Thursday, December 22, 2011

Not a Christmas letter

Disclaimer: This is NOT; repeat NOT our family Christmas letter. Patti typically writes those but for a variety of reasons we’ve not sent one in a few years – time, postage, I forgot to mail it etc.

This represents my recollections and mine only of this past year. Patti may see fit to comment on it via Facebook.

2011 can be summed up in three words: we became grandparents! And that’s pretty much what I have to report. See ya’ next year!

OK, now back to the beginning. I can either do this by subject or chronologically. OK survey says? Chrono so here we go!

Jan. 2011

As has become our annual tradition, Sarah and Caleb visited us for a couple of weeks in January. Many of our Saturdays were spent watching Janie play basketball on a local girl’s team. We also (yeah!) got our woodstove installed so we began to enjoy the real heat and warmth. And did I mention this is when all my chain-saw-sagas began? Also visited my dad in Dallas for his 89th birthday.

Feb. – Janie continues her basketball efforts. Almost every Saturday. Plus practices in between.

March – Patti spent a month working for Oxford Home Health Care after leaving CMH in Ash Grove but after trying to take care of a bed-ridden 300+ lb. hoarder, she called that one quits. I spent two days in our state capitol, Jefferson City, with a leadership program, trying to learn how our state govt. functions. You think DC is dysfunctional? Just kidding!

April – Senior prom month for Annie. Patti starts working for a different nursing home – Quail Creek – a nice facility.

May – Vesper Brielle Krantz is born in May, daughter of our oldest daughter Sarah and her husband Caleb. Patti flew up for a week or so right after the birth, took hundreds of pictures. Cutest girl in town!

Right before Patti left, Annie graduated from high school (yeah and congrats!) and somehow I was asked to be the commencement speaker. It took me weeks to write my 12-minute-speech which was essentially a look back at the last 40 years (for me) since my graduation and what might be in store for them in their next 40 (you can read it online if you like here). I took some liberties with Tim McGraw’s, “My Next 30 years”, but I did not sing. The audience was thankful.

June – Able to visit my Dad in Dallas for a couple of days at Father’s Day. Annie starts working for Walmart. Gilly took me to see Lyle Lovett and John Hiatt as a Father’s Day present. As usual June is wedding month and we celebrated two multi-cultural marriages with friends at our church.

July – Janie and Anna go to kid’s camp at church giving us a week-long break!

Later, Vince, Janie and Anna drove to Montana to spend a week with Vesper and the rest of the Krantz clan. Spent a lot of time sitting with, holding, changing and in general just being a grandpa to, Vesper. I could get used to that! While there we also spent a bunch of time at Flathead Lake swimming in the super-cold water. The girls never batted an eye!

Aug. – Annie started college at OTC in a nursing program. She has a scholarship which covers her tuition. Patti quits working for a while. We take a brief family camping trip to an unusual place in MO called Johnson’s Shut Ins.

Sept. – Helped launch a major internal training program at work called CAmP – City Ambassador Program – to help employees get a better handle of how their jobs fit into the much bigger picture of the entire City government operation. It’s a once-a-month program that is now beginning to take shape.

I also got to go back to San Fran for a conference. Enjoyed walking the hills, the waterfront, eating real Chinese food and seeing some old friends. Got to meet a real-live VP from Google!

Late in September, Patti I spend a few days alone in Branson and Eureka Springs celebrating our 35th anniversary. Nice places, nice time.

Oct. – Near the end of the month my co co-interim Director left for another job, so that left me running the dept. by myself. For the last two months (and one more to go) I’ve been doing at least 3 jobs: his, my old job, the dept. director position and helping our Parks Dept. produce their monthly TV show until they replace someone as well. Note: In January I will finally have a new boss after 21 months of sort of getting to be the boss. I’ll miss some of it and other parts, not so much.

Nov. – Annie moved out into her own apartment in town closer to work (still Walmart) and school (still OTC). We fire up the woodstove and I begin my chain-saw-saga again. But we are keeping warm!

Dec. – Patti did about 99% of the Christmas shopping. My job was the tree and lights. Looking forward to friends and family on Christmas eve for Patti’s traditional 3-way chili (aka Skyline and/or Cincinnati chili) We expect a group of 12 or more for a fun evening.

Overall 2011 was a challenging year both personally and professionally. On the farm front we still have: 10 chickens, 3 dogs, 3 horses, one cat and one rabbit.

Also really looking forward to Sarah, Caleb and Vesper who will come again in January. Plans this time include a trip to Dallas for my folks to meet Caleb and Vesper. Then we head to Nashville for a short McCarthy family re-union. Should be quite a crowd there!

Hope you and yours have a Blessed time of year!

Vince, Patti, Janie and Anna holding down the Everton home front
Sarah lives in Montana with Caleb and Vesper.
Gill and Annie each have their own places in town.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Just wondering

There may be a really simple and good explanation for this but … in my re-read through of the Bible, I started Luke today.

That’s where we read the more familiar accounts of the annunciation, Jesus’ birth, etc. One part of this always bothered me (are we allowed to be “bothered” by something in Scripture? Not sure, but that’s the word that fits.)

The angel Gabriel comes to Zacharias and tells him about his son-to-come who of course became John the Baptist. In their conversation Zacharias questions the angel “Whereby shall I know this?” and for this he was struck dumb (for awhile at least.)

Later on Mary is also greeted by Gabriel who tells her about the coming birth of Christ – her child and the son of God. Mary’s response: “How shall this be?” Gabriel didn’t chide or punish her in any way for asking essentially the same question.

Always wondered why Zacharias got dinged for asking questions.

Maybe because I like to ask lots of questions!

It (almost) happens

Saturday night, I was coming home with the girls just after dark.

Coming off the state highway (speed limit 60) to our town road where it drops to 35 pretty quick.

I usually coast in and by the time I hit the 35 mph sign I’m doing between 35-40.

Saturday I crested a small hill in our town when I saw the unmarked Police car sitting behind a small church. As is my habit, I looked down to my speed which I’m pretty sure was 35. (yeah, right, you say!)

The officer in the car thought otherwise and pulled out behind me and turned on his lights – no siren in our dinky little town I guess.

At first, since I had just looked at my speed, I wasn’t sure he was coming after me so I drove on down the road another block, turned off onto our road. I looked back and saw he had also so I knew he wanted me.

By the time he got to the car I had my license and registration out. He asked me if I knew why he had stopped me to which I honestly answered “no.” (yeah, right, you say!)
He said City Council was really asking them to stop anybody going over 35 and that I was doing 40. He asked me how fast I thought I was going and I told him 35. He took my license (gave me back my reg. card right then). He was in his car a long time, which made me start to worry.

Observation: when they shine that light into your mirror – you can NOT see anything. It is sooo very bright that it almost hurts! I’m sure that is intentional so you can’t see them or what they are doing.

After a bit, he came back, handed me my license and said, “Mr. Crunk, you have a good evening.” I said thank you and drove home.

Even if I was going 40 (and my wife says I always drive too fast thru town) I doubt many folks get stopped for 5 over. I’ve heard the off-the-record number was +7. Mind you I don’t try to push that envelope, I’m just sayin’.

Later that night I had to go back thru town again to pick up another daughter at work and rest assured, I never even broke 30 on the way out and the way back in. Not taking any chances!

Monday, October 10, 2011

Location, location, location

I’m not a businessman or a restaurant owner but I’ve been watching something repeat itself for a few years.

At three intersections I pass through almost every day, are (or were, or will be) small restaurants – a pizza place, a former Italian rest. and a drive-thru coffee shop.
I can’t keep up with how many different businesses have gone in and OUT of each of these in the last few years. In a couple of cases the businesses may have lasted 2- 3 years, which in this economy might be doing pretty good. But the third one has turned over more times than I can recall.

I feel sorry for these small business-people who I’m sure lost their collective shirts (or more!) on these failed ventures.

To my title – it would seem that none of these locations can support a food related business. You’d think after awhile, folks would recognize that. For whatever reason this intersection etc. just is not going to work.

Before I forget – one of the locations held a small independent church for awhile but even that was short-lived.

I’ve heard the joke (or maybe serious statement) that Walmart and McDonalds aren’t in the retail or food business but rather in the real-estate business. They do traffic counts, demographic surveys, scope out the competition etc. for perhaps years before they go in and buy property for a future location.

Maybe these small business owners need to do the same type of research.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Coppola


haven't heard much from him lately - guess he is too busy making wine but he's alwaays been one of my favorite directors. I'm one of the few who did not like Godfather 2 as much as the first.

just walking the streets in San Fran last week and ran across this building. Alas he was not at home.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

high tech, high touch, high value

What do you get when you combine AEDs, smart phones, 911 and a heart attack victim? Quite possibly a life saved.

At a conference loaded with tech people (in San Fran) and heard of an amazing example of how some very high tech can save lives.

Newer AEDs are apparently idiot-proof. They audibly talk the user through the process, know exactly how much and when to give electrical shocks and even if the person shouldn't get a shock.

So where's the weak link? Many people don't know what AEDs are and even those who do may not know where they are or how to find them in various locations. I guess many public places are now required to have them.

How do these (AEDs, smart phones, 911 and a heart attack victim) get connected again?

911 gets call about possible heart attack. 911 of course dispatches emergency personnel. But what about the intervening 5 - 7 minutes (average response time)? 911 pushes out an alert to anyone with a smart phone that can be geo-located nearby the victim. In that alert is information to help locate the victim and the nearest AED.

The receiver needs the app for the service to work. I heard not too long ago about concerns over the geo-locating capabilities of the iPhone raising some privacy concerns from users. I guess people would have to put those concerns aside in order for this new tech to work.

This is not pie-in-the-sky. A CA Fire Dept. & County are already using it.

I'm not a smart phone user (yet) but I'd sure buy this app if it were available in my area. Things like this move so fast it likely won't be long.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Libya and the U.N.

Listening to the radio Friday and heard that the United Nations had given Libya's seat in the U.N. to the National Transition Council (or something like that), the group of rebels who have overthrown Ghadaffi.

First, I think what has happened in Libya will turn out to be a good thing in the long run. As I hope most of the Arab Spring rebellions/revolts also turn out to be.

But I question the awarding of the Libyan seat. Who knows who's going to be running Libya in three months? One year? Seems like this group should prove themselves as adept at governing, keeping lights on and water running etc., before someone starts recognizing them as the representative of the Libyan govt. They have done what few others could have - got rid of a dictator. But as noted so far they haven't governed and no elections have put anybody in any sort of power there.

Seems like the U.N could certainly and fairly "strip" Libya of its U.N. position - not sure how it got there in the first place. Hold things in abeyance until the dust settles, Libya has elected people in place - then consider letting the new folks re-join the U.N.

This also got me to thinking about something. In 1971 - the U.N. decided that the PRC or People's Republic of China aka the place run then by Chairman Mao, should have a place in the U.N. Looking back, maybe that was a good decision at the time. Like it or not they had been running the bigger part of China since 1949.

But what happened to Taiwan? They have no representation in the U.N. Again by all rights this has been a pretty stable and usually thriving place since not too long after 1949. But for whatever reason - well actually the reason is the PRC doesn't want to allow Taiwan to have anything in the U.N. and China is big enough in the world to call some of those shots. So it's doubtful Taiwan will ever be recognized in the U.N.

Just seems odd.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Interests and Values

Heard a pretty balanced story yesterday on NPR that got me to thinking.

The story’s focus was on those who praise and criticize Obama for his handling of the Libyan situation and on a broader scope our general foreign policy related to interventions.

They included this quote from a March 28 speech:

“For generations, the United States of America has played a unique role as an anchor of global security and as an advocate for human freedom. Mindful of the risks and costs of military action, we are naturally reluctant to use force to solve the world’s many challenges. But when our interests and values are at stake (emphasis mine), we have a responsibility to act.”

I’d like to focus on the words interests and values. And before I begin, how do we, how should we handle things when these two things conflict? Just think about that possibility as you (hopefully) read on. And does he mean the literal “and”? We should intervene when BOTH those things apply?

Interests. In the early 1800s it was in our interest to expand our borders from “sea to shining sea.” It later became in our interest to stop piracy on the northern Mediterranean coast (“to the shores of Tripoli” – are you sensing a trend toward something musical here? I didn’t intend to but if I can keep this up, it might be clever!)

More history – I’m a little too young to decide exactly what our interests were in 1898 when Teddy and his rough riders helped us win our war with Spain. Sugar maybe? Certainly in our interest.

It took years before we entered WWI and I can’t tell you now what interests we had at that time and as for values; well I can’t there either.

WWII – I doubt anyone could argue with this intervention even though some would say we were late to the party and were it not for Japanese aggression at Pearl Harbor, we might not have entered the war and Hawaii would not be our 50th State. Values – not sure anybody values Facism anymore and genocide was hopefully never valued by anyone (Hitler, Pol Pot, Stalin and others of their ilk excepted)

I could keep going with this history lesson but I really should get to my points.

Afghanistan. I guess our offended values were/are still, we don’t condone terrorism (or allowing you to be a home to those who do.) But if we are there to foster the value of democracy, well I guess I’d like to have the word “values” defined. If we are there for that and can’t stomach the idea of the Taliban telling people how to live – there are plenty of other places that are equal to or worse than this.

Why has it taken so long to decide what we need to do in Darfur? And even with their independence, South Sudan – I’m not aware of much intervention – I should clarify – we’ve had plenty of citizen, celebrity and NGO intervention in these and many, MANY other places but not much overt U.S. govt. action that I am aware of.

If we are really after world-wide acceptance of democracy – our core and most cherished value, then what’s up with China? We all know the answer. This is where our values conflict with our interest. We owe (heck sold!) them our financial and economic souls and we can’t survive anymore without them being our primary lender and buyer of our own exported goods. So we tolerate that they don’t share our values because it’s out-weighed by our economic interests.

Why didn’t we intervene or get involved in Libya before now? Ghaddafy (spell it however you want!) has been a well-known tyrant for years. Remember Lockerbie & Pan Am flight 103? But I guess it took world-wide pressure for us to get involved this year. He’s been offending our values for decades. But since Libya only provides maybe 3% of our oil, our interests weren’t high enough on that Richter scale to support our offended values. If we were to use this same logic – we’d have been in Iraq and gone well before 9-11!

As with history I could keep going. But if Obama is going to fashion his Foreign Policy around these key terms, I could use a semantics and vocabulary lesson to go along with history to help me understand where we’ve been and where we might go.
I close with no answers or solutions but with this excerpt from the transcript of the story (which can be found at npr.org)

“Ben Rhodes is the White House's deputy national security advisor for strategic communications. He says the administration is focused on how best to achieve American interests on a case by case basis.

BEN RHODES: I don't think you want to have a doctrine that is so broad that it would lead you to intervene in country after country, and send you down a slippery slope of military interventions that we don't want to pursue.

SHAPIRO (Ari – NPR reporter): He says the U.S. does apply universal principles to every country.

RHODES: We oppose violence by governments against their citizens. We support the universal rights of people around the world - the right to choose their own leaders and have basic fundamental freedoms. And we are supporting across the Middle East and North Africa a process of political and economic change that's responsive to the people of the region.

SHAPIRO: That support sometimes comes in the form of sanctions or simply words. But that wasn't enough in Libya, where military power came into play. And it may not be enough for people seeking revolution in other countries, either.

Michele Dunne directs the Rafik Hariri Center for the Middle East at the Atlantic Council.

Dr. MICHELE DUNNE: Certainly the question of U.S. involvement is going to be raised increasingly now in places like Syria, Yemen, and, who knows, perhaps Iran in the future, because of Libya. Libya has now created a different model. “


Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Johnson’s Shut Ins

We took a 3-day/2 night camping trip to this unusual place last weekend.

Patti decided she wanted to go there so she planned it all out. Including picking a campsite that was ½ mile uphill from where we could park our car. We got plenty of exercise just moving things to and from the car and campsite.

The Shut Ins is in the middle of nowhere! It took us about 4 hours – ½ of which were spent on windy little country roads in – did I mention this? In the middle of nowhere? We had to stop a few times for me to double-check my maps and directions.

First off – the Shut Ins are where in Dec. 2005, a Taum Sauk reservoir wall was breached sending perhaps a billion (that’s a B!) gallons of water rushing down the hillside into and around the Shut Ins. Miraculously, no one died but the park was pretty much destroyed.

The camping areas we used have all been rebuilt and relocated away from the reservoir. Everything looked new and now I know why. A lady from St. Louis told us it looks very different now with so much damage being caused to the rocks. I guess they were much taller, rounder and the water much deeper in places.

Secondly - The term "shut-in" refers to a place where the river's breadth is limited by hard rock that is resistant to erosion.

We arrived mid-day on a Friday and proceeded to haul all our gear the ½ mile or so to our campsite. Did I mention this was all uphill from the parking area? A couple of sweaty hours later, we were set-up and ready to go.

We made a quick visit to the Shut Ins to scope out our plans for Saturday.

Saturday morning – quick breakfast and rain. Light rain, heavy rain, lighting and thunder. This wasn’t part of the brochure I read online!

Everyone said the weather should break by noon so we decided to take a drive. Ended up in Farmington (maybe an hour from StL?) and poked around a Walmart. Thought about bowling and a movie but the skies looked less threatening so we headed back.

I’m glad we did. Had a quick lunch and then headed out to the Shut Ins. Spent the next 5 or 6 hours in the water, climbing rocks, rescuing children!, and just enjoying the views.

Even with lower water levels and shorter rocks, there are still small pools more than 10 ft. deep and some larger areas that one guy estimated at 15 ft. deep! People were diving and jumping off the rocks. Anna and Annie even tried it.

I wouldn’t call it rock climbing, maybe scrambling? But you can climb 10 – 15 feet up various sizes of rocks and boulders. I enjoyed this but a couple of times found myself at the top of a rock with nowhere to go but down! Going back down the way you came up is not always possible or practical. I can’t imagine the people who do this on vertical walls hundreds of feet or more higher! I also have some sore muscles in my shoulders and legs – guess climbing stairs uses different muscle groups!

Sleeping was a challenge. The newer location has few (if any) flat or level spots. So they built these wooden platforms big enough for a tent, picnic table and your gear. At first I thought this would be good (and it has its benefits) since I’ve pitched plenty a tent on uneven and hard ground with stray rocks popping up all over. But wood is hard. I sleep on my sides and my rib cages felt like I had been smacked! One night I had to get up and go outside to walk around and even tried sleeping in a chair until I got cold and went back in the tent. I guess the cold pain was worse than the wood pain so I fell back asleep. Made my own bed at home feel so much better!

All in all a fun weekend; with some challenges. Would do it again but maybe in cooler weather, earlier in the summer with a higher water level.





Monday, August 8, 2011

3,500 miles or more

Fortunate enough to go see my daughter, her husband, Caleb and her new baby in Montana this summer.

Of course we had a great time, got to hold, feed and change little baby Vesper a lot – crying, happy, wet, hungry – you get and take it all with babies and grandbabies!
This is not so much about the visit though as the journey, which involved driving more than 3,500 miles in a rental car (Kia Forte – not too bad) with a 10 and an 11 year-old.

So with TWO (they don’t always share or play nicely!) portable DVD players and a pile of DVDs, a cooler of somewhat healthy snacks and drinks we set out early one morning.

Our first wake-up call came in northern Missouri with a detour. Did you know big chunks of I-29 are closed, still, due to the flooding earlier this year? The water from the Missouri River is over the road in many places in Missouri and Iowa.

Looking out over cornfields and such, one image stands out: a blacktop road just ends at the waters edge. Parked at the end was a car. A couple of hundred yards away stood a farm-house surrounded by water. I’ve been to Joplin and seen the devastation there – homes that aren’t houses anymore. But this one – what do you do? Your house/home is there but you can’t live in it. Can’t get to it unless you use a boat. I’m sure there must be hundreds of these.

I saw acres and acres of farmland underwater. Struck by the harsh irony of farms in Texas that are going under financially because of the drought. Here the problem was too much water. Too bad there isn’t some way to balance that out.

I saw a picture on-line of a young man standing in a field with water up almost to his knees and the caption said these fields would be under water until late fall or beyond. I heard that in Joplin, the debris clean-up is almost done. Not that folks have homes or lives rebuilt yet, but they can see a starting point out there soon.

A 2nd image of Iowa was not the usual corn (although we did see plenty of that) nor water but wind turbines. When we got off of I29 for the detour, we ended up going through several small towns I’ve never heard of but for a few miles I saw dozens of those humongously tall wind-turbines.

Water seemed to play a prominent role in this trip.

Upon arrival in Montana, I found my son-in-law already in irrigation season. I tend to associate irrigation with row crops. But there they use it to water pastures that ultimately feed their cattle – either as grass or baled up as hay for later.

I helped once with what are called wheel lines (long sections of pipe with large metal wheels and sprinklers) that are moved across fields 20 or so feet at a time and then left to water for 12+ hours. You get to one side of the field and head back the other way. The process is simple yet complicated. Turn off water (or else you get sprayed big time!) – disconnect pipes – let water drain out – crank up engine and engage to move pipes – sometimes the very long pipes don’t all move in sync so you have to go and move some by hand to line them back up – reconnect pipe – turn on the water a little – wait for the pipes to re-fill – turn water on 16 & ½ turns (Caleb’s very specific instructions to me!) and watch and wait to see if all the heads eventually start spraying water again. Caleb performed one little trick to keep from getting soaked. Near the shut-off and connection point is a sprinkler head. He would put a small piece of straw in it so it wouldn’t keep circulating and spray him (us!) while working on the lines.

I also helped with what are called hand-lines. Similar concept to wheel-lines except these lines lay on the ground and – you guessed it – you move them by hand. Each morning and each night, Caleb goes out and disconnects a section from the main line, moves it 20 feet or so, gets another section, disconnects, moves – you get the picture. This involves a lot of bending and lifting and walking. I spent about 2 hours doing this one evening and it is a workout. While I was helping I may have also been slowing him down. There are little tricks and techniques that to him are 2nd nature whereas I had to stop and think and then hope I got it right. My daughter Sarah helps with this too when she can but of course with a newborn – times are limited.

They also have a couple of “center pivots.” These are those long and tall things that go in a circle around big fields and spray water too but we didn’t go to any of those while I was helping.

Their system of water is based on mostly snowmelt. The reservation (they live in the middle of the Flathead Indian reservation – which is odd since the tribes are Salish, Kootenai and one other I can’t spell) has reservoirs that holds most of the water which is then pumped all over the Flathead or parts of the Mission Valley area. I learned a little about this complex system but of course know only enough to be dangerous. But I’ll share some anyway.

Each rancher/farmer has to tell the tribe(s) how much water they want each year. Then they pay a water tax. At a certain point in the summer the water becomes available. There are a series of canals or ditches running all over. Scattered are pumps, diverters etc. that allow the water to move where it needs to go.

Water seemed to always flow in these ditches but they couldn’t always be used. I guess you have to order your water and on some days if another ranch up or down-stream was using a certain amount, then you might not be able to get your water on that day and have to wait. In one case Caleb had to wait almost three days for water for one pasture.

Ditch-riders move about and monitor the water and I guess make sure nobody is using more than they pay for.

Earlier in the week before travelling, I sat through a seminar on water for our City Council. One lady shared that while we can go without power (not happily of course) for a week or two, we last about two days without water.

When you have hundreds of
animals or fields of grass, alfalfa etc., you can’t wait on this water for too long.
And as noted, water is a lot of work. I’d guess Caleb spends 4-5 hours every day, 7-days a week during the prime season from July - September, doing his water chores.

Water figured once more in our recreation. We made it to Flathead Lake at least three times – once for boating and a picnic and a couple of other times for a swim. Did I mention that this lake also is mostly snowmelt? And that the average water temp is about 58 degrees in mid-June warming to a balmy 68 by mid-August?

I managed to make it into the water twice. Kids of course don’t seem to care. Never bothered them.

So these are my water memories from Montana 2011.


Saturday, August 6, 2011

Pyramid and my (brief) foray into Hollywood

Working in the heat this morning I was thinking about other times I worked I the heat and remembered the summer of 1975.

I had just graduated from SMU in Dallas, film degree in my hot little hands and looking for work.

Remember the movie Logan’s Run? Not many people do but much of it was shot in Dallas that summer. A call was put out for extras and I thought this might be a way to get on a movie set and meet some people that could help me get work in the future.

I went to the audition – which wasn’t much other than telling you to shave any exposed body hair and stay out of the sun since this movie was set in a place/time where everyone was indoors and no one was tan.

I wasn’t too thrilled about shaving my chest hair but it was a job.

It may have been that same day I got a phone call from my film prof, Tom Herod who was working as a location manager for another movie being shot in Dallas – working title Pyramid. He wanted to know if I’d be interested in working on the crew as a grip. This was much more up my alley than being a clean-body-shaven extra in a sci-fi movie so I said yes. Later that day I was with a similarly unemployed friend and explained what happened. He asked if he could take my place on Logan’s Run. I figured it wouldn’t matter – a body is a body and nobody knew who I was anyway so he planned on going down for the wardrobe fitting in a day or so. Honestly don’t remember how things worked out for him but seem to recall he worked a few days, had fun, met some people; the usual.

Back to Pyramid. This was a low budget movie (in today’s parlance it would likely be one of those straight-to-video flix.) But we did have a “name” director whose claim to fame was directing the TV series Man From Uncle.

My job? Electrical or lighting grip. That essentially means carrying around and setting up a bunch of heavy lights, running long heavy cables, plugging things into electrical sources (not your typical wall outlets) and then spending a lot of time standing around waiting for one scene to end so we could re-set etc. for the next one.

Prior to the shoot we took a long Ryder truck and built shelves, racks, hanging racks etc. to keep all the grip gear and this became our grip truck. I got to do a lot of shopping for stuff that was called “expendables” – meaning we buy them, use them and then we’re done; and “practicals” – stuff that is used in the scene like real light bulbs in real lamps but with special color-correct bulbs.

Did I mention the pay? A whopping $200/week, which in 1975 wasn’t bad but one caveat: $100 of that was deferred. I had taken a film finance workshop where the benefits of such deferments were explained from a producer’s POV but for a crew person? This means my NET was $100/week. If/when the movie finished AND actually made money, then, and only then, would the deferred money be paid.

I was happy enough to collect my $100/week for now.

The next 10-12 weeks were spent mostly outside shooting in one of the hottest summers ever in Dallas. I think in June/July we had something like 17 or 19 straight days of 100+.

As a grip you are somewhat removed from the politics of the movie but eventually we began to realize this movie was not going to be good. Crewmembers began to jump ship as our shoot dragged on. The most notable of these was Tak Fujimoto – our DP. Since then he has gone on to have a pretty decent Hollywood career. Another crewmember who was also a classmate of mine at SMU, Ron Judkins also went on to get two or maybe three Oscars for his sound work on Spielberg movies such as Schindler’s List and Saving Private Ryan. I got together with him in LA a few years back to do an interview for a magazine article. He’s had quite a career.

Late in the production schedule Tak left and the Asst. DP moved up to that slot. The 2nd assist camera op moved into the 1st slot and someone asked me if I had ever worked with a film camera before. I said yes and they said “Here. You are now 2nd asst. camera operator. Go unload these magazines and start keeping camera logs.” I had no idea about either of these but figured it was better to shut up and go do the work. I thought maybe this would mean I could get paid more (it didn’t.)

Unloading magazines meant taking the shot or exposed film magazine off the camera, putting it in a black heavy bag, opening it up, removing the exposed 35 mm film, taping the ends down, putting the reel in a metal can and then sealing the can with more tape so no light could get in and ruin the film. Hard to imagine they’d let someone with so little experience do something that really could jeopardize the whole thing but they did and to my knowledge I never messed up any film. I also loaded magazines with unexposed film - less risky but also important to be done right. I had to write stuff on the labels from the camera logs and from that point on I also had to keep those logs which meant writing down scene #s, how much film was exposed for each take – all sorts of stuff that would be used later to determine which parts of the film to actually process and print to a work-print or “dailies” that everyone would watch at the end of the day. I also worked with the AD to put information on the slate and would hand it to him for the actual “clapping” that you see people do. I never got to do that. I also helped on some bigger scenes with setting up dolly track and other related stuff for the camera.

I never got to watch any dailies because of my other job – Winnebago driver. We rented a 26 ft. RV, which served as our “honey wagon”, make up room, dressing room and place for the talent to hang out before and after takes. I had to be at our location hotel early, get it started and cooled down and then drive it to our locations with talent on board.

At the end of the day, the reason I could never stay and watch dailies is because I had to drive the RV to a place and pump out the bathroom and get rid of all the trash so it would be clean for the next day.

My most exciting moment was on our bus crash scene. One scene called for a busload of kids to careen off the road down an embankment into a creek; where of course most of them were going to die.

We blocked off a suitable street and because this was more complicated than our usual scenes, we had 6 or 7 cameras to capture the action from every conceivable angle since no one knew how many takes we might get. We had ONE school bus.

Our driver wasn’t much of a stunt driver and while he was supposed to cut the wheels hard and make the bus roll over so it could of course roll down the hill, he never got it to roll. The plus here was we got to shoot several takes because somehow the bus survived the drive down the hill to be towed back up and done all over again.

How did I have an exciting moment on this shot? I got to operate a 16mm camera down in the creek at the bottom of the hill. I set my tripod up in the water to catch the action of the bus “rolling” down the hill. On one of the later – probably last takes, someone told him to go faster, I guess thinking the speed might finally get him to actually get it to roll.

Cameras all roll, AD calls action, bus starts heading down the street. Stunt driver cuts the wheel but I guess even though he sped up, it didn’t roll over but headed back down the embankment again; just with more speed. Headed right at me.

There were 2 or 3 of us with the camera and as the bus came right at us, all I remember is someone yelling and we all ran away as fast as we could. The bus did come to a stop but not before hitting the camera just hard enough to knock it over backwards into the water. I also do not recall if that film was ruined or what actually happened after that. I think this scene was saved to be one of the last ones shot since it was so much harder.

After about 14 weeks or so, we wrapped up the picture, dismantled everything and most of the crew and talent that came from CA, went home. A few of us stayed on a week or so to shut down the office etc. and get rid of the stuff we’d bought. I still have a hammer from the grip truck on that shoot.

That summer was hot, a lot of hard work and also fun but it gave me a brief taste of a life I would never experience again for another 10 years or so and even then only for a few weeks on another big shoot in LA.

That deferred salary? I never got it. A few years later I heard rumors that the film finally got finished and I thought maybe if it made some money, I’d get paid. I wrote lots of letters but after a few months just gave up. I don’t think the editing was ever finished.

Just as well.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Security

This has been an interesting week related to security (or lack there of) on the web.

I got home from vacation to find my phone bill. Looked it over and noticed an extra $25 or so. Took some closer scrutiny but found a $19.95 charge for a Payment One, Inc. for web hosting provided by Online Entrepreneur.

Right below the charge it says: “Do not call (phone company name) about this charge. Please call Payment One. This is a 3rd party charge.”

I’ve never heard of either of the two names mentioned but I called. An automated system started asking for information. Bells began to go off and I hung up. I called my phone company and while waiting Googled the two names. I got a long listing about these companies and their “slamming” or “cramming” or simply charging people for services they had not ordered.

Got a real live person at the phone co. and while working out to block 3rd party charges (suggest you talk to YOUR phone company about this) he mentioned that “Yes, companies like these take millions of dollars of your money every year.” Wait. Did he said “My money”? I began to connect a few dots. My phone company knows that these companies “steal” from customers. Yet they allow them to use their services.

Why? I’ll take a stab at it – they get a small cut for handling each transaction. A legal consensual transaction or an illegal one – it all pays the same.

He put a block on my phone and said they would “dispute” the first $19.95 charge.
He still suggested I try to get a real live person with Payment One so they could have some verification for their files.

So I tried again and got a real live lady! She started asking me questions and I said “Wait, why should I have to give you more information about me?” At which she said OK and proceeded to read back to me an email address and our phone #. Bottom line, she said she would cancel the service we had ordered. Note the semantics – “we had ordered.”

Seems when you fill out contests or coupon requests or other such seemingly innocent things on the web, Facebook etc. you may – note MAY be giving them approval to do all sorts of things; not the least of which is charge you for some sort of service.

I’m guessing they figure most people won’t notice or fight a small charge buried deep in their phone (or other) bill and/or by the time the poor customer figures it out and spends (as I did) 30 minutes on the phone to sort it all out, they still might give up. Meanwhile those $19.95s start piling up.

Shame on them for doing this. But also shame on the phone companies who allow it to happen in the first place.

And a caution – don’t fill out forms, contests etc. on the web unless you know exactly who you are dealing with and even then provide as little information as possible and nothing personal if you can help it.

Hopefully my little lesson won’t cost me more than my time.

UPDATE: Today I started getting notices from Google that my gmail account had been “accessed” from exotic places like Turkey and Serbia. Did a little digging into what I hope was really Google’s help area and ended up changing my password. Now one more to remember!

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

driving cattle


today my girls got to do something I hope they'll remember for a long time and that few people ever get to do - help in a small cattle drive.

Caleb's ranch got a chance to use some free pasture several miles away so that required moving about 60 momma cows and their babies down the road to their new temporary home.

I had to hang back in the safety of a big truck with baby Vesper but Janie and Anna rode a four-wheeler with Caleb.

It took two guys (Mike Krantz and Josh Senecal) on horseback, two on four-wheelers (Caleb and his brother Josh) and two fast heeler dogs - took them about an hour to travel a few miles to some new green grass.

Nothing happened that wasn't supposed to but I had to laugh at one point - the cows all bunched up so I hung back a little further in case they turned - wanted to give the horses and dogs room to work. When I got to where the "cattle-jam" occured, it was a smal bridge with a weight limit sign "3,000 pounds maximum." I couldn't tell you at any given moment how many cows were on the bridge, but at an average of 1,000 - 1,200 each, I think they busted the limit!

In addition to riding along, every time they passed a road or a driveway, both girls got "road-blocking" duty. They'd stand in the gap with arms spread as the cows passed by.

If you watched Lonesome Dove, I'd say they got the sounds about right - above the diesel drone of Sarah's truck (Aside - my daughter has a much nicer and bigger truck then me!) you could hear the bellowing of the 120 or so cows.

Heeler dogs do exactly that - nip at the heels of slow or unruly cows to keep them moving. Once one of the dogs got caught under neath a calf and went rolling only to hop right back up and resume nipping and pushing. I almost said chasing but they really just cross back-and-forth at the rear to keep things moving. Pretty much the same for the horsemen - crossing back and forth to keep the stragglers from getting too far behind.

Sorry but no stampedes or runaway cattle. I guess when you know what you are doing and my son-in-law and crew obviously do, it looks easy.

Vesper slept through most of it but I would guess at only 2+ months old, this was probably her first cattle drive too. Glad we got to share it!

Sunday, July 24, 2011

rest high on that mountain

Visiting my daughter, son-in-law and of course new grandbaby. Caleb is part of a large Krantz clan that stretches back more than a hundred years and they had a reunion this weekend in St. Ignatius, MT. Maybe 300+ attended and this morning about 50 of them gathered for a family church service.

The original Krantz homestead is in the Mission Valley which lies west of the Mission Mountains north of Missoula. Church was held high on a hill overlooking the valley. The National Bison Range lies to the west, Flathead Lake off in the haze off to the north and of course the Mission Mountains to the east and partly behind us. I've never had a better view of creation during church before. Did I mention we were outside?

We sang Amazing Grace, read the 23rd Psalm and them several family members shared various recollections of the earlier Krantz-s (I don't know how to make a plural of that name!)

Then Caleb's uncle Tom preached. His focus was family, farming and faith. He managed to tie them all together by looking backward to the earlier Krantz, the here-and-now, and of course Heaven. Honestly (and no offense to any current or former pastors) but it was a great little sermon.

When he finished all I wanted to do was sing the doxology (my favorite hymn - if you can call it that) but we just prayed and dismissed.

Not much here except to say that I can't imagine a better location for church than where we were today.

A line of that Vince Gill song from which comes my title goes something like "Go to Heaven a shouting, love for the Father and the Son." I may be taking some liberty in how I interpret that song but it fit today's location and the message.

Maybe I'll come back next year if they let me!

Friday, July 1, 2011

It’s a small world or you won't believe this!

Several years ago – March 2006 to be precise, our home was hit by a tornado.

The oddest thing was that we had already sold the house but were still living there.

The couple that bought it were moving from California and may have even been in MO at the time planning to stay with friends etc. until we moved out later in the month.

You can only imagine their devastation at seeing their newly purchased home devastated.

The month passed, we moved out (actually never moved back in – spent most of the time in a hotel and returned every day to begin the clean-up and packing process) and they began the re-building process. They did a fabulous job (wished we could have moved back in!) but I think the trauma of what happened was too much and they put the house on the market and moved back to CA.

Fast-forward to today.

I was out shooting some video and some of the work crew there wore ball caps with Webster Farms on them. We struck up a conversation while waiting on some equipment to arrive. Our home in 2006 was in Seymour in Webster County.

As we talked one of them asked me where I had lived. As I gave the street name, he asked “where on that street?” I began to describe the location rather than giving an address and mentioned, “after the gravel starts, then our house was up on the hill to the right.”

Imagine my surprise when he said he lived there now.

Seems he bought the house from the CA couple after they moved away and has been living it since then.

We began to share more details about neighbors, other houses, our Amish neighbors, fences, trees knocked down by the tornado, etc.

We enjoyed our 10 or so minute chat, parted ways and I felt like I made a new friend; even if I will likely never see him again. Even though the house he moved into was very different than the one I lived in, I felt like we shared something; had something in common.

Co-incidences do happen and this one ranks with the more unusual I’ve experienced.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Israel, Obama and the NY Times

I’m nowhere near smart enough (nor stupid enough) to have real ideas on what should/could/might be done in the Middle East with the intractable Israeli/Palestinian problem.

What I write below is more about how this is being reported and interpreted already.
But first read these two paragraphs from today’s NY Times:

“His (Obama’s) decision to put the United States formally on record as supporting the 1967 borders as the starting point for negotiations over a Palestinian state marks a subtle (italics mine) — but, for the contentious Israeli-Palestinian peace process, potentially important — moved the United States a step closer to a position long held by the Palestinians. (Try to deconstruct that sentence?)

The shift is significant because it means America now explicitly (italics mine again)backs the view that new Israeli settlement construction outside those borders would have to be reversed — or compensated for by exchanges of territory — in talks over the formation of a new Palestinian state.“

I’d like to pick on a couple of words, that to me are hugely important in how used and that they were used at all.

I started out to read Obama’s speech but at more than 8 pages, well I do have a paying day job that beckons.

In graf #1 – it reads: “… marks a subtle …” Subtle? Asking Israel to give up a huge amount of settled land that provides a well-known buffer of at least perceived relative safety from neighboring countries, is subtle? Like a brick I guess. One that could easily be thrown. Based on the dangerously little I know, this is far from a “subtle” shift. I’m not aware of any President or Congress since 1967 that has ever suggested Israel give up land seized in the 6 Day War of 1967 when Israeli was attacked (was that mentioned anywhere today?)

Can we question the wisdom (or lack of) in some of Israel’s actions related to the West Bank, Golan Heights and Gaza Strip? Of course. But to suggest that they give this up is far from subtle. My point here is not to debate what Israel should do but rather how they (NY Times) is already “spinning” this in a pro-Obama way.

Point or word #2 – “America now explicitly (italics mine) backs the view …” Which or what America? The White House? Congress? Voters? Jewish Americans? Just askin’.

I just read someone who said ‘America threw Israel under the bus.’ I tend to agree.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Rob Bell’s Heaven and Hell

Much has been written already about this controversial book.

Whatever your thoughts/ideas/arguments – the ones that follow are mine and they are based on my reading of the book – all of it.

From what I have read of reviews etc. the main criticism comes from the assumption/assertion that Mr. Bell is a universalist; i.e. that ALL will go to Heaven no matter what your particular religion, belief, creed etc.

I had never heard the term Universalist until I started reading about this book (most of which came before publication.)

So I can’t speak to that issue in a broad or even specific sense but I can speak a little to what I think he says in the book or maybe why he says it the way he does.

Semantics and definitions are important. And it is entirely possible that I missed a boat as big as the Titanic here but …

I think one needs to understand Bell’s definitions of Heaven and Hell first – before weighing in on his supposed premise – that all go to Heaven.

I’ll put this simply and this does leave room for plenty of disagreement with me and/or with him: I don’t think he thinks of Heaven as being just the great over there, place in the sky etc. And I don’t think he considers Hell to be just a place of fire somewhere below. I think he thinks both of these can be/are part of our lives here on this earth too.

You can agree with my interpretation or not. You can agree or not with his definitions. But I think this is at least one place to start rather than jumping onto his “Universalist” premise.

Having read the book cover-to-cover, I’m not sure I agree with the “U” label. Does he have some controversial ideas or positions? No doubt.

But does his book also offer some possible new insights? You bet.

Does he ask thought provoking questions? Definitely.

I won’t try to review the book but will close with one question that is at least worth thinking about (and I hope this is not an “Angels on the head of a pin” argument!):
Luke 23:34 – Jesus on the cross says: “Father forgive them, for they know now what they do.” (italics mine)

Who is “they”? The people who crucified Him? Those who accused Him and allowed/caused Him to be crucified? Those standing around watching it happen? Or does it go further than that? Are any of us, “they”?

Jerusalem

With Benjamin Netanyahu in the U.S. this week (I got to meet him a few years back and my daughter and I had our picture made with him) two suggestions: read Friedman’s column in today’s NY Times and read the lyrics by Steve Earle from 2002 also below.

Jerusalem

I woke up this mornin' and none of the news was good
And death machines were rumblin' 'cross the ground where Jesus stood
And the man on my TV told me that it had always been that way
And there was nothin' anyone could do or say

And I almost listened to him
Yeah, I almost lost my mind
Then I regained my senses again
And looked into my heart to find

That I believe that one fine day all the children of Abraham
Will lay down their swords forever in Jerusalem

Well maybe I'm only dreamin' and maybe I'm just a fool
But I don't remember learnin' how to hate in Sunday school
But somewhere along the way I strayed and I never looked back again
But I still find some comfort now and then

Then the storm comes rumblin' in
And I can't lay me down
And the drums are drummin' again
And I can't stand the sound

But I believe there'll come a day when the lion and the lamb
Will lie down in peace together in Jerusalem

And there'll be no barricades then
There'll be no wire or walls
And we can wash all this blood from our hands
And all this hatred from our souls

And I believe that on that day all the children of Abraham
Will lay down their swords forever in Jerusalem.

Steve Earle 2002

Monday, May 16, 2011

Graduation speech

This is going to be a LONG post. But at least two people have asked to read the speech I gave at my daughter's graduation last Friday night and this is the easiest way to make that possible. I had so much more to say but tried to keep this at a reasonable "what the butt can tolerate level." And still had one senior in the front row who laughed the whole time (hopefully not at me!) Take it for what it's worth. I give myself a B+ on the writing end of it but maybe a C- on delivery.

I probably shouldn't be but have been thinking about actually giving the speech and I remember so little of it. I couldn't remember if I said everything or not. I was actually reminded of the first (and one of only a few) times I carried a football in a game. 6th grade - the QB handed off to me and the next thing I know I'm 10 or so yards down the field getting tackled and have no idea how I got there. Some people might call that being in "the zone" or the "flow". Maybe for my speech I was in the "Ozone!"

But any way - here it comes - lots of text.

The more things change – the more they stay the same

This is not about me, tonight is about you but since most of you don’t know me … I was raised by a single father, Texan by birth but thinking about trying to say Missourah so more people will think I’m a native, have lived in Everton for 5 years, married more than 34 years, 5 kids – one of whom is here tonight with this year’s senior class – and as of last Tuesday I became a grandpa – a different daughter in case you are wondering!

In 1971, that’s 40 years ago, I was working at an ice cream shop and finishing high school.

What was the world, my world like way back then?

Not a whole lot different than yours. It was VERY different from yours.

If you are short any history credits, check with Mr. Mozier and maybe you can get some make-up credit for being here tonight.

And before I go on – in case any one checks facts or wonders which parts are mine or somebody else’s – I needed to go back to the internet to brush up on my history.

A couple of names deserve credit for inspiration and some specific quotes – Seth Godin, Bob Leftsetz – check them both out on the web.

Back to 1971 - Our country was at war.

Gas prices were rising.

We were all afraid.

The more things change – the more they stay the same.

Our country was at war – a hot one and a cold one. We are involved in at least two or maybe even three wars right now.

Gas prices were rising – to a whopping 36 cents a gallon. To put things in perspective, that 36 cents would be about $2.94 in today’s dollars.

What were we afraid of in 1971? Communism. It’s why we were fighting in a small country called Vietnam – actually 2 countries, north and south. We moved in after the French moved out after they fought there for awhile. Hmmm.

The more things change –

Today one fear is terrorism. Maybe a little less with the demise of bin Laden. That’s why we went to Afghanistan in the first place. Let’s see: the Russians invaded Afghanistan in 1979. They stayed around for a decade or so and then left. The Taliban moved in and then …

I hope some of this is starting to sound familiar.

This spring has been one of bad weather. The earthquake and Tsunami in Japan were much, much worse than just bad weather. In Feb. 1971 more than 50 tornadoes swept across Mississippi killing 75 people. In April that year a tsunami taller than 250 feet went ashore in Japan. Later in 1971 more than 10,000 people were killed in a cyclone in India.

– the more they stay the same

The Space Shuttle Endeavor is supposed to take off again on Monday. In 1971, we put men on the moon again.

Wiki Leaks has been in recent news. I’m sure even more secret government documents will be released. Heard of the Pentagon Papers? In 1971 the NY Times got and printed classified documents about the Vietnam War.

The more things change –

To end 1971 on a happier note – some good things did happen – Walt Disney World opened in Orlando.

And one more story in case you think all this history doesn’t matter. In July 1971 the 26th Amendment to the Constitution was adopted. Anybody know what it was?
It allowed the 12 Everton grads of 1971 who were 18 years old, to vote.

Hopefully you see that - the more things change, the more they stay the same and how this matters.

Let’s look at some changes.

Sadly one visible thing has changed – In July 1971 – The South Tower of the World Trade Center was topped out at 1,362 feet, making it the second tallest building in the world. We all know what happened there on 9/11 30 years later.

Contrary to popular rumor, Al Gore did not invent the Internet. It was in its early stages in 1971. One guy sent the very first email in 1971. Heard of floppy discs? In 1971 they were 8 inches around - about the size of a vinyl record. Do I need to explain vinyl records?

Those 8-inch floppies could store about 80 Kilobytes of information. An mp3 on your iPod or iPhone is maybe 4 or 5 megabytes. Those floppies couldn’t hold even one song today. And the first microprocessor was marketed in 1971- mainly in calculators. These little things now make computers, smart phones, your microwave – just about everything we use today, possible.

The biggest change has been in this area of communications. In 1971, we listened to radio, watched one of maybe 3 channels on TV or waited until we got home from school to read the newspaper. Yep, a few places still had afternoon newspapers.

Today of course we surf the web, we facebook, we tweat - some of you may be texting your BFF - even while I’m talking right now. You have tons of communications freedom.
Apart from it being a lot of fun and a great way to waste time, what does all this freedom mean for you and your future? The one you start tomorrow?

When I was in high school you could get away with a lot; hide a lot. Now – not so much. Anything you post on Facebook – EVER – might show up in a job interview someday so think about those pictures you posted from that recent party.

I heard a new phrase this week – data exhaust – it’s the trail of information you leave behind on the Internet. Your character is what you are like when no one is looking. Your reputation is based on what others say or know about you from when they are looking. The Internet has a very long memory. So be careful.

Where are you going from here?

As a college graduate with 2 degrees – You’d think I’d be an evangelist for college. Yes I am. No, I am not. Some of you may not be right for college. Some of you may not want to go.

I could tell you that if you don’t go to college it will cost you tens of thousands or more in lost income for your working life. I could also tell you that if you DO go to college, you might still be paying off your student loans 20 years from now. Both of these might come true. Neither of them has to come true. Think about your decision carefully.

Decisions that you make now will impact your lives forever.

Decisions that you make today might not even matter tomorrow.

The important thing is to know the difference.

This wouldn’t qualify as a graduation speech if I didn’t give you some grandfatherly advice so I’ll cautiously move into that territory.

Be kind – the people you treat today might be interviewing you for a job tomorrow.

Read. Never stop learning. Class may be over but the world is one big classroom – only this class starts every day when you get up and lasts until you go to bed at night. Decide what you want to be learning each day.

And don’t assume you know what you need to know – you haven’t learned it all even though you might think so.

Choose who & what you are going to listen to – if you don’t choose, somebody else is already doing it for you.

A decision to not make a decision is a decision. Not picking what you want to learn means somebody else is doing the picking – your friends – the media which now means facebook and twitter too.

What are our fears in 2011 – terrorism? Global warming? A failing economy?

But what can we do about any of these? Cower in fear or get on with our lives? These make up many of those same things I’ve been mentioning.

We learn to succeed by how we handle failure. I think it was Yoda who said “there is no try, only do.” Sometimes you do and it doesn’t.

Be intentional. Don’t just let stuff happen to you. You can’t control it, but you can control your reaction.

Hope and opportunity are in front of you – not behind you. Someone this week talked about taking our past and projecting it into our future. Don’t do that. You can’t undo one thing in your past but you have absolute and complete control over your future. Except of course for the things you have no control over. That same stuff.

I’ve driven Annie nuts with this one but consider the 10,000 hours principle. It takes doing something about 10,000 hours in order to be really good at it. I heard it put another way once – it takes 2 years to be a technician – another 8 years to be a craftsman. My father spent almost 40 years fixing wrecked cars. And when the man he worked for most of his life shutdown the business, my dad was recruited by body shops all over Dallas. He was a craftsman and everybody knew it.

Let’s put it another way, Justin Bieber may be famous but I’m not sure he’s been out of diapers for 10,000 hours.

Strive to be a craftsman. Practice and then practice some more.

All of you graduating tonight have been in class more than 15,000 hours already. So you are really, REALLY good at what? Going to school of course. And before I forget – you should be commended for sticking it out – for not quitting.

I saw a statistic this week. Out of all the people unemployed right now – and not to depress you but that’s close to 1 in every 10 folks – more than a 3rd of them did not finish high school. You are already way ahead!

Some of you are very popular. That may be working out fine for you so far. But out there – the place you go tomorrow? Don’t count on it.

From Seth - "Popular is not a measure of impact, or genius, or art. Popular rarely equals guts, hard work or a willingness to lead (and be willing to be wrong along the way).

The search for popular is highly overrated."

We want to be picked. Who can forget the humiliation of being picked last for the kickball game OR not being picked at all! Been there, done that!

Seth again - "It's a cultural instinct to wait to get picked. Once you reject that impulse and realize no one is going to “pick” you -- that Prince Charming really has chosen another girl -- then you can get to work.

Once you understand that there are problems just waiting to be solved, once you realize that you have all the tools and all the permission you need, then opportunities abound.”

If you are not going to college – the days of one job-one career are gone.
A Dept of Labor study shows that the median time in a job for people my age is 10 years. I’m 58 and since college I’ve had 4 jobs. That works out to be about 9 years per job for me. For those 25 to 34 though, the average tenure drops to just over 3 years. You will have and quit lots and lots of jobs.

If you ARE going to college - Learn how to read and write – learn how to study.

I was smart (at least I thought I was) – graduated with honors in a class of 200+. I got to college – clueless – didn’t know how to study, or REALLY read and certainly not write. My GPA the first two years was pretty bad – and this from a boy who almost made straight A’s. At the time this never seemed to matter. But years later when I started thinking about grad school – the low GPA really mattered. So decisions you make today won’t matter. I can cut that class. Decisions you make today can matter for a long, long time. Wish I hadn’t cut that class.

The future of America, is based upon an idea. This came from Mr. Leftsetz.

Coupons have been around since before I was around. But in the last year or so I bet you’ve heard of Groupon. What is it? Simply a way to put people together to buy things at a reduced price. What did it take to put this together? A guy, an idea and a million dollars.

OK that million part may be out of your range but Andrew Mason, was in college and working designing websites when he started Groupon. Last year it was reported that Google offered to buy Groupon for more than $5 billion. That’s a B. He turned them down.

My point here is Mason was just a kid in college. He saw something. He had an idea. He happened to know an entrepreneur with some money. And the rest …

Almost all of you have a cell phone, or a smart phone. You have more computing power at your fingertips than anyone imagined back in 1971. You can set up a website for less than $10 per year! You can go into business for yourself in your dorm or bedroom and with just an idea, do things I couldn’t even dream of 40 years ago.

My dad’s tools were hammers and wrenches. Mine were cameras and videotape. Yours can fit in the palm of your hand.

The more things change, the more they stay the same. You have a chance to make the changes. Be the change you want to see.

Focus on the areas where YOU can make changes – your self – your family – your neighborhood – your own future.

If you have an idea – start writing a blog about it. Someone might read it. Maybe they’ll be the entrepreneur with all that money you need to jumpstart your idea.

Phil Vassar wrote a song – sung by Tim McGraw- My Next 30 Years.

I’d like to read the lyrics as I close. I’ve changed a word or two.

Congratulations again! Thank you for letting me be a part of your special evening.

For those copyrighted lyrics - look them up. I read them out loud.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Transition

This is certainly a week of transition for my family.

Tuesday my oldest had her first daughter, my first grandchild.

On Friday, daughter #3 graduates from high school. More on that in a future post.

So both of them enter new worlds. Scary new worlds. No turning back.

Daughter #1 will experience the biggest changes. She and her husband are no longer just a couple. They are parents with all the scary responsibility that goes with that. She will become a working mom - trying to do all the juggling that working mothers do everyday. She and her husband have to adjust to one more person who has to factor into every decision they make. A tiny fragile little person.

But as she has proven (and I've learned) during the last 28 years - not too fragile. Plenty of ups and downs and she's weathered them all. I hope we've prepared her for this next stage of life. But even if we haven't, she can handle it because I've seen her rise to the challenges before. She's very strong and very smart!

Becoming a grandfather is pretty easy. Go to bed one night and wake up the next morning with a grandbaby! Nothing to it. But it's still a transition. Now when I think of things, I can't help but include the newest little one. The only hard part for me is she/they live 1,600 miles away so I can't just pop over for a quick visit. But I'm already planning and thinking about making the trip SOON!

Daughter #3's transition is simple and easy except that it's not. Heading out into the unsheltered world of work and college (or not). I think I've tried to prepare her for this - although I don't think she's liked the "preparation" very much. Let's just say that in her case my "mentoring" skills have likely left more to be desired. Again she's also strong (-willed) and very smart.

We'll see what happens next in all our collective and individual lives.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Definitely a small world

Running an errand this morning and heard about a lunchtime concert downtown. A cellist would be performing at St. Paul’s UMC.

I’m not a huge classical fan but can enjoy it in small doses so decided maybe this would be a nice way to spend a Friday lunch-hour.

I dropped in and while finding a seat noticed a familiar face from church. (St. Paul’s is not mine.) I went up to greet him and we chatted for a minute when I asked him what his connection was to the concert. He responded; “I sired him.” My first reaction was to assume he meant he had something to do with pulling the concert together. Then he expanded to indicate the cellist was his son.

Steaurt Pincombe is his name and he plays a cello made in 1720. It is on loan from Jumpstart Jr. – a Dutch foundation that is the custodian of a unique collection of string instruments crafted by old masters and they loan them to promising young musicians.

I only recognized one piece – Bach of course, but figure I’ve grown my brain a little bit today.

Without being an aficionado or artiste, I did notice one thing (maybe I noticed) but he seems to move his left hand a lot. Some of the pieces he played were very fast and his hand jumped all over the place. In his attempt to be historically accurate in the way he plays, he holds the cello between his legs – no endpin (as it is called) – like they did in the Baroque era. He also plays with three different bows depending on the period of the piece he is playing. He joked frequently about the amount of time spent tuning. Seems cello strings are tempermental!

Steaurt has a website (http://www.steuartpincombe.com) where you can learn more about him.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Troubadours

Heard about this PBS doc and finally watched it last night. Somewhat repetitious since I watched the PBS version of the Carole King/James Taylor re-union performance at the famed Hollywood club.

Still a nice trip down nostalgia lane. I still enjoy the parts with King/Taylor but wished they'd delved more into some of the other groups who maybe got their break or U.S. exposure at the Troubadour. Like Eagles (note not "THE" Eagles) - according to Glenn Frey, Eagles is their real name) Lots of history passed through that room. Wish there was video/film of more of it. More of Jackson Browne would have been nice.

I guess I came of age musically during the late 60s/early70s so much of my taste, what I can play personally comes from a steady diet of that sort of singer/songwriter stuff.

It is hard to accept that we will never pass that way again but those songs and memories are made fresh again when I see something like this program. I still have some James Taylor on my iPod and Tapestry in my car CD player so maybe I'm just frozen in that time.

But not an entirely bad time to get stuck in. And my daughter enjoys singing along with me so that's a nice fringe benefit too!

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Egypt and some history

Taking my daughter early this morning for her 3rd or 4th try on the ACT (so far she has a 29 and we are hoping for that elusive but valuable 30) and she asked me “what’s going on in Egypt?”

My first thought (though not verbally expressed) was “What rock have you been living under?” then she added they have been at school only two days in the last two weeks (snow days) so …

I began to explain my version – repeat – MY VERSION of what has happened.

I told her in order to understand what is happening today and how it might impact tomorrow; we have to know about yesterday – not in literal terms of course.

I said about 30 years ago Anwar Sadat, then Pres. of Egypt started making peace with Israel. Probably because of those efforts he was assassinated. Hosni Mubarrak took his place. I think at first we were glad because our goal THEN was to keep Egypt from getting too close to the Communist Russians (remember the Wall was still up.) and Egypt (while under Nasser I think) had been flirting with the communists before.

Sidebar: ironic that during the cold war we were worried about the communists getting a foothold in the Middle East. Now our worries are still about who gains control.

Now we need to step back further. I don’t know all the history but I think in the beginning we supported the Shah of Iran. We may have even been responsible for helping him assume (or at least keep) power. The U.S. needed allies in the Middle East.

We all know how that turned out. In 1979 they take over our embassy in Tehran, the first Ayatollah takes charge and an era of militant Islam begins, (maybe not exactly in that order). Iran has been through several different leaders but essentially they are still both religiously and politically oppressed.

Why do I refer to this? Whatever we did in Iran didn’t work. So I told my daughter that what happens next in Egypt is crucial. Will they turn towards democracy? Will they look toward a religious leader and lean toward some form of Shariah law? Or find some middle ground?

I don’t presume to know what form of government the protesters really want in Egypt. Maybe they will be able to craft some sort of govt. that is inclusive and liberal in terms of Islam. I don’t know what role the U.S. should have in that. I’d have to say our track record is not very good.

I told her that after 30+ years, the people of Egypt decided they wanted a new government, they wanted to be politically free and they took to the streets to protest. Maybe getting rid of Mubarrak was the easy part. The tough job is figuring out step 2.

I also suggested she take some of her daily Facebook time and instead spend it reading some articles to get a fuller picture. In 15 or 20 years she will look at Egypt and wonder how they ended up they way they are (in 2026 or so) and if she keeps up and tries to understand what is going on now, while it happens, she’ll have a better handle on it then and can explain it to her children.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Sugarland

Rifling through some CDs at the library today & ran across Sugarland's latest, Incredible Machine so I grabbed it for a listen on the way home.

I like Sugarland as much as anybody. They are both cute, she has a strong voice and their songs are usually catchy.

This album is no exception, except - what happened to the country? I don't listen to very much general pop stuff but this sounds like what THAT probably sounds like. Nettle's voice still has plenty of twang but that's all the country left in the music. Again tunes are fine - just wondering what their plan is.

Dierks Bentley slightly wandered off the reservation with his Up on the Ridge (which I happen to like) and I imagine his fans will forgive him and as long as he doesn't play too much of it at concerts, will be fine.

Maybe the same thing for Sugarland. The pop stuff likely goes over well at concerts but I wonder who is playing it? I listen to 2 country stations and all they play off this project is the silly Stuck on You song.

My oldest daughter is a big Sugarland fan so I'll have to check in with her and see how she likes the new sound.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

words for 2011

Never have been one for resolutions per se and not going to start here or now. But I do have a couple of words (for me) for 2011.

One of my favorite verses is Micah 6:8 “But to do justly and to love mercy and walk humbly with my God.”

We have a mouse problem in our house. The little critters seem to have a penchant for climbing inside our walls and then when they can’t get out, they die. A day or two later they stink. We have to cut holes in our drywall and fish them out. Some of our walls in closets look like Swiss cheese! We trap aggressively and so far this winter (fingers tightly crossed!), so good.

This morning I headed out to do morning feeding chores. In the horse feed container (we keep all our feed in tightly closed trash cans- see mouse problem above) I noticed a dark lump. Sometimes the molasses in grain makes it stick together in clumps. I tried to pick up the dark clump and it moved. I realized it was a mouse. I caught it and typically it would be meeting its maker very soon. For some odd reason I decided I would let it go.

After feeding the horse I took our dogs on a walk. By the way it is very cold in Missouri this morning! I went way back on our 40 acres before I let the mouse go. As regular readers of my musings know, I pray when I walk my dogs. After letting the mouse go, I was doing my usual and starting thinking about mercy. [sidebar – I’m reading a big hard book on suffering that I’m supposed to write a review for – more on this at another time – but one theme is God’s mercy toward us.] So as I thought about the New Year, resolutions etc. an odd thought crossed my mind. In a silly, stupid way, I showed mercy to that small mouse. He meant no harm; just doing what mice do on cold days, look for food. I decided that mercy would be one of my words for the year. I really don’t know how to practice it but I’ll try.

I said a couple of words. Number two: Hope.

As some of those close to our family may know, we (like everybody else) have our share of struggles. Many of which are not always obvious or discernable; sometimes even to those very close. I’ll not share those right now. But hope will be my desire for 2011. I want to have hope that things can change. That things will get better where they need to.

My wife’s favorite hymn ends with these lines:

"Pardon for sin and a peace that endureth
Thine own dear presence to cheer and to guide;
Strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow,
Blessings all mine, with ten thousand beside!"

So for 2011 mercy and hope are my resolutions, my words. What are yours?