Sunday, July 31, 2011

I Want My ...

Tomorrow is the 30th birthday of MTV, the cable television channel and concept that changed the entire music industry. MTV were the initials for Music Television and the original channel played music videos 24 hours a day, hosted by VJs, some of whom had been radio DJs.

The first video aired on August 1, 1981 was “Video Killed the Radio Star” and there were predictions that videos on TV would kill off radio. Clearly that didn’t happen; the two work well side by side. It is interesting to note that Bob Pittman, the original MTV programming format creator, came from radio and now, 30 years later, is back in radio. He is an executive with Clear Channel Radio and is the person behind the re-launch of that company’s web and wireless product i Heart Radio and the upcoming i Heart Radio Music Festival that you might have heard about on several of your local radio stations.

Videos are a routine part of music performance and marketing now. MTV and VH1 play very few videos now but they are available online, DVDs, mobile apps and more. The MTV idea spread to other genres and channels, most notably BET (Black Entertainment Television) and CMT (Country Music Television). Neither of those channels play videos 24/7 anymore.

Those of us who “discovered” MTV in the first few years remember the original VJs. Four are still alive and now DJs on the SiriusXM 80s channel. They are hosting an anniversary special this week on that satellite service. All are now over 50, as are many of us viewers.

Martha Quinn was doing some acting in TV commercials and hosted a college radio show before being hired as a VJ. After leaving MTV, she did a little acting and some TV show hosting.

Alan Hunter was a part time actor and part time bar tender when he got hired. After his tenure as a VJ he returned to acting in his hometown Birmingham, Alabama and also started a video production company.

Mark Goodman was actually a rock DJ before becoming an MTV VJ. He eventually returned to radio and also did some acting and started an internet radio station.

Nina Blackwood did some acting before her MTV job and also appeared nude in a 1978 issue of Playboy. After MTV she did some more acting, radio DJ work and TV hosting.

J.J. Jackson was also a radio DJ before and after MTV fame. Sadly, he died of a heart attack in 2004. He was the oldest of the original crew and would be in his 60s now.

Here are a few of videos from the early MTV years:

Some co-workers and I had dinner and beers with Joan Jett around the time this was out. She was friendly and quiet off stage.

This one always makes me dizzy …

I remember this song but today is the first time I’ve seen this video. Interesting story line and actors.

Random extra fact 1: I got cable TV for the first time in 1983 just so I could watch MTV whenever I wanted to and not just at friend’s houses or at work.

Random extra fact 2: I had a crush on Martha Quinn. She still looks good, by the way.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Following My Gut to the Edge of the Cliff

Sometimes we say yes to things for reasons that are not directly related to the thing we agree to do.

I just said yes to a project that will challenge my time-management skills, my confidence and maybe my sanity, but will also increase my positive standing within my company and make my job just a little bit more secure. For a few weeks it will increase my visibility with part of upper management and if I live up to the expectations of those who recommended me for this assignment it will firmly place me in a somewhat elite group of people in my company who do what I do for a living. It will also add to my work load and challenge my diplomatic skills every time I am asked to revise something at the last possible minute before some already barely realistic deadlines.

And I can’t even explain to you what the hell I am talking about just yet and even if I did, you might not understand or care. I am quite geeky about what I do on the job and my peers would understand.

But you will be able to hear the audio result of this project on one of your local radio stations in nearly every city in the United States. My voice will not be on any of these audio elements, but the script, work parts, edits and drama will be mostly mine and I’ll have the satisfaction of knowing my work has a broad audience for a few weeks.

I am not bragging or exaggerating when I say I’m good at what I do on the job – that’s the feedback I get from managers and other who know about this stuff – but at moments like these a voice from back in my lack-of-confidence days attempts to be heard above the crowd in my head. The presence of that voice reminds me that I still compare myself and my work to others and that kind of internal conversation can sometimes shake confidence. The other voice, my real one, reminds me that I have earned my confidence, in part because no matter how good I think I get I can always improve my craft. I can always challenge myself, risk occasional failure, learn from failure and move on to more success.

I am taking over from somebody in the middle of a project and I thought his work was outstanding. I have learned from him. However, there are few things I would do differently and now it appears I’ll get that chance.

There is no additional compensation for my work on this project, but the complexity and time issues involved will force me to focus on this as well as find new efficiencies in everything else I do at work. That and the increased standing in my company will hopefully offset the time challenges and justify adding work for no added money. That type of balance and logic are the reasons I said yes to this. I could succeed or I could fail miserably; my gut instinct tells me it will be worth the risk. Success will increase my confidence.

I’ll try to give you more specifics in a week or two instead of talk in circles about the project like I have for the past 550 words. As always, I hope that you can learn something from my experience. Thanks for visiting.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Keith and Jake … Awesome

Keith Urban has everything a music superstar needs: good looks for the ladies but men like him too, for completely different reasons, he’s a great songwriter, awesome guitarist, a showman, friendly and sincere, puts on a rocking show and changes it up every year so it’s fresh each time you see him. His genre is country but he rocks it. He also does ballads and has a smoking hot wife for love song inspiration (actress Nicole Kidman)

I saw him tonight for the third time. This year’s tour focuses on audience participation in a unique way. He gets out into the audience several times, with minimal security, he brings people up on stage, once to have a picture taken and another time to have three different fans sing along with him (karaoke with 15,000 people cheering them on).

His opening act this time was Jake Owen, a successful but lesser know country singer, who is also very engaging with the audience.

Here two songs from Keith and one from Jake. Google them and find some others. You’ll like them all.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Fitness Update 2 - or is it 3, maybe 4

Nothing major to report, but I do have a couple of observations. My weight is stable – wish it was going down but at least it’s not going up. I’ve been hitting the gym two to three times a week for several months, which is my goal. I took a week off after surgery and another for my recent vacation.

The vacay fitness plan was interesting. I went on two multi-mile barefoot beach walks in Virginia and a multi-mile hike in the mountains of western North Carolina. The hike was on mostly groomed trails with some sloping ascent and descent. Some of the terrain was rocky but not too difficult.

If you’ve been following along, you know I have a dream of hiking into Grand Canyon. I know I’ll need to be in great shape to do that and I learned during my moderate NC hike that I have a long way to go to be fit enough for the Bright Angel Trail. At the end of my hike I was not sore; just a little ache in each calf that went away the next day. I was fine on uphill rocks and stairs but very tentative and unsure on downhill rocks. I was also paranoid on wet rock. I was never out of breath at any point BUT during the final mile or two, which was mostly gentle uphill, my heart rate spiked three different times and I had to stop for a minute or two each time. That concerned me.

The slightly embarrassing mystery is that my hiking partner, a 40-year-old smoker who claimed to be out of shape, never really had to stop. I think she was just being nice by not pushing me too hard. Maybe I should take up smoking.

I’m a little tired from working out at the gym awhile ago, so I’ll stop now. Working this keyboard is pretty strenuous. Totally joking about that last part.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Another Interesting Life Quote

The Dalai Lama was asked what surprises him the most, he replied: "Man- because he sacrifices his health in order to make money. Then he sacrifices money to recuperate his health. And then he is so anxious about the future that he does not enjoy the present; the result being that he does not live in the present or the future; he lives as if he is never going to die, and then he dies having never really lived."

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Do People Still Read Books?

I went to the first weekend of the Border’s Books going-out-of-business sale Saturday. Yes, it’s true, they are closing, some time in September, all stores and online.

If you need proof that people still read books made of paper, go to this sale. The only time this particular Borders has ever been this crowded was when new Harry Potter books came out. The checkout line stretched to the back of the store then across a few more aisles. Surprisingly, it only took twenty minutes to get to the register.

Countless stories and my own observations made it seem like nobody has time to read any more and when they do read, it is usually online or on a digital device like a Kindle or a Nook. But the hundred or more people I stood in line with were buying books … all kinds, paperback, hardback, magazines, every topic. Music and DVDs are also on sale but those were not selling as well.

The ad that alerted me to this sad event and sale claimed up to 40% off. There were a few items with that discount but the average discount on most shelves was either 10% or 20%. Deep discounts should be the norm by late August but the selection will probably be much smaller by then. I’ll let you know because I’m sure I’ll go back.

Some experts give the Harry Potter series partial credit for the resurgence in reading. I don’t know if that’s true, but I’m happy to see the increased interest, whatever the reason.

So what did I buy? Two books about Italy, one about Native American culture, three magazines about the Southwest, a hiking guide and Christopher Moore’s “Fool.” I bet my shopping cart has more books than that next time.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

The 27 Club

Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Jim Morrison (the Doors) and Brian Jones (the Rolling Stones) are part of what seemed to be a trend of well-known music people who all died at the age of 27. Those four died in the same two-year time frame (1969 – 1971). Kurt Cobain (Nirvana) was 27 when he died in 1994. Drugs, alcohol and suicide were the real or possible causes of each of their deaths.

Today the club has a new member, British singer Amy Winehouse. Drug overdose is the suspected cause. Her career was hot for several years but her erratic behavior began to interfere with success lately.

I won’t pretend to understand what negative forces lead to the drug and alcohol use that seems to be part of so many music careers. The demands placed on successful artists can be overwhelming and the temptations hard to resist. Music people on stage seem to have so much confidence but insecurity is a common denominator among many people in the arts and performance is one way many overcome their insecurities. Some never get past that point.

The only Amy Winehouse song I can name is called “Rehab.” It is especially sad to see that as the biggest hit of a singer who really needed rehab.

What is it about the age of 27 that connects these deaths? It might just be coincidence. But the six I mentioned are not the only ones. Others include Robert Johnson, (legendary blues musician who died of a suspicious poisoning in 1938), Rudy Lewis (Drifters lead singer on their two biggest hit songs, died in 1964 of a possible drug overdose), Roger “Pigpen” McKernan (a founding member of the Grateful Dead who died of alcohol poisoning in 1973) and Peter Ham (guitarist/songwriter for Badfinger who hanged himself in 1983).

Maybe the saddest part of membership in ‘the 27 club’ is that these and others were loved by millions of fans and each had so much to live for.

Souvenirs and the Vacation Effect

I’ve been back home from vacation for eighteen hours and am still enjoying the vacation effect. That is the calm, serene, peaceful feeling created by being away from the often stressful scene that currently defines my “normal” life.

As I mentioned in an earlier post, I have enjoyed several great road trips during the past few years and each has produced this effect. The memories and souvenirs from each of those good times sporadically punctuate the “normal” and help me survive it in a better frame of mind.

The temporary souvenirs of this trip are funny. A lingering sunburn reminds me of an afternoon beach walk with my cousin. Swollen ankles and a brown stain on my favorite khaki shorts caused by a sweaty leather belt bring back the joy of a hiking adventure with a great friend.

My more permanent vacation souvenirs usually consist of hats, t-shirts or coffee mugs but I purchased none of those this time. The real reminders are in my head and in my photographs. Random glimpses: a white wine toast to an earlier visit, original music from four talented songwriters at an open mic night, a growing friendship with two family members, the sound of a Mercury inboard boat engine, four waterfalls, conversations about struggling to achieve dreams, a couple of hugs, the sound of chirping birds and buzzing bugs blending with the sight of a beautiful vista at a roadside overlook.

The photographs bring back the best parts of an awesome vacation and I have 200 of them to revisit whenever I choose to. I’ll share many with you, many more with the people I spent time with on this trip and the rest are all for me.

I encountered the first challenge to the peacefulness during the first five minutes of my return and a few more times during the past eighteen hours, but my “souvenirs” have provided the balance I need to stay positive.

Friday, July 22, 2011

More Road Trip

I'm home but I wish I was still on the road.  Just spent the last few hours looking over some of the pictures I took.  Here are two.  Click HERE for a few more.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Awesome Vacation Randomness

I’m just wrapping up a week-long road trip, my fourth in the past two years. This one involved beach time and mountain time. My normal tendency when blogging about these vacations has been to rank them; but these are all tied for number one. Each has been as unique, memorable and enjoyable as the previous for different reasons. The common thread is the set of family and friends and the variety of experiences.

Here are a few random examples of what I’m talking about:

- I spent two nights with cousins at their beach house near Virginia Beach. My cousin and his wife are educated, fun and great role models for aging.

- Highlights of the beach part of the week: a four-mile beach walk one day, a two-miler the next, a three-hour boat ride on a river and in the Intracoastal Waterway, I drove the boat for awhile, hours of conversation.

- Hours of chatting about family, ancestry, the medical profession, politics, children, cats, cars.

- Food note: no beach food. Had grilled steak and zucchini for one of the dinners, veal parmesan for another. Desert at an awesome local ice cream place.

- The mountain part of the week was near Asheville, NC. One of my best friends lives there and is an awesome tour guide as well as a great friend.

- My arrival night included wine, of course, a great dinner, an hour or more of great live music at a songwriter open mic night and, well, more wine.

- The big next day adventure included several miles of hiking in search of waterfalls at Dupont State Park. We saw four of them. I took more than 100 pictures. My legs are sore. It was worth it!

- Our “picnic” lunch could be called gourmet: turkey pesto paninni, cous cous, Sun ships and gallons of water. I wish I was as good with food as my friends and cousins.

- I’ll wrap up my week tomorrow by driving the entire 105-mile length of Skyline Drive, the two-lane road built in the 1930s that runs through the Shenandoah National Park in the Blue Ridge Mountains. I’m sure I’ll take many photos.

I’ve never been a fan of action adventure travel with every minute planned. This loosely structured vacation with a unique variety of adventures is the perfect type for me: friendship, family, beach, mountains, music, wine, conversation.

I am a lucky man, but this is not all luck. I’ll give myself credit for putting pieces of my life together to generate my desired outcomes. I’ve watched others do this for a long time and now I have the confidence to make these things happen for myself.

The people I spent time with and the experiences we shared this week added to my life. And feedback from them says they gained a little too. Rather than saying I’m lucky, I should say I’m blessed.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Interesting Quote from an Unexpected Source

Imperfection is beauty, madness is genius.  And it's better to be absolutely ridiculous than absolutely boring.
- Marilyn Monroe

Sunday, July 17, 2011

The Arc

Growing up in a traditional family you learn that there is a certain arc of circumstances and events that mark how your life is supposed to be … school, career, marriage, kids, retirement, grandkids, nursing home. I learned somewhere near the end of the first of three marriages that my arc was more like a long curved highway over rolling hills.

I went to school but didn’t finish (yet), started a career in which I really do get paid to do what I love (I’m lucky), three failed marriages, no kids (was in the plan in the first two marriages but didn’t happen), retirement? What’s that?, grandkids? (see ‘no kids’), nursing home … I hope not; my Dad spent his last 6 weeks in one and my Mom lived there for her last 4 years. Or to use her words, she “existed” there, but didn’t “live” there.

So my friends from high school all finished college, all worked in the same general field for most of their adult lives, all got married (only once each), all but one had kids, some are in the shadow of retirement, one side or the other, one might actually have a grandkid. They all followed the arc. So many boomers did. But I did not. And now I don’t really have role models for the rest of my life.

I am a very confident planner so I am not all that worried, but most of my successes in life came about through the use of role models. I don’t always have the great, creative idea but I have a knack for knowing a good idea when I see one and adapting it to my situation. It is no accident that I am respected in my work and it is no accident that I’ve had the same job for more than half my career. I got a slow start but I learned well from failures and from observing successful people.

But now what?

Mid-boomers and beyond have a tendency to stop growing at some point. They decide to no longer keep up with technology, they lock into music choices from their past and reject the present, they talk a lot about the good old days and often wish they were still there. Maybe there was some kind of emotional security then. When they talk about how fast the world is changing today, they also seem to forget their/our era was a period of rapid growth unseen at any point before. Their/our parents were frustrated by the changes that we took as inevitable. Now many of us are in that same boat.

But not me. I have a healthy respect for the past and history is one of my favorite educational pursuits. However I believe that the past is merely a nice place to visit, for the learning opportunity, but I wouldn’t want to live there.

Who do I learn from? When I hang out with people my age, I leave depressed because they mostly whine about the present and wish things were like they used to be. I hang out with people much younger than I am, but at some point I feel a disconnect with them and I sense that sometimes I am not welcome in that crowd. I’m not sure how much I have in common with 25-year-olds. One or more of my high school friends has kids that age.

I could continue doing what I do for a living into my 70s or 80s … in my head. At some point, however, I will lose the connection. I will outgrow it all. I will no longer be relevant. Then what? Boomers have been the leaders for a few decades so maybe we will find our place in providing services for us. That could keep us busy till we die. But who is doing that? And how do I find them, learn from them and ultimately join or replace them?

Where is my next arc? Who has the map? What does that sign say? Or am I now among those who others now have to follow? Am I some kind of role model now? How the hell did that happen?

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Cut the Crap

Every time I read some Facebook comment claiming that opening up domestic oil drilling will solve the country’s energy crisis I get pissed. That is NOT the solution. To be fair, I also get pissed when I see comments claiming that electric cars will end the energy crisis too. That isn’t the solution either. Doesn’t it take energy to produce that electricity? It seems to me that the solution lies in a combination of those AND other factors. Maybe the beginning of the solution is to open up some of the drilling rights at the same time as funding more research into alternatives.

All of it comes down to politics, doesn’t it?

Same thing with the budget, deficit and debt ceiling debates currently making news. Dems and Repubs at it again, defending their respective party lines instead of finding a balance of solutions. Mr. President, we don’t want new taxes. Mr. Speaker, we don’t want to cut important social programs and we do want to fund necessary infrastructure initiatives relating to health care, education and transportation, three things that go hand-in-hand with jobs and the well-being of our citizens.

Many of these financial issues could be solved by cutting out the crap. I refer to those projects that get slipped into House and Senate bills with earmarks that send money back to states and congressional districts to fund truly useless projects like the $1.8 million museum for a Las Vegas museum for burned out neon signs or the half-million dollar NIH study of male prostitutes in Vietnam (both of those were in the 2010 Federal budget according to at least one web site) . And the bureaucracy it seems to take to help those truly in need. Welfare is not the problem; abuse of the system is the problem. Make it more advantageous for people to learn how to get out of that trap and fewer people will need those services to begin with and those that do will need less and for a shorter time.

Those are simple solutions to complicated problems. The real solutions might be more complex but we have to start somewhere, don’t we? Political bickering will NOT solve anything. My message to elected “leaders”: cut the crap. I am a registered voter and I vote in EVERY election. I’m not the only one. It’s time for Congress and the President to remember that.

Oh, and speaking of crap … isn’t there research out there that says burning crap is a possible source of energy? Just sayin’.

Friday, July 15, 2011


The typical amount of paid vacation in the United States is 13 days. That is a disappointing statistic here in the land of plenty because it is less than half the amount of several other developed countries. The average in Japan, Canada and Korea is 25 days, Germany has 35 and France has 37. Italy tops the list with 42 paid vacation days on average (my ancestors have the right idea).

Numerous studies indicate that workers need time off to relax and recharge. Paid vacation can be expensive for a company but there is a huge return in improved worker productivity. We all need a break from the routine; it often helps us appreciate what we have (that job, for example).

I have had my job for a long time so I get much more than the American average and I take every day that is coming to me. I’ll never have it this good again so I take full advantage of this benefit. My job is often stressful and I need the time off. I’m not sure how I would do it without the breaks.

A few years ago I started taking road trips again, partly out of a temporary fear of flying and partly because when you drive five to eight hours at a time you really feel the distance. You learn to be a little more patient. If you travel alone, which I usually do, driving enables you to spend quality time with yourself, choosing your own music, thinking about whatever you want to think about, soaking in the scenery, focusing on your destinations.

The sum of those activities: a break from the norm.

I have also changed my goals for travel. I used to plan every minute. Now I plan some highlights and let the rest happen. Sometimes I visit friends or family and sometimes I just explore alone. That balance works for me. I like natural sites as well as cities. One of my favorite restaurant settings is at an outdoor table, drinking a glass of wine, having a conversation with a friend or family member and people-watching. I also love walks on the beach and hikes in the mountains. I plan to do all of that during my next vacation next week. I have one thing planned in one destination and two things planned in the other; the rest will just happen.

My only other goal is to relax and recharge. That is what vacay is for, isn’t it?

Thursday, July 14, 2011


One of my recurring themes on this blog involves talking about people who chase their dreams. I just found a former co-worker’s blog in which she chronicles her current summer adventure on a grad school research project in Bali. That’s a big change from selling commercials on radio stations, which is what she was doing when we worked together. It was obvious from conversations we had at the time that she had other plans for her life and I’m happy to see her making progress. This could be an inspiration to other friends of mine who are making transitions in their lives.

Click Here to read more.

Other transitions among my circle of friends:

- Quality Control Specialist to Pet-Sitting Service Owner and animal rescue volunteer
- Telecomm Consultant to community volunteer and radio talk show host
- Bartender to Psyche Tech to Nurse
- Hydro engineer to writer

I collect dreamers. Makes sense because I’m one myself (Sporting Goods Salesman to Radio DJ)

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

100 Years

I’ve said many times that I expect to have a 100th birthday party. I’m just over halfway there and today I was thinking about how much has changed in the world in the past 100 years. Here are a few random observations on 100 and 50 years.

100 years ago – 1911

Arizona, New Mexico, Alaska and Hawaii were not states yet.

Powered flight was only 8 years old.

There were no radio or television stations.

Women did not have the right to vote.

There weren’t very many cars. Cars had kerosene headlights. The 1st Indianapolis 500 was held in 1911.

The typical house did not have indoor plumbing or electricity.

50 years ago - 1951

Alaska and Hawaii were still not states.

Power steering becomes an option in some luxury cars. Turn signals were still optional on most cars. Gas was 19 cents per gallon. The interstate highway system wasn’t even thought of yet.

Computers are available commercially for the first time. They were huge, expensive and not very useful.

Television was still a fairly new thing and the typical large city had only 1 or 2 TV stations. Programs were in black and white.

Many movies were also still in black and white.

Divorce was rare and generally unacceptable in American society – the divorce rate was 2.5%. (it’s still around 50% today). Only 9% of the population lived alone (25% do today). The “typical” family was a Mom and a Dad and a few kids. Dad worked, Mom stayed at home and did all the chores and cooking and cleaning.

More homes had indoor plumbing but it was still only 64%.

There weren’t any shopping malls, at least not the kind of indoor malls we know today.

The future

Can you imagine what the world will be like in 50 years? Will we finally have flying cars? Will computers and communication devices be implants rather than appliances? Will Democrats and Republicans still be arguing over the budget? Will marriage exist? Will the earth be the only place humans inhabit?

What will you be doing in 50 years?

Monday, July 11, 2011

College and Gridlock

I knew during high school that I wanted to make a living in radio or television but I was undecided what education path to take, so I changed majors several times in college. One of my choices was Urban Studies. I was and still am interested in how cities develop and what can be done to make intelligent planning choices. However it does not take a college degree to see that most urban areas developed haphazardly and overall regional planning nearly always takes a back seat to individual jurisdictional considerations.

All it really takes to come to that conclusion is to experience traffic gridlock in the afternoon commute between a work place ten miles northwest of Washington DC and a home 42 more miles northwest. The specific gridlock I refer to is my 2-hour drive home today. That’s how long it took using an alternate route because the main route, I-270, was completely shut down due to a gas main break at a construction site.

The reason I bring up planning issues is because that stretch of Interstate Highway is the 2nd or 3rd busiest commuter route in the DC region and there is only one parallel alternate route. It too was gridlocked. There are limited mass transit options along that corridor, many towns have sprung up along those highways during the past 15 years and there is no apparent plan to alleviate the congestion other than to eventually add more lanes to the main road.

My alternate route home involved some other more rural routes, but those were also jammed. A severe thunderstorm or two complicated matters further.

Urban planners can’t always predict how areas will grow, but it has been clear for a long time that growth was inevitable and each of these towns in these adjacent counties could have communicated with each other and formulated a better plan. But mostly competing factions moved forward with little consideration of the overall needs of the area. Different towns and counties compete for businesses that will bring jobs, approve the projects and start construction. Build it and they will come. Meanwhile the infrastructure isn’t there to support that growth … inadequate roads, utilities, etc. Other developers buy up former farm land and build housing for the people who will work at these new businesses … one subdivision here, another there, no plan for connecting to the major transportation arteries, no mass transit option. Yet another group, the long-time residents of the area, go into “not in my backyard” mode, resisting development. All of these factions have merit. You can’t stop growth. But you can plan it. And they don’t.

And those of us who move further away from work to get further away from the sprawl end up contributing to it instead. And we’re stuck with insanely long commutes when any one thing goes wrong.

One solution is to live closer to where you work. That is one option I’m working on for me. I’ll keep you posted.

I wonder if I had chosen to continue with Urban Studies if I would be any better at planning than the people who mismanaged planning in this region.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

So Now What?

Forty two years ago this month the first humans stepped onto the moon. That was during the first of six lunar landing missions between 1969 and 1972. It’s hard to believe we never returned. The next major NASA program was the space shuttle, which began ten years after the last lunar mission and will end its run later this month when Atlantis returns to earth.

Following the early space flights, especially the ones to the moon, are among my earliest and happiest childhood memories. I watched every launch live on television and followed the progress. I knew the names of the astronauts. Splash downs received plenty of media coverage and there were huge parades after several of the early flights. I was a space geek and I remember a lot of this stuff like it was yesterday.

Space flight became routine over the years, even though there were only 135 flights in the shuttle program. (Random fact: the Atlanta airport sees that many flights every two hours).

To those people who question the amount of money spent on space-related activities over the decades, I’d like to point out some of the consumer products developed or improved as a result of space flight: solar energy, cordless power tools, smoke detectors, home insulation, drinking water purification, scratch resistant lenses, flat panel televisions, freeze-dried food and, are you ready for this one, sports bras.

That’s all great but now what? What’s next?

The Gemini, Apollo and Space shuttle programs all were developed by people with vision and imagination. Problems were solved, obstacles overcome. Scientists and politicians, an odd alliance, dared to dream, challenge, predict and fund human exploration beyond our cozy atmosphere. Now there is no plan. A few entrepreneurs are working on commercial space flight and some scientists and government folks are tossing out ideas about a next generation of re-usable spacecraft but nothing will be ready to fly for years, maybe decades.

I just read an interesting article and interview with former shuttle astronaut Story Musgrave in which he blasts NASA and others for getting to the end of this program with no next step in the works. He also points out some of the failings of the original shuttle program concept. He says, "I think what the real problem is: Why are we so poor in our vision and so poor in our project management that we come to a point where it's reasonable to phase out the current program and we have no idea what the next one is? Washington has to stop doing that."

Click HERE to read the rest of the article.

One of my most vivid memories of the early space program activities is how it made us feel as a country. It united us and reminded us that we are a can-do society! Our enemy at the time was Russia and the Soviet Union and the United States was in a race to out-achieve in space flights … first flight, most orbits, first space walk, first human on the moon. We won that last one. Now we are partners with Russia in the International Space Station. They are no longer our enemy but now the pendulum has swung very far the other way ... we depend on them. That’s not a bad thing, but it doesn’t do much for our national pride and it is another example of how we are falling behind many other countries in science, technology and education.

It’s time for our elected leaders and potential leaders to get their heads out of their iPhones and polling numbers and look up to the sky.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Difficult Friendships

So what do you do when a friend becomes very selfish over time and turns the friendship into a very one-sided relationship? A good friend of mine is in that position lately with a friend of hers and I’ve been in similar situations myself. That’s a tough one, isn’t it?

I assume in my friend’s case that the two of them started out in some kind of mutually supportive scenario; that’s usually how people become friends. There is some kind of connection socially or through common interests and two people help each other out or listen to each other’s problems or whatever and a friendship develops. People who mostly care about themselves, perhaps at the exclusion of others, may eventually turn that friendship into an “it’s all about me” relationship; they might not even realize they’re doing it.

The friend who is being used –that’s what it really is, isn’t it? – can become resentful. They might try to change the balance but in some cases that won’t ever happen.

My friend did not actually ask me for advice on this and I’m only using that situation as an example. My friend is obviously conflicted about this but is unwilling at this time to give up on the friendship. A big example of a time when I was in a position like that was almost 20 years ago. I had a difficult time letting go but it was clear to me for a long time that my good nature was being taken advantage of. I finally let the friendship die. The less I was available to be sucked into that friend’s negativity, the more that friend sought other people to serve that need. It took a year of unpleasantness and being on the receiving end of attempted guilt trips but I finally moved on and have no regrets about it.

The very nature of friendship, in my opinion, requires give and take … balance. The scales don’t have to be evenly balanced but true friendships develop when two people help fill voids in each other or shore each other up in difficult times or are there to listen and console or just share good times. That’s my take on it anyway. Life is too short for bad friendships.

Skin Update

Today I had my one-week follow-up doctor visit regarding my skin cancer surgery. The incision is healing, closed up actually, and my new set of bandages is much smaller. If the bandages don’t come off on their own by next Thursday I can remove them myself. The scar might take a year to go away but this particular surgeon did a great job minimizing the cosmetic effects of the cut and after some minor swelling goes down the scar will be barely visible; that might take another couple of weeks.

All surgery is serious, as is all cancer, but this whole experience was relatively routine. It does give me an even greater appreciation for what people endure with more serious medical conditions. Health is very important to me and I have very few bad health habits. People live forever in my family so I plan to be around for a long time; I don’t want preventable health issues to get in the way of that.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011


A ‘not guilty’ verdict does not necessarily mean she is innocent.

I did not pay that much attention to the Casey Anthony trial because, well, I didn’t/don’t really care. But nearly everyone in my office did follow it; in fact we ended a meeting early today so we could watch the verdict live on CNN. Even though I don’t care, I do have some opinions and observations. Shocker, I know.

The jury found her ‘not guilty’ on the serious charges relating to whether or not she killed her daughter. That does not mean she is innocent, it does mean the evidence did not completely support the charges. It was probably a ‘reasonable doubt’ situation. The jury was not completely sure, based on the evidence. Sure, it looked like she did it and even if she didn’t, there are mysterious and contradictory circumstances surrounding the death.

My lack of interest stems mostly from my observation that this whole case played out more like a bad reality TV series or a Jerry Springer show. It reminded me and others of the O.J. trial a few years ago.

The story line now seems that the child drowned by accident and the family panicked and tried to make it look like a murder. The Dad participated in the cover up … the Dad who is a former cop and should have known better. That Dad has also been painted as the molester of Casey, a charge which he denies.

Casey didn’t report the “missing” daughter for a long time and did party and “hook up” two nights later. That behavior makes her appear to be guilty but does not prove anything. Even her own lawyer said she was a liar but that being a liar does not make her a killer.

There is more to this story but if you’ve been following along, you already know more than I do. If you don’t care, then I leave you with this one observation. An advertising slogan used to promote the Law & Order series says “ripped from the headlines,” indicating that their story lines mimic real police and court events. If the Casey Anthony trial was to be advertised, the slogan could read “ripped from the Law & Order script book.” It makes me sad to see these lines so blurred.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Happy Independence Day

Random Quotes About Dreams and Success

This is one of my favorite topics and I'm in a quote sharing mood today.  Enjoy and be inspired.

Keep your dreams alive. Understand to achieve anything requires faith and belief in yourself, vision, hard work, determination and dedication. Remember all things are possible for those who believe.
- Gail Devers

Every great dream begins with a dreamer. Always remember you have within you the strength, the patience and the passion to reach for the stars to change the world.
- Harriet Tubman

Believe in your dreams and they may come true; believe in yourself and they will come true.
- Unknown

Cherish your visions and your dreams as they are the children of your soul, the blueprints of your ultimate achievements.
- Napoleon Hill

There are no secrets to success. It is the result of preparation, hard work and learning from failure.
- Colin Powell

The difference between the possible and the impossible lies in a person’s determination.
- Tommy Lasorda

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Reverse Thinking

Somebody sent me this. I won’t even set it up. Just watch it and listen all the way through and you will be amazed. It is a very worthwhile minute and a half.


(The embed code wasn't available so you'll have to click on the link)

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Small Town America

New York, Washington and Los Angeles are probably the most well-known American cities to people outside of our country. Dallas might also be on that list because of the television show in the 1980s. But many people believe the “real America” can be found in small towns like the two I live near. One of them, Middletown, Maryland, has roots going back to the days just before the United States declared the independence we celebrate this weekend. It was established in 1767, was visited by George Washington before he became our nation’s first President, and played a critical role as the site of medical care after one of the bloodiest battles of the Civil War.

Main Street - Middletown MD

Small towns seem to find a balance between modern American life and the slower-paced traditional agricultural era. There are still working farms at the edge of Middletown and I believe there is even one inside the city limits of Frederick, the nearby county seat. Frederick’s city population is under 70,000 and Middletown has around 3,500 residents.

The balance is changing a bit, however, because many people who make their living in or near Washington DC, which is about 50 miles from here, are unable to afford to live near work and are moving out here. Local lifers aren’t very happy about that.

I think about this stuff every year around Independence Day. Flags fly on many Middletown houses this weekend, mine included, and there are numerous July 4th celebrations and festivals. Small town life lured me here but the reality of the commute and the relative isolation I feel here is directing me back toward the more densely-populated suburbs of DC. I hope to be making my move in the next couple of months. It all comes down to balance; in my case trading some amount of quiet and calm for convenience and socialization. I’ll miss some aspects of small town America but the compromise will work for me. One of my target neighborhoods is a modern recreation of a small town. It is a little Disney-esque but they did a good job with it.

No clever ending to this post … just a couple of videos celebrating small town America. Watch them even if you live in New York City and hate country music. It’s good perspective.

Happy 4th of July.

Justin Moore – Small Town USA

Craig Morgan – International Harvester

Montgomery Gentry - Daddy Won’t Sell the Farm