Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Who? Me...A Smart Ass?

I wasn't a good student in school. In high school, I failed and had to retake in summer school, English. One of the last things my English teacher said to me, was, "Never get a job requiring the use of the English language."

Well, the Air Force didn't hear that and made me a journalist. I had never had any training in it, but I was a quick learner. Within a year, I had made my way to editor of the paper and I turned into a pretty good one, taking several Air Force level awards and placing third (out of five) at Department of Defense level during my 16 plus years as a public affairs specialist which included the journalist job (I spent my first four years as a fuels specialist).

One reason I did well in that job was I wanted to learn the job. It was better than pumping gas to an airplane, which I didn't mind doing when I had to, but the public affairs job sounded a lot better.

These days, I use my writing skills for blogging (you know that already if you are reading this) and for writing short stories and several novels I am working on. I also have a lot of experiences in my life I can rely on and modify in one way or another for certain areas of my writing. Being in the Air Force, traveling the world, helped me with gathering these experiences.

But what also helps me with my writing in my broad knowledge base of things. Like I mentioned above, I catch on quick to things...especially things I want to learn about. I know a lot about a lot of things. I know about earthquakes because I have experienced several killer quakes around the world. I know about volcanoes because I have experienced several eruptions around the world. I know about astronomy because I became interested in it when was 14 years old. I know about birds and bugs because I photograph them and want to know what it is I have created an image of. There are a many other topics I am knowledgeable of, because I wanted to learn about those things.

Because of my knowledge, I have been called a smart ass, a know-it-all, and a few other things. I have also been disbelieved when I answered a question about a topic so obscure that few people even knew what the question was about. But that's me. I love to share my knowledge of things. It comes partly from my military career where I was in a public service position. I would give tours of the bases I was stationed at and have to be able to answer any and all questions thrown at me. So I learned about the places I visited and objects which would be seen along the tour route.

But these days, I don't give tours of anything. I only occasionally do something new which peaks my interest, such as card modeling. I thought it would be fun to create my own card models. So I did. I selected objects from one of my favorite cartoons, The Flintstones. If you go to the website here, and scroll down about halfway, you'll come across my stone age designs. They are available free for downloading and printing. Then with some scissors, Xacto knife, white glue and a little time, you can create your own stone age world. There are other designs from other people, all free for the downloading, but if you go there, don't forget to locate the designs from Ashrunner and look at them. If you do, let me know what you think of them.

But I still have a lot of knowledge in my brain I use. When I can, I pass on that information to others. Recently a friend of mine commented about our relationship being so one sided. When I asked for clarification and was told that I have taught this person so much about a lot of things, while I have gotten very little in return. Well, I don't pass on my knowledge with the expectation that I get something in return. Knowing that I have added to someone else's level of knowledge is a good enough feeling for me. When I was writing news stories, knowing at least one person read any particular of mine, was enough for me to continue. It's the same with sharing my vast database of knowledge.

I love learning something new and I retain that information because you never know when that information will come in handy. But you need to know that the information you are passing on is the correct information. I have made mistakes with my information in past. But I try to limit those errors in fact as much as possible. But there was one time I was wrong and that one time was the impetus for me to learn as much as I can about as much as I can. That incident happened when I was in the fifth grade.

More on that later, but first a some background is needed. When I was four or five years old, I was staying at my aunt's house in Alvin, Illinois. While I was there, a thunderstorm developed. Not long after that, we heard of a tornado warning on the radio. My aunt's family, being accustomed to this sort of thing, gathered up all the children, and led everyone down into the basement. We had tuned in the local radio station we waited for the "All clear." When it came, we went upstairs and checked things out. Things were okay on my aunt's farm, but on the late news that evening, was a story about the damage done to a farm not far from aunt's place.

A photo of the damage was shown and I looked at that black and white picture on the round
cathode ray tube of my aunt's television set with fascination. I also listened as the announcer said, "This is what the tornado did to the home of (I can't remember the name so I'll just say:)
John Smith of Alvin." On the screen was a picture of a tree which had been broken and tossed against the house. That picture was burned in my mind forever, along with what the announcer said.

The next day, my father came out to pick me up and he went out to see the damage himself. He took his camera with him and took a photo of the house damage which I had seen the night before. This is that image.

Flash forward to the fifth grade for me. It was science class time and we were learning about storms. At one point in the class, the teacher asked, "Does anyone know what a tornado is?" Excited that a question was asked which I actually knew the the answer to, I raised my hand. The teacher raised his head, pointed to me and called my name. I stood, fully prepared to give my answer. Now, remember, I was young at the time the above incident happened and it did make a lasting impression on me. I can still see the image on the television screen to this day taken from a slightly different angle than the photo.

I cleared my throat and proudly blurted out my answer. "A tornado is a walking tree which goes around destroying houses."

I slowly sat back in my seat even as the laughter from the rest of the class got louder and louder. I couldn't believe I was wrong and when the smiling, head shaking teacher finally calmed the classroom down, he pointed out the error of my description.

I vowed at that point in time, I would never again volunteer to answer any question in school. I also vowed that I would learn as much as I could about everything.

If that makes me a smart ass, so be it. 8v)

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