Monthly Archives: July 2014

Contrary to Current Practice

enq

Yes, I’ve written a blog. Although this is apparently not the practice of the tabloid media –Elvis Lives!

Or the mainstream media – If Elvis Lived, How Would This Affect the Kardashians!

Or the Internet – Edward Snowden Leaks Proof that Elvis Is Alive and Working for the NSA!

I need to check a few things before I post it. Since I’m on the road and internet access is acting wonky, I’ll try again tomorrow.

The Cost of Heroes

Walt Disney's  Gyro Gearloose

Walt Disney’s
Gyro Gearloose

When I was a kid, there were certain comic book characters that I favored – Batman, Spiderman, Iron Man, and Gyro Gearloose (from the Donald Duck comics). Why? They all were inventors. Batman created all those great tools that fit into his utility belt. Spiderman proclaimed his web shooter “worthy of a Science Major” (pretty impressive to a guy in grade school). Iron Man – well back in those days Tony Stark figured out how to actually magnify power using (ready for this) A TRANSISTOR! Gyro Gearloose? He could invent the most amazing things, since Disney characters were unfettered by physics, math or any of the other hard sciences.

So, why do I bring this up? First, I’ve never invented anything – but I love to tinker. So, instead of drinking beer, sitting in my recliner, and watch sports on TV, I sip wine and try to get my computer to talk to my radio; my radio to talk to a peripheral device; my weather station to talk to the internet; and all my other inanimate object to talk to other inanimate objects.

Like a 3,000 piece puzzle, it takes a while to get all the pieces to fit.

Maybe I’d be better off watching the quarterback hit the puck up a line-drive to center field right past the keeper for a hat trick.

20 July 1969

Plaque on Apollo 11 Lunar Lander

Plaque on Apollo 11 Lunar Lander

I had just graduated from high school. Viet Nam dominated the news, especially for young men approaching their 18th birthday.

But in the midst of it all, we answered the challenge of President John F. Kennedy to make it to the moon and back within the decade of the 1960s.

Wow!

The lunar module detached from the command module and descended to the moon’s surface. Neil Armstrong prepared to land on the moon using an approach chart just like pilots would use here on earth. However, since no one had been to the moon before, the detailed chart was based on photographs and estimates. As he got closer, he realized that the intended landing site was not safe. Unlike on earth, he could not merely go around and make a second attempt – there was not enough fuel. Well trained, disciplined and determined, he coaxed every bit of lift out of the spacecraft and brought the Eagle to a safe landing.

When I saw that even I, a soon to be befuddled college freshman, knew – I KNEW – anything was possible.

Forty-five years later, I still know it’s true.

Do you?

 

The Truth About Immigrants

Ellis Island osu.edu

Ellis Island
osu.edu

In America it has happened over and over. It happened when the Germans came here and the French. The same with the Irish and the Italians.

You’d think we’d learn, but we don’t.

When a group immigrates, they fumble around for a few years, then figure things out; those who have been here a while teach the tricks to the newcomers.

Then it starts.

They get jobs or start businesses. They pay taxes. The latest immigrants are paying social security taxes to fund the baby boomers. They serve in the military. They become citizens. They become friends and neighbors.

It’s got to stop!

Recycling with a Vengeance

recycle

I recycle. I even had to buy a second 50 gallon recycling bin from the city because I often had more than would fit in a single can.

I compost. Even though my garden was a disaster for the past two year and I gave up gardening, I still have the happiest, healthiest earthworms in the entire neighborhood.

It only makes sense, therefore, that I do the same with words. English has an impressive vocabulary – more than many other languages. However, there are words that have left common usage – some of which I believe, by gum, should be recycled.

All definitions courtesy of http://dictionary.reference.com/

Kerfuffle: ker·fuf·fle [ker-fuhf-uhl] noun Chiefly British Informal. a fuss; commotion.

Whither: whith·er [hwith-er, with-]

adverb

  1. to what place? where?
  2. to what end, point, action, or the like? to what?

conjunction

  1. to which place.
  2. to whatever place.

Methinks: me·thinks [mi-thingks] verb (impersonal), past me·thought. Archaic. it seems to me.

So as my grandson says, “Dude, this is awesome!” I now can respond with, “From whither comes this kerfuffle? Methinks it is unseemly!”

(Snuck one more in on you, didn’t I?)

Philosopher at Large

plato

I’ve decided that I am a philosopher – a student and lover of wisdom. Knowledge is good; wisdom is best.

As near as I can tell, there are no formal requirements or boards required to certify one as a philosopher. It’s kind of like the meteorologists on your local TV station; if they have the remote to control for the weather images against the green screen, they are a meteorologist. I green screen, therefore I meteorology.

Now, I understand that there are certified intellectuals of higher education who are experts in the field of philosophy. Tom Lehrer aptly referred to them as “ivy covered professors in ivy covered halls.” I refer to them as “philosophologists.”

Philosopholgists get tenured positions to ask questions, such as “What did Plato mean when he said, “Good people do not need laws to tell them to act responsibly, while bad people will find a way around the laws”?

Philosophers respond with, “Interesting thought; how can we do we know that Plato expressed that thought? What does the statement mean, and how should civilized society respond?”

So – as a duly self-appointed and qualified-because-I-said-so philosopher I recommend you heed my words. Otherwise I shall be forced to walk with a lamp in daylight to search for an honest man, or run naked through the streets screaming, “Eureka!” Trust me – you want to avoid that at any cost!

Today’s philosophical thought: “Love one another.”

Got it? Good!

Career Dreams and Reality

Merriam-Webster Collegiate Dictionary Eleventh Edition

Merriam-Webster
Collegiate Dictionary
Eleventh Edition

Every young person sees himself as the star athlete, the video game designer extraordinaire, or herself as the president or a musical sensation and star of stage and screen. Reality is a little more understated.

Not every writer produces a best seller bound to be a blockbuster movie. Many writers make a decent living by writing instruction manuals, advertisements, sports reports or other everyday productions.

Of course, this is true in any career field. For every Annie Leibovitz there are hundreds of photographers working for newspapers, documenting weddings or making sure that all the sixth graders have their faces appropriately immortalized in the middle school yearbook.

However, today, as I was looking up things in the dictionary, I had to wonder what kind of artist ends up creating the illustrations for Merriam-Webster. Was it their first choice of professions? Do they get to pick which words to illustrate or is there some formula such as every 200th noun gets a picture? Can they negotiate if they’d much rather draw a penguin instead of a platypus? When they get home, do they paint like Norman Rockwell or Salvador Dali for fun?

Of course, they wonder the same things about us writers.

QSL

Ham radio operators traditionally exchange cards after making a radio contact, an expected courtesy. These “QSL” cards get their name from the “Q” sign – three letter shorthand signals. Back in the days of Morse Code only, three letters beginning with “Q” and not followed by “U” were used to convey various questions and answers. “QSL?” meant can you confirm you received? “QSL” without the question mark meant, I confirm.

I hadn’t been as active on the ham bands as I would have liked, so I hadn’t ordered any QSL cards in a while. For those contacts I did make I designed and printed my own QSL cards, but they were just not right. Actually, I printed and sent fewer than I owed.

Recently I broke down and ordered some professionally printed cards. As the older guys who used to print these have retired, younger guys took over and I had to find one. I did, and he put together a great card for me. (Hams, if you’re interested – contact Glade at www.gggraphicsstore.com.)

It’s amazing how – over 8 years – a few contacts here and there can add up. I’m busy now, catching up on filling in, labeling and addressing the cards that I owe.

I wonder if I have enough stamps…

Look at Me! Look at Me! (But Respect my Privacy) Look at Me!

Don Adams "Get Smart"

Don Adams
“Get Smart”

We interrupt this uproar about the NSA to present the following commercial announcements:

The left handed velvet backscratcher that you looked at last week is now on sale at the following internet sellers…

According to your cellphone GPS, here’s a coupon for the store across the street.

People who looked at left handed backscratchers, are often interested in left handed scissors.

Your Instagram of your Chicken Parmigiana a Bella Piano’s has gone viral.

Uncle Vito’s Frozen Chicken Parmesan is on sale at your local Food Shoppe.

Did you know that many people use a left handed back scratcher while eating Uncle Vito’s Chicken Parmesan?

Facebook wants you to be sad about those poor chickens.

#sad chickens

We now return you to the furor over NSA, already in progress.

Time to Learn

Thomas Jefferson  statue College of William & Mary

Thomas Jefferson
statue
College of William & Mary

We took a family drive today and checked out a couple of colleges since our kids are getting to THAT stage of life. Virginia, for a variety of reasons, including intent and longevity has many excellent schools, including William and Mary, “the second oldest college” in America, and with Rutgers, the only colonial colleges that are not Ivy League.

I do not measure much of my life in terms of my high school and college days. I went to school for purely pragmatic reasons, to learn so I could do something worthwhile with my life and earn a decent living. As each generation wants better for its children, I want my kids to learn and enjoy the experience.

As we were talking, I realized that my life has been 6 decades of learning (and counting). The difference is that I get to choose what I want to learn most of the time.

Oddly enough, after my comments about Hurricane Arthur, I found several weather storm spotting courses, and have resigned myself to my old habits and will be learning those over the next few weeks.

There will be no storm, chasing, however.

There are too many other things to learn for me to get myself damaged chasing a funnel cloud.

Independence Day

Jefferson Obelisk Courtesy Monticello.org

Jefferson Obelisk
Courtesy Monticello.org

He wrote his own epitaph.

HERE WAS BURIED; THOMAS JEFFERSON; AUTHOR OF THE; DECLARATION OF AMERICAN INDEPENDENCE OF THE STATUTE OF VIRGINIA FOR RELIGIOUS FREEDOM AND FATHER OF THE UNIVERSITY OF VIRGINIA BORN APRIL 2, 1743 O.S. DIED JULY 4. 1826

Jefferson and John Adams are as essential to America as was George Washington. Of the three, Jefferson was the most complicated – a wealth of intellectual virtue but pragmatically able to ignore his own beliefs in the name of commerce. Author of the Declaration of Independence, yet an owner of slaves.

There is a fascinating radio program in which historian Clay Jenkinson portrays Thomas Jefferson but such that Jefferson is able to converse with us in our time. If you haven’t heard it, give it a try. Click here for more.

http://www.jeffersonhour.com/

 

I Confess

I confess that I haven’t written a blog recently.

Well actually I’ve written several blog starts, but no complete blogs. In any case, I haven’t posted any blogs.

Why?

I’ve had a few medical issues crop up (B-o-r-i-n-g!), been taking a distance learning advanced grammar class (B-o-r-i-n-g!), and haven’t come across anything either funny or exciting.

I really tried to write how understanding gerunds was better than sex, drugs, and rock and roll. Together! I just couldn’t pull it off.

I thought about the irony of the class being delivered from the University of California at Berkeley; studying in virtual west coast California while preparing for an actual east coast hurricane.

My kids are out of school and bonding with their electronics in their individual bedrooms. They show up for meals, see their shadows and scurry back to their burrows. No blog inspiration there.

However, Independence Day is tomorrow. That always inspires me.