Wednesday, September 29, 2010


Consensus in our house is that we have spirits with us more or less constantly. I’m the skeptic in the house because I haven’t seen or heard them, but other family members are true believers. Over the past 20-years in this house, my youngest became so accustomed to hearing their voices, footsteps, fleeting glimpses, and other unexplained evidences, that their presence simply became an accepted fact of life.

We bought the house from a classmate’s parents and throughout the years, school friends who had been guests in the house before our moving in, told of hearing the same voices…most often a little girl’s, but many others as well. Same for the footsteps.

Although I remained skeptical, I do believe there is enough in this world that simply cannot be objectively explained and I retain an open mind on the subject. The last 3 mornings I’ve found a heavy door leading to the front entry vestibule slightly ajar. It latches securely and will not open of its own accord, even when I pull on it. Yet, for the past 3 mornings there it is, slightly ajar. I’ve satisfied myself that no family member is leaving it that way the night before and that no other force I can replicate will open it. Whatever is going on there will continue until it stops and that will be that.

Over the years I’ve been rousted awake in the middle of the night to patrol the house after my family has heard “something strange” downstairs. I’ve made the patrol numerous times and thankfully, I’ve never discovered any bogeymen and suffered only brief sleep interruptions. My family always knew not to recklessly disturb Dad’s sleep.

During July 2009, I was awakened by my youngest who had seen something in my room. It was about 3:30 A.M. and where I usually awaken slowly with some displeasure, that time I instantly bolted awake. While I was still groggy, Youngest started energetically describing a full-figure apparition she had just seen standing at the foot of my bed, looking down at me. What she described perfectly was a circa 1910-1930 aviator, complete with his leather helmet w/chin straps hanging loose, goggles, a heavy leather coat, riding pants, and tall leather boots, looking much like Max Miller shown above.

Her description was so vivid and accurate in small detail that the clarity of it alone jolted me instantly awake. You see, one of my recent projects has been to research and write the story of the first military pilots that flew the old Wright kites during the years before WWI. My computer is full of text and photographic files and I have a number of old aviation artifacts dating to the period laying out on the nearby desk.

The thing that shocked me awake was that my Youngest had had absolutely no direct contact with my work nor had shown any particular interest in it., yet her description of the man was perfect to the period. He was tall, had angular features and he was just looking down at me sleeping. When he became aware of my Youngest standing out in the hallway about 25’ away, looking at him, he slowly turned his head to the left, looked at her, smiled slightly, took a half-step backward, and vanished. His image was substantial enough to block the view of a large clock hanging on the wall behind him and thus enable my Youngest to make a fair estimate of his height compared to mine when I stood in the same place. He was about 6-feet tall.

We haven’t seen the pilot since last year…and we’ll see if tomorrow brings Day 4 of the open door.  By the way, my youngest has both an undergraduate technical degree and a post-graduate professional degree from two of the country's first tier universities.  She is a competent observer in my book.


Monday, September 27, 2010

Send in the Clowns

This kind of silliness might have been funny to me back in the 1968 Laugh-In days when Goldie, Artie, and the others were doing their thing on TV.  Now, it just seems sad that our decaying society tolerates the nonsense in our halls of government.  We have been putting those kinds of people in office for many years now.

  A few postings back I mentioned the thought that if you elect clowns then you should expect to get a circus...and we got a circus this past Friday.  In his testimony, presumably to be on the topic of migrant farm workers, Mr. Colbert, an artist at what he does, made a mockery of our House Judiciary Committee, and by extension, us.  There are 40 people on that committee, each one representing about 640,000 of our fellow citizens--about 25,000,000 people altogether.  Twenty-four (24) of the 40 are Democratics--it was their show.  A few of them are assembled in the collage at right...some familiar faces there.

Those of us having a conservative nature have been quietly observing the degradation of so many of our society's structures that even after having grown up in the sixties when silliness was abundant, and Vietnam service killed 58,000 of our brothers, we are concerned about the future for our own families.  Maybe it's a good sign when NBC and CNN fired their CEOs over the past weekend and the cartoonists reappear to skewer those who need skewering.

But I'm wary.  The serious business of the day Friday was the testimony of Christopher Coates, a second former Justice Department attorney, that took place before the Civil Rights Division.  It had to do with reverse discrimination and centered on voting irregularities experienced in Philadelphia in 2008.  The Colbert circus did a pretty good job of burying that story.  Think it was planned that way...h-m-m?

Please Vote !

Time Line - Search Engines

Communications technology has been racing so quickly for the past 15-years I wanted to try and find a simple graphical representation of what has transpired.  It's not easy to find and the interrelation of several technologies, each dependent on the other further frustrate simplification.

I went online about 1996 and thanks to the WSJ technology section found Google almost from its inception.  Before Google, was a gaggle of other search engines available but none of them really did a good job finding what you wanted.  If I recall correctly, the early search engine algorithms were heavily influenced on who was paying off whom.  Google was touted from its beginning as being free from that and so it seemed.

Everything in those days was dial was several years before broadband would become widely available, so searching was slow and tedious, made even more so if you had to fight a slanted search engine.  Anyway this time line shows the sequence various services came online.


Saturday, September 25, 2010

Voice Mail - Part 2

Years ago, once you accepted that voice mail was here to stay and stopped being frustrated by being shunted away, the game switched from being ready to resolve an issue to one of being prepared to utilize the irritating technology to your own advantage.

Early on, the first people who employed answering machines and voice mail would often be near the phone, listening in and deciding whether they wanted to talk to you or not. Sometime later, they simply ignored the incoming calls altogether and periodically played all their messages back at once, dealing with those needing attention according to their own priority list. It was a reasonably efficient way of preserving one’s own time but was disrespectful of the caller’s time and effort—not really a good way to run a business.

Once that practice became evident, you shifted from being prepared to resolve anything with the person you were calling to simply telling that person (on their voice mail) what you intended to do and advising them to contact you if they had any problems with your intentions. Once you dropped that on their voice mail, you went about your business in the manner that suited yourself. Even if they called back to object, you could tell them they were too late to have a say in the matter…if only they had been available to take your call. It was no longer frustrating…it was liberating. If there were any potential legal or organizational pitfalls, then you wrote a quick memorandum of understanding setting forth your version of the matter and sent it out to confirm that you had left the message. That set in place the only written trace of what had transpired and it had the beauty of being entirely your own point of view.

Taking that thought a little further, if after you had dumped the plan on your reticent target's voice mail, you wanted to better ensure that he or she would have to submit to your wishes, then you shut off your phone and voice mail, thus foiling any possible retort. What a game.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Voice Mail - Part 1

We all use it, of course. And depending on how we use it, we either like it or hate it. We like it if it defends us from the overwhelming onslaught of uninvited intruders into our space…or from Aunt Thelma.

However, we hate it when someone we want or need to speak with uses it on us. I’ve never had much problem with anyone using voice mail to protect their quiet enjoyment of a home life. But for over 20-years it seems that more and more businesses use it to tamp down the ugly onslaught of those pesky customers.

If you’ve worked in a busy business environment, you know what I’m talking about…phone interruptions every 30-seconds which make it nearly impossible to concentrate on anything for more than…well, 30-seconds. You could take it off the hook, or instruct your secretary to hold all calls, or pick up your work and take it to the conference room, leaving instructions that you are not to be disturbed there.

About 20-years ago business managers began to embrace the notion of putting a voice mail box on every phone in the place. That way, they reasoned, they could do with less receptionist and clerical labor to answer phones—a cost savings opportunity…music to any manager’s ears. Of course now the boxes are simply features programmed into all office phone systems.

Not surprisingly, the law of unintended consequences set in when the notion of organizing and instructing their work force in the proper ways to use the voice mail system was overlooked by those same managers. The result was that every member of a work force simply turned their voice mails on and stopped answering their phones. Now, and for the past 15-years or so, when you call someone in a business environment, you expect to get a voice mail recording telling you to leave a detailed message. Very frustrating, but of course the recording often gives you an emergency number or extension you can dial to handle something of an important nature. It’s usually a clerk or secretary…and what happens when you call that number…yep, another voice mail telling you to….

So the result is that you simply suffer yet another degradation of simple person to person communication which once was reasonably effective. In my pre-retirement work I had the advantage of knowing how communications once worked before introduction of our new hi-tech communications technologies. In those ancient days we still had to deal with a range of personalities where the highly competent had to make do with the lesser varieties. We learned how to deal with that range of personalities. With a recording it is essentially impossible to accurately make that kind of judgment, so I consider all of them of the lesser sort.

Within a short period of time I determined that by not answering the phone, the person you were trying to reach was effectively putting your communication at their convenience. They would call you back…maybe. And the implication was that you should standby your phone and wait for them. Bullshit, we said and either turned on our own voicemail and played voice mail tag or just shut off the phone. Of course cell phones have made the standby issue less problematic except when the bastard returns your call when it is inconvenient for you…which is nearly always.

I suppose texting solves some of that inconvenience issue, but I’m retired now and have no spirit for farting around with texting. The buttons are too small for me to readily see…the screens too…and my thumbs are too big.

Besides, these aren’t my kind of people….


Monday, September 20, 2010

Raising the Flag

It's undoubtedly a right of passage that a few high school youngsters try to do something memorable that would place their mark on the old school and on their classmates.  Late in our senior year my group of co-conspirators determined to glass wax all the windows in the school as a final high school exit statement, but we either decided it wasn't worth the risk to our diplomas or more likely didn't have enough money to buy the Glass Wax, so it didn't get done.

Two years before our aborted prank, a member of the Class of 1961 set a high standard for any class pranks that might follow.  He climbed the 1311-foot WBAP broadcast tower just northwest of the school and hung an EHHS flag at the top.  That tower was about 100' taller than the Empire State Building and just a little short of the World Trade Tower roof.

My recollection of the event was fuzzy, but in digging around Facebook I saw a name that I recalled as being associated with the 1961 prank, so I decided to see if he were indeed the one whodoneit.  He was, and in response to my request, Tony Brogdon ('61) graciously agreed to tell his story...the one that follows:

Putting EHHS on the Map

My buddy Phil Morris and I used to meet in the lunch room and brag about what exciting thing we had done over the weekend.  After getting bored climbing the CNB  bank building fire escape and riding the revolving clock 3 times we knew we needed to come up with a more daring feat.  After discussing it with some of our buddies they dared us to climb the 1311-foot WBAP TV Tower and put our School Initials on top. 
David Townsend agreed to make a bed sheet with the EHHS on it.  Phil and I then went and scouted it out the following weekend.  I climbed on top of a Utility building then crawled across a wooden plank to the tower.  There was a ladder that appeared to go to the top inside the triangle built tower.  I excitedly returned to tell Phil it was a go.  We went back to the school and told our friends it was a go.

After thinking about it I got concerned that if something happened to Phil I would not be able to live with myself so I decided to go it alone.  I arrived 30 minutes early and followed the same path as before to gain access to the tower.  I wore sweat pants and a back pack with the flag inside.  After climbing a hundred feet or so I heard Phil's voice below " Brogdon is that you.  I explained why I was going alone so Phil agreed to stand guard.

After reaching the half way mark, ice had formed on the ladder.  Much to my surprise, the ice got thicker the higher I would go.  Not to give up I went up to the last hundred feet to discover that the last 100 feet the ladder was on the outside of the tower.  After thinking it over I realized I needed to go all the way.  I climbed on the outside ladder and made it to the top.  I then took the flag out and tied it to the electrodes sticking out of the pole on top.  As I stood on the top I could see down-towns of both Fort Worth and Dallas. I thought to myself " what a wonderful thing it would be if I could jump off and fly like a bird.  In 1977 I made my first skydive which is body flying.  33 years later I am still skydiving, the latest with one of my granddaughters.

As I descended down the tower, I was so much in a hurry to get down I slipped a couple of times and managed to catch myself in time.  The adrenaline I experienced was the beginning of my life adventures since then.

I kept watching the WAPB news for the next couple of days and noticed that they did not seem to be aware of the flag being there so I called and said I was an amateur astronomer and noticed the flag.  The receptionist said she would check it out.  That evening I was at a Sagamore Hill Baptist Church get together at Talana Hadsell's house.  At 10pm I asked everyone to gather around her TV to watch the news.  The headline was " They said it couldn't be done".  I let out a yell this is it.

The next day at school the word had gotten around that I was the one who put the flag on the tower, so each class the teacher would have me go to the blackboard and draw how I had done it.  The next day the news station showed a Steeplejack climbing up to retrieve the flag.  They mentioned that everyone at the school knew who it was.  Apparently several people called the station to report me.  At home my mother kept pressuring me and my brother Paul to tell her who had done it.  Finally I broke down and said it was me.  My mother fainted onto the couch.  After recovering, she called Pastor Swank.

A member of Sagamore Hill Baptist Church owned the station and Pastor Swank convinced them not to press charges.  He did tell them I must have hung the flag after the station was shut down since the electrode I hung the sheet on carried 20,000 volts.

As the 20th EHHS reunion was approaching I was an accomplished skydiver capable of jumping off the tower and parachuting into the reunion.  I contacted a good friend, Jimmy Davis, a Hollywood Stuntman and one of the stunt coordinators for the TV program " That's Incredible ".  I asked him if they would be interested in recording it for their program.  He checked with the producers and they told him due to liability issues if I recorded it on my own, they would use it on the program.  After running it by my wife at the time she sternly announced that she would divorce me if I did.  Consequently I didn't make it.  A year or two later she left me anyway to marry her boss.

Meanwhile I have jumped in three countries, out of numerous types of aircraft plus twice out of Hot Air Balloons.  I have arranged and jumped into numerous high profile events such as the Seoul 1988 Olympic Opening Ceremonies, The Rose Bowl 4th of July, Pasadena, Tijuana's 100th Birthday to name a few.  I have made hundreds of friends worldwide related to activities within the sport.

...Tony Brogdon, Class of 1961

Friday, September 17, 2010

Signboarding - Rose Hill

A couple of quick flashbacks...out Hwy 80, near the lake, the highway ran down a small hill with the lake on one side and Rose Hill Cemetery on the other.  Before we started pairing off with the girls, a group of the guys often went out on Friday and Saturday nights to pass time and see what kind of mischief we could stir up.

Two small, yet memorable activities were to go signboarding along the highway.  There was a large beer billboard on the south side of Hwy 80, that McCoy, I think, thought would be fun to pantomime.  The premise was that it was a shame for the beer to spill out of the glass or pitcher, so we should try our best to keep it from spilling.  Up the ladder we go, out the walkway, and the animated pantomime began.  Most times we did that, a dozen or so cars would screech to a stop, pull off to the side and watch.  When the crowd built up enough, we would climb back down and drive away before the cops came.

Almost across the road was Rose Hill, so either on other nights or maybe those same nights we would sometimes go into the cemetery and see if the place could scare us...most nights it did.  Those days were before Lee Harvey Oswald was interred there.  J.W. is there now but he wasn't with us those nights.  Names like Cooper, Dillard, McCook, Shields, McCoy, Koebernick, Means, Scott, Tate, and Helmericks come to mind. 


Thursday, September 16, 2010

John Warren Southard - J.W. - Jay

J.W., we only knew him as J. W. although he was known as "Jay" after he grew up, was one of our gentle giants; a tall, powerful kid, standing about 6’4” he was larger than Bobby Keener and Steve Means, two of our best athletes.  Although we played on several of the same teams, for some reason J. W. was one of those kids who never quite played up to his athletic potential.  He was one of the more promising football prospects early-on, but after playing on McBee’s Rinky Dinks JV team as a Sophomore, didn’t play football beyond that.  He may have been injured, I don’t know.

He switched to basketball, played on the JV basketball team as a junior, and earned a varsity letter as a senior center.  He was active in the R.O.T.C. but I don't know if he served in the military.  I wasn’t too close to him, but considered J. W. to be one of the good guys.  He worked with the Ft. Worth Police Department for 40-years.  Jay passed away at 63, March 2008.

God bless you my friend

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Dive - Dive - Dive

About July 2001, Google launched their Google Images site, but with only 250,000,000 indexed images, you really couldn't find pictures of things that were in your mind or memory.  Now, with over 10,000,000,000 indexed images, you can find almost anything that you recall seeing years ago.

The picture above is one of those things that a former 10 or 12-year old boy in 1955-58 would recall.  It was the post-WWII period when our fathers, most of them WWII veterans, were in their 30s and our country's leaders were positioning us for the Cold War, where we would arm, but not shoot...not officially, that is.  There were frequent sonic booms overhead and the early TV broadcasts consisted of a lot of WWII films and Victory at Sea on Sunday evenings...there was a lot of war stuff in the public consciousness, even the consciousness of a 10-year old.

Kelloggs ran a Corn Flakes commercial that featured a nuclear submarine! as a give away.  But the dumb thing didn't really work like the commercial showed.  You would stuff some baking powder under it, a gas bubble would form, the sub would rise, then roll over, fart the bubble, and drop like a rock, then repeat the process until the baking powder was gone.  It was one of my first introductions to the disconnect between sales puffery and reality of the deliverable.

I seem to recall commercials with klaxons and a Clark Gable-like commander yelling, DIVE-DIVE-DIVE.  It may have been my imagination, but then again, my bathtub fleet consisted of floating bottle tops I could sink in various naval engagements using a canon made from a water-filled nose spray bottle.  I liked the bottle caps better.

Dive--Dive---Dive !!

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Hairstyles 1954 – 2010

Today, I was thinking some about the FBG.  Have I previously said that I don’t like them?  I wondered if anything could be inferred from a periodic superficial examination of attractive women’s hairstyles over a half-century.  Not sure what I expected to find, but I did recall some weird hairstyles in the early to mid 1980s.  Interestingly, it was difficult to find any clear examples of the images I pictured in my mind. 

I saw most of them in the airports as I was traveling quite a bit in those years. They were the first wave of professional women I had seen doing what men had been doing for decades...dragging their ass through a crowded airport, lugging too-heavy luggage, and rushing to make their connections because their incoming flights on the same carrier got them there late.  In my best chauvinistic character, I joked about them being market makers in stuffed bunnies...hold on...recall that they were the first of their kind I had seen in that venue.

There are a couple of the hairstyles I was looking for marked above within the green box.  Pictures of them are really difficult to find on the net.  Wonder if those images have been scrubbed?  Today, those women would be in the 45–55 age range; they were 20-30 then—they are the FBG.

Something stands out, do you see it?  Their hairstyles radically depart from those that preceded them and from those that followed.  I’ve chosen film icons as examples for two reasons; one, they influenced a portion of society at the time; and two, both their hairstyles and photographs were professionally done which aids the clarity of this example. 

Looks like we have mostly preferred ladies having long, straight hair sometimes with a gentle wave.  It was kind of fun putting this one together.


Monday, September 13, 2010


Since taking some time to focus on our old class yearbooks and recently joining Facebook, I've begun to form some opinions.

1.  There were about 315 listed in our graduation program, but a few less than 300 pictured in the senior section of the yearbook.

2.  I have no recollection whatsoever of about 100 of them.  Neither their picture nor their name ring any bells.  And, except for a few attractive girls, good athletes, or a scholar in the under-classes ('64 & '65), my recollection of them is even worse.

3.  Of the 200 (prox) I do recall, I remember about half of them by name only...their pictures are generally unrecognizable.  So not only would I not recognize them now, I might not have recognized them then.

4.  One guy from our class became a college professor and spent his career at 2 very prestigious universities.  He did not graduate with any EHHS honors and launched his academic career from a couple of lower tier colleges.  Apparently he joined us as a senior and slid out the door largely least by me...maybe he was a late-bloomer.

5.  Of the 100 (prox) that I do clearly recall from our class, I considered only about 1-2 dozen of them good friends or close acquaintances.  We haven't stayed in touch...I don't think that I could have sustained that level of competitive intensity for the rest of my life.  However, I've noticed that Texans tend to do well wherever they go.  I think it's that old competitive intensity instilled in them by their parents, teachers, and coaches, that sustains them favorably in the company of others from elsewhere.

6.  Facebook.  The jury is still out.  It seems that people there expect to know who I am before interacting.  While that is a reasonable expectation in times past, I believe it is not a good idea to hang one's true identity out on the net.  In my opinion the downside is substantially greater than any potential upside.  However, I recognize that we are older folks and many of us are most likely real novices with regard to Internet technology.  This stuff developed very quickly behind our place in history and most of us simply had neither the time nor the interest available to gain a good proficiency.

7.  One problem in interacting anonymously is that communication relies entirely on the words. Some of us are good at it, some of us aren't.  Even then, it's possible that a string of innocently offered words can be misinterpreted or express an idea that others consider offensive.  It's a risk, although a manageable one.  However, the communication anonymity helps prevent an angry mob from appearing on the front doorstep, should your innocent words be misinterpreted.  


Sunday, September 12, 2010

Trade Towers Site

This is a c.1910 view of the site where the NYC World Trade Towers were built about 60-years later.  The SHORPY site contains an amazing number of old pictures taken from large format negatives in their possession and is the source of this amazing picture.

Note that St. Paul's steeple is the same church highlighted in my previous post.


Saturday, September 11, 2010

Remember 9-11

George Washington worshiped here.  He had his own pew.

It served as a refuge for the hundreds of firefighters, police, and volunteers who were involved in the aftermath of 9-11. Memorabilia such as letters, pictures, and testaments are now displayed throughout the chapel.   

The city's unwavering spirit and the American people's compassion for each other are evident in the memoirs displayed here.  It's impossible not to shed a tear when you're here.

Many people make it a point to go back when they are in New York, not so they won't forget, but so that they can remember.


Friday, September 10, 2010

The First Time – Part 2

It was the first time that the American mainland had ever been attacked by an external enemy; the first time that a combat air patrol had been launched to protect an American city; the first time an order had been issued to American military aircraft to shoot down American airliners should they fail to respond and enter restricted airspace. 

We were fortunate that Adults Were in Charge as those events unfolded.  The broadcast media will be filled with 9-11 documentaries during the next couple of days.  Last night I watched a good 2-hour production shown on the History Channel where many of the decision makers of that day were interviewed.  It would probably be a good idea to pick up a CD of that program or a another like it and have it on hand for future reference.  December 7, 1941, is hardly acknowledged these days.

It hasn’t taken very long for us collectively to forget much of what happened on September 11, 2001.  The responsible adults in charge in 2001 were hugely challenged to lead during those long hours of uncertainty.  And they did a marvelous job.  The old saying goes, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”  We can do without these kinds of firsts.

Thursday, September 09, 2010

The First Time – Part 1

The first time you experience something is often memorable, but do you recall that the anticipation leading up to the first time was probably more powerful than the experience itself? A number of firsts come quickly to mind…the first time I went solo on a bicycle was one of them, the first time the shop teacher smacked me was another. However, once smacked, the sense of anticipation was gone in an instant and the lesson learned was to tread more carefully to avoid a repeat of the event.

There was the first girl, the first varsity game, the first graduation ceremony, the first flight, the first voyage, the first car, the first job, the first wife, the first child, the first house, the first lawsuit, the first loss of a parent, the first near death experience, and so on. None of those firsts really required much more than doing it. The underlying thought is that life seems to have been a succession of firsts, each one possessing its own period of anticipation.

A more recent first was when I realized that the younger ones now out numbered us. I couldn’t say when it occurred…but I recall a 1993 Wall Street Journal opinion piece entitled something like, “Are There Any Adults in Charge?” The newly elected Clinton regime was derelict in the collection of security information from its young staff of 30-somethings and the FBI was growing uneasy with them. We know how that regime ended…he was impeached. And our parents who had been the adults for so long, faded.

While we and the older adults were numerous enough, the foolishness of our younger demographics was kept in tow, but it’s different now. I am amazed at how little those in responsible positions know vs. how much they think they know. But they outnumber us now, so you can’t suggest anything to them with which you might have had some experience. They don’t give a shit. Maybe all generations go through this kind of first…I don’t know, it’s the first time I’ve encountered it. The only real thing missing from the experience was that I lacked any anticipation of it…I was too busy raising and educating a family while the turnover was going on.

Hopefully enough of the younger generations will understand that if you choose clowns for your responsible positions, you can rightly expect to get a circus. I would have thought they had already experienced that first.  Oh yes, there was that first turn over the bridge into Camden (top picture)...never did that one again--scary place.


Wednesday, September 08, 2010

Random WWII - Color & B/W

One of the initial screening tests given to an aspiring military pilot includes a section of diagrams showing what a pilot might be seeing when looking forward through his windscreen.  The candidate is to determine the plane's attitude from the diagram and mark the proper airplane exterior image.  It's a multiple choice thing.

The picture above is not only a remarkable example of why a pilot needs that capability, it's also a fine example of what combat photographers called a dicing shot.  It's a high-speed, low-level, highly risky pass along Omaha Beach taken just before the invasion on June 6, 1944.  The nose-down, left-banking plane was probably moving along at 300 kts. or thereabout.  The Invasion bloodbath and the beginning of the Band of Brothers was imminent.

The picture at right was taken from inside one of the landing craft as it was approaching the beach.  Think of the opening scenes in Saving Private Ryan.  It's a remarkably clear shot that puts you right in there with to enlarge it.

As our parents' generation fades into history, some of their long stored papers and pictures are just now being brought to public view for the first time in over 60-years.  Only yesterday, news of a new store of COLOR film of the London Blitz came into public view.  It was found in a London attic where it had been stored away for about 70-years.

Some of our parents saw scenes like this in color since many of them were in those places so, their life-long memories were in color.  However, all we saw after the war were the grainy black & white images which became lodged in our personal data bases.  There is quite a difference between a color memory and one in grainy b/w. For me at least, these new color images tend to add life to something that has been somewhat surreal in my mind.  The new color London clip follows below:

WWII Wolfpack

If you were like me, you grew up watching in wonder all those WWII submarine movies.  Words like Wolfpack, U-boat, and Dive-Dive-Dive became a part of your lexicon, but you never really knew much more about the topic than what the old films portrayed.  Run Silent, Run Deep was probably the best of them.

I happened on this picture the other day.  It is one of the few surviving WWII vintage German U-boats and it is on display fully out of the water!  I've been through a number of submarines on display around the USA, but have never seen one of them out of the water like this.  It's a remarkable photo of a truly formidable weapon.

Did you know that these subs patrolled the Gulf of Mexico and the entire length of the Atlantic coast during WWII?  In fact, although not commonly known, they sank a lot of our ships within sight of our Atlantic shores during WWII.


Supermarket Playground

While I’m on a minor food store rant, I want to touch on couple of matters that rankle me at the local supermarkets.  First, the overdoing of the reserved parking spots near the doors and next, the ridiculous oversize plastic baskets made up to carry a couple of kiddies in front, complete with plastic steering wheels as though they were driving.  

Don’t get me wrong.  I’m quite happy that my old bones still carry my frame in from the North Forty and that I don’t need to get one of those handicapped tags.  However, that someone's sign suggests that I should park in the North Forty to accommodate a twenty-something mommy with a rug-rat or two irks me…especially when the 10 reserved spots near the door for mommies and their kiddies are vacant much of the time, especially early in the morning.  I usually just park there...I have kids and I'm a customer.

For some inexplicable reason my local market has deemed mommies with children a privileged class and not only set aside 10 close-in parking spots for them, but they have also charged a grocery cart kid with being sure that no one but young mommies with kiddies park in those spots.  One thing that I find good about becoming a cranky old bastard is that younger people really don’t want to tangle with me…they lack the tools.  “F.O. or NO” pretty well ends any clucking they may have considered.  The whole exercise resides near the far edge of the theory of ridiculous limits so it’s really a non-issue, but nonetheless irritating.

Then there are those pretend truck carts that are so damned large that they often block the aisles.  All I can do is shake my head and make my way by as best I can.  However, I do wonder what on earth is churning inside their heads…the mommies pushing these behemoths around, that is.  Of course once inside the store, the kiddies are out of those things in a flash, running freely through the aisles and getting under foot.  Mommy can't be bothered to keep her crumb-crunchers under control.

Maybe I’m just getting older and losing whatever patience I have left.  However, a small display of common courtesy and rational thought from these whack jobs would certainly be welcome.  And I wonder what kind of air-head in the store management thought this nonsense was a good idea…probably the same kind of idiot who thought a Pontiac Aztec was a good looking car.


Tuesday, September 07, 2010

Panhandling – c. 2010

Most weekends at my local Walmart store a variety of panhandlers are stationed at both doors asking for handouts.  Going in, I have things on my mind and coming out my arms are usually full.  My patience with these things is relatively low.  However, I usually give at Christmas and to the veterans when they’re outside the doors on Memorial and Veterans’ Days.

In my area the panhandling seems to be orchestrated and controlled by the store to provide a reasonably benign crowd at the doors and rarely are the panhandlers particularly aggressive.  I am a bit nonplussed over how to deal with the little kiddies who are thrown out there by their parents.  I never quite know what they’re collecting for, nor do the kiddies.  But it’s usually funds for a softball trip or sports equipment or something like that.  Is my memory bad, or did parents usually handle those expenses in our day?

It was a glorious morning a couple of days ago and I got out early to get my errands done.  As luck would have it, I had my camera with me.  Going in the store at 10:00 AM, there were no moppets stationed at the door, but coming out at 10:30 AM, there they were…cute, very young, and highly energetic.  My arms were full so the moppets pulled up dry and visibly disappointed--they had just started their shift.  I never knew why they wanted money.

Getting to Walmart early often provides the added benefit of getting a good parking spot near the front and so it did that day.  Then I started into a slow burn…if an old fart like me can get up early enough to go in at 10:00 AM, why couldn’t this well-groomed, young mommy get her own tail up and out the door at least as early.  Maybe she wasn’t too serious about the project herself; clearly, even 10:00 AM was too early for her program—am I being too critical?

There wasn’t much traffic in and out that morning…I think it was a weekday and much of the foot traffic consisted of various vendors reporting in to load their shelves—of course, the moppets attacked them too, sometimes in both directions.  Mommy appeared to have her little ice chest to cool her bottled water, a cell phone to make those important calls, and some extra buckets for the moppets’ use in emptying their loot.

She had staked out a shady spot off to one side for herself, set up a card table, and was clearly prepared to manage the moppet money flow in comfort.  I took a few pictures since this was one of those minor irritations that, although common, is to my mind, indicative of a shift in our societal mindset within the next generations.  Things like this irritate me, but only a little bit.

On the other hand, preying on the generous nature of people without explaining the project is a somewhat new wrinkle and is likely to produce several hundred dollars over the course of a day…not a bad day’s return and low-cost labor to boot!