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On squirrels sprouting from acorns, frustrating phone systems and some values worth emulating

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Posted: Monday, July 20, 2009 10:00 pm

Here it is, deep into July already - and HOT! I'm grateful for big trees that shade the house and for the cooler nights.

I'm also grateful for all the medical people who keep me upright and moving, and I am particularly grateful for John Hunnell, pharmacist extraordinaire, who keeps me straightened out about my prescriptions.

I find I need a lot of people to keep me straightened out these days!

I was amused - and horrified - at the answers to simple questions Jay Leno asked of people on the street over the last 10 years.

Did you know that Australia and Hawaii are the two countries bordering the U.S.? And that squirrels, rather than big oaks, grow from little acorns? And that the Panama Canal, as well as the Great Wall of China, is in China? Benjamin Franklin would be pleased to know that he was the first president of the United States, and Louis Armstrong would blow a triumphal horn about being the first man on the moon!

Don't people read? Isn't history being taught in the schools anymore?

I think some facts about the founding of this country and the people responsible should begin at the third-grade level and be added to all the way through the senior year. Also, in high school, at least an overview of the history of the rest of the world should be taught. Throw in the appropriate geography along the way, too. The capital cities of the states and of other countries should also be learned - if one can keep up with the changing formats of various countries and their leaders!

Speaking of schools, I heard a horror tale that was later confirmed: High school English classes are not studying full novels or plays any more, just anthologies with shortened versions. Can you imagine Charles Dickens' "A Christmas Carol" being told in 20 pages? How can students learn anything about plot development, character development, writing style and phrasing - all the elements which mark the outstanding writings of the world?

Pete Hetzner challenged me on my use of "stadia" for the plural of "stadium." He said should be "stadii," and he was exactly right. Had "stadium" been a neuter noun instead of a masculine one, I would have been right. Who am I to argue with an optometrist who took four years of Latin? I had only two-and-a-half - more years ago than I like to admit!

Another nasty action by secular progressives: The memorial cross which has stood for 75 years in the Mojave Desert as a tribute to all veterans, and has been kept up by a WWI veteran and his wife, is covered with a cloth. The ACLU wants it torn down, and at one time someone covered it with plywood (subsequently taken off). As I understand it, an appeal has been made to the Supreme Court, as California courts agreed to the tearing down. The humanistic hubris which exists in this country is beyond description. One consolation is that hubris generally carries the seeds of its own destruction.

When will people realize that the Constitution says nothing about the separation of church and state, only that Congress shall not establish a state religion, a la England? People of all religious beliefs can follow them. I wonder why Christianity is being attacked so much; what are people afraid of?

I guess we are all subject to the same annoyances almost constantly: people wanting our money one way or another. In the mail: catalogs, donation requests, bills. On radio or TV or by phone: ads, donation requests or special offers. And so many mailed requests come with "gifts" which are not gifts, just nuisances that have to be dealt with.

Add to these the announcements which come along every time one wants to call any kind of business: "Your call is very important to us; our options have changed; this call my be monitored, etc., etc." And the constant, urgent "call now" on just about every TV ad.

What is the absolute worst is trying to struggle through pushing buttons on the phone trying to get a problem solved, or trying to fit the problem into the spoken options allowed. Usually, there is no button to be pushed or question to be replied to that fits my problem. In some cases, I can find a live person after minutes of struggling. In many cases, I have to resort to writing.

To lighten up: Here's the answer to last month's puzzle and about two two-word phrases in which the first word is the same and the second words are anagrams of each other. Did you guess "peanut allergy" and "peanut gallery"? I certainly didn't!

Some good things: the first Friday Art Hops around town; the wonderful frozen yogurt/mocha blend at the House of Coffees (particularly with chocolate yogurt!); the Saturday morning Farmers Market at Lodi Lake; grand openings and ribbon cuttings for new businesses.

I think it's wonderful when people have the courage and confidence to open a new business of any kind in this day and age. Entrepreneurs are who built this country and who keep it healthy and on the right track.

(Speaking of art, did you know the word "easel" comes from the Dutch "ezel," meaning "little donkey," and refers to the device acting as a "beast of burden" for an artist? This fact is courtesy of the Uptown Puzzle Club, from whom I get five monthly crossword puzzles.)

To close, here are the 12 values Fox News commentator Glenn Beck often refers to: honesty, reverence, hope, thrift, humility, chastity, sincerity, moderation, hard work, courage, friendship and personal responsibility. Not a bad list for anybody.

Gwin Mitchell Paden has been a Lodi resident for 52 years, and busy with numerous community organizations and causes in and around careers in teaching, advertising, reporting, public relations and the Women's Army Corps, not necessarily in that order. This is the tenth year she has written this column.

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