Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Let's Keep Blogging!

During the last few years, I have hardly posted anything to this blog. That is not like me, and I really hope to change it by posting at least one entry per month, and hopefully more, from now on.

I think I began blogging in 2001, the same year I retired. Blogging was just beginning. I took to it like a duck takes to water because I love to write. In my early years of blogging, I often posted three or four times a month, and sometimes more. In 2005, I even taught a class in blogging at the Venice Skills Center in Venice, Calif., not far from my home

One young woman, who was about 19, loved blogging. Within a few weeks, she created her own Blogger blog and had persuaded her relatives in Mexico to join her blog so they could stay in touch very easily and reduce expensive long-distance phone calls. She became the best student in my class.

Now I want to resume my love of blogging -- and of writing. Please check on me from time to time to let me know how I am doing.

Cordially,

George Spink
Los Angeles

Friday, November 22, 2013

JFK Fifty Years Later

In November 1963, I was 23 years old, a Ph.D. student in political science at Stanford University. On Friday morning, Nov. 22, about 10 minutes after my class in advanced probability theory began, a cute, red-haired classmate rushed in and yelled, "The President's been shot! The President's been shot!" Then she turned around and walked out.


We were all stunned. Our professor, Emanuel Parzen, reminded us that this was the weekend of the annual Stanford-Cal football game and said, "Rumors are always rampant on this weekend."

After class, I walked over to the Student Union and walked upstairs to the television room, which was jammed packed with students and faculty. I remember watching Walter Cronkite, tears in eyes, saying that President Kennedy had died....

Everyone was stunned. There wasn't a dry eye in the room.

I have often thought about that day. The next few days that November remain a blur. I was really glad to spend the following Thursday, Thanksgiving, with my family down the Coast. We were all still shocked by the news of Kennedy's assassination. We asked one another where they were when they heard the news. That was the question we often asked people after that tragic day.

In 1968, we would see Dr. Martin Luther King and Bobby Kennedy die from assassins' bullets.

But many good things happened during the 1960's, especially in the world of popular music. I began my writing career in 1966 and have pursued it ever since. And I met my best friend in 1968. Although we have had our ups and downs, she and I are still together.

But whenever November 22nd comes around, I always think about what happened to President John F. Kennedy in Dallas on that day -- and pray.

Abraham, Martin and John
by Dion
George Spink
Los Angeles
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Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Still Blogging After All These Years

I began blogging in 2001, when it was a relatively new activity on the Internet. I've blogged a lot since then, but last year I took it easy. Now that January 2013 is almost over, I want to post again to this blog before another day passes by.

If you like to write, as I do, then blogging can be a great way to express yourself. Some bloggers like to write about specific topics, such as politics. Others, like me, like to write about whatever pops into their heads.

For example, one of my passions is jazz and big band music. I maintained a popular big band blog called The Palomar for about five years. We had about 20 to 25 members. The only requirement for membership was that each member publish at least one blog entry per month. That seemed reasonable to me, especially when you consider how much jazz and big band fans like to talk about the music they love.

Unfortunately, while we had a handful of members who would do that, most did not. I finally decided to close The Palomar last summer, but I have often regretted it. Maybe someday I'll resurrect it....

In the meantime, I'll use this blog, as I have all along, to write about this, that, and the other thing....

George Spink
Los Angeles
January 30, 2013
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Monday, September 10, 2012

Never Forget Sept. 11th

Tomorrow will be the 11th anniversary of Sept. 11th, 2001 -- a day that none of us will never forget ... a day like Dec. 7th, 1941 that will live in infamy.

I woke up on Sept. 11th, 2001 about 6:15 A.M. Pacific Daylight Time, turned on my computer, and checked my emails. The first two emails I opened were from friends in England who share my love of big band music. They each said essentially the same thing: "We are so sorry about what happened in New York City this morning. We will stand with you!"

I didn't know what they were talking about.

I immediately turned on my TV and was mesmerized by what I saw. I watched the late Peter Jennings on ABC-TV describe what was happening in New York City. A plane had crashed into the first tower of the World Trade Center. The upper floors were on fire. A few moments later, another plane crashed into the second tower. People began leaping out of the top floors of both buildings as the fires burned out of control.

A few minutes later, the first tower collapsed.

And then the second tower came down.

At street level, people were covered in smoke and dust and ran for their lives in every which direction. Firemen ran into both buildings and worked their way up. Many never came down. One man was a priest, a chaplain to the Fire Department of New York. I later saw his dead body being carried out of the building. He was designated as the first fatality of the attack on America.

We also learned before long that another airliner crashed into the Pentagon and a fourth plane crashed into a field in Pennsylvania.

Nearly 3,000 people died in the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center.

At one point, Peter Jennings began crying on the air, reminding me of when Walter Cronkite cried after learning that President John F. Kennedy had died a couple of hours after being shot in Dallas on Nov. 22, 1963.

Like many, many others, I was glued to my TV set for the next several days, switching channels, perhaps hoping for good news. The general consensus was that the attack on America had been coordinated by Osama Bin Laden and Al Qaeda. It took almost 10 years for us to track down Bin Laden, but we finally did in May 2010. Bin Laden was hiding like a rat in Pakistan. American Special Forces took him out....

Let us take a few moments to pray for all of those who died or were injured on Sept. 11, 2001. I'm sure that, like me, as you think back to that day, you are flooded with memories of that horrible day. Don't be afraid to cry....

George Spink
Los Angeles

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Stronger: What Doesn't Kill You

Kelly Clarkson's "Stronger: What Doesn't Kill You" is one of the best songs to come along in a long, long time!


Stronger: What Doesn't Kill You" by Kelly Clarkson and Jorgen Elofsson

You know the bed feels warmer
 Sleeping here alone
You know I dream in colour
And do the things I want

You think you got the best of me
Think you had the last laugh
Bet you think that everything good is gone
Think you left me broken down
Think that I'd come running back
Baby you don't know me,
cause you're dead wrong

What doesn't kill you makes you stronger
Stand a little taller
Doesn't mean I'm lonely when I'm alone
What doesn't kill you makes a fighter
Footsteps even lighter
Doesn't mean I'm over cause you're gone

What doesn't kill you makes you stronger, stronger
 Just me, myself and I
What doesn't kill you makes you stronger
Stand a little taller
Doesn't mean I'm lonely when I'm alone

You heard that I was starting over with someone new
They told you I was moving on over you

You didn't think that I'd come back
I'd come back swinging
You tried to break me, but you see

What doesn't kill you makes you stronger
Stand a little taller
Doesn't mean I'm lonely when I'm alone
What doesn't kill you makes a fighter
Footsteps even lighter
Doesn't mean I'm over cause you're gone

What doesn't kill you makes you stronger, stronger
Just me, myself and I
What doesn't kill you makes you stronger
Stand a little taller
Doesn't mean I'm lonely when I'm alone

Thanks to you I got a new thing started
Thanks to you I'm not the broken hearted
Thanks to you I'm finally thinking bout me
You know in the end
the day you left was just my beginning
In the end...

What doesn't kill you makes you stronger
Stand a little taller
Doesn't mean I'm lonely when I'm alone
What doesn't kill you makes a fighter
Footsteps even lighter
Doesn't mean I'm over cause you're gone

What doesn't kill you makes you stronger, stronger
Just me, myself and I
What doesn't kill you makes you stronger
Stand a little taller
Doesn't mean I'm lonely when I'm alone

# # # # #

Update: May 12, 2012 -- CBS Morning News ran a story today about this video by the hemoncology floor of Seattle Children's Hospital as they perform Kelly Clarkson's song, "Stronger"! 


Check out a quick behind the scenes clip of how the video was made http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b4w1beZg8mM 

Kelly Clarkson was so moved by this video that she recorded this reply to the kids and staff at Seattle Children's Hospital:
 
 
Be sure to watch it! You'll feel so inspired!
 
George Spink
Los Angeles
Email Me

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Looking Back

Those were the days....

When I began college in September 1958, one of my main concerns was the battle between the United States and the Soviet Union over the conquest of space. On October 4, 1957, a couple of weeks after I began my senior year in high school, the Soviets launched Sputnik, the first artificial satellite to be put into Earth's orbit. It is hard to convey how this Soviet achievement scared the hell out of the United States and the rest of the free world.

I excelled in mathematics and science in high school and planned to major in physics in college. I wanted to help the United States in its conquest of space. I enrolled at the University of California in Santa Barbara (UCSB), about 2,000 miles from my home in Chicago, in part because I had aunts and uncles living in Santa Barbara. My father died in 1957 (he was only 46) and my mother and I still lived in Chicago.


I liked most of the professors I had at UCSB. Many were like my high school teachers, men who went to college on the G.I. Bill after fighting in World War Two.

UCSB
What I wasn't prepared for at all was the social life at UCSB. My first two years at UCSB were very much like "Animal House." Although I joined the wildest fraternity on campus, always fooling around, but I managed to do well in my courses, especially math and science courses. One course at UCSB that really intrigued me was political science. My professor, Gordon Baker, was very good. When I told him I was thinking about transferring to Northwestern, he told me that his adviser at Princeton, Richard C. Snyder, was now chairman of Northwestern's political science department. Professor Baker sent a recommendation to Northwestern for me.


Professor Edward Loomis

One of my favorite teachers at UCSB was my English professor, Edward Loomis, who was then a young novelist. In my first year, I had to take Subject A ("Idiot's English") twice. I took my second semester of Freshmen English with him in the second semester of my Sophomore year. One day near the end of the term in May 1960, Professor Loomis asked me to see him in his office later that day. I was worried.... really worried.

"Spink," he said, "of all the students in your class, I think you have a good chance of becoming a writer someday. But you really need to work on your grammar. I strongly suggest you study William Strunk's Elements of Style from cover to cover this summer."

I did what he suggested, making Strunk one of my best friends....

After my Sophomore year, I returned to Chicago and decided to work for a year. I wanted to save money and transfer to Northwestern, if I could. I worked different jobs during that year. As I had the previous year, I unloaded box cars and trucks at Cities Service Oil in Cicero. Between September and early January, I sold sweaters at Baskin's downtown store. And in early January, I left Baskin's to join Western Electric's engineering department in the Merchandise Mart as an apprentice draftsman. My mother and I still lived in our home in Berwyn, nine miles southwest of the Loop. We had an old but nice two-story home built in the 1880's. My father spent most of his spare time in the late 1940's and the 1950's remodeling it.

During the summer and fall of 1960, I followed the Presidential race between John F. Kennedy and Richard M. Nixon very carefully. I felt Kennedy was a much better choice than Nixon. But I was only 20 when the election was held in November 1960 and too young to vote. I was thrilled when Kennedy won!

Starting in January 1961, I began taking evening classes at DePaul University in downtown Chicago. I took two classes in government in the winter quarter and two more in the spring quarter. Most of my classmates were in their late 20's or early 30's; they were very serious students compared to my UCSB classmates. Our teacher was Miles Dunnington, who traded commodities during the day. He was one of the best professors I ever had. He also wrote a strong recommendation for me to Northwestern.

In May 1961, I received a letter from Northwestern saying I had been accepted. I was to begin in their Fall Quarter in September. They urged me to apply for financial aid, saying that I would need to do well in the Fall Quarter in order to receive it.

University Hall
Home to Northwestern's English Department in the 1960's
 In my first quarter at Northwestern, I took a creative writing course. Too my surprise, I did very well in it! I did well in other English courses I took and audited a few others. And I worked very hard on my political science courses (political science was now my major) and my history courses.

Harris Hall (lower left), University Hall,
and Kresge Hall (lower right).


At the end of my junior year, much to my surprise, the English Department awarded me the Edwin Shuman Literary Award for three essays I had written for different classes. The award came with a full tuition scholarship for my senior year. You have no idea how good that award made me feel!

I continued to do well in my courses at Northwestern. In fact, I graduated with departmental honors in political science in June 1963. I will never forget how proud, how happy my mother looked on my Graduation Day!

My two years at Northwestern seemed to have zipped by. In fact, I lived each day to the fullest and did well in all of my courses. I loved Northwestern! I had great teachers and became friends with many of my classmates. I have always been grateful to Professor Gordon Baker at UCSB for suggesting I go to Northwestern....

George Spink
Los Angeles
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Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Thumper (1994-2012)

This morning I lost my best friend, Thumper -- my buddy for the past 18 years. He was a cute, lovable, playful, gray and white tabby cat. I will miss him as long as I live....

In recent weeks, Thumper hadn't been feeling well. My roommate, Cleta, and I took him to The Cat Practice in Marina del Rey, not far from our home. Veterinarian Beth Hagenlocker, DVM, gave him a number of tests and determined that his bladder was weak. She prescribed two medications, which seemed to help for a week or so. Then Thumper grew weaker and didn't eat very much. He lost weight. We took him to see Dr. Beth for a couple of follow-up visits.

Thumper liked to sleep on an old, folded Afghan my mother knitted years ago that we had placed underneath a giant Teddy Bear on our love seat in our living room. In recent weeks, as he grew sicker, I would sleep next to him on the love seat, often petting him during the night.

Last night, he slept unusually well, falling asleep about 10 PM. I dozed on and off, petting him whenever I awoke. About 4 AM, he jumped off the love seat and walked into the kitchen for a snack. A few minutes later, he returned, jumping back onto the love seat but falling down on his first try. He made it on his second try. Thumper and I stayed there until around 9 AM, when I phoned Dr. Beth. She said to bring him in at 10:30 and we did. She checked him out, noticing he had lost another pound in the past week, now weighing only a little over six pounds, almost four pounds less than he weighed a month ago. After I told her how little he had been eating and how much trouble he was having going to the bathroom, Dr. Beth politely suggested that it might be time to end his misery. I reluctantly agreed, realizing it was for his own good.

I signed a cremation form, authoring his ashes to be tossed over the Pacific Ocean, not far from my home. I hope he will be happy in his next life. I will think of Thumper often, especially whenever I ride along the Blue Pacific....

George Spink
Los Angeles
Email Me

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Steve Jobs (1955-2011) -- R.I.P.

Steve Jobs died today.

That was very difficult for me to write. His life has influenced so many of us in so many ways.... Visit the Apple web site and say "Goodbye" to Steve in your own way:



My Apple IIe computer is on the computer desk behind me and it still works beautifully. I bought it when I received my income tax refund in 1983 -- on St. Patrick's Day -- at a MicroAge computer store on the first floor of the Board of Trade Building in Chicago. In the years that followed, I bought a variety of software programs to use with it. I was amazed by all my Apple IIe could do. And I still am!

I began using computers when I was a graduate student at Stanford University in the mid-1960's, learning both Basic and Fortran -- and mastering keypunching in the process! By the time I earned my M.B.A. at the University of Chicago in 1976, computer technology had grown by leaps and bounds. Statistics Professor Harry Roberts developed one of the first spreadsheet programs, which he named IDA, short for "Interactive Data Analysis." IDA offered 110 rows and 19 columns for its users. More than 100 colleges and universities around the country quickly signed up to use Harry's IDA program.

I loved computers for two reasons: first, because they made it easy to solve complex mathematical problems; and second, because I loved how easy it was to write with them.

But it was Apple that brought computers into our homes, quickly followed by IBM and then other companies.

In the mid-1980's, after I bought my Apple IIe, I discovered some online web sites that made it easy to communicate with other computer users. One was called The Source; the other was called CompuServe. Both allowed members to send messages, or emails, to other members. And both sites offered a variety of information services, as did the Dow Jones web site. I used all three sites for my job and for personal use.

Working in financial public relations, I found it easy to send articles I had written for clients via email, eliminating expensive overnight messenger costs. It took some clients awhile to get used to emailing documents, but once they discovered how much cheaper it was to communicate this way, they soon appreciated both the ease and the value of emailing documents. Remember, this was in the middle and late 1980s.

In 1987, I moved to Southern California and found a job that required me to use an Apple Macintosh Computer. Using the owners manual, I quickly mastered it. And I learned a desktop publishing program from Adobe called Pagemaker that enabled me to layout articles I had written.

I could go on and on talking about innovations since Steve Jobs and his alter ego Steve Wozniak launched Apple Computer and introduced the first Apple II in 1977, but you can Google their names and read all about them.

This video will give you a good look at Steve Jobs. It shows him delivering the commencement address in 2005 to the graduating class at Stanford University in Palo Alto, California, not too far from Apple's headquarters in Cupertino:


Take time to pause and think about how Steve Jobs has changed our lives...and the lives of millions of people around the world!

George Spink
Los Angeles
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Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Sept. 11th: "The Whole Building Has Collapsed!"


The late Peter Jennings (ABC TV) reporting on the destruction
of the World Trade Center on the morning of Sept. 11, 2001.

Everyone remembers where they were when they heard about the planes crashing into the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center in New York City on the morning of Sept. 11, 2001. I heard about it about 6:20 AM PDT (9:20 AM EDT) after reading emails from two friends of mine in the U.K. Both said essentially the same thing: "We are sorry for what happened in New York City!"

Since I had just woke up, I didn't know what they were talking about, so I immediately turned on my TV -- and remained glued to it for days on end. I was filled with anger at the terrorists who caused these two planes to crash into the Twin Towers -- and at their counterparts who caused another plane to crash into the Pentagon and a fourth plane to crash into a field in Pennsylvania.

ABC-TV's Peter Jennings remained on the air all day and a good part of the night on September 11th. Jennings, a journalist's journalist (1938-2005), reported on seeing people jumping to their deaths from the burning World Trade Center. At first, viewers saw a few of them jump, but then ABC-TV wisely decided not to televise the horror of other jumpers as they fell to their deaths.

I remember seeing firemen and policemen rushing to the Twin Towers, many never to return. I remember seeing people running from the Twin Towers as fast as they could to escape the crashing buildings, cloaked in dust and debris as they ran to safety.

I remember seeing a TV reporter interviewing Franciscan priest Father Mychal Judge, Chaplain of the Fire Department of New York, who was about to enter one of the Towers to administer last rites to firefighters. But Father Judge did not come out alive.

Father Mychal Judge being carried out of the World Trade Center.
Photo courtesy of Reuters.

Father Judge was designated as "Victim 0001" -- and recognized as the first official victim of the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks. Other victims perished before him including air crew, passengers, and occupants of the Twin Towers, but Judge was the first certified fatality because his was the first body to be recovered and brought to the coroner.

And I remember the dust. Everyone was covered with dust from the collapsing buildings as they ran for their lives. Brave TV reporters and their crews were in the streets below, trying to talk with people, then running with them away from the collapsing buildings, everyone covered with dust.

Our nation was stunned. How could this happen in America? Who were these terrorists? Where did they come from? Was Osama Bin Laden behind the 9/11 attack?

In the days that followed, we learned just how many died because of the attack on Sept. 11th -- nearly 3,000 people!

As we commemorate the 10th anniversary of Sept. 11th, let us pray for those who died and for their loved ones.

And let us pray that nothing like this ever happens again.

George Spink
Los Angeles
Email Me

You'll find links to web sites devoted to 9/11 by following this link: http://bit.ly/mQRh9A