This ’n’ That by Nicky De Lange

It’s that time of year. You know the one I mean – catalog season! From now until the end of the year, our mailboxes will be crammed full as every kind of catalog imaginable floods them.
While some of them are actually interesting and helpful, there are a lot that are filled with some incredibly stupid gift ideas.
Yes, I said stupid, and I meant it. Today’s column is aimed at proving that to you. And this is actually from one of the better catalogs I receive. Wait until the really goofy ones start arriving!
I won’t mention the company who sent out today’s booklet of idiocy.
I’ll just let the items speak for themselves. Let’s start with the worst one first.
It’s called “the bowl light”. The ad claims this device will turn any toilet into a convenient night light. I already love this – and the picture accompanying it really says it all.
The catalog asks whether “you’re tired of fumbling around in the dark when making nighttime bathroom visits”. The amazing invention features a motion-activated LED light that automatically turns on as you approach, guiding your steps with a “soft glow.”
You just hook this gadget to any toilet rim. It uses three AAA batteries, not included, of course, and – best of all –
it can also rotate through seven different colors at the touch
of a button.
What could be cooler than a bathroom light that acts like a disco ball when you walk into the room? Seriously, can you imagine how unnerving it will be if you forget you put one into your bathroom? Now, there’s a wake-up call you won’t ever forget.
Trying to describe this device is difficult, I have to admit. Laughing hard while typing on a keyboard is no easy task. Why would anyone spend $13 for this thing? What’s wrong with a cheap plug-in light from the dollar store?
The only way to improve “the bowl light” would be to have it also play music automatically, preferably synchronized to the various lights coming on and off. Now there’s an idea …
Moving along to more creative insanity, here’s the thing for anyone who really loved the film National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation.
Remember how Clark Griswald – played by Chevy Chase – went totally overboard with all the holiday lights he put on the family home? Well, now you too can thrill your neighbors when you buy the “star shower motion laser light” system.
This will illuminate your house with thousands of colorful, dancing stars. How can that be possible, you ask?
Well, this gadget is a weather-resistant projector with two laser modes – red and green or all green. But wait – there’s more! It also includes an auto light sensor that turns on at night and off in the daylight. The beams cover more than 3,000 square feet. And it’s only $50.
Imagine how thrilled your neighbors will be every night when you light up the skies! Let’s see Clark Griswald top that!
Just don’t try it if you belong to a neighborhood home-
owners’ association.
My column inches are running out, so I’ll just run one more idea by you. You might like it, if you’re a football fan – I’m not.
How would you like your very own NFL reversible sofa cover emblazoned with the name and colors of your favorite team?
It has the team logo and colors on one side and, lucky you, this tacky thing is stain-resistant. The cover pictured in the catalog features the Green Bay Packers logo and comes in a somewhat hideous gold-and-green color combo for only $40.
You have a choice of one of 12 professional football teams to adorn your ever-
so-cool cover.
My advice? Just find another sport with better-looking sofa covers.

160814 Trishna picture cropped                Trishna Buch

Trishna’s tidbits
Modern musings by Trishna Buch

I  have a confession. I have no idea what I am doing with my life. Granted, from an outsider’s perspective, my life is almost perfect. I have a great job, I’m going to graduate school, I’m healthy and my relationships with my family and friends are better than they ever have been. But, if you take a closer look, you’ll know that, even at 23 years old, I am still trying to figure out my life.
When I was a child, I had this vision of how my life as
an adult would be. I was convinced that, by the time I was 25, I would have a glamorous job somewhere in Europe, living in a bustling and thriving city with my husband, our children and maybe a pet.
I was sure that I would be making at least a reasonable five-figure salary and still have enough money left over to take holidays to exotic destinations twice a year. Needless to say, I think I’m going to be proved wrong. I think I’m doomed to a lifelong series of emotional and practical wrecks.
I think my vision stemmed from being a young child and seeing my older cousins glide through life gracefully and easily. From my perspective, it seemed as if they had everything sorted out and that was a lifestyle I constantly strived for, even from a young age. But, now that I am an adult and I have not had my vision fulfilled, I feel lost.
And, not knowing where my life is going frightens me because I strongly dislike the idea of being in the dark. Not for the first time, I wish I had physic powers so I could check up on where I will be in five, 10 and 20 years.
And what frightens me more than not knowing is the fact that almost everyone I have spoken to expects me to know where I will be in the next few years. How many times have you been to a job interview and been asked the dreaded question: “So, where do you see yourself in five years?”
I have been to many job interviews and been asked that question each time (except one – Ed). Of course, I reply with confidence by giving an answer I think the interviewer wants to hear, but the truth is
I have no idea!
In any case, any idea I might have of what I will be doing five years from today could easily change within the next few months. Nothing in life is for certain and, no matter how much you want for something to happen in the next few years, there is no guarantee that it will.
But that does not mean that I – or you – should sit back and wait for our “dreams to come true”, as clichéd as that might sound. My ideas for an enjoyable profession have changed in the past few years but what hasn’t changed is that I am working my hardest to bring myself closer to fulfilling my vision.
Sitting back and having faith is always good – I do have a lot of faith – but that alone doesn’t get the job done. The only way I will be able to fulfill this vision is to work at it.
I want to make my younger version proud of the person I have grown up to become.

160904-tamug-1971Time of ancient Aggie mariners

Can you guess what this picture depicts? No prizes if you do!
For those of you who are still confused, it shows Texas A&M University’s Galveston campus, better known as TAMUG, before its official opening on August 31, 1971.
That means the Pelican Island maritime-education establishment has now been in operation for 45 years.
As a result of the campus’ opening, first-year students from the Aggies’ Texas Maritime Academy were able to spend all four years of their college education in Galveston instead of spending their first year at A&M’s College Station main campus.
Also in the foreground of the picture is Texas Clipper, the academy’s first training ship in which many an Aggie midshipman made their first trip to sea.

Uncommon Sense with Glenn Mollette

President Barack Obama said on Tuesday that the United States will spend $90m over the next three years to clear unexploded bombs dropped on Laos during the Vietnam war. A decade ago, we began spending $2.5m a year, a figure that has risen to $15m this year.
During the Vietnam war, America spent nine years bombing Laos with the goal of blocking supplies to Vietnam and fighting communist forces in northern Laos. Our bombing effort left tens of millions of unexploded cluster bombs, which are about the size of a baseball.
During the nine-year bombing, we conducted 580,000 missions over Laos and dropped more than 270 million cluster bombs on that neutral country. An estimated 80 million of the cluster bombs failed to detonate and they have killed thousands of people since 1973, when we ended the bombing.
We need to clean our mess up in Laos so our three-year program there is good news for that tiny country. It’s not so great news for America, though.
Our war expenditures continue to be bad news for we Americans – $90m out the window for more international efforts. We have communities all over our country with dilapidated schools, outdated or unsafe water supplies and desperate economies and yet we take from our own people to spend more and more overseas.
How much more will we spend in southeast Asia? The Vietnam war numbers are worse than horrific – 58,220 Americans died, 153,303 were wounded and 1,643 are missing. It is estimated that up to 300,000 Vietnam veterans have committed suicide and approximately 700,000 have suffered psychological trauma.
The Vietnam war cost us $168 billion, almost 950 billion in today’s dollars, and that doesn’t include the sums from $350 billion up to $900 billion in veterans’ benefits and interest.
Because of the war, the American economy suffered. The 1960s were a great economic growth time in this country but that spiraled down into an economic crisis in the 1970s.
Since Vietnam, we have spent trillions of dollars on our wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. In just Iraq, more than 4,400 US service personnel were killed directly. The full numbers again are brutal – 32,223 troops were injured and 134,000 civilians killed directly.
Altogether, 655,000 people who would have not died if we had not invaded the country died after the invasion. America spent $1.7 trillion in war expenses and gave $75 billion to American subcontracting companies, including largest of all Halliburton.
And yet we aren’t done in Iraq. We still have military personnel deployed and some of our military leadership look back and wish we had kept a stronger presence.
Meanwhile, because of Islamic State, we will never leave Afghanistan.
It just seems that we can never really leave our wars but how many places can we go and maintain an American military presence? At present, we have 662 military bases in 38 countries.
Many of the bases are very small, yet we are there. How long can we really afford to maintain so much military and other American effort throughout the world? There is so much to do in America.
I’m not anti helping other people but we are way overboard in that respect. We can’t afford to pay our retirees what we promised and we are in a medical crisis.
So helping Laos is not the wrong gesture – it just proves that we never really leave.
Glenn Mollette is an American author whose
syndicated column is read
in all 50 states.

This ’n’ That by Nicky De Lange

If you are like most folks, you’re way too familiar with those annoying robocalls, the ever increasing interruptions, announced by the ring of a telephone, that regularly force their way into our lives, usually at the most inconvenient moments.
According to one report I heard, the regulatory agency the government charged with preventing these calls from reaching those of us who have who signed up for the “don’t call” list isn’t making much headway in accomplishing its task.
It seems, the report said, that the people making the robocalls are staying far ahead of the folks who are supposed to be thwarting them. (I’ll pause here briefly while you roll your eyes in sympathy.)
Just in case you have been spared the robocall problem, I’ll share a few of ours with you. That way you’ll be aware and can hang up quicker.
By the way, does anyone else miss the old rotary-dial telephones that you could actually slam down on unwelcome callers? Technological advancement is NOT always an unmixed blessing.
Getting back to robocalls – one of our most frequent is a recording from a chirpy young woman who wants to tell us how we can get out from under all our credit-card debt. I’m not sure just how this scam works but I’m pretty sure the company will be asking for personal information like credit-account, banking and social-security numbers.
We receive those calls several times a week. Yes, you read that right. Several times a week, sometimes more than one per day. Promptly disconnecting the caller doesn’t discourage “the crooks”, as we refer to them.
So much for putting ourselves on that “don’t call” list!
Then there’s another scam artist who drives me up the wall. It’s a live person, not a robot, which just makes it that much more aggravating. Whoever calls has a heavy accent and neither speaks or understands English very well.
Thanks to the frequency of these particular calls, I’m becoming much better at understanding them. It’s always a representative from “Windows”. Not true –
I checked it out on Snopes.com, the urban-legend website where you can
check out all sorts of crooked schemes.
After the first call, I tried asking future “Windows” callers to let me check with the real Windows folks. Not necessary, they said. I disagreed. The scammer said I must let them help me fix my computer.
Over the phone? Seriously?
Now, I just tell the “Windows” guys I know they’re running a scam and I’m reporting them to the authorities.
Then I hang up on them. Wish I could slam down my cordless phone.
But here’s the latest robocall and, in some ways, the funniest.
About three or four times a week we receive a phone call from – brace yourself for this one! – Donald Trump. Yes, that Donald. The one running for president.
The minute I pick up the receiver, he’s bellowing at top volume. It’s just a recording, but the entertaining part of it is that he’s asking us for a donation to his campaign.
Donald Trump. The Billionaire. Wants money from us. Not even a loan – a donation!
How would he react if I called him on his personal phone line and asked for money?
My best guess is he’d yell “You’re fired!” and hang up on me.
Instead, this way I get the chance to yell: “No way, Donald.” Then I hang up
on him.
Someone needs to invent a device for our private phones that automatically sends a one-way electronic shock to any robocallers who reach out to those of us on the “don’t call” list. I’ll be the first in line to buy one.

Trishna’s tidbits – Modern musings by Trishna Buch

Change is something with which I have a hard time. Unfortunately, it is an inevitable fact of life. Whether it is a new job, moving to a different city or a change in relationships, change is something one has to deal with and learn to accept, as I learnt when my family moved overseas a few years ago and I started studying at an international school there.
The first step to dealing with change is accepting that it has occurred or will soon occur. For me, this is the most difficult aspect of dealing with it. Once you can take the time to accept that an aspect of your life is going to change and that there is nothing you can do to prevent it, you’ll start to move towards figuring out ways to embrace it.
When I moved to Belgium, I did not know the language and suddenly had no friends at school. This fact was worsened when, a few weeks after starting in my new class, a few students took to making my transition difficult, from telling other students not to befriend me to making rude comments when they thought I wasn’t paying attention.
My first instinct was that I wanted my family to move back to America. However, returning was not an option and I had to learn to deal with the problem and accept the change because, if I did not, I would spend the next four years in a miserable state.
Once you have accepted change, your next step is to view it in a positive manner. Positivity can go a long way and allows us to deal with any situation, no matter how difficult.
Having a positive attitude to my situation in Belgium was the only way I could approach it. Naturally, it was difficult, so I took to reminding myself of certain factors that made being positive a lot easier.
I had taken to counting down the days until each school holiday, spending every weekend on the phone with my friends back home and telling myself “you only have to deal with this for four more years and then you’ll never see these people again”. Except that I substituted the word “people” for something more creative and not quite right for repetition here.
Reminding myself the change was only temporary made it a lot easier to deal with. And that is the best part about change; it’s never permanent. If you find yourself in a situation you absolutely despise, take solace in knowing it will not last for ever.
The third way to deal with change is to focus on aspects of familiarity. I hate being in unfamiliar situations so, after moving to Belgium, I unpacked quickly and spent a day organizing and decorating my room, putting up posters and pictures everywhere to prevent homesickness.
I also realized that, when moving away, it helps to familiarize yourself with the area around you. By doing so, you will no longer feel like an outsider and will be able to accept the change faster.
The last way to deal with change is by letting your feelings out. Going through change in your life is difficult but the belief that you are alone and have no one to talk to about it is much worse. I was completely miserable when I first lived in Belgium but I kept the feeling to myself. I did not want to discuss it with my family because I knew they were enjoying the new country and I did not want to talk
to my friends back home because I did not think they would understand.
Only after I felt I could no longer handle the situation and, at the tender age of 13, was considering moving back to America alone did I open up to my loved ones.
You can also let out your feelings in other ways. When
I later lost all four of my grandparents over the course of five years, I was able to handle my feelings of despair after I let out my feelings in the way I know best – through writing.
One final thought – never wait until the last minute to express your feelings. Once I let people I trust know how I was feeling, I was a lot happier, able to accept the change and able to begin to work on living with it.
So, if you’re feeling low about any type of change
in your life, talk to someone sooner rather than later. If I could get through it, so can you!