Happy Birthday, Ben!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tomorrow is the birthday of Benjamin Franklin, who, as the Firesign Theatre put it, was “the only president of the United States, who was never president of the United States.” Born in 1706, he invented the Franklin stove, bifocals, and with his (illegitimate) son, discovered that lightening was electricity. His son probably thought it only appropriate that when Ben was busy as one of the “founding fathers,” the son became the Royal Governor of the State of Pennsylvania. Next time you think of electrocuting one of your children—even if they are adult, as Ben’s son was—think twice. It might come back to haunt you.

As a printer, he expressed ideas—much as a modern blogger (ahem) might do, through his newspaper, The Philadelphia Gazette and Poor Richard’s Almanac.

Ben was the governor of Pennsylvania, US Minister (Ambassador) to France and later Sweden, created the public lending library, and by virtue of being an effective postmaster for Philadelphia under the crown, he became America’s first postmaster general.

While early in his life he had owned slaves, by the 1750s he had become a firm and outspoken abolitionist.

And, yes, he was quite the ladies’ man, which, we must assume would entail attitudes, if not activities, that would not be tolerated today. However, for what it’s worth, I like to think that this means that society has advanced in the last 250 years and will continue to advance. If old Ben were half the genius we believe and lived today, he would be a proud proponent of that advancement.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Virginia Blizzard of 2018

Okay, I must admit that even I—who grew up in the snow belt south of Lake Erie—am appropriately impressed.

Schools are closed. Most businesses and government services are shut down as well.

Normally I report to CoCoRaHS, a National Weather Service sponsored program—the acronym stands for:

The procedure is to measure the depth of the snow on the ground, then to bring in the measuring cylinder, let the snow melt, then pour it into the rain gauge to measure the actual water content. Out west, in the high plains or the mountains, this is critical, since it is required for the weather service to predict the snow pack. When this melts in the spring, it flows into the rivers the following spring and summer. That water is carefully controlled as to who gets how much. Agriculture needs a lot, which competes with people, so it is important information.

Too much snow, so I’m staying indoors—I have my day carefully planned:

Coffee and writing

Nap

Working on the class I start teaching Saturday

Nap

Finish a few radio procedures I’ve been working on.

Nap

Hmmm, there should be room in there somewhere for at least one more nap.

Blizzard!

Here in Virginia we’re under a blizzard warning!

Of course, as a major military town, many—if not most—people are not originally from around here. Many are from up north and know what a REAL blizzard is like; I grew up in Northern Ohio, so although Erie Pennsylvania and Buffalo, New York usually got more, we routinely experienced lake effect. Lake effect is when cold air from up north (the “Alberta Clipper”) flows over a large, unfrozen body of water (e.g., Lake Erie), sucks up all the moisture from the warm lake, then passes over the cold land, after which that moisture dumps on the ground as snow. Up there, blizzards mean that snowfall is measured in feet.

In Virginia, on the other hand, a few inches of snow—or even the threat of a few inches—creates havoc. Some people believe that because they have a four-wheel-drive vehicle, they can drive 60 miles per hour on the interstate. Of course, four-wheel-drive will get a car moving on a slippery surface, but does nothing to prevent those 360-degree spins on ice. Others, just forget how to drive.

So right now, we wait FOR THE BLIZZARD. I saw at least a hundred snowflakes earlier today, but so far that’s it. So we wait. All of us wait. Some of us blog while waiting, but we still wait.

2018

Hey! It’s a new year!

Or is it?

We have all kinds of versions of time. We have lunar calendars, solar calendars, Julian calendars, Gregorian calendars, Judaic calendars, Islamic calendars, Chinese calendars, and, of course, the Mayan calendars—just to name a few.

So, what does 2018 mean?

Nothing.

Today, GPS satellites keep time on earth synchronized, but there’s nothing mystical, magical, or monumental about that. It’s more like the stacks of papers that I create when preparing to file my income tax paperwork. Just an attempt to make order out of chaos. It’s 2018, because we say it’s 2018.

Nevertheless, for a new year, or a new day, or a new moment—whatever your measure:

  1. Count your blessings.
  2. Help someone important to you.
  3. Help someone you don’t know (through a blood drive, a food pantry, or whatever).
  4. See yourself as an agent for changing things, no matter how tiny, for the better. Imagine if 1 percent of the 7.53 billion people on earth each made a 1 percent improvement. Wouldn’t that be a great start?

I’ve Been Busy—Not Ignoring You

Over the past few weeks, I’ve been preparing the materials for an emergency communications course. It’s amazing that when someone else has prepared over 600 PowerPoint slides (with notes) that it would take so much time to update. Why? Because what we know today about dealing with disasters is more than what we knew before Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria. Personally, I believe that being better prepared for the future is a good thing.

On the other hand, I’m working on my short story—which has become at least a novelette (a short version of a short book? Huh?)—continues to develop. The more I learn about the characters (and more characters keep popping up), the more complex—but interesting—the story becomes. However, if a new character appears, a whole lot of the backstory changes. As a writer, I have a certain duty to the characters. Without me, they are doomed to shrivel away to nothingness, through no fault of their own. They deserve better, so I try to tell their stories. So far, the characters include a not-quite-dead aged business multi-multi-billionaire, several lawyers, most of whom are self-serving, but one of whom has a national security background, a distant relative who can see how the pieces fit, and someone (thing?) who seems to have many of the answers, but who is known as Zaznoz (sounds like a new drug or a new exercise routine to me).

Then I do need to devote time to the day job.

Not to mention that we celebrated Christmas with close friends, followed by my daughter-in-law and the grandchildren, who drove ten hours (I think she was being nice and understated the journey length) to visit us and to make for a wonderful time.

Oh, and my older son used his 3D printer to make my Christmas gift—a full size, accurate replica of Han Solo’s blaster. (Is that cool or what?)

Han Solo’s Blaster (Let’s me shoot first).

 

So, as you see, it’s not lack of interest in blogging, just lack of time.

I Cannot Say It Better

Gary Varvel [garyvarvel.com], the editorial cartoonist for the Indianapolis Star [www.indystar.com] is a genius who can draw a picture that is truly worth at LEAST a thousand words.

In this day of fewer and fewer newspapers, and inevitably, even fewer quality dailies, it is a wonderful gift to still have some publishers and editors who understand how humor can convey a stronger message than even the best written article—and as a writer, saying that does not come easily.

As a Christian, I wish you a Merry Christmas. As a member of this melting pot we call America, I wish you Happy Holidays. As a human, I wish peace on earth to all  people of good will—and I advise everyone to celebrate any and every holiday that reminds you that we are all in this together; there is no “them,” only 7.53 billion of “us.”

XMAS, Improved

My friend, Rick Martinez, with whom I’ve shared wonderful intellectual and philosophical conversations—as well as my writing efforts throughout the years—comments on some of my blogs. This is in response to my last blog, and is a beautiful thought for the season. I formatted it as a blog, but the thoughts and words are Rick’s, unchanged.

Thank you, Steve, for writing about Christmas—the Birth of Christ. No matter of all the “scientific” facts surrounding when Jesus was born and who believes what–there’s at least two general things we all acknowledge and accept as true. At the time and in the area of Christ’s birth, what was true 2000 years ago continues to be true today–some 2000 years later: There were believers and non-believers and warring factions back then as there are now. And–for Christians all over the world, the most tragic words ever written of our Lord are those set down by the Apostle John in the beginning of his Gospel:

He came unto his own, and his own received him not.

Bethlehem had no room for Him when He was born;

Nazareth, no room for Him when He lived; and

Jerusalem, no room for Him when He died.