Monday, October 20, 2008

The speed of change

When I was out visiting my Dad a couple of years ago, his brother was there as well and it was fun to listen to them reminisce about their childhood.

One of those stories was about the first time they saw a car. Yeah, that's right. The first time the saw a car! Apparently my uncle was so amazed he ran right out in front of it and it knocked him over and went right over him. Thank goodness for the high clearance of those first cars!

My Mom has been working on writing the memoir of her Dad for some time. I've gotten to see parts of this. Again, one story really stood out to me. He told her about the time when he was around 5 years old, and they were moving from one town to another in Missouri.

They loaded up all their belongings on a covered wagon. Yup, a covered wagon! It still amazes me when I think about it. My Grandfather moved when he was 5 in a covered wagon!

Covered wagons, the first cars, these things were part of the lives of people in my life. I wonder now, what it will be that I recall for my kids, or grandkids that will be just as amazing to them in comparison to the world they will exist in.

Friday, October 17, 2008

The AN Plotter

When I was in the military occasionally we'd get training on different areas related to our job. For this training session we were going to deal with charting, we had to know all the different map projection types and how to use tools to write locations on maps.

As the instructor was preparing to start the course he found that most of the AN Plotters were broken. We called these AN Plotters (Air Navigational Plotters) pregnant rulers too, here's an example:
In his frustration he picked up one of the plotters that wasn't broken and started shaking it like a baton in time with what he said next. "I can't understand why all these plotters are broken!" Right as he said the word "broken," right in rhythm with the second syllable as he shook this plotter came a loud *SNAP*. The thing broke in two.

He looked in bemused dismay at the remaining half of the plotter that was in his hand having answered his own question as we all completely lost it.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Only 13 Years Old

Next week my oldest turns 13. My first teenager! How quickly this happened makes my head spin. But his turning 13 also reminded me of someone I knew nearly 30 years ago.

Back in the dark ages when I worked at McDonalds I had a coworker who was in her mid 30s I think. We used to have to help her on the little tests we had to take where we had to show we know how long things had to cook, all the rules and regulations, etc. This was because she couldn't read very well.

The reason she couldn't read very well was because she got married at 13. If this isn't enough for you, she actually met her future husband for the first time when she was only 10. And he was significantly older as well, I think in his late 20s when he married her.

Once she was married, she went on to have 3 or 4 kids, I can't remember now. Because of this she never went to High School. I remember her saying she basically grew up with her kids since she was only a child herself when she got married.

So anytime she had to take an exam, we helped her read the questions and write her answers. She was a good person to work with and was ok with where she ended up I think. She didn't resent what had happened to her. And I think at that point she was long divorced.

But I think about that, and then I think of my son just turning 13 and it just blows my mind, the idea of someone marrying at this age and then becoming a parent so young.

I need to tell my son about her today and see what he thinks. Then I'll tell him he's not allowed to get married until he's 30. ;)

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Someone Killed My Dog

About 20 years ago, someone killed my dog. It's still kind of amazing to think about it. It's difficult for me to imagine a possible motivation, how you come to deciding to do something like that.

I had just gotten out of the military and started college. I rented an old house in a small country town about 7 miles from the school. My old dog Chekhov that I had gotten shortly after High School was still at home, so I brought him out with me.

After High School, my dad suggested getting a dog from the shelter. We went and looked and saw this bedraggled, matted reserved dog that did not come up to the fence like the others. We decided to get him. We cut off all the matted hair and took good care of him. He ended up being a wonderful dog, and when his hair grew out - beautiful too. He looked like an Alaskan Malamute. And boy could he pull too. And he didn't bark, he kind of warbled instead. He was a character and I loved him.

A couple years after we got him, I joined the military. As I came and went from home the next 6.5 years, he was always there. So when I got out of the military and went back to college I wanted him to be with me out there so I wasn't alone and I thought being in the country would be nice for him too.

So we were having a good life out there, and then one cold morning I went out and there was Chekhov dead at the end of his lead. I cried the whole time when I picked him up and loaded him in my car and drove him to the vet. I wanted to know what had happened.

The vet called after the investagion was done. His stomach was full of food laced with rat poison. Not only that, but he had a huge contusion on his side, like someone had kicked him in the side after feeding him the poison.

I was stunned. No one around me had had a harsh word about him. When I thought back I realized there was a folded up lawn chair right next to his body, had they sat in that chair and fed him the poisoned food?

Someone had decided to kill my dog, and I still find myself incapable of understanding how you arrive at that point. If they had a problem, why couldn't they have talked to me, expressed their concerns if they had any?

So this loyal, wonderful dog met a cruel demise at a point in his life when he should have had years to enjoy still. And I will never understand it.

Monday, October 6, 2008

My definition of being human

One of my favorite discussions with friends is talking about what makes humans different from other animals.

It's intriguing to read stories about elephants recognizing themselves in mirrors, see video of dolphins playing with bubble rings, or see an animal that from our eyes appears to be mourning the loss of its offspring. So then what makes humans unique?

So my own conclusion when I think about it is this. To be human means having the capability to choose to act differently than our instinctive wiring or our cultural training tells us to.

Even so, I think this is a difficult thing to do. It's so much easier living on automatic pilot. And everything from art to science is influenced by the cultural thinking of the time. If you think otherwise, read some science histories and you'll see this pattern repeatedly.

But I believe it is this capability, this quality of being human, that makes all the difference because not only can we come to a new idea that contradicts the prevailing norm, we can convince others of the same and thereby change the world.