Being Somewhere Else

When I was a little boy I never wanted to live where I lived.   That’s because I was happier living where we lived before.  Where we lived before was a city, an industrial city that didn’t stink.   Well, Dad thought the unions stank;  oh, and his boss.  In this city they made appliances, industrial generators, farm equipment, electrical motors and even automobiles. That was in Ohio. We never should have moved away, but Dad had to.

My best pal’s dad was an engineer like mine, but a mechanical one,  where they made tires. Dad was electrical and according to my stepmother he was  creme de la creme.    On summer evenings the mechanical engineer used to sit  on his front stoop in his under shirt.  His tummy rolled and hung over his belt.   He drank Burger beer and watched us catch fireflies in a jar.  You could smell his cigar from down on the sidewalk and see its red glow. Often my pal’s dad drove us to the train station where we put pennies on the track and watched them get flattened.  Dad didn’t take us places but he didn’t get mad like the mechanical engineer did.

I was never older than six when we lived there, but I had friends in the city.  Later when I visited was when the  regret set in.  My pal, enjoying the city,  had a really good high school where he played the cello.  He became a priest.

The place where I never wanted to live was in the country, outside a little town. It wasn’t the country I hated.  I liked being alone in the country. It was in the  little town where I became a snob.  My stepmother didn’t like where my father had brought her.  I tended to agree with her.  It’s hard to be a snob in the sixth grade.  You don’t know you’re one, but everyone else does.  Stepmother came from another, bigger industrial steel city where they made dump trucks.  Both cities had a twelve-story building, but my stepmother’s city had a club on the top where a black man called Nathan was a waiter.  She always asked for Nathan and gave him a big tip. I liked cities. My stepmother was married to an eye doctor before  he died.

There were only two houses within sight, but you could hear cow bells down the road beyond the trees in the meadow.  Two pretty girls lived on that farm.  Later on, the girls in short shorts rode horses a lot. I longed for a horse.   Once I hung around the barn and watched the girls milking their cows.  I was transfixed by them.      My stepmother let us hold dances in the basement of our house.    My stepmother always thought it best to have the parties at our house.  Pubesence, especially hairy boys, scared her.

In school I got a lot of B’s and my share of A’s so I made the Beta Club and went on to college where I became a fraternity man.  My stepmother was pleased with that because being part of the Miami Triad of fraternities was very important.

So, I finally got out of the town where I didn’t want to be.  Funny though, I’ve always wanted to be somewhere else.

Steadfast and cautious,

The Tortoise

Perseverance Quotes

He conquers who endures.  ~Persius

via Perseverance Quotes, Inspirational Sayings on Persistence and Determination.

So often, especially in these United States, we think about victory as winning: the next great job, the next game, the bigger house and soon it’s time for the playoffs and the championship game.  Americans are proud of our military might.  World War II remains our greatest feat in battle.  Yes, we endured, surely our soldiers and citizens back home endured.  In the end as Admiral Yamamoto said, it was our industrial might and our ability to focus it, sustain it, that won the day.  We did not do it without our allies.

But when I think of endurance, I think of Britain who persevered and sacrificed, holding the fort until we got up to speed.  Britain had a very close call.  Endurance implies the ability to keep on, keeping on out of seemingly endless oppression and  suffering.  I think of Jesus toting his cross up the slope of Golgotha.  Somehow, one can’t romanticize endurance like you can the “glory” of a cavalry charge.  Poland endured. Czechoslovakia endured.  Latvia endured.  There are thousands of Syrians enduring.  The Jews endure. Sodbusters endured.  Endurance is struggling with no sign of help and relief. For a time endurance was Valley Forge.  Endurance is the mind game Sisyphus must play to continue his unending rolling of the boulder up a hill, down and up, down and up. Endurance operates when hope remains the barest dream, if that.  Endurance has no vision of trophies and laurels.  It sees no golden retirement.

So what is it that endurance conquers?  I think it is despair.

Steadfast and cautious,

The Tortoise

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The Decline of American Monuments and Memorials – Hillsdale College – Imprimis

“Monuments and memorials today are discursive, sentimental, addicted to narrative literalism, and asking to be judged on good intentions rather than visual coherence. This change began, ironically, with a critique of the overwrought memorials of the Victorian era. In reaction, the first generation of modern architects decided that we needed an entirely different vocabulary of monuments. So when modernism went about dislodging the structures of traditional society, culture, religion, and the political and social order, it also began dispensing with the arches and columns that paid tribute to that order. This was not easy, however, because modernism was concerned with the future and monuments are retrospective.”  . . . more

via Hillsdale College – Imprimis.

Copyright © 2012 Hillsdale College.

The opinions expressed in Imprimis are not necessarily the views of Hillsdale College. Permission to reprint in whole or in part is hereby granted, provided the following credit line is used: “Reprinted by permission from Imprimis, a publication of Hillsdale College.”


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Unfairness to Homeowners Blocks Recovery – Outside the Box – MarketWatch

What the middle-class has been offered, instead, are toothless loan-modification programs. Beneath the hype, these programs are nothing but an organized way for the middle-class to beg for charity. Since banks are not charities, it should surprise no one that lenders put applicants for loan modifications through hell and modify few loans. — more —

via Unfairness to homeowners blocks recovery – Outside the Box – MarketWatch.

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Silly Childhood Pranks

When our new home was being built, I once stuffed sawdust into the oiling tube on an electric motor.  I was ten, maybe eleven. My prankish act caused no damage, but I worried myself into confessing to my dad.  He said my act was stupid, but probably that I had not destroyed the carpenter’s table saw.  Dad was an engineer and knew everything. In the seventh grade I was sucked into scattering pepper all over the room to work up Mrs. Dutton’s allergies.  It worked.  She missed several days of work and we were all paddled by the principal.  Dad was ashamed for me, but did not add to my punishment.  I was mortified — mostly about the skuzz bags I’d joined. Once I attempted to bully my best friend, but I cannot remember why. Maybe we just had a fight.  In mid-pummel his dad jerked me off his son and sent me home pronto.  The next day I apologized.  Vaguely I remember sniggering at some “oddball kids,” but nothing specific comes to mind. Most likely in the sniggering I was a fellow traveler in the mocking. In high school I was a nerd basically, but I don’t recall being bullied.  I just wasn’t a jock and that was important in my tiny, rural high school.

Funny, if I can remember these egregious shenanigans on my part back to the seventh grade, I find it hard to believe that big Willard Romney could not remember his bullying incident. I don’t care much, really, except to note that one who likes to fire people, to command  others and to be President, might also have been more inclined to bully than to fawn. Do you suppose Admiral Halsey was a bully?

Steadfast and cautious,

David Milliken

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Coolidge, Hoover and the Myth of Businessman Presidents: Echoes – Bloomberg

“One motivation for Coolidge was his conviction that individual integrity and religious faith were as important to growth as government policy. In the same speech that he uttered the famous line about the chief business of America, he said ‘the chief ideal of America is idealism.’ ”

via Coolidge, Hoover and the Myth of Businessman Presidents: Echoes – Bloomberg.

The important point here is that Coolidge at least saw a necessity for good government policy.

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Kansas City Star: Demand a presidential campaign of substance –

Concerned Americans want less about presidential dogs, less about birth certificates and less about second-home car elevators.

They, and we, want substance.

We want serious discussions about health care, entitlements, defense spending, deficits, jobs, foreign policy and education.  More . . .

via The Star’s editorial | Demand a presidential campaign of substance –

After I read this editorial this morning, I felt like no one could have said it better and that no more needs to be said, except more on these issues.  It’s time to dig deeply into real debate. The editorial is not just good Midwestern horse sense, but sound logical sense for useful framing of 2012 election issues and, most likely crucial issues in our nation for the foreseeable future.  I am glad to hear this excellent newspaper calling on President Obama to put the Simpson-Bowles report back on top as a major priority.

In addition I add that this editorial proves why we need and will always need good, old-fashioned, print journalism.  I do not believe a great democratic republic can content itself with cable news only or even PBS and network specials — OR iPhones, Droids, et cetera — any thing that chops complexity into more mindless  dribs and drabs.  Sound bites and the daily palaver about who’s up and who’s down in the polls will not save America.  I’m sorry current events, national and global, are not solely entertainment.  They should not be followed like sporting events.  The electronic Media can fix this.

And I am tired of the endless litany of political parties who refuse to debate honestly what few ideas they have.  Truthfully we are all just waiting for the economy to get well on its own.  Maybe that is best; well, fine, then let’s have an end to Romney just saying over and over and over again how he can do a better job than Obama.  I want to know how and what he would do, except preside over inertia. What does the man believe in? Right now, I only know that Romney wants to be the President.  Perhaps he wants to out do dear old dad and that’s it.  From Romney I would like to know why he is not just another Herbert Hoover.  I want to hear him talk about the revenue side of budgeting.  He’s a businessman after all.

Obama wants a second term.  And I want President Obama to frame a total vision and tell me about it — better than the hope stuff.  I want him to confront the spectre of economic meltdown from debts and deficits.  I want Simpson-Bowles to frame the debate.  I want candidates who don’t constantly feed the public with more pap.  I have seen the statesman in Obama.  I want to see more of it.

Do you think it will happen?  I am not optimistic because money, buckets of money, will prevent it.  A true,  democratically-elected republic might call for compromise.  Do I expect too much?

Steadfast and cautious,

David Milliken

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Failure in School: to Lie or Not to Lie

Someone reached my site with the search: “Should I Lie about My Failure in School?”  Most likely Google found The Tortoise because of the posts on failure in Ph.D. School.  I assume this is not about high school failure.  Even if it is. lying will catch up to one — especially to one with a conscience which you obviously have.

I am not an ethicist or counselor, so all I can do is speak as an individual whose been through part  it.  First of all, failure in grad school is nothing to be ashamed of unless you spent too much time drinking and partying.  Even in that case, what is done is done.  If you gave your all to the effort, then no apology to anyone is necessary.  There are just too many other factors involved in failure:  level of experience and  self-understanding  at the time, the nature of the experience itself, quality of guidance you had and just the human ability to make bad choices — even self-delusion.

Grow with it. Grad school is an option and a choice.  To wash out of Naval flight school, as another example, doesn’t define a person’s ultimate worth, nor does failure to pass the bar exam.  To have sought what you believed was a star and not to have found it, is no sin and maybe not even a mistake.  You made a choice, took some chances and something happened — end of story.   In the end you were trying to get on, right?  You tried what many others would not even have attempted.

You may be worried about the resume and interview stuff.  Don’t ever use a fraudulent resume.  As for the interview, be honest here too.  You do not have to beat your breast confessing.  Chances are the interviewer won’t understand any field other than her own.  No, come to terms with yourself first and be honest. Explain the experience and what you learned from failure.  That takes guts. Who knows?  Maybe you still want that degree and can go back and try again.  Some employer might see an unfulfilled passion there just waiting on more experience and wisdom.  Maybe that employer will offer you the chance. Sometimes we try stuff before we are ready for full success. We pop the wine before its time.  If you’re seeking an alternative career in which the failed credentialing does not apply, it will not matter.

Finally, you are probably drowning in regrets about  what might have been and kicking yourself.  Don’t give yourself another bludgeon for self-punishment — like guilt over lying.

Steadfast and cautious,

David Milliken

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