Getting my head back into the game

Returning to Earth. Or Atlanta. Close enough.

I spent New Year’s day worshiping the Porcelain God but not because I’d celebrated on New Year’s Eve. No, my body has a way of freaking out all on its own and opted to do so a day after we returned from our trip to Spain. For the next two days, I felt disinclined to lift my head from the couch or bed save for the inevitable Call To Prayer. what a way to be welcomed home! If there’s a positive note in this episode, at least I waited until our vacation was over to get sick.
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A park is a park. Don’t restrict play!

No fun allowed.

No fun allowed.

This sign in the Iwo Jima memorial park in Arlington last week had me shaking my head. There’s this beautiful expanse of lawn behind this memorial and some bureaucrat wants to keep people from enjoying it! Did anyone stop to think that the men who bled during the battle for that Godforsaken island would’ve probably loved to be in that park, playing ball instead? Is there any better way to honor our country’s freedom than, you know, actually giving people freedom?

Before there was such a thing as public parks, society used cemeteries for this purpose. Picnickers would plop down right by the grave of Great-Great Aunt Martha and celebrate life. Somewhere along the line cemeteries and memorials mistakenly became places of “quiet reflection only.”

I can think of no better way to honor those who’ve passed than to celebrate the life we continue to live.

Biting the government hand that feeds you

Does this man work in government?

Does this man work in government?

Back when I felt compelled to enter political debates on Facebook, one of my conservative friends chimed in on a post I had regarding something about the government (probably me expressing my wistfulness for a health care public option). My good friend comes from the Ronald Reagan “government is the problem” line of thinking and commented something to the effect that the government can’t do anything right.

Even though we don’t see eye to eye on many political points he’s still a friend and I do respect him. It was all that I could do, though, to keep from pointing out that as a first-responder he actually works for the government. Not only does he work for the government, for all practical purposes he is the government. He is the public face of government to the people he serves.

That’s not to demean the work he does, of course. It’s important work. I just have a hard time understanding how conservative individuals who work for the taxpayers belittle the very government that they, themselves, make up. What accounts for this self-loathing?
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Expanded horizons

Cruising Resurrection Bay in Alaska, August 2015

Cruising Resurrection Bay in Alaska, August 2015

I got an unexpected invitation from friends yesterday for Kelly and me to join them for a week of sailing around the Caribbean. Of course I’ve been a sailor since 1988 and I finally made it to the Caribbean with our family trip to Jamaica and Puerto Rico. For some crazy reason, though, it never occurred to me that this was a possibility – that we could go ride the waves for a week in an exotic place. This was a dream of mine in my 20s but I didn’t have the means, or at least it didn’t seem like I did at the time. You either have all of the time and none of the money or all of the money and none of the time.

Back when I was in high school, my dad and his best friend Carl offered me the opportunity to spend the summer working as a deckhand on Carl’s tourist boat in Florida. I opted not to take the offer for some forgotten reason but looking back now it would’ve been a hell of a lot of fun, I’m sure. I love being out on the water, testing oneself against Mother Nature. Facing the great unknown. Humans have been doing it for millennia.
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Facebook filtering

Earlier this week I saw a funny post on Facebook that appeared briefly in my feed when a friend commented on it. I know of no way to track down these kinds of feed items once you scroll past them because don’t tend to stay in the feed and you can’t simply visit your friend’s page to see them because they aren’t actually my friend’s posts, they’re just her comments on posts.

I decided to wade once again into Facebook’s search feature, or what has passed for a search feature. As long as I’ve used Facebook I’ve hated its abysmal search ability. To my amazement, Facebook has done quite a bit to improve its search functionality. I was able to zero in on my friend’s posts, narrow them down by time, and search for a string. It used to be that this was not possible (as least, as far as I know).
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Rachel Rosoff

Saturday morning, while my family was enjoying the Labor Day weekend, an Enloe High School student named Rachel Rosoff was reporting to work as a lifeguard at a North Raleigh neighborhood pool. Unbeknownst to her, the pool had somehow become electrified, and she was found floating face-down in the water by an arriving coworker who could not rescue her without becoming a victim himself. She was buried yesterday.

I’ve been thinking of Rachel over the past few days. She had many of the same interests that my kids do. I’ve probably even watched her perform with the Improv group at Enloe’s recent open house.

It’s terrifying to me as a parent how quickly lives can be turned upside-down, how you can work to make things safe and still tragedies happen. One moment Rachel was ready to take on the world and her world ends the next. Terrifying and so sad.

No, I didn’t know Rachel or her family but I feel like she and they are part of my family. I hope the Rosoff family finds some peace.

Obama, Truman, and the atomic bomb

Harry S. Truman

Harry S. Truman

On my port visit to Sasebo, Japan, during my Navy service, I decided to take a tour of Nagasaki. Standing at ground zero of this city was an unexpectedly deeply moving experience for me, one that I will never forget. The U.S. Army photos displayed there of mangled, radiation-poisoned bodies will haunt me forever.

It was a horrendous decision to drop the bomb. Anyone who visits Nagasaki or Hiroshima and does not agree has lost all humanity.

Obama is visiting Hiroshima and some of my right-wing friends are having a hissy fit about it. Many claim this is a “slap in the face to veterans,” though many of them are not veterans themselves, so it’s unclear how they can speak for veterans.

As a veteran I have debated whether dropping the bomb was the right thing to do. I always thought Harry Truman did a lot of good as President but how could I reconcile his decision to nuke hundreds of thousands of people with his good deeds? I’ve since grudgingly come to think it was the right call, given the fanaticism in Japan at the time. Casualties from an invasion of Japan (proposed as Operation Downfall) would have been from 500,000 to over a million in bloody, take-no-prisoners fighting.

So Truman’s decision most likely saved lives, though it brought the world the madness of nuclear weapons. It was a decision we’re still paying for today.

It’s easy to second-guess President Truman today since things look so much different from our perspective. The war, however, has long been over. Japan and America are close friends and important allies.

Should Obama apologize? I really don’t care either way. The only people who do care are the ones who just can’t let go.

Does criticism of government turn off new leaders?

A few weeks ago, a local media outlet published a story taking a few swipes at Raleigh’s city manager. While the criticism was mostly harmless (and city managers know it comes with the territory), it reminded me again that while taking digs at city government might seem to win points with hipster readers, it also alienates those hipsters from possibly getting involved themselves. Make public service look uncool and you run the risk of scaring off good people who might do great things with it.

I’m not saying don’t afflict the comforted when they rightfully earn it, but at the same time if you’re taking swipes just for the sake of taking swipes then you could be inadvertently turning away the bright, creative people who could be doing us all good.

I guess the constant focus on the negative when there’s really a ton of good being done gets tiring to me. And it’s not just the local level but at every level. Maybe it’s human nature to find something to complain about. Or maybe not.

Soaring profit?

A “free market” story I read tonight reminded me of one of the most surprising aspects of the Wright Brothers’ invention of the airplane. The Bishop’s Boys author Tom D. Crouch makes the point that Wilbur and Orville Wright were not motivated by profit when they began their chase for powered flight. The Wrights took their airplane designs on more as an interesting hobby, funded by their very successful bicycle shop. They were not venture-funded and did not answer to Wall Street. Their innovation grew mainly from their intense curiosity and desire to create things.

That’s not to say that they were altruistic because they certainly weren’t. Once they began flying, the brothers became secretive and litigious. They went after anyone else who seemed to infringe on their patents, with the aim of making as much money as possible.

While they were not top-notch businessmen, they were top-notch engineers. Their love of engineering, not their love of money, wound up making them a fortune.

What science knows (and doesn’t know) about animals

I was unexpectedly on-call Monday night and the pages I got made me sleep very lightly the rest of the night. When 3:30 AM rolled around, I was a little surprised to be serenaded by the birds outside. As I dozed, I began to wonder what it is about 3:30 AM that prompts the birds to sing? There can be no sign of dawn at that early time, even on May 10th. Is there some sort of environmental variable that tips birds off that it’s time to sing?

Later that day, naturally I then did some Googling on the research about birds. A query on “what makes birds sing in the morning” brought up a few interesting articles but also left me exasperated.
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