Monday, August 31, 2009
California Fire News:
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I'll add more as I get them.
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Sunday, August 30, 2009
Wednesday, August 26, 2009
The Pragmatics of Patriotism
by Robert Heinlein
On 5 April, 1973, I delivered the James Forrestal Memorial Lecture to the Brigade of Midshipmen at my alma mater the United States Naval Academy. As the first half of the lecture, at the request of the midshipmen, I discussed freelance writing. This is the second half:
In this complex world, science, the scientific method, and the consequences of the scientific method are central to everything the human race is doing and to wherever we are going. If we blow ourselves up we will do it by the misapplication of science; if we manage to keep from blowing ourselves up, it will be through intelligent application of science. Science fiction is the only form of fiction which takes into account this central force in our lives and futures. Other sorts of fiction, if they notice science at all, simply deplore it - an attitude very chic in the anti-intellectual atmosphere today. But we will never get out of the mess we are in by wringing our hands.
Let me make one flat-footed prediction of the science-fiction type. Like all scenarios this one has assumptions - variables treated as constants. The primary assumption is that World War Three will hold off long enough - ten, twenty, thirty years - for this prediction to work out... plus a secondary assumption that the human race will not find some other way to blunder into ultimate disaster.
Prediction: In the immediate future - by that I mean in the course of the naval careers of the class of '73 - there will be nuclear-powered, constant-boost spaceships - ships capable of going to Mars and back in a couple of weeks - and these ships will be armed with Buck-Rogerish death rays. Despite all treaties now existing or still to be signed concerning the peaceful use of space, these spaceships will be used in warfare. Space navies will change beyond recognition our present methods of warfare and will control the political shape of the world for the foreseeable future. Furthermore - and still more important - these new spaceships will open the Solar System to colonization and will eventually open up the rest of the Galaxy.
I did NOT say that the United States will have these ships. The present sorry state of our country does not permit me to make such a prediction. In the words of one of our most distinguished graduates in his THE INFLUENCE OF SEA POWER UPON HISTORY: 'Popular governments are not generally favorable to military expenditures, however necessary''. Every military officer has had his nose rubbed in the wry truth of Admiral Mahan's observation. I first found myself dismayed by it some forty years ago when I learned that I was expected to maintain the ship's battery of USS ROPER in a state of combat readiness on an allowance of less than a dollar a day - with World War Two staring down our throats.
The United States is capable of developing such spaceships. But the mood today does not favor it. So I am unable to predict that WE will be the nation to spend the necessary R&D money to build such ships.
(Addressed to a plebe midshipman:)
Mister, how long is it to graduation?
Sixty-two days? Let's make it closer than that. I have... 7.59, just short of eight bells. Assuming graduation for ten in the morning that gives... 5,320,860 seconds to graduation... and I have less than 960 seconds in which to say what I want to say.
(To the Brigade at large:)
Why are you here?
(To a second plebe:)
Mister, why are YOU here?
Never mind, son; that's a rhetorical question. You are here to become a naval officer. That's why this Academy was founded. That is why all of you are here: to become naval officers. If that is NOT why YOU are here, you've made a bad mistake. But I speak to the overwhelming majority who understood the oath they took on becoming midshipmen and look forward to the day when they will renew that oath as commissioned officers.
But why would anyone want to become a naval officer? In the present dismal state of our culture there is little prestige attached to serving your country; recent public opinion polls place military service far down the list.
It can't be the pay. No one gets rich on the pay. Even a 4-star admiral is paid much less than top executives in other lines. As for lower ranks, the typical naval officer finds himself throughout his career just catching up from the unexpected expenses connected with the last change of duty when another change of duty causes a new financial crisis. Then, when he is about fifty, he is passed over and retires... but he can't really retire because he has two kids in college and one still to go. So he has to find a job... and discovers that jobs for men his age are scarce and usually don't pay well.
Working conditions? You'll spend half your life away from your family. Your working hours? 'Six days shalt thou work and do all thou art able; the seventh the same, and pound on the cable.' A forty-hour week is standard for civilians - but not for naval officers. You'll work that forty-hour week, but that's just a starter. You'll stand a night watch as well, and duty weekends. Then with every increase in grade your hours get longer - until at last you get a ship of your own and no longer stand watches. Instead you are on duty twenty-four hours a day... and you'll sign your night order book with: 'In case of doubt, do not hesitate to call me.'
I don't know the average week's work for a naval officer but it's closer to sixty than to forty. I'm speaking of peacetime, of course. Under war conditions it is whatever hours are necessary - and sleep you grab when you can.
Why would anyone elect a career which is unappreciated, overworked, and underpaid? It can't be just to wear a pretty uniform. There has to be a better reason.
As one drives through the bushveldt of East Africa it is easy to spot herds of baboons grazing on the ground. But not by looking at the ground. Instead you look up and spot the lookout, an adult male posted on a limb of a tree where he has a clear view all around him - which is why you can spot him; he has to be where he can see a leopard in time to give the alarm. On the ground a leopard can catch a baboon... but if a baboon is warned in time to reach the trees, he can out-climb a leopard. The lookout is a young male assigned to that duty and there he will stay, until the bull of the herd sends up another male to relieve him. Keep your eye on that baboon; we'll be back to him.
Today, in the United States, it is popular among self-styled 'intellectuals' to sneer at patriotism. They seem to think that it is axiomatic that any civilized man is a pacifist, and they treat the military profession with contempt. 'Warmongers' - 'Imperialists' - 'Hired killers in uniform' - you have all heard such sneers and you will hear them again. One of their favorite quotations is: 'Patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel.' What they never mention is that the man who made that sneering remark was a fat, gluttonous slob who was pursued all his life by a pathological fear of death.
I propose to prove that that baboon on watch is morally superior to that fat poltroon who made that wisecrack. Patriotism is the most practical of all human characteristics. But in the present decadent atmosphere patriots are often too shy to talk about it - as if it were something shameful or an irrational weakness. But patriotism is NOT sentimental nonsense. Nor is it something dreamed up by demagogues. Patriotism is as necessary a part of man's evolutionary equipment as are his eyes, as useful to the race as eyes are to the individual. A man who is NOT patriotic is an evolutionary dead end. This is not sentiment but the hardest of logic.
To prove that patriotism is a necessity we must go back to fundamentals. Take any breed of animal - for example, tyrannosaurus rex. What is the most basic thing about him? The answer is that tyrannosaurus rex is dead, gone, extinct.
Which brings us to the second fundamental question: Will homo sapiens stay alive? Will he survive?
We can answer part of that at once: Individually h. sapiens will NOT survive. It is unlikely that anyone here tonight will be alive eighty years from now; it approaches mathematical certainty that we will all be dead a hundred years from now as even the youngest plebe here would be 118 years old by then - if still alive.
Some men do live that long but the percentage is so microscopic as not to matter. Recent advances in biology suggest that human life may be extended to a century and a quarter, even a century and a half - but this will create more problems than it solves. When a man reaches my age or thereabouts, the last great service he can perform is to die and get out of the way of younger people.
Very well, as individuals we all die. This brings us to the second half of the question: Does homo sapiens AS A BREED have to die? The answer is: No, it is NOT unavoidable. We have two situations, mutually exclusive: Mankind surviving, and mankind extinct. With respect to morality, the second situation is a null class. An extinct breed has NO behavior, moral or otherwise.
Since survival is the sine qua non, I now define 'moral behavior' as 'behavior that tends toward survival.' I won't argue with philosophers or theologians who choose to use the word 'moral' to mean something else, but I do not think anyone can define 'behavior that tends toward extinction' as being 'moral' without stretching the word 'moral' all out of shape.
We are now ready to observe the hierarchy of moral behavior from its lowest level to its highest. The simplest form of moral behavior occurs when a man or other animal fights for his own survival. Do not belittle such behavior as being merely selfish. Of course it is selfish... but selfishness is the bedrock on which all moral behavior starts and it can be immoral only when it conflicts with a higher moral imperative. An animal so poor in spirit that he won't even fight on his own behalf is already an evolutionary dead end; the best he can do for his breed is to crawl off and die, and not pass on his defective genes.
The next higher level is to work, fight, and sometimes die for your own immediate family. This is the level at which six pounds of mother cat can be so fierce that she'll drive off a police dog. It is the level at which a father takes a moonlighting job to keep his kids in college - and the level at which a mother or father dives into a flood to save a drowning child... and it is still moral behavior even when it fails.
The next higher level is to work, fight, and sometimes die for a group larger than the unit family - an extended family, a herd, a tribe - and take another look at that baboon on watch; he's at that moral level. I don't think baboon language is complex enough to permit them to discuss such abstract notions as 'morality' or 'duty' or 'loyalty' - but it is evident that baboons DO operate morally and DO exhibit the traits of duty and loyalty; we see them in action. Call it 'instinct' if you like - but remember that assigning a name to a phenomenon does not explain it.
But that baboon behavior can be explained in evolutionary terms. Evolution is a process that never stops. Baboons who fail to exhibit moral behavior do not survive; they wind up as meat for leopards. Every baboon generation has to pass this examination in moral behavior; those who bilge it don't have progeny. Perhaps the old bull of the tribe gives lessons... but the leopard decides who graduates - and there is no appeal from his decision. We don't have to understand the details to observe the outcome; baboons behave morally - for baboons.
The next level in moral behavior higher than that exhibited by the baboon is that in which duty and loyalty are shown toward a group of your kind too large for an individual to know all of them. We have a name for that. It is called 'patriotism.'
Behaving on a still higher moral level were the astronauts who went to the Moon, for their actions tend toward the survival of the entire race of mankind. The door they opened leads to hope that h. sapiens will survive indefinitely long, even longer than this solid planet on which we stand tonight. As a direct result of what they did, it is now possible that the human race will NEVER die. Many short-sighted fools think that going to the Moon was just a stunt. But those astronauts knew the meaning of what they were doing, as is shown by Neil Armstrong's first words in stepping down onto the soil of Luna: 'One small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind.' Let us note proudly that eleven of the Astronaut Corps are graduates of this our school. And let me add that James Forrestal was the FIRST high-ranking Federal official to come out flatly for space travel.
I must pause to brush off those parlor pacifists I mentioned earlier... for they contend that THEIR actions are on this highest moral level. They want to put a stop to war; they say so. Their purpose is to save the human race from killing itself off; they say that too. Anyone who disagrees with them must be a bloodthirsty scoundrel - and they'll tell you that to your face. I won't waste time trying to judge their motives; my criticism is of their mental processes: Their heads aren't screwed on tight. They live in a world of fantasy.
Let me stipulate that, if the human race managed its affairs sensibly, we could do without war. Yes - and if pigs had wings, they could fly. I don't know what planet those pious pacifists are talking about but it can't be the third one out from the Sun. Anyone who has seen the Far East - or Africa - or the Middle East - knows or certainly should know that there is NO chance of abolishing war in the foreseeable future. In the past few years I have been around the world three times, traveled in most of the communist countries, visited many of the so-called emerging countries, plus many trips to Europe and to South America; I saw nothing that cheered me as to the prospects for peace. The seeds of war are everywhere; the conflicts of interest are real and deep, and will not be abolished by pious platitudes. The best we can hope for is a precarious balance of power among the nations capable of waging total war - while endless lesser wars break out here and there. I won't belabor this. Our campuses are loaded with custard-headed pacifists but the yard of the Naval Academy is not one place where I will encounter them. We are in agreement that the United States still needs a navy, that the Republic will always have need for heroes - else you would not be here tonight and in uniform.
Patriotism - Moral behavior at the national level. Non sibi sed Patria. Nathan Hale's last words: 'I regret that I have but one life to give for my country.' Torpedo Squadron Eight making its suicidal attack. Four chaplains standing fast while the water rises around them. Thomas Jefferson saying, 'The Tree of Liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots'' A submarine skipper giving the order 'Take her DOWN!' while he himself is still topside. Jonas Ingram standing on the steps of Bancroft Hall and shouting, 'The Navy has no place for good losers! The Navy needs tough sons of bitches who can go out there and WIN!'
Patriotism - An abstract word used to describe a type of behavior as harshly practical as good brakes and good tires. It means that you place the welfare of your nation ahead of your own even if it costs you your life. Men who go down to the sea in ships have long had another way of expressing the same moral behavior tagged by the abstract expression 'patriotism.' Spelled out in simple Anglo-Saxon words 'Patriotism' reads 'Women and children first!'
And that is the moral result of realizing a self-evident biological fact: Men are expendable; women and children are not. A tribe or a nation can lose a high percentage of its men and still pick up the pieces and go on... as long as the women and children are saved. But if you fail to save the women and children, you've had it, you're done, you're THROUGH! You join tyrannosaurus rex, one more breed that bilged its final test.
I must amplify that. I know that women can fight and often have. I have known many a tough old grandmother I would rather have on my side in a tight spot than any number of pseudo-males who disdain military service. My wife put in three years of active duty in World War Two, plus ten years reserve, and I am proud - very proud! - of her naval service. I am proud of every one of our women in uniform; they are a shining example to us men.
Nevertheless, as a mathematical proposition in the facts of biology, children, and women of child-bearing age, are the ultimate treasure that we must save. Every human culture is based on 'Women and children first' - and any attempt to do it any other way leads quickly to extinction.
Possibly extinction is the way we are headed. Great nations have died in the past; it can happen to us. Nor am I certain how good our chances are. To me it seems self-evident that any nation that loses its patriotic fervor is on the skids. Without that indispensable survival factor the end is only a matter of time. I don't know how deeply the rot has penetrated - but it seems to me that there has been a change for the worse in the last fifty years. Possibly I am misled by the offensive behavior of a noisy but unimportant minority. But it does seem to me that patriotism has lost its grip on a large percentage of our people. I hope I am wrong... because if my fears are well grounded, I would not bet two cents on this nation's chance of lasting even to the end of this century. But there is no way to force patriotism on anyone. Passing a law will not create it, nor can we buy it by appropriating so many billions of dollars. You gentlemen of the Brigade are most fortunate. You are going to a school where this basic moral virtue is daily reinforced by precept and example. It is not enough to know what Charlie Noble does for a living, or what makes the wildcat wild, or which BatDiv failed to splice the main brace and why - nor to learn matrix algebra and navigation and ballistics and aerodynamics and nuclear engineering. These things are merely the working tools of your profession and could be learned elsewhere; they do not require 'four years together by the Bay where the Severn joins the tide.'
What you do have here is a tradition of service. Your most important classroom is Memorial Hall. Your most important lesson is the way you feel inside when you walk up those steps and see that shot-torn flag framed in the arch of the door: 'Don't Give Up the Ship.' If you feel nothing, you don't belong here. But if it gives you goose flesh just to see that old battle flag, then you are going to find that feeling increasing every time you return here over the years... until it reaches a crescendo the day you return and read the list of your own honored dead - classmates, shipmates, friends - read them with grief and pride while you try to keep your tears silent.
The time has come for me to stop. I said that 'Patriotism' is a way of saying 'Women and children first.' And that no one can force a man to feel this way. Instead he must embrace it freely. I want to tell about one such man. He wore no uniform and no one knows his name, or where he came from; all we know is what he did.
In my home town sixty years ago when I was a child, my mother and father used to take me and my brothers and sisters out to Swope Park on Sunday afternoons. It was a wonderful place for kids, with picnic grounds and lakes and a zoo. But a railroad line cut straight through it.
One Sunday afternoon a young married couple were crossing these tracks. She apparently did not watch her step, for she managed to catch her foot in the frog of a switch to a siding and could not pull it free. Her husband stopped to help her. But try as they might they could not get her foot loose. While they were working at it, a tramp showed up, walking the ties. He joined the husband in trying to pull the young woman's foot loose. No luck.
Out of sight around the curve a train whistled. Perhaps there would have been time to run and flag it down, perhaps not. In any case both men went right ahead trying to pull her free... and the train hit them. The wife was killed, the husband was mortally injured and died later, the tramp was killed - and testimony showed that neither man made the slightest effort to save himself. The husband's behavior was heroic... but what we expect of a husband toward his wife: his right, and his proud privilege, to die for his woman. But what of this nameless stranger? Up to the very last second he could have jumped clear. He did not. He was still trying to save this woman he had never seen before in his life, right up to the very instant the train killed him. And that's all we'll ever know about him.
THIS is how a man dies. This is how a MAN . . . lives!
'They shall not grow old as we that are left grow old;
age shall not wither them nor the years condemn;
At the going down of the sun and in the morning, we shall remember them''
- Tomb of the Scottish Unknown Soldier, Edinburgh
This essay was originally published in Expanded Universe (Ace Science Fiction Books, 1980). Robert Heinlein (1907-1988) was a renowned sci-fi author and a retired naval officer.
Found at: http://www.zprc.org/articles/patriotism.html
These words are just as pertinent now as they were in 1973. I just wish i knew where my nuclear powered, constant boost spaceship was parked. Probably next to my flying car.
Sunday, August 23, 2009
Come and take a trip in my rocket ship
We'll have a lovely afternoon
Kiss the world goodbye and away we fly
Travel fast as light 'til we're lost from sight
The earth is like a toy balloon
What a thrill you get ridin' on a jet
We'll go up up up up
Straight to the moon we two
High in the starry blue
I'll be out of this world with you
So away we steal in a spacemobile
A supersonic honeymoon
Leave your cares below, pull the switch, let's go!
There once was a time when the colorful thing to do
Was to call for a date on a bicycle built for two
But cars and trains and even planes
All have had their day
Now the time is due to call for you
In the modern atomic way
We'll go up up up up
Straight to the moon we two
High in the starry blue
I'll be out of this world with you
So away we steal in a spacemobile
A supersonic honeymoon
Leave your cares below, pull the switch, let's go!
Banned From Argo
Copyright © 1977 by Leslie Fish
Copyright assigned to Random Factors
Lyrics posted by permission
verse tune trad, "Boston Burglar"
When we pulled into Argo Port in need of R&R,
The crew set out investigating every joint and bar.
We had high expectations of their hospitality,
But found too late it wasn't geared for spacers such as we.
Chorus: And we're banned from Argo, everyone.
Banned from Argo, just for having a little fun.
We spent a jolly shore leave there for just three days or four,
But Argo doesn't want us any more.
The Captain's tastes were simple, but his methods were complex.
We found him with five partners, each of a different world and sex.
The Shore Police were on the way-we had no second chance.
We beamed him up in the nick of time-and the remnants of his pants.
Our Engineer would yield to none at putting down the brew;
He out-drank seven space marines and a demolition crew.
The Navigator didn't win, but he out-drank almost all,
And now they've got a shuttlecraft on the roof of City Hall.
Our proper, cool First Officer was drugged with something green,
And hauled into an alley, where he suffered things obscene.
He sobered up in Sickbay and he's none the worse for wear,
Except he's somehow taught the bridge computer how to swear.
The Head Nurse disappeared awhile in the major Dope Bazaar,
Buying an odd green potion "guaranteed to cause Pon-Farr."
She came home with no uniform and an oddly cheerful heart,
And a painful way of walking-with her feet a yard apart.
Our lady of Communications won a ship-wide bet
By getting into the planet's main communications net.
Now every time someone calls up on an Argo telescreen,
The flesh is there, but the clothes they wear are nowhere to be seen.
Our Doctor loves Humanity; his private life is quiet.
The Shore Police arrested him for inciting whores to riot.
We found him in the city jail, locked on and beamed him free-
Intact except for hickeys and six kinds of VD.
Our Helmsman loves exotic plants; the plants all love him too.
He took some down on leave with him and we wondered what they'd do,
'Til the planetary governor called and swore upon his life
That a gang of plants entwined his house and then seduced his wife!
A gang of pirates landed, and nobody seemed to care.
They stamped into the nearest bar to announce that they were there.
Half our crew was busy there, and invited them to play,
But the pirates only looked at us, and turned and ran away.
Our crew is Starfleet's finest, and our record is our pride.
And when we play we tend to leave a trail a mile wide.
We're sorry about the wreckage and the riots and the fuss;
At least we're sure that planet won't be quick forgetting us!
Saturday, August 22, 2009
In the coming days, the video of Gnomedex 9.0 will be uploaded to YouTube for your viewing. I hope you'll check out some of the links below from Saturday and if you can help out in some way, please do.
Drew Olanoff was awesome talking aobut his dealing with cancer, so were many of the other guests. Mark Horvath brought a face to homelessness. Bre Pettis had the Makerbot, a little box of stuff that can create anything out of plastic as long as it's 4x4x6 inches. Phil Platt talked about being skeptic, looking around, opening your eyes and asking questions. FoldIt with Firas Khatib brought a "game" to help with protein folding. Christine Peterson talked about life extension and how you can make your life longer and better. Amber Case talked about the Prosthetic Culture and how devices have extended and enhanced humans.
I have to say that I did some of the early things, but I have it on good authority that they were just as good too.
The closing remarks from Kris Krug were funny, some of his pictures too hilarious and he gave out awards made from the Makerbot. He said they were good for one free lap dance from Chris but I don't think that'll ever happen.
I had a great time just watching on the live stream, of which the entire event was broadcast to over 850 people. I'm not much of a traveler anymore, so even if I had the means I don't think I'd go as much as I'd love to meet all the people. Just too far to drive and I don't fly anywhere. Unless it's to Hawaii. Wouldn't mind if UStream's full screen link kept the video in full screen if you clicked to another monitor. Many people have dual monitors now. I was even surprised the chat was pretty calm. Thanks to all you who joined and had a good time.
Chris has already announced Gnomedex 10.0 for August 19 and 20 at Bell Harbor in 2010. Easly tickets can be had for under 300 dollars, and it's an excellent deal! Looking forward to seeing y'all there!
Half the Sky -- Helping people make their lives better
Mental Health Camp -- Erasing stigma and exploring possibilities with social media
Hastac -- People collaborating wiht technology
TweetCloud -- Follow Tweet topics
StarFall -- Help encourage early readers
KidZui -- Kid friendly web browser
Tech Craver -- Using mobile technology to help people
Song Trellis -- Making music, that YOU can make, see this link also
One Bus Away -- Find bus stops near you
Skittlr -- Create a widget with the web sites you want in it
Free app for your Andriod phone, the Tricorder.
National Marrow Donation Program -- Help find matches.
The Girl Effect -- Change the course of history
From the Open Mic portion of Gnomedex. Go check those all out.
Thursday, August 20, 2009
It's going to be streamed live at: http://chris.pirillo.com/live/
I'll be there in one of my many chat nicks helping to keep order and converse with people that are looking for computer help. Going to be a busy weekend. Come on over and have a great time with us, Chris Pirillo, and the guests.
Tomorrow starts the actual conference, tonight is pre-registration party, which will be streamed live at the above address.
Wednesday, August 19, 2009
*Frozen Crabs & the Blonde Stewardess
A lawyer boarded an airplane in New Orleans with a box of frozen crabs and
asked a blonde stewardess to take care of them for him.
She took the box and promised to put it in the crew's refrigerator. He
advised her that he was holding her personally responsible for them staying
frozen, mentioning in a very haughty manner that he was a lawyer, and
proceeded to rant at her about what would happen if she let them thaw out.
Needless to say, she was annoyed by his behavior.
Shortly before landing in New York , she used the intercom to announce to
the entire cabin, "Would the gentleman who gave me the crabs in New
please raise your hand?"
Not one hand went up ... so she took them home and ate them.
Two lessons here:
1. Lawyers aren't as smart as they think they are.
2. Blondes aren't as dumb as most folks think.*
Friday, August 14, 2009
Wednesday, August 12, 2009
You have 160 characters to say pretty much anything you want and have it launched from the Canberra Depp Space Communications Array in Australia. The messages will be sent on August 24th.
Please join hundreds of others in sending your message to the stars!
- They told me the big black Lab's name was Reggie as I looked at him lying in his pen.The shelter was clean, and the people really friendly.
- I'd only been in the area for six months, but everywhere I went in the small college town, people were welcoming and open. Everyone waves when you pass them on the street.
- But something was still missing as I attempted to settle in to my new life here, and I thought a dog couldn't hurt. Give me someone to talk to.
- And I had just seen Reggie's advertisement on the local news. The shelter said they had received numerous calls right after, but they said the people who had come down to see him just didn't look like "Lab people," whatever that meant. They must've thought I did.
- But at first, I thought the shelter had misjudged me in giving me Reggie and his things, which consisted of a dog pad, bag of toys almost all of which were brand new tennis balls, his dishes, and a sealed letter from his previous owner.
- See, Reggie and I didn't really hit it off when we got home. We struggled for two weeks (which is how long the shelter told me to give him to adjust to his new home). Maybe it was the fact that I was trying to adjust, too. Maybe we were too much alike.
- For some reason, his stuff (except for the tennis balls - he wouldn't go anywhere without two stuffed in his mouth) got tossed in with all of my other unpacked boxes. I guess I didn't really think he'd need all his old stuff, that I'd get him new things once he settled in. But it became pretty clear pretty soon that he wasn't going to.
- I tried the normal commands the shelter told me he knew, ones like "sit" and "stay" and "come" and "heel," and he'd follow them - when he felt like it. He never really seemed to listen when I called his name - sure, he'd look in my direction after the fourth of fifth time I said it, but then he'd just go back to doing whatever. When I'd ask again, you could almost see him sigh and then grudgingly obey.
- This just wasn't going to work. He chewed a couple shoes and some unpacked boxes. I was a little too stern with him and he resented it, I could tell.
- The friction got so bad that I couldn't wait for the two weeks to be up, and when it was, I was in full-on search mode for my cellphone amid all of my unpacked stuff.
- I remembered leaving it on the stack of boxes for the guest room, but I also mumbled, rather cynically, that the "damn dog probably hid it on me."
- Finally I found it, but before I could punch up the shelter's number, I also found his pad and other toys from the shelter. I tossed the pad in Reggie's direction and he snuffed it and wagged, some of the most
- enthusiasm I'd seen since bringing him home. But then I called, "Hey, Reggie, you like that?? Come here and I'll give you a treat." Instead, he sort of glanced in my direction - maybe "glared" is more accurate - and then gave a discontented sigh and flopped down.? With his back to me.
- Well, that's not going to do it either, I thought. And I punched the shelter phone number.
- But I hung up when I saw the sealed envelope. I had completely forgotten about that, too.
- "Okay,Reggie, " I said out loud, "let's see if your previous owner has any advice.".... .....
- To Whomever Gets My Dog:
- Well, I can't say that I'm happy you're reading this, a letter I told the shelter could only be opened by Reggie's new owner.
- I'm not even happy writing it. If you're reading this, it means I just got back from my last car ride with my Lab after dropping him off at the shelter. He knew something was different. I have packed up his pad and toys before and set them by the back door before a trip, but this time... it's like he knew something was wrong. And something is wrong... which is why I have to go to try to make it right.
- So let me tell you about my Lab in the hopes that it will help you bond with him and he with you.
- First, he loves tennis balls...the more the merrier. Sometimes I think he's part squirrel, the way he hordes them. He usually always has two in his mouth, and he tries to get a third in there. Hasn't done it yet. Doesn' ....t??matter where you throw them, he'll bound after it, so be careful - really don't do it by any roads.? I made that mistake once, and it almost cost him dearly.
- Next, commands.? Maybe the shelter staff already told you, but I'll go over them again: Reggie knows the obvious ones - "sit," "stay," "come," "heel. " He knows hand signals: "back" to turn around and go back when you put your hand straight up; and "over" if you put your hand out right or left.? "Shake" for shaking water off, and "paw" for a high-five. He does "down" when he feels like lying down - I bet you could work on that with him some more. He knows "ball" and "food" and "bone" and "treat" like nobody's business. I trained Reggie with small food treats. Nothing opens his ears like little pieces of hot dog.
- Feeding schedule: twice a day, once about seven in the morning, and again at six in the evening.
- Regular store-bought stuff; the shelter has the brand.
- He's up on his shots. Call the clinic on 9th Street and update his info with yours; they'll make sure to send you reminders for when he's due. Be forewarned: Reggie hates the vet.
- Good luck getting him in the car - I don't know how he knows when it's time to go to the vet, but he knows.
- Finally, give him some time.
- I've never been married, so it's only been Reggie and me for his whole life. He's gone everywhere with me, so please include him on your daily car rides if you can. He sits well in the backseat, and he doesn't bark or complain. He just loves to be around people, and me most especially.
- Which means that this transition is going to be hard, with him going to live with someone new.
- And that's why I need to share one more bit of info with you....
- His name's not Reggie.
- I don't know what made me do it, but when I dropped him off at the shelter, I told them his name was Reggie.? He's a smart dog, he'll get used to it and will respond to it, of that I have no doubt. But I just couldn't bear to give them his real name.? For me to do that, it seemed so final, that handing him over to the shelter was as good as me admitting that I'd never see him again. And if I end up coming back, getting him, and tearing up this letter, it means everything's fine. But if someone else is reading it, well... well it means that his new owner should know his real name. It'll help you bond with him. Who knows, maybe you'll even notice a change in his demeanor if he's been giving you problems.
- His real name is Tank.
- Because that is what I drive.
- Again, if you're reading this and you're from the area, maybe my name has been on the news. I told the shelter that they couldn't make "Reggie" available for adoption until they received word from my company commander. See, my parents are gone, I have no siblings, no one I could've left Tank with... and it was my only real request of the Army upon my deployment to Iraq, that they make one phone call to the shelter... in the "event"... to tell them that Tank could be put up for adoption. Luckily, my colonel is a dog guy, too, and he knew where my platoon was headed.? He said he'd do it personally. And if you're reading this, then he made good on his word.
- Well, this letter is getting too downright depressing, even though, frankly, I'm just writing it for my dog. I couldn't imagine if I was writing it for a wife and kids and family. But still, Tank has been my family for the last six years, almost as long as the Army has been my family.
- And now I hope and pray that you make him part of your family and that he will adjust and come to love you the same way he loved me.
- That unconditional love from a dog is what I took with me to Iraq as an inspiration to do something selfless, to protect innocent people from those who would do terrible things... and to keep those terrible people from coming over here. If I had to give up Tank in order to do it, I am glad to have done so. He was my example of service and of love. I hope I honored him by my service to my country and comrades.
- All right, that's enough.
- I deploy this evening and have to drop this letter off at the shelter.
- I don't think I'll say another?good- bye to Tank, though. I cried too much the first time.
- Maybe I'll peek in on him and see if he finally got that third tennis ball in his mouth.
- Good luck with Tank.
- Give him a good home, and give him an extra kiss goodnight - every night - from me."
- Thank you,
- Paul Mallory
- I folded the letter and slipped it back in the envelope. Sure I had heard of Paul Mallory, everyone in town knew him, even new people like me. Local kid, killed in Iraq a few months ago and posthumously earning the Silver Star when he gave his life to save three buddies. Flags had been at half-mast all summer.
- I leaned forward in my chair and rested my elbows on my knees, staring at the dog.
- "Hey, Tank," I said quietly.
- The dog's head whipped up, his ears cocked and his eyes bright.
- "C' mere boy."
- He was instantly on his feet, his nails clicking on the hardwood floor.? He sat in front of me, his head tilted, searching for the name he hadn't heard in months.
- "Tank," I whispered. His tail swished.
- I kept whispering his name, over and over, and each time, his ears lowered, his eyes softened, and his posture relaxed as a wave of contentment just seemed to flood him.
- I stroked his ears, rubbed his shoulders, buried my face into his scruff and hugged him.
- "It's me now, Tank, just you and me. Your old pal gave you to me."?
- Tank reached up and licked my cheek.?
- "So whatdaya say we play some ball?" His ears perked again.
- "Yeah?? Ball?? You like that???Ball? "
- Tank tore from my hands and disappeared in the next room.
- And when he came back......
- he had three tennis balls in his mouth.
Wednesday, August 05, 2009
Part of a chat and there's a Live page where you can join the chat without an IRC client. On that page, at the top, it tells the status (as best we know) of the person who is the subject of the site. Then when you joint he chat, the status is once again posted at the top of the chat box. It's easy to see, even my seven year old nephew can read it.
Please, please, please, for sanity's sake, learn to pay attention to what goes on around you.