Sunday, June 24, 2012

Excuses for not Washing

Pastor Ron's sermon today was a continuation of "Back to the Basics." Last week he spoke about prayer, its importance to each of us and how to pray. Today he spoke about Fellowship, how and why we should do so.
One of the first things he covered was a list - the excuses people make for not washing.
10. I was forced to wash as a child.
9. People who wash are hypocrites; they think they are cleaner than everyone else.
8. There are so many different kinds of soap, I don't know which one to use.
7. I used to wash, but it got boring.
6. Washing on Christmas and Easter is enough.
5. None of my friends wash.
4. I'll wash when I get older, like when I retire.
3. I don't really have time to wash.
2. The bathroom is too cold in the winter and too warm in the summer to wash.
1. The people making soap are only out to get my money!

This list pretty much comprises the top ten reasons people give for not going to church.
(I confess I had to go to the Internet to find the list. I wasn't fast enough to write them down as Pastor Ron went through them. They are not exactly what he showed us, but they are close.)
Happy Sunday everyone!

Thursday, June 21, 2012


There's an old joke: If a vacuum cleaner sucks, is that a good thing? That's kind of funny.
There's an old saying: Life sucks. Then you die. That's not so funny.
I am not good at a lot of things. Some things I try to do, and it takes so long for me to do a bad job of it that I get frustrated and think there's something wrong with me. But there isn't. Learning to do a new thing follows a learning curve, a steep suckage scale, so to speak. Quite often I forget this, and just get depressed at my total lack of abilities.
Yesterday I caught a pretty good article where Thorin Klosowski explained how he handles the suck barrier when learning a new skill. The article made me feel less alone in the great big dark and scary world of new skill suckage. I recommend the article to everyone, and sent it to my two youngest, who suffer from the same self-deprecating malady I do.
Thorin (I am going to guess we are on a first-name basis unless he calls to correct me) gives some good tips for handling the learning curve.
Try another Expert Source or Manual - I know all about this one, but maybe from the wrong perspective. Years ago when I was teaching Windows in a Continuing Education class at a local community college I had a student who was struggling with everything I taught. He stuck it out, but it was painful for him. When I taught my next class, there he was. I told him he already took it, and he sort of hung his head. "I was hoping for a different teacher," he said. We went to the Registrar's office to get him into the same class with a different instructor. Occasionally the source material just isn't right. Find another one.
Take a Break - I do this all the time. He suggests a break every ninety minutes. My only caveat on Thorin's advice for this one is don't let the break last too long, or you may not come back to it. I recall one particularly difficult physics problem a friend and I struggled with in college. We gave up on it and I went running. When I got back I wrote the entire solution on the little message board on her dorm room door. I have to admit, that felt good.
Sleep on It and Try to Find New Solutions - I do this all the time. Once in a while my new solution is to demolish the entire thing. I do this often with problems that stump me and it works well, but we're talking about new skill learning, so I'll stick to that.
Know When to Quit and Learn from Your Mistakes - that's a two-part bit of advice and the second part is key. Accepting defeat is okay sometimes, but if you don't learn from it, you're doomed to repeat it.
Try a Smaller Project - I'll break down large, complicated projects that I don't know how to do into small chunks that I do know how to do. It certainly makes it all more manageable.
Keep Practicing - If you really want to master the skill, you need to keep at it. Malcolm Gladwell says in his excellent book Outliers that it takes 10,000 hours to master a skill. My youngest son disagrees, with some validation; he mastered Diablo III in a just a few hundred hours. However, that might be considered a subset skill; he has spent thousands of hours mastering computer gaming skills.
Thorin (what an awesome name) makes some good points, and the article is worth a read. That's not the end of the story, though.
My youngest daughter read the article and liked it. She then sent me her summation of
The Levels of Sucking
(1) When you're first learning something, you suck like a vacuum cleaner, gathering up every useful (and some useless) bits of information.
(2) Then you suck like a straw, gathering up more and more data about a small pocket of information without much power or room to learn.
(3) Then you just suck.
Eventually, if you love it more than food, you may become a Black Hole of Sucking, in which case no bit of knowledge escapes your awesome powers. But this happens rarely to very few people. We call them "demigods."

That just made my day.

Sometimes it is just too painful to learn a new skill

Erasing Trees

I thought it was time for a quick update on moving from our current address to the smaller house.
The new Living Room
 Darling is handling all the contractors. It's a chore, and I (personally) would keep everything in a notebook which would never leave my side, but she handles it all in her head and on scraps of paper. I'm not that talented.
The floors are finished and they look absolutely lovely. It took a few more boxes of flooring than we planned, but Benito got those. I was disappointed in the customer service from Floor Decor since Benito's crew picked up the medium grade under-layer when Darling paid for the top grade. The store and store personnel refused to refund the difference in price (a few hundred dollars), claiming it was the crew's fault. I might address that issue with them when things calm down a little.
Darling paid Benito already, even though the transition pieces are not yet installed. Normally I'd be nervous about that (okay, I am a little nervous) but Benito is sort of a friend of the family, so it isn't a big deal. The transition pieces will be installed today or tomorrow.
Nathan, bless his heart, installed the office ceiling fan and it took him almost an hour. That only leaves about four more fans. I read the instructions twice last weekend and couldn't make heads or tails of installing them. I just am not good at a lot of things, home improvements topping the list. (See my blog on Suckage.)
Hector came back and did some more touch-up painting after the floor guys were finished. Inevitably the floor guys touched parts of the newly painted walls and got them dirty. Also, Darling did a punch-list for the painting job and Hector came back to correct the differences.
It doesn't look like we'll make the modifications to the closets. Closet space is one of the biggest issues between a large house and a smaller house. I think we'll be getting rid of a lot of clothes. (Well, I won't …)
One of Darling's guys went in and fixed the shower stall in the Master Bath. It wasn't the complete rebuild that I wanted, but we only have a limited amount of money available (regardless of what some of the contractors seem to think). The new tiles look good, so we're okay on that.
Darling's brother A (yes, the same sweet guy who spent time with me during her surgery) is at the house today to fix as much plumbing and miscellaneous as he can. Unlike me, he is a handy guy - and a good-hearted fellow.
Our two youngest helped me a bit in the garage doing some shelving. I'm not that great at that either, but it is in the garage for goodness sake, so even if I mess it up, I'm likely the only one to know and care.
Darling had an automatic sprinkler system installed. That was completed today. There are six zones. I'm a little excited by that.
On top of that, there is the story of the tree that was entirely erased. In my last blog about the house, I posted the picture showing the existing tree. On Saturday I took our axe and played Paul Bunyan on the roots of the tree that was cut down to ground level. The stump still bothered me, but I had no way to remove that. Darling arranged for dirt and sod to be delivered and for Felipe to come spread it out in the yard. As it turns out, the dirt and sod are not the greatest quality, but we did go with the lowest bidder.

Before Picture

As I sat in the house cooling off I heard a noise outside and figured it was the delivery guy. I was pondering the shelves for the garage. (I do a lot of pondering.)
It wasn't. A guy was driving by and saw the stump and got out to talk with Darling. As it turns out he has been depressed lately because he cannot find work, but offered to remove the stump for fifty bucks. Darling prayed with the guy, Juan, and he went off to get his partner Roger and the stump-grinding machine. They did such a good job I had them follow me to our current house and we ground out the three stumps there, one of which I got two bags of cedar chips from.
Since then Darling had Juan come back and plant a new oak tree in the front (on the other side of the driveway) and six trees in the back. He does good work, and we'll keep him in mind for our landscaping needs.
As the sun set Saturday the entire front yard was transformed. The tree that was too close to the house was entirely gone, and we have a front lawn with new grass.
After Picture
We'll see if the sprinkler system can keep the grass alive.
All things considered, we should be moving in soon. That's when we discover how much from our current house doesn't fit in the new one.
I might even have the shelves up in the garage by then. I sure hope they're level…

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Planes, Trains and Automobiles

Yes, it crossed my mind...
This particular story is delayed by about a month. I wrote most of it before Mother's Day but never finished it and, obviously, didn't post it until now.
The Travel Travails of L's graduation…
Let's make sure we have the back story. Darling was scheduled for her final surgery on Friday, May 11. I had to be there for the surgery, but still wanted to be at L's graduation so I did something I don't do often - I planned ahead. I booked a flight on Friday night from Houston to Abilene, and booked a car and hotel room in Abilene. I didn't get to reserve a room in our normal hotel since it was already booked for that night. My return flight was Saturday evening so that I missed about twenty-four hours with Darling and her recovery. Her friends stepped in, so we were covered.
"The best-laid schemes o' mice an 'men Gang aft agley" as Robert Burns said in his poem To A Mouse. This is more often heard as "The best laid plans of mice and men often go awry" because of Steinbeck and his book Of Mice and Men, I suppose. Maybe the better and more accurate thought it from Murphy - "If anything can go wrong, it will."
As it turns out, we had the date for the surgery wrong by a day and it was scheduled for Thursday. We expected Darling to be completely out of it after the surgery because of the anesthetics. We were not disappointed. Darling lost almost the entire weekend, actually. Her brother A came and sat with me all day, and managed to see her for a bit during the recovery, but she doesn't recall that. She also only vaguely remembers her oldest daughter M stopping by to see her. She certainly doesn't remember sending me home on Thursday night. A brought her home on Friday, and D came by for a bit and J came by to spend the night while I was gone.
Regardless, I was at the Houston airport about four in the afternoon for my flight, which was routed to Abilene via Dallas. My flight from Houston to Dallas was delayed over five hours. We were supposed to leave at six in the evening and we didn’t get off the ground until after 11 pm. There were huge storm systems in Dallas, and all flights into the area were delayed or cancelled.
Time for some quick math. If I left at three in the afternoon and it’s a seven hour drive to Abilene from my home, assuming my accumulated break times equal about an hour, I’d get to Abilene at 11 pm. Which is just about the time my plane was leaving Houston. For Dallas. I mused about that as the time ticked on, and thought about how I am not all that fond of driving, especially by myself. What I really wanted was someone to drive me to Abilene in a nice car and drop me off, wait for me, and bring me back. Right.
So I sat in the Houston airport and watched a couple of Avenger’s cartoon movies on my phone. I caught my flight to Dallas just as the storm blew into the Houston area. The take-off was a little bumpy.
Yes, I missed the connecting flight to Abilene. That put me in rather a pickle. Of course, AA offered me a spot on the first flight in the morning. It left at 10:10 AM and arrived in Abilene at 11 AM. What time did L’s graduation ceremony start? If this was a movie about the trials and tribulations of travel, then her graduation would start at 11 AM. It did, of course. 
So the morning flight wasn’t going to work. I said as much to the lady at the counter in Dallas. “No,” I said, “my daughter’s graduation is at 11 AM and that flight won’t work.” Without smiling she replied that she couldn’t do anything else for me. “But that doesn’t work for me,” I explained. I was quiet, patient, a little pleading - and totally stupid at this point from lack of sleep and not mentally prepared for this challenge. I did get her to confirm that if I drove to Abilene my return ticket would still be acceptable the next day. I'm sure she was stressed too.
There is a scary sign in the Dallas airport. Well, it’s scary at quarter past twelve in the morning. It says if you walk out the door you can’t come back in. I forget what time this occurs - 10 PM maybe. I admit I hesitated. Perhaps I wanted to sleep in the airport on the extremely uncomfortable furniture, like that movie with Tom Hanks about the guy living in the airport.
I walked out into the slightly damp and warm air of the Dallas airport. There was a lady trying to get a rental car, but she wasn’t going to Abilene. She just wanted her car, but her car rental place was closed. I tried a courtesy phone designed to give passengers information and it was useless.
God does not abandon us. Remember this as we move forward with the story.
I migrated to the spot where a group of people were sitting waiting on a courtesy van. The lady I spoke to previously was there. She said someone told her that her car information should be at the ticket counter, even if they were closed. “Well,” I said, “my car is at Avis in Abilene.”
A young man was sitting next to a uniformed soldier on the curb. “Are you going to Abilene? That’s where we’re going, if you want to ride together.”
He didn’t look like a psychotic mass murderer, but I don't really know what a psychotic mass murderer looks like and I hesitated. I wasn’t sure how this was going to work, but I agreed. “I’m not a great driver,” I said. 
“That’s okay,” he responded, “I’ll drive. I just don’t want to be by myself during the trip.”
He was a nice young man. As it turns out, he lived in Dallas for a few years, was from Weatherford, a small town between Dallas and Abilene, graduated from ACU three years ago and was on the way to see his younger brother graduate the same day as L. So he knew the Dallas area, was familiar with the road to Abilene and knew Abilene too. He’s married, but spends much of his time traveling for work, so he was an Avis Preferred customer. We didn’t even need to wait in line for a car, and we were on the road. There was a little snafu about the car as we exited the Avis rental area, but the lady at the gate worked it out for him. We ended up traveling in a Kia Cerato, which was surprisingly nice. I never considered a Kia as a car choice before this trip.
His wife was currently taking classes in CA for dog acupuncture. That was an interesting tidbit. We laughed a little over the mental picture that offers.
I did tell them a little about the Space Station, and we talked databases for a while. That is his job, traveling to different sites and making the database work with the software. I empathized. I told him a little about my apps in the app store, but I'm not sure he was impressed.
The young man had a lot of music on his iPod and he and the young soldier spent a lot of time talking about music and playing different tracks. I was just the old guy dozing off in the back seat.
What did I think earlier? That my preference is to have someone else just drive me to my destination? Our God has a sense of humor.
They were both very nice young men and I got dropped off at my hotel at about 4:30 in the morning. I don't have much to say about the hotel, and nothing nice. I won’t be staying there again. Certainly it was older, but in pretty bad shape on top of that. I called for a cab about 9AM and the guy said it would be about thirty minutes and was that okay. No problem.
I grabbed a glass of juice and one of those make-it-yourself Texas-shaped waffles in the hotel dining area (I think that's what it was) and wolfed it down, then waited for my cab in the lobby.
An irate customer came in and wanted to speak with the manager, who was not available. Apparently there was a leak somewhere and their luggage was soaking wet. When she asked for a copy of her receipt, the desk clerk refused. Not the best customer service.
I have to remember that Abilene is a pretty small town. Essentially there was no traffic on the street. Maybe six cars went by in the hour that I waited. Yes, an hour. My cab was a nice lady in a mini-van who picked me up and dropped me at the airport Avis rental counter. As we drove through town she pointed out the quickest route to ACU.
As it turned out, I almost needed the quickest route. As the wheels of time finished grinding getting my car I had less than a half hour until L's graduation. I got to ACU after about fifteen minutes. Again, I have to think small town. Well, at least a lot smaller than Houston.
Once I got to ACU I wasn't sure where the graduation ceremony was taking place. I followed the few cars I saw and got to a parking lot where I asked a nice lady if she was going to graduation. She was and we walked to the Moody Coliseum together.
Getting a seat when you are only one person is a breeze, regardless of the crowds. Eventually the music started and the graduates filed in, with white-robed parents or loved ones following them. I'm not sure of the significance of that, but that's okay. K followed L (which is not alphabetic, is it?). There were a lot of graduates.

I like this one

They get cowls. I didn't know that. I didn't attend my graduation from MSU, and I didn't attend my Master's graduation from UHCL, so I didn't know that graduates get cowls. It seems the cowls get fancier for the higher level degrees.
I want my cowl. Level 80, if you don't mind and I'd like it Epic with some awesome stats. I'll have to contact my school.
The graduation was streamed live over the internet. Darling got to watch it from home.
Dr. Jack Reese gave the commencement speech, basing it on Dietrich Bonhoeffer of Germany, finishing it up with a classic sentence. "Now, go and live, go and serve, go and die," he said.
Go forth and die; I'm not sure that's the commencement I'd give.
Nevertheless, L graduated (and hearty congratulations on THAT achievement in a mere three years!).
I wasn't the only one at the graduation, of course. Her mother (K), her Grand-daddy and Aunts, Uncles and cousins were there as well. I felt a bit outnumbered at lunch.
I gave her the graduation present I've worked on for a few years.
Traveling back was as simple as could be. The airport opened up for the one flight from Abilene to Dallas then I caught the connection to Houston. Each flight lasted less than an hour. The weather was perfect. I got home and Darling was okay.
Sunday I was pretty tired though. As I was taking a nap, Darling took the surgical tubes out. This time she did it without my help.
So, a couple planes, a couple automobiles, and I did see a train on the trip from Dallas to Abilene. All things considered a traveling success story.
And someone else did most of the driving for me.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

On Houses and Sausages

Often attributed to Prince Otto von Bismarck is a famous quote that goes something like this "A man who loves sausages and respects the law should not watch either being made." He probably didn't originate the saying, but he might have said it. Reading through some of his other quotes, which are confirmed, it does sound like something he might have remarked.
Our new house is like that. The one-story is a nice enough house. Significantly smaller than where we live now, we will need to get rid of much of what we currently have. There is still some debate whether we keep the pool table and squeeze it into the new dining room as a somewhat acceptable table substitute or whether we let it go. I'm for keeping it. Darling waffles on the subject.
Darling is getting tired. She should be. Getting the new house ready is hard work and she's been shouldering the entire burden of doing so. If there's a lesson to pass on for this I think it would be "Don't buy a foreclosure. It ends up costing just as much as a typical house, and maybe more." Not to mention the levels of stress and frustration.
On the positive side Darling now has a small book of local contractors who do almost everything. Some of them are quite expensive, others less so. Juggling value against quality is certainly an issue. We can't have someone come in and put in a fence to see how good a job they can do. At that point you're stuck with the fence.
Darling replaced the back door within the first few days, adding a storm door to both the front and the back. Turns out we have a very strict Homeowner's Association. According to their by-laws we need to have the storm door approved before we put it in, but we didn't do that. We'll plead ignorance, legitimately.
The HOA also wants us to get permission to paint the outside of the house. Well, we did that without permission, but it is the same color, so it shouldn't matter.

The one on the right is gone now

Two moderately large oak trees stood in our front yard, blocking the view of the house and making me dodge limbs to enter the front door. One of them is in almost the right spot. I'd center it more, but you can't really pick things up and move them around in real life. The second tree, however, sat too close to the house, its water-thirsty roots stretching over the ground and reaching for the house foundations. Darling found some guys to cut that tree down to a ground-level stump. I'll work on some of the roots in the near future.
Turns out the HOA rules also require two oak trees in the front yard. I'll get another one and plant it on the other side of the driveway, much further from the house. It will be a lot smaller - and it will stay that way.
We want to plant some other trees also, perhaps one or two pecan trees in the front yard, along the curving part of the corner. I plan to put some orange trees in the back yard also, though the yard is pretty small. I don't think there are rules against that.

The new fence comes past the window

The neighbors behind us recently built a new fence, so the fenced area along the back of the house looked good. The fence on both sides was close to falling down. Darling was brilliant. She brought the new fence further along the sides of the house, providing more privacy and security. The new fence looks great. Our back yard now extends significantly on the side and provides much more fenced in yard. I have room for a few more trees, as long as I keep them relatively small.
The same guy that put in the front and back doors also added doors to the small office I the front of the house. They are French doors. I don't know what happened to the previous doors, but quite a few things are missing in the house. We need light fixtures and ceiling fans in most of the rooms and the shower heads are gone. Yes, the shower heads. That seems as odd to me as the missing doors.

The carpet isn't bad. In fact, it's in good shape. But it's carpet.

Darling also had the painter paint the entire inside of the house. The walls have a fresh-paint look that you see in new homes, and nicely painted baseboards.
Now the floor guys are working in the house. Most of the flooring was simple carpet, with the exception of the kitchen, breakfast nook and entry hallway. I am not a big fan of carpet. Over time carpet begins to show age, and with two indoor cats carpet can become less-than-nice looking in quick order. Flooring is expensive, though. We looked at woods and laminates. Again, trying to find an acceptable price/quality balance is a major ordeal - and a major cause of stress. After the first day of laying the floor we went and looked at what they were doing. Well, after the floor guys removed the carpet, the concrete looks pitted and ugly. The new floor, what they laid, looks okay, but the edges along the walls have gaps. The crew chief tells me that it will look fine once they put the quarter-round along the baseboard. The contractor said they would slide the flooring under the existing baseboards, but the crew chief says you can only do that with wood, not with laminate. Laminate strips click together in a manner that doesn't allow you to slip a piece under the existing baseboard.
Frankly, it bothered me. When I came home I looked at out floor in the living room and it has a quarter-round along the edges. I have no idea if there is a gap between the last board and the wall; I can't see it. Which made me think of the sausage quote. On a more personal level, my Dad's uncle in Ohio made the same comment about sausage - he loved sausage until he went to work in the sausage factory. I used to love the strawberry pie at a local restaurant when I was a teenager. Then I worked there and saw how they made the pies. Though less enamored of them, they were still good, and I still liked them. The magic of the pie wasn't there though.
I'm thinking we shouldn't even look at the floors until they are done. Really, people look around your house once, when they first visit. "Oh, what a lovely floor!" is what they'll say, because it is beautiful. They won't say "I'll bet that quarter-round is hiding some pretty nasty looking gaps, isn't it?" Or at least they won't say it to our faces. Living there, I'll look at the floors once in a while. Now that I know about the gaps, they might bother me a little once in a great while, but I'll get over it. The magic of the floor might be gone, though.
This floor looks much better, even dirty
I don't think we should visit until it is all finished. And then we will need to get the painter back and have him repaint about two feet up the wall and touch up the baseboards.
There's still some plumbing to do, and the shower in the Master bathroom needs to be re-tiled. I wanted to completely redo the shower, but we're running out of money for improvements and repairs. We still need to have some changes made to the closets. One of the big problems we have moving from our current house to the new house is the less storage space, especially the closets.
Darling wanted some sort of covering over the back patio slab to provide shade for her plants, but the HOA has some strict rules for those, and we can't really afford to meet their requirements at this time. Darling's back-up plan for putting a canvas tent back also is not allowed. We aren't allowed to put in a storage shed either (no free-standing structures are allowed).
We will have someone put in a sprinkler system, though. The new sprinkler system will have five zones.
I'm a little worried about our one outdoor cat. It looks like the HOA has some strict rules for pets too, which would explain all the dogs I hear in the neighborhood. Dogs can easily be fenced into a yard.
Darling is still recovering from surgery. Her Doctor told her it would be three to six MONTHS until she is mostly healed. I'm sure coordinating all the repairs isn't helping. Moving to the new house will be fine, but you can see why Darling is stressed and tired.
I'm stressed and tired just blogging about it.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Fixing Connections

This will be a short post, but it's my blog so I can do what I want.
Darling and I got home a little late from dinner last night with our Monday Night Dinner Group. (I don't have a post about them, but I should! It's always a joy for us to be able to join them for dinner at IHOP.)
As she sat on the couch, Darling tried the television, and it didn't work. We pressed most of the buttons on the remote and nothing came up on our television screen. Internet was working. We had electricity. The DirecTV box just wasn't displaying a picture on our Samsung. There was a little red light glowing on the DirecTV box.
Did we forget to pay the bill or something?
Darling called the DirecTV service people. As she listened to the elevator music on the speaker phone, I pondered the problem.
Well, I thought, it is sort of a computer, and if my computer goes awry I do a reboot. Sometimes that's all it needs. That's the technical response anyway.
Just as I unplugged the power to the DirecTV box a person answered the phone.
Her name was Jo, and she was very sweet. She asked what the problem was, and Darling described the total lack of picture. As she did so, I restored power to the box and the DirecTV displayed a message saying it was doing something with its settings.
"Okay," said Jo, "we just have to wait, so I guess we'll just visit." What a sweetheart.
Darling, of course, asked if Jo had any prayer requests. The line went so quiet I thought maybe Jo was offended, but that's the risk you have to take sometimes.
"I'm sorry," said Jo. "What did you just ask me?"
Darling answered her. "If you have any prayer requests. Anything I can pray for you about?" You can tell that prayer is Darling's heart and it comes across the phone line as well.
Jo started to cry a little. "Yes," she said, choked up, "I could really use some prayer for my son."
Now Darling is in her element. "Oh, I so understand. We have five children of our own, and they always need prayer. What's your son's name?" I might not have asked that, thinking it too personal.
The answer came softly and I could hear Jo trying to stop crying. "Mitch," she whispered.
Jo tried to get control of her emotions and asked what the television was doing now. Since it was still doing something with the settings, Jo informed us that it would soon start a blinking row of lights and we needed to tell her when that started.
Darling asked if she could pray for Jo and Mitch while they waited. Then she did so.
James 5:16 says that "the effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much." I don't claim to be righteous and neither does Darling, but there is something about fervent, humble prayer brought before God. Darling can step into His throne room, bow before Him and claim her right to speak to Him as a blood-bought child of the God Most High.
Prayer is awesome.
Our cable connection was working fine by the time the prayer was over.
When Darling finished praying, Jo was quiet for a few seconds. "Thank you," she said. "You have no idea how much I needed that."
We didn't know how much she needed it, but God did. That divine appointment had nothing to do with fixing a broken cable connection. It was all about fixing a different broken connection.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Pension or Prison?

A friend of mine sent me a new joke which is currently going around the Internet. Having discussed some of our concerns about health care here in the US as we age, he found a new plan for me.
You're a sick senior citizen and the government says there is no nursing home available for you. So what do you do?
Our plan gives anyone 65 years or older a gun and 4 bullets. You are allowed to shoot four Politicians. Of course, this means you will be sent to prison where you will get three meals a day, a roof over your head, central heating, air conditioning and all the health care you need!
Need new teeth? No problem. Need glasses? That’s great. Need a new hip, knees, kidney, lungs or heart? They’re all covered. As an added bonus, your kids can come visit you as often as they do now. Who pays for all this? It’s the same government that just told you that you they cannot afford for you to go into a home. Plus, because you are a prisoner, you don't have to pay income taxes anymore.
Is this a great country or what?

It really isn't all that funny. I mean, I laughed when I read it and it amuses me, but the bottom line is there is truth mixed in with it, and it is a little frightening.
Another friend of mine and I were discussing prisons. He runs a prison ministry He had two related stories for this and both concerned the Federal prisons.
When he first started his prison ministry he and his mentor visited a Federal prison. One inmate told him "This? This is a vacation, a country club. When I get out of here I'll go back to doing the same things I was doing before." Inmates in the Federal prison dress in civilian clothes and they are assigned to rooms or small houses. They had a choice of three different lines to choose dinner; one was specifically if you were on a diet and wanted to lose some weight. Just as a side note, the man mentioned above told him "You can preach all you want. I don't believe in God." My friend's mentor said to the man "Then you don't mind if I pray for God to take your life." The man became a believer pretty fast.
The second story was more recent. A couple he knows are now convicted of federal embezzlement crimes and must report to a Federal prison for three to five years. They sat down with him to find out what the prisons would be like.
My friend said "I told them to be glad it's a Federal prison and not a State prison. Federal prisons are built by Senators and Congressmen in case they end up going to jail."
So the joke isn't so funny anymore. You do lose your freedom, though. According to some inmates in Norway's Bastoy prison, that's the part that matters the most.
I don't want to shoot anyone to get a better retirement deal in the United States of America. We're supposed to be the most innovative country in the world. Can't we come up with some sort of retirement community plan for seniors that could rival a Federal prison?