Monday, June 21, 2004

Reagan Redux

In the aftermath of the Reagan funeral, I’m reminded of my all-time favorite episode of Berke Breathed’s Bloom County strip, where Opus is talking to his mirror, commenting on politicians (paraphrased, since I don’t have the original cartoon handy):
“A statesman is a dead politician.”

“That’s what this country needs: more statesmen!”
(Oddly, for how well-regarded Bloom County was, this is one of only two strips which I can really recall dialog from.  The characters (Steve Dallas, Opus, Bill the Cat, Milo, Oliver Wendell Jones and the Banana 3000 computer) and the scenarios (elections, the anxiety closet, etc.) are all well recalled, but danged if I can remember many individual strips.  The other one I remember was during Steve Dallas’ effort to win the Mr. USA competition, with Opus yelling out “Mr. Rhode Island is stuffing his shorts!”)

Updated on February 9, 2011

Support the Scouts, but not the Scouts

A couple weeks ago, I had to go into the local Boy Scouts store, because Rusty needed green epaulets for his Seattle Boys of Leather uniform.  I was initially leery of going in, because I’ve been so indoctrinated over the past decade that the Boy Scouts of America is evil due to their policies regarding gays and atheists (both as Scouts and as Scoutmasters).

Background: I was a Boy Scout.  I started as a Cub Scout in Waterville, Washington (population of about 1000 people at the time), continued into Webelos and Boy Scouts in Vancouver, WA, and then further into Boy Scouts in Cashmere, WA (population of about 3000, and they claim their Scout Troop is the oldest one west of the Mississippi).  I dropped out around my senior year of high school because Scout meetings and activities were taking time away from other things I wanted to do.  (No gay angle there, although I do retain some resentment that I had to choose between Boy Scouts and high school Drama Club; the latter took such a big time commitment that I couldn’t have done Boy Scouts, not unlike if I had been in school sports.)

Aside: I was a Life Scout when I dropped out of Boy Scouts.  Not an Eagle (one step below), and therefore not worth shit.  If you don’t achieve at least Eagle Scout — and probably the various awards beyond that — then you have no status, no value.  It’s Eagle Scout or nothing.

After a couple minutes in the store — and being helped by the yummy, bearded Scouts store staffer, in his shorts despite the rainy weather that day <grin> — I remembered what gets lost in the midst of our indoctrination: that there are Boy Scouts (the people) and there is the Boy Scouts of America (the organization).

The organization sets the policies, and is driven by its own religious, political, and monetary goals, and those can be quite discriminatory.  We are quite right to fight this organization, to try to get it to change (either from outside or from pressure from within, via the individual Scouts and their Troops).  It is right and just to protest against the organization and its policies, to change or withhold our donations to the national organization, and to lobby for it to move into the 21st century.

But we need to remember that individual Troops (and Explorer Posts) may have their own preferences.  The adult leaderships of those small units of the larger organization may not agree with the national direction, and may work contrary to it where they can (that “changing from within” thing).  The individual Scouts themselves may disagree with those policies, or in many cases may be oblivious to them (often because of their ages).  Some of them (Scouts or adults) may be gay or atheist or whatever.

And thus we need to be careful to direct our ire and and focus, keeping them on the national organization and not on the local Troops and the individual Scouts.  These Scouts are being taught valuable life lessons and survival skills, and in my experience, are typically not being indoctrinated into adhering to these national policies.  The best thing that we can do is to support the local groups and individuals while at the same time, trying to change things on an organizational level.  Make donations to the local Troops rather than on the national (or regional) level.  Volunteer your time and skills to help and teach the boys.  Participate in their fundraisers and charity drive.

And show your approval and support for the Scouts, but not for the Boy Scouts of America.

(And yes, you should read complete parallels from this to the idea of supporting the Troops but not the War!)

Updated on Febrruay 7, 2011
I can’t find online support for the Cashmere troop being “oldest” troop beyond being the oldest in central Washington (although the “gold troop” designation indicates something significant), but here’s a nice story from the Wenatchee World newspaper from the troop’s 100th anniversary in 2010.  Wikipedia indicates at least two US-based troops from 1909, in Vermont and Oklahoma (the latter would be “west of the Mississippi”, so there’s clearly more to the story.  Regardless, a 1910 founding certainly makes it darn early!

Friday, June 18, 2004

Packets of Brown Powder

Here’s one of those things which gets my dander up.  A small thing, admittedly…

Here at work, they set us up with free coffee and free soda and free bottled water and so on.  It’s one of those perks which really came in strong with tech companies in the early 1990s and hasn’t gone away (like some benefits have).  Amongst that free stuff is packets of hot cocoa (which I like to mix into my coffee).

Every now and then, I reach into the drawer (where the cocoa packets are kept) and find an open packet (which is typically dribbling cocoa dust all over the drawer, counter, and floor).  Presumably someone only wanted half the contents and put the rest back — not wanting to be wasteful — but come on, what were they thinking?

This partial packet contains how much?  The cocoa comes in measured amounts, but how much is left now?  Half, a third, 80% of the original?  No thanks, I’ll just take one where I know what I’m getting.

How long has it been sitting there?  Did I not see it the last time I took a (whole) packet?  Has it been there 5 minutes, two hours, a week?  How fast does cocoa mix go stale?  No thanks, I’ll take one expected to be fresh.

Is it only cocoa mix in there?  Not that I think my co-workers are spitting in it, but did they drop it on the floor and pick it back up?  Did they spill some on the counter and sweep the extra back in the packet, along with dust and coffee grounds?  (Or God forbid, did they intentionally lace it with Anthrax spores or something like that?  Again, not that any co-workers would actually do that, but pick up a leaking packet of cocoa and see what runs through your mind these days!)  No thanks, I’ll take one expected to be untainted.

So use the whole damn packet.  Or take the half-packet back to your desk to use the next time.  Or just throw the unwanted portion away!  Because I guarantee you, no one else in the company is going to want to use your left over 1/2 ounce of cocoa powder!

Updated on February 4, 2011
Problem solved: I now longer put cocoa powder in my coffee.  Don’t need the calories.

These days, I bring my own 1/2 & 1/2 from home — and hope no one spits in it, heh — because I hate opening several of the plastic packets the company provides, which would put that much more plastic in the landfills.

Tuesday, June 8, 2004

He’s Not Only Merely Dead, He’s Really Most Sincerely Dead

It used to be that they couldn’t put someone’s picture on a postage stamp until they had been dead for ten years, with the exception being a deceased President, who could go on one immediately (or a year after dying; same thing, really, given the time for designs to be created and the like [see update below for greater detail]).  This always seemed like a reasonable time delay to extend to other adventures in naming things for dead people.

As such, my vow from a few years back to not refer to National Airport by its redubbed name, “Reagan”, goes by the wayside.  (After a year from now.)  (But it’s still going to be Intercontinental in Houston for a while yet!)  Not that I really had anything against the man: having been in high school and college while he was in office, Reagan will always be a valid “face” of the U.S. Presidency to me, and I wasn’t yet old enough, jaded enough, cynical enough to recognize any evils he did for what they were at the time they occurred.  So I largely just give him a “bye” in terms of rating his terms in office.

Of course, I see on CNN that there are moves afoot to put Reagan’s face on either the $10 bill or half the dimes.  I come from the “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” school of thought here: there’s no need to make a change, the existing pictured people are from long enough ago to not bear any bitterness from any but a tiny fraction of the populace, and there’s a certain historical value in having someone like Hamilton on the $10 bill, as it’s the only way most people will ever encounter his name after 10th grade U.S. history class.

I’m so opposed to this sort of a change that I’ll make a vow now: if this is done any time in the next ten years — before Reagan has been dead for a decade — I will examine the money I get as change and refuse anything with his image on it.  It may mean work for me and a lot of annoyed shopkeepers (especially with the dimes; I only get a $10 bill maybe one time in ten when getting $10 in change anymore, it’s always fives instead), but it will also send a message.  You don’t see Susan B. Anthony or Sacajawea dollars in use very often, do you?  A big piece of that is because people just didn’t want to use them.  If enough people do likewise with Reagan dimes or bills, you’ll see them fade away quickly, too.

[Weblog title reference: From The Wizard of Oz, in “Ding Dong, the Witch is Dead”: As Coroner, I must aver / I thoroughly examined her.  It’s also a cruel reference to Reagan’s Alzheimer’s Disease diagnosis, of course.]

Updated June 18, 2004
Per this story, a stamp is already in the works.  Look for it on February 6, the first birth anniversary after Reagan died.
Updated February 3, 2011
I still don’t usually refer to the airport as “Reagan”. It’s almost always “National” or “DCA” for me, and when I do slip and call it “Reagan”, I usually backtrack and correct myself.  These days, though, that’s really more habit than reluctance to use the revised name.  After all, it’s not like they removed someone else’s name to apply Reagan’s.