Sunday, February 24, 2008

Stop worshiping money more than life

Perhaps Michelle Obama is really on the mark. We haven't done much lately in this nation to make people proud.
Perfect example: In Saturday's Dallas Morning News, there was a page 4A article about the indictment of Republican congressman Rick Renzi of Arizona (oh yeah, a CLOSE advisor to one John McCain) for extortion and fraud involving a land deal A supplement box listing other bad boys in Washington (Jim Traficant, Larry Craig, Tom DeLay, Duke Cunningham, etc.) charged and convicted congressmen points out a harrowing fact.
If anyone needs to know what is wrong with our society and the people who choose to lead our government. Those convicted for stealing money, one way or the other, through fraud, bribery, extortion, etc., were given fairly harsh prison sentences. Cunningham got 8 1/2 years, Traficant got eight years and good ol' Bob Ney got 2 1/2 years.
But the man, William Janklow of South Dakota, who actually killed someone (while drunk and speeding), convicted of vehicular homicide, was sentenced to a whopping 100 days in prison. That is total bullshit!
When, oh when, will our society stop placing, and worshiping, money above the worth of another human being's life? When did theft become a more henious crime than killing someone?
Comedian-activist Dick Gregory used an analogy during his student assembly concert days inthe 1970s (when he was true greatness). He said that if a man broke into a woman's house, robbed her of $100 and then killed her, he would be branded a monster.
"Why did he kill her for $100?" people would scream.
But if he robbed her of $1 million out of her safe and killed her anyway, the reaction, Gregory claimed, would be different.
"What was she doing with that kind of money alying around?" they would posture. "She was asking for it."
But the woman would be just as dead. Except the money was different.
When those scales are tipped in favor of humanity, only THEN will our nation and society TRULY become great.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Gentlemen: the two most important words …

This short piece is for all you brides-to-be; you need to cut this out and hand-deliver it to your prospective grooms. Make him/them read it, memorize it and recite it later ... and often.
Gentlemen, the two most important words you need to know about your upcoming nuptials are NOT “I do!”
They are “Yes, honey!”
Repeat them. “Yes, honey!”
You will be saying that phrase far more often than you know and it will be the correct thing to utter each and every time. You need to understand, in advance, that you will be agreeing to almost everything your woman wants on her special day because … it’s HER day – not yours.
As a father and a married man (twice actually), a wedding is for, and about, and produced, by the bride. It’s her day to shine and you merely need to see her in all the radiance possible. On that day, it will be as good as it can be (with the possible exception of the birth of your first child together).
Your job, despite what any wedding planner tells you, is 1) show up on time; 2) be respectful to what’s hap­pen­ing; 3) please be sober; 4) make sure your buddies are sober; and 5) make sure you have the ring and license! Afterwards, make sure you’ve got everything packed for the honeymoon, all documents secured (tickets, traveler’s checks and passports) and the gas tank is filled.
Don’t worry about the cake (unless you’re allergic), the seating arrangements (unless you’re a Hatfield and she’s a McCoy), the flower arrangements (unless you’re in the business) or the color of the bridesmaid dresses (unless you designed them). And stay clear of the future mother-in-law because she’s usually on a mission and you’ll get run over like Earl Campbell used to knock over defensive backs for the Houston Oilers.
The best idea you can “insist” upon is the hiring of a professional wedding photographer. Letting “Uncle Bob” take the pictures is an instant recipe for disaster and your bride will cry for the rest of her life, and yours, if her wedding photos are lacking or horrid … or missing. While saving money at every possible turn is preferable, this is where the budget needs to allow for leeway.
Because … you know about that “’til death do us part” part? Knowing that you could have prevented a wrong-footed start to a lifetime together tends to avoid that slippery “part.”
Gentlemen, also a few good suggestions for your pre-wedding behavior. If you feel the urge and need to have a rollicking bachelor party, do it at least 2-3 days BEFORE the wedding. That way there will be plenty of time to … recover. And don’t strive to do embarrassing, wild activities that you will regret when they are later seen on YouTube. Again, that dastardly “part” part tends to rear its head.
As a father and groom, I cannot emphasize the need to conserve money. Trust me, you’ll need it when you begin the marriage and start living together under one roof. Even if you each bring your belonging to merge as one household, there will be plenty missing and, to quote the great philosopher Chico Marx, “That runs into money.” I guess I’m kind of frugal but you can produce a life-long memory without busting the bank account.
But if she wants something bad enough, men, you must go back to those two words, “Yes, honey!” in order to survive. You will soon realize your life will dwindle into two word conversations. Your parts will be:
“How come?”
“How much?”
“Say what?”
“And because?”
“Yes, honey!”

Sunday, February 03, 2008

When reading isn't fun - dyslexia major problem NOT properly diagnosed at the right time

Author's Note: The following column appears in today's edition (Sunday, Feb. 3, 2008) of the Collin County Opinion Pages of the Dallas Morning News.

My daughter, Lisa, is a terrible speller. She admits to it and, as a professional editor, I know it as well. And, yes, it drives me up a wall akin to the child of an Olympic swimmer being afraid of water. You would hope one's natural talent would be something of a family inheritance.
Having disclosed that, I must say that it is not her fault. She suffers from dyslexia, a learning disability that makes it very difficult to properly learn to read and spell.
It doesn't mean the student lacks intelligence; in fact, far from it. Many dyslexics are highly intelligent and highly gifted. It means a person's brain merely processes written and/or verbal language differently than the normal individual. It is a neurological problem. The brain simply cannot correctly digest some letters as seen through the eye.
All too often this goes undetected in the place where it matters most – the classroom. A simple eye test administered in most elementary schools won't send up the needed red flag to either teachers or parents. As a result, affected students fail to acquire the help needed to combat the problem and overcome the difficulty. "Just try harder" is not the proper answer.
Dyslexia affects anywhere from 5 to 9 percent of all school children, but some studies increase the numbers to as much as 17 percent. Even more astonishing is that only 20 percent of adults who suffer from early childhood reading problems learn fluent reading skills; that's 1 in 5, folks.
Since it involves words, it requires more time and practice for those with dyslexia to master the skill of reading. For example, if a child needs 30 to 60 hours to learn to read, a dyslexic child needs 80 to 100 hours. It is even more important because of the inability to correctly associate what he or she sees with what is heard, a process which is called "phonics." Phonics is a common method to teach children to read.
Dyslexics can compensate for their disability with the proper therapy, training and technological help. Dyslexic students are legally entitled to extra time during tests (which also applies to such tests as the SAT and ACT college boards). However, it doesn't always happen that way.
Lisa had a high school AP English teacher who refused to cooperate; but my daughter, not wanting to seem "privileged," did not fight hard enough for her rights because no one within the school administration informed her of all those rights.
There are some charitable organizations, such as the Scottish Rite Foundation locally, which test for dyslexia and make training classes and materials available, often at no cost, for teachers and students. But the problem must be diagnosed at the starting point – our elementary schools.
It isn't too much of a stretch to state that dyslexia receives inadequate support in American public schools. There have been several legal cases in this nation, plus Canada, England and New Zealand, brought by parents against public education, for failing to provide enough support for children with learning disabilities. I, for one, don't want this played out in the court, but solved in the classroom.
In order for a student to be properly treated and assisted for dyslexia, it must be diagnosed at an early age. While young American schoolchildren are given eye examinations to detect vision too poor to read blackboards or even books, nothing is done to see if they are neurologically impaired in that process – if what they see is correct.
The "full monty" of tests to fully reveal dyslexia in a child is not possible for each and every U.S. student. But some sort of early detection exam can (and should, by law) be administered. Once they are warned of a possible problem, the responsibility will then rest with parents and teachers.
Dyslexia crosses all racial, ethnic and social lines and, without proper help and detection, it places our children at risk and harm that is preventable.
It's probably too late to really help Lisa. But it isn't too late to help many others.