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Sunday, June 29, 2008

The Devil Doesn't Like Me Very Much

Murphy's Law states that "Everything that can go wrong will go wrong."

Tom's corollary to Murphy's Law states that "You'll probably be dress inappropriately when it does...."

Like when my tire blew out last weekend and I was wearing my very nice shirt and tie and was on my way to church and had to crawl under the truck and fish around a mud-encrusted spare to figure out how to lower it so I could change the tire.

Like the time my brother and I dug a friend named Steve D. out of the mud when he slid his car across an intersection and draped the front wheels over the edge of a curb and the wheels sank axle deep into a mudhole. Donny and I were wearing old jeans and t-shirts. The reason I say I was dressed inappropriately was that Steve was wearing a suit, so, of course he couldn't get down in the mud to dig himself out so that his Mom wouldn't find out and take away his driving privileges for the next 20 years. So guess who wound up down in the mudhole in a cold drizzling rain?

That's right, the King Boys to the rescue! We walked home afterward by the way. We were too dirty to ride in his Mom's newly liberated car!!! Didn't want to explain the dirt to his Mom.

Later his mom took an irrational dislike to me and told someone I was, "of the devil". She tried to hide my future wife from me, but I drove 500 miles through a howling hurricane to marry the woman - though I had to shave my beard off to get into the place where they'd hid her.

Oh, well. Life has been nothing, if not, character building. If you love God and are "called according to his purpose" all things eventually work together for good, but just not right away most of the time.

If you follow Christ, Satan will really come to hate you and throw all kind of nasty things at you. Ask Job if you don't believe me. I've done the "ash pile with a potsherd" thing and it's not a real load of fun.

But when all is said and done, I still agree with Job. "Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him." Actually, being slain would likely prove quite restful....

As we watch this scary old world roll down to its final chapter, there are plenty of frightening things going on. Lots of bad people doing bad things out there.

But when all is said and done, if we are clothed with the salvation of Christ, we don't need to worry about Tom's corollary to Murphy's Law. We know we'll have our wardrobe right.

I'm just sayin'


Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Day Care Blues

Trout Fishing in America is one of my favorite groups. As a survivor of more than a decade in day care and child care, I really get this song....

Friday, June 20, 2008


Well, I'll be a webmaster if we get the project funded. Sounds a little sinister. "I AM THE WEBMASTER!" Actually, if we do it right, it'll be more like the web herder or the web coaxer. A bunch of us nonprofit types have come up with an idea for an on-line social/professional network for people like us in faith and community based organizations so we can get together on our computers to plot and plan how to take over the world.

Ultimately, that's what we'd like to do - in a good way of course. Sadly, though we all want pretty much the same thing, the disagreements over how we get those things can get pretty violent. I heard a talk show host disagree with the idea that we want the same things. He says people on the left want power!!

He's half right. The leaders on the left do want power any way they can get it, anyhow they can hang on to it. The problem is, there are just as many people on the right who only want power too! They all seem to fall to corruption one by one....
I've long believed that the rank and file folks could get along fine if we could just ditch our leaders. We could hold a lottery or something to pick new ones. It should be somebody who doesn't want to be in charge. Somebody smart and talented and stable who isn't crazy or vain enough to want to run for public office.

It's that separate elite group - people who have made themselves our leaders that's the problem. They lust for power and will do anything to get it.
"What are we going to do tonight, Brain?"
"The same thing we do every night, Pinky. We're going to try and take over the world!"
Like Brain, our leaders set their followers out to do the dirty work. These guys know full well they are using their followers to tear our country apart. They don't care. It's a big old game to these guys. They play the game every day in the halls of power and then they gather for steak and lobster dinners in the Senate restaurants at night to drink and congratulate themselves on having made fools of us all.

My friend the talk show host is wrong. I used to watch the Pinky and the Brain cartoons a lot when my kids were little. Pinky never had a clue, he just went along with Brain wherever he went. Most of us are far too much like Pinky. We mean well, but the Brains of this world feed us with platitudes and rhetoric, convince us to follow them and then reap the rewards of our labor - either by taxing it out of us or through fees or surcharges or any one of a thousand ways our leaders have of living off the sweat of all of our backs - rich, poor, liberal or conservative.

The best way I've ever found to get anything worthwhile done is to get folks together without the politicians and their lackeys and just do it. That's what the new Virtual Village Website is about. I hope once we get it up, that many of you will join us in this nifty experiment in Internet-based collaboration.

The politicians are going to hate it. People banding together to make their communities better without the permission of the powers that be! What a wonderful and terrifying thing that could be.

I'm just sayin'


Monday, June 09, 2008

Sustainable Defensible Pocket Neighborhoods

My neighbor is an architect with a dream. The idea that has captured his imagination is to design and create small neighborhoods for seniors and folks with disabilities consisting of about a dozen resident owned cottages with shared green spaces, community gardens and connected to a commons area. One of the amenities included in these pocket neighborhoods is a caretaker couple who help residents access the support services they need to live independently.

Call it assisted living light! The idea is to utilize architectural and community design principles that have been shown to promote security, social interaction and safety for residents.

I love the concept which harks back to the little villages and small rural towns that once dotted the Wild West and the less secure societies of the Old World of centuries gone. The village idea has been researched by architects and planners like Oscar Newman as he tried to determine why some public and affordable housing communities thrive and why some are an unmitigated disaster.

The answer he found was in keeping neighborhoods small and relatively self-contained. In communities where 150 families lived off of a long empty hall, the way home from work and school soon becomes a dangerous no-man's land. In communities where a few families share a courtyard or landing, the areas remain well cared for and safe, often despite horrendous crime rates in the surrounding town.

Newman cites several key principles to creating what he calls "defensible neighborhoods". He primarily stresses small cul-de-sac configurations that discourage internal traffic and through traffic. With a dozen neighbors sharing a commons space with each cottage having easy access, front porches fronting on the commons and shared spaces, the very design encourages interaction with your neighbors. Twelve families soon know everyone in the neighborhood and trouble sticks out like a sore thumb when it comes calling. If someone is in trouble, there are folks close by that care about you who can come to your aid. At the very least, your neighbors will more likely call 911 if they see smoke coming out of the eaves of your house.

These communities also feature connections like walkways and cart paths to nearby stores, parks and transportation links. With support services and full accessibility, such communities would be an ideal alternative to nursing homes and assisted living facilities, especially for folks who do not wish to surrender their independence. The pocket community concept creates a supportive community without the regimentation that goes with a "facility".

Besides, these neighborhoods will look like neighborhoods, just more compact with common areas that are pretty, well-kept and which encourage neighbors to lean on the fence and have a conversation or to go for a stroll of an evening and say, "Hi" to the neighbors. For seniors, an active social life has been show to help prevent health problems, mental deterioration and even financial difficulties.

A couple of posts back, I wrote an entry critical of some of the "sustainable communities" folks and my concerns have not changed. The sustainable communities activists often assume a broad level of community planning, government supervision and, what I believe, will be burdensome regulation. The pocket neighborhoods concept, however, allows for small communities (as few as 12 or so families) to create neighborhoods with a high quality of life, full accessibility, high security factors AND supports that provide a greater level of independence for neighbors who are aging or have disabilities.

The concept my architect friend advocates, takes the best points of this innovative community design movement and reduces it to a size that is manageable by developers, small towns and property owners and eliminates the need for enormous government to make it happen. Pocket neighborhoods like this will be attractive for small groups of seniors looking to reduce the cost and physical demands of maintaining a home.

Green construction and energy efficient technology make sense for these kinds of neighborhoods too, especially if seniors with relatively fixed incomes make up the bulk of the community. AND this type of sustainable community is grown and spread using sound free market forces, creating work and business for local communities. As the style of community becomes more popular, consumer demand will lead to the same type of changes proposed by sustainable community advocates without the pernicious effects of using a socialist club to force such changes.

I'm sold on this approach and hope Jay and I can put it all together. I think it's an idea whose time has come. I wouldn't mind buying one of these houses myself. I'd like to live in a neighborhood where Sheila and I were the "young couple".

I'm just sayin'


Thursday, June 05, 2008

Verizon Buys Alltel - Wonder what will happen to Chad...

Verizon Wireless reported this morning that it’s buying thorn-in-the side competitor, Alltel for almost 28 billion dollars.

In a way, I’m disappointed, because I was really kind of enjoying the My Circle commercial series. I had noticed, however, that the Verizon guy in the commercials hadn’t been quite as vocal of late, kinda sliding to the back of the group and keeping a low profile, where once he was a leader of the sales guy group.

What’s next? Do Chad & the Verizon dweeb join forces? Maybe the wizard will wave his wand and make the Verizon guy “cool”. Or maybe the Verizon guy bites Chad on the neck and sucks out all his blood and becomes like “Super Chad” or something.

I don’t know, but it’s a shame the series is going the way of the Geico Caveman. Oooh, oooh, that’s it. Sitcom! You do a series about these cell phone sales guys who hang out in this guy's basement “mancave” and Chad, their super cool nemesis…

Couldn’t be any worse than the caveman series! Since the TV writer's strike wiped out anything original till sometime in July, I'm really getting desperate for something besides reality and game shows to watch.

I''m just sayin'

Tom King

Monday, June 02, 2008

Old Dogs and Alpha Males

I love beagles. We had one for 13 years. Sweetest animal ever. Beagles are pack dogs and if they think you are in the pack, they are devoted to you. As far as Suzy was concerned, I was the alpha male in the pack. She was the only creature in my particular pack, however, that saw things quite that way. It's probably why I was so fond of her.
She always met me at the fence with a big old goofy grin on her face. It was nice to always have one living being in the house that was glad to see me. The whole family took it hard when she died, me probably most of all. I held her head in my hands as she died and wept.

The day she died I lost my alpha male status!!!

When I was a kid we had an ugly little mutt named Pudgy that was definitely of the lone wolf persuasion. She pumped out puppies like a factory and loved to start fights among the packs of male dogs that roamed the neighborhood. She had no loyalties to anyone except a temporary one to whoever brought out her food bowl.

With Pudgy, I was always having to work to win her respect. The day she died, I was with her too. I cried then. Not for the alpha male status I lost, but for the alpha male status I never had with her.

Finally, there was Shags, an ugly brown mix between a poodle and a duckbill platypus. This dog had dreadlocks. A neighbor once asked me if I was ever going to pick up that pile of old rags out of the yard - it was Shags in his favorite sleeping place. Shags wasn't the alpha male either. Pudgy wouldn't give him the time of day. When he finally died of old age, I sat with him all day long as he drifted away and cried my eyes out. Neither of us were alpha males, but Shags was the only dog that ever was able to share that with me.

I'm just sayin'


Sustainable Communities - Comfortable Ant Hills

Relying heavily on designs inspired by anthills and termite mounds, the modern sustainable communities movement calls for a radical restructuring of the American Dream Home. The Sustainable Communities folks call for smaller, more energy efficient cities with jobs and services placed closed to large apartment like complexes. The single family home will go the way of the dinosaur and nature will fill in all the new open spaces left when everyone moves into these human hives.

This concept for the future makes several assumptions that I think make some of their ideas untenable as a practical policy for the future of our nation.

1. This model assumes a pretty thoroughly socialist political system in order to work. Residents of these communal cities will inevitably give up many of their rights and freedoms that they now take for granted. You won't be able to go where you want, when you want. The proximity of neighbors limit what you can do on your own property, if you, in fact, own your own property in the first place. Public ownership of all property seems to be embedded in the sustainable communities concept.

- I don't think socialism will ever be acceptable to a significant portion of Americans. The right to independent movement, the right to property, the right to make decisions about how and where you live and what your home looks like is precious to a lot of us. I don't expect many will be willing to give that liberty up on the notion that we'll be saving the planet.

2. This model assumes that technology will not catch up with demands in key areas like power and transportation sufficiently to allow independent movement and that society must inevitably move in the direction of mass transit.

- Technology is expanding geometrically. It doubles every ten years or so in this fashion 1 > 2 > 4 > 8 > 16 > 32 > 64 . At the current rate, technology will seem magical within a very short time. We can adapt to what we have or we can innovate till we have what we want. The question is, "What will be best for humankind as a whole?" The lesson of history is that hive cities don't work out very well on the whole. They tend to violence, human sacrifice and citizen on citizen aggression.

3. This model assumes that placing everybody in close-packed utopias will result in peace and safety and free us from dependence on cars and trucks thanks to a well-managed universal public transit system.

- The problem with staking everything on short walks and subways is that mass transit leaves us terribly vulnerable to terrorism in a way that is unacceptable to many Americans. Our lifestyle and success has earned us many enemies among poorer nations, not because the ordinary people believe we are robbing from them, but because their dismal leadership must needs make us the villains to draw attention from the fact that their own tyranny and mismanagement has led to the appalling conditions in their own countries. Unless governments worldwide suddenly renounce tyranny and embrace capitalism, I don't see much chance of that changing anytime soon. Therefore terrorism will increase and it always seems that the best place to set off a bomb is on a bus or subway. I figure they can't get as many of us at a time if we're each alone in our cars.

3. The model assumes a growing paucity of resources for power.

- While it is true that resources can be depleted, there are obvious alternatives available out there that are infinitely renewable and I see no reason for pessimism. The man who finds a cheap and reliable energy source will be a millionaire. The oil companies can only hang on to their dominance in energy so long as they provide cheap energy. They can't do that any longer and unless they find another kind of energy, they aren't going to remain on the top of the heap much longer. It may be that something else is already on the horizon and that that is why they aren't interested in drilling and building new refineries. Maybe they know something we don't know.

4. The model assumes that rising energy costs will drive us to bunch up and submit to "planning" by a powerful central government run by really smart people. They've even gone so far as to deliberately drive up costs to force people to use public transit or cut auto use.

- In doing so, they threaten to collapse our economy in the name of a theory that at best has limited evidence that it's a good model for human cultures. Human nature is what it is. Our society's most innovative and productive citizens also tend to be independent and freedom loving. If you naturally select a society for members that are docile, non-threatening and accepting of authority, you inevitably reduce productivity, innovation and drive to excel or you drive your best people elsewhere and they take their talent for problem-solving with them. My suspicion is that they'll move off planet if Jesus doesn't come soon.

Don't get me wrong, I think there's a place for such communities and some people will fit nicely within them. At the same time, there's also a place for folks who want to live amongst the woods and lakes and we have the ability to make that an environmentally rational choice as well. There is no one-size-fits-all solution for mankind's problems.

Human socio-political systems never work well when powerful individuals and groups exercise absolute or near absolute control - not in governments, not in churches, not in cultures. You can't simplify a society through rigid rules and ubiquitous public planning enough that planners and rulers can effectively control a society. You create an illusion of safety and security, but not the thing itself.

As you remove personal liberty and personal responsibility and replace it with group think and group action, you sew discontent in the populace and set your society up for disaster. Human eco-systems work best when decentralized and a high level of personal liberty granted and a high level of personal responsibility expected.

You can still do innovative work on eco-friendly communities and sustainable communities, but just lets not get carried away and try to legislate them into existence. Good ideas are always sellable if the marketplace is free and available to all.

That said, however, I think we're headed for big trouble in the next election, I'm here to tell you.

Just one man's opinion....

Tom King