Time To Work On Perspective

Mostly sitting around the house while the nose heals (basal cell surgery) gives me lots of time to read when I’m not taking a nap or engaged in medical appointments.  Lots of time to follow the news, the “fake news”, and news about the “fake news,” and attempt to put things in perspective.  
In the words of Pulitzer-Prize winning historian Jon Meacham: “In a twenty-first century hour when the presidency has more in common with reality television or professional wrestling, it’s useful to recall how the most consequential of our past presidents have unified and inspired with conscious dignity and conscientious efficiency.”  (Bold and underlining added.)  From his latest book: “The Soul of America – The Battle for Our Better Angels.”
His reference to the “Better Angels” comes from Lincoln’s First Inaugural Address, 1861:
“We are not enemies, but friends.  We must not be enemies.  Though passion may have strained it must not break our bonds of affection.  The mystic chords of memory, stretching from every battlefield and patriot grave to every living heart and hearthstone all over this broad land, will yet swell the chorus of the Union, when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature.”

Reality television and professional wrestling indeed; both seem to make more sense these days.


In-House Tech Support


Is there anybody who needs to know what tech support is? Didn’t think so.

How about “in-house?” And I don’t mean the opposite of outhouse.

Keeping things simple is usually the best approach, so today I write about the in-house tech support I have right at home, in the residence I share with my Love, my best friend, my only squeeze. My Love is my tech support.

In past confessions I have included my defeats at the prospect of most any plumbing project. Victories in other DIY (do-it-yourself) areas have been many, admitedley following minor disasters now and then, but in general household projects have been completed with much satisfaction if not pride. Plumbing projects have not been on that list of successes.

Until last weekend. That was when I availed myself of in-house tech support, who suggested I soak the offending cartridge (a Price Pfister kitchen faucet uses a cartridge) in vinegar to remove any offending particles, gunk, etc., to free up the handle enough so that we no longer have to use both hands to turn the faucet on and off.

At first I trotted out my usual defense; namely, the lack of logic in the suggestion. The cartridge is self-contained. Particles, gunk, etc. can not penetrate the exterior of said part. Besides, it’s the faucet handle, not the cartridge, that sticks. Besides, I added, I’ve already tried the troubleshooting tips on the Price Pfister website, none of which include the word vinegar. And I had already applied waterproof lubricant.

And so I soaked the cartridge in vinegar, once with it closed and again with it in the open position. Thanks to tech support the faucet now works smoothly, almost effortlessly, and there are no leaks.


IS, ISIS, ISIL, Da’ish, Daiish, Daesh, Dahes

Just to clear things up:

IS: Islamic State of Iraq

ISIS: Islamic State in Iraq and Syria

ISIL: Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant

Da’ish, Daiish, Daesh: all closely related to the Arabic word “dahes,” which has been translated as: “bigot who imposes his view on others.”

It started as IS back in October of 2006.

Most of us think of it as ISIS because that’s the term most every American journalist (print, TV, and radio) uses.

President Obama uses ISIL (the Levant an older term describing the far eastern part of what we think of as the much larger Mideast).

The French President and the U.S. Secretary of State use what we hear as simply “Dash,” which according to the translation above probably describes the group with understatement; i.e., imposing a view is an understatement when contrasted with the beheading people on the Internet.

Got it?

I sure don’t.

My thoughts about the entire area and our attempts to influence what goes on there seldom get past the basic reality that the region consists of tribal societies that have existed for centuries, killed each other for centuries, killed others that don’t agree with them or have something they want, killed each other for not believing what they believe (spiritually), killed others that don’t believe what they believe (spiritually), blame their problems on others (countries, societies, races, religions, etc.), often and tediously and publicly call for the elimination of others (countries, societies, races, religions, etc.), teach their children how to hate those who do not believe what they believe, and so on.

Who can blame the hundreds of thousands who are trying to get somplace else to live?

Warning: the following is satire: do not proceed if you will at any time accuse me of having seriously proposed any of the following:

If I had the proverbial magic wand I would:

      1. Help the refugees relocate to other Mideast countries where the culture, language, and average temperature will not be like Minnesota.

      2. Shut down most Mideast oil wells to eliminate the greed factor.

      3. Convene the leaders and order them to agree on separate locations where all the warring factions can have their own land, government, mosques, whatever, along with the promise that they will restrain from ever again trying to convince anybody else that their way is the only way. This of course will require redrawing the map, but why on earth would I stop this crazy set of suggestions before the new countries are set up and on the map? Let’s see: Sunnis there, Shia there, Wahhabis over there, expand Israel, expand Lebanon…..no problem.

      4. Eliminate, with prejudice, all “bigots who would impose their views on others.”

Give me a week or two to come up with the specifics……

Truth Or Satire? Take My One-Question Quiz

There has been a spate of quizzes on Facebook lately.  Everything from “What One Word Describes You Best?” to “Answer These Questions and We’ll Guess Your Favorite Song.”  So I thought I’d chip in and offer a one-question quiz for those seekers of truth who simply are not able to resist answering questions on the Internet.

Here it is.  Multiple choice.

Which of the following are or were actual front page headlines in a major newspaper?

  1. Area Man Going To Sit Quietly In Darkened Bedroom Until Roommate’s Party Ends.
  2. Goldman Sachs Hires Single Morally Decent Human Being To Work In Separate, Enclosed Cubicle.
  3. Flooding on N.C. coast to rise.
  4. Man At Gym Just Watching TV.
  5. All of the above.
  6. None of the above.

Correct answer: c.  From the Raleigh News & Observer (N&O), January 31, 2015.  The others are satire, I say satire, from my daily calendar, produced by extremely talented writers at The Onion.

The N&O front-page above the fold article is chock full of astonishing disclosures, building on the headline in c., above.  Example: “More flooding will close roads, clog storm sewers, and damage streets and other public structures….”  Another example I would never have guessed: “Even moderate floods can hurt businesses, isolate neighborhoods, and disrupt transportation.”

As the kids say: Duh.

But we N.C. residents do have some hope, because our General Assembly has consistently thumbed its collective nose at studies produced by such clearly unqualified organizations as the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the Union of Concerned Scientists, studies that predict, among other alarming items, that rises in the sea level that will cause “…minor tidal flooding as a near-daily event in the Wilmington area by 2045.”

God bless our leaders for deciding to ignore those reports and simply order the ocean to stop rising.

A few years back I heard a program on WUNC describing early homes built on the Outer Banks that floated when the flood-causing storms came.  I think that was a hundred or more years ago.

Our solution thus far: raise insurance rates for seashore properties and continue to rebuild roads, bridges, beaches homes, other buildings, golf courses, and whatever else the floods continue to wash away.  We could use an Internet quiz for our leaders that will point out better solutions.

Did You Happen To Notice?

A rider was tacked on the latest congressional budget bill by lobbyists from big banks.  What the rider does is to make it easier for FDIC banks to trade derivatives, which Warren Buffett once defined as “financial weapons of mass destruction.”  (See “Tilting at Hillary,” TIME Magazine, by Rana Foroohar, January 26, 2015, page 28.)

Derivatives may be described as financial instruments that depend on something else for their value.  For example, a stock call option is a derivative, because the owner of the option does not own the stock, but the value of the derivative depends wholly on the value of the stock.

Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren gave a “barn-burning” speech on the Senate floor in December in opposition to the rider, but only time will tell whether the rider survives as the bill makes its way through Congress.

Ms. Foroohar’s essay makes other points about other failed economic adventures; e.g., “trickle-down” and turning “to finance to generate quick-hit growth in tough times, deregulating markets or loosening monetary policy rather than focusing on underlying fixes for the real economy.  Shrugging and citing a market-knows-best philosophy to avoid difficult political decisions has been a bipartisan exercise for quite a long time now.”

And the ever-increasing gap between rich and poor and wage stagnation?  Senator Warren: “Between the 1930’s and the 1970’s, 90% of all workers shared 70% of all income growth.  Between 1980 and 2012, guess how much that 90% got?  Zero!”

Did you happen to notice…..?

Truth or Fiction?

Sometimes the only way to tell the truth is with fiction.

Ever heard that one?

Aside from our suspicions that some of our politicians often use fiction in their speeches and other communications, but don’t really understand what my creative writing instructors meant with that sentence, the older I get the more I’ve come to believe my instructors knew of what they spoke.

Truth is stranger than fiction is another one that makes more and more sense as I get more and more candles on my birthday cake.

Just read somewhere that the two great teams in our country’s constant tug of war will never appreciate the achievements of the other team no matter what the facts are.  We have reached the point where a political moderate is hated by both conservatives and progressives.  Note: I much prefer “progressive” to “liberal,” because in today’s world the very word’s presence in the discourse produces the sort of expression one can only duplicate upon discovering the bite or drink just taken was of rotten substance.  Eeeww!  Spit that out!

Here is a list of statements made in a fairly recent book.  Fiction or  non-fiction?  You be the judge (and please read it through before looking at the answer at the end).

“…we must embrace certain truths which separate a compassionate society from one that is selfish and complacent:

“That racial discrimination still exists, and that we need the courage to challenge it, and to end it.

“That gay men and women are not on a crusade to change the behavior of others, and that protecting them from violence and discrimination is moral, not immoral.

“That guns are too available, and kill far too many people.

“That too many children are denied proper medical care and a proper education.

“That too many of their parents are trapped in dead-end jobs.

“That too many lives are warped by violence, inside and outside our families.

“That too much of our prosperity is built of low wages and shattered dreams.

“That, in the end, we are a family, charged by decency and self-interest to care about every American….”

“…How can we inspire trust…when the best we can say for ourselves is that the other party’s worse?  No wonder people are fed up.”

“…It’s about freedom, the special interests say.  But how many of us are ‘free’ to spend ten thousand dollars to influence a political party?

This is the freedom to corrupt, and it is slowly destroying our democracy.

“Ending it…is a moral imperative.  And the beginning of the end is a constitutional amendment which says, ‘Nothing in the Constitution shall prohibit Congress from passing laws to regulate the funding of campaigns for federal office.”

Fiction or non-fiction?

See “No Safe Place,” by Richard North Patterson, pages 305-307, Random House, 1998 (paperback copy).

It’s a political thriller by a great talent telling the truth with fiction.

An Assist From An Early “Flash Mob”

A friend posted a video of the Air Force Band doing a Christmas flash mob scene at the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum.  It reminded me of a story that needs telling.

In my first year at the Air Force Academy (you are referred to as a Doolie, 4th Classman, Dilfob, Squat, Numbnut, and other even less gracious names).  Doolies are required to perform all manner of odd tasks such as handling the hot drinks at meals (the “hot pilot”), post the comic strip Peanuts on the squadron bulletin board early each morning (a task I included in my novel, “All Fools Down”), retrieve all manner of things at the behest of any upperclassman, and so on.

If you visit the Academy, be sure to witness the Wing formation for a meal.  The entire cadet Wing assembles in front of the dormitory building (Vandenburg Hall), marches to the dining hall (Mitchell Hall), enters and is seated and ready for the meal, all within about a 5-7 minute time period.  If you’re lucky, the Academy’s band, consisting of a group of musicians who are not cadets, will play a march or two while this is all going on.

One day at lunch, after an unusually uninspired march made us a little less enthusiastic about the whole thing, an upperclassman at my table requested that I do something about the music.  “Mr. Bohlin,” he said, “See what you can do about getting us some music with a little more – what’s the word I’m looking for – a little more swagger.  A little more zip to it.  Think you can do that?”

Surprising him more than a little, I replied that I thought I could.  What he didn’t know was that I had a friend in the band.  George S. was his name, and George and I went through regular Air Force basic training together at Lackland AFB in San Antonio, Texas.  I had happened to run into George right before reporting in as a doolie that June of 1959, and George had reminded me that his Air Force assignment was as a trombone player.  Up to then I had lost track of him after basic.

So I got on the phone and reached old pal George to ask him whether he could spice up the music for the next day’s march to lunch.  He remembered I’d helped him a little in basic and told me to watch and listen.

Good old George.  When the band struck up the Saint Louis Blues in march tempo the next day, every cadet stood up as tall as could be and strutted on along the terrazzo, the level for the main entrances to most of the buildings.  When we sat down to eat there was quite the buzz about the day’s marching music.

The upperclassman who asked me to request something with more zip inquired: “Mr. Bohlin.  Are you responsible for our much better marching music today?  I mean, the Saint Louis Blues.  Absolutely terrific.”

Now that was high praise from an upperclassman to a doolie.  The Air Force Academy’s Honor Code, “I will not lie, cheat, or steal, or tolerate among us those who do” was in full effect from the moment we raised our hands to be sworn in as cadets.

“Yes sir!” I said.

After a brief look of mild surprise, he said: “And how, may I ask, were you able to accomplish that task?”

“Sir, may I speak freely?” I said.


“Sir, I propose to keep that my secret.  Besides, you probably wouldn’t believe me if I told you.”

“Two,” he said, which meant I could go back to eating my lunch.  As I did so I noticed grins all around the table.  Peripheral vision is a good thing when you’re a doolie, eating at attention while sitting on the last half-inch of your chair.

I was asked to spice up the march music several more times that year, and each time my man George managed to have the band play something that had us all in full strut mode marching to lunch or dinner.

Months later, when the doolies who had made it through their first year to become 3rd classmen were “recognized” as once again relatively normal human beings by their upperclassmen, the cadet who had asked me how I’d managed to get the band to play that music shook my hand and said “OK.  You can tell me now.”

When I told him how it was done he smiled, offered me a handshake and congratulations, and said: “I have to go tell the others.  That’s some story and you’re one lucky you-know-what.”

Not exactly a flash mob, but I sure got a lot of mileage out of having a pal from basic….