Category Archives: stuff
As a young kid, I was fascinated by history. For some reason, World War II in particular became a focus for me and I read everything about it that I could get my hands on. I studied the battles of Guadalcanal, Midway, Normandy, and Arnhem. I watched movies like “A Bridge Too Far” over and over again. All the time wondering deep within what it must have been like to be there. What it took to go through something like that. Probably leaning a little too far to the idyllic notion of acting with bravery and doing a good job when the chips were down. Only to be brought back to the grim reality when reading about lives lost numbering in the tens or even hundreds of thousands. Along with the personal accounts of those that were there, tasting the defeat or victory.
Most people have regrets centered around something they have done. I certainly have plenty of those. One of my biggest regrets, though, has to do with something I did not do. I passed up my chance to serve in the military. No doubt my life would have turned out very differently had I gone down that path – and that is something I do not wish for at all. But… If I had one thing I could change, while leaving everything else the same, it would be to have served my country in some capacity. I know it can be an ugly, dirty business. And when it is not, then it can be mundane, seemingly pointless, and frustrating to the core. I think I would have been good for it, and it would have been good for me.
I guess what I am trying to say, on this one day above all, is that I recognize and appreciate the service and sacrifice of all those that have answered that particular call. In whatever fashion. Whether it be on the front lines, or behind a desk, it all matters.
I was privileged to attend a Veterans Day ceremony recently and listened to the stories of five people that served in World War II.
They were gray on top, and little bit shaky, but all had sharp minds and recalled past events with crystal clarity. They were humble, yet deeply proud. You didn’t get any sense of entitlement from them. They did things that needed doing. Simple as that.
Ginny was a woman that left home to pick cherries in Ohio, substituting for the men that had been called overseas. She earned $7 a week, 5 of which went to room and board. The Woman’s Land Army needed to fill 240,000 positions in order to save all of the crops that were left behind in the fields and orchards.
Robert was a radio operator in a B-17 bomber. In training, they all had to fly to 20,000 feet and strip a 50 caliber gun down to the tiniest 1/2″ spring while wearing gloves, coats, masks, and goggles. Blindfolded. Once in Europe, you had to fly 50 missions to complete your tour of duty. Incredible.
Ron volunteered for the army at 18 years of age, leaving college behind to go to war. He and his twin brother were both part of anti-tank and mine clearing squads that were made up of other 18 year old’s with leaders that were in their 20s. Their squads both suffered casualties resulting in the loss of their leaders, and they were each promoted to Staff Sergeant and led their respective squads in the same company for the duration of the war. Ron was trapped with 41 others at one point 15 miles behind the German lines. They had radio contact with their superiors and were directed to lay low and see if the situation would change. They hunkered down in the snow and mud for 13 days before making a push for friendly territory. They started at 1pm and finished at dawn the next day. All of them were hospitalized for 2-4 weeks to get over the trenchfoot issues that had developed due to the cold and wet conditions. After the war, Ron went to school day and night to complete his degree in chemical engineering. Going on to work 45 years for Shell Oil Company. His brother worked 45 years for Exxon.
Paul was an artillery officer stationed in the Philippines. He had a fascinating story to tell about his role in the surrender of the island commonwealth. The Japanese held 11,000 troops prisoner, but were referring to them as hostages. The implication being that they would be killed if the remaining soldiers did not surrender. There were different generals in charge of each island stronghold, and even though orders for surrender had been transmitted via radio, Paul had to travel by Japanese plane and boat to obtain confirmation of their compliance. He passed up a chance to sail to Australia with others and stayed behind in order to complete his mission. It took so long for him to return, that his general thought him long since dead. Implying that he could have gone to Australia after all. Instead, he was sent to a concentration camp for three years until the war ended. He went on to work at the Pentagon and retired as a Brigadier General.
Al struck me as the Private Ryan of the bunch. Volunteered at 17, only to be turned down because of his age. Then got in anyway during February of 1941 due to the mobilization of all reserves and National Guard. He was part of the 34th Infantry which saw action in North Africa, Salermo, and Anzio. There were approximately 100,000 casualties in and around the beaches of Anzio. The shelling was so intense at one point, Al said the British artillery soldiers were pouring sea water down the barrels of their guns to keep them from melting. They took fire from the German’s Anzio Express, which was a 380mm railway-mounted artillery monster.
While I primarily write about running, I wanted to spend some time reflecting on how blessed and fortunate I am to have my freedom. I can’t turn back the clock and enlist. However, I can raise good kids that are productive contributors to society, and ensure that they grow up mindful of the sacrifices that have been made. Thankful to have what they have, and to live where they live.
Maintaining a free country, and a largely-free world, is a flawed and often messy business. Decisions can be driven by the rich and powerful, or swayed by greed and special interests. Lives are needlessly taken, and needlessly given. There is no easy answer to the challenges we are faced with. I hope at the very least, we can be grateful for those that have served and are now serving with honor and good intentions.
Thank you, Veterans.
The Scene Begins has been up and running for seven years now. I started on Blogger as a way to document my attempt at losing weight and returning to fitness after a long period of physical inactivity and topping out at 220 pounds. Stories like that are a dime a dozen these days, which is a great thing in my opinion. Lots of successful weight losers out there! I moved the blog to WordPress in 2007, and after the inital setup did not do much with it aside from posting occasionally, setting up a small blogroll, etc.
I’ve finally given the site some much needed TLC, and I feel like it is much more ‘me’ now. For starters, I registered thescenebegins.com and established the blog under that URL. Unfortunately, I failed to announce that move in advance and blindly dumped a bunch of RSS subscribers as a result of breaking the old feed – sorry folks! I hope they make their way back somehow. I’ve made the new subscription options pretty obvious in the sidebar, so hopefully that will help.
I settled on a template that I really like, and customized the CSS and fonts. The header has a really cool feature with Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, and YouTube icons that pop up when you mouse over them. I also worked on the background for the site. I’m still not 100% sure I will keep it – I think it makes things look a little too busy and distracting, but I really like the photo. It’s from a hike in Roxborough State Park last year during a hail storm. You can see the hail as the faint white lines. I had to tweak it in GIMP slightly to get the hikers lined up on either side of the main column. I think having them show up like that makes it feel like there is some action going on.
I set up a dedicated blogroll page, accessible from the header. I follow a LOT of blogs… Thank goodness for RSS readers. Best thing ever. I am working to make the blogroll page more interactive, and at least show the latest post from each site. I have that going on in the sidebar, but only with the 20 most recent posts overall.
I think one of the strengths of my blog is in the race reports. I dedicated a page to them and really see the views shoot up whenever a given race rolls around each year. Ultra runners like to do their research (myself included!), which usually takes the form of mining information from previous year’s reports. Lots of good info there.
I also set up page called the Highlight Reel which contains some of my favorite posts over the years that aren’t of the race report genre.
WordPress has done a fantastic job with the new comment feature. You can post as guest or while logged in to WordPress, Facebook, or Twitter. Very streamlined, no funky words to type in, windows popping up, or other hoops to jump through. Administration is also much easier, because I have it set to auto-approve anyone that has previously commented. I don’t have to manage them on a case-by-case basis. It is also nice to be able to respond to individual comments and have them nested in the thread rather than being in-line as if it were just another comment.
Lastly, I have fully embraced my inner Agile Fox. The trail name given to me by the scouts during last year’s 50 mile hike. You can click the fox logo in the sidebar to get the full story. It was definitely better in person, but still makes us all laugh whenever we bring it up.
Speaking of the fox logo, I commissioned my 8th grade daughter to create that for me. Fresh off winning the school-wide contest for designing the cover page of the yearbook, she was definitely up to this new challenge. Along with a chance to make a little money to add to her winnings. That girl is well on her way to earning some good dough.
I was thrilled with the outcome when she handed me the paper. She said she did special work on the facial expression and particularly the eyebrow to convey a look of determination. I love it!
I snapped the picture above with my phone, then imported it into GIMP. Hardened the edges, bumped the contrast to make the paper disappear, applied a ‘cartoon’ filter, and just like that, The Agile Fox was born. So cool I can hardly stand it!!
I’m already dreaming up ideas for the Agile Fox Racing Team. It has great acronym potential depending on how you arrange the letters:
This blog is a way for me to document, remember, and share life’s experiences. With a primary focus on long-distance running. I’m not looking for huge traffic numbers or a way to make money off of advertising. No book to sell, coaching clients to sign up, donations to solicit. All of which are good things, just not my aim here. When I started running and got into ultras 5 years ago, I didn’t know a single person that did that kind of thing. No mentors, nobody to give me advice, motivation, or anything like that. My only resource was the WWW and blogs like this one. Reading about other’s experiences, failures, and successes was fuel for the fire as I began my own journey.
If this site helps anyone out in some small way, that would be the best payment ever. “If he can do it, I can do it.” would be the message I want to pass on. The greatest reward has been meeting and making friends with so many great people as a result of this little endeavor. Something an introverted person like myself would never have the chance to do otherwise. I have learned so much from all of you, and have been greatly inspired by all of your stories.
As always, thanks for stopping by. Here’s to many more years, and long live The Agile Fox!
Is this thing on??
I have been making several changes to this site over the past two months. I’ll talk about most of them in a future post, but for now I wanted to give a heads-up to anyone subscribing to the current RSS feed. Please update your subscriptions with the new ones below.
I registered thescenebegins.com a few weeks ago and while the old url (thescenebegins.wordpress.com) will redirect your browser here just fine, the existing RSS feed broke when I made the switch. I made a rookie move and inadvertently dumped a bunch of subscribers without realizing it.
Man, I am really bummed about that.
I decided to go ahead and establish new feeds with feedburner since I have already disrupted the flow and would have needed to figure out a method for switching over sometime in the future anyway. Feedburner will let me change the underlying feed source if I ever decide or need to, while still maintaining a consistent address that is presented to all of the readers out there. Hopefully, that will do the trick.
Long story short:
If you would like to subscribe to this site with a reader via RSS (posts and comments are available), click on the icons below or in the sidebar and you will be directed to the feedburner page where you can then select your reader of choice. By the way, I am not using or planning on using this as a means to distribute any advertising. If fact, I pay a fee to have all ads turned off.
For anyone making their way back here after I broke the feed. Sorry about that, and thanks for coming back! Things should be stable from here on out…
If you don’t have a clue what I am talking about, here is a short primer on RSS. Using a reader to pull in RSS feeds is a very handy way to keep up with multiple sites and blogs that are always posting new content. I prefer to use Google Reader to manage my subscriptions. Give it a try!
You can also subscribe by entering your email address (no spam, no ads) in the sidebar and clicking on the ‘Follow’ button. Doing it that way will route all new posts to your inbox via email.
However you do it, thanks for reading!