Sunday, December 29, 2013

Ten Thousand Reps

Thinking of the things I have done, repeated, ten thousand times. OK, "twelve-ounce curls," saying the wrong thing, getting into the longest line, maybe.

But this morning I concluded that I had walked the golden retriever, Baron, something like ten thousand times. He celebrated his tenth birthday a few days ago (with a can of tuna, of course) and it occurred to me that his life at that time was 3,650 days long...sort of a math wizard, eh?

Seems that dogs, like humans, have quirks and this dog has more than a few. One is that he is highly reluctant, almost totally unwilling, to poop in his own yard. Don't know how this got started or why. We are grateful that he is so highly house-trained, but it gives him a legitimate excuse to beg for a walk, which he does with convincing sincerity and quite a bit of success. And, as Jerry says, I always pick up after him when somebody is looking. There is the walk at 0600 which is understandable, there is the walk last thing in the evening which is a good precaution, and there is at least one, often more walks during the day. Add 'em up, that is probably more than ten thousand.

This dog has been with people nearly 24/7 since he was eight weeks old. We took him to work every day except for a period of about a year when we couldn't and he would have to settle for a neighbor taking him at noon. But then there was the "coming home walk" and the "evening walk" to go along with the "rise and shine walk." He traveled with us for 5,000 miles on a swing through the western half of the US, caught kennel cough in San Francisco which is about the only serious ailment he has had. Never neutered, so he doesn't have a weight problem and, in fact, is sort of skinny but well-muscled. We drove back and forth from Portland to KC because we were unwilling to dope him up and crate him for flight.

I should take the time to write some observations and stories about this dog because he chose us at a time when all the kids were either out of the house or about to leave. His pack mates are the two youngest boys, who he greets with absolute crazy exuberance when they visit even though he seems to pity their pinky skin without fur, their stunted nose skills and inability to run very fast.

A neighbor in Kansas City once mentioned that they often watched us walk and thought that the dog "read my thoughts." Although I use a leash, it really isn't needed; just the law, and if there are other dogs in the area, they often are not very well-trained. Rain or snow, the cold suits him best, he could do without the really hot days. We often marveled at his athleticism when he was in his prime, and everyone remarks about the size of his paws.

This seems to be one of his first lifetimes as a dog--he doesn't have some of the ordinary skills one would expect, like being able to remove a sandbur from his paw. At age ten, he is probably pretty similar in age to me at age 68, his face is getting really grey and it will only take three years for him to be in his "'90's." We make quite a pair these days as we walk, each of us limping a bit, a lot slower than the days when I would throw the baseball over and over on the playground.

We read a lot, but are reluctant to read books about dogs because we know how they will end. We know how this chapter of our lives will end, too, and it will be with gratitude for a life well-lived and service well-provided. Let's just keep him for a few more walks.

Thursday, December 19, 2013


Got my social security statement today.

Seems that my social security was raised 1.5% due to inflation.

However, the Medicare and Part D premiums that are taken out increased 10.2%.

Wonder why inflation is so much lower? I haven't seen things decreasing in price when I buy stuff. Must be just me.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Special Words

I just read this group of sentences:

"GRID enables the streaming of very "heavy" software programs to various machines. That means a design house can stream "SolidWorks" to all of the designers' computing devices, which can prevent the need for the company to purchase many expensive end devices. All of the heavy computations are done in the cloud and the image is streamed over the cloud to the device."

While I don't pretend to understand it very well today, had you shown this quotation to any of us a few years ago, it would have been gibberish. These sentences are made up of English words that have special meanings, special meanings that are beyond my ken. There are several of these special words in each sentence, and they make up the bulk of the meaning conveyed--what do I know about "GRID," "streaming," "heavy software," SolidWorks," and "done in the cloud?" How about "streamed over the cloud?"

The changes in the personal computing world go far beyond the decline in the PC market, the crash of Blackberry (five years ago, market cap of $83 billion, today--$3 billion), the migration of personal picture-taking from cameras to phones and a variety of other changes.

It is happening fast. The impact of social media on our lives, and particularly the lives of our youngsters, will be seen down the road...and it won't be that far.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Our Backyard

Very cool morning in Virginia Beach, about 26 degrees, absolutely no clouds nor wind. This is our first autumn in this location, so quite a treat to see the autumn/winter patterns.

I looked out of the big windows this morning and there were the usual occupants on the lake, a few mallards, several cormorants, a few sea gulls trying to steal the fish caught by the cormorants, a snowy egret, a great blue heron that seems to be here in all seasons and something new in the last few days--hooded merganser ducks.

There were 6 males and 2 female hooded mergansers, and although their range is pretty broad, it is my first sighting of these magnificent little ducks.

The bluebirds appear to be gone for the season, but they were such a treat during the warmer months. There seems to be quite a varied bird population in this area, having seen a great horned owl, ospreys and others.

There is apparently quite a bit going on in and under the water, too, as we have seen the common water snake (not my favorite) and the big snapping turtle that I flushed while mowing up to the shore. Certainly not expecting something that big to move that fast...and that close to me.

Although Friday the 13th, let's all have a terrific day.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Doug and the repo

I was amused the first time I heard this, and over the many intervening years, the thought of it has given me further chuckles.

Doug came to the bank as a college guy, long hair, somewhat "hippie," but after all, it was the time. Soon he took on the look of the rest of the folks at the workplace, moved up the corporate ladder and did very well. In the middle, though, he took on one of the jobs that was not sought after--repo man. Subsequently, the bank quit making loans that required this kind of activity.

As the low man on the totem pole whose job it was to contact customers who were delinquent in their car payments, he had an unpleasant job (all of the time) and dangerous (some of the time). Guns were drawn, and those times were not amusing at all. But the late winter episode in rural South Dakota is the one that sticks in my mind.

This was one that was very delinquent. They had been unable to ascertain the location of the customer or the car, and winter had delayed a lot of leg work. Finally, they had a location in rural South Dakota which was not far from the city in those days, and still is not far even today. A pair of repo men drove out there only to find that the long driveway was still drifted shut despite the more mild weather of on-coming spring. Doug thought it was probably fruitless, but necessary to do the job right, so he shrugged on his long London Fog, decided the wingtips could suffer, determined that a path through the adjacent pasture would be better than slogging through the deep snow in the driveway and away he went. The barbed wire fence is familiar to all of us in that part of the world, and easily negotiated, so he trudged away across the pasture and left his partner smoking and relaxing in the snug confines of the car.

Nearly to the trailer house, about to climb through the next fence, he discovered that he had neglected to identify the occupant of the pasture--a bull. With horns. And it appeared to be distraught over his violation of his territory. You are not supposed to run, but the fence was close, so he ran and rather than offering a target for the bull by climbing through, he climbed on top of the fence, about to jump over when out from under the trailer emerged two big dogs.

And they seemed to be upset, too. Perched on top of the fence with threats ahead and behind, the "lady" of the home emerged with a child on her hip and another clenched to her leg. "What do you want," she said, but not as politely.

He glanced at the shed where a shell of a car with chickens inside looked like the one they were supposed to repo. "Ma'am, you're not going to believe this, but I want your car." She said, "Take it, and if you find my husband, take him too," again, not said quite so politely.

From his position of power and authority, Doug offered an "executive decision,"-- "If you call your dogs off, I'll leave you alone." Seemed as though the snow-covered driveway offered the best path back to the car, his partner and a good warm office.

I have never been to that exact location, but I see it clearly in my mind's eye. The late-winter snow, the whole vision of Doug perched on the fence, the weary mom and the dilapidated trailer are vivid in my imagination as are the words, "Ma'am, you're not going to believe this, I want your car."

My guess is that Doug finds his job a bit better than those days in rural South Dakota.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013


Matt and Jenny are traveling today, back from what Jenny called a "baby-moon," the last trip before baby comes in March. Yep, Jenny, life changes after little ones, but you guys, given your age and ability to generate income, may not be in the same boat as a lot of us old-timers when we had kids...and no money.

Matt used the term "savages" to describe his fellow travelers. That is really an apt expression for some of the nasty people who use the air transportation system. It used to be that people dressed up for air travel, and it was an event to be savored and cherished with a bit of class. Now, I have met a good number of "upper class" people who behaved poorly, so I'm sure there was some of that, but the level of behavior has declined all around to something surly.

For many years, as the scene changed, I expected someone to get on the plane with a crate of chickens and a goat. Instead, they get on with dour (at best) or violent (at worst) dispositions--savages says it best.

Because it is such an uncomfortable few hours, I tend to dress in a way that I can survive in waiting areas and small seats, but from now on, I vow to try to behave in a manner that is considerate and as pleasant as I can muster.

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Polio, v2

A year ago, I wrote on this blog about my memories of the fear. The fear of polio. You could almost touch it, and with my grandmother in a wheelchair from her bout with it around the time of World War I, it was personal.

Today I ran into this on-line article about a woman who has been in an iron lung for 60 years.

The vaccination was such a relief to adults and children. Advice? Get your children vaccinated, because the Syrian outbreak could spread.

Friday, November 29, 2013

Righteous Indignation

So, I'm reading this "detective novel" titled The Second Rule of Ten by Gay Hendricks. Some of his writing is "clever" and "California" like the title. You see, the primary character is named Tenzing Norbu, formerly a Tibetan monk...his nickname is "Ten."

But this quote caught my eye: "...righteous indignation is the straightest route I know toward blind ignorance and away from any possibility of insight." Made me wonder how many times I had been righteously indignant...and wrong.

The author is evidently familiar with Buddhism and is full of these kinds of comments. I liked the first book, too. They are so reminiscent of the Travis McGee books.

GMO article retracted.

Wonder how many decisions were based on this study? Retracted, doesn't meet scientific standards.

Said GMO corn caused tumors in rats.

I am really tired of bad science. Can't wait to hear what the facts become...wait a minute, the facts should just be the facts, they shouldn't "become" anything.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Car doors locking

Recently, I have heard more than one black person mention that people lock their car doors when they approach. I also saw someone write that white people would lock their car doors when a group of eight black youths came at them in the middle of a street where they were parked. Racist.

Never thought much about it, and I don't know if this is germane, at all. We live in a suburban neighborhood, but it is somewhat transient due to the high number of military. But it is a nice neighborhood, well tended, etc., even though there are a lot of renters--rentals start at $1,500 per month. This is also a very homogeneous racial development, about 30% black? Lots of Asians, Hispanic, but in the eyes of the person looking for racism, "non-white" doesn't matter.

Another consequence of the transience is that neighbors don't really know each other. Last night, as is our custom for the last ten years, I took the dog for a walk. It wasn't late, maybe 6:30, but it was dark and a neighbor two houses down across the street had just pulled into her driveway when we approached. She saw us and I heard the locks engage. She waited until we were well past, got out of her car and went in.

Now, I am not the most intimidating guy on the street--old, white hair sticking out from under the ball cap and a nearly white beard, not in shape (evident although it was chilly and I had on a jacket), leading a golden retriever (not a pit bull) on a leash, wearing a hoodie (I said it was chilly!!) and carrying a doggie-poop bag. Plus, I limp.

It seemed like a prudent thing for her to do. She didn't know me. I guess I could have been an axe murderer. I didn't take it to be anything other than prudence, but then these comments about it being racist came to mind.

Not racially motivated that time. Maybe every other time, but not last night.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

A Scam

Everybody loves a good scam, and 'tis the season for them.

This one involves the gay waitress who alerted the media that she had been stiffed a tip because a customer had written a note complaining about her "lifestyle."

The media picked up the story immediately, showing the receipt with the blocked name of the "perpetrator" and the hand-written note. Money poured into the ex-Marine/waitress/gay person's PayPal account which had been established upon disclosure to the media.

She says all the money will go to the Wounded Warrior project.

Wow, what a story, especially this time of year.

Now comes forth a family who show the receipt with a 20% tip. Their copy of the receipt. They also disavow any homophobic opinions, "We just wouldn't do that." It also hits their credit card account with the tip included!

Now we wonder, what happened? The waitress/ex-Marine/gay person was confronted with these facts, and didn't seem to be very upset or surprised. Sort of a "Yeah, so what?" demeanor? The current setup is that she is now the villain rather than the victim.

A friend and co-worker, John Rasmussen, once told me: "When they say, 'It's not about the money,''s about the money." This has held true a number of times in my life.

But here is another theory--
  • What if her reluctance to be or appear to be contrite is because she doesn't want to give up the notoriety...and the money?
  • What if the store owner did it, to cut her out of a tip and to see if she would quit? Maybe there is a conflict here?
  • What if a co-worker wanted to set her up?
  • What if neither of the two last theories (owner/co-worker) ever thought this would go viral?
I am wagering that the truth has not yet surfaced. Especially, when the TV news and the social media sites tend to arrest, try and convict with very little information. Just a theory. But, hey, I probably have as much information as the "investigative" reporter.

Friday, November 22, 2013


A while ago, I mentioned that our family, specifically Grandma Carstenson's family, had been traced back to the 1500's. She was a remarkable woman, lived to be 109, was a widow for 72 years, longer than a lot of people are alive. Most of you have heard this, but it always gives me a bit of a goose-bump thing--I was thirteen when she died, I knew her, and she was 16 when President Lincoln was assassinated.

A person named Lis Birgit Jensen in Denmark did remarkable genealogical sleuthing and found several ancestors born in the 1500's who eventually are connected to Anne Marie (Grandma) Jensen Carstenson. Since our ancestry is governed by the power of two, she had 512 direct ancestors in that generation, the "seventh great-grandparents." For that same group of folks, I have an additional four generations, making them the fourteenth generation back, the "eleventh great-grandparents" and, again, considering the power of two, there would be 8,192 potential direct ancestors for me and others in my generation at that level. By the way, the names of some of those people often did not include a surname--their names were Niels (b. 1528) and his wife, Fru Niels (b. 1532), their son Jens Nielsen Moller (b. 1560) and Rasmus (b. 1560) and Mrs Rasmus (b 1560?) and their daughter, Maren Rasmusdatter (b. 1592).

Jens Nielsen Moller's son, Hemming Jensen (b. 1590?) and Maren Rasmusdatter were important people in this whole family-origin thing as they married and away we go.

This all goes back to a claim that people are not living longer today than they did "2,000 years ago" made by a woman who is touting natural foods, and particular foods that would be common on the Paleo Diets. It is understandable to conclude that people were not dying at early ages as the "average age" comparisons would indicate.

The average age back at the turn of the 19th century was, and apparently had been for some time, in the mid-40's and now, the average age is in the late 60's. These numbers are skewed by a high degree of infant deaths, child-bearing mortality and deaths from infections. That is not her point. She maintained that healthy adults were living as long as healthy adults do today, and something about that just didn't sound right. After all, we have such advances in medicine that prolong life, right? So, extract the effects of infant, child-bearing and infection mortality and we should still see longer lives in today's humans. Right?

I went back through this family to find out how long they lived. Granted, not all were located, dates were sometimes not available and the whole thing is complicated by the tendency of the Danes to name everybody the same names. There are a whole load of guys named Jens and Peder, Niels, and a few named Ole. Then some that are kind of cool--Hemming and Bent for the guys, Maren for the girls. Lots of girls named Ane, Anna, Anne, and especially Kirsten. The Danish tradition gave their sons a last name comprised of their father's first name plus "-sen" and their daughters a last name comprised of their father's first name plus "-datter." Whoa, that gets confusing, and around 1900, the Danish government apparently stepped in and told them to quit it, and come up with some unique surnames.

Of the ones located, I found thirty-eight ancestors whose age at death could be reasonably ascertained and put them on a scatter graph. I am going to try to insert that graph in here, but it may not work. Suffice it to say, that despite the really long lives of Grandma Carstenson and some of her sons and daughters, the graph did not plainly show the upward incline I expected. Sort of flat.

Add to that the diets that I know from Grandma and her children: high in dairy (her primary food as a girl was clabbered milk, something like cottage cheese), high in fat, high in meat and low in sugar. High in exercise, low in obesity. Wait, that applied to those ancestors for a lot of years back.

Now, think of our generations alive today--high in "diet" stuff, high in obesity, low in exercise, high in sugar, low in fat, high in the stuff they substitute for fat. High in cancer, knee problems, heart issues. Maybe the food of our ancestors wasn't so bad? Maybe McDonalds and Proctor and Gamble stuff isn't so good?

Here is the graph, sorry for the quality:

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Sarah Palin and the Filibuster

Just covering two topics in one post, they aren't connected...and it's my blog, after all (he whined). This may not be my most well-received post, BTW. Note: there is a third topic!

Sarah Palin and some jerk on MSNBC

The comment that someone should "defecate in her mouth" was out of line, the apology from the person who said it seemed sincere, but it says so much that is wrong about the news:

  1. I can find no coverage on the typical sources that you would think might cover it, like NBC News on-line. Apparently, NBC News has said (to the AP?) that they are trying to distance themselves from the "liberal-leaning" network that is owned by the same entity.
  2. The comment has received no acknowledgement from the people off-camera who, it would seem, edited the story. This was not an off-the-cuff statement, but a well-developed sequence that was read off a teleprompter. Editors, and senior editors customarily "edit" this stuff. That is why they are called "editors?" But no one is criticizing them?
  3. I would assume that Fox is covering it, but Yahoo! and CNN are having a field day, calling for this guy's head on a platter, talking about the "culture" of "vile and malicious" comments. As if they were not guilty??
  4. It signifies the lack of real news--first, Sarah Palin's comments need not be covered in detail, it just feeds on itself. Second, covering the "story" of the comment and the apology is just blatant self-aggrandizement. Sort of like the Academy Awards.
  5. Wish there were a place to go where we could just get news. But I'm too lazy to read "The Economist" any more. Ah, the old days, when I did.
  6. The increase in "vile and disgusting" is, well, vile and disgusting. Almost makes you yearn for the days when the motto was "If it bleeds, it leads." And now we have Miley Cyrus as "news."
OK, now the filibuster.

The vote apparently passed that the filibuster cannot be used when considering appointments by the President. This was particularly aimed at ending the Republican filibuster of attempts to bring judicial appointments to a vote in the Senate during the Obama presidency. As a point of reference, there have been 168 filibusters in the Senate on appointments, about half during the Obama years.

I am going to go on record as approving the action. Not that it matters, but I am casting my meager vote out there on the wind. The old joke, "I have good news and I have bad news. The good news is Congress knows what the problem is. The bad news? They are going to do something about it," has been the only platform of the Republicans recently. They need to adopt a different approach, perhaps representing some of us in the middle?

Now, here is a surprise! The AFL-CIO and the Sierra Club have come out in favor of this action, as well. Scary, but I'm going to stick with my thought that the filibuster is a useful tool if used sparingly. The current Republican philosophy is akin to the little boy with a hammer--everything looks like a nail.

Heed my words on this, however: the AFL-CIO, the Sierra Club and the Democrats will rue this day when, as Senator McConnell observed, "when the political tides change." Supreme Court nominees would be exempted, thank goodness!!

As with so many things, both sides deserve criticism here. Unfortunately, neither side deserves applaud. The Republicans overused the useful tool; the Democrats are comfortable with the use of blunt force. Folks, we need a big-time housecleaning.

Third, unplanned, topic

I was just about to hit the button to post this when the power went off. We live in an area that has underground service, so power outages are rare. Then I look out my window and see that my neighbor is putting up Christmas decorations. Am I living inside the movie, "Christmas Vacation?"
My neighbor, who I don't know, may very well be named Clark W. Griswold.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Health care

Health care, education, infant mortality, you name it and somebody is going to say that the US is deficient. That is statistically true, no mistake.

Articles will be written like this:

The writer who "discovers" the truth about some of these things is revered by her peers, a real sleuth, an investigative reporter. But you know what they tend to miss? They tend to miss the diversity of the US versus the ones under comparison--Japan, Sweden, for instance, have homogeneous populations with shared cultural mores. We don't.

The writer contends that medicine in the US is not the best and is, in fact terrible. How can you look at anything with open eyes and say that? Why do people from all over the world come here for treatment? When I had heart surgery, I didn't go to India. Or Costa Rica. But, you know, it may come to that.

Medicare now pays so little and denies the physician the right to ask for more from other insurance or the patient that it is often 10% of the asked-for fee. I looked at the fees for recent knee surgery, and it was appallingly low. How can they keep the doors open? Especially the orthopedic surgeons are heading to Costa Rica.

But stating in the article that there is a difference between Mississippi and New York/Colorado but not connecting the dots to show a picture is just negligent...and worrisome.

Yes, China and India have lots of smart people. Think of it, if intelligence is measured by IQ, and you assume that the top quartile must be the smart ones, it is kind of overwhelming to realize that the top quartile in China outnumber the whole population of the US. Same for India. But where do things like Facebook, Microsoft, etc. come from?

Education--it is apples and oranges to compare the Brits or the Germans with the US. Yes, they do a lot of things better, but when you are only measuring their best and brightest against our total student population, it isn't a correct measurement. That isn't to say that US education is without problems, because it is. Why else do people send their kids to private schools? Because educating only to the lowest common denominator isn't fair to the brighter kids.

When someone badmouths the US, remember to analyze the data points and the political slant of the author.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Time Relationship

You all know how fascinated I am with the relationship between events and time as viewed from different perspectives, but this was interesting:

March 21st 2010 to October 1 2013 is 3 years, 6 months, 10 days.

December 7, 1941 to May 8, 1945 is 3 years, 5 months, 1 day.

What this means is that in the time between the attack on Pearl Harbor to the day Germany surrendered is not enough time for this federal government to build a working website.

Mobilization of millions, building tens of thousands of tanks, planes, jeeps, subs, cruisers, destroyers, torpedoes, millions upon millions of guns, bombs, ammo, etc. Turning the tide in North Africa, Invading Italy, D-Day, Battle of the Bulge, Race to Berlin - all the while also fighting the Japanese in the Pacific!

Fascinating. Another thing you hear little about is that the contractor is a Canadian company. Evidently, the country that gave us Microsoft, Apple, Oracle, etc. is not adequate to create a website, so they had to go to a foreign contractor.

In addition, they violate the privacy rules that are the law of the land for everyone else in the fundamental design of the website.

It is so indicative of what you get when you rely on political hacks instead of experienced, bright people.

Oh, and another thing...the US ranks 3rd in the world in murders. If you remove Chicago, Detroit, Washington D.C. and New Orleans, the US is 4th from the bottom. Those cities have two things in common: the toughest gun laws in the country, and governance by Democrats for 50 years or more.

Monday, November 11, 2013


We see these types of articles all the time, the guy who thwarts a robbery loses his job, a hero remains anonymous because he drew down on a gunman who was killing in the Portland area shopping center and stopped him, etc.

The statistics bear out that owners of guns who own them legally do not commit gun crimes. I think I posted here one time that people with CCW permits have less incidence of gun crimes than police officers.

Oh, well, here it is again...and there are three takeaways for me:

1. The Jesuits decided to think about it. Apparently smarter than the anti-gun folks.
2. The six-time felon was out of jail in no time!
3. Without a gun, this could have turned out really badly for those nice young men.

Two Gonzaga University students could face expulsion after having a gun in a campus apartment, which they used to repel a pushy homeless man who came to their door.
SPOKANE, Wash. — Gonzaga University has agreed to review its weapons policy as two students who used a pistol to drive an intruder from their apartment appeal their probation for having guns in their university-owned accommodation.
"As a Jesuit institution dedicated to thoughtful evaluation of complex social issues," Gonzaga will use the incident to re-examine its policy, President Thayne McCulloh said in a weekend statement.
The university informed the students, Erik Fagan, 21, and Daniel McIntosh, 23, over the weekend they were on probation and could be suspended or expelled for any more violations of the Spokane university's code of conduct, The Spokesman-Review reported.
Gonzaga should consider student safety above all else, said their lawyer, Dean Chuang.
"We're glad that it didn't have to end in tragedy for them to consider changing the policy there," Chuang said. "Our boys were armed and stopped a home invasion here."
A homeless man came to their door Oct. 24 demanding money and trying to force his way inside.
Fagan offered the man a blanket and a can of food but refused to hand over any cash, he said. The man became agitated and combative.
Fagan shouted for McIntosh, who came downstairs holding a loaded 10 mm Glock pistol.
"I draw on him," McIntosh said. "As soon as he sees me, he decides he doesn't want to deal with me. So he takes off."
The men called police and campus security. Fagan has a concealed weapons permit, he said.
Campus security returned the next day and confiscated McIntosh's Glock and Fagan's shotgun, which he uses for hunting and sport shooting.
The men say their guns were seized illegally and are seeking to have them returned.
They say they are glad they weren't expelled, but they are appealing their probation because they don't want the sanction on their school records.
Students are not allowed to have guns in their homes if they live on campus or in a university-owned apartment. The university discipline board on Friday found Fagan and McIntosh responsible for two violations: possessing weapons on school grounds and putting others in danger by the use of weapons.
The man who went to their door, John M. Taylor, 29, is a six-time felon, said police spokeswoman Monique Cotton. His crimes have included riot with a deadly weapon, possession of a controlled substance and unlawful imprisonment.
Officers responding to an initial report of a residential burglary, found him in the area, Cotton said. He was jailed on an arrest warrant from the state Department of Corrections, she said. Typically that means a person under department supervision has violated terms of release. Taylor was no longer on the jail roster Monday.
Calls to the Department of Corrections were not immediately returned on Monday and there was no answer at the Spokane County Public Defender office, which might represent Taylor.

Monday, November 4, 2013

GOP Contenders

Just a bit of advice to the GOP contenders like Chris Christie--why listen to advice from way left sources like this?

"As he pivots toward a possible bid for the presidency, Christie will have to decide: Should he firmly embrace the relatively-centrist persona he worked so hard to burnish during his first term, or move toward the right in hopes of winning over conservative activists who weigh heavily upon presidential nominating contests?" from MSNBC, November 4, 2013

Yes, it important in the nominating process, but look what is happening in the Virginia gubernatorial race. The GOP nominee, Cuccinelli, has been set back in the race due to the ultra-conservative positions of the ultra-conservative wing of the Republican Party. The opponent, McAuliffe, with help from the master campaigner, Obama, is making the election about the Tea Party. McAuliffe is in the anti-gun camp, and other issues, a California Democrat all the way through. Oh, great, Nancy Pelosi becomes the de-facto governor of Virginia.

Let's put the extremist positions on the back burner for a bit and see if we can't deal with issues affecting the majority of Americans, like the number of people who are not working.

Chris Christie is being urged by a liberal media source to consider moving further to the ultra-right. A message from some of us--we would like to have a candidate that represents the middle, the ones that are not on welfare and are not simply attending Tea Party meetings. Those candidates are getting more rare, and it is a problem.

Meanwhile, the master campaigner makes another major error, but picked up by the media as a wonderful success--the phone call from Iran. The Saudis are ticked off, and in the diplomatic world, they have a right to their ire. After all, you are supposed to consult with your friends on this stuff. They are also worked up about the blundering around in Syria. But, as one Saudi put it, “When you rear a pet snake, the least that you can expect is that you will eventually be bitten. I just don’t understand why we had allowed ourselves to become so dependent."

Interesting choice of metaphor--hmmmmm, a pet snake.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

They're gone

Well, another one died. Another person who touched my life in a positive way, and this was a teacher and coach in high school, Ron Hulse.

He taught for a while, owned a hardware store in Wahoo for a while and was a friend to lots of people...all the while.

When I was 15, he was soooooo much older, but I discover now that he was just 9 years older. Not much when the difference is 68 to 77, but in a teenager's mind, quite a bit more. A sincere man, and he will be missed.

Had I "died young," as the title of this blog suggests, I would not have to deal with the loss of so many and the hollow grief that is left behind. But the reward of living a bit is to know the really good ones. The characters.

I saw Ron over Memorial Day weekend when our class got together for a 50th reunion. Sort of amazing that I was able to send an email to Brazil on the spur of the moment and acquire his phone number from Gerry. Glad I went.

Thanks for everything.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Ever notice?

Does anyone else have a problem with spelling on the internet? And with texting and Twitter, it seems to be [hash tag] getting worse. There is the annoying thing about "you're" and "your" that has been mentioned several times, but I have found another one.

"Lead" and "led." Went to a wedding a couple of years ago and there was a brass plaque on the wall of this ornate church that used the spelling "lead" when it should have been "led." Now, when it is inscribed in brass and it is a quote from the Bible, that is a TYPO! Isn't the only time "lead" is pronounced the way it is apparently intended in these instances is if you are talking about a heavy metal?

Another instance of why English is confusing, despite its magnificence, huge lexicon and glorious ability to offer up complex thoughts and subtle emotions. The preceding sentence displays another one of those inconsistencies: why doesn't the possessive of "it" use the apostrophe like other possessives? Well, I guess because the contraction of "it is" has already used it?

These kinds of things have to drive the non-native users crazy.

Now the real question is why in the world should I be concerned?

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Reduce Carbon Emissions by 10%

We hear a lot about our personal responsibility to reduce the use of gasoline because it not only pollutes the atmosphere, but contributes to the warming of the earth by emitting carbon-based gases that trap heat. The latest government initiatives are to run the fossil fuel (mostly coal) electric generation plants out of business. Wasn't that one of the campaign promises a few years ago?

Why is it that we don't have an outcry about airplanes? Every day, 1.4 million barrels of jet fuel is consumed in the skies over the US. That is about one-tenth of the usage of gasoline and diesel used on the roads and railroads of America, but it seems that when those carbon atoms are placed at 33,000 feet above earth, they may be less responsive to "sequestering" (now there's a good word spoiled by recent usage!) by plants like the CO2 emitted closer to earth.

Quit burning jet fuel, reduce carbon emissions immediately by 10%. Wreak havoc with the economy, of course, and make a lot of things inconvenient, for sure, but when we buy a seat on an airplane, we need to remember our personal contribution to this problem.

Since in the US we will not permit the production of electricity with nuclear plants like in France and Japan, we are pretty much stuck with fossil-fuel plants. Yes, let's disrupt the environment with wind generation and capture the rays of the sun and make electricity, but that is currently producing 1.1% (wind) and 0.06% (photovoltaic), or virtually nothing of the world's power. Hydro is great, it accounts for 16% of the world's production, but it is also not going to be expanded in the US; and China, the world leader in that category pretty much used up its last bountiful site.

Any reduction, planes or power, will crush the US economy. Let's not fool ourselves about that or about the dominance of things like fossil-fuel power plants and air transportation. Instead, let's concentrate on cars and trucks. Like the old story, it isn't where you should look, it is where the light is better.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Tim and Jeff

A story just flashed across my brain. I know where it came from, which is probably better than simply having a story materialize out of nowhere--I saw a place name (see below) last night and it took a while to marinate into this memory. Actually, that is all disturbing, in a way.

We were in Fresno, California in a pretty swanky restaurant. I know very little about Fresno, it doesn't look like a swanky place, but this was as good as it gets. Having dinner with my boss, Tim the drunk, and a potential client, Jeff, who made equipment that used sophisticated electronic and x-ray sorting to grade citrus fruit. His machines could spit out a bruised grapefruit at high speed!

That Tim was a drunk was obvious to anyone who thought about it even a little bit. There were two huge blue bottles of vodka in the freezer at the office and "brunch" was washed down with the contents of said bottles. They were in the freezer, it was explained to me, so that dilution was minimized when poured over ice. Hmmmm. After a while, I tried to avoid lunch with him as I would come back loopy and needing a nap. The Omaha paper carried an article a few months ago about his liver transplant. Go figure.

Tim and Jeff were also known to us, the loyal troops, as loud and louder. Tim was loud, for sure, but Jeff was louder. This restaurant was pretentious enough, but it was also designed in such a manner that sound carried, so I noticed that heads would turn every now and then.

Jeff started to tell a story about sheep herding and about a Madam he knew in Nevada, where that sort of thing was and is legal. As the punch line approached, it was sort of like watching a train wreck unfold; you knew how it was going to end but there was no way to avoid it. The story's volume level increased and, as will often happen, the rest of the place quieted down. Jeff belted out a quote from the Madam, "Hell, I've 'entertained' every sheep herder from here to Winnemucca!" Only the word wasn't "entertained." Yep, the f-bomb right there into the startled silence of the room.

Tim almost choked on his martini, I nearly popped an artery laughing, and Jeff didn't know what happened.

Lucky we weren't asked to leave. Still, don't you think the place name "Winnemucca" needs to fit into a story from time to time?

Favorite topics

Boy, I wish these were not favorite topics.

One: Rolling out ACA.

Symbolic of the failure of so many government initiatives, some quite unknown to most citizens like the continuing restrictions on SBA activities that have gone on almost continuously since about an hour after he was inaugurated the first time. Not a legislative move, simply the bureaucrats doing what the bureaucrats will do when left to rule their kingdoms. This was, unfortunately, at a time when government help for the economy could have really been effective, but it went the other way.

Government has never been the most effective, efficient way to get things done. That is why so many of us support private enterprise (yes, we understand, private enterprise must be monitored and regulated, it is a balance). Reasonable people will have disagreements when determining what should be done by private enterprise and what should be done by government, but the most egregious violations need to be exposed.

I found it to be amusing that testimony by the witnesses at the Congressional hearing were from a number of contractors, but the head of CGI Federal blamed another subsidiary for the testing woes. Seems a bit evasive, since both subsidiaries are under the prime contractor, CGI Group, Inc., a Canadian company headquartered in Montreal. Didn't we hear a lot from Obama during the debates about exporting jobs?

Two: Businessman faces two years in jail for...well, it is hard to say.

Mark Witaschek, a successful District of Columbia businessman and avid hunter, was arrested in something that looks a lot like a home invasion. His house was "tossed" causing an estimated $10,000 damage, and they found a 12-gauge shotgun shell that had misfired, a brass casing, a pistol holster and an antique Colt pistol used as a paperweight. Oh, and bullets used for muzzleloaders. He keeps his guns at his sister's house in Virginia...and she was "visited" as well. Exactly a month earlier, the police had visited and, after an extensive search without a warrant because he thought he had nothing to hide, they found a box of 40-caliber ammunition, which is illegal in DC. They confiscated the antique Colt pistol even though it is legal to own that antique in DC.

No guns, no modern, viable ammunition in the raid.

You have to read the article, the streets were shut down, about 30 officers in riot gear entered the home, broke down the bathroom door and drug his 16-year old son out of the shower naked, locked the four children in a room while they handcuffed the man and his girlfriend.

All this based on a complaint by his ex-wife. She was denied a restraining order when it became apparent that her version of the details (threatening her with a gun) were not correct.

Take a look:

This abuse may just be typical of the way the DC police operate. Remembering that a good portion of the population of the District are minorities, primarily black, makes me wonder how many times the rights of those ordinary citizens are being trampled on. But when you are a black, regular working guy, you don't have the visibility or the resources of a successful businessman.

Makes ya wonder! Just two of the examples of the government out of control, stepping way over lines.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Kowboys and Koreans

Well, as rare as it might be, we actually "went out" Saturday night. A costume party, no less, and we could walk since the house is just a few doors away. While trying to make it to midnight, we made it almost to ten!!

The name, price and store where I bought my hat is on the box. It is a box that has been carted all over the country over the last twenty years. "Stelzig's" in Houston, and I guess it has relocated and downsized from my visit in 1992. The 4X Stetson Caldwell was $119.95 then, and I think a comparable one would be about $209 today. But according to the government, there hasn't been any inflation.

Speaking of hats, I saw that there is a custom hat outfit in Jackson Hole. Jer, do you know those guys? Wonder what they use in place of mercury these days. Maybe only the cowboys are crazy, not the hatters.

Have a wonderful October, it is sunny, cool and perfect in Va Beach. Hope it is good where you are.

Sunday, October 13, 2013


Met a character today. He was a storyteller, too, which is a plus. As always there is a back story, so bear with me.

We have friends. They just aren't here and we miss them terribly. Since we have been in Virginia, our social life has consisted of the kids, and that's it. Nothing wrong with that, but when a neighbor stopped by to invite us to a Halloween party, it seemed like a novel idea to meet some of our other neighbors.

Costume party. Threw out the typical costume ideas, cut arm and leg holes in really big trash bags, snug them around our necks with a few napkins and kleenex sticking out and go as "White Trash." Or, brown smocks with silver stripes running from top to bottom saying "Hershey's." Hers would say, "Plain," mine would say, "With Nuts."

Instead, we decided to go as if we were playing "Kowboys and Koreans." Well, she doesn't have to "play" Koreans, but you know. She is going to wear her hanbok, which was ordered for her by a friend and custom made in Korea. Gorgeous, huge garment; the empire skirt is pink and the jacket green. I love it when she wears it.

So, I had to do the "Kowboy" thing. I have the Stetson, the belt, the big silver buckle, kerchief, Levi's...but I didn't have boots anymore. I really loved those old boots, but they finally gave out. Craig's List yielded a pair of boots for thirty bucks, but I thought I needed something more, so I searched for chaps. Found new ones, of course, but wow were they expensive. I guess I could have worn the ones we have, which are either the ones that Linda's sons had as kids or the ones I had as a kid. They were identical.

Then I stumbled onto a pair of "Bat wing cowboy chaps, top-grain cowhide, work chaps. No emails." Well, the "no email" part stunk, but I gave them a call, anyway. A lady answered, and then the dreaded, "Let me have you talk to my husband." How often that then ends badly as you get stuck with a jerk. But this was different.

"Well, I was a real cowboy and I just can't quite let it all go. I have these chaps, bought them to hang in my family room, but they have never been used, never been on a horse." There was going to not be a problem with conversation with this old boy. "Retired now, so I'm here all the time. Come and see 'em."

It was "through the tunnel." And around here, that can be a full day's work, as if there is an accident or any kind of mishap in the tunnel, it could take hours to get there. But I went anyway.

"So, you are from Nebraska? Those Sandhills are God's country." Had to buy the chaps, then, didn't I? He grew up in Sweetwater, Texas, the place where they have the rattlesnake roundup. He was telling me one story after another, about working cattle in Texas, the central valley of California and eastern Montana. I was soaking it up.

"Yeah, I was listening to this call in program the other day, and a fella called in from Idaho. The host said, help me out a bit, whereabouts in Idaho are you located? Well, I'm about 8 miles east of Snake crick and four miles north of Lutin." That cracked me up, and it did Slim, too.

"Me and Jake, I really don't know what his real name was, was sittin' on horses lookin' at a valley, the San Gabriel mountains in the background, a little fog around the tree line, cattle grazin' in the valley." He had told this story more than once. "Jake rolled a cigarette, threw his leg over the pommel, lit up and said, 'Slim?' They used to call me Slim, I was so skinny they was afraid I had tuberculosis. 'Slim? Can you believe they pay us to do this?'"

We exchanged a lot of stories, and then I saw the bullwhip. A tag on it said $15. "Yeah, we had a garage sale the other day, and now the wife is tryin' to get rid of stuff on line."

"You know, that reminds me of when I was a kid in Sweetwater. Somehow they got a celebrity, Lash LaRue, to come and put on a show at the county fair. I was probably 9 or 10 years old, and my mother had made me a shirt like Roy Rogers, with the fringe across the chest. I was sittin' in the audience when Lash LaRue says, 'I need a volunteer from the audience for my next tricks. How about you, the boy with the Roy Rogers shirt?'

"So, I went backstage and he talked to me, let me touch his bull whip, and said, 'This will not hurt you, I promise." I believed him, but he warned me that I must never move! We went out on the stage, and he was a master with the bull whip. The one I remember most is that he had me hold a cigarette in my lips FACING HIM! And he picked that cigarette out of my mouth like nothin'"

There are probably about eleven people in the country who know who Lash LaRue was. I am one of them. Comic books were a luxury item for us, and that meant they were unnecessary and we just didn't have them. Somehow, I acquired a comic book with Lash LaRue as the hero. I can still see the picture of him defeating the bad guys with his bull whip, after locating the train by putting his ear to the rail. (I tried that, never worked).

So now I have the chaps and the bull whip.

Since he told me his best bull whip story, I had to tell him mine. When we were in college, some of the guys worked in the Sandhills during the summer at Shadbolt's ranch. They all had hats with sweat stains, a bit bent up when cattle had stepped on them. It was great sport to grab a guy's hat, throw it in the air and see if one of the other fellas could hit it with a pistol shot. So some of the hats had holes in them.

After a football game, they were in their hats, their Levi's, boots and full ranch gear, and decided it would be a "good idea" to put on a bull whip demonstration on the mezzanine of the Lincoln Hotel. I was not involved, so all my info is hearsay, but it is my understanding that, like a lot of "good ideas," alcohol was involved. Everyone was entertained...well, not everyone, as Lincoln's finest came to escort them to a place to stay for the night. On the way out, Jerry yelled over his shoulder, "I've been thoed outta better places than this." Slim enjoyed the story.

He told me a few more stories, and they were delightful, and being a fellow of a certain age, I had to tell him another one of mine. The one about my dad and me at the sale barn in Erickson. Wallie had experienced some prostatitis. We were standing at the urinal when he announced to no one in particular that he had gotten to the age when he spent half his time trying to pee and the other half trying to think of somebody's name. As expected, this entertained Slim quite a bit.

I introduced him to Baron, who stole a few pats from him, and he said they lost their little Maltese/Bichon mix after 19 years and it "Dang near killed me." We judged that dogs were a lot better than most people, and we finally said goodbye.

From now on, whenever I think of chaps, a bullwhip, cowboys or storytellers, a chance encounter with a good ol' boy from west Texas will pop in my mind. Or when I go to a costume party dressed as a cowboy. Slim will never see this, I expect, but I hope he entertains lots more people with his good humor and stories.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Now, here's the stuff I've been complaining about

This fits into "The World Has Gone Mad" category.

I complain about a lot of things, but this article touches on at least two:

1.     Inaccurate and misleading "news." Well, Yahoo! stuff shouldn't really be considered "news," but it is presented that way and I wonder about the people who read the first article, before the corrections. This was evidently lifted from Reuters.

2.     Detroit. I guess I should narrow it down to what exactly I complain about in Detroit, but there are so many topics of concern. This article is about union pensions, the administration of those pensions over a long period and the "13th check."

Read it yourself, but the whole business is so symbolic of the decay and institutionalized feeding-at-the-trough mentality that has become something that people think they deserve. Not that they earned it, but they just deserve it.

The pension has a $3.5 billion unfunded liability. While the number is being challenged, I don't think anyone believes it is a lot smaller, yet the unions want to continue a practice of paying a "bonus" to retirees based on investment returns above a certain figure. That practice cost the pension funds $1.92 billion from 1985 to 2008. What if that $1.92 billion had been left to invest and reinvest? Wouldn't that have put a pretty big dent into the $3.5 billion unfunded liability?

When you practice Coleman Young's "tin-cup urbanism" philosophy, however, you expect that if you can finagle something like this now, the Federal government will come to your rescue at a later date. His rationale was always that the problem was caused by racism, so that is why Detroit's fiscal problems were the responsibility of the rest of the nation.

Meanwhile, grab all you can get right now.

Detroit union victory worth 'refund on deck of Titanic'

By Joseph Lichterman

(Reuters) - Detroit's largest public sector union scored a symbolic victory Friday when a Michigan administrative law judge said one of the city's pension funds could reinstate an extra annual pension check for city workers and retirees, and make retroactive bonus payments, although the judge in the city's bankruptcy case has prohibited enforcement of the ruling.

Bankruptcy Judge Steven Rhodes earlier this week allowed Administrative Law Judge Doyle O'Connor to rule on the so-called 13th check before O'Connor's retirement on Friday. But Rhodes forbade the parties from pursuing the matter further.

Rhodes has stayed all existing litigation against the city since taking charge of the bankruptcy case, the largest municipal bankruptcy in U.S. history. Yet on Tuesday Rhodes ruled O'Connor could proceed because a ruling would not injure Detroit.

O'Connor himself granted that the limitations imposed might offer "little more solace than an assurance of a full ticket-price refund offered while still on the sharply tilting deck of the Titanic."

Earlier this year, O'Connor read a verbal opinion supporting the case brought by the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, claiming Detroit short-changed its members beginning in November 2011 when the city council ended the policy of paying bonus pension checks. The city's General Retirement System board issued the checks.

For decades prior, the city's General Retirement System would give bonuses to retirees and active employees when it earned more than 7.9 percent on its investments.

That payment and others cost the pension fund $1.92 billion from 1985 to 2008, a 2011 report to city council said.

AFSCME argued the city violated labor laws by unilaterally ending the extra checks. O'Connor said in February that "the change directly affected an existing and fundamental condition of employment."

Detroit's state-appointed Emergency Manager Kevyn Orr has said the policy contributed to the underfunding of the city's two pension funds, which he says have $3.5 billion in unfunded liabilities. The city's unions and pension funds dispute that figure.

O'Connor on Friday estimated the bonus money in question at roughly $174 million. He urged the city and union to seek a negotiated settlement of the matter.

(This story corrects the first paragraph to show judge ruled pension boards can reinstate checks. The fifth paragraph was also corrected to show the city council does not issue checks, but sets policy, and pension board issues the checks.)

(Reporting by Joseph Lichterman; Editing by David Greising and Prudence Crowther)

Friday, September 27, 2013

Woman at the ballpark

Just about out of words on this one...

I hope you can use the link, but if not, it shows a baseball going into the stands, apparently at Houston's Minute Maid Park. A young girl cradles the ball in her chest and a woman nearby grabs it out of the little girl's grasp and sits down. Celebrating with her friends.

There is a lot to be said, but the headline seems to say some of it--evil woman. Remember, this woman is sitting in the front row, right behind the dugout. Those seats are not cheap! Even in Houston. While she is probably not trailer trash due to income level, she certainly behaves in a despicable manner.

And then, for the coup d'├ętat, some jerk in the second row high fives her. Congrats on kicking a puppy, too?


Saturday, September 14, 2013

Couple of updates

First, a typo--it was a 1960 Ford Starliner, not 1969, that I borrowed way back when in high school. That was in the blog post about operating above my pay grade. Don't know how I could have been driving a 1969 car when it was 1962.

Second, I have run onto some information about climate change that makes me wonder. Since I don't know anything about the subject except what I see in the press and what the local weatherman tells me, it is puzzling when it was reported by a London paper that the Arctic ice mass had increased this summer by 60% more than it was a year ago on the same date. The "experts" had predicted that the ice would essentially be gone so that there could be the long-anticipated Northwest Passage.

As it turns out, about 20 yachts are stranded in the ice with their only solution a rescue by the Canadian icebreakers. A cruise ship turned around and made it back to safe waters.

Have we seen anything about this in the regular press here? Like in the New York Times? I did see an article that refutes it...not the facts, but just that they are important. It says the reason it increased so much is because last year it decreased and it was expected. Tell that to the stranded boats??

It just makes me wonder...I have tried this question out on some friends; "When you see or hear a topic discussed on national TV or radio that deals with a subject that is familiar to you, is it properly presented?" All of the people I have so far asked have said, "No, they either get significant facts wrong, they completely miss the point...or both." This makes me fearful that I am not getting the right information about important topics.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013


When they opened up the knee, they apparently took most of the meniscus. I know it had really been hurting, but hoped that some would remain so the potential for arthritis would not be so great.

When you have your ribs broken and your sternum sawed, broken, pulled apart and stuck back together with super glue and staples, it hurts. Especially if you cough, and you have to cough a lot to clear the lungs. I lived in fear of sneezing, believing that the staples would fly out of my body and everything would explode in a spasm of pain. Well, at least it would hurt a lot.

So why did every meal come with pepper? Isn't that kind of sadistic?

When you get your knee opened up, you are supposed to keep all weight off it and use crutches or a wheel chair for two days. They must have dumped a gallon of fluids in me with the IV, though, so off to the bathroom, over and over. Not easy with crutches, very awkward, took a long time.

Again, are they just sadistic?

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Heretical thoughts

Lyn Yarbrough sent this, and the concept helps me out a bit. I listened to a TV weatherman go on about "global warming" and the inevitability of the future. While this guy may be a genius and know a lot about the future, it bothered me that I was being fed stuff by a TV weatherman.

An analysis of the value of heretical thought by one of the world's leading Physicists, Freeman Dyson at the Princeton Institute for Advanced Study.

..."Here is another heretical thought. Instead of calculating world-wide averages of biomass growth, we may prefer to look at the problem locally. Consider a possible future, with China continuing to develop an industrial economy based largely on the burning of coal, and the United States deciding to absorb the resulting carbon dioxide by increasing the biomass in our topsoil. The quantity of biomass that can be accumulated in living plants and trees is limited, but there is no limit to the quantity that can be stored in topsoil. To grow topsoil on a massive scale may or may not be practical, depending on the economics of farming and forestry. It is at least a possibility to be seriously considered, that China could become rich by burning coal, while the United States could become environmentally virtuous by accumulating topsoil, with transport of carbon from mine in China to soil in America provided free of charge by the atmosphere, and the inventory of carbon in the atmosphere remaining constant. We should take such possibilities into account when we listen to predictions about climate change and fossil fuels. If biotechnology takes over the planet in the next fifty years, as computer technology has taken it over in the last fifty years, the rules of the climate game will be radically changed.

When I listen to the public debates about climate change, I am impressed by the enormous gaps in our knowledge, the sparseness of our observations and the superficiality of our theories. Many of the basic processes of planetary ecology are poorly understood. They must be better understood before we can reach an accurate diagnosis of the present condition of our planet. When we are trying to take care of a planet, just as when we are taking care of a human patient, diseases must be diagnosed before they can be cured. We need to observe and measure what is going on in the biosphere, rather than relying on computer models."





From Jerry DeFrance

"Insanity in individuals is something rare..but in groups, parties, nations, and epochs, it is the rule."   Friedrich Nietzsche

"The greatest compliment that was ever paid me was when one asked me what I thought, and attended to my answer."  Henry David Thoreau

"There are a thousand thoughts lying within a man that he does not know till he takes up a pen to write."  William Makepeace Thackeray

Early tomorrow, I go in to have some of the meniscus in my knee removed. I apparently tore it and it is so sore. I limp and it interferes with sleep a lot. So I will be a bit woozy for a while as it is same-day surgery, but general anesthesia.

Jer sent these to me (he will get them returned as he gets these postings in email) and I found them to be new to me and especially interesting. He knows how much I love quotes and aphorisms, and apparently knows how poorly read I am.

First, the Nietzsche quote is apparent in modern US politics and we can go back in history and pinpoint many examples. One of the reasons it is unfair to compare the hysteria of 1930's Germany to any other period; it had its own unique insanity.

The Thoreau quote is so fundamental to every human--to be listened to! Seems like we often just take turns talking rather than trying to understand what the other person is offering.

The last is especially appropriate for what I have been trying to do on this blog for a couple of years--put some of those thoughts down in a cogent fashion. Difficult for me, and if nothing else, gives me a sense of appreciation for those who perform the task well.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Don't understand

A 71-year old Iowa man shot and killed an escaped convict who was holding he and his wife hostage. Shouldn't there be an investigation by the Federales? This must be another mistake of the stand your ground law. Let's accuse him of murder, or some Federal crime. You know, I am not much younger, I probably look like that guy.

Oh, wait, there are differences.

Also, notice that this story is not carried on NBC News (it was earlier, but you have to know where to find it) or Yahoo. I had to really dig to see it as it was taken down just about as soon as it was put up.

Doesn't have the appeal that the Travon Martin shooting had...or has.

Monday, August 19, 2013

P & W

Prokofiev wrote it, "Peter and the Wolf" (1936), Disney switched it around (1946) and I listened to it in the one-room country school in the early 1950's.

Next spring, we are going to see it performed, and it will be the first time I have seen a live performance when the Virginia Symphony does it March 30, 2014...assuming the crick don't rise. In January and April, we will see "Bolero" and "Tchaikovsky's No. 6 Pathetique," respectively.

Both the Ravel and Tchaikovsky pieces are emotional, and I hope no one takes their own life after that fourth movement of Pathetique. Can't wait for this treat.

Just listened to a little bit of the Disney version of P & W on You Tube and the memories were really vivid. That room, Big Cut District 12, had a special smell on top of everything else, a combination of sweeping compound (does anybody know what that stuff was, and is it still used?) and a "school" smell. When it was too cold or stormy to go outside at lunch, Mrs. McKillip would sometimes let us play games, listen to her read a book or play a record, like the 78 rpm one of "Peter and the Wolf."

My vote was often for the record, but I have always been the kind who would play a song over and over until everyone else was ready to break the record or me!

Live performances of symphonic music are wonderful to me, as there is no electronic cluttering of the sounds, and once they are gone in that auditorium, they are really gone forever because those sounds will never be "live" again.

As many of you know, the symphony in Sioux City was special for me, and we are again lucky to be in a place that has a wonderful orchestra and a great place to perform, the nearly new Sandler Center in Virginia Beach. I still marvel that Klinger-Neal at Sioux City's Morningside College was built in 1964 and had such great acoustics.

At this stage of life, I have so much more discretionary time so it is possible to do some study on these pieces, get more familiar. Maybe we should rent Bo Derek's "10"? That came out 34 years ago. Doesn't seem possible, nor does it seem possible that Mary Cathleen Collins (Bo Derek) will be 57 years old this year. Whoa.

Can't wait to see and hear P&W, too, although I may yearn for that distinctive voice of Sterling Holloway.

Only thing that could make it better would be visitors to see it with us.

Saturday, August 10, 2013


There is truth behind so many aphorisms--"Life isn't fair," "Bad things happen to good people,"--and the like. The hurts and shocks come about to young and old, and the soft, sweet Hallmark moments are rare.

Humor is a wonderful way to cope, and some have that creative gift. Some of us don't. My friend Jerry has it, and he needs to use that gift to its utmost right now as we all grieve the loss of a wonderful woman, his wife Pat, after a long fight with cancer.

Jerry and Pat deserve all the friends they have earned over the years. Truly wealthy folks in that best form of wealth. Linda and I are so honored to be in that group, and it just dawned on me that Jerry and I first became acquainted at UNL 50 years ago this fall. Half century of friendship is good, but it is not enough.

We were then at that age when so much is new, so much needs to be discovered and the hurts, slights and difficulties are fresh wounds with an exquisite quality. And so it goes, we develop ways to go on, to cope. As we become more seasoned, we have those tactics to rely upon when tragedy hits.

I have known only a few people who have the ability to come up with a clever response, or to entertain with words. Jerry has that ability. Most of us compose the good quip when the time is long gone, and timing is everything. "Oh, yeah, I shoulda said..." Fortunately, there is a place in this world for those of us who lack brilliance.

His friend, Dave, lives down the street and has been showing up at the house three times each day to offer support during these times. A good friend, good therapy. He was there, left, and another friend in the neighborhood stopped by, noticed the red-rimmed eyes and said, "Get on your shoes, we are going for a walk."

Their route took them past Dave's house and Dave roared out the door to greet them carrying one of those airline bottles of booze, half empty. "I don't drink scotch, just beer, so I thought I would let you have it."

Jerry examined it, determined it was Irish whiskey, not scotch, also noted that it was half empty. Removed the cap, dramatically threw it over his shoulder and downed the whole thing at once! Barely enough to dampen all your teeth.

"It's the least I could do," Dave said.

Jerry gasped, "Ahhhh," gave Dave a long look and replied, "Well, very nearly so."

They all collapsed in laughter, coping.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013


The diary kept by Maurie Matzen, my mother's cousin who was more like a brother, for the years 1932 through 1936 were the typical activities of a young farmer, just married and starting a family in the Depression. Weather meant a lot, so I looked up the weather for a few of those years for Genoa.
For those of us who knew Maurie, such a gentle "splendid" man, this diary is fascinating and gives us a wonderful insight into those days. 

I selected Genoa because it was fairly close, it has kept records for many years, partly due to its founding in 1857 and its role regarding the Indian reservation of Nance county, and because my high school teacher, George Umbarger has kept the records there for more than 50 years.

He told me that the records for the Genoa weather station are second only to Omaha in longevity.

Anyway, here are some of the highlights:

Highest Temperature
Lowest Temperature
Heating Degree Days
Cooling Degree Days
Annual Precipitation

A note about Heating Degree Days and Cooling Degree Days. Pretty simple calculation designed to allow utilities to estimate the requirements to heat and cool buildings. It is based on the temperature of 65 degrees, and it is simple--add the high and low temperature, divide by two to get the average and subtract from 65. If the high is 60 and the low is 40, the average is 50 and the heating degree days equals 15. It is the best estimate of how hot or cold a day, a month or a year was.


I always heard stories of how hot and how cold the "Thirties" were. According to the weather statistics, they are not that different from recent years in Genoa, Nebraska, except that recent years have been a bit colder and 1934 was pretty darn hot!! And dry, with only 15.74 inches of rain. The 2011 year had a lot of snow, and there were stories about how much snow there was in the Thirties, too. Summers today are quite a bit cooler, too.

This is by no means a statistically significant observation, but it is interesting in light of all the press coverage of global warming that the recent years have been so much colder than the "old days." When we talk geological time, though, it is insignificant.

Still, the recent years were 11.1% colder in the winter and 17.8% cooler in the summer than the Thirties, a not-insignificant difference. We should be careful about anecdotal information.


Several things we can't really measure from the information we have here that are terribly significant in measuring the impact of the environment on the people and economy of the time:

·         Wind -- I am sure that somewhere there is a measure of the wind velocity and the hours of that speed, a common indication, but I don't have it. The Great Plains of the 19th and early 20th century were windy, and they are to this day, but with the advent of trees, a novel commodity until the late 20th century, the wind was more of a factor. The diary talks of dust storms and those are virtually non-existent in that part of the country now. 

·         Farming Practices -- One reason the dust storms have diminished is the way farmers prepare and tend the soil of their farms. I remember hearing as a child about the "modern" way, minimum tillage. That is now the standard, and it conserves the moisture in the soil and exposes the soil to much less wind and rain erosion. It is my understanding that without some of the chemical control of bugs, minimum tillage would not be feasible.

·         Modern outerwear -- I remember being really, really cold a lot of the time. Now, it just isn't necessary.

·         Air conditioning -- In homes and vehicles. We did not have air conditioning in the farm house, nor in the milk barn. Couple 100 degree summer weather of an afternoon with an enclosed barn with a bunch of large, hot animals and it was warm. Had quite an odor, too! Tractors had umbrellas, maybe, and the A/C in the car was usually shut off because someone was smoking and it reduced the mileage so much. I think our first one with air conditioning was a 1960 Ford that would die at idle if the A/C was on.

I think it is so ironic that in this little sample, it is completely upside down from the global warming that we hear so much about. Wouldn't be surprised that Genoa has just not gotten the politically correct word.