Thursday, September 20, 2012

Two Years Before The Mast

The Hawaiian Chieftain and the Lady Washington at days' end.

I’ve always had this thing for nautical books and movies.  I grew up around the water, fishing boats, and listening to my Father spin tales of his time in the Navy.  I had my own catamaran with my own adventures and water craziness.  So “this thing” is really a romantic obsession. But my romance is tied, if you pardon me, hook, line, and sinker, to the loveliness of the old ships, the great wooden vessels with creaking decks and billowing sails.  Over the years I’ve added a list of ships and boats I’ve been aboard; once I even had the pleasure to sail three days and nights aboard the lovely ship, the Hawaiian Chieftain. 
So it came as a surprise to me, when I realized that I had never read Two Years Before The Mast.  I mean, it doesn’t get more nautical than that.  How I’ve managed to skip this book is a mystery.  But I’ve read it now and am on my second reading - what a superb read! 
For those of you who aren’t familiar with the book, it is a true account of Richard Henry Dana who sailed on the brig Pilgrim from Boston harbor to San Francisco in the early 1800’s – before California was part of the United States.  Mr. Dana’s description of life as a common “Jack” stood in opposition to his previous life as an undergraduate at Cambridge.  He made the leap from academia to nautical adventure much like any of us would – with a great deal more enthusiasm than knowledge.  But Mr. Dana not only writes a great narrative description of life aboard ship, he also does a remarkable job of telling his tale with a fresh eye and an open mind – an academian dissecting his subject with both child-like pleasure and objectivity.  And though I was so engrossed in his colorful descriptions that I could smell the salt air and feel the roll of the deck, I became particularly interested in Mr. Dana’s descriptions in the last chapter, Twenty-Four Years Later, where he, on re-visiting San Francisco, compares with a nostalgic eye the changes of the bay area.  I felt his sense of loss, especially since none of us have ever known what it was like to see nothing but rolling hills from shore to horizon.  I have always been saddened by the sight when driving to San Francisco to see nothing but freeways and a sea of rooftops as far as the eye can see.  Reminiscing with Dana made me sigh with longing.

Two Years Before The Mast is a terrific read on all accounts.  Though, if you’re not up on your sailor jargon you might have a difficult time getting making heads or tails of it.  Nautical speak is a language of its own – larboard and starboard, reefing sails, hawse, leeward, lay out, all hands, eight bells – and a whole dictionary of terms that would take half a lifetime to learn properly.  But if you read the book, you’ll be itching to get on the water afterwards for sure – even if it’s in a dingy.  This is one of the best historical books I’ve read in a very long time and it will certainly be a book I will read time and again.



Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Gulf Islands National Seashore


I’m in love.  In love with the Ocean.  With the sugar white beaches.  With the Laughing Gulls, the Great Herons, and the seriously laid-back Brown Pelicans.  But I have found a new love.  The Gulf Islands National Seashore, specifically, the Perdido Key Area at Johnson’sBeach.  Oh yup.  The National Seashore has been there for many, many years.  I was born in Pensacola and grew up on the beach so this is nothing new to me.  But there has been this slow build-up of experience – of walking the beach for miles to sort out the junk in my head.  Of splashing with the fish and singing with the gulls.  I’ve had time to wear this beach like a favorite pair of jeans or cotton shirt and they’re now worn and comfortable.  It’s been said that anything really worth having and worth falling in love with, takes time.  So true.  My love runs deep like the Ocean.      


Many folks understand this love of the water.  But what may surprise some is that, for me, this love extends to the people who sweat and toll to keep this park in working order.  My Father used to ask me why I would pay to go to the Gulf Islands National Seashore when there was free public beach access all around.  I answered simply, because I felt safe.   And I do feel safe, but the real answer is more complicated than that.  The work that the Rangers, volunteers, and behind-the-scenes workers do is just amazing and inspiring.  Cleaning beaches and bathrooms; repairing equipment, signs, buildings, and fences; answering questions from the curious and sometimes ignorant public; building sites and protecting baby turtles and seabirds; keeping law and order; re-introducing native flora; re-building the dunes; keeping the public safe and aware of hazards; and even helping a woman jump a dead battery on her jeep (that would be me) – that is the duty these people face every day they work here.  And it’s a hot, sweaty, and often thankless job.  One that must sometimes be extremely trying as one storm after another rolls across the island, washing away their hard work, knowing tomorrow they will have to start all over again.  How heart-breaking that must be.  As a volunteer myself at the Maidu Museum andHistoric Site in Roseville, CA, I understand from first-hand experience how many hours, dedication, and passion goes into protecting and maintaining a site.   

Just recently, as the park hunkered down for the onslaught of Hurricane Isaac, I spoke with one of the Rangers there.  He, like everyone I’ve spoken with there, was about as nice a person as you could ever hope to meet.  He was an easy-going, happy, and passionate person who believed in what he was doing.  We spoke for a few minutes.  As I started to drive away I told him, “Thank you for everything you do.”  His face beamed with a warm smile and replied, “Thank you!  You made my day!”  Honestly given, honestly received. 

So here’s a hearty and very special shout out to all those who work at Gulf Islands National Seashore, both paid and volunteer.  You are talented, honest, hard-working people who manage a difficult but worthy endeavor.  And no matter how rough the job gets, you do it with a smile.  Thank you.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Corry Field Columns Mystery Update!

Well - I was very fortunate to make a little headway into the mystery of the Corry Field Columns that i posted on just a few weeks ago.  I sent out emails to several different people and organizations in Pensacola and received a reply from Curt Lawson, Buehler Library, NNAM, NAS Pensacola, FL.  Here's his reply:

The pillars, now south of the new Veterans Hospital, were once one of the field boundary light arrangement to enable safe night flying from the early days of Corry Field. They were used between 1927 and 1934 to light the southern edge of the landing field that was only a grass area at the time (i.e. no runways). The lights had electrical and a gas system for added light augmentation as needed. The pillars are 15 to 20 feet tall and each held a 7 foot tall light as shown in an attachment.  Two additional sets of shorter pillars were located along the western and northern field boundaries. These lights permitted safe clearance of trees and lit the landing areas for the early biplanes (without any on-board lights). Additional lighting and runway construction was started after 1934 as aircraft and airfield development proceeded.

He also included a photo of the original lights that topped the columns:

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Eastern Ways Martial Arts


Anyone who knows me, even those who encounter me briefly, knows my affiliation and love for martial arts.  I’ve been practicing kung fu for 12 ½ years.  That’s a serious commitment.  But I’ve never posted about it on my blog – it seemed redundant.   I mean, I talk about it all the time to everyone around me so I thought, hey, I don’t want people running the other direction when they see me coming.  But recently I’ve had a string of things happen to me.  You know – Life.  That chaotic period where every problem you encounter is insurmountable.  To make matters worse, they all came at once.  Or so it seemed.  Loss of work.   Car problems.  Money problems.  I couldn’t recoup from one problem before another one was there staring me in the face.  Then my Father became very, very ill and I knew I needed to fly home. 
When you have problems, really serious problems, that’s when you find out who your real friends are.  Those who don’t want to deal with sorrow and life’s troubles will disappear off your radar.  Those who are committed to you will be on your doorstep offering whatever it takes to help.  And that is how I discovered just what the people at Eastern Ways Martial Arts are made of. 

I’ve been very blessed to have wonderful people around me – for most of my life.  But sometimes there are those who just go “above and beyond” in their dedication to make you feel the top of the world. 
Who let you know, no matter how awful things get, they will be pulling for you.  And if you fall, they’ll be there to catch you.  I don’t know what I’ve done to have such wonderful people in my life, but I have certainly been blessed.

There is one person in particular that I would like to make a special thanks – and that’s to Tai Simo Molina.  She is a giver – from thoughtful birthday and Christmas presents to “just because” gifts purchased with your needs in mind.  But the greatest gift is her heart.  Throughout the years she’s been a rock and foundation of compassion.  She celebrates your accomplishments and, when the chips are down, is there to listen with great empathy and love.  To hold your hand when you cry.  To tell you that you are worth something and to never give up on your dreams.  She makes you believe in yourself when all your world is crumbling in around you and, through her energetic support, you begin to believe that you can shake off your troubles and rise again.  That is a real and true gift and the worth of that goes beyond measure.
Does it sound like I’m sucking up?  Maybe.  But I don’t give a damn.  Goodness should be recognized and praised.  Compassion should be held above ego and gold.  So much of our world has become a regular diet of doom and despair.  Shootings.  Stabbings.  Murder.  Rape.  I hate turning on the news.  But people seem to delight in drama.  I don’t understand it.  I would rather elevate goodness, compassion, true understanding.  To live in a world that recognizes and promotes these things.  Maybe that sounds idealistic and unrealistic.  But I say, if I don’t embrace these ideas, who will?  If I don’t make my world, who is?  We are what we believe we are. 

So – to all the Instructors, to Tai Sifu, and especially to Tai Simo – thank you for supporting me and believing in me throughout these years.  You matter.  You make a difference.  What finer thing in the world is that?

The Salute

Many things touched me and left impressions in my mind on the day my Father was buried.  I am always struck by the seemingly small things that are enormous in scope.  A funeral is just a surreal experience.  People are talking in hushed voices, with questions, tears, sorrowful looks, but it all seems like it’s happening to someone else – not you.  Mom and I are in the car behind the hearse.  A procession begins across the rain-soaked town as grey clouds threaten to rain out another day.  I try to count the cars but lose track as curves block my view.  Police fly past us, lights flashing, as they stop traffic.  We have something here in Florida I find endearing – people stop their cars for a funeral procession.  Police block intersections.  Traffic stops all around as people pay respect for the dead and for the families.  It is quite moving – and the first time since Dad died that I felt anything. 

When we arrived at NAS, the military MP’s came to attention and saluted.  The police, who had given us escort, were out of their cars, also saluted as we passed.  I was touched.  Of course I knew, realistically, they were doing their jobs – they are supposed to salute.  But as we passed the golf course on the way to the cemetery, two older gentlemen golfers stopped their game, came to attention, and saluted.  No one was paying them.  They had no idea who was in that hearse; they were having a fine day of golf.  Yet they stopped to salute.  It still brings a lump in my throat.  What a simple gesture.  That meant so much. 
Now when I think of my Father’s funeral – that is the image that lingers with me.  What a great memory to hold.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Corry Field Mystery


We stumble out of bed in the morning, slurp a cup of hot coffee, and hit the road blurry-eyed and groggy.  We drive down the same old road, past the same old buildings day in and day out.  Most days we’re either too sleepy or too focused on the day’s projects to notice the scenery as it whizzes by us.  But sometimes, for some unexplained reason, we wake up and see.  And what we see makes us wonder.  Like how have we passed this way every day and not notice – well – everything?  It makes us wonder like a kid wonders.  Why?  How?

I had a moment like that recently.  Actually, it was my Mom who woke me up and made me notice.  Made me wonder.  At the intersection of Hwy 98 and Veteran’s Way in Pensacola, FL, in a swampy, mosquito-ridden tangle of woods and vines lay three weather beaten columns.  They’re just twenty feet or so off the highway.  There’s something regal and majestic about them.  An air of American pride.  Of history.  But now they stand forgotten.  No one notices their carved columns; their classic styling.  No one knows their proud history.  They are overgrown and ignored. 
The columns, I believe, were a part of the runway lighting on Corry Station – the air field that opened here off Hwy. 98 in July 1927 in response to an ever-growing need for landing strips for the Navy.  I was curious so of course I Googled it.  According to “The Hook Magazine” http://www.tailhook.org/Corry.htm there were two Corry stations.  Which surprised me.  The first was created in July 1922 and was not much more than a green pasture with cows that had to be shooed away before the planes could land.  There were no photos I could find on that first airfield but plenty on the current location.  The website provided a number of old black and white photos, but none of them showed the columns.  Maybe the columns weren’t for landing lights at all.  What else might they be?  I certainly would like to know. 

Every time I drive by them now, I look and wonder.  Day by day they are slowly fading into the woods.  Soon their mystery will be swallowed by greenery.  It makes me sad.  Does anyone know what these stately old columns are?  Were they actually used on Corry Field?  Would Corry Station allot money to restore the columns and create a space around the columns so people could stop and see them?  Put lights back on the top?  That would be cool.  Or put up a plaque that gives the history of the columns and Corry?  If Corry couldn’t do it, would the Pensacola Navy Museum be willing to relocate these columns to the museum?  Is there some military agency that works to restore and preserve military history?  If there’s anyone with knowledge about these columns or knows who might be interested in preserving them, please feel free to reply here.  Pensacola has a very proud and long Naval history and these columns would be a great addition.  

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Donations in Honor of My Father


Many people have asked what they can do for my Mom or if they should send flowers - Mom has asked if people would like to donate to one of these organizations.  Covenant Hospice is the service we used when Dad became really ill and they are just angels.  I don't say that lightly. 

The other organization is run by a wonderful lady who helps injured and sick - or sometimes misplaced - wild animals.  Mom, Dad, and i used to go there all the time.

Covenant Hospice
2001 N. Palafox Street
Pensacola, FL  32501
(850) 433-8097

Wildlife Sanctuary of NW Florida Inc.
105 North S Street
Pensacola, FL  32505
(850) 433-9453

Thank you in advance for everything people have done for us.  You are beautiful!  I mean it!

Sunday, July 29, 2012

A Tribute To My Father




All our Fathers are unique men.  Sometimes they are loved for it, and sometimes not.  Not all have been great or even good men. But this tribute is for my Father.  And he truly is a great man and well-loved by many people.  No lie. 
Alvin C. Farage was born in Kansas City, Missouri, April 27, 1933.  Wow, a long time ago.  He died two days ago at 79 after a very long and painful battle with cancer.  The cancer may have taken his body.  But it did not take his spirit.  It did not take the laughter and smiles he shared with friends and strangers alike.  It did not take the kindness that was in his soul.  It did not dampen his drive, energy, and zest for life – because it lives on in all of us – all of those who knew him.

 



Dad was an impressive athlete and bore the competitive spirit and focus of an Olympian.  Whatever he put his mind to, he conquered. In the early days, he played football and basketball.  He built model airplanes and won trophies throughout the southeast.  I spent my youth watching my Dad pitch fast-pitch softball at Lion’s Park in downtown Pensacola.  On the weekend he played golf and won local tournaments.  When he wasn’t on the golf course, he was fishing either with family or friends in the Gulf of Mexico.  Or water skiing.  When he pitched his last game and was tired of golf, he turned his eyes on tennis.  He won tournaments there too. Then he fell in love with snow-skiing.  Yes – he was a Floridian who loved to snow ski in Colorado.  And he didn’t just dabble in all these sports.  He pushed himself to always be better.  He took lessons, but they never lasted long because he just GOT it.  His body knew what to do; he understood.    
But playing sports wasn’t the only thing he excelled.  He was a fantastic and creative builder.  The single car garage in our home quickly became his workshop.  If Dad didn’t have a racket in his hand, he had a hammer and nail.  He built a swimming pool after watching one being built – no drawings, no plans.  He saw it and knew he could do it.  He built a tennis court.  Remodeled the house.  Many times.  Did I say many times?  We lived on a woody two acres – if Dad had lived to 100, he would have filled the yard with an ever expanding “weekend” project.  And later, he learned to build furniture.  Our houses are filled with tables, benches, cupboards, and crafts that Dad built. 

Dad was a proud American.  He served in the Navy for two years on a destroyer out of New York then spent another six as a reservist.  He had great stories of those years on the ship.  The night he saved his ship from being cut in two by another ship.  Watching a man get washed overboard then washed back on deck again.  The evocative descriptions of sailing into Bermuda.  These were the stories he told over and over but I never got tired of them.  After his active duty tour, he worked at NARF, NAS Pensacola.  Dad retired from NAS after 34 years. 
USS Kyne DE 744

With all he did, I suppose some might think that there was no time left to be a family man.  But that was certainly not the case.  Mom and I were a part of his life as deeply as water is part of the Ocean.  Mom and Dad were childhood sweethearts.  They lived down the street from one another, grew up together, and married.  Four years later, they had me.  Dad and Mom were always a team.  They planned their life – together.  They worked as a unit.  He was a giving husband and playful father.  He liked to play pranks on us.  Once, he convinced Mom and me that the roof was leaking water into my bedroom – on a bright, sunny day.  He was that convincing. He also told me that I couldn’t throw a football left-handed because the “the threads inside the football are wound a certain way and the football won’t spiral if you throw it left-handed.”  I believed that for years and later embarrassed myself over those “facts.”   It isn’t possible to tell of all the things Dad did.  All the vacations.  All the holidays he made extra special with his enthusiasm.  Dad approached life with great energy and hope.  How could you not love him?






Now Mom and I sit numb.  Surreal.  I feel like Dad is really just at the hospital or at Hospice.  We’ll see him again.  Surely.  But I know I won’t.  Not in this life.  Neither of us have mourned.  Not really.  Not yet.  But there are things.  His things.  The peanut butter in the pantry that is HIS peanut butter.  The tennis shoes that he always wore.  I was walking through the hall and I heard the alarm of his watch.  I almost stumbled.
I bought an American flag yesterday.  I will put it on his grave.  Maybe then I will cry.  Whatever the outcome of that, I know in the days and months to come, I will miss him terribly.  As I should.  He was a great man and still is in our memories.






Monday, July 23, 2012

Blue Angels


There’s been hundreds of articles written on the Blue Angels – The Navy’s Demonstration Team.  And here I am, adding to the mountain of material and probably not saying anything new.  But there’s something so remarkable about watching the Blue Angels that it compels me to attempt the foolish.  Of course, I’ve never been particularly quiet about things I’m passionate about.   

I’ve been watching the Blues since I was a baby.  My Father and Grandfather both served in the Navy and later worked for, what was then, NARF – Naval Air Rework Facility.  They both loved aircraft and had a serious interest in model aircraft competition.  So it was no strange thing to go to the yearly air show.  The first plane I remember the Blues flying was the Phantom – a massive plane that made the ground shake when it took off.  Sometime after that they changed to a smaller aircraft, the A-4 Skyhawk; the same planes that hang in the Naval Air Museum in Pensacola, FL, the city I was born.  And it seems like just yesterday the Blue Angles began flying F/A 18 Hornet but this is the 25th Anniversary of their flight. Which makes me feel like I should be walking with a cane.   

Watching the Blues fly their annual beach show is thrilling.  If you’ve never witnessed a show, put that on your list of things to do before you die.  It really is that impressive.  And as thrilled as I am to watch them, I can only imagine how it must feel if you are on the wrong end of America.

 A dark silhouette silently rises above the horizon then screams with incredible speed and accuracy across the land.  Your mind only has the time to register, “What’s that?”, before the jet is there and gone again. 

It's a terrifying menace descending from the sky.   Intimidating to put it mildly.  But I’m not on the wrong side of America.  Good thing.  I am very proud of our Navy and Marines and all those who serve.  So when I watch the Blues perform their maneuvers, I smile.  It’s a great feeling.   

Thursday, May 10, 2012

My Brother, My Brother





My Brother, My Brother

My Brother,
My Brother.
You come home
to us now.
I ask
not how you died
in a land
so far away.
But how did
you live,
in so short
a stay?

Would we have laughed
at the same silly things?
Would we have
shared a beer
on a hot summer day?
Would we have talked
the talk of dreamers,
and philosophers,
and solved our woes
along the way?

I will never
have the pleasure
to share the things
you may have thought.
You were Lost
to a political agenda
that Human Beings
cannot understand.

Now a plane of people
gaze out the windows
sorrowful
and glad.
Isn’t it sad?
No one they knew.
No one they knew.

But you are
My Brother,
My Brother.
Faceless and nameless
you may be to me.
But i cry for you
still.



Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Embarrassment

What we do when we are embarrassed says a great deal about who we really are and how much we accept who we are. The other day i was to meet a man with whom i wanted to give a good impression. As i was getting ready, i dug through my closet trying to put together an outfit i thought appropriate. He’s a film producer who has worked in Hollywood and i figured has seen just about everything imaginable. I went through this mental list in my head, ticking off the kinds of things i thought an artistic but professional and successful producer would look on favorably. Should i be completely artsy? Completely professional? Something in between? Ugh. I kept putting outfits together then discarding them. I couldn’t make up my mind. Not my usual mode of getting dressed. I tend to be practical and neatly casual. In the end, i settled on what i was comfortable with – a long skirt and tank top with an artsy jacket.


Now – what shoes to wear? This is always a problem for me. I like bare feet the best. Next, sandals. Followed closely by a favorite pair of Vans – which is to say ALL my Vans as they are without a doubt my favorite full shoe. But none of these were appropriate. And the heels i had did NOT go with what i was wearing. Men never have this sort of problem. Curses. After a bit i drug out a pair of shoes i hadn’t worn in a couple of years. They used to be one of my favs but somehow had managed to be buried under purses and various whatnots deep in that dark hole we call a closet. Who designs these damn things anyway? Oh yeah, men. Who never have a problem with shoes. Right. So i happily donned my cute shoes, twirled in front of the mirror a couple of times and headed off to my meeting with Stardom.

I met with the producer at a local Starbucks. He turned out to be a very pleasant, easy going, and funny man and i ended up having a wonderfully informative, hour long chat. But there’s always a point in any conversation where you need to wrap things up before it gets awkward. (Some people have no clue about this). So when the conversation started to lag, i knew it was time to sum things up, say my thanks, and head out the door. But just as these thoughts were flitting through my head, i had this strange sensation on my left foot. Like cold air. Where it shouldn’t be. I tried to look down, without looking like i was looking down. My shoe, from the toe all the way down one side to the heel, had fallen apart. Yikes! I wriggled my left foot – no way it would stay on – it was ready to fall off at any moment. I wriggled my right foot. Oh for Heaven’s sake! My right shoe was doing the same thing though not quite as bad as the left. No way in hell i was going to be able to walk away without my shoes literally falling off my feet. My smile froze on my face. Crap! Crap!! Crap!!!

Embarrassments like this are Life’s way of laughing at our insecure egos. The whole game of “dressing to impress” – just a mask we wear in our desire to be accepted. I find it amusing – and sad – that we work so hard to be someone we’re not to impress someone who is doing the same damn thing. Who ARE we? For me, it’s such a terrible state because i am aware of what i’m doing and why i’m doing it but am afraid to stop. The fear of not being accepted is too great.

I tried to keep a straight face as all this was avalanching through my brain but the urge to laugh was creeping its way out my mouth so i quickly smiled and mumbled some inane and appropriate verbal camouflage to bring the conversation to an end with the excuse that i was going to stay for a bit and take notes on our conversation. Thankfully – he stood, shook my extended hand, and left. I sat there for a good ten minutes. I got up and ever-so-slowly shuffled my way out the front doors of a very crowded Starbucks. I could only imagine i looked like Tim Conway doing the old man shuffle. I felt every eye upon me as i casually took off my shoes – and threw them in a garbage bin outside the door. By this time, my humor – the best of what is real – had bubbled over. I threw back my head and laughed and cared not one wit who heard me or if anyone thought i was crazy. I laughed all the way home. And it felt great.

I vowed that day to not be afraid of not impressing people. To work even harder at “being me” – whoever that might turn out to be. Because if “being me” felt as good as that moment when i laughed at my own embarrassment, then that’s one damn fine thing to be.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Occupy What?


I’ve watched the Occupy Wall Street and various Occupy spin-offs with a mix of serious interest and amusement.  Add the Tea Party, the American Dream Movement, or whatever flavor-of-the-month political-civil group that pops up, and not even the dead can deny that Americans across the board are angry, unhappy, and have itchy voting fingers.  It doesn’t matter if you walk the far Left, the Right, or jog straight down the middle, there’s a boiling volcano ready to burst and we need to be nimble and strong enough to leap across the fiery chasm when it comes.

I’m no doomsayer.  But i don’t own a pair of rose-colored glasses either.  Minorities, who have been the voice of change, are being consumed by the angry Middle Class.  It isn’t that the Minorities aren’t equally unhappy; it’s just that the Middle Class is drowning them out with their own confused tales of woe.  The Rich are the only ones who are keeping silent – and keeping their heads low in hopes they’ll dodge stray bullets and whatever unpleasantness that comes their way.   

News articles, blogs, YouTube, and social web sites are rife with claims of an impending civil explosion.  The Tales:  We are headed for a serious depression; the US government has deployed 20,000 troops to handle civil unrest; Left vs. Right is being replaced by Young vs. Old; high unemployment will continue; we are pre-revolutionary.  So, what does this mean?  I’m not saying anything new.  I don’t believe anyone we vote for will make much of a difference other than to postpone, and possibly worsen, the inevitable. 

What do we do?  While we have no idea where or how violent the outburst might be, we don’t want to be like before the recession with our heads in the ground ignoring the signs of a swiftly down-turning economy.  We need to educate ourselves. Be pro-active.  Watching the news isn’t enough.  We need to be informed.  Read the journals of all sides and read them without bias.  We need to be prepared.  Civil unrest disrupts our lives.  Often the disruption hits these three sectors: communication, transportation, and utilities.  Think emergency preparedness – squirrel away spare cash, keep the car gassed, stock up on water and food – enough for a few days.  Keep a hard copy of important account information in a very secure place.  Memorize important phone numbers – current phone technology has spoiled us with speed dial and other short cuts.  Know the physical location of your closest police and fire station as well as hospital and emergency care services. 

72 Hours Website: http://72hours.org/go_bag.html

Red Cross: http://www.redcross.org/portal/site/en/menuitem.53fabf6cc033f17a2b1ecfbf43181aa0/?vgnextoid=537b218c37752210VgnVCM10000089f0870aRCRD&currPage=6057d7aada352210VgnVCM10000089f0870aRCRD

This website has a lot of opinions, read with caution and common sense - however - the last bit of the article is what's important - BE PREPARED!  Have a kit ready for emergencies!
http://www.backwoodshome.com/articles2/wolfe118.html

But more than anything, we need to be unafraid.  There are no countries, no states, no cities, no communities, no families that exist without the cyclic turn of the wheel going from prosperity to chaos back to prosperity again.  Americans have had it good for a long while; we’ve spoiled ourselves.  Now we need to dig deep and locate our spines.  Be courageous.  Face the known and unknown with certain conviction that we will pull through no matter how bad it gets.  This country was founded by men and women who understood how to push through fear.  Courage.  It’s All American. 

Friday, January 6, 2012

The Social Network Hype

I’m going to thumb my nose at the Media and psychologists who have touted for the last handful of years that social networking makes monsters out of people.  That tweeting, texting, blogging, and posting on Facebook will create a nation of social misfits whose only identity and personal interaction is through a computer – that we will become dark, twisted and lonely creatures. 

Nah.

I just don’t believe all the psychological Armageddon hype.   Yeah – i’ve seen the articles on people who have posted their wacked out diaries of their sad lives on the Internet and have taken out their frustration on the masses – the acts of George Sodini comes to mind.  But i don’t believe that social networks made people like Sodini do their crazy acts of violence.  I am not convinced social networking turns ordinary people into loyal members of the Lonely Hearts Club or candidates for schizophrenia.  Crazy people were crazy before the Internet – social networking is a result not a cause.   

Yet the Media – ever vigilant to promote drama – sells the social networking hype as if it came from outer space, as if it wasn’t created by us – like a plague that popped out of a black hole from some other universe.  But social networking was born from our desire to stay connected with one another by taking advantage of current technology.  It’s a bit like the argument on guns – “Guns don’t kill people.  People kill people.”  People may argue that if the guns – or social networking – weren’t available we wouldn’t have a problem.  That’s an irresponsible argument.  One – we will not get rid of the myriad ways people have found to kill one another, two – we will not banish technology.  Does having technology make it easier for people to act out their own brand of craziness?  Most likely.  Just like office doughnuts make it easier to gain weight.  But the decision, act, and responsibility lie firmly on the individuals’ shoulders.

Recently i had a wonderful experience with social networking.  It was my birthday and i was overwhelmed with “happy birthdays,” well wishes, and funny jokes.  It was heart-warming, endearing, and put a smile on my lips.  Now i’m not so na├»ve to think everyone remembered my birthday; i’m completely aware that this social network is programmed to notify people of upcoming friends’ birthdays.  But no one made them respond except that dearly, most cherished of human traits, the need and desire to be social.  To reach out and connect.  It cost them not one penny to be kind.  Yet it gave me a happiness that has no price. 

So i stand by the thought that social networks, and other various networking platforms, are good for us – provided what we give to others is good.  The seeds of positive or negative action lie within us and we will reap what we sow – the choice has always been and always will be ours.