Monday, November 3, 2008

First Tuesday in November

Well, it's finally here! The most highly anticipated day of the season will be here tomorrow! I can't wait!

Finally no more campaign adds!

Oh, and we get to vote too. . . . :)

Seriously - please exercise your constitutional right - VOTE!

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

A Day to Remember

Tomorrow is September the eleventh. Another ordinary Thursday in the waning days of Summer.

Yet, no American can just think of it like that. Not now. Thanks to a tragically un-ordinary Tuesday morning, never again will the eleventh day of September be anything other than "nine-eleven": That fateful day seven years ago when our country lost it's youthful innocence, when the world suddenly seemed to become a much more hostile place, and when America's shores no longer seemed a safe refuge.

None of us will ever again be the same.

Nonetheless we must never forget the events of that horrific Tuesday. We must never forget the senseless loss of life. We must never forget the heroism of selfless firefighters and policemen. We must never forget ordinary citizens who rose to face an extraordinary occasion. We must never forget those who put themselves in harm's way to try to help others. We must never forget "Let's Roll".

Strangers helping strangers. Americans helping Americans.

I remember where I was that Tuesday years ago when I first heard the news and saw the images of smoking buildings. I remember looking to the sky and seeing no planes . . .

I remember and my soul aches with the memories. . .

We must never forget.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Being True To My School

This past Monday, my wife, our son, and I were visiting a college campus in a neighboring state. While on the campus tour, our exuberant tour guide decided to teach his school's fight song to us.

It just so happens that this particular university is the arch rival of the one from which I graduated, so I quite naturally did not participate. I couldn't lest I would feel like a traitor.

The guide of course noticed my non-participation and called me out. I rather bluntly explained that I was an alum from Rival School and damn proud of it! This of course was cause for much guffawing and laughter . . . But I didn't care. I'm loyal to my Alma Matter and proved it that day.

Unfortunately this was the cause of some embarrassment to my son, and near mortification on my wife's part. (Both of them participated in the lesson to varying degrees.)

So I ask you, dear readers: What would you have done?

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Of Time and Change. . .

I've been thinking a lot lately about college.

Our son is a Senior in High School so picking an institution of higher learning is paramount in all our thoughts these days. The selection process is daunting considering all the variables to worry about with curriculum, location, tuition, majors, demographics, and grades being constant topics of discussion.

The last couple days have been a bit different for me though.

This weekend the boy, no, young man, has been participating in a three day swim meet being held at my alma matter. Being there made me think back to my years in college. While there were two more of those years than I probably should have had (heh, that's another story) they were arguably the best years of my life - while at the same time being pivotal in my becoming the man I am today. The consequences of my college years have had an awesome affect on me.

I hope and pray that our son experiences the same kind of growth, the same kind of enlightenment that I experienced. That is to say, to learn what he needs to learn about himself, about life, and about the world that we all share. The lessons that I learned shaped me, and the lessons that he will learn will shape him.

Suddenly picking a college seems ginormously more daunting. . .

The good news is we are making progress. Well, they are making progress. . . My wife has approached the subject with her formidable analytical and organizational skills and has worked endlessly to gather information on any and every college that has any possibility of appealing to our young man. By thoughtful categorization and classification, a few hundred institutions of higher learning have been paired down into a very manageable group. We've even been on an official visit, with more scheduled in the next few weeks. . .

Beyond being supportive and managing some of the logistics, I'm not much help in the process though because I have no personal experience to draw on: I had no choice really in where I would go to college. At least not that I was aware of. I went to "Alma Matter University" because I could commute to school while keeping my job and living at home to minimize expenses and prevent putting additional financial burdens on my family. In fact my big decision was not what college I would go to, but IF I would go. I was seriously considering going to the Fire Academy to become a firefighter, and also high up on the list was becoming a mechanic like my dad.

But school was my choice - and thank God It was! For without it, I would be a very different person today and would likely not now be thinking about colleges for my son. If I even had a son . . . For it was my last few years in college that helped turn a long friendship between me and my high school sweetheart into what has become a long marriage!

To this day we marvel at the circumstances that brought the two of us together. I had no understanding then of the gravity of my decision to go to college, but I do now. And I'm in awe.

I guess for our son, all I can hope for is that we do the best we can and pick the right school based on those criteria we deem most important.

I hope we do an awesome good job.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

The Good Old Days All Over Again

Today is not one of them, and neither were the last several. Just a couple weeks ago though there were several. It was like the 70s all over again for me. And the 80s for that matter.

The Good Old Days.

If you are wondering what I could possibly mean, what with gas prices breaking all kinds of records, the economy in the toilet and - put your favorite horror here - What could possibly remind me of the good old days? I've lost my mind? I hope not. (And you may be too young to remember the gas shortages and economic woes of the 80s. But I digress.)

In a very direct cause and effect way, those very high gas prices led me to rediscover some simple pleasures that I had long forgotten about.

Leisurely drives. With the windows down.

Yup, much of my memories center around the automobile. My dad was a mechanic for 40 years, and so father son time often involved cars. And in the warmer months, family time meant going for a drive - to cool off.

In the days before air conditioning was common place in cars and homes, one way to cool off was to go for a drive in the country in the evening. We did this often. I remember the sounds of the crickets and bull frogs along with the rush of the wind as we passed along fields, ponds, and farmsteads.

Later, when I was old enough to drive and have my own car, I remember hearing what was on other peoples radios at stop lights and sometimes their conversations. There were birds singing in the trees overhead and dogs barking at you from the curb. Occasionally a friend would shout you a greeting from the next lane or the sidewalk.

Traffic noises often dominated my commutes to school but it meant hearing the sweet unfiltered sounds of all manner of powerful engines. In those days you were cool if you could identify a car by it's revving engine. I still remember the sweet sound of the 12 cylinders of the Lamborghini Countach that once pulled up next to me at a stoplight. . .

Then there were the close calls. Where today you get a muffled horn blast, back then you could shake your fist, flip "the bird" an cuss out the driver who just made a boneheaded maneuver. All out your open window right into the other drivers equally open windows. It was expected.

I miss that.

Oh, and did I mention the smells? I think the smells are what really made the strongest memories for me. Of course there's the not so nice odors, like burning oil, hot exhaust, and the occasional skunk that didn't quite make it across the road last night. Oh, and Pig farms! But what I really enjoyed were the scents of Spring: Freshly mowed grass, trees bursting in flower, the coming rain.

So this spring, when it was pleasantly cool and dry on the way to work and back, I had the windows open most of the time.* Unexpectedly I found myself recalling all kinds of things I had forgotten I'd forgotten. If you know what I mean.

As kind of a side effect, I also started to drive without haste; coasting down hills and toward stopped traffic rather than barreling full tilt only to stop hard at the back end of a line of traffic. It was quieter. It was relaxing. It relieved some stress. It allowed me to more fully enjoy the simple pleasures that once were so common, but now were as if never before experienced.

Oh! It also gave me something to share with you!

*(Never on the freeway, the increased drag at those speeds hurts mileage more than running the AC's compressor. Besides, it's just too damn noisy . . . And I got 405+ miles out of a tank of gas - about 26MPG from a normal six cylinder car! Sweet!)

Friday, April 18, 2008

A Little Poetic Justice

I drive my daughter to school every morning, and the route I take happens to pass through a handful of school zones. I have always been very conscious of my speed while driving through school zones, but of late I have been particularly careful - Check out this accident that happened in front of another school in the Columbus area just the other day and I think you'll understand why. . .

Today was shaping up to be just another one of those commutes; I dutifully slowed to 20MPH through every speed zone and got my daughter to school with a clean conscious and time to spare. Things began to veer from the routine though as I started on my way out of the school parking lot after dropping her off . As I approached the end of the driveway I got there just in time for a parade of vehicles going by on the main road. They were traveling at what I guess to be 25 to 30 MPH. Obviously over the 20MPH limit of a school zone, but much to my consternation, about par for the course on this street. A large enough opening soon approached and I eased on to the street and accelerated to 20. . .

Apparently the woman driving the Lexus ESS YUU VEE I had just pulled in front of was displeased at my rate of travel as she devoured the distance between our vehicles in a hurry and stayed planted on my bumper. While the distance from the school driveway exit and the end of the school zone is only about a block and a half, I decided I should explain things a bit by holding up two fingers signifying "2" followed by the OK sign signifying "0" - The speed limit and the speed at which I was traveling. I did that a couple times, and then sped up as we left the school zone. I thought what would be enough to remind the tailgater behind me that the slower speed is expected between the signs with the flashing yellow lights, and that would be it.

I was wrong.

After the school zone was passed, I caught up to the parade of cars. Apparently someone had turned left and delayed things enough that me and the tailgater soon found ourselves bringing up the rear of a fairly long line of vehicles. So now we are going along with traffic, the Lexus grill is still looming large in my mirror, and we are approaching an intersection where the light is turning red.

Much to my relief, I want to go straight at the light, and she wants to go right. The right lane is a right turn only lane, and is backed up farther than the lane I'm in.

But folks are making rights on red and so she eventually pulls up next to me. I'm watching to see if she makes any indication that she had seen my "2" and "0" signs earlier, but fully expected nothing. By her reaction of putting both hands in her window showing two fingers on one and five on the other I would guess that she had seen my gestures. Unfortunately the fact that we were in the school zone was completely lost on her.

Anyway, now comes the best part, the justice I mentioned in the title.

As I was saying, she was in a right turn only lane - The traffic in front of her was moving fairly steadily as no oncoming traffic prevented safe turns on red. She rolled by, both hands and whole face in her window as I watched, chuckling at the absurdity of her seeming indignation. In disgust she whipped her hands back to the steering wheel, disappeared from my sight behind the door frame of the Lexus, and hit the gas. . . Right into the rear bumper of an old lady in her Mercedes waiting to turn right!

Oh. My. GOODNESS!!! I don't think I have ever seen something so exquisite! The light turned green and I started to head on my way. As I wanted to be sure the bump was minor, (it was) I went by slowly to check things out. My glance was rewarded with this statement, mouthed very obviously by the now very pissed off Lexus driver, "Thank you very much!" "See what you did!" I couldn't help but laugh. I waved cheerfully as I resumed my commute. . .

I think she could benefit from what John G Miller has to say. Then again, maybe I should revisit his book myself.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Where have you been?

Heh, well, I guess I must confess that I have been very distracted lately with a new toy. My kids gave me a Nintendo DS for my birthday last month, and I - as she will tell you - have made my long suffering wife a Video Game Widow. . . I just love Zelda games - and Phantom Hourglass has me hook, line, and sinker. . . *sigh*

And you, dear readers, have been without any word from yours truly for much too long.

Another confession. I can't blame my lack of blogging recently entirely on my new toy. The actual reason, I think, is that I have been filling up every spare Blog moment reading blogs rather than writing one. I made the mistake of finding a few two many interesting blogs that I just can't skip for fear of getting behind. And they are some very prolific blogs!

That's my story anyway, and I'll be sticking to it, Thank you very much . . .

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Happy Easter!

Happy Easter to all of you from all of us here at MRHTD!

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

"Working" Through School

My parents, who were older than most of the parents of my friends, didn't make much money. My mom was lunch lady at our grade school, and before he became disabled with Parkinson's disease, (Meaning he stopped driving - a decision he made on his own after pulling out in front of traffic, wrecking his nearly new car) my dad operated a one bay gas station and garage he co-owned with a guy who barely did anything at all. So raising two boys and putting us through Parochial school really took everything my parents had.

When I was in high school, my Aunt and Uncle needed someone to mow their lawn so my Mom volunteered me. I didn't mind to much really as I kind of enjoyed the chore at home, and besides, I would get paid for mowing this one. Soon neighbors of my aunt and uncle, appreciating the quick and quality work I did, started asking if I would mow their lawns too, and I readily agreed. At about this same time, my best friend had purchased a new Lawn Boy mower and was mowing lawns for some of the elderly neighbors in his neighborhood. His example showed me that such an investment made good business sense: His new mower had a bagging attachment and he would charge more to haul the grass clippings away. I wanted badly to follow suit. So my mom and dad invested what I realize now must have been a good chunk of their savings in my fledgling business to pay for a brand new Lawn Boy and a very beat up old truck to haul it around in. By the end of that first summer I had paid them back for both - a sum of about two thousand dollars. For the next few years I managed about a dozen lawns a week in the summer, hauled leaves away in the fall, and cleared snow in the winter.

When I graduated from high school I really had no idea if I would even go to college. I kicked around the idea of going to the Fire Academy to be a fire fighter, staying on with the landscaping firm for which I now worked as a salaried employee, or going to a trade school to learn auto mechanics. Finally I decided that college would be the best opportunity for me to land a job that didn't leave me tired and dirty after a day's work. I wanted a job where I showered before going, rather than after getting home.

Despite earning an honest to goodness salary and still mowing a few lawns on the side, when I started College there was no extra money to be had. We filled out the financial aid forms and soon I was attending the local public university on the government's dime. I made enough to pay for my books, gas, and any entertainment expenses, and even though I still lived with my parents, I thoroughly enjoyed my years at school. I spent my first several quarters exploring various fields of study, kinda following an engineering direction - Physics, Chemistry, Calculus - but eventually I settled on Photography. (Kind of a mix of chemistry, physics and art, if you think about it!) A decision that finally exposed me to subjects I had not thought about exploring before, and really taught me a lot about life - diversity, the arts, philosophy - and taught me that I could accomplish much more than I thought I could. College presented me with challenges that, perhaps for the first time in my life, I faced head on with determination and a "can do" attitude. I had a goal, and I pursued it with all the gusto of a hungry animal chasing it's prey.

Ironically I'm not now employed as a photographer in any way whatsoever. I'm in the IT department at my company, and very much enjoy interacting with the folks I help with their computer problems. I'm convinced that I wound up where I am because of the lessons I learned in college. Not the classes I paid for so much, but the lessons I learned as a young man starting to face the world on my own. The lessons of perseverance, of entrepreneurship, of diversity and tolerance, of freedom to do what I wanted yet choosing to better myself.

Like me, our Diamonds in the rough will be working through school - of this there can be no doubt. I hope they also come away as enriched as I did.

Bringing Home Baby

D1 just turned 17 the other day and as folks often do on such occasions, I found myself hitching a ride on the wayback machine: It was not one of those long and dream-like excursions through time though; it was more of a momentary flashback, but one in which the sensations were as real as any present waking moment. For a split second, as I passed through a certain place, every one of my senses was telling me it was 17 years ago, and we were bringing our new baby home for the first time. It was enough to stop me in my tracks.

I was simply walking by the laundry room on the way from the kitchen to the front of the house. As I often do, I glanced into that little room, and that’s when it happened. Expecting to see the closed door to the garage, instead I saw – and this is particularly interesting to me – heard, smelled and felt, too all the same sights, sounds, smells and textures of the moment 17 years ago when my wife walked through that door carrying our newborn son.

The view was curiously cropped. Oh yes, I was filming the event and saw it though the viewfinder of a video camera. I can feel the camera in my hands, warm and smooth. My hand shakes a bit. There is a familiar smell – new construction – our house is only a few months older than D1. But not a smell we usually experience now. In the background there are still boxes in the garage, beyond the blue Honda that I just made room for in there so we would not have to have the baby out in the cold for long. There really are not many sounds; my wife said something like “We’re home - finally!” But I remember the silence most because for a fleeting second that silence I experienced all those years ago reminded me just how scared I was to be coming home to the house we just moved into with a baby that I believed I knew nothing about raising . . . It was a stark, cold, lonely feeling. I put down the camera and embraced my family. Then it was all instantly, awesomely, OK.

I walked on down the hall and found that D1 still has not taken his laundry hamper back up to his room.


Sunday, January 6, 2008

PC Strobe?

As I was showering this morning, It struck me that my blogger name - PC Strobe - may need some explaining. I think this because of the "PC" portion. It does not stand for Politically Correct. In fact, I've used this handle since my earliest online days when PC was simply short for "Personal Computer".

It was the mid to late Eighties, and "Online" meant one had dialed up a bulletin board to read and post messages. I guess this could be considered the earliest form of blogging. Any way, I would fire up the Atari 800, dial the local number of another Atari enthusiasts modem line and, at a blazing fast rate of 1200 baud, could upload posts, and read others postings. If I really wanted to tie up the line for a while I could even download programs!

So "PC" partly came from Personal Computer.

PC also happens to be part of a name for the connection between an SLR camera (and being the 80s these cameras took something called film - look it up if you are that young!) and a flash that's not mounted directly to the camera. ("PC cord" is what I always called it). And as you may know, a photographic flash is just a fancy strobe light.

So combining my two greatest interests at the time - and in a slightly punny way I thought - I came up with a character by the name of PC Strobe.

Occasionally this name takes on an odd (and unintentional) appropriateness: I feel like my "really good" thoughts are like the flash from a strobe light - Blinding in their impact, but gone in an instant. The only effect being the disorientation caused by the fleeting spots before ones eyes.