Monday, May 25


My now departed Dad served during World War II in the Army Air Corps as a mechanic on P-38 Lightening fighter aircraft, one of the most powerful and beautifully crafted airplanes to ever come off the Lockheed design board. Although he was never assigned to a combat theater, serving the majority of his enlistment at Tinker Air Force in Oklahoma City, he nevertheless performed with distinction his duties in keeping these intricate pieces of equipment ever "flight ready." I am proud of the role he played in defense of our country during the tumultuous years that our country was engaged in fighting back the forces of evil that were bent of placing under the dictatorial control all of Europe and our United States.

I too can claim a small measure of pride for being included among our nation's military veterans, having served during the Viet Nam conflict in the late 60s and early 70s in the United States Air Force as a military policeman (M.P. for short). Like my Father, I was never deployed overseas, but served the bulk of my enlistment at McConnell AF base in Wichita, Kansas. I did receive orders to Viet Nam, but a freak mishap involving an athletic endeavor resulted in those orders being canceled.

Having inherited a great deal of my Father's athletic prowess (He having been drafted by the Red Sox baseball organization as an outfielder and left-handed pitcher prior to his enlistment), I too had a love for sports that carried over into my air force days. As a consequence of being named an All Star in the base's annual fast pitch squadron softball tournament, I was elevated to participate as the lead off hitter and center fielder for the McConnell traveling team, wherein our base would take part in scheduled tournaments with other A.F. bases. Being at that time as "quick as a cat," I believed that any single or double I managed to hit was destined to require that I attempt to take the extra base. I was usually most successful in my arrogance, but on one occasion I tried to stretch a single into a double and was forcefully blocked by the opponent's second baseman with ball in hand. Deciding I had nothing to lose I slid into him in an attempt to dislodge the ball. The only thing I managed to dislodge was some vital components in my right knee. Thus ended my softball playing career and soon thereafter my then current enlistment in the air force. I was given a choice...undergo surgery on my knee by Air force medical personnel, which was clearly indicated to have a less than 100% satisfactory outcome, or accept an honorable/medical discharge and take my chances with a civilian physician specialist. I opted for the latter, which I now know, based on how well my knee healed, was my best option.

I am proud that on such days as today, when all freedom loving American truly recognize and thus honor those individuals who have served and who currently are serving in our armed forces are paid homage for their dedicated service to our nation, that I too can stand to my feet with a true sense of inclusion. Nevertheless, I humbly bow my head and utter a prayer of thanksgiving for all the thousands of men and women who gave unselfishly "their last full measure of devotion" in defense of this great nation. My service was limited. Theirs was beyond the limits of human comprehension...and for these selfless acts or courage and devotion to duty that I stand at full attention, snap a salute, and offer in heartfelt gratitude my sincerest appreciation to each and to the families from which these brave men and women came forth to serve.

"Freedom is never free." The cost born by so many for us all must never be diminished or forgotten.

Monday, May 18

"Who's In Charge Here?"

One of my most favorite recent bumper stickers reads, "You Can't Fix Stupid...But You Sure As Hell Can Vote It Out Of Office!" The list of Washington, D.C. incompetents is inexhaustible, but topping that list are the number two and three individuals directly in line to assume the duties of Commander In Chief, Vice President Joe Biden and Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi. As the most recent news reports point out, these two ineffectual people continue to suffer from a rampant onslaught of foot in mouth disease.

First to be dissected is Mr. Biden, who continues to display a propensity to speak utterances of profound insensibility that emanate from somewhere deep in the vacuum he euphemistically calls a brain. Joseph's latest verbal gaffe came at the recent gathering of the Gridiron Club, an annual meeting attended by media representatives and power-brokering politicians, wherein during the course of the meal Vice President Biden revealed to those seated at his table the "highly classified" location of the ultra secure bunker designed to protect a sitting Vice President in the event of a cataclysmic national emergency. This same bunker, located deep in the ground beneath the Vice President's U.S. Naval Observatory residence, was speculated to be utilized by former Vice President, Dick Cheney, during the duration of the chaotic aftermath of the 9/11 terrorist's attacks. Apparently not content in merely revealing that highly sensitive tidbit of classified information, Biden went on to muse further his ill-advised opinion that while Cheney was sequestered in the bunker subsequent policies formulated "were off the wall." Years may transpire before a historical accounting will be forthcoming to reveal what actions and decisions were initiated behind the steel doors of that bunker, but I dare say "off the wall" will not be the phraseology utilized to describe that which did occur. However, the phrase "a chicken running around with its head cut off" is still up for grabs to describe loose cannon Biden.

This most recent foray into imprudent statements offered for mass consumption follows on the heels of the Vice President's free-flowing and unchecked opinion that was uttered at the height of the Swine Flu false alarm, in which he offered advice to his immediate family to abstain from placing themselves in confined public spaces, such as found in modes of transport provided by commercial aircraft or subways. This "foot-in-mouth" comment resulted in an immediate clarification form the White House in a comedic attempt to diffuse the V.P.'s prior feckless statement. For Biden, the egg continues to be clearly visible on his face and his foot remains firmly lodged in his esophagus.

Not to be outdone in the realm of venturing forth into the arena of chocking on one's words, Speaker of the House, Nancy Peolsis, has managed to paint herself into a corner of controversy by declaring that our nation's most preeminent intelligence gathering agency, the CIA, deliberately and intentionally failed to inform her specifically as to what types of enhanced interrogation techniques (EITs) were being employed against the incarcerated 9/11 terrorist, which included the highly politically charged practice of waterboarding. Said Pelosi in a nationally televised press conference, "We were not - I repeat - were not told that waterboarding or any of these other enhance interrogation methods were used." Nice try Nancy, but the verifiable timeline presented by the Director of National Intelligence clearly indicates that you and the then Chairman of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, Porter Goss, were thoroughly briefed on September 4, 2002 as to the specific forms of EITs that were being employed to extract critical information from the perpetrators of the 9/11 attacks. To pointedly accuse the CIA of "lying" illustrates a woeful lack of intelligence on Pelosi's part and further suggests that she seriously entertains the notion that whatever pours forth out of her mouth is automatically enveloped in a Teflon veneer. So enamored is she with her own inflated sense of importance and political clout that she wouldn't recognize a truth placed in fact if it kissed her on her bloated Botox cheek.

If it doesn't give the average citizen of this country reflective pause by coming to the realization that these two egomaniacal miscreants of the public good are but a mere few heart beats away from occupying the ultimate leadership office of the most powerful nation in the world, then we as a self-governing people have no sense of propriety when it comes to expecting and demanding that honesty and integrity must be the characteristic hallmarks of our elected leaders. One can only hope, if not pray, that these two reprobates perform no further ill-conceived acts of self-aggrandizement that would seriously jeopardize the tranquility and security of this nation. I am, however, not holding my breath. Perhaps the confined space of the V.P's security bunker could be put to a more immediatly beneficial utilization and, by a public vote, sequester these two poor excuses for public servants out of sight and out of mind until such time as their next scheduled elections fall due. Indeed, one cannot fix stupid, but one can sure liberally apply duct tape where it will do the most good.

Wednesday, May 13

"To Infinity and Beyond..."

In the past 20 some odd years there have been dozens of space shuttle flights blasting off into the heavens since Judi and I have lived on the west coast of Florida, and each has invoked a response on the order of, "One day we need to go see one up close and personal." When it was announced last week that the next flight would be departing the Kennedy Space Center on Monday, we decided that if we were ever going to check this item off our Bucket List this scheduled departure was the most opportune time to do so. We were excited!

Barring and delaying weather or technical difficulties, the shuttle was schedule to lift off at 2:01 p.m. In the best of driving circumstances it takes approximately two and a half hours to drive to any Atlantic coast destination due east of St. Petersburg. This minimum drive time also assumes that we would be the only two people with a wild hair mildly interested in witnessing this modern-day spectacle. Wrong assumption. We should have departed St. Pete by 10 a.m. We didn't get on the road until 11:30. Even in the best of drive conditions, we were going to cut it very close.

As fate would have it, we were fortunate to have only encountered a couple of minimal traffic delays along the way. However, with the two o'clock hour rapidly approaching, we were were still twenty miles away and were beginning to encounter an increasing number of vehicles all headed in a easterly direction, some of which were beginning to pull over and stop on the side of the road at any location that was slightly more elevated than the usual flat Florida terrain. We kept driving...not being at all sure where we going or what we would encounter that would prove to be a more advantageous viewing spot than what we were passing up.

We tuned into an a.m. radio station that was broadcasting the pre-launch countdown: "T-minus 5 minutes and counting." Judi and I were all but resigned to the disappointing fact that our desire to get so close to the shuttle at its lift off that we could hit it with a rock was not going to come to fruition. Just at that time we topped the rise over U.S. Highway 1...and there before us was a line of cars parked on each side of the road that signaled to us that we were as close as we were ever going to get. But there was no place for us to park! "T-minus 3 minutes and counting." I turned our car to the right and headed down the ramp that would take us onto U.S. 1. Not seeing any law enforcement in the immediate vicinity, I reached the bottom of the ramp, steered the car right again, across the curb and up the grass embankment to the top of rise, brought the car to a screeching halt, jumped out, and with camera in hand we headed east on foot to hopefully secure a better viewing point.

"T-minus 30 seconds..." We kept walking rapidly... "T-minus 20 seconds..." Still moving forward... "T-minus 10, 9, 8, 7, 6... This was it! "...5, 4, 3, 2, 1, Lift off!"

Personally I was expecting to be immediately over-whelmed with an explosion of light and thunder as the shuttle strained to escape the bonds on Mother Earth...much like the view depicted in the photograph above. Little did we know that geographically we were still miles away form the actual launch sight. So when the shuttle appeared a few seconds later over a cluster of Bougainvillea bushes in the foreground, the glow from the fully ignited engines was not much more awe inspiring than that emitted from a Fourth of July firework and the roar of the engines was hardly a roar...more akin to rumpling distant thunder. Then it was over. The shuttle disappeared into the gathering clouds and was gone.

What we learned, to our chagrin, is that ever since 9/11 our U.S. government is somewhat reticent in permitting just any cluster of thousands of your every day Tom, Dick and Mary Ellens to wander willy-nilly on the grounds of the Kennedy Space Center on launch day. After we returned to our vehicle we decided that we would continue eastward to determine just how much further we could have traveled had we arrived earlier in the day. Answer...about a mile. Then one encounters a guarded gate, and unless you are gobber-smoocher V.I.P. and properly credentialed, you are not going to get any further than that gate...even if you are a certified U. S. citizen tax payer.

I attempted to take some photographs of the shuttle as it hurled itself into space. Picture in your mind a cloudy sky. Now you have in your mind's eye what my camera lens captured. I could have accomplished the same thing had we stayed in St. Petersburg and pointed the camera eastward. Still, we enjoyed our day trip together and vowed that if our future schedules permit, we will return for another launch...preferably at night and we will arrive a day ahead of time. Even if the shuttle fails to launch, there is always the Atlantic Ocean to enjoy for a couple of days.

Monday, May 11

"Less We Forget..."

Mother's Day in our home has always been a generational celebration. My wife Judi, daughter Megan and Judi's mom have for years always gathered in our home for an afternoon of good food, warm fellowship and posing for keepsake photographs. The tradition continued yesterday, but perhaps for the last time.

Judi's mom's health has continued to deteriorate precipitously since we reluctantly embraced the hard decision to place her in a nursing home in October of last year. We witness a steady decline weekly in her ability to perform even the simplest physical or mental task, being all but unable to stand on her feet or to remember the context of a subject that she inquired about just a few minutes previous. Reluctantly, we have come to the additional sad but necessary decision that bringing Judi's mom here to our home for any future occasion is too much of a hardship on everyone involved. We reached that conclusion, not for self-serving reasons, but with a realization that the benefits for mom in continuing to do so no longer outweigh the physical and mental strain of putting her through what has now become for her a debilitating and exhausting ordeal.

My Mom, who lives in Winston-Salem, N.C., is also suffering from physical maladies that have rendered her all but unable to take care of herself. Yet she refuses to entertain the thought of moving our of her home into a nursing facility or, perish the thought, having a caretaker move in with her. "That would drive me crazy," she adamantly declares whenever I'm foolish enough to again broach that subject after she laments how difficult and painful it is for her to move about the house. I'll give her her due...the wheels may be falling off of the carriage, but as far as her mental dexterity is concerned, she is still fully in command of the controls. At 81 years of age, if she can continue to keep her life between the ditches, she'll keep driving forward.

Evaluating the physical and mental conditions of our two mothers, I must face the fact that there will not be too many more Mother's Day that we will share. It is a fact of life that life has its ultimate conclusions, and one day life will conclude for these two gallant women. That will be indeed a sad and melancholy day, but the memories of how these two women performed unselfishly and lovingly their duties as Mothers will live on. Today and every day we celebrate these lives and readily express how much we love and are indebted to them for who we are today...a living testimony to all that is good in them is part of all that is good and worthy in us.

"A Mother's love is the fuel that when administered liberally and unconditionally from birth launches a new life toward the horizon of adulthood equipped to conquer the unthinkable and accomplish the impossible." - J.A.L.

Friday, May 8

"A Little Slower Than I Hoped..."

I heard that the Obama administration is guardedly optimistic that the nation's economy is perhaps beginning to turn around, citing that last week's unemployment figures were less than the previous week's. Seems to me that is small comfort to those unfortunate souls who were among that number presented with their pink slips. But when the nation's economic fortunes are as deep into the crapper as they are, any " upbeat" news is better than a constant flushing noise. Maybe it's just me, but this appears to be similar to the futile exercise of rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic.

As far as my situation goes, I'm trying to figure out whether or not I am actually gainfully employed. My new employer requested I begin my first day a week ago this past Tueday, at which time I would begin to learn how they perform their estimating procedures. That took me all of a half day to master. They also requested that I "take off" one set of plans to determine if I really do know how to do construction estimating. I passed that test too. I spent the balance of the day making phone calls to prospective general contractors to determine if they had any up-coming projects for which our company could submit bids. That took another couple of hours. Wednesday and today I went in at eight o'clock and left at 11 a.m. Nothing to do. They said they would call me next week if and when any new projects come in that I can estimate. So am I employed or am I still to be considered among the folks sitting on the Titantic's upper deck waiting for the ship to go down?

I guess a bird in the hand is better than two seagulls pooping on your head. Pass the tissues just in case.

Thursday, May 7

"Self Torture Run Amuck.."

In my youth my Dad was fond of repeatedly saying "There comes a time when beating your head against a brick wall should be a good indication to stop doing that!" Sage advice that in my adult years I have applied to many situations in which it became obvious to me that the intended outcome of a particular endeavor required I chart a new course toward achievement. Applied to many situations, but not all... I still play golf.

I ventured out onto the links again today and I give thanks that I don't play this infernal game for a living!

Rather than just sit home and feel sorry for myself these past eight months while I have been unemployed, I have endeavored to play at least one round of golf every week. The fellowship with my friends has been very rewarding, as has the enjoyment I have derived from being out in the beautiful Florida countryside. Believe me, while playing many a round of golf I have found myself in places in the Florida countryside where Lewis & Clark wouldn't dare have ventured.

In the majority of endeavors if one diligently practices a craft one can safely predict a measurable degree of improvement. Then again there are always exceptions to every rule. I am a case in point. This not to say that I haven't made some noticeable strides...I have. I can now on a consistent basis strike the ball, propel it precipitously forward and have it land somewhere in the same postal zip code. That's not to say that in my attempt to retrieve my last shot will I have any success in locating it. Nevertheless, my level of consistency is indeed improving, but comparatively speaking it would be akin to a high wire artist saying that he doesn't fall off the wire as much any more. Perfection is the name of the game and I am far, far from perfect.

Today's round was an exercise in endurance. My drives off the tee were erratic, my short game was all but non-existent and my putting left much to be desired. I need to either switch putters or purchase a larger purse. I could probably putt the ball better with a Louie Baton handbag than I do with the implement designed for that purpose. My playing partner, who always insist on driving the cart, again mimicked a French cabdriver, weaving and bouncing all over the course at breakneck speed from one destination to the next until finally we'd come to a skidding halt and I would jump out and kiss the turf.

Still, during the course of the round today, I did manage to string together a couple of memorable shots that aided my team as opposed to having them roll around in gales of laughter. And that, as any golfer will tell you, is all that it takes...that one or two shots that would make any professional proud and serves to kick into a full dream state rationalization the persistent thought, "Hey...if I can keep this up I can get pretty good at this game." It's the lie I have told myself over and over again...and the lie I will keep telling myself until I can no longer hoist my golf bag across my shoulders.

If you'll excuse me, I need to call the club and arrange for my next tee time.

Wednesday, May 6

"In God We Trust?"

Tomorrow marks the 58th annual observance of the National Day of Prayer. All across America citizens of every stripe and by the untold thousands will humble themselves before the protestant and Jewish God of the universe and give heartfelt adoration and thanks for the blessings that He has bestowed so favorably upon this nation. Everywhere that is except at the "House of the People."

For the first time in nine years, there will be no White House ceremony in observance of this occasion. Instead, President will mark tomorrow, as he professes that he does so every day, in private prayer. A subsequent, impersonal White House proclamation will be substituted for any public display of acknowledgement. One can only surmise that President Obama's recent pronouncement that "America is no longer a Christian nation" represents his true sentiments on his belief that that which is Cesar's shall have no other gods before it.

It is widely accepted as documented fact that 86% of the American people believe in God. 86% of 350 million works out to approximately 301 million of our fellow citizens that, to one degree or another, recognize the existence of a supreme being. Do all of these folks spend even a portion of their daily lives in prayerful homage to God? The odds are most favorable that many do not, but many do. And admittedly, to devote one special day in collective prayer does not make a people or a nation holy. But it is at least a worthy recognition that this great nation was not founded nor has it flourished ever since on the premise that we alone owe homage to our good nation's fortune only and exclusively to man's finite ability to order his own existence...or his world.

I hold to the principle that freedom of religion is a two-edged sword of choice, in that I shall place no obstacle in the path of those who wish to pursue their personal religion of choice, nor shall I hinder an individual from freely exercising the right to abstain or refute a personal abstinence of same. This is America, wherein "free will" in such matters of personal conscience shall and must hold sway. That having been said, I must, nevertheless, express my personal disappointment in President Obama's decision to vacate the opportunity to publicly display a presidential participation in this worthy tribute to and celebration of our creator. Has our nation's tenor become so disinfected with political correctness that the most powerful leader of the free world cannot bring himself to acknowledge that his professed personal prayers to the Christian God need not be sequestered behind closed doors? Has the separation of church and state become an impenetrable wall that shrouds any expression of religion in a depressed shadow of darkness? Are we to no longer even believe, much less speak in public, In God We Trust?"

Apparently, in President Obama's White House, it is better to hide one's faith under a bushel than set aglow a personal candle that the world would assume lights his heart.

"If My people, who are called by My name, shall humble themselves, pray, seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways. then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sins and heal their land." - 2 Chronicles 7:14

Tuesday, May 5

"Here's A Bit Of Good News..."

I Got A Job!!

After nine months of being without a job, I am finally to speak. It is only a three day a week, part-time position, but "hey," whose counting? When and "if" the economy every climbs out of the cellar, there is the possibility that I could be offered more hours. And the position is in the professional field that I have been laboring in for the past 25 estimating and project management. I started today...

It is going to take some determined adjustments on my part to again get use to climbing out of bed bright and early, having gotten quite personally satisfied with living like a country squire and beginning my day whenever I felt like sweeping the previous nights cobwebs from my brain. I am also fortunate in that my new employer permitted me to pick the three days that I wanted to work. So I choose not to work on Mondays or Thursdays (Thursdays being my day to play golf with a bunch of my other ne'er-do-well friends). Hey!! "All work and no play..." You know the drill.

So, things are looking up. Not that they were all that bad up to this point. One just has to keep a positive attitude and take each day as it comes. The fact of the matter is, none of us are going to get out of this life alive, so why sweat the small stuff?

Just a couple of questions... Who are all those people in the photograph and why are they all wearing purple?

Monday, May 4

"The Sky Is Falling! The Sky Is Falling! Maybe Not..."

Apparently Vice President Joe Biden isn't just satisfied with being merely a heartbeat away from the most powerful office in the world, he now also wishes to assume the duties of the office of Surgeon General. Biden, his proclivity to "speak off message" still in tact, prescribed on NBC's "Today" show this past Friday his personal recommendations to the nation at large on how best to avoid the now infamous (and totally mischaracterized) swine flu, pointedly suggesting that flying commercial airlines or riding the subway isn't a good idea.

"I would tell the members of my family - and I have - I wouldn't go anywhere in confined spaces now," said Biden, a statement that went decidedly well beyond the precautions President Obama's own health officials have more prudently recommended. Continued the unbridled Biden, "If you're out in the middle of a field and someone sneezes, that's one thing. If you're in a closed container, a closed car, a closed classroom, it's a different thing." Ears perked up, eyebrows lifted and rectums tightened all through the White House that instantly went into damage control trying once again to mitigate Biden's latest gaffe, lamely rephrasing and restating what the V.P. meant to say.

Our nation, and the world at large for that matter, stood poised to go into full panic mode, as more and more media inflamed reports of a pending catastrophic health pandemic filled the majority of the 24 hour news cycle. Downplaying the available historic data that thousands of people die each year as a consequence of the more common strains of influenza, the media choose to overly-hype the newly germinated flu strain, treating it as though it is the reincarnation of the great plagues of yesteryear.

Such a deliberate characterization on the media's part, coupled with such irresponsible statements as Biden's only serves to further push an already nervous and irritated public toward the point of all out chaos where an unfounded rumor or an ill-advised statement pushes "Mr. & Mrs. Joe Citizen" to escalate their personal concerns into knee jerk reactions of self-preservation by instigating in mass the pulling of their children out of school, being absent from their places of employment, and initiating runs on the nation's financial institutions, grocery stores, and gas stations. If Biden's personal opinions were not akin to crying fire in a crowded theater, it served to fill the venue unnecessarily with whiffs of pungent smoke.

The only solace in Biden's latest unsupervised foray into the public spotlight is the fact that he has long established a record of putting his mouth in the wrong gear before consulting the owner's manual. The only confined space that we should be wary of and Joe should ardently avoid is located between his ears.