Sunday, August 30, 2009

Changing Times

We recently upgraded Josh’s and Evie’s cell phone to include unlimited text messaging and phones that would facilitate such a form of communication. Over the summer we also paid for Josh to have access to the internet from his phone so he could check emails, DCI scores and do the Facebook thing…now that he is back to campus the internet access is gone.

In April my Blackberry was upgraded, and as of a few weeks ago, the divisional plan includes unlimited text messaging….not that I use it much other than to communicate to Josh a few times.

The following little humorous item is so true in many ways and at so many levels. Enjoy.

"Things are spiraling out of control. I think I have become lost in a world of electronic madness.

One of my sons informed me this week that my cell phone has become obsolete and I must head down to the Cell Phone store and get a phone that is contemporary with the time.

I pointed out that the fancy Razor/Slim line phone with camera built in that he made me trade my perfectly good flip-top Motorola cell phone for two years ago still works perfectly fine.. Well, except for the camera thing. Never could figure that out.. Even the few times I actually did take pictures I couldn’t figure what to do with them and gave up.

That is except when I would push the wrong button and take a video of the ceiling or my feet.

Seems the issue is that I am unable to text with the tiny little 3 character buttons. "Hi, son," would come out looking like, "Gh Qmo." My grandkids have even spoken to my wife about Poppa’s crazy text messages. Give me a break. Whatever happened to actually talking on a phone? Isn’t that what they were invented for?

They want me to get one of those phones that you can turn upside down and sideways and has a typewriter keyboard with keys about one-eighth the size of my pinky finger.

One of my four sons is a realtor whose real occupation is fly fishing. "Way to go, son."Or in my text language, "Xbz um Io, rmo."

We were floating the Yakima River in his guide quality drift boat south of Ellensburg, Washington. We were miles from anything remotely resembling civilization. Rock canyon walls were on either side of us. Bear with me as I try to explain this strange thing.

His "Blackberry" rang. It was blue and I asked him why it wasn’t called a Blueberry. He shook his head with that “dealing with an elder” despair look I get a lot these days. It was another realtor who called to say that the sellers he represented had agreed to my son’s client’s changes and he had the signed documents in hand.

My son told him to FAX the papers to his office and he would get them signed and Faxed back, to close the deal that morning. A minute later the phone rang and he hit a few buttons and looked over the FAX, now on the Yakima River with us.

He then called his clients and told them he was Faxing the papers to them to sign and asked them to FAX them back to his office. While he was waiting, he hooked into a fat rainbow and was just releasing this 22 inch beauty as his phone rang again with the signed FAX from his clients.

He called the other realtor and told him he was sending the signed papers back by FAX. The deal was closed. He smiled and just said, "You are a little behind the times, Dad." I guess I am.I thought about the sixty million dollar a year business I ran with 1800 employees, all without a Blackberry that played music, took videos, pictures and communicated with Facebook and Twitter.

I signed up under duress for Twitter and Facebook, so my seven kids, their spouse, 13 grandkids and 2 great grand kids could communicate with me in the modern way. I figured I could handle something as simple as Twitter with only 140 characters of space. That was before one of my grandkids hooked me up for Tweeter, Tweetree, Twhirl, Twitterfon, Tweetie and Twittererific Tweetdeck, Twitpix and something that sends every message to my cell phone and every other program within the texting world.

My phone was beeping every three minutes with the details of everything except the bowel movements of the entire next generation. I am not ready to live like this. I keep my cell phone in the garage in my golf bag.

The kids bought me a GPS for my last birthday because they say I get lost every now and then going over to the grocery store or library. I keep that in a box under my tool bench with the Blue tooth [it’s red] phone I am supposed to use when I drive. I wore it once and was standing in line at Barnes and Nobles talking to my wife as everyone in the nearest 50 yards was glaring at me. Seems I have to take my hearing aid out to use it and got a little loud.

I mean the GPS looked pretty smart on my dash board, but the lady inside was the most annoying, rudest person I had run into in a long time. Every 10 minutes, she would sarcastically say, "Re-calc-ul-ating Route" You would think that she could be nicer. It was like she could barely tolerate me. She would let go with a deep sigh and then tell me to "make a legal U-turn at the next light". Then when I would make a right turn instead, she was not happy.

Then I really got lost so I call my wife and told her the name of the cross streets and now she is starting to develop the same tone as Gypsy, the GPS lady, at least she loves me.To be perfectly frank, I am still trying to learn how to use the cordless phones in our house. We have had them for 4 years, but I still haven’t figured out how I could lose three phones all at once! I have to run around digging under chair cushions, checking bathrooms and the dirty laundry baskets when the phone rings.

Oh, and have you noticed that we obviously came from another era, 'cause we say words like "point", "decimal", and "period"? It would appear that those words have been replaced with the universal term of "dot" - I always thought those had to do with polkas.

The world is just getting too complex for me. They even mess me up every time I go to the grocery store. You would think they could settle on something themselves but this sudden "Paper or Plastic?" every time I check out just knocks me for a loop.

So I bought some of those cloth re-usable bags to avoid looking confused but never remember to take them in with me.

Now I toss it back to them. When they ask me, "Paper or Plastic?" I just say, "Doesn’t matter to me. I am bi-sacksual" Then it‘s their turn to stare at me with a blank look."

Thursday, August 27, 2009

A Fun Moment

Picture a hot humid mid September afternoon in Kentucky, a stuffy classroom built for 30-35 crowded with almost double that number of students sitting in thin old wooden chairs in tight rows with rows no more than an arm’s reach between rows, and it is the 3 PM class on a Friday at this faith based college. While the windows are wide open in this old building that classroom lacks air conditioning, the air is so still outside that a Kleenex resting on pavement makes no movement. Now add in a professor who is somewhat soft spoken and who is about 35 minutes into the 50 minute lecture with dozens of students fighting not to nod off. Add into this mix that this professor teaches Bible and has been known from time to time to pause his lecture to prayer.

Put into this mix a student who was losing his battle remain cognizant of his surroundings and an impish sophomore who is sitting behind him.

As the student nods again, he is tapped and hears a whisper in his ear, "He wants you to lead us in prayer."

The suddenly aroused student shoots up like a jack in a box into a standing position and immediately starts, "Our heavenly Father." Hearing others giggle at the interruption the student pauses and realizes he has just interrupted the lecture.

The elderly professor was not alarmed. He merely added, "As the Spirit so moves brother, please continue."

After praying, as the student takes his seat he looks back at his grinning dorm mate promising revenge.

They say confession is good for the soul. I do not know about that but it sure brings back a warm memory of Dr. Hunter saying "As the Spirit so moves brother, please continue." As to the revenge he never really got his revenge but I do know he never sat that close to me ever again.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Little Will Happen with Healthcare Reform

Listening to some opponents of reform you will hear deep anger, fear, distrust of government (and by extension their neighbors) and suspicion that there is a hidden agenda. Such a pool, and it is a significant pool, is fertile ground for people to be gullible and quickly accept created mythical claims. There is a host of mythical claims being made around proposed health care reform.

Here is a story about some of those claims.

I am not surprised by the polls. As you will recall, though I am a fan of healthcare reform and a public system I anticipate that reform efforts to fail. Something will get passed, but a year or two later most people will realize that the changes were cosmetic and made not real differences. Regardless of the claims of insurance and health care executives are making, they are not interested in serious reform. Their eyes are upon the dollar and trying to keep the gravy train going a little longer. They have the same attitude of financial services and insurance executives who created, marketed sub-prime loans that nearly brought the financial industry into total ruin….keep the train going, allow us to make as much as possible hoping that the collapse we see coming will not happen.

Two of the most powerful motivators are fear and greed. Both those emotions are at play in the healthcare debate.

What is interesting is that the views of those who have been to other developed countries, and intentionally listened to those citizens and understood the dynamics of their what is happening in those countries, tend to see the value and importance of healthcare reform. Interacting, listening, learning and grasping what is happening elsewhere changes a person’s worldview and impacts their views. To hear the those against healthcare reform, the Canadian healthcare system is a backwoods system with ancient hospitals thinly staffed by second-rate healthcare providers.

Though Americans may travel widely in their own country, and take quick little vacations to a foreign resort, Americans are for the most part insular in their worldview. Traveling outside your own country does not give you a worldview when you go to a resort filled with fellow Americans, or travel in tour groups and do not really interact with those from other countries. Such individuals continue to view their own nation as being superior and as not needing to learn from others. They have bought into the political mantra of superiority, enlightenment and that other societies are falling apart and less vigorous than American society.

While I hope I am wrong, the myths will continue to hold sway and be proclaimed as truth. There will be not political inertia to bring forth reform. Meaningful healthcare will not happen until about half of the middle class is without adequate healthcare…a day that may be as near as twelve to fifteen years.

Monday, August 24, 2009

What Is So New?

Nation troops lack discipline, slow to meet enrollment goals and when they enroll, quick to desert.

Local authorities slow or unwilling to recruit troops necessary for their defense.

Ethnic cleansing campaigns conducted by locals with local officials looking the other way and in some cases hindering the foreign troops from interceding.

Other local authorities declining to raise men for the military noting that there is no need given overtures of peace being made by some on the other side.

Foreign officers complaining about lack of discipline amongst local troops, and that they run to quickly from a fight.

With mounting debt the foreign nation expends a significant portion of their wealth on military expenditures and in keeping their military in the field.

Foreign troops sacrificing themselves but wondering why local governments and troops are not doing the same to protect their own people.

The hot war was simpler than the victorious aftermath. The ongoing fighting and political folly has become a greater quagmire than the hot war.

Locals claim they want help, but then do not what to help themselves.

Foreign leadership seeking ways to have the other country pay its own bills.

Local government wanting to take control but the other nation questions the commitment and viability of self-rule.

Rampant factionalism with no unified vision or sense of nationhood uniting various provincial governments into one central body.

The foreign country pouring large sums into building public works and infrastructure, but while local authorities argue over the needs or whether they should contribute to the paying of the same.

Large cultural divide between the country and the foreign country.

Homeland politicians crying out that it is long overdue to bring troops home and to end putting money into an endless pit with little home of return.

Local authorities wondering how much say they really have in running their own country.

People questioning whether the other country is really governable and worth the fuse, particularly when the citizens of the other country do not appreciate what they have been doing for their benefit.

For several years we have heard the above over and over again, so why recount the familiar and the recent. History is repeating itself. As today the Americans are speak of Iraq and Afghanistan the British were speaking of the Americans between 1755 and 1770. As Americans then came to detest the British crown and Parliament so too are the Iraqis and Afghans today. By the way, other similarities would make the list is much longer.

It is ironic that America has forgotten its own history and in many ways has been doing to Iraq and Afghanistan what they complained about the British doing.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

An Alarming Statistic Called "Good News"?

Retired Commissioner Joe Nolan recently wrote on The Rubicon (

“Interestingly and coincidentally, in the July issue of Salvationist, the editor comments as follows: ‘Here is some good news: YP rolls peaked in the period following the 1950 International Youth Congress; more than 111,000 young people were on those rolls of whom 33,000 were junior soldiers. Half a century later those figures were approximately 14,000 and 7,000 respectively.’”

“Good news?

“I guess it can be interpreted as good news, the percentage of those becoming junior soldiers rising to 50%, the bad news being that the rolls have declined significantly: 111,000 to 14,000? She does go on to say that “statistics do not tell the whole story and in some cases can be misleading” (”Lies, damn lies and statistics,” said Disraeli, not me, I would have politely said “darn lies”).”

I concur with Nolan. We need to ask, “what planet are you living on” and “where did you learn your logic” of anyone who sees “good news” in 7,000 out of 14,000 youth being junior soldiers in the USA when there use to be 33,000 out of 111,000 fifty years before. The cited stat should send alarm not comforting good news. It signifies the Army in the US is dying and that the officer pool both in numbers and in quality of leadership is collapsing. If the quality of leadership at all levels is collapsing, the American Army (also similarly trends in Canada) as a whole is in decline, that decline will increasingly become evident on two levels, the number attending worship and a significant decline in support from the community. Support from the community will take longer to be felt but the first signs could start to show within seven years.

Friday, August 21, 2009

A Great Show With A Unique Feature

At the 6 minute mark watch for the Cadets to spin out of square and then move back into another less then 20 seconds later….impressive.

Around the 7 minute mark note that playful drum feature.

At the 8:00-8:15 mark pay attention to the trumpets…their hands move to the player to the left of them and finger the other’s trumpet. It looks like the melophones did the same. Most impressive, and no doubt most difficult not only to do but to keep the music clean.

The Cadets were World Champions with this show.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

The Haircut

Yesterday before going to Williamsburg I was in Culpeper VA for a noon meeting following a stop in Warrenton. Needing a haircut and in Culpeper with thirty-five minutes to spare I went to a shop to get my hair cut where I experienced a unique haircutting style.

The stop cut my hair with a vacuum system. My hair was vacuumed into a hose with cutters. The traditional trimmer was used on the bottom to cut the hair down to the skin. For the top another vacuum attachment was moved around the scalp…not only cutting the hair but messaging the scalp in the process, a most pleasant experience. After twelve minutes the haircut was done versus the fifteen to twenty minutes I normally experience, and the $12 cost was very reasonable.

I loved it. I think I will be planning my haircuts around visits to or through the Culpeper area.

Saturday, August 15, 2009


Below are some pictures taken during our July visit to Charleston SC. I enjoyed the visit and walking around the historic old town. It is well worth the visit, and staying in the heart of the historic district for a few days is well worth it as it allows you the opportunity to explore the town at your our pace at various times throughout the day. Next visit, now that I know the area somewhat and what to look for, I would like to find one of the bed and breakfasts that are in one of the old homes.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Orkney Springs

Last night after driving through some heavy rains Josh and I arrived in the bone dry Orkney Springs VA where we are camping. Orkney Springs is nestled in the mountains, and is at the end of the road. A mile to the west is West Virginia.

The campground which is run by a University of Iowa grad is not the greatest, but it suffices.

We are at Orkney so that Josh can help out Oakton High School band with its drill. Oakton comes here every year for its band camp. He is a volunteer instructor for three days. On Saturday afternoon starts parents day where they run through their show and do an evening concert. As it is very early in the season the drill and the music is very dirty.

The band is showing the results of redistricting that took affect last year. The band which use to be a large 4A or small 5A is on the verge of dropping to being 3A. Currently they have about 118 members. Last year 44 seniors graduated, but they only have 24 freshmen marching this year. Next year they may well become a 3A band. It is unfortunate to see one of the best marching bands in Northern VA much short of what it was 2 to 6 years ago.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

College of Charleston

Evie noted in her blog the College of Charleston. It is a beautiful campus. Though most of the classroom buildings go back over two hundred years, there are a few like the first picture that are of a more recent vintage.

A number of the old houses are now faculty office buildings. A few are designated for student housing.

Admissions to the college is one of the more competitive colleges in the country.

Below is the Admissions Building. As you can see the campus is well shaded by grand has to be due the heat from May through to October.

This above building is also found on Evie's blog. It is an adminstrative building and was used in the filming of the Patriot. Below the exterior pictures are pictures of the auditorium and its vintige 1700s and 1800s furniture.

Friday, August 07, 2009

An Alarming Argument Against Healthcare Reform

The healthcare debate in America has become increasingly heated. It is wrapped up in a host of misinformation, obfuscation, red herrings and illogical statements. Fear of illness and worry about not receiving care are powerful spectacles that color what one hears. Whether those concerns are grounded in facts or not is not as powerful as the emotions attached to the issue. These are the similar to the emotions that stand in the background that cause young couples and families to spend tens of thousands more than they can afford on weddings. These feelings are similar to what has led families to pay ten thousand or more for a casket for a loved one, and for costly options to funeral services.

Well educated who often are logical people can readily act irrationally when emotions are raging. Today I heard a statement on FOX News against healthcare reform that stunned me. The statement was that if the middle class was concerned about waiting an hour or more in a doctor’s office or in an emergency room, if healthcare is passed just think how much more the wait will be when all those who are uninsured have health insurance.

I was stunned, I thought I misheard him but he said something a few seconds later that confirmed I had heard correctly. He was implying that people should resist healthcare reform because it will mean that those who currently have insurance will have more people demanding the attention of their doctor and hospital which means that they will get less. In other words, I should keep others out of the system, leave them on the sidelines of receiving care so that I can receive care more swiftly.

This argument reminds me of the kid’s game king of the mountain of pushing others down so I can remain on top. I do not accept this self centered perspective and it is most unbecoming for it to be on the lips of Mike Huckabee, a minister of the Gospel.

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Bottled Water

I get a kick out of looking at what sometimes is put on bottled water. Evie and I do buy bottled water as the taste of the local stuff is not the best. Also, I like to have bottles for traveling. A could of frozen bottles in a small cooler provides me with a cold drink as I drive down the road.

Not all bottles of water are created equally. Long ago Coke and Pepsi have jumped into the game by selling filtered city water. There are the firms that offer specialty waters with a little flavoring or water from a specail exotic spring in Europe. These exotic waters are costly. In between the two are the waters from springs in remote areas.

You have to read labels to figure things out. I have laughed at statements like "XXX the calorie free water." I laughed when I read that, because all water is calorie free, they just make it sound like the other bottled water is not calorie free.

Another one that got me a few years ago when dating was the big thing was a company that put expiry dates on their water. Water expires, what a major revelation that was to me, and is likely to you too.

While in Atlanta the following bottle was on the desk in our room. The price for this on litre bottle stunned me....$5. I guess flying in this artesian well water from Fiji is costly. Clearly they are going on the exotic nature of the Fiji, but I'm not impressed as to why it is so special at $5. If it was water from a thousand year old glacier, then they may have something to crow about.

Take a look at the second picture. What made me smile was reading that "Every Drop is Green." Clearly they are playing off the environmental movement. What goes unsaid is that all water was green.

The bottle sat there all alone, untouched and unloved. Evie and and I were content with the cold bottled water we had in our cooler...which was also still partly frozen.

Sunday, August 02, 2009

Fort Sumter

During our trip to Charleston SC we took a trip to Fort Sumter, the target of the first shot of the American Civil War. The fort is well away from the city and its guns could not reach the city, but the fort guarded the harbor entrance and if the Confederacy was to use the harbor, the Union had to give up the fort.

The fort, which was three stories high, was hardly damaged by the initial bombardment. As the fort was not yet completed, it was not active and not fully manned. None of the 85 Union soldiers died during the bombardment. Major Anderson (later General Anderson) surrendered the fort when they ran out of food and when the barracks caught fire.

The fort we see today is a shell of the original. The top to layers are long gone due to Union bombardments later in the war. The Union shelling over months crumbled the top two levels and the rubble surrounded the lower. Though heavily shelled the Union did not conqueer the fort.

During the Spanish American War a two gun battery (12.5 range guns) were installed in the center of the fort upon a concrete platform (today painted black). Following are some pictures I took at Fort Sumter. First is the flag that flew over the fort at the start of the Civil War.

Above is the fort. Note the black concrete of the battery built during the Spanish American War that was built onto the parade ground.

Charleston can be seen in the distance. Below is the parade ground with the remains of the officer's quarters on the left (the quarters caught fire during the Confederate bombardment).

Note Union fire shell damage. In the first picture you can see the remains of a Union shell and below it to the left a hole created by another. In the last you can see several shell holes....the brickwork was five to eight feet thick.

Saturday, August 01, 2009

Crossmen 2009 Atlanta

Last Saturday Evie and I took in DCI's Southeast Championship show in Atlanta. We had excellent seats on the front row of the club level....comfortable seats, great view and great sound.

Below are pictures taken of Josh. He is in each picture, and in most easy to find. In the first he is on the six hash mark.

Josh is at the 42 and half.

Above he is in the front on the 35 before a string of contrabases. Below, in the next three he is the second baritone on the left of the contrabases, and the judge is looking right at him in two of them.