I’ve been thinking a lot about how I built kits when I was a child. Of course, that was a very long time ago, so my memory is hazy and probably tinged with a certain degree of sentimentality. 

It was simple. I wasn’t too particular about scale – box scale was fine. I do recall wishing everything was the same scale so they all looked “right” sitting next to each other. But, I wasn’t hung up about it like I am today. 

Part of my fleet in 1968I think the first model I ever built was a Revell battleship (I’d guess it was the USS Alabama or USS Pennsylvania). I bought in the gift shop when I visited the USS North Carolina in about 1966.

I didn’t wash my sprues or even cut off the parts. I bent them back and forth until they snapped off. I didn’t paint much of my haze grey fleet – heck, they were already grey, right?

I never sanded anything that I can recall. If there were seams, there were seams. They didn’t bother me. 

When I did paint, it was by hand out of tiny Testors bottles. I do remember masking with conventional masking tape, but not that often. 

There was no such thing as too much glue. Again, Testors styrene plastic glue. Except for that year or two when my parents bought me the super-citric smelling glue you couldn’t get high off of. It was bad glue and I never wanted to get high off the good stuff anyway (But, I did and still do, like the smell).

I was fortunate to grow up near the Quonset Point Naval Air Station, which had a great hobby shop. They had every kind of ship, plane or other vehicle I could imagine. It wasn’t big but it was jam packed. When I couldn’t get there, I could walk downtown to Earnshaw’s Drugstore and pick up a kit and some paints. 63d65caba9a3d6aa77f531f3baa20aae-800

Those builds would pale in comparison to what I have built over the years. The attention to detail, the wealth of research materials (Let’s be honest, in 1969 my research material consisted of the box art), air brushes, photo-etch, and custom decals make this a totally different game today.

But, despite all that, I do wonder if I’m getting more or less satisfaction out of building scale models in this day and age. 

More and more the world is set up for the benefit of our corporate overlords and not the consumers that keep them in business.

It seems, with each passing year, that we, the consumers, are getting screwed with our pants on. The playing field is not close to even, it slants precipitously toward corporate America and it lists more and more each year. 

Maybe there are too many of us and two few of them. Does anyone really think their value to, say AT&T is of any significance to the people who actually run that company?  No, there’s always someone new to sign up – probably someone who is fed up with Verizon. I suspect things might have been different with there were eight cell service providers competing for a smaller market and not just three. Now, if you take your business elsewhere, they don’t care one whit because there’s always some fed-up refugee from a competitor walking in the door.

With the advent of the internet age, it’s gotten really, really easy to buy things or to sign up for things. “Alexa, order more peanut butter.” And, voila, it shows up on your doorstep. Companies have made it super easy to sign up for things – like new channels on your cable network or on-line services. Click, click, click and in a few seconds, you’ve got a new channel or a new service. 

But, try and cancel those purchases the same way you bought them and it’s a no-go. They won’t let you cancel the same way you bought them, you have to make a phone call. And, we all know how pleasant that call can be.3pnzpo

Add a premium channel to your Xfinity/Comcast line-up through your TV, then watch what happens when you try to unsubscribe on your TV. It doesn’t work that way – you have to call them on the phone.

I recently canceled an on-line bookkeeping service. When I signed up, it was clickity, click, click and it was done in about 45 seconds. When I wanted to cancel, I had to call their toll-free number and wait for 29 minutes before I could reach a human. All told, the cancellation process took me 35 minutes from start to finish. What an absolute waste of time – my time, not theirs. They did their part in just a few minutes – but I invested 35 minutes in the process just waiting.

This is wrong. If you can buy a service over the internet, you damned well ought to be able to cancel it over this internet as well. 

I don’t know if consumers need a law or Liz Warren’s much-touted consumer protection agency can issue a regulation, but someone ought to do something.

Well, the last page is torn off the calendar and it’s time for my end-of-year recapitulation of books. Each year I set several goals (and next year I’m upping the ante, but more about that later):

  • I want to read a minimum of 20 books,
  • I want to read at least one classic,
  • I try to read one book about baseball.

Ding, ding, ding – I exceed my goal for number of books read (or listened too). I did not read a baseball book, but I read one about football and one about college basketball.

I did not read a classic – just didn’t get to that goal but I’ll be starting Little Women in January, so I’ll just double up in 2020.

In 2019, I read or listened to 34 books. There was a lot of science and a lot of space – naturally. I reread two books from my childhood. Things don’t always improve with age.

I read Demi Moore’s memoir and Buddy Guy’s autobiography – both were excellent!

I’m listening to more books than I’m actually reading. I’m so tired at night, that I have a really hard time reading – after five pages my eyes have a hard time tracking and I can feel myself slipping away. It’s taking me a long time to finish books at a 5-page a night pace.   

The best books I read in 2019?  This is hard because I read a lot of good books.  My top three in no particular order were:

Leonardo da Vinci by Walter Isaacson – A wonderful book about an amazing human. a17e72cae9cadfb3fb3ca50299aec71fabe9416a
Now, I need to see his work with my own eyes  – his art and his notebooks. Bucket list items for sure.

The Wrecking Crew: The Inside Story of Rock and Roll’s Best-Kept Secret – Who knew we were listening to these folks throughout the 1960’s and 1970’s? Not me! A fascinating look into the way popular music was made in the era that defined my musical tastes.

One Year After & The Final Day – As a rule I do not like series. This series is the exception. It was outstanding. I read One Second After by William R. Forstchen in 2018 and it scared the crap out of me. The next two books in the series continue that high calibre tension and suspense and ends as it should and where it should. I can not recommend this series of books highly enough.

Here’s the complete list of what I read in 2019. I’m still looking for a really good baseball book.

12: The Inside Story of Tom Brady’s Fight for Redemption – I’ve officially had enough of deflate-gate. This was okay, didn’t break a lot of new ground.

Leonardo da Vinci (Audiobook)

The Good Girls Revolt: How the Women of Newsweek Sued their Bosses and Changed the Workplace (Audiobook) – This is the book the one-season TV show was based on. The story is interesting but the fictionalized show was better.

Twelve Patients: Life and Death at Bellevue Hospital (Audiobook) – The is the book New Amsterdam is based on. The book is good but the show has veered off course in the 2019-2020 television season.

The Wrecking Crew: The Inside Story of Rock and Roll’s Best-Kept Secret (Audiobook)

Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies (Audiobook)

One Year After (After, #2) (Audiobook)

The Humans: A NovelThis is a fun and illuminating look at the human species through a sci-fi  lens. Worth your time if you like the genre.

The Three-Body Problem –The first book in a series. I thought it was really good, but I did not have a burning desire to read the rest of the series.

Runnin’ Rams: University of Rhode Island Basketball, Rhode Island

Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind (Audiobook)

The Final Day (After, #3) (Audiobook)

The Remarkable Science of Ancient Astronomy (Audiobook)

When I Left Home: My Story (Audiobook) – Buddy Guy – this was fun and interesting. Now, I want to see him perform again.

Endurance: Shackleton’s Incredible Voyage (Audiobook) – I have wanted to read this since I 51gk3MOyUdL._SCLZZZZZZZ_found it my Dad’s bookshelf when I was a kid. I finally got around to it this year. If this was written as fiction it would be completely unbelievable.

Always Eat Left Handed: 15 Surprisingly Simple Secrets Of Success (Audiobook)

Storm in a Teacup: The Physics of Everyday Life (Audiobook)

High-Rise: A Novel

Retire Inspired: It’s Not an Age, It’s a Financial Number (Audiobook)

Bitten by the Blues: The Alligator Records Story – This was really good. I found it after reading Buddy Guy’s story. I love the blues and this is a real insiders view.

The Man Who Knew the Way to the Moon (Audiobook) – An Audible original. This was short and very interesting. The perfect thing to listen too on the 50th anniversary of the first Moon landing.

The Great Hurricane: 1938

Mindset: The New Psychology of Success – This is been on my list of “must reads” for several years. It’s good, well worth your time. I should have read it years ago.

The Secret of Terror Castle – Now THIS is a series that I loved as a middle schooler. Alfred Hitchcock’s the Three Investigators series. I read a ton of these books when I was young. It holds up reasonably well.

This Is Your Brain on Music: The Science of a Human Obsession (Audiobook)

Alan Shepard: Higher and Faster (Audiobook) – Okay the book is fine, the audio-performance was awful.

Inside Out (Audiobook) – Demi Moore’s memoir. You just never really know what’s going 7196Xk0XKTLon behind the facade. And, the whole threesome thing is like two paragraphs, so, even though that’s what the media focused on, that’s not the story. Worth your time.

Walk Two Moons – Suggested to me by a student. Very good.

Dylan Goes Electric!: Newport, Seeger, Dylan, and the Night That Split the Sixties (Audiobook)

Tom Swift and His Atomic Earth Blaster – Another blast from the past. This book is so simple and so dated. It was fun, but the realism quotient is close to zero.

This Is Water: Some Thoughts, Delivered on a Significant Occasion, about Living a Compassionate Life – I literally have no memory of this book. I even reread the summary…nothing. I guess that says something.

Structuring Your Novel: Essential Keys for Writing an Outstanding Story (Audiobook)

Outlining Your Novel: Map Your Way to Success (Audiobook)

Space Exploration—A History in 100 Objects

Since I’m doing more listening than actual reading, I’m upping my goals. In 2020:

  • I want to read a minimum of 35 books,
  • I want to read at least two classics,
  • I’m still looking for a really good book about baseball.

I am a registered Republican. I have been since 1981, when I first registered to vote.

I have been a proud member of my party. I have hailed it’s achievements and criticized it’s failings. It has been styled as the proud party of Lincoln – the Grand Old Party.

And that’s the pity…the character of Lincoln no longer resonates within the party. He is ancient history – an irrelevant coincidence of history. Republicans should be embarrassed to ever invoke his name again.

No, this is the party of McCarthy, who destroyed careers and lives with his smear tactics while conducting a wide-ranging witch hunt for communists and homosexuals.

This is the party of Nixon, who resigned in shame to avoid impeachment and removal from office.

This is the party of Bush (43) who, at best, started a war by mistake.

And now, since Donald Trump has grabbed the party by the P***y it is the party owned and operated by a morally bankrupt, racist man. A man who is probably the least intellectually gifted president ever. And, yet, he is a man Republicans are unwilling to stand up too.

Make America Great Again is a call to action for people who are looking backwards, who yearn for a time when America was at it’s apex of power and prestige. It’s an illusory image. When was this idealistic time? It’s smoke and mirrors that captivated just enough of the electorate to bring this man to power.

In this political atmosphere, criticizing the country or president is equated with being disloyal. It echoes of hearings on un-American activities. This kind of hyper-patriotism has a name. We’ve seen it before, we’ve fought against it and suddenly it’s here, in the oval office, at the campaign rallies – Fascism has come to America.

Democrats, We need your help.

The Nation needs your help.

The World is watching.

You need to focus and defeat this man in November, 2020. In the coming primary season, you must compete to select the best candidate without devolving into the usual chaos and back-biting of a crowded primary field. You must all be willing to put personal goals and aspirations aside in order to put the entire weight of the party behind one excellent candidate.

You can not be distracted by the day-to-day turmoil of the executive branch. You must not let the evidence, tweeted almost daily, of his unfitness for office derail you from your ultimate goal. Don’t waste energy on impeachment talk or meaningless votes. You must be laser-focused on one thing…

It’s the Election, stupid.

Bill Clinton defeated a sitting president based almost entirely on his determination to only discuss the economy. “It’s the economy, stupid.” was the mantra James Carville instituted in the Clinton campaign that defeated George Bush (41). It meant, no matter what the issue, no matter what the question, pivot to the economy. That’s all Clinton wanted to talk about and he defeated a president who, at one time, sported a 90% approval rating.

The republicans have been seduced and bullied by Trump. Our only hope is for the Democrats to defeat him.

Choose a candidate with a moral compass. Choose a candidate who can bring people together – not drive wedges between them. Choose a candidate who stands for something. But, most importantly, Democrats, choose a candidate who can win in the electoral collage.

This man must be defeated – he is fundamentally dangerous to our Republic.

When I look around staff meetings at school, I am reminded that I am, by far, the oldest core teacher for our 7th & 8th grade students.

While some may see my age as a disadvantage, I do not. It provides me with life experiences that no other teacher on my team can match.

When President George H.W. Bush passed away during the last school year, I was the only core teacher who had meaningful memories of his presidency. I was the only teacher old enough to have actually voted for him – and I had. Even though I am a science teacher, I could speak about him from the perspective of my own life experience – not something I read in a textbook, or a two-minute video I watched on YouTube.

When I was 10, way back in 1969, I witnessed the greatest engineering feat of the 20th century – I saw Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin walk on the moon.FullSizeRender

Memory is a funny thing – it’s not always accurate. Sometimes it gets things mixed up. Sometimes it even adds or subtracts things. But, my memory of this day is spot on. I’ve checked the records and they align exactly with what my 10-year-old brain recorded.

It happened on a Sunday afternoon. I was in the den playing Hot Wheels with my best friend, Bobby Philips. Around 4 o’clock, my dad came downstairs and asked Bobby, “Don’t you think you want to go home and watch the moon landing with your family?” Bobby said it was okay, that his family wasn’t watching anyway. That was when my father told him to go home.

We watched the moon landing as a family on our big black-and-white TV in the living room. By the time my father came to get me, Neil and Buzz were already descending to the surface. It was exciting – the TV was showing an animation of what was happening along with live views of the control room at the Johnson Space Center in Houston.

“Houston, Tranquillity Base here. The Eagle has landed” crackled over the radio and we all cheered. Well, not so much my sister, she was just 13 months old. We were all excited and relieved and I could see the pride in my parent’s eyes. It was inconceivable that people were actually on the moon, but they were.

Later that night, after I had long since fallen asleep, my parents woke me. “They’re getting ready to step outside,” someone said and they hustled me off to their bed to watch on their little 12” black-and-white set. I have to confess, staying up late – in this case nearly 11p.m. has never been my strong suit. I struggled to stay awake. My parents nudged me back to consciousness a few times before Neil started down the ladder.

The TV broadcast was showing a grainy view from a remote control camera aimed at the ladder and footpad. I couldn’t make heads or tails of what I was seeing. I couldn’t see Neil. I couldn’t make out the ladder. It was just a jumble of black, grey and white. But, the audio I could understand.

“I’m at the foot of the ladder”

“That’s one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind.”

And then, I was whisked back to my own bed, a very tired little boy.

I was by no means the only person who watched the live broadcast. To this day – 50 years later – it remains the most viewed live TV broadcast in history. And think about this, the first step happened in the middle of the night or very early morning for all of Europe and Asia. Everyone who could, was watching. People stayed up late, got up early,  or woke themselves in the middle of the night to witness this stunning achievement.

It was the culmination of the space race. It was an unassailable American victory, but it was bigger than that. It was not just an American achievement, it was a human achievement. It was humanity’s first, tentative step beyond our home planet and one that we have not repeated since 1972.

On the plaque the astronauts left behind, are the words:

“Here men from the planet Earth first set foot upon the moon, July 1969 A.D. We came in peace for all mankind.”

I was there to experience it and now, as a teacher, I pass those memories on to a new generation.

We’ve completed another revolution around the sun and 2018 has ended. It’s time for my annual reading recap. I start each year with several goals:

  • I want to read a minimum of 20 books,
  • I want to read at least one classic,
  • I try to read one book about baseball.

For the ninth consecutive year, I have met or exceeded my goals with the exception of the baseball book. I never got around to reading a baseball book this year. I did read a book about football, so I guess that kinda meets that goal. 9780451530578

In 2018, I read or listened to 30 books. There was a lot of science and a lot of space – naturally. I reread two books – one on purpose and one by accident. I read four biographies/memoirs.

I find I’m listening to more books than I’m actually reading. I’m having a hard time reading at night because I’m so tired. I do always have a book to read, but it’s been slow going at night. I read a few pages then get sleepy, so I stop for the evening.

I only read one classic but it was a great one: A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens. I loved it. It is an awesome story.

The best books I read in 2018?  This is hard because I read a lot of good books.  My top three in no particular order were:

Touching History: The Untold Story of the Drama That Unfolded in the Skies Over America on 9/11  – A book about 9/11 written by an airline pilot that tells the story from the perspective of the pilots, air traffic controllers and military.

On Desperate Ground: The Marines at The Reservoir, the Korean War’s Greatest Battle  – an great recounting of the battle at the Chosin Reservoir. It’s fast-paced, fascinating and filled with drama and heroism. Someone needs to make a movie about this.

One Second After  – In an instant America is plunged back into the dark ages. This is the story of one town and how it struggled to cope and survive.

Other favorites included; The Good Shepherd – a fictional account of a World War II destroyer captain and the convoy he’s responsible to keep safe. I believe there is a movie in production based on this book.md13227743805

Here’s my complete list of the books I read in 2018 – I’ve indicated audiobooks and linked some of my favorites. In 2019, I’ll have to make up for the missing baseball book. Anyone know a great book about baseball?

Devotion: An Epic Story of Heroism, Friendship, and Sacrifice

First They Killed My Father (Audiobook)

The Good Shepherd 

The Universe (Audiobook)

Seveneves – I loved the first half of the book. The second half was good but not nearly as good as the first.

Atomic Adventures (Audiobook)

One Second After (Audiobook)

What it’s Like to be a Dog (Audiobook) – Boring. I fell like the title and summary of this book are misleading. Its really not that much about “what it’s like to be a dog.”

The Tale of the Dueling Neurosurgeons: The History of the Human Brain as Revealed by True Stories of Trauma, Madness, and Recovery (Audiobook)

Stone by Stone: The Magnificent History in New England’s Stone Walls. I saw this book referenced on Chronicle and thought it would be interesting. It was for about 60 pages. I slogged through the other 244 pages. I should have just stopped.

Neil Armstrong: A Life of Flight (Audiobook)

Squid Empire: The Rise and Fall of the Cephalopods (Audiobook)

A Tale of Two Cities (Audiobook)

The Hidden Lives of Owls: The Science and Spirit of Nature’s Most Elusive Birds (Audiobook)91v+9486xvl

The Rise and Fall of the Dinosaurs: A New History of a Lost World

Pandora’s Lab: Seven Stories of Science Gone Wrong (Audiobook)

The Long Tomorrow

Chasing New Horizons: Inside the Epic First Mission to Pluto

Teach Like a Pirate: Increase Student Engagement, Boost Your Creativity, and Transform Your Life as an Educator – Great title, not a great book. I didn’t get much out of this. Not recommended.

Bringing Columbia Home: The Untold Story of a Lost Shuttle and Her Crew

Artemis (Audiobook)

I, Me, Mine – This is a biography of George Harrison. As I was reading it, many parts seemed quite familiar. As it turns out, I read it about ten years ago.

Into the Raging Sea: Thirty-Three Mariners, One Megastorm, and the Sinking of El Faro – This was very good.

Cuba Libre: A 500-Year Quest for Independence (Audiobook)

Opening Wednesday at a Theater Or Drive-In Near You: The Shadow Cinema of the American 1970s (Audiobook)

On Desperate Ground: The Marines at The Reservoir, the Korean War’s Greatest Battle (Audiobook)

Gridiron Genius: A Master Class in Winning Championships and Building Dynasties in the NFL (Audiobook)

Touching History: The Untold Story of the Drama That Unfolded in the Skies Over America on 9/11 (Audiobook)138775_1

Rocket Men: The Daring Odyssey of Apollo 8 and the Astronauts Who Made Man’s First Journey to the Moon (Audiobook)

Rendezvous with Rama (Audiobook) – This may be my favorite science fiction book of all time. This was the third time I’ve read/listened to it. It never gets old. I love Clark’s style. A classic of hard sci-fi. Highly recommended.

On Sunday, December 30, 2018, Charles W. McKellar, loving husband, father and grandfather, passed away at the age of 90. Charles was a resident of Leesburg and formerly of Ft. Myers Beach and Wickford, Rhode Island.

Charles was born May 2, 1928 in British Columbia, Canada to Chester and Dorothy (Bennett) McKellar. He served in the United States Marine Corps for 22 years retiring as mck2012052 copyCaptain, after which he managed the data processing department and other units at Brown and Sharpe Manufacturing Company in Rhode Island for the next 21 years.

On June 26, 1954, Charles married Barbara (Lord) McKellar and raised two children, Mark W. McKellar and Lori M. McKellar.

Charles served in the Korean War and participated in  the Chosin Reservoir campaign. He was awarded the Bronze Star with “V” for valor for his efforts in reinforcing Fox Company, thus ensuring a successful withdrawal from North Korea. He was active in The Chosin Few, a fraternal organization to support the men who participated in the battle.

charles w. mckellarCharles was an active beekeeper in Rhode Island. He is past-president/director and lifetime member of the Eastern Apicultural Society. He was also an active member of the Rhode Island Beekeepers Association and frequently spoke about beekeeping to schools and various social groups. In his retirement years, he enjoyed running, playing tennis and cycling.

He was preceded in death by his father, Chester, mother, Dorothy and three brothers, Earl, Chester and Donald.

Charles is survived by his wife of 64 years, Barbara; his children, Mark (Laura) and Lori (Ian); and his grandchildren, Mark and David.

Military interment services to be held at the Florida National Cemetery in Bushnell, Florida – date to be announced. In lieu of flowers, please consider donating to the Semper Fi Fund.

“For it isn’t your mother, your father or wife

whose judgment upon you must pass,

but the man whose verdict counts most in your life

is the one staring back from the glass.

He’s the fellow to please,

never mind all the rest.”