Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Wisdom vs. Kindness

I ran across this quote in some reading early this morning and thought it was worth sharing. What do you think?

'Kindness is more important than wisdom, and the recognition of this is the beginning of wisdom.'

Theodore Isaac Rubin

Sunday, October 26, 2008


I got an e-mail from Plato today. Okay, okay it wasn't an e-mail. I was reading some of his quotes and thought this one was particularly appropriate to share one week and two days before the end (hopefully) of the most interesting presidential election of my life. Here is what Plato had to say a few years ago;

"Those who are too smart to engage in politics are punished by being governed by those who are dumber."

Yes, I know you have heard it before. I may post it again next Monday.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Robin Hood for President?

I know.

You are tired.

Tired of the endless commercials, the stream of goofy letters, postcards and door hangers.

Tired of pundits, politicos, and experts pleading, predicting, and promising.

I know. I have no credentials. I claim none. Well, actually I claim one. One thing my parents taught me and the circumstances of my life have reinforced. That one credential is that I have learned to think for myself. In fact, those who attempt to tell me what to think are soon as frustrated with me as I am with them. I resent the presentation of "conclusions" without the supporting facts. I resent the endless polls in the various media that offer no information about how the sampling was accomplished, how questions were formulated (or even what the questions are), and no discussion of the limiting factors present. One recent "national poll" was conducted by calling "randomly selected cell phone numbers" of 1000 people. This poll received national prominence even though no information was given about how the numbers were selected, where the numbers originated, how questions were worded, or many factors such as when the calls were placed. Sadly, there seemed to be few who bothered to even wonder about these factors.

So....here is what is bothering me at this point in this most unusual presidential election. It is the Robin Hood factor. You know what I mean. Often it is labeled as such. Sometimes it is described with many words. Other times phrases like "spreading the wealth" are used. Now, I am less an expert on Robin Hood than I am on politics. But I know that, like politics, different folks have WIDELY varying views of Robin Hood. The stories and ballads have been around at least 500 years and some say several hundred more than that. Some say he was a real person. Others say Robin was based somewhat on a real person. And some say it is purely myth. Likewise, what he did, what he stood for, and whether he was a commoner or of noble blood can be debated. Really, all this makes Robin Hood a sort of Rorschach ink blot test where we each see in him what we actually project ourselves.

That being said, what is your view of Robin Hood? A common thief? A defender of the true heir of the crown? A social reformer taking from overbearing royalty and giving back to the over-taxed?

The present danger, in my mind, is that many see in Barack Obama and a democratically controlled executive, legislative, and judicial branches of government the rising of Robin Hood to take from the evil corporate giants (especially the evil oil companies) and give to the poor. Some have argued to my face that since the church is not caring for the poor as we ought, it is our responsibility to support a government that does it in the place of the church. To these individuals the obvious party to accomplish this is the very one that most preaches separation of church and state. The irony is that most of the champions of this type of government intervention rarely show a tendency of personal financial sacrifice on behalf of the poor. Where the fairy tale begins to break down is the point at which the evil, rich entity that must ante up is me. How does this happen? Partly through direct taxation. Partly through punishing companies whose stock make up our 401k investments that we hoped would help us care for ourselves in old age. Partly through raiding Social Security funds to pay for other projects.
In my understanding, an ever-expanding, oppressively taxing government does not represent Robin Hood but rather is the Sheriff of Nottingham. The companies that provide goods, services, and jobs are not the oppressive regime, in my opinion, but rather the Robin Hood that properly distribute wealth to those who work for and rightly deserve it.

Don't misunderstand me, I think there is much greed and dishonesty in large corporations just as there is in one-man operations. I also quickly concede that both parties are disgusting in the way they protect incumbents and seek power for their own. I approve President Bush more than "national polls" reflect, but deeply regret the many times he has quickly thrown money at problems in quantities that are difficult for me to even visualize. Individuals, cities, states, and the federal government are going broke because of a false belief that an ever-shrinking middle class will always be there to finance any and every program that seems to promise some social benefit.

The address below will take you to a video by Fred Thompson that is a no-nonsense commentary on the difference in perspectives of the two parties represented by Obama and McCain. It is sobering, intelligent, and void of any sensational claims about either candidate. The video takes several minutes and should be watched when you can devote your attention to follow what is being said. It is a little deeper than the 60 second sound bites we have become accustomed to on the "evening news".


Tuesday, October 21, 2008

October Surprise!

There's something strange, in the neighborhood...

You can believe whatever you like about UFO's, but I have pictures!

The other side of this flying saucer has an Obama/Biden bumper sticker. Really. I wouldn't make something like that up. This election is bigger than we thought.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

A Short Hike

A weekend hike. That is what Derek planned. Oh, it was a tough hike; climbing to the peak of Mount Adams. Mount Adams, at 12,227 feet, is the second tallest peak in the state of Washington. Climbing to the peak and back requires fitness, stamina, and experience. Derek Mamoyac had all three. He carried little gear since he planned to be out of the wilderness before the weekend was over. When he failed to turn up for work on Monday, authorities were notified and soon a search began. As the week wore on and the weather truned worse with temps in the 20's and snow falling, the prospects of finding Derek alive dimmed with each passing day.

If you were a volunteer search and rescue worker, how many days would you take off work and continue to look for a man who left no itinerary? If you were in Derek's place, how long would you expect people to look for you? If you were in Derek's place, what would you be willing to do to stay alive?

You see, Derek had broken his ankle in a fall. He spent days crawling until his knees were too sore. Then he used a modified "sit and scoot" method to move up and down the mountain. Up the mountain? At one time he thought he saw tents higher up and made his way to the spot seeking help. When he arrived there, no tents-or help--were to be found. Before making that climb he ate the last of his granola bars. It was the wrapper from a granola bar that the tracking found and used to find Derek.

So what was Derek doing while folks were looking for him? Just sitting somewhere nursing his injured foot? Nope. To survive, he ate berries, mushrooms, centipedes, spiders and ants and drank creek water. On the last day, he resorted to drinking his own urine. How much longer would he have lasted? Nobody knows. But he survived 6 days in harsh weather and is in pretty good shape this weekend.

What do you think about Derek? Idiot? Superman? Here are the things I admire about Derek; 1) He is strong and fit
2) He is tough-minded and determined
3) He takes action even when it is very difficult
4) He remains calm in threatening circumstances
And some mistakes Derek made (in my opinion);
1) Tell someone your plans--in detail
2) Don't be so independent and self-assured that you don't discuss worst case scenarios
with family and friends
3) When exposure to elements can be fatal, carry what you need AND some "just in case" items

How does Derek feel about all this now? He says a career in search and rescue seems appropriate for him now. I would say he is probably right. Welcome home, Derek.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Shocking Turn of Events

This story is being reported on Associated Press today;

HONOLULU (AP) — Hawaii is dropping the only state universal child health care program in the country just seven months after it launched.
Gov. Linda Lingle's administration cited budget shortfalls and other available health care options for eliminating funding for the program. A state official said families were dropping private coverage so their children would be eligible for the subsidized plan.

What? State officials are surprised that people dropped private coverage that they paid for to enroll in public coverage they also paid for through taxes? So now, seven months into the program folks have NO health coverage? I wonder what would happen if you tried it on a national scale?

Fun with Politics

There are several post rumbling around in my mind about the current political races and some represent opinions I feel strongly about. However, I also realize that nobody really cares what I think about it--or at least do not care enough to add a coment. Sooo, I will revert to my natural self and enjoy making fun of those who take themselves so seriously

In case you have not seen the previews for next season's Dancing with the Stars, here is a picture of one expected team that may surprise you;

That's funny--I don't care what color state you are from!

Monday, October 13, 2008

Presidential Election 2008

"For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. " Ephesians 6:12 (NIV)

Who should I vote for in November?

Does my vote really make a difference?

Which candidate/party is more Christian?

These are tough questions. Many think the answers are obvious. About 52% of those who think the answer is obvious believe it is the opposite of 48% who think the answer is obvious. This post is not intended to attack McCain or Obama--nor their running mates. It is also not intended to attack either party, although I think both parties and both presidential candidates have things they should be ashamed of. Actually, I guess if anyone is to have hurt feelings as a result of this post it will be the reader. Every reader and the writer. Because I believe we are the problem. Many of the arguments for or against each candidate are about issues the executive branch has little control over. There is a clear and ongoing shift of power to the legislative and judicial branches of government and the legislative branch holds increasing sway over who is added to the judicial branch. Is that a bad thing? The answer largely lies in the reasoning behind how we choose our representatives. Each district has an obvious incentive to choose the representative that will garner the most money for that district from the federal budget. There is not enough room here to address earmarking and other schemes to grab money for back home. Who is best at this game? Without naming names, those individuals who can stay in office longest and gain influence within a party are rewarded with appointments to committees that give them direct access to budgets or leverage to have others help them receive money for their districts. Meanwhile, the folks at home overlook ongoing deficits, scandals, and assorted goofiness as long as there is money for roads, bridges, museums, and jobs. It is a very selfish system and the most unwise selfishness is not portrayed by the politicians but rather by the voters.

So how do I answer the above questions?
First, let me say that I believe it DOES make a difference. Oh, my actual vote will probably not effect the outcome of the election. It is highly unlikely it would determine the winner even in Montgomery and that will almost certainly not have much effect on the national winner. But it matters because IF I vote, I have to think about (and hopefully have meaningful dialogue about) the candidates, the issues, the past, and the future. In my opinion, those discussions and that serious thought matter most of all. I am firmly convinced that is why we are even able to be in the position that a black (actually mixed race) man even has a chance to be elected by popular vote to be the president of the United States.

I think I will skip the discussion of the parties for now except to say that for nearly two decades the Republican party has SEEMED TO ME to be more aligned to my beliefs and ideologies than the Democratic party. There are lots of exceptions and some will probably feel the need to list them in comments. That is fine, I probably will agree. I am often disappointed by individuals in both parties.

So which guy?
If I were choosing a man to invite over for a cookout or to watch the game, it would be easy. Barack is charismatic. He is charming. He knows how to quickly determine the interests of others and is willing to talk about what is important to you. He would be lots of fun. I would be tired of the effort of talking to John in about 10 minutes. John McCain is far, far from the ideal I would like to vote for as president. But here is the thing; Barack Obama is intelligent, he is charismatic, his verbal skills make me more than a little jealous BUT even with all his ability and likability, he is still just wrong about many ideals and principles that are very, very important. He hasn't accomplished any of the things he is promising anywhere he has already been. The republicans are doing far, far too much taking from the producers and giving to the takers. And Barack Obama is going to grow that exponentially. Just today he so smoothly described taking up to $10,000 from your 401-k to cover current personal expenses. As he said it, it sounds so easy--so right--so inviting. Yet the principle behind that is the same as behind the bailouts and the "economic stimulus" ideas. That principle is "have what you want today and worry about paying for it....sometime later". Folks we are buying that idea and it is devastating to the economy and to our character. Where is the candidate that is saying "Let's do without some things today so we can be a little better off later--and our children will have a chance?"

Do you think this doesn't have real life meaning today? Check on conditions in Chicago and see what positive effects Obama is having where he has worked and represented. The problems are many, the corruption is rampant, but the most telling detail that fits this discussion is that the sales tax rate in Chicago is 10.25%. For local readers, our mayor is being attacked in TV ads as he runs for congress because we have the second highest tax rate in the country at 10%. Well, now you know where it is higher. Why is this a problem? Because for all the rhetoric about playing Robin Hood and taking from the rich and giving to the poor, the sales tax is the most regressive and most challenging for the poor. I say to Obama what I plan to say to Mayor Bright, if you can't fix it on a small scale at home don't ask me to send you to Washington to represent my interests.

Economics, social issues, Supreme court nominations, wars and negotiations--these are complex issues and I am a simple man. However, I am convinced that my battle is not against Obama nor McCain. It is against ideas and ideals that are presented and promoted by individuals but originated in an unseen world. Ideas and ideals that divide us. Ideals that lead us to think that the government should care for the hungry and homeless at the expense of my neighbor rather than each of us taking individual responsibility. Ideals that convince us to work less because moving to a higher tax bracket will cause us to net even less.

I can't imagine that after this life, the Creator of the universe will say to you or me "Well done, faithful servant, you did not visit me in jail or feed me when I was hungry or clothe me, but you voted for someone who forcibly took money from others to create an agency where I could be cared for."

So what do I expect? Barring any surprise developments in the next three weeks (and there will probably be some) the popular vote will likely be closer than the polls show. Still Obama will probably win the electoral vote by a comfortable margin. I am glad we are not in one of the swing states that will be watching THIRTY MINUTE campaign ads until the election. What will happen after the election? Of course, only God knows. But mostly for the average person. little will change for a while other that the conversations at the "water cooler". Again, in my opinion, those conversations are probably more important than which man is in the White House.

If you read this far, thanks. I will get back to silly posts soon.

Change is in the Air

When the winds of change blow hard enough, ANYTHING can become a deadly projectile.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Coosa River Challenge Pictures

The last challenge of our race last weekend was to swim to this lock, climb the steps, and jump into the river, then swim with the paddle back to the kayak. Above, I held my nose. Below, Matt held his life jacket. Hint--don't extend your arm.

This was at the beginning of the mountain bike section. I am still smiling at this point.

I don't know these ladies. Their picture and the guys below are here just to show that we were not the only ones swimming when we were supposed to be paddling. Yes, there are two people in each boat.

1. The approach looks good

2. Uh-oh, a little sideways. Don't put on the brakes!

3. I think we can still save it! Paddle hard, Matt, I've got the boat!

I will try to not post any more pictures of the adventure race, but these were all purchased from the professional photographers and I need to get my money's worth. You can help me get my money's worth if you click on the pictures to enlarge them. It really adds to the reality.

Sunday, October 05, 2008

No Country for Old Men

Allow me to share a few photos from Roxy's Big Adventure. On Saturday, October 4, my partner Matt Dickson and I set out for Wetumpka to compete in the Coosa River Challenge VI. There are actually a few crazy people who have done this SIX times. It was a first for Matt and me. We took it seriously by training for about 3 weeks. Three years would have been about right. I will not take time to list all the challenges but the main ones were a 4 mile trail run on a hilly, rocky woods trail followed by an 8 mile mountain bike ride over similar trails. Don't read quickly over the word "hilly". It makes a difference. Then we ran a little over a mile where we traversed a "boulder" field course. After that we drew a chip to determine which team member would rappel (Matt) and which would swim back upriver to where the boats were stored (Roxy). We both would have preferred switching roles but were not given an option. Then we paddled a two person sit-on-top kayak 7 miles to Wetumpka. Along the way we had challenges-I mean besides turning over at every set of rapids and bouncing off rocks like a pinball. FYI, rocks under water are not any softer than rocks out of water. You can get hurt doing this.

One challenge was to find "Dead Beaver Island" and beach the boat at the right spot. We climbed an embankment using a rope while carrying our paddles. The paddles went everywhere we went. We ran down a trail that led to the "mud pit" . This was a pit about 12 feet long with two 50 gallon plastic barrels side by side and about 4 feet down were two more. They were submerged except for about two inches in chocolate, muddy water. We had to swim through these barrels and exit the other side. Then we followed a trail that led down an embankment to a stream. It took a while to figure out where to go from here. We had to walk down the stream to where some markers indicated a trail going back over the island to our boats. More paddling, more spills, more rocks.
On river left is Corn Creek Park where the next challenge is. Look, there is LaWanna waving. Hey, LaWanna! Shoot, we turned over again. Now we are being carried by the current past where we are supposed to go. After righting the boat, climbing on and gathering paddles we had to circle a grassy island and paddle upstream to the landing. More rope climbing with a paddle in one hand. More running (really mostly walking now). This is called "Back to school island" by the wicked, wicked race director. As we ran around a winding woods trail we came to tables where we had to solve puzzles, spell words with cards, and draw on a magna-doodle. These things any first grader can do, begin to be a challenge after three hours of exhaustion. More running. We come out of the woods at the sheriff's shooting range where I shoot a small bow and arrow to determine how many division problems Matt has to solve. More running. Back in the boat. More paddling. Past the Hwy. 14 bridge. Past the Bibb Graves bridge. We paddle to the locks and beach the boat. Now it is time to swim against the current with the paddle to the steps of the lock. Climb the steps. This sounds simple. Try to picture that for over 5 hours now you have been running, peddling, paddling, and bouncing off rocks. Muscles are pulled, bruises are everywhere, and that big toe may be broken. Now you have had to swim against a strong current AGAIN, pushing a double blade paddle. And guess what? The steps are one foot high. Doesn't seem like much, I know. But go to your front porch and measure your steps. About half, huh? Hey, I stumped my toe on a three inch rock 5 hours ago! You think I can lift my feet one foot now? At this point, the paddle has become a walking cane. On top of the lock you look down on the river about 1000 feet below. O.K., it is only about 16 feet. But it seems like more. Toss your paddle and don't think about it--just jump. Resurface about 7 minutes later and swim back to the boat--paddle in hand. Board the boat paddle across the river, dismount and run a short distance to the Red Bull arch. That's it. Piece of cake. That is the story--at least the highlights. Here are a few pictures of the sequence;

Here we are at the MANDATORY 7:30 a.m. meeting where we were told the same things that we heard Friday night at 9 p.m. Note to race director; this is 2008, e-mail the rules and requirements or post them on the website. Receiving instructions should not become part of the endurance test. It was fairly cool when this meeting started. It was very warm when the race started.

But everybody waited and listened patiently and politely.

Because we all understood that this is a dangerous sport and should be taken very seriously.

Well, maybe some were less serious than others?

The bikes were transported to Swayback Bridge Trail head via U-Haul trucks. The participants were transported by school buses.
Once there, we had to find our bike. "I am sorry sir, that $4000 Felt bike is mine, yours is this $200 Wal-mart special."

I was told to "be careful" so here I am signaling a left turn into the transition area after finishing the 8 mile mountain bike leg. Actually, I was waving to one of my many fans.

This is the transition from the bike to the second run which took us to the "rock jungle"--a marked course over large boulders that was a sort of rock-climbing-at-a-jog. At the end of that we waded through part of the river and headed to the rappel. Matt drew the chip for rappelling and I had to swim back upriver to get our boat and paddles, then paddle back to pick him up. We both wanted it to go the other way on the draw, but you take what you get. The lady was not interested in "best of three".

We took the time to refill our hydration packs before hitting the river. This picture is probably too small to see the blood on my left leg from the bike crash. Just let me say men are much more polite competitors than women.

The hippies did well. And had more fun than anybody else.

Here we are approaching the sheriff's shooting range where I shot archery to determine how many division problems Matt had to solve. Thankfully, his math is better than my shooting. Yes, he really is that much taller than me. Yes, we had to carry our paddles everywhere. Yes, that makes it difficult to pull yourself up on a rope.
Later that same day;

Yes, we did finish thank you. Yes, it was still Saturday. Yes, it was still daylight. That is Matt's son Aiden next to the finish line. He announced that when he got home he was going to run a mile. No, he decided--he was going to run two miles. Matt told him he would have to get mom to run with him.

After the race, it was time to survey the damage.

Does this look right? I can't show all the injuries on the internet. This one occurred about 30 minutes into the race so the last 5 hours were after this "Coosa tatoo".

Here are two of my heroes; Donna Putnam and her daughter Leanne Armstrong (no relation to Lance). They made up team Put-Strong and had t-shirts with that team name. All the family that came to support and cheer for them had matching t-shirts. Although I teased them all day by calling them team "But-Strong", I am VERY proud of these two women for accomplishing what they did on this day. They set a goal nearly a year ago and worked hard to get to this Red Bull arch. Donna and Leanne placed themselves at the very back of the last wave to start the race and finished ahead of a couple of teams. They deserve a standing ovation.

This is another hero. I do not know them, although I see them eating in Wetumpka at times. I think it is a mother-daughter team. When they got to the last challenge-swimming to the locks and jumping off, the younger team member made it to the steps but mom just could not. She swam valiantly for minute after minute, at first seeming to swim in place as she battled the current and eventually sliding backward as she grew weak. I hurt for her so much as I watched her swim to the shore, fatigued and defeated. Her little girl shouted from the opposite shore "Go, mamma!" Mom walked up the shore to her original beginning point. She sat and rested a few minutes and tried it again. Again she battled the current. Don't give up we all were thinking. Somebody help her. The rescue boat had been called and was standing by. Come on guys, they are last--give her a lift to the steps. She could not do it. Her partner jumped and swam to the boat and paddled across the river with mom hanging on to the boat. It was all they could do to walk to the finish line. Bravo! I went to shake her hand. I am much more impressed by the courage of this lady than by the lean, young guy who finished in half the time. Actually, he is pretty impressive, too.
So it was over. But not really. The Coosa River Tatoos will be with us a while. I may not be able to do a sit-up for a few days. And besides my partner and my friends who raced and the 100 or so volunteers who made the race possible, there is one more person to thank. Her name is LaWanna and she is amazing. LaWanna got up early and put on her Roxy t-shirt. She was ready to leave at 6 a.m. and did not show any disappointment when I told her I was picking Matt up and he was riding with us. She took pictures which is why we have these to share. When the battery died on the digital she went to Wally world and bought a disposable. She made friends all along the route and wherever I arrived, people cheered for Roxy. Some I knew but many were people she had recruited to be my cheerleader. What other wife would do that? She was there until about 4:30 p.m. When I moaned and groaned, she never said "Why do you do this to yourself?" Do you know what she did? She massaged my back. And she is VERY good at massage. She has training and a portable table--give her a call. She may not do it for you but I can't tell you how thankful I am that she was that giving at the end of what was also a long day for her. Bravo. You are my hero also, humble servant. Bravo.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Oprah's Mom for Congress!

The following Associated Press story in indicative of the attitude many Americans seem to have adopted in the past few decades. I believe this attitude is why congress is debating a $700,000,000,000 bailout as you read this.

Winfrey's mom countersues store for its $156K bill
Tuesday, September 30, 2008 10:56 PM EDT The Associated Press

MILWAUKEE (AP) — Oprah Winfrey's mother says she shouldn't have to pay a nearly $156,000 debt to a high-end fashion store because store officials shouldn't have extended credit to her.
Valentina Inc. alleges that Vernita Lee of Milwaukee racked up $155,547 in purchases and interest as of July 1. The company sued, saying Lee fell behind in minimum monthly payments of $2,000.
Lee filed a counterclaim Friday contending that Valentina took advantage of her "lack of knowledge, ability, and-or capacity" when creating her credit account.
Court papers say Lee resolved a 2002 case with the company over a $175,000 bill. The resolution prohibited Valentina from extending further credit to her.
A message left for Valentina co-owner Tony Chirchirillo was not returned Tuesday.