Why I refuse to use the term “African-American”

The English language fluctuates. A lot. No news there.

I’m a curmudgeon. I’ll change, but only after I’ve seen the wisdom of the change; I’ll choose the action, or verbiage, that makes sense to me. I use “retarded” not to degrade an individual, but to make dispassionate observation that his/her development is slower than the norm. I’ll use “album” for music, even though most “albums” are now on CD.

“African-American” is a term I cannot ever see using.

I live in the Metro DC area. In the first apartment building I lived in when I moved here, there were individuals from at least five different continents, either at birth or one generation removed. About half were US citizens; some were not *yet* citizens, and some were simply here working legally.

This is a very, very diverse area. I love that about it. But there is NO way to know if the individual next to me is American or not. S/he may be of African descent, but until I learn something about that person as an individual, I cannot tell if s/he’s “of African descent” or African or American or hoping-to-be-an-American, or what.

Not only that, but two in my circle are Americans of African descent, but are white. One was born in Africa to Africans, another was born in America to Africans legally present in the US. They are truly African-American, but each has been chastised for referring to himself as such. Some in similar circumstances (and I forget the specifics of the cases) have been denied scholarships or programs designed for African-Americans — because their skin is not black.

So, if I must refer to one’s race, I’ll use “black”.

In fact, I spoke a couple of years ago to an older black man who also uses that term. He told me his rationale — “they keep changing my group. First it was Negro, then black, then African-American, and ‘person of color'”. I’m tired of living by others’ labels. I stopped at “black”.

Very wise, my friend.


More things that aren’t in the driver’s manual

Think back to driver education classes.  They may have been a long time ago; they may have been more recent.

What did your instructor(s) teach you about turns?  Did it go something like this:

  • Choose the proper lane
  • Signal first, then brake
  • Stay in your lane
  • Reach turning speed, and accelerate through the turn
  • If you miss a turn, some safe places to turn around are parking lots, side streets, and the like.

If you’ve learned to drive in a newer car, you might have learned to look at the navigation system to see where the next turn is, and how to get back to your original route.

I’m reasonably certain that even in Prince William County, Virginia, no one was taught to make a left turn from the left-most of marked no-turn lanes, when cars in both the dedicated left turn lanes were moving.
I’m pretty sure they didn’t say stop in the middle of your turn to yield the right-of-way to obliviot in who chose to turn from the straight-through lane.   I’m also pretty sure they didn’t say let two obliviots through. Recall the part where I said two lanes of left-turning traffic were turning at their green arrow?

In what universe do you screw up three lanes of traffic – and then get pissed when the guy behind you flashes his high beams?


Published in: on March 6, 2016 at 7:34 pm  Leave a Comment  

In Which I Start a New Category

I’m starting a new category –“How Not To Be a Dipshit Driver”. It will cover rules of the road, generally because I’ve seen someone with an egregious disregard for that particular rule recently.

When I capture these egregious drivers on my dashcam, I tweet them with the #DipshitDrivers hashtag. Often, though, they happen alongside me, behind me, or somewhere within my vision but not within that of my camera.

Where possible, I will cite laws, safe-driving manuals, or other relatively authoritative sources.

Today’s inaugural post doesn’t deal with anything particularly illegal, but with simple failure to use common sense and common courtesy.

Imagine this. Two lanes each direction, city driving, speed limit 25. At the upcoming intersection, the *right* lane splits into two for those headed southbound; the left lane remains a single lane for those headed straight. No left turn is permissible at the intersection.   For those interested, the intersection is in this google map.  It shows clearly when zoomed.

Here’s a hint. Put yourself in the correct lane before you need to turn. NOT 40 feet before, but well enough before that you don’t interfere with others who are already in that lane.

Yesterday, I was driving in that situation. I was in the right lane – the one that splits in two – and planned to take the left-most of the lanes after the split. A woman who was traveling in the left lane on the approach to the intersection was traveling at almost precisely the same speed as I. I’ll admit I don’t know if I was keeping to the 25MPH limit, and we were the only two cars in the vicinity.

As I pulled into the left-most of the two southbound lanes, the vehicle to my left (in the left lane) slowed considerably, crossed behind me, and pulled to the rightmost of the two lanes. When I looked over to see WTF, she stuck her tongue out at me.

What I did wrong:
– I failed to ensure I was doing at or below the speed limit. I may unconsciously have been pacing her.

What she did wrong:
– She failed to signal – or if she did, I could not see it as she was directly alongside me.
– She failed to plan ahead. Apparently, she had made the assumption that I would pull to the right-most lane. That was a bad assumption; I had planned ahead for the rest of my route, and the left-most southbound lane was where I needed to be. BTW, the right-most southbound lane was where she needed to be anyway.
– She failed to adult.  Most drivers get licenses after age 16.  By that age, people understand that sticking out one’s tongue is really not adult behavior.  All it did for me was cause me to laugh like hell, which, if her expression was any indication, did not make her feel better.

Okay, so that last is not exactly a rule of the road.  It is, however, common sense.

Published in: on March 2, 2016 at 11:27 am  Leave a Comment  

It’s Primary Day

There are things responsible adults do even if they’d rather not. Annual dental checkups. Mammograms and/or prostate exams. Follow the law. Vote.

Today is Primary Day in Virginia.

I honestly went to the polling place not knowing which primary I would choose. Once I made that decision, I knew which candidate I would choose on which ballot, but choosing the ballot was a serious issue.

Surprisingly, I just realized as I wrote that last sentence the issue – that I knew which candidate, but not which party.

You see, the only Republican on the ballot who could earn my vote doesn’t stand a chance. And there were 13 on the ballot. The Powers That Be have actually stated a vote for one of the 8 no longer running wouldn’t count, but that may or may not be true; they have “suspended” their campaigns, but I don’t think any has formally withdrawn. I may be mistaken.

If the Democrat primaries run as close as they have been so far, one candidate wins because she gets the super-delegates; will of the people be damned. There were three candidates on the ballot; one has suspended his campaign.

Side note – wouldn’t it be wild to see one or both parties actually nominate someone who has suspended a campaign? As in – none of the others are acceptable to the entire party, so let’s remove a suspension. Politics could be fun, even though it generally isn’t.

So, back to the choice.   I literally sat in my car for a few moments while I weighed the important factors one final time.  I visited the booths of the two Parties — one had one worker, another had two, and the one with two were talking to one another and did not acknowledge me.  I spoke with the solitary individual working the other side, but he didn’t convince me.

Then I walked away, made a decision, and walked in.  When the poll workers asked me which ballot I wanted, I was actually able to say “Neither.  But I’ll take …”

Done.  I am satisfied I did the right thing for me, for Virginia, and for the United States, given the choices available.  November will bring us at least a third choice – one to which I’m leaning, though a lot can happen in the next seven months.  I have a crap ton of work to do today, but the hardest task is complete.

Published in: on March 1, 2016 at 10:50 am  Leave a Comment  

Important Legislation for a Short Session

Virginia has “short” and “long” sessions of its legislative session.  This is a “short” year, when legislators tell you they haven’t much time, and must deal with the most important issues.  Here is just a sampling of some they apparently put in that category.


HB 1420
Newborn screening; Krabbe disease. Requires the screening tests conducted on every infant born in the Commonwealth to include a screening test for Krabbe disease and other lysosomal storage disorders.

This is not the first time the Virginia legislature has dictated what tests must be run on newborns.  whether or not a person with an actual medical degree believes it necessary.

HB 1515

Information for maternity patients; safe sleep environments for infants.  Information for maternity patients; safe sleep environments for infants. Adds information about safe sleep environments for infants that is consistent with current information available from the American Academy of Pediatrics to the list of information that licensed nurse midwives, licensed midwives, and hospitals must provide to maternity care patients

Not only does the legislature want to practice medicine; it also wants to dictate what information your pediatrician or other health professional must provide you, removing all discretion based on medical knowledge and individual cases


Revocation of concealed handgun permit; delinquency in child support payments. Provides for the revocation of an individual’s concealed handgun permit if such individual (i) has failed to comply with a subpoena, summons, or warrant relating to paternity or child support proceedings or (ii) is delinquent in the payment of child support by 90 days or more or in an amount of $5,000 or more. If the obligor remedies the delinquency, reaches an agreement with the obligee or Department of Social Services to remedy the delinquency, or complies with the subpoena, summons, or warrant, he may reapply for a concealed weapons permit.

Because the two are so closely related.  Doesn’t matter that you can’t afford your child-support payments, your life is not worth maintaining. Fortunately, does not note that one may carry a firearm in Virginia without a Concealed Handgun Permit.  This is a nose under the tent to removing firearms eligibility.
What happened to “punishment should fit the crime”?


Grading system for individual school performance; star number scale. Requires the Board of Education to develop an individual school performance grading system and assign a grade or a series of grades to each public elementary and secondary school using a five-star to one-star scale, five-star being the highest grade. Current law requires individual school performance to be reported by October 1, 2016, using five letter grades from A to F.

Uh, excuse me?  The current six-letter scale uses A-F, but apparently we think our students and parents can’t understand the same grading method we use to grade them.  Let’s make it a five-star scale.  What?  Are we rating hotels?  Is this really an issue?


Losing Loved Ones in a Tragic Accident Month

Who doesn’t want a “Losing Loved Ones in a Tragic Accident” Month?


Definition of fur-bearing animal.  Defines the fisher as a fur-bearing animal in hunting and trapping provisions of the Code of Virginia. The fisher (Martes pennanti) is a small carnivorous mammal native to North America. It is a member of the weasel family.

Apparently, Virginia law has to mirror wikipedia, which lists 70 references for the animal..  Never mind that there is an entire branch of science devoted to Mammalogy, and that scientific documentation of species identifiers already exists.  I doubt (though I can’t be certain) that any members of the General Assembly are members of the American Society of Mammalogists, but perhaps they should be?

Political Gamesmanship Again/Still in Virginia

State Senator Linda (Toddy) Puller, D-36, announced her retirement. She did so at the beginning of the session, to allow her compatriots to play their games.  Now, I notice that for the first time in years, she has updated her photo, no longer using the one from before her stroke, but rather one that makes her appear much more frail.  (NB: Though her body is frail, and has been for years, her mind is still extremely strong.)  She’d have had a harder time winning elections with the new photo in campaign ads, but is more realistic now.  And yes, people will make decisions based on photos, unfortunately, so Puller has been demonstrating she is very politically astute.

So Scott (“Isn’t-it-Nice-I-Got-Named-to-a-Leadership-Position-Again-in-Time-for-an-Election”) Surovell has declared his intent to run in her place.  No surprise there.   Dems hand-picked their Fairfax County Chairman to replace Kris Amundsen, who conveniently decided to announce after primary day that she wouldn’t run again; now they elect Surovell chair of the caucus (read:  special-interest group) in the House.  No good little Democrat Party Member would announce against him.

According to Megan Howard, Surovell’s Legislative Assistant, Scott will not resign his current position in order to run.  Think about that.

Democrat Paul Krizek has announced a run for Surovell’s seat.  What’s he going to do?  Challenge Surovell in a primary?  Or will they hold a firehouse primary so they can run Scott for both seats and promise the likely opening to Krizek?  Will they truly force a special election on the voters (of course, assuming the Republicans, Libertarians, or Independent Greens actually bother to run a candidate)?

No Republican, Libertarian, Independent Green (well, maybe the IG; they’re not very politically savvy) can announce now, because that would be tantamount to acknowledging Surovell is a shoo-in — which he is, but mostly because no one will commit to the effort to take him on in an issues-based race.  So toady publications like the Connection newspapers run items like this, probably weekly or biweekly, for the next year so Google searches have lots of name recognition for searches when election season rolls around.

Hey, Republicans and Libertarians, THIS is how you take elections.   NOT by nominating someone no no one has ever heard of, or leaving it to the Independent who spent $5 on an election and still managed nearly 30% of the vote.

First-world problems, I guess

Several years ago, my parents requested that we not buy Christmas gifts for them, and instead donate to a charity of our choice. They did request that it be a charity that serves our local areas.

One year we chose our local VFW, specifically the program that provides Christmas gifts to children of impoverished servicemembers. One year it was a bunch of $5 and $10 gift cards to grocery stores and fast-food places (their requested method) to a homeless-support group.

This year I found Good Shepherd Housing which seems to do really good, very local work, giving chances to people who are willing to work, and localized to just four ZIP codes.   I mailed my check to arrive for Christmas.

On the 29th of December, we got a thank-you letter acknowledging our gift.  I filed it with tax information, and that was that.

Today, I received another envelope, in a first-class, USPS tracking, package that cost $2.32 to mail.  Inside was another thank-you letter, a bookmark, and a postcard with a lapel pin attached.

Even at large-quantity pricing, the charity spent significantly more than I would have liked to send me something I’ll not use, that duplicates what they sent me before.  They sent it with tracking?????

On the front of the envelope, too, is a banner that says “Welcome”.  Uh, what?  Welcome to what?  My check said “donation”.  I don’t want to join anything; I don’t want to buy anything; I don’t want to see my donation dollars spend on feel-good marketing.

I do hope this is the last I hear from them.  After my experiences with the USO and the American Red Cross (not part of the Christmas gift issue; just donations), I do not want letter after letter after letter and gift after “gift”.  A letter, or maybe two, bulk mailed, throughout the year is one thing, but I don’t want to feel my money is being wasted.

Published in: on January 9, 2015 at 8:43 pm  Leave a Comment  

The things you think about, sometimes …

I was thinking yesterday “why does the crape myrtle keep its leaves until frost, then dump them all at once?” – which is really just the lead-in to this set of ponderings.

When we say “why?”, we look for one of two answers: “,,,because …” or ” … so that …” Those two answers represent an interesting look at the world.

“… because …” implies a look backward. It says a thing does something because, or in response to, a stimulus or an action by another thing.

“… so that …” looks forward. Something or someone does something that causes other people or things to react.

I wonder if this will color how I look at the TV programs I truly enjoy — those on botany, biology, archaeology, anthropology, etc. Will I start to wonder whether a population evolved “because” something else happened, or “so that” something could happen? Will the terminology I hear color the credence I give to the “experts” on these shows?

Nothing in my queries is earth-shattering.  I don’t even know for certain that the concept hasn’t been explored; I just haven’t thought of things in this way.  I don’t even know for certain that it will color how I look at things a week, a month, or a year from now.

I was just pondering.

Published in: on December 31, 2014 at 7:10 pm  Leave a Comment  

On Veterans Day

On Veterans Day, I find it difficult to utter “Happy Veterans Day”. Some part of me recognizes for many, it is not in the least happy.

For those who feel their service is unrecognized, or worse, punished due to inexpertly written or poorly applied laws; for those who are subject to administrative actions that are clearly so intent on doing what’s “fair” that they forget the option of doing what’s “right”; for those who bear the trauma of their service for the rest of their lives, I am profoundly and truly grateful.

Those of us who were fortunate to have served only in peacetime can look at inconvenient deployments, unaccompanied overseas tours, and the like, and realize though it felt like hell at the time, it was nothing compared to what our less fortunate brothers in arms have felt.

While we all did our part, we all, too, owe the greater debt of gratitude to those who experienced the worst of service life.

Thank you.

Published in: on November 11, 2013 at 3:25 pm  Leave a Comment  


Thanks to Shayne Simmons, who hasn’t had anything to say here, for sending views my way.

Published in: on November 6, 2013 at 11:50 am  Leave a Comment