Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Come Bye

"Come bye" is part of the shepherd's vocabulary.  It tells the dog to run around behind the sheep in the clockwise direction.  "Away to me" is for the counterclockwise direction.  The vocabulary is brief and concise.  "Walk up", "take time", and the absolutely essential "lie down".  "That will do" tells the dog to turn away from the sheep.  These commands are translated into whistles, a unique whistle for each one. They are non-negotiable.  Armed with this shared vocabulary, handler and dog should be able to move a flock of sheep safely and efficiently across a pasture, through gates, around obstacles and into a pen.  A successful handler trusts her dog to use initiative when circumstances warrant. I am in Klamath Falls, OR at the United States Border Collie Handlers' Association National Sheepdog Finals.  150 of the best dogs and handlers are here.  I am one of the many volunteers who make this trial possible.  Each of these dogs has a heart of gold.  It is hot.  The field is dusty.  The sheep have their own view of the best path to take.  Sometimes the handler and dog achieve a perfect balance between pressure and release for the sheep, and things go smoothly.  Sometimes not.  Before the course is complete, the dog has run close to two miles, stopped hard, changed direction, walked cautiously forward and waited as the sheep developed the trust necessary to proceed.  The handler has whistled, called, anticipated, and waited as the sheep developed the trust necessary to proceed.  Those who score well know that success lasts only until the next time-up presents new sheep and new challenges.  Those who don't score so well know there will be another chance with new sheep and new challenges.  Many of those watching hope to walk out onto the field at a future National Finals.  I am one of those whose life has been changed by these dogs, and who shares that hope. 

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Have You Smiled Today?

In mile 165 of a 200 mile trip today,  my satellite radio station "Willy's Roadhouse", offered up this classic.  See if you can listen without a smile.

Friday, September 14, 2012

You've Got to Be Carefully Taught

With the hateful chaos spreading in North Africa and the Middle East, Rodgers and Hammerstein come to mind.  We often speak of them as one.  Together they wrote, produced and directed great musicals in the great era of Broadway big-shows.   They tackled big topics in their shows:  Oklahoma!, Carousel, The King and I, and The Sound of Music.    South Pacific  ran on Broadway for over five years.  The story is based on work by James Michener.  Many of the songs such as Younger than Springtime and Some Enchanted Evening are well known, and still performed often.  One song is perhaps less known.  It is not often recorded separately.  Too bad.  It is an important message today:

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.

Monday, September 10, 2012

In Honor of Their Act

On September 11th there will be much written and said about the attacks on America 11 years ago.  I add this.  Look at your watch.  Wait for 10 seconds.  That is the time that it took for a jumper to hit the ground from the upper floors of Tower One.  He or she would be hurling down at greater than 150 miles per hour.  Such impact is impossible to survive.  Perhaps he had already lost consciousness.  Perhaps she had felt a rush of release from the inferno that was melting steel and would kill her for sure if she stayed.  Sometimes two held hands as they fell showing the world that they were alive on the descent.  Reports estimate that 200 jumped, almost all from Tower One.  Incredibly to me, some observers, some family members refused to accept that the jumpers jumped.  Jumping was a conscious, willful act.  Those who would not believe what cameras and eye witnesses saw were sure that those trapped would obey their religious prohibitions against suicide.  They would wait on the will of God.  All of the official reports term the jump a "fall".  I choose to see it differently.  In the face of the unimaginable choice between death and action they chose action.  Their will to live transcended their stockpile of shoulds and oughts.  Their leap into the abyss was their final fist-shake at fate.  I cannot get them out of my mind.  I will dwell on them tomorrow. 

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Last Ice Cream Sandwich of the Summer

An ice cream truck comes by our house on Thursdays and Sundays in the summer.  I can hear it's music when it turns off the arterial into our neighborhood.  I take my money and stand at the end of the driveway.  I am 10 years old again.  I know what each item looks like because I have studied the pictures on the truck.  They have not changed in my lifetime of hoping for an ice cream sandwich or a creamsicle.  Here is a picture that is labeled "Vintage Ice Cream Truck".

This could be me and my school friends. Apparently many of us still crave the indulgence.  This summer Dove Ice Cream set up a truck in Minneapolis to dispense free Dove Bars along with a five minute massage.

The ice cream trucks of my youth often played Scott Joplin's rag, The Entertainer.  By the time my children ran to the corner for ice cream Frank Mills had composed his piano song Music Box Dancer.  The tune had been forming in his mind when his young daughter brought him her broken music box to fix.  The rest is history.  Music Box Dancer became the #1 record in 26 countries.  Recordings, sheet music and arrangements together have sold  6 million copies making Frank a wealthy man who could retire to Vermont and the Bahamas.  The ice cream truck in my neighborhood, and hundreds of others around the world, plays the Music Box Dancer".  Here it is:

Two final thoughts: during this political season much has been made of the role of "small business" in the American economy.  Most ice cream trucks are owned by their drivers.  There are very few chains or franchises.  These are hard working Americans with a shared sweet tooth.  And - running to the sidewalk to meet the truck is not just for kids or day-dreaming "vintage" kids.  After her loss in the semi-finals of the U.S. Open last week,  tennis-great Maria Sharapova licked her wounds with her choice from the ice cream truck around the corner from her hotel: vanilla with rainbow sprinkles.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Isn't This Supposed to be a Secret?

It's happened again: top secrets on page 3.  In today's newspaper there is an Associated Press story with this headline: "More Spies, Diplomats to Syrian Border".  I thought the deployment of spies was a top secret event.   Why does James Bond need all his fancy fake passports and rocket throwing cars if every one knows there is a new spy in town.  Should be easy to spot him if you know what you are looking for.  In our small town home in Alaska we could always tell when someone had an out-of-town banker or lawyer visiting - it would be the person in a business suit carrying a leather briefcase.

The AP story explains that the spy deployment is part of a "...two-pronged effort by the Obama administration to bolster the rebels militarily without contributing weapons to the fight, and politically to help them stave off internal power challenges by the well-organized and often better-funded hard-line Islamic militants who have flowed into the country..."  And then "Officials [who had been briefed] spoke on condition of anonymity".   What kind of spy - referred to in the article as "intelligence operatives" wants his assignment announced to the world before he even arrives at his destination?  What kind of "official" gossips to the press?  What kind of administration allows this kind of behavior to continue to happen?

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Look Right and Left

For all those who have sent youngsters off to catch the bus: here is a traffic video to rattle your nerves.

Was the Trade Worth the Price?

By now you may have heard about the trees.  The space shuttle Endeavor will soon be on the final leg of it journey to the California Science Center.  Its twelve miles from the Los Angeles airport to the Science Center.  This week those miles will be littered with the debris left behind as over 400 trees are removed so that the shuttle's wing span can be accommodated on the route.  By removed I mean cut down.  Cut down and chipped immediately.  I am very much in favor of cutting trees in the course of using wood for sawn and pulped products.   On a macro scale, trees are a renewable resource.  Start with 100 acres of fast growing pine, cut 5 each year, replant immediately and in 20 years you can start the rotation over again.  But trees planted early in the last century to shade the sunny streets of Los Angeles present a micro landscaping problem.  Despite the Science Center's promise to plant 2 trees for every 1 cut down, the street scene will not be the same for generations.  No argument in favor of tourism and school field trips would have made the trade off worthwhile to me.