The Waif Next Door: Johann

If you took a full body view of Johann, he had the look of a typical, brown dachshund. His ears did not fold over as a dachshund’s should. They had a ludicrous, erectile look like a jack rabbit. Maybe you could see a little of the mini-doberman in him, but more likely just the hare. His very front teeth were crooked. In general he was an asymmetrical oddity. I settled on Patagonian rat catcher as the brand name for this chance-bred animal.

From the neighbor’s yard, he’d see my wife or me playing with our pet and wanted to join us; and when the neighbors went away for awhile, we used to bring him into our yard to play with Henry, our own mixed breed. When play was done and he had grown sleepy, I lifted him back over the fence and filled his water bowl which our neighbors rarely did. It was hot in Kansas that summer and he constantly upset his water dish, jumping around, spilling it, excited to go next door. His visits were regular to our yard as the neighbors were gone a lot. When they were home they were gone a lot, too — even the kids ignored him. We thought we were acting in secret, but they might have known of their dog’s house calls.

One day he’d been short-chained in a little out building. As usual he’d jumped around and spilled his water bowl. He was just lying there, depressed, his feces lying about. I waited until the neighbors left that day. They always left at least once a day. I released the dog onto our free range. Then I went back and cleaned up the feces. Later, when the neighbors got back, they saw their dog in our yard and said nothing, not even a nod, a smile or a thank you. They weren’t even irritated that we could tell. The next day I saw the mother in the yard. “Do you like your pup?” I asked.

“Don’t care one way or the other,” she said. She looked as though she didn’t care about anything.

“You know, he wants to play with our Henry. Do you mind if we have him over every now and then. Henry can use the exercise and they’re getting used to each other. We don’t mind.”

“Help yourself to him then.”

So I did and the pup spent more and more time with us, even when his owners were home. I cannot recall seeing the neighbor kids play with him, nor did I hear kind words, silly words, affectionate words ever spoken to the animal. No one ever took the dog for a walk. Eventually I caught the neighbor lady outside one Saturday and I said, “Would you like to give up the dog completely?”

“I’ll check with the kids. I don’t care. It was the kids who named him “Nuisance,” you know.”

The kids didn’t care so I lifted the dog permanently into our yard, our care and our lives. It wasn’t hard to change his name. He took to “Johann.” We bathed him right off and got his shots two days later. We never saw Johann look back through the neighbor’s fence or wag his tail when he saw them come and go. Johann never looked back.  He became a tough,  crusty, old urchin and lived to nineteen.

Steadfast and cautious,

David Milliken

 

 

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Tortoise Patience a Virtue in Cyber World

The cyber world teaches the virtue of tortoise-like patience.  I’ve been slowly learning the intricacies of WordPress.  As I go along I have had to learn how to click around intelligently in Google and Facebook.

I seem to have encountered one learning curve after the other.  For example, Google has this neat gimmick called Google Analytics.  Attached to one’s blog site, it can measure all sorts of useful data.  It operated well until suddenly I could only use it upstairs on my old laptop.  I fussed, fumed and fired off questions to Google’s support forum in search of help.  I did the same thing with WordPress.  Per usual no one answered and I would rather die than pay someone — that’s how cheap freeware and open sources  have made me.  Have you noticed how upset people get when there’s little to no service for a gift given?  Maybe it’s the same as complaining about life.

So, I decided to do other things like read a poem.  Somehow a week later it dawned on me that Google uses email addresses to distinguish accounts.  I have several gmail accounts.  My two computers were signed into two different ones.  So, on the PC down in the cellar I signed into the same email account as I was using upstairs.  Voilà!  The thing worked!

In another instance, this time in WordPress, I could not make the daily statistic page appear.  So I went the same route of sending help messages out to the cyber-god.  And again, cyber-god remained silent.  Every other solution required tampering with what’s called hypertext editing. For me that would be like editing Sanskrit. I might as well just put my computer on the curb. “Truce,” I said, “I’m going to ignore this and forget the damn daily statistic.”  A week later the beast fixed itself.   I suppose somebody somewhere in the celestial sphere reloaded something.

It took me a week to find the solution or perhaps receive the grace that helped.  All it cost me was inconvenience.  So, I must resolve to let my natural tortoise-like virtue take charge.  Be patient.  Patience pays.

Steadfast and cautious,

David Milliken

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Taxpayer Subsidy & Jobs

Have you ever wondered how well we’re doing?  Well, there’s an interesting report(12/11/11) by Good Jobs First.  The survey reports on 238 programs amounting to $11 billion in public subsidy. Twenty of them report no dollar amount.  These programs include tax credits, capital investment, research and development, grants, low-cost or forgiveable loans, enterprise zones and worker training.  Of the total 222 require performance measures; only 135 relate to job creation.   The cost of programs not requiring job creation is $7 billion.  Fewer than half impose wage requirements.  Average hourly wage comes to $14.76.

Programs without wage requirement receive $8 billion in public support.  This is important because these jobs can require the social safety net, such as food stamps, to supplement worker income.  Only 51 require health coverage and 31 of these require employer participation.

Top states are Nevada, North Carolina, Vermont, Iowa, Maryland and Oklahoma.  Twenty-three(23) states fall below 40, the average score.  The report ranks all the states, offers finer points and makes policy recommendations.

Please click on the link above for the whole report.

David Milliken

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Election 2012: Plain Dealing & Honesty on My Mind

I must say that the best name for me is “Republicrat.”  At least we’re not likely to see Tweedle Dee versus Tweedle Dum this election, and as always I will vote.  Frankly I don’t know what I am any more.  The right war before Iraq was in Afghanistan.  I hope to God we don’t have to bomb, bomb, bomb Iran.  If we do, it must be an allied effort; though we and NATO can’t afford it.  Too bad we blew all those resources, human and financial, in Iraq.  An expensive war in Iran will destroy what’s left of the West, I fear.  We’re tired of war; well, some of us are.

Obama dropped the ball and a lot of statesmanship when he didn’t take up the Simpson-Bowles report.  I haven’t the faintest idea where Romney lives, really; but his Freudian slips tell me what he’s missing.  You know, he’s been unemployed, too.  His income from speeches c9uld have been better. Tch, tch.

But it’s Newt I’m after today.  He sent me into  a little research on Saul Alinsky.  Alinsky was a devout Jew until he became an atheist. Alinsky was a radical like Thomas Paine with a difference.  And both men had their right and freedom to be radical. My reading finds Alinsky associated with the likes of Jane Addams of Hull House and something called “sympathetic knowledge.”  Yes, they were community organizers.  I recall her from sixth grade history.  She was much revered and actually so was Alinsky.  True, he was called a Marxist and a Communist, but then so was Martin Luther King.  Alinsky came from the era of Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle.  It was the Chicago of child labor, slums and general working class poverty — a brutal age.  Both Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton were students of Alinsky.  I do not believe Hillary or Barack are socialists, communists or anything else subversive.

When Newt says Obama wants to re-shape the nation in a way the Framers had never conceived of, I think its more a matter of being aware that the Framers did not know the Great Depression, the Robber Barons, nuclear warfare and catastrophic health care costs. Nothing to be afraid of Newt, it’s just a different world that we in our time must deal with using “sympathetic knowledge” of  the countless ones without a lobby.  We don’t need to forsake the Constitution, but it must work in our world.

I know what Newt is up to — distorting history, implying this and that kind of bogey man.  As an historian, he knows better, but because he is an historian that also makes him effective and guilty of  malpractice.  It’s the old, predictable Newt.

What I wouldn’t give for honesty in Election 2012.

Steadfast and cautious,

David Milliken

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Blogging, a Beginner’s First Year in Open Source Land

I really enjoy blogging, but because I am a writer, not a techy.  After a relatively easy start  with WordPress and GoDaddy, for a long time I was unsure of what “self-hosting” means.  My software lies off in Tempe, Arizona (I think) while I reside  in Kansas with Toto. I was also confused whether to use the support base on WordPress.org or on WordPress.com.  Even the support volunteers get confused.  One person told me I was a “dotcom WordPresser” and not a “dotorg” kind of guy.  (I had specifically avoided the dotorg status, because I was scared of it.)  Surprise, surprise, I had stumbled into Dotorg World without knowing it. I discovered that I did not have the limitations of a WordPress. com blogger.  All kinds of self-inflicted mischief lay at my call. So I dived into Part III of WordPress for Dummies.  I bought WordPress Bible which is still well beyond me.  I am “in the cloud” in more than one way.

I’ve learned that I will go broke, if I keep saying yes to “Oh, it’s only forty-five bucks a year for this widget and that widget.  So, at the moment my best backups are my blog copy.  If the thing goes kerplop, I’m up Digital Creek.  I’ve been to a WordPress Meet Up, but those folks intimidate the hell out of me.  In the meantime I read as much as I can, but the jargon often defies understanding.  The techy types never quite understand how little I know, so they talk above me without knowing it.  There’s something to be said for good pedagogy. The nice man at GoDaddy spoke English.  God loves an empathetic support person.

As for the vaunted virtues of open source software, God, there aren’t enough dummy books to help this guy — at least quickly.  As I discovered with Sun’s abandoned version of MS Office, called Open Office, Open Source Land is a lonely, lonely place.  However, I am making progress. I haven’t used MS Office for months.  Now you see why my blog is so appropriately named the tortoisefactor.com.

Luckily I started plummeting cyberspace with my own mental droppings very quickly. There have been a few book reviews, personal reflections (especially about career) and other topics on which I have a modicum of knowledge.  Political blogs receive the least interest, perhaps because of the plethora elsewhere.

As for you, my sometime readers, I don’t know who you are, but I  know your statistical behavior.  I know your state or country and am intrigued by the hits from the UK, Ghana and the Philippines. I have respectable numbers of new visitors, but the “bounce rate” could be better. (The bounce rate in most endeavors could be better, too. ) That particular statistic tells me the percentage of folks who drop by my site and then bounce off, probably to a sexier, site.  But I do think there are signs of some loyalty to www.thetortoisefactor.com.

Too many comments wind up in SPAM, though.  They are usually very polite, ungrammatical robotic (if not illiterate), messages that sell something.  Some would like to give a cookie to my machine.

As for blogging — sheer fun, addictive like Facebook.  Finding an audience here in cyperspace has proved as challenging as the same effort in the analog world of literary agents and publishers.  It’s a jungle.

Comments from humans are not only sought, but fervently sought. We’re all open source here.

Steadfast and cautious,

David Milliken

 

 

I started plummeting cyberspace with my wisdom and insights very quickly.

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The Suzuki and the Mercedes, a Fable

On a cold, winter evening a Mercedes with big, blue, Hollywood, halogen eyes pulled up behind a ’97 Suzuki X-90.  The little red Suzuki might have fit into the Mercedes’ trunk.  The street was busy at rush hour on a Friday and the light was red.  After the light changed, Mercedes in a big hurry tried and tried to pass on the two-lane street, but failed.

At the next street Mercedes still had not managed to pass when Suzuki signaled to go left and began waiting for her break between oncoming cars. She waited and she waited. Eventually Mercedes, impatient, turned right.  Suzuki finally got her chance, let out her clutch and the little red car leaped across the lane.  Suzuki thought, “I’ll bet I’ll meet that dude again.  Let’s see whose behind then.”

Sure it was, at the next street, an even busier one, Suzuki came to a stop then turned right and just as she thought would happen, from behind she saw the devastating Hollywood halogen eyes, blue and intense, eyes that diminished everyone but her own kind.  This street, too, was narrow, busy and congested.  As she thought, just up the road,  Suzuki turned finally onto the parkway, Mercedes’ destination as well.  Now on the four-lane boulevard, Mercedes came up from behind and finally sped past Suzuki.

The moral of this story is that the fable of the tortoise and hare is true  and cleverly going around the block rarely wins the race.

Steadfast and cautious,

David Milliken

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Charles Darwin’s ‘extinct’ tortoise is found alive after 150 years | Mail Online

A giant tortoise which helped shape Darwin’s ideas about evolution and was thought to have been extinct for 150 years may be living a secret life in the Galapagos Islands.  More . . .

via Charles Darwin’s ‘extinct’ tortoise is found alive after 150 years | Mail Online.

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Social Darwinism, Alive and Well in Election 2012

The Tortoise in his plodding way set out to understand liberalism and laissez faire. But Tortoise, slow and steady, steadfast and cautious, got very angry when he read that “In nature, survival of the fittest is the rule [at least according to Herbert Spencer, 1802-1903 in The Gospel of Social Darwinism]. Well, this he could accept, but he could not tolerate that “the weak and the effete make way for the strong and the swift.” That was it for Tortoise who knows a lot about survival, the strong and the swift. “Why,” he asked, ”do the strong and the swift have any better claim in the pursuit of happiness than the slow and the steady, the prudent and the deliberate? What’s the big deal about muscles and speed, especially if most of them are on steroids?  Does everyone have to win a frickin’ bowl game to be worth a damn? Why with some luck a tortoise can live 100 years!”

Tortoise, my friends, is furious. Any way this is what Herbert Spencer thought in the late 19th Century and things haven’t changed much. We all know who’s expendable, don’t we, Mr. Job Creator.

R. Strinivasan has written a superb paper on “Liberalism.”  The article or Position Paper–16, appears at Indian Liberals(Group) in Vol.2.  For those who have ever cared about such things as the evolution of liberalism from the 16th Century to the present, this is a readable article and mercifully short. This matters, friends, this matters. Liberalism isn’t socialism. The article clarifies why today’s American Conservatives are really 19th Century Liberals.

But more important, although the American election is not Strinivasan’s subject, his scholarship provides an historical perspective for the 2012 Debate in the U.S. — currently playing out in our mindless, Media circus. If you want to take the extra time in this paper, you can also appreciate the differences in British, French, German and American liberalism. In each nation the philosophy grew out of the unique experiences of these peoples.  From other reading(Edmund Burke), I know that the French Revolution and Robespierre, for example, gave the French a strong desire for a strong state. Watching that revolution from across the English Channel profoundly affected the British way.

Read this paper and you will understand how much demagoguery inundates us this political season. A plague on all thelr houses!

Here’s one last quote from the paper. Read “Liberal” as “Job Creator:”

Apart from this, there was an unfeeling attitude to the problems of the proletariat. The British economists were impressed by laws which they held to be immutable. Malthus was to argue of the impossibility of improving the lot of the poor – they tend to have an excessive birth rate. The subsistence theory of wages argued that the wage tends to be at a level which would allow the labour to exist and perpetuate itself without increase or decrease of their numbers. Any legislation which would augment the wage of the labour will result in a population increase which would offset the gain and poverty would continue. Also, increase in wages would eat into profits, reduce investment into production, increase unemployment and perpetuate misery. Nassau Senior advocated a view that legislation to shorten the hours of labour would militate against the profits; for profits are made only in the last hour of the working day. If one were to shorten the working hours, it would lead to the closing of the factories and mines. He was dubbed as ‘Last Hour Senior’. The Liberals were described as creating a science for wealth rather than a science of wealth.”

Steadfast and cautious,

for The Tortoise

David Milliken

 

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