Monday, December 31, 2012

Happy reNew Year


A friend and regular participant in my community affairs radio programs has a New Year’s strategy that resonates with me. Each December she chooses a single word that represents her main goal for the coming year. I have tried this for the past few years with a fairly good degree of success. My life was a little unfocused for the past two years but the keyword concept did help me.

So as I write this on New Year’s Eve 2012 my keyword for 2013 is very clear to me … ‘renew’.

As the year ended, I finally succeeded in starting the next chapter in my life. The self-discovery journey I’ve written about for three or four years reached a major destination. Less than five hours from the moment I hit ‘publish’ on this post the first minutes of the next leg of my journey begin.

I am alone tonight by choice, but I am not really lonely. I am in touch with my real friends and my Facebook friends (some of whom are real friends too). I know I’ll be trading texts with at least two close friends. I’ll watch Ryan Seacrest as he hosts the first New York ball drop without Dick Clark. I’ll channel surf through a few other celebrations. I’ll toast myself with what is left of the tasty red win I am drinking as I write this.

And I have made a mental list of what I want in 2013.

The coming year will be a time for me to ‘renew’ my life, personality, identity and career. I will make a few general goals and a few very specific plans for moving forward. I can share a few of them:

- More in-person time with selected friends locally and across the country

- More volunteer work with local non-profit organizations; specifically I will be the volunteer photographer for some of them and I plan to participate in some of their fund-raising walks.

- Increased networking within my career field.

- Learn to be more spontaneous.

- Do more things I want to do just because I want to do them. I don’t need a reason for the goatee, for example; I just wanted to grow it. I’ll start my Italian lessons again, start college classes again, learn ballroom, swing and salsa dancing, try new recipes.

- Find a spiritual home.

- Reconnect on a deeper level with people I haven’t been in touch with much.

- Grow my closest friendships to a deeper level.

- I might even take a shot at dating again.

The point is this … 2013 is the year I renew my life and my spirit. “Renew” will be the keyword that reminds me of my goal.

So what’s on your mind for the coming year?

Happy New Year!! May all your dreams come true.

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Turn the Page


Well, I did it. I have turned the page to the next chapter in my life. After several years of inching toward this goal, I have now reached it … I am now on my own.

So how does it feel? Bittersweet. If you expect me to be dancing in the streets in celebration then you don’t know me very well. This is the next step toward the end of my third marriage. When looking at it through that filter, there is nothing to be happy about. Marriage is supposed to be a ‘forever’ thing, as unrealistic as that may be. I can name five people I know who lived that ideal … my parents and four of my best high school friends. My parents celebrated a 50th anniversary and three of those four high school friends have past their 30th. Two of those three are happily married and the third tolerates problems because of the security even a troubled marriage can provide.

My first two marriages lasted less than two years each. The first ended entirely because of my immaturity. The second ended mostly because of hers. This one lasted sixteen years but was in trouble for at least the past ten. I won’t go into details here, but let’s just say I saw the issues a long time ago and chose to ignore them. People sometimes think they can change people to conform to their expectation, but my belief is that they cannot.

Although I blame her for most of our issues, I admit that I allowed myself to lose much of my identity in this relationship. I was so ready to compromise and to avoid conflict that I didn’t stand up for my own wishes nearly enough.

A few years ago I blogged about my ’20 things’ theory of relationships. Each person has several characteristics, beliefs and personality traits that make them who they are; let’s say there are twenty of those. People initially connect on two or three. Because each wants the other to like them, they reveal a few more things that are similar to the first two or three. They start a relationship, fall in love, learn a few more things about each other that they might not like but they assume there are more positive compatibility factors that will offset the negatives. Then they wake up one day many years later and realize that the only ‘things’ they truly connect on are the original two or three. That is what happened to me. And there were huge disconnects, some that hit the very core of who I am … or who I was before I lost so much of my identity.

My choice was to continue down that path or to regain my identity. I tried a few times to be the real ‘me’ but realized that would never happen as long as I stayed in that relationship. That realization is frustrating and depressing. I tried many times several years ago to convince her that we needed counseling, but she refused. Only when it became obvious three years ago that I was serious about our broken marriage did she accept that we needed professional help. For me it was too late. Emotionally I was already done with this.

For a variety of financial and legal reasons, it took from then till now to finally make the break. I am happy to be on my own but also sad that things could not work out. I gave up a lot to get to this point. I second-guessed my actions many times, as recently as a few weeks ago. I cried my ass off the day I finally moved. I got what I wanted but this is not at all how I wanted my life to turn out.

I am a confident man in most aspects of my life and I know that I am moving forward to a better life. I also know that this next chapter is not the destination but is merely another few miles of the journey.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Closer Still

The biggest obstacle has been overcome.  Now it's time for the move.  I hate moving, I hate packing, I never expected to be doing this again, yet I am.  The good news is that this really is the final page of the current chapter and I am almost surprised I reached it.

More soon.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Closer


As I inch closer to a new chapter in my life, I wake up this morning with a churning stomach, partly due to the lingering effects of a bad cold and partly because of an incredible amount of stress. Movers arrive in two days, signaling what should be a day of celebration for me, but I continue to face roadblocks in my attempts to move on with my life. At this moment I trust almost no one, and seriously doubt my own ability to judge character. Yesterday afternoon I thought I had overcome the major obstacles to moving forward but last night saw there are more.

In my twenties my personality was largely negative. Decades ago I turned that around and became the model of optimism. Right now it is all I can do to believe that my normally positive outlook still exists and that it will carry me through the end of the week. A voice very deep in the recesses of my mind is trying to tell me I can survive this with my personality intact, but a louder voice is shouting messages to the contrary. Seeing the possibility that this Friday will be a better day than today is a true sign of my faith in myself, but that faith is faltering.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Twenty six and Two


At 9:30 on a sunny Friday morning in small-town Connecticut, a teacher heard a sequence of unfamiliar sounds … pop, pop, pop. Fireworks? Gunshots? Both were unlikely noises coming from a classroom down the hall. But it was indeed gunfire. That teacher and her students survived, but minutes later twenty six people lay dead; twenty of them were children. The school principal and the school psychologist were among the dead adults.

How does something like this happen? Mass shootings are hard enough to understand, but it is even worse when children are targeted. Schools in Columbine and at Virginia Tech, a movie theatre, a hospital, a shopping mall … none of it makes sense. Yet we try to process and explain. If the school psychologist wasn’t a victim in yesterday’s massacre, he or she would be analyzing the shooter.

What leads a 20-year-old male (I refuse to call him a man) to kill his mother, then go to a classroom and kill twenty elementary school children? And don’t give me that “God’s will” crap – even on a bad day, God is not a psychopathic killer. Can we learn something from this? Usually I would say yes, but the only lesson I see here is the need for increased disaster planning in schools.

I grew up thinking school was a safe place. I can’t imagine how I would feel now as a student … or a parent. And one of my initial thoughts related to the teachers. My sister and one of my best friends and my neighbor across the street and many other people I know are teachers. I am almost afraid to ask for their reaction to the latest school shootings. Are they ever afraid to enter their classrooms after an incident like this?

The pro gun and anti gun people are already shouting out, rekindling two sides of the gun control debate. My usual conundrum … I can see both sides. The ‘guns don’t kill, people do’ argument is flawed. While it is true that a determined psycho will find a way to kill even if guns aren’t available, our culture accepts guns, so acquiring them is easy. Guns DO kill people. On the other side of the debate … the guns used yesterday were legally obtained and registered. In fact, they were owned by the shooter’s mother. Gun control laws would not have stopped this one. Would less acceptance of guns in our culture have helped? Who knows?

At 9:45 on a sunny Friday morning in small-town Connecticut parents learn there has been a mass shooting incident at their kid’s school. They drop everything and rush there to find their children. Anxious eyes scan the crowd looking for familiar little faces. “Mommy!” Whew! But for some it’s more like “we need you to come with us to identify ….”



Sunday, December 9, 2012

What a Week


Every time I think I’ve had the craziest week of my life, another one pops up. The coming week will likely land in my top 10 list. This week at the office I have to work ahead for the following two weeks that I am on vacation. My home week includes finally resolving the next big step in an ongoing personal matter, packing boxes and signing papers.

AND I’m fighting the onset of a nasty cold. This should be interesting.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Understanding Women Randomness


I used to think I understood women. I didn’t. And I don’t. Generalizing about an entire category of people is usually not my style but in this case I can lump together several seemingly common female personality characteristics that amuse and confuse me. Here are a few random observations, in no particular order.

Many women want men to be mind-readers. They claim they are individuals and say they want things to be a certain way, but then when men go along with that it turns out the women didn’t really mean that at all and what something completely different. And we men are assumed to be able to figure that out and act accordingly. A scene from the movie Tootsie comes to mind. Dustin Hoffman plays an actor who stumbles into a role as a woman, which he is then compelled to continue off screen as part of an unintended deception. An actress he likes confides in ‘her’ that she wants a decisive, aggressive manly man to come on to her in a specific way. In a later scene he is at a party as himself, approaches her; she doesn’t recognize him as anything other than a complete stranger, he comes on to her using the exact words she told Tootsie and she slaps him. I don’t understand.

Gender roles can be confusing. In my parents’ day men were men, with that ‘cave man’ attitude about providing and protecting. During the 1980s the ‘sensitive’ man image became popular and because the real me leans in that direction anyway, I was popular with women. I don’t know how else to say this: being sensitive got me laid a lot. I guess that means I was sensitive yet a ‘typical’ horny man too. But many of those women eventually left me for the exact man they claimed to not want … fake macho, insensitive bad boy. I was their sensitive break from their normal jerks. Kind of goes back to the mind-reading, doesn’t it? And I am a proven stable, provider/protector man but that doesn’t seem to be enough.

There is also a school of thought that says some younger women are attracted to older men. As I get older and realize I am attracted to younger women, I acknowledge two things. First, I am normal. Second, I don’t really believe women want older men, at least not more than a few years older. I would like to think that when I am single again I could eventually attract a younger woman, but if you read this blog a lot you know I am not really dealing well with aging. I am confident about growing older but simultaneously beginning to feel some of the inevitable loss of youth.

And that all brings me to the reason this is on my mind tonight: I am growing a goatee. I had a full beard in the early 1980s so displaying my facial hair is nothing new to me; however nobody I currently hang out with has ever seen this. My reason for the goatee … I feel like it. And I wanted to see how gray it is. It is at least 50% gray. That is no surprise but the shocker is that I have received rave reviews for it from at least eight women in the past week. Eight younger women like my goatee! And when I kid about it coming out half gray, they say that is what they like about it. I do not get it! These women range in age from 34 to 48. They are all attractive co-workers. They are also all married so that doesn’t lead to the first thought my non-sensitive side conjures up with all this positive attention. It does, however, provide additional evidence to support my claim that I do not understand women.

My closest friends are women, so I should understand this. But I don’t. I guess one good thing about aging is that I don’t care all that much. I am who I am and the older I get the more confident I become about being myself. People can like me or not; I do not control their feelings. But I do wish I understood women better.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Control

I admire and respect people who seem to have complete control of their lives, the ones who seem to always do things their way, play by their own rules, chart their own path. 'Seem' is the key word in that observation. Those people probably do exert a greater amount of control than most of us, though, and we can learn from them and adopt some of their methods.

My job is primarily one of reaction. Although I report to one person, in reality I have to please four or five different people with every piece of audio I write and produce. Some of those people are executives in my company, some are clients and ultimately every element I create should engage listeners of the radio stations where these things play.

So I am pulled in many competing directions several times a day and I subject myself to this torture willingly because it is usually fun and they pay me well.

Basically what all that means is that I only have partial control of what I do every day. That is normal for most people but it is a challenge for a control-freak like me.

On the personal side, I have alluded to a personal issue that keeps dragging on. Lawyers with varying and sometimes incompatible communication styles are involved and nothing is happening on my timetable. The resolution to the next hurdle should be simple but it isn't and my entire life is being guided by things I can't control. This makes me CRAZY!!!

There are some things I can control, like what I eat, which music I listen to in my car, what I photograph … what I post on this blog. I live for those little things I can control because there is so much in my life that is out of control right now.

I seem to be someone who has charted my own path in life, and in many ways that is an accurate assessment. At this exact moment in time, however, the ink on the chart is running. My control will return but I am getting tired of waiting.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Notes From A Recent Hotel Stay

I awoke to a loud female voice coming from the room next door. I couldn't tell if she was having a nightmare, having sex or singing. Then I realized she was singing ... The Star Spangled Banner. Maybe she was doing the other two activities too. Rockets red glare, bombs bursting in air and all that.

Some people would be horrified if they knew they could be heard by other guests in a hotel. I have often heard loud TVs, conversations about travel plans and other mundane things. Several times I have heard people having sex. I was embarrassed for them; they probably had no idea their private moment had an audience. Some of those moments were laughable, sadly, but one time I nearly cheered at one guy's stamina.

How would you feel if you knew someone heard your singing along or getting it on? Why are some hotel room walls so thin? The recent stay I am writing about was at a suburban Best Western near Washington DC; it is the top of the line for their franchise but my expectations are still fairly low at $80/night. But the last time I heard guest sex was at a $250/night Sheraton in Manhattan. I expect more privacy in that setting.

Speaking of New York, apparently bed bugs are a popular issue there. There are websites dedicated to bed bug reports at hotels. I have stayed in NYC hotels three times in my life, twice last April and once six years ago. No bed bugs.

Back to the DC suburbs … the squealing woman in the next room wasn’t the only sound that kept me awake that night. There were kids running up and down the hallways for a few minutes at 10:30 pm. And there was a party going on in another room, but fortunately I could only hear that when I went to the vending machine. If I had been next door to that room I would have reported them to the hotel desk clerk. By the way, I was alone so the only noise anyone would hear from my room would be me snoring. I hope the walls aren’t that thin.

Reporting noise doesn’t always work. One year a long time ago when I lived in Dallas, a girlfriend and I planned a romantic in-town evening at a very nice local downtown hotel. We had a pleasant meal and drinks, then went back to the room. We didn’t know when we booked the room that it was prom season. The first mood-spoiler was the noise from loud high school revelers shouting to each other in the hallway from various rooms near ours. Three different calls to the front desk resulted in ONE visit from security. The noise stopped for five minutes then resumed. That mostly killed our mood. The noise finally settled down around 2:30 am. Then a few minutes later we awoke to the sound of the high school couple next door having sex. Our fun was ruined but theirs wasn’t. Yet. I figured out their room number, waited another minute, then called their room. We heard their phone ring and their action stop. I hung up. A little while later we could hear them again and I dialed their room again. Their fun was done.

Anyway, remember some of this story next time you stay in a hotel.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

He Goes Out On Top

Successful actors often get locked into roles that mimic the iconic characters that make them famous.  We see so much of that part that we forget they can play other roles too.  Humphrey Bogart is a good example.  He is the tough guy with a heart, the fighter that claims to ignore the fight but in the end he leads the fight, like his Rick Blain character in Casablanca or Harry Morgan in To Have and Have Not.  Then we see him later in his career as the delusional, broken down Lt. Cmdr. Queeg in The Caine Mutiny, who does not become a hero at the end; or the cynical drunk Charlie Allnut in African Queen, who does.
Larry Hagman died this week. I do not believe he is in the same league as Bogart, but in some ways he follows a similar pattern. His most iconic role is oil man J. R. Ewing in the 1980 television series Dallas. He a ruthless stealer, cheater, liar business tycoon who cares about himself first, his family name second, and not much else, yet he is charming and we sort of love him as viewers. Ironically, he is also known for another somewhat iconic role as Captain Tony Nelson in the 1960s television series I Dream of Jeanie. In that part, he is a somewhat bumbling astronaut who finds a genie in a bottle. The roles are both well-known and define his career, yet the characters are polar opposites. He also played in television, movie and stage comedies and dramas but those two are his best-known roles.

Who is the real Larry Hagman? Apparently he was a nice man, a fun guy on screen and off, who says J. R. was his favorite character. He was born near Dallas (in Ft. Worth) and was the son of actress Mary Martin (of Peter Pan movie fame). He has been married to the same woman for 59 years. He spent much of his life in California but had moved back to Dallas for the TNT network remake of the TV series last summer. I have to admit that I watched the original show quite a bit, partly because I lived in Dallas for a few years. I watched the first hour of the new series, mostly to see J.R.

He died at age 81 from complications related to cancer. He was a heavy drinker at one point and eventually had a liver transplant. The cancer was related to heavy smoking and he later became an advocate for quitting.

He stayed busy in the years after the Dallas series ended and played supporting characters in movies like Oliver Stone’s Nixon, but his final act was in the role he loved the most.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Monday, November 19, 2012

Planning and Thanks

They say that you can make some things happen by simply ‘willing’ it. With that in mind:

I will not get holiday depression this year.

I will not get holiday depression this year.

I will not get holiday depression this year.

I will not get holiday depression this year.

I will not get holiday depression this year.

I will not get holiday depression this year.

I will not get holiday depression this year.

I will not get holiday depression this year.

Actually, I’m sure I WILL get holiday depression at some point this season and I’m OK with that. By planning in advance for the possibility, I increase the chance of decreasing its impact. Thanksgiving Week gives us an opportunity to consider what we are thankful for in life and that is what I choose to concentrate on for the next six weeks.

My life is filled with crap right now and things I have been trying to make happen are still crawling along like a slug. Crawling, however, does indicate movement so I can add that to the list of things I am thankful for. I am thankful for supportive friends, especially LS, PC and LV … you know who you are. Even though they each live more than 500 miles away from me they are a text or call away and I am thankful for that.

I am thankful for a great job. There is always something new at work, new challenges, new opportunities, new problems. The shear amount of work is crazy at times, but nearly everything I do involves some form of creativity and I get paid well to be creative.

One cause of holiday depression is mismatched expectations. We often long for some part of our youth during the holidays and are sad when we can’t have that. One cure, however, is to celebrate the past while at the same time creating new traditions for the season. My annual holiday road trip is one that has helped me, although it probably won’t happen this year; at least not in the full way I want it to. But I’ll figure out something.

Sometimes just keeping busy can be helpful when trying to navigate the holiday season, so I have a list for later this week, including watching LSU beat Arkansas Friday, shopping in a nearby town on Small Business Saturday, boxing up more stuff for my eventual move to a new address, catching a movie or two … and my favorite depression killer: photography.

Another thing I’m thankful for … you. Thank you for visiting this blog, even if I don’t know you.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Phrases

“We’re going to raise the roof.”

There is a television commercial airing right now that makes fun of that phrase. A Mom says it in response to celebrating a sale in a store, her kid tells her nobody says that anymore, someone else in the store shouts it and the Mom grins.

But what exactly does ‘raise the roof’ mean in that context? Something like ‘to have fun and make a lot of noise’ like maybe a loud celebration because this sale is going to be so good.

Here’s another one … “I’ll be there with bells on.” Upon hearing that, someone might ask “why would you wear bells?” The origin of that phrase goes back to the pre-auto days and has something to do with arriving at a festive event in your horse-drawn carriage with bells on the harnesses of the horses.

Words and phrases take on different meanings over time and people of various generations who don’t catch the change might have difficulty communication with each other. Remember in the 1980s when the word ‘bad’ starting to actually mean ‘good’? A more recent one is ‘ridiculous’ which means something more like ‘incredible’ or ‘awesome’ … and apparently ‘awesome’ is not so popular any more. I frequently use that word with a 41-year-old friend and it flows naturally in our conversation. When I use it with another friend who is 55 years old, she laughs at me. Really? Seriously? (And there are two more with changing meanings, depending on emphasis).

Media people often use annoying or meaningless phrases. I’m a media person and am probably guilty of it at times myself. The one I truly hate is ‘in its entirety’. Nobody talks that way, except old DJs and some people who write commercials. I first heard (and said) that silly phrase on rock stations in the late 1970s … “hear the album in its entirety at midnight.” It should be “hear the whole album at midnight.” Album is another tricky one. It commonly referred to vinyl records … oops, there’s another one: ‘records.’ When cassettes took over from vinyl the term album remained; same with CDs. Downloads have caught up with CDs, so what do you call this stuff now? Artists seem to still use the term album or record. By the way, the original use of the word ‘album’ in the context of vinyl music recordings referred to something that looked like a photo album with pages full of photos, but the ‘album’ had sleeves that contained records. The records at that time only had one song on each side of the disc. I know this because my Dad had some from the 1940s.

Another one that bothers me is “stay with us.” Television news anchors often say things like this before a commercial break, “Coming up: sports, the weather and our consumer reporter; stay with us.” I used to do that as a DJ too … “Coming up, Kenny Chesney, Tim McGraw and the latest from Toby Keith; stay with us.” Geez. Wasted words. Oh, and the latest what from Toby Keith? … album? CD? Record? Track? Release? During my last years as a full time DJ one of my verbal crutches was “right around the corner” referring to something coming up in a few minutes; dated, imprecise, annoying.

Language evolves and we must evolve with it. Otherwise thy reputation as an old fart will stay with thee. And communication can become an awkward challenge. As recently as the 1960s, for example, the word ‘gay’ meant fun (ever heard that line in the Flintstones theme song … ‘we’ll have a gay old time’?). Now ‘gay’ refers to homosexuals. Awkward if you get it wrong.

Here are a few I still hear sometimes, although I don’t really know how they got started: ‘no shit Sherlock’, ‘Jesus H Christ’, ‘don’t be a stick in the mud’, ‘spiffy’, ‘belt it out’.

Okey dokey, that’s all I got for today. Gotta run. Later gator. Bet you thought I’d have a clever ending to this, didn’t you? Psyche! Thanks for visiting. You rock!


Thursday, November 15, 2012

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

A Little Random Ranting

The election was a week ago and many Facebook friends are still whining or gloating. Geez, just stop!

If you voted for Romney … hey, your guy lost and Obama is President for four more years. Deal with it! If you voted for Obama … hey, your guy won but he does NOT walk on water and does not have all the answers. Deal with it! Both of them have leadership qualities that could make for a good President. Both have leadership flaws that challenge their ability to be a good President. Remember, however, they are not dictators and the fate of the country does not rest on one person.

Another thing: the President is not the problem. Congress is the problem. And many of the same players are still Representatives and Senators. The only way we’re going to get through the mess we’re in is if both sides start listening to each other and paying attention to each other. There are good ideas and bad ideas on each side; listen to all the ideas, discuss and debate the merits of each idea, then compromise … do some give and take and craft a balanced solution. That’s how democracy works! Deal with it!

And I am about to block four more Facebook friends, including one whose friend request I just accepted two days ago.  I am done with this extremist crap.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Don’t Thank Me

I wrote and posted this last year, but I’ll repeat it because this is how I feel this weekend too.

When I see the tributes and thank you messages to vets around Veteran’s Day each year, I usually embrace the message and in some way add to the salutes. I want to praise “them” for their service. Then in the middle of it all, I remember that I am a military veteran too. I do not usually include myself in the praise.


Me in the Army
I have served my country in many positive ways over the years but my military service is not one of them. I hated the military at the time and most of what I thought they stood for then. I enlisted in the Army but only because I thought I lost my college deferment because of bad grades and I mistakenly believed I would have more choice if I joined rather than being drafted. The draft ended soon after and I would never have had to go. Fate works in mysterious ways, doesn’t it?

My three-year enlistment lasted only one year. The details are my business and I’ve only shared them with a few friends. Let me just say that it was perfectly legal and I was honorably discharged with access to full VA benefits prorated for the amount of time I served.

I will say that I did not and do not believe in killing. Something I understand now that I did not get more than three decades ago is that sometimes there is no other way. Our brave military men and women sometimes have to kill to keep us free. I don’t like it but I understand it, accept it and benefit from it. They put themselves on the line for the rest of us and deserve our respect for that. I and others serve our country in different ways that are just as valuable. Another thing that has changed inside me over the years: while I still do not believe in killing, I will gladly beat the shit out of someone who harms me or someone close and I won’t regret it a bit. I just hope I’m never in that position. I have the right to hold this complicated set of beliefs, thanks in part to veterans; try not to judge my for what I believe.

Dad in the Navy
Another military veteran with complex reasons for his service was my Dad. He joined the Navy at the very end of World War II for reasons similar to mine. He did serve his full two-year enlistment. He almost lost his life but not because of lingering post-war gun fire; his ship almost went down in a typhoon in the Pacific. Other ships did sink in that same storm. Fate again?

I wonder what it means that my Dad died on Veteran’s Day eleven years ago. There are plenty of reasons for me to remember him and the day he died, but the public spotlight on that day each year makes it even harder to forget. It is such a public day yet he died very privately in a nursing home room with only his wife and his two children at his bedside. That month we were still in the process of arguing with the VA over benefits he earned that would have helped pay for his medical care. How ironic that the VA paid for a year of my education and helped me buy a house yet they threw up obstacle after obstacle to avoid paying for some of his needs.

Everything in life presents a learning opportunity, in my opinion. I learned a few things during my unremarkable Army year: the value of physical fitness, the buzz of marijuana, the positive side of discipline, how to correctly peel a potato, how to befriend the only black man I had had deep conversations with up to that point in my life, how to scale a solid 7-foot wall, how to clean a gun, how to clean a gunshot wound, how to clean a latrine, how to defend myself with words, how to stand up for something I believed even though I was the only person in a room full of 40 men who all thought I was some kind of unpatriotic freak for having those beliefs.

And since that time more than three decades ago I have also learned to accept and respect all men and women in the military for what they do and who they are, for how their actions help make us free and for the bravery some of them show in the face of situations that even the best training cannot fully prepare them for.

If you are a veteran, I thank you for your service, whether you spent your whole time stateside as a cook, driver, mechanic, doctor or band member, or you ran headlong into certain death in a jungle or a desert and returned missing limbs and parts of your soul. But don’t thank me; all I did was sweep floors, move furniture and type sympathy letters to families of those who didn’t make it. I learned to respect and support you and what you do over the years, but you taught me that. You can thank yourself for the lesson.





Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Tickets and Technology

It is November and I'm already producing radio commercials for concerts next summer.  I can't leak the details but I can tell you that tickets go on sale in the next few weeks for two major country music concerts happening in my area next May.

Do you remember back in the day when tickets went on sale six or eight weeks before the concert and you had to go somewhere to buy them.  At one time the only place to purchase tickets was at the venue, then along came ticket services with outlets.  I bought tickets at department stores for some shows back in the 1980s.

Been to a concert lately? At many venues Ticket Takers are now really Ticket Scanners … they scan the bar  code on your ticket rather than tear it.  That's pretty cool if you keep tickets as souvenirs.  I see a day when tickets won't even exist.  My 'tickets' for the two most expensive concerts I've ever gone to were printouts from my computer; I bought them online and printed the ticket.  Plane and train tickets are often non-tickets too.  For my last trip on Amtrak in April I had the option of scanning a printed out bar code OR scanning the bar code from my iPhone.  My flights to and from Las Vegas in September involved boarding passes printed on my home computer.

I love technology but I am also a bit skeptical at times.  So far, however, I have had no problems with ticket tech.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Proud

One of the proudest moments an American has is to cast a vote. I feel an amazing sense of power as I stand before that voting screen and touch the box next to each candidate of my choice. I would spend an hour or more in line if necessary to exercise this right, but fortunately my polling location was not crowded … I was only in line for ten minutes this morning.

This election season was the meanest I can ever remember. Most politicians, even the ones I voted for, spent more advertising time blasting their opponents than explaining what they would do if elected or re-elected. It is difficult to make an informed choice with all that crap swirling around. I made most of my choices months ago and nothing in any ad, debate or Facebook post changed my mind. Much to my surprise, however, some people were still undecided as late as this morning. I had a brief email exchange with a friend over Presidential candidate choices and I believe she eventually made her choice based as much on what she heard in ads as what she got from other sources. I think she could have dug deeper for truthful information but I give her credit for caring enough to ask for other opinions. And her last Facebook post this evening showed the long line she was determined to remain in till she cast her votes.

I am so happy the political advertising is done for now but I fear we might not know the outcome of the Presidential race tonight. It will be very close and there will likely be challenges to some of the vote counts in some states. I just hope it doesn't drag out like it did in 2000.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Interesting Idea

Finish each day and be done with it. You have done what you could. Some blunders and absurdities no doubt crept in; forget them as soon as you can. Tomorrow is a new day.


-Ralph Waldo Emerson

Saturday, November 3, 2012

This Is Getting Ridiculous

I will proudly cast a vote for Obama on Election Day. If Romney is your choice I encourage you to proudly cast a vote for him on Election Day. That is our right.

If you’re the stupid coward who left this note on a friend’s car in battleground state Virginia today, I encourage you to seek help from a mental health professional. If I caught someone leaving a note like this on my car they would not be able to vote on Election Day because they’d still be in the hospital Tuesday.



I am an American, a patriot and a veteran and believe Obama is the right person for the job of President. I also believe people have the right to disagree – half do and half don’t, according to the latest polls. But I think it takes a very unpatriotic coward to leave a note like this. That person probably wouldn’t have the courage to face me with a comment like that. He or she certainly has the right to believe that but I challenge their right to imply there is something wrong with my patriotism if I choose to vote for Obama.

I have read some of the most amazing bullshit on Facebook during this election season. Tonight I read something really ridiculous on my own sister’s page. It was all I could to not fire back a sarcastic reply. But she has the right to her opinion and the link she shared did not insult anyone; it just spread more bullshit.

The bottom line … and I’ll try to take my own advice on this … shut up and vote.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Should Have Done It Sooner

I finally started blocking Facebook friends who post extreme political views. They have the right to say whatever they want to and I have the right to ignore them.

The first one was easy … a DJ I used to work with who I don’t really care all that much about anyway. The next one was more difficult … husband of a good friend. I only wish I had sent him a picture of my Obama yard sign before deleting him. Third one was tough … an old friend from twenty five years ago who I only reconnected with in recent years. The next few will be more challenging because their views are closer to mine, but they’re getting blocked too.

I respect people whose political views are radically different from mine IF those views are well-thought-out. But I have seen more stupid, mean-spirited commentary this election cycle than at any time since the late 1960s and early 70s when race and war were the issues. Some of the comments attempt to make Obama supporters seem unpatriotic. Others are racist while others ridicule certain religious faiths. All are hypocritical.

Neither Obama nor Romney has all the answers; if either did, they wouldn’t be tied in the polls right now. Both have some answers and both would serve our country better if they at least listened to the other’s ideas. Both care about America. Both are patriotic. Both are rich and well-educated with means neither truly understands what middle-class citizens are experiencing right now (although Obama at least has lived that life at some point). Obama seems weak at times but when you add up his actions so far, he is strong – just quiet about it. Romney seems strong but his commentary and actions over a decade or more makes him seem to be an opportunistic flip-flopper.

On the whole, the choice is clearly NOT clear because 47% favor Romney and 47% favor Obama. But each voter’s personal choice IS pretty clear and nothing on Facebook is going to change their minds about who they will vote for. No Facebook post I’ve read has changed my mind about who I am voting for … but MANY have changed how I feel about the persons making the post. That is truly sad.



Friday, October 26, 2012

Didn’t See This One Coming

Wow, a hurricane at the end of October. That rarely happens and most drift out to sea. But Hurricane Sandy has her sights on the Mid-Atlantic states, with her center predicted to hit Maryland, Pennsylvania and New York.



Earlier today the forecast map had a line right through Washington DC but the latest line crosses further north, closer to New York City. Sandy is ‘only’ a category 1 or 2 storm right now, with sustained winds around 75 miles per hour, but it’s a big storm dumping plenty of rain and it is likely going to merge with another weather system in a couple of days. The potential for flooding is high and power outages are likely.

Storms like this are dangerous and exciting at the same time. My media job includes helping to get useful storm preparation information out to the public, which adds purpose to the excitement and danger. I was in two different meetings today in which various staffers outlined storm plans and I am in awe of some of my co-workers for the great lengths they go to in order to keep our radio stations on the air and functioning.

All is calm tonight as I write this. I’ll check back with you Monday night when we might be in the middle of the action.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Remember Blogs?

I was going through a few old links to blogs tonight and realize many of them, including some I’ve listed on this blog, no longer exist. A few years ago there were many blogs out there but it seems that social media sites have begun to fill that need and blogging is less popular. Or maybe it’s just less trendy. People write creatively in short bursts to their ‘friends’ on Facebook or Twitter instead and of course we all read along.

Blogging is a creative outlet for me and I still enjoy doing it. I do not write for an audience; these posts are mostly random thoughts and topics that interest me and this hobby feeds a childhood fantasy I had of being a newspaper columnist. Yes, I realize that is a bit odd but I’m OK with that.

This blog has software and counters that tell me how many visitors I get and what countries they are in. Hope that doesn’t feel too creepy to you. I get between one and ten visitors a day, on average. Most are from the United States but some are from places like India, Australia, Romania, Canada and the Russian Federation. Some visitors appear to be regulars and some stumble on this blog while searching for something else. Regardless of the reason, thank you to all who visit. I appreciate it.

‘Memes' were a blog feature I used to like. If I understood the term correctly, a blogger would list some things in a specific category then ask readers to post their own version of that list on their blog. So here is one for tonight. Do this on yours and let me know where it is in Comments.

Ten contradictions about me:

1) My favorite color is red but I rarely wear red.

2) I love being around people but I hate crowds.

3) Music is always playing in my car but rarely in my house.

4) I love dogs but I’ve only had dogs with wives or girlfriends; never had one on my own.

5) I own a saxophone and a bass guitar but I haven’t played a note on either in fifteen years.

6) I own enough hand tools and power tools to start a small hardware store but in the past two or three years the only tools I’ve used are a chain saw and some screw drivers.

7) I work for five radio stations but I cannot pick up any of them inside my house (because I live in a valley 45 miles from work).

8) I used to do my own basic car maintenance and even did a clutch adjustment in a parking lot once and changed a fan belt on the side of a busy highway during rush hour while wearing a suit … but I don’t know if I could even change a tire on my current ride without reading the owner’s manual first.

9) I love being around oceans, rivers, lakes and streams but I can’t swim.

10) I’ve been the driver in four car crashes in my life; in the two that were my fault my speed was less than ten miles per hour.

OK, that’s enough ego randomness for tonight. See you next time.

Monday, October 22, 2012

‘Tis the Season, Almost

It is mid-October but I’m already thinking about Christmas season. And I’m not alone, am I? Many stores are already decorating and my boss is already asking if my department is covered for the holidays. And my most pressing personal question: to road trip or not? My original plan involved staying here for the holidays but I’ve changed my mind. I’ll be on the road again.

I have more days off this year so I might add a stop or two to my usual places. New Orleans is the main destination, of course, and Asheville NC. I usually also stay in Birmingham because it’s convenient but I might add another city like Nashville or Memphis … or maybe a beach place like Pensacola or Biloxi.

More details later. Hohoho.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Guys and Shopping

I went to a nearby outlet mall today and realized I have a shopping pattern that works for me, more or less. I am a focused shopper. I nearly always know exactly what I want, I know my sizes and I have a clear idea of what’s already in my closet. I go into the store, head straight for what I’m looking for, try stuff on if I see my targeted items, decide right away whether or not to buy and I’m done. I give myself a little room for spontaneity but I don’t do a lot of random browsing.

My clothing is neither in style nor out of style. I buy clothes that fit my own sense of style and that I can wear for years. I think I dress like a ‘casual Friday’ 45 to 50-year old and you and I both know I’m older than that. If you know me in person you also know I don’t especially care. I do like to dress appropriately for various situations and most of my shirts go with most of my pants. I actually like dressing up but I don’t have much reason for that so I don’t own a lot of dressy clothes.

When it comes to money, I tend to pay more than I should for housing and cars but I’m fairly frugal with clothes purchases. There are men’s jeans selling for $70 - $150 or more in some stores but none of them are in my closet or at this outlet mall. A hundred dollars for a shirt? No way. I don’t like to spend that much on shoes either although that is a harder goal to hit. Those are reasons I shop outlet malls. I buy clothes that were sort of stylish a year or two ago and are now priced half or less than they were when new. And yes, I know that some products sold at outlet malls were made specifically for outlet malls and are sometimes lesser quality than other items in the same brand. I’m OK with that. If certain outlet mall brands fall apart too soon I simply stop buying those brands.

Today’s outlet mall shopping list included casual slip-on shoes, jeans, a couple of shirts and some socks. I discovered just how out of shape (or out of style) I am when I couldn’t fit into the same Eddie Bauer jeans I buy every time I go to that mall. I also looked at many shirts there but found none that I liked or that fit right. So I bought socks, gloves (good price) and sleep pants (also good price). Found exactly what I wanted at the shoe store (another good price).

I was in another store looking at shirts when I came across a suit sale. I only wear a suit six or seven times a year but it has been at least five years since I bought my one and only suit, so I looked at what they had. And found one I liked at half the already low price I paid for my current suit. BUT … I usually don’t buy suit separates. Those are jackets and pants sold separately, but supposedly match, which is what a suit is supposed to do. And because they are in various sizes, you don’t necessarily have to have them fitted and altered, which is a plus. I found a jacket and a pair of pants that fit and in the store lighting they looked like a match. When I tried them on at home, however, something didn’t look right. I checked the label and sure enough one was charcoal and one was black. Ugh. Now I have to go back tomorrow to exchange one or the other. Either is alright with me I just need them to be the same. I didn’t see the difference in store light and the clerk didn’t see the difference in the light or on the price tag.

Other random outlet mall observations and discoveries:

- Outlet malls get crowded in the middle of Saturday afternoons. I usually go when the stores open but broke my rule this time.

- I almost always buy Eddie Bauer, Dockers and Rockport/Reebok. This time I bought Eddie Bauer, Bass and Van Heusen.

- I used to like Calvin Klein but I am convinced they have narrowed their product line to specifically appeal to skinny gay men. I am NOT skinny or gay. So much for that brand.

- The specific outlet mall where I shop must sell a lot of plus sizes.

- Not only am I a targeted shopper I am also a fast walker. Outlet mall shoppers seem to be strollers and browsers. Another reason to go when the stores first open.

- I own more shoes than most guys but not as many as most women.

So there you have it. Real guys do shop, but not all that much.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Randomania 2

Well, it’s fall. Leaves are turning but it is not at the pretty stage around my part of Maryland yet. Hey, Mother Nature, my camera and I are waiting.

I bought Diana Krall’s latest CD today. She is hard to define, isn’t she? She’s young but plays old music or music inspired by old music. Her style is old-school jazz, unlike the music of her husband Elvis Costello.

I accepted an invitation to a Halloween party next week. I haven’t been to a Halloween party since the mid 1990s, when I was the DJ at a Halloween party at a nudist club. I’m serious. Now THOSE are some creepy costumes … the woman dressed as Lady Godiva was memorable … actually she was wearing only her long hair and gold body paint … but I digress. Not sure what I’m wearing to this one, however. I only know the host and her husband, I might be going alone and I don’t really have a costume. Suggestions?

You know those signs on the Interstate that read “Slow Traffic Keep Right”? Shouldn’t they really say “Get The Fuck Outta The Left Lane”? Just sayin’.

What are your plans for this weekend? Mine include errands, breakfast at a nearby café, shoe shopping at an outlet mall, packing CDs and books in advance of an upcoming move … basic stuff, ey?

Wow, I got through a whole post without doing anything political.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Last Time, I Hope

I plan for this to be the last commentary I make about Presidential debates. Wish me luck.

Who won the debate tonight? Dems think Obama did, Repubs think Romney did. I think Obama did a great job and more than made up for his poor performance in the 1st Presidential debate. I think Romney more or less held his own. Neither of them did a great job of actually answering the questions that the audience of undecided voters were asking.

But here is what really pisses me off … some people actually believe what extreme political commentators say.

A Facebook “friend” clicked like on a very stupid commentary by Rush. The commentary claimed Obama was lying. Instead of ignoring this, I chose to actually click on the link to see more. Of course what I saw were the thousands of Rush lemmings diving off the cliff with Rush. How can somebody with any intelligence at all believe that Rush is anything but a clownish blowhard? Rush doesn’t represent anybody but Rush. In real life, away from a microphone, he probably actually is a conservative Republican. But in real life he doesn’t really give a shit about any of this. He is all about himself and about how his stupid commentary can affect his insanely large salary and ego.

I happen to enjoy watching liberal commentator Rachel Maddow. But hey!!! … she is a clown on the left side. More entertaining than Rush and less ego-driven, but still an extremist.

You can listen to either of them but don’t make your decisions based on anything either of them says. They are entertainers, not experts. E N T E R T A I N E R S!!!

Research facts, real facts from non-partisan sources, then decide for yourself. Don’t follow the entertainers.

Obama is NOT a liar. Romney is NOT a liar. They say things based on sets of ‘facts’ that are not in sync. Facts that are difficult to truly verify. Unbiased indicators show that the economy is improving … at a snail’s pace. Unemployment is down, a tiny bit. Gas prices? Geez. They more or less agreed that gas was $1.85/gallon at the beginning of Obama’s term. NO IT WASN’T! When is the last time either of these guys drove their own car to a gas pump and filled their own tank? 2008 was the year I traded my Ford SUV for a Honda sedan because gas was $4.25/gallon.

This Facebook friend I refer to is only a friend because he was smart enough to marry a real friend of mine. I don’t want to question his sincerity but I have to challenge his intelligence when I see and hear that he bases choices on what Rush says. He spouts Rush crap and doesn’t really research things independently. His wife, my friend of many decades, does look into facts. She often chooses to support and vote for candidates who can never win elections … but she believes in them based on real research and not on rants from conservative extremists or liberal extremists. I disagree with her choices but I respect her process. We can all learn from that example.

There are no simple answers to the challenges we face as a nation this year. The economy will improve no matter who wins the election. The world will not be a safer place no matter who wins the election. The environment will continue to suffer no matter who wins the election. No candidate can single-handedly fix everything. The Republican led House is partly to blame because their mission was to make Obama a one-term President and not to actually do what they were elected to do. The Democratic led House back in 2008 is partly to blame because they let their egos guide them rather than their constituents.

The bottom line: research the candidates and stop following extremist commentators. And vote!! Don’t skip the election. Every vote counts.

And I promise to stop commenting on the election.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Habits

I am a creature of habit. Many of us are. Habits and patterns can be helpful paths guiding us in life or destructive behaviors blocking our journey.

The habit I am thinking about right now is neither, but it is formerly a rock solid milepost in a typical Bernie week. It's my Sunday Routine. In years past I began nearly every Sunday with coffee and a daily newspaper. The habit began in my 20s with coffee and chickory and the New Orleans Times Picayune. My Sunday Routine moved across the country with me ... Milwaukee Journal, Chicago Sun Times, Dallas Times Herald, Baltimore Sun and Washington Post. The coffee part varied but eventually became mostly Starbucks.

My life got busy and complicated in recent years and my Sunday Routine evaporated (except for the coffee). I cancelled newspaper subscriptions in favor of reading online, but that is a pain in the eyes so I eventually stopped reading. I get basic news from TV and radio and deeper details via occasionally checking web sites.

All of this crossed my mind as I walked past a stack of newspapers at the grocery this morning. I bought my coffee at the Starbucks counter in Safeway and tossed a Washington Post in the shopping cart. My Sunday Routine is back, for today at least.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Debatable

Some random notes about the VP debate this week:

Looking at Facebook posts by friend of various political beliefs, it is hard for me to believe we were watching the same debate. So many diverse opinions about who 'won'.

I'm close to deleting some of my Facebook friends because of the incredibly derogatory remarks about the various candidates.

Maybe the reason Congress is so deadlocked along partisan lines is that we all are. That is sad.

Considering my own Democratic views on most issues, I am surprised by how many Republican friends I have.

Obama, Biden, Romney and Ryan are all very intelligent people. I disagree with Romney and Ryan on many issues but I give them credit for their well-thought-out beliefs. That is more than I can say for one previous President (Bush 2), one previous VP (Quale) and one previous VP candidate (Palin).

People who are comfortable in the spotlight sometimes show subtle signs of mild nervousness during moments when the stakes are high. Biden's 'tell' seemed to be that overused laugh and Ryan's 'tell' seemed to be the constant reaching for a cup of water.

I wish the election was today. I am so disgusted with the ads on all sides.

The consensus among less biased reporters was that Biden more or less won, especially because he put Ryan on the defensive, but Ryan held his own.

I think moderator Martha Raddack was the real winner and she had a better command of the issues at times than either candidate.

Ok, that's enough about this for the week. Just make sure you vote on Election Day!!

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Typos Clarity and Verification

I am somewhat obsessed with clarity in life. I do not like ambiguity. In the same breath I can tell you that sometimes I confuse people and occasionally seem to send mixed signals.

When it comes to directions, however, I am usually clear and I expect (or hope for) geographic clarity. I also usually verify directions with a map. Usually.

Washington DC is a confusing place until you understand how the streets are laid out. I've lived around here long enough to have a clue but that doesn't always help. And one letter difference in an address makes plenty of difference in where you're going and how you get there. Directions I received for a meeting in DC this morning said 3rd Street SE. That seemed odd because most government buildings are SW. And this time I did not verify; I merely looked up the address I was given and located the nearest Metro Rail stop. It seemed odd that this building would be in a residential neighborhood near a school but I've seen stranger things.

I also build in plenty of extra time when I go to morning meetings anywhere around here because traffic sucks. I laughed at myself as I got off the Metro 25 minutes early for my meeting... until I arrived at the block where I was directed. It was a neighborhood park. Geez. I then checked the website for where I was going (like I should have done in advance) and realized it was the same street but SW instead of SE. There was a typo in the original directions.

Fortunately I know the area enough to know I was only one Metro stop from where I was supposed to be. All the extra time I allowed was a blessing because despite the mistakes I arrived at my meeting on time. Exactly on time.

Moral of the story: verify.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Sunday, October 7, 2012

OK, So Maybe I Am One

It really bothers me that ultra-conservatives use the term ‘liberal’ as a curse word. I usually describe myself as liberal-leaning moderate, partly because some of my views are more conservative and partly because the term liberal implies some kind of negative.

Look through history, however, and many of the greatest achievements of our government and politicians were at one time considered liberal. Here are a few examples:

- Thomas Jefferson, main author of the Declaration of Independence, and the noteworthy idea that all people have the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

- Abraham Lincoln and his Emancipation Proclamation.

- Susan B. Anthony and her radically liberal idea that women should have the right to vote.

- Theodore Roosevelt and his liberal anti-trust laws, assertion of the right for workers to form unions and the eventual formation of the Food and Drug Administration.

- Franklin Roosevelt and Social Security.

- Lyndon Johnson and the Civil Rights Act, the Voting Rights Act and medicare.

Much of this is on a web site that dares to defend Democrats. Another post by that same columnist dispels a few myths about Democrats. Two that got my attention:

The rate of job growth. Here is the top ten (note the party affiliations of each President on this list):

Roosevelt (D)…………...5.3%
Johnson (D)……………...3.8%
Carter (D)………………...3.1%
Truman (D)…………….…2.5%
Clinton (D)…………….… 2.4%
Kennedy (D)…………....2.3%
Nixon (R)………………....2.2%
Reagan (R)……………….2.1%
Coolidge (R)……………..1.1%
Ford (R)……………..…….1.1%

The other myth is that liberals can’t balance a budget. Hmmm … quoting the web site:

"Yeah, right. If anyone can say that today with a straight face, after reviewing the record deficits of the Reagan and Bush II administrations, and comparing that with Clinton’s reversal of the Reagan deficit, then it’s hard to know what to say to such nonsense."

So if those ideas and people are liberal, then I guess I am too.

My real point, however, is that Dems believe their stats and Repubs believe theirs, but nothing will get done if the two sides (and some who are on neither side) stop playing party politics and start listening to each other. Somewhere in all the noise on all sides are some ideas that will get us out of this mess.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Ever Hear of this Guy?

For many years Chris tried to convince his government leaders they should fund his crazy idea. He knew there would be significant scientific, economic and social benefits from that kind of exploration he wanted to do, not just for his country but for the whole world. Completing successful missions would raise the standing of his country in the world view, which of course would benefit the government. He had a few points to prove but he needed his country’s help to accomplish his goals.

His country wasn’t interested, however, so he pursued other governments, some established, some emerging. One of those countries, an emerging one, understood his vision and agreed to fund it. They knew that his mission would result in a shorter path to prosperity and there could be many side benefits from things he and his crew would ‘invent’ to make their mission possible.

Chris was a bit of a daredevil and wasn’t afraid to explore new places, even very distant ones that others said couldn’t be reached with existing technology. He grew up in a middle class family and had a thirst for knowledge, especially astronomy, geography and religion. He had always looked to the stars for inspiration and knew if he landed alive, he would pray out loud and probably leave a bible there with other pieces of evidence to prove he had made it (just in case he didn’t make it back).

So in the early 90s he began his mission. The launch was successful; he reached his destination (more or less), gathered a few items that he found there and returned safely. Government leaders were happy at first and funded three more missions. Eventually he fell out of favor and was forced to retire from that career. He wrote a few books and died fairly young (around age 54). His heirs filed suit to recover money he and they said the government owed him but were mostly unsuccessful, despite the world-wide impact of his adventures.

Did you ever hear about this guy?

Although he is quite controversial in some circles, the impact of his missions is unmistakable. Towns and countries are named for him, thousands of books have been written about him and there is even a holiday in the USA commemorating his first mission.

Yes, you definitely have heard of this guy. Chris was born in what is now Italy back in the mid 50s … the 1450s. His birth name is Cristoforo Colombo, but we know him better as Christopher Columbus. His four missions were funded by what is now Spain. He is credited with ‘discovering’ America, which sadly ignores the obvious fact that people were already living everywhere he stopped. He even captured some of them and brought them back with him to Spain. And he wasn’t really looking for a “New World” when he first set out … he was looking for Japan; Europeans didn’t know there was another continent in the way (damn GPS).

We now have Columbus, Ohio, Columbia, Maryland and Washington DC (District of Columbia), to name a few. Monday we celebrate Columbus Day. There is no question that back in the 1500s Spain’s standing in the world was elevated because of Chris’s missions and many new countries were formed over the centuries, including the United States of America. But don’t forget that the price was high. Entire civilizations and societies were destroyed, wars were fought and atrocities occurred; all of that is part of our history. On the positive side we turned out to be a great country and we fight to make things right in the world.

I can say Happy Columbus Day with pride but also with mixed feelings. I guess that complexity is part of what makes out country unique.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Debatable

One thing that bothers me about Presidential candidate debates these days is that neither candidate answers the moderator’s questions. Each candidate works their talking points. They spew statistics ‘backing’ their positions. Fact-checkers plow through the ‘facts’ and generally report that each candidate gets some of them right and some of them wrong.

What this election really comes down to is this … will a new guy be any better than the current guy? My own cynical question is this … can any President create jobs and fix the economy? Sure, a President is a leader and leaders have influence on people, therefore a leader can make things happen even when he or she doesn’t actually control events first-hand. But does that influence create jobs? Does it make the economy better? No, at least not directly. There are many other factors. If you believe a President has that much control, then you better be blaming the previous President for getting us into this mess in the first place!!

Being an incumbent is a dual-edged sword. On one side, you’re already there, you know how things work, there is no learning curve for the day-to-day duties – you’ve already been through that. You can focus your energy on the tasks at hand. On the other hand, you have a record of accomplishments and failures and an opponent can attack you on that record and try to persuade the voting public that he or she is an alternative to the incumbent.

Clearly Romney did well in the first debate. Will that change anybody’s mind? Hell no. Will it help sway any undecided voters? Probably. Of course there are two more Presidential debates and one Vice-Presidential debate. Biden and Ryan … wow, that should be some great entertainment.

I predicted back in the spring that this will be a close race and that Obama will win by a very small margin. I hold to that prediction. Time will tell.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Learning from Dogs

I am beginning to buy into the idea that everything important in life can be learned from dogs. I saw this on Facebook and decided to share. So much of this is true. Live like a dog and you’ll be a happy human.

01. Never pass up the opportunity to go for a joy ride.

02. Allow the experience of fresh air and the wind in your face to be exhilarating.

03. When loved ones come home, always run to greet them.

04. When it's in your best interest, always practice obedience.

05. Enjoy it when someone wants to show affection.

06. Take naps, and always stretch before rising.

07. Run, romp, and play daily.

08. Eat with gusto and enthusiasm.

09. Be loyal, filled with grace, and grant unconditional love.

10. Never pretend to be something you're not.

11. If what you want lies buried, dig until you find it.

12. When someone is having a bad day, be silent, sit close by and nuzzle them gently.

13. Delight in the simple joy of a long walk.

14. Avoid biting when a simple growl will do.

15. On hot days, drink lots of water and lie under a shady tree.

16. When you are happy, dance around and wag your entire body.

17. No matter how often you are criticized, don't buy into the guilt and pout. Run right back and make friends.

Sunday, September 30, 2012

How Many Times

Do you like movies? Do you see your favorite movies more than once? How man y times have you seen your favorite movie?

My all-time favorite film is Casablanca. I lost count after seeing it 25 times. I own two copies of it, one on VHS and another on DVD. Funny how I haven’t watched in at least five years. Where is that DVD? I need to see this again.

I thought about this over the weekend as I watched Independence Day for the … hmmmm … 10th time? Maybe 15th? Movies that are regularly on TV don’t actually fit into my ‘how many times’ category because it is easy to see parts of them. I’ve probably seen Independence Day all the way through at least ten times, but parts of it at least another ten. Maybe more.

Lethal Weapon (all of them) are on my high count list if you include seeing them in parts. I’ve seen each of the series all the way through only once, but each in pieces several dozen times. Same with the Die Hard bunch and Terminator.

For movies of substance I prefer to watch them all the way through, from start to finish. Good movies have a beginning-to-end narrative and utilize various techniques to make various points along the way. I look for the story, the characterizations and the techniques. Lethal Weapon, Die Hard and Terminator are all very interesting but I would not call any of them movies of substance. They’re just fun to watch.

Casablanca is very rich, in my opinion. The story is compelling and the acting is good. The balance of intrigue, politics, danger, unpredictability, music, romance and humor is outstanding. Plot flaws can be excused when you consider is came out in 1942.

Independence Day is not necessarily deep but is has enough substance to satisfy my interest. It too has a good balance of politics, danger, unpredictability, romance and humor, plus science fiction.

Another favorite of mine is Cool Hand Luke. It came out in the mid 1960s, a turbulent time in our country, but was set many decades earlier. The movie style of the time included plots that did not resolve into neat happy endings. Although I like that movie very much I have only seen it all the way through two or three times.

Sharing a secret: I watch It’s A Wonderful Life every year. I’m probably up to twenty or more times on that one. I won’t share my reason for watching it every year.

I am way behind on my movie viewing. I probably haven’t seen ten new movies in the past ten years, a situation I intend to correct very soon. But I have seen many classics, including 65 of the AFI Top 100. Some of my most memorable on that list: The Godfather, Citizen Kane, The Wizard of Oz, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, Star Wars, Raiders of the Lost Ark, several Hitchcock movies, several with Humphrey Bogart (including Casablanca, of course), Unforgiven (my favorite Clint Eastwood movie), Pulp Fiction, The Shawshank Redemption, Dances With Wolves and The Silence of the Lambs. Some on that list that I have yet to see include Schindler’s List, On the Waterfront and Amadeus.

So what about you? What are your favorite movies and how many times have you seen them?

Friday, September 28, 2012

Odd Dreams

Dreams, the kind you have when you sleep, are amusing to me. I don’t believe they mean much but I know sometimes they connect things that are already in your brain. In my case, they connect very odd things in very odd ways.

The one I remember from the other night was really strange, however, and included nobody I know. First, some background … I interview community leaders and representatives from non-profit organizations for a radio show. Usually I ask questions and they answer them. Sometimes rather than simply ask a question, I will start a sentence to lead the guest to finish it. A second piece of background … our studios have a light outside the door that reads “On Air”; that means the microphone is on and a recording or live show is in progress so if you see that light, do not enter the room.

This dream featured me interviewing a guest. He was not anybody I know but he looked a little like an actor named Richard Schiff (pictured here) and he never smiled. One thing I remember from the dream is that I started a sentence to get him to finish it and he gave me a blank stare. So I just asked the questions. That happened a few times in the dream. By the way, most guests understand what I’m doing when I just start a sentence, but he just looked at me waiting for a specific question.

The other thing I remember is that two interns just walked into the studio while I was recording, ignoring the On Air light, and they were having a conversation, which then interrupted the interview. Both interns appeared too old to be college students. Both were male. One was several inches taller than me, with very long blond hair. He looked rather intimidating but I walked right up to him and pointed out that he had just walked into the studio during a recording. He and the other guy looked at me, then at the guest, then they walked out.

That’s the whole dream. None of the players looked like anyone I know and nothing like that has ever happened to me. How does my brain do that? And why?

Another odd thing about my dreams is that if I am an observer in the dream, I am in fairly shallow sleep. If I am a character in the dream and am moving around with the other characters, then I am in deep sleep. This one was deep sleep.

I rarely see people I actually know in my dreams and when I do, it seems they do not behave as the people they appear to be. My dreams also tend to have move conversation than action. Actually my life is a lot like that. Hmmm.

Anyway, I had nothing else to write about tonight, so there you have it. What are your dreams like?

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Viva Las Money

I spent last weekend in Las Vegas. The place oozes decadence. It is bright, glitzy, sexy, noisy and intense. I love visiting because for that few days I am on another planet. I could never live there. I probably couldn’t go there if my employer wasn’t picking up most of the tab.

The reason for my visit was the iHeart Radio Music Festival. Part of my job is producing promos for the event; part of my payment is the trip to the event. Awesome music, including Jason Aldean and Bon Jovi (and 18 others plus celebrity surprises). Did some gambling … well, I played a few dollars in slot machines. My strategy is to decide in advance how much I am willing to lose. I lost it all. Spent some time with co-workers, introduced myself to the guy who runs the entire company.

I’d tell you more but like I said in yesterday’s post, I am busy. And tonight I’m tired. But I wanted to mention the trip a little. And show you a couple of pictures. More later. Thanks for visiting.



Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Busy Busy Busy

Busy busy busy busy beyond belief busy.  But I did have a few days off the busy stuff in Vegas recently.  I have random observations to make about that and even a couple of pictures.  But not tonight.  Too busy busy busy.

More coming.  Thanks for visiting.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Off the Cuff

Any candidate for President can make mistakes during speeches or interviews. Campaigning is stressful and challenging for anyone. But sometimes these mistakes show the ‘real’ candidate and not the ‘image’ candidate.

The rich, uncaring, out of touch man the Republicans have chosen to represent them in the upcoming Presidential election, the man who has nearly a 50-50 chance of actually becoming the leader of our country, certainly revealed a part of his attitude you might not have seen otherwise, unless you were at the $50,000 a plate fundraising dinner in Florida back in May.

Quoting an Associated Press story this week:

"There are 47 percent of the people who will vote for the president no matter what," Romney is shown saying in the video of a May 17 fundraiser in Boca Raton, Fla. "There are 47 percent who are with him, who are dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims, who believe that government has a responsibility to care for them, who believe that they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you name it."

Romney said in the video that his role "is not to worry about those people. I'll never convince them they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives."

WHAT??

Polls show that approximately 47% of Americans prefer Obama and about that same amount prefer Romney; the rest haven’t decided yet. So what Romney is saying is that the 47% of Americans who support the President are “dependent upon government” and don’t want to “take personal responsibility and care for their lives.”

And this asshole wants to be our President???!?

I prefer Obama. I voted for Obama last time and will do so again this time. I have a three-decade-long career that I have struggled to develop and currently I am very successful. During those developmental years I lost three jobs and each time I applied for received unemployment benefits. I pay taxes to help fund those benefits. So does every working American. Even the 47% who support Romney pay into it and they are ‘entitled’ to those government benefits. To receive those benefits I had to demonstrate that I was actively seeking another job; I could not sit on my ass and wait for the checks. I hated the fact that I had to ask for those benefits but those benefits, which I helped fund, helped me during a specifically limited amount of time. I took personal responsibility. I was not a victim. I am not the only person who can make those same statements.

"There are 47 percent of the people who will vote for the president no matter what,"
Yes. And I am one of them!

Wait, there’s more. The most devastating job loss I experienced happened at a time when I had recently purchased my first home. By the way the interest rate was 12.8%, three times the current rate, and the President at the time was a Republican. Should I blame him?

Anyway, during the six months after losing that job, I began to collect unemployment benefits (for about two months) which did not even cover my extremely modest mortgage payment, I began to search for a job, applied for dozens of jobs in and out of my chosen field, interviewed for four jobs, had phone interviews for two more, flew halfway across the country for a job interview even though taking that job would have meant completely uprooting my life, turned down that job for that reason, attempted to start two different businesses with absolutely no money (both failed), accepted a neighbor’s offer to hire me for a construction crew for a week (even though I had little experience doing that), took a part time minimum-wage job vaguely connected with my normal line of work (it lasted three weeks), completely lost confidence in myself and my abilities, completely ran out of money, got behind on every bill including the mortgage, called that ‘across the country’ job back to see if it was still open, it was, and I accepted that job … which meant I had to sell my house in a hurry, use the modest profit to pay off all the other debts, leave my fiancé at the time and move from Texas to Maryland and eventually lost the fiancé.

Re-read the last two paragraphs and tell me if I took responsibility. Tell me if I felt like I was a victim. Tell me I was looking for a handout from the government.

Now let me repeat … I am in the 47% who will vote to re-elect Obama. How dare Romney tell me I am a victim dependent on the government because I chose to vote the way I chose to vote.

Neither candidate can single-handedly fix the economy. If either of them really had all the answers the choice would be clear and a vast majority of the electorate would be favoring one or the other of them. Right now it’s still half and half.

But MY choice is clear!!! I have taken my responsibility to research the candidates and have made my choice.

Romney says his comments were ‘off the cuff’ … and like I said at the beginning of this post, any candidate can slip up. But he repeated his position several times during that presentation, thinking his remarks wouldn’t leave the room. I wonder how much the cuff links on his cuff cost. Personally I hope they cost him the election.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Saturday, September 15, 2012

The Middle of History

Sometimes I forget that I live in the middle of history. When I look out my front door, past neighborhood rooftops, I can see the top of South Mountain, the site of a Civil War battle. Just a little further west lays Antietam Creek and the town of Sharpsburg, site of the bloodiest single day battle in American history. Between 5:30 am and 5:30 pm on September 17, 1862 the Battle of Antietam (also known as the Battle of Sharpsburg) claimed 23,000 casualties (3600 killed, the rest injured, captured or missing).

That was the first major Civil War battle fought on Union soil and many historians consider it a turning point in the war. The North won, sort of, and Lee’s Southern forces retreated, sort of. Union forces failed to pursue Confederate troops, which disappointed many in the North, including President Lincoln, but the battle did stop Lee’s advances.

Another ‘turning point’ aspect of that battle is this: it was the first time an American battlefield was photographed before the dead had been buried. Up to that point, citizens who did not actually fight in wars really didn’t realize the full impact of the fighting. Some Civil War battles were even spectator events, with finely dressed men and women setting up picnic lunches on hillsides to watch the battles from a distance. Photographer Andrew Gardner’s published photographs of the bloody, mangled bodies of dead soldiers in the roads, ditches and fields near Sharpsburg changed forever the public image of warfare.

This battle and photography are an interesting connection for me, partly because of my interest in photography and partly because the first pictures I shot with my first high quality digital camera were taken at the Antietam National Battlefield. A few days after buying my Nikon in April 2008, I decided to find a nearby outdoor landscape site to field test it. I saw the Antietam site on a map and decided to visit. Prior to that day I knew little of the battle and nothing of its role in photographic history.

Here is one of my shots from that day. Click here to see more on the first page of the photo blog I started soon after that day.




Another connection in this story is nearby Middletown, the central theme of another photo blog I started around that time. As I wandered around town over the next few years reading historic markers I learned that the churches in Middletown served as hospitals for wounded on both sides of the battle. During Middletown Heritage Day each September, one of the churches sets up a simulation of those activities.


I’ll be moving away from Middletown soon and I will miss the proximity to this history. Fortunately I’ll only be an hour away.