I’m Seriously Considering Shipping All of My Kids Off To “Sergeant Bollocks Crusher’s Military School For Discipline & Respect

I got a text from Heather Graham the other day that read “Your son is grounded for life.” A few things struck me as I contemplated this cryptic message. First, why does he always becomes solely the spawn of MY seed when he does anything unspeakably bad as if her actually giving birth to him was no longer relevant to the subject at hand?

Image

Second: I wondered about the wisdom of grounding him for life. How much of this behavior could I really take and do I want to endure it for another 50 years or so until either I’m dead or I’m too senile to care anymore? Only after I had contemplated these two points was I even mildly curious as to what he actually did.

Sometimes, as a parent…frankly, I don’t really care anymore. The monotony of the routine has dulled my wrath a bit over the years into a steady diet of: first offense =grounded for an hour, second offense = grounded for another hour + loss of video game privileges, third offense = grounded for an hour + loss of video games, Netflix and bike riding for the day and so on and so on. After awhile, I tend to forget what was actually done in the first place. I just can’t keep up.

So, I decided to make a list of just a few of the offenses my children have committed in recent memory. Keep in mind, this is by no means an exhaustive list. Just the ones I could jot down off the top of my head:

1. One sibling smacking another sibling across the face with a lightsaber

2. All three hiding from their mother in the clothes rack of a department store and pretending to have disappeared.

3. One sibling hiding a precious article of personal property belonging to another sibling in an obscure location somewhere in the house, and then forgetting where they hid it.

4. Telling the Gym Coach at school that he “stinks really bad.”

5. Telling a new substitute teacher that “This school was perfect before you were hired.”

6. Stabbing another student in the arm with a pencil. (In my child’s defense, I think he was actually sword fighting with another kid while my son perfected his lunge and parry fencing skills. But the other kid still got stabbed and my son was sent to the Principal’s office)

7. Displaying disrespect to the same Gym Teacher when the class was told to go grab their balls to play a game…and my son obeyed to the letter of the law.

Looking over this list, I’m wondering why in the world anyone would want to buy a book about parenting from my wife and I. Sounds like we are doing a bang up job so far.

But, I soldier on, doing the best job I can with the information I have at the time. There are times as a parent that I’m called to judge a dispute between two or more parties represented in our home. I sit there in my chair and blink at them while a list of offenses are rattled off for me to evaluate. The funny thing is my kids think that I’m actually listening to them, wisely weighing each argument before rendering my ruling. The truth is, I’m feeling like God tricked humanity with this whole “Procreation” thing he designed for a man and a woman to mate. The idea seemed good to me at the time and the act of procreation was great and all, but I think I missed something in the fine print that covered all of this stuff.

Honestly, I’m out of ideas on how to punish my kids anymore, so I could use your help. If anyone has any ideas they would like to share, feel free to reply and toss out your thoughts. I will take the best one and wrap them on tiny 4″ X 2″ strips of paper and fold them into a fishbowl. When my kids do something wrong, they will have to reach into the “Bowl of Sorrows” and pull out their punishment.

I will Tweet a picture of their reaction. (Shameless plug: you will have to follow me on Twitter to catch this)

One of the best ideas I had in awhile came when my son decided to move out of the house. He spewed a litany of charges against his mother and me and declared his independence. He hates me, he hates his mother, and he hates his life, and he just wants to move out on his own and be really happy. Now parent, POP QUIZ: How Do You Respond?

Do you:

A) Ground him for an hour to his room, like we do for every offense?

B) Slap the little urchin until he swallows his own teeth

C) Send him to Grandma’s house for the weekend

D) Tell him “Ok, you can move out and I’ll help you pack.”

I contemplated C for a long time, but my parents wouldn’t return my text. I need to stop beginning texts with “What are y’all doing this weekend?” every time I want them to keep my kids. They have learned and always seem to have something going on. No, I decided on D.

Like I said, why anyone would want to buy my parenting book baffles me.

But perhaps I should explain myself a little bit. I had a very good reason why I chose to help my son find his own place at the age of 10.

You see, a few months ago I taught my son how to grow sugar crystals in a cup with a cotton string. We experimented by adding dye to the water to create all kinds of cool colors that made the crystals look like jewels such as red rubies, clear diamonds and blue sapphires. We even did a batch of green Kryptonite.

Image

This was a huge hit at school and every kid in the 3rd, 4th and 5th grades wanted one. So, my son started a business and had a waiting list of paying customers. I think the going rate was about $5 per crystal and the kid could have the color of their choice. To a 10-year old, that was like a 6 figure income.

Anyway, he had a steady business going there for a few weeks until the school cracked down on his little sugar crystal ring and closed him down. Evidently, it violated some district code or something. I told Gavin that he couldn’t sell his crystals anymore. To my surprise, he handled the news rather well. I was actually quite proud of him.

I should have known that it was too easy.

A few weeks later, I received a call from the Principal. Gavin had been caught selling crystals again. Evidently, he had been smuggling them in his backpack and selling them for kids’ lunch money at recess.

“But Dad,” he argued with me when I confronted him about it. “I promised my friends I’d deliver their crystals to them before you told me to stop and it takes 3 weeks to grow them.”

“Gavin, it’s against school policy. You can’t do it.”

“Yeah, but now I can get $10 each instead of just $5.”

My son had become the kingpin of the 4th grade.

Not too long after that my son got mad at me for something. I think I did something really bad like made him clean his room. He decided that my home was just too much pressure with all of the rules and expectations. He decided that if he had his own place, he could go to bed when he wanted and could keep his room in whatever condition he felt like. I listened to him rant at me for a minute as he told me all the ways his life would just be better off if he could move out.

This is where I opted for D. I told him “Ok, I’m fine with that but you will have to pay your own rent.”

“I can do that,” he agreed. “I can still sell my crystals.”

“Well,” I reasoned, “You’ve been warned that you can’t do that anymore. If the school found out, they might take all of your money. I’d suggest doing something that won’t leave you broke when your rent is due.”

“I could mow lawns,” he decided.

“Ok, well let’s see what you need to do.” So I took out some paper. “I have a neighborhood company that advertises to mow our lawn for $20, so if you want my business you would have to be lower than that.”

“I’ll do it for $10,” he replied.

“Fine, so you will make $10 per lawn. Now, you are limited in where you can live because you can’t drive yet. So you have to choose one of these luxury apartments by the school so you can still ride your bike.” I helped him look online and the cheapest 1 Bedroom apartments were about $1,200 a month. “Don’t forget about utilities, food and entertainment. I give you all of that here for free, but on your own you’ll have to pick up those costs too. To be safe, I think you will need about $2,000 a month to live.”

I pushed the paper to him. “Now you tell me how many lawns you will have to mow each month to make $2,000.

It took him awhile struggling with basic math to come up with 200.

“Ok, so you will need 200 clients who will let you mow their lawns. That means you will have to knock on doors. In sales, if you have a close rate of 1:10 for cold calling, you are doing well. So figure you will have to knock on 2,000 doors to get 200 people to agree.”

I let that number sink in, but I think I was already overwhelming him. I pushed on:

“Now, once you get 200 clients, it will take you about an hour to mow their lawn, but you still have to go to school, so you can only mow lawns from 4:00 in the afternoon until about 8:00 at night when it gets dark. That only gives you 4 hours each day. If you do this each day after school, you will have 20 houses done. If you work from 8:00 in the morning both Saturday and Sunday and don’t stop until 8:00 at night, you can get another 24 lawns mowed each weekend. That is 44 lawns in a week, multiplied by 4 gives you a total of 176 lawns you can mow in a month to pay your bills.”

My son just looked at me.

I pushed on. “Now, 176 lawns at $10 each will give you $1,760 each month, which still isn’t $2,000. I tell you what, I’ll give you $200 a month to cover the difference-until you are 18-since you are still my son.”

I let this sink into my son for a moment before I finished. “So, you have a choice. You can go to school each morning, and then work every day until dark, never seeing your friends, and work from sun rise until sunset all weekend without ever getting a break…or you can clean your room.”

“You choose.”

Advertisements

Tip Jar: It’s Like Giving A Barista A Hug Without The Awkward Body Contact

We have become a little obsessed with tipping the service industry in our country. I think it comes from a deep rooted insecurity American’s have against a culture of landed gentry being waited on hand and foot while they sip their tea and nibble on crumpets. Since we are uncomfortable with being served, we tip so we can sleep better at night.

I’m not an international banker who is fluent in the language of stocks, bonds and mutual funds but I do play a tough game of Monopoly and I did save up a substantial trove of gold coins in World of Warcraft back in the day.

Ay, seep me pile 'o gold? I dost have a larger bulge  than thou dost

Ay, see me pile ‘o gold? I dost have a larger bulge than thou dost.

Does this make me an expert in economics and able to explain how business makes a profit? I doubt it, but I’m still going to share my point of view anyway.

Basically, we trade in otherwise worthless pieces of colored paper called dollar bills. This piece of paper is inherently about as valuable as my daughter’s picture from the coloring book “Frozen”. Other countries use other pieces of paper, but we like dollars. Mainly because we like pictures of Presidents like Washington, Lincoln and Franklin. Wait…Benjamin Franklin wasn’t a President, was he? Let me check Google.

Nope. He wasn’t. Actually, I’m not quite sure why Benjamin Franklin made it onto the $100 bill. Poor Thomas Jefferson and John Adams. They both got the shaft when it comes to being immortalized on our currency. The former we stuck on a bill no one has ever seen before and the latter…well, he kinda got screwed all the way around.

Founding Fathers

If John Adams had known that the only thing we would remember him for was a beer named after his BROTHER, that neither one even brewed, I bet he’d poke Franklin’s eyes out with that pen.

But I digress. We like Dollars and not Euros, Rubles or Pesos. Did you know that even though England is in Europe, they doesn’t use the European currency called the Euro? England continues to use the British Pound, but there is a country called the British Indian Ocean Territory, but they do not use either the Pound or the Euro. Evidently they thought pictures of US Presidents were way cooler than pictures of an rather old looking Queen of England and use the U.S. Dollar.

Why is this blog starting to sound like Sheldon’ Cooper’s weekly Vlog: Fun With Flags?

Fun With Flags

Where was I?  Oh yes, currency. No matter what President, Queen, Meglamaniac/tyrannical dictator graces the face of currency, the principal is the same; it is just a unit people use to exchange goods and/or service with each other. A business owner spends as little currency as possible to acquire a commodity and then sells it to someone else for a little bit more.

This is called a profit.

If I want to accelerate this rate of profit, I can share some of my profit with workers who will help me do small tasks in the whole process of acquiring my goods and delivering them to the people who value it. For simple jobs, an owner does not have to share a whole lot.

Now, tips complicate things a little, but the principal is the same. If I employ a waitress to take an order and service my customer, my customer may value my waitress giving him extra attention, even though she may not receive any more of my profit. So, in order to ensure that my customer gets the best SERVICE possible, he may choose to tip a waitress to encourage her good behavior toward him. The customer is still paying more of his currency to receive a better service.

I believe all of this is fair.

What I don’t think is fair is that now I’m expected to tip for a service that does not benefit me at all. Am I being greedy? I don’t think so. Let me explain:

I like coffee. The raw ingredients are not all that expensive for a consumer like me: beans and water. Not only that, but the service that I require to provide me with my drink of choice is also very simple: I need someone to stick a cup under a spout and pull a lever until the cup is full. I then need someone to hand me the cup.

For this service I am typically charged $2 and change which I’m willing to give because I’m addicted to the contents of that cup. Now, the server will be paid a small percentage of my $2, but again…her role in my process wasn’t all that involved. Besides, its not like I’m expecting the server to walk around every 10 minutes to top off my coffee. When I am done, I will throw my own cup away, and if I spill in my car, I doubt my baristia will come out and clean up my cup holders for me or get me a fresh cup.

So today I’m standing in line to get some coffee with Heather Graham. She tells me that she is tired and wants to sit down and asks if I’ll get her a cup too.

“Sure,” I agree. The baristia greets me with a smile and I order my two coffees and a small doughnut to nibble on. “Could I have cream and sugar in one?” I ask. “The other is just black.”

“We have a sugar bar over there,” she says with an overly friendly voice.

She tells me the total. Keep track of the work she is actually doing. So far, we have her punching in some buttons and reading a total off the screen. (She let the computer do the actual math work, though)

I give her my bank card and she swivels the iPad around to face me. “You can swipe it here,” she indicates.

So, I process my own payment.

She thanks me and points to the line below. “You can add a tip if you would like,” but keeps the iPad pointed toward me until I punch $1.00.

She thanks me and hands me two empty cups. “The coffee is at the end of the bar,” she indicates. “Help yourself and there is a doughnut in the case you can get.”

I juggle the two coffees and a doughnut. My wife likes cream and sugar so I prepare her drink and get her a glass of ice water I know she will want. While I’m managing all of this, I accidentally spill some coffee on the counter. I look around for some help, but my barista is busy pointing out the tip line to the poor guy behind me and she doesn’t notice I made a small mess.

So I clean up my own spill and carry everything back to the table where I serve my wife her coffee and water.

I didn’t get a tip but I did toss out all of our empty cups on my way out the door.

Save Nemo!

Save Nemo!

 

My Friend Sam Needs Your Help…Please Advise

My friend Sam has a problem and can’t seem to figure out what to do about it.

Sam is a good guy and all. He tries to help people when he can.

He works at Starbucks and makes a little over $21,000 a year. $28K if the tips are real good.

But Sam’s problem is his expenses.

Sam lives in a 3 bedroom apartment, because he likes to have space for his video games, music, and comic book collections.

He got the Xbox One the day it came out.

As well as the Sony 4.

He has a car and a motorcycle.

He likes pizza and orders out every Monday. Tuesday is Taco night, which, of course, means he goes to Taco Bell. Wednesday is Chilies night. Thursday is poker, and usually eats at the bar. Typical grill food: cheese sticks or a hamburger. Unfortunately, he isn’t a very good poker player, and last week he blew $100 on a bad hand. Friday is date night. His girlfriend is Alecia. They see movies a lot. Sometimes they do a musical. It’s her call though, and she has good taste. Saturday is ethnic night. He likes to try exotic places like Greek or Russian cuisine. Sunday is sports. He does not go out much on Sunday but instead orders Chinese Take out.

I have 3 kids and a wife, so I can’t be nearly as reckless with my money as Sam is with his.

I didn’t realize until recently just how big of a problem Sam has. I want to be a good friend about it, but I don’t know how to help him. You see…Sam and I were drinking one night, and he opened up about his finances. He told me he really hopes he gets a raise at work. Evidently Starbucks is looking to promote a shift supervisor, and it would be a good raise for him. He thinks if he works hard for a year or two as a shift supervisor, he can then apply for a manager position.

“They make almost 30,000 a year!” he said with innocent naivite. “I could really use the raise.”

“Are you worried about money?” I asked.

Sam got quiet and wouldn’t look at me. “A little,” he admitted. “My dad was talking to me last week. I think I maxed out his credit card.”

“You’ve been living off of your dad’s credit card?” I asked.

“And my Grandpa’s. Both of Grandpa’s, actually.”

“Sam . . . ” I said without knowing what else to say.

“My dad told me I spent $38,000 last year. Between all the credit cards, I think I added $16,500 to the balance.”

“Wait…you ADDED over 16 grand to your parents’ credit cards?” I asked trying to wrap my mind around what I was hearing.

“That’s what he said. My grandpa was pretty upset.”

“How much do you owe? I mean the total balance?” I asked.

“Over 142 thousand dollars. My dad told me I had to cut back on my expenses.”

“Yeah, I would agree with that.”

“I was looking at the budget he gave me. I think I’m going to stop getting cokes at the gas station from now on.”

“Cokes?!”

“Yeah, well those are over $1. I figure that if I cut that out, I could save $385 a year. That will help, won’t it?”

I don’t even know where to begin.

Do you have any suggestions for Sam?

The United States of America brings in about $2,170,000,000,000 in tax revenue each year.

The annual budget of the United States is $3,820,000,000,000.

The United States of America added $1,650,000,000,000 in debt last year.

The National debt is about $14,271,000,000,000

Last year, the United States of America cut $38,500,000,000 from the annual budget…and those budget cuts led to the shut down the government because we couldn’t agree on how to fix our financial problem.

IF YOU JUST REMOVE 8 ZEROS FROM THE ABOVE FIGURES…YOU WILL UNDERSTAND MY FRIEND “SAM’S” PROBLEM.

DO YOU HAVE ANY SUGGESTIONS FOR “SAM?”

Image

What To Get Dad For Father’s Day Who Already Has A Drawer Full Of Neck Ties He Never Wears

Father’s Day is coming up and my wife is always asking me what I want. Every year I tell her the same thing, but she never gets it for me:

I want an official Red Ryder, carbine action, two-hundred shot, range model air rifle with a compass in the stock.”

She just laughs at me and says, “No, really what do you want?”

Fine, I want a force activated, double bladed light saber with 1.21 Jigawatt energy pulse and a purple beam.”

Image

Oh, and a compass in the stock would come in handy too.”

 

 

 

But she just tells me I’ll cut my arm off.

 

Last year I got a grill, which would be cool and all, but basically it’s her way of shoving “Dinner Duty” off on me 4 or 5 nights a week from the last week in May until the first week of September. She does this as a sneaky way of not cooking for 3 months. In all fairness, she does put the frozen French Fries in the oven and bake them at 350 degrees for 15 minutes, or until golden brown. A grill for Father’s Day in my household would be like if I bought her some sexy lingerie as a Mother’s Day gift.

But women never quite see things the same way.

Speaking of my wife, you all need to check out her blog too. (Insert Shameless Plug Here: Heather Graham’s Blog ) I promised her that I would promote her blog on my site to double her exposure. She is an aspiring writer and has grand dreams of collecting an entourage of loyal followers to build a pipeline for a future business plan and possibly a book deal in the near future. Which will be great because when she is out on some book tour or writing junket, I can stay home and grill burgers for the kids.

I doubt I’ll get either my Red Ryder BB Gun, or my lightsaber this year, so I had to do some digging for suggestions. For my female audience, if your man is anything like me, these are all GREAT ideas. But then again, there aren’t too many people like me, so you probably want to stick with that pair of Superman Tube Socks you were eying up at Target.

I’m sure he’ll love it.

As for me, one of the top of the things on my “Father’s Day Wish List” would be the Henry VIII with heat sensitive vanishing wives!

Image 

As the coffee gets cool, the wives tend to vanish. Note the subtle play on the heat of passion cooling to the elimination of the wives. This would be so cool!  (Oh, the puns don’t stop with this gift)

As another option, I am not a fan of the Family Stick Figures as window clings in the back of the family SUV. I don’t even really like the Star War’s Spin off clings, even though I’m a huge Star Wars Nerd. But Stick Figure Zombie Clings…I would DEFINITELY hang that along the back window.

Image

Has anyone seen that bumper sticker that says something like: “My Family Stick Figures Kicked Your Family Stick Figure’s Ass”  I doubt my wife would let me put either of these on our Nissan Pathfinder, but a guy can dream, right?

Another idea for Dad could be his very own Einstein Plush Doll. I don’t know why, but I would love to set Albert up by my Boba Fett action figure at work. Some guys have a Payton Manning Bobble Head. I want an Einstein plush doll.

Image

Of course you can never go wrong with the Candy G-String.

Image Melts in your mouth, not in your hand.

So ladies, I have given you some great idea for the over grown nerds in your life.

Ok, enough for tonight. My wife just asked me to fire up the grill. She bought some steaks for us to eat tonight.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wright Philosophy: If You Say A Lie Long Enough, Eventually Everyone Will Believe You

Pop Quiz: In honor of Black History Month, who was the first African American Baseball player in the Major Leagues?  Answer: Jackie Robinson.  Which famous Abolitionist orator and writer taught himself to read and write after he escaped from slavery? Answer: Fredrick Douglas. Who was the first person to achieve controlled, sustained, heavier than air flight? Answer: Wilber Wright.

Ok, well that last question didn’t have anything to do with Black History Month, but that’s ok. I’m not so sure that last answer was Wright anyway.

I’m serious. Here is a list of a few things I am reasonably sure of:

  1. Neil Armstrong was the first Human Being who walked on the moon. (Assurance Factor: 100%)
  2. Julius Ceasar was assisanated by a group of conspitors on March 15, 44 B.C. (Assurance Factor 100%)
  3. Of my 3 children, it is my son who consistantly forgets to flush the toilet after he drops a duce.  (Assurance Factor: 94.5%)

Here are a few things I used to be reasonably sure of, but upon further review…not so much:

  1. JFK was killed by a conspiracy of at least 2 gunmen, one of whom was on the Grassy Knoll in Dallas. (Previous Assurance Factor: 95%. Current Assurance Factor: 22.3%)
  2. The NBA secretly conspired to keep Mark Cuban and the Dallas Mavericks from winning an NBA title by any means necessary. (Previous Assurance Factor: 89.4%. Current Assurance Factor: 0%)
  3. The Wright Brothers were the first Human Beings to achieve sustained, controlled heavier than air flight in 1903. (Previous Assurance Factor: 99.6%.  Current Assurance Factor: 33.8%)

I have been doing a little digging and have come to learn something fascinating: All of our history books might be very, very wrong. Someone else might have beat the Wright Brothers by as much as 2 years!

This is a big deal for me. This would almost be on the level as discovering that Shakespeare didn’t really write all of those plays around the turn of the seventeenth century.

First of all, everyone knows the official story in the history books: in 1903 the Wright brothers achieved heavier than air flight that lasted for a few seconds and traveled a few hundred feet. Whoopti Doo, I know, but keep in mind that a few years before, we were still trying to get off the ground in contraptions like this:

So, this was kinda a big deal.

The beautiful thing that the Wright Brothers had going for them was that one of the witnesses they asked to verify their attempt in 1903 was techno-savvy enough to haul a camera out to the beach with him. Now, this was a relatively new invention to carry around outside in the middle of winter, so kudos to the Wrights for recognizing how powerful this image would become in the psyche of the American conscious.

It’s clean. It’s crystal clear. It is visual proof. There is a human being laying on his belly on a craft that is obviously off the ground.

The Wright Brothers flew in 1903. No one can argue with that.

But they might not have been the first.

That honor possibly goes to Gustave Alvin Weisskoph. Unfortunately, that doesn’t roll off the tongue as easily as Orville and Wilber though.

Besides, Weisskoph sounds more like a sneeze.

This is probably why Gustave changed his name after he immigrated to America in the late nineteenth century and just started calling himself “Whitehead” instead.

Gustave didn’t have much money. He didn’t own a bicycle shop, or receive financing from wealthy donors. He worked in a coal mine to support his inventions and quirky engineering habits. His neighbors didn’t like him much because he kept blowing things up in his little shed in the middle of the night. But he liked to tinker around with steam engines and attach them to ship-like hulls that he envisioned would sail through the air like a ship at sea.

And in 1901, Gustave Whitehead believed he actually flew and a lot of people claim they saw him too.

Gustave didn’t name his invention anything as grand as “The Wright Flyer” or “The Spirit of St. Louis.” No, in typical German efficiency, he simply called it “Airplane No 21

Not to be confused with Airplane No 1-20 that evidently didn’t turn out so good.

Here is Gustave’s Airplane No 21.

In 1901 there were only two accepted methods for confirming an eye witness account of an event. You could hire a fancy-pants photographer to set up a camera outside and hope he snapped it at the right moment or you could drag some cheap artist with you who would just kinda sketch out what he saw. Both views were accepted in the newspapers of the day as proof and since Gustave didn’t have much money, he had to go with the cheaper Plan B.

Besides, things like “legacy” and “fame” didn’t mean as much to Gustave. He just liked to fly. And dozens of people swore to their dying day that they saw him do it…2 years before the Wright Brothers took off.

A reporter for the Bridgeport Sunday Herald testified that on August 18, 1901, almost 2 ½ years BEFORE the Wright Brothers flew in Kitty Hawk, N.C., Gustave Whitehead flew ½ a mile and included a change of direction to avoid a cluster of chestnut trees and a safe landing.

A variety of photographs still exist that have been verified as dating to 1901 that show Gustave with his “Airplane No. 21” as an aerodynamically correct monoplane that is capable of flight.

In 1901 the periodical “Scientific American” published  an illustrated article about Whitehead’s machine and in 1906-’08 a reporter published a series of articles all claiming that Whitehead had indeed flown in 1901. (Orville Wright published an article in 1945 in which he quotes this same reporter, but evidently this guy had changed his mind and supported Orville’s claim that they had flown first. So, either this guy lied between 1906-’08 when he was publishing multiple articles directly crediting Whitehead with sustained flight, or he was lying in 1945 when he backed up Orville Wright…or he was simply suffering from dementia and was just confused)

In 1937, Stella Randolph published a book called “The Lost Flight of Gustave Whitehead”, but no one really cared. What did women know of anything in 1937? Besides, some man called Walt Disney had just released a cartoon called “Snow White and the Seven Dwarves” and that was way cooler to talk about than some chick obsessed with some poor immigrant’s attempt at flight.

American’s had their hereos and “Wright” was a whole lot easier to spell. So Stella Randolph’s book went largely unnoticed.

Of an estimated 30 people who had been interviewed with sworn affidavits concerning Whitehead’s flight, 20 confirmed that they had actually seen him fly in 1901, 8 claimed that they had heard he had flown in 1901 and only 2 felt that he didn’t really fly.

What is almost as fascinating as the possibility that someone beat the Wright brothers by almost 2 ½ years is the cover-up since 1903 to keep this story quiet. The motives for this conspiracy are wrapped up in a little pride, a whole lot of greed and some good ‘ol fashioned American racism tossed in on the side.

You see, around the turn of the century there were a lot of people trying to figure out how to fly. Some had some good ideas. Most were pretty loony, but everyone knew that there would be a lot of money flying around (nice punn) if anyone could just figure it out.

Well, almost everybody. Someone forgot to tell poor Gustave, or if they did he didn’t seem to care.

However, there was one man who happened to be the Secretary of the Smithsonian Institute in 1903 that cared a great deal. Samuel Langley received about $50,000 from Congress to design an airplane, but he failed and his design crashed into the Potomac and a whole lot of the government’s money sunk to the bottom of the river.

Now, it’s not that the government is so frugile that they hate wasting money. They do that quite easily all the time, but most polititians don’t enjoy looking like fools and when a government agency becomes the laughing stock of the entire country. This becomes rather embarrassing for a lot of powerful people.

But history is not always written by the victors…just those who can get it in print first and tell the most tourists what they are looking at. So, while the Wright Brothers spent 3 years keeping quiet about their achievement waiting for approval to patent their invention (by the U.S. Patent Office…a government run agency, by the way) and Gustave Whitehead continued to shovel coal 50 hours a week, the Smithsonian seized the lull by claiming that Langley had actually flown first. In 1914, 11 years after the Wright Brothers historic flight, the Smithsonian sponsored a test of Langley’s original designed craft to prove that it could have flown. However, they modified the original design with state of the art improvements to kinda give it a boost in the air. When it flew, the Smithsonian declared it valid proof and proclaimed Langley a hero as the “Father of Flight.”

They even went on to name an Air Force Base after him.

The Wright Brothers were furious and in protest packed up their original 1903 flyer and shipped it to a museum in England. If the greatest collection of American treasures wouldn’t recognize them as the first in flight, than they couldn’t have their plane.

During this time there were numerous lawsuits flying around over who was first in flight and since the Wright Brothers had wisely spent those first precious few years after 1903 quietly waiting for patents, by the time they were granted, they were able to effectively campaign for their rights in court case after court case, receiving funds not only for their invention but also for back money that was due to them for those who infringed on their design.

Meanwhile, Gustave just kept shoveling coal. He didn’t have money for a patent or a lawyer anyway. In 1927, Gustave Whitehead died of a heart attack. He missed the crossing of the Atlantic by Charles Lindbergh by just a few weeks. However, “Aviation Mania” was sweeping the world and everybody wanted to be the “First” at something since there were so many things to be the first at. The first to fly, the first to cross the Atlantic, the first to cross the Atlantic backwards…well, maybe not that one, but everybody was doing something for the first time and Americans loved to collect trophies of our accomplishments.

The only embarrassing thing was that the Wright Flyer was still over in Jolly ‘Ol England, and that didn’t seem right to most folks.

So, there arose a large public outcry to bring the Wright Flyer home.

The only thing that politicians hate more than being embarrassed publically is when the public has an outcry and since the Smithsonian is a government agency, things were moving toward an impass.

The Smithsonian asked Orville to ask for his plane back so they could set it up in the growing aviation wing.

“Are you still claiming that Langley flew first?” Orville asked.

“Well, yes,” they replied.

“Then forget it,” was Orville’s answer.

“Please,” they begged. “Lindbergh gave us his plane!”

“No,” he said stubbornly.

Then came World War II and it wasn’t the best time to try to get a precious piece of history out of England while Hitler and the Germans were dropping bombs all over London. But when the bombs stopped falling, Americans still wanted that plane back.

Finally, the Smithsonian agreed to remove the plaque to Langley in exchange for the Wright Flyer.

Now the Wright family employed a curious tactic. They were in a position to really squeeze the Smithsonian for all kinds of concessions such as:

1) The Wright Flyer would always be displayed in a prominent location. (What history teacher would take his class to see a plane if it’s shoved in the basement somewhere next to the mop closet)

2) The Wright Flyer would always have a proper label declaring their plane was the first heavier than air machine to achieve sustained, controlled flight. (That wording was very important to the Wright Family because their whole patent was based on the control of the airplane)

And 3) If the Smithsonian EVER credited any other machine or inventor as achieving sustained, controlled flight prior to 1903, the Smithsonian would be forced to give the Wright Flyer back to the heirs of the Wright estate.

And that contract is legally binding to this day.

So, the Smithsonian took a moment to consider their options. They could refuse and suffer the wrath of a bunch of angry politicians who had to answer to a torqued off public, or they could agree to the relatively mild concessions the Wright family demanded. Really, it boiled down to a little Quid Pro Quo: You want our family plane, and we want to get the credit for flying it.

Besides, in 1948…who really wanted to hear that some German Kraut might have been the first person to fly?

Americans had their lily white heros. The names were easy to remember, so school children and teachers were happy. The Smithsonian had the Wright Flyer hanging attractivly next to The Spirit of St. Louis so the Government was happy, and the Smithsonian agreed to never ever ever admit that anyone achieved sustained, controlled flight prior to 1903 (Not even the Egyptians) so the Wright Family was happy.

And since Gustave Whitehead had died 20 years before, no one even knew about him.

Except for possibly the Wright Brother’s themselves. Never mind the testimony that exists claiming that the Wright brothers actually visited Whitehead’s shop in 1901 and 1902 and had several discussions with him. I doubt they just wanted to exchange New England clam chowder recipes. Among the witnesses were two men named Anton Pruckner, and Cecil Steeves. In a recorded interview in 1937, Steeves said he remembered a visit by the Wright’s. “They came from Ohio and under the guise of offering to help finance Whitehead’s invention, but actually received inside information about his work…after they had gone away, Mr. Whitehead turned to me and said, “Now that I have given them the secrets of my invention they will probably never do anything in the way of financing me.”

Nope, never mind that testimony.

I just find it curious: Why would the Wright brothers  find it necessary to state in a contract that the Smithsonian would never cite any credit for sustained flight to any machine or man prior to 1903?  I find it odd don’t you…unless Orville knew that there was in fact a machine that had flown a few years before his brother did.

But tourists only believe what they read on plaques, and tourists are the ones who will go home to write the history books.

What has not been examined impartially has not been well examined. Skepticism is therefore the first step toward the truth.” Dennis Diderot, philosopher (1713-1784)

‘Who’s Cheese Is It Anyway?’ A Theatrical Review

Last night was the debut (and only) show for Alexander Elementary School’s Second Grade Class’ peformance of the critically acclaimed hit, “Who Ate the Cheese?” Actually I don’t remember the name of the show. I could barely hear the dialogue because the acoustics in a gym stink and their PA system is probably older than me, but I know it had something to do with cheese. I was able to deduce this mostly because the Ms. Snoodibaker’s class was all dressed like mice and Mrs. Pearl’s class had yellow construction paper wedges on top of their heads, so I assume cheese had something to do with the plot. Beyond that, I really couldn’t tell.

I came 5 minutes early, but unfortunately there was standing room only. There are about 60 kids in the second grade at Alexander Elementary, which translates into approximately 120 parents, 240 grandparents, 180 siblings, 23 faculty and staff, 1 brand new music teacher fresh out of college and 1 elderly principal who has been tenured since Regan and probably should have retired sometime after Clinton all crowded into a gym with a seating capacity of just over 420, or so the Fire Marshall posted above the door.

My wife picked the only seat left that was along the back wall next to the tumble mats and directly behind this lady:

Seriously...I think she is going Comando

This was my view for the next 45 minutes.

Just to occupy the time, I gave my 5 year old daughter one of her “My Little Pony” dolls and was about to ask her to slip it…but my wife said I couldn’t.

Then I realized I was being held hostage. I guess not enough parents went to the last PTA meeting back in November because since the Principal had us all there and knew we were not going anywhere, she spent the first 10 minutes, “Just making a few announcements.”

I couldn’t hear them anyway. I was being distracted because the woman in front of me kept bending over to pick up her daughter’s toys. This was very disturbing to me and my daughter kept asking me what I wanted her to do with “Pinky Pie.” My wife was still glaring at me, so I told her to just play with her on the floor.

Finally, the show was ready to start. The lights did not go down or anything. The kids just started marching in. I don’t even think that the Principal was finished, but whatever it was that she was saying that no one really cared about before lost any significance whatsoever when en masse over 500 people start waving to their children.

I stood up to look over Crack Lady until I saw my son smile back at me.

The music director waved to us and gave the prologue. It wasn’t quite as good as “Two households, both alike in dignity, in fair Verona where we lay our scene…” but it did have something to do with a Farmer, a mouse, cheese and the real meaning of friendship.

I don’t know. I didn’t really get the subtle theatrical point on that one, but the director seemed pleased with the theme.

The show started with a round of dialogue. I didn’t care because I realized right away that my son wouldn’t have a line in the whole show. Since I don’t recall helping him memorize anything, it was a fair bet that once again he was passed over for any significant speaking role. Since I had no vested interest in what was being said I had nothing better to do than to stare straight ahead…oops…I mean avert my gaze to the side.

The first song was a classic, “Farmer and the Dale,” only there were a few verses I never knew were in there. Now maybe it was because I had ‘ass’ on the brain, but all I know is the entire second grade started singing about “The Farmer takes a wife, the farmer takes a wife, hi ho the dairy-o the farmer takes a wife.”

Sounded reasonable I suppose, but I cracked a joke to my wife (seriously, no punn intended. Get your mind out of the gutter)  about the fact that it looks like the farmer is taking his wife out behind the barn for a little roll in the hay as two kids marched in front of the audience, hand in hand.

But then the song just got creepy because evidently the wife also takes the child behind the barn. By the time the child took the dog behind the barn I was about to get a warning from the Principal because it seems as though I was causing somewhat of a disturbance.

I told the Principal that I”m not the one singing a disturbing song about all the activity that goes on at this farm.

The dog takes the cat, the cat takes the mouse and by the end of the song the mouse takes the cheese and I guess that was the “Inciting Incident” for the rest of the plot.

The climax of the show involved a rap in which my son displayed his total lack of rhythm in front of the entire school. The kids next to him were showing off their bad selves but my son just kinda wiggled a little.

I called out, “Go white boy, go white boy, GO GO GO!”

Again, my wife glared at me. She glares at me a lot when I go to these things.

As the hour drew to a close the children all bowed for a final time and we were all given instructions by the Principal about what to do with our chairs.

Overall, the show “Who Cut the Cheese” was well directed by Allen Q. Dickerson and his chique construction paper motif was actually quite charming, considering the budget cuts the School Board gave to the performing arts department this past year. Evidently the Athletic Department needed new football uniforms.

I get to do this again in May when my daughter has her show with theKindergarten class.

How Long Does It Take You To Laugh?

Have you ever had one of those days where you just needed a good belly chuckle? You know the kind of laugh I’m talking about: a good knee slapping, side splitting, Sprite snorted up your nose kind of laugh? Today is that day. I firmly believe when you are having a uber-crappy day (an ‘uber’ crappy day is a run of the mill crappy day multiplied by the power of 10, by the way) the best response is to find something that makes you truly, deeply laugh.

As soon as I find something, I will post it here.

Still looking. Bare with me a sec…

Tell you what, once I find something I will post it as an UPDATE so you can see the time stamp on how long it took to make me really laugh. I’m Time Stamping this 5:00 PM CST on 2/3/2012 btw. I know because the Westminster Chime on the clock is going off as I type.

Somehow I find this exercise mildly amusing in and of itself.

Wish me luck

UPDATE #1  Ok, I cheated. I looked. I really did but the only chuckle I could get was when I stumbled on an article where a shopper at the Dollar Palace told the reporter she liked to shop there because she didn’t have to dress up like she does when she goes out to Wal-Mart.

But that wasn’t a real HA HA funny. Believe me, I will break this funk and find something really funny to post. I’ll just have to do that tomorrow. Since I can’t beat this funk with humor, I might as well beat it with Poker. So, I’m off to a game.  Never fear, I’ll find something else funny and have an UPDATE 2 tomorrow. UPDATE #1 was posted at  5:28 PM, in case you are keeping track.

Between now and then, I will leave you with this. I had to swipe it from Steven Colbert, but it’s worth a view:  Supreme Courting Season, The Colbert Report.