Tag Archives: politics

No Pun Intended? Yeah. Right.

WARNING!

What follows is in no way meant to be a treatise on the subject. I really just wanted to share one instance I found entertaining and clever and perhaps say a word or two about the genre. I was, however, reminded just how pervasive this form of humor/wit is and a bit overwhelmed by the quantity (if not the quality) of examples available. Please forgive me.


Food Pun

From the ever-so-delightful world of food puns

I came across this graphic and shared it with my friends on Facebook. It has proven to be quite popular, which makes me wonder about the reasons we call puns (or plays on words) the lowest form of humor, yet they seem to be universally enjoyed . . . even when they’re real groaners. I think this one is quite clever, though.

Oscar Levant once suggested “A pun is the lowest form of humor—when you don’t think of it first.” I find great wisdom in that observation. Nothing evokes groans so much as a pun. Sometimes it seems the most clever ones are rewarded with the loudest groans; perhaps from jealousy. Who knows?

Wikipedia tells us the pun, “also called paronomasia, is a form of word play that suggests two or more meanings, by exploiting multiple meanings of words, or of similar-sounding words, for an intended humorous or rhetorical effect.” In its own, inimitable fashion, the entry goes on, and on, and on, describing everything from humorous puns, to rhetorical puns, to scientific and computing puns. Click on the link, above, and you’ll see what I mean.

A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away I had friend who said he wanted to be the Chairman of the Revolutionary Committee to Purge Punsters – after the revolution, of course. He suggested his first trial would be against himself. People who really like punning are strange birds indeed.

I find it quite fascinating there is so much time and energy given to knocking puns, yet we seem to spend an equal amount of time making and enjoying them – and there’s no end to the availability of high (low?) quality puns out there. More food puns? Here are a few:

  • The history of cheese is full of holes, but it’s interesting in its own whey
  • At breakfast, the hacker downloaded cornflakes via his cereal port
  • Those who eat candy with both hands are ambi-dextrose
  • When the cannibal showed up late to the luncheon, they gave him the cold shoulder
  • Old colanders never die, they just can’t take the strain anymore
  • Those who forget the pasta are condemned to reheat it

I found hundreds of these, as well as quite a few visual puns. Actually, most of the visual ones rely on words to help them out, as the following (it truly is bad; I know) attests:

Chicken Cord on Blue

Here’s a bit of a crossover pun I encountered. I found it searching specifically for food puns and I guess it is one. However, it also brings a bit of politics and current affairs into the mix.

Warm up the Chinese

Finally, here’s one I rather like despite it having absolutely nothing to do with food:

Big Fan

For good or bad, I’m quite certain I could go on for a very long time and not exhaust the material that’s out there, but I want to circle back to the item that precipitated this post in the first place, and leave you with the song that inspired it. So, here’s Annie Lennox singing Sweet Dreams. Enjoy!


Can I Get an Amen?

Amen Corner at Augusta National Golf Course

The word “Amen” isn’t confined to prayer, though it’s generally closely related.

Yesterday I was inducted into one of several local Rotary clubs here in Simi Valley, CA. The name of this club is Simi Sunrise and, not coincidentally, it meets at 7:00 am every Thursday at the Grand Vista Hotel. I had some trepidations about joining an organization such as Rotary International, best explained by the question a friend asked me when informed of my desire to join; “Aren’t they a really conservative organization?”

Truth to tell, I wasn’t entirely sure they would accept me, especially since this is a fairly conservative city I live in and I’ve made it abundantly clear I am not a conservative – at least not politically. I didn’t really know a lot about Rotary and I knew an awful lot of the people who were in this club. Most of them were quite conservative – politically. At the same time, I live and work with them and know them to be good, decent people. Especially the ones in Rotary 1 and other service organizations.

Fortunately, I got to know a person who ended up convincing – and sponsoring – me to join. Due to an unlikely confluence of events I ended up being the guest who wouldn’t go away, and a process which normally takes a couple of weeks ended up taking a couple of months. Nevertheless, she insisted I continue showing up and, because she had to pay for my breakfast each week, I have offered to do some data input for her at her discretion. It’s the least I can do.

Yesterday was the culmination of two months of meetings and thinking about what I was getting myself into. Now that I’m officially a member I will not only have an ongoing financial obligation and an expectation of service in the form of volunteerism, I will also be expected to perform various duties at the meetings, e.g. greeting members as they arrive, checking attendance, etc. There is one duty I’m somewhat concerned about. Leading the invocation.

I have now heard approximately eight different invocations. I don’t recall any of them being identifiably denominational, though some referenced “our heavenly father”. I believe at least one ended a bit irreverently . . . and comically. They all end with “amen”, a word of Hebrew origin defined by Merriam-Webster online as: “used to express solemn ratification (as of an expression of faith) or hearty approval (as of an assertion).” Although used primarily at the end of a prayer or hymn, it is clearly not limited to religious expression. So it looks like an invocation avoiding the mention of God would most likely be acceptable, even if hard to author.

However, as an atheist I have a lot of experience with people who misunderstand my kind of “faith” and are likely to exhibit one or more of the following traits or attitudes in response to an expression they perceive to be anti-religion: Anger; disgust; defensiveness; dismissiveness; revulsion; incredulity; hatred; need I go on? When you think of invocation, you just don’t think of atheism now, do you?

So . . . my dilemma. I’m going to assume I will, at some point in time, be asked to give the invocation. I suppose I could respectfully decline, but I kind of want to do it. The issue for me is how to do so without offending anyone. Part of me believes that’s a tall order, precisely because of the responses I’ve experienced or observed for so many years, while another part of me believes it isn’t as big an issue as it at first appears. I’ll post the text . . . when I write it!


1 Rotary is very attractive to me as it espouses values I believe are important and progressive. I find it a little ironic so many of the members are staunch conservatives, yet the values they ascribe to can just as easily fit the most progressive agenda. If words are important, and I believe they are, then their foundational writings should matter a lot when determining what kind of an organization they (at the very least) aspire to be. For instance, there’s The Four-Way Test:

  1. Is it the TRUTH?
  2. Is it FAIR to all concerned?
  3. Will it build GOODWILL and BETTER FRIENDSHIPS
  4. Will it be BENEFICIAL to all concerned?

Coupled with numerous other writings, which I will not get into now but will surely bring up as I gain more experiences with this new facet of my life, I think Rotary paints itself as an organization dedicated to the same things I am – Peace, Justice, Goodwill, Internationalism, Fairness, etc.

There’s likely an argument lying beneath the surface here as to the role volunteerism plays in an inherently unfair economic system, but – in my opinion – it is more a philosophical one and should in no way minimize the pain alleviated through the actions of Rotary and other organizations like it. More on this some other time.


That’s Just Stupid, You Moronic Idiot!

Mediation Blues

Getting Along

Can’t We All Just Get Along?

I have often said I spent over two decades – the entire length of my career at Rocketdyne – trying to get Engineering to talk to Information Technology; two different groups of geeks, each of which thought they were superior to the other.

I didn’t work on it full time, and it wasn’t my job to get them talking, but had I been successful it would have made my job a lot easier. I worked at being a voice of reconciliation between them. It’s in my nature. I was not successful; at least not overall.

Now, the difficulty in getting these two organizations (we called them  “Processes”, as opposed to “Functions” or “Departments”) to talk to each other, was deeply ingrained in the culture of that enterprise. Part of the problem stemmed from the way we, as an enterprise, were organized. When I first arrived there in 1987, we were heavily command-and-control and pathologically hierarchical. There were kingdoms; fiefdoms, if you will and very few people thought further ahead than their own careers and organizations.

I’m happy to say things improved pretty dramatically over the years. One reason was the tireless efforts of a group of people, led by Dr. Bill Bellows, to apply the concepts and tools of thought leaders like W. Edwards Deming, Russell Ackoff, Edward de Bono, and many others to the way we did business. The term Dr. Bellows used for many years was Enterprise Thinking.

What made this way of thinking stand out, in my opinion, was its recognition of the systemic nature of an organization, an enterprise. It was clearly understood that all things – all processes or departments – were interconnected. Nothing in an enterprise exists by itself, outside the system(s) with which it interacts.

When you can clearly see this, suddenly you recognize how counter-productive it can be to blame people for things that go wrong, as well as expect individuals to make things work properly, which brings me back to the Engineering and IT departments I so futilely attempted to arbitrate for, as well as the title of this post.

Civility in Argument

Although I am guilty of it myself at times . . . I’m working on it . . . I don’t believe it is productive to blame others and, especially, to completely alienate them by using labels like “Idiot” or “Moron”. This is true whether you’re working together at an enterprise and – ostensibly – you share the same basic vision and goals, or you are on completely opposite sides of the political spectrum when it comes to how you think the country and the economy should be run.

I started writing this to make a point about the level of incivility I find at times on the Internet, especially in the comments of non-moderated news sites. Even the moderated ones contain some really argumentative and, at times, nasty comments. As I worked on what I was trying to say, the tragedy in Aurora played out and, true to form, the arguments between those who believe the second amendment is sacrosanct and those who wish to see access to guns more regulated are heating up.

My original intention was to point out how I have been able to get along with many very conservative people in my life, especially when we live and work together and see each other face-to-face on a fairly regular basis. I have long said that locally, in terms of how our cities and neighborhoods are run, we all want essentially the same things, e.g. safe neighborhoods, good schools, jobs, access to health care, etc.

I seldom have anyone disagree with this and it doesn’t surprise me. The problems seem to arise when we start talking about more abstract affairs; the economy, foreign relations, use of the military. Yet, I find with the people I know best we’re able to disagree without labeling each other as morons or idiots. We disagree but, somehow, we manage to continue getting things done together and not getting into actual fights over who’s right or how best to accomplish something.

I suppose this is one of our biggest problems in this country. Many of us have the tendency to ascribe the worst of motives to those they disagree with. I’m inclined to think that’s not a very good way to work together and achieve anything other than a continuous standoff. It seems that’s precisely how our government is now being run and it does not portend well for us as a nation. I’d like to see it stop.

A Taste of the Future

I have seldom written about politics or civic affairs here, but they weigh heavily on me. I have two young girls my wife and I adopted from China. I worry about the future they face here, where everything seems to be falling apart. I want to leave them a better world than I found as I was growing up and it sure as hell looks like that’s going to be a tall order.

I’ll leave this particular post with one thought and I will no doubt have more to say in the future . . . especially now that I’ve sort of broken the ice (not very well). Ironically, given I live in Simi Valley – still notorious for its role in the acquittal of the Los Angeles Police Officers who beat Rodney King, the thought that comes most readily to mind is, “Can’t we all just get along?” I know it’s a bit more complicated than that, but it is something to wonder about. It happens quite frequently in real-life, on the ground . . . as they say.


To The Moon, Alice!

Moon Colony

Some Day This Should be all Ours

The other day a friend of mine posted an interesting item on his blog, Global Neighbourhoods (love that other side of the pond spelling) and asked on Twitter if anyone had read it. I saw the tweet because it was ported over to my Facebook news feed. I answered I hadn’t, but would shortly . . . which I did. Shel makes an interesting point that, regardless of how one may feel about Newt Gingrich – and we both agree we wouldn’t vote for him even if Hell froze over – his idea about establishing a colony on the Moon isn’t such a bad one. Consider that President Kennedy’s call to put a man on the Moon preceded an unprecedented growth in innovation through the technologies that needed to be developed in order to accomplish the feat required by the Apollo program.

Shel goes on to ask that we think about what such an endeavor might mean for us, regardless of the situation we are in right now. As he says:

“It seems to me, that what makes us unique from other animals is that our entire history is based on going beyond what we have done. Before we consider the benefits or catastrophes, we simply have to see if we can do it.

“Why should man walk on the moon? Because some day, we can build a colony on it? What will we do then? Look around and see what else we can do, where else we can go, we can learn more about the moon, and thus about the earth and our universe and how life got to here and anywhere else that it might exist.

“And yes the cost is huge at a time when people are losing their homes. But to me, the cost is an investment, one that will create a great many new jobs that may be more appealing than the manufacturing our current president seems to be focused upon.

“What we learn along the way will give the world new technology that is likely to pervade into computing, science, medicine, earth sciences, the classroom and places that we cannot yet imagine.”

I responded the next day in a comment. As of the date of this posting, it still says it’s waiting moderation but, hopefully, by the time most read this it will have been posted. Suffice it to say I agree with Shel’s assessment of the technologies it will create and that it is an investment. I also have another, long-standing reason I believe we should go back to the Moon and establish a permanent presence there, which I have set forth in my comment. I have also written about it several times in various posts on this blog. I encourage you to read Shel’s post. Tell him I sent you.

Photo Courtesy of Dallas1200am


The Many Uses of Facebook

Speak Up?

Thinking Back

A while back I wrote about the dilemma I faced when I first realized my Facebook “friends” consisted of numerous constituencies, and my concern that speaking frankly to one may unwittingly offend or alienate some from another. I also mentioned that, despite this initial fear, I quickly resolved it in favor of just being myself and not worrying too much about it.

Lately I’ve noticed another phenomena that’s been slowly creeping into my activity on Facebook. While it’s related to my interest in economics and politics, it does seem to be driven considerably by the Occupy movement (I use only Occupy advisedly, as there exist not merely an Occupy Wall Street group – which started this whole thing – but also other groups, most evident on Facebook as Occupy Together, Occupy Marines, etc.)

As part of my decision to just “let it all hang loose” and be myself, I have increasingly shared articles, pictures, etc. from some of the political sites I either frequent or that like-minded friends have shared with me. As it happens, I generally characterize my political leaning as so far to the left I’m almost a Libertarian (mind you, emphatically not one). I have also responded to some posts from people with whom I don’t exactly agree, telling them politely of my problems with their positions. Most of these conversations have been quite pleasant; spirited debates over policy and principle. Several times someone has actually commented on how they were pleased with the civility of the thread and its participants.

Is Useful Political Discourse Possible?

So, what I’m beginning to wonder is if this is, indeed, a new phenomena that may turn out to be useful and healthy for political discourse. If you have a fair amount of friends there’s a substantial chance they will represent numerous viewpoints and positions on the important issues facing us. Might not we be able to understand each other better and, consequently, move away from the precipice of irreconcilable differences we seem to be teetering on lately?

I have to admit there is a bit of a dark side to this as well. Two things have happened to me that I find a bit chilling. The first was a friendly “suggestion” I received that I might want to tone it down a bit when discussing the Occupy movement and the politics and economics behind it. The impact this might have on my standing in the business community was the implication, and its seriousness did not go unnoticed by me. The second is related, but needs a bit of background.

UC Davis Pepper Spray Incident

Not Exactly a Meeting of Minds

Maybe We Can’t All “Just Get Along”

I live in a relatively insular city – Simi Valley, CA – home of the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Museum. The City leaders are, for the most part, far more conservative than I am (who isn’t?) and I have become Facebook friends with a lot of them, including the Mayor, members of the local Chamber of Commerce, and at least one City Council member. Being a strong proponent of the right of free speech, I have spoken my mind rather openly; at least on Facebook. I don’t get into too many political discussions when doing business and I am a big supporter of local small business and wish to actively contribute to making our local economy strong and vibrant.

Last night I realized the City Council member had “unfriended” me, presumably due to a conversation I had with a couple of his friends. As I recall, it was one that received a post of praise for its tenor and the level of intellect involved. I do recall, though, I was very adamant in pointing out what I saw as fallacious arguments based on incomplete or incorrect knowledge. Frankly, I’d like to hear of anyone having a really fruitful discussion about the merits of Dialectical Materialism with a rabid anti-Communist. In my experience, the philosophy behind Marxism is little known here in these enlightened United States, and it’s very hard to receive any respect from someone who is certain of the correctness of their knowledge and the evilness of yours.

A Profound Dilemma

So I’m also wondering . . . despite my essentially being out of the job market and, therefore, not having to worry about alienating a potential employer, do I now have to censor myself politically lest I “upset” a city leader and risk throwing a roadblock in my meager, but important, efforts at making Simi Valley a better place to live? I don’t ask that people agree with me; merely that they respect my position and – especially – my desire to do what’s right for the community as I see it . . . just as I respect their beliefs and integrity. I really don’t care for revisiting this whole dilemma around what’s appropriate when it involves the core issues of our lives and livelihoods.

As well, I’m very disappointed this person decided to unfriend me. I believe we have more in common than we differ on. I also wanted to keep up with what he was doing as a Councilperson, as he uses Facebook to post from various events he is involved with. It seems I’ve been cut off from a useful, viable channel to the goings on of one of my city’s leaders and I’m still not sure how I feel about it. How do you feel about this?

Mouth/Flag Image from reading. writing. revolution


A New Personal Direction – Blogging As Catharsis

Where to go? Where to go?

Why Systems Savvy?

There’s a reason I named this blog Systems Savvy though, to be truthful, I haven’t really done what I intended when I decided on the title. Blogging for me has been somewhat aimless as I’ve attempted to find my voice and considered what I wanted to accomplish. For the last year and a half, starting with my decision to accept the early retirement package offered by my former employer, I’ve considered how to use it to both promote my new business and educate the people I wanted to reach.

The result has been a number of fairly well-directed posts on various issues involving small business and social media marketing. However, I am only beginning to become accomplished at marketing, in general, and frequently feel I don’t have anything to say that hasn’t been said – and said better – by others.

Lately, especially during a period of time I have been working with an associate on a fairly ambitious proposal (which, last week, was declined), I haven’t had much to say at all. I have, however, been giving a lot of thought to the direction I would like this blog to go in, and I think I’ve come to a decision on what I want to do. Let me explain.

My original intent was to look at various world views, philosophies if you will, that attempt to provide a systemic approach to understanding nature, society, economy, etc. The thinkers I have come to respect and, I think, understand include people like W. Edwards Deming, Russell Ackoff, and Peter Drucker (among others) from the business world, and Karl Marx (an eyebrow raiser, I know, but more about that in later posts) and Friedrich Engels, especially with respect to the philosophy of Dialectical Materialism. This effort began on January 7, 2008 where, in my first post, I explained what I hoped to accomplish. Unfortunately, the distractions and obligations I referenced back then kept me from accomplishing what I then thought would be useful . . . and possible.

Changing Direction

Now, after being somewhat forced to accept what for me was a way too early retirement package, and having embarked on my journey back into the world of small business, I’m finding I need to rethink the direction this blog should take. I want to bring it somewhat back to my original intent – with one small wrinkle. I need to write more about the lessons I’ve learned; not merely with respect to the things I experienced and accomplished in my over two decades at Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne, but also with respect to those things I learned in the preceding two decades in small business, as well as the many experiences I’ve had outside of the business world. One more thing. I’m not dead yet and I am far from inactive in my community.

To do this, it seems I will have to buck one of the “rules” of blogging, i.e. “it’s not about me“. This concept has made it exceedingly difficult to share some of the things I wish to write about for two main reasons. One I wrote about earlier, and that’s this feeling I’ve had all my life that everyone knows what I know. After all, it’s obvious! Right? The second is I’ve been repeatedly asked to write about many of my life experiences, which are not quite “mainstream” and from which I have gleaned some lessons that have been important . . . at least for me, but I’ve been constrained by that admonition against making it about oneself, as well as my inborn desire to please, not offend, others.

I’m constantly working on the first of these issues and here’s what I’ve come to think about the second. I am NOT in the middle of my career. After all, I’m now collecting Social Security and a pension from my previous employer. Less than a year from now I will be eligible for Medicare and, increasingly, I will need it to deal with the medical problems that come from aging. Most bloggers I know (not all) are between 20 and 30 years younger than I am. They have decades to go in their worklife. I may have a decade or two left, but the prospect is far less certain and, truth to tell, I really want to slow down a bit.

I think a change is in order. I think I need to write about all the things I care about. I have also previously written about the dilemma I faced when I realized the disparate “friends” I had on Facebook and how it momentarily took me aback and caused me to reconsider what I was willing to share – with everybody! As then, I have come to the conclusion I can, and should, write about the things that interest me, no matter how they might seem disconnected . . . because they aren’t! They’re taken from my life, my experiences, and the conclusions I’ve drawn or the questions I still have regarding them. If some are offended by this, oops! Too bad.

Me and You as Systems

I am interested in systems theory; systems thinking. Part of my understanding about it is we are all part of various systems. As living organisms we are ourselves systems. For over 60 years I’ve felt, as most of us do, forced at times to separate my life into its constituent parts: Personal; professional; political; religious; philosophical; etc. Yet they are all – for me – intimately related and inextricably intertwined. They are what has made up my life.

Perhaps I’m getting a bit melancholy as I realize my time is surely winding down. I hope to have at least a couple more decades left in me, but there are physical changes making it clear that it won’t be the same. I am showing signs of essential tremors, which my mother had and which sometimes make it hard for me to eat with a fork or grab a small bottle out of the medicine cabinet. Just this past Monday I had a suspicious mole removed from the scar on my back that is the result of surgery to remove a melanoma a couple of years ago. My hair is mostly gray. I have chicken skin, moderate hypertension, and type II diabetes! There are other signs. Perhaps I’ll write about them too.

So here’s the deal. Although I will continue to build my business, which includes a large dose of pro bono and civic-minded activities as well as remunerative ones, I intend to increasingly share my thoughts about the rest of my life as well. I know I have written some posts that were personal, political, and even relating to religion (thought certainly not promoting it), but I have lately been going in the direction of making this a business blog. I will no longer do that. I’m not sure this is the right thing to do. Were I younger, perhaps it would definitely not be the right thing to do. However, I’m not really worried about looking for a job or offending my parents. They both shed their mortal coils years ago.

Frankly, I don’t know if anything I have to say is all that important, but I have the opportunity to write about it and, if nothing else, it will be available for my children, who are now only 7 and 10 years old. I want to leave something so they will be able to better understand who I was and, especially, just how much I love them and want the very best for them. That’s important to me!

Photo Credit: Directions by mistermoss – via Flickr


What’s In A Friendship?

I remember the day I realized my Facebook friends consisted of old and new friends, colleagues, and family. My initial reaction was one of horror and despair. The horror was in realizing being myself with one set of “friends” might not be as well understood, or as welcome, by those who were in another set of my “friends.” I was paralyzed, but only momentarily.

Since then I’ve come to accept (or should I say I’ve come to realize my “friends” must accept) the diversity of relationships and viewpoints we all have. Perhaps it is partly because I am not at the beginning of my career, but much closer to the end, and – therefore – I have little need to worry about impressing an HR department. My professional experience is long and varied, running the gamut from very small (2-3 employees) businesses to large (100K plus employees), multi-national corporations. My accomplishments stand on their own and, besides, my main interest is in small business now.

Don’t get me wrong. I don’t wish to offend anybody, but I really don’t want to worry too much about somebody not agreeing with or liking what I have to say. If you are a friend of mine, it means I find something valuable in what you have to offer. If we all thought alike, how would we learn anything . . . ever?

So, please forgive me if I offend. My political and religious views are far from mainstream, but I’ve arrived at them through many years of thought, study, and introspection. I am probably far more aware of the intricacies of mainstream thought than others are aware of those I adhere to, yet I have lived quite comfortably with them. I hope you’ll do the same for me. Can’t we all just get along? =;^D


A Personal Reflection on the Loss of STS-51-L (Challenger)

I was rooting around in the garage the other day; not really looking for anything in particular;  just looking to remind myself of things I keep around. I have lots of “keepsakes” from my life. Not collectibles . . . hardly, but little things that remind me of events I’ve experienced in one way or another. It could be a ticket to a Lakers’s playoff game (against the Celtics, no less), a “Nixon, Humphrey, Wallace – Three Strikes and You’re Out” button, or a bar mitzvah boy decoration that once sat atop my birthday cake over 50 years ago.

All three of these items have powerful memories associated with them, though each was quite different in the degree to which those things I remember actually affected my life. All three have also faded with time so , interestingly, the one that seems to have the strongest memories is the Lakers ticket. I suppose it makes sense. Even though it’s been over 25 years since it happened, it was the first time the Lakers ever beat the Celtics for the championship. On the other hand, though politics and religion have always played a major role in my life, my everyday existence has not been impinged upon too much by governmental activity and I’ve been an atheist since I was 16. Basketball, however, comes back around every season to refresh the wounds and triumphs and, even though I don’t watch many games any more, the finals are always exciting.

I didn’t actually come across any of these items the other day, but I did come across an item which has more meaning for me – in many ways – than all three of the others combined. As I opened up a piece of old decorative pottery someone once gave me, I found the medallion I’ve pictured below. I suspect most everyone who might read this post is familiar with the Challenger disaster but, just in case some aren’t, the Challenger Space Shuttle Orbiter, one of five orbiters to once exist in the NASA fleet, was lost in an explosion during launch on January 28, 1986. Clicking on the picture will take you to NASA’s official site for this launch. This month marks the 25th anniversary of what was both a national, nay, human tragedy and the beginning of a new life for me.

 

Challenger STS-51L Mission Patch

Challenger STS-51L Mission Patch

 

Finding this medallion at this time seems somewhat serendipitous to me, as it neatly intersects with so much of my life these past 25 years. Let me explain and I will try not to bore you.

When Challenger exploded I was working in Century City, Los Angeles, California at a litigation support firm. Our business was to organize the information available from mountains of questions (called interrogatories in the legal profession) and their answers, as well as transcripts of real-time examinations of witnesses and parties (called depositions). The two main cases we were involved with were family battles over empires worth hundreds of millions of dollars, so there was a lot at stake (silly and humorous as it was to me).

There was a grill and pub inside the building I worked in, which I frequented for lunch and a couple of adult beverages in the evening whilst waiting for the Northbound insanity on the 405 to subside. This generally took a few hours, but it was a congenial place and I enjoyed the company of numerous denizens. Sometimes I would eat dinner there as well. It wasn’t like the sports bars we have today, but they had a television in there and, now that I think about it, I believe it was the only one. There were no flatscreens, no HD, etc. After all, it was 1986. A long time ago . . . in terms of consumer technology, at least.

When I heard the news, though I now wonder  how it traveled so fast without Twitter to carry it, I immediately left my desk and went down to the pub. I can’t recall if the TV was on when I entered, but it was certainly on shortly after I got there. I watched in horror as the news showed the explosion of Challenger over and over and over and over and . . . well, you know . . . over. To this day, I can’t stand to watch it again. Without even closing my eyes, right now I can see the two solid rocket motors splitting off, yet continuing to ascend under power after the orbiter disintegrated. It was a horrendous site and it cost the lives of seven intrepid souls, including the woman who would have been the first teacher in space, Christa McAuliffe.

These seven people gave their lives that we and our children might more fully live ours. They deserve to be honored and I wish to acknowledge them here:

Michael J. Smith
Dick Scobee
Ronald McNair
Ellison Onizuka
Christa McAuliffe
Gregory Jarvis
Judith Resnik

I have long been a space cadet (in more than one sense 🙂 ) and I am a staunch supporter of our space program, as well as one who strongly believes we must establish a cultural – not merely technological – presence in space and on other worlds. When I was a boy living in the middle of the San Fernando Valley, I vividly recall hearing the sound of the Saturn vehicle’s second and third stage engines (the J-2) being tested at Rocketdyne’s Santa Susanna Field Laboratory and seeing the sky above turn red over the hills to the West. I also recall laying on the grass in front of our home and watching Sputnik go by overhead when I was 10 years old. I dreamed of going into space; still do, though I have no real expectation of doing so other than in my imagination.

A year after Challenger was destroyed, thanks to a bit of serendipity (and Apple One), I found myself showing up as a temp worker on the Space Shuttle Main Engine (SSME) program’s efforts to return to flight after the disaster. Although the SSME was not a factor in the tragedy, the team was using the resultant stand-down to re-assess the likelihood of one of the three engines which are responsible for lifting the shuttle into low earth orbit (LEO) failing at any time in a mission.

A year later, despite not being an Engineer, I found myself working as a full-time employee of Rockwell International‘ on the Flight Operations Team of the SSME. Last year (in May), I took an early retirement package offered to those of us 60 years and older. It’s been about eight months now since my separation from the place I worked at for most of a 23 year period and the 28th of this month will mark the 25th year since these seven brave astronauts perished on a cold, wintry Florida day. I find it ironic (and painfully humbling) to realize their deaths intersect with the birth of my first real career (I had been in many small business until that point, some as an employee, others as a partner) and now this anniversary comes so close on the heels of my leaving. Although I grieve for having left the place I thought I would work at until I dropped dead, I still find an even larger hole in my heart for having lost the crew of Challenger, as well as the vehicle that killed them.

If you have a special memory of these people or this tragedy, I hope you’ll share it somewhere during this anniversary.


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