Friday, December 21, 2012

MY FAVORITE SONG ABOUT CHRISTMAS

Over the years, through the centuries actually, Christmas songs have been written, each from a special perspective.  There are your Christian Christmas songs that celebrate the birth of Christ.  It seems that everyone knows at least the first verse of the old classic Christmas hymns.  Oh Come All Ye Faithful, Joy To The World, Silent Night, The First Noel and Away In A Manger are used to represent the true meaning of Christmas by Christians throughout the world.

There are Christmas songs from the secular part of the holiday which tells of Santa Claus, Presents under a tree, snow falling everywhere even where there isn't any snow, and a reindeer with a red nose or a snowman with a magic hat.  Again everyone knows these songs and are as important to Christmas, it would seem, as the hymns that are sung.  Often times as carolers go from house to house sing one song and then another, the religious hymns are interspersed with the secular songs of Rudolph and Frosty.

There are what I call the modern Christmas songs which really date back to the fifties.  Most of these songs were written for Christmas movies or television shows.  They are wonderful, beautiful songs that dig deep into your heart as you think of Christmas.  White Christmas, I'll Be Home For Christmas, and Christmas Time Is Here are a few of these.  There are heartbreak songs that tell of a sad Christmas like Blue Christmas, and If We Make It Through December.  New religious oriented songs have been written, the most beautiful one in my mind is O! Holy Night.

There is one special Christmas song though.  It isn't very well known to most people although it is starting to be noticed.  It was written in 1975 by progressive rocker Greg Lake.  A lot of older readers and younger readers may not be aware of Mr. Lake's work.  The bands he was in were very well known for awhile but like a lot of popular music, they seem to leave and the generations that follow do not remember them.  Greg Lake was a member of King Crimson and the more popular group, Emerson, Lake and Palmer.  Lake was a great songwriter penning many hits and a philosopher with lyrics that touched the soul.  But his greatest work, as far as I am concerned, is also one of his lesser known songs.

"I Believe In Father Christmas" was fairly well received during the Christmas season of 1975.  It was released as a single though and therefore relied on radio air play to get to listeners ears.  And when it did reach those listeners, the lyrics seemed confusing.  Some thought the words described a young child being sold on the idea of Christmas, being sold on the idea of Christ, and coming to the realization that it was all a lie, making it an anti-Christmas song.  Others saw it as a confirmation of Christmas and a song that combined both the secular and Christian viewpoints of Christmas.  The latter was the more accurate of the interpretations of the song.

The music of the song is, and here my typing pauses.  I am not sure how to describe  the music.  Wonderful, beautiful, majestic, powerful.  These are all words that come to mind.  The song tells of Lake's personal experience with Christmas.  As a child he was told that Christmas is of snow and gifts and magical beings that bring presents.  Most of these he believed even though in his native England, it rained more often that snowed at Christmas time.

It tells of his growing into maturity and coming to his own personal belief in Christ, and realizing the Christian meaning of the holiday.  Then as he ages and as the economy of the world turns strong and advances are made in the production of all the Christmas trappings that we face even today, he became cynical about Christmas and the commercialization of Christmas.  He looked around and saw that in a lot of ways, Christmas was losing it's meaning.  He came to realize, in his own words, that Christmas was more about" giving then receiving"... and we had lost that part of Christmas.   He realized that the true meaning of Christmas, the Christian view, was being over run by the secular view and that it wasn't a good thing.  He wanted to bring Christmas back to where he thought it should be.  His final lines in the song state his belief that the way we celebrate Christmas, what we put into it, is what we are going to get out of it.  Celebrating Christmas strictly commercially would bring disappointment and sadness while celebrating it religiously would bring about inner peace and joy.

I listen to this song year around.  It is such a beautiful song with a beautiful meaning.  If ever there was a Christmas song that could and should be listened to all through the year, this is the one.  This song covers from being a child to maturing into an adult and how we handle our beliefs.  It is by far, my favorite Christmas song.  Enjoy "I Believe In Father Christmas" circa 1975 by Greg Lake.

I BELIEVE IN FATHER CHRISTMAS
Greg Lake - 1975 

They said there'd be snow at Christmas
They said there'd be peace on earth
But instead it just kept on raining
A veil of tears for the virgin's birth
I remember one Christmas morning
A winters light and a distant choir
And the peal of a bell and that Christmas tree smell
And the eyes full of tinsel and fire

They sold me a dream of Christmas
They sold me a silent night
And they told me a fairy story
'till I believed in the Israelite
And I believed in Father Christmas
And I looked to the sky with excited eyes
'till I woke with a yawn in the first light of dawn
And I saw him through his disguise

I wish you a hopeful Christmas
I wish you a brave new year
All anguish pain and sadness
Leave your heart and let your road be clear
They said there'd be snow at Christmas
They said there'd be peace on earth
Hallelujah noel be it heaven or hell
The Christmas we get we deserve


Tuesday, December 18, 2012

GREAT TRAGEDIES IN MY LIFETIME

It is sad to be writing this the week before Christmas.  This time of year is suppose to be fun and filled with good memories.  Time spent with family is suppose to be at a premium.  For some reason though, Christmas does not bring out these overwhelming happy feelings to a lot of people.  I am one of those people who tries to find joy in the season, but it eludes me.  It isn't that I am a "Scrooge" or anything of that nature,  it is just my mental make up at this time in my life that makes me feel melancholy during the season.  I have found some things that help me feel a little of that good feeling, like giving to charities that help those in need.  I find pleasure in giving gifts to my wife and son and seeing the smile on their faces, but that doesn't hold me very long.  This entry isn't about that side of Christmas.  For the most part it isn't about Christmas at all.  It is about four tragedies that have happened during my lifetime that have left an impact on me and will have an impact on me for the rest of my life.  These four events, these tragedies, do not come from nature but from human beings.  All four of these tragedies sadden me when they cross my mind.  They are senseless tragedies that not need happen except a human being had so much hatred in his mind, so much anger in his mind, that they did the unthinkable.

The first of these tragedies happened in Oklahoma City on a bright sunny spring day.  It was April 19, 1995 and mid morning.  Suddenly a truck filled with a fertilizer bomb exploded, ripping off the entire front face of the Murrah Federal Building in that clean quiet little city.  People were killed instantly while others died slowly.  There was a day care center on the first floor of that building, towards the front.  It was filled with children.  Nineteen children under the age of six lost their lives in an instant.  There were part of a total of one hundred and sixty eight lives that were snuffed out that day.  As the story unfolded it became known that an ex military man who did not approve of the government of the United States had decided to show his displeasure by setting off this bomb.  That is not the way that our country usually shows displeasure with the forces that run the country.  Protesting is the normal way.  Usually peaceful protest that sometimes turn violent, but not an intentional killing of innocent people, especially little children who have nothing to do with the subject that is being protested against.  I remember seeing my fellow citizens walking around stunned and bloodied on the streets of Oklahoma City.  When they had woke up that morning they had no idea that close to two hundred people would died in a few hours.  The parents who left their children in the daycare before heading up to their offices couldn't fathom the idea that they would be seeing their children for the last time.  Then a picture was published.  It is an image that comes into my mind whenever I think of Oklahoma City on that day.  It is a fireman carrying a child in his arms away from the rumble.  I do not know if the child is still alive or not, but for me this one image brings all the horror of what happened that day to an unbelievable reality.
Fireman carrying a child from the Oklahoma City bombing

The second tragedy happened in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania.  Lancaster County is known to have one of the largest Amish population in the country.  The Amish are a peaceful people who pretty much keep to themselves and follow their religious doctrines strongly.   On the morning of October second, two thousand and six, a man back his truck up to the little Amish schoolhouse and went inside.  He came in with guns and took the children and the teacher hostage as one of the children had escaped and ha run to a farmhouse next door to call 911.  When the police arrived, he was hunkered in the schoolhouse surrounded by children.  As negotiations continued and failed, the man eventually shot ten little Amish girls ranging in age from six to thirteen.  Five of the innocent girls died from their wounds and the man, after shooting the girls, took his own life.  There was not really a reason given for the actions taken.  The man had left suicide notes for his wife and children before leaving that morning.  He had set out not to deliver milk as he would usually do, but to shoot children and himself for no apparent reason.  A couple of days after the shooting the Amish did something that literally sent shivers through the people of the world.  They took their horses and buggies over to the man's house where his widow was sitting in a darkened room filled with pain and guilt over what her husband had done.  The Amish brought her food, and went inside to comfort her in her time of grief and guilt.  If ever there was proof of a God, the Amish people of this little township showed the world that there was on that day.  Five lives lost, five more lives injured and a whole community of the faithful would forever be changed on this day.  But the Amish held onto their faith and continue today, bearing no hatred or grudge against the man that destroyed their community.  I was watching television one night and they went to where the shootings took place.  The little schoolhouse has been torn down and replaced with a grass field.  The memory of what happened there will forever live in the hearts of that Amish community though, even if the schoolhouse is gone.
Amish funeral procession for five girls killed in school shooting

September eleventh, two-thousand and one.  Does anything else really need to be said other than the date?  This day would change the lives of every American for the foreseeable and distant future.  Nothing would ever be the same.  The United States had suffered terrorists attacks before what became known as simply 9-11.  We had some embassies bombed.  The U.S.S. Cole had been rammed and bombed killing some of our service men, but 9-11 was different.  In the name of religion from the middle east came 20 hijackers that would board passenger jets filled with ordinary citizens who were going about their work day.  Two of these passenger planes struck each tower of the World Trade Center in New York City, collapsing the towers into the ground in a huge pile of rubble and deadly dust.  A third plane would strike the Pentagon, the center of America's military operations and State Department.  The fourth jet would be taken down in a field in Pennsylvania by the actions of brave Americans determined to save lives by not letting this particular jet reach it's target, which was either the White House or the Capitol Building.  For a while the government of the United States was in disarray.  The President was on his plane with a military escort.  The rest of the executive branch and Congressional leaders were safe in an underground bunker in Washington D.C. pulling the government back together to react and defend the country in a proper way.   I sat and watched along with the rest of the country as the horror unfolded.  People were leaping to their deaths from the World Trade Center with no where else to go.  First one tower collapsed, followed by the second one.  There was a huge hole in the front of the Pentagon.  The building was on fire as survivors came walking out of the huge hole and other exits.  Then there was the wreckage in that field in rural Pennsylvania where brave Americans sacrificed their lives to save others.  By the time the day was over, more than three thousand people had lost their lives in this brutal act of terrorism.  However, as Americans have proven over and over through the years, we picked ourselves up and started to rebuild and to heal.  It changed the way Americans do almost anything, from traveling to getting a simple drivers license.  Security is high at all major public events.  We have had plenty of terror attempts since 9-11 but all have failed because we are prepared.  The whole world changed on that day in 2001 and it will never be as it was before.
Firemen raise the Stars and Stripes amidst the rubble of the World Trade Center
Then came the latest event that shook my senses into numbness.  December fourteenth, two-thousand and twelve.   In the small quiet community of Newtown, Connecticut things seem normal.  At the Sandy Hook Elementary School classes are beginning for the kindergartner through fourth grade students.  The week before Christmas and I can imagine that the kids were starting to ramp up on the excitement meter for Christmas.  Then comes nine-thirty in the morning.  A young man walks into the school and heads down the hall towards the first grader and kindergarten classrooms.  He is carrying guns and opens fire on the little kids as he walks into their classroom.  Once again innocent children are the victims of violence for no logical reason.  The shooting spree does not take long and ends with the young man taking his own life.  When it is over, twenty six and seven year olds lie dead in pools of their own blood and six adults lose their lives as well.  The facts of what happened has not been totally sorted out and new facts are emerging as this writing takes place.  The young man had apparently killed his mother at the family home before heading to Sandy Hook elementary.  For the next four or five days, funerals will be held for all the victims in this little quiet community.  Logic and reason can not be found while trying to figure out why these children had to die.  Not only the pictures and accounts of that day haunt me, but even the mere thought of the terror and horror that went through that little school numbs my soul.
Children are led from Sandy Hook Elementary after the shootings
These are not the only tragedies that have happened during my lifetime and certainly not the only ones that have effected me.  Some of the others are known by just one word such as "Waco" or "Columbine".  There were the Atlanta child murders and the shootings at Virginia Tech.  There have been gunmen who have entered shopping malls firing guns randomly at people as they work their way through the mall.  One of those happened in Kansas City a few years back at the Ward Parkway Mall.

The purpose of this writing is not to make any political statement at all.  I am not going to say my feelings on the Second Amendment or on Gun Control.  Although tempted, I also will not write about mental illness and the role it may or may not have played in these tragedies.  There is no agenda in the writing of this entry except to say it saddens me.  I feel confused whenever events like these happen as I try to make sense of it all.  When it comes down to it, there is no making sense of it.

I do not mean to discount other tragedies that have happened over my lifetime, but these four that I wrote about seem to hit me the hardest.  The only thing I can say is that to me,  it seems to be getting worse and happening on an increasing basis, and no one knows why.  I do wish someone could figure this out.  The people of this country should not have to wonder if they will arrive home from work safely or not when they leave in the morning.  They should not have to sit and worry all day if they will ever see their children again.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

A FEW OF MY FAVORITE THINGS

In 1965 a movie was released that won multiple Oscars that year.  It wasn't a Christmas movie.  It literally had absolutely nothing to do with Christmas.  It was the story of the rise of the Third Reich and the effect it had on a family of singers in Austria who did not agree with the Nazi philosophy and escaped to freedom from Hitler's forces by climbing over a mountain range in the middle of the night.

Julie Andrews was in it and she did a lot of singing.  Beautiful singing.  There were lots of songs that went along the story line, again not having anything to do with Christmas.  During one scene, there is a thunderstorm carrying on outside and the children come to their nanny because they are scared.  Julie Andrews breaks into a song to ease the children's fears.  The song basically says to think of things that make you happy and the scary stuff will melt away.  Again, nothing to do with Christmas at all.

Now I am not sure why, how or when, but at some point in time "My Favorite Things" started showing up on Christmas albums.  These days it is played multiple times during the Christmas season as a classic Christmas song.  It is as much of a Christmas song as Three Dog Night's recording of Hoyt Axton's "Joy To The World".  "My Favorite Things" is not a Christmas song in my mind.  To the rest of the world it seems to be one of the great Christmas songs.  There isn't anything I can do about that no matter how much logic you throw at it.  It is now a Christmas song.  It is a done deal.

So since it is now a Christmas song, I began to think that at this time of Christmas, why not take the idea of this "Christmas" song and figure out what are a few of my favorite things.  Maybe it will have the same effect on my fear of Christmas as it had on the children in the film fears of thunderstorms.  Maybe, just maybe, if I think of a few of my favorite things, Christmas won't be such a terror for me as it usually is.  So, here are a few of my favorite things to take my mind off of Christmas.  Somehow I do not think this is going to work.

One of my favorite things is music.  I absolutely love it.  I love to play it on the piano, I love to TRY to play it on the guitar, and I love just listening to it.  I love almost any kind of music.  I love the old blues that Robert Johnson gave us and the folk music that Woody Guthrie brought to us.  I love the old true country western music of Hank Williams and Bob Wills to the outlaw country music of Waylon Jennings and Johnny Cash.  I like the top 40 music from Motown, Bread, and Three Dog Night.  The heavy metal sounds that came out of the seventies of Led Zeppelin, Deep Purple, and Jimi Hendrix.  The music that spanned the era from Janis Joplin to Melissa Etheridge.  The jazz of Miles Davis and Charlie Parker to the Jazz fusion of Chick Corea and Weather report.  Crooners such as Sinatra, Martin, and Mathis from the past to the crooners of late like Harry Connick Jr.  Music is complex even when it is simple.  I love to hear different people sing the same songs with different arrangements.  Music amazes me.  Basically there are only twelve notes.  Think of taking those twelve notes and how the order that those twelve notes happen to be placed have given us thousands and thousands of songs with new songs being created with those twelve notes on a daily basis.  Add to that the lyrics that are incorporated into these songs.  Different thoughts and philosophies, love and hate, anger and sadness to happy go lucky songs.  I never tire of listening to music or watching musicians perform music.  Not a day goes by that I do not listen to music during part of the day.  Music is definitely one of my favorite things.

Another of my favorite things are movies.  I have admitted to my wife and I now admit it to you, the reader, that I do like "chick-flicks" among other genres of movies.  Movies are in the same category as music in a way.  Thousands of different stories with different endings and different moods.  There are horror movies that make your body twitch at a certain moment when the movie throws something at you that you are not expecting at all.  There have been horror movies where I am sitting watching and suddenly realize that every muscle in my body is tense and tight.  I love to watch good comedy movies where there is something SO exaggerated that it is total hilarity and you can't stop laughing and do not get tired of watching it over and over again.  My favorite type of film though, has to be an independent film.  Films that are made with low budgets and still manage to pull it off.  Movies that are so off the wall you often stop wonder what kind of mind could possibly think up a story line like this.  Movies that approach subject matter that no one probably thought would ever be approached.  Documentaries also make for a great movie, especially a good documentary.  I movie that dives into a true story that seems like it is not possible that it could ever happen.  Looking into people's lives and trying to understand why their lives are the way they are.  Movies, good movies, can be watched time and time again.  I love movies that give us Chaplin, Keaton, and Mae West to W.C. Fields and Peter O'Toole.  Kate Hepburn, Spencer Tracy, The Marx Brothers and Cary Grant.  Gregory Peck in "To Kill A Mockingbird" To Gene Wilder in "Young Frankenstein".  Sondra Bullock, Betty White, Albert Brooks to Mel Brooks.  The list of the stars, directors and producers is a very long list and continues to grow.  My latest favorite director/producers are the Cohen Brothers, Kevin Smith/Scott Mosier.  I never tire of watching a good movie.  Clint Eastwood will live forever because of movies as does Groucho and Grace Kelly.

Books.  How can books not be one of my favorite things.  I have had a relationship with books longer than I have been with music or film.  I prefer non-fiction history books.  Doesn't really matter what time in history the book covers as long as it is well written and teaches me something I didn't know before.  There is no limit to new things to be learned from books.  Researchers are always coming up with new discoveries or theories about history and the books keep on coming.  There are still books being written about the Lincoln administration as well as the Kennedy, Nixon and Clinton administrations.  They say that learning from history is suppose to keep us from repeating history.  I don't think that is always the case though.  I have seen times when history has repeated itself and once again we learn the same lesson over again.  Reading about history is much like listening to music or watching a movie.  Even if several books are on the same subject, they are different with different lessons to learn.  Books allows our imagination to give us a picture in our minds of what life was like in a certain period of time.  We are still learning about ancient Egypt as new discoveries are made and books are written about them.   History is constantly being made, as is music.  As humans we don't have to even try to make history while making history.  Everything that happens becomes history as things constantly change.  Books keep track of how history is viewed from one period to another.  A lot of old history books can be said to be out of date and wrong because new history books have been written that correct historical assumptions that were made in a history book fifty years before.  The thing is that even the old history books that are outdated, become a part of history.  It is a history of how we use to think, how we use to see things as opposed to how we now know as the truth.  Eventually though, what we write and read as truth now will probably be disproved in the future by someone writing a new book with new information and so the books that we read now also become a history on how ignorant we were about certain subjects at this point in time.  Books keep a record of where we were and who we were.  Books keep track of where we are and who we are and help to determine where we are heading and who we are becoming.  Books keep the essence of us alive for future generations.

 Well, those are just a few of my favorite things.  I have gotten those few things for Christmas through the years which justifies the song as a Christmas song I suppose.  There are other things that probably would be counted as some of my favorite things.  One would be any college sport that involves the colors black and gold, a tiger and the letters M I Z Z O U.  I love Missouri and Kansas City.  I love my family, both immediate and extended.  I love to drive.  I love anything mechanical and how it works.  I love science and new discoveries.

I suppose the theory behind the song that makes you think of your favorite things is suppose to open your eyes that your favorite things out number the things that are not so favorite.  I am not so sure that is the way my situation is though.  I have listed a few of my favorite things, dwelt upon them, as the song directs us to, but I am still scared of thunderstorms.  I am still scared of tornadoes.  I still dread Christmas for some reason.

Monday, December 3, 2012

HALF A LIFE PLUS FIVE

Thirty three years ago, December 3, 1979, I walked through the doors of Dit-MCO International for the first time.  At the time I had no idea how important this place would become to me.  There are different ways that spending time in this office has influenced my life.  For example, the mere number of years that I have walked through various doors that had Dit-MCO written upon them is a great influence.  I am fifty six years old now yet I was only twenty three when I did my first days work for the company.  I have been extremely lucky and have had a lot of breaks in forming my career but getting called by Dit-MCO was by far the luckiest thing that ever happened in my career.

I had begun my career as a draftsman at Rycom Instruments, a very small company where my dad worked for the majority of his life.  When Loretta pulled me into drafting I was still sixteen about to turn seventeen.  She knew I wanted to draw and after giving me a chance to prove myself, hired me as a full time draftsman.  She saw something in me that not even I saw in myself.  She apparently knew that I had a little talent because she kept giving more complicated things to do while I was there.  Within four years, I was her senior draftsman and had accomplished much more than just drafting.  I had learned how to make artwork for printed circuit boards using black tape and an exacto knife.  She had taught me how to use the huge camera in the darkroom across the hall to make photos of the artwork which would become the masters.  I used that camera for many other things such as making art from album covers and such that I would later frame.  When I turned twenty two I was offered a chance to spread my wings even further.  Alice, one of my mentors at church, told me of an opening in the drafting department where she worked as a purchasing agent.  The name of the place was known world wide as LABCONCO.

LABCONCO was the first time I was paid a salary instead of working hourly.  To a young twenty two year old this sounded great.  No longer would the company be keeping tabs on when I was there or not and pay me accordingly.  I would be paid no matter how many hours I worked.  The catch, I came to find out, was that it not only included that I would be paid if I had to take off for a doctor's appointment or something of that nature, but I would get paid the same amount if it took me more than forty hours to a week to finish a job.  As I came to find out, it was almost impossible to complete a work assignment in forty hours at LABCONCO.  Before long I was working seven days a week putting in sixty or more hours every week.  This wore me down rather quickly and I decided that my time at LABCONCO would be short lived unless they came through with a huge raise.

While I was at LABCONCO, I met several other engineers and draftsmen that were hard workers but felt the same way I did.  Working at LABCONCO was taking just too much of their time.  I wasn't there but a few weeks when I noticed that slowly my peers were quitting their jobs at LABCONCO and going somewhere else.  It took about seven months before I was the senior draftsman at LABCONCO.  The guys were leaving in droves.  It wasn't long before I found out what the great lure was that was pulling everyone from LABCONCO.

I had been working at LABCONCO for thirteen months when my phone rang.  It was one of my previous co-workers asking me if I wanted to change companies and start another job.  I was a little leery of this since I had been at my job just a little over a year, but I agreed to talk about it.  While talking things over I came to know that all of these people I use to work for had left to go to a company called Dit-MCO International.  They were all there and enjoying themselves with challenging work that didn't take every bit of your time.  They were working on machines to test aircraft, and aerospace products.  They had contracts with all the major plane manufacturers as well as the government and NASA.  At LABCONCO all we were doing was designing fume hoods and such for university labs, nothing really exciting, but Dit-MCO was on the cutting edge of technology.  It was an offer to good to pass up.  For one thing, they gave me a pretty hefty raise.  Secondly, I would be working with people I already knew for the most part and there was room for me to advance from drafting on into engineering.  I took the job without giving it much thought.  If anything, I figured, I could get five good years of experience on the cutting edge if I found I were to leave Dit-MCO.

Now I feel like I have bored you enough with all the talk about how things led up to finding myself at Dit-MCO.  I want to talk people here.  The people who have made up Dit-MCO over the last thirty three years of my life.  I have heard lots of companies try to say that their company is like a family.  I don't buy it.  It takes a special administration along with special people under those running the company to make it feel like a family.  Dit-MCO has that.  Dit-MCO is a company that is truly like a family.  Over the years we have shared the joys of life along with the tragedies of life.  We have not only worked together but played together.  There is no politics being played out at the company.  Everyone knows what their role is and they perform their roles immaculately.  We have had babies born and we have had members die.  Still the company carries on through the good and the rough times.

Engineers are a special brand of people.  Not that they are better than other types of workers, it is more in that they are just plain different.  To be an engineer you have to be able to think differently.  You have to be able to take a chance a try things a different way then they have always been done.  This is how you progress.  Along with this independent thinking comes some pretty strange senses of humor.  Engineers probably have more fun than any other occupation.  Practical jokes are a must for an engineering department and the engineers at Dit-MCO are aces at playing practical jokes.  Of course you also have to be able to take a joke played on you if you are to succeed in the engineering field.

During my time at the company, the engineering department has had many off the wall activities.  For example, we bought a putter and a golf hole at a thrift store one year and set up a gold course in the building.  The result was a weekly Golf Tournament that even had a traveling trophy that would sit in the desk of the tourney winner of the week.

Over the years here, I have seen many changes, much as my grandpa saw changes in his work on the railroad.  I remember when I was young, grandpa telling me of how things had changed so very much since he began working on the railroad as a very young man.  I see the same things in my job.  There isn't a drafting table in the whole building anymore.  A pencil is used at most three or four times a day.  Computers have taken over the engineering field.  For the most part I have to say this has been a good thing.  We are more accurate with our designs and our calculations.  We not only draft using a computer, but are able to make three dimensional models of our designs to see how they will look and that they will fit together.

The printed circuit boards that as a youngster I use to make by  using tape on mylar, I now use a computer to create.  It is much fast and much more accurate.  We don't use a camera to make artwork anymore but create computer files that the houses that fabricate our boards use for artwork.

Over the last thirty three years I have seen many people come and go.  More than likely though, if an engineer takes a job at Dit-MCO, he will end up being here for a substantial amount of time.  At thirty three years here, I am not even close to being at the top of the seniority list.  Young engineers have moved in though to replace those who have retired and I find myself being regarded by these youngsters as one of the old men in the department.  I don't mind being seen as that though.  Another thing that engineers like is stability.  We don't like change as far as surroundings go or meeting new people to work with.  We work well together and know what to expect from each other.

No doubt by the time I am through here at Dit-MCO, I will have put in well over forty years.  Never in my wildest thoughts as a young twenty three year old, did I think I would still be siting here working for a company that is good to it's people and encourages them to stay.

Have I been lucky?  EXTREMELY lucky.  I love this company.  How many people can truly say they absolutely love their job?  It makes a difference waking up in the morning thinking "Well, wonder what today will bring" as I get ready to leave for the office without dread or waking up in the morning with the dreadful thought "Oh man, I got to go to work again today."

I like coming to work and have for thirty three years now.


Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Inspiration from Missouri's Ozark Mountain Darevils

YOU MADE IT RIGHT
(Elizabeth Anderson / John Dillon)
1974

I've got a moon out my window in the night
and I've got a sun out my doorway when it gets light
I've got stones on the mountain and a clear, blue, wind-swept sky
thank you, Lord
you made it right, you made it right

and I've got a woman to love me when I'm gone
and I've got stars to find me the way back home
I've got rain in the morning when I'm stranded all alone
thank you, Lord
you made it right, you made it right

I've been standin' on a hillside in the night
and I've been singin' 'bout the good things and the light
there's a new star on the horizon and it nearly fills the sky
thank you, Lord
you made it right, you made it right

there's a new star on the horizon and it nearly fills the sky
thank you, Lord
you made it right, you made it right
______________________________________________________________________
Lyrics are copyright 1974, 1975, John Dillon & Elizabeth Anderson




IT'LL SHINE WHEN IT SHINES
(Steve Cash / John Dillon)
1974 
 


the old cat on the roof
he could stand a little push
'cause he's got nine good lives to live
but like my momma said
you only live till you're dead
and you got to give and give and give

there's a pebble in the pond
goin' on and on,
makin' waves and tides and ripples and rings
there's a leaf in the wind
that don't know where to end
chasin' days and ways and wishes and dreams

seems like ev'ry one
is out lookin' for the sun
singin' rain and pain on he who hesitates
but it'll shine when it shines
you might think I'm wastin' time
but I'm just a good old boy that's learned to wait

whippoorwill's in the dawn
pretty soon, he'll be gone
and he's got one good song to sing
but like my daddy said,
it's in your heart, not your head
and you got to sing and sing and sing

there's a window in the wall
lookin' out on it all
leavin' fears and tears and troubles alone
there's a fire in the stove
keepin' out the cold,
warmin' wine and winters and babies and homes

seems like ev'ry one
is out lookin' for the sun
singin' rain and pain on he who hesitates
but it'll shine when it shines
you might think I'm wastin' time
but I'm just a good old boy that's learned to wait

yes, I'm just a good old boy that's learned to wait

______________________________________________________________________
Lyrics are copyright 1974, 1975, John Dillon & Steve Cash





Wednesday, November 7, 2012

RESPONSE TO COMMENT ON CYNICAL VOTER

From Gerald Ford re Nixon; it doesn't quite mesh with what you've stated regarding his criminal acts: "No question, Tom: he would have been indicted. The probability is he would have been convicted. It would have been a long, tortuous appeal. The odds are he would have gone to jail." The rest I won't get into; there's a lot we agree on (the hubris of Clinton) and a lot we don't (my sons, their families, friends, etc., are very well-informed politically, although there will always be those that can't be educated no matter how hard we try). The fact is, it's another day and it's up to US, all of us, to keep the Congressional feet to the fire, to stop this bipartisan nonsense and work for us, not the lobbyists, cronies or anyone who is not a registered voter (i.e., also a citizen). Back in the day, voting wasn't secret and only landowners had the privilege; sometimes I think that's what we're headed back to. - Karen

This was a comment left on last night's blog entry by my friend Karen.  I want to respond to her comment with all the respect it deserves.  I may sound ignorant or misled, but that is my problem to deal with.

So .... here goes:

Karen,

I agree fully with President Ford's assessment of the situation involving President Nixon and backs up the point I was trying to make in my blog entry.  There is no doubt in my mind that President Nixon would have been impeached by the House then convicted by a bi-partisan Senate in 1974.  After that, I doubt he would have been indicted in the civilian courts or spend time incarcerated but if he had been, it would have not have been due to "criminal acts" but rather because he was President at a time when elected leaders were held accountable for things that happened under their watch.

There was a time when elected officials were held accountable for their actions or inactions.  Senator Joe McCarthy was censured in the Senate because of the way he ran the Committee on unAmerican Activities and rightfully so.  Do you remember Senator Bob Packwood?  The Senator kept a private journal which was somehow discovered.  In this journal he wrote of sexual fantasies involving female members of his staff.  He never showed them to anyone, never read them to anyone but once discovered, Senator Packwood was forced to resign from the Senate.

It was a different time and times have changed dramatically over the years.  When the Articles of Impeachment came out of committee, the following day President Nixon was visited by a group of Senators.  It was a Republican group of Senators led by Senator Barry Goldwater.  They knew that President Nixon had to be held accountable for illegal activity that occurred during his administration, whether he had actually done anything or had knowledge of anything that was going on under his watch.  President Nixon did the right thing and resigned.  His Vice President, Spiro Agnew, had resigned two years earlier because of tax irregularities.  Agnew was held accountable for his past taxes and forced to resign.  My current Representative in the House is fighting a lawsuit by the IRS for back taxes in the thousands of dollars, yet he still holds office and was re-elected last night.  Times have changed.

The system did have a big hiccup under Reagan with Iran-Contra.  The system slipped a bit as Reagan's Administration made it through the investigation.

When President Clinton took office and was sued for sexual harassment by women during his governorship in Arkansas , we should have seen it coming.  The investigation into illegal use of the FBI led to whether he was using his power to have sexual relations while President.  While nothing was proved of criminal activity by Nixon, Clinton gave us plenty of evidence of criminal activity during the investigation.  He tampered with a witness to a Federal Grand Jury by trying to force Monica Lewinsky to perjure herself.  That by itself is a felony which is cause for impeachment and removal from office.  But he went even further.  He perjured himself at least three times during his testimony before the Grand Jury, three more felonies, all a cause for impeachment and removal from office.  Then he took his case to the American people, pointing his finger at us and lied to us.

The trial of Clinton was one of the most partisan actions I can remember.  Despite all of the evidence, Democrats voted to aquit the President.  That in and of itself was a slap in the face to the American people but after the verdict he walked out on the White House Lawn followed by all these Democrats as a show of unity.  It was also a final flip of a single finger to the American people.  The system had failed miserably.

You once told me that thanks to President Nixon, you were cynical when it came to politics.  I think you have it wrong.  The system worked when Nixon stepped out of line.  That should be a positive thing.  The system was working.  As President Clinton flipped the country off, the system failed.  Total breakdown.  That is when I became cynical and when I would think you would as well.  Clinton stood there and told us the law does not apply to him, and it evidently didn't.

The other part of causing me to be cynical is the way campaigns are run these days.  Times have changed.  Half truths are thrown out by both parties as gospel.  Appearing on talk shows instead of being out among the people is the new standard.  There was a poll taken a few years ago where an astonishing number of the youth in this country perceived the Jon Stewart show to be actual news while it was in fact satire.  I meant no disrespect to your children or family in stating what I did.  I do however stand by the fact that the average American voter these days is less knowledgeable then forty years ago.  This is particularly disturbing considering the mass communications we have access to these days.

This is what has made me cynical and I hope it is a good response to your comment.  The system has been breaking down slowly.  Political philosophies are now stated in short sound bites instead of deep explanations.

I am proud to be an American.  I am respectful of my right to vote and my right to say what I feel.  I am extremely respectful of how this country has peaceful and organized transfer of power, unlike any country in the world.  I am also deeply respectful that the will of the people be carried out through elections.  That is what will happen next January 20.  Once again the will of the people will be carried out as President Obama begins his second term as our President.  It is a good thing.  It is this basic tenant that keeps this country running strong.  Four years from now, somebody else will take the helm of our country and we will continue on, whether it be a Democrat or a Republican.

Yes I am cynical of the campaign process and cynical of the overwhelming partisanship that sets us back a little.  Even though the system totally failed in dealing with President Clinton, it still survives and that is why I will continue to vote.

I may be "misled and ignorant", but I  will continue to speak and to vote in a way that I feel is best for the country.  I will also accept the outcome of these elections without malice but with respect of the will of the American People.

Times were different.  Times have changed.  My sincerest wish for this country is that we take a step back to times of decades past, and become a united country once again.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

I AM A CYNICAL VOTER

I grew up in a very patriotic family who took the right to vote very seriously.  Politics were argued often between my uncles and their father and as a child I sat and listened and took it all in.  I loved history and every election held was history in the making.  It was during these times of listening that the simple basics of my political philosophy were born. 

In 1968 I was in the sixth grade and it was an election year.  We discussed the election in school most of that fall and I became truly fascinated with an election for the first time in my life.  I followed the candidates on the evening news as they were followed around the country talking to people face to face.  I watched with fascination both conventions that year.  I watched the devastating Democratic convention in Chicago which showed riots in the streets.  I was proud when Senator McGovern picked my senator, Tom Eagleton, as his vice presidential running mate.  A few days later I look on in confusion as Eagleton was pulled from the ticket and replaced by Sergeant  Shriver, a member of the Kennedy clan.  McGovern lost the election the moment he pulled Eagleton from the ticket.  Then I watched the Republican convention, a peaceful united party nominating one of the democrats most hated republicans, Richard Nixon.

During the campaign the candidates traveled the country meeting the citizens one on one and explaining where they stood on the issues.  It seemed to me that Richard Nixon held a stronger handle on foreign policy during the campaign.  This was important because the country was in the middle of a war in Vietnam that was not a popular war.  It was perhaps the most unpopular war up to this time in our county's history.  Nixon became President Nixon rather easily in 1968 thanks in part to George Wallace of Alabama taking the whole southeastern block of states from McGovern.  I sat up Most of that night watching the returns come in well past the time when they declared Nixon the next President of the United States.  I went to school the next day very tired, but very pleased with myself.  It was the beginning of a tradition I would follow every four years faithfully ... until tonight.

As I write this, I hear gunshots outside so I checked the CNN web site and saw that they are projecting another four years of President Obama.  Although that means my choice lost, the country will survive another four years.  We always have and we always will.  Might be rough going and sacrifices may need to be made, but the country will be okay.  Now, back to my cynicism. 

During the 1972 election, a little break in at the Democratic Headquarters at the Watergate Hotel would give the press enough fodder to drive President Nixon out of office, even though he never broke the law or obstructed justice.  He did not tamper with witnesses, but it got to be such a distraction for the country that the republican leadership in the congress suggested to President Nixon that he should resign.  Being the classy man that he was and realizing what was best for the country, that is what Nixon did on August 5, 1974.  At the time it was a low point in our history, but we had no idea how low things could go in the future.

During the next few elections, the campaigns were run with class and properly.  Reagan and Carter followed their predecessors by traveling the country meeting with citizens one on one and had some very respectful debates.  The pattern was followed in 1984 as Reagan ran against Walter Mondale.  In 1988 as Vice President Bush ran against Governor Dukakis the pattern of how a campaign should be run was again followed.  Then came the year 1992 where the first steps of the classic campaign began to fall.

I first noticed it when Governor Clinton of Arkansas showed up on MTV for a "town meeting".  It was the first step toward my total cynical look at campaigns.  During the MTV show, one of the potential voters asked Clinton what kind of underwear he wore.  Let me say that again.  To this voter, a young lady, one of the most important issues in her little head was what kind of underwear the man who would be the next President wore.  What was worse than the question being asked?  Clinton actually answered the question.  Instead of explaining that the election process in the United States was a serious process and should be treated as such, he answered what many would think to be a private matter that was of no business to the general population.  This was where my cynical nature of elections began.

Forward to Clinton's second term.  He was being sued by two women for sexual harassment.  He hid behind his office of President to protect himself from lawsuits for actions taking place before he became President.  Then came THE investigation.  It started as an investigation into the unlawful use of FBI files that the President reportedly using to pushing for votes on issues that his administration wanted to ram through.  He never turned over the files claiming they couldn't be found, thus ignoring a subpoena by the Special Prosecutor. During the course of the investigation, it came out that he was having extra marital sex in the oval office.  The man who was proud to tell the world what kind of underwear he wore suddenly found himself thinking that there are somethings in his private life that the country had no business of knowing.  He tampered with a witness to a Federal Grand Jury by trying to force Monica Lewinsky into lying to the Grand Jury.  He went on television and pointed his finger at the american people and lied to us, saying that he did not have sex with this woman, as a matter of fact he hardly knew her.  He then perjured himself to the Grand Jury, a felony, at least three times and was rightfully impeached.  The incredible part was this man who had witness tampered, committed perjury and lied directly to the American People was acquitted by a partisan Democratic Senate.  It was the most blatant example of the President being above the law ever.  While Nixon had decided that the country needed to move on and resigned, Clinton was egotistical enough to commit felonies while in office and say he was above the law.  The FBI files were eventually found after the impeachment trial ... on a table in the living quaters of the White House.  How could I not be cynical after that?

Then came the election of 2000.  Back to Richard Nixon for moment.  In the election of 1960, Kennedy and Nixon had one of the closest elections in history.  The vote coming from Illinois did not come in until the early morning hours.  As was documented in Theodor White's "The Making Of A President-1960" everyone knew that Mayor Daley of Chicago was holding the Cook County votes until the southern part of the state reported so that he would know how many votes Kennedy would need to take Illinois and thus the election.  White even quotes Bobby Kennedy as saying that Daley was coming through.  Richard Nixon knew what was going on.  He knew Daley and what he could do in Chicago.  Nixon advisers tried to get  him to demand a recount, but Nixon said no.  It would not be good for the country.  In the year 2000,  George Bush won an extremely close election.  Vice President Al Gore was not as classy as Nixon though.  They recount votes for a month after the election until finally the Supreme Court had to decide that enough was enough and rightfully give the Presidency to Bush.  Yet another step on my way to being cynical about whether these men want whats good for the country or just want power no what the effect it would have on the country.

Now comes the completeness of my cynicism.  The last two elections have shown a new way of campaigning.  Obama found that an easy way to get to voters with softball questions was to hit the talk show circuit.  I still can't believe our election process has come to this.  Candidates, primarily Obama, hitting the Letterman Show, The View, Late Night, and the worst of all, appearing on the comedy channel on a satiric news show.  I can snicker at the thought of Obama being on the comedy channel.  There is a certain symmetry to it.  But then the serious side of my philosophy on politics and how campaigns should be run kick in.  It has become a joke.  Candidates, through PACs, throw out half truths or half lies at their opponents and treat it as the truth.  Both parties take part in this.  No longer does a candidate travel the country meeting with the citizenry on a face to face basis.  Much better to sit and have some light hearted banter with David Letterman, Whoopi Goldberg, or Jon Stewart.

I voted this year.  I voted by researching the actual facts instead of the half truths.  I did not vote a straight ticket, I seldom do.  I vote for the man and his beliefs and philosophy, not on how well Jon Stewart likes him.  I have been lumped in with voters who are haters, bigots, misinformed.  I challenge that picture of me as a voter.  I take my right to vote very seriously and I do not take it lightly enough to even pay attention to what a candidate says on a talk show.  It is the candidate out with the people that you find out what kind of candidate he truly is.

It seems as though, as younger voters enter into the voting booths, America does not take casting their vote with the seriousness that it deserves.

Yes, I am a very cynical voter.  I do not believe that campaigns should be run the way they are and that votes should be cast for the reasons they are.

God Bless America .... we need it.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

BEST ELEMENTARY TEACHERS

My life of education that included first grade through sixth grade were spent at Symington Elementary School.  Symington was a fairly new school when I was attending as the Hickman Mills School District was taking in the baby boomers and growing at a rapid pace.  The district was growing as houses continued to be built to the south of the city to accommodate families whose fathers were coming back home from World War Two and Korea in the fifties.  By the time I arrived at Symington, the great tornado of fifty seven had already gone through and destroyed much of the school district and recovered while the community had rebuilt and began to thrive again.

Symington Elementary was named in honor of one of Missouri's better known Senators, Stuart Symington.  He was well known and well respected throughout the nation.  He ran for President twice, and was the country's first Secretary of the Air Force.

The area had been incorporated by Kansas City but the school district remained disconnected from the city.  The residents of Hickman Mills and Ruskin wanted to hold onto their schools.  It was a wise move that the community accomplished as their school taxes were not going into the Kansas CIty School District, but rather the dollars were staying to build their own schools.

The Hickman Mills District drew some very good teachers when it was still fairly new.  Nearly all of the teachers I had made a profound mark on my life as I grew.  This post is about five of the teachers I had while attending Symington.  I have already written about some of them and in the future have plans to go into a detailed discussion about how some of these teachers had an effect on me.  For now though, it will only be a short description of these teachers and the basics of what I remember being the main remembrance of what I learned from them. )Later I plan on doing the same thing in regards to my high school years at Ruskin).

#5 - MR MADISON:  Coach Madison came to teach at Symington during the year I was in the fifth grade.  Coach Madison was a fairly stoic man who took his job of teaching physical education to young kids very seriously.  I am tempted to say it could have been his first job in the teaching field but that is just a guess on my part.  I remember that Coach Madison brought out in me the desire to step it up a notch while doing athletics.   The fifth and sixth graders played intramural football and basketball during the year.  During the intramural seasons, coach would stay late and put in extra time so that his students could learn competitive sports.  It was with Coach Madison that I first discovered that I had a talent and a love for basketball.  He encouraged me in basketball both my fifth and sixth grade years and during my sixth grade year, he would let me and a couple of other kids stay late to just shoot hoops while he cleaned up the gym before heading home.  When I left Symington to go to Smith-Hale Junior High School, he asked a friend and myself if we wanted to referee the intramural basketball games that year.  We took this as a great honor as we gathered our new found power and used it to keep kids who were where we once were, in line.  It was also during this time that I learned I could run long distances better than average.  Long distance in Elementary school was only six hundred yards, but I was consistently in the top three when we ran the six hundred.  I would carry this with me as I grew older and would run on my own or with Ronnie.  Coach Madison was still teaching at Symington during the six years that my son attended there.  My son had the same experience with Coach Madison that I had, indicating how consistent the coach was during all of his years at the school.

#4 - MRS. WINGATE:  When I was first thinking about the teachers at Symington, I found I had a tendency to disregard Mrs. Wingate.  She was my sixth grade teacher and she could be tough.  She wasn't a very fun teacher.  She forcefully kept us in line everyday.  Even recess was something that was meant to be taken seriously.  You go outside to excersize, not to stand around and talk.  She would call us out during class time if we were not paying very close attention to the lessons.  I remember one day I was flirting with my longtime classmate Karen, when Mrs. Wingate got to the point of having enough of it.  She called me on my actions in front of the whole class, embarrassing both Karen and myself.  (If Karen is reading this, well I am sorry for that).  Looking back on the year with Mrs. Wingate though, I find that she had a big job to accomplish with her sixth graders.  She had the task of not only teaching us what we were supposed to be learning as sixth graders, but to take us to the next level of maturity to prepare us for what we would face as seventh graders the following year.  This would be the last year that we would have one teacher all day long.  It would be the last time that we would do homework for one teacher knowing how to do it because we knew what that one teacher expected.  The next year would find us at Smith-Hale Junior High where we would have five or six different teachers during the day.  We would have homework assigned from these teachers who didn't necessarily know how much homework the other teachers were putting on us.  We would be moving from classroom to classroom five or six times a day.  She spent the year teaching us to have confidence and do homework that is assigned and do it on time.  She taught us how to jump quickly from subject to subject and to keep our thought processes on track. Her class was the jumping off point to a new way of education that was foreign to us but would become the norm for the rest of our academic lives.   Mrs. Wingate probably had the toughest job of all my teachers up to this point and looking back, she did a fine job of it.

#3 - MR. ALLARD:  I probably had less class time with Coach Allard then any other teacher during my years at Symington, but he, along with his wife, had a substantial influence on my life not only in school but outside of school as well.  He started out as a sixth grade teacher who my sister had when she was at Symington.  He then switched over to physical education for a year, maybe two years, and that was where my contact with him happened.  While in school as a gym teacher, his main thing was to teach you to enjoy life, to have fun and not to take yourself too seriously.  He had a great sense of humor that could embarrass you but at the same time you would realize that while he was taking the time to do that, it would be because he liked you and respected you.  Of course he demanded respect in return and he got it from every kid who had contact with him.  He did all of the things that were required of a gym teacher, but when he had the time he would go way outside the box and have some fun with games.  Outside the classroom, he had his own kid's sports organization called Jays Athletic Club.  He would take kids that he taught and invite them to join.  It was through the club that Mr Allard was able to continue teaching the things he had taught us in school.  He had a boys football team, a couple of baseball teams, a girls softball team and a girls basketball team.  While he coached us outside of school he emphasized the meaning of team play.  No one player was greater than the team as a whole.  It took the whole team to achieve success and to have fun.  This was the main lesson I learned from him and it has served me well as I have grown into an adult and started a career.  Teamwork is essential for success and sometimes you may be required to make a sacrifice for the team to succeed.  I still carry this very important lesson with me to this day.  Thank you Mr. Allard.  In my mind, you are a great man.

#2 - MRS. FITZWATER:  Mrs Fitzwater was my fourth grade teacher and the first teacher I remember that encouraged her students to use their spare or free time doing something productive.  Mrs. Fitzwater's definition of being productive in the classroom was to read books.  She had more books in her classroom than the school library had.  Okay, I am sure that is not true, but at the time it seemed like it.  Whenever we got an assignment finished before the allotted class time for the assignment had expired, she would ask us if we had something to read.  If we didn't, she would send us to the back wall to find something to read.  She had a collection of books that covered almost any topic.  She had fiction and non-fiction, history and science and even some books about sports.  She also kept a small pile of magazines that were constantly circulated into the classroom and then out, keeping a fresh supply at all times.  The second half of the year, she began to give us extra credit, to a point, for book reports that we would do on our own time.  No one was to be idle in her classroom.  If you had nothing else to work on, there was always a book that needed reading.  Going into her class that year I had already developed a penchant for reading.  I loved books and so when I discovered her collection of books along the back wall, I was in heaven.  Sometimes I think she made extra time for assignments knowing that the majority of the class would complete it long before time was up, thereby ensuring that most of her students had a portion of the day to read.  It was being in the atmosphere of Mrs Fitzwater's class that cemented my love of reading into being a part of my life even today.  By her insistence that we read and that we learn the joy of reading, her teaching me has lasted long after I left her classroom for the last time.  In a way, she is still teaching me today.

#1 - Mrs. Bledsoe:  I was extremely nervous the first day that I walked into my third grade classroom for the first time.  I think it was because of the placement of the room.  One wing of the school housed all the first and second graders.  The other wing was where the fourth and fifth graders resided while the sixth grade classrooms were in the basement.  The third grade rooms were kind of spread out between the two wings in spaces that were situated around the main entrance, the gym and the cafeteria line of the school.   It made going into the third grade feel like a period of transition between the little kids and the older ones.  It was time to really start learning. or that is how it felt at the time.  Mrs Bledsoe was young and dedicated to her job.  She was sensitive to each of her students during the course of the year.  She was never too busy to give us some one on one time if we needed it.  The big thing I remember learning in her class was mathematics.  She was introducing us to our first complex thinking in math in the form of base systems.  This was part of the "new" math that was coming out at the time.  Teachers were teaching better and faster ways to solve problems than the old standard methods.  Today, the new math is old I suppose, but at the time, the new math presented a whole new way of thinking about mathematics.  Sometimes it had the effect of confusing parents who were trying to help their children with their homework.  Mrs Bledsoe knew how to teach.  She had a special way of communicating ideas to us third graders.  She always seemed acutely aware if something was not being understood by the class, no matter what the subject.  She seemed to always make sure that we "got it".  I did a lot of growing up that year in her class.  I learned a lot about myself under her guidance.  Her class was indeed a transition class, and she made the transition seem flawless.  In my mind through all the years, Mrs. Bledsoe stands out as a very special teacher.


Friday, October 12, 2012

BETTING ON THE FUTURE CAN BITE YOU

Once upon a time the college sporting scene was stable.  There were plenty of conferences who were more or less equal with each other in varying sports.  Everyone knew which college was in which conference and things were right with the world.  Then there came a small hiccup in the conferences that no one foresaw the effect it would in the future.

The Southwestern Conference which included mostly Texas schools and Arkansas collapsed.  It was losing money at a rapid pace and so the members of the conference decided to disband.  The various schools joined other conferences.  The Big Eight became the Big Twelve as it absorbed the majority of the Southwestern Conference.  Arkansas went to the Southeastern Conference allowing it to grow and strengthen itself a bit.  After that for several years things seemed to settle back down and the Big Twelve became just as natural as it was when it was the Big Eight or the Big Six.  Once again things were alright in the college sporting world.

Then a few years back, schools began to jump conferences on a whim.  Nebraska left the Big Twelve to join the Big Ten and Colorado saw a better future in the PAC Ten then they had in the Big Twelve.  Suddenly rumors were running rampant on many other schools leaving the conferences they were in to join other conferences.  Missouri was caught up in this as it was speculated that they would join Nebraska in joining the Big Ten.  It didn't happen though and it seemed like the Big Twelve was stable once again and that Missouri would stay there forever and continue the strong rivalry with Kansas.

It was about this time when I was making one of my visits to see my sister and her kids and grand children in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, home of the Alabama Crimson Tide.  One night I was talking to my nephew Hayden about football.  Oh he was going on and on about how great Alabama was and how they could and would beat Missouri in football anytime, anywhere.  He was so confident he offered a bet to me.  His bet was that if Alabama ever played Missouri, which ever one of us lost would have to wear the other's colors for a full year  Meaning if Alabama won, I would wear Tide gear for a year but if Missouri won, he would have to wear Mizzou gear for a year.

I thought this over and decided to take him up on his little bet.  After all, my reasoning went, the chances of Mizzou and Bama meeting on the football field were extremely remote and if they did ever play, surely it would be in a bowl game when the two teams were more or less evenly matched.  The bet was made and forgotten.  Well it was forgotten in my mind, but Hayden never forgot.

As the years went by Alabama began going through one of their power cycles in football.  They were always ranked in the top five it seemed.  Missouri wasn't doing too bad either.  They were consistently in the top fifteen and once were ranked number one for awhile.  Still the chances of the two teams meeting seemed a little far fetched.

Then disaster happened.  The Southeastern Conference decided to expand.  They offered a spot in their conference to the Big Twelve's Texas A and M which the Aggies jumped on immediately.  Then came something I wasn't prepared for or expecting.  The SEC came calling on the doorstep of Missouri.  What this meant was that if Mizzou joined the SEC, they would be in the same conference as Alabama, increasing the chances of a game between the two.

When Mizzou did join the SEC I was relieved that they were put in the opposite division of Alabama.  This meant they would only play Bama once every five or six years, which would buy me time for Mizzou to improve in football and for Bama to slip a little.  All was not lost.

During the time negotiations were going on for Mizzou to join the SEC, Alabama won a National Championship and made a run at another one.  I had to pray that it would be awhile before Missouri found Alabama on their schedule.  Last year Missouri was moved over to the SEC and the football schedules were released.  My heart sank as I looked at the schedule and saw that on my birthday of the year 2012, Alabama would be coming to Columbia to play Mizzou.  To make matters worse, Alabama won their  second National Championship in three years as last season closed out.

I began telling Hayden that we never specified FOOTBALL as the event in which Mizzou would meet Bama.  We hadn't specified any event at all.  Missouri was ranked in the top five in Gymnastics, baseball and softball as last year started to wind down.  I began hoping that Mizzou would meet Bama in one of these sports where they had a fighting chance.  It didn't happen.  As a matter of fact, Bama won the Softball National Championship without having to face Mizzou.  They won the Gymnastics Championship.  They did have a meet with Mizzou and Mizzou lost but I then reasoned that the Gymnastics loss did not count because a ball wasn't used in the sport.  I set my sights on a probable softball meeting between the two schools, but Mizzou got knocked out of the tournament early as Bama went on to win it all.  The next time that Mizzou would meet Alabama would be on the football field in Columbia on October 13, 2012.

I have talked to Hayden and his little brother Conner since then and they are ready.  As I was talking trash to Hayden on Skype one night about the bet, Conner was leaning over the back of the chair pointing his finger at me and yelling, "You're going DOWN Uncle Bill ... you are GOING DOWN!"

Well, the devil has come to collect his dues this weekend.  Alabama is undefeated and ranked number one in the country as they come to Missouri to play.  Missouri has played, and lost, three SEC football games already.  Alabama comes in off of a week off and well rested.  MIssouri enters the game after a disappointing loss to Vanderbilt.  Mizzou;s offensive line is in tatters from injuries and will be forced to use freshman on the line.  Not only that, but Mizzou's great Quarterback, James Franklin, is injured and will not play leaving Missouri with a freshman to guide the team against the number one ranked defending National Champions.

It doesn't bother me to wear Alabama attire. I do a lot of the time anyway between my hats and t-shirts.  I try to keep finding these little things that makes Hayden winning the bet a good thing for the kid.  I can handle the loss.  I have already accepted the fact that it is going to be a disaster on Saturday.  I am ready to pay the devil off for making a foolish bet several years ago on the future with my nephew.  It will be good for his confidence to beat his Uncle Bill.  It will be a good, fun day for both Hayden and Conner.  They will sit in front of their television in Northport, just outside of Tuscaloosa, and have a fun time watching Bama beat up on a helpless Mizzou team.  They will have some laughs thinking about poor Uncle Bill sitting up in Kansas City watching Bama reign supreme over the Tigers of Missouri.

I can deal with it.  I don't think it will bother me at all.  The fact that Missouri is starting their affiliation with the SEC with four consecutive losses will not effect my emotions at all.  At least one time a day for the next year I will proudly put on a Bama cap for a few seconds to fulfill my payment of the bet.

The lesson learned?  We never know what the future holds.  Because we never know what will be happening years down the road, it is probably best not to make a bet on the future with a ten year old from Alabama.  I can promise that it will never happen again.

Happy Birthday Uncle Bill ... and welcome to the SEC.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

SO IT'S OCTOBER

Here I sit knowing I haven't written an entry in quite a while.  It isn't that I have not wanted to write because I have.  Now we are close to halfway through October and I haven't made an entry for the entire month.

I can think of several reason that I haven't written.  One thing is that I am really trying to keep from writing about politics.  I know I have written a couple about politics, but it was because I felt something needed to be said.  Truth is, this election year has disgusted me more than any other election I can remember.  From the Presidential campaign down to my Representative in the U.S. House have been so lacking in class that it isn't worth talking about.  I will vote, but I am trying not to get too involved in it this year.  The toughest race in Missouri this year is a Republican who has made national headlines for stupidity and an incumbent Democrat who says one thing while doing the opposite for the last six years.


Then there is the fact that I could write entry after entry about Missouri's first year in the Southeastern Conference in spite of losing their first three SEC games with Alabama coming to visit this weekend.  I could write about hoping for an upset that will not happen Saturday.  What I am too aware of is the fact that I could really burn out some of my readers on the topic and have to defend my statements about the upcoming game after the massacre is completed.

I could write some more about the heart attack that struck me on August 28 and the rehab I am going through right now to get myself back to healthy.  I could write about the changes in excersize and diet
and how I am feeling the effects of everything that comes along with a heart attack.  I plan on writing about those topics in the future.  It seems like I still have a lot to learn about what happened to me though and feel it would be better if I had a better understanding of it.

The World Series is coming up and I imagine I will be writing some about baseball in the next few weeks.  I thought about writing about Detroit's Cabrera winning the Triple Crown in baseball and how it is the first time that my son ever saw a Triple Crown winner in his lifetime.  Although I am very happy to see someone win the Triple Crown after all these years, it also has a sad side to it for me.  You see, the last time someone won a Triple Crown was way back in 1967 when Carl Yastrzemski took the Triple Crown.  If you have been reading me for a good while, you then know that Yaz was and is and always will be one of my biggest heroes from the world of baseball.  Yaz is no longer the last player to win the Triple Crown.  I am dealing with that.

I could write about depression and anxiety but even I get tired of writing about that part of my life.  It is so depressing sometimes.

A post about the trees changing in Missouri this fall would be rather bland.  The summer drought started taking the beauty out of the trees about the last week of July.  The blandness of the trees are carrying through to the fall.  The colors just aren't quite as bright as they usually are and they are changing color much slower.  It is the blandest fall I can remember in this wonderful beautiful state.

I thought about posting a poem or a song, but that is the lazy way out of writing.  It has been so long since I have written I feel like I should at least make an effort to write something intelligible instead of putting up someone else's words.

The Supreme Court is busy hearing arguments now and there are going to be some big cases that could effect all of us in the United States.  I am looking forward to this term of the Court.  Since the Chief went rogue on conservatives to end last years session, everyone who follows the court is watching with great interest to see how he responds during this term.

 So you see, I do have a lot to write about.  I am not sure which topics I want to hit and in what order.  I will address these things though and now that I have got something written down, I am hoping it will break up the writer's block that I am fighting.

So this is the first entry for October of 2012.  It is a post about nothing.  It worked for Seinfeld, I see no reason why it shouldn't work for me.

Now I make a promise.  Not a promise to my readers, but a promise to myself.  I am going to get back on the writing train.  There are a lot of things that have happened as I described, but there are also a lot of things that are going to happen.  Time for me to get back on top of things.

Thanks for the patience.  I say that to you, as well as myself.

Friday, September 28, 2012

DUMBING DOWN OF POLITICS AND TECHNOLOGY.

There was a time when this country was young.  People from different areas of the country sent men that they knew very well to go to the Capitol and represent them and their concerns.  These men shaped the country and it didn't matter what they looked like or sounded like.  What mattered was what they thought and how they relayed those thoughts through words and actions.  For the national campaigns, the men who represented the people of their districts would tell the people what they thought of those running for higher office and the word would spread.  Pamphlets would be written either against a candidate or for another and these writings would spread around the country.  The pole would vote for electors who would go to the Capitol and cast a vote for who they represented back home.  The president and the vice president were not necessarily of the same party.  Who ever got the second highest number of votes would be vice president.  It was a system that worked well for the time period.  There was not mass communication and the decisions made by the voters were based on philosophy, pure philosophy.  This system gave us Washington, Adams, Jefferson, Monroe and Madison.  All of these men are consistently ranked towards the top when listing the greatest presidents we have had.

Then came the age of the newspapers, the telegraph, and the railroads.  The newspapers would cover a candidate and editorialize on them.  The men running for high office would make speeches and the text of those speeches would be wired around the country.  Newspapers began putting sketches of the candidates so people could see somewhat what these men looked like but it was still the words that got the attention.  Newspapers also began to editorialize with cartoons, and the publisher was able to spread rumors about those running for office.  Sometimes it had an effect, often it did not.  It was the time where Lincoln and Douglass began to debate around Illinios in front of their constituents.  The text of these debates were wired around so that there was a definite knowledge of the difference between the philosophies as well as the intelligence  of the two office seekers.  News would spread fast over the wires and we still sent electors to Washington to cast votes for how the people of each district voted.

The age of the radio then came upon us and for the first time people could hear the words coming from the candidate in his own voice.  This, I believe was the first small step backwards in the politics of the United States.  There were men who used the radio well.  Coolidge and Hoover did not know how to use the radio but Franklin Roosevelt did and he used the radio to get elected four times to the presidency.  He was a master at inflection and pacing his words so that the people would be captured by hearing him and what he had to say.  During this time a man by the name of Thomas Dewey ran against President Truman and it was partly the use of radio that determined who won.  Truman sounded like an ordinary man.  He talked with ordinary words that people could understand while Dewey talked in a more somber voice that came off as too serious and not as human as Truman.

The movie theaters then began showing candidates making their peaches and it brought people face to face with how a candidate looked as he talked.  It showed them the man's movements that went along with his voice inflections.  Towards the end of the Eisenhower era, television made a small impact and people were able to see the great General talk as a country boy run against Stevenson who talked like a college  professor using words that many of the people had not heard before.  It cost him the election because people could understand Ike, and know that Ike knew what their concerns were.  They weren't sure what Stevenson was talking about.

Then came the election of 1960.  Television made it's first huge impact.  Once again the two candidates debated, but this time it was televised into homes across the nation.  Two powerful and intelligent men would face off and in the end, it would be how they were perceived on television that made a difference in one of the closest elections up to that time.  Kennedy came off as relaxed, smooth and a well spoken man as well as a handsome man.  For Nixon the television was a disaster that would follow him his whole career.  Nixon looked tired, he didn't talk as smoothly as Kennedy and he had a look about him that was almost mean looking.  It was a match that in Lincoln's time, made have had a different outcome, but in 1960, the new use of television gave Kennedy a clear advantage.  Kennedy played to the television better than anyone would until Ronald Reagan came on the scene.  Reagan mastered the airwaves and rode the television to two terms in office.

Television then expanded with the arrival of cable TV across the nation.  It was a new medium that no one particularly thought about except for one candidate.  Bill Clinton realized that he could use cable tv to pin point who is audience would be from night to night.  The next step down on the fall of politics came the night that Clinton was on MTV talking to an audience of young people who were just learning about politics as they came of age to vote.  The big question that night from the electorate?  A girl in the audience asked Clinton what kind of underwear he wore.  This was the sign of how things were now heading.  Clinton laughed a little and then unabashedly answered the question.  That should have been a red flag for what the future would bring in the Clinton administration but it didn't.  It was also a sign of the further deterioration of how the electorate was starting to think and the kind of questions that would become newsworthy in a campaign.  Clinton used cable TV masterfully to reach different parts of the country and those that would be voting.  He used it so well, he was elected twice and survived an impeachment hearing that included charges of perjury to a federal grand jury which is a felony.

After Clinton, the campaigns began to start to stick their toe slowly into the waters of the internet.  They became good at raising money using the internet and to get their message across somewhat but the master of the internet didn't arrive until 2008.

Barrack Obama is a master at using all of the tools available to him to run for president.  He uses the internet to raise money.  You can't hardly go to any internet page without seeing the President and his wife on it telling us what a wonderful person he is.  He uses Cable and Satellite Tv to make a connection with the voters.  He goes on the talk show circuit where the hosts throw softball questions.  The questions aren't as bad as what kind of underwear he wears, but they don't exactly get down to the important issues of the day either.  I honestly don't think that people expect him to answer questions about policy when he is on the talk shows.  These shows are, after all, for entertainment and he is the best entertainer in politics.  He is the first president that does not make amends for going on the campaign trail and to talk shows instead of meeting with foreign leaders as things heat up in the middle east.  What amazes me is that he is so very good at being a campaigner, that he gets a pass on this from the press for the most part.

We are a mere five weeks away from the election and I am amazed at the knowledge that I don't have about where each of the candidates stand on certain issues and I probably won't by the time election day roles around.

Campaigning has turned into half truths and lies being tossed back and forth.  I don't know what or who to believe anymore.  Running for president does not hold anyone accountable anymore and past records mean nothing.  For one thing, we don't really know what the past record of these men really are.  Things get exaggerated and filled with half truths on both sides of the aisle.

People use the internet now to repeat these lies and half truths to an audience that we haven't had before via social networks on the internet.  Citizens are probably more engaged in discussing the election then ever before, but how do we separate truth from lies or exaggerations?  The half truths are the toughest because there is a hint of truth to the facts that people can hang on to and make their decisions using.

A friend of mine said that she was cynical when it came to the election.  She has been cynical since 1972 more or less.  I can understand where she is coming from.  I am cynical as well.  Cynicism is probably running rampant through out the country when it comes to politics and who can blame us?  I know I feel very cynical about both candidates.  The sad thing is I will vote come election day.  The really sad thing is that most citizens probably vote against a candidate because we don't feel comfortable voting for a candidate.  It has truly become the lesser of two evils being elected to run this great country and serious discussions are few and far between.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

SONG FOR BRETT AND STALKER

If you are a regular reader of this thing I call a blog or know me at all, you know that I absolutely love music.  I listen to music all day at work and when I go to bed at night.  I prefer music that not only is good melodically, but music that has lyrics that mean something, that carry a philosophy or message with them.

There are lots of songwriters that fit into this mold.  Dylan, Paul Simon, Springsteen and many others.  One of those songwriters is a woman named Melissa Etheridge.  Etheridge writes songs of the heart and songs of her life.  She is a midwestern girl from Leavenworth, Kansas so she is almost a hometown girl.  I fell in love with her music several years ago.  The thing about Etheridge is that no matter if the song is a rocker or a mellow blues, you always are drawn to her words when you hear her.  There was one time, however, when she had some fun with a song and wrote a little satire on being in love with someone who wants you to go away.  The first time I heard "Must Be Crazy For Me" it caught me off guard and made me smile.  It is one of my favorite songs of hers.

What brings me to this is that last night as I went to bed I decided to listen to some Etheridge.  As I was listening, "Must Be Crazy For Me" came up on the MP3 player.  I hadn't heard it in a while and when it started I smiled a bit and listened to the words of a person who is totally in love and can't get it through her head that her affections were not being returned.  This brought my son. Brett, to mind.  Brett went through this kind of situation a year or so ago when he received a stalker into his life.

I am not going to name names.  We'll call her S.  Well, somebody set Brett and S up for a date and Brett took her out a few times.  Brett liked her well enough but more as a friend instead of a serious prospect for the future.  S did not see things the same way though.  She would call Brett all hours of the night and day demanding that he come and see her or take her out.  This went on for a long time and soon she did indeed become a stalker.

Brett came home from work one day and S was sitting in her car outside of his apartment wanting to know if every thing was okay, after all she hadn't heard from him for almost twenty four hours.  

Soon text messages began to scroll onto Brett's phone at an almost non-stop pace from S wondering where he was, why wasn't he answering his phone and where was he going to take her on her birthday?

It became a nightmare for Brett.  He kept trying to tell her that as a friend, they were okay, but nothing more than that.  The trouble was, S didn't seem to have the capability of drawing a line between being a friend and being a future spouse.  Nothing Brett could say or do could convince S that Brett wasn't madly in love with her.  From her perspective, Brett just didn't realize how much in love he actually was with her.

Finally we got a couple of third parties that knew S and Brett both to intervene to try to get S to stop stalking Brett.  It wasn't until S found someone new to stalk did she stop stalking Brett.  It was a great day in Brett's life when S drifted away from him and let him go free.

As I listened to Etheridge last night and her song "Must Be Crazy For Me" I pictured S sitting by her phone and texting Brett or calling him.  I imagined it was S singing this song instead of Etheridge and I realized that even though Etheridge may have written a satirical song about love not being returned, there was a lot of truth in the song just like all of her other songs.

So I decided to share a moment when Etheridge tried not to be as serious in her song writing as she usually is, but as always, she can't help but throwing a big dose of truth out there that resonates and means something very real to somebody in the world.

MUST BE CRAZY FOR ME - Melissa Etheridge

You tell me not to call you up 
'Cause it ties you down 
Don't tell your friends
You've been hangin' 'round
You must be crazy for me
  
You say, you'll see me once or twice

Every week or two
There's more important things
That you've got to do
You must be crazy for me
 
'Cause when I kissed you last night

In my own backyard 
You ran so fast
And you fought so hard
You must be crazy for me
You must be crazy for me
 
You don't like my hair

You don't like my car
You don't like my friends
You met at the bar
You must be crazy for me 

I see you shake your head

And you roll your eyes 
Your firm remark
To remove my thigh 
You must be crazy for me
 
'Cause when I kissed you last night 

In my own backyard
You ran so fast
And you fought so hard
You must be crazy for me
You must be crazy for me
 
Do not expect you to wait

Do not expect you to phone
Do not expect anything
When I catch you alone, baby
You must be crazy for me
 
'Cause when I kissed you last night

In my own backyard 
You ran so fast
And you fought so hard
You must be crazy for me
You must be crazy for me
 
I know, I know, you're crazy for me, baby

You must be crazy for me, for me I know, you're crazy for me
Come on, come on, I know, you're crazy for me
Crazy for me, you can tell me now I know, you're crazy for me
Crazy for me 
Crazy for me