Friday, May 10, 2013

Spare the rod and spoil the child

By Mike Ullery
Chief Photographer

As part of my job, I monitor police/fire/rescue calls in Miami County.

One type of call seems to increasingly attract my attention, and raise my ire.

I cannot believe the number of calls to Miami County 9-1-1 requesting assistance from police officers to deal with supposedly out-of-control children. Perhaps I should mention that these calls come from parents of the children, some as young as seven or eight years old.

I guess my feeling is — I just don't understand.

If you can't control your kids when they are in elementary school, how in the world do you think you will be able to handle parenting a teenager?

No one ever said that being a parent was easy. As the old saying goes, "Gray hair is hereditary. I got it from my kids."

I understand that life today is difficult. Kids will try your patience, your nerves and anything else they can try. But, it is our job as parents to be ... a parent.

Being a parent is fun but it requires more work and more responsibility than any other job on earth. I think that most parents at some point feel as if they are failing. It is a natural feeling. In spite of all the hard work and trying to make life easier for our children, they will still screw up. My best advice for kids and parents, is deal with it and move on, but not before acknowledging that a lesson was learned.

I'm not sure that trying to make everything easier for our kids is the wise way to go. The generation of Americans who lived through the depression and World War II have become known, justifiably, as "Our Greatest Generation," as coined by Tom Brokaw.

That did not happen by accident or coincidence. Those of my parents' generation grew up working hard just to survive. Just as they reached adulthood, they marched off to war. An all-out no-holds-barred total war. I have my doubts that any generation of humans at any other point in time, could have faced the tasks and hardships of World War II, on the battlefield or the home front, and come out victorious.

Our "greatest generation" never had anything handed to them. Today, we want to give your children everything. No work involved. We want keep them safe. No risk allowed.

Too many parents try to be a friend to their children, not a parent.

No one wants to discipline their children. Sometimes, in order to make a point, you have to get their attention. If kids know that there are no real consequences for misbehavior, they will just keep going.
There is no crime in spanking a kid. You heard me. A whack on the hind end is a necessary tool in raising many kids.

We have all heard, or used, the phrase, "This is going to hurt me more than it does you."  That is because a good parent, hates the fact that they are going to spank someone they love and it does hurt to have to to that. But kids need to learn that misbehavior or breaking the rules carries consequences.

"You were bad!" just does not get the  job done for most children.

Ignoring misbehavior over time leads to kids becoming increasingly difficult to manage. And it is our job to manage our children. Their brains have not developed to a point where their judgement is always the best. It is our job to teach and train them to use good judgement.

Far too many parents let their children, and their children's friends, raise themselves. Out of sight, out of mind.

It scares me that a parent who feels the need for police re-enforcements in order to deal with a misbehaving third-grader, has actually been charged with responsibility for a child, a growing and developing human being. I pity the child.

What has our world come to that a parent feels intimidated by their own child?

"Spare the rod and spoil the child."

Friday, April 19, 2013

For those who like to criticize our law enforcement officers ... put yourself in their shoes

By Mike Ullery
Chief Photographer

I never cease to be amazed by the, I will just come right out and say it, stupidity, of some people.

An incident occurred in Piqua this week that had police and deputies from the sheriff's office, searching for a man who as reported to be armed.

The man was located and stopped between Piqua and Troy. We was armed — legally. He was arrested on a charge relating to what allegedly occurred and taken to the county jail, without incident.

I was on the scene during the arrest and photographed the gentleman as he was being handcuffed.

As a result of one of these photos, our Facebook page "lit up" with people criticizing the police for the way the arrest was handled. Their judgement was made on the basis of — one photograph.

In the image, one of the police officers can be seen with a carbine, that could be termed an "assault rifle" to you anti-American gun haters. Two officers were patting down and holding on to the suspect while two officers stood by.

I would first like to look at the situation. First, to those who were criticizing the fact that one of the officers was armed with a rifle, please let me point out that in a situation where deadly force might be necessary, there is no such thing as excessive deadly force. Whatever it takes to make sure an officer comes home alive from his, or her, shift, is considered "necessary."

If I am in a situation where I am sent to face a suspect armed with a handgun, and I am given a choice of a handgun, (to make it "even" maybe?), or an M1 tank, I choose the tank.

Many years ago, as a young law enforcement officer, I read a book that was recommended to me by a fellow officer. It was written by a legendary United States Border Patrol officer, a former United States Marine. His name was Bill Jordan. The title of his book was, "No Second Place Winner."

Think about that title for a minute. We live in an age where no one wants there to be a loser in sports or activities. Life — reality — is far less forgiving. For our law enforcement officers, and their families, a gun battle is, literally,  a matter of life and death. There truly is ... no second place winner.

For those of you who choose to complain about "overkill," what weapon would you choose for your loved one if he, or she, was entering a potential deadly force situation? I think that you, too, would choose the tank.

I would also like to point out some things to those who took issue with the officers holding on to the suspect and inferred that he was being "given the treatment."

In the photo, the gentleman is being searched. This is standard procedure. It keeps officers alive.

Also important for everyone to know is that once someone is detained or arrested, those officers are responsible for a suspect's physical well-being. In the photo, his hands are cuffed behind his back, not the  most comfortable or stable way to attempt to stand. The officers were helping him stay balanced, making sure that he did not fall down or sustain injury.

In this particular instance, everything worked exactly as it should. Officers found the man quickly and effected an arrest. They were prepared for any eventuality, but no force was necessary. This looks to be a case of a good man who has some things going on in his life that caused an error in judgement. He will pay the price and life will go on.

When law enforcement officers respond to a call, they have no idea what they will face. Not all things end peacefully. They cannot afford to be unprepared, mentally or with inadequate tools to handle a situation, immediately.

I consider myself lucky to be in a position where I observe our local law enforcement officers in action daily. I am proud to be around these men and women who stand between us and the "bad guys" on a daily basis, keeping us safe from harm.

Our law enforcement officers face these situations daily. They do it with grace and professionalism, and even with a sense of humor.

I thank God that we have them. I would also hope that when incidents like this occur, rather than trying to find an excuse to act like a big shot and point out "issues," you would instead give these men and women a much-deserved, "Well done!"

Friday, April 5, 2013

Reel Stuff set to be a Real Treat for aviation lovers

By Mike Ullery
Chief Photographer

As President Barack Obama and congress continue to make life more difficult for all of us, this summer promises to be dismal for aviation enthusiasts.

Obama's sequestration of government-funded projects and events has meant that many air shows have been forced to cancel, including the annual Tattoo event at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base.

The Blue Angels and Thunderbirds, representing the United States Navy, Marine Corps and Air Force, do more for morale and recruiting than dollars can measure. Sadly, they will be sitting on the sidelines this summer.

In spite of all of the bad news for our country and aviation fans, there is good news.

The Dayton Air Show is still scheduled to go on, in spite of the loss of the Thunderbirds.

A new event in the area is set to kick-off next weekend at the National Museum of the United States Air Force. The Reel Stuff Film Festival of Aviation will be the inaugural event for the newly-renovated state-of-the-art digital theatre.

The weekend will provide a much-needed aviation fix to those who love airplanes, aviators and films.
I can't think of a better way to spend a weekend that to take in a couple of aviation films and tour the National Museum of the United States Air Force.

Founder and director of Reel Stuff, Ron Kaplan, past director of the National Aviation Hall of Fame, has put together a great series of aviation films, including a pair of screenings of the recently-released Top Gun 3-D.

Among the presenters for the legendary film ,is actor Anthony Edwards, who portrayed Lt. "Goose" Bradshaw. (Edwards is also known for playing Dr. Greene on the hit television series ER.

As a side note, Kaplan played an integral part in some of the early research for the soon-to-be-released Disney film, Planes, assisting the director in his visit to the air force museum in 2009.

Dayton has a long and rich history of being on the cutting edge of aviation. In this summer of sequestration, we are fortunate to not have to look far to find a way to beat the frustration.

The Reel Stuff Film Festival of Aviation promises to be another aviation "home run" for those of us who enjoy anything and everything about flying.

The original Reel Stuff Film Festival, sponsored by the National Aviation Hall of Fame, and held at several venues around Dayton proved to be quite a success. Legendary actor Cliff Robertson was one of the early supporters of the festival. I am extremely happy that the festival has been reincarnated and found a home at the National Museum of the United States Air Force.

I am very much looking forward to next weekend.

The festival will take place April 11-14. For more information on the event, visit or call (937) 253-4629.

I hope to see a number of my fellow aviation and film friends at the event.

Friday, March 29, 2013

Dodgeball = bullying? Really? Stupidity reigns in America

By Mike Ullery
Chief Photographer

Stupidity in America strikes again!

This past week, a New Hampshire school district, Windham Schools, banned the sport of dodgeball.
School officials cited bullying as the reason for banning the activity. The sport was banned after a parent allegedly complained. No doubt, this parent was probably a former wimpy kid who is now a wimpy parent.

I am so sick and tired of the wimpy, pacifistic attitude in our country today. Competition is a good thing. Okay, some kids are not as athletic as others. I get that part. But they should at least be required to get out there and give it a good effort.

Windham school superintendent Henry LaBranche reportedly stated, "We spend a lot of time making sure our kids are violence free." Violence, really? Since when is throwing a soft rubber ball violent?

What exactly are we supposed to teach our children about life? Is life without pain? Is life without risk? Is life without competition?

We are increasingly teaching a couple of lessons to our children that scare me to death. One, if you don't feel like doing something, you don't have to. Two, if you don't like something, ban it.

I have a news flash ... life is not that way. Or, at least it should not be.

A phrase that I heard frequently when I was growing up was, "survival of the fittest." That is the very basis of nature.

We had bullies when I was in school. I know first-hand, as most of us do, about being on the receiving end of bullying. I was one of the smallest kids in my school.

I can remember being pushed and shoved. I can even remember being shoved into a locker and the door shut behind me.

Did I like it? Heck no. Did I go home and cry about it? Heck no. I learned to stand up for myself. I learned to fight back when necessary. There is nothing wrong with fighting back.

Do you really want to stop, or at least curb bullying? Try teaching kids to fight back.

As I see it, if you want to read something about bullying into a harmless activity such as dodgeball, how about it being a harmless way to teach a kid to stand up for him or her self? They can submit and be quickly eliminated from the game, or they can fight back and learn how to block and defend themselves with a little pride. They can learn that taking the offense back to the opponent can even the odds, and even make them the winner.

As far as I am concerned, the parent who went crying to the school board should be told to butt out. The school board should be removed from office for failure to represent a majority of citizens.

We live in a time when the majority opinion is all-too-often shamed into silence by a vocal minority. It is no longer acceptable in the United States of America to stand up for one's self.

The minute someone dares to stand up and declare that they are going to buck the system that is dragging us ever-closer to a future as a submissive state, they are, themselves, immediately labeled a bully.

Our children need to be taught the difference between right and wrong. They need to learn to treat others with respect. That single word, "respect", is the most important life lesson we can impart on our children.

Far too many parents just let the "system" raise their children. All kids will face bullying. If they are raised to respect themselves, as well as others, they will learn to deal with it.

As for the parents who oppose dodgeball and the school officials who are too weak and sissified to stand their ground, you are all examples of the sad situation our country is in. None of you deserve to live in this once-great country. 

Friday, March 22, 2013

Where were you 100 years ago, at this very moment?

By Mike Ullery
Chief Photographer

Where were you 100 years ago at this very moment?

I know, it is a dumb question, but I cannot help but look around me and think about the fact that exactly 100 years ago, at this very moment, on ground we stand upon, the greatest local natural disaster in our history was wreaking havoc, destruction — and death — upon area.

I hope that you have been following our Piqua Daily Call flood series over the past several weeks.
I believe that I can speak for our entire staff when I say that the research, the writing and taking current, related photographs around the area in preparation for the series has been a great learning experience for all of us.

One has only to look at the many historic images from March of 1913 to get a small sense of the destruction that devastated Piqua, Troy and Dayton.

Most evidence of that terrible time is lost to the ages. Thank God for memorabilia such as Mr. Arther Adams’ diary, that I was so fortunate to be able to look at as I prepared by portion of our flood series. I could not help but think as I held that invaluable book in my hands, that a century ago, a young man, just about the age of my son, Ryan, was writing his experience on those very pages. He and my son have much in common, Mr. Adams was serving in the Ohio National Guard, based in Covington. Ryan currently is serving in that same Ohio National Guard, although his unit is based in Piqua.

I imagine that Mr. Adams was much like Ryan, a young man who was enjoying life … when duty called.

Residents in, and around, the Piqua area lost homes and property during that horrible time. Some, lost their lives.

The building that served as a temporary morgue for those who perished in Piqua’s flood waters is now gone. A parking lot stands on that spot.

With few exceptions, one of them Lock 9 Park in Piqua, the flood closed the book on the Miami & Erie Canal.

Today, high levees line the banks of the Great Miami River where it winds its way through our city. Most of us give little thought to rainy spells and the accompanying rushing water. We take for granted that the levees and safety features built by the Miami Conservancy District in the years following the flood, will do their job and allow us to continue business as usual.

For those who survived the flood waters of March 1913, I doubt they ever felt completely secure when news of possible flooding reached them.

Most of us have been complaining recently about “Old Man Winter” hanging on too long. As we celebrate our weekend, and prepare for the upcoming Good Friday and Easter holy days, I hope that we all take a moment to give thanks. We really don’t have it so bad.

For that, we also owe a debt of gratitude to our forefathers, who worked to insure that their children and grandchildren did not suffer the same fate. They paid a terrible price as a “perfect storm” taught them that no matter how hard we try, it is difficult to overcome nature.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

"Big Brother" - Is he Superman, or is he Lex Luthor?

By Mike Ullery
Chief Photographer

Do you ever have the feeling that you are being watched?

The proliferation of surveillance cameras has made it likely that you could be under the watchful eye of … someone, at almost any time.

Cameras have been found inside retails stores, banks, and convenience stores for years. In recent years, that has spread to shopping malls and even outdoor locations. All in the name of keeping us safe.

The most recent buzz is the federal government’s use of military drones to spy on American civilians.
I am probably going to surprise many of you with my statement that, for the most part, I see nothing wrong with this.

The caveat to my statement is that this is sort of like Superman. It is great to have those super powers — as long as they are used for the good of mankind and you can keep Lex Luthor’s fiendish hands off.

No one wants to feel like they are being spied on. No one wants to be watched by “Big Brother.” And, we shouldn’t be.

By and large, there is no reason for someone to continually monitor each and every camera. Plus, continuous monitoring would be nearly impossible.

If used wisely — and discreetly — surveillance cameras have the potential to curb crime and get the bad guys off the streets.

How many of you have had the bad luck to have someone hit your car and then take off in an attempt to escape owning up to their mistake? How many times is there a burglary or robbery in which the crooks take off in a vehicle but police aren’t close enough to pinpoint a location or directions of travel?

These are but two scenarios of ways in which cameras could be useful.

If you stop and think about existing laws, this just fits in. If you are engaged in any activity in a public place, by and large, you are fair game for anyone who wishes to photograph you.

Another way to look at it, is that if you are not engaged in a criminal activity, what should it really matter if someone could potentially see you? Granted, I do not want some peering into my back yard while I sit in a lawn chair and relax. But, if someone breaks into my home, I sure wouldn’t mind an eye-in-the-sky to help track down the bad guy, get my stuff back and put him away.

There is an old saying, “You can’t have your cake and eat it, too.”

“Big Brother” cameras are a prime example. The list of possible good ranges from catching crooks to saving abducted children and so much more.

The bad, obviously, is that no one wants to feel as if they are being watched.

If a camera is accessed only when need to assist a citizen or catch a criminal, then they will be a welcome addition to any community.

It should be mentioned here, that “red-light” cameras should be totally outlawed. No, they are not entrapment. No one is being set up to run a red light. They are, however, in my opinion, illegal from a standpoint that Ohio law always stated that traffic offenses had to be witnessed by a uniformed officer in a marked police unit. Now, maybe some of these jurisdictions have altered their ordinances in order to pad the public coffers but, in my mind, traffic enforcement cameras are nothing more than a means to steal money from the motoring public.

On the other hand, how many times have two vehicles crashed in an intersection and both drivers claimed to have a green light? Those cameras could solve any dispute in the matter.
It is all in how the cameras are used.

Are we being protected by Superman, or monitored by Lex Luthor?

Friday, February 22, 2013

Sinclair staffer in huff over sign, proves she is not fit for such a position

By Mike Ullery
Chief Photographer

I was recently made aware of an issue that took place late last year at Sinclair Community College in Dayton.

Multiple stories from December, 2012 state that a construction project on the Sinclair campus was halted ... are you ready for this ... because the female Manager of Construction and Planning for the college was offended by signs that stated: Men Working

Never mind that it was an all-male construction crew. Never mind that stopping a construction project for a personal rant was wasting taxpayer dollars.

Elizabeth Verzi holds the position of Manager of Construction and Planning at the school.

One would think that someone in such a responsible position would care first that work is completed on schedule and budget, that construction quality is above quality standards and the job was done with safety in mind.

Instead, this woman is concerned about a sign? Or, should I say "this person"? I wouldn't want to be politically incorrect and offend someone.

According to a story published in Breitbart, and written by Lee Stranahan, J-Crane, Inc. owner, Jack Stull, whose company was the target of Verzi's tirade, wrote a letter that he would continue work but would not replace the sign. "I'm through with appeasing, I'm tired of political correctness, and I'm no longer fearful of their media or their lawsuits," Stull allegedly said.

Miss/Mrs. Verzi allegedly told a J-Crane foreman, "The sign is sexist and its not up for discussion." Really?

My thought on this is, lady, you work for a community college. Your job is to represent the school, not your own bias and corrupt opinion.

If this is the way that Verzi goes about her job, Sinclair should show her the sidewalk.

The Breitbart News story referred to a statement made by Sinclair. Adam Murka, Director of Public Information for the school, allegedly told the news staff member, "While it may not have been necessary to stop work, Sinclair stands by its commitment to providing an environment that  inclusive and non-discriminatory."

Now that sounds to me like a lot of public relations wimpy non-information.

All of this politically correct crap has cost countless millions of dollars over the decades. And, for what? So that someone doesn't get their feelings hurt? Awwww. Poor babies.

This sort of stuff is one of the contributing reasons why America has become nothing more than a laughing stock to others around the world.

In the grand scheme of things, just how important is it that a sign is gender sensitive on a construction site? Are passers-by going to use caution around male workers and then run over a female construction worker just because a sign was not gender-accurate?

When did common sense cease to be a desired characteristic in America?

I have a news flash for everyone — while no one likes getting their feelings hurt and everyone loves to feel recognized, getting your toes stepped on or your ego bruised occasionally will not hurt you. It might even make you stronger.

I can pretty much guarantee that if you work hard and are a consistent example of someone who gives a 100 % effort at work, you will not have the time or desire to worry about some stupid sign. I would also bet that with enough hard work, someone might make that sign include you if you show that you deserve it.

Should we all be sensitive to what we say and to whom? Absolutely. Can legislating and demanding that we do the right thing really make us more sensitive to issues? Not in a thousand years. All it does is create more hard feelings and cost more money.

To me, this begs the question, why does Miss/Mrs. Verzi still have a job at Sinclair? And, if she does, why would anyone want to attend a college that seemingly puts so little emphasis on what is truly right, instead of what some some left-wing feminist wants to push for her own political agenda?

Friday, February 15, 2013

Cancer strikes out another friend. It is time to appreciate those around us while rallying for a cure

By Mike Ullery
Chief Photographer

This week saw the passing of yet another friend from my youth.

Doug Fuge was a 1979 graduate of Miami East and a friend for many years. His death, like so many others, was due to cancer.

I lost my father to cancer in 1985 and, since that time, have watched so many others fight that dreaded disease that it makes me nearly physically ill to think about it.

I guess that the good news is that it seems that more and more people do seem to overcome and win the fight. Unfortunately, that number is not high enough.

My dad was a carpenter. I believe that his decades of working around and with asbestos and a hundred other chemicals probably contributed to his contracting the disease. My uncle, Bernie, who worked side-by-side with my dad for all those years, also died of cancer some years later.

In recent months, many of us have been involved in benefits for local friends, and children of friends, who are engaged in the fight of their lives, at too young an age. I see more and more how unfair cancer is.

So, I find myself asking, what is really being done about this disease?

I am sure that research companies are, and have been for years, in high-gear, working to come up with a cure for cancer of all types.

The proclivity of this disease makes me wonder its origin and cause. There is no doubt that we live in a toxic world.

Seeming innocuous items that people like my father worked with for years ... fiberglass insulation, various adhesives, asbestos siding, to name just a few, were later discovered to contain highly-toxic substances that can lead to cancer. But, who knew?

Today, anyone working around and with many of those items dresses in protective gear, including respirator devices in some cases, to avoid inhaling fumes and dust particles.

We are living in a world of toxins that we created. We spent decades creating and building things that we now have to find a way to get rid of — safely.

The foods that we eat are also subject to scrutiny. Chemicals that we designed to make one tomato larger and more juicy, have succeeded in making that one tomato larger, juicier and potentially toxic to eat.

I have always been fascinated by diet soft drinks. Even at a young age, it didn't take much to figure out that real sugar was less of a danger than artificial sweeteners.

Perhaps my fascination was more with people who consume those carbonated Molotov Cocktails. If you are really dieting, stop drinking soft drinks totally.

My trip to the Upper Valley Career Center and Willowbrook facility on Thursday was food for thought. I watched as one of nature's most natural products, sap, flowed from Maple trees and was harvested to create Pure Maple syrup. Nature has provided us with substances such as Maple syrup and honey, along with hundreds of other sources of food. And then we humans have to "improve" upon nature by altering, tweaking and preserving to the point where we are — poisoning ourselves.

As our doctors and scientists race to find a cure for cancer, a cure that I pray will come quickly, we need to step back and take a look at what we eat. We need to stop and think about the environment in which we live, work and play.

It is indeed a scary world in which we live today.

In spite of all of the dangers that lie in wait for us, we still need to live each day to the fullest. Enjoy, appreciate and love those around you.

We never know how much time we have to spend those we care about.

So long, Doug. If God has a baseball team, I am sure you will be in the lineup in time for spring training.

Friday, February 8, 2013

Newspapers are dead ... Long live the newspaper

By Mike Ullery
Chief Photographer

Will you still be reading a newspaper, I mean a newspaper printed on paper, five years from now? How about 10 years from now or two years from now?

Newspapers as we know them are going through some very scary times these days. Daily papers that have been around for many decades announce they are closing their doors, all too frequently.

I know. Newspaper employees are not at all alone in worrying if they will still have jobs in these uncertain times. We truly are all in this together.

In continuing efforts to stay afloat, newspaper publishers have cut back on everything from the number of employees to the physical size of the paper.

In spite of all of the negative aspects of our news world, I see many reasons for optimism.

Granted, the future of a pulp-originated paper page newspaper might be in question, the need to provide readers with professionally-gathered news is stronger than ever. Everyone wants to know what is going on with their world and who better than your friends and neighbors, your own hometown friends and neighbors, who work at your local paper, to keep you up to date with accurate information on what is happening around your town?

There are a number of old fogies, myself included, who would hate to ever see a newspaper go away. I sincerely hope that it never does.

We need to understand though that times are changing. Our children and grandchildren spend more time on a computer and their smart phone with each passing year.

If news breaks around town, or if there is a big rivalry game going on, today’s generation doesn’t want to wait a day to read about it. They want to know — now — what happened, or is happening, in the game.

News gathering is evolving. Not that many years ago, the news world revolved around getting stories ready for either a morning or afternoon deadline. By and large, that deadline restriction is going away and being replaced with a reporter with a laptop or cell phone whose mission is to get the story posted online while, in many cases, the incident is still unfolding.

As members of an older generation, many of us sit back and talk about how we love our daily paper and wish that things could revert back to the way they were in the “old days.” Yet, a majority of us are out perusing the web and looking for the latest news on our iPads and Smart Phones, just like our kids and grandchildren.

We need to face facts. The Internet gives us amazing possibilities that just do not exist with a paper product. From my standpoint, I love the fact that I can showcase more photographs from an event than just one or two that we can get in the paper.

Advertisers have so many more options these days. In addition to the traditional newspaper, web-based ads have brighter, more vibrant color. They can flash or scroll or rotate, the possibilities are nearly endless.

I don’t mean to sound like I wish to hasten the demise of a paper newspaper. I hope that they, and especially ours, are in your hands for many years to come.

I do hope that any of you out there who might be scoffing at the newfangled technology that is over-taking, or possibly taking over, our world, will look at the changes and give them a chance.

From our standpoint, we are the same dedicated staff, working to bring you news as accurately and promptly as possible. Learning about and embracing the web is just one more way we can help you stay informed.

As they would probably say in England … “The newspaper is dead. Long live the newspaper.”

Friday, February 1, 2013

Computers ... friend and foe

By Mike Ullery
Chief Photographer

Computers! Can’t live with them. Can’t live without them, especially in this 21st century.

I arrived at work earlier this week to find a new computer sitting on my desk. I'm not sure if it's a guy thing or a gadget-geek thing but I was like a little kid on Christmas morning as I unpacked Macintosh iMac and began the task of setting it up.

This is the first column written on this new system so, if there are any misspelled words or grammar faux pas, I get to blame the computer, this week only.

I frequently think about computers and how they affect our lives.

Many of us marvel at how quickly the world of aviation developed and grew. From Wilber and Orville Wright's first flight in December of 1903 to Neil Armstrong setting foot on the moon in July of 1969, very little of that was accomplished with the power of a computer.

The Wright brothers, through the use of science and math, not to mention a lot of trial and error, became the first men to accomplish heavier-than-air sustained powered flight.

Computers were in use during World War II. These were analog computers that I won't say more about, lest you discover that I really have no idea how they worked.

I do know that a battleship's ability to train its guns and hit a moving target some 20 miles distant or a bombardier's use of a then-top secret Norden bombsight to put bombs "right in the pickle barrel" from his B-17  Flying Fortress was due to analog computers in which the information was cranked in and the machine calculated a solution.

Computers did play a large part in the history of NASA. The point has been made though that the total computing power aboard an Apollo spaceship was about that of some of today's hand-held calculators.

I remember very well the first home computer that my family purchased. After much research, we purchased a Magnavox PC. It had an amazing 64mb hard drive. The operating system was "GeoWorks." I also recall the relaxing naps that I was able to take as I waited — and waited — for the dial-up modem to stop making noise so that I could "surf the net."

That was well before the first digital cameras hit the market. As a side note, I was working at BK Photo & Gallery in Troy at that time. When we were introduced to digital cameras, the first one I saw, manufactured by Olympus, had a whopping resolution of 640 x 480 pixels. I can recall standing at the counter at BK Photo and telling a customer, "It will be cold day in h#!! before I ever use a digital camera. Yes, I have eaten those words for breakfast, lunch and dinner — several times.

The computer sitting in front of me, rather than a 64mb hard drive, has a one terabyte hard drive, nearly one million, million times larger than my first computer, and eight gigabytes of random access memory (RAM.)

What does all of this mean and where will it go from here? I have no idea. I grew up in a world of slide rules and having to calculate and reason problems. My success at that could be part of the reason why I am a photographer and not a rocket scientist.

All I can say is, first of all, thank you to our bosses here at the Piqua Daily Call/Civitas Media, for the computer upgrade. It is much appreciated, and I can't wait to see where the computing world leads us from here.

I only hope that our future generations don't forget how to use their brain. A mind really is a terrible thing to waste.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

King's message was peace ... but, we must face reality

By Mike Ullery
Chief Photographer

Monday was a day of peace in America. It was a day of celebrating the life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Across America there were marches and commemorative events to honor the great Civil Rights leader, who preached of a peaceful coexistence for all.

Since the reminders about King’s message of peace and listening to the remarks by YWCA keynote speaker Jeff Brown, I can’t get the conflict out of my mind.

Sure, King was a man of peace. Certainly, a world devoid of conflict and hatred is an idealist dream.

Unfortunately, I can’t help but believe that King’s dream is just that – a dream.

While messages of peace were ringing across most of America, Barack Obama was taking the oath of office in Washington, D.C. As King’s words and teachings echoed in our ears, the most corrupt and dangerous man in America was beginning his second term as dictator.

Never in the past century and a half has a president so divided America. Peace? How can we become a peaceful nation when we have a president who is intent on taking away our rights?

In another vein, we can dream of peace. But, we must look at reality. We live in a world that is full of individuals, organizations and countries that are evil and care nothing about the value of individual liberty or human life.

The First Amendment provided Martin Luther King the stage on which to deliver his message. The Second Amendment is what gave King the ability to stand on that stage and exercise his First Amendment right.

I find it ironic that our first black president is the one plotting to take away both of those formerly inalienable rights.

Equally ironic is the fact, yes fact, that in order for us to strive for a peaceful existence, we must bear arms and must be ready, willing and able to fight, be it against a tyrannical egomaniac president or a foreign dictator.

I recall the song “One Tin Soldier” by Coven. The Vietnam War-era song was featured in the film “Billy Jack.” In the song, the mountain people were a peace-loving group who wanted nothing but to be left alone. The valley people wanted the secret treasure that belonged to the mountain people, who offered to share with their counterparts in the valley. Greed ruled the day and the valley people slaughtered the mountain people to have the treasure all to themselves. It turned out that the “treasure” was a simple message – “Peace on Earth was all it said.”

The message was peace. But, did that make the mountain people any less dead?

Our forefathers built this country. They set the rules and principals as to what is required to be a part of what was the greatest nation on earth.

Our service men and women take an oath, to defend against all enemies foreign and domestic. The origins of that oath go back to the Revolutionary War. Foreign and domestic.

Those who choose to blindly follow others, even to choosing a peaceful existence under the rule of a tyrannical dictator, are doomed to be nothing more than slaves … if they survive. If they are allowed to live.

To those who would choose that route, I say, you are not really an American. Americans never bowed to tyranny and oppression. Just because this is the 21st century does not mean that those dangers were left behind in another era.

They still exist and we must be ready to face, and if necessary, take up arms against, anyone who dares to steal what our fathers and grandfathers before them fought, and died, to defend.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Our friends and neighbors need help, please pitch in!

By Mike Ullery
Chief Photographer

One of the things that I hear most often when someone offers an opinion as to what they would like to read in our paper, is a comment to the effect, "I would like to see more good news printed in your paper."

Unfortunately, a majority of news stories seem to be about someone running afoul of the law or a tragedy of some sort.

Most of us who work or live in and around Piqua, have heard directly, or indirectly, about several area residents who are undergoing life-changing health issues. We have run stories related to three of these.

Local resident and highly-talented musician Bob Comstock recently suffered multiple strokes which have left him facing challenges as he fights to regain speech and mobility. Dylan Blair and Mickayla Nelson are two local children who are fighting serious cases of cancer. I am certain there are other area residents who are, or who have family members, facing serious health issues, as well.

These stories would certainly fall into the "bad news" category.

We, as friends, neighbors or relatives of these troubled families have an opportunity to put a good-news label on each of these stories.

There are fund-raising events and benefits on tap and available for Bob, Dylan and  Mickaya — and, of course, their families.

We have all faced a realization from time to time, that when we are feeling sorry for ourselves or our situation, we don't have to look far to find someone whose situation is more dire than our own.

I urge everyone to take some time out of your busy schedule to participate and donate to these people who need not only our support, but also our continued prayers, as they and their families fight to overcome adversity that many of us could never know.

I attended the annual Piqua Area Chamber of Commerce meeting this week. Awards were given to several worthy residents. I was struck by the fact that Piqua is full of people who are not afraid to give back to their community.

If ever there was a time to give back, now is that time. Our community is like family. When one person is in genuine need of support, we can all pitch in a little to help relieve some of the stress.

I don't believe that anyone is asking for a huge sacrifice on anyone's part. All they are asking is that we all pitch in to help some friends who could use a helping hand at this time.

Information on all three of our neighbors-in-need is available on Facebook.

A benefit, Do It for Dylan, is being held today at the Bradford Community Club, 154 1/2 N. Miami Street, in Bradford.

Next Saturday, a event to help offset expenses for Bob Comstock is being held at the Covington Eagles.

For continuing efforts to assist Mickayla Nelson, go to Prayers for Mickayla of Facebook.

We are bombarded with television adds to save everything from dogs to earthworms. I doubt that a nickel out of every dollar donated ever finds its way to actually assist as intended.

Here is a chance to help — locally. Here is an opportunity to do something good for your neighbors.

And no matter if you can attend or donate, I hope that we all take some time each day to pray Bob, for Dyan and for Mickayla ... and for all who could use a little intervention from Above.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Teaching children the difference between fantasy and reality is parents' responsibility

By Mike Ullery
Chief Photographer

What was the best thing that happened to your child in school last week?

Did your child have homework or personal problems that cropped up during the week?

Do you know the answers to these questions, or — do you just think that you know the answers?

As the debate about violence and gun control simmers, I think that it is time to look at the real reason for many of the violent crimes taking place in today's world.

We live in a country where everything is a fantasy. Television programing is filled with so-called "reality" shows. These programs are, in actuality, carefully choreographed programing that incites conflict and strife between friends, co-workers and even family members ... all in the name of entertainment.

I don't know where to begin with the zombie and vampire shows.

Sure, some of you are saying that I am old and out of touch with what people enjoy watching today. The truth is, there were lessons to be learned from television in the bygone era.

Programs such as Lassie, Flipper, My Three Sons and the Brady Bunch were not only entertaining, but had a lesson attached in nearly every episode. Even programs that included gun play had a very simple message — if you break the law, you pay the consequences. I don't recall ever watching Matt Dillon pull the trigger on someone who did not deserve it.

Today, when our kids watch television, they tune into programs filled with walking dead zombies who need to be killed off. The only lesson there is to kill everything in your path, just in case someone might be a zombie.

Then, of course, we have video games. It seems to me that all of them feature nothing but killing and gore. Kids, and a number of adults, say they are fun. I'm sure that they are.

The problem, as I see it, is that that we have succeeded in totally desensitizing entire generations of children, many of whom are now young adults. There is killing, blood, guts and gore everywhere. But, there are never any consequences.

I am not blaming television. I am not blaming video games. The interest in the current trend in both just shows how sick our society has become.

Our children have no sense of value. I see it every day. They do not respect others. They do not respect themselves.

One of the reasons for this is that they spend too much time in front of a computer screen or television set. We have a generation of Americans who has lost nearly all of their social skills. This is evolution?

Oh, the reason that I don't blame television and video games is the same reason that I do not blame guns. That Nintendo set did not reach out, grab your kid, chain him to a chair and say, "No supper for you until you kill 500 people, good guys, bad guys, it doesn't matter, and score a billion points." No!

More than likely, the kid is sitting there while mom and/or dad use the game as a baby sitter to keep the kid out of their hair.

It is a parent's responsibility to know what their child is doing. I know that is difficult. I look back on raising our own children and see things that I could have done, should have done, that would have made me a better parent.

I know that no matter how good a job we attempt to do as parents, nothing can ever guarantee that life will be peaches and cream for our children.

What we can do, what we must do, is balance the time spent killing zombies with family time and explain to our children the difference between fantasy and reality. Talk to your kids!

The first order of responsibility in teaching our children is not our school teachers. They play an important part, certainly. We, as parents, must always be vigilant in teaching our children morals, values and the difference between right and wrong.

The life you save, may be your child's.