December 19th

Profitable non-profits

Here is an excellent story from NPR on a non-profit hospital which is making plenty of profit, yet still sues its poorest patients and charges them 9% interest on what they owe. Non-profits get enormous tax breaks. In exchange, they are supposed to have a service mentality towards the less fortunate. However, the bigger the non-profit, the less likely they show any humanity. One massive non-profit in the eldercare business that I know of is particularly guilty of fleecing their customers. How about a size limit on non-profits? Once a non-profit gets to a certain size, it is likely to lose its sense of mission. 

Torture thine enemies

This makes me sick. 

December 17th

Atlantic City

For many years, the largest working pipe organ in the world was the Wanamaker organ in the Macy's in Philadelphia. Now, thanks to restoration efforts, you must move northeast a few miles to find the largest. The massive pipe organ at Atlantic City, with 30,000 pipes, is also the loudest in the world (due to high wind pressures) in order to fill the massive auditorum with sound. It has been dormant for roughly 70 years. 

Turn up the volume for the quiet first verses of this hymn, then hang on for the last time through. Then consider that only about 30% of the pipes have been restored to use. It will get more impressive, if that is possible. 


At last count, there were about 11 African-Americans living in Northwestern Minnesota. Oddly, the area is also blessed with 3,714 full professors in African-American studies. Educated at Talk Radio University, the profs are pretty sure they know just what the problem is with those black people. If you are interested, they gather for educational seminars in cafes and bars all across the area most every morning and evening. 

Here is a different perspective. I have seen this happen myself on a train. It boggles my mind. And it makes it clear to me: Nobody who hasn't been treated with indignity due to the color of their skin should pontificate about race. My partner Lance is half black. While working at a photo workshop in a supposedly liberal city, he attended a weekly dinner for the new students. In fact, he was in charge of the artist presentation. Yet hardly a week went by where somebody didn't just routinely hand him an empty drink glass, or a plate, assuming he would take care of it. One time and you can get over it. Many times and you start to wonder what these people think of your place in society. 


Every now and then, I run across an article that causes a light bulb to turn on in my brain. This one makes it clear to my why Aunt Olla has always loved mauve and wants to be buried in a mauve casket. 

UPDATE: Thanks to a reader for pointing out the bad link. 

View from my window



Finally! Normalization of relations with Cuba. This is about 30 years too late. Of course, the regime in Cuba is not particularly nice. But openness is the one hope to change it. The only reason we have continued to treat Cuba like a Cold War threat has been the vote of the emigree population in Florida. Because the state is needed to win a presidential election, and because it is always close (remember the election of 2000), no candidate wants to lose the anti-Castro vote. So, no president could normalize relations until a second term. I was hoping this would happened and puzzled that it hadn't already. 



Flew down to Tucson yesterday for one week. Found a new the foothills near Sabino Canyon. Turns out, the second floor apartment is right against the base of the mountains. It is very well vegetated. The person in the apartment below feeds the birds. In just five minutes on the porch, I saw a cardinal, many humming birds, a purple finch, several sparrows, the ubiquitous mourning doves, and an Arizona version of a chipmunk. The weather is in the 50s, so it is unseasonably cold (I didn't bring a jacket) but I will survive!

December 14th

The death of Washington

I wonder: will people eventually look back at medicine today and wonder what we were thinking? George Washington was pretty much murdered by his doctors, who didn't know any better. Medicine has advanced, yet when somebody struggles through chemotherapy, a cure that can bring you to the edge of death, I sometimes wonder how different it is from blood-letting or leeches. 

December 12th

Johnny Wahlin

LIfe-long neighbor Johnny Wahlin (pronounced Wall-EEN) passed away this week. He was 86, which I had never imagined, he stayed so active. He somehow arrived 86 without seeming old. Read the obituary for a list of his post-retirement activities. In short, John devoted the final 21 years of his life to helping others. That despite crippled legs from decades of milking a large diary herd. John was an activist before activism was called activism. At one time, you could find him in the aisles of the grocery store beseeching people not to buy certain brands of milk products, brands whose products he felt were unfairly obtained from the farmer. 

After retiring, John volunteered for an organization which helped farmers in difficulty. He was their counselor. He was unconditional in his concern and caring for every person in every situation. Then he worked in the school as a volunteer. "These kids.." he would say, shaking his head at the rough things they went through at home. 

What a rare attitude. Most people have enough trouble giving unconditional love to their own children. Johnny showed unconditional love to everybody he met.