Chanticleer Calls #14

Chanticleer
I do not propose to write an ode to dejection, but to brag as lustily as chanticleer in the morning, standing on his roost, if only to wake my neighbors up. 

Henry David Thoreau

April 6, 200


CROWING

I’m pleased as the proverbial punch to tell you that ThisIsNotThat.com hits the “Big Time,” or at least the New York Times, this weekend. William Safire, well-known syndicated columnist, mentions my site and general semantics in his weekly column in the New York Times Sunday Magazine, April 9th. I should mention, however, that the mention does not necessarily result from an endorsement of content, but rather is made in the context of “interesting” website names.


“It is not disbelief that is dangerous to society, it is belief.” – George Bernard Shaw


HOW TO GET THERE FROM HERE?

One of the reasons that this edition of Chanticleer Calls showed up (crowed up?) late is that the author has, within the past month: accepted a new job offer after seven months of a former-employer-supported ‘sabbatical’; bought a new car; took a driving tour of the Midwest including St. Louis, Chicago and Milwaukee; and started said new job.

The new job is a wee bit beyond clear across Dallas, so the new car has already seen much road time. The new commute represents a conundrum in that … there’s not really a ‘good’ way to go, either coming or going.

At first, I believed it was a piece of cake since the new North Central Expressway is completed from downtown all the way north to Plano. I believed I could zip into downtown on Hwy 114, get on North Central, and zoom against the traffic to Plano – even during rush hour. The alternatives included taking the more direct, but frazzling, I-635 across north Dallas, or using the Dallas North Tollway, which is usually clear but it’s a pain getting on and there are two major toll booth areas to get through.

After a week, I might have changed my belief about the ‘best’ (more like ‘least worst’) route. I tried them all. However, I realized that there were so many data points I needed to consider that – truly, the answer to my dilemma was, “It depends.” For example, in the morning it makes a big difference what time I leave. And the road conditions and visibility certainly factor into it since the downtown route has two major freeway merges to contend with, both of which face right into the sun at this time of year. And there’s no accounting for where the wrecks and breakdowns will be – truly a random distribution.

So I no longer cling to any beliefs about which route represents the ‘least worst’ or ‘best.’ There are too many variables to deal with, too many things happening that I can’t control or understand, and the predictability is really nothing more than a guess. But the fact that I don’t believe in a ‘best’ route doesn’t keep me from getting up in the morning, hopping in the car, plugging in to some tunes, and heading off to earn a little chicken feed.


GIGABITE GULLIBILITY

CBS Marketwatch reported the arrest of a Houston day trader named Fred Moldofsky. Seems he participated on one of the Yahoo! message boards set up to discuss individual stocks (in this case, Lucent Technologies (symbol: LU).

(Aside: I’ve ‘participated’ on several of these boards as well, and actually, the mere participation on some of these boards ought to constitute a misdemeanor.)

But Mr. Moldofsky did a little more than ‘participate’. According to the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), he posted a message formatted to look as though it was distributed by the company (Lucent) as an official press release. His message (a.k.a., the “press release”) warned that Lucent was forecasting lower profit levels than previously announced a few weeks earlier.

“We allege (Moldofsky) modeled this fake release on (the actual warning), which gave it the appearance of reality,” Erich Schwartz, assistant director enforcement at the SEC, reported to CBS.MarketWatch.com.

Marketwatch reported that the stock dropped 2 5/8 point on March 22 (the day of the fake release) and traded as low as 60 3/8 on March 23 before the fake release was denied.

So, apparently, quite a few people believed that what they read on a stock message board, amidst posts such as “Shorts Suck!” and “If you’re long you’re WRONG!,” to the degree that they sold their stock. Just because they read what somebody said, they believed.


ATTACK ONE, ATTACK ALL

During the last half of February, the Dallas Morning News (DMN) published several letters from local Muslims after an article linked some Muslim clerics to terrorists.

One letter, from Aqeel Siddiqui, expressed his belief that: “Any unjust attack on a single Muslim or Islamic institution is an attack on all Muslims. Muslims are united and reserve the right to use every lawful means to defend any attack on themselves and their freedom.

If this belief sounds a little harsh on your ears, try substituting some of these terms for “Muslim” and/or “Islamic”: A&M grads … women … Boy Scout … Trinity High School Trojan … conservative Christian … Democrat … Texan … innocent woman or child … refugee … Hall of Famer … law-abiding citizen … Methodist … Catholic …

How strongly do you believe that holding strong, sincere beliefs represents a virtue, without respect to what is believed?


WHATEVER HAPPENED WAS MEANT TO HAPPEN

You may have heard that we experienced a little meteorological event here in the Dallas-Fort Worth area on March 28th. To a lot of folks in Fort Worth and south Arlington, what they experienced was a tornado.

The storm damaged much of downtown Fort Worth, including Calvary Cathedral and its five-story prayer tower. (Curiously, just a few blocks away, the First Methodist Church escaped unscathed …)

On April 2nd, the church held makeshift services nearby. Rev. Bob Nichols said he believed it was time for “thanksgiving and celebration.” According to the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, the three-hour service “… was a cheerful and optimistic service full of smiles and hugs, and even clowns and colorful balloons for the many children who attended with their parents.”

“Nothing but good can come of this,” said Jinx Thompson, a longtime church member whose River Oaks home sustained minor damage.

“Our pastor has been wanting to build a new gym, and now the tornado has broken ground for us,” she said.
“Vickie Denny of Saginaw said she had been scheduled to be in what members call the Power Tower, a 24-hour prayer vigil that members have maintained for five years in the church tower. She said she had the 6 to 8 p.m. shift but was delayed at work.

“There are so many miracles in this. This can only bring Calvary closer,” Denny said.

“Nichols’ sermon was based on Exodus, Chapter 17, in which the Israelites complained that Moses and God had led them to the desert, where they had nothing.

“He said that just as the relationship between God and his people was tested in the desert, the Calvary congregation has a similar opportunity and will be better for it.

“‘The desert is a place where we get rid of our stuff, but we also get rid of our fear, our disbelief and our blaming of others,’ Nichols said.” Meanwhile, a few blocks away from the church in downtown Fort Worth, a 67-year old homeless man, Carl Spence, was crushed to death when a brick wall he huddled against collapsed on him as the tornado passed.

Meanwhile, in neighboring Lake Worth to the northwest, 19-year old immigrant Juan Carlos Oseguera left the cover of shelter during the accompanying hail storm to move his pickup truck. He was struck in the head with a softball-sized hailstone traveling over 100 miles per hour. He was kept alive on a respirator until the next day, when his family decided to remove the respirator. They agreed to donate his organs donated, which immediately went to help two people in Fort Worth and four people in Houston.

Meanwhile, in east Fort Worth, Adele Warren, 62, and her grandson, Ashlyn B. Dickens, 24, died when their car was swept away during flash flooding.

I suppose that sometimes there just aren’t enough ‘miracles’ to go around. And I guess that a prerequisite of believing that “Nothing but good can come of this” is that, well, you gotta be there to say it. And I reckon that not everybody can pass the test. Still, it seems to me – I believe – that four lives represent a steep price to pay for a new church gym.


During the same week in my city of Irving, a disgruntled man who had been fired from his job at a car wash for allegedly exposing himself to customers, went back to the car wash and shot and killed six people.

According to the Dallas Morning News, Robert Wayne Harris has apologized to the families of the victims and “said he spends most of his solitary time praying for forgiveness. “I know when people pray, that the Lord is always listening … The only thing I can do is pray to God and turn my life over to the Lord. I guess that whatever happened, the Lord meant it that way.”


AND FINALLY – A Unique Tribute

I have mentioned my friend and devoted Chanticleer Calls reader Katy Beth before. Her sister Vikki died on February 21st after a seven-year battle with breast and liver cancer. Katy Beth shared in an email that: “Often, when something like this happens, people are left with the feeling that they never got to say thank you, or never had the opportunity to let the other person know you care. I know Vikki knew. I just thought I’d take advantage of modern technology to make sure you all did. She then listed a variety of experiences, events, remembrances, reasons, and comments which related why she was thankful for those to whom the email was addressed.

I found it very special and meaningful and asked her if I could mention it in a newsletter. She replied: If you do say something about it, may I ask you to urge your female readers (males can get it too, you know, 1400 diagnosed cases in 1997) to be wary of breast cancer and not to say “I’m too young”, “there’s no history in our family”, etc. It doesn’t matter. She had no history – she was 33 when diagnosed. Urge them to do the self-examination no matter how old they are. Breast cancer in women under the age of forty progresses more rapidly. Their tumors are more aggressive than in post-menopausal women. If they’re over 40, tell them to schedule a mammogram.

And if anybody asks what they can do – tell them to go to the post office. Or www.usps.gov and buy the breast cancer stamps, they’re pretty and the extra seven cents goes to research. So far, just by people spending an extra seven cents per stamp, the post office has raised $10.9 million to “fund the fight.” Thanks, Katy Beth. With the various Susan G. Komen activities going on this month, I believe yours is timely advice.