Creative Compilation of Recollections Culminating in Capitulation to Chris Columbus

For an Indian Guides event, when I was around five years old, my dad helped me build a pinewood derby-esque car with which to race other children’s entries. When we arrived at the “Y” we learned that our car was far outside of the weight limit. Next thing I knew, some man with a drill was using a very large drill bit to hollow out the bottom of the car.

My mom once took the silverware right out of my hands when I proved incapable of accomplishing the feat of cutting my chicken at dinner.

During a basketball game–B-League–my opponent turned around and handed me the ball, mistakenly. I said, “Thank you,” and proceeded to head toward our basket as fast as I could run.

The local go-kart track and arcade in my childhood town was called, “Malibu Grand Prix.” One time I pronounced “prix” “priks” as I begged my mom to take me there. She laughed at me for what seemed like forever and only when my tears ran dry did she tell me why. (Or that’s how I remember it.) Years later she still brings up the phonetic faux pas when her mood turns fiendish.

H- was attempting to mix the cookie dough ingredients together, standing on a chair. She was probably three years old. The butter was still pretty hard and that led to some of the dry ingredients flying out of the bowl and onto the counter. I decided to take over for a bit.

When on a childhood vacation on a working sheep ranch in Wyoming, I accompanied the man on an early morning hunt. As we summited the hill from which he hoped to achieve and maintain the advantage over costly coyotes and foxes, I did not stoop low with him. He turned and very quickly motioned for me to join him down low.

Same man, same vacation. We were shooting a bow-and-arrow. My younger brother was having his turn with the instrument. With the arrow half-cocked, he turned toward the man to better hear the instruction and the man ducked out of the path of the would-be projectile faster than I had previously suspected he could move.

I don’t remember the exact details or even the precise date of the event, but there, at least once, was a time when I watched someone do something very slowly. Rather than wait on their laziness and incompetence, I told them they could take a break and that I’d finish up.

There was a pizza party. Most people had had their fill. I asked everyone if they had any problem with me finishing the remaining slices as I raised the lid of the already half-open box.

I wrecked my car during a snowstorm. The tow company had it in their lot. I told them that I didn’t need it anymore and was just going to donate it to Colorado Public Radio as they were always advertising that unwanted cars were a great way to donate. The man beyond the glass promptly informed me that he took donations, too. That seemed easier and I really wasn’t that philanthropic. So I assented. Then, as my friend and I drove away, an opportunity for promptness presented itself to me and I vowed to think before acting from that moment forward.


On the Fantastic World of Gray

To force myself to take a break from weather books and the Bible, I like to head to the bookstore and just pick a fantasy book. During this exercise I use one variable to make my selection–its cover.

The latest cover to jump from the shelf into my hands is Jacqueline Carey’s Kushiel’s Dart.

I want to draw attention to one particular element of fantasy that I hitherto had not thought of as fantasy–but should have. This element? The gray. The subtle.

The protagonist girl-child, an “Adept”, is learning the ways of the world from a renegade bachelor prince called Anafiel Delauney. Of this stud she strokes, “I have never known a mind more subtle than that of Anafiel Delauney.”

Right now the American conversation is binary. If you’re Greta, the world is black and white. If you’re Trump, it’s red and blue. There’s capitalist, there’s socialist. There’s rich, there’s not rich. Safe, assaulted. Tolerated…hated? No, that’s not right. Tolerated is squared up against accepted. Yep, that’s the ticket.

Does it have to be this way? Probably. How do I know? Because we fantasize about the gray. We escape to a world where subtle minds are cast as inescapably welcome. Or at least I do.

I Didn’t Care That It Was Raining

This post is singular in its purpose. Yes, I’m still more than a little upset at Greta. And my “more-than-a-little-upset” becomes “furious” when people assert that she isn’t to be criticized because she’s a child. Given the power of social stigmas, I cannot talk about this at work, so I’m back in the Captain’s chair.

Let me repeat: this post is singular in its purpose. My goal is to persuade you–Greta, and you–Greta’s friends, and you–Greta’s parents, and you–Greta’s teachers, and you–Greta’s supporters including you–former President Obama. My goal is to persuade apparently ev-e-ry-one of you that there is another way when it comes to climate change.

Where to begin? Oh, I know. The weather. I’ve recently been elbow deep in meteorology books. I began with the FAA’s Aviation Weather advisory circular. I found a soaring pilot’s weather primer. More FAA publications followed. The USA Today Weather Book made it to my home.

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Eventually I even tracked down a proper Meteorology 101 textbook that universities employ. Finally, I found a rather entertaining book on Cloud Spotting. Oh, and lastly, I picked up a book on Tides. But the book on Cloud Spotting is where I want to start my argument.

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Convention has it that we call clouds by their Latin names. But, I wondered, why did the Latin-speakers use the words they used? What do these Latin names mean?

It turns out that they mean what we mean if we were to just describe the cloud. Without any meteorological training we might see a big puffy cloud and say, “There’s a big puffy cloud.” Well, that’s just what our many cloud-spotting ancestors did in their language. If that big puffy cloud is making rain, then a prefix or suffix meaning “rain” is appended. In other words, “cumulo-nimbus” are just big puffy clouds which are producing rain, whereas “cumulus” are merely big puffy clouds.

Put another way: there is no magic.

Trackin’? First question for you: What is the difference between showers and thundershowers? Ding, ding, ding! You got it! The sound of “thunder” which accompanies the shower.

Next question, new angle: What is the difference between snow-showers and rain-showers? Ding, ding, ding! That’s two in a row! Nice work. The difference is in the type of “precipitation” falling. (BTW, quick note, “meteorology” is so-named because Aristotle and friends called anything falling from the sky “meteors”. Rain. Snow. Rocks from space. You know, all things similar.)

One more softball: What is the difference between an isolated thunderstorm and a super-cell of thunderstorms? Good job. The size and probably the longevity of the storm.

Harder question: What is the difference between the high winds of a thunderstorm, the high winds of a tornado, and the high winds of a hurricane? It’s no trick question. I’m looking for “scale”. These three types of high winds are different in scale. The wind is strong in all three, but the amount of wind and the duration of the wind are the distinguishing characteristics–no different than the falling rain being both the actual and linguistic factor which distinguishes cumulus clouds from cumulonimbus clouds. But this time, it’s a total name change, not just a prefix or suffix.

Current Event question: How long were the Bahamas hit by Hurricane Dorian? Couple of days, right? How long was Hurricane Dorian called Hurricane Dorian? Maybe a couple of weeks?

What’s bigger than a hurricane? That’s a tough question, no? I’m thinking “droughts.” In the past there were “famines” that lasted years. Surely we all know and hear–a totally disproportionate amount of talk–about past “ice ages.” Is that it? Is there anything else that’s bigger than a hurricane in size and duration? Well, there is now. There is something of which I’m aware. It’s called Climate Change.

And I say we call this first one, “Climate Change Greta”, in honor of–well, you know. Climate Change Greta will be a larger scale than Hurricane Dorian, than hurricanes as a category of weather, in fact. (This, just as hurricanes are a larger scale than tornados and tornados are a larger scale than summer breezes).

While Climate Change Greta will affect the same area as an ice age (everywhere), Climate Change Greta’s duration and intensity won’t be scaled quite as grandly as the last ice age, the late Paleozoic.

Climate Change Greta will affect the planet as a whole. But it won’t end life, anymore than the late Paleozoic stopped me from typing this.

Here’s the thing: Anyone who’s stood under a tree, anyone who’s been in a cave, anyone who’s worn a hat, anyone who’s stood in a man-made shelter has had the experience of discovering that rain was falling all around them, after rain had started falling all around them. Every single one of us has said, “Huh. I didn’t know it was raining.”

Not everyone has worked outside, though. But some of us have worked outside. That is, some of us have labored under the sky, in the sky, on the earth, in the earth, on the seas, or in the seas. Often, that work doesn’t stop for rain. I once climbed to the top of our oil rig while it was raining and with lightning nearby–merely to get that stuff that makes your indoor job possible out of the ground. I once raced a thunderstorm–and won–to help just one of you get to a hospital. I once landed in a field which kicked up so much fine dust that after we landed it took minutes for the ground team to be able to see where their ride was so they could get on and we could go home.

And I’m arguing to you that my more adrenaline fueled experiences are no different than how you don’t stop your car and wait for the rain to end before you proceed on your merry way, no different than how you wear a raincoat, no different than how you don’t let your dog have free reign in the house after he’s been doing his business in the rain-soaked backyard until after you dry him off.

In short, then, for the same reason I didn’t care that it was raining, I don’t care about Climate Change Greta. And you shouldn’t either.

I, Foxy-woxy

In my dying breath, that is, if my time with you had been animated with breath of my own and not simply with your imagination, in other words, if I had had a dying breath, then I like to think I would’ve thanked-

What? No! Not the acorn, never! Not that lifeless lump. Why do people always focus on the nut? I’ve always said: The nut is not the meat!

No, no, no. But where was I?

Ah, yes. I remember.

If I could have thanked anyone–call to mind that I am a character of fiction and it is quite impossible for me to offer gratitude in its proper sense–but I’m saying, if I could have, you know, hypothetically, thanked anyone, then I would thank Henny-penny.

She was a rare bird. And without her-

Without her-

Without her-

Well, without her, I guess I just wouldn’t have anyone to thank.

I Accept Greta’s Dare

It isn’t polite to speak aloud what we privately think. So we write.

Greta Thunberg accused, “How dare you!” in her latest tantrum. For what else can her speeches be called? I can think of many places passion is welcome. The bedroom, the sports field, the battlefield, the Russian novel, the frontier, the pulpit, the wave, and the peak–just to name a few.

But the World Stage? Nope. It’s not appropriate. It’s uncivil. It’s disrespectful. It’s childish. Instead, simply deliver your message and sit down. If I adduce that your words have merit, I’ll take my time to consider your opinion. But when you bring passion to scientific discourse it makes me doubt that you have taken the appropriate amount of time to gather the data. Abstract truths are awful boring.

Greta then said, “We will never forgive you.”

Here Greta reveals her only disability. She is nearsighted. Normally this imperfection is not fatal, but considered in the light of that old sinner, Cain, and his near-sightedness, the problem is fatal indeed.

Greta’s disability would be ironic if she spoke only one time and only to her peers in speech class. But she’s on the world stage advocating the most hateful philosophy mankind has yet developed. And to applause. Have we no shame?

One thing Greta said that shows hints of her available redemption is that “humans” may not be able to fix the problem. Amen, Sister. Humans? No. Jesus? The risen lord? Yes. It’s going to be okay, child.

We able-bodied folks need to decide how to handle the Greta’s of the world. I see two ends to the continuum of response. We can debate what “1.5 degrees” means. Or we can win the long game by forgiving each other as Jesus commanded.

What Greta is doing is forgivable. She’s just a child after all. But, like Cain pleading with the LORD after blood-soaked dirt found its voice, she probably won’t feel the need for forgiveness until after blood has been shed. Until then, we wait.

Bible vs. Gun: I Can’t Only Imagine–I Can Do

Recently, United States Senator Ted Cruz answered former-child-actress Alyssa Milano’s pointed question about Biblical support for gun-ownership.

For effect, I’m going to repeat that.

Recently, Unites States Senator Ted Cruz answered former-child-actress Alyssa Milano’s pointed question about Biblical support for gun-ownership.

In a stunning display of unguided scholarship, Ms. Milano subsequently responded to Sen. Cruz’s interpretation in exactly the same tone and with exactly the same level of literacy. (Read their exchange here.)

There, of course, is another way to read the Bible–the right way.

To get to the “right way”, I have a few questions for the reader. First: Can you imagine being someone else? Can you imagine being anyone else? Can you imagine seeing the world through someone else’s eyes? If not, then move along. This post isn’t for you.

If so, however, if you can imagine being some else, then here’s a follow-up: can you imagine being a person who can see the entire time-space universe as it is?

What do you see?

Part of my own imagination was developed while I was working at a factory. The building, like many, was essentially square-shaped. The white collars worked in offices immediately to the left and right of the perimeter hallway. The blue collars worked on the interior.

As a blue collar, I couldn’t help but notice how many office changes occurred. This person moved to that office. That person moved to this office. It was like the white collars thought that if only they sat in a different spot, we blue collars would do our job better–IE show up to work on time, not complain, care etc.

Switching gears, in the case of “guns” in America, I can imagine something similar. I can imagine it. Imagine–mind you. I can imagine being some person who can see everything and, in this role as all-seeing person, I can imagine watching us down here on Earth. We’re slaughtering each other with our own invention. I see that in response to the slaughter, one group (Milano-led) insists that the slaughter will stop when ink is applied to paper (gun-control laws). Then I see that in response to that claim, another group (Cruz-led) insists that it takes more than ink on paper (gun-control laws) to end the slaughter–but then the same Cruz-led group uses other, older ink on paper (the Bible) to defend that they are right.

The problem is not that gun-control laws don’t work. Other countries seem to have great success with them.

The problem is not that the NRA wants the slaughters to continue.

The problem is that no one has any imagination.

I have imagination. And I have more than imagination. I have more than imagination because I have my daughter. And I teach her to have imagination. I teach her that someone like me, someone very much like me, is watching this whole universe unfold. I teach her that for as long as people have lived this person has been watching. And I teach her that this person does not mess around. I teach her that, like me, he disciplines those who disobey. And I teach her that, like me, he rewards those who obey. I teach her that, like my love for her, in both situations he loves us all very much–as evidenced by the discipline and the rewards, as evidenced by the attention itself. I teach her to desire and be grateful for the attention. And I teach her that he did one additional thing to prove his love. I teach her that he became one of us, and that he walked the earth as one of us. And I teach her, that like her veteran dad who risked/s his life for other people, Jesus died for us. I teach her Jesus died for her.

Why do we slaughter? It’s not complicated. But it does take imagination to understand it. We slaughter each other because we don’t forgive each other. Okay? We don’t forgive each other. There, I said it. Happy? And don’t argue with me here. I’m sick of your bullshit denials. It’s because we don’t forgive. You don’t forgive. I don’t forgive.

We hurt, and rather than forgive, we hold tight to the pain. We nurture it. We feed it. We love it. We use it. We allow it to mature. Then, right before the slaughter, if we happen to take a breath, we sometimes have a moment of clarity–a moment that allows us to see that we’re no longer in control. It’s a spiritual moment. And, if we’re blessed, then that’s the moment when we remember words like, “Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. But resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same experiences of suffering are being accomplished by your brethren who are in the world.” And this recollection inspires many folks to stop and reconsider. But that roaring lion does win at times.

To stop the lion, we must teach each other. We must teach each other the truth that has been taught first to the Jews, and then to the Christians. What’s that truth? Well, let me ask you a question. Can you imagine being someone else?

No Tengas Miedo

These mass shootings will forever elicit comment from me. The subsequent reactions and conversations, dangerously foolish, are just too near and dear to my heart, and they are in need of the type of course correction that only a pilot, like me, (hero, really) can offer.

This post will address two ideas that I read and viewed that I believe are pointed enough and popular enough to be worth public comment.

First up: Trevor Noah’s homily about how Neil Degrasse Tyson’s tweet contained things that Americans uniformly are “trying” to prevent, things which Mr. Noah believes are incongruous with mass shootings, as he doesn’t see Americans uniformly “trying” to prevent mass shootings. First question: Mr. Noah, are you going to become one of us or not? More to the point, Mr. Noah, do you see how that question operates? To be clear, at one and the same time it demonstrates that you are not one of us, while it indicates that you are invited. In other words, you’re not helping.

More in response to Mr. Noah’s outsider-yet-insider point: We’re the best. So, no, I won’t be trading that in for whatever you’re selling. It ain’t happening. It’s a non-starter. It’s moot. It’s untenable. No, thank you.

Even more: In a more academic and logical breakdown of Mr. Noah’s assertion, I submit the following. While “we” are trying to end medical mistakes, and trying to end disease, and trying to stop car accidents, we certainly do not try to end these things using the same methods twice. Put another way, past governments and other governments have removed their citizens’ abilities to wage war. This ends badly for civilizations, not just individuals. We’re talking long game, Mr. Noah. (Again, are you with us?) And so the mass shooting problem remains–but not for lack of trying.

Moreover, it strikes me as odd that we’re even in another situation where the government is trying to take weapons from its constituents. Do civil servants really lack all capacity for creativity, or is it just me?

Secondly, I read a piece which was an effort to keep afloat the fact that Latinos are afraid and have a rough time living in America. (The title of my post, btw, according to internet translate help, reads “Do not be afraid.”)

Long story short, I refuse to be afraid. When I become aware that some sensation of fear approaches, I admit it and seek to conquer it as quickly as I can. Need examples? Learned to build a fire. Learned to swim. Learned to sleep outside in any weather. Learned to sleep away from my parents as a kid. Learned to canoe. Learned to sail. Learned to tie knots. Learned to sew. Learned to shoot a gun. Learned to shoot a bow. Learned to sharpen a knife. Learned to read. Learned to write. Learned to dive. Learned to pass tests. Learned to become strong. Learned to play sports. Learned to drive. Learned to fly. Learned to fly at night. Learned to fly in combat. Learned to quit. Learned to not give up. Learned to try again. Learned to trust friends. Learned to swing a sledge hammer. Learned to trip pipe. Learned to untangle a pressure washer hose. Learned to work among low-skilled immigrants. Learned to read Hebrew שָׁלוֹם. And Greek Χριστός ἀνέστη! Learned to hablas espanol poquito. “Es viernes, y el cuerpo lo sabe!” And Amharic አመሰግናለሁ. Learned to serve. Learn(ing)ed meteorology. Learn(ing)ed leadership.

Do you see?

You’ve demonstrated poquito bravery by telling the truth, but overall–and I’m going to be blunt here–it seems like you arrive and then hold still. Porque?

Hmm. No entiendo. Yo aprendería.

No, I Won’t Say “White Nationalist”

In an Atlas Shruggedian sense, I feel like a pernicious line is being drawn in the sand among us folks wearing the white dermy. Whereas the so-called “colored” people of the world can say ‘white nationalist’ with impunity and likely strengthen established bonds, some new evil is slowly surfacing which claims that, as a white man, if I do not label the shooters ‘white nationalists’, then I, myself, am going to be thought of as a ‘white nationalist.’

Well, I won’t do it. I won’t say it. And here’s why.

First, I’m white. This is not wrong.

Second, I was (and in some technical sense somewhere, still am) an officer in the United States Air Force. That means I believe(d) in fighting for the United States of America–even if it meant to my death.

Don’t miss this next point: The United States of America is a *shh* nation. Eek! And this is not wrong, either.

So, no, I won’t be saying that the shooters are ‘white nationalists.’

However, I do want to share my reaction to these attacks.

First, given the manifesto of the El Paso shooter, we all need to renew our commitment to individual integrity. He wrote out–very plainly–why he did it. If we come in, after the fact, and all-Fruedian-like analyze the real reason he did it, we’re lying to ourselves.

Second, it is a lie to suggest that he merely thought there was an invasion or a war. No, this man crossed through the ether and manifested war. If we believe otherwise, we’re fooling ourselves. (Admitting we’re in a war does not mean we’ve lost. Slow down.)

Lastly, and again, we need to stop lying to each other. From the professors down to the pundits. From the top politicians to the teachers. We need to stop lying.

Instead, here’s the truth we need to affirm: America can do no wrong. America has never done wrong. America has no sins. America has no secret sins. America has no need to repent. America has never failed. America cannot fail. America must not fail.

America is not you. America is not me.

Current data suggests that America is the world’s third largest country on the planet as measured by both land and population. This data is wrong. America is bigger.

The shooters (from the first to today) are at war with America. Are you?

I Didn’t Care What A Black Woman Thought of My White Privilege. But I Still Read Her Diary.

The New York Times recently published the diary entry of one Yale Professor Extraordinaire, Dr. Claudia Rankine. The title: “I Wanted to Know What White Men Thought About Their Privilege. So I Asked.”

Read it for yourself (if you’ve enough free articles remaining) here.

Or, if you’re short on time, and, like me, really don’t care what other people of any community think (I mean ‘ambivalence’ in the most noble way, of course), here’s the summary: Through many displays of academic prowess and charming intellectual honesty, Professor Rankine adroitly conveys earnestness. She really is curious. (Mind you, her judgement–and sentence–have already been pronounced.) But she really, really wants to learn. And so, what does she learn? She learns that White Men are aloof about their White Privilege.

Most of you know that I was an officer and pilot in the United States Air Force. As my uncle, himself a retired sailor, opined regarding my desire to join the Air Force as a pilot, “You will walk on water.” He was right. We pilots walked on water. (Incidentally, I’ve been tightening-up my understanding of the sky, and there is one very concrete sense in which we pilots do tread on water.)

That is to say, I believe this Jesus-like trait of mine is evidence that Professor Rankine would happily include me in her research sample.

Why did I read her piece if I really didn’t care what she thought? Well, I like to be a good communicator. I like to make people laugh. I like to be approachable. Mostly, I like to talk.

So I reasoned that maybe there are other “Claudia’s” living in fear of big, bad Pete. Maybe they are snooping around, cowering just out-of-sight. Maybe they are just waiting to pick up some cue that I won’t mind chatting about my not-just-internal narrative of White Privilege. I thought that maybe I could learn that if I wear the right clothing, or have the right glasses, or smile, or don’t smile, or stare, or never make eye-contact, or tap her on the shoulder as I cut in line, or have the right book out, maybe, just maybe, she’ll become courageous and chat me up.

But then, no. That’s not how fear works. Fear breathes; but it inhales only the decayed air of windowless rooms. Fear sees; but it is blinded by light. Fear feeds; but it consumes only lies. Fear is curious; but it never learns.

And so, sad as it may seem, I will be left unmolested. Because I am not afraid. But you, Professor Doctor, are.

(But you shouldn’t be! Just talk to me.)

(But watch out!)


Pilots Die Too

Today I went to the funeral of a man whom I wish I had known.

He appeared to have been perpetually tickled while on this side of terra firma, which is to relate that the images presented on screen and the tales told by friends and family alike were not only composed of smiles, but passed on smiles, promoted smiles, and made me smile.

Up until today my main thought about this pilot pertained to the crash and, “Why’d he die?”

Death, however, is so final that after today’s service my main thought is, “The shining sun sure seems brighter today.” Followed by, “I’d sure love to be able to hug H- right now–with a little extra squeeze to boot. Does she know, really know, that she is loved?”