Current Events

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In 1980, the United States started a national clean-up program called Adopt-A-Highway. I’m sure we have all seen the signs along the highway, although these days we are so used to them, that it’s easy to miss them, if we aren’t paying attention. Littering was a big problem when I was growing up. I recall everyone tossing trash out the window, while driving down the highway. Then a man, by the name of James Evans, an engineer for the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT), saw debris flying out of a pickup truck bed. Litter cleanup by the city was expensive, so Evans sought the help of local groups to sponsor the cleaning of sections of the highway. In addition, the efforts of Billy Black, a TxDOT public information officer, led to quarterly cleanup cycles, volunteer safety training, the issuing of reflective vests and equipment, and the posting of adopt-a-highway signs.

Like any new idea, the Adopt-A-Highway program took a while to kick off. but in 1985, the Tyler Civitan Club became the first group to volunteer, adopting by two miles along US Route 69 just north of Loop 323 between Tyler and Interstate 20. It was the kick start the program needed. The program proved to be very successful and has since spread to 49 states, Puerto Rico, Canada, New Zealand, Australia, and Japan. Vermont has a similar program called “Green Up.”

Some states, such as Nevada, allow both Adopt-a-Highway and Sponsor-a-Highway programs. In both programs, an organization that contributes to the cleanup is allowed to post its name. That is where the similarity ends, however. While an adopting organization provides the volunteers who do the litter pickup, a sponsoring organization instead pays professional contractors to do the work. Safety concerns, make the latter more typical in highways with high traffic volumes.

There have been some controversies, such as when the KKK wanted to join. People were against it and some anger was stirred up. The Adopt-A-Highway program allows any organization to participate, which became a point of controversy when the Ku Klux Klan adopted a portion of Interstate 55 just south of St. Louis, Missouri. While legally the program had to uphold the groups’ rights to participate, public outcry and repeated destruction of its sign was a cause of concern. In November 2000, the section of highway was designated as the Rosa Parks Freeway after the famous civil rights figure. It was then that the problem began to work itself out. The KKK sponsorship was later dropped from the program for the group’s failure to fulfill its obligations, and the Missouri Department of Transportation adopted specific criteria to prohibit hate groups from future participation. However, the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that any attempt to bar the Klan from participation in the Adopt-a-Highway program on the basis of the group’s purpose is a violation of the First Amendment. The Supreme Court declined to hear the case, so the ruling stood.

In January 2005, the American Nazi Party adopted a stretch of the rural Sunnyview Road NE outside Salem, Oregon. Two signs were put up along the road that bore the names of the American Nazi Party and NSM. The signs, which cost $500 and were almost immediately subject to vandalism, have since been removed. The American Nazi Party’s chair, Rocky J. Suhayda, claimed to have no association with the Adopt a Highway program. In 2009, the state of Missouri renamed a section of highway after Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel, because it had been adopted by a neo-Nazi group. Rabbi Heschel fled the Nazis’ advance in Europe and became a prominent theologian and civil rights advocate in the United States before his death in 1972. Rabbi Heschel’s daughter opposed this decision.

To me it seems that caring for the earth, and hate groups just don’t go together. I don’t understand why a law can’t be made, to stop hate groups from participation in this or anything else that is service oriented. I think that any group that joins to exploit the sensational aspect of things should be able to be banned, but that is my opinion. Economically, the program may be viewed as a way of getting around regulations prohibiting billboards next to a highway and on a per-view basis. Still, it is more economical than billboards.

These days there aren’t many people who haven’t heard of the Santa Ana winds, the California wildfires, or this year, the burning of Australia. We hear all about how global warming is the cause of the tragic fires and loss of both vegetation and life, human and animal. I agree with the analogy that the fires in Australia are horrific, but the cause…well, that has been determined to be, not global warming, draught, or lightning, but rather arson…ARSON!! Disgusting just isn’t a big enough word for what that is.

I can’t imagine why anyone would choose to burn something…anything. You can call it a sickness, and maybe it is, but that cannot be an excuse. If we allow such an excuse, more and more people will use it, take out their frustrations on things around them, and then expect to be excused because they are “sick.” At this point, firefighters are battling wildfires across Australia. Meanwhile, the police in New South Wales have arrested dozens of people for offenses related to fires, including 24 for deliberately lighting fires and three for looting fire-ravaged communities. There is also a story saying that 183 to 200 people are suspected of “fire-related offenses since November 8th, including for ‘allegedly discarding a lighted cigarette or match on land,’ but no verification as to the exact charges being lodged.

It is sad that the most common motive for wildfire arson is crime concealment. Fires are set for the purpose of covering up a murder or burglary or to eliminate evidence left at a crime scene. Fires have also been known to be set to further social, political, or religious causes. The fire set to cover up a crime, while horrific, is at least explainable, but fires set for political, social, or religious reasons is completely disgusting. There is just no excuse for the loss of homes businesses, and lives, human and animal, that could excuse such destruction. One fire, set to cover up a crime is reasonable, though disgusting, but these are all over Australia. And while one person might be a “sick” arsonist, to find 24 to 200 “sick” arsonists, is not even possible. The other thought that makes me so mad I could scream, is that even if this is socially, politically, or religiously motivated, what is the point? What are they trying to prove? All I can say is, that I hope they find the people who did this and that they give them the maximum sentence possible. I don’t know Australian law, so I don’t know if they have the death penalty or not, but I think these people should get it, if they do. And if not, solitary confinement for the rest of their lives might…just might, be punishment enough, but I really doubt it.

In a time of national turmoil, it has become trendy to disrespect the flag of the United States. It is all done supposedly to protest things like racism or police brutality, but in reality, the flag, and our allegiance to it and our nation have nothing to do with those causes. I agree with the rights of citizens to carry on a peaceful protest, but I don’t agree with this way of doing it…or burning our flag. Some people will not like this view of things, but I wonder why the flag is chosen as the avenue for these protests. These protesters don’t want to leave this nation. They know it would be crazy to do so, because they would never have the same kinds of freedoms they have here, especially the right to protest. That is fine, but they use flag is a means to grab attention, and that is where I disagree. A protest can be held, while still remaining in solidarity as a nation. People will listen when the nation is not disrespected.

On December 28, 1945, the US Congress officially recognized the Pledge of Allegiance to the Flag. At that time they also gave instructions as to how the pledge should be performed. They stated that The Pledge of Allegiance to the Flag should be rendered by standing at attention facing the flag with the right hand over the heart. The statement of the pledge was specific, “I pledge allegiance to the Flag of the United States of America, and to the Republic for which it stands, one Nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.” The pledge is a statement of a people who are proud to be Americans. I know that these days, there are those who are not “proud to be Americans,” and to that I say, “Then leave!!” Our citizens are not prisoners here. They are free to travel…free to leave, so if you don’t love this nation, then go.

I realize that while the people using our flag and our pledge don’t want to leave, they just want to disrespect it. Oddly, many of them would disagree with that statement, but to use the flag and the pledge as part of a protest is, in my opinion, disrespectful to our nation. There are many other ways to protest, and if these people want the support of the nation for their protest, they need to understand that disrespecting the nation that the people love, will not get the backing of the masses. The people are so angry about the disrespecting of the flag, pledge, and nation, that they don’t even listen to the “meat” of the protest. The avenue they have chosen completely defeats the purpose of the protest.

We, the people of the Unites States of America must turn back to allegiance to this nation that was created “under God” and find another avenue in which to protest the things about it, of which we disapprove. Change can happen, but we must put the masses on our side to affect change, not turn them against us and the things we protest. On this day, the 74th anniversary of the day when we first recognized our Pledge of Allegiance, I ask those who would protest, to turn from using the flag and pledge as an avenue to a protest, and use methods of honor and not dishonor.

With the arrival of the 50th anniversary of the landing on the moon, on July 20, 2019, many people have been reviewing old footage and books about the event. I came across a book that caught my eye on Audible. The book, The Man Who Knew The Way To The Moon, by Todd Zwillich wasn’t exactly about the moon landing, but rather how it became possible.  The book begins with Russia beating the United States to the punch when they sent a man Yuri Alekseyevich Gagarin, into space on April 12, 1961. As short as the flight was…just 89 minutes…it was still an embarrassment to the United States who felt they should have been first.

In answer to the Soviet space flight, President Kennedy challenged NASA to put a man on the moon before the end of the decade. NASA sort of panicked. Yes, they had been thinking about a moon landing…and some remote point down the road, but they were nowhere near ready to go them by the end of the decade. Nevertheless, they began to explore ideas to make it happen. One of those people who had been considering a way to make the landing possible. By this time, no one doubted the ability to go into space, and to safely return to earth. Landing on the moon was a different story.

The widely accepted method of landing on the moon was to have the original rocket back onto the moon, carrying enough fuel to take off again and return to Earth. A man named John Houbolt thought that was…well, simply impossible. Now, I’m no aeronautical engineer, like Houbolt was, and maybe I have the advantage of knowing about the past space exploration victories, but when I think about three astronauts backing a 90 foot high, fully fueled rocket onto the moon…all I can say is, “That’s ludicrous!!” People often say that an idea doesn’t take a rocket scientist, and it this case, maybe it shouldn’t be a rocket scientist, but rather an aeronautical engineer.

John Houbolt, kept saying and trying to be heard, that it wouldn’t work, but he had a plan that would…Lunar Orbit Rendezvous or LOR. In Houbolt’s design, a smaller lunar module would land on the moon while the command module waited above. Then the Lunar module would take of and dock with the command module for the trip back to Earth. It is the way we know did work, because we have the advantage of time, but the scientists and engineers at NASA would not listen. One man, Max Faget, an immigrant from British Honduras, who designed the Mercury module, actually stood up at a meeting where Houbolt was presenting his idea, and yelled at the group, saying, “His figures lie! He doesn’t know what he’s talking about!” Houbolt was horribly humiliated, and he never forgot the incident. He didn’t let it stop him either. In the end, as Faget spent many hours trying desperately to make his own figures work, so that a rocket could back onto the moon, he finally had to admit defeat. He called John Houbolt, and conceded the lunar landing design to Houbolt’s design, which was, as we all know, completely successful, because after all, his figures did not lie, and he did know what he was talking about. It was a great moment in history, and in Houbolt’s life, except for the fact that no one knew that the successful landing was his design. While the Lunar landing, 50 years ago was an amazing accomplishment, I find it quite sad that it took so many years for the world to know about how one man’s refusal to give up, actually made Lunar landing possible. We owe John Houbolt a great debt of gratitude, and it is more than 50 years overdue. Now that’s ludicrous!!

Every year, my husband, Bob Schulenberg and I spend a week around the Fourth of July hiking in the Black Hills. We have been coming to the Black Hills for about 30 years, and it never gets old. I suppose it might if all we did was the normal touristy things, but when you get back in the wilderness areas of the Black Hills, it really is a whole different world, and it’s ever changing, especially when there is a heavy fire year. Unfortunately, this year seems to have been a fire year, at least in the Wildlife Loop of Custer State Park. The fire started on December 11, 2017, and while the cause of the Legion Lake Fire officially remains under investigation, it is believed to have been a downed power line that sparked the blaze. The wildfire shut down Custer State Park that Monday, and burned an estimated 54,000 acres. It was believed to have started about 7:30 that morning.

The winds didn’t help matters either, gusting to 50 miles per hour. The fire moved along the Centennial Trail toward Star Academy East Campus ad Badger Hole. By Monday afternoon the head of the fire had crossed Heddy Draw and spread to both sides of Barnes Canyon Road. the ponderosa pines in the area were burned to the crown. It was so strange to see the green tops of the trees above the burnt orange lower sections of the trees and the blackened trunks.

Most of the wildlife fared well. The 860 bison that call the park home were left unscathed, but three of the park’s beloved begging burros had to be euthanized after the blaze. That is probably the saddest part of this for me, because we love the burros. They are gentle enough to eat out of your hand, and the love the attention everyone gives them. A few more of the burros still face an unknown fate due to the burns they received. The smell of a campfire that burned too long hung in the dry western South Dakota air for a long time. While we couldn’t smell the scorched trees any more, the scars were still visible everywhere.

34096_1324342636193_275594_naMy brother-in-law, Chris Hadlock has had a long and successful career in law enforcement. As a young married man, Chris was working in sales, which as most of us know, is a career that some like and some don’t. Chris was good at it, but the career was not a fulfilling one for him. While they were living in Fort Morgan, Colorado, Chris told my sister, Allyn that he really wasn’t happy doing what he was doing, and simply couldn’t see himself doing it for a long term career. She asked him what he thought he wanted to do, and he told her that while he didn’t think he could be a doctor, he wanted a career in which he could help people. He wanted to be a police officer. I think that prospect really scared my sister at first, and after going on a few ride alongs with my brother-in-law, in which it looked like he might have to pull his gun on someone, I can understand why that could bother my sister. Nevertheless, my brother-in-law was a very capable patrol officer, and with his tall 6’4″ stature, the perpetrators seldom felt inclined to try to go up against him. While some of the shorter officers had to struggle to apprehend a perpetrator, Chris would walk up, and the guy would take one look at him and surrender.

Of course, his height was not the only reason that Chris had no trouble apprehending a suspect, however. He imagehas a very calming nature. Whether he is doing police work, or just calming jangled nerves in a stressful situation, Chris has the unique ability to de-escalate a situation. He has done so on many occasions, both in and out of police work. One occasion I specifically recall was when he went to arrest a man, and when the man opened the door to Chris’ knock, and saw that it was a cop, he tried to shut the door again. Chris simply stuck his Billy Club in the door, and calmly said, you don’t want to do this. The man calmed down, and agreed to go with Chris. He then asked if he could make a phone call first, and because he was cooperative, Chris allowed it, knowing that he would also be allowed a second phone call at the jail. He didn’t have to allow the man to do that, but the arrest went very smoothly and I believe that the main reason is because Chris worked with the man and kept him calm. I also had the opportunity to see police officers who wouldn’t work with a perpetrator, and the whole situation blew up. It’s all in how the officer handles the situation.

imageThese days, with so much turmoil surrounding our police officers, much of which is not their fault, and yet any arrests are looked at as Police Brutality, my brother-in-law is a police officer who brings peace, a sense of calm, and yet justice. Chris has advanced in his career from a Deputy Sheriff, to a City Patrolman, a Sergeant, and now a Lieutenant over the detectives. He has been a training officer, and a hiring officer, and now he is spending several weeks out of this summer a “Leadership in Policing” class. Chris has been an asset to both of the departments he has served in. He is a born leader and we are very proud of him. Today is Chris’ birthday. Happy birthday Chris!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

World Trade CenterWhen we think of the greatest changes the world has been through, many of us think of things like airplanes, automobiles, television, and cell phones. These great inventions were amazing, and they have changed the world as we know it, but there are other events that have had a far greater impact on the world as we know it than these great inventions. Those events were the wars our world has been involved in. I think that when a war ends, many people just want to forget it ever happened, but in reality, that will never happen. There are always lessons to be learned from war.

Wars are fought for many reasons, but often it is because one side has taken the rights of the other side away from them…such as the Civil War, which was fought over slavery. When it was over, the right to War on Terrorown people was gone. Those who would try to own slaves in the future would find that it was illegal. The Revolutionary War ended with the United States becoming a sovereign nation. Wars like World War I and II, were fought to end oppression, and of course, the War on Terrorism, to stop those who would try to control other nations and indeed, the world, through fear. I have to think that the War on Terrorism was one that had the greatest impact on the world.

Since the beginning of the War on Terrorism, much has changed in the area of national security. Our airports are required to scrutinize travelers much more carefully than before. What used to take an hour, now takes as much as two or three. Metal detectors have been installed at all federal buildings. Screening have become normal…the new normal. We don’t like it, but we can’t change it either. Like it or not, it is for our safety. Terrorists don’t care who they hurt, their entire goal of bringing fear on the nations, is all they War on Terrorismcare about. Because of those people, we have had to change the way we look at…everyone!!

Now, we are in the middle of a new kind of war. It is a type of war on terrorism, but the targets of the attacks are very different. They aren’t going after any particular type of building, a particular size of building, or even a particular country. Nevertheless, their motive is to bring fear and terror to everyone they come in contact with. They are after complete submission. Like it or not, these are wars that had to or have to be won. If they are not, many lives will be lost, and unfortunately many things have to change to win this war.

Lift Bridge at Minnesota Point, Duluth, MinnesotaBecause I was born in Superior, Wisconsin, located at the tip of Lake Superior, and across the bridge from Duluth, Minnesota, I am interested in all things that have to do with that area. My family moved to Casper, Wyoming when I was three, so I was not raised in that area, but somehow, it is in my blood. I will always have roots I can feel there. We still have a large number of family members there, and we continue to get to know them more and more due to a trip back there, and continued connections on Facebook. For that family we are very grateful, because they are all amazing.

As I said, I love the area around Lake Superior, and the shipping business that comes through there is an amazing thing to watch. In order for shipping to thrive on Lake Superior, they had to have a way to get the big oar boats and other large ships into the port. In 1892, a contest was held to find a solution for the transportation needs to go from Minnesota Point to the other side of the canal that was dug in 1871. a man named John Low Waddell came up with the winning design for a high rise vertical lift bridge. The city of Duluth was eager to build the bridge, but the War Department didn’t like the design, and so the project was cancelled before it started. It really was an unfortunate mistake.

IMG_3700Later, new plans were drawn up for a structure that would ferry people from one side to the other. This one was designed by Thomas McGilvray, a city engineer. That structure was finished in 1905. The gondola had a capacity of 60 tons and was able to carry 350 people, plus wagons, streetcars, and automobiles. The trip across took about a minutes and the ferry crossed once every five minutes, but as the population grew, the demand for a better way across grew too. They would have to rethink the situation, and amazingly, he firm finally commissioned with designing the new bridge was the descendant of Waddell’s company…the original design winner. The new design, which closely resembles the 1892 concept, is attributed to C.A.P. Turner. I guess they should have used that design in the first place, and it might have saved a lot of money.

Construction began in 1929. They knew that they had to be able to accommodate the tall ships that would pass through. In the new design, the roadway simply lifted in the middle, and after the ship went through it lowered IMG_3750again, becoming a bridge for cars. The design is amazing, and grabs the attention of thousands of people on a regular basis. The new bridge first lifted for a vessel on March 29, 1930. Raising the bridge to its full height of 135 feet takes about a minute. The bridge is raised approximately 5,000 times per year. The bridge span is about 390 feet. As ships pass, there is a customary horn blowing sequence that is copied back. The bridge’s “horn” is actually made up of two Westinghouse Airbrake locomotive horns. Long-short-long-short means to raise the bridge, and Long-short-short is a friendly salute. The onlookers love it, and the crews often wave as well. It is like a parade of ships on a daily basis, and probably the reason that the bridge is so often the subject of pictures of the area. Happy 86th Anniversary to the Duluth Lift Bridge.

imageimageSome people just don’t brag about some of the cool things that happen to them, so you have to get your information from their mom or some other little birdie in the family. My niece, Lacey Stevens is one of those people. Lacey is a cosmetologist at Super Cuts, and is usually the top sales person each month. Recently, Matrix held a contest. For those who don’t know, Matrix is a line of hair care products that are exclusive to salons. The contest rules stated that every time a sales person made a $50.00 sale, their name was entered into a drawing. The more $50.00 sales, the more chances to win the prize. As I said, Lacey is a record holding sales person. During the contest period, Lacey qualified five times. The prize was an all expenses paid trip to Orlando, Florida for Matrix Destination 2016, and Lacey was one of only nine winners nationwide. Her hard work paid off in spades…or maybe diamonds, in this case. Lacey was in the winner’s circle.

The trip was this week, and what a time Lacey had. She met a number of celebrity hair stylists including Tabitha Coffey, from Shear Genius and George Papanicholas, who was Britney Spears stylist on tour and had done the Kardashian sisters hair, as well. Of course, it wasn’t all celebrity stylists…even if that is impossible to top. Lacey learned many new things this week. For a hair stylist, one of these events is a chance to get the scoop on all the latest news in hair and hair care.

Of course, the trip wasn’t all about work either. Matrix Destination 2016 put the winners up in the Hyatt Regency Hotel. All told the cost per winner was at least $2000.00. Lacey’s room had a television set built into the mirror in the bathroom. Now there might be some people who have stayed in hotels like this before, but for most of us it’s a rarity…if at all. The view from Lacey’s room was spectacular, and of course she got to do some sightseeing too. I didn’t know that Lacey was into wax museums, but then maybe she knew this one might be better than most. While touring the museum, Lacey came across a statue of Channing Tatum. I suppose that every girl who finds herself standing next to a movie star feels the same excitement…be it wax statue or real person. Lacey is no different, and she just couldn’t resist a picture of herself with Channing…saying she was just hanging out with her boyfriend. My sister Alena Stevens, who is Lacey’s mom, had to wonder what Lacey’s real life boyfriend, Michael Tanner thought of the swooning picture Lacey had taken. I suspect that Michael wasn’t all imageimagethat worried, I mean after all, Channing couldn’t leave the building or he would melt, that would be…awkward!!

Lacey is an amazing cosmetologist, and a great sales person too. She has worked hard to get where she is today, and she has earned this awesome trip, and much more. She got back home yesterday, just in time for her birthday. Talk about a great birthday present. I can’t imagine anything more cool…especially when it ends with her coming home to spend her birthday with her family, whom she loves very much. Today is Lacey’s birthday. Happy birthday Lacey!! We are so proud of all you have accomplished, and very happy that you won such an amazing trip. Have a great day!! We love you!!

scan0036For most little girls, their daddy is just about the greatest guy on earth. They are their hero, and often the guy they want to marry, or at lease someone just like their daddy. Some kids want to marry their parents, but I don’t recall ever saying that to my dad, but I guess I don’t remember everything I ever said, so I might have. Nevertheless, my sisters and I thought our daddy was a pretty great guy, and we always felt very blessed that he was our daddy.

My sister, Cheryl Masterson had the advantage over the rest of us in that she had more time with Dad than we did, simply because of age. I’m sure that the rest of us probably had the chance to do some of the things Cheryl did too, but maybe we didn’t think of it. I think a lot of kids, boys and girls alike are quite fascinated with the whole process of shaving. I remember watching my dad whip up his lather in a mug that he had, because when he started shaving, there was no such thing as conditioning shaving cream. The men made their own lather from soap in a mug. To us, that was a cool process, and we really didn’t get tired of it. Watching Daddy shave was one of the best things about mornings when we were little. We didn’t always get to watch though, because oftentimes he had to go to work early, and we were still in bed. Nevertheless, when we did get to watch, we might end up with soap on our noses, a common occurrence, and then we would get to help with aftershave, or we might even get some on us…early perfume, and we didn’t even care if it was for men.

Of course, we always knew that our daddy could do anything. Of that fact, there was no doubt. Daddy could give two kids a piggy back ride as easily as he could give one kid a piggy back ride. That was because he could do anything. We always knew that. I think lots of girls think that their daddy can do anything. It’s because we just love our daddies so much, and as far as I’m concerned, my daddy was the best daddy in the whole world. I suppose all kids say that, but I believe that with all my heart.scan0025

When I look back on all the wonderful things our dad did for us, I get a sense of just what a saint he was. My sisters and I were always very afraid of moths…even if they were all the way across the room. Dad never got mad, and he never made us kill the moth ourselves. He just took care of it, because his little girls didn’t like them. The same thing applied to spiders, or any other creepy crawly bug. With our dad, we got to be girly girls…even if that seems wimpy to some people. Dad knew we were girly girls, and it didn’t matter, because we where his girly girls…and he was our amazing daddy. Life was great…in fact, it was perfect. It doesn’t get any better. We love you Daddy.

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