545 people are responsible for the mess, but they unite in a common con

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The passing of noted columnist Charles Krauthammer made me pine for the straight talking, clear thinking columnists I grew up reading. They are becoming rarer and rarer to find. Krauthammer was one. In my day, the one columnist whose earned my respect and admiration was Charley Reese.  I appreciated his no nonsense style and common sense approach to observing the world around him.  Here is arguably his most widely circulated column first published in 1984.

February 3, 1984|By Charley Reese

Politicians are the only people in the world who create problems and then campaign against them.

Have you ever wondered why, if both the Democrats and the Republicans are against deficits, we have deficits? Have you ever wondered why, if all the politicians are against inflation and high taxes, we have inflation and high taxes?

You and I don’t propose a federal budget. The president does. You and I don’t have the constitutional authority to vote in appropriations. The House of Representatives does. You and I don’t write the tax code. The Congress does. You and I don’t set fiscal policy. the Congress does. You and I don’t control monetary policy. The Federal Reserve Bank does.

One hundred senators, 435 congressmen, one president, and nine Supreme Court justices – 545 human beings out of 238 million- are directly, legally, morally and individually responsible for the domestic problems that plague this country.

I excluded the members of the Federal Reserve Bank because that problem was created by the Congress. In 1913, Congress delegated its constitutional duty to provide a sound currency to a federally chartered but private central bank.

I exclude all of the special interest and lobbyists for a sound reason. They have no legal authority. They have no ability to coerce a senator, a congressman or a president to do one cotton-picking thing. I don’t care if they offer a politician $1 million in cash. The politician has the power to accept or reject it.

No matter what the lobbyist promises, it is the legislator’s responsibility to determine how he votes.

Don’t you see now the con game that is played on the people by the politicians? Those 545 human beings spend much of their energy convincing you that what they did is not their fault. They cooperate in this common con regardless of party.

What separates a politician from a normal human being is an excessive amount of gall. No normal human being would have the gall of Tip O’Neill, who stood up and criticized Ronald Reagan for creating deficits.

The president can only propose a budget. He cannot force the Congress to accept. it. The Constitution, which is the supreme law of the land, gives sole responsibility to the House of Representatives for originating appropriations and taxes. O’Neill is speaker of the House. He is the leader of the majority party. He and his fellow Democrats, not the president, can approve any budget they want. If the president vetoes it, they can pass it over his veto.

Just 545 Americans have fouled up this great nation.

It seems inconceivable to me that a nation of 235 million cannot replace 545 people who stand convicted – by present facts – of incompetence and irresponsibility.

I can’t think of a single domestic problem, from an unfair tax code to defense overruns, that is not traceable directly to those people.

When you fully grasp the plain truth that 545 people exercise complete power over the federal government, then it must follow that what exists is what they want to exist.

If the tax code is unfair, it’s because they want it unfair. If the budget is in the red, it’s because they want it in the red. If the Marines are in Lebanon, it’s because they want them in Lebanon.

There are no insoluble government problems. Do not let these 545 people shift the blame to bureaucrats, whom they hire and whose jobs they can abolish; to lobbyists, whose gifts and advice they can reject; to regulators, to whom they give the power to regulate and from whom they can take it.

Above all, do not let them con you into the belief that there exist disembodied mystical force like “the economy,” “inflation” or “politics” that prevent them from doing what they take an oath to do.

Those 545 people and they alone are responsible. They and they alone have the power. They and they alone should be held accountable by the people who are their bosses – provided they have the gumption to manage their own employees.

Michael Ondrasik and Home Video Studio specialize in the preservation of family memories through the digitalization of films, videotapes, audio cassettes, photos, negatives, and slides. For more information, call 352-735-8550 or visit our website.

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Batman

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Did I ever tell you all about my bat encounter?  It was probably not one of my finest moments.  Picture me, alone in a house. Watching television in a pair of gym shorts and not much else. It was summer. And hot.

I noticed a smudge on the fireplace bricks. Never noticed it before. I went up to wipe it off but as I reached out my hand, it flew away.

My scream broke a decibel level, I’m sure. Last time I heard anything like that come out of my mouth was at the end of Carrie when (SPOILER ALERT) Carrie’s hand reached out of the grave.

My mind came to grips with the situation. I had a bat in the house. I was the only one home. It was up to me to defend the homestead. I needed to gear up.

Protect my feet – cowboy boots. Protect my hands –  winter gloves. Wait a minute… didn’t I hear that bats like to nest in hair? On goes the cowboy hat.  Now I look like the consummate bat hunter. Gym shorts, cowboy boots, big insulated gloves, bare chested, with a stetson to complete the outfit.

And to capture the flying demon?  What else… a tennis racquet. Did I mention that I was alone in the house?  Thank goodness. There would be no photographic evidence of any of this.

I stalked the creature around our living room and for a terrifying quarter of an hour it was man against flying mammal. I swung my tennis racquet with wild abandon any time it fluttered in my direction, looking every bit the weekend tennis player that I was. Suddenly, out of frustration, I flung the racquet up in disgust and accidentally clipped the bat which zigged when it should have zagged. It crashed to the floor.

I quickly placed a trash can on top of it and sat back, spent.  Now what? I caught a bat. I knew I had only stunned it. So what do I do?

I settled on the humane option. I took the trash can out to the patio, removed the lid and let the bat fly free into the night sky. But I can’t help thinking that while I had a funny story to tell my friends, the bat had a much better tale to tell – the story about a near-naked cowboy tennis player with big hands who in a moment of compassion, let him go.

Michael Ondrasik and Home Video Studio specialize in the preservation of family memories through the digitalization of film, videotapes, audio recordings, photos, negatives, and slides. For more information, call 352-735-8550 or visit our website.

You’ve Got Mail!

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Who can forget that iconic greeting or the soothing but irritating dial up tones you heard when accessing your America OnLine account? For those old enough, the odds are that AOL was your first introduction to the wonders of the Internet.

AOL began in 1983 and went through a number of transitions before hitting it big by becoming America’s gateway to the Internet. I first used it with my Commodore 64. The Commodore 64 was an 8 bit system and took its name from the fact that it possessed a whopping 64 kilobytes of RAM. It was far from being blazingly fast but we didn’t care. Back then, we were amazed at the world it introduced us to.

This comes to mind because I had a woman in my studio yesterday with a dilemma. She had a box of old floppy disks that contained a bunch of .art files. These files could not be opened with any program known to her.

.art is a file format that AOL used for graphic images to facilitate transfer speeds. It was a highly compressed file format that is unfortunately no longer used in today’s gigabyte world.

I was unable to help her recover the files that were on those floppy disks because the programs used to read those files are no longer in existence. I asked if perhaps she still had access to the computer which made the files or a backup of the original computer’s hard drive. But she did not. And unfortunately, no other program that I know of can open the files, uncompress them and render a readable image that can then be exported to a different format that can be accessed, stored or printed with today’s equipment.

I truly hate disappointing people. But it served as a rude reminder that technology is continually advancing and as it does, it makes our old technical standards obsolete and unsupported. We can and do work wonders with many of the old formats that were once popular decades ago. But as time continues to advance, our abilities to access older and more obscure formats will grow less and less. It is, unfortunately, the way of the world. If you have memories stored on devices or in files that you currently can’t access, you may want to think about getting them transferred soon before that option is taken away from you forever.

Michael Ondrasik and Home Video Studio specialize in the preservation of family memories through the digitalization of films, videotapes, audio recordings, photos, negatives, and slides. For more information, call 352-735-8550 or visit our website.

Killing The Black Dress

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I will apologize in advance if this post comes off a bit sexist. It is certainly not my intent. But political correctness doesn’t change the fact that men do some things differently than women. Case in point: Shopping.

Men are hunters. We typically will shop only when we have to and we have to know what it is we’re after. Browsing is not allowed on a hunt. Hunting is specific, targeted, controlled. And you don’t quit until you bring home the game.

My wife will go shopping for an item, spend 5 hours in the mall, only visit three stores and come home disappointed that she didn’t find it. But she will manage to buy three other things she wasn’t looking for.

I vowed to teach her the man’s way. And I had the opportunity. We attend a formal affair once a year. I wear the same tux every year. My wife insists on wearing a new outfit. So I told her that we were going to shop for her dress together. I was going to teach her how to kill the black dress.

We went to the Millennia Mall in Orlando. Bloomingdales, Nordstroms, Ann Taylor, Black and White, Neiman Marcus, Macy’s… A target rich environment.

Before we went into the first store, I gathered the intelligence. We needed a formal gown (men, that means it has to be long). My wife gets cold easily so she wanted it to have sleeves. She doesn’t like frills and ruffles so nothing too flowery. Simple, elegant lines. 

First store, straight to the sale rack. Found three possibilities. She turned them all down. No problem… I was ready to move on. She was looking at cocktail dresses. Nipped that in the bud.

Next store, straight to the sale rack. Not much there but found one that might work. She tried it on. Nixed it. Not discouraged. We have just begun and we’re in the zone. Nice energy flow working.

Next store. Jackpot. Multiple dresses. Each one matching all her specifications. I loaded her up and sent her to the dressing room. I waited, confident that the black dress was cornered and we’d be taking it home.

Thirty minutes later she comes out wearing a dress I didn’t give her. Sleeveless, strapless, with ruffles (I later learned that it was called ruching, not ruffles.) Despite the fact that she went off the reservation with her choice, it was still a record breaking shopping expedition for her. We were making progress.

The formal event arrived. In our hotel room, she spent her requisite time getting ready, waiting until the last minute to put the dress on lest it get wrinkled. Her anguished cry alerted me that the black dress might not have been killed after all. Turns out that a sleeveless, strapless gown requires a specific kind of bra to wear underneath. One that we did not pack.

It was ten minutes until we were to walk the red carpet. Out comes the smartphone. I found a Victoria’s Secret less than a mile from the venue. I used to get embarrassed when I would find myself in certain situations.  Marriage has driven that right out of my system.  I ran the mile in my tux, burst into Victoria’s Secret sweating and panting and cried at the top of my depleted lungs, “Quick, I need a bra!” You can imagine the attention I received. But I killed the bra, delivered it to my wife, and was every bit the mighty hunter providing for his mate.

Next year, we’re shopping online.

Michael Ondrasik and Home Video Studio specialize in the preservation of family memories through the digitalization of film, videotapes, audio cassettes, photos, negatives, and slides. For more information, call 352-735-8550 or visit our website.

My Favorite Fathers’ Day Song

I came across this song when I was looking to pay tribute to my own dad. Here’s the short video I posted online last year.

The song, My Dad, was sung by Paul Peterson who played Jeff Stone on The Donna Reed Show. It reached #6 on the Billboard charts.

The song was written by Barry Mann after the death of his own father. Mann and his wife, Cynthia Weil were among the most prolific songwriters of their day having penned such hits as “You’ve Lost That Loving Feeling,” “On Broadway,” “Somewhere Out There,” and my personal favorite “Who Put the Bomp (in the Bomp Bomp Bomp?)

A few years later, the song was covered by none other than Davy Jones of The Monkees. Now I’m a big Monkees fan but the only rendition of this particular song that I want to hear is Petersen’s. Maybe it is because when it was first broadcast on his TV sitcom, with his character singing this song to his TV dad played by Carl Betz, it was such an emotionally powerful and personal statement that the song just seems to belong to them.

If you’ve never seen it, I’ve posted it below.

To all the dads out there… thank you. You know why.

Michael Ondrasik and Home Video Studio specialize in the preservation of family memories through the digitalization of films, videotapes, audio recordings, photos, negatives and slides. For more information, call 352-735-8550 or visit our website.

 

Memory Lapses

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Hey, it happens to all of us. We take great pains to record the special moments of our lives. Then we tuck them away to make sure they are kept safe and secure. After 30 or 40 years, we take them back out only to find that we can’t watch them any more because the technology we used back then is now obsolete.

So we find someone like Home Video Studio who can convert our old memories to a digital form that will play on today’s equipment. All well and good but we’re not out of the woods yet. As we are watching those memories play back… the ones we haven’t seen for decades… we discover that we don’t recognize some of the people or places that appear on the screen.

It happens more often than you think. I had an elderly couple watch some of their 8mm film that I transferred for them. The footage opened with a pair of toddlers under a Christmas tree. I could see their confused expressions. They looked at me and actually asked if perhaps I was showing them someone else’s film. They were so adamant that I began to doubt myself. I doubled checked but it absolutely was their footage.  As we continued to watch, they eventually realized that the toddlers on the screen were their own children — just 60 years younger then they are now.  It turns out, my clients had never seen that particular 8mm film before. It was shot but never viewed. Tears were certainly shed once we recognized what we were seeing.

Now sometimes, the mysteries are never solved. No worries. I’ve had people come back to me and ask me to edit sections of their movies in order to remove people or places that no longer have any relevance to their lives. Once the film or video has been digitalized, editing that footage is relatively easy to accomplish. We have the ability to shape your memories to your exact specifications, allowing you to enjoy your past exactly the way you want to remember it.

Michael Ondrasik and Home Video Studio specialize in the preservation of family memories through the digitalization of film, videotapes, audio recordings, photos, negatives, and slides. For more information, call 352-735-8550 or visit our website.

Why Two Are Cheaper Than One

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It is a question that gets asked frequently. So much so that I have posted a video FAQ addressing the issue but since it came up again yesterday in the studio, here’s the question and the short explanation.

“Can you put the footage from multiple tapes onto the same DVD?”

The answer is yes, if you want us to, but it will actually cost you more. It is less expensive to have each video transferred to its own disc. Here’s why.

There’s two methods of combining videos:

1- Via a monitored capture. I watch your first video as it is playing and at the precise moment it ends, pause the recording, eject tape 1 and insert tape 2, hit play and continue the recording process so the second tape is being transferred onto the same DVD. But that means that I cannot do anything else in the studio while tape 1 is playing. And so there’s an additional charge for the time spent monitoring the process and manipulating the controls.

2- Through editing. I capture video 1 and then capture video 2. I then take those two files to my editing desk, lay the two files down onto a single timeline and re-encode the footage to a new combined file and burn that to a disk. It is a three step process that carries with it a labor cost.

The most cost effective way to transfer your tapes to a DVD is to let my machines do what they are designed to do. Capture the video footage of a tape and burn that footage to the disk. Once I set up the machine for your tape, the rest is an automated process and I can back out any of the labor or time cost elements to give you the lowest available price.

Just know that most anything is possible to do but there there are price considerations for every option. We work with each of our customers to find the best solutions to meet both their needs and their budgets.

Michael Ondrasik and Home Video Studio specialize in the preservation of family memories through the digitalization of films, videotapes, audio cassettes, photos, negatives and slides. For more information, call 352-735-8550 or visit our website.

The New Normal Isn’t Normal At All

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I attended our local Chamber of Commerce breakfast meeting yesterday. I don’t know if you can tell from the photo above but the guest speaker was the Sheriff of Lake County who introduced us to a leading expert on active killer situations. He spoke to us on our country’s long history regarding mass attacks and school massacres. Surprisingly, it is nothing new.  It just feels like it is. That doesn’t make me feel any better. 

My generation never practiced for terrorist attacks or school shootings.  It simply wasn’t on our radar. We were an in-between generation. Too late for the Cold War and too early for domestic terrorism. In my day, the only defense training we received was a twice a year fire drill which hardly any of us took seriously. We got up, marched down the hallways in a straight single-file line until we were outside and then our nature took over and we became kids at recess.

The generation before me wasn’t as lucky. They were taught the duck and cover maneuver to “protect” themselves during nuclear attacks. 

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Speaking frankly, that always seemed a little silly to me. My school desk was unable to protect me from the spitballs lobbed from David Cook seated a row behind me… I somehow think it would not have been an effective deterrent to an H-bomb lobbed from a Russian sub.

These days, whole classrooms are being taught the Run, Hide, Fight response. Instead of teaching our children to be victims (aka Duck and Cover), they are being taught how to take action to try to avoid being victims. It is great training but in my opinion, it is something that we, as a society, should be ashamed by the fact that it even has to be part of the curriculum. Not that it isn’t needed… it is. And that is why we should be ashamed.

Our culture is what it is and there are so many moving parts to it that it is difficult to effect overall change except in gradual steps. But that doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t make the attempt. It took a while for us to get to the sad and unfortunate place that we are… and it will take a while to move us back to where we should be. But every step we take in that direction will be worth the effort. There is nothing normal about this “new normal” in which we find ourselves. 

Michael Ondrasik and Home Video Studio of Mount Dora specialize in the preservation of family memories through the digitalization of film, videotapes, audio recordings, photos, negatives and slides. For more information, call 352-735-8550 or visit our website.

It Is Funny The Things You Remember…

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We always enjoy talking to the customers that come into the studio… getting to know them… hearing their stories… It never ceases to amaze me the many connections I can make between their memories and mine. Today, we were helping a woman with a video tape that she needed converted to a digital form. In speaking with her, she informed us that she owned a roller skating rink. The memories came flooding back.

Our youngest son could skate like an Olympian. There was a grace he possessed on the ice (with blades) or on the wood (with wheels) that defied explanation. He was a natural. But he was also a guy’s guy. And he discovered hockey. First roller hockey but he eventually graduated to the ice.

I wish I could tell you the fond memories of watching him compete and perform intricate movements that seemed impossible to me… but that isn’t what I remember most.

I wish I could tell you of the exciting games I was privileged to watch as a spectator, cheering my son on from the bleachers and celebrating their wins… but that isn’t what I remember most.

I can, however, tell you about the ride home. You see, in order to get the ice time, we had to join a league about 90 minutes from the house. And after the game, where he gave his all on the ice, my son took off his uniform, dressed in his street clothes, and stuffed his gear: jersey, pads, and everything else into his gigantic hockey bag which I then hefted into the back of our car. To say it was aromatic would be an insult to noses everywhere. I have never in my life before or since experienced a stench like the one that came from that hockey bag. And I’m the son of a gym teacher. I grew up around locker rooms.

The week in between games were spent trying to neutralize the locker room scent from the bag. And we tried everything. Nothing really worked. We sprinkled it with lemon freshener. It just made it smell like lemon sweat. We tried airing it out in our backyard which I think is why we didn’t see many birds come to our feeder during hockey season. I contemplated chucking everything into our pool and using super-chlorinator tablets to see if that would do anything but chickened out… not because I might have to replace his gear but because I thought I would somehow ruin the pool.

Still, a little acrid exposure was a small sacrifice to make in order to watch your children engaged and enjoying one of their passions. And I truly did enjoy watching him skate. Still do.

Michael Ondrasik and Home Video Studio of Mount Dora specialize in the preservation of family memories through the digitalization of films, videotapes, audio recordings, photos, negatives, and slides. For more information, call 352-735-8550 or visit our website.

Have I Got A Girl For You!

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So I released the images taken at our corporate photo shoot today. What you see above was one of the pictures that made the final cut. Thanks to all who left positive comments. We agree… we think they turned out fairly well. Thank you to Stephen Flint Photography who worked with us throughout the process.

Seeing the picture, I couldn’t help but reflect on the passage of time. This past April, my wife and I celebrated our 26th year of marriage. Here’s what we looked like in our “infancy.”

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Personally, I think we look better today than we did back then. But then again, photo retouching has come a long way since those days.

Still, digging out this old wedding photo reminded me that it almost didn’t happen. I think I blogged about how I met my future wife while doing a play in Orlando. We were cast opposite each other. She caught my eye immediately. What I didn’t know at the time was that I also caught hers… just not in the way I would have wanted. She shared with me much later that she tried to set me up with a girlfriend of hers. Apparently I was good enough for a friend… but I didn’t quite exceed past that bar. At least not at the start.

Fortunately I was too obtuse to pick up on the hints that she wanted to introduce me to someone. Sometimes being unaware works out for you. What did Forrest Gump say? “Stupid is as stupid does.” I’ll take that kind of stupid every day because sometime during the long rehearsal period I must have grown on her. She eventually stopped dropping the hints about getting together with some “friends” and just decided to spend time with me.

Personally, I think she made a good decision but I can’t speak for her.  (Well, I could but I’ve learned not to – stupid is as stupid does, remember?)

Michael Ondrasik and Home Video Studio specialize in the preservation of family memories through the digitalization of film, videotapes, audio recordings, photos, negatives and slides. For more information, call 352-735-8550 or visit our website.