My sister and I were raised by a stay-at-home mom and intermittently by a career Air Force pilot. Like most military families, we were nomads. We moved from Texas to Tennessee, to Florida and back to Texas, and on to England. Then, by the hand of a conspiracy that may have reached the highest echelons of the Pentagon, we ended up in Omaha, Nebraska, where I graduated from high school.
On June 5, 1970, I was commissioned into the Air Force. On June 6, I received a bachelor’s degree in mathematics from the University of Nebraska, which some believe was an act of kindness. On June 7, I married the lovely Grace MacIntosh (in the middle above). My life was turned upside down in three days; it took me decades to adjust, although the Better Half says I’m still a work in progress.
History does indeed repeat itself. During my career, which included two years in the Air Force and thirty in the high–technology business, we lived in Nebraska, Colorado, Louisiana, Nebraska again (for an MBA), Silicon Valley, England, Washington DC, and Seattle, where we settled down until the last of the brood was safely out of the house. The kids (Mary, Carl, and Tyrrell) are adults now. They don’t move around much.
I had a lot of big titles in my high-tech years, C-something of this and president of that, but basically I was a journeyman: I fixed small companies or parts of larger ones. It was challenging work. Every job was unique, obvious never worked (because it had been tried by my predecessors), and margins of error were small: one or two missteps and scores or hundreds of people could lose their jobs. Eventually, the long hours, the incessant travel, and the weeks away from my family took their toll.
I mothballed my business suits at the age of fifty and wrote my first book: a compendium of essays called The Arithmetic of Life and Death. It was followed by a trilogy: In the Land of Second Chances, One Part Angel, and The Widows of Eden. Great news: I’m not done. A science-fiction novel called The Apex Child will be published shortly, unless it already has been and I forgot to update my bio …
Yr. Hmbl. Srvnt.: George Shaffner
My wife dutifully reads what I write from time to time. After a cook’s tour of my recent works, she asked why I use the pronoun “we” in my articles and Short Takes instead of “I.” We replied, “There’s a lot of us in here,” which meant that I’m a glad but undiagnosed victim of multiple-personality disorder. Grace said she understood, although some of us aren’t sure she meant it.
More than a few of my friends would wager that I’m a card-carrying Democrat. That’s not and has never been the case. I was a Republican until 1973. Since then, I’ve been a committed, middle-of-the-roadish Independent.
I agree that cutting corporate taxes made business sense, but I can’t remember the last time it made sense to cut taxes for the rich while increasing taxes for the middle class and reducing subsidies for the poor. (See “Trickle Down: The Lost Alternative.”) I believe in reducing the deficit in good times so there’s plenty of money to bolster the economy during bad times. (See “The GOP v. Democrats, Part I: The National Debt.”) I agree that citizens should be allowed to own guns, but I don’t understand why weapons of war are legal, why firearm ownership isn’t licensed, and why detailed background checks aren’t required. (See “AR-15’s: By the Numbers.”)
I agree that the size of the federal government should be reduced, but with a scalpel rather than a blunt instrument, and that gutting the Department of State, which is our second-best defense against war (after the Department of Defense), is the political equivalent of replacing the charcoal briquets in the barbie with little sticks of TNT.
Along with the UN, NOAA, the DoD, the Royal Meteorology Society, and thousands of scientists, I’m 99.9% convinced that climate change threatens to alter weather patterns in dangerous ways for thousands of years, and I refuse to entrust government to any person or party who still thinks that burning brown coal is a Good Thing. I believe that the average NBA basketball player should earn less per game than the average teacher earns per year, and I will never vote for any man or woman who sits silently by while the president of our country attacks the free press, ignores the rule of law, and kowtows to the Kremlin. (See “President Trump’s Report Card.”)
If the Grand Old Party could be trusted, as they once were, and if they embraced more of the above than Democrats, then many of my friends would wager that I was a card-carrying Republican. Until then, the GOP may be old, but it certainly isn’t grand.
Despite the occasional “Short Take” jibe, I believe in the existence of a benevolent God. (See In the Land if Second Chances.) That being said, I’m worried about those among His flock who believe that the Old Testament should be taken literally because it was written by His Hand. If He was indeed the author, we’d be reading The Bible, version 141.4 by now and there would be at least thirty commandments, including: “Thou shalt not text while driving.” I’m also confident that in His wisdom He would have asterisked the allegories and hand-me-down tales so we mortals wouldn’t confuse them with fact.