Tuesday, December 25, 2012

THE Christmas tradition ... Luke wrote it, Linus shared it, I believe it

Clutter's "Agnes Dei," from the Bowden Collections' "Christ Is Born"

8 And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.

9 And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid.

10 And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.

11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.

12 And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.

13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying,

14 Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.

Luke 2
King James Version (KJV)

However you mark this day, a very Merry Christmas! May this find you and yours happy and healthy, this holiday season and in the new year to come!

Monday, December 24, 2012

A Christmas tradition, of sorts ...

Even in the days of DVDs, when I could watch "A Charlie Brown Christmas" easily and inexpensively, whenever I wanted, I would still wait for the Christmas season to come around, so I could watch the broadcast, just as I did the first time it aired ... and have done every Christmas season since then ... at least until the last couple of years, when broadcasters made additional cuts to the original program. Made me glad I bought the DVD a while back ... I still wait for the Christmas season to come around ... I just watch it via a new medium.

I like the humor of the story, with characters and dialogue that doesn't drive adults out of the room, screaming ... and I like the fact that we are allowed to laugh - or not - spontaneously, without the urging of a laugh track.

And I LOVE the music! The soundtrack was composed by the late, great Vincent Guaraldi, and was performed by Guraraldi and his trio. It's one of my favorite holiday music albums, AND one of my favorite jazz albums.

And I like the idea that a story about Christmas has something to say about Christ ... with a wonderful delivery by Linus of Scripture from the Gospel of Luke (King James version, no less), answering Charlie Brown's question of 'what Christmas is all about.'

There are some wonderful anecdotes out there about the making (and the near UN-making) of "Charlie Brown Christmas," and how viewers and critics had the nerve to rear-up and roar-out their opinions of the show ... opinions that differed dramatically from what network executives had predicted.

Makes me wonder if such a cartoon special could be produced and aired on a major television network today ... I don't know ... maybe not. I remain a big fan of cartoons ... but I just don't see as much respect for viewers young and old as I see demonstrated in something like "Charlie Brown Christmas." And with contemporary cartoon production being what it is, would we ever again see a gathering of talent such as Charles Shultz (words), Bill Melendez (images) and Vince Guaraldi (music), all of whom were not only creators, but determined advocates for their project? Again ... I don't know ... maybe not.

Now, if there was just some way to add those old sponsor plugs for Coca-Cola and Dolly Madison.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Kicking-off the 'giving season'

"We have a day for giving thanks. We have two for getting deals. This year help create #GivingTuesday, the giving season’s opening day," writes givingtuesday.org. "On Tuesday November 27, 2012 charities, families, businesses and individuals are coming together to transform the way people think about, talk about and participate in the giving season."

"It’s a simple idea. Find a way for your family, your community, your company or your organization to join in acts of giving. Tell everyone you can about what you are doing and why it matters. Join a national celebration of our great tradition of generosity, and together we’ll create ways to give more, give better and give smarter."

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Recalling old times through new connections ...

In the local media this past month, some attention devoted to the 25th anniversary of the rescue of Jessica McClure from a well in southwest Midland where she was trapped for three days. That attention also provided for me an opportunity to connect with a one-time co-worker of mine - someone I have not seen for many, many years - and gain a renewed appreciation for how much smaller our world has become through the world wide web.

It was for me, a singular and - I hope - a defining moment in Midland's history. I found it to be one that illustrated so well what a community - and the individuals who comprise that community - can accomplish.

We can better appreciate those individual and community efforts from that time because of people like Phil Huber. Phil was a photographer back then for KMID-TV, Big 2, which made him something of a point-man for what was West Texas' dominant #1 television news department of that decade. Me, I was a writer and assistant producer in Big 2's creative services department, as well as a public service director and umpteen other things. That's how we did it back then ... everybody did a thing or two, or three. But that flexibility and that willingness would serve us well in the days that followed a call that brought a a reporter from Big 2 News and his photog (Phil) to a home on Tanner Street.

Phil's job was just to shoot the video, then take it back to the station for editing, and presentation on the evening news. But this time around, there would be more to it than that. A couple of officers peering down the well hole, trying to see/hear something of the little girl who had fallen in. The solution was a shotgun mic mounted on the top of Phil's camera ... was it detachable? It was, and Phil had additional cable that allowed the microphone to be lowered to where the girl was trapped, and the earphones that would allow the officers to listen. That was the first contact between the girl and her rescuers, and Phil was part of it.

You have to remember the technology of the day. This was 1987, and we were a small television market to boot. Those of us who who have grown accustomed to instant, total coverage of breaking news from almost anywhere, might forget what technology was available for news coverage in those days, especially for those of us who were yet to equip with what was new and developing in our nation's larger television markets. When I think of what coverage of that rescue might have been like back then, with just the cell phone technology we have now? Wow.

It was a long three days and nights that followed. And most of the staff at our station spent much of that time awake. Even those in the front office (accounting, ad sales and so on) did their part by keeping our switchboard open around the clock, and providing updates to callers from around the world ... or shuttling back and forth between the rescue site with freshly-recharged batteries for the cameras, gasoline for the generator in our live unit, and food for the news crews on the scene. But those news crew were on point ... for us, and for the world ... and IMHO, they did a damn good job.

It all came to an end Friday night, when the little girl emerged from the well in the arms of a rescuer ... hurt, frightened, but alive.

The rescue effort was over, but the effects of those three days would be felt in the months and years to come. And that included the effect it had on the careers of local news personnel. Like I said before, ours is a small market ... many refer to it as a 'teaching' market where youngsters fresh out of school can get some experience, some seasoning, filling their resumѐ tapes and looking for opportunities to move up and out. Phil was one of many, many young men and women who moved on to pursue their careers in markets around the United States.

I have not kept in touch with them as I should have ... but I did reconnect with Phil by chance earlier this year ... through Facebook. Apparently one of my co-workers at the college was a classmate of Phil's ... Midland High School Class of '76 ... On, ye Bulldogs! Through her, I connected with Phil's Facebook page. And at the same time, I have also renewed acquaintances from other Big 2 News alumni. As for Phil, he's living in Alabama now ... but his health hasn't been good, and there are days when his communication is limited to reading 'liking' posts that friends have made on his Facebook page.

An amazing thing, really ... how we can connect (or re-connect) through the world wide web, and how we can communicate ... even in circumstances where, in the past, connecting and communicating would have been difficult at best.

An awfully long digression, really, to get to my initial point ... appreciation for a renewed connection, best wishes to former co-worker, and a prayer of wholeness and healing for him.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

So long to a good ol' boy

Count me among those mourning the death of stage, screen and (most of all) television star Larry Hagman, who passed away Friday in a Dallas, Texas, hospital. Hagman was 81.

To many people around the world, Hagman - in his role as the charming and conniving oilman, J.R. Ewing - became the defitive Texan ... and that's alright by me. IMHO, he was a good ol' boy, and his role in the long-running (and recenty re-booted) television series, "
Dallas," captured more than a little of the flavor, the spirit of the cowboy-hatted-and-booted, wheeling-dealing, go-for-broke characters that one still finds among independents in the Texas oil and gas industry.

Unlike myself, Hagman is a native son of Texas, and he brought some of his experience with the state and the oilfield to his role. A big fan of "Dallas" back in the 80s, I found myself back in front of the television for the series' reboot this past year, and felt amply rewarded by the experience ... especially seeing Hagman back at work. What I didn't know until earlier this year, was the back-story of Dallas and its inception, the evolution of the J.R. Ewing role, and the determined efforts by Hagman to elevate that role and its prominence in the series ... working in front of the camera and behind-the-scenes.

I STRONGLY recommend an article by by Harry Hurt III in the June 2012 issue of Texas Monthly, titled "Larry Hagman’s Curtain Call." It offers a wonderful glimpse of the life and times of Hagman, and the fascinating road he followed in the course of his personal and professional life. "There's nothing like watching the real J.R. Ewing in action," Hurt writes in the opening of that article ... I have to agree.

Some will remember him as 'Buck,' while many more will remember him as 'Maj. Anthony Nelson.' But I suspect most of us will remember him as 'J.R. Ewing' ... I know I will ... and I wonder how long the re-boot of "Dallas," may last very without him ... not long on my television set.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

A Thanksgiving Prayer

“Oh God, when I have food, help me to remember the hungry; when I have work, help me to remember the jobless; when I have a warm home, help me to remember the homeless; when I am without pain, help me to remember those who suffer; and remembering, help me to destroy my complacency and bestir my compassion. Make me concerned enough to help, by word and deed those who cry out for what we take for granted ... Amen.”
– Samuel F. Pugh

Friday, November 16, 2012

So long, it's been good to know ya'

In recent years, it's been nice to start my day online with a colorful, yet calming image of a creation by artist Dale Chihuly ...

... that ends today.

"Background images are going away on November 16, 2012," Google tells me. "Thank you for using background images. As we build a more streamlined Google Search page for everyone, we’ll no longer be able to support customization with background images. So you will no longer be able to see your background pictures starting November 16, 2012."

I'm sure Google has all sorts of wonderful (though less-customized) new opportunities for me ... we'll see.

So long, it's been good to know ya'

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Now THIS is 'must see' TV ...

All this time, I've been away from this forum ... and when I return, it sort of picks up where I left off with something in our part of the country, where humans are once again venturing into ... well ... not space, I guess, in this case ... but the edges of space, at least.

Viel Glück, Felix Baumgartner!

Also, at http://www.redbullstratos.com/live/

Monday, July 09, 2012

Is THIS the time for aerospace in West Texas?

A lot of space and time in the local news - and in discussion of said news - being devoted to a recently-concluded deal between a private aerospace firm, the Midland City Council and the Midland Development Corporation, to bring that firm's headquarters and research-and-development operations to the Tall City.

"Never before have humans flown into space from Texas and that's going to happen," Col. Richard Seafross, USAF (retired), chief test pilot for XCOR Aerospace said in a related article. "You're helping XCOR continue with our dream."

This isn't the first time that West Texas has been proposed as a location for aerospace research and operations, that a West Texas community has pursued that dream ... but according to promoters of this current deal, it could be the most successful. Detractors, of course, have another opinion. Me? I'd like to see it work out ... just as I did in Fort Stockton, back in the 90s, during one of the first efforts to attract an aerospace venture to West Texas. And if this latest effort does indeed 'take-off,' we just might owe a tip-of-the-hat ... not to Rick Perry and his bunch ... but to Gregg McKenzie and HIS bunch.

It was about 15 years ago, and I was managing editor of the Fort Stockton Pioneer, a Thursday morning weekly. In that capacity, I was covering a meeting of the Pecos County Commissioners Court when Pct. 1 Commissioner Gregg McKenzie first raised in public discussion, the topic of a spaceport in West Texas, particularly in our very own Pecos County. Initial discussions, back then in Fort Stockton, covered some of the same ground as the recent discussions being reported now in Midland ... economic impact, educational opportunities and so on.

But why West Texas? Well, apparently many of the conditions that made this region such an ideal location for flight training bases back in the 40s, preparing American air crews for World War II, made it an ideal location for aerospace ventures in the modern day. For one thing, we had a lot of open ground. And back in the 90s, that ground was pretty cheap. And we had a lot of open airspace. And that is still true today, even with increased private and commercial air traffic. And while there are other barren areas in the southwest, they might be encumbered in one way or another. At that time, there was competition from a site in Nevada to provide a location for a spaceport ... but it was surrounded by so many secure or off-limits areas run by various branches of the U.S. military and the U.S. government, that any effort to locate a private enterprise in the middle of it posed serious bureaucratic challenge. Proponents of a spaceport here also noted a pro-business attitude among people and governments in Texas, that was harder to find in a state such as California.

Needless to say there were some smiles in the room over McKenzie's suggestion ... but there was enough consideration to provide for a second hearing, and a third. It also was well-covered in the local newspaper. Gregg was a pro at working the media, and in me he found a sympathetic audience ... even if we were separated by a generation or two. He was a member of a pioneer ranching family and a life-long West Texan, while I was a newbie ... and a dang Yankee from back east, to boot. But we still connected over childhood memories of adventures in the stars ... Buck Rogers and Flash Gordon for Gregg, Dr. Who and James Kirk for me.

And we were both mindful that some of America's pioneering rocket research was done just up the road a ways ... 60+ years earlier in southeast New Mexico, where Dr. Robert Goddard once set-up shop and dremed of reaching then unheard-of heights.

For a while, there was even some excitement over the idea, especially following a visit by representatives of the Washington (state)-based Kistler Aerospace. They were strong on conception ... but execution fell short. Kistler was later acquired by another company, underwent some re-branding, then closed it's doors in 2007.

Still, though, there was some buzz generated among companies 'out west' ... not just by the Kistler Aerospace venture in Pecos County, but also by efforts of Blue Origin (another Washington state-based company) in nearby Culberson County. Add to that another, later venture back in Pecos County by the California-based JP Aerospace.

And now comes another California-based company, XCOR Aerospace, and what may be one of the more serious proposals yet ... I wish I could say THE most serious, but there's just not as much information about Blue Origin's venture ... THEY may be the ones with the edge, to be the first to 'have humans flown into space from Texas.'

But, hey, whatever ... good luck to XCOR ... or whoever makes it work. I think Gregg had an inspred - and inspiring! - dream, and a good idea ... and I would love to see that dream be realized, that idea take flight at long last.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

A most remarkable 'nobody'

From a post and link on Jimmy Patterson's Facebook page, I have just now learned of the passing of one of the more remarkable individuals I have ever met ... one who was once without hope, but went on to find hope and share it with countless others ... one who described himself as a 'nobody,' yet was anything but.

Denver Moore, a most remarkable 'nobody,' has entered the church triumphant. According to
this report from worldmag.com's Mickey McLean, "on Saturday, March 31, after several years of ill health, Moore, 75, died, or, as Ron Hall shared in an email, 'The gates of heaven swung open … and Denver Moore went walkin’ in!' A memorial service for Moore was held [Thursday] at McKinney Memorial Bible Church in Fort Worth."

So many of us came to know Moore and Hall - and a third remarkable individual, Hall's wife, Deborah - through their book "Same Kind of Different as Me," and it's follow-up, "What Difference Do it Make?" It's hard to imagine two such men ever meeting each other, let alone becoming such friends ... so maybe it should be no surprise that the meeting and the friendship led to such a wonderful and inspiring story, and mission.

That mission included many, MANY appearances on radio and television, in the newspapers and magazines, and on the road, speaking to crowds of every shape and size. It was during one such appearance that I got to meet them. It was four years ago, and Moore and Hall were in Midland, speaking at an evening praise service organized by First Presbyterian Church and True-Lite Christian Fellowship.

To say that the main sanctuary at First Prez was packed, would be putting it mildly ... every seat was filled, people were standing along the walls, seated on the floor in front of the first row of pews, some had even hopped up onto the sills at the foot of our stained-glass windows ... the house WAS packed, and it ROCKED ... due in no small part to True-Lite's music ministry, which set the perfect tone for the evening.

Hall was the first of the two to speak, and then it was Moore's turn. His testimony was delivered in a manner unfamiliar to some ... at times, he spoke, and told a story .... then he'd quote Scripture ... other times he'd break into song. Our friends from True-Lite were in the groove from the start ... but it was incredible to watch how Moore brought some of my fellow Presbyterians (I've heard us called the 'Frozen Chosen') to their feet, then their hands went up, and then they started shouting in response to the testimony.


I've already spoken to a couple of others who were there at First Prez that night, and they had the same response as mine ... a mix of sadness and happiness ... "Well," said one, "he's with Miss Debbie now."

“Tell ’em I’m a nobody that is tryin’ to tell everybody about somebody that can save anybody,” Moore once told Ron Hall.

“That ‘Somebody’ was Jesus,” Hall wrote shortly after Moore’s passing, “and Denver woke up in His arms on Saturday. His famous quote and the final words in his book are ‘We are all homeless workin’ our way home.’ Welcome home friend; you were a good and faithful servant.”

... and a most remarkable 'nobody.'

Saturday, April 07, 2012

the day before The Day

Big day, tomorrow ... and not just for all Christians, but for all peoples ... that's what I believe.

"We are the Easter people," Pastor Jim Miles of First Prez-Fort Stockton reminds us ..... and that is what we affirm tomorrow, the day for which we have prepared over the past six weeks, the day for which we live at all times. A promise was made on a joyful, star-lit night, in a stable in Bethlehem ... but that promise was kept on a bloody, storm-darkened day, on a hill outside of Jerusalem.

Big day tomorrow, celebrating the resurrection of Jesus Christ ... big day ... THE day, really. But I find myself wondering what it was like the day before The Day ... what was it like during those long hours that passed between Christ's crucifixion and his resuurection? I can't help but think it's easier for us, two-thousand years later, with the benefit of hindsight. But back then ... right then, right there? What was it like for the followers of Jesus on THAT very first day before The Day?

I've always felt a little sorry for Peter, one of the first (and perhaps the greatest) of Jesus' disciples. How many times have I listened to some discussion in Sunday school that included talking some smack about Peter and his shortcomings ... it's especially pronouced now, as we are reminded for the umpteenth time of his denial of Jesus outside the house where Christ was being held. What must it have been like - that day before The Day - for Peter?

Of course, that was Peter before The Day, and before Pentecost. The man that emerges from all that is someone and something else entirely. There is still a growing, learning, developing spirit and awareness in him ... but there is no longer any doubt, or any denial.

But before that? I can only imagine ... because I know, now, and I believe ...

He is risen ... Christ is risen, indeed ... Alleluia! Amen!

Friday, March 23, 2012

Day 6 at Sea: A Variety of Experiences and Beers

Our sixth day at sea aboard Carnival Glory began with a wonderful dose of the unexpected, brought us to the Island of Grand Turk for a day full of EXACTLY what each and every one of us wanted to do, and ended with an appreciation for the many different interests of many different passengers, for how our ship and shore-based businesses cater to those interests … and for the variety of Caribbean beers and rums.

I'm an early riser, even when on vacation, and my luggage usually includes some reading material and a notebook computer, brought for use during those morning hours as I’m lingering over breakfast, and the rest of the family is catching up on one or two months’ worth of sack time lost while living and working ‘back there’ in the real world. Our cruise ship’s galley presents an incredible breakfast, served buffet style in the dining area. As light as a cup of coffee or a glass of juice, or as heavy as you want – with all the usual offerings, plus a few that may not have made it to menu, yet, at your favorite diner back home. There’s even a member of the crew wheeling a cart through the dining area, ready to mix and serve some ‘hair of the dog’ to those who may have over-imbibed the night before.

Meanwhile, the view out the window is another inducement to linger, a step - or seven! - up from what one usually sees out the window of that diner back home.

This morning’s offerings included an unexpected feast for the eyes … whales! During the last few miles into our port at Grand Turk, we were accompanied by a pod of humpbacks swimming parallel to our ship for a while. It’s not something I’d seen live before, and I was soaking it up. Usually on a cruise, my camera is permanently fixed to my shoulder … but I didn't have it with me that morning … and I’m still kicking myself over that.

They went their way, I went mine, and it wasn’t long before it was time for us (the people) to go ashore …

… or not … it’s up to you. And the cruise line is ready to accommodate you. Sure, most of the passengers will take a chance to go ashore … but some don’t … and the ship’s selection of on-board services – food and drink, entertainment and activities, all of the above or none of the above - continues unabated, even while in port. And that’s fine … I can think of worse ways to spend your day than lounging in a deck chair, sipping something colorful from a tall glass with a little paper umbrella, cool breezes in your hair, enjoying a a first-rate view of clear blue water and sea turtles, palm trees and colorful cottages, and incredibly white, pristine beaches with row after row of chairs lined up, waiting for us.

For those that go ashore, there are still a variety of options … you can remain in the small cruise village south of Cockburn Town where you come ashore, or enjoy a stroll down the beach to the legendary Jack's Shack. You canhead into town, or venture further afield … on foot, by bus, by dune buggy, by boat, you name it. Today, we stayed close by, renting a cabana in a beautiful, almost park-like setting for the day … shaded by clusters of palm trees, close to paths and a large pool - or to that beach I mentioned, and an even larger ocean. There’s quiet, air conditioned comfort indoors for those who prefer, or you can enjoy a sit on the porch outside, and the music coming from the pool area. In either case, we also had room service from the Maragaritaville next door.

Maragaritaville has plenty of large, well-known American brands on tap or on the shelf. But they also serve local brands predominant in that area … which in this case turned out to be Turk’s Head Beer and Bambarra Rum. Had both, liked both, and planned to purchase some of both at the duty-free store on my way back to the ship.

You know, it won’t be all THAT long before I need to start thinking seriously about my senior years, and perhaps making the move to a retirement, assisted living community … Grand Turk in general – and the cruise village at Cockburn Town in particular - would suit me just fine! Now, if I could just get Medicare to agree with me!

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Day 5 at Sea: Andrew Likes ‘em, and So Do I

We’re heading out to sea after an all-too-brief visit to San Juan, Puerto Rico. A lot of us are clustered on the starboard side of the ship, enjoying some great shots of Castilio de San Moro, one of the iconic images of this city and of Puerto Rico. It’s an opportunity for some great photos with an offshore perspective of the old battlements.

But it’s also a reminder that I have to get back here again, someday … and when I do, to plan on staying longer. Today’s visit really WAS all-too-brief, and I had barely scratched the surface of all there is to see and do in this city, not to mention other parts of this island.

A short day … but it got off to a GREAT start, with a walk uphill into the heart of Old San Juan, and breakfast at a century-old restaurant and pastry shop I learned about from a television show.

That show was Bizarre Foods on the Travel Channel. Host Andrew Zimmern started his visit to San Juan with a stop at La Bombanera, and I was following his lead. Many know Zimmern for his forays into cuisines - both the foods and the preparations - that might give the average American palette more than a little pause.

But he also finds a place at tables serving foods that would make us feel right at home. And such was the case for La Bombanera. I was there for the coffee and the mallorcas. That’s what has made this eatery a breakfast-before-work staple with local residents since 1902, and what has gained the attention of food and travel programming on television, and the attention of tourists such as myself.

The staff was welcoming, and took good care of us The orange juice was fresh-squeezed, and refreshing after our walk up the streets. The coffee was dark-roasted and strong, and prepared - then topped with foam - from an espresso service that was probably as old as I am.

And the mallorcas? Imagine a large, fresh-made Danish, served with butter, or sliced open and filled with any combination of egg and ham, cheese and bacon … all of them topped off with a generous dusting of powdered sugar.

Andrew likes ‘em ... and do do I.

And that was just the start of the day. There was also a ferry trip across the harbor, a tour of the Bacardi distillery, and a quick visit to one of the colonial fortresses that are a significant part of Old San Juan.
At the end of day, we boarded the ship with plenty of pleasant memories, some photos and some souvenirs. But there was also the knowledge that we had barely scratched the surface of all there is to see and do … heck, we’d barely scratched the surface of scratching-the-surface.

Sigh .. someday.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Day 4 at Sea: Docking Near the 1%

Our fourth day at sea aboard the Carnival Glory brought us to the U.S Virgin Islands of St. Thomas and St. John's, a place where we enjoyed wonderful sailing across incredibly blue waters, some reasonably-priced bottles of some reasonably-good beer, and a chance to admire one of the largest private motor yachts in the world ... talk about something for everyone!

I had never been to the Virgin Islands before, so everything was new for me. We pass by some smaller islands, in our approach to St. Thomas, and we are accompanied by a number of seabirds, while here and there small fishing boats are already out plying their craft. Some beautiful natural scenery - of course! But there seems little else to recommend the island of St. Thomas from a distance. That changes dramatically, though, as you draw closer, as large and prosperous communities come into view, and you see parks devoted to the remains of Colonial-era structures. A variety of commercial and private aircraft pass overhead en route to or from the airport, and as you hove into sight of the main harbor, you see an impressive gathering of cruise ships already anchored for the day, or waiting their turn to depart for their next destination. In another part of the harbor, a LOT of small, private vessels of all shapes and sizes and means of propulsion.

A lot of attractions and a lot of people visiting to enjoy said attractions, a lot of traffic of all kinds coming and going, and a lot of commerce. Plenty of hustle and bustle around the port and the city ... but also many different ways to escape that hustle and bustle, to get out and enjoy one's self where it's a little more quiet, a little more remote and even more beautiful. That was the course we pursued when we signed-up for one of the umpteen-zillion excursions offered (for an additional fee) to our cruise's passengers ... a catamaran excursion to a national park on the neighboring island of St. John's, then relaxing on a pristine white beach and snorkeling in waters that are so very clear and so very blue ... the likes of which a landlubber such as myself doesn't see from the banks of the Rio Grande or the Susquehanna.

The return trip featured island music and PLENTY of rum punch and champagne, and we got back to the port with plenty of time for me to belly-up to a seaside bar and sample the local brews ... if this was even remotely close to a day-in-the-life in the U.S. Virgin Islands, I'd be scanning the classifieds there, looking for job openings at a local community college!

At other times the excursion seemed like one of the 'Hollywood homes of the stars' tours as our guide noted homes on St. John's belonging to well-known figures such as Barbara Streisand, Kenny Chesney, Alan Alda, Kelsey Grammar (a hometown boy), Michael Jordan and many others. I've read on cruise discussion boards, posts by people asking the best times/places to bump into celebrities ... and I find myself agreeing with some of the respondents, those noting that the celebrities - like us - are trying to 'get away from it all' for a little while, and maybe we should respect that.

Okay, that's cool ... I'm not much of a celebrity hound, anyway. But how about celebrities' conveyances? Well that's a different matter ... and as it turned out, we didn't bump into one ... our crusise ship docked less than a hundred yards from one, and the balcony of our cabin offered the perfect vantage point for admiring that conveyance and others like it.

'Googling' the words Lürssen and Rising Sun, I learned that we were docked next to the Rising Sun, a motor yacht built by the Lürssen company. According to the boat's Wikipedia page, "it was originally purchased by Larry Ellison, CEO of Oracle Corporation, and is currently owned by David Geffen. The yacht is the 8th largest in the world with a length of almost 138 metres (453 ft). It reportedly cost over US $200 million to build."


That page goes on to list of variety of the ship's specifications ... but I'm tempted to log-into Wikipedia, edit that page, and and one more spec ... it really is a very, VERY beautiful craft. And that was an added and unexpected attraction to our fourth day at sea ... to my list of first-time experiences such as catamaran-cruising, snorkeling and Virgin Island beer-drinking, I could now also include 'docking near the 1%.'

All-in-all, a good day ... a great day, really.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Day 3 at Sea: The Journey of Junior Steeler

The first port o’ call on our cruise, bright and early on a Tuesday morning, was the city of Nassau, in the Bahamas. Our first port o’ call, but also the last stop on our journey for the fourth-and-a-half member of our company, Junior Steeler.

This was not my first visit. It was three years ago, and while the wife and kids were enjoying an excursion to the nearby Atlantis Resort, I was enjoying a walk about town, guidebook in one hand, camera hanging from my shoulder, traversing the hills overlooking the town, and the port where my cruise ship was docked. It had been a long morning and part of an afternoon, with plenty of historical/cultural points of interest and a LOT of photos .. and I was more than ready for some lunch

I was working my way back towards the coast road - still a few blocks from the clusters of bars and eateries that cater to visitors - when a yellow placard on a sidewalk caught my attention, informing me that the Bahamian Kitchen was just inside the door. That suited me since I was ready for a taste of the local cuisine, so in I went …

… to be greeted by a street sign that designated reserved parking for Pittsburgh Steeler fans. The walls of the bar and dining room were a colorful mixture of junkaroo masks, posters for the local Kalik beer, and Steeler banners and bumper stickers. I was in the unofficial Steeler Nastion consulate of the Bahamas … I’d come home.

Good beer, great food and our fellow citizenship in the Steeler Nation made for a wonderful meal, and a wonderful memory of my all-too-brief time in the Bahamas.

And now were on our way back, and I was determined to re-visit Bahamian Kitchen, catch up with Mike Brice and Tom Kessler, and maybe bring them a special Steeler tribute … like an old bobble-head, maybe?

Our journey with Junior Steeler was all-too-brief. But in the course of that journey - from Midland to Houston, Houston to Miami, Miami to Nassau - we saw some neat sites and met some great people, many of whom paused to have their photo taken with my perpetually-smiling, perpetually-nodding little friend, and become a part of his journey

Nassau at last! Bahamian Kitchen didn’t open until lunch, so I had some free time to do a little souvenir shopping, and to spend some time at St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Kirch and catch-up on Lenten devotionals I had missed during Sunday’s hectic rush of embarkation. Having enriched the local economy, and my soul, I proceeded to lunch …

... and saw from the start that there had been some changes made The junkaroo masks were still their, and the Kalik posters … but all of the Steeler memorabilia was gone, as were the one-time proprietors of Bahamian Kitchen. Tom, a splendid old gentleman from Ohio, had passed away last year. And Mike, a local man with excellent taste in American football, was now working elsewhere in Nassau. The kitchen staff was much the same, and the old woman who ran the kitchen was as charming - and as skilled a chef! - as I remembered. Another wonderful meal, and another wonderful time .. this one with new friends and new experiences - including one of the locals leading us in the singing of a number of old-school American country western songs such as “Crying Time” and “Streets of El Paso.“

It was there, on the streets of Nassau, that Junior Steeler and I parted ways. The new proprietor, Rudy, knew Mike well, and promised to take Junior on the next leg of his journey, while I embarked once again for the next leg of my journey. Part of me already misses the little guy, but I am comforted by the knowledge that he will be in good company.

And I am also comforted by the knowledge that, wherever we go, it will be - as the locals here say - ‘no problem, man … is alright.’ Also comforting … wherever we go, we take the Steeler Nation with us.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Day 2 at Sea: Seascpaes and Sea Breezes

Maybe it’s the years I’ve now spent away from the coast, but a broad ocean vista has a tremendous appeal for me. Our ship will be entirely at sea today, en route from yesterday’s port to tomorrow’s. So from first light to last, there is nothing out there but the sea and the sky and the straight line dividing the two … and I’m enjoying every minute of it.

In some way, it is comfortingly familiar. My part of Texas is different from the rest - with a different look and a different ‘feel’ from those parts of the Lone Star State that make it into film or television It’s flat out in West Texas, and in parts of North Texas. They also have the winds, and those cause the mature grains to ripple, to create land-borne waves. Looking across this seascape right now, I can’t help but think … “add a couple of grain silos and a Dairy Queen, and I’d feel like I’m back in the Panhandle.”

Similar in some ways, and different in others. There are no grain silos, and no DQ anywhere to be seen. It takes the definition of ‘remote’ that one learns in West Texas, and takes it to a whole ‘nother level Occasionally another ship will pass nearby (this is a relatively well-traveled sea lane), but other than that we appear to be completely alone in this world defined by the limits of our vision.

And the winds. Again, we have them in West Texas … but there is nothing comforting about them, hot and dry and dust-filled as they can be. Here, the winds that blow across our deck are a cool, moist caress that refreshes me … though some old salts sharing our journey (including one who has sailed the Straits of Magellan) have told me just how punishing those caresses can be. My father, a thirty-year career Marine, would share similar stories of gales in the North Atlantic and typhoons in the South Pacific.

A sobering thought, really. I have experienced tornadoes in Texas, and I’m pretty sure I would NOT care to experience a severe storm at sea. Right here? Right now? No need to worry. During the summer, though? When hurricane season approaches? That’s a different matter, experienced cruisers tell me, and the reason cruise lines will divert some of their fleets to the northeastern U.S., and to Europe.

But here and now, it’s just me … ‘the old man and the sea’ … and the sky … and the breeze … and some colorful ‘rum-punchy’ kind of drink with a little paper umbrella.

Not bad … pretty good, actually.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Day 1 at Sea: Safety First

Each year, as we move into March, a common topic of discussion around the workplace and around town is some variation of ... "so, you got plans for Spring Break?" This is usually followed by some analysis of what we are doing, what we could be doing, what we should be doing, and so on.

This year, though, our announced plans to take a cruise are followed by some analysis of safety issues, whether we are concerned about going out to sea, and the difficulties that could arise therefrom.

Easy to understand their analysis, really. Earlier this year, there was the story of the cruise ship Costa Concordia, its tragic accident off the coast of Italy, the lives that were lost in that accident, and what is still being revealed in the ensuing investigation. With this story on their minds, more news outlets have been keeping an eye on the wires, looking for more cruise ship-related stories to share with their readers viewers ... in the U.S., a number of passengers becoming sick on two consecutive cruises of a single ship; at sea in the Indian Ocean, a cruise ship loses power and has to be towed to port; in Mexico, there is the armed robbery of a busload of passengers ashore for a cruise ship sponsored excursion.

There was another story from the U.S., and this also shapes my answers to to those concerned about my family's safety aboard Carnival Glory this week. According to this story from the wires, the departure of another Florida-based cruise ship was delayed to allow a passenger to be removed from the ship. Reportedly, the passenger declined to participate in the ship's mandatory safety briefing and muster drill, and the cruise line was within its right to remove him from the ship.

According to our briefing today. ships of this class/function are required by international law to have this briefing/drill within 24 hours of departure. In my experience - all with Carnival, all departing the U.S. - we have these before the ship is set in motion. And we are warned that failure to participate will result in our debarkation.

And that proved to be the case this time around, as well. We experienced the alarm system - a combination of the shi[ps horn, and very loud tones from speakers in our rooms and in public areas. We didn't have to retrieve and don our life jackets, but we did learn where they were stowed in our rooms. Directions to our muster station were delivered by the overhead speakers, and reinforced by crew members all along the way.

Something different this time around - once we reached our muster station, everyone was asked to please be quiet during the briefing ... and that was fine, it didn't take that long, and even I was able to be quiet for its duration. And that was it. The ship blasted its horn, and we were off.

And I was headed for one of the bars on deck, to enjoy watching the City of Miami passing by, and a cold beer with a sandwich from the ship's deli. Let the vacation begin ... I'm safe and satisfied.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Two Outta Three Ain’t Bad

One look at me, and it’s obvious that food is a big - perhaps TOO big - part of my enjoyment of life. That includes my time on the move, traveling, which I’m preparing to do later this month. Looking at our itinerary, I’m already looking forward to making a couple of stops at places I’ve seen on the Travel Channel.

TC has three shows on their prime time lineup devoted largely to food at various locations around the country and around the world. Two of them - Anthony Bourdain’s “No Reservations” and Andrew Zimmern’s “Bizarre Foods” - are really, really good, and encourage me to set my feet and my palate along the paths they have followed. Then there’s then there’s Adam Richman’s “Man vs. Food” … oh, well - two outta three ain’t bad.

In some ways, all three are alike .. each has a camera-friendly host inviting the audience to join them on their personal journey of culinary discovery. None of them forget us here, on the other end of the camera lens, and there are more than a few asides to us - winks and nods, arched eyebrows and sotto voce comments.

But there are other, significant ways that Bourdain’s and Zimmern’s shows differ from Richman’s. And that’s where I part company with fans of “Man vs. Food.” Bourdain and Zimmern, for all their personality and all their camera time, manage to keep the focus on the food, while Richman manages to keep the focus on himself. For Bourdain and Zimmern, food - and what they can learn from its preparation and service - is the real star of their show, while for Richman, the real star is him and how much food he can cram down. For Bourdain and Zimmern, food is celebration, while for Richman it is a competitive event. For Bourdain and Zimmern, food is a practice in discovery and hospitality, while for Zimmern it is a practice in gluttony.

I enjoy the cutaways on Bourdain’s and Zimmern’s shows, with quick shots of some interested locals watching the proceedings. I find the pre-arranged crowds on Richman’s show with their forced (cued?) yee-HAW’ing and woo-HOO’ing less than appetizing.

When all is said and done, I find myself wanting to visit the locations Bourdain and Zimmern visited … so far, I have found their recommendation and observations to have been spot-on. Not so with Richman … at least not yet. During one episode of his show, he visited a place that had been a campus hangout of mine during my college years, where I had spent many, MANY hours drinking coffee, eating one of their famous sweet rolls, catching up on reading assignments and cramming for exams - I hardly recognized the place from its portrayal on television as a Mecca for enthusiasts of huge, belly-busting entrees.

But you know what the neat thing is? Television viewing is a matter of personal choice. I an turn it off, I can turn it on, I can change the channel, I can read a book, and I can get the heck off the couch and get out of the house. For now, at least, I still look forward to my next serving of “No Reservations” and “Bizarre Foods.” “Man vs. Food?” I’ll pass, thanks.

Friday, March 02, 2012

A Yankee's Toast to Texas ... 2012

These are thoughts I've addressed before ... but somehow they gained a new relevance for me, a new perspective after Rick Perry - our state's governor - tossed his hat into the ring, seeking the Republican party's nomination for President of the United States. And while that candidacy has long since come and gone, some of its impact still resonates within me. More than once Governor Perry used the states rights (some would say 'secessionist') rhetoric that has endeared him to so many here in the Lone Star State, encouraging that 'Austin versus Washington' or 'Texas versus the rest of you guys' attitude that still has its staunch defenders.

And that's fine ... at least for them. For me, I remain a 'dang Yankee from back-east' ... not much I can do about that. Yet Texas is my home ... the place where I have now spent more years than any of the other states where I have resided these last fifty-some years ... a place where I have enjoyed new and exciting experiences that I had not attempted elsewhere ... and I place I truly love. And while I have a skewered and way-below-average view of it all, I still celebrate Texas independence and I honor the ideals that inspired it, and those who made it possible. And THAT's something Rick Perry will NEVER be able to take from me.

“To Texas . . .
Joyous and sparkling,
Evergreen when it rains,
enduring in drought,
Timeless, endless in boundaries, exciting,
Home to the adventurous of yesterday and today,
With shrines from the past, and space and spirit for the future.
To Texas.
Everlasting in the hearts of your people!”

I've told this story before ... it was back in the 90s when, as editor of the Fort Stockton Pioneer, I was handed a letter from one of our readers, for publication in the next issue ... a letter admonishing our paper for not devoting adequate space to Texas Independence Day. She may have been DRT (I honestly don't remember for certain), but she was certainly something of a Lone Star zealot ... a perception of mine that was reinforced by her comment as she handed me the letter ... "You probably won't realize the importance of this, not being from around here."

Well, actually, I do, and so do a lot of dang Yankees from back east, such as myself. True, I am someone who - to borrow the old saying - wasn't born in Texas, but got here as fast as I could. And the same could be said for Stephen Austin, William Travis, Davy Crockett, Jim Bowie, Mirabeau Lamar and Sam Houston.

Don't get me wrong! I do NOT equate myself with them. But it doesn't hurt to remember that, with the exception of Juan Seguin and his company of Tejanos, there wasn't a 'native Texan' to be found on the Texas side of the revolution.

And the Keystone Stater in me would like to point out that there were an estimated 13 Pennsylvanians defending the walls of the Alamo, and offering up their lives for the revolution and the ideals it represented. And well they should. Because it was something that had been important to them, their parents and their grandparents for more than half-a-century.

Maybe that's what bugged me about the woman's remark ... the fact that, 'not being from around here,' I would be unable to understand what was being decided in the Texas revolution. To my mind, it was something that all free-thinking people know ..... or should know.
You see, it wasn't just men that came to Texas ..... the ideals adopted at Washington on the Brazos had been conceived many years before, in Philadelphia ..... and the determination to defend those ideals in Goliad and Gonzales, San Antonio and San Jacinto, had been inspired - again, many years before - by what took place at Bunker Hill and Valley Forge, Lexington, Concord and Cowpens.

And the material needed to pursue that defense came from all over the United States, from the decision by Alabama to strip its state arsenal of muskets and send them west, to the Twin Sisters -- a pair of canons donated by the 'People of Cincinnati, Ohio' and arriving just in time to blast a hole in the Mexicans' makeshift breastworks at San Jacinto.

And so, I lift my glass, and I will join the toast heard statewide today ... but mine will be a private affair ... and while I may follow closely the words printed near the top of this post, I will deviate on one point, and replace the word 'Texas' with 'America' ... God Bless It!

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Tweet Envy

It's hard for me to be completely objective, but I think Midland College is a wonderfully diverse institution, offering an incredible array of resources for people of all shapes and sizes, ages and interests, pasts and futures, who want to 'grow' their knowledge and their lives ...

... but, I have to admit ... we don't have Angelina Jolie's Leg !

Midland College has had a Twitter page for over a year, and is now approaching 900 followers. Angelina Jolie's Leg has had a Twitter page for just over 24 hours, and already has more than 35,000 followers!

... I am soooooo envious!

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Shout-out to YouTubers ...

I know ... I know ... I'm ranting ... but stick with me, here.

Let's face it, the web has grown to a size, a reach and a complexity that makes it a force to be reckoned with in the course of public debate. Every now and then, some denizen of the web delivers a well-deserved smackdown to someone else who insists on delivering wit ... especially when said wit is a figment of their own imagination.

Take Newt Gingrich ... PLEASE (rim shot)

No, seriously, take Newt Gingrich as an example of my rant. According to
this report in mywesttexas.com, "speaking at ORU’s Mabee Center, Gingrich mocked environmental concerns." Okay, I'm cool with that, I've been mocked by far better people that Newt for my environmentalism. But he couldn't leave it there. Gingrisch, the report goes on to state, "received a standing ovation for saying, 'You can’t put a gun rack in a Volt.'”

Which brings us to YouTuber jtmcdole, who begs to differ with the gentleman (smirk) from Georgia.

Way to go, jt!

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Keep Mike in your prayers ...

According to this report from KOSA-TV, news anchor Mike Barker continues to recover from his cancer surgery at M.D. Anderson in Houston. "We are told that he is up and walking today," said the report on Thursday.

You can also follow Mike's progress
on his wife Shelley's Twitter page.

If you had to pick an elder statesman of West Texas television news, Mike would have to be one of the candidates. He was already an established presence here when I started working the local market in the late 80s. I worked as a writer and production assistant at KMID-TV/Big 2 News, while Mike was the station's lead anchor - the point man for what was then the dominant #1 news station in the market. Both of us have moved to other stations, other media over the years - and have even spent some time out of journalism altogether. But our friendship has lasted for 25 years now - and that's something I cherish.

He remains on my prayer list, as does Shelley, their family and friends, and the medical professionals in charge of Mike's care. Get well soon, Mike ... we miss you!

Big Brother (and just about everyone else) is Watching You ...

... and tweeting you, and friending you, and sharing you, and hash-tagging you, and doing who-knows-what-else to you. Case in point, the investigation into Thursday's bank robbery in Midland ... and the arrest of a suspect the following day, and how coverage/investigation of that robbery included contibutions through social media.

Here is a report from the Midland Reporter-Telegram, with some mention of the contributions from social media.

And here is a report from KWES-TV, which goes into more detail about those contributions.

The suspect was identified by someone who started spreading the word via comments on the social media, according to reports on the investigation, and searches on the internet located the suspect's own presence on social media ... which helped confirm the allegations in those comments.

George, the proprietor of Sleepless In Midland who knows a thing or two about social media, has shared his belief that law enforcement is making good use of virtual fora such as Facebook. He also notes cases where robbers brag of their misdeeds on their Facebook pages, apparently not realizing just how public those statements are.

We also read of how colleges, employers and landlords are checking prospective students, employees and tenants on the internet - and that includes perusing your social media presence. Periodically, the Twitter feed I receive in my work at Midland College includes admonitions that updating (or cleaning-up) your social media profiles may become every bit as important as your resume, your entrance essay, or the references on your application.

It's the old 'live mic' quandry to the umpteenth power. Just as people would be warned to assume the microphone was ALWAYS on, and the tape was ALWAYS rolling ... maybe today we should always bear in mind that what we post is out there for all to see, and judge, and share (sometimes with a little added spin).

And times change, you grow and move on to other things ... there may come time where you really want to get a new profile photo (one where you're not naked, and sucking on a beer bong), no matter how well it served you in college.

After all, you never know who's watching.

Sunday, February 05, 2012

Is it me, or ...

... was one of my favorite Super Bowl ads also a political plug? Overall, a pretty good selection of ads in tonight's broadcast ... some variations on a theme from last year (Doritos, e-trade), some variations on an even older theme (Ferris Bueller/Honda), some whose attraction continues to elude me (Go Daddy), and some that I liked a lot more than most of the others. One of those was Chrysler's tribute piece featuring Clint Eastwood ...

I liked everything about the spot ... well scripted and well-shot, and a wonderful job of editing and audio-mixing in the post. I'm guessing that the credits for this spot would include some of the same names as Chrysler's spot (with Eminem) in last year's Super Bowl ... which was my favorite spot in THAT broadcast.

But even before the spot hand ended, I was wondering if "the second half" was alluding to a second four-year term for President Obama. And I've noticed that this same line of thought has already been popping up elsewhere on the net.

What do you think?

By the way my other favorite spots included Chevy/Apocalypse ... of course, I can hardly be objective about THAT. And I'm definitely going to hang on to my Chevy pickup until 2012 is over and done with!

... and I absolutely LOVED the way this Budweiser-Canada spot made me feel! I just wish Budweiser would have aired this during the U.S. Super Bowl broadcast instead of that 'eternal optimism' spot.

Friday, January 27, 2012

This day - and tomorrow - in history ...

Everyone has their routine stops - both actual and virtual - that they make in the course of the day. For me, the latter include a "This Day in History" feature prepared by the New York Times.

During TODAY's stop I learned of a number of significant events, including one that had a special added note, due to an event that will appear on the feature TOMORROW.

On January 27, 1967, Astronauts Virgil "Gus" Grissom, Edward White and Roger Chaffee died in a fire that swept through their capsule during a test aboard their Apollo I spacecraft, at Cape Kennedy, Florida. HERE is the NYT's coverage of that story. Almost 45 years ago, but I still remember the news reports, and the heartbreak felt by those of us who were growing-up with America's space program, and who had idolized our astronauts from the first days of the Mercury mission. Apollo 1 was the launch of a new mission in that program, and the first step on that final leg of the journey that began with President Kennedy's call for "a great new American enterprise ... of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to the earth."

Eventually, our astronauts would reach the moon (and would leave an Apollo 1 patch at one of the landing sites), but the space program would continue, with new triumphs, and new tragedies ... one of which we'll mark tomorrow. On January 28, 1986, Space Shuttle Challenger exploded just after liftoff from Cape Kennedy, Florida, killing all seven of its crew members. HERE is the NYT's coverage of THAT story. I remember that day, too. I was substitute teaching in a Dallas high school, when news of the explosion began circulating. Some of my students wondered what the fuss was about. Remember, teacher Christa McAuliffe was a member of that crew, and classrooms of students across the country following the launch. The teacher who was going door-to-door with the news told me that students at McAuliffe's own school had been sent home following the accident. "Oh, man," said one of my students. "I wish it'd been one of our teachers. Then WE could be going home" ... and some of you wonder why people with such an 'easy' job as teaching, burn-out.

Anyway, that's an interesting coincidence I noticed during one of my regular, virtual stops today. It reminded me that the 'space race' brought with it all the elements that people look for in a race, the challenge and the excitement, the triumph and the tragedy. I still like to follow developments in space programs - ours, and those of other nations ... though I do wonder how much will be left of our own program in the near future. And that's a shame, considering the sacrifices some have made as part of that program. My thoughts? ... seventy years ago, someone expressed them far better than I ever could.

"Oh, I have slipped the surly bonds of earth
And danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings;

Sunward I've climbed, and joined the tumbling mirth
Of sun-split clouds - and done a hundred things

You have not dreamed of - wheeled and soared and swung
High in the sunlit silence. Hov'ring there,

I've chased the shouting wind along, and flung
My eager craft through footless halls of air.

Up, up the long delirious, burning blue
I've topped the windswept heights with easy grace

Where never lark, or even eagle flew.
And, while with silent, lifting mind I've trod

The high untresspassed sanctity of space,
Put out my hand, and touched the face of God."

- John Gillespie Magee, Jr.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

On This Day ...

Did you know that, on this day in 1861, Louisiana seceded from the United States of America? Just another reminder that this year finds the sesquicentennial observance/celebration/whatever of the Civil War - one of our nation's defining moments - well underway.

In the year that followed that day in Louisiana, there was much of note that happened ... more states seceded from the Union; Abraham Lincoln was elected President of the United States; secessionist talk became open rebellion; Fort Sumter was attacked; there was the First Battle of Bull Run (or Manassas, take your pick); the legend of "Stonewall" Jackson was born; and much, much more.

I find myself wondering why we don't read or hear more about it. Is it, perhaps, because it is no longer a part of our living memory? As terrible as that conflict was, there are no longer among us - as would be the case for '9/11' - those who can say, "I remember." Maybe ... maybe not. Whatever the case, couldn't we trim just a couple of minutes away from Demi Moore's ambulance call, the umpteenth replay of the more ridiculous Super Bowl minutia, or the latest 'nyah-nyahs' in the mini-civil war between Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich, and devote it to what was going on in our nation 150 years ago, and what it means for us today?

I'll do my part, and try to post on this more over the year ahead ... and I look forward to reading what you have to say about that conflict. Be warned, though ... I AM a dang Yankee from back-east, and I think the 'good guys' won the Civil War. So we may have to agree to disagree on some points.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Hey ... I know that guy!

I'd like to offer a shout out - hat tip, kudos, whatever - to Cindeka Nealy, a staff photographer for the Midland Reporter-Telegram, who got some MAJOR exposure today, placing not one - but three photos on msnbc.com, including one on the website's home page, above the fold. Nealy's photos accompanied an msnbc.com staff report (with contributions from the MRT) about Monday's record-setting snowfall in West Texas.

"Where's winter," the report asks. "If you're in the lower 48 states you might try Midland, Texas. At some 20 inches so far this season -- more than half of that dumped on Monday alone -- it's got more snow than most U.S. cities much farther north."
CLICK HERE to read the rest of the report.

Monday, January 02, 2012

In Memoriam: John Hyde

The new year is less than 48 hours old, and already our community is lessened - substantially. It was with great sadness that I visited mywesttexas.com just now, to read that "Judge John Hyde passed away this afternoon after a more than two-year battle with cancer."

Sadness, yes ... but not shock. Judge Hyde's ongoing battle with cancer has been common knowledge - and an inspiration! - to the community. He was the focus of frequent and fervent prayers for 'wholeness and healing.' And even as we celebrated his time among us, we knew deep down that time might not continue as long as we would like. Our prayers, now, are with Judge Hyde's family ... his wife Sharon, his children and his grandchildren, and with all those who are touched by his passing.

My first visit with Judge Hyde was more than twenty years ago, and it was a typical encounter. It was the late 80s, the 'bust' was well underway, and I had been laid-off from KMID-TV/Big 2. While I was pursuing a variety of freelance media jobs, I was also enrolled at Midland College for job-retraining, taking courses towards a paralegal certificate. They were some good courses, but the best was a course that had me downtown at the courthouse, student-clerking for the state district courts. I was assigned to Judge Hyde's 238th Distrct Court.

Under his tutelage, I found myself gaining first-hand knowledge and experience of every aspect of our court system. With him, there was no such thing as a menial task ... everything I did, even fetching stacks of law books or answering phones, served a purpose. I eventually re-entered the journalism business full-time, and did not make the move to professional paralegal. Yet the knowledge, the experience and the appreciation I gained for law enforcement and the court system during that process made a me a better journalist ... like I said, a typical encounter with Judge Hyde.

My last visit with Judge Hyde was less than two months ago, and it was a typical encounter. He had just made a presentation during the early service at First Prez-Midland, highlighting dates in the church's history, and it's contributions to the community, the country and the world. As many of you know, he not only had a keen interest in history, but also a knack for research, and a wonderful ability for presentation, sharing the results of his research with others in a manner that informed and stimulated.

During the fellowship time that followed the early service, I was part of a three-way chat with Judge Hyde and MPD Deputy Chief Jeff Darr, that covered not only history, but also current events in the Tall City, cause-and-effect, where we are and where we're going. It was all-too-short a visit, but I left it encouraged and better-informed ... like I said, a typical encounter with Judge Hyde.

According to Gustave Flaubert, "a friend who dies, it's something of you who dies." With the passing of John Hyde, that is something we could all say today.

- 30 -