Sunday, December 12, 2010

Common Sense

Common sense ain't common - Will Rogers.

It's a Wonderful Life starring Jimmy Stewart was on TV again last night. Jimmy plays George Bailey, a hopeless dreamer and idealist who takes over as President of the Bailey Home and Loan, after the death of his father. George gives up his personal dreams to insure that the Home and Loan continues to provide mortgages to the working men and women of Bedford Falls.

The time is during the worst of the Depression when banks and savings and loans failed by the dozens. Bank examiners fanned out across the state to insure that financial houses maintained sufficient collateral to survive a run by depositors.

George's Uncle Billy misplaces an $8,000 deposit just as the examiner shows up to look at the books of the Bailey Home and Loan. It looks like financial ruin for George and the end of all his hopes and dreams, and so he contemplates suicide.

Well, if you have watched the movie, then you know that it is a wonderful life after all. George's friends, the working men and women of Bedford Falls whose houses were financed by George Bailey, turn out and make up the short fall.

The point is - banks only made loans to those who worked and provided security for the loans. bank examiners actually examined the books and records of the financial institutions to make sure that there was money behind the cashier window. Whatever happened to this common sense approach to finances?

Securitzed mortgages, loans wrapped up like a hoagie, unregulated fiancial markets, no wonder it all came crashing down.

Saturday, November 13, 2010


As my experience at Butler Community College demonstrates, America is a rich resource for students from many countries who come seeking to better themselves. These students find that they must contend not only with learning a complicated subjects like physics or mathematics, literature or business, but also English.

In my French class last semester, there were two students from Africa, one from Niger, the other from Cote d'ivore. A friend of theirs from the tiny island of Diego Garcia would occasionally sit in on our class.

Last week, I went to the administrative offices of Butler the other day to get a student id. The student who helped me had an indefinable foreign appearance and was timid. She was tall and black, pleasant, but not chatty. Her age was, to my eye, in the mid to late twenties and her dress was conservative. We had some difficulty understanding each others questions and answers. I therefore jumped to the conclusion  that she was also was African. I hoped she too was from a French speaking country, so I could practice my poor French. I asked her if she was a foreign exchange student, and she said no and I left it at that for the moment.But, as time went by with few words exchanged while she took my picture, I was still struck by the impression that she was not American, either by dress or action. So, throwing caution to the wind, I asked her if she spoke a foreign language. Yes, she said it was Swahili. Always, trying to make a connection, I asked in parting how to say "goodbye" in Swahili. "Kwa heri," she replied.

In my computer class, I sit next to a student from Sri Lanka, the Pearl of the Indian Ocean.He is a computer engineer, studious, but quiet.I try to engage him in conversation, but again, I find that the culture gap, inhibits the simple chatter that makes life bearable.

Our neighbor, who is now a doctor, took a year off to go to school in France. He found himself as many students do here, struggling to comprehend a strange language and a complicated subject. Fortunately, a French student befriended him and helped him with his studies.

Language is but a means of communication. Even with a common language we remain strangers. Each culture is defined by its language, music, history, and art. Language may be the means of communication, but the ideas that bring us together are the social values that we share. President Barack Obama shares the experience of almost a quarter of the population, he has one parent who is foreign born. His father was born in Kenya, his mother in Kansas.

President Obama returned to Indonesia, where he spent four years as a young boy. In Indonesia, he spoke to students at the University of Indonesia in the capital Jakarta. "Assalamu'alaikum. Salam sejahtera," Obama began, an Indonesian salutation meaning 'Peace be upon you, prosperous greetings', which drew a wave of approval. President Obama promised to increase the number of  educational opportunities for Indonesian students in the United States, and remarked that it was equally important for Americans to study abroad in order to increase cultural understanding.

Education is the key to the American experience. Education is what made Barack Obama the intelligent and articulate individual that he is. It is an amazing thought when you think about it, but it is an experience that was and is often repeated. When I think of the girl in the id office at Butler, I can't help but wonder if someday, her child may become president of the United States. Kwa heri.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Glenn Miller

The Cranky Old Man is on the road again, this time traveling to Allendale in Worth County, Missouri.The Old Man is searching for the family homestead of Josie Brewer who was Robert Van Huss' grandmother. Josie was the youngest of nine children. From 1865, the date of her birth, until 1880, she lived with her parents and siblings on a farm near Allendale before the family packed up its belongings and moved to homestead near Beaumont, Kansas.

You can find out more about Josie's family tree at the Family Tree Maker posting by Stephen Verden.

Garmins are not infallible. I drove up to Allendale from Kansas City yesterday. I left Kansas city at 5 p.m.. The trip, by Garmin reckoning, should have taken two hours and put me in town at about 7 p.m.. The sun set at about a quarter to 8 and I was still on the road. This is farm country, which means that towns are scarce and hotels more so. I flipped on the Garmin hotel locater and got the bad news that there were no hotels within 20 miles. So, I picked one with a pleasant sounding name, Homestead Inn or something like that and off I went down an old county road. There were two other cars taking the same road, so I felt safe. Soon however, the cars turned off and I was alone with the stars, the dilapidated old farms and a narrow two lane road that hadn't seen any repair work in 20 years.

A half hour later I pulled in to a town that did not advertize its name, drove down a couple of streets that looked deserted and pulled up in front of the Homestead Inn. The Inn was closed and shuttered.At 9:50 I find a Super 8 in Calindo Iowa. It is full. The clerk tells me that he just gave out the last room. But I am in luck, just down the street is the Celebrity Motel where I get a comfortable room at $66 for the night.

Oh, and you are probably wondering what Glenn Miller has to do with this blog. Clarinda, Iowa is the birthplace of Glenn Miller, who was one of the most famous band leaders of the Swing Era of the 30's and 40's. Glenn was born in the house at 601 South Glenn Miller Avenue. Every year during the second week of June, the town celebrates the music of Glenn Miller with a festival.

Glenn must be the namesake for the Celebrity Hotel, although it is doubtful that he ever stayed here. Like the music of the Swing Era, the hotel is nostalgic, a throw back to the time of family run hotels and not the bleak and austere corporate ones like the Super 8. The guests of the Celebrity Hotel today are mainly truck drivers who like the convenience of the hotel to Highways 71 and 2. The truckers are polite and intelligent, traits necessary to their trade since they have to get along on their own for the most part.

And, by the way in 1942, Glenn Miller, at the height of his fame, disbanded his orchestra and joined the army to support the troops with his music. In 1944, he took off from England in a single engine plane to fly to France ahead of his band. The plane with Glenn Miller aboard was never heard from again. The navigation on the plane was not a Garmin, but it goes to show that we are all at the mercy of electronics, the elements, and fate - even a Cranky Old Man.

Friday, September 24, 2010


Pluralism is in its general sense the recognition that life is diverse.

While we might generally agree on politics, economics, and religion, complete unity of belief and action is impossible. Life is simply too complicated to allow for complete agreement on anything.

The value of pluralism is expressed mathematically by John Nash's game theory. Nash observes that an individual's success in making choices depends on the choices of others. Consensus through compromise results in optimal behavior. Compromise results in action. The reverse often produces no action. Legal contract theory implicitly recognizes this value  by noting that a contract is only formed by a willing buyer and seller. Economic and political pluralism tends to create the most efficient means of distributing capital and regulating behavior.

Politics is the process by which groups make collective decisions.  And pluralism is at the heart of modern democracy. A government which permits participation of all its citizens and safeguards the interests of minorities is pluralistic.

The Great Seal of the United States enshrines this concept with the Latin phrase, "E pluribus unum." The idea of  "From many one" is both a recognition of thirteen states forming one union, but also recognition of the diverse religious, ethnic, and political backgrounds of the citizens of this country.James Madison intuitively understood the need for compromise by first noting the need for three equal and balance departments of government. Each department, the legislative, the executive, and the judicial represented a political check on the power of the other two. A further check upon power was created by establishing two houses within the legislative branch. As any first year government student knows laws are not passed without acknowledging the political interests of a majority.

Finally, as a further check upon the power of the majority, the framers of the Constitution recognized certain fundamental rights, most of which are enumerated in the Bill of Rights. These rights can not be infringed upon by the Federal government. Later, in recognition of the abuse of citizens' rights by the States, the Constitution was amended. The Fourteenth Amendment then applied these same constitutional guarantees to citizens of states. This constitutional recognition came slowly and piecemeal through the Supreme Court's review of issues in later years.

Political unity is impossible to achieve, but legislative action can be obtained by political compromise. Negotiation is the method through which compromise is reached and compromise is best achieved by the participation of all political groups. The failure to include groups can result in situations such as Afghanistan where the Taliban refuse to participate. Their recourse is armed conflict.

Of course a government can impose its views on its citizens by coercion.And in North Korea a totalitarian ruler imposes his will upon the people, but the result is politically unstable and economically disastrous. There are other many other examples of non-pluralistic governments. Suffice it to say that history has demonstrated that pluralism as applied to political and economic institutions has proven the most successful.

Walt Whitman would have course endorsed pluralism. The celebrated title of his most famous book and its words express the value of the individual, "I believe a leaf of grass is no less than the journey-work of the stars." Pluralism recognizes that the whole is equal to or exceeded by the sum of its parts.

Nineteenth and twentieth century political action which expanded rights not only to blacks and women, but later the handicapped and then made equal access to political and economic opportunities mandatory demonstrate our continued recognition as a society that diversity of opportunity contributes to our universal well-being.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Hymn of the Pearl

Within the Acts of Thomas is a beautiful poem describing the exile and redemption of the soul. The text is known as the "Hymn of the Pearl".

When I was a little child,
and dwelling in my kingdom of my father's house,
and in the riches and luxuries of my teachers,
I was living at ease.

[Then] from our home in the East,
after they had made preparations,
my parents sent me forth.


Then they made with me an agreement,
and they inscribed it in my heart so that it would not be forgotten:
"If [you would go] down into Egypt
and bring the one pearl,
which is in the middle of the sea
surrounded by the hissing serpent,
then you will put on your glorious garment
and your toga which rests over it.
And with your brother, our second in command,
you will be heir in our kingdom."


The Hymn of the Pearl.

The Apostle Thomas sings the hymn while in prison.

The hymn tells the story of a boy, "the son of the king of kings", who is sent to Egypt by his family to retrieve a pearl from a serpent. He is promised rich rewards on his return. During the quest, he is seduced by Egyptians and forgets his origin. Later, a letter is sent from the king of kings to remind him of his past. The boy receives the letter, remembers his mission, retrieves the pearl and returns. The boy is everyman, as spoken by Thomas; the "king of kings" is Jesus.

What is our purpose in life and how is it that we stray from that path? When we are young, it only seems that life is much simpler. Our parents guide us and instruct us in the ways of the world. We need not make decisions for ourselves. But as we grow older, we journey on, meet new friends, and make our own decisions.

What choice we make are often wrong, for the path of life is fraught with indecision, betrayal, and confusion.We are tempted by wealth and power. Material comforts become an opiate that distracts us from the true purpose of life. The pearl we seek is not wealth, but wealth as symbolized by our real values, the lessons we were taught as children. And that lesson is to serve others.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Up to the Mountain

It is the best of all possible worlds and couldn't possibly be better.
Voltaire - Candide

I went up to the mountain
Because you asked me to
Up over the clouds
To where the sky was blue
I could see all around me
I could see all around me


Some days I look down
Afraid I will fall
And though the sun shines
I see nothing at all
Then I hear your sweet voice, oh
Oh, come and then go, come and then go
Telling me softly
You love me so
Patty Griffin - Up to the Mountains

The Cranky Old Man asked me what Candide's words have to do with the lyrics from Up to the Mountain.

Very little, if you take them at face value. Voltaire's Candide is a satiric view of  life, which Voltaire sees as a cruel struggle for survival where hope and love count for nothing. Candide travels throughout the world while one misfortune is heaped on another, all the while expressing the notion that God has preordained everything and it is for the best. Patty Griffin's Up to the Mountain is a tribute to Martin Luther King Jr.'s last speech. In the speech King compares himself to Moses who led his people out of bondage and to the promised land. From the mountaintop Moses viewed the Promised Land, but he was to die before reaching it. The speech was delivered in Memphis, Tennessee on April 3, 1968. The next day King was assassinated. The lyrics are a reaffirmation of the hope that exists in every soul that God's voice does speak to us, telling us softly that he loves us so.

Cranky thinks to himself that if we have to choose, we choose hope over despair.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

The very thought of it

Marcel Proust said it best in "The Remembrance of Things:
"When nothing else subsists from the past, after the people are dead, after the things are broken and scattered· the smell and taste of things remain poised a long time, like souls· bearing resiliently, on tiny and almost impalpable drops of their essence, the immense edifice of memory."
The ocean, a new book, a cup of coffee, a rose, even the musty smell of a basement - all these smells conjure up for me a memory of some time and place from the past. My first memory that I can recall is standing on a gigantic steamer boat, the S.S. Rose, and looking out over an endless sea. I was no more than three or four at the time and my family was returning from Panama to North Carolina. My father was a career army officer. We had lived for a year in Panama where it had been hot and humid. We lived near the jungles and my mother would later tell me stories of how I was always almost lost in the jungles. But, I don't remember any of that.

It is the boat, standing on the deck and looking out at the immense ocean that I vividly recall. The scent of the ocean’s salty green brine that hits not only your sense of smell but taste with its salty sweetness. At sea decaying fish and seaweed are consumed by ocean dwelling bacteria and produce a sort of fishy tangy smell. The smell is unique. Anyone who been on a boat that has recently been fishing knows this smell can stir up a flock of seagulls in to a ravenous frenzy.Perhaps it is this primeval need for food that stirred in me this memory. The memory is more visual than olfactory, but that is not unusual. Smell is a more subtle sense than sight. It embeds its effect in silent ways and calls out to our need for basic survival, the need to eat.

What I do remember is that it was the instance between dusk and night. When the sun is setting, the sea turns from turquoise to iridescent orange, and then in a moment both night and sea turn purple then black. The rippling of the waves and the wake the boat makes the scene animated as if thousands of hands in a multitude of colors, turquoise, orange, purple and all sorts of shades in between are waving at me at the boat silently glides through the water. In my memory, I am shorter than the railing. At times I have my hands on the thick rail watching the show and smelling the air. At other times I stand there hands at my sides awestruck by the immensity of the boat, ocean, and sky. I was too young then to process this thought, but I have often wondered since whether it was at this moment that I understood what it was to be part of the universe. To describe that moment as spiritual is fitting even though at that age I would not have understood the word. Spiritualism is after all deeply confusing even as we grow older.The one thing that even a child can understand is that we are a part of something larger, and that try as we might we can never understand it all. As Marcel Proust might have said, we are tiny almost imperceptible drops within a cosmic universe. The thought is both humbling and reassuring. Humbling for who are we to think that we can in any way make an impact on the world. Reassuring in that we know that in at least one sense our atoms will continue to form and reform in a myriad of different life forms and continue to be part of this universe until the end of time.

Every return trip to the ocean invariably brings back this memory. But even the smell of fish at a local restaurant like the The Fish Market, here in Wichita can involuntarily trigger this memory. The very smell of it - Halibut, Salmon, Mahi-Mahi, Grouper, Tuna, Haddock, Oyster, Clam, Calamari - will bring back that time, place and smell of long ago. The memory like mementos stored in a cigar box is carefully tucked away, safe and secure.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

The games people play

"It's like kids playing house: 'You play the father, I'll play the mother.' ... You know, you dress up, you play, they pay, you go home. It's a game — acting's a game."
                                 — Robert Duvall

I think Shakespeare said it first, life is but a game. It is the the basis of at least two of his plays -  first in , A Midsummer Nights Dream and then  As You Like It. The monologue that expresses the thought best is by melancholy Jaques, who says:

"All the world's a stage,
And all the men and women merely players;
They have their exits and their entrances;
And one man in his time plays many parts,
His acts being seven ages. At first the infant,
Mewling and puking in the nurse's arms;
And then the whining school-boy, with his satchel
And shining morning face, creeping like snail
Unwillingly to school. And then the lover,
Sighing like furnace, with a woeful ballad
Made to his mistress' eyebrow. Then a soldier,
Full of strange oaths, and bearded like the pard,
Jealous in honour, sudden and quick in quarrel,
Seeking the bubble reputation
Even in the cannon's mouth. And then the justice,
In fair round belly with good capon lin'd,
With eyes severe and beard of formal cut,
Full of wise saws and modern instances;
And so he plays his part. The sixth age shifts
Into the lean and slipper'd pantaloon,
With spectacles on nose and pouch on side;
His youthful hose, well sav'd, a world too wide
For his shrunk shank; and his big manly voice,
Turning again toward childish treble, pipes
And whistles in his sound. Last scene of all,
That ends this strange eventful history,
Is second childishness and mere oblivion;
Sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans everything." — Jaques (Act II, Scene VII, lines 139-166)
Enough of Shakespeare. If we can't live in the future, let's at least live in the present.

Listen to Robert Duvall, whose acting career spans roles from To Kill a Mockingbird and Apocalypse Now to Lonesome Dove and most recently Crazy Heart. The NPR podcast is coming, but here is the link to his thoughts on the subject of acting and living. Acting and living are really the same things, aren't they? So, if you could be someone else, anyone in the world, all you have to do is close your eyes, act it out, and imagine it.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

recognizing beauty


Example:(Submitted, January 2008)
A man sat at a metro station in Washington DC and started to play the violin; it was a cold January morning. He played six Bach pieces for about 45 minutes. During that time, since it was rush hour, it was calculated that thousands of people went through the station, most of them on their way to work.

Three minutes went by and a middle aged man noticed there was musician playing. He slowed his pace and stopped for a few seconds and then hurried up to meet his schedule.

A minute later, the violinist received his first dollar tip: a woman threw the money in the till and without stopping continued to walk.

A few minutes later, someone leaned against the wall to listen to him, but the man looked at his watch and started to walk again. Clearly he was late for work.

The one who paid the most attention was a 3 year old boy. His mother tagged him along, hurried but the kid stopped to look at the violinist.

Finally the mother pushed hard and the child continued to walk turning his head all the time. This action was repeated by several other children. All the parents, without exception, forced them to move on.

In the 45 minutes the musician played, only 6 people stopped and stayed for a while. About 20 gave him money but continued to walk their normal pace. He collected $32. When he finished playing and silence took over, no one noticed it. No one applauded, nor was there any recognition.

No one knew this but the violinist was Joshua Bell, one of the top musicians in the world. He played one of the most intricate pieces ever written,with a violin worth 3.5 million dollars.

Two days before his playing in the subway, Joshua Bell sold out at a theater in Boston and the seats average $100.

This is a real story. Joshua Bell playing incognito in the metro station

was organized by the Washington Post as part of a social experiment about perception, taste and priorities of people. The outlines were: in a commonplace environment at an inappropriate hour: Do we perceive beauty?

Do we stop to appreciate it? Do we recognize the talent in an unexpected context?

One of the possible conclusions from this experience could be: If we do not have a moment to stop and listen to one of the best musicians in the world playing the best music ever written, how many other things are we missing?

Saturday, May 29, 2010

The Farm House

Farm  houses are like sentinels on the plains, waiting and watching, silently standing against the weather and time.

Across Kansas and the other plains states farm houses dot the landscape, a testament to the courage of the settlers who first tamed the prairie. Go down any country road, inevitably one finds a farm house situated near a pond or a creek. Its location defies logic. Trial and error has destined that a family should try its luck at homesteading, but not all trials are successful. The empty farmhouses remain. They still stand like the giant stone heads of Easter Islands, a monument to a past race whose stories are now forgotten.

It is inevitable that in time, the wood takes on the appearance of great age. And against the color of the deep green grass and the pale blue sky, the wood is a lifeless gray. The windows panes are black and opaque, or  left empty; you can imagine the ghosts of a family still lingering.

Once there was a lot of sound. In the summer one imagines mother cooking supper in the kitchen, she is wearing a sleeveless cotton dress that she sewed herself, father comes from the fields, he mops the sweat and dirt of the day's labor from his brow, and the several children - usually there were several to make up for the absence of neighbors and the loneliness of life on the prairie - the children come in the back door barefoot and wearing loose fitting clothes, still excited after a day at the swimming hole. They all get ready to join in the one certain daily ritual, the evening meal. Their faces are indistinct. I can't make out whether their hair is blond or brown, their eyes blue, green or black. They might have been German or Swedish, English or French immigrants. Time has erased all memory of them. Most of the furniture was taken when the family left the house.A few scrapes of paper remain, but the words are darkened and worm eaten, so that even a forensic scientist could not put a name to the place or the faces.

The strangest thing of all is the silence. One can imagine the endless activity that took place over the years that the house was occupied. Visitors coming and going, a birthday party, a long succession of nights around the dinner  table, and an evening on the porch watching the stars. Now the silence is funereal, and I think that this fate awaits each house. One day I will be old and gray, the kids will be gone, and my house will stand empty, and its story forgotten.

More images of farm houses.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Running on empty

For at least a month, or more, I have been running on empty. Sure I get up each morning and follow the routine - work, workout, more work, dinner, sleep. Boy is that boring. I need a break. My spiritual and mental gas tank is empty. I am, at this point, going through the motions, finding that everywhere I turn is a dead end. I am - as an old friend once described it - driving on fumes.

I packed my bags, put my bike in the car, loaded up CD's of John Cheever's short stories and Sue Grafton's A is for Alibi, grabbed Sammy my over agressive German Shephard, and headed out. My destination was the Roaring River State Park in southwest Missouri. There was now real reason for my decision. Someone had mentioned it to me in passing.The tour guide at the Missouri  Visitor's Bureau had said that she and her husband were headed there in two weeks. And, it is close to the Lake of the Ozarks.

What I didn't know was that Roaring River is one of five Missouri trout hatcheries. I am not a trout fisherman, I don't even fish. I don't have the patience. But, there are a lot of avid fishermen and women in Missouri and one fifth of them or more were here at Roaring River to take advantage of the thousands of state spawned trout.

 I am not one to waste a trip. So, Sammy and I waded in the Roaring River amongst the fishermen and women who stood along the shore casting their lines like so many synchronized swimmers. The water is cold and it felt invigorating for my legs after a short run through the Mark Twain National Forrest. Like I say, why waste a trip.

The other reason for getting away, other than the physical beauty of a new location, is the opportunity that it give us to think outside the box. Life has become a routine. And, only by gettign away can we see a little more clearly who and what we are. I am staying this eveninbg at the Oakcrest Cabin and RV Park. Just a mile outside Roaring River park on Highway 112. The couple who own the park like my dog, I have had all sorts of compliments on Sammy and so, I conclude, people from Missouri are polite and friendly. The owners of the park have a small girl who can be no older than six. After asking me about the dog, they ask me about my two children, and then relate that they too have two older children, and the daughter who now keeps them company was a surprise, a pleasant one. I stopped at their park because I saw that their sign said free internet. It also said dish TV and pool, but I didn't have kids with me, just the dog.

The cabin is clean. As promised there is internet and dish TV. There are two double beds, one for Sammy and one for me. There is a kitchen with stove and frig, if I were to stay longer.But, the best thing about the cabin is the fresh air and quiet. Thank God, this is not a Super 8, where they always leave the lights on. No, this simple cabin is a throw back to simpler times, good people, and good living. And, in the process of rediscovering the past, I have refilled my gas tank.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Questions and Answers

My wife and kids are always telling me that I just like to ask questions and that I don't care about the answers.

Not true, I do care about the answers, it's just that the questions are so much more interesting. For instance, look at the questions to the right and see if you don't find them amusing.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

sports supplements

Will Davis
Mr. Fleming
First Aid Block 4
April 8, 2010
Sports supplements
If you are a competitive athlete or health freak then you’ve probably heard of sports supplements. Sports supplements are said to be quick and effective ways to gain results from exercise, Do the promises company’s make stand up? Are supplements really that great?
Sports supplements (also called cryogenic aids) are products used to enhance athletic performance that may include vitamins, minerals, amino acids, herbs, or botanicals (plants) — or any concentration, extract, or combination of these. Sports supplements are considered a dietary supplement which means they don’t have to be approved by the FDA and you don’t have to get a prescription. This has been a problem because some products have had unsafe amounts of certain ingredients.
There are many different types of sports supplements. One the most serious and drastic types to gain muscle and strength are androstenedione and DHEA. These are also known as natural steroids. Studies have shown that they do not increase muscle size or strength. They can also cause severe side effects. Such as testicular cancer, breast cancer in men, and if taken by teens it can stunt growth. Also the usual side effects associated with anabolic steroids. These supplements are usually ineffective and extremely dangerous.
Anabolic steroids are a dangerous and illegal route to take. These are hormones that help the body build muscle tissue and increase muscle mass. Steroids, also known as roids or juice, are similar to the male hormone testosterone, which is produced naturally in larger amounts in males and smaller amounts in females. When you take steroids, your muscle tissue is stimulated to grow, producing larger and stronger muscles. These are not recommended.
Another popular supplement to gain muscle and strength is creatine. Creatine is naturally produced by the body in the liver, pancreas and kidneys. Creatine helps increase energy, repair muscle and shorten recovery time. The side effects are usually mild like diarrhea and cramps. It’s best for high intensity workouts like sprints and power lifting. Researchers have found that not everyone who uses creatine absorbs it properly so it can be wasted on some people. Creatine is in high demand from teens; however it is unknown how creatine affects teenagers so it’s recommended for people 18 or older.
But steroids do have unwelcome side effects - such as high blood pressure and heart disease, liver damage and cancer, urinary and bowel problems, strokes and blood clots, and sleep problems. Men or teenage boys can suffer from infertility, breast and nipple enlargement, and penile dysfunction. Girls may find themselves with deeper voices, smaller breasts, menstrual problems, and an increase in facial and body hair. Steroids can also have emotional effects on the user, such as severe mood swings, aggressive behavior, irritability, and depressive or suicidal thoughts.
Androstenedione, more commonly known as andro, is another popular nutritional supplement. When a person takes andro, the body may convert it to testosterone, which is necessary for muscle development. When it's taken in large doses, andro is said to increase muscle mass, although studies haven't shown that andro is particularly effective. Andro can cause hormone imbalances and can have similar side effects to anabolic steroids.
Fat burners (also known as thermogenics) are another very popular supplement. They used to use ephedrine to boost your metabolism and help burn fat. But the FDA found that ephedrine can have very serious side effects. Some people experienced seizures, strokes, and heart problems. These types of supplements are very dangerous and are not recommended for use at any age. Much study is still needed before these products are completely safe and truly ready for the market.
Many sports organizations have developed policies on sports supplements. The National Football League (NFL), the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA), and the International Olympic Committee (IOC) have banned the use of steroids, creatine, ephedra, and androstenedione by their athletes, and competitors who use them face fines, ineligibility, and suspension from their sports.

Sports supplements are a good way to get an edge on the completion, but they do come with risks. Some of the more serious supplements like steroids and HGH are not recommended. But if you consult your physician and be as safe as possible you can get positive results from mixing sports supplements with proper diet and exercise.


My mother told me when I was young, "Never talk about religion, politics, or sex with other people. It only makes them mad to hear you if they don't agree with what you say." Sorry mom.

Anglicans in Los Angeles, California consecrated Mary Glaspool on 15 May as an assistant bishop. Some church members state that she is openly lesbian and so not fit to be a church leader, or that the time is not right since the Anglican faith as a whole is not ready.A friend of mine states that her open views on sexuality are not in keeping with the Bible. Another friend notes that the Bible, in fact, condemns such practices.

Jesus says, "I give you a new commandment: Love one another as I have loved you" (John 13:34). Love and tolerance are inseparable. But, why is it that we can neither love nor tolerate those who are different from ourselves? Observe that we do not have to agree or accept that other views are for us or are right, we simply need to love and tolerate others. It is a simple idea expressed 2000 years ago, and still more often acted out in the negative, than the positive.

For those who feel that lesbianism is inconsistent with the Bible's teaching, I note that the teachings of Christ are inconsistent with the Old Testament. On this very point, Christ said that he was bringing forth a new law, one of compassion and understanding for our fellow men and women. To the kids I say, "Duh, its not called 'New' Testament for nothin'". For the older set who feel that the Anglican congregation in California is breaking with tradition, well, so did Christ. A congregation is just that, a group of like minded men and women gathering together to worship God.And so if one doesn't like the minister at one church, then do as so many others do, find a congregation and church in which you are comfortable.

Christianity is after all a universal religion. So, to Mary Glaspol, I say welcome to the community of Christ.

Sunday, May 16, 2010


I apologize to all my loyal readers for neglecting my responsibilities on Cranky Old Man. The past two weeks have been super busy. I just finished up my finals and then promptly hopped on to a plane to be with Lana for her graduation from Tulane. Lana is a childhood friend. I promise to post some very funny and alcohol fueled tales from this most recent vacation. At the moment though my head is pounding and a bed is calling my name.

Love, First Born

Friday, May 7, 2010

Goals dammit

Do you tell the world what you are going to do, and include your family and friends in your dream? Or do you just put your nose to the grindstone and work without fanfare? Answer honestly before reading on.

Wray Herbert, in his column on Mind Matters states emphatically that talk is cheap, it is doing that matters. To bolster his opinion that talk is cheap Herbert refers to an experiment by New York University psychologist Peter Gollwitzer and his colleagues who ran a number of experiments to test this notion. Here is the experiment as described by Herbert:

The psychologists recruited a group of law students and had them rate a series of statements from "definitely yes" to "definitely no"—statements like: "I intend to make the best possible use of educational opportunities in law." But some of the law students merely dropped the anonymous questionnaire into a box while others went over their answers with the experimenter. The idea was to create a laboratory version of the public pronouncement: that is, some made their intention to intensify their studies known while others kept their intentions private.
Then they took an unusual test. They were shown five photographs of a Supreme Court justice, varying in size from quite small to large, and they were asked: "How much do you feel like a jurist right now?" They had to respond by selecting one of the five photos. This well-tested procedure taps into automatic, unconscious self-evaluations: the larger the picture you pick, the more complete you feel. The idea was to see how much publicly declaring their intentions (or not) made them feel like an icon of modern jurisprudence.
In keeping with Gollwitzer's theory, those law students who had publicly announced their plan to read law journals and so forth tended to pick the larger pictures of their legal role models.
The results were clear. Although all of the law students were motivated, only those who kept their hopes private actually did the work needed to succeed. There is no substitute for hard work. Or, to use the old joke about how you get to Carnegie Hall, ...practice, practice, practice.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

More Walt...Simpson's Style

The following is a link one of Cranky Old Man's loyal followers sent me. I hope you enjoy. Thanks Lauren! Walt Whitman.

Monday, May 3, 2010

The Hedgehog and the Fox

Are you a hedgehog or a fox?

Among the surviving fragments of lines of the Greek poet Archilochus (680 B.C. - 645 B.C.) is the following saying: "The fox knows many things, but the hedgehog knows one big thing." These cryptic words have encouraged writers to debate the meaning behind the words, which may mean no more than that the cunning fox is defeated by the hedgehog’s one defense.

One famous interpretation of Archilochus' saying is Isaiah Berlin's The Hedgehog and the Fox (1953) in which Berlin attempts to divide writers and thinkers into two categories: hedgehogs, who view the world through a single lens of one defining idea and foxes who draw on a variety of experiences and for whom the world is not so simple. Examples of the former include Plato, Nietzsche, Rousseau, Joyce, Sartre. Examples of the foxes might include Aristotle, Erasmus, Shakespeare,Voltaire, and Franklin, and Whitman.  Berlin's essay focuses on Leo Tolstoy arguing that he has taken on the mantle of the omniscient, observing life as both hedgehog and fox. One example will suffice to support Berlin's claim.

In a famous passage dealing with the state of Moscow in 1812 Tolstoy observes that from the heroic achievements of Russia after the burning of Moscow one might infer that its inhabitants were absorbed entirely in acts of self-sacrifice – in saving their country or in lamenting its destruction, in heroism, martyrdom, despair – but that in fact this was not so. People were preoccupied by personal interests. Those who went about their ordinary business without feeling heroic emotions or thinking that they were actors upon the well-lighted stage of history were the most useful to their country and community, while those who tried to grasp the general course of events and wanted to take part in history, those who performed acts of incredible self-sacrifice or heroism, and participated in great events, were the most useless.
As Tolstoy observed, Archilochus's broad classifications of foxes and hedgehog can apply to the ordinary day to day activities of individuals as well as politicians, businessmen, and thinkers. Do we focus on the task at hand or on the broader implications of our actions? There is both an immediate effect of our actions and a long term effect to what we do. Again, a simple example suffices, a cigarette may gratify a craving for nicotine, but one day lead to lung cancer.A more positive example is that today's education leads to better paying jobs in the future.

Surely, Archilochus must have thought that we all have a role to play - fox or hedgehog. Each animal is successful in its own environment. Each animal has stood the test of time. Thus, in the long term it is not better to be one or the other. The occasion determines which personality is called for. In this sense Tolstoy was right. When war presented itself, the citizens of Moscow went about their lives doing what needed to be done in defense of their capital and country. When Napoleon was defeated, then Tolstoy could observe with dispassionate reflection the many roles of the participants that lead to victory.

A paradox exists in playing the dual roles of fox and hedgehog. Sometimes the basic need to survive conflicts with the altruistic need to spread kindness and goodness throughout the world. Tolstoy himself confronted this dilemma when he chose giving away his worldly possessions over the desires of his family. Hedgehog or fox, we can not always reconcile the role we must play and must resign ourselves to the inevitable conflict.

Also read Steve Wang's article about how the internet is turning the world into a pack of foxes.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Leaves of Grass

The Russians have a proverb that the tallest blade of grass is the first to be cut. Still, it is in our nature to grow. The sun and its warm light draws on. We strive to stand apart from the other blades of grass, all the while knowing that by doing so we risk our very existence.

One American writer who symbolized self growth was Walt Whitman. His Leaves of Grass, first published in 1855, represents a new realism in American literature and a celebration of the self. For example in Songs of  Myself, Whitman expresses the thought, “In all people I see myself, none more and not one a barleycorn less/and the good or bad I say of myself  I say of them.”

We are one, and yet, we are but one. This paradox expresses the thought that we are a part of the whole, the multitude and the cosmos, and yet, we are still individuals striving for self-expression.“It is you talking just as much as myself…I act as the tongue of you.”

This same idea runs through all our relationships - parents, friends and even acquaintances. It is thus better to recognize that these relationships should be positive and constructive rather than the reverse.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Bad bosses and worthless workers

I too listened to the Walt Bodine show on bad bosses. If you missed it you can listen to it on podcast.

Lest we too quickly decide that Karl Marx was right - workers of the world unite and get rid of the bosses - let me say a word in defense of bosses. Bosses use capital and labor to create a profitable business. Without bosses there would be no organized industry, no job and no pay. Workers would be left to fend for themselves in a chaotic struggle for individual supremacy, solitary and starving. Somebody has to make the tough decisions: who works when, who does what, and yes, how much does one get paid over another.

What was lacking in the Walt Bodine discussion of bad bosses was a recognition that every business has to earn a profit. The recent financial catastrophe proves how quickly one business can go from success to bankruptcy. Citigroup only barely survived bankruptcy to get back on the profit bandwagon. Workers create product or service and thereby create success. Bosses owe their success to the workers who daily get the job done. It is that simple.Good bosses recognize this - they owe their jobs to workers.Workers should be encouraged, rewarded, and promoted when appropriate. Bosses who don't recognize this will never climb the latter of success.They are bad bosses and deserve to be fired.

Enough of bad bosses, what about worthless workers? What is a worker if he or she doesn't work? And by work, I mean "add value" to the organization. Add value means make money and earn a profit.Good workers improve the business, they make cars, serve meals, take tickets, pump gas, and a million other jobs that keep the economy humming along. And when the cars they make are bad, the meals cold, or they don't perform as needed, they the workers have worked themselves out of a job.

Neither are all bosses bad, nor all workers good. The bad need to be sorted out so that they can find a better fit for their talents. I once heard a saying that "A" employees don't stay with "C" employers. There is truth in this. Workers seek rewarding and challenging employment.Workers are creative, thoughtful, helpful and bosses need to recognize this. The problem with bad bosses is that they fail to recognize that their job is not to boss, but to manage. Peter Drucker the man who invented management theory is the guru of the subject. Bosses don't boss, they manage,  trying to instill corporate values in a diverse group of individuals and by encouraging their staff create an effective, harmonious, and profitable enterprise.

So, let's work together for a better America.

Oh no she didn't!: Oprah advises Views to tip less

I worked last night. I am a waitress at Paisano's Italian Eatery in Lawrence, KS. I am a purveyor of spaghetti, for the layman a waitress. Let me tell you folks, serving tables is not easy! It is dirty, messy, grueling, and the pay is unpredictable. I am paid 2.13 per hr. I survive on tips, which I earn but running the fifth basket of breadsticks to tables all with a smile.

As in anything you have good days and bad days. Last night was not a good one. No matter how much charm I slathered on it seemed I couldn't break a 10% tip. I then was made aware of a nasty rumor flying around the hospitality industry about Queen Oprah.

The first whispers I heard about lady O came from the cooks in the kitchen. Everyone knows cooks are horrible gossips and prone to exaggeration and conspiracy theories. I was waiting in the kitchen, looking at a dismal excuse for a tip a table of four, fat, happy customers left for me. One of the cooks leans over and whispered, "You know this is all Oprah's fault." I rolled my eyes and gave him a look that invited further explanation. Chris, the cook, went on to tell me about how Oprah had encouraged her viewers to continue dining out during the current recession but in order to cut costs they should tip less.

I was skeptical of Chris' claim to say the very least. Oprah would never turn her legions of worshipers against poor servers, the majority of whom are trying to put themselves through some form of schooling in order to better their lives. To my dismay Chris was correct, Oprah has in fact ordered a jihad on the service industry everywhere!

What are your thoughts? Here is some feedback found on the Oprah Website.

much love, First Born

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

NPR podcast

Here is a link to the NPR podcast I wrote about in my previous positing. It aired Tuesday April 27, 2010, on the Walt Bodine Show. Listen and tell me what insights you may have. I think it is a piece we can all learn from.

Love, First Born

If You Want Something Done Right do it Yourself: A Response to Do I have to do Everything Myself

Just another blog
I was listening to NPR today while driving to and from errands. I forget what program was on, but the hosts and guests were discussing motivation in the work place. The day's dialogue covered management strategies, company policies, and personal motivation many people may be lacking in the current economic climate. These subjects have obvious curb appeal to business owners and individuals who occupy management positions. The greater lessons I took away from NPR's programming are worthwhile nuggets of wisdom and common sense anyone with a pulse can benefit from. I am specifically writing this post in response to Crank Old Man's posting "Do I have to do Everything Myself?" because hopefully he can take away worthwhile tips on motivating others as well as motivating himself, and for the love of god quite his bitching.
The first part of the program dealt with management strategies and company policy. The second half was dedicated to individuals whose careers would fit in perfectly in the major motion picture "Up in the Air." These workers felt trapped, too old to start anew, unable to change their company policy due to fear of losing their jobs, or people who had lost their jobs and didn't know how to reenter a hostile workforce at while entering their "golden years." For those looking to motivate others there are a list of do's and don'ts. Lets start with the negative and get it out if the way.
A major sign of incompetence is micro-management. According to the guest expert, micro-management is symptomatic of a lack of confidence in oneself and one's employees. Micro-managing is simultaneously patronizing and counter-productive. This style of management communicates to workers that a manager isn't confident in his employees or his overall business plan. A boss should hire people he or she is confident in. If they are given a task, respect the employee's capability to deliver. If a boss does not its speaks volumes to their confidence in hiring. Employees also feel stifled when micro-managed. Their accomplishments no longer belong to them, they are now the boss' compliments, and the employee is only a pawn.
This phenomena is also seen in children. Look at Tiger Woods, many would argue it was his father's drive, not Tiger's, that propelled Tiger to the level of success he obtained in the golf world. Tiger perhaps sought to reclaim his autonomy by pursuing his desires and impulses out at clubs and famously with porn stars and Perkins' waitresses.
What people ought to do to motivate those around them to increase productivity or to work towards a common goal is offer autonomy. Companies who allow employees to focus on goals saw huge increases in productivity. "Focus on goals" means to give an employee a task and let that worker accomplish it in his or her own way in their own time. Many employers fear work will never be done if its on the employee discretion when to work. When workers complete their work they are rewarded monetarily. Companies who employed these techniques reported high moral amongst workers and increased productivity. Never underestimate the power of ownership. When an employee feels they own the fruits of their labor they take pride in their work and produce a better product.
Finally the program addressed men and women who felt trapped in a job, too afraid to complain, or recently let go. The advice was rather similar to the managers listening. Don't blame others, take the horse by the reins and take actions. One caller commented that," No one has the power to make you feel bad about yourself, only you have that power." Employees who felt trapped, who didn't like a boss, or a boss' tactics were encouraged to empower themselves by putting themselves in their boss' shoes. Try and figure out what the boss' insecurities are, what they want to change, what their mandate is. Once an employee can figure out what a boss wants they can then assuage a boss' insecurities by taking proactive steps to let a boss know their concerns are being addressed.
Another woman called in, she had recently been let go from a job she held for 28 years. Instead of entering a deep depression this caller took this time to better herself at the ripe age of 65 she reenrolled in University courses.

Cranky Old Man, what I'm trying to say is... You gotta a problem with me? Then change yourself. The power is in your hands, the ball is eternally in your court. Insanity is trying the same thing and expecting different results. If you don't like the current results mix it up. Its fun and its keeps life interesting. Remember even the Cranky Old Man can be an eternal optimist. Isn't it nicer to be nice?

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Do I have to do everything?

I sent you an invitation, and then I accepted the invitation for you.

You can now log in to blogger using your email and password and post blogs. Notice, that you can also create your own blogs. They are a great way to learn how to write. Practice, practice, practice.

Move three spaces ahead of the rest of your friends.

p.s. When you post, you have to publish your post. It is the orange button at the bottom of the screen.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Day One

What would you do if you knew for certain that today was the first day of the rest of your life?

I doubt that you would start a blog, but for me this is day one, so live with it. This blog is a dialogue with my two children, Hannah and Will. And if I had a picture of them, I would post it here, but I don't.

I do have a picture of a French packet ship. Packet ships were originally designed to carry mail, then later cargo and passengers. They were neither sleek nor fast. They were designed for efficiency; they got the job done.

The ship, the Rochambeau represents a beginning. For this is the ship that in 1919 carried my grandfather Ltc. James Madison Pearson and his new bride Marguerite Chevallier Pearson from France to the United States. The date was shortly after the end of the First World War. It was war in Europe with its death and destruction that first brought my grandfather to France as a soldier and then introduced him to my grandmother when he was injured.

Perhaps this blog will be like  the Rochambeau. It too represents a beginning - a new line of communication between my children and me. And, hopefully, like the packet ships of yore carrying messages back and forth, this blog will get the job done.