Veteran’s Day 2014

I served. 1966 to 1969. I spent a year in Vietnam. Today those who are closest to me have thanked me for my service. One even dared to suggest that I kept her safe.

To set the record straight, the Vietcong had no interest in attacking the United States of America. Neither did North Vietnam. Even Ho Chi Minh’s successors, a committee that included Defense Minister General Vo Nguyen Giap, had no interest in attacking the United States of America. I did nothing to keep anyone but myself safe. Regrettably over 58,000 (I still tear up at that number) American soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines were not as successful as I was. The goverment lied; too many died.

Few of us were heroes. Whether we were drafted or volunteered, we showed up, did what was expected, then went home. When we got “back to the world” we were at best ignored, and at worst spit upon. This wasn’t exactly the homecoming we expected. However, most of us got over our time “in country.” Some didn’t.

Now we have a new generation that has signed up to protect our country. Yes, a small band of criminals commandeered some airplanes and flew them into important buildings. Rather than go after those who financed and planned that attack, the sitting administration convinced a congress, and a nation, that invasion of and a multi-year war in a country that had nothing to do with the initial attack, was somehow responsible and deserving of shock and awe.

Here we go again. This time the hippies of the 70s who protested war in Vietnam believed the lies and turned into pro-Iraq war ideologues. The Bush administration lied about Weapons of Mass Destruction and connections to 9/11. The reasons for doing so can only be guessed, but oil, war profiteering and personal glory are high on the list. It hurts me to suggest that only 4,400 American service members perished in Iraq. That number would have been much higher except for the incredible advances in medical science since my war.

The other significant difference between then and now is how veterans of this recent conflict are treated upon their return. The most offensive, in my mind, is that those who did nothing more than show up are hailed as heroes.

I guess my point in all this is that those of us who served forty-some-odd years ago have been under appreciated and those who put on the uniform today are fêted beyond reason. Al Quaida shot its wad in 2001. Another attack approaching that scale is not going to happen anytime soon. Attending a war does not justify heroic status. Saving lives on the actual battlefield does.

I’m not bitter, but I expect perspective.

iMac Order

Jen didn’t need a lot of convincing; she’s perfectly fine allowing me to spend my own money. Ha! I was going to do it anyway; it’s just easier if she buys into the idea. So, I’ve ordered a fully “tricked-out” 27-inch iMac. It’s not the new retina version; I don’t really need a screen with 14.7 million pixels. A quarter of that will do fine.

For me, fully tricked out means I’m getting the upgraded i7 processor, a 512GB solid state drive, and a 4GB GPU. I’m skimping on RAM –- only 16GB. RAM is cheap and easily upgradable. If I eventually decide I’d be better served by 32GB of memory I can do it myself.

Managing Data

One of the faults of my mid-2011 MacBook Air is the 128GB solid state drive. If you haven’t paid much attention to computer technology the last several years you’ll think, “Fault? In what Universe is 128 gigs of data storage too small?”

The truth is 128 is a pittance with today’s Operating Systems and Applications that take up a significant chunk of storage even before Dropbox, music, photos, and a lifetime of files begin competing for space. A 512GB solid state drive will mean I won’t have to push regularly accessed data off to secondary drives. And it will be fast. Very fast. That makes me happy.

Speed

Another flaw in the MacBook Air is that the processor is the bottom of the line – the least capable Apple was putting into computers three years ago. The result has been I spend too much time waiting for the beachball to stop spinning, especially when I’m working with RAW photos. That brings up the other speed concern. A 4GB graphics card will probably never be taxed by my photos. Isn’t that the point?

From the old 30GB Video iPod (circa 2005) I still use, to an iPhone 4s that’s in my pocket right now, to the first generation iPad Mini on which I’m writing this, I’ve been an Apple minimalist. My MacBook Air is a marvelous machine if used at the level for which it was intended. Unfortunately for it, and me, high-volume photo editing and storage exceeds its capabilities. Now I have the opportunity to upgrade to a system that’s almost state of the art. I won’t say, “I deserve this.” But I have been getting good stuff done with nominal equipment. Now I have the opportunity to speed up my life.

I’m retired; every day is Saturday. I have no place to be unless I want to be there. Yet staring at a screen waiting for that beach ball to quit spinning is robbing me of precious minutes. I have photos that need to be catalogued and edited, and there are golf balls to be struck. If I have to sit around waiting for that damn beach ball to quit spinning, think how much retirement I’ll miss. There, that’s a tragedy.

Golf Lessons

In case I didn’t mention it, I broke a few bones in the last year. First there was a collar bone, then an elbow and a hand. Those messed up my entire summer. If I’d mentioned it, you’d also know the one activity I’m most passionate about is golf. I began the comeback from my injuries in mid-July, knowing I’d just have to live with the results of my endeavors as my recovery progressed.

The other thing you’d know, if you knew me, is that I’m competitive, but not with the friends with whom I play. No, I compete against the evil twins, the course Architect and the Greenskeeper. Those are the villians who have conspired to build then sculpt a golf course with the intent of sucking the life-blood out of my game. Melodrama, anyone?

I rate myself as having a pretty good mental game. I know what I’m capable of and I think a couple of shots ahead on each hole, but my biggest problem has always been my inability to consistently hit a ball that’s standing still. I know; it’s weird.

Despite being of an age where some would expect me to accept a declining skill set, I’ve decided to engage a golf professional who will see the goals I’ve set as valuable and who will view the process as a continuum extending to next spring and beyond rather than a lesson here, a lesson there with no continuity. That professional is Melissa.

Melissa played college golf, then got married and had a family. At some point she realized her dream of playing at the highest level still burned within. So, later in life than most in her profession, she decided to go for her dream. She hasn’t reached the top yet, but she has her Tour card. That’s where it begins. That also shows she has a personal understanding of my less-lofty dream.

With an entire winter, and opportunities to hit balls indoors when the weather doesn’t cooperate, we’re starting from scratch – the setup. I’m motivated enough to follow through. When Spring arrives I expect to be hitting good shots consistently.

I recently read a New York Times article about a research psychologist from Harvard University who has done landmark studies showing that if a chronologically older person is totally immersed in a scenario strongly resembling an earlier time in that person’s life, she will react as the person she was then, exhibiting mental and physical characteristics from a time when she was younger. The research has been replicated with similar results. For me, total immersion anywhere other than my life today is impossible, but there’s nothing saying I can’t mentally project a younger me when I have a golf club in my hands.

If I can do that, along with my new swing, I’ll slay those evil twins!