Family vacations as a kid

When I was growing up, we took some great vacations.

One year, we went to the US Air Force Museum in Dayton, Ohio.  I remember dad carrying me to the car at about 4 in the morning for the 10+ hour drive.  We stayed with an old friend of dad’s, Doug, who was in the Air Force.  I remember spending the whole day at the museum, looking at the incredible collection of aircraft.  At the time, they had a huge experimental bomber, the XB-70 Valkyrie on display outside.  Today, that bomber sits in a hangar in the museum annex, a short bus ride away from the main museum.

Another year, around 1978 or so, we went to Disneyworld.  We drove to Florida, seeing some beautiful country, including some of the big stables in Kentucky.  Disneyworld was still using the ‘ticket’ system, with some rides taking higher ‘value’ tickets than others.  Lots of rides, characters, and fun.  Dad’s friend Dog had moved, and we stayed with them on this trip, too.

Estes Park, Colorado was on of our favorite vacation spots.  We’d stay at a little place that had cabins for rent- I think it’s part of the YMCA now.  ‘Our’ cabin was ‘Hoot Owl’.  We’d hike, feed birds & chipmunks and enjoy the beauty of God’s world.

But we mostly took canoe trips, once to Minnesota, the rest of the time to the Ozarks.  We canoed the Jack’s Fork once, the Niangua once, and the Current River several times.  We’d drive down & either hire someone to drive us upriver, or they’d drop the car off at the next landing and we’d canoe down to it.  We’d paddle along for a few hours, floating when we could or going through some little riffles & small rapids, stop for lunch, travel a few more hours, then pitch a tent on a gravel bar for the night.  We’d hear Whippoorwills and other birds, and see deer, fish & other critters.  Next morning, we’d paddle to where the car was & head for home.

Unfortunately, my better half isn’t in to camping, or anything outdoorsey really.  ‘Roughing it’ to her is a motel with no room service & the doors to the room on the outside.  Oh well.

Thanks for the memories, dad.

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Trash TV

The call center I work in has a couple TV’s in the break room.  Popular shows range from game shows, ‘The Chew’, Judge Somebodyorother, sitcoms and, sadly, ‘trash TV’.  Shows hosted by people like Maury, Jerry Springer or Steve Wilkos.

You know the kind of program.  People who are looking for their 15 minutes of fame.  A parade of women who don’t know their ‘baby daddy’ is.  Couples accusing each other of infidelity.  A man (or woman) who wants an ‘open relationship’.  Men accused of fathering a raft of kids.  Incest?  One spouse sleeping with the others brother, sister, mother or child?  Slutty teen girls?  Middle aged ‘cougars’ and their underaged lovers?  Transsexuals who haven’t told their lover they had a bit chopped off, or added on?  No subject seems to low.

Personally, there’s no way you’d get me on a show like that.  The courtroom TV shows are bad enough, but to willingly air your dirty laundry, real or fake, on national TV boggles my mind.

How does this affect people in the long run, too?  Would you want to hire a man who’d just found out he was the father of his sister-in-law’s baby?  Or his babysitter’s?  What about the woman who keeps bringing man after man on the show, thinking one of them is the father of her little boy?

Men & women who are that promiscuous display, I believe, very poor judgement.  Certainly for any kind of sensitive position, behavior like that opens them up for blackmail.

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Texas

You can look at a map and see how big Texas is.  But you don’t really understand what that means until you’ve driven even part of it.

We went to visit mom recently, after dad’s passing.  We flew in to San Antonio, and drove a couple hours to get to out final destination.

First, driving through San Antonio was an adventure.  We’d crawl along for a ways, bumper to bumper.  Then things would clear up & you’d go like a bat out of hell for a while.  Before long though, you’d be back to crawling along for 5 or 10 minutes.  And again, traffic would clear up & you’d go ripping along, with cars racing past you like you were sitting still.  No thanks.

When we got to our final destination, it was much more what I’m used to.  A smaller city (much) with a nice, relaxed pace and sane drivers.

The trip back home, though, was when Texas’ size really hit.  We’d bought mom & dad’s car from them since she doesn’t drive any more.  We left _____ at around 10:15 Saturday morning.  The country where we were was very pretty.  We made a couple stops for fresh fruit and for some gag gifts for my better half’s family & friends, and for a late lunch, but were hoping to make it home for the night.  Fat chance.

By around 7, I was ready to stop for the day.  Even though we’d driven for the better part of 8 hours, we were still just outside Dallas.  Getting the rest of the way home took in to the afternoon the next day.

When we got home, I started looking at other options for our trip down this fall.  I don’t want to fly in to San Antonio again.  What about flying to ______?  No, it’s 7 hours from there to mom’s.  Damn…

So we’re going to drive down this fall.  It’s a different route, staying away from all the really huge cities.  It’ll mean a lot of driving, probably 12-14 hours, with me doing all the driving since we’ll be in the car with the manual tranny.  We might have to stay in some small town for the night that’ll have a hotel Mrs Right (who’s fairly Left) will like.  Of course for her, ‘Roughing it’ means a place with no room service, with outside entrances to the room, and no full breakfast.  Homewood Suites is about right for her.  :)  And she deserves it.

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First Father’s Day- without Dad

Father’s Day 2014 was the first one since my dad died, just last week.

I look back and remember the sacrifices both he & mom made for me.  I spent most of my school years at private school, including 4 years at Military School.    We took vacations, I certainly never lacked at Christmas or birthdays.  I had music lessons.  Dad started me on flying lessons.

I remember the vacations.  Several trips to Estes Park, Colorado.  Canoeing in the Ozarks, mostly along the Current River, and in Minnesota.  The USAF Museum in Dayton Ohio.  Disneyworld.  New York City.  Oregon.  The EAA Fly In up in Oshkosh, Wisconsin.

He taught me, or at least tried to, about home & car repair and investing.  I wish I’d paid more attention.

I learned to appreciate the outdoors.  The beauty of mountains, forests, rivers & lakes.

I got my political leanings from him.  Probably the first political newsletter I read was Human Events.  Before the print edition stopped publishing a year or so ago, I was a 3rd generation subscriber.  He & mom introduced me to classical music like Bach, Beethoven & Mozart, and took me to the theater for shows like ‘Music Man’, ‘Damn Yankees’ and ‘Desert Song’.  I learned who The Duke was.  I heard Reagan speak at the 1976 Republican Convention in Kansas City.

I know he was proud of me in some ways.  I know he was impressed with the woman I’m sharing my life with.  I know he was happy that I’ve decided to run for political office, even at the precinct committee level.  He was proud of my academic achievements in High School.

But I think I disappointed him, too.  I’ve certainly failed professionally.  I haven’t taken care of myself like I should have.  Maybe he would have wanted grandkids.

I love you, dad.  And I’m going to miss you.  Thank you.

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Are Vulcans Jewish?

Who knew that the Vulcan race from Star Trek might be Jewish?

Star Trek fans all recognize the Vulcan salute/greeting of paired fingers.  According to Leonard Nimoy, who’s played ‘Spock’ since the character was introduced, the origins of that salute lie in his own Jewish roots.  The Vulcan salute first appeared in the original series episode ‘Amok Time’.

Nimoy remembered going to Synagog when he was a child.  When the rabbi started praying, his father told him not to look up.  Being a boy, of course, he looked and saw the rabbi praying loudly & passionately.  His hands were spread out in what Trek fans recognize as the Vulcan salute.

Nimoy later learned that the paired fingers represented the Hebrew letter ‘Shin’, the first letter in ‘Shaddai’, God’s name, and also Shekhina, the feminine aspect of God which was created to live among mankind.  Of course, it’s also the first letter in ‘Shalom’ (Peace).

Most Christians bow our heads during prayer, but I’ve seen people raise both their heads & their hands.  I’d never thought too much about why heads are usually bowed other than it’s a sign of respect or submission.

According to Nimoy, this Shekhina comes in among the congregation during prayer, and its presence is so powerful that you could be injured or killed if you saw it.  Very similar to the O.T. story of Moses (Ex 33:20-23).

When filming the episode ‘Amok Time’, Nimoy thought there should be some kind of traditional greeting between Vulcans.  Westerners shake hands, in countries like Japan & China people bow as a sign of respect, so Vulcans should have their own tradition as well.  He suggested the paired fingers, and a tradition was born.

The Jewish Story behind Spock

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The Call Center

If you’re looking for a job, do yourself a favor- stay as far away as possible from jobs at any call center.  Voice of experience here.

I’m currently working on my 3rd project in the last 3 1/2 years.  The first involved signing people up for Medicare Part D plans (the Prescription Drug Plan).

The 2nd was for a major provider of TV & Internet services.  We handled billing issues, so a day consisted of a steady stream of people bitching about their bills going up.  Of course, we had to try to sell them more services, driving the bill they were already whining about up even further.

And I’m currently doing outbound ‘warm’ sales calls.  This is the best of the bunch, but it’s still a pain in the butt.

So what’s wrong with working at a call center?
1)  Poor pay.  Yes, it’s better than minimum wage, by about 25-30%.  But when you’re told you’re a ‘professional’, you should get paid as one, and treated with respect instead of like you’re in 3rd grade

2)  Poor benefits- Thank God I’m on my better half’s insurance.  The surgery I had to have a couple years ago would have bankrupt us if I’d been on company coverage.

3)  No raises- Ok, this isn’t entirely true, since about a year ago you started being able to earn up to .40/hour more every 6 months by having perfect attendance.  And if you missed 1-3 days, you could still get .20/hour  But this is solely based on attendance, not on performance.  There are performance bonuses, but those standards change regularly, and are harder & harder to attain.  Also- this raise was implemented after at least 5 years with NO raises at all.

4)  Uncertainty- I’ve never worked anywhere with a higher turnover.  Not so much people quitting, but people getting canned for failing to meet standards.  Agents, Team Leaders & others seem to have a revolving door.  The billing project usually has at least 2 classes, with 15-20 agents each, going on pretty much constantly.  It’s a 4-5 week class, if I remember right.

5)  Attitude- it’s like you’re in about 3rd grade with the ‘prizes’ they give out.  Yeah, it can be kind of fun, but it’s just very juvenile.

Now, on the plus side, most of the co-workers I have are good.  Friendly, helpful & you can share some laughs.  But it doesn’t make up for the down side.

Do yourself a favor.  Stay well away from call centers!  Stay on unemployment for another few weeks- come here ONLY as a last resort!

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“Do Not Call”

The federal ‘Do Not Call’ list is, I believe, a mixed bag.

On the plus side, there’s at least a slight chance that the number of telemarketing calls you’ll receive throughout the day will drop.  And under the law, you can ask those companies that call to take you off their list.  Unfortunately, Congress exempted itself and charitable organizations, as well as businesses you’ve done business with from that list.

Personally, I’d much prefer such laws to come  from the state houses, rather than from Uncle Sam.  One state might have much tougher laws, another might have fewer restrictions.  Of course, then you’d have the problem for the call center of keeping track of what state has what laws, and who could be called at what times, on what days, and how often.

My biggest complaint is the sheer number of calls you get from some companies.  You might call them for information, then be inundated with 5 or 6 or 8 calls a day for weeks on end.  That would be the area I’d like to see restricted.  No more than 2 or 3 calls per day, and for no more than about 7 or 8 days.  Anything more than that is a $1,000 fine per call.  And the business hiring the call center would be subject to the fine, not the call center itself.

When you get calls from a charity, you do have the option to ask them not to call you any more, and I believe there’s a fine if they don’t comply.  So many of these charities are, in my opinion, scams.  I asked a caller one time just how much of the money I might give would end up helping whoever it was- Veterans or the Highway Patrol or whoever.  The representative seemed pretty proud of the 20% that went to the group.  That kind of figure is more than a little disturbing.  Sure, there’s overhead, fundraising expenses and so on.  But 80%?  No, thank you.  Some, but not all, charities are evaluated by websites such as Charity Navigator.

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