Old Patriot's Pen

Personal pontifications of an old geezer born 200 years too late.

NOTE The views I express on this site are mine and mine alone. Nothing I say should be construed as being "official" or the views of any group, whether I've been a member of that group or not. The advertisings on this page are from Google, and do not constitute an endorsement on my part.

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Location: Colorado Springs, Colorado, United States

I've been everywhere That was the title of a hit country-and-western song from the late 1950's, originally sung by Hank Snow, and made famous by Johnny Cash. I resemble that! My 26-year career in the Air Force took me to more than sixty nations on five continents - sometimes only for a few minutes, other times for as long as four years at a time. In all that travel, I also managed to find the perfect partner, help rear three children, earn more than 200 hours of college credit, write more than 3000 reports, papers, documents, pamphlets, and even a handful of novels, take about 10,000 photographs, and met a huge crowd of interesting people. I use this weblog and my personal website here to document my life, and discuss my views on subjects I find interesting.

Sunday, May 15, 2005

Worldly Worries

I haven't been posting much lately. One of the reasons for that is that I started working part-time last week. I put in 15 hours over seven days, and it was probably too much. I could have worked 70 hours during that same period if I'd wanted to. My physical problems limited me to the 15 I did work. Me, the guy that worked 12-14 hour shifts back-to-back for weeks at a time, that spent as long as 40 hours at a time in the same building in the 70's, and that worked as many as three different 10-hour shifts in a five-day week. I feel embarrassed because I can't work more, and depressed that such little work left me so exhausted, physically and mentally.

The job's a lot of fun. I sort stamps and put them into lots for a local dealer to post on eBay. I don't do this alone - at least two other people do the same thing, and the boss is looking for more. The goal is 100 lots per day, six days a week, sometimes seven. The only hard part is in deciding what to put together to represent a lot. I get to see a lot of stamps I've never seen before, even though I've been to a half-dozen International-level shows, and seen some of the best museum exhibits available, both in Europe and North America. At the same time, seeing all those GORGEOUS stamps that could very easily find a home in my collection, and have to let them go to others . . . it's hard at times!

There's lots of local news, too, that makes me angry and sad.

The school district my daughter attended is waging an internal war with the school board, and the school board members are fighting among themselves. Like schools everywhere, the local district has many problems that have grown slowly - and been ignored - that now can't be ignored any more. The problems include teachers with agendas, unqualified or poorly-qualified teachers, student gangs, high dropout rates, absolutely NO discipline, drug and alcohol use, incivility, poor performance (on both the teachers' and the students' part), and money, especially money. The fight is of course between the people that want to make changes, and the people that want to retain the status quo. A 30% dropout rate and more than 50 girls having babies a year isn't something I'd want to have enshrined in any school I ran - and yes, that's the record for one of the BETTER schools in the district.

Colorado Springs reached out a hand of friendship to another city in the state, and now has that hand in a cast. I guess friendship isn't what it's chalked up to be, especially between city councils.

There IS good news in Colorado - for the first time in more than five years, the snowpack is "normal" or "above-normal". That doesn't mean things are back to normal, but it does mean that there's going to be enough water in local reservoirs this year to toss a fishhook into, and not fear catching ground squirrels. Of course, after five years of sub-normal water levels, a lot of new residents are going to be surprised at how dangerous Colorado's rivers can be when they're running full!

Colorado Springs will feel the effects from the latest Base Realignment and Closing list, but in a way most cities would be deliriously happy with. Colorado Springs will probably get between 4,000 and 10,000 new troops over the next five years, partly because of realignment of forces within the United States, and partly from the drawdown of overseas forces. The city has lots of experience with dealing with military increases, from the opening of the Air Force Academy to the creation of Space Command to the redeployment of units of the 3rd Armored Calvary Regiment and the 10th Special Forces Group to Fort Carson a few years ago.

I'm sure one base targeted for closure on the BRAC list will have a major impact on the nearby town. Ellsworth AFB, SD, is scheduled to close. That was the last Active Duty military base my wife's father was assigned to before he retired. Rapid City, SD, practically survived the last 40 years because of Ellsworth. I hope the local town planners have at least had an inkling the base would someday close, and developed plans for that contingency. If not, the town could be in serious trouble!

Most people don't have much of a "feel" for a military base closing, although those that live near them learn quickly how much it hurts. The military, however, feels every single one of those cuts, personally. None of the stateside military bases I've been assigned to in my Air Force career were targeted this time. I do know the closing of Lowry AFB, in Denver, and the closing of Fitzsimons Army Medical Center in the suburb city of Aurora, caused a lot of heartache for tens of thousands of military retirees in the Denver area.

There's always a bit of good news in my local newspaper, and today's Gazette has a doozie of an article. The fastest-growing, largest, and most effective club at the private, liberal Colorado College, is the Carnivore Club. The club was begun as a protest to the closing of a campus deli that was replaced by a vegan bar. Since then, it's been up, up, and away. The high point of the club's activities is the annual spring meating (spelling is correct) - a culinary event featuring food, friendship, and good bluegrass music.

I belong to an online alumni group - the former members of the 497th Reconnaissance Technical Group, which spent 50 years in the Wiesbaden suburb of Schierstein, on the Rhine river. Normally there are a half-dozen posts a month, but for the last two months, emails have been numbering in the 60 or 70 range. It's been great hearing from people I was assigned with in the 70's and 80's. We've also had a few people from the early days - all the way back to the first days of the unit at Schierstein Compound in 1952. The unit has a long and lusterous history, much of which is, alas, classified. Let's just say that it - and it's members - played an active and significant role in winning the Cold War. I'm proud to have been a member of such an elite orgainization - three times! The unit's deactivation in 1992 was a shock, but knowing what else happened at that time, not a terribly big surprise.


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