The geezer is taking a vacation from posting new items here. I plan to return sometime in 2014.
Best wishes to your and yours for a joyous holiday season and a happy new year!
Friday, December 06, 2013
Wednesday, November 27, 2013
Our Thanksgiving celebration this year is tempered by tragedy. Our little next-door neighbor, 23-month-old Londyn, died in an auto accident last weekend.
We are thankful for the joy she brought to our neighborhood with her sparkling eyes and timid smile. We are thankful she learned to give us “fist bumps” and “high fives” and to wave hello and goodbye. Most of all we are thankful for the many hugs she generously bestowed on Sandy and me.
Rest in peace, beautiful girl.
Thursday, November 21, 2013
“Look on the bright side,” Mom used to say when things seemed particularly bleak. Sometimes that positive ray can be hard to find.
Sunday at 6:30 p.m., electricity vanished at more than 300,000 homes, including ours, in southwestern
Michigan. A huge storm with 70 m.p.h. winds was the cause. The power company estimated service restoration in five or six days. The weather forecast said low temperatures likely would be below freezing the next night.
We started our gas log fireplace, but without an electric fan to circulate the warmed air it wasn't a big help. Our son performed a partial rescue with a small portable generator. He hooked it up to our refrigerator and freezer to save several hundred dollars worth of food.
Monday was unpleasant at our place. No computing. No reading early in the morning or when evening darkness fell. No television. No hot meals. Barely adequate warmth. It is amazing how much we've come to depend upon electricity.
Then I remembered Mom’s advice and thought about a bright side. One appeared. The power went out half way through the Packers’ televised football game. The few players not on the injured list were being crushed by yet another mediocre team. True Packers fans never leave a game until the bitter end. I was saved from another hour or two of intense suffering when the power went off.
Almost as positive as the early end of the
Green Bay game for me was the cautious restoration estimate by our electric
company. Our power came on one day after it went out, not five or six. However, several
thousand others remain without electricity today. Probably only a few are
hoping to stay in the dark until Sunday night so they can miss another Packers
defeat. Most people around here are Lions fans.
Thursday, November 14, 2013
Right there in big, bold type, a reporter informed us that a
football player “made a
conscious decision not to get rattled anymore.” The coach must have been
pleased to know one of his charges was thinking while determining his future conduct. University of Michigan
A few days later, we learned the gunman who terrorized the
Los Angeles airport said
in a handwritten letter he “made a conscious decision to try to kill multiple
TSA officers.” Surely, the disaster would have been even greater had the
shooter been blazing away while unconscious.
Now on full alert, the geezer made a “conscious effort” to watch for reports of “conscious decisions.” Sure enough, all sorts of people were making decisions while conscious about matters ranging from the mundane to the monumental. At the rate the new form of decision making is sweeping the nation, a majority will be forced to get aboard the conscious decision bandwagon “sooner rather than later.”
Apparently, no longer is it fashionable to simply do something soon even when one was conscious while deciding to do it.
It now is possible to demonstrate I am “with it” by merging my latest two language pet peeves with two previous ones into one glorious sentence: “Most importantly and hopefully, we now sooner rather than later will be making conscious decisions.”
It has a certain ring to it, doesn't it?
Thursday, November 07, 2013
With Veterans Day approaching, many stories in the media tell us about the actions of heroic military personnel who were crippled or killed facing enemy fire. Some interesting tales are repeated year after year and circulated widely. But others emerge only long after the event when an enterprising historian publishes a previously untold tale.
Lieutenant Charles J. Searl, a World War II pilot, bore a family name familiar to most residents of my hometown of Tomahawk, Wisconsin. Bronsted-Searl Post 93, American Legion, has been active in veteran’s affairs and community service work since shortly after Armistice Day (now Veterans Day in the
U.S.) ended World War I. My father
was an active member of the post for more than 40 years. I played baseball for
two seasons on a team sponsored by the post. One of my most treasured
possessions is a trophy awarded by the Legionnaires for achievements in high
Yet all I knew about the post name was that “Bronsted” was killed in World War I , and “Searl” died in World War II. I knew that because my father told me. I believe some Tomahawk natives with fewer ties to the local American Legion group had no inkling about the origins of the name.
Just a few weeks ago, Lt. Searl’s story appeared on the internet, posted by a Tomahawk resident on Facebook. The Tomahawk Leader carried a similar story this week. The story didn’t originate in Tomahawk, or
Wisconsin, or anywhere else in
An Englishman, Ronald M. Setter, compiled “B-17 ‘Tomahawk Warrior’ A Tribute to
Charles J. Searl and Crew.” Mr. Setter
made the story very personal, including ages and home states of all the crew
members and some speculation about how they might have spent their off-duty
time in the , near the
airfield where they were based. village
Exercising a pilot’s privilege, Lt. Searl named the B-17 heavy bomber he flew after his hometown. “The Tomahawk Warrior,” with its original crew of 10, flew 24 missions to
including one on D-Day, after it arrived at the Nuthampstead airbase in March
1944. On August 12, the plane took off for the 25th mission, one it
did not complete.
A 25th mission might convey the idea to some that the crew of “The Tomahawk Warrior” would be safe permanently when they returned, but that probably was not the case, and Mr. Setter does not make that claim. American bomber crews suffered horrendous losses early in their participation in mainland European bombing raids. During the first three months (1941) the typical crew completed only 8 to 12 missions before their plane was shot down or disabled.
Apparently to boost flyer morale, the Eighth U.S. Army Air Force decreed that finishing 25 missions in a heavy bomber constituted a “completed tour of duty” and the crew could stand down. I know that happened sometimes, because a Tomahawk resident who lived on our street was sent back to state-side duty after his bomber safely completed 25 missions. However, histories tell us the “25 mission rule” was extended to 30, 35, or more depending on circumstances. By the time “The Tomahawk Warrior” arrived fairly late in the aerial campaign, fighter plane cover was much improved and German resistance was diminished. So, claiming that the “Warrior” crew might have been on its last mission on August 12 would add drama to the story, but probably would not be true.
On Saturday, August 12, 1944, without one crew member who was left behind for unknown reasons, “The Tomahawk Warrior” took off for a bombing run to
. Less than an hour later one
engine caught fire, and Searl turned over the town of Versailles, France High Wycombe to return to base. Another
engine was observed to be on fire.
Mr. Setter wrote, “It has always been accepted that the pilot was trying to find open ground to attempt a landing when he had no chance of reaching his base or even Bovingdon airfield, which was only ten miles away to the north. He would have seen the populated area he was flying over and realized the devastation the plane would cause if it crashed there. It skimmed over the farmhouse of Lude Farm and crashed into open fields opposite. ‘Tomahawk Warrior’ and its crew of nine young men ended life in a massive explosion and fire. No one had bailed out of the stricken plane and no distress signal was ever traced. They stayed together, comrades now for all eternity. . . A short entry in official records at their base read: Takeoff 0618 hours, 0720 no return.”
To my knowledge, no special ceremonies have been held in the
to mark the end of “The Tomahawk Warrior” and its crew. However, the remarkable
part of their story is that the Brits in the area (Penn) where Lt. Searl
apparently made every effort to avoid terrible crash damage have never
Each Armistice Day, a special service at
honors the American flyers. Their names are read along with men from the
village who gave their lives. Usually, “The Battle Hymn of the Republic” is
sung during the service. Small American flags, each with the name of a crew
member, are placed with British flags along the path to the church door. The
Book of Remembrance in Penn Church has the American
as well as the British military names inscribed in memory of their sacrifice. Penn
Mr. Setter concludes his story: “To all who read this tribute, remember . . . they gave their lives just as bravely and in sacrifice for peace, just as those who were lost on and over the battlefields of
Charles J. Searl, age 23, left behind a wife and two small daughters. None of the other crew members was married. Their ages ranged from 20 to 27.
Thursday, October 31, 2013
Thursday, October 24, 2013
As a youth, hymn singing was the only thing I liked about the church services I was strongly urged to attend. Given the chance to join in a rousing rendition of “Onward Christian Soldiers” or “Amazing Grace,” I could belt it out with the best of them.
Nowadays, advancing age and COPD have reduced my vocal offerings to something perhaps best described as croaking. Also, I've been attending People’s Church, a Unitarian-Universalist congregation, for only a couple of years—only long enough to learn a few words of hymns featured there. So when I visit People’s, my musical contribution is minimal to say the least.
Last Sunday, a mature man I’d never seen before took the vacant seat beside me. He sang all three hymns perfectly. He knew every word. He knew each melody. I was amazed.
When the service was over, I told him how impressed I was with his singing. Then we introduced ourselves. Harold Beu said, “Those hymns are easy for me. I’m a retired UU minister.”
We had a nice chat. I’m convinced Rev. Beu could teach me a lot about belief systems. I’m equally certain he could never teach me how to sing hymns the way he does.
Thursday, October 17, 2013
Some time ago my love affair with baseball began a long slide that ended just short of complete indifference.
Most of the boys in my northern Wisconsin hometown participated in “
pastime” as players, dedicated fans, or both. A major league franchise didn’t
arrive in Milwaukee
until we were teenagers, so we supported various teams. We had ties to Chicago through tourism, thus
Cubs fans probably were in the majority. Quite a few St. Louis Cardinals
backers lived in my neighborhood. I bucked the trends by supporting the White
Sox, after briefly being enamored with the Detroit Tigers.
We didn’t have Little League baseball, but a summer sports program offered early organized playing opportunities. I started as a catcher at age 11 on the team that competed against nines from other cities. Later, I donned “the tools of ignorance” (face mask, shin guards, chest protector) for high school, American Legion, and county league teams.
When the Braves franchise moved from
to went baseball crazy. Normal
business activity ground to a halt in Brewtown when the local heroes took the
field. Every adult was in the ballpark or glued to a radio listening to the
action. Interest was only slightly less elsewhere in the state. I joined the
crowd as a rabid fan. Milwaukee, Wisconsin
|I'm catching some baseball once again|
My passion began to wane during college days. My agenda became filled with more interesting activities than two- to three-hour sessions beside a radio or in front of a television set when half the time consisted of lulls between pitches and innings.
Later, following baseball became more of a chore than an entertainment. I was forced to watch lots of games. As a weekly newspaper editor, it was necessary to report on local contests. However, it was possible to avoid some of those time-consuming tasks by writing stories using scorebooks supplied by team managers. I became quite adept at creating descriptions of games I never saw.
But as sports editor of The Daily Tribune in
I had no way to avoid baseball overkill. Rapids had a Minnesota Twins farm team
in the Midwest League. Interest was high in the games played by the young
professionals. I was required to attend nearly every home game (a reporter
would fill in for me in extreme emergencies). There were 62 home games each
season, almost all of them night games.
Covering minor league ball had interesting moments. It also forced me to watch some error-filled contests that lasted far into the night. Often it was midnight when I got to the office to compile the statistics and write my story for the next day’s paper.
My regular work hours started at 7 a.m. or earlier, six days a week. My enthusiasm about baseball soon began its long slide downward. Later, other things pushed it further out of my life.
Business and family matters became much more important than following what I had come to view as dull athletic contests. Pro football began to replace baseball as the national pastime. It seized the American sports imagination, including mine. In retirement, I caught the golf bug. Had I still cared about baseball, time to follow it was seldom available.
Just as I my interest in baseball was nearing zero, we moved to
Since our arrival, pro football excitement waned-- the Detroit Lions seldom won
a game. The Tigers won lots of games, and their fan base expanded. This year,
home attendance topped 3 million. Anyone who follows news as I do had trouble avoiding
stories about the Tigers. To learn directly what it was all about, I tuned into
a few games on the tube. Unfortunately, I usually lost interest and moved on to
something else well before the contests ended.
Now the Tigers are deep into the playoffs. The team features two of the best pitchers in the game and some powerful hitters. Not watching games right now causes people to be left out of a lot of conversations. I don’t like to be lonesome, so I’ve been watching the playoffs on television.
Unfortunately, even the playoff games strike me as less than thrilling. A few descriptions of strategies developed since my days as a player and fan have been interesting, but nothing has changed about the boredom fostered by the same old frequent periods of nothing much happening. I was close to ending my brief stint as a resurrected Tigers enthusiast.
Happily, I accidentally discovered a way to enjoy watching baseball on the tube. I was reading an intriguing book when a Tigers’ playoff game started. Feeling a bit lazy, rather than switch activities completely, I just stayed where I was and switched on the TV. I saw every bit of the baseball action and finished 70 pages of a good book during the dead times in the game. Chances of running out of interesting books are low; I’m staying on board as a Tigers fan, although not exactly a full-time one.
Thursday, October 10, 2013
Some years ago I worked with a manager who earned a reputation for lying frequently, although there seemed to be no reason for most of the fabrications. One subordinate observed that his leader even lied when it would have been much easier to tell the truth. Is it possible that some folks have a mysterious built-in compulsion to choose deceit over honesty?
My congressman, Fred Upton, may fit that mold. He has done a good job lately of tossing aside big chunks of his integrity.
said, “I know some of my colleagues have suggested that they will not support
(a continuing resolution to fund government) unless the Affordable Care Act is
defunded. I think this would be a lousy idea and certainly harm the most
Early this month,
Upton voted to shut down
the federal government unless President Obama agreed to stop implementation of
the Affordable Care Act.
A few hours after the shutdown went into effect,
Upton said, “The
Affordable Care Act is not ready for prime time, but shutting down the federal
government is not the solution.”
Early this year,
requested more funding for the Environmental Protection Agency to clean up a
large area of chemically polluted soil in the Kalamazoo. But on March 21 he voted to
drastically reduce the budget of the Environmental Protection Agency. The
agency then said it didn’t have enough funds to clean up the Kalamazoo disaster area.
It is customary to refer to Members of Congress as “The Honorable” John or Jane Doe.
has demonstrated that he no longer deserves that salutation. If you live in
and are looking for a rascal to turn out, one is close at hand.
Thursday, October 03, 2013
Several observers termed the shutdown that separated 800,000 federal workers from their jobs on Tuesday a “mess.” A few called it a “debacle.” I think stronger language might be in order to describe what a small group of Tea Party demagogues in Congress has foisted on our country.
In addition to ruining the lives of a lot of innocent people, many already suffering financially from the effects of a funding sequester, what the ultra-right wingers have done will waste vast amounts of our tax money and could be downright dangerous for many of us.
The government shut down briefly several times during my quarter century of employment with the U.S. Forest Service. In addition, a major unit merger advertised as a cost-saving measure seriously affected my work and the work of those around me. It ought to be obvious that when employees are engaged in making contingency plans for big changes in their organization, or carrying them out, they have little time to do the normal work they are paid to do. That work has to be done some time. Often, catching up after order is restored involves hiring additional employees or paying contractors. Each day the current shutdown continues will cost us billions of scarce tax dollars to be paid in the future.
Others have thoroughly discussed the huge negative impact on our still-fragile economy of abruptly canceling the wages of 800,000 people and suspending contract work that pumps mega dollars into private firms. Tying up federal funds also has a ripple-down effect that damages important state and local government activities
|YOU are nonessential. (well, maybe)|
Far scarier than economic consequences are risks to public health and safety inherent in the shutdown. Despite congressional exemptions to keep military and some other categories of employees on the job, there are risks in the present situation. Some result from the complexities of deciding precisely which employees are essential. Even when that exercise seems straightforward, it often is not.
For example, the Forest Service contingency plan for the shutdown, issued on September 20, said, “This plan assumes some Agency activities will continue that are essential to protect life and property. . ."
The first activity listed is “Fire Suppression including fire fighters and all necessary equipment costs . . .”
Sounds like an easy plan to carry out. But what seems a no brainer is not--a whole lot of difficult judgments are involved. They have to do with the nature of the fire suppression organization.
The firefighting organization is a combination of a small number of full-time professionals, a larger number of Forest Service people who have other full-time jobs and who work on fire problems only as needed, and an even larger number of contractors and part-time employees. Exactly who is essential can be a bit mysterious.
Consider this possibility. A relatively new full-time employee, let’s call her Josephine, works at a low-level purchasing job in a small unit. Prioritizing the unit’s work indicates the best course of action is to furlough Josephine as “nonessential.” Remaining employees with more experience could carry out the most important unit activities.
However, Josephine has completed some special procurement training and done satisfactory work when called to help handle logistics on a major forest fire. As a qualified fire support person, she could be called away from her normal job for fire duty, but it is impossible to predict when that might happen, or if it might happen over a period of weeks or months, or possibly even years.
Is Josephine “nonessential” because of her primary job, or “essential” because of fire assignments that may, or may not, materialize? How that seemingly small decision is made could be a factor in putting lives or property at risk.
In another agency, reports of shutdown effects say “routine food inspections have been suspended.” Sounds somewhat innocent, but think about it. Do you want chances taken with the quality of the food you eat? What god-like person decides which food inspections are routine, and which are “essential"?
And yesterday, James Clapper, Director of National Intelligence, told a Senate committee that he could not guarantee our national safety because 70 percent of our intelligence community has been furloughed. Clapper pointed out that spies who are poorly paid, or paid not at all, tend to switch sides in the world of espionage. Imagine that. Apparently the Tea Party crowd in Congress could not.
The federal government shutdown is shaping up to be much more than a mess or a debacle. It’s looking a lot like a full-blown disaster.