Theft or righteous indignation?

I had a meeting this morning. The meeting venue and a CVS (a pharmacy chain) share a parking lot, and, as usual, I arrived early, so I decided to pop into CVS to pick up a case of water.

I walked in, noticed a line, muttered the usual “fuck me” almost under my breath, and proceeded to the drinks aisle.

When I returned to the front with my water, the line had not moved. The same two people were at the cashiers, one doing something with coupons, and the other engaging in what appeared to be, but could not have been, some kind of complex banking transaction.

Not being a patient person, I stood in line, presumably looking exasperated. After a minute or so, I pulled out my phone, checked the time and saw that I had 7 minutes to get to my meeting.

After standing in line for another couple minutes, I was about to give up. The same customers were still at the registers, and, although “Marge” had called for backup, there were no new cashiers in sight.

As I was deciding whether or not to leave, the young lady a couple of people in front of me in line walked out. Understandable, but I noticed that she took the item she was going to purchase with her. The buzzer went off when she went through the detectors by the door, but she just kept on walking. And you know, what? I don’t blame her. What’s more, none of the store employees seemed to blame her, either, because they never even looked up when the alarm sounded.

About 30 seconds later, when the line still had not moved, except to fill the gap left by the righteously indignant thief, I put down the case of water in the middle of the floor and walked out, too.

I could never bring myself to take anything the way that young lady had, but it’s not a moral thing. Oh, now, my moral code would not allow me to simply steal items from a store, but in this case, I think both the young lady and I would have been justified to feel a bit of righteous indignation, and that deserves compensation.

What the thief’s compensation was, I do not know, because I never saw the item clearly, but surely a $3.99 case of water is not too much to ask for CVS wasting 5 minutes of my time, is it?

Fwiw, I went back after my meeting. The case of water I’d left in the middle of the floor had been moved, so I suppose the CVS employees are not totally apathetic about their jobs. There was no line. I purchased my water.

What kind of world is this, though, when we feel the need for immediate satisfaction? Difficult customers can jam up a line — that is perfectly understandable — and yet, I felt, as did apparently the young thief, that I deserved some kind of consideration for suffering through the jam.

I am struggling with my feelings about this incident.

–Steve Circeo

Edward L. Carroll

It was Sunday. Lisa and I sat on the couch having just finished a brunch of  Acorn Squash and Spinach Torte and English Muffins with Roasted Garlic Jelly. Lisa passed on the Roasted Garlic Jelly and went with homemade Strawberry Jam instead. I was deep into watching The Rifleman and (once again) marveling at how the relationship between Lucas McCain and his son, Mark, was unlike anything on television. The love between father and son would not be remarkable today but this was 1958? Soon, Chuck Connors would be relegated to only “bad guy” roles but during those years, he loved that boy unreservedly and was a man of impeccable honor.

I’ve been nursing a rotator cuff injury for quite a while and it was acting up a bit. The two Aleve I had taken earlier weren’t doing anything to change that. I probably slept on it wrong and this was my punishment.

Lisa’s phone rang.

I heard her say “Hello” in the voice that means Leah Logan was calling. It’s a genuinely happy “Hello” and said in a pitch that only those who’ve actually spoken to my wife would believe. I turned to look at her because I like to see her face light up when she talks to Leah. But it didn’t. Her face sort of dropped and her eyes went out of focus. I think she said “What?” to Leah but, honestly, I don’t remember. I do remember that she looked at me and said, “Ed died”. For a second I thought, “Ed who?” even though we only know one Ed. Lisa told Leah that she was going to put her on speakerphone and poked the face of the iPhone. Leah’s voice jumped out of it.

She told us about talking to Terri who is Ed’s significant other. She told us abut how it happened. That, Ed had a double bypass two weeks ago but was doing well. She said something about a pulmonary embolism. She said some other words but, again, I just don’t remember because it all ended with “Ed died”.

Ed and Terri just retired. Around the end of last year, they sold Terri’s townhouse in Silver Spring and moved to a place they bought in Florida. Terri was a government employee and Ed was an Ironworker. He built buildings and large structures for a living. He got up early and went to work in the cold or heat or rain or snow. It didn’t matter. Ed was one of the guys that made things that you could put your hands on or live in or work in. He didn’t move paper around for a living. He created.

And, Ed was a fisherman. Oh my, was he a fisherman. Not the kind that likes to go and dip a line in the water. Not the kind that buys a boss Bass Boat and blasts around the Potomac harassing the fish on weekends. He had the boss Bass Boat but Ed was a student of fishing. He studied fishing. He entered tournaments. And, sometimes, he won. The smallies should start biting on the Potomac in a big way pretty soon and for the first time in years, they’ll do it without Ed.

During the hot, muggy summers in DC, we spend just about every weekend over at John and Leah’s house. We cook food, play some tunes and swap stories about the week and current events. If there was a golf tournament of interest, it would be on in the family room. As summer turns to fall, we do the same thing. The golf tournaments are replaced by NFL games but the food and stories would stay the same.

Ed would tell us about life in New York. He’d tell me about snow in New York and I would tell him about snow in Colorado. He would just sort of chuckle and shake his head. He’d talk about fishing and flat track racing motorcycles. And, eventually, Ed would end up in the corner of the couch, have a few beers and nod off. We’d all kind of smile and whisper a few jokes at Ed’s expense but never loud enough to wake him. Ed had to get up early to go to work. Let him sleep. Eventually, Terri would decide it was time for him to go and off they went.

We bought this house on the Oneida River. I was convinced that Ed would come up and teach me how to fish for walleye and muskies and whatever else is in this river. We talked about it a few times and Ed told me about fishing on Oneida Lake and the Oneida River and in the Fingerlakes Region. He said he and Terri were going to come up and he’d show me.

It would have been grand.

Charlie Barnes, Sr.

Charlie BarnesAt my Mom’s place today, she pulled out a photo of my father (he passed away in 1981) that I had not seen in 30 years. Talk about an emotional body slam! As soon as I laid eyes on that picture I remembered, like it was yesterday, the frame the picture had been in, where the picture had been displayed in the house, and even who took the photo.

Wow. It took me ten minutes to regain my composure. Those of you that knew my Dad, know that this photograph pretty much shows the man. He was serious, yet very friendly. And if you were his friend, he would move the world for you. Above all he had his WORD. He never made excuses…he just always kept his word.

Charlie Barnes Sr

He knew EVERYBODY in Williamsburg. In this picture, like always there was no place he could go where he was not leaning out of the truck window talking to someone, sharing a laugh or giving advice, offering a ride or offering a hand. He has been gone 32 1/2 years and, damn, I miss him!

– Charlie Barnes

Pay Equity: Hiding the problem behind rhetoric

It is a matter of liberal orthodoxy that women in the United States make 77 cents for every dollar earned by men. That number is repeated so often that it has become a sort of mantra when discussing gender discrimination. I’ve always been a bit suspicious of the number because it violates my primary rule for any statistic cited by folks at the ends of our ideological divide. When “Liberals” or “Conservatives” quote a statistic and don’t provide clarifying context, you can be sure they are trying to bend the statistic to their own ideological purposes. And the “77 cents for every dollar” quote fits into that category.

First, let me state clearly that the statement “Women make 77 cents for every dollar earned by men” is absolutely true. It is not subject to dispute. Where it does get fuzzy is when we don’t say what that means. When I say it is “absolutely true”, that’s what I mean. If you take the average wage earned by a woman and the average wage earned by a man, the woman will make 77 cents for every dollar earned by men. It is an absolute measurement and lacks nuance. For this reason, it makes a great weapon AGAINST any argument for pay equity.

The President and his cohorts like to hang their hat on the statistic that women “make 77 cents for every dollar a man earns.” In and of itself, this is accurate. In actuality, it is a lie by omission. Obama would have you believe that women working the same hours, in the same career, and with the same educational background are somehow being short-changed and discriminated against. They are not, and I can prove it. When adjusting for quantifiable variables, there is almost no significant difference in pay.

– Jason Scheurer,, The 77-cent Gender Wage Gap Lie

Mr. Scheurer admits the statistic is true then tells us that President Obama was lying. How does he get away with it? By telling us what the President meant even though President Obama didn’t say any of those things. And there is the trouble with the equity narrative. It allows opponents of pay equity to put up a smokescreen that is very effective with the average American. They scream that the statistic is based on false assumptions and are able to point to misleading advertising by supporters to bolster their case. They say it loud and they say it often.

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY)
From the website of Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY)

What Mr. Scheurer and his cohorts fail to tell you is that their definition of “no significant difference in pay” is about a 9 percent difference.

Now, if 9 percent doesn’t seem like a lot to you, consider receiving an 9 percent pay cut. Now project that over your entire working life. Every raise you receive would be 9 percent less. When you change jobs, your starting salary would be 9 percent less. Your contribution (and your employer’s matching contribution) would be 9 percent less with a corresponding decrease in overall return. This is the reality for the almost half of the American workforce that is female. And in four out of ten families, that female is the primary breadwinner. That 9 percent has a very real and very wide effect on that family and this economy. As women increase their share of the workforce, the effect of this 9 percent difference will become more pronounced. It will drive overall wages down (I suspect it has but don’t have the resources to prove it), and stagnate our economy (ditto).

We all have a stake in making sure that everyone is paid fairly for the work they do. Our economy depends on it.

Let’s talk about the 9 percent difference and get that addressed. NOW. Pay Equity is a problem. It is a large problem. It might not be a 23 cent problem but it is a 9 cent problem. So, tell me again why it’s OK to pay a woman 9 percent less than a man for the same work?

– Eliot

How to have a good time at South by Southwest

It’s that time of year again here in South-Central Texas — time for the South by Southwest, or SXSW, as it’s now known, music festival.

The two weeks of SXSW — which includes film and interactive media components — are a perfect time for residents of Austin, Texas, where the festival is held, to get the hell out of town. If you are one of the Austinites who stays in town, you will notice that the streets are even more congested than usual and your neighbors are more likely than not to have some strange-looking temporary houseguests.

I live about an hour south of Austin, in San Antonio, and, although I am a huge music lover, I have always endeavored to avoid Austin during SXSW, even when my small company decided to help out a few of our favorite local bands by sponsoring a showcase for the past few years.

However, this year my new position as COO of Medina River Records is propelling me into the human traffic snarl that is SXSW.

But, wait! There’s a way out! I can make an appearance at a southtown venue where one of our acts, Rod Melancon, is performing. It should be less crowded and more accessible. Perfect. I can put in some facetime, see Rod perform, and then head back to my cozy hovel far away from the madness.

I wrote all the above before I attended the Grand Ole Austin showcase at Maria’s Taco Xpress, lovingly presented by KG Music Press, Matt Farber Productions, and Carolina Chickadee Presents. I’m back and, I have to say, I can’t wait until next year, because that was probably the best day of music I’ve had since I came to Texas in 2003.

First let me explain about Maria’s Taco Xpress as a music venue. You have to understand, Maria’s is in Austin, which claims to be the “live music capital of the world” (that’s Austin’s official motto — you can argue with the city council about it, if you like). While “Taco Xpress” implies a rather small, dive-y restaurant, maybe even a drive-through place, I know from my experience with Sam’s Burger Joint in San Antonio that venue names can be deceiving. Maria’s is, in fact, a beautiful spot to hold a one-day festival. There is plenty of good food available, ample parking, a large covered patio area with a cool stage. The bar is fairly fully stocked (alas, no Jameson) and the seats are comfortable enough.

Secondly, I should mention that I have a notoriously low tolerance for music that hurts my ears. By way of example, Terry Allen is a Texas icon and I had tickets to see him for the first time several months ago. I looked forward to it for weeks. However, on the night of the show, the opening act was so atrociously outside my music-I-can-tolerate boundary that I left before Mr. Allen took the stage. That’s how I roll.

Not having been to Maria’s before, I went up to Austin very early to beat the traffic. I grabbed a drink and plunked my butt down into a table at the front — I figured I might as well try to enjoy myself while I waited for Rod and his band to take the stage.

Sergio Webb and David Olney
Sergio Webb & David Olney

The first act (I’ll say “act”, because some were bands, some were duos, some were solo acoustic) was okay. The second was pretty good. The third — Sergio Webb and David Olney — blew me away, and that set the stage for the rest of my day.

I had long been a fan of Olney, and knew of Olney and Webb because of a superb live album (Live at Norm’s River Roadhouse 1) from a few years ago, but sitting a mere 10 feet away always makes live music better for me. The set was truly magical. With only 25 minutes to perform, the duo worked their way through their best songs and left me wanting more.

After that, I found myself sitting and enjoying each act, even when the music was not to my taste (i.e. traditional country).

By the time Rod Melancon and his band took the stage, I was ready for greatness, and I got it.

Oh, oh, oh, wait, let me back up. Did I mention that I only had 3 hours of sleep the night before? Loving the day as I was, I was running out of gas around 3:30. I asked the woman sitting at my table — I had a steady flow of strangers-as-table-guests that day (what am I, approachable now?) — if she knew of a coffee shop around. She was in from L.A., so, no, she didn’t, and I didn’t, so I grabbed a cup of Maria’s coffee. A large cup. It was slightly old, but not terrible, and it did the trick!

Anyway, Rod was on stage with his band. He’d picked up one of my favorite Austin guitar players, Eric Hisaw, for this gig. Rod plays good old rock-n-roll, and Hisaw does that beautifully. As I said, the set went great. Here’s a video I shot with my phone.

As Rod’s set ended, that was my cue to go ahead and leave, but I found myself hanging around. How could I leave, really, when Blackie and the Rodeo Kings were due up in an hour or so and Charlie Faye would play just a bit after that?

I won’t bore with you any longer with all the details, but, suffice to say, I’m happy I stayed to the end of the Grand Ole Austin showcase. It showed me that SXSW can be really cool, but good music is only part of the equation. The music has to be presented in a decent place with a reasonable crowd that actually allows you to hear what’s happening on stage. The Grand Ole Austin showcase at Maria’s Taco Xpress filled that bill nicely!

– Steve Circeo

Protect your child and our’s

Nothing can change the mind of a parent who believes there’s any chance their child might suffer a permanent learning disability as the result of a vaccine (which is weird because diseases like measles can kill kids?). These parents don’t believe in science. They believe in anecdotes from their friends and neighbors. They want something to blame, and the timing of the vaccine and their child’s ailments makes sense to them. Screw the evidence and screw the scientific method.

– Kristen Philipkoski, Gizmodo

Questions asked and answered. One man’s opinion on another man’s life.

M. Scott Grohocki-Proctor who writes on various issues for the Riverhouse Chronicles put a series of questions to Randy Rhule about his attitude toward homosexuals. Our hope is to start a civil conversation so that both sides can get a better understanding about the other outside of the rancor and partisanship. Randy is an old friend of mine from back in high school. He is a jeweler, a self-identified Conservative and a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. His thoughtful and respectful comments are important to hear and understand. I want to personally thank him for taking the time to answer Scott’s questions. We will try to have more features like this.
– Eliot
Scott ProctorScott:    You stated that if homosexuals were less in everyone’s face perhaps that would lead to them being less uncomfortable in life. I am interested in where the line is drawn. Do you think it should be acceptable for homosexuals to kiss in public? Do you think it should be acceptable for homosexuals to hold hands in public? Do you think it should be acceptable for homosexuals to use a term of endearment for their partner in public (i.e. Honey, Baby, My Love)? Would it be offensive to you to see a man with flowers in his hand greeting another man at the airport? If a homosexual were seeing off his partner, a soldier going overseas for a year, would it be appropriate if they hugged? Cried? Told each other that they love each other within earshot of others? If a partnered man has a hyphenated name such as I do, and they are asked by a coworker why they have a hyphenated name, should they be honest or lie?
Randy:  No problem with any (of that).
Scott: Do you think it should be acceptable for a homosexual to have a photo of their partner on their desk at the office? What about a flag or other expression of their homosexuality?
Randy: Personally, I can’t put a flag of heterosexual on my desk. I would not even if I could. What is the “norm” in a society is often left out in that sense. I don’t mind it in a parade, but on your desk, in the work place where others can see it and be upset or angry, to me, is a bit of the in your/my face kind of things which I think are not necessary for you or for me. If it is there with the blessing of all of the other employees then that would be an exception. Think of it like me displaying on my desk a flag or poster of a verse from the Bible which denounces same sex relations. Maybe a black man with a black power flag. Or a white man with a white power (flag) or swastika flag or confederate flag. Not something anyone needs at work. Keep them at home.
Scott: Do you think it is acceptable for a homosexual to beaten/fag bashed just because he/she is a homosexual?
Randy: No.
Scott: Do you think it would be acceptable for a homosexual to be beaten if they mistakenly flirted with/came on to a heterosexual?
Randy: No.
Scott: Do you think homosexuals should be able to live wherever they wish or should they be limited to gay neighborhoods?
Randy: Anywhere.
Scott: Do you think employers should be able to fire a good hardworking employee if it is discovered that they are homosexual?
Randy: No
Scott: If my partner, a paramedic, were severely injured at work, should I be able to visit him in the hospital?
Randy: Yes
Scott: If my partner were dying in the hospital, would it be acceptable for me to hold his hand and tell him how much I love him? What if a Christian nurse came into the room?
Randy: OK by me, I don’t know, obviously about the nurse, but I would think that if she/he is in the nursing field, she/he knows that there will be different situations and scenarios that will present themselves and it goes with the territory.
Scott: If my partner were to pass away, should his family be able to come into our home and take half of our stuff away?
Randy: I think there would need to be a decision beforehand about that. I would think that a will would uncomplicate that sort of thing.
Scott: Is it ok for a heterosexual child to be beaten up because they have homosexual parents?
Randy: Of course not.

Remember when we had to remember things?

CirceoI woke up this morning, and, as always, I looked at the clock. It displayed the correct time. That is not so astonishing, because the primary purpose of a clock is to display the correct time. But, wait, daylight saving (not “savings” — how does that even make sense?) time kicked in last night.

In years past, people would end all conversations the week before the arrival of DST with a cheerful “Don’t forget to set your clocks ahead this weekend!”, and we’d do it, usually before going to bed the night before, to ensure all the clocks in the house were accurate on the designated day.

Now my primary clocks are cable boxes, and my primary watch is my phone, so there’s no need to remember when DST starts or ends — my devices automatically update and tell me.

In fact, there’s hardly a reason to remember much of anything any more.

I used to have a friend who was the go-to guy for music answers. He was the person who could remember who had a hit with “The Lion Sleeps Tonight” or “Love Grows Where My Rosemary Grows”. Other friends of mine were living repositories of trivia in such categories as movies, baseball, and history. Their services are no longer required.

Remembering has become passé. Well, maybe we should still keep our boss’s wife’s name or our home address inside our brains, but knowledge of trivia is a dying art, because — as long as we can get a cell signal (you did switch to Verizon, right?) — we have all that information available at our fingertips.

We don’t need to remember phone numbers (they’re stored in the phone), how to get anywhere (we have GPS), who sang which or acted in what or played for whom … nothing. We can simply look it up.

Albert Einstein rather famously did not know the speed of sound when he took the Edison Test. His response was that he did not bother to remember such information, because it’s readily available in books. I’d heard that story as a child, and Einstein’s explanation made sense to me, so I’ve always applied it in my life. Why bother to remember something I can look up?

That’s all well and good, but as we rapidly approach a time when we can look up just about anything, will the art of remembering simply fade away? Remembering facts was once a requirement for getting along in life, and even a claim to fame for some, but will we reach a point where remembering is derided as a waste of brainspace?

As I age, I am grateful for needing to remember less and less, and I truly believe that, with all the resources of the internet available to me, I actually know more and more. I know it was The Tokens and Edison Lighthouse who sang the songs I mentioned earlier. I know that Einstein story is from the May 18, 1921 edition of the NY Times.

But, yes, I do remember when we had to remember things. I bid those days a fond farewell.

– Steve Circeo