Better Music for Marching

If you visit the Air Force Academy (AFA) in Colorado Springs during mild weather, you can stand on the terrace by Arnold Hall, and witness the Cadet Wing lunch formation and march from above. You will also be treated to marching music provided by the AFA Band as the cadets march to Mitchell Hall, where meals are served.

At least that’s how it was when I was a 4th Classman (freshman) way back in 1959-60.

You may know that a 4th classman back then was considered barely human by the upperclassmen (there were no female cadets until a few years later). The status of a Doolie, a nickname for 4th classmen, along with much less polite other nicknames, was best described as someone whose God-given rights had been taken away the day he arrived and returned to him one by one but called “privileges.”

On one of those mild days in the fall of 1959, after we had started lunch, one of the upperclassmen at my table asked me if I could somehow arrange for more lively marching music at our next lunch formation.

“YES SIR!”

Before he allowed me to continue eating, he said he wouldn’t hold me to it, but if I could figure out a way to have the band play something other than “Stars and Stripes Forever” and other Sousa standards, the Cadet Wing would be most grateful.

I had a surprise for him.

When we returned to Vandenburg Hall and our rooms, I managed to get to a phone and call a friend. The friend was a fellow I had helped get through Air Force basic training and who was then assigned to the AFA Band. I got through to him and told him my predicament. He said he would talk to the captain in charge.

The next day, much to the delight of every cadet, the AFA Band struck up the “St. Louis Blues March,” putting more strut in our steps and causing quite a rumble of conversation when we sat down to lunch.

The upperclassman who had asked me to arrange better marching music asked me whether I’d had a part in the new marching music selection.

“YES SIR!”

“Mister Bohlin, you know the Honor Code, correct? We will not lie, cheat, or steal, nor tolerate among us those who do?”

“YES SIR!”

“And you maintain that you played some part in what we just witnessed.”

“YES SIR!”

“Well, I’m not going to ask you right now, but at some point I will want an explanation.”

“YES SIR!”

“Eat.”

(The command “Eat” meant to direct your attention back to your food and proceed to eat. No response was necessary.)

At the end of my 4th class year, on the day of the graduation ceremony for the 1st classmen, the Cadet Wing formed for what was called “Recognition,” when the 4th classmen are “recognized” by the upperclassmen, who go through the ranks of their squadrons to shake hands for the first time with their doolies.

The 1st classman who asked me to arrange better marching music made it a point to seek me out to ask how I had managed to get the AFA Band to play that great marching music.

When I about my insider, he laughed. Then he made it a point to announce my secret to all who were close enough to hear him, making the end of my 4th class year even sweeter than it already was, the day I became a 3rd classman and was reinstated to human status.

And the AFA Band played the “St. Louis Blues” march for the graduation parade.

Financing College – Who Knew?

While the Affordable Care Act (ACA), popularly referred to as Obamacare, is deplored by many people for its health care reforms, an obscure part of the law is helping to solve the student debt crisis. Before Obamacare the federal government subsidized private banks that would then issue student loans with federal guarantees.

Didn’t know that? Read on – there is much more most of us didn’t know. This short blog piece is based entirely on a 7-page article in the November 30-December 7, 2015 issue of TIME magazine, by Haley Sweetland Edwards. Wherever quotation marks are used, the quote is from the TIME article.

First, in the ACA the federal student loan subsidy/guarantee was eliminated and the Department of Education became the direct lender.

In a key program called Income Driven Repayment (IDR), there are plans put in place by Presidents Clinton, G. W. Bush, and Obama that allow federal loan borrowers to cap their monthly payments at 15% of discretionary income for a maximum of 25 years, after which the balance is written off; gone.

The second key program is called Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF). “It’s simple: if you’re dilligently making payments in one of those IDR plans and you’re working full time in for either the government or a registered nonprofit – from a local food bank to a private university – you can sign up to have any remaining balance on your loans forgiven after just 10 years.”

As always, there are differing opinions about the fairness and effectiveness of these programs, including: 1) the lack of a cap on how much graduate students can borrow, 2) not enough attention paid to the rising tuition rates and the lack of incentive for colleges and universities to keep tuition low, 3) the lack of attention being paid to increasing tuition as the root cause of increasing student debt, 4) most generous benefits go to the most privileged students, and 5) the apparent lack of attention the programs have attracted from students.

The article includes a chart exhibiting the amounts of loans to be forgiven based on cost of living, salary, and whether the job is with a nonprofit.

Another chart provides a guide displaying college costs and sources of grants, scholarships, and loans.

The article ends with a quote from a counselor and mother of two, who says “…she’s doing her part. She tells colleagues and friends about the programs all the time. ‘They usually don’t believe me…. They think it’s too good to be true.’”

I have barely scratched the surface of the information in this article and recommend it highly.

The conclusion of the article: “With reporting by Alex Altman, Zeke J. Miller and Mark Thompson / WASHINGTON

Coudn’t Possibly Be My Fault

Help me out here. I’m dealing with a lot of situations and am in serious need of having someone to blame for my misfortune.

First, stuff is just getting too expensive. Not long ago you could get a Big Mac combo for $3.20. Now it’s over $6. At the grocery store they’re not just raising prices, they’re reducing what you get by decreasing the size of the package or by just not putting as much in the old package.

Next, nobody’s doing anything about all those NASCAR wannabees out there speeding, tailgating, tossing stuff out their windows, weaving in and out of freeway lanes to get two more car lengths ahead, and so on. Not enough law enforcement to monitor terrorists? We apparently don’t even have enough law enforcement to keep our streets and highways safe.

And I’m fairly falling apart physically despite my gym time, walking time, and golf time. Just spent the better part of the last five weeks hobbling around on a sore ankle that took several doctors to figure out is caused by arthritis, old injuries, and old age. Took four weeks to get to a foot and ankle doc who gave me a cortisone shot and an ankle brace; and that has fixed me up, albeit the fix is likely only temporary. By the way, the eyesight and hearing and knees aren’t doing so great either, and I’m about ready for new teeth.

And when will somebody do something about obesity, the cost of manufacturing a penny, guns, cops who shouldn’t be cops, movie ticket prices, traffic, health care, the Mid-East, the Far-East, the East in general, drought, forest fires, the poor performance of my IRA, storms, climate change, the liberal media, the economy, the conservative media, how the candidate for vice president is chosen, getting my library to offer more books on CD’s, IS, ISIS, ISIL, Daesh, the shrinking middle class, unions, marriage, all those people who don’t look like us, all those people who don’t believe what we believe, homeowner associations, healthy people who park in handicapped spaces, and all the other things somebody should be doing something about?

Which brings me to a post I just saw on Facebook listing the number of mass shootings since Ronald Reagan was President. Since the number increased slowly until President Obama was elected, and since the person who posted those numbers wants somebody to explain why the number of mass shootings increased by roughly 10 times the numbers under Reagan, Bush I, Clinton, and Bush II, I assume whoever posted this information seeks to blame the increase on President Obama, who is of course to be blamed for the mentally ill and all the true believers who easily get hold of combat weapons and carry out all those shootings. Never mind that our country is still mired in war in the Mid-East, an area that has produced killers and assassins of every stripe for centuries, and that there are thousands (millions?) of true believers who hate the U.S. and have hated the U.S. for a long time.

So, I’m ready to blame the President for all my misfortune too. Even if my misfortune didn’t begin with his inauguration, it sure got worse, and the fact that I’m seven years older and much less smart than the average teenager can’t possibly be relevant.

Terrorism By the Numbers

Where quotation marks appear in the following, the quotes are from the TIME magazine cover story by David Von Drehle, “Beating ISIS,” in the November 30 – December 7 issue.

The mass shooting this week in San Bernadino, California, continues to dominate the news. Opinions vary on motive, workplace rage, inspired terror attack, and so on. For my part, I doubt I’ll ever understand how the parents of a six month-old daughter could say goodbye to that baby before driving off to kill and injure people.

But I write today to urge study of the TIME cover story mentioned above. The cover title is “World War ISIS.” The complete article features another eight articles.

A few highlights:

“Whatever the world has been doing about ISIS, it’s not working.”

“The Islamic State is a fibroid of territory enmeshed is a cat’s cradle of ethnic, religious and geopolitical strands so densely tangled as to defy solution.”

“Young people from an estimated 90 nations have been drawn to ISIS.”

“Yes, terror is the new normal. There were 13,463 terror attacks across the globe in 2014, according to the U.S. State Department…about 37 per day, or roughly one every 40 minutes.”

Well worth a read if only to make us think about how all this mayhem can be stopped.