Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Ode to a Klingon - A Tribute to Buddy Lee

Driving past the rest area, I spotted two dogs playing next to the highway. Without a thought, I veered into the picnic area to draw them away from the seventy mile-per-hour traffic.

Both dogs followed the truck as I pulled in and grabbed the packet of dry dog food from beneath the driver's seat.They scarfed up the kibble in seconds prompting me to search for more food in the truck.
When I turned around, the Doberman was gone. The one that looked like a wolf remained close, watching my every move. His hair was matted and dirty; his ribs visible through the thick fur. He sat quietly by the open door of the truck waiting for the question that would change both our lives:
"Do you want to go home with me, boy?"
He raised his right paw as an answer.
The first night Buddy was with us, I put him in the fenced pen that once housed our emus. He had food and water, yet he lacked the companionship he so desperately craved. 
In the morning, I took his breakfast out there and found he had dug his way out from under the chain link fence. I cried all the way to work, believing him to be lost once again.
Once I arrived at work I retrieved my voice mail messages. Buddy found his way home and into the heart of my hubby who said, "This little buddy is a keeper." And so he got his name and became part of our family, joining our twelve year old Retriever, Slick, and his new Chow companion, three year old Dolly Joe.

One Christmas, I wrote a poem when Buddy Lee displayed interest in one ornament on our tree.
Ode to a Klingon by Peg Cole

The tinny voice of Mr. Worf
Grown silent now at last. 

Has echoed from the Christmas tree
Of many seasons past.

The shuttle craft has lost its voice

The micro chip is quiet.
And yet I do not toss it out
I dare not start a riot.
Each morning when the lights went on
The Klingon's voice would call
And Buddy Lee would tilt his head
In wonderment and awe..

Not that one...the Runabout, please, push the button.

The micro chip inside the ship
Spoke deeply from the boughs
And Buddy Lee would come and look
To find the source of prose.

His head pressed firmly on his paws
He guards the silent tree
"Where is the Klingon warrior's voice?
That used to speak to me?"

We laughed at Buddy's interest 

When turning on the tree
He'd always come and take a look
The curious Buddy Lee.
The Warrior's voice is silent now
Its magic has been spent
Though Buddy Lee still stalks the tree
Amid the limbs he's bent.

The thoughts inside my canine's head
Remain a mystery
The strange attraction Buddy has
Is plain for all to see.

And now to find another craft 
On eBay do I search
The plastic shuttle Rio Grande 
Not from the planet Earth.

Bud looks at us with pleading eyes.
His Klingon mentor lacking.
Quick, purchase from the on-line store
With automated tracking.
Bizarre and disconnected from
The day of Jesus' birth.
Yet still I long for Deep Space Nine,
To celebrate with mirth.

I'll hope that it arrives in time,
Without delay or reasons.
And pray each day that Buddy stays
To celebrate more seasons.

Buddy Lee at Twelve
For he's grown old my Buddy Lee
His bright eyes now grown dim.
And Christmas wouldn't be the same
An empty day without him.

So hasten to me UPS
Your brown truck at my door.
And let me see Bud's eyes light up,
When Worf will speak once more.

Buddy Lee was with us for twelve wonderful years during which he was a valued member of our family.

There is a street near our house named Dog Drop Road. Some people take it as an invitation to leave their unwanted pets wandering about lost, wondering what they did to deserve being abandoned.

Friday, February 19, 2016

Braniff Airways Flying Colors by Richard Benjamin Cass - Book Review

Braniff Airways - Flying Colors Images of Modern America takes the reader through a photographic tour of the life and times of Braniff Airways. Beginning in 1928, Tom Braniff and his brother Paul Revere Braniff dedicated their efforts toward bringing affordable air travel to the public.

Inspired by the cross Atlantic flight of Charles Lindberg, these brothers, pioneers in a fledgling aviation industry, took the purchase of one fabric covered, five passenger Stinson airplane and transformed their dream into an empire.

Struggling through the troubled times of the Great Depression, they pulled out of a near bankruptcy by adapting their services to carrying mail for the government before expanding into commuter routes between Dallas and Oklahoma. The fascinating story of how they grew their dream is captured alongside the colorful, ninety-five page photo filled documentary detailing the evolution of the airline.

Inside you'll discover facts about its leaders, employees, series of planes and jets, training facilities, executive offices, designer uniforms, flight hostesses and flight attendants, its amazing in-flight meals, designer fabrics and paint schemes of their fleet, along with the ever evolving changes in passenger transport equipment.

The book takes the reader from the airline's humble beginnings to its eventual demise as an multi-billion dollar entity.

The book is illustrated with a vast collection of Dallas History of Aviation's historic photographs housed at McDermott Library UTD as well as the author's lifelong collection of Braniff Flying Colors photos and memorabilia.

Author Richard Benjamin Cass dedicates this book to the memory of Harding Luther Lawrence, whose leadership role at Braniff spanned the years from 1965 to 1981. He guided the airline through the deregulation of the airline industry in 1978, to expansion internationally, through its years plagued with exponential fuel increases, dynamic drops in passenger air travel, and expanding interest charges on unpaid debt. He speaks about route awards by then President Carter, of revenue increases and route expansions without delving into the whys and intricate details of how these issues were overcome.

Well worth the price, the book will delight any reader who has an interest in aviation history along with those who strive to keep the memory of Braniff alive.

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Grilling Hot Dogs Outside

Summer is almost here. Time to bring out the barbecue grill and test your skills at outdoor cooking. Never grilled out? Don't worry. It's easier than you think. Even I can do it.

For a number of years, I left the outdoor cooking to the man of the house. It seemed more of a manly thing to do with the dirty charcoal and the use of liquid fire starter. I never imagined how much fun it would be to build a little fire in our Weber grill, skewer my food and actually cook it over an open flame. The first time I took over the tongs was like a brand new world had opened.
One fourth of July, we invited a few of our friends over to celebrate at our place out in the country. For variety, we decided on hamburgers and hot dogs to go with the extra dishes brought in by our guests.

In the sweltering summer heat someone started a horseshoe game and my hubby, the grill Chef, disappeared.
When the flames on the barbecue pit began to signal a fire hazard, it was too late to rescue the little briquettes that were once juicy hamburgers. They were burnt to a crisp and looked like  hockey pucks.

Luckily, we had more hot dogs and managed to feed the multitude. But that day was the turning point on my view of grilling. From that moment forward, I would be the designated grill chef.
One of the first things I learned is something experienced grill chefs know already: You only need a small pile of charcoal for quick cooking.
When I say a small pile, I mean a pile no larger than a quarter of the size of the kettle. For foods that take a long time, you need a lot more charcoal, but not with hamburgers and hot dogs.

First, pour the charcoal into one area of the lower grill inside the drum. It's important that the old ashes are discarded safely in a fireproof bucket or a trash bag before you begin. 

Never dump out the grill ashes until you're certain that they are cold.
Squirt on a small amount of liquid charcoal lighter.

Use an electric starter or a long wooden match to ignite the pile of charcoal and wait for the edges to turn white.

When the coals start to burn off the charred remains of the last cookout I use my wire brush to vigorously clean the top grill to remove any rust and debris.

Safety Reminders - Keep some water handy to put out smoldering ashes that fly out of the grill and land in the grass. I keep a squirt bottle handy to extinguish any flare ups.
Don't grill out if there is a strong wind. 
Don't overuse the charcoal starter fluid or the chemical taste will transfer to the food along with the chemicals it contains. 
Keep food refrigerated until the last possible moment when it goes on the grill. Promptly refrigerate any cooked food that is left over, especially in the heat of the summer.

Another key is to keep things moving around on the grill. Turn the hot dogs frequently and move them to a cool area when they start cooking too fast or turn too black.

The key to successful grilling is to be prepared for any flame ups from dripping grease. Since the hot dogs are fully cooked to begin with, the timing and amount of grilling is really up to your personal preferences. If you've never grilled out before, don't worry. It's so easy even I can do it, seriously.

The Weber Original 22 inch grill has served us for nearly two decades. 

We've replaced the top grill once due to rust, and with a good cleaning, it's nearly the same as when we got it from Home Depot.
With the barbecue tongs in hand, I rule my smoky domain. All the best in your outdoor cooking. Happy grilling!

Friday, February 12, 2016

Living and Dying with Purpose and Grace, James Armstrong, A Book Review

James Armstrong, Professor of Ethics at Rollins College, former Methodist Bishop and President of the National Council of Churches, writes insightful words certain to inspire.

Living and Dying with Purpose and Grace is one of those books you can open to any page and find something of value. Author James Armstrong, former President of the National Council of Churches and longtime Christian minister of faith, shares within these few pages a vast treasury of knowledge and life experiences.
His mind, sharpened by the ageless pursuit of wisdom, has accumulated a multitude of life lessons through his positions of leadership and decades of service that span the globe.
This is not a book for the meek, the fence sitters or the doubters. It is a serious book that identifies what we need to do to improve our lives. It surpasses others of its type in its richness of examples of real people whose lives serve as role models: some are positive examples and others are warnings. The author explains in specific detail the things we must do to grow beyond ourselves and find true happiness.
Mr. Armstrong teaches that if we leave behind our selfishness, cruelty, hate and despair and replace it with other-centered love we will be on the road to recovery as individuals and as a society. What will deliver us from moral failure and self-worship? He explains that we are the master of our fates and that what we believe is a key factor. “Not a one of us is a finished product.”
He writes about putting our suffering into perspective. He speaks of people who have surpassed the worst sorts of treatment and conditions to rise above it all, filled with an enduring sense of gratitude and love for others. He touches on things that are absorbed from studying the lives of people such as Victor Frankl, Elie Wiesel, the spirituality of the Dalai Lama and the life of Gandhi.
He highlights examples in former prisoner of war US Senator John McCain held captive and tortured for five and a half years in Hanoi, and Tammy Duckworth, a helicopter pilot who lost both legs in combat and compares the fact that though they differ radically on political issues they share “the purpose – the love of country - of what drove them to this risk and sacrifice”. He suggests that “Why we suffer may define our person hood more eloquently than the fact that we have suffered.”
Mr. Armstrong says we will not grow until we "move beyond merely accepting Christ” and actually '"apply the principles". We are taught, in what Rick Warren calls "the greatest sermon ever preached”: The Sermon on the Mount, that by applying the “love ethic” and “personal wholeness” and “other-centered living” that rings out in the message of that sermon, we move away from unhappiness toward becoming a “fully-functioning person”.
In essence, “You won’t be the person you can become unless and until you outgrow self-worship.” He teaches that “Our highest purposes are to cultivate our inner worlds while helping meet the needs of those about us . . . love others even as we love ourselves.”
As we come into maturity, we take notice of the things around us often missed by our younger selves; we begin to feel the burn of our poor choices of the past. He says it is never too late to change course and travel in a different direction.
The writer suggests that “the prayers we pray are the overriding interests of our lives” and reflect our ambitions, perhaps even our obsessions. He asks what kind of God we have; whether we have chosen one like the Reverend Jim Jones or the one of David Koresh? Or have we chosen a God like Albert Einstein’s? He describes Albert Einstein’s humble nature and life of self-less simplicity as one whose “gentle spirit and concern for others gave special meaning to his scientific endeavors”.
He asks us to consider the Dalai Lama who “proposes that happiness is a by-product of spirituality and suggests that our unhappiness as individuals may be rooted in a 'shallow and self serving definition of happiness based primarily on physical pleasures'.” The Dalai Lama states that in order to achieve happiness we must “be concerned with those qualities of the human spirit: Love and compassion; patience; tolerance; and forgiveness”. We must become in essence “good human beings”.
The author is a personal friend of Fred Rogers, known across the world as Mister Rogers, who believed that it was our job to help foster “the intellect and spirit and emotional growth of our fellow human beings”.

Through Mr. Armstrong’s extensive worldwide travels, which he believes opens up our sphere of consciousness and changes our world view, he met Fidel Castro, Lee Tai-Young, and a host of others who deeply affected his beliefs. Their stories are a shared part of his own development from studying people like Lee Atwater, Carl Adkins, Randy Pausch and others. He is a close personal friend of 1972 Democratic nominee for US. President retired Senator George McGovern who penned a stirring foreword to this thought provoking manuscript.
The author draws from a life enriched by experience and practice, providing important clues to set our lives in the direction that will ultimately be all that matters. In his brief and upbeat chapters on Dying he talks about the importance of savoring the good memories of our lives and blotting out the bad; tearing up the lists we've each made of the times we've been betrayed or deeply offended and about looking at old age as a gift – the time of our lives when we can be “the person I always wanted to be”.
This book holds within its slender volume of one hundred pages words that can change lives. These are methods that can help us travel beyond our own needs, align our moral compasses and take us forward in a new direction.

How to Win Friends and Influence People, Dale Carnegie 1936 - A Book Review

What ranks at the top of our problems? Some say it's the issue of getting along with people in our everyday business and social life. How do we win an argument? Is this ever possible?

One of the top selling books of all time, translated into virtually every language was written by Dale Carnegie in 1936. Since that time, his homespun philosophy has helped millions in their day to day interactions.
For years, it was the title that put me off reading the book. I thought this was another collection of gimmicks like many other self help books. When I finally did read it my only regret was not having read it much sooner. How many of my past relationships might have been saved? How much further might I have gotten if I had known some of the things written in this classic best seller, How To Win Friends and Influence People? For example, these Five Things to Consider in an Argument:
  • You can't win an argument. There is no winner in an argument. Mr. Carnegie explains this in his quote, "You can't because if you lose it, you lose it; and if you win it, you lose it. Why?...If you triumph over the other (hu)man and shoot their argument full of holes and prove that they are non compos mentis1 then what? You will feel fine. But what about him/her? You have made him/her feel inferior. You have hurt their pride. They will resent your triumph."
  • "There is only one way to get the best of an argument - that is to avoid it. Avoid it as you would avoid rattlesnakes and earthquakes. Nine times of ten, an argument ends with each of the contestants more firmly convinced than ever that he/she is absolutely right."
  • "Will my reaction drive my opponents further away or draw them closer to me? Will my reaction elevate the estimation good people have of me?...What price will I have to pay if I win?"
  • "You will never get into trouble by admitting that you may be wrong. That will stop all argument and inspire your opponent to be just as fair and open and broadminded as you are."
  • Begin and end in a friendly way. "Scolding parents and domineering bosses and husbands and nagging wives ought to realize that people don't want to change their minds. They can't be forced or driven to agree with you or me. But they may possibly be led to, if we are gentle and friendly, ever so gentle and ever so friendly."
I'll never forget the conversation I had with my best friend on the elevator heading out for lunch one day. We were engaged in a heated discussion during most of the morning and she, a fiery redhead with a generous sprinkling of freckles, finally had enough and said, "You just can't disagree without being disagreeable." At that moment I was thankful that most of the people on that elevator didn't speak English or I would have been mortified. The fact was, not only was her statement true, she had nailed the root cause of many arguments that plagued my early life. I wish I could say that I changed my ways that moment faced with the truth, but it isn't so. I went about for years believing that confrontation and trying to prove myself right was the way to go.

Carl Rogers, a psychologist, wrote in his book On Becoming a Person, "When someone expresses some feeling, attitude or belief, our tendency is almost immediately to feel 'that's right,' or 'that's stupid,' or 'that's abnormal,' or 'that's incorrect..." He further says it is of "enormous value to permit ourselves to understand the other person" rather than give in to our first reaction which is to evaluate or judge."
Though this may be something that everyone else already knew, it had never occurred to me. The idea of giving in on smaller stuff was a foreign concept to me.To that point, I had traveled through life believing that I must correct wrongs and prove myself right in every instance. The words should and ought to came into my thoughts so often that I lost sight of the forest for the trees.
Sheryl Crow says it well in this song, "The Difficult Kind."

"One thing only I know, and that is that I know nothing." Socrates to his followers in Athens
In his youth, Ben Franklin was known for his habit of constant argument. He was once told by a friend, "Your opinions have a slap in them for everyone who differs with you...You know so much that no one can tell you anything".
After hearing this, Ben learned to deny himself the pleasure of contradicting everyone he thought to be in error. He said, "I made it a rule to forbear all direct contradiction to the sentiment of others and all positive assertion of my own." He changed to become one of the most diplomatic men in American history.
"If you will only change, everything will change for you." Jim Rohn
This book provides the guidelines for change that will lead to a happier and more productive life with a whole less conflict; a valuable read.
Non compos mentis - when one is in a confused state, intoxicated, or not of sound mind

Thursday, February 11, 2016

The Whole Truth, David Baldacci - A Book Review

Can a corporation spin a lie so believable that the public  would be staggered by its implications? In David Baldacci's book, he details a scenario where the entire world believes one thing but the real truth is another matter.

In David Baldacci’s fourteenth bestselling novel, The Whole Truth, perception becomes reality when, motivated by profit in the trillions of dollars, the Ares Corporation, the world’s largest defense contractor, sets the stage for an arms escalation that threatens to return the world to a state of Cold War.
Nicolas Creel, President of Ares, hires public relations firm Pender and Associates to spin a lie so believable that the public consciousness is staggered by its macabre implications. The twisted outcome of this devious lie pits Russia against China engaging each other in open warfare for Creel’s purpose of raising demand for his military products. In doing so, Creel can return his company to profitability and continue living the life to which he is accustomed; sailing around Italy on his enormous yacht and traveling aboard his private jet which has been converted into an airborne block of boardrooms, a movie theater and private suites.
Richard Pender, founder of Pender and Associates, employs perception management in his creation of “facts” sold to the world as truth; a term even the Department of Defense takes seriously enough to be included in one of their manuals. Its usefulness in developing a scenario of untruth is played out in this novel that pits the main character, a secret agent trapped in a job he can’t leave, against the unrelenting resources of the nefarious Mr. Creel. Along the way the protagonist, known only as A. Shaw, joins forces with his employer, Frank, to battle the tide of public fervor and expose the real truth. 
Nestled into the action, Shaw tries to find a way to escape his coerced employment and find a way to marry the love of his life, Anna Fischer. Their love is an arduous affair, plagued by the relentless tactics of Shaw’s employer, Frank, who uses his own form of perception management to separate Anna from her commitment to Shaw. Frank, who will stop at nothing, elicits the hatred of Anna’s parents in Wisbach to taint Anna’s belief in Shaw.
Katie James, the award winning journalist, rises from the pit into which she’s fallen after a lull in her career, to join those few who are trying to expose the real truth. An unlikely pairing, she and Shaw uncover Creel’s corrupt empire, upending the status quo and battling the forces of evil.
Full of twists and turns and unexpected outcomes, the book takes the reader on a journey of outrage and disbelief, stunned by the depths to which certain people can operate with a clear conscience. This novel will keep you awake into the wee hours of the night, turning page after page to get to The Whole Truth.