Saturday, June 27, 2009

Lost Angel

Look, I know that Michael Jackson died yesterday. And that is a shame. But lost in the resulting media blather was the fact that an even more memorable entertainer also died yesterday—Farrah.

While I’m sure the artist responsible for Beat It was important to a lot of folks, what red-blooded American male alive during the second half of the seventies could ever forget Jill Munroe? And if he was a newly wed at the time and is still married to the same woman, which of those ladies has ever let him forget that he never forgot Jill Monroe? Rest in peace, Farrah--I don't know where the time went.


Thursday, June 25, 2009

WWII United States Army Air Force

One of the many good things about present day computer technology is the ability it provides to explore an infinite number of subjects in which you might have an interest. One of those many things I have explored is my father’s service during WWII. He was a member of an aircrew based in England and although I had seen his mementoes over the span of our half-century life together, I had little notion of the true nature of his service. He rarely talked about it.

Dad didn’t really measure up to the war heroes portrayed by Gregory Peck or Clark Gable in their post war films…you remember them, don’t you? They were the films broadcast on early 1950’s late night TV, unmercifully cut up and smothered with commercials. As the years went on, those films were cut even more until their storylines became unrecognizable. But even then, Dad still didn’t really look like the same kind of warrior portrayed by those actors.

Of course, it was unfair to compare our fathers with the actors in those films, who themselves had not served, or who like Gable had served in token roles. After my father’s passing and his mementoes coming to me which coincided with the arrival of the Internet and much more capable computers, I began to develop his story in a fashion he never could…and what a story it was!

I mention this as a suggestion and example for you to consider with regard to potential uses of the Internet as you venture into geezerhood with me. To date, through use of the Internet as a communication tool, I have made contact with offspring of about half the men who flew with my father. I never knew these offspring nor did I know anything about their fathers beyond their names on a list my father kept. Their fathers’ images are forever captured in my memory from a crew picture showing them standing with my Dad.

The crew picture used to illustrate this piece is typical of tens of thousands of others that were taken of the Army Air Force bomber crews as they were assembled during WWII. Dad was pictured in two of them. In researching the details of his service, I discovered that a lot of these pictures didn’t represent quite the same story told by Dad’s pictures…a story of 9 or 10 very lucky young men.

The picture accompanying this piece is of a crew taken just before they left for service in the ETO. Their plane was lost at sea during the Atlantic crossing and no trace was ever found of them. So, in this picture you are looking at a group of young men, age 18-26, who never got the opportunity to live a full life

As people with a common interest in our fathers’ service, we have been able to share some pictures and stories some of us had never before seen or heard. Our class was born in the years 1944-45, meaning that we were conceived during the war. By fact of our birth, we know what Dad and Mom were doing at one point during the war…a natural follow-up question might be, how is it that Dad was home at the time?

For me, the answer was kind of amusing…Dad was home on leave between tours. He had volunteered for a second tour of duty, which in itself is a fairly extraordinary story, since the average bomber crew flew only 15-missions before being shot down, against a 30-35 mission obligation. Dad had made his 30 and earned the right to be assigned to safer duty, but he volunteered for a second combat tour. While he was home, he and mom made me and while he was doing that, the crew he was destined to join when he returned was shot down and ditched in the North Sea. All of the crew survived and by the time Dad got back into it, he joined what was by then, a very experienced crew.

It’s said that the good die young and considering the losses already suffered by our class, it would seem that there is some truth in the saying. It is also said that another description for an old man or woman is lucky. And by the way, Dad now holds a place of distinction in my mind that dwarfs Clark and Gregory.


Wednesday, June 24, 2009

More Damn Technology

Today’s computer & Internet technology is both amazing and troublesome. I think our class was about the oldest in society to have taken some interest in learning something about personal computing when the first PC’s came to our desks in the early 1980’s. I dealt with this subject in March 2006., so I won’t repeat it in this posting.

Bob Dillard’s comment in the previous post about his measured move to the Internet and the arrival of indoor plumbing in his corner of the planet got me to thinking about the subject of technology once again.

If you value your privacy as I do, there are some things you are going to want to know about this technology and its capability to intrude on your life. First, you should understand that when you ask someone how much they know about computers and the Internet, everyone lies. The subject is so vast and constantly changing that not even experts who work with the stuff every day knows more than a fraction of what is available. In order to save face, people tend to either lie or be evasive when the subject of comparative tech savvy arises. That leaves a sense in all of us that something else is going on “out there” and much of it could be nefarious. And much of it can.

A lot of people know how to blog, set up and run a website, use facebook, myspace, twitter, tweets and others yet to come, take and post digital pictures, fire off emails, utilize web-based collaborative software, operate within a CRM or ERP environment, and any number of other activities requiring use of both the net and a computer. A lot fewer people have acquired the good sense to judge what to post and what not to post. And it is in this area where you are likely to experience some problems.

The net seems to have developed as a “bottom up” environment, meaning that things are being driven by the youngest and least experienced among us…those who haven’t lived long enough to develop good judgment and caution. One thing that I find most troubling is that once data is digitized, be it documents or pictures, it is quite possible that the damned thing will never go away. Young people today have no idea how long those naughty pictures they have been posting to the net will bedevil them during the next decades of their lives, but it is entirely likely that they will never disappear, much as an old picture could come back to haunt any one of us.

What does it all mean? Well for starters, someone like me can go online and write about people I knew over 50-years ago and haven’t seen since; the person in charge of your church newsletter can post pictures of you from the Sunday social; your local Chamber of Commerce can post your name in conjunction with their neighborhood activities; any club imaginable can post pictures and other information about you; your local property appraisal districts are already posting a lot of information about your home; published obituaries give family details; someone at a family gathering can post pictures they take—flattering and otherwise; and on and on.

“I have nothing to hide,” you say. It doesn’t matter. There are people cruising the net constantly looking for something to exploit, and it could be you, whether you have something to hide or not. And don’t forget that this is a worldwide phenomenon as the recent strife in Iran has clearly demonstrated. Bob, I found you on a whim while surfing the net one morning, even though we live far apart. As you assimilate your newly arrived indoor plumbing, think carefully about how you want to manage your online profile. If you want yourself “out there” then there is no better place to do it; however, if you want to maintain a low cyber-profile, it will take some forethought.

On the other hand, the net has been a wonderful place to share information with others about things in which we share a common interest. Knowledge of narrow interests can be furthered with some ease where there might not be more than a few others on the face of the planet who share your interest.


Monday, June 22, 2009

Bobby Dillard

I use Google to see if I can find anything about some of the people from this class that I recall as former friends and classmates. I’ve generally tried to keep the topics in this blog that mention living people to a minimum in the interest of trying not to embarrass anyone with my memories of them in their formative years.

I think most of us would agree that the years we spent together so long ago were the years we spent forming our characters, for better or for worse. It was on each other that we experimented with a wide array of things—many of them better left to lay silent in the past.

Bobby, (he goes by Bob, these days), popped up on a recent Google search. As it was with Steve Means, a mutual friend, I do recall some things about Dillard I am sure that today’s Bob Dillard would rather not revisit—things of a juvenile nature. “Dillard” as he was known to most of us, was the gregarious kid, the one we elected to a lot of class popularity offices. If you still have one of our 1963 yearbooks, you will see Dillard pictured in nearly every club picture in that book…and he was even a member of some of those clubs! I think he saw picture day as a good opportunity to take the day off from classes, giving the excuse that he had to have his club picture taken...and taken...and taken again. One of the things we learned early in life was that the “authorities” often lacked the resources or the will to check the validity of every claim we might make. So we learned that a little BS went a long way...and in the art of BS, Bobby was very gifted.

Bob’s returns on my recent Google search included a 300-word email he had written to an online writer, who in turn posted it to the net. Dillard made a few Dillard-like statements in his message that indicate to me that he is not much different than the kid I recall, which on balance was a pretty good kid. His message started with, “my name is Bob Dillard and I’m in Fort Davis– just happened on your well done website and wanted to make a suggestion, one you might file in the big-damn-deal category.”

There followed something over 250-words registering Bob's understanding of the proper application of “Fort” or “Ft.” when referring to a place or an active military installation. In closing, Dillard wrote, “As for being on the web, we have just now gotten indoor plumbing so it may be a while before I can figure out how to do some of the things you are doing so capably.

That’s the “Dillard” I recall. Bob, if you stumble across this piece someday, be sure to read the next post, “More Damn Technology.”

Cars – Part 3

SUV’s – Part 2. Since my last posting General Motors joined Chrysler in declaring bankruptcy. Dad always drove GM cars and wouldn’t have anything else most of his life and I bought a couple of used ones when I was still a kid. Neither of them were any damned good and I never bought another. Based on my observations while driving rented or company-supplied Chrysler cars many years ago, I never had any desire for one of their products either. So, as members of the class of the earliest Baby Boomers, I suspect that many of us made similar discoveries and reached similar decisions.

Here is a thought—GM made one of the more outrageous examples of an obnoxious “street machine” and called it a Hummer. Even though I’m approaching geezerhood in the eyes of younger people, I do recognize certain symbols of ostentatious lifestyle and a “Hummer” would be near the top of my list of such symbols. My thought: If, in the preceding posting, you accept that A is to B as C is to D is indeed true, then it must follow that E is to F as A is to B and C is to D, does it not?