Friday, April 27, 2018

A to XYZ

Have you ever watched a child learning and reciting their ABC's?  They start out a bit slow and hesitant. In the middle, they gain confidence and hit a certain cadence. Then at the end, they rush the XYZ all together as they laugh and clap that they managed to finish.

That perfectly describes me in this year's A-Z Challenge.

And, I am going to rush the XYZ ending all in one breath, er, post, and laugh and clap that I finished it. Albeit, by cheating and ending early.

I actually had some ideas for X and for Y and for Z, but they weren't great and I didn't want to bore you. Or at least, I didn't want to bore you any more than I have with the other 23 letter posts thus far.

What were my XYZ ideas?

X could have stood for eXchange.  Like in the Toastmasters SEX Teams.  One club sends a Speaker and an Evaluator to another club as an eXchange.  Fun acronym guaranteed to have people read an article in a newsletter if you use it in the title.

Y could have stood for Yesterday. One of my profound observations has been that "Today becomes Yesterday Tomorrow".

Z could have stood for Zonk. As in, D.C. is Zonked Out!  Bet you are too. So enjoy your long weekend without hunting for my posts.

Many thanks to those who followed my A-Z Challenge odyssey and  left comments or clicked Like on the Facebook blurbs. This two-legged jackass appreciates it.  (See J is for Jackass)

Thursday, April 26, 2018

W is for Why?

It only has three letters, but "why" carries a lot of weight.

Is there anyone who hasn't at one time or other looked up in the sky and uttered, "Why me, Lord?"

Only to hear a booming voice say, "Why not you?"

Going back in time to when my kids were toddlers, I often lamented ever teaching them to say "why".

You know the drill...

"Why can't I go outside to play?"

"Because it is raining, dear."

"Why is it raining?"

"Because there are dark clouds outside."

"Why are there dark clouds outside?"

"Because there is a storm."

"Why is there a storm?"

"A cold front is coming through."

"Why can't I go outside?"


Why do I suspect that I'm not the only one to get tied up in "why knots" with youngsters?

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

V is for Valentine's Gifts

What do you give as a Valentine's gift when you are poor?

My birthday is in mid November.  I just counted months backwards from that.

1 - 2 - 3 - 4 - 5 - 6 - 7 - 8 - 9

Gosh, now I know what my dad gave my mom for Valentine's Day in 1939!


Tuesday, April 24, 2018

U is for Uninhibited

I guess one way to describe my over zealous sense of humor is as "uninhibited."

I try to not hurt anyone's feelings with it. Honest, I try. But I love to make other people laugh. If I were a betting man, I'd bet that the picture above brought at least a smile to your face.

In yesterday's blog on Toastmasters, I mentioned I learned many things. While I am quick with a quip, I had a hard time putting planned humor into my presentations. It took a lot of practice. Two things in particular helped:

*Know your audience. I made it a point to mingle and chat with my audience before my speech. What will work with some, will not work with others. Personally, I found interacting with a mostly female audience difficult. They have a different funny bone from me. After mingling and after an welcoming speech by another male, I completely scrapped my keynote to an all-female audience and ad libbed my keynote. The previous male speaker had told two blue jokes and the temperature in the room had dropped 20 degrees. I would have been crucified if I had stuck to my planned speech. Instead, I let them know I felt their pain and managed to work in some remarks from their president in their program.

*When in doubt, throw it out. If you personally don't feel comfortable with the humor, don't use it. My boss once put a humor slide into my bar code presentation. The males in the audience laughed; the females torched me in their critiques. It was only used in one presentation.

I am a little boy at heart. Thus, I still like junior high bathroom jokes. I probably type "pee" in more Facebook comments than anyone else.

I delight in texting on my cell phone to family and close friends. The best response I can possibly get is "LOL" or "ROFLOL" or "LMAO". Bingo! DC has struck again.

I've tried to keep this year's A-Z Challenge blogs a bit more serious. But, only a "bit."  Serious isn't really in DC's nature. So go ahead and look at that picture above again and let the smile become a chuckle and then progress into hearty laughter.  Get uninhibited! I dare you!

Monday, April 23, 2018

T is for Toastmasters

Are you nervous and afraid to make a presentation at school, work, church or some organization you belong to? Do you just wing it and hope that you get your message across and will live to tell the tale?  You're not alone.

Public speaking is one of the most frequent fears.

There is an organization with a local club that will welcome you and help you. It is called Toastmasters.

Best of all it is inexpensive and fun!

I was a Toastmaster for a number of years. I would still be a member today if not for my hearing getting so bad that I can't participate.

Toastmasters is a communication and leadership organization. Everyone joins to improve their communication skills and then find out that their leadership skills also benefit.

The clubs offer you a chance to speak and be evaluated by your peers in a non-threatening environment. You will quickly learn to discard those annoying filler ah's, um's, you know's and dude's when you speak. (Most charge you a nickle every time you utter one in a meeting — luckily for me, my club had a quarter maximum fine.)

I joined, got my info packet and soon gave my first speech at the club. Not very much later, I was recruited as an officer.  I volunteered to write a weekly newsletter. I progressed.

In due course, I completed enough speeches and leadership positions to earn my Distinguished Toastmaster award. The DTM is the highest award available.  I won several state level newsletter competitions and won two International newsletter awards. In 1985, I was named Toastmaster of the Year for District 47, out of the 3,000+ Toastmasters in Florida and the Bahamas.

Toastmasters gave me the confidence to give presentations at technical conferences across the U.S., give keynote speeches to statewide conventions, speak on the rubber-chicken circuit in my community and give seminars for my company's HR department.  All this, despite the fact that I am an introvert supreme.

At one time, I got my boss involved with Toastmasters. One day, he gave a speech on our company's promotion procedure. The example he showed on the overhead projector was my promotion package. What a pleasant surprise. My work with HR and my speaking gigs at conferences was heavily noted in the packinge. In 50 years of working that is the only title promotion I ever received.

I have seen so many success stories among my Toastmaster buddies. I hope you will investigate Toastmasters and will share your success story with me. Peruse their website and find a club near you.

Saturday, April 21, 2018

S is for Space and Satellites

Most of my blog readers know that I spent a 45 year career in the computer business. Many do not know that I had five years as an electronic technician before my entry into computers.

After high school I graduated from an electronics technical school. They somehow awarded an AA degree despite it being only 18 months long. In reality, it was a glorified radio and TV repair school, although I did get a good basics in vacuum tube circuit design. I studied on my own and passed the FCC First Class Radiophone license before I graduated.

In 1960, I joined Electro-Mechanical Research (EMR) in Sarasota, Florida. One of the first projects that I worked on was the solid state data transmission system for Explorer 12 — the S-3 Energetic Particles Satellite. EMR was noted for their mechanical commutators and this was their first semiconductor version.

We also did the integration of the complete satellite with a lot of testing at Goddard Space Center in the Washington, D.C. area. Yes, that picture above is the satellite. Things were a lot less strict in those days. I actually carried the flight solar panels around in my 1960 English Ford Anglia some times. After launch from KSC in 1961, I went back to D.C. and helped set up a satellite integration lab for the company.

When I returned to Sarasota, I worked on the Data Transmission System for the Gemini manned spacecraft.  That included environmental testing at Bell Aerospace in Buffalo, NY. One of the tests was a salt water immersion test. We joked that because the box would be under the astronaut's seat, it had to pass the test in case they peed on it.

In the late 1970s, I worked for two years in the Space Shuttle Firing Rooms at Kennedy Space Center. Although I left KSC before the first launch, it was a tough job. I was a Senior Software Engineer in a group that mainly poured over memory dumps finding problems, then getting the appropriate subcontractors to fix them. We supported not only of the systems in the firing rooms, but also the computers onboard the Shuttle and Mobile Launcher. I still have my white hard hat with the Shuttle decal on the front from the times that I had to go inside the Mobile Launching Platform.

One of the fun things we were able to do at KSC was to go up on the roof of the Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB). It is that super tall, 35-story building that you see from far away at KSC. The view from up there is amazing. To get there, we took the elevator to the top floor. Walked up some stairs and then across a wire-caged walkway across the high bay to the final stairs. Lots of people panicked on the walkway as it swayed and you had 35 stories of empty space beneath you.

Finally, in the early 1990s, I worked on a spy satellite program at Harris in Melbourne. We had to put "sunglasses" on the satellite. The Russians were using our spy satellites for target practice with their lasers. The bright light would cause the electronics to burp and blinded the satellites for a while. Hence, sunglasses so it could still function while being a target of the laser beams.

Lots of people think that I am a bit spacey. Now you know why.

Friday, April 20, 2018

R is for Races

"Off to the races," has been my frequent response over the years.

In the early 1960s, I lived and worked in the Sarasota/Bradenton area.  I was a co-owner of a late model stock car for one season. We raced at local tracks in Bradenton, St. Petersburg and Tampa. Lots of fun, but, oh, what a money sink that was! You can do nothing but cry when a car that is being lapped crashes your car into the wall 50 feet from the finish line. (Yes, we were leading at the time.)

I also went to the Sarasota greyhound dog track almost every night for a year. My budget for gambling was a paltry $20 per week.  Since I came to know all of the dogs running, I actually made a little money over the course of the season.

As a kid, I loved to watch harness racing at the county fairs. In the mid 1960s, I was based in West Palm Beach for a year and a lot of my coworkers were pilots. I often went along for the rides. I remember watching the harness races in Pompano Beach at night from 3,000 feet while flying with a buddy.

We also flew over to the the 24 hour Sebring race in a Cessna 182. Took our boss along and scared him to death. We arrived and got into the pattern with lear jets and twins. I must admit that I don't like seeing lots of aircraft around me either. Especially when they are bigger than me!

I have owned and shown horses, but I don't really like horse races. They just take too much time between races for me.  Couple that with the fact that I never seem to win. I know horses well, but I cannot pick a horse race to save my life.

I can't let this discussion of races go without telling about another kind of race.

In the early 1970s, I lived in a redneck trailer park in Manassas, Virginia while working for Univac in Washington, D.C.  It was the only park we could find that allowed us to keep our collie dog. I used to invite a coworker out to our mobile home frequently. I would always be out front to greet him when he arrived. Why? I enjoyed the hell out of seeing my redneck neighbors peeking out from behind their curtains with their mouths open at a black man getting out of his automobile in that trailer park.