Wednesday, December 31, 2008

The end of 2008

2008 is just about in the record books. This last day has been a good one. I am wiring a new lighting scheme in our bedroom. I have put two plug in fixtures and am running an electrical line up the center pole so we can have some track lighting that will give us some general illumination in the room. I negotiated a new loan deal on our property with our bank, the result will be a savings of about $500/month in cash and the ability to pay off all our property in five years. I took a two mile walk to the Ford dealership and picked up Terry's van. So that was my exercise for the day. Then I ended the day by cooking some steaks for dinner which we enjoyed with a baked potato, peas and a couple of cold ones. It has been a good day, a good end of a year and I'm feeling good going in to 2009.

My back is sore from bending over though. Happy New Year.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Rediscovering my Hidey Hole

My garage like many has gotten full of junk. It is all junk I cannot do without. I have a pretty good idea of the inventory, but find myself forgetting where things are when I need them and then finding the items two days after buying more. All of the "junk" I will use, someday. All of the "junk" has value beyond that of dollars and sense (no Jenny I didn't misspell the work.). Some of the "junk" I pick up and stare at, wondering what to do with it, where to store it so I can find it when I need it and being unable to come to a decision I sit it back in the location it has resided in for sometime so I won't misplace it the next time I need it, if ever (whew). It is difficult to part with mixed nuts and bolts that have been in that garage for some 20 years, I might need them tomorrow.

My garage is a nightmare of junk and I am working up the resolve to clean it up. I have taken some positive steps and have at least cleared out and area I can move around in now, to some degree. Years ago I used to spend a lot of time in my garage working on projects, drinking coffee, sitting contemplating projects while drinking coffee, but I safe and secure in my "hidey hole."

For several years I have stopped spending time in my garage. There was no room. I worked at that and have spent an absolutely enjoyable holiday season because I can get into my "hidey hole" and work on some things and drink coffee and contemplate other things. I have been building a fire in my fireplace in the "hidey hole" and done some productive work. I got the new chainsaw chain sharpening grinder working I bought over a year ago . I bought a new 8" variable speed Delta grinder yesterday and finally have a grinder mounted to the grinder pedestal that has stood empty for some 20 years in my garage. A good reason to buy a grinder, so the grinder pedestal gets used.

I have sharpened chisels dulled by my inexpert effort. I sharpened knives kept dull by inept hand sharpening. I cleaned a 100 year old punch made by my grandfather Floria for use in a northern lumber mill. I taught my grandson Sam how to use a pedestal grinder without killing yourself. I found peace, solitude and security among my "toys" and in my hidey hole with a small fire crackling in the fireplace. Now, I can hardly wait to get up tomorrow morning and rebuild the fire in the fireplace so I can take the chill off the air and sit in my hidey hole contemplating the great projects I shall attempt while enjoying a hot cup of coffee. Ahhhhh, bliss!

However, I do have to take Terry grocery shopping tomorrow morning after dropping the van off at the Ford dealership for a tune up. Then I've got to contact Circuit City to see how to return the 2-way radios I purchased that don't seem to work right. It is also New Year's Eve. Oh damn, the intrusions into the sanctity of man. But, I do have access to my hidey hole and for that I am very grateful.

Lincoln Center Awards

One annual television show my wife and I usually enjoy is the Kennedy Center Awards program where performance artists are honored for their contribution. This year's award show was not different. I find myself moved by the program, not so much who the stars are but the craft that they exhibit. The short biographies serve to enlighten me about their roots and background, but it is the tribute performances that can lead to surprising twists.

Twyla Tharp was one of the honorees. I knew her name from articles I've read about dance, but I've not ever seen her special art. I guess I should say I've not ever seen her dances that were actually attributed to her. If her choreography was part of some other show I was not aware of it. Tonight however two people danced three dances, with music sung by Frank Sinatra. The three dances were styled and distinct dances. I was enthralled. The first had some hopping type steps that looked difficult and odd, yet unique and isn't that what art is about, unique. The second dance was characterized by some energetic pushing and pulling and my wife said she didn't like that dance, it looked like the man was abusing the woman partner. Isn't that what art is supposed to do, evoke some feeling. The last dance was graceful, it was done to Sinatra's "My Way" and was graceful and fitting. Isn't that what art is.

The other surprise was the performance by Beyonce. She was dressed conservatively, very little cleavage if any. Her hair was in an elegant fashion and she sang "Memories" in a very Streisand-like style. Good range in her voice, and an emotional interpretation that did the honor to Barbara Streisand proud. I was impressed. I guess I've never listened to Beyonce, I've seen her in some ads where she is a sexy, hip-hop type shaking her booty. This was a side of Beyonce I've not seen and was impressed with. She certainly demonstrated a very different dimension to her talent and that is one of the ways I judge the worth of an artist.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Further Enlightenment

I have written this blog for sometime, realizing that other than my two children no one else reads my writings. I was thinking about that today, on the one hand I do like recognition and I think it would be enjoyable to find others who enjoy my meandering thoughts. However, there is another side of me that says the purpose is also over time to provide some insight into my philosophies, my values and my ideas. After all, isn't that how we come to know people. So perhaps my children may gain insight into my motivations, my grand children may peruse my writing some day to understand their grandpa. In fact, it might help them understand some of the things that motivate them, after all I do make up 25% of their gene pool. So the fact that this is a relatively anonymous blog is OK with me. While I would enjoy a ticker tape parade down Broadway for the quality of my writing, it won't happen, and I'd probably be embarrassed by it all. The thought is nice though.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Is There Something in the Water?

Here we are, a time of year when families get together, goodwill abounds, and joy and happiness are wished profusely on all. Then some ex-spouse dons a Santa Claus outfit and shoots up his ex-in-law's Christmas party. Some guy beats two young boys to death with a baseball bat, and three teens are killed in Houston in a car crash. Even my beloved U.P. isn't left alone, a teenager died in a car accident Christmas Eve. Merry Christmas everyone. There are good stories out there, a K-9 Unit in Kentucky brought Christmas to a young boy whose Dad died of Cancer this season. A family about to be evicted was saved by a friend who blogged about their plight. So there are good events too. I guess what it really means is life goes on, all the evil, all the good. Evil does not take a holiday, neither does death. I wonder what that means to those who believe God has a plan. Yeah, right!

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Out of the Ordinary

My wife flushed a red pen down our commode last weekend. That's not the story. During the process of clearing the blockage I broke the lid off the commode. Not the seat mind you, the lid. I cannot repair it. One of the plastic brackets that fasten the lid to the seat assembly broke and cannot be attached to the hinge. So, now we have an economic decision. Should I replace the entire seat assembly, or should we just go with what we have.

This has led to a debate on the merits of the lid. I don't sit on the lid. The seat is still functional. Yet when one approaches the commode it appears incomplete. So now I consider the value added a lid provides. Other than some aesthetic appeal the lid has no functional value. Perhaps hiding telltale tracks on the sides of the commode, otherwise known in this household as "skid marks" has value. Perhaps hiding an incomplete flush has value. But what the hell, all a lid would do is hide the problem, not get rid of it. Still when I approach the commode to make use of the facility it does look odd without a lid.

I've decided I have to be practical in this matter. The seat is still comfortable and the lid provides no economic value so for now the commode shall remain lidless.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Give Up and Give In vs. Get Up and Get On

It is now the third day since our dog Cilla passed away. For some reason this has seemed different as opposed to some of our other pets passing. There are moments of relief that she is gone. Cilla could be quite a pest. Go and get yourself some cheese to snack on and there she was staring at you waiting for her share of the cheese. Not that I begrudged her the cheese, but at times I was put off by the starring as though you were depriving her of life's sustenance. There were times when I was working on the computer that I did not want to hold her in my lap, it interfered with my ability to type. Many a time I typed one handed just to hold her in the crook of my left arm. So there are a few times that there is relief from her being gone.

Other times there are moments of profound sorrow and tears. She was after all just following her nature of wanting to be with us and dogs are always hungry. We took her constant asking for table scraps as a sign perhaps as a pup she had been deprived. We also know that when she was with our daughter and her husband that her shoe chewing banished her to the porch. She lived outside on the porch for several years not allowed in the house. Cilla was deathly afraid of thunderstorms so I can imagine what that was like when she could not find shelter or comfort. We did provide her with shelter and comfort and good food and medical attention. We gave her love, seldom was a lap denied her or a head scratch or belly rub. Many times I would get down on the floor and we'd play bite the pesky hand that grabbed your feet. She enjoyed that.

For some reason her death is a little more difficult for me. The last pet we lost, other than Rosie the Cockatiel, was five years ago. I was 58, and I had not had cancer and major surgery. So perhaps my outlook was a little different, perhaps not so sensitive to aging and the end of existence. Now I am amazed that she was here Friday, Saturday she was gone. I cannot see her, I cannot hold her, I cannot tell her I love her or play with her, or feed her her share of the cheese snack.

I don't feel guilty for feeling relief, we are encumbered with all kinds of thoughts that run counter to compassion and caring. In the end it isn't the thinking that means too much, it is the behavior. I rarely behaved badly toward Cilla, I was tolerant of her wants and tried to satisfy her needs. It is the fact that she is no longer here that plagues me. I miss her warm little body in the crook of my arm, or the warmth of her body stretched out along my leg in my recliner. I miss her quizzical look when I said her name, or her enthusiasm and excitement when we asked her if she wanted to go for a ride. She was here a couple of days ago, now she is gone. I miss her.

Yet the words come to me that in our lives these events will occur and some will be of greater impact than others. The loss of a loving dog is the loss of a family member. Yet those of us left behind have a choice. We can give up and give in to grief, sorrow or inaction, or we can get up and get on with the time we have left. When you think about it, there really is no choice. So I will get up and get on with life, and I will keep Cilla in my thoughts and honor her memory. For the rest of my days I will remember all of those who have been a significant part of my life be they pets or people. For now though I recall Captain, Mattie, Blondi, Rosie and now Cilla as those pets who provided me with another dimension of enjoyment.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Are We Just Stupid?

Detroit's economic affairs are being described in the media as kind of a ho hum affair. The automakers ask for financial help and then are ridiculed for flying to Washington in their private jets. The history of the automakers is not good, however they are not solely to blame for their predicament. Unions have hounded, badgered and out right held up the auto industry until the benefit package given to autoworkers is ridiculous in its scope. The American public takes no pity on the industry, and rightly so, that is the way of a market economy. Detroit fell into a trap after WWII when they allowed their quality to degrade to a point where they became easy prey to superior automobiles that appealed to the consumer's idea of spiffy.

Then a statement caught my eye in an article on CNN today. Here are the comments, I've cut them and pasted them as they appeared in the article. "If the GM board decided there was help on the way in early January, I'm sure they'd make an effort to preserve cash and get to that point," said Bob Schulz, Standard & Poor's senior auto credit analyst.Are we just goddamn stupid? What the hell kind of a statement is that from an S&P analyst nonetheless. I guess if GM feels there is no bailout they'll just spend their money and fall into the pit of financial doom waiting for us, the taxpayers, to bail them out.

First of all the guy making the statement, God, what can you say about him. I'd sure bet my money on his analysis. Secondly, everything the auto industry is doing right now is trying to blackmail Congress into a sweet deal. If they are hemorrhaging cash then they should stop the bleeding. How many cars produced this month are needed to be sold this month, probably zero. So, shut the operation down. There are contract provisions that extended supplemental pay to laid off employees, but at least stop the material consumption in making the product. You also won't litter the landscape with inventory that has marginal value. Yes, there are costs to shutting down. You typically don't save money, but you don't spend a bunch right now and at least live to fight another day when some rational thought can be put to what kind of bail out package might be best.

I still can't believe the statement made by Bob Schultz, what a fucking idiot.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Political Pay Back

Are we seeing what it cost Barack Obama to gain the Clinton support. Hillary was named Secretary of State, there is talk that Bill might be appointed to her term in the Senate, really? Now what did the election cost?

Turkeys Pay a Visit

November 30, 2008 Terry's father pays a visit for his daily fix of coffee. While sitting in the kitchen he suddenly startled us by yelling there is a flock of turkeys in the yard. Now I wasn't expecting the neighbors, so I thought something might be up. Sure enough a flock of 10 wild turkeys spent about a half an hour scouting our yard as a possible feasting site. I hope we passed.

Several years ago I saw a lone turkey just come into the yard and look around, then left. Last year two turkeys showed up and ate of the corn on the ground and looked around and left. I thought we were getting looked over. Now, a flock moved through. Our field provides roosting opportunity and heavy cover. Wouldn't that be something if they took up residence in our area.

See the attached video.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Market Theory Works

Economics is tough. Recently it has been broadcast that 1.2 million jobs have been lost this year. A large number of those jobs have been in construction and industry. However I do not know the statistics but I would venture the largest number of layoffs are in the service sector. Banks and financial institutions have laid of tens of thousands, insurance companies are shedding workers, real estate agencies and other mortgage brokers have to be losing people. I cannot help but wonder how many of those jobs were created with poor supporting structure.

What do I mean by that? Stop and think about it, here were these huge financial institutions putting together investment instruments containing thousands of mortgage and reselling them to investors for large fees, yet in their technological sophistication they cannot tell you what instruments lie bundled in these portfolios. as a result when the value of the bundles comes into question they have no way of sorting out the bad so the entire bundle of mortgages is devalued, perhaps way below market value.

Home prices are falling in many parts of the country. Why, because greedy people bought homes paying premium prices with little regard for real market value creating an artificial market value not supported by sound credit terms and traditional methods of measuring property value. Instead it became similar to a pyramid scheme and as long as no one asked any questions people were getting rich. However, they were also pricing the properties beyond the range of the average person thereby narrowing the number of participants in the market until it became unsustainable.

What we are seeing now is a period of adjustment, and quite frankly we need these downturn to put rationale back into the markets. Unfortunately some innocent people are going to get burned, and some shortsighted greedy people rewarded. But then, who said life was fair?

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

The Economy 11-18-08

It is well known that a downturn in the economy begins long before the effect is felt. Yesterday experts were saying the economy began its down turn almost a year ago. If that is true then the same is true for a swing back up. Also yesterday productivity numbers in the U.S. improved by 1% above economists predictions. It was felt that that swing was due to recovery from the hurricanes that decimated the Gulf. This morning, Home Depot reported sales above expectations, not good but better than plan. Can this be the turning point. Perhaps It is easy to attribute changes to unexpected events. HD's increase in sales over plan could be due to the housing market and people now repairing homes instead of selling them. Who knows, but we need to be on our toes, the bottom may be near. Let it be said, if we start to regain economic strength, I made the prediction on this date. Yatata!

Monday, November 17, 2008

An Odd Sight

We have Turkey Buzzards in Arkansas. Actually they are all over the country, I saw some this summer in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. Back to the story. Turkey Buzzards are not seen in large numbers around our home of Paragould, AR. Yesterday morning Terry and I were returning from shopping about 9:30 AM. As we pulled into the final drive heading to the house there, in lazy circles, looping about the cabin were a flock of Turkey Buzzards, perhaps 8 of 10 in number. Circling slowly, weaving in their beautiful gliding pattern they were taking advantage of the thermals barely moving their wings. They were in no hurry. I assume they were testing the wind and searching the ground for food.

As were pulled up in the drive in front of the house they were positioned over the rent house just next to our property and their circles took them over our garage and pine trees along the garage driveway. They are an ugly bird, but you cannot see the turkey type head from a distance, all you can see is the grace with which they fly.

Standing along side the van I marveled at the beauty. All of a sudden from the north a fast moving form caught my eye. It was a hawk, a large hawk, probably a red tail. From underneath you cannot see the red tail It raced toward the circling buzzards. I thought, Oh boy, I'm going to see something happen now. It was remarkable, the hawk joined the circling birds. It did not attack, it did not alarm the buzzards, it just joined them. I assumed that the flight pattern of the buzzards would alarm other animals on the ground and may provide the hawk with a fresh kill. When they are hungry hawks have been known to eat carrion, so maybe it was a hawk, just laid off from an auto plant trying to make ends meet. Who knows.

It was some sight.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

The Republican Party

I am a Republican. I am not a learned Republican steeped in political knowledge. However I watched Senator Obama beat the stuffing out of John McCain. I say I am a Republican, yet I find some of the values espoused by the Democrats to be appealing. I think abortion should be a choice made by the mother with the father's input. I think that we have to get health care under control and I do not believe giving a voucher to citizens to use in buying health care is viable. Hell, $5000 won't my much in the way of health insurance, and many poor people would use the money to put food on the table, booze in their gullet, or drugs in their veins. I think Social Security needs to be fixed. I am one who will probably have over 50% of their retirement income come from the monthly benefit check. I think veterans should received better benefits and the GI Bill do what it did years ago, pay for college so people who serve can improve their lot in life.

I do not like the idea of increasing government involvement in private issues. However, it seems the Republicans couldn't stem the tide. I think we are over committed in defense spending and need to work harder at forging international friendship instead of looking for the economic advantage all of the time.

A liberal Congress scares the hell out of me. I do not like the Employee Free Choice Act and think there will be nothing worse than its passage. I fear companies will flock to other countries to avoid the chicken shit contracts that will be forced on employers. I also think there are enough issues in the passage of that law to create law suits that will tie up the implementation of that bill for several years.

Most of all I want the Republicans to get rid of the religious right. I cannot think of a more damning, damaging segment of the party that drives young voters away in large numbers. I do not like the southern conservatism that continues to reflect the racial divide in the country, and I especially do not like that they tend to vote Republican. I do not think a return to the old values is to be the savior of the Republican party, I think that expanding commitment to new values is what is going to lead the Republican party out of the wilderness.

I also don't see that happening very soon.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

We Are Lucky to Be Americans

I went to bed last night before they announced Barak Obama's victory. I woke up this morning to a significant power shift in this country. Not only did Obama win, but won a majority of the vote along with about 350 electoral votes. States that have traditionally been republican voted democrat. Senators and legislators were swept into office because of Obama's win. The reaction around the world was unprecedented. In China I saw pictures of large crowds chanting Obama.

I got up, shaved, put on my clothes and went to work. There were no troops in the streets. There was no TV announcement of some general taking over the country. A significant amount of power shifted in the U.S. and I went to work along with several million other people. I read the republican accounts of the debate that must take place for them to regain some measure of respect two years from now. I read about the losing candidate's gracious concession statement. I read about the President's call to Obama assuring him of his administration's complete cooperation in the transition.

In January we will have a new president. The power shift will be complete and I will have worked over 20 days without threat, intimidation or loss of my rights as a citizen. It is truly amazing.

Monday, November 3, 2008

One more day, hooray!

Wednesday morning we will have a new President-elect. Who will it be? I cannot predict. However, I have a feeling that something many do not want will play a role. Race. Yes, it has been quiet. Some news organizations have tried to have experts discuss the role of race in this year's election. I hope it has little or no impact, and I certainly hope it will not effect the outcome.

However, I've worked in large industrial plants in the north, I've ran a manufacturing plant in the south, I've lived in Jackson, MS and worked in the Medgar Evers Historical Neighborhood. I've listened to people talk and know one thing, very few people talk race, but many have an opinion. It is not acceptable to be a racist in our society. Very few people openly discuss racial issues. Yet I cannot help but believe there may be a larger force at work than we perhaps are aware of. I hope not. However, when the curtain closes, the privacy of the voting booth allows a person to vote their mind without influence. Those biases and prejudices that are kept in the deep recesses of a person's heart may just come to the fore and influence his/her decision.

It would be the wrong reason to vote, but it could happen. We shall see.

Sunday, November 2, 2008


I participate in a forum for those who encounter irregular heartbeats. I have learned a great deal, not only from reading medical materials but from the many members of the forum and their personal experiences. Over the year and a half I have participated there seems to be a pattern. A person typically has some large stress event in their life, they become conscious of the irregular heartbeat, they are extremely frightened by the experience and find the forum where they get reassurance they are OK. The person undergoes what I now recognize as standard tests, EKG, Stress Echo-Cardiogram, Holter Monitor, perhaps an cardiac catheterization, and other tests that check out the structural integrity of the heart. They are almost always told they are OK, the irregular heartbeat is benign and they should try to ignore the sensation. Eventually everyone seems to come to terms with the condition.

You do find the occasional person who says they are not overwrought by the problem, but take a logical approach trying to determine first what causes the onset and second what they can to do prevent the onset. I have found many of these people seem to underestimate the impact of stress on our lives. I find some people who are dead set against any form of medication. I also find persons who seem to be on a never ending quest for some natural solution, zinc imbalance, potassium, magnesium, omega oil, and on and on. I end up feeling bad for these people. It seems as though they find meaning in life by searching for a cause/cure. I am convinced irregular heartbeats are benign and will not hurt me, so I've chosen to get on with my life. Others seem to spend endless energy in their search when there may be no answer.

I've recently seen another behavior I wonder about. I have encountered some people who talk about exercise and workouts that seem to be intended to stave off aging instead of enhance the quality of their life. I recognize the last statement could be considered a contradiction of terms, after all if I do stave off aging am I not improving the quality of my life. Normally I would say yes, however I find there is a possible difference in the motive. I find my exercise routine enhances my enjoyment of my daily living. A few people I've encountered seem to look down the road past today and be wrapped up in exercise as a means of creating immortality and forget to enjoy the daily life experiences. I wonder if they ever come to terms with that drive.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

McCain and the Stupid Pill

I never consider anyone dumb. However I do recognize stupidity when I see it, having fallen victim to those kinds acts myself over the years. McCain's robocalls are stupid. Studies show people usually hang up within the first 3-5 seconds. Most of us have predisposed anger toward telemarketing. The message is offensive, while I do not like the liberalism the Democratic party tends to reflect they are not dumb. They would not have selected a terrorist or a Muslim. McCain recently called Obama an honorable man when his campaign rallies got racial and ugly.

I will still vote for McCain, but this is a stupid act that will backfire on him.

Unfortunately the message is finding takers. A person I work with who has a bachelor and master's degree recently told me she doesn't trust Obama because of the association with terrorists or he may be a closet Muslim. This is a highly educated person I respect a great deal for her courage to pull herself up from a background in poverty. There are probably others.

Win at all costs, I don't like it but it seems to be a political fact of life.

Sunday, October 19, 2008


A recent article on CNN medical has my mind speculating full time. The article concerned a research lab that had taken a rats heart, stripped it of all cellular material leaving a cellular matrix behind, then injected the matrix with cells from the rat's heart which then divided, grew and the heart started to beat again. Now there are all kinds of difficulties, for example they need to figure out how to install blood vessels and nerve endings to recreate the actual heart, but if they can achieve this step they can certainly figure out the rest.

Just think of the possibilities. Taking an organ from a deceased person, stripping that organ down, rebuilding it and transplanting it. If you used cells from the host organism there may be no rejection issues and you could resume a normal life with your immune system intact.

What about cancer, diabetes, congestive heart failure. Replace the organ with a good one. If cancer hasn't metastasized you might effect a cure and reduce or eliminate the risk of recurrence. What does that mean for gene replacement for people predisposed to breast cancer, colon cancer or even Alzheimer's.

A thousand years in the future there may be clinics where every 150 years or so you enter the clinic for a period of time and have your entire body rebuilt. Immortal, could be.

Think about the impact on organized religion. We would become one with God. If we were created in God's image would that not be possible? I wish I were going to be around the hear the debate that is going to take place as we progress towards that possibility. After all, once you've mastered immortality the universe is a piece of cake.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

What will be the impact of race on the race?

I've said before if you are voting for Obama because he is black you are voting Obama for the wrong reason. Likewise if you are voting for McCain because Obama is black you are voting McCain for the wrong reason.

I do not know of any polls that indicate the impact of race. There is the Bradley effect, but I do not know of any statistics. However I've been an observer of people for many years because that is how I made my living. Social scientists say that Blacks and Latinos are more apt to act in concert as a member of a group than Caucasians. So in all likelihood blacks may end up pooling their votes for Obama.

However, racial feelings run deep. I've heard the talk. When the curtain on the voting booth closes who knows what happens but I am sure many will vote their heart. I do not think we have any measure of the extent racial hatred exists. Barry Goldwater said during his campaign many years ago that you cannot legislate love into a man's heart. I think we shall find out. Obviously we've come a long way toward honoring diversity, but is it lip service or have beliefs, prejudices and bias really changed?

I think if Obama has a significant lead we will see him win but by 5% lower than the polls predicted. I hope not, but I believe the possibility is real.

Employee Free Choice Act

There is an act that has successfully passed the House sitting on the democratic agenda waiting for the election Nov. 4. It is called the Employee Free Choice Act and on the surface sounds quite attractive. It has been developed by unions and their liberal supporters. What it refers to is a change to the current method used to determine whether or not employees desire union representation.

As of this writing unions wishing to try to organize a company will have representatives stand near company property, or meet with people they have contacted working for the company who may be sympathetic to the union message. A card is proffered and if signed represents the person interest in having an election for union representation. If 51 percent of the active employees request an election then there is a waiting period while the NLRB schedules an election. During this time the company may discuss the possibility of union representation with employees. They have the employees at work and can use work time for the discussion sessions. In addition companies hire firms to come in a survey all personnel to see if the main irritant of the employees can be discovered and remedied before an election takes place. The union is at somewhat of a disadvantage as they have to rely on public meetings or home visits to get their message out.

Unions claim the companies have an unfair advantage and will use any tactic they can including threats and purges to insure the defeat of the proposal. On the other hand the union makes all kinds of outrageous claims, we'll double your wages, you won't have to pay for health benefits, we'll double your vacation time, etc. Do abuses occur, sure. I've been through a unionization attempt at a plant that reported to me in Lexington, TN. The abusive situation that arose concerning the anti-union sentiment came from the community, not the company. I found out what the problem was and took care of it. The problem disappeared.

However, union representatives do misrepresent their claims, continuously. After all, would you listen to a person asking you to support a unionization attempt who said, I'm not sure I can increase your wages or improve your health benefits, but we'll have strength in numbers and I want 3 hours of your pay monthly for dues.

The new law would make the signing of the cards the vote. In other words, there wouldbe no waiting time to present sides or for a company response. If the union representative convinced you to sign the card with whatever sales pitch he/she made the card would represent a vote. If 51 percent of the vote was for, a union would be recognized by the NLRB.

This is a bad law. Perhaps there could be some negotiation. Perhaps the company and union representatives could state publicly to one and all their positions and then see if a vote should go forward. To deny the company time to rebut the proposal and to deny a secret ballot is not the way to go.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Obama's Economic Recovery Plan

Senator Obama has five new ideas in and article on CNN Money this morning. Some aren't too bad. Here is my opinion:

Relax rules on emergency withdrawals from retirement funds.

A plant in our area pays its workers extremely well. The average production worker can make over $70,000 annually and with overtime it is not unusual for workers to make in excess of $100,000 a year. Yet, every three months their pay system has one week where the hours of work on the pay check are 36 instead of 48. When that happens there is a rush to the personnel department to borrow against their 401(k). My point is I'm not sure if people would use the money to stave off the wolf from the door or it would be just a means of sustaining a life style they shouldn't be at anyway. It probably won't be repaid, plus the tax liability will be foregone and Uncle Sam will be down in tax receipts. I do not think this is a good idea unless they could come up with a method of proving need, for example to be applied against a mortgage payment, or in an unemployed situation.

Give Seniors a break in a bad market.

While this won't effect me, I agree with this position. Why penalize a person's IRA with a withdrawal made when the market was high. This economic difficulty should not penalize those who saved and developed enough savings or investments on their own that they wish to protect. The article goes on to say that in this instance, Obama agrees with McCain's idea. Hmm!

Have the federal government finance state and local governments.

I don't know about this one. Some of those governments are in areas that went through an inflated economic real estate boom that has turned out to be more speculative that real. Yesterday I hear the mayor of San Diego say that his city has simply lived beyond its means. Departments that may not be needed have been created, services that are nice to have may have been created, perhaps there should be some real retrenching before we finance overspending at the local and state level.

Encourage job creation

On the surface it sounds good. However, it is the usual liberal ploy that won't work. They would give a $3-5000 tax credit to companies for every full-time job they create. It doesn't work that way. What you are really telling businesses to do is create jobs when they are not needed. Business operates in a competitive, fairly free market condition. They are not going to add jobs simply for the sake of a tax credit. The tax credit does not even come close to offsetting the cost of a new job creation. This is a stupid idea. Better to resurrect the public works programs FDR created back in the 30's to get income into the hands of people. At least you would get some work done, and the program could be phased out as the economy recovers.

Extend unemployment benefits for 13 weeks beyond the 24 week period.

As much as I do not like something for nothing, this may have to be done. However, I like the idea of redistributing the money through public works. There are a lot of roads and trash that need picking up. There are public areas that need to be refurbished. How about the idea of getting something instead of just giving money away so a guy can go fishing every day.

In general I don't think Obama's plan will be implemented in time to do much good. I question what good it will do. There are a couple of items that I think will have to be implemented, however one of them appears to be an idea put forth by John McCain. So where is the change, the new ideas in this proposal. Many of these ideas are old hack ideas that have surface and been implemented in past years. Nothing new here.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Knee jerk politics

One of the reasons I don't mind grid-lock in our national legislative process is that it prevents knee-jerk politics. What do I mean knee-jerk politics? How about the time Congress was going to pass a law making the public destruction of our flag a federal crime. I do not like seeing our flag burned as a protest to events taking place in America, but it seems to me that taking that step of outlawing that form of protest is taking a step down the road of becoming a police state. I served in the U.S. Army for four years back in the 60's and while I hate that form of protest I do not think it should be outlawed.

Now, the "bail out" bill is being rethought. First of all it won't be implemented immediately. There are some columnists that are commenting that by the time the "bail out" bill is implemented the crisis will be over. Now Paulsen wants to rethink the use of the funds, perhaps taking ownership in banks by the purchase of equity will be best. Hell, we didn't know how to the attack the problem in the first place. Yes, the adjustment may be massive and ugly, but our economy was built on too large of a credit base. It has to be reigned in.

The price of gas.

The price per gallon for gas has dropped in our area to below $3 a gallon. I wondered this morning if American consumers are so short sighted that there will now be an increase in auto sales, specifically SUV's and trucks. I would be so disappointed in the collective mind set of our society if that were to happen. That would certainly reinforce the concept that we are not a whole lot above cows being lead to slaughter.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

McCain's in trouble

I did not watch much of the 2nd debate. I still believe they are all liars. However the little I did see McCain looked old, hell he is. Unfortunately his limited arm movement makes him look somewhat handicapped. This bullshit of "my friends" is bogus. His style is stiff and he just comes across as cold and unyielding. Obama isn't a lot better. He is charming and smart. But I am really afraid of a power shift that may spell trouble for the country. There seems to be a backlash against the Republicans. Several traditional Republican seats in the both Senate and House were lost to Democrats in the last year or so. The sentiment against Bush is heavy and I don't think he could carry a jockstrap now.

The conservative wing of the Republican party seems to be inflexible and I do not understand that. What scares me is that there will be a Democratic majority that will be so strong that liberal laws will be passed that will create more national debt, will create more people in our society dependent upon public support and eventually increase the tax burden on all of us. Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid at not wise political leaders but have an extreme liberal agenda. We can't afford for the rail to socialism to be greased.

A Contradiction

Today I had to go pay my local taxes. No problem. However I began to ponder the mindset of people. I stopped by to assess for 2008, I was already assessed. The lady at the counter was quite heavy set. She was wearing a dress that was fairly low cut exposing some substantial cleavage. She had a light sweater on and then kept pulling the sweater over her cleavage, unsuccessfully I might add. It made me think, why would a person dress in a fashion designed to emphasize something and then use something else to hide it. Would it not be more natural to simply make your statement without embarrassment. And for my daughters who may read this, I did not stare, I did not drool, I observed her action while waiting on someone else. I just wonder why people wear what might be considered provocative clothing to then try to hide the exposure.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Health Update

In two days it will have been 21 months since I had bowel resection surgery. A rough time line goes something like this: Jan, 2007 Bowel resection surgery, February 2007 irregular heartbeat becomes noticeable, March 2007 hospitalized for an Afib episode, August 2007 irregular heartbeat becomes so noticeable that a Holter monitor is prescribed for a 24 hour period, at the same time I start to encounter gall stone attacks, November 2007 gall bladder surgery, June 2008 small bowel obstruction. Whew!

I have had almost 5 months of peace. My irregular heartbeat still exists, however the sensation has almost slipped below consciousness. The gas attack episodes I was having due to the gall bladder removal have become very mild and almost not noticeable. I still am not used to the bowel activity and variation I run into, however I am sensing a pattern and am relieved at that.

From a psychological stand point I believe I am now getting some stability. When I had bowel resection surgery and realized my brush with cancer I have had to deal with mortality issues all over again. I am older now, time is passing rapidly and I don't want it to. My work years are dwindling down, I still haven't made up my mind when I shall retire however retirement does not seem like vacation to me. It seems more like a recognition of the end.

The small bowel obstruction scared the hell out of me. At the time it was very painful and I was as sick as I ever have been. I thought perhaps ulcer, some sort of rupture, then when I learned obstruction I thought a recurrence of cancer. It all worked out very well, but the Dr. told me that I might have another occurrence in a week, thirty days, a year, thirty years or never again. The not knowing was hard on me. Every time I had a gas pain, did not have a BM for a day or so, or just felt a little bloated I worried about an obstruction. I am now worrying less, but it was such a painful, unpleasant experience that I do not want it to come back, ever.

One of the things that seems to be important in my digestive tract activity is drinking water. Soda, coffee and other liquids all contain water, but my system seems to want a pretty good dose of water.

I am more at peace now. I am able to plan for the future better than a year ago. I have bought some "boy toys" like a tractor with a front end loader, I bought a new air rifle to do some squirrel hunting, Terry and I have some plans for landscaping. My mind is reaching out further and the end of time is moving out away from me again. However, 30 years ago time was like a grand ocean to me, I could not see across it. Now, I can see the distant shore and the outline of trees, but I still cannot see an individual tree, but the far shore is now visible. Perhaps being closer to an end will make life that much sweeter to me. We shall see.

Right now, I feel fine, I exercise. I am having difficulty keeping me weight down and have to work at that. Work is interesting, however working around the house is becoming more pleasurable. Maybe I am in mental transition from work to retirement.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Some thoughts on the upcoming election

I was emailed an article in the NY Times recently. It was a story about the roots of the credit problem in the U.S. From the article Congress is to blame. However, in addition to Congress we can find the roots of the problem in the Clinton administration. You see, in the late 80's the Attorney General Janet Reno began pushing Fannie Mae to take on loans from people who were less that adequate credit risks. This was a public push to get lower income families into home ownership. At the same time congressmen were calling Fannie Mae urging them to take on riskier loans because their constituents financial needs. In fact, one of the congressmen urging Fannie Mae to take on high risk loans was Barney Franks, the same chairman of the Banking committee pushing hard on the bailout bill. I guess the democrats will take every opportunity to piss away our tax dollars.

One democratic senator is quoted in the article about Fannie Mae taking action because the cost of homes was doubling every 6-7 years yet income was only going up about 1% a year. Now it seems to me that simple logic tells you that at some point in time there will be a problem. How about requiring classes for people on financial responsibility.

The article pointed out that Senator McClain had a premonition of the trouble we were headed for and asked for oversight back in the 90's. Maybe if some fiscally responsible congressmen stood up and quit excusing the plight of the poor we would be a stronger country instead of being built on a revolving line of credit.

Here we are heading for a strong democratic congress, and perhaps a liberal democratic President. Heaven help us! Since when did owning a home become an entitlement or a right instead of a privilege. Since when did sitting home on your ass collecting a "crazy kids" checks or a check for aid to dependent children become a means for steady income. We are destroying people's incentive to work by providing them with money that is not founded on effort or skill but condition. There are people who need help, but there a many that milk the system and it is job security for those agencies providing the aid. Ken Hamblin makes a good point on the "brood mares" sustaining their economic condition by having foals.

Well, guess I'll end here this has the making of an out of control diatribe. We've survived for 200 plus years through a variety of political powers. However, with retirement so close I end up personally concerned for the ever increasing government incursion into areas it is incapable of handling effectively and efficiently.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

The Credit Crunch

My nephew sent me an article in the NY Times about Fannie Mae. The reason he sent the article was because he works for Fannie Mae. This is the quasi-government corporation that specialized in buying and selling bundles of mortgages with a guaranteed buy back on risky mortgages. Sounds like a deal too good to be true.

The article goes on to discuss the tremendous pressure Congress exerted on FM back in the Clinton era and since to expand their portfolio to take in riskier and riskier stocks. Large financial firms got in on the deal by buying bundled securities directly from lenders and bypassing FM. The competitive pressure and Congressional pressure grew to enormous proportions. In addition FM was guilty of using tactics to prod Congressmen into exerting pressure. The senior executives of FM were also awash in riches and the races was on. The loser is the consumer and other high flying companies.

Frankly I think the government should reach back at least 5 years and require CEO's to give up their golden parachutes. I think that the market should not be propped up but allowed to sink to a sustainable level. Home prices are out of whack now because of the rampant rush to sell a mortgage. Home flipping became a speculative market that was like a pyramid scheme, eventually someone was going to be left holding the over valued property. Why should we bail them out?

Colleges in the U.S. with tremendous endowment funds raise their tuition at will. College student debt is enormous with young people coming into the labor market owing tens of thousands of dollars for their education. Credit card debt is over extended. Our economy is propped up by debt which is hard to value. A home mortgage is secured by real estate, a college loan and credit card debt is unsecured. When will that devil come to bite us.

The democrats are basically to blame with their loosen the purse strings attitude in the 1980's. I believe that Congress will reflect a backlash against the Republican party, Much in part to the religious right and their "my way or the highway" mentality. My fear is that we will have a powerful democratic congress with a liberal democratic president and the door will be open to all kinds of excesses. I do not trust Obama, I believe he has an agenda that is not necessarily in the best interest of all Americans. At least with government gridlock the harm that will be done by the expediency of our legislative and executive branch is blunted. If we end up with a democratic congress and a democratic president we shall indeed be on a slippery slope.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Harvesting Cotton in Missouri's Bootheel

While I live in Arkansas and work in Arkansas the easiest way for me to get to work is through Missouri. I live in northeastern Arkansas just west of the Bootheel of Missouri. Blytheville, AR where I work is southeast of Paragould. The route that is most time efficient is to go through the Bootheel to I-55, then south five miles to Blytheville. As a result I go through some of the best agricultural land in the Mississippi delta. Huge fields dominate the scene and rice, cotton and soybeans are the most often planted crops. About this time of year harvest is in full swing. The equipment used is massive and fields are cleared in hours not days.

Cotton pickers pick six rows at a time. They have tapered cones that guide the plant into two rotating drums that have rubber fingers that strip the cotton bolls from the plant. Then a suction system takes the boll up to a cage that traps the cotton. When the cage is full a tractor pulling a large cotton wagon comes along side the picker and the cage elevates and tips so the cotton is dumped into the cotton wagon. The picker resumes picking and the cotton wagon transports the cotton to a cotton module compress. The compress has two hydraulic rams and a large bar that goes back and forth in the module compress and packs the cotton into a module. The cotton module is about 30 feet long, 8 feet high and 6 to 8 feet wide. A module holds about 13 to 17 500 lb ginned cotton bales.

The process is very efficient, however in the last two years J I Case, my former company and John Deere have improved the process even further. Case makes a cotton picker that compacts its own module. The module is about half the size of a module but a transport truck can handle two modules so the weight is about the same as a full sized module. The Deere picker rolls the cotton into a large round bale similar to a very large hay bale. The pickers are huge to accommodate the compacting system. The cost runs almost $500,000. However it eliminates the need for a cotton wagon and a module maker plus the attendants. So it is a little more cost effective.

I have attached a video I shot near what is known as Cotton Plant Corner just north of Hornersville, MO. I go past these fields every trip to Blytheville so when I came along Wednesday morning I stopped and shot some video. I hope you enjoy the brief amateur video, but it does show cotton picking in full swing.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Be Sure to VOTE!

If you are voting for McCain because Obama is black you are voting McCain for the wrong reason. If you are voting Obama because Pallin is a woman, you are voting Obama for the wrong reason. If you are voting for Obama because he is black then you are voting Obama for the wrong reason. If you are voting for McCain because Pallin is a woman then you are voting McCain for the wrong reason.

However, if you are voting Obama because his past actions most express your values then you are voting Obama for the right reason. If you are voting for McCain because your values are best expressed by his past actions then you are voting McCain for the right reason.

However, If you are voting for Obama or McCain based on what they are saying right now during the campaign, you will be voting ignorance because they are all lying. There is only one thing we have to learn that we don't already know. Is Sarah Pallin capable of presenting her credentials in a meaningful, articulate way? We don't really know that yet. She has faced interviews by folks trying to trip her up rather than explore her knowledge. She has been kept under wraps from the prying questions of the press. In addition she is stonewalling an investigation that may have political motivations rather than a search for the truth. So that is one question we don't have answered. Hopefully we will become knowledgeable before the election.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Dual Standard

There is an article about a teacher in a middle school who had sex with a 12 year old boy. To compound the offense she took the boy to Mexico so they could continue to have sex. The boy was a Mexican illegal who has been granted a visa on humanitarian grounds. The teacher got 6 years in prison, 1 year for time already served and may get 1 or 2 years off for good behavior. If that had been a guy he would be charged with statutory rape, and would serve many more years in prison. In addition he might have been convicted of child molestation, kidnapping, etc. Seems like 6 years is awful light.

Of course I end up thinking like George Carlin, where were these teachers when I was a young boy?


I read an article on CNN about a woman who receives a social security disability check. She is 47. She has a son who is home schooled but takes some classes at a local school. She apparently cannot afford clothing for him and he wears her clothing which as brought ridicule and harassment from fellow students at the school he attends. Recently she learned a check she received annually for $250 in the fall of the year was not forthcoming this year. She had used the money to buy clothing for her son and saved some for Christmas. This year there won't be either.

Wow, talk about the subject of a powerful made for TV movie. Now today the House has rejected the "bailout bill." Am I heartless for saying yea for the rejection of the bailout bill in the face of examples of such dire stories as this woman. I feel not.

There are numerous people who will come to this ladies aid when the facts are known. Years ago before welfare and social security people helped people. The streets were not full of starving helpeless people. Bodies did not stack up in potter's field because neighbor wouldn't help neighbor. We now are saying the government is better able to help this lady than her fellow citizens. The problem I see is that it takes some large number of people to help this lady, when all it takes is a few people in the community to probably give her all the aid she needs.

I think to perpetuate the economic growth our country has sustained through this bill would be incorrect at this time. It appears to me our basement is made of a house of cards not the strength of character and ethics that perhaps existed in years gone by. I think the bailout bill should have strong controls and oversights, obviously the industry couldn't regulate itself. Just another example of business's inability to come to terms with "doing the right thing" instead letting greed overwhelm the credit creation market.

I feel bad for the woman and her son. If I had a name and address I would probably send her a check for $50. I'll bet after that article numerous people have taken the step of helping provide for her. I hope they have, that is the spirit of America.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Financial Crisis

My initial thoughts on the $700 Billion dollar bail out were OK. A few days later I'm swinging my opinion. My personal stock portfolio has declined some 10 - 15%. However I am within 5 months of having my home paid off, I have no significant debt other than one piece of investment property and an auto loan on my home equity line of credit. I am meeting my bills, fulfilling my fiscal obligation, paying taxes and working for a living.

Yesterday on PBS I heard a report that there are roughly 51.4 million first mortgages outstanding in the U.S. Of those 51.4 about 1.2 million are in foreclosure, that is less than 3%. So where is the problem? It lies in the fact that greedy bastards bundled those mortgages together and sold them as an investment instrument to other greedy bastards and now they are unsure of the value of those bundles. Why? Because a bunch of other greedy bastards got into the business of house flipping trying to make a buck quickly. The rise in value of homes in parts of American was unprecedented, and now it appears unwarranted. In the past when home loans were handled in local banks people were forced to save money to get a down payment sufficient to create sound collateral for local banks to loan money. It wasn't all that long ago folks.

When some bright investment person figured out that they could sell bundles of mortgages, get the money from that sale and re-lend the money for more mortgages we entered the era of easy credit. In the feeding frenzy that resulted people got into the business of trying to buy homes low and sell high to turn a profit. Then someone figured out the price of homes was becoming greater than people could afford so lets get creative in devising methods for people to increase their leverage and take greater risk. Come on people, who and the hell would take out a low interest loan that would have some huge payment readjustment within a year thinking they would then be able to make the payments. The purpose was so they could flip the house. So you have greedy people risking all to gain wealth, you have greedy loan originators selling loans to persons who were not credit worthy, selling bundles of loans to greedy investors who didn't know what they were buying.

Caveat emptor means let the buyer beware. Now they ask the rest of us to bail them out. In the meantime some people will walk away with huge "golden parachutes" and I will provide money to bail these greedy shits out. Baloney. Fuck'em all! Free market practices reward risk, but there is a down side to risk and the person taking the risk bears the brunt of that burden. So let them wait and sort out the mess through the foreclosure process. Let credit dry up, this country wasn't founded on credit, nor did it become great on credit. What about the huge amounts of credit tied up in credit cards and student loans. Do I have an obligation to cover everyone else's inability to measure risk and reward. I do not believe so. Will this country survive? Sure, there are 50.2 million borrowers out there making their house payments and trying to contribute to the American dream. It is time for a major readjustment in our way of life.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Harvest Time in SEMO

SEMO is Southeast Missouri. I travel through Missouri every time I travel to Blytheville, AR. It is the means of least resistance. Coming home from Blytheville Thursday afternoon I came across a scene that bears recording. After cutting the rice in a field the field is burned. The rice is cut quite high, just the heads are removed. As a result you have large stands of rice straw that can make quite a plume of smoke.

I was on highway 164 in Missouri heading West back to Paragould when I came upon a huge plume of smoke rising into the late afternoon sky. It was quite spectacular so I shot a little video. Then in a field next to me there were combines working cutting the rice in that field so I got a little view of that. For what it is worth here is the video.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Power Flush Commodes

The talk at work turned to air assisted flush commodes. The type you see in shopping malls which are supposed to use less water yet get rid of the contents so you don't see those embarrassing telltale dark streaks on the sides of the bowl. You know, no one is going to know who caused their appearance unless they happen to follow you into the stall. Besides, what are they going to do, leave in disgust, flush the commode again, come out and point an accusing finger at you while you wash your hands and make some crass statement like, "Talk about leaving your mark." I don't think so!

Anyway one person commented that you sure don't want to sit on the commode when that power flush activates, anything loose might get snapped up. Immediately I encountered a thought about some guy coming out of a commode clutching his privates because the scrotum got snapped down to the trap and back again like some mini-bungee cord. I made the comment that should you be sitting on the commode when you activated that flush you'd want to keep you mouth open so you didn't come away with a permanent pucker of the mouth. It could even make you swallow you false teeth. How about bubble gum, you might blow a bubble out your ass in the negative pressure environment.

So ended another productive day at work.

Precision in Speaking

When I deliver training or speak in public now days I find myself wanting to be precise in my word use. For example, I do not say gonna, I say going to. I do not say shoulda, I say should have. It is one of the areas I feel critical of Sen. Obama. To me using shoulda, woulda, coulda type speech patterns is sloppy and lazy. I would expect better polish from a Harvard grad.

The Center of the Universe

I hate that my digestive tract has become the center of my universe. In a year and one half I have had a bowel resection, my gall bladder removed, and this past June a small bowel obstruction. As a result I have become gun shy. If I don't have some form of BM every day I begin to worry about an obstruction. If I get gas pains in my abdominal area I begin to worry about obstruction. I learned that if you have an obstruction it is like blocking the end of a straw filled with liquid, nothing is going to come out. So now when I pass gas I am relieved the system is functioning. I find myself thinking about what I eat as being a contributor to an upset system, a cranky system or an obstructed system. I talked to my daughter Kristi this past June when I came through her city on my way back to Arkansas. I made the statement that I hoped I wasn't going to become and old man obsessed with bowel activity. Her response, "Too late Dad!" You know, this fixation adds a whole new dimension to the old childhood saying, Holy Shit!

Sunday, September 14, 2008

The Buzz of Chainsaws

Sunday morning at 11:30 AM is not a time for chainsaws. However this morning we wake to find that tropical depression Ike move past us in the night. We've received about 1/2 inch of rain, but we did get some blowing wind. At our home we did encounter a little damage. One pine tree with a divided trunk split away part of the trunk and a fairly large portion of the pine tree is down. It is a tree that Terry and I planted about 19 years ago. The rest of the tree is OK, but it will have to regrow some.

The rental property did sustain some damage. We had a pretty large Weeping Willow. I had been noticing that one of the major limbs was looking like it was dying, but the entire tree blew over last night. The tree was uprooted. A decorative tree near the home had some large limbs broken down, but the tree itself was OK.

In the neighborhood a house at the end of our private drive had a portion of his fence blown down. Along the south side of his home some fairly large Bradford Pears were down and blown up against the house. Across Fairview a home had a large part of a tree at the corner of the house down and leaning against the home. I could not tell if there was any structural damage, but it didn't appear so. The ground is littered with leaves, small dead limbs, and other debris. The cover I had over my tiller down by the garden is gone, on first pass I cannot find it so who knows where that went.

Other than that, it is 71 degrees, the sun has broken out and it will be a fine day. Not so for Texas and parts of Louisiana. We are fortunate, Ike swept down some dead twigs, we have power and everything is fine. Elsewhere there is devastation and misery. We went shopping this morning and are going to prepare a wonderful pork chop and fried apple dinner. God is good!

Thursday, September 11, 2008

9/11 7th Year

I turned on TV this morning to check out the news and Hurricane Ike. I had seen on the CNN website that the Pentagon 9/11 Memorial was going to be dedicated, but I did not realize how complete the coverage would be. The program at the Pentagon was beginning when we began watching. A powerful image of a regal ceremonial piper spread across the screen as he slow marched between the memorial benches playing Amazing Grace. Tears welled in my eyes as well as my wife's. Then he halted and played a hymn that was hauntingly lovely. Finally he slow marched behind the temporary stage to the final strains of Amazing Grace.

We were reminded by the announcers that the benches that line "The Park" were in memory of those killed at that site. 184 benches, one for each person killed. Depending on the way the benches faced denoted if they were killed on the aircraft or in the building.

In New York City the names were being read of every victim of the Twin Towers. In Pennsylvania a memorial was held for the heroes of the aircraft who crashed the plane into the countryside by attacking the hijackers. One mission was not successful, but some wonderfully brave citizens paid the ultimate sacrifice.

I am touched deeply by those events. The heroism displayed on all fronts, the desperate attempt to rescue victims, the final act of heroism by the passengers of the hijacked aircraft all speak to a higher level of human response to threat and attack. I cannot imagine the fear and anguish felt by hundreds trapped in the floors above the airplane crash sites on the Twin Towers when they knew there was no salvation. I find it amazing that hundreds of firemen would rush into the building, receiving the last rites from their Chaplin on the way in. I find it almost overwhelming to think of the passengers on the hijacked aircraft collectively coming to a decision that pretty much recognized they were not going to get out of their situation alive but that at least by doing something they had a chance, or would thwart the aims of the terrorists. The heroism of the people at ground zero at the Pentagon is equally amazing.

An old quote says these were the worst of times, they were the best of times. I salute those heroes. As John McCain said, I am in awe of their heroism and in debt to their service. God Bless all of the victims of the 9/11 attacks.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Its Time for Politics

I've come to dislike the National election periods every four years. It makes liars out of all the candidates. I no longer believe any statements they make, I no longer trust any information that is disseminated by the news media. Political expediency and the compelling ambition that leads to anything is fair in politics have made me distrust all candidates. So how do you make up your mind. The only method that makes sense to me is to look in the past. I will try to examine their history, not their political history but their personal history. What have they done? How have they behaved? Perhaps in the past there may be a clue to who might make the best president, it sure isn't in what is being said now.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

History in the Making

I sat in front of the TV last night with tears in my eyes as I watched the CBS group broadcast Barack Obama's historic night of being nominated for President of the United States. I am a product of the 60's. I watched in disbelief as Bull Connor unleashed the dogs on black protesters. I admire the courage that it took for Rosa Parks to stay in her seat on an Atlanta bus. I could not understand how blacks could be treated as non-citizens in our country. I live in the south now and I know many southerners still to this day that try to argue that the Civil War was over "states rights" not slavery. Bullshit! Don't pander that weak kneed argument to me. By the same token I don't tolerate the northerners talking about the anti-slavery north. There were slave markets in New York City in the late 1700's. The worst treatment Dr. Martin King got was in Cicero, IL. Racism is ugly, demeaning for those who are victims and those who hold those views. There is nothing good, economically sound, or spiritually correct to oppress a race. So, I was proud to see the Democrat's nominate a black man. I sat here quietly in tears listening to the emotional statement by a delegate talking about her aging father in an Atlanta nursing home with Alzheimer's unable to understand the historic moment. I wish he could.

Now the question, will I vote for Obama? No, I don't agree with his political stands. I don't believe in social programs to the extend the liberals in the democratic party proclaim. I do not believe that other Americans are entitled to a redistribution of wealth that provides no incentive for them to get up off their ass and take care of themselves. I no longer buy the argument that years of racial injustice mean that perpetual care is a right.

I do not think it takes a brave, strong person to tolerate a life of oppression by ingesting dope and robbing persons. Those are the weakest of our society and I have no compassion for them. It is not the majority of blacks in this country that live in squalor or are dope fiends or criminals. The majority live in good homes, earn incomes and take care of their families. It is time for them to also get off their ass and tell people about how they made it in America.

I'm tired of liberals talking about the disenfranchised poor, I didn't know we were poor, but my Dad lost his business when he was 65 because he was a piss poor businessman. He didn't give up, go on the dole, live his life in some small dank apartment building, feel sorry for himself and let society take care of him. I don't think the old man ever collected unemployment, but I'm sure he qualified. He went to work at age 65 pumping gas on the third shift. He worked his way into a bookkeeping position, he became a maintenance man and finally ended his 40 hour work week effort at age 85 washing dishes in a tennis club in Milwaukee. Yeah, he was white, so what?

You assholes that sit and claim a right to public welfare because you are the downtrodden masses of people victimized by the color of your skin get no sympathy from me. In fact, you do no honor to Rosa Parks, MLK, the NCAAP, the Civil Rights movement. So, I'm proud Democrats nominated Barack Obama, I just don't agree with the politics of his party.

Monday, August 25, 2008

A Marketing Problem

I have a two pair of Jockey briefs. Why do we call underwear a pair, when they are only one? Perhaps it is because they hold things in twos. A couple of cheeks, a couple of balls, you get the drift? Anyway, for some reason I have two briefs made by Jockey where the access to the equipment should a man wish to take a leak is done by pulling the opening straight down instead of to the side. I have had these briefs for several years and I like them very much. Getting set up to whiz is quick and easy and when one is in a hurry as sometimes happens there is very little fumbling.

These briefs are the only ones I've every run across where access is 90 degrees from normal. So I've been thinking through the years how would Jockey market the concept. It is different. I think I would like to be part of that meeting. Perhaps the line "Pull down to Pee" might be catchy. Maybe something from the public service sector. "Fire departments pull their hose from the bottom, now so can you." Maybe an ad could be developed along the theme that ease of access helps a man through those anxious moments when you struggle finding the opening in the traditional side port variety.

In my younger years my first wife tried to play an April Fools Day joke on my by stitching up the opening on a brief. (I'm trying to make it singular.) Well, days went by, April 1 came and went and I had no response. Finally one day at the breakfast table her frustration came out and she simply accused me of not getting upset so I wouldn't give her satisfaction that she had pulled one over on me. I didn't know what she was talking about. At that time I didn't use the port, I pulled my brief down from the top.

I decided perhaps I should act like a normal man and use the access port designed by some underwear guru. I began using the side port. Sure enough, I had gotten into the routine when that brief showed up that she had stitched the opening closed. So I got nailed on the rebound.

Anyway, a brief by any other name can be distressing when a man is under pressure. Sometimes your tee shirt blocks the opening and you can't find the port resulting in a man frantically rummaging around in his shorts like some deranged sex fiend. Sometimes your short, like boxer variety twist and you find yourself feeling around by your appendix instead of where you need to be.

So I like my Jockeys. I wear them on the weekend when getting at "stubby" may be a matter of going or changing clothes. Jockey has a great idea, I just can't figure out how to market it.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Had enough of the Olympics?

Not hardly. It is refreshing to listen to the American swim team proclaim Michael Phelps as a hero and the all time great Olympian. Phelps in turn responded by proclaiming the help provided by his teammates. It may sound corny, but I think we need to hear that kind of "corn." How about Kobe Bryant talking about the chills he got when he donned the Team USA basketball uniform and openly talking about his patriotism. How about the greatest basketball players in the world showing up to watch history in the making at the swim venue. How about the Australian Ian Thorpe showing up to bear witness to Michael Phelps efforts.

What about Béla Károlyi's exuberance in watching the Americans achieve a historic Gold and Silver in Women's gymnastics? Were the two gymnasts good representatives for today's youth. They seem like excellent role models happy for one another and excited about the opportunity to participate. I thought the courage of Dara Torres was amazing, at age 41 and looking every inch a champion and almost bringing the American relay team back to victory. The Romanian woman who won the Women's Marathon was a courageous figure and age 39 to boot.

The Olympics are filled with much more than sport, but great human stories of courage and the capability to overcome obstacles. One story that did not get much play, and I have a feeling it was because of respect for the person was the American male swimmer who was diagnosed with testicular cancer a month before the games. He opted to participate and postpone treatment, and that would probably be OK. I am sure doctors told him it wasn't life threatening and his chances for recovery would be excellent. Maybe not, who knows what the young man was told. However, he had worked hard to be on the American swim team and wanted the opportunity. He had to live with the mental question of was he doing the right thing. He did not win a medal, but the fact that he stood up to his situation and prevailed makes him a hero.

Other countries have their own heroes, and their own stories with which to reassure the population that courage, fair play, and sportsmanship do exist in this world. We can go to a former enemy's country, we can observe their citizens acting much like citizens in other parts of the world and rejoice that perhaps all is not wrong in the world.

Had enough of the Olympics, I would say not!

Monday, August 4, 2008

Health Update

I received an email from a lady in England Saturday thanking me for my blog on Bowel Resection Home Recovery. It is a rather earthy blog, one that is quite descriptive and meant primarily for those who may go through what I went through. The blog has now made it to midway down P.2 of a Goggle Search which I believe indicates it is getting some hits. It makes me feel good that some may find the information useful.

I would be remiss if I did not relate some of the recent events surround that abdominal issue. So here it goes.

Monday, June 23 I began to develop a stomach ache. It is what I characterize as a "green apple" stomach ache. No nausea, just pain. It seemed to diminish some, however it kept me up much of the night. It felt like a gall bladder attack, only I had my gall bladder out in November, 2007. So that could not be it. I finally did get to sleep, but it was fitful and I kept waking up with some pain. June 24, Tuesday morning it had abated quite a bit and I took my long walk. However, after I had breakfast it started up again and became quite painful. I lay on the bed hoping it would subside. I took some ant-acid tablets and it seemed to quiet down. I was hungry about lunch, and while I thought perhaps I should not eat, I did have a grilled cheese sandwich. Ho Boy!

The pain was a sharp pain right under my belly button. I found out that is a key symptom. I could did not pass any gas, I couldn't even work up a burp. I tried drinking some diet soda and it just felt worse, and a small burp not worth mentioning. I also had not gone to the bathroom for two days, no BM. Finally I got real sick, I mean break out in a cold sweat, perspiration dripping off me like I had an internal hose turned on, pain that put me on the floor and finally throwing up like I had the dry heaves. Little relief from vomiting.

We did call our Family Dr. and they had me come over right away. It took a little while to get in the waiting room, but not long. I ended up getting sick in the office. Unfortunately I do not throw up quietly, I'm sure I bellowed like a lovesick Moose. They sent me to the ER, I requested I go to Jonesboro as I had been treated there for my surgery and felt they would be in a position to know best.

Our Family Doctor gave me a shot of phenagren for nausea, and a pain medication that really put me in LaLa land. We made it to Jonesobor, more X-rays, and a CT Scan. The Family Dr. hit the diagnosis, he felt it was a small bowel obstruction. That scared the hell out of me. I did not show it, but all I could think of was a recurrence of the cancer, but now in the small intestine. Yet my prognosis from the sesection was excellent, I was told by several physicians that the polyp while malignant was so confined that there should be little or no risk of recurrence. However, once alert to the possibility you can't help but be concerned.

I did not let on my concern, but I was scared. Perhaps a ulcer. Then again, maybe just what the Dr. said, an adhesion or piece of scar tissue causing the bowel to kink.

I was admitted to the hospital Tuesday evening. A nurse ran a hose up/down my nose into my stomach and started draining the fluid build up. It turned out the surgeon who had done my two surgeries was on duty that night, and was I glad to see him. I've gotten to trust him very much. I quietly asked him if there was a mass there and he said no. He said the X-ray indicated a kink on my right side, near where my gall bladder was removed and he felt that was the problem.

About four hours after the hose was inserted into my stomach all hell broke loose in the form of BM's. I could not control myself, soiled my gown, my bed, several times and filled the portable commode a couple of times. Ah, relief!

In the morning the tube was removed by the surgeon. I was put on a liquid diet for two days to see if I tolerated the food movement. I did. I was sent home on Thursday. It turns out that a large percentage of people with abdominal surgery have an obstruction. It is not unusual. Since that time I have been fine. In fact, my system's tolerance of fat in my diet has improved. Maybe something really got unkinked. In addition, the key symptoms for a small bowel obstruction are a pain through the belly button area, and light colored to green vomit.

It is behind me. However, my surgeon told me it could recur at anytime. There is nothing I can take for it, nothing I can do. It may not every occur again, or it may occur in two weeks. I hope not. It was most unpleasant. However, if that is the least of my worries, I'm a lucky fellow.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Questions that interest me.

If God is omnipotent, can command all things why would such a being need to be worshiped?

If God can create all of the things in the universe, is as old as time itself, and can bend any force of nature to his/her will, why does he make life a test that must be passed?

What is it that God does not understand that God requires the human experience to fulfill?

Why are we (human beings) so arrogant that we would think the Creator would designate some specific sect, group or religion as being the "special" one?

Why do so many people believe that books written by man can define God and his intent?

Battle Cry

I do not like to gloat. Too many times the reason you gloat comes back to bite you in the ass. However, I do feel like daubing some black, silver, orange, red, and neon green body paint all over my body. Don a loin cloth, and hang beads and bells around my neck. Then grabbing my warrior spear I shall prance around the yard all in time to Fleetwood Mac's "Tusk."

It appears that I have won a great victory over some relentless ants that invaded our kitchen. I found them racing around the counter top, a few even made it into my cereal. I sealed the package and ate them anyway, my retribution. I crushed them with my thumb, I sprayed them with poison, I flushed them down the drain with water spray. As they kept coming I was ever alert and on the attack.

Finally one morning, very early, when I turned on the light in the kitchen I spotted their entrance. Aha! Injecting some poison into the crack, setting a baited trap guaranteed by the manufacturer to wipe out ants, roaches and all manner of pests I carried the battle to their doorstep. I laughed at the dead bodies, I felt like Chuck Norris or Steven Segal. The body count was rising and the tide seemed to be turning.

Now I haven't seen an ant for about a week. I shall celebrate. However I will wear sneakers lest they hear my celebration and mount a counter offensive.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Day Two After Rosie

Terry took Rosie's cage outside Monday evening and hosed it off. We let it dry overnight and I carried it to the trailer Tuesday morning. The sofa table the cage sat on remains in the corner of the living room it has occupied for some time now. Pictures now occupy the space where Rosie's cage sat and the corner is very empty.

I find myself walking over to the table and realizing that I can't stick my head in the cage and waggle my face at Rosie as I used to do from time to time. She would chirp and sit there looking at me as if to way who the hell stuck this gigantic head in my house. Get it out, get it out.

Terry came home Monday evening with some food purchases from Country Mart. She said that one of the things she always did at Country Mart was pick up a sale paper. We don't do our "big" shopping at Country Mart, it is a store near where Terry works and she picks up odds and ends there because it is convenient. However, the sale paper was printed on paper that when unfolded happen to fit into the bottom of Rosie's cage without having to be folded, cut or altered in any way. Now the need for the sale paper is no more.

I have several pictures on my camera of Rosie the night before she died. She was so cute on Terry's lap. Little did we know. I haven't had the courage to download them yet. I will one of these days when time blunts the emotion.

I will keep turning over in my mind for some time the idea that we should have done something more. Our attitude with our pets over the years has been we will provide a loving home, and reasonable care, but they are after all a pet. When I first came to Arkansas I was adopted by a black cat I called "Bitcher." My deal with the cat was I would pet it, I would provide food and shelter and lavish affection on it, but that was all. His health was his business. After several years he left, I don't know if he died in the woods, or moved on to greener pastures. I searched for him, but not diligently. If he wanted to come home he knew where I was. I guess that sums up the attitude Terry and I have for our pets.

They become little family members. We spend time with them and treat them with love and affection. We are rewarded with love and affection. However, I cannot imagine me paying a lot of money for cancer treatment, Mattie and Blondie died of Cancer. I have paid for sewing up of lacerations, ear infections, neutering, and other normal care visits. I did pay for two surgical procedures on Mattie to stem the invasion of cancer, but eventually let her go naturally.

So I guess when the problem is beyond our comprehension we don't take the extra step a person might if it were a son or a daughter, or human family member. But for the time our pets are with us, they live the good life.

Monday, July 28, 2008

What So Different Today?

Nothing. Rosie, our Cockateil passed away yesterday. This morning I got up at 4:45 AM as usual, made fresh ground coffee, and brought the carafe upstairs so my wife Terry, and I could enjoy some morning coffee. We got up, Terry to the shower to get ready for work, me to go out and take my 1 hour morning walk. On my walk I met Terry's Dad at work in the garden, our son Geoff was standing there visiting with him. I stopped and passed some time, Geoff and I got into a discussion about Bret Favre and his situation at Green Bay. I bid everyone good morning and resumed my walk. The sky was blue, the sun bright, and the day had promise.

Rosie is dead! Yet a neighbor got out and went to work, I usually see him/her leave. The neighbors dogs were barking at some event over on 22nd Street. I ran into one of the many box turtles on our property and bid it good morning. I walked by Rosie's grave along my path and said I hoped she was at peace and forgave me if I hurt her in any way.

I came home, sat with a cup of coffee visiting with my wife and her father who now came over to see if we wanted more tomatoes. Terry's father left, Terry left to go to work, I showered and got dressed and am ready to leave for West Memphis for a meeting with the four other schools that make up the ADTEC consortium.

So what is different about today? Rosie's cage is still covered. There is no beeping going on, no calling to the Blue Jays, and no Rosie. I miss her.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Scary Night Outcome

I'm OK. The body sent a message however, quit loading up on junk.

Scary Night

It is late. The clock says 12:20 AM. I am sitting here trying to occupy my thoughts with things other than the stomach ache I am experiencing. It is similar to the hurt I had several weeks ago when I encountered a small bowel obstruction. There is a difference, this time, I keep telling myself. First I am passing some gas and burping. I did not do that when I had the obstruction. I was locked up tighter than a drum. It also seems to be easing, last time it did not. I think I ate too much junk today. I love mixed nuts and must have had about 6 to 8 oz. of them. Plus some soda, plus some cookies, plus a bunch of junk I know better than to eat. Now I'm sitting here trying to get comfortable and relax cause I do not want to go through another experience like I did about a month ago.

The real question is what will I do? My body is rebelling against all the oil, fat and crap I've eaten. How many times before a lesson is learned? I do have confidence that I can adjust. I've done it before, I'll have to do it again. In the meantime, I hope this isn't a bowel obstruction.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Morning Walk July 25, 2008

This morning I shortened my walk some 20 minutes. However I observed some interesting things on my brief journey.

We have a pair of hawks roosting in a neighbor's yard. They prey on other birds, which is a source of consternation for Terry and a source of interest for me. The last couple of days what appear to be the parents have been found in nearby trees calling. I can't help but wonder if they aren't trying to get the young out of the nest.

This morning as I came up the Eastern lot line of the 2311 property I had a view of the two adults sitting side by side in a pine tree that sits almost over the garden on the property. It was fairly early and they sat there quietly looking over their world.

Along the gravel entry road to the same property if found a Common Whitetail Dragonfly fluttering by the side of the road. I had a feeling that its brief life was ending as the fluttering seemed futile and did not get the little insect airborne. I stooped to get a good look and was struck by the delicate nature of its wings. It had double wings and resembled a bi-plane with wings one in front of the other instead of on top of each other like a true bi-plane. It was a pretty creature.

I stopped and visited with my wife's father who had pulled in to work in his garden plot on our property. His Dr.'s visit yesterday went well and he seemed encouraged by the effort that will be made on his behalf. We observed one of the adult hawks sitting on a pine limb some 40 feet above us. We talked about the absence of rain and how rain cells seem to dissipate once they high the Delta land coming in from the West or Northwest.

The solitude of my walk was interrupted and time was getting on so while I enjoyed to interludes I decided I was hungry and should fix breakfast. It is time to get on with the day.


Saturday, July 19, 2008

Why Does Time Have to Fly By?

I am addled. Just before I went on a super nostalgic trip back to my home territory I was reminded again of our vulnerability. I encountered a small bowel obstruction. I have not been that sick since I stopped drinking. The weekend before my expected trek to the North was tough. I felt like hell, I encountered abdominal cramps, gas pains became sharp and made me wonder if I was going to have another obstruction episode. I could not go to the bathroom. A few days went by and I became more and more nervous and strongly entertained the thought of staying in Arkansas.

I had talked with my sister up north and she suggested I drive to my daughter's home in Valparaiso, IN and then we could follow one another up north from there. At least I would have someone along the way to help me should I encounter trouble. The problem was the first jump was 500 miles with no family members should I need help.

I wasn't really worried about needing help, I can drive myself to an emergency room. It was the thought of the hassle that made me hesitant. Sunday came, no bowel action, passing gas means no blockage, so there was no blockage but nothing else. Sunday night, bloated feeling, but no action. Monday morning, a little action, not much. So I asked my wife's opinion.

Now this woman is worried about me traveling such a distance alone. She is very uncomfortable making this trek and we decided some time ago that I would go alone. It would've been very easy for her to advise that I stay home, that I was still on shaky ground. Instead she told me that if the worst possible scene played out I'd end up in some strange hospital, but I'd be OK. If I made it to my daughter's, Kristi is an RN and works in a Med/Surg ward so she would be more than capable to handle the situation. However, her advice was, if I did not go, with so much activity planned I would hate my self for the missed opportunity.

She left for work at 8:00 AM Monday morning, kissed me good bye, said have a good trip, and I packed my car and left for Valparaiso about 10:00 AM. I arrived in Valparaiso about 6:30 PM and started my grand adventure.

Now, I'm back home. Two weeks have passed, I saw tons of people, ate great dinners, snacks and all manner of things including two old fashioned S'Mores over a camp fire on a northern Michigan inland lake. I saw incredible sunsets over Lake Superior, wonderful vistas of the Straits of Mackinac Bridge, the vast Cherry orchards of the Traverse City area laden with ripe cherries. I saw old friends, walked on the high school football field I first played on 51 years ago. Saw neighbors I haven't seen in over 50 years. I saw a family that for a year was intertwined with my family as though they were part of our clan. Their mother was diagnosed with TB and my mother cared for their kids when the father went to work. I sat on the lawn of the city's Bayshore Park over looking the grandeur of Lake Superior listening to a local group play songs that had your toes tapping and your heart singing. I wondered why couldn't it always be thus.

However I was ready to come home. My wife, the animals, my stuff, and the property Terry and I have invested our time in call strongly to my heart. Now it seems I was gone hours. Days sped by, events occurred, I tried to slow them down. I took pictures so I can sit back and recall the scenes, the people, the events. But it all happened so fast. In two more days I'll have been back in Arkansas a week. I am glad to be home, but saddened by how fast time went.

I will not see some of those people ever again. We all looked pretty much the same, just older. I may never see those kids that I shared a year with some 46 years ago. I had not seen them until this summer and their mother now resides in Green Bay, so our paths may never cross again. I will see my childhood friend again, you can bank on that. I should see my sister and her husband again, but while I was there my brother-in-law had a heart procedure that while successful tends to mark the passage of time. My sister's breathing is getting more labored as each year passes and her asthma takes its toll. My cousins are aging. One is in her late 60's and lives in California, will our paths cross again? That is the devilment of growing old. The memories are strong and precious, they define me. Yet the years are closing in and I feel vulnerable with the past surgery and this damnable blockage. I try real hard to keep my mind on the here and now and take each day on its own merits. I still lament the passage of time and the writing of the late stages of my chapters. Right now it is bittersweet. I kid my daughter about 13 more visits and my granddaughter will graduate from high school. I wish we were closer in distance.

However time passes the reality is we've made our lives as best we could. We've loved and wished and realized things that are wonderful and meaningful. I just wish time didn't have to fly by so fast.