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etc. - a little of this, a little of that - by Oliver Del Signore

Archive for the ‘Children’ Category


Help! I can’t decide which one I like best.

Thursday, August 2nd, 2012

When our children were born three decades ago, we took a lot of pictures. Not of the birth, mind you, but forever after. Those were the dark ages, before digital photos, when film and processing was involved unless you used a Polaroid, which we never did. We still have all those photos in a box, a big box, that resides in my dear wife’s closet.

New parents today have it much easier. They can whip out their digital camera, or smartphone, and click away to their heart’s content since it costs them nothing to take the pictures and relatively little to store them on a computer or thumb drive.

When our first grandson, Christopher, entered the world four weeks ago, Martha was armed with a brand new, easy-to-use, point and shoot digital camera when we visited the proud parents and their offspring in the hospital twelve hours after he was born. The picture taking began then and has not stopped.

Of course, we’re not the only ones taking photos of the lad. There are the other grandparents, aunts, uncles, and other relatives, and many friends of the parents.

Given the overabundance of photos available to the the parents, one might think they would have no difficulty finding some to have printed and framed. But it seems amateur photos, no matter how good, are no longer good enough. Apparently one now needs a professional photographer to take photos that will be hung on a wall for all the world, or that part of the world who visits their home, to see. We looked at all the photos the pro took and, frankly, most were so-so, at best. But there were four both Martha and I liked a lot.

Which brings me to the point of this blog post.

When your children were born, did you have a professional take photos like the ones below?

If your kids are now parents, did they go the professional route?

Finally, which of the four photos below would you choose if you could only choose one to print and frame?

(And yes, this blog post is partly a shameless excuse to show off my grandson.)

So which will it be?





Was it corruption, incompetence, or both that ruined this man’s life?

Tuesday, July 31st, 2012

Was it corruption, incompetence, or both that ruined this man’s life?

Former Pennsylvania psychologist says he reported child molestation, lost license

Jim Singer, formerly a psychologist working in Pennsylvania, said that he reported a case of child molestation in 1986 to Pennsylvania’s Child Protective Services agency, and not only was his report ignored, but soon after, in retaliation, the Pennsylvania Psychology Board prosecuted Singer and eventually removed his license to practice psychology.

Former psychologist Jim Singer

As the aftermath of the Penn State University molestation scandal unfolds, most observers believe that if the proper authorities had been alerted to the crimes much earlier, many children could have been saved. That’s not always the case, says Singer.

Speaking exclusively with The Daily Caller, Singer said that most of the same Pennsylvania government agencies that were outraged over the PSU scandal — Child Protective Services, the Pennsylvania Attorney General’s Office, and the Pennsylvania State Police — all ignored and buried his report of child molestation.

In 1986, Singer was working as a psychologist at the Dubois Regional Medical Center in Dubois, Pa. During a session with a female teenage patient, Singer said the patient revealed to him that she was being sexually abused by her father. Upon having two more medical professionals confirm this, Singer said that he reported the abuse to the state’s Child Protective Services agency.

TheDC has exclusively acquired a letter from one of the two medical professionals, Dr. Albert Varacallo, vouching for the veracity of Singer’s claims.

“If all this seems hard to believe,” Varacallo wrote to then-Pennsylvania Gov. Bob Casey, Sr. in 1991, “I agree with you … the events of the past three years have proven to me that this nightmare is indeed a reality and not just Mr. Singer’s imagination from the stand point of any health professional, once he knew all the facts.”

“While the state is supposed to provide immunity for reporters,” Varacallo wrote, “it actually prosecutes those who seek to protect the rights of children.”

Click Here to read the rest of the story.

This is purely conjecture, but what I think happened, after the alleged abuser was informed of Dr. Singer’s report and given his identity, is that he turned to someone pretty high up in government who either put pressure on various agencies or arranged for false reports to be generated and acted upon.

While I feel badly for Dr. Singer, I feel worse for the children who may not have had their cases reported, as the law requires, because the health practitioner knew what happened to Singer and did not want to be similarly treated by the state agencies.

It’s been twenty-six years since Singer filed that report. How many children have suffered horrendous abuse because nobody would do anything to save them?

If I had my way, a very lot of people back then and now, would spend a lot of time in prison for dereliction of duty and abuse of authority.

But then, I’m not a Pennsylvania child welfare bureaucrat or worker. What do I know?

Is anyone more familiar with this case or similar cases elsewhere?


Truth in Toons: City Folk on a Farm Edition, Part 2

Monday, July 30th, 2012

Comments welcome.
Which are your favorites?


For the past few weeks, Lynn Johnston’s For Better or For Worse characters have “vacationed” on a relative’s farm.

I found the sequence amusing and thought you might, too.

Part 1 was posted yesterday. If you missed it, scroll down or Click Here.











Truth in Toons: City Folk on a Farm Edition, Part 1

Sunday, July 29th, 2012

Comments welcome.
Which are your favorites?


For the past few weeks, Lynn Johnston’s For Better or For Worse characters have “vacationed” on a relative’s farm.

I found the sequence amusing and thought you might, too.

Part 2 will be posted tomorrow.










John Silveira ruined a wonderful memory and I may never forgive him

Friday, July 20th, 2012

When my daughter was very young, she loved wearing a pair of red, one-piece jammies with feet. One day, a song from the movie Working Girl named Lady in Red played on the radio and I scooped her up in my arms and we danced to it. We had such a good time, it became “our song.” We danced to it like that, or with her standing on my feet as she got older, whenever we heard it.

There was a lull in our dancing during her teenage years, when it was no longer cool to be seen dancing with dad, but it picked up again once the hormones tempered a bit. The last time I danced with her to the song was during the father-daughter dance at her wedding.

I tell you this so you’ll understand why the song is special to me, and so you’ll understand why I may never forgive John Silveira, my friend of forty-seven years, who attended the aforementioned wedding and witnessed the father-daughter dance, for sending me the link to this video with nothing more than “Lady in red…” in the subject line:

Forevermore, when I hear Lady in Red, not only will the image of my beautiful daughter be called to mind, but it will be shared with the memory of a guy paddling a canoe and turning it in circles. And people applauding while he did it.

If John had called me up and told me about a sport called freestyle canoeing, I’d have waited patiently for the punchline. But clearly this video was no joke. It shows a serious competition. Turning a canoe in circles. To music.

I suppose all I can do now is to focus my memory on that wedding dance and hope for the best. Perhaps, in time, the memory of the video will fade. I’ll tape a copy of the photo to the right to the edge of my computer monitor to help me.

Silveira usually makes a trip back east once a year to visit with friends and family and spends a few days in our guest room after he arrives and before he returns to Oregon. When he shows up this year, he may well be sleeping under the back porch. Or in the shed.



Truth in Toons: Kids Edition

Sunday, July 15th, 2012

Comments welcome.
Which are your favorites?






My first grandchild

Friday, July 13th, 2012

I’m much too happy today to talk about my usual stuff.  Life is about to change for everyone I hold dear.

Last night, at 12:38 AM, my first grandchild was born.

My dear DIL was determined he would not be born on Friday the thirteenth, but despite labor beginning Wednesday night, he was obviously in no hurry for his debut. When he finally did decide to see what the outside world was like, he checked in at 7 pounds 5 ounces and  19.5 inches.

I was hoping for a photo of him awake, but it appears he takes after his father and likes to sleep.

Please welcome to the world the newest addition to my family, my grandson Christopher Michael Del Signore.

Christopher Michael at 6 hours old

Christopher Michael at 13 hours old


Misdeminors, inclimate weather, and Taco Bell’s Canon

Wednesday, July 11th, 2012

I thought this column from the Wall Street Journal too good to post part and make you follow a link for the rest so I, err…borrowed it all.


Teaching ‘Taco Bell’s Canon’
Today’s students don’t read. As a result, they have sometimes hilarious notions of how the written language represents what they hear.

Is it true that college students today are unprepared and unmotivated? That generalization does injustice to the numerous bright exceptions I saw in my 25 years of teaching composition to university freshmen. But in other cases the characterization is all too accurate.

One big problem is that so few students are readers. As an unfortunate result, they have erroneous, and sometimes hilarious, notions of how the written language represents what they hear. What emerged in their papers and emails was a sort of literary subgenre that I’ve come to think of as stream of unconsciousness.

Some of their most creative thinking was devoted to fashioning excuses for tardiness, skipping class entirely, and failure to complete assignments. One guy admitted that he had trouble getting into “the proper frame of mime” for an 8 a.m. class.

Then there were the two young men who missed class for having gotten on the wrong side of the law. They both emailed me, one to say that he had been charged with a “mister meaner,” the other with a “misdeminor.”

Another student blamed “inclimate weather” for his failure to come to class, admitting that it was a “poultry excuse.” A male student who habitually came late and couldn’t punctuate correctly had a double-duty excuse: “I don’t worry about my punctual errors.”

To their credit, students are often frank when it comes to admitting their shortcomings and attitude problems. Like the guy who owned up to doing “halfhazard work.” Or the one who admitted that he wasn’t smart enough to go to an “Ivory League school.” Another lamented not being astute enough to follow the lecture on “Taco Bell’s Canon” in music-appreciation class.

Do you think Johann Pachelbel would be saddened or amused at hearing his most famous work, Canon and Gigue in D major, referred to as Taco Bell’s Canon?

Many students have difficulty adjusting to life in dormitories. One complained that his roommate was “from another dementian.” Another was irritated by a roommate’s habit of using his “toilet trees” without asking. A female student, in describing an argument over her roommate’s smelling up their room with cheap perfume, referred to getting in her “two scents’ worth.”

Some find you can’t go home again. After several weeks at school, one coed returned to her childhood house only to find life there “homedrum.”

To be fair, many of the young men and women I encountered over the years are capable of serious thinking on social issues and international affairs. The Iraq War, in what one student called “nomad’s land,” was very much on their minds. Some were for it, some against it. The most ardent supporter was the guy who described his attitude as “gun-ho.” One student lamented that we’re becoming a society that “creates its individuals in a lavatory.” Another worried that education reform might result in school being in “secession” year round.

When it comes to relationships, it is, in the words of more than one undergraduate, “a doggy-dog world.” But I’m sure most of us could sympathize with the girl who said she resented being “taken for granite” by her boyfriend. Some learn the price of intimacy the hard way, like the coed who referred to becoming pregnant on “that fetal night.” She might have been better off with the young gentleman who spoke of his policy of keeping relationships “strictly plutonic.”

One struggling freshman summed it up for all of us when he wrote, “Life has too much realism.” Maybe so, but I don’t recommend coping like the guy who referred to getting away from it all by spending the day “sitting on a peer.”

Among students’ biggest complaints is that they have to write so much in college. In his end-of-semester evaluation, one honest soul complained that “writhing gives me fits.” Sad to say, it’s not uncommon to hear students remark on how much they look forward to being done with English.

Who knows what language they’ll use then?

Mr. Courter recently retired from teaching at Western Illinois University in Macomb, Ill.


You might think examples like the ones included in the essay are relatively rare, but I believe that if you ask anyone who works in editorial in any form of publishing, they’ll tell you a steady stream of such writing arrives unsolicited.

The really sad part is that many times, the folks doing the writing are clearly intelligent and have good information to share. They probably could show you how to do something with no trouble at all, but telling you how to do it in words…that’s another thing entirely.

Professor Courter blames a lack of reading for the problem and certainly, that is part of it. But I believe the other part is that our public schools have dumbed-down both curriculum and expectations to the point where children are graduating high school without the basic verbal and math skills needed to get by in the real world. We’re so concerned about pumping up their self-esteem we neglect the things that actually build true self-esteem — challenge and accomplishment.

My first grandchild arrives this week. I don’t know if his parents will be sending him to public or private school when the time comes. But I do know that grampa will try his darnedest to instill a love of reading and thinking and doing beginning at a very early age.

Wish me luck.

What examples of the dumbing down of education do you see in your job or around you in general?


There are many versions of Pachelbel’s Canon out there for your listening pleasure. Here are two I like.

London Symphony Orchestra [3:54]

Boston Pops [5:01]


A truth about daddies

Monday, July 2nd, 2012

A couple of decades ago, one of my Christmas presents from my then-very-young children was a framed picture of a man holding the hand of a young child as they walked toward a sunset.  The text said, “Anyone can be a Father but it takes someone special to be a Daddy.”

I’m sure most of you have encountered the quote at one time or another. Certainly, it’s all over the net. But it was the first time I ever saw it and it meant a lot to me. I still have it.

The cartoon, below, got me thinking about that picture and quote and my children.

When they were young, I loved goofing with my kids, making up stories that just happened to feature heroes and heroines with their names, playing GI Joe or He-Man with Michael and Care Bears and Winnie the Pooh with Cathy, and anything else that was fun. And I sometimes managed to sneak a little learning to the fun, just as I snuck a little nutrition and fiber into their green and red and purple pancakes.

Looking back, I can see how, as they grew and matured, daddy time gave way to father time. It had to, of course, as they became teens and approached adulthood, but while the transition from daddy to father was nearly a complete one when it came to my son, it was much less so with my daughter. As I write this, I feel like Michael’s father. I think of him as a man. But, despite her approaching thirty, and intellectually knowing she is a grown woman, in my heart, Cathy is still my little girl.

I expect the same is true about many men with daughters, at least the ones who could have been called daddies when their kids were small, including Garry Trudeau, who penned this:


I had a similar experience a couple of years ago as I stood with my daughter outside the doorway, waiting for the musical cue to begin walking her down the aisle.

As I was recovering from my bypass operation nearly a decade earlier, I realized the two things I wanted most to live long enough for were to walk Cathy down the aisle and to dance with her at her wedding. And there I was. And for a few moments, as she stood there next to me looking so beautiful, and a little nervous, through the magic of memory, she was, once again a tomboy in pigtails and jeans.

My little girl.

I guess she probably always will be.

So, guys, were you more father or daddy?

Ladies, were you, and are you still, daddy’s little girl?


Would YOU Hire This Nanny? Michael says no. I say yes and why.

Thursday, June 28th, 2012

I’ve mentioned before that my favorite talk-show host is a local guy named Michael Graham. He deals in The Natural Truth, as he calls it, and it’s rare occurrence that I disagree with his take on issues. But today is one of those rare days.

I’ve reproduced one of his blog posts below. My comments follow.

From The Maestro’s Mailbag: “Would YOU Hire This Nanny?”

From my email:

Dear Michael, my wife has had four interviews with our prospective nanny named Sheri and we want to hire her even though she is a little young (21). 

She is also very attractive.


But here is the problem.  She is from Florida and so I googled her and found a picture of her looking exactly like THIS.  EXACTLY.  In fact she has a few series of pics like this.

Needless to say, we are very concerned even though I think she is the best interview (out of about 20) and she is extremely qualified CPR, working on early childhood degree etc)

Is there any way I, as a married man, can hire this girl?

Thanks, Eric

My reply,

Dear Eric,

No.  Huh-uh. There is no way you can hire this woman as your kids’ nanny…assuming, that is, you want to stay married.

First, if you tell your wife “let’s hire her!”, you’re screwed. Your wife will, I assume, immediately begin divorce proceedings/hit you with a claw hammer/both.

Option two is for your wife to hire her.  But if you’re married to a woman so clueless that she’d but that [see pic above] in your house with you, five days a week, you’re probably doomed, anyway.  What sane married woman would let that happen?

Then there’s option three: Somehow this woman does end up being your kids’ nanny: hanging around all day, babysitting at night, maybe coming on a family trip…

If you’re going to hire her, Eric, let me save you some time: Just go ahead and hire the divorce lawyer now.

Sorry, but that’s the Natural Truth.


Michael Graham

I think Michael’s analysis is only party correct and pretty sexist. He assumes that if a young, attractive woman is around, the guy will not be able to stop himself from doings something stupid and/or that his wife will inevitably fall prey to uncontrollable jealousy or suspicion.

Now, I will grant you that in many cases, that is exactly what would happen. But is it really inevitable?

Are we really going to tell attractive young women they cannot use their intelligence and hard work to get ahead in life; that jobs in their field will not be open to them because other people can’t behave like adults? Or maybe we’ll tell them, “Sure, you can be a nanny, but only for single moms with no boyfriends.”

Sorry, Michael. I hope you were just trying to be funny with this post, because as a guy, I’m insulted you assume I can’t keep my hands to myself and that my wife can’t control her imagination.

Many people look with disdain on young women who rely on looks and their bodies to make their way through life. Are we now going to condemn them simply for having good looks and bodies?

I said above, I think Michael is partly correct. I would leave the decision up to my wife and hope that she is secure enough in our relationship not to be threatened by an attractive nanny.

Of course, we’d not be hiring a nanny at all, since we both believe one parent or the other should always be caring for children, even if that means working different shifts. But that’s something for another day’s blog post.

So…ladies and gentlemen, what would you do in the writer’s place? Hire the woman or not? Who decides?

Gents, if she’s hired, will she inevitably become a temptation you will not be able to resist?

And ladies, if she’s hired, will you always be comparing yourself to her…wondering if maybe hubby likes her better…etc.?



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