Monday, June 18, 2018

Here comes the Sun

I have been waiting for days to write this blog.  My favorite day of the year is coming!  First -- a little history....

Stonehenge -- as you probably know  - is an ancient site in Scotland where the Druid are thought to have practiced their religious cult.  But it has an interesting structure.  By standing at a certain point, one can tell where the sun is and when it passes certain latitudes each year.  This was apparently  of the utmost importance to them.

Machu Picchu is an ancient Mayan city in the mountains of Peru where they survived centuries ago.  Among the structures there is a site where the Mayans could foretell the position of the sun at any time.  I have read -- some of the great pyramids in Egypt are built so the sun will shine down a shaft at certain special times of the year.

I have visited the ancient site of Chichen Itza and climbed the famous chopped off pyramid called El Castillo.  That is a Mayan ruin in the jungle near the Mexican city of Cancun on the Yucatan Peninsula.  Although that climb was a heart stopping experience -- the most interesting thing I found while visiting this ancient site was  their tower and circle of cog-like rock formations with which they could tell at any moment in tine where the moon and Venus were located in the sky with respect to the Earth.  This tower also told these progressive people where the sun was and when it passed the various latitudes on the earth's surface.

Now stay with me ---  These three sites determined that on a certain day each year the sun's rays  passed over the equator on its trip from the Tropic of Capricorn in the south and toward the Tropic of Cancer in the north where the sun seemed to  stop and began to return to compete the cycle again.  They knew this centuries ago.

Most of the folks on this earth thought that the sun moved about and would stay a little longer until a certain day when it began to move away  -- then it would seem to slowly leave us.  They were afraid it wouldn't come back. So, after lots of prayers to various Gods and various ceremonies and dances and even human sacrifices -- the sun (which they worshiped) would decided to return and do the whole thing again year after year. (It is thought that the approximate  date upon which we celebrate Christmas might have been chosen because of this cycle of the sun's winter solstice December 21st).  It was only a few years ago that our brilliant religious leaders admitted that maybe the earth was doing the moving and not the sun.  I think the Mayans and maybe the Druids already knew that centuries ago.

Stay with me ---  Some years ago -- I was privileged to go with some friends down to Baja California in Mexico to a fishing village called Rancho Buena Vista and fish for big Marlin in the Sea of Cortez.  It was in late June.  As we traveled from the Cabo Airport to our destination, we passed a huge sign beside the road near the entrance to the village which stated in huge letters  TROPIC  OF CANCER  with a line across the road.  We stopped and I took a picture.   

One day during our trip, we took a day off from fishing and I found myself strolling along the beach all alone -- having a cold beer.  It was June 21st and it was exactly noon and it was hot.  There was a strange aura all about me.  I saw a discarded beer can on the beach and an old abandoned boat.  But something was wrong -- not wrong but different.  Then it came to me.  It was noon on June 21st and I was standing directly on the Tropic of Cancer.  The sun was as directly over head as it would ever be anywhere on the earth and  there were NO SHADOWS. The beer can and the boat had no shadows.  I looked at my feet.  I was standing entirely on my own shadow.  It was weird!  I had my camera and tried to take a picture but I couldn't capture that strange world where no shadows existed.  I will never forget it. 

I always think of that experience as we approach the summer solstice or the longest day of the year -- June 21st.  I love this long day of sunshine --  I wonder if anyone is going to stand on their shadow on the Tropic of Cancer? -- Yes, I know the sun doesn't go anywhere -- the earth does all the moving.  But I certainly understand why it doesn't seem that way.  I will just go along with tradition -- I'm easy.

From the heart of Olaf Hart......

Saturday, June 16, 2018

Fathers Day

This is Fathers Day weekend -- designed, I am sure, to create spending and help the revenue of retailers.  But -- I am a free marketeer -- so that's OK with me.  But it is a day we celebrate fathers ( and grandpa's etc.)

My dad wasn't perfect -- I will tell you that right off the bat.  But who is?  My dad was not a machinist -- although he was a good one and that is how he earned his living.  He was not a lot of things he professed to be.  So what was he?  He was a MUSICIAN -- a trombone player.  That is why he did those other things to get to his real love -- to play his horn and lead his band of fellow musicians.  I am always reminded of Dan Fogelberg's song "Leader of the Band".  Some words are such a perfect description of my relationship with my dad.  "He gave a gift to me I know I never can repay --  His blood runs through my instrument and his song is in my soul". Dan, thanks for those words -- you must have had a dad like mine.  I know for sure Dad and I could read each other's mind when we were playing a gig together.  We were in the zone. We just didn't need words.  WELL Enough of this maudlin stuff.

Dad was not a virtuoso on the trombone -- but he was good enough to satisfy his hundreds of followers at the American Legion, The Eagles, The Moose, The Elks and hundreds of other venues in his short lifetime.  He instictively knew what to play for the crowd who was paying the bill.  He could sense their mood and modify the music to fit it.  He was a master at that.  And it worked!

I started playing the trombone in the 5th grade once a week -- learning the SYB book one note at at a time.  When I was able to play a few notes dad started teaching me how to play a little melody -- by ear.  As time went on -- we would sit  around -- sometimes in the back yard on a blanket -- and he would play and I would copy what he played.  Then one fine day -- I remember it well -- he told me to play a song (Whispering) and he would play the same song but with something different -- that is called improvising or a better word is "Jammin'".  That  started me on a trip with scores of bands through college and the Air Force Band and as a semi professional musician, that I continue on to this day.

Dad left us far to early -- he was 51 when I got that awful call from a Park Ranger at Raccoon  Lake  -- giving my mother the phone for that sentence that has burned into my heart ever since -- "Daddy's Dead.  He died of a heart attack!"

But, like I said, no more sad thoughts on this fathers day.  Dad had a gig the next weekend and rather than cancel it -- I played in his place.  It was what he would have wanted and it was what I wanted.  People came and we celebrated his life.  His Theme song was "Just One More Chance."  I must admit -- It was pretty difficult to play that theme song for the last time -- but time and life goes on.  And so it did.

So -- Dad -- you would be over 101 now. You wouldn't like being stiff and sore and unable to get around like you did when you died -- But --  You would love watching football as you loved to do.  They have instant replay so good now that it is unbelievable. And the TV sets are enormous and they hang on the wall and you can carry them with one hand!  And , Dad, you can use a phone in your car while your are driving -- and that same phone -- which is a little  thing -- can give all sorts of information to settle arguments -- which you loved to start, I recall. You were never at a lack of an opinion.  Well, hell, Dad, There are so damn many things that are so different  -- we have computers that run everything now -- cars are about to drive themselves -- Oh one more thing -- the girls at the beach wear such tiny little bathing suits -- I KNOW that would get you all excited.  I don't have time to tell you all the latest stuff that we have now that you didn't even dream of back in the 60's when you left us.  Life has certainly changed a lot.  It would blow your mind.

But I am guessing -- although I don't know for sure -- that you already know about those things.  Well, anyway -- Happy fathers day, Dad.  I need to play a few notes to warm up the old trombone  I have a gig tomorrow at the VFW.  I know you will be there helping me out when I start to hit a wrong note.  You always are.  I love you dad.....  Thanks for everything.

From the Heart of Olaf Hart.....

Monday, June 11, 2018

Let a couple of kids work it out

Big news.  Trump and Kim (is everyone in Korea named Kim?) are about to sit down or walk around or otherwise get together on an earth shattering matter.  I hope they can work it out.

It brought back a thought from my distant past -- actually when I was about 10 or so.  My dear friend Kevin lived across from me on a dead end street that had no outlet and hardly any traffic.  Well -- there was a matter of difference between his parents and my parents -- something about parking a a mobile home at the end of the street which might have been onto their property just a mite.  Kevin,s parents refused to allow this and our mobile home had to be moved. The fight was on.  Kevin and I refused to talk to each other and even threw a few rocks across the street into each other's yard.  And that went on for about two days until we realized that it wasn't working out too well for us.  So we rather clandestinely became friends again -- but didn't say much to our parents -- they were not ready to get over it.  But without verbalizing it -- we apparently become the adults in this stupid disagreement.  It didn't take much -- just this ability to overlook our differences and get along with each other and with life.  Just two little boys being the grown ups and  being realistic.

This episode in my life was quite incidental and quite short lived and had nothing to do with our life long friendship (we are both in our middle 80's now and still friends).  But for some reason it poked its way into my long term memory and came to the surface today as I thought of this world affecting conference the US President and the North Korean head and the conversations upon which they are about to embark.

Maybe they should let Kevin and me help them out.  We knew how to end that disagreement crap pretty fast didn't we, Kev?

From the Heart of Olaf Hart....

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

D Day

I heard on the news it was the anniversary of the Invasion of Normandy by our soldiers -- D-Day --  which pretty much ended the German part of WW II.  Japan took a while and a couple of really big bombs.  Those were some brave guys and what a sacrifice they made on D-Day.  But they weren't the only people that sacrificed.  World War II was fought by us all.  I was about 6 when it started and about 10 when it ended -- so my view was from the eyes of a little boy growing up.

After Roosevelt's startling radio announcement on that Sunday morning -- December 7, 1941 -- Japan had bombed Pearl Harbor and we were suddenly in a war  -- Uncle Ned was 18 and immediately enlisted in the army.  We kept up by way of V-Mail letters from him -- copied and censored with blacked out lines -- but we all gathered around when one arrived. It was an event. He went from training to North Africa and then to the Anzio beachead in Italy.  He came home after the war.  His body was unscathed but his memory was not.  I am sure he relived the war more that we will ever know.

However, there were lots of guys who were not qualified to go into the army (or navy etc.) Maybe they were too old or had special skills needed back home.  My Dad (Uncle Ned's brother) was one of those guys.  He tried to enlist but was rejected because he had a defense job at Allison Engineering in Indianapolis.  They made big airplane engines. He was on the night shift -- working from midnight til 8 am -- seven days a week.  We had to be quiet while he slept in the daytime. He and several other men drove to work every evening in a car that that could not be replaced on tires that could not be replaced with gas that was rationed.  

I really remember the rationing.  Each family had a book with stamps to be used for food -- especially sugar and coffee that were rationed.  There were no candy bars or bubble gum.  There was no Christmas candy or fudge.  But we all knew it was for a good cause. I must admit that the black market was live and well.  We got 5 pounds of sugar out of some guy's trunk one night and used it to make some fudge that evening.  That was really special.  I recall there was NO anti war protesting that I remember.  Everyone was behind the war effort.  No one would dare speak out against the war.  We were all patriots.   The boys learned to draw pictures of "TOJO" -- who ever that was -- not very complimentary -- with short hair and big teeth and slanted eyes.  That was our little propaganda contribution.  And Hitler was called the "one armed paper hanger!" -- referring to his "Hiel Hitler" salute.  I didn't understand -- but laughed about it anyway.  We mimicked the salute and did a Bronx cheer as we spit out the noise.

My grandpa was a neighborhood Civil Defense leader and had a hat and flashlight.  We had to practice closing our curtains and turning off all the lights so enemy airplanes could not see  us.  Fortunately, there were never any enemy planes but we didn't know that and we were ready.

Each of the many homes with someone who was serving placed a flag in the window.  We had one for Uncle Ned. If the loved one was still alive, the star was blue but the gold stars were displayed for those who would not be coming home.  Some homes had two or three stars on their little flag. There were far to many gold stars in the neighborhood.  We passed those homes with reverence.

It all seems like a dream now.  It is unbelievable that over night we made jeeps and trucks and airplanes and ships, instead of cars.  And we gave up our gas and tires for the war.  We lived on rationed food for four years.  The radio gave us news reports on the war.  But we could get war news by going downtown to the local newspaper (Journal-Review) and checking on their front window where they would tape up bulletins for the public to read.

Yes the government did some questionable things.  Japanese Americans were gathered up in California and sent away to internment camps to get them away from the west coast. The governmen thought there might be Japanese spies helping them bomb California.  There was plenty of food and shelter in these camps -- but they were confined somewhere in the boon docks, and couldn't go home for many months.  The past is 20/20 and that was probably wrong -- but we were scared.  And who knows what that confining might have salvaged.  They were eventually compensated for their confinement. Japanese Americans later proved themselves by enlisting in the army and fighting bravely for their country.  

And in recent years, there has been a lot of talk about the necessity of dropping such a devestating bomb twice on the two Japanese cities -- destroying them completely and killing and maiming hundreds of citizens.  Well - this old guy thinks it was a necessary act -- saving the lives of hundreds or thousands of American lives and as many or more Japanese.  After Germany surrendered -- Japan would not give up.  Those A-bombs were necessary -- nuff said.

Uncle Ned left as a boy but came home from the war a full-grown man.  He and thousands of other men were sent home after fighting a terrible war and winning a great victory.  Thousands of men did not come home. I tried to stay up to see Uncle Ned's return but it was late and I fell asleep.  I was shaken awake and opened my eyes to see this big smile on Uncle Ned's face.  I cried and wrapped my arms around his big healthy body.  He still had on his uniform with medals and a patch that attracted my attention.  When I asked him about it -- he said "That's my Ruptured Duck". I will always remember that night.  It was a glorious night for the family.

Darlington, Indiana had a movie theater and the side of the building was solid bricks.  The owner's son -- John Marshall -- climbed up on a ladder and painted in huge white letters "VJ  DAY  AUG 14 1945"  --  That message remained for decades.  No one wished to paint over it.

Yes the greatest war ever fought was over and we won and the world was happy once again.  Both Germany and Japan came out pretty well, I think.  They are both our buddies now.  But I can't forget.  It was a war we all sacrificed and fought in own way.  Even little boys fought the war.

That's it from the heart of Olaf Hart

Monday, June 4, 2018

Camping out with the Boy Scouts

It was about this time each year when the matter of Camp Rotary came up.  This wonderful Boy Scout Camp (girls used it, too) was located in the boon docks at the edge of Bal Hinch.  It ran from the entry gate all the way down to Sugar Creek.  I have no idea how many acres it contained but when I was a lad, it seemed like hundreds of acres.  I would guess, maybe 60 or so.  After we attained our full tenderfoot scout rank --we were no longer "Cub Scouts" -- If we had the small fee, we could go to Camp Rotary for a week or maybe even two weeks in the Summer.  There we were awakened by a real bugle call from a real player.  I remember John Marshall was the bugler.  I don't know who woke him up.  Anyway --  let me tell you a little about this wonderful camp, in case you never got the experience of going there.

There was a swimming pool of sorts.  It was a dammed up creek supplied by a spring which filled it with water about 30 degrees cold -- well, not quite that cold but it felt like it.  There were wooden flat floors over which were pitched old army tents which housed eight boys each with four bunk beds.  If it rained, we got wet!  Yes, a few boys cried the first night or two from homesickness but we got them over that pretty fast.  Each tent had a name -- mine was Pine Tree Patrol.  We were in competition with the other tents (patrols) for various events.  We had string burning contests and fire building contests and water boiling contests and all sorts of dangerous events (sarcasm intended).  We made up skits and learned to march in step and had a flag.  Sounds like my basic training in the USAF.  No wonder I got through that so well.

That bugle call meant get your butt out of bed and go to the mess hall -- but first -- get your wash pan off the nail hung on the back of the building -- and wash your hands and face in cold water.  Then, what a breakfast!  Oatmeal and eggs and toast and hot chocolate. (My grandmother was the cook).  

Then it was the teaching of skills.  Make a fire with only two matches or with no matches and friction or flint -- Identify various trees and plants (poison ivy? and poison oak?)  -- learn how to use a knife properly  -- how to pitch a tent and ditch a tent .  We learned to tool leather and make lanyards. There were so many things I learned that I still use today.   

Each meal was eaten in the chow hall and was wrought with tradition with younger scouts catering to the older scouts with more rank.  We could look to the day we were the older scouts and so it went as the years passed.

There was an outside chapel with logs for seats.  No special religion  -- no preacher -- just a nice peaceful interlude on Sunday morning. 

We learned to swim and save lives in that freezing pool.  We learned to canoe in Sugar Creek.  And then there was that night I went out to earn a special camping badge.  All alone with a few bits of food an my knife and shovel and little pup tent and a blanket -- I stayed out in the woods. You can't imagine how many sounds there are in the woods until you are all alone. That's right -- at the ripe old age of 12 or 13, we learned how to make it on our own for one long day and night.  I thought the sun would NEVER come up!

Well so much for reminiscing about Camp Rotary.  I just wonder how it is now.  I'll bet they have a nice warm pool and stay in a shelter and don't worry about the rain.  You think they really go out and camp all night alone?  I hope so -- but I doubt it!

That's it from Olaf Hart

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Keeping up to date

I just looked at my old blog.  My God, it has been 8 years since I posted anything.  Well, we need to fix that.

Since I am legally blind (no, don't pity me -- I am doing just fine, thank you) I get to down load and listen to a library of many hundreds of books of all sorts and from a myriad of authors and subjects.  Thank you VA!  And also think you Dr. Walter Trenschel.  Dr. T (as we call him) is the resident Psychologist at the VA Hospital in West Palm Beach Florida.  He creates a support group by phone for those of us who want to help ourselves by helping other blind vets.  This group has gotten me rather well acquainted with Dr. T.  He has led me into some subjects I did not know existed.  Things like "Hermetic Teachings" and "Noetics".  But somehow I found myself into Quantum Physics -- looking at things that are so small we can't imagine; and looking at some of the newer quantum theories.  I must admit that most of these subjects are way over my head but they are very interesting. And a little spooky (as Einstein put it). I need to read the "Dummies" version just to understand the basics.

For example, I have learned that an electron can be in two places at the same time (super position). And when you try to measure something as small as a quantum, it changes just because it is being measured.  And entanglement is really complicated -- causing a particle to spin and react by reverse spinning another particle millions of light years away (can we go faster than light?)  Whoa -- lets slow down a little here.  Why would anyone but a brainy physicist want to know all this stuff?  What I am leading to is the next level of computers -- called Quantum Computers.  They use all this stuff.  Once they are invented, they will attain unbelievable speeds unheard of today -- millions of times faster.

Now I want to back up a little -- as folks my age like to do.  I mean I want to go way way back a little -- back to the bible.  That's pretty far back.  Genesis tells us that when Noah was ordered to build his ark, he was told to build it 200 cubits long, 50 cubits wide and 30 cubits high.  We are told that a cubit was the measuring unit of that time and was the distance from the elbow to the middle finger or about 20 inches.  Why am I telling you this? What does it have to do with quantum computers.  You won't believe this -- |The unit of measure of a quantum computer is a "bit"  just like any computer. BUT--  a quantum computer has "quantised" the measurement into a quantum bit -- Q - BIT  or qubit.  Does that sound familiar? Qubit -- cubit?

Now don't tell this old guy that things don't come around -- just like Einstein said -- "The whole universe is one big circle.

That is it from the Heart of Olaf Hart.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

The Guys

Mealtime was the time we all got together. It was at 7am -- noon -- and 5 pm. We called ourselves "The Inmates." No we were not in prison. But we all had at least two things in common -- We were all Vets of one period of time or other -- and we were all blind. At least we were all "legally" blind. We were all trainees at the Blind Rehab Center at the Souwestern VA Hospital in Tucson, Arizona.

There were about 30 of us in various stages of visual imparement. A few were totally blind but most of us had some degree of vision. Many of these vets were from WWII. Some were from Korea and several from Viet Nam. The most popular problem was ARMD -- Age Related Macular Degeneration. This condition takes the central vision leaving only the periferal vision. Many of the older guys had that.

The smallest but saddest group were blinded as a result of Agent Orange in Viet Nam. Richard is one of these vets. He is from Houston, Texas and looked and sounded remarkably like Patrick Swayze. He has a guide dog. His name is Alphonso. Richard became my short term buddy as we sat and broke bread together each day. He spoke of Alphonso as tho he was a family relative -- that is because he is! Rich said he could not function without his friend. He got a bit choked up when he admitted that his K9 friend would probably not out live him. One could probably have seen a tear in his eyes except that he always wore his totally black sunglasses -- hiding what might have been his grotesque eye sockets. Richard was in the computer training program -- it was his third visit to the VA rehab program. He was able to function as tho he could see perfectly well. When he finished the program, he was taken to the Tucson Airport and got on a plane and flew to DFW. There he changed planes and flew to Houston and got transportation to his home. All of this with no help except his friend Alponso and his cane and his GPS system. Oh yes -- and his training.

There was Doc, Roy, Mack, Ed, Jerry and a host of others whose names I can't recall. These mealtimes were an intergal part of our training -- although many of the guys didn't realize this.It was the time when werealized there are others who share our disabilities. It was the time when we joked and made fun of ourselves and told of our daily tasks and how we got through them. "What do I have on my plate today," Mac would say to Doc.

"How the hell should I know, I am blind." Doc would retort and we would all laugh. Doc is 90 and had been a surgeon in WWII. He developed a tremor in the 80's and switched to epidemiology and worked for the World Health Center. He joked about trying to eat Jello with his shaking hands. He said "If I try to eat this stuff I will throw it all over you guys." He had a wonderful sense of humor and a brilliant brain. His body was wearing out but he was still as sharp as a tack. I observed him in the hobby shop hammering out a Christmas tree on a piece of copper. I had a few seconds of pity for him as he struggled to see his little tools and hold them still. I thought something like how he was once a fine surgeon and now is hammering out copper Christmas trees. But that soon left me when he chorted, "I am making a Christmas tree. It'll take me 'til Christmas to finish it." It was June. No getting ahead of this blind vet!

My disease is called RP -- or Retinitis Pigmentosa. It has taken my right eye and narrowed my left eye to a tunnel of vision. I must hasten to say -- I am thankful for this small bit of vision. I was taught to use it to its full advantage. I was given a white cane which folds up neatly when I don't need it. I was given a thorough exam by two optomotrists -- which took about an hour and a half. This was to determine the extent of my visual needs -- no guess work here. I was taught how to c00k, clean and do all the necessary things to live a normal life. I was given a phychological exam by a young girl who I sware was only 16 -- who has a PhD. I was taught how to make things in a workshop and hobby shop and do it safely with my limited vision. But most of all -- I was taught "Mobility."

First order of business was my 56 inch cane -- white with a red tip. This is my eyes when I am walking. I was taught to use this extention of my vision with expertise. I was taught to determine when I heeded help and when I needed to go it alone. I was taught how to ask for help and when to refuse it -- politely. We began in the hospital hallway -- then out to the parking lot. Finally a trip to a neighborhood in Tucson. We practiced going up and down stairs hundreds of times -- until it was natural. Then the day came when I began to cross streets -- small ones at first -- then busier streets and finally the busiest intersection in the city. All this training took an entire month. But I passed the test.

I graduated from this wonderful institution a few days ago with my diploma in hand. I was asked if I wished to learn the GPS. I immediately said "Yes!" I will go back in a day or two for another week of training with this marvelous instrument (I Was given a demo to see how it worked).

Yes all this training costs the government (taxpayers) many hundreds of thousands of dollars. That bothers my consertive nature. But maybe it is a little payback for all the time we gave with such a small income. And I think we will each make a contribution to society in our own way after this training. Each "student" has only one instructor at a time -- everything is individualized to the needs and desires of the vet. You get only what you request. All instructors are required to have a Masters Degree in blind rehab training. They are the finest.

I was told before I went to this program that this was the best Blind rehab program in the world -- right here in Tucson. I was dubious. But not any longer. It is. I am living proof. I have no fear of the future -- I have my confidence, my cane and will soon have my GPS and I am ready to do anything anyone else can do.

From the Heart by Olaf Hart