If you’re drinking your coffee this morning and certain news reports leave you feeling like a chump for paying, really paying, your taxes think of it this way, without those of us who pay there would be none of the things we really treasure in our country, free libraries, good roads (though some are gooder than others), public education, airports, scientific research.  So rather than feeling like a chump feel proud that you’ve done your part. 

Certain wealthy individuals who think that they’ve done it all themselves seem to feel entitled to have a right to avoid paying for the transportation system that carries their good, or the airports that handle their private jets, or the education system that supplies their qualified workers.  They also don’t appreciate that without dedicated workers they just have a nice building.  I’ve always felt, and tried to share with anyone who will listen, that the janitor is just as important as the engineer or CEO for that matter. The janitor is not there because you are an entitled individual and above such work, they are there so you can do what you are trained to do longer, everyone has a part to pay in a successful endeavor. 

Certain wealth individuals need to remember the way things were when America WAS great.  We worked to provide for our families AND to improve society, it’s not all about the dollars. Making a fine car or a great refrigerator makes society stronger, we trust each other more and can depend upon our neighbors.  An honest day’s work, a fair price, a fair return, these things build up our country.  Taking all the market will allow, squeezing out every dollar and not leaving anything on the table, letting desperation drive up the price, are all ways people are victimized, and it starts to be the norm.  We need to stop the circle. 

One Room Schools?

One of the most important difficulties we face in this age of COVID is school.  Today’s children’s education and by extension their future success, is what will keep old guys like me from having to eat cat food in my dotage.

So how do we do it, how do we get school started again?  Mostly I don’t know, but for here where I live, and maybe in a lot of other rural areas, I have an idea.  We use community centers and mobile classrooms, and whatever’s available and go back to the ultra-local school model…what they used to call the one room school.  It limits mixing and therefore spread.  It Isolates any COVID cases to a smaller exposure, so one parent doesn’t bring it home from his construction job in Baltimore over the weekend and spread it through the whole county by Wednesday through the schools.  We can still use distance learning but that’s not a good option for many students, they need at least some interactions with a teacher.

Expensive? Probably but this has been done in the past so we know it can work, even mixing students (many of them family) had the added advantage of older students helping younger students, no better way to learn than to help someone else learn.  We know it works, and consolidation’s advantages don’t seem so shiny now.  So consider, we can do this as cheaply as possible and then do it again, kind of like the quarantine, or we can try to get it right the first time.  Hire the extra teachers, procure or rent the buildings and go one room.

Bailout 2

covid 100

So we might as well get used to the idea that because of COVID 19 we’re going to have to bail out a lot of companies.  I’m not necessarily against that, but I want to talk about the big guys.  At this writing oil is -$40/barrel, yes they will pay you $40 to take a barrel of oil off their hands.  My crystal ball says this eventually will require a bailout, as will the airline situation, as will may other large multinational companies.  I am all for saving jobs and keeping America working but if you’re going to take my tax dollars and give it to a company to save it, I think they should have paid some taxes over the last few years.

How about this, if you need a bailout and your gross revenue is greater than…well pick a number, then your bailout can only be some percent of the average taxes you paid for the last three years.

I don’t know about you, but I pay taxes every year.  I don’t, in my role of taxpayer, share in the profits of these companies when they are booming, it seems ludicrous that I should be seeming to continuously bail these guys out for free whenever they come begging.

As a nation, we need to either share in their profits in the good times as taxes or, when the bottom drops out, you can muddle through as best you can, maybe sell your Jet.

Stop Trying to Make Biden Happen, or Why Not Bernie, Why Not Warren

So it’s pretty obvious that the high muckity mucks of the Democratic party want Biden to happen, just like they wanted Hillary to happen.  It seems like this is swimming the wrong way in a rip current to me.  Why try to take a colorless candidate like Biden, or even like in 2016, an unpopular candidate like Clinton, and back them to the exclusion of all else?

Ok, last time it was at least partially because they arrogantly thought there was no way the other guy could win…maybe, and maybe this time they are again misreading the depth of fed-up-atude in the voters.  Health care, wage gap, student debt, drug cost, energy…Republican or Democrat, all promises and band aids.

Why back Biden?  My bet is that he is the candidate who has the most to lose by changing the status quo.  He’s gotten money from all the major players, he’s been at this a long time and has never really stood up to big lobby. If you let Bernie Sanders, or Elizabeth Warren run and they win, the apple cart that has been political funding for decades might get upset.  Make no mistake, both parties are working for their parties not the people, they are competing for who get the most lobby slush, not to clean it up.  So what the Democrats what is a nice friendly, middle of the road, well know face with few scandals and is fully invested in the corporate influence machine of the party…not some reckless reformer who might kill the golden goose…and pay no attention to those torches and pitchforks.

The Other Price of Freedom

Let’s talk about the other price of freedom. Many of us have people who have served in the military, fathers, brothers, sons, and daughters. Some have died or had their lives changed forever by terrible injuries or memories. It’s certainly easy to see this price for our freedom, it’s pointed out all the time to motivate this or that action or behavior… but there is another price, one that it seems less and less people are willing to pay. It is the price of our safety.
It’s a risk to give your neighbor the freedom to be different from you, but if we don’t pay this price, if we don’t sacrifice our safety, a price that is sometimes paid in blood and violence at home, then neither your neighbor nor you are truly free. You may not like that your neighbor is gay and lives with his partner, or that she is a Muslim and wears her hijab to the store. You may not like it that he burns the flag, HIS flag on HIS front lawn. You may not like the confederate flag in his pickup truck, or that she’s disrespectful to your religion, or our country. That said, if we are a free county it all needs to be allowed.
We all have to follow the law, we should all treat each other with decency, but that doesn’t always happen, and we can’t be both free and safe. Sure, those who step over the line need to be found and punished, it is a travesty that some of the perpetrators of some of the most infamous violence against blacks in the 60’are just now being found out. When actual planned violence can be seen coming it should be stopped, but you can’t just ostracize a whole people because some of them MIGHT be dangerous, what kind of freedom is that, and how long before this preemptive justice is applied to you.
Allowing you only the freedom to do what I like is no freedom at all.


It’s a new year and one of my resolutions is to give this woefully neglected blog a little more attention.  So what have I decided to write about on this auspicious kick off you ask?  Well I’ve decided to write about:

The shiny new health insurance policy we have been blessed with this year.  My employer, and in their defense this is a national trend,  has switched us to a HSA/High deductible plan.  It saves a little on your premium, it saves a lot on the company’s premium, and you can save up for when you get sick since the HSA or “health savings account” can roll over into next year if you don’t use it.  This sounds good right?  We’re pretty healthy, well here comes the sticker shock.  Since you will be paying 100% of the first $3000 you might be surprised to find out that the doctor visit is between $60 and $90.  Multiply that  times how ever many are in your family and it adds up fast.  Now just suppose you need a prescription every month, thyroid around $160 per month, suppose you have a child with ADD, $330 per month, suppose you have more than one.  You’ll burn through that $3000 pretty fast this year…and next year and the year after.

The move to shift health care costs off of employers is national, and I can’t say it’s bad, but the shift to the employee is awful.  I can afford this, or at least it won’t break me, but what about all the people just getting by?  Obamacare was supposed to fix this but it seems like it just made it OK for employers to shift the costs faster.  Wages are stagnant, costs are going up, this system is going to crash and crash hard.  The sad part is it doesn’t have to be this way.

The Fun Size

Well, it’s the day after Halloween and we are left with the “cushion” of several bags of candy that we got just in case the handful of trick or treaters that make it down our 200 yard driveway somehow morphed into a shuffling mob of candy zombies. Well they didn’t so I’m here in my office mustering the courage to set all that chocolate free…unfortunately some of the “Fun Size” bars aren’t going to make it, I am weak!

In the course of my culling of the candy herd, I have notice that the Fun Size bars are…thinner. I think they are the same length and height, the wrapper is even the same size, but the thinner bar has a lot more freedom in the wrapper than it used to. I can only assume that:

  1. They have managed to pack more fun in a smaller package.
  2. They have reduced the fun by about 20%.
  3. There have been cases of too much fun in years past and thank god now we have some regulation.

I suspect it’s number 1 because I seem to be here in my chair just jittering to go release some of this stored fun.  Apparently they contain plenty.  An informal poll of parents of small children indicate that there has been no reduction of wall bouncing fun.  Well I gotta go.

“The Question” and Yo Mama

If our society is to continue with any resemblance to what we think of as traditional American Society, we, as a people, need to start using “The Question.”  The Question is what you should ask yourself when given a choice or opportunity. It’s a simple thing really, you turn to yourself and ask, “Is this the right thing to do?”

I’ve had long talks with one of my more conservative coworkers about this and he tends to get hung up defining answer, but I contend that the important part is that you ask, with heartfelt sincerity, The Question. The answer, born of whatever rationalizations you can convince yourself of, is for you to work out. For instance, we’d like to give you $30M a year to be our CEO…is this right for the company, for myself, for my family, for the country? Can I justify my taking money that could go to hard working employees or for growing the company?

How about this, if I lay off a division of my company my bottom line will be high enough this year to get a big, multimillion dollar bonus. Is this good for the long term life of the company, or will short term gain benefit me at the cost of many. If you can convince yourself it’s right than do it, the answer to The Question is not nearly as important to society as that you asked, wrestled a little and then decided on an answer you believe to be honest. There are too many situations to make rules, but we have to find a way to institute a societal effort to do the right thing, an expectation that everyone is doing what they think is best. Think about this, if we disagree with someone, say a company president, a politician, or and insurance adjuster, but you believe they are doing their best to answer The Question, we are far more likely to cooperated to find a way to work together.

How is this different from what we have now? After all, we have laws and rules. True, but is it legal, or will I get in trouble, are not questions upon which a good society is built. Game theory has shown time and again that cooperation is mutually beneficial to all, individual benefit at the cost of others is a short term, unsustainable approach…unless you have so much power that others are forced to play on your terms. There have always been those who take at all costs, it’s just that now many of these individuals are out of reach of society as a whole. Worse, the example is bleeding down into society in general and the altruistic are seen as chumps.

Hence, part 2 of our problem, the Mama. If you are in a position of power, wealth or authority, and you are using it to acquire more power, wealth, or authority without asking “The Question,” your Mama should be calling you up and telling you, “Son (or daughter), you are shaming me by taking advantage of all those people.” Instead, it’s more like, “we are so proud of our son (or daughter), they are doing so well, look at what they bought me.”

I’ve tried to teach my kids that doing the right thing has a cost. It might be that you don’t take that last dollar for something you’re selling, but instead ask for a fair return. It might be that you give something back that you don’t have to, like the wrong change at the supermarket; the cashier might have to make your “windfall” up out of her pitiful pay. It might be that you don’t take all of that raise you are offered because the gas prices are hitting the lower wage workers harder than you. It might be that you are injured or even killed trying to help someone.

Sure we’ll get hammered by some opportunistic scum from time to time, but eventually they will be found socially unacceptable, instead of being held up as examples of captains of industry. We can’t wait for others to change, we can only change ourselves…and put pressure on those around us.

We, as a people, need to hold those who are willing ask “The Question” and to pay that price in esteem, instead of that they are somehow naive chumps, so our mama can call us up and say good job, I’m proud of you.


Well, the dirt eatin’, ears ringin’, heart poundin’ season opened last Friday. Yup, the 2008 season started at the local 3/8’s mile dirt track. As it happens, I share a stock car, ol’ 94, with another guy and we trade off driving. I gotta say, it’s more fun than humans should have.

This is our third year, and I have to tell you that stock car driving is one of those things that looks easy from the stands but really takes some getting used to when you are in the fast chair.

For starters, you can’t see. That’s probably the biggest difference between stock car racing and just going fast on the road. You have on a helmet, which may be tied to your seat, so you can’t turn your head. Instead of glass you have screen in the windshield and net in the side window, not bad when you get used to it but at first it’s hard to see through it. There are no mirrors, you kind of “use the force” to know somebody is coming up behind you, and come they do! You think you’re just flying, “wow mom look how fast I’m goin’,” and all of the sudden swoosh, a car passes you like you’re stopped.

All your instincts are wrong too. Suppose you’re on the freeway, and there is a car on each side of you but just say a fender length ahead of you. Now suppose the freeway narrows down to two lanes and the two cars begin to move into your lane. Well of course you’ll back off the gas and shift back behind them, defensive driving and all that… well not on the track, if you’re on a good line and headed into a corner, you push on the gas. It’s ok to rub a little and you can rub your way right past them because you’re on the fastest line through the turn, assuming you don’t all spin. And you haven’t lived until you’ve spun in the middle of a pack of cars.

Now since I share driving, I also share watching. You see a lot of interesting people in the stands. Of course there are the experts who have never been in a race, but they’re just boring. The amusing people are the ones, usually crew or family, who sit in the pit stands and try to give signals to their driver. Now I can tell you, in the car you don’t even SEE people in the stands, they are just something not to hit. There’s too much going on to see somebody waving their hands around off the track. The funniest though is when they try to signal the driver to pass, just what the hell do they think he’s doing out there. There is really only three things the driver is trying to do:

1. Pass the guy in front of him.

2. Don’t get passed by the guy behind him.

3. Don’t smash up the car, at least not real bad.

Pretty much in that order.

Now I would never tell them that their driver can’t see them, in fact I’ve advised them that they most certainly can be seen but they have to make the signals big, REALLY BIG! Heck, now it’s almost like watching one of those modern dance routines.


The large red welts are finally healing. I took a bunch of Boy Scouts and their friends paint balling the other day. My youngest son had been blowing the whole week about how he hadn’t taken a direct hit the last time we were there, just splatter. Well we went to get his girlfriend, who was going with us, and he started telling her the same old tired story. I told her, “he’s been like this all week, don’t stand too close to him cause he’s got a target painted on him and he’s going down.”

So, there I was, my son on one side and me on the other in a 3 on 3. I told the other two guys that my boy was all mine. The only thing I hadn’t planned for was I had loaned my heavy shirt to his girl, who had only worn a T-shirt, which left me in…. a T-shirt.

The attack started, I moved up well. My boy and I were trading fire but neither of us could get a hit. I decided to take drastic action. I charged, gun blazing (can a paintball gun blaze?). We traded fire getting closer and closer, and finally I achieved my goal, my son had experienced “several” close range, direct hits, at the cost of several for myself. In the normal way of men, I feigned indifference to where I was hit and made my way back to the dead box. I am here to confess to you though, IT HURT LIKE HELL!! He nailed me good and with only my light T-shirt, I might as well have been naked. Paintballs make these goofy rings when they hit you, and I actually had bleeding rings on my chest side and belly. Did I stop? Nah, after a few minutes they got numb (till the next day) and the testosterone poisoning kicked in I went a couple of more rounds, after all, I’ll heal.

A one legged man in a gas kickin’ contest

We were driving around on a shopping trip on Saturday and finally I had to suffer the painful process of purchasing gas for my Trialblazer. Yes, I drive an SUV but come on, I live in the mountains of West Virginia, if I can’t justify it who can, and every trip to the pump makes me reevaluate the wisdom of that choice. Believe it or not though, this is not a rant about gas prices, or pollution or any of that stuff, this is a piece on plain old embarrassment, not everyday embarrassment but the mortification so terrible that you have to look around and see if anyone you know has seen what happened. Alas, I am happy to say I was only a witness, not the subject of this experience.

So, there we were, having used the pay at the pump, we were in our car, freshly fueled and ready to go. We were on the self service lane just outside of the first line of pumps. The inside lane, the one between the first line and the station, I noticed, was that ever rarer echo from the past, a “full service lane.” We were checking out list and deciding where we needed to go next when someone pulled into the full service lane. These days one might expect someone to pull in there to run into the station to buy something, or get out to check a tire, but they just sat in their car and waited. This in itself caught my attention, but only as an odd thing. We continued to check off our list to see if the “shopping” experience could come mercifully to an end and we could begin the two hour trek home. In the door appeared the station attendant coming to pump our neighbor’s gas, but this was not some fresh faced young high school kid, in the door stood a tall withered octogenarian. Yes folks, here was a man so old he probably remembered when transportation ran on hay, eager to serve what I now noticed was a woman of about 30. Then I noticed the old man’s walker, and as he moved toward the car, his odd gait drew attention to his lack of a left leg.

Now, imagine if you will, a thirtysomething woman pulls up to the full service pump at an unfamiliar gas station and an ancient, one legged man with a walker, spends an eternity negotiating the distance to and around your car to pump your gas, check your oil, and wash your windows, while you, a healthy woman it the prime of your years are now trapped in you car, force to endure his services. He is in the way now, you can’t back out and move to self service. You can’t even remember whatever impuse led you to choose full service today. All you can do is endure and tell yourself, “I AM a good person, I am NOT a calous insensitive creton.” As the man slide-hopped around her car, I had a good view between the pumps, of her deer in the headlight eyes looking more trapped by the minute. For a long time I couldn’t leave, finally, we had to go because after 15 minutes he was still working to fulfill his tasks faithfully. As we were leaving the woman became aware she was not alone with her faithful attendant. She noticed us watching and put her head in her hands, I think she was weeping.

Don’t Tase me bro

So, they tased a student at a University of Florida political Campus Forum. What were they thinking?! I first think of poor old Hubert Humphrey who lost his chance (and a pretty good chance at that) for the presidency, because outside of the 1968 Democratic National Convention, Chicago’s finest were beating the snot out of anti-war protesters on LIVE TV! Hard to concentrate on speeches and posturing when young people are being beaten with sticks. I’m sure fellow Democrats were grateful to Mayor Richard Daley for preserving the peace, and sinking the party’s presidential aspirations.

Meanwhile, John Kerry, like old Hubert, in the special spirit of Homeland Security, has more help than he can stand. It is impossible for him not to be painted by this incident, even though he had no power to change its course.

The police are saying the videos paint a false picture and that the student was much more disruptive than it appears, but come on people, this was a Campus Forum, you should expect some confrontation. If it was at a meeting of the League of Women Voters, or the Rotary Club, maybe, but Universities have always been the seat of political challenge. If a politician doesn’t want to be called to account, maybe even rudely (though I don’t think that ever furthers one’s goals), he should talk to the Kiwanis, and the police should behave accordingly.

We had a generation of Police who were raised during the “War at Home” protests during the Vietnam War. Before entering law enforcement, these young people saw their peers, and sometimes experienced for themselves, inappropriate responses of law enforcement. When they became the Law, they tended to have a measured response. Now a new generation of law enforcement, without this experience, is coming into its own. This is particularly unfortunate in light of the Homeland Security trends. We once again hear that old chestnut, “they have nothing to fear if they aren’t doing anything wrong.” Well, we’ll see. For myself, I might invest in a pair of insulated, rubber, long johns, the video makes tasers sound like they hurt.

Women’s rugby

My daughter plays rugby at college. I worry about her a little, it is a FULL contact sport, but I see the confidence and self reliance it builds in her and wonder where it will take her throughout her life. The women of her generation are going to be a different sort than the women from generations before. I helped to coach high school girl’s soccer so I saw some of these girls up close.

These are not the rare woman athletes of days gone past, these are the everygirls at the school. Today’s everygirl is tough. They face the world with the determination to work for what they want. It’s not just the athletes either, the attitude of being themselves is pervasive. The old idea that a smart girl isn’t attractive is not the norm, helpless women are out.

I once told my daughter that girls could do anything. At the time I didn’t think rugby would be one of those things, but good for her, and I think in the long run, good for us. If women can have the confidence to step out and fulfill their potential, and society has the maturity to accept them, what can it do but benefit us all. I am an engineer. Any time I have worked beside a talented woman, her insights and ideas, coming from a much different angle than my testosterone soaked approaches, have always been valuable.

So parents, support your daughters, whether in sports, academics, the arts, whatever…the world is changing. We all will thank you

Something to say

I remember when I was a kid and really really wanted a tape recorder so I could record stuff.  In the fullness of time my Dad got one and it was with great excitement I took it into my room, ready to say profound things.  I laid it on the bed, pick up the microphone, and turned it on.  Then after a few minutes I turned it off again.  I sat there for a bit and turned it on again.  Then I turned it off.  It took a few times before I realized that I had nothing to say, even to myself.  I’m hoping that will not be the case here.  The internet is a powerful forum that seems to be full of crackpots.  Those of us who would like to try and make positive changes find ourselves…suddenly speechless.  Anyone who knows me knows I am NOT a man of few words so I will try to be concise and insightful.