Wednesday, August 31, 2005

A Man I Knew Died Today

A man I knew died today.

I was working late when the news came in. It was a heart attack at around noon. He was 57 years old, and just retired a month earlier.

He was a good man, who enjoyed life, people, and a good laugh.

When visiting him at his desk I was always amazed at his knowledge, and his outlook on life. He enjoyed reading, and seemed to know everything about history and religion. Because of this I often tried to coax him into joining my website so we could dive deep into discussions, but he was never much of a computer person.

On the day he retired he was given a large red rocking chair, and looked very at home sitting in it with a grin from ear to ear.

Although I have only known him for about three years, the news of his passing hit me like a 2x4 between the eyes. I liked him, enjoyed his company, and welcomed his manner as he spoke about life and living.

Someone was removed from life who really enjoyed it and there is no amount of pondering that can explain why. There is never any rhyme or reason when it comes to death. The man is gone, but his life will forever be remembered by those of us he has associated with.

The important thing is that this man was loved by many, and had touched more lives then I could explain here. I know that for the rest of my days I will always remember the brief time we had spent together locked in debate about life, the universe, and everything.

It was an honor to know this man, and to get to share in his wisdom if only for a short time. Would he have known of the impact he left in my life just from our acquaintance? Probably not, but then again, I believe it shows that how you live your life day to day can affect many people you would not even think of.

Go out into the world to work and play. Spend as much time with your family as you can, because each and every day is precious. More importantly, take a moment to remember those who have passed. Not to dwell on the sad times, but reflect on the good times. Think of them and smile. That is what they would want you to do.

A man I knew died today, and he will be missed.

Monday, August 29, 2005

Many A Winding Road

The path of life is narrow and always winding. There are so many different directions we can take, so many other paths to discover, but how do we know if we have chosen the correct one? Even though all around us we can see a large variety of places to go and things to see, our own individual path that we are traveling on remains, by its very nature, narrow.

We could turn in a new direction, perhaps following another path that looks more pleasing then one we left, but once heading down that road, we discover the path to be just as narrow in the new direction as the one we were previously heading.

Life is just a series of narrow paths, interconnecting at various crossroads so we have the opportunity to modify our own destiny. It would seem that we are forever locked into experiencing the world from the position on our chosen path. We can experience the things that are located on our path, but only watch others as they follow their chosen routes through life.

We envy professional athletes as they go for the gold, or win competition after competition in their chosen events. This is the path they have followed, but what others roads have they given up to follow their dream?

What of the medical professional who has dedicated their life to the healing of others. Many times this path has been so narrow that even a family cannot compete with the small space provided for the care of others.

Some people have jumped from path to path searching for the ultimate journey that will allow them to have everything they want. Eventually they discover that as they make the leap to the next path they have left a little of themselves behind. After each change in course their strength seems to diminish over time until they find themselves too tired to change directions and must then spend their remaining days always wondering what could have been.

What is the correct path for us?

Avoid path jumping, and stay focused on your destination. Search deep within yourself and choose the path that heads in the direction your feelings tell you to go. Your destination is where you see yourself in the future. It might be with a family, the head of your profession, or perhaps an astronaut heading to Mars.

Keep your destination firmly in your mind as you follow the path ahead. Once you know where you wish to go you will realize what direction you must take when you come to a crossroad. Resist the temptation to choose an easier path, or one that might take you someplace frivolous.

Destiny is not some mystical place that has been decided for you by whatever your belief structure may be. Destiny is the end of the journey you have chose for yourself, and where the path you are now traveling on will lead.

Do not choose a path that leads to your destruction, or one that is filled with questionable people or actions. Surround yourself with positive influences and people. Steer clear of people who are obviously on a path that will only lead them to grief and despair. Sometimes this means that you must cut the baggage loose or they will drag you down with them.

Individuals that are focused on the negatives in life can only cause you to struggle with your own ending. Break free from their dark force and once again strike out to find your destination. Place one foot in front of the other until you are moving at full speed away from the distraction. The way to help these lost souls is not to become mired in their misery, but to lead them by striking out away from them to a brighter path.

By traveling along a strong and positive path, and reaching out to the destination you have chosen, the negative people will be able to focus in on your positive energy, and use it as a lighthouse might guide a ship from destruction on a rocky reef. If they fail to follow your lead, then they are truly lost, or perhaps they may find another passing flow of energy to follow.

You cannot save people who do not wish to be saved, and you should not waste precious energy trying to do so.

This is not to say that you must be selfish, and snub those who are down and out. If you see another traveler along the side of your path in need, you can assist them without deviating from your end goal. Do not jump from your path onto another path in an attempt to reroute a person. This will only lead to you becoming ensnared onto a path that serves no purpose for you, and if you are not strong enough, there you will remain and eventually wondering where you went wrong.

See your destination, then strike out on the path of least resistance to your goal. Avoid anything that will cause you to change paths away from your destiny. Be a strong leader so that others may follow your example. Do not blindly follow others because it is inevitable that their path does not go to your destination. Never switch paths to help another. Help those who you may find along your path, but only for a short time so you do not become confused and loose your focus.

You control your own destiny, but can easily be lead astray. Life is too short to weave on and off your chosen path. Can you picture your destination? Don’t just remain here gawking, strike out toward your goal, and never look back.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Circle The Wagon

How many of you thought the days of battling Indians were in the past? I mean, for along time now we have been living in peace with Native-Americans, finally honoring them for being the first caretakers of the United States of America, and moving a long way from the old days when the white man and the Indian were fighting.

Apparently some Native-Americans aren’t willing to move forward and insist on living in the past and dredging up old issues.

The recent attack by the Indians has come in the form of being offended because some sports teams are named for Native-American tribes, or slang terms. Does this strike anyone else as being petty?

I was listening to a talk radio show the other day where a lady that was a guest was trying to explain how all Native-Americans are offended by these sports team names. She explained it was because of these stereotypes that the Native-American youngsters were having some sort of identity crisis.

It’s strange how the names of a sports team can throw the Native-American community into dire straights. It’s sort of along the lines of African-Americans complaining that all of the years of slavery have ruined them for life and so all of their problems stem from the historical treatment of their race.

This is all crap. If the name of sports teams are detrimental, then why aren’t white kids offended by the 49’ers, Cowboys, Steelers, Oilers, etc…? Many teams have chosen the names they have to represent honor, pride, spirit, strength, and courage. I would think that just the opposite of their complaint would be true. They should feel honored to have teams named after their heritage, not the other way around.

Removing Native-American names from our sports teams would be one step closer to removing their heritage from our lives forever. Why do this? Is this really what they want?

Native-Americans are a race of people who still teach their native customs, and seem to enjoy showing their customs to others and sharing their heritage. So why would they be embarrassed to have their strength acknowledged in the form of a team name?

Many of us Americans can trace our roots back to a Native-American bloodline. I personally am descended from the Apache line. You know what, instead of whining that the names of sports teams are holding me back, I joined the Air Force, got a Bachelor’s degree, retired from the Air Force, and now I am working on another career.

All Americans, even Native-Americans, are not limited to what the view from others may be. Our lives are what we choose to make them to be, and no amount of external influence can change us unless we allow it to.

Those of you living in the past need to get over it and stop trying to pin your troubles on some other source. Our sports teams have long traditions as well, and you know what, they need to remain in tact. The Indians, Braves, Redskins and yes, even the Seminoles are great teams with proud traditions of their own, and for someone to try and take this from them because of some ancient historical inferiority complex is ridiculous.

Here’s an idea, if you’re such a proud people who become offended easily from the name of a sports team, maybe you ought to stop building drinking and gambling establishments. Have you ever thought that these could be what are causing your young people to lose their pride and identity, and not the name of a football team?

Leave the team names alone, and for the teams who are planning on bowing to the pressure and changing the name of your team, you might as well just pick a name like the cowards, chickens, or sell-outs, because you no longer deserve to have the name that symbolizes strength.

Monday, August 22, 2005

Deep Dark

Many people that don’t scuba dive wonder what it is like. My standard answer is that it’s a blast, and I love it.

This is true if you stick to the diving that normal people do. Find a nice exotic location with warm clear water, jump in and enjoy the wonders of the ocean with all that it has to offer visually. It’s awesome to see colorful fish, large expanse of coral reefs, and other sea-life just waiting to be explored.

Then there is the type of diving I did the other night.

It wasn’t supposed to be a night dive, it was going to be merely a deep dive, but by the time we got out to the lake and found a deep hole to dive in, the sun had gone down.

This dive was a training exercise to fill a square for a deep dive. There were to be no pretty fish, no warm water, and not even girls laying around in bikini’s sunning themselves.

When you talk about going deep in many lakes, a few things always come to mind. It’s going to be cold, and it’s going to be dark. On this particular dive we were not disappointed.

All dives have a purpose, but most of the time the purpose is not as shallow as this deep dives purpose was. We were to basically just go deep so we could claim we had performed a deep training dive.

To be considered a “deep” dive, the goal is to go to a depth of at least 60 feet.

It took us a while to find a deep spot in this particular lake. In fact, in order to perform a deep dive in the county you need to work at finding a lake that has a deep enough hole to qualify. The line was let out to about 70 feet and it had a slate tied to the end so we could write our names on it to prove we were there.

My buddy and I checked over our gear then jumped into the quickly darkening surface of the lake to prepare for our decent. Bobbing on the surface I cleared my mask, and adjusted my hood back over my ears. I decided on using my thin hood since the thick hoods are so constricting, and it’s hard to hear through them at times.

Eventually we were both ready, so we began our decent into the blackness below.

The drop was uneventful as our lights were shinning on the yellow and orange rope, which was our path into the depths of this lake. As we continued down, the water temperature, as predicted, began to drop as well.

By the time we hit the bottom of the line at around 70 feet, the cold was intense. Let me try to describe what the temperature is like at that depth so you can fully appreciate how we felt at that moment.

If you have ever reached into an ice chest to get a drink, and had to root around in it for a while looking for your favorite beverage, you’ll start to get the idea what I mean by cold. Now picture this type of cold surrounding your head. Our bodies were pretty well protected, but it was evident immediately that I should have grabbed my thicker hood.

Once we hit the bottom of the line about the only thing I was thinking about is signing that dang slate so we could head back up to warmer water. I leveled my buoyancy off so I was no longer dropping, and grabbed the pencil to write my name. The exercise reminded me of the old game show where the mystery guest would sign in.

Looking around there was nothing. We were hanging in complete darkness, with only the comfort of our lights.

I’m glad I brought my light, and equally glad the batteries lasted for the entire dive. I had not been on a night dive for about a year and a half, and I wasn’t sure how long I had used the light when I had. My backup light, although it was checked and functional before we went down, was equally an unknown for the condition of its battery. Luck kept my main light burning throughout the dive,

Dropping below the point of the rope would have allowed us to go to about the 100 foot mark, according to the map we had, but that would have been an additional plunge into the darkness about 30 feet, for no reason.

When most people think of darkness, or nighttime, they think of being outside, or perhaps in their homes with the lights out. In those two situations, there is normally some form of light from small lights and other electrical equipment, to the brightness of the moon.

To get the same feeling we have on a night dive, especially at 70 feet, you need to close yourself into a dark room with absolutely zero light present. It’s the sort of darkness where no matter how close you hold your hand to your face, or how hard you strain to see it, you would see nothing.

By now I’m sure you understand the extreme cold and darkness we were feeling. These types of dives are not for the claustrophobic or folks who frighten easily. Yet do not think this is a typical dive. Scuba diving is still an awesome sport, and when performed in a normal environment, there is nothing like it in the world.

After signing the slate, I shone my light on it for my buddy to do his scribbling then signaled for us to begin the slower ascent back up the line. He agreed since I’m certain he was feeling just a cool as I was, and there was really nothing else to do at this depth with no visibility.

With our lights on our computers, and watching the rope out of the corner of our vision, we started the process of heading toward the surface.

The ascent seemed like it took forever as we inched our way along the rope. The water almost immediately warmed and we could feel the freezing tentacles of the depths losing its grip on us as if it did not have the strength to hold us down in its dark layer.

Once we hit the 25-foot mark we stopped for about 5 minutes as a safety stop. This precautionary measure allows the gases that have entered our bloodstream to slowly merge back into our tissues once again, and theoretically helps prevent the bends. I say theoretical because many factors such as health, weight, temperature, etc… can change how that entire process works. Even in cases where everything should have been perfect, divers have still got “bent”.

We continued followig the line toward the surface, because when it’s dark it’s easy to come up under the boat. A few feet from the surface I could see the bottom of the boat and ventured out away from it just a bit. The surface of the water broke above my head and I signaled to the boat crew that I was OK.

Although not one of the best dives I have done, it’s another one to add to my experience. One thing I have learned, and will hopefully remember, is that the next deep lake dive I do I will make sure I have on my thicker hood.

It’s time to clean the equipment, refill my air cylinder, and buy some fresh batteries for my lights. A backup break-and-shake light-stick will be added to my dive bag as well. All things considered, I’d rather do deep dives in Cancun, but unfortunately as a rescue diver, we have to be ready for any situation.

Friday, August 05, 2005

Flying Spaghetti Monster and a Galactic Chicken

My religious views are no secret here in the Handbasket, and when I read this article from fellow blogger Tsykoduk I was reminded how precarious life can be when it comes to knowledge and the influence our schools can have over our children.

During a similar discussion on scientific theories, I raised my own theory about the Galactic Chicken.

Brian, I loved your article comparing the various theories in relation to the computer programmed universe and our own. I was intrigued and nodding in complete agreement with the well thought out commentary until you through this in.

“I believe God made the Universe and set it in motion.”

What? Earlier in the article you said, “Furthermore, NO scientific theory can currently tell us how life came to be from non-life.” So what do you base your belief system on?

I think a scientist who believes in a supreme being is not a very objective scientist. (ducking the beaker tossed in my general direction)

I just don't understand any intellectual argument where a invisible deity is involved. What if I told you that I believe the Universe was spawned by a galactic chicken that, in a fit of extreme diarrhea, secreted the cosmos into being. This chicken now demanded gifts of grain annually after a good harvest to insure that next years harvest was bountiful as well. If next years harvest turns out to be bad, then we must have done something to displease the galactic chicken during the past year, and we must now spend 12 days wearing an outfit made from chicken feathers and come together in a pasture to worship him by flapping our arms up and down, scratching in the ground, and clucking?

Stupid you say? It has just as much bases in reality as does any theory involving a supreme invisible deity that is man made.

You're a scientist, prove me wrong.

The problem with teaching religious systems that are faith-based in schools is that there are thousands of them in the world. Should we teach them all or just the one you think is the correct version?

What would you do if your child came home and said they were teaching the ways of Wicca in science, and your little knowledge sucker showed you candles and crystals of various types wanting to demonstrate the spells they learned about in school that day?

If you're belief is any branch of Christianity you'd freak!

This is exactly what Christians are attempting to do by forcing schools to teach their religious beliefs in public schools. Does this make it any more right for them to do this then it would be for the Wiccans? No! So knock it off already.

I heard several years ago that some religions were actively trying to get people on school boards for the sole purpose of gaining the majority so they could push their agenda's. I don't care what your agenda is, this is wrong.

A school board needs to focus on other aspects of the learning process other then subversively attempting to mold rugrats into their own image. If this is something you think is acceptable to do I'd love for you to jump in our forums here and start a topic on this subject.

If you want your religion taught in school then I'm certain there is a private school you can send your children to, but keep your view out of the public school system.

If you're upset about my observations I have one thing to say, get over it!

Religion can be taught at home, in church (if your religion has a church), or wherever. There are many places for you to worship. This is the appropriate venue. If for some reason you are so insecure that you need to force the rest of us into your belief system then you need to seek therapy, not a position on a school board.

May the Flying Spaghetti Monster touch you with His noodly appendage, and the Galactic Chicken bless you with a bountiful harvest.