Monday, October 26, 2009

I Am Voting In Favor Of MAPS 3

Here in Oklahoma City we have this thing called MAPS. The acronym is for Metropolitan Area Projects.

We voted on the original MAPS in 1993 about the time I was in the process of moving away from the Oklahoma City area. A few of the original projects included what is now called the Oklahoma River, a canal through the Bricktown area, a baseball stadium, an arena, and a few other things.

1993 was still a tough year for a lot of us in the Oklahoma City area. I thought the entire MAPS proposal was inspired by something near lunacy if not worse. All together the projects were estimated to cost some $300 Million plus. It was to be funded by a temporary one cent sales tax.

Besides the economic issue of removing that much money from the local economy and spending money on absurdly crazy projects there was the very widespread distrust of our local government.

But that first MAPS passed much to my surprise. But I was more surprised when I returned to Oklahoma City in November 1998 and observed the changes wrought by MAPS. It wasn't only the physical construction projects that had changed the place either.

There was a change in attitude. People were more upbeat and there was a civic pride that had not been apparent to me before I left.

Next there was a program called MAPS For Kids that was designed a little like MAPS but was for metropolitan area schools.

Then there was a kind of mini-MAPS just a year or so ago to upgrade the downtown arena for a basketball team.

There is not a chance that I personally would have supported any of the projects undertaken by any of these measures.

In just a short time we'll vote on MAPS 3.

I would not support any of the projects proposed in MAPS 3 either. I am pretty certain I will never use any of the finished projects nor am I likely to personally benefit in any way.

And I admit that when I first heard about MAPS 3 I was skeptical and pretty negative.

But I've thought more about it and I've decided I want to continue what the original MAPS began.

The big MAPS 3 projects include a large downtown park, a downtown streetcar system, and a new convention center. Then there are several smaller projects. The total cost is estimated at $777 Million to be paid for by a one cent sales tax.

I think all those individual projects are crazy. I wouldn't spend a nickel for them. I'm pretty sure there is no way to prove any kind of economic return on any of them either with the possible exception of the convention center. And I suspect it is more likely negative.

But I'm going to vote yes to extend the sales tax.

I'm going to trust the City government to use the money wisely and in the same spirit as MAPS 1.

There's a lot of opposition to this new MAPS especially by the local fire fighters and police and a pretty vocal group of other assorted folks.

So I have no idea how this is going to turn out.

But I've made my decision.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Contrast In Belief

This morning in my Bible reading I was in the New Testament in Luke 1. Well I was in John 1, too, but I'm writing more about what I noticed in Luke 1.

What I noticed was the contrast between Zachariah and Mary.

Both are visited by an angel (the same one in fact, Gabriel) who tells each about a future birth of a child.

Zachariah says (The Message) "Do you expect me to believe this?"

Mary says "Yes, I see it all now: 'I'm the Lord's maid, ready to serve. Let it be with me just as you say.'"

Interesting to me is the fact Zachariah was the vocational religious person of the two.

Just found it really interesting.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Priorities and Values

Matthew 16-20 (The Message)

Jesus replied, "You, too? Are you being willfully stupid? Don't you know that anything that is swallowed works its way through the intestines and is finally defecated? But what comes out of the mouth gets its start in the heart. It's from the heart that we vomit up evil arguments, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, lies, and cussing. That's what pollutes. Eating or not eating certain foods, washing or not washing your hands—that's neither here nor there."

I have finished Hezekiah and Malachi in my daily Bible reading.

I am reminded of just how important is freedom to worship.

I fear that many of our time do not recognize the importance and it is a freedom that may be lost.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

There I Fixed It

A friend sent me pictures of various handyman repairs the other day.

All the images were stamped with the name of a web site which I had to check out on my own of course.

So if you need a good laugh or some good ideas about how to fix stuff check out:

There I Fixed It

Lot's of uses of duct tape.

Fact stranger than fiction.

etc.,.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Ezra Trusting God

In my daily Bible reading the other day I was in Ezra 8 and found the passage beginning at verse 21 to be very interesting:
I proclaimed a fast there beside the Ahava Canal, a fast to humble ourselves before our God and pray for wise guidance for our journey—all our people and possessions. I was embarrassed to ask the king for a cavalry bodyguard to protect us from bandits on the road. We had just told the king, "Our God lovingly looks after all those who seek him, but turns away in disgust from those who leave him."

So we fasted and prayed about these concerns. And he listened.
Ezra was preparing to journey to Jerusalem with quite a group of people and items for rebuilding the temple. Ezra was not without reason to be concerned about theft because later we learn that he was carrying "25 tons of silver, 100 vessels of silver valued at three and three-quarter tons of gold, 20 gold bowls weighing eighteen and a half pounds, 2 vessels of bright red copper, as valuable as gold."

One might desire a small army to guard that much stuff nowadays as well as protecting a rather large group of people.

At first when I read this I thought Ezra had actually asked the King for help so I had to read it a few times.

Does remind me of discussions I've had in my life when I've expressed my faith that the Lord would take care of me.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Those Who Debate

Over the last decade or so I've read a lot of postings from various email lists, forums, web sites, blogs and so on.

In so doing I've noticed that there are different kinds of people who participate.

Of course there are the moderators who comprise the forum police force. Sometimes this is the same as the forum owner or operator but frequently not.

There are trolls who post in order to start a fight of some kind.

There are lurkers who read and don't post much.

There are frequent posters who have an opinion on everything and post on everything.

But I've become interested in those who like to debate on forums. There is the proponent who takes the affirmative and argues forcefully. There is the opponent who does the same but against the proposition.

Both the proponent and opponent types fall into two major types. On the one hand is the person who argues the issues. On the other is the one who immediately brings personal attack and derision to the argument.

There is also the undecided. These seem to be particularly despised on so many forums.

There is also the person who is often a lurker but who occasionally posts an opinion and then simply retreats back into lurkdom.

I suspect in many ways these forums do mirror to some extent how we act as a people.

Friday, September 25, 2009

What Did I Learn From College?

I graduated from the University of Oklahoma more than 39 years ago now.

Someone asked me the other day what I learned in college. I told them that I was considering a blog post about that subject because I thought I had enough perspective now to address it.

My friend laughed. I was serious. He's old enough to understand what I said. So I laughed, too.

That very morning I was privileged to meet some young college students and listen to them talk about their experiences. One was a first year student and the other a junior I think. They both talked about how fearful they were about going to college and how the decision of where and what and how loomed so large in their minds.

To myself I thought I could tell them there would be plenty of other opportunities to screw up their lives other than which college to attend and that on balance the decision of where to go for college would not prove so important in the long term.

But I decided there was no point in letting them know that at this stage in their lives since it is something they will soon find out on their own. No point in unsettling a perfectly good day.

I read a quote the other day that I liked: "As you go through life you are going to have many opportunities to keep your mouth shut. Take advantage of all of them." I don't know the attribution but it's pretty good advice.

My own choice of colleges was pretty easily made actually. The University of Oklahoma was just a few miles away and I could drive there every day before work. That made it the least expensive choice and, therefore, the correct one.

But what did I learn there?

Well, of course, I learned what I studied although honestly there is not very much I remember of any of it.

I think the question though really addresses the "life lessons."

I learned a lot of things actually and some in surprising ways. For instance there is that History of Science course that I took because of some requirement. I didn't want to take it. But really it proved to be one of the best courses because it helped me understand there was a human side to science that my then idealism failed to appreciate.

There were other courses that were forced upon me that I never would have voluntarily pursued. They contributed to one life lesson which I think is that doing some work not of our own choosing is a good thing.

But I think the biggie thing I learned was just how big the world really is. And that there are a lot of people. And all those people are the same but different and there is so much to learn and do and think about.

At the same time though I learned that the specialties were so fabulously complex that the more you learned the more questions were found. One of those bigger on the inside things than the outside. Your degree just means you've managed to open the door.

Life is like that, too. The older you get the more you see but the more you see just makes you understand there is that much more out there to explore.

So that's what I learned from college.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Future Blog Entries

I'm working on a few: What I learned in college, The Process of Thinking, reviews.

Read Esther in my daily Bible reading yesterday and today. Used Peterson's Message Bible. Really excellent and surprised me in a few particulars.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Prairie School Style

I've had to learn all sorts of stuff about residential architectural styles recently.

The picture is the Robie House in Chicago which is a very well known example of Frank Lloyd Wright's Prairie School style.

Turns out I like this style very much. Also turns out I am not alone.

Then I ran across one of those quizzes about what is your house style so I answered the questions as best I could. Couldn't really answer them because they were multiple choice and on several there were no choices that I would have chosen but I had to in order to proceed. For instance on choosing my favorite color there was no choice for white which is my favorite color so I chose blue because that's probably my next favorite. I almost chose gray but blue won out.

Anyway that test said I was definitely a ranch style house kind of guy. And I really can't much argue with that because I really do like ranch style homes. But the quiz didn't include prairie style.

What I like about the prairie style is the emphasis of the horizontal, the low sloped hip roofs, the windows and details, the wonderfully huge overhang, and the natural exteriors. I was interested to learn that inside the homes are open and flowing. That was a big deal at the time because so many houses were comprised of little rooms.

Wright believed that the inside of the house defined the outside as I understand it. The prairie style name comes from a plan by Wright that appeared in the 1901 Ladies Home Journal titled "A Home In A Prairie Town."

He wanted the houses to blend in with the flatness of the prairie terrain. That definitely fits our land.

Now what I do not like is the McMansion style which is also known as the Neoeclectic style. Another form of Neoeclectic is the Dallas style which is so common now around our area.

The photo is from Wikipedia and is actually kind of a moderate example compared to some I've seen in real life.

I really dislike all those steep, gable roofs. And I dislike the mixing of the different styles of facade material as well as the mixing of architectural styles.

In 1936 Wright developed another style that was called Usonian in the 1950's. It grew out of the Prairie style. I was interested in this and think I may have posted something before about it because my Dad actually built several houses of that style right after he returned from World War II. The Usonian style also was very horizontal but was designed to be very affordable.

Have to decide now what I am doing with all this information.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

World Alzheimer's Day

World Alzheimer's Day

Yesterday, September 21, I am told was World Alzheimer's Day.

I didn't really know about it beforehand. Thought it was interesting though that it coincided with the 2nd anniversary of my dad's death. I don't know that I would have done anything differently had I known.

We are now told that more than 35 million people suffer from Alzheimer's or some other dementia worldwide and that number is about 10% greater than what was predicted a few years earlier.

By 2030 the number is estimated to nearly double and by 2050 a staggering 115 million persons are projected to have the disease.

After two years I find I have very little confidence in The Alzheimer's Association or any government or even any medical practitioner. That's not really a change in my confidence level from my caregiving days mind you. Actually I had zero confidence then and I still have zero confidence.

It is like those commercials for depression drugs that warn you that one of the side affects of the drug is depression. Then you learn that people that are depressed that are taking the drugs are still depressed. Not exactly a ringing endorsement.

On the other hand I am skeptical of these projected numbers, too.

There is an entire industry that grows up around diseases. I receive various kinds of advertisements for M D Anderson as well as one of our local hospitals and Cancer Centers of America. I like the latter because there is this one "doctor" that tells a "patient" that she has no "expiration notice."

Alzheimer's well on it way. It takes a lot of specialized people and facilities and so on and it is a disease that makes us all fearful.

Maybe I'm turning into an old cynic.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Two Year Anniversary

There are two family birthdays that share this date and now they are in the forefront.

As others have written about their own experiences, that time two years ago for me and, indeed, even the entire 9 preceding years of caregiving, slides further into the fog of history.

Yet, I do remember. In my own way I experience and handle the emotions of those memories.

The are many emotions: the lingering grief and sadness mixed with relief that I had managed to reach the end; the sorrow that I did not do better; the loss of my father and partner and friend; the loss of my identity -- again; the fear and excitement of the future unknown including the finding of my new "self."

It seems strange to me but the solitary time yesterday spent with shovel and wheelbarrow and the four horses was part of that process for me. It took more than 2 hours and I was worn out at the end.

Push the scoop beneath the poop until it was full and lift it to the wheelbarrow. Bucky first, then Jet in turn, had to bite one handle of the wheelbarrow and turned it over in the doing. Curious horses but so fearful of even the tiniest thing. Then push the wheelbarrow through the wet but drying lot out to the corral pasture. And do it again and again and again and finally the concrete pad is evident.

Someone asked me why I did not hire someone to do that hard and not particularly pleasant work for me. I replied that I wanted to do it myself.

But I think I did it because it would have been something my Dad would have enjoyed doing. I could imagine the two of us doing that together although it was not part of my imagining yesterday. In retrospect though I think that's a large part of why I did it.

I remember as a child how much I enjoyed working with my Dad on the farm. At the time I never would have believed that those experiences would be remembered instead of other things.

Then later when we were business partners and I relished every day seeing him and being with him. Now it is my own son that I see daily -- and relish seeing, too.

And I think of where I am myself on the curve of time.

And I think of all those others who have traveled much the same path before me.

And I think of those friends who share this time with me and I wish them all the best.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Planning

I haven't had much desire to read or write lately.

This is not particularly new as I have now observed the same thing occur more than a few times in my life. I think I've mentioned before that there is an amazingly useful value in perspective. It is just that for some things there is no way to achieve it without experience.

In my reading life I have several books underway and they are all interesting so the blame yet lies with me. Unfortunately you still have to read in order to understand, too. Maybe Apple or Amazon or Microsoft will make something that you plug in your ear (painlessly please) and a few nanoseconds later you've uploaded and understand the digital content.

On writing I haven't had much to say. It happens.

In my business life we are working on two actual contracts for land. Our Target deal is dead for now at least which is the way of current retail.

So I am spending an enormous amount of time on planning -- master planning it is called. It means we are attempting to actually plan the use for the entire 130 acres remaining of our old farm.

I find the process to be both exceedingly engaging and extremely difficult.

For one thing the process requires me and my associates and family to all individually think about what we like and want and hope. What kind of buildings do we like and what do we hate? What makes us proud and what disappoints?

Then there are all these practical considerations of engineering drainage and traffic and what might sell and what can we finance and what can we actually do.

There are details -- a myriad of details.

I've been driving around looking at all sorts of residential developments and office parks and apartments and retail centers. So many, in fact, that they have begun to blur together in my mind. Then I've been reading everything I can about "new urbanism" and creating enjoyable public spaces and so on.

It seems to me that all projects begin with a feeling of being overwhelmed by the size and complexity of the thing. That is followed by the chaos of synthesis of so many different and divergent ideas.

Then at some point there is this moment of clarity when the chaos dissolves into a set of principles that lead to differentiation of tasks and processes.

I'm not there yet but I feel it drawing near.

In the meantime I am off to shovel horse poop.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

The Year 2012

December 21, 2012 is the day that the world ends according to some.

There are all sorts of web sites about it. An example is http://www.december212012.com/.

Even WiseGEEK has a page.

There is, according to some, an astronomical object named Nibiru approaching Earth which will arrive on that date. Among the more interesting claims in my opinion is that the Vatican has built two telescopes on Earth and is launching a satellite for the explicit purpose of tracking Nibiru. There does seem to be some disagreement about Nibiru though including its name.

Apparently though it is Nibiru that is causing the magnetic pole of the earth to shift and that shift will continue to increase with some dramatic even on December 21, 2012. The dramatic event is a collision or near miss. As you might guess not everyone agrees.

There is a Survive 2012 site if anyone is interested in surviving.

There is an article on NASA about a new planet.

That's dated 7.29.2005 and the image is from October 21, 2003.

Thought that was interesting.

A good part of the 2012 stuff comes from Mayan calendar information. Some of it was popularized in the Indiana Jones film about crystal skulls.

Some of the phenomenon predicted include total shift of magnetic pole, big change in weather, big change in oceans, melting ice caps, earthquakes, volcanoes, Sun spots, shortages in food and water, economic disruptions because of shortages, wars because of shortages, and so on.

Oh and God and Jesus will be revealed to have been ancient astronauts and Christianity, Judaism, and Islam have all been covering this up for millennia.

I may have left out some stuff but I suppose you get the idea.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Surprise Gifts

It was the day after my birthday this year.

I really needed a haircut and had been putting it off. I don't know why I do that but it seems I usually do now.

During my caregiver life I made regular appointments because I had so little time free to do things and the time cost me because of paying for aides. Now I act like time doesn't cost me anything and that it belongs entirely to me. I should be more cautious about how I spend time though because really nothing has changed in fact. Rather it is the perception.

But that's a different subject and I need to return to this one.

So I called Mike who has now cut my hair for a long while. He also came to the house to cut Dad's hair. That was a very great service to me and I still remember it. I paid him for doing it of course but I remain grateful for his help.

Surprisingly he had an opening that afternoon for me.

Now it just was absolutely coincidental that my son had an appointment with Mike that day but preceding mine. My son was in the 8th grade when Mike began cutting his hair.

I arrived on time for my appointment and Mike and I had a nice chat as he cut my hair. Really he's a stylist but I am not exactly the "style" kind of guy. That's really not his fault but just the fact that I am more "style-less" than most. I think I blogged about this once.

He removed the apron and I stood up and reached for my wallet so I could pay him.

Mike said "No charge today. Your son paid for your haircut as a surprise gift for your birthday."

I was truly surprised, too. In fact I was nearly speechless. I felt a big smile on my face.

I've thought about that event many times since. Each time I again relish the pleasure of it. The last time we both had appointments on the same day I was earlier and again it was coincidental. So I paid for his appointment that time. And he was surprised. I know because he called me and thanked me.

I don't know which event gave me more pleasure: giving or receiving. Both were wonderful.

I've thought a good deal about how similarly I am surprised quite often by The Lord. Usually I am not expecting anything. Then I'm surprised by something I know the Lord gave me as a surprise. No, I can't prove it. But I know it all the same.

It makes me want to surprise Him, too.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Texas Holiness Association

Ran across this photo in stuff from my parent's home.

Texas Holiness Association merged into the Church of the Nazarene in 1910.

It is my understanding that my maternal grandfather was actually licensed initially in The Texas Holiness Association.

Perhaps he is in the group somewhere. I did look at it under a magnifying glass but saw no one that I thought might have been him.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

World Names Profiler

I thought this was a particularly interesting web site:



Mostly my surname, Fritts, is in The United States. Tennessee is the state where we are the most numerous followed by Oklahoma, North Carolina, Kentucky, Kansas, Arkansas, Missouri, Wyoming, Washington, and Alaska.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Smile and Give 'em Heaven

Last Saturday, August 29, 2009, I attended another funeral for a high school classmate.

My brother read the obituary in the Friday paper and sent me a text message because he recognized the name and thought he remembered me being in school with Ron.

I've gone to several funerals of my school mates and teachers the last few years. I don't know exactly why I go. It's not as though I've maintained friendships with many of my classmates over the years. Even those few of us that were very close in school have strayed apart.

But there's something about being children together that survives long periods of separation. I notice I now even look much more kindly upon the remembrances of classmates I actually disliked at the time or in some cases considered enemies. Perhaps it is the perspective of time or, more improbably, the onset of some gain in wisdom.

This time it was the funeral for Ron Taylor. I think he and his family arrived at our school when I was beginning high school which then was the 9th grade. He was 2 grades below me but his sister, Verna, was in my class. His father was an assistant principal if memory serves as well as being the drivers' education teacher. I don't remember knowing others in the family and didn't know there were any until the funeral.

They lived south of us about 2 miles and seems to me that we rode the same bus together at least some.

Like several friends of my approximate age Ron had been stricken with polio as a young child. I learned at the funeral that it was when he was 4 in 1953. If the poliovirus could have waited a couple of years, Ron would have undoubtedly benefited from the Salk vaccine.

But polio was not the thing that defined Ron Taylor. Even as a junior high student Ron had a big spirit and an equally big smile. Neither of those have dimmed in my memory even after 46 years or more.

Ron was 59 when he died. It was sudden and unexpected. He was a coach most of his adult life and I had heard about a couple of his assignments. When I knew him he was one strong football player.

When I knew him I was an atheist. Back then I neither knew nor cared what his faith was if any.

I was pleased to learn that he was a devout disciple of Christ and had been for a long time.

Besides me there were about 500 or maybe 600 more people there to pay Ron respect and to try and help his family's grief as much as we could by our mere presence.

I'm not the only one to write something about Ron:
The comments are worth reading as much as the articles.

It was in the service that I learned that Ron nearly always ended his conversations with others with a resounding "Smile and Give 'em Heaven!"

I like that.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Nineteenth Ammendment 89th Anniversary

Today is the 89th anniversary of the ratification of the 19th Amendment to the Constitution of the United States of America.
The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex.
I wrote more about it not long ago. But I noticed today that it was the anniversary and thought it was worth a reminder.

Still amazes me how short a time it has been that women could not vote.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Shoeless

Jeep in the shop.

Fortunately Mark knows what he is doing and I know enough to let him alone until he's finished.

New battery, starter, and some work on the starter foot pedal has been completed.

Brakes are next.

And important, too.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Baby the Cat

It was Saturday, May 30, 2009.

We were staying out at the little house in the country. As I drove into the yard by way of the pasture road I saw the cat, whose name is Baby, lying on the patio.

Just a few days had she taken to lying on the patio. Usually she was around front and when I drove in she would take up a place under my car.

Something seemed wrong so after I parked I went around to check on her. At first glance I thought to myself that she was dead. Immediately I thought about how I really so hated to tell my wife because she and that cat had been together a very long time.

So I thought I better make certain and squatted down and touched her with my hand. She didn't move at all. I stood again and touched her with the toe of my shoe and again there was no movement.

I walked inside and told Judy that I thought something was the matter with Baby and maybe she should come with me and look. Thought that was better than blurting out what I thought. Mr. Sensitive that I am.

When we got to the cat Judy sat down and ran her hand across Baby's body.

Suddenly Baby came awake with such a start that we were startled, too. She looked at us and purred. I thought she might be just a bit embarrassed. She was breathing kind of hard and I thought there was kind of a crease across one side of her head.

Really I was amazed because I thought she was gone.

The next day she was okay. Judy enjoyed a little sun bathing and Baby stayed right with Judy. Judy caressed Baby and held her and just spent time with her.

The next day was Monday, June 1.

When we returned home we didn't see Baby in any of her normal places. We looked all over for her. We walked out into the fields and along the fences and even down the road in front of the house. We walked out pretty far into the pasture.

We didn't find her but the vegetation was tall and thick so we might have missed her.

Likely she went to the creek even though it is an awful long ways but really we don't know.

So it has been more than 2 months now and I look for her at her normal places when I am at the house. And when I get the mail I always look down the driveway and miss her walking out to meet me.

Baby was not an inside cat. Last year another cat attacked her and she didn't fare too well. She was already kind of beat up. She had one floppy ear with some of it missing due to some other battle long ago. One eye was pretty rough. Part of her mouth was messed up.

Outside cats are pretty independent. It wasn't so much that she was our cat or even that we were her humans. It was more we all lived at the same place I think and she enjoyed the accommodations and the food I put out for her.

I don't know exactly what she thought of me. I think she kind of liked me because if I put my hand down she'd come over and head butt it. She'd sometimes rub against my leg. And she liked my car's shade.

I think that's pretty close to affection for an outside cat.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Health Care Debate

I watched Meet The Press yesterday.

Really I wish I had not. Usually I don't but I made an exception yesterday because I am interested in health care.

On the Obama Health Care side were Rachel Maddow, Tom Daschle, Bill Ritter, and Charlie Rangel. I suppose really I should include the show's host, David Gregory, because his position seems pretty clear to me.

Opposition included Tom Coburn and Dick Armey.

There was a fellow from the Chamber of Commerce but I missed what side he was on if he actually said.

I agreed with Senator Coburn which shouldn't surprise anyone really
.Just as an aside I actually received a telephone call from Senator Coburn's office regarding Alzheimer's and my own caregiver role during the time I was caregiving. He was the only senator that took any interest at all in any of the letters and emails I wrote and sent during that time. Representative Tom Cole also contacted me and I believe he was the only representative.
The only thing that I know for sure is that there are two sides and they seem to me to be irreconcilable.

The Democratic position as nearly as I can tell is that "they" (meaning the Democrats in power) are in favor of improving health care and that anyone opposing is in favor of either the status quo, depriving more people of health care, and/or making health care actually worse than it is.

In terms of policy the Democrats seem to favor a government controlled health care system. They would accomplish that goal with either a government system alongside the private, or a single payer system. Eventually they would like to move to total control of all medical facilities and personnel. This they say offers the greatest opportunity for cost savings by eliminating administrative bureaucracy.

The Democrats see two very evil villains: insurance companies and anyone else who oppose them. And they are not shy about excoriating their opponents.

The Republicans are adamantly opposed both philosophically and practically. However, the Republicans did agree that health care could and should be improved. They also see an evil villain, namely the Democrats.

Actually Rachel Maddow seemed particularly angry with Dick Armey. Daschle was more angry with Coburn. Rangel was just angry at everyone.

I am pretty sure if Rachel Maddow was in charge of health care that Dick Armey would be on his way to a "government clinic" to be prepared for "going home" (using language from Soylent Green).

The Democrats have the votes to pretty much do anything they want regardless of the Republican opposition. So it seems to me that the public debate and town hall meetings and so on are public relation efforts.

That said the Democrats are not tone deaf to public sentiment either and public sentiment so far is not favorable toward too much government.

Still my guess is that some kind of reform bill will make it into law. Everyone will claim victory and we'll all go on our merry way.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

End of Life

There has been a lot of discussion lately about the cost of care during the end of life period.

I wonder when you start counting the end of life period especially if you don't know when the end occurs?

In the recent house bill there was a provision, since removed, that reimbursed doctors who provided end of life counseling.

Some senator or congressman I read said that having counseling like that at the end of life was too late and it needed to happen 20 years earlier. Thought that was interesting.

I noticed an article in the Wall Street Journal that reported some rather old statistics. The article referenced a 2001 study. That's 8 years ago and I suspect things might be different now but I didn't really find more recent data (which is not to say it doesn't exist).

However, I paid more attention to the graph than the statistics after I noticed it.

But back to the stats: The 2001 study reported that each year about 5% of Medicare beneficiaries die and that spending in the last year of life accounted for 27.4% of total Medicare spending. So that last year of life is definitely expensive.

I think that was true in my parents' case but only if I include the cost of caregivers I hired and paid for myself. I never did know really what hospice cost so I can't comment on it.

Just last Friday though an attorney friend told me that he really thought we all needed end of life counseling in order to cut medical costs because that's where the most money is spent. It is kind of like robbing banks I guess.

That same idea definitely is repeated in the WSJ article.

There's even mention of a report by The Urban Institute that concluded about $10 billion per year could be saved with "better managed end-of-life care." How this would be done:
"The savings would result from training aimed at discouraging doctors from providing care simply because they would get paid for it, and from having teams at hospitals help terminally ill patients manage their pain once they chose to stop treatment, among other things."
Well there is talk about the cost of the health care plan being about $1.5 trillion over 10 years or some $150 billion per year. So $10 billion per year savings would be about 7%. Really doesn't seem like that much when you think about it that way -- at least to me.

About then I noticed the graph.

My next thought was a brief memory flash of that 1973 movie, "Soylent Green." It is set in the year 2022 in New York City where 40 million people live. There are government assisted suicide ("going home") centers ("clinics"). Soylent is a giant company in cahoots with the government that makes processed food because real food is long gone.

The newest Soylent product is a wafer called Soylent Green.

Turns out that it is made from humans who have "gone home."

I wonder if the "green" comes from the idea of recycling life?

You do have to admit that according to that Kaiser graph we could save a lot of money if all of us 65 and older just went "on home." Or maybe we should make it 3 score and 10.

We could save even more if we moved the age down to say 60. Then you wouldn't even have to pay social security at all. That would solve the social security problem, go a long ways to fixing the medicare problem, eliminate a lot of trouble with old age diseases including Alzheimer's and Parkinson's, and probably help the unemployment situation.

It is interesting to me that the cheapest years are 5 to 17. But really it is pretty much the same until age 45. Save a lot if you cut off at 45.

I started thinking about the cost for a family of 4 let's say: Father and mother in their 30's and 2 children say 5 to 17. It works out to about $7,500 per year. If I applied it to my family (me and my wife) then it works out to just about $10,000 per year. That's interesting because that's quite a bit less than my health insurance costs my business. My parents did not spend anywhere near $8,776 per year until they were about 85.

Then I began thinking about how much is an extra hour of life worth? Or an extra day? Or an extra week? Or an extra month? Or an extra year?

Depends I guess on whether it is you or someone else and whether or not there's pain or unawareness or depression or all sorts of other parameters.

It's quite a bit easier I suspect if it is someone else and someone you dislike to boot. If you like them then its probably harder.

What do you tell someone in end of life counseling? "Wow, you're about to die and really there's no sense in prolonging your life. Why don't you just go ahead and check on out now and save us all quite a bit of trouble and don't be so damn selfish."

Probably not that crude. Would be smoother -- more like Soylent Green I imagine or some of the dialogue in 1984. "Wouldn't you like to just lie down here and enjoy the pretty pictures of Earth they way it used to be and have a nice, long, deep sleep?"

Of course there's no problem really if someone has an advance directive that specifies no heroic measures be taken to prolong life. No problem because that's the consensus of the majority.

But what about the person that goes against the majority and either has no directive or actually has the gall to specify his or her desire for longer life? What then?

Does not society have the right, indeed, the obligation, to force that person to accede to the best interest of society?

Probably we would have some kind of boards established like the old draft boards I remember from the Vietnam War era. Everyone will get a card with a designation. Some people we need to keep around longer.

I'm going back to reading 1984 now.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Victim Turns Table

While I hate what happened to the victims, I loved the outcome reported in this story:

Kidnap victim in Miss. beats alleged sex attacker
By HOLBROOK MOHR, Associated Press Writer
Wed Aug 12, 1:47 pm ET
JACKSON, Miss. – Police had been watching Vincent Goff for years, convinced he was the masked man who sexually assaulted couples at gunpoint on the Mississippi coast. But before investigators closed in, they say Goff picked the wrong victim and was beaten nearly to death with his own rifle.

Goff, a 37-year-old unemployed Biloxi man with a wife and two stepsons, was being held Wednesday in the Harrison County Jail after spending five days in a hospital recovering from severe head wounds.

Little is known about Goff's background or the unidentified man who beat him so hard that the wood stock of the rifle broke. But authorities say Goff's arrest caps a terrorizing series of attacks that began on the sandy banks of the Biloxi River in 2006.

Goff allegedly approached a man and woman last Thursday afternoon on an isolated logging road in Harrison County and forced them into the woods with a rifle, Sheriff's Maj. Ron Pullen said Wednesday.

They were forced to strip off their clothes and told to perform sexual acts when the male victim, described as a physically fit member of the military in his mid-30s, wrestled the gun away.

"He beat him until the stock broke over his head and then continued to beat him until he thought he had him incapacitated," Pullen said.

As the victims were getting dressed and calling police, the attacker staggered to his car and sped away.

A deputy pulled Goff over based on a description of the car and tag number. The officer called for medical assistance and Goff ended up in an intensive care unit, Pullen said. He need numerous staples to close the gashes in his head.

Goff was charged with six counts of kidnapping, five counts of sexual assault, two counts of aggravated assault and one count of molesting an underage girl for crimes dating back to 2006. He does not have an extensive previous criminal record.

Pullen said he doesn't think Goff has a lawyer and would likely be appointed a public defender. Goff's home phone number was disconnected Wednesday.

Pullen said investigators were awaiting the results of DNA tests on previous victims when the latest attacks occurred. The results came back Friday while Goff was still hospitalized and allegedly linked him to the 2006 crimes.

The first suspected assault was on construction workers who came to the Mississippi Gulf Coast to find jobs in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, Pullen said. The man and woman had not been able to find a place to stay and were camping on the banks of the Biloxi River. A masked attacker approached early that morning, pointed a rifle and made the couple disrobe.

"He forced them to do sexual acts on each other and then he participated in it," Pullen said.

A man and underage teenage girl were assaulted in a nearly identical attack only a few months later. The attacks become increasingly violent, though the victims were not badly hurt, Pullen said.

Over the next few years, there were other attempted assaults in the area by a masked man with a rifle — one couple escaped by jumping into the river and swimming to the other side, Pullen said.

While Goff was under surveillance earlier this year as a suspect in an indecent exposure incident, investigators said they saw him steal a purse from a woman at the beach. That, along with the indecent exposure charges and other evidence, persuaded a judge to issue a warrant for a DNA test two weeks ago. Pullen said Goff's DNA matched that found at some of the crime scenes.

Harrison County Assistant District Attorney Charles Wood said the case would be presented to a grand jury.
And to be fair I hate that there was violence of any kind at all. I feel terrible for the perpetrator's family. I even feel terrible for the perpetrator himself.

But if I have to choose between perpetrator and victim I will go with the victim every time.

I admit to wondering though if Goff, the perpetrator, would sue his victim for damages. I hope not but it wouldn't surprise me.

Also wondered which TV network would make the made-for-tv movie first.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Government Health Care

Here you go from our local newspaper:
Social Security deal brings relief to Durant woman
Class-action lawsuit fought denial of benefits
BY MICHAEL KIMBALL
Published: August 13, 2009
I'm just going to retell the story though rather than print the whole thing but feel free to click the link.

Seems as though Ms. Roberta Hobbs, 75, Durant, Oklahoma had an outstanding warrant from California stemming from a 2001 car accident prior to her relocation. In 2006 our government passed a law to deny social security benefits to fugitive criminals.

The SSA in their enlightened ignorance used that law as reason to suspend Ms. Hobbs' benefits along with another 200,000 benefit recipients.

Now Ms. Hobbs at the time had an electric wheel chair, a terminal lung condition that keeps her on oxygen 24/7, and $46 per month from Oklahoma Old Age Assistance.

After she lost her social security benefits she exhausted her savings, lived with no heat in her home which had been vandalized, and with no wheelchair which someone stole.

She survived thanks to a local church, her daughter, and a few other non-governmental organizations.

She asked every government agency she could find for help but was turned down by all.

That no help was forthcoming from the government does not exactly surprise anyone who has ever had to deal with the government.

Eventually though the National Senior Citizens Law Center represented Ms. Hobbs and 5 others in a class action suit against the SSA in 2008. At this point it appears that Ms. Hobbs and her fellow plaintiffs have won that case on behalf of some 200,000 people of whom 80,000 will get their benefits returned.

The other plaintiffs: a woman whose warrant was intended for someone else; a mentally disabled man whose warrant was issued when he was 12 and ran away from his home; a stolen vehicle charge that was dismissed but not recorded properly; someone who bounced a check to a grocery store in Texas; and, another California traffic accident.

The price to the SSA is $500,000,000 plus.

Why do we want to turn more of our health system over to the same government?

And by the way there are end of life provisions in the health care bills now being discussed.

Here's a link to the text of HR 3200. The section dealing with end of life consultation is Section 1233.

No, those provisions don't explicitly state that sick people should be killed in the interest of saving money. Likewise I am certain no one that voted for the provision to deny benefits to fugitives intended to nearly kill Ms. Hobbs. But that's what happened.

In my own experience as just one example there is the case where my mother was in the hospital with a broken leg. At 3 days I was told she was due to be discharged but they had managed to secure us 3 more days. After that we had to leave. Her doctors did not want to discharge her. Her nurses didn't either. Nor did the hospital officials. It was Medicare rules that forced us out. Just a few days later my mother died. Would she have lived longer if she had been given more time? I suspect so.

So there was no explicit conspiracy on the part of the government to kill my mother. But there was certainly a lack of regard for her personal condition in light of their sacred rules.

I do not consider myself an alarmist or an extremist but I can certainly appreciate the concern that people have about this issue.

And that is from someone who had to try and talk to my own father about end of life directives after he was diagnosed with Alzheimers.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Volt

I watched on TV Mr. Fritz Henderson of the new General Motors speak about the new Chevy Volt.

Besides a web site the car has a Facebook page and a Twitter account.

He talked about the ad campaign for the new car that features the numbers "230" displayed so that the ZERO is an electric plug with a smiley face appearance. He said that 230 represents the miles per gallon efficiency rating for the car.

The Volt is likely going to sell for $40,000. According to Mr. Henderson it is designed to be used optimally by the person who drives 40 miles per day and that is supposed to be about 75% of us or something like that.

That's because 40 miles is about what you can drive on one charge of the lithium-ion battery. You just plug it in to your normal house outlet. The estimate is that a single charge is between $.75 and $2.50 depending I suppose on the cost of electricity and how depleted the battery is.

The car seats 4 adults.

The 230 mpg number is achieved using "new guidelines" about which the details are unknown. Basically the Volt on one charge can hit a maximum of 40 miles using only the battery. It does have an engine which supposedly can take you another maximum of 300 miles using gasoline at a rate of 30 mpg.

As I watched this news conference here's what I thought:
  1. The new GM is the old GM less all the people they screwed over.
  2. The new GM learned absolutely nothing from its past.
  3. Same old same old - promise more than they can deliver - same as old GM.
  4. Advertising is more important than results to both GMs.
  5. Lack of respect for the intelligence of consumers.
  6. Wonder what a battery costs for these things?
  7. Wonder about where all those batteries go when they die?
  8. Wonder about the unintended consequences?
Then I quit watching.

I have owned cars by GM, Honda, Toyota, Nissan and other manufacturers. My Hondas all got better mileage than the sticker. My Toyotas (including Lexus) got exactly what the sticker predicted. My GM cars never came close to the predicted mpg number.

Later I left work, climbed into my Lexus and drove home. And on the way I thought about the fact that I paid the same amount for my Lexus that GM is going to ask for the Volt.

And I'm pretty sure a sarcastic smile spread across my face.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Health Care Insurance

11.9% increase in our health care insurance premiums we were told by our agent.

Then he presented several options that would reduce the cost of our premiums. Of course this was achieved by either reducing some level of benefit or increasing the employee's share of medical cost or both.

But the increased cost of insurance is not really the subject of this post.

Rather I was interested in the discussion of health care and insurance and the ongoing political struggle.

The most significant thing I noticed was a stunning paradox. On the one hand there was uncertainty about the government plan we'd face in the future. On the other was absolute certainty that whatever plan the government ultimately enacted it would be more bureaucratic, less efficient, less effective, and more expensive.

The next most significant thing I noticed was the anger and disgust about the process that is underway to implement a broader government plan. It is the sense I think that the plan has been determined and is going to be forced upon the country period.

Our agent's clients are all relatively small businesses. He said there was not one among them that was not terribly upset about the prospect of increased government intervention.

I know something about government health insurance since I dealt with medicare for the last 10 years on behalf of my parents.

My experience does not make me very confident. I just imagine Medicare on steroids and there is this nightmarish vision of all the terrible problems I had with Medicare magnified by an order of magnitude that looms in my mind.

That's not to say that I am overwhelmingly positive about the current health care system.

It's just that I think if anyone can make it worse it is the government.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Me Watching 3D With Grandkids

I enjoyed such a happy afternoon yesterday.

My son and daughter-in-law asked if I wanted to go to the Warren Theater in Moore with them. I was also going to eat lunch with them but ended up on a phone call that interrupted lunch.

My cousin called to visit a bit. We're very close so I always take his calls. He said he was watching TV news and reading Atlas Shrugged and that made him think about me. But that is an entirely different blog post.

In the photo that's me on the aisle and my granddaughter, Emily next to me. Next to her are Austin, Kelli, Ian, and Aiden. My son took the picture so you can't see him. Seven of us all together. I bet the theater was happy to see us.

Emily took this picture of me with my iPhone. The movie hadn't started yet so there wasn't much need of the 3D glasses.

I am trying to smile. I've been working on smiling more. It seems a bit awkward. I am so impressed with those people on TV who smile all the time.

The 3D glasses seemed to give me just a little discomfort. Eventually I put on my regular glasses and then the 3D on top. I'm not sure that helped really.

And the glasses felt a little strange at first but eventually as I became more interested in the movie the glasses became more and more unnoticeable.

I have not seen a 3D movie in a long while. I was too young for the so called "golden era" of 3D in the 1950's. But there was a resurgence in 1970 with the release of The Stewardesses. This movie was "X" rated. A coworker and I snuck off from work one day and watched it in downtown Oklahoma City at one of the few then remaining grand old theaters. At the time we thought it was pretty "X" rated alright but compared to stuff today it was very mild. We hoped no one we knew recognized us and I remember we kind of turned our collars up.

The 1970 3D experience was entirely a different and much more unpleasant experience than the 2009 experience. The glasses then were not very good.

I have to say that 3D in 2009 is amazing. There were several times during the course of the movie that my perception was that things were coming at me to the extent that I wanted to reach out and grab them.

The movie itself wasn't so great but the kids seemed to really enjoy it. It wasn't a bad movie. The theme is pretty worn though. Ruthless businessman intent on monopoly unknowingly contributes to mad scientist plot to take over the world with computers. Good guys have to stop him. The wrinkle is the good guys are Guinea Pigs, a mole, and some other animals. They also have a scientist who is male, good, clueless, and has a hot, geeky girl assistant. There are some other wrinkles, too; but, hey go watch the movie.

Afterward we all drove over to Il Dolce Gelato for sorbetto and gelato. The boys and I sat together and engaged in an interesting discussion about dimensions while we enjoyed our sorbetto.

Austin said he thought maybe he would make a 5D movie sometime and maybe get rid of those glasses. So I tried to explain the concept of dimensions. That probably would have been worthwhile as a short video -- Pop Explains Three Dimensional Space.

When we left the movie all 4 grandkids wanted to ride with Pop (that's me) over to the gelateria.

As always the Warren Theater provided an excellent theater experience. In a way it does remind me of the grand theaters of my childhood but better. The quality of the sound and sight is just unsurpassed in my experience. But it is the wonderful design of the building and the comfort of the theaters and the uniformed employees and just how things are done that all contribute to a good time. It always makes me want to return to watch another movie.

I'm planning in my imagination right now a return trip with the guys at lunch maybe.

What a great time. I am just so thankful for my family and for the invitation and that I went along.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

I've Been Reading Again

I've read a lot the last few weeks and months. I get on these reading binges and just read and read and read. The Kindle doesn't help control my near addiction to reading either. I'm definitely reading more since I bought the Kindle but is that a good thing? After the reading binge though I usually go through a "sober" period where I read much less for a while.

I say "less" because I try every day to at least read the local newspaper, my Bible passages from my "Read Through The Bible in a Year" program, and my emails. That's actually quite a bit although my emails are fewer now.

There isn't any particular order here. I usually read several titles at a time anyway and the Kindle, the iPhone Kindle, and my laptops all contribute to me reading more titles at a time. And again I am uncertain if this is good or bad.

Also, I may be repeating something I've already written about here.

When God Goes to Starbucks: A Guide to Everyday Apologetics
by Paul Copan
I read about this title on a blog about the same time I happened to overhear a conversation about faith while sitting in my favorite Starbucks (Fritts Farm - Moore, Ok).

I can't really say I was misled exactly because the title clearly says it is "apologetics." But I was disappointed. I suppose for one thing I no longer really much like apologetics. For another though I thought it might be more about conversations I've actually had or overheard in Starbucks or other similar venues. But that's just me.

If you are interested in apologetics covering certain questions then this is a good book. The arguments are well conceived and logical and pretty succinct.
Retail Superstars
by George Whailin
I bought this one right after finishing the In-N-Out and jumped right into it. In-N-Out left me kind of excited about retail and I was kind of hoping for something similar in this book but covering a variety of stores. It didn't really do that.

On the other hand Whailin does a really good job of briefly describing and analyzing several retailers that were totally unfamiliar to me and that I am certain would have remained that way except for his work.

I guess I'd say interesting but nothing inspiring for me at least. There are only 7 reviews on Amazon and all gave 5 stars. I didn't review there but it wouldn't be 5 stars for sure.
The Neighbor
by Lisa Gardner
I liked this title a lot. It's kind of a cool story on several levels. Lisa Gardner never fails to satisfy on detailed research and procedures and so on and this title is one of the best she's done in that regard.

There's a husband, wife, and child. Something happens to the wife. The husband is the likely suspect -- even to the reader. Lots of computer stuff. At least one or two loose ends even at the conclusion for me at least.

On the negative the characters weren't exactly as sympathetic as I would have liked. That means I never came to really care about them too much. There was a certain feeling of contrivance that I ignored.

For me it was a good solid 3 star read though. Good book and I like Lisa Gardner's stuff.
The Fat Resistance Diet
by Leo Galland, M.D.
This is a really good book in my opinion. I learned a lot reading this book and even have tried out some of the ideas and found them rather helpful. It is about leptin resistance. If you haven't heard of leptin then by all means take a look at this book.
The Cabinet of Curiosities: A Novel
by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child
I enjoyed this book sufficiently that I have purchased another title by the same authors. I also enjoyed learning about "cabinets of curiosities" and several other subjects. I was disappointed some in the characters but found enough to keep me interested. There were several really implausibilities that bothered me but that I overlooked in the interest of my own joy. Again I've bought another title.
Scarpetta
by Patricia Cornwell
It's kind of strange that I've never been much of a Scarpetta fan but I actually became interested in this rather long book. At first I was so bored that I nearly quit but there is something to be said for stubbornness I suppose. So in the end I enjoyed the experience of reading this book. The characters didn't much win me over. The ending was nuts. Still I enjoyed it anyway.
Turning Points: Decisive Moments in the History of Christianity
by Mark A. Noll
This book was exactly what I hoped and was a very enjoyable reading experience. If you're interested in the history of Christianity this is a good choice for a quick excursion of a rather long and complicated journey.
The Snowball: Warren Buffett and the Business of Life
Alice Schroeder
Let me put it this way: DON'T BUY IT. If you do buy it don't read it. Good grief!! This thing goes on and on and on. There are all kinds of dubious facts and possibly some out and out inaccuracies. Boring. This author never heard of succinct.
The Cultivation of The Native Grape, and Manufacture of American Wines
by George Husmann
It was only $ .99. I had some interest in growing grapes there for a brief spell. Not sure it isn't a good idea even now.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Flo, Flo, Flo

Rather the Progressive Insurance character, Flo.

The actress playing the character is Stephanie Courtney.

She's 39 and married. She has a Facebook fan page with more than 8 thousand fans.

I am certain that Stephanie must be a really nice person but I cannot stand Flo and I actually turn the channel to something else if one of those annoying commercials plays while I have the remote.

And compared to my wife I am a raving fanatic.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Era of the Petabyte

Information overload

A report released last week by the US National Academies makes recommendations for tackling the issues surrounding the era of petabyte science.
1 byte = 8 bits (a letter, digit, symbol, etc.,.)
1 Kilobyte (1 K) = 1024 bytes
1 Megabyte (1 M) = 1024 Kilobytes
1 Gigabyte (1 G) = 1024 Megabytes
1 Terabyte (1 T) = 1024 Gigabytes
1 Petabyte (1 P) = 1024 Terabytes
The article states that it took more than a decade to decode the human genome with its 3 billion base pairs. That was in 2003. In only 6 years modern computers can run through that much data in a week or even less.

Wikipedia gives some examples. All of the recorded works of humankind from the advent of history to the present in all languages would be about 50 Petabytes. AT&T has about 15 Petabytes of data transferred in its network each day. Google processes about 20 Petabytes each day. Facebook has about 1.5 Petabytes of images or about 10 billion pictures.

Pretty amazing that we are now entering "the era of the Petabyte."

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Nineteenth Ammendment

The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex.

Jan 10, 1918 - Passed narrowly by The House of Representatives
October 1918 - Failed Senate by 3 votes
May 21, 1919 - Passed House of Representatives
Jun 4, 1919 - Passed Senate
Aug 26, 1920 - Ratified by Tennessee, the 36th state to do so

Feb 28, 1920 - My state, Oklahoma, ratified. (I wondered so I Binged it.)(

Mar 22, 1984 - Ratified by Mississippi - the last state to do so.

The reason for my post is that during our granddaughters' visit we watched the 2004 movie, "Iron Jawed Angels."

Before watching the movie they just assumed that women must have been able to vote a long time ago where long time means way back several hundred years in American history. They were shocked that it only happened in 1920.

When we met their father to hand them off we mentioned the movie. He thought it was before the Civil War when women could vote. He was also surprised it was just in 1920.

It was important to my wife that her granddaughters see that movie.

I understand why and I think it is important for everyone to be educated about just how recently women were unable to vote and just how badly many were treated in that struggle.

Friday, July 31, 2009

Lucia Whelan -- 911 Call

A few days ago I posted Black vs White, Police vs Citizen about an incident involving Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates, Jr. and Cambridge, MA police officer, James Crowley.

I mentioned the name of the person whose call to 911 initiated the incident. And I also repeated what I had read about Whelan in news media stories.

Turns out that what I posted was wrong because the news media stories were wrong.

Now that's not really a shocking revelation to me because in every case about which I have personal knowledge and there is a media story there are factual inaccuracies in the latter. Several times I've been interviewed myself and then read the reporter's account of what I supposedly said only to be absolutely amazed at the inaccuracy.

Since my post though the original 911 call recording and transcript has been made public and Ms. Whelan has actually made public appearance(s).

It is obvious now in hindsight that Ms. Whelan did absolutely nothing wrong and should never have been so maligned as she was by all sorts of opiners.

That includes me even though I didn't say anything bad about her. I did repeat erroneous information and I wanted to correct that.

So apologies to Ms. Whelan.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Strange Being A Parent Even Temporarily

I was a father once. Well I am still a father technically but my children are adults and I am talking about the kind of parenting one does when the children are not adults.

My granddaughters stayed with us about a week. And one day while grandma was on the phone I was asked "Can we go for a walk?"

I was stunned.

First thing I had to do was process what had just happened. Someone -- another human being -- had just asked my permission to do something. What? Suddenly I recalled that my reality had changed and there were now these people living here and I was in some kind of loco parentis role. Wow! I hadn't thought about that.

And I had been asked permission to do something mundane -- take a walk. I realized in that instant just how long it had been since I had been a real parent.

That made me recall just how many decisions and choices that parents have to make when it comes to their children. Amazing really. What an awesome responsibility to raise children.

Life experiences.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Jeep

One of my very earliest memories is riding in a Jeep that would have been a lot like this one except it was undoubtedly older.

This one is a 1950 Willys CJ-3A. That makes it 59 years old. I am still older though admittedly not by much.

I remember that early Jeep ride in some detail. My mother was driving. I think we must have been driving to our then new farm and it must have been about 1950 or 1951. It was very, very cold. There was no heater. That means it was either a military model MB or a CJ-2. I'm guessing it was MB.

I remember standing and leaning over against my mother. I was bundled up against the cold with a cap and coat and mittens. I remember they were mittens and not gloves.

Seems a funny detail to recall but I do or at least I think I do.

The cold and no heater and our bodies made the windows fog up and hard to see out.

I remember my mother shifting the manual transmission. She would have been 37 or maybe 38 then. I find myself wishing I had known my parents at that age.

Maybe it is that Jeep ride that has made me want a Jeep. Or maybe it is my experience with them when I was in the National Guard way back in 1970. Back then we had 1950 vintage Jeeps. I managed to get one stuck once between two trees when we were on a training exercise. That feat caused some consternation among my superiors.

I happened to mention the other day that I had always wanted an old Jeep. Someone said "like a 1980 vintage?" I replied "No, like a 1950 vintage."

So they've been on the lookout for one ever since.

And on Tuesday, July 21st, one appeared for sale on one of the Internet lists.

We went to look at it and decided it should come live with us at our place.

So we bought it. Now we have to get it running.

UPDATE - before posting but after I wrote the entry:

We got it running. Well, "we" is actually Mark who can do most anything mechanical. He got it running.

I did check in on him and asked how things were going and kind of acted like I knew something about stuff like fixing an old Jeep.

And if you manage to live a few years you do learn a few things about various things.

Learning about stuff is different than actually being able to do stuff.

This is also me shot from the passenger side.

One thing I notice for certain is that the steering wheel seems a whole lot closer to my stomach than it did when I was driving similar Jeeps when I was 22. This Jeep was only 20 when I was 22.

I wonder if the Jeep changed? Surely it isn't me.

The thing runs great now that I've driven it. We need a few more things but all in all I am very, very happy.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

In-N-Out Burger by Stacy Perman

In-N-Out Burger: A Behind-the-Counter Look at the Fast-Food Chain That Breaks All the Rules
by
Stacy Perman

This book was just released this year in April by Harper Business.

Really I knew nothing about this hamburger chain except that I had seen the name mentioned a few times in various discussion board posts. Usually it was along the lines of "we should get one of those" places or "why don't we have an In-N-Out here."

But it is a California chain and I've been to California a total of three times in my life. And never did I go there to eat a hamburger. So I suppose it isn't all that strange that I would not have been to an In-N-Out.

And after reading the book it makes me want to go to one just to try it for myself.

The prologue describes the opening of a store in Tuscon, AZ in 2007. The description reminded me of my own experience with the Chick-Fil-A here at Fritts Farm in Moore, OK. Except, of course, that Chick-Fil-A sells chicken and In-N-Out sells hamburgers. And Chick-Fil-A is here and In-N-Out isn't.

But there are many other similarities between the two firms. Notably both are family owned which is to say private. Both have gone their own way rather than the "corporate" way. Both have a cult-like following (I started to write "kind of" but there is no "kind of" about it). Both have a nearly fanatical obsession with customer service, food quality, and cleanliness.

All that is well and good but not so much really what fascinated me about this story. Rather it is the similarity and contrast to my own family and personal story.

I'm not bothering with a review. Amazon offers plenty of those: editorial here and user here.

My family didn't sell hamburgers but we had a family business when I was growing up and when my children were growing up and now we have another one.

Thanks to my son who was on vacation in California and was able to get this nighttime picture for me of an actual In-N-Out Burger place. That's probably about as close as I'm going to get for now.

The In-N-Out story is many stories of course as are most involving humans. Every person that worked at In-N-Out probably could tell their own story in fact and it would be just as full of drama and interest as the one in this book.

But the story of In-N-Out is more than anything else the story of Harry and Esther Snyder and their sons, Rich and Guy. Harry was born in the same year as my mother and Esther in 1920 so I put them in the same age range as my own parents. They opened the first store in the year I was born and their sons were just a little younger than I am. So we share a time if not a place.

So I see family lessons in this story and I see business lessons as well. There are other lessons, too, but I'll leave those for others. I think family and business is a sufficiently large universe for my brief exploration.

The first thing that occurs to me is the idea of recognizing and taking advantage of opportunities as they come along. That's what it seems to that Harry and Esther Snyder did and that's what my mom and dad did as well. It wasn't that my parents had any great plan or that they wanted to be rich. They wanted to earn a living for their family and they used what they had. And they worked their tails off, too.

Is is really that hard to recognize opportunities?

Yes, it is. Just listen to people talk sometime. I had someone the other day say to me that they could have bought my dad's farm or land around it. In the context he was letting me know that he felt he missed an opportunity. Or I hear people say things like "I thought of something like that and I don't know why I didn't act on it." I received an email a few years ago from a friend I've not seen since high school. He told about working for Hewlett-Packard when they were still in a garage. But he left before the company became successful.

Then there is the power of "saying NO."

That what my dad and mom did when it came to their farm. Over the years they had so many offers to sell it. And I'm certain there was at least some temptation because I know there were money problems at various times. But Dad just kept saying "NO" and held on to the farm. Harry and Esther Snyder and their sons did the same thing.

In both cases money was not the overarching motivating factor. I'm not saying it was unimportant because it was. But Harry Snyder wanted to make hamburgers his way and he stuck to that. My Dad used to tell me to "pay attention to your business and let other people worry about theirs."

Don't borrow money. Both my parents and the Snyders just would not do anything they could not afford without borrowing.

A couple of serious negatives though I noticed from the book.

One is that family businesses become just all consuming. I know this from personal experience and it is surely something the book makes clear in the case of In-N-Out. There is this confusion that occurs between where family life ends and business life begins.

The family business can be used to control family members and others who work for the business. That almost always has negative repercussions for everyone involved. I saw that first hand as well.

In the Snyder's case the business caused a terrible rift in the family. So far we've managed to avoid that and I want to make sure we never, ever let the family business become more important than the family. Just not worth it.

That's about it I guess.

I hope to get to an In-N-Out Burger someday and try it out.

I very much recommend this book.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Black vs White, Police vs Citizen

This is the mug shot of Henry Louis Gates when he was arrested the other day (July 16, 2009) for disorderly conduct. The charges were later dropped but apparently the mug shot was taken before that.

As celebrity mug shots go this one isn't so bad really. Gates doesn't look bad at all. In fact I think he looks pretty good for a 58 year old guy. He looks reasonable and mild mannered and even kind of scholarly which for a Harvard "scholar" seems to me to be a good thing.

I think about what I'd look like in a mug shot sometimes when I leave the house without my shower and have my cap on my head to keep my notorious (in my family) mad scientist hair in place. Because I know they make you take your cap off. Not that I would be doing anything deliberately to get arrested mind you. But sometimes I think weird stuff like that.

Now this picture (and no I do not have permission to post these because I didn't ask anyone - but they are all over the Internet) is not as kind to Dr. Gates.

Nope. He does not seem so kindly and calm and scholarly in this one.

But I wouldn't be very happy myself if I were standing on my front porch with 3 (at least) rather large police offers surrounding me and me in handcuffs.

This photo was taken by a neighbor by the way. Neighbors figure into this entire incident in a big way, too. The neighbor taking this particular picture is William B. Carter. Carter is also 58 and retired from Bank of America according to one report I read. Same report said he had earned $4,000 for the photo as of July 23rd. I thought that was interesting.

Another "neighbor" began the police involvement in the incident. Her name is Lucia Whalen. She's a fund raiser for Harvard apparently. She was in her office on July 16th and looked out her window. She observed a couple of guys trying to break open a door. She called the cops and reported the incident.

This is the cop who got the call.

His name is James Crowley. He's a sergeant and been on the force 11 years. He's 42. It has been noted that he taught about racial profiling and apparently that's supposed to be of some meaningful importance in the reporting of this incident.

Someone -- maybe many someones -- asked him to apologize.

He refused.

He said he acted appropriately and had done nothing wrong and so there was nothing for which he should apologize.

Then our President (and there's no need for a photo of him because his image is everywhere these days) got involved when asked about the incident in a press conference. He said the police acted stupidly.

Now given the facts of the incident as I have written them and as I understand them to be true it is predictable and understandable what subsequently happened.

Black people (not all but many) said the incident was all about white racism, defended the black victim, recited personal stories of their own encounters with white police racism, and so on.

Lucia Whalen was called a racist because she saw two black guys with backpacks breaking in a door and called the police. All police persons are already assumed to be racists but they were again called racists at every possible turn.

Police everywhere, but mostly white ones, said the President didn't know the facts and shouldn't have gotten involved and that they were not stupid and not racists and that they acted appropriately and so on and so on.

Pundits -- but only white ones -- said the President made a rookie mistake, derailed his health care program; said racism was alive and well in America and we have a long way to go; said it was not just about racism but also elitism (smart Harvard people versus dumb police officers); and a bunch of other stuff.

Regular white people that I know did not initially have too much opinion about the incident until it became part of popular culture. Then the opinions expressed were mostly that you shouldn't screw around with people whose jobs allow them to carry guns and handcuffs.

I've had several incidents in my personal experience that returned to my consciousness as a result of this one.

Long, long ago I was already at work in the wee hours of the still dark morning. My then wife heard someone trying to break in and called me and the cops. When I got home I rushed into the house and right out the back door. I was confronted by two officers with guns drawn on both sides. They had no idea who I was and made me raise my hands and stop. Then I had to prove who I was and that I belonged there. And let me tell you I made no sudden movements and was extremely cautious about every little move I made.

Years after that I and my entire family was home sick with the flu. Somehow we set off the alarm which was monitored and the monitoring company called the police. We straightened things out with the monitor but it was too late to recall the gendarmes. So two officers arrived at my front door and I answered in my robe and best illness marked appearance. The police had no sympathy and demanded -- yes demanded -- my ID. I had to return upstairs to get it and they accompanied me inside but let me go upstairs alone. I rested much easier when they left I can tell you.

Several times I've had to go to an office to meet police because of alarms and actual burglaries. I can tell you that in every instance the police (both men and women, black and white and other) have been at very high alert. There was palatable tension. And their tension alone made me have a lot of tension, too. Usually I was already tense because of the alarm.

A couple of times I've rather stupidly entered a dark warehouse or office alone when an alarm was going off. It is scary.

Truthfully I am kind of cynical about this entire Henry Louis Gates incident.

Not the original incident. I think it was just exactly what it seemed.

But I am suspicious of Gates' subsequent behavior. I think he may have taken advantage of what he perceived to be an opportunity for some publicity. Gates is apparently one of the smartest people in the world. It is hard for me to believe he did not understand or anticipate the result of his action.

And, yes, I do not think the cop was as smart as Gates and I suspect he did fail to anticipate and think through the results of his action. So, yes, I am being a bit stereotypical myself.

And the President of the Unite States? I am absolutely cynical that he "made a rookie mistake." These things are like performances and highly choreographed. And the President is also very smart. It is just hard for me to believe he didn't understand what he was doing.

You have to admit that Gates received publicity that you simply couldn't have purchased at any price. And it cannot be bad for his career -- which appears to be a professional racial victim advocate. And Mr. Obama is his friend. And you know what they say about friends in high places.

Now I don't know any of these people and if I did I might dismiss all my conjecture. It is only conjecture.

But everyone else is conjecturing all over the place so I figured I might as well, too.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Scary Dream

I don't often remember my dreams. I don't often have bad dreams. Or maybe I just don't remember them.

So maybe that's why this one was particularly disturbing.

I was not alone in the dream but I am uncertain who was with me. That doesn't mean I did not know them. I think I did. I think I had some degree of responsibility for them. But now I can't remember if there was one other or more others. I think more.

We had been climbing into mountain places and crossing dangerous bridges. We'd been working hard. But we'd finally arrived somewhere.

And there were some kind of monk like people there. They wanted us to do three things I think. I don't recall all three. But one had to do with drinking some kind of drink. And another had to do with reciting some kind of pledge in an unfamiliar tongue.

I was afraid. But whomever I was with wanted to do it and wanted me to do it, too.

I think it ended with me having to decide to abandon my companion. For some reason I think I had some kind of responsibility for my companion. But I wouldn't drink and I wouldn't recite so I had to leave.

The drink would have numbed my mind I know. I think the pledge was some kind of allegiance to some kind of demon god or something.

But I think it was not a god like those old idols. I think it was some kind of modern god.

That's it - that's the dream.