Category Archives: state government agencies

Borientation: The Perils of Corporate, Government and Military Orientation

If you have worked in corporate America, the Federal Government and State Governments or the Military in the past 20 to 30 years you probably have gone through a program of orientation or indoctrination upon being hired or transferred by a corporation or government agency. Now if you are completely new to an organization such classes are important in understanding the corporate or agency mission, culture and priorities. These programs also stress things that the organization has determined to be essential in a new employee’s understanding of how the entity does business and standards of practice, personal conduct and other items that may be required by accrediting commissions or by law.

Such programs tend to last 2 days to a week and can be incredibly detailed or filled with myriads of small topics that tend to blend together before a day is over. This is what I refer to as “Borientation.” I have worked in the military and in other state or local government agencies for nearly 30 years.  Each time I have being hired by a new organization or transferred within the military I have gone through some form of Borientation process.  These types of classes have been around for years but with every passing day some new law, regulation or discovery that something that we have been doing for years is too unsafe, unethical or enjoyable to be allowed in the workplace or anywhere else the organization can sink its paws into. This aside Borientation is deemed essential and almost everyone requires it.

If you are new to an organization, like in never had a job in your life kind of new or been locked away in a cave for the past 20 years you will certainly receive a fire hose blast of information that will make your head spin like Linda Blair in the Exorcist. However after a while in a business, government or military culture the Borientation process becomes rather mind numbing.   It’s not that there is anything wrong with the information and many times nothing wrong with the presentation but it is rather that after 10 or more years in an organization Borientation becomes a painful experience because with the exception of a tweak here and there most subjects are pretty much the same. It’s like watching reruns of the most boring PBS and BBC shows or really bad sitcoms for the 100th time except they are presented in marathon format and presented in classrooms where the employees sit in uncomfortable chairs in glaring fluorescent light with poor acoustics.

Since I have over 30 years experience in such environments going back to my pre-military days I can pretty much summarize 80% of what is covered in these classes in about 5 minutes.  Heck if I was God I would let the old guys and gals that have been in the organization for years get the “Cliff Notes” version of orientation, just what has changed since the last time they did it or what was not part of previous orientations.

As for me I don’t do well in seminars or classes that go on hour after hours in the same place providing information that I have been provided in person and online for years and years and years, and dare I say…years.  I actually have a physical reaction in these classes because I do my best to stay awake and attentive in order to at least respect the good people doing the training.  Now I keep my laptop with me to take notes to help me stay awake and take note of things that have changed or are new that are important.  I also keep a couple of news sites and Facebook running in the background if even the note taking becomes too tedious.  But even doing this and fortified with major doses of caffeine I often feel my face and head going numb.  I am not kidding it is like one of those old Star Trek or other science fiction flicks where aliens attach themselves to people, on Star Trek TOS the guys in the red shirts on the away team. It is like the life is being sucked out of me. Now I don’t know about you but looking around the room and talking to other seasoned folks during breaks I am pretty sure that I am not alone.  Please know I am not against orientation but rather Borientation. I have had to teach my fair share of these courses and I try desperately to get just the right information out quickly and with some humor because I know that the people that I am victimizing probably have 20 other presenters who will not do this.

Thus I try to see the humor in everything during the classes and afterward sometimes finding perverse pleasure in the Dilbert comic strips.  At the same time I am forced to wonder with the continuous expansion of Borientation programs and re-boreintation programs due to more and more regulations from either the government or accreditation commissions that we have reached the culminating point where we actually begin to lose ground in trying to gain ground by overloading people with information without adequate time to digest it.

Part of what I fear about Borientation is hurting me if I flip my desk or chair if I fall asleep. This mind you is not an unfounded fear.  I remember back in seminary after lunch having my Philosophy of Religion professor do a lecture about philosophic and religious themes in artwork. To do this he showed us hundreds of slides on the old slide carousel, no Power Point back then.  Well lunch had settled in my belly and as the majority of my blood supply went to digest the hamburger that I had consumed I found myself struggling to maintain conciseness eventually losing the battle against the “Z Monster” flipping my desk in front of the professor who didn’t miss a beat and continued to the next slide and I hastily recovered, righted my desk and got back into it as my classmates, many awakened from their naps by the loud crashing noise laughed their assess off.

So until the next time,

Peace,

Padre Steve+

 

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Filed under Just for fun, Military, philosophy, purely humorous, state government agencies

Fly the Friendly Skies….The TSA Way

Well, I used to be a frequent flier because of my military assignments.  Back in those days I became quite good at making sure that I presented as little trouble to TSA screeners as possible.  I planned and organized every part of my trip to make sure that the screening process would be quick and painless to all involved. Everything I did was done to make things easy for the TSA screeners because I figured that they had a thankless task dealing with irate travelers already pissed off about long lines, baggage fees, flight delays and generally being treated like chattel every step of the way. On rare occasion something would occur that caused me to get pulled aside, maybe it was my field communion set, my oil stock or some other religious item.  These were generally minor inconveniences that were resolved quickly and in a usually friendly manner.
However on one occasion I was subjected to the most humiliating public humiliation of my life. I was travelling in my Khaki uniform.  Of course I had me rank and ribbons on and my USS Hue City belt buckle.  Where I live we have a very large military population that frequents our airport with many having to fly in uniform.  Thus the screeners tend to be respectful of military personnel in uniform.  One day back in 2003 well before the current “Say Cheese” and “Grope on Sight” order went out.  I took everything out of my pockets, took of my shoes and presented myself for inspection. Of course as I went through the scanner my shiny big belt buckle, shiny rank and multi-colored stack of ribbons set of the scanner.  I was ushered aside and told to remove everything and even told to unzip my trousers.  The agent in full view of hundreds of people then went through a hard pat down that included my “junk.” Meanwhile people who were obviously foreign and wearing clothing that could hide a truck bomb walked by without getting groped.  I was stunned, embarrassed and shocked. I had just completed a combat deployment and this idiot was treating me like a criminal.  When I got home I wrote a letter to the head of the TSA requesting an apology. I got no reply.  This soured me on the TSA even before the new draconian rules went into force.
You see I am a patriot, I want to see terrorists killed off like vermin and I don’t want to see another American or anyone else harmed. However it seems to me in their haste to look like they are doing something in the name of “security” that the Department of Homeland Security is willing to trample over the rights of self respecting, law abiding citizens using methods that the Gestapo would have had wet dreams thinking about. Back in 2001 civil libertarians warned of the dangers inherent in the cleverly named “Patriot Act.”  We are now seeing how an agency created by that act is willing to abuse citizens, and yes groping qualifies as abuse especially in the absence of probable cause.  But wait, probable cause is given when a person refuses to go through a high powered x-ray machine that looks through their clothing to expose their nakedness to TSA employees who in some cases have laughed and made fun of their subjects and some of which have found their way to the internet.

I have seen videos of TSA agents patting down tiny children and watched in horror when the traumatized children were crying.  I’m sorry that is as close to legal sexual abuse of a child as you can get.  But then to keep us secure it’s okay for the TSA to do things that would get a teacher, pastor, scoutmaster or anyone else thrown in jail and forever listed as a sexual predator.
When I came back from Iraq and was going in my Marine Corps pattern camouflaged uniform after an arduous return which culminated in an 18 hour flight from Kuwait to the States I was welcomed home to an airport on the East Coast. Customs agents were kind and we had a small group of really nice people welcoming us home.  As I ran to the connecting flight accompanied by my trusty assistant Nelson Lebron we got to the TSA screening checkpoint with minutes to spare.  We got our gear through the machine and then it was time for us.  I had to remove my shirt, my belt buckle and my boots and run to the aircraft gate with my boots untied because they were getting ready to close the gate.  At least the screeners were not rude but even still, for crying out loud, we just came home from Iraq.  Is there something wrong with this picture?  Have we lost our minds?  Welcome home from TSA.

Now if you ask me I think that the complaints of people are entirely justified. On the absence of being able to bring home Osama Bin Laden’s head on a platter we now assume that everyone is a terrorist and those that complain must be sympathizers. Well I tell you what, as someone who has seen the ravages of what terrorists can do dating back to the 1980s when the Red Brigades terrorized Americans, NATO allies and Germans bombing and killing.  However even the thorough Germans never subjected their citizens to this type of humiliation.  I think that they learned something from the Third Reich, something that we seem to have forgotten. The “Greatest Generation” went to war to defeat Nazi tyranny and free Europe from the evil of a police state.  Now it seems that our own TSA deems that we the people are the enemy.  I figured that out in 2003 and again in 2008.

I think now with the abuses being heaped upon Americans that people are finally taking notice.

Until things change let’s all just sit back and enjoy the groping, enjoy the friendly skies.  Your papers please.

Peace

Padre Steve+

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Filed under national security, state government agencies, travel

New Laws for 2010: Just Because You’re Paranoid Doesn’t Mean that Big Brother is Not Watching You

I love legislatures, well maybe not and it really doesn’t matter if they are controlled by Republicans or Democrats.  I personally think that the members of most legislative bodies are seriously in need of getting their own lives.  Nothing against them, but it seems to me that no matter what party is in charge the end result is that an exponential number of new laws are enacted.  Now some of these are good, and I will not fault legislatures for trying to do well, it just seems to me that every time some new law is enacted that the people who benefit the most are the legislators, lobbyists, special interest groups and of course lawyers.  2010 is a time of intense joy for these interests as the legislatures at all levels of government have been bust, a total of 40,697 new laws went on the books, that’s like 111.49 laws a day.

Across the country a host of new laws have gone into effect.  In Georgia they have a “super-speeder” law for those that go above 85 on 4 lane highways and over 75 on other highways.  Good thing I don’t live there. I think that they were about 30 years to late to get the Bandit though.

In Illinois it will be illegal to text while you drive, not to be outdone New Hampshire and Oregon have followed suit.  No problem here I can barely text when I’m parked comfortably on my couch, but truckers in Illinois can now do 65 rather than 55 outside of the Chicago area where word has it that they can drive as fast as the 25 mile an hour traffic will let them.  In California a new law will allow people to drive vehicles with video screens operating in the front seat… so long as the driver can’t see them, yeah that will work.  Folks in Ohio If you are driving through the Buckeye state you might consider turning on your lights when your windshield wipers are engaged. We already have this in Virginia.

Of course the California legislature has in the name of good health and obesity prevention now prohibits restaurants from using oils, margarines and shortening with more than half a gram of trans fat per serving.  Half a gram, is that a lot?  Not to be outdone in the realm of health Virginia and North Carolina have banned smoking in restaurants, though in Virginia this can be done if the restaurant has a specially designed space with specialized ventilation separated from the rest of the restaurant, in most places this is known as the sidewalk.  I’m not a fan of having to inhale someone’s second hand smoke but it seems that smokers who pay exorbitant rates for taxes in their cancer sticks, and pay higher life and health insurance rates are sort of like criminals who must be demonized and separated from society.  I just think that it is hypocritical that governments allow smoking to be legal if they plan to punish smokers.  It seems if they were really interested in good health that would simply ban cigarettes, but then that would get in the way of tax revenues and put tobacco companies who lobby the legislatures out of business.

In Texas teenagers can no longer use tanning beds unless accompanied by an adult, I guess the fake ID business has a new outlet in Texas.

I love patriotism and symbolic acts that give the appearance of caring about American jobs. In Illinois flags used by state and local governments should be made in the United States.

Much to the glee of divorce lawyers and wedding planners alike New Hampshire joins Massachusetts, Connecticut, Vermont and Iowa in legalizing same-sex marriages.  California now requires that same sex marriages performed in other states while its same sex marriage law is in force.  Washington State and Kentucky each have placed limitations on payday lenders.  In Arkansas the sale of realistic-looking toy guns is banned while stores there and in Florida and Michigan will be required to sell only “fire-safe” cigarettes, fire safe? They are on fire thank you. Nevada and Louisiana have banned the sale of novelty lighters, devices which are designed to look like cartoon characters, toys or guns or that play musical notes or have flashing lights.  On the religious liberty side of the house employers in Oregon cannot restrict employees from wearing religious clothing while working or for taking time off for religious holidays, Festivus anyone?

There are also laws that allow a lot more security measures at airports, give police new powers and allow the use of technology such as radar traffic cameras at intersections.  I first saw these in Germany back in the 1980s and have no problem with them. Virginia Beach has installed a bunch of these around town and I think that is it cool to see the flash of the camera when a car runs a light.

Of course there are other laws that civil libertarians oppose and actions such as the granting immunity to Interpol agents operating in the United States that have some folks riled up, the fact that they are Americans who work in the Justice Department doesn’t calm the storm on this one.

So anyway, as security cameras watch your every move and legislatures find more ways to make your life a legal maze to avoid becoming a criminal for some minor infraction, rejoice, you could live in Iran.

Until that happens we’ll just have to be darned to heck for minor infractions by all the Phil’s in our legislatures.

Have a great New Year,

Peace,

Padre Steve+

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Filed under laws and legislation, Political Commentary, state government agencies

Investigate Novitzky and the Prosecutors in the BALCO Major League Baseball Investigation

Baseball players who are accused of or admitted to the use of steroids and other alleged performance enhancing drugs prior to their being banned by baseball have been demonized by the Federal Government and media.  I do not agree with taking them, but at the age of 49 and still having to complete regular physical fitness tests and physical conditioning I wouldn’t mind if someone prescribed me some HGH.  I’ve got enough nagging injuries that hurt that I have to take a couple of pain medications on a regular basis anyway.  If someone offered me the chance to do more than get pain relief I would jump at it.  Major League Ball players get dinged up a lot over the course of Spring Training, a 162 game season and up to a month of post season play.  They also are dependant of their physical condition to make their living.  Likewise our society as a whole has become a nation addicted to enhancing performance.  It is pervasive and not merely isolated to professional sports, especially not baseball.

Over the past 10 years certain people who have no legal oversight to baseball such as IRS investigator Jeff Novitzky have engaged in a gross abuse of governmental power.  In his investigation he has either been permitted or encouraged by the prosecutors of Barry Bonds to break the law.  The prosecutors acted either out of omission by turning a blind eye to Novitzky’s conduct or out of commission by cooperating with him.  Not only has this been shown now repeatedly as court after court has thrown out evidence or dismissed charges against Novitzky’s chief target Barry Bonds.  Yesterday the 9th Circuit Court ruled that Novitzky’s investigative team illegally seized thousands of records without probable cause.  Chief Judge Alex Kozinski stated “This was an obvious case of deliberate overreaching by the government in an effort to seize data as to which it lacked probable cause.”  Since February leak after leak of names from a list of 104 players who allegedly tested positive on a screening that was only to be used to see how pervasive the use of steroids was in baseball with the understanding that the list would not be made public and in fact would be destroyed.  The leaks obviously are coming from investigators who are the only people with access to the records who have motive to leak information.  The act of prosecutors or investigators leaking the documents that are sealed is illegal.  The consistent leaking to various reporters has    Former U.S. Attorney and chief of the criminal division for the Southern District of California Charles La Bella said: “The information shouldn’t have been seized. People have been unfairly tainted by something the courts have ruled should never have been made public.”

Novitzky, his team and superiors had a warrant to get information on 10 individuals.  They knowingly exceeded their authority without probably cause and seized thousands of records. They then allowed information the courts had to be made public.  What did they find besides the records at BALCO? Under $2000 worth of illegal performance enhancing substances, nothing more suggesting a widespread manufacture or distribution of them.

The apparent collaboration of Novitzky with BALCO prosecutors Jeff Nedrow and Matthew Parrella has tainted the case against Bonds or anyone else whose names have been leaked.  I have to say apparent because there is no proof to this point that Novitzky is the leaker but the evidence based on what he has done so far in breaking the law in regard to the seizure of evidence makes it a reasonable supposition.

The judge in the Bonds case, Susan Illston was openly skeptical of Novitzky’s conduct, saying in open court: “I think the government has displayed … a callous disregard for constitutional rights. I think it’s a seizure beyond what was authorized by the search warrant, therefore it violates the Fourth Amendment.”  Ninth Circuit Chief Judge Kozinski wrote  of Novitzky’s conduct: “The record reflects no forensic lab analysis, no defusing of booby traps, no decryption…Rather, the case agent immediately rooted out information pertaining to all professional baseball players and used it to generate additional warrants and subpoenas to advance the investigation.”

Such conduct by government agents is a moral and legal quantum leap above the actions allegedly committed by Bonds or others.  Their actions may have hurt baseball, but that is for baseball to judge, not the government.  With the House and Senate hearings in which current and former players have been hauled before the committees with television cameras rolling while Congressmen and Senators pontificate making scripted statements in which the players are condemned without actual charges being filed or convicted of any crime.  The Congressional committees have become kangaroo courts where men are held accountable to standards that their accusers are not even accountable to.

I know about out of control investigators.  I have had first hand dealings with men who think that they can bully people and use the law to bring themselves professional accomplishment and personal gain at the expense of people who they have no probable cause to investigate.  When I was an Army Company Commander in Germany in the mid-1980s I had to deal with a unit that had the highest drug positive rate in Europe.  I was told to “clean up that company” by the Group Commander when I took command.  The prosecutor became a friend, at the same time I abided by the laws and regulations governing drug testing as well as choosing the appropriate level to deal with the offense.  However, I was also tested and even more often than my soldiers.  Because of the drug positive rate the CID took an interest in my unit.  Two agents came to my office one day and asked me if I would allow them to place a CID agent in the unit undercover not to deal with the drug problem, but to “investigate suspicions of unit personnel engaging in the black market sale of American cigarettes on the economy to Germany nationals.”  I became suspicious of them.  I asked if they had probable cause or evidence that any of my soldiers were engaged in this activity.  They said they had no proof, evidence or even probable cause, only that black marketing of cigarette was a problem and that they needed to place an agent in order to get the proof.  With them in the room I called my prosecutor buddy and told him what they were asking and he told me that if it was his company that he would make them show probable cause and do an open investigation.  That confirmed my gut feelings about the matter and I thanked him and hung up the phone. I then looked at the agents, told them to give me probable cause and that I would consider it.  I was accused at that point by one of them of covering up criminal activity and that he would get me too.  I simply told them to get out of my office and out of my building and that they wanted to accuse me of a crime to go ahead.  I ever saw them again.  I presume that they tried this because I was a pretty junior First Lieutenant up to my ears in disciplinary problems and agree to what they wanted.  I knew if I did this that that I would destroy any confidence that was being build in the chain of command, destroy the cohesion that I was working hard to build following the relief of the previous commanding officer and subject my soldiers to an inquisition that would destroy my company.

How many journalists or politicians are tested for performance enhancing drugs in their professions?  Would not the public responsibility of both journalists and elected Congressmen, Senators and for that matter non-military or law enforcement government employees actually be more important to society as to whether a baseball player took something to heal from an injury faster or be better at his game?  It is hypocritical for journalists or politicians to hold these men to standards that they themselves are not accountable to.  When those journalists or politicians then embolden out of control investigators and prosecutors who courts have ruled violated the Constitution in their illegal actions, the nation they say that is okay for the government to violate the law and citizens Constitutional rights.

That is the bigger issue than if baseball has a steroids problem, or had a steroids problem before it began its testing system.  Add to this the staggering costs of the Bonds investigation alone, $55 million as of January 2009 plus the monetary costs of the Congressional hearings.   One also is forced to ask what Congress could have been doing with the time, money and effort spent on the hearings.  Are there not more pressing issues to deal with and is this not a warped sense of public service? Should Congress even be worried about this with two ongoing wars, ongoing terrorist threats, and an economic crisis, a political divide that has moved from opposition to pure hatred and a potential H1N1 Flu pandemic on the horizon?  Where are the priorities for these people? Let baseball police itself. It has a testing program now; the allegations are all things that happened 6-15 years ago when the standards were not even clear.

It is time for this to stop.  The prosecutors and Novitzky and anyone else working on this case suspected of misconduct should be investigated and if they have violated the law they should be charged and tried as any other person would be.  It is my view that all of this now is not being done to benefit baseball, but to enhance the careers of men who believe that they are both morally superior and think themselves above the law.  All investigations of ball players that are based on accusations and evidence before Major League Baseball banned specific performance enhancing drugs and supplements substances should be ended now.  It is a miscarriage of justice.

Now if baseball wants to ban players from the game or not elect them to the hall of fame, that is a matter for baseball to decide, not that of Congress and certainly not that of Jeff Novitzkty or anyone else who have disgraced their offices by their utter disregard of the law and the Constitutional rights of American citizens.

Peace, Steve+

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Filed under Baseball, philosophy, state government agencies

Where were You When…? The Death of an Icon and Its Impact in Our Lives

Note: This post is one where I invite readers to share any memories they have of Michael Jackson’s death or other events that involved the deaths of cultural icons as well as significant events that either affected you or made a deep impact on your life or that of people that you know.  I will approve all comments except those identified as spam by WordPress.

The death of Michael Jackson yesterday was one of those events in life that when they occur leave a lasting impression on people. Even people who were not fans of Michael will remember because Michael Jackson was a cultural icon.  When icons die, or tragedies occur they tend to leave a lasting mark.  You can be talking to anyone and if they were alive when one of these events happened and quite a few or most people will be able to tell you exactly where they were and what they were doing at the time of the event.

I am 49 years old, though patently I don’t really look my age, nor do I act it.  Being that I am nearly half a century old it means that I have seen a fair amount of life.  Since I am passionate about life and a keen observer of life, society and culture being a historian as well as member of the Church of Baseball, Harbor Park parish I remember a lot.  I’m told by some that I have one of those phonographic memories.  You know the kind where you get a thought in your head and it keeps going and going round and round at 33 1/3 RPMs.  I will remember this because we had just arrived at the Capital Hilton and were preparing to go out for dinner with Judy’s cousin Becki at Murphy’s of DC to celebrate our anniversary.  I had just checked the news when I heard that Michael had been found down and was in cardiac arrest.  Since I have seen a lot of these cases roll into ERs that I have worked in I knew that Jackson had very little chance of coming out of this alive.  Most news sites were reported that he was getting CPR and had been taken to UCLA Medical Center.  Then I checked the website of Matt Drudge, the Drudge Report following a look at CNN.  I opened the page and Drudge’s trademark old fashioned police siren light was flashing and below it in red was “WEBSITE: JACKSON DEAD!” and had a link to the celebrity gossip site TMZ.  TMZ actually reported the death over an hour prior to most of the networks.  It also turned out that TMZ’s report was pretty accurate.  Later other sites began to announce the news pretty much confirming TMZ’s initial report. I saw the report on CNN as we walked to get a cab to the restaurant with Becki.  It was kind of surreal as Michael Jackson, despite his eccentric actions and nearly continuous controversy surrounding his life, was a larger than life figure.

So events like this get etched on people’s memories like images of the Virgin Mary on grilled cheese sandwiches or pizzas.  These have been reported by the faithful and offered for sale on E-bay so they must be authentic right? They are something that you reallymust  remember. Talking with Judy and Becki at dinner we began to recount where we were at different moments events over the past 30 years or so.   For me the events are often linked to other seemingly inconsequential events going on in my own life. As I have said before we have lived a life  much like the characters in the show Seinfeld so some of these things may not be as funny to you as they are for me.

Some of the things that I remember which stand out include the following events.  If you remember where you were at these events please feel free to comment or add your own in the comments section.  This is one of those rare times when almost everyone has a memory that surfaces because a current event triggers the memory of that particular event.

For me I’m going to first each back to is the assassination of the Reverend Martin Luther King on April 4th 1968.  That was strange because we lived in the little town of Oak Harbor Washington where my dad was stationed.  The town was small and isolated by being on an island.  We saw the news reports that night this time I believe we were watching NBC’s Huntley and Brinkley give the news. This was way before Cable news and so it took a while to get the story out.  As a little kid I was astounded that anyone could kill a minister and I knew that Dr. King was a leader in trying get blacks the same rights that whites enjoyed.  The next day our teacher at Oak Harbor Elementary School, Mrs. Jackson talked about it with us.  This was follow just two months later by the assassination of Robert F. Kennedy following his California Primary election victory.  I remember the news reports the next day and how upset that my parents were about his death.

The next event was Apollo 11 Moon landing, the “One small step for man, one giant step for mankind” moment on July 20th 1969 where Astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin landed the Lunar Module on the “Sea of Tranquility.”  I was a kid and on summer vacation still living in Oak Harbor.  We were at home watching Walter Cronkite report the event live when it happened.  That was an amazing event.

The next really big thing for me was the Marshall University Football team plane crash in Huntington West Virginia where at 7:35 Pm EST a Southern Airways DC-9 crashed into a hillside just short of the runway killing the team as well as numerous boosters, alumni and Huntington notables.  This was kind of person for us.  I had seen that team practice at the old Fairfield Stadium across the street from my grandparent’s house the previous spring before we returned to California to rejoin my dad after he had found us decent housing.  We were watching the evening news in Long Beach California when the local announcer interrupted the story he was working on and announced the crash.  My mom knew a number of people on the aircraft and was devastated.

I’m going to jump forward a bit, to the fall of Saigon on April 30th 1975.  This was a bitter day for me.  My dad had fought in Vietnam and I knew kids who had lost their fathers in the war.  I had experienced a Sunday School teach telling me that my dad was a “baby killer” for being in Vietnam in 1972 and I felt that we had let the South Vietnamese down and that it was the fault of those in the media, on the street and in Congress that had ensured that our men died in vain.  I think that was the point that I decided that I was going to enter the military.  I still cannot look at Jane Fonda and some of her fellow travelers without feeling a sense of anger.

Jumping again a few years I remember the fall of the Shah of Iran and the takeover of the US Embassy in Tehran by so called “students” on November 4th 1979.  The takeover which lasted 444 days began in my sophomore year of college.  The humiliation of the country and the poor response of President Jimmy Carter confirmed that I would enter the military after college.  I won’t forget the nightly updates on ABC hosted by Ted Koppel which became the long running show Nightline. I would stay up every night to get the updates.  When the hostages were released this was cause for celebration, but the damage was done.  Of course we saw the pro and anti-Ayatollah  protesters on our university, Northride a big business school responded to a pro-Ayatollah by driving the protestors off campus.  So much for riled up MBA students and Science geeks huh?

When Elvis died on August 16th 1977 I was a getting ready to enter my senior year of high school.  In fact only a week before I had won a copy of a blue vinyl copy of his last album Moody Blue in a local pop radio station give away.  I was on a church high school trip when the news came over the radio.  The man driving the car a real estate agent who was a deacon in the church started to cry, I mean like really cry almost like Middle Eastern mourning kind of crying.  As someone who is less expressive of such emotions being a Romulan at heart I was mildly taken aback, after all it wasn’t like they had dated or anything.  I had seldom seen men cry before and this was some pretty emotional stuff.  My mom had the same kind of reaction I discovered on my way home.  I guess it was the generation thing.  He was the icon of his generation and changed both the style and the performance of music.  It was Elvis that I immediately thought of when I first saw the news of Michael Jackson’s death.  I guess the fact that both were known as the “king”, that both died young and unexpectedly and that Michael was briefly married to Lisa Marie Presley makes their connection a bit stronger than otherwise expected.  I wonder if there will be stories that Michael is really dead or if it was staged to get him some privacy.  I’m sure that conspiracy theorists will be looking into this as both a death and a disappearance.  On a side note I visited Graceland in 1983 on my way to Fort Knox Kentucky and sat in the “pink Jeep.”  Judy had a Tonka pink Jeep when she was a kid.

The attempted assassination of President Ronald Reagan on March 20th 1981 stands out.  I was a junior at cal State Northridge and was taking my lunch on the lawn outside of the office where I worked as a peer counselor.  I was getting ready to go to class as I watched to really good looking girls go walking by me talking.  I didn’t notice anything unusual until the past me and continuing to watch I noticed that each had their hand down the back side of the pants of the other one.  I had never seen this before.  Of course having grown up in California I knew homosexual men and I had heard of lesbians but this was the first time that I ever noticed women of that persuasion like doing some affection or foreplay in public.  Since then of course I have had many friendships with both male homosexuals and lesbians but this was one of those moments that sticks out in my mind.  Anyway, as I walked back into the office to grab my books for class the office TV was on announcing the attempted assassination and what I will never forget is watching retired General Alexander Haig as Secretary of State have a news conference where he stated “I’m in control.”  Of course he wasn’t the next in line and though he thought that he was he was not in control, even of himself that that point.  I don’t think that then Vice President George H.W. Bush was very impressed nor were the actuals in the line of succession.  So the shooting of President Reagan is intermixed with my first view of lesbian touching and seeing a General go out of control to be in control.  As Mr. Spock might say to Captain Kirk, “Captain I find this fascinating.”

In January 1985 I was a young company commander in Wiesbaden Germany.  The Space Shuttle Challenger with 7 Astronauts aboard blew up shortly after launch.  It was already the close of the business day in Germany when this happened.  I had the First Sergeant release the soldiers a bit early and set the duty, the Charge of Quarters, the Assistant and the Duty Driver.  I was staying late as always to take care of maintenance management and personnel reports when Specialist Lisa Dailey rushed into my office.  Lisa was the Charge of Quarters or CQ that day.  She knocked on my door and said “Sir the space shuttle just blew up.”  She had been watching it live on the new AFN broadcast of live stateside TV news broadcasts.  If I recall this was the time slot of the Today Show, and yes it was when there was only one AFN broadcast channel.  I looked up from my mountain of reports and said to her, “Specialist Dailey, space shuttles don’t blow up.”  And she said, no sir it just did, I was watching it and it is on TV right now.”  So I got up from my desk and walked at a brisk pace down the hall with my spun up specialist and looked on in horror as I saw a replay of the launch.   I was stunned as like I had told Lisa “space shuttles don’t blow up.”  However this one did and it was sobering.  I should have believed Lisa, she was a great soldier and the last time that I heard from her is doing well working as an RN in Southern California.  I had an eerie reprise of this when the Space Shuttle Columbia blew up on re-entry.  At the time I was waiting for the arrival of General Peter Pace who was to be our guest speaker at the Battle of Hue City Memorial Weekend in Jacksonville FL. He was delayed a couple of hours by an emergency meeting of the Joint Chiefs.

Fast forward a few years to the bombing by Libyan agents of Pam Am flight 103, the Clipper Maid of the Seas over Lockerbie Scotland, on December 21st 1988.  I had left active duty for seminary a couple of months previously and was engaged in a nearly futile job search in oil and real estate busted Texas.  I had completed the share of my morning futility mailing our more resumes, making more calls and picking up more job applications.  As always I would take a football out and punt it as far as I could to relieve the stress.  I had already found out that breaking things that you actually need when being accosted by bill collectors is not good a good way to deal with stress.  In today’s current economy I suggest anyone is such straits pick up a football and punt the crap out of it rather than taking anything out on home appliances, electronics or loved ones.  Eventually things will work out as sucky as they may seem now; the Deity Herself has assured me of this.  Anyway, back to the plane crash.  This really was weird for us because barely two years prior we had flown the same aircraft back from Germany when we were reassigned to the states.  We remembered this because then they showed the photo of the nose and cockpit area we saw the name of the aircraft.  I looked at Judy and said, does the name of that airplane look familiar?  If I recall correctly she said something like “Oh my God” and I said: “Remember back in Frankfurt when I saw the name of the aircraft prior to boarding?” and how “l liked the way Pan Am gave pretty names to its aircraft.”  It was funny because we both vividly recalled waiting for our flight and what we said about the aircraft.  That was totally weird and surreal almost like an X-Files thing as I thought back to details inside of the aircraft and the trip home from Germany.

We were in Fort Worth for the first bombing of the World Trade Center and the destruction of the Branch Davidian Compound outside Waco.  Both times I was at work and watched the events unfold on the televisions of our ministry’s television production department.  The Branch Davidian stand-off and attempted seizure of by Federal Agents used M-751 Combat Engineer Vehicles from my National Guard unit.  The vehicles were not manned by Guardsmen but Federal agents.  Later that summer I saw a couple of the vehicles which still had white paint scratches on them from the Branch Davidian building.   In 1995 I was home getting ready to go to work in Huntington West Virginia when the Murrow Federal Building was destroyed by Timothy McVeigh.

There are quite a few others that I could mention but will finish with the destruction of the World Trade Center twin towers on September 11th 2001.  I had finished a couple of counseling cases and put out some other brush fires as the Chaplain for Headquarters Battalion 2nd Marine Division.  Leaving my office for a belated PT session at the French Creek gym I was closing out my internet explorer.  On the Yahoo home page there was a small news line that said “Aircraft crashes into World Trade Center.” I shrugged and figured that some idiot private pilot had flown his aircraft into is by mistake and when out to my car.  I got in my 2001 Honda CR-V and some guy on the radio was blathering about it being an airliner and then I heard a chilling line that I will never forget. “Oh my God another aircraft has hit the second building.”  I went over to the gym and stood staring in disbelief at one of the TVs with a bunch of Marines and Sailors.  I shook my head, ran back to the office and changed over to my cammies and when to the Battalion Headquarters where we were informed of what the command knew and then set to work taking anti-terror precautions as no one knew what might happen next.  Camp LeJeune became a fortress.  There were checkpoints at key locations throughout the base.  Patrols were set up and we remained in lock-down for almost 4 days.  That is a day that I can never forget, over 3000 Americans and others killed by Islamic extremist terrorists out to ignite a world war.

So those are some of mine.  What about yours?  Feel free to add your posts here and get a discussion of these and other notable events including the death of Michael Jackson going.  It will be interesting to see and I will approve all posts to this article, excepting of course spam posts.

Peace, Steve+

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Monday Monday…a visit to the ER and the DMV

Well what can I say?  If you remember Garfield the Cat and how he hates Monday’s you can probably understand this post.  Maybe you have lived this yourself. Maybe not, but there is always tomorrow.

I really expected to have a nice day recovering and resting from my very draining trip to California to help out with my dad.  It started that way but didn’t end that way.  When I got home I found out that my license plates had been stolen off of my car.  Thus I knew that today I would need to go to the DMV to report them stolen and get them replaced.  I figured that this couldn’t be too bad, I called my boss yesterday afternoon and he graciously gave me the time to do so.  Of course I could not gotten through the front gate without them, but still it is good to have an understanding boss.

Late in the evening I started to get my things together for work.    After having watched the movie Fletch with Judy I was tired and expecting to go to bed.  Judy had told me earlier in the evening that she had a sore throat and had taken some throat stuff to make it feel better.  The throat stuff usually takes care of the problem.  This time it didn’t.  She started complaining of sharp pain of like 9 on the scale of 10 in her throat and that she was having a hard time swallowing.  This to me was odd.  Judy has a super high threshold for pain, that fact that she has been married to me for nearly 26 years testifies to this.  Once in Germany she had a cavity filled with no anesthetic when the Army dentist who had the shrine to Dr Mengele in his office refused to give a topical before sticking her with a needle.  She let a broken ankle go for a year before having something done about it.  Sorry I don’t like to suffer like that.  But she has a super high threshold for pain.  So at 0002 in this morning (for those not German or military both of Mickey’s hands are pointing straight up to the 12) yes Monday dark and early, we set out for Sentara Bayside ER.  I was not a happy camper.  I picked up one of my Andrew Greeley Bishop Blackie Ryan mystery novels and took Judy through the rain to the ER.

Now to me a real ER is where guts are hanging out, people a being coded in multiple rooms. In a real ER there are gunshot wounds, stab wounds, burns, strokes, heart attacks, people mangled in car or industrial accidents. Likewise there are always Police with knuckleheads who have been arrested, drug overdoses, suicide attempts and real live psychotic people who think that they are Jesus.  Death, crisis, mayhem that dear readers is my kind of ER.  Eating a cheeseburger with a trauma surgeon while looking at the track of a bullet in an open chest after some gang banger got whacked and we could save him.  That is an ER to me.  I did my residency at Parkland Memorial Hospital in Dallas as the Trauma Department Chaplain and worked as an ER Department Chaplain in a Trauma Center in West Virginia.  I’m used to full waiting rooms, upset people and various forms of craziness.  I now work in a teaching hospital and have the adult and pediatric ICUs.   To put it mildly this was not what I experienced this morning.  We got there and there was no one in the waiting area, which unlike places I have worked before was nicely decorated and relatively comfortable.  They even had Lifetime set as the channel on the cable TV.  Judy went through triage quickly and was taken back.  After a while I was called back.  Judy was getting an IV placed and a full panel of labs and a CT Scan of her obviously swollen neck were ordered.  This was a bit scary for her, and a little unsettling for me as first she is my wife and I don’t want to lose her, but also because I know that if untreated whatever was going on could threaten her airway.  This is never a good thing.

The nursing staff and the ER physician were very nice.  I have no complaints.  For a while it looked like that Judy might be admitted until she responded to the three different IV meds and drips that she was on.  Now whatever was going on was potentially serious but seemed to have been nipped in the bud.  I did try to comfort Judy by telling her that it couldn’t be that bad because she wasn’t intubated, didn’t have a Foley catheter or NG tube, but she didn’t find that terribly comforting.  I young man how had cut his arm pretty bad after giving a dumpster an elbow was across the way and had a pretty cool cut, but still pretty mild by what I am used to.  Compared to the places that I have worked it was far too sedate.  It was really kind of boring.  I guess that is okay, I didn’t want Judy to be the one who got sporty and provide the entertainment for the evening.

We got out of the ER about 0330 and hit 24 hour Walgreens to pick up her medicine.  She even got good stuff for pain, Vicodin.  All I ever get is Motrin, no let me take that back, my Nurse Practitioner here put me on Ultram for my chronic pain in my shoulders.  But this isn’t like Vicodin.  The people in the pharmacy were all friendly, giving us a cheery “Good morning” every time that we turned around. We finally got home well after 0400.  Checking in with the boss I got permission to come in late.

This afternoon I still had to go to DMV to get the license plates.  I didn’t get much sleep and what I had was not very good.  Groggy and grouchy like a bear waking up from hibernation I put myself together.  I did not want to go to the DMV, but it had to be done.  Now the DMV sends chills up my spine.  I grew up in California, so my first experience of the DMV was in that fair state.  The DMV in California is like the major league of the DMV.  I’m sure that I stood in line behind Jimmy Hoffa one day well after he went missing never to be seen again.  He’s probably still in line.  The last time I went to the DMV here it was a long wait.  Today I expected the worst.  It started out where I thought that would be the case when the rent-a-cop at the door sent me outside and told me that I couldn’t have my Norfolk Tides travel mug filled with Dunkin Donuts French Vanilla coffee, Splenda and Coffee Mate Nonfat French Vanilla creamer in the building.  I thought, “well isn’t this just great….I’m tired as hell and have to wait in DMV for what could be forever without more coffee.”  I was even less happy than when I got there.  Thankfully the rest of the DMV time was not too bad.  The lady at the desk was friendly and had lived in California and even knew something about Mudville.  I left with my temporary tags and stopped by the Advance Auto Parts store on Princess Anne Blvd in Virgina Beach to pick up a new license plate frame and mounting devices.  Now Advanced usually gives military members a 10% discount on the purchase.  Showing my ID card I expected this.  However the young man refused to give it to me because “I had not specifically asked him for it.”  I thought this was kind of shitty as all the other guys there have went out of their way to honor this.  I decided to say the hell with arguing with him and just write a nasty comment on my blog with tags for Advance Auto Parts on Princess Anne Blvd in Virginia Beach.  Following this I got Judy some soft food to eat and went in to check in with the boss, drag all the stuff I would need for the week into work and to go through my hundred or so e-mails so I wouldn’t have to do that tomorrow.

In a few minutes I head over to the Church of Baseball, Harbor Park Parish for a double header between the Tides and the Louisville Bats.  Tonight, though tired I need this.

Thank you all for your prayers, encouragement and kindness this past week.

Peace, Steve+

Post Script: The double header against Louisville was great.  The Tides swept the twin bill winning 6-2 in the first game and 2-0 in the night cap.  Justin Christian homered and Matt Wieters  a triple with Chris Tillman picking up his 5th win with no losses. David Pauley getting the win, his third and Jim Miller his 10th save striking out the side to close the game. The Tides are now 25 and 12 and up by 2.5 games over the Bulls in the IL South. I really needed tonight, the weather was a tad bit cold but it was good to be back with my Church of Baseball Friends.  Barry my partner down in section 102 B had his daughter down and it was fun to be with both of them. My section usher Elliott was back as was Chip up in section 202.  Had my usual King Twist pretzel from Kenny up on the concourse.

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