WeekendCoffee Bucket List

coffeeshareIf we were having coffee today I’d be excited to tell you my news.  I got a job!

“A job?” you might ask between sips.  “I thought you were retired? You back in IT somewhere?”

No, I am realizing a lifelong dream.  As a fledgling little-leaguer, (mumble) years ago, I aspired to one day move up into professional baseball.  I am happy to report that although I have been on waivers for several more decades than I’d like to admit, a local minor league team has picked me up for the remainder of the 2019 season.

“You’re playing baseball?”

img_0752No, my dears, I am an usher for the Class-A Appalacian League Burlington Royals. Actually, before the season started, I had looked at their web page to see if they were hiring.  I never saw a notice so I figured that was it.  In past seasons it had been hard for me to go to games because my job often kept me late, but now that I’m retired I had managed to work in a few games this season.  I ran into an usher out on the concourse at the last game I attended as a civilian and asked him how they got those jobs.  He brightened right up … “We just found out today we’re losing somebody next week!”
FATE! I’ve learned to never ignore fate.

A couple of emails, and an application later… and I was in!  My darling bride likens it to me running away to join the circus.

Now, I’ve only worked one game, and I still have a lot to learn, but I had a blast.  For one thing, l need to get to know the long-time season ticket holders, who by and large prefer to be recognized and not asked for their tickets.  Then there are handfuls of scouts who show up.  Same deal.  It’s not a long season, either; come the end of August I’ll be back to retirement.

It’s exciting to be part of the organization. I get to meet people, show some minor authority, and I get to watch professional baseball.  And I get paid for it!  Minimum wage, sure, but for me, it’s just pizza money.  Hopefully, now that I’m part of the family, I’ll get to come back next season!

So that long-ignored bucket-list item can be checked off at last.  I’ve got my job in professional baseball.

Have you ever checked off one of your long-term bucket-list items, even in a roundabout way?

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Thomas Fenske is a writer living in NC.  Find out more at http://thefensk.com

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Tang It …

apollo11Okay, I decided to share something I posted on Facebook because, well, the teaming millions have to know. Even those who lived through the event will remember what I am sharing.

The one thing missing in all the fiftieth anniversary of the moon landing broadcasts is the ever-present TANG commercial.  As part of the news coverage of every space flight I can remember, there were always TANG commercials.  Always.  They probably lined up these slots years in advance … I’m sure they were as big for them as Super Bowl commercials are for everybody else.

Ah, but younger folks might not even know what Tang is — and yes, it does still exist. It’s a powdered breakfast drink, generally orange-flavored (although I think they eventually expanded the line). Well, orange-flavored is a bit of an exaggeration … it was more a sort of semi-orange-flavor.

They used to advertise it as “what the astronauts drink” … It came in a jar like instant tea or instant coffee. If you believed the commercials, this product was the apex of American civilization in the 1960s. The moon landing was second, of course, because they obviously couldn’t have made it to the moon without Tang, right?

I seem to recall one of the astronauts, Frank Borman I think, saying ‘do you really drink Tang’ was one of the most asked questions of them. The second most asked question was probably ‘how do you go to the bathroom’ … really a related question I guess.

Although for all of us it was indelibly linked to the entire space program, it was totally skipped in all of the hoopla over the anniversary of the landing.
Sample commercial:

WeekendCoffee Buzz … and Neil!

apollo11If we were having coffee today I’d be pretty vocal about recognizing the fiftieth anniversary of the first lunar landing. I have privately noted the date every year since then.  It is hard to believe it has been fifty years because  I remember the events of Apollo 11 quite vividly.

In fact, I have followed the space program closely since the first flight of Alan Shepherd.  My fourth-grade teacher, Miss McGrath, dated some guy who worked for NASA (I grew up in Houston so he was part of the fledgling Manned Spacecraft Center) and he came in and got us all fired up about the whole thing.  We watched the entire flight of John Glenn on TV in school!  Big deal, you younger folks might think, but in 1962 it was indeed a big deal!

Even from the first days there were complaints about the spending of money on this entire effort.  These complaints continue today.  Improve things on earth first, they say.  I say, look around.  Chances are you’re reading this on a computer or better yet, a tablet or smartphone, based on information that was transmitted over the internet by wire or by wireless communication.  These weren’t just natural progressions in technology.

Look at the 20th Century:  most “advances” were slow, almost cosmetic, and this continued up through the 1960s.  It was after the space program that things really took off.  This is because of the huge investment in technology, which created new industries, and a lot of jobs, along with a lot of new ideas solving problems that people hadn’t even considered before.  This served to make people more interested in pursuing educational goals to advance various fields of engineering, that is, as opposed to more traditional trade pursuits.

All of us have been affected by the amazing advances in electronics, medicine, engineering, metallurgy, chemistry, manufacturing, robotics, heck, I’m running out of fields but there are more — I just can’t remember them all — you can trace all these things back to the initial investments in the lunar landing project.  It wasn’t just an investment in achieving a singular technological triumph, it was an investment in all of us that continues to enrich our lives to this day.  Maybe these things would have eventually happened, but I assure you the progress would have happened at a snail’s pace compared to the way it worked out.

You want a really good example? In May 1977 we celebrated the fiftieth anniversary of Charles Lindbergh’s flight across the Atlantic.  Think about that.  Yes, air travel had advanced, mostly due to wartime necessity, but that’s pretty much it.  Television?  It existed in concept at the time of Lindbergh but wasn’t even crudely available for another twenty years.  When did things really start to take off?

To the deniers, I have to ask, where is the motivation for such a conspiracy — one that would involve hundreds of thousands of people?  The money?  It really wasn’t that much in comparison to the rest of the Federal budget … remember it was funded piecemeal over a period of years.  It still is.  The thing I hate about the deniers is this: at the core of their denial is that they deny humans are even capable of doing something like this.

Here are some common claims.  No stars in the pictures.  It’s daytime!  There is no atmosphere and no ocean to reflect blue, but it’s daytime and it’s really bright and the cameras must be f-stopped really tight.  I’ll tell you this, if there were stars in the pictures, that would be proof of a fake.  The flag?  It had a spring to make it unfurl.  Hanging limp would have looked really lame.  We weren’t entirely without class in the sixties. The danger of the Van Allen Radiation Belts?  It’s a phenomenon. Really, there’s much more danger from solar wind (which is where the radiation in the belts comes from).  We know about these things … there is layered shielding.  Most of the time you get more radiation from the electric burner on your stove. I saw some guy post once about “how did they take off from the moon without an engine?” … where did he get that?  Of course there was an engine.  Lordy.

In my opinion, two events precipitated these conspiracy theories, both of them were movies.  Star Wars and Capricorn One.  Capricorn One came after Star Wars … it was about a similar sort of conspiracy but involving a Mars landing.  Pretty low budget and forgettable movie but some people didn’t forget and it cemented the merest idea of a conspiracy in their minds.  The other, Star Wars, heralded a technological leap in movie special effects that continues to this day.  Note: before Star Wars, space special effects were pretty darn awful.  You have to think about this in context.  I think a lot of deniers consider the issue through the post-Star Wars special effects revolution, not before.

Yes, people have died.  Space has always been a dangerous endeavor.  So is the freeway and air travel. In times past, people would go off on ocean voyages and disappear without a trace.  Did they stop sailing the ocean? Nope, they built newer and better ships.

You might note that I used Buzz Aldrin’s name first in my title … that was both for aesthetics as well as to give Buzz a big shout out.  We all remember Neil Armstrong first and foremost; he stepped out first, after all.  But you know what?  They landed together; they were a team, and I think they thought of themselves as a team of three.  Success depended on all three of them … including Mike Collins, the man in the tin can up above.  So to all of you, Buzz, Mike, and Neil … thank you for helping us realize what is no doubt the most awesome technological event yet created by our species.  Think of it, yeah, America did this, but more than that … humans did this!  Let’s go back!

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Thomas Fenske is a writer living in NC … find more information about him and his writing at http://thefensk.com
NEWS!  His companion cookbook, The Mossback Cafe Cookbook, is now FREE on Amazon!  Take a look >>> HERE

The story of Oso

osoMy daughter started a new job in a new career yesterday. We were close to her new office after a doctor’s appointment so we offered to meet her and treat her to a celebratory dinner.  My wife rode with her on the way back and they were following me on our way home, about 25 miles to the west.

A few miles down busy Interstate 85 I saw something in the road. I had a lot of glare on my dirty windshield, not an ideal situation in the late afternoon driving west, but I soon focused on the object. It was a dog standing in the middle of the lane.  A car was parked nearby and a woman seemed to be chasing the dog.  I managed to change lanes but was concerned about traffic, speed, and my followers so I continued on.  I reasoned that it was likely the woman’s dog and she’d get him.

Okay, I didn’t have the best reaction.  But in a few moments, I realized I didn’t see my daughter’s car behind me anymore.  I called both her and my wife.  No answer.  I was concerned that maybe they had hit the little dog.  The bad thing about the Interstate highway is that there is no easy way to return. Finally, my wife called me back.  They had stopped.

The woman I saw had, in fact, coaxed the dog out of the roadway and was holding it, but she lamented to them that she was just passing through and didn’t know what to do with him.

“That’s okay,” my daughter told her. “We’ll take him.”

He turned out to be a scared, but very sweet, Rat Terrier.  He had no collar so they stopped on the way home and bought one.  I had already started scouting out the local “lost and found pet” Facebook pages after I got home.  I was just waiting for him to get to the house so I could snap a picture.

He was found about twenty miles from our house, along the county line between Orange County and Durham County.  We live in Orange County but along the opposite county line. There is a lot of cross-county interaction; many people commute to Chapel Hill and Durham (and even Raleigh), so I knew it would be better if I could cast a wide net.  There are local Facebook pages for our town and for Orange county, so I started there.  The county to the west, Alamance, has a lost and found pet page, I posted there too. Orange County has a lost and found pet page as well, so I posted there.  I had to join and wait for approval at both of those last two.  I knew there were two motels within a mile of the spot where he had been picked up, so I called and left my number, in case any guest reported a missing dog.

Okay, I felt guilty that I didn’t stop, but now I was doing what I do best:  I was writing and using the heck out of Facebook.  I had also taken a few minutes to get to know this little guy.  We kept him isolated from our dog and cats, which I knew was important from some past experience in taking in other strays.  He really was a sweetheart but we didn’t know his health history. In the case of a stray, you really should observe the new animal for a few days.  We likely had nothing to worry about, this dog was clean and well-groomed. His claws were impeccably trimmed and polished.  I decided to check something else.

oso2“Sit!” … he sat and lowered his ears and looked soulfully up at me.  Yeah, this was somebody’s love bug.

I kept checking the posts.  In minutes there were already leads.  The shares continued.  He got to the house at about 8PM.  At about 11 I got a call.  It was a woman whose neighbor had seen the pictures on one of the Facebook shares.  After a brief exchange, I was pretty sure this was legit.

I told her I could bring him by in the morning.  No way, she said, she was getting him right away!  She said his name was Oso.  I had taken to calling him Roadie, because he had been in the middle of the road when I first saw him.

Of course, I wanted some verification.  As a first step, I went up and called him by name.

“Oso!”

His ears perked up in recognition, sort of like, “he knows my name!”  He ran to me and immediately rolled over.  Okay, step 1 complete.

The lady brought a folder with all the papers to verify.  She also showed me pictures on her phone … perhaps hundreds of photos of him.  Yeah, I was convinced.  He also obviously missed his Mommie very much … there was no questioning his own recognition of her.

So yes, I felt guilty I didn’t stop.  But like I said, I had a good backup.  And I knew how to use my strengths to help make things right.  Pets get away sometimes, no matter what you do.  He’s just a sweet and very much loved pup who managed to rush out the door.  My dog does that every now and then.  She’s a beagle mix who lets her beagleness overtake her desire to be an obedient dog on occasion.  It happens.

I have a confession: we really liked him and almost hoped he wouldn’t be reunited.  One wonders how people choose not to return found pets, but I can see how the temptation might be strong.  One owes it to these much-loved pets to fight that temptation and find their owners!

Anyway, Oso’s adventure had a happy ending.

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Thomas Fenske is a writer living in North Carolina. More information on his work can be found at http://thefensk.com

WeekendCoffee Fireworks

coffeeshareIf we were having coffee today we’d probably catch up on our respective Fourth of July festivities.  I generally remain pretty sedate about such celebrating, maybe a little cooking out, along with some intensive movie watching.  It’s almost too hot to do anything else.  We went to a small cookout at a family member’s place and, on the way home, we managed to catch sight of a few of the local town’s fireworks.  Once I got home, I was amazed that quite a few neighbors were shooting off some pretty good fireworks themselves.  We’ve generally don’t have too much of this around here since fireworks are very illegal in NC. This was the most I’ve seen in a while.  Thankfully, our dog Daisy does not seem to be bothered by the explosions.

I grew up in Texas where there was a serious demarcation line between city and county.  It was illegal to sell, possess, and use in the city, out in the county it was okay.  It’s a bit like the old wet-county, dry-county thing … twice a year, just outside the city limits, temporary plywood fireworks stands would suddenly appear just before New Year’s Eve or Independence Day.  Imagine, an entire cottage industry for two days a year.

My parents were not major proponents.  We never, not once, made the yearly pilgrimage to the fireworks stands.  As a result, this fledgling pyromaniac had to resort to scavenging.  The Fourth of July and New Year’s Eve meant two things to me: July 5 and January 1.  I’d head out early both of those days and prowl the nearby streets of our subdivision.  I found out early on that there were leftovers which were easy-pickings to someone industrious enough to seek them out.

I reasoned that those large strings of firecrackers would often blow a small percentage of individual units away from the group. Not duds, mind you, but fully functional explosive devices that fate had spared from certain explosive extinction.  I’d generally find dozens of these lying about, unnoticed and unforgotten in the late-night festivities. There were other things too.  At the time I was amazed at the bounty of bottle rockets and other small items that would have been overlooked.  I know now that, sadly, Mr. Stumpy and Old Man Lefty were likely drunk when they were shooting them off, so it was easy to miss a few out of the bag in the orgy of pyrotechnics they were intent on exploiting.

I even found a way to utilize “dud” firecrackers. If you broke them in two, you could light the innards and they’d be like earth-bound rockets, spewing jets of sparkly and intense flame. Fizzlers I called them.

So the day after both holidays were my day of celebrating.

As long as my mom didn’t find out.

What about where you live or have lived?

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Thomas Fenske is a writer living in North Carolina, where most fireworks are illegal although they try to assuage the masses by allowing some really lame ones that are even sold in grocery stores.  If you want the really good stuff, you have to try to illegally import from south of the border … South Carolina.

His latest novel, Lucky Strike, is coming in October 2019. Info on his writing is available at http://thefensk.com