Thursday, January 31, 2008

An Excellent Ad

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

"Hi Yo Silver, Away!"

When I was a kid (and, admittedly, even an adult) whenever I heard the familiar music of the finale from the William Tell Overture (this might even have been my very first exposure to classical or opera music, since we didn't have Baby Einstein back in the caveman days) I would always come running to the TV to watch...The Lone Ranger!

Today marks the 75th anniversary of The Lone Ranger. It was January 30, 1933 that the Masked Man first appeared in adventures on the radio, continuing for a total of 2,956 episodes until 1954. In 1949, the character began appearing on television with the series lasting until 1957 and with The Lone Ranger being portrayed by the man that most people associate with the character, Clayton Moore, for all but 2 seasons of its run. Clayton Moore passed away in 1999 at the age of 89.

The Lone Ranger, like many fictional heroes, underwent many retellings of his origin. I don't know if my mom listened to the radio show when she was a child (she would have been around 8 or 9 when it premiered on the radio), but I remember her explaining the story to me the first time I watched the show on TV. Basically, he was a Texas Ranger who, along with 5 other Rangers (including his brother), was killed in an ambush. Except THIS Ranger, John or Dan Reid (there was always controversy about the name, however later in the TV series the Ranger's nephew was named Dan, so likely this was John), was NOT dead. An Indian named Tonto came across the massacre and, finding Reid still alive, nursed him back to health. Reid asked Tonto to make 6 graves so that, to all intents and purposes, it would appear that no one survived. Reid then donned a mask to hide his identity and to represent ALL Rangers in the wild west. Together, with their horses Silver and Scout, The Lone Ranger and Tonto would be a force for justice across the untamed land. Later, stories would emerge explaining the origin of Silver (a wild horse that the Ranger saved from a buffalo attack) and why the Ranger used silver bullets (a silver mine, owned either by Reid or a friend of his, and to symbolize the preciousness of life). Only a select few ever knew the real identity of The Lone Ranger, prompting the usual episode ending question by those he had rescued or saved, "Who was that masked man?"

Interestingly enough, several aspects of the origin were shared by another fictional character, The Spirit, created by the late legendary comic book writer and artist Will Eisner in 1940. Denny Colt, a young detective is shot and buried in the city cemetery. However, he survives, claws his way out of the grave and decides to don a mask (a domino mask, similar to The Lone Ranger's) and let the world think that Denny Colt is dead while he fights crime as The Spirit.

An added bonus to the mythology of The Lone Ranger, a modern-day (1930's) crimefighter known to the world as The Green Hornet, was in reality Britt (or Brit) Reid, the grand-nephew of The Lone Ranger. This Reid also fought evil and dispensed justice with a sidekick, his Asian chauffeur, Kato, a master of martial arts. In place of Silver and Scout, these two had a souped up car known as Black Beauty. The Green Hornet used an electric stun-gun type weapon he called "The Hornet's Sting." Those of you who watched the Adam West "Batman" TV series in the '60's may recall several episodes where The Green Hornet and Kato were updated to be part of the storyline.

As a child growing up in the late '50's and early '60's, a lot of TV shows were Westerns; cowboys, indians, horses, etc. As I would discover later, my interests lay in superhero and science fiction shows more than cowboys and indians. But The Lone Ranger, along with Rin Tin Tin (because it was about a dog, no doubt, as was Lassie but I never considered that show a western), could always hold my attention, most likely because of the superhero aspects of the character. Today, I own several episodes on DVD and still love watching them.

So, Happy 75th Anniversary to The Lone Ranger. In the words of the show's opening narration, "Return with us now to those thrilling days of yesteryear.... The Lone Ranger Rides Again!"

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Primary Election In Florida

Today is Florida's primary election day. If you're a resident of my home state I hope that, unless you're a registered independent and thus unable to vote in the primary, you will make the effort to go to the polls and vote for the Presidential candidate you feel will do the best job in leading our nation, as well as any local races/issues that may be on your ballot.

When I realized I would not be back in Florida to vote in person, I took pains to have an absentee ballot mailed to me and then mailed it back to my local election office in plenty of time to be counted. Taking part in the process has always been important to me. even after feeling like the vote was rigged in 2000 and again in 2004 by purposeful miscounts or hacked computer records. Apathy is not the answer; rather an even more vigorous response in exercising the right to vote is warranted.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Ego Googling

Yes, I admit it. I occasionally "Google" myself. I have, what I consider to be, a normal ego and a healthy interest in where words about me might appear on the Internet. I also have "Google Alerts" set up to regularly notify me about a number of names and phrases, including the title of this particular blog...The Word Of Jeff. When I first set up the search for that phrase I thought notifications would be pretty much limited to results about (a) this blog page or (b) references elsewhere on the web to this blog page.

That's not always the case, and sometimes the results are amusing.

Case in point: this result, which is about the death of someone in California named Jeffrey W. The Google search picked up and returned to me a comment made by someone to the post which reads in part, "...we knew at least the word of Jeff's untimely passing would get out on this site." (emphasis mine)

By the way, if you have the time to waste or just enjoy such things, there is a substantial "flame war" going on in the comments to that post. Apparently this Jeffrey W was quite a polarizing figure.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Photos Of Secret Training Location

Back on January 13th I posted this necessarily cryptic mobile blog entry using my new Blackberry. While I still cannot disclose specifics about where I was or, as usual, what it was for, I can share some information and photos.

I flew into Reagan National Airport Sunday afternoon and joined about 20 other attendees on a comfortable shuttle bus with padded seats and a bathroom that would take us on a 90 minute drive through the outskirts of the nation's capitol and the Maryland countryside. We joined many others in the registration area getting our room assignments and eating dinner in the dining hall. I then hit the sack because I was still sick from the flu I had picked up in Lake Charles and was very tired. I wanted to start the next day as well-rested as possible

Training began on Monday morning, January 14th and lasted through Thursday night, January 17th at a location that I can only describe as a former Catholic College in the Blue Ridge Mountain area of extremely rural Maryland, near the Pennsylvania state line. The dormitory rooms were very reminiscent of their former boarders. Mattresses that felt like slabs of concrete on single beds that kept making me wake up every time I rolled over because I felt like I was going to go over the edge, pipes that rattled and windows that let in the cold (or let out the heat, not sure which) made the stay almost a survival exercise. At least each room had it's own bathroom. Internet access in the dorm rooms was of the ancient dial-up type. I didn't even attempt to get my laptop online, instead using it to listen to music and watch DVD's during the short amount of "down time" we had each day. Cellphone coverage, even with my new Blackberry, was spotty at best.

Here's an aerial view of the "campus" from Google Maps. In the lower left hand corner the blue arrow is pointing to the building my dorm room was in, right next to the tennis courts. In the upper right hand area the blue arrow is pointing to the building where all of my training took place, which also happened to house the dining hall.

Speaking of the dining hall; the food was, as one instructor put it, "Ok for institutional food." There was a wide variety of main courses, side dishes, desserts and beverages, but a lot of us laughed the day we walked in and one of the choices was Chicken Tetrazinni. I haven't seen that dish on a menu since college, which was apropos.

Now when it comes to the training, that was the best part. We had 3 main instructors and several personal trainers assigned to each group. We went through practices, policies, processes, procedures, individual simulations and finally an all day group simulation that wore all of us out but left us with the confidence to tackle our chosen areas (in other words, my day job). I met several of my colleagues from around the country and found several that I hope I have the opportunity to work with in the future, should the need for our talents and training arise.

I've posted photos over at Flickr and you can access them using the link in the right hand column. They were all taken either Thursday night (it began snowing at 10:30 in the morning and I could no longer resist getting the camera out and taking pictures (even though that is NOT encouraged) of the campus being snowed on, or the next morning before our departure to the airport when I got up early to catch the first rays of light bathing the complex's snow-covered grounds and buildings. Unfortunately, Flickr did not tag/describe all my photos as I directed, but if it's dark or yellow it was taken Friday night and if it's light then it was taken Friday morning. Some of the night shots were with flash, some were without and you might see two different versions of the night shots; one that is clear and one that shows snowflakes falling, a result of removing my hand as a cover from above the lens. I really did have a lot of fun playing with light in all of these shots and I think the effects show that.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Twist And Shout

I'm sitting in the hotel room here in Baton Rouge channel surfing and I just came across one of the funniest movies of the 80's at the point of one of the best scenes in the film; "Ferris Bueller's Day Off" and the Chicago street parade scene where Ferris sings "Twist and Shout" while the parade goers and even nearby workers (including his dad in an office above him) sing and dance along.

I love that scene.

Just thought you'd like to know.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Goodbye Lake Charles, Hello Baton Rouge

Arrived at the office this morning to discover that I had been ordered to leave Lake Charles and set up shop over in Baton Rouge. That's where I am now and for the foreseeable future.

I've already seen several good photo subjects/opportunities, provided I have the free time to indulge myself.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Back in Lake Charles, Louisiana

I just arrived back in Lake Charles a few minutes ago after a week at the secret training location (cold and snow...brrr!!) and a weekend surprise visit home.

If you have e-mailed me, I'm not ignoring you. The secret training location is SO secret that broadband Internet connections have not yet found their way to the dorms I stayed in. The best they had was dial-up so my "connection" consisted of my new Blackberry and even that was hit or miss most of the time. I'll be replying to all who've e-mailed me this past week over the next few days and I thank you in advance for your patience.

I'm still recovering from the flu I mentioned 2 weeks ago and the non-stop schedule has only stretched out the illness. Hopefully I'll be able to spend the upcoming weekend recuperating and resting, but first I have to get through another week of work.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Greetings From Wash. D.C.

Mobile blogging from the bus that's enroute to the secret training location.

D.C. is dreary right now.

Monday, January 7, 2008

Mobile Blog Test

Sick with some kind of cold or flu, but still at work so trying out mobile blogging from the Blackberry.

Sunday, January 6, 2008

R.I.P. Major Andrew Olmsted

U.S. Army Major Andrew Olmsted, who posted blogs on Obsidian Wings as G'Kar while on active duty in Iraq, was killed in an ambush in Diyala, along with fellow team member Captain Thomas Casey, on January 3rd.

In anticipation that he might indeed be called upon to make the ultimate sacrifice in service to his country, Major Olmsted penned a "Final Post" and gave it to a fellow blogger for safekeeping with instructions to post the entry should he die while in Iraq.

Major Olmsted was obviously a man of intelligence and eloquence. Any man who will quote Babylon 5, Plato and The Princess Bride has my attention. And my tears at mankind's loss.

Read his "Final Post." I believe you will be mightily affected in some manner.

My sympathy goes out to his family and friends

R.I.P. Major Andrew Olmsted. And...Thank you.

Saturday, January 5, 2008

Crackhead I Am

I guess it's time to admit the awful truth...I have become a Crackhead. And in a very short amount of time. They're all right, the addiction comes on you in a hurry and takes over every waking (and sometimes sleeping) moment of your life.

A week ago Friday, before I left Orlando on Saturday to return to the Bayou, Cindy and I stopped in at our local AT&T store (where we have our cellphone account) and at her urging (really, that's the only reason I did it) I gave in to my long-held desire to own a Smartphone. If you're not familiar with the term, a Smartphone is a combination cellphone and PDA, allowing you to communicate not only via cell or SMS text messaging, but also using e-mail that you can link to your own already existing e-mail account(s) and giving you access to the web (seeing The Word of Jeff on the 2 x 2 screen was a kick) and various applications like a calendar, task manager, documents, and spreadsheets as well as music and videos.

I ended up choosing the Blackberry (affectionately known by users as the CRACKberry because of it's addictive qualities) Curve 8310. Why did I want a Smartphone? Well, as much as I love my laptop and take it almost everywhere I go, there are some times and some places where firing up a laptop is just not practical. I can't use it at my desk at work,I can't use it in the car without a lot of extra effort and I'm reluctant to use it in restaurants around food and drink, although I have. Plus, you can't always get a wireless signal everywhere you go (unless you want to spring for a PC card and account, which I considered) and sometimes even when you can, it's not worth it. Such as when you're sitting in an airport and you don't want to pay $7 to $20 for the all-day rate when you only have an hour until your flight. See? I'm talking about SAVING money here! Last Saturday, sitting in the Houston airport waiting for my connecting flight, I only had a 45 minute wait and the wireless provider there wanted $7 for an hour of connection. I laughed at their stinkin' "Welcome" screen and used my Curve instead. Hah!

So, I've been having a blast learning all the ins and outs of my new toy and I still have a lot to learn but I've got the e-mail part down and that was one of the biggest reasons for getting the Curve, so that I could have instant access to my personal e-mail accounts. That means I can read and answer e-mails while I'm standing in line somewhere, waiting at a traffic light, eating a meal in a restaurant by myself, or dropping the kids off at the pool. It also means I can end a boring conversation with someone by grabbing the holster on my hip and saying, "I'm sorry, I need to take this."

Heh heh.

I have one disappointment; apparently they don't yet have the "Superman Theme" ringtone available for this model at the online AT&T store. In the meantime I have downloaded "Do You Believe In Magic?" by The Lovin' Spoonful and assigned it to Cindy's number (they didn't have my first choice; "Witchy Woman") and "Stand" by R.E.M. and assigned it to AnnMarie's number. They're just about the only people who ever call me on purpose. Most of the rest are wrong number calls, but that's ok because I prefer e-mail and texting to talking, in most cases.

Anyway, it's a fun, useful toy and I'm loving it. But boy, are my thumbs getting a workout.

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Happy Birthday To "The Bestest Brother"

Today is my brother's birthday. A few days from now 46 years ago, I had no idea what an important part that little guy my mom and dad brought home from the hospital would hold in my heart over the intervening years.

There's 6 1/2 years between us, so when we were growing up it was hard (for me, anyway) for us to be close. He wanted to do everything I did and go everywhere I went. I viewed him as a pest, as most older brothers do with younger siblings, I suppose; especially when the age difference is that great. My mom sat me down once and tried to explain to me that he idolized me, but in my teenage arrogance I still viewed him as a pest. However, I tried a little harder after that to include him in things.

Of course, even though he might be an aggravation to me, no one else could mess with him. I remember once we had traveled down to Key Largo, Florida for the weekend. My parents had a trailer they kept down there and on this particular trip there were 2 new kids in the park, visiting their grandparents. The 3 of us were around 10 or 11, so my brother was 4 or 5. We were hanging around, exploring and doing the kinds of things 10 and 11 year olds do and my brother was tagging along (because mom made me take him, lol). Anyway, after a while these 2 kids got tired of him following us around and started saying mean things to and about my brother. At first I just laughed along with them, but when I saw his face contort in sorrow and that he was about to cry, I found myself getting angry. Angry at the other 2 kids, yes, but mostly angry at myself. I told the 2 of them to get lost; nobody was going to talk to or treat my little brother like that. They saw how angry I was (and it helped that I was always a tall kid for my age) and took off. I put my arm around my little brother's shoulder, told him it was ok and I was sorry for laughing at him, and we walked off to play and explore on our own.

He returned the favor when I fell apart after our dad's major stroke 18 years ago and no else knew how to react to my meltdown. That was such a rough time for me (as it was for everyone, I'm sure) that even now, the visceral feelings I felt then I'm feeling now and tears are rolling down my cheeks as I write this. But my brother gave me some of his strength to help me get through it. For that, and so much more, I have always been grateful that he has been in my life.

Of course, as is the case with Cindy in my life, he probably owes everything to his wonderful wife Pia. We'd be lesser men than we are if it weren't for our fantastic wives, of that I'm sure.

Happy Birthday, Mark. You've always signed your cards, letters and e-mails to me as "The Bestest Brother", and indeed, to me, you truly are.

Wishing For A Different Outcome

Reading this news account this morning I was really, REALLY wishing that the end result of this had been reversed:

CORONADO, Calif. (AP) - A man being chased by authorities grabbed a police dog and leaped off the San Diego-Coronado Bridge, taking the animal with him into the frigid ocean water 200 feet below.

The fall killed the dog. The fugitive survived and was hospitalized Tuesday.

The pursuit began Monday evening after an Oceanside police officer saw the man driving a GMC pickup erratically on a road. The officer, accompanied by a German shepherd named Stryker, ordered the driver to stop but he refused, California Highway Patrol Officer Larry Landeros said.

The man, whose name was not immediately released, led police on a chase through a section of Interstate 5 and onto the bridge, where he stopped and the officer released Stryker.

"The dog actually took the driver to the ground and then he actually lifted the dog up and jumped over the side," CHP Sgt. Steven Toth said.

The man was rescued from the water and taken to a hospital, Toth said. His condition was not released. An after-hours call to a hospital representative was not immediately returned.

The dog was recovered from the water, Toth said.

I hope this guy truly gets what he deserves in the coming year.


Cindy and I were on the phone with each other 30 seconds before the big ball dropped in Times Square and counted down to the New Year. Kissing over the cell phone's wireless signal is definitely not the same as holding each other and welcoming the new year in person, but it's better than nothing.

I had some things I wanted to wish to you for the new year, but I realized that the fantastic writer Neil Gaiman said it much better than I ever could...

May your coming year be filled with magic and dreams and good madness. I hope you read some fine books and kiss someone who thinks you're wonderful, and don't forget to make some art -- write or draw or build or sing or live as only you can. And I hope, somewhere in the next year, you surprise yourself.

Obviously, I whole-heartedly concur.
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