I've seen most of these questions on other folk's blogs. (although I'm still not sure what MEME means, or even how it's pronounced) It is a list of ten questions about books I thought I would convert into a Thursday Thirteen. So many blogs where I have read people's responses, really surprised me. It seems that, either people TOTALLY read stuff that I've never even heard of, or they are TOTALLY trying to impress people. Well, my chance to impress anyone is long gone with anyone who has read even a couple of my blog posts. So here's my honest answers to the original questions, and the other ones I made up to make 13. Of course I reserve the right to overexplain everything, as is my habit.
Also, as a Christian, the obvious answer to several questions would be, The Bible, but I intentionally answered some with stuff written from men's minds. That way you would learn something more about what I like to read, which is the real point with the Thursday Thirteen anyway. Plus, I didn't want to feel it when everyone rolled their eyes all day today as people read that too-predictable answer.
1. One book that changed your life? The Bible. Hey, that's too easy, plus it's 66 books (for Protestants)! Ok then, The Gospel Of John. I think the first few chapters are amazing insights into the nature of God. Still too easy, and obvious! What about a book from a more mortal source? Living Above The Level Of Mediocrity by Chuck Swindoll. It's when I first realized that we can truly make choices and perform actions that profoundly change our lives and the lives of those around us. And I was in my twenties then. That's how clueless I was as a young person.
2. One book you have read more than once? Are You My Mother by P.D. Eastman. Yeah, go ahead and laugh. I have read so many of my favorite books by Dean Koontz, Michael Connelly, etc., over and over, that I thought I would reach back to childhood for a children's book I loved to read over and over again. I never could get tired of that little bird going up to stranger and inanimate objects and asking if they were his mother.
3. One book you would want on a desert island? Of course, again, The Bible, and if that's too much, again, The Gospel Of John. Fiction, it would have to be To The Hilt by Dick Francis. A mystery set in Scotland and England about an unassuming painter that is much more than he appears to the world to be. It's like art, I can't really explain why I like this book so much. I think because I really relate to the main character.
4. One book that made you laugh? Beach Music by Pat Conroy. The main character and his brothers are always verbally jousting in this book, and I kept waking up Lovely Wife while staying up too late to read it. The main character's relationship with his mother is a hoot, too. She is exasperating and loveable at the same time. Although Mr. Conroy is always shoving his politically liberal views at you in his books, I ignore this because I do love the lyrical way he writes, and he captures The South like no one else I have ever read.
5. One book that made you cry? No question. Mister God, This Is Anna by Flynn. I cried so hard, and felt as if I had lost a friend when it ended. I missed a day of work, it affected me so. No joke.
6. One book you wish had been written? A sequel to Last Of The Breed by Louis L'amour. He really stepped up to the plate and hit one out of the park with Last Of The Breed, about an American Indian Air Force pilot captured in Soviet Russia, and was reportedly working on the sequel when he passed away.
7. One book you wish had never been written? I don't really know, I put books down that I don't like, so it doesn't matter. Going by recent events, and listing one I did read all the way through, maybe The DaVinci Code by Dan Brown. I like his other books alright, but this wasn't one of his better ones. I don't personally think he's a great writer, his characters stay two-dimensional from end to end. But the hoopla over this overated book was ridiculous. But I don't begrudge him his success. Hat's off to the guy. But his claims about the factual nature of the book was a dumb move on his part.
8. One book you are currently reading? Stein On Writing by Sol Stein. Novelist and editor Sol Stein gives all his wisdom about the craft of writing. I'm not very far into it, but already I like it a bunch. He doesn't talk generalities, he says 'do this' or 'don't do that' and gives examples to help writers be successful in the craft, not necessarily financially successful. I like no-nonsense writing, and so far, Sol is my kinda guy.
9. One book you have been meaning to read? Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand. I keep circling this one like a prowling cat, I just haven't jumped yet.
10. Fiction or non-fiction? Fiction, preferrably. I like to escape when reading. I can step into other places and worlds in an instant with fiction. Non fiction is NOT an escape for me, though I do read it for learning, and enjoy learning about things that interest me.
11. Ok then, what is the last non-fiction book you read? The Fabric Of The Cosmos by Brian Greene. A physics book that takes you through physics knowledge from the beginning of history to modern thought, including string theory, in a non-mathematical way. The math is in the appendix for those who care to look. This book is flat-out profound. I read it once through, and immediately read it through again, underlining and writing notes in the margin. A blast of a book. By far the most fun I've ever had reading non-fiction.
12. What book originally hooked you on reading for pleasure? Shogun by James Clavell. I don't care for oriental stories now, but around 1981 when the Richard Chamberlain TV mini-series came on, I worked and couldn't watch it, though I really wanted to. (No VCR in 1981 when it first aired) So, I went and bought the 1200 page book. I had never read anything so big, or so fascinating. I became a voracious reader like my parents after that.
13. Who are your favorite authors? Dean Koontz, Dick Francis, Michael Connelly, Daniel Silva, Tony Hillerman, Frederic Forsyth, Robert Ludlum, Tom Clancy, Arthur Conan Doyle, Charles Dickens. I've read many others, but these usually take me away. (Though I have to say, I thought Tom Clancy's last book, The Teeth Of The Tiger was absolutely terrible.)
Thursday, August 31, 2006
Wednesday, August 30, 2006
She will probably be mortified that I wrote it out like that on here, but I want to ask those of you who pray, to pray for her.
Her surgery is supposed to begin around 1:30pm on Thursday.
In happier news, it looks like Ernesto is not very powerful, though it's projected track will bring it's center right over us.
We'll see as the day goes on.
Tuesday, August 29, 2006
My writing about childhood toys yesterday got me to realize just how close we are to September, and the start of fall. Not that the weather changes a lot down here. Winter is pleasant and beautiful, while Summer is hot and beautiful.
When I was a kid though, I loved October. And not just because my birthday is in October either. My birthday was never a big deal to me. I liked the presents and the peanut butter cake Sainted Mother always made for me well enough; I've just never thought much of birthdays as a celebration in general. I know, I'm the Paaahty Poopah.
I talked yesterday about childhood toys, and mentioned that the store in which I bought my camper for Big Josh, had a toy section year-round, although I can't remember what the name of the store was.
This was a HUGE deal for me as a kid. See, the little town we lived in, Vidalia, Louisiana, only had a couple of minor department stores; Otasco, and West Brothers. Neither store had a permanent toy section. So going to these stores was no big deal.
Well, to be fair, Sterling's, the 'five and dime' store had toys all the time, but they were pretty much limited to rubber snakes and junk like that. The kind of toy you play with for a day or two and then stop playing with it.
The occasional trip to Natchez, Mississippi, to Sears or some other store with a permanent toy section was a major event in my life. A trip to the 'Big City' of Monroe (population 50K), and it's KMART was almost total sensory overload. All of those Hotwheels! A whole row of plastic models! A whole selection of model paints. How could a boy with limited funds choose among the smorgasborg of delectable toys? I somehow managed to muddle through though. I was a real trouper, wasn't I?
But in October in Vidalia, Otasco and West Brothers would make some room and put in a few rows of toys. The beauty of this was, that both stores were within easy striking distance of a boy on his bicycle. Like me for instance.
When I saw Otasco clearing out space in October, I knew Christmas was a-comin'! Woo-Hoo!
And at about this same time every year, we would receive our Sears, J.C. Penney, and Spiegel Christmas catalogs. (Spiegel, Chicago, 6-0-6-0-9, as announcers used to intone on old game shows.)
These were books, I hate to admit, that were as precious as a Bible to me. I would carefully flip each and every page in the entire catalog(s) early on. But later, as crunch time approached, when we would have to tell our parents what we definitely wanted for Christmas, I had to relegate myself to the toy section of each catalog only. Time could no longer be wasted looking at junk like clothes and clocks and stuff.
I realize now, that Christmas was probably a tough time for my parents. They didn't make a lot of money, and they saved throughout the year, and come Christmas time, they would give us a maximum amount that would be spent on each of us.
But Christmas was always wonderful, and we always got at least our 'Big' thing that we wanted, and a few minor toys, along with the usual socks and underwear and junk like that, that are only 'filler' presents as far as kids are concerned.
And for most of the years I've been married, I would make a point of getting the Sears and J.C. Penney Christmas catalogs every year.
It was a dark day in my world when they stopped making them. (I was in my late 30's too!)
But although I shop via internet quite a bit now, and truly appreciate the increased variety of things available as compared to even a few years ago; I love to remember the joy of poring over the Christmas catalogs. And as the deadline approached, would solemnly circle and initial my main choices.
I can't wait to tell my grandkids how Santa operated when I was a kid.
--Wait (im)patiently for Christmas catalog to arrive in the mail.
--Engage in the solemn ritual of digging through the catalog for weeks.
--Circle and initial items in printed catalog.
--Mom and Dad filling out an order form by hand.
--Writing a check.
--Sending the order and check off via U.S. Postal Service.
--Waiting weeks to get your shipment or shipments, and Mom and Dad probably praying that the order was filled correctly...
Ah, the good old days. And the excitement always began in October.
And October is just around the corner!
Monday, August 28, 2006
I think the toy makers who doubled their doll production with this one are geniuses.
It's true. When I was a kid, and Big Sis had all her Barbies and their stuff in an old roundish suit case type thingy, I would be fascinated with them.
But boys learn real young that boys don't play with dolls.
Mattel and the other toy makers blew that whole concept out of the water when they started marketing things like the original G.I. Joe. The original big one, not the little ones they made in later years.
I remember as a little kid, around 7 or 8, Big Brother received a Major Matt Mason for Christmas. He was probably 6 or so inches tall and had wires inside his arms and legs for positioning. They would eventually break and the arms and legs would be floppy.
My counterpart to Big Brothers doll was Callisto, an alien. He had a clear green head that you could see through. How cool is that for a 7 year old?
I loved him. I had a big white space plane that came with him and Big Brother and I would spend hours in outer space. Major Matt Mason had a tractor thingy for crossing desolate Martian terrain, and this thing would climb over books and stuff that we put in his path.
This stuff was great for the imagination.
This was in the late 1960's, at the height of the race to the moon.
Then a few years later in the early 70's, I got what came to be one of my favorite toys of all time.
Big Josh was about Barbie's size I guess, and he had a beard and massive muscles. Think Aahnold in the Conan movies. He was one of a series of guys who could be bought, the main one was Big Jim. But the one I had was Big Josh.
But the coolest thing about Big Josh and his cohorts, was that if you bent either arm toward his shoulder, his bicep would bulge and get noticeably larger.
This wasn't a doll! Dolls don't make muscles like that!
Yeah, right. Men are so in denial. They were dolls. We can call them action figures all we want to soothe our fragile psyches, but they are all dolls in the end.
I never much cared though. I loved my big Josh and spent many hours playing with him.
When I was growing up, my mother was an excellent sew-er (seamstress, whatever you call someone who sews), and most of our shirts we wore, she made them. So I would take scraps of her material and patiently, with no instruction, figure out how to make Big Josh a back pack and things I thought he needed.
You could also buy sets of things as accessories for them. One of my favorites was a whole scuba outfit with tanks, flippers, and mask/snorkel. All of a sudden I was TOTALLY willing to take a bath, a bonus for Sainted Mother.
And I remember saving my money and finally having enough, and going to a store in Natchez, Mississippi, that had a toy section year-round (oh the joy!) and bought Big Josh's camper, complete with all kinds of manly outdoor thingies inside.
See, Big Josh had a big button in his back, and when pressed, his right arm would move down in a karate chop action. So, you could attach an axe to his hand and he could chop wood for a camp fire. Nifty eh?
But Big Josh's camper wasn't a girlish pink like Barbie's; it was a much more manly brown as befitting such an obvious he-man as Big Josh.
A friend down the street, whose name I can no longer remember, had one of Josh's cohorts, and he had a pet eagle that had a button on the birds back that would flap his wings.
We spent many hours outside camping with Big Josh and his friends. But I guess I eventually outgrew the need for Big Josh and the whole accessory scene and I assume they eventually got thrown away.
But please don't try to tell me boys play with dolls. Boys don't play with dolls, they play with action figures!
Sunday, August 27, 2006
This flower, I knew the light was getting too low, the wind was blowing it, and I knew it would be blurry because I had a low shutter speed. I thought, hey, if it looks bad, I'll just delete it. But I ended up liking this a lot. Every time I came across it, I would stop and look at it a while. Can't exactly explain why I like it though. I just do. That's always been good enough for me. Photography is a gut instinct thing with me, more than technique. This one is pretty much as taken, but I have gotten in the habit of touching up every photo I keep with lightening, darkening, or whatever, even if it's just slightly, like this one.
I don't even know what this is. It is some kind of looped pins in a palm tree, near it's base, and some string wound between them. I was walking around a park, and saw what looked like a cross. This one was in color, but when I took it, I 'saw' it in black and white. I knew that I would have to experiment with black and white on Elements, something I haven't done much of; converting from color and making it look decent, that is.
I saw this brilliant red color, and thought it was flowers. I walked over, and got as close as I could, and realized that the red was on leaves, and that the blooms hadn't even started to open. But those blazing red leaves looked pretty cool to me. This was at the same park as the black and white one above.
This was at a park along a bridge across the Intracostal Waterway, about 20 miles south of where we live. An area called Wabasso. I was right under one of the sections of bridge and the hardware intrigued me. I knew this was kinda boring, but planned on making some experiments with high contrast in Elements. I like the industrial look of it.
When I'm feeling artsy, I take pictures of pretty things. But when I'm depressed, I tend to take photos of cold, stark, inanimate objects. I'm a really big guy, and Can Not do impromptu photos of people. They see this moose with a camera and look aprehensive. So, to get out my creativity, I tend towards scenery and 'things'. Not trying to make excuses, just a little self analysis there. That's why I end up, on days like on this particular excursion, to end up with a couple of hundred 'cold' photos of things. But just getting out helps. So it's all good. Anyway, with this one, I did the old gaussian blur layer combination thingy in Elements to soften it up a bit, and make it more acceptable, but that blue sky was awesome that day. I end up having to do something to all the photos I take on days like this to make them less clinical and cold.
Another under-the-bridge photo that I liked. The subtle blue of the one pipe gives it just a touch of color.
This was taken at the same park as the second and third photos above. I liked the layered effect of the signs at different distances, and the sailboat on it's way out in the background.
Saturday, August 26, 2006
Oh well. It happens more often than not. A delay is the norm. Getting the Shuttle off the ground during the first window almost never happens.
I'll have to march outside with everyone at work Monday evening and see if it goes up then.
Way, way back in the dark ages, the mid 1980's, Lovely Wife and I were living in Bossier City, Louisiana.
That's where Number One Daughter was born, by the way.
I was working as a manager of a pizza restaurant in a little town nearby called Haughton. The pizza company I worked for is regional to the northern Louisiana area.
Also in Bossier City, was my Dad's brother and his family. Uncle A and Aunt T had two kids, S, the oldest, a boy, and A, a girl. I'm a couple of years older than S, and we were good friends as kids. We would spend time at one another's house in the summers. My parents and Uncle A and Aunt T were good friends as well.
Anyway, in 1985 and 1986 while we lived in Bossier City, we got to see a lot of these relatives.
My cousin S, had a girlfriend at the time, named Maggie. Maggie was one of those people who had never met a stranger. She was full of life and just a really outgoing person. My cousin S was, and is a sweet, gentle guy, and they matched up well. During this period, S and Maggie would have been about 20. S was in college at LSU-Shreveport at the time.
And since they dated a really long time, S had given his high school ring to her, and I thought they would end up getting married.
But it didn't turn out that way. Maggie's Dad was in the U.S. Air Force, stationed at Barksdale Air Force Base in Bossier City. And eventually, as service personnel do, they had to move.
So S and Maggie parted ways.
Now flash forward about 10 years, to a family get-together at Uncle A and Aunt T's house. This was at the end of the summer of 1995.
Aunt T told me a story that blew my mind.
My cousin S, was a graduate of Airline High School there in Bossier City and one day the high school called their house, looking for S.
Aunt T informed them that he was living in Dallas. The school told them that someone had found his high school ring and was trying to return it to him.
Now things get fuzzy for me here, I actually can't remember if it was the High School that called them or if the person who had found the ring had called himself, after getting their number from the school.
Anyway, here's what happened.
Maggie, and her family had moved to an Air Force Base, I believe in either North or South Carolina, on the east coast. Now, Maggie's family had moved on somewhere else, and this person was out working in his back yard on the A.F. Base, and saw something shiny in the dirt. He was someone who lived in the house after Maggie's family had lived there and moved on.
He dug the shiny object out of the earth, and it was a ring. He cleaned it up. Saw that it had Airline High School engraved on it, as well as cousin S's whole name engraved on the inside. This person, bless his heart, took it upon himself to find out where Airline High School was. He contacted the school and told them that he had a graduate's ring, and to make a long story short, cousin S ended up receiving his old high school graduation ring back, years later.
And although, the details of the story are fuzzy to me now, I think about this from time to time when I encounter a situation that makes this big world of 6 billion people or so seem to be smaller.
I haven't worn my high school ring in many years but I like that I still have it in there and take it out to look at from time to time.
I think it's pretty cool that cousin S has his ring back, and an interesting story to go along with it.
I've been sick the last half of this week, that's why my posts have been weak. (Har, har)
I'm hoping I feel well enough tomorrow, to at least get out to the beach to (hopefully) see the next Space Shuttle launch. It being on a Sunday afternoon and all, the beaches will be packed anyway, and lots of folks come over here from Orlando and Disney and all to try to see a launch. So, if we go, it will probably be like last time, just show up on the beach closest to us here early enough to park, and not have to wait too long. And watch the tiny fireball streak up into the sky. In other words, we aren't going to drive north toward Kennedy Space Center, because it's a lot of trouble. I know. I'm pathetic, but I sure don't feel like fighting crowds right now.
Hope to have some more launch pictures here on Monday. If they delay it, it will probably launch while I'm at work, so Sunday's my only real shot to get more pics.
Friday, August 25, 2006
But what can I say. It's one of those times where words fail when trying to describe feelings.
I love you, Cindy. And I always will. Thank you for putting up with all of my oddities.
Thursday, August 24, 2006
Bonus 14th Useless Fact: I was a KISS fan in the 70's, but eventually moved on.
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Wednesday, August 23, 2006
And the one chance I had to do this, I wimped out.
In November of 2000, a friend at church who works for NASA, got a bunch of V.I.P. passes to STS-97, a night space shuttle launch. And the V.I.P. passes put you at the closest place allowed to watch the shuttle. He gave them out to church members and family who wanted to go.
We all met at the church, and from my family, only Number 2 Daughter (N2D) and Myself were going.
We travelled up to the Visitor's Center for Kennedy Space Center, and from there we were bussed over to the viewing stands, right next to that building that has an actual Saturn V booster inside. We bought some food and drink, and then went outside in the stands to wait.
Over time the stands filled up, and then at around 10:00pm, the shuttle went up.
I will never forget this. It is truly a sight to behold, and hear, to witness a night space shuttle launch.
Of course Number 2 Daughter had run off with some other kids, being bored and all, and I told her to meet me at the bus after the launch.
One problem. They had moved and re-arranged all of the busses while we were watching the launch.
Now I was praying that she would remember the bus number we were on, because you had to go back to your car at the Visitor Center on the same bus you left on.
I'm tall, so I found our bus right away, and started a vigil, standing as tall as possible right beside our bus door so N2D could find me, instead of me running around and looking for her.
So I'm standing there, and people are streaming by, all confused because no one expected them to move the busses, and looking back and forth, in the 'row' I was standing in, for N2D.
I'm looking closely at everyone, when I see about 20 paces away, a guy that looks JUST LIKE PETER FRAMPTON! (Ok, youngsters, Peter Frampton was a 16 year old wunderkind on the guitar in England with his first band The Herd, and became famous as a part of the 60's group, Humble Pie. In the 70's he released what is still the largest selling live album ever, called "Frampton Comes Alive". It was a monster of a success and he had a lot of charted songs in the 70's, maybe into the 80's. He bowed to record company pressure and started trying to get sales based on his good looks, instead of just trying to keep putting out good music, and flopped. But he's still been doing music all of these years, and is still considered a guitar hero. Certainly he's one of mine.)
Anyway, here comes Peter Frampton (I'm pretty sure) and he's talking to a dark haired teenaged girl. She says something, and he grins and laughs.
This CONVINCES me that it's him. He's one of those people that grins and shows every tooth in his head, and he has a husky voice and a British accent. (He looks quite different than in is heyday, what hair he has is gray and cut really short. But I had seen him in guitar magazines and I knew what he looked like now.)
I pat my shirt. No pen or pencil.
I look in my pockets. Nope. No paper either.
Crikey mates! An engineer with not one pen or pencil? It's an outrage! A "real" engineer would never be caught pen-less!
Plus he's walking by now, with the girl, and I didn't want to stop them, in the middle of his conversation, around the throngs of people looking for their moved busses, so I just watch.
They walk on by, never once looking at me. And N2D finally shows up (phew!).
On the bus, everyone's talking about how they got to meet Jeb Bush (W's brother and the Florida governor) but I'm just riding along only half-way listening.
I didn't meet Jeb, but I saw Peter Frampton. I just couldn't tell anyone, because hey, these folks I'm with from church most likely don't have a clue as to who Peter Frampton is.
Had he been alone, I would have said something to him. But like I said, he was in an animated conversation with this girl, so I held back.
I told Lovely Wife, and a few others about it. And then several months later, I don't know what channel it was on, but there was a biography of Peter Frampton on television. I think it was a Biography on A&E.
I watched the whole thing, and at the end, they showed a picture of Peter, his Wife, and Step-Children. The oldest step child was the teenage girl I saw him with that night.
So I'm personally convinced that I saw Guitar Great Peter Frampton. At a space shuttle launch of all places.
But I didn't have the guts to go up and interrupt his conversation and shake his hand, much less ask, "Do you know who you are?!"
Tuesday, August 22, 2006
...almost every time I leave a comment on a blog, no matter how careful I am, I screw up the secret word (like qtbsiwm, or something), and have to try two or three times just to leave a comment? I know I'm not the sharpest pencil in the cup, and I'm not a very good typist, but dang, that's annoying!
...almost every time I try to type something into, say, Google, to do a search, I screw up the last letter or character, and hit 'search' before I can stop myself and end up doing a search on something nonsensical? And it is ALWAYS the last character I mess up on. But I heart that "did you mean to type xxxxxx, instead?" suggestion thingy it comes back with. It has saved me many a time. "Why yes, thank you. That's exactly what I meant."
...almost every time I put something in the microwave, and hit that spiffy 'one button startup', it doesn't work. Because the last person always stops the microwave with two seconds left, and didn't clear out the remaining time. So I end up having to clear out the remaining time, THEN start my own cookin'. Kinda kills the purpose of the whole one button operation option, doesn't it? This happens both at home and at work.
...that just because I talk slow, I have to hear slow too? I mean, I'm from Louisiana and I have a slow southern accent. But when I talk to someone, like the Cingular lady yesterday morning who talked VERY fast, I need to ask them to repeat themselves. I not only talk slow, I hear slow!
...that adding a fancy "E" to the end of your store name means you get to charge more for the cheap junk you sell? Why does a cherry sucker in a Candy Shoppe cost more than one at, say, the grocery store? No wonder you went out of business.
...that Denny's wants you to pay a premium price for a simple hamburger just because they now call them "Gourmet" burgers? Money grubbin' thieves! It's a HAMBURGER, people!
...that the Sun UNIX keyboard is laid out slightly different than every other keyboard with every other computer in every place on the planet? I go back and forth all day between UNIX and Windows computers and Control and Caps Lock are reversed in place, and the backspace on one is a row up or down compared to the other, among other things, with the result that I spend half my day correcting typing errors because I just switched computers! It's total typing mayhem. (I know I've mentioned this before, a while back, but this is every day! For years!)
...that I'm such a huge wimp and Can. Not. Touch. My. Eyeball., AT ALL, therefore I have never seriously considered getting contact lenses?
...I like both Heavy Metal and Smooth Jazz? This confuses my children. And they are 17 and 20 years old. Good thing that I'm in charge of the stereo when I drive, right? My daughters must be thinkin', "is he Mellow-Dad this morning, or I'm-getting-A-Tatoo-This-Morning Dad?" whenever we get in the car. Now that I think about it, it's probably to my advantage to keep 'em guessing.
...that all of the stuff I think of to complain about is so minor?
Cheese-Whiz, I've become a girly-man!!
Monday, August 21, 2006
If you've been reading here lately, you possibly have noticed that I have been a bit morose. (Big Duh-huh, there, right?)
So, a few evenings ago, I get home and there's a message on the answering machine. Someone calling themselves a voice from my distant past. I called him back right away, and we had a great time catching up.
GPB was one of those childhood/high school friends that, even though we hadn't talked in years, the conversation was as if we had spoken every other day. We grew up, literally across the street from one another.
You have NO IDEA how blessed I was to talk to him.
In the scheme of things, I know that I have a great life, but sometimes, just when you need a little boost, something like that happens.
But something big like that doesn't happen a lot. So that makes it even more special.
GPB. Thank you. I'll do my best not to lose contact again.
A few months ago, on this post, under the heading "Some Things I Really Miss", I had said ...,Dr. Glenn B. and family-wherever you guys are now-sorry I lost track of you,...
It's nice to be able to scratch you off the MIA list.
Here are a few of the photos I took while Lovely Wife and I went out and about this past Saturday. These were taken at Ballard Park in Melbourne, Florida.
Sunday, August 20, 2006
I have been trying to get better with manipulating images in Photoshop Elements 4, the po-man's Photoshop, and I picked a few old black and white negs to fiddle with.
Good or bad, here they are. These all would have been taken around 1983; fall semester I think, because one of the pics has Santa on a billboard.
Give these a click, and let me know what y'all think.
Another one of Don C. My voracious appetite for books was a genetic certainty. Both he and Sainted Mother have read quite a few over the years.
Younger Brother, back in the day, showing me how to do a bunny hop on his Diamondback Rattler bicycle.
I'm gettin' all artsy-fartsy with this one. Hey, I WAS taking a class. I wanted to take the kind of stuff our teacher kept showing us. I liked the way the pottery shard was one shape, while it plus it's shadow looked like a duck's foot. Also the textures of the concrete and the pottery itself.
Ok. I know the cheesy 'dark edge' effect is too much in evidence in the small version of this next one. But when you enlarge it, it actually looks right. This was on the Desiard Street Bridge (pronounced da-ZEERD) in Monroe, Louisiana, looking at West Monroe, La., over the Ouachita River (pronounced WASH-i-taw). Jeesh with the Louisiana spellings vs pronunciations. You need an interpreter. I sure am glad I'm not from Natchitoches, La. (that one is pronounced NACK-a-tish)
I love derelict, tumble-down things. (I guess because I feel kinda derelict and tumble-down myself) And B&W photos present them best. This is part of an old train bridge over the Ouachita River. This is a crop from the original. All I had at the time was a 135mm tele, and the photo still needed to be closer. That's what I love about this whole scanning/Photoshop Elements thing. I can revisit old photos and play with them. Though I do miss the smell of stop bath.
I still can't believe I talked Lovely Fiance into going into that old shack in the first photo, so that her face would be in the window. Must have been love.
Have a great Sunday!
Saturday, August 19, 2006
Life has afforded me the opportunity for plenty of regret. And I have the personality type that tends to roll around in them too, if I'm not too careful.
In the smallest of hours a thought pulled me out
Of perfect, numbing, ordinary dreams
It pulled me from the deep
Restless, a pressure and tension had grown
A question of purpose shook my heart of stone:
What if after all of this, my life should come up short in the final scales?
Should I wait for time to tell?
For the longing and sorrow I know to be true –
What have I offered but the portion of fools?
Detached; indifferent; and safe behind this jaded heart of mine.
Dear Lord, what happened to the time?
-- Stavesacre in the song Fear And Love
All of these things, over time, end up on a scale in my mind.
At the bottom of the scale are "things that I wish I had done differently, but hey, no big deal". I just see that it might have been better to choose a different route, but nothing to get upset about.
But at the top of the scale? Man. Those are the things that haunt me.
And there is no way I'm going to go into a bunch of them here. But one has been on my mind almost my whole life.
It's not really something I've done wrong, and although that category pretty much covers most of the things that wake me up or keep me awake, this other one is also way up there on my list of regrets.
I have a Younger Brother that I feel I barely even know.
I was seven years old when he was born, and this put us just far enough apart to never have been on the same wavelength while we both were growing up.
The Younger Brother that I know best, is a 14 year old boy from 1984.
Which, at one level is cool, but that was 22 years ago. My problem is that he's now a 36 year old man that I don't know very well.
Somehow, over the years, I was able to develop good, adult relationships with both parents and my Big Sis and Big Brother, but like I said, the only Younger Brother I know well no longer exists. I am totally at peace with loved ones who have passed away, I had the great blessings of knowing them all as an adult. They are not distant fuzzy memories from having lost them while I was a child.
And please don't misunderstand me; I have a good relationship with him. I just haven't been able to have the quality time with him that I did with other members of my family.
Younger Brother was still at home when I married and moved away to Florida for the first time. And over the years, while we have kept up and visited when we could, I've never lived in the same place as him while adults, and gotten to know him better. That is easily one of my greatest regrets of my life.
I know this will sound totally weird and you might not belive me, but I have felt responsible for Younger Brother since the day they brought him home from the hospital. And I was 7 at the time. I had the exact same feeling of heaviness and responsibility when I was 7 and he was an infant, that I do right now when I think of things like doing right by my wife and daughters, or when I think of trying to get ahead on our bills and other pressures life throws at all of us.
So, somehow, somewhere, ever since I was young, I have felt a burden of responsibility for him that I cannot explain. It's just there. Pretty much always has been.
I've told stories here about Big Sis and some about Big Brother, but very little about Younger Brother.
He's easily one of the funniest people I have ever had the pleasure of knowing, friend or family, in my life. His sense of humor is super sharp, and he thinks of the funniest things in any situation. I'm pretty quick, if I do say so myself, with comebacks and smart aleck remarks when joking around, but compared to him, I'm single-A, a semi-pro, while he is a big-league slugger at it.
Our family was always one to make fun of one another, and we always knew the poking and kidding was in fun. I don't remember ever being offended by anyone in my family and because of that, even now, it is all but impossible to offend me.
You can say whatever you want, but I don't have to take offense at it. Once the words leave your mouth, it's up to me as to how I will deal with it.
But Younger Brother is by far the quickest and sharpest wit in the family. His wry comments and sidelong way of looking at the world and the people in it, and the way we act, is priceless. He was this way, even as a child.
I remember being in awe of his imagination when he was still pretty little.
He had characters that he would 'go into' and you would address him as that character.
One character was Mr. Sam. Mr. Sam was a cowboy, a gunslinger of some note. We could all be sitting in the den watching TV and you would hear something and look over, and all you would see was a little hand and a toy cap gun pointing in your general direction from just around the corner in the next room. My Dad would cry out, "Oh No! It's Mr. Sam!" and we would all join in, trying to deal with Mr. Sam. After all, he was the one with the gun. Sometimes we survived the encounter, sometimes not. It all depended on whether or not Mr. Sam thought we needed killin' that day. Younger Brother had a little straw cowboy hat and everything.
But sometimes, he would show up with a little football and have on a play football helmet (he called it a HED-e-ment) that was about 5 sizes too big. We knew at these times we were dealing with gridiron star Teeny Robertson. And he would act like a star and everything. Teeny tended to show up while we were watching football, and while our game played out on TV, Teeny would start running from one corner of the den to the other and throw the football up in the air in a forward pass to none other than himself. We got used to watching football this way but it drove visitors trying to watch a game with us crazy.
And Younger Brother made up all of these names himself, too.
He would make faces for everyone, on cue.
All kinds of funny kid stuff.
One good thing about him being so young, was that he was our very first remote control. I can't remember when we finally got a TV with an electronic remote control but up until then, Younger Brother was our analog remote control.
Thing is, he still has this wonderful sense of humor. Can't talk to him, even by phone without his skewed outlook on the world causing him to say something that will crack me up. I guess if he still has it at 36, it's safe to say he won't lose it.
And that's ok with me.
But I sure would like to live close enough one day, for us to spend some time together.
Life is too short for me to not know my own brother as well as I would like.
And although he knows I have this blog, I have no idea whether or not he reads it. So Mark, if you're still out there, I love you Dude. Give Chester a pat on the head and an extra Pupperoni for me, ok?
And forgive me for that last picture, the one with the sombrero and all.
Friday, August 18, 2006
Happy birthday Daddy. I'm a lucky man to have had you as my father. I still miss you and want to tell you things. I look forward to seeing you again.
Don Christi Masters
August 18, 1934 - October 27, 1994
How did the world's best fighters get handed their butts?
Simple. They took a couple of pages out of America's battle plan.
How To Lose A War In Two Easy Steps
First, tie one hand behind your back. Don't let your army and air force just go in and kill the enemy until they are dead and can't fight anymore. Go in a bit at a time, and don't use everything you have. Be mediocre. Of course, this frame of mind and way of fighting comes from the top.
Second, keep one eye on the TV set while you are fighting a war. Let opinion polls and public perception, as put forth by the world's media, be the guide of how you operate the war. This is how Bill Clinton operated both terms of office as POTUS, and is a guarantee that you'll be mediocre at best on the battlefield. And when fighting a determined enemy that isn't afraid to die, nor are they afraid to hide behind civilians so that more civilians are sure to be killed, you are almost guaranteeing that you will lose.
See how easy that was?
And now come the UN peacekeepers. My fingers almost choked on the words.
So now that Hezbollah, Syria, and Iran have time to regroup and get more missiles into Hezbollah's hands, AND the UN peacekeepers will be in the way the next time the fighting starts, AND...
THEN FRENCH SOLDIERS WILL DIE TOO!
Can you imagine the hue and cry that will be going on in the world's media when Frenchmen die at the hands of Israeli soldiers?
What a mess.
Of course this gives Iran more time to get the ol' nukular program up to speed.
Way to go Israel! You've learned how to bow at the altar of the world's media and the opinions they generate with the rest of us.
I thought you, of all nations, would not be afraid to finish the job. Guess I was wrong.
Thursday, August 17, 2006
No. Not really. But I bet you're awake now aren't you?
Last week was my first Thursday Thirteen, but I realize it was a negative one. Therefore I decided that this week's would be positive.
And as a person who loves music, of course, this list, from say, number 7 through 13 could be different, depending on when you ask me. But I approached this from the mind set of which ones would I take with me if I could have only 13 CDs for the rest of my life.
The purpose of the meme is to get to know everyone who participates a little bit better every Thursday. Visiting fellow Thirteeners is encouraged! If you participate, leave the link to your Thirteen in others comments. It’s easy, and fun! Be sure to update your Thirteen with links that are left for you, as well! I will link to everyone who participates and leaves a link to their 13 things. Trackbacks, pings, comment links accepted!
Get the Thursday Thirteen code here!
Wednesday, August 16, 2006
It contains some of the most well-reasoned and thoughtful commentary on modern politics in America I've come across so far.
The posts are fairly short, but hit like a hammer.
Wish I could get my message across as succinctly.
He has started posting more often of late, which is great too.
Ford vs Chevy vs Chrysler.
I've never been much of a car person, so I never got caught up in all of that brouhaha.
As if there was ever a nickel's worth of difference between the three anyway.
And the fight still lingers in the minds of some, although Chrysler, sadly, is no longer an American car, and hasn't been for a number of years now.
Heck, Chrysler is even trying to shore up flagging sales by associating the brand with the much heralded German engineering of the parent company, Diamler-Benz, in their latest commercials.
The whole Ford vs Chevy vs Chrysler thing has always been a big yawn to me, but my Dad and Big Brother were Chrysler men.
And the NASCAR fanatics that I know at work still swear allegiance to the Ford or Chevy flag as the case may be, but personally, I hate NASCAR.
A lady at work told me she saw a man in a store recently that had on a NASCAR jacket that said 'Viagra' all over it in huge letters. She thought he was insane until she realized it was as NASCAR jacket. Then she KNEW he was insane, because he had obviously spent a lot of money on this top of the line leather sleeved jacket, WITH 'VIAGRA' WRITTEN ALL OVER IT.
Iffen you love NASCAR, don't be offended. I'm not knocking it, it just doesn't interest me.
But men-folk love to be a-feudin'.
Men love to pick a side and come what may, stick to it. They love to argue the merits of their side and the folly of liking the other side.
This holds true, even with choices in cameras.
To this day, here in the 21st century, the storm still rages online with regards to who is the better camera manufacturer, Canon or Nikon.
And again, I'm curiously uninterested in the battle.
See, I have owned and loved Canon manual focus AND Canon auto-focus 35mm cameras.
I have also owned several auto-focus 35mm Nikon cameras.
I loved them all. I preferred Canon's older cameras's layout and operation, but with the newer auto-focus and digital world of cameras, I prefer Nikon's layout of controls and operation.
So when I post pics here that I have scanned from old slides of mine, they are Canon camera produced for the most part, but also some were Nikon.
The latest digital stuff on here, of course, I've said is from my new Nikon D70s.
So with such a mish-mash of camera brands and types, which is the best? Please tell me, I must know!
For me, in this day and time, Nikon is better, but I'll never say Nikon is better than Canon.
In fact, Canon is a bigger, wealthier company than is Nikon, and is much more on the cutting edge of technology than Nikon in many respects. Not in every area, but in most areas, Canon has the lead.
So why did I buy a Nikon? I looked at all the digital SLRs in my price range, and came down on the side of Nikon.
Nikon's camera controls are much, much more in line with my way of thinking. In other words, if I designed the control layout on a camera that would be custom built for me, it would be much like Nikon cameras already are built.
That being said, I understand that the guy standing next to me might very well feel exactly the same way about Canon. I've read reviews of Nikons by Canon lovers who say the same thing I said, but flipped. Nikon's controls make little sense to them, and Canon's controls, they can work as if born to them.
So you aren't getting the classic Canon vs Nikon argument from me. I still have a sack full of Canon equipment and lenses, but I also have a brand new Nikon digital SLR that I love to use.
I've said all of that to say this. If you like one, go with it. Enjoy it. If you like another brand, go with it, enjoy it.
This tired old fight still clogs up photography message boards with the same old junk that's been said over and over, literally for decades.
Can't we all just get along?
I just want to make nice photographs that are pleasing to me, and hopefully to others. I don't care what brand is on the camera, the photograph is the thing for me. Not how I got there.
I reckon I'm just not cut out for feudin' of any kind.
Tuesday, August 15, 2006
When I was small we had a Chevy II. But after that, it was big Chryslers for a lot of years. Fury III, Newport.
Most of the family vacations I remember are in one of those two cars.
Uncle Al, Don C's brother, used to laugh and say that "your Father doesn't like a car unless it has 10 yards of steel out in front of the windshield."
Don C. liked big cars. But since both Don C. and Sainted Mother worked, they needed a second car. Mom got to drive the nice family car, the Chrysler, to work.
That's when Don C. entered us into the world of the two car family with a series of used 'work' cars.
But the one we all have laughed and had the most fun over, was a car known in our family as "Old Buck."
Old Buck was a 1954 Ford, if memory serves me, and Don C. bought it used as his work car. It was black. Similar to the one in this photo from the internet.
Of course, Old Buck had no air conditioning, and also, someone had carved the "F" word into the driver's side door in large letters. Don C., being the clever sort, converted the dirty word into the more socially acceptable, Buck, with his pocket knife.
And thus a family legend was born.
My parents always took good care of their vehicles and ended up keeping each for a lot of years, so that when it came time to trade them in, it was like losing a family member.
I talked some recently about The Natchez Trace, and Emerald Mound, and how we would go over there and swim in Cole's Creek (which, last time I went, swimming was no longer allowed).
Old Buck was the car I remember Don C. taking us there in on many occasions.
But the funniest memory of Old Buck was with regards to Big Sis.
Big Sis was in her early teens when Don C. added Buck to the family. And for Big Sis, seeing Old Buck was hate at first site.
It doesn't take much to embarass a teen age girl, but having to ride in Buck was the lowest of the low on Big Sis's personal scale.
If she was riding in it, ALWAYS under protest, and even suspected that anyone would see her, she would drop over sideways in the seat and hide.
Of course, being the oldest child, she always rode shotgun, but that also allowed her the best chance of seeing someone she knew and hiding before they saw her.
I never understood it, Big Brother and I loved Old Buck. But then as young boys, we didn't have the delicate sensibilities that Big Sis had. I just remember sitting in the back on numerous occasions and seeing her drop over sideways in the front seat as if she had been shot.
I do know that Bigfoot has more confirmed sightings than those of Sis in Old Buck, such was her complete concentration and determination NOT to be seen.
We lived in Vidalia, Louisiana at the time, and Don C. worked across the bridge over in Natchez, Mississippi. Not too far a drive.
But later, Dad started working on offshore oil drilling rigs in the Gulf of Mexico. He would work 7 days and be off 7 days, but his drive to and from work was much longer, so we finally saw the last of Old Buck. He needed a newer, more dependable car.
Don C. eventually traded in Old Buck and bought a nice used 1967 Mercury Cougar, which, in itself was a great car. Beautiful gold color. Bucket seats.
Don C. was stylin'!
But the memories of rides hither and yon in Old Buck are still special to me. I'll have to see if Sainted Mother has any photos of Buck that I can scan.
Too bad there are no pictures of Big Sis ducked over to the side in fear that a high school chum might see her in such a beaten old car.
Old Buck still rides the highway in my memories though.
Do cherished family cars get to go to Heaven?
Monday, August 14, 2006
Oh Lord, don't be far away away
Storm clouds gathering beside me
Please Lord, don't look the other way
Crooked souls trying to stay up straight
Dry eyes in the pouring rain
The shadow proves the sunshine
The shadow proves the sunshine
-- Switchfoot in the song “The Shadow Proves The Sunshine”
Sorry folks. My usual dose of sweetness and light just ain’t happenin’ lately.
I’m going through a period, where I find I’ve lost my sense of humor. I can’t find it anywhere.
I hate the trains of thought I have during these periods. None of them seem too uplifting.
But I was thinking about several people I worked with once upon a time in Atlanta. We all worked together at Hartsfield for Delta Airlines.
Now I have to admit, probably already have here several times before, but I’m not the most observant person in the world. Maybe that’s why I like photography, with a camera in my hand, I force myself to observe. I always end up seeing things I would have never noticed otherwise.
Anyway, back to Atlanta. This was in spring/summer 1992. When I worked there, every six months, we would bid on what shift and days off we would work for the next six months. This ‘bid’ happened every April and October.
So from May of 1992 until I left the company to finish school in July of that year I worked with a new batch of guys and gals.
There was always a lot of moving around from one section of Delta’s operation there to another, but I, like many, tended to stay in the same area. I would know a bunch of the people already, but there was always movement.
This last bit of time that I worked with Delta had one of my best friends ever, JK, there. The Supervisor for our area and his ‘Lead Agents’, or just-a-bit-less-than-supervisors, also knew us and usually put JK and I together on whatever gate we would work on any given day.
There were a couple of new to us guys working in our area, and I didn’t think anything about them; remember how I said I was clueless a lot of the time? Well, within the first week of this new bid starting, the supervisor called JK and myself in for talks, one at a time, and asked if we had any problem working with Guy1 and Guy2.
I said no. I had already worked with them, and although this supervisor didn’t come out and say anything, I got the feeling that some people had expressed displeasure at having had to work with Guy1 and Guy2 already, this early in the new six month’s bid.
Plus, my friend JK and I were considered ‘serious’ Christians. It was one thing to believe in God and all, but to bring your bible to work and sit around and talk about God during much of your break time, well, JK and I were quite used to being thought of as outcasts. We got along with everyone, and we only talked about Jesus with one another and the people who would ask us specifically about our beliefs.
I realized a while later that this supervisor and his cohorts had intentionally put us with Guy1 and Guy2, not out of meaness, but because he saw JK and I, as Christians, as his best hope for a peaceful six months. If we would work with Guy1 and Guy2, then it would be a big weight off his shoulders, because JK and I were the types to just do our work as best we could and never whined to the Supervisor about things that went wrong.
To make a long story short, Guy1 and Guy2 were gay. And it turned out that at least one of them had the AIDS virus.
And over the few months that JK and I worked with them, we worked on the same gate pretty much every day any or all of us were working.
I think back on it now, and I guess it’s no ‘accident’ that this happened. Because one of these guys, MR, was very interested in spiritual things. And over the months we all worked together, we all had back and forth conversations about our beliefs, and in all of this talking, MR and Guy2 both heard the Gospel, several times.
I worked until the end of July that year, gave a two week notice, and began to go all around the airport during these last days to shake the hands of, and say goodbye to everyone I had worked with.
In the end, I left Atlanta, scared and sad because we LOVED Atlanta (still do) but also excited to be going off on new enterprises. Not every 29 year old gets a chance to start over, and when I had the chance to move back to Louisiana, to transfer from Southern College of Technology in Marietta to Louisiana Tech, I took it.
About a year later, my old buddy JK had called me and we were catching one another up on our families and he said, “Do you remember us working with MR and Guy2?”
I said, “Yeah.”
“MR died of AIDS last week.”
Me, “What, you must be kidding?” See, when we worked with them, nobody said so, but apparently he already had gone from HIV positive to actual AIDS. That’s what I mean about me being clueless, that’s why the other guys didn’t want to work with them, MR had AIDS. Not because they were gay, although for some of the guys I worked with at the time, that would have been enough for them to not want to work with them.
I was absolutely flummoxed. I just sat there stunned.
JK went on to tell me that MR left the company and had moved back to his hometown, and that’s where MR died.
That’s one of the things that helped MR and I become good work friends, was because his home town in Mississippi was about two hours from my home town in Monroe, Louisiana. We had actually heard of each other's home towns.
So that’s basically my sad story. I wish very, very much that I had known about his sickness and that he had gone home to Mississippi to die.
I’ve been thinking about MR a lot lately, and I'm not really sure why. But he keeps popping up in my mind.
As a man, I hate that another man that I considered a friend, died. As a Christian, I am glad and grateful that he was interested enough to let me tell him the Gospel story, and that, over time, he heard it numerous times. Many die and never hear what Jesus did for them.
I hope to see him again someday.
Remember to be kind to those you encounter, at work and elsewhere in the world, and:
... and be ready always to give an answer to every man who asketh you the reason for the hope that is within you with meekness and fear (1 Peter 3:15)
Yeah, I know that was a bummer of a story, so I'll leave you with a couple of photos I took while exploring yesterday (Sunday) evening.
Maybe a couple of purdy pictures will cheer us both up.
Sunday, August 13, 2006
No comments from me, so as you enlarge and view them, please insert your own tropical breeze that's carrying clean, slightly salty air.
Y'all come back now, y'hear?
Saturday, August 12, 2006
But today I want to share some pics near and dear to my heart.
While working for Delta Airlines in Dallas (DFW) in the late 1980's, I had the privilege of seeing the British Airways Concorde several days a week, for 10 weeks during the peak summer flying time.
This flight came from London, Washington D.C., and then to Dallas. It overnighted in Dallas, and went back to London, via D.C. again.
Delta did all of the ground work, loading, unloading, etc., as well as cleaning and restocking the inside on those nights.
I was in Cabin Service with Delta at the time and we were the ones who went inside and cleaned, etc.
So, I've been on the Concorde, though I've never flown on it. It was a massively cool experience.
This plane was so loud, that it didn't pull to the gate under it's own power like the other planes, it stopped out on a taxiway and we would hook a tractor to it and pull it to the gate.
That is what is happening in this series of photos.
Click on them. I'm making them small because there are more here than I usually post at one time.
Those last two are my favorites.