Trust vs Transparency

After reading about the differences between the Page/ Strozok hearings on both major news services is it just possible that all congressional hearings should take place behind closed doors where neither side or the witness felt that their posturing was more important than the truth. I know from experience that one on one discussions behind closed doors are often more highly effective than a discussion of important or inflammatory points in front of a crowd. Yes, bad things will happen behind closed doors but they probably don’t out weigh the good things.

The problem here is trust, not transparency. You don’t need transparency if you trust your elected officials. Unfortunately that is a product in short supply at the moment.

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The Cold Gray Minnesota Rain

There is something about a summertime cold Minnesota rain. It falls softly and everything in the sandy soil greens up almost immediately. It falls straight down usually with no wind but the sound on the leaves is very soothing.

The cold rain  always awakens memories from my youth. I have been going to the same area in Minnesota annually since the early 50s. In the early fifties we stayed in a real log cabin with chinked logs and a wooden floor with ½ inch cracks between the boards. It had a wood stove for heat and a white gas stove for cooking that used pressurized kerosene to produce a hot flame. Initially it had no water inside but eventually it got a small hand pump on the sink next to the stove. The outhouse was probably around 50 feet way from the back door less than that  from the well. The cabin had no windows and when the gray rain set in no matter how hot it was you put the canvas inserts into the frames inside of the screens to keep the rain out but let the smothering humidity in. Each room was lit by one incandescent bulb hanging from a cloth covered wire in the center of each room.  If it was really raining the chamber pot came back into use for the kids. There was no TV or internet in fact there was just barely phone service. A party line that instead of running off of poles ran from the peak of one cabin roof to the next as did the electricity. There was one radio station in Fargo ND that occasionally at night the AM radio would pick up.

When the cold gray rain started the choices for the kids were a jigsaw puzzles, cards, board games or reading. The most popular was canasta played with 10 decks, which made for an interesting game to say the least. If the rain lasted too long you might get to go to the bowling alley which was as I remember was two lanes in the basement of the drug store. Sometimes we got popcorn popped in a cast iron skillet or pressure cooker and liberally doused with butter. Ice cream was not a possibility as I’m not ever sure if the refrigerator had a freezer bigger than that needed for the ice-cube trays.

Food was simple, and the idea of grilling out or going out for dinner was not in the cards. But every year food I remember food involved peaches. My mom would buy a lug or two of peaches every year and for a week we would have peach everything at every meal.

My dad liked the cold gray rain because he thought it was walleye weather and in fact we did catch and eat more than one. It is amazing how catching instead of just fishing warms up the weather.

I have very fond memories of many things that  would now be considered hardships and I guess that there is a lesson in there somewhere.  One would wonder what hardships will today’s kids remember when they are 70?

As I finish writing this the sun has come out, I’m not sure that ever happened when I was younger as the rain seemed to last forever and in fact I know  we hoped that the ” sun would come out tomorrow.”

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Drawing Lines Where None Should Exist

A baker refuses to serve a potential customer in Denver. A florist refuses to serve a potential customer in Washington State. A restaurant owner refuses to serve a potential customer in Virginia. All three acted on their own personal beliefs. Sometimes the line between right and wrong is so thin and so pale that we cross it without even knowing it.

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The Fringe Element

This is a bag. Its purpose is to carry things from here to there. To store things. To have a valuable function.  Attached to the bag by a very thin and tenuous grip are “Fringes.”  The fringe tends to draw the eye but is not part of the functionality of the item to which they are attached.

Fringes  tend to fly around, sometimes they get tangled, sometimes they fall off and often get dirty easily. They are so easy to set on fire,  that sometimes they ignite for no real reason.

Fringes serve no real purpose except to draw attention to themselves.  In reality the bag could  continue to function properly without  any of the fringe elements  as the fringe elements often are simply a distraction from the bags true purpose and may decrease the utility of the bag  simply by their entanglements.

In our media driven world too often bags become defined by their fringe rather than the whole cloth. It is time we started hearing about and  looking at the whole cloth and evaluating it rather than its frayed and dirty edges.

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Brains Do Not Equal Smart


I carve, wood burn and paint gourds as a hobby. Over the years  have learned the following things about gourds. Most importantly, when you work with a  gourd  you always have greater success when you recognize what a gourd may become rather than what it is. I also have found that a completely hollow gourd may seem to be smarter than a head stuffed with brains.

Here are some things I have learned from working with a gourd.

This is a gourd!


It is faintly the same shape as a head.

It is tough on the outside but pretty seedy on the inside

It does not speak

It does not make ridiculous political statements

It does not lie

It does not repeat lies

It does not hate

It does not discriminate

It does not harass others for any reason

It does not destroy the lives of others.

It does not compromise its own avowed principles

In short it would be a better world if  we would just:

Be like a gourd*


*Be silent and be thought a fool or open your mouth and remove all doubt.”


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Half A Loaf

There is an old English proverb:
“Throwe no gyft agayne at the giuers head,
For better is halfe a lofe then no bread.”

Today we might say,
“Don’t look a gift horse in the mouth.
“half a loaf is better than no loaf at all”

It is an indictment of our political process that this small bit of common sense has been lost. As too often now, politically at least, it’s an , “Our way or the hi-way attitude that gets in the way of any progress at all.

Interestingly this refusal to compromise may be based in the concept of fairness and seems to be an instinctual behavior in many children. In psychology experiments to determine whether fairness was an innate concept in humans or whether it was learned behavior , pairs of UK and US children have been set the following test:

One child is offered four sweets (or candy if you prefer) and the other is offered one. The child with the opportunity to take four sweets is given this choice:

A. Either, you get four sweets and the other child gets one.
B. Or, you both get nothing.

Surprisingly many children routinely choose option B and reject the sweets altogether, preferring apparently to maintain a sense of fairness at the expense of any compromise. But when we think about it, in purely mathematical terms by  being totally fair the choosing child in fact steals one sweet from his partner and 4 from themselves. In effect supporting the concept that “no loaf is better than half a loaf.”
Compromise is the art of accepting half a loaf because we realize intellectually that half a loaf is better than no loaf at all. A lesson Congress needs to learn because sometimes when you take half a loaf it leads to a full loaf down the road.

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“50 Years And Counting”

Today is our 50th wedding anniversary. I  proposed to my wife on one knee in front of a ratty old couch in The Parkwood Estate. An overly glorified name for a  trailer parked at the edge of nowhere in North Liberty Iowa. After I proposed and she accepted I took her to the Pizza Hut for an engagement dinner. We went there primarily because I was romantically an idiot but also because I worked there and I knew we  could get a free pizza.

I bounced the check that paid for the engagement ring which became evident when we were walking by Hand’s  jewelry store in Downtown Iowa City and the jeweler came out and questioned me concerning my lack of financial acumen. To my lasting relief he did not ask for the ring back.   Later Lynn broke the diamond in the ring by accidentally hitting it on the door frame in our car. As I remember when she was waving at me.  This lead to some questions about just how much I had paid for the ring to begin with. It was later shown  that she could find work as a diamond cutter as she had managed to hit a cleavage point and cleanly shear off one facet of the ring.

After the proposal  we went home to inform our parents of our commitment. My memories of the actual events are sketchy but I do remember that when we went to Lynn’s house to formally request her father’s permission. Yes I actually did that! I know that Lynn’s mom’s first question was “When is the wedding?” We replied next June and her response was, “Good, I do so hate long engagements.” No further discussion ensued from that comment but I think I knew what she meant. The most striking moment while telling my parents occurred when my dad reached out and gently patted Lynn’s hand when he heard the news. A striking show of public emotion for him. I am not sure to this day whether it was encouragement or if he was trying to reassure her that with work she might turn me around.

We got married the following June by Lynn’s Uncle Dale. Her family was filled with ministers. Oh how they must have at least privately  questioned her judgement. We had a marital counseling session with him  that lasted well into the night before the wedding the next day. He was upset about the quality of the pre-wedding  counseling we had from our local pastor which took place over a 15 minute period in his hospital room while he was possibly drugged up awaiting surgery. Memorably the only thing I can remember about that hospital  session was that he told us that he had read that birth control pills would rot your teeth so he didn’t recommend their use.

The church was a brick oven on the wedding day, high humidity with not even the hint of a breeze moving. The bride was beautiful I was a soggy mess. We were married to the whirring sound of small fans mounted on the wall by each window in what passed for air conditioning in those days. You can tell it’s hot in a church when the kneeling pad squishes each time you kneel during the service and the devil has stopped observing and gone to Snookies ice cream for a malted.

By modern standards our wedding was certainly not fancy. A reception in the church basement with painted concrete block walls and asbestos tile floor accented by folding tables and chairs. Set off nicely by food which consisted of the obligatory bowl of mixed nuts, green and pink mints, a nonalcoholic punch (probably created from rainbow sherbet ice cream melted in 7 up) and of course a modest wedding cake replete with a plastic bride and groom at the very top..
We lovingly offered each other a bite of cake and did not shove our first bite into each other’s faces and I believe from that very first moment of respect for the church, and our vows the foundations of our lasting marriage were set. I am also pretty sure that a slice of that cake resided in our freezer for quite a few years but I don’t know that we ever ate it. I think it might have a bit of freezer burn by now.

After the reception which probably lasted a grand total of 30 minutes the wedding party went over to Lynn’s house and had chips, grilled hot dogs, hamburgers, and baked beans for our wedding feast. We opened some wedding presents including one from Floyd and Harriet. A couple whom we assumed arrived at the wrong wedding put a gift on the gift table and then were reluctant to retrieve it leaving us a mystery and a set of  sterling silver pickle tongs. Lynn’s dad was named Floyd but we know there was no Harriet for him just his girl  Marg. To this day I often sign guest books at weddings “Floyd and Harriet,” just because I know that someday someone will be looking through that book and the mystery will continue.

After the wedding feast we drove to Sioux City Iowa and stayed in a room at the Holiday Inn for a first night of marital bliss a truly staggeringly romantic choice on my part. Went to dinner at a local restaurant which was interrupted by a tornado warning ( perhaps a precursor of things to come) and were so tired after dinner that we never got around to opening the bottle of champagne I had stunningly and very creatively iced down in the bathroom sink.

By modern standards our wedding was pretty plain and I was clueless as to romantics but the results have been rich and rewarding and after 50 years I can’t imagine it any other way.

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