Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Take Your Child To Work Day

We All See "Normal" Differently

One thing this whole blogging experience keeps reminding me of, is that we all have different perceptions. Based on how we were raised and where we grew up, we see the world differently, regarding right and wrong, good and bad, and strange or normal. I have to keep checking myself when I rant and rave about something, because it may only be a problem to me, and not to everyone. Everyone else might be scratching their head and wondering why I am so upset about something, because their perception is that it is no big deal. It has been a long and ongoing learning process.

When I was growing up, my life was not the average adolescents. I didn't know it at the time, but my life was somewhat special. My brother and I grew up as military dependents of a career Air Force Officer. The short hand was, we were Air Force Brats. A badge of honor among our peers at the time.

My father was not a college graduate. He dropped out of college in 1941 to become an Army Air Corp flight instructor because he had a pilot’s license. He trained many of the bomber pilots that carpet bombed Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan. Near the end of the war he also flew some combat mission over Europe.

When WWII was over, he went back to civilian life. Soon afterwards, the Air Force was made a separate branch of the military and they offered him a sweet deal to come back in. He took it, but his wife (my mother) wasn't really pleased about it. My mother dutifully followed my father to some 12 different assignments around the globe ranging from Hawaii to North Dakota. Every time she finally got the decor in the house to match, we would have to move again.

Over the next 30 years, he had tours of duty in Occupied Japan, Vietnam, went to the Military War College, attained a rather high security clearance, commanded a missile wing (the intercontinental ones) and was a Base Commander. He retired after 35 years as a full Colonel. It was only then, that he went back to college and finished up his degree. He graduated from college in the early 1980s.

I have read statistics that indicate the most Americans never leave their home-state and many settle in the town where they were born. Most only take trips out of state or abroad 2 or 3 times in their lifetimes. Based on those statistics, my family was indeed abnormal.

I attended 2 different grade schools, 2 different Jr. High Schools and 3 different High Schools, all in different states, between the ages of 5 and 18. During those years we moved at least 7 times. We had no home town. Our home was wherever we lived.

So from my perspective, it was no big deal when my father 'took me to work' once or twice when I was growing up. On that cool night at the missile gantries on Vandenberg Air Force Base (AFB), I didn't realize that sitting on the hood of my father's staff car listening to his 10 lb walkie talkie count down the seconds to an Atlas missile launch was all that strange. When the missile lifted a satellite into the night sky, shaking the ground and turning night into day, I thought it was cool. I never realized that most 9 year olds didn't get to do this.

Atlas, Night Launch

Riding my bicycle down to the flight line at Ellsworth AFB in South Dakota to watch the various tansiting military planes stopping to refuel was just a way to pass the time. I didn't realize that most children never saw multi-million dollar supersonic jets close up. Nor would they have been comfortable with the rows of B-52 bombers lined up along the tarmac with 'Hound-Dog' Supersonic Nuclear Tipped Missiles slung under each wing. To me they were just normal.

Hound Dog Air-to-Surface Missle

I started to get an inkling of how different things were when I went to my father's office at Chanute AFB in Illinois where he was in charge of training. One Saturday he walked me through the facility and showed me some of the stuff that went on there. There was a B-52 Intercontinental Bomber that was assembled and disassembled on a daily basis along with other rooms where jet engines were tinkered with. But the one that struck me the most was the secure section of the hanger where they worked on the thermonuclear warheads that sat atop the ICBMs.

By the age of 15, I knew what those flat black cones were. Each had enough destructive power to level a city, and here sat three of them atop a mock Minuteman III. They were training tools to be tinkered with and trained on so that the ones in the field (that contained the plutonium) would work properly (hopefully never).

That is sort of when it dawned on me, that my life wasn't like most other children's. My life was special. I got to see things most other didn't, and I got to go places many others would never go.

Multipule Independent Re-Entry Vehicles (MIRVS)

Through the years, those images have been burned into my mind. However, I have learned that we all have images that never leave us. We are all left with the worlds that our parents and our cultures have shown us.

The mother that works in the Emergency Room aiding severely injured people. The father that operates huge construction machinery or the parent that works in a glass tower commanding millions of dollars or a workforce of thousands. They all leave a mark on the impressionable minds that first see them, and they would all think it was 'normal'.

We all come away with a slice of the pie. But to see the big picture is the hardest thing to do. We have to learn that the world is more than what we have seen. It is also made up of what we haven't seen. That is the hard part.

We can't know everything from our front porch or back yard, we have to go out and find it for ourselves to really understand the scope of things.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

The Alaska Reels

Bruce and Sue Do Alaska

One of my many projects of late has been to digitize a bunch of media. Not so much because I want to show it off, but because I want to preserve and distribute it for postarity. Memories aren't supposed to spend most of their time in a shoe box at the back of a closet, they are supposed to be shared.

These are my first postings of the vacation that my wife and I took to Alaska in 2007. They are not high art by any means and are more of an attempt to try and see how much milage I can get out of my old hobby computer (an Apple iMac G3 running OS9) in the garage. There is going to be a bunch more stuff that I upload to my YouTube channel in the future, so this is just the start.

The video above is the first in a series of 6 videos, all veiwable on My YouTube Channel (that is right, I am my own network). Click the link or the title to this blog to go there and see all my audio-video goodness.

If you have never been to Alaska they are probably worth watching just for the scenery, if you have been to Alaska, you can watch them for me and my wife's witty bantor and tom-foolery. Either way, they are a pleasent diversion from sitting at your work desk all day long doing mindless zombie tasks.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

You've Got My Love


Due to a host of sexist related material being bantered about on fellow bloggers feeds, "The Verdant Dude", and "Mrs Hall", I thought it about time that I dusted off an old staple and reposted it. This goes way back and I don't recall where I first saw it, but it was one of my first blog posts back in 2006. That blog link has gone dead, so I went hunting for it and found it again on You-Tube.

Probably one of the most entertaining music videos that I have ever seen. It is by a European Dude named "Bastian". I have never heard of him before or since but beleive he is still going strong across the pond. Google him if you want to find out more. But for the meantime, just check out his exceptional music video. I would listen to this song even without the visuals, but ahem.....lets just say the video enhances the experience considerably.


Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Max And The Remote

The Problem Child
The Problem Child
(click to see the BIG picture)

I have been up to my ass in projects and work the last couple of weeks. Economic downfalls have a tendency to make a lot more work and stress for those that "haven't" been laid off yet. Rest assured that a lot of the folks that are still working are starting to envy those that aren't.

I have been working on a lot of things recently, but most of them aren't finding their way to being documented on my blog, yet. They will, just have patience. Frustration and hard work make for great blogging fodder in the long run.

But just to keep you satiated, here is a little story that I has been unfolding for the past several months.

Pictured above is Max, short for Maximus. He is a puppy that was dumped off in our neighborhood about 6 months ago. By the time someone found him, he was almost half dead. We took him in as a playmate for our other dog, Bacchus. Bacchus is pretty much the perfect dog and is well on his way to becoming a "Therapy Dog" that goes to hospitals and helps recovering patients. The same can't be said for Max.

Max has turned out to be our problem child. If there is such a thing as canine ADHD, Max has it. He is a smart dog, but he has no attention span or impulse control. End result...he is destructive. Ceiling fans, shoes, bottles of shampoo, light bulbs and television remotes are just a few of the things that he has destroyed in the past 5 months. Not to mention his ability to jump over 5 foot tall fences and his never ending desire to jump on total strangers to try and lick their face. Mind you, it LOOKS like he is going for your throat, but he just wants to say hi to you and be friends. But the average visitor to our house thinks they are about to be mauled. Max is almost 50lbs and sold muscle. He knows he is bad, but just can't help it.

The wife and I have often talk about 'giving him back' or taking him to the pound, because he is just too much work. Times are tough, and Max just makes it a bit tougher. We really don't need that now. But that is just the frustration talking.

We won't be getting rid of him. After his long walks, when he is tired and passed out on the couch, you can tell he is a happy dog. He doesn't fully realize how lucky he is, but he is starting to figure it out. He would be dead by now if it wasn't for us.

Although we sometimes don't realize it, he makes us come to terms with things. All good things don't come easy. Those things he destroys?, we can live without them, they aren't that important. He teaches us to keep a neater house (if we leave it where he can get to it, who is really the stupid animal?) He reminds us, that in these tough times, there is nothing better than running through the neighborhood at night and then coming back to a warm couch. That seeing him snuggle with our 110lb Great Dane and kiss her is one of the simple joys in life.

Despite his destructive and chaotic nature, he is a gift.....and not all gifts are pleasant in the beginning. But they pay off in the long run. I expect a BIG dividend from Max in about 3 years.

MAX....SIT!...........Good Dog......

Friday, May 1, 2009

First Friday Flashbacks

Because, often times our recollections of the past are much better than our dreams of the future....

First Published, February 20, 2007


click the picture for an aireal view

I wish I could have taken a picture. It would have defined the wonderment of life. But I knew there wasn't enough light and the time exposure would have required a tripod and a lot of luck which I did not have. I just had to burn the image into my mind so I wouldn't forget it.

This was the last trip. I had made the journey three times before, but had been thwarted by circumstance short of my goal. The goal was to hike to the Tall Trees Grove. This is where the largest trees in the world grow. They are located deep within the Redwood Forest. In my past attempts, rivers had been too high, bridges had been washed out, or the trail had been closed. But I loved the Redwoods. I felt at home there among the sheltering giants. I wanted to take one more crack at it.

As I drove up Highway 1 in California, I decided to camp for the night at the Andrew Molera Walk-In camp ground. This was a camp ground on the coast near the Big Sur River. You had to leave your car at a parking area and hike to the camping ground about a half mile toward the shore. I found a place to park and packed in my tent and sleeping bag.

The Andrew Molera Campground was a large open area about a half mile from the shore. It was late in the afternoon as I set up my tent and made camp. As the sun slowly set, I decided to walk the trail to the shore and catch a glimpse of the ocean. It was a beautiful summers evening, and the smell of the sea and the coastal flora was like an intoxicating perfume.

As I walked the path through the coastal vegetation, I passed an old one room school house that had been marked as an historic site. It hadn’t been restored and seemed old as the land it sat upon. In the cool moist air of the coast, I couldn’t imagine a time that it had actually been used. My mind wandered to the 1930s and the children that may have lived in the area and walked here to learn their lessons next to the Pacific surf. It seemed so far removed from the school buses and concrete classrooms that I had known as a child.

Past the school house the path followed a meandering stream that was Big Sur river as it trickled toward the ocean, taking water from the coastal mountains down toward the sea.

The path then made its way through a tunnel of ferns and shrubs and eventually ended on a cliff overlooking the ocean. High on the cliff was a bench where I sat and watched the sun disappear below the horizon. It was a scene of absolute tranquility with the sound of the surf and the smell of the sea mixing with the greenery of the California coast.

As the sun disappeared and the sky darkened, I witnessed something that I had never seen before. As the veil of night descended and the stars slowly made their appearance, they were reflected in the ocean as I looked to the west. The thousand points of light above my head ran down to the horizon where they slowly faded into the coastal mist and then re-appeared at my feet in the placid ocean as it rolled toward the shore and broke over the rocks.

At that point, I could have not been further away from civilization. I could not have been more at peace or appreciated more beauty. These were the moments that I took the trips for. Each time I went, I found something unexpected, something magical.

It eventually dawned on me that I had to make it back to camp and that the way would be dark and unknown. I had the foresight to bring a flashlight and headed back down the vine covered trail to the camping area.

As I walked under and through the bushes I once again came upon the stream that flowed to the ocean. While I had been on the bench taking in nature’s light show, the tide had come in and backed up the stream to its headwaters.

The babbling brook had been transformed into a mirror smooth pond and as the trail skirted along its banks I stopped in awe.

The stars that burned so brightly overhead where reflected like a mirror in the water at my feet. I paused and turned off my flashlight. There, in the coastal darkness, with only the sound of the distant surf and the evening frogs, the stars surrounded me. There was no moon. There was no other light. For that moment, I stood on the edge of the infinte.

There are times when your mind plays tricks on you and you have to rely on logic to show you the way. As I gazed around me, my eyes told me that if I stepped off that bank, I would fall into infinity. There was no ground, there was no water, there were only stars in a vast sea of emptiness. But logic told me if I took that step, I would get wet. My mind wrestled with the thought, and logic won out. It usually does.

I turned the flash light back on, illuminated the path once more, and headed back to the campground. The campground was teaming with life when I returned. There were fires raging in dozens of fire pits, with groups standing around singing, laughing and drinking. It appeared as though some medieval carnival had sprung to life when the sun went down.

I made some dinner and went to bed with the strains of guitars and laughter outside my tent. My mind returned to the dark bank of the stream and continued to question whether or not I would have fallen into those stars.

I knew I could never go back and find out. It was a door that opened for just one moment in time. A door that showed me something not visible in the ‘real’ world. I hope I get another chance to open that door. Maybe next time I will step off the bank. I will always be curious.

(clicking the picture shows an aireal view of the Andrew Molera State Park, with the cliffs and Big Sur river visible. The web site for the park can be found here )