Sunday, October 31, 2010

Random Thoughts on a Beautiful Last Day of October

And it is really a beautiful afternoon.  October and May are usually our best months climate wise.Today is Halloween and we have a Halloween observance at the church.   I would have preferred observing the day on Saturday, as some communities have done.  I would not go as far as Livingston parish, which will limit trick and treating to Monday and threatens to fine people $500 for celebrating on Sunday. That is silly.  The parents will take their children to Baton Rouge today and will probably skip celebrating Monday night.
An individual couldn't go too far wrong if he voted opposite to all of the Shreveport Times choices for office. I will have more to say on the election another day, but for now I recommend reading the column by Thomas Sowell.
Some LSU students have begun getting signatures on a petition to the state government opposing cuts for higher education.  They are well meaning but foolish.  State funds are limited and a petition can't change that.  Every department that can be cut is facing reductions.
The choir's anthem today was "The King Is Coming," by Gloria and Bill Gaither.  It was great and I love Bill Compton's voice, but nothing compares to the way the Braschlers sang it.  This group was no longer performing the last time we were in Branson.  We never missed this show, the highlight being the singing of this song.  The Florida Boys, who I haven't heard in years, also sang this song exceedingly well.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

My Kingdom for a Coping Saw

When I was in the fifth or sixth grade, someone in authority decided to brighten the lives of  us school kids with a crafts class.  Whether it was 30 minutes a day or once  a week, I don't remember.  It wasn't a crafts class like one would expect today.  It was highly structured -- boys would use coping saws to cut designs on wood and girls would embroider.  Of course, this was long before feminism; some girls were happy and some girls resented their role very much.  Most boys were satisfied with their craft and I would have been delighted except I did not have a coping saw and no money to buy one.  I had a pocket knife, which was no use unless I whittled on a stick.  As part of the program a coping saw made simply out of a bent rod was available in some rooms for five cents.  It was not offered in my room but was in my sister's.  She took five cents to school and I eagerly awaited the saw, but she came home to report the saw was no longer available.  My memory is fuzzy but I think this program was  soon abandoned and I was rescued from my misery. In any  case, like many supposedly helpful programs, it did not last long.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Congress Gives Us A Future of Uncertainty

How much tax we will pay in 2011?  Will the Bush tax cuts be renewed?  Can families count on getting child tax credit next year?  How can business plan and expand and hire without knowing what the tax rate will be?

What about health care?  If you have a plan and are pleased with it, you can keep it, so said President Obama and the administration when Obamacare was being voted.  Now, we find that is not so.  A number of companies are considering dropping their programs and paying a fine to save money.  Some 30 waivers have been given to a number of corporations and unions already.  As Obamacare goes forward  who will receive a waiver and who will not?  Some insurance companies have increased their rates and others may be forced to follow their example.

With the economy in the tank, millions of people out of work, and a health care program whose effects we are learning more about every day, we certainly do not need the uncertainty that Congress is leaving us with.
My advice to everyone is to raise hell with your congressman, no matter what party or how he or she has voted.  Write letters, send emails, make telephone calls.  Even if we accomplish nothing, we will be healthier and happier by blowing off steam.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Music That Didn't Sooth the Savage Breast

A few days ago the Caddo school board voted to restore music programs to schools where the programs had been dropped for financial reasons.  Music, whether vocal, instrumental, or a marching band, is great to have, as  are other enrichment programs, but is considered a luxury and is first to be cut if money is short.My four boys were in band from middle school through high school.  They benefited although it was expensive having two at a time in band. Jessica started in middle school but she had so many activities she had to give up something and the middle school she graduated from did not have band.  I remember when we got a music teacher in grammar school.  I had been absent from school for weeks with an illness and was stunned when my classmates delighted in giving me this news, knowing it would disturb me.  It wasn't that I did not like singing; I did, but the idea of singing before the class was terrorizing. This took place  during the depths of the depression, so I can only suppose some authority thought it would bring a little joy into our deprived lives. It actually did the opposite.  The teacher, a male, was high tempered and liked  to grab a kid by the hair and yank him out of his chair.  We despised him and the class.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Museum to Honor Soldiers of the "Forgotten War"

I and, I'm sure several million others, have been "specially chosen" to be a founding member of a museum to honor men and women who served during the Korean War.  A letter from Clint Eastwood, a veteran of the war, accompanies the invitation to join in constructing the museum in Chicago. More than 54,000 Americans died in the war but they have been almost forgotten. Why is that?  Perhaps because the war followed World War II so closely or because we fought as part of the UN forces, or perhaps because the war ended in a stalemate that is still unresolved.  None of that was the fault of those who served.

Many who served were veterans of  WW II.  As a member of the Navy reserves, I expected to be called back but escaped it.  I got so tired of going to the post office each morning expected to get a notice to report that I decided to end the suspense and volunteer.  I wanted the best deal I could get.  The Air Force offered me a commission as a public service officer while the Navy wanted be back as a radar man.  Eventually I decided to wait it out, and I wasn't called.  I had friends who were not so lucky and had to serve even though they had just started a family.

I am a founding member of the World War II museum in New Orleans and agree the Korean veterans deserve their museum.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

An Uninvited And Persistent Guest

Sunday night my son Josh returned from church and said a spider had built a web that reached from a tall canna several feet to the house.  He destroyed the web and Monday morning there was no sign of the spider or a web but Tuesday morning both had returned.  The spider was in the middle of a web about 18 inches across with one strand going several feet to reach the top of the house.  The spider, including its legs, is about the size of a quarter.  Not having knowledge of arachnids, I don't have any idea what type of spider it is. Could it be a descendant of the spider that inspired Robert the Bruce?   I know, that's pretty far-fetched.  His spider failed six times to attach its web to a cave wall but succeeded on the seventh try.  Bruce,  king of Scotland, having failed in battle with England six times, was inspired, rallied his men, and led them to victory.  I damaged this spider's web for the second time.  We will have to wait and see if he (or she) has the perseverance of the Scottish spider.

          "And  the rain came and washed the spider out."

Did the spider survive the shower?  Will he return and spin another big web?  Tune in tomorrow and find out.

Wednesday -- He's  back!  My spider (yes I'm claiming him; he has shown such determination.) He moved about 30 feet and has built his web at the southwest corner of the house.  I don't want him bothered yet; I am interested in what his plans are.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Story of the Great Hymn "It Is Well With My Soul"

   When peace like a river, attendeth my way;
   When sorrows like sea billows roll,
   Whatever my lot, Thou has taught me to say
   It is well, it is well with my soul.

  Hymns are often sermons that may instruct, comfort and inspire.  Understanding  how and why a hymn or gospel song was written enriches the message we receive.  Among the songs we sang Sunday was "It Is Well With My Soul."  Written by a Presbyterian lawyer, Horace Spafford, and given music by Phillip Bliss, the song gives especial comfort to those enduring grief.  Sometime in 187l a fire devastated the city of Chicago and months before that Spafford had heavily invested in real estate.  The disaster wiped out his holdings.Before the fire Spafford had experienced the loss of his son.

Two years after the fire Spafford planned a trip to Europe for him, his wife and four daughters to rest, and also to assist Moody and Sankey in an evangelistic campaign.  Spafford had a last minute business transaction and had to send his family ahead, planning to follow in a few days.  Their ship was hit and sunk.  His wife was among the survivors but the four daughters were lost.  Spafford left to be with his wife and while on the ship wrote the words so descriptive of his personal grief --"When sorrows like sea billows roll."  The hymn "It Is Well With My Soul " was born.
He did not dwell on his personal sorrow. He focused in the third stanza on the redemptive work of  Christ, and  the fourth verse anticipates the second coming of Christ.




Saturday, October 16, 2010

Will Louisiana Farmers Switch Back to Cotton?

Cotton has reached $1.29 a pound, the highest officially since 1890. although cotton was traded as high as $1.89 a pound during early states of the War Between the States.  Adjusted for inflation, cotton was $5.26 a pound in 1918.  I've heard my dad talk about selling cotton for high prices during World War II when we saw prices as low as 6 and 8 cents a pound during the depression.  I remember it reaching 20 cents early in World War II.

Years ago the river parishes like Caddo and Bossier were heavily planted in cotton.  Much of the cotton acres gave way to soybeans and then corn took over because of ethanol.  Over 50 years ago there was a saying about cotton leaving the South and going West while cattle was coming South. Of couse federal restrictions on acreage allowed a farm was the death blow to cotton in the hill parishes.  I've often mentioned that Claiborne parish led all parishes in the state in natural gas production and acres planted to cotton in the 1930's. Homer had two gins operating in 1950 but a few years later not one acre was planted  to cotton in Claiborne parish.  The parish switched to cattle on Coastal Bermudagrass and to timber.  I doubt we'll see cotton come back in he hill parishes although if prices remain high more acres may return to cotton in the river parishes.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Thoughts on The Sixth and Seventh Grades

Sometimes I wonder why I seem to have more memories of things that went on in elementary school than I do of events  in high school.   For sometime I've thought of Pratt Turner, what became of  him and how his life turned out.  In the sixth grade we concentrated on Louisiana's colorful history.  One day the teacher called the class's attention to Pratt Turner and how he was learning history.  He had made a "moving picture machine."  It consisted of a long roll of paper connected to two rollers, which when turned showed  drawings of historical events.  Pratt had drawn, using crayons or water colors or a combination, episodes of Louisiana's storied past.  I seem to remember one of  Hernando DeSoto and Indians beside the Mississippi River.  The teacher (the same one who raved about me "spelling down a room full of girls,") was amazed and had  to show it to the class. Pratt said it was the only way he could learn history.

Fast forward a year and we were in the seventh grade and Mr. Trout was the teacher.  This was the most difficult academic year of my life.  I'm convinced that it was so difficult because it was designed to flunk half the class to avoid crowding the  high school. Even if you give me the formula I doubt I can to this day determine the area of  a sector of a circle.  Mr. Trout was convinced that boys learned through their bottoms so he would spend much of  his time wielding a heavy paddle.  Get 14 right on a math test of 20 problems and you escape a beating.  Get only 13 right and you get 14 licks as hard as he could hit.  All of us had problems with math, but I knew Pratt to get only 5 right and thus get 30 licks.  How he survived I don't know.   The heck of it is the eighth grade was a waste.  Math consisted of adding rows of figures, the teacher being a football coach.  The only class worthwhile was grammar.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Got Report Today on Results of Tests Friday

News was good in a way, although no answer to why my blood pressure and heart rate will drop so much at times.  Lab report was that results showed everything to be in an acceptable range. The report on my heart  was  "Your nuclear stress test recently was normal.  This means there is good blood flow in the arteries supplying blood to the heart and your heart contraction (strength) is normal.  You will be contacted in the future for follow-up, if needed."          

Great, Great the Rescue of the Chilean Miners

Congratulations to the miners, their families, the rescuers and all who contributed, including people from 12 nations.  Miracles can still happen. Praise God.

Monday, October 11, 2010

No Raise for Social Security but Big Tax Increase

For the second year in a row Social Security recipients will not receive any increase in their pensions.   This is a foretaste of what current and future retirees can expect.  Most people who have been drawing social security for years draw payments in the range of 800 to 900 dollars a month.  They are elderly and are dying.  Those who are to retire in the next 10 years have projections in the range of 25000 dollars a month.  Those projections must be scaled down in social security can survive.  The retirement age may be increased again, but it cannot be increased enough to alone take care of  increased costs and decreased revenues.   Workers with many years left before retiring should not count on social security but try to provide for their retirement themselves.

Because of the failure  of  Obama and Congress to take action to prevent it, taxes will go up drastically in  2011.
The rich and financially well off won't be hurt, but low and middle income families will be hit with big increases that could impoverish them.  For example, a family with three children and earning $40,000 annually might pay two or three hundred dollars more a month.   An individual making only $20,000 will be paying much more, also.  Don't worry though, Obama and his family will be able to party several times a week, and Congress has taken care that senators and representative get an increase in pay.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Finished Stress Test and Heart Exams Today

I did not do so well on the stress test; I'm our of shape because I'm so limited in exercise by my back. Will hear the results in a few days.  I felt okay after the tests but got dizzy this afternoon, checked my blood pressure and it was low.  It is a conundrum; I have to take medicine for high blood pressure but sometimes my pressure is just way too low.  Possibly a change in medicine is indicated.  I'll discuss this with Dr. Singh when the test results are in.

The annual Lions Club golf tournament to raise funds to send crippled children to camp is tomorrow; I hope I can be there.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Back to the Doctor for Tests Early Friday Morning

Saw the cardiologist this afternoon.  My appointment was at 2 p.m . and I was out and driving home at 2:30
Will go back Friday for lab work and the treadmill, which I hate.  I had kept blood pressure readings for two months.  Sometimes my blood pressure is too low. which may cause my dizziness sometimes.

I was a little early for my appointment and was seen quickly but had time to read an article that warned about traveling with prescription medicine in a container other than the prescription bottle.  I didn't know the penalty could be five years at hard labor for having drugs without the accompanying prescription.  Also, never give your prescription medicine to anyone else.  That is a violation of the law and could land you and the other person in prison.

October has brought us beautiful weather, bright sunshine with a cool snap in the air.  A two-inch slow rain one night would settle the dust and make it perfect.  May and October can be counted on, most times, to be the best months of the year, climate wise, in North Louisiana.  Add football to that and, for some, the state fair and its almost perfect. How is it in North Carolina, California, Washington, and other places?

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

I'm Not Superstitious -- maybe I Might Be Just Little Bit

I've never considered myself  superstitious. I remember a question on the navy GCT test -- a person should not walk under a ladder because-- multiple choice, two answers being  becauses it  is dangerous or because it is bad luck.  I wondered how many would choose the second answer.  Anyway this is a lead-in to an experience I had years ago.  I had driven from Homer to the Shreveport post office to get a press association entry postmarked before midnight.  Outside the post office I met a one-legged man who asked me for money.  I gave him a couple of dollars and gave him a ride to the Rescue Mission where he could spend the night. He told me he had hitchhiked from Washington to Florida to seek work picking fruit, but no one would hire him so he was hitchhiking back to Washington.  As he got out of the car he handed me two pennies. He said he had found the pennies in the highway and had nothing but bad luck since.  I'm  not superstitious but as I drove away I threw those pennies out the window as far as I could throw them. Later I learned had been awarded several first place awards in the newspaper contests.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Street Signs Must Be In Caps and Lower Case

New York City is going to have to pay 27 million dollars to change its street signs from all-caps to caps and lower case.  This is a recent requirement for all cities in the United States.  I was driving only a short distance but every Shreveport street sign I saw complied with the regulations.  The names were capitalized and all other letters were lower case. Of course I saw only a few signs and do not know if this is true throughout the city. It would be nice if Shreveport as a city has done something right and is ahead of at least New York City.