Sunday, August 30, 2015

My Sunday Feeling

No MSF due to family obligations this weekend.

Talk among yourselves.

Sunday, August 23, 2015

My Sunday Feeling

Facebook is a many splendored thing.  It is a fun and useful way to keep up with friends and relatives.  Once upon a time, back in the days when I kept a paper calendar, I had an address book that contained where I logged the birthdays of those that were near and dear to me.  Now I pretty much rely on Facebook to let me know when somebody has made another trip around the sun.

Facebook also provides one, if one is paying attention, with something of a Rorschach test of the psyche as it obtains around these here parts.  One is frequently encouraged to "like" certain statements regarding religious or political pronouncements.  I'm guessing that somewhere somebody or some entity keeps track of this stuff.  I know in the political sphere such nose counting goes on.  It wouldn't surprise me if the folks that put out these other pronouncements for approval by the Facebook audience did likewise.

I never, or hardly ever, participate in this sort of commerce.  One reason is that the world is a pretty complicated place.  Pamphleteering on Facebook is not typically given to nuance.  Here's an example.

Last night-and I am working on recall here-somebody put up the following pronouncement that went something like this.

" We are told by the media not to judge all Muslims by the actions of a few.  And yet, all gun owners are blamed when a single deranged person commits a mass killing with a gun.  
   They say that Social Security is going broke.  How come nobody says that about welfare?

   'Like' this if you agree!"

This was posted by an otherwise reasonable and intelligent person.  It received an "amen" from another.  And I'm certain that before the night was over it had made the rounds out there.

The problem with this kind of statement is that it, to borrow from my line of work, assumes facts not in evidence.  

In the first place, while I know there are zealots on both sides of the gun control issue, I don't think people blame the average gun owners for gun violence.  My friend Chris Riviere is an avid sportsman.  He is a law abiding and responsible gun owner.  I no more blame him for what happened in Lafayette earlier this summer than I blame myself.  

I might blame the nation's policies on gun control but I don't blame individuals. And I don't know if anyone else that does either.

Secondly, Social Security is not "going broke." As those known communists at Forbes Magazine said in an article I read last summer that it is "a logical impossibility" for the program to run out of money.  It referred to such statements as "much ado about nothing." 

That's because there is a crucial difference between an "actuarial shortfall" on a long term basis and actual insolvency.  This has always happened from time to time and it has always gotten solved, typically through the liquidation of treasuries in which the Social Security Administration has invested. 

As to the "issue" (for lack of a better word) of the abundance of "welfare" insinuated by the post I would just ask "define welfare." Apart from Social Security, and other Federal retirement systems, there are no need based income program.  There is no "dole" here as there is in Great Britain.  Surely, there are various anti-poverty programs involving health care, housing and nutrition to name but a few. Perhaps that is the "welfare" complained of in the Facebook post.

However, if one were to define "welfare" as any financial benefit conferred by the government (and just so we're clear "providing for the general welfare" of the country is in the Constitution) the class of recipients of such largess gets broader and deeper.  How about corporate taxation or relative lack thereof?  How about cities funding sports facilities built by billionaires? How about tax-exemptions for churches? And televangelists?

How about the deduction of the interest I pay on my mortgage each year?  When viewed through this wider lens the discussion more closely follows the principle of the gored ox more than anything else.

The world is a complicated place.  Nuance prevails in reality.  Facebook is better suited for announcing birthdays and showing selfies of narcissists at lunch.  It is not the best forum for highfalutin political discourse although it does serve as something of a Rorschach test for the occasional strain of paranoia which obtains out there. Nothing more. Nothing less.

"Like" this if you agree!  


Sunday, August 16, 2015

My Sunday Feeling

About 5 years ago, at the insistence of my financial advisor, I bought an iPad.  And it has been a lot of fun and convenient to use.  I've read books on planes, email in hotel rooms, and used it to read my notes when I am at Catholic High.

But in the last 6 months the damn thing has started to show signs of imminent death.  It crashes repeatedly when I try to use interactive apps like Google or Facebook.  When it isn't crashing, it is painfully sloooooooow.  And typing on it has always been a pain in the ass.  

And so I started poking around to see what I could get to replace it. I didn't really need another computer.  The HP that an old girlfriend's genius kid had configured and ordered for me still works great.  But it's a laptop with a 17 inch screen.  So hauling it around is really not all that convenient.  

I generally resisted going into the world of Macs. First of all, the government world and the legal world are still pretty much PC.  And I was for many years a lawyer who worked for the government.  Mac documents couldn't be opened by PCs and vice versa.  I am assured by my lawyer friends that use Macs that this is no longer the case. But still, to this day, documents I send in when I write for the paper that are written in Word cannot be opened over there.  I have to cut and paste into email.  This makes no sense to me.  But it's the way it is.  

I guess the main reason I have resisted buying a Mac was that I didn't want to join the cult of Mac users.  When I first started looking at them some 20 years ago, I always had this feeling that anytime I powered one up some guy in a ponytail and Birkenstocks would materialize next to me to give me pointers.  That and my brother John, who is in the communications industry, told me that he didn't want me "fooling with a Mac."

But in all honesty, the laptops up until the HP I bought about the time I left the government were all junk.  The ThinkPad started falling apart almost immediately.  The Gateway wasn't much better.  I think I have put the Dell out of my mind.  The HP I bought about 8 years ago worked great until, out of nowhere, I got the "blue screen of death."   Like I said, so far so good with the current HP.  It's still plugging away.  

I liked all the apps that came with or I downloaded on the iPad.  So when the Blackberry started to die I bought an iPhone after the government decreed that they were sufficiently secure to work with.  And I have loved it.  And it syncs up with iPad perfectly.  

So, as any of my friends that offered me advice on the subject (bidden by me or otherwise) correctly pointed out, it wouldn't make much sense to buy a PC tablet under the circumstances.  And they were right.  Whether I wanted to be there or not, I was a Mac user.  

I didn't want another iPad.  I hated typing on it.  So I started looking a the MacBook Air.  It was about as light as a new iPad.  It wasn't much bigger. It would fit easily in my briefcase like the iPad.  It maybe cost 400 bucks more.

And it had a real keyboard.  So I bought one. And, predictably, when I announced this on Facebook I received countless "likes" and favorable comments as to the wisdom of my purchase.  Welcome to the cult of Macs.

So.  What do I think?

Not bad.  There are some things I really like about it vis a vis my HP.  It has a backlit keyboard which makes doing email in the early morning or at night easier seeing as how my vision isn't what it wasn't what it once was but my typing still is.  

I've sent and received documents to lawyers I am working on stuff with.  They open just fine.  The MacBook communicates with my printer just fine.  The Federal Court's electronic docket and the MacBook don't get along.  It will let me look at pleadings filed.  But it won't let me download them or print them which is a pain.  But as one of my lawyer friends said, there has to be a "work around" given all of the Mac users out there so she advised me to call the Clerk's help desk.  Which I will do.  I haven't tried the State court docket yet.  

The OS is really fast.  Surfing the net on this box is instantaneous.  It powers up quickly and is nice and bright.  

What do I not like?  Not really impressed with Pages, the word processing system installed with it.  Granted I haven't spent much time with it, but I've only used Office for the past 15 years or so.  I know where everything is on the screen.  And my resume and letterhead, pleadings and such are in that world.  I may try to open an old pleading or something with Pages and see what it does to it.  My doctor's wife uses Word for Mac.  He tells me that she likes it just fine.   So I may do that.  Or just stick to the HP for legal writing.  

For some reason I can't figure out how to name pictures I have edited with Photos, which is the OK photo editing software onboard.  iPhoto used to be great so I hear.  But Apple wasn't making a sufficient killing on it.  So I think they went in with Photoshop which you can get on a subscription basis.  The Nikon guy over at the camera store I use told me the other day that there's not much difference between PCs and Macs when it comes to photo editing any more.  Except Mac does seem to offer more opportunities for desktop publishing.  

They one app I hated in on the iPad and with the new machine is the Calendar function.  It is different across the iPad, IPhone and MacBook.  It's hard to enter data.  For example I was putting dates on the calendar for a case I am helping with in Federal Court.  I inputted the date for a first "alert" and a date for a second one for each event.  Once I hit "save" it would invariably switch the 2 events.  Which makes no sense.  And is a pain.  This happens on all 3 devices I own.  What a piece of crap.  

Botton line is that I think I'm going to like it for travel and for use in class.  It runs circles around the PC on the Internet and the mail works well.  

But I'm not going to quit using the PC anytime soon.  

Which I guess means I haven't completely drunk the Kool Aid served by the Cult of Mac.  


Sunday, August 09, 2015

My Sunday Feeling

I thought I saw something up ahead as I walked west over by the Kroger store early one morning last week.  There is a little park at the entrance of the store. No more than a cabana with a couple of benches really.  But it's called a park by folks in the neighborhood.

As I approached, I notice that a man either sleeping or unconscious on one of the benches.  This was around 8:30 in the morning.  People were out running. Ladies were pushing strollers.  Kids were walking en route to the bakeries for breakfast.  

And there was this guy dead to the world on the bench by the Kroger.  Young guy.  Dressed in black.  Maybe 25.

I pondered on what to do.  I am not without sympathy for the plight of the homeless if indeed this was what this person was.  It is for this reason that I support the shelters here in town.  But we can't have guys sleeping in the parks for the same reason they don't allow camping in the parks.  There are better and safer places for people to find shelter than under a cabana next to a busy street.  

I wondered if maybe he was unconscious instead of merely sleeping.  I thought about shaking him awake to see if he was OK.  But then again, what if he was on drugs?  What if he had a weapon? What if he was crazy?  What if the answer to all three questions was "yes?"

Nope.  There are heavily armed civil servants that are trained to deal with these matters.  And so I sent a text message to the Lieutenant in charge of our neighborhood.  He gave me his number sometime ago along with the green light to use it anytime I see something suspicious.  

" You report it and leave it to the professionals to deal with it," he said at the time. "Don't worry if you aren't sure.  It is our job to make the call as to whether it's an issue or not.  It's your job to inform us of a situation."

This discovery struck me as just that.  

And so I sent a text giving the location and the physical description of the person in question.  

The phone buzzed.  

"Thanks.  Sending someone that way."

About that I got another text this one was from M.  She wanted to know what I was up to.  I told her that I happened to be doing my civic duty.  

"I hope they don't arrest him," she texted back.  She can't help it.  

"They will if he's got a warrant on him or if he's intoxicated," I replied.  I can't help it.  

About that time I saw a police cruiser heading toward me.  When the officer driving saw me he did a U-turn and pulled over.  The window came down.

"You Paul?" the muscled up young cop asked me.


"Sorry it took me awhile.  Had to check out a house alarm.  Where is he?"

I pointed.  He squinted into the sun.

"Got it," he said. " As soon as I get backup, I'm gonna check him out.  But I'm not going to wake him up without backup."  Which made me feel better about my decision not to try to wake the guy myself.  

"Am I free to go?"

"Oh absolutely you are free to go.  Thank you for getting in touch with us."

Backup arrived.  I watched from my safe vantage point of 2 blocks away as the two police officers walked to the cabana.  My cop gently kicked the sleeping man's foot as the other stood with his hands on his belt. The sleeping man woke up and pulled himself into a sitting position. I didn't see anything particularly aggressive going on. I headed back to the house.

A couple hours later I drove past the cabana.  The now fully awakened man was still sitting there.  Which means they didn't put the cuffs on him.  Which means if they rousted him he didn't stay rousted for long.  But I certainly don't know. In any event, I haven't seen him again.  

I hate to err on the side of suspicion.  As I have written before, I'm not a very good Christian but I'm a pretty good Methodist.  And like our Catholic friends we are hard-wired to help the less fortunate.  

But as I have also written before, Jesus may have walked the streets.  But he didn't walk these streets.  I give to charity.  I refuse to be panhandled.  

So I don't feel badly about calling the police on this man.  You can't have guys sleeping where children walk nearby. 

But I feel better about the donation I made to the homeless shelter.  

Sunday, August 02, 2015

My Sunday Feeling

One of the things I like best about my neighborhood is that it really does have a "small town" feel to it.  Pretty much anything you need, from beer to church, is within walking distance.  And people in the neighborhood tend to know each other.  Or know somebody that knows somebody.  

Hillcrest is a neighborhood of walkers and bikers.  I tend to see the same folks out doing their constitutionals when I am doing mine.  One of the more interesting walkers is a man I don't know personally.  What made him memorable is that he always took long strides and he pulled himself along with modified (I guess) snow skis.  Indeed, he looked as if he was skiing rather than walking as he trudged up and down on the hilly sidewalks.

Plant, pull.  Plant, pull. It looked like it made for a good workout.

I have been sick unto death all week with bronchitis and pleurisy.  Most folks are content to get head colds and such.  I prefer getting stuff straight out of Dickens.  So I went down the the Farmer's Market at the Baptist church down the street to get some fresh air and to shoot the bull with the other shoppers after being cooped up for a week.

I was talking with Joe. His kid sells lemonade there on Saturdays to raise money for various causes.  Good kid. I always put money in his jar even if I don't care for lemonade. 

"Did you hear about the skier?," Joe said.  

"The guy that walks with ski poles?," I said. "No? What about him?" 

"About a week ago he got some bad news from the doctor.  He apparently had diabetes.  The doctor told him that they were going to have to amputate his leg."


"So he killed himself."


"Yep. He put a gun to his head.  Lived right around the corner from here."

"Dear God...."

"They tell me that before he did it, he went by the stores he did business with and told people goodbye.  Folks thought that maybe he was going away on an extended trip or something.  It never occurred to them that...."

"Well no.  It wouldn't occur to them.  They must feel awful."

" Don't you know it?" Joe said as he absent mindedly kicked at the ground. "Don't you just know it?"

It occurred to me that I used to see a woman walking with him but that I had not seen her in some time.  Which means nothing.  It's just funny how the mind works.

It occurred to me that neither one of us actually knew his name.  But we know that he is gone and that he left this life under the worst of circumstances.  Such is life in our little neighborhood.  

Boy.  You just never know.  Suicide is such a short sighted response to virtually any issue you can think of.  Joe went on to say that the skier couldn't live with the idea of not being able to exercise in his usual vigorous fashion.

Had he never heard of Oscar Pistorious?  Ok.  Bad example for any proposition except for the advances in prosthetic devices.  I know of a golfer with diabetes who had persistent problems with one of his feet.  He asked for it to be amputated so he could play golf.  Now, I'm told he plays pretty much everyday unimpeded by his prosthesis. Surely to God there were other options for our desperately sad neighbor.  I'm saddened that he evidently did not have ears to hear anymore.  

Stories like these serve to make us realize that we are all more fragile than we know and that others may be even more so.  

So I resolve henceforth to grab by the lapels anybody that ever makes a special trip my way in order to tell me goodbye.  

And to get to know more people by their name.