Archive for January, 2014

For Folks Under Age 45, Moon Walking is Something You Read About in a History Book

January 31, 2014
AStronaut Buzz Aldrin walking on the Moon.  (NASA Photo)

Astronaut Buzz Aldrin walking on the Moon. (NASA Photo)

I just read a story in the Richmond-Times Dispatch about the Smithsonian’s new $79 million dollar conservation hanger at the National Air and Space Museum at Dulles International Airport,  where among its many artifacts that are being prepared for conservation are Apollo-era spacesuits.  Those spacesuits are now 40 and 50 years old. They are fragile, brittle and deteriorating.  Conservators are working on ways to slow the decay.

It made me reflect on the fact that the incredible act of putting a man on the  Moon is a historic event.  America put 12 men on the Moon between 1969 and 1972, and then stopped.  No man has set foot on Earth’s natural satellite since December, 1972.

China, the 3rd country to successfully conduct a soft moon landing – the U.S. and the former Soviet Union being the first two –  safely landed a robot called Jade Rabbit on the moon in December and it has sent back scientific information, but it has suffered a mechanical problem and could stop working.  The robotic rover was named Jade Rabbit after the Chinese mythical rabbit that was said to have lived on the moon.

How well I remember that first Moon landing in 1969.  I was working at WIS-TV in Columbia, South Carolina. My son Rick, a small boy at the time,  and my late wife Judy, and I could look out our den window and see the bright full Moon as we watched the lunar landing on TV.  We had just bought our first color set to see it in color. It was telecast in black and white.  Still, we then had a color TV to enjoy for many years.

Rick was ten years old at the time, so he can remember the event, so it’s not just history to him.  But, it is just history for anyone over 45-years-old.

Will any country put a man on the Moon in the future?  It’s possible, but with sophisticated robots to give us scientific information about it, why spend all that money and risk human life?  Space exploration continues, but it’s a robot’s game.  Who would want to spend the 150 to 300 days in a small space ship it would take to get to Mars?  That’s what it has taken for the different spacecraft that have made the trip over the last 50 years.

The Kids are Listening

January 27, 2014
 I am certainly no expert when it comes to English grammar, but thanks to teachers like Mrs. Green at Jordan Vocational High School, I do remember the rules enough not to be egregiously ungrammatical. Mrs. Green was considered by a lot of kids to be pretty tough, even mean. As I look back on her methods, I realize that she wasn’t being mean. She just wouldn’t put up with students who didn’t make the effort to meet her expectations.  In other words, she cared.  The end result was that she was probably one of the most effective teachers in the school.

When I hear some members of the Muscogee County School District Board of Education murdering the language, I get a little upset. Why are we electing people to the school board who have a tough time making subjects agree with verbs? It makes me wonder about the wisdom of having an elected school board. I don’t remember this happening back when the Grand Jury selected members of the board.

What’s even worse – since board members don’t teach classes and not many students hear their atrocious grammar – is when I hear teachers who don’t understand things like possessive pronouns. I saw in the Ledger-Enquirer where a teacher said, “You can’t negate you becoming a doctor.” Bam! It jumped right out at me that she should have said, “You can’t negate your becoming a doctor.”

Since I really couldn’t remember why that would  be correct, I wanted to  make sure I was right, so I asked Connie Ussery, a friend of mine who is a retired high school English teacher, about it.  This is what she said:

“I love questions like this.  ‘Becoming a doctor’ is a gerund phrase and you are absolutely right in that the possessive pronoun is used to ‘own’ the action in this case.  Since the verb ‘can negate’ is transitive, the example in your email would indicate ‘You can not negate you….’ and ‘becoming a doctor’ makes no sense as a participial phrase describing ‘you’ because it simply isn’t one.  The speaker could have said, ‘You can’t negate becoming a doctor,’ but that would have made the phrase apply to anyone who is a doctor.  ‘You can’t negate your becoming a doctor’ is grammatical.

Thanks for the brain exercise.”

Thanks, Connie.  Now  I  know why I was right.  Also, I think it’s too bad you retired. They need you.

Saving the Symphony

January 19, 2014

Before Saturday night’s wonderful performance of Wagner and Straus by the Columbus Symphony orchestra, I was speaking with Columbus cultural icon Clason Kyle. I told him how pleased I was to see the school busses arriving with a lot of middle and high school kids to attend the concert. When I told him that my first exposure to a live symphony orchestra was when the Pittsburg Symphony played the 9th Street USO in about 1947, he remembered that he was there that night also. One of the Three Arts League members bought tickets for students of the Columbus and Jordan High bands. We sat on the first two rows. I was blown away by the sound of that live orchestra. I have loved symphonic music ever since. Clason, a Columbus High student, wasn’t a member of the band. I guess he was there simply because he wanted to be.

“Remember when the train came by?” he asked me.

The 9th Street USO, torn down long ago, sat very close to the tracks than run down 9th Street.

After he mentioned it, I did remember.

“The conductor of the orchestra was quite amused by that.”

I even remembered the encore that the orchestra played, the rousing march “El Capitan.” No doubt the conductor knew the high school bands were there and agreed to play something especially for us. I heard that the Columbus High kids had requested that number because their director was called “Captain Lee.” Who knows, maybe that was true.

I had to reflect on all of that when I saw all those school kids lining up go into the Bill Heard Theater. I also reflected on how important is it for the symphony to invite school children so they can be exposed to the great sound of a full symphony orchestra. There is just nothing like hearing live symphonic music. Symphony audiences all over the country are getting smaller. Attracting young audiences is the only hope of reversing that trend.

And it was good thing the symphony played Wagner and Straus because those composers really knew how to get the most out of an orchestra. They also knew how to write not only beautiful, but also exciting music.

No doubt, thanks to the sponsors who paid for the kid’s tickets, more students will be invited to attend future concerts. To love that music, a person has to be exposed to it. It wouldn’t hurt for the orchestra to follow the example of the Pittsburg Symphony and play an encore targeted for them, something like “The Stars and Stripes Forever,” or the theme from “Star Wars.”

Bag Back

January 9, 2014

After tracking my delayed bag, I said I expected to have it “soon.” “Soon” turned out to be this afternoon, My flight from Atlanta to Columbus arrived Monday evening about 8:40, give or take a few minutes, and I picked up my bag this afternoon, Wednesday, at about 2 p.m. I barely made the Columbus flight out of Atlanta, but my bag didn’t.  A lot of people around the country experienced the same problem because of the winter weather.

Will I fly out of Columbus again?  If the price is right, most definitely.  Things are a lot calmer at the Columbus Metropolitan Airport.  There are only eight flights a day here compared to almost a thousand at Hartsfield-Jackson,  the busiest airport in the world.   

Bag Blues

January 8, 2014

With a lot of flyers suffering much greater inconveniences than I did, I suppose I should be grateful that a delayed bag is my greatest inconvenience.  The weather was cold, but clear in Richmond, Virgina Monday afternoon and it was colder but also clear in Atlanta, so I thought things should go smoothly.

The first clue that it wasn’t was when the my flight was a little late in landing.  People were getting off the plane at the time we should have been getting on.   That meant it would be a little late in taking off, which meant it would be a little late in landing in Atlanta, which meant I wouldn’t have as much time to connect with my flight to Columbus.

When we landed in Atlanta a little late, we had to sit and sit and sit waiting for our plane’s gate to become available.  “I know this is frustrating for you,”  said the Captain, “and it’s also frustrating for us.  I know some of you have connecting flights that you have to make.” Later, he came back on and asked people whose flight terminated in Atlanta or who had adequate time to make flight connects, to remain seated while those on a tight schedule deplaned.

I messaged my son Rick who lives in Cumming to let him know we had landed in Atlanta. He called me, and I told him I was getting concern about making my flight to Columbus.  After checking online, he said the Columbus was listed as being on time.  That meant my making the connection was looking doubtful, until he checked again and learn the Columbus flight would be delayed.   I have never a plane empty out as fast as that one did. Once off the plane, I walked as fast as I could to go from Concourse E to Concourse C.  Some people were actually running. With the help of the fast under- the- runways train I barely made it to the gate that was all the way at the end of Concourse C.  One positive is that I got in my two- mile daily walk. Well, it felt like two miles.

Once in the air the regional jet made the hundred mile flight to Columbus in about 20 minutes.  Then, the fun started.  I made the connecting flight, but guess what didn’t.  It has almost been 24 hours since we landed in Columbus, and I still  don’t have my bag.  I just went on-line and tracked my bag, and it appears it has arrived at Columbus Metropolitan Airport, and I should be getting it soon.  Soon, of course, is a relative term.