A "veteran," whether active duty, discharged, retired, or reserve, is someone who, at one point in life, wrote a blank check to the United States of America, for the amount "up to and including my life."
A friend sent me the above quote. It was in my in-box when I got back from a funeral escort for a young man killed in Iraq. Sometimes the check comes due. Everyone who has worn a military uniform is aware of that. I sometimes wonder if our government is.
Today the Iowa House of Representatives is set to debate the latest anti-smoking law to come across the table. The new law would ban smoking in restaurants and bars, with the exception of casinos (because, apparently, they donate a lot of money to politicians, and they're a grand source of tax revenue) and small privately-owned bars (such as veterans clubs).
I have mixed emotions on this... I smoked for 25 years. I started my one and a half pack a day addiction in my teens and couldn't shake it until just two and a half years ago. (In fact, that's why I started this blog in the first place -- to give me something to do in the middle of the night when the cravings hit. Here's one of my earlier posts if you're interested. The photos disappeared for some reason, but I'm not too worried about that.) So smoking and I have a long history...
When I was in high school I had to go to Smokers Anonymous so I could stay on the wrestling and cross-country teams. I was the only one in SA... I eventually quit sports.
I joined the Army National Guard the day I turned 17. I remember taking a carton of cigarettes with me to Basic Training. They took them away from me... For the first week we were there we couldn't smoke, so we all chewed tobacco. As soon as we earned smoking privileges we all started right back up. In an odd sociological twist, out of the 52 men in my platoon only about 15 or so smoked when we started basic training -- but 49 smoked by the time we finished ten weeks later. The Army had a bad habit of giving us the occasional smoke break, only to walk past us as we stood there happily puffing away and point at two or three guys at random to go do some chore or errand. Invariably the Drill Instructors would choose people who weren't smoking, possibly because they looked like they weren't doing anything. So many people started smoking simply to avoid the extra duties the DIs were handing out to non-smokers. I don't think this was a conscious thing on the sergeants' part, but it was very much apparent. (All my Drill Sergeants smoked, by the way, as did all the officers.)
A few years later, back in Iowa, I was sorely upset when the state banned smoking in government buildings -- including the armory. I was very used to having an ashtray on my desk whilst at drills.
When I was a freshman in college, I remember being bitterly disappointed when they banned smoking in the classrooms (yes, at one point a college kid could smoke in a lecture, believe it or not) just the year before. My sophomore or junior year they banned smoking in any campus building except the Student Union and individual dorms, and I used my position on the school newspaper to holler indignantly that "smokers are people too" and should be given at least a "smoking closet" or some area indoors where they could smoke without bothering others. It seemed cruel to me for the administration to make us go stand outside in the snow... And I was used to doing my homework in the library with a cigarette smoldering next to me. I took the "No Smoking" signs personally, and bristled.
Once I graduated and landed the job of my dreams here at the print shop I was happy to see that everyone had an ashtray within arm's reach. My kinda place! But my joy was short-lived... Within six months the company had merged and moved to a different building, where I had to walk all the way to the back room (six feet from my desk) to smoke. My co-workers often complained about the smell of my cigarettes wafting through the open door into the office, but I found the necessary temerity to ignore their whining. A few years later the bosses told us we could only smoke in the break room or outside. Shortly after that they told us to go outside. I was NOT happy.
But here's the funny part... Every time someone limited the areas where I could smoke, I complained bitterly about my rights being trampled upon, but within days I was used to the new routine and it no longer bothered me. In fact, I found that I actually enjoyed having to go outside to smoke -- it forced me to get away from my desk for a few minutes, and I noticed that I didn't smoke as much as I had previously. In 2001 or 2002, both Dagmar and I quit smoking in our own house. We voluntarily went outside to smoke... Our house stunk, to be honest, and the walls were changing color, turning from "Misty Alpine Fog" to "Dingy Tan." I still smoked in the car, but not in the house.
In July 2005 I smoked my last cigarette. I still have urges occasionally, but the horrible physical cravings are gone. When I see photos of myself from years past it surprises me that in nearly every photo I have a cigarette... I didn't know it was such a pervasive part of my life. I'm glad I'm done with it.
So how do I feel about the proposed ban? Well, as I said earlier, I have mixed feelings... The first thing I thought when I heard about the ban was "FINALLY I can go to a club and watch a band without having to deal with cigarettes and feeling all congested and stinky the next day! Thank God! Maybe now Dagmar and I can go to a restaurant. Boy, it's gonna be GOOD to be able to get back out into society again!" That's how ninety-five percent of me feels -- relieved and happy at the prospect of smoke-free establishments. The other five percent feels a little guilty, like I'm turning my back on my former life, flip-flopping my morals of 20+ years ago. I took a stand for years that smokers have a right to a smoking room in every public building. Now that I no longer smoke, do I change that stand? Is that wrong? I dunno...
It would probably surprise some of our friends, but Dagmar and I sometimes stay home simply to avoid the smoke. When we make plans, the subject invariably comes up... "What do you want to do? Shall we go downtown for a beer and see a band, or shall we go out to eat?" I'll ask. "Well," she'll respond, "if we go see a band it'll be all smoky and stinky..." We don't mind if our friends smoke outside or in another room, but it does bother us to be around cigarette smoke. It makes my lungs hurt, both Dagmar and I will have headaches and sore throats the following day, and, quite frankly, it gives me cravings. So I'd rather avoid it if possible.
I'm struggling with people's rights and freedoms. Does your freedom to smoke trump my freedom to want clean air? After all, I'm free to stay home if I want, but smokers are also free to go outside to enjoy a cigarette.
Is a ban a good thing? Sure it is. I support it -- it would make life better and easier for Dagmar and myself, and would make the state a little healthier. But a little piece of me thinks it would be okay to have a separate room for smokers... A well-ventilated room on the other side of the bar, preferably... I'm really, REALLY looking forward to being able to go out and have a beer in a smoke-free environment, and I'm a little sad that my favorite place (the Legion club in Le Mars) will be exempt from the rule. I would never tell the combat veteran sitting at the bar in a veterans' club that he couldn't sit and have a beer and a cigarette in peace, but I am a little sad that I'll still have to endure cigarette smoke. (Like I said, I still get cravings when I smell a cigarette. It makes me twitchy, rude, and generally anxious and vaguely unhappy.)
I'll leave you with two statements. The first is that I'm NOT trying to start a debate here -- I don't mean to upset anyone, I'm just sorting through my feelings on the issue. The second is that when I did smoke, I quickly readjusted to whatever laws or rules were in place, and it soon became second-nature for me to follow the rules and be content.
A few days ago a friend of mine sent me a photo of a rainbow she'd seen. Rainbows are nice. (I always think of Genesis 9 and my mother when I see a rainbow.)
We don't see many rainbows in Iowa this time of year. Right now (I just checked) the temperature is zero. The high today is forecast to be four degrees. (That's Fahrenheit, not Celsius.) Yesterday the wind was a-howlin' at the doors something fierce. The pictures don't do it justice, but I took the photos so someone's gotta look at them. Lucky you.
I had to drive to Le Mars from Sioux City to do some work for the Legion Riders yesterday, and I don't seem to be able to drive a car more than five blocks without hanging my camera out the window for some reason. The last picture there is of Le Mars, IA, population 8,000. As you can see, there aren't any rainbows in the photos.
Winter came early this year, and we've had no reprieve. There was an ice storm in November, followed by a snowstorm just a few days later. People are complaining that they still have the original ice and snow on their sidewalks; usually we get a "January thaw" where temps rise into the 40s for a day or two to melt off some of the snow and ice, but what little thaw we had this year was brief and chilly indeed. It's hard to fathom that spring and summer exist. If I didn't have photos of trees with leaves on them I wouldn't believe such things are possible.
I caught myself spewing politics on a friend's blog and realized that if political spewing should happen, it should happen here. (Spew. What a word. Spew.)
My political feelings at this point are: Gobama! Barack to the Future! Yay...
I still feel that New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson was the best candidate on either side of the aisle, and I hope he gets tapped for Secretary of State in the new administration, no matter who's President. But Governor Richardson is no longer in the race, so I have to content myself in pontificating the virtues and foibles of the remaining five candidates, Senator Barack Obama, Senator Hillary Clinton, Congressman Ron Paul, former Governor Mike Huckabee, and Senator John McCain.
Senator Obama (D): He's the top of my list, though mostly by default. The things I like about Senator Obama are that he's a passionate speaker, he seems to be able to truly unite people (which is something we sorely need today), and he has a good grasp on domestic affairs, the economy, and foreign policy. He's not the best-versed in any of those categories, but neither is he the most ignorant. I like his overall message.
I hope he can survive the mud that's sure to be slung his direction. I've already seen about half a zillion e-mails come through my in-box claiming that the Senator is an Islamic Fundamentalist (false), that his name rhymes with "Osama" (like that proves something about his personality or qualifications), and that he doesn't have the experience Senator Clinton has (like his six years in the Senate were somehow shorter dog-years than Clinton's six years in the senate).
Senator Clinton (D): Is the nation ready for a female president? Sure! Is Senator Clinton qualified enough to be an effective leader? Sure! Would she be a good president? Probably would. But she's entirely the wrong person this time around.
Half the country rabidly hates Mrs. Clinton -- often without really knowing why. She's a divisive personality at a time when we need someone to bring the country back together. Whether it's deserved or not, Billary has a reputation for pulling shady back-room deals, ruthlessly grabbing power, and generally being a bit thuggish in her ways. Republicans foam at the mouth over this, often overlooking the fact that she actually knows what she's talking about. (And I will readily admit that I'm exactly the same way with President Bush. The man makes me apoplectic, and I really have a hard time giving his policies and ideas a fair shake.)
The nation is already split in half. The last thing we need is yet another "divider."
Congressman Ron Paul (L -- no, I. wait... R) Of the Republican candidates, I like Congressman Paul's stands the best, though to be honest I don't know as much about him as I should. Unfortunately, he's seen as a bit of a kook. Had he run as a Libertarian (which was his original party of choice) I would possibly have voted for him. Last I heard, he was more or less dropping out of the race to concentrate on his congressional primary in Texas.
Mike Huckabee (R) I don't like people running on moral agendas. I have my own opinions on stuff, thank you. I don't really want a president making laws on what he thinks is best for me -- I want a president making laws to keep me safe, and to provide me basic services, not preaching morality. I also think his foreign policy views are skewed, and his economic policy is flawed. Other than that, I think he's a nice guy...
Senator McCain (R): Senator McCain was the perfect candidate in 2000. Now, in 2008, I have my worries and doubts. I don't often agree with his views on the economy. I'm happy that he doesn't push his morality as much as other candidates on the Republican side have been known to do. (Please don't legislate morality -- instead make immorality unnecessary.) Senator McCain is running on his strength in foreign affairs, notably his insistence that we stay in Iraq "fifty years, a hundred years."
This worries me.
Why are we in Iraq? We went there on the basis of faulty information (remember the weapons of mass destruction?) when, in my opinion, we should have been concentrating our forces on those who attacked us on September 11th -- Al Queada and Osama bin Laden. We did invade Iraq, however, so we must needs deal with it. It seems to me that we won the war the minute we captured Iraqi leader and thug-in-chief Saddam Hussein. We've won. The Iraqi people are free. Let's now get out of their way and let them get about the business of building their government -- and let's concentrate our forces on terrorism. Will terrorism flourish in Iraq if we shift our forces from Iraq to Afghanistan? Possibly. If so, we can go in again under the aegis of the war on terrorism, but for now Iraq poses no threat to the United States, while the terrorists DO pose such a threat. I posit the Iraq War is over. We won. Let's move on. (I realize that Big Oil, Haliburton, and civilian contractors such as Blackwater are making a ton of moolah off the war, but we're going to have to pull them off the corporate welfare teat called "Iraq" they've been sucking on the last seven years if we're going to survive as a world power, lest they suck us dry.)
It seems to me that Senator McCain will force the United States to push all our assets into Iraq, ignoring other, more pressing concerns, such as terrorism abroad and poverty at home. What he'll do as far as domestic affairs, economic concerns, etc. is a mystery -- he really spends all his time talking about continuing the war.
In conclusion: I'm pulling for Obama. I'm still sore that Richardson didn't get noticed much in the primaries, but whaddaya gonna do?
A pair of 17-year-old, apparently affluent teen girls stole $166 from a girl scout who was out selling cookies. When confronted on-camera, one girl said, "we went through all that trouble to get it [the money] and now we have to give it back -- I'm pissed." The other girl said, "I'm not sorry we did it. I'm sorry we got caught."
What kind of society do we live in where rich teens steal from 9-year-old Girl Scouts, and later act as if they were entitled to the money in the first place? The two teens need to be taught one helluva lesson, but I'm sure Daddy will pay their way out of trouble. If I understood the video correctly, the girls did NOT get arrested. That baffles me. They stole $160+ from a Girl Scout and were not punished. Try walking into a bank and grabbing $160 and walking out -- see what kind of trouble you get into.
They need to take responsibility for their actions. It's the only way these teens will learn how to be adults. The Girl Scouts are much more mature than the crooks. If their parents won't teach them responsibility, shouldn't we? Isn't that what juvenile court is for?
You want a hundred and sixty bucks? Go work for three days like the rest of us.
There's nothing of any social significance in this post; I simply feel like I should write something so people don't think I've forgotten my blog.
It's been two weeks since my "procedure," and my right "boy" is still the size of a rather elongated lemon. The fierce, piercing pain is gone (thankfully), but I'm still all bruised, tender, achy and sore -- like you'd expect of a bruised testicle the size of a lemon, I guess. It's hard for me to walk very far, and getting in and out of the car is particularly painful. I can sit long enough to get some work done, but it's not comfortable. The doctor tells me it could be weeks before the swelling goes down noticeably and months before it's gone. I've quit taking painkillers about a week ago, but I still take ibuprofin almost every day. I can't believe I'm lucky enough to have Dagmar -- she's been incredibly patient, kind, helpful, caring... She's the best. She really takes good care of me, and I'm grateful. The cat, on the other hand, who weighs about fifteen pounds, likes to jump in my lap unexpectedly. Dagmar's had several heart-to-hearts with Fruitloop about that. He seems to listen.
I've been busy taking care of that, getting my eight hours' of work in at the print shop every day (gotta work part of the weekend, which makes me unhappy), developing a couple freelance web sites, and learning a whole slew of new software on the fly. (Just once I wish I could learn new software BEFORE I have an important project that needs to be done using said software. It would be nice to at least skim the book before getting tossed to the wolves...) I've had so much going on the past month my head is spinning. I'm reasonably close to getting most of my projects wrapped up, so with luck the next few weeks won't be so hectic and I can concentrate on healing my busted nut and trying to find a way to freelance my way out of the print shop.
Dagmar got her hair done today and looks fantastic! I'll get a photo of her new doo soon.
I hope everything is right in your respective worlds, and that the winter is treating you gently! Only 17 more months 'till spring!