Monthly Archives: September 2013

The Government is Shutting Down!

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It’s the lead story on the news, it’s the end of life as we know it! (Details at eleven) And, of course, it’s someone else’s fault.

What will we do? What will we do?

Unless God wills otherwise, tomorrow, the sun will come up.

Most of those with a job will go to work. Children will go to school.

People will eat and sleep. Children will play at recess. Babies will be born. And yes, someone’s grandpa may die.

So what will be different?

If you were planning a luxurious trip to some exotic island, your passport may be delayed.

Your government grant for studying the nocturnal feeding habits of black footed ferrets in the high plains won’t be funded just yet.

Our lives will go on.

And maybe some people will realize that the politicians are neither as important nor as powerful as they’d have us believe.

On the other hand, God is.

Uphill Battle

I’m sitting here trying to get a 10 year old computer to work. Why? As Sir Edmund Hillary said, “Because it’s there!”

Some people do crossword puzzles. Others read mysteries and beat the protagonist to the solution. Beating Sherlock Holmes, or Hercule Poirot (or better yet, Columbo) to the answer is satisfying.

As for me, I’ve got this $50, ten year old computer that I’m trying to outwit.

I guess it’s my Rubik’s cube. It’s a puzzle to be solved just to keep my brain working.

‘Scuse me, but I have to get back to my computer.

Sad, isn’t it?

Harrison Ford

ford

Through his career, Harrison Ford has played a number of interesting roles including Han Solo, Indiana Jones, and Bladerunner Rick Deckard. Which one is the coolest?

Bladerunner is set in an earth that everyone who can has already left. Neither we, nor Deckerd is sure whether he’s human or a replicant (android). Bet that makes it difficult to complete the census paperwork.

Han Solo at first seems totally cool. And for the record – he did shoot Gredo first. He’s got his own ship. Hangs with Chewbacca (the ultimate wingman), is a gambler and a smuggler – not to mention a self proclaimed scoundrel. Women fall for him – it’s the scoundrel thing. However, other than flying fast and fighting, he really has no other skills. No interests. Not even a hobby – other than his blaster. Okay, he’s cool but pretty one dimensional.

That leaves Indiana Jones. Henry Jones, Jr. PhD. An educated man who steals his nickname from the family dog. You have to be fairly self-confident to do that. Has, a fling with the daughter of his archeological mentor – but she’s hot, so let’s just say he has a touch of scoundrel, but just a touch. He’s a tenured professor who prefers field work to classroom studies. At least one of his female students is smitten with him, but the guys like him too, as one of them slips him an apple. Carries a revolver rather than the ubiquitous .45 Colt automatic, but can do amazing things with a bullwhip. However, for all his strengths, he’s still afraid of snakes. His friends, like Sallah and Dr. Marcus Brody are intriguing. His professional competitors, like Belloq are equally intriguing. Add the fedora and the theme music…

Okay, you’re going to say he had me at “fedora.”

Oh, and on the infinitesimally small chance that Mr. Ford would read this – Harry, as one pilot to another, thanks for entertaining us. I look forward to seeing Ender’s Game, Paranoia, Star Wars VII and Indiana Jones 5.

There Are Always Possibilities

eart

We are defined in many ways by the time in which we grew up. I count the 1960s as the defining part of my life*.

John F Kennedy was elected President 1960. At his inauguration in 1961 as he challenged us to “Ask not what your country can do for you, but what can you do for your country?” He took inspiration from the musical “Camelot” to work toward an ideal, even if for only, “one brief shining moment.” During his time in office when we faced the Cuban Missile Crisis my mother (and many others) expected to be facing World War III. Kennedy was assassinated in 1963, which was the first major tragedy many of us young people took personally.

In 1960, Echo, an American satellite that was essentially a 100 foot Mylar balloon was designed to reflect radio signals, but its size and reflectivity made it the first man made space object visible from earth with the naked eye. The newspaper would print the times it would be visible at night, and people felt they had to go out and see it, even if only once. In 1961, Yuri Gagarin, Soviet Cosmonaut was the first man in space. The American manned space program followed, and launches from Cape Canaveral were broadcast live. At first, someone would bring a portable radio to school so the class could listen to the launches. Later, radios gave way to portable televisions. “Portable” meant a large, heavy box with a small black and white picture tube; however it had a handle bolted to the top, so therefore it was portable. In 1967 we were crushed when all three astronauts died in a fire aboard Apollo 1 less than a month before its scheduled launch date. In July, 1969, Apollo 11 fulfilled President Kennedy’s challenge of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely by the end of the decade.

Entertainment helped form me as well. Star Trek foretold of a future in which “There are always possibilities.” Variety shows abounded; Ed Sullivan made sure we met the Beatles. Dean Martin, Carol Burnett, Red Skelton, Johnny Carson all entertained us and made us smile. Ernie Kovacs and Rowan & Martin’s Laugh In redefined comedy, and it hasn’t been the same since. Broadway musicals included Man of La Mancha, 1776, Hair, and of course, Camelot.

I graduated from high school in 1969. I looked forward to a world full of opportunities and a chance for me to make a difference. As if to emphasize this, the musical that my high school presented that year was Camelot. Playing in the band for the play, I saw every performance. I still love the music.

And, in case you don’t know me well, I still view the world with wonder. There are always things to enjoy, mysteries to solve and music to go with it. The glass is, in fact, half empty but that only means that it is also half full.

I still believe Mr. Spock’s comment** that there are always possibilities.

It’s a wonderful thing.

————————————————————————————-

* The joke is, “If you remember the sixties, you weren’t there.” If the truth be told, the days of sex, drugs and rock and roll may have started in the very late sixties but more aptly describe the 70s.

** For the hard-core Trekkers: Yes, I know this is like “Play it again, Sam.” In the series, Spock never actually spoke these exact words. The phrase was quoted by Captain Kirk in the second Star Trek movie, “Wrath of Khan.”

Another Updated Biblical Quotation

Photo -  National Geographic

Photo –
National Geographic

Once again, while thinking about Biblical teachings, I’ve wondered how things might be phrased if they happened today.

Here’s the original:

1 Kings 19

11 The Lord said, “Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the Lord, for the Lord is about to pass by.”

Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. 12 After the earthquake came a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper. 13 When Elijah heard it, he pulled his cloak over his face and went out and stood at the mouth of the cave.

Then a voice said to him, “What are you doing here, Elijah?”

Here’s how it might be presented today:

The Lord said, “Be prepared, for I will pass by today.”

Elijah looked for the Lord in the Breaking News on cable television, but the Lord was not in the news. Elijah used his iPad to search the Internet, but the Lord was not on the Internet. Elijah checked his smartphone to see if the Lord had tweeted, or sent a text message or left a voicemail, but he did not find the Lord through his smartphone.

So Elijah went to a quiet place, and he heard a whisper, and he knew it was the Lord.

For my part, I think that God brings peace with Him. If we are open to Him, He does not need to startle us. Instead, He waits for us to open ourselves to Him, and comes to us calmly and quietly.

“My Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you.”

Little Distraction

I mentioned in an earlier blog that there was a lot going on.

We’ve had a little distraction.

Lily

The distraction is my granddaughter.

Her name is Lily.

Congressional Update

visitingdc.com (And it is a great place to visit)

visitingdc.com
(And it is a great place to visit)

Sources who declined to be identified have provided the following information.

In the hallway of the Capitol Building, several Tea Partiers demanded Harry Reid’s lunch money. This was their 42nd unsuccessful attempt.

Meanwhile, Senator Ted Cruz threatened to hold his breath until he passed out, if they didn’t promise to keep trying.

Speaker John Boehner when asked about the incident, replied, “The devil, I mean Ted Cruz, made me do it. I didn’t want to but he made me!”

Meanwhile, Nancy Pelosi yelled, “Will you all be quiet! I’m still trying to read this Affordable Healthcare Act to see what’s in it!”

Other sources have indicated that President Obama responded with, “As the highest elected official, and the spiffiest dresser since Harry Truman, if I do say so myself, I’d like to say nyaa nyaa nya nyaa nyaa!”

Unfortunately, when Ted Cruz passed out, no one seemed to care.

Arrrgh!

A lot going on, but I’ll update you as things are complete.

Bonnet

In the meantime, ye scurvy dogs, it be Talk Like a Pirate Day. When I be getting’ ready to head to the sandbox, me crew needed an appropriate nautical response. Them soldiers use “Hoo-ahh!” and them Marines along with the SeaBees use “Ooorah!” We happened to be getin’ ready fer deployment just about this time of year, so we took the hint and used “Arrgh!” as our spirit buildin’ response.

Me newly initiated chiefs marched out and presented me with a jolly roger flag.

I was choked up. All I could be sayin’ was “Arrgh!”

And today, 8 years later, I gots me parrot to complete the ensemble.

Arrrrgh!

Another Windows 8 Frustration

wxyz

Windows 8 has another little fluke that drives me crazy.

You see, I never, EVER use the “Tap” function on the touchpad. Ever.

Widows 8 periodically turns it on, and even though I go to the appropriate applications, and it says that “Tap” is deactivated, it isn’t.

So when I type something, the cursor bounces around and I have to keep correcting things.

Or else my typing looks

Things ome this

Like

(It should read, “Something like this.”)

Time for a Little Political Philosophy

It’s a bit long – sorry.

After the Civil War, the South had a habit of avoiding Republicans. Lincoln was a Republican. After the war, the radical Republicans in the US Congress wanted the “Reconstruction” of the South to be as long and painful as possible. Oh, and profitable for them and their cronies.

Until the mid-1960s – literally a century after the war, elections in the South often dispensed with any Republican candidate in the general election leading to a runoff between the Democrats. The “Solid South” could thus be counted on to elect many Democrats to local, state and federal offices.

Not all Southern Democrats were alike. There were radical conservatives like the Dixiecrats, who were anti-black, anti-Catholic, anti-Semitic and some say the political arm of the Ku Klux Klan. However, most Democrats were moderates or liberals.

This was an advantage in politics. If two people or two parties are going to strike a deal, they have to negotiate an arrangement that each finds acceptable. With Democrats representing a range of attitudes, it was the idea that drove political negotiation, not the political affiliation. This was repeated to a certain extent in the mid-1990s, when conservative Democrats caucused as “Blue Dog” Democrats. Once again this provided the opportunity for successful negotiations within the Congress.

Today, too many politicians – screaming liberals and the ultra-conservative Tea Partiers alike – are so focused on performing political theatrics for their political base that they ignore their duty to do what is in the best interest of the nation as a whole.

Why do I bring this up?

I’m seeing a trend among both voters and candidates who are leaving the Republican Party in favor of becoming moderate or even conservative Democrats. In discussions with them, I am led to believe that these are critical thinkers. This is a key point.

In our system our system of government, correctly called a democratic-republic the people vote for their representatives who go to Washington DC to, well, represent. When we elect these people, some voters will never waver from their position; they are loyal to the party or position regardless of any other circumstances. This may be due to a single issue (abortion, gun rights, marijuana) or to an overall stance (think Archie Bunker.)

The decisions, therefore, belong to those “swing voters” who make a decision based on other factors. They are the key to winning, which is why, during the last presidential election, both the candidates and the media focused to an extraordinary degree on the swing states. The Democrats didn’t worry about New York and the Republicans didn’t worry about Texas. Instead, everyone focused on the swing states of Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Nevada, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Ohio, Virginia and Wisconsin.

We may be seeing the emergence of swing voters who are moving from the Republican Party to the Democrats but representing a more rational than ideological position.

Could be interesting.

Ham Radio Kind of Day

Hams can be found anywhere. NASA astronaut Doug Wheelock, Expedition 24 flight engineer, uses a ham radio system in the Zvezda Service Module of the International Space Station.  Courtesy NASA

Hams can be found anywhere.
NASA astronaut Doug Wheelock, Expedition 24 flight engineer, uses a ham radio system in the Zvezda Service Module of the International Space Station.
Courtesy NASA

I went to the hamfest in Virginia Beach, VA today. No, it’s not a meeting about pork products – it’s an opportunity for amateur radio operators (hams) to get together and buy or sell equipment.

I like looking for “treasures” at garage sales and thrift shops, although for many, the statement “As is, no refunds” means “It’s broke and parts aren’t available.” Hamfests seem to be different. One reason is that ham radio equipment is meant to be experimented on, so repair information and parts tend to be available. Today, however, I was less inclined to buy a radio that needed repairing and more interested in tools and parts to finish up some of the projects I’ve been working on. I was successful.

After getting home, I set about on some of the to-do’s that needed attention, pausing to flip on my radio. In a matter of (literally) seconds I was engaged in a short conversation with a ham radio operator in Serbia.

I plan on adding a nap and then cooking out on the grill. That’s my kind of day.

Vicarious Parenthood

For further information, Zits http://zitscomics.com/

For further information, Zits
http://zitscomics.com/

For those of you who are not (or not yet) parents, please allow me to virtually share the experience with. The first thing you need to know is that everything you own is no longer…

“Can I go over to Bob’s?”

“Did you clean your room like you promised?”

“No. I’ll get it later, I promise. Bye!”

As I was saying, all your belongings are now communal property. Your clothes, your wallet, even your toothbrush…

“I can’t find my soccer shorts!”

“Did you look in…”

“I’ve looked everywhere! I can’t find them! What am I going to do? Waah!” (Sound of slamming bedroom door)

Yes even your toothbrush and your deodorant are subject to sharing. On the other hand…

“I don’t mean to interrupt. Well, I guess I do. You know that science project we were assigned last month? Well it’s due tomorrow and I need you to take me to the store to get everything on this list.”

“You haven’t started that? Why in the world not?”

“I forgot. C’mon, we gotta get to the store so I can get started. While I get these things, will you buy me some diet cola and a candy bar?”

I guess I won’t finish the blog, now, but you get the idea.

Voices Are Funny

www.opry.com (Of course.)

“Little” Jimmy Dickens
http://www.opry.com
(Of course.)

When you hear a voice on the radio or the telephone, it’s natural to try and imagine what the person who has that voice would look like. When you eventually meet the person, it’s usually quite a shock to see that they look very different from what you expected. (Don’t believe me? Think about the first time you heard “Never Gonna Give You Up” and compare that to seeing Rick Astley in the video.)

When my wife and I were dating, she said I had a “Radio voice.” Fortunately she’s never accused me of having a “Radio face.”

Years later, when I had surgery on my cervical spine, they operated from the front, kind of pushing my voice box and everything else out of the way to get to the spine itself. This mushing of my larynx resulted in my voice becoming a bit raspy, but that has its own benefits.

I can do a better Don Corleone. “Michael, now that I’m older, I like my wine better. Well maybe not better, but I drink more of it.”

I also can do a better Burgess Meredith; not in his Batman days as the Penguin, but when he was the boxing coach working with Rocky Balboa. “You know what your problem is, Rock? You ain’t got no management!”

Today, a co-worker told me that my voice reminds him of “Little Jimmy Dickens.” Not being a country and western music fan (Sorry, Barb – I meant “country music”) I didn’t know how to respond, until he said, “Your voice sounds like it has a little fun in it.”

I can live with that.

Virtues

But now faith, hope, love, abide these three; but the greatest of these is love. 1 Corinthians 13:13

"Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade." (Great flick)

“Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade.”
(Great flick)

Virtues are funny things. On the one hand, they’re gifts to help us through life. On the other hand, they’re not quite what we expect.

Faith gives us the ability to believe what we cannot prove. However, it’s easy to have faith when things are going well. It’s so easy that when things are going well, we ascribe the success to us, so who needs faith? When things go badly, it’s just as easy to look to God accusingly and ask Him why He didn’t give us more faith.

Hope is like faith in that it lets us see things as they could be. Again, it’s easier to have hope when things are going well. Less so when the economy is bad or there are medical problems or we wake up in the middle of the night due to worry.

Finally, there’s love. It’s easy to love those who look like us, sound like us and share our values. It’s damned difficult to love those who are different, especially if we don’t understand them. How can God expect me to love those kids with their pants hanging down? Or the girl wearing the hijab? Or the star of David, or the cross?

But think about it. The virtues are there for exactly those reasons. Especially, love, the greatest of them.

We’re called upon to love those most different from ourselves; most difficult to understand.

Like the way that Jesus loved the Roman soldiers even as they drove the nails through His hands and His feet.

Jocks

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I’ve never had much use for jocks.

I can accept athletes, but jocks drive me nuts. Jocks are the ones that people fawn over and adulate regardless of how they behave. The drugs, affairs and occasional murder are to be expected.

Back in high school, the jocks were the center of attention. They attracted girls like a flame attracts moths. The more cavalier they were about their “conquests” the more the girls were attracted to them.

In college, the weekly football or basketball games were so important for generating revenue that the jocks were assured of passing grades. Other students had to actually learn the material, do the course work and actually earn their grades (although actually getting educated does have an advantage later in life.)

After graduation, most of the jocks were shocked to find out that their glory days were over. At the ripe age of twenty-three or so, life as they knew it was over. They weren’t good enough to move into the pros and they finally had to learn in the real world – some more successfully than others.

By the time I was forty, even those select few of my age group who had the talent to play professional sports had used up their bodies, and most of them had to fit in amongst us mere mortals.

At that point, I breathed a sigh of relief.

But like the 17 year cicadas, jocks once again entered my life. The sons and daughters of my generation, now with their own youth behind them, are now coaching Little League baseball, youth soccer, or flag football. My younger kids and my grandkids are the ones they’re coaching. It’s the last hurrah of a former jock.

But the kids playing these sports look up to those adults as role models and follow their example.

The kids learn to scream and cuss, berate one another, focus on what’s wrong with everyone else, expect adulation, and overstate their own abilities. Voila – A new generation of jocks.

And so I still don’t have much use for jocks.

Biblical Quotations Updated

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I firmly believe that God has a sense of humor, and laughter is one of His gifts.

In that frame of mind, I find that occasionally I desire to update familiar scriptural sayings.

Genesis 2:24

“For this reason a man shall leave his father and his mother, and be joined to his wife; and they shall become one flesh.”

21st century addendum –

And then children shall arrive. And the man and his wife shall see each other  only in passing as they take the children to school events, soccer, doctors’ appointments and all manner of things. And they shall wave to one another from their car windows as they pass one another on the highway, and though they share a single bed, they shall each fall into it exhausted each night.

Image

Guess What You Can Buy on Craigslist?

pregnancy-test

Women selling positive pregnancy tests on Craigslist Posted on: 9:24 am, September 4, 2013, by Matt Knight CLICK TO LINK

http://wtkr.com/2013/09/04/women-selling-positive-pregnancy-tests-on-craigslist/

Just when I think I’ve heard it all, someone, somewhere, somehow manages to shock the hell out of me. Apparently, you can now buy positive pregnancy tests on Craigslist.

But don’t worry – many of the sellers promise not to pass judgment on what you do with it.

At least that’s reassuring. But what WOULD someone use it for?

1. Getting him to finally pop the question? (Suggestion – when you pick up the wedding license, grab a set of the paperwork for the divorce – it’ll save time in the not-too-distant future.)

2. Causing your parents to experience myocardial infarctions and or a cerebral vascular accident? (It’s like the ultimate joy buzzer and whoopee cushion all rolled into one!)

3. Showing your 96 year old husband that at 88 you’ve still got it? (See #2, above.)

Of course, you have to wonder even more about the sellers of these, uh, slightly used products. After all, pregnancy tests show a positive result when they detect the presence of human chorionic gonadotropin in a pregnant woman’s urine.

When a customer wants to buy a positive pregnancy test, does the seller deliver? Do they meet their customers in a public location, like in front of the Maternity Shoppe at the local mall?

Do they send it by mail? I hope they at least use an envelope that doesn’t require licking the flap.

Or maybe it doesn’t matter to them.

 

Where’s the Class?

We used to have a concept to which people aspired. It was called “class.”

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Young boys were taught to be gentlemen and girls to be ladies. People with class were not inclined to draw attention to themselves for the sake of doing so. They might gain attention because of their ability with music or art or their ability as a leader. It was their accomplishments that garnered attention. Nevertheless, they had class.

George Washington often signed his letters as “Your Most Obedient Servant.”

These days we apparently have replaced “class” with “crass.” It seems like people will do anything, and I mean anything, to get attention.

The call today is, “Look at me! Look at me!”

I guess I could understand how someone living in a dilapidated doublewide without indoor plumbing might dream of having their own reality television show. On the other hand, what’s with the antics of celebrities who are already household names?

“Look at me! I’m in rehab!”

“Look at me! I shoplift!”

“Look at me! I made a sex tape!”

I guess that inside the wealthy celebrity dwells the soul of someone living in a dilapidated doublewide without indoor plumbing.

That would explain a lot.

Workers’ Day

Labor Day was not created to mark the end of summer. Those who labor to produce the products and services that fuel the American economy are far more important than we often think. We fall into the trap of thinking that my job is important, but the guy or gal who does [fill in the blank] is not quite as valuable.

We need to celebrate and honor all honest labor. If you don’t believe me, ask someone who’s dealt with a strike by the garbage collectors.

We college graduates like to think that our great thoughts are important, but compare that to someone who can make a car engine purr, or work with structural steel hundreds of feet in the air. How do you compete with that?

You don’t. You learn to stop and look and appreciate such work and those who can do such things.

There’s an old saying that “The worker is worth his wages.” We were taught that by a carpenter, who learned his trade from his father. He worked with his hands, then went on to change the world.