Saturday, December 03, 2011

Christmas Blog 2011

Christmas decoration
It has been a rollercoaster of “weather events” this year: our first northeast hurricane in many years, the Boxing Day Blizzard, the April Fools’ snowstorm, the Halloween snowstorm, the Thanksgiving snowstorm, and even an earthquake. Following the Halloween storm, the temps shot back up and I got to play one more round of golf with and among some piles of the white stuff. One more of the many interesting “hazards” my ball seemed to find this year.

Facebook and the web continue to provide some interesting connections with things and people from the past. Digging through elementary school memorabilia has been “interesting.” It is fascinating to see what our in common Catholic School educational experience has wrought.

This has been a year which brought more in the way of family reunions: a wonderful wedding in Vermont (which occurred in synch with that April snowstorm), and a wild birthday/anniversary party in Connecticut that reconnected distant cousins. This was a year for some family becoming first-time grandparents as more of the younger relatives acquired new additions to their families. I even attended my first Mets game in 40 years. This was in honor of sister Sigrid’s 60th b-day; and the Mets won.

The year 2011 also included loss and hardship. My prayers are with those in need and those closest to the departed, may they live with only cherished memories.

I continue to be gainfully self-employed ( but understand more and more what that healthcare insurance thing is all about. Again, it’s been an okay business year; “could have been better.” Need a web presence? – give me a shout

Finally, the container garden on my porch produced mixed results this summer. The green peppers and the basil were rather blah, but the tomatoes were grand. We are trying to grow indoor basil this winter; we’ll see.

I close by wishing you the Merriest of Christmases and Happiest of New Year’s. May you and yours be filled with the Spirit of the Season!


Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Occupy iTunes

Pix from itunes
I made a quick perusal of the "holiday" apps available in the Apple iTunes App Store today. Over the past few years I have downloaded a few of the free holiday apps to amuse my family on the holidays. My sister got a particular kick out of one that made my iPod sound like jingle bells when I shook it.

I am always interested in the free apps since most of the ones I have accumulated over the past few years remain unused on my various i-devices.

So what to my wondering eyes should appear, but a list of 50 apps listed under "holidays" with only eleven of which were free. Most of the free ones were pretty simple but one of them just seems so wrong. You be the judge - here's the description:

Welcome to Millionaire City, where you can become a powerhouse CEO and watch the money roll in all from the convenience of your iPad.

Build your monopoly from the ground up by creating luxurious houses, crowded commercial skyscrapers, gorgeous decorations and unique world wonders. Use Facebook Connect to start playing with ease. The more friends you have playing the more money you will get! Make smart investments, take risks, care for your properties, and watch your company grow!

  • Earn your riches as you build your company from the ground up as the CEO
  • Purchase property, build houses, and sign contracts to help your company grow
  • Complete missions to earn more and get hours of entertainment
  • Discover a wide range of luxurious items in the marketplace
  • Fun and easy iPad controls
  • Count your money as you listen to golden music

Here is the link if you absolutely need to have this app!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Happy Turkey Day

Woke up to the sounds of plows and snow-blowers. Looks to be about a foot in Augusta. Ho, ho, gobble, gobble....


Thursday, October 27, 2011


Republican presidential candidate Herman Cain's sudden rise in the polls has been rather fascinating. But I finally figured out why he's so hot.

You know how the Republicans are always talking about being "fiscally conservative" - you know, that code phrase for being cheapskates? Well, I'm guessing that the Republicans figure that they can save a lot of money on campaign advertising by being creative.

And whoever said the Republicans were not into recycling...?


Friday, September 16, 2011

Wine Glasses

wine glass
I’ve moved a number of times over the years and, during the years 1990 to 1996, I managed to cover two states, four homes and a many hundreds of miles. Perhaps it was all that packing and unpacking that caused me to get so lazy that when I finally settled in Augusta, Maine I ended up just stacking boxes in closets and cabinets, never opening and displaying the contents.

Sixteen years later, I am settled and not considering any new moving ventures. So, when I broke a wine glass tonight, I figured it was safe to finally open a dusty box of wine glasses that I had stored on the shelf of a cabinet I have in the dining area.

My first surprise was the fact that behind the dusty box of medium sized wine glasses there was another box containing six smaller desert-wine glasses. These were sealed with masking tape that I think may have been last used when I lived in New Hampshire. That would make the sealing job be circa 1983; I washed the glasses very thoroughly.

The box containing the medium size wine glasses that I was replacing had only three left. This means that I have destroyed a grand total of three wine glasses in 31 year. At this rate, and including the three larger goblets I still have on the shelf, I’ll be good until 2042. If I count all of the glasses, I'm good until until 2120. I'll be 182 years old.


Wednesday, September 07, 2011

September 11th

There have been, and will be, a number of memorials this week. This one by Yahoo, which in only eight minutes long details the new National September 11 Memorial and Museum, is one of the better ones.

View the The National September 11 Memorial and Museum video

Photo credit: Licensed by Creative Commons by Wikipedia

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Halloween Ideas

With the approach of Fall and Halloween, I figured you needed some ideas for "what to wear."

Here you go:

leglamp costume for him
leglamp costume for her
For more information or to order, visit the A Christmas Story House - Gift Shop. Just be careful you don't shoot your eye out.

Tuesday, July 05, 2011

One more story about Andrew Wyeth

Christina's World
As you know, I am a bit of an Andrew Wyeth fan and have had a couple of close encounters with his work. Here is the link to My Wyeth Story and the follow up - More Wyeth Lore. You'll have to read the first story to understand the rest of this post.

This past week it was announced that the Olsen House, the site/location of the famous Andrew Wyeth painting, Christina's World, has been designate a national landmark. Here is a story from In honor of the designation,  The Farnsworth Museum has arranged for another exhibit of the Christina's World "studies" described in my story. I recently visited the Wyeth Center at the Farnsworth in Rockland to re-connect with the painting and the studies. This time, I was able get a little closer and noticed that you can definitely see the rust marks.

Finally, from reading the story listed above, I learned that Andrew Wyeth is buried in Hathorn Cemetery located adjacent to the Olsen House. See Find-a-Grave for map 

So, if you are a Wyeth fan you can  see the studies, visit the site and visit Andrew's grave all in one day.

Monday, July 04, 2011

Deleting photos in Facebook

Facebook logo
A relative of mine, new to Facebook (FB), sent a note asking how to delete photos/images he had posted to his Facebook account. Like all thing in Facebook, deleting photos is not easy. Here are the directions as of guarantee that they will not be changed in the future:

You can only delete the photos you have posted, not all of the photos you may appear in that others have posted (see more info below):
  1. Go to your Facebook profile page by clicking on your name or FB icon.
  2. Click on Photos link (below your name), you will see all of the Albums you have created.
  3. Click on the Album which contains the photo(s) you wish to delete.
  4. Click Edit Album link just below the Album name. It will say something like: "By John... (Albums) • Updated about 2 months ago • Taken at Brooklyn, NY • Edit Album"
  5. In the Edit Album pop-up box that appears - in the lower left corner click "Edit photos."
  6. On the next page you will be able to edit/delete any of the photos or the whole Album.
  7. Curse FB for making this and everything they do insanely difficult.
Note: If someone has posted a photo of you in their Facebook account, the only way to get it removed is to ask them to remove it. You can "block" the user or "report" the photo (this is reserved for reporting offensive photos and images), but this would be overkill. If the person refuses, I guess they are not really your "friend."

Feel free to comment if I have missed anything.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Smoking Punk

Someone posted a message in the Jean Shepherd listserv today about "smoking punks." I knew exactly what he was talking about. He wrote:

PUNKS, a primal odor that must be encoded into our DNA.

As kids, we'd light a punk and hold it between our teeth. It was supposed to repel mosquitoes but the real attraction was the curling tendrils of delicate smoke. I imagine Paleolithic campfires smelled like punks.

Years passed and the ancient folkways disappeared. DEET reigned supreme. It may be toxic but, by gum, it does the job.

But my take on "smoking punks" took a different bend. I responded:

Wow this brings a blast to some hidden recesses of my brain. Haven’t thought of “punks” – at least not this type – for a long time. Their official purpose was supposed to be for the lighting off of illicit fireworks which of course were illegal in NYC. Every summer for several years I would invest in a package and “smoke” them surreptitiously around the old Brooklyn neighborhood. I am not sure if the punks were the only attraction. I was a bit of a pyro in those days and the use of illicit matches was also an allure.

Apparently the circumstances were different in Connecticut where we traveled each summer for our annual two week vacation. There the use of punks as an insect repellant was totally acceptable and we were allowed to “smoke” them. There was even an old 8mm home movie of me circa 1963 sitting around a campfire with punk in mouth. Yes, yes, I was communing with my Paleolithic ancestors…

Thankfully, the film was lost, but I think I still have some scars on my hands and wrists from burns associated with the careless use of the dang things.

And if, after reading this, you need to go and invest in some punk to smoke. Here are some links where you can still buy the stuff.

Vermont Country Store

Sparklers, Smoke, etc.

Big fireworks

Monday, June 06, 2011

Old Pictures

I was cruising the web one night when I came upon a website devoted to a late 19th - early 20th Century French artist named Maurice Utrillo. I remembered that, as a child, we had "prints" of several of Utrillo's works hanging up in our Brooklyn apartment living room. I think they survived the move out to Queens in the early '70s and were hung in our "rumpus room" basement. I hadn't thought of the name for years and as a curiosity, sought out and found two images which I recall.

From reading Utrillo's bio on Wikipedia, he died in 1955 around the time my parents got married and set up the apartment. I suspect they were prints that someone either gave them as a present, or perhaps my mother liked them and purchased them for the new apartment. We'll never know. But here are the prints. I've including information below where these came from if you are interested in purchasing them. No copyright violations are intended. The bottom one I believe is entitled: Le Maison de Mimi (Mimi's house). Not sure about the top one. Anyone know?

Utrillo 2

Photos from two locations: All Experts; SuperStock

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Follow up Letter from Roger Katz

MPBN logo
Today, I received this letter from Maine State Senator Roger Katz regarding my letter to him on the de-funding of MPBN:

May 17, 2011

Dear John,

Thank you for recently contacting me. I will work hard to keep MPBN funding fully in place. I believe it plays a critical role in Maine’s civic debate and is one of the few places you can find thoughtful, more investigatory journalism on the radio, and on a state-wide basis. I have been and continue to be a big fan, and will do all I can to keep funding in place.

Thank you for writing to me. Please feel free to weigh in on issues in the future; it helps me do a better job.


Roger Katz
State Senator
At least we got one vote.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Space Shuttle Endeavour

Alan Shepherd
Alan Shephard in Freedom 7 - May 5, 1961
Space Shuttle Endeavour - May 16, 2011
A little more than 50 years ago, Astronaut Alan Shephard became the second man and the first American in space. At the time I was 8 years old and in third grade. I don't remember the event exactly, but I am fairly certain we watched as Freedom 7 - the capsule on top of the Mercury-Redstone 3 rocket lifted off at about 9:30 in the morning. As was to become the custom for space launches that took place during school time (and they all seemed to in those days), the nuns had us say some prayers before the flight.

Like hundreds of millions of kids, I was hooked on the space race from that time on. So this morning, I stayed home and missed the beginning of a meeting so I could watch the final launch of space shuttle Endeavour, as she lifted off from Cape Kennedy on STS-134.

I may have said a little said a little prayer.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Save the Maine Public Broadcasting Network

UPDATE: Monday, May 16, 2011 is the Legislative hearing. You can also sign a petition on-line to express your opinion to save MPBN - Paul LePage vs. MPBN #signon
I e-mailed this letter today to my State Senator after hearing about the Maine Republicans' assault on the Maine Public Broadcasting Network (MPBN). For the background, please see this.

Dear Senator Katz,

I’m hoping that you will break with your Republican colleagues and stand up for the Maine Public Broadcasting Network and not support cuts in state financial support. This organization is the only source for unbiased, accurate and thorough news in Maine. It provides the only television programming worth viewing and is an oasis in the sea of increasingly seamy and moronic programming on commercial and cable broadcasting.

When I first heard the birds chirping with Robert J. Lurtsema and Morning Pro Musica on WMEM in Presque Isle in 1978, I fell in love with Maine Public Radio and have remained a supporter ever since. MPBN’s broadcasting is part of the reason why Maine is Maine: unique, distinct, invaluable.

It is amazing how for 30 years the Democrats were able to find ways to balance State budgets and still support programs that helped people, educated the young, cultivated the arts, and enriched the lives of Maine’s citizens. It seems all the Republicans want to do is ruin everything that I have valued in this my adopted home.

There are many sacred cows being protected and sacrificial lambs being slaughtered by people in the Maine Legislature this year; it is indeed a very sad time for our wonderful home. I am hoping you will have the clarity of thought and the leadership to stop this.


John E. Brandt

Thursday, April 07, 2011

New Views

I Power Blogger
Just read an announcement in the Blogger news of "new views" offered to Blogger-bloggers. I am posting this to check out the new links. I'm guessing this would be great for bloggers what are mostly images.

Flipcard: available at

Mosaic: available at

Sidebar:available at

Snapshot: available at

Timeslide: available at

So these are apparently designed to compete with the "Archive" feature that Tumblr has. Wish Google would concentrate on fixing this crappy content editor and add accessibility features into Blogger rather than this fluff. I guess you get what you pay for...

Think Spring

Here in Maine, it is very far from looking like the spring.

FlowerOn my other blog, the jebswebs business blog, I just posted a new spring photo into the heading; this is wishful thinking. I was/am tired of looking at the snow in the previous heading and even though everything here is very brown…still with patches of that white stuff…I am hopeful that within a few weeks it will start to be spring like in Maine.

Ah…mud season in Maine...

Photo credit: Licensed by Creative Commons by tejvanphotos

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Hey Cap’n, how’s Popeye?

A St. Patrick's Day story...a wee bit late.

I could have been no older than ten or eleven, during the age of AM transistor radios and comic books. With my Wilroot Cream Oil pompadour well quaffed and dressed in my well-pressed Sunday-best, I made way into the brightly lit lobby of The Town Hall accompanied by my sisters, Mom and Dad. We were attending an Irish concert with “friendly sons” was what I knew - The Friendly Sons of St. Patrick Glee Club to be precise - and Mr. O'Brien was to be singing.

“Will George and Sean be there?” I asked repeatedly, not really interested in the concert. In my mind a glee club concert had about as much appeal as Sunday church.

George and Sean O'Brien were the eldest sons of an Irish family of nine. George, a year older than me and Sean, a year younger, were the closest in age to me. There were two girls in the family and a bunch of little kids whose names I could never remember. Most of them bore authentic Irish names like Liam and Clancy and they all looked the same. Pesky Margaret was my age and Mary an ancient 15 or 16 years of age thought that the boys were yucky; the feeling was mutual. The O'Brien girls and my sisters got along fine but avoided us boys when the two families gathered except when there was some all-out battle game involving the boys against the girls.

The O'Brien's used to be our neighbors in Brooklyn, living in "205," the building across from ours in Clinton Hill. But they had moved out to Long Island a bunch of years earlier and now the two families only gathered about 3-4 times per year for events that were always memorable.

The O'Brien compound was the perfect setting for families with lots of kids. The spacious back yard easily accommodated our broods plus a couple of dozen friends and neighborhood kids. There were bicycles and scooters of all sizes and every kind of kid toy imaginable; family visits would always be raucous and energetic.

For summertime visits our family would usually arrive in the early afternoon and stay well into the evening. The adults would partake in a fair amount of liquid libations and by supper time all the adults were pretty juiced and loudly singing Irish songs, including my Swedish father who secretly wished to be an Irishman. He had married my mother, a first generation immigrant from County Sligo and after she died, he married a lass from County Galway. A concert of the Friendly Sons of St. Patrick was just the kind of thing he loved.

Mr. O'Brien and Mr. Murphy, another one of our parents’ friends, would take turns singing solos of old Irish ballads well into the night. Us kids would be insanely running around the dimly-lit backyard frantically trying to catch lighting bugs or playing hide and go seek. Eventually my sisters and I, sleepy and exhausted, would be piled into the back seat of our Ford Fairlane and magically wake up in our own beds the next morning.

Soon we were parked in our plush red seats located a few inches from the ornate ceiling of the historic old theater. I instantly enjoyed my eagle-perched perspective, spying on the people below as they settled into their seats. It was sorta like the upper deck at Yankee Stadium without the soda and pretzels and beer.

I was just about settled when I spotted Sean O'Brien racing across the main aisle below us. In my loudest Brooklyn street-voice I shouted to him and stood up waving my arms wildly to get his attention. My parents instantly commanded me to sit down and be quiet. But Sean had spotted me and as he was making his way up the crowded stairs, I noticed George was right behind him. Within a minute the O'Brien boys were at our seats gushing with important news.

“You’ll never guess who’s here? We just saw him!” Sean spat out breathlessly, his tie already loosened from his neck and sweat spotting his forehead.

“Who, who?” I heard myself answering, eager to hear that maybe it was some movie star or a baseball player or someone neat.

“Cap’n Jack!” he shouted as he wiped his brow with his sleeve.
In unison, my sister and I repeated, “Cap’n Jack? THE Cap’n Jack?!!!”

Those of you of a certain age, who lived in the NY City area in the 50’s and 60’s, know who Captain Jack McCarthy was. To the rest of you let me explain.

Capt Jack
Jack McCarthy was a local New York “television personality” who served as news anchor, announcer and general utility player for WPIX- Channel 11, one of the three independent television stations in the NY Metropolitan area. In the early 60’s McCarthy took on perhaps his most famous role, the host of the daily “Popeye Show,” and every weekday afternoon at precisely 5:30 pm every kid in the region was poised in front of their TV sucking up Cap'n Jack's every word.

Dressed in a faux captain’s uniform, complete with a double-breasted, brass-buttoned, black jacket with gold trim and a black brimmed, white uniform hat, the good captain appeared resplendent each afternoon on our Hallicrafter’s black and white TV. As the “Popeye the Sailor Man” theme song came to an end, Cap’n Jack would appear clanging a large brass ship’s bell announcing, “Three bells, 5:30, time for The Popeye Show….”

Captain Jack, with his white wavy hair and crisp Irish features was the quintessential good guy. During the course of the half-hour show, he preached to us to “do good things” and “be helpful to mom and dad” in between 2-3 episodes of Popeye and assorted commercials. Under Cap’n Jack’s watchful eye, New York City kid-dom absorbed these cartoon episodes of Popeye eating his spinach, engaging in general merriment with his friends Olive Oyl, Whimpie, and Swee’Pea and dutifully handling daily run-ins with his arch-nemesis Bluto/Brutus. It was grand, classic 50’s schlock. We loved it.

Without asked permission, my sister and I jumped up and followed George and Sean down the narrow steep stairs and across the theater to the box seat section at the foot of the balcony. Moments later we came to a full stop and with bulging eyes stared at a white haired gentleman with a ruddy complexion seated a few feet away. The first thing I noticed was that he was not in uniform. But it sure looked like Cap’n Jack.

Putting out heads together the conversation went something like this:

“You go over...”
“No, you…”

“What should I say?”

“I don’t know, just go over to him and say hello.”

“You come with me.”

“No, YOU go.”

By now we were making so much commotion that the white haired man turned in our direction to see what was going on. He looked right at me and smiled. I smiled back and in a loud voice said, “Hey Capt’n Jack, how’s Popeye?”


My sister and friends started giggling at the absurdity of my statement. We all flittered around when Captain Jack spoke, his voice instantly familiar, somehow proving that our eyes were not playing tricks on us. This was the REAL Cap’n Jack McCarthy.

“Hi boys and girls - how are you this evening?”

In unison we all said, “good” in that sing-song kinda way kids do, looking sheepish and uncomfortable when talking to adults in authority. Captain Jack, after all, did have authority, AND he was friends with Popeye. Though by age 10 I knew that cartoon figures were imaginary, I was still of that innocent age when imagination was where I still spent most of my time. Being in the presence of Popeye’s friend Captain Jack McCarthy was simply monumental.

Captain Jack engaged us in some small talk, “...and how old are you…and what’s your name...” each of us chirping back a banal response. Finally the good Captain firmly suggested that we head back to our seats because the curtain was going up soon – whatever that meant.

The Friendly Sons soon appeared on the grand stage replete in their black morning coats, striped trousers and crisp white ties. They perfectly sang countless Irish songs most of which I had never heard before. We strained from out lofty perch to see Mr. O'Brien who we eventually spotted in the front row on the left side. He looked tiny.

At the intermission, we went back to see Captain Jack again but he had already retired to the lounge apparently for a pick-me-up. When we saw him later, his face was a bit more “ruddy.”

Over the years that followed, long after the Captain had hung up his uniform, Jack McCarthy remained a fixture on WPIX and every St. Patrick’s Day appeared as the anchor for station's annual coverage of the parade up Fifth Avenue. The story is that WPIX was experimenting with the TV cameras used for Yankee home games and had planned to only broadcast 30 minutes of the parade that first year. When the switchboard lit up with instant fans, the station extended the coverage and eventually would broadcast five hours of the parade that year and every year. When television sets turned to color in the 1970s I first noticed that Captain Jack’s face would get redder and redder as the parade moved along each St. Patrick's Day. I’m sure it was just the raw March wind…

According to his New York Times obituary, McCarthy kept up his parade job until announcing his retirement in 1989 after 41 years as “TVs Mr. St. Patrick’s Day.” He died in 1996, seven years later at the age of 81, the same year as my dad.

My sister, who lives in New Jersey, heads over to Fifth Avenue almost every St. Patrick’s Day to march with the alumni of her Alma Mater. This year, as I do every year, I asked her if Cap’n Jack was there. She simply replies, “I didn’t see him.”

But we sure know he was there.

Sunday, February 13, 2011


Tonight, people who are "into music" will watch The Grammy Awards live on TV. I long ago lost interest. Guess I am an old fart since I don't even know the names of most of the people up for album of the year.

The last time I paid any attention to the Grammy Awards...

  • "Ga-ga" was the only words Lady Gaga knew how to speak....
  • I was rooting for The Police to win Song of the Year for Every Breath You Take.
  • Boys who wore their hair like Justin Bieber were called Beatles. 

Suffice it to say, I shan't be viewing tonight.

Friday, January 28, 2011

What were you doing 25 years ago today?

STS51 patch
I remember it like it was yesterday. I was living in a rented house on Wells Beach Maine and had cobbled together a series of part time jobs to make ends meet. That particular day I was a teaching an undergraduate class in developmental psychology at St. Joseph’s College in Windham. The class met on Tuesdays and Thursdays at 10:30 am. January 28, 1986 was a Tuesday.

As was my pattern in those days, I left the house around 9:00 am for the 10:30 class, and on this particular cold morning, I left a little early so I could stop at Wells High School to drop off my rent. My landlord at the time was the principal of WHS and I was figuring that I could save the 22 cents postage by dropping off the check. My landlord was a friend of a friend and it was also a nice diversion.

That particular morning an overnight “clipper” had swept through southern Maine covered the ground with a thin layer of snow making the roads a little greasy despite the fact that the sun was now brightly shining. Those conditions would play a significant role in my day.

Money was tight in 1986 and I was still driving an old Mercury LN-7 with about 90,000 miles on it. The LN-7, sold as a “sporty car” not a “sports car,” had been driven cross-country in the summer of ’82 and I had put about 9,000 miles on it on that trip alone. By 1986, she was tired, but the old lady started every morning and was still getting 40 miles to the gallon on the highway.

That car, like most of the stuff coming out of Detroit in the late 70s and early 80s was a real turkey when it came to strength and power. They built cars cheap and light to give them better fuel economy. This resulted in the car having absolutely no pick-up. On the summer trip I remember having to downshift to second gear to be able to make it over the Rockies at the embarrassing rate of 20 mph.

On that particular morning as I drove into the driveway of Wells High School the thin layer of snow on the untreated roadbed was more than the LN-7 could handle. As I attempted to make the slight left hand turn in the driveway where a score of busses has just passed and compressed the snow into a layer of slick ice, the LN-7 kept her forward momentum and failed to make the turn. Traveling a mere 5 mph or less, given the conditions, I was not worried when the front right tire kissed the curb and vaulted the car to the left. It was only after I had stopped and then attempted to proceed that I noticed that there was something seriously wrong with the steering system. I assumed that I may have just knocked the steering alignment out and parking the car, headed inside to hand over my rent check.

When I returned to continue my drive off to my college teaching job, I noticed that the “steering problem” was worse than I had suspected. I quickly realized that the car was toast and had some major issues with the steering system. Instead of heading to work, I turned back to cross the Mile Road with my wounded vehicle. It was a bit like driving a crab-car as it felt as though the car was moving sideways down the road.

By the time I got home I was furious at myself, pained by the potential of what it would cost and how long it would take to fix the car. The car was my only form of transportation, and on an adjunct-instructor’s meager salary, I was getting more anxious. I would later learn that the frame had been bent, requiring major body shop repairs and would cost more than a few bucks to fix. I was having a “bad day.”

After crawling under the car looking for damage, I settling back in my house, made some coffee and stoking up the wood stove. Moving into the living room, I turned on my stereo that was perpetually tuned to Maine Public Radio. What I heard next was startling.

A news bulletin had interrupted the classical music program to announce that there had been “some kind of explosion at Cape Kennedy.”

I remembered instantly that that morning there was to be the Shuttle launch.

By 1986, Shuttle lunches had become routine and were no longer covered by live television. A child of the 50’s, I remember standing on the roof of our apartment building in 1957 peering up to the early evening sky trying in vain to see The Sputnik passing overhead. By third grade, I regularly announced to adults my aspirations to become an astronaut. By the beginning of high school I had entertained the thoughts of become an aeronautical engineer. But by this time, even I had lost interest in the Space Program.

However, this Shuttle launch was different. For months we had been hearing the news about a young mother from neighboring New Hampshire who would soon be “the first teacher in space.” Around New England and the rest of the county schoolchildren and teachers were enthused with the proposition. The plan was for the teacher in space to actually deliver some lessons to the kids back home. Friends of mine who were public school teachers at the time were thrilled and at least one had applied to the teacher in space program.

I turned on the small back and white portable TV that was part of the furnishings of my rented furnished house on Wells Beach to get more news. It was about 10:45 am and the first scene I looked at, a scene which we have all seen so many times over the past 25 years, was burned into my brain for the first time.

I immediately thought of the millions of kids around the land, safe in their classrooms, watching these scary events live. While the commentators were speculating on whether the Shuttle itself had survived and the potential for some kind of escape mechanism, my heart and stomach sank. My “bad day” was nothing compared to this.

We all know the rest of the story. I remember particularly President Reagan on television that night consoling the nation with these words:

The crew of the space shuttle Challenger honored us by the manner in which they lived their lives. We will never forget them, nor the last time we saw them, this morning, as they prepared for the journey and waved goodbye and 'slipped the surly bonds of earth' to 'touch the face of God.'

The car eventually got fixed and time has moved on. In the 25 years that have passed we have lost more Space explorers and I’ve been through a fair share of automobiles. But it seems like yesterday.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

SWL Memories

Heathkit GR64
Heathkit GR-64 like the one I built in 1967

Heathkit GC-1A
and the GC-1A similar to the one that I found in the trash on Waverly Ave in Brooklyn one day. Mine was not as shiny.

Photos above from WD4EUI 

And the autograph from our Fearless Leader from around the same time

Shep's autograph

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Another Brother Lost

Major Winters then and more recent
Eighteen months ago when I wrote down my thoughts following the passing of Shifty Powers, I explained my affection for the HBO WWII series Band of Brothers. My affection for the series has not waned in the interim; if anything it has grow stronger. So, I am moved to tears upon learning today that my favorite “Brother” has now died.

Major Dick Winters died quietly and without fanfare on January 2, 2011 at the ripe old age of 92. According to media reports, Winters, ever the private and humble man, asked that news about his death be delayed until after he was buried. Winters was the central character and leader of the Band of Brothers and perhaps the most loved and respected. His warmth and humanity were the most memorable parts of this remarkable story of a group of men who survived the horrors of World War II.

Ironically, just the other day I was thinking of a scene from Band of Brothers and was struggling with remembering the names of all the characters. The scene came to me while watching the news about the horrors in Tucson and the caustic rhetoric that has polarized and is slowly destroying our country. I thought about the loathsome disrespect shown to the President of the United States by a trite Member of Congress during last year’s presidential State of the Union address and the disgusting bombast that seems to regularly come from the extremists these days.

I recalled the scene towards the end of Band of Brothers when Winters, now a highly decorated Major has an impromptu interaction with the character of Captain Herbert Sobel played brilliantly by actor David Schwimmer. Sobel a slezebag tyrant of an Army officer, hated by the men for his vindictiveness and cruelty, is the antithesis of Winters, and in early part of story the major antagonist. In the recalled scene, the still-Captain Sobel passes Major Winters, once his subordinate and now his superior officer, neglecting/refusing to salute the passing Winters. Winters, who could let the disrespect pass, calls Sobel on it and says in an artful and memorable declaration: "Captain Sobel, we salute the rank, not the man." Sobel acquiesces and salutes Winters.

Richard Winters was a soldier’s soldier, a true American hero and genuinely beautiful human being. Of course I know him only through the portrayal in Stephen Ambrose's Band of Brothers book and HBO series, but if he was half the man as that described in these literary works, he was quite an extraordinary individual. With his brand of humility and grace, we won WWII because of people like him. This country could use a few more like him today.

Thank you Major Winters, and may perpetual light shine upon you. May you Rest in Peace.


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