I wonder, how did we arrive at this juncture? When did winning the argument become more important than being right? And when did what's good for me become more important than what's right for all of us? Maybe I'll find the answer in the comics - I certainly won't find it in the news section.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Andrea Carla Michaels Eisenberg (ACME) Fan Club

I've never met Andrea Carla Michaels (nee Eisenberg), but I think she is a woman I could love.

I first encountered her when I started frequenting a blog, Rex Parker Does the NYT Crossword Puzzle, where she frequently posts comments and occasionally fills in for the host. As I read the comments each day I began to notice that hers always stood out as witty, upbeat, often funny and always insightful. And it was apparent that she had many fans among the other posters, too, as there were frequent comments on what @acme had said and even worried queries if she failed to show up on any given day. This, I thought, is someone special.

I continued to admire @acme from afar as I followed the blog, but I couldn't exchange comments with her because I solve puzzles and go to the blog 5 weeks after the puzzle originally appeared in the NYT. Then one day she revealed her email address and I seized on it as an opportunity to contact her just to tell her how much I enjoyed her posts. And she replied! She not only answered my email but she sent a gracious and expansive reply that made me feel she really appreciated hearing from me! It was unexpected but I now understand it was typical Andrea - she genuinely likes people and loves interacting with them.

Since then I've learned quite a lot more about ACME and the more I know the more I love her. And it seems from everything that I have read and observed that she has the same effect on most people - to know Andrea is to love her. So I am here and now officially designating myself as founder and president of the ACME Fan Club - I am sure that all who know her will be eager to join!