A life to learn from


One of my heroes was buried Friday.

Bernard B. Vinoski, Sr, MD, Colonel, US Air Force (Ret), was my dad’s cousin. They grew up together in little South Connellsville, Pennsylvania.

His obituary is here – in it you can read all about his life of incredible accomplishment and service.

To me, he was at first just a name, one that shared my last name, in a famous lady’s book. Anita Bryant mentioned him several times in print because he was her physician and friend, so at a very young age I knew of Bernie Vinoski.

I didn’t get to meet him until I was in my mid-thirties. Miss ViVi and I lived near Atlanta at the time and decided to join some old college friends for a week on the beach at Hilton Head, South Carolina, a short drive from where Bernie and his lovely wife Joyce lived in Beaufort. At that point, some of my siblings had already met him, and knowing we’d be near him, we contacted him to see if he would like to join us for lunch.

He did, in his own way. He directed us to take a carriage tour of beautiful Beaufort, then come out to his house to eat. We did; the tour was lovely, and then we learned later that day that there are no strangers to Joyce and Bernie Vinoski. We were dear family, not newcomers to their home – and so were our friends. It was the first of a number of visits we made over the years, and our reception and time with them were always the same. Miss ViVi put it best: “When I visited them, my IQ went up by twenty or thirty points, and I felt like an 11 on a 10-point scale.”

It amazes me to think now that our total time together measured in mere hours, which seems ridiculous given the space Joyce and Bernie take up in my heart.

I learned important things from Bernie. I knew my dad’s childhood was far from idyllic, but he talked little about it. Bernie revealed some of the horrors my dad experienced, and I got the sense that Bernie tried to help as best he could.

Bernie met me at a time when I didn’t think I wanted children, and somehow knew that I’d change my mind. My sons got to meet Joyce and him the last time we saw him, and I’m awfully, awfully glad they did (and that he was right).

I’ve been a World War II buff since childhood, and was fascinated to learn Bernie had been a bombardier on B-29s in the Pacific. I told him once I was reading a book about Iwo Jima, and he said, “Thank God for those boys who took that island. We had to ditch our plane there shortly after they took it, and if it weren’t for them I wouldn’t be here talking to you.” But he also shared that before he and his crew were retrieved from the island, they woke up one morning to discover that the men in the foxhole next to theirs had had their throats slit in the night by enemy interlopers. Joyce knew never to shake him awake because of that. I’ve always had a deep appreciation for those who’ve fought for my freedom, and Bernie’s stories made it that much deeper.

His story about decided when he started his practice as a family physician that he’d find something else to do after 25 years still sticks with me. He was getting close to that mark, and shared his concern about it with the Air Force recruiters who had an office near to his. It didn’t take them long to land him as a Flight Surgeon. He was probably around my age at the time – I hope I can be as open to new adventures!

Bernie’s passing comes just days after my previous post about reassessing my life. Now I’ve firmly decided to try to be more like him. I seriously doubt I have the years or ability to match his accomplishments, or the demeanor to match his gregariousness, but a man can try.

This is the first time I’ve simultaneously felt such a terrible sadness for losing someone dear, and a great joy for having known such a man.


Rethinking Things

My little sister Michelle passed away almost three months ago.

I decided at the time to rethink some things in my life, though I’ll admit I’ve been somewhat adrift with that effort. I’ve committed to making some progress before the year ends.

I picked this book up not long after she died, started it briefly, then put it down. I just started reading it again today, and I think it’s going to awfully helpful. More to come as I progress.

She was a writer, so I’ve committed to doing more writing myself. So I’m off to a start on that, anyway…

This is probably much more effective at retaining customers than anything the Columbia Record Club did

“Do not stop taking Xarelto without consulting the doctor who prescribed it, as this will increase the risk of stroke.”

Some random thoughts on fertility, feminism and modern young women

This article gave me something of a start.  I had no idea until I read it that our son AJ, now six, had a less than 5% chance of ever coming into this world.

My wife was just shy of 42 when he was born.  Our older son John had come along almost exactly three years earlier.  You see, I just wasn’t sure for a long, long time that I even wanted kids, which was just plain stupid but there you go.

I count my blessings that I got to bumble along until I was nearly 40 before I finally figured things out, then was able to have two happy, healthy boys with my dear wife.  Now I know most bumblers like me aren’t so lucky.

I’m not even sure what drove my reluctance.  Part was probably seeing many friends have kids earlier and become complete slugs, doing nothing with their lives but working and taking care of children.  I wasn’t wise enough to know that was a choice they made, and I could make a different one.  Part may have been my growing up in a large family and just wanting to enjoy having money and relative solitude and comfort for a while (not that I was ever poor or wanted for anything important).  And part was certainly our modern sickness that devalues having children when we’re supposed to have children.

In that vein, I feel very, very sorry for our young women today.  Modern society tells them they can have it all — that they DESERVE to have it all and if they don’t someone is victimizing them.  Trouble is, the ones victimizing them are the ones spouting this “wisdom.”  The real wisdom is in reality as spelled out in the article at the link above:  once these young women get their degrees, work a while, get advanced degrees and work some more, while traveling and living the good life, many of them will find that they may not be able to get husbands and even if they do, may not be able to have children.  And too late they’ll realize that the one thing they can’t have is the one thing that will, for the vast majority of us, in any way be our lasting legacy in this world.

As an aside, it’s equally sad and victimizing that feminists have succeeded in making the worst male behaviors — self-centeredness, prurience and lasciviousness, commitment-phobia and living for trivial things — the things most celebrated in our popular culture about being a woman nowadays.  There are three generations and counting that are suffering because of this horribly destructive ideology, and I truly feel sorry for them, and for our society that let this happen with scarcely a whimper.

Real science and real scientists

This is a very interesting article, about the recent evolution vs. creation debate between Bill Nye (the Science Guy) and Ken Ham, who built the Creation Museum just down the road from me.

On the one hand, it gave me a fresh dollop of respect for Nye, who has struck me as completely batty with regard to climate change.  It’s deeply impressive any time somebody shows the wherewithal to engage in a public debate.

On the other hand, it only reinforced my belief that we have very few real scientists anymore, and few people who get what science is.  The last couple lines of the article say it all:

 The debate with Nye “has drawn countless believers and unbelievers alike to consider the Creation Museum’s teachings about the true history of the universe,” wrote an AIG staffer after the debate.

For mainstream scientists, it’s a terrifying thought.

The notion that people might consider the alternative to unchallenged “science,” or that scientists might actually have to defend their findings, is “terrifying?”  What the hell do they think they’re supposed to do?  Dictate their beliefs to everybody, completely unchallenged?

I’ve long adhered to Karl Popper’s definition of science:  it begins with a theory that can be shown to be false through some test or other.  Then it’s actually tested.  Over and over.  The more tests it passed, the better a theory it is.  And pretty much nothing is ever certain.

Climate change is the perfect example of non-science.  I’ve never heard a single way of testing it.  Indeed, its adherents mainly grab “evidence” post hoc — lots of storms?  Climate change.  Cold winter?  Climate change.  Hot summer?  Climate change.  Drought?  Climate change.  Heavy rains?  Climate change.  What a sweet gig.  But it sure ain’t science.  Indeed, all the talk of “established consensus” and “the debate is over” is a dead giveaway that it’s metaphysics, not science.  It’s a faith thing, a pseudo-religion.

Now, back to the Nye-Ham debate.  I’m glad it happened, but Ham isn’t a scientist either — he says there’s nothing that would change his opinion.  That’s metaphysics.  That being said, it’s refreshing to see someone actually defend a scientific theory, instead of trying to bully people into buying it.

But if Nye would apply the same standard he’s grabbed with regard to evolution, and apply it to everything he calls science — especially climate change — then he just might become a real scientist.

Low impact is all you need? Uh, no

I remember back when my first son was born and got old enough to tear around our yard.  I — in great cardiovascular shape from decades of extreme bicycling — felt BRITTLE running around the yard with him.  It was around that time I read an article in on a cycling website that doing only low-impact exercise (like cycling) would lead to bone loss and poor overall condition.

It was about the same time I was pushed by some coworkers into doing a charity run (they had beer afterwards).  I was shocked to feel great during and after the run.  I’d run some in earlier years and always hated it because of the pain.  Now it felt great.

I started throwing it in as cross-training in the winter.  Then I decided that if I was going to be a runner, I had to do a marathon.  I did a few shorter races then trained up and suffered through one.  And trained more and did another.  And since then I’ve done a number of half marathons and shorter races.

It’s still painful sometimes.  But so is bicycling.  But now I can chase both my boys around the yard without any trouble.

And here’s a more recent article confirming everything I’ve experienced.

Vibrating football games — load of ’70s fun!

Today at the barber shop my older son Johnny Shizzle-Cakes invented a football kind of game you play on a checkerboard.

That got me thinking about the vibrating football game we had when I was a kid in the ’70s.  Were those things the worst or what?  You always had the linebackers who would lock arms and go in circles together.  And remember the quarterbacks?  You had the magnetic “ball” that you flung across the field with the spring-loaded throwing arm, hoping the “ball” might somehow stick to the base of one of your players, and that he might actually head in the right direction.  And not hit a “dead zone” of non-vibrating field.  Even if he kept moving, plays took about a half hour each.

They actually still make those things.  Seriously — see below.  How do they sell ’em anymore with all the computer games today?

Power Pro Electric Football Game

Raising wimps?

I came across this excellent article tonight.

Here’s the comment I posted:

Great article, and spot-on. If you’re a dad of younger kids and “shake it off” isn’t something you say regularly, you’re part of the problem.

When I lived in Minnesota, I was seriously freaked out by the many dads I came across at parks who admonished their kids not to climb UP the slides. Seriously?!? Here in Indiana where I live now, I haven’t heard that kind of thing once. Much happier as a Hoosier, and feeling better about my sons’ surroundings.

Saving a grand old barrel aging warehouse

When I arrived at the old Seagram’s plant I work at, one of the colossal brick barrel warehouses was in rather sad shape.  The outer facade of brick (each wall is two courses of brick deep) on about half the building had separated from the inner wall and begun sloughing off in often giant chunks.  The west-facing wall’s facade was almost entirely gone.

Our plans for much greater production volumes dictated that we save the building.  So last year we stripped off the outer facade and stabilized the structure and inner walls.  After some major design work this summer — including laser-mapping the half of the building we needed to rebuild after finding none of the structure was quite square — we finally began re-bricking the facade this fall.  No preform panels here — the “out-of-squareness” precluded them, so it’s coming back one brick at a time.  This is a very cool project at a very cool plant.  Here are some pictures:

IMG_0697  IMG_0704  IMG_0714  IMG_0715  IMG_0729  IMG_0739  IMG_0819  IMG_0820

Who knew Tom Landry flew B-17s?

I was double-checking myself on the details of John Browning’s M2 machine gun, which got me thinking about the armament of the Flying Fortress (13 M2s, in case you’re wondering), which led me to the Wikipedia entry about the plane, which informed me that late Cowboys coach Tom Landry flew 30 missions piloting those birds over Europe.  And he had a brother who died in a B-17 crash.

God, take good care of him.  He earned it.