By Jug Varner

The reasons behind the modern day celebrations of birthdays are quite different from the ancient origins and meanings [ ].

Most of us today consider birthdays merely a family and friends oriented concept to celebrate the occasion of having lived another year” with hopes for continued health and longevity.

As we grow older we appreciate life more, and some of us eventually realize that age is merely a state of mind, not necessarily a coffin tack. Some, particularly the female gender, quit counting beyond age 49 and eventually become almost the same age as their youngest daughter (who may also stop counting at 49). Men, for the most part (with occasional un-manly exceptions) don’t dye their hair, don’t have face lifts, don’t wear make up, etc., and are generally proud of reaching each milestone for as long as possible. For them it is a matter of pride in a survival of the fittest.

My most recent such milestone came on the same day as our Sarasota ANA Golden Pelican Squadron’s monthly luncheon meeting. ANA is the accronym for Association of Naval Aviation, and I am currently our squadron C.O.

I hadn’t told anyone it was my birthday and so it came as a surprise when they broke out with the happy birthday song and a lighted candle in my piece of the Lemon cake we had for desert.

Captain Jack Kenyon USN (Ret) and wife Daisy attended the meeting as guests and long-time friends of Golden Pelican member Slim Russell and wife Edith. After the meeting Jack came over to me to say how much he appreciated my invocation that started the meeting and gave me a small plastic envelope.

It was a beautiful lapel pin of the stars and stripes along with a gold cross, attached to a small card imprinted with: “God Bless America” and “Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord - Psalm 33:12.”

It was one of my nicest birthday presents ever - certainly from the standpoint of its meaning and the reason for its presentation by its giver. As we talked, he explained that at appropriate opportunities he has given away literally hundreds of these beautiful pins to those he thought might appreciate them… and wear them proudly.

After thanking him for his unique gift, I told him, “Many opportunities come to say or do nice little things like you do — yet, we may often hesitate to do so for fear the person may be offended or not appreciate such offer, regardless of its kindness or loving intent.”

Jack responded: “I used to think about that, but no one has ever refused to accept the pin or failed to express appreciation when I give them one. It has strengthened my belief that, down deep, most people inherently are good.”

Perhaps our greatest problem in America today stems from turning away from God and the Christian principles upon which our nation was founded. There are those among us who would take God out of our government, our schools and our daily lives, under the guise of “separation of Church and State” - more from their ideological standpoint than the Constitution of the United States, I think. The Constitution mentions no separation of Church and State.

Ironically, the night before the meeting, as I was deciding on what to say in that invocation, I searched my computer for the copy I had previously saved of George Washington’s prayer at his first inauguration. It was brief and beautiful and, considering the terrible trials his new nation would face, asked for God’s help and protection for the fledgling United States of America.

For some reason, I couldn’t find that particular prayer, so I wrote my own based on my gratitude for God’s benevolence to all of us and beseeched Him for continued blessings and protection of our nation in these perilous times - from forces within and without.

The pin was a beautiful token of the occasion and a memorable birthday present.


By Jug Varner

Minority forces have been at work within our society for some time now to eliminate God from our government, our schools, and other parts of our daily lives. They espouse “true” democracy, separation of church and state, and other such reasons for this so-called “urgent need.”

In a nation where the majority is supposed to rule, it is strange that this minority has (with avid assistance of ultra liberals in academia and the media) slowly convinced many apathetic and thoughtless Americans that it is winning “some of the battles.”

But if you truly love this country and wholeheartedly believe in its fundamental founding principles, you had better pray that these internalforces never win the war.” It would surely be the last nail in the coffin of a once-great nation.

The dire predictions are that the fall of our society will not come from outer forces, but from forces within - decadence, lawlessness, ungodliness… to name a few. It would seem that we are in that stage right now.

On this 231st anniversary year of the founding of our nation, I would like to repeat an article from the past regarding the Pledge of Allegiance. While growing up, most us recited this pledge to start our classes every day of the school year, and on many other special occasions after that time. Some of you may have read this article here or elsewhere, but like anything special, it bears my repeating and your rereading.

As a schoolboy in Vincennes, Indiana, one of Red Skelton's teachers - Mr. Laswell - explained the words and meaning of the Pledge of Allegiance to his class one morning before the beginning of the school day.

Many years later, after elimination of prayer in our public schools, Skelton wrote down and eventually recorded his recollection of this lecture, which he first gave on his TV show of January 14, 1969.

To see and hear it, click HERE. [ ]


By Jug Varner

The odds against winning the Lottery seem like a kazillion to one, of course, but it could happen. The old cliché, “Somebody's got to win it” is true…eventually, but in the meantime you can blow a lot of bucks shooting for the moon and getting nothing.

But suppose, just suppose (don't bet on it), that you actually hold those winning numbers for your state's Lottery Jackpot one day soon. Do you know enough about it to make decisions most advantageous to you before you claim the prize?

First of all, do you know exactly what percent of the total amount the state will actually pay you…how much will be deducted for taxes immediately and later on…what could happen if you intend to split it with others…and other such problems that have befallen unprepared winners? It is not quite as simple as you may think.

Most states string it out over a 20 to 25-year payoff. A few allow cash option, where you can elect to take a lump sum payment in lieu of the standard annual payout, at about 50% of the long-term amount (minus 28% immediately deducted by Uncle Sam's IRS). I think most winners in such states take that option because they feel they can do better investment wise, and/or are concerned that the money might not even be available at some point in the future.

If you play the lottery at all, you might want to do yourself a favor by clicking here [] and reading every word of this article on the subject of “What To Do Before And After You Win The Lottery.” It makes a lot of sense and could make you a lot of “cents” if the Lottery Gods ever touch you with their magic wands.

Your library (or bookstore, or Internet web site) has books written on all aspects of this subject. One I saw on the Internet called, “Hitting The Lottery Jackpot []” looked interesting.

Good luck, and cut me in for a few bucks if you win it, will you?


By Jug Varner

Some historians credit P.T. Barnum for first saying it, but Syracuse Banker David Hannum was the one who supposedly originated the phrase, “There's a sucker born every minute.” []

Later some unknown wise person added “and one born to take him” to the phrase, providing a combined truism that explains quite well a common quirk of human nature.

Whether the economy is good or bad, professional scam artists always find the pickings ripe in the “greed and gullibility” business, primarily because so many people are looking for something “almost too good to be true” - and usually it is.

I’ve often thought if these crooks applied their talents to an honest enterprise, they probably would be among our wealthiest entrepreneurs. As it is, I’m sure they do quite well financially - until they finally get caught. In the meantime they take a lot of money - sometimes life savings - from their easy prey

Which brings to mind the Old Dutch proverb: “A fool and his money are soon parted.” (Old time humorist Will Rogers politicized this phrase by joking: “A fool and his money are soon elected,” but that‘s another truism worthy of a separate article.)

Many of these “easy marks” are the elderly and the naive young, but get-rich-quick schemes touch all echelons of society. As you know, greed is one of the biblical seven deadly sins - and for good reason.

Perhaps you, personally, have no weakness for the “hook, line and sinker” business but someone you know may need to be aware of these ever-increasing scams going on all around us these days. If so, be a good scout and let them know that the IRS has an
interesting site about scams [,,id=98269,00.html] that is well worth their time.


By Jug Varner

During most of our country’s existence, France has been our friend and ally. In the two major conflicts of the 20th Century - WWI and WWII - the United States came to Europe’s aid and was a major factor in saving France’s Republic. Our Statue of Liberty is a symbol of some two centuries of mutual friendship and good will between our two nations.

Unfortunately, France has changed from our good friend to no friend at all.

This is not something that happened overnight and there are many complexities born of politics and leadership, but recent years have brought great changes in France, not the least of which is the insidious creep of Islam that will soon result in more than one-third of France’s population being Muslim - or perhaps better stated “being radical Muslim.” Moreover, the government’s sanction of Islam as a “political” entity has given French leadership “much more chain than it can swim with” or can possibly ever control.

French leadership’s hostile anti-American efforts in the United Nations before the current Iraq conflict began, and their desperation to deter our invasion to protect their Iraqi oil source, to keep Saddam in power and to protect their continued sale of military arms and equipment to the dictator, easily overrode any allegiance they once had to the U.S. Times changed, and they changed, too - as the old saying goes.

Recently, a friend forwarded a brief article promoting the boycott of all French products and services sold in the U.S., with a long list of them which I include below. While a boycott sounds like good revenge, I doubt that the average American would give much time and interest to such activity (or would even care). The range and types of French-made items marketed here surprised me, however, as did the names of a few former American companies now owned by the French.

Here are the names of more than 100 French companies/products marketed in the U.S., including a few that are practically household names - and this is not an all inclusive list:

Air France, Air Liquide, Airbus (aircraft), Alcatel, Allegra (Allergy medication), Aqualung (including Spirotechnique, Technisub, US Divers and SeaQuest), AXA Advisors;
Bank of the West (BNP Paribas), Beneteau (Boats), B. F Goodrich (Michelin), BIC (Razors, pens and lighters)
Biotherm (cosmetics), Black Bush, Bollinger (Champagne);
Car & Driver Magazine
Cartier, Chanel, Chivas Regal (Scotch), Christian Dior, Club Med (Vacations), Culligan (Owned by Vivendi);
Dannon (yogurt and dairy foods), Dom Perigonon (Champagne), DKNY, Durand Crystal;
Elle Magazine, Essilor Optical Products, Evian;
Fina (Petroleum products), First Hawaiian Bank;
George Magazine, Givenchy, Glenlivet (Scotch);
Hennessy (liquor products), Houghton Mifflin (Books);
Jacobs Creek (Pernod Ricard), Jameson (Whiskey), Jerry Springer (Talk show);
Krups (Coffee and cappuccino makers);
Lancome - Le Creuset (Cookware), L'Oreal (Health and beauty products), Louis Vuitton;
Marie Claire, Martel Cognac, Maybelline, Mephisto (Shoes & clothes), Michelin (Tires & auto parts), Mikasa (Crystal and glass), Moet (Champagne), Motel 6, Motown Records,, Mumms (Champagne);
Nissan (Automobiles - majority owned by Renault), Nivea, Normandy Butter;
Parents Magazine, Peugeot (Automobiles), Pierre Cardin, Playstation Magazine, ProScan (Thomson Elec-tronics - France), Publicis Group (including Saatchi & Saatachi Advertising);
RCA (TV & electronics - Thomson Electronics), Red Magazine, Red Roof Inns (Accor group in France)
Renault (Automobiles), Roquefort cheese (all Roquefort cheese is made in France), Rowenta (Toasters, irons, coffee makers), Royal Canadian;
Salomon (skis) , Sierra Software & Computer Games, Smart & Final , Sofitel (Hotels, Accor group), Sparkletts (Water, owned by Danone), Spencer Gifts, Sundance Channel;
Taylor Made (Golf clubs & equipment), Technicolor, T-Fal (Kitchenware), Total Gas Stations;
UbiSoft (Computer games), Uniroyal (Tires), Universal Studios (Vivendi), U.S. Filter;
Veritas Group, Veuve Clicquot Champagne, Vittel, Vivendi;
Wild Turkey (Bourbon), Woman's Day Magazine;
Yoplait (Sodiaal owns 50%), Yves Saint Laurent; and
Zodia Inflatable Boats.

Perhaps a list of other nations, China in particular, would be equally surprising as Corporate America continues to seek manufacturing in foreign markets while our once-great industrial centers gradually become extinct and our work force is diluted to a choice between menial labor or high-tech, with a great void in between.

Those of us who have lived during the golden age of America find this turn of events difficult to believe.


By Jug Varner

Fifty years ago, world population was:
2 billion, 680 million, 544 thousand, 579

As of 9:25 a.m. EDT on 3/6/03, current world population was estimated at:
6 billion, 278 million, 737 thousand, 800

The 1953 U.S. population was:
160 million, 184 thousand, 192

The 3/6/03 U.S. population estimate was:
290 million, 408 thousand, 668

If you would like to watch this population explosion in progress, and see how much it has changed just in the short time between 3/6/03/ and when you read this, click here [] and compare the numbers. Hard to believe, especially the almost 4 billion increase in world population, isn't it?

Those of you who have served in the Pentagon or visited on Capitol Hill know that Washington officials think in terms of billions…and as former Sen. Everett Dirksen (R-IL) once said, “A billion here, a billion there, pretty soon it adds up to real money!”

A billion dollars may seem commonplace in that atmosphere, but how many average Americans thinks of population in terms of billions…or money either, for that matter? Unless you live in or near a major metropolitan area, even a million population figure seems an extreme number.

I am wondering if the average person could tell you just how much a billion of anything is in realistic terms? It is 100 million…a thousand million…100 thousand million…or a million million? Or whether he or she can even comprehend the enormity of our nation's annual budget, (or how easy it is for politicians to spend it as if it were their own money).

You should probably disregard that last comment. If it were truly their own money they probably wouldn't spend it so recklessly…if at all.

It is a lot easier to spend someone else's $$$ than your own. Just ask some of the criminals who got caught. Unfortunately, none were criminal members of Congress.

The national debt is now in the trillions. So, how much is a trillion?

I don't even want to think about it!


Someone sent the following statistics to my son-in-law recently, and he sent them to me. I have not personally checked the authenticity, but someone obviously went to a lot of trouble to compile such figures — so I will accept them at face value and pass them along to you:

Lincoln's Gettysburg Address is a scant 269 words in length.

The word-count for the Declaration of Independence is 1,337.

The Holy Bible contains about 773,000 words.

The tax law, enacted in 1913 with 11,400 words, has expanded to more than 7 million words today. This does not include the word-count in the thousands of other tax laws — State, County, City, School, Excise, Sales, Inheritance, ad infinitum — but let us get back to the subject of the IRS.

There are at least 480 different tax forms, each with many pages of instructions. Even the easiest form, the 1040E, has 33 “how-to” pages, all in fine print. The IRS sends out 8 billion pages of forms and instructions each year. Laid end to end, they would stretch around the earth 28 times. Nearly 300,000 trees are harvested annually to produce the paper for all these IRS forms and instructions alone.

Each year American taxpayers spend $200 billion, and work 5.4 billion hours, just to comply with federal taxes. That is more than it takes to produce every car, truck, and van in the United States. The IRS employs 114,000 people — twice as many as the CIA and five times more than the FBI.

Sixty percent of taxpayers must hire a professional to get through their own return.

Taxes eat up 38.2% of the average family's income — more than for food, clothing, and shelter combined.

Yet…few people today are concerned enough to try to do anything about it, other than to complain, and then pay up. The majority are not even concerned enough to vote out the rascals in Congress who keep running up the national debt through pork legislation, foreign giveaways, and increased taxation. Most of them are the ones who say President Bush's tax cut is irresponsible.

Now that we are in the midst of tax season again, I thought you should know how much money, time, and effort goes into our April (and other) filing dates.

In light of all this, it seems almost incongruous that the American Revolution began 226 years ago primarily because of burdensome taxation.

What is the answer? I am at a loss for words!



I covered this Pop Clock briefly in a previous Jug's Journal article entitled, “HOW MUCH IS A BILLION?” but I am still fascinated with the subject of population explosion.

The U.S. Census Bureau's Pop Clock, at [], is very interesting to contemplate. It shows a running total of both the U.S. and world populations as they continually change on an ever-increasing upward journey.

When I checked this on January 19, 2003 at 6:27 p.m. EST, the U.S. population totaled 292,409,000. The world population totaled 6,343,190,740. But, both will be larger by the time I complete this story and add it to this Web page.

Currently the U.S. net gain is approximately 6 per minute, or 8,640 per day.

At the same time, the world's net gain is 192 per minute or 276,480 per day. As the populations increase so will the numbers of births and deaths and the daily net gain will obviously increase to a higher figure as well.

Perhaps if you live in the teeming population of a big city and are accustomed to the push and shove of the masses, particularly in Asia, these figures probably will not surprise you. But, if you live somewhere out in the wide-open spaces of the Western U.S. or Australia, you may have trouble reconciling this fact of life in the 21st Century.

This is a calculated guess on my part but, at the current rate of growth, the U.S. population should hit the 300,000,000 mark early in 2007. Are you ready?

Check out Pop Clock.


By Jug Varner

November 17, 2005 was the American Cancer Society’s 29th annual Great American Smokeout Day throughout the nation - a time for those who smoke tobacco to take a firm step forward and douse that habit in the ash tray once and for all. Of course, for those who are serious about stopping smoking, it may take more than a day. But, it’s a start!

Before I joined the Navy in WWII, I had never succumbed to the smoking habit, although I had tried it once or twice and didn’t understand why anybody could possibly think it was fun. Then one day some two years later, while in a Navy hospital recovering from an emergency surgery, bored out of my mind with nothing to do, I tried it again. A strange place, indeed, to start smoking, but every patient in the ward except me was a smoker. The non-smoker was a rare exception back then.

Most movie stars of that day made it look glamorous to their youthful fans. Most older adults were already hooked. Viewing old movies of that era, with practically every actor in each scene smoking cigarettes or cigars, emphasizes my point.

For more than a decade I was a two-packs-a-day guy before finally deciding enough was enough. I tried breaking that tough habit a couple of times, half-heartedly wanting to both quit and smoke, but soon realized the only way to stop was quit “cold turkey“ - just stop the dirty habit overnight, never to start again. It was a tough two weeks, but I won. That was in 1954 and I have not smoked since.

During a brief time afterward, I would occasionally dream that I was smoking, then awaken to reality and be greatly relieved that I hadn’t broken my pledge to myself. In my case, that serious pledge to myself was the most important part of the quitting ritual.

It amazed me how much fresher and cleaner the world around me seemed, how much more delightful the food tasted, and how badly my clothes smelled after attending a social affair where many people smoked. The only downside of all this for me was the tastier food. Someone should have warned me to control my diet once I stopped smoking, to keep from gaining too much weight and maintaining it too long. But that food tasted soooo good!

Almost everyone in my and my wife’s family eventually quit the habit and hardly any ever went back to smoking. None of our three kids ever picked up the habit, and none of their kids smoke.

Today, smokers are about as rare in my age group as non-smokers were in my youth, although far too many of teenagers have started the habit, while a number of diehards who would rather die than quit smoking may soon get their wish.

The typical old geezer’s reaction today to his or her misspent youthful years is: “Had I known I would live this long, I would have taken better care of myself.”

(Too soon old, to late smart.)


By Jug Varner
From information by the Associated Press in the Sarasota Herald Tribune

ServiceMasterClean, a Memphis-based janitorial company recently conducted a very interesting Office Cleanliness Monitor poll which, if indicative of the typical American workplace, is rather shocking.

Only 40% of the 1,000 office workers surveyed said they have confidence in the building’s cleaning staff. Moreover, many say they see plenty of unsanitary behavior by co-workers.

Some 85% said they eat at their office workplace, more than a third said they clip their nails at work, and 22% have seen a co-worker sneeze, cough or yawn almost daily without covering his or her mouth. (Sounds like little germ-carrying elementary school kids who haven’t yet learned good personal habits, huh?)

Equally as bad, more than 50% have seen co-workers leave the restroom without washing his or her hands - (Something I personally have noticed in most public restrooms as well).

Such behavior can have severe consequences. More than 75% of these employees said they get sick each year from co-workers (again, reminiscent of elementary school, huh?).

On the day after I read these statistics, I stopped by a local supermarket to pick up a few items and noted a long line of folks near the entrance, awaiting complimentary flu shots.

Conversing with two others while waiting in the checkout counter line, one said, “You know, if everyone would wash their hands at every opportunity, there might not be so much need for flu shots.”

Then I thought again about the skuzzy habits of typical co-workers and added, “Yeah, and if we could instill this habit in our kids before they start to school, maybe it would help eliminate the flu and a lot of health problems throughout their lives.”

When I was a kid, my parents preached, “Cleanliness is next to Godliness.” I believe it still works!


By Jug Varner

For many of us, history was a school subject memorized merely for the benefit of grades, but generally forgotten soon afterward…except for the life history we later helped create.

I happen to be one of a minority who think history is not only interesting, but also a guide to better understanding of how we are today. Even as a kid, I wondered about how things were in the days of my forefathers and beyond. Of course, changes were much slower before the 20th century came along and put its ever-increasing spin on the world of science and technology…and brought us constant change.

It also brought revisionist historians who today are putting their own kind of spin to change what we believed was gospel. Not that recorded history is always what really happened, but some of these modern liberals seem to be recreating it in their own image of politically correctness. Case in point is the current spin mainstream media is putting on present events, which will become recorded history in the future.

There is nothing wrong with correcting errors proved by cross-referenced research of facts. It is important to do so. And certainly it is imperative to record history that has been omitted because of racial bias, as is the case for Americans of African origin, the Native American Indians, and others. But that is entirely different than manufacturing the past (and present) to suit political belief.

What is the truth? It is generally what we believe it to be.

I once researched the history one of my adopted hometowns to write its story while its four original developers were still alive and of sound mind. They were eye-witnesses to its founding, but couldn't always agree on what happened. Interviewing each person separately and asking identical questions to all of them, seldom did I get more than three similar answers. Sometimes less. When all four agreed on something, I took it as fact; and even three out of four was considered reasonable evidence. The remainder required further consultation together to determine a consensus. What couldn't be agreed upon was omitted. Time plays tricks on memory.

Even after all of that, the final product wasn't completely free of error. I dare say that no history book is totally accurate.

About that same time I purchased a summary of 20th century events for use as a reference in my writings. Thumbing through this huge book at home, I noticed an article about Army Air Force Capt. Glenn Miller, the former bandleader of the 1930s-40s swing era, who died in a mysterious flight over the English Channel during WW II. The facts seemed correct (as I remembered them through my knowledge of the times) but the accompanying photo, captioned “Glenn Miller,” wasn't him. It was James Stewart (also a WW II Army Air Force officer), who played the starring role in the movie about Glenn's life. Obviously, whoever edited the article didn't know the difference. It made me wonder how many other stories or photos in that book (or any book, for that matter) were erroneous.

As one of my writing mentors used to say, “Don't believe anything you read, see, or hear, until you've checked it out.” He didn't mention what a long, slow process that could be!

If you would like to see an interesting history of events that occurred during your lifetime, go to this Web site [] and follow the directions to print out your own personal timeline.


By Jug Varner

At military funerals, did you know the 21-gun salute stands for the sum of the numbers in the year 1776?

Have you ever noticed the Honor Guard pays meticulous attention to correctly folding the American flag 13 times? You probably thought it was to symbolize the original 13 colonies, but we learn something new every day!

  • The 1st fold of our flag is a symbol of life.
  • The 2nd fold is a symbol of our belief in eternal life.
  • The 3rd fold is made in honor and remembrance of the veterans departing our ranks who gave a portion of their lives for the defense of our country to attain peace throughout the world.
  • The 4th fold represents our weaker nature, for as American citizens trusting in God, it is to Him we turn in times of peace as well as in time of war for His divine guidance.
  • The 5th fold is a tribute to our country, for in the words of Stephen Decatur, “Our Country, in dealing with other countries, may she always be right; but it is still our country, right or wrong.”
  • The 6th fold is for where our hearts lie. It is with our heart that we “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 7th fold is a tribute to our armed forces, for it is through the armed forces that we protect our country and our flag against all her enemies, whether they are found within or without the boundaries of our republic.
  • The 8th fold is a tribute to the one who entered into the valley of the shadow of death, that we might see the light of day.
  • The 9th fold is a tribute to womanhood, and Mothers. For it has been through their faith, their love, loyalty and devotion that the character of the men and women who have made this country great has been molded.
  • The 10th fold is a tribute to the father, for he, too, has given his sons and daughters for the defense of our country since they were first born
  • The 11th fold represents the lower portion of the seal of King David and King Solomon and glorifies in the Hebrews eyes, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.
  • The 12th fold represents an emblem of eternity and glorifies, in the
    Christians eyes, God the Father, the Son and Holy Spirit.
  • The 13th fold, or when the flag is completely folded, the stars are uppermost, reminding us of our nations motto, “In God We Trust.”

After the flag is completely folded and tucked in, it takes on the appearance of a cocked hat - ever reminding us of the soldiers who served under General George Washington, and the Sailors and Marines who served under Captain John Paul Jones, who were followed by their comrades and shipmates in the Armed Forces of the United States, preserving for us the rights, privileges and freedoms we enjoy today.


By Jug Varner

February is Black History Month in America and I would like to share a brief incident that gave me the pleasure of meeting an conversing with an interesting gentleman who impressed me greatly.

We were standing in a long line at the local supermarket when I noticed a Department of Defense insignia on his cap. I asked him about it and he said he had spent 35 years as a Civil Service employee in the office of the Secretary of Defense before his recent retirement. He and his wife had moved from the Washington D.C. area to Sarasota.

He said his name was Smith, but because he spoke almost in a whisper I couldn’t understand if he had included his first name. I thought perhaps he had a cold until he told me he was recovering from throat cancer. I expressed hope that the prognosis for remission was favorable and he said that his doctor thought he had an excellent chance for full recovery. “You may not know this,” Smith added, “but Sarasota has some of the finest doctors in the world.”

The line was moving slowly as we continued our piece-meal chat. He smiled knowingly when I said I was retired from the Navy and that I had temporary assignments at the Pentagon many times during my 26+ year naval career, but no permanent duty there.

Smith asked several military trivia questions, such as how many Defense Secretaries and 5-star admirals and generals could I name? He had them all on the tip of his tongue while I had to think seriously for the answers. His was practical knowledge learned on the job. Mine was part job related, part history.

We continued in line while he told me of several black engineers, inventors and others not well known publicly, whose contributions were special - including one who was the inventor of the street intersection traffic signal light.

Before we could further the conversation, we were at the front of the line and each checked out at the register. He had to rush to another appointment and I regret that I have neither the first name or telephone number of this intelligent, experienced gentleman.

Hopefully we will meet again at this store or some other venue. I believe we could become good friends.


By Jug Varner

Following more than 250 years of dynamic growth and change in an America that has ascended as the world's greatest military power, small seams in its great democratic dike have begun to show signs of wear that could deteriorate into major cracks difficult to stem or repair.

Historians perhaps will attribute the pivotal eras of this insidious transformation to a number of subtle events that grew with time into epic proportions. While none of these alone may have seemed of great consequence then, their culmination along with other such events brought leaks to the dike that could eventually become floodtides of destruction.

While not singularly responsible, each event has altered customs and traditions of our society, changing America from predominately a God Loving to an increasingly Godless nation.

Could these following events be harbingers of things to come?

  • Decline in educational values
  • Decline in spiritual values
  • Drug addiction
  • Homosexuality
  • Immorality
  • Self love and lack of respect for others
  • Unsportsmanship, and sports adulation
  • Feminism, political correctness, the liberal mainstream media, and
  • Politics that increasingly limit government by, for, or of “the people”

The United States, founded on the principles of Christian faith by those fleeing religious persecution, has become a melting pot of world religions. God was evident in its Bill of Rights, Constitution, money, federal buildings, schools, homes and hearts of its people. In many communities, churches became the dominant social centers.

But in recent years churches and church attendance has greatly declined. Socialist forces under the guise of “true democracy” and “separation of church and state” made inroads to eliminate prayer in public schools — a major breakthrough event that is leading to further assaults to eliminate God totally from our national foundation.

Easing of requirements in basic education at all levels, along with an ultra liberal approach to individual accountability and responsibility, continue to lower America's educational standards. At cross-swords with these do-gooders now in charge stand a small cadre of well-balanced educators as the only hope for the future quality of American education; but it is small hope, indeed.

The youth rebellion of the 1960s by so-called Hippies and Flower Children opened eventual public acceptance of all forms of debilitating drug use. The resultant effect has not only endangered health, but loosened morals to an alarming degree.

Other forms of drugs now flood the open market in the name of increased health and longevity for obese and diet conscience Americans. Yet, despite this rash of physical fitness concepts, obesity has more than doubled since 1990 and heart disease became the number one killer in 2002.

The uses of legal and illegal drugs designed to build physical specimens of high school, college and professional athletes are eliminating participation of average or smaller-sized people in major competitive team sports.

Coupled with a national adulation of sporting events, multimillion-dollar salaries now dominate all major sports activities, creating a new concept of “hero worship.”

The intense desire to win at any cost by management, coaches, players and rabid fans, is eroding the time-honored principles of fair play and true sportsmanship both on and off the field. And, for younger kids, it is “monkey see, monkey do.”

Medical science has made great strides in exotic equipment and procedures but rising costs for medicine, treatment, and hospital stay has left unprotected many citizens who no longer can afford such costs nor the expensive medical insurance premiums to supplement them.

Once whispered about in privacy, open homosexuality officially became mainstream in America by the turn of the 20th Century when several state assemblies considered or passed laws legalizing same-sex intermarriages.

Fueled by television, movies, literature and other venues, decadence and rampant immorality continue to blossom and grow, while once “heroic” Hollywood became the cesspool capitol of the arts and misguided politics.

There was a time in America when the majority believed and adhered to such concepts as Love Thy Neighbor… Do Unto Others As You Would Have Them Do Unto You… To Thine Own Self Be True. Now such old-fashioned ideals are often the subject of ridicule. Not everyone has lost sight of right principles and ideals, and many still strive for this higher road. Unfortunately, their numbers seem to be shrinking.

Always a questionable undertaking for those who believe in fair play, justice, and putting the best interests of the nation ahead of personal ambition, politics is now so expensive that ordinary citizens cannot afford to run for office.

With the “fat cats” in charge, less emphasis seems placed on laws for the general good of the nation than the superfluous pork barrel projects that help reelect mediocre politicians. Big-money lobbyists control more votes than do constituents. The rich get richer as government “by the people” gets poorer.

The other evil side of the political process, known as dirty politics, has become rampant in all levels of government, with false accusations and character assassinations of opponents increasing in blatancy and incredibility.

Voter apathy and greatly reduced turnouts for many elections leave mainly the radical minorities on both sides of the question to determine the outcome.

In such cases, the “majority” that rules is in acuality a minority of the voters.

Corruption by CEOs and other corporate executives has lately become frequent headline events on the national scene. Is there nothing left to astonish the American public?

Despite the eight-year immoral disgrace perpetrated on America by President Bill Clinton while in office, former First Lady (some say “co-President”) Hillary Rodham Clinton became a Senator from New York soon after her brief qualification as a first-time resident there. That election alone speaks volumes about the lowering of the morality bar among American voters.

What will be the fate of America? Will it be typical of the rise and fall of great nations before it? In his The Fate of Empires, British General Sir John Glubb wrote:

“The stages of the rise and fall of great nations seem to be: The Age of Pioneers. The Age of Conquests, The Age of Commerce, The Age of Affluence, The Age of Intellect, and The Age of Decadence.

“Decadence is marked by: Defensiveness, Pessimism, Materialism, Frivolity, An influx of Foreigners, The Welfare State, and A Weakening of Religion.

“Decadence is due to: Too long a period of Wealth and Power, Selfishness, Love of Money, and the Loss of a Sense of Duty.”

For a brief time after the tragedy of September 11, 2001, most Americans rekindled a spirit of patriotism to a degree not seen since WWII. The vast majority got behind our president, our government, and our armed forces, and the war against terrorism.

It didn't take long, however, before political opponents and the liberal press were back to “politics as usual” which seems to have an unstoppable downward spiral of poor quality of content.

Thanks to them, an impatient nation is losing its fervor and understanding for the long haul necessary to overcome the unrelenting force of terrorism. Perhaps only another national disaster can awaken them.

We can only hope that a change in philosophy of our future generations will cause the pendulum to swing back to God and Country before the floodtides of decadence wash away this great nation like it did to those nations in ages past.


By Jug Varner

Except for tornado threats during the past week or so, there hasn’t been a lot of news to pass along on Keeping Apace, so I diverted my attention to more serious matters of the day here in Florida - preparing for whatever might occur when “Bonnie” and “Charley” came through our neighborhood.

They certainly were the kind of unwelcome guests you don’t want dropping in on you for a rowdy visit.

Hurricane Bonnie set the scene for us, feinting a pass our way, then skirting around in the Gulf of Mexico until she landed in the Florida panhandle, then continued her trip upward through the southeast with an overabundance of wind and water.

About the time Bonnie departed, Charley rumbled itoward the Florida Keys looking for a landing spot. The weather guessers at first thought he would head for the Ft. Myers area, then decided he might come in somewhere around Tampa.

Sarasota is roughly halfway between those two spots - so our fair city’s history of artfully dodging the hurricane bullet seemed highly likely to be in jeopardy.

We were getting set for a possible ocean surge of some 8 to 12 feet and winds in excess of 80 knots… and, of course, taking all the necessary precautions for food, water, taping windows and doors, and a lot of time praying that everyone would get through it unscathed.

Then Charley took a right turn and hit the originally predicted destination.

Normally when a hurricane moves over a land mass, it slows considerably and its winds radiate outward in all directions, spawning tornadoes and other heavy weather.

But Charley didn’t slow much - just plowed ahead in a tight coil, maintaining forward speed, wreaking havoc and destruction upon everything in his path to the Atlantic coast where he continued northeastward for two or three more days. He did spawn a few twisters and heavy thunderstorms, but never uncoiled in our area, thus preventing even more devastation.

Because of this continuance and containment, and despite coming within a few miles of us on the way out of the state, Sarasota was spared the surge, the heavy winds and a great potential for damage and loss of lives. Officials are still trying to add up all the destruction of what may be the most costly hurricane in this state’s long history of such storms.

So we breathed a huge sigh of relief and gave thanks for answered prayers.

Sadly, many victims in Charley’s path were not so fortunate. When you are close to these situations, you realize what a great difference a late or early turn can make in the landfall of these monster storms and the importance of doing everything possible to prepare and protect yourself against them.

The people of Florida have been great in donating money, supplies, materials and hands-on assistance to those many unfortunates who suffered losses from the storms.

If you would like to support the clean-up efforts of Hurricane Charley, click on,1072,0_312_3132,00.html [,1072,0_312_3132,00.html] or []


By Jug Varner

My Jug’s Journal writings frequently refer to Lubbock - where I lived during my public school years. Bonnie and I established our first post-WWII home in this Texas panhandle prairie town - an area once inhabited by native tribes and buffalo herds, but now one of the world‘s top producers of irrigated cotton and grain.

An unusual itinerate life has offered me many places to call “home” before and since that 1930s-40s era but, although few friends and no relatives remain there, Lubbock is still the “hometown of my heart.” It contains memories of my formative childhood, teenage and early marriage years, and is one of only three cities where I lived for more than three years during my 80-years-and-counting voyage on planet Earth. Our current hometown Sarasota FL may become the fourth.

These “good old days” recall the time I was growing up, trying but failing to see the world through rose-colored glasses - a term that once described “seeing things as you wanted them to be, not as they were.” Despite those financially depressed years, when I began working as a ten-year-old in my family’s restaurant, I was somewhat protected by parental pride that never wanted their kids to know how close we were to the bottom rung of poverty.

We didn’t have much money but we did have basic clothes, something to eat and two small rooms (in the back of the restaurant) to call home - as well as being continually reminded to “count your blessings.” Kids couldn’t help but know, however. We saw the many destitute “have-nots” passing through our town in search of hope - and a handout from the “haves.” Sometimes the “haves” were almost as poor as the needy people they shared food and clothing with, but everyone shared something. I couldn’t number the ones who came to the back door of our restaurant asking if they might do some work to earn a meal. We honored their dignity by assigning them some minor tasks, if there were any, but generally we fed as many as we possibly could.

The parents’ strength and protection came from their grit, determination, hard work and sincere belief that things would get better. Back then, one’s destiny hinged on individual effort, not government assistance - although overcoming that national financial disaster was abetted by numerous government social programs to “make work” across the nation through building dams and parks, creating art for federal buildings and other temporary jobs to increase the number of employed, even if poorly paid. In 1933 more than 25% of the nation’s work force was idle.

In 1937, when conditions began to ease slightly, Congress enacted a law to establish the Social Security Administration - today an integral part of our lives. Then, however, it was difficult to give up the miniscule amount one paid into the new-fangled program each month.

The financial crisis was not the only problem. Disastrous weather conditions created terrible duststorms that eroded farmland soil throughout the Midwestern states from Canada to Mexico during a prolonged drought, turning once-fertile land into desert. Among the worst hit areas were Oklahoma and the Texas panhandle.

Unable to grow crops or pay their bills, farm families left their homesteads and migrated elsewhere - seeking work of any kind but finding little. California was one of the favorite areas and the influx of these migrants helped increase that states population by an additional 2,500,000 souls during the 1930s.

Growing up in this type of environment made a lasting impression on all who experienced it. If there ever was a situation that one could describe as “character building,” that was it for me. At an early age I learned the importance of giving 100% effort to any endeavor, kindness, generosity, love of family, love of friends, love of God, love of country, honesty, integrity, and many other good qualities of life. It was what parents and teachers expected of young people in those days and held them to it. Most families attended church regularly, came to the aid of their neighbors, and lived decent lives.

When World War II came upon us, America’s young men and women were adult beyond their years and well grounded in the work ethic it took to man the battle stations and shore up armed services that had been badly depleted of personnel and equipment through lack of funding during the Great Depression years.

Young people today may be tired of hearing about the so-called “greatest generation,” but set in that time frame of financial and environmental disaster, we were a generation with character — built through trials and deprivation experienced during our youth.


By Jug Varner

For a number of years the Houston Chronicle newspaper has carried a popular thrice-weekly column by Leon Hale, an excellent writer of random musings about life in general and Houston in particular.

Leon has compiled many of these columns in several published books — most of which I have in my library. I am a fan of his not only for his down-home humor, style, and interesting approach to life, but especially because he has crossed that threshold of 80+ years and is still actively engaged in life.

On rare occasions he writes about the “Old Codgers Club.” He says he is the “recording secretary” and makes no decisions in this small group. It meets at a local icehouse at no specific time schedule, to discuss things of mutual interest. He says it is typical of many such groups in communities all across the country. I think he is right.

From 1971 to 1997, Bonnie and I lived at Lakeway, Texas, on Lake Travis, WNW of Austin. It was an interesting experience to be a vital part of the growth and development of this new community, help to establish a local government and various organizations, as well as all the other trappings that go with such an enterprise, volunteering to the Nth degree.

Eventually Lakeway grew from a small weekend resort to the fast growing, bustling city it is today, and, yes, we eventually had our own version of Leon's “Old Codgers Club.”

We called ours the “Spit and Whittle Club.” The name conjured a vision of old men sitting on benches around the Court House Squares of many small Texas towns, chewing tobacco, whittling with their pocketknives, and discussing important issues of their “guvmint.”

Unlike those typical whittlers who were “on the outside looking in,” however, our little group comprised the senior movers and shakers of our community (mostly in our 60s and 70s, when I was there). We brought our own refreshments to a special place every Friday after 5 p.m. It was laughter, jokes. and talk of many things, but mostly about the week's problems and events — locally, statewide, and nationally. We solved them all, too. Unfortunately, they somehow slipped back into their previous conditions once we left the building.

Ours was a great, relaxing fellowship that helped put everything in its proper perspective. At last report, the group was still going strong, with about the same degree of success. I must confess that I miss it, and need to start a similar “club” here in the current hometown I adopted four years ago.

Every age group has something special:

  • Youth has its freedom, excitement, and dreams to contemplate;
  • Middle age has raising families, careers, and social life to spur them along; and
  • Senior age has its friendships, life experiences, and wisdom to draw upon.

The importance of it all is for us to appreciate and enjoy each stage of our lives while we are passing through them.


By Byron D.(Jug) Varner

I read an article not long ago about something that really hit home with me, and I regret that I didn’t save it for a reprint here, with proper credit for its author. So I am passing the gist of it along to you in my own words. It is about American coins and something that should be precious to all Americans.

When I was a kid growing up in the hard times of depression years before WWII, I was always on the lookout for coins as I walked along the street on an errand or on my way to school. Money was scarce then and people were very careful with their change, so I didn’t find much, but I found pennies occasionally and once in a while maybe a dime or a quarter. But even a penny would buy a good sized bite of candy back then.

Even today, from habit formed long ago, I find myself surveying the road on my morning walk and occasionally picking up a stray coin. Not that it is worth all that much in today’s economy - or so I thought until I read the article I mentioned. I have actually heard someone say that “It isn’t worth the effort to stop, bend over, and pick up a coin now days. My time is more valuable than the coin.” Now, I know why he was wrong.

Despite the effort by those liberal politically correct folks who would take God out of our schools, public places, government buildings and our daily lives, the coins we use every day but seldom look at closely anymore have those four precious words “In God We Trust” stamped on each of them. Perhaps these folks will even try to change this, too.

Stopping to pick up a coin off the street today is worth far more than its monetary value. It’s genuine and true value is not money, but is in those four little words, “In God We Trust” - a constant reminder of what our citizenship means and our gratitude for: a benevolent and loving God who protects us as individuals and as a unified nation founded in his name… A God of love, not hate… who bids us to do good… not evil.

America was founded on these Christian principles and is the world’s largest Christian nation, yet our founding fathers established freedom here for all religions to come together in peace and unity. “One nation, under God, with liberty and justice for all.”

We may be greatly outnumbered by most major religions of the world, but not in power nor in God-given rights. We must never forget that we are a Christian nation and that God has a definite place in our government and our lives. And we must never give in to those who would take it away from us under the guise of constitutionality or anything else.

Think about it.


By Jug Varner

Satchel Paige, the great and quotable baseball player said, “Never look back, they may be gaining on you.”

That's a good rule for sports competitors, but if you don't look back in real life it is difficult to judge how far you've come and how your experiences shaped your life. I guess I'm just a historian at heart. That is why I enjoyed reading a recent article on the Internet that was “right on” in comparing kids today with the way we old (and not so old) codgers were when we were growing up.

As often is the case, the author's name was missing so I can't give credit to him or her, but I can vouch that the following excerpts from the article are true, at least in my own childhood.

“According to today's regulators and bureaucrats, those of us who were kids in the 40's, 50's, 60's, and 70's probably shouldn't have survived.

  • Our baby cribs were covered with bright colored lead-based paint.
  • We had no childproof lids on medicine bottles, doors or cabinets, and when we rode our bikes, we had no helmets. Not to mention the risks we took hitchhiking.
  • As children, we would ride in cars with no seat belts or air bags. Riding in the back of a pickup truck on a warm day was always a special treat.
  • We drank water from the garden hose, and not from a bottle.
  • We ate cupcakes, bread and butter, and drank soda pop with sugar in it, but few were overweight because we were always outside playing.
  • We shared one soft drink with four friends, from one bottle, and no one actually died from this.
  • We spent hours building our go-carts out of scraps and then rode down the hill, only to find out we forgot the brakes. After running into the bushes a few times, we learned to solve the problem.
  • In the summertime, we often left home in morning and usually played all day, as long as we were back when the streetlights came on. No one was able to reach us all day (unless they came looking for us). No cell phones in those days.
  • We had no Playstations, Nintendo 64, X-Boxes, no video games at all, none of these 99 channels on cable, video taped movies, surround sound, personal cell phones, personal computers, or Internet chat rooms. We had friends, and went outside and found them.
  • We played dodge ball, and sometimes, the ball would really hurt. We fell out of trees, got cuts and broke bones and teeth—and there were no lawsuits from these accidents. They were accidents. No one was to blame but us. Remember accidents?
  • We had fights and punched each other and got black and blue and learned to get over it. We made up games with sticks and tennis balls and ate worms, and although we were told it would happen, we did not put out very many eyes, nor did the worms live inside us forever.
  • We rode bikes or walked to a friend's home and knocked on the door, or rang the bell or just walked in and talked to them. In Later years, Little League and cheerleaders had tryouts and not everyone made the team. Those who didn't had to learn to deal with disappointment.
  • Some students weren't as smart as others, so they failed a grade and were held back to repeat the same grade. Tests were not adjusted for any reason. Our actions were our own. Consequences were expected. The idea of a parent bailing us out if we broke a law was unheard of. They actually sided with the law. Imagine that!
  • This generation has produced some of the best risk-takers and problem solvers and inventors, ever. The past 50-years has been an explosion of innovation and new ideas.
  • We had freedom, failure, success and responsibility, and learned how to deal with it all.

If you are one of us… who have had the good fortune to grow up as “kids” and had fun doing it… congratulations!”


By Byron (Jug) Varner

We laugh at Yogi's saying, “When you come to the fork in the road, take it,” but those who believe in fate would say that each serious decision one makes at the fork of the road can change his or her life forever. All of us have made personal decisions in the past that may later cause the question, “what if?”

That is true in the fate of a nation as well. Take war, for instance. What if:
* Adolf Hitler had invaded England instead of Russia in WW II?
* Congress had not passed the 1940 Selective Service Act (Military Draft)?
* Japan had followed-up their disastrous victory at Pearl Harbor with an invasion of that Island?
* Japan had invaded the West Coast of America, as feared at the time?
* General Eisenhower had called off the D-Day invasion because of the weather forecast?
* Germany had developed its atom bomb before it surrendered?
* The U.S. had not dropped the A-Bomb on Japan?
* President Truman had given Gen. Douglas MacArthur the green light to invade * North Korea, instead of firing him?
* President Lyndon Johnson had allowed the generals to run the Vietnam War instead politics and public opinion, and allowed an invasion of North Vietnam at its weakest point in time?
* President George Bush (the elder) had not abided by the mandate of the United Nations to stop the Gulf War, and totally destroyed the Iraqi regime of Saddam Hussein?
* The Terrorists had been successful in their initial bombing of the World Trade Center?
* The Terrorists had been successful in all of their planned simultaneous attacks on 9/11/01?

Perhaps if any of the above had occurred each succeeding question may have been irrelevant.

As to our individual lives, every decision we made had alternatives — any one of which could have changed the way things are today…but maybe not. My take on this is that if you make the best decision possible with the facts at hand at the time (and are sober), there should be no regrets, no what-ifs. If you had it to do all over again you probably would have made the same decision you made the first time. The only perfect science is hindsight.

Life is a fork in the road. You have a 50-50 chance of being right…and a 90% probability of taking the wrong turn. But then, who knows if it would have been wrong? You may have been run over by an 18-wheeler if you'd have turned the other way.

For good mental health, you merely do the best you can with what you have where you are. Then don't worry about what might have been. It might have been worse than you thought.


By Jug Varner

Recently I received a service news article written by an active duty Army lad in his early 40s, lamenting how swiftly time etches the body. He could not get over (nor accept) the fact that he is sprouting a gray hair here and there, and weighs a bit more than he did at 20. Well, duh!

Somehow his self-discovery did not elicit any sympathy from this end of the age spectrum, inasmuch as I have three kids older than he is!. My first reaction was to send him an offer to trade ages with him, provided I can keep my own brain.

Most folks in my “senior” bracket believe one of the primary problems in our American culture is this lopsided accent on youth. Frankly, in my own experience, I believe the last 50 years are better than the first 50, all things considered.

But, thanks to this youth fixation, I suppose when young people reach 40 these days most of them think life has passed them by. Yeah, guys and girls, it's time to buy more insurance, compose a new will, and start writing those memoirs, because you only have 40 to 60 more years life expectancy!

I will admit that age sometimes seems to go faster as you get older, but this “kid” should get real. Yes, you're still a kid in your 40s. Rather than complain, start appreciating the good fortune of youth and health and vigor. It is a priceless gift. The proper response to such a wonderful gift should be to take better care of that “40-something” mind and body - by eating well, getting and staying fit, and eliminating debilitating habits.

Concentrate more on doing good things to make other people happy and get your mind off yourself. We are only as old as we will allow ourselves to be. Physical laws may say we have to grow older, but there is no law that says we have to “grow up.” Our thinking is what keeps us young or makes us old.

So, get a life! Get gray, shampoo regularly, and add something to make the silver shine! Gray hair is nothing to be ashamed of…and a lot better than bald, or shaved.

Now, after all of this pep talk, if you still can't come to terms with “gray,” just remember: “Old blondes never fade, they just dye away.”


By Jug Varner

It was 40 years after graduation when I attended our first high school class reunion back in Lubbock, TX. It also happened to be the first one our class ever held. What a great get-together it was – particularly for those of us who had not remained in the old hometown and seldom if ever had seen each other in the interim.

Our Class of 1941 was scattered to the four winds by WW II, and some who left never returned, but I was amazed at how many did return and lived in Lubbock the rest of their lives. Some of the girls had married military men in training at the local air bases, some of the guys married girls in other states where they were stationed, and, as it turned out, not many married their high school sweethearts. Bonnie and I were one of perhaps eight couples that had — about 2%. Not your typical average.

A number of our teachers attended the reunion as well — some looking as young as their students. Most of us had gone through both junior high and high school together, and knew just about everyone in school, including many of the siblings. America wasn't a move-around society in those years, and each person sort of bloomed where we were planted. But the war changed all that, and life has never been the same.

Not many of us had traveled much to speak of back then, so our world was the old hometown. Once the war took us to far away places, it gave us new perspectives and changed our minds about people, places, what we wanted to be, and where we wanted to live. I always had a special place in my heart for the town, but lived there only two years after WW 2.

Despite the joy of seeing old friends again and the fun of the moment, there was a bit of melancholy mixed in. After Bonnie and I returned to our then home at Lakeway near Austin, TX, I wrote the following poem about how I felt:


I went back to the old hometown to capture yesterday,
But somehow things were not the same as when I'd gone away.
Oh, there still stood some buildings that I recognized of yore,
And here and there a name I knew… a sign upon a store.

Most streets were as they used to be, but some of them had changed.
New ones had been added and the town was rearranged.
The old landmarks were all but gone, replaced by something new,
And seldom did I see a person that I thought I knew.

Those few acquaintances I saw had changed along with time.
“Friendly strangers, now,” I thought, “with lives so unlike mine.”
The passing years had not erased my vivid memories,
Of days gone by which I remembered in my reveries.

I saw myself still as a child in all those yesterplaces,
With all my family and good friends with their familiar faces.
The things we did, the way we were, the good and bad times shared,
The way we helped each other and how much we really cared.

Then as this dream began to fade, I saw reality:
Another time, a different place, had changed my life for me.
The “good old days” had disappeared like mist a wind could stir.
Things aren't the same as they were then. Perhaps they never were.

One can't go home into the past, or try to make it fit.
Our present thought about the past is all there is of it.
Our real home is within us, and it's right here where we are.
No need to search the old hometown, nor travel very far.

Today is all that truly counts. Tomorrow isn't here.
The way we live our “every day” affects our “every year.”
And when that year becomes the past we then can look back, seeing
The worthwhile things that we have done to justify our being.

- Byron D. Varner 1981

Our 50th Anniversary reunion 10 years later wasn't quite as lively as the first. Age was sneaking up on some, and our list of the deceased had grown. However, a number who missed the 40th did attend the 50th. It, too, was very enjoyable, but in a different way. More talking, less dancing!

When another decade passed, there was no apparent demand for a 60th. I suppose we had enjoyed enough lessons in mortality. But I strongly recommend that you attend your next one, especially if you never have gone to a Class Reunion.


By Jug Varner

If you are into college athletics, no doubt you are aware of the Big 12 and know that Texas Tech University is one of those 12. You also probably know that Tech is located in Lubbock. A lot of network and cable sportscasters know this, but what they do not know (and this is one of my pet peeves) is how to pronounce Lubbock properly. The large majority of them say “Lubbick” – as in sick.

Even those other “out-of-towners” who go there to do play-by-play and color analysis of Tech's nationally televised games, and undoubtedly listen to the locals refer to it properly, still revert to the “IK.”

It puzzles me that ones in that profession, who should strive to correctly pronounce words, don't know the difference between “o” and “i.” But then, everyone who lives there may not know the difference between “o” and “u” — because natives in and around Lubbock and Texas officially pronounce it “Lubbuck,” as in “LUCK.”

All together now, repeat after me real fast: “Lubbuck, Lubbuck, Lubbuck.” That is much better. Nobody likes to hear the name of his or her old hometown mispronounced.

This thriving metropolis of some 200,000 fine citizens (and a few old grouches) is 120 miles due south of (and larger than) Amarillo, in the plains country of the Texas panhandle. The university, founded in 1925, has evolved into an outstanding modern day university system.

If you are into war history, Texas Tech possesses the largest collection of Vietnam War articles outside the federal government. It houses Gen. William Westmorland's papers (he commanded all American troops in Vietnam), along with many other items that lure scholars to the campus for research. Noted historian Douglas Pike moved his Indochina Archive from the University of California at Berkeley to the Texas Tech Vietnam Center, bolstering an already extensive collections of books, diaries, doctoral dissertations, letters, maps, microfilm, etc. For more information call 806-742-9010, or click here. []

But, the main reason I am writing this (other than to straighten out a bunch of errant sportscasters) is to tell you about the Vatican Fresco Art Exhibit direct from Rome.

This one-of-a-kind art event is being featured at the Texas Tech Museum from June 2 through September 7, 2002, and is the only venue in the U.S. where it can be seen. If you would like more information, click here. []

Oh yes, I almost forgot: Lubbock was recently in the national news when a team of elite Special Forces known as Panhandle Patriots, based at a secret location east of town, was mobilized for duty in Afghanistan. Their specialty is in the area of subterranean warfare (caves, etc.).

Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld announced that some 100,000 of these elite fighters would be used to search out and destroy Taliban and Al-Qaida forces hiding in caves and in the mountains. “We didn't think we were going to have to use these elite forces,” said Rumsfeld, “but it's time to end this thing…these fighters are specially trained for subterranean attack and can even be used to locate and dismantle land mines.”

The photo on the right shows a Panhandle Patriot during a recent training exercise.

Lubbock's MacKenzie Park is home to one of the largest Prairie Dog communities in the country. (I should have written these last three paragraphs for April Fools Day! All the rest of the article is true, I swear.)


By Jug Varner

One thing I frequently hear from contemporaries is: “Things aren't like they used to be.” I usually respond with, “And perhaps they never were…at least, not exactly the way we remember them.” With each re-telling, our tales may get embroidered a bit.

My contention is: that the “Good Old Days” may in reality be “Good things we remember about Bad Times.” Somehow (for our mental health, I suppose) our memory tends to relegate the tough part of life mostly to its hidden recesses. “Time heals all wounds”…as they say…or, is that “wounds all heels?”

Anyhow, when an old geezer starts telling you stories of his days of yore, humor him by listening politely (or reading his article), will you? Just consider the source. Some of us still have good memory banks, while others don't remember much about the past (or the present, either).

While I am still reasonably sane, I will tell you some tales from my life experiences from time to time. Just in case you doubt my veracity, however, I do have a valid reference point. These incidents were included in a 400-page family history book I wrote in the early 80s, when I was 20 years saner than I am now.

“Hard times” was the name of the game when I was a kid. I'm sure there were a few folks somewhere in the country that were not as devastated by the 1930s' financial depression as were the average family I knew, but the percentage must have been miniscule. Most people were dirt poor, scratching for a living any way they could.

There were no child labor laws then. Kids worked on the farm, in family businesses, or at whatever odd jobs they could find, to help their family cope financially. In the process, we learned many of life's hard lessons at an early age.

My first job, age 9, was helping my sister deliver family made pies and donuts to grocery stores and restaurants. Then I hit the big time selling the local newspaper on the street for five cents a copy, and received a penny for each one sold. That didn't add up very fast because a lot of other kids were doing the same thing, and the bigger and older ones taught the beginners about “territory” and “competition.” But, not without a few fistfights. A penny could buy a lot of things then. A nickel would buy a hamburger, so a few pennies made a difference. I still pick them up when I see one on the street…despite the modern concept that it isn't worth the time it takes.

My parents opened a restaurant when I was 10. Actually, the word “restaurant” was too high-class to describe this simple Texas Café that we started on a “shoestring” (as they used to say, when shoestrings cost a nickel.) It was an old wooden building, circa 1900, located on the Courthouse square of our small Texas town. The kind you used to see in TV's “Gunsmoke.” A plus for us was that it also had a small living quarters attached. This new venture would be both home and business, and the main stay of our existence for the next six years. Each sibling worked along with our parents, eliminating the need for much hired help.

With 25% of the national population unemployed, every town had its share of itinerants looking for work and food. A few were professional bums (hobos, we called them), but they were the exceptions. Most wanderers were good folks merely down on their luck. We gave many of them free meals out the Café kitchen door, and actually hired a few for extra help. Wages were a dollar a day and meals. One could rent a room for 50-cents or less.

My starting job there (at no pay, of course) was errand boy, floor cleaner, and “pearl diver” — that was café lingo for dishwasher. I also pulled a small wagon loaded with iced pop, candy bars, fried pies, etc., and sold to workers in offices, garages, etc., for snacks. Food dispensing machines hadn't been invented. Then came working the counter and waiting tables, eventually learning to cook, then fry cook, and finally, running the night shift. With little time for homework, my grades suffered, but I paid attention in class, did well on tests, and didn't flunk any courses. I managed to take part in a few extra-curricular activities, including football, choir, drama, etc., but mostly I worked.

We were out of the restaurant business after my sophomore year when our friendly banker landlord didn't renew our lease. His bank built a high-rise office building on the site instead. I worked at other eateries for the $9 per 7-day week until I landed a “fun” job. Roller rinks were in their heyday, and I became a floor manager for the next two years. One Sunday afternoon, a local Army recruiter and frequent skater came in with the news that the Japanese had bombed Pearl Harbor. None among us had ever heard of Pearl Harbor before then. “But, don't worry,” he said, “We will beat those little monkeys in about six weeks.” That was a typical naïve statement about 1941 world affairs.

Radio was a teenage staple, especially the music of the big bands era, and we all liked to dance. I memorized so many of the popular songs of the times that I can still recite some of the lyrics today. Every now and then, a song I haven't heard in years will pop into thought and I play it in my mind a few times until most or all of the words come back to me.

Dating didn't require a lot of money. Mainly we went to one of several hangouts near the college campus where they provided a “juke box” and a dance area for food service customers. Like the words of Glenn Miller's popular tune of the era, Juke Box Saturday Night, said…”While sipping up sodas we had a scheme, somebody else fed the record machine…”

No…things aren't like they used to be. Despite our hard times, we had a lot more in some ways than people have now — and most of it had nothing to do with money or materiality.


By Jug Varner

Like nomadic tribes, moving is a way of life for those in military service. When one has no wife and kids and few personal belongings, moving is a piece of cake. Throw everything in some bags and hit the road. It only gets complicated when you add dependents and material possessions to the formula. The more of each that you add, the more complicated it becomes. Moving also becomes addictive.

Perhaps there are a few of you out there who can match or exceed my personal record of moving — and if so, I'd like to know about it — but I have been at it a long time. And by the time you read this I will have moved one more time, which adds up to 71 places of abode since Bonnie became my bride during WW 2. (Oh yes, and there were 44 moves before I ever got married.) You probably think this is fiction…but as they always say, “truth is sometimes stranger than fiction.”

Once WW 2 got underway, the entire American industry converted to war production and little was available for the civilian home front after millions had gone to war. Housing was one of the casualties. You took your wife with you to various training sites at your own risk. All those places were overcrowded with transient trainees (most of whom took their new wives along despite the warnings). Fortunately some civilians with spare bedrooms and the need for company and income rented a room with kitchen privileges. You took whatever you could find (some seemed like chicken coops) until you found something better.

My first duty station after graduating from flight training (and getting married on the same day) was for a two-month interim training program at Atlanta — then small by comparison with the Atlanta of today. We moved five times. It became a way of life at each duty station until I went overseas and Bonnie returned home to live with her parents until the war ended. It was well into the 1950s before housing began to normalize, but the problems continued during the Korean War…then Vietnam. It wasn't quite as drastic, or as often, but we moved a lot!

After Navy retirement in 1968, I began a civilian career that took us to various cities, but by then moving seemed more like a habit than a requirement. The upside of all this is that we met some great people, saw a lot of the world, and accumulated more “stuff” to move around with us.

In the current move we initiated the process of downsizing for the first time. I can tell you it is a lot easier to move into a larger space than into a smaller one. The acid test is the decision of what to get rid of and what to keep. There is just so much you can pawn off onto your kids. They have their own “stuff” and little need for yours. We sold some, gave some to charity, and threw some away…and we still may need a storage space. You just can't part with some things the first time around, but you also can't get a size 10 foot into a size 7 shoe.

The fun part is, there may be a 72 and 73. We will be nomads to the end.


By Byron (Jug) Varner

Most of us in the military get a nickname that sticks for the rest of our lives. I got mine during Navy primary flight training - winter of 1943 - not because I sipped the jug, but because I was shaped like one at times. Let me qualify “at times.”

We were flying the open cockpit, N2-S “Yellow Peril” in Hutchinson, KS, and it was c-c-cold up there in the blue (sometimes purple). The answer to our prayers was a temperature inversion to warm up the altitudes in which we flew, but that rarely occurred. So we wore bulky, brown leather fleece-lined flight suits to stay warm enough to fly, and face masks to protect against frostbite.

Waddling out to the flight line on the first day we bundled up in this gear, I carried my parachute under one arm and a pillow under the other. The aircraft's rudder pedals were not extendable and my short legs needed that back pillow to get my feet closer. Fellow cadets Leroy Dowden and George Springer were following close behind, and started laughing. “Varner,” Dowden hollered, “You look like a little brown jug.” Others joined in making fun of my comical look in that attire, and the name stuck.

Actually, I didn't like the name Byron when I was young. Almost everyone in Texas mispronounced it - even some in my own family. I got tired of hearing Bryan, Baron, Barn, Biren, Brine, etc., so I just used the initials B. D. in the Navy - until I became “Jug.”

Now that we are on a “first-name” basis, you can better understand the title of this feature. It contains the musings of this old three-war veteran who is trying valiantly to keep up with modern culture in the 21st Century, as well as news and features of interest to military oriented folks.


By Jug Varner

The Month of May is upon us.

More years ago than I care to remember, when I was a 1st grader in a small town Texas elementary school, we danced around a May Pole. I was an elf, but had no pointy-toed elf costumed shoes like the other kids, so I danced (if you could call it that) in my socks. Yeah, I know…real men don't dance around May Poles, but I was just a pint-sized kid at the time.

What is strange, however, is that I don't remember ever seeing or hearing about another May Pole celebration after moving away from there to a larger town later that year.

For some reason — springtime, I guess — I was thinking about those days long ago and decided to research a bit. As you know, within the vast infinity of cyberspace are many things. All one needs to find out about any one of these things is a good Web search engine (I am partial to Google), type in a subject, and stand back! I typed in May Pole and was amazed by the results. Maybe you already know all about May Poles, but if not, click here [] for starters, and go on from there…or maybe not.

For those of you who have not yet reached the senior plateau, I can tell you that when you do, all sorts of things from the past seep into your everyday thoughts. Don't ask me why, but you find yourself asking yourself (sometimes aloud), “Why would I be thinking about that?” Such as when an old tune pops up from the deep, dark past, and you try to remember the words…or a name long forgotten suddenly wants your immediate recall. In my case, I just keep at it until whatever wants to be remembered comes back loud and clear — although it is not always an immediate result. Experts say most of us use only one-tenth or less of our thought capacity, so mental exercises are as needful as the physical.

And yes, we do talk to ourselves, usually in the form of rhetorical questions. It's okay to talk to yourself, I suppose, as long as you don't start answering. Then onlookers will think you really are a little nutty.


By Jug Varner

In a recent column, I mentioned the five-cent hamburgers of my youth. It reminded me of something that occurred more recently.

Occasionally I write articles for our local paper. One of these was about Veterans Day. A local area teacher read it and invited me to come talk with her intermediate school class.

It was an interesting experience because today's youth know very little about history, except what they skim over in class or see on films or TV. One never knows what to expect in talking with a group of seventh-graders, so I planned a general theme, and to let their questions lead me into whatever situation seemed to spark an interest — hoping that not too many would go to sleep.

That worked pretty well, especially when I talked about how things were when I was about their age in school, many years ago. That led to some remarks about five-cent hamburgers as well as other things of that time period. Most of them stayed awake all the way through.

A couple of weeks later, a package arrived containing individual “thank you” letters from each student in attendance. I'm sure the teacher required this as part of their grade, but it was a nice gesture, nonetheless. It was also an excellent feedback of their reactions. You guessed it. Almost every one of them made some comment about the nickel hamburger. They still couldn't believe it.

One of my favorite projects is one I have coordinated with local schools for the past four years. We bring the 65-and-over age group together with fledgling writers who interview them once a week for three weeks, then create a story about the elders' lives. We publish each year's stories in a bound volume and give a copy to each of the participants.

This has evolved into something very special for both age groups, without the personal attachment of typical grandparent-grandchild relationships. The students learn a lot about history from those who helped make it…and also learn that age is merely a state of mind. The seniors learn that today's youngsters far exceed their stereotyped prior expectations. They learn, too, that except for cultural changes over time, today's kids are not all that different than the seniors were at that same age.

Everyone seems to benefit from this interesting program and, despite the inexperience of the writers, their stories are a special treat. And so are the newfound friendships that are kindled by this “closing of the age gap.”

Too soon old…too late smart.


By Jug Varner

Ah for the good old days of careless youth, when we didn’t realize how well life was treating us and how easy it was to maintain large biceps and small waistlines while eating generally whatever we liked.

Every morning during my two-mile walk these days, physical specimens of the above description whiz past me during their daily jogging along the street or across the nearby bay bridge, reminding me that I, too, was once a hard-bodied young squirt passing old men like they were standing still. When the specimen is a girl, I usually tell her as she jogs swiftly by, “Hey, kid, slow down… you’re making me look old.”

What I probably should say is, “Slow down kid and don’t put so much strain on your ankles and knees if you want to live to be my age or older.”

Unfortunately, the age group between young and old are rather scarce on this daily fitness trail. They are too busy with careers, schooling their kids, wrestling with financial burdens, over-eating and under-exercising as they drift through a middle-age that passes all too quickly - until one day when they awake to the fact that they are obese and have lost one of their most cherished possessions - youth.

By this time they are enveloped by the American overweight syndrome and are subject to all the ills it brings, particularly to the heart, lungs and joints. Some will wise up in time to diet, stop smoking, get back in shape and start taking care of themselves properly, but most will continue in the obvious direction they are heading only to fall prey to its devastating aftermath.

Like other Florida sun coast cities, Sarasota‘s predominant population is made up of seniors, some well into their 80s and 90s. Many of these folks are in fairly good physical condition, walk a lot, eat sensibly and thoroughly enjoy this land of sunshine and all of its amenities in the arts, sports and other offerings here.

City officials are quite flexible in accommodating all such events. Local police cordon streets with barricades or orange cones and reroute traffic for frequent parades, street art exhibits, entertainment, marathons, etc., as necessary to please one and all.

One morning, about 15 minutes into my walk, police were busy setting up a street cordon for a 5K and 10K race. Proceeds from the entry fees would go to help rebuild two Port Charlotte County YMCA childcare facilities damaged by the recent Hurricane Charley.

The marathon route paralleled my usual path and, before long, the hard-bodied faster runners of the 10K group sped by - followed by the rest of the thundering herd of athletic shoe-clad feet. The leaders were all business and seemed fiercely competitive as they rapidly disappeared over the bridge‘s horizon - only to reappear very quickly on the return run, huffing and puffing like African Gnus in a stampede, hell-bent for their ultimate finish line.

Next came the speedier runners of the 5K group, leading the pack of competitive, somewhat serious, but mostly in-for-the-fun-of-it group - a passing parade of much slower and time-consuming folks. Participants in this lesser, but joyful, event included the entire spectrum of runners, striders, walkers, strollers and stragglers.

This motley crew included all ages - adults and kids alike, mothers pushing baby carriages, skinny, flabby and in between, you name it. But it was a fun-fest and all for a good cause - to help their friends and neighbors well south of Sarasota.

Whatever their speed and effort, they were at least exercising their bodies - along with their pocketbooks and concerns for their fellow man.

Sarasota is a great place to live and I am glad to be able to be a part of this passing parade and to send you this slice of life from my adopted hometown.


By Jug Varner

It seems to me that most people are so concerned about age that they have a hard time being who they really are. Kids can't wait to be teens…teens can't wait to be adults…young adults can't wait to graduate, get married, and start a career. And so it continues with each age group, ad infinitum. But there will come a time when the waiting is over and older age sneaks up and bites either gently or very hard.

Unfortunately, for many who couldn't wait to reach each successive stage in life, suddenly they are much older and can't wait for that ache or pain to go away. But now they have time to look back upon their journey through life and wish they had spent a little more time enjoying the trip. Hindsight vision is 20-20.

No group seems to have what they want. Youth wants excitement and riches, elders want good health and companionship. Middle-agers just want to get the kids through college without experiencing bankruptcy or divorce. Then there is the great minority of thoughtful folk who learned to take life one day at a time and let the budding flower unfold — truly a rare breed.

As the old adage goes: “To soon old, to late smart.”

There's another saying that smart people take for gospel: “You are never too old to learn.” How many times have you heard people say, “Oh, I'm too old to learn…” whatever it is they don't want to learn. Many of them actually believe it… others use it as an excuse, or lack of desire. Whatever the motive, it is a lie. We have the gift of intelligence unlike any other type creature on Earth, but only a rare few of us come even close to exercising our potential thought process.

Another form of age-consciousness is the accent on youth to the exclusion of everyone else. But those who are smart enough to recognize the benefits of each stage of life's journey live a happier, more productive and satisfying existence along the way.

If someone asked me what stage of life I have enjoyed the most. I really couldn't give them a specific answer. By and large I have enjoyed all of them, and they seem to get better with age. I suppose I should have said, “I don't know. I haven't lived them all yet.” Like everyone, we have our joys and sorrows, our good times and bad, but there is a lot to say for focusing on the lighter, brighter side of life…even if you're swimming with alligators and somebody drains the swamp.

We are allotted 24 hours a day…and when they're gone, they're gone. I suppose the average person uses up about 7 hours sleeping, 3 hours eating or munching, and another hour (hopefully) for personal hygiene. The remaining 13 hours are devoted to study, work, play and your concept of the pursuit of happiness. Use your hours well by enjoying them as you go.


By Jug Varner

As one who has spent considerable time as a public relations specialist, I have developed a real pet peeve in recent years about what is happening in business communications - in this case, telephone etiquette.

That is not the only complaint I have for corporate CEOs who put the “bottom line” so far ahead of customer service and their employees that you know they really don't give a damn about anything but lining their own pockets with company perks before leaving for an even better job. But, I digress. That is a subject for a book, not a mere article.

So, let us get back to business telephone etiquette, or the lack thereof, in the growing trend of most businesses switching to automated telephone answering systems.

What an utter disregard for the customer's time!

Obviously these companies must think their own time is far more important than that of their customers - customers whose spending dollars made the companies successful in the first place. Or have the CEOs forgotten that fact?

Perhaps you and half the world have experienced the typical routine of the modern business telephone response. We call their number and are greeted with a recorded message offering options in their button-pushing maze. Each clicked button takes us to the next plateau of buttons, ad nausea, until after many ticks of the clock we finally reach the phone of the person we seek.

More often than not, however, we are greeted by yet another recorded message that goes something like: “Hi. This is Bob Whosit. I am sorry, but I am either on the phone with another customer, or away from my desk. Please leave your name and number and I will return your call as soon as possible.”

That return is seldom “soon” and in some cases never “possible,” resulting in more wasted customer time on call-backs to begin the routine all over again.

These are some of the questions that come to mind:
Is the money saved (if any) worth customer dissatisfaction and bad PR?
Or, do any of these businesses really care?
Why don't I move my business to a company that does (if one exists)?

Wouldn't it be better if companies worried more about these two most important assets and secrets to success: Satisfied customers, and well-trained and well-treated employees who know the customer comes first?


By Jug Varner

My friend RADM Bill Thompson, former Chief of Navy Public Affairs, sent these along to me for laughs…and I want to brighten your day by sharing them. Those of us who have been involved with news publication for any length of time know how difficult it is the keep the errors down to a minimum. It is a fact of life that to eliminate publication errors entirely is impossible—and we all have our personal experiences in that effort.

Headline writing skill is an art form that few people possess, and it is easy write dumb ones when you're in a hurry to meet deadlines—which is always. Here are the gems he sent along:

Police Begin Campaign To Run Down Jaywalkers

Iraqi Head Seeks Arms

Is There A Ring of Debris Around Uranus?

Prostitutes Appeal To Pope

Panda Mating Fails; Veterinarian Takes Over

Teacher Strikes Idle Kids

Miners Refuse To Work After Death

Juvenile Court To Try Shooting Defendant

War Dims Hope For Peace

If Strike Isn't Settled Quickly, It May Last Awhile

Cold Wave Linked To Temperatures

Red Tape Holds Up New Bridges

Typhoon Rips Through Cemetery; Hundreds Dead

Man Struck By Lightning Faces Battery Charge

New Study Of Obesity Looks For Larger Test Group

Astronaut Takes Blame For Gas In Spacecraft

Kids Make Nutritious Snacks

Hospital Sued By Seven Foot Doctors

Local High School Dropouts Cut In Half


By Jug Varner

I lived in Texas for many years and learned the meaning of the term “Yellow Dog” Democrat early on. Among other things, YDDs are hard-headed liberals who wouldn’t vote Republican if Jesus Christ were heading the ticket - which, of course, is far-fetched example to make my point. The Lord never would have stooped to politics.

It is interesting that over the years most Texas Democrats who really cared about the good of this country left that party. It is now primarily in the hands of fringe groups and the Yellow Dogs. Once it was almost impossible for a non-Democrat to be elected there. Today, Republican voters are in the majority and their party holds most of the offices across the state. The same holds true in the once heavily Democrat South - made obvious in the recent Presidential election.

Having worked in public relations and journalism over the years, I know that journalists are supposed to be apolitical. Apparently that no longer seems to apply to those employed by ultra Liberal media moguls.

Throughout his journalistic years before and after he eventually rooted out Walter Cronkite to become CBS Nightly News guru, Texan Dan Rather never seemed to be able to hide the fact that he was a Yellow Dog Democrat of the first order. Now, after all these years of his one-sided journalism, that Liberal “good ‘ole boy” finally got his comeuppance. Yep… he got caught with his hand in the journalistic cookie jar once too often, and even CBS (as liberal as THEY are) realized he had to go.

But, Danny Boy obviously decided “You can’t fire me. I’ll quit.” And that’s what he recently announced.

Well, I must say I certainly won’t miss him because I quit watching CBS News and Dan Rather in particular many years ago.

As was taught in journalism school in my day, I still believe that news reporters should be apolitical, report the facts and let the reader, listener or viewer make up his or her own mind. A reporter should not editorialize the facts with his or her own (or the employer’s) political slant. I don’t know how many journalism classes Dan Rather attended, but obviously he missed that important principle somewhere along the way.

This might be his chance to get into the other side of politics, but I’d be surprised if he could get elected to anything in Texas. Maybe he could become a permanent resident of New York… as Bill and Hillary did.


By Jug Varner

We called them “funny papers” when I was a kid, and I got hooked on these comic strips before I could actually read them. My older siblings read them to me, until I could figure it out for myself. I never lost interest in my old favorites and developed a liking for others that eventually came on the scene. To this day I turn to the comic pages as the last thing I read in the morning newspaper… sort of like a mental dessert.

To me, one of the best things about the Houston Chronicle is its comic section — four pages daily of these wonderful strips and eight on Sunday. Some don't appeal to me, but most do, and if I am gone somewhere and miss them, I can log onto their website and catch up. My only complaints are that they have recently reduced their size to save newsprint, which is hard on older sets of eyes, and that one or two should be on the editorial page because of the political satire.

It is amazing how many of today's comic strips are still going after so many years of activity. Most of the original artists are deceased or retired, but their kin or associate artists have stepped in to keep them going. New ones crop up from time to time…some funny and immediately likeable, some not, but like beauty, it is in the eye of the beholder. Like other things in our culture, they change with the times. A few belong on the editorial pages.

One of the favorites of most military people (who still read comics) is Beetle Bailey. One would think that nowhere in the military could things be as ludicrous as the characters and situations at Camp Swampy, but obviously it is a good reminder of the oddball idiosyncrasies we all have seen or experienced at one time or another. Artist Mort Walker also does something special from time to time that adds a certain touch to the emotions, such as you will see by clicking on this link. []

When I ask someone if they saw such and such in today's comic pages, and they look at me skeptically and say, “I never read the comics,” I tell them they ought to loosen up a little and start smelling the roses. As life gets more complicated, a sense of humor is requisite to good mental health, and nothing sharpens it like a daily dose of the comic pages. It helps keep you thinking young…well, at least, thinking! The same goes for crossword puzzles and other mind games.


By Jug Varner

You may not agree with my pet peeve, but I get a little tired of the politically motivated spin that most mainstream liberal print and TV “experts” subtly (and sometimes blatantly) put on their concept of news and history. There are daily instances of this political propagandizing, most of which is aimed against Presidents 41 and 43 — but here are two typical examples:

1. Frequent statements that George H. (41) Bush “hesitated to finish the Gulf War” and “shrunk from the fight” with Iraq. (“Quoted references”)

Well excuse my ignorance of history, but I could have sworn that was a United Nations war. Granted, the U.S. (as usual) provided the bulk of the troops, equipment, and cost of the Gulf War, but was under the UN’s mandate to end it. And I certainly do not agree that the overwhelming U.S. aerial pounding and total rout of the Iraqi army in record time could be considered by any stretch of the imagination as “shrinking from the fight.”

2. Editorials that the “American people” are impatient for immediate results and wavering in their support for “George W. (43) Bush’s War on Terrorism”:

First of all, it is America's war, not George W. Bush's! And, how many weeks have we been at war now, six or so? Where do these people get this kind of information? If they conducted their own “poll,” they obviously hand-picked the respondents and framed their questions to get the kind of result they desired, especially in face of a nationwide renewal of patriotism unrivaled since WWII. No, friends, it is not the American people — it is the liberal media and others of their ilk.

Three cheers for the Bush Administration’s keeping a lid on highly classified information that would aid and abet the enemy, and threaten the safety and security of our own forces. The media does not have the right or need to publish that sort of information until it is history. (They can at least wait until then to distort it.)

We might never have won WWII if the media of the 1940s were like they are today.


By Byron D. Varner

The ultra liberals are getting desperate… and even meaner than they accuse the opposition of being.

They are telling more and worse lies than they accuse the opposition of telling.

Their latest surge, reported recently in glowing terms by mainstream media, is the launching of a wide range of radio talk and other programs to try to shout down the opposition of the conservative and moderate voices in America who captured that medium of communications while the liberals weren't looking.

In short, these “politically correct, our way or no way” folks want it all… which focuses on unseating the current administration and reclaiming the White House and Congress at any cost, to advance their concepts of what America ought to be. And in their minds that answer is: “In our image and likeness.” God help us if this ever comes to pass.

This entire effort would be laughable if it were not so serious.

Driven by an ultra liberal national media, thought control is a big factor, and “anything goes” in order to gain the upper hand. The power-hungry are a fearful foe. Truth often flies out the window into thin air, seldom recaptured in the “airwaves” of radio and television… they hope.

At my age and experience in life it is sad to see our nation — one that has become the envy of the world through the simple concept “Of the people… by the people… for the people” — being torn asunder by envy, greed, and hate.

Equally as bad, if not worse, is the apathy of stay-away voters who don't care - and are unwilling to do anything about it. Non-voters have no excuse if they don't like the results of an election. The fact is, however, that they shoulder a large share of the blame for that final outcome.

Judging from most elections in recent years, the minority of our population is electing our public officials… and I don't mean racial minority. I mean those who actually vote. If thinking people fail to exercise their freedom to vote, they will gradually lose it - and ultimately other freedoms they have always taken for granted. It is a small path that can lead to wide destruction.

No American is required to vote, but those who care enough to learn about the issues on their own initiative and vote their conscience in private, instead of being swayed by TV sound bites and slick promos… and lies…are the type of citizens who answer the call when their nation is in danger.

And our nation is indeed in danger - more from within than from the outside world.


By Jug Varner

Certain momentous occurrences in our lifetimes are permanently etched in memory. Most of us remember exactly where we were, what we were doing, and how we reacted when we first heard the news of those events.

For me, the list includes: the Bombing of Pearl Harbor, D-Day, VJ Day, the Moon Landing, President John Kennedy's assassination, and that Tragic Tuesday - 11 September 2001.

Like many of you, I have been thinking about my own “where, what, and how” of these situations which spanned some 60 years of my adult life. While human nature has not changed much during this time, our methods of communications have.

Back in my Texas hometown of Lubbock, word of the 1941 surprise Japanese bombing first came by sketchy verbal news bulletins interrupting Sunday afternoon radio programs. Television was unheard of then. Not many of us had ever heard of a place called Pearl Harbor, either. We waited for the Monday morning newspaper to read more detailed information about this event that would totally change our lives. I do not remember seeing a picture of the damage in that first newspaper account. Converting photographs from a half world away to a local newspaper format could not be done overnight back then. The lack of such immediate response gave time to ponder the enormity of what the incident might mean.

The next day after the bombing, we gathered in the school auditorium to hear President Franklin D. Roosevelt's radio address to the American people, declaring war on Japan, and telling us, “the only thing we have to fear is fear itself.”

News service was about the same in 1944 for the D-Day invasion, and a year or so later when Japan surrendered and WW2 ended. By that time, however, war correspondents around the world were providing stories and photographic coverage of epic proportions, slowed only by two things: circuitous routes of military aircraft carrying mail back to the states, and government censors who cleared it after checking for breach of security - including all letters mailed home from the troops.

Then came the 1950s and the age of television.

The immediacy and graphics of television reporting has impacted human emotions as no other form of communication before it. The sorrow and fear during coverage of the Kennedy assassination is one example, and the wonder and joy during the Moon Landing is another.

The speed of electronic reporting gives little time for the viewer to ponder. It is difficult to consider overall consequences during relentless visual images that convey the horror of death and destruction. Perhaps in no other incident of our history has TV produced this emotional impact to a greater extent than during its around-the-clock coverage of the September 11 events. Assisted by satellite systems, TV was superb, and unusually void of partisan politics. It showed us who some of the real American heroes really are.

Those of us who have lived through these years of transition, and who have experienced war first-hand, are no less horrified and saddened by the events of that tragic day. However, our experiences perhaps have hardened us to the grim realities of life that are a completely new trauma for the younger generations. They, like we have done, will soon come to grips with what our nation is facing and, hopefully, lend full support to our leaders. They will surely account for themselves well when the chips are down.

One thing that has not changed is: “the only thing we have to fear is fear itself.”


By Jug Varner

Propaganda became a household word during the rise of Adolph Hitler in Germany prior to WWII. Essentially, the idea was that if one repeated (propagated) a phrase or statement often enough, the public would eventually believe it as the truth. Hitler used it to great advantage and almost conquered the world in the process.

Only those of us who experienced those times are aware of just how close he came. Unfortunately, Americans in general are not too interested or well grounded in past history, so each succeeding generation seems destined to learn these lessons the hard way.

That word propaganda appeared in the following May 7, 2004 E-mail message that arrived on my Keeping Apace Website:

“Is this a pro-George Bush propaganda website? All I see are anti-John Kerry bashing. I'm neither political nor a Democrat but it seems to me that you should respect this man's service to our country. He served in the battlefields of Vietnam. Can your hero George Bush claim such distinction? Where was he? Probably stateside partying with his sorority buddies.”

My response to the sender was:

“I am sorry these articles offend you. Perhaps if you were open to the truth about Kerry, you wouldn't support him either, unless you believe the Liberal cause espoused by most of the main-stream media. They are the REAL propagandists. They reach millions with their Bush bashings. I reach several thousand with a few anti-Kerry articles that are passed along to me.

“As an 80-year-old Navy veteran with 26+ years of military service including WW2, Korea and Vietnam, I am not anti-Democrat. I have voted for Democrats, Republicans and Independents. To me it is the individual that counts and not the party - one political party is about as bad as the other these days. In this election, however, with all his faults (real or otherwise) George Bush is the only logical choice for me, and I hope for the majority of Americans in November. I would like to give your man the benefit of the doubt, if I had any, but I know the Senator - so I can't do that. Even his military decorations are questionable.

“Fortunately, we live in America where you and I can vote as we choose. Perhaps Kerry could win, but for the good of America's future, I certainly hope not. Jug.”

The Web is rife with stories about Kerry’s Vietnam service. Despite the questionable merits of some of the medals and awards he received, he DID serve, and I appreciate ANYONE who served in Vietnam, but in my estimation, what he did AFTER he returned - giving aid and comfort to the enemy - totally tarnished that “hero” image. George Bush served in the Air National Guard, so he was subject to call-up, as many were then and are today, so he didn’t spend all of his time with his fraternity (or sorority) buddies.

Frankly, I doubt that the general public cares anymore whether the president is a war veteran or not. They twice elected Bill Clinton - who had no military experience and seemingly little respect for the military - running against real war heroes.

The liberal media (the real enemy of President Bush, moderates, and conservatives) will go to any length to bring about Bush’s defeat in November, and never let the truth stand in their way.

This morning, our local newspaper ran a story headlined: BUSH ACCUSED OF USING PRAYER FOR POLITICAL PURPOSES. I wasn’t surprised when I noted that the New York Times originated it. The leading paragraph read:
“An annual address by President George W. Bush marking the National Day of Prayer was broadcast Thursday night over several Christian television and radio networks as part of an evangelical concert, transmitting his message to a pivotal constituency around the country.”

This nation was founded on Christian principles. George W. Bush is a Christian and obviously a devout one (which may rankle those who are not) and needs no special favors to Christians in order to garner their support. This article seems just another “propaganda” issue to me. Bush makes appearances and speeches to a wide range of religions and organizations, but in this case, the Liberal Americans United For Church and State took him to task for “improper advertising for his re-election.”

No matter what he does, the liberal Bush Bashers will find something negative about it. Unless your local newspaper is fair and balanced (and few are today) you will find anti-Bush stories on a daily basis, but few anti-Kerry articles. I can only suppose that the Liberals are so adamantly against Bush because they are power hungry for a return to the White House of a Democrat who would espouses liberalism, political correctness, and blindness to realism.

Wasn’t it interesting (and quite obvious) how they did everything possible (sometimes illegally) to overturn the election results in the 2000 Florida presidential race - then, when unsuccessful at the task, began bashing Bush for “stealing” the election? That has been one of their main propaganda lines, recurring over and over during the past four years. I am surprised that intelligent people can accept this charade, but hate seems to cloud the mind intensely - and repetitious propaganda does wonders for a cause when the media pushes it daily.

The one the thing that I have trouble rationalizing, however, is why ANY active or veteran military person (regardless of his or her political leanings) would in good conscience vote for Kerry - who is certainly no friend of the military despite his PR effort to curry favor as a Vietnam “hero.” His post-Vietnam traitorous actions and his anti-military voting record in the Senate should be evidence enough of his disdain. Those military retirees who are blaming Bush for “military promises” not kept could find themselves even less served by a Liberal Kerry administration.

I passionately hope the Liberal propaganda and political rhetoric will not cloud voters' instinct for what is best for our nation in these perilous times.


By Jug Varner

We all have special buddies from our military days. We never see them often enough, but stay in touch through the years. Although the ranks are thinning with age, I am very fortunate to still have several of these special friends who date back to WWII, Korea, and/or Vietnam days. One in particular that I'm very proud of is Bill Thompson.

Bill and I first met back at San Diego, in the late 50s, when I was just changing my Navy career from aviation to Navy Public Information (later renamed Public Affairs). Bill filled the billet as First Fleet PIO, and I was PIO, Naval Training Center Command. Several years later, I retired from the Navy to pursue a civilian career. Bill continued climbing the ladder of Navy success, becoming the top Navy PA specialist — Chief of Navy Information (CHINFO) — and the first one of our group to make Rear Admiral. Time and space doesn't permit all the accolades due Bill. Suffice is to say that he set the tone that few if any have equaled in devotion to the Navy.

memorialdc.jpgAfter retirement, he took on the tremendous challenge of establishing the Navy Memorial Foundation in Washington, D.C.

Bill and his staff began the long, arduous task of raising several million dollars, and coordinating the design, construction, and unique displays of this beautiful memorial to Navy men and women, past, present, and future. Located along Pennsylvania Avenue, across from the National Archives, it has become one of the top tourist attractions in America's most memorialized city. See also my 1992 KA story on the Navy Memorial. []

Having long since retired as honcho of the Navy Memorial, Bill and wife Dorothy continue to serve that organization in a more low key, relaxed manner. For several seasons they have traveled the world over, coordinating the Navy Memorial Foundation cruise program. (I call them “Den Mothers,” having served in a similar capacity on several tours of yore).


By Jug Varner

Last week brought a surprise phone call and a brief visit from a military friend I had not seen in some time. Bill, an Air Force retiree, has led a very interesting life in and out of the service, is possessed with a great sense of humor, and retains a storehouse of anecdotes to share. In addition, his woodworking talent and a creative mind prompts him to dream up unusual gifts to make and bestow on the unsuspecting.

Over the years he has given me such useful items as a miniature outhouse bank that explodes when you drop a quarter into the rooftop slot, wood puzzles, a black and white wall hanging of a desert scene with numbered mountains in the background, entitled, “The Unpainted Desert,” and others. This time, he brought another wall hanging with a bunch of used wine bottle corks glued to a plain-framed board. Under it is the nameplate: “The Wrath of Grapes.” The best thing he always brings, however, is a lot of sunshine, good humor, and reminiscence about military days.

Bill is alone now, having lost his wife to a terminal illness. He spends summers at a lake cottage he built in his home area of western New York, and comes back to Texas the rest of the year to be near two of his kids.

Among the good things about military service are the friends you make along the way. They come in all sizes and varieties, and sometimes from odd or unlikely circumstances. It is not unusual for some of these friendships to last ever after. I feel quite fortunate to stay in contact with Bill and other such friends made during WWII, Korea, Vietnam, and times since.

All friendships are important, but military friendships are special. When your mission (and your life) depends on the people you train with, come to trust, and go with into harms way, a special bond develops that is unlike few others in life. I suppose it is for this reason, together with memories of exciting times in one's younger days, that military reunions seem to flourish as time goes by.

Those of you on active duty will probably appreciate all of this more after you retire or otherwise leave the service.


By Jug Varner

Here in The Woodlands, TX, our high school graduating class pulled off somewhat of a coup this year. Nine members of that class received appointments to service academies… five to the Army at West Point, and two each to the Navy at Annapolis and the Air Force at Colorado Springs.

Nine students from the same class may or may not be a record. Perhaps there may be military prep schools with better numbers, but this seems highly remarkable for a non-military high school. This is one with excellent academic standards, and many offers for scholarships coming from the nation’s leading universities.

I think it underscores a new awareness and appreciation of the military by today’s youth. The catalyst likely may have been the World Trade Center and Pentagon disasters, followed by the War on Terrorism, but also the growing reputation of the academies for an all-around education and meaningful service to the nation is an important factor.

Remember how altruistic most of us were about serving our country when we were their age? - particularly in a time of national emergency. Time and culture may change, but deep inside is a core of American patriotism that makes us willing to lay it on the line when the chips are down. There will always be opposition to military service in some quarters - whose voices are loud, but numbers are low - but we have reason to be proud of our American youth, the leaders of tomorrow.

Overall, I'd say our future will be in good hands!


Where Are Those Old Study Reports?
By Jug Varner

A recent Air Force article about Brooks AFB research scientists working to create countermeasures against aviator battle fatigue (that can cause severe risk resulting from the airmen's decreased alertness) brought back memories of my personal participation in a similar study during WWII.

The problem, as I understood it at the time, was not just for aviators alone, but one that affected other Navy personnel as well. Try to imagine if you can, being on board one of those battleships or cruisers firing endless rounds from heavy guns day and night, or being on any ship that might be subject to Japanese Kamikaze attacks from just over the horizon. The combination of sleep deprivation, horrendous noise, unstable footing on deck - as well as the subliminal fear of the ship going down, and having to brave shark-infested waters while awaiting either death or survival - weighed heavily on both the mental and physical reflexes. Those Marines and soldiers in foxholes at battle zones elsewhere were no less immune to that syndrome they called battle fatigue than were the aviators or deck hands.,

We were assigned to preflight training at a former plush resort hotel at Del Monte, CA in the summer of 1943… several hundred young bucks going through physical training hell while studying the basics of flight before we could transfer to an air station and finally see the inside of a real aircraft cockpit. The Navy, by the way, stripped the interiors of anything resembling “plush” and by the time the war was over some two years later, the powers that be converted it to a Naval Post Graduate School, in operation for more than an additional 50 years. But, I digress.

At the time, while we understood the problem to be a serious one, some of the things we were expected to do seemed rather silly to most of us… but, then, we didn’t know much about psychologists and psychiatrists, nor their modus operandi. I can’t recall all of the strange (to us) things we did, but the instructors placed much emphasis on learning a technique of falling asleep quickly and easily to obtain a short rest from the stressful situations, yet being able to awake. on a moment’s notice to the reality of danger. (Don’t ask me to explain any of this). They also hypnotized a few of us, although not all were susceptible (including me).

Our final test was to be able to go to sleep while the loudspeaker blared sounds from a “Battle of Britain” film track played backwards. That was a god-awful noise, but most of us passed the test with flying colors. I think the real secret to our success in the sleep test was that the Navy constantly ran us so ragged from reveille to taps that everyone welcomed the slightest opportunity to get some rest. The fact that this class was held everyday following the noon meal may also have been a snooze benefit the instructors didn’t take into consideration. I have often wondered if anyone in our group ever was exposed to real battle fatigue and whether this course may have helped them overcome it,

This program probably wasn’t nearly as fancy as what the Brooks AFB crew might conduct today, but the problem was similar. I don’t know if the Navy limited this exercise to our group exclusively, or if it was widespread.

The results of those long ago studies may be buried in some underground salt dome in the middle of Kansas - if they even exist today - but it would be interesting to compare the two approaches to the same problem. We never heard the outcome of the studies for which we served briefly as guinea pigs, but the “shrinks” who conducted it must have filed many reams of paper reports somewhere.

Too bad these latter day research scientists can’t see those old reports. It might save the government a lot of money. Or, maybe not.


By Jug Varner

Yeah, I know… you can't wait until your active duty commitment is over and you can leave military life… start a new career… make lots more money… quit standing in line… be your own boss, etc., etc., etc.

And you won't even consider the possibility of a military career. Been there, heard that, many times.

Well, I have news for you: One of these days you are going to reflect on the time you spent in the military, and discover a lot of feelings you didn't know you had. You don't realize it now, but military service changed you in ways you now take for granted.

You learned self-discipline, work ethic, punctuality, how to follow orders, how to give orders, team work, integrity, patriotism, camaraderie, a work specialty, and many other things that make you a better person and useful citizen of this nation…whether you realize it or not. Most of you didn't learn these things at home or in school during your teenage years - not in today's society…that is for sure!

As time goes by you may tell yourself, “Maybe I was wrong. It wasn't as bad as I thought. I wonder where old Joe is now. He stayed in. Probably well advanced in rank and making more than I am. I wish now I'd have done that. I would be drawing a good retirement check now that would sure come in handy.”

That scenario is especially true for those who found the reality of civilian life to be less orderly, less meaningful, less financially rewarding, less honest, less enjoyable, more “bottom-line oriented,” and more standing in line than they had imagined it would be.

Yes…you are going to miss the life of the Air Force, Army, Coast Guard, Marines, or Navy…whether you know it or not. The nostalgia will grow stronger with time, and one day some of you will find yourselves looking for a reunion of your old outfit.

I end this week's musing by attaching something from that eloquently relates to all this:

(Author unknown)

I like standing on the bridge wing at sunrise with salt spray in my face and clean ocean winds whipping in from the four quarters of the globe — the ship beneath me feeling like a living thing as her engines drive her through the sea.

I like the sounds of the Navy - the piercing trill of the boatswains pipe, the syncopated clangor of the ship's bell on the quarterdeck, the harsh squawk of the 1MC, and the strong language and laughter of sailors at work.

I like Navy vessels — nervous darting destroyers, plodding fleet auxiliaries, sleek submarines and steady solid carriers.

I like the proud names of Navy ships: Midway, Lexington, Saratoga, Coral Sea — memorials of great battles won.

I like the lean angular names of Navy 'tin-cans': Barney, Dahlgren, Mullinix, and McCloy — mementos of heroes who went before us.

I like the tempo of a Navy band blaring through the topside speakers as we pull away from the oiler after refueling at sea. I like liberty call and the spicy scent of a foreign port.

I even like all hands working parties as my ship fills herself with the multitude of supplies both mundane and exotic which she needs to cut her ties to the land and carry out her mission anywhere on the globe where there is water to float her.

I like sailors, men from all parts of the land, farms of the Midwest, small towns of New England, from the cities, the mountains and the prairies, from all walks of life. I trust and depend on them as they trust and depend on me — for professional competence, for comradeship, for courage. In a word, they are “shipmates.”

I like the surge of adventure in my heart, when the word is passed: “Now station the special sea and anchor detail - all hands to quarters for leaving port,” and I like the infectious thrill of sighting home again, with the waving hands of welcome from family and friends waiting pierside.

The work is hard and dangerous; the going rough at times; the parting from loved ones painful, but the companionship of robust Navy laughter, the 'all for one and one for all' philosophy of the sea is ever present.

I like the serenity of the sea after a day of hard ship's work, as flying fish flit across the wave tops and sunset gives way to night. I like the feel of the Navy in darkness — the masthead lights, the red and green navigation lights and stern light, the pulsating phosphorescence of radar repeaters — they cut through the dusk and join with the mirror of stars overhead. And I like drifting off to sleep lulled by the myriad noises large and small that tell me that my ship is alive and well, and that my shipmates on watch will keep me safe.

I like quiet midwatches with the aroma of strong coffee — the lifeblood of the Navy — permeating everywhere. And I like hectic watches when the exacting minuet of haze-gray shapes racing at flank speed keeps all hands on a razor edge of alertness.

I like the sudden electricity of “General quarters, general quarters, all hands man your battle stations,” followed by the hurried clamor of running feet on ladders and the resounding thump of watertight doors as the ship transforms herself in a few brief seconds from a peaceful workplace to a weapon of war — ready for anything!

And I like the sight of space-age equipment manned by youngsters clad in dungarees and sound-powered phones that their grandfathers would still recognize.

I like the traditions of the Navy and the men and women who made them. I like the proud names of Navy heroes: Halsey, Nimitz, Perry, Farragut, John Paul Jones.

A sailor can find much in the Navy: Comrades-in-arms, pride in self and country, mastery of the seaman's trade. An adolescent can find adulthood.

In years to come, when sailors are home from the sea, they will still remember with fondness and respect the ocean in all its moods — the impossible shimmering mirror calm and the storm-tossed green water surging over the bow.

And then there will come again a faint whiff of stack gas, a faint echo of engine and rudder orders, a vision of the bright bunting of signal flags snapping at the yardarm, a refrain of hearty laughter in the wardroom and chief's quarters and mess decks. Gone ashore for good they will grow wistful about their Navy days, when the seas belonged to them and a new port of call was ever over the horizon. Remembering this, they will stand taller and say, “I was a sailor once. I was part of the Navy, and the Navy will always be part of me.”


By Jug Varner

Anyone who has served in the military for any length of time could regale you with a variety of personal “been there, done that” gems about military chow. But since you've already experienced, heard, or read most of them, let's talk about something relatively new - the MRE.

It isn't your great-grandfather's hard tack, by any means, nor your grandfather's C-rations. Neither generation would believe how sophisticated (and expensive) field food service has become these days, and how nicely pampered are modern troops with MRE - Meals Ready To Eat.

In their wildest dreams, veterans of WW1 and WW2 could not have conceived of a field ration they could equate with “dining in”… such as three of the most recent MRE entrees of pot roast and vegetables, barbeque pork ribs, and vegetable manicotti. Oh yes, and don't forget the clam chowder, almond poppy seed pound cake, pumpkin pound cake, waffle sandwich cookies, M&Ms, and other such goodies thrown in for good measure.

Those three entrees are merely recent replacements for the less popular Jamaican pork chops, pasta with Alfredo sauce, and beef with mushrooms that didn't strike a happy note with the troops. There are currently 24 different entrees of this everyday fieldfare for the best-fed military people on the planet.

Perhaps pampered is not the right word. “Picky” might better fit today's GI consumers (as in the hot sauce caper I will tell you about below). But, as the old saying goes, “the military travels on its stomach,” and complaining about the food will never end. Food bitching is perhaps the oldest tradition in the services.

If there is a problem today, it might be: “the greater the variety - the harder to decide and to be pleased.” I don't care how good the food smells, looks, tastes nor how well it is served, eventually it becomes repetitively boring. Even Kings on the throne have the same problem (though not to the same degree). Maybe complaining is a psychological crutch to subconsciously take the mind off the tedious and dangerous side of military service.

Certainly it is impossible to please every palate with the same recipe. Americans are too ethnic in taste to agree on what tastes best (except for the ordinary salty, greasy, not-good-for-you fast food items they consume in tonnage volume).

The Defense Logistics Agency coordinates the design and distribution of the MRE as a complete, palatable and nutritional field meal, restricted primarily by its weight and size.

Because of its size, weight, and non-nutritional value, DLA officials decided to replace a bottle of hot sauce with something lighter and more nutritious.

Wrong decision!

The hue and cry from the field bordered on threat of a hunger strike by the troops if they didn't get their beloved hot sauce.


Nutrition went out the window and the sauce is now included in 15 of their 24 current menus. Does this describe picky, or what?


By Jug Varner

November 11, 2002 is the 84th Anniversary of the end of fighting in WWI, after which the term Armistice Day evolved. Some 30 years later, following WWII, the powers that be changed the term to Veterans Day and included veterans of all American wars.

WWI was the most far-reaching war in U.S. history up to that time. People referred to it variously as the World War, Great War, and War to End All Wars. Since that time, history has conclusively disproved the latter. It seems there always will be wars and rumors of wars.

In all U.S. involved wars before and since WWI, countless millions have given their lives in service to their countries. But a staggeringly greater number suffered wounds that served as a perpetual war remembrance for the remainder of the veterans' lives.

Some things never change and, except for its applications, war is one of those things.

Another is human nature.

Still another is that succeeding world generations take little note of history they did not personally experience. That is only too true of Americans.

Two most significant facts that support the history factor are:

  • In 1941, America was a victim of its military unpreparedness for WWII.
  • In 2001, America was a victim of its total unpreparedness for terrorism.

The fourth constant is that there will always be a Hitler, Hussein, bin Laden, or other despot who will try to change the world and threaten the existence of peace loving people.

“War does not determine who is right, only who is left.” - Bertrand Russell

“Mankind must put an end to war. Or war will put an end to mankind” - John Fitzgerald Kennedy

“The military don't start wars. Politicians start wars.” - William Westmoreland

Great men have always made lofty statements about cessation of war. But, like the weather, “Everyone talks about it but nobody does anything.” It is one thing to see the problem, but quite another to solve it.

Thus, we seem destined to continue our upward climb in the numbers of veterans who fight the wars, suffer or die, gain glory for their battle efforts (except in Vietnam) and then are generally forgotten in peacetime. It is another constant to add to the list!

In the late 1800s, Rudyard Kipling wrote the poem, “Tommy.” You may have read it, but it bears repetition, for it typifies how people (human nature) sees the military in times of peace. I quote the last stanza here, but the link below will take you to its entirety if you want to get the true sense of it.

For it's Tommy this, an' Tommy that, an' “Chuck him out, the brute!”
But it's “Savior of 'is country” when the guns begin to shoot;
An' it's Tommy this, an' Tommy that, an' anything you please;
An' Tommy ain't a bloomin' fool — you bet that Tommy sees! []


By Jug Varner

After the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor in 1941, American youth joined the military, not with the idea of careers and retirement perks, but out of patriotic desire to serve our nation and save it from destruction.

After the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2002, our nation's youth joined the military, not with the idea of military careers and retirement perks, but out of patriotic desire to serve our nation and save it from destruction.

In between those two major events in our lives patriotism did not change, but Congress created many changes to the military. Some changes were good, some were bad, but all were political.

I believe in justice, fulfilling promises, and receiving earned rewards, and have supported the efforts of “Keeping The Promise to Military Retirees.” But I can't support the growing trend by some retirees to politicize this effort to a point of no return.

Many retiree e-mail messages I see bitterly attack President Bush as if he, not Congress, is the villain for not correcting a situation that has gone virtually unchanged under countless Congresses and administrations before him - Democrat and Republican alike. I can't support such messages.

I can't support the loud faction rushing to judgment to create a “military political party” that can only fracture and fail to produce anything more than dissention within the ranks of the once non-partisan lobbying effort - an effort that began as a means to educate Congress about broken health care promises to military retirees.

And, I certainly can't support those who are pandering to a failed Army general Democrat presidential candidate who might possibly be the worst selection of the entire group, all in the name of “You scratch my back, I'll scratch yours” - never mind what sort of president he might be.

Human nature seems to include the pattern of “the more you get, the more you want, whatever it takes,” commonly known as greed.

This whole problem is, always has been, and always will be politics and greed. And, as the old saying goes: “It is difficult to pull a person out of the gutter if you are down there with him.”

We, the retired military, are not politicians. Nor do we, as a relatively small group, have any political power. Nor, should we. If you know anything about history, you must conclude: “Our politicians are bad enough! God help America if the military ever gained political control.”


By Jug Varner

In the Navy we call them “sea stories.” I don't know what the Air Force calls them, maybe “air stories,” which may be appropriate in either case if you precede the term with the word “hot.” Of course, not all of them are full of hot air and embellished with age. Some are actually true, such as the one I am about to relate.

jj-1201.jpgWhat inspired this article was a recent Air Force News story about the National World WarII Glider Pilots Association Silent Wings Museum established in my old hometown of Lubbock, Texas. I look forward to a visit.

The WWII Army Air Force Glider Base there trained thousands of glider pilots and troops for the invasion of Nazi held Europe. The intended D-Day mission was classified at that time so none of the locals knew much about what really was going on. The thermals in that area were ideal for gliders — even the large plywood types that carried armed soldiers, a Jeep and other equipment.

In July 1943, fellow Naval Aviation Cadet Jack Edwards and I were home on leave in Lubbock before reporting to our next training duty station. For some reason (obviously relating to youth and stupidity) we got the bright idea to go out to the South Plains Glider base, as it was known locally, and see if we could go along on one of their training flights. We thought it would be fun and give us something unique to brag about to our “less experienced” cadet buddies.

Although the perplexed expression the on squadron commander's face must have meant he was thinking, “Why in the world would you want to ride in one of these flying coffins if you didn't have to,” neither of us picked up on that. We were too busy being “cool” — to use the vernacular of today's youth.

Surprisingly, he gave us the okay and soon we were strapped into the front seat of this large wooden crate with wings, known as the CG-4A. The ground crew had positioned it in line with and tethered to the Y-shaped towline pickup some distance ahead. A trusty C-47 tow aircraft was making its final approach to snare the towline and get us airborne.

Then, braced for the sudden jolt, it was “Off we go into the wild, blue yonder,” with an unobstructed view of every move the pilot and co-pilot made. They acted bored. We acted excited. The trainees acted nervous.

All of us were sweating from the summer heat until we got high enough to cool off a bit. Those thermals were doing their part during this bumpy ride above the flat cotton and grain fields of the Texas Panhandle, and at the proper altitude, the pilot gave the order to release the towline. It was about this time that we two fledgling Navy pilots realized there was no engine to give us a second chance if these bored Air Force guys made a bad approach to the landing strip. Then we noticed they were no longer bored.

Soaring silently, except for the rattling of equipment from the turbulent air, the pilot maneuvered the beast into its final approach pattern. At the appropriate moment the co-pilot reached down, grasped a metal rod, pulled it in place, and we started dropping like a rock. He had activated the “spoiler” — creating a hump along the top of the wings. This changed the airflow over the wing dramatically and greatly reduced its lift.

I suppose he changed it back to normal before we landed, but by then it seemed like we were inside a free-falling elevator, awaiting the crash. However, the landing turned out fairly well and I don't remember how many times we bounced, if at all.

Like a ride at the carnival, suddenly it was all over and the thrill was gone. I think the trainees considered the safe landing the biggest thrill of all. Then it was summer heat again as we sat on the runway awaiting a tow back to the flight line. It was good to be on terra firma again.

“How did you like it, would you like to go up again?” the commander asked when we got back. “Oh, it was a great experience and thank you very much for setting it up,” I said, turning to Jack.

“Yes, Sir,” Jack told him, “we really did enjoy the flight, but we have an appointment in town, so I don't think there's time for another ride today.”

If memory serves, the appointment was of the female variety, but whatever it was, it was an infinitely sounder decision than another ride in the CG-4A. It was great fun, but it was just ONE of those things!

Glider pilots are quick to point out that the “G” on their wings did not just stand for “Glider,” it also stood for “Guts.”

I say, “Amen to that.”


By Jug Varner

By the time you read this, or soon thereafter, the main thrust of the War with Iraq may be in the “peace-keeping” and “establishment of a provisional government” stage. Let's hope so. It certainly has been an amazing thing to watch “live” on TV.

No doubt the ratings will reflect a phenomenal viewer percentage in favor of the news channels, and I would be surprised if the Fox News Network doesn't led the pack in the ratings of the cable news stations, and perhaps even the major networks.

Of course, as Yogi Berra once said in his quaint way, “It ain't over 'til it's over,” so I don't mean to be presumptuous. It could take longer to eliminate the resistance than some news analysts predict, and those in charge of the war are careful not to sound too optimistic. But maybe the fat lady will start singing sooner than anyone dared to expect.

On the home front, the war has been a resounding victory over the naysayers of the liberal persuasion…especially the Hollywood crowd…and the peaceniks, many of whom have no idea that they are dupes of anti-America forces who finance these expensive rallies.

Don't get me wrong. I fought in three wars defending Americans' right to speak out against issues that they honestly believe are wrong, but when the shooting starts, and our military people are in harms way, thoughtful protesters put down their signs and go home. This leaves mainly Hollywood, and the inexperienced and uninformed youth as the primary force of a vitriolic anti-war body. Or is it merely anti-Bush?

My reason for mentioning all this is an article P38Bob sent me, written by Tom Adkins before the war started. So, while it is a bit dated it is, in retrospect, rather interesting reading.

Tom poses a series of statements from naysayers, and answer each with ironic wit. It is a long article, so I am excerpting some but not all of them to shorten it a bit.

  • Young Americans will die in battle. – Would you prefer they die in skyscrapers?
  • We are in a rush to war.A 12-year rush?
  • Tough inspections can disarm Saddam Hussein without invading Iraq. – 12 years of inspections have done wonders so far?
  • We should let the inspectors finish their job. – We did. They didn't. We will.
  • There's no proof of weapons. – We know they have 'em, we know they hide 'em, and we have tape recordings and photographs. What more is needed? An Iraqi rocket in Martin Sheen's shorts?
  • If we invade, Saddam Hussein might use those weapons of mass destruction against us. – I thought you said Iraq didn't have them?
  • But terrorists might attack if we invade Iraq. – Oh, so if we don't attack Iraq, terrorists will never strike again?
  • We shouldn't go to war without a UN resolution. – Another resolution? What about the last 18 resolutions? Shall we use them as wallpaper? Or shall we use the same resolutions Bill Clinton used in Bosnia? He didn't go to the UN on Bosnia.
  • We don't have a real declaration for war. – It's called “Joint Congressional resolution #114.
  • The French don't support the war. – Oh, did they surrender already?
  • Germany objects to this war. – Germany objected to Reagan's “attitude” towards the Soviet Union. Of course, they objected to our presence in 1943 as well.
  • Belgians are against the war. – I can live without waffles and ice cream.
  • Russia doesn't support the war. – They are still angry over Reagan's brilliant Cold War victory.
  • What happens if we can't build a United Nations coalition? – Who cares?
  • But the UN is the world's most respected governing body. – Not as respected as the U.S. military.
  • War will cost billions. – So how much is YOUR city worth?
  • Many Senators don't support Bush. – Are you speaking of the Senators from Bordeaux?
  • Tom Daschle says George Bush has a “credibility gap.” – When was the last time we came to Tom Daschle for the truth?
  • These problems didn't happen under Clinton. – Actually, they happened, but Clinton ignored them. Now, Bush will clean up his mess.
  • Bush senior should have taken out Hussein in '91. – That 1991 UN resolution forbade a march on Baghdad. Remember?
  • This is about American Imperialism. – So which country do we own? Name our colonies? What nation sends us their tax dollars? If America was imperialist, we'd already own the entire world. Who could stand in our way?
  • This is Blood for Oil. – The only blood is the Iraqi people tortured, starved and killed while Hussein builds massive palaces to hide nuclear weapons…all financed with Iraqi oil. America produces 40% of its oil needs and gets the remanining 60% from three sources: Mexico, Venezuela and Saudi Arabia. Don't you think Saddam Hussein would love to sell his oil to the USA?
  • Are we prepared for a multi-billion dollar occupation? – Were we prepared to liberate Europe and Japan in 1945? South Korea in 1953? Grenada? El Salvador? Kuwait? The Eastern Bloc? Afghanistan? Nations aways love Americans when we rescue them from tyranny. The price of freedom is never free.
  • Polls show Americans are more concerned about the threat from al Qaeda than from Iraq. – It's not a war against Al Qaeda. It's not a war against Iraq. It's a war against terrorism. Anywhere we find it…one nation at a time.
  • American opinion is against the war. – No, it's not. A majority of Americans (66%) want to fight now, not later.
  • According to a recent poll… – You know what? Screw those polls. We're in a war against terrorism. If you don't want to fight the ones who would murder you and your family in a heartbeat, get the hell out of the way. Go visit Paris. Or Antwerp. Or Berlin. Or Moscow. And stay there. Forever. But this time, don't call us when the heathens are at the gates.


By CDR Byron D. (Jug) Varner, U.S. Navy (RET)

Two hundred years ago on March 16, 1802, President Thomas Jefferson signed legislation creating our first military academy, to be built at a Revolutionary War fort at the western extremity of our then young nation. Thus the name: West Point.

On this 200th anniversary date of that significant legislation, I want to again say a few words of praise for this unique place. If you have never visited West Point, you have missed a thrill of beauty, history, patriotism, and continuity that is awe-inspiring - even to an old partisan Navy guy like me. Or, should I say especially to someone like me — a member of the “greatest generation” who has served during three major wars — and who can dearly appreciate everything about it.

Youthful military trainees in all services, particularly at academies, are normally so deeply engrossed in the everyday demands upon their minds and bodies that perhaps they don't really appreciate the full significance of the experience until later years. But in retrospect, they will not only see it more vividly, but also cherish the memories for the rest of their lives.

You may have read my article about a visit there in 1994. If not, you can find it in our Article Index under Army, entitled U.S. Military Academy. But on this special occasion of March 16, 2002, I want to include an article written by a much younger person. She is Irene Brown, editor of U.S. Military Academy's Pointer View newspaper:

West Point, NY (Army News Service, March 14, 2002) – From the time I began working at the U.S. Military Academy (more than a decade ago), and saw my first alumni parade, I've wondered what it is about this gray, forbidding fortress on the Hudson that demands such loyalty and respect from so many people?

The academy consistently attracts the best and brightest young people in the country. Each year the admissions office receives thousands of applications from men and women who could be accepted at most any university in the country and not have to serve in the military after graduation.

Granted, USMA is considered one of the best math and engineering schools in the nation. But the difference here is that the students learn math and engineering as part of their training to become Army officers. And the road to graduation day is hard, rocky, and long for many cadets.

But it isn't only those wishing to attend that admire the West Point mystique. Each year the installation sees more than 3 million visitors enter its gates.

So what is it about this spot in the Hudson Valley?

Perhaps it's the beautiful setting of the academy, perched high above the Hudson River. Or maybe it's the feeling of wonderment one gets when walking through buildings that might have once housed Eisenhower, Patton, or MacArthur.

It might even be the overwhelming feeling of patriotism that abounds when watching the cadets march across the Plain, seeing the sea of white hats in the sky at graduation or hearing “On, Brave Old Army Team,” during a game at Michie Stadium.

But it's more than just the pomp and circumstance of the USMA that generates respect and admiration. It's also the academy's ability to change with the world and still retain the very core of its value for two hundred years.

West Point creates leaders of character. That isn't just a slogan; it's a truth that has proved out through the years. Names like Lee, Grant, Bradley, Patton, Eisenhower, MacArthur, and Schwarzkopf have been the proof of the academy's worth. USMA graduates have led the nation through selfless service for two centuries, not just at the military fronts, but also in boardrooms, operating rooms, research labs and even space capsules.

Today's academy isn't the same one that nurtured Patton, MacArthur or even Schwarzkopf. Now women march on the Plain, new cadets get passes and upperclassmen are encouraged to mentor, not harass, plebes. While engineering is still the academy's favorite subject, English majors are now common and humanities subjects are part of the curriculum.

Yet, for all the changes this institution has endured over the past 200 years, one thing remains certain: the cadets of today are just as ready, willing and able to lead this country as were the cadets of yesterday. That's what makes USMA a national treasure and a symbol of Duty, Honor, Country to people worldwide.

Congratulations, West Point. May the next 200 years prove as rewarding.


By Jug Varner

You youngsters who weren’t around before or during WWII probably have no idea of how much the emphasis on and enjoyment of popular music affected the American culture… particularly for the teenagers of the 30s and 40s who eventually made up the majority of the millions who served in WWII.

In those days - before TV, computers, jets, et al, were invented - movies, radio, records, and live dance bands provided a seemingly endless supply of musical entertainment to a generation emerging from the financial catastrophe of the “Great Depression” years into a world at war.

And, as if overnight, they shifted to the production of war-oriented music following Japan’s bombing of Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941 and United States’ entering of the war on the following day. For the next five years, the genre was primarily ballads of love for those separated by the war, along with various patriotic songs for both those who served and those who did their part on the “home front” - as well as funny parodies of life in the military.

For those of us involved in this tremendous conflict, this music was the “glue” that held together our hopes and dreams for the day we and our allies would emerge victorious and the world would once again return to normal - although, due to the nation’s unpreparedness, victory seemed less likely during the dark days of 1942 and 1943 than it actually turned out to be.

As one of those pop music fans who memorized almost every song he liked, many of them still remain in my occasional thoughts about life in that era and after - even though most have long since faded from the musical awareness of the general public.

One of the most prolific of all American song writers was a good ole’ boy from Georgia - Johnny Mercer - who had a special knack in composing meaningful lyrics with good tunes, both serious and funny. Other artists recorded many of his songs, but the ones of his own he recorded and sang himself had a special quality unlike any others. His voice, although perhaps not as good as some, had a decided southern accent and special feel that made his renditions all the more authentic and appealing - particularly those about the South.

Things have changed decidedly in both the music world and the military since that time, but one thing that may never change for new recruits is the “basic training blues” they get during those first few weeks. Johnny’s 1943 song, G.I. Jive, told a story all its own that anyone who experienced that training can relate to, even today:

Here are his lyrics… sorry you can’t hear the music because it adds so much to the story:

This is the G. I. Jive
Man alive
It starts with the bugler blowin' reveille over your bed when you arrive
Jack, that's the G. I. Jive
Jump in your suit
Make a salute

After you wash and dress
More or less
You go get your breakfast in a beautiful little cafe they call “The Mess”
Jack, when you convalesce
Outta your seat
Into the street
Make with the feet

If you're a P-V-T, your duty
Is to salute to L-I-E-U-T
But if you brush the L-I-E-U-T
The M-P makes you K-P on the Q-T

This is the G. I. Jive
Man alive
They give you a private tank that features a little device called “fluid drive”
Jack, after you revive
Chuck all your junk
Back in the trunk
Fall on your bunk

Soon you're countin' jeeps
But before you count to five
Seems you're right back diggin' that
G. I. Jive.

Johnny Mercer (1909-1957) is credited with more than 1500 songs for which he wrote the lyrics, or lyrics and music - for records, Broadway musicals, motion pictures and television - winning a variety of top awards including Oscars. He became famous as a song writer and recording artist, and the eventual head of Capitol Records. He left a great legacy in American music for generations to enjoy.

Here is a partial list of some of his best-known song lyrics:

Ac-Cent-Tchu-Ate The Positive
And The Angels Sing
Arthur Murray Taught Me Dancing In A Hurry
Autumn Leaves
Barefoot In The Park
Blue Rain
Blues In The Night (My Mama Done Tol' Me)
Bob White
Come Rain or Come Shine
Conversation While Dancing
Day In, Day Out
Days Of Wine And Roses
Dearly Beloved
Dream Awhile
Fools Rush In (Where Angels Fear To Tread)
G.I. Jive
Girlfriend Of The Whirling Dervish
Goody, Goody
Hit The Road To Dreamland
Hooray For Hollywood
How Little We Know
I'm An Old Cowhand From The Rio Grande
I’m Old Fashioned
In The Cool, Cool, Cool Of The Evening
I Remember You
I Thought About You
I Wanna Be Around (To Pick Up The Pieces)
Jeepers Creepers
Let’s Take The Long Way Home
Mister Meadowlark
Moment To Moment
Moon River
My Shining Hour
On The Atchison, Topeka And The Santa Fe
One For My Baby And One More For The Road
Pardon My Southern Accent
Pink Panther Theme
P.S. I Love You
Santa Claus Is Coming To Town
Satin Doll
Something’s Got To Give
Song Of India
Summer Wind
That Old Black Magic
This Time The Dream’s On Me
Too Marvelous For Words
You Must Have Been A Beautiful Baby

For more information about this gifted musical artist, Click Here [ ]


By Jug Varner

Of the many things I enjoy in life, music has always been near the top of the list. Having been a teenager during the heyday of the big bands - Benny Goodman, Glenn Miller, Tommy and Jimmy Dorsey, Artie Shaw, and so many more - swing and love ballads were my favorites.

Dancing to the latest tunes at the campus drug stores was typical dating fare for high school and college kids of that era. Times were tough and money was scarce, but we could make it a “big night out” with a little change for 10-cent Cokes and feeding nickels to the juke box. Many years later at school reunions, I found that the majority of my classmates cherish the memories of those days as much as I do, and most of them still favor some of those old songs today.

Our high school curriculum included music appreciation back then, and I sang in school choirs, but never had the money or enough time away from work at the family restaurant (at no pay) for musical instrument lessons. However, I learned the words and music to many favorites of those years, most of which I still remember. Even today, I find myself humming an old tune I hadn‘t thought about for years. When I can‘t recall all of the lyrics, I reflect on it for a while, as sort of a game, and the words eventually come to me. Like background music for movies, I guess those old pop songs were the “background music” of my young life.

While my home town of Lubbock was primarily a center for cattle and agriculture, most of its urban teenagers related more to the big band sounds that captured the hearts of teens across the country than to roping, branding, and country music. School life revolved around serious studies, sports and social activities, highlighted by occasional semi-formal dances at the local hotel ballrooms with popular music provided by local dance bands. We thought we were quite sophisticated, but few had yet to travel beyond the borders of our little world in the South Plains of Texas. WWII soon changed that.

Throughout that long war, the music of the era sustained its young generation of Americans and was quickly assimilated by the youth of the various foreign countries we eventually occupied. I remember the first time I went ashore in Yokosuka, during the Korean War, how startled I was to see young Japanese entertainers playing and singing American pop songs in their native language. They loved it and so did we.

In the fifty-plus years since that scenario, American music has gone through many changes and cycles - some good and some bad. But despite the emergence and demise of various musical cultures during this time period, some of the old standards of my youth keep coming back again and again to be enjoyed by each new generation.

The numbers of us who lived in those times are rapidly diminishing, but our music will surely outlast us all.


By Jug Varner

One of the great things about the Internet is making new friends. I have met many people through my Keeping Apace Website, and the many opportunities to assist others in some small way often opens doors that non-surfers may never have the opportunity to experience.

My two sons have also found this true. One recently married a beautiful person he met through this communications medium and the other son has also met an ideal companion although they haven’t moved up to the marriage plateau.

Not long ago I received an E-mail regarding one of my articles in Jug‘s Journal, asking if I had the sheet music to the song, In A Little Red Barn [ ].

Click on that link, read the story, then come back to this article for the finale concerning the great tsunami that struck the homeland of my Internet friend, Carlo Fernando.
After the tsunami devastation I tried for a number of weeks to contact Carlo, to no avail. Somehow I felt that he and his family may have survived, but never could establish contact again. When I received the recent E-mail request for sheet music, I tried his web address again and found that it was up and running. Heartened that he may have survived but also wary that someone other than Carlo was operating it, I sent the following E-mail:

To Carlo Fernando:

Following the terrible tsunami devastation that hit your area, I tried for several weeks to contact you but never received a response. Tonight I noticed that your website was active and responded to my click. I hope that means that you and your family survived and that you are back on the web again.

If someone other than Carlo receives this message, please respond and let me know what the status is. I certainly hope it is GOOD news!

The lyrics I received from my initial request to Carlo were for the song, “In A Little Red Barn On A Farm Down In Indiana.” The story I wrote about Carlos at that time may be seen on my website at Go to left column of my Home Page and click on JUG'S JOURNAL, then click on “In A Little Red Barn.”

Jug Varner.


Hi Jug::

Nice to hear from you again. Thank God, we are safe. We live about 7 km away from the western coast.

Yes it was a terrible tragedy. It's nice to know that there are friends who care, though they are thousands of miles away.

Incidentally, did you hear that none of the animals in the 'Yala Park' bordering the southern coast was affected? They all had moved inland minutes before the great waves wreaked havoc on humans. Also, apparently the water which flowed miles into the land, did not carry any fish and no fish was found dead on land (this is not confirmed, but an after thought, I am trying to get confirmation from people in affected areas. So far a few have confirmed).

These facts go to show, that the animals which do not harm nature, were well protected by her. We humans who have discarded natural instincts, and with the supposed development, have harmed the nature, received the wrath of nature in its full fury. The animals through their instincts, knew that they had to go inland for survival.

Interesting, isn't it? (Alarming about the future of humans?)

Anyway, thanks again for enquiring about my family. Also thanks for writing about me in your web site.

Best regards

Where else but on the Internet?


By Jug Varner

If you read my musings in JUG’S JOURNAL, you may have seen a recent one entitled, Background Music, about music of my youth and old songs that keep coming to mind and for which I usually can piece together forgotten lyrics after giving it some thought.

Soon after that, for some odd reason a song I learned from the radio in my youth, titled In A Little Red Barn (on a farm down in Indiana), popped into my mind. And, while I recalled some of the lyrics, try as I may I could not remember all of them. Finally, I decided to search the Internet to see if I could find the words there. The song was available on tape or CD from a surprising number of sources, but practically every site was merely promoting the sales of various artists’ renditions of it along with other songs in their albums. - not showing any printed lyrics.

Undeterred, I knew if I searched long enough something would turn up, but I wasn‘t expecting the unusual source I discovered. Would you believe it came from Sri Lanka?! You may be familiar with this Southern Asia nation once known as Ceylon, but if not, it is an island in the Indian Ocean, just south of India.

My first thought was that some American in that far-off land was doing business there as an adjunct to his or her regular employment… or for whatever reason… but that wasn’t the case.

Carlo Fernando is a 51 year-old native of Moratuwa, south of the capitol city Columbo. In banking for 18 years, he resigned in 1992 and formed his own software company. He also teaches computing to grade 9 and 10 students at an international school. His wife Sandra and daughter are employed at the same school and his son is studying there for a degree.

His song indexing evolved over the course of several years as he painstakingly typed the lyrics to all the “oldies” he had collected. Once people found his Website, he gradually accumulated more songs from visitors and eventually invited several interested people around the world to become virtual web partners in collecting the songs - which continue to grow in number.

So, if you ever need to know the lyrics to your old favorites, bookmark his site at [] and have a look. Carlos might just have what you are looking for. His other site for Web Partners is at [].

The following was Carlos’s response to my initial request:

Dear Jug: I have the lyrics. The song you requested appears below. Thanks for visiting my page. Your voluntary contribution - a minimum US$2 in cash or money order - will help me to continue this service. Please send your contribution to: Felix Fonseka 1300 Lafayette E. # 2001 Detroit, MI 48207 (as it takes 12 -15+ days for mail to reach me in Sri Lanka and would cost you almost a dollar in postage). Thanks & Regards,
C. Fernando, Sri Lanka

By Joe Young, Jean Schwartz & Milton Ager
Copyright 1934

1st Verse:

I was born 'way down in Indiana,
Wish that I were there right now.
Want to hear my dog bow-wow
When I go to milk the cow.
Raised on corn 'way down in Indiana,
So was ev'ry little hen.
I was mighty happy then;
Wish that I were back a-gain:


In a little red barn on a farm down in Indiana,
Let me lay my back on a stack of new mown hay.
'Round the barnyard where the farmyard folks are pal-ly,
Let me dilly-dally all the live-long day.
I'm a Hoosier who's blue, thru and thru, and my heart is pining
For the sycamore trees where the Wabash breezes play.
What's more, I'm pining for a yellow moon that's shining
On a little red barn on a farm down Indiana way.

2nd Verse:

Work was done 'way down in Indiana,
Picked the eggs the chickens lay;
Pushed the plow and pitched the hay;
Ev'ry day a busy day.
Had my fun 'way down in Indiana
When the sun would go to rest.
Saw it sinkin' in the West;
That's the time I liked the best.

CHORUS: Repeat


By Jug Varner

Before his recent demise, country guitarist Chet Atkins cut a new rendition of the old standard, There'll Be Some Changes Made, with young country newcomer guitarist Mark Knopfler. It is a comedic reprise of an old standard that dates back to the 1930s or 40s (I think).

Not only is the repartee between Chet and Mark funny, they offer some great pickin' for those who appreciate guitar music. Chet sang, and may have written the following updated lyrics (as best as I can remember them) about what he was going to do to change his image from an old geezer to a more youthful one:

There'll be a change in the weather, a change in the scene,
I'll start wearing leather and change my routine,
I'll wear dark glasses, maybe a toupee,
I'll get down and boogie and become risqué,
I'll start wearing makeup, like Jackson and Prince,
You'll see me riding in my Mercedes Benz,
Nobody wants you when you just play guitar,
There'll be some changes made to-mar (ow)
There'll be some changes made.

While this is a spoof, and quite out of character with the laid-back Chet, it parodies the desire to bring about some change into one's life.

Life is one continual change, and those who don't change with it grow old a little faster than those who learn to roll with the punch and keep abreast of the times. Not that we need to accept EVERY change… piercing eyebrows, navels, lips, tongues, etc., are not my cup of tea, nor are green or blue hair… but we shouldn't be such critics and grouches, and think that our way is the ONLY way to go.

There are some great innovations happening every day and older folks should latch onto some of them… while keeping everything in perspective and taking what will work best in their lives. Age is really a state of mind.

Some of my long-time friends and relatives who were schoolteachers have lived much longer than most of their contemporaries. The good ones learned early on (dealing with a bunch of unruly brats) how to roll with the punch and handle stress and chaos. Of course, they taught school in the days when teachers were in control and could discipline kids without fear of being sued by the parents!

In my experience, people who laugh a lot, especially at themselves, who don't hold grudges, and who take their troubles with a grain of salt, have a better possibility of a happy old age than do the humorless grouches.

It only SEEMS like the grouches live longer because they make life miserable for everyone else


By Byron D. Varner, Commander, U.S. Navy (Ret.)

How much more misdirected and far-fetched in their
damning of President Bush can these liberal critics get?

According to former Senator Robert Kennedy, the Hurricanes are President Bush’s fault because he didn‘t join with the tree-huggers who supported members in the United Nations in their paper pledge to stop the so-called Greenhouse effect! Yeah, sure… as if that could have been done overnight, in a forte night, in a year or ever, by signing some treaty most of them would not have adhered to - if, in reality, the idea had any validity in the first place.

Those same UN members, many of whom were profiting greatly from selling Sadaam Hussein nuclear supplies and equipment, were particularly irked when President Bush wouldn‘t agree to turn over control of our military to the UN and the majority would not support the American stand against the Muslim extremists in Iraq and Afghanistan. With the UN’s track record of “do-nothing appeasement” in the Middleast, we can thank THEM as much as anyone for the escalation of the Iraq war.

Bush was the only president in modern times besides his father who had the guts to do something to stem the tide… and even the elder Bush gave in to UN demands instead of finishing off Iraq during the Gulf war crisis 10 years earlier. Apparently our liberal media agrees more with the UN than with the American majority who support the president and reelected him.

Now the liberals rant that George Bush’s quick reaction to the Gulf Coast disaster was TOO SLOW. Obviously they think marshalling of all of the government forces that need to be involved can be accomplished overnight. Never in our history has a president’s remedial action to any disaster been so quick and so forceful as this one - despite the billions of dollars it will take to do the job.

Our Commander-in-Chief is doing everything he possibly can to “protect and defend” the people of America, and the liberals just don't comprehend.

They should be praising him - not damning him - for his sincere concern and immediate action to send quick money and do whatever possible in this dire situation — but, instead, he is IMPERIAL because he first viewed the disaster on a detour of Air Force One enroute to Washington. Think about it, folks. Air Force One couldn’t have landed anywhere within a 400 mile radius of New Orleans or Gulfport that day!

While each of us feels deep sorrow and pity for these Gulf Coast residents’ great losses - and many of us are sending whatever we can spare financially to help them - those who for whatever reason would not heed the dire warnings to evacuate are certainly responsible for their own plight. BUT, it was “the government‘s fault,” not their own, according to practically everyone who was interviewed on TV as they waded out of the water and climbed atop an undamaged section of I-10.

The only one I heard that wasn’t blaming Bush or the government for their situation and lack of food or water was one elderly black man whose only comment was, “God is punishing New Orleans because it is an evil city.”

And what about the officials in New Orleans? They have known for years that the city is well below sea level, protected only by a dike system badly in need of repairs and could easily be wiped out by a ferocious storm. They certainly knew something should be done. Why didn’t THEY do it. Perhaps their excuse was that they wanted federal government to pay for it, not New Orleans.

In truth it will likely require several years and untold billions to return New Orleans alone to its former status and location, not to mention all the other cities and villages that were affected. It would take about two days for another category 4 or 5 hurricane to demolish New Orleans again some time in the future if it still lies below sea level.

Once the heartfelt sympathy stages of recovering lives, healing the wounded and finding places for the survivors to live and work has been accomplished, the cost to return this ravaged city to its pre-storm condition may be so staggering that a new location farther from the flood dangers may prove to be the only conceivable solution for a future New Orleans. If so, no doubt that will be George Bush’s fault, as well.

Liberal democrats' damning and blaming every move President Bush makes has been going on since the defeat of their candidate Al Gore - and their surprise loss of power. It got steadily worse after he won reelection by a much wider margin throughout the country, despite the majority of the national media’s parroting the hateful liberal opposition. They can’t seem to read the average American very well, or simply don't care.

Their outright lies, borderline slander, half-truths, opposition to all federal appointments, and shameful stalling tactics continues unabated in both the media and in Congress - with scant regard for anything but their own political ends.

Fortunately, the majority of the American public is smarter than their elected representatives and thinking people can see through these delaying tactics that cripple and corrupt, but do not correct the problems in our society. Of course, there are many “by-standers” who go along with the tide, believing the big lie until it bites them.

Unfortunately for some of the Senators and Representatives running for reelection, fed-up voters may give them the boot and elect someone who cares about the people.

The president’s call, to put aside politics and join with him in unity during the perilous days ahead for those in the Gulf Coast area and America in general, will no doubt fall on deaf ears of these arrogant people if the current BLAME BUSH stories that continue to escalate in the media are any gauge of their intentions.

It is understandable for victims in the midst of the fury that devastated the Gulf coast to be critical of what seems excruciatingly slow relief in the midst of a storm, but it is another matter for the media and political hacks to try to take advantage of the opportunity by blaming the president and his party, where such blame is not necessarily deserved.

I doubt that many (if any) liberal media moguls or members of Congresss will be reading this article or agreeing with it if they do, but if they should happen to see it, I offer the following heartfelt suggestion for them to consider:


Here is something from the web that came after I wrote this. It helps make my point, but perhaps more succinctly! [ ]


By Jug Varner

Call it “Cursed by Corporate America”… “Damn the Customers, Full Speed Ahead”… “Let ‘Em Eat Electronic Cake”… or any other title that fits, Americans have fallen prey to one of the best examples of bad public relations ever dreamed up by corporate America… and, unfortunately, it is rapidly filtering down to government entities, financial institutions, and small businesses as well.

The curse I refer to is the neoanthropic telephone communications system - or in simpler terms, “how in this hell do I find a real live person to talk with.”

You may consider this a strange rant on my part, but from my many conversations about this with a variety of people, I am not the only one who is tired of wasting valuable time selecting options, waiting on line, selecting more options, waiting on line, being disconnected and having to start over, repeating the process, and frequently never talking with a live human being. I
n the rare instance when they do answer, more often than not they have to transfer the call to someone else. The odds are high for another disconnect before talking to another humen.

The only solution I have found is to learn each company’s process, figure out my own shortcuts to by-pass as much of their electronic blather as possible, and write it down in case I have to call them again. That way it only wastes about five minutes or so before I talk to live humans - unless of course I get their voice mail telling me he or she can’t answer, and to leave a message. But, on rare occasions they actually do return the call. Maybe not that day, but eventually!

I get a lot of negative vibrations about this ever-growing bad PR practice, as if these businesses are trying to tell me:

  • “Maybe if we confuse him enough, he will go away and stop bothering us” or,
  • “Our time is much more valuable than his time. Let him wait” or,
  • “It’s just another customer with a problem we don’t want to be bothered about,” or,
  • “Boy, this high dollar system is a lot more expensive than paying a few telephone answering clerks, but it’s worth it.”

Whatever happened to the old fashioned “the customer comes first” concept? There is little or none of this in today’s business and commerce, obviously. Most businesses don’t even take the time to train their people in courtesy, prompt service, knowing their job, or in good customer relations. It seems to be a lost art.

Part of the overall problem may be bottom-line-driven, and the corporate thinking that it costs too much to provide the personal touch. Maybe if they didn’t pay their CEOs and upper level management so much, they would have enough left over to pay the people needed at the bottom rung who talk directly with the public. Part of it may be that many of these companies are so large that there IS NO personal touch anymore, and have so much business they can’t take care of it properly… or even care whether or not YOU are their customer.

Go into any large department store today, for example, and try to find a clerk to assist you. They are a scarce commodity (except at the perfume and beauty counters) and usually poorly trained, if trained at all. I’m not sure their immediate superiors are very well trained, either. When you do find a clerk, he or she may not understand nor speak English very well, and most have no idea about what is in stock or about the item you are interested in buying. It’s almost as bad public relations as are the telephone mummies.)

Of course, the best solution is to stop trading with these businesses, but you may be stuck with a lot of them for various reasons, and the rest are probably just as bad or soon will be at the present rate of “monkey see, monkey do“ corporate America.

All this could change if enough consumers stopped supporting it.


What an exciting finish for the 2002 Super Bowl - and what a fantastic win by an underdog New England Patriots team that hardly anyone except their own players and coaches thought could win. Overcoming the odds and the critics, this game reminded me of Super Bowl III and the realization of how much:

By Jug Varner

As you look in the mirror on a day-to-day basis, you hardly notice the change; but look at your photo taken 30+ years ago and the difference is painfully obvious. During Super Bowl Week I happened to watch a play-by-play rerun of the 1969 Super Bowl III, between the Baltimore Colts and the New York Jets. The changes I saw there were quite obvious, too.

Following lopsided wins by the National League in the first two Super Bowl of 1967 and 1968, experts smugly predicted a continuing fate for the “inferior” American League Jets. There was no way they would beat the highly favored Colts. The odds went up even higher after quarterback Joe Namath issued his now-famous pre-game public “guarantee” that his Jets would win.

“What a laugh! What a stupid thing to do,” the experts said. So did Joe's coach Weeb Eubanks… until after the final score read: Jets 16, Colts 7.

I remember watching that game on TV in 1969, and how everyone was amazed that the Jets pulled it off. Also amazing was the huge plate of crow the Colt players, National League officials, fans, and media know-it-alls had to eat. They thought it was a freak happening, until the next year when Kansas City Chiefs won Super Bowl IV.

Historically, it was the turning point of success for the newly merged NFL and fan interest in future Super Bowls. The game itself, however, was very mild by comparison to 21st Century pro football.

Here are some of the thoughts that came to me while recently viewing reruns of that historic game:

  • The players seemed slow and plodding by today's standards as if they were on a muddy field with the wrong cleats on their shoes, yet the weather and field conditions were obviously good.
  • Most of the players and coaches were Caucasian. Perhaps this may explain the above reference to “slow and plodding.”
  • Both teams' game plans were simple and unimaginative.
  • Players were not as violent (nor as big and fast) as they are today.
  • Neither team played as aggressively on either side of the ball as they do now.
  • Pass coverage was looser, slower, and not as hard-hitting.
  • This game was almost injury free.
  • There was no audible trash talk. (What was a plus that was!)
  • Game officials were definitely in charge. Coaches and players did not seriously challenge calls. Sportsmanship and respect for authority - a rare phenomenon seldom experienced in today's culture - was still in evidence. (Another plus!)

Although exciting then, play like that today would be considered by most of us as b-o-r-i-n-g. If it were possible to pit teams and rules of that era against teams and rules of today, the 1969 Super Bowl finalists might be hard-pressed to even compete against any of the 2002 Super Bowl play-off teams

Of course, many other things were different in that era. They had no computers, TV replays, stadium TV screens, sideline technology, domed stadiums, fake turf, etc. Super Bowl III was the first one with a sell-out crowd about 30,000. The tickets cost $12. The gate gross receipts then could hardly cover the minimum salary of one NFL player today!

TV in 1969 was not the financial impact it was destined to become, salary caps were not a problem, players' unions had little influence, and signing bonuses were like petty cash compared to the astronomical figures modern draftees command. The world was shocked back in the days when Broadway Joe got a $400,000 contract as a rookie out of Alabama.

The media know-it-alls have not changed much when is comes to picking winners. They still eat a lot of crow for bad guesses and are no better than the rest of us. Otherwise, it is a whole new world in the sports media of print, TV, talk radio, Internet, etc. These so-called experts explain, analyze, speculate, and rehash everything so much before the game ever starts that the kick-off becomes almost anticlimactic. Fortunately, the game still has to be played.

Then comes recap time. Hotshot TV ex-jock sports reporters on ESPN, FOX, et al, now speak in a new “buck thirty-six minutes” tongue. So do their female counterparts. But, aside from the glib reporting of these fragile-looking distaffers, it is hard for old-timers like me to accept their expertise about a game they have never played. Their invasion of locker rooms and sidelines has added a feminine touch that also seems out of place. But, now that women have become pro wresters and boxers, it probably won't be long before they crash the barriers as pro football and hockey players.

Football is definitely a “whole 'nother game” than it was in the days of Super Bowl III but so are all other sports in the 21st Century. It is a sports-crazy world badly in need of some genuine heroes.


By Jug Varner

Those who determine such things call this current era of history The Information Age… and with good reason. With cell phones and computers alone, enough clutter is going into the “ethersphere” to pollute the ozone (if such be possible).

Although recent and accurate statistics are difficult to find, there probably are more than 50-million computer users in the U.S. - about 95 percent of whom are under age 65. This doesn‘t speak well for my geezer generation.

There is no doubt that some older people are averse to trying new ideas - especially the computer. Many seniors are missing a wonderful treat by not learning the simple computer basics. It's really NOT difficult and could open a whole new world of adventure, entertainment and enlightenment to them — particularly to those who are limited in their ability to get out of their house or apartment and circulate among others. For some, it may be a fear that they can‘t do it… or that they simply don’t want to try, for whatever reason.

Anyone who WANTS to… can learn the computer. For seniors, it is a badge of honor that you are open minded, active and interested in something outside your own sphere. It certainly beats watching inane TV re-runs day and night!

Now cell phones are an entirely different matter - regardless of how old or young you are.

The basics are easy to learn, but cell phones are DANGEROUS instruments. Why? You could get injured or killed while walking across the street or public parking lot because you are paying absolutely NO attention to anything or anyone around you except the invisible person on the other end of your cellular phone conversation.

Or, the same thing could happen to you while you are driving, because you are paying absolutely NO attention to anything or anyone around you except the invisible person on the other end of your cellular phone conversation.

Hello, cellular users… did you get that? Or are you talking on your cell phone while you read this?

I wonder what percentage of auto accidents today occur while one or the other driver is using his or her cell phone? Likely much higher than we might think!

Cell phones are great products, especially in an emergency, but the Chatty Cathiys and Bill Blowhards of this world need to take a few lessons in safety, phone etiquette, and common sense before being allowed to purchase and to USE one of these little jewels while on public thoroughfares.


Freedom Ship Dream May Become Reality
By Jug Varner

Last year I included an article about a Sarasota-based corporation's proposed 25-story, 750' wide, mile-long Freedom Ship. Today, the Sarasota Tribune carried a follow-up article about the officials who are steering a course to raise the $20 million necessary to make that dream a reality.

Paul Genova, a New Jersey-based financial planner and accountant is the president. Daniel kochenash, former executive, is chief operating officer, and Perry DeFontane, former head of a private consulting firm, is chief financial officer. Norman Nixon, founder of the project, is chief executive of Freedom Ship International.

Tribune Writer Michael Pollick describes Freedom Ship as “a city that never enters a port, but instead, progresses through an endless trip around the world. Anchorages would be made within short distances of major global destinations.”

“Airplanes would land and take-off from the top deck and fairly large ships would dock within Freedom Ship's ample stern,” he continues. “The floating city would have its own schools, hospitals, stores and parks. Its financial success, though, would hinge on a planned 300,000 sq.ft. casino, a 10,000 room hotel, 3,100 time-share units, and 17,000 condo-style residences.”

The group has had numerous discussions with hotel chains, casino operators, retailers and service providers interested in the project. Genova stated, “Over the past year we have created so much momentum, we feel that within the next six months things are really going to start snowballing.”

If the current private stock sale is successful, and financing efforts bear fruit, acquisition of a shipyard property in Honduras would be the next major step. There, steel subsections would be built and floated to deeper water for assembly.

See also: Freedom Ship []


Every now and then I run across something special that intrigues me to the point of concentrated research and inquiry, either for a story to write or refer, or merely my own satisfaction in learning something new. Such is the case with an article from the Business Weekly supplement of the Sarasota Harold-Tribune dated Oct. 21,2002. At the time, I was busy with other things, but it looked so interesting that I set it aside for later reading

The artist's rendering is a
stern shot showing its
aircraft landing system
and its size compared
to a large ocean liner.
The conceptual rendering
shows the proposed
Freedom Ship from an
Overhead, off its port.
In the meantime, Christmas came and went, we moved from our temporary beach residence to a downtown Sarasota high-rise, and were involved with many other official and unofficial doings. Now, here it is the month of May and I am finally getting back to the said article—but only after accidentally finding it in the wrong file. Moving is hell, sometimes.

Michael Pollack's article entitled Fantastic Voyage begins some ten years in the future to tease and titillate then returns to the present with facts that may resemble fiction, considering the staggering odds against finalization of the concept. That concept is an “almost mile-long, $11 Billion, 25-story floating city, with an average population of 100,000.” It is called the Freedom Ship—a barge five times larger than our latest U.S. aircraft carrier—with an entire city rising from its hull.

Sarasota engineer Norm Nixon dreamed up this unique idea back in 1994, and has passionately and faithfully pursued this dream until its reality no longer seems impossible. His main problem now isn't as much convincing people it will work, but raising the necessary capital required to make it happen. That, too, is underway.

As Paul Harvey might say, “And now, for the rest of the story”… Click on this link. []


By Jug Varner

In 1970, Alvin Toffler wrote the best seller, Future Shock. Among other things, it is about “what happens to people when they are overcome by change…a current so powerful today that it overturns institutions, shifts our values, and shrivels our roots,” as he wrote in the introduction.

Back then, it seemed only partially believable science fiction to me — but with 30+ years hindsight, many of Toffler’s concepts have proved to be factual. The pages are falling out of my paperback copy (15th edition, 1971) as I am reading Future Shock again, and it is even more intriguing the second time around.

My first computer, circa 1980, was an IBM with a 13” monochrome monitor and a clattering pinwheel printer. Would the $6,000 price tag be worth it? I didn’t know, but I bit the bullet and succumbed to the limited options available. The salesman at Austin’s Computerland store forgot to mention that, in two weeks, they would have IBM’s first color monitor, and at a slightly lower price. Caveat emptor then —but my zillion-gig bells and whistles model of today gives me instant comparative prices from an unlimited number of suppliers worldwide.

The part in the book about a “throw away society” has certainly come true. While national waste disposal moguls battle environmentalists — about where next to hide the mountains of computer parts, electronic gadgetry, plastic throwaways that will last 10,000 years, and all the boxes they came in —a newer, speedier, and better product becomes obsolete before we get it out of the store. Meanwhile, we throw its packaging in our recycling bin for trash pick-up, and try to figure out where to donate our old model that was perfectly okay until the devil made us buy “the latest thing.”

Typical of Toffler’s theme, our current “latest things” are nothing compared to what they will be in the near future. Researchers at several universities and computer corporations are now working on a molecular computer circuitry that could be equal to the next generation of silicon based chips, but a thousand times smaller and less expensive. Imagine, if you can, this and other such nanotechnology resulting in computers small enough to be worn or embedded in materials, and, yes, even injected into the bloodstream as diagnostic sensors.

Of course, given the fact that the human species may never learn to get along with one another, this same nanotechnology may foster weapons that will blow modern society to kingdom come…leading one to wonder just how long the future may be…in “shock” or otherwise. Nevertheless, I’d like to be around to see all the unbelievable products science and industry will develop at an ever-increasing pace in the tomorrows of time —just as Toffler imagined.

Like the title of an old cartoon I read as a kid, I must have been “Born Thirty Years Too Soon.”


By Jug Varner

You may have read my rant against the thoughtlessness of cell phone users in my Jug’s Journal article, (TECH) Not The Greatest Invention. Recently I read a news item about the Sprint Wireless Courtesy Report and it aroused my curiosity, so I thought you might enjoy the highlights of its poll results.

The Sprint report compiles statistics from an ongoing poll with thousands of cell phone users. I have seen and overheard (impossible not to) a lot of thoughtless cell phone addicts walking around or sitting in crowded public places, and if the percentages of the survey are correct, some of the responses may be misleading. Some people say one thing in answer to a poll question, but do not necessarily practice what they preach. And a lot of people don‘t see their own faults clearly… or if they do see them, will not admit them.

So here are the survey highlights, with my own comments appended in parenthesis:

  • 80% of U.S. adults surveyed say people are less courteous using wireless phones today than five years ago. (I agree with this statement.)
  • 97% labeled themselves as “very courteous” or “somewhat courteous”. (Give me a break! Much too high percentage for all those cell phone addicts out there!.)
  • 62% said they have felt “uncomfortable” overhearing someone else’s private wireless conversation. (The word “indignant” better describes it for me.)
  • 98% said they move away from others when talking on a wireless phone. (The percentage seems upside down. How about 2% that move away from others?)
  • 2% say they keep their phone ringer on when in a place of worship. (Why? Are they expecting a call from God?)
  • 77% said they have overheard a wireless conversation in a public restroom. (Maybe the conversation, like their purpose in being there, just “couldn’t wait.”)
  • 34% put their phone on vibrate when in a restaurant; 11% lower the ring volume; 18% turn the phone off; 28% make no ringer change; and 9% didn‘t say… (But they all seem to talk very loudly over this noisy crowd, and those at adjoining tables can't help overhearing them.)
  • 93% say it is rude to take a cell phone call in a business meeting. (Yeah, but no doubt more than 7% do it!)
  • 80% say the same for a text message or e-mail. (Probably more than 20% do this, too! Obviously, the people in charge of these meetings have not “taken charge.”)
  • 88% said people unnecessarily raise their voices on wireless phones; 15% said they have been told they talk too loud on their wireless phones. (The percentage is probably much too low, but how else can a “want-to-be” attract attention to his or her self-importance?)
  • 54% said they feel “unimportant” or “impatient” when a friend stops a conversation to take a cell phone call. (Or a regular phone call as well? Maybe they need to tell this to their “friend.”)
  • 53% had a similar response from a co-worker. (If they are at work, incoming calls should be more important than office chit-chat.)

You can participate in this survey at [].



By Jug Varner

It seems to me there are three types of people in the computer world.
1. Those (like my son Gary) who love them, learn and retain everything easily and become computer gurus;
2. Those (like me) who can use them after memorizing a bunch of rules, but never have the patience to learn much more about them than necessary; and
3. Those (like my wife Bonnie) who have no desire to even learn how to turn on the damned things.

Judging from the number of computer owners versus the world population, the third category is supreme, the second category probably includes the majority of the computer owners, and the first category is made up of the miniscule top percentage of users. This may change gradually with practically every school in the U.S. using computers from the first grade onward. Unfortunately most of these kids can’t spell, speak or write English properly, but that, too, may change. Hopefully most future teachers will actually learn Basic English in high school and/or college.

I consider myself fortunate to have my own personal family computer guru - and at a very reasonable price (as in “free”). It is not surprising to me that Gary would be the one of my three kids who took to it like a duck to water. As a child with a meticulous interest in detail, he could innately put things together and take them apart - a wonderful trait that led him to be the one in the family we always turned to for “reading, understanding and following directions” for parts assembly.

Whenever I have a computer problem I don’t understand, I call Gary. His first response used to be, “Dad, why don’t you read the instructions?” But now, I have him trained. (He’s tired of asking the question). It is so much easier for me to have him explain it than to research poorly written directions in a language that only the computer nerds who created the software can understand. At least I am getting something in return for the investment in his college education.

Son Roy is quite adept at computers as well, but could live without them if necessary. Daughter Vickie uses one but doesn’t let it dominate her life. But it almost dominates mine.

At my age, this Website has become my principal activity, since I am otherwise retired from the world of business, and I tend to keep up with computereze to some degree - having just purchased a new system and switched from Windows 98 to XP. Would that I was as competent in understanding it as is Gary. But I will look forward to his tweaking it for me during his next visit to Sarasota.

Gary studied architecture in college but took up the computer later on. Today he does computer graphics and conducts management classes for a Houston corporation.

Like his brother and me, Gary enjoys writing and has some interesting Websites, including one entitled Inkmusing []. Through some of these articles his mother and I are learning things about his youth he never told us at the time.

He also collects rare books. One day in the future I expect to see him published in book form as well.

Am I a proud papa? You bet… and thrice blessed.


By Jug Varner

As it affects your own life, what do you consider to be most important technical advancement of the 20th Century? Air Travel? Air Conditioning? Atomic Power? Automobile? Computer? Radio/TV? Telephone? Satellites? Space exploration? Other?

I hope you didn't choose the Cell Phone! For all of its seeming advantages, it has major disadvantages with no redeeming social value.

Multitudes of zombies are everywhere in their cars these days with a cell phone growing out of their ear. They pay little heed to the important function of driving, and, if they don't have a wreck in the process, they eventually park. Continuing their mindless yaking, they walk through parking lots, across busy thoroughfares, or along sidewalks, blithely ignoring other pedestrians (many with this same “ear problem”), and pay no heed to cars backing out of parking spaces or approaching on the road, about to collide with them. They are definitely an on-and-off-road traffic hazard.

Inside airline terminals, public institutions and stores, they traverse aisles, escalators, and elevators, chatting away with someone about mundane matters that in most instances surely could wait. These are the same inconsiderate nerds who bring them to restaurants and other public places, especially where seating is close together, and bore us even further with their ego problems. Or, they carry them to meetings, even to church, and, of course, leave the ringer on so it will be sure to interrupt the thoughts of those who are there for serious purposes. They obviously want the rest of us to know how important they are — to themselves.

What did these folks do for a life before the cell phone came along?

They must not know it was invented by the Devil, and some day they will burn in Hell for breaking the 11th Commandment —”Thou shalt have due consideration for your fellow human beings.”


By Jug Varner

Excuse me if I don’t understand the thinking of these politically correct, liberal-thinking do-gooders who either do not remember, or do not care that:
Muslims bombed Pan Am Flight 103;
Muslims bombed the World Trade Center in 1993;
Muslims bombed the Marine barracks in Lebanon;
Muslims bombed the military barracks in Saudi Arabia;
Muslims bombed the American Embassies in Africa;
Muslims bombed the USS COLE;
Muslims attacked the Twin Towers on 9/11/2001; and that
Thousands of Americans lost their lives in these vicious Muslim actions!

Excuse me if I don’t understand the logic of these same politically correct Liberal thinking do-gooders who have given blatant approval for the United States Postal Service to honor the coming EID Muslim holiday season with a commemorative first class postage stamp.

To reconcile their reasoning for this “love your enemies” decision, one of their responses to this outrage might be: “Oh, but these are American citizens, not the evil kind.”

Yes, some of these Muslims may be American citizens, but some of them also have aided and abetted those involved in the above listed attacks and undoubtedly would do so in the future as well. And if they wouldn’t, they would be subject to the same fate the Muslim world wishes for all so-called “Infidels” - the Muslim description for all who do not go along with their warped thinking.

Surely, those who approve U.S. stamp designs must know that Americans - more than any others - head the list of the Muslim hatred for anyone world-wide who disagrees with their murderous tenets.

Purchasing and/or using this stamp would be deplorable, disgraceful, disgusting, dishonorable, and disloyal to all Americans who died at the hands of those this stamp would honor.

I sincerely hope that every patriot who reads this will support those in uniform by joining this boycott and telling the people at the U.S. Postal service exactly how we feel about it - in no uncertain terms.


By Jug Varner

I have been a travel junkie all my life and had visited several states before I joined the Navy as a teenager. Fortunately, the naval career provided an abundance of travel opportunities by land, sea, and air, as did various civilian situations afterward — so that there are few places in the USA that Bonnie and I have missed. Only Alaska, Montana, and North Dakota have eluded our itineraries, for some reason — but we are not through yet! For some of us, traveling is an itch you just have to scratch.

Although we have visited in several foreign lands, seeing our own country always has been our first priority, preferring the highway to airline routes where possible. We also stay at downtown hotels instead of outlying motels if we plan to see or do anything in a particular city. You get a better feel for the town, and generally better food and service at a quality hotel. I think Bonnie would be perfectly content to live in a hotel full time! Consequently, good bed and board take priority over everything in our trip planning, and we remember a city for that reason as much as its historic and tourist attractions.

Things have changed considerably over the years, however. The diversity of cities and states, formerly the primary motivation for a visit, has been diminished a great deal by the sameness of national franchising, especially food. Regional fare is available, of course, but it takes a bit of research, trial, and error to find the favorite places of the locals, where the average tourist never goes.

Travel experts say there are several unique cities everyone should visit. Boston, New Orleans, San Antonio, San Francisco, and Washington D.C. head that list. I would add Charleston SC, Key West, and Santa Fe, at least. There are a number of other places worthy of writing home about — in fact I have. Some of these are included in my stories listed under TRAVEL.

In addition to the eight places named above (and the many attractions they offer) we particularly enjoyed visiting Chautauqua and Cooperstown NY, Gettysburg and Hershey PA, Hale Koa Military Resort (Honolulu), Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn MI, Mackinac Island MI, and Mount Rushmore SD. All are in those travel articles.

Being a meticulous travel planner, I am sometimes overly thorough — but that is advantageous in two ways. If you actually make the trip, you know exactly where to go and how to get there, with no surprises. If you cancel your plans for some reason, you have enjoyed it vicariously and have a good future reference. Over time, we have compiled a long list of places to NOT stay or eat, plus a few select ones we liked and want to return to if the occasion permits. I suppose when it comes to food and bed you could say we are more than a wee bit discriminating!

Despite road rage, questionable bridge structures, overabundance of trucks, and never-ending road construction, the highway offers the safest and most convenient mode of travel for us. Unlike the days of my youth when getting there in a hurry (with the aid of black coffee and No-Doze pills) and the final destination were the top priorities, we now enjoy the luxury of time, affordability, and diversity. There are some things about being senior that has distinct advantages.

For nature lovers it is the “call of the wild” that beckons. For us, it is the “call of the wild highway.”


By Jug Varner
Hi gang… we're back online again with Jug's Journal after the big move from Texas to Florida, and glad to be settled in a normal routine.

For those of you who haven't been here, Sarasota is a beautiful little city located about 60 miles south of Tampa. It seems larger than its 60,000+ population, but it is centered in an area of other cities, towns and villages on the West Coast (the local Chamber of Commerce calls it the “Sun” Coast”) with a combined population of about 500,000.

The Sun Coast has the “Cloudy and Wet” Coast during our early days here, thanks to the outer edge effect of the Hurricanes spinning around the Caribbean and the Gulf of Mexico, but nothing drastic so far. The sun pops through frequently, to keep its reputation alive and well.

The high-rise condo at the extreme right of the photo will be our location as of New Year's Day 2003. Right now we are “toughing it out” across the bay in an equally nice high-rise condo on the beach with a spectacular gulf view. Oh well, somebody has to do it.

Having visited our daughter and her family several times in nearby Longboat Key, we are not total strangers to the area. That has made the transition much easier and simpler than going to unfamiliar ground. Still, there is the usual standing-in-line for new driver's license, car title, license plates, post office box, ad infinitum, necessary in new settlement as well as getting acquainted with state laws, condo regulations, etc. Above all, there is the endless task of finding all the best places to trade, especially the same ones we used in Texas.

It has been fun and we have already met a lot of nice people. Folks are friendly and helpful here, just like in Texas. I have also made a new best friend or two, and will look forward to renewing some old Navy friendships with several buds living in the general area.

So, as you can tell, we like our new hometown very much and look forward to many happy experiences here. We learned long ago in the Navy that emphasizing the good qualities and ignoring or minimizing the less desirable things makes each change of duty station and living conditions a lot brighter and happier. It has never failed us.


By Jug Varner

Maybe it is a natural thing to become more cautious as one gets older, or perhaps it just takes some of us longer than others to get smart. Whatever the reason, one thing I have learned by experience is this: Those who observe the speed limit and drive at a steady pace get where they are going about as quickly as the get-out-of-my-way speed demons that must think they are driving the Indianapolis Speedway.

You know the ones I'm talking about…the “road rage types.” Their air stream practically blows you off the road. They change lanes with reckless abandon and endanger everyone's life and limb. Generally, you catch up with them at the next signal light or traffic tie-up. So these egocentric automotive show-offs save precious little time in the overall scheme of things. The down side of it is the heartache, death, and destruction they cause to others. Unfortunately, not enough of these clowns kill only themselves.

It is also unfortunate that this sort of thing occurs all across the nation, not just in metropolitan areas or on major highways. People everywhere are impatient to get where they are going. If you don't agree that the majority of drivers today exceed the speed limit, you can easily prove it to yourself. Simply set the speed control on the speed limit and count the number of cars that pass yours. You will quickly learn how it feels to be in the minority. You will also be the recipient of a lot of dirty looks, a few honking horns, maybe even a fist or two shaken in your direction, for your dastardly deed of impeding their progress.

I am no psychologist, but it seems to me some of this relates to a growing lack of respect for law, authority, and fellow-citizens. The fast pace of modern life, the daily grind of commuting, starting too late, and many other reasons factor into the equation, but lack of common courtesy and disregard for the rules must be high on the list. When the safety experts say, “Drive defensively,” they know whereof they speak.

Why is everyone in such a hurry? Why not relax, slow down, enjoy the ride, and sooth the so-called tension of modern living. In addition to arriving as quickly as the “rager” does — and in a lot healthier state of mind — there is a bonus of self-satisfaction for being courteous.


By Jug Varner

As a kid, one of the things I liked about traveling was the Burma Shave signs. These were five small red and white signs - each placed about eye-level some 100 feet or so apart on the side of main highways across the country as an advertising gimmick.

The first four offered a clever message, followed by a Burma Shave logo on the fifth' I used to memorize the ones I thought were worth telling someone about, but the only one I can recall at this moment is this one:
After this article is on line I will probably have remembered other favorites… but that WAS a long time ago.

Now, of course, like anything else you want to know about, you simply go to the Web and search for it. So I searched Burma Shave and found several sites that can offer more than you may want to know about it.

What got me started on this subject was relating to a friend some anecdotes about my life during the depression years of the 1930s, when people did just about everything you can think of to earn a buck for groceries to feed their families. People today have little or no idea of how devastating those times were, unless they experienced them first-hand. The imprint on our lives is still evident.

My family had a restaurant (actually it was a Texas “Café”) and while we made very little profit, we did manage to eat regularly, which was better than about 25% of the population had. We often fell prey to the never-ending parade of down-and-out people passing through our town, and gave out many meals in return for some small chore (to protect their dignity).

One of these types was a freelance sign painter who created clever little sayings to hang on the wall. I remember a couple of them we posted that read:

If you have
nothing to do…
Please don't
do it here.

We'll crank your car or
hold your baby…but
we won't give credit and
we don't mean maybe.

That “crank your car” line is no doubt foreign to most of you, but in those days most cars had no starter system and had to be hand-cranked. That hazardous risk resulted in an untold number of broken arms until someone invented a release mechanism to disengage the crank when the engine started.

Ah… those were the “Good old days.”


By Jug Varner

My wife always wanted to go to Paris. She envisions herself in some Parisian designer's shop (her favorite was Coco Channel), lunching at a sidewalk café, enjoying the magnificent view from the Eiffel Tower, etc.

Ordinarily, I make an effort to provide whatever she desires, but for various reasons a trip to Paris never materialized, until recently. This travel opportunity came up unexpectedly, and I told her, “Pack your bags, kid, I'm taking you someplace special.”

Was she ever disappointed! Paris was a nice little town, but things did not turn out as planned.

We arrived just before noon and I asked several people if they knew the location of a nearby sidewalk café. They looked at me in a strange way and shook their heads no. We finally settled for a nice meal in a newly opened Italian restaurant in the heart of the city, thinking we could have an afternoon repast at Le Eiffel Tower. I felt certain there would be sidewalk cafés near that grand venue, maybe a chic fashion boutique as well — so we set out to find it after lunch.

That was not easy. We scanned the skyline in all directions but could not see it anywhere. It required stopping people on the street for help, but either they didn't know, or gave us confusing directions. One woman's comment puzzled me somewhat when she told me (in jest, I thought), “Don't drive by too fast, or you might miss it.” We decided that these people must have a different sense of humor than ours.

What really surprised me, other than the tower being much smaller than anticipated, was that the woman was serious. We did almost miss it. That was partly because its construction was nothing at all like my long-held concept of the Eiffel Tower.

The view was not what I would describe as “magnificent,” either. First of all, we could not go up in the tower. Even if we could have, there was little more to see up there than from ground level. On one side was a large building and on the other three sides were acres of trees and open fields as far as the eye could see.

Needless to say, there were no French shops, cafes, bakeries, fashion designers, nor anyone who could speak French. My wife had studied the language for this express purpose, but I only know a few words and phrases.

tower.jpgAs I said, Paris, Texas is a nice little town. But it's a long way from France.

Nevertheless, the city is quite proud of the replica they built here, to which they added a large, “many-gallon” hat at the top to Texan-ize it. Unlike the usual brag that “everything is bigger and better in Texas,” however, this Eiffel replica is perhaps one-tenth the size of the real thing, and made of metal pipes connected together.

While it is clever propaganda for the Chamber of Commerce, I think the city fathers missed a real promotional coup by not making it bigger, locating it in a more convenient spot, adding some French cafes, shops, etc., and possibly working out some sort of “sister city” arrangement with Paris, France.

Of course, Parisians may look with disdain upon that last suggestion, but the other French touches could make it into quite a nice tourist attraction.

After all of my well-intentioned efforts, I still have a problem: My wife wants to go to Paris more than ever…to the REAL one, that is. Maybe if you go there you could send us an e-mail postcard.


By Jug Varner

There is an old saying about human nature that those who have done a lot of volunteer work can attest to: “Ten percent do all the work and ninety percent complain about it.”

I believe that statement well describes a Web organization (that represents even LESS than10%) of our military retirees. This group has faithfully and relentlessly pursued a goal over the years to get the government (i.e. Congress) to take action that would reverse its broken promises to military retirees. Unfortunately, the 90% either don’t know about this effort, or are too complacent (or afraid to rock the boat) to get behind it in full force. But thanks to the efforts of this 10% or less, military retirees now have TriCare For Life and a few stalwarts in Congress who have taken up the cause in our behalf. But that is only a “beginning” for this group.

There are a number of people in the group who deserve a lot of credit, but one in particular, Floyd Sears, has developed an effective Web site and coordinates its effort as the Webmaster.

If you are a retiree, do yourself a favor by setting aside an hour (or less) of your so-called valuable time, click on to the Website link that follows below, and read EVERY item therein. If you are not amazed and impressed by what this less than 10% are trying to do for you, then you don’t deserve the rewards you are reaping from their efforts!

On the other hand, if you appreciate their efforts, join in and give them some support that will benefit all military retirees, current and future. Here is your chance to make it… TEN PERCENT, OR MORE!

Now, follow-up by clicking
here [ ].


By Jug Varner

Recently a news story quoted one of our soldiers in Iraq as wondering, “How can anyone say they ‘support the troops, but not the war? ‘” I agree. Mere lip service is not supporting the troops. Real support requires coming together as a majority in our resolve to recognize and defeat the enemy.

Those of us who served in WWII could never have won that great conflict without the overwhelming support of our nation as a whole. In so doing, America became the greatest nation in the world.

Such support slowly dissolved during the Korean War and then almost totally disintegrated during the Vietnam War, leaving a generation of honorable servicemen reviled by a “new minority group” of anti-war crusaders. Included were some who had fled to Canada to escape the draft, hippy flower children dumbed out on drugs, liberal anti-military college students and professors, along with others who had no axe to grind other than wanting to end the war.

Not until the tragedy of 9-11 was the American public jarred into the reality of a growing menace of world-wide terrorism and a reawakening of patriotism here.

Unfortunately by that time, ultra liberalism had become entrenched in our mainstream media, public schools and universities and in certain areas of government that fostered the concept of “political correctness.”

Today, some in congress who are more interested in regaining lost power and demeaning President Bush than in doing what is best for this nation. Mainstream media and anti-war groups underestimate and/or refuse to believe the insidious threat to America. All are playing right into the enemy’s hands. Their actions are inadvertently encouraging the enemy’s belief that we soon will lose our national resolve, give up the fight and be easy to defeat in the long term.

Hopefully, 2006 will bring a wake-up call for the silent majority to stand up and be counted for a national return to moral and common sense values, the importance of supporting the war effort and getting back to reality.

As we begin this New Year, it is increasingly important that we support our troops in every way possible - if we would truly honor them. They risk their lives hourly for us in a cause in which they believe. That cause is to protect our way of life against a deadly enemy that would destroy any and all that opposes it - particularly Americans.

Please click here for a video salute to today' real American HEROES [ ].


By Jug Varner

My wife is a real mystery fan… not of the blood, guts and foul language type, but of the old fashioned clues and logic stories of substance. I, too like mysteries and recently ran across the following article on the website ENGLISH LANGUAGE PAGE at [http://].

It was taken from the Journal of the American Academy of Forensic Scientists with this lead in: “For those of you who were unable to attend the Awards Dinner during the Annual Meeting in San Diego, you missed a tall tale on complex forensics presented by AAFS President Don Harper Mills in his opening remarks. The following is a recount of Dr. Mills story:”

In March 23 the medical examiner viewed the body of Ronald Opus and concluded that he died from a gunshot wound of the head caused by a shotgun. Investigation to that point had revealed that the decedent had jumped from the top of a ten-story building with the intent to commit suicide (he left a note indicating his despondency).

As he passed the 9th floor on the way down, his life was interrupted by a shotgun blast through a window, killing him instantly. Neither the shooter nor the decedent was aware that a safety net had been erected at the 8th floor to protect some window washers and that the decedent would not have been able to complete his intent to commit suicide because of this.

Ordinarily, a person who starts into motion the events with suicide intent, ultimately commits suicide even though the mechanism might not be what he intended. That he was shot on the way to certain death nine stories below probably would not change his mode of death from suicide to homicide. But the circumstance caused the medical examiner to feel that he had homicide on his hands.

Further investigation led to the discovery that the room on the 9th floor, from whence the shotgun blast emanated, was occupied by an elderly man and his wife. He was threatening her with the shotgun because of an interspousal spat and became so upset he could not hold the shotgun straight. Therefore when he pulled the trigger, he completely missed his wife and the pellets went through the window striking the decedent.

When one intends to kill subject A, but kills subject B in the attempt, one is guilty of murder of subject B. The old man was confronted with this conclusion, but both he and his wife were adamant in stating that neither knew that the shotgun was loaded. It was a longtime habit of the old man to threaten his wife with an unloaded shotgun. He had no intent to murder her, therefore the killing of the decedent appeared to be an accident. That is, the gun had been accidentally loaded.

But further investigation turned up a witness that their son was seen loading the shotgun approximately six weeks prior to the fatal accident. That investigation showed that the mother (the old lady) had cut off her son's financial support and her son, knowing the propensity of his father to use the shotgun threateningly, loaded the gun with the expectation that the father would shoot his mother. The case now becomes one of murder on the part of the son for the death of Ronald Opus.

Further investigation revealed that the son became increasingly despondent over the failure of his attempt to get his mother murdered. This led him to jump off a ten-story building on March 23, only to be killed by a shotgun blast through a 9th story window.

Now, is it Suicide, Homicide, or an Accident? Think it over before you scroll down for the answer.
The son had actually murdered himself so the medical examiner closed the case as a suicide.


By Jug Varner

A funny thing happened on the way to this article.

Awaking early one morning, but still in bed, I began constructing a mental outline for a story I would write about the insight on human nature one gains after living and observing it in various places around the world for 80-plus years.

The more I thought about it, the better and more complete the outline became - to the point that I felt the necessity to get out of bed, go straight to the computer, turn it on, and start writing furiously to capture the essence of this unfolding idea.

On the way to the den I suddenly remembered an even greater immediate necessity - to place our weekly accumulation of trash at our curbside for the early morning pickup. That took several minutes, but I accomplished it prior to the arrival of the disposal truck. I then closed the garage door and came back inside.

Still another necessity beckoned and I responded to “nature’s call” before cranking up the trusty computer.

By this time, wife Bonnie had arisen and wandered in to ask why I hadn’t made the usual pot of decaf… and I stopped to take care of that little task as well.

The sun was now well above the horizon and it was time for my daily exercise of walking or bicycling before breakfast and I decided to get that out of the way first. At least it would offer time for continued fine-tuning of my ideas about the subject of the piece I would write when I returned.

During the four mile bike ride, many distractions of traffic, exercising neighbors on foot or bikes saying hello, water bird beauty and antics along the shore of our community’s lake, ad infinitum, altered the thought processes somewhat, and I never got back to the outline.

At home again, it was time for breakfast… so we did that, then the phone calls began… then the repairman arrived to fix the partial electrical outage caused by a lightening bolt from a recent storm.

Finally, things settled down to a more peaceful routine and I mentioned to Bonnie that I needed to get on this idea for a story that I created before I got up. She asked me to briefly tell her about it.

Suddenly, my mind was a complete blank!

Only then did I realize that the story was only a DREAM ABOUT WRITING A STORY! Everything that I laid out so nicely in that pre-dawn reverie was gone after I awoke, and I obviously was still in a half-daze when I realized I needed to take out the trash.

Perhaps only those of us who are writers would dream about writing a story, but strange things can happen during sleep. Many times I have had what seemed like a great idea and thought I should get up and write some of the details on paper so I would remember them. Seldom did that ever actually occur, but I remember one instance when I did get up and make some quick notes. The next morning I couldn’t make any sense out of what I had written. It looked like gibberish in a foreign language.

Frankly, I must be a much better writer in my dreams because I couldn’t seem to recreate it on paper nearly as definitively as I remember it was going to be. Oh, well… so much for philosophy and the insight one gains along life’s highways and byways.


By Jug Varner

A lot of interesting sayings come to me from various sources on the Internet. Some are new slants on old adages, some are just funny, some are ironic. I file them in my “Moments of Truth” folder to use as fillers, or for a slow day in the “musing doldrums” - like today.

Here are a few you might enjoy — or re-enjoy, if you've already seen them:
* Everyone has a photographic memory. Some just have no film.
* Behind every successful man is an astonished mother-in-law.
* Beauty is only skin-deep, but ugly goes right to the bone.
* By the time most of us have money to burn, our fire's gone out.
* Dew knot trussed yore spell checker to fined awl your arrows.
* All great discoveries are made by mistake.
* Even Mason and Dixon had to draw the line somewhere.
* Half of conversation is supposed to be the listening.
* If all economists were all laid end to end, they'd point in all directions.
* Hell is not a place. Hell is what it hurts worse than.
* If all cars in the world lined up end to end, some fool would try to pass.
* No one gets too old to learn a new way of being stupid.
* Never let your sense of morality stop you from doing what is right.
* A fine is a tax for doing wrong. A tax is a fine for doing well.
* It is wrong to repeat gossip, but what else can you do with it?
* It is no longer whether you win or lose, but how you place the blame.
* Knowledge can cure ignorance, but intelligence can't cure stupidity.
* Once you understand the problem, you find it worse than you expected.
* Opportunity always knocks at the least opportune moment.
* Light travels faster than sound. That's why some people appear bright until you hear them speak.
* Live within your income, even if you must borrow to do so.
* Marriage is the only adventure open to the cowardly.
* It is often easier to find the truth than to accept it.
* It is what you learn after you know it all that counts.
* No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.
* The secret of staying young: Find an age you like and stick with it.
* The secret of success is sincerity. If you can fake that, you've got it made.
* There is always one more s.o.b. than you counted on.
* What the large print giveth, the small print taketh away.
* When the old dog barks, better look out the window.
* The best way to save face is to keep the lower half closed.
* You rarely observe a mob rushing across town to do a good deed.
* A short cut is the longest distance between two points.
* Almost everything in life is easier to get into than out of.
* Forgive your enemies — it really bugs them.
* Everyone wants to go to heaven, but not right away.
* An elephant is a mouse built to government specifications.
* Everybody lies, but it doesn't matter anymore — nobody listens.
* It is impossible to have everything. Where would you put it?
* Never underestimate the power of stupidity.
* Technology is dominated by those who manage what they do not understand.
* Never have so many people understood so little about so much.


By Jug Varner

A number of years ago singer Peggy Lee recorded a pop song entitled, “I Don’t Know Enough About You.” I feel that way about crossword puzzles.

Having worked them for years, created a few of my own, and graduated long ago to the more difficult bound volume types found in bookstores, I have memorized a host of odd-ball words these authors use to make the puzzles fit. Words such as these might be great for use in crosswords, or in a game of Trivial Pursuit, but seldom if ever have I found need of them in writing articles or in normal conversations. A response to most of them would probably be a blank stare.

Despite this growing lexicon of “useful for only specific occasion” words embedded in my thought process, I am often stopped dead cold by new ones that these brainy authors dig up from somewhere to remind me who is in charge here. Try as I may, seldom can I find the complete solution without looking in the back of the book. When I do, it is usually some obscure idiom I never heard of (or something useful coined by crossword authors, I suspect).

I have never met a crossword puzzle author, nor am I sure I would want to - for fear of unleashing my pent up frustrations brought about by their smug “I am more clever than you are” creativity that must be requisite to their profession.

But, hey, what am I getting all riled up about. I suppose even the genius who can answer the most difficult questions on top dollar TV quiz shows probably can’t necessarily better my efforts in working crossword puzzles without peeking at the finished product in the back of the book.

During a visit with a long-time Navy buddy in Alabama, his wife noted that I was using a pen instead of a pencil on a crossword puzzle and exclaimed, “Wow, I would never attempt working one of those things without being able to erase my mistakes.”

I just smiled, but did not tell her that ink is more readable for me.

I guess there is a bit of natural smugness built into each of us.


Now and then I get the urge to write some rhyme. I shouldn't call it poetry, because it isn't that good, but its fun. I also will include some real poetry by others.

I wrote this first one when I was 69, but adjusted it here to my present age - a minor problem that doesn't affect the story line.

Going Like Twenty At Eighty
By Jug Varner

One hundred years of age, I see,
is what folks want to live to be.
An age to which most all aspire
as each month takes them to the wire
in life's cavalcade.

I pondered this, and I agreed
that it could fill a human need,
but only if a newfound plan
could elevate the thoughts of man
so age could retrograde.

The first rule would be to divide
those hundred years, and then decide
which fifty years to live out first,
and how to minimize the worst -
with all the rules obeyed.

I'd choose the second half myself,
since I am nearly on the shelf.
I'd like the opportunity
for latter day immunity
from past mistakes I've made.

Instead of old and being eighty,
I'd be twenty (not so weighty),
the second time that I'd been there
albeit with more savoir-faire -
from all my groundwork laid.

Back again at youthful twenty
I would know that I'd have plenty
wit and wisdom there for me
to overcome adversity -
face evil unafraid.

With newfound vigor, future bright,
I'd never ever hide my light,
nor fail to help someone in need
whatever color, race, or creed -
with love that would pervade.

I'd work to know that senior age
requires not to disengage
from youthful thought or youthful ways,
and spend my time in fruitful days -
with others to persuade.

“If I knew then what I know now,”
I've often said, as in a vow.
Well, now at twenty I could use
whatever expertise I choose
because my dues are paid.

I wrote this next one several years ago after attending my 50th year high school class reunion. Some things never change.

Class Reunion Day

By Jug Varner

Time slips by much faster, the older we all get,
and sometimes things remembered are easy to forget.
But good friends are not one of them, we're happy we can say,
as most of us discover on our Class Reunion day.

We're none of us spring chickens, and most have slowed apace.
Our school has seen some changes. It's not the same old place
it was when we were younger, but then, neither are we
the same as we were then, nor all we thought that we would be.

Some of us lost our figures. Some of us lost our hair,
and portions of our bodies. It's true, but we don't care
about such little trifles, 'cause there's much more to see
within the hearts and minds of friends the likes of you and me.

We smile away the wrinkles and just ignore the fat.
But don't tell us you struck it rich - because we can't stand that.
We will accept a few white lies, if truth's not stretched too far,
but we don't care what you are not - we like the one you are!

Here is an interesting tale about how towns are born and become cities.

The Calf Path
By Sam Walker Fuss, 1899

One day through the primeval wood
a calf walked home, as good calves should,
but made a trail all bent askew,
a crooked trail - as all calves do.
Since then three hundred years have fled,
and I infer the calf is dead.
But still he left behind his trail
and thereby hangs my moral tale.

The trail was taken up next day
by one lone dog that passed that way.
And then a wise bellwether sheep
pursued the trail o'er vale and steep,
and drew the flock behind him, too,
as good bellwethers always do.
And from that day, o'er hill and glade,
through these old woods a path was made.

And many men wound in and out,
and dodged and turned and bent about,
and uttered words of righteous wrath
because 'twas such a crooked path.
But still they followed, do not laugh,
the first migrations of that calf.
The forest path became a lane,
that bent and turned and turned again.

This crooked lane became a road
where many a poor horse with his load
toiled on beneath the burning sun
and traveled some three miles in one.
And thus a century and a half
they trod the footsteps of that calf.
The years passed on in swiftness fleet.
The road became a village street.

And this, before men were aware,
a city's crowded thoroughfare.
And soon the central street was this
of a renowned metropolis.
And men two centuries and a half
trod in the footsteps of that calf.
A hundred thousand men were led
by one calf near three centuries dead.

For men are prone to go it blind
along the calf paths of the mind
and work away from sun to sun
to do what other men have done.
They follow in the beaten track,
and out and in, and forth and back,
and still their devious course pursue
to keep the path that others do.

They keep the path a sacred groove
along which all their lives they move.
But how the wise old wood gods laugh,
who saw the first primeval calf.


By Jug Varner

The month of August 2002 will complete the first year of JUG'S JOURNAL. I find it hard to believe that 11 months slipped by me so fast, but I do enjoy writing these little musings.

Mostly they are merely my own slant on things, but occasionally I receive items from others that I like to personally pass along to you, such as the one that follows. My good friend and local area writer Bob Quinn passed it to me.

Bob is one of many WW-2 veterans who joined the service before he was of legal age to do so — and got by with it. He is a Navy veteran, a retired IBM executive, and now in a rising career as an author of several books — one of which is entitled, “Damon.” You can read my review of it in the BOOK REVIEWS section.

My own sense of humor differs somewhat from the rating given by the selection panel judges - and yours probably will, too. The number at the end of each opening line is how I would have rated them.


Victorian author Edward George Bulwer-Lytton is famous (or infamous) for writing the novel that began, “It was a dark and stormy night.”

Each year an English writers group holds a Bulwer-Lytton contest see who can write the best bad first line for a really bad novel.

The following are the top ten winners of this year's contest. :

As a scientist, Throckmorton knew if he were to ever break wind in the echo chamber, he would never hear the end of it. (2)

Just beyond the Narrows, the river widens. (10)

With a curvaceous figure that Venus would have envied, a tanned, unblemished oval face framed with lustrous thick brown hair, deep azure blue eyes fringed with long black lashes, perfect teeth that vied for competition, and a small straight nose, Marilee had a beauty that defied description. (3)

Andre, a simple peasant, had only one thing on his mind as he crept along the East wall: “Andre creep”…”Andre creep”…”Andre creep.” (9)

Stanislaus Smedley, a man always on the cutting edge of narcissism, was about to give his body and soul to a back-alley sex-change surgeon to become the woman he loved. (4)

Although Sarah had an abnormal fear of mice, it did not keep her from “eeking” out a living. (8)

Stanley looked quite bored and somewhat detached, but then penguins often do. (7)

Like an overripe beefsteak tomato rimmed with cottage cheese, the corpulent remains of Santa Claus lay dead on the hotel floor. (6)

Mike Hardware was the kind of private eye who didn't know the meaning of the word fear, a man who could laugh in the face of danger and spit in the eye of death — in short, a moron with suicidal tendencies. (1)

With sticky fingers, the amphibian had entered through the castle window, the dawn's light revealing the pillaged princess-her hand at her throat, crown asunder, gaping in frenzied horror at the sated sodden amphibian lying beside her, and, unable to comprehend the magnitude of the frog's deception, she screamed madly, “You lied!” (5)

How would you have rated them?


By Jug Varner

One thing you learn early in the “writing for publication” business (whatever the medium) is how difficult it is to catch your own mistakes. It is difficult enough to see such typo errors on paper, but it seems especially evasive when reading a computer screen. That's why we need a good editor to make us look smarter than we are.

The photo on the right was used on the Internet some time back with a story about the new USS Ronald Reagan. Its caption is a good example of a print error, but it probably did go through an editor who simply missed it — or didn't know the difference: They occasionally do that, you know.

I could write a small book on this subject, based on my own experiences over the years, particularly when I first became a Navy Public Information officer (now known as Navy Public Affairs) after the Korean War ended. Following a tour of recruiting duty, my first job as a PIO was at NTC San Diego, where among other things we published a weekly tabloid newspaper. It was during a frequent money-crunch time in the military, with many trained personnel leaving the services, including most of my qualified journalists.

Fortunately, we were able to snare a few talented boot camp graduates now and then, and with the able assistance of Chief Journalist Jack Broward we set up our own on-the-job training program. Eventually we evolved into a good crew, but the road to perfection was filled with editorial pot holes in the form of goofed up headlines, wrong captions under photos, misspelled words, etc. — despite double and triple proofreading. Unfortunately some of them were proofing their own copy. We eventually got respectable, but it wasn't easy.

There were many funny results along the way.

Today, the average high school graduate can't write a decent sentence, much less a story. College graduates don't fare much better. It makes me wonder what kind of English teachers we have in the system and what has happened to this one-time high requirement to qualify for graduation? Slang has so diversified our everyday conversations that our language is losing its beauty and meaning. The word “slang” surely must mean “sloppy-Anglo.”


By Jug Varner

As one who strives for accuracy in reporting, I appreciate receiving E-mails correcting my occasional goofs in forwarding erroneous information on this Web site - particularly when I inadvertently miss checking articles that could be hoaxes, dupes, scams, spam and viruses. Fortunately, many of you with eagle eyes let me know immediately when this happens and I am able to kill the article before many people accept it as gospel and send it along to their friends. But, it is a tricky problem.

Untold millions around the world use this form of communication and information. Perhaps only a miniscule percentage of them ever bother to include the original source of an article, if they know it, or actually check to see if it is true before they send it. Of course, not everyone has hoax-type software that tells whether the information they are viewing is fraudulent… and even such software is not all-inclusive. So much stuff is floating around out there in the ether that it would be impossible to verify it all in one's lifetime. We are stuck with this “curse” of seldom knowing the originator, and trusting your sources.

Recently, a viewer questioned me about the article, THAT SPECIAL DAY AT THE BALTIMORE AIRPORT (archived under CULTURE). “How do you know if this article is true?” he asked, saying, “Usually when I see a disclaimer that something is not an 'Urban Legend' or 'This is true,' after a careful search I have found the opposite to be true.”

I had to admit that I didn't know for certain, but I trusted my source because I have known him for almost a half-century, we worked together as information officers in the Navy trying to discern the truth, etc., and that neither of us would knowingly forward false information. He is the type who checks the source, as we were taught to do in journalism school. He rose to the top in Navy public information because of his professionalism and astuteness. So in this particular case, it was a matter of trusting my source.

That doesn't hold true 100% of the time, however. Human nature is such that sometimes one is so beguiled by a story that “seems so true” that he or she accepts it at face value, without checking it out, and then sends it along to friends they know will appreciate it.

As to the “truth” of the article in question, I can't honestly state that it is true. In all probability it is, because it is so typical of the deep-down patriotism and actions Americans are so noted for despite our busy lives and our own self-concerns. I suppose with my background in life (I just turned 80 this year) I am still far more an optimist than a pessimist, and I honestly believe in the good all humans possess - at least to some degree. This particular article smacks loudly of that “good.” We may not always know the truth, but we know that truth can be stranger than fiction.

Speaking of “sources,” you will note that in articles forwarded to me I credit the original source (if I can find it) along with the identity of the one who sent it to me. I receive a lot more articles than I use, and I discard anything questionable. Obviously, I can't always find the origin, but if not, I usually ask the forwarder to find it if he or she can before I publish it. I firmly believe all authors should receive their due credit - for better or for worse - and certainly in accordance with copyright laws. Internet users are far too lax in this respect.

Too many people merely include a long series of names of those in the chain who received it before them, and forward it with no original source given.

Having said all that, I will close with this:

Yes, I may occasionally be guilty of sending something that may not be true… but never if I know it to be false.