Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Why I Send My Children to a Private School

1. Teaching Math In 1950
A logger sells a truckload of lumber for $100. His cost of production is 4/5 of the price. What is his profit?

2. Teaching Math In 1960
A logger sells a truckload of lumber for $100. His cost of production is 4/5 of the price, or $80. What is his profit?

3. Teaching Math In 1970
A logger sells a truckload of lumber for $100. His cost of production is $80. Did he make a profit?

4. Teaching Math In 1980
A logger sells a truckload of lumber for $100. His cost of production is $80 and his profit is $20. Your assignment: Underline the number 20.

5. Teaching Math In 1990
A logger cuts down a beautiful forest because he is selfish and inconsiderate and cares nothing for the habitat of animals or the preservation of our woodlands. He does this so he can make a profit of $20. What do you think of this way of making a living? Topic for class participation after answering the question: How did the birds and squirrels feel as the logger cut down their homes? (There are no wrong answers. )

6. Teaching Math In 2006
Un hachero vende una carretada de maderapara $100. El costo de la producciones es $80.

Sunday, June 25, 2006

Social Security

My adventure with Social Security started the day after my mother died. I called the 800 number to report her death. The agent I talked to typed on her computer a few seconds and then told me that my mother's death had already been reported my the funeral home. So I asked her if I could find out if there was going to be any survivors benefit or death benefit for my Dad. I could hear he type a few more strokes on the keyboard then she told me that there would be no survivors benefit for my Dad because both parents were receiving benefits based on their own employment records. She did tell me that he would get the $255 death benefit. But we could not apply for it right away because her computer was down. I was told that I would have to call back later next week when the computer system would be back up.

I didn't bother pointing out that her computer system was working just fine when she looked up all that information she just told me. I knew it wouldn't get me anywhere.

So Dad and I left town the next day and I figured that I would call them back once we got to Cheyenne.

Once we finally got to Cheyenne I found a letter from the social security office pointing out to us that we had called concerning his death benefit payment over a week ago and had not called back and that we needed to contact the local Social Security office as soon as possible. The date on the letter was the day after I had called them and was told to call back the next week. Isn't it funny how their computer system only seems to work when they need it for things like looking up information, or sending me follow-up letters to phone calls but that it doesn't work when I need it to?

So Dad and I stopped by the local Social Security Office. We walked into the office and were greeted by an armed guard who asked what we wanted. I told him that my mother had just passed away and we needed information about applying for a death benefit. He pushed a number on a keypad and handed us a little slip of paper with a number on it and told us to take a seat.

We sat down to wait. I could not help but listen to the elderly lady who was at the window talking to the agent. She was complaining that the Medicare part D company that she signed up with was double charging her for her premiums. The agent typed a few things on her computer and did admit that the lady was being double charged for her premium. Then she told the lady that there was nothing she could do about that. The lady had to contact her Medicare part D provider. The lady complained that she had done that and they claim they are not double charging her. The social security agent told her that she couldn't do anything for her. When the lady started loudly complaining that they were the ones who told her she had to sign up for this plan in the first place. When she asked what she was supposed to do now, the agent told her that she would have to deal the Medicare part D provider herself. At that point the armed guard, who had walked over behind the woman, took her gently by the arm and escorted her out of the room.

Next it was Dad's and my turn. I told the agent our names and said that we were following up on the report of my mother's death and wanted to file for the death benefit while I showed her the letter we had telling us to contact the local office as soon as possible.

The agent typed a few things into her computer and verified to us that my mother's death had been reported by the funeral home 12 days earlier.

I then asked about signing up for a survivor benefit and the death benefit. The agent typed into her computer a few more moments and then informed us that there would be no survivor or death benefit paid to my father. This statement rather confused me. I understand that he may not have been eligible for a survivor benefit but I thought everyone received the $255 death benefit.

When I asked why Dad would not be getting the death benefit payment I was told that that benefit had been eliminated in 1984. Again this confused me, but when I started trying to figure out how to rephrase my question I noticed the guard starting to move our direction.

Then as we started to turn away from the window the agent asked my Dad if he wanted to make an appointment to bring by his marriage and birth certificates? With both of us looking confused I asked "Why does he need to do that?"

The agent replied that they needed copies of the marriage certificate to show proof of relationship, and Dad's birth certificate to show proof of citizenship so that he could get the $255 death benefit.

Mind you this is the same death benefit that she had just told us had been eliminated in 1984 and that Dad was no longer eligible for.

So my Dad made an appointment to bring those documents in on July 10.

When we got home Dad found the documents he needed and wrote his appointment on his calendar. I just hope that he doesn't run into the same obviously insane agent that we spoke to that morning.

I truly felt sorry for all the people waiting in line when we left the Social Security Office. I also understand why I hear people complaining about dealing with Social Security. I have only had to deal with two people so far and both of them were completely incompetent. One bold faced lied to me. The other one couldn't even keep the stories she was telling me straight from one sentence to the next. Both treated me like I was a complete moron who didn’t have a clue as to what was going on around me. Even more scary is that one of them had an armed guard making sure that no one hasseled her in any way.

Man I am really starting to dread retirement if this is the kind of people that I will have to depend on for my Social Security Income.

Coming Home

I'm home again. I flew into Ontario Airport yesterday afternoon around 4:30. My cousin from Cypress graciously volunteered to pick me up and give me a ride home. This is a big sacrifice on his part. He (and his daughter) drove me three hours out into the high desert just to turn around and drive three hours home again.

It was nice to see them both, even if they couldn't stay and visit for a while.

My trip home started in Rapid City SD. Before Dad and I left Thursday morning we stopped by Mountain View Cemetery. I was taking pictures of family tombstones for my genealogy research. I also got a couple pictures of these two little fellows.


They were bedded down near one tombstone. When we got within about 15 feet they would dance away from us. They never went far from where mommy had put them. When we moved off they went right back to where they were told to wait. I wish I could get my kids to obey instructions as well as these two did.

Dad and I had a pleasant drive to Cheyenne. It takes about 5 hours to get from Rapid City to Cheyenne. But it took us a little over 6 hours. We took a few back roads to avoid the chip sealing that was taking place on the main highways. The back roads gave us the chance to see some nice high prairie scenery. We saw a lot of antelope. Many had babies. I tried to get some pictures but could never get the camera out before we had shot past the babies. So I had to settle for my deer fawn pictures.

I did get one good shot of this doe watching us pretty closely. There were a couple bucks with her, but as soon as our car stopped they bolted. She watched me for a few seconds then slowly just wandered off.


Eventually we got to Cheyenne around 10 PM. After some badly needed sleep I spent most of Friday running around Cheyenne taking care of business for Dad. I had several stops to make in order to get financial matters squared away. There were mutual funds and IRAs to get transferred over to Dad's name. We made a stop by the Social Security office. That experience is another story.

Once I got our running done, we joined a couple friends for dinner at the Texas Roadhouse Café. This is a new restaurant in Cheyenne and apparently doing really well. We had called ahead so our wait to get in was only about 10 minutes. The wait for people just stopping in was almost an hour. The food was good, the company better.

The next morning my Dad drove me to the airport in Denver where I caught my flight to Ontario.

On the drive home we had just merged off the I10 and onto Interstate 15 when we spotted this grass fire near the highway. It apparently hadn't been burning long as emergency crews were not on the scene yet.

freeway fire

It was a little scary driving past. The fire was billowing up over the guard rail on the south bound side of the highway. There was also smoke and flame pouring up between the two sides of the bridge we had to cross.

(For those of you who worry about such things we did not slow down and interfer with traffic in order for me to take pictures. I snapped a couple through the windshield as my cousin drove past. That is why I wasn't able to get a good shot of the fire rising up between the lanes.}

I finally got home about 6:30 last night. It was only 103 degrees then but I could tell it had been hot earlier in the day. The town just had that baked feeling about it. My dear wife tells me it was 110.

It’s good to be home. I’m hoping the warm dry desert air will clear up my sinuses a bit. They have been bothering me that last couple days and the congestion has moved from my ears to my throat. If my cough isn’t getting better by tomorrow I may have to stop by the doctor’s office.

Saturday, June 24, 2006

Burying Mom

(This was written on June 20th and 21st)

Today started a little chaotic. My father and I are staying at my cousin’s house in Rapid City. They have a cleaning service that comes in every Tuesday around nine o’clock. So we had to be up and out of the house before then.

We started the day with breakfast at the Colonial House on 8th street. I had a really good mushroom and cheese omelet. The caramel rolls were also really good. My sisters and I went over to the funeral home early to check on Mom. My sister, the funeral director, was concerned about how she would look. We were very pleased. The local funeral home here in Ridgecrest, Holland and Lyons, did a wonderful job. Mom looked a lot like she did several years ago. She was much thinner, but still looked pretty good.

That afternoon my Father wanted to stop by Boyd’s Drug Store to pick up some Old Dutch potato chips. He really likes that brand and can’t always get it at home. While in the store my sisters and I wandered down the candy aisle. There we started noticing all the different types of candy that we were used to seeing my Mom eat while she traveled. So we picked up several bags of her favorites – circus peanuts, boston baked beans, maple nut goodies, orange slices and Brach’s Jelly Beans. Then when we got back to the funeral home we placed Mom’s traveling candy in her casket with her.

At 6 PM that evening we had a prayer service for Mom. The service was pretty informal with the Pastor leading a few prayers and then just opening up the floor for people to share their memories of Mom.

I’m afraid that I wimped out. I sat in the back of the room with an old high school friend of mine. I do not like standing up in front of people and talking. I certainly didn’t want to stand up and talk about Mom that night.

The next day we all met at the funeral home again. We gathered most of the family together for several dozen pictures. My nephews in their Navy and Marine uniforms were spectacularly handsome. My nieces were all dolled up and very beautiful.

When we were taking pictures my cousins Karen and Kathy arrived from the east end of the state. This was a very emotional time for me. This whole last week has been very surreal. I have been so busy and so tired that the entire series of events had seemed to just blur past. But when my cousin Karen reached up to give me a hug the entire day suddenly became clear. It really was my Mom’s funeral. So I had a short cry on Karen’s shoulder and then started collecting myself. I think Karen’s arrival was such a trigger because the last four times that we have been together were at funerals. Growing up, Karen was a stranger to me. She was 8 years older than me and we didn’t see much of each other. Her parents were my godparents. But while I was playing with her younger brothers she was busy growing up. We didn’t really get to know each other until I was in my 30s. I was back in the old home town for a Christmas with my grandmother. We stayed at Karen’s motel. During that week we discovered that we had a lot of similar likes and dislikes and that while family we became friends. I discovered that I enjoyed joining her morning coffee group for coffee, Danish and gossip, event though I didn’t know half the people they gossiped about. Over the last 10 years we have shared the funerals of her parents (my godparents), my grandmother and now my Mom. It was really good to have Karen there. Her presence helped me accept the reality of my Mom’s passing.

Next we processed from the funeral home to the cemetery. The funeral processional is something that we don’t see too often out here. It seems to be becoming an outdated custom here in California. I have stopped for processionals here only to be honked at by the cars behind me for holding them up. In South Dakota as we were driving by, a large man on a Harley pulled over on the other side of the road got off his bike and stood quietly by the road side as we drove by. It was nice to be back were people put some importance on being polite and respectful.

Once we arrived at the Black Hills National Cemetery the procession stopped by the Rotunda. There Mom was laid in state while the Pastor led us all in a brief interment prayer. Then we were told where Mom would be laid to rest. Then we all milled around visiting for a while before heading into back into town for an informal reception at Trinity Lutheran Church.

As we were leaving the cemetery we slowed to view the spot where my Mom was to be interred. The workers there seemed to be waiting for her casket. So we stopped and asked if we could wait also. We were warned to stay 20 feet back for safety reasons. So we all sat on the grass and waited about 5 minutes. Then the white van with my Mom’s casket arrived. We watched until Mom’s casket was loaded onto the straps and slowly lowered into her grave.

My family has been luck with our burial sites at the Black Hills National Cemetery. My grandfather is buried in the central area surrounded by a ring of American Flags. My Mother, and eventually my Dad have a burial site on a hill overlooking the rest of the cemetery.

After the interment we all drove back into town for a reception at the church. We enjoyed several trays of homemade snacks and good old fashioned Lutheran coffee. We had a chance to visit with old friends and relatives.

Then we all adjourned to my cousin’s house where she hosted the entire family for dinner.

Black Hills National Cemetery

The view from Mom’s Gravesite.

Miles City, Montana

(This was written on June 19th)

We have a long time family friend who recently moved from Cheyenne, WY to Miles City Montana. So when my father and I left Everett WA at 6:15 PM on Sunday we planned on driving straight through to Miles City Montana to see him and his family.

We arrived in Miles City around 11:30 in the morning. We did think a head a little and called them from Billings MT to tell them we were coming, instead of just dropping by.

When arriving in Miles City we found that our friend had moved to Mayberry. This was a great little town. Old buildings, old trees, old people with lots of history and character. My kind of place! We went to lunch at the 600 Café, a little greasy spoon down town that was owned and run by the ex-mayor. The Cashier called everyone, sweetheart or darling. The special of the day was a meatloaf sandwich which easily met the 3Gs of good food – grease, gristle and gravy. It was delicious. The prices were cheap by California standards. This looked like the kind of place that everyone in town would pass through at least one a week.

Our friend’s new house was a dream. Over 100 years old, two story on a quiet tree lined street. It had been converted into three apartments at one time and they are working on un-converting it. I was just the kind of house I think my dear wife and I would have bought for ourselves if we didn’t live in a town that was barely 50 years old. This house had the most beautiful wood trim on all the doors and around all the rooms. The hardwood floors that are under the carpet are going to need some work, but promise to look great one day.

Our friend’s daughter by far has the best room in the house. Her room is upstairs looking out the front of the house with a huge old cottonwood in front to cast the best shadows on the walls if the shades are left open. Of course being only eleven years old she doesn’t appreciate that yet, but she will.

We had a wonderful if short visit. It was good to see our old friend again. But I want to find a way to steal his house and move it to Ridgecrest. If I can’t have his, I would settle for anyone of about 50 others we drove past while driving through town.

So if you are looking to move to Mayberry then I would recommend Miles City MT. Seems like a great little town. But then, I’ve never been there in January yet.

Eagle Scout Court of Honor

(This was written on June(18)

Today was my nephew’s Eagle Scout Court of Honor. This was the culmination of a very busy weekend for him. I was interested to see how he would hold up for the court of honor after being at a party all night after his graduation. I only got about 4 hours of sleep last night and I’m pretty trashed. But then I’m a lot older than him.

Our morning started at church at 9:30. This started out as a blessing because we didn’t have to get up too early. But since I woke up at 4 AM and couldn’t go back to sleep it really didn’t matter much.

After church there was a tailgate potluck – see previous posting.

The Court of Honor started at 2 PM. It was run just like many of the Eagle Scout Court of Honor’s that I had attended back when I was active in scouting. However there were a few little changes. I don’t remember an Eagle Scout Promise from my Court of Honor, nor from any of the several courts I attended back in the dark ages. My father doesn’t remember it either. We both think that it is something that has been added sometime in the last 30 years.

Well my sister was using the Eagle Scout Promise as her final attempt to get me involved in the ceremony. I had originally declined a role in the court of honor because I was not going to be here for it. This has been a cause for contention in my family for several months.

My sister, nephew and mother all claim that, years ago I promised my nephew that when he got his Eagle I would be here for it. This is the kind of promise that I have been known to make and carry through with. It is also the kind of promise that I usually remember making. Since I would have just committed myself and my family to a long trip of about 1100 miles, each way, just to attend a 30 minute ceremony, I usually remember doing things like that. In this case I don’t remember ever saying any such thing. I may have promised this and forgotten, but it is more likely that this was a promise made on my behalf by my mother, who was extremely good at doing such things. As a method of support for my nephew she may have told him that I was excited about him being in Scouts and that she was sure that I would be at his court of honor when I got his Eagle Scout award. Mom did stuff like this all the time. She would say something like that and it would become gospel. She would repeat it over and over until not only she believed it, but so did everyone else.

This situation has happened in the past. The two most recent times were with my niece and nephews confirmations. My mother had promised everyone that my family would be there for both events. She made this promise so often that eventually everyone believed it and we felt obligated to be at both events. So twice in the last four years we packed our family up and drove 1100 miles for a one hour event. We don’t regret doing this. It was nice to see the family and be there for their confirmations. Besides we believed that this would encourage my sister’s family to reciprocate when it came time for our children to be confirmed.

Apparently my sister doesn’t feel as compelled to live up to my mother’s promises as I do. As soon as we knew the date of my daughter’s confirmation we let the family all know that they were all invited. My sister immediately responded that they would not be able to make the event. Her son was going to graduate and have his Eagle Scout Court of Honor the following weekend and they just would not be able to make it. I however was still expected to be at her place the following weekend for the Court of Honor. I guess my family never makes plans, gets busy or has other things to do other than arrange our lives around my sister’s schedule.

Well I told my Sister, my Nephew and my Mother that we would not be able to be in Washington for the graduation or Court of Honor. We had the end of school, my daughter’s confirmation, scout camps, volleyball camps, tennis camps, ‘major must attend’ reviews at work and a lack of vacation time to deal with. Besides since they were not coming to my daughter’s confirmation I didn’t feel all that bad about not showing up for their events.

How silly of me. My sister said she was disappointed since I had promised, but then let it drop. My nephew reminded me of my promise several times in a “you are really letting me down” tone of voice. My mother was the worst, to listen to her you would think that by not showing up I was causing the end of life in the Universe as we know it. She spent several phone calls over a several week period letting me know that I was personally ruining the entire weekend for everyone by not living up to my promise to be there.

As things turn out, I was there anyway. As I was reminded several times after arriving in Everett it was a good thing to, since I had promised to be here. My nephew went as far as during the reception afterwards making a big fuss in front of several of his friends and his scoutmaster about thanking me for being there, especially since I had planned on breaking my promise and not showing up. I wasn’t sure how to respond. Somehow saying “Good thing my Mom died then, so I would have to drive my Dad here so I could keep a promise to you that I never made in the first place” just didn’t seem quite proper. So I stood there with my coffee cup in my hand, thinking that my nephew learned a lot from his grandmother and greatgrandmother, most of it not good.

So there we were, right before the ceremony starts and my sister was trying to get me involved in the ceremony. I didn’t want to be involved with the ceremony. I haven’t been actively involved with scouting for over 20 years and don’t have any sort of uniform that would fit. I have had no impact what so ever on my nephews trek to Eagle Scout. So I didn’t feel like I belonged in that Court of Honor. That was duty for his friends, fellow scouts, and leaders to attend to. But they insisted anyway. I politely declined, several times. Then on the day of the event I was asked again if I wanted to lead the Eagle pledge. I told them “No, not really, I don’t know what the eagle pledge is. I would rather just be a spectator.” Then just before the ceremony started I was told that during the Eagle Pledge they were going to invite all existing Eagle Scouts to come up and rededicate themselves by joining in with the Eagle Pledge, and how nice it would be for my nephew if I would join in with that. So there I was trying to figure out exactly how much of a fuss my sister or my nephew were going to make when they got to that part of the ceremony and I didn’t join in. Not that I would mind joining in, but at that point I was just sick and tired of having this guilt trip thing shoved down my throat. So I stubbornly refused to follow my first impulse of just getting up and walking out of the church before the ceremony could start. Instead I sat there taking pictures and getting ready to be thoroughly humiliated when they insisted in making me do something that I had told them repeatedly that I did not feel comfortable doing.

I lucked out. The scout who led the Eagle Pledge apparently forgot about the last minute change to the program and didn’t call for all other Eagles to come forward. So I got to sit there and just be a spectator after all.

It was a good ceremony. I was proud of my nephew even though he had been irritating me for days. Eagle Scout is a great accomplishment that he can carry with him for the rest of his life. I got mine 34 years ago and I still list it on my resume under personal accomplishments.

After the ceremony ended we headed back to my sister’s where we ate some of the leftovers that were cluttering her refrigerator, then we loaded up our cars and headed for Rapid City South Dakota, to bury Mom.

Tailgate Potluck

(This was written on June 18th)

After church on Sunday they had a tailgate potluck in the parking lot. This was a lot of fun. People opened up their trunks; put their contribution to the potluck in the trunk and everyone wandered around the parking lot sampling food out of the different trunks. Some folks decorated up their trunks with flowers, banners, etc. It was a good time. Then while everyone was milling about in the parking lot eating they had a trivia contest and a drawing for some baseball tickets. Good food, fun people, a trivia contest, and eating out of the trunk. What more could a person ask for?

Pitiful TPing

(This was written on June 18th.)

Last night was my Nephews Graduation Night. After the graduation ceremony the whole family came back to my sister’s house for dinner and to watch my nephew open his gifts. He got some great stuff. My father and I teamed up to get him a 60GB iPod. His parents got him a sweet Canon Rebel XT digital camera. His Aunt (my other sister) got him a lemonade stand so he has a career all lined up now. His parents also got him a 50 foot fish tape. This gift has apparently been making the rounds among their family for a couple years now.

After the gifts were opened my Nephew and his sister and two other cousins all headed out for a party. They intended to be out all night.

When we awoke this morning we found out that my sister’s house had been the target of a TP attack. For those of you living under a rock, a TP attack is when a bunch of unruly youths string rolls of toilet paper all over your house, trees and cars.

This was the sorriest excuse for a TP attack I have ever seen. The kids showed up with about 20 rolls of toilet paper. All of it in sealed 4 roll packs. When they finished TPing the house there were 3 unopened packs and one pack with only one roll missing laying in the driveway. Of the 5 rolls that they did try to use 3 of them were laying around almost intact.


This whole episode just makes me sick. If this generation is tomorrow’s leaders then we are really in trouble. Where is the pride of workmanship? Where is the determination to finish the job? Where is the dedication to duty?

In my day we would have never left a job like this. We knew how to TP a house then. None of this leaving unopened rolls of TP lying around. Where are the TP covered trees and the car so wrapped up that you can’t see it? Where are the hundreds of streams of TP obscuring the front of the house?

Kids these days! You can’t depend on them for anything!

Graduating Nephew

(This Posting was written on June 17th but I didn't have a network connection until today)

My baby sister’s youngest child graduated from High School Today.

Since my Mom and Dad’s plans were to be in Ridgecrest for my daughter’s Confirmation and then headed for Everett Washington for their grandson’s graduation, I continued those plans with my Dad.

Originally I had not intended to be in Washington this week. I don’t have enough vacation time coupled with a volleyball camp to run this weekend and my kids all have summer camps planned for last week and this next week. So we were just going to send our regards and a gift.

But here I am, in Everett and attending my youngest nephew’s graduation.

On Friday night they had a Jubilee Celebration. This is an optional ceremony that is intended to replace the old Baccalaureate Services that are no longer allowed because Christianity is banned in the Public School System in America.

The Jubilee was more like a regular graduation without a long drawn out boring main speaker and no diplomas. It was basically a chance to celebrate graduation, which is what I thought the graduation ceremony was supposed to be. However The Jubilee had one thing going for it. It was the only time that parents would be allowed to take pictures of their graduates in their caps and gowns on the stage with the flowers and banners and stuff.

The second highlight of the Jubilee was the keynote speaker. This teacher was described (twice) by student speakers as being “strict” and “stern”. His delivery for his speech was very strict and stern. He was also absolutely hilarious. In a droll deadpan kind of way this man proceeded to tell all the graduates that they had nothing to be celebrating. He was funny, engaging and absolutely correct. Everyone loved it. Both parents and graduates loved his speech.

Then on Saturday we had to go to the actual graduation ceremony. This was held downtown in a large events center that pretty much guaranteed that no one would be able to sit close enough to the stage to see or get good pictures of their graduate.

The Ceremony wasn’t too boring there was no keynote speaker. Most of the speakers were students who were pleasantly witty and engaging. Then they read the names, the graduates trooped across the stage, the audience clapped and cheered and everyone went home.

Thursday, June 15, 2006


I'm on the road. But of course being a total geek I brought my computer with me.

Dad and I are at my Uncle Mike's in Washington. On our way to my sister's for my nephews high school graduation and Eagle Scout Court of Honor. From there we will head to the Black Hills of South Dakota for Mom's interment at the National Cemetery there. Then it's off to Cheyenne WY to get Dad settled back into his house. Sooner or later I have to figure out how I'm going to get home from Wyoming. I guess I'll have to look into a plane, bus, or see if the there are any cattle drives heading to California I could join. I can't hitchhike, I joking said that to my kids and they freaked so I promised not to do that.

Bummer I was going to hold up a sign that said

"Will Blog for a Ride"

I will be on the road a lot the next 10 days and blogging will probably be light. And totally dependant of finding an occasional internet connection.

Like right now I'm "borrowing" a neighbor's unsecured wireless connection.

Gotta Go!

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Space - Explore or Die?

Astrophysicist Stephen Hawking speaking to a packed house in Hong Kong said:

The survival of the human race depends on its ability to find new homes elsewhere in the universe because there's an increasing risk that a disaster will destroy the Earth.

Hawking is one of the most brilliant minds of our life time. Listen to him. There are so many different things that could destroy life as we know it on this mud ball we call earth.

My grandma and Grandpa taught me all about putting all your eggs in one basket. The human race definately has all their eggs in one basket. We need to start exploring some other options. There is a whole great big universe out there and yet we seem content to sit here and crap in our own little corner of it. What ever happened to the "Lets see what is over that next hill" attitude?

"We won't find anywhere as nice as Earth unless we go to another star system,"

Hawling added

If humans can avoid killing themselves in the next 100 years, they should have space settlements that can continue without support from Earth.

"It is important for the human race to spread out into space for the survival of the species. Life on Earth is at the ever-increasing risk of being wiped out by a disaster, such as sudden global warming, nuclear war, a genetically engineered virus or other dangers we have not yet thought of."

Or even the other disasters we have thought of like major asteroid impact, massive volcanic eruption or catastrophic earthquakes. Hawking was focusing on human caused destruction and seemed to forget that mother nature is just as capable of wiping us out as we are.

Monday, June 12, 2006

Confirming Chaos

Sorry that posting has been light lately. This last week has been unbelievable. The next two weeks don't look to be much better. My Father and I are leaving for Everett WA on Wednesday. After a trip to the Black Hills of SD for Mom's interrment and thento Cheyenne WY I hope to be back home in a week and a half.

This last week has been a week of highs and lows. And I mean extreme highs and lows. I guess if you average the highs and lows the week was probably edge out on the high side. But the one low was a doozy. Last Friday my oldest daughter graduated from Middle School. Then I went to State Bowling Tournament on Saturday and Sunday where I bowled quite well. My parents arrived on tuesday. Mom was in really bad shape. We put he into the hospital on Thursday and she died on Friday. Then on Sunday my oldest daughter was confirmed.

Confirmation Sunday was another hectic day. Chaos had to read her "I believe" statement at the early service. Then we had to hang around for an hour between services for pictures. Then the actual confirmation ceremony was during the late service.

My dear wife and I had some real complaints about the schedule. We don't like going to the late service. The early service is a traditional service while the late service is a modern service. I enjoy the music at the late service. They sing a lot. But overall I prefer the traditional early service. But our preferences don't carry any weight with our Pastor. He does all special events like baptisms and confirmations at the late service. So that means that just like the baptism of our twins, Chaos's Confirmation would happen in front of a church full of strangers that we don't know and all the people that we do go to church with regularly who did not get to see our children baptised didn't get to see Chaos confirmed.

In preparation for Confirmation they held a practice session on Wednesday. We had a blast at the practice. My baby girl was wonderful. The 5 confirmands were sitting in the front pew while Pastor went over the ceremony. The he told them to each read their "I believe" statements, which is each confirmand's statement of their personal beliefs.

The five readers were sitting in the front pew pointing at each other and trying to convince each other to go read their statements first. Finally Pastor just pointed at my daughter and asked her to go first.

Chaos climbed up into the pulpit and read her statement of beliefs. Now my viewpoint may be a little slanted but I think she did a fantastic job. Her statement was well written and she read it well. She had two full pages of 14 point font written. She discussed her beliefs and referenced the bible passages that supported her views. She also referenced the writing of several other theologians. She discussed her spirtual gifts and what they mean to her.

Once finished as she decended from the pulpit the other 4 sets of parents immediately raised a good natured fuss with Pastor to make her go last on Sunday.

Once the other kids read their statements we knew why. Their statements were about one quarter the length of my daughter's. Most of their statements sounded like one long run-on sentence paraphrasing the Apostle's Creed. Each other reader ended their statements with the sentence "At our retreat I took a spiritual gifts test and my gifts are ..." They didn't elaborate at all about their gifts.

Each kid stumbled over reading at least one sentence in their statements. Most of them stumbled over more than one.

The differences between my daughter's and her classmate's writing and reading abilities were incredible. We hadn't been that proud of her in at least 3 days.

On Sunday not much had changed. Chaos still read her statement better than the others. She hadn't changed her statement and she read it better. The other kids had made some changes to their statements. But they still read them poorly.

One of the other kid's fathers was even caught pointing out the obvious differences between my daughter's private school education and the other kid's public school educations. He made this observation in front of his public school teacher wife. I hope he likes their couch.

I'm not sure it is all private vs. public educations. I think it is also a difference in small school vs. large school. In the large public schools the kids can get lost in the shuffle. But in the small school there is no place to hide. Each kid has to be able to read, write and perform. There is no where to hide. Everyone of them is expected every day to excel at whatever it is they are working on.

The best part of Confirmation was the guests. Chaos's 8th grade teacher and the principal from her school showed up as did two of her best friends and their mothers. At the end of the ceremony when Pastor asked the family to come forward and lay their hands on each confirmand and pray for them, the teacher and the principal came up with us. Chaos really appreciated that.

After the service there was a reception in the fellowship hall. Then we hosted a luncheon/open house over at our place. We had a pretty good crowd show up for lunch. Everyone had plenty to eat and lots of good conversation. Once the party dwindled down we still had Chaos's two friends here. They stayed all day and night. I think it was really good for her to have the sleepover. Spending the night being silly with her friends really helped to take her mind off the events of a few days earlier.

Friday, June 09, 2006


Five years ago my Mother was diagnosed with Multiple Myeloma, a cancer of the plasma cells. At the time of her diagnosis she had been sick for a couple years but had been misdiagnosed. The specialists in Seattle didn't give her much of a chance to survive beyond about 3 weeks.

Mom got herself into several study groups, underwent an autologous stemcell transplant and some incredible chemo and radiation therapies. At one point the radiation treatments she was receiving required her to stay isolated from eveyone. She had to give herself the injections via her hickman line. Then she had to take her own vitals and supply the information to the doctors. We used to joke with her that they clinic was saving money by turning out the lights and letting her natural glow illuminate the building.

My Mother had a strong will to survive and she used it to the max. But helping her along was my father. He hardly left herside during the entire last five years. Even though he was recovering from his own bout with prostate cancer during the early days of Mom's treatments.

About a year ago Mom's cancer started coming back. Since multiple myeloma is uncurable they can only treat the cancer they cannot eliminate it. So in almost all cases where some level of remission occurs the cancer almost always resurfaces in a couple years. Mom's stayed away for 3 years. Unfortunately the massive trauma that Mom suffered during her first treatments made second treatments difficult or impossible. She got into a couple study groups but they were not helping.

Several weeks ago my Mother took a turn for the worse when she suffered a 90% kidney failure. Then just before she was scheduled to start dialysis they discovered that she was bleeding internally. This meant that dialysis wasn't going to be possible.

Her cancer specialist didn't give much hope. Her one long shot was to use thalomid (a chemo drug) to stabilize the cancer long enough for doctors to find and fix the bleeding and then hope that dialysis will help her kidney function. Unforutnately they found out that the kidney failure was most likely due to the cancer not abuse by the treatments, which meant that dialysis wasn't going to help much. But the cancer had to be controlled before they could even try. The kidney failure also meant that she would not be eligible for the latest experimental study that she was signed up for.

Then early June arrived and my Mother really wanted to be here in Ridgcrest for my oldest daughter's confirmation on Sunday June 11. Then she wanted to be in Everett Washington for my nephew's high school graduation on the next weekend. So against all her doctor's recommendations she got into the car and told my father to drive her from Cheyenne Wyoming to Ridgecrest CA.

My Mother and Father arrived here late tuesday afternoon. Mom was in really bad shape. Weak, incoherent and in a lot of pain. It would be easy to blame my Father for allowing her to travel in her condition. But my mother has the ability to be very stubborn about things that she sets her mind to them. Once she decided to come to Ridgcrest she would come here whether Dad helped or not. I would not have put it beyond her to get on a bus, or to start wheeling herself down the freeway in her wheelchair. Neither logic nor common sense would change her mind once she decided something. Threats would be completey worthless. Noncooperation would not be tolerated. My Dad, who has worshipped the ground my mother walked on for over 45 years and has never told her "No" for anything, decided that since her chance of surviving more than another week was pretty slim anyway he would bring her here. It was that, or spend the last week of her life, being the evil demon who took away her reason for living.

So they loaded into the van and headed for Ridgcrest.

Mom stayed holed up in my youngest daugher's bedroom for a day. She couldn't talk to anyone and refused to communicate with anyone other than my Dad. Then on Wednesday my cousin Ric, who had come up from Orange County to see my parents, and I found out that Mom had started throwing up blood.

We immediately called an ambulance to take her to the hospital. The paramedics arrived and were getting ready to transport Mom when she became lucent long enough to convince the paramedic that she was coherent and did not want to go to the hospital. Dad and I could not convince her to go, and the paramedics could not take her against her wishes. Fortunately for us, Ric was here. My cousin Ric has many varied talents, but the one we needed then was his ability to sell an anvil to a drowning man. Ten minutes alone in the room with my Mom, and he had talked her into going to go to the hospital.

Arriving at the emergency room Mom was in extreme pain. Blood tests shocked the doctors, the nurses and everyone in the hospital. Mom's blood levels were stunningly low and the toxin levels of her blodd were off the chart. The attending Doctor said he had never heard of anyone having blood numbers this low, or toxin levels that high and still be alive.

We got Mom into a hospital room and hooked up to an IV and plasma and got her some pain medicene that she would not throw up. For the first time in weeks Mom was not suffering. She slept, and she relaxed.

Then, I was asked the hardest question of my life. "How much treatment do you want for your mother?" My mother had signed a DNR five years ago and had said several times that she didn't want heroic measures to extend her life. I personally think everything that she had done the last 5 years to be pretty heroic. But I know what she meant. Because I held her durable power of attorney it was my decision to make. I talked to my sisters and my father and all three said that the most important thing was that Mom not suffer any longer. She had done enough of that for five years.

Talking to the doctors they all confirmed what I already knew. The plasma and platelets and the IV fluids were not going to save my mother's life. They would only buy her a couple days or so and those days would best be spent sleeping under the influence of the pain medication. My father was at my home getting something he hadn't had for four days - sleep. Then I made the hardest decision I have ever made in my life. I told the doctor to discontinue all treatment except that necessary to keep my mother resting and pain free. I beleive the medical/legal term is "Comfort Care Only."

So they disconnected all treatments except for a pain medication drip that would keep Mom pain free. My Mother drifted into and out of sleep, but never regained a coherent level of consciousness.

But she did stun the doctors and the nurses one last time by surviving for another 24 hours.

Mom died, peacefully and pain free in her sleep at 1:50 this afternoon. At her side was my Dad, right where he had been for the last 45 years.

Just when I thought my day couldn't get any worse, it did. This evening I found that my trials were far from over. My dear wife and I had to tell our children one at a time that their Grandmother had passed away. For me it was like reliving the moment over and over again. Each child's grief was like a brand new break in my heart. Fortunately I think they are all accepting it better than I have. It will help that Grandpa will be staying around here for several days and we have convinced each child that Grandpa needs them to spend a lot of time with him. So far it seems to be helping both Dad and the kids.

Now I have to stop hiding behind this blog posting and go back to dealing with a situation that I have known was coming for 5 years but still find myself struggling to deal with. I have family and friends to notify, Paperwork to start, a family to care for, and a wife who's arms are waiting for me to cry myself to sleep tonight.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Measure A = Higher Taxes

The raise my taxes crowd was out if force this morning. Leaving my house I passed 5 different groups of people on street corners all carrying vote yes for Measure A signs. I was tempted to take the day off work and go get a "Measure A = Higher Taxes" sign and stand with them.

Measure A:

As required by the California Constitution, the proceeds from the sale of the bonds will be used only for the construction, reconstruction, rehabilitation or replacement of school facilities, including the furnishing and equipping of school facilities, or the acquisition or lease of real property for school facilities, and not for any other purpose, including teacher and administrator salaries and other school operating expenses. The Board of Education hereby certifies that it has evaluated the safety, class-size reduction, and information technology needs of the District in developing this list of school facilities projects.

• Upgrade deteriorating plumbing and water drainage systems, and outdated restrooms;
• Repair and replace roofs;
• Build new classrooms to accommodate student growth;
• Modernize computer technology throughout the District, including improving computer labs, renovating electrical systems, and providing additional computers;
• Modernize outdated classrooms, including improving handicapped accessibility (ADA), lighting, ceilings, flooring and painting;
• Provide adequate multi-purpose rooms through new construction and/or renovation;
• Make health and safety improvements such as upgrading fire alarm and communication systems;
• Construct a more efficient maintenance, operation, and transportation facility to decrease operational expenses and replace the current inadequate facility;
• Replace outdated playground equipment to improve student safety;
• Renovate or expand bus loops as necessary to increase student safety and improve traffic flow;
• Renovate, expand, construct, and upgrade student support facilities including joint use projects, as needed;
• Necessary site preparation/restoration in connection with new construction, renovation or remodeling, or installation or removal of relocatable classrooms;
• Address unforeseen conditions revealed by construction/modernization (e.g., plumbing or gas line breaks, dry rot, seismic, structural, etc.); and
• Furnish and equip schools as needed to the extent permitted by law.

Full text here.

Two things worry me about this.

1) It raises our taxes. More importantly it raises our taxes yet will do nothing to address the real problems with the public school system in Kern County? This is all about making our buildings pretty. Not penny towards educating our children. I thought this stuff is what we started a state lottery for several years ago?

2) With everything that is wrong with the schools in this district the number one fix on their list is "• Upgrade deteriorating plumbing and water drainage systems, and outdated restrooms;"

That's right folks Measure A is all about New Bathrooms.

Count me out! I'm voting N0!

Americans With No Abilities Act

This has been around for awhile, The Onion has a version of it online from June of 1998. But since it's primary day here in California I figured I would share.

WASHINGTON, DC - Congress is considering sweeping legislation, which provides new benefits for many Americans. The Americans With No Abilities Act (AWNAA) is being hailed as a major legislation by advocates of the millions of Americans who lack any real skills or ambition.

"Roughly 50 percent of Americans do not possess the competence and drive necessary to carve out a meaningful role for themselves in society," said Barbara Boxer. "We can no longer stand by and allow People of Inability to be ridiculed and passed over. With this legislation, employers will no longer be able to grant special favors to a small group of workers, simply because they do a better job, or have some idea of what they are doing."

The President pointed to the success of the US Postal Service, which has a long-standing policy of providing opportunity without regard to performance. Approximately 74 percent of postal employees lack job skills, making this agency the single largest US employer of Persons of Inability.

Private sector industries with good records of nondiscrimination against the Inept include retail sales (72%), the airline industry (68%),and home improvement "warehouse" stores (65%) The DMV also has a great record of hiring Persons of Inability. (63%)

Under the Americans With No Abilities Act, more than 25 million "middle man" positions will be created, with important-sounding titles but little real responsibility, thus providing an illusory sense of purpose and performance.

Mandatory non-performance-based raises and promotions will be given, to guarantee upward mobility for even the most unremarkable employees. The legislation provides substantial tax breaks to corporations which maintain a significant level of Persons of Inability in middle positions, and gives a tax credit to small and medium businesses that agree to hire one clueless worker for every two talented hires.

Finally, the AWNA ACT contains tough new measures to make it more difficult to discriminate against the Nonabled, banning discriminatory interview questions such as "Do you have any goals for the future?" or "Do you have any skills or experience which relate to this job?"

"As a Nonabled person, I can't be expected to keep up with people who have something going for them," said Mary Lou Gertz, who lost her position as a lug-nut twister at the GM plant in Flint, MI due to her lack of notable job skills. "This new law should really help people like me." With the passage of this bill, Gertz and millions of other untalented citizens can finally see a light at the end of the tunnel.

Said Senator Ted Kennedy, "It is our duty as lawmakers to provide each and every American citizen, regardless of his or her adequacy, with some sort of space to take up in this great nation."

They forgot the largest employeer of Americans with No Abilities in the country. With a no ability hiring rate of over 87% - The Congress of the United States!


666, the mark of the beast, the sign of the devil.

June 6, 2006 = 6/6/06

So what should a God fearing Christian do on a day like this?

Answer: The same thing you do everyday. Get up, kiss your family, go to work, do your best all day to be the kind of person your grandmother wanted you to be. Vote! Tell your spouse you love them. Pray. Have a great big laugh at the nitwits that are making a big deal about the date on the calendar. Except for the folks in Hell, Michigan. They look like they are having a fun party today.

So if you are one of those nitwits who is all in a tizzy about today being 6-6-6. Relax, take a deep breath and for one brief moment use your brain for something other than keeping your head from imploding. Today is June 6, 2006. But what if the calendar that we use had started on wednesday instead of tuesday? Then today would be June 5, 2006, and you would be worried about tomorrow. Or if the calendar started on Monday, then yesterday would have been June 6. You get it yet. It's TIME. It's all relative. Worrying about a randomly assigned date on a random calander is beyond silly.

In fact the only thing more silly than worrying about today being 6/6/06 is me writing about it...

Friday, June 02, 2006

Promoting Chaos

Today was my oldest daughter's Middle School Promotion Day. Actually it was the last day of class for all of Saint Ann School. It was a short day. Mass started at 8:15 and school was dismissed at 10 AM. The hour in between the end of Mass and dismissal was filled by most classes with parties, celebrations and goodbyes. Our twin's third grade class had a video presentation of pictures from the school year.

The 8th grade promotion ceremony started at 10:30. But before that the middle school children were given their report cards. I have been telling my daughter all year that she would not be moving on to high school next year because I had bribed her math and science teacher to fail her at the end of the year.

When the teacher handed out the envelopes with the students report cards in them she told them to give the envelopes to their parents. My daugher walked out the door with her envelope and then came running back in a minute later demanding to know where her real reportcard was. It seems she opened her envelope and found a report card with F's in Math, Science, Religion and PE. Under fourth quarter comments it said "It is recommended that Chaos repeat 8th grade because she will be missed if she goes to high school."

Chaos's teacher with a perfectly straight face started lecturing my daughter on the propriety of opening envelopes that are addressed to her parents.

It was the perfect end to a long running gag. Eventually the teacher who had played along with my gag broke down and gave my daughter her real report card. This one had nine A's and one A- on it. In the shameless bragging on my kids department I just want to point out that those 8 A's were obtained on a scale where an A is a 100-97%. An A- is 96-93%. When I went to school an A was 100-90%. The fact that my kid is consistantly scoring above 97% shows that she inherited more than her good looks from her mother.

Then to make the day even better, my daugher won the Language Arts award this year, she also received the Outstanding Academic Achievement Award, and the Leadership Award. I am very impressed with both of those awards. My dear wife and I are not sure where her leadership qualities came from. Certainly it wasn't from either one of us.

My baby girl also gave the opening speach at the ceremony. Again we don't know where she inherited the ability to stand up and publically speak that way. Both her mother and I would chew our own arms off to get out of situations like that.

The promotion ceremony was followed by a lunch at a local restaurant. We had a wonderful time. My daughter and her classmates got to be the center of attention for much longer than was probably good for them. But what the heck, we don't have to do that again for four more years.

All in all it was a great day. I always knew I had a pretty smart kid on my hands. But to have that fact recognized and announced everyone was terrific.

Finally a personal note, Several members of my volleyball team presented me with a couple gifts. I got a volleyball signed by all the girls on the team and an engraved keyring with a see through digital clock on it. One of my graduating 8th graders also gave me a very nice thank you card. It was very touching. I love having the gifts as reminders of this last season. But the greatest gift I received this year was watching the girls having fun, learning to be better volleyball players and growing as student athletes. The gifts are a wonderful bonus that I will treasure for years. But smiles on my players faces are all the thanks I'll will ever need.

It was a good day today. A busy day, but a good one. A day of tears, smiles, laughs and wonderful memories.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Speaking Diplomatically?

Commencement speaker Alan Hevesi, the New York State Comptroller, introduced fellow Democrat, Senator Charles Schumer to the graduates at Queens College with:

"The man who, how do I phrase this diplomatically, who will put a bullet between the president's eyes if he could get away with it. The toughest senator, the best representative. A great, great member of the Congress of the United States."

Putting a bullet between the president's eyes is speaking diplomatically? Wow, I don't want to be around when this clown decides to get blunt.

Hours after his bout with foot and mouth disease Mr. Hevesi called a press conference to say:

"I apologize to the president of the United States" and to the fellow state politician, Sen. Charles Schumer, Hevesi said. "I am not a person of violence.

"I am apologizing as abjectly as I can. There is no excuse for it. It was beyond dumb."

Yep, beyond dumb says it pretty well. Mr. Hevesi, before becoming comptroller was a professor of government and politics at Queens College. He also referred to his comments as

"remarkably stupid" and "incredibly moronic."

"I do speak extemporaneously," he said. "And I've never said anything like this."

Mr. Hevesi I have bad news for you. You do say things like that. But even worse you say them in public, on video, in front of a whole bunch of witnesses.

I love Bush-Derangement syndrome. It makes some nominally rational people do and say some of the most idiotic things you have ever heard.