Saturday, April 16, 2011

A Matter Of Perspective

Another gem of wisdom I came across:

  In the line at the store, the cashier told the older woman that plastic bags weren’t good for the environment. The woman apologized to her and explained, “We didn’t have the green thing back in my day.” That’s right, they didn’t have the green thing in her day.
Image result for recycle  Back then,they returned their milk bottles, Coke bottles and beer bottles to the store. The store sent them back to the plant to be washed and sterilized and refilled, using the same bottles over and over. So they really were recycled. But they didn’t have the green thing back in her day.
  In her day, they walked up stairs, because they didn’t have an escalator in every store and office building. They walked to the grocery store and didn’t climb into a 300-horsepower machine every time they had to go two blocks. But she’s right. They didn’t have the green thing in her day.
  Back then, they washed the baby’s diapers because they didn’t have the throw-away kind. They dried clothes on a line, not in an energy gobbling machine burning up 220 volts – wind and solar power really did dry the clothes. Kids got hand-me-down clothes from their brothers or sisters, not always brand-new clothing. But that old lady is right, they didn’t have the green thing back in her day.
  Back then, they had one TV, or radio, in the house – not a TV in every room. And the TV had a small screen the size of a pizza dish, not a screen the size of the state of Montana . In the kitchen, they blended and stirred by hand because they didn’t have electric machines to do everything for you. When they packaged a fragile item to send in the mail, they used wadded up newspaper to cushion it, not Styrofoam or plastic bubble wrap.
  Back then, they didn’t fire up an engine and burn gasoline just to cut the lawn. They used a push mower that ran on human power. They exercised by working so they didn’t need to go to a health club to run on treadmills that operate on electricity. But she’s right, they didn’t have the green thing back then.
  They drank from a fountain when they were thirsty, instead of using a cup or a plastic bottle every time they had a drink of water. They refilled pens with ink, instead of buying a new pen, and they replaced the razor blades in a razor instead of throwing away the whole razor just because the blade got dull. But they didn’t have the green thing back then.
  Back then, people took the streetcar and kids rode their bikes to school or rode the school bus, instead of turning their moms into a 24-hour taxi service. They had one electrical outlet in a room, not an entire bank of sockets to power a dozen appliances. And they didn’t need a computerized gadget to receive a signal beamed from satellites 2,000 miles out in space in order to find the nearest pizza joint.
  But that old lady is right. They didn’t have the green thing back in her day.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Hup! Twoop! Three! Four! - Part 3

Image result for usaf high wycombe  In the summer of 1969, I was still in England but reassigned to the 2180th Comm. Squadron at USAF High Wycombe, also known as RAF Daws HillUnlike RAF Mildenhall which was a large base with a small village, USAF High Wycombe was a small base (an 'Air Station') with a city.  The communications at the base was part of the "Southern Tropo System" which went from England to Spain and on to Turkey.  Little did I know at the time that I would be assigned to the Turkish end later.
  It was a very nice area and I liked it very much.  We were an easy trip to London and I went there several times.  In downtown High Wycombe there was a clothing store called Carnaby's where I outfitted myself with attire that was appropriate for the time.  Also there was Wimpy's and I tried their burgers for the first time, they were yummy.  Of course I had already been indoctrinated to fish 'n chips.
  My duty section was 'Tech Control' and was located in an old WWII Command Post located in an underground bomb shelter.  It was large and completely underground and had double walls with about eight feet in between.  I use to enjoy exploring the structure both inside and between the walls.  It was fascinating to see the command center with the consoles and the status boards and imagined what the place was like in it's hay day.
  Tech Control was quite small, a little room with equipment racks full of patch panels and test gear.  Through these patch panels all of the circuits passed through.  In the next room were more racks with line amps and the like.  Farther down the hall, was the base telephone switchboard.  There worked my good buddy 'Slots' Boyer (He liked to play the slot machines).  When we happen to work the graveyard shift at the same time, we would often play 'Battleships' via the telephone from our work locations.  At the opposite end of the hall was located the crypto room.  This was where the secured circuits were encrypted and decrypted.  Needless to say, it was kept locked up tight as a drum.  Also the reason we had security police at the entrance of the building controlling entry.
  Probably the most exciting thing that happened on the job was the day that all of our communications went down for about eight hours.  Now, to appreciate the gravity of the situation, let me explain how much communication that encompassed:
  Teletype circuits were modulated into voice channels.  We could put 12 teletype channels into each voice channel.  12 voice channels could be modulated into each 'group'.  Five 'groups' could be modulated into each 'supergroup'.  We had a total of 5 'supergroups'.  That is a total of 300 voice channels or 3600 teletype channels.  These were channels that were being used by every command in the Air Force including SAC (Strategic Air Command) and the Joint Chiefs of Staff.  So when all these circuits went inoperative, there was some concern.  Finally the problem was found at a microwave repeater site in Ringstead, England.  Microwave is wideband communication comprised of many channels filling up the spectrum.  One of these channels is reserved for the 'pilot tone'.  It is a -10 dB tone used to help keep the microwave shot on frequency.  The -10 dB tone malfunctioned and increased it's level to +40 Db which was an increase of 50 dB.  The results was the entire band splattered into mush.  Hence, nothing worked.  Now wasn't that an exciting story?
  Pizza wasn't common cuisine in England in 1969 but lucky for us, a retired American GI retired in High Wycombe and opened the only pizza shop around called Jay's Pizza.  It wasn't great pizza but pizza nonetheless, and he was opened late.
  One time I was driving to our base at South Ruislip which was located between us and London.  In England, most intersections are comprised of 'roundabouts', what we would call a rotary.  During my travel, I came upon an 'experimental junction', yes, that is the way it was posted.  Instead of a roundabout, it was a crossing intersection but had additional lanes going through it, very curious.  I was on the main road and crossing through the 'experimental junction' I had the right of way.  However, I was hit broadside from the smaller road that crossed.  My built-like-a-tank 1949 MG four door salon (sedan) was hit by a late model Ford Escort.  Needless to say, I won.  My right front fender was dented and the other guy's car was in very bad shape.  When I got out of the car to encounter the man and tell him what I thought of his driving skills, I was surprised to find that he was a deaf-mute.  Only I would have such luck.  
  All too soon, my stay in High Wycombe and in England, ended.  But I did have a jolly good time!

Monday, April 11, 2011

The Invisible Mother

  I received this in an email, today, and thought it was a great tribute to mothers. 
Why wait until Mother's Day?       

                                       The Invisible Mother
It all began to make sense, the blank stares, the lack of response, the way
one of the kids will walk into the room while I'm on the phone and ask to
be taken to the store. Inside I'm thinking, 'Can't you see I'm on the phone?' 
Obviously not; no one can see if I'm on the phone, or cooking, or sweeping
the floor, or even standing on my head in the corner, because no one can
see me at all. I'm invisible. The invisible Mom. Some days I am only a pair
of hands, nothing more! 'Can you fix this? Can you tie this? Can you open
this??'  Some days I'm not a pair of hands; I'm not even a human being. I'm
a clock to ask, 'What time is it?' I'm a satellite guide to answer, 'What
number is the Disney Channel?' I'm a car to order, 'Right around 5:30,
please.' Some days I'm a crystal ball; 'Where's my other sock?, Where's
my phone?, What's for dinner?'
  I was certain that these were the hands that once held books and the eyes
that studied history, music and literature, but now, they had disappeared
into the peanut butter, never to be seen again. She's going, she's going,
she's gone!
  One night, a group of us were having dinner, celebrating the return of a
friend from England . She had just come back from a fabulous trip, and
she was going on and on about the hotel she stayed in. I was sitting there,
looking around at the others all put together so well. It was hard not to
compare and feel sorry for myself. I was feeling pretty pathetic, when she
turned to me with a beautifully wrapped package, and said, 'I brought you
this.' It was a book on the great cathedrals of Europe . I wasn't exactly
sure why she'd given it to me until I read her inscription: 'With admiration
for the greatness of what you are building when no one sees.'
  In the days ahead I would read - no, devour - the book. And I would
discover what would become for me, four life-changing truths, after which I
could pattern my work:
1) No one can say who built the great cathedrals - we have no record of
their names.
2) These builders gave their whole lives for a work they would never see
3) They made great sacrifices and expected no credit.
4) The passion of their building was fuelled by their faith that the eyes of
God saw everything.
  A story of legend in the book told of a rich man who came to visit the
cathedral while it was being built, and he saw a workman carving a tiny
bird on the inside of a beam. He was puzzled and asked the man, 'Why are
you spending so much time carving that bird into a beam that will be
covered by the roof?   No one will ever see it.' And the workman replied,
'Because God sees.'
  I closed the book, feeling the missing piece fall into place. It was almost
as if I heard God whispering to me, 'I see you. I see the sacrifices you make
every day, even when no one around you does.  No act of kindness you've
done, no sequin you've sewn on, no cupcake you've baked, no Cub Scout
meeting, no last minute errand is too small for me to notice and smile over.
You are building a great cathedral, but you can't see right now what it will
  I keep the right perspective when I see myself as a great builder. As one
of the people who show up at a job that they will never see finished, to work
on something that their name will never be on. The  writer of the book went
so far as to say that no cathedrals could ever be built in our lifetime because
there are so few people willing to sacrifice to that degree.
  When I really think about it, I don't want my son to tell the friend he's
bringing home from college for Thanksgiving, 'My Mom gets up at 4 in the
morning and bakes homemade pies, and then she hand bastes a turkey for
3 hours and presses all the linens for the table.' That would mean I'd built a
monument to myself. I just want him to want to come home. And then, if
there is anything more to say to his friend, he'd say, 'You're gonna love it
   As mothers, we are building great cathedrals. We cannot be seen if

we're doing it right. And one day, it is very possible that the world will
marvel, not only at what we have built, but at the beauty that has been
added to the world by the sacrifices of invisible mothers.

All that I am, or hope to be, I owe to my angel mother. - Abraham Lincoln

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Music, Bullets, & Dreams...

  Another song I liked was Deep Purple  (click to listen) by Nino Tempo and April Stevens in 1963.  I was surprised to learn that it was first a hit in 1938, yes, even before my time.  And, of course, Donny and Marie Osmond did a pretty good cover of it in 1975.
Image result for jfk  In 1963, I was a freshman in high school.  Life was so exciting at that age, and the social pressures!  Probably the most dramatic news of that year, was Kennedy's assassination in November.  I heard about it over the school PA system just as the school day was closing.  Riding home on the bus, the normal din was completely absent, absolute silence.  Everyone was affected.  Another emotional event, but of a different sort, was three months previous when Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. gave his 'I Have A Dream' speech.  Then, five years later, he too, was assassinated.
  We have come a long way since 1963, but in some ways we have yet to prove we are an intelligent life form.  There have been many depictions in books and movies of the human race as a violent species, usually being observed by an alien race.  Sometimes they judge that we don't deserve to survive and should be destroyed or maybe they think that we are accomplishing that all by ourselves.  Perhaps they would be right, but there are still heroes amongst us that give me hope.
  In closing, one more song to listen to:  Abraham, Martin & John  by Dion, released in 1968.  It speaks for itself.