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Miscellaneous thoughts on miscellaneous subjects


August 23. 2013 8:54PM
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How old are you, anyway? One of my compatriots, having just come in from a photo assignment, was sitting in my office recently, doing an impression of a guy he’d encountered at the scene of a train derailment.“S’cuse me,” my friend began, adopting the gruff voice of his nemesis, “could you move back? This is dangerous work here and you could get hurt.”As my friend continued to take pictures, the guy tried again: “S’cuse me,” he said. “Could you move back some more? If you get hurt, I’m going to be in trouble and you won’t be able to see your grandchildren tonight.”Or, something like that.This is all in a day’s work for a photographer, so my friend was neither offended nor put off by the man’s request. However, my friend was quite put off by something else.“Do I look old enough to have grandchildren?” he asked.Unless you look really, really young for your age, you too may have had an experience in which someone makes an age-related assumption that’s on the high side of the truth. It can ruin your day. The best policy: Engage brain, then speak. And stay away from assumptions about people’s ages. They’re usually wrong, anyway.Why is the vending machine smarter than me? I stand in front of the vending machine, trying to get a Coke. I slide a bill into the dollar slot and push a quarter into the coin slot. The dollar is accepted, but the coin is not. The coin clinks into the return bin, and I wonder what’s wrong.I pick up the quarter and try again, with the same result.If I’m really dense, I may even go through this little ceremony a third time.Then I take a good look at the quarter. Ah, yes. It’s a Canadian quarter, with the countenance of Elizabeth II on one side and a moose or an elk or something on the other side. And, of course, it says “Canada” on it big as day.Now, I wouldn’t mind the money from up North if, in fact, it worked in the bloomin’ vending machines down South. But it doesn’t. And, I have to wonder: Why is the vending machine smart enough to reject the foreign currency when I’m not smart enough to do the same?Of course, with the current exchange rates, I might have to rethink my irritation with these coins. The Canadian dollar has been worth more than the U.S. dollar of late, although they were just about even on Friday.In my world, everybody’s entitled to one divorce I’ve been trying to count the number of marriages amassed by this year’s crop of presidential candidates. Among Republicans, Rudy Giuliani is the title holder. He is on his third marriage. But Ohio’s own Dennis Kucinich, a Democratic presidential candidate, is also married to Wife No. 3.All told, based on the candidates’ Wikipedia biographies, here’s the tally:Eight Republican candidates have 12 marriages between them, including Giuliani’s three and two each for John McCain and Fred Thompson. Everyone else is still on the first marriage, as near as I can tell.Among Democrats, we have the same: eight candidates with 12 marriages between them. In addition to Kucinich with three, there’s Joe Biden and Christopher Dodd with two each. We have to put an asterisk by Biden, however. His first wife died in a car accident.The other first and second marriages were ended by divorce.Is it important? Well, you have to answer that yourself.But here’s my take on it: I figure people make mistakes. Maybe they just married too young and, in growing up, also grew apart. I can see it. So, I make one exception. In my world, everybody’s entitled to one divorce. If we’re talking more than one divorce, I begin to think that is extremely bad luck, poor decision making or a character flaw. And … do I want that person to be president?That’s ‘Olmert’ and ‘Mahmoud’ to you, buddy Is it too much to ask that the president of the United States be able to correctly pronounce the names of world leaders? On Tuesday, George Bush was reading an agreement at the Mideast Summit in Annapolis when he bobbled the names of both the Israeli prime minister, Ehud Olmert, and the Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas.The Mideast leaders were standing right next to Bush, so there’s no way they missed it.This is about as embarrassing as forgetting the name of a colleague or someone you’ve invited to your home.If the names are that difficult to pronounce — and I don’t think these are — someone ought to provide the president with pronunciation guides. For example, the Voice of America has a Web site (http://names.voa.gov) that gives its broadcasters — and you — the correct pronunciation of many world figures.For example, Ehud Olmert is eh-HOO-D OH-L-mehrt, the capital letters representing the accented syllables. And Mahmoud Abbas, according to the Web site, is mah-MOOD ah-BAH-SS. These pronouncers are helpful, but practice makes perfect.The president ought to give it a try.Until then, better keep him away from the president of Iran, mah-MOOD ahh-mah-dee-nee-ZHAHD.





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