Archive for the ‘Random Thoughts’ Category

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

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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

An Event

January 21, 2015

Occasionally something comes along to take one, even briefly, away from troubles and cares.

Where I live, we are fortunate (some say “blessed”) to be in a place of clean air, clean water, and more often than not, clear skies. As I was driving home from the hospital after visiting a close friend in ICU to have a sudden rise in blood sugar addressed, I was treated to one of those astronomical scenes that serve to remind us of how unimportant our individual existence is compared to the enormity and elements of Nature and the Universe.

As if on an artist’s canvas, a brilliant Venus was almost close enough to stretch out her arms and clasp the new moon, a bright crescent against a velvety dark blue sky, into her bosom. I was reminded of a time many years ago when I took a photograph using the large telescope at our university, of almost the same scene but with the two orbs seemingly touching for that one night, before the moon continued on its way around our planet.

For those few moments in my drive home, as I watched them honor one another’s presence by seemingly becoming even more brilliant, I forgot about the human issues we create among ourselves, and I reflected once again on my place in this Infinite Scheme. So many of “my things” were suddenly, albeit briefly, unimportant as I felt my soul merge into that Wholeness.

And tomorrow I will probably return to the mundane, hopefully to retain and recall even a small morsel of that calm and peace to help me find closure to old issues and to effectively confront new ones.

Always Be Happy  To Our Youth

ENOUGH

December 25, 2014

I suppose it’s good to have an occasional day like this. It’s one of those winter events when a constant, windblown horizontal snow asserts its rightful ownership over the out-of-doors, and builds an ever-growing white and fluffy testimonial to its strength and fury to await my feeble attempts at removal later. Much later. As I cautiously peek out through the slatted blinds, fearful that if my presence is detected, the storm will respond by furthering its onslaught reaffirming Nature’s ascendancy over us poor mortals. I think I’ll cozy up somewhere in my little house, and maybe do some long-neglected reading, or finish some minor cosmetic tasks in one of the rooms. Or nap. I have a Christmas dinner invitation for this evening if I can get through the snow.

I had established some travel plans, driving, over the next 10 days; this storm will sharply curtail those plans or even in fact cancel the trip altogether. I was to leave today, Christmas Day, and head for Kansas City; then, on the 27th leave KC to visit my one nephew who is a Park Ranger on the Mexican Border with Texas. On the 31st, back north to Frisco, Texas, where my wife and our two sons and their families are to convene for New Year’s Eve and two days following. It appears that Saturday is the earliest I can leave, and perhaps only get as far as southern Wyoming. I no doubt will be closely monitoring the Weather Channel and Road Information during the next two days. That will have a major bearing not only on when I leave, but on which vehicle to take. I have an elderly (190,000 miles) All Wheel Drive van for snow and which I love, but which only gets about 20 mpg. on the highway, or my FWD Hyundai Sonata which gets over 35 mpg. I hope driving conditions improve!

One of the recent blogs I wrote brought up the subject of Denial, which I described as being rampant throughout our social and political relationships. I neglected to include myself in that analysis, and recently I realized that I too am a part of that picture, but on a personal basis. I’m facing what all of us will have to confront eventually, the Denial of the Aging Process.

During recent years, I have continued to believe that “a small adjustment in my grip” or some other minor change, would once again produce those booming drives off the first tee at the golf course. That the daily desire for an afternoon nap was only a temporary condition. I can resume firing 27-foot jump shots accurately if I “warm up and stretch” more enthusiastically beforehand. (this ignores the fact that I no longer have much in the way of a jump, and that I can barely get a free throw to the rim). These are certainly indications that I need to get back to using my Total Gym and Health Rider on a daily basis. I had, over time (years!) adjusted to the fact that I can no longer dunk a basketball; I was 29 when I did it the last time—and it wasn’t pretty. Maybe I can’t play well anymore, but I can still teach almost anyone to be an 80% free throw shooter, or hit a straight drive off the tee. My grandsons, for instance.

Anyway, what really brought this to my attention was that last week, I received an email indicating a number of opportunities for me once again to resume my travels overseas to evaluate schools. I received the notice around midnight, and immediately responded that I would like to apply for several of these ventures, in Cairo, UAE, and Saudi Arabia. But then, my hand wavered a bit as I reached for some of my support material, featuring Arabic language books and most especially “Arabic for Dummies”, a sort of Bible to go along with the flash cards I made and have saved. I recalled that in the past year, I had cancelled two such assignments at the last minute, due to a health concern that the teams of doctors were unable to identify and which caused them to recommend cancelling the trips (subsequently it was found that it was a very temporary condition that, had it been diagnosed, needed no medication and would not have prevented my travel).

In any event, it occurred to me that as I’m to complete my 76th lap around the sun next week, such unwelcome events are not unlikely to occur even though at present I could easily carry out the travel and responsibilities. With the trips being several months in the future, it seemed unwise to schedule me for those assignments. On the other hand, our scheduler and I have agreed that if she has any last minute cancellations from any of the other team personnel, she will call me and ask if I’m in shape to go. Actually, the arthritis in my back is the most annoying problem and which I tolerate; I can still play golf.  I’ve been cleared of any major issues such as heart disease or cancers. Even though my legs and feet are still neuropathic, I was able to walk about 6 miles daily on last year’s trip to Scotland although there was a bit of adrenalin involved on the days I walked The Old Course at St. Andrews, and at Royal Troon.

Maybe my body is telling me “Enough is enough”, that things just really aren’t the same. In my Peace Corps days, traveling to Timbuktu on vacation we thought nothing about sleeping on the desert sand or concrete floors in hotels (fortunately not knowing about the size of the scorpions on the desert—wow!). I recently bought a motor home, but almost immediately put it up for sale when I realized all the physical effort and mental planning necessary to use the thing (the 8 mpg helped in that decision, along with trying to keep it on the road in the Wyoming wind). Now, for me it’s a hotel with TV and a refrigerator, or friends who have invited me to visit.

I can no longer be like some of the folks I know, mostly women, who multi-task to the ultimate, and still keep their sanity and perspective. I don’t know if it’s just because they’re the ones I know, but it seems to me that women are much more able to do these things than men; raising children, maintaining a household, and having one or more careers, even on the national stage!  I’ve often wondered if they’re doing “too much”, but they just shrug and go about doing more.

I’ll just continue to volunteer as a helper for big golf tournaments for charity, watch my grandsons achieve, work on my Middle School Primer, and travel as I can. And I might even play a bit with my new toy, a 2003 AWD Jaguar sedan. If you know anything about Jaguars, you know that there’s always something to be fixed!

Oh, yes, there’s still all those frequent flier miles to be used!

Always Be Happy  To Our Youth

UNTITLED

November 23, 2014

Untitled

For the few who have been awaiting another of my blogs, I need more time to put together something bordering on coherent.

You see, those of us who are lucky enough to have a comfortable retirement have lots of random time available to ponder, time that formerly was occupied with projects, deadlines, meetings, and obligations. We have the time to explore new ideas, focus on self-assessment, define our lives, and a virtual infinity of pathways to follow either in depth or as a casual observer depending upon one’s preferred priorities.

When I first began to compose a new blog, I had suddenly realized that we are living in an Era of Denial in which not only individuals but also social subgroups are actively denying facts in order to promote their own particular agendas. In our own state of Wyoming, it is not unexpected that denial of Climate Change is a common attitude given that the wealth of the state is largely dependent upon the oil, gas, and mineral industries which provide a massive resource for the state treasury while providing thousands of jobs to citizens. Any reduction in coal, oil, or natural gas exploitation naturally has a major effect on those two components of the economy.

While considering this thought, I read a recommendation to view a new movie, Interstellar, which raised some thoughts in the reviewer’s mind about Creation. Certainly recent discoveries in outer space can only feed that curiosity unless one’s allegiance to Old Testament narratives overwhelms any serious consideration of factual data. And such a commitment is not uncommon in some of the local churches in our small community.

In the same article, written by my favorite contemporary blogger, there were some references to other sources of opinion regarding Faith, and I was pleased to see that one of Islam’s most famous scholars, Tariq Ramadan, had provided a description of what constitutes real faith in his book, “Islam and the Arab Awakening”. In it, he poses the opinion that only a few persons feel “real faith”, while most allegedly think that merely going through ritualistic activities takes care of one’s obligation to the Supreme Being. I share the same opinion. It was refreshing to review one of my archived blogs from the same blogger, one that described in depth her feelings during the pilgrimage to Mecca and its effects on her emotions. It appears that during that experience, she had completely absorbed her relationship with Allah into her basic being.

While these thoughts and ideas were churning around in my mind, reality intruded with the horrendous mutilations and executions occurring in the Middle East, brutal kidnappings and bombings in Nigeria and Mexico, the unresolved events in Ferguson, and more. I was unable to Deny these tragic events, but I find myself retreating further from the Real World and forming a protective “cocoon” around my mind. I see how many folks easily focus on their own existence and ignore all else that doesn’t touch them directly. And I fear that I, too, am falling into that realm.

Then came the election, and all the shouting and railing of one group toward another, with only the President taking any positive action toward resolving issues. Further denials of facts are seen surrounding the proposed Keystone Pipeline Project, which only promises jobs for the two years of construction. Immigration has become a real tangle, joined with the future of ACA as major battlefields for the coming year. So overwhelming is all this that I’ve retreated even further into the shadows, even to the point of forsaking some of my favorite political commentators.

As I try to write, I don’t find the words tumbling forth from the keys as they have in the past, and for this I blame my guilty return to a workout schedule after several months of laying off during the golf season. I was handed a blow, both literally and figuratively, this past week while performing an adjustment on the pull-down/curl up machine in the health club. The previous user had placed the pin which determines the amount of weight being lifted, into the maximum load. I bent down near the floor in order to remove the pin and re-insert it at a more appropriate level given my advanced years and lack of working out. As I removed the pin, the steel pull-down bar crashed down several feet onto my skull, and I am now trying to work through symptoms of a concussion. Happily, a CAT scan showed no subdural bleeding, but I’m to avoid any complex brain activities until all symptoms are gone. I guess that means I need to watch as much football as I can, and try not to sleep as I leave tomorrow driving to the Dallas area for Thanksgiving.

And now you see why this is brief and a bit random.

Always Be Happy          To Our Youth

MARHABA!

February 26, 2014

MARHABA! (Arabic for Hello)

Well, here we go again! It’s time to get out my Arabic language cards and refresh all those important words and phrases. I fly back to Cairo on the 13th of March to assist on one of our AdvancEd accreditation visitations to a small high school in the Heliopolis area of the city.

When our team finishes on the 18th, some Egyptian friends are taking me to their country/weekend home a few hours from Cairo, to a small town that is known for making excellent pottery. Undoubtedly my father’s flea market gene will raise its head and I’ll return home with a number of new artifacts. I fly home on the 23rd, realizing that the 3:30 a.m. flight is not punishment, only a schedule necessity, and as all of my flights are aboard Lufthansa, my so-far favorite carrier, it’s not all bad.

So far, I’ve selected MaSalaama (good bye), thayib (it is good), mumtaz (excellent), La (no), naam (yes), Shookran (thanks), Afwahn (you’re welcome), Kem?(how much?) and perhaps the most practical of all, Wain al hammam? (Where is the bathroom?). These should be enough to deal with bell hops, taxi drivers, and general interaction although I think all of them fall short when one becomes involved with unwelcome incursions. Hopefully nothing of that sort will occur but if it does, I shall likely resort to using language more familiar to me, generally consisting of a string of four letter words and for my personal enjoyment.

As is usually the case, the school is placing us in a luxurious hotel, at least my Googling indicates that the Heliopolis Fairmont deserves my attention. And it couldn’t be more welcome, given the disastrous winter we’ve had throughout the U.S. I’m just glad I don’t live anywhere from Chicago eastward. I understand that the March temperatures in Cairo linger around 85 F., a cause for rejoicing.

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A recent visit to begin the spoiling process for our new grandson was highly successful; we managed to spend a bunch of dollars in getting him off to a good start, and were pleased to hear that he has a voice which could guarantee him at least a career as a star in one of Wagner’s operas. Loud is important. My wife and I struggled to recall what we used to do with his father as an infant, to achieve some mellowing out from the crying and yes, some bellowing. Even if it could be reduced to a mild whimper, would be an improvement. So, we took turns walking the hallway and bouncing up and down, meanwhile counting the minutes until his parents would return from a two hour outing. I think we used to go for rides in the car, and phenol barbital was available ostensibly for cold symptoms. Nowadays, at least in Colorado and Washington State, there are other nostrums.

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Next week, I shall be attending the Wyoming School Improvement Conference in Casper, a semi-annual affair that brings lots of national speakers to provide resources for our state’s educators. Usually, anywhere from 700-1000 attend, depending upon weather conditions and local finances. During the conference there will be presentations to prepare school personnel for AdvancEd visits to their own districts during the coming spring and fall, and “refresher sessions” for those of us leading teams to schools and districts both at home and abroad. Next fall, the conference will be in Cheyenne at the Little America complex.

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In late April, I’ve been invited back to be a volunteer at the Wells Fargo Championship Golf Tournament in Charlotte, N.C. Relying upon my background and experience, I’m assigned to monitor children up to the age of 12, as they stand behind the ropes in the practice range area. I try to herd them to placements so that they can get autographs from the players, all of whom seem happy to comply with all of those pens and articles being thrust toward them for signatures. Last year, it was usually raining lightly, but still enjoyable. I hope to have my clubs with me this time and play with my son and other grandsons, who live in Charlotte, and I’ll make a trip down to Atlanta to play with one of my colleagues from our Peace Corps Days, 51 years ago. They had best beware; I think I’ve finally solved the shanking and chipping issue that’s plagued me for five years! And it was just a minor adjustment!

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Sobering thoughts are more frequently invading my mind as I realize how lucky I’ve been, at least to some extent. In the aging process, a variety of diseases, conditions, and downright deterioration begin to work their tools on one’s body, and in many cases we’re only held together by a cluster of pharmaceuticals and supplements.

In looking back over the years, most of us would have died years ago from one thing or another, if not for modern medicine and its continuing advances. I recall having scarlet fever and measles simultaneously when I was about 8; without medicine I would have passed on at a very early age. But during the past year, more and more of my friends and colleagues have died, many of them much younger than I (I’m 75); at the same time I also see younger persons fighting to survive a variety of terrible diseases, and I try to count my blessings that mainly I have only back pain from arthritis, numbness from neuropathy, and a number of other non-terminal conditions that only make daily living uncomfortable. But at least I can still travel, walk, play golf, and I remain vertical most of the time. And most of the 10 pills I take daily are merely OTC supplements for Iron, B-12, and to relieve other irritations.

So instead of worrying about which of the several unwelcome intrusions into this former cathedral of health is going to get me, I will try and ignore the possibilities, just as I do in returning once again, to Cairo.

MaSalaama!

Always Be Happy   To Our Youth

A LESSON LEARNED

December 24, 2013

To those poor souls who eagerly await my literary forays, I must apologize. I had this terrific blog almost completed, several weeks ago, when I was interrupted by the need to view a Webinar related to my next overseas trip, in February to South Korea.

During the course of the viewing, I dozed off, the subject being relatively drab when compared to some of the more interesting topics available on the Web. The nodding off would not have been significant, had I not been clutching a mug of tea on my chest and leaning on the edge of the desk. I awoke to find a blank screen, and no amount of effort would renew the power to the computer. Subsequently, I took the injured article to a local repairperson, who announced that “it’s fried”. A reconditioned mother board was then ordered a week or so ago, and at some time in the near future I should have my machine back in its accustomed place on my desk.

Naturally, I had never “backed up” any of the things on the computer in spite of having purchased an external drive for that very purpose. I hope that the retrieval is successful; I’m especially concerned that much of my earlier efforts be saved, particularly some weak attempts at rhapsodizing poetic. I liked those poems.

One of the segments of the blog I was writing had to do with responding to a blog article (blogicle?) about the writer’s desire to master speed reading in order to rapidly digest all the journals, magazines, and must-read books that had accumulated, unread, due to a lack of time to do so. In thinking about this, I came to the conclusion that not only could such skimming be applied to print, it would also have its place on our cable television offerings. In both instances, we quickly realize that much of the information with which we are bombarded is mostly chaff; that the wheat is what we should be digesting and discard all the rest.

On the other hand, many of us still read for enjoyment, that opportunity to immerse ourselves in another world created by the nuances of each carefully crafted word, as it contributes like a building block to erect a structured whole. Such pleasure cannot be retrieved from most of the materials which that writer mentioned as needing her attention, and it’s somewhat ironic that she, as one of my favorite writers, has to temporarily forsake her own mastery just to see if there’s something there that deserves closer examination.

So, what did I learn? Two things—-don’t fall asleep with a mug of tea near your computer, and back up everything! I was admiring the new Macs this week, I wonder if my external drive could take stuff from a PC and transfer it to a Mac?

Always Be Happy          To Our Youth

MY FAVORITE TIME—OVER

November 5, 2013

My Favorite Time

Mother Nature, in her sometimes blunt manner, has given fair warning that my favorite time of the year has come to its annual close. Out here in the West, a succession of cloudless days of bright sun and blue skies, temperatures in the 50’s and 60’s, and seemingly endless days providing a round of golf as a choice activity, is typical.

But two major intrusions into my reverie in the form of two wet, heavy snowstorms interrupted what had appeared to be a cavalcade of trouble-free days. A couple of weeks devoted to gathering debris from the still-sapping trees provided an alert to what might yet be coming. Among those prospective visitors would be a bill, sometime in early spring, for thousands of dollars earmarked toward the trimming and felling of the 19 trees on our property suffering significant damage. Nothing is being done for the moment; the Tree Guy is waiting until the ground is frozen so that his bucket trucks only minimally damage our spacious yard.

These storms were highly unusual, given that nothing like that has occurred during the 42 winters we’ve lived in this small town. Usually, there would be one snowstorm before Thanksgiving, only adding a bit of conversational interest to the otherwise halcyon daily weather.

I’ve also missed the usually beautiful golden colors of leaves illuminated by the bright sun. My annual recall of a poem memorized in high school, “The Vagabond Song” by Bliss Carman, talked about “my heart is like a rhyme with the yellows and the purples and crimsons keeping time.” Carman evidently remained in the East; out here we mainly do Gold. Cottonwoods, planted as fast growers by pioneers as they moved West along the rivers, and their native aspen cousins, all are yellow as their leaves lose cholorophyll. Evergreens remain ever green, unless they have been hit by the varying kinds of pine beetles, and have dried-out red needles. This fall, many trees which would normally have contributed to the local color scheme instead had their leaves turn brown and dead before having a chance to exercise their birthright, and are merely providing me some exercise regarding their collection and disposal as mulch.

Other clues to the coming changes also raise their sometimes unwelcome heads. As I leave before 7 a.m. for my thrice-weekly workouts at the rehabilitation center (to deal with neuropathy), I’m now spending considerable time and effort scraping ice from my van’s huge windshield.

Necessary clothing decisions demand some attention; turtle necks with long sleeves become the shirts of choice especially when accompanied by a warm down-vest. I should mention that most of my wardrobe has its origins in the Eddie Bauer Outlet Store in Jackson Hole, and I annually look forward to seeing my favorite words prominently displayed in its windows—“Sale”, “Clearance”, “Close out”. A major and I suspect a permanent change has been from wearing jeans daily to donning some version of cargo pants; using the additional pockets for all the electronic crap that most of us carry throughout the day.

There’s also the arrival daily in the mail, or over the phone, of requests for donations for Worthy Causes. I’ve received 25 such pleas just in the past two weeks! What really riles me is that organizations to which I give  monthly, such as UNICEF and Wounded Warriors, evidently feel that my monthly contribution is not enough and are always asking for more. There’s the ones about money for dogs and cats; they want more monthly than UNICEF for children! AARP, Consumer’s Report Foundation, children with harelips, children in the Congo, Doctors Without Borders, American Cancer Society and its local branches; Breast Cancer, various disease support groups, food shelters, etc. I would be much more inclined to give during the summer than during the Holiday Season.

One of the bonuses of this time of year is the clarity of the sky; warming my astronomer’s heart if not the rest of my aging body. I have a super 8” reflecting telescope that I bought through a retired professional astronomer couple, ignoring the fact that the ‘scope together with its 26 lb. tripod is far too heavy for me to lift! I’ve yet to place the telescope on its mount. Although I never used my Astronomy major as a career option, I still have a great appreciation for the heavens and recall my first spiritual experience as I gazed into the Orion Nebula’s brilliantly glowing clouds of gas, on a crisp, winter evening as an undergraduate having free access to the university’s large telescope.

This weekend we’ve been invited to a baby shower. That’s right, a Baby Shower! Evidently the newest thing is to invite couples, not just the female half of couples. Our younger son and his wife are expecting their first child around the end of January, so their friends decided to have a major event in celebration! So, Friday we fly to Dallas, Saturday is the shower, and I get back early enough on Sunday to watch my favorite Broncos in action. My wife goes on to Arkansas, to evaluate a school district in the Ozarks.

Finally, this is the time of year for elections, mostly local. Tomorrow I find out if the vote to establish a Hospital District passed or not; it would raise my taxes about $60 annually but go a long way toward improving our local facility, which is about 60 years old. Later on, there may be a bond issue regarding a new building; these funds are primarily for operating expenses (no pun intended) and needed maintenance. But the conversations locally reflect the partisanship nationally; nothing raises the hackles of Republicans as does the four letter word, “taxes”. Ranchers scream about this tax, ignoring the fact that it removes 3 local mills from the county required 12 mills, thus freeing up money to improve services in many areas including ranches. Weed and Pest control, County Extension Agents, county road maintenance—all have suffered significant cutbacks during the past few years. They also ignore another fact—they’re taxed at a much lower level than those of us in town. The outcome of this special election will be interesting.

And what’s further depressing—there are still supposedly intelligent folks expressing the “birther” perspective. My insurance man mentioned that he saw “on the internet” a true copy of the President’s birth certificate that listed him as “African”. It was a clear example of what my college psychology professor, Herbert F. Wright, emphasized—“People believe what they NEED to believe”. Obviously if the facts don’t fit what they want, facts will be ignored and lots of energy will be wasted on dead end pursuits. Like the recent Tea Party efforts in Congress to kill Affordable Care.

Well, I guess I’ll just look forward to this weekend’s excursion, and more jaunts later—North Carolina the last week of November, Texas during the week after Christmas, and South Korea in February to evaluate a new Department of Defense school. And try to figure out what to do with that damned Meade telescope. All offers will be considered.

Always Be Happy     To Our Youth

ON THE ROAD AGAIN

July 30, 2013

On the Road Again

Well, I may not be Willie Nelson ( which is okay with me), but it appears that I shall be resuming my pursuit of items on my bucket list as I once more enter the realm of flight and in September, head for Scotland. Part of my motivation is to overcome the major disappointment I suffered when the New Twinkies were placed on the market, and I found that they are only 76% as large as their predecessors. As a true aficionado, this was a terrible blow!

Some of you may recall that I had planned to visit Scotland in May, on my way home from a school visitation assignment in Bahrain, but which had to be cancelled due to the intrusion of a possible health situation. As it turned out, it was nothing of consequence, and I am once more able to navigate this once-proud cathedral of health and well-being to the farthest corners of the globe.

One of the highlights will be spending a Sunday in the town of St. Andrews where thoughtful-minded community leaders close down each Sabbath the famous birthplace of one of my favorite passtimes, the Game of Golf, to allow the townsfolk to stroll across the landscape and enjoy the fruits of Mother Nature. In addition to touring the “Auld Course”, I will immerse myself in the Golf Museum’s treasures and inspect the narrow streets and byways in the town and university area.

Following upon that, arrangements are being made for me to expend a wee bit of energy flogging (note: Golf spelled backwards is “flog”) a small white sphere around nine holes at Royal Troon, another famous golf venue located on the Western coast of the country. Ah! Paradise!

Naturally, there are many great things to see and again, an acquaintance is pointing me in a variety of promising directions. An Englishman, he has been living for a few years in our small town, but returns annually to the U.K. to lead tours of England, Scotland, Ireland, and Wales. It promises to be much more informative and enjoyable than a 3 day visit I made to Edinburgh and Oban, fifty years ago.

All of this is a consequence of a gentleman I met last year in London, a Troon native, and who has graciously put me in touch with his father who lives retired, in Troon.

Other upcoming events include some school visitations in October, in southeastern Wyoming, following upon the always-excellent School Improvement Conference in Cheyenne, a gathering under the auspices of Wyoming AdvancEd. This is the local arm of the organization that includes over 30,000 schools in the U.S. and around the globe, and I have been extremely fortunate to have represented that body as we conduct accreditation renewal evaluations both at home and abroad. Hopefully, I can continue to do so for a few  more years.

In the meantime, I’m enjoying “being home” in the sense of once again soaking up the feeling of living in “a neighborhood” just like when I was a kid. As I look back upon those days in Kansas City, and as I’ve traveled around the U.S. and overseas, I am struck by the thought that the neighborhood created a home base of familiarity and consistency, and made it easy to carry out the daily demands of social living. At the same time, on my visits to large cities such as Cairo, Seoul, Tokyo, Istanbul, and others, I see armies of high rise apartments parading across the landscape, creating excessive anonymity among their tenants and establishing what is to me an unacceptable level of impersonal relationships. Populations becoming increasingly more transient further erode the sense of comfort, security, and consistency. The little everyday decisions become difficult, not knowing what is coming next, from where, and by whom.

I don’t have that. Our small town of a bit over 3000 people has a thread of folks who either never lived anywhere else, or they moved back here from somewhere. It’s like a neighborhood.

We came here 41 years ago, as I was hired to start the first Middle School in the state, and we’ve never left. Although I worked in several other communities around the state, my wife and sons stayed here as a “home base”, and I came home as often as possible. Now, my sons are established elsewhere, and my wife and I are both retired.

At one point, I was looking at a number of other places to retire, and had made a long list of things I wanted to have available to me as I grew older. Things such as “Does this place have Senior Citizen Bus Service for those who can no longer drive?’ and other questions relative to concerns about aging. Cost of living was another entry and included not only taxes (Wyoming has the lowest personal tax burden in the U.S.) but also recreation, entertainment, utilities, etc. I was comparing life in this little niche with perceived quality of life around Charlotte, N.C., Prescott, AZ, and western Colorado. The only items where our town fell short were “proximity to a major airport” (2- hour drive), and it does get really cold at times during the winter ( I can leave). Otherwise, our Thermopolis came out #1!

I find that there were some other benefits that hadn’t occurred to me such as where to go to get things done. Things like getting the lawnmower fixed, calling the plumber, dealing with government both local and county; getting house repairs done, etc. As it turns out, many of the persons now in charge of things were once students of mine, and are now in their fifties. They remind me of times when I gave them the choice of staying after school or getting a swat from a paddle, or when they were put in in-house suspension. They appear to relish these stories and are proud to tell them to their own kids. ( I must admit a bit of apprehension when one of them, a former NFL –Green Bay Packer, and who still holds the Rose Bowl punting record from when he played for Michigan, told me that he had been paddled twice. He’s pretty big.)

Shopping is something that outsiders would guess is lacking; they haven’t experienced the outstanding hardware store run by a couple who both grew up here, and who gained lots of experience with the world of retail sales through the parents of the wife. Her folks had the J.C. Penney store, a.k.a. “The Golden Rule”; she and her husband expanded upon the hardware base at one time into a Ben Franklin store, and a quilting emporium which became known regionally for its excellence. Granted, there are some things which just aren’t available here, but it’s even fun to make an hour trip to Riverton, two hours to Casper, or three hours to Billings. These trips are often coupled with medical appointments, and mileage is a tax deduction for medical purposes.

I must admit, there are some things that might seem difficult, such as major medical services. They are a minimum of two hours away, but on the other hand I recall driving with a friend for over an hour, IN Phoenix, just to deliver a urine sample to a lab. And most of the medical specialists visit our town on a fixed schedule every week or so, for non-emergency consults. We do have an excellent rehabilitation center headquartered here and which serves all of Northern Wyoming with satellite centers. Each one includes a well-equipped health club, available at very low cost ($15/month for Seniors).

Then, let’s look at government. In Wyoming, we can know our leaders personally, there just aren’t so many of us that it’s not difficult at all. One of my sons worked one summer for Alan Simpson; he took me through the underground transport over to the Senate when he was called for a vote. We all know our governor and, contrary to national belief about Wyoming politics, most of our governors in the last 40 years have been Democrats. In other words, it is a lot easier to have some influence here politically than it is elsewhere.

So what else is there? Well, I like dinosaurs, and the Wyoming Dinosaur Center has been named “the best dinosaur museum in the U.S.” by two travel organizations. I’m a member of the Board of Directors for the Big Horn Basin Foundation, the educational arm of the Center and which is the sponsor of ElderHostel (Roads Scholars) programs along with different levels of classes and activities for all interested persons. We have a dig site just outside of town, and two others elsewhere in the state. One of our specimens is 106 ft. long, and peers balefully down upon a T-Rex attacking a Triceratops, in the main hall.

We have the “World’s Largest Mineral Hot Springs” bubbling up from the ground in the Hot Springs State Park, also part of the town, and along with two commercial swimming pools with slides and outdoor facilities, there is an immaculate free bath house run by the state and required to offer ” the use of the hot waters, free, forever” as part of the treaty when the Native Americans gave the land to the town.

Yellowstone National Park and Grand Teton N.P. are only 3-4hours away, depending upon which route you take. Either way, you can fish for trout along the way or, if you know someone with a boat, fish for walleye on Boysen Reservoir 20 miles away.

Finally, we do have a rush hour twice each day. During that time, which may last as long as five minutes, it takes twice as long to get across town—four minutes instead of two.  Our one stoplight isn’t there just to control traffic; it’s main function is to give directions—“ go to the light and turn left”, or “go one block past the light and turn right”. Also in the area of transportation, we do have to deal with a bit of snobbery—persons from a few of the larger communities in the state look down their noses at those of us who only have four digits on our license plates, whereas they are populous enough to have five. Elitists!

Look us up on the internet. You may be pleasantly surprised!

Always Be Happy       To Our Youth

SOME OBSERVATIONS FROM A COASTER…

July 11, 2013

Some Observations From a Coaster….

I chose this title upon realizing that my mind seems to drift from one thing to another, with accompanying emotional ups and downs as I pass each experience through my mind’s filter. Just like on one of those giant roller coasters, although I’ve omitted any loud screaming.

There have been a few “white knuckle” moments however, especially when I try to digest the House GOP’s perspective on politics, social programs, and life in general. Take the proposed immigration legislation as an example; they apparently are afraid to provide a “path to citizenship” for the 11 million illegal immigrants, speculating that all of them will vote for the Democrats. This has some truth to it, but what they don’t consider is that if they would come up with sensible proposals and programs, perhaps they would attract many of those folks into the GOP fold. Instead, they continue to obstruct every piece of reasonable legislation, even those proposed by members of their own party, and stand as symbols of intolerance and bigotry. It’s difficult for me to remain a left-leaning Independent, but I’m thankful that the “other side” provides enough nonsense to keep me from going all the way over to that direction.

Obama

I was early on a strong supporter of Obama (and still am), and for quite a while was becoming more and more disenchanted with his apparent inability to follow through on those “ringing phrases” we heard throughout his campaigns. But I finally awoke to the fact that he has proposed well-thought-out legislation and solutions to many of the identified problems, only to have them blocked from proceeding further toward adoption by opponents hostile toward him personally, rather than the concepts themselves. In fact, some of his proposals had been eagerly put forth by those very same individuals, only to have them vote in opposition when he initiated them in the spirit of compromise.

Congress has become a joke, although one that’s not very funny. When 90% of the population is in favor of something, like universal background checks for gun ownership, and Congress votes against it, something is terribly wrong. We might as well throw in several members of the Supreme Court along with them, those stalwarts who set back Civil Rights Progress several decades, and are no doubt involved in finding more ways to restrict women’s rights to make personal decisions about their own bodies. Along with a number of GOP-controlled legislatures.

I can only hope that Obama can weather the storm for the rest of his term, and that people will return to the kind of Republicans that accomplished many significant achievements for this country. Those were people who were ruled by common sense while at the same time adhering to their underlying principles, and having the good of the country as their goal in common with their colleagues across the aisle. Our very own Alan Simpson was a prime example, and we need more like him. So many current members, including those from my state, are little more than ventriloquist dummies in parroting the so-called “platform” of their party. Which apparently has its main goal the maintenance and enhancement of Big Business at the expense of everyone else.

Islamic Radicals

I don’t understand how large numbers of members of certain religions use that religion as an excuse to kill non-believers. I already referred to Mark Twain’s perspective on this, in his short story, “Letters From the Earth”, in a previous blog. But the current clashing between two groups having similar roots, Shiite and Sunni, is completely puzzling to me. Their initial split goes back almost 1800 years, after the death of Mohammed, and continues to grow with each new assault of one group on the other. Both seem to ignore the two main functions of religion, the first the personal aspect in which the individual’s depth of faith to the Deity arises from within the person and provides solace and satisfaction only to the degree of personal commitment, and the second, the guidelines for interpersonal, societal activities that provide a format for maintaining a productive and functioning culture. Religious codes like The Ten Commandments, and secular codes like our Constitution are examples.

So far, no country in the Middle East has had an Islamic-based Constitution, in spite of being overwhelmingly Muslim. However, it appears that there are now groups wanting to go in that direction, and causing significant issues between themselves and others who want to avoid mixing religion with politics. Egypt, for example, has a long tradition of secular government in which numerous religious groups were allowed to flourish. I was struck by the consistent observation of Christian churches adjoining Islamic mosques throughout Cairo although the former only represents perhaps 10% of the population. This mutual respect was further seen in a song by Rula Zaki, popular recording artist and performer in the Middle East, which calls for continuing that respect. I hope that whatever solution is achieved through the current pain and suffering provides for all persons to not only adequately participate in government but also to receive its benefits equally. And I certainly don’t want to see the Lutherans going after the Methodists.

News

Why do the major cable “news” channels feel obligated to devote hours to a couple of courtroom broadcasts of murder trials in a faraway state? Are there really that many people who care? I was frustrated in trying to get updates of the situation in Egypt, having received emails from three of my friends in Cairo during the recent governmental changes. My friends were excited and hopeful, but there seem to have been numerous setbacks and increasing violence as events unfolded. I have great memories of my two visits there last year, and I wanted to know.

At the same time, I wanted more information about the tragic deaths of the firefighters near Prescott, Arizona, where I have friends also. But all that I could get on CNN, MSNBC and yes, even on FOX, were live broadcasts of a murder trial. For hours and hours.

I wonder if other folks share my frustration.

Sports and some rule change proposals

Golf-–I’ve never understood why it’s required to rake a bunker so that the sand is “pristine” for the next victim, that ball marks in the line of one’s putt may be repaired prior to putting, but that if your ball lands in a fairway divot made by a previous player, the ball must be played from that divot. The person who made the divot was hitting from an undamaged spot; the person following should have the same advantage. So change the rule, allow a free drop from a divot, but only a drop, not a placement. And while you’re at it, let us repair spike marks on the greens. Same logic.

Comment: I don’t think golf should be part of the Olympic Games. We already have team competitions and weekly tournaments with essentially the same cast of characters; the best golfers from countries around the world already compete against one another as much as they desire, through the various pro tours and amateur events. I would much rather see wrestling re-instated, after all, it was one of the original events.

Further Comment: As each Olympics is scheduled, cities around the world compete for the opportunity to become greatly indebted in order to build venues which, after the games, will subsequently have only limited use. Quite often, the construction phase uproots many people as whole, usually poor neighborhoods are destroyed in order provide building sites for arenas and other venues. At the same time, some entrepreneurs take advantage of the situation in order to enhance their own personal fortunes, as even occurred in the U.S. in connection with the Salt Lake City Winter Games several years ago. Any financial benefits to the locale are fleeting, if any, and primarily for the few weeks of the games.

Why not build a permanent Olympic facility in Athens, Greece, one that would be used continually as each Olympiad rolls around? Greece certainly could use the jobs required to build the complex, and the income generated continually throughout the future. With the prospect of permanency, adequate hotel and lodging facilities could be added, and used between Olympiads for tourism activity. Et cetera.

Pro football—Change to the college rule that the clock stops when a first down is made, to be restarted when the ball is readied for play. That would speed up the game, particularly in the latter part, when teams use those long times-out just to stop the clock.

Use the college rule on pass interference, a 15 yd. penalty. Currently, the pros place the ball at the spot of the foul, even though it might be 50 yds. downfield. That assumes that the receiver would have caught the ball if the foul had not occurred, which may or may not have been true. The college rule takes into account that although there was a foul and should be punished, we really don’t know if the ball would have been caught.

Basketball (all levels)—Basketball used to be a game of finesse; it has devolved into an activity of strength and speed particularly at the NBA level. I personally don’t even consider that to be basketball, having grown up in a different era. I’m concerned that this change is creeping inexorably downward to the younger players; on ESPN, Jay Bilas made a comment that college basketball is becoming more and more like pro basketball, which he referred to as “Organized Fouling”. His solution—call the fouls as the rulebook states, and we can get back to more of the finesse games of Oscar Robertson, Bill Russell, Wilt, Cousy, Kareem, and many of the other greats of the game who relied on agility and athletic ability rather than brute strength. That’s not to say those players weren’t strong; I distinctly recall being momentarily stunned when Mr. Chamberlain stuffed one on my head before 12,000 appreciative fans. Mr. Bilas  went on to say, and I agree, that offensive foul calls are the most egregious in either not being called or are favoring the offensive player in spite of good defensive work by the opponent. Quite simply, who initiated the contact and who had the position?

Personal Well-Being

Well, I only seem to be hindered by age factors of deterioration of the spine through the wonders of osteoarthritis. As a nerve becomes inflamed, it sends a message to one or two of the muscles in the back to go into a “knot up” mode, causing significant pain and discomfort. Investigation reveals that the cause cannot be healed, only dealing with the symptoms remains as a solution. If I play a few holes of golf, I suffer for several days thereafter. And just when I discovered that one of my sons joined a club with TWO golf courses. Life is unfair. My doctor and I are investigating other pain management options and hopefully I can become a bit more active in the athletic arena. Still not enough to get in to the Rio Olympics.

The neuropathy in my feet and legs causes some fatigue along with the loss of feeling; ascending stairs and hillsides presents a problem but I can usually achieve the summit given enough time and patience. Like three or four hours. I’ll be riding my bike when the current Global Warming Event decides to withdraw its fangs, at least for a few days or so. It’s 100 today; our summer temperatures are usually in the upper 80’s to 90.

At least I’m healthy enough to resume my traveling, and toying with either New England or Scotland in September. I have a few Wyoming school evaluations to do in October. Until then, I think I”ll stick close to home and work on the golf and fishing.

Always Be Happy      To Our Youth