Sunday, July 27, 2014

27 July 2014 Aging heroes

          The heroes of my youth have largely departed for their final landing zones.  As with all flesh, they age, decline, and depart after they have passed on their particular bit of wisdom &/or other impact to the society that they helped form by their existence and their actions. 
          YMMV as we say.  Your mileage may vary and my heroes may well be your archetypical demons.  I have a fairly broad range of qualifications for hero status.  Mine include jazz musician, folk singers, songwriters, some teachers, naval officers, WWII bomber crew members, submariners who fought in the Pacific.  You’ll find Dr. Jonas Salk in the list, David Ben Gurion, Golda Meier, and a few dozen others whom I think made the world a better place in some manner.
          Some decades ago I happened across a comic strip hero or two who lived in the Sunday papers or on the shelf as comic book characters.  Discarding the usual costumed supernaturally powered characters, peel back the layers to “Prince Valiant.”  Valiant was running around as an itinerate hero when I had yet to enter grade school.  He maintained his contact with comic reality by aging a bit as his adventures became more dangerous and his social life opened new world for his enjoyment. 
          Heroing, as a profession is similar to all occupation young men engage in to impress young women with the hope that they will be physically rewarded with bed, board, and lodging for a night or a year.  Obviously a hero who ages to quickly will grow grim-faced and be less pleasing to the young ladies. 
          Like most such heroe, Valiant needs to find some reward in the brief periods when he ends one adventure and begins the next.  There has to be a next to keep the story going and the home fires burning quietly. 
          The local paper just added Prince Valiant to their Sunday comics.  Gloria and I were commenting on the long history of the comic strip.  Though Valiant is married and has married children, he is rarely home.  He appears to spend most of his time out with the boys.  He’s been allowed to age gracefully in a slow and distinguishd manner; tall, powerfully built, rescuing damsels while his wife stays home raising the kids and running the castle.  Lately, she’s been having her own adventures, traveling about with her own retinue of females who solve their own sets of problems.  One has to wonder if there is a hidden story in the colored ink. 
          It seems that this group of regal women have aged much more slowly and still have a powerful capacity to bend the mend to their wills.  The strip if much more about their deeds and exploits now. 

          Valiant is noticeably older, somewhat grizzled, and though still heroic in nature, the body has been used too hard for too many years.  His hair is graying, his armor has more rust, his shield more knicks and divots.  As for the “singing sword.”  When drawn from scabbard, these days it grunts more than sings.   

Saturday, July 26, 2014

26 July 2014 The power of a mouse.

          Last summer the Pathfinder ingested one or more mice as they invaded its climate control fan and air pathways.  After a brief period of hot weather, the aroma of chopped mouse became a major problem.  Our mechanic replaced the mouse-coated parts then used some sort of odor adsorbent to diminish the smell of the tiny offending rodent.  The smell lingered in some other inner spaces of the vehicle. 
          The return of hot weather has offered proof that not all mouse molecules were scrubbed from the truck.  Gloria has a keen sense of smell and has found it to be more and more difficult to travel in the Pathfinder. 
          Add to the mouse damage, the continuing lack of ability to control the environmental  unit.  The failure of several push buttons which split and dove for the carpet left us traveling in a vehicle with limited AC, limited climate control functions other than heat.  Several year long searches have failed to find a replacement module and the buttons can not be repaired or replaced.  They are no longer available. 

          Yesterday we replaced the 2001 Pathfinder with a 2013 Exterra.  We had hoped to keep the Pathfinder longer.  Amazing the impact a single mouse can have.  

Friday, July 18, 2014

18 July 2014 Politicians throwin’ stones

          Slow rain all day so far.  We need it.  This cool weather has been very welcome. 
          The GOP plan to sue President Obama is another round of absolute idiocy and obstructionism on a scale not compatible with a working government.  Not content to waste $50,000,000 in repetitive attempts to repeal the ACA, Boehner now wants to use additional tax revenues in a foolish attempt to sue Obama for delaying the ACA. 

          If the GOP wants to broadcast its petty, ineffective, bigoted nature by filing lawsuits that lack standing, let them.  But taxpayers must demand that they fund such actions from the GOP coffers and from the pockets of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit.  If they want to delay, make them bear the financial burdens for yet another attempt to overturn the elections of candidates that they (GOP) did not like.  

Thursday, July 17, 2014

17 July 2014 Estimated profits

          The anti-immigrant mob scenes taking place at our southern borders is all too reminiscent of the KKK protests against Afro-Americans, Jews, Catholics, and pretty much everyone in America who isn’t a white evangelical racist. 
          We are treated to daily video of people chanting anti-immigrant messages, hoping to prevent the Federal Government from relocating some of the many minors, unaccompanied, who show up at our borders hoping to escape crime, corruption, and the lack of any foreseeable future in their Central American nations of birth.  This describes rather well the reasons our European ancestors as they streamed into the new world without waiting for a visa.  Escaping from the famines of Ireland and other agrarian societies, the pogroms of Eastern Europe, the grinding poverty of colonial nations and the indentured servitude, chattel slavery, and judicial sentences; our forebears dodged the border guards as well as possible and set about becoming part of this nation.  They took what work they could to support their families, trading skills and determination for a chance to work in sweatshops, assembly lines, steel mills, and hundreds of underpaid, man-killing jobs that offered too little pay for jobs with no benefits. 
          On the backs of immigrants, huge fortunes were amassed.  The Carnegies, Asters, Vanderbilts, and other super rich took every advantage and left the employees to live in tenements. 
          Today, our anti-immigrants are quite willing to allow the use of migrant labor as long as the migrants leave when the job is done.  I’m referring to the “They’re taking our jobs, jobs!”  The folks screaming “USA” as if the initials transfer some immense unseen power aren’t going to take the menial job paying below minimum, and requiring backbreaking, brutal labor.  That’s why the migrants are here now
          It’s only a matter of time before the anti-immigrants find enough gun nuts to join in their hatred of folks who are different.  White sheets can be purchased at your local Wal-Mart.

Sunday, July 6, 2014

6 July 2014 Dogs in a pile

          We’ve survived another 4th of July.  There seemed to be less gunfire this year than the past few.  There were, however, lots of fireworks that were somewhat amplified by the echoes from the valley walls. 
          Loki spent much of the evening of the 4th alternately pacing anxiously and crawling into or under makeshift bunkers.  I spent much of the evening trying to calm Loki, and reminding myself that “those weren’t really mortars I was hearing; at least not real, weapons-grade mortars. 
          I guess I didn’t remind myself as well as I should have.  Gloria woke me up from some sort of replay or rerun that had me yelling and moving.  Last night, while there were replays of fireworks in the valley, I didn’t have a repeat encounter. 

          Steaks to grill tonight.  

Saturday, July 5, 2014

5 July 2014 Semper Fi and other Sousa grandeur

          Last night we stayed home and watched the PBS  Capital Fourth broadcast.  The initial performers were mostly people I did not/do not recognize.  Most of the music these people performed had little or nothing to do with the celebration of 4 July as “Independence Day.”  I would have enjoyed performances by American singer-songwriters  and musicians such as Arlo Guthrie, George Gershwin, and others.  There are enough great performers and great music to fill out the 90 minutes of programming that was broadcast last night. 
          It was only when the local fireworks already had Loki looking for a bunker that the national fireworks began.  The national fireworks are wonderfully impressive.  I’ve been privileged to see them in D.C., on the mall once.  That’s one of those things that would never have happened for me except for meeting Gloria. 
          The PBS programming used only four Sousa marches to background the pyrotechnics.  They used “Stars and Stripes Forever,” “Washington Post,” “ The Thunderer,” and “Semper Fidelis.”   I’d be willing to bet that 50% of the attendees would not have been able to correctly identify those Sousa pieces.
          Annually, I am reminded of how many times we played those pieces and other marches during high school half time shows.  The band I played in was different from most then and even more today by nature of it’s performance. 
          Our band director wrote half time shows for universities as well as for us.  We performed precision drill show rather than pattern shows.  We performed a different show each time we stepped on to the field.  This meant using new music for each show.  Further, we had to memorize all the music, 60-80 pieces/per season.  No one carried music on the field or in parades.  Despite having ca. 200 band students, we marched only 124 in our half time shows.  The competition for on field slots was intense and exclusive.  There were band students who spent all of their high school years in the band but who never set foot upon the field. 
          Sousa was one of those rare people who manage to arrive at the perfect place and time.  His works have stood the test of time.  They cross genre and usage lines quite handily.  The same man who scored Semper Fidelis also penned the Liberty Bell march that became the theme for Monty Python’s Flying Circus.


Thursday, July 3, 2014

3 July 2014 Some folks are born made to wave the flag

Wednesday has come and gone.  The refrigerator sits un-repaired.  This does not bode well. 
Our meeting last night went well.  The courtroom was packed, SRO.  Most of the questions asked of our Congressman were reasonable questions and were answered in a manner that satisfied me. 
          However, there were some “open carry” nuts in the pack who kept demanding to know why VA was taking their 2nd amendment rights away by refusing to let them brandish long guns – or any guns at all – on VA campuses.  A large glue pad would have been good for dealing with them.

3 July 2014 The refrigerator repairs have been completed and we can reload it this evening after it demonstrates stability. 
          We ventured into Jonesborough for the kick-off dinner celebrating Jonesborough Days.  The event was a “low country boil” for about 200 people. 
          Th return of U.S. troops to Iraq takes some of the celebratory spirit out of the holiday.  Linked below are two youtube videos of songs that I am unable disassociate from VietNam.  Other veterans will have formed different musical links.  I can pull out of memory music from WWI, WWII, Korea, and Vietnam.  I don’t have any such link for Afghanistan and Iraq.  I guess the folks up to their asses in expended brass will have their associations.  How can you fight a war without some sort of music?

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

1 July 2014 Right on time hot and humid

          Yesterday’s refrigerator problem remains today’s refrigerator problem  The circulation fan that resides in the freezer compartment died in service.  While the upper compartment stayed somewhat cold, the lower compartment is far to warm for safe food storage.  All possible contents have been transferred to a chest cooler along with freezer packs. 
          The fan, of course, must be ordered.  The best estimate is for repairs to be completed Thursday.  If not, it will be a long holiday weekend without a working fridge. 
          The latest news is that a total of 800 troops are now assigned to Iraq.  They are intended to provide security to troops and other personnel already deployed.  This will include the Baghdad airport, and security details for the embedded advisors.  To aid in this mission, helicopters will be deployed as well as unmanned aircraft.  There will, of course, be the required maintenance troops and helicopter aircrews. 
          Forgive my hindsight, this looks a lot like VietNam II.  But there is a higher level of institutional idiocy about Iraq.  We’ve already fought that war and left it behind.  To cycle the whole damned thing again is just unbelievable.
          Words fail at this point.  I can only hope that the deployed folks make it home without looping the entire process.