Sunday, January 26, 2014

What are they thinking?

I read an article in "The State" newspaper a few months ago which said the S.C. Department of Transportation planned to cut down all the trees from the median strip along 30 miles of Interstate 26 from I-95 to Summerville, near Charleston.

The reason? There were 1934 crashes along that stretch between 2007 and 2011 which resulted in over 700 injuries and 44 deaths. I had questions so I met with Tony Shepherd, Director of Traffic Engineering at SCDOT.

Shepherd gave me a copy of the report his department put together and he explained that when a vehicle hits a tree there's no "give," as there would be with a cable system which now exists on most highways, I-26 included. I left the meeting seeing his point of view but I still had some questions.

On January 21 a community meeting was held in Summerville to discuss the situation and receive input from residents in the area. I drove there to make my pitch.

Leaving the emotional aspect to others I asked, "of those 44 fatalities, do you know how many were wearing safety belts?" My rationale depended on air bags deploying but if someone inside the vehicle wasn't buckled up they would still be thrown through the windshield which might result in a fatality. I didn't expect an answer because I don't think the question was ever asked.

I then referred to the printed report which showed the primary cause of the crashes being distracted drivers or drivers who fell asleep. My assertion was the DOT could remove all trees from Charleston to Virginia and it wouldn't effect distracted driving or drivers who nodded off. "There's no cause and effect," I said. "People are not falling asleep because of the trees."

If the highway department found out why people were falling asleep on the highway or were being distracted it would solve all the problems. In the court of public opinion and fact, the trees along the highways are innocent.

There IS a problem with our interstates, all of them. President Dwight Eisenhower created the interstate highway system as a matter of national defense. If needed, military materiel had to get from one place to another quickly and the quickest way from point A to point B is a straight line and most of these interstates run straight as an arrow.

Therein lies the problem of distracted driving and drivers falling asleep. The ride on any interstate is boring. There's miles and miles of highway with nothing but billboards to break up the monotony.

A concerted effort needs to be made to make travel safer and it begins with addressing the boredom.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Something's fishy in Washington

I'm getting a little queasy about privacy issues and the government's role in protecting me.

When I receive a privacy notice from the doctor, stock broker, credit card company or the mom & pop on the corner it goes into the same file, file 13, the trash can. There is no privacy today. Too many people know too much about too many and it's not a good thing.

It's not a new problem. I was a working TV reporter when President Gerald Ford came to Columbia in 1976 to dedicate the law school at the University of South Carolina. I asked him then if he could do something to better protect our privacy. He told me he would try when he returned to the White House. Unfortunately, even the leader of the Free World couldn't do anything about it.

Since the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 the government has initiated programs which tend to limit the Bill of Rights and the Constitution.

Recently protesters in Wisconsin were arrested for singing anti-government songs critical of Governor Scott Walker. Most cities have installed cameras at intersections which they claim aids in the capture of criminals. However, it also reminds me of Aldous Huxley's "Brave New World" where "Big Brother" is constantly watching the citizens to ensure peace and tranquility.

We've learned that government is monitoring our phone calls, our social media, our supposedly free press, using domestic drones to spy on citizens and a host of other questionable actions, all in the name of security.

Republican Representative Charles Dent of Pennsylvania and Senator Joseph Lieberman, Independent from Connecticut introduced legislation, the Enemy Expatriation Act, which would allow the government to strip any American of their citizenship if they engage or support hostilities against the United States. The definition of "hostilities" was ill-defined and enforcement of the law would not have to go through the courts to ensure the right person was targeted. The bill died the day it was born, October 12, 2011 and referred to committee.

Herman Goering, Commander of the Nazi Luftwaffe summed it up best. He said, "Voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same in any country."

There are those who are willing to give up some rights to ensure their safety. I'm not one of them. I've read "Brave New World" and I don't want to live in that kind of world. One of our founding fathers felt the same way.

Benjamin Franklin said, "They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserves neither liberty nor safety."

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Missed posts

Somewhere down the line a glitch happened and a lot of these posts from 2010 and 2011 were placed in the "draft" file where they didn't get published. I've taken them out of the "draft" file and re-published them. So, now everything should be back to normal, whatever that means, and you can now read all the gibberish and ramblings for the past two years. Enjoy...or not.

Potter and Percy

Originally posted July 17, 2011

I saw "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part II" this morning and while I know it received five stars and great reviews I'm not ready to say I liked it.

That's not unusual. Some of these films I've had to see a number of times to really appreciate them. "Hallows, Part I" I saw last night to bring myself up to date and I realize it was a really s l o w film.

I've enjoyed both the books and the movies and most of the films were great, it's just taken me a little longer to appreciate them.

Now that the franchise is over I'd like to see the Rick Riordon books come to the screen. Only one was made, "Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief." It's time to make the rest of them. Hey, Rick, Logan Lerman, are you listening?

To the Moon and Back

Originally posted July 9, 2011

"Atlantis" blasted into the sky from Cape Canaveral on the final flight of the space shuttle program. How sad!

I remember President John Kennedy appearing on national television challenging us to go to the moon.

October 12, 1957. The United States was stunned to learn the Soviet Union, our adversaries in what presidential advisor Bernard Baruch of S. C. called "the cold war," had sent a small satellite into Earth orbit. The constant beeping of "Sputnick" from outer space sent a chilling reminder to President Kennedy and others that the Russians had a viable program underway to explore space.

To add to America's woes, the Soviets put a man into space, Yuri Gagarin, on April 12, 1961.

A few weeks later, the 35th president challenged the nation to, "Commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to Earth."

Eight years, 1 month and 26 days later, Neil Armstrong put his bootprints in the surface dust of the moon.

Now, after 50 years of dominance in space, the United States is abandoning its preeminence and leaving future challenges to the very nation President Kennedy exhorted us to defeat, Russia.

Other nations have also sent satellites into space but America was the pioneer, the country with the resources to succeed.

What is the future mission of NASA, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration? Many former astronauts want to go to Mars. Others want to return to the moon. On what spacecraft? Under whose national flag?

When Atlantis lands for the final time any further space flight will originate from the Baikonur Cosmodrome. Russian spacecraft will be supplying and servicing the International Space Station. How sad.

The Mercury Program featured seven astronauts, former test pilots and other heroes with "the right stuff," who rode a rocket into the air housed in a container with enough room for only one person. I remember seeing Alan Shepard ride "Friendship 7" on a suborbital flight, our first man in space. Then John Glenn taking a ride in orbit around the Earth in Friendship 7.

I remember Donald "Deke" Slayton, Gus Grissom, Scott Carpenter, Gordon Cooper Jr., Wally Schirra Jr., Shepard and Glenn.

Then came the Gemini Program. Two men at a time leaving Earth's gravity. It took a different space capsule and a different rocket to get them into space. More American ingenuity. More American genius.

Then the crowning achievement. The Apollo Program. Three men riding a flaming cylinder into history. The tragedy of Apollo One. The beauty of an Earthrise on Christmas Eve from Apollo 8. The triumph of Apollo 11. The anxiety of Apollo 13. The last Apollo mission, Apollo 17.

The Mutual Broadcasting System was the pool feed for all radio networks. Every network: NBC, CBS, ABC and independents, were fed the reports of the spacecraft recoveries from one reporter on board an aircraft carrier. I remember, as an audio engineer, looking through the glass into the studio where Mutual's chief engineer was coordinating everything with the satellite, land lines and member networks. We watched it all on television and it was the most exciting thing we ever witnessed, and it never grew old.

The shuttle missions became so routine we rarely noticed them unless something went horribly wrong. We lost more than a few heroes during our age of space exploration. They knew the risks and all of them looked to the heavens with anticipation and excitement because they, astronauts or civilians, saw the importance of taking that leap forward, of going where no man, or woman, has gone before.

But now it's over! Will we ever return to space? Will "Captain Midnight," "Buck Rogers," "Lost in Space," "Star Trek," "Star Wars" and the rest of that genre be the only way we leave our atmosphere?

On September 12, 1962, President Kennedy said, "We choose to go to the moon in this decade...because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills...."

Have we, like turtles, tucked our heads and hands into our shells and shut out the drive, innovation, curiosity and sense of pride which took us to the moon?

Congress can find money to fund bridges to nowhere, unnecessary highways, studies in stupidity and earmarks galore but they can't find the funds necessary to send men and women with vision and daring to places we only dream about.

How sad!

A New Direction

Originally posted June 21, 2011

After looking for work and finding none (see the previous blog) I've been substitute teaching. It's the most rewarding job I've ever had.

I've been subbing in a South Carolina school district teaching classes from kindergarten through high school. They all have one thing in common: the kids can't stop talking!

I'm not one of those subs who sits behind a desk reading the newspaper while the kids take over the classroom. I'm constantly walking the room making sure everyone is doing what the absent teacher has told me (s)he wants done. There are times when the teacher leaves a broad lesson plan or one that is supposed to last the entire class period but doesn't. That's when I get a chance to teach...with a capital "T."

I've taught Government, Investing, English, Social Studies, Math, Art, Science, English as a Second Language and Physical Education. I've taught special ed kids and Autistic children and I can't get enough.

I was subbing for a teacher who knew she was going to be absent for a few days and she asked me if I wanted to teach anything in particular. I gave her my lesson plans. The following Monday we discussed Americas wars from the Revolution through the Gulf War. What surprised and thrilled me most was many of the answers to my questions were coming from one of the kids who was the classic goof-off, the one who disrupted every class he was in.

The following day I taught the history of music from Beethoven through Run DMC. I asked the kids to write down whether they liked the type of music they were listening to or not, and why. Thanks to "You Tube" they heard Beethoven's Fifth Symphony, the Big Band sounds, Blues, Jazz, Country and finally Hip Hop. I'm sure some of them had never heard some of these genres.

Some of the kids have asked me how I know all this stuff. The answer is simple. Experience and I read everything.

Subbing has also brought back some of the stuff I learned in high school, especially math. It's nice to know I still remember.

One might not be able to teach an old dog new tricks, but it's nice to know this old dog still has a trick or two up his sleeve and can teach tomorrow's leaders.

Hey, I need a job!

Originally posted June 21, 2011

I closed the family clothing store in July 2010 and, since I have experience in a number of fields, I thought getting a new job wouldn't be too difficult. How naive!

After exhausting all my personal contact resources I started searching the internet, which seems to be the preferred way to advertise and apply for a job these days.

After applying for over 100 jobs in radio or television (in front of the camera / microphone or behind it), public relations, media relations, executive director, marketing, public information, writer, manager, assistant manager, communications coordinator, sales and media buyer, I haven't had the first interview.

After almost 10 months looking for work I figured out age descrimination may be blocking my chances of ever having a job again. So I revised my resume. I removed all dates and all historical references. Unfortunately, most applications ask for dates of employment, which, in a word means "you're screwed!"

It's a damn shame that company's even care about your age when you're the most qualified candidate for the job. I guess they think you'll only stick around for a few years or perhaps die on the job. The flaw in that reasoning is because of the recession and the high unemployment rate in the country and especially in South Carolina, people who were retired are returning to work out of necessity. Those who had jobs and aren't ready to retire, whatever that means, find themselves having to work to put food on the table. Of course, there are many who just like to work, to have something to do each day, to have a reason to get up in the morning, to be productive.

I hope something positive happens soon and I land a job. If not, Spiderman and I will have something in common...we'll both be climbing walls.