Sunday, January 30, 2011

LeRoy Thompson & Dick Goddard – EHHS Photographers


We owe these guys a debt of gratitude for their perseverance in roaming the hallways so many years ago, taking the pictures for our yearbooks and whatever copies of the school newspaper still survive. Now I know that any excuse for getting out of class to do something more interesting was an enjoyable perk and taking pictures isn’t too strenuous. Yet, for the most part, whatever visual record we have left from those years at EH is to the credit of LeRoy and Dick. LeRoy was a school yearbook photographer all three years he was there, 1960-63, and was one of the top class scholars. I think he worked with Steve Franks (’62) for a year or two.

During the years my offspring were growing up I noticed that the photographic quality of their yearbooks was not as good as ours of the early 1960s. One likely reason for that is that LeRoy and Dick used a medium format camera which can be seen in the accompanying picture of the two of them. By the time our offspring went through those years, everyone was using smaller format 35mm cameras…the pictures just weren’t as sharp, largely due to the smaller negatives.

Both Dick and LeRoy are still living in the DFW area as far as I know. It would be a good project for someone in the area to look them up to see if, per chance, they still have those old negatives packed away in a closet. If so, we could pull some sharp scans from them that would knock your socks off.

Any volunteers?

The Fort Worth Star-Telegram negatives from the 1960s are in the Special Collections section of the University of Texas at Arlington Library. Electronic copies of specific pictures in a .tiff or .jpg format can be purchased for a nominal fee. You would need to be able to estimate the date of the picture with some accuracy in order to narrow the librarian’s search for the right picture. The closer, the better.


Adios

Friday, January 28, 2011

Bette Perot

Bette Perot taught a class called "Health & Safety" to 8th grade students at Meadowbrook Jr. High during the 1950s. She moved and spoke just like her brother, H. Ross, who at that time had not yet made his mark. In my memory, she came across as a feisty sort. I made all "As" in her class, about which I remember essentially nothing. I think it was 1950s version of sex education, but I could be wrong about that.

Come to think of it, that NHS chapter formed at Meadowbrook was so exclusive that a straight "A" card was not enough! Kiddies, that's how tough some our old days were...sad to see that recently Meadowbrook Middle was on the State's watch list for poor academic performance.

Adios

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

State of the Union - WTF?


There was a State of the Union speech last night.  I didn't watch it.  Figured that if anything worthwhile occurred, today's news would spew it out, ad nauseum.

Neat little slogan seemed to be launched...WIN THE FUTURE.  It took me about 2-3 seconds to notice the obvious acronym.  Difficult to believe that some snarky little speech writer thought himself clever beyond all reasonable expectation when he dreamed this one up.  Will be interesting to see if it has any legs today.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Honest Abe

For much of our lives we’ve all heard about “honest Abe” and honesty is the best policy. Long-time House Speaker, Sam Rayburn (D-TX), was known to counsel his younger colleagues, “Son, always tell the truth, that way you don’t have to remember anything.”

Abraham Lincoln (R-IL), was known for his forthright honesty and was also responsible for the South becoming a solid Democrat voting block for over a century.

Guys, if you’ve been paying attention to the ladies in your life, then you’ve probably noticed their amazing propensity for phrasing questions that are either unanswerable or incredibly risky to sustained harmony, should you offer an answer…any answer at all.

As men, we utterly hate to admit that we don’t know something—we feel it diminishes our stature to say, “I don’t know.” It's in the DNA. And also as men, we recognize that there are some questions our ladies ask that cannot be answered in any manner that would avoid us being emotionally pummeled. Do we tell the truth, or do we lie, or do we try to find a quick way out of the room?

This great commercial wonderfully illustrates ours, and Honest Abe’s predicament:

Adios

Friday, January 21, 2011

Sis Boom Bah


What is wrong with this picture?



CARNAC:              Sis boom bah.

ED:                          Sis boom bah.

CARNAC:               Describe the sound made when a sheep explodes.


Adios

Email Uses & Risks

I first recall hearing of email in the late 1980s with the arrival of CompuServe and Prodigy for the masses. However, since the use of those services required that you have someone else online to receive your messages, the early years were slow going with respect to common usage--together both services had slightly more than 1,000,000 subscribers and there weren't any other significant ISPs in the business then. By the mid-1990s AOL came on with strong marketing push and simple software. Millions of new users started going online and email began to flourish as a new communication mode.

We belatedly went on line about 1999 in our office, together with a clumsy email client program and began emailing with utter abandon. Unfortunately many of the people flocking to email communication had little or no training in the downside of written communications. Those of us who had been communicating in professional capacities for decades immediately recognized the inherent risks with this new form of communication.

Boston political boss Martin Lomansey was an individual that understood the value of discretion. He is attributed with the famous quote: “Never write if you can speak, never speak if you can nod, never nod if you can wink.” Former New York Governor Eliot Spitzer is attributed to putting a modern twist on the famous quote, “and never put anything in an email.”

Early on, I noticed that people were writing email messages I would never dream of writing—although I might consider voicing those sentiments now and then.

As a fledgling professional years ago, I was ready and able to engage in corporate battle over a number of issues until I circulated one especially caustic report castigating a headquarters dolt. Although I had the dolt over a barrel on that particular issue, a senior manager took me aside and explained the fine points of written communications within a large company, which more or less followed the advice of Boston's Mr. Lomansey. He specifically pointed out that whatever you write down can come back to haunt you even years later.  The lesson: be very careful what you write.

In today’s email world, those older wisdoms are being learned by yet another generation of young tigers. Unfortunately for them, the ease with which email can be prematurely released, copied, stored, forwarded, and reused makes it easy for would-be opponents to stuff an ill-advised message up your nose over and over again as well as scatter it to unauthorized recipients.

I don’t think many companies have been formally training their employees in the prudent use of written communications; perhaps like me, those lessons are still taught one-on-one.  However, if you are interested, one of the online magazines today published an 18-point list of things to consider when writing emails that can be found HERE.

Adios

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Bob Larmer


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Bob was one of those kids with an infectious grin that I never recall being angry or upset about much of anything.  He was a good friend and sometime neighborhood prankster, as were many of us.  Bob had perhaps the best car of anyone in our class, a black ’57 Chevy.  Those cars were classics when they rolled off the assembly lines and have remained so ever since.

I recall him as a wiry kid, a varsity basketball player, and co-captain of the team.  He and Dillard, and Williams, and Roby, and the others were usually outgunned in 4A, but they gave ‘er heck anyway and seemed to have a great time playing the game. 

Sometime after getting that great Chevy, Bob started dating his future first bride and fairly quickly, the stories of his hi-jinks stopped.  But before then, he provided a couple of funny stories that I’ve remembered all these years.

Apparently, during his antagonize the neighborhoods phase, he drew the ire of a local man whose garbage can Bob or some of his running mates for some reason had repeatedly targeted for turning over.  Having grown weary of the mess, the man sat up one night to snare the miscreants.  He was armed with a .22 rifle loaded with birdshot.  Bob came in one warm Monday morning wearing a long-sleeved shirt and an uncharacteristic peeved expression.  The long sleeves were necessary to cover the birdshot wounds to his elbow.

And on another occasion I recall him loosing a brief bout with the local constable.  As kids, we never thought about how really small our area was nor how really few of us were out on the streets any given year.  So a kid driving a black ’57 Chevy would have probably been the only one of his kind in the entire area, and if the constable was the same cop most nights, well he wasn’t a dummy.  I don’t think Bob’s car got a spot in the garage, so it’s likely that the cop knew exactly where that black ’57 Chevy driver lived based on it being parked out on the street in front of his house most nights.

If I recall correctly, Bob had cut-out plugs in his exhaust system which permitted making a lot of noise…enough to be really annoying in the neighborhoods and enough to be heard for several blocks in any direction.  A smart kid, which Bob was, can be a pretty elusive little bugger to catch in the act, but one night our constable came up with a clever solution to administer justice. 

Bob came in one morning, mad as a hornet.  He had gotten a ticket for parking on the wrong side of the street…his car was pointing the wrong way.  And since the parked car had violated that parking law, the constable reasoned that he had to have driven on the wrong side of the street also, and left a ticket for that infraction, as well!

I still laugh when I think of that little story.  Sometimes you just have to just suck it up, pay the tab, and thank goodness you weren’t caught doing all the things you did as a kid!  Bob was still in good form at our May 2010 celebration—one of the really good guys.


Adios

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Heritage



I’ve dabbled with some of the heritage clubs, mostly in an effort to build up an offspring’s grad school applications.  Growing up when we did, such clubs as DAR and others were known only by the awards they presented to a few of us at the end of each year. 

In my house those clubs were mostly thought of as society ladies or climbers and given little thought.  However, I discovered that although they are those things, many of them are also serious genealogists and depend on others developing the interest in their own heritage to ensure the survival of the clubs and the history.  Most of them are very nice people with a sincere interest in preserving American history.

The lineage proofs can be difficult and must meet a legal standard.  Many of the early proofs developed in the 1900s tended to be fanciful and are no longer accepted as legitimate references…suggesting that our impressions of the early DAR ladies as social climbers might have been partially correct.

A few years ago I challenged a Manhattan heritage group to recognize the service of my Arkansas grandpappy.  After about 2-years of gentle, nudging they agreed to do so.  It wasn’t so much that they didn’t want to do it, it was more that they hadn’t done very often before and had apparently lost the knowledge of how to go about it.  Be that as it may, they got it done at a lovely venue in mid-town, across from 30-Rock.

The society was clearly a social club where the original mission had given way to more of an old-style pecking order exercise.  Seeing actual veterans like me and my grandpappy was atypical for them.  Nevertheless, they did a magnificent job and never once made me feel unwelcome.

When the club president discovered that we were also Jamestowne Society members, she was openly and unabashedly impressed.  She had been trying for years to make her own connections to that group.  It’s kind of like the Mayflower Society, only for southerners. 

Most of the heritage clubs I’ve encountered are based on some form of military service of an early ancestor…a great grandpappy way back up the line somewhere.  A veteran would understand better than most that serving in a war is mostly a matter of being born within a fairly narrow range of years and being drug into it as a result of arguments between some old guys.

Bill Mauldin understood the facts of these matters and illustrated them as succinctly as anyone I’ve seen.  I forwarded Mauldin’s cartoons to the society president a few months after the ceremony…she got a kick out of it.

Meadowbrook Junior High - 1960

For better or worse, here some of us were as 9th Grade Meadowbrook Buffaloes in May 1960.  The next fall we would be EHHS Sophomores, starting out at the bottom of the pile once more.

These sheets are probably quite rare as there was no yearbook published during our junior high years; just these composite pages printed in the school newspaper.  You've got to be quite a pack rat to have saved this kind of stuff all these years, and that I am.

Then you have to fumble around with the scanner to get the oversize sheets digitized in pieces and stuck together.  Enjoy the memories.


I think I counted about 230 pics here which would be more than 2/3 of the 1963 EH senior class.  However, a fair number of these kids went to Poly after this and we picked up a contingent from Handley at EH. 

Any idea how many 6th grade classes fed this school and from which elementary schools?

Feeders:
    Meadowbrook Elementary
    Tandy Elementary
    Sagamore Hill Elementary

Others??





Adios

Monday, January 17, 2011

Car Development 1900 - 1965


This post is somewhat related to my earlier US highway posting HERE.

Shorpy, an online database of HD scans from very large, very old photograph negatives, is a terrific collection of originals from which to crop out small portions for a closer look at detail. 

Most of their pictures were taken in large cities where such hi-tech inventions as automobiles existed in numbers much greater than out in the hinterlands.  In them, especially NYC, you can actually see the transition from horse-drawn coaches to horseless carriages taking place.

The pictures are roughly spaced about 8-10 years apart in order to better illustrate the change in cars on the road.  The Goofy cartoon is one that I clearly recall from 1950s broadcasts of the Sunday night Walt Disney TV programs.  It depicts what was going on in California during the 1950s, but what Texas would not start seeing until about the 1970s as the highway system was built-out there. 




Adios

The Pointy Haired Boss - More




Reminds me of some of the newcomers I worked with last.  No kidding...

Sunday, January 16, 2011

The Pointy-Haired Boss

Scott Adams, Dilbert's originator, has an amazing talent for capturing the essence of today's business management and working atmosphere.  I'm thankful to not be dealing with this kind of crap any longer, but can attest to its accuracy...it's uncanny.

I like to group a few similar strips together and post them here as a means of storing them for later reference.  Hope you enjoy them, too.  But if you don't, no matter...they're in storage for now.


Adios

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Substance


Sometimes substance is easy to see; and so is the lack thereof.

If you ever have wanted to call someone on their veracity, call them a liar...saying that they do disservice to the truth is an eloquent way to do it.

Adios

Friday, January 14, 2011

Goatheads


Although I am mostly a product of medium-size city suburbs, much of my boyhood recollections are of a new, post WWII neighborhood living on a street loaded with kids from one end to the other.  Like my Dad, all or certainly most of the fathers living on that street were WWII veterans.  Our street was just a simple, straight thoroughfare with none of the curves and cul-de-sacs characteristic of upscale residential neighborhoods.  No, our neighborhood was a semi-shotgun collection of 3 bedroom, 1 bathroom, 1-car garage brick homes, perhaps 1200-1400 square feet in size.

Living those 5-years in that house had some magic to them.  By a year or two the neighborhood had built out and I was the oldest kid on the block.  That enabled me to choose and lead whatever games the neighborhood kids decided to play.  There were hide-and-seek games that ranged up and down the street for several houses in all directions; trick-riding bicycle rodeos in the street; football games on the front lawn; and baseball games in the back yard.  We could get a baseball game going with only a batter and a pitcher. 

We always played barefoot outside nearly all summer and our young feet would toughen with calluses wherever they came into contact with the ground, which for a kid was pretty much the entire bottom of the feet, except the instep.  Mom would insist that those feet be washed at night, but from what I can remember, it didn’t seem to improve their condition.  However, that toughening of the feet had its upside.  One of the benefits of toughened feet was that not too much bothered you when you stepped on or in something.  The in something part was usually the leavings of a neighborhood dog, which was not of much consequence unless the dog had diarrhea.  Of course if it did, then play was immediately stopped for a quick trip to the garden hose to wash-off, especially between the toes!

A Texas summer is hot and dry requiring that lush lawns be frequently watered—these were the days before sprinkler systems were even a thought in most neighborhoods.  The climate also produced some unique species of vegetation specially acclimated to the hot, dry environment.  As I recall, there were at least 2 distinct varieties of stickers.  One of them could hurt if your feet were not toughened up, or if they found their way to your instep.  But their barbs were fairly soft such that they would bend somewhat and usually fall away as your foot left the scene.  The other sticker was a goathead, so named because of its resemblance to a goat’s skull complete with 2 horns.  They are nasty little buggers that can flatten a bicycle tire and deliver a sharp pain even to calloused young feet.  When they stuck, they stayed stuck, and required the victim to immediately cease his forward motion to remove it.

This obscure subject recently came to mind when I was thinking about how people develop into whatever kind of adults they become, accompanied by a body of experience which for most, is largely different one from another.  My friend, Bob, described his childhood as one that was much different than the childhood I had experienced.  And in trading stories with Bob, I began to understand that such disparate childhood and perhaps young adult memories tend to color our views of what, in a larger societal sense, is a relatively common history.  It’s another version of the North—South societal differences that led to a Civil War, differences that to this day are still evident between the two regions.  Whatever it is, it is a powerful influence.

I thought of all this in the context of goatheads as an adjunct to my thoughts about our disparate Vietnam service experience and our differing political views—each, I think, having their roots in our childhoods and young adult years.  Bob had described his childhood as having been spent in significant part, living in Israel and later, in Los Angeles.  The experience of growing up in either of those places would have been very much different than my own suburban childhood experience.

While I was tumbling down the gentle incline of our front lawn during a football game, Bob told of being chased down a Los Angeles street by a gang of young toughs shouting anti-Semitic taunts.  And while I was being criticized by my 3rd grade teacher, Mrs. Walsh, for sailing paper airplanes, Bob was being taught by Jewish teachers who displayed the serial numbers that had been tattooed on their arms in Nazi concentration camps.  Bob’s teachers taught him that like the Germans, Americans would come someday to take everything they had.  Thoughts like that are so at odds with my own maturing experience that they defy belief. 

Anyway, as I dug out some old pictures to illustrate this little piece, thoughts of childhood games of baseball, football, fishing, sailing paper airplanes, large post-war classes brought a lot of memories flooding back to mind.  Not a single thought was one of taking something from someone else, or even hearing that notion expressed in my classes or amongst my friends.  We had other things to do, and goatheads to deal with.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Tucson


I'll probably pull this post back after a few days...didn't really want to deal with it.  However, the cartoon someone sent me today was too pointed not to share.  The outrage is, as most of us know, just another incident in a long line of similar senseless violent incidents stretching back at least to JFK and Dallas.  I'm sure there are some actuarial calculations that would accurately predict losses like this over any given period of time.


That's not to diminish the profound loss to the families.  However, the vulgar media and political circus that quickly sprung up immediately after the crime was truly repugnant.  Leftists of all stripes took their wild shots at anything they could, to see if anything stuck.  I think they have been successful in further exposing their own decay.  I don't know what good can come of something like this...but maybe something can.  We can hope.


Adios

Monday, January 10, 2011

My Name is Peggy


I was trying to set something up on Facebook a couple of days ago and hit a stumbling point.  Google the question…it takes me right back into Facebook and one of its forums.  Fair enough. 

The second answerer appeared to be one of those tech support type of guys…his answer had an air of authority about it and seemed to make sense.  His screen name was Ashfaq something.  This ain’t Deb or Jimmy down at the Facebook store, I’m thinking.  Depending on how much information an account holder wishes to give away, it may be possible to learn more about who and where Ashfaq is. 

Turns out that Ashfaq is a resident of the island of Mauritius.  Where the heck is that?  Look it up…a small tropical island east of the larger island of Madagascar off the coast of Mozambique—the tip of Africa.  O.K., so this dude living in the ocean off the tip of Africa is answering my question about Facebook….need to be very careful what I put out on Facebook, but then again, I already knew that.

This example is a pretty good one by way of illustration of how far your computer screen reaches out into the world. 

Sunday, January 09, 2011

James B. Ledbetter – EHHS Aggie



I didn’t know Mr. Ledbetter very well but ran across him in the halls enough to form some opinions about him.  He joined the faculty about our 1961 Junior year as an algebra and geometry teacher.  A fairly short man, his manner was friendly and mildly aggressive, but there was a problem…he was EH’s only Aggie, and a vociferous one.

Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not really an Aggie hater, just more of an Aggie tolerater as are a great many Texans.  For those readers who lack the experience of being subjected to that old time Aggie stuff, let me explain.  Aggies are a subset of Texans, a group unto themselves and proudly so, for reasons that non-Aggies have trouble understanding.

The old timers grew up suffering a variety of deficient circumstances and took themselves to College Station for their initial remediation.  The problem at College Station was yet another set of deficient circumstances that young Aggies had to endure.

Problem #1 was that there were no girls there.  That alone caused raised eyebrows amongst students all around the state and drew even more scrutiny of their student population since few red-blooded males would ever willingly subject themselves to that kind of deprivation. 

Problem #2 was that the campus was located in the middle of nowhere, miles and miles from any real civilization.  A few low buildings and a huge football stadium in the middle.

Problem #3 was that members of the student body squeezed their balls to effect sharp pain in a gesture to “share the pain” of their fighting football team on the field.  Ow-K.

Then there were the uniforms, the paddle hazings, geeky-looking boys, and still no girls.  And our Mr. Ledbetter was an Aggie alum.  As 16-17 year old high school students, we really had no idea how deep the currents ran and that ignorance could be risky to some elements of our well being.  During our Senior year, EHHS won the Ft. Worth football championship, the 9-1-1 Longhorns won the Southwest Conference, and the Aggies went 3-7.

Mr. Ledbetter was a cranky little Aggie most Mondays during Fall 1962.  Most Mondays following his Friday mini pep rallies, EH football players usually came in off a win, the Longhorns always won, and his beloved 3-7 Aggies almost always lost.  That Fall, Mondays were usually grim in Mr. Ledbetter’s world and a lot of us had fun with that.

As I think back on it, that may explain why Mr. Ledbetter is the one EH teacher I recall as having been disingenuous with me.  It was out of character for him, but it was a singularly egregious bit of flim-flammery that I wouldn’t condone even today.  That’s a long time past, to be sure, but I’ve never forgotten it and whatever good points he had in my book were forever scratched away by it.  So, when I see a headline like the one that appeared this weekend, I grin with a special bit of amusement.  Here is another one to stick up your nose, Jimmy.


Post script – Aggies added girls in the early 1970s but were initially only able to fill about 25% of the student population with them; it’s still not yet 50%, but they’re trying.  The real question remains, now that you've got them, do you know what to do with them?

While starting my professional career with one of the large companies in the early 1970s, one of my new colleagues was a recent Aggie graduate.  Although reasonably social, he was quite timid and not at all sophisticated.  Talk got around to an Aggie engineering staple, their senior design project.  When I turned to him and asked what his project had been, he replied without thinking or hesitation, “a tractor seat."

‘nuff said.

POWER


Power has never been one of my driving ambitions, nor has respect for it.  However, I do recognize that situations vary and so do definitions of POWER.

This picture of a heavy cell closing in on downtown Miami some years ago is one that I've liked and have wanted to use as an illustration of one of my thoughts about POWER.  Donald Trump may not be the best person to use in illustrating my thought, but until I can find a better image, I hope he doesn't mind my use of his image.  I think he was actually defending his wife when that picture of him was taken.

There are plenty of times that you have to pick your fights carefully due to an imbalance of power.  Some fights are worth the fighting, and many aren't.  The writings of Sun Tzu are based on those notions.

In this illustration I imagine a situation where a powerful man, a substantial land owner, and an employer of other men in his service is confronted with a situation that he can neither master nor control.  He is the master of and controls much of those people and things around him, but alas, he is much smaller than the little dot. 

Imagine that powerful man (personified by Mr. Trump, or a suitable substitute) standing on the very pinnacle of his tallest building, surrounded by a cluster of his other tall buildings as he screams, shakes his fist, and demands that God take his crap somewhere else...then, imagine the lightning bolt.


Adios

Friday, January 07, 2011

NPR - Juan Williams - plus 76-days

This is a short update of an earlier posting on this subject back in October.  Juan Williams' titular boss, Ellen, was given her walking papers today and Ellen's feckless NPR boss, Vivian, didn't get her year-end bonus, aw shucks.

Williams came out of the deal sitting pretty.  He's got a big book deal and is being used more as a commentator on Fox News.

Meanwhile, today in the 112th House of Representatives first business session, the United States Constitution is being read into the record.  This is a useful thing to do, since the 111th House, led by former Speaker Nancy Pelosie, showed clear signs that the Democratics had no idea that such a document existed.  They took no time to read the legislation they rammed through, so the notion that any of them might have read the Constitution lacks merit.

As for Vivian, keep in mind that there is no way that Ellen acted in a vacuum when she fired Juan Williams.  Ellen almost certainly acted on orders from her supervisor....Vivian.  H-m-m.


Adios

Thursday, January 06, 2011

Dead Arkansas Birds & Milford Sound


Here's the way my mind works...the recent bird kills in Arkansas and now Louisiana caused me to recall a fascinating bird event I saw in New Zealand some years back.  We had finished a long project in Australia and the airline offered a no-cost stop over in New Zealand on the way home.  We jumped at the opportunity.  It was after that trip that I decided there was no reason to visit countries that weren't predominately English speaking.  I was in Germany when the Russians invaded Afghanistan and had the eerie experience of knowing from TV news that something was going on, but couldn't understand a thing they were saying...then, they switched to playing Wagner

English speaking countries are generally safe, the food is fine to palatable, lodging is comfortable, you can understand what the heck is going on around you, and there are plenty of destinations that offer fine scenery and other reasons to leave a comfortable home for awhile.  That thought hit me as we were in an Air New Zealand DC-10 somewhere over the Tasman Sea bound for Aukland and had no reservations for the night, no rental car, and no worries about handling those matters after we landed. 

Knowing that jealous wags (both family and so-called friends) would be waiting back home to pick our trip apart in that snarky way they do, I suggested to wife that we include a jump down to the South Island in our itinerary.  Why?  Well anytime you hear or read of someone going to New Zealand, they always come home gushing about the South Island.  And when any of them had been to NZ, they always snarked about whether you had seen the damned South Island?  Why the South Island?  Well, that's where much of the spectacular scenery is, specifically Milford Sound, and that was our destination.  

Getting to the South Island is a matter of an hour flight from Aukland to Wellington, and on to Christchurch, about another hour or less.  From Christchurch it's about a day's drive to Queenstown, the jumping-off point for a visit to Milford Sound.  We were young enough to be beguiled by a long-practiced New Zealand travel offer that encourages you to rent a motor home and take your room with you wherever you go.  What a pile of crap.

Wife hated the whole motor home idea so much that she kept coming up with anything she could to delay our departure from Christchurch.  She insisted that we pick up a string of things for the trip as quickly as she could think of something else to increase the delay.  I was violent.  We were 4-5 hours late getting on our way and had to camp in that damned thing along the way that night...what a nightmare.  Not the camping...the wife!


I don't recall the mileage to Queenstown, but I recall it being a full day's drive in that dumb motor home under good conditions.  The motor home was one of those little Japanese truck jobs by a maker you see in Japan but not in the US and it was too small for my long legs...my knees kept hitting the steering column when I engaged the clutch or brakes.  However, along the way there was some lovely scenery...Mt. Cook, some bright turquoise lakes, and an amazing quantity of dead hawks on the road....(see, here's the tie-in...).


I was very puzzled about how so many hawks could have been hit along a mostly deserted highway.  Then I saw one...a live hawk was in the road ahead, feeding on some road kill.  As we drew closer and closer, the hawk did not fly away...it was determined to hang onto that meal and it was too heavy for him to lift.  That was what was happening to the hawks.  

I didn't hit the bird, of course, but a lot of others did hit a lot of other birds.  Maybe the locals saw it as an opportunity to thin the numbers of a predator that troubled them in other ways.  I don't know.  This New Zealand video illustrates how the birds behave...the first minute or so tells the story well enough-they won't leave the meal.




So after seeing a lot of dead hawks and a lot of lovely scenery we get into Queenstown, dump the motor home for a station wagon with an automatic shift and the road worries ended at that point.  Milford Sound?

Well, from Queenstown, Milford Sound is about 15-minutes by local air taxi, but a lot of bad weather is coming in...all flights are canceled...high winds and low ceilings, just like the top picture.  O.K., lets drive, we've got a good car now.  There's a problem.  That 15-minute flight takes about 10-12 hours by car.  Why?  You have to go south down the length of Lake Waktipu around the mountains, then north along the coast....weather was worsening.  There were reports of landslides and fatalities.  We decided to stay put in a neat lodge with a great view down the length of the lake.


I was still hoping for a break in the weather that would allow us to sneak over to the Sound, but no dice.  The Maori legends state that the giant Matau was burnt to death in his sleep after he abducted a chief's daughter, burning a massive hole in the ground and melting the ice and snow of the surrounding mountains, forming the lake. The lake is a large "S" shape, like a giant, curled up and sleeping on its side. Matau's head rested at Glenorchy, at the north of the lake, and his feet south in Kingston. Queenstown sits on Matau's knee. 

Late that afternoon into early evening an amazingly clear face formed in the clouds right over the lake...all of us saw it, clear as a picture.  It was a huge Maori mask...maybe it was Matau.  I don't know, but its appearance stayed there for a long time and abruptly ended any further ambition on my part to go see the Milford...several people died that night down the lake.  True story, so help me.  

See where my mind can go from a few thoughts about some dead birds in Arkansas?

 
P.S.  The first snark out of a back home wag's mouth...."did you go to the South Island?"  When they heard a one word affirmative, wilting was palpable.  

 Adios


Wednesday, January 05, 2011

Lake Eastern Hills



Here is a little lake I’ll bet most of you never knew of, it was a pond actually.  It is still there and located just a few doors north of the EHHS campus.  As the pictures show, only about 10-12 homes back up to it and you would have had to know someone in those homes to have gotten a look at it.  Pretty little scene just off the school campus most of us never knew of.

A year or so before we entered EHHS, a few of us decided to build a raft and sail the pond.  That effort lasted only a couple of days before we lost interest in the enterprise and I think one or two of the property owners came out to object to our vessel possibly setting sail on their pond.  Ran across the photo recently and was reminded of our failed enterprise.




Adios

Otzi - Tut - George


Photography is only about 150-years old and although good portraits can be found of people taken about 100-years ago, really good portraits much older than that are nearly non-existent.  However, with recent advancements in computer modeling technology it is possible for scientists to start with mummified remains or even an accurate painting of George Washington and produce a 3-D likeness that is most likely very accurate to the original.

Enlarge the picture and imagine viewing someone from another time as they were at a point in their lives.  What would you say if they could talk?

Fascinating, isn't it?



Adios

Tuesday, January 04, 2011

Edward R. Stewart


Over the years several things of a relatively trivial nature have irritated me maybe a bit more than such things should.  I began to lose interest in football during the early 1970s about the time I first heard that an unremarkable lineman was making over $100,000/yr in the NFL.  That’s when a starting engineer made about $10-12,000/yr.

The same kind of high pay was going to major league hitters that had no better than .240 batting averages.  Then there were the early days of showboating in the end zones, the end zone dances and such, and breathless announcers dubbing one sports guy or another, a “hero.”  In my world, a hero was a far more substantial person than a kid showing off in the end zone. 

Then came the baseball strikes and free-agency where very highly paid athletes declared themselves “entertainers” and closed down the 1994 World Series.  Much to the consternation of family members I haven’t been interested in modern sports for a long time.  When I played, it was a different time and a different character.

As for news reporting, it suffered its own version of withering substance along with an increase in triviality.  Like most of us I’ve led a busy life working and raising a family, so there has been little time to contemplate the details of these changes around us. 

However, more recently I’ve taken more time to contemplate a variety of things and take note of the stupidity that seems to swirl around us every day.  I’m no longer interested in getting wound up about dumb things, but do find it interesting to dig a little deeper to find “the rest of the story,” the one that easily escapes us when we’re not paying close attention. 

I stopped all periodical subscriptions decades ago.  No time to read them and I got tired of hauling unread papers and magazines out for garbage pickup.  It dawned on me that all I was doing when I did read those things was simply reading a stranger’s opinion or report and I could draw those conclusions myself.  With growing demands on my time, it grew more important to choose my diversions carefully.  Now and then, in the event of encountering an outrageous or plain dumb piece, it was revealing to look up who the author was.

This past weekend a headline danced across the screen saying that the New York Times had (seriously) posed the notion that the comedian Jon Stewart (born Jonathan Stuart Leibowitz; November 28, 1962) may be this generation’s Edward R. Murrow.  Now, I ejected the New York Times from my approved news vendor list many years ago, mostly due to their slanted reporting which more recently evolved into shameful leftist propaganda.  It’s always been a big paper, so it was one of those that I frequently hauled out to the garbage, much of it unread. 

For those of you that don’t recall Edward R. Murrow (1908-1965), he was a highly regarded newsman from the 1930-1960 time frame and an early TV news pioneer.  Jon Stewart is a talented comedian.

The Times writers’ premise was based on Stewart’s public (and comedic) charge to Congress to take care of the 911 police and firemen health problems.  Never mind that they were being taken care of by programs already in place and the new initiative was loaded with about 100% too much pork which would not flow to the police and firefighters at all.  Never mind the facts, this was a leftist foray.   

The illustration shows this generation’s proposed replacement for Edward R. Murrow and the authors of the NYT article so you can see the faces behind the words which is sometimes useful to help you decide how much credibility to give the writers.


Adios

John Belushi With Pencils in his Nose

Screen Capture
Studio Still

Some pictures just tickle me and remind me of interesting times past.  I think John Belushi was a true comedic genius and this particular picture from the film Animal House reminds me of myself  as a college undergrad.  Also, a lot of people hit this blog as a result of an image search for this picture and it is hard to find.

John...it was too fast and too short, mate. Thanks for the laughs and God bless you.


Adios

Monday, January 03, 2011

Third Shift Scholars


Anonymous posted this story in one of the comments sections and swore it was true. I don’t know, but thought I would share it in case someone else had heard of it.

Anonymous wrote,

“Almost 50-years ago, sometime during our senior year a master key to the school mysteriously showed up in the hands of one of our close circle of friends. I don’t recall exactly who had it when I first saw it, nor do I recall the story of how it came into our possession. However, I clearly recall some of the things we did and I am still somewhat troubled to have been a part of it.

“Apparently some prominent members of the Class of 1962, and maybe even of the classes before them, had established the practice of purloining 6-weeks exams and semester final exams. This was done during the second or third 6-wk period of each senior year and involved what was, simply stated…breaking and entering.

“About mid-way through the first senior semester the basic information of how to do it was passed from a ’62 to a ’63 Highlander. The means of entry was by breaking a window in the shop garage door near the latch handle, raising the door and walking in. I think the 1963 Third Shift Scholars used the broken glass method only once, then someone came up with a master key to all locks in the entire school.

“Of course, this was done in the dead of night and there were no burglar alarms, night watchmen, or video surveillance to worry about. The point of entry was in an area that was well below ground level and hidden from any passing traffic. Once in the school, there was still the problem of locked classroom doors, but seldom were the transoms locked. For a small group of lithe seventeen-year olds, boosting one of them up and through the transom was no problem and once in, the door was simply unlocked. After the master key appeared, even this bit of gymnastics was unnecessary.

“Teachers were creatures of habit, so the tests tended to be in the same place each time—Coach Willingham kept his American History exams under his small desk top lectern, other teachers used a certain desk drawer, and still others used a shelf in their cloak closet. We took only one copy of each test and checked to determine if more than one test version was being used. Although it is of little solace, we never caused damage or took anything but the tests.

“With the test in hand we retired to one of the guy’s houses to conduct a ‘study session’ where we would work out the answers and determine who would miss what questions and how many of them. We thought it important that we not all score 100 on the exams when a 96 or 98 would do and we also thought it important that we not all miss the same questions or finish too quickly.

“Once the answers were worked out, which often took more time than was allowed for the test itself, we had to commit everything to memory. Frequently the test questions were nebulous which triggered a spirited debate about their true meanings.

“I recall only one occasion that a teacher became suspicious and that was Mrs. Priddy in her English class. One of her tests was very, very difficult, probably designed to drive class grades down to enable her to implement a curve for reasons I never knew. We spent an inordinate amount of time working that test out and arranging the execution plan—who would miss what. When she returned the graded tests, I recall her having an exasperated expression on her face each time she reached one of our desks.

“Since our Third Shift Scholar program started so late in our matriculation, there could have been very little effect on the final standings which had been accumulating for almost 3-1/2 years at that point. Our goal was not to improve our class standing, it was to improve life our final few weeks in school before we would move on to the next 50-years or so.

“We caused some mischief on only a couple of occasions. Otherwise, nothing was ever stolen or vandalized. One of those occasions was very late in our last semester when we raised Mr. Johnson’s glass desktop with everything on it undisturbed and inverted his desk beneath it, then replaced the glass top with everything on it on the upturned legs, phone and all. I would love to have seen his reaction the next morning as he then knew for sure that he had a problem.

“For the next few weeks we knew that Tommy Castillion had been tasked to help find the culprits. His questions and conversation tone gave him away, so all we needed to do was not talk to him and we didn’t.

“The last time I went in was late in the summer after we had graduated. I suppose this was a kind of last hurrah before we struck out for colleges scattered around the country. Once inside the school, with no particular purpose in mind we noticed that all the card files for the fall 1963 registration were set up on tables in the hallways. Someone thought it might be amusing if those cards were missing when folks came in the next morning. So we relocated all the card boxes in some upstairs lockers leaving the tables bare. I never heard how that came out and never went inside the school again.

“Not knowing how your clever jokes played out was one of the downsides to the mischief. But talking about that stuff at all was simply not something any of us wanted to do. That is my story"


Gus says, "I'm speechless"

Sunday, January 02, 2011

A Decade of Tech Flops


If you’ve thought there have been a lot of tech stuff thrown at you in recent years as I have, you’re right. Google: “ the decade's 30 biggest tech flops “ for an interesting pictorial essay showing and describing flops picked by Cnet. There are articles there for 2009 and 2010.   It’s an entertaining read if you are at all interested in this topic.

We Can, But Should We?


Now and then something comes along to provide a succinct illustration of a complex problem that would require lots of words to describe.  Yahoo's list of 10 things to avoid in 2011 provided a great example of why I'm a little slow to accept new technologies.  Read the words within the red box above.

It's not that I'm against new technology, it's that I'm not one to support racing to market with things that are not well thought-out and I'm unwilling to waste my time and money on "beta" products that serve mostly to assist over-anxious marketeers in their quest to get to market first with their wares.  Wait a couple of years, the bugs will be ironed out, and the marketeers will be focused on the next generation while closing out the things that are now debugged and reliable.  It's always been the best time to make your purchase.

I suppose it's the age-old battle between sales and production within a company.  "Sell the sizzle" scream the marketeers while "the damned thing doesn't work and it's dumb" grumble the production folks.  "Never mind" say the bosses, "ship it."

The coffee maker described above illustrates something that can happen when one company faction has technical skills, but no common sense, another faction builds it even though it's dumb, and the boss knows nothing more than how to read a balance sheet.

Apply this illustration to almost anything you see that causes you to wonder if people are really dumb enough not only to build it, but also to buy it and you could probably explain why so many dumb things occur.

And keep in mind that the techie crowd is pushing to operate airliners without pilots and the bosses can see only the balance sheet where the reduction in labor costs would appear as an increase in earnings.  Can it be done?  Well, it's being done now where armed drones over Afghanistan are being remotely "flown" from Tampa, FL.

We can...but should we?  Call me old school...I would not get onto an airplane without a pilot; in fact, I wouldn't get on one flown by a pilot named Kristin or Misty, either.  But that's just me.


Adios