Archive for December, 2012

2013

December 30, 2012

To my readers:

I wish all of you a very Happy New Year, and hope that you are able to “widen your horizons”, as my high school English teacher used to say.

I have a couple of travel assignments for March and April, to Saudi Arabia and Bahrain (politics permitting), and if my health maintains its present status, I shall be able to complete those tasks. I also may make a brief trip to Southern California in mid-January, ostensibly to drop off some items for my son near LAX, and then return to Salt Lake City to have a short session at the University of Utah Medical Center before proceeding on to Jackson, Wyoming, for a short visit with friends. That trip is tentative except for the medical appointment, a necessary exploration of any potential new options for treatment.

Anyway, assuming I once again visit the Middle East, you may expect some more “dispatches” on the blog site. I may arrange for some stopovers in interesting places; I’m considering Iceland and Scotland, and perhaps one or two other places. I’m open to suggestions!

I’ve lost a few friends this past year, primarily to illnesses that seem to occur more frequently as we age. And there are also those friends whose communications suddenly cease, and about whom I can only wonder and hope that nothing serious has happened to them. It’s always nice to receive some reassurances, even if only briefly tendered.

Always Be Happy!                 To Our Youth!

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Opinions

December 8, 2012

OPINIONS

I live in a small Wyoming town, pop. 3200, that gets its local news from the weekly paper, a journalistic example of “how to be non-committal as an editor”. Those old Western movies about the Crusading Gazettes are long gone; it appears that one must avoid antagonizing anyone by taking a stand on an issue, thus assuring a continued small world of tranquility amid the turmoil of the “outside”. It is left to those brave souls who contribute their perspectives to the “Letters to the Editor”, or to Guest Columnis, to raise the ire of portions of the local community.

I bring this up because, in the edition following the November election, one of my long-time friends had submitted a letter questioning how anyone could even minimally think of voting for the Obama administration or candidates of the party it represents. This particular individual, through hard work and having taken a big risk at one point in his career as a petroleum engineer, had become highly comfortable financially and continues, along with his now significantly-expanded family, to enjoy many of the benefits of modern life in spite of his 80+ years and health issues. His money comes from ownership of the mineral rights to a small oilfield, one that has been producing since the early part of the last century and continues to do so. Its rewards naturally are subject to the whims of the economy along with the demand for its product. Although I did not read his original letter I did read two responses to it that were somewhat unusual to see in this strong Republican stronghold.

Those responses started me into my analytical mode; I was starting to reflect on how the original letter writer had come to represent that viewpoint, and then further I considered the persons who had written the responses (of course, in a town our size we usually know “everyone”). While in the midst of massaging these thoughts, I did some volunteer work with a partner during the Grand Opening of the Wyoming Whiskey Distillery, and at some point toward the end of the long day, perhaps from fatigue or loss of focus, he began to rant about the Obama administration and said that “he is the worst President we’ve ever had, and I’m tired of paying for that 30% of the population that’s feasting off of our money.” Earlier in the day, he had indicated that at one point in his career, he had taught Human Resources classes at San Diego State, supposedly a representation that a glimmer of intelligence lurked somewhere in his conscious state (I don’t know how conscious he was, he had been drinking beer throughout the afternoon and when he had the opportunity, eagerly participated in tasting some of the product that we were packaging for equally eager buyers).

Suddenly, as I was thinking of a response to his statement, everything seemed to come clear in the sense that I now had a foundation of understanding. It was encapsulated in my reply; “I don’t agree at all with you, but what you stated is just your opinion. Opinions are based on a person’s experiences and hopefully on sound facts; I have had a quite different body of experience than you, and I know that some of your “facts” are inaccurate”. That seemed to quiet him down and we were able to carry on our assigned tasks in semi-peaceful harmony although he did leave early in order to attend a whiskey sampling session at a local liquor store and bar.

But now I felt that I can understand; the owner of the oil field has never had to cope with working with persons drenched in poverty and dysfunctionality; my volunteer partner can’t equate the massive subsidies we give to the profit-making oil companies with what he terms “handouts” to the impoverished. Another of my Republican friends owns a large engineering company that designs and builds coal-fired power plants all over the U.S.; he likewise has always dealt with “things” rather than people. Yes, each of them has had a set of experiences that differ significantly from mine, rooted in social interactions of education and public service. And each of them interprets any proposals having the intent of improving the Quality of Life for all of us, as attempts to limit their personal freedoms and benefits.

Yes, I understand that restrictions on the mineral industry, Wyoming’s primary source of revenue, can increase costs and may in fact cost some jobs, but for the greater good. If my power plant friend had taken my suggestion of 20 years ago to begin looking at alternative methods to provide energy, perhaps he would be expanding his operation into new areas rather than trying to protect it from further regulation. Many persons of this perspective don’t want to accept the facts of Global Warming; to deal with its effects will cut into their profits as existing industries and resources come under the scrutiny of the scientific and regulatory community in their attempts to Save the Planet.

Again, I emphasize that all of these decisions are based on opinions, a few of which are based on facts but more often on weakly-tendered other opinions such as those regularly emitting from right-wing media like Fox News, or the numerous mean-spirited talk show hosts.

However, I can take some solace from the fact that the Ultimate Opinion is that vote one puts in the ballot box; it also is the result of an individual’s experience and interpretation of facts. I am pleased that there appears to be more of the thoughtful folks than the ones still hiding their heads in the sand.

Always Be Happy and Content!       To Our Youth!

A MINI-JOURNAL

December 3, 2012

Golf and Sadness

Today is December 2, and I played golf in Wyoming. Yes, that’s right! Of course, I only played a couple of holes in the 60 degree, dry weather, as I needed to get home in time to see my Denver Broncos interact with some of their peers. During NFL season, most of my weekend activities are scheduled around the Broncos’ game schedule, and woe! to the person who interferes with that devotion.

I thought briefly of calling one of my usual golf partners, a fellow I had seen Friday at a high school basketball game, and who told me that he had played golf two days this past week. However, I decided that since I wasn’t going to play a full round, and that he also would want to watch  the  Broncos’ game, I’d wait until later in the week when he had suggested that we should plan on playing some more.

Unfortunately, that won’t happen. My friend passed away suddenly and very unexpectedly last night after attending a UW basketball game in Laramie. At times like this, we ask the question, “Why?” and try to understand, but never attain true closure. I personally cannot attribute such events to “Destiny”, or refer their occurrence to the whims of a Deity; those are merely attempts to achieve some finality so that Omar Khayyam’s Moving Finger, Having Writ, may move on. And I shall.

Booze

Yesterday saw a major event occurring in Kirby, Wyoming, a small (pop. 52) town 12 miles north of my town, Thermopolis (pop. 3200). Five years ago, a small group of entrepreneurs decided that Wyoming needed a distillery, and they embarked upon a project to establish such a venture. They chose a location where they could easily assemble all the agricultural materials necessary, and which offered available land at a reasonable cost. Artesian water was piped from a town 50 miles away; the only other non-local major elements included oak barrels from Kentucky (we have no oak trees in Wyoming) and bottles made from a special glass only produced in Mexico. Master distillers and experienced professionals were brought in from Kentucky and the United Kingdom, to produce what is hoped to be a highly smooth, prize-winning  bourbon under the name, “Wyoming Whiskey”. December 1, 2012 was designated as the date upon which the first batch of the aged, 4-year old bourbon would be available for sale, and a big event was planned which included not only the Governor speaking (his brother is one of the principals) after doing a flyover in the State Plane, but also several thousand persons willing to stand in line for up to five hours to have the opportunity to purchase some of this local ambrosia.

I volunteered to help, and spent nine hours placing various numbers of bottled whiskey in bags and cardboard boxes as enthusiastic shoppers filed through the gift shop in regulated numbers to make their purchases. Folks who had followed the progress of the project over the several years of development, and who may have been investors, were initially allowed to buy up to four bottles each; the rest of us were limited early on, to 3. As the supply began to dwindle, those numbers were reduced to 3 and 2, respectively. As I looked out the window at the line of shoppers, only a slightly longer one than the one outside of the PortaPotties, I thought I was seeing the tail end of the Florida voters still waiting at the polls.

The first bottle is being kept for display; others among the first five were being auctioned. I happened to be near the cash register when the buyer of #3 brought his $6000; the object itself was encased in a beautiful wooden box and identified with special numbers. The two bottles I purchased, at $45 each, have the bottling date (Nov. 10, 2012) and the batch I.D. (“batch #1) written on the label. My understanding is that there will only be about four or five batches produced each year, of around 1500 barrels each. All of the first batch were sold to retail outlets throughout the state, allegedly within four hours! I no longer consume hard liquor, but I did have a taste and it is indeed as smooth as I was told. I also put my name on a waiting list to buy one of the barrels after it is emptied.

Health and Well-Being

My nine hours of volunteerism took their toll on my legs; the CIDP held up fairly well but culminated in aches and fatigue in the feet and upper legs. I am continuing my experiment with Alpha Lipoic Acid, increasing the daily dose by 50% beginning today. I was contacted by the U. of Utah Neuropathy Center, and they are to call me this week for a date in January when I travel to Salt Lake City for some further testing and possible treatment recommendations. In the meantime, I’m continuing my physical therapy to try and maintain my leg strength and regain some of my balance. At times, I appear to have been drinking too much of that Wyoming Whiskey, as I can’t consistently walk a straight line. I of course was pleased to learn that CIDP is rare; I would hate to have some commonplace ailment. However, I don’t like the phrase, “no cure”, associated with the diagnosis. While I consider myself a “Progressive” politically, I don’t like that term linked to any disease I might have.

I did, however, get some good news. I had some polyps removed from the digestive system in areas related to Barrett’s esophagus, a pre-cancerous condition; not only was the biopsy negative but the symptoms of the condition have disappeared. I get checked again in three years.

The only other major health problem I have is trying to keep my right hand from twitching just before I strike the ball while playing golf. This malady contributed significantly in my achieving the highest score I’ve had since beginning the sport at age 12. I had a 56 on nine holes, in Sedona, AZ; this followed a 95 in Phoenix for 18. I guess my mind must still have been on my son’s wedding two days earlier, or perhaps on the bills coming in soon, related to that event.

Nature and the Creator

Recently I read an excellent blog article in which the author eloquently expressed her beliefs regarding the link between one’s ability to internalize enjoyment of Nature as it is included within her personal commitment to a Supreme Being. I admire her greatly for her degree of commitment to her Islamic faith, and to her dynamic focus of her life and that of her family upon its principles. Too often, folks indicate an allegiance to some form of religion, yet ignore its foundation as they go about their everyday lives.

“Nature can elicit the calm comfort of a mosque, or other holy site of worship, but some may confuse their appreciation of nature for an object of worship, rather than nature’s Creator. Ancient people were noted for idolizing the sun, moon, stars, elements of water and fire, and even some modern day folks choose similarly without the logical conclusion that the Creator is responsible for the genesis of the universe and its contents.” (Blog, “It’s a Halal Life”).

To me, this conclusion is “logical” only if one believes that the Creator is an entity that purposefully “creates”; it is in fact no more logical to me than the idolizing the writer projects upon the ancients. Some of us find contentment in “just being” as a part of The Grand Scheme of things, and do not need some man-conceived element, i.e. The Creator, to be the source of that satisfaction. However, from her deep sense of her faith and commitment to her Allah, her perspective is accurate as it would be to any individual who shares such a strong communion with a Deity.

She goes on to say, “We, having some of the attributes of the Divine Being, also have the responsibility to honor our unique status among those created. We can differentiate ourselves from haughtily claiming ourselves to be the Divine because we cannot only revel in the wonders of nature, we can also fear and be overwhelmed by it. Recent reminders are the effects of hurricane Sandy, our frustrated feeling of helplessness when we are ill, or when we wish well for someone struggling but lack the power to help them. In all these situations though, it can assuage the soul to know that the Earth is a mosque, any place is amenable to worshipping and connecting to one’s Creator “

This remark uncannily reflects something I read 50 years ago as I recall an observation made by the anthropologist Ralph Linton, in one of his books about Culture—He said something to the effect that “quite regularly Man begins to think that “he IS God”, then Nature rises up and smacks him down once again”—such as Sandy, Katrina, Joplin, Japan Tsunamis, et. al.  At the same time, I do not imagine a personified Creator, I conceive some all-pervasive, eternal firmament infused with energy which we share in each of us, and in which we persist even after our physical selves are no longer alive. At that point, we are merged back into “The Whole” and continue to seek to understand that elusive concept of the Universe; in an earlier blog I referred to this as “The Life Force” for want of a better term. I remember my first really religious experience; I was an Astronomy major in college, and one winter night I was peering into the heart of the Orion Nebula, and for the first time in my life I felt, in toto, to be engulfed as a part of the Universe and everything it represents. From that moment on, I have developed a deep and personal relationship with the Infinite, and am content.

ABH!      TOY!