Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Retired Hurricane Names: Revised and Revived

     In recent days I have become curious about the history and protocol for naming hurricanes. A bit of very quick research resulted in a few facts that I found to be of some interest. The contemporary system of using ‘given names’ for hurricanes (and other significant tropical storms) began in 1953 and was overseen by a group called the World Meteorological Organization. Initially, they used only women’s names for the list but this was expanded to include men’s names as well in 1978. Since that year the list of names alternates between the female and male as in the list for 2009: Ana, Bill, Claudette, Danny, etc. There are six standard, annual lists that are used and then the cycle begins anew every seventh year. The exceptions to this standard cycle – and there have been many – are related to storms that were so powerful and/or devastating that the names have been retired from further use. Examples of these mammoth storms include Agnes (1972,) Andrew (1992,) Camille (1969) and Katrina (2005.)
     As you may suspect, because there are 26 letters in the alphabet and seldom, if ever, has there been a year when 26 storms rose to the occasion of hurricane, there are very few retired names that begin with letters beyond L. On the other hand, it seems that there may be a need to refresh the list of names for those letters A-L. In pondering this need I have compiled a list of alternate hurricane names that I will send to the WMO for consideration. You are most welcome to send any additional thoughts you may have to thomschuyler@gmail.com. 

Lili, Lu is Lenny

Thank you.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Cost of Alternative Fuels

     Certainly we are all concerned about the cost of gasoline. This has happened before – several times. If you were alive and aware since 1970 you will recall at least 3 major price surges that resulted in wide spread panic, long lines at the stations and very testy consumers. Frankly, compared to the lunacy, violence and vandalism during the scare of the late 1970’s this current landscape is quite tame.
     I don’t like this any more than anyone else. Part of me engages in rage whenever I read that Exxon has earned another 12 billion dollars in the last quarter when we are busy fixing flat tires and greasing chains on bicycles that haven’t been used in 15 years. On the other hand, I continue to see a country that complains very loudly about a handful of issues and then seems to go on about their business without questioning outrages in other areas.
     With this in mind I would simply point out what it would cost us if our automobiles ran on other oft-consumed, liquid commodities most present in our society. Following is a short ‘for-instance’ list premised upon filling a 15-gallon gas tank with the following consumer products:

          Milk – $56.25 (about the same as regular gasoline at $3.75/gallon)
          Coke-a-Cola – $61.80
          Tropicana Orange Juice – $112.50
          Bottled Water – $189.00
          Starbucks Coffee – $240.00
          Budweiser Beer – $266.85
          Dewar’s Scotch – $1168.05

     Reminder: don’t drink and drive.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Lawyers in Love

     Yesterday on the Internet and this morning in my local newspaper I have learned that singer and songwriter Jackson Browne has filed a lawsuit against Sen. John McCain and both the Ohio and national Republican committees for using his song ‘Running on Empty’ in campaign advertising promoting Sen. McCain. The brief article in this morning’s Tennessean ended with these two statements: ‘The lawsuit claims the song’s use will lead people to conclude that he endorses McCain. The suit points out that Browne is a lifelong liberal.’
     Although not stated in the lawsuit one may infer from Mr. Browne’s positions that he believes his opinion will actually influence the decisions of American voters in November. This type of arrogant display makes it unnecessary to ‘point out’ that he is a lifelong liberal. 
     Finally, it is worth running the risk of being sued myself by this oh-so-sensitive-sage by ‘pointing out’ that Mr. McCain is a ‘lifelong’ Patriot – he loves his country – because his country is all he knows.

Friday, August 15, 2008


     There is a dark word that is a derivative of a beautiful word and I am making this humble proposal that this grave inconsistency be rectified. The beautiful word is humility; the dark word is humiliation. Indeed, it is my humble wish that you have never experienced humiliation. Of course, that is very unlikely. Humiliation comes in too many forms and varieties to think that anyone has escaped its dark clutches. Few, if any, make it out of childhood without being doubled over with one or several encounters with humiliation. It may have been as common as the challenge of pronouncing certain letters of the alphabet or forgetting the words to your speech about George Washington in the school play. Perhaps you wore hand-me-down trousers that didn’t quite reach the tops of your shoes or found it almost impossible to grasp the mechanics of long division. It may have been a dose of dyslexia, a pair of thick glasses or a big pee stain on the front of your khakis on your way back from the lavatory. Then again - and God forbid - it could have been a psycho teacher who decided to make an example of you in front of the class, an uncaring parent who demeaned you in front of your friends or a predatory man-of-the-cloth who fed his own demons in the name of love. 
     Adulthood, too, arrives with a full menu of potential humiliation. Arrogant bosses, the loss of employment, infidelity, divorce, financial crises, booze, illness and unrequited love can all lather up into a murderous attack on one’s self-esteem. Have any of us escaped one, several or many of these circumstances? 
     The issue I have with the derivative word – humiliation – is this: humiliation seldom results in humility. I offer these couple of observations to bear witness to my conclusion. First of all, if you ask any rational adult to recall a circumstance from their childhood in which they were unfairly treated, ridiculed or humiliated, few will hesitate to unpack a story or two. Many of those stories begin with phrases like, ‘I had this bitch of a 3rd grade teacher,’ or ‘There was a prick of a little league coach,’ or ‘I was never a great student and one day this group of boys…’ and off they will launch into precise and graphic details of a dark and forever-embedded moment from long ago, very profound and very alive. Secondly, it is seldom that these stories conclude with thoughts like ‘I’d love to hook up with those guys again for old time’s sake.’ Typically, they end with phrases more akin to ‘I’d like to knock the shit out of all of them.’ So, returning to my premise – it seems we carry the putrid baggage of humiliation with us forever and it reeks of retribution. And I would submit that a spirit of retribution – whether active or dormant – is antithetical to a spirit of humility.
     Speak to any mental health professional, spiritual counselor or so-called ‘life coach’ and most will tell you that the battles we fight for our souls in adulthood are linked to some ego ass kicking we received along the way. There are headier, medical terms for these incidents of humiliation but I like the phrase ‘ego ass kicking.’ Other entries in the Appendix to The Lexicon of Humiliation include ‘Personality Murder,’ ‘The First Step on a Lifelong Journey of Self Doubt’ and ‘Well, So Much For Me.’
     Of course, before I can convince anyone that my proposal has merit it is necessary for me to weigh the utter darkness of humiliation against the aura of its root word: humility. There are those rare few we have encountered walking these fleshly miles that possess the lovely glow of humility. It seldom shines like the sun but it is, rather, the soft, warm color of dawn. In this humility there is evidence of completeness, satisfaction and hope. It is usually accompanied by traces of meekness, kindness and calm. Humble people always use their inside voice, only urinate outdoors when they’re in the woods and never puke in barrooms. They weep privately, possess the strange gift of forgiveness and are delighted to live subordinately in the protective shadow of The Ultimate Truth. Oh, what a glorious state of being! Lord only knows from whence it came.
     I believe that we are humbled by encounters with goodness and benevolence and not at all by meanness or greed. So, the next time you see some loud mouth berating some poor, meek soul approach the bully with kindness and urge them to employ a gentler tone. Feel free to share with them this linguistic theory that attempts to demonstrate the paradox of the derivative. If this doesn’t work – and it will not – spray him in the face with one of those stainless steel club soda dispensers like the bartender did to Old Man Gower in the bar on Christmas Eve in Pottersville.