Sunday, July 09, 2006

Soldiers' Angels Donation Drive Kansas City is Successful

I should have provided a big FYI on this earlier, but I wanted to report that I was with Soldiers' Angels on Saturday for a donation drive at the Hy Vee at 87th and Pflumm in Lenexa, KS. It was a fantastic experience. Hy Vee was very nice to let us do our first KC chapter donation drive there. The people of Lenexa were very generous and the Soldiers' Angels of our chapter were very enthusiastic. We had over ten people show up I believe (waiting for the After Action Report for details on people and success).

I know that we had two vans full of snacks and toiletries when we left and some nice cash donations. We will be working on the next drive and on a packing party. We had several ladies from civic groups stop and ask how their organizations could get involved. We also had four gentlemen stop by who had been deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan. One young marine had two tours under his belt and talked to us for at least thirty minutes. Several people stopped and said they had people deployed that they knew and we told them how to get involved with the organization and get their people signed up for some care packages.

I really can't emphasize enough how great the community response was to our requests for donations. All I can say is "wow"!

Thank you Hy Vee and thank you the people of Lenexa.

Marcia Conley had organized our endeavors and she was really prepared with signs and poster boards. Two ladies brought their children. Aaron was very helpful carrying bags and supplies out to the vans. The young marine who had stopped towards the last of our drive helped us carry the supplies to the vans.

The whole time, he kept saying "Thank you" to us.

First, I can barely write that without getting a little watery around the eyes. Second, that one young man made it all worth while even if I never hear another "thank you". Third, it's not we who deserve the thanks.

It was great. I just can't say that enough.

Anyone in the KC area who wants to get involved, drop me an email. The computer is still dead, but I have access to check the email and the blog every few days. We're having a packing party this weekend and looking for people to help man the booth at Settler's Days in September.

We are looking to do several other drives this summer and fall if anyone is interested.

It's very rewarding.

PS..we were on channel 9 and 41 in KC and we will most likely appear in the Olathe Sun with pictures sometime this week.

Stand by for more details of our donation drives and the outcome of Saturday's efforts.

Saturday, July 08, 2006

Death of a Computer

It was just that quick. One minute I'm typing away, the next it just shuts off. Several attempts to reboot and resuscitate were to no avail.


Ry..please keep posting while I try to come up with an alternative method of communication. Sorry readers...another short hiatus.


Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Back From Hiatus: Fishing For the Truth

First, I want to thank Ry (Gollum) for keeping the blog alive while I was away. He wrote several posts that I have read and am looking forward to adding my commentary to. Ry, this doesn't mean your posting priveleges are over. Please feel free to keep posting whatever you want whenever you want. I really appreciate your commentary. It fits right in with the blog.

It may take me a day to get back to substantive postings as I try to pull the strings of my day to day life back together after my little vacation.

I just spent a week at my dad's in the Ozarks. We went fishing several days. I have a "big fish that got away" story while we were trolling and it starts out with me yelling, "Holy Sh*t! Back up, back up! Back up!" as my pole was nearly jerked out of my hand. I have pictures (at least of me sprawled back in the rear chair of the bass boat). Later, I was yelling, "Holy Sh*t! Get to the dock!" as we noted the rear of the boat riding low and upon picking up the lid of the rear compartment with gas can and battery, noticing a spouting leak that the bilge pump could not keep up with.

Yes, we did make it back and loaded the boat before it sank.

I spent several days after that working on the boat with my dad trying to repair the leak in the transom only to discover that the transom (that's the rear of the boat where the main engine is connected for you non-boaters out there) had several cracks in places that we could not reach to repair and required much more expertise than that had between my dad and I. I spent several more days fishing from the dock catching several small fish and playing tag all night with what I believe was a very smart, large cat fish that hit my line at least five times and took my bait every time regardless of what nifty hooking procedure I came up with.

I finally conceded defeat to the fish (and the mosquitos).

In a strange twist of fate, after discovering the condition of the transom was beyond our abilities and professional repair was beyond the pocket book, friends of my dad and stepmom invited us on their brand new pontoon boat to enjoy the fire works on Lake of the Ozarks. The twist came when dad discovered that these friends had not yet sold their old pontoon boat because the engine was not running. My dad made a deal for 900 dollars on the boat. A steal by most means and, if you saw the boat, you'd say my dad committed grand theft larceny. It's in great shape. However, if you have bought a boat with an outboard motor before then you know the motor is almost half the value of the boat (sometimes more). Thus the non working engine had a great deal to do with the price that was paid.

This kind of deal was the kind of deal that rarely gets made and kept anymore. It was a handshake deal. My dad needed to sell his boat, motor and trailor before he could buy the pontoon boat. The motor on his boat was quite a bit larger than the one on the pontoon and was running, but my dad knew he couldn't get any money out of the broken transom boat if the motor did not go with it.

The next day, the man showed up with the pontoon boat before my dad even paid him a dime. Because he trusted him to follow up on his word and handshake. You don't find that much in this world anymore.

We spent two days working the engine over. Mostly the work consisted of checking compression, checking loose wires, following them back to switches or motor components and determining problems. I think my dad almost felt bad for the deal he made with his friend on the 900 dollars because, once we got a wiring diagram and reconnected the wires correctly, the motor turned over and purred with barely a flick of the wrist.

I have to say that I found the physical work really satisfying. You learn a lot when you are hands on, eyes on with your old man explaining things. It was also about doing something that ended with a finished working product. It was great.

Finally, to earn some of the money on the pontoon boat, my dad may a deal with the 94 year old lady who runs the local marina to sand and paint one of her boat trailers. I helped dad do part of it today before I left. Once again I was crudy and sweaty, but it felt great to do it and to help him out.

There really is nothing like getting away to a world that you hardly see and barely read about except in some novel or movie with Harrie Connick Jr and Sandra Bullock. This is a world with little diners, small grocers and gas stations that let you run a tab. All you can eat cat fish for 5.99 (including baked potato, salad and drink - Painted Pony, Gravois Mills, Mo; Highway 5 - band thursday through Saturday). A small mom and pop diner in an old grain elevator that serves home made hot roast beef, real mashed potatoes and fresh green beans pulled from the garden in the back, snapped and cooked that day for 5.49 (Sweet's Inn, Barnett, Mo; Highway AA & Highway 52).

The "Family Center" has no video games. It is a one stop hardware/tractor/clothing/tack store that is open on the fourth of July until 5pm when they go get ready for the local fair and fire works. It's a place where you can look out in the field and see cattle for miles, horses in every yard, horse and buggies going down the road and a cowboy in the drive thru at McDonald's.

If I'd had a camera, I could have made me, the cowboy and McDonald's in Versailles a few large bills in licensing fees for the advertisement.

Unfortunately, it's also a place with satellite dishes where I had to find out that Kim Jong nutball decided to launch six missiles on the fourth of July. Sentiments there were either quiet waiting to see what else the news would bring or simple sentences about somebody needing to do something about that guy. The somebody in question was pretty evident.

For most up here in the city and in the blog world, what that "something" should be seems very complicated. There are questions of other world powers, economics, the toll of war and the issue of military capability. It may seem that the simple comments from simple people is just too simple. However, I think the folks down in Versailles (pronounced Ver-sales) or Gravois Mills and places in between recognize that when your neighbor across the street makes a habit of yelling that he is going to get his gun and shoot you, then stands at the edge of his property with his gun pointing it over your fence line and making shooting motions, finally progressing to firing the weapon in the air, your neighbor constitutes a threat to you and yours. You either call the police and they take care of it or the next time you go out to your fence line you go armed and ready to take care of it yourself.

There is no mistaking a dangerously insane person that is just as likely to shoot you as to look at you. Sound to simple? Sometimes I think we make it too complicated. I mean, what are you going to do to an already starving, economically deprived nation?

As I started the drive home, after all that great relaxation, realizing I was coming back to bills, the daily insanity of the city and the reality of this political world, I felt a little depressed. I had the sinking feeling that, as Ry said, Francis Fukuyama was dead wrong. History was not over, the players had simply changed names. For a few moments, I was reminded when I was in school and we watched movies like "The Day After" about nuclear holocaust. I was reminded of those silly "air raid" drills we did in school where you got under your desk, tucked your head between your knees and waited for the all clear that, as an adult you know would never come. I felt the cold war return with a vengence and I thought how much I wanted to refuse it for the future of my nieces and nephews, for the future of all those other children growing up and yet to be born.

Maybe I am a warmongerer. I don't know, but the simple answers of simple people keep going through my mind. Do we, should we trust nuclear weapons in the hands of people who don't believe they have anything left to lose? Those people who are in such dire economic conditions that proliferating arms to every tin pot dictator or any non-state actor (yes, terrorists) seems like a good way to earn money? That, Hitler-esque they figure if their country men are so inferior they are worthless as well and might as well be dead with whatever bizarre political scheme in place? Or, worse, that it would be good for their own people to die and create martyrs to some nefarious concept of God as opposed to living in a world with temptations?

Call me a Christian Fundamentalist or a rightwing nutjob or even a Chickenhawk, but I don't want to see that world and I pray that we don't every see that world again. Yes, Pray. Probably wouldn't hurt if few more people got on the prayer train. Or good karma; whatever you want to call it - I simply don't believe there are many people that truly believe ol' Kimmy has any "nuclear rights". Ahmenejid and Iran either. The saddest language ever used was "nuclear rights". Truman, Eisenhower, whoever used it first, it was a fould deed that came back to haunt us.

Still, as I drove home Tuesday evening, the sun setting as I contemplated these things, I saw a sky that movie makers could only dream of capturing or recreating. It was beautiful blue with a few wispy white clouds around a setting orange sun. Pinks and yellows painted the sky like the background from the closing scenes of "Gone With the Wind"; only better because this was real and not painted on a giant, back lit canvas. Seeing that sky, I felt optimism return because I knew that we had traversed many more difficult paths in our past.

The sun finally setting and dark descending, I could see fire works from the little town parks to the county and state fair gorunds. Major displays were every where including smaller displays at local fire works stands. The sky was beautifully lit up for miles upon miles.

I popped in my classical CD starting with Beethoven's 5th on through Tchaikovsky, Vivaldi, Dias Iraes, Royal Fire Works, and on and on. Ode to Joy was the finale as I swept through Kansas City on to my home, catching the final fire works of so many displays. I felt my spirits lift even higher. This is America. When will you ever stop long enough to see it?

The other day, I read Bill Whittle's "Raft" and he lamented what he thought was the demise of our great society. I wanted to write then what points I disagreed with but I have to disagree with the main point: we aren't dying and neither are our ideas. You simply don't know where to look for them.

Speaking of that, I received my book, "Home of the Brave" while I was away on vacation. I can't wait to start reading it. While on hiatus, I also read, "the Far Enemy" and part of the "Guests of the Ayatollah" (which I plan to get out of the library later this week to finish). I have somethings to say about both books. I learned quite a bit from "The Far Enemy" and recommend it as important reading for understanding our modern terrorist foes.

I'll make comments on it later this week.

In the meantime, I thank Ry again for his wonderful posts and hope he continues to post commentary here whenever he wants.

Thank you for your continued reading and look forward to reading about everyone's fourth of July.

PS...Ry, in the next day or two I will fix the links that are making mince meat of the format.