Monday, February 27, 2012

Another brush with technology

My pal Tom Cochrun (or as Richard Baily used to call him "Tom Conk-run") has a interesting post on his blog about the commercial use of drones, check it out at:

Heres another brush with top secret technology.

A friend of ours is a commercial airline pilot, he flies international routes. One day as he was wandering through National Airport, he bumped into an old pal he flew F-16s with in the Air Force. They hadn't seen each other for years and caught up over a cup of coffee. Our pilot friend asked what his old wingmate was doing and he said he worked for the Defense Deppartment. The guy asked where our pal was headed and was told he was on his way to Philly to fly to London that evening, the Defense Department employee asked "what time is the flight?" Our friend said "we leave at 10:45". They finished their coffee, exchanged phone numbers and addresses, and went their seperate ways.

A week later our friend got a photo of himself in the cockpit of his Airbus, the photo was dated and time checked. It was taken at 12:15 am when he was well over the Atlantic on the way to London. The picture looks like it was taken from a service ladder next to the plane. His old Air force buddy flies spy satellites for a living.

I was reminded of this story when Secretary of State Colin Powell was holding up the sketches of possible WMD sites during the run up to the Iraq War, saying the weather was too 'rough" to get adequate satellite my old pals in Boston used to say "vright"

Saturday, February 25, 2012


With a complete format change in mind, I started to plan the
marketing for the new station. I needed help navigating the maze of buying
television in Boston. I turned to my former promotion director from WHDH, who
after much hard work, expended energy and sheer determination had turned
herself into the top billing account executive at Channel 5. Lee helped me plan,
place and spend the budget.

Late one snowy, dark Friday afternoon we finished the TV buys,
as we were walking out of the Prudential Center, I said to her, “Big weekend?”
Lee said “my sister and I were going to have dinner and then see Toni Lee
Washington at Johnny D’s, but she couldn’t back from DC in time.” (Lee’s sister
was the Chief of Staff for Congressman Joe Kennedy) “I’m heading home, but, wait
a minute, I’ve got the tickets, why don’t you come with me?” So off we went to
Red Bones in Somerville, had dinner and then walked through Davis Square to Johnny
D’s. We got to the club early, grabbed a table close to the stage and next to
the dance floor, had a few cocktails and caught up on the news about our old
staff members from WHDH. There we were, middle aged, well dressed and
surrounded by hipsters, students and 60’s relics all gathered to hear the “Queen
of the Boston Blues”. Did I mention Lee is black?

Toni Lee fronted an 8 piece band and kicks ass, big time.
Soon Lee and I were dancing on the packed dance floor, after 30 minutes, Toni Lee
showed mercy on her fans, she mellowed into a slow, grinding version of Wilson Pickett’s
Midnight Hour. As we danced I came face to face on the dance floor with a white
kid wearing a Harvard Crew T-shirt, his partner was a gorgeous Halle Berry
look-a-like. As we faced each other he gave me the thumbs up.
When we sat down at the break, we noticed young Mr. Harvard and
his date standing up drinking their beers. Lee said, “They look like nice kids
let’s invite them over to sit with us.” We did and they were nice kids. We
drank and danced and talked about life.

After the next set, I got up and headed for the men’s room.
While I was standing at the urinal, a typical “Masshole” stood in at the next
urinal. He turned to me and said, “You and your old lady got a couple of good
looking kids.”

I almost pissed on my pants, only in Boston!

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

I deal with these people so you don't have to!

One of my neighbors functions as surrogate for my winger bro
in law, he keeps me sharp since my winger bro in law and I no longer speak. I
have long since stopped worrying about why my sister married him, I’m
comfortable with the fact she wanted to raise his daughters, she did a great
job and that’s that!

Back to my neighbor, from time to time he ambushes me at the
mailbox and wants to start talking politics and I’m happy to oblige. The other
day it was how Obama stopped the Keystone XL pipeline with his radical,
environmental agenda. No doubt he picked this up from listening to Rush, Hannity,
Bill Handel and John and Ken on KFI radio (the station for angry, yet, very frightened
white males) since he had all the talking points memorized. Gas prices up
because of Obama, he won’t let us drill, baby, drill, we’ve got plenty of oil
if only Obama would let us drill, baby, drill. Gingrich promised 2 dollar gas,
so did Romney, the Kenyan usurper won’t let us, drill, baby, drill.
When he stopped for a moment to wipe the spittle from his
frothing mouth, I jumped in with a few questions for the red faced, shit bag

Who actually stopped the Keystone XL? Wasn’t Obama, it was the
state of Nebraska refusing to permit the pipeline and why the refusal? Because
the farmers and ranchers don’t want it built over the Ogallala Reservoir, most
of them are probably Republicans.

The XL will carry Canadian oil. Oil owned by Canadian companies and is not targeted at the American market. All the Canadians want is a warm water port so they can sell the Canadian oil on the world market. Canadian oil doesn’t belong to us, understand?

If the asshats running for the Republican nomination think
we are ever going to see two dollar gasoline again, there is only one way to do
it and that’s nationalize the oil business. Is that going to happen?

As far as drill, baby drill goes, we now have more wells
pumping and under development in this country than we have had in decades. And
the vast majority of the leases have been let by this administration.
Like my winger bro in law, the facts never penetrate his bubble. Nor do answers come from his leering mouth.

I do miss my bro in law’s thesis that all the oil from the dead dinosaurs in the Bakken formation in North Dakota is there because of Red State politics and good, hardworking

Conveniently forgetting that Bakken was a government geologist and the technology that allows deep shale recovery was developed using government research grants.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Grandma's Movie Camera

A Short Film of Grandpa

My Dad’s Mom was an early adopter of technology, in her case
moving picture cameras. Gram got her first, a Bell and Howell, just after WW2.
We have as a family, a moving picture history of their farm, the machinery, the
weather and of ourselves. Movies of family holidays, picnics, weddings, she
filmed events big and small, filming from the car during vacations, shooting
kids on the beach. Gram was experienced behind the camera, but even after years
of shooting, she never developed much style with her camera. Her holiday films
were usually static posed shots and only occasionally did she strike cinematic
gold. You can imagine my surprise when going through the old films I discovered
a wonderful sequence of my Grandpa John walking in one of his wheat fields.

Grandpa John was a tall, quiet, somewhat shy man. He was the
oldest of 11 kids and shortly after his 14th birthday he was sent to
North Dakota to farm land his Iowa banker-farmer-developer-businessman father
had purchased. He arrived with a suit case, a box car full of implements and a
box car of animals, horses and cows. He was a knowledgeable, experienced kid
and over the next 10 years he made himself into, by all accounts, one of the
best farmers in the Red River Valley.

As I was going through the film, I found about 25 seconds of
my Grandfather walking in a wheat field. He was dressed in his gray khaki work
clothes, big brimmed straw hat and sun glasses. The wheat came almost to his
waist, the heavy heads of grain were swaying in the wind, the field looked like
an ocean, he was walking slowly with his arms extended towards the wheat and he
was running his hands gently over the heads of grain. I knew exactly what he
was doing. Grandpa was checking the moisture content, checking to see if the
harvesting could begin. I’d seen him do that many, many times.

It was the perfect picture of my Grandfather.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012


I have a relationship with a young guy, a web designer, who
rents space in one of the offices in our complex. We bump into each other a
couple of times a day. Have a cup of coffee (always mine) from time to time and
in general shoot the shit. He is an US Army Iraq war vet, nice guy in his early

For whatever reason, today we started talking about Basic Training,
his stories are like all Basic Combat training stories and for some reason
today he brought up how the Sgts could never pronounce his name. His last name
is HUGHES and they always pronounced it HUG-ESS. I laughed my ass off because I
was in a squad with a guy named Hughes and waaaay back in the 60’s he was
called HUG-ESS, too. I told him about my fellow squad member Paul Gonoud, the
D. I always called Paul, GO-NUDE, another guy named Reynolds was always RAY-NOLDS.
We agreed they must have a US Army Special Surname Pronunciation course they
teach at D.I. School. Years ago I asked my Dad about this phenomenon, he said
it was the same thing in WW2.

Back in the 60’s there was a major change in Basic training,
some ruling was handed down that insults had to be done in a collective
fashion. No more “you are the sorriest mother fucker I’ve seen in this man’s
Army since Christ was a Corporal!” was changed to “you people are the sorriest
bunch of motherfuckers I’ve seen in this man’s Army since Christ was a Corporal!”
Just as much as an insult and nobody could write home (or to a congressman) and
whine about being singled out as a sorry mother fucker, even if they were one.
My friend HUG-ESS said they don’t use any of the classic swear words anymore.
So now the phrase would be “you are the sorriest group of people I’ve ever seen
in the (no sexisms allowed) Army. I think it kind of takes the sting out of it
don’t you?

I told HUG-ESS about the funniest moment ever in Basic. We
had a sorry mother fucker in the 2nd squad. Jimmy Kurtzhal was a
classic, never learned how to make his bed, couldn’t march, couldn’t find his
ass with both hands and a compass. Nobody likes guys like Kurtzhal because you
end up having to take care of all the things he can’t or won’t do and everybody
gets in trouble if he doesn’t have his shit together.

About 6 weeks into Basic, around the time everyone is
beginning to look, sound and act like soldiers and there are the first hints of
unit cohesiveness. Kurtzhal was called up to the front of the company formation
by MSgt Burton, the steely-eyed 1st Sgt of Delta-3-2. With the
disheveled Kurtzhal’s face inches from his, Burton shouts out “Kurtzal, I’m
sending you on sick call this morning, do you know why?” Kurtzhal whispers, “No,
Sgt”, Burton looks over little Jimmy’s head and bellows, “I can’t fucking hear
you, Kurtzhal, what the fuck did you say?” Another weak answer from Jimmy and
more shouting about not being able hear him. Jimmy finally squeals (like a nine year old
girl) “I don’t know why you’re sending me on sick call, Sgt, I feel fine!” Sgt
Burton looks at Jimmy and yells in his face, “So now you’re a fucking doctor,
Kurtzhal and you’ve diagnosed yourself as feeling fine. That’s as big a load of bullshit as I’ve
ever heard and believe me, Private you are not feeling fucking fine!" Sgt Burton continues,
once again inches from Jimmy’s face, “Let me tell you why you’re going on sick
call this morning, Kurtzhal, you’re going on sick call to get a glass window installed
in your stomach because your head is so far up your ass you need a way to see
where you’re going, do you fucking understand me?” At that moment Sgt Burton looked over Jimmy’s head and stared at the entire company daring us to laugh or smile, we didn’t.
He sent Jimmy off with the medics to sick call, we never saw him again. The company clerk packed up his gear and the rumor was Jimmy was recycled all the way back to the first week of basic.

My pal HUG-ESS laughed until he cried, just like the members
of Delta-3-2 did when we got back to the barracks after formation.