Monday, September 29, 2008

Great! Just what I needed ...

One more bookmark to click on every morning! (Click on the image for a readable size)

Sunday, September 28, 2008

A Moment of Compassion

NYTimes Columnist Judith Warner ponders the unenviable position of Sarah Palin in a column so well-reasoned and well-crafted that I won't excerpt it here. Basically, she goes beyond the hype and the tribalism of the election campaign and considers the person herself.

Granted, it's probably a hopelessly liberal position to identify with your opponent on this level, but I think there are a few belief systems that demand it. As one reader comment put it:

There she was, a moderately successful governor of a modestly populated state, a big fish in a small pond. While I don’t agree with her conservative views, to her credit she did some good things ... And then along came McCain ... To select *any* small-town mayor or rookie governor without proper vetting, or even a modicum of serious pre-acceptance coaching and discussion about what life in the national limelight is like, seems unusually cruel. I am saddened for her personally since I fear she will be permanently caricatured in the national memory, much like Dan Quayle. How miserably unfortunate, especially for a woman so young, with so many years left to live it down ... I’m coming to realize Sen. McCain’s choice says far more unflattering things about *him* than it does about the Governor. Thanks, Judith, for expressing for her the compassion that any human being deserves when they’ve gotten themselves into a mess they don’t recognize until it’s too late.

And that's only a reader. Warner herself says it better.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

My heart soars like a hawk

I remember one day in, perhaps, 1979, when my boys were about 6 and 3, and the six-year-old had had enough of the three-year-old following him around and trying to horn in on his games, and he'd gotten rough with him. There were a lot of tears and I was absolutely furious, explaining to the older boy that he could absolutely not beat up a little boy, but also trying to tell him that his baby brother adored him and ...

... and I had this horrible moment of thinking that, if I had to explain that, then everything I had done was wasted, and I realized that all I really wanted out of life was for my boys to be friends, that nothing else, absolutely nothing else, mattered. That whatever I left behind on this planet was pointless without that.

A little while ago, I called my older son to check in with him about something or other. His wife answered the phone and said that she was studying for a test and that he and the girls were at Uncle Gabe's. It's about 120 miles away, and this is not, by far, the first time the boys have gotten together on a whim, to let their children play and to spend a little time together.

The little girl being held is Gabe's, the three others are Jed's daughters. The cousins are very close friends and I can only imagine what underage maternalism will erupt in December when their male cousin arrives on the scene.

And my heart soars like a hawk.

Monday, September 15, 2008

My Grandfather Speaks (again)

About a year and a half ago, I posted a letter my grandfather had written to his grandchildren. Here's another of his letters I just came across that has not lost
its relevance since 1969.

It's no secret that I was a dropout at the age of 15. At the time I believed that I was doomed to live out my days as a nonentity in the town of Ironwood, as did all of my classmates of the primary grades.

Some, or most of them, were perfectly content to do so. The possibility that I could improve my lot was dinned into my ears during the ensuing two or three years by two men – John V. Brennan, the sup't of schools, and Rolland Mothersill the science teacher, who used to talk to me periodically after working hours. They were wonderful men.

I finally came to believe that I could improve my outlook if by some means I could get into college. In a short time this became an obsession with me – I had to have a sheepskin! During this time I had no dreams of great fame or wealth, merely an improvement be it small or great. However, once I had started on this tack there could be no turning back, and this was important.

Eventually, I received the diploma, and a whole new world was opened for me. In the ensuing years I learned many things that have served me well, and I want to discuss some of them here. You may argue that my ideas are passé; that I'm not attuned to the modern problems of your age group.

Perhaps, but everything wasn't smooth sailing for us either. While we didn't have sit-ins, mass protests and race riots, neither did we have the time for them. When we weren't actually doing our school work, most of us were trying to aid our finances by doing odd jobs or sometimes regular work. There were no welfare payments or government scholarships and few of our parents could provide more than minimal help. Neither was there any TV enabling the show-offs to get cheap publicity.

Perhaps the most important guideline was that one must never quit because the going becomes too tough. Never! Never! Never! For other reasons possibly, but not because you can't take it. This becomes more important as you rise to bigger responsibilities, since the Home Office immediately loses interest in a man who even talks of being discouraged.

Then, too, I learned that some of my best efforts would go unrecognized, or apparently so. I recall as a third grader reading in The American Word Book that "Virtue is its own reward." I couldn't grasp its meaning then but I do now – and it's so very true. When a man can get pleasure out of doing a good job, whether the world recognizes it or not, he has arrived. He will then do it even though he expects to be ignored.

Don't look for cash on the barrelhead in payment for every good deed. Deferred payments often bear high interest rates. Belated recognition is much sweeter and more effective than that given instantly. I often think that there could have been a 10th Beatitude saying "Blessed be they who expect nothing, for they shall not be disappointed." At first glance it seems flippant, but think it over.

Similarly, I have learned that modesty as to your accomplishments pays off in the end. While you may miss recognition for some of your better efforts, you may well be given credit where you don't really deserve it, and in this case your protests merely serve to strengthen the idea. I have been in gatherings of "big shots" where one after another claimed credit for an idea or an accomplishment, and none of them were very convincing. The very fact that they considered it necessary to talk about it merely served to highlight their own doubts as to whether they were getting the idea across.

I know a superintendent of a mine who made it a point to disclaim authorship for any new or novel way of doing the various underground jobs. It usually got to the point where the visitor he was escorting through the mine decided that he was actually lying and that he was involved in most of them. I've used this system on occasion, too. In a word, it pays to forget about "I" and use "We" or "They."

To proceed: I've learned that when I'm faced with a distasteful job, I must do it wholeheartedly. For example, during the 30's when there was no federal or state aid for the unemployed it became necessary for local citizens to raise money and to administer it among the needy. Being primarily engineer-oriented I detested such work, but as manager of the only industry in Cornwall I could not pass this responsibility to others. They unanimously agreed that I was "it."

After approaching the problem without enthusiasm for a while, I realized that it wouldn't go away and that I had better tie into it. In a little while I found that I was doing a better job and that I enjoyed it. When one considers that I was in the forefront on the fundraising for all of Lebanon County, and the sole disbursing agent of funds throughout the year at Cornwall, this was no small task, but it's no secret that the job was well done. Incidentally, during the fifteen years (more or less) that I was in this activity, I never received any money either for work done or for traveling or other expenses, and furthermore although I never mentioned this fact everyone knew it.

Along the way I have been faced with some "No-Nos," such as – Do not rely on favoritism to advance you in your career. The only "pull" that has any value is that which you have created by your own efforts. If you depend on the favor of someone in the hierarchy of your organization, your future is only as secure as his. Should he drop out of the act, you most certainly will end up in the doghouse or out in the cold. Furthermore, you will be thinking of this constantly and will worry about the possibility. I've seen it happen more than once, and to people in high places.

I recall an incident that occurred while I was winning the war in South Carolina in early 1918. A brother shavetail suggested one day that I become a Mason. In answer to my query of why, he said, "When you get out of this army you will undoubtedly go to work on some job where it will be necessary to call on important people, either to sell something or to get them to agree to some proposal, and when you can reach up to your lapel and expose a Masonic pin the man across the desk will be more likely to cooperate."

"But," I replied, "I intend to be the man on the other side of the desk."

Here's another gripe of mine: -- Never admit to anyone, especially yourself, that 'you did the best you could.' In the first place it probably isn't true, and secondly you are saying that your best is not good enough, you are admitting defeat. Many people feel that such a remark justifies them before the world. I claim that it merely proclaims incompetence.

Before ending this exercise I'd like to go on record with one more admonition: -- Avoid selfishness like you would avoid poison. You have all heard that the love of money is the root of all evil. I would substitute the word "selfishness" for "love of money." You haven't seen it in your home, thank heaven, but you will see it as you go out into the world. I could base my reasoning in this matter on religious teachings, but I maintain that it just doesn't pay.

Finally, and this word may have been too long in coming, I'd like to give you my idea of what makes a successful man. If he excels in his chosen field, whatever that may be, while leading a life marked by honesty, integrity, and the respect of his fellow man, he is a success. I can give you no better examples than your father and mother, which brings us back to from whence we started.


Arthur F. Peterson (1893-1978) was the son of Danish immigrants on the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. After dropping out of school to help support his family by working in the mines, he was persuaded to return and earned a scholarship to study metallurgical engineering at the University of Wisconsin. I have often described his career as one that began by his carrying a lunchpail down into the mines and ended by his carrying a briefcase up into the executive towers. The picture was taken at my wedding in 1971.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Local boy does good
(Just realized the clip starts by itself -- very annoying. Worth posting, but not worth embedding, since it would start up with every visit until it rotated off the blog into the archives. But do click on the link above.)

I'm fast to mock the competition when they do something foolish. The other night, I spoke to a class at the University of Maine about media and said that TV news people tend to be well-spoken, telegenic and vacuous. But I went out of my way to compliment Rob Caldwell's interview with John McCain, which I almost didn't watch because I assumed it would be a collection of star-struck fluffball questions.

Granted, he didn't get any scoops. But he didn't let McCain walk away from his questions and this is a good interview. Very good.

Meanwhile, what alerted me to the availability of this clip was a piece on the energy issue and the absurdity of the Palin/McCain claim that Alaska produces 20 percent of America's energy supply. It's not close. It's not even sensible. As Obama has said, "Do they think you're stupid?" Evidently they do.

Sunday, September 07, 2008

Executive Action

A story in the Wall Street Journal, that bastion of the liberal Democrat-controlled media, describes how, under the administration of Mayor Sarah Palin, the town of Wasilla managed to bring in this ambitious sports complex with an additional $1.3 million in costs and legal penalties, due to the fact that they began construction before they had clear title to the land.

There was a court case over ownership of the land, and, after the town won, Palin's administration proceeded to clear land and build roads, despite a pending appeal. Which they subsequently lost, which triggered more legal hilarity over their impetuous improvements to the land.

There was a happy ending, however. The town took the land by eminent domain, proving that the government can muscle its way to whatever it wants, over the property rights of the individual. Perhaps the McCain/Palin campaign could make use of that in its appeal to the conservative base.

Anyway, I guess a small-town mayor is sort of like a "community organizer," except that you have actual responsibilities. Like keeping your town out of foolish, costly litigation.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Separated at birth

Only one of these couples is real, of course. The other consists of an underage girl and a hockey player and is entirely fictional. Can you match them up? (For those without access to Canadian TV, the phrase "He Shoots, He Scores" is involved. )

Monday, September 01, 2008

Kids and Dogs
(Well, kid and dogs)

I finally had the chance to get out of town for more than a few hours this weekend. The big deal was that I got to see my mother, who is eight hours away and so really can't be seen on one of my usual down-and-back one day dashes. But the pictures there were taken on film and I don't have them, so here are the pictures at each end of the trip.

I started by driving four hours to Norwich, Vt, which is basically White River Junction for those who know the area. Here's my youngest granddaughter, Johanna, with Destry and Ziwa. Her own dog, Scout, was somewhere in the area, but of course Grandpa's dogs were the novelty.

Dogs, however, are not as exciting as homemade ice cream, and when Mommy says you can lick the bowl, well, you can lick the bowl.

The spoon was primarily a prop, but it was good for getting into the corners where the face couldn't reach.
As you can see, the face reached pretty well, however.
Sunday, I drove down to Mom's in Mount Vernon, NY, about four hours from Gabe and Sarah's and had a nice visit with her, the first time we'd seen each other since I took this job, nearly two years ago. Then I drove back up another four hours to York Harbor, Maine, where my stepdaughter, Paige, lives with her husband Gene and their dogs.

Other people's dogs have pretty much stayed out of these pictures somehow. In this case, they weren't in the pictures because when I got up at 6:45 and took my two out in the back yard to feed them, I realized we were locked out of the house. Since we had intended to take a walk anyway, I decided we might as well just go ahead and then rouse the house when we returned if it hadn't roused itself by then. (Which it had)
The sun came up shortly after we reached the beach.
A little fill flash and you can see the doggy faces. They're only allowed on the beach until 8 a.m. during the tourist season, but that's plenty late enough. And, of course, low tide not only gives you the best running surface, but the best things to look at and smell. I don't think they were impressed at all by what was going on behind them, but I thought it was rather nice.

I also thought getting to see that much family was rather nice. Had good visits all three places and got home at noon and back to the office about 2 p.m. Monday so I could do a little editing and get things squared away to hit the ground running Tuesday morning -- the beginning of a short week that has just as much work as is contained in a regular one.

But a good start for such a week.

I think this is probably real. Nobody would just make up stuff about something as important as the Presidential Election.