Friday, February 28, 2014

Flash! Its Friday!

The wife and I went for a drive today. What else were we supposed to do? It's Sunday.

We were driving and talking, like we do most Sundays, driving aimlessly, again, like we do most Sundays. Sometimes just flipping a coin at an intersection; Heads is Right; Tails is Left kind of thing.

Next thing we know, the territory is beginning  to look familiar. And then we saw the Old Wood Church and we knew; we were close to Home. Not home, where we live, but Home, where we grew up. It had been a few years since we had been up this way, so we decided to drive past the old Home Place to see how she was fairing. I had the camera with me, so I took a picture. The old Place ain't fairing well, is it?

You wouldn't know it by looking at it, but Ma and Pa raised up seven of us there. 5 of us boys and the two girls. Juney- she was the youngest- she stayed on to tend to Ma after Pa died and then lived there on her own after Ma died for a couple of years. But she's been gone to Prestonburg probably better then 15 years. My brother Harold owns the place now; he lives in a new place he built when him and Jess married 30 some years ago up around the bend. Harold and I haven't spoke a word since Ma's funeral; Jess started laying claim to some of Ma's things right there over her coffin and Harold backed her up. He's never apologized; the first words I'll hear him say in 15 years had better be 'I'm sorry'.

Sister Emily, she's the oldest, married while we was all kids. Here and her family lived over around Nellytown 'til Emily got the Cancer and died young. We kept up with her husband- Rick? Nick? something like that- and the kids until he remarried; She was a widow with money, and next thing you know our kind wasn't for the likes of them. We hear from them when one of the kids gets married or graduates from something, but that's about it.

We lost two boys in the war; Pete was on the Arizona on December 7th and John went missing in action on D-Day. The wife and I did make to Pearl to pay our respects to Pete; first trip we took after I retired, and we've had plans several times to get to Normandy, but something always seemed to come up, and now we're worried that were just to danged old.

Then there's Ellis. He always was the one on the edge of being crazy, or maybe he was just on the edge of being a genius; sometimes its hard to tell.

Ellis was the one who was always looking for that better way of doing something. Sometimes he found it, sometimes he didn't. Like the time he cut down two hoes and figured out a way to bolt them to his boots. He hated handling a hoe, and figured this way he could just walk through the corn, hoeing a row with each foot. He wound up cutting more corn that he did weeds, and when Pa saw what he did to a pair of hoes, he lit him up like a house a-fire.

Then there was the time we were berry picking and Ellis was tired of getting scratched all up and down his arms, so he stole a fork from Ma's good set of silverware, the set her Aunt Mable gave her as a wedding present, and proceeded to use it to pick berries by slipping the tines around the stem and flicking the berry into the air and catching it with the berry pail. Well, catching it with the pail sometimes. And he was picking berries at half the rate the rest of us was.

And then he dropped Ma's fork. When Pa found out he lit him up again. Only half the berries got picked- the birds got the rest of them- because we all stopped picking berries to find Ma's fork. We found the fork, but lost the light. Every Sunday morning for the next year Pa would remind us we could only have one biscuit with blackberry jam, because the birds got the berries instead of Ma. Be sure to thank Ellis.

I guess Ellis was more genius than crazy; he finally got one of his inventions to work, sold the patent, and himself, to John Deere; he's been working with them for the last 40 years out in Moline. Sends a card every Christmas and box of Holly Farm's cheese.

Sometimes it hard to think about how close we were then, and how far apart now. Emily, Pete and John passed on; Ellis out in Moline. We drive over to Prestonburg to see Juney one Sunday a month and go out to dinner someplace nice, like Big Boy. She never married; works in an office where they sell something or the other. Her and the wife chat on the phone dang near every evening but all I ever get is a quick 'Hey Junior; Elly home?'. And then there's Harold.

I wonder if he's home, since we're out this way.

Thursday, February 27, 2014


It looks like Blogger is back!

Now; Where was I?

Oh Yeah!

Sunday night I watched a show on Netflix called Wagner and Me. The star/narrator was an Englishman named Stephen Fry. It was an interesting hour and some.

Basically, Richard Wagner was an 19th Century German composer who wrote, among many other things, The Flight of the Valkyries; brought into popular culture in the movie Apocalypse Now as the music the helicopter squadron would play as they were attacking the North Vietnamese. Wagner also had the misfortune to be the favorite composer of Adolph Hitler. At least, that's the way the relationship was always portrayed.

This show got a little deeper. Fry, who is Jewish (and lost relatives to the Holocaust), has always loved Wagner's music; something he felt guilty about. This show was his journey into that guilt.

Now; how to describe the show and not have to pronounce a SPOILER ALERT?

We usually don't have to 'navel gaze' over our likes and dislikes. I love the movie 9-5 but hate Jane Fonda being in it. I watch it very seldom for that reason. Or, closer to point, you may have a musician who's music you like, but who's politics you hate. But even that is only close, not on, point.

Imagine that you had a visceral connection with the music of Louis Armstrong, and then found out that Bonnie and Clyde were his biggest fans (not true, as far as I know). And then remember that Bonnie and Clyde had killed your Grandfather, a Louisiana Deputy Sheriff. That gives you a better feel, I think. Except that in this case, Hitler killed millions.

And it wasn't just that Hitler was a fan; Wagner's descendants were supporters of Hitler in the late 1920's, before he was powerful. And Wagner himself was anti-Semitic.

Now you may begin to understand Mr. Fry's guilt.

As I said; it is a fascinating journey.

There is a theater in Germany dedicated solely to the music of Richard Wagner, built by King Leopold specifically for Richard Wagner, and every year they perform Wagner's Ring Opera series; a show that lasts over 8 hours. EIGHT HOURS OF OPERA!!! And tickets are sold out for this year. If you wish to attend you will need to buy tickets for the 2021 show. Yes; they are sold out for the NEXT SEVEN YEARS.

Stephen wants to attend, but is still having Guilt Issues. The power of the music versus the power of the guilt.

He travels all over Europe, including a visit to the Wagner Theater in Bayrueth, Germany during rehearsals and a visit to the massive outdoor venue Hitler had built in Nuremberg, site of his most well known speeches, trying to decide which is more powerful.

He has one more visit to make; to see a Holocaust survivor, and it is talking to her that he decides which has the greater power.

What? you thought I was going to tell you which choice he made?

I thought about doing so, but then I thought this: some of you will be interested; interested enough to watch the video. Others of you will just not care; the information on his final choice isn't of any importance.

So by telling, I will have ruined the show for those who care, and not affect those who don't.

See? I think I have chosen wisely.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014


You may have noticd a problem with Monday's post (Now repaired). And you may hav enoticed I did not post yesterday. For some reason Blogger has been acting strange. I am working on this issue, and hope to return to consistent blogging tomorrow, as soon as I can get my home computer to access my account agian.

Monday, February 24, 2014

On the Butcher Block

Well; they are at it again.

Carter did it; Clinton did it and now Obama is doing it.

Read the US Constitution. It is written in pretty plain English, unlike some modern laws that seem to be written in Sanskrit. There is a direct charge to the Federal Government to pay for an Army and Navy. Defense of our borders is, in some respects, the ONLY charge to the Federal government.

Yet when money gets "tight" (yes I am using that word sarcastically) the first cuts are in Defense. There are so many things wrong with this announcement  i don't know where to start.

How about here: The cuts assume the United States no longer becomes involved in large, prolonged stability operations overseas on the scale of Iraq and Afghanistan. 

Really? And what happens if that assumption is wrong? NO problem; call up more of the National Guard and Reserves. Except, damn the bad luck; they are getting cut too. So with less regular Army and less Guard and Reserve Units, what happens when the manure hits the fan? What happens when Iran and North Korea conspire to attack Israel and South Korea at the same time, plunging two areas of the globe into chaos at the same time?

I'll tell you what happens. Have you ever locked two feuding boys into a room without parental supervision? Then come back a hour later to the utter devastation? Without the US as a stabilizing force a Korean conflict will drag in Japan and China at least. An Iran- Israel war will drag in Iraq and Syria and probably Egypt as well. And maybe Russia, as a 'silent' partner. Which side of the world would we respond to? Where would the limited resources get allocated?

Which ally will we throw to the dogs? and don't mention the United Nations as a solution; without US firepower (both figurative and literal) they are a laughing stock.

Don't misinterpret me; I don't want the United States military to be used the world's policeman. I don't want out best young men dying between the fighting factions in a backwater Civil War. But like it or not, our country has international interests; both treaty and trade related.

Those interests need to be protected. We can no more abandon South Korea than we can, should she require our help, England.

But these cuts may force just such a decision. There is a reason we have not had a Army smaller than it now for the last 70 years; its because we need to be prepared to not just fight a war on two continents; we need to WIN both wars.

Have you ever watched a show on the nature channel? Have you ever watched a pride of lions chase after a herd of wildebeests? Have you ever seen them take on the biggest meanest one they could find? No, they are chasing the old, the sick, the weak. The vulnerable.

Have you ever watched a how on a wolf pack, or a wild horse hear or a any other group of wild animals? They all have A leader. When is that leader challenged? when he is at the height of his power? Or during his decline?

Like it or not it has been both the United States' power- and willingness to use that power- that has kept the world largely at peace since 1945. What happens when that power is no longer there?

Its not just our way of life we need to worry about (although I do see an increasing testing of US resolve in the last 4 years; and there will be more and more incidents to test 'President Bluster' in the coming year; watch carefully the response to his 'line' in the Ukraine), but also that of our allies. Yes Israel is a potent force, but it is the looming US Club that has helped keep the rest of the Middle East at bay. And yes; we have interests other than Israel in the Middle East; a conflict in that area would be disastrous to energy prices, not to mention the possibility of Moslem uprisings in any country in Europe that joined in on Israel's side. Yes; quite a few countries have sizable Moslem populations, like France, Belgium and England; enough that could swing a balance of power in a 2015 Mideast War.

The thing the Obama Regime doesn't think about when doing their figuring: Cutting Defense is easy.

Dealing with the results of those cuts will be hard. Hopefully not harder than we can cope with.

But I have my doubts. And the history of this Administration does nothing to ease those doubts.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Back to the Past, and Back to the Future

This article, Time Travelers: Please Don't Kill Hitler, caught my attention this morning, for obvious reasons. What better way to catch the eye of a history buff than to mention time travel and killing Hitler?

The specific of not killing Hitler is just a general prohibition about not changing the past, as it will change the future. Well, duh.

Doesn't everyone know that? Aren't we all aware of an event in our past that has lead us to where we are?

Personally, I can point to several events, seared... seared into my memory that have made me who I am, and how, Robert Frost-like, a different path would have made all the difference.

Yeah; so?

20-20 Hindsight is not the most optimal method for re-examining our past. Very specific events put us in a position to make a specific decision, and changing that decision would require changing the circumstances; it would not be logical to think we would change our decision without a change in the circumstances.

Years ago I read Ray Bradbury's, "A Sound of Thunder", and the concept fascinated me. The idea that the life or death of one individual creature millions of years ago would change the world we live in. This idea was also dealt with in a Star Trek, the Next Generation  episode, Paralells, where a character gets caught in a time fracture, and all of the various possible histories form that time fracture become not just possible, but active. In the final scene, all of the possible futures are gathered together, hundreds of thousands of variations, just before the fracture is corrected, and the original, I don't think anybody says correct, time line is restored.

One of the questions asked in the article, and answered in some of the comments, is what would you do with a time machine?

Can you imagine being able to revisit yourself at one of those decision points, shades of 2015 Biff visiting 1955 Biff and changing his future, and having a decision that effected your life changed? Would the one visit do it? Or would that single change open up a broad range of new decisions that would need guidance from the future as well? That decision you made at 18 about college or a job is changed, and now your future self is worse off than you are now. Or were then. Or were before you started messing with things,

Or that decision to buy a new car at 25, a decision that you thought didn't turn out so well, is changed; so you continue to drive the beater, until that accident that you walked away from in the new car, leaves you paralyzed in the old one?

So many decisions; so many futures. And imagine the effect on the 25 year old you. First you have to accept that the geezer in front of you is actually the future you, and then you have to accept that his advice to not purchase a new car is valid, and then you act upon it, only to be revisited by the same geezer, this time in a wheelchair, telling you to forget the previous advice he gave you, and now he wants you to buy the new car? Do you believe him this time? How many more trips will be required to get your future to turn out the way you want it to?

Isn't that kind of what we have tried with our children? We see how our future has turned out; we see where the bad decisions were made, and try to force our children to make different choices than we did, so their future will turn out better than ours. We are that old geezer, hawking different options than what the geezer made in his youth, and having just as much faith that the decisions made will be correct for their future.

So; do we try? Do we attempt to steer our children down a different course than we took, not knowing for certain that future events will play out to detriment or benefit, based on that decision?

Besides, we may remember as a pivot point some choice we made, but it may have been a completely different decision, one we see as a good choice, that may have actually have not been so. Or it may be a choice we made, long since forgotten, that has had more effect of our current selves than we may know.

Kind of like stepping on a butterfly, 80 million years ago. You never know how it will affect the future, if at all. 

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Gene, Is That You?

This is an interesting post, about an interesting study.

Interesting doesn't mean right though.

Basically they are announcing that some people are gay for unknown reasons, although they are fairly sure there is a gay gene, and it is passed maternally.

One point they haven't addressed that I feel has an impact is support. For generations two women could not support themselves, and women who may have had a lesbian tendency got married and had children, where as gay men had no such requirement.

I'm not talking in the last 50 or 75 years, but in the last 1000.

And whose to say exactly what this gene produces; certainly they authors didn't know. Maybe it induces an attraction to males, an attraction that is acceptable with an XX Chromosome; less so with the XY pairing. The alternative to that is an attraction to females that is not properly paired with the more acceptable chromosome pair.

Yes,  it sounds strange, that women for generations would basically sell their bodies for food, clothing and shelter to someone they had no attraction to. But in the era of arranged marriages it was a common occurance with out respect to preference anyway. Men and women were paired for political or financial reasons; attraction to one another was never a consideration.

Not marrying and reproducing has become more acceptable in the last 50 years, and as more women find the ability to support themselves well, fewer of the carriers of the gene have reproduced, and as the gay lifestyle becomes more acceptable, even fewer women with a same sex predilection will reproduce.

So; does this mean fewer carriers of the gene, and even fewer practitioners of the variation?

Does this mean that the already small percentage of the human population that is gay will shrink ever smaller?

If Darwin is right, then yes it does.

How will that affect the future of gay politics? How will the gay culture respond?

For years there has been a nature/nurture argument on what causes gay behavior; if, as the gays have asserted, it is nature, and that nature will gradually die out as the gene is no longer reproduced, how will this affect the gays? Will they suddenly determine they need to reproduce, and will need to reproduce with women who carry the 'gay gene'?

Do you think these are frivolous questions?

I don't. The ENTIRE point behind gay marriage is forcing mainstream society to accept gay culture. What happens if gay culture starts to die out because gays themselves are dying out?

What if the gene is identified, and children are aborted because they are found to carry the gay gene?

To me, just the announcement that there maybe an identifiable genetic cause of homosexuality may create a backlash in the gay community.

I could be wrong; after all, all I have done is connect a few random dots and determine what the final picture looks like to me.

But the final drawing is more Rorschach Test than identifiable image.

But it will be very interesting watching the image develop as more and more of the dots are added.

Friday, February 21, 2014

My Crew

That's my tank and crew. Shortly after this picture we painted a name on the side; Gertie Gravel Guts. We had to wait until we shipped out to name her; they don't let you do things like that stateside, but once you hit a battle zone they don't much care what you do, as long as you fight.

And fight we did. In letters home we weren't allowed to say where we were, but the folks knew it was somewhere with sand. Lots and lots of sand. The sand was everywhere, not just in the letters. It was in the food, it was in our clothes, it was in the gas and it was in the tank. But old Gertie kept rolling.

We were in some battles together, her and us. But we don't talk about that around here. Too many good men dead. It was one thing in training to drop a round on target and watch the damage and cheer. I was quite another to drop a round on target and know that the explosion meant some other poor feller wasn't going home.

But you were; at least today.

But there were good times; we had some fun the 6 of us. You got to know a guy when you spent hour after hour trapped in a thick steel box with him. You found out who snored when they slept, who belched constantly, and who managed to need to pee every 2 hours no matter what was going on.

I remember our driver, a feller from out west somewhere, Oregon if I remember right, name of Johnson Karns. We just called him Westy. He could belch loud enough to make the inside of that tank ring like we just took a hit from a .50 cal round. Didn't matter what we fed him. He could work up a belch.

But it did matter what we fed him when it came to his other end. He was a farter. He claimed it was because he was raised on fresh fruit and all the dried and packaged food we ate messed with his indigestion. Not his digestion, but his in-digestion.

He could have been right. All I know is if he ate ham and canned peaches his farts would make the inside of that tank ring with the noise. I had other tankers tell me they could hear the noise two tanks over. But they were friendly farts; no smell.

The beef and taters on the other hand were the SbD variety; Silent, but Deadly. No warning at all, unless you were close enough to hear Westy shifting around in his seat. Then the end of your nose would start to involuntarily twitch, and would catch a whiff of some indeterminate smell. About the time you started to wonder what that odd odor was, the full assault would hit. An indescribable odor, usually mixed with the smell of burning hair. Yes, that was you nostril hair burning in protest.

If  a German soldier would have opened our tank during one of Westy's gas attacks it would have been a Geneva Convention violation, my hand to God.

Westy wasn't the only one with quirks. Our loader was a giant of a man; 6 foot 6 or better and weighed close to 270 pounds. He could shuffle them shells all day with out a miss. He was from out Denver way; went by the name of Homer Morris, but we called him Rocky. He bought 3 comic books the day we left Ft. Knox, and by the time we left Africa I think he was down to about 8 pages of the one book. That was all he did; sling 75mm shells and read them damn comic books. He had them all memorized, so even when the ink wore off a page he could still recall the joke and laugh every time he got to that part.

Our gunner was a Minnesota boy. I don't think I ever heard him say a full sentence, or even a word with more than two syllables. 'Yep' and 'Nope' seemed to all he needed to join a conversation. He had some Swedish last name none of the rest of us could say. I always thought he had just faked a last name by banging out some random keys on a typewriter. Jimmy was his given name, but we all just called him George. If I knew why I'd tell ya, but if I ever knew I can't tell ya now.

But I remember my crew. We swapped letters back and forth for a few years, and got together once 5 years after the war one summer up in New York City. We had sailed back in to New York after the war, and all of us swore we would get back and visit the Statue of Liberty. And we did. Made it all the way to the crown. All 6 of us and our families.

But some rotten SOB fed Westy some beef and taters for lunch.

My hand to God I swear I watched Lady Liberty drop her torch and grab her nose.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

UAW Loses Another One

I think I have mentioned several times that Unions have a glorious past, but a rather ignoble present, and a doubtful future. Face it; if we outlawed government worker unionization, the Unionized rate for the workforce as a whole would drop to 5 or 6 percent or less.

The union vote in Volkswagen's Chattanooga Plant is particularly telling. Volkswagen was not only neutral on the vote, but was encouraging the unionization. The lack of a Union in the plant is preventing them from forming company/employee product improvement groups, something they see as a necessary part of plant management.

Why can't they form the improvement groups? It is AGAINST Federal Labor law. Forming the groups without a Union is illegal, and they can't form an in-house union; that is also illegal.

Gee; I wonder which lobby got THAT fine idea made into law?

But; I digress. Again.

My real point today is this post over at The Truth About Cars by a member of the workforce that voted the representation down.

This isn't some outsider talking, or an anti-union activist; this is a person on the ground explaining what the UAW does to you, and why their presence poisons the workplace.

I'll tell you as well, having worked in a union shop years ago; every word is true. In particular the Us versus Them attitude that Union leadership engenders. There is no We when it comes to the workplace; They are evil; They want to steal from you; they want to kill you; nothing They say is true; on and on and on.

Apparently some folks are wising up.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014


I can’t let today go by without mentioning two things: One; if you will recall my post from the other day; I won a dollar. Ain’t much, but better than a kick in the teeth, right?

Dad would always use another part of the anatomy, but hey, teeth will work.

Second, today is the day I lost my Dad, 11 years ago now.

I could say more, but I have made mention of this anniversary many times; hopefully those posts will suffice.

February has always sucked. The weather is bad and there is nothing left to look forward to but spring. And February keeps reminding us it isn’t spring. It does tease us, like yesterday, today and tomorrow (62 degrees! Dang near swimmin’ weather. If I actually went swimming. Which I don’t.), but then the return to what February actually is (next week’s forecast is for the 30’s as highs and more $^@&;*%$ SNOW) is actually even more cruel.

Like that time on Christmas when you got the toy you had been begging a year for from Great Aunt Grace. When you went to thank her, she looked at you like you had two heads. Then handed you another package, took the toy back and announced that now she would have to re-wrap Cousin Freddie’s gift, this idiot kid unwrapped it.

And then you found socks were actually your gift.

Yep; February treats us like that; year in and year out. We stoically push on; dreading the next few weeks, hoping we can make it. Feeling gratitude for each little harbinger of spring we see or feel, and cussing each backslide into winter.

From here on out February is a 10-step program; each day another step we need to make toward our goal of getting out of this month with some shred of sanity left. There are also other hallmarks of some other programs.

Like apology; we are constantly apologizing to people for these random outbursts of “ARRGHH” whenever we need to open a door, and we still see snow.

There is guilt; guilt because know better things are right around the corner, and things have been worse recently. But we still hate today. And tomorrow, just for good measure. For that we feel guilty.

Then like any good multi-step program, we feel satisfaction; the steps have been completed. The program is complete. But that step is still is still 9 Steps away.

Today I still need to deal with *%&# February.

The picture? No that isn't today. I took that in February of 2009. I used it just as a reminder.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

So Much for That Nostalgia Trip

Friday was St. Valentines Day. Yes; this whole roses and chocolate and rings male guilt trip got its start with a Catholic Saint. They have dropped his title for the mass marketing, and even the Roman Church doesn't seem to claim him/them any more.

But for some reason his day seems to have become associated with love and romance. Like everything else retail touches the real reason for the special day becomes over shadowed by the various and sundry ways to make a buck. I, in some perverse way, often wonder why the mattress industry has ignore this obvious marketing tie-in, and has hitched their February sales wagon to dead presidents instead.

But I digress.

My point was going to be Friday night. One of our local on-air digital stations carries ME TV, a vast compendium of good TV. Meaning, of course, that this is the stuff we grew up with; Gilligan's Island, Hogan's Heros and F-Troop. All day Saturday black and white Westerns; Raw Hide, Bonanza and of course, Gunsmoke.

Friday nights at 8:00 they have a movie. Usually it is a Made For TV Movie; basically an hour and 30 minute long TV episode. Plus commercials; always plus the commercials.

On Valentine's night (if the Church has dropped the honorific, I guess I can too) they showed 4 episodes of 'Love American Style'. Some may not remember this show; it went off the air in 1974.

But 40 years ago it was a popular, but somewhat risque, show.They had the audacity to show men and women IN The SAME BED. And these people weren't even married! 40 years ago what they were showing was barely in the bounds of good taste, as performed, in true TV anthology style, by a whole series of actors and actresses passing each other on their respective ways, up and down the ladder of success.

You may recognize the format; "The Love Boat' used the same format (and the same 4 stories) a few years later.

The four stories is very nearly accurate and not just snark; Mistaken Identity; Mistaken Fact Set; Romeo/Juliet Syndrome and The Breakup, all of which lead to True Love. Yep; that about sums it up.

But again, I digress.

I was looking forward to Friday night; I hadn't seen this show in 40 years. 'Love, American Style' hasn't been syndicated to death in the cable era, like so many other old shows. I was looking forward to some new, fresh nostalgia.

Yeah, well; about that anticipation.

Maybe they chose the wrong episodes. Or maybe- and more likely- these were the best they could find. Risque? I've seen commercials more risque. Commercials for things like waffles and hamburgers. If fact, some of the commercials I was subjected to during the show were more risque than the show itself.

But it was than made up for by the stilted writing and 1970's fashions.

OMG! Yes; people really did dress like that. Take a look at any 1970's high school yearbook; that will prove it.

It will also prove that yes, Virginia, real people wore their hair like that too. On PURPOSE.

And yes; real places were decorated like that too. And, no, I have no idea how people fell asleep in a fluorescent lime green bedroom.

There are somethings I suppose that shouldn't be revisited, and are best left in the pleasant mists of nostalgia.

It would just be nice to know which is which before the pleasant mists dissipate and leave the cold harsh light of reality in their place.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Princess Diana Memorabilia

The Cincinnati Museum Center is currently the home of a traveling exhibit on the life of Diana, Princess of Wales. The wife has shown some interest in attending, and I have to admit a bit of curiosity myself.

After all; I was there. I was in England during the public courtship and marriage of the Prince and Princess of Wales. The TV was full of the courtship and the Wedding; you couldn't walk 10 feet anywhere with out bumping into someone selling souvenirs. And this was 70 miles away.

In the City of London you literally could not move. the short stroll from the tube station to anywhere; normally a 10 minute walk was now an hour. The whole country; Hell; the whole world turned out in London for the Wedding of the Century.

I admit I bought a few souvenirs. A vendor had set up a stall in the Lobby of the NCO Club, and she was rather persistent. And attractive. Okay; she was attractive and I was the persistent one. At any rate, during the course of 20 minutes I wound up with 3 plates, guaranteed to go up in value. The whole Wedgwood Pottery thing, very collectable. It was a good spiel.

And they were collectable. Until the Divorce of the Century. D'oh! I thought future Kings couldn't do things like that?

Okay; bury these 'priceless' things in the attic; maybe one day they will be worth something again.

And now we are in 2014. The interest in Diana seems to be peaking again. Let's take a look; see if these old relics are worth anything.

 Well; they are worth something. Depending on the seller, less  than what I paid for them in real dollars 33 years ago, or what I did pay for them without an adjustment for inflation; about 10 bucks each. Persistent and attractive remember?

Stuff 'em back in the attic; maybe they'll be worth something in another 35 years.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Down for the Count?

You have probably already seen the footage; 8 priceless cars dropping into a sinkhole. The article is from The Truth About Cars; it isn't only the post or the footage, it is also the comments.

The Internet is a  super tool, but so are some of the people on it. But I mean that in the nicest possible way. (Where is that sarcasm font when you need it?)

Part of the problem is language. Some people fail to draft their comments in an understandable way; others cannot comprehend and interpret simple English and yet a third set willfully fails to understand- to be contrary, to start an argument, or just because.

In the world of automotive aficionados there are several schools. In this country the debate between Ford and Chevy goes back almost 100 years. Back to when Chevy came out with the overhead valve 'Stovebolt' 6; a design they just retired a dozen years ago, and the Model T Ford. Both both Chevy and Ford fans agree Dodge is a big step behind the two of them. And then there is the American Cars versus Foreign cars; American and European versus Asian Cars. They sometimes remind me of high school rivalries- intense, but in the end meaningless.

Some of those rivalries show up in the comments; The inexplicable sadness from the Corvette guys; the unsympathetic remarks from the Ford and Doge folks. The dedicated humanist- THEIR ONLY CARS GET OVER IT.

Me? I'm with you fellers.

There were some one of a kind, priceless cars damaged when this sinkhole opened up. Milestone cars. There will be, and can be, only 1 Millionth Corvette. You can't replace it, you can't reproduce it. But you CAN repair it.

The Museum is in Bowling Green Kentucky, right across the street from the factory where they have been building these cars for 30 years. I don't think any detail will be so arcane or expensive that it can't be reproduced by the company that built these cars originally.

One commenter compared these cars to the Mona Lisa, negatively. His comment was that these were mass-produced items; easily copied. Unlike the Mona Lisa. I'm sorry to laugh in his face, but I am forced to. I can go to the internet right now and down load a copy of the Mona Lisa.

See? Easy.

No, it is not 500 years old, painted on a wooden panel or priceless. Well, it was sort of priceless; it was free.

But it has been mass produced. Yes, there is only one original, and the ownership of the original means something. I also seem to recall that old Mona here has had some work done in the last 500 years. She ain't exactly 'all original', if you know what I mean.

And in the end none of these 8 Corvettes will be either.

So maybe they do have more in common with the Mona Lisa than is viable at first blush.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Big Winner, or Bigger Loser?

My Dad collected coins. Not in a Coin Collector manner, with sleeves and gradings being on the 'hunt for that special 1957 "D" quarter to complete the series' style, but in more of a 'see it; keep it' style.

One of the coins he was always on the look out for were Bi-Centennial Quarters. These were the first of the specialty coins, like the State Quarters that followed, or the Jefferson/Lewis & Clark nickel. They were only issued one year- 1976- in honor of the 200th anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence.

At one point he found a bank in the shape of a Bi-Centennial Quarter at a yard sale and bought it just to keep his quarters in.

Ever since his death almost 11 years ago I have been getting Bi-Centennial Quarters in change on special occasions. I freely admit I don't use cash much anymore, so the occasions to get actual change back are rare. But every so often I will take the opportunity to get a few bucks from the bank to spend instead of just swiping the card.

It was 11 years ago, the day after Dad died, that I got a 1976 quarter in change for the first time in a long time. They had, at that time, been out of circulation for almost 30 years. A little over a year ago, day after my nephew was born, I was on my way to the hospital for my first visit. In my change; one of these special quarters. The day my son got married I received a Bi-Centennial in change.

They never seem to show up on regular days, just days when it seems like Dad wants to say Hi.

Yes, I know how crazy that sounds. It took me a while to recognize the pattern, and even longer to accept it. Because it does sound crazy.

I took a couple of statistics classes in college and in one class we learned to figure odds. Well, more specifically- in my case anyway- the instructor was up front, babbling about how to figure odds. None of it stuck; it involved algebra.

But anyway, what are the odds of receiving in your change, which will never amount to more than 3 quarters, a coin of a specific year? And what are the odds of that coin being one that hasn't been minted in over 35 years? And what are the odds of that coin, of that specific year, being received in change on a day of special interest to the recipient? And then have that happen on multiple occasions?

Even mathematically it sounds crazy. You would have better odds of winning the lottery.

Which brings me to last Tuesday. I stopped at the gas station to fill up and buy some lottery tickets. Since you cannot buy lottery tickets with a card- at least that's what I was told on several occasions- I stopped and got cash for the gas and the lottery tickets.

In my change I got a Bi-Centennial Quarter. February 11th isn't a special anniversary, and it was just a normal Tuesday; nothing special. So why the Quarter?

When I woke up on Wednesday morning I knew what the reason had to be.

On Tuesday I must have purchased a winning lottery ticket.

I believe I did anyway. I bought tickets for both MegaMillions and Powerball drawings. And as of today I haven't check the numbers.

One of two things has happened; either I have hit a jackpot, or an 11 year streak of special gifts has come to an end. I am either a very big winner, or I have lost something that I have considered special.

I will know in the end. I will see a bus placard that shows the new jackpot amounts; or a news report on a winning ticket sold locally for a recent drawing that remains unclaimed.

The one jackpot was over $200 million; the risk reward/ratio is pretty big. Did I win the enough to be set for life, or have I lost my last connect with Dad?

Now you know what they mean when they say something is priceless.

Friday, February 14, 2014

Friday is The Day

Today is the day; the day the Eagle craps; the day we get ours for what we have given. Payday! A few more hours and it's off to see the Paymaster.

What a feeling that is; rich instead of broke; top of the world, not bottom of the heap. Worth something, not worthless; the reward for the time we have given the company in the last 7 days. There are always a few small bills or loose coins I can slide in to the left hand pocket before the envelope goes home. Thank God our boss still pays in cash; how's a man to 'lose' a few coins from a check, I ask you?

5 hours last Saturday, and 50 this week; 55 hours pay doesn't seem to last a week anymore; everything seems to be going up except the wages. Potatoes almost 10 cents a pound; milk 25 cents a gallon and meat! The less said about the cost of meat the better; how can a man feed a growing family? If it weren't for the eggs from the hens and the fish in the river sometimes the bellies would eat the rent.

But today; today the empty bellies and the future visit from the rent man are forgotten. Today is the day we live the dream. A little steak in the pan; a little beer for after. A visit to the ice cream stand for the kids; the dreams of yesterday are the realities of today.

Until tomorrow's realities set in. The money for the gas man; the money for the rent man; the money for the water man, the tax man, the grocer and the butcher and the money for the Church.

Up again at 5:00 AM, to be at the gates at 6 when the whistle blows. Another 6 days of reality.

But today my friend, if only for a little while, we are living the dream.

As soon as we can see the Paymaster.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

What is Law Anymore?

Well isn't that special.

74% of the voters in the Commonwealth of Kentucky say one thing; ONE Federal Judge says another. Guess who's opinion matters?

Why is that?

I have talked many times about gay marriage, most recently here. I have also said that a state or a community should be able to make its own laws on morality. Things such as drinking, gambling and prostitution should all be local decisions. If Ohio wants to get rich off of sin, so be it. If Kentucky chooses not to, so be that as well.

Basically, here is what this judge has decided; He has decided that the will of the judiciary in Massachusetts has more weight than then the will of 74% of the voters of Kentucky.

Full Faith and Credit clause of the United States Constitution; any marriage license issue in one state is valid in all fifty; just like a driver's license.

So; if a single judge in Rhode Island can determine that it is legal for two men to marry, Kentucky has to recognize that marriage, no matter how illegal it is in Kentucky.

Why do the same rules not apply to Concealed Carry? Why isn't my CC permit valid in Illinois?

Article IV, Section 1:
Full faith and credit shall be given in each state to the public acts, records, and judicial proceedings of every other state. And the Congress may by general laws prescribe the manner in which such acts, records, and proceedings shall be proved, and the effect thereof.

If that can be construed to mean that something legal in one state must be recognized as legal in all states, then there should be no cherry-picking on what is allowed.

Smoking dope is now legal in Colorado and Washington; why isn't a citizen of Colorado allowed to light up in Kansas? Full Faith and Credit.

If where I come from has a speed limit of 80, how can another state say that is illegal? Liquor should be the same way; if the state I came from says an activity is legal, the state I go to shouldn't have any right to make that same activity illegal. Full Faith and Credit, right? Isn't that what this judge has said? The religion or morality of a given state can't control acts legal in another state?

Talk about the lowest common denominator; we are now stuck with, as a base, whatever state has the lowest laws in any given area. Prostitution is legal in Nevada. Full Faith and Credit now says NO state can outlaw Prostitution.

Florida and Texas, among other states, have made not paying an income tax legal. I guess that means I shouldn't have to pay one either; Full Faith and Credit, right? 

What's that you say? It doesn't work like that? Only CERTAIN THINGS can be ruled as legal everywhere? Certain things that celebrate an aberrant minority and crucify the majority?

 Yes; I said aberrant. The sexual acts of consenting adults has one purpose; procreation. So, by definition, any sexual act that cannot lead to procreation is aberrant; just like any child born out of wedlock is a bastard. Words have meanings. Sometimes cruel meanings,

And just because a behavior is aberrant doesn't mean it should be illegal or even immoral. Neither should it be celebrated.

 All that aside, what happened to majority rule? More states have outlawed Gay marriage by popular vote than have approved it. More states have had gay marriage thrust upon them by judicial fiat than have voted it in by popular vote.

While I firmly believe in the rights of the minority to voice whatever opinion they hold, no minority has the right to enforce that opinion on the majority.

 What's next? I do believe I will keep a copy of Bourke V. Beshear in my holster. The next time I get stopped concealed carrying in Illinois, guess what the officer gets, along with my CCW license?

Yep; Full and Credit Friend; live with it.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

They're Called Pony Cars for a Reason

A lot will be written about Mustangs in the next few months, during the run-up the 50th anniversary in April, both about the old original 64-1/2 models and the 2014 ones.

But this post, over at The Truth About Cars caught my eye. Can you imagine owning a car for almost 50 years?

More importantly, can you imagine owning one of the most iconic cars in American Automotive history for 50 years?

Today it's hard to imagine the impact the Mustang had. we aren't as car crazy as we once were, and the shear proliferation of makes and models makes the introduction of a new model something only the real car nerds will slobber over.

But in April of 1964 it was a big deal. Ford, GM and Chrysler had the market almost to themselves. American Motors sold a few cars, and Studebaker was still selling a few as well. The European makers were specialty only; Mercedes, BMW Jaguar, Rolls Royce at the high end, and Triumph, MG and Morgan on the sport side. And Volkswagen; making a few inroads but by any means a powerhouse. There were a few Japanese makers starting to show up on the roads on the West Coast, but Chevy sold more cars in 1963 than all imports combined.

But they were starting to make there presence known; the drive for fuel economy had started. Chevy had the Corvair, and Ford the Falcon, but the Falcon lacked sex appeal.

And then Lee Iaccoca showed off the Mustang. Basically a Falcon with a new body shape; it did exactly what Ford wanted it to do; sell over half a million cars a year. Ford hadn't had a sales demon like this since the introduction of the Model A back in 1928; almost 50 years earlier.

And 50 years later those cars are still desirable. I have known 2 of the original '64-1/2 - 66 model Mustangs.

My Uncle had a '66 Fastback 2+2; V-8 powered and that reddish-orange color that looks so good on a Mustang of that vintage; similar to the one above. But his had hubcaps with spinners, not the factory sport wheels. It had a black interior, and he took my cousin and I (both of us his 6 year old nephews) a ride in it one Sunday. I remember taking the ride, and being in the car, but the ride itself is a blur. I don't know if it is a blur because of the speed we were traveling at, or because it was 50 years ago and I was only 6.

But I do remember that car.

Another was a '65 model my Aunt (my Uncle's sister) had for a while. I was 14 or 15 at the time, so it would have been a 10 year old car at the time. And it was not what some would have considered collectable. Unlike the car in the article- with the convertible, V-8 and sport options, my Aunt's car was a 6 cylinder and a three speed column shift with a bench seat. It looked like a Mustang on the outside, but the inside was still straight Falcon. The color didn't help either. Instead of Baby Blue, it was brown, inside and out.

Of course, I would give almost anything to have either one of them today. My Uncle died in '68 and I have no idea what happened to his car. My Aunt's was the same way; it was there for a year or so, but one visit it was gone.

It takes a special person to keep a car for 50 years.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Need a Rocking Chair?

I'll bet he doesn't.

This video makes me feel like I have spent too much of my life sitting still, and I am few years short in age from the hero of this video.

I don't use the word hero lightly. Heroism isn't always a single instant; sometimes it is a lifetime.

A blogger I visit regularly- Sippican Cottage- tends to find videos like this; maybe he has time to hunt for them. 

Go ahead; watch the video. I'll be here when you get back.

Here we have a man who is working daily, just as he has for more than probably 80 years. Still going , and not intention of stopping. Working at a physical job. One that men 50, 60 even 70 years his junior wouldn't do. He has made a living working hard. He probably isn't rich by Wall Street standards, but he probably is by Arkansas standards.

He has a job he loves- I can't imagine doing something I hated at his age, and family around him.

There is a commercial I have seen on TV once or twice that talks about retirement, and defines it as paying yourself to do what you want to do, by saving for it now.

And then you run into Mr. Bump, who, at the age of 95 is still letting somebody else pay him to do what he wants to do.

Now that is what I would call an embarrassment of riches.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Something That Should Suck, Doesn't

I may have mentioned the other day that my wife was having problems with her vacuum cleaner. what it boils down to is she needs a new filter. I'll get into that later; right now I need to rant.

I have been working on vacuum cleaners for years. Its what a Redneck does; he fixes- or at least TRIES to fix things. Part of it is because usually it is cheaper to fix something than buy a new one, and part of it is the challenge of taking something that doesn't work, figuring out why it doesn't work, and then figuring out to make it work again.

With vacuums 90% of the time it is a clogged hose or a busted belt. Anything else and the cost of the parts is more than the cost of a new unit. But this vacuum is a new breed; for me anyway. No bag; it has a clear plastic tub you have to empty. And it has a filter! I figure the filter takes the place of the bags. Not as a dirt holder, but as something you need to keep buying to make sure the device functions.

The filter is where the problem is. I will say this for this little thing; it can suck up some dirt. I'd swear  the basement is cleaner after vacuuming the living room carpet; it is that efficient. But the tub is small, and needs to be emptied after each use. which isn't really a bad thing, or a hard thing.

But the filter; it needs to be cleaned almost weekly. It has a foam pre-filter, and then a paper HEPA filter. Trust me, no dirt escapes this thing. If it picks it up, it stays picked up. Unlike some other vacuums I have used, that manage to not really clean the room, but just redistribute the dust to areas other than the carpet.

Like my lungs.

Anyway, I usually clean the filter every weekend, just as a precaution. Last weekend I forgot; hey- it was a busy weekend. Which is why on Tuesday my wife cleaned the filter. The paper, HEPA filter. With water.

Yeah; it killed it. And I don't have a spare.

Surely A local store will have one. Wanna bet? Apparently this is a rare beast. I haven't been to a specialty vacuum shop yet, but nowhere else I have stopped has one.

The Hell with this running around bit. That's why they invented the internet, right?

Bissell has a website- a great website, by the way- I found my part in less than a minute. $3.99? Lets buy two! On to checkout; lets find out how much the shipping will be. And the website crashed.

Not a problem; redoing everything took only a few seconds; on to checkout.... and the website crashed.

Well that sucks. Ummm; no pun intended.

Wait a minute; they have an 800 number, and they are open on a Sunday; all is not lost!

I get right through - to some one who speaks English as a first language; another plus! But that was the last of the good news. Since the website was down, so was their phone in ordering system.

Well that sucks. Okay; maybe I did intend a pun.

But; they expect everything to be operational shortly.

Shortly? Whose got time for shortly? On to Amazon! I should have gone there first; probably cheaper too.

Yes the do have them; for $8.95!?!?!?!

Wait; here one for $2.95; that's more like it. $4.95 for shipping?!?!?!? This thing weighs less that a first class letter; shipping should be $1.95 tops.

But the $9.00 version has free shipping. So... 4 bucks for the filter and 5 bucks to ship it. Those sound like familiar figures. Maybe I can find a better deal; Hell; it looks like everybody has this filter. No wonder I can't find one at Wal-Mart; the internet has all of them... For $8.95 each. No wonder we got such a great deal on the vacuum; it looks like they are following the Lexmark example- FREE PRINTERS!; expensive ink.

Maybe I do have time for 'shortly'.

Back to the Bissell website; this time they are up. I have to 'join the Bissell Club' before I can order; do I want emails about their special offers? Uh. NO?

Then the obligatory method of payment screen, and BOOM; I have two new filters on the way for about $6.50 each, including shipping.

And they should be here in 5 business days.

D'oh! that's what I hate about internet shopping; no instant gratification. But that is another story.

Sunday, February 9, 2014

We Are Dismayed

There is one thing about writing; sometimes it is easy, and sometimes it is hard. Sometimes an email 10 paragraphs long is a 10 minute operation, and sometimes a few lines can take an hour. Sometimes it isn't what you need to say, but how you need to say it.

Words have meanings, and words have moods. Sometimes the use of one word will convey the right meaning, but the wrong mood. The meaningless email on procedure; easy. The simply stated email on how you feel about an recent event; hard.

Part of it is using the right word to convey the right feeling; sometimes it's avoiding the word you don't want to use. How many times have we written pages of words to avoid using one?


Yep; that's the one.

We need to let someone know we have erred; but we can't admit to the error.

We are dismayed at the consequences, that possibly may have, at some point, might have been caused by an unintended action, however direct or indirect, on our part, and want you to know that we are aware of the consequences, whatever little a part we may have played in the events leading to these consequences.

Maybe because sorry conveys meaning we don't want to use; like fault.

Want to start a long conversation with your kids? Find a recent event, drag them all together in to one room and ask who's fault the incident was. Guarantee the first words out of the culprits mouth will be "so & so made me do it"; shorthand for "we are dismayed...yada, yada, yada.

And then so & so will have his version of events which accounts for all of the blame, none of which happens to land on his shoulders. And will usually drag yet a third party into the fray.

Just for this entertainment value, I would usually buy some dime store bric-a-brac at a yard sale for a nickel, place it prominently in the living room, with the explanation that this was an heirloom of great value, handed down many generations; irreplaceable.

Within a week I would sweeping the shards up from the floor. Knowing what was coming the boys would make themselves scarce; hiding out somewhere. Waiting on the call they knew was coming.

And working on alibis.

The inevitable meeting would take place; the inevitable words spoken: Who's Fault?

The following conversations would take many words; some rather erudite, and probably cribbed from the Complete Works of Shakespeare  I kept on the bookshelf; others rather simple. But even the simplest speaker seemed able to go on and on without mentioning one simple word:


See how easy it is? I have managed to say Sorry multiple times in the last few minutes.

But then, I don't have anything to be sorry about.

Saturday, February 8, 2014

God v Dog

You knew I would have to blog about this; it is just too good of an opportunity to let pass. It is almost the quintessential debate between Religion and Science.

I say almost because this was only about one aspect of Religion, and only one aspect of Science; where did we come from, and how long ago?

If you watched the video one commenter noted that his debate had not become heated, like so many others of this type. Why do they become heated?

Because both are a belief system. It isn't impossible to believe in both books- The Bible and On The Origin of Species- although it does require you to take The Old Testament of The Bible as allegorical, and not literal.

My problem with Science can best be illustrated by the (you guessed it) Global Warming debacle. Scientists lied, and belief in Science died. Fool me once; shame on you. Fool me twice; shame on me.

Like it or not, only a percentage of Science can be proven. Most of modern science is built on the sands of Theory. Logical, but unproven, theory. The math for Einstein's Theory of Relativity can be reproduced, but that doesn't prove the theory correct; only proves his math was correct.

The same with Darwin. Examining his evidence and coming to the same conclusion only proves that his theory is logical, not that it is correct.

And we have become accustomed to accepting the truth of what we are told by science; because they should know. How do feel about believing not in the Facts of Science, but the Guesses of Science?

We have all seen the drawings of what "our" ancient ancestors looked like. Did you know that most of those images are not based on a full skeleton, or even a collection of individual bones from several individuals, but usually on one or two bones and a few fragments? Some digger finds a jawbone and a fibula in the guano of a cave and the next thing you know we have a new, 1.5 million year old 'ancestor'.
The image is a guess, based on the few things they do know; The age is also a guess, based on the assumed age of where they were found.

This is not to say that all of the theories and guesses are incorrect; there not. It just that we are taught the is a proven fact, when all it really is is a very logical, probably well supported, guess.

Carbon dating is at best another guess, based on observable science extrapolated out over several centuries. We have nothing that is proven by other methods to be 'X' thousands of years old to test and prove the theory; it is based on the observable difference in a few years- even a lifetime isn't a significant portion of the history of the Earth, no matter who's figures you believe.

I also have a hard time believing the physical laws are not some grand design. Look at Water. Snow; Ice; Steam and Water all have the same chemical makeup; H2O- two hydrogen atoms bonded to a single  oxygen atom. Yet, unlike almost any other substance, it EXPANDS when chilled. Which means bodies of water ice over, protecting the fish in the water below. When frozen as a vapor it forms Snow, which when it falls insulates the earth beneath it,  protecting the plants and animals from a freeze. And the cycle of evaporation and rain; providing water to plants far from a source water on a regular basis; plants that the animals need for sustenance.

To me, those features of Water are proofs of a Theory; a Theory that we aren't here by some accidental failure or accidental coupling millions of years ago.

We live in a world designed for us. Now; Science- prove me wrong.

Friday, February 7, 2014

Flash Fiction Friday

You don't see buildings like this today; buildings that share a purpose.

But when I was younger that was all you did see. Retail on the ground floor, commercial upstairs. Or living quarters.

Like this place. The first floor was a general store. Notions and bobbins and buttons and candy; what do you need? Dress goods, boots, canning supplies and candles. Lamp wicks, dress hats and all wool long johns, with or without the 3 button drop seat.

Next door, down Robertson Street was the Post Office, and off to the left was the Pharmacy. It was a handy system; Doc Swanson had his office upstairs. He would write a prescription and the pharmacist downstairs would fill it. What what his name again? We all called him Doc, but he wasn't a doctor. what was his name? I went to school with his two kids- brats they truly were. The older boy helped out in the store. John? James? Some things just don't seem to hang around in the old memory. Maybe it ain't that important anyway.

Holiday; that was the Pharmacists name; that's why we all called him Doc. And his boy was Doc-ette; that's why I couldn't recall his name; I doubt I ever used it. The other child was a daughter; always had dresses full of bows, and matching bows in her hair. Her name was Sally, if I recollect. She married a soldier during the War and gone to Texas, far as I know. Doc-ette went off to Pharmacy College, like his Dad. Graduated and then got called up for the war. He was on the Indianapolis when she went down. Doc hung on long as he could, but old age got him in the end, like it does us all. His widow sold the business and moved south to be with Sally and her young ones.

That curved tower room? That was the least popular place in town. That was where Doc Swanson kept his dentist chair. Doc was a pretty durn good country doctor, but he didn't make any claim to being any kind of dentist.

But he was all we had. If you had a bad tooth he pulled it. During the summer months with all of those windows open you could hear the noise for a couple of blocks in any direction. It would start off quiet enough Doc giving directions to the nurse for the pain killer.

Now Nurse- he would say- hand me that bottle of cocaine. Those would would usually draw a crowd on the street corner; the layabouts over by the hardware store would be the first to saunter over, and the checker players by the courthouse would see the layabouts move and know something interesting was in the air and the games would be put on hold until the after the festivities. The kids on the sandlot playing stick ball would see the checker players leave the courthouse square and figure if something was more interesting than checkers, it was more interesting than stick ball too, head over to hang out under Doc Swanson's dental alcove.

The cocaine would work sometimes, or the tooth was loose enough, or maybe Doc just got lucky. And the show would be over before it started.

But there were other days; days when the tooth grippers wouldn't clamp right on the tooth, or the cocaine solution wasn't quite right. Or maybe doc's luck ran out. But instead of hearing Doc say 'SPIT', there would be a holler from the patient. Usually it would be an early attention getter; 'Yo Doc!' was always a favorite, although some of the old farmers would cut loose a volley of profanity that would cause a few windows to close and curtains to get drawn and more than one grin from the checker players, layabouts and stick ball players.

Hold still, Chester, or Earl or Fred; I'm almost done we'd hear the Doc holler. And then the next sound was always a thud, followed by a dull clang. The patient would involuntarily straighten a leg and wind up kicking over Doc's coat rack, which was just tall enough to hit the bottom of the brass umbrella stand when it fell.

Then the moaning would start. Sometimes long and low; others loud as a church bell and almost as deep. And punctuating the moans like a steam whistle through a thunderstorm were Doc's directions, some times to the Nurse, sometimes to the patient/victim and sometimes just a statement directed at nobody in particular: Some more of the cocaine Nurse; Chester sit still and get your dangs hands off my throat! Lord-a-mighty why did I ever start this? Now Chester I can't pull this tooth with you pushing me away like that; Nurse hand me that other pair of forceps; Alright Chester; put that dam knife away; I'll quit.

If the layabouts were lucky the show could go on all afternoon, or at least until Doc ran out of cocaine and patience. But eventually it would end, sending the stick ball players back to the sandlot, the checker players back to the courthouse square and the layabouts back to the hardware store.

At least until another poor soul found himself settling into the chair in the Tower Room.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Is It Education or Not?

I have been reading Walter Williams work for years. If he doesn't hit the bullseye it is a rare thing, and then he is usually in the 9 point ring.

This column is no different.

Why can't these children pass a standardized test? Particularly if hundreds of thousands of other children can?

Lets take a look at the variables. There are basically 3 people involved; the teacher; the pupil and the parents. Yes; I am counting parents as one individual; it will be rare instances when they don't think as one mind when it comes to educating their young.

First stop is the teacher. How many of their pupils passed and how many failed? If the ratio is 10 passes to one fail, or even 7 passes to 3 fails, I doubt this is an issue with the teacher; she or he has been able to connect with a majority of the students and the failure is the aberration.

But what if the ration is 1 pass to 10 fails, or even 3 passes to 7 fails? This is beginning to look like a failure to connect; to instill the needed information in the children. But; there were still children able to pass. Why?

Next we need to look at the student. Some kids want to learn, and will learn anything they are taught. They don't look to see if any of the information is relevant or useful; they soak it up and spit it out as required. Some kids can learn, but choose what they want to learn. They pick up what has been shown to be relevant and useful to them, and reject everything else. Then there are the children who need special attention; they need to be introduced to information on an individual basis, usually, but not always, because of a special need in either mental or physical development.

Then there is the final variable; the parents, or all to often parent. Is school a needed component; do they feel the need for education, or is school just a place that will babysit the little bastards for free for 6-8 hours a day? These attitudes are passed on to the children and will influence their attitudes toward education.

Is the parent willing and able to help the child in the evenings? Parental reinforcement is important for the child to retain what they have learned. If a single parent is overwhelmed it doesn't help the child's ability to learn or study.

Or is the parent involved in the education process? Helping with homework, checking papers when they come home, attending parent teacher conferences? Paying tuition?

Educating a child is a three legged stool; if any of those legs fails, the education fails.

That being said, why were the teachers cheating?

Obviously because the goals couldn't be met by normal methods. Which leg failed?

Unfortunately, there probably isn't a blanket answer, but dozens of individual ones.

Which is another problem with the modern education system; they throw blanket solutions onto individual problems.

The individual answers are as individual as the pupil; the pupil teacher relationship; the community and the community's relationship with the school. We gauge the effectiveness of a school based on a test that has been determined to fit all fifty states; all 3090 Counties, Parishes and Boroughs and the thousands of school districts and hundreds of thousands of schools, teachers and millions of students.

What passes for being educated as a 19 year-old college freshman and a 19 year-old plumber's apprentice are completely different; what type of education is needed for various positions in the labor force or even for various disciplines in education are different as well.

But instead of giving kids a basic education they can take anywhere, we insist on believing that every child should have a liberal arts education; one that requires the study of information that will not have any benefit to the child's abilities as a productive element of society.

Teach a child not just to read, but to comprehend; Teach him to add, subtract, multiply and divide. Teach him the basics of his county's history, and his part in keeping that county strong. Everything else he needs to know he can learn; he now has the tools.

Sounds simple doesn't it? Yet there will be arguments; What constitutes history? Is the history? One of our great conquest or one of our domination and destruction of what was already here? What of science? do we teach evolution of creation?

And again the broad blanket of a one solution gets thrown; but no one-size-fits-all is true. It has always been my experience that one-size-fits-all fits nobody well, and everybody poorly.

Why can't the parent's decide what the education will consist of?  It is there children being educated, and it is their money paying for it.

Besides, what it takes to be educated and employable in the woods of Kentucky is completely different than it is in the jungles of New York.

And you may be able to cheat on a written test; the final exam life gives is usually requires a bit more study.

And is completely different, depending on where your feet are.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Losing a Friend and Companion

Most of us have had pets, like Junior, pictured above. All of us who have had pets have had pets who were not just a part of our lives, but a piece of us.

Most us could not have put our feelings down in words; although some of us have tried.

James Lileks has just lost a pet as well, and has described not only the pet, but the multi-year relationship exquisitely.

For those of us who have lost pets, you will empathize and relive your own pets.

For those who have not; this will introduce you to the experience and the value of that relationship.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Sometimes Getting Sidetracked is a Good Thing

Yesterday the Young 'un asked me to fold her a paper hat. And I couldn't remember how to do it.

Do you remember how? Without looking it up on YouTube?

Yeah; I had to search out directions on Youtube. and found them pretty readily. Do you know what that means?

It means somebody had both time and the equipment to do a video about how to fold a paper hat and to post it to YouTube.

I also didn't have the paper to fold a paper hat; there hasn't been a newspaper in this house in years.

I had a whole train of thought going on with this, but I suddenly had an emergency to deal with in the other room. Apparently the vacuum cleaner has stopped vacuuming. Should have been a simple fix; and it was. The paper filter somehow got wet and that stopped it up completely; no air through the wet paper.

Then I got sidetracked, and completely lost where I was going. (I thought about starting over, but then thought; eh- what the Hell.)

The young 'un was in the living room watching Duck Dynasty. And I just happened to walk in in the middle of the episode where Si handcuffs himself to Willie. And it is the scene where Si needs to pee. While he is riding in Willie's truck.

I don't know what's funnier; Si and Willie, or Jase making the most of this bad (for somebody else) situation.

It has been alleged that Duck Dynasty is scripted. I don't know about scripted; maybe more like Improv. I can see a producer dropping a security belt in the room, and then turning on the cameras. and standing back; definitely standing back. Especially if you have just handed Si a loaded stun gun.

And ya know what? I'll bet Si knows how to fold a paper hat without YouTube.

Well; so do I.


Monday, February 3, 2014

What Marriage Is. And Isn't.

I had a discussion the other day with a friend about gay marriage that started me to thinking a little deeper about the subject.

I am two fighting factions within myself. I am a libertarian. as long as what you do doesn't affect me, have at it. What ever two consenting adults do in the privacy of their home is fine; I have no objection.

It is when you drag aberrant behavior onto the front porch that my rights kick in.

Marriage had been the purview of religion for thousands of years. It has only been recently that the state has become involved in the regulation of marriage; recently being the last 200 years or so.

When you think about it, marriage today can be separated into two parts; a civil union blessed by the state, and a religious union, blessed by the various religions. For example, you can get married in a church without a marriage license. The marriage is valid within your sect, but will not be recognized by any government. Legally; you aren't married, and are not able to enjoy the legal rights of being married.

Or you can be issued a marriage license, and have a justice of the peace perform the ceremony. Legally you are married, but, depending on your religious beliefs, you are not married in the eyes of God, and can not enjoy the religious benefits of being married.

75% of folks do both. They have a marriage license issued and then have a church wedding. A smaller percentage opt for a civil union, and an even smaller percentage opt for only the religious ceremony.

What do the gays want? A civil union, blessed by the state, or a religious marriage, blessed by God? Some religions already allow same sex marriage, and their clergy have performed many of these rites. There are also some states that allow same sex marriage- none that have put the proposal to a popular vote, by the way- but a few do. So if the gay couple live in the right state, and belong to the right religion, they have both ceremonies performed.

And that is the choice of their state and their religion.

But should that choice to ban or support same sex marriage be taken from me and my religion? That is, I think, the key question, and one that hits on my libertarian stand.

There is some talk that the state should just get out of the marriage business altogether. I disagree. Stable family relationships are the basis for a strong state and strong economy. The state has a distinct interest in promoting and fomenting strong families, and therefore has an interest in marriage. Some of the programs that the state uses to promote marriage and families may or may not be discriminatory, but lets face it, they are an advantage to the majority in this country who have a traditional marriage of Mom, Dad and kids.

It is that family unit that has created a strong social community for the last thousand years, and is worth protecting. The state has valid reasons for promoting and protecting families, and should stay in the marriage business.

So, now we are back to the initial question; what do the gays want? The sob stories we hear all involve the civil part of marriage; rights in hospitals, rights in probate court, rights to adopt children. It would be perfectly possible to solve each of these issues with legal documents that would allow the partners to work through these issues that would not involve the state at all.

There are some issues, like tax filings, that would require a state or federal recognition that the partners were a couple. But how many people will these rule changes affect? Even if it is a million, that is less than a third of a percent in a county of 360 million people. How much upsetting of the apple cart do we want to do for such a smaller percentage of the population? Particularly if there is a large percentage of the population against same sex marriage on religious grounds?

If my religious beliefs preclude me from accepting homosexuality and same sex marriage, can the state force me to accept and support same sex marriage through law?

So, here is the bottom line. In a country of 360 million people we have a million tops who want to marry their same sex partner. We have 190 million who believe that the partners are living in sin, and their coupling shouldn't be.

So what are we denying the same sex couple? We are only denying them the right to have their union recognized by the state.We aren't jailing them, or confining them to a ghetto, or denying them life, liberty or the pursuit of happiness.

We are also maintaining a 'Bright Line', where marriage is a union reserved for a man and a woman. Once that line is moved to include two men or two women, where can the line not be moved to include?

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Another Letter From Cousin Throckmorton

I may need to explain Cousin Throckmorton.

He lives down in a Kentucky Holler so deep the 1970's haven't even found their way in yet, much less the new millennium. He writes me occasionally, and sometimes I believe what he has to say is worth sharing. This weeks letter was one of those times.

Dear Cousin Red,

We had a real cold spell this past week, and I don’t believe my bones have thawed out yet. It’s not that I ain’t used ta bein’ cold, but even an Eskimo has his limits. It got so cold we had to invent a new way a’ talkin’ ‘bout it. 

Usta' be we had three levels a’ cold. First was Jacket Weather. That means if y’all is goin’ out the door, an’ ain’t getting’ in the car, take a jacket. The temperature would vary ‘pendin’ on who was talkin’ to who. If it was my Ma talkin ta one a’ her kids, jacket weather started from 60 degrees on down. When tryin’ to impress your buddies, it started at ‘bout zero. 

Ya’ know, when y’all first would get to high school in the mornin’, an’ it’s ‘bout 10 degrees, an’ y’all got icicles hangin’ from every finger, one a’ y’all’s buddies would ask, “Cold out?” An’ y’all had ta answer, “Jacket Weather.”

The next step down was Hat an’ Coat. That started for my Ma at ‘bout 50 degrees. Y’all had mommas, y’all know what I’m talkin’ ‘bout. Early in spring, when 50 is sweatin’ weather, an’ a little dip in the crick sounds good, as y’all is runnin’ outta the house hollerin’ where y’all is headin’, an’ sure ‘nough, Ma is hollerin’ back “Take your hat an’ coat!”

At what once was the bottom of the list was Get Your Gloves. This level had nuthin’ ta do with temperature, but a lot ta do with snow. It also had a lot ta do with what was goin’ on in the snow. We could spend hours outside without gloves buildin’ snowmen an’ snow forts, havin’ snow ball fights an’ the like, but if’n we had to shovel the dang stuff, first we had ta spend an hour huntin’ for our gloves, an’ hopin for a quick thaw.

This year we had ta add a’nuther step, Full Battle Dress. We had on so many layers a’ clothes, there weren’t no need for closets. We spent so much time so layered up some folks still walk ‘round with there fingers spread out, an’ their arms six inches from their bodies like they can’t get no closer. I ain’t one of ‘em. For me, it was Jacket Weather.    

Best wishes from all of us in the Holler,

Throckmorton Q. Sheisseschnitter