Thursday, July 30, 2009

A bright and smiling future

As a tagalong to North of 50's ramble the other day; it was wonderful to see my sister's family and spend some quality time with them. All six of them. Yes, in this age of self-indulgence and birth control, they pay no attention. And thank goodness they do not.

It is a very different life they lead in the 'Land of Fruits and Nuts' than I here in the Midwest. My life has taken a slightly different track. My child is older and does not live with us and our home is quietly comfortable with great neighbors and their children to fill our lives, our dog and cat and N of 50 who lives just down the lane. It was a rude awakening to have the dreaded teenagers invade and stay. WOW!

Many adults look to the future and lament the times to come. You've all heard it; "these young people today, blah blah blah blah blah". Yes, the world will come crashing down upon them in their old age, the nightly news will just get worse and they will cower in their homes as they pass into oblivion. To tell you the truth, I don't agree and the offspring of Baby Sis and Mr. Krinkles are case in point.

My nieces and nephew have been raised by loving parents with a common sense approach of discipline and what is necessary in life to succeed. In this life with opulent self-indulgence these children have been raised without the benefit of cable television, cell phones and ipods. Can you believe it? It's a wonder they haven't been put up for child abuse giving in to every whim a child could want. You walk into a room and there sits a child, gasp, reading a book. Yes a book, not a comic or a glitzy magazine. At least two that I am aware of play one or more musical instruments. They are able to carry on a conversation without dropping 'like' and 'ya know' every fifth word. Don't get me wrong, they are still children and do the things siblings are wont to do, argue, pout, whine etc., but one thing I never heard was a negative response back to a parent. Not once in four days at the end of a very long vacation away from home and friends. They have succeeded in something I don't know I could have done, but then again, that is something they are used to. I am not used to four children running around my house on a daily basis.

And it's just not these kids. I have been a retail manager for twenty-five years. I have seen the good and bad as every few years a new crop comes through my doors to ask for a job and learn what it is like to go to work. Most succeed to some extent and move on to other pursuits. But most learn a work ethic, at least some self-discipline and a new sense of what life will require of them, especially when they see what Uncle Sam takes out of their paychecks every week. Boy, that's a shock the first time. Who's this FICA and why does he have all my money? It happens all the time.

So believe me when I say the world will not come crashing down around you as you get older. There are still plenty of great kids down the pike to turn this country over to in the coming years. It doesn't take a village to raise a child, it takes a parent. Be a parent.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

We Are Fam-Uh-Lee!

Yeaterday, Robert T and His Beloved held a 150th birthday party for Baby Sis, Robert T's Beloved, and a certain unnamed female friend of many of us, each of whom have or will turn 50 this year. It was a very nice time together.

It was made special by the appearance, long-planned, of Baby Sis and her family, all the way from The Land of Fruits and Nuts. Baby Sis, her husband Mr. Krinkles, and their children Miracle Baby, BigFoot, MegaByte, and Princess Drama Queen all spent 4+ days with us, the first time we had all been together in many a year. Also in attendance was The Stache and his son, Beloved Father's Initials, and Brother 5. Alas, Graybeard was unable to attend because his wife was ailing. A late appearance by The Queen of NPR (Sainted Mother's side of the family) added a little spice to the night.

Robert T's Beloved's side of the family was in good attendance, as well as numerous family friends from both sides, including Iguana Mom, The Bug Doctor, and their children Gator Bait and Drum King, who are family-just-not-blood-related (as far as we know, anyway!).

Earlier in the week Wonderful Daughter and her family spent a goodly amount of time with the out-of-towners, and Handsome Son made his appearance by long-distance telephony.

A lot of good times were had by all, and stories were re-told as we caught up with old friends and family.

All in all, a most excellent way to spend "quality time" together.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Footprints in the dust

Upon the fortieth anniversary of man landing on the moon we find NASA and the space program wallowing in uselessness. The moon landing became the driving force, the projector that NASA was. After the Apollo program ended there was nothing to do. The space shuttle was invented to keep NASA in business and develop low earth orbit projects. Unfortunately that has developed into nothingness for the American public.

Low earth orbit science does not capture the imagination of the tax-paying public. It may be useful and worthwhile to a small segment but that small segment does not pay for it. NASA needs a grandiose project to capture the imagination of the public once again. Forty years ago it was a magical moment watching Neil Armstrong set foot on the moon. I remember sitting in my parents living room as one of the millions who stopped their lives to watch something that had never happened in the history of the human race; we set foot on another world.

If you think people are not captivated by what happens at NASA, take a look at the Hubble telescope. After ten years it is seen as an icon, a historic marker of achievement by the common person. When it was learned the telescope would not be repaired and would be allowed to fall into the atmosphere and burn up, the uproar heard by the public was enough to make NASA rethink it's decision and send a repair mission to our favorite public-works project.

Some say the money should be used to fix this or that, eliminate homelessness or some other social program. Those problems will always be there no matter how far ahead this country progresses. Someone will always cry poor me, help me. There is something to say for science as science. It still captures the imagination. The deep space probes and the pilotless crafts sent to explore the solar system are fascinating to many. Sometimes it is something that just needs done to satisfy our curiosity.

There is nothing wrong with exploring just to explore. That is what we do as humans and somewhere in that exploration we will improve our lives. Returning to the moon as a jump-off to Mars is as good a project as any.

Besides, we may just find the needed replacement for Tang somewhere along the way.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Because that's the way we wanted it

It is a sad time again when we face our mortality and reflect upon the death of another beloved national figure. Walter Cronkite set the standard for the news through the sixties and seventies. The times were different and a trusted face and voice is how many of us were shepherded through our formative years.

It was through his rock-steady voice and even demeanor that we learned of the assassinations of the Kennedys and Martin Luther King Jr. in the sixties and the turbulent demonstrations of the Vietnam war. Those seem as instances to most who did not grow up in that time but they were an intertwined decade-long event. The social unrest through the sixties rained across the country from the south to the Watts riots in Los Angeles to the student killings on the Kent State campus in the midwest. The earliest events meant little to me as I had no conception of reality as a five year old. But my parents were firm in their habits and Walter Cronkite was the news of choice as I grew up. He is the person that to some extent helped shape my view on the world on a nightly basis.

As a youth I was always fascinated by the space program. The first books I read were about space and adventure. I even had models of the Gemini rockets and capsules. It was my dream. Walter Cronkite was the voice of America to the world when on a July evening in 1969 Neil Armstrong set foot on the moon. I remember watching the event and for one brief moment we were only Americans. We weren't black or white, northern or southerner, we were simply Americans.

I read an article on him this morning. It stated the notion of an 'Uncle Walter' would not work in this day and age. The author called it 'quaint'. People want their news on an interactive basis with hosts having their own blogs and Twitter pages and the content being a two-way street. That might be but that is now and what was then was how today's news grew to be.

Perhaps Walter Cronkite and his style may not work in today's world but then many other things wouldn't either. He was a product of his time and his generation and he was what we as a country needed at the time. It was conceded he was known as 'the most trusted man in America', a title that never was passed on. During an open interview show for President Carter is was decided that he should be the moderator taking the calls because it was felt that no matter what you thought of the president, no one would be rude to Walter Cronkite. Surely Dan Rather nor any of those that followed never gained the hearts and minds of their viewers as the next to occupy that chair.

Goodbye Mr. Cronkite, you will be missed.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

We've all worked for one

I was watching the movie 'Stripes' as I worked out yesterday. I haven't seen it in quite awhile. Mostly for me comedies aren't nearly as funny after several viewings and I try to avoid them. Although it is a classic it falls into the same fate. But, there was nothing else on.

But then it struck me. You know these two guys! We probably all know these two guys. I'm not talking about Bill Murray and Harold Ramis. I mean Captain Stillman and Sergeant Hulka. They are the classic pair and most either know these two or have worked for one or both.

Captain Stillman is the classic doofus who shouldn't be where he is. He is completely incompetent and has a substantially overinflated opinion of himself and his position. He wonders why he can't get ahead. Truth be told he shouldn't have gotten as far as he did. He has no skills, doesn't understand how his organization works or possibly moved ahead without working through the trenches. Sergeant Hulka on the other hand is the hands-on leader who runs things on a day-to-day basis. He must suffer under the 'leadership' of the totally incompetent, a leader who knows nothing of the sergeant's job, who couldn't do the sergeant's job with a roadmap.

I feel for all those who are currently under such leadership. I have worked for Captain Stillman several times. The worst part is when things go wrong it is always someone elses fault. They don't have the knowledge or leadership skills or the respect of others to succeed, thus the blame game.

Thank God for the Hulkas of the world who roll up their sleeves and work through the slop to get the job done. Chances are, if you haven't gotten 'the dirt' under your nails you probably shouldn't be where you are.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Oh, woe is me

Early this morning I was awaken and asked to take my daughter to the hospital. She's fine, she has a bronchial-asthmatic-pneumo sort of thing. I'm not very medical as it goes and she is thirty-one and doesn't need me poking my nose around about things. I'm just the chauffeur. She just needs rest and a little bit of medicine.

As I'm waiting in the outer room for her to be discharged, I happen to overhear, (well actually the woman was broadcasting into her phone) the trials and tribulations of someone who was just released from the ER. She had this and that, her foot was swollen, she had a blood infection and on and on and on. Other than the fact that she was in a public place and yelling into her phone (which is a total other ramble), why did she want everyone within a thousand yards to know what is wrong with her?

When did it become fashionable or even acceptable to air your laundry in public. If someone asks you a question in normal conversation that is one thing but I don't want to know your business. Keep it to yourself. I know several persons that I will not name here that can't have a conversation without listing their latest ailments and current prescriptions. Even then everyone within ear-shot has to hear about it.

What happened to the day when your private business was private? In his later years Beloved Father suffered from a heart condition. As he got older Sainted Mother suggested he get a handicapped plaque for his vehicle. He flatly refused. Part of it was his stubbornness, to which I have the same life affliction, but also, it was no one's business. He wouldn't parade his ailments to the world any more than he would stand in a parking lot and drop his drawers. He had what is known as pride and dignity. That seems to be a lost element in today's society.

It does seem however that those who complain the most about their ills are also those who do the least. They wear that handicapped sign like a badge of honor. They can't work, walk or stand but boy can they complain. They are the first ones to gripe about stores not having wheelchairs or an electric cart. I overheard one man complain that the free cart furnished for his shopping pleasure was too small. Well, lose some weight fatso! It also seems most of those who sport a handicapped sign could cure their problems if they lost half-a-ton.

If the only thing you have to talk or brag about is your lack of good health you have a lot more trouble in life than you think.

Saturday, July 4, 2009


As an old-fashioned unabashed patriot, it is NOT "Happy 4th of Jluy, America!", it's "Happy INDEPENDENCE Day, America!!"

'Nuff said!

Of Gods and Kings II

As a followup to 'Of Gods and Kings' I have again contemplated the deaths of national figures. I asked myself, whose death would give me the most pause and cement my time on this earth in the coming years? As most of the famous I have known grow older and many have already passed away, it seemed a good question.

Many of those I admired in my youth were a result of movies and television in my formative years. Many were the stars of my parents day; Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, John Wayne, Robert Mitchum and many others. I think to some extent entertainers are different somehow today than in by-gone days. Of course that could be a romantic notion from 'simpler' times or just plain ignorance on my part. Certainly sports figures are not the same. It truly has become less about the sport and more about 'me' in this day and age. But, then there is the one who started it all.

He is simply known as 'The Greatest'. He is possibly the most well-known figure in the world and has born that title crossing many generations. He is Muhammad Ali, perhaps the greatest boxer than ever donned the gloves. In his early days he was surely not the most beloved. He was brash and loud-mouthed. He talked incessantly to any sportscaster who held up a microphone. In those days he was also known as 'the mouth'. Whether you liked his politics or not, didn't like him changing his name or not, he stood up for what he believed in even when it cost him what he desired most, the heavyweight title. That doesn't mean what it used to. Today there are so many alphabet soup organizations trying to control boxing that the title means nearly nothing, but back in the day, it was different.

I watched a replay of the 'Rumble in the Jungle' on sports classics. The aging boxer of 32 stood up to the Mike Tyson of his day, George Foreman. Foreman hadn't had a fight last longer than four rounds in two years. He was devastatingly the undisputed heavyweight champion of the world. The boxer outpaced the slugger and shocked the world once again. But Ali also fought back against racism, the turbulent sixties and an era of unrest in America to become one of this nations most beloved men.

Muhammed Ali has transcended the term icon and stands far above any figure I can think of on this stage. His death in the coming years would most likely mark a moment in my life.

He floated like a butterfly and stung like a bee and stood above a sport now tarnished virtually beyond repair. He is simply, 'The Greatest'.