Sunday, May 11, 2008

Hot Air: The price of Gas

Its on everyone's minds. The price of gasoline. It wasn't that it dipped under $1.00 a gallon for a few days. I remember it going over $2.00 after Katrina. That was an interesting time since here in Mississippi there was a state of emergency which among other things meant that prices could not be inflated due to the nature of the emergency. So while our prices went up, we were the cheapest in the country, because it was at the time a crime to make too much money ripping off the consumer!

Now, as gasoline is supposed to top $4.00 a gallon, we once again have our heads in a tither as we try to figure out how to save a buck or stop the price gouging.

I was listening to my favorite radio show the other day, Dave Ramsey. ( He got on the band wagon. He pointed out that people are sitting in the drive through lane at Starbucks, idling their engines, complaining about the cost of gas, while waiting for their fancy coffee drink which they pay nearly 5x as much for as gas (gallon for gallon). The most interesting part of the show came when a trucker called in. The question was whether truckers are able to pass along fuel price increases to the consumer so they don't go broke. This guy pointed out that he had been having a record year in profits. His fuel bill doubled, his reimbursement for fuel doubled and he slowed his driving speed to 55, which decreased his fuel consumption by 33% (went from 6mpg to over 8mpg). The fuel problem turned into a fuel boon for this guy as he learned that a bit of conservation is a whole lot more profitable.

Then there is the rice shortage. I am not overly familiar with what is going on with this rice problem. It seems we are running out of food in some places in the world (which it seems we are always doing anyhow.)

So anyhow the next big thing in fuel is supposed to be ethanol, and supposedly if we convert to ethanol, we starve. Which is not necessarily a good thing.

Now of course there is Brazil, who converted to ethanol, and in fact make enough of a surplus that they could supply us with 50% of our energy needs (supposedly), but we have blocked their ethanol from coming into our country since it would compete unfairly with domestic ethanol..... Seems like we don't need to be competing, we supply them with food, they supply us with ethanol.... seems fair to me.

But then there is this whole, "it takes too much" business. It takes too much ethanol to completely replace our dependency on oil. The world cannot supply it. Or so says a bunch of scientists.

Then there was that trucker's idea....

I have this problem from the start. Here I am driving a 2000 Ford F150 pickup with standard transmission and 6 cylinder, getting the same gas mileage I got with my 1973 Dodge power wagon with full time four wheel drive and V8 engine. I am also getting 25% WORSE gas mileage then my 1961 Chevy pickup with its 6 cylinder engine and standard transmission.

So in the last 40 years, our vehicles have gotten WORSE at energy conservation.... not better. What happened to technology? There were breakthroughs of course. The emissions of my new truck are infantile compared to the 40 year old truck. But tell me.... where did they go? If I am burning 25% more fuel, and there are is even 1% less emissions, where did the rest of it go? There is that law of matter again, you can change its state, but you can't make it dissappear. When you send X number of hydrocarbons into the engine, X number HAVE to come out. They don't disappear, they may come out as water, oxygen, carbon, hydrogen, and any combination of the above, but they have to come out. So in actuality, my 40 year old truck has 25% less emissions than my new truck.... more of them have been deemed harmful to the environment, but none the less overall there were less.

Now the old truck had a real tough time going 60mpg. It would not make it on today's highways going 75, I think that was probably a bit over its capacity. The new truck also has more power, its quieter, more comfortable, and you don't have to double shift to get it into first gear. There is where our technology has taken us.

Einstein a few years back came up with this formula, Energy equals Mass times the square of a constant. It basically says that all mass contains energy. And not only that but it contains a lot more energy then mass.

The trick it would seem would be to squeeze more energy from our gasoline molecule then we are getting now. Now gasoline actually is made up from a bunch of different molecules but they average about 18 hydrogen atoms and 8 carbon atoms.

So how much energy is there in that? Well as mass goes up, so does energy in an equal fashion. So Carbon is roughly 6 times heavier then hydrogen and therefore the average molecule in a gallon of gas has the energy potential of 76 hydrogen bombs (or whatever the power of 1.5 trillion pounds of TNT is) Just guessing here, but it would seem that if someone unlocked the true potential of a gallon of gas they would have enough energy to power the world's energy supply well past the end of the universe.... which some scientist believe will happen in the next 100 million years.

Now technology has indeed been helping us gain energy from the gallons of gas we use.

In 1961, there was no such thing as a car that had an engine that got 1 horsepower from 1 cubic inch of engine size in a gasoline engine. That happened a few years later and within 10, you could buy custom cars that had such high energy efficiency. Now days, many cars on the road have engines that attain 1 horse power per cubic inch and higher. However in all cases, they are for BIG engines so the car can go faster.

So back to our trucker.

Conservation was the key for our trucker.... He no longer whines about the price of gas. The higher the price, the more he is reimbursed, the more money he makes over last year because his key is conservation.

It takes about 30 horse power to keep a vehicle at a constant 60 mph on flat terrain. Using 1 hp per cubic inch, we end up with a vehicle needing to have an engine roughly the size of a small motorcycle to maintain speed. Combine this with an electric motor to help propel the vehicle up to speed, and we end up with a car that is getting 100mpg off the shelf. It would be a dog. Probably 0-60 in ten minutes (just guessing) but then depending on the size of electric motor, and battery tech, it could be pretty hot off the line.

Now back in my high school days, a friend of mine had an old Datsun Pickup truck. It had a 37 horsepower engine. It also got good gas mileage. It could go the posted speed limit which was 55 at the time while carrying 3 or 4 of us teens in the back.
My mother drove an old Opel Kadette at one time over the mountains of Montana. It would slow down going over the mountains, and in our speed driven minds, that was bad. But even back then, it got good fuel economy, with its 60 horsepower engine.... and it did do much better then 0-60 in ten minutes.

So maybe the trick is conservation. Not trying to substitute (yet). If the United States used 1/4 of the current gasoline use, it would become an oil producing and EXPORTING country. (a part of OPEC)

IF the United states used 1/4 of its current gasoline use, Brazil would be able to export to us more ethanol then we would need.

The technology exists.... off the shelf.

It requires a change of mindset.

It means that we don't need a TAX HOLIDAY on gasoline. It means we need to tax the bejeebies out of over indulgence.

For instance. If starting next year, all vehicles over 100 horse power were taxed at a rate that would gradually go up over the next 10 years. It would start at 1 dollar a hp, and work its way up to 10 dollars an HP. This "overindulgence" fee would be applies every time the vehicle is sold (or the title is transfered) So my Pickup in 10 years would have 2600 fee applied to it, if I decided to sell it. It would make the pickup pretty much worthless. (Which is what overindulgence is anyhow)
Add to that, 55 mph speed limits. (to help keep the 100hp vehicles being run over by those who can afford the faster vehicles) Tax incentives for taking mass transit (paid for of course by over indulgence fees), and last but certainly not least, tax incentives for businesses who have at least 50% of their employees living within 1 mile....

Would it be illegal to own a 2006 800 horsepower quad turbo Viper? No, just real expensive to buy it.

Finally there is this thing called "The Law of supply and Demand" The day that such a drastic measure is put in place will cause panic in the oil markets. Prices will most likely drop...alot. I am thinking (hoping) that it would cause the average price of a gallon of gas to drop in half. So once again we are paying $2 a gallon for gas. The oil companies would then be in competition with somebody. They would be in competition with the U.S. govt. As the tax of overindulgence goes up, the price of overindulgence goes down. In 10 years my truck would be worthless. However I baby it, and it will still be running, and getting 15mpg, and gas will be 99cents a gallon and my other (future) car will be able to drive back to Montana for 10 dollars worth of fuel, albeit.... a lot slower.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Whether the weather is cloudy

Here in Mississippi, we take our weather seriously..... seriously.

We have to, for one thing its hot. 90 degree days are as common here as sub-zero days were back in the mountains of Montana. Maybe more so in fact. Also, there is this stuff in the air here called 'humidity'. It is hard to describe accurately, but there are times when I really feel I know what the lobster is feeling when it hits the boiling water.

The heat and humidity messes with the brain too. I notice it in my self and have always noticed it in others. The stereotypical Mississippi redneck is dumber then a fence post and their slow southern drawl reflects the image. Put the same guy in air conditioning for 8 hours and you realize he is a nuclear physicist from the power plant down the road.

Occasionally we have snow. Here, snow is a big event. It has snowed 3 times in my tenure in MS, (though it did snow a couple of other times while I was not at home, but off visiting far away places) each event was foreshadowed as the worst event to hit here since..... of course the last event. I have yet to see Ice on the road. It just never gets cold enough, long enough. But schools are canceled, businesses close, in anticipation of the big event.

It is the anticipation that is always the worst.

We also have hurricanes, and tornadoes. Once again however it is the anticipation of the tornado that is the nightmare.

Last week, 5 tornadoes ripped through our small town. They caused a lot of damage, but people had been anticipating them for a week. Some people were caught off guard, the tornadoes came down on us very quickly, but after anticipating them for a week, nobody got killed.

Today we have another bout with the storms. Once again anticipation is high. It is supposed to be even worse then last week.... though it hasn't even rained yet. Just to prove a point, our city decided yesterday at 9:30 a.m. to test its sirens. Businesses went into tornado procedures, school children were sent into the halls, shoppers and drivers were sent scurrying to safety.... all in anticipation of the big event. The storms never came yesterday, though everyone will be keeping a watchful eye today, and if the sirens go off.... we will react the same way once again....

Friday, March 14, 2008

Physics 101

Just a quick note to keep you guessing.

There is a law of physics that says that energy is constant. It is the law of "conservation of energy".

This law tells us that energy cannot be created, it can change forms but it can be neither created nor destroyed.

For instance you take a ball and place it at the top of the ramp. It takes a certain amount of energy to place the ball at the top of the ramp. When the ball is at the top of the ramp, the ball has all that energy stored. As it goes down the ramp the energy is released in the motion of the ball.

My question has always been, where did the energy go?

Now lets blow this way out of proportion.

At this very moment humans are 'consuming' vast quantities of stored energy in the form of fossil fuels, wind, solar, nuclear and hydro power.

But the law of the conservation of energy says that the energy was not 'consumed' but rather changed form, or was dissipated.

So where did it go?

There is another law, "for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction"

Now I don't know if there is a law about this or not, but Superman used to fly around the world backwards, so fast that he would change the rotation of the earth and time would reverse.

He was using energy (that he got from our yellow sun) and expending it in such a way that it was reversing the rotation (re-storing the energy) and then for some reason we all went back in time....

So can we do that?

If we all jumped in our cars and drove to the west at the same time, would it have an effect on the earth's rotation?

What effect does it have on the earth's rotation anyhow, even when we aren't all going in the same direction? Or on the earth itself?

Think about the trillions of watts of power we as humans switch from the stored form into a heating/cooling/moving form..... per hour!

And as you think about that.... here is another puzzle to ponder:

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Paradigm shift

There is a radio commercial here, it may be local or may not. There is this guy who speaks jargon and some guy who 'translates' for him.

It starts off, "We needed a shift in our spending paradigm"

A paradigm as used above means: A set of assumptions, concepts, values, and practices that constitutes a way of viewing reality for the community that shares them, especially in an intellectual discipline.

So the commercial's translation, "We needed a way to save money" was not entirely correct.

Here in Mississippi, we usually have some of the lowest gas prices in the country. Last week they started creeping up. We are now paying over $3.00 a gallon.

This is probably cheap compared to some parts of the country. I hear tell, that last time someone saw prices under $3.00 a gallon their children were in diapers. Well here is Mississippi we are a bit slower then some I guess.... and sometimes it pays off.

So now I am hearing from others (at last) that we need a shift in our paradigm. Granted they do not use such words, but of course we talk a lot down here, so explaining it the long way around seems just natural.

My son an I were talking the other day about the end of the world..... He actually knows the date, which I can't remember.... its a few years from now. I remember going to Universal Studios in California the last time the world ended. It wasn't too bad if I remember right and my sister didn't even get eaten by Jaws (family joke.) He explained to me that it was based on the Mayan calender. However I am also a big fan of the history channel and I saw more than one program on this whole Mayan thing (not to mention a couple of classes at college about the concept.) You see the Mayans didn't do time like we do time. Their time is circular, ours is linear. If you can imagine a small circle with a guy inside of it. Like a hamster wheel. The guy runs and the wheel goes round in circles. Then stick that wheel inside a bigger wheel. As the guy runs, he moves his concept of time (his wheel), which moves the bigger wheel which is a larger concept of time (like a millennium). You keep getting larger wheels and larger concepts of time until you get to the biggest wheel of all. It would be the wheel that started moving when the earth was created. THAT'S the wheel that makes its full revolution in a few years. Under the Mayan concept of time, the world cannot end, because there is no such thing as an end, only a new beginning. I would think that its a time of celebration as we all celebrate the coming of spring, or the anniversary of our birth. After all, the Mayans are dead now.... maybe they get to come back and join our world again :)

History repeats itself, that is the Mayan concept. As we look upon our world which is rapidly heating up, scientists point to "THE LAST TIME" there was such global warming. History repeats itself. We have cycles of global warming, and global cooling going back to the beginning of time. History repeats itself. Also in the weather, there are cycles of drought and rain, there are cycles of sunspot activity. We know about these cycles because history repeats itself.

There was a time a few thousand years ago, when the Athenian empire expanded their reaches across much of Europe. Those in Athens had it pretty easy, but change was coming, and a paradigm shift occurred.

Then the Romans took over, conquered 1/3 of the known world. Those guys in Rome had it pretty easy, in fact they made it so if you joined their army, you got to be a Roman citizen and lots of people all over the world had it pretty easy. But change was coming and history repeats itself.

There were more empires, there were more shifts. The Eastern Block vs. the Western Block, paradigm shift and history repeats itself.

Now we are looking once again at a paradigm shift. The guy that makes $100,000 a year and drives a Hummer, is looking at spending 10% of his pay to keep the Hummer on the road. The guy who makes $15,000 a year and drives a '62 ford falcon, does not have the $65 it takes to fill the gas tank. He no longer can drive to work.

I see this as I tool along in my bus. One young guy walks to work every day. He got a job about 3 miles from his home and is walking to it as I drive by in the bus. Sometimes he is on his bike, and sometimes he is walking in the rain.

There was a time in my memorable past, when there was a phrase, "Sunday Driver." It was referring to those who only drove on Sundays. They drove for recreation, they were typically not the best drivers since they did not have the daily experience driving like many of the others. They were dinosaurs, remnants of a past when people did not drive, except as a hobby or a sport. When the only driving done was for recreation.

When I first moved to Mississippi I remember going to a "walking trail." This was a trail that wound around back and forth in the space of about 1/4 a city block. You could not get anywhere walking on that trail. You could walk a mile and find yourself right back where you started. Then repeat yourself. At some point in time my doctor told me to start walking 2 miles a day. I would get on the trail, always with a clear vision of the end which was also the beginning and walk around in those tight little wandering paths not going anywhere.

Thats what you do for recreation when you drive everywhere. Unfortunately in Mississippi, not too many people are into recreation and so there is a big campaign from the Governor's office called, "Walk Mississippi" which is suppose to get people moving, and lower our obesity rate.

But history repeats itself....

Gas prices are getting to the point that people can no longer fill the cars. The economy is either doing an about face (I remember the last recession, and history repeats itself) or at best not doing to well. (more on that later)

People are starting to look at where their new job is. How far do I have to drive, can I walk? Taking that job that makes $1000 a month more isn't a great deal if you have to spend $1200 a month to get there.

The Mississippi Mountain Man is working towards a shift in the paradigm of his city. He has proposed to the city, that they 'encourage' city businesses to become bicycle friendly by installing bike racks at their locations. Our little community has already a network of "multi use" trails that dissect the city. They are currently used for recreation. In the paradigm shift that I foresee, they will become arteries for people getting to work, going to the movies, grabbing a gallon of milk, going out to eat.

I came to the realization the last time that I filled the tank of my truck (yes we Mountain Men are required to drive pickups.... its in the rules somewhere, just can't remember where), it cost $71.50 to fill. It costs $53 plus tax for a bicycle at Walmart. $15 for a helmet. Nothing to drive it the next 1000 miles....

Now in actuality I already have a bike in my garage, so what else does $71.50 buy? 3 trips for two to the movies with popcorn and drinks. 11 Little Ceaser's pizzas. Cable TV with HBO for a month. A family outing to the minor league baseball game (including the gas to get there and back). What can you do with $71.50?

Then I really got depressed....

I fill up my truck 2.5 times a month.

$71.50 x 2.5 = $178.75

The payment on my first house was $174.00 a month.

Its time for a shift in our spending paradigm.

Friday, February 29, 2008

Watch for flying machetes....

Yep, watch out for flying machete jokes in Mississippi. I heard a few references last night, and this morning the headlines caught my eye.

It would seem that a local judge built an addition to his house.

So the tax assessor had to come look at the addition.

Well the tax assessor went to the door and rang the doorbell, nobody answered..... So he went around to the back of the house to look at the addition. While inspecting he was surprised to find a knife at his throat, and not just any knife, but a machete.

And who should be holding the machete???? Yep the judge.

Well in the assault case, it came out that the judge thought his life was in danger, and so he was protecting himself and his property (yep I can see that, I wouldn't mind protecting my property from the tax assessor too)

In the civil suit, the tax assessor felt his life was in danger (and it probably was)

The judge in the assault case threw out the case. He decided that since the judge thought his life was in danger, he was within his rights to use the machete.

Kinda sounds like the judges are sticking together right?

Well a year or so ago, the legislature enacted a bill that said that a person had the right to use deadly force if they felt that either themselves, their family, their home, or their car were in danger.

So last year the joke was about the guy who might get shot for running a stop sign. "Oh, but he was approaching my car at a high rate of speed, officer, I feared for the safety of my car and so I had to shoot him"

Now its all about the machete's. Last night I was asked on two occasions if someone needed to bring machete's to the soccer game.... just in case we feel that our kids are in danger on the field I guess.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Amazing Ideas attract Petractors

Sorry for not posting for a while, I am in the process of changing vocations once again and seem to have my thought process focused on that.

However last night I did go to church.

At our church, we have a computer hooked to a video screen. The person running the video screen always goes through the slides before the service so that he can familiarize himself with the screens and does not get surprised.

Now I was sitting there watching him go through the screens, which my daughter and I like to as we get to see which songs we are going to be singing and what the sermon will be about.

Well up pops the screen saying something like, "Amazing ideas attract petractors" and off he went through the rest of the screens.

Now the person running the computer is a very smart man, and I was having a terrible crisis in that I had no idea what a petractor was. So I approached him and asked. (he does not make up the slides by the way)

He was not familiar with the word either, we brought up the slide again and worked it out. He said that "petra" is greek for rocks or earth, so it must have something to do with rocks. I sat down and with my daughter worked over the word in my head and finally came up with a word that meant acting like a rock.

Well we sang some songs, and got to the sermon which was about building the wall around the temple. Part of the sermon was about how some people were not doing their fair share, some were working hard, and some weren't working at all. All the while I am sitting there thinking 'petractor' a person acting like a rock, not doing any work, acting like a rock, OK, maybe this can work.

Then finally the slide pops up

The minister says, "Whenever someone has a great idea, like building a wall around the temple, petractors are attracted"


"Whenever someone gets a great idea, there are those who want to shoot it down, the petractors"


Petractors have nothing to do with rocks, it is a misspelling of the word "protractor" which is being misused instead of "detractors" which would have been the proper word and spelling.

At this I decided I needed to write about it in my blog.

My first inclination was to write about the education system in America. My daughter had announced that they were going to have spelling tests in 6th grade now, but the tests are stupid (according to her) because they are 1st grade words. Like: Their, they're, neighbor, weigh..... you catch my drift, they are words that should have been learned in 1st grade, but by 6th grade it seems nobody knows which witch is which.

I will admit that the Mountain Man is fairly lazy with his spelling too. My computer automatically tells me if a word is misspelled, no matter where I write it.

So when I see something on the computer, especially for a presentation, I assume that the spell checker caught it, and that it really is a word....

But that is not what I need to write about, because that was not the intent of the sermon. After the service, my friend the computer operator and I talked about the word. "Do you think it was intentional?" "Wouldn't it have been great if it was?"

We decided it probably wasn't.

The sermon was about "High Definition Living". Being so in tune, so focused, that you accomplish the goal without regard to the 'detractors'.

If it was intentional, it was great. Here I was totally in a fog, paying almost no attention to the task at hand, worrying about a word that was only a detractor for the task at hand. It would have been great. Lesson learned.

But I don't believe that was actually the lesson......

I think the lesson was far beyond the intent.

I am thinking, maybe, just maybe, we aren't supposed to know the end.

Maybe the fault was not in the person misspelling the wrong word, but rather the person reading ahead in the book.

I have learned over the years that a book, a really good book, needs to be read in the order it was written. Skipping chapters, skipping ahead, reading the end.... ruins it.

Life might be the same way.

Maybe the lesson was to not look ahead at what was going to happen, that I would have enjoyed the songs, enjoyed the lesson, a lot more if I did not know the ending. Worse yet I got the wrong ending. By taking a moment in time, and looking at it before it happened, I got the wrong conclusion, thereby ruining the story.

I remember back in the late 80's the "Prophecies of Nostradamus" were all the rage. He predicted Hitler's rise to power and may other things. I remember those people saying that it was theorized that he has predicted that WWIII would start around 1990, and shortly after NYC would be attacked. I remember this because around 1990 the world went to war to rid Kuwait of Sadam Hussein. Later NYC was attacked, and the world went back to war to rid itself of Sadam Hussein.

I remember he also predicted a major calamity that would devastate the earth. Followed by a very long period of peace.

I don't remember when that was supposed to happen.... and I am thinking I am not supposed to know.

What Nostradamus did not predict was that in 1994 I would meet the love of my life, and my son, and a year later my daughter. Nobody told me that we were going to live on a street a block away from an ice cream store or that after we dropped off my son at school, my daughter and I would go get a freshly made bagel and a cup of coffee.

Or that we would live in a house in Mississippi with a pond in the backyard and multiple rose gardens spread throughout the yard.

Nostradamus totally left out the part about living in Alabama, and swimming in the pool, not to mention being a substitute teacher, or reading parent and working with all those kids.

I don't remember him ever saying anything about the school plays, the band concerts, the Christmas at the Chinese buffet....

I don't think I am supposed to know the future. Sometime in the future something WILL happen. So many things will happen that if we focus on one thing, all the other things get lost. This may be the root of High Definition Living. Maybe its NOT about focusing on one thing, but letting all things happen as they were meant to happen and being a part of all things. A HDTV screen is not about one pixel. Its about all of them, and to focus on one thing means losing the picture. Focusing on the picture means losing the story, focusing on the story means losing the life.

So I guess I need to stop going through the previews of the Wednesday service.....

Saturday, February 9, 2008

Was a madda, yow hands not workin?

I have lived and visited many different places in the United States. As I think back, though, I realize that I surrounded myself in each of those places with a limited group of people. There were our neighbors, the people that I worked with, the people my wife worked with and sometimes a small group of friends.

So I guess maybe I did not get to know how diverse each place was....

Here in Mississippi however.....

People from the north smile when they here a 'southerner' speak. There is that nice little drawl with the occasional ya'll. I remember coming to Mississippi the very first time, house hunting. We were staying in a hotel, and I was searching the channels on the TV for the local news. I was anxious to hear 'southern'. I was most dismayed to find that most of the news anchors speak 'northern'. I did finally find an old guy on the PBS channel talking about Mississippi state parks, with that deep southern drawl. I watched him for an hour wondering if I was ever going to sound like that.

We found our house. Nice little neighborhood, a subdivision.... which is the first time I had lived in a subdivision. Our neighbors were a mix, from Illinois, Mississippi, Texas. Most all of us spoke 'northern' but every one of us would ad ya'll in whenever we could, just to sound a little less out of place.

By the time we moved to Alabama, we could not discern a southern accent anymore. There were other accents however. My wife worked with a guy from Louisiana, big difference in the way they speak.

Then we came back to Mississippi and moved, once again into a small gated subdivision full of 'diverse' people. There's the Filipinos up the street, the Chinese couple who hesitantly speak English, but claim to have come from Texas. The couple from India, the family from Minnesota,
and a few odd mixed others. And we continued to live our lives in our 'diverse' community.

Then I went to work....

Not only did I go to work, but I went to work driving a school bus. School bus drivers are typically old. There are about 150 drivers working at our company a dozen are white, there are probably 5 or 6 my age or younger, and the rest are old black men and women who really don't care if you understand what they are saying or not.

I have heard of the Mississippi Delta (I remember the song Delta Dawn from my youth), I even visited the Delta (reminded me of eastern Montana, around Sidney, mostly flat, and very agricultural). I knew a few people from the Delta, mostly white business people that cared greatly if you can understand them or not. But I had not met the soul of the state.

It is the birthplace of many genres of American music, it is rich in agricultural history, it is written about, sung about, and told about. But the people of the Delta are not a proud group. They are humble and reclusive.

My friend John who showed me around some parts of the Delta last year, explained how it is in the Delta. It reminded me of small town Montana. Not the Livingston or Bozeman type small town, but Clyde Park, Ringling, and many other very small towns. The people know each other in a very intimate way. They are in each others business, because it affects each of them so much. Its a hard group to join, and once in, it does not matter where you go, you are part of the family.

So it is with these people I work with now. There are a few who I know, and there are more who are allowing me in, that don't quiet down when I walk up to their group. There are a lot of differences that I need to overcome. Age, most of these guys are old enough to be my parents. Race, I have always considered myself an innocent when it comes to race and the more I live in the south, the more I realize this is true, luckily my innocence shines through and people of all races down here try to teach me how I should act (and I pretend to learn).

The biggest however is Language. It isn't that there is a more noticeable southern drawl, maybe there is and I just don't notice it. There is a 'mumbling' characteristic which I know affects me more and more as I live here... (I attribute it to the heat/humidity; it frys the brain)
But primarily its just the words and the phrases they use.

So last week I was filling up the bus, long story short, I had to fill up a second bus so it was my second time in 2 days being at the station. Another driver approached me:

R: Hay, yow feel evera day?

Me: No, different bus, remember mine broke.

R: Oh, ya, ya, ya.... Thisun ...mumble....mumble....mumble....

Me: What?

R: Ya empty?

Me: Don't know

R: Mumble mumble mumble

Me: What?

R: Yow hand broke?

Me: (looking at my hands) I don't think so

R: Then why ya feelin

Me: Cuz I don know how much I got

R: Why? Dun yow hand work?

Me: What?

R: Yow hand, yow Fuel Hand

At which time I understand.... Fuel Hand is the fuel gauge, and no I didn't trust the fuel gauge which turned out to be fairly accurate after all. Probably the only bus that the fuel hand works on though....

So now, after nearly 9 years in this place I am just starting to break out of the 'diverse' subdivision and learn more about the soul of Mississippi. Who knows maybe I'll even learn how to Mash a Button!

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

They'll know we are Christians by our Love......

It was a song we used to sing at Bible camp so many years ago, they'll know we are Christians by our love. It had a catchy beat, it was fun to sing.

These days, it seems they know we are Christians because we tell them so. I really dislike the reality TV shows that have the "Christian" family, or team. They make a big deal about how they are one with the Lord. They pray every episode, before taking out their prey. They are usually the most ruthless, devious, underhanded group in the show. I remember one show, I think it was the Amazing race. Couple of "Christians" just putting it to everyone before getting kicked out of the game. Then the next round, here is this team from the hills somewhere, West Virginia or maybe Tennessee, never say a word about being Christians, but are always helping the other teams, and when someone does something bad to them, they feel real bad about it, and help them again the next show.....

"Christians" give a bad name to Christ?

This all comes about from a basketball game I had the unfortunate opportunity to attend last weekend. My daughter's team, from her Christian school, played a tournament in town near here. Unfortunately the game did not go according the coach's wishes. He ended up yelling at the referees, having a technical called on him, having a police officer sit next to him.... and then adding insult to.... I guess insult, the crowd started yelling at the referees too. The refs, then stopped the game, warned the crowd and it wasn't until some time passed that the girls got to finish their game. Yep we can sure tell the Christians by their Love!

Unfortunately I find that those who wear the name, that need to prophesies, that feel the need to gather themselves among their own kind.... rarely are who they say they are. It is the person who shows who they are with their words and their acts; it is the person who always has the kind word, that always helps instead of hinders; these are the people who show who they are by their love.

I may have told this story once before, its one of my favorite. Long before moving to Mississippi, I made my first appearance in the south going to see my future mother-in-law in the hospital. My fiancee (who is now my wife) warned me as we found a parking place near the hospital. "I have to warn you, this is the south, people are very friendly here and you will likely know the life story of the person standing next to you in the elevator by the time you reach the 10th floor.

My wife is uncanny in that way sometimes. I believe we had to go the 11th floor, and sure enough by the time we hit the 10th, I knew the lady who got on with us like an old friend. I knew her, her children, her parents, and even knew a little bit about other people she had ridden the elevator with earlier that day.....

I tell that story, because here in the south, the phrase, "So which church do you go to" works its way into the first 5 minutes of EVERY meeting. Meet the new soccer coach, find out what church he goes to. I think even McDonalds might be keeping a database on Customer's church preference on it's POS machines.

Religion in the south is not to be taken lightly. Or at least nobody down here takes it lightly. You belong to a church, if it is not Baptist, you will be invited to be a Baptist on a daily basis.

I have never met a Jehovah's Witness in Mississippi. I don't think there's any of them left, they knock on the door of some house and from there on out every moment of their lives they will be hounded by over zealous Christians trying to turn them into Baptists, or invited to eat with Methodists, or chased by snake toting 7th day Adventists.... They just don't stand a chance down here.

There are a lot of Christians in Mississippi, and there is a lot of Love. There are a lot who claim the title though.

Luckily you can tell the difference,

"We are one in the Spirit, we are one in the Lord.
We are one in the Spirit, we are one in the Lord.
And we pray that all Unity may one day be restored,
And they'll know we are Christians by our Love, by our Love,
Yes they'll know we are Christians by our Love.

Thursday, January 31, 2008

Rambling Misc's.

This is one of those days where the head is headed off in all sorts of directions so this post will too.

I started this day checking blogs, and checked out Scott Adams. (He is the creator of Dilbert)

Mr. Adams has an interesting blog which is half serious and half nonsense. One day he decided that most songs were random words stuck together, and really did not have any meaning.

So he challenged his readers to post random phrases, and he would write a song.

I am not sure if he wrote it, or who did..... but someone wrote it, and someone else put some pictures with it and put it on YouTube... Here it is

My contribution didn't make the cut however.... as did many others I believe there were about 600 posts.


Ever have a song stuck in your head?

I had that silly "oh, oh, oh she amazed me" stuck in my head this morning.....

Then I started singing some Pink Floyd for some reason,

"We don't need no, education, we don't need no thought control"

When I got off the bus and jumped in the pickup, that song was on the radio, so here it is.....


I spent a lot of time in the educational system..... so I should be pretty smart, but I don't think I will start there.... instead I will start a little earlier.

Children are born knowing very little, they usually are pretty good at having their heart beat, most can figure out how to breathe (though my daughter was one of those who forgot how every once in a while). For some reason they all know how to scream, yell, and suck a nipple. Beyond that everything is a learning process. Newborns cannot see very well, until the brain learns how to process the information the eyes are picking up. They don't know they have arms until one whacks them in the eye. They don't know who all those people who keep making funny faces at them are until they learn them by smell, by sight, then by sound. Eventually they realize that they too can make those funny faces and funny noises. They learn that they can get things they need or want by making the noises, they learn that they too can sit, stand, walk, run. They learn that the funny red dude's name is Elmo and the square guy is Sponge Bob.

Someone told me once that people learn more from age 0-3 then they do for the rest of their lives. If you think about all the processes, all the muscles contracting and releasing at just the right moment, the feelings, the reactions..... just to take a step, or say a word, it isn't hard to imagine.

One does not have to be around children much to understand that they are sponges. They absorb everything. I tell my elementary kids on the bus to watch out for this, that what the 5th grader does, the 1st grader will do. The kids call it 'monkey see, monkey do' but its a learning process.

skip a beat

OK, so my daughter is 4 yrs old, has been watching her brother play soccer since she was 5 months old, and is taking soccer. The coach teaches them to move the ball with their feet and they run around kicking the ball in their little swarm.

I asked the coach why they did not learn to pass.

He said, "The girls are too young to be able to learn how to pass yet"

So everyday my daughter and I would get to practice early and pass the ball back and forth. As girls would show up, they would join us. Soon everybody but the coach's daughter was able to pass back and forth. Only then did he incorporate it into practice. If a 2 week old baby can take the weird shapes and colors, and develop a facial recognition system to identify "Mom" with, a 4 yr old can surely learn how to pass the ball.

This seems to be the underscore of the United State's education system. They are too young to be able to learn that yet. You can't teach a 4 yr old to pass the ball, you can't teach a 12 year old Algebra, you can't teach a 17 yr old calculus. There are so many people saying what our children cannot learn that few are willing to try to teach them.

My daughter is the only 12 yr old in Pre-Algebra. Last year as she was moving into 6th grade EVERYONE was given the option to take regular math, advanced math, or pre-algebra. However there was a warning attached. Expect your child's grade to drop, one level for each level up they go. So if your child was an A student and you stuck them in Pre-Algebra, expect them to get at the best a C! (After all they don't really have the ability yet to learn this stuff I suppose).

So my daughter was the only 6th grader in Pre-Algebra. Her grades went from B's and C's to A's and B's. I suppose she must be the exception to the rule, of course since nobody else was willing to try.....

She does have a father however that believes that children can learn anything and he believes that it is the parents job to educate, they are just given tools, one of which is the school system to do it with. (a few weeks ago she came in saying, "Remember that stuff about Pi and circles and stuff that you taught me 2 years ago.... were just now learning about it" Boy, I wonder what people would say about teaching Geometry to a 10 yr old!)

More about that stuff later.



I hate these primaries , I know who I want to vote for, so let me vote already.

If that person does not win their party's vote, I will have to vote for the other party, but if the guy I like in that party does not win...... Back to voting for Jesse Jackson I guess (I assume he's running again, maybe not)

The electoral college was great 200 years ago. The parties figured out who they wanted people to vote for, the states voted, sent their reps to some national location and those guys voted and a new president got elected.

That was great 200 years ago.

Today we have these computers. Today we can instantly tell how many votes were cast and who the winner is.

So let EVERYONE run.

Let everyone vote.

Then decide the winner by who got the most votes.

Seems easier.

I think the issue with it though is that the politicians would lose, and some guy who just bought donuts for the guys at the chicken processing plant would win.

Actually I do believe that if everyone could vote for anyone, the race in Mississippi would boil down to 2 people. Oprah and Paula Dean. Now Oprah has lost her accent, Paula wears hers with pride, so I am pretty sure that she would be the winner in the southern states.

I think she would do a pretty good job too:

Today, President Paula Dean addressed the Iraqi Parliment, she started her speech by saying, "Howdy Ya'll, I brought cha some nice fried catfish and turnip greens to eat while I'm a-talking, and if ya'll agree to these proposals I got a nice chocolate 'better than sex cake' for ya'll to try too!"

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Sail away

Part of my quiet time ritual in the mornings is to check my mother's blog. Unlike me, she actually posts nearly every day and I enjoy seeing where she is and what she is doing.

Yesterday as I was preparing my bus I heard a song from the band "Styx". I remembered if from my youth, I do believe I had it on an album, or maybe an 8-track. (If it was an album, I probably still have it, sitting next to my record player in the workshop)

Anyhow, part of the lyrics go:

"I look to the sea, reflections in the waves spark my memory
Some happy, some sad
I think of childhood friends and the dreams we had
We live happily forever, so the story goes
But somehow we missed out on that pot of gold
But well try best that we can to carry on"

It was not waves that sparked my memory, but that song, and my mother's adventures. I remember my sister, myself, and the neighbor hood children riding our bicycles down to Whiting motors. At that time, they sold RV's on their little lot as well as new Chevies and other used vehicles. For a while they left the RV's open, and we kids liked to look inside. We were good kids, we didn't do anything a grownup wouldn't have done, looked in cabinets, kicked the tires, normal "looking at RV" type of stuff. Just like many adults we also dreamed of someday owning the RV and traveling around. We could not wait until we were old enough to drive. We were going to graduate from highschool, buy our RV, and Amy, Bridgette, Cliffy, my sister, and I would travel the country side. So as we looked at our RV's, we would claim our beds, make sure the fridge would hold enough pop for our journeys, made sure it had a toilette (though none of us were too worried about having a shower or a bath).

It wasn't too many years before Whitings started locking the RV's. Maybe other kids weren't so nice to them. Then they stopped selling them altogether. We continued to grow, and continued to make plans together. Then somewhere along the lines we started to drift apart.

We all lived on the same street. We all lived within a hundred feet of each other. But there were age differences that as we grew older, a year or two made it 'uncool' to be around your childhood friend.

So we all graduated and went our separate ways, searching for our pot of gold.

Or most of us did.

I remember Amy going down a different path then the rest of us. I know that she had a child as a teenager, that her parents raised. Then I stopped seeing anything of her at all. On a trip back to Montana at some point, I heard that she was missing and presumed dead.

More from Styx:

"A gathering of angels appeared above my head
They sang to me this song of hope, and this is what they said
They said come sail away, come sail away
Come sail away with me
Come sail away, come sail away
Come sail away with me"

Searching for a common name like Amy Johnson, is pretty difficult these days. Google it and you will find several hundred thousand people....

So I am hoping Amy found her pot of gold, and the rest of us will continue to carry on.

Now I get to do another blog experiment......

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Racing the Rat

You may notice that there is now the "Dilbert" cartoon on the website. This did not go according to plan. It's a 'widget' (I guess) that is supposed to have today's cartoon always available. I thought the widget was supposed to go on the side.... but it didn't. So eventually Dilbert will fall into the archive somewhere and be impossible to find. Guess that's what happens when you start racing rats.

I like Dilbert, because I never joined the rat race. I grew up in a household where for a long time the mantra was, "you have the choice to do anything, but you have to live with that choice". The first thing that came to mind for kids was, "we don't CHOOSE to go to school, we are forced." However you do choose to go to school, because the consequences for going in the front door then out the back, or just sleeping in and skipping school, are too harsh, and so of the choices, children choose to go to school.

When I graduated High School, I had many choices. I was accepted to go to MIT, or Montana State University. I chose MSU. I have never regretted that choice. When I started school I was in the Electrical Engineering major. After a year, I chose to switch to Theater Arts. Somewhere in there, I chose not to enter the Rat Race. I could graduate college with a degree in Electrical Engineering, make lots of money, maybe design a new computer system and be the next Bill Gates (I remember being very interested in the concept of stacking microprocessors.... similar to the "dual core" processors that have come out recently). I chose however to go into a field that I just loved doing. While engineering majors were up all night studying for their next big test, Theater majors were up all night actually doing what we were training to do.... produce plays. I never once thought of myself as the next Bill Pullman (maybe because he was, at the time, one of my teachers.) or even compared myself to George Lucas, I was just focusing lights and hoping that some day I could make a living doing it. (and for a very short time was)

When I got married, my wife was in the "Rat Race" already. I get a kick out of Dilbert's cubicles because I know all about them. When I met my wife, she was at a 'manager' level. You could tell because she had a cubicle with 84" high walls and a door. Below her were supervisors, you could tell they were supervisors because they had cubicles with 60" walls, and no doors. The supervised associates, the more important of which had 48" walls and 2 desks with 2 draw sets, the less important had 48" walls with 1 desk and one drawer. Eventually she moved up to a director level, and then a VP level and got offices with real walls, and once even had a window.

I found it interesting that you could tell how important the VP was by how many people they had to share their "administrative assistant" with. Some got their own, some didn't get any. Office furniture also made a major play as to the importance or a person. There is the associates chair, the supervisor's chair (which has arms), the manager's chair (which looks expensive but only cost $50), the VP's chair (which looks expensive and is) and then there is the executive VP's chair which was usually flown in from Italy at great expense. I have never seen a president's chair. I am sure they must have gold inlay on them though.

Now some people will read about this and chuckle. Some will nod their head in approval, and some will say, "huh, I always wondered how high the manager's cubicle is". All of us get a kick out of reading Dilbert however, it is the comic for those stuck in the Rat Race, and for those of us outside the Rat Race laughing at those stuck in the Rat Race.

Hopefully some day I will figure out how to place Dilbert on the side, where he is always available to those who wish to see his latest adventures.

And by the way, we are no longer part of the Rat Race. My wife has left the company, and is currently in a job she loves, making coffee for those seeking a better life racing rats.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Green Means Go, Red means Stop

I have always been one of those drivers who talk to the other people on the road, even though they cannot hear me. My daughter has grown up listening to her dad while sitting at the light that has now changed, saying "Green means go, what do you want, a written invitation?"

So now I drive a school bus, and of course I often talk to drivers who still cannot hear me, but now my audience is quite a bit larger.

Yesterday however there was no audience to hear my rants. I pulled to my first stop on my High School run. This is a left hand load, the child, in this case a 6th grader is on my left and must cross two lanes of traffic to get on the bus. It is one of the more dangerous loads we bus drivers have and we all take them VERY seriously. As I pulled towards my stop, the young man was standing there waiting. I put on my yellow flashing lights just as I am supposed to. This is to caution other drivers that I am about to stop, and there are children present that they need to watch for. Sure enough a car is coming up to me from the front hoping to make a left hand turn into the elementary school. So I motion for the young man to stay where he is at, which he does. Then I motion for the car to go, since its better to have no car, then to rely on someone actually doing what they are supposed to do. The car does not move. "OK, yellow means you can go" I say to the driver. He does not budge. I wave frantically to get his attention and flag him around the corner..... He does not budge. "OK, have it your way" and on come the red lights, but something inside me says NO, and I don't give the signal for the child to cross. Sure enough, as soon as the red lights came on, the car went right through the intersection..... RED MEANS STOP

I was laughing when the young man got on the bus, and so was he. We talked about this for a few minutes as we drove to the next stop. As we approached the next stop, this one on the right, the young man sitting behind me notices the steady stream of oncoming traffic, "Do you think they will stop?" he asks. "No" I reply, "This is Dinsmore, people don't have time to stop" [Dinsmore is an upscale neighborhood].

Sure enough, as our next pickup was happening and the red lights flashed, 3 cars tooled on past, not even bothering to slow down.

Now this would not be note worthy, just another day in the life of driving a school bus, but last night at church, the theme of the sermon kind of hit me. Our minister, Kim, was explaining that she had been sick for the last week, and didn't have time to prepare a "new" sermon so she was recycling an old one which seemed to fit. Basically it was about how people were not created to run 24/7, they were created in God's image, and he only worked 6 days and then took the next day off. Therefore so should we. There was more to it then that, but in a nutshell, if we don't take a bit of time off, we end up flat on our backs for a week trying to recover from pneumonia.

Several years ago, I was involved with a children's worship service where I wrote a new service for each Sunday for a year. I remember that during that time I always woke up at 4:00 am. I would not always get up at that time, but I would lay there and think, and plan, and contemplate. Then it would be off to the computer for another hour of mindless games, looking at Ebay, or some other thing. It was my down time, my time to STOP. These days I get up at 5 to pick up my first child by 6:15 am. I still wake up before the alarm every morning, sometimes an hour, sometimes a few minutes and stop, and think. Also I find that if I don't have this time in the morning, I either need it between runs..... or get very cranky by evening. (And the Mountain Man get be a BIG bear when he's cranky).

So as Kim told of her experiences, I wondered about the people who cannot STOP on RED. I believe whole heartedly that God shows us everyday things for a purpose, that when we see the sun rising or frost crystals on the windshield, he is showing us the beauty that he has created for us. Kim obviously thought that pneumonia was God's way of saying STOP. So when these people come across a bus with its red lights flashing, maybe that too is God's way of saying STOP, take a moment, hang up the cell phone, take a breath, look at the bird in the tree or the duck on the pond and realize that we really are not supposed to run 24/7. Hopefully they will make it to work without a bigger reminder coming at them. Hopefully they will wake up the next day with the ability to breathe and not have to spend a week with people telling you that people die from complications of pneumonia. Hopefully they will....

Take a moment and remember Red means STOP.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Deafening Silence

I just came from church. During our contemporary worship service, a young lady I have known since she was very small came on to talk about a recent retreat she had been on. She told about getting up before everyone else and going down to a tree beside a lake. She called it her "prayer tree" and she has been going down to that tree every time she goes to that retreat.

This brought back memories of my own youth, going to bible camp. We went to a camp called Christikon located in southern Montana on the Boulder River. The river was aptly named because it was a large amount of water flowing through very large rocks. Every once in a while the water would move a boulder creating a large crash or thump, but the din of this water through the rocks was constant, and deafening.

The camp was on the side of a hill, probably a half mile from the river separated by a large meadow full of wild flowers. In the meadow were more large rocks, some the size of a large car, many the size of a chair or sofa.

It was the camp's policy that nobody had a watch, nobody knew what time it was. We would be told what to do when it was necessary for us to do something. Traditionally a large bell would ring that could be heard for many miles. That would signal something needed to happen, and usually everyone knew what was to happen next.

So every morning the bell would ring, it was time to get up and meet at the lodge. You would be issued a bible verse and head out into the meadow to contemplate the verse.

For some reason I always had a hard time contemplating verses..... So I contemplated life instead.

Sometimes I would read the bible, I always liked to read the chapter before and after a particular verse, to see how many preachers take things out of context.

Many times however I would just sit and listen to the roar of the water. The roar was so loud and so constant that it became silent. Every once in a while there would be a loud thump or crash as a boulder moved in the water, but the silence of the deafening roar permeated the soul.

I remember talking to someone several years later, who was leaving Montana to go back to NYC. They could not handle the lack of noise. The cars, people, sirens, all melded together to form their environment and without the silence of the din, they were lost.

I have also experienced this while sitting on the beach by an ocean. For the first few days, there is noise, then all is silent, and when you leave, you miss the din, and long for the noise again.... I guess thats why they build all those condos next to the beach.

So as Emily told about her lake side "prayer tree," my thoughts went back to my contemplation rock, and the noise that silenced all noise. We allow too much stuff into our lives and we loose sight of what we are doing. Sometimes we need just a bit of noise to drown it all out.

Monday, January 7, 2008

Taking the Subway

I just got done eating at a Subway Restaurant. I have liked these places since the first place I ate at in Columbus Ohio. I like the fact that their employees are called "Sandwich Artist." Not a chef, or a prep cook, or bus boy, these Artists use their creative abilities to make and deliver a sandwich.

I spent about 8 years working in various kitchens around the country. I had many titles from dishwasher to chef, but not once did anyone call me an "artist". A chef, is by nature an artist as they create with food. At least in the restaurants I worked in we were able to. I suppose if you work at "Applebees" you don't have much latitude to create as the menu is set, but working in resorts and high end restaurants, we had the need to get rid of yesterday's prime rib that did not sell and had to create something from the left overs, and not only that but be able to sell the creation for as much money as we could make from the prime rib (and often times more.)

So here is a lowly sandwich maker, who gets the title of "artist." If you have ever eaten at at Subway, you will understand why they get their title. No two sandwiches are ever the same. Sometimes you get a lettuce sandwich, sometimes you get 3 jalapenos and other times you get 3 handfuls. So through my years of eating Subway's I have come up with my rating scale of what I consider a "good" sandwich.

First, it has to contain all the ingredients I want. I ask for a "Veggie" sandwich, and say "all the veggies". Now some places think that I need spinach on my sandwich, while some think that its for salads. I prefer the spinach to stay in someone else's salad, but since I ask for everything, its not something I complain about.... just am happy when they leave it off. However if they leave off the onions, or cucumbers, or olives.... that's worth complaining about.

Next, is the gooshy factor. Its basically how much of the sandwich falls out because the bread is too small to hold all the ingredients. I believe that Subway's have way too much bread, so when my sandwich is so loaded that I wish I had a fork to eat it.... that is the sandwich for me. As I eat, stuff falls off and the more that fell off, the less stingy the artist and the more apt I am to return.

Now on the flip side, my daughter and I have come up with the "Scariness factor". This is actually applied to all restaurants, typically fast food. These are places to avoid, usual reasons include:

Lack of customer service. This entails a whole bunch of stuff, but when an employee would prefer to talk to their co-worker instead of you, its a quick trip to the scary zone. Also answering the telephone instead of talking to the 'live' person in front of them, ignoring what someone is saying, and along with that asking you to repeat what you just said 3 times.

Lack of food. Nothing worse then going to a Subway for a turkey sandwich to find out they are out of Turkey.

Wrong order. Wendy's is great for this, order a "double" get a chicken sandwich. Not just special requests, I can overlook them putting onions on a burger that you just asked for without, but when I ask for a burger without onions, I best be getting something made from a cow and not a bird.

So if you ever wonder why there appears to be a Subway on every corner, it is because they are staffed by "Artists". Just as one prefers "Classical" over "Renaissance" , or Monet to Renoir, so do we consumers prefer our sandwich artists.

Thursday, January 3, 2008

We could use another Hero

>One of my favorite shows has ended its season it would appear, "Heroes".

I like the show on many different levels. One level is that of the choice these people have of either becoming a "hero" or a villain.

People make the same choices every day. Some choose to do good things, and some choose to go a different way. Then there are those who consider their job to be Heroic, and therefore do not need to play the part.

>I remember sitting in my living room on the morning of 9/11. The guy on the TV was interviewing a fireman who had just been driven back by the fall of tower number one. The fireman said he was going back into tower number two, the interviewer asked if he was worried if that was going to collapse too, the fireman said yes, but that's my job and I need to do it. Just an ordinary guy choosing to do an heroic act. He had the suit, he had the badge, he didn't need to do anything but direct traffic or pull hoses, but he chose to go back in knowing that the tower may collapse and he may be killed. It did.

>My latest occupation is as a bus driver. One day as I was bringing home the children on the bus, we happened upon a small group of police cars. Naturally I slowed down, not just out of curiosity, but this is considered a hazard that bus drivers need to slow down and watch out for. Several of the children on the bus PANICked. Diving to the floor screaming, "Get us home NOW".... These were 1st graders.

At what point in these children's lives did a police officer change from a hero to a villain. At 7 years old, I doubt that these children were the arch enemies of the men in blue, but somewhere along the lines these children were taught that cops were bad guys, not the people to run to when you were in trouble.

>I remembered back a few years to a live radio show that I was listening to. A police officer had been killed in the line of duty, and police officers from around the state were going to the funeral. Someone called into the station asking that the officer's slow down. The country road they were heading down had a 55 mph speed limit and while normal traffic was 60-65 many of these officers seemed to be doing 80. The announcer gave the 3rd degree to this caller saying, "these people risk their lives every day, we need to cut them some slack. If they want to go 80 to this officer's funeral, they should be able to do so"

I just about came unglued!

The officer who died trying to protect people, trying to enforce the law, died as a hero, was being honored by fellow officers flagrantly disobeying the law and putting the general public at risk!

>A few weeks ago, a report came out about Jackson MS police, and how many times the officers have been arrested for crimes from DUI to assault. The numbers were alarming. I would think that even one arrest would be alarming of course but some of these had 17 arrests, most pleaded out or thrown out of court.

>I remember back 15 years ago in a college class on education psych where the instructor was explaining to his students, many who would be future educators, that as a teacher you were held to a higher standard. Many school systems would not hire a teacher who smoked for instance, as it created a negative image for the students. Teachers could not be seen drinking in public, or be visiting the strip clubs.

There was a day when police where held to a higher standard as well. They were not above the law, but set the standard of the law they swore to enforce. A police officer was the person you looked to, to settle disputes, to help in legal matters, to actually drive the speed limit..... even when nobody else did! Police officers held this standard when in uniform, and when not in uniform. If there was an officer that lived down the street, you knew that your street was safe, and would never expect the officer to be hosting wild parties or selling drugs from his back porch because that just was not done.

>Somewhere in the last 30 years this was lost. There are heroes still, people willing to put themselves away from the ordinary for the common good. We find them in church, in politics, in the military, fire departments, and the police. Unfortunately though we don't find them enough, especially in the police department, to quell the fears of a group of 7 yr old children. Too many are of the belief that its the clothes that make the man, when it is the man that defines the clothes.

(addendum: Last night on "Deal or no Deal" they had on the show, a Port Authority Officer that had been saved from the WTC after it had collapsed . He won a bunch of money which is always nice to see, but during the show they introduced the person who led the team that saved this guy's life. Everyone got up and clapped, and this guy looked genuinely annoyed at the amount of attention he was getting. I tried to picture this guy as the fireman from the interview but don't remember the face well enough, but this guy did not rescue someone from the WTC to go on Deal or No Deal, he did not do it to get into the papers, or the movies, he did it because it needed to be done, and he was the one that needed to do it. He did not wake up and decide to be a hero that day..... or maybe he did, maybe just maybe he decided that everyday when he woke up he would live his life according to the uniform that he wore, and make people proud to do what he does, because that's the kind of person who gets genuinely annoyed at the attention given to a person who shares the title of all others like him..... Hero)

Wednesday, January 2, 2008


Hehehe..... I get to write my first post dated a month ago, and this post dated today all at the same time..... wonders of computer technology. I think it was Einstein who decided time can be bent, maybe thats what I'm doing. Hopefully nothing breaks along the way.

As I mentioned in the previous post, my Mom left today on her further adventures.

I often think about my upbringing. One of the greatest mysteries of my youth was whether or not my parents remembered when they were young. Considering I have tons of memories stored of my youth, I believe that my parents too, DO remember being a kid, though I am sure I could not have believed it at a young age.

I am certainly a product of my parents. However I do lean a bit towards my mom. This is rather unfortunate in some ways because my dad has one attribute that I wish I had gained from him.... that of a "Do-er". I remember my dad getting a little circle of wood one year for Christmas with the words "To It" written on them. It was a "Round to it". This was never my father's weakness though. Him getting around to it, meant it would be fixed by the weekend.

My version of "a round do it" usually means I will get it done sometime before we move again. (we seem to do that every 3-5 years).

That would be one of the things I wish I had gotten from my Dad. I did get from him a love of mechanics and things with switches. Also I remember from my youth, my father having a reel to reel tape recorder in the late 60's. That was kinda breaking technology for the average homeowner/ice cream maker, so I guess I also inherited from him this love of breaking technology.... and yes he is still around and playing on the internet as well (though not with his own blog.... maybe that will come soon too).

The one part that I got from my mom that blended well with my gifts from my dad, was love of reading. I can read a novel, or paperback just fine, but my love was non-fiction. This is something my dad did not do. So there where times when his method of doing it by the seat of the pants, was just not going to get it done, and then the books came out, and I excelled. To this day, I prefer a book about the life and times of Tesla over anything done by Steven King any day.

Both of my parents were very patient people. And this compounded in me. Raising my children, teaching, driving, all benefited from these gifts.

My mother gave me many gifts as well, and often I see myself leaning towards her. She is a listener, a counselor by trade, and this ability flows through my veins as well. She is an educator, and follows the same life goal as I do, in that she learns and teaches. She once was a middle school teacher, then moved on to teaching people how to cope as a counselor, and now as she travels the country, she learns new things and teaches them to us on her blog. I think that her RVing is a blessing in multiple ways. It is something she has always wanted to do. It gives the rest of us hope that someday we too get full fill our life dreams. And one thing that I have always kept in the back of my mind is how lucky those of us who know her, are. As she travels, and meets new people, and others happen across her blog, they will join those of us who are lucky enough to know my mother. And who knows she may be counted among the lucky ones to know someone else's mother.

So as I said goodbye to my mother today, I knew that she goes off on a journey of greater importance. One that affects many people's lives in many different ways. And after all, she'll be back in the spring. Finally it shows too that my mother is a "Do-er" and with that from both sides.... maybe I can finally get a "round to it" of my own.

(If you want to keep up on the adventures of Vagabond Vee, her blog is found at: )