Category Archives: Beyond

Superstitious Day for Some, Just Another Day for Others

Today is Friday, November 13, 2015.

For some people this means nothing more than the fact that yesterday was the 12th and tomorrow is the 14th.

For the superstitious among us today means all of the things above in addition to it being an unlucky day all the way around.

As we do every Friday the 13th it is time to state the facts about the origins of the day and uncover why some people just really do not like it.

While many may think that the Friday the 13th craze started with a certain movie character named Freddy, the roots of Friday the 13th actually run much deeper than late 20th Century cinema.

For many people a black cat crossing their paths is a sign of bad luck. Photo R. Anderson

For many people a black cat crossing their paths is a sign of bad luck.
Photo R. Anderson

Since the 19th Century Friday the 13th has been considered an unlucky day in Western and Eastern superstition.

Friday and the number 13 were considered unlucky by some on their own so it was only logical that both occurring at the same time would be even unluckier.

In fact fear of Friday the 13th even has a name; friggatriskaidekaphobia (Frigga being the name of the Norse goddess for whom Friday is named in English and triskaidekaphobia meaning fear of the number thirteen).

Personally I have never feared Friday the 13th and am among the people who consider it just another day.

But the arrival of Friday the 13th is another opportunity to think about sports and the superstitious rituals that many athletes seem to follow.

Bull Durham

The movie Bull Durham did a very good job showing the superstitious side of baseball through chants over bats, breathing through one’s eyelids, chicken, and of course a garter belt where the rose goes in the front. Photo R. Anderson

There are players who will eat the same pregame meal because they feel that to eat anything else would risk certain disaster on the field.

Hitters on a hot streak in baseball are notorious for continuing whatever “routine” it is that they feel is behind their streak since they feel any deviation will likely mean the end to the streak.

The movie Bull Durham did a very good job showing the superstitious side of baseball through chants over bats, breathing through one’s eyelids, chicken, and of course a garter belt where the rose goes in the front.

Baseball is not the only sport with superstitions. Across all levels of sports there are athletes who have a lucky shirt, or other article of clothing that they can’t go onto the field of battle without.

The link between superstitions and sports can start at a very early age.

Back in high school I did a feature article on the goalie of my school’s woman’s soccer team, who attributed her on-field success to a lucky argyle sock that she wore during every game.

Although he could be moody and liked to bite my nose to wake me up each morning, my dearly departed black cat, Lucky, was mostly a sweetheart and was certainly nothing to be superstitious of. Photo R. Anderson

Although he could be moody and liked to bite my nose to wake me up each morning, my dearly departed black cat, Lucky, was mostly a sweetheart and was certainly nothing to be superstitious of.
Photo R. Anderson

Granted it was not a pair of socks but one single sock that took over when her “magic shoes” fell ill.

Throughout my career I have been around many other superstitious athletes, and I am sure I will meet many more.

To date though a single “lucky” Argyle sock has been the most memorable athlete superstition I have encountered.

So on this Friday the 13th beware of those around you who are extra cautious of their surroundings.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I am going to see if I can find a black cat while walking under a ladder and holding a broken mirror while stepping on all of the sidewalk cracks I can find.

Copyright 2015 R. Anderson

 

Today is Set Aside to Honor Those Who Have Served, Sacrificed

Today, the eleventh day of the eleventh month, also known as November 11th, is set aside as Veteran’s Day in America.

The holiday got its start on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918, when an armistice, or temporary cessation of hostilities, was declared between the Allied nations and Germany in the First World War.

Commemorated as Armistice Day beginning in 1919, November 11th became a legal federal holiday in the United States in 1938.

In the aftermath of World War II and the Korean War, Armistice Day was renamed Veterans Day, and became a holiday dedicated to American veterans of all wars.

So while this has long been a day set aside to honor the service and sacrifice of the men and women who have served in the armed forces to protect the freedoms that we all enjoy, the way to honor those troops has changed in many ways through the years.

Americans still put out their flags on this holiday. Some towns still hold parades and the banks and post office are still closed.

The honoring of veterans has moved into the nation’s sporting events as well allowing thousands of people to celebrate and remember in mass.

Large American Flags have long beena tradition at sporting events. This past weekend stadiums across the country honored Veterans and America with flags and tributes. One tribute let a sour taste however. Photo R. Anderson

Large American Flags have long been a tradition at sporting events. This past weekend stadiums across the country honored Veterans and America with flags and tributes. One tribute left a sour taste however.
Photo R. Anderson

Watch almost any sporting event over the past weekend and there were displays of patriotism and honoring of the troops as far as the eye could see.

As troops have not always received warm welcomes on the home front it was especially nice to see how the men and women of the armed services are respected and appreciated for their sacrifice.

Had the honoring of the troops stopped at the pregame ceremonies it would have been the perfect way to say thanks. Unfortunately many teams and in some cases leagues took things a tad too far for my taste.

Many teams added camouflage flourishes to their uniforms as an homage to the troops. These flourishes in many cases included camouflage wristbands and towels as well as camo windbreakers and caps for the coaches.

The camouflagication of the sidelines even went so far as putting a camo pattern on the headphones the coaches used to communicate.

While I agree that honoring the troops on Veteran’s Day is a good thing I often cringe when I see people wearing camouflage without “earning it.”

Now, I know this is hunting season in most of the country, or at least down in Texas. So to be clear I am not trying to take away anyone’s right to wear camouflage and a bright orange vest while channeling their inner Elmer Fudd by going hunting for wabbits, deer, or ducks for that matter.

What I am saying is that over the past few years I have become more and more sensitive to people wearing the current style of military camouflage when they are out and about in their daily lives.

Flyovers such as this one by the United States Navy's Blue Angels are perfectly good at sporting events. Players wearing camouflage, not so much. Photo R. Anderson

Flyovers such as this one by the United States Navy’s Blue Angels are perfectly good at sporting events. Players wearing camouflage, not so much.
Photo R. Anderson

I have no issues with people wearing old school green camo since that can usually be determined not to be current issue and looks nothing like what the troops are currently wearing.

I even have a pair of camouflage cargo pants that are extremely comfortable but I made sure that I did not buy the “official” pattern when I got them.

So this weekend when I saw the various players with camouflage towels, and coaches with camouflage hats and headphones, I questioned once again if that was really the best way to honor the veterans.

By comparison when sports teams honor police and fire fighters they do not don S.W.A.T. patterns or simulate a firefighter’s bunker gear proving that one can honor our vets and first responders without dressing like them.

For years baseball players have worn camouflage uniforms a couple times a year to honor the troops so the trend is certainly not limited to football.

I certainly can be in the minority opinion here but to me the camouflage the troops wear is earned through the sacrifice of making it through basic training and then further tested through battle.

Using a camouflage towel to wipe up sweat between plays on the field just seems wrong to me.

In one of the games I was watching one of the camouflage towels fell to the turf and was stomped on as the players moved to that area of the field.

I know that the towel was not dropped intentionally, but seeing the image of that fallen towel had the same reaction for me as if I was seeing an American flag on the ground.

I guess I look at the camouflage that the troops wear as an extension of the flag that they are sworn to protect.

It would be deemed highly inappropriate for a football player to have a sweat towel that looked like the American flag on the field so in the same way the camouflage towels just seem equally inappropriate to the point of being offensive.

Again, I know that the intent of the teams and league is completely honorable and meant to pay tribute to the troops but the execution just strikes me as wrong.

Honor the troops with the 100-yard flags that are rolled out for the National Anthem and held by real soldiers in uniform.

Honor the troops by having people stand and cheer when a vet is on Jumbotron screen.

Honor the troops by thanking a veteran for their service.

These are perfectly fine ways to honor the troops without trivializing the uniform.

Again, I may be completely out on a limb here and perhaps the masses see no issues with the camouflage being used by athletes and coaches.

But to me it screams out like a cheap gesture and also a way to make money as the camouflage caps are often available for purchase by fans.

I have never served in the military and do not pretend to be able to speak for the troops.

To do that a few years back I asked an Army reservist their thoughts on the uniform pattern being worn by non-soldiers  and they said, “Camo is a uniform worn by the military and should be given the proper respect. Too many have died with the uniform on for it to be the latest fashion trend.”

And again before I get angry replies from hunters neither I, nor the soldier quoted above, are referring to the camouflage cap you can get at Walmart with your hunting camouflage pattern and favorite team’s logo on it.

I am talking about the use of the current military camouflage pattern and nothing else.

So, on this Veteran’s Day if you see a soldier, make sure you thank them for their service which makes your freedom possible. For that matter thank a veteran any time you happen to cross paths with them since thanks should not be limited to a single day of the year.

And if you see an athlete wearing camouflage know that their heart is likely in the right place. But try not to go out and buy the same camouflage cap they are wearing since there was a price paid and a sacrifice made every day by thousands of Americans in that pattern and wearing that comes with a willingness to make the ultimate sacrifice for your country.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have a flag to place on the patio

Copyright 2015 R. Anderson

Passing of Yogi Berra Leads to Deja Vu at Triple B

Editor’s Note: In honor of Yogi Berra, who passed away at the age of 90, it is deja vu all other again as we take a look back at a column from June 14, 2014 pertaining to the D Day invasion that Yogi Berra and so many other members of the Greatest Generation took part in.  Despite long odds and adversity Yogi Berra, and the other men who stormed those beaches, proved that it is not over, until it is over. Thanks for all of the quotable memories Yogi and for your great service to America through both the Military and as an ambassador for generations of baseball fans. You truly were one of a kind.

Today marks the 70th Anniversary of D-Day, which is the name given to the World War II battle involving over 156,000 American, British and Canadian forces landing on five beaches along a 50-mile stretch of the heavily fortified coast of France’s Normandy region in one of the largest amphibious military assaults in history.

Led by Supreme Allied Commander General Dwight D. Eisenhower, the Allied forces stormed beaches at Normandy code named Sword, Juno, Gold, Utah and Omaha.

The storming of the beaches was met by German machine gunners and artillery who tried to hold back the invasion force, almost succeeding at Omaha costing the Allies more than two thousand casualties in the opening hours.

For an idea of just how gruesome this type of frontal beach assault is one need only watch the opening of Saving Private Ryan. It is easy to forget in this era of drone attacks and smart bombs that war was once much more hand to hand leading to much higher casualty rates among its participants.

The guns on the USS Texas provided cover for the troops storming the beaches during D-Day. The flag that flew on the ship during the battle will be on public display starting today. Photo R. Anderson

The guns on the USS Texas provided cover for the troops storming the beaches during D-Day. The flag that flew on the ship during the battle will be on public display starting today.
Photo R. Anderson

In total, the Battle of Normandy lasted from June 1944 to August 1944 resulting in the Allied liberation of Western Europe from Nazi Germany’s control and has been called the beginning of the end of war in Europe.

During the D-Day invasion all scheduled baseball games were canceled on June 6, 1944 which marked only the second time in history that games were cancelled league wide.

The first cancellation of baseball games happened on the day U.S. president Warren Harding died in 1923, and the third time was when Commissioner Bud Selig stopped play for six days from Sept. 11-16, 2001, following the terrorist attacks.

While baseball games were cancelled stateside on D-Day, two future Hall of Famers, Yogi Berra and Leon Day, were participating in the battle.

Shortly after being drafted by the New York Yankees Hall of Fame catcher Yogi Berra was drafted by Uncle Sam. Berra witnessed D-Day 70 years ago today as a member of the U.S. Navy. Photo R. Anderson

Shortly after being drafted by the New York Yankees Hall of Fame catcher Yogi Berra was drafted by Uncle Sam. Berra witnessed D-Day 70 years ago today as a member of the U.S. Navy.
Photo R. Anderson

According to the National Baseball Hall of Fame, 35 Hall of Fame members and more than 500 Major League players served in World War II.

Many celebrations are planned today to mark the anniversary. In France various heads of state are visiting Normandy and closer to home the people of Houston, and the surrounding areas, will have their own chance to see a piece of D-Day history starting today.

The Houston Museum of Natural Science will give the public an opportunity to see the 17-by-9 foot battle flag that was waving on the USS Texas during D-Day.

Although the USS Texas itself has been on static display for many years, the exhibit at the Houston Museum of Natural Science marks the first time since World War II that the flag has been on public display.

Whether one travels to see the beaches of Normandy, or the Stars and Stripes, it is important to remember the sacrifice of all of those veterans who stormed those beaches to help ensure the freedom that is enjoyed to this day.

After serving in World War I the USS Texas was called into action on D-Day. Seventy years after that battle the ship remains as a monument to the people who fought and died to help bring the freedoms we know and love. Photo R. Anderson

After serving in World War I the USS Texas was called into action on D-Day. Seventy years after that battle the ship remains as a monument to the people who fought and died to help bring the freedoms we know and love.
Photo R. Anderson

Unfortunately the time to thank a World War II veteran in person is vanishing rapidly.

The United States Veteran’s Administration estimates that a World War II veteran dies around every two minutes. That translates to a rate of approximately 555 veterans dying each day.

By the year 2036, the VA estimates, there will no longer be any living World War II veterans.

For comparison purposes the last World War I veteran, Frank Buckles, died in February 2011.

A reminder of the rapid passing of World War II veterans occurred Wednesday when, Chester Nez, died at age 93.

Nez was the last living member of the original 29 citizens of the Navajo Nation who were recruited by the Marine Corps to develop the legendary “unbreakable” code based on the Navajo language that was used for vital communications during battle.

Just as the sacrifice made on the beaches of Normandy saved countless lives by hastening the end of the war in Europe, the Code Talkers helped end the war on the Pacific front with their sacrifice.

There are countless other stories of bravery and sacrifice from the men and women of the “Greatest Generation” who served during World War II and each story goes towards the patchwork on which the nation is built.

It is likely, and hopeful, that the world will not see another war of the scale of World War II. While there will always be a need for a certain amount of boots on the ground advancements in technology have greatly reduced the number of boots required to conduct modern warfare.

But while the number of soldiers needed to protect freedom will continue to decline in the coming years that does not minimize the level of sacrifice made by each of the soldiers who wear the uniform.

So take some time before the start of the hustle and bustle of the weekend to remember the sacrifice and reflect on the high cost of freedom paid by each generation that has gone before.

And by all means if you happen to see a World War II veteran, or any other veteran for that matter, be sure to thank them for their service and their sacrifice.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have a flag to visit.

Copyright 2015 R. Anderson

Triple B Flashback: The Beaches of Bond, James Bond

Editor’s Note:  For the remainder of June we will be counting down our 10 favorite columns as we celebrate summer vacation. Coming in at number 6 on our countdown is a column from February 11, 2013.

This year marks the 50th anniversary of Ian Fleming’s master spy James Bond’s debut on the silver screen. As part of the celebration there have been countless ceremonies and other specials to commemorate the event.

From Daniel Craig “parachuting” into the London Olympic Games with the Queen, to the planned tribute later this month at the Academy Awards, it is hard to argue that this is the year of Bond, James Bond.

With all of these activities and the DVD release of Skyfall tomorrow it seemed like a perfect time to focus on 007.

Some of the 23 James Bond movies. Photo by R. Anderson

Some of the 23 James Bond movies.
Photo by R. Anderson

Now, it would be easy to try and rank the men who have played James Bond on film.

From Sean Connery to Daniel Craig, and everyone in between, most people when asked have a favorite.

One common theory of Bond relativity is that a person’s favorite portrayal tends to coincide with whoever was Bond the first time that they watched. For me, my first exposure to Bond occurred during the Roger Moore era.

Looking back now the Roger Moore movies were some of the campiest in the franchise. That is in no way speaking ill of them and in fact Sir Roger Moore himself as stated that he was in on the joke and wanted to play Bond in a campy manner with a wink and a nod to the audience.

In many ways Sean Connery and Daniel Craig portray a Bond that is truer to the source material than the Roger Moore installment.

Don’t get me wrong I enjoy Connery’s and Craig’s portrayals, but for whatever reason I still tend to picture Bond as Roger Moore. I do not hold the same affinity for Pierce Brosnan and Timothy Dalton. I enjoy other films that Brosnan and Dalton are in but just do not care for them as Bond.

Timothy Dalton seemed to be trying too hard and Pierce Brosnan seemed like he wasn’t trying hard enough during their stints in the tuxedo.

The final of the six men to play Bond, George Lazenby, gets an incomplete grade. I thought that his turn as Bond was pleasant enough but it is hard to say with only one movie to go by.

After the list of favorite Bond actor is decided the next logical step that fans are likely to take is picking their favorite Bond girl. In the early films one knew that there would be two Bond girls; the one that was the first to fall into the arms of Bond and the second more complex one.

It was a well known fact that, much like the person wearing the red shirt on the away team for the original Star Trek, the first Bond girl in each film would surely meet her demise in some cruel fashion shortly after exclaiming the phrase, “oh, James.”

The second Bond girl could be a baddy that was turned good by the power of Bond persuasion or someone else that we were led to believe won the heart of of James and would be seen in some sort of embrace as the credits rolled.

So, debate amongst yourselves and pick your favorite Bond girl. For me, that title goes to Vesper Lynd, played by Eva Green in 2006’s Casino Royale.

One could also set up a list of best cars, gadgets, or villains. There really is no end to the amount of debate that one can give to the subject. This is one of the many reasons for the lasting appeal of James Bond.

But for our purposes let us focus on the beaches of Bond. The mood for the appeal of the sea and the role exotic locations would play in the franchise was set early on in 1962’s Dr. No. Ask anyone who has seen the movie and odds are they will recall Ursula Andress emerging from the ocean in her white bikini with a dagger strapped to her hip as the waves rushed onto the shore.

So pivotal was that moment in the franchise years later the producers tried to recreate it with Halle Berry in Die Another Day. And since this is a new era for Bond the fans were given the chance to see Daniel Craig emerge from the surf in much the same way in Casino Royale.

Part of the recurrence of beaches in Bond movies goes back to the source material and Ian Fleming himself. When Fleming was writing the novels that would inspire the film franchise he had a vacation home called Goldeneye in Jamaica.

This proximity to the tropical environment came through as three of Fleming’s thirteen James Bond novels, “Live and Let Die”, “Doctor No” and “The Man with the Golden Gun” have Jamaican settings.

Some of Ian Fleming's books. Photo R. Anderson

Some of Ian Fleming’s books.
Photo R. Anderson

Other beaches would follow in the films after Dr. No‘s Jamaican holiday. In no particular order are several memorable beaches of bond. Khao Phing Kan, Thailand in The Man With the Golden Gun, Holywell Bay, Cornwall, England, in Die Another Day, Praia do Guincho, near Cascais, Portugal, from On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, and One and Only Ocean Club, Bahamas from Casino Royale.

While the movies allowed the viewer to see the beaches the books allowed one to picture the beaches in their mind as they read along. Arguments can be made either way regarding which is better as the debate over books versus films has raged on for decades if not longer.

For me I tend to prefer picturing things in my mind first and seeing them second. But few can argue that the beaches of the films are truly spectacular and add to the visual story that is trying to be told.

And back to that first beach from Dr. No; you know the one that started it all. It has of course been renamed James Bond Beach. No word on whether the sand is best shaken or stirred when it gets stuck in one’s swim trunks.

Now if you’ll excuse me I think it is time to update the passport and fly out to see some of these beaches in person.

Copyright 2015 R. Anderson

Triple B Flashback: The Little Train Museum That Could

Editor’s Note:  For the remainder of June we will be counting down our 10 favorite columns as we celebrate summer vacation. Coming in at number 7 on our countdown is a column from July 29, 2013.

I suppose if we are really honest with ourselves, all of us at one time or another have been fascinated by trains.

Of course, that fascination tends to turn to cursing when one is running late to work while stuck at a railroad crossing watching a slow moving hundred plus car train lumber by at a speed slower than most people can walk. But for the most part, there is a little train engineer in all of us if we really stop to think about it.

One of the steam powered locomotives on display at the Galveston Railroad Museum. Exhibits cover all eras of train travel. Photo R. Anderson

One of the steam powered locomotives on display at the Galveston Railroad Museum. Exhibits cover all eras of train travel.
Photo R. Anderson

While some people dream of riding the rails like a hobo without a care in the world, others tend to picture themselves as a suave international super spy crisscrossing the globe by rail one shaken, not stirred vodka martini at a time.

This past weekend I took my inner train engineer to the Galveston Railroad Museum.

I had wanted to go to the museum for years but just never seemed to find the time and then a Hurricane named Ike flooded the museum with nine feet of water leading to a lengthy closure and repair process that made going to the museum impossible.

So with Ike a distant memory, and the museum reopened it was finally time to make the trip down to Galveston to see the museum and all of its railroad themed splendor.

One of the newest exhibitis at the Galveston Railroad Museum is a pair of locomotives painted in the colors of Santa Fe rail lines. Photo R. Anderson

One of the newest exhibits at the Galveston Railroad Museum is a pair of locomotives painted in the colors of Santa Fe rail lines.
Photo R. Anderson

My first experience with a train museum was the B&O Railroad Museum in Baltimore, MD which is on the register of historic places and is considered by many to be the quintessential train museum in the country.

I have also taken several “tourist” train rides in multiple countries so I knew a thing or two about trains heading to the museum.

I also enjoy when old train stations are re-purposed into modern uses while maintaining a bit of the history of the railroad past. Examples of this I enjoy are Minute Maid Park which is housed in Houston’s old Union Station and still maintains a bit of train culture with the presence of a locomotive above the outfield and the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Downtown Indianapolis’ Union Station that includes Pullman train cars that were converted into guest rooms.

So I knew that the museum would have a tall order to fill in order to grab my attention when compared to my previous railway history.

I can definitely say that the Galveston Railroad Museum did not disappoint and will probably be a regular stop of mine as they continue to bring exhibits back to life following the damage done by Ike.

Several of the train cars at the Galveston Railroad Museum still have signs of being under nine feet of water during Hurricane Ike. Photo R. Anderson

Several of the train cars at the Galveston Railroad Museum still have signs of being under nine feet of water during Hurricane Ike.
Photo R. Anderson

With an admission price of $7 for adults plus an optional $4 for a short train ride along the cruise terminal area, one would be hard pressed to find a better bargain on the museum circuit.

Housed in the former Galveston Train Depot the museum features trains from steam power to diesel power and all manners of locomotion in between.

There are examples of dining cars, mail cars, sleeper cars, box cars, etc. There is even a room with a model train set as well as a room dedicated to china and silverware from dining cars through the ages.

And while not all of the cars have been restored yet several were open for a closer hands on inspection.

A ride along Harborside Drive on a transfer caboose can make anyone feel like the railway version of the "king of the world". Photo R. Anderson

A ride along Harborside Drive on a transfer caboose can make anyone feel like the railway version of the “king of the world”.
Photo R. Anderson

Walking through some of the cars gave me a complete out of Bond experience where I felt like I was inside one of Ian Fleming’s novels.

There was also a certain Murder on the Orient Express feel as examples of the way train travel used to be propelled me back to that era in time.

Or at least what I think the era was like since I was not alive during the golden age of railroads.

But the train cars were definitely as I had pictured them to be although on a hot and humid Texas afternoon some pumped in air conditioning in the cars definitely would have been nice.

The interior of a mail car at the Galveston Railroad Museum. Photo R. Anderson

The interior of a mail car at the Galveston Railroad Museum.
Photo R. Anderson

And one cannot really speak about railroads without thinking of all of those people who toiled to build the Transcontinental Railroad and open up the country from coast to coast.

While planes soon replaced trains as the way to get from coast to coast one can’t help but feel some nostalgia for a cross country train ride.

Traveling from one end of the country to the other on a train is certainly on my to do list. Of course odds are it will be a one-way trip since I am sure I will have had my fill of the motion of the train swaying back and forth after a week on the rails.

The lobby of the old Galveston Train Depot includes several "ghosts of riders past" in various examples of the hustle and bustle that train travel once had. Photo R. Anderson

The lobby of the old Galveston Train Depot includes several “ghosts of riders past” in various examples of the hustle and bustle that train travel once had.
Photo R. Anderson

The last passenger train left Galveston in 1967 and while there are rumblings now and then about returning a Houston to Galveston rail line they seem to be far from reality at the moment.

Most of the trains that run through now are hauling freight from the ports and the refineries and not people.

And they are also the trains that like to stop along the way to load and unload their cargo while blocking many a railroad crossing in the process.

Light rail and bullet trains are the current buzz words and there is plenty of Federal funding being thrown around to connect cities by rail as a means to free up congestion on the highways.

It seems fitting to have a picture of a caboose at the end of a column about trains since they once marked the end of the train. Photo R. Anderson

It seems fitting to have a picture of a caboose at the end of a column about trains since they once marked the end of the train.
Photo R. Anderson

Unfortunately while the concept of train travel in the northeast is part of the daily vocabulary other regions seem hesitant to give up the freedom that comes from driving their own cars and clogging up those aforementioned highways.

So for now the dream of commuting by rail will remain just that until a time comes where trains become as popular as cars and other means of traveling from home to work and back again.

But for those who want to see what a commuter train system might look like they need only travel to the Galveston Railroad Museum and take a look at the trains and “ghosts of passengers past” exhibits to see what was, and what could be again.

Now if you’ll excuse me, as the late Johnny Cash would say “I hear the train a comin.”

Copyright 2013 R. Anderson

Triple B Flashback: Paging Mr. Willis

Editor’s Note:  For the remainder of June we will be counting down our 10 favorite columns as we celebrate summer vacation. Coming in at number 8 on our countdown is a column from April 22, 2013.

A few weeks back the Presidential budget was released.

This is a mostly symbolic gesture as the initial budget release is rarely the same as the budget that is agreed to and approved by Congress.

The Space Shuttle Launch Pad being torn down to make room for future vehicles that may land on an asteroid. Photo R. Anderson

The Space Shuttle Launch Pad being torn down to make room for future vehicles that may land on an asteroid.
Photo R. Anderson

While I did not have the time to read the budget in its entirety, one particular item caught my attention, and not in a good way.

Under the budget portion for NASA a plan to “lasso” an asteroid and bring it closer to earth was presented as a goal to be completed by 2025.

The justification for the asteroid lassoing mission being that it will provide a good opportunity to study asteroids up close and help guide future manned missions beyond low earth orbit.

Now, let me stop for a minute and point out that I am a huge fan of the space program and believe that exploration of space is good. I have also had many family members who have worked on various space programs, so the issue of space exploration is near and dear to my heart.

Mission Control in Houston could some day talk to astronauts walking on an asteroid under the current budget. Photo R. Anderson

Mission Control in Houston could some day talk to astronauts walking on an asteroid under the current budget.
Photo R. Anderson

Still, with all that said, I really cannot get behind the goal to bring an asteroid closer to Earth for study.

After all, if movies with Bruce Willis as a oil-drilling roughneck, and Morgan Freeman as the President have taught me anything it is that asteroids being close to earth is almost always a bad thing.

In both Deep Impact and Armageddon the Earth was threatened by an asteroid and actions had to be taken as a result. In some way I am sure that the mission to the asteroid would be made to show options to divert the Earth killing rocks from attacking but still why would you bring a potentially earth damaging rock closer?

While some want asteroids to be the future the past included talking to men on the moon from this room. Photo R. Anderson

While some want asteroids to be the future the past included talking to men on the moon from this room.
Photo R. Anderson

Ok, so the “baby asteroid” that they want to study would not be big enough to destroy the earth but it could certainly cause havoc in other ways that would need to be fully understood before such a mission could occur.

Also, in the words of the late George Hamilton, “it’s going to take a whole lot of spending money to do it right.”

Of course if history of funding the space program is any indication, the asteroid mission and related vision could very well be changed or scrapped altogether by the next President’s administration.

At the height of the Apollo Program, and with three rockets left to launch, President Nixon decided funds would be better spent on the Space Shuttle Program. So we had Skylab circling waiting for a boost from the Space Shuttle that never came and the three Saturn V moon rockets left on Earth became museum pieces.

A head on view of the Saturn V engines that helped the Apollo astronauts reach the moon. Photo R. Anderson

A head on view of the Saturn V engines that helped the Apollo astronauts reach the moon.
Photo R. Anderson

Of course, having the full size rockets on the ground for people to see is not entirely bad. If you have never had the chance to stand next to the Saturn V rocket I highly recommend it as something like it will likely never be built again.

When one considers that the amount of computing strength to complete the moon missions was less than the equivalent of what is in most dollar store calculators today it makes the feat even more impressive.

And to you conspiracy theorists who still believe that we never went to the moon and it was all just an elaborate hoax on a Hollywood sound stage I say that it is time to remove the foil hat and face reality.

The Moon Landing locations. Photo R. Anderson

The Moon Landing locations.
Photo R. Anderson

So, the moon program beget the Space Shuttle Program which did many things while circling the earth. Satellites were launched, experiments were conducted and the International Space Station was built.

While the Space Shuttle accomplished many wonderful achievements, there was also a dark side to the Program with the loss of 14 astronauts. Seven died during launch on Challenger and seven more were killed upon reentry of Columbia.

It was after the loss of Columbia that President George W. Bush decided to cancel the Shuttle Program in favor of the Orion Project which would return to a Apollo like capsule design and return man to the moon by 2017.

In an odd coincidence, much like with the retirement of Apollo there were three remaining launch vehicles that became museum pieces. While technically there would be four if one counts Enterprise I am merely counting the flown vehicles for the purpose of the analogy.

Space Shuttle Discovery on the launch pad. Photo R. Anderson

Space Shuttle Discovery on the launch pad.
Photo R. Anderson

I have had the opportunity to stand under the Space Shuttle and will also suggest that anyone who has the chance do the same in order to fully grasp the scale of the vehicles that flew so many missions over their 30 years in service.

Unfortunately a funny thing happened on the way to the moon and the Shuttle’s trip to museum life. President Obama decided to cancel the lunar program and set sites on commercial delivery of crew and cargo to the space station and the recently unveiled asteroid mission.

In the meantime with the Shuttle retired, the once great United States Space Program has to depend on rides that it purchase from Russia to get their crew up to the International Space Station.

I get that some people think we have already gone to the moon so why go back when there is more to discover else where in space but for me I don’t think we even scratched the surface of what the moon can teach us.

Space Shuttle Endeavour en route to retirement in California. Photo R. Anderson

Space Shuttle Endeavour en route to retirement in California.
Photo R. Anderson

Of course I am also of the generation that thought we would have flying cars, moon bases and kelp farms under the oceans by now. And where is my personnel jet pack?

So maybe the asteroid mission is supposed to inspire another generation of scientists to explore new worlds and new areas in space. I just think there are better ways to do that.

And if the asteroids do come and someone that looks like Bruce Willis is having to stay behind to save us all, I will definitely not watch as he says goodbye to his daughter. I still cannot watch that scene in Armageddon without getting a little watery eyed. It is amazing how the dust bunnies know to attack my eyes at just that moment.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to call and see if the place that I got my robot attack insurance carries asteroid insurance as well.

Copyright 2013 R. Anderson

Remembering the Sacrifices this Memorial Day

One of my favorite quotes is, “Those who fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it” by Winston Churchill.

There are variations of this quote that have been attributed to many other people through the years, but they all share the common thread that we are to remember and learn from the past.

To this end we set up memorials as a tool to help us remember, lest we forget and be doomed to make the same mistakes again and again.

The Battle of Galveston is reenacted yearly. The Civil War led to what would become Memorial Day. Photo R. Anderson

The Battle of Galveston is reenacted yearly. The Civil War led to what would become Memorial Day.
Photo R. Anderson

In Washington D.C. for example there are over 130 memorials honoring everything from the founding fathers, to fallen soldiers to help ensure that the sacrifices of those who have come before us are always remembered.

While the concentration of memorials in D.C. works out to roughly one memorial every two miles, there are memorials spread throughout the world honoring sacrifice of all shapes and sizes.

In fact, today is Memorial Day which is a Federal Holiday that we set aside for memorials and remembrance each year on the final Monday of May.

It is a day of remembrance and a time to honor the men and women who died while serving in the United States Armed Forces.

Formerly known as Decoration Day, it originated after the United States Civil War to honor soldiers on both sides of the Mason-Dixon Line who lost their lives in battle.

Memorial Day is a time to honor those who fought and died for our freedom. Photo R. Anderson

Memorial Day is a time to honor those who fought and died for our freedom.
Photo R. Anderson

Memorial Day was expanded in the last century to honor all Americans who have died while in the military service.

While dating back to the war between the states, in recent years Memorial Day has also marked the start of the summer vacation season with Labor Day acting as the second bookend in September to signal the end of the summer season.

Over the course of the past weekend families traveled all over to enjoy time in the sun and surf as they officially left winter behind and embraced the feeling of summer.

As part of the holiday weekend, numerous television networks used the time to air marathons of their most popular shows to capture the attention of those viewers who were not out in the sun catching waves or barbecuing as their way of celebrating the weekend.

Major League Baseball honored those who paid the ultimate sacrifice by wearing camouflage on their hats and uniforms during their games today.

Large flags and camouflage hats mark Memorial Day across Major League Baseball each year. Photo R. Anderson

Large flags and camouflage hats mark Memorial Day across Major League Baseball each year.
Photo R. Anderson

For those people who do not want to celebrate the weekend at the beach or Ballpark, Memorial Day weekend also features three of the biggest auto races on the yearly calendar in the forms of the Grand Prix of Monaco, Indianapolis 500, and the soda company sponsored 600 mile NASCAR race in Charlotte.

Of course, not every Memorial Day tribute includes direct commercial time-ins.

Juan Pablo Montoya kicked off Memorial Day with a win in the 99th running of the Indianapolis 500. Photo R. Anderson

Juan Pablo Montoya kicked off Memorial Day eve with a win in the 99th running of the Indianapolis 500.
Photo R. Anderson

There is one Memorial Day tradition that still tends to get me choked up and seems to honor the fallen in the way the holiday was intended if not with a bit of a 21st Century feel.

I am referring to the Memorial Day Weekend NASCAR race. Each year the pre-race show includes a strong military presence, bagpipers, and Taps being played.

NASCAR is arguably the most commercialized of the major American sports with advertisements seeming to cover every spare square inch of both driver and car. But, when it comes to pausing to honor the troops they tend to get it right year after year.

NASCAR has a long history of supporting the troops and offers a stirring tribute before its annual Memorial Day Race. Photo R. Anderson

NASCAR has a long history of supporting the troops and offers a stirring tribute before its annual Memorial Day Race.
Photo R. Anderson

It is hard not to feel the sacrifice that was being made when watching the pre-race ceremony and hearing those bag pipes and lone bugle mournfully wail.

Of course the part where they roll out the extremely large American flag, a staple of most sporting events these days, is another nice touch.

Americans owe their freedom to the sacrifice made by countless soldiers and I am glad that we have holidays, and pre-race ceremonies where we can be reminded of that.

Unfortunately, I fear that in the coming years the commercial aspects of holidays like Memorial Day will overtake the true meanings behind them.

Instead of being a time where Americans all pause to remember the sacrifices made by those that came before them, I fear that the holiday will complete its transformation into a holiday where travelers merely focus on the cars before them as they rush to their weekend getaways, or catch up on those projects that the extra day off from work allows them to finally tackle.

So while you are enjoying that extra day off of work, or grilling some meat on the grill, or even grilling your flesh on the sand today, take some time to think of the sacrifice of the fallen soldiers.

It is often said that freedom isn’t free and that it comes at a great cost. Days like Memorial Day allow us to remember that cost and appreciate the freedom a little more.

If you happen to come across a member of the Armed Forces today in your travels to and from the beach or that store with the huge sale on mattresses take a moment to tell them thanks for doing their part to keep us free to enjoy those sandy shores and have the means to purchase that mattress with 90 days same as cash financing.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have the urge to cook something on an open flame and see if I can find a solider to thank for my right to make that burger extra crispy.

Copyright 2015 R. Anderson

Some Ticket Stub Collectors are Buying Memories

Last week I mentioned that I wanted to dig up my ticket stub from the 1984 Citrus Bowl that I attended with my mother, grandmother and cousin.

I have pretty much every ticket stub from every sporting event I have ever attended, so I knew that if I dug deep enough I would most likely find it.

Sure enough in the wee hours of the morning Saturday I found the long lost ticket stub and a few others in a shoe box under my bed.

In 1984 endzone seats for the Florida Citrus Bowl went for $18. They have gotten much more expensive in the 30 years since. Photo R. Anderson

In 1984 end zone seats for the Florida Citrus Bowl went for $18. They have gotten much more expensive in the 30 years since.
Photo R. Anderson

As luck would have it, the shoe box was not the first place I looked for the ticket stub. I searched countless plastic totes in my quest to unearth the 30-year-old relic.

And while it took several days to find the ticket stub, and while I probably should have checked under the bed first, I did discover many other lost treasures which made the entire search quite successful.

Of course the main find, and the entire motivation for the search, was the 1984 Citrus Bowl ticket.

Some fun facts about that particular ticket stub is that an end zone seat at the1984 Citrus Bowl was only $18. I doubt that one could even get parking at a bowl game nowadays for $18 let alone a ticket to the game.

By comparison the cheapest ticket to attend the 2014 version of the Citrus Bowl was $45 and went up and up from there. Tickets for the National Championship game this year are averaging around $1700.

Economists will say that with inflation and other factors the $18 back then is comparable to today’s prices but something tells me it is still more expensive to attend a bowl game today than it was back then based on the epic growth that college football has gone through the past three decades.

While I was certainly pleased that I was able to find the ticket stub, thanks to the world of EBay and ticket stub collectors, I could have saved myself the trouble of digging through all of those plastic totes and just purchased a ticket from the game.

I never once considered the idea of purchasing a ticket online and quite frankly am surprised that there is a market for such things.

Each of the ticket stubs in my collection are attached to a memory of a game I attended as opposed to something I bought online. This particular ticket stub is from the game where I met Earl Weaver who I had looked up to for many years. Photo R. Anderson

Each of the ticket stubs in my collection are attached to a memory of a game I attended as opposed to something I bought online. This particular ticket stub is from the game where I met Earl Weaver who I had looked up to for many years.
Photo R. Anderson

As mentioned before there are three items that I try to get as a memento whenever I attend a game. Those items are a ticket stub, game program, and souvenir cup.

Each of these items are tangible extensions of my memories of attending the game and I collect them for my pleasure without worrying about what I can sell them for later.

Apparently though there is an entire industry based on selling programs, ticket stubs, and souvenir cups to anyone with an internet browser who is willing to pay the shipping and processing.

I get that if you lost a ticket stub for a game you attended as a youngster you may want to replace the item to help maintain a tangible piece to go with your memories of the game, but a larger segment appears to be buying ticket stubs for games that they did not attend.

Big sellers in the ticket stub business appear to be from marquee games.

Want to pretend you witnessed one of Nolan Ryan’s no hitters despite not even being born yet when the game took place? There is a ticket stub online for that.

A selection of Orlando Rays tickets are just some of the items in my collection. Photo R. Anderson

A selection of Orlando Rays tickets are just some of the items in my collection.
Photo R. Anderson

Want to add a Super Bowl ticket to your collection despite never setting foot in one? Click, click and it is yours.

Have you always wanted to pretend that you were there the night Kirk Gibson hit that big home run in the World Series? You know what to do.

Want to show your American pride by purchasing Olympic tickets from years gone by? You get the idea.

In this way people are purchasing other people’s memories since they did not go to the games that they are buying the ticket stubs from.

I suppose if someone wants to spend the money to own a ticket stub it is entirely their business, but in all of the years I have collected ticket stubs I have never once thought about trying to make a profit on them.

Every ticket stub in my collection is from a game that I physically attended. From professional football, baseball, hockey, basketball and various college sports, each ticket stub represents a seat that I occupied to witness that particular game with my own eyes.

Some of the ticket stubs are water logged reflecting that I battled through rain to see that particular game. Others are slightly bent from being stuffed in my pocket while I watched the game.

Each year for Spring Training I try to attend at least one Baltimore Orioles game. The tradition started in the mid 80's and has taken me to all sides of Florida. Photo R. Anderson

Each year for Spring Training I try to attend at least one Baltimore Orioles game. The tradition started in the mid 80’s and has taken me to all sides of Florida.
Photo R. Anderson

While I certainly do not need to own the ticket stub to prove that I was at the game, selling that ticket stub to someone else just seems like it would cheapen the experience and make me party to a fraud.

I certainly could be over thinking the whole buying and selling of ticket stubs, and may change my opinion at some future point, but for now the ticket stubs shall remain with their rightful owner.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have a lot of plastic totes to stuff back into my closet.

Copyright 2015 R. Anderson

 

New Year, Same Old Resolutions

Today marks the second day of 2015.

Today also marks the time when people drag out their New Year’s resolutions which for many are the same as last year’s resolutions.

The most popular resolutions year after year tend to revolve around weight loss based on the amount of commercials flooding the airwaves this time of year for gyms and diet programs.

Turn on almost any channel and the odds are pretty good that in any given commercial break a commercial of some sort of weight loss supplement, program or device will be on.

I revolved to get healthier this year which will likely be accomplished through weight loss the old fashioned way and will not be accompanied by any crash diets or expensive gym memberships.

More power to those people who will be partaking of the fad diets, but they are not for me.

Another popular resolution this time of year involves many people searching for better jobs.

The better job can be in the form of higher salaries or just increased happiness.

Having a job where one is paid well, challenged and appreciated is always a good thing to find so it is certainly a valiant resolution to find such a thing.

Of course having a job that one enjoys can go a long way as well.

Throughout my career I have been fortunate to have many jobs where it was a joy to go to work. In some cases this was because the people I worked with made the day more bearable and in other case it was the work that was a joy to complete.

These jobs allowed me to cover many memorable events and also helped me feel like I was part of a worthwhile cause that made a difference.

There have also been jobs that I have had that sucked the creative juices out of me and were a complete drag to go to. These jobs offered little more than a chair that spun and paychecks that cleared on time.

For all of those people in those mind numbing jobs, I wish them more fruitful career pursuits in the New Year and hope that they find a rewarding job where their talents are fully utilized.

The new year is also a time for many in the media to compose lists containing the best and worst fill in the blank of the previous year.

Over the past few weeks I have read lists of everything from the best television shows of the last year to the best plays in college football.

These lists are subjective and are 100 percent in the eye of the beholder, but it can be fun to see what people found amusing in the previous year.

For the record, I will not be compiling any year end wrap up lists of what I think was the best and worst from the past year.

Of course another tradition this time of the year is the inclusion of predictions for the year ahead.

This can come in many forms but often involves an “expert” weighing in on who they feel will be the best in a given sport during the coming year.

As I have mentioned before I do not really believe in predictions involving sports teams.

There are just too many factors that can affect the outcome of a game let alone a season so trying to predict what will happen really holds little weight in my book.

The College Football Championship Game will feature Oregon and Ohio State this year. While there were certainly some people who saw that coming at the start of the year I am sure the bulk of people figure it would be Alabama and Florida State. Despite a game that was not predicted by the majority of “experts” I feel that the stage is set for one of the more competitive finals in recent years.

In the world of baseball the consensus preseason favorites for the World Series were noticeably absent in October as many unexpected teams crashed the playoff party.

In both cases the games were entertaining despite defying the predications from the enlightened minds.

My resolution for the New Year would be for people to rely less on what the “experts” say will happen in a game and to spend more time watching the games and letting them unfold as they should.

After all, if all of the outcomes in life were predetermined life would truly be a boring thing to go through.

Instead of making resolutions that will come and go just make the most of each day and be the best person that you can be. If you can do that, the rest will fall into place without the need for crash diets of celery and grapefruit.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have some exercise to get to.

Copyright 2015 R. Anderson

 

College Football Playoff is Still not Perfect Solution

Last Monday, December 22, marked the 30th anniversary of the first college football game I ever attended.

The game was the Florida Citrus Bowl between the Georgia Bulldogs and the Florida State Seminoles.

Joining me for my first in person taste of gridiron glory from our seats among the “Zonies” on a warm 80 degree Orlando, Florida winter day were my mom, grandmother and cousin.

Thanks to the magic of the internet I was able to watch a grainy broadcast of the game yesterday to see if I could find any shots of my family in the stands. Sadly I did not.

With two family members rooting for each side, it was probably for the best that the game ended in a 17-17 tie so that each of us could feel like we won.

In 1984 my mother, grandmother, cousin and I watched the Georgia Bulldogs and Florida State Seminoles battle to a 17-17 tie in the Florida Citrus Bowl. Photo R. Anderson

In 1984 my mother, grandmother, cousin and I watched the Georgia Bulldogs and Florida State Seminoles battle to a 17-17 tie in the Florida Citrus Bowl.
Photo R. Anderson

I had the opportunity to attend many other games at the Citrus Bowl Stadium during my time as both a student and as a Sports Information Office intern at the University of Central Florida but 1984 marked my only trip to a bowl game.

While the UCF Knights no longer play at there, the Citrus Bowl will once again be filled with screaming fans tomorrow as the college football bowl season is in full swing.

There are 39 bowl games on the schedule this year from coast to coast.

Bowl games were even played beyond the continental United States in Hawaii and the Bahamas.

Plans call for even more games next year as cities and companies try to capitalize on the popularity of college football and bring the bowl experience to their cities.

Bowl games are profitable and allow schools who are “bowl eligible” to play one more game while the schools who did not make the cut get an early start on next year.

Bowl games also allow sports networks to sell lots and lots of commercials to pad their pockets before the lean months of the sporting calendar begin.

The Bowl system has changed dramatically since younger me saw his first game and this year offers college football’s version of a playoff where four teams were chosen to battle for the National Championship.

I know that we are all supposed to rally behind the playoff selection committee and say that a college playoff is good and just, but the fact remains that it still boils down to a subjective selection, if not a full blown popularity contest.

While not getting into details on the four chosen teams and whether or not they belong, the fact remains they were chosen by human beings instead of the way other sports select their playoff teams.

In every other professional sport, and let’s not kid ourselves by thinking that college football is not a professional sport, playoff teams are selected based on either winning your division or being a wild card team.

While this system in the NFL brought us a division winner with a losing record, everyone knows the rules going into it.

There is no room for debates on strength of schedule or other subjective factors. It is very cut and dry as to who is and is not in the playoffs.

It is likely that college football will never be able to remove all of the subjective nature of the playoffs based on the number of teams involved and other factors such as wanting teams from the power conferences to always be involved in the championship game.

The College Football Playoff system is not perfect and it never will be.

A March Madness type tournament where 64 basketball teams are whittled down to a single champion would likely not be feasible based on the number of days needed to recover after a football game, but I hold slightly more faith that a Final Four basketball Champion is more worthy than a football playoff champion.

So enjoy your bowl games and cheer on your alma mater but do not think that the four best schools in the country will always be represented in the playoffs.

That is not to say that it is time for the tin foil hat society to look for conspiracies and call Mulder and Scully to straighten things out. The Bowl Championship Series that preceded this year’s playoff format was equally flawed when it came to objectivity.

There is just too much room for error and too many cooks in the kitchen with agendas of their own for a football champion that all will agree on to be crowned.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I am off to see if I can find my ticket stub from the 1984 Citrus Bowl.

Copyright 2014 R. Anderson