My reaction to this question
on my favorite discussion website, RallyPoint
, took me by surprise. “Have you
ever made a snap decision? How did it turn out?” I reacted much like the cynical food critic in the Disney animated film Ratatouille
when he ate the dish prepared by a rat and flashed back to his childhood.
This question elicited a similar response from me...
I flashed back to the moment when I came to a fork in the road just outside Denver. I was driving across the country without a plan looking for a new beginning. I had been dismissed unexpectedly from the Army and needed to find my place in the civilian world.
A few decades ago while serving in the US Army, I lived in a duplex at Fort Shafter in Hawaii. Another captain and his wife lived next door. On a Halloween evening a young goblin knocked on my neighbor's door and announced, “Trick or treat!”
Inspired by a random impulse, my neighbor responded, “I don't have any treats.”
The perplexed urchin hesitated a moment and asked my neighbor, “Do you have any 'tricks'?”
The child obviously didn't comprehend the Halloween contract.
As I said, this was many years ago. Most likely, the situation hasn't improved. Thus, as a service to posterity, I propose to record my favorite tricks for those who failed to provide treats on Halloween. Some were even committed on selected citizens for no other reason than the fact that they weren't very well liked in the neighborhood.
I suppose that I should begin with the least disruptive or least costly pranks, the ones that were committed by the youngest.
Here's a hint: Don't do as I do. You would never want a marriage like my first one. You would never want to use the same numbers I use when purchasing lottery tickets. You would never want to reinstall a computer and go through the trials and tribulations that I've experienced this week. Trust me, you really wouldn't...
So many injustices, so little justice. It's impossible to get through life, especially a long-lived one, without encountering stories of injustice such as this one.
This is simply one of those stories I had to share beyond the social media. Thus, I have shared it here in hopes that it will receive even wider distribution. If nothing else, please pass it on to your social audience and reblog.
There is growing concern that elderly drivers are unfit to operate motor vehicles safely and many states are now summoning them to the DMV to demonstrate their ability. Once upon a time you were considered qualified to drive if you could hear thunder and see lightning. Now they want to poke, prod, and examine you. No, I'm not talking about old people or even the retired. Hell, the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) is handing out memberships like candy to anyone, even those just turned fifty. If they think that's old, wait until they catch up to me.
What brought this on? I just received my summons to hobble on down and be examined. I have to pass a vision exam and a written test on the motor vehicle code. Some fun, huh? It could be worse. They could force me to pass a driving test as well. When was the last time you did that?
My last driving test was in Colorado. I was tardy in applying for my license after moving there from Hawaii and they made me take the full battery of tests. Of course, I passed all until we came to the final one. The clerk at the desk instructed me to drive my car to the curb outside the door and wait there for my examiner. The man who emerged from the DMV, clipboard in hand, was larger than my Datsun stations wagon.
Wait! I hear you cry. Didn't you say in your last posting that you traded your Datsun for a Javelin? Yes, and I destroyed it before I left Hawaii. I had a salt water fish tank there and decided that it was easier to refresh the water once each week rather than slave over an alchemy set attempting to maintain the proper pH balance for the benefit of my fish. I would drive to the shore and fill a forty gallon trash can with clean seawater. Once, on the way home, an idiot cut me off and the trash can spilled when I slammed on my brakes. The trunk began rusting away by the time I reached home. Besides, I traded a Datsun 510 sedan for the Javelin. I arrived in Colorado with a Datsun 510 station wagon and a wife and child.
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As I said, the DMV driving examiner appeared to exceed the cargo capacity of my Datsun and I worried over this as he walked around the car pretending to check it out as I flashed the lights and honked the horn. In truth, I suspect he was likewise considering whether or not the car would accommodate him. In the end, he decided to give it a go and entered the passenger seat. The car sagged.
Surprisingly, the cabin provided him with enough room that he was able to close the door. Unfortunately, the seat belt didn't. Actually, he ignored it and instructed me to proceed to the end of the driveway and turn right. For some reason I have yet to figure out, I refused to move until he secured the seat belt. After several game attempts including adjusting the seat to its extremity to maximize the seat belt's reach, he announced that he would just hold it and again instructed me to begin driving.
In for a penny, in for a pound. I refused. How did I know that this wasn't part of the test? I feared that he would fail me if I so much as started the engine before he was secure.
After a few more futile attempts to snap the belt into its receptacle, he left the car and disappeared into the DMV office.
I waited some more.
Finally, I followed him into the DMV and asked the clerk where my examiner had disappeared to. She informed me that he had gone to lunch.
The clerk looked confused when I asked if I should go to lunch too and come back later to take my test. “But, you already passed,” she said after checking.
I hope I will again.
Whenever I feel down, when the checkbook is as bare as Mother Hubbard's Cubbard, I have one memory that helps carry me through. It's the day I bought my 1969 AMC Javelin.
I stopped off in Hawaii following my tour of duty in Vietnam before taking a week of leave to prove to my mother that I was still alive. I rented a Datsun 510 sedan at the Hertz desk at Honolulu International Airport and drove it to Tripler Army Medical Center where I was assigned to be the Officer in Charge of Special Services (Post theater, craft shops, sports facilities, etc). The car impressed me and I purchased one to be delivered on my return from leave on the mainland.
That car didn't disappoint me. It was fast and handled like a sports car. It was everything I could want except a “babe wagon”. Here I was, a young bachelor officer, living in paradise. Truthfully, I didn't think about it until a senior officer at the hospital began kidding me about it. I suppose that is why this story took an unexpected turn.
I was shuffling papers at my desk one day when one of the enlisted men in my command rushed into my office and announced, “You've had an accident, sir.”
Reflexively, I looked down at myself to see what had spilled.
“No, no, sir,” the young man explained. “Your car. You've had an accident.”
Now I was truly bewildered. I hadn't had an accident. My Datsun was parked in front of the post gymnasium/bowling alley/pool complex where my office was located.
“Sir,” he insisted, “you've had an accident.”
I followed him outside to discover that I really had an accident. Another officer, a captain, had parked his Volkswagon Beetle on the hill above me and it slipped its parking brake. It had rolled backwards almost hitting the captain as he walked towards my facility, jumped a curb, avoided a huge Monkey Pod tree, then slammed into the side of my car.
In those days, you had to obtain three estimates and submit them to the insurance company before having the car repaired. The next day, I spent the morning on this errand. I had two in hand when lunch hour rolled around. I stopped at the dealer where I had purchased the Datsun for the third estimate and was informed that the service manager was the only person authorized to write estimates and he wouldn't return until after lunch. Given that everyone worked on Hawaiian time, I might be waiting several hours.
I'm one of those people who paces as he thinks. Thus, I found myself in the dealer's showroom as I considered my options. A young salesperson interrupted my thoughts asking if he could be of help.
To this day, I have no idea how it happened. I pointed and asked, “Do you see that car?”
The young man followed my direction and responded, “Yes, sir.”
“Can you have it ready for me by next Wednesday?”
“That car,” I said still pointing.
I took him by the wrist and walked him to the car. “Can you feel this car?” I asked.
I think he was worried at this point. I'm not sure. I wasn't paying attention.
“This is now my car.”
I handed him my card and said, “You sold me that Datsun,” I said pointing towards the service area door where my car could be seen parked. “That's my trade in. Don't worry about the damage. The insurance company will pay to have it repaired. It will be my down payment.”
“Yes, sir,” he replied, hesitantly.
The following Wednesday, a friend asked if I was going to pick up my car. Actually, I wasn't sure if I was. The whole incident seemed like a dream. I shrugged in response and decided to drive to the dealer and see if I had actually purchased it.
When I arrived, the salesperson was waiting. I believe his manager had rehearsed him in case I actually showed up. He sat me down in an office where all the paperwork was laid out. I signed. Transfered my personal effects from the Datsun, and drove away in my brand new 1969 Javelin.
It was a beautiful car. Even by today's standards. It was too much car to drive around the island, but I wasn't alone in that. Hawaii 50 had appeared on television and everyone else was buying Dodge Challengers with big block V8 engines. We all chugged around the island with our engines collecting soot. There wasn't a stretch of road where you could really run them at high speed and clean them out.
To this day, I don't know how much I paid for that car. What they allowed on my Datsun as trade in. I had a payment book and paid something each month. It seems that there were 36 payments of approximately $100.
Have you ever been that impulsive in your life?
Anyone who has a passion for history, especially those who would contribute to the human story, must pick up a camera. Thus, it must come as no surprise to any who have followed this blog, that photography has been my lifelong hobby. My first camera had a Cub Scout logo. By implication, that would indicate that I started at a tender age. I was a photographer for my high school newspaper - The Towson High School Talisman. Ultimately, I cashed in on the knowledge I had accumulated and wrote promotional literature and articles for Vivitar in the late 1970s.
Recently, as I was digitizing my collection of color slides, I found some of my favorite photos and decided to share them here. I hope you enjoy them.
All photos were taken with a classic Nikon F (no built-in exposure meter) which now resides on a shelf as a curiosity of another age when Kodak ruled the world of photography.
I have many others, but will save them for future blog postings when I am hard pressed for a subject to write about.
Somewhere lost in the rubble of Nazi Germany or possibly in some warehouse of captured documents and artifacts like the one depicted in Raiders of the Lost Ark, are the remnants of the propaganda pumped out during World War II by Paul Joseph Goebbels and his Reich Ministry. Somehow miraculously, two fragile filmstrips found their way into my hands and I'm wondering what to do with them.
Both filmstrips are Photographic Reports of the Week, one for Week 42 of 1939 and the other for Week 47 of 1941. My father claimed that they had been given to him by a family friend who had carried them back from the war among his souvenirs. I have wondered in later years if this was true inasmuch as he had been a Nazi sympathizer before the United States entered the war. He liked to pretend that he was German, indeed claiming that was his parents' origin. In fact, they were Slovak immigrants who worshiped at the German Lutheran Church. He hung out at the Deutches Haus German Restaurant and Social Club in Baltimore until it was closed during the war. (I have no knowledge or evidence that any organization that assembled at the Deutches Haus was guilty of crimes any more than the Japanese who were interred during WWII.)
Deutches House, Baltimore, Maryland
I can imagine these filmstrips being presented at the Deutches Haus. The filmstrip for Week 47 of 1941 could have arrived in the mails about the time of the attack on Pearl Harbor and America's entry into World War II. In later years, my father waxed poetic about the prospect of a better world had Hitler won the war.
I'm guessing that they were presented to the German public by members of the Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei (NSDAP) – National Socialist German Worker's Party (NAZI) – reading from prepared scripts. Unfortunately, the scripts didn't accompany the filmstrips and I have yet to locate copies through Internet searches. The time lines for these two weeks found on Wikipedia provide events that seem to align with some of the images.
Week 42/1939 – October 15 to 21
- Oct 16: First air attack on Great Britain, aimed at ships in the Firth of Forth, Scotland
- Oct 18: First Soviet forces enter Estonia. During the Umsiedlung (Resettlement), 12,600 Baltic Germans leave Estonia
- Oct 19: Portions of Poland are formally inducted into Germany; the first Jewish ghetto is established at Lublin
- Oct 20: The Phoney War: French troops settle in the Maginot Line's dormitories and tunnels; the British build new fortifications along the gap between the Maginot Line and the Channel
- Oct 20: Pope Pius XII's first encyclical condemns racism and dictatorships
Week 47/1941 – November 16 to 27
- Nov 17: Joseph Grew, the United States Ambassador to Japan, cables the State Department that Japan had plans to launch an attack against Pearl Harbor, Hawaii (his cable is ignored)
- Nov 17: Ernst Udet, head of the Luftwaffe's Production and Development, commits suicide over his perceived inability to properly perform his mission
- Nov 18: Operation Crusader: British Commonwealth and other Allied troops cross into Libya and at least temporarily relieve the Siege of Tobruk
- Nov 19: Australian light cruiser HMAS Sydney and the German auxiliary cruiser Kormoran sink each other off the coast of Western Australia. All 648 crewmen on HMAS Sydney are lost.
- Nov 22: Rostov-on-Don, an important hub on the southern front, is taken by the Germans.
- Nov 22: Britain issues an ultimatum to Finland to end war with the Soviet Union or face war with the Allies
- Nov 22: Rommel starts a counteroffensive, retaking Sidi Rezegh (south of Tobruk) which the Allies had taken a few days earlier. British tank losses are heavy.
Many years ago, I chopped both filmstrips into individual frames and preserved them in slide mounts for viewing in modern projectors. Inasmuch as these devices are now disappearing, I have digitized the images by photographing them while displayed on a homemade rear projection screen. Not the best reproductions, but the paid service I used returned tiny digital files that produced tiny images on computer screens.
I am willing to entertain offers from reputable historical scholars and institutions who would like to add them their collections. I would donate them rather than see them destroyed. The images will be preserved at least for a time on this posting in my blog, but I can't imagine that this website will outlive me by much...
The following came to me by way of an email from a family relation and I couldn't find any reasonable way of passing it on except by reprinting it in my weblog. It is attributed to John Cleese and the narrative sounds like his. I hope that the copyright owner will be forgiving. I included the attribution that came with it, but cannot verify it.
The English are feeling the pinch in relation to recent events in Syria and have therefore raised their security level from “Miffed” to “Peeved.”
Soon though, security levels may be raised yet again to “Irritated” or even “A Bit Cross.” The English have not been “A Bit Cross” since the Blitz in 1940 when tea supplies nearly ran out. Terrorists have been re-categorized from “Tiresome” to “A Bloody Nuisance.” The last time the British issued a “Bloody Nuisance” warning level was in 1588, when threatened by the Spanish Armada.
The Scots have raised their threat level from “Pissed Off” to “Let’s get the Bastards.” They don’t have any other levels. This is the reason they have been used on the front line of the British army for the last 300 years.
The French government announced yesterday that it has raised its terror alert level from “Run” to “Hide.” The only two higher levels in France are “Collaborate” and “Surrender.” The rise was precipitated by a recent fire that destroyed France ‘s white flag factory, effectively paralyzing the country’s military capability.
Italy has increased the alert level from “Shout Loudly and Excitedly” to “Elaborate Military Posturing.” Two more levels remain: “Ineffective Combat Operations” and “Change Sides.”
The Germans have increased their alert state from “Disdainful Arrogance” to “Dress in Uniform and Sing Marching Songs.” They also have two higher levels: “Invade a Neighbour” and “Lose.”
Belgians, on the other hand, are all on holiday as usual; the only threat they are worried about is NATO pulling out of Brussels .
The Spanish are all excited to see their new submarines ready to deploy. These beautifully designed subs have glass bottoms so the new Spanish navy can get a really good look at the old Spanish navy.
Australia, meanwhile, has raised its security level from “No worries” to “She’ll be right.” Two more escalation levels remain: “Crikey! I think we’ll need to cancel the barbie this weekend!” and “The barbie is cancelled.” So far no situation has ever warranted use of the last final escalation level.
A final thought – ” Greece is collapsing, the Iranians are getting aggressive, and Rome is in disarray. Welcome back to 430 BC”.
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Schools and teachers tried their best to destroy my love of learning. It seems that the love of learning is innate in every child. We mimic virtually everything we see and hear others doing. However, it isn't long before our families begin putting restraints on us, forbidding us to imitate only them and certain specified members of the community. Then, when we reach school, teachers begin substituting their judgment of who we should emulate. Never has this been clearer than today. Ever since teachers banded together and adopted an ideology, they have been hell bent on substituting indoctrination for education.
Is it any wonder that employers aren't happy with the lack of skills evinced by graduates
Or that students are failing their tests
In fact, teachers and schools that attempt to educate are castigated and ostracized.
I am fortunate that the primary authority figure in my life, my father, was abusive. He taught me that all authority figures were suspect and, thus, I was able to resist the negative influences of the teachers in my life. I selected my own mentors and sought out my own authorities questioning everyone of them, testing their premises, and dismissing anything that was inconsistent with observable facts. Thus, I became an autodidact, a self-taught individual.
Leonardo da Vinci, an autodidact
It's a hard life, living as an autodidact, unable to trust anyone until they prove themselves. It's a lonely life, but a rewarding one. I only wish I had known that when I started. I was plagued with self-doubt and feared failure at every turn. After all, who was I to set my judgment above that of others? The answer didn't become obvious until much later in life when I looked back and reflected on the balance sheet of my successes and failures. Yes, it's been a good life, full of adventure and learning. An autodidact never stops learning and learning is an adventure. Isn't it sad that so many are dissuaded from it?