“This is a TWA Emergency”

Years ago – I would flit off to Spain and Portugal every few months.   Once I was returning on a Wednesday TWA flight from Lisbon to Chicago. The flight was scheduled to leave at 1:10 pm. I arrived at the airport in good order (probably 90 minutes ahead of departure) and got in the check in line. There were no clerks checking in passengers. So we stood. 12:15 pm. 12:30. 12:45. No clerk. No nothing. People were grumbling. Looking at watches and the marquee with flight information.   Finally at about 1:00 pm, a man emerged from the back – behind the counter – and advised that the flight was oversold and was taking no passengers (which was odd since some folks had stood there for two hours).  “Come back on Friday and we’ll make sure we get you on a flight.”  And the clerk beat a hasty retreat. 

The Portuguese travelers picked up their suitcases and headed for the exits.  Not so the 14 Americans who remained.  Fuming.  We huddled.   Brief introductions.  Two of us went off in search of answers and help.  I left my luggage with a bunch of complete strangers.  After a call to TWA from the American Embassy (“please take care of these folks“), we were offered lunch.  TWA personnel took our names – promising to call family to let them know of the glitch in service.  The plan was to fly us to Frankfurt that afternoon and put us up in the Airport Hotel.  Next morning, we would head off to our respective destinations. 

Lunch was okay and the BOAC flight to Frankfurt uneventful.  I checked into a non descript hotel room in Frankfurt.  Showered.  And shuffled down for a late dinner.  Then back up to the room.  And sleep.  Next morning, I was on a flight through London to New York.  I arrived home – finally.  Lauren seemed especially glad to see me.  

I learned that the TWA folks in Lisbon had called my home.  Donna was playing tennis and Lauren (age 10) was home alone.  Lauren answered the phone.  “This is a TWA emergency!  I must speak with Mrs. Petersen.  TWA Emergency.”  Lauren said her mom was not home and – click – the line went dead.  Lauren called the tennis center.  Hysterical.  Donna rushed home and after an hour of calling – and waiting – learned that I had not deep sixed into the Atlantic but simply been delayed.  Lauren was relieved.  When Donna arrived home, she had been sobbing.  Holding my picture.   TWA emergency.  

Ray Rice

Ray Rice deserves to be slapped around a bit.  Maybe with a closed fist.   So does every other guy who treats women like Rice treated his girlfriend, Janay Palmer. However, I have three questions. Just go with me on the preliminaries. . . .

On February 15, 2014, Ray Rice punched Janay in the elevator of an Atlantic City casino. Hotel personnel contacted police and police arrived. And charged Rice with “simple assault domestic violence.” Janay Palmer was charged with the same crime.  The prosecutor in the case, James McClain, recommended a rehabilitation program (“Pre-Trial Intervention”) which is typically available for first offenders (which Rice was).   Superior Court Judge Michael Donio approved the sentence.  And Janay Palmer agreed with the sentence.  Rice was sentenced and is now undergoing rehabilitation.  In late March, Janay became “Mrs. Ray Rice.”   

On July 24th, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell met with a host of NFL honchos and Baltimore Ravens’ execs to discuss the incident.  As a result of the meeting, Goodell suspended Rice for two games.  It was some weeks later that the stuff hit the fan.  The media and various groups have demanded that Roger Goodell resign and that Rice be forever banned from football.   The clamor as of this posting remains unabated.  As a result, the Baltimore Ravens have axed Rice from the team.  And Ray Rice is now on the sidelines.  Permanently. 

So.  My three questions are these:  If there is a criminal act and police, prosecutors and a judge agree on a punishment for you, me or an NFL player, should that be enough?  Or must we be fired from our jobs too?   A second question is – should there be an element of forgiveness following punishment?  In most states, the object of punishment is rehabilitation.  Michael Vick spent time in prison for dog fighting and today is back in the saddle with the New York Jets.   Jamal Rice got out of prison (drug dealing) and went on to star with the Cleveland Browns.  Scores of other NFL and NBA stars have had major encounters with the law and continue to play – often after a judicially-imposed sentence.  Should Ray Rice be banned from football forever or might he be forgiven?   The final question is — given the charges brought, the punishments meted out by the Atlantic City justice system, given Janay Palmer’s refusal to testify against her husband and given Ray Rice’s unabashed acknowledgments of guilt, profuse apology and rehab program – why should Roger Goodell face the firing squad?           

The Orphan Master’s Son

On July 10, 2014, I offered a post on Kim Jong Un – the animal who rules North Korea (pardon me – the “Democratic People’s Republic of Korea“).  Little did I know that I’d be following up my post so soon with another post about North Korea — “The Hermit Kingdom.”  

On February 17, 2014, the United Nations released a report on North Korea which details some of the unspeakable cruelties and horrors that occur daily in North Korea:  starvation; corruption; prison camps; wholesale extermination, slaughter and murder; torture; rape; kidnapping of young women; forced abortions; brainwashing; and acts worse than your worst nightmare. 

I just finished reading The Orphan Master’s Son by Adam Johnson.  This 2013 Pulitzer Prize winner (for fiction) and New York Times bestseller depicts life (if you can call it that) in North Korea.  It paints a 443 page picture of one young man – an orphan named Jun Do  – who rises through the ranks to rival Kim Jong Il  (1941-2011) the psychotic “Dear Leader” who preceded Kim Jong Un.  I could go into great and glorious detail on the images of the book.  Suffice to say, the book is powerful and compelling.  And painful.  It makes you want to task Jack Reacher and Mitch Rapp (see 8/25/11 and 12/30/12) to do a Control Alt Delete of North Korean leadership.


Hundreds if not thousands of public, private and corporate institutions are researching everything from the Ebola virus to breast cancer to the common cold.  The work goes on in laboratories around the world.  What is interesting is that for most public colleges and universities in the U.S. – which receive taxpayer funding – there is normally no requirement that they collaborate on research with other institutions.  In other words, two universities a few miles apart which are researching the same topic will do their own research independently.  And they will not collaborate on their mutual effort.  Most of these researchers would rather share their toothbrush than share their lab notes or research results. 

In corporate America, you can understand that when Pfizer spends hundreds of millions of dollars on research for a drug that will ramp down an illness or disease, they want to protect it.  With a patent.  And they deserve it.  And they deserve to recoup their costs to pay for their research.   That is what corporations do — and the results benefit everyone.  But when a university gets large sums of money from the public coffers for research, doesn’t it sound logical (not to mention efficient and more effective) that they and their researchers should be required to collaborate with other institutions which study the same subject?  After all, two heads – or ten heads – are normally better than one (except perhaps in Washington). 

So this Guy. . . .

So this guy is up delivering a speech to a large group of people. He begins to rant “All lawyers are jerks!”  [Or you may select your own epithet]

From the back of the room a guy raises his hand and yells “I really take offense at your words.”

The guy giving the speech asks “are you a lawyer?”

Absolutely not,” the guy says defensively. “I’m a jerk!”

Lawyers do get a bad rap from the public.  In a 2013 Pew research poll, lawyers ranked at the bottom of ten professions.  Only 18% of responders felt that lawyers contributed “a lot” to society’s well being.  And that’s down from 23% in 2009.  In a December 2013 Gallup poll on “Honesty/Ethics in Professions,” lawyers were at the bottom of the list — just above members of Congress, lobbyists and car salesmen.  While there are a lot of good lawyers, I tend to think that much of the criticism of lawyers is deserved.   We don’t police the profession as we might and. . . .  wait . . . shhhh. . . .sorry – gotta run!  I hear a siren. . . . .       

Lydia the Tattooed Lady

In 1939, Groucho Marx sang “Lydia the Tattooed Lady” in the classic Marx Brothers’ film “At the Circus” (enjoy http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n4zRe_wvJw8). In 1939 as well as in 1977 when the Muppet Show had Kermit singing the song to a bedecked Miss Piggy, tattoos were an exception rather than the rule. It violates the Torah (Leviticus 19:28) and the hadith in Islam where tattoos are haram (forbidden). Nonetheless, guys had the occasional anchor or “USMC” inked on their arm and a woman might have a small flower or family name.  But tattoos were modest – and tasteful. Tattooed ladies remain a part of “Freak Shows” at the circus (or reality shows) even now.   As recently as the 1960’s and 70’s tattoos were associated with bikers and criminals. In Japan, only the yakuza (the crime syndicate) has tattoos. In China, tattoos are taboo. In Europe, tattoos are still very unpopular. And then there’s America.                                                                                                                                                             

I got on the train yesterday and a young couple gets on and sits down. The guy’s wearing shorts and a t-shirt. Both arms and both hands were covered with tattoos and his legs were similarly adorned. Tattoos crept up the back of his neck and around toward his throat. Not sure how you view it but to me it’s pretty weird. But you see this new body decoration frequently. Walking freak shows (just like the circus I remember). Men with tattoos covering their arms, necks, torsos, legs. Even facial tattoos. And there are tattooed ladies. 

According to a recent article by Miriam Jordan in the Wall Street Journal (June 27, 2014), 71% of young people today are now ineligible to join the military (see http://online.wsj.com/articles/recruits-ineligibility-tests-the-military-1403909945). The reasons? Bad grades, obesity, criminal records, ADHD (and other issues), drug use, and now under a new regulation – excessive tattoos. Great. Makes you feel proud. And safe.

Life After High School

Social studies.  Reading Comprehension. English Literature. P.E. Chemistry. Trigonometry (did I spell that right?). These are all courses I took in high school. As I mentioned previously the best course I took in high school was typing. I can type flawlessly for about 60 words a minute. The other courses? Chemistry? What the heck is a “beaker”?

Okay okay.  These are all good courses – and worth taking. But for my money, I think high school students should all be required to take a course “Life After High School.” It would be a one year curriculum and involve seminars on balancing a check book; shopping; simple first aid; spending money wisely; relationships and respect; job interviews; nutrition; cooking simple meals; raising babies; investing; and so on.  Topics which help a young person acclimate and actually put to good use after high school.  Many kids will go to college.  Many will not.  But learning how to respect a spouse, show your best to a prospective employer, and deal intelligently with a screaming baby will benefit everyone. 

These are not topics that are  in conflict with parents so there should be no pushback.  And it might create a broader universe of students/grads who are more able to assimilate, interact and thrive. 

Did You Shave?

I golf once or twice a week.  If I get up early, I hop in the shower, dry off, and dress in the space of 7 or 8 minutes.  I normally don’t shave unless I have to “go somewhere.”  Last weekend, I went off to play golf.  Donna was up.  She gave me a quizzical look.  “Did you shave?” she asked.  “Nah.  I’m just playing golf.”  “Don’t you think you should shave?”  She asked.   “Nah.  Nobody notices,” I replied.  She gave me another “look” and I made a hasty exit. 

Now I have to say that I have never – never – said to Jim, Bill, Tim or Joe “Psssst . . . did you see Norm?  He didn’t shave this morning.”   I have never observed that one of my brethren had not taken Barbasol and Schick to face.  Frankly, I probably wouldn’t notice if a guy hadn’t shaved unless he started to look like one of the boys from ZZ Top.  “Hey Mike – did you shave this morning?”  “ScottI haven’t shave in six months.”  Gosh I never noticed.   I’m not sure what the big deal is about shaving.  But whenever we go anywhere, I inevitably get the question “did you shave?”  Most of the time, I come up with the right answer.       

In my house, I make all of the big important decisions. Donna makes all of the small, piddly ones. However Donna is the one who decides what’s “important” and what’s “piddly.”   Shaving, it seems, is one of those piddly ones. . . .