The Trouble With Wall Street Is……

The trouble with Wall Street is well, Wall Street. Those folks in New York City, especially Manhattan, think they are the center of the universe.

Lets move our financial institutions to Omaha Nebraska. ¬†That will give them more common sense than they would ever be able to gain on that little island in New York. ¬†Warren Buffett has done pretty well with himself by staying there all these years. He has weathered most of the melt-down in pretty good shape. He doesn’t let the flashy lights of fame and fortune cloud his judgment.

The people who live in or near New York City don’t really have any idea of what the rest of the country is about or what our priorities are. I lived in that area for four years waiting to finish out my corporate life before claiming my pension and leaving soon thereafter. ¬†When many in that area learned that I was from Indiana the first question they asked was ¬†“what is there to do out there in the Midwest?”. To them anything outside of ¬†their area is simply a “cornfield with lights”. They don’t understand that there is life without having to live packed together with millions of other people.

I won’t reserve this mentality for only those in the Northeast as those California folks think much the same way but on a different topic. They can’t understand the changing seasons have an appeal to some of us. They can’t understand why any of us would want to live where it gets cold or where there is no ocean.

So, getting back to the original premise of this post lets move our financial district to Omaha. Maybe some saner minds would then prevail for the very fact that not many of those¬†Manhattan¬†folks would follow their jobs to the “cornfield with lights”. But then again maybe I am wrong about that. ¬†Greed is a powerful thing…

But what do I know….

And He Went Home One Night….

 

I, like so many others was saddened to see the death of Whitney Houston. She became famous just before I went deaf so I sort of remember some of her songs. She indeed had a rare talent. It sounds like from the initial reports that her death was at least partially caused by her addition to drugs and alcohol. Of course Elvis, and quite a few other rich and famous people have had a similar ending.

I’m sure Whitney had an entourage of people constantly around her to grant her every desire. She was certainly rich beyond what anyone of us common folks can even imagine. Why is it that so many with so much end up with tragic deaths? This brings to mind a song by one of my most favorite groups from the 1960s which was ¬†a Simon and Garfunkel They had a song entitled¬†Richard Cory. ¬†Even after almost fifty years I can still recite much of those lyrics about how a poor guy who is¬†struggling¬†just to get along couldn’t understand how Richard Cory could be so unhappy to take his own life. I recently learned that this song was actually based on a poem written in the late 1800s by Edwin Arlington Robinson. Here is his poem.

Whenever Richard Cory went down town,  We people on the pavement looked at him:  He was a gentleman from sole to crown,  Clean-favoured and imperially slim. 

And he was always quietly arrayed,¬† And he was always human when he talked;¬† But still he fluttered pulses when he said,¬† “Good Morning!” and he glittered when he walked.¬†

And he was rich, yes, richer than a king,¬† And admirably schooled in every grace:¬† In fine — we thought that he was everything¬† To make us wish that we were in his place.¬† So on we worked and waited for the light,¬† And went without the meat and cursed the bread,¬† And Richard Cory, one calm summer night,¬†

Went home and put a bullet in his head.

The fact that Richard, Whitney, Elvis, and many others had tragic endings is an affirmation of the old say “Money does not buy happiness”. ¬†Those of us who by comparison have very little simply can’t understand how those much richer than us can be so unhappy.

How to call the police when you’re old, and don’t move fast anymore..

I just got this from a niece and wanted all you seniors to learn the correct way to call the police ūüôā ¬†This is supposed to be a true story.

George Phillips, an elderly man, from Walled Lake, Michigan, was going up to bed, when his wife told him that he’d left the light on in the garden shed, which she could see from the bedroom window. George opened the back door to go turn off the light, but saw that there were people in the shed stealing things.

He phoned the police, who asked “Is someone in your house?”¬† He said “No,” but some people are breaking into my garden shed and stealing from me.¬† Then the police dispatcher said “All patrols are busy. You shouldlock your doors and an officer will be along when one is available” George said, “Okay.” He hung up the phone and counted to 30. T

hen he phoned the police again.¬† “Hello, I just called you a few seconds ago because there were people stealing things from my shed. Well, you don’t have to worry about them now because I just shot and killed them both, the dogs are eating them right now.” and he hung up.¬†Within five minutes, six Police Cars, a SWAT Team, a Helicopter, two Fire Trucks, a Paramedic, and an Ambulance showed up at the Phillips’ residence, and caught the burglars red-handed.¬†One of the Policemen said to George, “I thought you said that you’d shot them!” George said, “I thought you said there was nobody available!”¬†

The Uncounted Deaths of War…..

Source:  NYT: Risks of Afghan war shift to contractors РWorld news РThe New York Times Рmsnbc.com.

This is a war where traditional military jobs, from mess hall cooks to base guards and convoy drivers, have increasingly been shifted to the private sector. Many American generals and diplomats have private contractors for their personal bodyguards. And along with the risks have come the consequences: More civilian contractors working for American companies than American soldiers died in Afghanistan last year for the first time during the war.

American employers here are under no obligation to publicly report the deaths of their employees and frequently do not. While the military announces the names of all its war dead, private companies routinely notify only family members. Most of the contractors die unheralded and uncounted ‚ÄĒ and in some cases, leave their survivors uncompensated.

So from this article we find that the there are more than twice the U.S. citizens death in Afghanistan than are reported by the military. Some how or another the military finds it unnecessary to report the private citizens they hire who are killed in that war. ¬†Of course there are also many many people killed as “collateral damage” meaning innocent citizens of Afghanistan who are killed while our soldiers go after the “bad guys”. This ten year war just keeps getting sadder and sadder. When will we have enough sense to get out of it?

Foggy Morning….

 

THis picture was taken a few weeks ago off my front porch. It is looking into the foggy woods with the rising sun. ¬†The picture doesn’t really capture the true sense of the moment but it does give you an idea of ¬†its majesty.

On The Road Again…..

We will be on the road again in about a week and I am going to do my usual “on the road” daily blog posts giving you my observations and experience of what we visit. ¬†This time we will be visiting Omaha Nebraska. We were there during our month long vacation in 2009 and decided to save the city for its own vacation. What we saw in 2009 was a beautiful city with a fabulous restored warehouse district. ¬†We will be staying at a renovated one hundred year old ¬†hotel.

“On the road” posts are a different thing for me. I generally do the initial write of my posts about two week ahead of publishing them. That gives me time to think about the topic and do several edits. ¬†On the road posts are usually posted the day they are written. ¬†I know that several of you who have been following my various blogs have enjoyed my trip reports. ¬†So, starting next Tuesday April 3 and for about a week thereafter look for these unique posts.

One nice thing about doing this is that any time in the future I am then able to identify where all the pictures we take were taken by checking the timestamp with the trip log postings. ūüôā

Do You Want To Be A Published Author??

Source:¬†Apple scores with digital textbooks and app ‚Äď USATODAY.com.

To encourage development, Apple launched iBooks Author, a free authoring tool for the Mac that encourages anyone to produce their own iBook textbooks, cookbooks, how-tos and other works. Apple says more than 600,000 copies of the tool have been downloaded since launch. Authors can distribute the books for free. But if they put the iBook textbook up for sale, they must do so through Apple’s iBookstore. (Authors can use the content in other digital and print formats, Apple says.)

Who among us, especially us bloggers, doesn’t want to be a published author. Well, now Apple has made that a distinct possibility and it is easier than you think. I recently downloaded their iBooks Author app and it is an impressive tool! ¬†I am including a few snapshots here.

I have not had the time yet to thoroughly analyze this tool but upon a cursory look it seems to I be very user-friendly. ¬†But, of course user-friendly is the rule rather than the exception with Apple software. ūüôā I will let you know more about the tool in a future post.

It was once quite an ordeal to have a book published but in today’s electronic world with e-books becoming the norm it is getting much easier to do. One reason is that a factory line no longer needs to be dedicated to producing a bound document. E-books will of course result in a proliferation of new novels and such. With this much easier method of becoming a published author will also come with an increased responsibility of marketing your own material. ¬†To those familiar with the myriad of social sites available today that job is also easier than it used to be.

If you want to be a successful author you have to determine if anyone out there will actually pay to read your material. This is where the well prepared vs.¬†amateur¬†will shine. A good way to find out if you have an audience for your topic is to start a blog about it and then grow it into an e-book if there is interest. So, if you are fortunate enough to have an Apple computer grab a free copy of iBook Publisher and give it a try. Before long you may just be a “published author”.

If God Is Love – Part 5

This is the last installment for the review of the book “If God Is Love” that I brought over from my other blog. ¬†This book was a major factor in forming my current view of the Church of Christ.

<<<<<<< Post from August 16, 2011 >>>>>>>>

This is a continuation of my discussions of the book entitled ‚ÄúWhen God Is Love‚ÄĚ by Philip Gulley and James Mulholland. Here is the quote for today:

Working to make the world a more gracious place wasn‚Äôt a priority in the churches of my childhood. Some of this negligence was a result of apolcalyptic interpretations in which the world was doomed and damned anyway. One man insisted we shouldn‚Äôt work for peace in the Middle East because we were simply postponing Armageddon and the return of Christ. However, the primary reason the church didn‚Äôt have time to change the world was because we expended so much energy trying to save souls. We‚Äôd work for weeks on revivals, evangelism programs, mission support, and the like. We didn‚Äôt have time for soup kitchens, visiting prisoners, or working with the homeless ‚ÄĒ unless of course, we could figure out a way to work in an altar call.

When I became convinced of God’s intention to save every person, my perspective on the purpose of life changed. Salvation became a lifelong adventure in which God is gently and patiently drawing us away from self-absorption and toward authentic relationship with God and one another. The point of life was no longer to get saved or to save others. The purpose of life was to live graciously. Freed of personal anxiety about God’s acceptance and no longer obsessed with creating others in my own image, I was able to focus on what it means to be rather than do.

Working to make the world a more gracious place is still not much of a priority in today’s church. While I am yet to be fully in the camp that God will in his own way bring all souls to him, I am fully on board that much of the current church approach to those outside the faith is misguided. When we quit looking at others as projects to be converted and instead as fellow human being to be loved our whole approach to them changes. They become fellow children of God and not heathens to be saved.  The way we point others to Christ is through our actions and not our words or even necessarily those words found in our ancient books.

Lets finish up with a follow up quote on this subject.

Saving souls isn‚Äôt about altar calls, but about responding graciously to those we encounter in our daily lives. Being gracious is not about inviting others to our church, but about living an inviting life ‚ÄĒ one both attractive and winsome. The purpose of life isn‚Äôt to create more Christians , but ‚Äúto let our lights shine before others, so they will see our good works and give glory to our Father in heaven‚ÄĚ Matthew 5:16

A few posts ago, and several other times on this blog, I have stated that we all at some time, and often many times, question what is our purpose in life. Why did God create us. I think Mr. Gulley and Mr. Mulholland have got it right in that regard. We are to be like the Son and let our lights shine in order to point others to Christ. Altar calls and such just don’t hack it. They never have and they never will.

Looking Back…

I have been thinking about it lately so wanted to post a picture taken from the restaurant on top of the World Trade Center in 1999. It was very strange to look down and see helicopters flying around. The enormity of the buildings that fell is hard to comprehend unless you have actually seen them.

History Is…..

History ain’t what it is. It’s what some writer wanted it to be. ¬†– Will Rogers

Oh Will you sage!! How did so many wise things come from your lips? ¬†Another way of saying this is that “history belongs to the victor. Will Rogers, like me to a lessor degree, was part native American. He grew up in Oklahoma which was where most of the native American tribes ended up by the early 1900s. So, I’m sure Will had his ancestry in mind when the wrote these words.

We native Americans have always been portrayed as those filthy savages in most of the history books. We were to be considered something, not someone, who needed to be cleared out in order for progress to happen. At best we were ignorant savages who needed to have their culture erased from our memories and replaced by their white European religions and ethics.

History belongs to the victor. The history of those on the defeated side is usually stifled in the memory of the victors. Fortunately, as the years pass a more complete version of history is usually written. Some of it is even based on victims point of view.  That is a good thing even if it is long in coming and usually after opinions on the matter are firmly established.

Being a contrarian I often seek the other side of most history accounts I read. For every story there is usually one version that is never heard. That is one of the major problems with the world today. Most of us accept the predominate view of what is happening today and don’t take the time to ¬†see a different way to view it. We lock on to what version accommodates our current worldview and totally ignore other possibilities. Some how or another we need to always hear both versions of history. We need to listen to each other. There are lessons to be learned from both sides if only we took the time to learn them.

But what do I know….

Every Wrinkle Is A Picture….

Great artists say that the most beautiful thing in the world is a baby. Well, the next is an old lady, for every wrinkle is a picture. – Will Rogers

I guess some people are just not historians, either at the personal level or otherwise. When they begin to see a wrinkle or two on their faces they rush to a plastic surgeon. For those less affluent they make a panic trip to the drug store for the latest anti-wrinkle cream. The latest reports show that in the U.S. we spend more than $10 billion per year for Botox and the like. So many just refuse to accept the beauty of a wrinkled face.

Like my grey hair I pride myself on all the wrinkles I have. I have earned every one during my years on this earth. They make it clear that I am not some youngster who is naive in the ways of the world. I have been around and my wrinkles show you that maybe you can learn a little from what I have to say. No, that is not a picture of me in the photo here. I am not nearly as good-looking as that fellow. ūüôā

I don’t know when becoming a mature person went out of favor. I certainly looked up to my grandfather even though he passed when I was about ten years old. I certainly enjoy visiting him on his pig farm and listening to all the stories he had to tell. He had a belly laugh for every time he told me to go collect the eggs and ¬†then watched the old rooster chase me around the chicken coup. He was quite a character who I really loved.

Some cultures still show total respect for their senior members. The elderly are considered the patriarch of the family and no important decisions are made without first referring with them. But it seems that in the U.S. we now consider our aged a liability instead of an asset of knowledge and wisdom. We lament about how they are sucking up all the healthcare dollars at the expense of the rest of us. They say that the money we paid into social security was no more than an ordinary tax so we shouldn’t expect to get any of it back now that we are aged. I don’t know what happened to create this rationalization?

Irregardless of how others think I revel in my experiences, wisdom and the wrinkles that the years have given me. I am no longer jerked about by the latest fad or whim. I continue to wear what I wore two decades ago in spite of the fact that it is no longer in fashion. I don’t waste time on things that I see no value in. Call me¬†eccentric¬†if you want; I really don’t care. But if you care to listen I do have a thing or two to say that might help you in your passage through life.

So, Will here is to you. You got it right again. But I think I will add us guys to your quote. There is beauty in every wrinkle and each one of them is a story.

But what do I know

Permanently Geared To War…..

Source: Presidential campaign inevitably boosts war with Iran Рlatimes.com.

This should be a very somber topic for all of us but given the Republican presidential candidates it seems to be otherwise. The eagerness to go to war is far too dominant in those folks. One thing I am very disappointed in President Obama is his war stances. They were pretty much the opposite of what he campaigned on. He seems to be just one of the gang now; the change mantra has all but disappeared. Here are some stark words from the source article:

The truth is, Americans are not a peace-loving people. We pretend otherwise because it seems wrong to admit that the United States is a nation that has mostly benefited from war. We were not like the contented Canadians, who patiently waited for the Mother Country to bestow self-government. We went to war and tossed the British out. Through one war with Mexico and relentless wars with Indian tribes, we became a country that spanned a continent. The Spanish-American War and the First World War marked our arrival on the world stage. And the Second World War left us as one of the two preeminent powers on the planet…..

Put in less idealistic terms, our country is a national security state built on the vast military-industrial complex that President Eisenhower warned us about. Our government and our economy are permanently geared up for war, and very few Americans can remember a time when this was not so. It’s hard to imagine any president resisting the temptation to use this awesome force and even harder to imagine that a majority of Americans would ever elect a man who would.

These are very somber but true words about our country that we all need to recognize. President Eisenhower, who was one of the most famous generals in our history warned us in the 1950s that if we did not fend it off we were headed toward an uncontrollable military-industrial complex. It seems that very few of our leaders since that time have heeded his words. Our military has eaten up a large portion of our tax dollars. ¬†The vast majority of it goes to the weapons providers, not the kids who are din uniform. It doesn’t seem to matter if we are in a full scale war at the time or not the¬†Pentagon constantly¬†insist that to “keep us safe” they must have more and more.

The best thing that was done after defeating Japan in World War II was to dictate to them that they could not have a standing army. ¬†The perhaps unintended consequence of that action was to allow them to put that money into their civilian industry that would ¬†a mere twenty years later threaten our economic dominance. Most countries in the world realize that if they spend on a war machine they have to take the money from somewhere else to make that happen. ¬†Instead of spending on weapons most other industrialized countries have chosen to spend it on their citizens, many in the form of universal healthcare among other things. We could have done likewise but chose a different more destructive path. It is not too late to change our minds…

But what do I know…

An Ode to Capitalism…..

Source:¬†Drugmakers have paid $8 billion in fraud fines ‚Äď USATODAY.com.

The nation’s largest drugmakers have paid at least $8 billion in fines for repeatedly defrauding Medicare and Medicaid over the past decade, but they remain in business with the federal government because they are often the sole suppliers of critical products, records show.

This is one of those cases where “you can’t live with them can’t live without them”. Drug companies definitely have improved the quality of life for all of us. We should all be thankful that they are around. But greed, that seems almost ingrained in the capitalist process pollutes their contributions to society. I am sure that as usual ¬†the¬†fines are a small fraction of what the companies raked in profits. When you can easily make a million bucks by “misreporting” what you provide and in the future only pay $50,000 fine, fraud become an unwritten part of your business plan.

My Republican friends are constantly saying government is impeding the “free market” and all we have to do is to free them from regulations and any government intrusions and our economy will flourish beyond imagination. But to those of us who are less naive know that at¬†capitalism’s core is greed and we also know that greed without limits is a deadly proposition.

Contrary to what my Republican friends think I am a firm believer in the capitalist system but a critical part of that system is someone to protect us from the greed of the primary players. We rational people look to our government representatives to do that job for us via regulations.  If no one reigned in the overwhelming obsession of profits they would soon bring down our country instead of rising it above imagination. Just look at Greece as an example.

We depend on ¬†the checks and balances of our government to protect us from power abuses within our democracy. We also depend on our regulators to protect us from the abuses of our capitalist system. Anyone who thinks that unfettered capitalism is a good thing just hasn’t learned the many lessons in our past history. You need look no further than four years ago to see what ¬†stripping regulations did to our financial system and the resulting costs laid on each of us taxpayers. ¬†If that doesn’t convince you then go back to the 1980s and see an almost exact same thing happen to our savings and loan industry. ¬†Oh, by the way it was also a Republican¬†administration,¬†namely¬†Mr. Reagan,¬†¬†who bailed out the S&Ls. Why we seem to make the same deregulation mistakes over and over again is a mystery to me.

But what do I know…

Welcome To The Future?

Source: Mooresville School District, a Laptop Success Story РNYTimes.com.

The district‚Äôs graduation rate was 91 percent in 2011, up from 80 percent in 2008. On state tests in reading, math and science, an average of 88 percent of students across grades and subjects met proficiency standards, compared with 73 percent three years ago. Attendance is up, dropouts are down. Mooresville ranks 100th out of 115 districts in North Carolina in terms of dollars spent per student ‚ÄĒ $7,415.89 a year ‚ÄĒ but it is now third in test scores and second in graduation rates.

I know change is difficult for all, especially us seniors sometimes. So, to read this article and learn that students are learning from applications on their MacBook Airs in addition to a live teacher can be very disconcerting. But as a retired information technology engineer I can understand why it works. The internet has opened up the information superhighway to just about anyone with a connection. There is almost nothing that we can’t start learning with just a few keystrokes. What used to take hours researching in a twenty four volume encyclopedia now takes seconds with a keyboard.

One of the main advantages of this type of process is that each student can learn at their own pace. ¬†I can still remember my grade school days (yeah even that ¬†long ago ūüôā ) when I would get quite bored because the teacher had to go through the same lesson several times in order to make sure every kid in the class understand. I was an impatient kid, something I have never grown out of I guess, so sitting there with nothing to stimulate me drove me to boredom beyond my imagination. Wouldn’t it have been great if I could have, on my own, moved on to the next lesson. I think I would have gotten much more out of the classroom time.

But, just like everything else involving change, especially paradigm change as this story approaches, ¬†it will be resisted quite¬†adamantly¬†by some in the educational community. Change just comes harder for some than for others. Of course there will always be lessons that must be learned that can’t be put on a computer screen. Those lessons will continue to require a passionate well informed mentor teacher. But the daily grind stuff that students can learn at their own pace is better done by other methods.

So many kids today are much more fluent in this sort of thing than their parents ever dreamed. I think the parents and especially grand-parents will have a harder time accepting this new way of learning than the kids ever will. According to the article the kids at Mooresville take it in stride.