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Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Stockholm morning

Back a gazillion years ago, Lisa and I went to Scandinavia. We went because Volvo has this really cool program where you pick up your new car at the factory in Gothenburg, Sweden. Back then, Volvo would pay your airfare (now I think they pay a flat $2,000), pick you up at the airport, put you up in a hotel, then take you to the factory to sign ze papers, and get your new car. The point, from the Swedish side of things was (is) that you then drive your new Volvo around Sweden. I guess that's the point. I don't know. We just thought it would be a great way to pick up a car and have a vacation heavily subsidized. Oh, they then ship the car back to your home auto dealer for you to pick up a month or so later.

On that trip, we started in Stockholm, then took a train to Gothenburg where we picked up our shiny new 240, which we proceeded to drive for the next couple of weeks through Sweden and Denmark. We fell in love with those two countries in general, and with Copenhagen in particular.

My Friend, David Kleeman, is in Copenhagen right now, or was over the weekend. David travels extensively to the neatest places. We are collectively very jealous of his travels, and call him names regularly.  Looking at David's pictures on Facebook is why I'm writing this post.

BUT I DIGRESS

We went back a few years later, and picked up a station wagon (with the turning radius of an oil tanker, by the way). We had both of our girls on this trip, and wound up driving it down through Germany (of course with a few days in Copenhagan, and a side trip to Billund, Denmark, the home of the original Legoland) hanging a right and dropping it off in Paris - never, ever, drive a new Volvo station wagon with manual transmission around the Arc de Triomphe during rush hour. Don't. It will send waves of terror up the back of the strongest individual.

Where was I? Oh, yeah. A few years ago, we went back to Scandinavia, this time to Norway with some friends (no car involved this time), and fell in love with Norway - guess what? We went back to Copenhagan on that trip as well. Want to see my pictures?

I'M ALMOST TO THE POINT OF MY STORY

I've always gone to that part of the world in spring or summer, and the weather has always been spectacular.

Specifically though, on the last day of that very first trip, Lisa and I went for a 4 am walk in a park in Stockholm - it was sunny, as it is for about 18-20 hours a day at that latitude during the summer. The temperature was chilly and the air was crisp. The sun was shining, and it was beautiful. I've always remembered that morning, and always will.

So, here's the point of my story: this morning, on my walk to work, the air had that same crisp feel, and the sun was shining. It was a beautiful morning in Cleveland, Tennessee. It reminded me of that Stockholm morning.

Monday, March 24, 2014

High School

Recently, some of my high school classmates created a Facebook page dedicated to my high school class (good old class of '76).  It's been interesting to see the page, and to catch up on what many of them have been doing. It's also been interesting to see some of the folks on there who I never knew - even now there are a couple who I have absolutely no recollection of (not telling who they are, either). I guess in a class as large as ours, there are bound to be people you didn't know.  I don't remember exactly how many graduated from the Bradley Central High School class of 1976, but I'm guessing it is somewhere around 500.

One of the people in the class posted that she wished she had been more involved, and felt like a nobody.

I remember going to school at Bradley High. I had moved from England a couple of years earlier, still had a little bit of an English accent (and a lisp for goodness sakes!), and was in a high school full of people who'd gone to school with each other for most of their lives.  To make matters worse, when we had moved to the U.S., I'd skipped the 6th grade, going from the 5th to the 7th, so I was a full year younger than anyone else in my class (except Denise Massengail, didn't she also graduate at 16?).

Point being, for my entire high school career, I felt like an anomaly, never fitting in with any of my peer groups - sure, I had good friends (Doug, Jeff, Artie and Bryan), don't get me wrong, but I always felt like a fish out of water.  Couple that with standard teenage angst, and a couple of unrequited crushes (you girls know who you are), and I didn't really enjoy my high school years.

Even years later, at my 10 and 20 year reunions, as excited as I was to go, I still found the same groups of people hanging with the groups they had hung with back during school. I didn't enjoy those reunions, and didn't attend the last one we had.

It wasn't until today, when I read what my classmate posted, and the comments that everyone made after, that I realized that my feelings were not unique. As a matter of fact, I would bet that those feelings of insecurity are standard fare for high schoolers, always have been, and always will be.

Now - my teenage insecurities haven't affected my life. I'm fairly well adjusted (those of you who know me better not say a word), have been married for 28 years to a Cleveland High school graduate (Lisa Gobble), and have two beautiful daughters who thankfully look like their mom.

Life is good, and yes, it was me who threw the M-80 in the band hallway, and yes, it was me who streaked the R.O.T.C. banquet. Both years.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Runs with earbuds

That would be my Native American name if I weren't a lilly white Englander.

I used to poo poo listening to music when I ran (My friend Paul Stein, on the other hand, is a known and wanted earbud wearer and flouter of rules that would ban their use during a marathon) - except in the latter stages of a marathon, when, as usual, things wouldn't be going well.  In those instances, listening to music would take my mind off of my ineptitude and lack of proper training.

Back when I used to have running partners, I didn't listen to music - I would talk with them, Jerry and Steve in the AM, and Kevin when I would run in Chattanooga. When Lisa and I bike, we chat while riding, and obviously, I wouldn't listen to music then (although I neeeeed a Go-Pro camera.  I neeeeed one). Someone buy me one of these, please

A couple of years ago, I completely fell out of love with running, and now that I've rediscovered what I like about it, I've begun running again, but by myself. One of the things I've noticed is that I'm hopeless when trying to maintain a pace.  I've got no idea how fast I'm running (hint: not very) without a GPS - see below.

Now, I loooove gadgets.  If you know me, you know this to be true.



All of the above was to tell you about last nights "run".  I've got a new Garmin Forerunner (the 220, and I like it.  I even wear it as my daily watch {geek} ), so I had it set.  I also set the "MapMyRun" app on my Galaxy III to record and stream my route.

The final piece to all of this was the Google Play app on my phone, which enabled me to listen to a cheesy 70's playlist.  Here it is, by the way: Ian's Cheesy Playlist   (if you have Spotify, you can listen to it. If you want, you can follow me on Spotify and listen to all the same crap I listen to!!!)  Please understand that I didn't pick this playlist, so I'm not responsible for it. It's Googles fault.

Last night was a good "run".  (I'll remove the quotation marks when I feel like one of my runs can stand on its own.) I think it had to do with Lisa's vegetable soup.  I think it powered me. It was about 5 miles.  I'm starting to feel more comfortable running again, but I'm not there yet. The music helps. So does my Garmin. So does my smart phone. So does Google Play. Pity about the whole ability thing.

Monday, February 17, 2014

A healthcare thought

Here is the premise of the Affordable Care Act from my perspective: if all Americans have, and pay premiums to a health insurance plan (private companies, not socialized insurance, oh ye who have no idea what you are talking about), then premiums will drop. See if this math makes sense to you - the risk pool of a 4 person group (mine) is smaller than one that includes 300 million people.  When the risk is spread across that many people, many of whom are healthy and will not tax the system until later in their lives, then premiums will drop.

There are other facets:  Kids able to stay on their parents policies longer, people not being denied coverage because of preexisting conditions, and others.  I admit, the potential for affordable healthcare premiums is what attracts me.

It is a fact though, that young, healthy people are going to have to participate - in my opinion, the penalties for not participating, both on an individual level and on a corporate level are not nearly high enough.  Too many young people are not signing up because they don't need it right now - but they'll surely want coverage later on in life, when they inevitably start having medical problems.

Currently, in my small group, if I fart incorrectly my premiums skyrocket, because the risk is spread across such a small group of people.

Think of it as purchasing power.  Try to stop thinking of it as a plot by that evil Kenyan, Muslim, Socialist, Communist.  Stop letting people scare you.  Start voting for your self interest rather than against your self interest.

Please stop using the poor web design as yet another reason that Obamacare is bad. The website roll-out sucked.  That's a given.  That does not make the premise of affordable healthcare incorrect.

_________________

Oh, let me tell you a story about a national health program:  When I was 9, I was bedridden for a portion of every month - I had kidney problems that wound up necessitating the removal of my right kidney.  The doctors took me into Addenbrooke's Childrens Hospital in Cambridge, England (where I lived at the time) http://www.cuh.org.uk/addenbrookes/patients/ward_information/c2.html. They removed my kidney, I stayed in the hospital for something like 10 days total.

Most importantly: I've been healthy for the last 45 years.

Second most importantly:  My parents didn't wind up with a bill of several hundred thousand dollars.

That was only one anecdote, but a real one nonetheless. Not some widely spread, vague scare headline. Instead, a real example of how national healthcare saved my life, and saved my parents financial health.

Monday, February 3, 2014

That one time I felt like a runner: "Looking good #1501"

In March of 2006, I ran the Knoxville half marathon (http://www.knoxvillemarathon.com/). I was in pretty good shape (for me), as I was coming off of the New York Marathon the previous November, and had continued running after.

It's important to know that I'm too slow to run 5k's and 10k's effectively, and I don't have enough endurance to run marathons effectively (I always run out of gas at about the 20 mile mark). The half marathon is my best distance. I think it is the most fun distance.

Good sprinters have a lot of fast twitch muscles; Good distance runners have a lot of slow twitch muscles. My nickname on a running website is "No Twitch Muscles". I think that appropriately paints the picture of my abilities.

So, the Knoxville half starts downtown, winds its way through the University of Tennessee campus, then later enters a fairly hilly neighborhood (Sequoyah Hills), before crossing a major street (Kingston Pike), and coming back to downtown via a rolling greenway.

I've always loved this half. It is my favorite of any half marathon I've ever done. Lots of sights to see, a beautiful neighborhood to run through, dogwoods in bloom, good crowd support.

Anyhow, I navigated the first 8 or so pretty hilly miles in good fashion, crossed Kingston Pike, and started back to downtown via the greenway.  And then?  A funny thing happened.  I started passing people.  Up and down the tiny rolling hills. I felt good, and I could feel myself getting stronger - this never happens!  I usually start to fade at about the 10 mile mark, 'cause, you know, I suck.  But not on this day.  It's no exaggeration to say that I passed about 75 people during a 4 mile stretch on the greenway.

The last 2 miles or so run through the Fort Sanders neighborhood, I usually just gut those out (they are sadistically hilly), and watch as people pass me by.  But not that Sunday.  That Sunday, I not only held my own, I continued to pass people.

About a half a mile from the finish (which, by the way happens on the 50 yard line of Neyland Stadium - granted, that was more impressive before Lane Kiffin and Derek Dooley came to town), I thundered (in my mind) around a curve, and a volunteer said:

                                                     
                                                 "Looking good #1501"


This is the first time that a volunteer has ever said that to me without the accompanying look of pity, driving home the absolute lie just spoken.  THIS GUY MEANT IT!

I rounded that curve, down a hill, then triumphantly entered the stadium - passing one more person as I entered.


                                                         Didn't I look good?


A big selling point of this race is that not only do you finish on the 50 yard line, but your finish is on the Jumbotron and your name is announced for all of your throngs of admirers to hear.

I finished in 2:05:xx, my best time ever - so far  (I realize that is not an impressive time - the world record is an astounding 58:23!!!, but for me?  Pretty damned good.)

On that day, I ran the best race I could, I ran a negative split (!), and I felt that rare euphoria that a runner feels when it is his or her day. Doesn't happen often, but runners reading this know exactly the feeling I'm trying to describe.

So, on that day, walking out of the stadium with my medal around my neck, watching other runners coming down the final hill into the stadium, I felt like a runner.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Some definitions and a thought or two

Merriam-Webster online's primary definition of Socialism is:  "a way of organizing a society in which major industries are owned and controlled by the government rather than by individual people and companies."

Since we don't like Socialism, that means we don't like Tennessee Valley Authority, right? Or the local utility companies?.


How about these guys:




(source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Government-owned_corporation#United_States)


Again, using Merriam-Webster's online dictionary, Capitalism is defined as: "a way of organizing an economy so that the things that are used to make and transport products (such as land, oil, factories, ships, etc.) are owned by individual people and companies rather than by the government."

I don't think that the list of organizations above would exist without the backing of local and federal governments. I think it is necessary to have government involvement sometimes.

Maybe, instead of calling people names, we should think about the meaning of those words?

                                   ______________________________



As a business owner who has taken ALL of the risk, signed my name to ALL of the notes payable, and am on the hook for EVERYTHING that can go wrong in my business, I damned well expect to be paid significantly better than my employees.  But 380 times better? I think I might be able to share the wealth a little better than that.


About a month ago, I was talking about how we as taxpayers are actually subsidizing Walmart and other large corporations.  

Doesn't this mean then, that I am helping to pay Mike Duke's $23.15 million total compensation, regardless of whether or not I shop there? I think it does, and I don't think I really like that.

I don't find, in dealing with my clients, many companies who can't afford to lift their employees off of the minimum wage, ESPECIALLY adults. I think that requiring a minimum wage to be a living wage, AND to be tied to the rate of inflation, is good social policy.  Sometimes, having the government decide social policy is a good thing.  The mortgage interest deduction on your tax return is a government mandated social policy designed to promote home ownership.  Likewise, the charitable contribution deduction is a government mandated social policy designed to promote INDIVIDUAL charitable giving. I've yet to hear any complaints about those examples.





Friday, January 10, 2014

Them there Gays, wanting rights again!

The City of Chattanooga is wrestling with the decision of whether or not to offer domestic partner benefits to its employees. The City originally passed an ordinance approving those benefits, but a group called "Citizens for Government Accountability and Transparency" collected 7,000+ signatures on a petition, which forced the City Council to either repeal the ordinance or do nothing (which would send the ordinance to a vote in the August general election). The Council has decided to let the citizens of Chattanooga vote it up or down.

The underlying reason for this ordinance, although not explicitly stated, is to provide same-sex couples with the same benefits that heterosexual couples already enjoy.

As you might imagine, this has created a firestorm of opinion, often centering around biblical interpretations. It seems to me, in reading various comments following online articles and polls (yeah, I realize that I should NEVER read the comments, as that is often where the worst of us reside), that the majority (not all, but the majority) of the comments coming from the pro-bible side of the argument are against providing these benefits.  Some of the comments came across as downright mean and nasty ("dirty homos").

Disclosure:  I'm a Christian - I'm an Episcopalian (a Christian denomination that encourages me to use my God-given brain as a tool for discernment).

Lacking in many of the comments is a feeling of love for our brothers and sisters. There seems to be a pervasive sense of hatred out in the world today - maybe it is not a new phenomenon, but it is one that I've really noticed over the last several years.

I realize that there isn't consensus among Christians as to the rightness or wrongness of Homosexuality.  To me though, that is beside the point.  The point is the rightness or wrongness of providing equal rights to all Americans, as our Constitution requires (I guess I'd go with the "Equal Protection Clause" of the 14th Amendment, although I'm certainly not a lawyer!).

It's not an issue to be adjudicated according to religious beliefs - although that might be how it is decided, at least at this level. It is a civil issue, much the same way that same sex marriages should be civil issues. Churches should be free to perform or not perform same sex ceremonies according to the dictates of their rules, but should have no say in how governments that follow the Constitution act.

I was reading a blog post written by an Episcopal priest (written in 2007) that pretty much sums up how I feel as a Christian - as it relates to this subject - here is a link to the whole post: http://episcopalmajority.blogspot.com/2007/01/sex-religion-and-culture-wars.html, but I'll excerpt this bit:


"Homosexuals in the Church - Episcopalians do not tend to believe in homosexuality as a moral or psychological disorder. We accept the well-researched findings of boring experts like the American Psychiatric Association, which sees homosexuality as a “normal variant of human sexuality.” An important question, then, is not the gender of your partner but rather the quality of your intimate relationship. Are you committed, monogamous, and nurturing? Most of us have come to know homosexuals who are involved in healthy, life-giving and sustaining partnerships. We see that there is no essential difference between gay and straight: we all long for love; we all fail to love perfectly; and as we deepen our spiritual journey, we seek to live in forgiveness and harmony with the Source of love. Episcopalians humbly follow Jesus as One who shows us how this is done, and for that reason our worship centers around Christ.

And yet, a handful of Christian leaders lead the charge that would deprive homosexuals of their civil and human rights. Many who call themselves Christians routinely link homosexuality with pedophilia and incest. If we did not know better, we would dismiss this position as sadly ignorant; but if this is ignorance, it appears to be of the willful variety, and it is dangerous."

I believe then that the voters in Chattanooga should vote this ordinance "up" so that this group of human beings is granted the same rights as other humans.