Saturday, December 29, 2007
We have a fake tree now, so there's no rush to take it down, and I think it's wrong to take down a Christmas tree before New Year's anyway. In fact, I favor the second or third week in January approach.
This week, my sister, Cheryl, and my brother-in-law, Willie, were in town visiting Willie's niece over in St. Paul, so we got together on Thursday, and Patrick joined us for lunch. After that we stopped by MPR and Sean gave us a tour (I've seen it before, by the way). It's really a great experience.
Here's a picture of Patrick, Cheryl, and me that Willie took as I dropped them off in St. Paul.
A little earlier than this, I showed them the hangar I have at Fleming Field in South St. Paul. Playing with the wheel pants was the order of the day, I guess.
Cheryl and Willie left early Friday morning with a connection in Chicago, heading back to Boston. She called today to tell me their flight in Chicago was canceled and they had to wait seven hours for another flight.
I don't know of any other industry that treats its customers as poorly as the airlines and rewards its chief executives with millions and millions of dollars in bonuses for doing so.
When my RV airplane is finished, I won't miss them a bit.
Wednesday, December 26, 2007
The empty nest was not empty on Christmas. Patrick didn't put his Navy papers in. He says it was because he had to clear up a wart before the Navy would have him, though I suspect he wanted to be around for Christmas. Good.
There was a gentle snowfall from a narrow band along a low from Omaha up through the upper peninsula of Michigan. It didn't move for the day so we ended up with about 6-7 inches of powdery snow, and a perfect Christmas scene out the window.
Sean once again came up with a quote that we had to write down for great family quotes. "People who are offended when I say to them, 'Merry Christmas,' can rot in hell," he said. There is irony and so many other things in that sentence that it's nearly impossible to comprehend.
I got a watch from Patrick, which was really nice of him. I'll think of him whenever I look at my watch and think, "I wonder what Patrick is doing now?" Young people: hear me now and believe me later. When your parents say you don't need to give them presents, believe them. Two of my kids walked in the door yesterday, and that gave me the only present I'd hoped for.
Friday, December 14, 2007
I'm not sure why I said that a few months ago when my youngest son, his mother, and I were sitting in a Navy recruiter's office, and the subject of a date to ship out came up.
Patrick has enlisted in the Navy to try to become the Navy's best medical corpsman ever. And I have no doubt he will.
It'll be good for him, I tell myself. He'll really get a good education and he'll see the world. I tell myself that, too.
There was a chance he wouldn't ship out until May, a greater chance he'd ship out in January.
Carolie told me last night he'll probably ship out -- for Chicago -- next Friday.
Friday, December 07, 2007
(Photo by Eric Thayer/Getty Images)
This week's tragic attack in an Omaha mall is playing out in the news cycles across the country, pretty much as one might expect. After pausing for a moment to honor the victims, the gun debate resumed.
"When are they going to understand that easy access to guns - and the violence that accompanies access - isn't limited to inner cities? It's not just drug dealers who are shooting people," says the Philadelphia Inquirer editorial.
"The real outrage of this crime is that it happened in a 'gun free zone' where law-abiding private citizens are disarmed by mall rules and state statute," counters a press release from the Citizens Committee for the Right To Bear Arms, an angle picked up by Fox News. Nebraska, like Minnesota, is a concealed carry state. The mall in Omaha, however, posted signs prohibiting guns.
From Columbine, to Cold Lake, Minn., to Red Lake, to the campus of Virginia Tech, the post-tragedy debates have been changing. It changed with this shooting, too. With a few exceptions, this time, the mental health issue is on the back burner.
We dared not speak of it after Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold gave us Columbine, for fear that attempting to understand their minds would be synonymous with condoing their actions.
Hundreds of people gathered in the past few days to grieve at St. Boniface Church. A priest there, Father Cletus Connors, says he empathizes with the streses of high schoolers like McLaughlin.
"I think at that age of being a ninth grader, a person is growing so much in so many different ways, I can see how things can be disturbed," he says.
As a leader in the community, Father Connors laments that Jason McLaughlin didn't seek help from an adult. But perhaps his church will now have a better understanding of how to intervene with such a young man.
Those were our first steps toward understanding the unimaginable.
By the time Jeff Weise killed nine people -- and then himself -- on the Red Lake Reservation in 2005, the mental health issue was as much a part of the subsequent discussion as the role of guns.
University of Minnesota child psychiatrist Dr. George Realmuto offers another view. He argues some people have a genetic risk of problem behavior. Realmuto says traumatic events including bullying, violence at home or rejection increase the chance that people with certain genetic backgrounds will act out.
The focus on the need for mental health treatment reached its crescendo earlier this year, when Seung-Hui Cho committed the deadliest shooting rampage in American history. In its aftermath, the national dialogue was dominated not by guns, but by the mental health issue.
"We have difficulty recognizing mental illness in the young, often confusing serious behavioral problems with normal, temporary adolescent behavioral changes. Better recognition of mental diseases can act as a deterrent of future massacres by making an honest attempt at therapy and intervening with these vulnerable kids," the Denver Post wrote.
The evolution of the post-shootings dialogue, though, ended on Wednesday. People did see the demons in Robert Hawkins, they did intervene, he did get a diagnosis, and he did get at least some help.
Sunday, November 25, 2007
Thursday, November 15, 2007
Here's a Flash piece I put together that explains what I mean. If you're using Firefox as a browser, you may not see this (they have some weird security rule for stuff that's on another sever. If you're a geek, and you know how to change that, look at the code and tell me what I need to do). Otherwise, use Internet Explorer.
Update: They bagged the event today, after just one day. I did a story an interview here if you're... well... unbelievably bored.
Saturday, November 10, 2007
To those who know me, it comes as no surprise that I've never read a book by Norman Mailer. First, I don't read many books. I have to be moving all the time. And, second, even if I did read books, I probably wouldn't read books by people who write books that people who like to name-drop read. I feel the same way about Woody Allen movies. And, up until I started working in Public Radio, I thought the same thing about National Public Radio.
In other words, I'm pretty much a putz.
But I'm a putz who unwittingly told Norman Mailer off face-to-face, once.
It happened like this:
Back in 1994, the world headquarters of Minnesota Public Radio was being rebuilt, so they moved us to a dumpy old radio building in St. Paul that once had obviously housed a dumpy old radio station (I believe it now houses the crew from A Prairie Home Companion, and that's a whole 'nother story).
The "newsroom" -- and the studios -- were in the basement and there were two sets of stairs leading to the same point just outside the newsroom/basement. The stairs were at 90 degrees to each other.
One day, Norman Mailer was upstairs, (near one set of stairs), to be interviewed for, God knows what... just so someone could say they interviewed Norman Mailer, I guess. He was waiting to be led downstairs to the studio.
But also upstairs, near the other stairs, was Ron Popeil; he of the Pocket Fisherman fame, although at that time I think he was pushing his spray paint for bald-headed men. He was the maker of all that cheap junk on TV. You know, "But wait! There's more!"
Being a putz, I had to meet Ron Popeil. And so I started to dart out of the newsroom saying, "I have to meet Ron Popeil."
"Norman Mailer's upstairs too," my colleague said.
"Norman Mailer?" I said just as I left the newsroom and entered the stairwell, "**** Norman Mailer!"
I didn't know it at the time but Norman Mailer was walking down the stairs and just as I said, "*** Norman Mailer!" he turned the corner, and was now about 3 inches from my face.
I didn't stay around -- Ron Popeil was upstairs, you know -- but I understand he registered his complaint with the management.
And so I've outlived yet another person in the newsroom who thought I was a jerk.
Tuesday, October 30, 2007
When we were walking back to the hotel, a T-shirt booth saleswoman said, "did you feel the earthquake?" And, of course, we didn't. Rats. I feel about earthquakes the way I feel about tornados, which I've also never experienced. Actually, the day my oldest son was born, we did get a 5.3 earthquake in White Plains, NY.
Alas, we apparently were the only people in the region not to feel the earthquake, for when we got back to the room, the TV was full of anchorpeople talking to people who reported it created a "rolling feeling," which I presume is the earthquake version of "it sounded like a train," for tornados.
It was, according to the TV, a 5.6 quake -- not real big -- centered down around San Jose.
Anyway, back at the room we recreated the original wedding toast, which we do every year, although we didn't bring our special crystal glasses out here.
Oh, and I found this picture of a tough Carolie on "the rock," from earlier today.
You don't want to mess with that.
It was sightly drizzly and cold, which is appropriate weather for the trip, I think. I was interested in some of the history, Carolie was particularly interested in the takeover on behalf of Native Americans in the early '70s, but I think we both were most interested in some of the flowers and greenery around the island, all of which - I guess - had to be brought from somewhere else. We also spotted a few hummingbirds about.
And, of course, took dorky pictures...
... which are tough to screw up with such a pretty city for a background...
Carolie near the water tower...
And the obligatory shot from inside...
We spent about three hours over there and then walked up to North Beach for lunch at an Italian Restaurant and then back to the hotel to sleep for a few hours before going out -- somewhere around here -- for our anniversary dinner.
This afternoon, I checked the mail from work and see we've hired the online editor at the St. Paul Pioneer Press (will the last person in the newspaper business please turn out the lights?) to replace me, so that I can go off and write online stories and play online host and that sort of thing. I haven't yet got it fully figured out in my mind how it's going to work or how it can possibly be successful but I'll come up with something.
I probably shouldn't have checked the mail until vacation was over because it's one more thing to think about.
Still, tough to exhale around Casa Collins.
Monday, October 29, 2007
So here's the big trees.
We found this deer nibbling on something. He didn't seem to mind us much.
It's pretty hard, with a cheesy camera like mine, to get a good picture. There isn't enough light to get a good picture without a flash, and the trees are too big, so a flash just makes a dark picture. I gussied this one up a bit.
Carolie hid in this one, but I found her.
We stopped in Sausalito on the way back and walked around -- a bit in a daze, frankly -- for a half hour...
The weather is foggy and cool. We made our back into San Francisco and headed for Haight-Ashbury. We made contact with #2 son, who had told us earlier in the day that a speeding ticket that wouldn't go away was likely going to result in his losing his paramedic job. Very sad.
By the time we made contact again, he had apparently decided to join the
So I sigh instead.
We pressed on walking up a huge hill. Before I got to the top, I had to stop. I wasn't sure if I was having a heart attack or a panic attack just thinking about things. We stopped in a cafe but I couldn't bring myself to eat. You know how people say "I feel like I've been kicked in the stomach"? Now I know what they mean.
Anyway, back on the wharf later in the day, bought some popcorn and made a friend.
Within a few minutes I was like freakin' Tippi Hedren
Tomorrow morning, we're going over to Alcatraz. And then at some point we're going to try to figure out the mass transit system to get to Ocean Beach.
Sunday, October 28, 2007
There should probably be some sort of law against things being this pretty. I mean, geez, isn't a bit of a crime that, say, North Dakota can be so boring and San Francisco can offer as much as the peripheral vision can absorb? Note, of course, I've never been to North Dakota; I've met North Dakotans, however.
We rented bikes for the day and headed down to the Golden Gate bridge, and rode across. Just gorgeous.
You have to be careful biking. Because of the crowds, bikes use one side of the bridge and pedestrians use the other. But the place is thick with rude riders, wearing their Spandex covered with European trademarks, and riding way too fast. I'm presuming they're not happy with the tourists who are invading their city and their bridge although if I were ever stupid enough to stop and chat, I'd probably find out they are from somewhere else. North Dakota, per chance.
Anyway, this ship was making its way under the bridge as we crossed. Probably another shipment of cheap postcards from Korea. One thing I noticed. Where's the wheelhouse? Seriously, I can't find it anywhere. Click on the image for a bigger picture.
On the other side -- the Marin County side -- we stopped at an overlook, which gave me the chance for another picture. I also called Patrick to get an update on the Patriots game. He told me they were up over Washington 17-0.
Then, back to the other side -- didn't run across any jerks on bikes going in the other direction. Oh, one thing. As we started back across, an RV airplane was circling above the bridge. That was cool. And so was the helicopter that flew under it!
One last picture on the Marin County side.
And one on the San Francisco side...
And one of the city... sort of...
What was really cool is there was a B-25 (at least I think it was a B-25) flying around, along with a couple of other warbirds. The weather was outstanding: 70s and very little wind.
As we rode back, I got a text message from Patrick that the Patriots had taken a 31-0 lead.
What a perfect day!
Dinner with some of Carolie's friends tonight. Heading for the redwoods tomorrow morning. It's fun being a tourist.
Saturday, October 27, 2007
Back when I worked in Manhattan, my mom and dad came to visit and I pretty much walked 'em the length of the island. My dad called it a "forced march." Carolie calls today the "til death do us part march."
It was fun.
We started off riding the cable car over Nob Hill to Union Square. Carolie thought it would be fun to sing that Judy Garland song. That's never been done before, I'll bet.
We're not much for shopping, which is bad since Union Square is full of about every big department store ever. We stopped in at Macy's, though, because there's a Post Office there and Carolie had to mail postcards. But not before stopping to to try out for a mannequin.
Union Square is the scene of some big violent protests on the eve of the Civil War. Carolie things that's "union" as in "the north," whereas I think it's "union" as in sweatshops. We never did find out which it is, although we did find this guy singing "When you're smiling (the whole world smiles with you") So Carolie sang it back at the guy, we threw some money in the bucket and took a picture.
I notice when cable cars come by, you end up with a picture of people taking a picture...
Then we stopped at the Cable Car Museum, where all the, ummm, cables meet and where the power comes from. This was a very cool place. To move, the driver adjusts a clamp onto the cable that is always moving at 9 mph.
Using the handy, dandy guide book, we navigated to the "crookedest street in the world," although we had to walk because the cable cars were all full as they came by.
The street wasn't as interesting to me as the flowers and plantings along it. It was lovely. Then we tried to find Chinatown. It a long, long, walk, mostly because I couldn't figure out which bus to take. But we found it...
See that look on Carolie's face? I've seen that look before. I saw it in Manhattan once. So we had lunch.
I didn't take any pictures but it was very fascinating, although I'll admit the best part was in a park where lots of men were playing cards and gambling -- and so were lots of old women -- and some old lady was chasing a drunk guy with her cane. We don't know what it was about because we don't speak the language but all the other old ladies were cackling. Very funny.
So we checked off the "Chinatown" chapter on the guidebook and, it was about 3:30 by then, so we headed for the "romantic San Francisco tour" in the book, which started along the Embarcadero near Pier 17 with lovely views of the bay and Bay Bridge. We couldn't really see anything because the piers are in pretty bad shape and were closed.
So we headed up the stairs near Filbert Street. Very high to the top and houses built into the side of the hill all had lovely gardens. So Carolie stole, yes stole, some to put in her hair (there's that song about going to San Francisco with flowers in her hair). Taking your own picture results in mostly goofy looks, so here. This was halfway up the stairs.
Oh, speaking of lovely views...
A few hundred more steps took us to the top ... and the Coit Tower (shown here earlier as viewed from the crookedest street.
I took a picture of downtown.
And a nice picture of a lovely couple with very little scenery to help in the background...
Then, following the guidebook exactly ("I'm doing San Francisco 'by the book,'" I told Carolie). We ended up down in a park in the North Beach section, which is a heavy Italian neighborhood. This church behind Carolie was where Joe Dimaggio and Marilyn Monroe posed for a picture after their wedding. I'm pretty sure, by the way, that Carolie and I have lasted longer than they did.
I looked on the Web, but couldn't find the picture of them. They married at City Hall, by the why.
Then, again by the book, we stopped at a small shop for some truffles, then headed for dinner, stopping to buy a rose for Carolie (the book said to ), and then to a little Italian cafe for pizza and wine.
I took this picture on the way for my son, Patrick, to show how there are special parking places for motorcycles. I think the one in the middle is the same model as his. I'll bet Patrick would have fun with his motorcycle here. He could go up the hills really fast and then go airborne at the intersections like Michael Douglas and Karl Malden did in "Streets of San Francisco."
Tomorrow, we're going to try to walk or bike across the Golden Gate bridge.
Friday, October 26, 2007
Next week is our 25th anniversary and so what better place to celebrate than San Francisco!
We arrived this morning and we found our hotel down on Fisherman's Wharf. All of my highbrow acquaintances advised against the wharf because it's basically a tourist area. But we are, when all is said and done, tourists.
Our hotel looks out over Alcatraz -- in fact I'm sitting on the bed watching a big container ship pass by Alcatraz (probably more cheap junk from China coming in. Carolie just showed me a postcard she took with Alcatraz on it. It was printed in Korea. They took the picture not more than a mile away... and then imported it from Korea!).
We were pretty hungry so we had lunch at The Franciscan Crab Restaurant. We headed up to watch the sea lions when we ran across someone with a stack of brochures for Grey Line Tours. He "comped" us a tour up to the redwood forest...somewhere... on Monday...and $50 in dining. And all we had to do is listen to some pitch for some time-sharing-like place for 90 minutes.
Now, frankly, I've always wondered if I could withstand one of those things and it seemed like a challenge and Carolie is always fun to watch with challenges like this, so we said sure. It was actually pretty interesting, but we just don't take a lot of vacations where that sort of thing makes any sense at all. I believe they were looking for an investment of $29,000.
Now I tend to believe that any "investment" that includes the popping of a balloon and a bunch of people clapping whenever anyone makes it, is probably not a good investment.
So, about 80 minutes later, our salesman pulls his manager over in a last-ditch effort to sell us something and I said, "Anthony did a great job of making his presentation, but let me tell you why no balloons are going to be popping here today...."
So we got our coupons and out the door we went. We stopped by to see the sea lions and came back to the hotel.
And the obligatory picture with Alcatraz in the background...
Tomorrow, we'll probably get up earlier than most of California (I'm guessing we're going to fall asleep before most of California tonight!) and follow the tourists guidebook on a walking tour. At some point we'll rent a bike and try to bike across the Golden Gate bridge to Sauselito and then take the ferry back. Or maybe not, depending on how old we feel.
(PS: I know some folks have posted comments, but they haven't shown up on the public page; not sure why. But keep trying. I think there's a little problem with the blogspot server which should be fixed at some point, I'm sure.)
Monday, October 15, 2007
My kids left the nest early, far earlier than I thought possible, but they left behind plenty of evidence they were once here. Many years ago, they were allowed to paint their rooms in whatever fashion they chose.
One chose black, the other chose red and blue, as the basis for a "Cleveland Indians" room. The black room was repainted last year into a lovely (in my opinion, since I did the painting) southwest "feel."
When the Cleveland Indians room kid left, I got over the loneliness of the empty nest, by embracing its newfound status as an aircraft parts hangar. That lasted about a year, until more parts went on the plane, and my wife announced it would be her new office.
So this weekend, we boxed up the remains of the room and I began patching holes. Son #2 was not wise to the ways of hanging Kenny Lofton, Omar Vizquel, and Jim Thome pennants with two sided tape. He was a fan of the hammer and nail.
Yesterday I started the process of repainting; first with a fresh white coat of paint on the ceiling.
The task ahead is bittersweet; it's like taking an eraser to 14 years.
Thursday, October 04, 2007
Tuesday, October 02, 2007
When I was a very young man, The Mercury and Gemini space programs occupied much of my attention. I would someday go into space, I was told and I believed. It was right there on the Jetsons.
Later in life, I realized I would not achieve my dream.
When I was young, I followed a terrible baseball team -- the Cleveland Indians. But I knew someday, my team would win a World Series; there was so much time. There is significantly less time now and things being what they are in baseball economics, it occurs to me that the Indians will not win a World Series in my lifetime.
Given the choice, I'd gladly have traded a ride in space for an Indians championship. But it is not likely meant to be.
Dreams die hard, and while I still hope one might come true, these days I'm just excited to get a new T-shirt every 12 years or so.
Friday, September 21, 2007
I took the day off from work yesterday and went golfing with my youngest son. I am not a good golfer at all (my streak of never breaking 100 is intact), but I do love to play the game, especially when I'm with one or both boys.
We had survived four holes but on the 5th hole, Patrick's game deserted him and -- he being a Collins boy and all -- he was frustrated that his expectations were not meeting reality. The occasional golf club would go whizzing through the air with every bad shot and by the end of 6 holes, I wasn't sure we were going to make 9, let alone 18.
"One of the things that makes Tiger Woods great is his ability to forget about the past holes and shots, and concentrate only on what he can do something about now -- the next shot. It's a metaphor for life," I said, hoping he would understand how it applied not only to the game, but hoping that he would see how it applied to his other troubles, and hoping he understood what a metaphor is.
I said all of that as I took a mighty swing in the middle of the fairway with a 3-iron, driving a divot 25 yards and the ball about 30, as I added, "of course Tiger Woods is a pussy."
By the 7th hole -- a Par 3 -- I was in a bunker, Patrick was 10 yards from the hole with his first shot. I don't know if he got the message, or got lucky. But his game was improving; mine was tanking.
A couple of hours and Patrick's first birdie -- ever -- later, I had no game at all and the 18th hole opened with a terrible shot on the old man's part. A second shot was so bad I could only think of one thing to do. And so I threw my golf club across the fairway.
I tell this story because of a comment my oldest son made when I was telling it to him today. "Typical parental 'do as I say; not as I do,'" he said.
So now I need to come up with another metaphor; one that reveals parents not as people who think they are perfect but don't live their perfection, but as flawed creatures -- just as flawed as everyone else -- including kids -- but striving nonetheless, against all odds, to try to be, not perfect, just better. Better than an hour ago, better than yesterday, better than when we were at 20. Quite often failing, but still swinging nonetheless.
My wife tells me my kids are afraid of disappointing me, which must be an awful thing for them. If only they knew -- as they will someday -- that we are all afraid of disappointing someone, that we are frustrated by our own imperfections, and that the only difference between us all is that we are at different stops on the same journey.
The news media, sometimes justifiably so, gets the occasional incoming fire for the way general aviation is portrayed. But sometimes -- more often than aviators care to admit -- reporters get it right.
Such is the case of this morning's New York Times which has an inspiring article on soaring -- gliders as we know them.
Positive stories like this can enhance general aviation far better than any politician or any paranoid pilot's organization (are you listening Phil Boyer of AOPA?).
Perhaps it'll do for flying what the media did for men's hats a generation or so ago.
(Cross posted from Letters From Flyover Country)