Monday, December 21, 2009

Thoughts on Work and Culture by Hamilton Wright Mabie

As a matter of fact, in most cases, it is the community, not the
individual, which is selfish; for communities are often ruthless
destroyers of promising youth.

The gifted young preacher must clearly discern the needs of his own nature
or he will miss the one thing which he was probably sent into the world to
accomplish, the one thing which all men are sent into the world to
secure,--free and noble self-development. He must be wiser than his parish
or the community; he must recognise the peril which comes from the too
close pressure of near duties at the start. The community will
thoughtlessly rob him of the time, the quiet, and the repose necessary for
the unfolding of his spirit; it will drain him in a few years of the
energy which ought to be spread over a long period of time; and at the end
of a decade it will begin to say, under its breath, that its victim has
not fulfilled the promise of his youth. It will fail to discern that it
has blighted that promise by its own urgent demands. The young preacher
who is eager to give the community the very greatest service in his power
will protect it and himself by locking his study door and resolutely
keeping it locked.

The young artist and writer must pass through the same ordeal, and must
learn before it is too late that he who is to render the highest service
to his fellows must be most independent in his relations to them. He
cannot commit the management of his life to others without maiming or
blighting it. The community insists upon immediate activity at the expense
of ultimate service, upon present productivity at the cost of ultimate
power. The artist must learn, therefore, to bar his door against the
public until he has so matured his own strength and determined his own
methods that neither crowds nor applause nor demands can confuse or
disturb him. The great spirits who have nourished the best life of the
race have not turned to their fellows for their aims and habits of work;
they have taken counsel of that ancient oracle which speaks in every man's
soul, and to that counsel they have remained steadfastly true. There is no
clearer disclosure of divine guidance in the confusion of human aims and
counsels than the presence of a distinct faculty or gift in a man; and
when such a gift reveals itself a man must follow it, though it cost him
everything which is most dear; and he must give it the largest opportunity
of growth, though he face the criticism of the world in the endeavour.

Muscles

"Look at the biceps on that guy!" I said out loud at the table. Normally more subtle, I was taken by both the enormous size and the appearance that the man's arm might actually explode any moment. He was slicing a 15 inch diameter log--first slicing downward and then upward--with a chainsaw--and more quickly than I can slice chocolate cake. No, not in the restuarant where Baron, Laura, LaWanna and I were having lunch after church Sunday. But on one of the flat-screen TV's showing the lumberjack competition. Actually, I probably gasped more audibly when the man that was speed climbing a tree began to fall from about 80 feet up. I was attempting to keep my attention at the table and be engaged in conversation since our social butterfly daughter and her most tolerant husband are still willing to spend time with the old folks. I appreciate all our "kids" and their spouses for spending time with us and acting as if they enjoy rather than tolerate the time together. Still, I was distracted. Why? Because people who control their thoughts enough to will their bodies to go beyond what they thought possible are fascinating to me. Are the events of lumberjack competitions logical? Probably not. Does completing an Ironman competition justify the amount of time, energy, and money invested to reach a level of conditioning to make it possible? That can be, and often is, debated. When the Psalmist exclaims "I am fearfully and wonderfully made!" his observation resonates with me. DISCLAIMER; I don't understand most of how we are made. At times I begin to think that I do, but the human body is so amazing that one could spend a lifetime studying it and still be learning at the end of life on earth. And that brings me to the real point of this post. It has to do with "happenings" in Atlanta. You know, the New York City of the south. The city where our daughter will be living in TWO WEEKS. The city where we moved most of her things Saturday. In that city, there is an exhibition that I REALLY want to see. It has been around for some time now in various locations. And I have been aware of it for a couple of years. Well, it slipped up on me in Atlanta. I did not realize it was coming and it is already here. What display would possible tie all this rambling together? This;






http://www.bodiestheexhibition.com/ Yes, it is an exhibition of actual human bodies and organs displayed somewhat like that plastic skeleton that used to hang in your high school science class. They have perfected a process called "plastination" that enables them to preserve and display bodies so that the muscles can be observed as if the person were alive--only skinned. This is probably freaking some folks out about now. But I would REALLY like to see this exhibit both for the actual displays AND to watch people as the move through. Partly, I would want to keep an eye out for any Jeffry Dahmer type that may be lurking in the crowd. Do you find this weird? Would you like to see this exhibit? Do you have moral or ethical objections? Are you available to go next Monday?

Friday, December 18, 2009

New Career?

If you pay for career counseling, does it make sense to ignore the recommendations? You really can't argue with the logic. Although it disregards my education and current interests, the recommendation certainly seems to align with my career path to this point. Most readers are aware that I spent 37 years performing almost every type job available at the U.S. Postal Service, so I am very well acquainted with delivery systems. Fewer of you know of my exploits on bicycles. I do not ride as regularly as my brother, Keith, or his training partner, Josh. But still, I have managed to survive a couple of mountain bike races, a couple of adventure races, a criterium (a long time ago) and a metric century (62 miles) ride, as well as several sprint triathlons. Now, thousands of REAL cyclists will laugh at these beginner's credentials but it fits with the pattern for the new job. What is the logical next step for someone with lots of delivery and a little cycling experience? Delivering packages on a bike for UPS, of course.

I can hear you snickering. You are thinking "That is just silly. UPS is a modern company, moving at the speed of light. They would never pay somebody to deliver packages on bikes." Well, think again! I knew you would not believe me, so here are photos to back up the story;





















So, what do you think? I was really excited about the idea....at first. Then, I was a little discourage by the low pay. And then, while convincing myself of all the benefits that override the pay, it occurred to me that the poor cyclist is probably responsible for any package that is lost or stolen. So really, the greatest potential for profit would be to follow this guy and when he dismounts to walk up to a door, toss his packages in back of the truck and take off. No matter how fast he is, he can't catch an 8 cylinder with a bike pulling a trailer.

Still, it seems like a fun seasonal job. What do you think? Remember, if you don't comment--the terrorists win!

Monday, December 14, 2009

Mamma's Love

Meet Xena. She is large enough to pass as an adult cat and in some ways, she is. But she is still young and part of her is a kitten. She loves this super-soft blanket that is folded on the foot of our bed and will spread eagle on it and dig her face in to NURSE. She sucks on the blanket and spreads her paws as if she is massaging the blanket. She closes her eyes and it is as if there is nobody else around. The separation from her mother at birth will probably require therapy all her life.

Resolutions


Twas the month after Christmas,
and all through the house
Nothing would fit me,
not even a blouse.
The cookies I'd nibbled,
the eggnog I'd taste
At the holiday parties had gone to my waist.
When I got on the scales there arose such a number!
When I walked to the store (less a walk than a lumber).
I'd remember the marvelous meals I'd prepared;
The gravies and sauces and beef nicely rared,
The wine and the rum balls, the bread and the cheese
And the way I'd not said, "No thank you, please."
As I dressed myself in my husband's old shirt
And prepared once again to do battle with dirt---
I said to myself, as I only can
"You can't spend a winter disguised as a man!"
So--away with the last of the sour cream dip,
Get rid of the fruit cake, every cracker and chip
Every last bit of food that I like must be banished
"Till all the additional ounces have vanished.
I won't have a cookie--not even a lick.
I'll want only to chew on a long celery stick.
I won't have hot biscuits, or corn bread, or pie,
I'll munch on a carrot and quietly cry.
I'm hungry, I'm lonesome, and life is a bore---
But isn't that what January is for?
Unable to giggle, no longer a riot.
Happy New Year to all and to all a good diet!

Author Unknown

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

EPA Is Going To The Birds!



Actually, the EPA is taking FROM the birds. But I like the title better with its double meaning. Before you tune out, thinking this is going to be a rant about the millions or billions or whatever illions we are spending on the environment, take time to at least see the photo. It seems only fair that I let you know SOME of what I know about this particular site before springing the funny photo on you. If you live in Montgomery and have for any length of time, you have, no doubt traveled Perry Hill Road and/or Harrison Road. You probably also know that there is a used car lot at the corner where these two roads intersect. And most of you know that this car lot has been there a long time. Perhaps you have shopped some of the fleet vehicles often offered for sale. I have no need for the trucks with dump bodies and hydraulic lifts, but when I see them I begin to imagine how I might use them in a tree surgeon business or some more imaginative manner. This is why window shopping is a bad idea for me. It creates an imagined need.




But this was not always a car lot. If you go back far enough, there was a time that it was a service station. Yep, probably far enough back that it offered SERVICE and not just gasoline to be pumped by the customer. But like Goober-n-them back in Mayberry, these folks never thought much about the huge metal underground tank that stored the gas for the pumps. And over time water would settle to the bottom of these tanks and cause rust which naturally led to leaks. I don't want to attempt to be scientific here for two reasons. 1) I don't want the EPA shutting down my blog, then placing me on a terrorist watch list and 2) I am pretty ignorant of the details. Apparently, there is a plume of underground pollution affecting the ground water in the area of what is now a car lot. And for years--lots of years--the EPA has been showing up like a Ghost Busters convention and walking around in strange white coveralls, drilling holes in the parking lot for test cores and running tests on this dirt that obviously is much more complex than what the forensics people do on CSI. Those guys on CSI can examine a dead body, determine what trace minerals are in the fingernails, and dig up another body from 62 years ago to perform comparative DNA tests--all in 58 minutes. The EPA has been looking at this dirt for at least 30 years. About a year of two ago they built this mysterious tank/pump/measuring/reporting apparatus behind the office of this car lot. It is all a very clinical "Area 51-looking" white. Then they erected a 6-foot fence around it so nobody can see what is there. It is all VERY mysterious. I eased by one day to read the sign on the door to area 51 and it says something about EPA re-mediation. Apparently, this system runs 24 hours per day pumping water from deep underground, cleaning it somehow and pumping it back. Again that is probably a very south-Alabama explanation because I went to the EPA website and quickly decided I did not have 6 years to sort through how this system works.




"So what?" you say. "So what?" says I. Until today. When I noticed this sign on the grass next to area 51.


That is correct, ladies and gentlemen. You, the taxpayer, are spending multiple millions to clean up this "superfund site". But IF you feed the birds and IF they poop on the Area 51 fence, you WILL be charged with clean up cost. Now, those of you who know me best know already what a sign like this communicates to me. I can read the words, but what I really hear is "Roxy, I double dog dare you to throw some bread crumbs out here and see what happens." And I was leaning toward attempting it except for two things; 1) although I am behind this huge green fence and on somebody else's parking lot, they may have a security camera and already have tapped my bank account after running my tag number and 2) what if the clean up cost include more than washing bird poop off the fence--what if they tranfer the entire gazillion dollar cost of the superfund clean up to my checking account? I have overdraft protection, but how far will that go? I know what you are thinking; "Roxy, you are a little paranoid about all this Area 51, Big Brother is watching you stuff." You think so? Then explain to me how the property owner appeared like Casper before I could take the second photo? I DID, however, take the second photo. And it gives a broader view of this property, including the fence around Area 51. This gentleman did NOT like the fact that I was photographing his sign. He asked questions. He wanted to know who I am. He did not think "K" was a funny answer. In fact, he did not seem to think anything was funny. I quickly turned the tables and asked him questions. Let's just say we did not learn much about each other. We did learn this though, he does not see the humor in his sign and he now knows that I think it is HILARIOUS! Here is the wider photo of Area 51 with the warning sign. Be advised--if you have read this far, there may be a satellite reading your tag number right now.
Honestly, do you think some bread crumbs between the parking lot and this "top secret" fence is going to lead to a diminished view here?

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Messin' With Sasquatch

I have enjoyed the series of beef jerky commercials where practical jokers pull pranks on Sasquatch, only to get pounded by the beast. They remind me first of great practical jokes through the years. No, I am not telling those stories now. Secondly, they remind me of a backpacking trip a few years ago. Our group of hikers were taking in the sights from an observatory on a ridge along the Appalachian Trail. My brother called for me to bring the camera because a bear was attempting to raid a "bear-proof" garbage can. I ran to a dirt/gravel road just beyond where the creature was sighted and rounded the corner just in time to snap this photo. You may need to click on it to see it clearly.

Some of you who know me already are thinking I downloaded this from the internet or photoshopped it in some way. This is an actual photo I took with a Canon 35 mm film camera (before I discovered the wonderful world of digital). It has not been retouched or shopped in any way. I did have home-made venison jerky in my pocket, but it did not occur to me to attempt a prank. What do you think?

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Sounds Good......


"We have talked this issue to death. ... The time for talk is winding down."
Great speech. The truth is, the time for talk is BEFORE voting on an unbelievably expensive bill that, even with over 1000 pages, is ambiguous on many important issues.

Sunday, September 06, 2009

Metric Century--check

I survived and completed the metric century yesterday (100 kilometers=62 miles). It was a great experience that was different from anything I am accustomed to. My health was fine for the day--well, other than extreme fatigue and legs of lead later in the day. Since it was new to me and so much further than I have ever ridden, I was attentive to the stories of others who have "hit the wall" because of failure to take in enough food or fluids during the ride. I had little idea how much to eat before and during the ride so I decided to err on the side of eating too much. As a result, I spent LOTS of time at every rest stop munching on what was available and sipping Gatorade. It worked well except one problem at about 50 miles that I will tell you about. First, the odd beginning. I arrived plenty early to eat some breakfast and talk to a few riders before making last minute preparations to mount up. Those riding 100 miles were scheduled to depart at 7:30 and those riding 30, 55, and 62 miles were to leave at 8:00. Since I have never even attended, much less participated in such an event I made some assumptions that were not so accurate. I pictured a starting gun or horn with lots of cheering and clapping. Somehow, I missed the start of the 100 by being inside the church building where the event was hosted. Then I came out and calmly sat on a glider and watched folks come and go for a while because I was ready with time to spare. Enough time, it turned out, that I decided to maybe visit the men's room one last time. Upon returning from that trip at about 6 or 8 minutes til 8 I realized everybody was gone! Really. Everybody. Did I miss a trumpet or clap of thunder? As of this moment, I don't really know what happened. Apparently either their was an executive decision to leave early or the understanding is that everybody just pulls out when they get ready. Anyway, I was suddenly wandering around, not sure if I had fallen asleep and missed part of the day. So I quickly mounted up and decided I must be off (so to speak). No fanfare. Little confidence. And since this church is at an intersection, you ride out of the parking lot, ride about 50 yards and stop. At a red light. So far, not so hard. And not so exciting. In just a couple of minutes, though, I was spinning down the county road at 17 mph--just me and my Trek. Actually, another man pulled up at the light and we exchanged greetings. As I rode along, he quickly pulled up beside me and struck up a conversation. That conversation ended 36 miles later when he said "I think I will head back on this shorter route" and after an awkward, medium-speed fist bump he turned left and was gone. Alone again. Naturally. I had enjoyed the conversation with Ken and he made the miles go by faster. Really. Sure, it seemed faster because I had someone interesting to get to know (he works for Oracle as a trainer). But also, he was riding a little faster than I intended. Or was it me that was pushing the pace? I am not sure. I think we rode at his faster pace and lingered at the rest stops at my leisurely pace. I did not realize one negative effect of hanging out at the rest stops eating peanut butter and jelly sandwiches with Gatorade would be to put me solidly in the back of the pack of metric century riders. Actually, I was very near the back from the beginning and only a few that arrived at the beginning point a few minutes after 8 started behind me. Ken and I passed a few folks every now and then as we rode along so I never gave much thought to where I was in relation to others. My goal was to ride 62 miles, not outrun anybody. I should have realized, however, that the people we were passing were riding the 30 or 55 mile route (they were together most of the way). Not only that, but the tough hills and sudden heat leading up to the rest stop at about 35 miles convinced LOTS of folks to revise plans. In fact, there were nearly a dozen folks strolling around at that rest stop for a long time. I finally realized that all of them had quit. They were waiting for a truck to transport them back to the start/finish. I saw one with a blow-out and heard on the ham radio at the rest stop that one had fallen with minor scrapes and bike damage. Many switched at this point from 100 to 62 miles or from 62 to 55. And I was tired, with only a few miles left before I had to decide whether to switch to the 55 mile route or continue on the 62 mile course. And my riding partner was peeling off to head back toward tomato sandwiches and ice cream. I decided to go on. About 5 miles later I decided that indeed, I must be off. The hills were tough and I moving slow at the top of each. Can there really be about 20 miles to go? Simple math is becoming difficult. The stretch from about 42 miles to about 50 miles is difficult to explain. Actually, it is difficult to understand. Something came over me like a mild version of the adrenaline crazed mother that picks up an overturned car to free her child. I began to ride the hills hard. I built lots of speed going downhill (28-33mph) and pedaled hard to maintain momentum as far up the next hill as possible before downshifting. I was feeling a little like a real cyclist. Until I spotted the rest stop know as "Margarita ville Rest Stop" at the top of a long hill. Vanity made desire to not be spent when I topped that hill. So I did not charge the hill. I attempted to ride a steady pace. And it climbed. And climbed. And my legs were screaming. And I realized that the wind was not really rushing past--that was my breath as I exhaled and panted. But I made it up and managed with great effort to un-clip my feet from the pedals. There, feet on the ground. I did not crash in front of all the volunteers. Then I realized what all the volunteers were gradually realizing. I was just standing there. In the road. Holding my bike. And a truck was coming. My mind very much wanted to move out of the road and into the shade but my legs were locked up. Cramps. Both legs, just above the knees and slightly inside were locked tight. I could not walk. Did I mention a truck was coming? A volunteer arrived at my side and asked if I was alright. "No. Cramps. Can't walk. Can you take my bike?" He did. Then I did my best impression of Tim Conway when he plays the old man on Carol Burnett's show and shuffles his feet without picking either one up. I shuffled about two feet to get off the road. Then a lady was at my side with a paper cup the size of a shot glass--I mean large communion cup. "Drink this, it will help." It was olive juice. Did you know that? I did not know that? In minutes, the cramps were gone. I had a few snacks, drank a concoction known as Gatorade Margarita with Gatorade and lime in a paper cup with salt around the rim. There were many offers of a ride but also assurance that I could take my time if I felt like cycling the rest of the way. There were about 12 miles left. Are you kidding? I am practically there now! So, I saddled up again after coming to the realization that I was the last metric century rider on the road and these folks were packing up. The 100 mile riders did not pass this way. The final 12 miles were not as tough as I expected and I had no more problem with leg cramps. In fact, during the last 3 or so miles I was riding at 17 or 18 mph much of the time. I had not been concerned about crashing at all until the final mile. Suddenly, I felt the need to mentally rehearse every move. I had to negotiate the intersection that was in sight of the finish without cramps or falling and certainly without pulling out in front of a car. Then the parking lot. "Excuse me. Sir, talking on the cell phone. You are walking right into me and I am exhausted." I think the words came out better, but I am not sure. Again, no fanfare. No applause. No cheering. But I had already cheered myself a mile up the road. I whooped and cheered like a little boy who had ridden a bike for the first time. I was proud of me. So, I signed in, received my t-shirt, had a tomato and bacon sandwich, and then an ice cream sandwich. In fact, they were small. So I had TWO ice cream sandwiches. I deserved it.

Friday, September 04, 2009

Two Birds

Although I should be heading to bed, I have two needs pressing on me. And the saying "kill two birds with one stone" comes to mind. By the way, remind me to tell you the story of my little brother throwing a rock at a quail and killing him when we were kids. But this is not really about killing birds. It is about (1) my failure to post on this blog for an ENTIRE MONTH and (2) how my week is unfolding and the trepidation that is waging war on my steely determination. There are several excuses for not posting in so long but the main reason is facebook. I have become addicted to facebook. So many people interact with me so quickly that when I enter the house, I can hardly wait to see what notes I have received and what witty comments have been posted. Plus, one person bragging on my photo can carry me for a couple of days. In spite of my neglect, when I receive a weekly e-mail showing how many folks have stopped by to see if there is anything new on the blog I am both flattered and embarrassed. SO....anything I post is better than all the days I posted nothing. That is number one. Number two is that I have had a tentative plan for an adventure TOMORROW morning. It has been tentative for two primary reasons. First, I am crazy to think I am prepared to accomplish my goal under the best circumstances. Second, I am not experiencing the best of circumstances. The goal is a bicycle ride. I know, that does not seem like a very big deal. But it is a long bicycle ride. In fact, it is a 100 kilometer bicycle ride. I could wait while you go ask your teenager how many miles equals 100 kilometers, but I will just tell you. It is just over 62 miles. Maybe if you say it really fast, that doesn't sound like so much. But wherever you live, think of a town a little over 60 miles away and think about getting up EARLY Saturday morning to drive there. Now think about getting up early Saturday morning, gathering gear, mixing Gatorade, loading your bike, driving 40 minutes out of town, eating some pancakes with a bunch of young athletes, and THEN riding your bike 62 miles. Now, sooner or later somebody will read this that rides 50 or 60 miles EVERY Saturday. Yes, people really do that. Those people will be riding 100 miles tomorrow. And for many of them it will be a 6 hour party. That is partly how I envisioned it also. Actually, I envisioned making the leap from a 30 mile solo ride to a 50 mile organized social ride. Then the 50 miler became a 55 miler and I decided to just add another 7 and make the metric century. It sounded reasonable at one time. It really did. Of course, when you envision yourself tackling a challenge like that, you always picture the strong, healthy version of yourself. That is not the version that has shown up this week. No, I have not had the swine flu. Nor any kind of flu. And I have not been really, really sick. Not even enough to complain about--except to LaWanna. And I hate to do that because I know a lecture about sugar consumption is coming. That, of course, depresses me and I begin to crave comfort food--like a Snickers bar. So this week has been one of....let's just say some amount of digestive distress and leave it at that. Not the kind of thing you really want to deal with approaching a huge physical challenge. I have only run once this week and have not been on my bike at all. That is frightening. And I put off registering for the ride because.I.just.was.not.sure. Well, as of 8:00 tonight I am registered at number 186 in the Jim Glassner Memorial Autumn Challenge Metric Century. Jim Glassner was a Montgomery doctor that had been active in the local cycling community until he was struck and killed by an automobile in 2001. The bike club has hosted century rides for about 30 years, but renamed it in Jim's honor after his death. It is just now 10 p.m. and I need to get some sleep and hope I guess correctly on solid and liquid fuel for the day tomorrow. If I stay healthy, it will be fun. The club does a great job with support and rest stops which is so much better than just taking off for 62 miles by yourself. That is the attraction. With others attempting the same--many for the first time--and seasoned riders cheering you on and encouraging you--really pulling for you to succeed, it is a great time to do more than you could do alone. Stay tuned. By the time you read this, I may have already posted a sad tale or, hopefully, a triumphant victory. Thanks for reading and thank you for checking in. I will try to post more in the future. Really.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

How Can That Be True?

Is it possible? It just does not sound right. I had to check several sources. Apparently it is, in fact, true. Pete Seeger is 90 years old! So what, you say? Well, just because most of the readers of this blog are about one third that age you have little idea who Pete Seeger is. Maybe you have no idea who Pete Seeger is. He is know as a singer/songwriter and I appreciate him most for writing the song "Turn, Turn, Turn". Of course, that song is mostly plagiarized from Ecclesiates 3 but that is why I like it. And you know the version that was sung by the Byrds in the 60's. Seeger also wrote the hippie hit "If I had a hammer". Surprisingly, that song was actually written in the early 50's. PBS is airing a special in segments that boasts many musical giants paying tribute to Pete Seeger. It is worth checking local listings and putting on your schedule. Really? He is 90?

Friday, July 24, 2009

National Health Care

Whew! There is a lot of talk about health care. As with most topics that involve billions of dollars, various groups are pushing their agenda by getting the word out--often without much regard for the truthfulness of those words. I may add my opinions on some aspects of various proposals later. For now, I just want to present a quote from an e-mail I received today;


"President Obama made one thing clear this week in a televised press conference focused on health care reform: "There is a cost to doing nothing." What's the cost of maintaining the status quo? It's the guarantee that over the next 10 years more people will lose their health insurance while health care costs for everyone else doubles and the federal budget is consumed by the rising costs of Medicare and Medicaid."

I am skipping the debate on the "cost of doing nothing" and the manifold debates on insurance. What jumped out at me--and I posted in bold for you--is the assertion that "the federal budget will be consumed by the rising costs of Medicare and Medicaid".

If that is true, please explain to me how the solution is to place the entire population on a nationalized plan similar to what Medicare and Medicaid presently provides for the elderly?

That sounds like my cousin, Skip, from Doles, Georgia that was buying watermelons by the truck load and selling them next to the highway. He was buying melons for $2 apiece and selling them for $1.50. After a few loads, he realized he was loosing money. He finally realized he would only make a profit if he dealt in a larger volume. So he sold his truck and bought a larger truck.

Does anybody else see the similarity?

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

A Tale of Two Memorials

There were not thousands of police officers assigned to control the crowd and quickly handle trouble. There were no television crews, no cameras, and twitter was not overloaded during the memorial service. The service went about as expected for the quiet 93-year-old homebody that passed from this life on July 3. Her funeral service was Monday. The crowd was small and subdued. The speaker hid his feelings of inadequacy well.

The memorial held the next day in a huge, modern building was packed with media and celebrities as well as ordinary folks who won the lottery to gain a ticket for admittance. What those lucky few witnessed was great, classy, well-orchestrated entertainment. I saw some of it on one of the many channels that carried it live. Really, it was a great show and I understand the tremendous draw that the famous, wealthy, and noticeable hold for those of us who are none of those things.

Why would I care to compare these two memorials? Some of it is personal. I was the one attempting to comfort the family of the lady whose funeral was Monday. The family did not expect many to attend because Mrs. Edna had outlived most of her friends and all of her siblings. That expectation proved accurate. I feel compelled to comment on the comparison because anyone who attempts to restrain or qualify the rhetoric and near worship of Michael Jackson will probably be labeled either racist or narrow-minded for believing any of the "unproven" reports of pedophilia. Let me be clear; I have enjoyed Michael Jackson's music since I was in high school (when he first began as the cute kid with the Jackson 5). I think he was a savvy entertainer and his quirkiness contributed to his draw. He first rose above his neighbors and peers, then far outshone his siblings. Many are calling him the greatest entertainer ever to live. That can be debated--and will--but not by me. Perhaps he was. In fact, to make my point I will just concede that he is, indeed, the greatest entertainer ever. The purpose of this post is not to question his credentials as an entertainer. He was powerful and his influence was widespread. I just can't bring myself, though, to accept all that is being said now. Have you read of the family in Stockton, California that believes an image of Michael appeared on a stump in their yard the day he died?

"I was standing by that bush, and I looked up and saw that image here," Garcia told CBS.
Many people in the crowd who gathered to look at the stump on Sunday afternoon saw the resemblance, but why would Michael Jackson appear instead of a religious figure, or even any of the other celebrities who recently passed away?
"Because Michael Jackson was an icon to us," said one neighbor.
"To Stockton, Michael Jackson meant more to us than Jesus, to some people. I think they're both about even."

See? That is the part that bothers me. Not that Michael Jackson is appreciated, but that some now think he meant more than Jesus--or was about even with Him. Lest you think that is an isolated weirdo that wants to make money from a stump, check one of the many, many videos that will soon be available of the memorial service and listen to what Al Sharpton had to say. Wow! Suddenly, I realize that Michael was not really an entertainer. He was in fact a change agent. He was responsible for societal change that allowed Oprah to be on TV and Obama to be elected president. Mr. Sharpton went on to assure Michael's children that their father was not strange--what went on around him was strange, but he dealt with it. Nothing was said about the ex-wives or the children that slept with Michael. That is appropriate for his memorial service. It is NOT appropriate that average men and women in the workplace and around kitchen tables can not be honest about the life of an individual because he has celebrity status. Please understand, I don't think he should be held to a higher moral standard because he became famous. He could not help the family he was born into. He had little choice about how his early life unfolded. MJ had little chance of ever having a "normal" life. I pity him for that. My concern is that we are drawn to recast a life of indulgence and narcissism in a way that makes a pop star seem larger than life itself and above all moral standards. Have we arrived at that place--where if you are flamboyant and entertaining enough, we will overlook any bizarre and immoral behavior you choose, while overlooking the simple, Godly men and women that go about doing the best they can?

Tour de France

I am very impressed with Lance Armstrong. His story is well-known; rebounding from cancer to win the Tour de France an unprecedented 7 times, raising millions for cancer research and treatment, and now coming out or retirement to compete in the Tour de France again. Yesterday, he moved from 10th place to 3rd by using his experience to evaluate the riders and conditions before making a strong decision that scored a huge psychological victory. It is interesting to note that even while Lance creates discussion of whether he is the greatest rider on the tour, his team, Astana, has not even decided if he is the best rider on the team. There are three weeks of racing left and probably lots of drama as well. For now, I am sharing a photo from last year's Tour de France that really is worth 1000 words. Remember, many of the daily stages are well over 100 miles meaning that riders are on the bikes for hours. Have you ever thought about how professional cyclists riding hard for 5 or 6 hours in bike shorts deal with the need to........relieve themselves? Well, it is just a fact of life that must be dealt with. Here, in one photo, that question is answered for you. Relax, it is PG-13 rated. The photo answers some questions but creates others. All things considered, I find lots of humor in this photo.






Thursday, July 02, 2009

The Declaration of Independence Simplified

We are about to do something drastic and rare in human history. This document sets forth our justification to the world.
The Laws of Nature created by Nature's God give any people the right to undo political ties binding them to another nation, and to take their own separate place among earthly powers as full equals. This is the case because the Creator made every person equal, and gave certain permanent rights to them all. These include the rights to live, to be free, and to pursue happiness. All this is so obviously true that it needs no proof.
The reason for government is to make these rights secure. The only rightful power a government has is power that the people give it. Because government exists to preserve the peoples' rights, if a government begins to destroy those rights the people may change that government, or they may do away with it altogether and form a new government designed to make them safe and happy.
People generally realize that they ought not to change old governments without good reason. In fact, most people put up with bad governments longer than they should. But when a government finally starts turning its people into slaves, the people must throw out that government and form a new one to do what governments are intended to do.
We have now reached that point with the King of England, who insists on turning us into his slaves. As evidence supporting this charge, the world can consider the following facts. [The Declaration then details 27 specific things that the British King is doing or is refusing to do which demonstrate his true intent.]
With all this in mind, we ask the world's Supreme Judge to weigh our motives. And now, by the authority of the colonists whom we have been chosen to represent, we officially declare ourselves separate from all connections with the British government and free from the authority of the British King. Instead, from this moment, we declare that these united Colonies are free and independent States, with all powers proper to such States.
We firmly rely on Divine Providence to protect us in making this Declaration. Together as one man, in its support we stake everything we own, our treasured reputations, and our very lives.


Reproduced from gracEmail, copyright 2009 by Edward Fudge and used by permission.

Fire Safety

Unemployment is up. House values are down. There is a lot of uncertainty. Most of us have considered cutting back on unnecessary expenses. That is understandable and may be wise in some areas. But please, please do not cut back on the tools needed to ensure the safety of your family. You may be thinking that expensive fire alarms are just not in your budget. But there is a solution that will allow you to protect those you love and not destroy your budget. If you need step-by-step instructions, please e-mail me. But I suspect this picture will be sufficient.







Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Training and such as....


I wonder if Ms. South Carolina can find that on a map?

Monday, June 15, 2009

Goodbye to you

This song was written by a friend of my daughter's fiance' and I thought it was good enough to share. I will let it speak for itself.




Monday, June 01, 2009

Happy Camper?

In a couple of days I will be a happy camper in the mountains of north Georgia (although not literally camping). Today I am not a happy camper. Really I don't get frustrated very often. But today I have spent the entire day at the local Goodyear franchise and feel like I need to tell on somebody! I went prepared to be a while, having the oil changed and tires balanced in preparation of traveling in a few days. I have had a "bump" in my tires for a few weeks that needed attention. Since I bought the road hazard and lifetime balancing, I should have already taken care of it, but hate the waiting. It was getting pretty bad now and needed attention before hitting the highway. There was a plan; drop the truck off with an explanation about the anti-theft system (Please write this down--you can't start the truck without it), walk over to Eastdale Mall while the tires were balanced (and look, an oil change is $19.99), eat at the food court, walk in the air-conditioned mall a while, sit in a comfy chair and read, walk back to the Goodyear store, and drive home happy. Few dollars, road ready, and a casual day. First, I was "sold up" to the $34.95 "high mileage" oil change, so there is that nagging feeling of donating extra. Then (skipping forward FOUR HOURS!) I am standing in the store after debating with the manager, calling Goodyear customer service, getting a lukewarm concession, then having my logic insulted again. Here is the deal--without pages of details. The bump-wobble was not a tire-balance problem, it was a tire separating. The plies inside the tire were separating and bunching up. To be fair, I have had the tires almost 5 years. I drive the truck about 10k miles per year so they had just under 50K miles on them, which is not bad. HOWEVER, all the tires except this one still had about half the tread on them. They were far from worn out--on the outside. This is when my jaw dropped. The manager of the store said "Tires are just not made to last five years." He was not talking about tread wear. He was referring to those frightening videos you have seen about "old" tires being sold as new only to separate and blow out. So he used scare tactics to sell me a new set of tires. Get this though; these tires were manufactured in 2003! I bought them in 2004. So he is saying if your grandmother drives 20 miles per month, in five years she needs a new set of tires because they deteriorate that quickly. I could not believe it. The customer service folks offered a slight discount on new tires. When I asked him if there would be a problem with keeping the damaged tire, he said "No, I have to send that to the factory for them to inspect." What? If they all wear out in 5 years, why do they need to look at this one? Here is where I found my assertiveness; after deciding to replace only the damaged tire, he began adding up the extras which included $3 for "tire disposal". I don't think so. I suggested he just sit in in a corner and at the rate of decay, it would be gone by Christmas. Then I suggested he put it in the bed of the truck and mount my spare on the front. Now I am waiting again while my two new front tires are being mounted at Sam's Wholesale Club. Did I save any money by refusing to do business with Goodyear? No. In fact, it will cost me a little more at Sam's but I will not give them the satisfaction of being just another brainless customer who thinks he has no choice. When they go the way of Chrysler and General Motors I will drive by and honk the horn. That should be enough, but there is more. Remember that $34.95 deluxe oil change I agreed to? $49.95! Yep, turns out they had no idea my truck held 6 1/2 quarts of oil--plus, of course, the oil disposal fee and multiple taxes.



So....I know many of you will read this and say "I just wish for once I could get five years out of a set of tires." But see, I get mine balanced. I check and inflate them regularly. I drive gently (most of the time). And I don't drive that many miles because we have three vehicles. I guess the good news is, you can go ahead and spin the tires all you want! The tread is not what you should worry about wearing out first anymore. No need to inflate them

Friday, May 29, 2009

Car Dealers, Unemployment, and Politics--Oh My!

First, thank you for reading past the title. Many folks see the word politics and keep moving. Second, I acknowledge that I am not a politician, not proficient at macro-economics, and have limited experience with business. So basically, my opinion on this matter doesn't matter much.
But I will express my opinion anyway and the beauty of a blog is that you can choose to read and agree or read and disagree or just not read.

The question driving this post is this; "How does closing multiple automotive dealerships help Chrysler and General Motors reach their goal of profitability?"

Again, I confess ignorance of the structure of franchise agreements between manufacturers and dealers. More knowledge there might answer some questions. If GM owned the dealerships and the costs of keeping one open were higher than the gross profit, then closing would make sense. But GM does not own the dealerships so even if a dealer is loosing money every year, how does that hurt GM? GM does not pay the utilities for that dealership and whether it takes the dealer 3 days or 27 months to sell a car does not matter much to GM--except selling faster means ordering more sooner. All that is not even relevant though, because most of the dealerships that are being closed are, in fact, profitable. Many have been owned by a family for generations and those families have made a comfortable living. Why then would you want to close thousands all at once? Some fuzzy math has been proposed by those who desire to follow the model "foreign" auto-makers use. Toyota, Nissan, and Honda all have fewer dealers and sell more cars per dealer. Toyota is nearly four times as many per dealer. If you have driven cars a few decades, you don't need an MBA to realize those numbers are not a result of dealer density nearly as much as quality and price considerations. The big three have come a long way in quality and service--because they have been forced to by the imports. Of course, imports are not imports any longer. They are now made in the USA because it was cheaper to build factories here and pay higher wages here than to pay the outrageous taxes levied on imports to protect the big three. Again, you don't have to be a Political Science major to know that the big three spent lots of money to get politicians to pass legislation to "level the playing field". That means we paid more for Toyota's, etc. but were willing to buy them anyway because they were just better for years.
So how does that connect to the dealer closings? Follow the money. The big three charged more for cars because the cost to build them were higher. The cost were higher because of three words--UNITED AUTO WORKERS. Yes, I know the executives make crazy salaries and get all the press. But blue collar workers are making six figure incomes--not just for high skilled labor, but for operating a fork-lift or cutting grass. Why does this continue? Follow the money. The UAW learned long ago that money spent on congressional candidates--almost always democrats--was money well spent.
Now this disturbing information is coming to light;
http://www.washingtonexaminer.com/opinion/blogs/beltway-confidential/Furor-grows-over-partisan-car-dealer-closings-46261447.html
This link is to a lengthy article with links to other related articles that paint a frightening portrait of a national government taking control of the largest industries in the nation and forcing them to close dealerships based on.................political affiliation? Can that be true? There will certainly be much, much more written on this topic and clarifying details will emerge over time. Granted, the fact that 90 % of the dealers marked for closure contributed to republicans does not itself prove anything. Likely, 90 % of these and other small business owners contributed to republicans--which would mean that probably a similar portion of those remaining open did as well. Maybe. But there is more. When you add that the "car czar" Steve Rattner is married to Maureen White, former national finance chairman of the Democratic National Committee the direction of flow begins to become more apparent. The reality that no politician will touch is that the UAW has something like 120,000 working members and nearly half a million retired workers. The benefits, especially health care for these retirees are a staggering cost that dwarfs the salaries of executives. What is happening to these companies is coming to Social Security and other areas of our economy based on simple math. To force others in the industry into the unemployment line will not help. One more fact from the linked article; RJL-McLarty-Landers has a chain of dealerships, none of which are being closed while their local competitors are being closed. So what? These dealerships are owned by three men; Steve Landers, Thomas "Mack" McLarty, and Robert Johnson. McLarty is the former Cheif of Staff for President Clinton. Robert Johnson is the founder of Black Entertainment Television and owner of NBA's Charlotte Bobcats. McLarty campaigned for Obama in 2008 and Johnson has contributed boatloads of money to democrats. Coincidence?
Does that sound like crazy, conspiracy talk to you? Fine, then you explain how closing these dealerships and reducing the retail outlets that spend their own money to advertise, sell, and service cars will help GM and Chrysler? And why doesn't Chrysler and GM just tell the dealers and the public the criteria used for determining which dealerships will be closed? I heard Susan
Shines interview on radio yesterday and she certainly is not happy with the forced closing. Her family has made money for years with a large dealership and she would like answers.
It certainly appears that the strong-arm politics of Chicago have arrived in Washington. And just because closing dealerships does not affect you directly, don't think the next wave will not.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Memorial Day

As with most of you, Memorial Day was another great opportunity to visit with family, eat more than health requires, and enjoy the freedom to go and come however I desire. Sometimes I forget to say "thank you" as I should to those who work and sacrifice to provide and protect my freedoms. As a small tribute, here is an animated film (about 10 minutes) that was created by Harding College (now Harding University) in 1948. It addresses threats to our freedoms that arise from within our borders rather than from other countries. The threats were very real half a century ago and are largely being realized today. See what you think;


Thursday, May 21, 2009

What was THAT about?

This is a 10 minute video. Please watch it.

http://vodpod.com/watch/1165857-walk-on-espn-video

It appears to be about golf. It is not.
It seems to be about parental love. Not really.
Maybe it is about setting goals or perseverance.
But I really think it is about becoming an individual.
When I watch the emotion in DJ's face as he wants to explain why he does not watch himself on TV, I feel the embarrassment and shame of those times I didn't do it right. You know the feeling, when you realized you look different or can't keep up.

I have been thinking about a bike ride. It would be the ride of the century. Okay, the ride of A century--100 miles in a day. Here is the thing; most of my friends and family think it is a crazy idea. It would take lots of time and effort--for what? What does it prove? Nobody will mistake me for Lance Armstrong, even if I wear the Livestrong jersey. No, I am much thicker in the middle and white as snow on the top. I don't even look like a cyclist. It is very hard to understand, but the goal is not to be good or great compared to Lance or anybody else. The goal is to be great compared to me. Just like DJ's goal is not an "official event" and may not mean much to someone else, each of us needs goals that stretch us to step out on faith in an attempt. Not an attempt to "go where no one has gone before". Just to go where you and I have never gone before. Would reaching that goal just lead to dreaming up something else? Maybe. Hopefully. What changes do you think DJ experienced during 2008? He made many contacts and established friendships because people noticed that he was attempting something that was great--for him. "Cast your bread on the water for you will find it after many days."
09/05/09 is my target date.

Saturday, May 09, 2009

What Now?

Most readers of this blog are close friends or family and are very aware that I recently retired from the Postal Service. Most of you were tired of hearing about that transition long before it arrived. And most of you know that I have committed time to think about, talk about, and pray about what direction I should choose for "what I do when I grow up". Part of that consideration is the possibility of earning a Ph. D. for the learning and to become more marketable in the higher education arena. While weighing the pros and cons of spending that much money and time at my age to prepare for a limited remaining number of "productive work years", I seek to talk to folks with a variety of perspectives. Then this morning I see this;

Just call her 'Dr. Dolly': Parton receives Ph.D.

Are you kidding me? Short, busty, country singer Dolly Parton has a Ph. D.? Apparently, the University of Tennessee has awarded an honorary doctorate to Dolly for her work in humanity and the arts. Her contribution to the music world is widely known. Most may not know that she gives away LOTS of money. She gives books to 500,000 kids every month until they start school. That is pretty impressive. What was her response to the doctorate? She said that now when people refer to her as "Double D", it will have a different meaning. I like that she is not afraid to make fun of herself, including her figure which certainly has contributed to her success.
This will be good ammunition for teasing UT fans--so be prepared Dale Gentry.

So, what is the take away for me? Well, I have long known that people who knew me as a bare-footed kid running around the dirt roads of south Georgia would be shocked to think of me as Dr. Roxy. But really, is that more strange than Dr. Dolly. I can hold my own arguing that it is not. Thanks, Dolly. Tell Kenny Rogers I said hello.

Thursday, May 07, 2009

Tuesday Night

Tuesday nights have always seemed special to me. As a kid, the only hour of the week that our family had "appointment TV" was Tuesday night when Red Skelton came on. For the past three years, Tuesday nights have meant working as a counselor in the Pre-Trial Diversion program for the District Attorney's office. The work is very rewarding and seems like part of what I was meant to do. Tuesday night, March 10, seemed normal until 9 p.m. when we are usually finished "debriefing" among the counselors. That night I had a lengthy conversation outside the building with one of my fellow counselors. I got home around 10--about an hour late. LaWanna goes to bed at 9 like clockwork so when she was still up in the den, I knew something was not right. She said she had some bad news. Possibilities quickly flashed in my mind. The news she had was not something I had considered. At Laura's check-up that day, the doctor could not find the baby's heartbeat. After praying and trying so many things, after deciding on adoption and sending in a down payment, after finding out she was pregnant, after passing 13 weeks, after thinking about job changes and how a baby was going to impact their lives and ours--their baby was no longer alive. I was hit with a wave of concern for Laura and guilt that I was not immediately there to hug her. Since they left the doctor's office late and called after arriving home, I had left the house for the evening. Not knowing, I stood and talked--which kept LaWanna up waiting to share bad news. I felt bad for LaWanna. I felt bad for myself. I felt bad for Baron. Mostly, I felt bad for Laura. Why, God? I had just left dozens of unmarried, unprepared, unfit mothers who had baby after baby that they could not parent properly. And this strong, Godly man who has spent his life encouraging young people, and this pure, smart, funny woman of God who wanted to raise a child to know and love God lost a baby that was precious to them. Why? I want to know. I NEED to know. So for two months I have been processing this as I watch my amazing daughter think, pray, and write about what it has meant to her. I have watched sweet, loving friends encourage her and wrap arms around her literally and figuratively. Then last night several thoughts converged that may explain why I can't sleep and am writing at 4 a.m. After Bible class, I walked up the hall to visit with Laura and Baron as they stood with a circle of close friends; Brett, Judy, and Ashley--Jamin had just left to chase kids. Judy is "great with child"--her first. And Ashley is expecting her third. Laura is very happy for them and I am very happy for them. They, of course, hurt for Laura. Still, it is difficult to go through the months with your pregnant friends and all the anticipation when you have had to "drop out". I still hurt for Laura. I re-read her original post about the doctor visit tonight and cried again. And again. Not for me. Not for the unborn baby. Just for Baron and Laura. It is not the same for Baron or any expectant dad as it is for the mother. But I know he hurts for Laura and loves her enough that he would do whatever he could to take away her pain. Baron is a good, strong, Christian man and I am thankful that he is Laura's husband. I could not ask for a better person to help her through a difficult time.

The other thoughts from last night originated in our study of I Samuel and later from a conversation I had with LaWanna as she was hoping to go to sleep. I will not re-tell the story of Saul as the first king of the Jews and God's decision to replace him with David. As that story slowly moves toward the inevitable conclusion, Saul eventually becomes angry with his son Jonathan for defending David. In I Samuel 20:30 Saul expresses his anger by calling Jonathan's mother unflattering names. Then in verse 31 he says "For as long as the son of Jesse lives on the earth, you shall not be established, nor your kingdom." That was it. That is why Saul clung to the crown and refused for so long to accept what God had decreed. He had planned the rest of his life and his son's life with the assurance that they would always be the kings. God had promised that--if Saul obeyed and in Saul's mind he had. It did not seem fair and it was not what he had planned.

That is where I have been. It does not seem fair for Baron and Laura, of all people, to loose their baby. It is not what we had all planned. This was going to be the most fun pregnancy ever. Laura was going to be 5 months pregnant at the extended family vacation at Vogel. She would quit her job in late summer. She had already told them. Baron and Laura would incorporate the baby into their elaborate halloween costumes. We would have a baby to spoil at Christmas. It was all planned out. But for whatever reason, that was not God's plan. God's plan is better. I wish I knew what it is. I feel like I NEED to know. But I don't really. What I really need is to realize that 20% of pregnancies ending in a miscarriage means that an amazing 80% result in live births. The fact that God provides that and we take it for granted is what is not fair. The fact that I make ANY plans for June, November, and December and assume that God owes me that time and all things continuing is not fair.

I love you, Laura. I love you, Baron. You are both doing great. I am extremely proud of you both. I don't know how well I have said these things to you personally, but I should have written it here sooner. Now maybe I will feel more like writing about the fun things and silly observations of the day.

Monday, April 06, 2009

Ol' Man Wishum

One of the great events for me during the overwhelming mont of March was a retirement party given to me by my co-workers. This party comfortably filled the Silver Spoons Catering facility in downtown Montgomery. It was a great event from my perspective and I can't tell you how much it meant to me for so many to spend $23 for a meal and to see me made fun of. There were a few from my past life in the Montgomery Post Office and the retired supervisor and her husband from Wetumpka also attended. It also meant a lot for my supervisor, Ken, his wife, and daughter to attend. Interestingly, when Ken went through the Associate Supervisor Training program, I was his on-site trainer. So I got to train the supervisor I worked for during my final years at the USPS. All my kids and spouses/boyfriend were there as was my mother-in-law. Of course, LaWanna was there as she has been by my side, cheering, through the entire transition. It was so much fun! My good friend, Jimmy Rushing, served as master of ceremonies and did an excellent job. He had secretly contacted LaWanna for several of my more embarrassing stories from 37 years of postal service. Some liberties were taken with the telling, but it was very funny. One of the highlights for me was the presentation of a framed certificate that proclaimed I am now an "Honorary Rural Carrier". For those unfamiliar with the strange world of the USPS, rural carriers and city carriers are two separate species. Rural carrier's routes are evaluated each year and they are paid "evaluated times" whether they hustle and finish early or goof off and work late. So if they want to visit and laugh in the office, no supervisor runs to crack the whip. For city carriers, every minute wasted is money wasted so any talking or unproductive time get attention immediately. Because of these differences, I would often say "I should have been a rural carrier" when I would hear laughter and loud conversation from their end of the office. Now I am one--sort of. Another great feature of the part was rural carrier Michon and her husband and daughter dressed in formal evening wear singing throughout the evening. The family in involved in musical theater often and did a great job. I really appreciate the amount of work that night and for many nights leading up to it. One of the songs was a re-write of Old Man River. The version they sang had to be written by a USPS insider, but Michon's husband protected her career by declaring that HE wrote it and she had NOTHING to do with it. Get the tune for Old Man River in your mind and check these lyrice;


The part was fun and ended with the hosts having LaWanna and me swept away in a stretch limo. Actually, that was not the end for me. My generous co-workers gave me a gift card to Bass Pro Shops and on Wednesday of last week (my first day of retirement) I used it to purchase a shotgun for turkey hunting. Thanks Wetumpka friends!

Saturday, April 04, 2009

DOPPLER

I am a fan of DOPPLER. You have seen it. If you live in central Alabama, you have seen it a lot in the past few weeks as Rich Thomas explained signatures indicating possible rotation. Doppler is the newest version of RADAR--RAdio Detection And Ranging. What the National Weather Service uses is WSR-88D from Weather Surveillance Radar--1988 Doppler. That and LOTS more basic info about radar can be found on the NOAA website. The reason I have been reading some of that is to check out some information I heard in a storm spotters class week before last. This is one of the many activities that filled my March to overflowing. I regretted that the class was on a Tuesday because I had to miss a night of counseling at Pre-Trial Diversion, but when I learned of a class in Wetumpka I knew it would be worth the time. Although the class is called Advanced Storm Spotter, most of the information is fairly basic. I did learn some about storm formation and intensity that will be useful. The reason I am writing this goes beyond telling that I went to the class and being silly about spotting a storm EVERY day since. And it is not intended to be instructional about radar. But when I went to verify some information from the class, I learned a lot about radar that I had not known. The bit of information that really struck me was the rate of sending and receiving information. As the radar antenna turns, it emits extremely short bursts of radio waves, called pulses. Each pulse lasts about 0.00000157 seconds with a 0.00099843-second "listening period" in between. The transmitted radio waves move through the atmosphere at about the speed of light. Some of you are much smarter than me and the impact of those number may hit you immediately. For me, though, these tiny fractions are akin to the billions and trillions the government is spending and giving away. If I can't envision a number of balls, coins, or widgets to represent the number, I can get lost in the number of zero's. Here is another way of looking at it that helps and this is really what impacted me; when the time of all pulses each hour are totaled (the time the radar is actually transmitting), the radar is "on" for a little over 7 seconds each hour. The remaining 59 minutes and 53 seconds are spent listening for any returned signals.
Okay, I will wait while you go back and read that last sentence again. Radar--that amazing technology that enables us to see green, yellow, and red indicating rates of precipitation and also shows direction and speed of storms along with much, much more information we could not get any other way--works by transmitting 7 seconds per hour and listening 59 minutes and 53 seconds per hour. Wow, could this explain why I have trouble communicating with my wife, friends, and co-workers? Is this why I can't hear the voice of God in my life? This ratio is shocking to me! While I attempt to work in the direction of 50/50 talking/listening, the reality is probably closer to the reverse of what radar accomplishes. I am more inclined to transmit 59 minutes and 53 seconds and listen 7 seconds. Ummm, actually I don't think I am that bad--but listening takes work and requires a break in transmitting. Of course radar has to transmit and do it properly in order to have anything to listen to.
So that is the best lesson from my Advanced Storm Spotters class--and it was not directly from the class. Actually, I found it because I was checking on some poor communication by the instructor. So I was listening some. This is just one observation I wanted to share from my whirlwind March. I placed it here because the thoughts and observations about birthdays, retirement parties, relationships, an unborn grandchild, and life transitions relate to listening in a powerful way. Thanks for reading--leave a note so I know you were here.

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

"It Sounded Just Like a Train"

The saying is "March comes in like a lion and goes out like a lamb". Not so much for me this year. This has been, without doubt, the most busy, hectic, exhausting, exciting March of the 55 I have experienced so far. I simply can not believe how I have neglected the blogosphere. And it is difficult to believe that the traffic counter tells me so many of you still check in for a few seconds to see if there is anything new. Thank you and I apologize. Brace yourself as I spend much of April catching up. So much of March was spent living wide open that I simply did not have time to organize thoughts and record them here. It really has been so much like a tornado that I kept hearing the "freight train sound". The culmination was an 18 hour day that included my last day as an employee of the United States Postal Service. This post is just a quick note to begin the process of telling my stories of March Madness. Enjoy this picture of a crazy postal employee who took a sledge hammer to work on his last day (and made the postmaster a little nervous). We have used the term "hit the clock" for many decades and I decided that the last time I hit the clock should be with a little drama.

Thanks for not giving up on the blog and please come back over the next few days as I tell stories of my half-marathon, retirement party, thoughts on major life transitions and other funny happenings from the past crazy month.

Friday, March 06, 2009

Apology

I am sorry the posts are so far apart these days. Thanks to those who keep checking in. Here are my two excuses--one good one and one pitiful one. 1) As I near the transition date of March 31 that marks the end of a 37 year career, I find myself cramming activities into every minute. I am loving it and having lots of fun, but recognize my weakness of committing to more than I can accomplish. This weekend may prove to be one of those times as I attempt to complete a half-marathon while sick, sick, sick. I will drive over to Americus, Ga. this afternoon, sleep in a different bed, and get up very early tomorrow to drive to Albany for the 7 a.m. start. Saturday afternoon will offer a few hours to relax with family and friends before driving back to Montgomery to "spring forward". Why do we continue to do that? That is another post for next week. Sunday will be a busy that begins early also. I could go on and on about the busyness, but you understand because you do it too. 2) The sad excuse is that I have been keeping up with folks and reconnecting with some via Facebook. Yes, I am one of the old guys that have ruined if for the cool kids. But it is fun and a quick way to upload a few pics from an event rather than taking time to write a post that make sense and wait for Blogger to upload photos. The impatience I experience waiting for uploads leads to another post I need to make. Maybe next week.

Friday, February 06, 2009

INTEGRITY

I refused to rush to my computer to write about it. January 15 I watched along with much of America as the U.S. Airways passenger jet floated on the frigid Hudson River with 155 people standing on the wings--looking as if they were walking on water. By the time it was on the news (which was just minutes) ferries were already there. Harbor video shows the first ferry arriving about 3 minutes after the splashdown. "Miracle on the Hudson" it was called. Indeed an artist's rendering that circulated via e-mail showing giant hands and arms supporting the plane at the surface of the river helps one visualize God's probable involvement in protecting every passenger on the plane. A quick Google search will net you video of the crash and rescue. From there you can listen to the calm voice of Captain Chesley B. "Sully" Sullenberger as he discusses options with controllers. He calmly and softly states at the end of the dialogue "negative, we will be in the Hudson." While he is having this conversation about a quick life or death decision for not only his own life, but all those on the plane and possibly many more unsuspecting civilians going about their daily tasks, he is busy about his job. He also has seconds to communicate with passengers and crew. Oh yeah, and he is also wrestling a massive airplane with no thrust. It doesn't look good. When he last communicates with the controller, it is 20 seconds before the plane hit the water. What then? Since the harbor video shows the life raft inflated and passengers climbing from the plane in exactly one minute from the crash, there could not have been more than a few seconds to compose, remove safety belts and begin the process of getting people off the plane. No time for pats on the back. No time for "What in the world?" Just time to do your job--now. This man not only kept his calm up until this point, but also took time to walk front to back twice to assure that every person was off the plane before he removed himself. Of course, he had no idea how fast the plane would sink. The quick arriving ferries safely shuttled all passengers and crew to the shore and minor injuries were treated. News crews arrived by the dozens and we all saw it over and over. But that is not the point of this post, because you all have already seen and heard most of that.

Probably, you have also heard by now that "Sully" made a call in the following days to the library. See, he had a checked out book in his luggage. He was concerned that he could not return it and found the number for the library and called to explain. The library understood. And a new copy of the book was donated in his honor. I have searched and searched for the name of the book but can not find it. Supposedly, it is a book on professional ethics. Is anybody surprised?

Now, I am going to use the nickname Sully as we are old friends--and I wish we were. I don't really know Sully or his circle of friends, but from what we have all seen I bet I would like most of them. If I were one of his veteran flying buddies you can count on a conversation like this over burgers on the patio; "Tell me, Sully why is it that all of us have logged hundred of hours of safe air time without so much as a 'thank you', yet you crash one airliner in the Hudson and suddenly you are a hero?" I feel sure this is a man that would take good-natured teasing well. In fact, he is probably more comfortable with that banter than with all the hero talk. Still, he is a hero. Not just for training himself to choose reason over emotion. Not just for the amazingly successful outcome of the crash landing. Not just for his humility. But also--and in my mind, mostly--because he has INTEGRITY! For a man who is suddenly a national hero and is pursued by many media outlets for interviews to have the humility and integrity to be concerned about his obligation to return a library book is encouraging anytime and startling in our time. As we watch daily a parade of prominent, popular politicians found to be cheating on taxes and abusing offices for personal gain, this man stands in stark contrast. I will not name them--you can name a dozen easily. Governors, senators, aspiring senators and on and on the list goes. {Side note; This is not a change I can believe in--nor is it a change.} In contrast to all these, Sully demonstrates simple responsibility amidst the media hoopla and regulatory circus that has disrupted his normal life. And what kind of book would he not be returning on time? A book on professional ethics! Just the fact that he is still learning and growing in the autumn years of his career is a testament and encouragement.

"A good name is rather to be chosen than great riches, and loving favor than silver and gold."
Proverbs 22:1

Captain Sully, I know your mother and father are proud. Oh, if only our "leaders" were more like you!

Thursday, February 05, 2009

Just the facts, ma'am!

"I wish the real world would stop hassling me!"

Please watch this 40 second video and tell me if it bothers you;





Hmmm. Really? 500 million per month are losing their jobs. Wow, I knew it was a lot because it is in the news every day. We better hurry and give away, like, a trillion dollars or something. Hey, wait a minute....there are only about 300 million people in the entire country! Where are the other 200 million? In the other 7 states that only Obama knows about? And are we ALL going to loose our jobs in a month? I am so confused by all these big numbers. Could it be that this is exactly the desired result? Apparently, the accuracy of the numbers really don't matter? Sure, Nancy, here is a trillion. I trust you to keep up with it and help those 500 million folks. Will that also be enough to stop global warming? Because I would be willing to throw in another trillion. If this global warming keeps up, I am going to freeze.

Sunday, February 01, 2009

Good News

I read this quote today and thought it was worthy of sharing;


"The bad news is time flies. The good news is you're the pilot."

-- Michael Altshuler

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Pomp and Circumstance

Like many millions of Americans and others worldwide, I watched the inauguration of President Obama on Tuesday. Like most of those, I had a variety of emotions and thoughts. Not the least of these thoughts is that I am blessed to live in a country where racial perceptions have shaped much of our culture, but still the race that constitutes about 80% of the population elected and supports a member of a minority race that constitutes less than 20%. AND there was a peaceful, respectful transfer of power. Much credit has rightfully been given to Dr. Martin Luther King and many of his contemporaries for bringing us from a hateful, abusive environment to the one that exists today. The speeches and actions of Dr. King had an influence on me as a school-age boy growing up in the first forced-integration schools in the south. I grew up caught between white elders that resented the "trouble-makers" and my own growing perception that some of the treatment just could not be right. The events of this week cap a long transition that most young white and black citizens could not possibly appreciate fully. Because of these thoughts, I have been reluctant to forward e-mails (some funny, some not) that utilize racial stereotypes like spinner wheels on the limousines and purple suits on the secret service personnel. I want to make my best, honest effort to observe this president based on "the content of his character" and not the color of his skin. Besides, during the summer he is not that much darker than I am.

Having said all that, I want to address the goof during the administration of the oath of office. No, I don't want to join a conspiracy group claiming Obama is not really the president. And the stumbling over the words seemed to be primarily the fault of the chief justice who chose to recite from memory rather than read the oath. That choice is key to the point I wish to make. Why would you choose that? My contention is that only ego would drive that decision--an attempt to impress. There was lots of that on Tuesday. It would be difficult to suppress one's ego if selected to be part of the pomp and circumstance associated with the transition of power. In my opinion pride and ego was evident in most who had a public part, including the two that led prayers. Really? Is that a time for elementary rap? As most Americans know by now, the oath was administered again in private out of an "abundance of caution".

The two things that startled me during the inauguration were (1) the fumbled oath--which made me slide to the edge of my chair and say out loud "Are you kidding me?" although nobody else was in the room and (2) prior to that, the comment on the network I was watching that Obama had already taken office before the oath. Although I printed a copy of the constitution a few weeks ago (because I don't even remember taking a civics class) and have read over it some, I only learned since the slip-up that the presidents term begins at noon on January 20, but (depending on interpretation) the powers of the executive office are received after taking the oath. Obviously, the ideal is for the two to coincide. Can you imagine how many protocol experts were involved with planning and orchestrating this event? How would you like to be a civil servant tasked with keeping celebrities and politicians at the highest level on schedule? My question (from one who is ignorant of constitutional law) is; "Why in the world would you not schedule the events and maintain the order so that the oath is taken before noon--no matter what?"

My guess is that many who bother to read this far are saying "So what?" What does it matter if he gets the right words or gets them in the right order? What does it matter how much time elapses before he has the "legal" power of the president?

And here we are at my point. The oath itself is a promise to uphold the constitution of the United States. The importance of that can not be overstated. The reason we have an orderly transition of power is that wise leaders hammered out a process and wrote it down as part of our "constitution" (pun intended). Those few minutes were the reason millions stood in the cold for hours and countless millions more watched on TV. The assembly was not about Aretha Franklin or Yo Yo Ma or Joseph Lowery or Rick Warren. It was about fulfilling a constitutional requirement to replace the president of the United States. Words make a difference. Legal requirements matter. Good intentions and warm feelings can not replace doing what is required. May I add that great speeches, impressive intellect and warm relationships with celebrities can not replace doing what is required. I pray that President Obama will have wisdom and humility enough to do what is required to move our nation in the way it should go over the next four years.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Photoshop for Beginners

Kudos to the folks at Adobe for branding Photoshop so well that the name has become a verb. No matter which software you use, people refer to the process of editing pictures as "photoshopping". Like most software there is a learning curve. You would expect those using these tools to create professional advertisements to be pretty good at it. Not necessarily. Check this ad for a photo processing business, of all things. How many photoshop problems do you see?



The big one for me is the creepy man's hand on mom's shoulder with no body attached. And what is that little girl looking at? Maybe it is the rest of daddy's body? I am no expert, but how does that little camera work? There is no viewfinder or screen. Do you just aim it in the general direction of what you want to photograph? The big question for me is this; how bad was the original picture?

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Tagged

So...I was tagged by my daughter, Laura. The instructions are to post the fourth picture from your fourth folder and describe it.



This is not one I would have chosen but it is the correct number. I spotted this oversize stuffed tiger in a dumpster at a trailer park near beautiful downtown Wetumpka, Alabama. It struck me as funny so I took several pictures, thinking it might fit an Auburn joke somewhere along the line. This year has been tough for Auburn and I did not want to pile on so I have not share the picture---until now. I am going to pass on the tagging. If you read this and would like to play, jump right in.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

....so I got me a pen and paper....

....and I made up my own little sign.....



What? She will only be here on Thrusday? Not even Firday?
See boys and girls--stay in school and study hard so you can be a Manger some day.

Friday, January 09, 2009

Time Passages

I almost always have a camera with me these days. It is my modern version of Paladin--you know "Have Camera--Will Travel". Actually, if you are younger than 50, that probably doesn't make sense.
I passed one of those little dirt drives that I have noticed before and knew I would eventually explore. So I made a u-turn--I mean legally turned around--and drove up the drive to find this little gem.


I took several pictures of the front of this old house but intentionally chose this angle because it captured the interesting tree on the west end of the house and mostly because it showed the cell tower about 50 yards behind the house. Can you imagine explaining to the original occupants of this house what a cell phone tower is?



Even with the clutter and dilapidated condition of the house, this chair by the window looks like some old guy was just watching the Sun set and got up to feed the dogs before dark.



I wonder who looked out this door and tried to imagine how big the world is outside the house. What would they think if they could come back now?





This room made it obvious that somebody has used the house as home recently. The carpet remnants are neatly patched together to form insulation against the cold drafts. Is there a woman's touch here? Who is so estranged from family and friends that they need to sleep in this collapsing house?





The faux brick asbestos siding reminds me of the houses near Doles, Georgia where I first learned the joys of exploration. The first house I lived in had siding similar to this but it was a little higher off the ground. How far away do you have to be to think this is really a brick house?



Out back, old Blue's house is in about the same condition.

It was fun to poke around and take some pictures. This represents a departure from my "raisin". My parents taught me to respect other people's property. Not just refraining from taking what does not belong to you but staying off other people's property. We did not even cut across yards and my dad was quick to challenge those who came on his property uninvited. That was difficult for me to overcome when I began delivering mail in Capital Heights in the 1970's. Mailboxes by the door meant walking across EVERY yard and onto porches--even right past open windows. It tool a LONG time for me to feel comfortable with that and there were some embarrassing moments along the way. I am still respectful of private property and recognize that fences exist for a reason. My years and white hair have given me a look of trustworthiness that allows me to plunder within reason and I have the integrity to leave things as I found them. But I am becoming bolder about going places to look and take pictures. It is fun to me. This old house and its occupants will cross my mind several times over the next few days as I wonder what their life was like and what they would think about being in the middle of a fast growing city rather than out in the country. This morning I posted famous quotes. When I uploaded these photos to Facebook, I added a quote that will be famous some day; "If you never plunder or trespass, you are not a serious photographer." Remember, you heard it here first.

Groundhog Day

"In the absence of clearly-defined goals, we become strangely loyal to performing daily trivia until ultimately we become enslaved by it."


-- Robert Heinlein, American Novelist


"Most men lead lives of quiet desperation and go to the grave with the song still in them."

Henry David Thoreau

"Do you ever feel like you wake up every day and it is exactly the same as the day before? Like nothing ever changes?"

Phil in "Groundhog Day"


Wow, nearly 37 years at the USPS is a lot like Groundhog Day. I've got to choose and define some goals before I die with my song still in me. Those who have heard me sing think that may be a good thing.

The more people I get to REALLY know, the more I realize how much courage it takes to choose a new direction and follow it with determination. And the more I respect and appreciate those few who do that boldly. So, I have to get off the computer now and go for a long run.