Saturday, November 22, 2008

Hot Spots

My wife is a member of a cult. Their Internet contact point is Fly Lady. Fly Lady is a warped and twisted individual intent on bringing order, neatness and an uncluttered life to all families. In other words, she is the devil incarnate!!

I am a “collector” of things. I got my first job when I was 12. I worked in a TV repair shop. The owner – Mel – gave me permission to take any of the old TVs that couldn’t be fixed. I cut out parts and built the first stereo in my grade. When we moved to Iowa 28 years later, she said she had finally thrown out the dozens of old sets left in her attic.

Years in the military moving between bases forced me to tighten things up quit a bit, but, with marriage came FREEDOM!!! I could collect, keep magazines, electronic components, computer parts, radio parts, guns, - - and books. After Susie and I married we owned our own home – WITH ALL THAT ROOM!!! Honestly I have a very hard time throwing things out – what if I NEED that stuff?? That article – component – radio – computer (doesn’t everyone have a Commodore 64?? Or a SWTB 6800 circia 1978??). How can I possibly part with THAT???

Enter the cult with its "Hot Spot". Susie became committed to bringing order from chaos. Honestly, her success has been startling! I believe the words are “baby steps” and taking 15 minutes to focus on a “hot spot”. I wasn’t very supportive in her efforts but she has been relentless! And, slowly, she has been trying to “convert” me. I am being a “little” resistant. But, every once and awhile one of my prime “hot spots” needs work. The kitchen counter, a landing near our front door and the corner of our bedroom on my side of the bed. I would like to say I have enough discipline to keep those areas tidy – I don’t. Eventually, she can’t take it any more. She looks at me sternly and reminds me she has been waiting for my “hot spot” efforts to pick up – I delay for a bit more. Finally, she gives me “the look”! Geezz, not “the look”! She knows I can’t take it! So, today, I made an effort to clean up the magazines in my corner of the bedroom – Astronomy, QST, Home Power, Handgunner, Rush’s news letter, Writer, Outdoors, Backpacker – probably about 60-100 old issues. That’s all, only 60 – 100 back issues, Geezz!!

It’s not enough of an effort, I know. I keep promising to do better, but there is surly something in those 60-100 back issues that I will desperately some day, it’s such a waste!

And now they're gone!  Gone!. . . . Gone! . . . . Gone!

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Men’s jobs – Women’s Jobs

I have been married to my soul mate for 36 years. We dated for 6 years before that. We have been through Vietnam, 2 kids, cancer – both her and me, the trials of owning your own business for 25 years, grand kids – and the millions of challenges life tosses your way just for fun.

We are, what I would call, gender-liberated. I mean that I do not see her of being incapable of any task just because she is a woman. She tells me she believes the same of me – even though a shudder visibly runs through her body when I pick up any kind of tool within the confines of our home. “Should I call Jeremy???” is uttered in a rather hopeful manner – “or how about Edwards Plumbing??” – at the site of a wrench, hammer, or God forbid, a battery powered tool. (Just for the record, I KNOW I could fix anything if only I had one of those really cool compressed air nail guns!!! It’s on my Christmas list!!!!!!!) She clearly has doubts as to my actual God-given talents!!

Through 36 years of marriage, I have discovered however that there are in deed Men’s jobs and Women’s Jobs. One such experience happened this very morning.

One of Susie’s sacred morning tasks is the feeding, watering and litter box cleaning of/for our owner, Miss Daisy the cat. Daisy carefully watches each task, squeaking appropriately if some task is not completed to her specifications. Today there was another tasked needing handling concerning Miss Daisy.

“Willie – Daisy has a chunk of poop on her butt!” I am deep in my daily read, seeing if Obama has taken us entirely to hell or if we are simply at a rest area in between. I am not really paying attention (although that’s not too uncommon for me). “Willie!!!” “Yes sweetie???” “Daisy has a chunk of poop on her butt!” I look at her, seeing she as a piece of paper towel in her hand, and foolishly ask “well, aren’t you going to pull it off?!?!?!?” “Heck no! That’s YOUR job!!” And so I ponder this point. At some time during our marriage, our love and support of each other, our challenges, our joys – it has become MY JOB to remove a chunk of poop from our kitty’s rear end.

I do, of course. I’m not stupid! I have survived, and even thrived, in our 36 years of marriage. Because I know that there are:

Men’s jobs – and Women’s jobs!!

Thursday, November 13, 2008


Not my strong suit really. I grew up an only child. My dad died when I was 7, my mom never remarried – she just sucked it up, got a better paying job and raised me to be independent, have a strong belief in God and know I could accomplish whatever I wanted to accomplish.

She succeeded. I have always had a “plan”. To join the military, to learn electronics, to get a degree in electronics, in computer engineering, to have my own business. Things never seemed to happen fast enough – yet they eventually happen.

Life has seen fit to attempt to teach me patience throughout my lifetime. It keeps trying, over and over and over and over . . . . . .

It often uses my business to teach this lesson.

I need something to happen yesterday – life is unconcerned. It knows things will be fine even if “it” happens next week.

I find this terribly frustrating - Life is uncaring.

I find this just a little nerve-wracking, - Life yawns.

I need $20,000 by Monday!!!!!!! Life looks on, sighs – explains in a quiet, whispered tone: “patience, patience – all happens in its own time”.

Heavy sigh! I know, I know.

UPDATE 4:00 PM Friday Afternoon: The phone rings: "Hello??"

"Bill, it's Mark - no check yet?"

"Nope - still nothing."

"OK, tell ya what, we are going to overnight a replacement check for Saturday morning delivery. Sorry for the problem."

"Thanks Mark, I appreciate it!"

"No problem Bill, enjoy the grandkids!"

Life looks on, sighs – explains in a quiet, whispered tone: “patience, patience – all happens in its own time”.

Heavy sigh! I know, I know.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Long ago – yesterday.


“Happy Veterans Day Dad”. Chrissy has never missed this greeting on November 11th. I never really know what to say, so I say “Thanks sweetie”.  I appreciate her remembering. 

April 23, 1971 – the day I returned to “the world”. 37 years ago – can it be that long ago, that short of time ago? Today is Veterans Day. There are really millions and millions of “Veterans Days” – we all had our own experience, our own tour of duty, our own memories. Mine are as boring as many, more harrowing than some and mine alone.

I spent 21 years in the Air Force and the Air National Guard. I began as an Airman – pay grade E1 and ended 21 years later as a Lt. Col. – an O5. I spent time in 4 countries during that time – with duty ranging from a radio repair man to being the OIC (Officer In Charge) of an Avionics shop for a fighter wing. Yet, when I think of my service, of being a veteran, my memory turns to Vietnam. I do find I get emotional – I have no idea why. I suffered no real trauma. I was never wounded – although I had a watch hit by shrapnel. The number of fire fights I was in could be counted on a two hands. The number of nights I was rocketed – well – that’s a different matter. I was at one of the most active air bases in the Central Highlands – so no real surprise that we were a prime target. But, we had a well informed “mama-san” who would let us know the nights we should spend some time in the bunker. She probably batted .400, not bad when someone is trying to drop high explosives on your delicate little body.

I did spend a little time with the Army – 4th ID. I would tell you what unit, etc. but, honestly, as an Air Force guy, I never really “got it” as far as unit designators. There was a unit of us stationed at Ahn Khe – of “We Were Soldiers Once – and Young”. We were their ALCE unit and provided air support to move supplies, man power – even entertainment.

Vietnam was a “have to” for me. I’m not really sure why. My dad was too young for WWI and too old for WWII. He spent his time in a GM plant building tanks. I even have an award for some sort of innovation he came up for to make manufacturing better. My uncle Victor was a bomber pilot over Germany. He completed his 30 missions loosing only one crewman. My uncle Clemmy was a flight instructor for the war. I was raised on a host of TV shows that showed the man to be the take charge, the get things done guy. And, regardless of the political times of the late 60s, I saw our war in Vietnam as just and believed the people of South Vietnam deserved our support. It was a place I needed to be. And, while I had a full scholarship to a local community college, I enlisted just before graduation and then told my mom what I had done. She didn’t say much – “Oh Willie.”   Vietnam was dinner fare – body counts, dead soldiers. I think she took solace that I was going to the Air Force, not the Army. I graduated 5 months after Tet – if you were male, could walk, the military was in your future. And, the Air Force was perfect for me, I was very interested in electronics and they were very interested it teaching me. From basic to electronics school to - - - Taiwan.

Talk about culture shock. Our primary mission was deterrence of China. We also acted as a repair station for severely damaged aircraft. It was a challenging job, a foreign culture and a true adventure for a 19 year old. December 1969 I presented my mom her Christmas present – a letter saying I would not be home in April, but rather I had volunteered for Vietnam and would be going there directly from Taiwan. I’m told she cried for weeks. The foolishness of a 19 year old. Yet, I was going to where I knew I needed to go.

So, on the evening of April 21st I boarded a plane in Taipei and flew to Tan Sa Nut AFB. We arrived in darkness (I always seemed to travel in darkness). There was no one to meet me, everything was closed, so I curled up in a corner on a concrete floor and slept as best I could. It was strange seeing armed APs in flack jackets walking around – all business.

A couple days later I walked out on the ramp and stepped on to the ramp of a C-123. This was a combination of a turboprop cargo plane with jet assist. You sat sideways in web seats, the pilot stood on the breaks, cranked up all engines and you were airborne in a very short distance. A handy feature since it wasn’t unusual to pick up a couple of rounds on takeoff.

My first base was Pleiku, in the Central Highlands. I got there as we began a real push into Laos to interrupt the Ho Chi Min trail. Thousands of troops left our base in May of 1970 – the same time students were killed at Kent State. The local VC didn’t like this at all and hammered us nightly with rockets. You hear it come, hear it hit and wondered as you halled ass to the bunker whether it’ll go off before you hit the bunker. Based on personal experience, the answer was usually “yes”.

I made road trips to our ALCE unit at Ahn Khe. We road in a 1 ½ truck, sand bags tucked under the seat – our version of “up armor”. The worst patch was MangYang Pass. Very steep, very crowded and a very big target. But, we were never directly attacked. Our number just never came up. Eventually I transferred to our ALCE unit at Ahn Khe. A small team, focused, busy – we were their complete airport support – probably 15-20 guys total. We were technically “outside the gate” of the Army. We were responsible for our own security. So we had our usual duty hours and then hours on guard duty. I was there around 4 months, arriving back at Plekiu the beginning of March 1971.

This was probably the most dangerous time of my tour. The US had begun pulling out. And, while the Vietnamese were still flying missions from Pleiku, most US missions were out of the larger US bases. This made us a easier target. I joined the APs as an augmentee. What that meant was days of duty and nights in secure bunkers around the base on an M60 team. We were tested nightly, probes here in there, sappers coming in trying to take out the A1 Sky Raiders – old WWII aircraft that could absorb tremendous amounts of ground fire. They were called Sandys and were used to protect downed pilots or for close air support for ground troops.

In mid March, we were completely penetrated. Our control tower was severely damaged with two controllers gravely wounded. My roomie, Mike, and I grabbed our weapons, repair bags, and headed to our shop and the tower. The shop had been blown by satchel charges, the tower hit by B40 shoulder launched rockets. The area was unsecured. We spent a hairy night playing hide and seek with some VC intent on damaging more aircraft, more equipment. Finally securing things enough to see how bad off we were, we were able to establish enough communications to let the replacement controllers to contact the aircraft that had scrambled and either land them or guide them to other bases.

The next three days were a blur. A portable tower was flown in from Clark AFB in the Philippines. Mike and I jury rigged it into our communication systems. In the end, communications were only out for a few hours.

More nights in bunkers with M-60s. More days just keeping things going, counting down the remaining days. Finally, on April 23, 1971, I left for the world. When I left men were wearing black suits, white shirts, black ties, black shoes. When I came home, the colors of the 70s were in full bloom – very strange. I landed 11 hours after I took off – international dateline you know. Finally, I was on the runway in Flint, Michigan. The folks around me asked me if I was coming home. They let me out first. Across the ramp I could see Susie waiting at the gate. The first time I had seen her in over 2 years. We got engaged that night. Married the next August. And celebrated our 36th anniversary this past August.

I spent another 15 years both regular and National Guard. Mike and I were presented the Bronze Star for our efforts those 3 days in Pleiku.

I visited the Traveling Wall this summer as it passed through our town – I can’t seem to bring myself to visit the real thing. I got there late at night, very few people around. I was in tears by the time I reached the end. Again I wish I could explain why – can’t really. But there are times I truly wonder – with all those good men and women on The Wall, why not me? What right did I have to pass unscathed – while others came home in a box? I think that is a question many vets ask – there simply is no answer. It was not my time. I pray I have used the time since well.

It all seems so long ago – yesterday.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Was there anything good in the election?

So here it is, 4 days post Obama win and I have been trying to understand what this means for my country.  Nothing good, for the nation as a whole, but how about people like me - conservatives who believe in self reliance, hard work and personal responsibility.

Actually, little will change.  When Obama takes over 401K plans, it won't affect me, don't have one.  When he forces universal health care down everyone's throat - won't affect me, I can afford my own.  When the pensions of all those state government workers goes bankrupt (is anyone paying attention to those??), won't matter, I work for myself.  When the folks who put him in office realize he won't save their homes, give them free gas, save their jobs, clear their credit cards - I won't worry, I depend on myself and my abilities - not a nanny state.

So, all in all, on a personal note, Obama will have little affect on me.

On my country though, on America, on the country that everyone looks to for innovation, growth, freedom - God help us all.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Predicting the Winner

OK, blatant political post!



Wins the Popular Vote by 5%

Wins the Electoral Vote by 3%

So says ME!

UPDATE: Hummmmm . . . . . errrrrrr . . . . . . . aahhhhhhhhh . . . . . . . . . I might have been mistaken. Heavy Sigh

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Hunting Season!!!

It’s that special time of year when natural born hunters fine tune their skills, sharpen the tools and set out in search of their annual prey. The changing Iowa weather and annual crop harvest kick the movement of game to its traditional high and hunters lie in wait looking for tell tale movement in the grasses, the rustling sounds of movement that would indicate a victim approaches, that their patience and skill are about to be rewarded and that a tasty meal is about to be enjoyed.

In my experience there are typically two types of hunters. The first enjoys the hunt in the field, the wild – creeping through the grasses, using their senses and skills to make the perfect kill on the unsuspecting animal. These hunters seem to move with an un-natural grace and stealth. The dedicated have even sculpted their bodies to support their hunting efforts allowing for long stalks, quite waits and lightening responses to insure a successful hunts.

The second is the “seasoned” hunter – who would rather use their knowledge of the habits of game rather than beat about the bushes hoping to flush something out. They usually hunt for shorter periods of time and restrict their efforts to known areas that have proven successful over the years. In fact, in rural Iowa, many of these hunters never have to leave their property (1,000 acre farms you know). Some of the most seasoned, most skilled can start a day late, lounge about during the morning, soak up the disappearing sunshine and still have a successful hunt – all without leaving the confines of their home! In fact, I live with one such huntress and she is on the prowl even as we speak!

Meet Daisy the fierce!!


Yep, there is obviously an intruding mouse under our dining room hutch and she will stay on station – for days if need be – to get her meal! Of course she only has three teeth left, sees them only as a live-action toy that can be caught and released and caught and released . . . . . . . until either I intervene and release outside – or death ensues, which also results in release outside to the critters that clean up such bounty.

This is an annual process. We live in the middle of, quite literally, thousands of square miles of the best farm land in the world. This time of year, all the little critters that inhabit this area, want the same thing I do – a warm, dry place to sleep at night. And many times they feel our home is the perfect place! So, despite our best efforts, we have visitors throughout the winter. Daisy will hunt well, play hard and show that self-satisfied glow of the successful huntress that she is!

Mmmmmmmmmmmm – Daisy?? Isn’t that a little gray tail sticking out from under the corner right there??

UPDATE: 23:55 SUCCESS!!!! The intruder, after three previous captures today, was finally taken down! I released it, but suspect that one of the prowling felines will enjoy the snack provided by Daisy. Count for the winter: 1