Monthly Archives: November 2012

Lesson #547 I Have Learned Since Becoming A Father at 47


Toys are an occupational hazard of being a dad. From stepping on small cars in the middle of the night, to tripping over the riding toy, falling into the rocking chair and then onto the train track and trains, in the process receiving a massive abrasion to the left leg and spraining the right wrist, toys are one of the joys of being a dad. Truth is that some of these toys are stuff that I wish that I could play with and not look weird, because frankly, they are pretty cool little toys.

I try to keep them pretty low on the price scale. To a two year old what does it matter if a toy truck costs $20 or $2? And he has a blast playing with all his cars and trains and balls and he loves his books.

Then came the morning he found the leaf. Just an old dried up dead leaf that blew in the front door when we were trying to get inside on a cold November morning. Ben picked it up, with excitement and thrill. He threw it into the air and then blew towards it. When it landed, he handed it to Cami and said, “Mommy, throw the leaf!”

For the next few minutes the three of us took turns blowing the leaf up in the air and watching it fall back down, twisting and turning in convoluted and amazing patterns. Ben laughed and smiled and each time it landed he handed it back to me and said, “Do it again, daddy.”

So what makes a good toy? Cost? Colours? Size? Complexity? Or something much simpler?

For the better part of half and hour Ben was completely entertained and enthralled by a leaf.

And so was I.


Making Playgrounds Safe From the Communists

I read a report this morning that Playgrounds are now too safe for children.

I cannot tell you how many times I personally, on the air, have complained about how easy kids have it today. You know the drill – “When I was kid we didn’t have seat belts, or cable TV, or knee pads. We had these things called “Jungle Gyms” that were above concrete,” and so on until I start sounding a little bit like my Grandparents when they would go on about life during the Great Depression and how easy we kids in the late 60’s and early 70’s had it in life.

And here’s the thing, I was right (for the record, so were my Grandparents). Kids today do have it easy, but wasn’t that they whole reason that my Grandfather went off to war against the Nazi’s? Wasn’t the the whole reason that I went off to defeat the evil Communists? To make a better world so that our progeny could have it better – and easier – than we did? Why did we invent all kinds of technological progress, if not to make things easier for them?

Didn’t one of of Nations’ founders say (paraphrase), that if there were to be struggles and difficulty, let it be during his lifetime so that his children might live in peace?

Through the years, playgrounds – once a source of the occasional broken arm and some bruises and an occasional chipped tooth – have undergone a transformation to the point where the ground underneath them resembles a sponge more than actual ground.

I was in Bakersfield a few weeks back and we had some spare time so we took Ben to the local park. There he ran around, and climbed all over the local play structure, scaring the living daylights out of me. He is so small, and this thing is so big. There are holes in the sides where he can poke his whole body through, hanging on to the edge and laughing as I panic and run towards him to catch him if he should fall through, only to duck back in and run to the other end. There are huge rocks, giant tires miles in the air, with death defying plunges into the ground below.

Down the slide

There were slides that he was afraid of at first, then Cami started riding down them with him. He decided that they weren’t so bad and starting down them by himself.  Laughing and smiling his hair rising from the static electricity that never was an issue on the old hot metal slides of my youth, down he would go, only to run back up the ladders and climbing (simulated) rocks, to go down again and again.

I started to relax a bit, and of course, that’s when the menacing music in the music score of my life should have started. I began to look away, taking in the beauty and activity around us, even as Ben was going up and down. The moment came when my looks away timed up with his descent on the slide, and I missed him at the bottom.

There was a sound like, “thud” and a cloud of dust rose from where he was now sitting in his behind with a surprised look on his face. You can tell me all you want that Playgrounds are “too safe” for kids, but in that moment I would argue that they aren’t nearly safe enough.

He laughed, got up and ran back to the ladder yelling,” Do it again, daddy!”

Of course, when I was younger, we kids were tougher and more resilient, and of course we used to play with firecrackers and play full-contact tag on our bikes and so on and so on. Of course today’s playgrounds would bore us to death and be far to “safe” for us, but there’s no way that they are safe enough – or ever will be safe enough.

Not for my son. 

A Leap of faith

The Battle of Diaper Change Springs

I had to yell at my son this morning.

He had a (very) dirty diaper and for some reason, even though he is in potty training and usually demands that his diaper get changed on his own, this time he decided that he just wasn’t going to have any of that and was going out of his way to actively prevent the diaper from being changed. (by the by, the kid is very fastidious, he demands to eat with a napkin and loves to wash his hands every chance he gets). He screamed and cried and mostly tried to run away and when finally grabbed for the actual changing, continued to twist away and not in any way hold still.

Needless to say the diaper HAD to be changed. If I could have waited I would have, but the crap (ahem) that happens when a dirty diaper stays on him too long is worse, so it had to be done. But damn, he was not happy about it and seemed determined to stop me. I was equally determined to get him changed and now the battle of wills and strength began in earnest.

Which is ToTaLly weird because it seems like just yesterday that I would have done anything, would have used any excuse I could come up with, to get out of changing any diaper.

As the battle raged, I managed to get his pants off of him, then released the velcro-esque side of the pull-up’s he twisted to my left and, well, lets just say the contents spilled out. Instead of power puking, which would have been my reaction just a few short months ago, I yelled at him to be still.

Not just yelled, I used my Navy trained “Command Presence,” which is a tone and voice designed and trained to immediately command respect and obedience. It has never failed to gain the desired result, which is why I go to it when I feel like the situation is almost but not quite out of control but is in danger of spinning away.

For a moment, he looked at me. Then he laughed.

But he did stay still.

I cleaned up him and the mess, got him into his clean pull ups and his pants back on. I felt bad for yelling at him; a little peeved that he had laughed at me; and more than a bit frustrated with myself for letting a two year old get me spun up. I took the residue outside and came back to find him standing there with his arms out. He ran over and gave me a hug, and said “I love you, Daddy.”

I’m not sure who has grown up more in the past two years, him or me. But I kind of wish that he could stay two years old and I could stay forty-nine years old forever…


A to Z, Going to Sea…

I was talking to a fellow submariner on Friday who went to sea in the 2000’s, after iPods, laptops, smart phones, Blu-Ray and external hard drives had become common place technology.

What a way to go to sea!

Back in my day, aboard USS Michigan SSBN-727(G) (as she was then), Sony had just invented the Walkman. CD players were still a couple of years away, in fact my roommate Sean T. Bagby, Esq, would purchase one of the first I ever saw and play the Dire Straights album, “Brothers in Arms” about (by my count), 1,745,823 times thus making it (a) the most listened to album in my personal history and (b) the most hated album of reasonably decent music in my personal history.

But at least I had a Walkman, and with the available personal space aboard the boat, I managed to bring exactly six cassette tapes with me on my first patrol.

Over the course of two and a half months, I remembered the first line to every song I had every heard in my life. But I had six cassette tapes. Two Neil Diamond, one Beatles, one Chuck Mangione, one Al Stewart, and one of John Phillips Sousa marches.

We didn’t have a VHS machine on that first patrol (#3), but we sort of had some Betamax machines and the old 16mm Movie projector, but since I was an unqualified nub at that point, viewing of movies and/or TV shows was something I dared not do anyway. I did get to watch one movie, my Sea Daddy, Mitch Ycaza, made me sit down one night and watch one, but all in all, that wasn’t going to happen before finishing quals in November of 1984 (coincidently the day before I rammed my right knee into the MC2L hatch and started my long odyssey of knee issues.

Anyway, I once took my Radio Shack Color Computer 2 with me on patrol. The one that I threw an absolute diva fit in the store about because I wanted the 48K machine and they only had the 64K machine – which cost more – and they were ripping me off because nobody could ever use 64K of memory. For gods sake we went to the moon on 33K of hard wired drum memory, why was Tandy ripping me off and forcing me to buy more machine than I could ever use?

I took it on patrol and played NFL Strategy on it.

One patrol, I think it was #7, I read the entire Encyclopedia. I was not quite bored, but not being pushed to become a E-6 yet, so I decided one day to just start at A and go all the way to Z. I blame my insane internal trivia buffer on that episode.

By Patrol #9 the MWR (Morale, Welfare and Recreation Committee) had purchased an actual VHS machine (roughly $500) and people brought tapes. To preserve the ideals with which you might imagine submarine life I will simply say that many people brought tapes for enjoyment and pleasure and leave it at that.

I did get to watch Star Trek III on a VHS though, along with Game 6 of the 1986 World Series and the 1986 Orange Bowl.

Anyway, going to sea on a boat today must be a heck of a lot different, at least from an entertainment standpoint. It’s hard for me to imagine that with all the stuff available today anybody would ever even get out of a rack for anything other than watch or meals. Think about it, with an internal wireless network you could even Facebook (or something similar) on the boat and never need to talk to anybody ever. All the reports could be online. Movies can be shared and streamed. And in the space of just a couple of cassette tapes, I could have fit every song I’d ever heard or imagined, for play whenever I wanted.

The technology alone makes me want to go back to sea.

I miss those days. Not in a nostalgic, rose colored glasses looking behind me as I get old way. I really do miss them. When I consider what we accomplished it makes me very proud.

Oh, it makes me think about how cushy these guys have it today… “You know… back in my day on USS UsedToFish, we didn’t have them fancy computers and blu-rays and tablets. we had to actually write logs and get our “entertainment” from these things called “paperbacks” and magazines! Not like you kids today!

And in twenty years, today’s kids will be saying the same thing… but I’ll bet you they still won’t have read an entire encyclopedia.

FTB2(SS) Bowman

James K. Polk, 11th President & Napoleon of the Stump

The other day on the show we were having a discussion of “Best & Worst” Presidents and I mentioned that I was leaning towards James K. Polk as my choice for “worst.” I pontificated that his failure to act during the Secession Crises of 1859 and 60 led to the Civil War and the deaths of hundreds of thousands.

And, of course, as I am certain that you already know, I meant James Buchannan.

But I kept on saying “James K. Polk,” over and again, because that’s what happens when you talk for a living and get a word or phrase stuck in your hippocampus. It becomes a word “crutch” and gets used until people want to bitchslap you if you say it again. Even to the point where I want to bitchslap myself if I do it again.

And, again, just for the record, I meant “James Buchannan,” not “James K. Polk.” (Neither of whom, sadly, have appeared in or been referenced to in an episode of Star Trek)

Also, I meant North Vietnam, not North Korea.

And Also I know that 50% of 26 is 18. I forgot to subtract the 23% for under 18.

Lastly I know that 18 is actually 50% of 36, not 26.



<–I Meant This Guy, Not That Guy –>

James K. Polk – The Napoleon of the Stump!


I realize that I tend to run behind the times, but I had never seen the movie “Cars” until last night. I hadn’t bothered because there was really no reason for me to see it, but now that I have a 2+ year old little boy in my life who loves Mater and racecars, it seemed like the time to finally sit down with him and watch it.

After a quasi-depressing election evening (I turned it off at 6:36pm Pacific) I left for home and we loaded it into the DVD player and sat together on the couch (which he almost never does) to watch. From the get go he was captivated, and here’s the really weird thing, so was I.

For one hundred and sixteen minutes I was able to clear my brain of the election, the politics, the frustrations of work and finances and even my health and just get lost in a story that – for once – was only quasi-predictable and yet amazingly enjoyable. Ben was a little boy, jumping up and down during the exciting parts, playing with his own little cars during the love scenes and slower parts, but he stuck with it all the way to the end.

When it was done, he climbed up in my lap and said, “Again, Daddy!”

There’s more to racing, than just winning…

Election Day

At long last the day has arrived and America makes it’s choices. Some might feel relief about it, I am not one of them, but at the same time I know that the one season that NEVER ends in America is the Political Season.

Starting tomorrow about half the country will be angry and/or depressed while the other half will talk about mandates and looking ahead to a brighter day. Then the speculation will begin and within a year, we’ll be talking hot and heavy about the 2016 election. And I am okay with that.

Go Vote.

So let’s talk about the “My vote is wasted” nonsense. Frankly I cannot believe that I have to explain this, but ANYBODY who claims that their vote is “wasted” is being foolish. No vote is ever wasted (okay, no vote on an actual candidate anyway, although even a vote for Mickey Mouse is a protest vote). Your vote might go for a losing cause or candidate, but it is NOT wasted. I am so tired of people who whine about losing. I’ll tell you something that I learned in my days as a head football coach – if you’re losing, and particularly if you know in advance you’re going to lose, you are doing it wrong. Change what you are doing. Plan to win. It’s okay to plan long term, learn to be competitive, try new things and tactics. But if you are planning to lose, you’re doing it wrong.

Not to mention this little important factoid – the entire reason that our system of electing a President exists in the first place is to allow and ENCOURAGE you to vote your conscience even if your candidate is a small time 3rd Party wing nut with no real chance of victory. In other words, whether you like it or not, a whole lot of Americans fought, bled, sweated and even died to give you this system so that you could make your voice HEARD even if you don’t prevail. It was never meant for every voice to prevail. It WAS meant for every voice to be heard. When you don’t vote because you decided it doesn’t count, you don’t get heard. You fail in the very purpose of the election.

When you whine “My vote doesn’t count,” you are spitting on the graves and work of those who did that for you.

Lastly then, if you don’t like the Electoral College system, then it’s a VERY simple process to change it. In fact, it’s only ninety words long (compare THAT to Obamacare (He loves that name!) or the tax code). Get Congress to pass the Amendment, the President to sign it and three-quarters of the States to ratify it. Presto, you’ve got pure democracy.

Of course, you might want to study your Vulcan philosophy again.

“After a time, you may find that having is not so pleasurable a thing after all as wanting. It is not logical, but it is often true.”

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