Essays By Richard F Loomis


Latest essay added June 28, 2015

Everyone else seems to use some kind of specialized web pages to do blogs. I thought I'd put mine on my own webpage, and keep what little advertising revenue there is, for myself. (I'm getting $100 from Google about every 9 months or so. I note that it is against the rules for me to say "click on the ads to get me money" because that is considered 'click fraud' of all things. So only click on the google ad if it looks interesting to you!)

Google
Web flyingbuffalo.com

The above is a google ad. It doesn't lead to any FBI product!

IS HOMOSEXUALITY A SIN? (Posted June 28, 2015)
First of all, let's get this straight (pun not intended): A "sin" is what you DO, not what you ARE. If you have feelings for the same sex, that does not make you a sinner. What you DO about those feelings, MIGHT. (see below).

"Sin" is a very important subject (as far as I can tell) in most religions. I consider myself a Christian. And as I see it, when God talks about Sin, he is telling *me* what *I* should not do. He is not telling me what I should prevent *you* from doing. I am not your god, nor your spiritual advisor. If I think what you are doing is dangerous to yourself or to others, I have an obligation to try to convince you not to do it. But when it comes to Sin, it is not up to me to decide whether you go to Heaven or Hell after this life. I try not to do the things I think are Sins. Whether or not you agree with me about those things is between you and God. (And if you choose not to believe in God, then my job is to show you by example what a good Christian does, not to browbeat you into pretending to agree with me, or harass you because you have come to a different conclusion.)

And although I believe that America's founders believed in Christian principles, I absolutely, definitely, completely, do not want to live in a Theocracy, even if the leaders are from my religion. In a Democracy or a Republic, if I disagree with what the government is doing (and I often do), we can argue about it. I can vote for people who agree with me. I can donate money to their campaigns or publish essays about our differences. But in a Theocracy, if I disagree with the leaders, I am a heretic and possibly in danger for my life.

Anyway, back to the subject. If I believe what you are doing is a Sin, that's not really a big deal. I happen to believe we are all sinners, so obviously we can still be friends. I believe that my God wants me to be kind to my neighbors, feed those who are hungry, clothe those who are naked, and befriend the friendless. I don't believe that He wants me to argue with you about what is or is not a Sin. And I definitely don't believe in passing laws against Sinning. That's between you and God, the government should butt out!

SCARY HALLOWEEN(Posted Oct 10, 2014)
Hmm. It's been a year since I posted here. Time flies, doesn't it. But I recently learned two scary things that I wish weren't true, and feel like I have to write about them.

First, apparently the Secret Service is not as competent as it used to be (or maybe it never was, I can't tell from here). I recall when President Obama was first a viable candidate, I remember thinking to myself that I sure hoped the Secret Service was super-vigilant, because the worst thing that could happen to America right then was for some nut to kill him, or even try to. (And shame on those Liberals/Progressives who made jokes or films about President Bush getting killed. I would NEVER wish for a US President to get killed, no matter how much I dislike his policies.) And now I read in the news that apparently they've just been lucky so far. Good grief, man - can't you find someone competent to head the group that keeps you and your family safe? Even the most bush league dictator puts his best man in charge of his security detail. Talk about your Junior Varsity team!

Secondly according to reasonably credible news reports, Obama skips over half of his daily security briefings. What The Frack? Either he can't find competent people to keep him informed on what's going on in the world and what's important, or the President of the USA doesn't think his job is important enough to keep up. !?!?! There are a lot of things I don't like about this President (Fast and Furious, Solyndra, Keystone Pipeline, pulling out of Iraq prematurely, etc, etc) but this is the worst. It's one thing to make bad decisions, but this guy isn't even paying attention! Political opponents are always complaining about a President taking "too many vacations", but the guy does have to take a break from the pressure. But come ON, this is your JOB, man! I also read that he often ignores or overrides advice from the experienced and intelligent people he does have on his team. His opponents in the election said he didn't have the experience for this job. Generally speaking, political opponents always say that kind of stuff. But this time apparently they were right on. And not only is he inexperienced, he is so egotistical that he thinks he is smarter than all his advisors, and that he doesn't need to do his homework or pay attention in class.

Changing the subject completely, as long as I am writing, I've been intending to say something about GUNS for some time. Hey, there's a reason why cartoons and movies always show "peasants" carrying pitchforks and torches. It's because the ruling class never lets them have effective weapons. The first thing a dictatorship does is make sure the general public is disarmed. That way they can complain about how The Elite treat them, but they can't do anything effective about it. Hey, if you don't like guns, and want to count on the police getting there in time if someone is breaking down your front door, that's up to you. But why do you think you should be able to tell me I can't keep a shotgun in my house? Sure, it's unlikely that either one of us will have to deal with that scenario. But if I feel better having a weapon available, and you feel better not having a weapon in the house, why should either of us be able to force the other to comply with his or her decision?

And speaking of "her", I have never been able to figure out why feminists are not strongly in favor of guns. A pistol makes the smallest, weakest woman the equal of the biggest and strongest man. Why would you ever even consider disarming that woman? Sure, the Big Bad Man could take the gun away from her and use it against her. But if there is no gun, he can still injure or kill her with ease. He doesn't need the gun; she does. And don't give me that guff about how someone who owns a gun is more likely to be killed by a gun. Someone who lives in a dangerous area where they are likely to be killed by a gun, is more likely to want to have one for protection. And suicides don't count -- if someone wants to kill himself or herself, there are plenty of ways they can do it without a gun. (If I were cynical, I might suspect that feminists don't want women to be able to protect themselves. They want women to depend on feminist "leaders" to "educate" society (men) on how "no means no" and "rape is bad.")

At any rate, guns make a polite society. My sister has often told me that when driving in California, you don't want to "flip the finger" at any other driver, because he might pull out a gun and shoot you. How about, instead of trying to take guns away from everyone (an impossible task anyway) how about we spend some money on taking better care of the mentally unstable ones? I'm in favor of that.

I use facebook and other social media to try to promote and sell my games, so I avoid saying anything political there. But yes, I have strong Conservative personal views. If you disagree, don't bother arguing with me. Arguing politics never seems to accomplish anything except waste time! Our country seems to be divided approximately 50/50 politically. Obviously there are good arguments for both points of view. If one point of view was so "obviously" right, there wouldn't be so many people on the other side. I am disappointed that most political exchange these days seems to be how "My Opponent Is A Terrible Person" instead of clearly laying out why my political choice is correct. I like to think I am intelligent, open minded, and care about other people. But then, who doesn't? At any rate, I don't just argue politics. Two years ago I became a Precinct Committeeman, and I just renewed. And this year I volunteered to help out in the election. How about you?

KICKSTARTER (Posted Sept 11, 2013)
In order to make my own kickstarter projects look good, (see T&T and Ace of Aces.) I supported several other folks' projects, the most interesting of which was the plastic Settlers of Catan board.

It's pretty cool. You can put two pieces together for a 3-4 player game, or add the third center piece (kind of like adding an extender to the center of your dining table for a dinner party) for a 5 or 6 player game. I'm really happy with it. The guys used kickstarter to create the mold so they can sell these commercially. Check out the kickstarter project. (There's a "contact me" button where you can ask the fellows where you can buy one of these.) If you are a fan of Catan, I don't have to sell this. If you are not, you probably already stopped reading!
Catan Board Kickstarter

SPEAK OUT WITH YOUR GEEK OUT (Posted Sept 13, 2011)
I understand this is "Speak Out With Your Geek Out" week. So I thought I'd blog about it. I've been one of the "geeky kids" as long as I can remember. I don't remember being terribly concerned about what other people thought of me and my hobbies, although that could just be selective memory. I learned how to play chess when I was in grade school, by reading the paper rules that came with a plastic chess set. (Yes, I got some of it wrong, but I was only 8 years old, and I didn't know anyone who could play chess.) The summer before my freshman year in high school, a friend's father gave us a box of science fiction paperback books, and I spent the entire summer esconced in my favorite chair, reading sf, two or three books a day. On the first day of class in freshman English, when the teacher asked "how many books did you read over the summer?" I was able to proudly say "about 200". I was in the chess club, the Young Scientists of America club, and was the founder of the Stamp and Coin collectors club. I was also in the band and in several plays. I don't think you could get much geekier. I invented several games in high school, and even managed to talk some of my friends into playing them. One of my happiest memories of my freshman year in college was when a freshman football player who lived in my dorm, said to a varsity football player who happened to be nearby (in the most insulting tone he could manage) "Do you know what this guy does? He plays WARgames!" And the varsity player turned to him and said "So what? So do I!" In the Army, I was the guy who did everyone else's income tax in April. And during my tour of duty, I had some more ideas about my game inventions, and was so eager to try them out, that I scrounged up some people willing to play them via mail. And that, of course, got me into the play by mail business when I got finished with the Army, and eventually into publishing games.

So, I was one of those geeks who started his own business. I didn't make billions out of it like the famous guys you all know. But I have made a living at it for over 40 years, and had a pretty good time doing it. And I have friends all over the world. So I have to say, never be afraid of your passions. Whether it's your full time job, or a part time business, or just what you do in your spare time, enjoy it, be proud of it and share it with your friends. That's what I do. You wanna play a game?

THOUGHTS ON 9/11(Posted Sept 9, 2011)
It is unfortunate, but there are a lot of people in this world who just do not understand percentages or real risks. They are afraid of the wrong things. I was scheduled to fly to a convention a week after 9/11, and all the airlines were offering to change or cancel flights at no charge because "everyone" was afraid to fly. I flew on my scheduled flight anyway - the convention I was intending to attend was cancelled, but there was another one that weekend within driving distance of my original destination. Some of my friends questioned my flying right then, but as I explained to them, even if four planes were hijacked every day, the odds were still very much in my favor. There are THOUSANDS of flights every day in the US. Being afraid someone might hijack the single flight that I was on was foolish and useless. I had business to attend to, and was not going to be deterred by some religious nuts who wanted to hurt random innocent people. I also had planned a trip to England and Germany a month later, with my sister. I had to convince her to agree to go on the trip after all, using much the same reasoning. We had a great time, and everyone we met was really happy to meet American tourists right then. We got really good prices on hotels and meals also.

And it really annoys me that because so many people are so foolish, the government has spent a lot of time and money making life uncomfortable for citizens with their "Security Theater". I call it "Theater" because it is all for show. The only thing they've done that was really useful was to reinforce and lock the cockpit doors on planes. Patting us down for weapons and taking away our nail clippers is a total waste of time and effort. My idea would be to put a large knife on the seatback of every seat in the plane. If there are hijackers on the plane, they will be vastly outnumbered by the rest of us. If we are all armed, they aren't going to get away with it. The only reason THESE hijackers got away with it was because every past hijacker had just demanded money or to go to Cuba. The standard operating procedure was to just go along with it, and eventually everyone would get safely home. Now that they have done this, no one will "go along" with them any more. (As in the one plane where the passengers fought back.)

Just as annoying, because one idiot terrorist FAILED to light his shoelaces on fire, millions of ordinary passengers now have to take our shoes off before we can get on a plane. And because another failure set his crotch on fire, we all have to be scanned or patted down before we can get on a flight. Even if both of those bombs had gone off, chances are they wouldn't have crashed the planes. And even if they did, I don't seriously expect our government to make us PERFECTLY safe 100% of the time. There are risks in life. (On my trip to Baltimore a week after 9/11, I was in more danger in the drive to the airport than I was on the actual flight!) There are MILLIONS of places a terrorist could set off a bomb that would kill or injure a lot of people. I expect the FBI and the CIA and the police to work hard to disrupt terrorist plots wherever they can, but I do NOT expect them to be 100% perfect. If a bomb goes off, and some innocent people are killed, that is a terrible shame. But it is still no reason for the government to treat me and all my fellow passengers like potential terrorists. One of my friends actually forwarded an email to me about a supposed plot that had been uncovered where terrorists were going to set off a bomb in "a shopping center" and therefor I should avoid shopping centers on a particular day! Are you kidding me? Do you understand how many tens of thousands of shopping centers there are in the USA?

No, I do NOT want to give up any of my essential freedoms, in order to "feel safer". You can never be perfectly safe anyway. I'll risk it, thank you very much.

POLITICS(Posted Feb 8, 2011)
A Conservative columnist I read recently (and whose name I cannot recall) wrote that the difference between Liberals and Conservatives is that Conservatives think Liberals are stupid, and Liberals think Conservatives are Evil. And that's why, in his opinion, Liberals think it is ok to lie to Conservatives (Think: the Global Warming 'Climategate' brouhaha). He also said that Conservatives care about what 'works' and Liberals care about what 'feels right'. I think he is right on, there. Conservatives think Liberals are too stupid to understand that certain things 'work' and certain other things just 'don't work'. Liberals think Conservatives are Evil because they want to do things that don't 'feel right' just because they work. I recall a long ago discussion with a former employee about the minimum wage. (I was paying her more than the minimum wage - this wasn't about her salary). I explained that a minimum wage law actually hurts the people it is supposedly intended to help. She replied that I was probably correct, but it just "wasn't right" that someone could work full time and not make a living wage. And there it is. It's an oversimplification of course, but it certainly seems to 'feel right' to me! (grin)

I have a Liberal friend who recently posted that he really felt alienated by his country right now because everyone was talking about either the Superbowl or former President Ronald Reagan, and that's too bad. I think he just wants to feel alienated, actually. Anyone who isn't interested in sports should watch the Superbowl just to see what commercials companies are willing to spend three million dollars on, and go to the kitchen during the actual game. And you may disagree with Reagan's politics, but some great things happened during his watch. And remember that over half the country voted for him.

That's one thing I try to keep in mind when thinking and talking about politics: reasonable, intelligent, well-meaning adults disagree about what is right for the country. I have strong feelings about what is the right path, but I try to keep in mind that the other guy isn't the embodiment of Evil. He thinks he is doing the right thing too. (And my guy isn't perfect either. No one is.) After all, is ANYONE really smart enough to run this country (or any country) properly? The best we can hope for is that we muddle through somehow, and that we treat each other with respect and civility.

WHY DO WE HATE THE PHONE COMPANY?(Posted Dec 27, 2010)

Awhile back, I was in the bathroom when the phone rang, and I was alone in the building. I hustled to the phone as quickly as I could, but whoever it was, gave up before I picked up the phone. Qwest has a handy phone service, where if you dial *69 it will tell you the phone number of the last person who called you. It costs 75 cents, but maybe this was a customer who had an urgent question, so I dialed. I got a recording that said "This is your last call return service - that number is not available." I wondered if they still charged me 75 cents for that, so I called Qwest, and was told that yes, indeed, I would be charged for that service. I replied that I didn't get the service I was requesting. I did not agree to pay 75 cents to find out whether the number was available. I offered to pay to find out who just called me, and I did not get that service. He argued with me for awhile, and the more he argued, the more determined I became to make them give me back my 75 cents. Finally he agreed to give me back my money, but he said he could not do it immediately because the charge had not yet appeared on my bill. Supposedly he couldn't just credit my account, he had to cancel the charge, and he couldn't do that until it actually was present on the bill. He told me I had to call back after I got the bill with the 75 cent charge, and that he'd put a note on my account so the next person I talked to would know what to do. Again, I was so angry I made a mental note to be sure and call back.

Fast forward to a month later. Got my bill with a 75 cent charge. Called back. Explained the problem. New guy starts to argue with me that I had indeed received "service". Explained that the "service" I received was NOT the service I had agreed to pay for. He then said he could remove the charge, but he would have to put a "block" on my phone line so that the *69 service could no longer be used at all. I asked if that wasn't actually extortion? You'll give me back the money you took from me under false pretenses, but only if I agree to let you remove a service from my phone line that I might need in the future. I asked for his supervisor. He said he'd see if one "was available" and put me on hold. (I have long since learned to make these calls in front of my computer so I can play computer solitaire while on hold). After a ridiculous wait, instead of putting a supervisor on, he told me that he had talked to his supervisor who said he could refund me this one charge without putting a block on my service, but that if I continued to call and object to the charges, they would then block the service. I agreed to that. After all, the reason I originally called was because I was curious about whether they would charge to tell me that they couldn't tell me anything, and now I know - yes, they will.

The funny thing is that the whole time I was "on hold" a recorded voice told me over and over how much they valued my business, and would I please recommend them to my friends and to small businesses in my area. ?!?!? Fat chance!

If anyone reading this works for Qwest, or knows someone who does, you might pass on a suggestion: Actual "customer service" would be the very first person I talked to merely saying "Sorry, I know that doesn't seem right. I'm afraid that's the way it works. But I'll credit your account 75 cents today. You'll get charged again if it happens again, and there's nothing I can do about it." Same end result, but no angry customer, and no spending a half hour tying up two employees and a supervisor. Or is that just too sensible?

NOTE TO MY FAMILY MEMBERS (especially the smart ones)(Posted Dec 19, 2010)

I have a lot of cousins and nieces and nephews and cousins once removed, and relatives who call me "Uncle Rick" even tho technically they are slightly more distantly related. I love 'em all, and have noted to my dismay that although most of them are plenty smart, they have NOT chosen to get a college education. I recently heard a rumor that one reason some of them have not decided to continue their education is because they had their heads filled with HOGWASH from another relative who told them something like "I know lots of people who went to college and they don't make any more money than anyone else. You don't need college."

AAARRRRGGGHHHH!!!!

I have given you all presents when possible, such as chocolate eggs with toys inside, and other toys. Please let me give you a present more valuable than I or anyone has ever given you before -- this advice:

First of all, it's not just about money. Someone can steal your money. The government can tax it away. Inflation can make it worth less (or worthless). Your ex-spouse can take half of it (or more). But once you have an education, it is yours until the day you die. No one can take that from you. And it will make your life richer in ways you can't imagine until you have it. How can I explain this -- you don't KNOW what you don't know, until you know it.

It's also about opportunity. Again, you'll never know what opportunities you missed, if you don't get that college degree. Take my sister Laura, just as an example. She hasn't made a lot of money, but she got to spend a year in Korea teaching English to Korean children. What a wonderful, exciting experience. And the only requirement was that she had to have a college degree. I also have a college degree, and I haven't made a ton of money. But I started my own business (which I love) and have been able to keep it going for 40 years because of many valuable things I learned in accounting and business law classes. Plus my business takes me to conventions all over the world where I meet and associate with educated folks who are also in the business. How would I negotiate with (let alone socialize with) these people if I didn't also have an extended education?

It's also about the odds. I learned about statistics and logic in college. You need to know about these too. Sure, there are people who went to college who haven't made much money. And there are people who didn't go to college (or finish it) who got rich. But these are exceptions, not the rule. Just because this person or that person didn't need it doesn't mean that YOU don't. It is a well known statistic that those who get a high school diploma make more money over their lifetime (on average) than those who don't, and those who get a college degree make even more money over their lifetime than those who don't. Just because someone bought a lottery ticket and ended up with 95 million dollars, doesn't make buying lottery tickets a valid retirement plan for you! There are a lot of smart people in this world who are not educated. And a lot of educated people who are not smart. But some people are smart AND educated. Who do you think has the best chance of really getting ahead?

Also keep in mind that it's never too late. I know the typical trip to college starts with four years in high school, a diploma, and then four years of college. But if that hasn't been possible, what you do in the future is up to you. My college education was interrupted by three years in the army. When I got home, I went back to school and finished my degree while running my business at the same time, and I'm really glad that I did. You can do it too - I know you can. It's more expensive now than it was when I went, and I wish I had enough money to pay for it for you. But it's worth any sacrifice to get it done. There are millions of people out there who would give anything to have a college education for them, or for their children. In some countries, children are lucky to learn how to read, let alone dream of college. You have it easy. All you have to do is work hard and scrimp and save and perhaps give up a few luxuries.

One of the things you learn in college is how to set a goal and persevere until you get it. And once you have that piece of paper, it is evidence to anyone else that you have learned that much. That makes you more valuable to any employer, and means that there is NO LIMIT to what you can do. No one can guarantee where you will end up with or without that piece of paper, but I can guarantee that you will like yourself better, and that I will respect you even more than I do today!

And I'll tell you now, the one Christmas present I wish for most of all is four or six or even ten years from now, one of you kids will come to me and say "I read your blog and decided to get my degree and today I have it." I swear that will make me the happiest man in the world!

REFER TO MAKER (Posted December 4, 2010)

For some reason I was reminded today of an incident that happened long ago with my bank. A check someone had sent me to pay for their games came back marked "Refer to maker". I knew what "Insufficient Funds" meant, or "NSF" (Not Sufficient Funds) but I had never heard of this before. So I called the bank and asked the young lady who answered, "What does this mean?" She said it meant "Refer to Maker". "Yes," I said, "but what does that MEAN." She repeated that it meant "Refer to Maker". We went round and round that way, and I could never get her to explain it in any OTHER words than "Refer to Maker". As near as I can tell from remembering this, she had no idea what it meant either, and didn't want to ask someone else or call a supervisor over. At the time I gave up in frustration. After all, the important thing was that the check was no good, and I needed to get the customer to send me some other form of payment. Of course, what it means technically is "call the person who wrote the check, and ask them why the check was no good." (Which I finally figured out.) I'm guessing that in the distant past some bank got sued for saying "NSF" on a check, when what actually happened was that the writer of the check put a "stop payment" on it. So, when the bank puts "Refer to Maker" on a check that you got back, it means "We have no idea why his bank sent it back to us unpaid, so we are taking the funds out of your account, and if you want to know why, you have to call him."

Don't you love banks? They can take money out of your account for any reason, and if they made a mistake, you have to argue with them and beg them to put it back. Recently my bank double charged me the fee for the bi-weekly payroll. I called and complained and they put it back. Then a couple days later a mysterious fee of $45 was deducted from my account with the notation "Manual Transfer". I called and asked about that, and was told that it was the payroll department who had initiated the fee, and I would have to call them. I called them and was told that it was because we had skipped a payroll period, and apparently this is the fee if you are a regular payroll customer and do not do a payroll. (I had never heard this before. And besides, the fee for actually doing the payroll is $41.95. What?) I reminded him that the reason there was no payroll processed that period was because they had "lost" the details we had faxed them and not done our payroll, and I had to do it at the last minute myself by hand. They had apologized to me and promised that I would not be charged for that period. Lovely. (They did give me that one back too.)

You know, with all this, and the stories about the mortgage crisis, with people being foreclosed on by "foreclosure mills" and fraudulent paperwork, I am reminded that no one learns how to "balance your checkbook" anymore. For many years, when I got my paper statement and cancelled checks back from the bank every month, one regular chore was to see if the balance I had written down in my checkbook matched what the bank said my balance was. You take the balance that the bank has just announced, and deduct any checks you have written that haven't cleared yet. And then you deduct any fees that the bank has charged you this month from the balance you wrote in your checkbook. If the two numbers match, cool. If they don't, you have to spend the next half hour or so re-adding all the transactions in your checkbook to see where you made a calculation error. Does anyone do this anymore? You no longer have to depend on that balance that is written down by you in your checkbook to know how much money you have available in your account. You just whip out your smartphone and go online and check your balance instantly. But how closely do you monitor it? That "balance available" seems to make mysterious changes for no apparent reason. I've noted that sometimes a fee or check has been deducted from the "balance available" but does not yet appear on my online statement. Within a day or two, that deduction does appear on my statement, and theoretically every deduction from my account shows up on my statement, but what if it didn't? Suppose my bank just decided that I didn't really need to know that they took out $45 for a "manual transfer"? Suppose they just reduced my balance, and never mentioned it? How would I know?

As long as I am telling bank stories, I remember another one. Many many years ago, a potential customer in Switzerland sent me something I think was called a "Eurocheck" in the amount of one US dollar in order to receive a rulebook from me. I had never seen this before, so took it down to the bank with that day's deposit and asked the teller what I should do with it. She said she could 'send it in for collection' or something like that. I said "ok" and she started filling out a lot of paperwork. I became concerned at all this paperwork and suddenly thought to ask "Is there a fee for this?" She said "Oh, yes. There is a $25 fee for sending a foreign item in for collection." She actually thought that I wanted to pay a $25 fee in order to collect a $1 check! (I told her "Nevermind" and kept it as a souvenier.)

I think I hate banks.

And while I'm talking about it, there is something I wish I had thought to say to that first bank employee at the beginning of this article, and since I didn't, I'll just say it to the blogosphere: If someone asks you what a phrase means, you should try to explain it to them in words other than those in the phrase. If you can't, then YOU don't know what it means either!

MY BEST AUCTION BUY EVER (Posted June 15, 2010)

Yesterday I sold a piece of history. Forty years ago I started my business while I was still in the Army. When I finished my tour of duty, I came home and rented an old four room house in downtown Old Scottsdale. My Army buddy, Steve MacGregor had agreed to move to Arizona and program my play by mail games for me in return for a (very small) salary and a place to live. We were going to run the business out of this house, and he was going to live there. The kitchen had no appliances, so I bought him a hot plate, and needed something for him to keep his food cold in. I went to a small auction house on Scottsdale Road, about 3 or 4 blocks away. Turned out they had the perfect appliance - a small (4' high) refrigerator that had been in someone's child's room. (It still had decals on it of Little Bo Peep and the Cow Jumping Over the Moon.) I bid on it, and won it for $29. The auctioneer told me it was "guaranteed until Thursday" (the auction was on a Monday). If it didn't work, I should bring it back before Friday and I'd get my money back.

The price did not include delivery, and I didn't have a truck at the time, so I borrowed a hand-truck and rolled that refrigerator by hand the 3 or 4 blocks to my new office. It worked fine, and indeed over 40 years the only "repair" that it needed was to have the interior light bulb replaced. I kept that refrigerator through 6 moves, keeping it in the break room for employees to keep their lunches in or keep their soft drinks cold. (It is a General Electric, by the way. I wrote GE once to see if they wanted to buy an old refrigerator of theirs to prove that their appliances still work great after 25-30 years, but never got a response.)

Now it sits on my back porch, and I don't really need it any more. Recently my local utility (Salt River Project) has announced a program to get people to give up the old refrigerators they have in their garages or back porches, only used to keep a few soft drinks cold. These are energy-wasters, as they are very old technology. SRP has offered folks like me $30 to give up these old appliances, so yesterday I called them and accepted their offer.

I bought this GE Refrigerator approximately 38 years ago for $29, and sold it yesterday for $30, making a dollar profit. AND it worked great all those years. What a deal!

ON CLICKING ON LINKS(Posted June 10, 2010)

So, British Petroleum has purchased ad words such as "oil spill" from Google to explain their side of the story. So what? Why are a lot of people getting exercised about that bit of corporate spin-doctoring? If you go to Google and type in "oil spill" the link is clearly marked as a "sponsored link" and clearly marked as being a BP site. It's not like they are trying to trick people into thinking this link is put there by a random blogger or something. If you are interested in reading about the latest oil spill, they are willing to pay a fee to show you what they have to say about it. If you are really that angry at them, click on the link and make them pay Google fifty cents or whatever the fee is.

And speaking of clicking on links, I've noticed that there is a Doctor JW who has been advertising heavily on Google links. I've even noticed his ads appearing on my web pages occasionally (see my comments above about earning $100 or so from Google every nine months.) He advertises that he knows more about diabetes than your personal doctor. I clicked on a link once, as I do have an interest in that disease. It turns out that the Good Doctor can fix your diabetes without the usual medicines. He can also fix chronic lung damage, lyme disease, parkinsons tremors, high cholesterol, and flash burns, and has done "valuable research on dozens of conditions". Hmm. Kind of reminds me of those snake oil salesmen of old. Remember that Cher song where she sings about grandpa selling "a couple bottles of Dr Good"? We read about those travelling roadshows, or see one in a movie, and we laugh about how gullible people must have been in "the old days" but apparently it still works. If you "Google" this guy's name, you will find many articles about how they think he is a quack, but I knew that just from looking at his own web page because of how many different diseases he can "cure". If he had just said he had found some new helps for diabetes, it might be worth investigating his ideas, but no one doctor or researcher has found that many "cures". It seems you can still sell snake oil, and the web makes it even easier.

ARIZONA AIN'T AS BAD AS THEY SAY!

I note a lot of people are getting exercized about the anti-illegal-immigration law that the Arizona legislature passed recently and the governor signed. I won't say whether I am for or against it, but I will remark that a lot of the non-Arizona folks who are getting so upset are generally the same folks that claim a man has no business saying anything about whether abortion is good or bad because he can't experience it for himself. If you don't live in Arizona (or to a somewhat lesser extent, California or Texas) you really don't understand the situation.

Be that as it may, I also note several of the talking heads on tv (and a few columnists) are also referring to the Martin Luther King holiday incident, and they are getting it wrong. So I thought I would spell it out. I was here, folks. I remember the event very very distinctly.

Back when all the states were honoring Dr King, Arizona Governor Bruce Babbitt (like many governors) declared a state holiday. Republican candidate Evan Mecham campaigned for election by (among other things) stating that this declaration was illegal - the Governor of Arizona has no authority to declare a holiday and give state workers an extra day off with pay. He said this had to be passed by the state legislature, or by a referendum of the voters, and if he was elected, the first thing he would do was cancel this illegal act.

For various unusual reasons that had nothing to do with this particular campaign promise, Mr Mecham was indeed elected. And surprise, surprise, a candidate actually kept his campaign promise. The first thing he did was cancel the holiday proclamation. Of course this raised a storm of protest around the country about Arizona being a bunch of racists. (Mr Mecham may indeed have been a racist, but in my opinion he was mostly just a loon, but that's another story.) Because of all the furor the NFL did pull the Superbowl from Phoenix, and moved it to that city of racial harmony, Los Angeles!

Now, what happened next is what a lot of people are getting wrong. There was immediately a referendum to get the holiday on the ballot. I note one talking head says "and it was voted down". Not exactly. What happened was that TWO opposing referendums succeeded in making the ballot at the same time. Each would have created a Martin Luther King holiday, but each would have done it differently. Unfortunately they were contradictory. Neither one got a majority of the votes, but analysts stated afterwards that a majority of the Arizona voters (over 60%) voted in favor of one or the other. So at the next available election, the sponsors of the referendums got together and put up ONE referendum, and it passed easily.

What REALLY irritates me is that (as far as I know) Arizona remains the ONLY state in the Union which actually let the voters VOTE on whether to have a Martin Luther King holiday, and therefor is the ONLY state which is on record that a majority of the voters were in favor of it. Sure, there are racists in Arizona, just like there are in every other state. But before you call me a racist, tell me that YOU went to a voting booth (like I did) and voted in favor of a Martin Luther King holiday. Did you?

ON IMMORTALITY

Fairly recently, I read something on the internet where some scientists think they will be able to make people more or less immortal, and that this will come true in about 20 years or so. (Great - I'll be 82!) But this brings up the question: is it really possible to live 'forever'?
I mean, I'm 62. I can remember being 31. When I was 31, I had friends who I knew and liked, who now I cannot even remember their names or faces. I know there are lots of things I remembered when I was 31, that I cannot remember now. Things that happened when I was 12, and so forth. I changed a lot between the time I was 12 and when I was 31, and even more between the time I was 31 and now. So, did the young man who was 12 years old 50 years ago, live to be 62? Or is he gone, and I am now someone else? I mean, I sort of remember being 12, but not completely. So what's it going to be like 50 years from now, assuming I make it to that scientists prediction? I'll be 112. Will I still be me? Will I still remember my friends? Will I even remember my mother, who died when I was 13? Will I still believe in the same things I believe now? Admire the same people? Strive for the same goals? Have the same memories? It seems unlikely, doesn't it?

The Man With The Hat

My grandfather was a farmer all his life, and always wore a hat whenever he left the house. This is necessary for people who spend most of their work day outdoors in the sun, and it never occurred to me that it was unusual. One day when he wasn't feeling well, I walked over to the corner store to buy his daily newspaper for him, and commented to the lady behind the counter that I was buying it for the gentleman that came over every evening, and she said "Oh, yes, the man with the hat."
When she said that, I realized that yes, he aways wore his hat outdoors, and no, most people don't seem to wear hats anymore. Funny the things you remember about someone when they are gone. The hat was a beige Stetson, not particularly unusual. My grandfather wasn't a "cowboy" although he raised cattle.
Something else I remember about him was that he never seemed to lose his temper. I lived with him for thirty years, and I can't remember him raising his voice even once. Funny, I only lived with my dad for four years, when I was four years old, and I seem to remember HIM yelling at mom and us kids. But I can't remember "Pop" (my grandfather) ever yelling. And he only hit me once in thirty years (on the behind - and I really deserved it). I think I inherited my father's temper, but I try to model my behavior after my grandfather (my mother's father).
"Pop" also never drank alcohol, and never swore. In 30 years, I can only remember one single instance when he muttered "Damn" under his breath, and that was after I was over 21 years old. Do people like this still exist? He was married to my grandmother for over fifty years. I can't recall them ever fighting or yelling at each other. If they had arguements, it certainly wasn't where the kids could hear them.
There is the story about the piano. I am told that when my grandfather wanted to move from Texas to Arizona, my grandmother didn't think she wanted to come out here. But grandfather promised to buy her a piano if she would agree to move. Grandmother used to play religious music on that piano, and all us kids took lessons on it. I still have that piano.
Once, in grade school, one of my teachers asked us all to write an essay about our greatest hero. I think I wrote mine on Abraham Lincoln (who was indeed a great man). But I think I made a mistake, so this essay is to make up for the one I didn't write then. The Man With The Hat has been gone for over 15 years now. I miss him......

My Thoughts On the Kennedy Assassination

I was in high school when President Kennedy was assassinated. A few weeks after it happened, my English teacher gave the class an assignment to write about our thoughts on the assassination. The problem was that I had been deliberately NOT thinking about the assassination. I did not like Kennedy at all. I always thought he was a terrible president, and I didn't like the whole "Camelot" thing that his fans went on about. However, I was not going to be glad that a president of the US (or anyone for that matter) had been killed. It was not necessary for me to think about it or talk about it, until this teacher (I think his name was Mr Fink, believe it or not) gave us this assignment. So since I deliberately had no thoughts about the assassination itself, I wrote about something else. My teacher did not understand.
I wrote a description of the land behind my uncle's ranch in Kirkland Arizona. I don't recall that I was consciously doing it, but I was writing about something calm and peaceful instead of what I refused to think about directly. The teacher handed it back and angrily asked why I hadn't followed the instructions. At the time I wasn't really sure why I had done it, and had no ready answer. The next day he asked me for my essay back. As I recall it , he said something like "anyone who can write an essay like that..." When I told him "You didn't like it, so I tore it up," he seemed to look a little guilty. I don't know what he wanted to do with it, and unfortunately it is gone forever. I could try to recreate it here, but that was over 20 years ago.
I think it was just a straight description of what you see as you walk out past the ranch. There is a creek at the back of the ranch that runs all year round (not a given, in Arizona). You climb the bank of the ravine after you cross the creek, and walk through scrub brush over some rolling hills. There is a "road" that's really just a trail, that winds between the hills. You'd probably need a 4-wheel drive vehicle to drive it. I've walked it many times, and ridden it on horseback a few times. It goes past what used to be some old cabin back in the middle of nowhere. There's nothing left of the cabin but a concrete foundation, and some litter. There are lots of rusty old cans and broken bottles lying around, and maybe a few bedsprings.
As you walk farther back into the hills, you come across several old mineshafts. Some are just holes straight down into the ground, with mounds of dirt around them. At least one short one was apparently blasted sideways out of solid rock. There are also the remains of some kind of old mine buildings. My uncle always told us that this was the remains of the "All American Mine" which was really a German spy headquarters during World War II. It's hard to know whether he was serious - I suppose this would have been good cover, and a good place to hide between "assignments" but what was there to spy on in North Central Arizona in the 1940's? There was a German POW camp in Phoenix a hundred miles away, but surely nothing of military significance. Or maybe it was WWI. But there was even less to "spy" on back then!

The Lonely Light

As you drive down Yarnell Hill from Kirkland and Yarnell, heading back towards the Valley of the Sun and Phoenix after a weekend at "The Ranch", there is a light at the bottom of the hill. There must be some mine down there, as there isn't much to see during the daytime. But at night, as you drive down the hill, you can see this one, solitary light bulb burning. From up on the hill, you can see for miles and miles of desert. Off in the distance are homes and towns. You can see Congress Junction, and the lights of Wickenburg. But at the base of the hill, there is just the one, single light bulb burning in front of some small building or shack, and then a great stretch of darkness. Why is it there? Why aren't there any other lights? Why is is ALWAYS there? For some reason, when I see it, it makes me a little melancholy.
But then, it is a bit inspiring too. No matter how much darkness there is, that light bulb is always there, bravely shining on, providing light to its little corner of the desert, offering a beacon to anyone who can see it out of the darkness: "Here is Life! Here is Civilization! Are you lost? Here is a connection to the World."

I've Heard the Voice of God

I know there are lots of people who claim to talk to God. Preachers are always talking about prayers being answered, although they usually don't mean literally. There are people who "hear voices" and people who claim to have a direct pipeline to the Supreme Being. I believe that I once heard the voice of God, but I didn't know it at the time.
For many years, when I was younger, I used to volunteer to be a counselor at church camp. Our church has this wonderful camp up in the pines of southern Arizona. It's a wonderful place nestled in a small valley by a stream that is sometimes wet, sometimes dry, high up on a mountainside and about two hours from civilization. Once a year I would go up there for a week with 8 or 9 other adults and about 60 or 70 junior high kids. It was always a refreshing change from my day-to-day world. The smell of the pines, the sound of the wind, the view from Cathedral Peak, the fellowship of like-minded Christian friends... what a break from the pressures of travel, deadlines, bills, and so forth.
One year, I had just arrived and was walking around breathing in the smells and enjoying once again the sounds. I wandered into the mess hall, and sitting at the other end near the fireplace was a young girl I had never met before. Camp wasn't going to start for several hours yet, and we were both there early. I walked up, figuring I'd introduce myself and make her feel at home, since she hadn't been there the year before.
When I got close, she turned around, glared at me with a terrible look of anger, and said "I hate you!"
Now you have to understand, I didn't know this girl, and she didn't know me. She wasn't here last year. I had only been here for ten minutes, so it couldn't possibly be something I had done just now. I had not yet introduced myself, nor was I wearing a name badge yet, so she couldn't have heard anything about me. (Not that I can think of anything someone might have heard about me that would get this reaction!) I had absolutely no idea why she might say something like this to a stranger.
I was stunned. I had no clue what to do or say. Nothing like this had ever happened to me before. My brain was completely empty. My mouth dropped open, and I heard myself saying "That's ok. I love you anyway."
When I realized what I had said, and thought about it for a second, I decided I couldn't come up with a better answer than that. So I smiled, and walked away. Later that day, I came across the same young girl, and once again she snarled at me "I hate you!". But now I had had time to think about it, and had decided that my first, instantaneous answer was the best possible, so once again I smiled and said "That's ok. I love you anyway."
Of course you have figured out by now that by the end of the week we became good friends. On the last day of camp we played ping-pong together, and hugged before she left for home. She never told me what her issues were, and I never asked. I assumed she had some problems with the men in her life at home, and since I wasn't any kind of therapist, all I could really offer was quiet friendship. At least she could learn that there are men in the world who can be friendly, loving, and non-threatening.
I've always remembered that little girl, and wondered what became of her. But it wasn't until many years later that I realized something. Although I am a Christian, I'm not one of those who walks around saying "I love you" to everyone I meet. As a matter of fact, I think I am a typical male, in that I very rarely say it at all. I couldn't imagine how I came up with the reply "That's OK, I love you anyway". It's simply not something I can imagine saying to a stranger. If you had told me a week in advance that I was going to meet a young lady who would introduce herself by saying "I hate you", I would have probably come up with some clever, amusing response. Perhaps something like "Oh, you must mean my evil twin brother". Never in a million years would I just reply by saying "That's OK, I love you anyway."
After thinking about it for several years, I have concluded that must have been God speaking. He knew this young lady needed some comforting at that particular moment, and he used my mouth to say the words. I am pleased to have been given that opportunity, but of course it means that I can't take credit for coming up with the phrase. It comes from God, and therefor I offer it to you to use as you see fit. It's a wonderfully universal phrase that fits many occasions.
That's OK, I love you anyway.

Why Does God Let Bad Things Happen To Good People? I really can't understand why some people think this is a relevant or difficult question. To me the answer is quite simple, and it should be easily answered by a first year seminary student. Here's what I believe:
God has given us free will. He wants us to do the right thing, but if we genuinely have free will, we have the ability to do the wrong thing. If God automatically fixes it when we do the wrong thing, then we don't really have free will at all. That would make us all just robots. Of course, when we choose to do the wrong thing, sometimes it makes bad things happen to us. And sometimes, unfortunately, it makes bad things happen to someone else - someone who didn't deserve it. That's all part of having free will.

Now, let us suppose you have the worst possible life. Let us say you live for 70 years, and the entire time you are sick, crippled and in pain. Everyone you love dies an early death. Everything good you do, someone else takes credit for it. You are accused and convicted of terrible crimes that you did not do. But in spite of all this misery, you do your best to do what God asks of you. God has promised that when you die, you will go to heaven. He has told you that heaven is the most wonderful place you can possibly imagine. OK, then, how long must God allow you to stay in heaven to make up for those 70 miserable years on Earth? 70 years? 700 years? 7000 years? How about *forever*?

You see, it doesn't really matter WHAT happens to you while you are here on Earth. What matters is how YOU react to it. Of course we all hope for a good life, and fortunately very few people have such a miserable life as I described above. And part of doing what God wants is helping your neighbors have a good life. ("If you do it to the least of these, you do it to me.") Sure, it's sad when someone we love, especially a good person, dies. But it doesn't mean there is no God. They are in a different place, and we'll miss them. But they're not gone forever.

Not too long ago I heard an idiot radio personality state that he could "prove" there was no God, because God could do anything, and since bad things happened to good people, that means God WANTED bad things to happen to them, and since that is a ridiculous idea, obviously there is no God. It just proves that the radio personality is an idiot.


This next one was NOT written by me, but it struck me as worth repeating. I found it in a column by Joseph Sobran, and I wanted to be able to quote it at appropriate moments.
"But the state has a way of growing beyond its proper bounds. The servant becomes the master by gradual and cunning steps, usually on some humanitarian pretext. Instead of merely protecting our independent pursuit of happiness, it promises to deliver the substance of happiness itself. And it can do this only by diminishing the very freedom it is supposed to be assuring, as by taxing Peter to subsidize Paul.
If Paul took Peter's money himself, we would recognize his behavior as criminal. But if the state does it for him, we accept the transaction as legitimate.
How can this be? The few people who try to justify such practices usually argue that they are sanctified by "democratic process". But if a practice is inherently unjust, no mere procedure can make it right. We may delegate to the state our right of self-defense because we all have a right to defend ourselves in the first place. But we can't delegate our right to rob our neighbors because we have no such right. Robbery doesn't cease to be robbery merely because the beneficiary uses a vote instead of a gun. The means is still force."

This leads to another one by me:

Environmentalism.

Let's assume, for the sake of argument, that there exists a polka-dotted owl, and that said owl has a habitat on a property which I purchased a few years ago (before anyone was aware of this owl) for my eventual retirement cabin. And let's say that it is absolutely true that if this habitat is destroyed, we know that this owl will become extinct. And let's even say that it is beneficial for all mankind that this owl NOT become extinct. OK, assume for the moment that we KNOW all those things are true. Nevertheless, what is your justification that *I* must personally bear all the cost of keeping this owl from extinction? How dare you pass a law that says I cannot develop my own property? If this owl is indeed so important, and everyone agrees that it is so, then why does not *everyone* pay the cost of keeping it from becoming extinct? If it is discovered that this owl is on my property, then instead of passing a law that says I cannot develop the property I intended for my retirement, why not use collective funds to purchase the land from me, so I may buy another retirement lot? Just asking.

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