Saturday, August 30, 2008

Sunday Scribblings - "Somewhere" - 8/31/08

This week's Sunday Scribblings prompt was "Somewhere". Though I am hardly a poet, this little rhyme came to mind. I hope someone enjoys it.

Somewhere there is paradise
For those that are devout
And Valhalla awaits the faithful
Of that I have no doubt

Heaven’s gates will open
With it’s perfection and allure
Utopia is expected
By the pious and the pure

Since I know I’m not worthy
Of rewards somewhere greater
I will enjoy my Elysium
Now, instead of later

For I have my Arcadia
Nirvana is within reach
I exist in Shangri-la
Right here at Myrtle Beach

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Sunday Scribblings - "Ask"- 8/10/08

This week's Sunday Scribblings prompt is "Ask". I came up with this:

Every four years the world comes together to determine which countries have developed the most undetectable performance enhancing drugs. They call this event, the summer Olympics. As the 2008 version is underway, I feel the need to ask a few questions.

In 1980, in my opinion the most spineless president the United States has ever known, Jimmy Carter, boycotted the Moscow Olympics. The reason was that the Russians invaded Afghanistan and even though they were getting their butts kicked, our allies (we had more then) and us wanted them out. Several other nations joined us in the boycott. In retaliation, the Warsaw Pact returned the favor in 1984.

So why are we embracing the Chinese, whose human rights record is one of the worst in history? They torture and kill their dissidents. Could it be that we are overlooking China’s malevolence because they are the largest emerging consumer market and it is to everyone’s best interest to promote their economy, which the Olympics surely does? The Chinese bought the Olympics, just as the Mormons in Salt Lake City did in the winter of 2002.

A lot of us Americans, who have enjoyed freedoms and excesses that most of the world only dreams of, don’t really consider what the loss of them would mean. It is very popular to criticize the government, particularly the President of the United States. I do it myself. What if I wrote in this blog, “George Bush is a shitty president” and my door was knocked down minutes later, my computer seized, and I was incarcerated for the rest of my life? That is the situation in China.

I saw where Iraq was banned from these Olympics. They have only won one bronze medal in their history and that was in 1960. Why bother to ban them? No one notices whether they are there or not. I see they have since removed the ban. I am sure the world is trembling now that this Olympic powerhouse is back in competition. If there was an event that included dodging land mines or detecting car bombs, Iraq would win gold. But I don't think their way of life is conducive to training for saber fencing.

While I am on the subject of the Olympics, why do women’s volleyball teams wear normal athletic attire but the beach volleyball players wear an outfit that would get them arrested at many American beaches? Does a wedgie make one more aerodynamic? Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy watching this event, but I have no idea how or when they score or which team wins. Nor do I care.

I also love women’s gymnastics, but it is the only time in my life I feel a bit like a pedophile. Again, I do not track the scoring. While on the subject of women's gymnastics, I have to ask: why is Mary Lou Retten held in such high esteem? She won gold when 11 of the top 12 women gymnasts were busy boycotting the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics. She essentially beat nobody. Yet, her name comes up and her commentary is solicited each time women are competing. She was even featured on a Wheaties box. Talk about right place at the right time. This is just like Byron Nelson winning 11 consecutive PGA tournament events in 1945, when all the other golfers were fighting in World War II. Not impressive.

I used to watch track and field but like my beloved baseball, I can no longer be certain whether I am watching a great athlete or a great chemist. Marion Jones and Barry Bonds among many others have ruined these sports for me. If in a few years we find that Michael Phelps was anabolically enhanced, I will be greatly saddened, but unfortunately, not surprised.

Why are sports like synchronized swimming (which should be featured on “So You Think You Can Dance”) and table tennis Olympic sports? Then why not NASCAR and Texas Hold-em?

I have to stop now; there are groups of Chinese men, synchronized swimmers, and Jimmy Carter beating at my door.

Friday, August 1, 2008

Sunday Scribblings - "Do I Have To?" 8/3/08

The Sunday Scribblings prompt this week is "Do I have to?" The following post will eventually get to that if you follow along:

In the late 70s I was stationed with my family at Aviano AB, Italy. My oldest son, Rick, attended the Department of Defense elementary school there. This was back in the day that parents took an active role in their child’s education. Educators tell me that here in the 21st century that is not necessarily the case. As involved parents, we joined the Parent Teacher Association (PTA). I am fairly certain that organization now has a more politically correct name such as Gender Non-specific Nurturing, Enlightening, and Pedagogy Organization. We attended a meeting in which the election of officers for the upcoming school year was being held. I had heard that newly elected officers attended an annual PTA spring leadership conference in the German Bavarian mountain resort of Berchtesgaden. Nominations were taken from the floor. It was obvious to me that the only position that would gain me a trip to the Alps without any responsibility at all was Vice President. The lack of effort required for the office of vice president is evident in all organizations. This fact was most recently proven by Al Gore and Dick Chaney. Though only in my twenties, I was elected in a landslide over the very unpopular incumbent, whom everyone believed only accepted the position because of the all expenses paid leadership conference. Imagine that.

Upon arrival and registration at Berchtesgaden, there were sign-up sheets for the various seminars, focus groups, and activities that constituted the leadership conference. One that caught my eye was the Outdoor Leadership Adventure Experience. I grew up in the mountains of northern Idaho and camping, hiking, and even orienteering were very doable for me. After all, I had advanced through the ranks of the Boy Scouts all the way to Tenderfoot and could tie several knots and if anyone needed a tourniquet, I was their man. I proudly signed up. The most attractive aspect of this particular activity is that it conflicted with nearly every boring seminar I was anxious to avoid, such as the potentially riveting "Sharing Instructional Strategies: Bridging the Theory-to-Practice Gap".

It was springtime and the Alps were absolutely breathtaking with indescribable colors and the cleanest, thinnest, air my lungs had ever inhaled. We pitched tents somewhere on Mt Watzmann. I immediately was looked to as a leader as I had experience in this area. So far, so good.

Then everything began to unravel. I had underestimated how cold a spring night at nearly 8,000 feet could be. My sleeping bag was woefully inadequate. It occurred to me that in Idaho we camp in the summer and not on a glacier. It seemed I had just drifted off to sleep when our guides began beating drums and blowing horns to begin our day. Our first task was to “be invigorated” by taking a dip in a mountain stream.

For the first of several times these words came to mind, “do I have to?” It seemed that I did have to or risk losing my group leader status. I am certain that status was severely jeopardized when I screamed like a little girl as the icy water caused my manhood to retract and disappear. Having survived that peril it was time for our adventure to begin in earnest.

We hiked still higher and when we were at the end of a trail with a huge bottomless precipice before us, we stopped. Klaus and Hans (not their real names, but could have been), two of our guides, began rigging a series of ropes, lanyards, carabiners, and harnesses. My first thought was, “cool, they are going to demonstrate rappelling.” Then the title of the course I was on came to me. Watching Klaus and Hans would not really be an adventure or an experience now, would it? An adventure for Klaus and Hans, but not for our little group, who had suddenly all become very quiet, and moving as one organism away from the cliff. When preparations had been completed, the question was asked in early Schwarzenegger sounding English, “who vants to go first?” For the second time the words of this prompt echoed in my head. Suddenly a couple of hours of "Strategies for Teaching Reading & Writing Across the Curriculum" sounded pretty good to me. Then I realized that I had been volunteered by my fellow campers to go first. Before I knew it or had a chance to fake a seizure, Klaus and Hans were rigging me up and giving me all the classroom rappelling instruction that I was to receive. This ground-school consisted of four of five sentences of a mixture of broken English and high German that I understood very little of. In the following decade I would live in Germany and my German vocabulary would improve significantly, but at this time it was limited to "Ein gross Bier bitte." Nice to know but hard to apply as one is plummetting into an abyss. The parts I did comprehend sounded as though my teachers were casually minimizing the importance of knowing just what the hell I was doing. Luckily one of them went down on a rope next to me and told me to mimic what he did. I survived the descent, but never added rappelling to my list of hobbies.

We did several other activities during our experience, but after throwing myself off a mountain on a rope, they all seemed pretty tame.

This memory came to mind as my son, Josh, prepares to take his first parachute jump on Sunday. I will be watching, with my feet firmly on solid ground. His jump will be videoed and am an certain that in true Wainright fashion he will scream like a little girl.