Thursday, September 10, 2020

"...without any mental reservation or pupose of evaison..."

    I took some time before now to gather my thoughts on this post, because my emotions would have made me sound too sappy if I had posted this right afterwards. Of course, I'll probably sound pretty sappy anyway, but I'll take that chance. 
    My son recently received his commission as a Second Lieutenant in the United States Army, Signal Corps. This was one of the proudest moments I've experienced as a parent. 
This is not to say I'm not proud of all of my children, quite the contrary. Each one of them has made me proud of them over and over throughout their lives, but this one was different to me. I got to directly share in Aaron's moment and I will be ever grateful for it.
If you've never seen a commissioning ceremony it is like most commencement type ceremonies: a speech or two, some formal statement of the accomplishment and a celebration. Commissioning has two elements that make make it different and very "goose-bumby" for me. 
Each newly-minted officer takes an oath of office wherein they swear to support and defend the constitution of the United States against all enemies. That is a very serious matter indeed and should be given the reverence it deserves. About a dozen men and women swore that oath, promising to put OUR safety and OUR lives ahead of theirs. This kind of commitment is rare and I thank each and every one of them for that sacrifice and it is my fervent wish that that is the ONLY sacrifice they are ever required to give.
    The second unique aspect of a commissioning is the tradition of the Silver Dollar Salute. The new officer asks an enlisted man or woman, past or present, who has been influential to them to have the honor of giving the new officer their first Salute. That's how I got to share in his moment and damn near burst with pride. Aaron chose me for that honor.
    In the days and weeks, months really because of COVID, before his brother and I traveled to his university for the ceremony, I practiced. A lot. It's been quite a few years since my brief military career, but the need to execute the salute sharply felt even more important than it did under the constant threat of unending pushups during basic training at Ft. Jackson SC. if I had gotten it wrong!
    Toes at a forty-five degree angle, hands cupped, thumbs down, arm up smartly, upper arm parallel to the ground, fore arm straight, hand as a knife-edge, tip of my finger at the corner of my eyebrow.     "Congratulations, Lieutenant Steele!", wait for his return salute to begin to drop and smartly return my right arm to my side at the position of attention.
    Three words.
    One gesture of respect shared between a father and a son. 
    The father watching his son become the man he tried to be. 
    The father watching his son exceed his achievements and so proud that he had.
    It has always been my dream for my children to achieve more than I have, and each one, in their own way, has or is working on doing that. But one chose a path so similar to my own, and has already soared higher than I could and allowed me to share in his moment in such a special way. 
I will never forget his gift of that moment.


Saturday, November 08, 2008

On Being a Cubs Fan

On Being a Cubs Fan

Many question the logic and sanity of Cubs fans because the team hasn’t won in 100 years. This is absurd. Each season stands alone and if there can be only one champion each year then why don’t the other 27 team’s fans abandon them in the off season as they would have Cubs fans? They claim it’s because their team might win, so might the Cubs, they claim it’s because their team has won before…so what? Each season is new. They claim it’s because they’re loyal, but no fan can possible claim more loyalty than a Cub fan.

It’s not about winning or losing. It’s much bigger than that. Some have called it an addiction and my friend has a co-worker/cub fan that thinks a twelve step program is in order but that’s nonsense. It’s always been about hope, and longing. The pain and suffering of every cub fan insures the hopeful spirit of optimism that is needed to get through the tough Chicago winter. Having fought the good fight each summer and usually having to lament “wait ‘til next year”, keeps us warmer than that quick-to-burn-out-fire that is the joy of a championship. As soon as a team wins the first thing everyone wants to know is “can they repeat?” Followed shortly by I wonder who they’ll loose in the off-season. For a Cubs fan all this gnashing of teeth is unnecessary. We don’t have to worry if they’ll repeat, they usually do! We know there will be bone-headed trades in the off-season, there always are! It’s not about pain, or suffering, or futility. It’s about realism! The world is hard. Not many get to enjoy “champion” status. But everyone can appreciate the journeyman-like attitude of the Cubs and their fans. They’ll be there, year in and year out, some years better than others, some years more painful than others but always there, always plugging away. Not for the glory, but for the game. Always to compete because it’s who we are. It’s who Chicagoans are. It’s why the cubs have the most loyal following across the country as evidenced by the attendance numbers not only at Wrigley, but at stadiums throughout the league.

Cubs fans increase attendance at even the worst team’s home games and it is few indeed the number of teams that can claim better home attendance numbers than the Cubs, especially when taking into account the smallish size of Wrigley Field. And speaking of Wrigley, I’ve cheered the Cubs at 6 different major-league parks and as for me, none of the stadiums, though newer or larger, can compare with the atmosphere of a Wrigley day-game. Especially in the bleachers on a sunny summer day.

In short, I love the Cubs, not in spite of their record, because of it. Win or lose the team plays, the fans cheer (and sometimes boo) and Ron Santo will always wear his emotions on his radio sleeve living and dying with each pitch.

Cubs fans don’t begrudge fans of other teams their loyalties, our dislike of even the Cardinals rises only to the point of simple loathing. How could…why would… anyone hate the Cubs or hate me because I am a Cubs fan?

The flaw in logic is not mine.

Friday, May 25, 2007

"Once more into the breach, dear friends, once more..."

(with my deepest apologies to William Shakespeare)

Okay, maybe I'm being a little dramatic here, but you have to remember who I'm married to! It's been about 7 years since I set foot in a real classroom as a student. Yeah, in the interim I went to all kinds of manufacturer training classes and I've taught a couple of semesters now, but that's not the same. And now I've done did it. I've registered for 15 hours this fall (and 3 this summer) at my local community college in anticipation of transferring (in a year I hope) to SIU-Carbondale in their Computer Science department.

"Why" you ask? I'm tired of knowing that I'm capable of a job and being told I'm not because I haven't received a piece of paper. I don't like the feeling I get when, after conversing with someone for a while (as supposed equals) we get to the "so, where did you go to school?" question which leaves me embarrassed or stammering, or both and suddenly knowing that my thoughts and opinions have been devalued. I've waited far too long to do this.

It's not an easy thing to do for so many reasons. First is the work involved in going to school full time again. It's a different world "inside." One that I haven't had to deal with in a while so the transition may be tough. Of course the logistics of having a family and going to school aren't easy. Did I mention that I'm going to continue to teach part time while I go to school? And last but certainly the most difficult, is the financial challenges this course of action will present.

But if it works out, if I can make it through the next 3 to 5 years (I'm probably going to continue on after the BA in Computer Science and try for an MBA), I'll be more marketable, more skilled and probably more confident that I've ever been...and probably more tired too!

Some Days You're The Ball, Some Days You're The Pins

Robyn felt like the later after the State Finals of the USBC Pepsi/Youth Tournament in Rockford earlier this month. It was a tough ride with two of her siblings, my wife Aimee and me. It was a tough house with lots of noise, bad disco music and heavy crowds. It was a tough format; two four-game blocks with no real break in-between.
Even with all that, Robyn managed to place 27th in a field of 113 girls. The top 24 bowled on the second day for a chance to go to the National Finals. They asked the first 5 outside the top 24 to come back in case someone didn't show up. One girl didn't so number 25 got to bowl. How far was Robyn away from number 25 you ask? 6 pins. 6 pins after 8 games separated Robyn from a shot at a trip to Buffalo. 6 pins. 0.75 pins per game. One additional spare in any of the games.
It's the little things in life. It's the details that matter. It was a tough lesson.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

It Would Be Hard For Me To Be Any Prouder!

A couple weeks ago my daughter Robyn bowled in Alton in the zone finals of the Pepsi/USBC Youth Bowling Championships.  She, and her brother Aaron, did this last year in Mount Vernon as well.  A certain number of league bowlers from each participating bowling center get to go to the zone finals based on their scores during qualifying week.  Last year both Aaron and Robyn made it but Aaron didn't bowl during qualifying week this year so he couldn't compete.

Anyway, Robyn has been improving by leaps and bounds since I gave here a newer model bowling ball for Christmas.  She's gone from about 90 - 100 as an average to about 130 with a personal best game of almost 170!  I would have every reason to be proud if that were the end of the story, but that story wouldn't be very interesting…fortunately there's more.

I received an e-mail from one of the tournament officials on Monday.  Robyn has qualified to compete in the State Finals of the Pepsi Tournament!  We'll be going to Rockford the 4th through the 6th of May in order for her to bowl in the State Finals.  If she wins there (not impossible, but certainly not a given) she'll go on to the National Finals in Buffalo, New York in June!  

There's scholarship money and plenty of bragging-rights available at this tournament, but no matter where she places I'll be the proudest dad there.

Go Robyn!!!

Monday, January 29, 2007

Paradise lost

I knew I would miss my job when the layoff came, but I didn't realize how much I'd miss my office. Well, not exactly my office, the location of my office. One day last week I drove by the switching facility where I used to work around sunset. I had forgotten just how beautiful the view was from the top of the hill where I worked for five years. The serenity of the moment brought back many fond memories of those years.

I wonder if the ones fortunate enough to still have their job realize just how fortunate they are.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

“Every Friend Joys In Your Success”

I had lunch at the local Chinese buffet yesterday. That phrase was in my fortune cookie at the end of the meal. I’m not one to pay a lot of attention to fortune cookies, more often than not rather than take it seriously I’ll add the phrase “in bed” after my fortune for a cheap laugh. But this one hit me.

I’ve been giving this phrase thought in conjunction with the Libertarian party. It seems to me we can tell who our friends our by watching who “joys in our success.” Too often I see Libertarians almost cheering for the failure of one of our own. We’d rather watch the party fail rather than see others of our own number succeed.

What the hell is wrong with us?

A victory for any of us should be a victory for all of us…shouldn’t it?

Are we all so friggin’ insecure that we need to tear each other down in order to build ourselves up or is it a case of ego so large that we can’t ever admit someone else might have a good idea?

I’m not sure, but it seems to me that for some of us, it’s more important for things to be done our way than for the party to win. On more than one occasion I’ve seen good people step up and propose ideas to solve well-known issues or to take new initiative only to have their ideas picked apart by people that never put themselves out on the line, never risk anything, are never the first to do anything. They’ll wait until some poor sucker tries to accomplish something and then BAM! They’ll produce any number of reasons and excuses why that idea won’t work. Or they’ll decide that it was a good idea, but they’ve got just what is needed to actually make it work.

I’ve seen it done by individuals; I’ve seen it done by groups. I’ve seen it done to long time activists and I’ve seen it done to new members, well, “former” new members as most of them quit, realizing that any group that would “eat its young” in this way was not a group they wanted to associate with. Can’t say that I blame them.

I’ve had it happen to me. I’ve been guilty of it myself. But not anymore. I’ll “Joy In The Success” of my friends and fellow Libertarians if it kills me!

Or I’ll quit and give up, because life is too short for this crap.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Bread, Oil, Either Way The Principle Is The Same

The current round of bloviating by the Bush administration regarding gas prices reminded me of this poem.  I first heard it during high school and have recalled it from time to time during times like these.  Enjoy!
The Incredible Bread Machine
By R.W. Grant
This is the story of a man whose name
Was a household word: a man whose fame
Burst on the world like an atom bomb;
Smith was his last name; first name Tom.

Now, Smith, an inventor, had specialized
In toys, so people were surprised,
When they found that he instead
Of making toys, was BAKING BREAD!

The way to make bread he'd conceived
Cost less than people could believe!
And not just make it! This device,
Could in addition, wrap and slice!
The price per loaf, one loaf or many,
The miniscule sum of under a penny!

Can you imagine what this meant?
Can you comprehend the consequent?
The first time yet the world well fed,
And all because of Tom Smith's bread.

A citation from the President,
For Smith's amazing bread,
This and other honors too,
Were heaped upon his head!

But isn't it a wondrous thing,
How quickly fame is flown?
Smith, the hero of today,
Tomorrow, scarcely known!

Yes, the fickle years passed by,
Smith was a millionaire,
But Smith himself was now forgot,
Though bread was everywhere...
People, asked from where it came,
Would very seldom know.
They would simple eat and ask, "Was not it always so?"

However, Smith cared not a bit,
For millions ate his bread...
And everything is fine, thought he,
I am rich, and they are fed!

Everything was fine, he thought,
He reckoned not with fate.
Note the sequence of events,
Starting on the date,
On which the business tax went up.
Then, to a slight extent,
The price on every loaf rose too:
Up to one full cent!

"What's going on!" the public cried,
"He's guilty of pure plunder!
He has no right to get so rich on other peoples hunger!"

(A Prize cartoon depicted Smith,
With fat and drooping jowls,
Snatching bread from hungry babes, indifferent to their howls!)

Well, since the public does come first,
It could not be denied
That in matters such as this,
The Public must decide!

So Anti-Trust now took a hand,
Of course, it was appalled
At what it found was going on.
The "Bread Trust" it was called.

Now this was getting serious,
So Smith felt that he must
Have a friendly interview
With the men in Anti-Trust.

So hat in hand, he went to them.
They'd surely been misled;
No Rule of Law had he defied.

But then their lawyer said:
"The Rule of Law, in complex times,
Has proved itself deficient.
We much prefer the Rule of Men,
It's vastly more efficient!

Now let me state the present rules,"
The lawyer then went on,
"These very simple guidelines,
You can rely upon:
You're gouging on your prices if
You charge more than the rest.
But it's unfair competition if
You think you can charge less!
"A second point that we would make
To help avoid confusion...
Don't try to charge the same amount,
That would be Collusion!
You must compete. But not too much,
For if you do you see,
Then the market would be yours -
And that's Monopoly!

Price too high? Or Price too low? Now, which charge did they make?
Well, they weren't loath to charging both,
With Public Good at stake!

In fact, they went one better! They charged "Monopoly!"
No muss, no fuss, oh, woe is us!
Egad, they charged ALL THREE!

"Five Years in jail," The Judge then said
"You're lucky it's not worse!
Robber Barons must be taught, Society comes first!"

Now bread is baked by government.
And as might be expected,
Everything is well controlled. The Public well protected.

True, loaves cost a dollar each,
But our leaders do their best!
The selling price is half a cent..
Taxes pay the rest.