photo by EfrankE

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Whatever Happened to the Little Rascals?

I watched reruns of the Little Rascals on our old black & white TV set on afternoons when I was in elementary school. My kids watched them on video release back in the 1980's. I think my parents, at least my mother, watched the original releases during their/her childhood.

There was something about the creativity and can-do attitude of the Our Gang group that, more than just their escapades and antics, appealed strongly to our young hearts.

The short black & white films placed the Little Rascals in their own inventive and engaging world, an adult-imitative but child-centered one, and one we could easily picture ourselves in, as well.

Following their young acting careers, life for the series' child stars became harder and, in many cases, ended tragically.

This link is to a web page summarizing the adult lives of many of those featured in the Our Gang films.

Canada Housing Market to Follow U.S./Hawai'i Experience?

Hawai'i, especially on the Big Island, has been experiencing steep deflation in the housing market. Construction jobs are at about 30% unemployment here now. The residential real estate market has been in the doldrums for a couple of years now.

Investment advisor, Mike "Mish" Shedlock, in commenting on the current condition of the real estate market in Vancouver and Calgary, Canada, identifies a post-peak pattern of housing market declines in the U.S. His pattern appears to be very close to what we observed in the Big Island housing drop. It is worth a look for future reference. Here it is:

Housing Collapse Cascade Pattern

- Volume drops precipitously
- Prices soften a bit
- Inventory levels rise slowly
- Higher-end home process remain relatively steady for a brief while longer
- The real estate industry tries to convince everyone it's "business as usual" and homes are affordable because rates are low
- Bubble denial kicks in with media articles everywhere touting the "fundamentals"
- Stubborn sellers hold out for last year's prices as volume continues to shrink
- Inventory levels reach new highs
- Builders start offering huge incentives to clear inventory
- Some sellers finally realize (too late) what is happening
- Price declines hit the high-end
- Increasingly desperate sellers get creative with incentives, offering new cars, below market interest rates, trips, etc.
- Gimmicks do not work
- Price declines escalate sharply at all price levels
- The Central Bank issues statements that housing is fundamentally sound
- Prices collapse, inventory skyrockets and builders holding inventory go bankrupt

Mish notes, "Some of those may happen simultaneously or in a different order, but the whole mess starts with a huge plunge in volume."

Click here for the entire article.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

What Did They Know That We Must Never Forget?

Answer: That rights have been conferred upon men by God and that governments must be established to protect those rights. Rights cannot legitimately originate in politics by the whim and will of men of power.


"The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen United States of America:

When in the Course of human events it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

-That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed,

-That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.

Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn that mankind are are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed.

But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.

-Such has been the patient sufferance of the Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government."

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Politicians Orate, and I Go, Huh?

I want to try to get to bed early tonight so I’m going to try to clear my mind here of a few statements by the political leadership of the country that jump the rails of the logic lines most of us are born with.

Today, the president again stated that it is impractical to enforce the country’s immigration laws, given that there are 11 million illegals in the United States and the manpower is just not there to do the job.

Huh? Given that there are about 138 million taxpayers in the country, using the same logic, why wouldn’t he declare that it is impractical to enforce income tax laws in the United States? Presumably, it would take more manpower to enforce these much more complex laws. Oh, right, I just remembered, the government is hiring 16,000 more IRS agents to enforce compliance with the new health care bill. Perhaps that’s why there isn’t the manpower available to enforce immigration laws and provide border security.

Still, that is not the greatest inconsistency in his argument. There are three others:

1.) He supports a system that holds undocumented immigrants “accountable” by having them pay a fine, pay taxes, learn English and become citizens. Huh? If we cannot hold them accountable to existing immigration laws, what logic is there in assuming they will find it desirable to be accountable to a list of requirements they can already ignore? Especially, if enforcement manpower is impractical?

2.) The president further stated regarding immigration reform, “I’m ready to move forward, the majority of Democrats are ready to move forward and I believe the majority of Americans are ready to move forward… Reform that brings accountability to our immigration system cannot pass without Republican votes. That is the political and mathematical reality.”

Huh? Actually, Mr. President your Democratic party holds the Executive branch of the government as well as both bodies of the Legislative branch. You passed a widely unpopular health care bill under the same conditions. How can you say you don’t have the votes? The Republicans have been little more than eyewash since your election.

3.) He asserts that we cannot remove illegal aliens because they have become woven into the fabric of the country. Huh? Couldn’t organized crime syndicates be excused using the same reasoning? Have a look at the movie, The Godfather.

Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi is seen here on video stating that unemployment checks are the fasted way to create jobs. Again I say, huh? Do the unemployed use the money to help capitalize new businesses and industries, or apply it through investment to the most market-efficient allocation? That’s how jobs are formed. Otherwise, taking money from A (whether a current earner or one yet unborn) and giving it to unemployed B doesn’t grow the economy one dollar or create new, at least in any sustainable sense, jobs.

I’ve gotten used to politicians lying blatantly. What really disgusts me is when they treat us like morons, which they do when they speak in ignorance, factual error and logically inane statements, and then attack us with ad hominem insults when we disagree with them or call them out on their unsupported assertions.

And by the way, a tax increase at this stage, without iron-clad budget and spending reductions is like tying the economy to an anvil before throwing it off the bridge.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Twilight Eclipses my Comprehension

So, it’s that time again. Twilight Fandemonium hit with last night’s, 4,000 North American Theaters’ 12 a.m. to 3 a.m showings generating more than $30 million.

I suppose I shouldn’t comment on the phenomenon, not having seen the picture, and my earlier post, Twi-night of the Living Dead laid out my questions regarding “The Saga”, but really, how could the “Twilight” movie characters possibly be more compelling than Gary Cooper in High Noon, or Gregory Peck in The Gunfighter?

There are no reports that people lined up, breathlessly anticipating the midnight showing of those two great films. Were audiences simply more sophisticated in the 1950’s, or what gives?

Eclipse audiences are reported to display the same giddy response that might result from Congress passing a balanced budget amendment with a term limit rider – or say, would accompany the announcement of the elusive, yet-to-be produced, truly effective, hair-re-growth product.

The most famous vampire personage, Count Dracula, based on the historical figure, Vlad the Impaler, was an intolerant, cruel tyrant who ran pointed poles about 3” in diameter through his victims with the entry point being "where the sun don’t shine". As the victims were raised on the skewer, the weight of their bodies sank them further down the pole, the top of which eventually emerged somewhere around the clavicle. Death was slow and excruciating.

It baffles me how the proponent of this process might inspire any sort of romantic entertainment without extensive artistic license and heavy editing. Granted, the lead actors are reputed to possess physical traits that most women admire, but let’s be frank, these guys are freaks and their bites carry the risk of rabies at best (via the werewolves) and could consign you to an eternally soulless journey to nowhere (via the vampires).

It’s all a good romp, of course, until you find you have to submit to a series of painful rabies shots to the abdomen or can no longer tell if you got the part in your hair straight because your image no longer reflects in a mirror. Logically, wouldn't movies be the logical vehicles for effectively communicating these important warnings to our young people? And we wonder why they end up as walking tattoo billboards and jewelry display cases.

Anyway, I’ll present the opportunity again. If anyone can explain what the appeal is of these vampire/werewolf story motifs I would be interested in hearing from you.

Apologies for re-using the graphic from a previous post, but Baby Daughter is working 9 hour days, 6 days a week now and can no longer serve as my Photoshop-savvy assistant.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Appliance-dependency Helplessness in Hawai’i

In today’s headlines, the U.S. President continues to tout the “Recovery Summer”, while the most publicly-visible and influential Keynesian economist, Paul Krugman, upon whose analysis and opinions help drive the president’s economic stimulus policy, states that we’re at the beginning of a Third Depression (either to be long or great).

Perhaps to emphasize the point, the Dow Jones industrial average has dropped 428 points (4.2 percent) in the last four days, currently down 14.5 percent from its 2010 high in April. Investors appear to be choosing liquidity over capital investment. This sort of trend generally is taken as not a positive development for architects,

However, this is not my most preoccupying concern. The most vexing problem lately has been getting the laundry done.

Some months ago, various of my progeny and their family members, together with us, their parents, moved into one house to help manage reduced incomes resulting from the contracting private sector economy.

There are eight of us here. Several of us play soccer, some surf, one is a triathlete, training sometimes twice a day, and there is a one year old, and we generate dirty clothes regularly and efficiently. We used to do 2 or 3 washer loads a day, until our 7 month-old Maytag washer broke down in a noisy, grinding and ultimately, irritating, though non-agitating (if you know what I mean), way. That was 6 weeks ago.

Four weeks ago, the repairman came out to fix the washer. He took off the top and front panel to reveal at least part of the damage. Concrete rings around the front and back of the drum, presumably functioning as counterweights or stabilizers, were cracked and chipped. The repairman said he would order the replacement parts and call me when with the date they were expected to arrive.

He never called. After repeated calls to his number, I was told the part would arrive a week ago last Sunday. I called on Monday last. No answer. The next day, his receptionist told me the part was on factory back order and wouldn’t arrive until July 16.

Skipping many uninteresting steps. I called the factory. They located a distributor with the part. It arrived yesterday. There were no stabilizer rings. I’ve called twice to the repairman to ask how to proceed with repairs. Neither call has been returned yet. Week seven begins.

We live on an Island, 3,000 miles from the nearest continent. Obtaining certain goods has always been a patience-building exercise. Usually, we just tally it up as part of the price of Paradise. I don’t know how many more weeks must yet pass before our warranty-covered repairs are completed. Patience-building time and Paradise price inflation are both growing.

In the meantime, the local laundromat is prospering in the down economy from the many bags of dirty clothes we wash and dry there every week at no small cost of time and money (Paradise premium rates).

If only architects provided a service that had to be obtained every week…

Monday, June 28, 2010

Swimming in the Sky

This seems an odd contrast to the state of the world economy right now, but it is spectacular.

Are those things up there trees growing out of a 55 story building?

Yes, they are.

The Marina Bay Sands development in Singapore with its infinity edge swimming pool raised 650 feet into the air was designed by Moshe Safdie, with the concept based on a a deck of cards.

A refreshing dip at the ol' swimming hole.

Safdie was the architect who designed Habitat '67, a prefab, modular building system of stacked cubicle-shaped units with openings between them to allow in light and air. The building was constructed for the 1967 Montreal Expo world's fair. As architecture students in the early 1970's,we studied this building as part of our design education.

Habitat '67, Montreal, Canada

Back to the Marina Bay Sands.

So much of our experience of the world now seems to have its origins in Walt Disney's imagineering approach to entertainment in the 1950's. Incongruity, illusion and gravity-defying effects that began in avant garde art in the early to mid-twentieth century have moved into the mainstream environs of daily life through technology.

From Circue du Soleil to CGI graphics in movies and television product ads, and now, more and more, the built environment physical reality is distorted, senses are confused and one's understanding of the place he occupies in the world is challenged.

As technology continues to overwhelm us with greater and greater levels of complexity and control over our lives, quality human relationships become that much more important to help anchor us in reality and serve as an affirming reminder of personal significance.

Click here for the Daily Mail source article and photos of other areas of the development.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Ride the Wild Slick

Breaking wave at Orange Beach, Alabama, about 90 miles from the BP oil fountain and now a universe away from Surfers' Paradise.

Oil Slick Orange, the complementary color of Ultramarine Blue.

Sad times.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Advertising from My Formative Years

Back in the day, ads carried quite different viewpoints than those currently in fashion...

Influential or not, somehow, most of my compadres still turned out okay.

Click here for a sample gallery.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Is This Really Necessary?

The U.S., currently fighting in two undeclared wars in the Middle East, now has about a dozen warships being positioned in the Persian Gulf against Iran, presumably to be employed militarily in yet another conflict politicians have neither the will nor strategy for winning.

Senator Alan Simpson has said, viewable on video at youtube.com, that within the last month or so, the Social Security system started paying out more than it is taking in.

The Gulf of Mexico is being destroyed by oil and chemicals jetting out of the ocean floor at pressures that defy current technology’s capabilities to resist.

Joblessness and underemployment continue to weaken the economy and harm families’ abilities to manage themselves, while government “borrowing” reaches forward to enslave yet additional future generations under burdensome debt.

After adding another $3.1 trillion to the deficit, the economy is still faltering. Banks are failing at twice the rate of a year ago and the FDIC has used up its reserve funds.

In the face of this and other national problems of crisis proportions, the U.S. president has pushed for legislation to do what?

Create more walking paths and biking lanes. $1.2 billion dollars worth.

Setting aside whether or not this type of activity necessarily falls under the purview of the federal government, is this really the wisest utilization of resources by a government teetering on the brink of bankruptcy? Will this "investment" contribute to commerce and lasting growth in employment?

Perhaps this strikes others differently, but when I read of fiascos like this, I have to wonder if certain of our leaders are in touch with reality at all. My daughters, serving as babysitters in their early teen years, executed their duties far more responsibly.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Canada Makes Kona Newspaper Banner Headline

Yesterday’s local newspaper, West Hawaii Today, featured the top headline: Oh, Canada! Nation’s Economy Suddenly the Envy of the World.

The story reports: “The 20 world leaders at an economic summit in Toronto next weekend will find themselves in a country that has avoided a banking crisis where others have floundered, and whose economy grew at 6.1 percent annual rate in the first three months of this year.”

The article particularly notes that, “there was no mortgage meltdown or subprime crisis in Canada. Banks don’t package mortgages and sell them to the private market so they need to be sure their borrowers can pay back the loans.”

Grrr! Lucky so-and-so’s, who could've ever thought of running banks like that?

“The banks are stable because, in part, they’re more regulated. As the U.S. and Europe loosened regulations on their financial industries over the last 15 years, Canada refused to do so.”

Well, yearh, if you're gonna cheat! How are U.S. banks supposed to compete with that?

“The banks also aren’t as leveraged as their U.S. or European peers.”

I’m going to go out on a limb here and take a guess that Canadian banking system laws aren’t written by former Goldman Sachs executives now embedded in their nation's government.

“Our banks were better managed and we had better regulations,” says former Prime minister Paul Martin, the man credited with killing off a massive government deficit in the 1990’s when he was finance minister, leading to 12 straight years of budget surpluses.”

World leaders have noticed: President Barack Obama says the U.S. should take note of Canada’s banking system…”

Yeah, well, I wouldn’t recommend anyone holding his breath waiting for that to happen.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Happy Father's Day, Dad

From humble beginnings in Sioux Falls to living in Europe to our graduations and careers, you and Mom provided us with so many good opportunities, experiences and great family memories, the cost of which I could only really appreciate years later.

Sometimes it may have felt like the world was on your shoulders, but you took it all in stride and made things good for the family. Only after years of fatherhood, myself, did I come to appreciate how exhausting that was for you, at times.

I think I shot this photo when you were 15 years younger than I am now. I remember being somewhat concerned that you bought a gas-powered push - rather than self-driven - lawnmower when you were turning 40, because I expected to be leaving home in a couple of years and without me around to cut the grass, wasn't sure you'd be okay with that. Forty seemed so old to me back then. Guess my worries were way misplaced. Oh, to be 40 again now, myself!

Thanks for setting a great example for me of being a good father, Dad. I love you.

Happy Father's Day!

Friday, June 18, 2010

When You Need to Rent (Soccer) Fans, Who Ya Gonna Call?

Why, the Chinese, of course.

One of the stranger FIFA World Cup news stories to appear (so far) regards North Korea enlisting around a thousand PRC Chinese to pose as their “fans” during their soccer matches in South Africa.

Funny thing is, most of the Chinese who comprised the “fans volunteer army” knew next to nothing about soccer or the World Cup.

Evidently, the problem for the DPRNK was finding enough butts to fill their allocated seats at their games, butts that, presumably, could be trusted to return home at the end of the World Cup games. They managed to provide only a “group of 300 [who] had been carefully chosen by the North Korean Government.”

Being that the Norks were only able to “carefully select” 300 of their own people, they arranged for supplemental Chinese nationals to don the same red fan uniforms as their own people with the objective of providing support for their players.

You know, it has to be said, it’s bad enough when teams surreptitiously bring in ringers to play for them but when you have to fly in artificial fans, well, that that sets a new standard for the pathetic.

The London Evening Standard subject article reports, “Although they [DPRNK fan group] sang their national anthem loudly, the group tended only to cheer when directed by a man who stood before them like an orchestra’s conductor.”

Still, the Chinese were reported to be enjoying the games, cheering conductor and all. Can’t find any fault there. Lemons into lemonade: Wear a red uni and score free seats to a world class quadrennial sports event.

In a further botched attempt to endear North Korea to the world, the team’s “manager Kim Jong Hun rebuked a journalist for not using his country’s full name – Democratic People’s Republic of North Korea,” the same article reported.

Democratic People’s Republic, Banking Reform Bill... since when does a name of something have anything to do with accuracy of terms, anyway, right?

The saddest thing is, the North Koreans played decent soccer in their opener while losing to perennially strong Brazil by only one goal, and their back four defenders played very well together. You’ve got to give respect to the players. Obviously they’ve trained hard and have developed their skills, and playing in the shadow of an oppressive regime can’t be easy.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

The Beautiful Game with the Annoying Sound

If you've watched any of the FIFA World Cup games, you've had to listen to the constant background noise from the vuvuzela crowd competing with the commentators' description of the action.

The noise is relentless and is reported to be at 127 decibels (for comparison, a chainsaw in operation is about 100 decibels; a jet taking off is 130 if you were to be standing next to the engines).

For the uninitiated, here's a guide to proper use of the vuvuzela.

click on image to enlarge

Personally, I hate the blankety-blank things.


Monday, June 14, 2010

A Tie is as Good as a...Draw

This would have been more timely on Monday, but I just saw this today.

I guess it's a cultural thing...

click on image to englarge


Sunday, June 13, 2010

The Hidden Exposure of the Truth

The catastrophic oil leak in the Gulf of Mexico is the most devastating ecological disaster in U.S. history, and the repercussions will likely be felt around the globe for years to come.

While it's no laughing matter, I'm posting this video because the interviewee seems to so closely mimic the defensive replies, rather than solutions, or at the least, a timely, coordinated, national response by government and industry. Avoiding blame seems to have been the paramount concern by those who self-identify as leaders upon whom the public might be expected to rely.

As you watch this, see if anything truthful can be identified behind the obtuse response to questions.

Friday, June 11, 2010

The Heroic and the Honorable

Thoughts running through my head today…

Today, Friday, is nearly over. Today was King Kamehemeha Day in Hawaii, a state holiday commemorating the king who conquered all other Hawaiian kings and united the Hawaiian Islands as one nation.

King Kamehameha

Tomorrow morning, Hawaiian Standard Time, is the World Cup Football (soccer) match between England and the USA. It will be the first time in 60 years the two national teams have played each other in the World Cup. The host country for the quadrennial World Cup games this time is South Africa, a nation a half a world of time zones away from here.

Some of us in the family watched the movie, “Invictus” a couple of weeks ago. It is a very sanitized version of the story of how the South African national rugby team began to reconcile blacks and whites and unite the Rugby Championships host nation of South Africa during a time of great tension, shortly after Nelson Mandela became president.

History, as written by winners of wars, identifies as heroes, those who, often violently and through persistent use of bloody force, conquer their enemies and establish their subjugation. Sometimes this appears to work out for the better, sometimes for the worse. Sometimes it seems the jury is still out on the effects of the outcome.

King Kamehameha accomplished an extraordinary goal and is honored as a hero today. Warfare during his reign was up close and personal. The defeat of foes was accomplished through stabbing, slicing, bludgeoning and crushing with low-tech, handmade, though very lethal, weapons in a style of fighting not much different from warfare from ancient times in Asia and Europe. Kamehameha’s achievement was accomplished by killing a lot of people.

“The Battle of Nu’uanu”, painting by Hawaiian artist, Herb Kane

Nelson Mandela was imprisoned for 27 years on charges of sabotage. He was leader of the military wing of the African National Congress (ANC). Violence was considered a necessary tool to overcome the established government’s policies and practices of apartheid, a system that precluded the black majority of South Africa from freely participating in the political, economic and social spheres of the nation.

Nelson Mandela

One tool of the ANC was necklacing. I remember seeing this atrocity on a cable TV news program in the 1980’s. The ANC would tie up anyone they felt was an enemy collaborator, lay him (or her) on the ground, put a car tire around his neck, fill it with gasoline and light it on fire which produced a horrifically slow and painful death. Winnie Mandela, Nelson’s wife, affirmed this as a necessary and defendable practice. I don’t know for sure whether Nelson gave public assent to its use or not, but his followers must have believed they had his tacit approval to do this. Eventually, the ANC and its allied organizations became victorious in their goal of ending apartheid and assuming political control of the nation as Nelson Mandela was elected president. He worked as president to achieve a multi-racial democratic government.

Tomorrow, if the US wins against England, the victorious players will be acclaimed, no doubt by some, as heroes of the game.

Team USA, 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa

If you were to ask a group of parents if they would wish their children to be courageous, chances are most would say yes. If however, you were to ask these same parents if they would wish for their children to be acclaimed as heroes by killing a lot of people, many might decline. Most would probably be quite happy if their children became “heroes” by winning an international competition as representatives of their nations.

We live in an imperfect world. Heroism can be an imperfect designation. Many of history’s heroes carried with them a lot of bloodguilt of the innocent to their graves. There is only One who is capable of judging them with perfect justice and mercy. Heroes win victories for their nations. True honor, though, can be hidden from human eyes, and might only be seen by the Lord.

I realize that my life benefits from the heroic actions of many people who have gone before me and that I am blessed to live in a country that still enjoys a lot of freedoms many others don't have. Still, I would rather have as my closest friends the honorable, than merely the heroic.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Will This Be on the Test?

I can just imagine the father of the writer of the question on the notice below - "Ya know, you buy 'em books, you send 'em to school,..." (drops chin to chest and shakes head back and forth slowly)...

Click on image to enlarge

Actually, I miss the long-gone days of learning when my classes were full of guys always ready to respond to anything logical and important with an irrelevant tangential comment like the one above. Made the days more interesting.

h/t to lumberjack

Monday, June 7, 2010

Best Version in a Long, Long Time

Couldn't pass on posting this. Talent-rich performers, evidence of lots of practice and absence of massive ego display.

The imagery is blurry but the sound quality is good.

I'd love to be able to sing this well when I'm six.............ty!

Sunday, June 6, 2010

I Think I Found Your Problem Here

The U.S. labor department released May employment figures last Friday. The government hired 431,000, mostly temporary, census workers. Private sector employment increased by just 41,000 jobs, a decrease in number from 218,000 in April.

Here’s the problem from my point of view as a professional and businessman:

Government jobs are characteristically regulatory. They don’t produce tangible consumer products, like food, housing, cars or appliances. These jobs generally do not contribute to an increase in the nation’s commerce; they actually subtract from it’s production potential, as regulatory jobs add to the cost of production, which must be paid for by the end-user, or consumer, as part of the product price.

That’s not to say that all government jobs are a waste of money. I believe there is a benefit, for example, in safe food and drug laws and their enforcement, assuming that this is taking place free from corrupting influences. Logically, people employed to oversee the safety of consumable products do add value to the products if they keep the products from poisoning us, yet these still are costs to be paid for and not products in and of themselves.

I do not believe that the more government we have, the better our lives become. Many government jobs are little more than political patronage positions useful to politicians for wielding greater political influence. We’ve had a U.S. Department of Education for over thirty years and educational achievement is worse than before it existed. I don’t see why we wouldn’t benefit from eliminating that multi-tens of billions of dollars department cost.

Government jobs are cost factors, not potential profit centers in terms of business. In business, when costs cause a desirable product to exceed the market value of the product, the product generally does not sell, business activity declines for that product item and people cannot be employed for it’s production. When too many products are priced beyond the market’s ability to purchase them, the economy declines. The bigger the government, the greater the regulation cost, and the higher the product end-user cost.

The U.S. government is already running an unimaginably huge deficit. Is it really in the best interests of the country to hire another 431,000 government employees when their costs (wages, benefits, offices and other operating expenses) must be paid for by taxes from another mere 41,000 producers (more than 10 to 1, “costers” to producers?)

There is a tipping point, the question is, are we there yet? I’ve said this before but, when the regulators overwhelm the producers, a country cannot be sustained economically any more than a healthy body can be sustained when the number of parasites overwhelm the host. Eventually, the death of both must result.

If I were in charge of things, at the very least, I would try to start eliminating Federal Departments of Round Pegs Into Square Holes instead of increasing their number. Increasing the cost and difficulty of producing consumer goods in this country is not a useful policy direction. Especially not if the goal is to increase the employment of producers.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

The Keauhou Store

If you look at a maps of the flatland, farming areas of the Midwest you’ll notice that towns are located an average of about 8 miles apart, sometimes a little closer or farther, but not much farther.

Towns were birthed in earlier times based on the distance a farmer could load up a wagon, hitch up his horse team and drive to town, unload his produce, buy supplies and return to his house in one day’s time. Overnight stays for farmers were often impractical for several reasons, one being the care of the livestock.

Here in Kona coffee growing country, there remain longstanding general stores at a much closer distance together, I’d say every two to three miles. They served the surrounding coffee farmers and field workers and their children. They are often located right at the old Mamalahoa highway edge of road, I’m guessing due to minimal regulation in pre-statehood Hawai’I, and as a practical response to the steep slope with rapid topographic drop-off.

These general stores resemble those of American frontier western towns of the latter half of the 19th century in that they are built of wood and often present a tall vertical facade in front of a pitched roof, usually double pitched, but sometimes a single-pitched shed roof.

I’ve driven by some of these buildings for years. Many had become quite deteriorated in appearance. Recently, restoration and refurbishment seems to be trending among at least some of the shop owners.

The Keauhou Store is one I’ve always particularly liked. The front facade features a stepped up parapet with radius corners at the height transitions, recalling the streamlining effects seen in buildings of the Art Moderne style popular, on the Mainland anyway, between the 1920’s and 1940’s.

The stepped facade follows the pitch of the roof behind with outer fa├žade portions stretched out to emphasize horizontality (customary of A.M.) while allowing the higher central portion to create kind of a dwarf-ly “monumental” presence. This is an eclectic building. The facade above the porch roofs is smooth, as you would find characteristic of
Art Moderne examples, while the under-porch and side portions utilize the more rustic board and batten cladding.

You can see the drop-off from the road. This building is only about a mile to a mile and a half from the county’s water department offices and base yard. I suspect county water is now available. The rainwater catchment system may now serve as an irrigation source for nearby coffee trees or other farm crops.

The Keauhou store strives for a symmetry that might be more commonly seen in Neoclassical or Italian Renaissance styles, yet finally gives way to its utilitarian needs with the left side projection. In spite of its stylistic anomalies, there’s something unexplainably appealing about this building. I’m looking forward to its completed rehabilitation.

Also somewhat recently refurbished and about 7 miles northward is the K. Komo Store. The store appears to have been constructed, much like buildings going back ages, for commerce on the ground floor and the merchant’s living quarters above.

In both buildings, parking arrangements are left pretty much to the driver’s imagination. Four-wheel drive vehicles might find more parking options.

The K. Komo Store – Note the covered, raised boardwalk, another feature seen on some frontier town buildings.

Not sure the purpose of the top-forward projecting windows. Glare reduction, maybe? I believe these are a recent addition.

As always, click on any photo to view a larger image.

Friday, May 28, 2010

In Second Grade, We Learned to Knit

I could push a pin through the starting point on the graph where the deplorable state of modern American education became personal.

Whereas pre-war America had operated under a consensus regarding the importance of thorough schooling in the “Three R’s” I grew up under the tutelage of the “new math” (intuitive math replacing logical math), social studies (replacing American history) and, rounding out the curriculum, knitting.

Digging through old piles of stuff recently, with the goal of tossing most of it, I ran across a piece I wrote as a second grade reporter for the school newspaper describing the progress our class had been achieving. Whoever typed it up must have corrected my spelling and cleaned up the syntax because this far exceeded my capabilities at the time.

From the March 30, 1961 edition of the West Viewer:

In our room we have been studying about wind. We have found material in our science books we had at home and in library books.

We saw some movies and strip films and listened to some special radio programs. In class we tried some of the experiments we saw in the films and some we found in the books. We were to try an experiment at home, then write up the results and bring the paper back to school.

We used several kinds of thermometers, hot water, ice cubes and fans. When those of us that tried an experiment about evaporation are able write up the experiment we will finish reading our reports to the class. Some of us had to wait several days for the evaporation experiment. We found out that a larger opening on a jar or pan can speed up evaporation.

We have been weaving and knitting in our room. We took turns using the looms and helped one another. Some of us put designs on our mats. After we finished a mat, Miss Bennett said she would teach us to knit if we wanted to learn knitting.

We practiced on some small lengths of yarn. Now we have started scarves for ourselves. Guy C----- has made a scarf and sent it to a friend in England for a birthday gift. He made a nice design by using two colors of yarn. Michael F-----, Donna M-----, Phyllis T----- and Andy W----- have finished their scarves.

Now some of us are making slippers. Carla P------ and Michael F----- have almost finished with their slippers.

Miss Bennett puts the stitches on for us and now we do most of our knitting at home. Miss Bennett picks up the dropped stitches before classes start in the morning, at recess, and after school. We are keeping her and her mother busy doing the crocheting part at home. Some of us can do spool knitting.

After Miss Bennett teaches some of us, we try to teach someone else so that Miss Bennett can have time to cast on stitches for someone else to start another piece of work.
–Miss Bennett’s 2nd grade

That was my report, published on legal size paper in purple mimeograph ink. The story was buried on page 4, I believe because reports of other events going on at the school were judged to be more noteworthy than a tally of knitting accomplishments by Miss Bennett’s second grade class.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

How to Choose a Career

Sometime during my senior year in high school, each of we students were told to write out our intended occupations, what we planned to do after graduation.

I had absolutely no career direction at the time. I had always viewed becoming competent at something and making a living as distant future situations.

My friend, Darron, had suggested to me that a couple of good career possibilities were, 1.) shepherd and 2.) organ grinder. I gave some thought to his recommendations and agreed they were not bad choices, so those are what I wrote down.

Shepherding seemed like honest work and not overly demanding, except, I reasoned, when you might have to pull a double shift if your reliever calls in sick. Shepherds often fared better than most others in the Bible. God seemed to favor them. Moses was a shepherd. King David started out as a shepherd. Jesus is the Good Shepherd. God sent the angels to shepherds to first announce Jesus’ birth…

On the other hand, if you were a professional organ grinder you got to have a monkey, which also counted as a business deduction on your taxes. I had never seen very many organ grinders around so I supposed the market wasn’t over-supplied with them. Image in the field seemed to be paramount, though. Could I grow the requisite mustache to be able to pull off the full effect? Probably not for another year or so, I concluded.

Having been lying in bed off and on over the past few days trying to get over this cold that invaded my sinuses, eyes, ears, throat and chest, I’ve been musing over my career choice and path.

It's never been a secret that I drifted into architecture sideways, starting off studying something else. One of my instructors told me he thought I should go into architecture. Really?, I thought, well…er, uh, yeah, okay…, I guess.

And that was about it. I made the change and continued through school, spent a few summers working construction, graduated, got my first architecture job, and then another, and on and on until finally becoming my own boss almost eleven years ago.

My 40th year high school reunion is next year. I made the 10th and 25th but couldn't make the 5,000 mile trip from Hawai'i to the others. I’ve been wondering this week how many of my former classmates made their career decisions thoughtfully and deliberately versus how many just wandered into a path, as I did. I wouldn’t mind listening to some of them tell their stories on the subject.

Incidentally, my classmate, Darron, chose to become a medical doctor and work as a research scientist at a major university, which was probably a good career choice. I doubt that either shepherding or organ grinding could have matched the benefits of his current position.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

50 Years After the Hilo Tsunami

I’m a little behind here, fighting off a cold and lacking energy. but...

Sunday marked the 50th anniversary of the 1960 tsunami, which devastated Waiakea town (a town section of Hilo) along Kamehameha Avenue and the Hilo bay front. Where once stood houses and businesses there is now a wide, open-space buffer, including park areas and the soccer fields all of my children played on in inter-island competitions while growing up.

The tsunami collapsed house against house as it rushed up the slope of the town. Sixty one people perished. Waiakea Town was condemmed and deeded over to the state.

Hilo, the County of Hawaii government headquarters, is on the windward coast (opposite side from Kona) of the Big Island, the Island of Hawai’i.

On February 27 of this year, our family woke up to tsunami warning sirens, due to earthquake-generated concerns) here in Kona. Condominiums along the shore were evacuated, businesses were closed and nearly everyone moved up the slopes of Hualalai as a precaution

Down the road from where we live, a group set up a few shade tents right off the highway on the edge of a precipice, along with tables, chairs, coolers and barbecue grills to watch the big one hit about a thousand feet lower and a mile away. We watched for it while attending a house blessing event at 600 feet elevation and a clear view of the coastline about ½ mile down slope.

The anticipated tsunami never arrived, thankfully. The drama far exceeded the event. This was a good thing, in spite of the potential for producing cynicism in some people from, yet another, “false” alarm. As the Hilo tsunami demonstrated, it’s important to be vigilant and responsive to warnings. Complacency can become fatal along the island coastline.

Click here to read one survivor's recent recollection of the 1960 Waiakea-Hilo Tsunami.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

10,000 Days Below the Volcano

This last week we passed the 10,000th consecutive day of volcanic activity on the Big Island. Eruption activity began January 3, 1983.

Here’s a time-elapsed clip of minor activity occurring at Halemaumau crater on a day the trade winds were blowing.
Video clip used with permission by EfrankE

Most of the flowing lava comes out of the side of Mauna Loa. The volcano has overlaid old lava with new, destroyed homes and forest land, closed a main road with lava and even extended the cliffs of the island a little farther out into the sea, but mostly it has produced a lot of steam and gas emissions. Note: The banner photo at the top of this page is a shot of Hualalai Mountain, a dormant volcano which separates us from the actively volcanic south-eastern part of the island.

The output of sulfur dioxide varies from 200 tons to 2,000 tons per day. It acidifies the rain, at times, to the detriment of Big Island crops. When molten lava flows into the ocean the sulfur dioxide combines with the seawater to form steam clouds of hydrochloric acid. It’s good to avoid the area on those days.

It’s always more pleasant in Kona when the trade winds are blowing, sending the vog (volcanic version of smog) southward and out into the Pacific. In the summer, Kona winds prevail much of the time and bring the vog northward along the leeward coast, spoiling otherwise pleasant views.

The long-term health effects of breathing air with a high concentration of sulfur dioxide for 27 years are still unknown, though not expected to be beneficial.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

It’s For the Children

It’s tough starting a new business in the current economic climate. Our research suggests that tapping into parental insecurity, competitiveness and, in may cases, guilt remains a potent marketing force not yet fully exploited by industry supermarket stand periodicals (last stop along the impulse sale trail).

Some time ago my “son and only” came up with a magazine idea that seems destined for every preschooler’s mother’s nightstand reading pile. We believe we’ll still be the first to enter this sub-market sub-niche. With the summer solstice arriving next month (northern hemisphere only, condolences, Australia), we feel the timing couldn’t be better.

Actually, the whole idea was my son’s and he’ll be doing most of the work. I’m just tagging along for encouragement and profits. I’ve tried hard to pass along to him everything I’ve learned about business. You’ll note from the photo the essential tools I’ve emphasized - serious demeanor; upright posture; conservative, navy blue suit; red power tie; gum-soled wingtips - it’s all there.

He got off to a slow start and the entire operation is still being run out of his briefcase but recently he has gotten a head. He decided to go with his guts because corporate headhunters charge outrageous fees for bringing in a CEO. There was a wide selection of CEO's available on e-bay at very reasonable prices. He went with the cheapest (figure at middle right in photo) to keep overhead down, which so far, he’s doing. Being especially compact, our CEO can fly for a $25 baggage charge to most destinations.

Magazine issues are expected to appear semi-annually, at first. The winter issue will carry a special insert for markets in Arctic Lapland, Siberia, and much of Canada featuring topics such as “Selecting the Right Artificial Light Array for Your Child to Stare At During the 6 Dark Months” and “Comparing Videogame Screen Backlights – You’ll Be Surprised Which tested out for Optimum Radiation Benefit.”

This will probably end my previous part-time, fill-in work, advice giving, since I won’t have time for 2 extra jobs. Plus, there’s just too much free advice available out there and the market for my services faces relentless competition from other opinionated people. Never saw that coming.

This, though, has to be a sure-fire winner.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

The Hair Up There

It had been three to four weeks, so today it was time for another haircut. I’m still trying to resolve the cognitive dissonance that occurs by looking at my reflection uninterruptedly for twenty minutes, or so. My mind cannot seem to accept that what’s in front of me isn’t some kind of distorting, carnival mirror that stretches the width of the reflected image.

My barberette was in true form:

She: “Your hair’s gotten long this time.”

I: “Think I should go for the Mohawk?”

She: Manages polite, yet undoubtedly fake, smile with no comment.

I: “Okay, then what about a Faux-hawk?”

We finally settled on a No-hawk, which closely resembles “The Usual.”

To help attach an increase in status to the style that has become my last stop along the hairstyle option spectrum before the “Michael Jordan” terminus, henceforth "The Usual" will be re-named after former University of Hawaii, and now SMU, head football coach, June Jones.

In the future, when, or more probably, if my barberette ever again asks me how I want it, I’m going to request the “June Jones.” That’s June Jones, not June Cleaver, got it?

The "June Jones" (formerly, a.k.a, the "No-Hawk")

The "June Cleaver" (not recommended for most men)

The "Michael Jordan" (a.k.a. the "Hair Graveyard")

Monday, May 17, 2010

You Get What You Pay For…

…after that you must hire an Attorney to get someone else to pay for what you wished for.

Every now and then, someone comes along who can reveal the big picture in the most cogent way. Today, enlightenment is provided by subcontractor/business owner, Pete Battisti, commenting on the faster, cheaper, better expectations of building project owners, particularly as the process is likely to occur more and more in a dog-eat-dog recession economy.

“In most cases, owners get what they pay for and sometimes more than they bargain for when they select the low or unqualified bidder, and it all starts at the drawing process and continues:

--Owner hires low bid architect, possibly unqualified.

--Owner hires low bid general contractor, possibly unqualified.

--GC hires low bid subcontractors, possibly unqualified.

--Owner enters into contract with GC.

--GC enters into contracts with subcontractors.

--All contracts are written to limit the owner’s liability.

--All subcontracts are written to limit the owner’s and GC’s liability.

--All contracts require special endorsements from subcontractors protecting (defending) the owner and the GC.

--All contracts are written with “no” payment guarantees.

Construction begins

Project is completed.

--Owner is not happy because the job took too long to build, had cost overruns, and was not up to the quality that was expected.

--Law firms clean up the legal issues through litigation and or arbitration.

--Insurance companies settle liability claims.

Project complete."

Battisti summarizes: “If everyone really wants projects built faster, cheaper and better, why isn’t there a delivery method that achieves this goal?

“Why isn’t there a vaccination for cancer, or for that matter the common cold? Why don’t cars get 300 miles per gallon of gas? Why can’t we stop illegal aliens or street drugs from entering our borders? Why have we become a consumer country rather than a producing country?

“The simple answer is, there is more money in the treatment than in the cure in the short term.”

And that, for those who are paying attention to the recent machinations of international finance, is also why the foundational causes of the dire problems that most of the economies in the world today are experiencing are not being properly rectified.

Sharp vision is essential for those working at the front end of the food chain in a shark’s world. Pete Battista has flipped on the light switch and adjusted the focus.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Princess Ka’iulani

Familiarity with anything more than a few facts regarding the history of Hawai’i is a rarity among the vast majority of non-Hawai’i born residents of our state.

Still, anyone who has connected at all with Hawaii’s people and culture knows generally about the armed takeover of the Kingdom of Hawai’i and its annexation to the U.S., led by American and English businessmen in the last decade of the 19th century.

The movie, “Princess Ka’iulani,” portrays the story of one of Hawai’i’s last royal heiresses in line to the throne, from childhood to young adult, as she experienced the circumstances of that period. Historical events, instead of providing the narrative, play out in the background.

Memorable in the film is the depiction of the legitimate rulers of the constitutional monarchy. Faced with the realization that it is outside of their nation’s power to physically resist the takeover, the royal rulers choose to act with humble dignity, wisdom, faith and courage to preserve the identity and place of the Hawaiian people.

A good movie, in my opinion, is one that lasts no more than 90 minutes, or so, which is the case here. Beyond that criterion, the film is a well-crafted presentation. There are no wow-factor, CGI scenes and only one explosion, but the acting is good, the cinematography not bad at all and the deliberate pacing allows the story to develop coherently. Additionally, you can watch this entertainment with grandparents or younger children without concern for embarrassing language or subject matter that will leave you ill-at-ease.

I recommend the movie for having qualities similar to “Chariots of Fire,” if you can recall that movie from the early 1980’s. In both films, the directors set out to make a good movie without spending tens of millions of dollars by focusing on plot, character development and conflict resolution.

Perhaps the movie will be found to be more meaningful to those who live here in the historical after-path (to coin a term) of the events portrayed, but I believe many others will find the movie a rewarding experience, as well. Not being a major studio production, it probably won’t be in theater release for very long. Before it disappears, try to see it.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Chinese Dogs Sent into Space for What?

In 1957, Laika the dog was launched into space orbit by the Soviets, blazing a path for human spaceflight. Today, the Chinese regularly launch dogs into space with their own astronauts.

There is a notable difference in the designated role of the dog between the two space programs. The Soviets sent Laika into orbit primarily to determine whether humans could survive weightlessness in space.

The Chinese send dogs, or as they are widely known in the western world, Man’s Best Friend, into space as part of a healthy breakfast, or whatever meal they are consumed as a menu item.

The UK Telegraph reports that Former astronaut and China’s first man in space, Yang Liwei, commander of the Shenzhou five 2003 space mission explains in his autobiography, The Nine Levels Between Heaven and Earth, “Many of my friends are curious about what we eat [in space] and think that the astronauts must have some expensive delicacies, like shark’s fin or abalone. Actually we ate quite normal food, there is no need to keep it a secret.”

One item that stands out on the listed menu of normal items includes dog meat, specifically, the type sourced in Huajiang County in Guangdong, which is esteemed in China for its nutritional benefits. Not significantly, dog shared the menu on day three of Liwei's mission with baby cuttlefish casserole and eel with green pepper.

Hope I’m not making everyone too hungry to read to the end of this post.

To capsulize, somebody in the Chinese space program made the decision that shark fin was too extravagant for space missions, but dog as a nutritious, yet familiar, comfort food would contribute to the fitness and focus of the astronauts in the performance of their mission, and that there is no need to keep this a secret. Tough call, but you gotta just trust the experts in these things.

Does this post have a point, you ask? Well, no, not a very strong one, other than, it can help make some sense of things to view people and their activities in their cultural context. That, and the term “puppy chow” might lose a lot in translation depending on how good the foreign language dictionary is that you might be relying on.

A few years ago here in Kona, while waiting to pick up baby girl from middle school, a ten or eleven year-old girl passed my car while walking her pet Vietnamese pot-bellied pig on its leash. I watched the two of them stroll down the sidewalk until they turned the corner. disappearing from sight. In some (probably only non-gated) subdivisions in Kona, domesticated pigs may be kept as pets. Doesn’t keep me from eating bacon, though.

One of my Filipino buddies here always claimed he had the best recipe for cat. He remained tight lipped about giving up the family recipe, but he did let slip that the secret lay in the ginger. I’ve never personally tasted it at any cookouts or potlucks as far as I’m aware, … maybe, though. He did mention it tasted pretty much like, what was it again? Oh, yeah, cat.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Resolving the Real Men vs. Quiche Controversy

Back in the early 1980’s, Reader’s Digest published excerpts from a book entitled, Real Men Don’t Eat Quiche. The title / statement / opinion insinuated that no manly-type male would ever eat something soft and gummy, like quiche, when instead he could choose to rip into more rugged table fare, like steak or pork chops. Sadly, publication of the article unleashed far-reaching repercussions on the unsuspecting male public.

The book’s title quickly became a slogan of masculine reaffirmation, which, paradoxically, if not naturally, opened up a whole new set of opportunities for humiliation by one’s male peers.

The year the book came out I was playing on a Kona men’s league softball team. A fielding error often led to being called a “quiche-eater,” the implication being that only a squishy, overly-sensitive man like a Phil Donohue, or an Alan Alda, would have missed such an easy play, or perhaps that the fielder must have forgotten to bring his manhood along that day. The accusation usually developed like something along these lines:

“Aaaah! Quiche-eater!

“Who’re you calling a quiche-eater?”

“You, who else? Only a quiche-eater would miss an easy out like that!”

“Oh, yeah? What makes you the expert?

“I’m the captain, the titular head of the team!”

“You’re a titular head, all right!”

“YOU’RE the titular head.”

“No, YOU are!”

“That’s what I said!”

“Okay, then!”

Eventually, quiche-related criticism would wane and play would resume until the next unforgivable error.

I’m sure you can grasp how formative life lessons like this can leave a man apprehensive about ever being caught eating, let alone making, quiche. However, since my masculine self-identity is feeling quite invincible at the moment, I will unflinchingly confess to both.

Yeah, you heard right, I’m admitting it! I made a quiche as a gift for my wife for Mother’s Day. I was in need of some sort of gesture to show appreciation for the five pups kids she popped out. I knew she liked quiche. The rest of us have learned to eat it. Helpfully, she brought home all of the necessary ingredients from the grocery store so that I wouldn’t have to leave the family kennel compound on a special trip to town.

Flowers and a Hallmark card with supplementary, handwritten, emotive sentiments would have been the easy way out, of course. My gift was a much more creative, personal, and quite possibly more-economical, expression of love and appreciation.

I assume, my well-contemplated gift was blissfully received and will reap handsome dividends, relationship-wise, for the near term. I should probably ask though, just to make sure.

Here’s the recipe source. Incidently, don’t worry if all the bacon pieces fall to the bottom. I found out ex post facto that’s to be expected. Also, you may want to use the fancier French cheese (as far as I know, we’re still back on friendly terms with the French) instead of the thriftier Kraft-brand Swiss cheese that I used. I used heavy whipping cream in place of creme fraiche.

Men, you might want to take a shot at this. The recipe is pretty easy and women seem to savor the results. Importantly, almost nobody uses “quiche-eater” as a derogatory expression anymore. In fact, the term has almost passed from the collective male memory, possibly due to resigned acceptance of the U.S. Department of Defense's “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell" policy, or maybe from pressure brought to bear on the media from quiche industry-aligned politicians and interest groups.

Whatever the reason, today it’s become possible for real men and quiche to co-exist peacefully to a degree unimaginable a mere three decades ago.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

In Mayberry? Now I’ve Heard Everything!

Longtime friend and former Kona resident, Steve, now settled in North Carolina, sends back this headline from The Mt. Airy News: Establishment for Adults Only Eyed in Mt. Airy.

The town of Mt. Airy, NC was the inspiration for fictional town, Mayberry, the setting for the Andy Griffith Show. Mt. Airy was Griffith’s hometown. It likely would have become a decaying rural remnant of the past had the town not gained a second life attracting rube tourists who are enticed into experiencing a commercialized simulation of early 1960’s Mayberry. I was a visitor there in 2001.

Steve, summarizes, “The folks in town think that a new night club opening out on the highway is going to be a str1p club because the owner put up a sign out front with a woman with her leg around a brass pole.”

Optimistically, he continues, “Personally, I think it will probably be a school for women firemen.”

Makes sense to me. Some firemen like to play pool to relax. It's logical that firewomen would find relaxation in the same activity, right? Plus, Steve, a media specialist and university instructor, has not only been long-immersed in regional sign traditions but also holds a master’s degree in Appalachian culture, so I’m leaning heavily on his analysis.

Let us all hope he’s right. If it’s the alternative possibility, it’ll be another nail in the coffin containing my treasured, childhood TV memories.

Thanks for the heads-up, Steve. Please keep us apprised of any further Mt. Airy and/or firewomen-related developments.

"You got to nip it! Nip it in the bud!"

Monday, May 10, 2010

Mother’s Day Post, Addendum

The woman who bore me adds enriching detail to the experience of my birth (from her side; my recollection’s unreliably vague):

(front, left to right: Mike'itect, his mother; back row: other people)

"Back then, the hospital personnel were surprised at my request to have the scene photographed. It’s just too bad that you are pictured so far in the background, however, with a head the shape of a watermelon and one eye swollen shut, perhaps it was for the best.

"Six weeks later, I worked evenings [as a nurse – ed.] at the hospital and saw my [delivery] doctor. He then confessed, 'I probably should have done a Caesarean Section.' I thought to myself, Ya, think? Duhhhhh…

"He was probably trying to decide what to do … as he sat in my labor room while he should have been teaching a class and/or going home.

"While laboring in la-la land, I lay wondering why he was always in my room, especially when he had told me months before that I would have no trouble because, 'You’re as big as a cow!' (Oh, Doc, you probably say that to all your patients.)"

To use refereeing terms, it’s unlikely any doctor today would place himself in the precarious position of admitting he called a bad game. I have to conclude that, as the hours passed, the doctor was concerned enough about either my mother or me to remain personally vigilant.

Hard to believe my mom didn’t experience Post-Delivery Stress Disorder every time she looked at me. The sufficiency of God’s grace.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

To Mom on Mother's Day

Sorry about the 40 hours of labor.

Reckon I must'a camped out along the way & drug my heels some toward the end o' the trail.

Were all hospitals back then this bright and cheery, or were we just lucky?

Glad I lost the watermelon head. Bet you are too.

Many thanks for birthing me. I like to think it made the world a better place.

Lord Jesus bless you, Mom. Have a happy Mother’s Day!

Me (or I, whichever is thought today by most experts to be grammatically correct)

Looks like I pulled on my own boots the day of the photo. Mostly always was independence-minded, 'less'n I needed t' borry a dollar or two.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Randy’s First Resume

What did YOUR first resume look like?

Graduating from architecture school during the years of the Carter recession, I found the prospects of obtaining first-job professional-employment with a skimpy resume about as promising as trying to separate the fly droppings from the pepper.

A young graduate that our Midwestern office hired in the early ‘nineties, Randy T., went through a similar experience. He once noted that if he had been completely honest about his qualifications, his first resume would have looked like this:

RANDY T--------

309 E. John Street

Champaign, Illinois 61820

(217) --- ----


To obtain the position for which I am applying.


University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign

Degree: Master of Architecture

Graduation Date: May, 1993

Degree: B.S. Architectural Studies

Graduation Date: May, 1990


Barracco’s Pizzaria, Evergreen Park, IL

- Delivered pizzas really fast.

- Got some awesome tips from some rich dudes.

- Managed to control my temper when I got stiffed.

Sportmart, Orland Hills, IL

- Wore a tie to work every single day.

- Put sporting goods on the shelves for people to buy.

- Was never more than 7-1/2 minutes late to work.

- Did not stare at the babes trying on shoes in the shoe department.

Southwest Pet Shop, Bridgeview, IL

- Could catch up to 14 goldfish in one swoop of the net.

- Mopped the whole floor at least 5 times a day.

- Counted change real good.

- Could carry over 100 lbs. of dog food at a time – impressed the delivery guys.


- Collect frogs and some lizards.

- Go fishing whenever someone will take me on his boat.

- Sleep in real late on some Saturdays.

- Cut the lawn before my dad gets pissed.

- Go driving around late at night to find toads breeding in ditches.

- Sneak in U-turns when there’s no cops around.

- Stick sleeping people’s hands in warm water and laughing as they pee their pants.

- Ate 13 White Castle burgers for lunch once.


- Dad (not when he’s in a bad mood, though)

- Mom

- Faith, my sister

- Grandma D-----

- Grandma T--------

- Grandpa T--------

- Michelle, my girlfriend

Long story short, we hired him. Not on the basis of this resume (which we hadn’t yet seen), of course, but the strength of his padded one was, if not compelling, much more impressive - to architects, anyway (probably not as much to herpetologists).

I haven’t seen Randy in 15 years. I’m sure he’s found success. He told me once that, back when he worked at the pet shop, he personally taste-tested all the brands of dry dog food. Otherwise, he explained, he couldn’t have honestly told the customers which one was the best.

And, of course, honesty is how you get ahead in the world.