Monthly Archives: August 2013

Fresh Sets of Eyes

The comedian Gallagher pointed out that to really understand something you need a fresh set of eyes.  He’d use examples of his daughter’s description of things, such as calling a restaurant a “dinner store.”

We’re in Washington, DC.  As our nation’s capital, it is somewhat surprising to see how cosmopolitan it is.  Take every dialect, every style of clothing, evidence of every religion, mix thoroughly and you have the District.

I’m not naïve, and have seen parking lots covered with the cones the police use to mark bullet casings and other evidence.  That happens with every large city.

But with Washington, the thing that has struck me this trip is talking with the people who are first generation Americans.  There is a common theme.  They came to raise their children – many who were not yet born when they arrived. How they learned the language.  How they learned to coordinate – to fit in without losing themselves and their heritage.

I guess as a melting pot America does not reduce its people to a homogenous consommé, but instead to a rich collection of flavors that contrast with one another.  The spicy with the tart; the savory with the subtle in a wonderful blend.

But the best part is that as we’ve talked to people, so many have expressed a common theme.  They came here – they became Americans because of opportunity.  Not a guarantee or a promise – but a chance.

And then I remembered being told that my own great-grandfather came here from Poland in the 19th century for the same reasons, with the same challenges, and the same dreams.

Minor Blessings

There are major blessings – My faith, my wife, my family – and there are minor blessings.

Some of the minor blessings I’ve had relate to places where I’ve lived. When we lived in Baton Rouge, a trip to New Orleans was as easy as a trip to the mall.

When we lived in Florida, a trip to Disney World or Universal Studios was a day trip and I watched space shuttle launches from my driveway.

While living in Wyoming, a trip to the high plains was, well, just outside the back door, and the Rocky Mountains were an easy drive.

Living in Virginia, I frequently drive by famous battlefields from the Revolutionary or Civil War. I can quickly get to the beach and with very little effort, to the mountains.

My wife and I are enjoying a long weekend together and decided to head up to Washington, DC – another quick trip. Since it is so close, and we have no specific agenda; we parked the car and will use the Metro for most, if not all travels. Who knows where we’ll end up?

I brought my camera, and haven’t taken any pictures yet, so there’s no picture today. I’ll try to post tonight, but, this is DC, so there hotel has a $10 charge per device for internet access and the next 24 hour chunk of access is her turn.

Nevertheless, the important thing is that as I’ve traveled through this life, God has blessed me at every turn. I guess it’s His way of saying, “I’m here,” and more importantly, “I care.”

Whether a blessing is earth-shatteringly large, or as small as finding something you’ve given up for lost, it’s nice to know God is here, and here for me.

He’s there for you to – and He’s never hard to find, if you just look for Him.

Phone Transcript from the NSA

tapping

 

(Ring) “Hello?”

“Bob, it’s Sam. How are you enjoying your vacation?”

“Sam! My esteemed colleague and fellow member of Congress. Good to hear from you.”

“Thanks, Bob. Before I forget, I need a little favor from you. If you should happen to speak with my wife, you and I were fishing yesterday.”

“Sam, you dog. What did you catch? A blonde?”

“Actually a redhead, Bob. She was wild! She had tattoos in places I didn’t know they could put tattoos.”

“Whoa, Sam! No details! If I don’t know nothin’, I can’t spill nothin’! However, we do need to talk business. You got any hot issues we need to look at when we get back in session?”

“Nothing major, Bob. I owe the environmental lobbyists a bill to celebrate ‘National Snail Darter Day.’ The bankers want another bailout so they can give each other big bonuses. Just the usual.”

“Now tell me honestly, Sam, are you planning on doing anything about the budget?”

“Hahahaha! Bob, you slay me. Why in hell would I want to do that? The stalemate has made my base solid. You’ve never seen a happier bunch of cranky old white guys. The campaign contributions are rolling in and the PACS are already working on new issue ads. I sure don’t want to derail that gravy train.”

“I hear you, Sam, but my party needs to make it look like we’re really trying to solve the financial crisis. I going to have to lay it on thick that your party is only capable of saying,’No!'”

“Bob, we’re big boys. We both know how the game is played. I don’t take it personal any more than you do when I accuse you of being a ‘Tax and Spend’ advocate. The battles aren’t important. It’s the war we want to win and when both sides are after the same end, it’s a wonderful thing. Everything else is just showmanship!”

“Great, Sam. I hate to see my vacation come to an end, but I guess that’s the way it is.”

“And don’t forget that we were fishing yesterday.”

“Right, Sam. I won’t tell your wife what you caught – only the one that got away.”

(Connection terminated)

I Don’t Know About Your God

god

 

I see all the hate and discontent in the world today and despair at how many people go to war in the name of their god.

I don’t know about your god, but my God expects me to love my neighbor as myself.

I don’t know about your god, but my God demands mercy, not sacrifice.

I don’t know about your god, but my God does not cast the first stone; He does not condemn.

Although you and I may have different roads to our God, I suspect it’s the same one. Let’s do what we can to act in accordance with His direction.

Economy Turns!

school

In spite of the Federal Reserve, the US Department of the Treasury, the World Monetary Fund, Bernie Madoff, Congress and even Donald Trump, indications are that the last few weeks have shown an incredible turnaround in the economy.

However, based on in depth analysis, most of this is due to buying back-to-school supplies and clothes, and can be expected to be a relatively short term phenomenon.

Several parents were interviewed outside various retail stores. Most had the deer-in-the-headlight look, and several were staring in disbelief at empty wallets. One father suffered second degree burns after putting his credit card directly back into his pocket immediately after outfitting his six kids.

Although politicians have claimed credit, economists have pointed instead to the American school teacher as the cause. Although the back to school season will soon be over, any good news is – well – good news.

How Much Faith Do You Need?

prayIf you had faith the size of the proverbial mustard seed; if your faith could in fact move mountains, would you be better off?

As I go through life enjoying its blessings and facing its challenges, I frequently remind myself that God has always taken better care of me than I could ever do myself. His plans have truly prospered me.

However, I wonder what it would be like if I went through life without any worries because of complete faith in God. Somehow it just doesn’t seem real.

On the other hand, as each challenge or crisis arises before me my first reaction is very human. Maybe I feel fear. Maybe anxiety. Maybe just openmouthed shock.

Then I catch my breath and turn to God, and profess my love for Him and my faith in His will and proceed to live life, face the challenge and listen for God’s guidance.

In my case, I believe that it is a profession of faith to turn to God each time. To be aware of the challenge, and consciously place this crisis, this time in God’s hands.

There may be some who have such powerful faith in God that nothing bothers them. I’m not one of them.

But then I think of Jesus – who had no lack of faith – praying alone in the Garden of Gethsemane.

I think He taught us exactly how to turn to God when we’re troubled.

Let’s Fix the Post Office

It's Mr. Zip! He'll fix it!

It’s Mr. Zip! He’ll fix it!

 

We really need to do something about the United States Postal Service (USPS).

1. Their business plan has been to focus on junk mail because it is more profitable in the short run. Never mind that the junk mail goes immediately from the mailbox to the trash or recycling 99% of the time, and eliminating it might be the single largest contribution to solving global warming. Think of all the carbon released making paper, delivering paper to the printer, printing the junk mail, delivering it to the post office, forwarding it from there to the receiving post office and delivering it. Oh, and don’t forget the exhaust from garbage or recycling truck that then takes it away.

How many big businesses went under because to focusing on the short term?

2. The Postal Service is closing facilities in the name of efficiency while sacrificing effectiveness. A birthday card from my house to a neighbor no longer goes 6 miles to downtown Norfolk and back in one day. All that mail now goes 105 miles to Richmond and back in two days. Did I mention how all this transportation by the USPS contributes to global warming?

Plus it takes longer to deliver.

3. The latest brainstorm for the USPS is to compete with FedEx, UPS, and the other successful package delivery systems. So how’s that going?

  • I ordered an item from Mumbai, India on August 15. The Indian postal system showed the item dropped off at the Mumbai Airport Sorting Office on August 17 and arrived in New York (7809 miles) on August 18, at which point it:
    • was handed off to the USPS
    • status on its progress is no longer available
  • I ordered another item from Ames, Iowa, USA on August 13. This item was put into the mail on August 14 and sent to the USPS sorting facility in Des Moines, IA the same day (distance, 34 miles). This morning (August 21) it departed the Des Moines, IA sorting facility after a fun-filled, all expense paid week there.

Mind you, when I ship something, I use the USPS whenever possible. If I sell something on eBay, I send it Priority Mail (2-3 days) in a “if it fits, it ships” box. I purchase the postage on-line and print out an official USPS barcoded label. I’m trying to do my part.

So, c’mon guys. Dump the junk mail and compete like you want to win.

The Lyme Disease Conundrum

tick

Lyme disease is back in the news. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) estimates 300,000 Americans are infected each year. This is ten times as many as the various reports have suggested in the past.

Lyme disease is an illness in which a spiral shaped bacteria – Borrelia burgdoferi is transmitted by the bite of the Blacklegged Tick. The basic test for Lyme disease (Enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay [ELISA]) is viewed as unreliable. There is a more reliable test called the Western Blot but its use is not automatic.

The signs and symptoms of acute Lyme disease are nonspecific and are often flu-like, including fever, chills, fatigue, body aches and/or headache. The most unique sign of Lyme disease is a red lesion at the site of the tick bite, surrounded by a clear area which in turn is surrounded by a red rash resulting in a bulls-eye pattern. Unfortunately this is not universally experienced, or may occur on the scalp or some other area that is not apparent.

The real controversy is in the discussion of chronic Lyme disease. The symptoms described by those who believe they are suffering from chronic Lyme disease include extensive fatigue, aching joints and/or headaches as well as vision problems, heat intolerance and adrenal insufficiency.

There are people in the medical and insurance industries who claim chronic Lyme does not exist. These include the Infectious Diseases Society of America and the American Academy of Neurology. Their position is essentially “We don’t know what it is, but it ain’t Lyme,” and refer to this medical condition as “Post-treatment Lyme Disease Syndrome.” I really have to wonder about medical professionals who don’t know what it is and are satisfied with that.

Are there opportunistic microbes like the parasite Babesia that take advantage of a patient’s compromised condition during acute Lyme, resulting in a long term disorder? Does the Lyme spirochete leave the bloodstream and settle in tissues where it is more difficult to find or medically treat? We don’t know and we need to find out.

So where does that bring us? Here’s the condensed version with additional facts inserted as appropriate.

We have a disease that was discovered in 1982. The primary test for this disease is not accurate. There is a more reliable test, but the medical establishment does not recommend its use when the first test is negative, but only when the first test is positive.

We now believe that we are understating the number of patients with acute Lyme by 90%.

Some who are infected have the condition have the condition relieved by prompt medical treatment including antibiotics. Others continue to describe pain and significant fatigue for years after treatment for acute Lyme disease. Medical science does not know what the chronic condition that follows is, or how to treat it.

Some practitioners have utilized long term antibiotics to treat chronic Lyme / Post-treatment Lyme Disease Syndrome, with the patients reporting relief of the symptoms. Other practitioners claim that the long term use of antibiotics is no more effective than placebos, and may be harmful. In my opinion, the research has not been comprehensive.

Incidentally, you can have your dog vaccinated to prevent Lyme disease, but not your children.

My recommendations?

1. Our understanding of disease is not absolute. There are things we don’t know.

2. Medicine has had to change its position on a number of issues. We no longer practice bloodletting and trepanning. Even in my lifetime, medical opinions have changed with regard to Multiple Sclerosis, Fibromyalgia, Agent Orange, and Gulf War Syndrome. We regret the lobotomies and involuntary sterilizations that once were common in dealing with the mentally ill.

3. Many medical conditions are handled by treating the symptoms rather than the disease. If a patient presents with sneezing and a runny nose during pollen season, practitioners prescribe Zyrtec (R), Flonase (R), Allegra (R), etc. without needing to know which flora or fauna is responsible.

4. We have the scientific tools available to investigate how to solve this question and alleviate patient suffering.

5. Should we reinstate human vaccination for Lyme?

Unfortunately, we will probably have to begin this research from scratch. Practitioners who have focused on the management of chronic Lyme disease / Post-treatment Lyme Disease Syndrome, have been driven from the field or tried to maintain a low profile to avoid criticism or censure by various professional societies and organizations.

In Virginia, there recently was legislation requiring doctors to tell Lyme patients that the ELISA test was not infallible and that the Western Blot test was available. It did not require any action on the part of the practitioner – only that the patient be informed. This was firmly opposed by the Medical Society of Virginia.

However, I have faith that practitioners and scientists out there will conduct the research that will lead to an effective method for alleviating these symptoms in patients.

Note: If you want to read a great book on how numerical and statistical data that seem to point incontrovertibly to a conclusion really doesn’t , read Proofiness, by Charles Seife.

Real Daddies (and, of course) Mommies

It’s Sunday morning and my daughter and I are in Fredericksburg, which Google Maps says is two and a half hours from home. With traffic jams, travel here was closer to four hours.

National Weather Service Wakefield, VA

National Weather Service Wakefield, VA

It’s soccer tournament time. My wife is with my son at his soccer tournament. Fortunately the total of the kids at home don’t outnumber the parents.

It’s pouring rain at both locations.

My son’s games for today have already been cancelled. We’re waiting to see what happens with my daughter. Rumor is that only one field (artificial turf) is available, so only the championship game will be played. They’re supposedly trying to figure out which teams will be playing.

Real mommies and daddies are there for their children.

At soccer.

In the rain.

Or at their concert, recital, science fair, other sports event or whatever.

Who’s In Charge?

pol

Today’s world is unsettled and unsettling. Sometimes we have an unrealistic expectation as to how life should be.

First off, war is a terrible thing. It is not like the video games or movies. It hurts. It kills. There is no such thing as a surgical strike. You can’t shoot the gun out of the bad guy’s hand. Smart bombs may be better at hitting their target, but innocent men, women and children are still going to die. War is making things so terrible that the other side will do absolutely anything to make it stop.

Second, intelligence is an equally nasty business. The way to find out what the bad guys are doing is to make a deal with some of the bad guys. This may mean paying them, or blackmailing them. It means the “good guys” must stoop to their level, no matter how slimy. You don’t learn anything talking to respectable people.

If the intelligence is good enough, it may be possible to avoid or shorten a war. To save lives. To stop destruction. If you know the bad guys up close and personal, doing this only makes sense, even to the point of doing things that other people might not do.

Which is worse, to spy on everybody or let terrorists kill another 3,000 innocent people? It’s a difficult question.

We select people to oversee and control such complicated issues. The Constitution give Congress the power and responsibility to raise an army and to declare war.

The House and Senate committees on intelligence are responsible for oversight of intelligence practices. Members of Congress are not required to have security clearances, so the key committees have broad access to whatever information they need. This is so they can make good decisions on complicated issues. The expectation is that we trust them and they in turn act in our best interests.

I’m not postulating an opinion, merely explaining how the process works.

This is one of the many reasons that we, as citizens, have such an important responsibility as well as a duty to elect people we trust. When you hear all the negative campaign rhetoric, keep that in mind.

Baby Daddy?

man_reading_newspaper_clip_150

There was a letter in the paper today that set me off. It was to an advice columnist – (although I like the British term “agony column” so much better.)

The writer was relating how her unmarried daughter with two children had moved in. Then there was the baby daddy.

Baby daddy?

A male human being who impregnates a female human being without taking responsibility is a baby daddy?

Apparently we now assign cutesy titles to bad behavior.

I have better titles.

How about irresponsible? How about incompetent?

How about loser?

Quickstart Guide for New Parents

baby

Congratulations on starting your family. As a new parent you may be concerned about properly raising your child. There’s no need to worry, all of the documentation required is included with your new baby.

This Quickstart Guide will give you key information on raising your family until you have time to read the entire manual.

Your oldest child will act as a practice model. It is expected that you will be more attentive, more restrictive and generally more paranoid about this child. It is normal to check on a first baby every few minutes when sleeping to make sure he/she’s breathing. You can expect to favor healthy, possibly organic-locally grown and home pureed foods. You may decide to restrict television to educational channels or prohibit it entirely. Every bump and minor bruise will cause you to rush to the emergency room.

However, subsequent children will require less attention. For your second or later child you will permit them to eat whatever they want, watch television 23 hours a day, and only missing limbs or arterial blood spurts will capture your attention. In addition, these younger children come equipped with the highly developed ability to irritate your oldest child and cause him/her to misbehave badly. This sibling interaction will keep the entire family involved for hours.

It’s normal that you and your spouse will each have very specific ideas as to how the child should be raised. Each of you will expect the other to adapt on issues from cultural mores, manners, education, and hobbies right down to details, such as the correct way to fold clothes. Don’t worry, because you’re both wrong.

You may have received the optional “advice” feature for your child. Ideally this is provided through a maiden aunt who will be happy to provide unsolicited advice on how children should be raised and direction on all manner of parenting issues.

Again, this is only a Quickstart Guide. Remember to read the entire Child Rearing Handbook, which will save you much time and anguish. The Child Rearing Handbook is contained in the same envelope as your child’s warranty card, and receipt in case you decide to return or exchange the child. These items can be found conveniently located fg hu6th heiemn ded.

If you have any questions or problems, please contact us 1-8hg-stf-xd#@ or at http://www.&^hsg463nbgm.com/hasythr

Once again, congratulations on starting your family.

Short Note

I’m off to have a bit of an outpatient medical procedure this morning, so thanks to the Anesthesia Department, I plan on spending the rest of the day slightly disoriented.

Like that’s any different for me.

It’s Not Safe!

slash

Sorry to have to tell you this, but it’s not safe.

Crossing the street.

Sunlight.

Cooking with an open flame.

Going outside.

Staying inside.

Sorry – they all could lead to death, destruction, cancer, loss of self-esteem, or even a warped sense of humor.

However, look at how much we miss when we’re over-concerned with safety.

Beautiful sunrises and sunsets.

Rainbows.

Great food.

The chance to make a friend.

The chance to fall in love.

The ability to have a relationship with God.

Photographs and Memories*

nikon

When I was a student X-Ray Technologist, I paid the bills by photographing weddings. I had a Mamiyaflex 2 ½” film camera for the formal photos but for most of the action shots I used a Nikon Photomic Ftn 35 mm camera. This was the camera upon which the legends of the 1970s were built. Vietnam. Laos. Birmingham. Apollo 15. Yes, there was the occasional Leica, but Nikon’s ruled. I did good work – in some cases I was invited back to photograph all the daughters of the family. When the youngest was married, I could then be called to document the oldest second marriage. (Please note – although I so wanted to be an artist, I never was. I shot the same set of photos for every wedding having perfected the technique for minimizing the time needed between the ceremony and the reception.)

After that I took very few pictures, because photography had become a job – no longer a pleasurable activity.

As my “second litter” has grown, I’ve taken many pictures, particularly at my kids’ soccer game. This time around I’ve used a Sony camera, which has been outstanding. Sony, apparently purchased Minolta (another fine camera from the 1970s) and I have been very pleased.

I’ve used the same Sony camera for four years. I’ve put thousands of shots through it. Someday it’s going to reach the end of its life – the question is – will it do so before me, or vice versa? In anticipation of that day I periodically look at the advertisements for cameras. I confess, the Nikons still immediately catch my attention.

It’s like the memories and feelings you have for your first love.

I don’t know how this story will end, but if nothing else, I find the process interesting.

* with no apologies, but fond memories of Jim Croce.

It Ain’t as Bad as They Say

I’ve been struggling the past week to write.

There’s been a lot going on. Today is my mother’s birthday – the first since she died.

My father was recently diagnosed with leukemia, although at his age, it’s kind of a wheel of misfortune. Something was bound to come up.

I had a referral to yet one more specialist, and I’ll be undergoing yet another procedure on Monday.

All this is distracting.

However, I’m neither complaining nor asking for sympathy.

I love my family and any time I get to spend with them. I love my job and the people with whom I work. I enjoy music and being able to play a little. I can go upstairs to my office and turn on the ham radio and talk to people all over the world.

I am working on a thrift store telescope because I love the skies.

My dog thinks I’m the greatest thing in the world. My parrot thinks I’m his entire flock.

Best of all, my wife is my best friend, and everything I’ve ever dreamed of.

I’m blessed with everything anyone could want.

However, recent events have prevented me from writing any brilliant insights, major philosophical revelations or earth-shattering thoughts.

But, then again, I’ve never done that before.

Go figure.

Sun’s Magnetic Field Collapsing!

NASA photo

NASA photo

An amazing event is underway – the magnetic poles of the sun are reversing.

While this sounds like the opening chapter of a science fiction story, it really is no big deal – it happens every eleven years.

It’s almost incomprehensible how all the pieces of the universe fit together perfectly, from the tiniest to the mightiest.

Might almost make you think that something – or someone – was guiding it.

http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2013/08/130807-sun-magnetic-field-reversal-space-weather/

How Sharper than a Serpent’s Tooth

"Oh Lord, won't you buy me a Mercedes Benz" written by singer Janis Joplin with the poets Michael McClure and Bob Neuwirth, and originally recorded by Joplin

“Oh Lord, won’t you buy me a Mercedes Benz”
written by singer Janis Joplin with the poets Michael McClure and Bob Neuwirth, and originally recorded by Joplin

While waiting for my daughter to finish practice, I bumped into another soccer dad who commented how it frustrated him that his children felt they were entitled to just about everything. They never seemed to be grateful.

I confess that I thoroughly understood his feelings. Maybe it’s the fixation on “self-esteem.” Maybe it’s television. It doesn’t really matter.

However, I began to wonder how many of us treat God that way.

Dear God, I want a bigger, better, newer [whatever]. Amen.

Do we see God like an omnipotent Amazon.com and heaven as the ultimate “fulfillment center” with delivery promised by tomorrow if we pray today before close of business?

Maybe it would be better if we asked God what He wants for us. Trust in Him and then be grateful.

Behold the Lilies of the Field

SONY DSC

In the spring I planted flowers around our mailbox – just some wildflower kind of seeds that one of the kids had to sell as a fundraiser. They grew extremely well – so well, in fact, that they were in the way of the mail truck and blocking part of the sidewalk, so I had to trim them back.

As the pile of trimmings grew, I thought that they might make a nice bouquet in the house, so I carried them in.

I don’t arrange flowers, but I know enough to cut the stems at an angle and remove the extraneous leaves – from that point on it’s Barb and Katie’s responsibility.

As I was working on the flowers, I couldn’t help but think of how God’s beauty shows up everywhere. The variety of beautiful flowers, birds, landscapes and other marvels of nature that we see every day.

      25“For this reason I say to you, do not be worried about your life, as to what you will eat or what you will drink; nor for your body, as to what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? 26“Look at the birds of the air, that they do not sow, nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not worth much more than they? 27“And who of you by being worried can add a single hour to his life? 28“And why are you worried about clothing? Observe how the lilies of the field grow; they do not toil nor do they spin, 29yet I say to you that not even Solomon in all his glory clothed himself like one of these. 30“But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the furnace, will He not much more clothe you? You of little faith! 31“Do not worry then, saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear for clothing?’ 32“For the Gentiles eagerly seek all these things; for your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. 33“But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” Matthew 6

Thank you, God, for this morning’s flowers

Political Stock

Huey Long The Ultimate Politician Up 6 7/8 points at the closing bell

Huey Long
The Ultimate Politician
Up 6 7/8 points at the closing bell

Since politicians are theoretically required to report contributions, why don’t we just change things a little bit?

Let’s have all political contributions reported immediately, just like stocks and bonds. We could have updates throughout the day to see who’s getting how much. We could even have one tracking for incumbents – like the New York Stock Exchange and another for those new to politics, like the NASDAQ.

While you could still only vote in one state, you could influence any election you want. Don’t like that sheriff in Arizona? No problem.

When you see that the Chinese have started pouring contributions into Senator Schmukatelli you could decide whether to join them or not.

If Wall Street is bully for this Teddy Roosevelt guy, you can make a solid investment decision.

Naturally, somebody would start a futures market, so you could hear people say, “If I’ve got my campaign contributions figured out right, one of my great-grandchildren will be at least a senator.”

It couldn’t turn out any worse than what we have today.