A View From 80

January 11, 2019

 

Recently, I completed my 80th lap around the sun. All those folks who optimistically say, “It’s only a number, has nothing to do with how you are”, are wrong. It has lots to do with “how I am”, especially when I look in the mirror and recognize a close resemblance to how my father looked in his 90’s.

I suppose most of us, upon reaching what is considered an advanced age, look back on our lives and reflect upon those things which were completed and those still undone. Some important things we wanted to accomplish may have been impossible even though we didn’t recognize them at the time. Other things slipped in almost unnoticed and gave us unexpected pleasures, that “serendipity” that my high school English teacher wanted us to know.

This will of course be a rambling discourse not unlike many others I’ve written; there will be some comments that are repetitive from the past but which represent recurring thoughts that seemed to linger in my mind. Please excuse my inserting an occasional note seemingly unrelated to anything else I’m writing. They’re just for fun!

One of the highlights of my long career in education was the opportunity to become involved with extensive evaluations of school programs, many of them in the public school arena but also a few in the Department of Defense global system and some private international schools using American curricula. Regardless of where they fit in the sphere of education, all used the same five criteria toward excellence as established by the organization in which they were members, AdvancEd. Given that consistency, those of us trained in leadership roles as team leaders in visiting schools and school districts were easily able to identify strengths and weaknesses in performance, and make recommendations toward improvement in student outcomes, community interaction, and program and staff development.

My particular assignments were not only in my home state of Wyoming, but also took me to military bases in Japan; South Korea; Ft. Benning Georgia; Germany; and International Schools in Cairo, Egypt. Given the many types and locations of the schools, it’s no wonder that I saw vast differences among them. However, there was one unifying factor that consistently formed the basis for the best schools I saw — in each of the top schools, leadership had been able to create a sense of ownership of the school’s program by the total school staff, regardless of level of involvement by each individual; input was solicited from everyone and actually used in decisions for improvement, notwithstanding the source or role of the contributor.

I realize that there are good schools everywhere; I saw many during my work. But to me, the best elementary school was one of the three on the U.S. Army base at Ft. Benning, Georgia; the best middle school was in Japan, and the best and most comprehensive Special Education program was at the MISR American School in Cairo, Egypt. Each one of these stood out not only for the obvious “team” atmosphere, but also for significant achievements they were able to accomplish often in spite of difficult situations.

Examples include:

  • The fact that at Ft. Benning, there was 70% turnover of students throughout the school year as parents were only at that base temporarily prior to being deployed to Iraq, Afghanistan, or some other assignment; Children were faced with not only the insecurity of constant change but also with the tragic fact that sometimes the parent wasn’t coming back. And still the school data showed far above average performance of the students and support from parents, an obvious tribute to the totality of school staff interactions.
  • In Japan, after the Tsunami which decimated the eastern coastline and totally disrupted military logistics, a Middle School principal along with her staff stepped in and provided much needed transportation and logistical resources enabling the saving of many lives and supporting temporary structure until military communication and operations could be re-established. And kept the school open and functioning at a high level throughout the crisis.
  • In the Middle East, Special Education is not a commonly recognized need even though there are thousands of children showing all the categories of disability. The far-seeing principal of the MISR (ancient name for Egypt) American Curriculum School in Cairo teamed with Ethel Kennedy Shriver to first, establish Special Olympics in Cairo, then, to create and implement an outstanding special education array of services in an environment not officially recognizing even the existence of disabilities. Every identified child had a one-on-one staff member accompanying the student through a “mainstreaming day”, ending with a last period tutorial reviewing the day’s assignments. We saw Down Syndrome students performing a well-synchronized dance review; developmentally disabled older youngsters weaving baskets and working as a team on a giant loom to create a superb tapestry depicting a cultural theme. Physical therapy tied programs together wherever appropriate.

And I repeat, it’s all about leadership and ownership! It works in corporations too!

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At 80, I no longer worry about lifetime warranties when I buy stuff.

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There are still some “bucket list” items as yet unfulfilled —- I’ve not made it to Australia (although I have enough frequent flyer miles on United, but who wants to take a 15 hour flight on that carrier?).

And I still don’t know all the words to “Mack the Knife”. Actually, I don’t think anyone does, other than Bobby Darin.

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One thing I always try to emphasize when I get into discussions having several sides arguing for a solution, I point out that most decisions are based upon opinions, not the facts from which those opinions were derived. The facts are filtered through the individual’s background of experience, education, and personal attitude. So whenever someone declares “It’s a fact”, step back and see if it really is. In fact!

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­­­­­­­­­­­­I’ve still not found anyone able to make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich without getting some of it on their fingers. Maybe Guinness should take a look.

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I still recall lots of things from when I was very young, like smells. I enjoyed being sent to the bakery for a loaf of freshly-baked bread, and held the end of the wrapper beneath my nose for the delicious odor to enhance my trip home.

When I grew up, all the public libraries were located in high schools throughout my home towns of Kansas City (both Missouri and Kansas), and all of them had the same smell when one entered. I don’t know why, unless lots of books created that somewhat musty atmosphere, or maybe it was whatever polish was used on the universal oak furnishings in every location.

Then there were all the smells created by streetcars and busses throughout the cities, many belching clouds of black smoke as they went upon their routes.

Churches all smelled the same regardless of denomination, especially church basements like the one where our Boy Scout Troop met.

Even today, an occasional passing odor conjures up visions of a time long ago.

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I distinctly recall a few glimpses of exciting events sprinkled throughout my early years. I remember riding my tricycle up and down the sidewalk in front of our house, in 1944, shouting “The Germans have surrendered” at the top of my little voice. Of course, I didn’t really completely understand it all, I was 5. I did know that ration stamps were necessary when shopping at the grocery store, and I knew that was to provide more food for our army and navy. And there were blackout curtains on the windows.

My brother John, nine years older than I, collected live snakes which he kept in cages he’d made, in the garage. At one point, he had eleven different species; occasionally he’d take one of the snakes to his high school biology class. One time, he had a 5-foot long Pilot Black Snake in a cloth fishing rod sack, and the snake got loose on the streetcar on his way to school. Now that’s exciting!

On another occasion, he and my dad had been out collecting snakes, and had come home with a specimen that they put in a large Lay’s Potato Chip can they left in the living room. I was an observer of the next scene, as I was dealing with strep throat while lying on the couch. My mom came in and asked what was in the can? “Copperhead!” was the proud reply. “You take it back where you got it before you two get any dinner!” was her shouted rejoinder. More excitement!

My play group used to come watch the black snakes devour eggs and deformed chicks; in these pre-TV days these were the most violent things available for us to watch.

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In those long ago days and in the infancy of television, all the people on the news shows had easily known and pronounceable names. Over the years, it became important for persons to become believable if they had a British accent; some of that lingers today but is being thrust aside by persons having names which not only totally violate all rules of English spelling, but when spoken sound like something somewhere between a belch and a sneeze. Having spent two years teaching in West Africa, I can usually have no big issues with this, but woe betides everyone not having that background.

Another change I’ve noticed, and which I applaud, is the seeming majority of women in charge of many television news programming. And related to that, I’m glad to see more women in major roles in government; my opinion is that women are more likely to solve major issues through negotiation and consensus while men tend to turn to uses of force and confrontation, creating more problems. And not only our current President.

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Some things I like:

Spice drops, chocolate, Google, Amazon Prime, Rachel Maddow, Smart phones, my Jaguar, my friends, breakfasts, sincerity, college basketball –and lots more!

About 20 years ago, I’d grown a beard. People said it made me look old, so I shaved it off. Now that I am old, should I grow it again?

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Health is always a big concern. As I’ve mentioned before, I suspect that when people say “You’re looking great!”, that’s really a code phrase for “Gee, I’m surprised you’re still upright!”. Age became an issue when I noticed that my social calendar had become merely a place to schedule doctor’s visits. I try to fight off the impending withdrawal from some of the activities I enjoy, by struggling around the golf course in good weather, and continuing thrice-weekly small workouts at the rehab center’s health club. Various permanent conditions in my back and legs prevent me from anything requiring running or jumping; I really miss playing basketball which I was able to do until my late 60’s. All that’s really left is dribbling a ball and pushing it against a wall, irritating other folks in their own workout sessions. They think I should stick to only the rowing machine.

The big and continuing health issue is in the area of teeth. This became a concern when I found out that Medicare doesn’t cover dentistry, and I remember my dad’s approach.

He refused to have his teeth fixed when he began having problems with them when he was in his 70’s; his rationale to the dentist was that “I’m old enough that I may not have much time left, so just pull the tooth instead of spending all that money on teeth”. When he was 95, I took him to his favorite barbecue place in Kansas City, and asked him how was he able to eat having only two teeth left, one upper and one lower. He said the only thing he had trouble with was corn on the cob; he could only do one kernel at a time.

Recalling that conversation, I’ve spent a good portion of my retirement nest egg (quail sized) on teeth, and have five implants along with numerous crown replacements. Medicare fails us in this area of concern. But I can still smile.

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Who am I? I think I still spend a lot of moments trying to get some closure. I’ve accepted the fact that in most things, I was never outstanding through any efforts of my own. Yes, I was easily the best speller in our large high school, but that was a genetic blessing rather than any energy I devoted to it. (From my half century working in education, I don’t believe you can teach someone to be a great speller, only an adequate one. At the same time I wonder who thought it was a good idea to end the teaching of cursive writing in elementary schools? And why?) I have a semi-photographic memory, and was able to avoid much homework in high school and college by picturing pages of notes and books in my mind, and “reading the answer”.

I’m basically lazy, much unlike my wife and two sons, all of them having an extra-strong work ethic and a desire for near perfection. I’ve generally always been better-than-average in most things, but laziness kept me from going beyond. In some respects it was a big help; I believe I was a good school administrator because I was able to identify highly capable persons to carry out new ideas, and to get them to work together productively with others; in that way I didn’t have to do the work. In one of those personality/performance style tests, I was abstract-sequential indicating I could come up with the ideas and develop a plan of action. It didn’t say I had to do the job.

Another helpful characteristic was that I’ve been interested in just about everything although generally only superficially. It helped me understand and empathize with the variety of staff members with whom I worked; I knew enough to help them but not enough to get in their way.

I’ve never done anything important in depth; having been a special education director during the latter years of my career I became well-acquainted with ADHD, and think I have many of its characteristics. Unfortunately that puts me in the same category with our current President, for whom I have absolutely no respect. (He’s also not a good speller).

Probably my most in-depth and non-productive activity  was shooting 3-point baskets in the days before it was initiated; I was accurate about 60% out to 30 feet. And I believe I can teach anyone having a reasonable degree of athletic ability to become an 80% free throw shooter.

I think I was really good at teaching beginning golf, my students all hit the ball into the air and straight. I cured slices and hooks, and taught them the words to use when they made bad shots. (I learned them myself from people I played with).

I’ve come to grips with Faith, and have a strong belief in a Spiritual Something that created this Universe in which we live, and to which we will remain a part of, as we move to the next level of existence. To me, prayer is an inwardly-looking event that helps to summon more of the individual’s resources and strengths to the surface in times of need; it’s not relying on an outside spirit to resolve secular issues. And I’m comfortable with that. I’ll continue to try and follow the creeds and commandments by which I was raised, seemingly almost universal throughout the world as they provide a structure for the positive interactions between and among people everywhere.

And enjoy whatever years I have left!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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CONFUSION

July 12, 2018

Well, it’s been quite a while since I wrote a blog, and with good reason! Usually, I took to my keyboard in reaction to something that happened, or a thought that occurred to me during one of my lengthy drives to somewhere in the country. One would have thought driving from Wyoming to North Carolina, in May, would certainly have stirred those writer’s heart cockles; several trips to Denver and back would only have been bonus coverage.

But alas, nothing has been forthcoming; I exist in a state of confusion over which topic to explore. As I’ve mentioned in previous commentaries, the current administration seems bent on destroying our country, but there have been so many and continuing instances that I have trouble gathering my thoughts into a coherent article.

Do I once more mention that they want to eliminate any thing which has the Obama tag on it, regardless of how tenuous? Do I gloat over various members of the Trump team who have departed, only to express despair about whoever replaced them? Do I again express my inability to understand, much less accept, that so many of our fellow citizens fail to look beyond the inflammatory rhetoric and blindly follow the paths lined with bigotry and violence? What happened to those ideals of equality, understanding, brotherhood, justice, that I hoped I was demonstrating in those early days of the Peace Corps, or maybe more crucially, were they ever really there?

Each day brings new issues, generated by the impetuous and uninformed blasts emanating from the White House; warnings from solidly knowledgeable economists, diplomats, scientists, educators, and others were totally ignored as we are plunging into an abyss created by whim and ignorance. I, along with many of my friends have become beset with a feeling of total helplessness with the arrival of each new step backward.

I guess the bottom line is that I have a difficult time dealing with irrational thinking, and in particular when it affects me directly (We’ll ignore the fact that I bought another Jaguar). I was okay when I was Principal of a residential school for severely emotionally disturbed young folks; after all, I knew what kinds of things to expect from them even when they were violent; I did have problems when I realized that a lot of the causes of their conditions had roots in irrationality.

We know that we are having supposedly the lowest unemployment since 1971, and that the economy is in great shape. Leading economists say this was not a good time for the Tax Break, it wasn’t needed. “Don’t do it”!

We don’t have enough people to fill all the jobs, especially the ones that Americans don’t want. So instead of developing a program to help fill those jobs, like in agriculture and construction, we try and rid the country of these “vermin”. Some of our industries and businesses will not survive. We won’t let owners of businesses, corporations, farms and ranches, sponsor illegals and allow them to stay as long as they are employed in those organizations. In the meantime, there are lots of tomatoes rotting on the ground.

We’re told that the Stock Market is booming because of Mr. Trump. That’s true, in a sense; it had been improving throughout the previous administration, but we knew it would jump when the very controls which had been put in to protect investors and to address environmental issues were lifted. That made more money available but put us once more in danger of another recession. That money has not demonstrably gone to the workers as had been promised; most of it goes to the stockholders.

Doing away with the Consumer Protection program, which has saved consumers a documented billions of dollars, should be classified as a mortal sin. Kicking LGBT out of the military. Breaking promises for DACA. Separating children from parents. Restricting targeted religious groups from entering the country. And on and on. Irrational.

Perhaps I’ll greatly shrink my realm of interests, and concentrate on less major topics. Should I cancel Facebook? Instagram? Amazon Prime? Netflix? Cable TV? (whoops, not that one; NFL football begins next month and the Broncos will rise again—unless injuries).

Did you know that no one has ever been able to make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich without getting some of it on their fingers? Now that’s major!

Always Be Happy        To Our Youth

A NEW GOD

May 12, 2018

A New God

Back in Greek and Roman times, they came up with gods at the drop of a toga, each one assigned some specific task such as God of the Sea, God of the volcano (non-Hawaiian), rain gods, drought gods, war gods, etc. Recently, I became aware of one of this type of deity, and one that leans strongly to the Dark Side. My awareness arose just after I had been informed by my tax person that I was to receive a healthy refund, $4000, possibly in as little as three weeks! For want of a better name, I refer to this one as the God of the Tax Refund, and I’m sure it’s one that was newly minted; after all, the Romans never gave any refunds.

Within a few hours of hearing this good news, my upright washer/dryer combination began to make grating noises; a visit by the repair folks diagnosed the problem as a bad bearing, one which is attached to something called a transmission located in the underbelly of the washer. A repair would cost about $560, and leave me with a combination unit having an elderly dryer atop the machine. Consultation with my wife and others pointed me in the direction of buying a new washer and dryer, a pair that is stackable given the small space available. Decision made, I shopped several options and finally ordered one from the repair people, as they are the only ones within a reasonable range for coming to repair any problems. The model I really wanted, an LG, could not be serviced locally due to its sophisticated computerized innards; I settled for Electrolux. $2000.

Next, my blind cat Timothy was acting strangely, so I took him to the vet. Diagnosis: he needs to have two teeth extracted. I said okay but cautioned the vet that Tim is not to receive any implants. I had already spent a small fortune on those for myself; I don’t know if they do them for cats but at most he’ll have to survive with dentures. $303.

Starting a couple of years ago, I had discussed redoing my patio roof with a local roofer, and had put aside $1000 for that task. When he arrived to finalize the estimate, he commented, “If you’re thinking of selling the house, it won’t pass inspection”. I had understood the roof to be only about 10 years old, but covered with outdated T-lock shingles which are no longer available. He went up on the roofs of the house, garage, and shed, taking pictures and making measurements. His final remark: “ you should call you insurance company, there is wind and hail damage throughout”. Over the next  two days, I called the insurance company and a smiling claims adjuster appeared. After surveying the damage, he agreed with my roofer, and asked to see an estimate before approving my claim. And oh, by the way, my $1000 deductible in the policy balloons to $3000, something about those outdated shingles meaning they can’t just be repaired so we’re looking at “an upgrade”.

The estimate for the whole job is $8300; I had to provide half immediately for the ordering of supplies and materials. And I won’t receive anything from the insurance company until the job is completed, probably in early June. Or so. I heard a snicker from the TRG.

Note that only a week has passed since learning of the pending refund; later, after three weeks had passed, I daily checked my bank account to see if it had yet been deposited. Nothing so far.

I then prepared for my trip across country to North Carolina, to once again work as a volunteer in a PGA golf tournament. I looked forward eagerly to the trip; it included a several day stopover in Kansas City where I grew up, and have lots of friends. I attended a luncheon of my high school alumni group, held every three months, and got lots of chatting completed. I then went merrily on my way, contemplating that refund coming to partially reimburse me for all these other tragedies. As I got closer to my destination of Charlotte, I noticed a strange pounding noise issuing from somewhere beneath the car, and given its cyclical nature, had something to do with the wheels. My thought was of a wheel bearing, so as soon as I got to Charlotte, I pulled in to a Honda dealer and found out that it was not a wheel bearing. All my tires had become cupped, hence the pounding noises; the car was far out of alignment and needed new tires along with my normal service that was due. $890.

After my assignment at the tournament was completed, my wife and I spent a day as spectators, and I headed home on Sunday. About three hours on my way, an alert appeared on my instrument panel warning me of a low tire. Using my tire gauge, I discovered that the left rear (of my new tires) was going flat. Where does one get a tire fixed on a Sunday? A very kind lady, obviously not sent by the Refund God, led me to a Walmart, and after they found a broken metal pin lodged in the tire, and aa couple of hours and $10, I was once more on the road. The rest of the trip was uneventful; I passed the time trying to ignore all the nastiness about politics coming from my XM radio and chose to go to the 50’s station and sang along. I reflected on the $1600 I had spent last month on my first cataract surgery upgrade, and considered another $1600 to be set aside (from where?) for the next surgery, on March 24. At the same time, I am receiving iron infusions to address a significant deficiency, and beginning a month long intense therapy through the Pain Management Clinic to help reduce the chronic pain I’ve had for a number of years. Maybe it will help my putting.

The final blow came when I collected three weeks of mail and rummaged through the mostly junk. Nestled however among those appeals for donations, advertising for hearing aids, and etc., was a cheery letter from the IRS informing me that they needed more information before they could approve me for a refund; if successful, I would receive the refund six to eight weeks after they got my reply. I believe that’s sometime in mid-July.

The Tax Refund God has struck again!

Always Be Happy      To Our Youth

SPRINGING or WANING?

March 26, 2018

 

As is usually the case annually in Wyoming, there’s some confusion about whether Spring is springing or Winter is waning. So far, we’ve had a mild winter; daily looks at my Weather Channel app show that we have so far had temperatures above those where many friends and relatives live in Charlotte, NC, and Kansas City, MO for most of the past month. Of course, so that over confidence doesn’t enter into the picture, we had 3 inches of wet snow overnight to remind us of where we live although most of it has already melted off. We’ll get more if tradition holds true; I recall several massive wet snows in April and May over the years, even to the extent that one year school was called off, a rare occasion in areas like ours that are prepared to deal with blizzards and the like. That turned out to be a questionable decision; it all melted by noon, all 8 inches of it!

As I’ve tried to establish as a habit pattern, I’ve been leaving Thermopolis about once a month, certainly not a bad idea during our usual winter weather. In February, I headed to Frisco, Texas, to help celebrate the February birthdays of my grandson, now age 4, and his sister, now 2. That trip was only about a week, cut a bit short due to the kids being hit with the flu. Both recovered nicely!

My next excursion was sandwiched between various –ologist visits which I chronicled in my January blog. I headed to Arizona in early March to serve for the third time as a volunteer at the LPGA Founders Cup golf tournament in Phoenix, stopping first in Pueblo, Colorado and then on to visit friends and a cousin here and there on my way. Prescott, Sedona, Green Valley, and Tucson were stops before reaching Phoenix, where I stayed for a week before heading back home. I even managed to play nine holes of golf on three occasions, albeit I feel that my golfing days are numbered. Apparently there’s more decay settling into this once-proud frame, and it takes several days to lessen the aching afterward. I have an appointment in two weeks with a Pain Management Specialist to see if there are some simple things I can do in order to keep playing; however, I’m not going to buy a membership at the local golf course. I’ll try to be content to play nine holes once a week or so, and walk instead of renting a cart. I play okay for about 7 holes; then my back doesn’t seem in synch with the rest of my body and shots start straying into unknown regions. I birdied a couple of short holes, but took 6 shots to get out of one very deep bunker. I suspect I’ll be able to shoot a score of 45 from the white tees, most of the time.

At present, I’m halfway through cataract surgery and so far, not happy. My right eye was done last Tuesday, and there are still lots of things floating around in the eye fluid. One, a large circle, has been particularly irritating, but a couple of days ago lots of discrete tiny black dots began to appear. In the past I’ve had those things called “floaters”, but never to this degree. If they’re not resolved by my next scheduled visit, April 9, I may cancel the left eye surgery for April 10. I’m also questioning my decision to go ahead with the ologists recommendation; my eyesight wasn’t that bad, it was just on the way to being so. And the cost of $3200 beyond Medicare seems a lot although it’s less than the cost of one dental implant! But when they gave me a pair of cheap sunglasses to wear while my eyes were dilated, I commented that for the price, I should have at least gotten Oakleys.

My next trip will be late April into early May; I have a luncheon at my high school alumni group in the Kansas City area on April 23. I’ll spend three or four days there, then head on to Charlotte, NC, to work in another golf tournament, the Wells Fargo Championship May 1-8. Again, there are folks I’ll visit on the way there and back, in St. Louis and Atlanta. I’ll be gone about three weeks, much to the dismay of my blind cat Timothy. About 5000 miles driving; my Arizona trip was 3000. My poor 2015 Honda CR-V will be three years old on June 30; right now it has 67,000 miles on it! All highway, from my frequent trips.

I decided to keep my SiriusXM radio subscription throughout the trip so I can fume over the daily happenings in the Trump administration. I’ve become perhaps overly simplistic in my viewpoints about politics; it seems increasingly that all that’s important to the Republicans is anything to do with money, and screw the ideas of providing for the General Welfare as set forth in the Preamble to the Constitution. And in spite of massive turnouts, or a flood of polling, showing what we as citizens want done, we are totally ignored. The recent movement initiated by the high schoolers will likely fade, unfortunately as other things occur and assume more importance to Congress in the hierarchy of political crap. I continue to hold out hope for next November, but not where I live. After all, we have the most guns per capita of any state. Go figure.

 

Always Be Happy     To Our Youth

Wasting Time

January 26, 2018

Recently, after a long period of reflection, I committed another event in my long history of dumb decisions. This one did not involve buying anything that one could ride around in, like sports cars, RV’s, motorcycles, or boats; rather, it is characteristic of our present fascination with All Things Electronic.

I have gone over to The Dark Side. Yes, I’ve partially forsaken the World of Android PC and succumbed to societal pressure to acquire an iPhone, the much ballyhooed status symbol of higher level intellectual pursuits. And not stopping there, I ordered a refurbished iMac desktop computer to go with it, and also with my iPad which I’ve been happily using for a couple of years.

After several months, I can say that I liked my Android smart phone better( I keep it plugged in unactivated next to my bed, it can still receive); I’m neutral toward the iMac until I have more experience with it; and I still place the iPad at “the top of the heap”. The latter is one of those stripped down versions that can’t be used as a phone, and I haven’t forked over the cash to make it useable in areas lacking wifi ; however, it’s great for resting it on my chest or against my raised legs when in bed to watch sporting events, movies on TCM, Amazon, or Netflix, or to text and email on the keyboard in the cover. I use it for printed communication more than on my various laptops and pc’s.

The iPhone has several drawbacks. The first is that when I’m on the phone and even activating the speaker due to my hearing issues, I frequently mute the call when I brush the mute icon with my ear. A second problem is the location of the speakers at the bottom edge; that’s where I normally hold a cell phone, and often cover them up with my hands. A third concern is that the shut down button is directly across from the volume control so that I frequently change the volume while accessing the shutdown mode. Yes, there are minor distractions, but irritating.

One of the reasons for having gone over to Apple was that everyone in my family is already there and raves about the “convenience” that what appears on one instrument is immediately sent to the others. I’ve found that to not be true in all cases, and it will be awhile before I have enough knowledge to figure out which stuff lends itself to such a transfer. It’s somewhat ironic that we had the very first Apple 2+ and later the 2e, each costing a robust $2000 and doing less than a Casio watch. I purchased them also for my school, and we had the first K-12 computer curriculum in our state, in 1980. My wife became almost obsessive about working on the computers, entering programs she’d written into contests and becoming a certified Apple repair person. We discovered those early games, like Asteroid, Pong, and our favorite Crossfire.

In the mid-80’s, she resumed her teaching career in a nearby district, one that was using PC’s instead of Apple, and she gradually went in that direction for a number of years until one of our sons sold her on the idea of going back to Mac. I had continued using Apple and learning PC, and was forced to be a Windows person due to the requirements of various new jobs I took over the years. I even discarded my Mac Classic, one of the early Macs that had the 4 inch screen and was very compact. I had used it to begin emailing, using the now defunct  AOL and learning patience transmitted to users via the DSL line. It is a good resource as a tool for punishing students, making them go to DSL until they behave, which usually resolves quickly!

I haven’t yet figured out if I’m truly at a crossroads, or on a dual expressway continuing to use both. Right now, I’m on my 24” all-in-one ASUS pc, but later in the evening will be back on the iPad. I need guidance, I don’t really consider myself competent on either system!

And in the meantime, I shall continue my present tussling with a series of –ologists. In the past two weeks I’ve seen a dermatologist (skin biopsies were benign), gastroenterologists (no colon cancer), urologist (no prostate cancer), cardiologist (echo cardiogram next week), and opthamologist (preliminary meeting to decide on cataract surgery sometime this spring). My audiologist wants me to call for an update exam, after I finish all the other folks. Somehow, my dentist slipped in long enough to extract a back tooth; he’s obviously a nonologist. At some point I have to see my neurologist about the increasing neuropathy in my feet and legs, and the carpal tunnel in both forearms. The best thing about all of this is that I’ve been letting my sparse hair grow, and my cosmetologist is struggling to make me beautiful again!

If she’s successful, I can look forward to more of my travels. Next week, after the echo-c, I’m headed to Frisco, Texas, to drop off birthday presents for my wee grandkids, to be ages 2 and 4. In early March, it’s to Arizona to again work in the Founders’ Cup LPGA golf tournament, and visit friends in Green Valley, Tucson, Sedona, Phoenix, and Prescott. Late April’s plan is to attend an alumni luncheon in KC, then proceed on to Charlotte, NC, to work in the Wells Fargo Championship for the sixth time, and visit my wife, our son and his family. And on the Seventh Day, I’ll rest.

Always Be Happy                                                                                                                                       To Our Youth

Random Ruminations

December 11, 2017

Last week as I was driving across Kansas, I came upon a scene that triggered several hours of thought to try and unravel the almost surreal reaction I had. I have been along this route on I-70 many times; in recent years I have been dismayed at the intrusion of literally thousands of those giant white wind turbines, interfering with my enjoyment of the landscape. I need to point out that not all of Kansas is  flat; in fact, the eastern three-fourths transitions from wooded hills enclosing river valleys and farmland to a more gentle, often treeless undulation providing a palette for cloud shadows to roam across the carefully nurtured  cattle-grazing countryside. In other words, there actually is a lot of natural beauty available for viewing, particularly when not interrupted by human endeavors.

Anyway, beginning just east of Russell, Kansas, and going for about 20 miles, the dominant feature was thousands of wind machines visible almost to the horizon on both sides of the highway. In previous trips, I had briefly watched the whirling blades as I drove, then passed them off as a mere distraction. But this time was different; there was absolutely no wind, an unusual occurrence in this area of the state. The blades were motionless. Unable to avoid a cliché’, “They stood as silent sentinels looming over their realm”, and it was difficult not to acknowledge the rarity of the occasion. But this was not all; as I looked more closely I noticed, scattered at ground level throughout the same area, hundreds of oil well walking beams, bobbing their heads up and down as if paying obeisance to their towering, silent, and motionless neighbors. And that’s when thoughts deeper than mere recognition of their presence began to intrude; I was perhaps witnessing Symbols of a passage between eras. The dying fossil fuel world bowing and paying homage to the aggressive newcomer of renewable energy seemed an appropriate summary of what I had just seen.

As I continued to think about it, I wondered if other folks went beyond just taking notice of that panorama and then went back to whatever they had been doing as they drove ; or was there some higher meaning that they considered? And why, especially, was my own mind drawn to probe more deeply? I recalled my last visit to Cairo when, on the morning of my evening departure I hired a driver to take me once more to Giza, so I could just sit and stare at these other motionless objects. What is it about that “frozen state” that pulls me into a strange reverie??

The recent revelations about sexual harassment among celebrity-level personages, and the wide range of consequences addressing levels of “punishment”, raises lots of questions. In my mind, one of the first among them is the hollowness of the “apology” approach almost universally used as “rectification” by all the identified perpetrators. To me, an apology is only potentially sincere if it’s linked to an unavoidable or inadvertent event, and even then must be evaluated by the recipient (s). None of these cases qualify; all were examples of poor choices made by the assailant; unwanted invasions of another person’s individual space and privacy

At the same time, each situation should be judged on whether the accusations actually ring true, otherwise there could be extensive personal damage wrought on the alleged attacker, intentionally using this category of moral and ethical wrongs as a false weapon of retribution for other perceived differences. As it appears that this no longer “hidden” concern is going to be a major focus demanding a satisfactory conclusion, it will be interesting to see how far society will go in whether to create a variety of levels of transgression versus a zero-tolerance solution regardless of the kind of harassment or predation.

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And speaking of sincerity, I’m often bothered when, in times of crises, our leaders call out to someone in the backroom “Hey, trot out that thoughts and prayers statement, it should be sufficient to let folks know we’re with them “all the way”. “ It’s really helped in Texas, Florida, Louisiana, California, and Puerto Rico, to name a few places.

In light of everything currently happening under the “leadership” of our present administration along with Congressional support, I’m feeling surrounded by an atmosphere of helplessness. It’s difficult to understand how many of these folks can look at their reflections in the mirror and be pleased with what their alleged tax plan’s consequences will have for a large majority of the country, and at the same time remain silent in the face of overwhelming opposition to its implementation. It appears that in spite of all the factual data provided by economic experts, they choose to ignore it in favor of establishing an artificial deadline for completing their task just to be able to say that one of their campaign promises has been met.

Always Be Happy           To Our Youth

PERSPECTIVES

November 5, 2017

Perspectives

 

Last week, I had been invited to be the guest speaker at a luncheon for alumni for all graduation classes from my high school. The luncheon, one of four held tri-monthly each year, I had attended for the first time last July. Naturally I was curious about why I had been invited to speak, but as I mentioned in the beginning of my speech, I found out they couldn’t get Sean Spicer, so I was all that was left.

When I asked what they wanted me to talk about, the organizer said “anything you want.” Well, people who know me could have told him that’s a dangerous move, particularly since I’m not known as an outstanding public speaker, and I know that. One of his colleagues suggested, “Oh, talk about your memories of things in high school, and beyond”. I guess she was unaware how much “and beyond” encompasses, but at least it gave me a start. One caveat caused a problem, this was to be contained within a maximum 30 minutes, given that everyone in the audience had probably attained Medicare eligibility and individually has difficulty remaining in place for even that long. Some of them appeared to have Parkinson’s symptoms, and I’m sure that the majority probably wore hearing aids.

Over several weeks ahead of the luncheon, I started and discarded numerous attempts—They were either too long, not only for the allotted time period but also I doubted that they could hold anyone’s attention beyond the scheduled time unless I could come up with some interesting elements. I even tried to soften the atmosphere by telling them that years ago, while I myself was in the audience at a “keynote” speech, the speaker had commented on some research that indicated that at any one time during such a speech, about 20% of the audience were thinking erotic thoughts. They loved that statistic, and later I asked if anyone was in that percentage.

But back to my preparation. As I grew increasingly frustrated, I finally turned to an old friend who is a retired journalist, for help, and help she did! She said that everyone in that room has had a career, and probably wouldn’t find mine any more interesting than their own; we all had shared quite similar experiences in high school, and to some extent, “and beyond”. She said “what has been the most unique major event in your life that no one else in that room has experienced, and talk about that!”

And so, it became simple. I had been among the first group of Peace Corps Volunteers to go overseas, and certainly had lots to tell! Weaving in anecdotes from my two years as a volunteer, from meeting President Kennedy in the Oval Office at the White House through the travails of my travels to Timbuktu, to living during my second year in the most isolated location in the country of Ghana, and to a final ringing down of the curtain in a private session with former President Harry Truman, I was able to use my Peace Corps experience as a vehicle to emphasize a concern which is of great importance to me.

It begins with the Native American poem, “Judge not thy brother until you’ve walked in his moccasins”. I strongly believe that the rampant polarization in our current society has its roots in the inability of various groups to appreciate or understand perspectives of other groups. The key word here is “perspectives”, or in less formal terms, opinions.

Those who have followed my blogging over the years will recall my concerns about people, and politicians in particular, stating their opinions as if they are facts. And as I took a closer look, I emphasized that most decisions are not based directly on facts but rather on opinions derived from filtering the facts through an individual’s or group’s background of education, culture, and experience. Given this screening, it’s to be expected that there will be differences in opinion, and greater differences the more divergent are the filters that form the opinions.

My Peace Corps experience opened my eyes to a multitude of things, not the least of which was a changing perspective of our own country. I had entered into my service with the belief that “America does no wrong”, and up to that point had never experienced anything from my white middle class background to cause me to reconsider that viewpoint. Now, suddenly I was immersed in an all-black culture, albeit one having a smattering of leftover British merchants, and a black milieu probably quite different from ones “at home”. But at various times during my two years, the early 60’s, events were occurring in the United States that were being featured in the local Ghanaian newspapers, complete with pictures of white policemen using clubs and vicious dogs against peaceful black protestors, of soldiers called in to provide black students access to schools, of persons seeking equal rights for all Americans regardless of race, and being murdered —- and I was being asked to explain “Why?”.

This was my first personal recognition of bigotry; I had had only minimal contact with other races while growing up, and our family avoided the use of any “bad language” including what I came to know as racial epithets. Now I was being asked, as a representative of the United States, to defend something that Intuitively I knew was wrong and not in accord with the declared values contained in my country’s virtually “sacred documents”, The Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution. I had a new Perspective.

Why this is important to me could be seen later, when another PCV and I were meeting with President Truman. He asked, “Well, what did you learn over there in Africa?”. I replied, “Mr. President, I got a different perspective of our country. I saw some things that are wrong with it.” He bristled and said, “You’re in helluva shape if you think there’s anything wrong with this country!”. I responded, “I don’t mean to argue with you, Mr. President, it’s not the country, it’s some of the people in it!”. A different perspective.

That was 60 years ago. My perspective has continued to undergo revision as each new experience in each new location appeared to toggle my beliefs and attitudes. I worked in the first integrated public boarding school in the U.S., in Winston-Salem, N.C.; later with the Black Panthers as I was picked to establish an education program in the inner city of Gary, Indiana under a Model Cities grant. I taught math in a Kansas City, Missouri all-black high school, such having changed from an all white school as people moved away and others moved in. I had three years as a principal in a Native American elementary school; I taught Anthropology in a Southern Baptist University where students were demonstrating for the right to wear shorts on campus, while other schools were crusading for civil rights. I supervised student teachers in NYC schools while helping in a Peace Corps program training teachers for Nigeria; I evaluated schools in rural Wyoming, where I’ve lived for 45 years, and on military bases and in private international schools around the globe. Most of the last 50 years I’ve been involved toward improvement in education, treating it as a subculture and applying the principles of Applied Anthropology to change and development. I have perspective! (and it’s still changing).

I’ve either lived in or used as my home base for 45 years a small town of 3000, overwhelmingly white, and many of its residents have never even been out of the state. Given my background, my attitudes and opinions are quite different from many of those I see around me. Controversial topics such as those arising from the furor over athletes kneeling during the National Anthem raise many hackles among the locals, even though in most cases they haven’t stopped to really understand what it’s all about. They get their news from conservative talk radio and television; almost any waiting area in a service provider has a television continually tuned to Fox News, for the entertainment of the clients. Local perspectives are, in general, highly limited in the scope available to use in making decisions, particularly those dealing with long range and widely-encompassing policies. And given the insularity of most Wyoming communities, there’s little pressure to change.

These, my meeting with former President Truman and my long-time residence in Wyoming, are just two examples of many from my personal life that illustrate how peoples can become “poles apart”. I could add a lengthy and enlightening email correspondence with an Islamic colleague, made more illuminating by her outstanding writing ability, that has helped me to not only have a better understanding of her religion but also aided me in clarifying my own. But I’m not aware of many other persons seeking to enhance their personal perspectives regarding this topic. Mosy merely “reject”, as they’ve been told to do.

Finally, I want to say a few things about Patriotism.

I hear people often saying, “You must be proud of America”, or “You must be proud to be an American”. In truth, I’m not quite there yet. I’m proud of the ideals written by Jefferson and his colleagues in establishing this country, but I’m not proud of the way those very ideals are being trampled and set aside in favor of personal greed and grudges for and against persons supposedly being fellow citizens entitled to the same rights and privileges as all of us. I think in that, I share to a degree the aims of those athletes kneeling peacefully, without disrupting, events in which they are a part. My perspective on that is that they are merely saying, as I do, “We’re not there yet”. More accurately, at least in my personal beliefs, I’m lucky to be an American, and proud that we have in our established governmental system the means to create that pride.

I’ve thought a lot about pride, and come to the belief that most simply it comes down to “a warm feeling” in seeing something good happen, whether it’s your children achieving a goal, a successful program in which you had a part, an action taken by our government to ease the suffering of people here at home and around the world, or just about anything showing positive outcomes toward the improvement of The Human Condition.

I would like to see The Pledge of Allegiance broadened to specifically state the ideals drafted by our Founding Fathers in the Declaration of Independence, and that in reciting the Pledge each of us is committing to incorporate those ideals into our personal lives, and to act in accordance with them. That, to me, would be true Patriotism.

So, in conclusion I return to that Native American poem for help. I believe that if we all “would walk in our brother’s moccasins” we would have a better understanding of each other and perhaps cause polarity to become only a bad memory.

Always Be Happy            To Our Youth

 

 

 

 

 

FALL FELL

September 22, 2017

Well, it’s happened again. Fall has fallen, or at least a rather blunt warning of what’s to come in the near future. Last week, I spied a small cluster of golden leaves peering out through the lower branches of the green ash tree in my front yard; today, they have been joined by a number of emergent colleagues fighting among each other for primary visibility. I would guess that by the end of the weekend, the tree will be totally turned and preparing to launch an onslaught of leaves for my raking and bagging pleasure.

This morning began with a 36 degree temperature accompanied by a chilling rain, and there was little improvement throughout the day. It was one of those days periodically necessary that justifies remaining indoors, using the time to enjoy the solitude enhancing reflection upon issues both personal and public. This year, and particularly now, there are too many of the latter to easily attain some degree of closure as polarity has increased almost incrementally throughout the nation. That, coupled with the onset of major natural disasters, contributes significantly toward a renewed effort to once again assess personal values and priorities.

At times it becomes difficult to remain positive; the Republicans’ continued assault on existing health care legislation or for that matter, anything that has former President Obama’s name attached either formally or informally, creates storm clouds of dissent and intolerance. Their current effort is especially abhorrent in that it represents a poorly conceived collection of actions, created without adequate thought and participation by the total collection of persons we’ve empowered to perform such tasks; yet it involves almost one sixth of our national budget

I was even moved to write letters expressing my opinion to our Congressional representatives (just 3!); I received replies from each of our two Senators several weeks later. One of them said nothing other than they intend to create a program that “provides better coverage for all, for less cost”. Good luck with that! I think he spends most of his time making sure he’s standing just off McConnell’s right shoulder during any TV appearances. The other Senator, who happens to be Chairman of the Budget Committee, was a bit more explicit, using some of the current “fake information” to justify his opposition to a single payer approach. I was angry enough that I dashed off a lengthy, scathing attack on the Republican genre, pointing out that they have abandoned most of their traditional beliefs that used to be woven into the fabric of American Society. I hope he replies again; I want to disagree with his suggestion that a single payer system would put decisions into the hands of bureaucrats instead of having private insurers chosen by the subscriber make the decisions about treatment. I would point out that I, along with all my friends who are on Medicare, have never had anything turned down “by the bureaucrats in that program”, although there have been a few reports of rejections by private, supplemental insurance providers.

I also remarked on the proposed budget greatly increasing military expenditures to the detriment of many other programs. As an example, I mentioned that funding for nationwide Staff and Professional Development in schools, under Title II of ESEA, is to be eliminated. This for less than the cost of one new airplane.  And already we have sufficient weaponry and personnel to kill off everyone on the planet; how much more do we really need? I also suggested reconsidering a tax cut instead of tax reform, how can we fund disaster relief at the level that appears necessary? It’s like the Bush 43 administration starting two wars while having tax cuts, and ruining the balanced budget that a bipartisan team led by John Kasich and Bill Clinton had achieved.

And I’m scared. I’ve been anti-Trump for a number of years, beginning with his purchase of the iconic Turnberry Golf Links in Scotland along with reneging on his promises regarding building a new course in Northern Scotland on a prime natural landscape, against the wishes of the local population. As a devoted golfer and having actually visited that venue, that upset me. Nothing he’s done since has softened my opinion, in fact, I consider him disgusting, despicable, untrustworthy, and totally self-aggrandizing. I can think of no one of equal public persona any less appropriate to be in the position as “leader of the free world” than he, and I can’t understand the reluctance, maybe even the “crime”, of Congress to rid us of this tumor.

His recent speech to the U.N. was just another example of his incompetence and lack of understanding of the mechanics of international leadership and cooperation. His use of language to attack perceived opponents , which creates further major conflict both domestically and with foreign adversaries, is much worse than language I had to deal with when as a school principal, I suspended or caused students to be expelled. Both he and the North Korean dictator are equal in actually representing evil as they continue to escalate the potential for destroying much of the civilized world.

He ignores the fact, a REAL fact, that laws and regulations spring from a need to resolve an issue, and those needs change over time. The regulations initiated during the last administration on financial institutions, and on environmental concerns, were put in to protect us from a variety of problems. Yes, many of them may have added to the cost of business, but they were reasonable in their intent. But it looks as though Trump had someone (probably Bannon) prepare for him a checklist of everything that had Obama’s name on it, and is proceeding down the list eliminating everything, disregarding whether the item makes sense.

So I have a choice to make, do I continue ranting and getting upset, or do I try to withdraw into a protective ignorance of what’s going on in “the outside world” (those of us living in Wyoming consider everywhere else to be different, and thus, The Outside World)? I guess for the time being, I’ll continue to get ready for the next season; I’ve already gotten my long sleeved shirts out of their storage box, laundered and folded them into the drawers, and replaced them in the box with all my short sleeved golf shirts. The patio furniture and carpet is stored away, the plumber is scheduled to change the furnace filter, and the lawn sprinkler system due to be shut down and blown out.

And maybe, just maybe, I’ll head somewhere warm.

Always Be Happy                 To Our Youth

BOOKS, REVISITED

August 12, 2017

Books, Revisited

Long forgotten summer days,

Monopoly games and grape Kool-Aid;

Hide n’seek and hollyhock maidens;

Rubber guns across the grass;

King of the hill and hunting snakes;

Cicadas buzz and firefly lanterns.

 

What brings these memories once more

To taunt with longings for once known calm;

For hours lingering, enfolded in worlds

of fantasy, reality and life?

 

Yes, they had a link, the glue that

Joined them every one,

A core on which they hung as ornaments upon a tree,

A daily interlude of peace and thought,

Voyages into realms of thought and place,

Of freedom to explore and wonder.

Books.

 

I’ve now renewed that long-suppressed affair,

Its embers flare anew but sent by different winds.

In youth I sought, among those pages, adventure and excitement

Unfettered, treks to vistas new, exciting;

 

But now in later years I search for inner peace, silently content;

once more my old friends arrive to weave a cloak

of words enveloping my mind, creating worlds anew,

revisiting images long forgotten of youth and childhood,

an interlude denying  sounds of hate and evil,

of wars and anguish,  of hopes still unfulfilled.

And I savor my retreat.

 

Always Be Happy             To Our Youth

 

 

 

 

 

Where Will It End?

August 4, 2017

Where Will It End?

The United Nations Security Council convened an emergency session in response to major emerging conflict between member states, arising in response to U.S. President Trump’s newly-announced policy on immigrations.

The roots of dissent lie in the restrictions being suggested that have the intent of more closely monitoring potential new arrivals on our shores, primarily requiring fairly high levels of special skills along with a command of the English language.

This is indeed puzzling, as numerous articles citing extensive research show two major points: First, many of our recent college graduates have indicated major difficulties in securing employment due to many of the open positions being taken by foreigners meeting exactly the requirements outlined in the proposed policy. These are the people who really are taking American jobs, not the undocumented immigrants.

Furthermore, the Administration appears to have major hangups about undocumented aliens whom they claim are taking jobs away from Americans. This is in direct contrast to the first point; this concern directly addresses employment of persons generally having low levels of education and skills, many of whom don’t speak English upon arrival, not unlike those persons employed in telephone customer support positions by many of the technology giants. Consistently , research studies indicate that these folks are taking jobs Americans don’t want, particularly in agriculture, construction, and the service industry. I won’t belabor the point that if these folks aren’t allowed in, we shall see major crises in the three areas I’ve already mentioned, and others.

That being said, allow me to return to the first point. Does the President realize the effect this will have on the fundamental fabric of the tapestry which is America? Are we to continue to allow Kenyan runners to win all of our marathons, realizing that English is the official language of their country? There’s some solace however, Ethiopians need not apply, they speak something else.

And what about college and NBA basketball? All those Eastern European players will have to look somewhere else for those scholarships and big bucks awaiting their signings. How will Coaches Self, K, and Cal manage to maintain their ascendancy? In the pros the days of the Olajuwans and Dikembe may bloom, Nigerians speak English. But woe for the Somalis!

South Korea will suffer a severe setback in their mission to dominate the LPGA golf tour, except for those ladies who took time to learn English and go to school in this country. That should free up lots of places in the top 10 for good ‘ol American gals.

I wonder that if this had been in effect years ago, would the Nigerian Nightmare have been welcomed in KC? And will Major League Baseball have to fold up due to losing all those players of Latin extraction from all over the Caribbean? What about the “pure” U.S. men’s soccer football roster? And the NHL, do Russian players qualify?

Already we are seeing clashes between countries representing each side of the policy, Nigerians and Ghanaians against Somalis and Congolese; Ukrainians versus Brits, Jamaican bobsledders against Norwegians and Germans. If this continues, we can’t even guess where it all will end.

Oh, well, as long as the AFC West remains okay, I’ll just have to accept the status quo and go on with my life.

Always Be Happy  To Our Youth