Election year maze

corn03Now here’s an interesting metaphor.  Our annual trip to Shryock’s Corn Maze took on an intriguing theme:  the U. S. presidential election.

I suppose as we have to chart a course through the maze, progressing through many obstacles and making decisions at every intersection, we should also ponder the presidential election as we, the people, chart a course for our country, keep our nation progressing through many obstacles and choose someone who we think will be making the right decisions at every intersection.

Or at least for this year, making the right decisions much more often than the other candidate.

The “Cos”

billcosbySo we got some tickets to see Bill Cosby in concert down in Branson….

My first exposure to Bill Cosby’s standup humor came, of all places, in high school.  Yes, I had an English teacher/coach, who, as English teacher/coaches go, was good at what he did.  Quirky, but good.  He actually read to our class a self-published novel he had written.  Of course, his idol was Stephen King, so most of the teens in his novel died by the end.  Like I said, he was quirky.  As a reward to us near the end of the term, he showed us Bill Cosby:  Himself.

I know, I have digressed somewhat.

But then again, so does Bill Cosby.  Maybe not quite as rambling as me, but more like your favorite old uncle who always tells you stories.  That was what watching Bill Cosby in concert is like now.  He starts stories, moves on to others, then comes back to the first one in a way that made me feel like he’d invited us over for dinner and we were now enjoying some after-dinner conversation.

He spun his humorous stories from a chair in the middle of the stage.  He was wearing a casual sweatshirt, and it looked like he was fighting a cold by the way he went to the tissue box at various times during his performance.

Though still autobiographical, his humor has changed from Bill Cosby:  Himself.  Of course that was over twenty years ago.  Then, he talked about his family, being a father, his kids, his childhood.  Now, at 71 years of age, his jokes are more about the challenges of getting old, trying to swap recipes with fussy neighbors, and visits to the doctor and dentist.

I particularly enjoyed some of the stories about him and his wife Camille.  I “get” that he’s taken some liberty with the “grumpy” exchanges he describes in his routine.  The deep love and understanding that makes a 44-year marriage happen always sneaks in between the lines of his jokes.

“You get to my age, you can sit like this in a room, no TV, no radio, just sitting in a room, and you can get into trouble.”

“My wife will say, ‘I just straightened up in there!’   Well, I must be the mess.”

I hear you, Cos.  And Angie and I really enjoyed you having us over last night.

417 Idea Home

I like to surprise Angie with “extra destinations” on our annual birthday trips.  (The first corn maze we went to in Columbia was a big birthday surprise.)  This year was no different.  The fun we had in Springfield would probably have been enough (Japanese Stroll Garden, Braums, Battlefield Mall), but I wasn’t finished yet.  I took her down to tour the 417 Idea Home in Branson.

We’ve been talking about building a home for some time now.  The Idea Home was a collaborative effort that took four years to complete.  The home featured the best of what local architects, designers, builders, and suppliers had to offer.  It was meant to be an inspiration for people who want to build their own homes using the latest materials and technology.  Something that you can actually touch and walk around in.  And, best of all, Angie had never heard of it.

It was great fun for both of us, and it fueled another round of design plans and revisions.  One day, one day….

On a bicycle built for two

bikefortwoTwo seats.  Two sets of pedals.  One steering mechanism.

This contraption is truely a compatibility test for couples that surpasses what you could get on those many of those “online dating” sites.  You go through several stages on one of these things.  The first, of course, it, “Hey, that looks like fun.”  Next comes, “Okay, you are pedaling too (fast | slow) for me, could you (relax | pick up the pace)?”  Then comes, “In order to steer this thing, we have to work together.”  Then there’s a stop and a short break, followed by a pep talk by the one whose idea it wasn’t to stop and take a short break.

Then there’s communication.  Deep communication unlike what was occuring before.  Decisions on speed and direction are seemingly made and executed simultaneously.  You turn to your mate and see she’s smiling.  You realize you are too.

Riding on a side-by-side bicycle built for two on the Katy Trail near Rocheport is an education and a ton of fun at the same time.

Internet cultural dropout

Hello friends.  Yes, this is a new post.  It’s been nearly a year, and some of you may be wondering why it’s been so long.  It’s simple.

I dropped out.

I’m generally a pretty well-adjusted and happy guy.  I’ve always worked hard, enjoyed spending time with my wife, and tried to stay connected to and participate in society and culture.  I enjoyed getting into the blogging scene and experimenting with the medium.  I had no audience, really, except for those who are close to me, but I know my playful attempts to add something to the Internet will be out there in the ether, along with countless other individuals’ similar musings.

But the Internet is a communication medium, and my dropping out probably has more to do with a change I’ve seen since my early days on the web.  I put my first page up in 1995.  Things were very different then.  There was no real formula for contrubuting.  Bright flashing animated graphics, music in the background and links to cool things that popped up on the web were the norm, I guess.  People took care in what they posted, there was a community responsibility to add value to the internet in the process of crafting a presence for yourself.  But somewhere along the way, anonymity took over and the results of that have snowballed ever since.

I first noticed the shift on Usenet news groups.  There, new identities were much easier to create than a webpage presence, and people started assuming multiple identities.  These people were invariably the folks who would be argumentative, stirring up trouble on the news groups, and delighting in lowering the level of discourse.  They are known as “trolls.”  The multiple identities often times were used to back up the original troll identity, pretending to lend support and keep the regular members angry.

Anonymity breeds cruel and hateful behavior.  The more savvy internet contributors get, the further away from the original ethic of contributing positively we get and the more trolls with their “nym” armies start “flame wars” and then enjoy the fireworks.  With no reputation at stake, people who used to post technology articles to social media sites like digg.com are now vastly outnumbered by people spouting hostility.  Anonymity on the web = no consequences for hateful behavior.
Even an article submitted telling about today’s solar eclipse is met by trolls.  One comment:

“What’s new in this? Is it the first Solar Eclipse ever? wtf?”

Anonymity breeds cruel and hateful behavior.

That’s just a technology site.  Don’t go looking for intellegent and civil discourse on a site like the Daily KOS.  But news sites aren’t the only thing affected by this.  In fact, anonymity allows for much, much nastier behavior.  For instance, last year a mother created a fake MySpace profile in order to start an online relationship with one of her daughter’s rivals for a spot on the school cheerleading squad.  The resulting harassment inflicted on the teen eventually caused her to commit suicide.

This is not the Internet I knew when I made my first page.  That is why I haven’t spent much time inhabiting it.  But you know, it doesn’t have to be this way.  The web may be anonymity and hostility run amuck, but this little space I’ve carved out can be more.  It, along with the spaces of my friends, family, and kindred spirits around the world can make something better here.  Something that can provide some good-natured fun and elucidation.  Where disagreements don’t end up in name-calling.  To contribute to this web, not to degenerate it.

I’m going to start blogging again.  On my terms.

Christmas all year

JesusChristmas really came fast this year, and even now, it’s hard for me to think it’s over.

I was really in the Christmas spirit, too.  My classroom was decorated to a tee.  I’ve show others extraordinary patience and kindness to others, including forgiving grouchy people who repeatedly ran their shopping carts into me on Black Friday, taking extra time out to talk with people who just need to talk to someone this time of year, and yeilding to people whose road rage caused them to do something unwise.

In fact, now that the holiday has passed, I don’t want the serenity and joy I’ve gained during this intense, but short Christmas season to end.  Christmas may be the celebration of Jesus’s birth, and it’s a time of year that reminds us of the spark of divinity in all of us.  But He’s more than a birthday.  Yes, I hear an odd calling.  I know what I have to do.

I’m going to keep this going as long as I can.

Honors

The end of the school year is always a melancholy, contemplative time for teachers.   We send students off to their next challenges with all the knowledge and experiences we were able to give them during the year.  It is also the time of the teacher retirement ceremony, where we say goodbye and farewell to those who have devoted their adult life to the education of children.  The true impact of these sad farewells won’t be felt until next fall when that trusted resource, a wealth of experience and information, is no longer with us.   But then we will add new teachers, young and full of enthusiasm and energy.  It takes both kinds, really, to balance out a good educational staff.

I paused from packing down my classroom for the year to reflect on the year.  About then, a teacher I’ve worked with for the past few years came by and put a piece of paper on my desk.  It was a page from a teacher’s calendar.  By the time I had read it, she had almost slipped out.

Those teachers with the patience to stay true to the task, those teachers with the skill to bring order to the confusion, those teachers with a kind and understanding heart to see all children as capable and worthy, those teachers who teach special education children – these are truly the “saints of education.” – Harry and Rosemary Wong

“Thank you very much, but I don’t think I deserve this.”   She turned before she left and said simply, “Yes, you do.”

Dawn mission

I guess I can’t take full credit for jinxing this mission.  After all, the mission had already been canceled once, uncancelled, and then put on “stand down” status before I even got involved in the project.  The mission of Dawn is to study Vesta and Ceres, two bodies in the asteroid belt, and Dawn will be the first to visit multiple bodies under its own power, in particular using its new ion thrusters.  And my involvement  … well, I am one of the space enthusiasts whose name (and Angie’s, I take full responsibility for that) is carried on the craft embedded in a microchip mounted between the forward thruster and the high gain antenna.

Of course, after we became involved the mission was canceled.

Then, the manufacturer of the Dawn spacecraft, Orbital Sciences Corporation, appealed, offering to finish Dawn at cost in order to gain experience in this new field.  Just a couple of days ago, the mission is back on again.  Angie and I are going into space.

That is, if we don’t jinx it again….

See you at the new clubhouse!

This will be my last post at http://radio.weblogs.com/0131531/. Please meet up with me again at my own domain: http://www.toddswebspace.com.

Though there hasn’t been much apparent activity on the weblog in a couple of months, a lot has been going on under the hood. I’ve been planning to jazz up the site a little bit. A few things have been broken on the weblog side, so I’m moving the whole shebang to my own server to better control how the different pieces fit with one another. The appearance of the site will hopefully be a little less bland as I introduce a new concept into the design: color. I hope to fix those things that have broken in the past year or two as well.

Any techies out there might also be interested that I’m rewriting the code of my weblog from the ground up to have a table-less three column main page achieved through cascading style sheets. The entire process could take me up to around Christmastime as I chip away at it.   Continue reading See you at the new clubhouse!

A charming little range light

haigptlight1This is a picture of the Haig Point Lighthouse on Daufuskie Island in South Carolina. The lighthouse was built in 1872 as one of two range lights that ships could use to safely enter Caliboque Sound. It is still operational today as a private aid to navigation and a bed and breakfast; and it’s on the National Register of Historic Sites. One more thing: it’s also the site of my wedding last month.

I know some of you want details! Here you go:

Existing Historic Tower: YES

  • Year Light First Lit: 1872
  • Is the Light Operational? YES (PRIVATE AID TO NAVIGATION)
  • Date Deactivated: 1934-1987
  • Automated: YES
  • Foundation Materials: TABBY
  • Construction Materials: WOOD
  • Markings/Patterns: WHITE W/RED ROOF
  • Shape: SQUARE ON HOUSE
  • Relationship to Other Structures: INTEGRAL
  • Original Optic: FIFTH ORDER, FRESNEL
  • Year Original Lens Installed: 1872
  • Height of Focal Plane: 70
  • Has tower been moved? NO   Continue reading A charming little range light