People Who Disobey Smoking Laws

areaPeople who know me know that I am an avid anti-smoking advocate.  I think cigarettes are the most disgusting, vile thing ever created by southern American slave owners.  Ok….they’re just one of the most vile things ever created by humans, in general, right up there with nuclear missiles and the “reply all” option on e-mails.  Not only do they cause cancer, emphysema, birth defects and premature death, they also make people smell rancid and cause skin to wrinkle and crack.  They darken teeth and dry out hair, they stain lips and destroy smokers’ sense of smell.  They do a whole lot of bad stuff.  Second-hand smoke can cause a slew of medical issues in people who are AROUND smokers.  We don’t even have to smoke cigarettes to be negatively affected by these horrid cancer-sticks.

smoking killsIn countries around the world, governments make cigarette manufacturers not only place warnings about health issues on the packs, but they make them place actual photos and diagrams of what can happen to people who smoke.  Some of these are extremely vivid and profoundly disturbing, but that’s what is needed to get the point across about the harmfulness of cigarette smoking.  Most governments have stopped allowing cigarette manufacturers to post the long warning labels on cigarettes that nobody takes the time to read.  Now they just post “smoking kills,” or “smoking causes birth defects” in large bold block letters.  It’s a step in the right direction.

Over the past 10-15 years, governments have begun passing stricter anti-smoking laws and making more and more venues “smoke-free.”  Countries where a large segment of the population smokes have even passed laws against smoking in bars and restaurants (once the denizens of the smoker…making anyone who entered, even for a brief time, come out smelling like a used ashtray)and many public spaces (even many outdoor spaces) have become non-smoking zones.  Bus stops and taxi stand queues are non-smoking in most places.  Airports have special smoking places that are walled off and have air filters around them, or there’s just no smoking allowed in the airport at all.  Governments have finally sat back and realized they can do more good spending the money to pass and enforce these laws rather than spending MORE money on health care for those that get affected by the cigarette smoke.  But still, the smokers fight it.

There have been grassroots movements popping up in many places all over the globe for “smokers’ rights.”  These campaigns claim that smokers are being discriminated against and they deserve to be treated better.  To tell you the truth, I would rather sit in a restaurant surrounded by 25 people snorting cocaine than near 1 person smoking.  The people snorting cocaine are hurting themselves and causing irreparable damage, but it’s only to themselves.  The smoker is the most selfish of drug addicts.  Their addiction harms other people.  The smoke coming off a cigarette is harmful to all people who are in the vicinity of it.  In fact, because that smoke is unfiltered, it is worse than the smoke the addict is inhaling.  Smokers are immensely selfish.  They are killing other people just to feed their disgusting habit.

Smokers still defy the laws, and often try to see how far they can go by smoking in non-smoking areas.  When New York City banned smoking in bars, clubs and restaurants, club and bar owners didn’t say anything when people continued to light up because they thought they would lose business if they made the customers go outside to smoke.  This went on for the first couple of years of the law, and then the mayor pushed the police into cracking down.  Hundreds of restaurant and bar owners were fined upwards of $5000 dollars if they knowingly allowed people to smoke in their establishments.  So, the owners began enforcing the laws and, when presented with no option but to go outside to smoke in all bars and restaurants, people still went out and patronized these places.  They started patronizing stores that sold cigarettes less and less, and the mayor put higher taxes on cigarettes to make them even more undesirable for New Yorkers.  Anyone who was caught disobeying an anti-smoking law was promptly ticketed and fined.  But smokers still tried to get around them.

In Madrid, an anti-smoking law was passed while I lived there.  It was an initiative from the European Union that all the countries of the EU have smoke-free workplaces (this included bars and restaurants).  I never met so many smokers as when I lived in Madrid, and I was convinced the laws would not work and that people would just do as they please.  After all, these are the Spanish, and sometimes they tend to “bend” the rules for themselves.  There were a few months of testing and disobeyance, but after people realized the government was serious, they adapted.  Luckily, many Spanish restaurants and bars have sidewalk service, where it is still ok to smoke.  People just had to stay outside.  Smokers continued to test the laws by lighting their death-sticks in forbidden zones, but they were faced with fines when caught.

no smokingThings were worse in China.  There were no-smoking laws, but it felt like they were only for show.  A lot of things in China are for show because they want westerners to think of them as more “evolved” and “western” than they really are.  China can provide all the paperwork to show that there are anti-smoking laws in public places, but they can’t provide the evidence that they’re enforced.  There were many times I was hacking in a puff of smoke in Chinese train stations, movie theaters, supermarkets…..even hospitals.  In the hospital, I made a comment to the nurse about the smoking, and asked her if it was forbidden.  She said it was, and I asked her why they were letting the man RIGHT OUTSIDE MY ROOM DOOR smoke.  She gave me a smile and a shrug of the shoulders as if to say “there’s nothing we can really do about it.”  I’ve sat through meetings in Chinese public schools where people were chain smoking across the table from me.  THIS WAS INSIDE A SCHOOL WHILE CLASSES WERE GOING ON!!  They have no respect for the laws in China and, what’s worse, nobody to enforce them.

Now, living in Singapore, the anti-smoking laws are very stringent and, as with all the laws in Singapore, they are strictly enforced.  In the past few months that I have lived in Singapore, I have come in contact with fewer smokers than in any other place I have ever lived.  People just aren’t smoking in Singapore.   I know some do, and I have seen a few of them, but there are so many areas that are non-smoking, that they really have nowhere to do it but home.  The streets are meant to be smoke-free, all public places, including outdoor places are smoke-free, every indoor establishment is smoke-free.  It’s a wonderful place to live.  That black tar that began to line my lungs is finally lifting away and I’m beginning to breathe better.  My personal air is cleaner and smells nicer.  I don’t smell rancid stale cigarette smoke on random people in the metro and on the street.  It’s a utopia for people who are anti-smoking.  I just wish the rest of the world would take their lead….


When You Can’t Remember the Word for Something

My friend Stephanie just got married.  I’ve been looking at her photos on Facebook.  She’s gorgeous.  Anyway, she decided to make her bouquet out of silver and gem broaches.  It was amazing, and she gets a lot of applause and respect for doing such an awesome job (photo below).  To get to the point (haha….point….broach….it’s a pun!) of this post….I was telling someone at work about this cool idea and how she should do it for her wedding, but when I got to the part about the bouquet, I could not, for the life of me, remember the word “broach.”  I tried to describe them as gem pins, silver pins, I think I even said brioche at one point (no, it’s not made of sweet bread).  It took about a minute of my describing the thing before my colleague finally burst out “broach.”  I felt like I was on an episode of the $60,000 Pyramid!  Tell Chuck Woolery that I’m ready!  I felt like an idiot.

Absolutely amazing!

Absolutely amazing!

This happens to me a lot lately.  Pretty basic words escape me.  I know I know them, and I can actually “feel” them lurking just beyond my speech, but I can’t summon them.  It’s like extreme tip-of-my-tongue action.  More and more I find myself lost for words.  Sometimes I can even remember the word in Italian or Spanish, but the English escapes me.  Maybe this is that memory loss thing that my father tells me about.  I’m still good with remembering names and faces, and appointments I never forget, but normal, every-day words get lost.  It’s really getting….um….oh, what’s the word….annoying!  Yea, that’s it!

Everyone Does NOT Deserve a Trophy

all winners

Ashley Merryman wrote, in the New York Times: “as children return to school this fall and sign up for a new year’s worth of extracurricular activities, parents should keep one question in mind. Whether your kid loves Little League or gymnastics, ask the program organizers this: “Which kids get awards?” If the answer is, “Everybody gets a trophy,” find another program. Trophies were once rare things. Today participation trophies and prizes are almost a given, as children are constantly assured that they are all winners…Po Bronson and I have spent years reporting on the effects of praise and rewards on kids. The science is clear. Awards can be powerful motivators, but nonstop recognition does not inspire children to succeed. Instead it can cause them to underachieve. Carol Dweck, a psychology professor at Stanford University, found that kids respond positively to praise; they enjoy hearing that they’re talented, smart and so on. But after such praise of their innate abilities, they collapse at the first experience of difficulty. Demoralized by their failure, they say they’d rather cheat than risk failing again.”   (

I have said it for years, if everyone is considered “special” and deserving of a trophy, then nobody is “special.”  Special, on it’s face, means that you are different from other people, but in a good way.  People who are special have a specific talent, or work harder, or perform better than their peers.   People who are “special” deserve to be recognized as that, and not to be grouped in with everyone else.  The time of participation trophies and certificates for showing up has ended.  Children have come to expect it, and it has created a generation of entitled kids, who think they are special just for doing that which they’re supposed to be doing.  When they go in to the real world, nobody gets a trophy for showing up and doing the job which they’re meant to be doing.  You have to go above and beyond, and work your butt off for the recognition and praise that you may deserve.  Are we teaching the young people of today the wrong thing with this “over-trophying?”

I was raised in this trophy culture; every child in our Sunday Little League received a little gold baseball player that would join the other meaningless awards on my dresser each year. And it was true that ‘trophies for all’ dulled our motivations to give the game our best efforts. Indiscriminate rewards taught us to quit when we were frustrated. Instead of learning the art of perseverance, we gave up as soon as we were tired. We needed to learn to take the option of quitting off the table.  Real pleasure and self-esteem come from genuine challenge, and we need to get back to that mentality or we’re going to create a culture where quitting or cheating is accepted so that people, who have been told all their life that they are special and given recognition for being average, can continue to get recognized for unspectacular work.

Let’s examine this “underachieving” that students have become so fond of lately.  Does knowing you’re going to get an award anyway make you work harder than everyone else?  To me, the answer is no.  If I knew I was going to get an award/trophy/certificate/prize for doing just as well as everyone else, I would not be motivated to work hard.  In fact, I might be motivated to work less, seeing as I would still be recognized for “showing up” anyway.

trophyAwards are given out for everything and to everyone, these days.  It has been estimated that the manufacture of trophies and awards has become a US$3 billion per year business.  Some sports organizations budget as much as 30% of their money to buying trophies and awards each year.  Manufacturers have seen a market, and they have filled the niche.  It’s good economics, and I’m sure anyone who works for a company that manufactures these things will tell you that everyone deserves a trophy simply for showing up!

Bruce Tulgan wrote a book entitled Not Everyone Gets a Trophy about employing these people of the “trophy generation,” often referred to as “Generation Y.”  He explains in the book that it’s not easy to get these people to work hard and to go above their normal reach, but it is doable.  Taking them out of the mindset that simply showing up and doing mediocre work will get you praise and recognition is the first step.  Rewarding hard work and effort is what needs to be done.  The people who don’t put in the effort and don’t work hard, don’t get any praise and recognition.  I’m sure this is difficult for the trophy-hounds to deal with at first, but they learn.  The new generation of entitled trophy-winners are even worse.  They are getting awards for pulling C and D grades in school and for sitting quietly in class, not disrupting the teacher.  Excuse me, but when I was a student, you had to work hard for recognition, and just sitting there not giving the teacher any issues was not enough to make you “special.”  But, in this world where nobody is “special,” because everyone is told they are, we will have to deal with this when they join the work force and bring the economies down even more.  This is where the Asian countries have us beat.  They only award trophies and recognition to those students who achieve the absolute highest grades or have a special talent that they work to foment.  They create good, old fashioned competition.  And the competition is fierce!  No wonder they’re going to take over the world!


Places That are TOO Reliant on Computers to Operate

People at work laugh at me.  I have binders and binders of printed material lining the shelves of my desk.  “Why don’t you automate,” they ask.  I respond with a polite nod and an explanation about how I feel that, should I put everything on computer, I could lose it or not be able to do anything should that computer crash or the electricity go out.  People still laugh and I am rather jealous of their clear shelves where they can display photos or hang up important documents.

cloudI think people have become TOO reliant on computers and “the cloud” these days.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m not a luddite, I do see the need for computers and technology, but everything is done with the help of computers these days.  They have made filing easier, accounting easier, communication easier, they’ve even made traveling easier.  Many establishments, institutions and corporations do everything on their computers, and only on their computers.  The days of backing things up with hard copies are in the past….now there’s “the cloud,” where people can store all their information in a server off-site, so they can retrieve it from anywhere.  But, what happens when the computers are down, and access to the internet is broken?  Where’s the “cloud” then?

Witness the scene at the vet’s office yesterday.  I have a great vet for my cat.  They are reliable and they know what they’re doing.  Best of all, most of the vets were educated in Australia, so they cater well to ex-pats living in Singapore.  I brought my cat in for some vaccinations yesterday afternoon because she’s still fairly young.  When I walked into the office, the lights were off.  I thought it was odd, but sometimes it gets very warm in Singapore and, even though fluorescents give off no heat, it makes people feel cooler when the lights are off.  This wasn’t the case….the air conditioning was working well, and there weren’t any overheated people waiting around.  I found out, when I entered, that something was wrong with their electricity and they were waiting for someone to come fix it.  Their computer system was down, so they had stopped seeing patients.  “Why have you stopped seeing patients,” I asked, “the lights are still on in the examination rooms?”  “We have all our records on the computer, we couldn’t even tell why you’re here today without it,” was the reply.  Luckily, I had my PAPER copy from our last visit, and they were able to see us even though their precious computers were still not working when I left.

companionThis place had become too reliant on their computer, and was unable to operate without its use.  I find this ridiculous.  Couldn’t they just keep paper records in a cabinet as a backup?  Maybe it would be prudent if, at the end of the day, the staff were to print off every record from that day and throw it in a binder.  Doctors and vets in the USA always have a “chart” that they look at, with paper documentation of everything the person or animal has gone through.  My doctors at Raffles Hospital have one ginormous chart for me with all the information from all the specialists that I’ve seen.  Why can’t this place be the same?  It’s not too difficult!

In all fairness to Companion Animal Surgery, they’re not the only ones.  Stores are too dependent on their computer systems and have trouble operating if they are down.  I was in a market a few years ago where the electricity had gone out and they had to use the old fashioned method of a calculator and paper to tally up people’s grocery bills.  It was so difficult, because they had to write the bar codes of all the items down so they could enter them into the computer later to keep track of  inventory.  Ridiculous!  When the server goes down at school, and people can’t access the “shared” drive or their e-mail, there is lots of moaning and groaning about not being able to work.  Then I look at my collection of binders and smile…..I’m not getting behind on work just because my little computer isn’t working…..I’m “old school!”

That Moment in a Crime Show When the Criminal Explains It All

I like to watch television.  It takes me away from reality for a while and lets me delve into the world of other people.  I know they’re fictional people, but they aren’t me!  I like crime shows because not only are they interesting, they also get me to think, and to formulate my own opinions about what happened and what’s going to happen.  Some of my favorite shows of all time have been Criminal Minds, Dexter, CSI, Law and Order, Bones and Blue Bloods.  These programs are interesting, but sometimes formulaic.

bonesThroughout the hour for these programs, the characters run through a set of clues and travel around their city to try to find out who killed/raped/maimed/stole/destroyed someone or something.  These characters spend time laying out their ideas, allowing me to try to form my own opinion about what’s going on.   Several suspects are always introduced and it’s not always easy to determine who might be the criminal.  I do have to remember, however, that these programs are written for Americans who, for the most part, are not the brightest people.  There are often parts of the program that are obvious, or the dialogue is filled with explanations about what the characters are doing (strictly so the viewer can understand it).  Many Americans (at least the ones who watch network TV) don’t like to think, and, therefore, the television programs have to accommodate that.

lawThis can get annoying to the few of us who like to think about the program we are watching.  Some of us like to put the pieces together and make our own determination.  No part of an American crime show is more annoying than the ending.  Usually in the end, the lead suspect is arrested or interrogated and they, all of a sudden, cop to everything and even go so far as to explain their method and motive.  This is ludicrous!!  This would never happen in real life!!  In real life, the suspects claim their innocence until they’re put behind bars…even then, they constantly claim innocence.  Nobody just gives the police information about the crime.  And what’s worse, is they usually do it without their lawyers present!

ncisThese crime programs would have us believe that suspects are so cooperative and ready to exclaim “my bad!” when faced with a preponderance of the evidence.  These programs insult the television-watching public enough by over-explaining processes and walking us through the evidence piece by piece, showing all the links as they go.  This is an insult to people’s intelligence, but it’s what most of the public likes.  The American public is, after all, providing them with ratings, which determine how much they can charge for advertising.  And, the American public likes things easy to understand and a little bit violent and gory.  These programs do that.  Perhaps that’s why they’re so highly rated.

csiI actually like to watch an episode of these programs and then turn it off right at the end, after they capture the criminal.  I don’t need to hear the story about why and how he/she committed the crime.  I don’t need the exasperated cries about how much they hated the victim, or how poor they are and how much they need the money.  This is irrelevant to the program.  However, it wraps it up nicely in the 42 minutes that I have been watching (I usually watch online without commercial breaks).  It gives closure to those people who need it; those vapid, brainless types who watch these programs for the shooting and the bleeding.  I think American television producers need to give their audiences a little more credit!

The Miss Black America Pageant

black am 1I know the title of this post sounds very racist, but, as any of my closest friends can tell you, I’m far from it.  In fact, it’s just the opposite, the reason the Miss Black America pageant annoys me is because it promotes racial inequality.  I believe that there shouldn’t be any disparity between the human races.  Unfortunately, I know this isn’t the case in many places on the Earth, but in my mind I don’t see people by the color of their skin.

In the 1960s, African American people fought for equality with Caucasian-Americans.  I can not begin to imagine what life must have been like then, nor could I ever imagine what it must be like growing up black.  I am an American male of European descent…..I’m the “majority.”  But, I think of other people as people, that’s it, and when I see things that don’t see people as people, but as a product of their skin color, it annoys me.

The Miss Black America pageant was begun in 1968 as a protest against the exclusion of black women from the Miss America pageant.  It was even held in Atlantic City, the home of the Miss America pageant.  It was supported by the NAACP, and it was a step forward for African-Americans in the 1960s and 1970s.  Since 1970, however, African-American women have been competing in the Miss America pageant.  In fact, many of the more recent Miss America winners have been African-American.  This makes the Miss Black America pageant obsolete.  The Miss America pageant is fully supportive of any woman contestant, regardless of color or background.  All the Miss Black America pageant succeeds in doing is causing a divide between the races in the United States.  It is a remnant of a time when there was more division between black and white Americans, and, technically, it still promotes that division!

black amThere is no reason for the continuation of the Miss Black America pageant.  It is actually a racist pageant in that it only allows African-American women to become contestants in the pageant.  This is the same as the Miss America pageant before 1970.  Now the Miss America pageant represents all the women of the United States.  The Miss Black America pageant is a way of promoting racism against white Americans.  Since the pageant does not allow contestant who are not black to enter, it is a racist pageant, and this no longer is a protest against racism, it has become racism itself.  It has actually turned into something that it was trying to fight against at its inception.

The Miss Black America pageant has been obsolete for more than 30 years, yet it continues to run each year.  My suggestion is to merge the pageant with the Miss America pageant in true racial harmony fashion.  The racist Miss Black America pageant needs to change its policy….or just fade away.

People Who are Obsessed with British Royalty

wedding williamIt has been reported that almost 3 billion people worldwide watched Prince William’s wedding to Kate Middleton.  I don’t believe that the number was that high….more like 100-200 million….but that’s still a lot of people!  My question is…..why?  Who cares?  Why is it such an important worldwide thing?  Why do people care?  The royals are NOT in charge.  They have no power and they have no say in what’s done in the government.  They are figureheads that don’t rule the country anymore.  They are just people with shiny hats!!!

queenYet, people all over the world DO care.  There are a lot of people who are obsessed with the British royal family.  These people don’t all live in the UK, in fact, they live in countries all over the world….many of which are former British colonies.  It’s estimated that 26 million Americans watched the wedding, and that was at anytime from 3AM (on the West coast) to 6AM (on the East coast).  What are these people thinking??!!  They have to actively get up early to make sure they watch this thing.  Furthermore, there have been estimates that 5-10 million more Americans streamed it online.  I thought Americans fought a war with England all those years ago to get away from royalty…..why are they obsessed now?!?!

prince charlesNations in the Commonwealth of Nations even include the Queen on their money.  Many of them continue to have some form of the Union Jack flag as part of their flags.  Why do they feel such a kinship with the country that ruled them as colonies?  What is their obsession with the royalty of the United Kingdom?

The world watched in horror when Princess Diana was killed.  There were vigils and memorials all over the globe.  Now, I don’t dispute that it was a horrible thing and that she was a remarkable woman, but not because she was a princess.  She was a remarkable woman for all the charitable work she did and for being a good mother to her children (who she knew were destined for a life in the spotlight and under the fist of Granny Elizabeth).  Yet, the main reason people watched and mourned was because their princess was dead.  Prince Charles had already moved on….creating a scandal for the royals….yet Diana was still considered royalty, so people were (once again) obsessed.

sarahThe world loved to watch the antics of Sarah Ferguson and her husband, Andrew.  Perhaps this was because, as royals, they didn’t really behave like royalty.  I can’t imagine what it must be like to go through life knowing you’re the second choice all the time.  Whether it’s Andrew or Sarah….we know they’re not the spotlight babies.  So they acted up and misbehaved…and the world (once again) watched with obsession.  Lest we forget which royal brother was divorced first!  When their kids were born, the world talked about it.  It was front page news on all the major newspapers in the world.  It is not news!!!  It is entertainment, it is part of the society page, or (least likely) part of the “world news” section.  But, it is NOT front page news!!

william babyNow the world is obsessed with a new royal, His Royal Highness Prince George of Cambridge.  Thousands of gifts have been sent to the “royal baby.”  People have been interviewed expressing how important this birth is and how wonderful is it for the people of England and the world.  Countries have declared special holidays in reverence to his birth, coins have been minted with his likeness on them….AND WHY?!?!?!  These coins aren’t even all from the UK, some have been issued in other countries (like Kenya).  I guess as an American I will never understand the obsession.  They are lame ducks.  They have no power, they have no purpose, yet they live off the taxes of the British people and the British people are OK with that!!  Why are these people even supported by the government?!?  These people have nothing to do with it.  These people are not special, they are just people.  Like someone once said, “3 billion people watched a wedding of 2 kids that met at university.”  That’s exactly what they are….people….they do not deserve the obsession or the reverence that they are given simply because they were born with a name synonymous with British history.  People need to worry about themselves and their own lives and stop obsessing over these people!!!