Welcome to Big Old Goofy World . . . a place where I can share my thoughts, hopes, and dreams about this rock that we live on and call home.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Looking for #100

I like to read a weekly blog—Mike at Night—by Mike Hendricks.  Mike is a professor at a small community college in southwestern Nebraska.  I do not always agree with Mike, but he makes his readers think . . . and, I think that is a good chunk of what writing is supposed to be about . . . making the readers think.  His most recent blog came out the day after some pretty horrific things took place and were reported in the news.  In particular he mentioned the downing of the commercial jet over the border of Ukraine that killed all 298 people on board . . . the land invasion of Israel into Gaza . . . and, the bank robbery in California that ended with two of the three robbers and one hostage being killed.  This news and other news like this over time seemed to have made him cynical . . . he does not think that humanity will ever change . . . that this pattern of inhumanity, hatred, and violence will never end.  As he put it: “All of this happened within a few hours on July 17th, 2014. Even though most of the people in the world are trying to be good and live within the rules that society has created for them, many people aren't. Violent acts such as the ones committed yesterday have been committed since the birth of civilization and will continue to be as long as the world exists.”  

In his blog he writes that we humans go through different stages in life and that one of those stages is an unrealistic one of optimism . . . especially when it comes to the state of humanity and the world.  During this stage we think the best of humanity . . . we think that we can change the world and that the world can be changed . . . we think that peace has a chance.  In this stage of optimism he mentioned John Lennon’s song, Give Peace a Chance, as the ideal . . . that if everyone just tried it, it would happened.  Unfortunately, according to Mike, nothing has ever changed . . . and, he believes that it never will.  People shoot down airplanes filled with innocent people . . . wars are waged . . . and, people kill other people doing stupid things like robbing banks.  In his estimation, nothing changes . . . and, sadly, lots of people feel just like he feels.  Nothing seems to change, so let us just hang on until our tour of duty is completed.

His blog sadden me . . . I guess I must be an eternal optimist.

I took a class in journalism while I was in high school and learned a lot.  One of the things that I learned is that if you misspell a word in an article, you either correct it or keep doing it until people begin to think that maybe they are the ones who do not know how to the spell the word.  Keep doing it until people believe you . . . that has been my approach to writing ever since!  Later in life I learned about the 99th monkey or 100th monkey theory (which it is depends on who is telling the story).  It is a simple theory . . . a phenomenon in which a new behavior or idea is claimed to spread rapidly by unexplained means from one group to all related groups once a critical number of members of one group exhibit the new behavior or acknowledge the new idea.  In other words, it is done over and over again until it catches on . . . the only problem is no one knows for certain what the magical number is.

I believe.  I believe that one has to keep plugging away . . . plugging away until that magical number is found . . . plugging away until people believe . . . plugging away until it happens.  I believe that the world can be a better place . . . a safer place . . . a place of peace and justice and love.  I believe it can be the Kingdom of God as described by Jesus.  I believe that we can do it . . . we can do it if we never give up, never quit.  As I said, I am an optimist . . . eternally.

I believe, but it sure is getting lonely.  Like Mike, think that a lot of people have thrown in the towel when it comes to realizing the perfect world in which there is peace, justice, and no violence . . . a lot of people have given up and hope that maybe, just maybe, the next generation will get it fixed.  I also think that a lot of people give lip service to this idea of an ideal world in which humanity lives in harmony . . . it is easier said than done . . . and, it is the doing that is hard work.  Thus I think that people just jump over to the place where everyone else is . . . joins the crowd.  And, so, it gets lonely.  Someone once said, “It’s easy to stand with the crowd . . . it takes courage to stand alone.”

I cannot buy that the world . . . that humanity . . . that society in general, cannot change and be this ideal that so many of us embraced in our younger years.  I cannot buy that the world cannot change.  Because I cannot buy this cynical world view, I continue to search for that 100th monkey . . . that 100th person who is going to be the switch that turns the world, turns humanity onto that which could be.  I know that it can happen . . . I just don’t know when.

That is part of the problem . . . mass media and technology have made the human race impatient.  We want everything and we want it now.  We are not patient when it is not instantaneous . . . we get frustrated . . . we get grumpy . . . and, we quit.  We quit if there are not instant results.  As my mother used to tell me, “Patience, Prudence, patience.”  But ours is the call of the vulture who got tired of waiting for something to die so it could eat, “Patience my butt, I want to kill something!”  Realizing the Kingdom takes patience . . . lots of patience.

Because it takes patience all one can do is to go about the business of Kingdom building . . . of living peacefully . . . of seeking and doing justice . . . of loving one’s neighbors (who happen to be everyone).  It takes one person at a time . . . one person who just might be that 100th monkey. 

I hope that there are others out there who have not given up . . . those who continue to live life in such a way that it is working towards the realization of the Kingdom.  I know that I will continue to strive towards finding that ideal world . . . one person at a time.  Are you the one?  Pass it on.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Getting Religion

God gets the blame . . . insurance companies pocket the money . . . homeowners are up the proverbial creek without a paddle.  So goes the so-called “acts of God” the exclude insurance companies from having to pay when a natural disaster occurs.  According to the dictionary an act of God is “an event that directly and exclusively results from the occurrence of natural causes that could not have been prevented by the exercise of foresight or caution; an inevitable accident.”  Most insurance companies pretty much keep religion out of their business . . . if you have ever had to deal with one you understand what is being said . . . that is, until there is an actual natural disaster that wreaks havoc.  Then insurance companies suddenly find their religion and cry out, “Acts of God!”

Acts of God . . . which keep them from quickly making payment or even revoking payment on all the claims that come pouring in.  Acts of God . . . as they jack up the price of insurance policies after a natural disaster.  Acts of God . . . as they cancel a policy or refuse to renew it when policy holders actual attempt to collect on what they have paid for.  Acts of God . . .

I think God gets tired of being blamed.

Our area of Montana got nailed with quite a storm in mid-May with hail as big as golf balls beating the hell out of just about everything.  Made a mess out of a lot of homes and property . . . millions of dollars worth of damage.  The big town’s newspaper states that there have been over 40,000 claims made on the damage that was done in that one storm.  Last year there was a similar storm with similar damage.  The year before that was a big flood and even more claims.  Seems that not only was this part of Montana getting beat up, so were the insurance companies . . . all that hail was beating the hail out of their triple digit profits.  So, they got religion . . . invoked the acts of God on everyone by either severely raising the policies or canceling them by refusing to reissue the insurance when the policy expired.  After all, these were acts of God . . . acts of God allow insurance companies not to have to take responsibility . . . gets them off the hook and cuts the losses.

In our area . . . and across the state . . . the religious motives of the insurance companies has been to be slow in responding to the claims . . . in paying the bare minimum in coverage . . . in canceling policies . . . and, in jacking up the cost of insurance for everyone.  This did not sit well with a lot of the people it effected . . . many were shocked at having their policies canceled after many years of paying in for insurance that they never used.  Of course, insurance companies do not see this as a way of recouping losses . . . no, they see this as good business practice.  As one insurance executive stated: “There’s been some storms come through the area.  You have had some adverse exposure.  We look at past claims experience to determine future risk.  This is not intended as a way to recoup past losses.  It’s rather a reflection of the increased risk.”  In other words, insurance companies want to cut their losses and make sure they don’t lose any more profit on down the road.  Besides . . . it’s an act of God.  Religion sure feels good.

One exasperated individual argued that his insurance policy could not be canceled because of an act of God.  The insurance companies argued that it had nothing to do with it being an act of God . . . but that the companies have the right to not renew policies over issues like claims.  Don’t make a claim and you won’t lose your insurance . . . kind of defeats the purpose of paying all that extra money for insurance doesn’t it?  Besides, what the policy states it won’t cover as acts of God, the company will sell an exclusive policy just for that specific act . . . flood insurance is a separate and extra bit of insurance one gets to pay for if he or she wants coverage from floods.  Having religion the insurance companies did what any religious entity would do . . . it turned it back on those in need and started canceling and raising rates. 

I don’t think that God appreciates carrying the blame for these so-called acts.  In fact, I really do not think that God has anything to do with these so-called acts . . . they just happen.  As they say in Alcoholics Anonymous, “Poop happens.”  Natural disasters just happen.  I do not think that God looks down from the heavens and declares that a certain place needs to be shook up a little by sending down a tornado.  I don’t think that God does that.  There have been places a lot more deserving of the havoc of a natural disaster than the little communities that have been hit so far this summer . . . for example, an act of God would be cleaning up Washington, D.C.  But God doesn’t do that . . . at least I do not believe that God does that.  I don’t think that would be an act of God.

But . . . always the big but statement . . . if all of these natural disasters are truly an act of God, why do we lament so much over them.  If these are truly an act of God shouldn’t we the faithful buckle up and deal with it . . . accept it as God’s will . . . try to figure what we did to deserve it and then work really hard to avoid doing it again?  I mean, if these natural disasters were an act of God, wouldn’t it be unfaithful to not just accept the consequences and move on?  If it is God’s will . . . so be it.  Have a little faith, surely there was some reason God dropped that golf ball size hail all over our cars . . . probably because we bought foreign.  I do not think that God is such a vindictive sort of a deity . . . God would not do this on purpose.  These are not acts of God . . . so, let’s quit blaming God.

In our society we have a problem with religion . . . we seem to think that it a sort of pick and choose sort of deal . . . we pick and choose when it is to our advantage whether we are individuals or some big time company.  As I stated earlier, it is amazing that there is nothing too religious about dealing with an insurance company when it comes to purchasing a policy . . . it is all legalese.  There is nothing too religious about an insurance company, but it is amazing how quickly insurance companies find religion when it comes to moral obligations involving big payouts.  Religion is found when the wallet gets squeezed . . . acts of God are invoke, and responsibility is thrown out the window.  It is amazing how often companies and individuals hide behind religion to avoid moral obligations.

Insurance companies no more found religion than one can squeeze blood out of a turnip . . . they found an excuse to protect themselves and their profits.  They did not respond with empathy . . . they did not respond with acts of kindness . . . they did not take care of those who were in need . . . they walked on by the other side of the road.  If insurance companies had truly found religion there would not be increases in the policy rates, not would any policy be canceled.  As the song goes, “They will know we are Christian by our love, by our love”.  In other words people will know we are religious by how we respond in these times of natural disaster . . . did we respond in love.

God doesn’t deserve the blame, but is handling it quite well.  God is also watching . . . watching to see how the children of God respond.  Through acts of caring and love, God is revealed as a living presence.  Maybe someday insurance companies and others will actually get it . . . maybe they will find religion.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Apolecia Wonderment

“Anyone can be confident with a full head of hair. But a confident bald man - there's your diamond in the rough.”
(Larry David)

“I don't care if they call me baldie or chrome dome. God took an eraser and brushed my head clean. I'd rather be bald on top than bald inside.”
(Joe Garagiola)

My three sons are fairly decent fellows . . . nice guys; but, I am pretty sure that they blame me.  Though they never complain, gripe, moan, or whine . . . I am pretty sure that the balding of their heads they blame on me.  I am pretty sure that they lament under their breath.  I am the cause of their balding . . . I have been going bald since the age of twenty-one.  As nice as they are, I see their resentment in their eyes when I take off my ball cap.

According to statistics, fifty percent of the male population enters into the balding stage at some point in their lives . . . in other words, fifty percent of the male population is going to experience baldness before they kick the bucket.  Unfortunately some of us have been dealing with the issue of apolecia a heck of a lot longer than the rest of our species.  The fact is that half of us males are going to go bald.

Now I have been dealing with the receding hair line issue . . . the going bald issue . . . for a long, long time.  I have read and heard just about everything that one could ever hear when it comes to baldness . . . blame it on the individual’s mother’s family . . . curse the hair care products that parents made us use . . . I have heard it all.  Yet, the bottom line is that men are going to get bald, and it is about time men sucked up and accepted the fact!

First of all, with fifty percent of the male population having some form of baldness . . . well, there is money to be made.  According to statistics, the hair loss industry is worth a whopping 3.5 billion dollars a year.  Primarily the money that is being made is in the hair restoration business . . . a pretty useless and worthless industry.  Yet, vanity rules . . . billions of dollars are spent in the hope that one day there will be . . . well, hair  Okay, guys, put the money back in the wallet.  Many of the scams produce nothing more than empty wallets and bank accounts.  The majority of the products being hawked are worthless.

I was told, when I started balding, that baldness comes from the mother’s side of the family.  When I looked at my mother . . . well, I never saw any balding.  If a person’s mother’s side of the family had a lot of bald men, the curse was passed on.  The truth of the matter is that none of us can blame our mothers or their families for being bald.  Odds are that those of us who are balding can blame both sides of the family.  Baldness is an equal opportunity curse . . . it doesn’t really care which side of the family it comes from . . . falling hair is music to whichever side of the family has baldness.  Hey, it is a crap shoot . .. either you keep your hair or you lose it.

Of course I am getting older.  I may have started watching the hair recede when I hit twenty-one, but at the same time I have started to age.  With aging comes gray hair . . . or in my case, white hair.  I don’t know who is winning . . . the hair falling out or the hair turning gray.  Long ago I heard that plucking out gray hairs would induce hair growth . . . three to one is what I heard.  Turns out it is not true.  In fact, plucking grey hairs only speeds up the balding process.  I never could believe this story . . . at the rate that my hair was turning gray, if I had plucked them in hopes that more hair would grow, I would have been a full-fledge chrome dome years ago.  Telly Savalas would have nothing on me . . . except having a better lollipop stash than I had.  If I had embraced this myth, I would have been completely bald years ago.

Now my father, and my sons grandfather, swore that there were several reasons that I was going bald . . . of course he was speaking as a man who had a full head of hair.  First he blamed it on the shampoo that he bought for the family to use on a daily basis . . . Head and Shoulders.  Once his sons started balding he remarked that it was that particular shampoo that caused the hair loss.  Of course Procotor and Gamble would have never admitted to such a theory . . . except that I hear they have a whole laboratory with bald mice they experimented on to test the effectiveness of their Head and Shoulders shampoo . . . they are all bald, but—by God—they do not have any dandruff.  Though there may be some truth to that understanding . . . any chemical could create the same results.

The other thing that my father liked to blame the baldness he was witnessing on his eldest son was ball caps.  Now I do not know which came first . . . baldness or the ball cap.  Because I had a receding hair line, I wore ball caps . . . still do.  When I am not working in the church or at the university, the ball cap is the key piece to my wardrobe.  And, though it is true that I have a little fop on the top of my head . . . that separates the majority of hair from the rest . . . the ball cap did not create my baldness.  Primarily it is ball caps that keep my balding head from getting sunburnt . . . which keeps me from getting flakey skin and having to use Head and Shoulders.  Ball caps have nothing to do with hair loss unless a person wears them so tight that it pulls off hair when removing. 

For years I believed my father.  I quit using Head and Shoulders years and years ago . . . and, I started wearing lots of white shirts.  Can’t find dandruff on a white shirt.  I never quit wearing baseball caps . . . they kept me from getting sunburnt on my bald spots . . . plus I have a lot of really cool baseball caps.  The bottom line is that baldness happens no matter what a person does.

BUT!  I say, “BUT!”  That does not mean that any male in his right mind wouldn’t attempt to halt the onslaught of male baldness without whatever weapons he could find.  There are as may remedies for male baldness as there are bald men . . . remember, 3.5 billion dollars a year.  There is Rogaine . . . there has been some success, but for the most part it makes what hair balding men have greasy and smelly.  There is Propecia which is a drug that promises to block hair loss.  I’d love to give it a chance, but I have passed the point of no return.  There are natural supplements . . . which are like vitamins that promise hair recovery . . . again, just a myth.

It is a fact that stress causes baldness.  Stress can come from just about anywhere . . . the environment . . . to the stuff you use to wash your hair . . . to the relationships one has in his or her life . . . to the way that one even combs one’s hair.  Since I am constantly worrying about whether or not my sons are going to blame me for their hair loss . . . I am under a lot of stress.  Working in an office with eight women . . . stress.  Attempting to juggle two jobs . . . stress.  Wondering whether or not I am the epitome of Brad Pitt . . . stress.  Stress causes hair loss . . . whether I am pulling my hair out or it is dropping out . . . stress in a major factor in losing hair.

Sooooooooooooooooooooooooo . . . you can either accept it or fight it.  I am cheap.  Because I am cheap, I choose not to fight my receding hair line.  I refuse to spend money to retard the loss of hair . . . to possibly kick start new hair growth . . . or to plug in hair rows to create an illusion of hair.  Let the hair fall!  Darn if I am going to let my hair dictate the way I live life. 

Someone once said that God made only so many perfect heads . . . on the rest God put hair.  I count myself among the blessed as I near the state of perfection.  I appreciate the graciousness of my three sons . . . and, I apologize for whatever crisis I have a part in when it comes to their own baldness.  I am sure, if they take the time to actually research the topic, they will come to understand . . . understand that good ol’ Dad—in all of his glorious baldness—had nothing to do with their baldness.  It was a crap shoot . . . or as Doris Day used to sing, “Que sera, sera.”

In the end it really does not matter whether or not I am bald.  What matters is what is on the inside.  I am a diamond in the rough . . . It is what is under the hood that counts.  I am a worthy adversary of Brad Pitt underneath . . . just don’t let me blind you when the light hits my chrome dome!

Friday, July 11, 2014

Blood Sucking Scum

 “Mosquitoes remind us that we are not as high up on the food chain as we think.”
(Tom Wilson)

Our winter in Montana was a wet one.  In the little town I live in we received over 120 inches of snow during the winter months . . . then spring was a little rainier than usual . . . making for a damp spring and early summer as the snow melt combined with the extra rain.  Mother Earth seems to like such combinations as everything popped out green as everything and anything seemed to sprout.  It was a beautiful time in Montana and it is only now that it is beginning to return to its normal brown for the summer.  But, plants are not the only things that appreciate extra moisture . . . so do the insects!

Along with the beautiful green has come a bevy of insects . . . especially mosquitoes . . . blood sucking mosquitoes!  There are three insects that I dislike . . . no, I should be honest . . . that I hate.  Those insects are flies, ticks, and mosquitoes.  Flies are a constant irritation once the weather warms up.  Ticks are a nuisance whenever hiking or walking through tall grass.  Mosquitoes . . . well, mosquitoes are a royal pain in just about every part of the body including the proverbial arse.  Of the three insect I hate, I have move mosquitoes up to the top of the list . . . they are nothing short of being blood sucking scum.

Most of the places I have lived mosquitoes did not become a nuisance until the sun started setting in the evening.  In the evening they came out in force as little vampires seeking the rich blood of us humans.  Not here in Montana.  In Montana, the mosquitoes figure that any time is a good time to suck the blood of humans.  It does not matter what time of the day in Montana, there is always the possibility of getting bit by a mosquito.  In the majority of the places where I lived the communities would spray a couple times a week for mosquitoes.  They would drive through town with a truck that had a fogging machine spewing out mosquito repellant.  For the most part, anything within twenty feet of that truck was effectively sprayed . . . anything beyond, well, good luck.  But, at least they made an effort to kill the blood sucking scum.  Here in Montana it is everyone for him or herself.

Thanks to the wet winter and spring we have a particularly mosquito infested summer.  They seem to be everywhere.  It has been, forgive the pun, a sucky summer as far as mosquitoes go.

These pesky little boogers are persistent in their relentless pursuit of human blood.  It seems that there really is nothing less than using thirty percent Deet that keeps them away . . . trust me, I know.

That is the minimum percentage of mosquito repellent that I will use . . . thirty percent Deet.  Deet is not good for humans.  Most of the mosquito repellent that is available off the shelf usually has no Deet or very little Deet.  Mosquitoes laugh at such repellent . . . they see it as a bonus, like flowers on the table while dining out, adding a little fragrance to their meal.  Yet, at least around our homestead and while hiking, we use nothing less than thirty percent Deet . . . the higher the percentage, the better.  Most Montanans with any common sense know this . . . it is the state cologne for men and perfume for women in Montana.  It is a scent everyone in Montana recognizes . . . plus it is a heck of a lot cheaper than anything you can buy at the fragrance counter in most stores . . . plus it is much more effective.  So far, this summer that has become my scent.  I have noticed that it is not a scent that is very attractive to the opposite sex . . . and that the birth rates in Montana are pretty low in February, March, and April.  We can thank Deet for that . . . but, by God, we are mosquito-free!

Another method we use to keep the mosquitoes at bay is burning citronella oil.  Citronella oil supposedly has a chemical makeup that keeps mosquitoes away.  I am not really sure whether or not this is true as I often have covered every inch of my body with thirty percent Deet . . . but, when I am outside at night, I burn citronella oil in my lanterns.  It seems to work . . . but, again, when one is slathered in thirty percent Deet . . .

Probably the most popular method for mosquito control is the good ol’ fashion swatting method . . . you know, just smacking the hell out of the little farts!  This is a great method if there are only one or two of the little suckers bothering you . . . but, mosquitoes number in the billions if not the trillions.  The swatting methods, though rewarding for its effort, is pretty darn ineffective in solving the problem.

Basically, at least in Montana, mosquitoes are a given . . . you are not going to escape them . . . they are everywhere!  They are a part of the summer mystique and lure of Montana.  At one time it was suggested that the state adopt the mosquito as the state bird . . . but, no, we decided to jump on the bandwagon of the Meadowlark with a thousand other states.  Mosquitoes can be swatted . . . they can be sprayed . . . they can be Citronella to death . . . and, they will still be there.  The blood sucking scum is just a reality Montanans have to live with . . . it literally sucks!

With mosquito bites I am pretty fortunate.  Most mosquito bites I get only bother me for the first thirty minutes or so . . . then they just seem to disappear.  I am pretty fortunate in that regard.  Others, though, are not as fortunate.  When the little vampires bite their bodies become an infestation of bumps.  Little children are susceptible . . . the elderly seem susceptible . . . my wife, who has gotten West Nile Virus from a mosquito bite putting in the hospital for a week, is susceptible.  The little blood sucker mar the bodies of those we love . . . creating little mountain ranges.

One evening, after coming in from being outside, I suggested to the two-year-old granddaughter that we play a game . . . connect the dots on Grandma . . . on Nana.  Needless to say it would have been interesting to see what we came up with . . . it got me a night on the couch.  The wife did not see the adventure and creativity in it.

I am not really sure what the purpose of mosquitoes is.  I imagine that in God’s grand scheme of things, mosquitoes have a purpose.  I imagine in Darwin’s scheme of evolution, mosquitoes have a purpose.  I also know that since the great flood of Noah, people have been cursing the fact that Noah brought two of those little blood suckers onto the ark.  As far as I am concerned . . . mosquitoes have not purpose, no real necessary reason for existence.  Yet, I do have to give God and Darwin some slack . . . after several million years, mosquitoes are still with us.

I guess the old man, Ralph Waldo Emerson, is right . . . if nothing else, mosquitoes remind us that we humans are not as high up the food chain as we thought . . . we are sort of middle of the roaders when it comes to the importance of things . . . after all, we are a food source for a pesky little, blood-sucking insect.  Oh well, it really does not matter.  I am going to continue to work at moving the human race up the food chain . . . I am going to continue to mount a full offense against mosquitoes.  I would like to enjoy at least one evening during the year . . . when the temperature is not below zero . . . with the blood sucking scum!  Or, I will vote for the mosquito to become the next state bird for Montana.