Thursday, July 31, 2008

Kindness Pays

Imagine that it's 3 o'clock on the afternoon of the last day of the month--July 31st for instance. The license bureau is full of procrastinators (like every other month) and you are one of the unfortunate workers that has to endure this monthly ritual. Now, with just a couple of hours left in the longest day of the month, an elderly man comes to renew his driver's license. He is a bit hunched forward but nicely dressed; short sleeved white shirt that is crisply pressed, glasses, a nice tie and dress slacks. You escort him over to the machine to have his eyes examined and here is where the difficulty begins.

I saw this take place just a few moments ago. Chris always thinks that I put things off until the last possible moment and I had two hours to spare--or so I thought. Anyways, the woman that was helping this elderly man exhibited an incredible amount of patience and kindness. I'm not sure if he couldn't understand what he was supposed to be reading or if he couldn't read it. In any case, with lots of people waiting, this woman spoke kindly to him, took her time, explained over and over what she wanted him to do, helped him recognize the row she wanted him to read by turning the light on and off for those letters and let him try again and again before asking him when the last time he had been to the eye doctor and suggesting that he make an appointment. I felt bad for him as he and his wife left (I'm not sure who was driving). Being restricted to home while you wait for somebody else to drive you to a place that you want to go is not a day that I am looking forward to. I know, I know...there comes a point when it isn't safe for some people to be driving, but at least this man was treated with respect and dignity in the process.

As she finished with him, I was called (after a 30 minute wait) to another window. I presented all of the proper documents...or so I thought. The insurance card that I had expired two weeks ago! I was going to have to go home to find the new one! Oh well. At least I hadn't waited 'til the last minute. I still had plenty of time. On the way out, I stopped to tell that woman how much I appreciated the kindness and patience that she used in waiting on the old man.

I hurried home, found what I was looking for, traded cars so that Hannah could take my car (with a copy of the current insurance card) to drum lessons, and headed back to the license bureau for another wait. I walked into a room that was even more crowded than before and was going to take a number and begin another wait. The woman that had started to wait on me saw me walk in. The woman that had waited on the old man was next to her and just finishing up with a customer. After a quick word between the two I was signaled to come forward. I knew that this had been a long day for them and told them how much I appreciated them taking care of me. I also thought that I was glad that I hadn't reacted badly to having the wrong papers in the first place and was pleasant (to both of them) on my first visit. I'm not sure what the people that had been waiting thought as I walked in the door and right to the counter (I had been gone about 30 minutes). I hope that they also treated these ladies with kindness and good manners.

As a rule, I believe that good manners and patience are becoming a bit less common in our society. It's partly because we're always in a hurry and thinking about our schedule and partly because we haven't taken the time to teach good manners and the value of good manners to our kids. We've forgotten to treat people the way that we would like to be treated.

You know..."Do unto others..."

So a big thanks to the ladies at the license bureau on the square in Ozark. Thanks from me...for now and also for when I'm old. Your kindness has been duly noted.


Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Meet Me At the Fair

Last night the family made the summer trip to the Ozark Empire Fair. It's been quite some time since I've been to the summer fair. I think that this is only the second time in 11 summers that we've been to the Fair. Although I didn't grow up on a farm, ours was a small rural town in central Illinois. I was in 4-H and my best friend raised and showed Angus cattle. I spent a more than a few nights sleeping on tack boxes, straw bales or in the bed of a pick-up truck at various county fairs.

We didn't have enough time to really enjoy all of the exhibits and mainly went for the grandstand show. I did realize that there was some great photography displayed and wondered why Dan Kennedy hadn't entered any of his great pics in the fair. I've seen some fantastic sunsets and sky pics from Dan--worthy of fair competition. After the show, we strolled on the Midway and at some point I managed to heed the advice of a co-worker and "eat something on a stick." It was teriyaki chicken from an Asian vendor. When Aaron asked me what I had, I responded with "Salmonella in a stick." Something about eating fair food (or fair fare) always makes me feel like a bit of a daredevil.

The grandstand show was Weird Al Yankovic. Al has been at it for quite awhile and has put together an impressive list of albums and awards. The concert was very entertaining. I think that the kids may have enjoyed it more since they were more familiar with the current parodies. I had just a couple of complaints about the evening, perhaps I'm becoming more curmudgeonly as I get older or maybe it comes from reading blogs like Bilbo's or Mike's.

In any case, the grandstand show is usually included in the cost of your ticket to the Fair. However, since Weird Al was quite the name, you had to have a separate ticket to the show. If you bought a ticket to the Weird Al concert in advance(starting at $10), admission to the Fair was included. But if you got to the Fair you had to buy your admission ticket($8) and then buy your concert ticket (still starting at $10) separately. What a ripoff! The other thing was trying my patience by not starting on time. The concert was scheduled for 8 pm. Some time around 8 stagehands began messing with lights and other things to make you think that the show was about to begin. By about 20 minutes past the hour, the audience began its clapping, foot stomping chants to entice the performer onto the stage. Once the concert finally started (8:25 or so) it was a good show and he performed for 2+ solid hours including his encore. Weird Al is an extremely talented, funny and energetic guy. If you've never heard any of his stuff, go to You Tube and enter his name in the search. I'm sure there are a bunch of videos of him. Here is a link to one of my favorites, The Saga Begins.

I hope that you're enjoying your summer (Northern Hemisphere readers), it's almost over.


Monday, July 28, 2008

Weighty Matters

Today's post from one of the many blogs that I subscribe to is one worth sharing. I know that many people don't want to know how many calories they're about to consume. I also think that most of us would make a quick reconsideration when we discovered (with a shock) just how many calories were in those "healthy choice" options on the menus of our favorite restaurants.

I already know that my favorite desserts are loaded. I may pass once in a awhile if I knew just how many calories were in them, but probably not. Over all I'd say that the more info we have, the better choices we can make. For example--I probably wouldn't have eaten six Burger King Whoppers in a sitting if I'd have realized that the fat calories alone would feed a small family for a day. Maybe you don't care how many calories you're consuming. If that's the case, it won't really matter if they are posted. I think that it's a good idea and should be adopted around the country.
Here's your opportunity to weigh in on the issue. (pun intended)

Comments anyone?


Friday, July 25, 2008

Two Year Anniversary

Today marks the two year anniversary of Out of My Hat. It has been much different than I expected. I never really expected to have a readership that went beyond family and friends much less one that circled the globe. Thanks for stopping by.

It has been awhile since I've gone off on a rant or really had anything blog worthy. Today isn't much different. I will say that I received the much anticipated letter from Bilbo in today's mail and will have to begin my return letter. I still owe Amanda a card--Sorry, Amanda, and need to write again to my own computer challenged dad. Maybe this letter writing will take on a life of its own and we'll all see a resurgence in the art.

I'm experiencing more of the insanity that is our government while I spend time on administrative duties at work. On the one hand I am very grateful that the manager is allowing me to work in the office vs. burning up my sick leave. On the other hand there is so much needless and frustrating work that is done to justify somebody's job way up the line that one has to wonder--How did we ever manage to be a world power when so much time, energy and money is being wasted on bureaucracy? I figure that it will be at least two more weeks: one week 'til my test and then God only knows how long it will take the flight surgeon to get around to reading the results and taking an action. In the mean time, your hard earned tax dollars are continuing to support me and my family while I do a job that I'm not trained for and the radar room is short one more controller.

Turning to politics...
(do we really want to go there?)
Recent e-mails have been forwarded by the religious right declaring Barack Obama to be the Antichrist. Just Google Obama, Antichrist and you'll be directed to many blogs, articles and sites giving the reasons for that author's claims. I find it interesting that christian (lower case intentional) radicals think that they can keep the Antichrist out of office by getting people to vote against him.

Hey, genius, if you really believe him to be the Antichrist then his coming to power is fulfillment of prophesy and well out of your control! Don't you think that your time would be better spent telling people about the real Christ? If the end is near, maybe you should do a quick check on your own relationship with Jesus. Forget religion at this point. Let's talk about salvation vs. condemnation, heaven vs. hell, separating the wheat from the chaff! What ever the words you choose, if the Antichrist is coming to power the Judgment Day is not far off!


That was me falling off my soapbox. Sorry 'bout that. I'll just stay off it so that nobody gets hurt.

By the way, my computer is now in the shop and I'm writing from my daughter's ancient laptop. The guy at the shop says, "The good news is that the part is readily available and only costs about ten dollars. Unfortunately we have to completely disassemble your laptop to get to it, install the new part and then reassemble it." Total cost: ten dollars for the part, one hundred and forty dollars for the labor! I think I'll make computer repair my next career (maybe sooner than I'd like).

You may have noticed that the coming events section to the right is blank. I've actually just booked a couple of events and will have them up soon. One is a back-to-school event and the other is a fall block party.

Tonight is the regular meeting of the Fellowship of Christian Magicians. I am looking forward to seeing one of our members that has been in Haiti. Actually I'm looking forward to seeing everybody...especially Dwayne.

I'd best be thinking about what magic I'll bring to the meeting and start getting ready.


Tuesday, July 22, 2008

God is Our Rock

Summer camp 2008 is in the history books.

We had 58 campers attend our camp at Windermere on Lake of the Ozarks. I really need to mention that the staff at Windermere was excellent. Jared was the guide for my team at the Edge and did an awesome job along with all of the other guides.

I can't say just how much I appreciate all of the adult help that we have at camp. There are never any complaints about the work that needs to be done (and there is no shortage of work that needs to be done!) and everybody is focused on making sure that the kids are having fun! As always, David and Jenny Stone did an awesome job with worship time. Check out David's blog for more comments and some pics.

Our theme this year was God is our Rock and Psalm 18 was our background Scripture. The drama team put together a series of skits depicting a team of three climbers and their guide trying to make it up the mountain. In the end, we saw that it took all four of them to succeed. As we make our attempt to ascend this mountain of life, we need to have a guide that knows the way (Jesus) and we need to know that we are not in this struggle alone. God has given us pastors, teachers and friends to help us along the way. At the Edge, we learned how important it is to recognize the voice of your guide and to trust them to know what is best. In life, we get a lot of advice from a lot of different voices. Sometimes it's hard to recognize His voice among all of the others. Sometimes we want to listen to the voice of a well meaning friend that really has no experience in our situation. Sometimes the voice we hear and want to listen to is just the loudest voice. The only way to recognize and trust the voice of our Savior is to build a relationship with Him.

God is our Rock! He is a fortress and a hiding place. In Him, we are safe and secure. He is our salvation.


By the way, Pastor John's pillow fights made The Top Ten Reasons for Returning to Windermere. I don't think that I've ever really sponsored any pillow fights and believe that my reputation is one that is overstated and undeserved, (really, it wasn't my fault!) but it was nice to make the Top Ten, just the same.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Children's Camp

Well it is getting close to midnight and I've been working on getting ready for camp. In about 12 hours the kid's will be arriving at church and shortly after that we'll be on our way to camp. In some ways preaching to kids is much harder than preaching to adults. It's not because they don't understand. They're pretty smart and it's not like I have to talk down to them--I'm pretty much at their level to begin with. It's that I never want to have to stand before God and be accused of manipulating them.

Truthfully, I believe that I have enough charisma to get a whole bunch of them to come forward and say that they believe a whole bunch of stuff that they really don't understand. The real trick is in finding the balance of communicating information, helping them sort out the important from the unimportant, convey a sense of urgency and still allow them time to mature in their understanding and to give them the freedom to choose.

Aside from kids being hard to preach to, there is that old hang-up of being around kids. It's not that I mind getting to act like a kid for a weekend (I like that part), it's that I have to be around kids to do it. You may remember a post from a couple of years ago. It's a good reminder of who I am and why I do this crazy stuff.

Well it is getting late and there are still many things to do before morning.


"We may not be able to stay young, but at least we can stay immature!"

Sunday, July 13, 2008


The counter on my blog says that this is post #200.

When I started on the blogging adventure (just less than two years ago) I never could have imagined that I would meet people from all over the world or that anybody would actually come back to read more of my rantings and raving about a wide variety of topics. I am also surprised at the number of blogs that I subscribe to and look forward to reading on a daily basis. Some are younger than my kids, some are older. Some bloggers are rock steady, everyday bloggers. Some are frequent, some not so much so. Some are political or centered around a theme. Some are quite varied. Some write about their personal life, some about their work life. Some are poetic. Some write long posts. Some posts are quite brief. Some have quit blogging for a variety of reasons. And some have been at this for years. It is an interesting Community.

My wife thinks that we are weird. I'm weird for reading what you write and you are weird for reading what I write. (This from a woman that watches Jon and Kate +8!)

I learn a lot from reading your posts and your comments. For instance, after reading Mike's post on blogging statistics, I went back to sanitize a previous post. I removed the name of the cruise line, the name of the ship and the names of the crew members. I'd hate for anybody to lose their job over something that I wrote! Maybe it's somebody's job at the cruise line to search for their name on blogs to find out what passengers are saying about their cruises. Paranoid? Maybe, but those statistics come from somewhere.

I realize that I write little to do with religion or with my beliefs. Probably not such a great trait for an evangelist. Just as I sense that my magic ministry and preaching is turning more toward stronger evangelism, I think that it will also appear more often in my writing. I hope that doesn't scare any readers away. My evangelism style is more along the lines of sharing the love of God than trying to scare the hell out of you.

In my first post, (still one of my favorites) I wrote something about writing a book. I have not written a single page but I have much more material to share thanks to you and to the experiences of life in the past two years. I actually believe that I am a more joyful person today than I was back when this blogging gig started. Maybe I'll have a few pages written by the time I hit post #300.

Thanks for reading.


Friday, July 11, 2008

I'm Sick!

Not really. However I am currently medically decertified from controlling airplanes.

Last winter I decided that it was time to address a condition that afflicts many people today. I also knew that doing so could jeopardize my medical certification--obstructive sleep apnea.

I can certainly understand that sleep apnea is not a desirable characteristic for an air traffic controller. But it seems strange that you would disqualify the controller that has sought treatment. My personal doctor is also the local examining doctor for the Regional Flight Surgeon. At my physical last month, we made sure that all of the information about my diagnosis and treatment was disclosed. For too long, many controllers either just didn't seek help for a condition that they knew they had but never had a doctor's diagnosis, or they got treatment and never disclosed the information for fear of losing their medical.

I shouldn't have a problem demonstrating that the treatment is working. I will have to take a little used test known as a wakefulness test. According to my doctor the FAA is the only agency or company that requires it. I'll get to foot the bill for this test to show that I'm ok to work. Since I'm still on vacation (and not yet home) it will be Monday before I can find out just how long it will take to schedule this test. Until then, SGF will be short a controller during a time of year when we are already short staffed due to vacations. The simple fact that I've been working airplanes up to the diagnosis, continued working from treatment to my physical and continued working with my personal doctor's (the flight examiner) knowledge since my physical has little to do with the Flight Surgeon's decision to decertify me.

In keeping with my last post, I'm trying to keep a positive attitude. I'll be able to convert part of my vacation time to sick leave. I'll be able to do some administrative work if it is a while before I can get an appointment. I only have 3 years, 5 months and 26 days until I'm eligible to retire and say goodbye to such nonsense. And I keep reminding myself that 50% of all doctors graduated in the bottom half of their class!


Thursday, July 10, 2008

Winding Down

Well, we arrived back in Mobile AL this morning but were not quite ready for the vacation to end. Since we really only had one day at the beach while on our cruise, we opted to drive to Gulf Shores AL (about an hour away) and spend the day (and night) on our own Gulf coast. Today was a great day to spend on the beach. When we tired of playing in the Gulf we walked back to the hotel property and spend time lounging around or relaxing in the pool.

Bilbo, I'm sure that you will enjoy the Mayan Riviera. We have vacationed at an all inclusive resort at Puerto Aventuras in the past and had a grand time. There are some great Mayan ruins in the area and Xcaret is a wonderful adventure should time permit. The closing program is fantastic. It is a musical history of Mexico. Unfortunately, it probably wouldn't fit into a cruise ship schedule.

The really dissapointing thing about our trip was finding out about the exploitation of foreign labor. I met several crew members from the Philippines, many from Indonesia, as well as Thailand, India, Columbia and all over the globe. From a first time crew member from the Philippines I found out that she signed a four month contract (most are usually four, six or eight months). Her job is a drink server/waitress. For four months she will work seven days per week for tips. At the end of that time, she will hope to have enough money for an airline ticket home with some money left over to live on until she either signs up for another cruise or makes a start doing something else.

Our dining room server has been with this cruise line for four years. She is a Team Head Waitress and makes seventy-five dollars per month plus tips. Her 10 month old baby is with her mother in Indonesia. Her husband is a waiter in the other dining room aboard the same ship. She plans on quitting soon to have a second child. After 20 years of service (four more years), her husband will be able to retire with a lump sum payout of $15,000 dollars. That will allow them to move to his home in Columbia and start a new life.

Needless to say, there were no US citizen working except as entertainers. For those that agree to work under these conditions they are seizing the best opportuniy available to them. They do get free room and board on the ship for the duration of their contract. I am appalled that the cruise lines would exploit poor countries and not pay their citizens for the work that they do. Without exception, the entire crew was hard working and extremely polite. I would love to sail with them again but will have to decide about supporting an industry that seems to operate at a level that is not too far above slavery. Weighing the low pay against the only opportunity that many of the crew will have to break out of poverty will be tough for a union man. My initial thought is that we may not be cruising again.

I wish that I could have given each of them a C-note as we left the ship. Unfortunately, that is not within my means. The circumstances really made me stop to appreciate how much I have. I also realized how spoiled we have become in the United States. We think that so much is owed to us as citizens. We are always up in arms about our rights being violated. When was the last time any of us worried about where our next meal was coming from or where we would sleep for the night? Have any of us ever contemplated risking our lives to journey 90 miles in a raft at sea from Cuba for the chance to work for a few dollars a week in a free country? Or risked jail or deportation just to find a better life for your family?

I can't imagine a young mother leaving a newborn baby unless she is desperate to provide for him. She has been providing for her mother and younger siblings since her father passed away. She has a positive attitude, a gentle spirit and a very kind heart. Yet there is obviously steel in this young woman as well.

Something tells me that I'll be doing a lot less complaining in the near future. I hope that it will turn into the same kind of infectious attitude that these young laborers from around the world displayed (although not all of them were young). I hope to be more gracious, less demanding and less critical of my fellow man.

To all of the crew that met our needs--Thank you. My thoughts and prayers are with you. I have learned much from you in the few days that are paths crossed. I hope that I can pass these lessons on to others.


Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Time off = Time out

Yes, I am taking two weeks off! Alright, I'm making a brief exception to post from the Carnival Cruise Ship Holiday.

We are on our way back home and I had a few minutes left after checking my e-mail and so forth. I noticed that my Google Reader shows 70+ posts to catch up on when I get back and have the time to casually peruse all of the blogs that I frequent.

This has been our first cruise and so I'll have a post about our adventures soon. I have had a good time but think that I prefer one location at an all inclusive resort to cruising. On the other hand, I wouldn't be opposed to taking another cruise in the future and think that it would be more fun with several friends along. There are at least two large family groups on board; one for a 60th Anniversary Cruise and the other is just a family get together.

Since I'm not a gambler or drinker, daytime activity is somewhat restricted to programs by the pool or sunning. There are other activities as well but I hate keeping to a schedule while on vacation.

We have a table to ourselves for evening dinner but have enjoyed meeting other cruisers at breakfast and lunch. We had a bit of rain yesterday while on the beach in Cozumal Mexico. Chris reminded us that rain on the beach in the Carribean was much better than rain in Missouri!

Well there is still a bit of vacationing to do so I'm off.

More in a few days.


Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Say It Ain't So!

Yes friends, it's two posts in one day.

Last Saturday, June 28th, I made the trip to Kansas City to watch the St. Louis Cardinals beat the Kansas City Royals. Now I'll admit that the Royals swept the Cards in St. Louis and won the game on Friday night. But for the game that I was at...the Cards were winners! I'm grateful to all of my friends that made the trip with me (both Cards fans and Royals fans).

It was way back in February (when teams are gearing up for Spring Training) that I placed my call to the group sales office in Kansas City. Tickets weren't even on sale yet. I left a message and as soon as tickets went on sale, Rachelle called me and made the deal. Rachelle has helped me in the past with group sales and if you are planning a trip to KC with a group, give her a call @ 816-921-8000. Ask for Rachelle and I promise that she'll take good care of you.

I love the big dog with the grilled onions and kraut. Aaron goes for the foot-long bratwurst. Aaron's girlfriend Jenny went with us and found her self in a bit of a bind. You see, this otherwise very smart girl is a Cub fan. So even though she wasn't cheering for the Royals, she couldn't really make herself cheer for the Cardinals. I did get her to at least clap when the Cards made a good play, but "go Cards" never crossed her lips. I know that she is a smart, attractive girl, but I have to wonder about the long term implications of a relationship with a Cub fan. I'm wondering if Aaron is going to allow a grandchild of mine to be dressed in Cub outfit. Heaven forbid!

I had a great time and I hope that everybody else did, too.


A Conservative Viewpoint

Actually, we're looking at two conservative's viewpoints.

Check this out. A conservative slamming a conservative for his ridiculous comments concerning Sen. Obama. I'm glad that my brother sent me this link. After reading this and the previously mentioned blogalogue debate, I'm glad to note that there are still moral conservatives that understand their role in politics vs. thier role in day-to-day living.

Sen. Obama could have used the example: "...whose Christianity will we teach? Dr. James Dobson's spread gossip and talk bad about people you don't want in office..."

I am always ashamed of the gossip that is spread for the cause of righteousness. This occurs mostly in the political realm, but you find it in other social areas as well. I wonder when those that use the "Christian" label will wake up to the fact they are not following the teachings of Jesus. I don't think that Jesus had Dobson's kind of comments in mind when he was talking about loving your enemies or turning the other cheek. Gossip is certainly a no-no in Jesus' teachings.

Sen. Obama made some very good points. Christianity has been divided into so many denominations over differences in theology and practice that it would be impossible to even satisfy just the Christians with a candidate. In his letter to the Ephesians, Paul writes about the armor of the believer. Most Christians have left their armor to rust on the shelf; others spend their time polishing their armor so that they look great with it on; and still others use it to fight among themselves. Rarely is it used to fight the spiritual battles that Paul is talking about.

We (Christians) spend so much of our time trying to convince people of what we believe they should do as Christians when we are really pushing our own agendas and have forgotten the catch phrase of a few years ago...WWJD (What Would Jesus Do?) I wonder if Dr. Dobson thinks that Jesus would have publicly called out Sen. Obama about his "confused theology" or "fruitcake interpretation of the Constitution." You would have thought that Dr. Dobson could have at least agreed with the Senator about his encouragement to read the Bible.

In any case, I think that Peter Wehner's comments are an appropriate response to Dr. Dobson's.

In all things, be kind. It's what Jesus would do.