Sunday, October 29, 2017

All things considered...

        I had a stroke about a year ago, and the doctors who worked on me said it would probably take a year to get back to normal. I’m not sure what constitutes normal, but for the most part I’m doing pretty well, I think. I’m back to work, getting ready to start my 44th year in business. I still have some trouble speaking and swallowing, and my balance isn’t what it used to be, and I spend a lot of time (when I’m out of earshot of anyone) enunciating “chocolate milk truck” repeatedly, in an effort to strengthen the damaged muscles that affect my speaking and swallowing capabilities.

            But all in all, I’m not complaining. Some of the doctors I used to see every day, I don’t see at all anymore, and the ones I do see I don’t see as often. I’m taking 4 pills a day, down from the wheelbarrow full I was taking a year ago. And I know a lot of people who have had strokes that are a lot worse off than me. But on the other hand, there are a lot of people who have had a stroke, and people who haven’t, that are a lot better off than me.

            I realize everything is relative, but no matter where we are on the health scale, I don’t think there is anything wrong with aspiring to improve. I feel the same way about politics.

            I hear a lot of people defending our current president by claiming he’s not as bad as his predecessor was, or as bad as his opponent would have been if she had won.  While I wouldn’t argue either way, I’m not sure we want to choose our president based on the criteria of “He or she not as bad as he or she could be.” And I don’t believe we should be satisfied with a president just because they aren’t as bad as the last one or the next one. We’d be a lot better off as a nation if we expected our leaders to follow their oath to obey the Constitution, compared to what we expect of them now.

             And speaking of nations, the citizens of the United States take a lot of pride in being the “Land of the Free”, and certainly we enjoy freedoms that a lot of people in the world don’t. But we aren’t the freest nation in the world, and according to the Human Freedom Index, published by the CATO Institute, we’re dangerously close to slipping from the top 25.  Based on a study of personal, civil, and economic freedom, the United States has fallen from 16th place in 2008, to 19th place in 2013, to our current standing as the 23rd freest country in the world.

             While people might disagree on what exactly constitutes personal, civil, and economic freedom, it’s hard to argue with the fact that most people can’t name three things that government in this country doesn’t tax or regulate.

            I suppose we could be satisfied that we are more free than 172 countries in the world, but that is the kind of thinking that will keep us satisfied when we are more free than 171 countries in the world. Or 170.

             Our goal should be to be not only the freest nation in the world, but the freest nation with the freest people ever.

            I’m not willing to settle for 23rd, any more than I’m willing to settle for 2nd.

            I hope you aren’t either.

Saturday, September 30, 2017

Slipping away....

              I suspect I’m not the only one with this problem, but things have a way of slipping up on me without notice. We have a metal roof on our shop that has been there for over 50 years, and every once and a while I have to give it a coat of paint. I see it every day, when I come home from working on other people’s buildings, and it fades and rusts so slowly that I don’t realize when it needs a little attention. This summer it got so bad that a couple of guys drove all the way up from Alabama and offered to paint it for me.

           After they stopped by, I decided it was probably time for a fresh coat of paint, but even then I didn’t know how bad it needed it until I climbed down for another bucket, looked up, and compared what was painted with what wasn’t. It looks pretty fresh now, but I’m sure if I live long enough, it will slip up on me again.

             That’s just one of many things that slip up on me. The other day our daughter-in-law told me that our Granddaughter’s basketball game was being played at the high school gym. When I asked if it was the old high school gym or the new high school gym, I was informed that there was only one high school gym.  I realized it had been the high school gym for 46 years, and the old high school gym had been the grade school gym for the same amount of time. That one slipped up in a hurry.

            I’ve also noticed that our government tends to slip into areas of our lives where it wasn’t before. Sometimes when we don’t realize it, sometimes when we realize it but don’t care, and sometimes when we realize it and care, but are too busy taking care of other things. Slowly but surely, it’s ended up in just about every area of our lives. It’s been a long time since most of us could name just three things that the government doesn’t tax or regulate.

            Last week President Trump scolded some NFL players for not standing when the national anthem was played before a football game, and then made a disparaging comment about their parentage. I don’t think it was anything official, but the people who don’t like the president thought it was a terrible case of government slipping in somewhere it didn’t belong, and the people who like the president thought he should  have slipped in a little more.  I thought it was more of an employer/employee squabble, and that they should work it out between themselves as best they could.

             But then someone said that since the taxpayers paid for the stadiums the NFL uses, they should have a say in what the players say and how they act during the game and pre-game.

            What? Taxpayers are paying for the stadiums that millionaire NFL team owners and millionaire players are using?

            Well, when did that happen?

Thursday, September 07, 2017


          The first car I ever drove legally was a 1965 Rambler American. My Dad bought it when my older brother Charles got his driver’s license, and I shared it with him when I got mine. We also had to share it with Mom when Dad was driving the station wagon, or with Dad when Mom was driving the station wagon. Mom and Dad had 8 kids, so we were used to sharing a lot of things, but when you’re 16, it’s tough to share a car with anybody.

            I don’t remember exactly how big the engine was, but I do remember it was somewhere under 200 cubic inches. I got a ticket for attempted speeding once, but as long as you came to a complete stop when you were supposed to, we didn’t have too much trouble with the local police.

            It also had a 3-speed manual transmission, with the shifter located on the steering column, as I believe God intended. That’s where shifters were found for years for the most part, unless you had a really fast car, or sometimes a truck. Then it was probably on the console or the floor board. Even when you graduated to an automatic transmission, the shift lever was usually still on the column, unless you had bucket seats, which were cool if you were cruising around, but not so cool if you wanted to drive with your arm around your girlfriend.

            I’ve been driving legally for 49 years, and my truck’s shifter is still on the steering wheel column, across from the turn signal lever. Sometime back they moved the dimmer switch off of the floorboard and incorporated it with the turn signal lever. I handled that change pretty well, and only got my foot tangled in the steering wheel a couple of times before I adapted to the new location. I think most dimmer switches are in the same place now, and all you have to figure out is whether you need to pull it towards you or push it away from you to change from bright to dim.

            Sometimes when we travel somewhere with Mom and Dad nowadays, I drive their car. They have an automatic transmission, but they have bucket seats with the shifter on the console. I suspect if they would have had bucket seats years ago, they wouldn’t have had 8 kids and I wouldn’t have had to share so much. Anyway, whenever I drive their car, I always reach for the lever on the steering wheel column and turn on the windshield wipers before I get the car in reverse and back out of the garage. I’m not sure Dad believes my explanation that I’m just checking to make sure the wipers work just in case it starts raining, but so far he hasn’t challenged me on it.

            My wife traded cars a couple of weeks ago, and as luck would have it, they moved the shifter again, and this time it’s not even a lever. It’s a knob on the dashboard, and every time she lets me drive I spend the first couple of minutes grabbing air where things used to be, reaching for a key that doesn’t exist, turning on windshield wipers that don’t need to be turned on, and dimming lights that don’t need to be dimmed.

            I read a story the other day about somebody working on a car that drives itself.

            I think I’m ready.

Sunday, August 06, 2017

One plus one...

     Every so often, on social media sites, someone posts a mathematical problem similar to this:

1 + 4 = 5
2 + 5 = 12
3 + 6 = 21
8 + 11 = ?

Apparently the challenge is to figure out how the answers were derived in the first three equations and then using the same method to arrive at the answer for the fourth problem. Of course, 1 + 4 = 5, but to make 2 + 5 = 12, and 3 + 6 =21, you need to multiply the first two numbers and then add the first number to that answer. That works for 1 + 4 = 5 too. And by extension and using the same logic, 8 + 11 = 96.

            I won’t argue that (2 x 5) +2 = 12, or that (3 x 6) +3 = 21, but 2 plus 5 always has and always will equal 7, just like 3 plus 6 equals 9, and 8 plus 11 equals 19.  There’s an old saying that two wrongs don’t make a right, just like getting a couple of problems wrong doesn’t change the answer of the next one.

            Shortly after our country was founded, the government started getting involved in areas of our lives it shouldn’t be involved in. Article 1, Section 8, of the United States Constitution lists the powers Congress and the federal government have been given. There are about 30 specific duties along with a few amendments that have been added over the years. They’re involved in a few more than that now.

            The intrusions were few and far between for the first 100 or so years, but shortly after the beginning of the 20th century, every congress seemed determined to outdo the last congress. From taxes to welfare to retirement funding, every time the government gets involved, we can pretty well depend on the next session getting even more involved.

             A few years ago they got involved in our health care. A few years later they got involved in our health insurance. A few years after that they got even more involved in our health insurance. It’s turned out to be a good deal for some people, and a not so good deal for other people. When the Republicans took over from the Democrats they thought they could improve it by tweaking some of the rules and regulations associated it. They never considered that it was wrong for the government to get involved in what should be our personal business to begin with, and simply changing some of the details wouldn’t right that wrong.

Our government has made a lot of mistakes over the years. Those mistakes can’t be used to justify more mistakes.

            It just doesn’t add up.

Sunday, July 02, 2017

Sunday's chilled is full of woe....

             I’m not a fan of warm beer. But then, I’m not a fan of cold beer either. As a matter of fact, I haven’t had a drink for nigh on 30 years. It’s not that I’m opposed to drinking beer. It just wasn’t working out for me anymore so I gave it up. I have a lot of friends that like cold beer, and a couple of acquaintances who like warm beer. I also have a few friends who like cold beer a lot. They’re easy to spot on Saturday night.

So on a personal level, I’m not all that affected by Ricker’s recent foray into the cold beer world so jealously guarded by the carry-out liquor lobby here in Indiana. Likewise, on a personal level, I’m not overly worried if I can’t buy carry-out beer on Sunday. I am, however, more than a little concerned about how these rules and laws came to be.

When I was running for governor last year, I pointed out anything legal on Saturday should also be legal on Sunday. A lot of people agreed with that sentiment, although not enough to elect me.

But whether you like beer or not, and whether or not you think government should dictate what temperature it should be sold at and on what day and by whom, we should all agree that laws and lawmakers shouldn’t be for sale. The liquor store lobby has spent hundreds of thousands of dollars in the last few years to make sure the law protects their businesses from competition.

That shouldn’t be the purpose of our laws, and it shouldn’t be the purpose of our lawmakers.

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Friday, June 23, 2017

Naked to the world...

I’m not sure when your private parts cease being private. Until I had a stroke about 8 months ago, I was a fairly modest guy. Except for my mother, my wife, and a few close friends, not many people had seen me buck naked. Outside of when I was in diapers, and that half-hearted streaking incident when I was much younger, I had managed to keep my private parts mostly private.

When the stroke hit, they stripped me of my clothes and cut me out of my underwear, but I wasn’t really in any shape to be overly concerned about it. By the time I got my wits about me, an untold number of nurses and orderlies had hooked up wires and inserted tubes in places that weren’t, in my opinion, made for wires and tubes. And while I remain extremely grateful for the excellent care I received at both hospitals that worked on me, I was also grateful when they told me I could put my pants back on, go home, and cover up what needed to be covered up whenever I felt like it needed to be covered up.

I knew I would have to go back in for some maintenance. They installed a sending unit in my chest, and cut my throat open to stick a wedge in beside a paralyzed vocal cord. I figured I could at least keep my pants on while they were working on my chest and throat, but it turns out I was wrong. No matter what they were working on, I had to put all of my clothes in a bag and put on a drafty and not very fashionable or flattering gown, a one-size-fits all creation with some fabric in the front, but lacking in the back and bottom.

By the time they got around to going in after a kidney stone, I was pretty well resigned to the notion that I had been exposed to just about everybody in the healthcare field in Richmond and Indianapolis, and it was getting to the point that it didn’t bother me much more than it seemed to bother them. As I said earlier, I’m not sure when my private parts ceased being private, but I figure that by my third trip to the operating room, most of the mystery and all of my modesty was gone.

I know they were all doing their best to keep me alive and mobile, so I didn’t complain too much about the over-exposure, but it did make me think about the loss of privacy in other parts of our lives.

When our national and state legislatures met this year, they decided to intrude a little further into private areas and private property. In Washington, a bill was introduced requiring persons who hold currency in places other than a registered bank, to report it to the IRS. Grandma’s secret butter and egg money would no longer be Grandma’s secret.

In Indianapolis, a law was passed requiring anybody under 18 years old to wear a helmet while driving or riding an off-road vehicle. And while it’s probably a good idea to wear a helmet when jumping over tree stumps, it’s a little over the top if Grandpa wants to cruise around the yard with a couple of Grandkids for a little Sunday afternoon relaxation. It falls in the “sometimes a good idea, but never a good law” category, aside from the fact it applies to private property.

For years, I’ve been asking people to name 3 things the government doesn’t tax or regulate. I’ve always hoped it would get to be a little easier. Just between you and me, and the government, it just got worse.

Monday, May 29, 2017

A little more time....

       I had to do a little work on the playground/tree house this weekend. I had planned on doing it before, because the timbers around it had rotted away over the years. It doesn't really seem like it's been there that long, but my oldest Granddaughters turned 11 this year and they weren't very big when we put the playground in, so it's been longer than I thought. And like I said, I'd planned on replacing them before they got in such a shape, but I just never seemed to find the time.
The playground was kind of a sandbox, except that we put pea fill in it so it wouldn't track in the house so bad, and so Dawson wouldn't throw it (accidentally, of course) in his sister's or cousins' eyes. When I put in the new timbers, I also added a real sand box with real sand. I never really liked the pea fill all that much, and I always thought someday I'd get them some real sand, But I just never got around to it, and now Maebry is probably the only one young enough to appreciate it very much.

        I'd always planned on building a tree house when my children were younger, but all they ever had was a sandbox with a roof over it, and we put a floor under the roof so they could have a clubhouse, but it was mostly a home for wasps and hornets, and they weren't too crazy about sharing it with the kids. I always thought I'd take some time and seal the bugs out, but before that happened the kids outgrew it, so it didn't matter anymore.
        About 7 years ago the Grandkids and I built the tree house. We put a lot of thought and hours into it, and we built it right over the pretend sandbox. We started with one level, and then we added a second floor and a crow's nest with a telescope so you could see clear over to the neighbors if you took the notion.

           Barkley has been keeping an eye on visitors and photographers for a long time.

We always planned on putting a 4th level on, but that's just another thing I never found the time to do. Most of my Grandchildren are too old or too far away to get much good out of another floor nowadays, so I'll probably just stick to replacing the timbers and sand as needed.

   I think my kids probably had some fun in the clubhouse, and I think the Grandkids had some fun in the tree house, but I sure wish I would have taken more time when it mattered, and when my kids and Grandkids had a little more of it, and when I had more of it left.