Tuesday, November 28, 2006

David Fraser Died in Iraq Sunday

Sometimes the news from Iraq gets too close to home. The Houston Chronicle reported:

“First Lt. David M. Fraser, 25, died from injuries he suffered when the bomb went off near his military vehicle in Baghdad on Sunday. The military didn't provide a hometown for Fraser, who was identified as a Texan.”

That doesn’t say very much so I will fill in some of the blanks. David’s family lives in my neighborhood and he played baseball with my son William. In 1992 David and William played on the Cardinals together, (front row third from the left with hand on his knee on the team photo), a team I sponsored and took to the Dairy Queen for ice cream after some of their games. David went to Westfield High School and was a member of the Big Red Band. I know his parents; not directly related to my grandfather as they are from a different branch of the Fraser clan. I’d sit and talk with them during ball games as we’d vent our frustrations; we’d second guess each play from the stands. My heart grieves for their loss.

I feel bitterness when I contemplate the manner in which the military has been used as a political football while these courageous soldiers defend us from those who would do us harm. It may have started with the Korean War as our concept of winning went out the back door in favor of an honorable retreat. The Vietnam War took it to another level of unfathomable ugliness as a segment of our society decided that it would be patriotic to hope for defeat, to ridicule and deride those serving our country. Instead of an honorable retreat there was a feeling that we as a nation had tucked our tail between our legs and simply walked away.

The Iraq War is an interesting subject in that we went to war, not with the country so much as with the thugs who had used that country to establish tyranny and threatened the world with real or imagined weapons. Those thugs were removed from power; a victory of sorts, and ever since our military forces have been used in an attempt to stabilize the area while the Iraqis’ newly formed government emerges. I don’t see the police action as much different than how troops were used after the end of WWII; except that the enemy in those conflicts was easily identifiable and directly associated with the country which had been defeated, not so in Iraq. The insurgents, call them what you will, make no distinction between killing Iraqis or US soldiers in order to continue mayhem and destruction at any cost.

The means to defeat an enemy who neither wears an identifiable uniform nor represents any particular country has made conventional warfare obsolete. Terrorist units can be anything from a couple of individuals with a sincere hatred for the new government and those who represent the opposition to a well armed and trained underground insurgency maintained by neighboring nation states without the courage to declare outright hostilities. Our troops are in harms way without the ability to wage all out war because they must wait until the enemy has attacked prior to doing battle with them.

Our leaders in Washington have the backbone of a jelly fish and have no intention of taking the fight to the enemy, at least not in any way that might appear aggressive to the rest of the world. It would be terribly unfair for the only world super power to level a country so backward that their only hope of winning is if we walk away. Rather than breaking the enemy’s back and forcing them to surrender we have provided them with a promise that we will disappear as soon as the pacifists, those recently elected to office, calendar the event. In short, the United States of America has lost the will to win, it was lost so long ago that nobody knows what wining feels like.

That’s why I feel bitter and why it is so hard to accept the loss of one of my neighbor’s kids in battle. A fine young man died for those miserable pukes in Washington who can do nothing but pretend to lead, pretend to defend us and all the while they destroy a piece of our nation each time they call for us to cut and run. My jaw clinches as I hold back the words I normally would let fly. According to the scriptures I’m just as guilty for having thought such words; forgive my weakness and backsliding ways, bile does that to me.
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Saturday, November 25, 2006

Football Pools

One of my blogging buddies, Tony Iovino of A Red Mind in a Blue State, has an interesting proposition that I thought I’d share. I got it through my email and he called it Football Pool for the Troops; but I’ll get to that in a moment, first a little history.

In the early to mid 70’s I was working as a police officer downtown on evening shift directing rush hour traffic. One of my fellow officers drove by while I was in the middle of the street; the last major intersection, Bagby at Walker, that fed onto I-45 north. I always enjoyed that particular assignment because I could make life a little better for those going home as I put my skills to the test; it was fun. It wasn’t a good time to visit so when asked to hand over a couple of dollars I reached in my pocket and gave it to him.

I figured he needed lunch money. He was good for it since we’d known each other for years; anyway, I knew where he could be found. That was on a Friday and the following Monday he came by and handed me an envelope with fifty dollars in it. It turned out he didn’t need lunch money; the two bucks was for a football pool and I’d won a small portion when the score in my box matched, go figure.

Football Pool For the Troops

Bondi & Iovino is sponsoring a Football Pool For the Troops. We hope you'll join in for some fun, and help raise some money for three worthycharities helping our troops!

WHAT- We're keeping the rules fairly simple. Here's what you do: There aretwo NFL games scheduled for Christmas Day: The Philadelphia Eagles at theDallas Cowboys, and the NY Jets at the Miami Dolphins. Guess the totalnumber of points that will be scored by all 4 teams. You don't have to pickthe winners; you don't have to guess the scores of the games. Just tell usthe total number of points you think all 4 teams will score on ChristmasDay. The winner will be the person who is closest. As a tie breaker, choose the total number of points scored in the NBAChristmas Day game between the L.A. Lakers and the Miami Heat. Email your name, contact phone number and point totals for the NFL games andthe tie-breaker to
troopspool@bondiandiovino.com or
snail-mail to: Bondi & Iovino, Suite 120, 190 Willis Avenue, Mineola, NY11501

or fax to 516 741-8598.

COST- Here's the best part: Your entrance fee is a donation of minimum of$25 to any one of the following three charities: The USO:
http://www.uso.org/ The USO is a private, nonprofit organization whose mission is to providemorale, welfare and recreation-type services to our men and women inuniform. The original intent of Congress - and enduring style of USOdelivery - is to represent the American people by extending a touch of hometo the military. The USO currently operates 132 centers worldwide, includingten mobile canteens located in the continental United States and overseas.Overseas centers are located in Germany, Italy, the United Arab Emirates,Japan, Qatar, Korea, Afghanistan, Guam, and Kuwait. Service members andtheir families visit USO centers more than 5.6 million times each year.

or The American Red Cross Military Members & Families fund
Today's American Red Cross is keeping pace with the changing military. Usingthe latest in computer and telecommunications technology, the Red Crosssends communications on behalf of family members who are facing emergenciesor other important events to members of the U.S. Armed Forces serving allover the world. These communications are delivered around-the-clock, 7 daysa week, 365 days a year. While providing services to 1.4 million activeduty personnel and their families, the Red Cross also reaches out to morethan 800,000 members of the National Guard and the Reserves and theirfamilies who reside in nearly every community in America. Red Cross workersin hundreds of chapters and on military installations brief departingservice members and their families regarding available support services andexplain how the Red Cross may assist them during the deployment.

or Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund

The Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund is constructing a world-classstate-of-the-art advanced training skills facility at Brooke Army MedicalCenter in San Antonio, Texas. The center will serve military personnel whohave been catastrophically disabled in operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.The center will also serve military personnel and veterans severely injuredin other operations and in the normal performance of their duties, combatand non-combat related. You can send your check(s)to us, made payable to the charity(s) of yourchoice, at Bondi & Iovino, Suite 120, 190 Willis Avenue, Mineola, NY 11501,or you can donate online and email a copy of the receipt to

WHEN: Please have your entries in by Friday, December 22, 2006.

PRIZES: Grand prize is dinner for two at the reknown Mark Joseph Steakhouse,261 Water Street, NY NY.
http://www.markjosephsteakhouse.com/ Additional gift certificate prizes will be given to runner-ups. (All prizes donated by Bondi & Iovino.) Any questions: Call Tony Iovino 516-741-8585 Enter as many times as you like and feel free to pass on this message to anyone you think might be interested!

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Contact Number


Total points, both NFL games: ______

Tie breaker: Total Points, Lakers v. Heat: ____

Charity Donation: Enclosed____

Sent by email______

Will Send____

Bondi & Iovino
Suite 120190 Willis Avenue
Mineola, NY 11501516

fax 516 741-8598
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Air Force Test

This will drive you nuts!! Have fun! The object of the game is to move the red block around without getting hit by the blue blocks or touching the black walls. If you can go longer than 18 seconds you are phenomenal. It's been said that the US Air Force uses this for fighter pilots. They are expected to go for at least 2 minutes. Give it a try but be careful...it is addictive!!


A tip of the hat goes to my friend Richard Sutton for sending this to me. File this one under fun and frustration; best I could do was a little over 5 seconds, so much for the friendly skies.

Friday, November 24, 2006

Almost There

Most of the work in the dining and living rooms is completed; at least enough that we didn’t have to have our Thanksgiving on the front yard lawn. The large pieces of furniture are back where they belong with the exception of two small book cases that will remain in the garage until all the quarter round has been installed. The floor guy is supposed to come by Saturday to finish out all the little things and then buff the floor once more.

I spent some time in the garage cleaning out junk to surprise the garbage men on Monday. I can now put my car back where it belongs; a major accomplishment seeing as both my wife and I are pack rats. Once I was able to see the floor after having stored a goodly portion of the house during renovations I vacuumed the oriental rug I park the Beamer on. The fabric has quite a bit of damage, water rot and stains, too much to permit its use in the house; but makes for a classy floor mat under the Z. Roxie could care less as long as it doesn’t interfere with her catching a few Z’s.

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Thursday, November 23, 2006

Thanksgiving 2006

I’m not sure how it all came together but it did. I’ll see if I can back up a bit an look at the pieces. The house was hit by Tor’s Nado, Sue’s Nami and then just for fun we tossed in a few of Gren’s Nades.

Lucy had asked me to pick up some individual bottles of water to put in the ice chest as an alternative for those who might not want canned drinks. I was out and about and stopped at Sam’s where I got two cases of Ozarka; the smaller size for our guests and the 32 oz size that I keep in my work truck. While I was at it I bought a case of Sprite, a case of Root Beer, a case of Orange, a case of Mountain Dew and a case of the old fashioned small glass bottled Coke. I new we’d just bought several cases of Dr Pepper and that would give everyone a chance to find something to their liking. Lucy had a fit when she heard that I’d bought case lots instead of six packs; that’s the only way Sam’s Club sells things, they’ll eventually get used. If that’s the worst trouble I get into I’m not in all that much trouble.

I mowed, edged and swept the yard while William trimmed the hedges back into shape. He was in an awkward position clinging to a small outcropping of roof and bending down to clip the tops of some bushes when the trimmer ate the electric cord and blew the fuse box. Normally that’s not such a big deal; fix the extension cord, tape it up and reset the tripped fuse. My garage is full of all the furniture that used to be in the living and dining rooms with the fuse box on the other side against the back wall. William had to figure a way through the maze. I knew he’d done it when I heard the table saw kick back into action; a delay the floor guy had not anticipated either. The progress chart wasn’t exactly stellar at this point.

I washed all the cars and trucks just to have something to do. ( Making sure you’re paying attention ). I like to drive the little green Z3 when I pick my daughter up at the airport. I think it’s a misdemeanor to drive such a neat car in public dirty; folks should get a crick in their neck doing a double take as I zip past admiring the emerald jewel. I hope that police officer is okay; the one who was chasing me and lost it in that curve.

The hardwood floors were supposed to be completed last Saturday; yea, right. The last board was put down around 8:30 Wednesday night. They look great and once the base boards are painted we can tack down the quarter round. Most, not all, of the trim work has at least one coat of high gloss paint and the walls will need more work to cover the smudges and spots of glue the workmen left. We ended up putting a third coat in the living room, it being such a light color. The overall effect is hard to explain; but it starts with a smile forming in the corners of my mouth and takes over my entire face.

I picked Bonnie up at the other airport, Hobby, the one on the far side of town because there were no flights into IAH that would work with her narrow window of opportunity. The line of cars waiting on the arrival side was long and slow. Bonnie called just as I was within 5 minutes of the door; awesome timing. She was in the car with me by 10:20pm and we headed home via Taco Cabana where she picked up a late night snack.

This morning, around 5:00 Lucy started the baking; first the small ham and then the 21 lb turkey. Then she found a way to do a green bean casserole with French Fried onions on top, yams with miniature marshmallows and a sprinkle of brown sugar. I wandered out an hour later and started painting the base boards until my back told me to find something else to do. William helped me move all the furniture back from the various locations around the house and the garage. We’d purchased a bunch of felt pads to stick on the bottom of each piece, protecting the new floor from scratches and making it easier to slide them into position; that was pretty slick. One piece, a huge solid oak book case combination entertainment center and desk was too heavy and we enlisted the help of my Bishop and his son since they live just a few doors down the street.

Once most of the main items were moved back Bonnie helped me unhook the temporary office we’d set up in the kitchen nook so it could be placed back in the living room. The computer with all those wires and cables was taken down and then William and I moved the desk and book shelf, the fax machine and put everything back together in the living room. For some reason each time we hook the wireless modem up I have to show the computer the Lan Driver Disk or it refuses to acknowledge we have one; not a big deal and I had it ready as soon as the power came on. The speakers came to life and “Wa-ha” ( my only John Wayne impersonation; be glad for that, Pilgim. ) everything was working. I get a much better signal on the wireless since it’s directly below Bonnie’s bedroom; a good reason not to leave the office in the kitchen nook.

Lucy was in the kitchen all day as the clock ticked closer to 3:00, the time we had announced for diner. I suggested that she might want to jump in the shower and get dressed while she suggested I drive down to the local Stop and Rob to buy a couple of bags of ice for all that soda, the cases of soda that needed to chill down. William was carting off boxes of junk to be stored out of sight; putting them in the garage where there was now plenty of room. Some day I may get to put my little green Z back inside; hopefully before the next Thanksgiving diner.

We took our annual picture of the kids sitting together; a real trick as they all are grown and have lives that take them here there and beyond. They left the grand children with us so they could all enjoy a movie together; something of a tradition in and of itself. We have the Disney movie, Cars, playing for them while I write.

One last thought, not really associated with Thanksgiving. I enjoyed one of the small bottles of Coke yesterday; it having been naturally chilled by the night air, while doing the preparation work around the house. Instantly I was reminded of an old friend I would visit while working patrol, Joe Bicel. I think that’s how he spelled his last name; anyway, he owned a small liquor store and I would enjoy talking baseball with him. He knew all about Houston’s baseball history, the Buffs and the St. Luis connections went way back as he’d tell me about different ball players he knew or had played with. Joe had an old fashioned Coke refrigerator, the kind that you had to reach down into as the bottles were stacked horizontally under the sliding glass, similar to ice cream chests. He kept the temperature turned so cold that when the bottle cap was removed, the top third of the bottle instantly turned to a slushy ice. These replica bottles don’t have quite the same look, feel or taste; but that’s the first thought that came to me. Joe, thanks for the baseball stories and for the ice cold Cokes, thanks for making my patrol duties more enjoyable and, if you’re still walking around on this old earth, thanks for being my friend.
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Monday, November 20, 2006

A Trip In Time

Here’s a tease, one chapter from something I’ve been working on. This is a little Sci-Fi piece based on the scriptures. What’s that generic disclaimer, the one they put at the end of every movie, “The characters found herein are fictional; any similarity to persons living or dead is purely coincidental…” That might be true for most works of fiction, then again… Click on the title bar to link with The Blue Marble posted to Stern’s Stories.

“And I know, O Lord, that thou hast all power, and can do whatsoever thou wilt for the benefit of man; therefore touch these stones, O Lord, with thy finger, and prepare them that they may shine forth in darkness; and they shall shine forth unto us in the vessels which we have prepared, that we may have light while we shall cross the sea.” Ether 3:4
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Sunday, November 19, 2006

Justin Tracy Has Talent

My son in law has another tune he’s recorded and wanted to share before putting together an album of his original work. Give it a listen and let him know how you feel about his efforts. I might be a little biased; but I think he’s got a pretty good sound. ( Click on the title bar ) Posted by Picasa

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Wood Flooring Going In

If a picture's worth a thousand words then this is a mouthful. Sometime Monday it should all be in. Posted by Picasa

Friday, November 17, 2006

And he was an honourable man . . .

Jahn has an interesting political treatise that’s worth taking a look at, a chance to read between the lines as promises are voiced from those in power. ( linked via title bar ) It made me think of a similar passage written many years ago.

"Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your ears: I come to bury Caesar, not to praise him. The evil that men do lives after them; The good is oft interred with their bones;
So let it be with Caesar. The noble Brutus Hath told you Caesar was ambitious: If it were so, it was a grievous fault, and grievously hath Caesar answer’d it. Here, under leave of Brutus and the rest – For Brutus is an honourable man; So are they all, all honourable men-- Come I speak in Caesar’s funeral. He was my friend, faithful and just to me: But Brutus says he was ambitious; and Brutus is an honourable man. He hath brought many captives home to Rome Whose ransoms did the general coffers fill: Did this in Caesar seem ambitious? When the poor have cried, Caesar hath wept: Ambition should be made of sterner stuff: Yet Brutus says he was ambitious: And Brutus is an honourable man. You all did see that on the Lupercal I thrice presented him a kingly crown, Which he did thrice refuse: was this ambition? Yet Brutus says he was ambitious; And, sure, he is an honourable man. I speak not to disprove what Brutus spoke, But here I am to speak what I do know. You all did love him once, not without cause: What cause witholds you then, to mourn for him? O judgment! Thou art fled to brutish beasts, And men have lost their reason. Bear with me; My heart is in the coffin there with Caesar, And I must pause till it come back to me."

Some lessons are worth repeating; reading between the lines is an art worth knowing, thanks and a tip of the hat to Jahn.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Progress is being made

The bulk of the painting in the dining and living rooms has been done. The picture shows what it looks like as reflected in the mirror. The darker color on the reflection more accurately shows the deep burgundy color where as the flash of the camera on the near panels makes it look more like a standard red. The living room, what we use as our office normally, shows the light tan, almost a mustard color which replaced a dismal brown for way too long. We’ve been painting all the trim work which should be done sometime in 2012.

The floor guy started the leveling process today and will put a finish layer on before laying down the wood floor either late tomorrow or the next day. It should be a done deal by the weekend when we can move all the furniture back to where it belongs. This is starting to look the way we dreamed it could, awesome.
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Monday, November 13, 2006

Jocelyne Enjoying an Apple and Music

My granddaughter is visiting with us this afternoon, making the most of some apple slices and sitting in my favorite chair by the computer. Jocelyne likes iTunes with the never ending graphics picture show that accompany the music; can’t say as I blame her either.

The house is upside down at the moment while we are tearing out the carpet in the front two rooms prior to putting in hardwood floors, painting walls and new window coverings. With any luck it should be done (*) before Thanksgiving. ( see history of I-45 the Gulf Freeway 1960 - 2006 ) We put all the furniture around the rest of the house, a huge solid oak bookcase in the den now at the entrance to our bedroom; we moved the Lane Chest to the foot of our bed to make room for the bookcase. The computer desk and all that goes with it are in the kitchen nook along with some shelves I made for canned goods. The other book case/desk is in the den behind the love seat against the wall where the stairs lead up to the second floor. The antique desk, maple hutch and sewing cabinet are in the garage along with two more oak book cases. It’s almost as much fun as packing up for a move except we get to stay once all the remodeling work is done. That will make it worth while.

The fellow who’s putting in the flooring should be here anytime to double check our measurements so we can pay for all that fancy wood, Amendoim hardwood, that we set aside at the store. I think that’s how it’s spelled. This should help with allergies and make it easier to keep clean all at the same time.
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The Electoral Process

The Electoral Process
A Trial of Faith

Last week I wrote concerning my inability to understand why some folks chose not to participate in the electoral process. ( link via title bar ) I got plenty of email and comments explaining their positions, some of which might be valid. I would accept these were it not for my deep rooted belief that it is each individual’s solemn responsibility to figure out a way to make our form of government work. We have precious gifts from God which proclaim the inalienable rights of Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness and we must have faith in ourselves, our neighbors and in our Father in Heaven in order to “preserve us a nation”.

I wrote an article back in May, Act As If Ye Had Faith, where I included the closing argument in front of the jury from the movie The Verdict. I continue to believe that those sentiments apply to nearly every aspect of the human condition.

“In my religion, they say, “Act as if you had faith; faith will be given to you.” If we are to have faith in justice we need only to believe in ourselves and act with justice.”


To quote from an email I received, “Unfortunately, for so many in this country the political antics of our “Congressional Leaders” have become a mockery of a great and honorable system. For many folks I know there is great confusion and concern for the big picture more than concern for the individual running for office. Many people truly feel their vote no longer counts. Regardless of who is elected and regardless of what they may promise, little is delivered.”

It is true, a goodly percentage of those in elected positions have no intention of serving those who put them in office; having fallen into the trap of elitism and glorying in the spotlight they presently command. My purpose in writing is to remind each individual of the vision, that difficult to define quality which lighted the fires of independence in our Forefathers, enough to risk everything they had in pursuit of their vision.

Borrowing from Patrick Henry’s “Give me liberty or give me death” exhortation, “. . .it is natural to man to indulge in the illusions of hope. We are apt to shut our eyes against a painful truth, and listen to the song of that siren till she transforms us into beasts. Is this the part of wise men, engaged in a great and arduous struggle for liberty? Are we disposed to be of the number of those who, having eyes, see not, and, having ears, hear not, the things which so nearly concern their temporal salvation? For my part, whatever anguish of spirit it may cost, I am willing to know the whole truth; to know the worst, and to provide for it.”

In the Book of Mormon I am reminded of an important discourse on Faith:

“Wherefore, whoso believeth in God might with surety hope for a better world, yea, even a place at the right hand of God, which hope cometh of faith, maketh an anchor to the souls of men, which would make them sure and steadfast, always abounding in good works, being led to glorify God.
5 And it came to pass that Ether did prophesy great and marvelous things unto the people, which they did not believe, because they saw them not.
6 And now, I, Moroni, would speak somewhat concerning these things; I would show unto the world that faith is things which are hoped for and not seen; wherefore, dispute not because ye see not, for ye receive no witness until after the trial of your faith.” Ether 12:4-6

The war we are already engaged in does not come in ships to blockade our seaports or wear the King’s uniform as they march through our streets. Our enemy has been born from within, an insidious thief who steals our dreams through taxation that are used for wealth redistribution rather than for the common defense. These robbers diminish our hope and faith in the foundations established as our founding documents become flexible interpretations for an activist judiciary. Those elected by the governed follow a set of secret combinations to achieve permanent positions of power and depend on our lack of resolve to correct and remove them from office. We simply complain and go on with our mundane existences.

We cannot pretend that all the corruption that has tightened its grip on our government will go away or that it doesn’t matter since the problem is too big to fix. We are fighting for our way of life. “Is life so dear, or peace so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God! I know not what course others may take; but as for me, give me liberty or give me death!”

Saturday, November 11, 2006

The No Vote Cop Out

The No Vote Cop Out -or-
I’ve never been invisible before

I read about some folks who didn’t vote this last election; claiming some kind of new found freedom from within that transcends the injustices that might be imposed by the regime change. One person I know only as
kylben, wrote that he’d finally achieved some magic plateau of freedom and had removed himself from the fray by not voting. He was not sanctioning another person to run his life, having risen above that. ( link via title bar ).

This reminded me of a scene from the movie Little Big Man where the blind Grandfather, while under attack by the mounted soldiers, is led to the safety of the river; being told that since he didn’t see the soldiers in his visions it means he’s invisible.

“I’ve never been invisible before” the old Indian smiles and laughs as he walks gingerly to the river. The soldiers who are destroying everything and shooting everyone ignore him completely. “My heart soars like an eagle.” This works great in the movie; now let’s try to remember that movies and reality sometimes don’t make for a good fit.

There is a difference between standing on grand principles which govern individuals to lead lives that permit inner peace such as those taught by our Savior during his ministry and those responsibilities which are associated with good citizenship here in the United States of America. The freedom or peace which kylben claims to have found can be achieved anywhere and is not dependent upon any form of government. The collective success or failure of our country depends on the concerted efforts of each citizen to express his/her opinion regarding the running of the country at the polls.

I read where a concert pianist in communist China was incarcerated for many years as a political prisoner; his crime, playing music which was deemed unacceptable in that communist country, music that had its origins in Western culture. The time spent in his prison cell did not deprive him of his music as he pictured the floor as his personal piano keyboard, practicing each piece that was recorded in his mind until his eventual release.

The human spirit has the ability to rise above any and all challenges regardless of a particular religion. It is my belief that the Comforter or Spirit is a gift from God, a gift which will lead to an endless progression while in mortality and into the eternities; that “peace “mentioned in the scriptures.

“Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.” John 14:27

The responsibility to voice opinions and desires through the process of electing fellow citizens from among us is not to be taken lightly. We must decide the direction of our country one vote at a time; call it the “agency” of a nation. I have written on this subject previously, that our country was the Lord’s gift to provide a land where the government reflected the desires of the governed. With the acknowledgement of divine intervention in the affairs of men go some fairly straight forward warnings not to abuse or neglect the requirement to be a righteous people. There are many references in the Book of Mormon concerning this land as the land of promise and also the obligation of this people to live in accordance with God’s will.

“And if the time comes that the voice of the people doth choose iniquity, then is the time that the judgments of God will come upon you; yea, then is the time he will visit you with great destruction even as he has hitherto visited this land.” Mosiah 29:27

The voice of the people mentioned in that verse implies that those placed in positions of leadership are the result of having been voted into those positions; to esteem that responsibility with such little regard sends a message to our Father in Heaven, no different than turning away from his teachings to follow the commandments, a sin of omission, if you will, for not taking your stewardship of citizenry and magnifying that responsibility.

We are perilously close to a point in time where the voice of our country is evenly divided; the one side espousing a secular independence from God and all things holy while the other remains constant in obedience to the commandments mentioned in the scriptures. The idea that it doesn’t matter who is elected to represent us as a people, that the damage inflicted on the governed or good that can be accomplished while in positions of power is not only incorrect; but could be considered a statement of ingratitude to those who fought and sacrificed to establish this nation. In similar context, the decision to refrain from participating in basic civic duties, voting being central to that purpose, sends a message to our Creator that we no longer desire His blessing in support of our nation.

I cannot accept the false premise, “I’m above that, I’m already free and nothing they can do will in any way shape my destiny or my peace.” In case you missed my point and without stepping too far into the mire, “What a crock!”

Many years ago my wife and I tested the waters of multi-level marketing, with some small degree of success. It was important to invite others to become part of our operating base, either as retail customers or as independent distributors to increase our overall production. I’d invite folks to share a dream, something which would motivate them to spend additional time working, to build a business of their own. They would provide me with the “carrot” that would be held out in front, something to remind them that all the extra effort was worth it, that they were building on their dreams.

I had one fellow, a friend from church who seemed like a sharp and driven individual. I asked him what his dreams were; perhaps a nicer house, a new car in the driveway, vacations that didn’t require having to stay at a relative’s house in the spare bedroom and things like that. Instead I got a “crock” answer; “Whirled Peas”, I like that bumper sticker, something about wanting to share the Gospel with the rest of the world. The fact was he didn’t want to admit that he had material desires that might challenge his poorly thought out strategy for accomplishing worthy goals that would improve his financial edge and provide for his family. He gave me a smug “holier than thou” blow off and went his way. I have news for you; it’s a lot easier to help others if you have the ability to provide those materials necessary, the path to hell is paved with good intentions.

I’m afraid the “I didn’t vote, I’m above that now” response to a clearly defined civic duty is nothing but a cop out. “I’m at peace with the world and all my efforts to help elevate them from the hole they are in”, requires that everyone wear washable brown shoes. We are responsible for thoughtfully preserving a structured society that will continue to bring down the blessings of our Father in Heaven, anything less leads to that deplorable state which removes those blessings. You have a responsibility to vote for those who will more closely follow the same high ideals that you have chosen for yourself, even when the choice may only be for the lesser of two evils, that choice must be made.

I failed to mention that I originally was led to kylben’s article via Old Whig’s Brain Dump. I send my thanks and apologies to Al for the oversight.


I’ve submitted this as my entry for the next Carnival of Liberty which supports independent ideas and philosophies.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Being Green

Kermit the Frog was proud of being green, an unpretentious pride that thoughtfully explained his acceptance of reality. Being green is another way of saying that your surroundings are new, that you’ve stepped outside of your comfort zone and raised the stakes to another level. The scriptures refer to it as being teachable, as a child subordinates his/herself in order to grow.

I had the opportunity to hear from one of the newly called councilors of the Houston, Texas Temple over the weekend at our Stake Conference. I happen to know the man, John Price; having met him while working at the temple on my regular Wednesday evening shift. He mentioned that the new Temple Presidency was green; something that should be of comfort to new converts to the church, his membership going back quite a few years. He didn’t mind admitting that he needed to learn, to progress; a reminder that it doesn’t matter how old you are, how long you’ve been a member of the church, the learning process goes on forever.

I was reminded of the first time I was asked to talk in front of the congregation, a fairly new convert. I wondered to myself, as I prepared during that week, what I could say to anyone who’d been a member longer than I’d been, what scripture I might read that they hadn’t heard before. Back then there was something called a Two Minute Talk, just enough time to blurt out something, sit back down and recover your breathe and get the circulation back in your hands and feet.

While I was studying and preparing my daughter, Bonnie, was playing with one of my police shirts. She was a little over a year old at the time and the long sleeve blue shirt reached to the floor as she walked around sporting a smile for having found a treasure. She had fun placing the “PD’s” in various places; middle of the sleeve, front pocket or anywhere other than on the lapel where they were supposed to go. I took a picture, a fond memory that hasn’t faded.

I was listening to the Spirit as it guided my thoughts, what I should say in my prepared talk, although I wasn’t the one preparing the talk anymore. I was made aware of my need to learn, my ability to grow into my new found membership in the church; not much different than my daughter being wrapped in the oversized police shirt.

Things haven’t changed much over the years; that moment in time was captured in 1978. I continue to mark my progression, or lack thereof, with each passing day. Each calling in church brings with it challenges that cause me to wonder how I’ve made it this far, feelings of inadequacy remind me that I’m not so bright, not too sharp a pencil as I thought I was the day before.

Wednesday evenings I show up at the Temple to provide whatever service I’m asked. I look forward to the challenges, knowing that I struggle to remember the exact wording of each ordinance, trying to remember to breathe in and breathe out, to relax a little more so my knees don’t lock up on me. Maybe one day, hopefully not too far in the future, I’ll have done those ordinances enough times to where the exact wording is firmly engrained, a reflex beyond error. My guess is that’s the day I’ll be asked to learn something altogether new, another chance to step out of my comfort zone, to become teachable as a little child, willing to submit in order to progress through all generations of time and throughout all eternity.

It occurred to me that the steeple atop the temple is made of copper. The natural oxidation process causes the copper to turn green; how about that! The picture I’ve chosen was taken at dusk, about the same time I report on Wednesdays.

( Blogger was down earlier when attempting to post this via Picasa; hopefully it will only show up once)
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With a Little Bit of Luck

When my children were young, not quite old enough to be in school, I had the chance to take them along on lock jobs. It was a perfect one on one opportunity for a dad. If I were making keys to a Ford product I could work on the door/ignition key, the 10 cut system was in full swing at the time, while handing the child a box of old trunk keys. They could put different keys in the trunk lock to see if one fit. Every now and again they’d get lucky. The excitement of the moment was worth paying them a dollar, their having earned a small percentage. That’s all there is to being a locksmith; just pick up an old key and with luck it’s the right one, at least that’s what my kids thought.

Some adults are about the same when it comes to understanding what a locksmith does, not quite thinking on all cylinders. I’ve had them watch as I “read” the wafers inside a lock, clipped a working key as if it were a factory key and they’d ask, “How’d you know how to cut that key?”

“I’m a good guesser, just pick numbers out of the clear blue sky and most of the time I guess pretty good.” “If only I was that good pickin’ numbers for the lottery.” I know; but it’s more fun giving a dumb answer than explaining the technical aspects of reading a lock.

This afternoon I was fitting a key to an older Bonneville, one with a VATS key. I suspected that the ignition switch had been changed by how new the black plastic ears looked. The clock spring alignment was off by a notch and the lock plate retaining ring no longer was snug in its grove on the post. Most everything else looked pretty good and I managed to figure out the cuts after picking and holding down the side bar.

One of the used car salesman stopped by while I had the column field stripped and was in the process of putting it back the way it should be. I think he had a customer waiting to test drive; but thought maybe he should show a different unit, at least give me a little longer so as not to scare them off. “How much longer?”, he asked not realizing that I had to interrogate the VATS module.

“With any luck at all, thirty minutes to an hour. I have to find the value of the chip”. I gave up calling them VATS keys a long time ago; settling for the over worked term, “chip key”, that most used car people lump transponder and VATS/PASS keys into. Don’t get me wrong, I make certain to write the details on my work orders when it comes time for billing; but it’s still interesting to see the manager type in “Cut Chip Key” when he fills out the “We Owe” that gets tacked onto my work order.

“Luck was a Lady”, this afternoon, a reference to a Sinatra song that I enjoy. When I hooked up the interrogator to my newly produced key I used the last tested setting, that being what had been successful the last time I worked on a VATS unit; the cherries all lined up on the pay line and the engine purred like a kitten. Did I charge for interrogating the VATS module; does the sun come up in the morning, yer dern tootin I charged for interrogating the system!

Several years back I bid on a large church building to re-key and master all the offices. I figured it would take somewhere between 16 – 20 hours to complete from start to finish. As luck would have it, they hired a brand new building maintenance man and it was his first day on the job. He was very accommodating, wanting to make a good impression, showing me around the building as I removed locksets and took them to my truck, re-pinned them to match with the notes I’d prepared and replaced each lock as it was finished.

The day wore on and the sun began to settle in the sky. A funny look came over the maintenance man, like he wanted to ask a question but was reluctant to bring it up. He knew I still had plenty of locks to work on and at the same time he wanted to go home, having put in a full day and then some. My guess would be that he’d been told not to leave the building until the job was done.

“You go on home”, I told him. “I have to finish this all in one whack; might be around midnight before it’s done.”

“You’re kidding, right?” Actually, I was figuring closer toward two in the morning, getting tired would make things go slower, having to double check my work and all. He was determined to last it out, prove that he was the right man to be trusted to take care of the church building. He volunteered to go down the street for hamburgers and I handed him some money.

Around eleven or so I noticed he’d fallen asleep on the front seat of his truck while listening to the radio, his feet hanging out the rolled down window to accommodate his long lanky frame. I was getting a little blurry eyed myself so I splashed cold water on my head to sharpen things up. That worked for a while as I found myself going through the motions like a robot, not really thinking as I filled the pin tumblers and slapped them back on the doors.

I got the last lock put on around three in the morning, waved good bye and headed home; relieved that I’d been able to complete the job as promised. My phone rang around ten the next morning, “Hey, everything is perfect. You did a nice job…” There was a decided hesitation as I waited for him to complete the remark, “…except, this one lock. I can’t even get the key to go in it.”

“Let me guess; the library door?” That was the last one on the list and I was pretty much out of it.

“How’d ya’ know? It don’t even look like the rest of the locks.” He continued to express his bewilderment. I had it figured out as soon as I went out to my truck. The knob set that should have been put on the library door was sitting in the box on the floor of my truck. Seein’ as how this was a church building I suppose the phrase, “God only knows” what I put on that door would be a fair statement. I must have reached down in my sleep at three in the morning and grabbed the first thing that felt like a lock; I’m surprised I made it home in one piece. I drove over to the church, took the one lock off and replaced it with the right one and had a good laugh at myself. I can tell you what that maintenance man is thinking, “With any luck I hope to never see that locksmith again.”

Friday, November 03, 2006

Why Settle For Less?

Tony Iovino wrote an article, Cursive Writing (linked via title bar), on his blog, A Red Mind in a Blue State a couple of weeks ago where he compared some of the basic skills taught in the public schools with what had been taught in the past. I left a comment and moved on down the road; here’s what I left

“There is a “settle for less” attitude which has permeated nearly every facet of the American culture. You are correct in the assessment of how students are not taught to write properly, to make beautiful letters to express intelligent thoughts. They are not being taught diction and presentation of thought either. These young people are being permitted to settle for less than desirable levels of achievement; but on top of that, they are permitted to settle for common communication skills; unfit to be in civilized society, unfit for advancement in a competitive environment.”

I decided there was more to the whole “settle for less” attitude, much more. I was on my way to a job across town and making good time since morning rush hour was done and the lunch break crowd hadn’t started as yet. I made it around some folks who, for what ever reason, were going well below the posted speed limit. I noticed they took their time accelerating from stop lights as if their cars might explode were they to achieve operating speeds too quickly.

One fellow in particular seemed annoyed that I was in a hurry to get around and down the road; mind you, I was proceeding within the legal parameters, not squealing my tires or bounding in and out of lanes. It dawned on me that he was carefully plodding his way down the road, paying close attention to how to make the most of his gasoline consumption and smirking at my lack of conservation efforts as I headed to my next job.

I’m not into the math as to how much gasoline I used or wasted, since that seemed to be what bothered him as I gently passed and considered his mindset and compared it with my own. I might have burned more fuel, even to the point of calling it wasted effort since I only made a little distance ahead of him, a mile or two at best. If I did that all day long I might spend a dollar on fuel that could have been used more efficiently, driving more conservatively, being restrained in my desires to arrive quickly, finish a job and move on to the next in rapid succession without fretting over whether I’d spent $ 12 in fuel cost or, through my aggressive driving habits, might have used an extra dollar.

Years ago I had a friend of mine turn me down when I offered to teach him the locksmith business. He’d always been good with his hands mechanically and I thought he’d do well. His first thoughts were how much more wear and tear he’d put on his truck, how much more he’d be spending on gasoline and that turned everything upside down. “If you took home an extra couple of hundred dollars why would you be so upset over having to put another twenty dollars in the gas tank?” I explained that he would make enough and then some to cover the added expenses and that he shouldn’t concern himself with a couple of dollars a day when weighing that against the chance to make some significant strides toward financial freedom.

Maybe I do waste some of my income driving around in a nice truck that I replace every few years rather than keeping an old one until it’s worn out and the tires fall off. I enjoy driving around in a well polished truck that has a quality stereo, smells new and responds when asked. I admit to driving aggressively and not really concerning myself with how much gasoline I might waste with jack rabbit starts or pushing the envelope of legal speed limits. At the end of the day I look at the dollar amounts that I brought in and consider myself blessed, regardless of whether I spent a dollar or two on wasted gasoline for having blown past those shackled by a fixed income as they penny pinched their way to where they were going, faces devoid of the excitement necessary to achieve something elusive, that individual satisfaction America has been built upon, acceleration.

No, I’m not joking; the American dream, that spark of independence that distinguishes us didn’t happen by driving five miles under the speed limit to save a gallon of gasoline or, by extension, to worry about the carcass of a dinosaur that died a million years ago to become part of the dwindling supply of crude oil that whacko environmentalists fret about. The dream that motivates us to accomplish mandates that we push worries aside and go for broke if we are to achieve anything beyond mediocrity; then again, so many are willing to settle for mediocrity.

I remember reading about soldiers in WWII and their positive rally slogan, “Go for broke” associated with their attitude to win against anything that was hurled in their direction. Go for broke isn’t reserved for soldiers facing wartime challenges; it is the human spirit expressing courage against fear, against defeat and for success regardless of what it takes.

Rich DeVoss, one of the founders of the Amway corporation, recorded his experience and thoughts on motivational tapes, a means of training those desiring to achieve beyond their current financial situation to recognize mediocrity and the excuses that keep folks from achieving the American dream. While not intending to slight anyone who enjoys time away from the rigors of regular employment, he pointed out that to achieve more requires extra effort.

He chose for an example the fellow going home to sit in front of the television to watch a football game; a bag of pretzels and a six pack in hand as he passed a couple of hours, content that his life was about the same as his neighbor’s, no better and no worse. Rich exclaimed, “If all you need out of life is a bag of pretzels and a six pack while sitting in front of the television then that’s what you should do; however, if you want more out of life you’re going to have to extend yourself. Many folks are unwilling to do more and can’t understand why anyone would want to work after the five o’clock bell has sounded. They envy those who have nice new vehicles, live in better houses and have nicer clothing; but don’t understand the required effort to obtain them.” I may have taken liberties with exactly how he said that; forgive my memories of a talk I heard some thirty years ago.

Why settle for less when there is so much more to be experienced here during our lives? This applies to all avenues of human expression; our jobs or business opportunities, our family life, our chances to express individual talents and even to our spiritual lives. This isn’t a training session; you only have this one chance at mortality, use it well. I have one more short story relating to this topic that I will share; interestingly enough, it came from a talk I heard given at church a few years ago.

A young woman had saved for years so that she could take a cruise vacation. She had figured every penny necessary to purchase the travel ticket and finally, when her savings account matched with those numbers she took valuable time off for the vacation. Each evening she would retreat to her cabin at meal time where she had packed a meager meal consisting of sandwiches, a bowl of soup with crackers; anything to avoid having to pay for dinner on the cruise ship. This went on the entire trip until the last day prior to docking at the home port.

She was about to retire to her cabin when she decided that just once she might splurge and dine with the rest of the passengers in one of the fancy restaurants. She carefully reviewed her finances and concluded that she had enough. One of the other passengers had noticed her absence during the trip asked where she had been during all the other meals, having wondered if she’d possibly been sea sick. The young woman went on to explain of having to eat in her cabin to save money, the need to conserve her funds in order to enjoy the rest of the cruise. “My goodness, Dear Girl; all the meals were a part of the purchased ticket! Didn’t you know that? You poor dear, think what you have missed.”

Life is like that, don’t settle for less; expect more. I’m not suggesting that you drive 90 mph down the freeway throwing dust in the faces of all those slow pokes; but, isn’t there something more to motivate you as you go about the challenges of life than trimming a dollar off here and there just to get by? If I can get across town two minutes quicker, finish up a job and be on my way a few minutes earlier and so on and so on, I have that much more time to start something else that I might want to do; even if that means sitting back to enjoy the peace and quiet between jobs I’ll be doing the relaxing on my terms, not those dictated by someone else.

To put an exclamation mark on my thoughts; after having posted this article I noticed the movie that was playing in the other room, Rudy, about a size challenged football player who got to play out his dream on the football field. Rudy, Rudy Rudy!