My First Letter Home from USAFA

While searching for a particular photo of my mother, I found a stash of letters from the ’70s, including the first letter home after I started Basic Cadet Training at the USAF Academy. This was written on July 4, 1972.




A Crop of Enlightened Perspectives

Seedsfrom David Fairchild’s Memoirs, The World Was My Garden (1938)

[on his own home garden]  “I was appalled by my abysmal ignorance of practical agriculture when I started to create my own home. I soon discovered that through all my years of association with professors of horticulture, agricultural colleges, and experiment stations, I had developed a blind spot towards the practical formulae of such an immensely simple thing as the making of a flower or vegetable garden. Marian, of course, depended upon me for all this knowledge which I had only theoretically, and in gardening you may as well not know anything at all as to know it in a theoretical way. If you are not actually sure exactly how to do a thing in gardening, you do not know how to do it, and that’s that!” (p. 316-317)

[in Panama, regarding the threat of malaria]  “In 1899, the French attempt to build the Canal had collapsed, but as yet the yellow fever mosquito had not been suspected of carrying the disease. The old French hospitals were still standing and, in the open space beneath them, on the ground lay great piles of iron crosses imported from France, each with a serial number on it ready to mark the grave of some patient. In fact, all the patients were measured for coffins immediately after they were admitted to the hospital. Practically none ever emerged alive.

“The Sisters of St. Vincent, who were in charge of the hospitals, kept potted plants on the window-sills to make the wards more cheerful. Under the pots were saucers and, as the plants were watered daily, water always stood in the saucers. In consequence, mosquitoes bred there, and fed on the yellow fever patients, thus becoming infected themselves with the parasite. In turn they infected nearby patients who might otherwise have escaped.”

in Spain, describing a driver: “I hired a driver who bore an unpleasant resemblance to my idea of a brigand [bandit or robber]. Although I did not like his looks, he was pleasant enough and during the drive up the mountainside regaled me with talk of the bull-ring… [after an afternoon of cutting and collecting specimens, returning after sunset] … As we approached the narrowest part of the defile where the cliffs shut out even the faint light of the rising moon, stories of the bandits in that region began to surge through my memory. At that moment, my driver reached behind him, pulled out a gun and flourished it in my face saying something in Spanish which I could not understand. It was a perfect spot for a hold-up, and I felt a nervous chill run down my spine. I never carried firearms, but flashed my heavy, nickel-plated tripod in the moonlight, hoping that he would think me armed also. Nothing further happened and before we reached town I decided that, far from his having any idea of robbing me, he had meant to reassure me and tell me that he would protect me if necessary.” (p. 201)

“The human mind prefers something which it can recognize to something for which it has no name, and, whereas thousands of persons carry field glasses to bring horses, ships, or steeples close to them, only a few carry even the simplest pocket microscope. Yet a small microscope will reveal wonders a thousand times more thrilling than anything which Alice saw behind the looking-glass.” (p. 11)

“The morning after my arrival (Muenster, Germany), I was unlimbering my microscope when the Professor’s “Diener”, a devoted servant and assistant, came marching in. In his hands, held as proudly as a flaming Christmas pudding, was a plate piled high with horse-dung. With a flourish, he placed it on my table, covered it with a bell jar, and assured me that it was completely fresh and absolutely perfect in every way. Incredible as it may seem, after my first feeling of revulsion had passed, I spent three of the most entertaining and instructive weeks of my life studying the fascinating molds which appeared one by one on the slowly disintegrating mass of horse-dung. Microscopic molds are both very beautiful and absorbingly interesting. The rapid growth of their spores, the way they live on each other, the manner in which the different forms come and go, is so amazing and varied that I believe a man could spend his life and not exhaust the forms or problems contained in one plate of manure.” (p. 55)

[circa 1909, in England]  “Of course I went out to Kew Gardens and renewed my acquaintance with Sir Thistelton Dyer and Sereno Watson, and filled a notebook with names and suggestions for new Chinese plants to introduce.

“A rose espaliered against a south wall greatly took my fancy as it was covered with great, single white blooms. It was Rosa brcteata, the Macartney rose from South China. Its thick, dark green leaves and densely tomentose stems form a striking background for the brilliant white flowers. I took a plant home with me and was delighted when it bloomed on a trellis at “In the Woods” [the Fairchild’s home in Maryland].

“After it had grown there for several years and I had proudly shown it to many of my friends, I happened to be in Louisiana visiting Ned McIlhenny. He was driving me across the low, flat delta region of the Mississippi when I saw in the distance a long, hedgelike mass of bushes, a quarter of a mile long and perhaps forty feet across. I could not imagine what it was.

“‘Oh, that,’ Mr. McIlhenny said, ‘is the worst weed we have down here. That’s the Chickasaw or Macartney rose, introduced by the early settlers some time in the seventies I believe. Since its introduction it has grown wild and covers large areas of land and has been impossible to eradicate.’

“I gasped, for I realized that I had been tenderly nursing the worst weed of Louisiana. This rose, introduced into England in 1753 and named after Lord Macartney, behaves in a ladylike manner in more northern climates.” (p. 360)

[in Mozambique]   “I wandered about the town until dark, and on the edge of the village came across a group of black men dancing in the moonlight on the dusty roadway. They were abandoning themselves to a kind of instinctive rhythm as they clapped their hands and stamped their big bare feet on the hard ground as naturally as the monkeys in the forest swing by their tails from the forest trees. I, with generations of Calvinism and Quaker creed behind me, stood fascinated, understanding for the first time that perhaps the instinct to dance is so deeply rooted in the makeup of the human animal that the puritanical idea of eliminating it is more unnatural than the dancing.” (pp. 272-273)

[circa 1899 in Peru]  “Mr. Lathrop told me that during a former trip to Peru he had visited the high Andes and had been much impressed by the way the natives carried heavy loads up the mountainsides, seemingly without exhaustion. He found that they all chewed the leaves of a plant called Coca (Erythroxylon Coca) which they used either fresh or dried, mixed with a small quantity of ashes. To the use of this leaf, they attributed their ability to carry loads for long distances in high altitudes. Since no one could tell him its chemical content, Mr. Lathrop sent a quantity of the leaves to the Academy of Sciences in San Francisco for analysis, with a description of its use. Much to Mr. Lathrop’s disgust, nothing was ever done in the matter. He was particularly annoyed later when a German chemist isolated the useful drug cocaine from coca leaves, a drug which soon became the best know alleviative of human suffering.

“It was a bitter disappointment to Mr. Lathrop that he had not had the satisfaction of bringing cocaine to public notice. Whenever I gather the red berries from my coca bush, I am reminded of Mr. Lathrop’s first introduction.” (p. 129)

[in China]
“These truck gardens of a city of 2,000,000 people did not contain a single vegetable with which we are familiar in America. The people, apparently well nourished, live on an entirely different diet from that which we consider necessary for health and happiness. Even their grains differ from ours. South of the Yangtse, the people consider their daily dish of rice more essential to their well-being than an American does his loaf of bread. In southern China, Indian corn is practically unknown, wheat a luxury, and, except on rare occasions, no one has either a beefsteak or a mutton-chop. Northern China is not a rice-producing country and there they have some corn and wheat. Throughout China they have pigs, of course, chickens and ducks; but even the pigs appear strange, because they have been bred to be sway-backed and have enormous bellies. This, I was told, was to increase the amount of bacon. Bacon is important as it is an ingredient of the chow mein, the most popular dish of the Chinese menu.

“Butter and cheese were unknown outside the foreign settlements, and the only milk sold, except to foreigners, was human milk. There were no beef cattle, and few work animals, buffaloes only, for human labor was cheaper. The sheep were prized for their wool, and seldom killed for meat.

“Professor King (Franklin H. King’s, in Farmers of Forty Centuries) has demonstrated that, according to recent Rothamsted experiments, whereas “only four pounds out of each hundred of the dry substances eaten by cattle are transformed into human food, and five pounds of the dry substances eaten by sheep, eleven pounds in each hundred are transformed into human food by swine.” In view of these figures, which have only recently been established as scientific facts, it is significant that the Chinese long ago discarded cattle as meat producers, used sheep more for their pelts and wool than for food, while retaining the swine as the one animal used in the role of middleman transforming coarse substances into human food.” (pp. 219-220)

“On my way up to San Francisco, I stopped in Fresno to see George C. Roeding, who had a large orchard of Smyrna figs. For many years the trees had refused to bear. Suddenly they began to produce good crops of fruit, due to the introduction of the blastophaga, a tiny wasp. The flowers of the fig are inside the fruit, with but a tiny aperture of the edible figs, thus carrying the pollen from one flower to another; without its services the Smyrna fig refuses to fruit. The romance of the introduction of this wasp, and its establishment in California, is one of the most entertaining stories in the annals of horticulture.” (p. 210)


Quotes Pertaining to an Informed Perspective



He who learns and learns and yet does not what he knows, is one who plows and plows yet never sows. — ancient Persian proverb, quoted by Alfred Korzybski in Science and Sanity 

If the world has nearly destroyed itself, it is not from lack of knowledge in the sense that we lack the knowledge to cure cancer or release atomic energy, but is due to the fact that the mass of men have not applied to public policy knowledge which they already possess, which is indeed of almost universal possession, deducible from the facts of everyday life. If this is true — and it seems inescapable — then no education which consists mainly in the dissemination of knowledge can save us. If men can disregard in their policies the facts they already know, they can just as easily disregard new facts which they do not at present know.
What is needed is the development in men of that particular type of skill which will enable them to make social use of knowledge already in their possession; enable them to apply simple, sometimes self-evident, truths to the guidance of their common life. — Sir Norman Angell, 1942

Children must be free to think in all directions irrespective of the peculiar ideas of parents who often seal their children’s minds with preconceived prejudices and false concepts of past generations. Unless we are very careful, very careful indeed, and very conscientious, there is still great danger that our children may turn out to be the same kind of people we are. — Maj Gen Brock Chisholm, first Director General of the World Health Organization

The aim of education is the condition of suspended judgment on everything. — George Santayana  

If we value the pursuit of knowledge, we must be free to follow wherever that search may lead us. The free mind is no barking dog to be tethered on a 10-foot chain. — Adlai Stevenson

Teaching and learning that lead to no significant change in behavior are practically worthless. — Irving Lee

Learning to un-learn to learn, for me, best describes the process of learning the discipline theoretically (verbally) and organismically. —  M. Kendig

Learning is the gradual replacement of fantasy with fact. — Gifford Pinchot III

The trouble with people is not so much with their ignorance as it is with their knowing so many things that are not so. — attributed to William Alanson White by Alfred Korzybski in Science and Sanity; also attributed to Josh Billings

You can’t no more teach what you ain’t learned than you can come from where you ain’t been. — Mark Twain, as quoted by Helen Harkness

There are two ways to slide easily through life: Namely, to believe everything, or to doubt everything; both ways save us from thinking. — Alfred Korzybski 

A person does what he does because he sees the world as he sees it. — Alfred Korzybski

We see the world as ‘we’ are, not as ‘it’ is; because it is the I behind the ‘eye’ that does the seeing. — Anais Nin

The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes. — Marcel Proust

You can’t step into the same river twice. — Heraclitus

We see what we see because we miss all the finer details. — Alfred Korzybski

Human beings do not live in the objective world alone, nor alone in the world of social activity as ordinarily understood, but are very much at the mercy of the particular language which has become the medium of expression for their society. It is quite an illusion to imagine that one adjusts to reality essentially without the use of language and that language is merely an incidental means of solving specific problems of communication or reflection. The fact of the matter is that the ‘real world’ is to a large extent unconsciously built up on the language habits of the group … We see and hear and otherwise experience very largely as we do because the language habits of our community predispose certain choices of interpretation. — Edward Sapir (1929)

Language plays a tremendous role in human affairs. It serves as a means of cooperation and as a weapon of conflict. With it, men can solve problems, erect the towering structures of science and poetry—and talk themselves into insanity and social confusion. — Irving J. Lee

As far as the laws of mathematics refer to reality, they are not certain, and as far as they are certain, they do not refer to reality. — Albert Einstein 

The more you do what you’ve always done, the more you’ll get what you’ve always got. — paraphrased from Albert Einstein

Not everything that counts can be counted, and not everything that can be counted counts. — index card tacked to Einstein’s office wall

All our knowledge has its origins in our perceptions. — Leonardo da Vinci 

To know and not to act is not to know. — attributed to Lao Tse

The discipline of writing something down is the first step toward making it happen. —  Lee Iaococca

We should be careful to get out of an experience only the wisdom that is in it—and stop there; lest we be like the cat that sits down on a hot stove-lid. She will never sit down on a hot stove-lid again—and that is well; but also she will never sit down on a cold one anymore. — Mark Twain

You’ve Got To Be Carefully Taught

from South Pacific — Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein

You’ve got to be taught, to hate and fear,
You’ve got to be taught, from year to year,
It’s got to be drummed in your dear little ear,
You’ve got to be carefully taught.
You’ve got to be taught to be afraid
Of people whose eyes are oddly made
And people whose skin is a different shade.
You’ve got to be carefully taught.
You’ve got to be taught, before it’s too late,
Before you are six or seven or eight
To hate all the people your relatives hate
You’ve got to be carefully taught,
You’ve got to be carefully taught.


Being myself a remarkably stupid fellow, I have had to un-teach myself the difficult, and now beg to present to my fellow fools the parts that aren’t hard. Master these thoroughly and the rest will follow. What one fool can do, another can. — Sylvanus P. Thompson, Introduction to Calculus Made Easy

If I have seen further, it is by standing on the shoulders of giants. — Sir Isaac Newton

I know I cannot paint a flower. I know I cannot paint the sun on the desert on a bright summer morning, but maybe in terms of paint color I can convey my experience of the flower or the experience that makes the flower of significance to me at that particular time. — Georgia O’Keeffe

What is demanded is a change in our imaginative picture of the world — a picture which has been handed down from remote, perhaps pre-human ancestors, and has been learned by each one of us in early childhood. A change in our imagination is always difficult, especially when we are no longer young. The same sort of change was demanded by Copernicus, when he taught that the earth is not stationary and the heavens do not revolve about it once a day. To us now there is no difficulty in this idea, because we learned it before our mental habits had become fixed. Einstein’s ideas, similarly, will seem easy to a generation which has grown up with them, but for our generation a certain effort of imaginative reconstruction is unavoidable. — Bertrand Russell, ABC of Relativity

If we are ever to become what we might have been, we must cease being who we’ve become. — Wendell Johnson

False facts are highly injurious to the progress of science for they often endure long; but false hypotheses do little harm, as everyone takes a salutary pleasure in proving their falseness; and when this is done, one path toward error is closed and the road to truth is often at the same time opened. — Charles Darwin

Those are the doubting reactions of impetuous youth. To-day, you learn something. To-morrow you think you can already be letter perfect in technique. But the ‘system’ is not a hand me down suit that you can put on and walk off in, or a cookbook where all you need to do is find the page and there is your recipe. No, it is a whole way of life, you have to grow up in it, educate yourself in it for years. You cannot cram it into yourselves, you can assimilate it, take it into your blood and flesh, until it becomes second na-ture, becomes so organic as part of your being that you are trans-formed by it for all time. It is a system that must be studied in parts and then merged into a whole so that it can be understood in all its fundamentals. When you can spread it all out before you like a fan you will have attained a true grasp of it. You cannot hope to do this all at once. — Constantine Stanislavski, Building a Character

I must stress that I give no panaceas, but experience shows that when the methods of general semantics are applied, the results are usually beneficial, whether in law, medicine, business, etc., educa-tion on all levels, or personal inter-relationships, be they in family, national, or international fields. If they are not applied, but merely talked about, no results can be expected. — Alfred Korzybski

Every word or concept, clear as it may seem to be, has only a limited range of applicability. —  Werner Heisenberg (Physics and Philosophy, 1963)

With every mistake, we must surely be learning. — George Harrison, “While My Guitar Gently Weeps”

Wit and Wisdom

If I’m who I am because I’m who I am and you’re who you are because you are who you are, then I’m who I am and you’re who you are. If, on the other hand, I’m who I am because you’re who you are, and if you’re who you are because I’m who I am, then I’m not who I am and you’re not who you are. —  from Art by Yasmina Reza, translated by Christopher Hampton

Do I love you because you’re beautiful, or are you beautiful because I love you? — from Cinderella by Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein

Only those who will risk going too far can possibly find out how far one can go. — T.S. Eliot

Limitation of aims is the mother of wisdom and the secret of achievement. — Goethe

It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it. — Aristotle

Knowledge of the possible is the beginning of happiness. — Goethe

Coming home from very lonely places, all of us go a little mad: whether from great personal success, or just an all-night drive, we are the sole survivors of a world no one else has ever seen. — John le Carre, from The Chancellor Who Agreed to Play Spy

Happiness is not something that happens … It does not depend on outside events, but, rather, on how we interpret them. —  Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi in Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience

Optimal experience is thus something that we make happen. — Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi

How we feel about ourselves, the joy we get from living, ultimately depend directly on how the mind filters and interprets everyday experiences. — Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi

An adventure is only an inconvenience rightly considered. An inconvenience is an adventure wrongly considered. — G.K. Chesterton

We are always getting to live, but never living. — Ralph Waldo Emerson, as quoted by Csikszentmihalyi

186,000 miles per second: It’s not just a good idea — it’s THE LAW! (Einstein t-shirt)

There is no coming to consciousness without pain. — Carl Jung

One test is worth a thousand expert opinions. — Anonymous

Don’t let the sound of your own wheels drive you crazy. — The Eagles, “Take It Easy”

Who rules our symbols, rules us. — Alfred Korzybski

The pursuit of excellence is the proper vocation of man. — Cassius J. Keyser

The present is no more exempt from the sneer of the future than the past has been. — Cassius J. Keyser

The next-most difficult thing in the world is to get perspective. The most difficult is to keep it. — Cassius J. Keyser

It is commonly, but erroneously, believed that it is easy to ask questions. A fool, it is said, can ask questions that a wise man cannot answer. The fact is that a wise man can answer many questions that a fool cannot ask. — Cassius J. Keyser

If people would stop objectifying abstractions (which they probably never will), or if they would stop objectifying the abstractions they make consciously (which they might learn to do), at least half the pseudo-questions befuddling the world today — as they have befuddled it since time immemorial — would vanish. And that would be a very, very great gain. — Cassius J. Keyser

How could youths better learn to live than by at once trying the experiment of living? — Henry David Thoreau

To a mouse, cheese is cheese. That is why mouse traps are effective.(page 192 of People In Quandaries; often repeated as “That’s why mousetraps work.”) — Wendell Johnson

The true meaning of a term is to be found by observing what a man does with it, not by what he says about it. — P.W. Bridgman

If your language is confused, your intellect, if not your whole character, will almost certainly correspond. — Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch

God may forgive your sins. But your nervous system won’t. — Alfred Korzybski

It gives me great pleasure indeed to see the stubbornness of an incorrigible nonconformist warmly acclaimed. — Albert Einstein

The world we have created today as a result of our thinking thus far has problems which cannot be solved by thinking the way we thought when we created them. — Albert Einstein

Common sense is the collection of prejudices acquired by age eighteen. — Albert Einstein

Nothing so needs reforming as other people’s habits. — Mark Twain

There is only one way to happiness and that is to cease worrying about things which are beyond the power of our will. — Epictetus

The self explorer, whether he wants to or not, becomes an explorer of everything else. — Elias Canetti

You don’t get meaning, you respond with meaning. — Charles Sanders Peirce

Ultimately, we attach meaning to experience. — an instructor in a corporate training class offered by Gifford Pinchot III

If you are distressed by anything external, the pain is not due to the thing itself, but to your estimation of it; and this you have the power to revoke at any moment. — Marcus Aurelius

We cannot command the wind, but we can adjust our sails. — Anonymous

We tend to discriminate against people to the degree that we fail to distinguish between them. —  Irving Lee

You can’t make me what you call me! — Al Fleishman 

I lived with the terrible knowledge that one day I would be an old man, still waiting for my real life to start. — Pat Conroy, The Prince of Tides 

A great many people think they are thinking when they are merely rearranging their prejudices. — William James

Out of time we cut days and nights, summers and winters. We say what each part of the sensible continuum is, and all these abstract whats are concepts. The intellectual life of man consists almost wholly in his substitution of a conceptual order for the perceptual order in which his experience originally comes. — William James “The World We Live In”

Writing about music is like dancing about architecture. — Elvis Costello

Time is but the stream I go fishing in. — Henry David Thoreau

It ought to be remembered that there is nothing more difficult to take in hand, more perilous to conduct, or more uncertain in its success, than to take the lead in the introduction of a new order of things. Because the innovator has for enemies all those who have done well under the old conditions, and only lukewarm defenders among those who may do well under the new. — Machiavelli

The reasonable man adapts himself to the world; the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore all progress depends on the unreasonable man. — George Bernard Shaw

The only man who behaves sensibly is my tailor; he takes my measure anew each time he sees me, whilst all the rest go on with their old measurements and expect them to fit me. — George Bernard Shaw

To progress, man must re-make himself, and he cannot re-make himself without suffering. For he is both the marble and the sculptor. — Alexis Carrel

Laughter is the only thing that’ll cut trouble down to a size where you can talk to it. — Dan Jenkins, Semi-Tough

There can be no transforming of darkness into light and of apathy into movement without emotion. Carl Jung

If the minimum wasn’t good enough, it wouldn’t be the minimum. (And if the minimum isn’t good enough, it shouldn’t be the minimum.) — Air Force Academy aphorism, c. 1972

A ship in the harbor is safe. But that is not what ships are for. — Anonymous, from a poster c.1972

You can’t sail on a still day. — Anonymous, from Shania Twain’s “If It Don’t Take Two”

If ifs and buts were candy and nuts, we’d all have a Merry Christmas. — repeated by Dandy Don Meredith on Monday Night Football

Act as if the future of the universe depends on what you do, while laughing at yourself for thinking that your actions make any difference. — Buddhist saying

Keep company with those who make you better. — English Saying

If you aren’t getting flak, you aren’t over the target. — Gifford Pinchot III

If a thing is worth doing, it’s worth doing poorly. — G.K. Chesterton

Your task it is, amid confusion, rush, and noise, to grasp the lasting, calm and meaningful, and finding it anew, to hold and treasure it. — Paul Hindemith

The most potent weapon of the oppressor is the mind of the oppressed. — Steve Biko

The man who makes no mistakes does not usually make anything. — 19th century U.S. diplomat Edward John Phelps

The certainty of misery is better than the misery of uncertainty. — Pogo

He who rejects change is the architect of decay. The only human institution which rejects progress is the cemetery. — former British prime minister Harold Wilson

Progress has not followed a straight, ascending line, but a spiral with rhythms of progress and retrogression, of evolution and dissolution. — Goethe

Life has a way of demanding that you live it. — Nora Percival, heard on NPR’s Storycorps series.

The greatest challenge to any thinker is stating the problem in a way that will allow a solution. — Bertrand Russell

Not only is the universe stranger than we imagine, it is stranger than we can imagine. — Sir Arthur S. Eddington

What can be shown, cannot be said. — Ludwig Wittgenstein

Nothing in human history that flowed from the decisions of governments has been inevitable. No historical event ever had to happen the way it happened. The counter-factual, the “could have been” in history is a unique and essential aspect of human intelligence. And it should always be recognized that options existed. Alternatives always have been available, and they always will be available. — Martin J. Sherwin

The opposite of a true statement is a false statement, but the opposite of a profound truth is usually another profound truth. — Niels Bohr

There is hopeful symbolism in the fact that flags do not wave in a vacuum. — Arthur C. Clarke

He who will not reason is a bigot; he who cannot reason is a fool; he who dares not reason is a slave. — William Drummond

Prejudice is belief left unchallenged. — Steve Stockdale

from Ralph Waldo Emerson’s “Self-Reliance” [emphasis added]

A man should learn to detect and watch that gleam of light which flashes across his mind from within, more than the lustre of the firmament of bards and sages. Yet he dismisses without notice his thought, because it is his. In every work of genius we recognize our own rejected thoughts: they come back to us with a certain alienated majesty. Great works of art have no more affecting lesson for us than this. They teach us to abide by our spontaneous impression with good-humored inflexibility then most when the whole cry of voices is on the other side. Else, tomorrow a stranger will say with masterly good sense precisely what we have thought and felt all the time, and we shall be forced to take with shame our own opinion from another.

Trust thyself: every heart vibrates to that iron string.

The virtue most request is conformity. Self-reliance is its aversion. It [Conformity] loves not realities and creators, but names and customs.

No law can be sacred to me but that of my nature. Good and bad are but names very readily transferable to that or this; the only right is what is after my constitution, the only wrong what is against it.

What I must do is all that concerns me, not what the people think. It is the harder, because you will always find those who think they know what is your duty better than you know it. It is easy in the world to live after the world’s opinion; it is easy in solitude to live after our own. But the great man is he who in the midst of the crowd keeps with perfect sweetness the independence of solitude.

The other terror that scares us from self-trust is our consistency; a reverence for our past act or word, because the eyes of others have no other data for computing our orbit than our past acts, and we are loth to disappoint them.

A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds, adored by little statesmen and philosophers and divines. With consistency a great soul has simply nothing to do. He may as well concern himself with his shadow on the wall. Speak what you think now in hard words, and tomorrow speak what tomorrow thinks in hard words again, though it contradict every thing you said today. Ah, so you shall be sure to be misunderstood. Is it so bad, then, to be misunderstood? Pythagoras was misunderstood, and Socrates, and Jesus, and Luther, and Copernicus, and Galileo, and Newton, and every pure and wise spirit that ever took flesh. To be great is to be misunderstood.

There will be an agreement in whatever variety of actions, so they be each honest and natural in their hour. For of one will, the actions will be harmonious, however unlike they seem. These varieties are lost sight of at a little distance, at a little height of thought. One tendency unites them all. The voyage of the best ship is a zigzag line of a hundred tacks. See the line from a sufficient distance, and it straightens itself to the average tendency. Your genuine action will explain itself, and will explain your other genuine actions. Your conformity explains nothing.

At times the whole world seems to be in conspiracy to importune you with emphatic trifles. Friend, client, child, sickness, fear, want, charity, all knock at once at thy closet door, and say, Come out unto us. But keep thy state; come not into their confusion. The power men possess to annoy me, I give them by a weak curiosity. No man can come near me but through my act.

If our young men miscarry in their first enterprises, they lose all heart. If the young merchant fails, men say he is ruined. If the finest genius studies at one of our colleges, and is not installed in an office within one year afterwards in the cities or suburbs of Boston or New York, it seems to his friends and to himself that he is right in being disheartened, and in complaining the rest of his life. A sturdy lad from New Hampshire or Vermont, who in turn tries all the professions, who teams it, farms it, peddles, keeps a school, preaches, edits a newspaper, goes to Congress, buys a township, and so forth, in successive years, and always, like a cat, falls on his feet, is worth a hundred of these city dolls. He walks abreast with his days, and feels no shame in not studying a profession, for he does not postpone his life, but lives already. He has not one chance, but a hundred chances.

A political victory, a rise of rents, the recovery of your sick, or the return of your absent friend, or some other favorable event, raises your spirits, and you think good days are preparing for you. Do not believe it. Nothing can bring you peace but yourself. Nothing can bring you peace but the triumph of principles.

Henry David Thoreau Walden

In most books, the I, or first person, is omitted; in this it will be retained; that, in respect to egotism, is the main difference. We commonly do not remember that it is, after all, always the first person that is speaking. I should not talk so much about myself if there were any body else whom I knew as well. Unfortunately, I am confined to this theme by the narrowness of my experience.

But men labor under a mistake. The better part of the man is soon ploughed into the soil for compost. By a seeming fate, commonly called necessity, they are employed, as it says in an old book, laying up treasures which moth and rust will corrupt and thieves break through and steal.

The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation. What is called resignation is confirmed desperation…. There is no play in them, for this comes after work. But it is a characteristic of wisdom not to do desperate things.

But alert and healthy natures remember that the sun rose clear. It is never too late to give up our prejudices. No way of thinking or doing, however, ancient, can be trusted without proof. … Old deeds for old people, and new deeds for new.

‘But,’ says one, ‘you do not mean that the students should go to work with their hands instead of their heads?’ I do not mean that exactly, but mean something which he might think a good deal like that; I mean that they should not play life, or study it merely, while the community supports them at this expensive game, but earnestly live it from beginning to end. How could youths better learn to live than by at once trying the experiment of living?

There is no odor so bad as that which arises from goodness tainted. It is human, it is divine, carrion. If I knew for a certainty that a man was coming to my house with the conscious design of doing me good, I should run for my life, as from that dry and parching wind of the African deserts called the simoom, which fills the mouth and nose and ears and eyes with dust till you are suffocated, for fear that I should get some of his good done to me,-some of its virus mingled with my blood.

I do not propose to write an ode to dejection, but to brag as lustily as chanticleer in the morning, standing on his roost, if only to wake my neighbors up.

I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived. I did not wish to live what was not life, living is so dear; nor did I wish to practice resignation, unless it was quite necessary. I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life, to live so sturdily and Spartan-like as to put to rout all that was not life, to cut a broad swath and shave close, to drive life into a corner, and reduce it to its lowest terms, and, if it proved to be mean, why then to get the whole and genuine meanness of it, and publish its meanness to the world; or if it were sublime, to know it by experience, and be able to give a true account of it in my next excursion.

I perceive that we inhabitants of New England live this mean life that we do because our vision does not penetrate the surface of things. We think that that is which appears to be.

From Mahatma Gandhi

Compiled by C.D. Deshmukh:

I am conscious of my own limitations. That consciousness is my only strength.

My life is an indivisible whole, and all my activities run into one another; and they all have their rise in my insatiable love of mankind.

I have in my life never been guilty of saying things I did not mean – my nature is to go straight to the heart and if often I fail in doing so for the time being, I know that Truth ultimately makes itself heard and felt, as it has often done in my experience.

I believe in the absolute oneness of God and, therefore, also of humanity. I have always believed God to be without form. What I did hear was like a Voice from afar, and yet quite near.

Like every other faculty, this faculty for listening to the still small voice within requires previous effort and training, perhaps greater than what is required for the acquisition of any other faculty, and even if out of thousands of claimants only a few succeed in establishing their claim, it is well worth running the risk having and tolerating doubtful claimants.

from Gamtano Kariye Gulal, compiled by Balvant K. Parekh:

Live as if you were to die tomorrow. Learn as if you were to live forever.

The most heinous and the most cruel crimes of which history has record have been committed under the cover of religion or equally noble motives.

from the movie Gandhi directed by Sir Richard Attenborough:

Nonviolence is the greatest force at the disposal of mankind. It is mighter than the mightiest weapon of destruction devised by the ingenuity of man.

Strength does not come from physical capacity. It comes from an indomitable will.

Satisfaction lies in the effort, not in the attainment.

A nation that is capable of limitless sacrifice is capable of rising to limitless heights. The purer the sacrifice the quicker the progress.

Truth is God and God is truth.

Where there is love, there is life; hatred leads to destruction.

Truth, purity, self-control, firmness, fearlessness, humility, unity, peace, and renunciation – these are the inherent qualities of a civil resister.

Non-cooperation is a protest against an unwitting and unwilling participation in evil.

You will eat not to satisfy your palate but your hunger. A self-indulgent man lives to eat; a self-restrained man eats to live.

Honest differences are often a healthy sign of progress.

Love is the strongest force the world possesses, and yet is the humblest imaginable.

It does not require money to be neat, clean and dignified.

Cowards can never be moral.

To forget how to dig the earth and tend the soil is to forget ourselves.

What I Learned in 2000

Steve and StacyAs we begin the year of HAL, I thought it would be worthwhile for me to recount a few of my “lessons learned” over the past 12 months. Your mileage may vary.

  • Season as you go with chili.
  • Don’t take your jeans right out of the dryer and tuck them under your chin to fold. Especially if they have those metal rivets.
  • “If you can’t name it, you can’t use it.”Helen Harkness
  • I’m learning not to underestimate myself.
  • I’m trying to not should on myself. (from Bruce Kodish and Albert Ellis)
  • From the play, ART: “If I’m who I am because I’m who I am and you’re who you are because you are who you are, then I’m who I am and you’re who you are. If, on the other hand, I’m who I am because you’re who you are, and if you’re who you are because I’m who I am, then I’m not who I am and you’re not who you are.” – Yasmina Reza, translated by Christopher Hampton
  • “Never do too well that which you don’t want to do again.” – Steve McGonigle
  • I’ve learned that more than anything else, I’m about making things better and not being constrained by convention.
  • It’s more appropriate to talk in terms of MEANINGS (plural) than MEANING (singular).
  • You can’t talk about MEANINGS without first talking about ME.
  • MEANING is not conveyed so much as it is suggested, then interpreted.
  • After visiting old Jerusalem, sacred place for three major world religions, I learned that the central question of religion is: “Which story do you believe?”
  • How something is presented can be as important as what is presented.
  • Half a cup of coffee is less likely to go cold than a full cup.
  • I learned I couldn’t drive around St. Louis using my favorite 20-year-old road atlas. Even though the atlas had helped me navigate all over the country and carried a lot of sentimental value … if the roads change, the map has to be updated.
  • C. R. Jung: “There is no coming to consciousness without pain.”
  • The Eagles: “Don’t let the sound of your own wheels drive you crazy.”
  • One test is worth a thousand expert opinions. — sign in a test center office in Huntsville, Alabama
  • It’s not about what you do for a living …. it’s about what you do for a life.
  • Wendell Johnson: “To a mouse, cheese is cheese. That is why mouse traps are effective.”
  • College students and young adults only qualify for Learner’s Permits when it comes to driving yourself crazy. Once you reach the mid-30s, most of us have earned a full Commercial License –not only are we fully qualified to drive ourselves crazy, but we’re competent to drive other people crazy.
  • Sometimes order and technique make a difference. When washing your car windshield, there’s a reason why you squeegey from the top down.
  • “We give people what we want.” – Helen Harkness (applies to a multitude of applications)
  • I learned that – generally – you use which when there’s a comma, and that when there’s not, which I didn’t know before.
  • Life can be considered an extended experiment, in that there is no failure in the lab – only results.
  • Keep company with those who make you better.
  • BAKE and BROIL may result in the ‘same’ oven temperature, but they produce entirely different results.
  • My rules fit in my wallet. A lot of people have rules that fill libraries.
  • In 1801 we couldn’t have the “When does life begin?” debate that we have now because we know so much more now than we did then. In 2201, we’ll undoubtedly know much more that we know now, so we can expect the debate to change as our knowledge and understanding change.
  • I learned that the Internet has become pervasive when I overheard two 60-something women discussing their multiple Yahoo and Excite email accounts in a Denny’s coffee shop in South Bend, Indiana.
  • We all make our own measures, and we each measure with a different yardstick.
  • Abraham Maslow: “Our real guilt is not living up to our potential.”
  • Barbara Winter: “Go in the direction of your dreams, not your fears.”
  • I learned that we teach kids to become crazy like we are when I interviewed a high school kid for a Career Day exercise. Half of his resume dealt with band and his musical accomplishments and passions, but he said he was going to college to study engineering because “my dad’s an engineer and that’s how I can best support a family.”
  • At some point in your life, you have to start creating your own wisdom.
  • As you grow older and have more life experiences, you begin to understand that “some of the life commandments you learned growing up just don’t work anymore.” – Robert Babb
  • Single is not a 4-letter word.
  • Ralph W. Emerson: “The voyage of the best ship is a zigzag line of a hundred tacks. See the line from a sufficient distance, and it straightens itself to the average tendency. Your genuine action will explain itself, and will explain your other genuine actions. Your conformity explains nothing.”
  • People don’t need expert opinions nearly as much as they need insightful listeners.
  • The presidential election was a good example of the notion that once you’re inside the margin of error, you’re entered “The Non-Sense Zone”. Be careful of the inherent fallacies that will befall you when you make the first cut with a chain saw, then attempt the second with a scalpel.
  • Einstein: “The problems that exist in the world cannot be solved by the level of thinking that created them.”
  • If it’s “too close to call”DON’T!
  • A lot of people need to learn how to be less literal. A hammer can be used for more than driving nails.
  • Wisdom from a friend’s daddy: “I wish I could buy her for what she’s worth and sell her for what she thinks she’s worth.”
  • And I’ve learned that I miss my mother more now than when she died four years ago. Part of it is due to the fact that I’ve recently become very aware of how much of me is due to her. Part of it is that I really regret she can’t see how Stacy has grown and developed and will all-too-soon graduate from high school. And part of it is because I still carry her admonishment to me as an 8th-grader that I wasn’t making the most of my natural abilities and talents.

Here’s to all you’ve learned in 2000, and to the lessons we’ll learn together in 2001 — the year of HAL.

Steve and Stacy's Excellent NYC Vacation

Memorial Day Weekend, 1999

Stacy and me

Thursday, May 27

Our flight from DFW to LaGuardia was oversold, so they asked for volunteers to take a flight an hour later in exchange for $200 vouchers. After discussing it with Stacy, we put our names on the volunteer list. We didn’t have to get bumped, but the gate agent took care of us for volunteering and upgraded us to 1st Class …  instead of being in the next-to-last row, we moved up to the first! Stacy enjoyed all the service and couldn’t believe the difference in food service … especially the brownie fudge sundae.

Arrived at New York LaGuardia on time and after a few minutes of confusion found our car we had reserved, a Lincoln limo, with female Polish immigrant driver. Got caught up in some bad traffic going into the Mid-town Tunnel, but made it to Jim’s on W.22nd in about an hour.

Stacy on sofa

First thing after unpacking we walked about three blocks to this huge sports and entertainment complex called Chelsea Piers on the Hudson River. We went to their multi-level driving range and range balls into a big net extending out into the river, looking across to New Jersey, off of the second level with automatic ball feeder … it was pretty cool, but 67 balls cost us $20.

driving range

Cleaned up and took a cab to Times Square, walked around, saw where MTV studios are, and ate at the Official All-Star Cafe, a huge sports-themed place fronted by Wayne Gretzky, Monica Seles, Joe Montana, Ken Griffey, Jr., Shaq, Andre Agassi, and Tiger Woods. Pretty cool place for watching sports … they had I don’t know how many 10′ wide screens lining the upper rim of the place … maybe 20-25 all around. We walked off dinner on the way home, walking from Times Square (42nd and Broadway) to W. 22nd and Ninth Ave, passing by Madison Square Garden and down through Penn Station to prove to Stacy that there was actually a train station *below* M.S.G.

Times Square

AllStar Cafe

Friday, May 28th

We met two friends of mine from the Institute of General Semantics (Marjorie and George) for breakfast at the Empire Diner, right around the corner. Then they drove us down to Battery Park, through Greenwich Village, SoHo, past the World Trade Center. We took the ferry over to Liberty Island where the Statue of Liberty is. Very impressive, but we had to wait in about a 30-minute line to get on the ferry at both places, and almost sunburned. (The weather was perfect – clear/high clouds, dry, mid-80s.) We decided not to get off at Ellis Island because we saw the lines were long there to get back on, so we returned to Battery Park.

Statue of Liberty   Stacy at Liberty Park

Walked around Wall St., ate a slice of ‘real’ NY pizza at a small restaurant, walked past Trinity Church and cemetery and saw a headstone dated 1705. Found the subway station and rode it back uptown Jim’s, then napped.

Wall Street

Left about 7 for the Empire St. Bldg so we were up there near sunset, which was beautiful, but the observation level was pretty crowded and Stacy was still feeling the after-effects of her nap and wasn’t really into looking down 1,000 feet – 86 floors. Took the subway from Times Square to Central Park South and got out right across the street from Carnegie Hall and a block away from Hard Rock Cafe and Planet Hollywood, right at the southeast corner of Central Park, saw a handsome cab (horse-drawn carriage). After a long wait, we got into Hard Rock Cafe and had a good meal, then hopped the subway home.

Atop the Empire State Bldg

Atop the Empire State Bldg

Saturday, May 29th

Let Stacy sleep in, then walked to Greenwich Village. Stopped at Union Square and had breakfast/lunch on the sidewalk at the Coffee Shop on Union Square, across the street from the square and a big Saturday morning farmers’ market. Very interesting people-watching. (Actually, I’d like to think that we were two of the interesting people watching. <g>) After my first/last experience with Brazilian pancakes with passion fruit syrup, we walked on down to Washington Square, which was filled with people on a gorgeous afternoon. On one side of the square different street (park?)  performers were waiting in queue for a chance to do their thing and pass their hat. On the other side, an older guy who was obviously in his own galaxy sang show tunes accompanied by a small tinny boom box. What a great example of “melting pot”, with all different kinds of people! (Some of the ‘pot’ wasn’t ‘melting’, if you get my drift…)

Washington Square

Stacy Washington Sq

Stacy made an observation about how the people “didn’t seem to care” what other people were doing, or dressed like, or which language they spoke, and we talked about how nobody stood out as ‘different’ because there wasn’t really a dominant ‘sameness’. Stacy commented about how it was kinda like the people ‘cared’ by ‘not caring’, in that they were so tolerant of everyone. We got a pretty good feel for the diversity of both the natives and the tour-i (haven’t used that plural form of “tourist” since the Academy).

Feeling the effects of the hot weather (but dry and generally comfortable) and the trip, we subway’ed back to Jim’s and rested by watching the second “Star Wars” on video. (Let’s see, the second one, that would be Episode V … Stacy wants to catch up and see the three previous ones before going to the new one.) Then we got dressed, walked out at 7:25 to the subway station two blocks away, caught the train uptown to 42nd St., walked two blocks to the Nederlander Theater, and sat down in our most excellent seats for “Rent” at 7:55p. Our “most excellent” seats were row E (as in, A, B, C, D,* E*), right in the center, and were the result of an interesting story of how the Internet is changing our lives.

Rent Nederlander Theater

Since January I’ve participated on a Yahoo! discussion board discussing several stocks, including Ticketmaster Online City Search (symbol TMCS). Last month I posted a message mentioning how I had used the TM online website to look for Broadway tickets. The big shows I was looking for, however, were sold out all Memorial Day weekend (“The Lion King”, “Rent”, “Smokey Joe’s Cafe”). But I said something like how great it was to be able to do all that trip planning before leaving home on the Internet, to include buying tickets for the Empire State Bldg from home, and ordering a bunch of tour-i stuff. With no prompting, somebody named “suzyq” posted a message on the board to me saying to email her, she might can get me tickets. Turns our her sister works in some capacity such that she can get producer seats, and cutting out a lot of interesting email exchanges, “suzyq” got her sister to get us terrific tickets for “Rent”, all made possible by the Internet!

“Rent” just blew us away. I had seen it once before two years ago in Dallas, but Stacy couldn’t get over it. She especially liked one of the male leads (Mark). The story line and music is definitely late-90s and not for the young or the intolerant, but what great themes – “No day but today”; “Five hundred twenty-five thousand six hundred minutes, how do you measure one year?”, “There’s only this, there’s only us”. We came back and immediately  bought the two-CD soundtrack. I highly recommend it if it tours close to you. We took the subway back home, but stopped at the Chelsea Cafe for a late-night, post-theater coffee and milk shake.

Sunday, May 30th

Another absolutely perfect weather day. Dragged Stacy out of bed at 10:30, dressed in shorts and tshirts, and hopped on the subway headed to Central Park. Got off at 53rd St. and walked around in daylight in the general area where we had been Friday night around the Hard Rock Cafe, Planet Hollywood, Carnegie Hall, etc. Walked past the CBS studios and the Ed Sullivan theater where David Letterman is. Had a ‘real’ NY bagel at a small corner standup bakery near Columbus Circle, then entered Central Park at the southwest corner and meandered up the west side. Walked past the softball fields which seem to be in a lot of movies, looking back towards midtown, past the great lawn which was filled with Sunday sun worshippers, and on to Strawberry Fields and the John Lennon memorial. Then around the lake and the row boats, through the Brambles (Rambles?) – in which you’d swear you were alone in the mountains of Arkansas, instead of in the middle of 10 million people – and over to the east side and the Metropolitan Museum.

Late Show

Central Park

Central Park

Stacy Central Park


Stacy’s not yet quite appreciative of stuff like museums, but we enjoyed the air conditioning and a brief two-hour walk through some of the museum. She (and I) particularly like the Temple of Dendur, the 3500 year-old Egyptian temple which was moved over from the Nile valley, and the room of antique/ancient musical instruments.


We left the museum and caught a cab down to the southwest corner of the park at 58th street, turned around, and found ourselves in front of FAO Schwarz, probably the most famous toy store in the world, due in part to the floor xylophone scene in the movie “Big”. They had a HUGE room exclusively devoted to the new Star Wars, so we spent some time there, and wandered around in other rooms. Pretty darn impressive.

FAO Schwarz

From FAO Schwarz I was wanting to meander down towards Grand Central Terminal, because I really wanted Stacy to see it. On the way we went by the NBC Studios at 30 Rockefeller Plaza, and when we found out they had a studio tour leaving in 30 minutes we decided to do it. It was a little pricey, but definitely a treat to go through several of the studios and sit in the audience seats for “Saturday Night Live”, “Conan O’Brien”, “Rosie O’Donnell”, and the shooting set for “Dateline”. Also got our picture made on the set of “SNL” … at least, it looks like we’re on the set.

Austin Powers

It was a little after 5, and rather than head home, we walked back to the All-Star Cafe on Times Square. The Knicks were playing the Pacers in the first game of the NBA Eastern Finals, and we thought it would be cool to watch the game there. It was such a good idea that about 5,000 other New Yorkers and tour-i had the same idea, so we spent the first half standing upstairs waiting for a table. But we got seated at halftime and relaxed and watched the second half amidst the rabid NY fans. Quite an experience for our last night in New York. Never made it to Grand Central, but …. next time.

Monday, May 31st

Slept late, packed, enjoyed a leisurely sidewalk breakfast/lunch at the Empire Diner, said goodbye to the cats (Gordon and Sparky), and had a car pick us up at 2:00 for the drive to LaGuardia and uneventful flight home.

Empire Diner

W 22nd

All in all, quite a memorable Memorial Day.

Jim  and Jim – thanks again so much for letting us stay with your cats. Next time we come up you guys have to stay at home so you can show us around. Susan, a big public “thanks” for the tickets. To all who are putting off doing something ….

“No day but today”.

Stacy and Sparky

My 9-11

To the Douglas County (Oregon) 9-11-01 Project

September 2001

I heard about your project solicitating individuals to write down their experiences of September 11, 2001, from listening to National Public Radio (NPR) while driving through Oregon on the 12th. I think this is a worthwhile effort and would therefore like to make this contribution to your project.

I’m from the Dallas-Fort Worth area, 47 years old, divorced, with an 18-year-old daughter who just started college in Texas. On Saturday, September 8th, I arrived in Bellingham, WA, to visit my aunt and uncle for a planned 7-10 days, after a 4-day journey from Texas.

My September 11th began in that “nether world” of partial sleep, partial dream, and partial consciousness. I was playing back two quite coincidental — in hindsight, eerily coincidental — remembrances.

First, the day prior I had received an email from my daughter asking for the email address for my friend from high school, Jim, who lives in Manhattan. She and I had visited him for the second time this past July, which reinforced her love for New York City. Her college roommate had also visited New York in the past few months, and now they wanted to plan a Spring Break trip there. She wanted to see if he and his partner planned to be there and if they might play hosts again.

Second, in November of 1997, I spent one of my most favorite days ever in New York City with a woman I had just met the previous weekend in California at a mutual friend’s wedding. Circumstances were such that we both ended up in New York that day. Using my friend Jim’s place as a base, we spent the day walking, shopping and eating in Greenwich Village and Soho. Even though she’s now married and I’ve never seen her since, I look back on that day with much fondness.

I suppose that in integrating these two memories, I was semi-consciously hoping that my daughter and her roommate might have the opportunity to create their own similar fond experiences.

My full, though groggy, consciousness was awakened by two loud raps on the bedroom door a little after 6:00am. My uncle Perry cracked the door and somberly said, “Steve, you ought to get up and come see this. Terrorists have attacked the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.”

I joined my aunt and uncle in watching the news coverage, flipping from news channel to news channel. A few minutes after comprehending the scope of the four attacks and the resulting damage, we watched in disbelief as the first WTC tower fell in on itself. I remember thinking that the cascading, swirling smoke and dust cloud looked like an atomic bomb explosion in reverse, and I thought, “This looks just like the movie ‘Independence Day’.”

With the collapse of the first tower, then the anticipation that the second might go, I began to worry about what else might be going on in Manhattan, and if Jim was in immediate danger. Then it dawned on me that his partner had two offices – one in Midtown, and one Downtown … near the WTC. And I also realized that I have another good friend, Jeff, who works for Chase Bank – somewhere in the Financial District.

We spent that day and evening trying to absorb the pictures, the commentaries, the statements, the implications, the possibilities, and the few available facts. The more images I saw and the more words I heard, the more I wanted … because I wanted it to end. I sat helplessly worrying about Jim, his partner, and Jeff, knowing that there was no point in trying to contact them that day.

After a fitful night, I decided to leave and return to Texas the next day. Rationally, I knew there was nothing I could do that would so much as blow a breath of difference to the situation. But for me, things just didn’t feel right sitting there near Bellingham in picture-postcard beauty, unable to resist the magnetic pull of the TV tragedy. I felt like I needed to be moving.

Before I left on the 12th, I received an email from Jeff — he was okay. By the time I reached Bakersfield, CA, on the evening of the 13th, I thankfully heard good news from Jim, too. But still, I feel the need to continue home.

Thanks for offering me — and I’m sure others — the invitation to write down something about our personal experiences of this somewhat-shared tragedy. I know it’s helped me.

I also want to mention how incredibly important it was for me these past two days having NPR to listen to for updates and commentaries while I was on the road. I’m so used to cable/satellite TV coverage that I had forgotten we really don’t have national radio coverage. NPR filled that need for me.


Steve Stockdale
Irving, Texas

From Ciao to Chuy's in 24 Hours

August 2001

There travels a young rebel named Jack
On the road, packing only a sack.
No one knows his location
Save one friend in the nation,
So send mail to Jack, care o’ Wack.

(Van Horn, TX)   Pulled into town about 1:30pm, after leaving Phoenix at 3:15am. Terrific clear sky star scenery. Decided not to kill myself driving back, plus I wanted to watch the final round of the PGA championship, so I stopped. Very ironic that David Toms beat Phil Mickelson by one shot when he ‘gambled’ by ‘playing it safe’ on the last hole. (Note: good example of “irony”, vs. a simple coincidence which most people mistakenly label as “irony”.)

Sat outside on my bike this evening, becoming part of the cool summer’s sunset behind the mountains, licking a peppermint ice cream cone next to the Fast Stop Phillips 66 service station’s “Sweet 16 Ice Cream Parlor” on the near-deserted dusty old highway, a few hundred yards off I-10. Aren’t too many places left where you can get the full-scale “Lonesome Doppler Effect” of a passing car.

Kept thinking about my predicament … I haven’t worked in 4 months, I sold my house, put my stuff in storage, don’t have a place to call ‘home’, the money from the house sale is going fast … but for now, I can pretty much do whatever I want. No, it’s not THAT so much … it’s more like, I don’t HAVE to do anything I DON’T want to do. But after I get Stacy moved to college on Wednesday, I’ve got to figure out something – Cheryl will want me gone after Stacy leaves. And sooner or later I’ve got to do something to make some money. But like Scarlett shaking her fist in the potato field, I vow I’ll never go back to a “just-a-job” job like I just quit. I followed Johnny Paycheck’s advice — I took the job and shoved it. It felt — and it still feels — good. But what do I reach for now, now that I’ve shoved away that shitful job? I don’t know.

Ate at the locally-famous Chuy’s (“You missed Chuy’s! Turn back 2 blocks”, the sign said), a short bike ride from the Econolodge. The sign out front proclaims: We’re not affiliated with any other Chuy’s restaurants! As if anybody would ever confuse them with the chain. Went there because they had a patio. I wanted to continue to experience the evening’s sunset and thought an outdoor margarita, chips and dip would sit nicely atop the peppermint ice cream. Asked the guy (was that Chuy, I wonder?) for a margarita and he said it would have to be a “wine margarita”. Whatever that is. He didn’t offer chips but gave me a menu, so I glanced at it and ordered a combination burrito for $1.99, just like at Taco Bueno. (Except this place had actual metal silverware that looked like it might have been held pretty close to a dishwasher sometime in the past calendar month.)

The menu included an insert of a photocopied 6-year old newspaper article about how the Van Horn Chuy’s had been mentioned by John Madden (the football analyst on TV) on his “All Haul Team”. Madden doesn’t fly anywhere, instead he tools around the country in a custom-designed bus and apparently samples a lot of off-the-beaten-path places. I read the article twice, and it wasn’t clear to me that he necessarily liked the place, but it was clear to me he found it … unique.

No need for “Upon further review …” on that call.

The guy (Chuy?) brought out a basket of chips with the drink and burrito. Store bought. The ‘dip’ (I’m giving it the benefit of the doubt) came in a clear plastic squirtable bottle like cafes normally use for diluted ketchup. The “wine margarita” tasted like a Gatorade snow cone. Or, at least what I suspect a Gatorade snow cone would taste like if I had ever in my life come across one.

Van Horn’s the kind of place where two local families eat dinner out together and a teenaged boy actually participates in the conversation with the adults. Something having to do with the type of air filter that goes on a certain model of John Deere tractor. And the table couldn’t muffle their snickers when a too-neat-for-this-town traveler seated near them politely asked his waitress (Mrs. Chuy?) for an ashtray. I was right there with ’em, as if to say, “Mister, this whole damn place ain’t nuthin’ BUT an ash tray!”

What a difference from just 24 hours ago, when I was luxuriously finishing dessert at the trendy, upscale Cowboy Ciao ristorante in Scottsdale, Arizona, with my brother and his wife. And then just two days before that, when I sat at a Bally’s roulette table in Las Vegas at 3 in the morning, after four hours and four comp’ed Bourbon&Seven’s. Tonight I looked back on that, trying to figure out the right metaphor for the roulette wheel and my life. Haven’t figured out the odds yet.

I don’t know. But something about the ice cream, the bike, the cool sunset, and maybe even the Gatorade snow cone got me wondering if there might not be at least a few people I know who might feel a pang of envy at my freedom. (Yeah, that’s the ticket … like my old boss Frank Baumann used to say, “If you can’t fix it, feature it!”) There’s at least two people who have told me as much, that they enjoy keeping up with me because they “live vicariously” through my travails. Or was it my travels? Maybe both. Whatever. It sure as hell says something about THEIR lives to want to live anywhere NEAR mine.

But the thought tonight is, I think I’ll open up my diary/journal/whatever-it-is. Maybe it will help me get a better perspective on my plight to go back through my various notes and stuff with an eye/ear toward making it public, in some kind of context. Maybe it’ll amuse a few folks. And instead of feeling guilty for not communicating more with everybody, I can reply to all those “What’s up with you?” questions by referring them to my online diary with the challenge … “You REALLY want to know what’s going on with me? You’re sure you REALLY want to know?”

Heh, heh.

p.s. Make sure to give everybody who got the limerick a nice virtual wack on the back … 🙂

Condoms To Go

August 27, 2000

Driving up North Central Expressway (in Dallas) the other day, I noticed a big billboard sign just this side of Mockingbird Lane advertising the, uh, ’boutique’ shop – Condoms To Go.

I wasn’t shocked, but I became instantly curious as to why the name specified “To Go”.

Of course, after a couple of seconds it dawned on me that the owner(s) probably decided to call it Condoms To Go as an efficiency measure. This way, by having the name of the establishment include the words “to go”, the clerks won’t have to waste any time asking consumers, “Is that for here or to go?” Since the name of the store says “to go”, customers should obviously know that they’re supposed to buy their desired product(s) and then, you know … go.

So I wouldn’t expect to hear the question, “Is that for here or to go?“, inside the Condoms To Go store. And I got to thinking about other common consumer questions and phrases that I would NOT expect to hear inside a shop like Condoms To Go: (some of you may need to think about some of these …)

  • “Want fries with that?”
  • “You can super size it for just 39 cents more.”
  • “Sure. The fitting room is in the back.”
  • “Paper or plastic?”
  • “Would you like to take a test drive?”
  • “Satisfaction guaranteed”
  • “One size fits all.”
  • “30-day Money Back Guarantee”
  • “Buy now, pay later.”
  • “Layaway”
  • “I’m looking for something that doesn’t make me look quite so big.”
  • “No, I don’t have a trade-in.”
  • “We can hold it for up to 90 days. But you’ll have to make a deposit.”
  • “Factory re-conditioned and refurbished.”
  • “Like new”
  • “Recycled”
  • “100 Free Weekend Minutes!”
  • “500 Free Online Minutes (if used in the first 30 days)”
  • “You can always return it if it doesn’t fit.”
  • “The gift that keeps on giving.”
  • “Next day delivery.”
  • “Do you know much your trade-in is worth?”
  • “Happy hour specials”
  • “Labor Day is just around the corner.”
  • “What have you got to lose?”
  • “Senior citizens discount”
  • “We service all makes.”
  • “24-hour help line.”
  • “No overtime service charges.”
  • “It’s the next best thing to being there.”
  • “It’s time to get what you deserve.”
  • “We’re only paid when you collect!”
  • “Do it yourself and save.”
  • “Free local pickup”
  • “Free loaner service (with appointment)”
  • “Where’s the beef?”
  • “Will I need a second coat?”
  • “Bonded and insured”
  • “Professional installation available”
  • “Operators are standing by!”
  • “Summer Blowout Savings!”
  • “Grand Opening Sale!”
  • “50% off all accessories.”

Then a few days later …

Please note two inaccuracies from my message the other day:

1. Condoms To Go is not at Mockingbird and North Central, it’s a few miles further north on Walnut Hill.

2. It wasn’t a billboard that I saw, it was the actual neon sign on the building itself that says in bold red: CONDOMS TO GO .

In case you should happen to go looking for it, just be careful that you don’t confuse it with the store on the other side of the parking lot: Just For Feet .

(I’m not making this up.)

Quiet Desperation and Attitude

August 1999

Thoreau, in Walden, observed that, “The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation.”

This may seem a stretched connection, but I recalled the quote last Thursday night as I had the pleasure of escorting my daughter Stacy and her friend Rochelle to the Brian Setzer Orchestra (BSO) concert. (At my request.)

If the name doesn’t ring your bell, Brian Setzer led a punk-ish, rockabilly-throwback group in the early ’80s called the Stray Cats. They had two notable hits which still get some radio airplay, “Rock This Town” and “Stray Cat Strut”.

However, Setzer loved the old Big Band sounds with full brass sections, and he loved rock and roll. In the mid-’90s he formed his own 18-piece ‘orchestra’, which he fronts and leads with electric guitar and vocals. BSO helped legitimize the genre that’s loosely called the new “swing” movement, along with groups like Cherry Poppin’ Daddies, Big Bad Voodoo Daddy, Royal Crown Revue, and Squirrel Nut Zippers.

Make no mistake, BSO is definitely all about the band’s leader, Brian Setzer. Think Glenn Miller, sans trombone, with bleached blond pompadour, full body tattoos, earrings, about a dozen different guitars, and attitude that would make Madonna blush.

The music was great … wonderful … terrific … but it was that ATTITUDE that really grabbed me.

From the opening band, BR5-49 (introduced as “The Mother of All Hillbilly Bands”), ATTITUDE circulated the arena as if piped in with the air conditioning. Far from “hillbilly”, these five guys played the tar out of first-generation-ish “rockabilly” tunes, as befitted Elvis, the Everly Brothers, Buddy Holly, and Bill Haley. They seemed intent on whipping the audience into a state of finger-snapping, toe-tapping, hip-swinging ‘tude, just as their ultra-cool upright bass thumper whipped his strings like Alfalfa’s mother beat her rugs.

Then as the arena darkened, just to set the proper mood, BSO was introduced by the full two-minute “See the USA in a Chevrolet” jingle sung by none other than that goddess of ’50s radicals – Doris Day. The curtains parted (or were they blown off?) with an amplified opening blast from the golden-jacketed band, seated behind bright green music stands, alongside a pair of huge, cheesey rearview mirror dice, in front of a shimmering, glistening backdrop.

Like I said, this was all about ATTITUDE …. Setzer’s outrageously showy guitars …. his outlandish costumes …. the band rising en masse in mid-show to disrobe their gold blazers to reveal matching bowling shirts … then throwing their jackets back against the curtain … Setzer singing a doo-wap tune without backup singers, using his sax section instead, circled round him providing the harmonies …. and the hammering, relentless, pounding, thunka-thunka-thunka bass lines under the jubilant brass and Setzer’s electrifying guitar(s).

And even the crowd had ATTITUDE like I’ve seldom seen …. the floor was open for dancing, and there were probably two dozen swing-attired couples putting on a show themselves among the crowd.

In the midst of soaking this in, I wondered why it was that this ATTITUDE should be so palpable … is it because so few of us ever really let loose and exhibit our ATTITUDEs? I wondered how many of us are content to just go through the motions … to follow the steps … to play the notes as they’re written … to color inside the lines …

Thoreau’s words came into my awareness, I suppose, because this ATTITUDE I experienced seemed to contrast so starkly with its absence in my ‘normal’ daily life. How do I show *my* ATTITUDE? When? Under what constraints, and restraints? Why not more?

Perhaps some degree of the “quiet desperation” comes from our trying so damn hard to NOT show our ATTITUDEs … we expend too much of what could become ATTITUDE in our resolve to follow the instructions … to adhere to the guidelines … to stick to the path … to make the mold fit.

“If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer.” I don’t think Thoreau was just talking about percussionists.

Thoreau went to the woods near Walden because, in his words:

“I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach … I did not wish to live what was not life, living is so dear; nor did I wish to practice resignation … I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life …”

So what does Brian Setzer have to do with Henry David Thoreau?

He deeply sucked marrow. 🙂

Stacy, this one was for you.

Reflections on 10 Years of the Javelin Program

June 1999

I originally intended to present a historical timeline of the program, but it was just way too much, so what I’ve tried to do is select a few items from the program’s earlier days to give you a sense, or a recollection, of what it was like, 10 years ago on the AAWS-M (Advanced Anti-tank Weapon System – Medium) program, and recall a few of the personalities we’ve encountered along the way.

Now I should mention,  in the interests of recycling and software re-use, I have pulled some of my “encore” material from the files. For example, you may be wondering about the gloves …

Back in the early days, late 1989 into 1990, we used to have regular Saturday status meetings. One week, I was out sick but returned on Friday to prepare for Saturday’s meeting. During the day, I overheard someone say, regarding my absence, “Stockdale needs a pair of gloves THIS big to get his shit together.” So I started off that Saturday meeting wearing these gloves, and explained “These are the biggest I could find.”

Well, this is the part of the party where the gloves — both literally and figuratively — come off!

The TI/Martin AAWS-M Joint Venture officially formed ten years ago – June 21,1989 – coincident with the signing of the EMD contract. Of course, we don’t want to forget the years of work leading up to that red-letter day …. the toils and tears of the early days of Tank-Breaker, the invention and development of the focal plane array technology integrated with a tracker, the three-year Proof-of-Principle (or POP) program, and the agonizing period in which TI and Martin Marietta put together the ultimately-winning competitive proposal and BAFO. And, given the current circumstances, it’s perhaps worthwhile to remember that the two ‘losers’ (I mean, the unselected bidders) in that EMD competition were the former companies Ford Aerospace and a small electronics company in Tucson called Hughes. [Note to Listener: Insert your own punchline.]

Now, you may not be aware of the initial program organization:

  • the TI program moved to Denton from Lewisville in 1989
  • the Martin Marietta design and management staff moved to Denton from Orlando for the first 18 months, which was to have coincided with the PPT (Pre-Production Test) phase of the program
  • the JV Business Office actually set up shop in Huntsville, AL, with Steve Marcereau, Sue Heath, Wes Irby, Gene Costa, Mary Bowman, Robin Horton, Jeannie Brizzi, and Betty Williams
  • we had the TI Focal Plane Array Mfg (or FPAM) for both seeker arrays and CLU detector dewar coolers at the TI Expressway site
  • oh, yeah, and we had the CLU program at Forest Lane (geez, I bet that’s never happened before, somebody forgetting about the CLU!)

Now the initial program plan was for TI and Martin to cooperate in EMD, then compete in production. As we used to say, it was kinda like entering a marriage, knowing you were going to get divorced. We were each charged to transfer technology to the other such that we could each build and qualify complete systems in EMD. It’s somewhat interesting to recall the original workshare arrangement:

TI designed the seeker and the three ‘real’ boards in the GEU, the CLU (less power supply), and was the designated Lead for System Engineering and T&E.

Martin designed the fourth GEU board – the stabilization board, which begat a fifth board, the PDA; they also designed the GEU packaging and interconnects, missile airframe, and the CLU power supply, and led the design activity for the propulsion, warhead, CAS, telemetry, LTA and trainers.

As you can tell, prior to the notion of “Cost As an Independent Variable”, AAWS-M experimented with the notion of “Workshare As an Independent Variable.” The results were not unsurprising.

To say that the AAWS-M EMD program encountered some challenges would be to say that Les Shurtleff has a little growth on his upper lip. We can recall:

  • the weight problems, Dan Dyring’s maniacal counting of grams trying to get down to 50 lbs, then to 49.5 lbs to meet the waiver from 45 lbs.
  • the distracting diversion of the Baseline Test Program during the first nine months of EMD
  • the qual problems with JV suppliers
  • the problems with focal planes, and the infamous “FPAM Holding Account”, the abacus-driven accounting system which resulted in unpredictable and seemingly random monthly swings of transfers and journal entries rounded off to .1 MILLIONS of dollars per month! Fortunately, Martin Marietta had the responsibility to lead development of an FPA 2nd Source, so that they wouldn’t be dependent on TI for focal planes when it came time to compete. Lucky for them, and the program, they found a company out in California – out in Santa Barbara – which could pick up the slack from TI and reduce Martin’s future dependence on their production competitor. (Heh-heh-heh)

And then, there were the cost and schedule problems…..

Long before the Texas legislature established the Texas lotto, the AAWS-M EMD Schedule lotto offered the best betting entertainment in North Texas: “Today’s winning AAWS-M Schedule numbers: 36 -40 -48 -56 – 52 – and 54 months.”

I recall a meeting a couple of months into the program, when Dan Brown and his planners had done their magic and got their Artemis program to spit out the initial Master Program PERT chart. Col. Earl Finley, the Army Project Manager for AAWS-M, and his staff gathered around the tables, peering down at the spaghetti lines, networked together and converging at the far right with “IOT&E Complete” at April 30, 1992 (two months inside the government schedule). I recollect Col. Finley stating with all confidence: “Let’s not kid ourselves — we all know this isn’t a 36-month, $170M development program.”

But in point of fact, after the first two re-programmings in 1990 and 1991, Wes Irby provided the ultimate refute of Col. Finley’s pessimism: Of course this is a 36-month, $170M program …. no matter where we are or what we’ve completed or how much we’ve spent … we always have 36 months and $170M to go.”

Actually, though, I should point out that we never referred simply to “the schedule”. It was always preceded with adjectives, such as “aggressive  schedule …. challenging ….. very aggressive …. very challenging … success-oriented ….. assuming first-pass success ….“, and my own personal favorite, “awaiting a miracle.”

I regret that Steve Marcereau isn’t here tonight due to his recent knee surgery. In my opinion, Steve, more than anybody else, helped navigate the JV through some pretty murky cost and schedule turbulence in the early days. I remember a phrase he used to repeat as we got beat up in review after review, “We have to live today to fight tomorrow.” Everyday was an adventure. And Steve really helped us all get through some pretty ‘hair-raising’ adventures.

Yeah, looking back it’s not hard to imagine how the AAWS-M address at 3540 N. Elm St. in Denton soon became known as – obviously – “The Nightmare on Elm Street”. But with the passing of the years, we can look back and see that we had something unique, and sometimes special, up in Denton.

The Denton plant was a much smaller facility, where it was easy to get to know people. It was the kind of place, for example, where we had a plant-wide going-away party for Rosie, the cafeteria cashier.

It facilitated team work and cooperation. I can recall the occasion of Gary Koster’s 50th birthday. Some of you may not know that Gary served as the site manager in Denton. The secretarial staff worked like a well-oiled machine to decorate/bomb his office like I’ve never seen, complete with a black casket prominently displayed in front of the cafeteria. Do you remember that, Gary? Doesn’t that now seem like such a long, long…, long………., long……….. time ago?

And the close camaraderie of the Denton site promoted participation in events like Junior Achievement Bowling, and Big Games Days, which always drew a large AAWS-M participation. I remember one Big Games Day competition in which Lee Harris demonstrated the ultimate in group leadership and delegation. He recruited me and several others to participate on the QRA-sponsored team – the Opossums – told us where and what time to show up on Saturday morning, then went off and spent the entire day playing in a baseball tournament while the leader-less Opossums staged an unlikely last-to-first finish in the last event to win our division title, only then to have Lee show up from his baseball game just in time to accept the trophy – on our behalf.

With all of our execution problems, we worked extremely hard. If you averaged less than 50 hours a week, you were classified as “part-time program support.”

We did, however, take time out to be trained – especially mandatory training. I was going through my files and found my completion certificate for the TI mandatory course in Six Sigma  ……. in 1991! {Insert your own punchline}

Some of us were sometimes able to keep a sense of humor about things. For example, there was the software/tracker group, with its rather “eclectic” mix of personalities and unique humor. I’m told in late ’91, after the infamous Chester Ludlam came aboard to right the software ship by bringing on his hordes of engineers which peaked at – what, like, 3-400? – to get ready for software FQT, someone circulated a goodbye card for a departing engineer. About 35 software engineers signed the card — even though the engineer who was leaving was entirely imaginary.

A comment from my weekly report in 1991 offers some insight into our cost control techniques in those early days:

“Confirmed TI’s FY92 expenditure target with the JV. Prepared initial way to get there using a combination of FPAM and MPS reductions, data double-dips, deferral and reduction in build quantities, T&E/AUR reductions, near-mass vacations in July/August, labor rate adjustments, two talons of eagle, a lock of hair from a newborn goat and three pints of Dr. Dimento’s Universal Cure-All Elixir, all baked at 161.5 degrees for the next ten months.”

For me, though, the program bottomed out in the summer of 1991. I reached a point of personal exasperation, which I know was shared by many others, as reflected by the abysmal attitude survey results which were released that April. My July 17th weekly report reveals that some inner demon took over my keyboard and typed to the world:

  • I will have zero tolerance for B.S. When I see it, hear it, smell it, or step in it, I will flag it, mark it, highlight it or otherwise attempt to dispose of it on the spot.
  • I will not allow problems to fester. I will expose them at the earliest opportunity.
  • I will make every effort to meet the commitments I make.
  • I will recognize and acknowledge good work when I see it.
  • and the kicker … I will shave when there is a consensus of opinion that the program is turning the corner.

So I chose to become, more or less, a walking barometer of program sentiment. A couple of weeks later, Gene Gordon gave me a post-it note with a small button taped to it. The message written on the post-it said, “Steve, if you get tired of the beard, you can wear this.” The button read:


We’ve since exchanged this a few times as circumstances have changed. So Gene … well, I’ll just say that if you should receive a Fedex on August 18th …

Now, you might ask, “But, Steve, what was it like working so closely with your competitor in a Joint Venture?” Of course, that’s a very complicated, multi-faceted question which is hard to answer in words. But to give you some general sense of what it was like in the early days:

[Double-headed bear cartoon: “One of us is an asshole”]

And then there’s this one, which apparently contains such universal truth that the front of the speaker’s podium has been whited out, I suppose to allow easy change out of the company logo:


[Dinosaur cartoon: “The situation’s pretty bleak, gentlemen … The world’s climates are changing, the mammals are taking over, and we all a brain about the size of a walnut.”]

As the early 90s proceeded, Martin Marietta led the trend toward defense industry consolidation. I may have the order wrong, but I recall they gobbled up companies like Ford Aerospace, Honeywell, Fairchild, GE Aerospace, Sanders, IBM Federal, Unisys Defense, and then the biggie – they merged with Lockheed/General Dynamics, and then after that bought Loral. This insatiable growth didn’t stop until Congress blocked their attempt to merge with … the United States Air Force.

According to this fax, until Congress blocked the deal, there was widespread concern among government officials regarding the feasibility of an industry/military merger. One skeptical government official is quoted in this article as saying, “We know how to spend money, but we don’t know a damn thing about making it.”

But enough of problems and companies and challenges … it’s time to remember some of the people we would do well to remember from the early days, whom I haven’t already mentioned. At the very real risk of forgetting somebody, for which I upfront apologize.

Let’s not forget those we started with — Jimmie Horton was the Anti-armor Division Vice-President; Larry Freeman was the JV President, Steve Marcereau was the JV Vice-president; Jerry Muscha was the TI Program Manager, and Howard Weaver was the Martin Marietta Program Manager.

Weaver Lafferty was still in the hospital recovering from his surgery; looking at old org charts we can see old familiar names like Paul Allen, Marcus Rhodes, Ralph Dawson, Dave Dart, Pete Nelson, Jerry Whatley, Brian Kavanaugh, Ernie Vigil, Wendell Bonham, Clay Clark, Alan Perkowski, Herb Flandreau, Curtis Jones, Pilar Chiodo, Larry Logsdon, Buddy Norred, Keith Olson, Val Herrera, Dick Scott, Mike Carr, Mike Leddy, Ernie Strong, Donna Dalton, Chris Hornberger, Jerry Schaefer, Angela Driggers, and Barbara Lindley.


And then there was Carroll Falls, whom I certainly wouldn’t want to mention in the same breath with anyone else.

Oh, and let’s not forget the secretarial staff — Shari Daugherty, Denna Hilliard, Lisa Nack, Dee Rainey, Carol Mason, Sandy Turk, Peggy Blythe, Sherry Porter, Betty Tyler, Tammy Gross, and Joy Nyquist (whom we referred to affectionately as “Auntie Armor”).

Oh, yeah, I almost forgot the CLU – geez, I bet that’s never happened before. George Chollar, Leader Koo, Gene Gordon, Jim Byrne, Jim Harwell, Jon Piatt, Bill Deckert, Frank Ometz. They spent the first year of EMD being neglected and forgotten about down at Forest Lane, then in June 1990 they were shipped up to Denton, along with their happy-go-lucky PCC manager at the time … Les Shurtleff and his trusty sidekick Becky Craft.

And then there were the “JV Pukes” — names from TI and Martin you may recall such as Ron Hughes, Leroy Ducharme, Chuck Sincoski, Pat Gooden, Murro Martens, Ron Dodge, and of course, Dan Brown and his Planners of Renown.

And a special mention is reserved for Clyde-the-Glide-Rupert, the spiritual godfather of the Cost Reduction Plan model by way of the LRIP 1 DTUPC spreadsheet, the original “Baby Book” and inventor of the “Rupert Swiz …..” … uh … I’ll just leave it at that.

Then of course we can’t talk about the people without mentioning a few of our fearless leaders. On the serious side, in going through my files I found this – the memorial to Jerry Junkins, TI Chairman and CEO who died suddenly in 1996. The title of this tribute reads, “He had the vision to lead, and the humility to listen”.  A message I would offer to all of you aspiring leaders out there.

I feel privileged to have known and had the opportunity to observe the leadership of Dean Clubb. One comment which he tended to repeat over and over applies to us as managers, supervisors, parents, spouses, volunteers – or whatever we do: “You get what you accept.” “You get what you accept.”

And then there was Larry Schmidt and Bob Vaughan. Now don’t worry, I’m not going to repeat any of THEIR pearls of wisdom.

I remember first meeting Larry outside the conference room on his first afternoon to report in Denton. We were in the October 1991 “Save the Program” meeting with George Williams. That morning, Dean had briefed the program re-organization, and commented to Mr. Williams that Larry was “the best program manager we’ve got”.

I specifically remember Larry that day because he had trouble maintaining his balance — I noticed that his shoes had no heels. I guess they couldn’t survive the long drag on I-35 between Lewisville and Denton.

Now with Bob Vaughan, I knew of his reputation before I actually met him. But really, I didn’t have a hard time with Bob, as I’ve heard some others did. I suppose it was because I was a pretty good athlete, and I didn’t have much trouble dodging the flying coffee mugs.

I remember Larry and Bob as “people persons”. Such as the time they treated the LRIP 1 proposal team to a celebration after we delivered  the LRIP 1 proposal to the Project Office in Huntsville.  They extended their heartfelt thanks to the team by taking the eight of us for a late lunch to ….. the Huntsville Hooters for hot wings and pitcher beer. Then we rushed off to the airport to fly home, and Larry had arranged for us TIers to fly back in the TI Lear jet. And to further show his appreciation to Barbara Lindley, Clyde Rupert, Gary Koster and me, he had arranged for the flight crew to obtain for us …. complete takeout barbeque meals! Less than an hour after we left Hooter’s! That’s just the kind of guy that Larry was.

When Larry and Bob left Javelin, I felt they deserved special commemoration. On the occasion of Larry’s transfer in August 1994 from Javelin to lead  the troubled Advanced Programs Division, I ‘presented’ this to him at his going-away:

The Leader

Into another chaotic mess I come
Once your self-managed follies are done.
When reality finally boxes your ears
And your voices cry out, “We need you here!”

I pack my saddle and mount my steed
Again to ride ahead those in need.
For if Failure beckons, and you fear you heed Her,
Call on me – I BE THE LEADER!

Call on me when victory’s in doubt
And mere mortals see no sensible out,
I’ll make a decision, the issue I’ll force,
Just simply do whatever I say, of course!

For I’m not paid to sit and ponder
Or lazily ’round the decision tree wander.
My game be ACTION, my pace be QUICK
So follow me! Else, your ass I’ll kick!

Now, my job here is completely finished.
I leave with “Hosanna!”s, my image unblemished.
When our history’s written, and you be the reader,
You’ll think of me, for I BE THE LEADER!

With one final thought for you I now leave
On Javelin, Life, to whatever you cleave …
Shut up in the back! So everyone hears
I’ll say this just once, then get back to my beers.

When troubles catch up, despite your best run
When the job is so tough, it just can’t be done,
When you’re ready to quit, you can’t take more abuse ….
Don’t call on me! The watch is now Stu’s.

And then to ‘honor’ Bob Vaughan at his retirement party in February 1995, I prepared this for Stu to present, then he chickened out. I was after some way to capture Bob’s deep passion, his almost religious conviction, for his work …

Bob Vaughan is my partner; I shall not cross.
He maketh me to sit still in Program Reviews;
he leadeth me NOT down the green fairways.
He restoreth my Rounds;
he leadeth me down the paths to Troy for the soldiers’ sake.
Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of QALVT,
I will fear no failure;
For Bob art with me.
His Ron and his staff, they comfort me.
We’ve preparest a program before us
in the presence of our customer;
We hath anointed Bob’s head with calm.
His mug runneth over.
Surely good wishes and godspeed shall follow Bob
all the fiscal years of his life, and he shall
dwell in the house of Janice forever.

Thank you for allowing me to share some of my recollections over the last 10 years. I’d like to close with one of my fondest memories of Denton and Javelin, the Denton Plant Dig.

The Denton plant was configured similarly to the Lewisville plant, with the large indoor atriums. When TI closed the plant, they allowed the employees to dig up and transplant most of the plants. Some TIers inventoried and tagged all the plants, then we had a lottery so that everyone who wanted to participate would draw three or four plants, and the last Saturday prior to closure we spent the day digging up our plants. For me, it truly was a wonderful experience. I’m pleased to say that I still have three of the four plants I dug.

So in the spirit of digging and transplanting … Each of us will soon begin, or continue, moves and transitions to different places with different people in different situations. We will each face challenges which will require us to grow in new and unique ways. I’ll leave you with this final comment, inspired by my proud 10-year association with the Javelin program, and my experience with the Denton Plant Dig:

Take care to protect your roots.