Congratulations to Kevin Tracy

August 26, 2009

Kevin and his bride, Sandy, recently took a trip to the Dakotas. I’m not sure which state he visited last, but either North or South Dakota became number fifty for him. He can now proudly say he has seen all fifty states!

I’m one of those fortunate individuals who can not only say, “Well Done!” I can also say, “Welcome to the club!” However, I don’t know if there is such a club for people like us.

I completed the tour in 2002

I completed the tour in 2002

I’m not sure when I was smitten with the idea of visiting all of our United States, but I know from whence the bug came. My sister, Gertrude Cronin, became aware of her possibility to achieve that goal after her children were grown and she started traveling with her husband whose job took him to many different parts of the country. In addition, her elder son made a career of the Air Force and found himself living in numerous states. My sister had no choice but to travel to see her grandchildren.

As it turns out, between IBM sending me to the far reaches of the continent and a family vacation taken in 1984 (twenty-nine states and 10,000 miles in six weeks) I quickly caught up with her. In fact, I beat her!

And she is still sitting at forty-nine. The one state that has eluded her is Hawaii. I returned to the island state a few years ago, but was unable to convince her to join us. I keep hoping to hit the lottery so I can take her while she is still able to enjoy it. Gertie is now 86 and remains in excellent health with a good clear mind. We need to get her there while she still looks good in a bathing suit!

Perhaps someone with the Hawaiian visitors and convention group will offer her a paid vacation. But let me forewarn them: she refused to go with us because we visited three of the islands… staying in hotels and condos, and flying between the islands. She wanted to take a cruise so she’d only have to unpack once at the beginning of the trip and pack once at the end.

Picky! Picky! Picky!

In any case, I know how I felt after seeing my fiftieth state. I imagine Kevin feels the same. Well done, Kevin!

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On Turning Sixty-Five

August 21, 2009

I made it! All those companies that have been trying to sell me Medicare gap insurance had faith that I’d eventually become eligible. They were right.

But today, rather then dwell on the evils of aging (which is far better than the alternative… maybe) I thought I’d share a bit of humor with a great underlying message.

One of my friends from IBM, Ivette Lake, sent me a link to a video. I’ll let Jack Rushton take it from here.


Medical Inflation

August 18, 2009

I keep hearing how one-sixth of our economy is devoted to health care and can’t help wondering how much the hospitals are to blame.

A year or so ago I found myself in the hospital because we erroneously thought that I had suffered a heart attack. I was kept there for a few days and underwent a chest X-ray, a CAT scan, and a stress test on a treadmill with some radioactive material injected into my veins.

I was eventually transferred to another hospital where a cardiologist performed a heart catheterization and determined that there was nothing wrong with my heart.

A week or so later I received a bill from the first hospital. When I went to settle up, I learned that my insurance company had paid $1,200 and I was expected to pay $250. The total bill was around $20,000.

I asked about the difference (more than $18,000) and was told the hospital would write it off as a bad debt.

Now, multiply that amount times the number of people who pass through the many hospitals throughout the country.

If the hospital knew between me and my insurance the most they could hope for was less than fifteen hundred dollars, why inflate the bill? If the hospitals are routinely inflating their prices to create bogus bad debts simply to avoid paying taxes, I would think this practice is a large part of the health care costs problem.

I would think this would greatly upset politicians – those hospitals are taking away tax dollars that could be spent on ear marks!

On top of all this, consider those poor souls without insurance. They’re expected to pay the entire inflated amount. No why has no one mentioned anything about this?


Another busy week behind us

August 17, 2009
Nostalgia performing for throngs of fans

Nostalgia performing for throngs of fans

While we expected about a hundred and fifty Lutherans to show up for the Thrivent picnic, the fifty or so who did come were enthusiastic.

My personal groupies

My personal groupies

My oldest son, his wife, and son enjoyed the hot dogs, corn on the cob, and playground equipment. They, as well as the other attendees, also thoroughly enjoyed the North Georgia Barbershop Singers.

These men sounded as good as they looked!

These men sounded as good as they looked!

This was our first attempt to sponsor a good old-fashioned summer picnic. It wasn’t a smashing success, but the people who came seemed to have had a good time. Maybe we’ll try it again next year.

In the meantime, when I wasn’t involved in getting ready for the picnic I was busy getting ready for our first committee meeting for our church’s scrip program. Seven of us met yesterday afternoon and set the wheels in motion.

Hopefully, we’ll be selling gift cards in the near future and start chopping away our mortgage debt.


Grandsons

August 13, 2009

Between us, my bride and I have thirteen grandchildren – seven girls and six boys. In the past, I’ve displayed photos of them all and written about them all. Today, I’ll focus on just one… for two reasons. First, his father sent us a great picture of him attending his first Atlanta Braves baseball game. Second, I just read a great poem in Looking Back, a magazine about the good old days.

First, the photo:

A number one baseball fan

Daniel Leeds - A number one baseball fan

Now the poem. It was written by Douglas Raymond Rose.

Grandpa’s Mirror

I saw myself today,

Running fast in the sun.

Barefoot and tanned was I,

Having all sorts of fun.

I saw myself today,

Down by the ol’ fishin’ hole,

Pole and stink-bait both in hand,

Thrilled and happy of soul.

“Where’d you see yourself?” you ask,

“That granted you so much joy?”

I’ll tell you: I watched my own grandson,

I watched myself in that dear barefoot boy!


Living off the Land

August 12, 2009

One of my ancestors, Jeremiah Leeds (1754 – 1838), was a master when it came to living off the land.

The following is from “The Daily Union History of Atlantic City and County” by John F. Hall, Published 1900:

Jeremiah Leeds (1754 – 1838), the first permanent (white) settler on this island, so far as known, like many of his fellow-countrymen one hundred years ago, was a man of stalwart mould. He stood six feet in height and weighed fully two hundred and fifty pounds and was a Quaker. There is no evidence that he left the Quaker neighborhood at Leeds Point and came to this island to live permanently previous to 1783, when he was twenty-nine years old. He built his first log cabin and cleared away the field where it stood. He raised several crops of corn and rye and became thoroughly familiar with the very great abundance of wild ducks and geese and many kinds of sea fowl which then were tame and plenty, but are now rarely seen. He no doubt experienced the great pest of mosquitoes where there were so many ponds and swamps among the sand hills, and assisted as a wrecker in those days when many vessels with valuable cargoes were lost on the Brigantine shoals. It is difficult in these days to fully appreciate the advantages and the disadvantages which this stretch of beach afforded a young man who seems to have had no aspirations for political honors, but had his way in the world. The records at Trenton show, that he had risen to be First Lieutenant in Captain Joseph Covenover’s Sixth Company, Third Battalion, Gloucester County Militia, his commission bearing the date of September 18, 1777.

For fifty-five years this stalwart son of the Revolution lived on this lonely island and prospered, occupying log cabins till a more pretentious frame structure could be built in his old age. He raised cattle and grain and sold to passing vessels his surplus products and was under but little expense for taxes or the luxuries of life.

He was careful to build brush fences along the beach to catch the sand and build up the sand-hills to keep high tides out of the fresh water ponds so necessary for the wild fowl which comprised an important part of his food supply. He disliked to have sportsmen trespass upon his estate, though he always granted permission to shoot game under certain restrictions when he was asked.

He was particular to keep away from his sand-hills the cattle and horses which owners on the mainland brought over here in the summer to pasture. If the grass were eaten off, the sand-hills would blow away, which was detrimental to his policy of building up the island. The big sand-hills, which many now living can remember, were the result of the care and vigilance of patriarch Leeds, the original proprietor.

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In case you’re wondering why a Quaker fought in the Revolutionary War (against the Society of Friends teachings of non-violence), we need only consider this additional information provided by Mr. Hall.

Jeremiah Leeds, in his old age, used to tell the story of a visit which his father, John Leeds, received one day from foraging Redcoats, just before the Revolution.

A British vessel entered Great Bay in full view from Leeds Point. Two barges with soldiers and sailors came ashore for fresh meat. The captain ordered the Quaker farmer to drive up his cattle which were grazing in the meadows nearby. This was done, where upon two fat steers were selected from the herd and quickly knocked in the head, their bodies quartered, loaded on wagons and taken to the barges and to the ship.

“All right. That’s all,” was the farewell greeting of the captain to the farmer, who considered himself lucky in losing so little by the uninvited visitors. The steers happened to be the personal property of Jeremiah and his brother, and were worth perhaps at that time six or eight dollars per head. This event had its effect in making a soldier of a Quaker boy in the war of the Revolution which soon followed.

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Another ‘by the way’, the island that Jeremiah occupied is now better known as Atlantic City.

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Sadly, Jeremiah was part of a tiny minority of humans who tried to take care of the land upon which their lives depended. Over the centuries, industrialists and others have taken a far different approach.

For example, starting in the 1600’s, wealthy men decided that ivory billiard balls were far superior to their wooden and clay predecessors. The best source of ivory at the time was the tusks of elephants. And the only way to get the tusk of an elephant was to kill the beast.

Over the next couple of hundred years, thousands of elephants were destroyed so that their ivory tusks could be ‘harvested’. The tusks were the only things carried away by the hunters; the bodies were left to rot where they lay.

One might think that humans eventually came to their senses and recognized the evil of slaughtering innocent animals so men of wealth could strike ivory balls with wooden sticks. That wasn’t it at all. The truth is that the manufacturers of the billiard balls recognized that the world was running low on elephants. For them to remain in business, they had to find a substitute material.

Obviously, animal life has often been seen as insignificant. The great American Buffalo slaughter was not caused by the population’s insatiable appetite for Bison steaks. On the contrary, humans wanted the hides. The leather was perfect for machine belts during the Industrial Revolution, and the winter coats of the animals worked well for winter coats for humans.

The meat of the animals was left to rot much like the elephant’s carcasses.

And the blame cannot be laid at the feet of men like Buffalo Bill Cody. The animals he shot were used to feed the armies of railroad workers.

In truth, the first people to slaughter Buffaloes for the skins were the American Indians who sold the hides to the white businessmen.

I’ve heard of numerous complaints about air and water quality in the United States. Perhaps growing up in Pittsburgh gives me a different perspective.

When I was a lad, people used their headlights during the day and mothers hung their wash in the basement to keep it clean while it dried. Very few people fished in the three rivers because of all the chemical pollutants.

Today, the air is much cleaner and the rivers have become a sportsman’s paradise with trout, pike, bass, and many other species being caught on a regular basis.

Our country has done a tremendous job in reducing pollution. Is there more that needs to be done? Of course, but things are so much better than they were.

I guess you’d have to see how bad it was before you could recognize how much better it is.

As for the senseless killing of animals… unfortunately, the slaughter continues. Poachers are killing mountain gorillas so people can have vases made out of their feet, elephants are still being killed for their tusks, sharks are killed for their fins, bears for their livers, and so on.

It’s very similar to the drug trade. As long as there is someone with a wad of money willing to buy these items, men will kill innocent animals so they can feed their families.

We, as humans, have a tendancy to look the other way to avoid seeing the evils in this world. Besides, we have to keep up with the lives and deaths of people like Michael Jackson and the next American Idol. Those things are far more important.