Friday, October 21, 2016

The Olympics - yes or no

This weeks topic was my suggestion.  I simply wondered what my cohorts thought about the Olympics - are they worthwhile?

I have always been a fan of the quadrennial athletic competition I always enjoyed watching the swimming competition and the field events like the shot put, discus and javelin. The fellow that was my best man when Lynn and I got married was an outstanding swimmer and he was very active in AAU swimming. Being a big guy I naturally gravitated toward the big guy events - shot put and discus and the more nuanced javelin.

I also loved the pomp and circumstance that surrounded the games. Watching the teams enter the arena in the colorful colors of their countries was always a  kick. 

Things changed in the sixties - the supposedly amateur athletes became  much more as the eastern block teams  became essentially professionals, supported year round by their countries. It became tougher and tougher for the countries that played by the rules so-to-speak, including the US. That made the so-called Miracle on Ic e all the more miraculous when the truly amateur US hockey team upset the Soviet hockey team in the 1980  Olympics held in Lake Placid, NY. Here,s the last minute of that historic event.

That game inspired a nation. Mine.  It also solidified my love of ice hockey which in turn made me a bigger fan of the winter Olympics than the summer games.

Eventually real professional athletes were allowed to participate in the Olympic Games.  Not surprisingly the US became almost unbeatable in basketball and in the winter games Canada, Russia  the US, Sweden, Finland and the Czech Republic became the best teams. Not surprisingly, the National Hockey League teams were comprised primarily of players from those countries. But to me it made perfect sense for an event meant to showcase the best athletes actually allow the best athletes to compete.

Since the Berlin games of 1936 the games were used to promote a political agenda. Jesse Owens ruined Adolph Hitler's plans in those games. President Jimmy Carter led a boycott of the 1980 summer games held in Moscow too protest the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan.the 1984 games held in Los Angeles were boycotted by the Soviets and 14 of their allies.

The 1972 Munich Games included the massacre of 
eleven Israeli team members and officials by the Black September terrorist organization.

Yet the games continue. They have become financial disasters for some host nations but the audiences are still there. People still love to root for their teams. Most participants know they have little or no chance of winning - the want to compete with and against the best. A Jamaican bobsled team? Remember Eddie the Eagle Edwards?  

I say a  resounding YES to the Olympic Games. For a couple of weeks every two years (the winter and summer games are held two years apart, maintaining the four-year cycle of each competition) we get a brief respite from the problems of the world. It is not much but it is something.  And you can secretly root for the underdogs.  There is almost always a major upset in some event.

Check what my cohorts have to say - Ramana  Pravin

Friday, October 14, 2016

Why Do You Do What You Do? LBC 10/14/2016

This weeks topic comes from Pravin and I am going to take a SWAG (scientific wild-assed guess) that he has read Simon Sinek's  Start With Why or has seen Sinek's Ted Talk - which can be seen on Youtube  here.

Regardless of the inspiration, Pravin as usual has offered something that is interesting and thought provoking. 

Most of us have at one time been told to find something you are passionate about and  make that your life's work. With passion it won't feel like work. In my case from about age 10 on my great passion was baseball. I wanted to pitch and hit really long home runs.  That lasted until I was 17 or so when the physical realities kicked in and it became clear I was not going to be the next  Don Drysdale. I was what we  back then called a thrower - not a pitcher. Pitching is an art I was no artist. 

Reality bites. But heck - I was young and had my whole life in front of me. I entered college hoping to find a new passion that could lead to a successful career and a happy life. Several of my friends did just that - a couple of pilots, a dentist, an architect  and an engineer.

So in 1973 I graduated with  a BA in Political Science (International Relations). I was nominated for a Danforth Fellowship - pretty unusual  for a jock. As you can probably tell, I did not get the fellowship. In 1972 Lynn and I were married so  I was in the position of needing to find a job. As in a "real" job.

My first real job was repossessing mobile homes.  I trust you have  picked yourself up from the floor and did not hurt yourself laughing. No - i did not go physically move them - I handled the insurance paperwork and stuff like that. Trust me when I say there was no passion involved though on two occasions I was offered sexual favors to not "pop the coach" as we called it.

At that point I essentially stopped looking for a passion from which to launch a career and  started looking for something I could be good at and make a living. Sales reared its ugly head.

I was an excellent salesman (based upon my results) but I hated it.
At that point I combined computer support and programing with sales and became a small business consultant which lasted until Silicon Valley tanked in the early nineties. That meant the small businesses I was working with had the chance to hire PHDs from Silicon Valley or me for the same amount of  money. 

And that is how I ended up in Texas. I simply needed a job and RadioShack made an offer thanks to my past performance there previously.

I spent 21 years doing various jobs in scenic Fort Worth, Texas. I essentially worked because I needed a job and then Lynn developed HD and I needed to care for her.

I have always had a passion for music - especially the music of the sixties and seventies. I started visiting websites and music forums and met some great people with the same  passions. I built some web sites and ran a music forum. While running that forum I met a fellow that  had been part of the British Invasion of the sixties. He wrote several multimillion sellers  for a band called the Dave Clark Five. Because Clark reneged on payment he had promised, my friend parted ways and moved on to another band, He continued to write music and perform. He followed his passion and has lived a very happy life.  

So here I am at the end of the line, having essentially lived a relatively normal life like most people. Perhaps a lack of passion prevented me from living an exceptional life.  The chart below is the centerpiece of  Sinek's theory and the key to great leaders.
That's it  for this week's topic. check what my cohorts have to say.

Ramana         Pravin

Friday, October 7, 2016

Pets LBC 10/07/2016

Ramana  suggested this weeks topic as a replacement for one of the topics  previously suggested by a blogger no longer associated with the LBC. Pets are the order of the day this week.

I cannot remember a time when I have not had a pet, starting with my red cocker spaniel Pudgie when I was a youngster in Colorado. I  also had a cat - a beautiful Maine Coon I called Susie.  Susie was bigger than a bobcat and was king (yes - king) of the neighborhood. Indeed - he was the original boy named Sue. This is not Susie but is representative of his size and color. Imagine seeing something like this strolling through your yard at 35+ pounds with some serious swagger.

Lynn loved pets as much as I did. She  came with a Pekinese as a package deal and there were NO cats that were anything but putty in her loving hands.

Fast forward to today and I have three shelter adopted critters along with the three grandchildren to keep me on my toes.Ginger is a basset hound/collie mix and Stretch and Willie are tuxedo cats I adopted last Christmas here in North Carolina.

Stretch and Willie are named after my two favorite baseball players - Willie McCovey (44) and Willie Mays (24) of the San Francisco Giants of the early sixties. They love to  play all night -  including a game I call cat hockey wherein they manage to get the drain plug out of my bath tub and proceed to push it all through the joint. When they tire, they hop up on my bed and catch a few winks.

Lynn named Ginger when I brought her (Ginger) home from the shelter. Ginger loves to go with me in the car and in fact knows when I put on long pants she is getting sprung. (My regular attire is shorts and a long sleeved tee shirt)

My pets are family  and my best friends - loyalty unmatched and always up  for a snuggle or a back/belly scratch.

Check Ramana's take on this topic  here.
Pravin's take is here. 

Friday, September 30, 2016

Neighbours LBC 9/30/2016

Ramana suggested this weeks topic - Neighbours.

Times certainly have  changed. In 1959 when we moved from Colorado to Hayward, California we moved into a brand new housing development. All new homes with largely first time homeowners, just a bunch of newly constructed homes in a sea of dirt. That all changed immediately. Groups of neighbors banded together to build fences, patios and such. Friendships were struck and a community established. I was the  neighborhood baby sitter. The dads played football in the street with the kids. The Jewish family across the street became an extension of our family - Len and Elaine were second parents to my sister, brother and I.Their second oldest son Russ is a Facebook friend of mine and their cousin Stuart - who spent  summers with them is one of my very best friends to this day. As an aside whenever you use your cell phone you owe a debt to Stu and his team at Bell Labs as they were essential in developing the switching systems employed in cell networks. When my infant brother Pat passed away it was a neighbor that came to my JHunior High School to break the news and take me home.

In 1975 Lynn was offered a chance to take a position setting up a New England regional office for her company so off we went on what we expected to be a great adventure. Alas - New England was not particularly open to a couple of North Californians outside of the office. Were it not for her cousins in Middletown CT. our social life would have been non existent. That did not improve for seven months or so when I talked my way into a tryout on a softball team sponsored by the local package (liquor) store. It was amazing how the ability to hit a slow-pitch softball well over 300 feet caused the west coast bias to evaporate.

A year later we  moved back to California (Hermosa Beach) where neighbors were cordial but not overly friendly. Eventually we got back to Northern California where our friend base was and the neighbor issue tended to not matter. 

Texas and North Carolina have been more of the same. Smile and wave but that is it. Until my daughter and her kids moved back in a few months ago the animals and I lived a pleasant but solitary existence. 

I confess  I miss that neighborhood community in Hayward. There was a real "we" spirit about things whereas today's world is a me world. It should surprise no one that Donald Trump is enjoying success in the current  presidential race here - he epitomizes the me folk even though like me he is a Baby Boomer.

 Be sure to see what Ramana has to say on this topic here. 
Pravin's take is here.


Friday, September 23, 2016

Profit Based Healthcare LBC 09/23/2016

This weeks topic was my suggestion. I must confess - any liberal/progressive streak hiding in me tends to rear its head when the subject of healthcare is the topic of discussion. There are many directions this discussion can take but this is just a short blog so I will toss out a few things and let you, dear reader, make up your own mind.

Three out of five personal bankruptcies in the US are the result of  medical bills (2013 study). That is upwards of 643,000 bankruptcies. Check Snopes for details. Look at this chart to compare some popular drug costs internationally -

The difference? Those other countries employ a single-payer system. In the US  single--payer is as offensive a term in the medical industry as is gun control to the IRA.

Funnily enough though - what are Medicare and Medicaid if not single-payer systems? Many  Medicare users are covered by private companies in the form of Medicare Advantage plans (which at minimum offer the same coverage as Medicare and a variety of additional coverages) or employ a Medicare Supplement plan that picks up some of the costs not covered by Medicare Part B (which covers 80% of the  cost of part B services). Advantage and Supplemental plans are offered by private insurance companies. For example, my Advanage plan is with Aetna.  Medicare plan coverage prices are negotiated by the government. Many Advantage plans cost nothing beyond the basic $114 monthly fee automatically deducted for Medicare B that is automatically deducted (as mine).

The fear/contempt of single-payer systems here is what led directly to the abomination known as Obamacare - which is failing and fading fast if many of the media reports are to be believed. 

So what is the point of this statistical mish mash?  I am a proponent of a single-payer system. There will always be demand for private healthcare - the rich folk will always want their exclusive care providers. They simply will NEVER accept being limited to the same providers as the masses. I frankly could care less - the discrepancy in what those people can afford compared to the average citizen is directly proportionate to the income discrepancy. 

The government "death panel" argument (remember Sarah Palin?) forgot to mention that the current "death panels" now are for-profit insurance companies and their actuarial staffs. Just what you want - coverage wholly dependent upon profitability, yes indeed.

The hurdles ahead are numerous and difficult. The VA crisis of the past several years - decades in the making IMO - fuels the opponents of single-payer. Mismanagement is no stranger to any healthcare system but it borders on criminal when it involves those who sacrifice all to protect our way of life. But the problems are fixable. 

Interestingly enough I have never experienced any  major issues with our healthcare system save one. I have a fatty tumor on my neck and my RadioShack insurance refused to cover its removal. The insurance company said it was cosmetic only and so not covered. Guess I missed the ugly rider on the policy but what the heck - what else are beards for. But even through the 10 years Lynn struggled with HD we had no issues. We were very lucky. Of course HD is not a very Dr intensive disease - since it is incurable we basically experimented with drug combinations to control the symptoms as well as we could. She was covered by Medicare for 9 of the 10 years.

Its an election year and change s in the wind. Here's hoping it hits our healthcare system. IMHO profit should never prevent someone from  receiving health care and we absolutely need to care for the mentally ill betterif it is even possible to call what we currently provide care.

That's a very quick look at this weeks topic. Check Ramana's take here. Check Pravin's blog here.

Friday, September 16, 2016

How Do You Identify Your Mojo?

Pravin offered this weeks topic. Lets begin by trying to define mojo

Merriam-Webster says mojo is: a power that may seem magical and that allows someone to be very effective, successful, etc..

With that definition as a starting point for this exercise, I suppose it behooves me to define my own mojo. Frankly it is not something I have ever spent much time worrying about, sculpting or in any way considered important. Taking a SWAG (scientific wild-assed guess) I think my mojo is centered around affability and honesty. 

Being a big guy, I have usually attempted to be anything but intimidating in interactions with others - unless in a debate/argument scenario or in sports.. Even then, I try to be straight forward and matter of fact, usually trying to win with facts. (Of course I have been taught techniques to use in a debate to win and have on occasion used them.) And sports? Lets just say I am naturally competitive in some ways and physically gifted enough to do fairly well.

Does my mojo work? I was an excellent salesman - even though  I hated every minute of the job.  My dumb-jock persona served me  well over the years. It fit in with my inherent shyness and allowed me to pick and choose my moments to be less than (more than?) the big, friendly quiet guy. In high school I always tried to be anything but that Big Man on Campus  type jock that intimidated the nerdy kids - in fact when called on to pick teams in PE  I typically picked the nerdy kids first. Looking back,I suppose that fueled  my mojo then - but it was not   a conscious thing.

Am I successful? That is a good question.  My core group of friends has remained relatively constant for over 50 years. It includes a dentist, an airline pilot, a park ranger, an architect and a successful medical supplies entrepreneur.  Compared  to them I have to say I have not been successful. I grew up primarily bored and other than baseball never developed a passion for anything as they all did. And we all know the passion for baseball did not work out. But - I have 2 kids and 5 grand kids. Lynn and I were together for 45 years until that "til death do us part" clause kicked in and she passed away. I take that to mean I got a few things right and had my mojo working on most if not all cylinders in that regard. So does that success identify my mojo? Dunno. If financial success is the key to your definition then I suspect not.  Lucky for me, I have always had enough financial success to get by - regardless how much money I made.

So has this week's topic's question been answered?  I am a big, friendly fellow of above average intelligence with a few very loyal friends and a somewhat dysfunctional family and I never got rich. Is that mojo or misfortune? You make the call as I am really like Popeye - I am what I am and that's all what I am.

Check out my LBC cohorts take on this weeks topic at these links - Ramana and  Pravin.

See ya next week, same bat time; same bat channel.

Friday, September 9, 2016

Domestic Chores LBC 09/09/2016

Ramana suggested this weeks topic. 

How are domestic chores divided up in your household? Traditionally there are chores that typically are handled  by men and others by women. Men tend to be the fixers and yard workers, women handle cooking and cleaning. That's how the division worked in my home when I was a kid. My mom was a branch  manager of  a Savings and Loan company and always worked. My dad was a retail manager.  As the oldest of three kids, by ten years, I was the chief assistant. I did dishes daily, mowed the lawn weekly.  

In Lynn and my household Lynn was not a good cook so I handled that. She cleaned (did dishes).  Lynn was a fixer in the house - me outside. I did yard work, she hung wallpaper and fixed things that needed fixing. When we did minor renovations we did  them together. We painted a house both inside and out - along with the assistance and direction of my step dad - definitely a qualified DIYer. Infinitely more qualified than Lynn or I (he was a carpet layer and hotel engineer by trade).

My point in all this is simple. The only rule that is important in dealing with domestic chores is that as long as the work is evenly divided, who does what is largely irrelevant. Whatever works for your situation is what you should go with.  When we lived in Connecticut and Lynn spent a lot of time on the road I handled most of the chores. We lived in a condo so there was no yard work When I managed RadioShack stores and worked six days per week Lynn did more.  It never mattered to me who did what and Lynn often said I was the least chauvinistic person she had ever known.

Running a household is a partnership and the division of duties should be whatever works best for the partners in the endeavor. When I first  moved to NC it all fell on me. Now, with three teenagers under the roof  my percentage of the chores have  been severely reduced save one. I still pay for everything. LOL.