Monday, December 31, 2012

Snatching Health From the Jaws of Illness



For so many, 2012 was a year to leave behind.  The brightest spot for us was my daughter’s wedding!  Yeah!  But, the rest of 2012 was not all that easy in our world.  This seems to be a common experience.

So, what do we do?  So often, it seems that we look at difficulty as a survival of the fittest situation, that motivation for better comes from seeking to defeat someone else.  Competition is good, right?  Unfortunately, it all too often devolves into destruction of the other for the betterment of yourself.

Perhaps a better focus, a better motivation is not on victory and defeat, but rather on health!  Health is a cooperative venture and, as opposed to most competition, the betterment of your neighbor, not his destruction, contributes to the betterment of yourself.  Good health begets more good health.  Suddenly, killing the patient to discredit the doctor seems less palatable than competitive leadership at the top and undercutting at the bottom.

So, let me give you all this New Year’s wish:


Sunday, December 30, 2012

The Difference Between Protest and Governing

There are two main groups of protestors that I'd like to focus on in America, for both serve similar purposes and balance my illustration.  The first group is the Tea Party and the second group is the Occupy Movement.

On the surface, some may see them as quite different.  They aren't.  Both have accomplished precisely what a protest is designed to do, put an idea in the public square, create a seed around which a crystal can form, a crystal that recasts the social spectrum.  In the process, each is trying to move something called the Overton Window, a concept I'll address in just a second.

The Tea Party properly got the nation to address our spend thrift and don't worry about tomorrow ways.  They also forced us to consider taxation and what those taxes go for.

The Occupy Movement on the other hand put the concept of the 98% vs. the 2% into common usage.  They helped us address the idea that the wealthy were destroying the country through their greed and by rigging the system.  They caused us to address the idea of whether the playing field was level at all.

So, what is this Overton Window I mentioned earlier?  It is the window on what we consider to be the balanced center.  In other words, the Tea Party moved it to the right, causing the country to view more conservative views as the center.  The Occupy Movement pushed back to the left toward a more liberal center.  Many historians know that Obama's domestic positions are actually slightly to the right of Richard Nixon's and the illusion that he is extreme left is an effect of the Overton Window position.

Past that point, many people misjudge protest purposes and their value, both from within these movements and from the outside.  The problem is that they expect these movements to translate directly into governance.  And therein lies the rub, the reason that we can no longer govern in any effective manner.

The art of governance is part public theater to emphasize positions.  At that point, it seems very similar to the protests mentioned above.  That better be the last similarity, or effective governance will not happen, for effective governance is actually done in the back room.  

Properly understood, we elect our legislators to start from our positions and our preferences and then go to the back room and negotiate solutions with members from across the aisle.  True, we prefer they don't compromise more of our positions than is necessary, but we want them to work it out in a timely manner, keep the economy and the railroads running, to further the cause of all Americans.

Instead, one of the protest groups elected members to continue with their protest.  The Tea Party began electing members that were not going to compromise anything in the back room.  They were going to state their protest position in the theater and then stick absolutely by it come hell or high water.

This drew similar response from the left and push back came.  But, not a lot of back room negotiations and compromise.  No, for people on the left were angry and just couldn't see the sense in it any longer.  What neither side can even consider, lest they not be reelected, is that sometimes an excellent legislative body can enter private chambers with two opposing positions and come up with a solution better than either alone entered with!

It has led us to the Fiscal Cliff.  Some are viewing through one Overton Window and some through the other.  Never the twain shall meet!  It's a shame to throw ourselves under our own bus out of this spite on both sides.

Quit protesting and start governing, dammit!

Friday, December 21, 2012

The Death of a Dear Friend, Lila Paslay

In Memory of Lila Paslay

I am deeply saddened to tell you about yet another death near us, the death of Lila Paslay, the mother of two of my dearest friends in the world.  She was a terrific secondary teacher, then counselor at the high school and later Executive Director of the Topeka Association for Retarded Citizens.  As with all good people, as impressive as the list may become, the litany of accomplishment is never the full story of their humanity.

When I would go to her house in Topeka while sharing a house with her son, Randy, she would light up and throw together a magnificent meal as though there was nothing to it.  We would eat and talk and share.  She was highly intelligent, full of social grace while being totally genuine.

Last week, she was the picture of health.  Last weekend, she fell and broke her hip.  Then, yesterday, she had an aneurism and died.

Lila, you will be truly missed.

The End of the World


The World has meant the world to me.  Today is its last day.  Goodbye, World.

But, before I go with the big W, I have to ask these questions:

  • Will “when you go” depend upon which side of the dateline you live on?  I mean will New Zealand exit before India which will exit before Ireland which will exit before New York which will exit before California which will exit before Hawaii? 
  • If that is the case, can I just go to the North Pole and start hopping over the dateline continuously going into the past the same way I retrieved the Ring of Power for Ramana and Ursula’s nuptials? 
  • Is there a danger in doing this of falling off the other side of the Mayan Calendar and developing a pre-existing condition, the condition of not being yet?


This Friday topic was brought to us by LBC member Will Knott.  It could not be more timely ...

This past week, I am hardly alone in being touched deeply by the tragic events in New England.  How can you not be?  The senseless, violent death of so much innocence.

However, it brings to mind a very different picture.  Let me take a step back to the 1968, to the Tet Offensive in Viet Nam.  Until that time, the Viet Nam war was not a full presence in American living rooms, but it was from that point forward.  Night after night after night, the carnage would be shown on American television screens.  It mobilized many people, but it also did something else.  The war violence, the body count, became so commonplace, that seeing it on TV in the evening eventually didn't raise an eyebrow.  It just was a part of life, like breakfast and basketball.

This has happened to us again and the response to this tragedy makes it stand out in sharp relief.  Every night, those of us who live near urban environs see the body count.  This time, it is isn't in Viet Nam or Iraq or Afghanistan, it is on our own streets.  It is the death of mothers' children, the termination of futures never given a real chance to take hold.  And, as with Viet Nam, we simply look to see what else is on the news.  It is just more gang violence, after all.

The mothers hurt no less.  The families and friends are no less bereft.  It is no less tragic.

We need to find a way to be outraged at the loss as we should be.  We need to allow ourselves to be touched.  Maybe it will motivate us to help things change.  We eventually rejected the Viet Nam war.  We need to reject the street war.  We need to feel again.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Death and Fear in America


The above is a Bushmaster .223 Assault Rifle.

One of my most respected sources of wisdom is from right here in our LBC, Padmini Natarajan.  To take one snippet from an article she referenced on Facebook that is very relevant to the American tragedy in our New England school this week:

“We need to address how we as a society are implicated in producing such appalling levels of violence …”

As much as I would love to see guns like the above off the street, many guns with the capacity to kill – albeit perhaps kill in smaller numbers – are available in many other nations, like Canada, that do not share our problem.  What is it in the American psyche that is leading to over 10,000 lives lost per year to gun violence?  In that sense and that sense only do I agree with the gun lobbies that it is not the guns we should focus on, but the people.

Here is the problem with the argument that “it is not guns that kill people, it is people that kill people”: those who push that argument do not want to pursue what the problem with a society and its people who commit so much violence really is.  They are really wanting to just not have guns restricted.

I have many questions in this regard, but very few answers.  What I am in favor of right now is constructive, intelligent dialogue backed by reason and facts about why we have this problem and what we can do about it.  It is my feeling that we have never actually had that discussion nationally and I am concerned that it will devolve into an emotionally charged mess of charge and counter charge leading nowhere.

Why?  I think it is because both sides of the issue are compensating for fear.  This will take honesty and courage and understanding across the great divide this issue presents.  One side finds only safety and comfort in the idea of no guns, especially guns of this type.  The other side finds only safety and comfort in the idea of superior fire power in the belief that human nature is human nature and that you must be more powerful than the next guy to be safe.  There are people in the middle who are quite responsible, but they tend to not carry the argument, because their position carries much less emotional charge than the extremes.  Hopefully, the power of the Presidency can provide the charge to reason that is going to be required.

Unless we can realize where the other side’s fear comes from, we can never develop understanding.  If we don’t develop understanding, then there will never be a solution.

Friday, December 14, 2012


This was brought to us this Friday by Grannymar.

It starts at birth.  If you are alive, you are at risk.  Now, death per se is not a risk - it is a certainty.  But, when it happens is where the risk comes in.  Since survival is our deepest instinct, we live with a dynamic tension.  I think that is no accident.  And death can be physical, emotional or social.

There are all kinds of risks, for any time there is something to lose, there is risk.  Now, the Eastern solution to this is to simply have nothing to lose.  The  Western ideal is to give it all to The Lord so that again, as individuals, we have nothing to lose.  The purpose of life in both cases is to realize that ultimately there is nothing to lose.

Part of me prefers the approach of Han Solo heading into a field of asteroids virtually impossible to navigate.  When C3PO tells him just how unlikely it is to make it to the other side, Solo says, "Never tell me the odds."  I like the idea of embracing creaturehood even though it seems hopeless, diving in even with everything to lose, checking the odds after the accomplishment.  In fact, to me that seems to be the point, for I think that to be creatures is the point of life, not an evil to be escaped.

As my father once told me, "Live!  Experience for as long as you can, for there is plenty of time to be dead."  And, before you get carried away thinking him a heathen, he believed in life after death and absolutely loved Christ.  He just refused to have the church package heaven for him and he sought understanding always on his own terms.  He wasn't interested in the odds, he was interested in the challenge, in the experience, in the truth as he discerned it wherever it led him.

That's pretty risky.  And very rewarding.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012




Today is the 12/12/12.  We have over the past few years had a series of these and I list them for you:

1/1/01; 2/2/02; 3/3/03; 4/4/04; 5/5/05; 6/6/06; 7/7/07; 8/8/08; 9/9/09; 10/10/10; 11/11/11 and today at 12/12/12.

And this is where it gets scary … there is no 13/13/13 possible!  Yes, you got that right, this is the end of the series.

This is the best proof I have seen that the world will indeed end as the Mayans say on December 21st.  Think about it.  12/21/12.

You see that pattern, right?  Right?

Friday, December 7, 2012


shackman brought us this Friday topic for the LBC.  I am glad for many reasons that shackman and I have reconnected recently, for this is a side of him that I did not know well at all.  We played basketball and did computer work.

However, bring up a topic and shackman will bring up a song to express something about it and what better expression can there be than music for feeling?  I think shackman has a 3-part brain rather than left hemisphere and right hemisphere alone.  He really seems to have a music hemisphere.

One of the biographical things about shackman is that he grew up in a very musical place, the San Francisco Bay Area.  We have produced some great music over the years and I can remember going with friends to Jazz nightclubs in Northbeach in the city.  While I have nowhere near the musical acumen of shackman, I enjoyed it immensely.

Well, the Bay Area spawned one of the Jazz greats that we lost yesterday, Dave Brubeck:

File:Dave Brubeck Notes.jpg

Brubeck studied music at Mills College about 10 miles from here and was living in the Oakland Hills right up to his death the day before his 92nd birthday.  He was composing detailed musical compositions and shows up through the age of 88 and the picture above really captures the man’s joy at life.  He was a true pioneer and perhaps his best known work is …

Take Five!

I’m glad you walked the earth, Dave!  You enriched us all.

I think I’ll take five …

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

A Warning All Long Distance Flyers Should Heed


We have learned what killed Tim and it should underline a warning for all of us who would take a long distance flight.  He developed a clot in his calf flying back from Uganda and a few days later it made its way to his lungs.  It is called Deep Vein Thrombosis.  That is what killed him.

I copy this information from the American Society of Hematology:

Clots & Travel

Blood clots can sometimes form in your legs during air travel because you are immobile for long periods of time, often sitting in cramped spaces with little leg room. While commonly referred to as “economy class syndrome,” the clinical term for this type of blood clot is deep-vein thrombosis (DVT). The longer the flight, the more at risk you are for developing a clot. Flights lasting 8-10 hours or longer pose the greatest risk.

In many cases, the blood clot will dissolve and go away on its own. However, in more serious cases, a blood clot formed in the deep veins of your leg may detach and travel to your lungs, causing a pulmonary embolism (PE).

DVT and PE, collectively known as venous thromboembolism, are highly preventable (see prevention tips below). The U.S. Surgeon General has issued a Call to Action on DVT and PE to raise public awareness of these blood conditions and increase research on the causes, prevention, and treatment.

There are several symptoms that can be warning signs of blood clots, including the following:

  • Swelling of the leg, ankle, or calf
  • Redness or discoloration
  • Increased warmth over the skin

Am I At Risk?

Your risk of developing a blood clot during air travel is increased by the following:

  • Use of oral contraceptives
  • Pregnancy
  • Cancer
  • Recent surgery
  • Older age
  • Obesity
  • History of previous blood clots
  • Genetic predisposition to blood clots

How Can I Prevent Blood Clots When I Travel?

There are some simple steps you can take to avoid developing a blood clot while flying. Make sure to stretch your legs and get some exercise. You can do this by walking around the plane every few hours and changing positions in your seat. Also, drink lots of fluids and wear loose-fitting clothes that do not restrict blood flow and make it easier to move around.

Other tips include:

  • Avoid drinking alcoholic beverages the night before traveling and during travel
  • Store your carry-on baggage in a place that will allow enough leg room
  • Try not to cross your legs
  • Wear compression stockings

If you plan on traveling soon and have concerns about getting a blood clot, talk with your doctor about your risks and prevention. Depending on your physical condition, genetics, and medical history, you may want to see a hematologist, a doctor who specializes in blood conditions.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

My Inner Artist is Working His Way Out


I am getting ready to do some painting this next year.  My mother, my daughter and I like to paint.  But, I haven’t painted for years and I want to get back into it.

My mother got me a beautiful – and very large – easel for my most recent birthday.  It is not in the picture above, but that is a picture of me with a table-top easel doing some preliminary sketching just to get some of the feel back.

Now, to paint, first you have to move back to visualizing the world as an artist does.  That is what I loved with Grannymar’s recent sunset pictures, because she is seeing the world like an artist as when she goes to the countryside and city and does her photojournalism of the sculptures and architecture.  So, last week, I took a series of photos with a camera I carry with me at all times in a cargo pocket of my pants.  And, yes, I tend more to the utilitarian than the fashionable, LOL!

Here are my results.  First, a golden sunset:


Our sunsets gain their beauty from the marine layer over the Pacific and the sun setting below it.  At one stage, they will look golden as in the photo above from my front porch looking West.  At other times, they will look more red:


I’m also drawn to the autumn colors, whether Maple leaves strewn across a grassy area on one of our walks:


Or our tree out front showing its autumn beauty through our front window:


At other times, I will be drawn to a more surreal setting like this picture off of our patio of the moon in the clouds seen next to our solar powered Japanese style lantern:


At others, it will be a spontaneous response to something that catches the eye in the moment, like this seagull flying overhead:


It is gradually coming to focus for me and I will have plenty of subjects to consider.  This is a form of meditation for me.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Tim James, R.I.P.

Tim James


When your kids marry, families are joined and embraced.  When our son married, his new wife brought with her a fantastic family, loving and very caring of one another and of the world.  Key among them was her stepfather, Tim James.

Last night, Tim collapsed and died in his driveway.  It is a stunning shock to all of us.  He was only 48.

To tell you how good a man Tim was, he was a Christian in the best sense.  In other words, he quietly tried to live a life of service to humanity as he understood the meaning.  He was ordained in his church just a few months ago, along with his wife.  He served on missions to Uganda, but in extensive talks with him, he understood the necessity of accepting their culture and of not turning them into dependent welfare recipients.  They were teaching the people sustainable agriculture methods and I think working with them on sanitation practices.  He would travel there every few weeks.

We as a family are stunned and gather in close embrace, our only way to deal with this sad event.  The man will be truly missed.  But, I have to think that his God is welcoming him and telling him, “Well, done!”