Tuesday, July 22, 2014

19th Century travel was not EZ!

I just learned that my grandfather, William Gowans Moyes, at age 6 travelled west via wagon train in the Edward T. Mumford Company in 1868. He was in the company of his parents and a paternal uncle's family, along with a couple hundred other travelers. They arrived in Salt Lake City, Utah on September 24, 1868. There were seven deaths en-route.

Objectivity must not be EZ.

Here's why we become cynical about the "news" that the media reports:

Taken from the Maine News (http://newsmaine.net/20019-june-2014-breaks-all-heat-records), the headline says, "June 2014 Breaks All Heat Records." The article starts by presenting the following: "The month of June was the hottest month ever, according to reports released by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) on Monday...The month of June has broken all the heat records everywhere." Note, please, the use of words like "all" and "everywhere" in this article that leans on what should be a credible source: NOAA.

But, you see, I knew better. While the local weather is only anecdotal and not indicative of "climate," June was actually cooler than normal here in San Antonio. I looked up the official records, and during June we had 12 days where the high was below the average, 8 days where the high was exactly at the average, and only 10 days above the average. The cooler days were up to 5 degrees F. below average, the hottest of the days was 4 degrees F. above the average, with most of the "hotter" days being only 1 degree F. above average. June was very pleasant in San Antonio.

Later in the article, we learn that they knew that they had lied with their headline and leading paragraphs with the following admission: "...no record has been broken in the US. It was noted that the last month in the US was the 33rd hottest June in the records."

Thirty-third hottest. Far from breaking all heat records.  So, call me a cynic. I believe NO headlines, and am impressed that the authors of the above article were honest enough to admit to lying to their casual, low-information readers (who probably never made it to the end of the article). This is objectivity in reporting?

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

EZ weight loss procedure not so EZ.

Have I mentioned that I love military medical care?

About six months ago, my dear wife of 45+ years was referred by her primary care physician at our nearby Army Hospital for evaluation for bariatric surgery. She is not grossly overweight but has always weighed more than she should and, sadly, thinks of herself as "fat."  She is also a Type II diabetic (which she currently controls without insulin) and some acquaintances have told us their diabetes "went away" after bariatric surgery or other significant weight loss. So, Glenda was anxious for the surgery, as she wants to be more fit and more proud of her body, and would love to see the diabetes go away. So long, I guess, as dieting and exercise are not involved. That's always been my position on the subject, too.

During the evaluation for the surgery she was subjected to nearly every medical test known to mankind, EKG, ECG, MRI, Upper- and Lower-GI series, blood, stool, and urine tests. She had to meet with a psychiatrist and attend group support sessions. All of this took months and hundreds of miles of driving. She passed all the tests and checked all the blocks and was told in late January that she would be called in "two to six weeks." We waited. Then we called. Then we waited some more. Today, she called the bariatrics clinic again, and was told that the bariatric surgery would not be available to her as the surgeon had been deployed. Army doctors must first support Army troops. No question, no argument there.

But I wonder what the paying party thinks of having spent a LOT of money on her surgery evaluation and preparation only to see the anticipated benefits not being delivered? After all, Humana, the insurance company that pays the vast bulk of our Tri-Care Prime military medical care, must have counted on lower life-time care costs due to the better health likely a result of the weight loss the surgery promised to deliver. Otherwise, why would they have approved this elective surgery. No surgery, no related weight loss, no resulting improved health, no reduction in life-time care costs.

I don't know how much all of the exams and preparatory work she underwent cost Humana. I know what our co-pay was and I could guess at the cost of all these exams. I shake my head at the waste of medical resources in this situation.

Glenda is going to speak with her primary care physician to see if it is possible to be referred to a local civilian hospital that has a good reputation in bariatric surgery, but I don't know if that's within his powers. If that fails, we may try to meet with the ombudsman at the military hospital. I'll be back when I know more.

Have I mentioned that I love military medical care?

Friday, January 3, 2014

Easy, but strange, dreams.

A note from late last summer. I had lost track of it until today, and I wanted to record it here as sort of a diary or journal entry. The event was recorded on September 1, 2013, and refers to a dream from the night before.

September 1, 2013

Last night I dreamt that I went to our basement laundry room and opening the door, saw a large brown rat lying on the floor apparently dying. His eyes were open and he looked at me piteously. I closed the door, went upstairs and told Glenda, my wife, that there was a rat dying in our brightly-lit and stylish laundry room. This was strange because we don't have a basement. We don't really even have a laundry room as such. And, maybe more significant, I have never seen a rat in our home. But it was just a dream, right?

So this morning at about 9AM I went out to the pool house to put something away, there on the concrete just by the door was a large and dead brown rat. Hmmmm. I've seen all manner of critters in the yard around the pool and garden. Raccoons, opossums, skunks, rabbits, scorpions, and even snakes. But I have not ever seen a rat. Until now. So I'd call this strange. Also, I don't often remember dreams. This dream was vivid in my memory. What are the odds I'd dream of a dying rat and the very next day, for the first time in my 63 years I'd find a similar-looking rat dead just outside my home?  Strange. 

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Paying bills is getting to be less EZ.

Anyone use PayTrust from Intuit? Intuit continues to screw the pooch. I've been a PayTrust user for a dozen years, but their new 2-step security for login is going to lose me. It requires that I take a phone call and enter a code with each and every login. Great security, but sucks if your phone system requires an extension code or is in some other way incompatible with their automated system, or if you do not want or cannot take a phone call.

Prior to this, I had been very well satisfied with their services. Never had them make a mistake, live and courteous telephone help 24/7 in English. Cheaper than stamps to mail the bills.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Paying the debt is not EZ.

Unintended, but inescapable consequences. When a nation borrows more than it can possibly ever repay, and "buys" its own debt in huge volumes (otherwise known as 'printing more money', which the US has been doing now for years) there really is no other possibility, the value of the currency falls sure as gravity. This starts a spiral. Since the money is now worth less, the nation has to borrow more, which makes the money worth less. The citizens suffer the results of rampant inflation and productivity nosedives. Rinse, lather, repeat until total currency failure. Read history. This has happened repeatedly in many nations that incur crushing government debt and control their own currency. There have been no exceptions. Does anyone really believe that our poor, ill, and vulnerable will be better off as our financial markets collapse from the weight of the debt? The alternatives include measures like controlling our own government debt (reduced spending AND higher taxes-but we don't yet have a Congress willing to do that) or turning our economy over to a global entity like the World Bank and letting them tell us how to arrange our spending as has happened in the past to other countries.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Even critiques aren't EZ

A family member shared the article linked above. I have given it a great deal of thought. After first reading, it left me with a very uncomfortable, nagging feeling. It took some time and several readings before I could understand why. Here is my analysis, written at least partially because I needed to dissect things until I understood why I felt the way I did about the article. Beginning with the sixth sentence of the second paragraph ("When a Christian..."), it is an extremely well written, thoughtful article with tremendous value. Before that sixth sentence of the second paragraph, well...

The first paragraph is simply descriptive and sets the scene for the discussion. In the beginning of the second paragraph the author gracefully dives off the board of discourse into the deep end of fallacy for the sake of supporting his world view. Note that this is a common type of error which is clearly not unique to this author. It is also the type of error that you simply would have never seen in print before the internet era; in the era when "authors" had editors and editors had experience and printing was expensive.

What the author so egregiously does in those first two sentences is to presume to know another's motivation based solely on his interpretation of the other's actions. Were those actions offensive to the author? Apparently so. Does the author own the privilege of being offended? Certainly. Can the author possibly know the motivation of the person identified as hiding behind the veneer? I offer that he cannot possibly know that. He can observe, interpret, and report, but when he reports his interpretation it behooves him to identify that interpretation as what it is: his opinion and nothing more. An author increases the value to the reader of his opinion by being clear about what is observed and what is made up. I would accept his statement without question had he said, "I felt like the guy was out to ruin my day." This knowing full well that even what we observe is, at some level, made up.

What bothers me about the above is this: The bulk of this article is so well written, so articulate, so thoughtful, that I have a hard time believing that the author stumbled into this as an error. It seems much more likely that this was written as it was on purpose, to manipulate the reader and not to inform the reader. I believe it also exposes the author's prejudices in his call for overcoming prejudices  as he assumes hate while admitting the pamphlet was handed to him with a smile. In those words he calls on all, especially those who share his world view, to assume Christian hate where it may or may not exist--preaching to the choir, as it were. Certainly there are Christian haters, and, since prejudices come from somewhere, he's probably had to suffer a lot of unfavorable actions perpetrated by those who call themselves Christians. But to wedge all into the same box is as wrong as assuming that all gay people are permissive and predatory. The sad truth is that hateful actions may be perpetrated by people who actually have noble and loving motives, but are ignorant or misled. Most people who can muster any semblance of an open mind are probably somewhere on the curve between ignorance and understanding  Ignorance can be cured and that cure can lead to understanding  but first, the misled have to be willing to listen, and you don't get them there by assuming the worst of them. 

Our society has done this, too, assuming hate and prejudice because of disagreement or, God forbid, honest expression of opinion. Don't get me wrong, there is plenty of hate and prejudice out there which we should work to eliminate through caring education. But acting in disagreement with another's choices, actions, or opinions does not, prima facie, prove hate or prejudice  Further, to increase a penalty for unlawful behavior based on the race, color, creed, or orientation of the victim as our society is currently doing, is, itself prejudicial and I believe both wrong and unconstitutional  A crime is a crime. A "hate crime" is just a crime. Crimes should be dealt with appropriately in our justice system which is supposed to be blind to race, color, creed, or orientation. Singling out certain victims or classes of victims only serves to perpetuate stereotypes and prejudices  We also commit this error by NOT forcefully prosecuting "black on black" or "Hispanic on Hispanic  or "gay on gay" violent crimes, thus shortchanging the victims. Note that "Repent or Burn" is not a refrain reserved for gays, but also handed to adulterers, addicts, drinkers, and smokers and those exercising a host of other unapproved behaviors.

As a member of a belief system that has been the target of smear campaigns and pamphlet-wielding fundamentalists (who I believe for the most have honest motives but are simply misled) I know what it feels like to be accosted on the street by a crowd with signs and shouts that attack what I am. Many years ago, my wife and I were shoved to the curb while leaving an LDS musical performance at San Antonio's Majestic Theater that had been targeted by a Westboro-like group. It was late and dark and the crowd of protesters was loud and menacing. That was scary. During the San Antonio Temple open house, we met the protesters on the street and politely offered them shade, bottled water, and access to restrooms at a nearby LDS chapel. Our leaders had taught us to not assume hateful motives but to turn away wrath with a soft voice. No wars may have been won that day, but any hate that might have been there was certainly defused. 

Rather than inform the reader in a way that may lead to introspection, thought, acceptance, and change, I believe the leading sentences serve only to further alienate people of differing beliefs. Of all the things we need, in society and at home, that is not on the list. I think it is a shame the author could not bring himself to rise above the level of those that accosted him.