Tuesday, November 12, 2019

What Would You Say?

This was something I put on Facebook recently.  I got a lot of wonderful and thoughtful responses to it.  I knew I would.  They talked about peace, and love.  They talked about the Golden Rule.  There was one that talked about patience and tolerance for one another.  All the big concept thoughts you’d expect to find were represented.  Some of the responses matched very well with what I knew about the person who left it.  Others didn’t at all.  Sometimes there’s a disconnect between our intentions and our actions.

There’s no microphone, but we do this every day.  We deliver a message about who we are and what’s truly important to us every day to the world!  Everything we say speaks to the world about who we are.  The way we interact with every person we come into contact speaks to what we are about.  Everything we post or repost tells the world what we think. 

If we’re really about peace, love, toleration, forgiveness, and all those other things people wrote—that’s what you should find in that person’s life.  Otherwise, they’re just words. 

It’s an interesting exercise to see what people would say if they had a chance to say something to the world.  It’s a better exercise to consider what you’re doing every day.

"Little children, let us not love in word and talk but in deed and truth." 

~1 John 3:18

~Todd E. Creason

Tuesday, October 29, 2019

The Star Spangled Banner

We all know the story.  On the morning of September 13, 1814, British warship began a brutal bombardment Fort McHenry--a bombardment that lasted 25 hours.  However, the following morning, September 14th, it was obvious that the Fort had withstood the constant bombardment of cannon fire and rockets.  The message was clear.  The small storm flag which measured 17 x 25 feet, had been replaced with the garrison flag that Major George Armistead had ordered when he took over Fort McHenry.  He described the flag he wanted made as "a flag so large that the British would have no difficulty seeing it from a distance."  That flag measured 30 x 42 feet.  When the British saw that flag the next morning, it signaled to them that the Americans had won.  Francis Scott Key having witness that bombardment and the Star Spangled Banner waving proudly that morning wrote a poem called "The Defence of Fort M'Henry."  The words of that poem would later become the National Anthem.  The British withdrew, and Baltimore Harbor was safe.

I visited Fort McHenry a couple years ago.  Three Masons from Illinois decided to go on a road trip to Washington D.C.--Greg Knott, Denver Phelps, and myself.  We stopped a few places along the way.  Gettysburg and Fort McHenry were two stops we made.  I visited old forts before, and generally, there isn't a lot to see other than brickwork.  Fort McHenry did have a huge place in American history, so I was pleased to have a chance to see it.  And it was a beautiful June day--clear blue sky, and a nice cool breeze.

They had a very nice visitor's center at Fort McHenry.  The fort is some distance away up the hill from it.  We went through the museum and took in all the exhibits.  Just about the time we were getting ready to leave they started a video presentation.  We decided to stay and watch it.  It was a description of the 1814 bombardment of Fort McHenry.  It was very well done, and made us all feel very patriotic and very anxious to go up and see the fort.  As the presentation ended, the National Anthem began to play--of course all the veterans stood up.  Suddenly, the entire wall that the movie was being shown on began to open up, and behind it was a huge picture window.  And up the hill in the distance stood Fort McHenry, with its enormous Star Spangled Banner waving over it.

That may have been one of the most remarkable things I've ever seen.  It's one of those things that makes the hairs stand up on the back of your arms, and puts a lump in your throat.  I've seen a lot of America, and visited many famous places, however, I'm unlikely to ever forget the first time I saw Fort McHenry.  I saw it much the same way Francis Scott Key had back in 1814.

If you visit Baltimore, go see Fort McHenry.

~Todd E. Creason

Saturday, October 26, 2019

Would Abe Lincoln Text?

Recently discovered! Abe's Facebook photo circa 1861
I sent a friend of mine this funny picture a couple weeks ago.  Like me, he's a history junkie, and in particular loves American history.  I thought he'd get a laugh out of Abraham Lincoln's recently discovered Facebook picture from 1861 (undoubtedly found in the Lincoln Presidential Library's archive in Springfield, IL). He did get a good laugh, but he said something extraordinary when he responded.  He said, "I think Abe would have hated a lot of the technology we have today.  I sure can't see him sending a text or using Twitter--can you?"

What? Are you kidding?  Actually, yes I can!

Our culture often sees Abraham Lincoln as a backwoods log-spliting hillbilly, but that couldn't be further from the truth.  Abraham Lincoln embraced new technologies of his day. He had a keen intellect, and was said to possess a mechanical mind. He was fascinated by how things worked, and how to use new technologies and inventions to make life better and easier for people.  In fact, Abe is the only President in our history that held a patent.  Long before he was President, Abe patented a technology that would raise a riverboat up on floats to help it navigate over shoals in the river. Rivers were the main source of transportation and commerce at the time, and navigating them was often a huge challenge--especially where the rivers were narrow, and the water level wasn't deep enough for the large barges and riverboats to pass. 

So he was technology minded.  But would Lincoln text or Twitter? 

Sure he would.  In fact, he did--at least his generation's early version of that technology called the telegraph.  It was a new technology at the time, which used electricity to transmit messages over long distances instantly.  And keep in mind, even electricity at the time the telegraph came out was seen as some kind of science magic in itself.  It had been known about since Ben Franklin's time--it was interesting, but not seen as particularly useful.  So the idea of using electricity to transmit messages hundreds of miles in seconds was awe-inspiring to most Americans. 

Abe Lincoln's Boat Bouy Technology: Patent No. 6,469 Issued 1849
Abe was absolutely fascinated by the telegraph when he first saw one in use in 1857.  When Abe arrived at the White House, it didn't have a telegraph office.  It was something that was soon added, and Lincoln didn't use it much in the beginning, but as the Civil War began, he realized what an amazing and useful tool it was for a Commander in Chief to have.  He spent hours sitting in the tiny telegraph room with his telegraph officer sending messages, and waiting for news back from his Generals.  It was the communications marvel of the day--and Lincoln had quickly seen that.  Embracing it, as Lincoln did, gave the North a decided advantage.

But that wasn't Lincoln's only interest in technology.  Weapons technology of the day was antiquated--the rifles hadn't changed very much since the Revolutionary War.  Lincoln's interest in new and better weapons technologies was well documented.  In fact, he tested at least a few new rifles right on the front lawn of the White House, including the Spencer seven-shot rifle and carbine.  He even tested a "coffee mill gun" which was an early version of a hand-cranked machine gun.  Gatling would later perfect the concept, but too late--contrary to Hollywood portrayals where they popped up in almost every scene, the Gatling Gun saw very limited use on the battlefields of the Civil War.

It's not a stretch by any means to say that Lincoln would be pretty amazed at the level of technology we have today, but I could see him using any technology that he found useful.  I definitely think he'd text if it had been available during the Civil War.  Maybe something like this:

Abraham Lincoln: Now that the South has surrendered, just take their weapons, give them an oath and make them promise not to shoot at us anymore, and send them home.

Ulysess Grant:  LOL!  Good one Mr. President!

Lincoln: No really . . .

Grant:  You sure?

Lincoln: Do it!  Gotta go.  Mary Todd got theater tickets.  I hate theater.  I told her this is the last play I'm ever going to.

You can send your complaints about that last joke to

~Todd E. Creason

Originally published in 2013

Tuesday, October 22, 2019

Would You Go Back To Simpler Times?

Before Nikes . . .

The backdrop of my first novel One Last Shot was a 25th high school reunion.  It wasn't too long after my 20th when I started working on the novel, so a lot of that nostalgic feeling you get at reunions was still fresh in my mind.  I explored some of that in the novel.  A common comment at my reunion was "boy, if I could just go back to high school knowing what I know today . . ."

That just strikes me as funny.  It doesn't make any difference what era you grew up in, people have a strange way of painting the past in rosy colors.  Do you really want to do it all again knowing what you know now?

How many phone numbers do you know today?
I see several problems with this, and I'm going to pick on a good friend of mine to illustrate my point.  He's a guy that said he'd like to go back for a do-over, but I just don't see how that would work for him.  He's always been addicted to technology (even back in the 80s he was all over every new gadget).  I had lunch with him a couple weeks ago, and a he was so distracted at lunch he couldn't follow a conversation.  He'd forgotten his phone at work.  He was worried about it.  What if it rang while he was gone?  Or what somebody posted something on Facebook?  Or *gasp* he got a text?  What would that mean if he wasn't instantly updated?  I think he'd be more comfortable eating in a restaurant without pants than being without his phone.

He's going to go back to 1980?  Back to rotary dial phones?  Back to when nobody had even heard of voice mail, and if you were lucky you might have an answering machine?  He wouldn't survive a second time around. He's the guy that calls you two minutes after he texts you just to make sure you read the text.  The simple idea of having to lick a stamp to mail something instead of hitting "send" would kill him.

I think that's the most stunning difference--we are never without our phones.  Back then, we actually used to leave the house for an entire day without a phone or any way for somebody to contact us--and we lived!  If something came up, you'd just swing into the gas station and use the payphone.  All of us knew twenty or thirty phone numbers by heart because our phones didn't remember them.  These days, I sometimes have to stop and think when I'm asked my own phone number.  And back then, an instant message was something that was passed to you during study hall folded up in the shape of a little football.

Before he jumped the shark . . .
And I'll tell you another problem my friend would have--going back to the 13-inch black and white television he had when was in high school.  Back to the rabbit ears and three channels (four on a clear night).  Mr. Home Theater would never make it through Beta, VHS, and DVDs again to arrive back to the promised land of Blue-Ray. 

And he'd be willing to trade the 1,500 songs he proudly brags about on his iPhone for the eight or ten he'd get from a fuzzy cassette tape on his Sony Walkman?  And then spend thirty years listening to music he already knew, and watching television he'd already seen?

Just think how frustrated you'd be going back and doing it all again.  And think about what else that means.  You don't marry that first husband or wife (and maybe even the second one) because of what you know now and didn't know then.  You could never fall in love with them again--you'd already be mad about things they haven't even done yet.  That means you don't have your son or daughter that you're rather fond of.  You could avoid all those mistakes that made you who you are today, but what would you be giving up?

How I misspent my youth . . .
I was really thinking about that when I was working on my first novel--would I avoid those pitfalls, and repeat them knowing how they'd turned out in the long run?  I really struggled with that one.  I truly believe if I woke up again in 1982, I would intentionally repeat some of those mistakes, and there would be some I wouldn't be able to force myself to repeat.  But I'll tell you one thing I'd sure be doing.  I'd be investing every cent I had in Apple and Microsoft and a few others.  At least I'd know that after I survived the second go around, I'd be rich.

There are a few things I miss from the 80s.  There are a few people I'd like to see again that are no longer with us.  I miss the music.  There are a few musicians and bands I like today, but for the most part I think it's mostly garbage.  There was so much more variety back then.  I definitely miss MTV and music videos.  And I miss the optimism from that era--anything was possible with enough hard work and determination.  We seem to have lost that whole idea these days.

You know, all things being said, I'm pretty happy where I'm at.  I think my wife is, too.  I asked her the other day if she'd go back to high school and do it all again.  She said, "I don't have the time or energy to spend that much effort on fixing my hair." 

~Todd E. Creason

originally publishing 4/11/13