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ARCHIVED POSTS

  • April 30, 2019

    A WILD RIDE WITH AN ANGRY GERMAN

    A WILD RIDE

    One of the most exciting parts of our recent Viking river cruise along the Rhine and the Danube, was definitely not on the itinerary.

    It was the day my wife, Carmela, and I took the bus to Wurzburg, skipped the guided tour of the Wurzburg Bishops’ Residenz (yet another of Germany’s largest and most ornate palaces), and spent our time wandering around town, mingling with the residents, which we enjoyed immensely. Unfortunately, when we got ready to go home, we found we had been given incorrect information from the guide, who inadvertently showed us the wrong place on the map to catch the bus back to the boat.

    So as night began to fall, and rain began to pour, we missed our bus pick-up time and had to figure a way back to the boat.

    We did the obvious thing. We called a cab, got a crazy and angry driver, who didn’t speak English, and who kept yelling at us, as though if he was just loud enough, we would suddenly be able to understand German.

    Unfortunately, we didn’t really know exactly where the boat was moored. We called the boat, got an interpreter, and gave the phone to the driver. He yelled at her, and she yelled back. Meanwhile, we are sitting in the back seat, cold, wet, and hungry, thinking any minute we were going to be part of an international incident. Finally, the driver threw the phone to Carmela, started complaining loudly in German, and driving like a madman through the streets of Wurzburg, cursing other drivers, swerving through traffic, and waving his arms in all directions.

    We didn’t have seatbelts to tighten, but we hung on for dear life. I’d like to say we were distraught, but in a way it was great fun. Were we going to die in some flaming crash? Maybe, but what an exciting way to go, speeding along the highways of Germany with a mad man at the wheel, yelling crazily at everybody he passed. It would certainly give our loved ones something to talk about for years to come.

    Finally, after about an hour of this, the driver pulled into an industrial area of some German settlement, and motioned for us to get out. We didn’t really know where we were, or exactly where we should be going, but we did know that we were nowhere near a boat, and there was no river in sight. The driver didn’t seem bothered by this. He just kept yelling something, which we think was close to, “get the hell out of my cab!”

    Carmela called the boat back, and gave the driver the phone. Another argument ensued. We could hear the person on the boat yelling at the driver and the driver screaming back at her.

    Finally he threw the phone back at us, and sped off. At this point, Carmela started yelling at the driver and motioning for him to just let us out, but he ignored her. The people on the boat started yelling at Carmela to get his license number because they were going to call the police. Carmela, who is being thrown all around the back seat and yelling at both the cab driver and the people on the boat, was telling them it was impossible to get the license number because we were traveling at 50 mph down little two lane roads, and the driver wouldn’t stop.

    Finally, the driver “flipped a u-ey,” as we say, turned down a gravel road parallel to the river, and delivered us to the boat, skidding to a stop and demanding 20 Euros. Meanwhile, about 10 of the boat crew were standing on the gangway waving their arms and yelling and looking ready to call the police when we showed up. We gave the driver his 20 Euros, plus a 5-Euro tip and got out of the cab.

    The driver actually seemed touched at the gesture and nodded to us as he drove away. We went aboard and dressed for dinner.

    George Lee Cunningham

    Do you have a dissenting opinion or any opinion at all on the subject? Contact me at george@georgeleecunningham.com and let me know. Meanwhile, you can always subscribe and get an email reminder of blog postings. Your name will not be shared and you may cancel at any time.

  • March 8, 2019

    LOVE AND MARRIAGE

    For most of us, you meet someone, and you fall in love. You fill in the gaps and you smooth out the sharp edges between you and together you both become better people than you were on your own. But it’s not that simple for some folks. Some folks think about things so much, they become frozen in uncertainty, and they never take the chance on what could be heaven or what could be hell. READ MORE

  • SAVE THE BUGS

    Our insect friends are rapidly disappearing. They may seem disgusting to us, but without them we’re in big trouble. We need bugs to help pollinate plants. Without bugs, there could be world-wide food shortages. And without bugs for food, the birds are in trouble too. Widespread use of pesticides is one problem. So is paving over much of urban areas and planting grass that replaces flowers and weeds. How can you help? READ MORE

  • The Long Road to Redemption

    PUTTING THE PAST BEHIND YOU

    It’s easy to be good if you’ve never been bad.

    If you have never stepped over the line or done anything for which you are ashamed, you might not understand much about people who can’t make the same claim. If you’ve lived a good and honorable life, it’s easy to look down on those who have not done the same. It’s easy to condemn those who have cut corners and compromised their own – and society’s – ideas of right and wrong. The problem is, that once the “good people” make up their minds about the “bad people,” it’s difficult, if not impossible, for the “bad” ones to change.

    The path to redemption is difficult. It’s a big challenge to change one’s own self-image and behavior, but often, the bigger challenge is changing the minds of other people. To begin, the person with a bad rep is faced with a choice – fight the odds to convince everyone that he has changed his ways – or just give in to the common wisdom that “people can’t change” and keep doing what got him into trouble in the first place.

    Unfortunately, the second path is the one most often taken.

    My wife Carmela worked with inmates at a prison near our home. In an age of welfare and health benefits, many openly and vocally planned to subject themselves to lives of poverty, rather than make the effort to find jobs or improve their lots. It’s just easier to give in, and many of the women said they’d prefer to have their time to do as they pleased with someone else paying their way, than to have to go to a job every day. Many thought that going to work every day was just too boring and too hard.

    That’s a sad and frustrating reality for many people in prison. But for people who have done wrong, and who want to repent, what’s their path to respectability? How long should it take them to live down their pasts? Are they doomed forever, or is there a road to redemption that they can take without groveling, which never works. It only demeans the person begging for forgiveness.

    The answer is that former felons should neither have to spend the rest of their lives begging forgiveness nor be forever haunted by their pasts. They have to acknowledge their misdeeds, find new people who have not yet made up their minds about them, and move on. But if their records follow them wherever they go, it becomes almost impossible to change. And, perhaps more importantly, if the friends and family they got into trouble with are still in their lives and still promoting the same harmful and illegal behavior, they need to give up those old friends and family members.

    Real friends will understand that.

    George Lee Cunningham

    Do you have a dissenting opinion or any opinion at all on the subject? Contact me at george@georgeleecunningham.com and let me know. Meanwhile, you can always subscribe and get an email reminder of blog postings. Your name will not be shared and you may cancel at any time.

  • DISRUPTERS OF THE WORLD, UNITE

    WATCHING YOU …

    China is making a big mistake. The country has begun surveilling its citizenry, keeping tabs on everybody, and figuring out who’s been naughty and who’s been nice. China has been doing these kinds of things for years, but it’s now beefed up its effort with a heavy dose of technology and a new Social Credit System. Due to take full effect next year, the System would rank all citizens and businesses on their economic and social reputations.

    In the United States we have credit scores, put together by private companies that calculate credit reliability according to their proprietary algorithms and rank individuals according to what they calculate as credit reliability. If a person has a low score, it will be more difficult for him or her to get a loan.

    China is getting ready take it up a notch. If a citizen scores high on the Social Credit System scale, he or she would be rewarded with more freedom and better jobs. If a person’s score is low, he or she would be punished, as would that person’s close associates, such as friends, co-workers and family members. Knowing that they could be branded with a poor social credit score by association, would be an incentive for those closest to a “bad social actor” to shun his company, isolate him, and pressure him to conform to the government’s dictate of good social behavior.

    Details are still fuzzy, but the system would be backed by drones flying overhead, a network of cameras lining the street with face-recognition software, an army of retirees who spy on their neighbors and make notes of either good or bad behavior, and a computerized score card.

    There apparently already exists a blacklist of people. At the end of last year, 5.4 million rail trips and 17 million flights were cancelled for people on the list. Exactly why those folks are on the list is not public knowledge.

    So much for the trouble-makers. The main problem, of course, is that it’s the trouble-makers that move society forward. They are the men and women who give the finger to the common wisdom, the ones who are obsessed with new ideas and schemes. They are the ones who take off running, who crash and burn, and then get back up and try again.

    Society needs those kind of people. It’s not the compliant folks who make the world better. It’s the uncompliant, stubborn, often nasty people who are willing to take an idea and turn it into something that benefits everyone, including themselves. They’re not always the nicest folks around, but without them, society and civilization stagnate.

    That’s what the bureaucrats in China – and in every other developed country – don’t get and probably never will.

    George Lee Cunningham

    Do you have a dissenting opinion or any opinion at all on the subject? Contact me at george@georgeleecunningham.com and let me know. Meanwhile, you can always subscribe and get an email reminder of blog postings. Your name will not be shared and you may cancel at any time.