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Today in My History

2001:  Everything Old Is New Again
Got an Itch? SCRATCH IT!
2003:  Call Me Frieda
2004:  Roll of the Dice
2005Home in Time for Oscar

2006:  The Fat Lady Ain't Singing
2007: So Let's Talk CompUSA

2008:  Dog * Weight - Memes

The Winter's Tale

Books Read in 2009
Updated: 2/28
"The Thunderbolt Kid" 

Recipes for Cousins Day Drinks
(created 2/12/09)

Home Remedies


The Perils of Pauline from Bev Sykes on Vimeo.

and on You Tube

Look at these videos!
Ant Superhighway (thanks, Ned)
Icicle Orchestra
BBC - Pedigree Dogs Exposed
Potty Trainer from Hell
New York, New York (Liza & Frank)
Balls in San Francisco

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Says You Trip

Mirror Site, for RSS feed:
Airy Persiflage

Bev's 65 x 365
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1 March 2009

In her blog entry today, Noble Pig, really touched a nerve.  ("Noble Pig," btw, is the nom de plume of a writer for the on-line magazine, Davis Life, which has amazing photography and those mouth-watering recipes submitted by Noble Pig herself, complete with gorgeous step-by-step photos.  If you want to know about life in Davis, with photos that will often blow you away, this is the shop for it!)

Anyway, her entry was called "I have to sit on my hands" and it talked about how difficult it was for her not to get involved with her kids' art projects, not to clean up as they go along, not to "make it prettier," or better somehow.  The accompanying photo was of her kids' Pinewood derby cars.

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The Pinewood derby was the bane of my existence, when our kids were in Scouting  (Yes, our boys were in the Boy Scouts -- those were the days before its leadership had been taken over by religious fundamentalists who began to wage a war against gay and athiest boys and leaders, when anybody could participate, no matter what -- just like they do in all the other countries of the world, except this one!)

But I digress!

For those who don't know, the Pinewood Derby is a racing event for Cub Scouts, who, with the help of parents, build their own cars from kits containing a block of pine, plastic wheels and metal axles.  Notice it says "with the help of parents."

Some parents always take the "help" part a bit too literally and when the cars show up for the race, they look like they just came off the prototype desk at some auto manufacturer's think tank.  They are perfectly shaped, perfectly painted, polished to a high gloss, and, of course, they usually win because they have all the proper aerodynamics.

There was one kid in town who came every year with his perfectly made Pinewood Derby car that would not have been out of place on the shelf of a local model car store.  Not only did he have the perfect car, but his father wouldn't even let him put it on the track.  It had to be placed "just so."  He usually won, of course, but you wonder if the kid felt any pride in the win.

I won a big prize in a contest once.  It was a writing contest.   The nuns had information about the Harold Harding Memorial Essay Contest, sponsored by a group called The Propeller Club of The United States.  You were supposed to write an essay about the Merchant Marine, not exactly a real hot topic at an all girls' high school! 

Day after day I was excused from class so I could meet in the library with the nun who was supervising me and slowly but surely my essay took shape.  Only it wasn't my essay.  It was the nun's.  What I remember of the experience is essentially taking dictation while she told me what to write.

When it was finished, I knew no more about the Merchant Marine than I did before I started to write because the nun had written the entire thing for me. 

There were lots of us who won prizes--some 25, I believe.  (I found the letter that I received which told me I'd won a prize.  I had to laugh when it said that I should ask the elevator man for directions to the 13th floor.  Is it so hard to find the 13th floor in an elevator?  Don't you just press the "13" button?)

My mother received a note stating that the committee "shares with you a genuine and sincere pride in the accomplishments of the prize winner in whose life you serve as a guiding light."

The prize winners were invited to attend a banquet with one of our parents and they began handing out prizes.  The farther up the list they went, the bigger the prizes got.  I don't remember what first prize was -- probably some big money.  But I won fifth prize and my prize was a cruise from San Francisco to Los Angeles on one of the big American President Line cruise ships -- the President Cleveland.

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After the banquet I received a follow-up letter of congatulations stating, "Not only are we proud of the work you have done thus far in connection with your interest in our country's maritime industry, but also we wish you further and continued success in whatever life pursuits you undertake, and we trust that your enjoyment of your contest prize and your ever expanding interest in shipping, trade, and related fields will be a constant source of strength and joy over the years to come."

I went on the cruise with my mother and my sister.  It was just an overnight cruise.  Someone (it was probably my father) arranged for a newspaper photographer to come and take our picture because I was the big prize winner.

We really had a great time and, since it was about a year after Disneyland opened, we spent the day at the park.  Then we flew home (my first trip on an airplane too).  I don't remember if the flight home was part of the prize package or not.

It really was fun, but to this day I feel guilty about it.  I have zero pride in the win and I feel like I took the prize under false pretenses because I didn't really write anything original except what my counselor told me to write.   (Who could have known I would spend a huge chunk of the rest of my life transcribing dictation!)

I wonder if little Pinewood Derby Johnny feels the same way about all his Pinewood Derby trophies.  I knew even as a kid that I had been encouraged to cheat by the nun who was helping me.  Did Pinewood Derby Johnny realize that all of those cars he entered in the race were cheating?

Parents (and mentors) have to give kids pride of ownership, not the sense that cheating is OK as long as you win.  Our kids worked with Walt to build their own cars, but he advised--he didn't take over the project.  Their entries looked like they'd been made by a kid, and they never won, but I suspect they had more fun with the project than little Johnny did watching his dad do it for him so he could take home the top prize.


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On the deck of the President Cleveland



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