3635– Sunday, May 19, 2019

Good morning rain.  One thing we get lots of up here is rain.  Nice cold stormy days with pouring down drenching rain.  Even going out with a raincoat, you will get soaked to the skin.  We seldom see these great rainy days in Arizona and I always miss them.  Coming back to Wisconsin, I get to greet each of these days with the gratitude that they inspire in me.  You may wonder “Why does John love cold stormy rainy days?”  Days that make farmers and sunshine people like my wife Karen miserable.  The answer all goes back to when I was a child.

stormy night

On a nice day, I can still hear my father shouting: “Get your ass outside and go play, its too nice to be inside!”  Or he might have been sending me out to do some yard work or other chore.  However, on a nice stormy cold rainy day, I could curl up on my bed, watch the raindrops pelt my bedroom window and read one of my favorite books.  No one would bother me, and I well remember the feeling of heavenly bliss that would descend on my any time one of those days graced the sky.  I am 72 years old and still get that feeling.

One of my dad’s favorite comments was “If your so smart, why aren’t you rich?”  I have spent many years finding evidence in my life and the lives of others that there is often as not little correlation between being rich and being smart.  Unfortunately, it would seem that my father’s credo has become embedded or should I say enshrined in American life.  It is practically a gospel belief today that “prosperity” is ordained by god and being rich is a sign that god blesses you.  Proof of this is credo is evident in the many comments one heard from those who backed Trump for president.  “How could he be wrong, if he is so rich.”  “He is a billionaire.”  “I trust him because he has so much money.”  There is little doubt that our current president also believes strongly in this creed:

“You know, a great friend of mine from New York, he’s a stone-cold killer. He’s a brutal man. He’s actually not even a good friend of mine because he’d turn on me in two seconds if it was (inaudible). (Laughter.) But he’s a very rich guy. And he said, “What are you going to speak about today? Like, what are you going to speak?” I said, “I don’t know. I don’t know.”  — Donald Trump at Conservative Political Action Conference, March 3, 2019

My good friend and current house guest (still asleep after a long night of arguing with me) believes that business and morality should go together.  “Should” being the word that I find very problematic.  Lots of things in this world “Should” happen, but will they happen?  I am a pragmatist.  Business is amoral.  A dollar bill is green.  It is not blue or red.  It knows no political, religious, moral or ethical persuasion.  It rises and fall with economic laws such as the Law of Supply and Demand or the Law of Scarcity or the Law of Cost Benefits or the Law of Incentives.

Should employers pay employees a higher wage?  Should manufacturers keep prices as low as possible?  Should companies sell more American goods?  Should businesses tell the truth in marketing products and services?  These questions remind me of the reply that we all tell our children when they holler “But it is not fair.”  And we reply “Yes, but life is not fair.”  Well, grow up people, business is not about being fair, it is about that green dollar and how can they get more of it.

The economic laws of business and capitalism require a balancing mechanism.  That is why we need “Government of the people, by the people and FOR the people.”  Not FOR the corporation or FOR the conglomerate or FOR the industry or FOR the business, but FOR the people.  At least one of our great presidents believed this, but today too many of our leaders have forgotten this wisdom and of course you and I both know why.  So, I will save that discussion for another time.  Enough pontificating today, time to put my galoshes on and go splash in the rain.

“There is a sufficiency in the world for man’s need but not for man’s greed.”  —  Mahatma Gandhi

3637 – Friday, May 17, 2019

Ahh life!  Told Karen when we got back to Wisconsin, I did not want to see anyone or have any visitors or guests for at least a month.  Time for us to get settled in, relax and get the house back together.  Not to mention and fight the mouse wars.  Which, while we are on the subject, I think may be over.  I am almost ready to proclaim VICTORY!.  Twelve mouse traps in the house and 16 around the outside of our house.  I settled on a “perimeter defense” as the best strategy for winning the war and it may be working.

mouse traps

I went to our local hardware store and came home with something like 40 mouse traps the day we found the mouse in our bed.  I put up our “army” of traps.  I kept several in reserve.  That night NOTHING.  The next day after I came back from my library group, I walked in and I could not believe my eyes.  Sitting on TOP of a trap was this cute fuzzy little grey mouse happily eating his crunchy peanut butter.  I tried to grab a broom but was too slow and he ran into Karen’s sewing room.  I quickly shut the door.  I then went into our bedroom and noticed a sprung mouse trap.  I figured the mouse had eaten the bait out of that trap and then went for the second one.  I flipped the trap over and low and behold, there was a dead mouse in it.  I was overjoyed.   One for two, or fifty percent was not bad.  I disposed of the dead guy or girl and debated on tactics for the trapped mouse.  I decided to stick two fresh traps into the room and quickly shut the door.  I figured that unless there was another way out of the room, he/she would get hungry and hopefully the trap would work.

I called Karen and told her the above facts and that under no circumstances was she to open the sewing room door.  We waited several hours after she came home and later that evening, I slowly opened the sewing room door to peak in.  Defying my belief, was one sprung trap and one deceased mouse.  My joy was beyond description.  It has now been almost two days and none of my other traps either inside or outside have been sprung.  Is it too soon to proclaim victory?

Returning to the subject of NO visitors.  We had one friend over for dinner last week.  She was driving through town and “How could we refuse?”  Today we are having two friends over for the weekend.  They want to visit a local maker of Tiny Homes and it is a 200-mile trip for them to come here, so “how could we refuse?”  After they leave on Sunday, we have another pair of friends who are coming to see us to exchange birthday presents.  Not sure why we are doing this exchange now, but “you guessed it”, “How could we refuse?”

After our last pair of guests leave, I am going to toss my cell phone in Coon Lake so that I cannot get any calls from anyone and put up a NO VISITORS sign.

There are reasons I can understand for hermits and ornery old people.  Both would seem to be strategies for keeping people away.

I am just hoping that none of our guests are treated to the sight of a plump grey mouse on their beds.

By the way, I suggested to Karen that since many people have cats, dogs, hamsters and other pets, we could simply call her bedroom mouse friend “Fluffy” and treat her as a sort of house guest.   Calling her or possible him Fluffy, seems to dignify the idea of a mouse on our bed somewhat.  Karen opted for the traps instead.

“Every house guest brings you happiness. Some when they arrive, and some when they are leaving.”  — Confucius

 

3639 – Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Shoulder hurts this morning.  Just when I thought I was over the shoulder pains; I seem to have aggravated them again.  Maybe it was chasing the stupid mouse around yesterday.  Last year when we got back to Frederic, we did not have a mouse problem.  This year, moth balls, dryer sheets, altoids, sonic mouse repellents and even a fake over-sized owl that I left in the basement did not work.  Caught three mice on Sunday after being here for two weeks and thinking that maybe they had gone back to the woods.  We did find evidence of mouse habitation when we returned but no mice.  We assumed we were home free.  Such is not the case.

Karen screamed yesterday and in broad daylight, one was sitting in the middle of our bed.  I chased him but he was too quick.  He seems to be hiding under the refrigerator and will not come out.  I now have 12 (that’s right 12) mouse traps baited with some nice fresh peanut butter (the crunchy kind) strategically located around the house.  As of yet, he or she does not seem enticed enough because the traps were still empty this morning.  So, while the world worries about China tariffs and a looming war with Iran, I am focusing on mice.  I wonder if I could get the morons running our foreign policy to start a war on mice.

Over my 72 some odd years, I have noticed that my country has had a sort of love hate relationship with Asians.  We love them for awhile and then we wage a war against them.  We like them and then we don’t like them.  We fought the North Koreans and then we fought the Chinese during our war against the North Koreans.  We fought the Vietnamese.  We fought the Filipinos.  We fought the Japanese.  We allowed millions of Chinese to enter the US to help build railroads and then we enacted the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 because we had finished building the railroads and now had too many of them.  We allowed millions of Japanese into the US and during WW II we took their land and homes away and put them into “internment” camps.  We love them and then we hate them.

We love inexpensive products from China, but the news beats a drum of the inscrutable Chinese taking our jobs away and stealing our patents.  China takes the top spot among foreign creditors at $1.123 trillion, followed by Japan, at $1.042 trillion, as of December 2018.  We love their money, but we hate them.  You have only to search Amazon to look at all the titles that herald a coming war with China.  It almost seems like we cannot have an honest competition with anyone without eventually waging a war against them.  Now we have a war of tariffs being waged because of a total failure of foreign policy.  And like all wars that we eventually engage in, the media are 100 percent behind it.  While the idiots in government rail against the cupidity of the Chinese and the need for retaliation, the media go out of their way to support a coming war, be it trade or military.

U.S. Takes Aim At $300 Billion In Chinese Imports for Higher Tariffs — TIME

China Is Losing the Trade War with Trump — WSJ

Broad Support for Trump’s China Fight Faces Test as Tariffs Escalate – WSJ

The same was true with both Iraq Wars, with the Korean War and with the Vietnam War.  You could see any of these wars building up for months before we finally sent troops in.  And where were our leaders (either Democrats or Republicans) during these marches to war?  I will tell you where they were; they were beating each other up to see who could be more patriotic while they played the march to war on their constituents’ drums.

It does not matter whether it is an economic war or a military war, it is always the same.  First, we demonize the “other”; then we find ways that we are supposedly hurt by their perfidies.  When we have enough of the public convinced that they mean to harm us, then we attack.  We attack with economic sanctions and if these do not work, then we send in the troops.  The troops consist of honest hardworking citizens who have been convinced by their leaders and the media that they are doing the work of God and country.  We will call these warriors heroes and anoint a few of the ones who die in these wars with medals and flags.

Well, I need to get back to check my mouse traps.

“But I believe in fair trade, and I will tell you, I have many, many friends heading up corporations, and people that do just business in China, they say it’s virtually impossible. It’s very, very hard to come into China. And yet, we welcome them with open arms.” — Donald Trump

“China will always remain the builder of world peace, a contributor to global development, and upholder of international order.” — Xi Jinping

 

 

 

 

3641 – Monday, May 13, 2019

I had a great weekend.  Took Karen out for a Mother’s Day brunch at the Indian Head Restaurant in Balsam Lake.  Food was excellent.  It was a good thing that we had reservations because they were packed.  Coincidentally, Manfred Schonauer was playing there.  We had just been to Manfred’s Pipe Dream Music Center Saturday Night to see his “Peace, Love and Understanding Concert.”  Manfred lives in Comstock, Wisconsin.  The only bad thing about going to hear Manfred and his friends play is the drive home.  It is a very rural area between Comstock and Frederic.  You have to be extremely vigilant and keep your eyes peeled for deer or you will be wearing deer on your car.  We counted four separate groups of deer for a total of six deer on our way back to our home in Frederic at 9 PM.

Manfred is a unique individual and a treasure for the area.  He is a fantastic musician who epitomizes what I think are the two key qualities of greatness, whether for a performer, writer, artist, musician, chef, worker or business owner.  These two key qualities are passion and joy in their undertaking.  Watch any great singer or artist and you will see that when they work, they work with a dedication and intensity that goes beyond the norm.  The put their heart and soul into everything they do.  They strive for the peaks rather than just the average.  Nothing but their best will satisfy them.  But and this is a big but, despite their hours of practice, their intensity and their passion, they always seem to have fun with their efforts.  While many of us see such labors as a potential for mistakes and errors, people like Manfred are having too much fun with what they are doing to worry about the occasional errors or mistakes.  You can see this in the smiles on their faces.

Two things I really enjoy are food and music.  I once was living near a bakery in Eau Claire, Wisconsin, with some of the best pastry I had ever tasted.  One day when the bakery had some cannolis, (one of my favorite Italian pastries), I asked to speak to the baker.  Now I could understand having great Swedish pastry in Eau Claire, but I was surprised at finding great Italian pastry.  When the baker/owner came out, I told him how wonderful I thought all his pastries were and I asked him how he found his recipes.  He told me that once a year, he took a two-week vacation and he traveled all over the US, going to the best bakeries and talking to the bakers at each of these establishments.  He said that he loved finding new recipes and sharing his recipes in a quid pro quo.  This was a man who clearly had a passion and joy for what he was doing.

A few days ago, some of the guys at the library were complaining that at a local restaurant, they had some of the worst sausage gravy and biscuits in their lives.  Why, I wondered, would a restaurant serve something mediocre in a relatively inexpensive dish?  Have you ever had macaroni and cheese or a cheeseburger that uses a cheap generic cheese?  For just a little more money you can use an excellent two- or three-year aged cheddar.  You will be able to tell the difference and the difference will determine whether you have a great serving or an average serving.  Why not use the best you can?  We are not talking about a lot of money here.

The difference is more attitude than money.  It is more caring about what you do and wanting to do the best you can, whether it is performing, cooking or simply waiting on a customer.  How often have you been to a business where it seems like they wished you had stayed home?  “Don’t bother me, I am busy, I have no time for customers.”

I have been to many average restaurants and several wonderful restaurants. I almost always find that the best restaurants are family owned and not chains.  I also find that the owners are on-site making sure that everything is cooked right and that all the guests are very satisfied.  It is not unusual for the owner to stop at tables and check to see how things are going for their guests.  The average restaurants will have a survey on your table.  The poor restaurants will not even have a survey.  Greatness involves really caring about what you do.

“Greatness comes by doing a few small and smart things each and every day. Comes from taking little steps, consistently. Comes from making a few small chips against everything in your professional and personal life that is ordinary, so that a day eventually arrives when all that’s left is The Extraordinary.” — Robin S. Sharma

 

 

 

3644 – Friday, May 10, 2019

Going to take my Honda in for a checkup this morning.  The suspension seems rough and I think it might need shocks and struts.  It has 235,000 miles on it, but the motor and transmission run well.  I think it is a gamble to spend any money on it as it is a 2009 car.  However, as with all things in life, one calculates an intuitive cost benefit analysis and decides based on the risk.  New cars costing what they do, I think it is worth the risk if I can get another 100,000 miles out of the vehicle.  If not, well that is why they call it risk.

Later this evening, we are going to a community banquet that presents awards to the Frederic Volunteer of the Year, the Citizen of the Year and the Business of the Year.  Each recipient gets an award but not before being regaled by several friends or co-workers.  In a sort of a “roast” format, the friends and/or co-workers provide some narrative (often very funny) on how the recipient has helped or contributed to the community.  It is all done in fun and well-meaning towards the award winner.  The banquet starts at 6 PM and will probably go until 9 PM or later.  Karen and I have attended four or five of these award dinners since moving up to Frederic in 2010.

We enjoy attending them because we get to hear some great stories about our neighbors which are both heart warming and inspirational.  Many of the winners do so much for the community with no thought of recompense or that they will ever be recognized.  In an age, when there seems so much bad news and stories of avarice and greed, hearing what some people are doing to help their neighbors instills me with hope for humanity.

My in-between time (between garage and banquet) will consist of going to the library for coffee and to find out how the Trade Lake Meeting on CAFO’s (Concentrated animal feeding operations went).  They are planning to build a 9000-capacity hog farm up in our neighborhood and many of the local citizens do not want it in their back yard.  Last night they held a meeting to discuss concerns and issues regarding the establishment of this feed operation.  I was too tired to go, and I don’t choose to make a battle out of this problem until I find out more about the pros and cons.  So far, it seems like it is mostly cons.  High risk with little gain for the local farmers and residents.

We have a group of local guys who get together each morning at the Frederic library.  The library provides the coffee and between three to a dozen of us get together daily to solve the problems of the world.  Karen has snidely noted that women’s groups typically meet only once per week while our “guy” group meets every day from 10 to 12 and then after the “regular” meeting some of us go out to lunch together to continue our conversations.  Without her saying it, I know she is thinking: “How is that women are thought to be the gossipy ones.”  I just tell her that there are many complex problems in the world and that Frederic men are ready to solve them all; if only we could agree on a solution. 😊

After library time, I will then head home to read a little and perhaps decide what I will fix on the travel trailer.  I have a few minor repair jobs to do on it.  I have been waiting for the weather to warm up before tackling any outside work.  I went out yesterday for a run and it was 33 degrees with a brisk wind.  My ears started to freeze or at least feel like they were freezing.  It is taking us some time to get used to the colder weather here in Wisconsin after coming from Arizona.

I hear a voice out in the darkness,

It cries and whispers through the pines.

I know it’s fate a calling,

I hear her through the winds of time.

It’s clear she wants to see me soon,

A need that echoes in my mind.

3645 – Thursday, May 9, 2019

Going to see our financial adviser at Edmund Jones today to setup some type of account to cover burial costs.  This was Karen’s idea and I reluctantly agreed.  You might think it was my idea, but it was not.  Next Thursday we are finally going to have a will made up.  This was also something that Karen wanted, and I have dragged my feet on for years.  Funny, how many people have tried to convince me that I will live longer than 3645 days.  Try telling people that you know how long you will live and see what they say.  Are we dealing here with optimism or denial?  I wonder what they will all say when I pass?  What do you think they will say about you when you pass?  Think of five things you are sure they will say.  I dare you.  It is not easy.

countdown clock

Woke up this morning to snow and not sunshine.  Will go out for a run as soon as my motivation level rises.  I am doing a two on, one off, running schedule.  Run two days, take a break.  Today is my second day, tomorrow I take a break.  Over the years, I have run a variety of schedules:  two-one, three-one, one on, one off.  It does not really seem to matter much what schedule I run on; I generally end up running about 60 percent of the days in a given month.  I try to average about thirty minutes per run.  Some months I average 40 minutes or more and other months, I average about 25 or so.  I call it a maintenance schedule rather than a goal driven schedule.  I simply want to maintain my present level of fitness as long as possible.  I am not going to win any Olympic gold medals, so why train as though I am a peak athlete.  I did take two first places in 5k’s last year.  Only because I was the only one in the 70-year-old age group in one.  The other one was more legitimate since I did have some competition.

Woke up this morning, thinking about change.  Sometimes we accept the possibility of change and other times we reject it.   Seems to me that sometimes we accept the possibility when it is only wishful thinking.  Such as some thinking that Donald Trump was going to be a good president and that he was only kidding about things he would do when he was running.  In this case, I use the metaphor that the leopard does not change its spots.  In other cases, we believe that change is possible, and it seems to me that in some of these cases it is hopeful thinking.  We hope that someone can see the error of their ways or that they will wake up and realize that their life is going in the wrong direction.  Such thinking may be realistic as people can and do change.  Is there a difference between wishful thinking and hopeful thinking?  I think there is.

I think something must happen for people to change.  Something precipitates change in people.  Maybe I am wrong, but without some causal factors, I do not think people are going to change.  My sister has been hoping for many years that someday her husband would retire, and they could take more vacations or travel more together. I just talked to her yesterday and she now seems on the verge of accepting that this wonderful dream is not going to happen.  I have thought for years that she was denying reality, but she kept right on being hopeful.   He has recently taken another full-time job at the age of 68 and seems to have no desire to travel or pack his suitcase to see the world.  I think my sister is going to have to wake up and smell the roses all by herself or find some friends to travel with.  That is reality and all the hoping in the world is not going to change it.

So, when to hold them and when to fold them is still the big question for many of us in life or as they say in AA:

God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
Courage to change the things I can,
And wisdom to know the difference.

 

3646 – Wednesday, May 8, 2019

My childhood school years were from 1952 to 1964.  I left high school in May of 1964 at age 17 and joined the United States Air force in October of 1964 at age 18.  Back when I was in school, we did not have school shootings, we did not talk back to our teachers, bullying was not a school program and parents did not walk their kids to school or stand at the bus stop until it arrived.

If I had come home from school and told my father that a teacher had been mean to me or even hit me, my father would have asked what I did to deserve it.  Today, if a kid comes home and tells their parents “My teacher was unfair to me,” the parent is likely to call the school principal and request a sit-down meeting with the teacher and the principal.  The parent might even retain a lawyer to get the school to agree to be fairer to her/his little Johnnie or Jane.

Back when I was in school, after school we would go to the park or playground or some nearby field and depending on the season, play football or baseball.  We did not have our mom or dad driving us all over the state to games, tournaments and competitions with teams from other states.  We did not have parents worried that we would not have a high enough batting average to qualify for a state scholarship.  We did not have coaches telling us that we had to choose between attending practice or going to Mother’s day dinner with our mom and grandmother.

A few weeks ago, I was substitute teaching for four days in a Social Studies class.  The teacher had gone to a conference.  I was left written instructions by the regular teacher for each class but for the third period class I could come up with my own assignment.  The students in the third period were dealing with current political issues.  I winged it the first day, but I went home that night and developed an assignment that put two students together on a team to run for mayor and vice mayor of Casa Grande.   Each team of two had to develop a campaign poster and address what they would do for the city in terms of education and economics.  In addition, they had to address current political hot issues such as gay marriage, transgender bathrooms, building a border wall and a few others.  They got to choose from a slate of ten “hot” issues and they had to speak to how they would deal with these issues if they were elected.

On day three of my substitute class, a guy walked into my third period class with black jeans and a black t-shirt marked security.  He started going through my desk (borrowed of course from the regular teacher).  I asked him what he was looking for.  He said he wanted to see my lesson plans.  I showed him the plans and he asked who said I could teach this unit?  I told him the regular teacher had given me permission to develop my own lesson plan.  He then said “You can’t do that.  You are not the regular teacher.”  I politely asked him what he objected to and he said “Some of these topics are inappropriate.  A parent had called up to complain and we have a big problem on our hands.”  I said I would be happy to remove any subjects or topics that he disliked but I noted that most of them were from a “contemporary” issues folder that was on the regular teacher’s desk.  He said that did not matter since I was not the regular teacher. He struck out six of the ten issues and told me to replace them with some less controversial issues.

A few hours later, the head of the Social Studies department came in while I was having lunch and wanted to know what the heck was going on.  The regular teacher (at conference) was getting phone calls from parents and was confused and upset.  I explained my lesson plan again and discussed the changes made after my meeting with Security.  Somewhat satisfied the department head left, but not before telling me that my plans to have students vote for the winning teams could not take place as I had described to the students.  I had told the class that I was going to give the first-place team ten dollars and the second-place team five dollars.  The department head said this could disqualify any potential athletes from a scholarship.  I should find another award.  I suggested a box of chocolates and was told that this could be dangerous since some students were allergic to peanuts.  He left the issue with me.  After school, I discussed it with the principal’s administrative assistant, and we agreed to some gift certificates to McDonalds.  I purchased a ten dollar and five-dollar certificate on my way home from the school.  Later after my wife Karen heard the story, she remarked that these certificates could still be thought of as an in-kind contribution.  I was not moved by her concern.  😊

The students were perplexed at the changes which I described as due to political necessity, but they enjoyed the McDonald’s gift certificates.  The following week I visited the regular classroom teacher to find out what had happened.  She was somewhat confused.  She replied that no one had called her and that she had not received any calls from parents.  She said she had not heard a word from anyone until she arrived back at the school.  She did not understand what all the fuss was about, but she had received good reports from the students in regard to my classroom management and would be happy to have me sub for her again.

I don’t harp on or much believe in the “good old days.”  The good old days in the USA were not so good for Blacks, Asians, Latinos, Women, Disabled, Immigrants, Gays and others.  Perhaps if you were White, there was such a thing as the good old days.  However, I also do not believe that progress is always a straight line forward.  Some of the things I experienced as a child (sadly to me) seem to be lost to the current generation of children.  I think these things had value.  I am not sure why these things were lost or how we can ever find them again.  For me, there is a tragedy in the loss.  Maybe this generation will not miss what they never had or maybe values have changed so that what I might have thought was wonderful would be scorned today.  I guess I will never know the answer to this question:  Are kids better off today then they were yesterday?

“One child, one teacher, one book, one pen can change the world.” 
― Malala Yousafzai, I Am Malala: The Story of the Girl Who Stood Up for Education and Was Shot by the Taliban

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