Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Kansas City's Mayor Race: Who's In

Well, the mayor's race is starting to heat up and a group of six is vying for the office. Who are these people anyway? As a public service, The Observer will provide a run down for you all.

Mike Burke is running. He has been involved in the Kansas City political scene for many years, including service on the City Council. His website is www.mikeburkeformayor.com.

Deb Hermann is running. She is on the City Council now, representing the Northland. Before her city council election, Ms. Hermann was involved in the PTA and Community Planning. Her website is www.debhermannforkansascity.com.

Leonard Jonas Hughes is running. He is the youngest of the candidates. He has been serving as one of Kansas City's representatives to the State House in Jeff City. He has a facebook page, link here.

Sly James is running. He's a lawyer, with his own firm. He has also had a lot of involvement in the community, including serving on the Economic Development Corporation in KC and is presently involved with working with enterprise zones. He doesn't have a formal candidate website, but his bio can be found here.

Jim Rowland is running for mayor. He also has been involved in KC politics for many years, including time on the city council, and working with the Sports Commission. His website is http://jimrowland.com/

The incumbent is Mark Funkhouser, elected in 2007. Mayor Funkhouser was elected after serving as the city's auditor. He works closely in the mayor's office with his wife Gloria Squitiro. He has a website that he uses for his lecture business that voters might find interesting, www.markfunkhouser.com. Other mayoral musings can be found on the city's website www.kcmo.org.

Kansas City's mayor race is nonpartisan--that means the candidates run without R and D behind their names. There will be a primary late February 2011. The top two vote getters will then run again for a vote March 22, 2011. There has already been lots of news with regard to the race, but most of it has been pretty "inside baseball", confined to blogs like Tony's Kansas City. With news of Deb Hermann's good polling numbers, watch for the mayor's race to start hitting the mainstream media sources on a more regular basis.

(Pictures from the various websites, except the last, which is from the Wall Street Journal)

Monday, June 28, 2010

A Lifetime Post?

The longest serving senator in the U.S. Senate, Robert Byrd of West Virgina, passed away last night at the age of 92. Mr. Byrd was elected to the senate in 1958, and served continuously from that time for a grand total of 52 years.

That's just wrong.

When the framers wrote the Constitution, and put together our representative republic, I don't think they had being a representitive or senator down as a life long profession. I think they were thinking that a person would serve for a limited time and then return to their home and resume their normal profession and life.

It hasn't worked out that way at all. Once people get the taste of the Washington life, there they are, for the duration. Robert Byrd got in. He never got out. He liked the power. He liked the acclaim. Robert Byrd figured out the way to get reelected too. Bring home the bacon ($$$) to his state. Running against him must have seemed almost disloyal to some in West Virgina.

By the way, I'd be saying the same things even if I mostly agreed with his politics. I just don't think our representatives need to be in Washington forever. I think they need to be cycled out on a regular basis.

Beyond the old and feeble problem--Mr. Byrd certainly did get old and feeble--I think being in Washington causes isolation from the real world. How can you be in touch with the common people when you have a 6 figure salary, two homes, great insurance, and everyone kissing your ring (so to speak)?

So, yes, I'd like term limits. It doesn't have to be super short, just enough of a limit so that you can't be in the Senate for 52 freakin' years.

That's just too long.

Photos: via Google search Associated Press--top, 1960. Middle--1985. A note: With the exception of Senator Dole, the two other men with Senator Bryd, Leahy of Vermont and Dodd of Connecticut, are still serving. Bottom--2010. Pretty feeble.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Quick Sports Note

The winning goal shot, at 3 minutes into the extra period. (AP photo)

There is always great angst over why the US is not better at international soccer. We have been "coming on" for years! This year we made it to the round of 16. Today, US lost to Ghana 2-1 in extra time. Not quite there yet! Very exciting game though.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Read First, Then Opinionate: McChrystal

I know it's old news, McChrystal's gone, Petraeus is in now, yada yada yada. But did you read the article in Rolling Stone? Did you really? Here's a link--go read it if you haven't. Yes, it's 6 pages long, go take your Adderall or your Provigil and read it for pete's sake.

Now, think of this situation in terms of your own work. I think that is the best way to consider it, since at bottom, it really is a Human Resources/work/management issue. How much joking at the expense of management is going on? How much open disagreement? How much of either would you tolerate if it was you in charge? If you didn't get rid of someone, what would you do instead? Those are the considerations that President Obama had to undertake.

Now, of course it wasn't that simple. Other people reported, then offered opinions and advice. What was written by the Rolling Stone reporter was quoted to support one view or another, often out of context. What McChrystal said was often confabulated with statements made by his staff members. The whole thing rapidly became bigger then it really was. That is why you have to read the original article--to see the quotes and issues in context.

Now, Mr/Ms. CEO, what do you do with this really smart employee, this manager with documented successes, but an occasionally difficult personality and with more difficult personalities lurking on his staff, who has some differences with others in the company about strategies? That's the question that you have to ask. How much of this sort of orneriness do you want and/or tolerate among your people?

Here's my answer: If this had stayed in-house or if publicized, had not blown up way bigger than actual size, I might just ask the general to keep a better track on his staff, keep his own doubts private in the chain of communication, and ask what I could do better to help him in his work. With it blowing up the way it did, even though at bottom it was not that big a deal, it became a big deal. When it became this big deal, it began to create uncertainties about the top leadership. In that case, which is what happened in reality, I would reluctantly accept his resignation. When I did, I would take time to talk about what a great leader he was and how much success he created--that he has been and hopefully will be continue to be an asset to the country.

In all of this, we missed something of an opportunity--the opportunity to revisit our entire strategy in Afghanistan and consider whether or not we should be there at all. This could still happen as a change in leadership is always an opportunity for assessment.

PS: I did not forget about the Constitutional issues. The founding fathers placed civilian control over the military, for better or for worse. This is the frame we work under, and this is the frame I answered the question in. The President is the Commander and Chief. He is the CEO. The military is a division that while working quite independently at times, still in the end, reports to the POTUS. Together they work on plans and strategy and work out their differences. Together.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

The Poo Problem and The Money Problem

With a bit more rain showing up on the radar, and the recent revelations of sewer discharges in all areas of the city, including the Southland, the issue of repairing Kansas City's aging sewers, upgrading mains and separating storm water drainage from sewage has been in the public eye. No doubt, this critical infrastructure issue will be part of the upcoming mayor's race as well.

In preparing this blog entry, I was surprised to find that there appears to be no plans to go to the voters with any bond issues or special taxes. The plan appears to be to pay for $2.5 billion of improvements over 25 years with yearly increases in the water/wastewater bills of citizens and businesses served by the Water Department. That explains the gyrations in my water bill over the past couple years! That just really surprised me--and concerns me. How high is this thing going to go? It's getting high now. In fact, this may be the factor behind the Water Department's shift from a quarterly bill to a monthly bill coming in July--so the numbers are not so appalling to the eye. My research was not extensive enough to reveal the tracking between the amount coming in and that going to be spent on repairs. I could see that if the city feels it is falling short of money and risking falling behind and getting in more trouble with the EPA (fines of over $500,000 are already levied on KCMO for sewage violations), it could go to the voters for an alternative revenue source.

However it's paid for, it's going to cost a bunch of money that's for sure. The thing is, this is money that has to be spent, sooner or later. Now, I've been down this road before. Burlington, VT situated on the eastern shores of beautiful Lake Champlain had the same problem with storm water causing untreated poo to go into local waterways. In 1984, a bond issue was brought before the people for a vote. It required a 2/3 majority to pass. It fell short--a majority voted yes, but short of the supramajority needed to pass the issue. A few years passed. In 1988, four short years later, the bacterial count in the lake was high, beaches were closed, and algae bloomed. Now, the same issue came before the voters, but cost twice as much. Thankfully, cheapskates did not prevail, and Burlington began work on its system sometime in the early '90s. The thing is it was more expensive, due to inflation, and more things to fix the second time around.

I'm not thrilled about having water/wastewater customers bear the brunt of the cost of this fix--we'll see how that works out--but this is one of those things where you just have to fix it, and the sooner you fix it, the less in the end it will cost, and the less damage will be done to the environment. It's one of those, "You can pay me now, or you can pay me later" things, like the old Fram oil filter commercials. You can see one of those after the jump, if you need your memory refreshed or have never seen one.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Update: Missing Man Found Dead in Lake

This was the outcome I was afraid of, due to the circumstances of his disappearance, his age, and the weather we've been having. The body of 77 year old retired priest Bruce Rahtjen was recovered from the lake he had been fishing in near Topeka, KS.

Rev. Rahtjen was well known and well regarded in the Kansas City area. He pastored St. Mary's Episcopal Church downtown, taught, was interested in preserving history, and was a writer.

Prayers and such for his wife and family, as well as those who knew him, I sure would be appreciated.

Read more here (Kansas City Star) and here (KSHB). Pic from KSHB.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Freedom of Speech: Whadaya Think?

From the Kansas City Star

I'll admit it: I am posting a picture of this trailer that has been used as a bill board down in Bates County and its associated story to see what sort of comments it generates. Here's a link to the story in the Kansas City Star.

The short version is that this man set this trailer with this message on it next to highway 71 in Bates County, south of the Kansas City metro. Since he set it there, it has been set on fire twice and a building nearby has been burnt as well. The provocative message reads: Are you a producer or parasite. Democrats--party of parasites.

Let's have it, on either the sign or the reactions in the 588 comments (!!!) to the article on the web.

Me? Freedom of speech, baby. The folks who set his trailer and house on fire need to go to jail for arson. The comments? All good, as long as people remain reasonably civil to each other. We won't solve anything if we can't talk this out, this issue of other people's money and helping those who need it, and taking responsibility for our selves.

Update/9:45 PM/6/21: Somebody dug this up about the sign/trailer's owner: He took farm subsidies, $1 million worth. Boy, if you're going to have an opinion in public, you better be consistent. Looks a little bit hypocritical to be taking money from the government with this sign on your land. Comments are a flyin' already in the Star to the tune of 81 in less than 4 hours. Like many of the commenters on the article, it's hard for me not to wonder that someone who disagrees with the man worked very hard to find this data and present it in a manner damaging to this man and his message.

Missing Retired Priest Near Nudist Camp...Or Something Like That

The story is a 77 year old man is missing. His last known location was near Lake Edun--check out their website here--that is a place where clothing is optional. The news media describes him as fishing on the property of this organization. It was also revealed by the media that the gentleman is a retired Episcopal priest. Now, this doesn't sound much like blog fodder, until the Kansas City Star pulled the comment section off the story on their website. People on the website were voicing concern about a 77 year old man being out in our charming 90 degree/65+ dew point--that's scientific talk for hot and humid--weather, and having some fun with the idea of a 77 year old man out and about nude. Not a few readers took the Star to task for using a prurient headline. The current web headline reads, "Man missing near Topeka nudist camp is retired KC priest". (There was also a bad pun involving rods and fishing, but I'll leave that to your prurient mind.) I guess the folks at the Star were not liking the turns the comments section was taking.

I was reflecting on the issues raised by Kansas City Star web readers that the Star was being deliberately provocative with their headline. It got me to thinking about news media in general and local news in particular. They want to grab your eyeballs and not let you go. That's how they make money, by getting you to watch. Thus, "It bleeds, it leads." Also, crime stories along with auto accidents, fires and other things involving lights and sirens are easy to report. This is what happened, here's the police/fire department, here are the victims--"How do you feel?"--cool pics of flames, mangled cars, crime tape.

There are problems with this: News without nifty pictures, that require a little bit of analysis get little or no coverage. So news about money, economy, politics don't get covered very well--and get little or no television time. TV reporters, especially in a midsize market like KC are shuffled in and out of here pretty quickly, and they don't get the opportunity to get to know the town and its power players. This makes the serial layoffs at the local broadsheet even more of a problem because for long format stuff you can't beat the newspaper. The end result? No one has the time, money or experience to do deep stories that really teach the public about something important, like the political process or economics.

Outcome of this? Crime stories emerge bigger than life, which can generate disproportionate fear. Stories that involve less sensational material are neglected and not reported. The population gets ignorant about important things like politics and economics. The interested start looking for alternatives--I think this is part of the reason talk radio has succeeded in fact--Rush and his successors take the time on the radio, often 20 minutes or more, to talk through a topic. Yes, the information has an opinion, but the opinion came with the information.

What to do? I personally want almost no restraint on the freedom of speech. It's such a slippery slope, especially when it comes to the government having any say. It's not far to having those expressing minority opinions having to flee for their lives as is happening in Hugo Chavez's Venezuela. Right now, the market has the most influence on mass media. What attracts eyeballs? What will not offend advertisers? I think as you read media, read the news, watch the news, remember that the goal of the presenters is not just to inform, but also to entertain. Thus, you need to bring your brain with you when you watch or read. Use multiple sources. Not sure what something is? Wondering about that amendment to the Constitution? Something just sounds too weird to be true? There's a slant and you'd like to see the topic from the other direction? There's this wonderful thing called the Internet where just about anything about anything can be found. Of course, the same rules apply...

We want to be told stuff. We are more than willing to be led about by the nose. We like the strange, the violent, the weird and the prurient. We get lazy. The problem is the world is a lot more complex than it used to be. Mindless media consumption is not something that a person can afford to do in these complex times.

Meantime our 77 year old man has not turned up yet. Our prayers to his family and for the searchers as they look for him.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Stuck on Stupid

Remember this? We'd had Katrina, and the clusterf*ck that followed. This is back in 2005, of course. Now, Hurricane Rita was coming, and the authorities were trying to get evacuation plans out to the people of the Gulf coast, to get folks out of harm's way. General Russel Honore was in charge. He held a press conference to help get the word out. The reporters were amped up to ask him why this and that hadn't been done during Katrina. The general struggled to keep the press focused on the current events--he did not want them trying to get him to do a post mortem on the Katrina situation at this news conference. "Let' s not get stuck on the last storm." and then the immortal "You are stuck on stupid."

Why does it seem so appropriate for the oil spill situation? Why do we get "stuck on stupid" over and over again?

Thursday, June 17, 2010

More Rain, Then This

We got another bunch of rain yesterday afternoon. However, we got the treat of a full horizon rainbow, which also turned into a double rainbow. Really neat!

For more of this rainbow, go to http://skcobserverphotos.blogspot.com/ Also KMBC and KSHB had nice slide shows of the rainbow and other weather stuff from yesterday.

Oh, Cats!!

From left to right, GirlCat, BoyCat, and LadyCat enjoy a successful door charge in 2008. They weren't quite as bold back then.

The feline group at Casa Observer is an indoor only feline group. However, the felines often feel as if they should be indoor-outdoor felines. Thus there is often a "rush of the door" when it is opened, particularly if I have been away for a few hours. Most times, I can keep the gang inside. Sometimes, one will get out. Well, last night all three got out. It was pretty late, so luckily there was very little street traffic. BoyCat and GirlCat bounded away like gazelles; I had little hope of catching them. Thankfully, they pretty much come back on their own, usually within the hour, but it gives me anxious moments, as we have all manner of urban/suburban wildlife including possums, rats, and raccoons, not to mention feral cats and odd people. In my neighborhood? Surely not.

So, last night, after this successful escape, I think I see LadyCat. I go to where I think she is, and look down the driveway to the street. What do I see? I see BoyCat and GirlCat, sitting at the end of the driveway in perfect sit poses, right next to each other, looking out on to the street. I tried to snap a picture with the phone camera, but it is too dark to even aim properly. All I get is a picture of a pair of glowing eyes in the upper left hand corner of the picture. When the two cats had noticed I discovered them, they bounded away, together, to explore the neighbor's yard. They chased each other to the houses. I shrugged, found LadyCat-she can be caught--and took her inside. I poured crunchy food, and started to prepare for bed.

Lured by the sound of grub, BoyCat and GirlCat presented themselves at the door not long after the food was poured. I cajoled them in. They have to think that coming in is their idea. Kitties shared a can of mushy food and we called it a night.

BoyCat and GirlCat have acted like siblings since they have gotten to know each other after their separate adoptions in 2007. I will never forget the sight I had last night of the two of them sitting together at the end of the driveway, plotting their next move.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Afghanistan and the Riches

When at first this came via Email alert to my BlackBerry I thought, "Why the big deal?" Here's what I saw around about 2030 Sunday:
WASHINGTON — The United States has discovered nearly $1 trillion in untapped
mineral deposits in Afghanistan, far beyond any previously known reserves and enough to fundamentally alter the Afghan economy and perhaps the Afghan war itself, according to senior American government officials.

The previously unknown deposits — including huge veins of iron, copper, cobalt, gold
and critical industrial metals like lithium — are so big and include so many minerals that are essential to modern industry that Afghanistan could eventually be transformed into one of the most important mining centers in the world, the United States officials believe.
I stopped in my thoughts. This country, Afghanistan, was long thought to have missed out on the natural resources train. It was thought that other than being a way between larger and more blessed lands, and having some piss poor soil, only suitable for growing crops of addiction, Afghanistan had little to offer. Its main resource, people, were stuck in a repressive, eighth century land, with little in the way of infrastructure. Now, Afghanis find themselves sitting on a motherlode of materials that could make the country prosperous beyond their wildest dreams.

Natural resources have caused struggles. Not just with guns either. Oil caused several financial and corruption crises in the United States. Countries struggle with the riches of natural resources being monopolized by the few. Some just end up with a rich monarchy, like Saudi Arabia. Some end up with anarchy, like Nigeria. Probably of all countries, the U.S. has done as well as anyone to try and spread the wealth, but even here, there is inequality in how the riches are divided.

There are also, of course, implications for U.S. policy. We certainly want access to these materials for our own economy, either in their import or in the employment of our companies, people and expertise to extract them from the earth. I personally would like mining tech savvy companies with an environmental consciousness to be the ones presiding over the extraction of the material. Frankly, I don't want the "grip and rip it" Chinese mining mentality anywhere near this area. The Chinese have a dismal environmental record and a horrible labor record. They can stay home and pollute their own country and exploit their own people.

Our military is scheduled to start withdrawl in July 2011 from Afghanistan. The surge has struggled in this country. If the central government weakness and unrest continues, the kind of unrest that left the Russians findings of this material lay fallow for 30 years, it may lie fallow for 30 more. Or the cost of mining may include the cost of blood spilled, as it often does in chaotic countries with natural resources.

The ideal would be that Afghanis wake up, quit fighting us and each other, realize that a stable secular central government with representatives elected by everyone--a representative republic!--is the best hope for everyone benefiting from the blessings that God has given to the country. Such a form of governance would allow free enterprise to take the lead in mining and refining these important minerals. It won't be perfect, but this has worked better then a lot of other types of government.

Well, a person can dream....

Link to the full New York Times article here.

Big XII Minus II Still Standing

An expanded version of my post over at "You're Looking Live..." with regard to the machinations surrounding the Big 12 Conference....

A Big Story here in the Big Town has been the drama around the athletic conference of our big state universities in Missouri and Kansas. For those who don't follow, a conference is a group of schools that get together for athletic events. They had come around naturally, grouped generally by geography and regional culture. Nowadays conferences are more about money and TV rights. This all started with one Big XII school making overtures to another conference. Then two schools, Nebraska and Colorado left for the Pacific 10 conference. So it came down to what the University of Texas in Austin would do. If they left for the Pac 10, as was rumored, they would take Texas Tech, Oklahoma and Oklahoma State with them, and that would be the end of the Big XII. So, the Big XII's fate revolved around the decisions that the folks at the University of Texas would make. They jumped their Tuesday regents meeting by a day and began declaring on Monday that they would stay in the conference. Apparently, they are being fed mo'money--more TV money and money from Colorado and Nebraska. They are happy enough for now to stay.

Why is all this important enough to have had many in this community holding their collective breath? I mean really. It's nice that your schools are in a conference that gives them lots of exposure and helps with money for the athletic program as a whole and helps with recruiting students and such. I'm happy that the exposure will continue for the worthy state institutions of Kansas, Kansas State and Missouri. But my biggest concern, and I am not alone in this, is not as a sports fan but as a resident of a medium sized city in the plains of America. That is why all of this is very important and got the coverage it did. College athletics are a big part of our identity in Kansas City, a big part of our investments, and a big donor to our economy. I still feel pretty vunerable that this could come apart at any minute. Remember, this all started with rumors of Missouri leaving the conference. Rumors got this crazy ball rolling.

We are secure for now--the Big XII Conference will remain intact. What can we do to insure college sports continuing presence in our city? What can we do to insure that our really cool rivals still play each other--or are economics going to undo 100 years of athletic history? We can't bask long in this victory. We must shore up our proverbial levies. I'm pretty sure there will be another hurricane.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

A Tune for Tuesday

Sometimes I just like to rummage around in the library's collection of CDs. I found a "Greatest Hits" CD from Kathy Mattea. I love this song. It's old, been out since 1987, but it doesn't get old.

Here are the words:
(Paul Nelson/Gene Nelson)
Charlie's got a gold watch
Don't seem like a whole lot
After thirty years of drivin'
Up and down the interstate
But Charlie's had a good life
And Charlie's got a good wife
And after tonight she'll no longer
Be countin' the days
Eighteen wheels and a dozen roses
Ten more miles on his four day run
A few more songs from the all night radio
Then he'll spend the rest of his life
With the one that he loves
They'll buy a Winnebago
Set out to find America
They'll do a lot of catchin' up
A little at a time
With pieces of the old dream
They're gonna light the old flame
Doin' what they please
Leavin' every other reason behind
Eighteen wheels and a dozen roses
Ten more miles on his four day run
A few more songs from the all night radio
Then he'll spend the rest of his life
With the one that he loves
The Observer is revealed as an old softy again...

Monday, June 14, 2010

On The Fence

credit: Mutts by Patrick McDonnell 5/19/10

Oil Spill Management Screwed Up From Jump......

The management of the now awful oil well blow out and spill in the Gulf of Mexico was messed up almost from the beginning. How quick we were to want to start the blame game instead of actually working to fix the problem. We've taken something that was a Critical Incident and instead of working on fixing it up the best we could, evaluating possible solutions, and doing careful analysis to find out why it happpened we have loaded it up with politics, finger pointing and lawyers to the point that it is FUBAR (Fucked Up Beyond All Recognition). While I have no desire to find fault, other then the pressing technical issues with the incident itself, I can find plenty of places to assign some fault for the sorry response to the incident.

It's BP's fault, because more and more is coming out that this well was a difficult well, and needing the best management and it did not get it. Critical short cuts were taken. Thus, the set up was for the well to blow. It was only a matter of time. After the shit hit the fan, BP chronically underestimated both size and degree of difficulty. They may have done this due to outside pressures applied that had nothing to do with the science of drilling for oil. Which brings us to...

It's the Fed's fault in general due to their introduction of stupid political considerations and hesitation by our woefully inexperienced Chief Executive and our incredibly self centered legislature. Best hindsight proposal I've heard to date, put forth by the latest Rush sub: A Manhattan Project all scientific hands on deck effort to first, cap the well, and second, contain and sop up the oil, started within 10 days of the initial blow/fire. We almost ought to make this part of a super duper disaster plan: All Hands--Public and Private--On Deck to Solve the Problem--No Blame Game. Did we do this? No, we did not. We went golfing and called for hearings, new laws, fines, and corporate take overs instead. And finally...

It's all media's fault, including opinionators from both the left and the right for making this a political thing, comparing it to Katrina, to Haiti earthquake, to Jimmy Carter's hostage rescue operation failure, blah, blah, blah. In addition, it's anyone's fault who has hauled out their first finger and pointed it at anyone instead of going into critical thinking mode in the very beginning.

I proposed somewhere in someone's blog comment section that we start dunking the culpable in oil. Nah, let's just send them out to remove oil from beaches, water and wild life. If they end up all oil covered, so much the better.

Meantime, it just breaks my heart to look at the oiled critters and listen to the coastal residents watching their environment be ruined.

More Rain Overnight Leads to (More) Southland Flooding

This has been the story in the southland for the last few days. Rain in large amounts over a short period of time has left the ground saturated. Runoff is causing southland waterways to rise and streets to flood. Both the Blue River and Indian Creek left their banks overnight, and went much higher than they were Friday night/Saturday morning. Indian Creek went up over 103rd street at Wornall, putting three to four feet of water in businesses on the creek side of the street. Luckily because of the late hour, there were few motorists out, although a few did need assistance out of the fast rising water. As of 1300, Indian Creek had returned completely to its banks, still running fast, but no longer flooding.

Photos here are of the Blue River, which is still flooding, at Red Bridge Road between Holmes and Blue River Road. This stretch will be closed until the water is down.
Seeing a lot of these barricades these wet days. This one bars travel from Holmes east on Red Bridge Road.
Construction equipment at the new Red Bridge Road bridge site up to its fenders and more in water.
A view of the overflowing Blue River, taken from the Red Bridge. The bridge itself was never over come by water, but it was very close.

This pipe was in a tidy little pile yesterday with similar piping--now it has floated over to the other side of the road. Other piping was noted west of where it had been before. Note the water over the road, and pedestrians checking it out on the other side. This is on the east side of the bridge. The water appeared about mid calf high, with a fairly vigorous current flowing from right to left. I did not wade in.

The water filled the picnic area on the west side of the bridge--a mind boggling amount of water--and topped the road here. You might be able to make out some folks walking through the water. Your intrepid reporter made the same journey--water up to mid calve in spots with a mild current flowing from right to left. Definitely enough to bar travel by passenger cars.

Yup, we need a break from rain. How much do we need that break? According to the Weatherbug station at Ruskin High School, we had 5.27 inches of rain fall after midnight to this morning. I had four inches in a cup in my backyard. According to the Ruskin rain meter, we have had for June a total of 15.25 inches. That's a lot of rain and we are very very soggy around here!

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Best Description of the Christian Church Ever

I didn't buy much at the book sale, but I bought a book called Grace by Mary Cartledgehayes. She writes about her spiritual life, her relationship to God as a Christian and her three years of pastoring a United Methodist Church. As her time with that congregation was drawing to a close she considered the state of the church:

Lurching on toward the kingdom, I decided. Staggering drunkenly toward the kingdom, the way every good church must because, while bringing in the kingdom of God is the business of the Church, we never get it right. We lurch, we stagger, we fall, we rise, we resist, we refuse, we fail, we fall, we rise, we fall, we rise. Bad planning on God's part, if you ask me, making human beings responsible, but there it is: the pattern abides.

I love this book. It made me laugh, it made me cry. It made me smile smiles of recognition at the silliness that can be the Christian church. It made me tingle when the sacred broke through. It reminded me of the struggles no one will talk about when it comes to women in the teaching and preaching ministry. It reminded me once again that it was no accident that when I finally came to faith in Jesus Christ, it was in the corner of Christendom called Wesleyan-Armenian. I'm so glad I picked up this book.

Morning Rain Raises Southland Waterways

South Kansas City has two waterways winding their way around the land, making their meandering way to the Missouri River. One is the Blue River. The other is Indian Creek. The additional two inches or so of rain that fell this morning onto saturated soil was enough to have both waterways running fast and at high levels again today.

The Blue River, looking from the bridge. It's much higher, and flowing much faster then normal. Usually, you can see very clearly the channel the water has carved out over the years, but the elevated water level has obscured that feature.

This is a view you would not have seen prior to the work being done in preparation for the new bridge. The river channel was lowered here and the water has taken advantage. In addition, water from the small artificial lake that is behind the photographer is moving into the river. The river is spread much wider then usual. Left in the photo, on the near bridge pillar, is a water gauge.

This is Indian Creek at Watt's Mill. This view, taken from 103rd street, looks east towards the remnants of the old mill. The water is really moving! Where the creek crosses Wornall Road, there is often flooding of the businesses along 103rd street and Wornall.

This view of Indian Creek shows how it is out of its banks, but you can see from the lines of debris, it had been higher earlier in the day.

Here's a view of Indian Creek looking west from the 103rd street bridge. I'd estimate this water was going 50 mph at this point.

We need a day or two to dry out around here! During the rain, there were numerous roadways that developed high water quickly--the classic urban flash flood. There is just no more room in the soil for water. More rain is forecast to fall over the next 36 hours; I would expect more urban creek flooding and flash flooding too. Local readers, please be careful out there!

Friday, June 11, 2010

No Profound Thoughts Tonight

Visited with friends from my Bible study group around lunch time, which extended into tea time. Then it was time to go cruisin' !

Hope everyone has a fabulous weekend!

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Won't Get Fooled Again

Say what you will about The New York Times and newspapers in general getting smaller and less comprehensive and all that, they do provide a lot of food for thought. The latest? An article entitled "Fooling the Doctors, Some of the Time." It is a meditation on doctors and the dispensing of addictive medications, in this case benzodiazapines, but applicable, I think across the board to include interactions over pain medications. Here's a bit:
“It is better to suffer wrong than to do it,” Samuel Johnson wrote, “and happier to be sometimes cheated than not to trust.” Knowing that false positives are inevitable gives a statistical perspective to that wisdom — and frees the doctor from having to interrogate the patient like a criminal suspect. To put it another way, I’d rather be taken for a sucker once in a while than know that my suspicion had denied someone legitimate help. Furthermore, excessive suspicion compromises empathy and compassion. It is draining to approach patients as possible adversaries who must be bested.
In other words, according to the author of this piece, Dr.Michael W. Kahn, it is better to err on the side of prescribing for the patient then denying them. He ends the piece asking this question:
Since “first, do no harm” remains a guiding principle of care, let’s remember that the harm of missing a chance to help often greatly exceeds the harm of prescribing under a false pretext. Our system of justice is based on the idea that we should let the guilty go free rather than punish the innocent. Could our prescribing habits benefit from the same philosophy?
I had a multitude of reactions to this essay. My first reaction was a gut one, and was basically, "You've got to be kidding, these drug seekers will run your ass over at the first sign of weakness." Then I thought some more, considered patients I have known and assessments I have struggled to make, and realized that yes, the author does have a point. The patient and provider should not be involved in a battle over the drugs. In fact, patient and provider are supposed to work together, not at loggerheads. This conclusion says that giving the benefit of the doubt is the right thing to do. There are times this is not the right battle to fight. There are times you are not sure if you are dealing with real pain or really good fakery. The thing is, if someone has real pain, the compassionate thing is to give medication to help that pain. If we are not sure we are looking at real pain, we have to err on the side of giving medication that is likely to give relief, even if there is a chance the whole thing is an act to get narcotic medication.

Sometimes, though, I think drug seekers need to be confronted. I don't think they should always get what they want. A person will never hit the hard bottom if there's always someone sticking a cushion there. To go to an ER and hear that you will not be given the narcotic because you don't need it may be just what a person needs to hear. Pain medication is for medicating physical pain, not for getting away from a bad life or treating psychological pain. Some folks need to be told this at some point. That could be what it takes to get them going towards recovery, and living a drug free life.

Finally, there is that natural dislike for being played. No one likes to be a sucker, to be deceived, to give someone something that they don't need or deserve. No one likes being taken. That's when you can lapse into a "competitive cynicism" --and start thinking that no one is to be trusted in their complaint. You cannot give good compassionate care that way. The moment you start thinking that everyone is out to game the system is the moment to consider taking a break.

One last thing: It's amazing to consider how much of an ER's energy and time is consumed with people with chronic pain complaints and drug seeking behaviors. Just take a look at my ER oriented blogs in the blog roll. These types of patients are a pretty common blog topic for the ER doc and nurse bloggers. I don't know what the stats are, but I won't be surprised that chronic pain and prescription drug abusing patients are a good 25% of ER clientele. It's too bad we can't find a better way to work with patients on these problems then in the Emergency Department.

In the end, assessment needs to be diligently done. If it's time for a patient to hear the truth, then tell it. If you are not sure, then I agree with the author, give the addictive prescription medication. If you are an ER doctor, and too many chronic pain/drug seeking patients like you, you may be too easy. If you are an ER doctor, and those patients hate you, you may be becoming too cynical. It's a tough balance, that takes up a lot of a provider's psychic energy.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Rainy Afternoon, Much Water

Well it's been raining in a torrent around here since about 1600, finally settling down maybe around 1830. I've been at the library, not doing exactly what I came to do, but getting around to a few items on the list. Well, my attention is drawn to my car out in the parking lot. It is sitting in a rather large pond of water that has developed due to overwhelmed storm drains. I took off my shoes and socks and waded through water over my ankles to rescue the car.

It looked like this after I reparked and then grabbed the camera. I'm glad it wasn't moving or anything--might have had a drowned car. The still dark clouds are reflected in this shot of the ponded water.

The rainfall created this little stream behind the library building. It's flowing into a storm sewer opening to the lower right. According to the radar calculated totals, we've had 2.5 inches of rain from 1600 to 1930 or so. It looks like we should be done after this last little batch comes through. In the five county Kansas City metro, south Kansas City got the most rain. Indian Creek started to rise, but appears to be stabilizing now. 6-8 inches of water collected on interstate 435 at the State Line due in part to a clogged storm drain on the Kansas side. Reports of water ponding on Red Bridge Road near Highway 71 also were received. Just south of the five county metro, most of Cass County got at least 2.5 inches of rain. Now, the southern edge of the storm complex is starting to generate tornado warnings as it moves to the south and east of Kansas City.

In other weather news, after having a tornado and severe thunderstorms Sunday, the northeastern counties of Vermont are under a frost warning.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Is Technology Bad For You?

This is just wrong on so many levels. Photo from the New York Times.

The New York Times has three articles on how technology--specifically information technology--even more specifically computers and smart phones--is affecting the human brain and human interaction. Here are the links to the articles here and here and here. There's also a couple of attention checking tests you can take. The researchers are finding that the use of technology is changing the way humans focus. Mainly it is affecting the ability to focus for a period of time on one thing. Furthermore, there are studies implying that the neurotransmitter dopamine is influenced by the influx of information and the use of texting and the internet.

Before I go further, a story. I'm walking into the local Wal-Mart. I look around--everyone is on their cell phone. Everyone! I am the only one walking towards the store without a phone stuck in their ear. I am looking around, enjoying the weather, feeling the breeze, looking at the cars and so forth. Near the handicapped parking spaces, I see a piece of paper on the ground. I go over to check it out. It's a $20 bill. Cool. I look around, wave it, yell, "Anyone drop this?" No reply--they're all still on the phone. I tuck the twenty bucks in my pocket. Living in the real world, using my senses, just paid me $20.

I have always been an information hound. I used to be late with papers because, as one of my profs noted, "There's always one more source." I would follow bibliographies as far as they would take me. I love books and read quickly and efficiently. I also love having sources close to hand. I used to read the dictionary for fun. Or drug books--seriously. The looking up of information on one drug will lead to another. Everything can turn into "6 degrees of separation" in my mind. The Internet for me then is just one more way to get information, one more way to find out things I don't know, or to verify things I think I know, or to add to my knowledge. That's one aspect of the internet, as a library. I think that is the healthiest part of the web for all of us.

The other part of the internet is the social aspect. Not just the obvious, like Facebook, e mail and blogging, but the interaction with larger society, like instant news. This has changed us tremendously, and is really almost the end point of the compression of time that has been going on since Gutenberg and his movable type. Information used to take decades to move from place to place, then it took merely years, then months, then weeks, then days, then minutes, then at the speed of light. Now, it's there, instantly, and as the article pointed out, we are created and wired in our brains to pay attention to stuff that pops up quickly. In our caveman days, and even today, that attention to quick appearing stimuli can save our very lives. So email, news bulletins, Facebook changes and so forth can capture our attention and distract us from focusing on things that are larger and longer. Also the new pulls us from the old, as the example from one of the articles of missing an older email attests.

I had to realize that in order to get things done, I had to quit answering the phone when it rang. I sometimes would have a problem at work in the hospital setting feeling that I had to answer that unit phone whenever it rang. But it distracted me from my own work of written documentation that I needed to get done. I still would pick up the phone if I was the only one available to answer it, but I stopped feeling like I had to respond to the stimulus of the phone's ringer.

I don't text. There are times that texting is really handy. But I don't do it. If I'm with other people I don't text or email or use the internet function on my BB. I was called out on it once and the person was in the right. When I am with people, I am with them and focused on them. I ignore other stuff. I'll even ignore the phone (that's what caller ID and voice mail/answering machines are for!). Now, I do like keeping up with my email, and with what is going on on the blogs I read and follow. Sometimes, I can't get to do that, and that can be a little tough. I feel like things are going on without me, the same way I feel when I don't get to check on the news. Leave me without a newspaper, or TV and I feel the same way. But I get over it. I get a reality check on the cell phone every time I visit my mom. She's still out of cell phone range. It takes a day or two, but after awhile, you find other things to do.

Here's a test for you to see if you are having a problem with technology in your life, from Times columnist Tara Parker-Pope who spoke to experts on the topic:
1. Do you always check your email before doing other things?
2. Do you frequently find yourself anticipating the next time you'll be on line?
3. When you are on line and someone needs you, do you usual say, "Just a few more minutes." before stopping?
4. Have you ever lied about or tried to hide how long you've been online?
5. Have you ever chosen to spend time on line rather than going out with others?
6. Does going on line lift you from a depressed or nervous mood?
7. Do others in your life often complain about the amount of time you spend using technology?

Some of those questions got my attention! Ouch! Others of them remind me of the questions used to screen for alcohol abuse.

Why is it important that we concern ourselves with the impact of technology on our brains? Well, if we don't learn how to moderate ourselves with technology, I believe that it will have significant impact on our ability to analyze and get the big picture. I think that it will stifle creativity and problem solving. Most importantly, I believe that it will decrease the amount of time we spend interacting with real people, and that will have an adverse effect on our ability to empathize with others, to put ourselves in the place of the other, to take our eyes off our selves. We run the risk of becoming even more narcissistic then we already are.

The Internet is a part of a rich life. Just a part, not the whole. Balance is the key. Our brains will adapt, but just because we've developed a new skill, it doesn't mean we can't practice the old skills. What old skills you say?

Oh, like talking to your spouse face-to-face at the breakfast table, for a start.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

We'll Do It Live #2

Dyslexia is a terrible, terrible thing...

Basketball Coach John Wooden Dies

Legendary basketball coach John Wooden died yesterday at the age of 99 years. I remarked to someone that the world was a lesser place now that Mr. Wooden was gone and he would be missed. The person didn't know who he was! I explained that John Wooden was a most extraordinary basketball coach, but he was something more then merely a basketball coach. He was a teacher, and a mentor. He worked through his teaching and coaching, and later through books and speeches. Ironically, he
may have made his biggest impact in retirement, through the books and speeches, then he did coaching a select lucky few athletes at UCLA.

Mr. Wooden was born in farm country in Indiana. He picked up the hoops at an early age, and helped his high school win several state championships. He attended Purdue University where he attained a degree and helped the school win a basketball championship and he was player of the year in 1932. After graduation, he taught English and coached hoops at a Kentucky high school, and in South Bend, IN. His career, as many were, was interrupted for WWII. He served in the Navy. After his Navy days were over, he began his college coaching career at Indiana State University. He had a consistently winning record there. However, his most famous moment there was when he declined an invite to the NAIA tournament because Black players would not be allowed to play. One of his players testified: "You don't know our coach. He doesn't see color. He just sees ball players."

He started his career coaching at the University of California Los Angeles in 1948 and coached there through 1975. His record there is well known, 10 NCAA championships, no losing seasons,

one perfect season, and a record streak of 88 games without a loss. He left UCLA a winner in 1975, after the team took him to the tenth NCAA crown.

He married his wife Nellie in 1932, and he testified that she was the love of his life and his support all through his career. She passed away in 1985. They had two children together.

Why is John Wooden's passing a loss? All he did was coach a game. However, he took time to share with the world the philosophies and ideas behind his coaching success. And this interested people, because he was successful. Every placed he coached he had a winning record, except for his very first year coaching in Kentucky. This despite the often cosmic cultural changes going on around him and his players. Even today, with his kids pushing 75 he is beloved by the students at UCLA, and right up to the end, he continued to make himself available for speaking and teaching.

His books read like self help tomes in many ways, but also they contained so much truth and common sense. In addition, when you read his biographical material, especially later in life, you find that he was not a perfect man. But he worked to learn from every mistake he made.

Just from looking on the outside at John Wooden and his life, I see an amazingly successful leader, whose students and players loved him almost universally. Most of his players went on to be successful people in life. John Wooden had figured out some things about life and how to succeed at it. He did not keep them secret but shared them with others freely. His quotes are some of the best. Oh, and one other thing: John Wooden was a committed Christian, who prayed that if he were being persecuted for his faith that there would be enough evidence to convict him. He never displayed his faith ostentatiously, but lived the kind of life that made you wonder: "How does he do that? What's his strength? And where can I get some?"

My personal favorite quote of John Wooden's: Be quick but don't hurry. Here are more of his quotes as assembled by ESPN.

pictures stolen from various spots on the net, top to bottom: Wooden celebrates with Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and others, speaking to Special Olympics kids in 2008, informal portrait from the 1990s, coaching Bill Walton.

Yes, I've Been Working on the Blog Roll

The blog roll is getting a little fluff and buff right now. Looking in on blogs and making sure that they are all still alive, arranging them and trial running some. I realized I'm awful fussy about what goes on the blog roll, maybe too fussy. I made sure that everyone I mentioned in the posts that accepted awards is now on the blog roll, and I'm trying to remember blogs I found along the way that I liked, but ya know, I was reading them on the BlackBerry and couldn't add them right away. I think there are more like that I haven't caught up with yet.

I hate it but I had to pull the KSHB NBC Action news weather blog off the roll. They revamped their site--if the blog has a feed they've done a really good job hiding it from me! I really miss being able to access it from the BB as well, which you can't any more. Hopefully, if we who follow the blog yell loud enough and long enough, they'll fix it.

So, welcome to all the new additions, and if YOU, dear reader, know of a blog you would recommend, just slip on down to the comment section and add the url.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

The Pedant In Me Says Get It Right!

I corrected yesterday's post title. It was not quite correct. The line is from Bill O'Reilly losing it big time while taping the end of his first national show, Inside Edition. I have enough academic training that when I quote something I one, want it to be correct, and two, I want the citation to be correct.

Here is the clip from You Tube. Warning: F bombs are dropped.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

I Said We'll Do It Live!

The hazards of live TV: Just as Channel 9 goes to a live shot for a story on an unemployed man who put on a sandwich board and walked the downtown Kansas City streets in an effort to get a job, a live truck from Channel 5 just happens to drive by.


Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Now, What Was He Thinking?

KSHB Image
This is 60 year old Larry Rice of Abilene, KS. Mr. Rice entered the HyVee Market on 135th Street in Overland Park on Saturday. He approached the counter of the Bank of the West branch in the market, showed what appeared to be a gun and demanded money. Per the report of KSHB, he said to the teller, "I want all the money. No dye packs. Get me the money. Get me the money." He got the money in a bag and ran out of the bank. It wasn't long before authorities released this surveillance photo of him. Sunday evening, Mr. Rice dropped in at the Johnson County lock up in Olathe and turned himself in to sheriff deputies. Today, he was charged with bank robbery, and could get 20 years in jail if convicted.

Now, bank robbers can be successful. In fact, in today's Kansas City Star, there's a story about a man who has robbed 21 banks without being caught. However, if not thought out, it can be an easy crime for police to solve, especially with the cameras in the banks. It looked like Mr. Rice, well, made out like a bandit. Aside from the bank photo, there were no other clues shared with the public.

So then, I really want to know: Why did he do it? And why did he go to the police the next day? What made a 60 year old man who looks fairly normal and law abiding (we haven't seen any mug shots or driver's license photos released so all we have is this picture here and we haven't heard anything about a criminal past) go and rob a bank? It's even more intriguing now that we find out he's from out of town--Abilene KS is about 150 miles from Kansas City, MO right off I-70. Did he drive 21/2 hours just to rob a bank? Did he come for a job and that fell through and he felt desperate? Does he have a drug or alcohol problem? Does he suffer from manic depression (bipolar disorder)? Was he under the influence of something? What caused him to turn himself in the next day? Guilt? Fear of worse punishment if he got caught? Family or friends pushing him? Shame?

There's a story here. I wonder what it is.

More Dangerous Song Lyrics

Back on March 6th, I posted some song lyrics and You Tube links to songs that if you sing them like you mean it, it will change your life. Well, here's another one:

"Inside" by Jared Anderson

No eye has seen, no ear has heard
How the glory of God's gonna cover the world
What will silence the tongues of men
Give our children freedom to dance again
They will dance again

I will be clay in the Potter's hand, I will be light in a darkened land
I will be love lit on fire, Holy Spirit burn on the inside
I will be color to the black and grey, I'll raise a banner up in Jesus' Name
And I will be love lit on fire
Holy Spirit, burn on the inside, on the inside

This old world keeps falling apart, but Jesus comes to wherever you are
Breathing life on the desert floor
And resurrection on the faces of the poor
On the faces of the poor

I will be clay in the Potter's hand, I will be light in a darkened land
I will be love lit on fire, Holy Spirit burn on the inside
I will be color to the black and grey, I'll raise a banner up in Jesus' Name
And I will be love lit on fire
Holy Spirit, burn on the inside, on the inside

Oh, oh, oh, oh

Repeat chorus and oh's

And here's the You Tube video:

John Wesley would approve.