Sunday, December 20, 2009
The penalty is “piling on” and I want to enforce a “shut the hell up penalty.”
Tiger Woods is a very good golfer (I am told by some that he is the best there ever was). He plays golf in public, earns a lot of money and leads the lifestyle of a millionaire. None of that gives me—or anyone else for that matter—the right to know every intimate detail of his life. I don’t care if he has dozens of mistresses (God knows he can afford them), I don’t even care if he likes whips and chains or horses.
I really liked it better in the days of Camelot when JFK was cheating on the woman every young man in America would have given any body part of your choice to spend just one night with her. We all kind of knew about the president and Marilyn Monroe and it was great sport to see the news reports of Marilyn in that slinky gold gown singing, “Ha------py, Birth------day, Mister Pres-------i----------dent.” He was good looking, had enough money to buy the presidency and was an unofficial member of the Las Vegas Rat Pack. The Secret Service was a-political in those days and just let things happen. Privacy was expected.
This voyeuristic way of life began with Ken Star investigating a blow job in the oval office, for which we—the taxpayer—paid $40 million. And what did we—the taxpayer—get for the investment? Not a damned thing. President Clinton was charged (the official term is impeached) by the House of Representatives with “lying to congress.” The Senate did not convict him.
The other thing that added to this explosion of voyeurism is the endless news cycle where they have got to find enough “news” to keep those crawls going 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365.25 days per year. There ain’t enuf real news to do that so the TV talking heads revert to gossip, innuendo and planted stories.
OK, Tiger Woods got some strange. That’s the news. How he resolves issues with his wife and others is none of our frigging business. Tell us when Nike cancels his contract or something newsworthy happens. Do not parade a boatload of tall blond floozies looking for their 15 minutes in front of me for hours and repeatedly.
We’ve had morality police forever. When the morality police gain control we have excesses—just ask the thousands of “heretics” who were burned at the stake by the good old Spanish Inquisition. Our modern morality police are the Talaban. Is that really the direction in which we want to be moving?
Why don’t we all just mind our own damned business and get off Tiger Woods case. Let him resolve his family issues and get back to entertaining us on the golf course. And if after the game he decides to pick up a little strange, that is his business. It isn’t illegal and morality is something that is best left to the individual. I think it is what they call freedom.
Friday, November 20, 2009
First, I did not vote for President Obama, so don't start labeling me a liberal or a leftist. If anything I am a Republican who would like to have his party back from the screamers and the blubberers and the flat-out liars who now own the party.
Second, I didn't vote for George W. Bush either. His flaky Air National Guard time was a poorly concealed effort to avoid the draft. As President he issued orders for an un-necessary war that has taken thousands of the flowers of our nation and extracted their futures. He regularly ignored the Constitution in many of his Executive Orders and I personally think that he will be remembered in history right along side the likes of Millard Filmore and Herbert Hoover. BUT, when the election was finished he became MY President--I didn't like it but the majority had spoken. The Constitution says that he was qualified and properly elected. I reserved the right to complain but I never wished for his assassination or demanded that he resign because I don't like him.
The constant drone of fanatical right-wing drivel is actually causing me physical pain. The latest nonsense, a photo of the President on a dais bedecked with U. S. flags where everyone is saluting except for him. The perpetrator of this nonsense screams out that he shouldn't be Commander in Chief if he won't salute the flag. In his email he says he has no idea what is going on but everyone else is saluting, why isn't he? Good question, so I went to a video of the ceremony and surprise, surprise--the photo was taken during the playing of "Hail to the Chief." The Obama-is-wrong-no-matter-what crowd would be up in arms if he had saluted himself, wouldn't they?
Birthers, Death Panels, even lies about reducing my access to health care through my military retirement are all absolute lies that many people will not check because they simply WANT them to be true. Folks, it doesn't work that way. Miss Hoffman, my first grade teacher, taught me that before I pass on rumors about someone else I should first seek the truth--did all these people miss first grade?
This country is in real trouble (as it is most of the time) and I, personally, want the President and his administration to concentrate on those problems, not on the lies and ignorance that are proclaimed daily by the cuckolds of the Republican Party. I firmly believe that ANYONE who advocates or even suggests the assassination of a President of the United States should quickly find themselves in the domestic version of Guantanimo Bay. The well known Secret Service should be earning their pay by rounding these people up and then shutting them up.
Where is the Republican Party of the past that knew how to be the "loyal opposition" and to whom I would go for truth? Those leaders are all gone and have been replaced by un-truthful pervayors of whatever venom is flowing from the fangs of the T-party organizers and the "entertainers" who dominate talk radio. My beloved Grand Old Party has become the realm of bumper stickers and talking points and absolute fabrication.
Truth, where art thou?
Wednesday, November 18, 2009
Everyone today knows what a UPC is.
The ubiquitous Universal Product Code is the little white rectangle located somewhere on everything that tells the computer what the item is, how much it costs and probably a whole lot more.
I went to sleep one night in the 70s or 80s not ever having seen a UPC and the next morning everything had one. Nobody ever stood up in a press conference and said, “I did it.” No newspaper or television talking head ever read the press release announcing the birth of the UPC. It just simply appeared—everywhere—on the same night.
Ever since then I have wondered where it came from, how it was agreed upon, who mandated it and even who came up with the design. I’ve Googled it. I’ve looked for it on Wickapedia. I asked my next door neighbor. Nobody knows, and even more fascinating is the fact that no one seems to care.
I’ve learned to live with it only slipping back into my “I wonder” mode a few times a year. At one time I thought it was done by the CIA. Another year it was Schwan’s (you know, the big yellow trucks that are everywhere but few people have ever bought anything from them). Then at another time I worried that it was some kind of terrorist plot—but to resolve that one I simply stopped watching the Fox Everything is a Terrorist Plot Network. Honestly I had almost given up on the quest for that bit of knowledge. Then it happened—the light flashed and it all became clear.
Last night I went to Five Guys for supper. Now if you don’t know what Five Guys is, you are forgiven because soon it will be revealed to you. Five Guys is a relatively new fast food eatery. The walls are generally unadorned, your table is placed among 50 pound bags of Idaho potatoes. Their menu consists of Burger, Cheeseburger or Bacon Burger, a “Little” version of that trio, hot dogs and fries. Red and white tiles line the walls and above the tiles are quotes from restaurant critics and newspapers extolling the virtues of the burger chain.
You walk in the storefront, walk to the big red letters “Order Here” and order. You find a table, get a handful of peanuts and sit down to await your number being called. As you look around you spot the sign that says: “Today’s Potatoes Are From” with the name of the town in Idaho where they were grown scribbled on the sign with a Sharpie.
As you watch them prepare your order—everything is done right out in the open—you see someone pick up a Styrofoam cup, fill it with fries then put your fries and your burger (in its aluminum foil raiment) into a bag. Then he scoops up another order of fries and drops them into your bag.
Rumor has it that they started in Washington DC. President Obama is probably their most famous customer. I first tasted the best burger in the world a year ago and now they appear to be everywhere. We found one in Lancaster, York and Harrisburg, PA and we ate our way down I-81 all the way to Orlando and Ocala, Florida.
As I said, last night I was sitting in the Five Guys in Orlando and it dawned on me. I was marveling at the fact that in less than a year there were Five Guys almost everywhere—almost “overnight.” Who in the world could make something expand so quickly? Hmmm, it has to be the same guys who made the UPC appear. Who in the world could do that?
I looked at the white tiles and thought Frosty the Snow Man. I looked at the red tiles and thought Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer. Of course==the master of the one-night miracles. The only person in the world who can visit every house in that world from sunset to sunrise all in one night, and at the stroke of midnight in most. And, do it all without being spotted by 99.999996706 percent of the population. (There is that report from Little Jimmy Dickens about what he spotted his mommy doing)
So now it is revealed, the creation and implementation of the UPC and the rapid expansion of Five Guys could only have been accomplished by Santa Claus. Now we know he does work more than one night a year.
It is oh, so obvious. I could kick myself for not figuring it out earlier.
I’ve been a verrrrrrrry good boy!
Friday, October 23, 2009
Way back, the first time Don Rumsfeld served as Secretary of Defense, he had an Assistant Secretary of Defense for Public Affairs named Bill Greener. I once heard him talk at a Defense Information School (where they teach military public affairs officers their trade) symposium. His central theme was the Greener Dictum which simply stated is “Never argue with the man who buys ink by the barrel.” Today he would most assuredly add, “or the one who has control of the 24-hour news cycle.”
Obama has nothing to gain from attacking Fox. It will simply cause more people to watch Fox to find out what he is talking about.
The thing is, since Fox News does not rely on news sources for its information (most of its stories are Republican Party talking points or the amplification of the crazies) they lose nothing in not having access to the White House sources. Major Garrett, the Fox News reporter assigned to the White House, is a credible, working journalist but please note how little air time he gets as compared to, say, Fox’s current star, Glenn Beck.
Beck and his fellow-travelers take the Republican Party talking points and amplify them with information not base on any facts what-so-ever. The rantings about “death panels” or the screams of the “birthers” and Beck’s own horror of calling the President a racist are what pumps up his far-right audience.
The Obama administration can not out-scream Fox—doing so is beneath the dignity of the office of the President of the United States. Rather than try to excoriate Fox the Obama Administration’s truth squad would do better to counter the crazies who come up with death panels and release so much information on the President’s birth, including eye witness accounts, that the birthers just slake away looking for other sources of mis-information to scream.
The Obama Administration has not yet figured out that we are in a bumper sticker world and they must learn how to state their objectives in one sentence of less than 10 well crafted words. Their last effective bumper sticker was Bill Clinton’s “It’s the economy, stupid.”
I hate it and I read as much as I can and I watch as many divergent views as I can but the fact remains that more than 95 percent of this country is incapable of internalizing any message that takes more than one sentence to explain. Every administration must learn that message.
Monday, July 20, 2009
I am spending the summer as a Park Ranger at Gettysburg National Military Park, PA where I make presentations to the public and answer questions at the Visitor Center. It’s the best job I ever had and I am loving every minute of it.
But today I almost died of laughter.
Sitting in the Interpretive preparation area of the new Visitor Center with Rangers Dan Welch and Liz Dietzen I was working on my Battle Overview Powerpoint presentation. Dan was reading “Command and Communication Frictions in the Gettysburg Campaign” by Phillip M. Cole. As I walked by him, knowing my background in the Marine Corps, he said, “Whenever two Marines are together, one is in charge.”
Kind of surprised at the comment I agreed and he continued, “Really, it’s right here in this book.” He then started paging through the book looking for the quote and eventually found it on page 9. Then like any good researcher we went to the footnote to find the source. I waited patiently for him to find the footnote, which read, “. . . Glenn B. Knight, editor and compiler, Unofficial Dictionary for Marines [Internet Address: http://4merMarine.com/USMC/dictionary.html copyright 2002-2005].” Yes, the source was me.
The dictionary got its start as a 12-word glossary for members of my Yahoo group, MyMarine. The group is for parents, relatives and friends of Marine Corps Recruits—we help them to get through the often mysterious 13-week roller-coaster ride that is Marine Corps Boot Camp. It can be found at http://groups.yahoo.com/group/mymarine/.
The Unofficial Dictionary for Marines is just exactly that. It is FOR Marines and it comes with a warning that the information contained within it is not politically correct, is sometimes obscent and somethimes even borders on the pornographic—but is is the lexicon used by Marines from 1775 to yesterday. Please don’t check it out if you are easilly offended.
Marines love it. Others think it is just in bad taste. I’ve enjoyed collecting it, verifying it and publishing it.
Sunday, July 19, 2009
Now consider that in the first set, there is no true universal value for the 1.
In the second set, the 100 represents a fixed length which is a specific fraction of the length of the equator.
The first set of numbers is also only used by you and your family.
The second set is used by everyone else on the planet.
Now, which one would you logically choose? Unfortunately those of us living here in the good old U. S. of A are stuck with and hide bound to the first set of numbers that was invented by the British. Even the British have stopped using it.
Originally, a foot in length was exactly that—the length of the King’s foot. Somebody decided to divide that length up for smaller measures so they used 12. Why? Well, because the length of the King’s thumb from the tip to the first knuckle was what they called an inch and on most Kings it required 12 thumb lengths to measure the King’s foot.
Three of the King’s feet combined to make a measure they called a yard (the distance between the King’s nose and his out-stretched hand) and 5,280 of the King’s feet constituted a mile (it had originally been 5,000 Roman feet but the British wanted their own system after they kicked the Romans out). For property measures they even added in the acre and the hectacre, along with some perches and furlongs just to provide a fudge factor.
The British, not the brightest candles on the international cake, in my opinion, were smart enough to dump that ridiculous and cumbersome system of measure for the much simpler and more logical metric measurement system. In metrics, every measure is ten times the size of the previous measure.
We fought two wars with the British to end their heavy-handed influence over us and we became a sovereign nation. So why do we fight so hard to hold on to a British tradition that even the British realize was terminally flawed?
The biggest reason, I am told, is that it is so difficult to convert from a mile to a kilometer—is it 1.62 kilometers to a mile or 62 or .62?
Who cares? A kilometer is a measure just like a mile is a measure. I know that a mile is about the distance between my house and Route 26. I make no effort to convert that distance—it is just a distance and I have a reference for it.
A kilometer is about the distance from my house to the entrance to Bethay Bay. I don’t need to convert it to or from anything—it is just a distance and I have a reference for it.
Even our own military measures things in metrics and most soldiers know that a “klik” is the difference in distance that an artillery round flies when the elevation is adjusted one click. It is almost exactly a kilometer. Why are we holding on to a confusing, antiquated system that the rest of the world, including the British who invented the system, has already given up?
Friday, July 17, 2009
I was incensed, a couple of years ago, when the latest W.E.B. Griffin book came out and I was one of the first to read it, only to find that it was replete with errors of every kind. There were even factual errors of the type Griffin never makes (a Marine captain was identified throughout the first two chapters as a corporal -- inexcusable). The very worst kinds of errors are errors in fact and this was a big time error in fact.
So upset was I with the unprofessional presentation of this ninth in his series of books about Marines, that I wrote a review for Amazon.com suggesting that he fire his publisher.
Now comes something that has shaken my entire belief system. A computer newsletter called Knowledge News recently included this letter from Rebecca J. Favro.
Tihs is pertty inrettesnig! Aoccdrnig to rseearch at an Elingsh uinervtisy, it deosn't mttaer in waht oredr the ltteers in a wrod are. The olny iprmoatnt tihng is taht the frist and lsat ltteers are in the rghit pclae. The rset can be a toatl mses, and you can sitll raed it wouthit porbelm. Tihs is bcuseae we do not raed ervey lteter by itslef but the wrod as a wlohe.
George Orwell, in his book 1984, shook my belief system with his explanation of newspeak -- his theory that all unnecessary words will eventually be eliminated so that an entire sentence can be written in one word. Sort of like the German language to the max.
My one course in linguistics at Millersville State College started me to wonder about the future of spelling. But to now find out that spelling is truly irrelevant is a blow to my professional psyche.
I, oddly, find myself sort of without words -- spelled correctly or not.
Thursday, July 16, 2009
I had occasion recently to require the immediate use of a Philips screw driver. I later needed to scrape a sticker off a window. Then I ran into a situation in which a paint lid had to be pried up. A box had to have the tape sliced in order to open it and the clay mud on my shoes had to be scraped off. And then there was that can that had to be opened.
In each case I reached into my left pocket, extracted my key ring and applied my well-worn P-38 to the task at hand.
World War II aviators and aviation buffs will recall the P-38 as the “Lightning,” a versatile twin-tailed pursuit (thus the P) aircraft, but that is not what I carry on my key ring.
What I have with me always is another P-38 that can do almost anything—the universal tool. It was originally designed to open the aluminum cans that were boxed inside every C-ration issue. C-rats, as we called them, contained olive drab cans of various combinations of meats and vegetables (the very early models had paper labels which frequently tore off leaving a mystery-meal for the soldier in his foxhole—they eventually learned how to print directly on the can). Also included was an accessory pack containing chiclets, a small package of cigarettes, salt, pepper, sugar, eventually creamer and a napkin—you get points in combat for being neat.
Each case of Cs—another nickname—contained a pack of five P-38s which were doled out to the newbies, thrown out or hoarded by supply sergeants.
In the field my P-38 kept me well nourished with a wide range of high calorie food, including a chocolate disk wrapped in aluminum foil that was made by Wilbur-Suchard back in my home town of Lititz, Pa. The cigarette packs were part of a grand scheme to hook a couple of generations of Americans on smoking. Heck, at the end of every daily version of the Camel Caravan of News, John Cameron Swayse made an announcement that cases of Camel cigarettes were being delivered to a VA hospital for our veterans.
While I was in boot camp at Parris Island, SC in 1963 I was given a box of Cs and the cigarettes in the accessory pack were Lucky Strikes—in green packaging. At the beginning of World War II Lucky Strikes made a big announcement that Lucky Strikes green was going to war. Green paint was in short supply and the cigarettes began to sport a mostly white package for the war effort. That meant that my Cs were at least 20 years old.
Boot camp was where I got my first P-38 and I haven’t been without one since.
Wednesday, July 15, 2009
Many, many years ago in a land far, far away (actually it was Milwaukee) I made a serious attempt to drink the town dry. In any town but Milwaukee I might have succeeded.
Every night after work we would adjourn to the bar across the street to re-hash the day’s activities and get home in time for a quick nap before heading back to work the next day. It was in Milwaukee that I learned the trick of downing a shot of peppermint schnapps after the first case of beer to settle the bubbles and allow me to imbibe on even more roots, barks and hops. Milwaukee has a bar on every corner and often one in the middle of the block in case you get thirsty crawling from one to the other.
Evening and week end entertainment either centered on a keg of the local brew or involved drinking—like bowling which is a sport lubricated by foam and made more palpable under a hazy stupor.
When, in 1976 I was selected as the most outstanding military noncommissioned officer in Milwaukee I was given a plaque from the Eagles Club and a party each by Miller, Schlitz and whoever-the-heck-the-third-brewery-in-town-was.
Lets just say, I drank a lot.
This is, however, not a tale of drunken debauchery or skidding to the bottom to fight my way up by my own boot straps. At some point in my life I just got tired of the routine “pleasures” and quit.
I remember little of the “good times” and sometimes that really scares me. One day, after an all night party I decided to clean out my wallet and found a piece of paper folded and tucked into the place where the dollar bills had been if I had not spent them all on beer. On that torn corner of a notebook page was the name “John Zwiffel” and a phone number in my own hand writing.
I do not remember ever knowing of meeting anyone named John Zwiffel and while I wanted to know who he is, I never wanted to call and find out. So I carried the piece of paper with me—for two decades—often opening it up and staring at the name and number. Always putting it back into my wallet until one day, about five years ago, when I got bold and threw it out.
John Zwiffel still haunts me, but, thankfully, I don’t have the number so I can’t call to resolve the mystery.
Yesterday, I picked up some papers to put away and the corner of a notebook page fell onto the floor. I picked it up and in my own hand was a telephone number that I didn’t recognize. My wife didn’t recognize it either as we pondered it and then in unison said: “John Zwiffel.” I threw it out immediately.
If you live in the United States and are not Amish or a member of the Henry Ford family, you know exactly what I am talking about. It may be the closest thing to a universal phrase.
Even when I was in Turkey I ran into the 1957 Chevy—thousands of them. A Turkish company bought the dies from General Motors and makes “new” 1957 Chevys. Your choice for an auto in Turkey is the classic Murat (a Turkish version of the Fiat coupe), a Mercedes or a 1957 Chevy.
While a student at Warwick High School I drove a 1952 Ford. But I still knew what a 1957 Chevy was. And in those days you could tell a 1952 Ford from a 1957 Chevy. 1957 was also the time of the Plymouth fin wars. Fins were in and Plymouth took them to the extreme, particularly in the Sport Fury. That same year, Mercury added a distinctive tail that was highlighted by a gouged out section leading back to the slanted taillights. Sears stopped making the Allstate in 1954 so three years later no one remembered them.
The distinctive Buick portholes were elongated in 1957 and the car still had the image of being the “Doctor’s car”. Cadillac started the fin wars back in 1951 but it was not until 1959 that the shark’s dorsal would dominate the line. Even though they were technically smaller than the Plymouth, the 1957 Dodge Dart fins were the most obvious. The Dart actually looked like a dart. The DeSoto looked a bit like the Plymouth but it still was unique enough to be its own marquee.
The Edsel, with its distinctive “horse-collar” grille and 50-pound speedometer would be introduced in 1958 with unprecedented advertising and fanfare. Ford gave up on the line just a few years later. The 1957 Hudson Hornet would be the last of its breed but many of us will never forget the gaudy grille side swoosh.
The 1957 Lincoln looked like it had a jet air intake just behind the front door, leading back into a fin that could well have been the stabilizer for a “modern” jet airplane. That year the Nash stuck with its poor imitation of an upside-down bathtub. By 1958 they were no longer producing the brand. They did, however, keep making the mini-Nash, the Metropolitan, well into the next decade.
Just say Studebaker and the images of a small, sleek, and totally unique vehicle flash to mind.
So what’s my point? Those of us who lived during the 50s and 60s remember our cars. We remember the distinctiveness of the nameplate. We remember who rode in which car to which dance or which game or whichever. Can someone tell me the difference between a 2001 Ford, Chevy, Toyota, Saturn or even an Oldsmobile for that matter? The most accurate comment that comes to mind is the politically incorrect, “They all look the same to me.”
(Note: This column appeared in the Lititz Record-Express in 2001 but even with the recent changes in the auto industry it rings true today.)
Ike was president and early in the year he survived his second heart attack, then announced that he would seek reelection. Most surprising though was the fact that he was keeping Richard Millhouse Nixon on the ticket with him. But it was no surprise when Ike trounced Adlai Stevenson taking 41 states in the fall election.
Bill Haley and the Comets hit the charts in March with “See You Later, Alligator.” Our parents were still convinced that big band, jazz and pop music would soon regain its popularity and “Rock and Roll” as it was named by Alan Fried, would soon become a passing phase. Harvard had just raised its tuition from $800 to $1,000 per semester and campuses across the country were being plagued with “Panty Raids.”
Actress and Philadelphia native Grace Kelley was making preparations to become royalty and Marilyn Monroe married Arthur Miller. The collision of the Andrea Doria and the Stockholm attracted our attention as did the futile rebellion in Communist controlled Hungary and the collision of two airplanes over the Grand Canyon, killing 128 people.
My home town of Lititz, PA was celebrating 200 years as a community with bowler hats for the gents and bonnets for the ladies, beards and the “Brothers of the Brush.” In addition to the normal Memorial Day and Halloween Parades, Lititz had a Bicentennial Parade and a Fireman’s Parade—the Lancaster County Firemen’s Association annual convention was held in Lititz.
The LITITZ Theater brought “Around the World in Eighty Days” as well as “The King and I” and Ingrid Bergman as “Anastasia” to our fair community. On the new medium of television it was the era of the game shows with the “64 Thousand Dollar Question” leading that movement. An era in entertainment ended when the venerable Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus announced that it was retiring its big top and would be holding its spectaculars in stadiums and arenas.
And in Montgomery, Alabama a lady named Rosa Parks decided to sit at the front of the bus and was ejected by police. A local minister led a successful boycott of busses and businesses in that community—his name was Martin Luther King. Warwick High School had no minority students or faculty.
The Lititz Rec (in the old Spacht warehouse at the north end of Spruce Street) was beginning to hold teen dances and its new director, Bill Bell, was doing more to bring in the teenagers. We were listening to WLAN out of Lancaster and WSBA in York was working up to an all rock-and-roll format.
A year of change, of new beginnings and a brand new high school. Such was my 1956.