Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Guns

Ever since the horrible shooting in Florida, the debate over guns and gun laws has escalated.

This happens every time one of these unspeakable events happen, but this time it seems to have reached a new level.

By its very nature, it's an emotional issue. Unfortunately, when emotions get high, people sometimes say things that aren't very smart. That has also happened and it has come from both sides.

The fact is nobody has all the answers. I believe bad people are going to do bad things, no matter how we might try to restrict them from doing so. You simply cannot legislate away shooting, bombing and terrorizing.

With that said, I have to believe there are ways to tighten up gun laws a bit while not interfering with anyone's Second Amendment rights. Surely we can make it a little more difficult for guns to get into the hands of the people who misuse them.

I am not a gun owner, nor do I have any interest in shooting guns, but I have absolutely no desire to keep someone from owning one or shooting one if that is his/her wish. When Older Son was in his  first year of college and wanted a gun, I bought one for him for Christmas. I believed he was responsible enough to own one and would be safe and exercise common sense. He now owns two, having bought the next one himself.

Maybe I'm unrealistic about all of this, but I think if there is to be any headway to be made in the gun debate, people are going to have to listen to each other. If you are "pro-gun," are you willing to listen to reason about gun laws that are a little more restrictive than they are now?

I you are "anti-gun," are you also willing to listen to reason and at least to the possibility that responsible armed citizens -- and yes, even teachers -- level the playing field a bit and protect the innocent?

And if you are in either one of these camps, would you be willing to quit pointing fingers and placing blame on the parties you don't like -- whether it's President Trump, the press or the NRA?

A civil conversation is called for. I hope it will happen.




Sunday, March 4, 2018

Everything's negotiable

I am a dying breed, one of those people who still subscribes to a daily newspaper, which is delivered to my house each day.

It is part of my heritage. My parents faithfully read the newspapers each day, one state and one local, and if either was not delivered on time, my dad was on the phone with the circulation desk. They worked the Jumble each day and my mother worked the crossword and cryptoquote. They read the comics.

It's weird, but I feel a strange connection with them through the daily newspaper, even though I live in a different town than the one in which I grew up, and take a different paper. But I feel like I'm carrying on an important practice or tradition. I think it also has something to do with studying journalism in college and learning the newspaper business before computers were everywhere.

As everyone knows, the digital age has drastically changed print media and today's print newspaper is drastically different from the ones of a generation ago. That's because news is constantly available online and it's no longer necessary to read news in print.

This is not the first time newspapers have had to adapt to changing times. When radio, and then TV, became prevalent, it was predicted newspapers would become obsolete.

But as you know, newspapers survived and co-existed with the broadcast mediums and to an extent, they complemented d each other. People still wanted the newspaper for the in-depth news and even the aforementioned puzzles and comics.

The computer age has presented a much greater challenge and the only way newspapers are surviving is to have an online presence. Smaller papers across the country have either gone out of business or sold out to the big media companies that have the resources to stay current. Fewer and fewer people have a newspaper delivered their home as I do. And once my generation dies out, I really doubt there will still be daily print papers anymore.

For me, as long as there is a newspaper in print available, I intend to subscribe. Well, that is, if they don't go up in price so much that I can no longer justify the expenditure. Because really, I can get my news online too. My continuing to subscribe has as much to with principle and sentiment as anything else.

That brings me to a recent letter I received which marked the closest I have ever come to becoming a non-newspaper subscriber.

Our local paper is owned by Gannett, the huge media company that owns USA Today and papers across the country. I really don't care for the way they handle news and the way they mass- produce it, but I get it. They are a business and they have to achieve financial goals.

They now own the three largest papers in Tennessee -- The Commercial Appeal in Memphis (which until a couple of years ago was a Scripps Howard publication), The Knoxville News Sentinel and The Tennessean here in Nashville.

By acquiring these three papers, they achieved a certain amount of synergies and efficiencies and, again, I get it. But it has contributed to even more "canned news" which makes these papers have more and more uniform characteristics of USA Today.

I only have to go back to Little Rock, where I used to live, and read a copy of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette to realize the stark difference between a corporately owned paper and a locally owned one. I'll even occasionally go online and read the El Dorado (Arkansas) New Times, my local paper from my growing-up years. There's no comparison.

But now the Gannett publication is the only daily local print newspaper available to me, and I have remained a faithful subscriber.

Back to that letter I received. The writer of same thanked me for being a subscriber, and went on to tell me about an increase in the cost. (They needed my help, he told me). My daily subscription, with full access to print and digital, would go from 53 to 77 dollars  per month. That is bad enough, but I might add that only last August, the cost went up to 53 dollars from 36 dollars.

So over the course of less than a year, the subscription cost more than doubled. I decided I had helped them enough.

And I told Wife that was it. I could no longer justify paying that much for something that has only gotten smaller (in volume and content). I was very sad about this, but enough is enough.

Wife assured me she would be willing for us to continue, knowing how important it is to me. But I told her no, it was time to end it.

So I made the call. A nice guy named Richard answered and I told him, due to the sharp increase in price, I would have to cancel my subscription. I told him a little bit of my story and I admit to laying it on a bit thick.

"Richard," I said, "y'all have priced me out of this."

Richard allowed as to how he would sure hate to lose me as a subscriber after 20 years and I allowed as to how it was breaking my heart too.

He told me to hold on and he would look at some things and see what he might be able to do for me. He even made a bit of small talk as he was looking at whatever it was he was looking at. I had already decided, if they would keep the cost the same, I would keep my subscription.

After a few minutes, he said, "What would you think of 28 dollars a month?"

In as deadpan a voice as I could manage, I told him yes, I thought that would be fine and I could do that. (Remember now, this is LESS than what I was paying when the price increased last August). I told him I would have to have an email confirming this.

The email came and although Richard was unable to promise me the length of time this price would be effective, the first automatic draft just went through and it was about three bucks less than the quoted price!

So for now, I remain a subscriber. If they unreasonably jack up the price again, I plan to call and whine and threaten to cancel again.

Wife was so impressed she said she might let me call the cable and phone company. I told her I'm not that good.

But it just goes to show just about everything is negotiable. My man Richard came through for me.

Monday, February 12, 2018

Christmas in February?

Well in two days it will be Valentine's Day and I am just getting around to writing about our family's annual international Christmas Eve. So Happy Valentine's Day and please bear with me if I take you back to Christmas.

This past Christmas celebration included our tenth annual international Christmas Eve, a tradition that started in 2008 when Wife asked if we wouldn't mind if she dispensed with preparing the traditional Christmas dinner and did something crazy like Mexican food. And if we were agreeable to that, she wondered if we would mind having it Christmas Eve instead of Christmas Day.

What are you supposed to say to the person who is preparing a holiday meal for you? No, you simply MUST prepare turkey and dressing, just as you did just a few weeks ago atThanksgiving?!

We all thought the idea of Mexican food on Christmas Eve was splendid, so we heartily said yes. To add a festive element, we strung pepper lights in the dining room and played "Feliz Navidad" on repeat! We enjoyed tacos, rice and beans, and chips and salsa and had a grand time.

And it was such a hit that a new tradition was born. Since that year we have had Christmas Eve dinners with Greek, French, Asian, French, Caribbean, German, British and Brazilian themes.

It has become much more elaborate since that first year, with not only food but decorations in keeping with the theme of the year. Costumes are optional.

Since Christmas Eve 2017 was the tenth year for it, we had a "Festival of Nations" that included favorite menu items from each of the nine international dinners we have had. Wife pulled out decorations from each year and a few pulled together costumes.

Of course this year we had two babies in the mix, which changed the whole dynamic of Christmas itself. We look forward to telling them stories of their first international Christmas Eve.

It was another grand time and it was fun enjoying some of the delicious foods we had over the years. We have not yet decided which country or region will help us start the next decade of Christmas Eve dinners, but I'm sure in a few months Wife will start planning.

Here are a couple of photos from a Festival of Nations, including one of the menu so you can see what we feasted upon. Until next Christmas Eve!