remain calm

I get a choice every time I have to open my mouth: that it can be with civility and dignity and grace – or not.

Dan Perino, https://www.brainyquote.com

Civility. Remaining calm, cool and collected, my father said, when you are feeling frustrated, can help you work with difficult people, a difficult situation, or when timeliness is a factor. It is a casualty of the modern world. Often, we can be frustrated by bureaucracy made doubly difficult with technology. And often, particularly among those my age and older, talking to a “live person” trumps all the automated menu selections, voice mail, email, and FAQ website responses.

For multiple reasons in the past couple months, I have had opportunities to “lose it”. As a self-employed business person, I have performed work over multiple days per month, and multiple months without receiving contractually-promised payment for service. We have had to make inquiries via email and telephone, and have gotten ambiguous, “things are somewhat behind” responses from administrative personnel. This is becoming an issue I may need to be civil, as in litigation, to resolve.

Personally, I am also somewhat frustrated by a pension that is months behind schedule. I retired from the military as a Reservist, and waited nearly ten years to receive the promised pension when I turned sixty years old. First, was the requirement, to request payment, along with various documents I needed to submit to the Government nearly eight months in advance. And then months past the promised start of the pension, to wait till my online account indicated it recognized me as a “retiree” — but without indicating whether payment would be forthcoming. I am remaining calm but it is work.

18 A hot-tempered person stirs up conflict,

    but the one who is patient calms a quarrel.

Proverbs 15: 18 (NIV)

And then there was the change in health insurance, from an employer plan to a federally-subsidized and managed Tri-care plan. The former was really quite exceptional, but the new plan has had some ‘bumps’, one involving an authorization for a prescription I have been using for 20 years. (As I determined by a telephone conversation with a live representative today, the responsibility was on the physician’s office to correctly authorize it.)

Basically, with each interaction I have had with an individual, when the ‘aggrieved party’ (me) recognizes the humanity of all parties concerned, things go better. (A computer database is only as good as the person entering the data.) As long as I treat people (operators, assistants, customer service representatives, and doctors) politely, but resolutely, everything works out – eventually.

And when possible, get people you interact with laughing or at least smiling. I had to include this ancient clip from one of my all-time favorite movies, Animal House. When everything is going nuts, here’s the one guy trying to help other remain calm.

A day at the zoo

feeding the tykes at the Zoo

My grandson is too young to appreciate the zoo. But I think the time spent at the San Diego Zoo, was decidedly beneficial for our son and his wife, to get a little time to themselves, and for Gramma (and Grampa) to have time with the little one.

Tasmanian Devil

A toddler, now in his third month of real mobility, enjoys hustling around out of the stroller. Under the watchful eyes of grandparent a half-step behind, of course. Fortified with cereal ‘puffs’, he finds plant fronds and shredded bark satisfy -for a time- his need to be touching everything.

Maybe in a couple months he will find the animals fascinating. With the petting zoo under construction for the next 18 months, we may check out other sights around San Diego. But all of us will be back soon. While I enjoy being out and about on weekends with the grandson, we now have annual passes to the Zoo. And for Grampa’s exercise plan, there’s nothing like pushing a toddler in a stroller from the far end of the park, up the long hill to the Zoo entrance.

African Eland

a sea-dog’s mystical signs in chicken, bones, and Internet

Photo by Bezalel Thilojan on Pexels.com

“Why do chickens cross the road?” Yesterday, I encountered 3 of them doing exactly that on my early morning dog walk. And that evening, at our church men’s fellowship, I found we were eating chicken wings together before our devotional meeting.

After our dog- walk this morning, I had the urge to check the Navy pay system website, “Mypay” again for any sign that my pension was being processed. For the last couple months, I have been “retirement pay” eligible but have not been showing up in the online system. Of course, I am not superstitious, and don’t search entrails, bones, nor “signs”, but I did send a few prayers heavenward to ask whether I was rash in becoming “retired”.

I don’t know whether the prayers, or chicken had anything to do with it, but after the morning walk today, the website welcomed me with a “Retiree Pay” banner. No indication of payment, yet, but perhaps I might “roll” some chicken bones tonight. In my time in the Navy, my fellow Chief Petty Officers and I used to joke that we consulted the ‘rolling bones’ to help in our decision-making.

On my way home tonight, my spouse informed me we’re having baked chicken for dinner. Perhaps, once I get my retirement backpay, I should get those ancient sailor tattoos after all.

drowning protection, image credit, tattoodo.com

the club

Please accept my resignation. I don’t care to belong to any club that will have me as a member.

Groucho Marx

I am pretty fortunate to live in my neighborhood. We may have different ideas about American priorities in foreign relations, policies, or social issues and can respectfully disagree without hating one another. We still hold to the principles that America is a pretty good country and its system of governing.

Many here are military veterans, and others are on Active Duty or have kids that serve or served in the military. Retired and working Union members, carpenters, welders, businessmen and teachers. Here you are likely to see far more “Trump”, “Don’t Tread on Me” and American flags visible than “Coexistence” bumper stickers. But it doesn’t mean “white nationalism”, racism, or bigotry lives here, but it identifies a multi-cultural, (immigrant and native-born), multi-ethnic neighborhood, that respects certain values and rejects much of the change politicians have brought about. Here is a pretty safe neighborhood compared to a half-mile farther south where the incorporated city begins. (Lighted municipal signs there warn residents to lock their vehicles and not keep valuables in view, though politicians brand it a “sanctuary” community.)

All our children grew up with kids coming from other parts of the county to join in Trick or Treating (Halloween). Ours made some pocket change selling hot chocolate to visitors enjoying our “Christmas Lane” lights. Boys played together while grownups held “Survivor” television night parties. All supported school athletics and Little League. We still buy candy bars from the high school student athletes going door-to-door. We chat with the postal carrier and garbage truck driver. Neighbors share tools and trash cans, bring vegetables and fruit from our gardens, watch out for each other, and may enjoy a beer and a football watch party together now and again.

Welcome to the neighborhood.

taps

Photo by Sharefaith on Pexels.com

An Army veteran and great-grandfather, Rudy was buried Monday. This nonagenarian was full of life and wisdom up until he died, and it was evident in all those who shared his impact in their lives. After an Army enlistment, he spent a career in industry. And his interests were just as varied as his life: step-father and father, an artist and sculptor, avid tennis player and golfer. Asked for advice at various times he would tell stories guiding the person asking to decide the answer for herself.

At the graveside for the rendering of military honors, an Army bugler played “Taps. The most memorable scene most in attendance missed, was noted by a child’s grandmother during the playing of “Taps”. His 14-month old great-grandson had been squirming, smiling, and making “mam…mam” noises for most of the preceding service. But the little boy became still in his mother’s arms, and cried silently as the bugler played.

‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”

Revelation 21:4

a military retiree’s take on universal healthcare

Three types of people want universal healthcare. Military retirees who want what was promised them when they shed – or risked shedding blood for their country. Those who have chronic health conditions and cannot afford medical care. And those who cannot – or do not want to – pay for moderately-expensive but poor coverage insurance; or low premium insurance, with large co-pays and high deductibles; or the high-premium, low-deductible health insurance. With universal health care, residents and businesses that employ those residents, will pay much higher corporate, income and sales taxes to fund it. When working adults are fewer than the number receiving healthcare, there are obvious funding problems. In America, we are already tens of trillions of dollars in debt for past spending. And yet, when we have a crisis, we look to Government to solve it.

Bureaucrats who cannot solve a decades-old traffic snarl at a particular municipal intersection, are not able to fix a calamity that is Government-provided health care in America. Democrats blame Republicans. Socialists blame capitalists. Republicans blame Democrats. Capitalists believe the “market” will solve everything. In the middle? Military retirees, the homeless, indigent, elderly, non-citizens, and particularly, the large population of Baby Boomers. It is particularly vexing in this nation that a number of residents still working in their 70s, may need to continue, to afford living into their 80s and 90s. Others, for whom current healthcare programs should cover, elderly pensioners with chronic health conditions, will exhaust their savings waiting for aid. Many find either their pension barely covers their living expenses or daily medical care – but not both.

As it has been for decades, once the elderly can no longer manage their own care, or overwhelmed family members are unable to care for a chronically-ill relative at home, a nursing home is the available alternative. But at what cost? Affordable care does not necessarily mean poor, but the Government publishes criteria for family members and advocates to evaluate potential nursing facilities for a patient. Even with Government-funded nursing facilities (Federal (VA) and State-run), access (admissions) and then quality of the facility and staff warrant constant oversight. Like the recent scandals with the Veterans Administration hospitals (wait-listed veterans being dropped or errors in mental health evaluations), lapses in care, and bureaucratic mismanagement might well surpass the life expectancy of the patient.

If universal healthcare is eventually adopted in this country, family members and advocacy groups will need to develop political clout, to monitor doctors, clinics, hospitals and nursing facilities continually. And when funding or staffing crises develop, let us hope for more people working on solutions than looking to fix blame.

the fax about business

Entering the military communications security world in the late 1970s, I was told that the “paperless” revolution was upon us. Forty years later, paper is still central to many bureaucracies and the legal system. Though communication systems have been modernized, technology that is older than most working adults is still being used in education and by Government agencies.

Fax machines were developed to convert documents and images for transmission over telephone lines around the globe. While Internet data rates now approach the hundreds of Gigabits (billions of bits) per second, a fax generally transmits a document at 33 thousand bits per second. A single sheet may take thirty seconds to reach its destination once a link is established. When a hundred or more documents must be transmitted back and forth over the course of several hours, poor connections or errors requiring re-transmission, cause a significant impact on an otherwise efficient work day.

One of the reasons fax machines have endured as long as they have, is that digital “signatures” validating the sender of legal documents via the Internet, have not been reliably secure until very recently. Other than representation of a personal signature on legal documents, it is also excellent for imaging pencil marks. To expedite processing volumes of similar information, a 19th Century technology, Optical Mark Recognition (OMR), was adapted and patented by Scantron. Typical uses for such forms are in Federal student aid, voting booths, at the DMV and so forth. Most schools, universities, government entities and testing centers continue to use “scantrons” as a fairly cheap method to administer multiple-choice tests thousands of times per day. A common No. 2 soft-lead wooden pencil, an answer sheet with ovals or squares and a fax machine line to the test clearinghouse, is technology not soon going away.

Owning a niche business which serves test-takers, the expectation is for the fax transmission of tests and reception of pass/fail reports goes smoothly. Sometimes, any number of issues can stall progress. Telephone line quality, an issue with the equipment or line at either end, or an overwhelming volume of calls being processed by the host computer (the test processing center) create a negative perception among test takers. When customers are accustomed to receiving information at the speed of present-day Internet and wireless communications, managing expectations among clients is the key to a successful day. It also is important to earning additional business from the schools whose graduates are the clients being served. When students are satisfied with the test processing, they may recommend more peers to their school. And in turn, the school may feel their students are being properly and efficiently taken care of. Which in turn creates more entrepreneurial opportunity.

As for the testing centers that process all these results? Adoption and fielding of new technology, like the example of the “paperless” world, is a long, long, long process.