You have two basic rights

I am dusting off and republishing a few of my oldest efforts blogging. Rough around the edges. Originally published in July, 2009.

My old Senior Chief back in the days before political correctness blanched most of the testosterone from the military, used to introduce himself to his charges, “You have two rights in this world, one, to live, and another, to die. Gentlemen, when you f*** up, I will take one of them away from you!” I was the Petty Officer assigned to escort restricted and brig confinement -bound men at the NTC San Diego Correctional Custody unit, when the Navy Training Center and not an artsy community/ civic center.

It was his responsibility – and by delegation, mine as well, to attempt through proper application of discipline and hard work to turn last-chance misfits – clowns, chronic whiners, and immature boy-sailors into rule-followers, and rehabilitated men. There were of course, two alternatives that several ended finding – discharge at the convenience of the government, or hard time at the Navy Brig – and then discharge.

After those formative days of my youth, I see my responsibility as training young people in my charge, Sailors in my Reserve unit, recent graduate-engineers at work, and especially my sons, to help them develop along the right course. There is a culture in the military that juniors respect the senior enlisted mentors, as this is how the former progress to becoming the latter. In the civilian workforce, particularly in companies which nurture and reward excellence among all employees, there is a lot of the same cameraderie, cross-training, and shared purpose.

As a parent, though, raising boys who were as independent-minded and stubborn as mules, was work! These teens were self-disciplined only to the extent of things which held their interest – guitars, skateboards, and motocross bikes. Perhaps memory of similar behavior in those young men from the Correctional Custody days, urged me to impart some cautionary pearl of wisdom. Often the effect was wrath and counter-accusation, and exasperated red-faces. It would have been so much easier to find “a fan room”. (a Fan Room is a noisy air handling compartment where 2 could a disagreement with a few fists, without a public display). But political correctness has broken down all the means to apply discipline at any age.
Too much is thought of individual liberties, psyches, and others well-being, to the detriment of everyone from classroom pupil, to those helmsmen of a warship or even public transport operators. Policy which prohibits certain behavior (texting on cell phones while operating a train) is only effective when the individual has ingrained self-discipline.

Were it within my ability, I would like to see a return to the days of the old Senior Chief at NTC. A good butt-kicking would nip a lot of these problem behaviors.

raining conspiracies

Seems it never rains in southern California
Seems I've often heard that kind of talk before
It never rains in California, but girl, don't they warn ya?
It pours, man, it pours

I think the rain we have been seeing from multiple storms since the Governor of California required our state to deal with catastrophic drought, at the beginning of 2019, is part of a secret conspiracy to ship the melting polar caps- Arctic and Antarctic to California. While I do not believe in secret Governments, a vast global conspiracy to fool people about a pandemic, or the right-wing movement to control women’s uteruses, I am beginning to suspect that all the rain we have been getting is meant to shove the illegal succulent trade in Southern California back across the Arizona border.

At least, the rain is giving a big boost to my fruiting stone-fruit trees: Apricots, peaches and nectarines. And all the other ornamental bushes are flowering. This is also a treat for my roses. But “April showers bring May flowers” was never a rhyme we knew in California before now.

The Idiot’s Guide to Social Networking

I am dusting off and republishing a few of my oldest efforts blogging. Rough around the edges. Originally published in July, 2009, on my then first blog site “White Male Born Forty” It feels like it was a thousand years ago.

2009 predictions, via

It is unusual for me to admit that I may use technology, but do not necessarily embrace it. While I make my living at a technology company, I do not embrace every nuance, gadget, or appliance that others find indispensable. I have no interest in the Ipod. I don’t need a special ring-tone for individual callers. It is amusing, but not a necessity, that I have the latest cell phone, Kindle, or detail my every move tweeting away on Twitter.

Several years ago a friend at church introduced me to a novel web mail site, Gmail, where I could absolutely ignore the routine preoccupation with overflowing my storage capacity or even whether I could find a particular email in all that space. In the 12 years since I first used email and particularly web mail, this has become an indispensable tool for me. Daily I am reminded why I am proficient with email — some engineer or supervisor may ask me about an event that I was in some manner responsible a year or two prior — and I can influence the outcome of that conversation by producing an archived copy of an email showing he is off the hook!

But I have drawn the line! First, I was intrigued by a site offering an opportunity to find and swap sea stories with shipmates. In thirty years around or in the Navy, there have been a lot of folks I would like to have a chance to thank, call out, or just laugh together at how gray and fat we have become. But then it started to flood in — “Join me on MySpace”, “Check out old friends and family ties on”, “Be recommended to other professionals on LinkedIn”, “MSN”, Navy instant messaging, business chatrooms, political websites and a constant barrage of instant messaging and recommended websites to my Blackberry and my computer. Even the TV – via the cable programming – offers two -way, instant, specialized content at the push of a button.

But what the heck is “Twitter”! and why would anyone care! I really have gone from being occasionally curious about that old friend who still owes me a drink or two from that bar six thousand miles and fifteen years ago, to a little irritated by the invasion of the peddlers who insist that my love life could be improved – as a result of my using the term “love bratwurst” in the search engine last week! Have you ever tried to delete the unwanted spam in your email, or railed against the indignity of the monthly charge from some obscure “entertainment” site simply because you ordered tickets to “sponge-Bob meet pimp-my-ride” show online?

I often am accused of behaving and thinking – and thus the origin of my blog’s name – as a White Male who was born an inflexible, stuck-in-my-ways, 40 year old. Hey I know plenty of people who begin sentences with ” when I put the record on the turntable”, or “would you believe we used to call our friends from pay phones?” It seems now strange that once, “social networking” was hooking up at the drive-in on Friday nights! Just as I am convinced that you can adapt at any stage of life to perform more efficiently with a technology aid – I am equally convinced that the society degrades to a little with each new technology introduced.

If we only had the technology dreamed up in the Matrix! Plug that big cable into my head and fill me up with all the information so I can jump across high-rise buildings or drive a SPECWAR combat chopper, or speak Mandarin. But you know, the part the movie didn’t show is that all that body morphing and plugging in – you couldn’t find privacy in a toilet. Everybody was connected to one giant theater.

So today, I have a brief encounter with social networking, but prefer the good, old-fashioned, 10-second chit-chat at my favorite donut shop when I start my commute to work, ” how’s the apple fritters today?” “isn’t it great that so many folks start their day with a cup of your coffee”. The day they offer me the ability to pre-order my sugar-fix on Twitter, is the day I wrap my head in aluminum foil and move to that spot in the desert 3 or 4 miles off the paved road, where the folks still complain about the neighbors when the nearest is a half-mile away. Wait a minute! Let me get on Facebook to update my status! Otherwise I might become a technophobe!

Social media, old-school (1500 BC)

the answer is forty-two

In the late 1970s, a British radio program, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy introduced me to brilliant satire, a science fiction story, and more of the British wit I already enjoyed in another British show, Monty Python’s Flying Circus. A book (Douglas Adams), television and a 2005 movie popularized the story for fans.

For those who are not fans, the story introduces us to Arthur Dent, an ordinary English guy, completely lacking in self-confidence, who finds one morning that his home is scheduled for demolition by the local government planning commission – to put a highway where it sat. He commiserates with a friend, Ford Prefect, who it turns out is an extraterrestrial who has come to rescue him. Apparently some galactic planning commission intends to destroy the Earth that day, to put through some highway of its own.

The story involves several humorous jabs at bureaucracy, technology, space travel, romance, and political incompetents. At one point, the plot story describes that some galactic beings – in the form of common mice – commissioned a computer to answer the question, “what is the meaning of life, the universe and everything?”. The answer, “42” confuses them, so they seek a second computer to find the specific question that “42” satisfies. Before they could get a satisfactory answer, the computer – Earth – was destroyed for that highway mentioned earlier. At the end of the story, everything is made right again with a newly-assembled planet Earth, but the mice-beings and their quest for the eternal answer are thwarted by Arthur.

Sometimes I think that the eternal answer to the meaning of Life will continue to elude most people. For the rest? Love your neighbor, enjoy the time you have, and most importantly, do not misplace your towel.

Treading water

Gadsden flag, 1775


As I get older,  I wonder what has become of my military-physique – the early one, not the rounder one of my last year – and what became of the ‘forego the mission, clean the position!” fanatical routine with cleanliness.   Not that I don’t love the smell of PINESOL in the morning,  but leaving the house all day with two big hair-shedding dogs results in a truce between the advance of dirt and actual boot-camp standards of clean.

Attitudes that once were socially and fiscally conservative,  I generally vote in every election, hold ‘personal responsibility’ in high esteem — welfare is for the most-desperate and least able to work,  and believe military service is beneficial to everyone between 18 and 50 years old.    Now, I hold fast to my church family, my spouse, and keep my personal values fairly close to the chest — outside the street I live on.  Fortunately, I have neighbors who were also military or police, and are now retired.  A neighbor on a street where I walk the dogs has a “DON’T TREAD ON ME” flag above his door.  Another proudly has a TRUMP sign.   Both have pickup trucks with Marine and Army stickers on the former.   Then again,  I wear “VFW Life Member” and Navy Chief t-shirts to work.   But I am mellowed with aging.

I have YOSEMITE, bicycling, and Grand Canyon hiking stickers on my car, a VFW license frame and a Nature Conservancy brochure on my car seat – I contribute to purchasing wildland around San Diego to preserve it.   What happened to the guy who owned firearms, enjoyed target plinking,  and was a fan of talk radio?  Gone.

I need to get out of California.  I’m starting to love it here.

Weekend Garden Warrior

Saturday was a fine day to relax. Some weekends relaxing mean an early-morning hike with my friends and the dogs. The dogs and I were a little out of sorts yesterday – I think they count the days between weekends knowing that Saturdays are the hiking day. But we had an appointment that morning so the hike was scratched rather than rushing through the park. 

 On other weekends, I try to straighten out my garage, or work on a list of projects, painting, putting up pictures, and sweeping the patio. With dogs, dog hair is everywhere, and in Southern California, dust coats everything so I HAVE to sweep every weekend.  I’ve considered buying a leaf blower to deal with this.   As I look at the bushes and trees, I start thinking I should buy a power trimmer or hire some professionals to get my trees and bushes cleaned up. 

Sometimes I channel wood-working and gardening ambitions to build stuff for the yard.  Last Fall it was a new gate;   the one it replaced was a decayed bit of fencing that I had for several months propped up with rebar, baling wire and metal posts.  For months I’ve kept the old wood in a back corner of the yard for a future project. 

Last weekend I worked in the front yard.     Rock roses, and tea tree, and bark made this area more ‘finished’.   I knew it was pleasing with all the new color when my wife joined me for a late-afternoon iced tea and magazine time on the front patio.

This weekend I built a raised bed frame for vegetables –  a pee-free zone.    I had marked off an area to create a vegetable and herb garden last year,  But it became a playland for the dogs.  I now have to get the soil, mulch and plants potted which is next week’s goal.  My next project – or somewhere on the top five in my list –  a dog run,  will take the place of the chicken wire.  It has nonetheless been effective-   fruit trees, bushes and some succulents have a renewed lease on life now.  But we are getting near that time of year to have friends over, so the wire has to go (soon).

The best part of these projects is the work with power tools, wood and planning and seeing  my ideas take shape.   At other times, with sinks backing up, cable TV losing picture,  or one of the cars develops a glowing idiot lamp, I know it will take more effort to solve.  Those things are not  horribly difficult – I work with troubleshooting electronics all week long – but  are particularly irritating when they occur late on a Sunday afternoon. 

Fortunately, my meter tells me the car trouble is an easy fix.  The sink clog was vanquished by a determine wife with Clorox, hot water and a plunger.   The dogs  are going amok — but not on the plants;   it sounds like coyotes are hunting in the vicinity.  Maybe they are coming to check out my garden.  Perhaps they will eat a few gophers – we have plenty to share with the local predators.   

I need to savor the moments I get to relax.  Tomorrow,  my work commute comes early And even a little dog-pee won’t make the commute nor my job any easier.

Without the Outlaw, there’s no Gun in Gunsmoke

Gunslinger politics

According to highly disreputable sources, Vladimir Putin, erstwhile KGB spymaster, first thought about becoming President of Russia when he met Ronald Reagan.   A fan of the Gipper’s Western movie classics, he modeled his rise to power in the same fashion.  RR lead the Screen Actors Guild as President twice;  VP lead the Russian Federation  twice as President – and as Premier, in the intervening years.  President Reagan lead California; VP lead the KGB which employed as many spies and “apparatchiks” as the California bureaucracy.  And in his travels, he was photographed on horseback, gifted with a cowboy hat, and met with influential people.  And met also with politicians in America.  

Vladimir Putin (“fan”). at left (1988)

The drama since the election of 2016  seems to recall the Wild West movies with Gary Cooper, Robert Mitchum, or John Wayne I watched in the 1960s and 70s.   There’s a rough and tumble territory being carved up between the natives, settlers, Good Guys and Bad Guys.   The Russian President, is like the card-playing, six-gun toting, ruffian who reads weaknesses in the go-along-to-get-along townspeople he has exploited before.  In place of Dodge City and and Tombstone, Putin  rode into the Crimea, Ukraine, and Syria, and left his mark. The last Territorial Marshall was a lot of talk but slow on the draw.


I hope this Western will play well to audiences.   WIth all the outlaws, cheats and desperados in the world, we need them out of our local, state and Federal Government.  Given the chance, Donald Trump may yet prove to be the Fastest Gun in the West.

AUTHOR’s NOTE:  a good script is revised often before the movie is produced; sometimes the author and sometimes the audience wants to re-do a scene or even the entire film.  I have to admit that this re-release is improved.

When the going gets tough, check for gas

Gasoline. The word itself conjures up a range of emotions. ” it’s too dang expensive these days.  I remember when it cost….”  The gasoline engine is “outdated”;  electric “green” energy is the “wave of the future”.  But every kid and every adult who does not reside in the New York, Boston, Chicago megapolis, needs an automobile to get around.  California which prides itself today on guilting its residents’ emotions while bleeding its residents dry not least of which with fuel taxes, was the main reason for the expansion of the car and highway industry.

I use gasoline in my old Ford Ranger. Jf it were running today, my Honda Civic would use gasoline more efficiently,  A third car, a Kia is the needed transportation for my spouse. For neigbbors of ours, diesel may be a close second and for some friends, the popular Prius hybrid electric may be an interesting experiment, but gasoline is still the main fuel for getting about.   And thats why I’m obsessing today over gasoline.  Citgo, USA, ExxonMobil, Shell.  Any would do.  I ran low on gas coming home the other evening and the truck choked, harumphed and died in my driveway.  The center of my driveway – where it sat embarrassingly for a day.

First I thought it might be a clogged fuel line or filter.  Then last night I got the five gallon gas container and made a trip to the gas station at the 7-Eleven.  And dear reader, you guessed it, Sometimes the needle on the gauge lies.  Not an eighth of a tank…. EMPTY.  It started right up once the motor had sufficient gas to run!!!!

When a working dog works her master over

I’ve owned an Australian Shepard-mix, shelter dog for 13 of it’s nearly 14 years.  I originally adopted Sydney as a companion for my Lab mix, Happy who died earlier this year.  When I would take them to Dog Beach, to parks or to other open areas to run, Sydney would often apply her herding instinct to my calls to retrieve Happy off in the distance.  Though she has had a sweet disposition throughout all her life, this has masked an annoying character: Sydney has been a constant “flight-risk”.  Over the last ten years,  my dogs caused me embarrassment and irritation in taking themselves for a walk. At least twice a year, from a loose fence plank, a poorly-shut gate, or a frequently-open front door (3 teenage boys grew up here during these ten years) one or more of our household has gone in a wandering-dog search – or met the neighbor coming to the door.   These times, including two occasions when retrieved from the County Animal Shelter,  Sydney and Happy – who always took his cue from her – cost me embarrassing encounters with my neighbors.   A month ago, this dog got out, and during the night – started shaking and drooling uncontrollably.  That episode cost me SIX HUNDRED DOLLARS and a day in the Veterinarian’s care – and little wear on the little beast.  I just suffered another moment –  as my neighbor informed me that Sydney was down the road again.
Now back at my feet asleep, I am considering what my pet’s contemplating for her next escape.

With Apologies to Morpheus and Neo

In the movie, “The Matrix”, the idea that we are all living in a dream world managed by computers, is of course, a good plot, but what if our reality – the universe if you will – actually IS a creation of an Almighty God? Fifty years of living, thirty or more as a working man, and ten since engagement and marriage, active belief is fundamental to my relationships. As far from a fervent, dedicated, and thoroughly indoctrinated biblical Christian as my own self-perception is, I still choose to believe that everything exists because of a loving Creator. While so much of the world is consumed by basic needs – power, recognition, gratification, hunger, comfort, I can enjoy going to a Christmas party that my wife held for her staff at a pizza place. Almost everyone came with family, were obviously enjoying themselves from the infants to the oldest adult,and the young waitress was genuinely touched when Sheri settled the bill and tip. It’s Christmas-time! When I think I could have taken the Blue Pill and remained aloof, frustrated but comfortable in my old cynical life, I see all that I would have missed.

You know you’re getting old when

Everyone recognizes the signs of an “older adult”. On the first official weekend of the Christmas season, while youth goes to the movies, buys an Ipod, or imagines what new 20-inch rims and tires look like on their Nissan, an unshaved old chief and his wife are looking at a dryer at the Navy Exchange. OK, so I wasn’t the one imagining the steam cycle setting of the fancy thousand-dollar dryer, but I did imagine what an LCD TV / Blueray / wall cabinet might look like in my office.
At the same time that grizzled veterans are shopping for dryers, young sports-fan families are dreaming of the complete Chargers outfit for Junior -size 2 Nikes, team -logo hoodies, looking at the bigger-than-last-year’s LCD TVs. But young and old alike have something in common this year. There’s darn little confidence that anyone will have any money to live on over the next several years – so anyone buying anything at the stores this season is as much a gambler as the Casino patrons on the various indian resorts around the county.