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Monthly Archives: March 2014

katie at castle hill

Katie, smiling her brilliant smile, while we toured their wedding venue, Castle Hill Cider in Keswick, VA.

My daughter-in-law Katie died January 9 of this year of adrenocortical carcinoma. She was 26, and had been married to my son Josh for just over 15 months. From the time of her diagnosis, she lived another seven months. Katie had lots of friends and family that loved her and miss her now, and they all had a unique and important view of her life, but this is my remembrance. There will 6 or 7 installments, all based on a number of days: how long I knew her, how long she was married to Josh, how long we knew she had cancer, for example – each to try and remember things about the unexpectedly short time that our lives intersected. Each part will concern a progressively longer number of days.

Part 1: 1 Day

January 9, 2014. One terrible day. We had known it was coming for a while, and it seemed to be comfortingly distant – just over the horizon. It was, we knew, an horizon that was shortening rapidly. The previous few weeks had included indicators that forced us to see the unavoidable story that was being written between the lines.  Then “the day” arrived. We had forestalled it in our minds for many months; now, it imposed itself on us. No further mental escape tricks were available.

She had been soldiering along and doing fairly well. Easy for me to say – Katie had been diagnosed with adrenocortical carcinoma in May of 2013, and the disease had taken its toll. We only saw what the last nine months of the disease did; we suspect she had it for as long as a couple of years – before she even met Josh.  From the healthy, vibrant young women I met in the summer of 2012, she had been reduced, in a physical way, to a gaunt shadow of her former self.  Much of her muscle mass had been eaten away by the cancer, and the largest tumor (there were, as Josh would tell me later, many) was prominent in her abdomen, just below her rib cage.  It was the size of a football.

Katie had been in the hospital for about a week, and had returned home the day before. She was pretty weak, but we thought she would be out of the woods for a little while. On January 8, I went to work expecting to see her at the end of the day; lying in bed to try and get relief from the pain she was experiencing,  mustering her beautiful smile to disguise how she really felt. Her response to the “how are you feeling” question was invariably “pretty good”, even when she was obviously in pain.

I got a call at midday from my audibly distressed daughter saying that Josh had to call the ambulance to take Katie back to the emergency room, as she was experiencing some disturbing heart issues. The diagnosis was not good; her vital organs were failing, and she had “hours to days” to live. It was hours. By 1:13 the next morning, she was gone. Read More

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Williams has a way of expressing the profound in the simplest terms possible.  The key notion here is Thomas Paine’s statement: “Government, even in its best state, is but a necessary evil.” It may be necessary, but it has become so big, and so invasive, that it is far from the neutral rule keeper the founders intended.gadsen_fr

What kind of rules should govern our lives? I’d argue that the best rules are those that we’d be satisfied with if our very worst enemy were in charge of decision-making. The foundation for such rules was laid out by my mother. Let’s look at it.

My mother worked as a domestic servant. That meant that my younger sister and I often lunched at home by ourselves during our preteen years. Being bigger and stronger than my sister, I seldom divided the food evenly, especially the desserts. After a tiring day at work, Mom would be greeted by sob stories from my sister about my lunchtime injustices. Mom finally became fed up with the sibling hassles. She didn’t admonish me to be more caring, fair, sensitive and considerate. She just made a rule: Whoever cuts the cake pie, bread, meat, etc. allows the other the first selection. With that new rule in place, you can bet that when either my sister or I divided food, it was divided equally.

You say, “That’s a nice story, Williams, but what’s the point?” The point is that the principle underlying Mom’s rule is precisely the kind that is necessary for rules to promote fairness. In general, the rules that we should want are those that promote fairness, whether it’s our best friend or it’s our worst enemy who’s the decision-maker. In the case of Mom’s rule, it didn’t make any difference whether I hated my sister’s guts that day or she hated mine or whether my sister was doing the cutting or I was; there was a just division of the food.

Think for a moment about rules in sports, say basketball. One team loses, and the other wins, but they and their fans leave the stadium peacefully and most often as friends. Why? The game’s outcome is seen as fair because there are fixed, known, neutral rules evenly applied by the referees. The referees’ job is to apply the rules — not determine the game’s outcome. Imagine the chaos and animosity among players and fans if one team paid referees to help it win or the referees were trying to promote some kind of equality among teams.

Billions of dollars and billions of hours are spent campaigning for this or that candidate in our national elections. You can bet that people are not making those expenditures so that politicians will uphold and defend the Constitution; they’re looking for favors. The Constitution’s framers gave us reasonably fair and neutral rules of the game. If our government acted, as the framers intended, as a referee or night watchman, how much difference would it make to any of us who occupies the White House or Congress? It would make little difference, if any. It would be just like our basketball game example. Any government official who knew and enforced the rules would do. But increasingly, who’s in office is making a difference, because government has abandoned its referee and night watchman function and gotten into the business of determining winners and losers. Unfortunately, for our nation, that’s what most Americans want.

Thomas Paine said, “Government, even in its best state, is but a necessary evil.” Our Bill of Rights is an explicit recognition of the Founding Fathers’ distrust of Congress. Just look at its language, with phrases such as “Congress shall not abridge,” “shall not infringe,” “shall not deny,” “disparage” and “violate.” If the framers did not believe that Congress would abuse our God-given, or natural, rights, they would not have used such language. If, after we die, we see anything like the Bill of Rights at our next destination, we’ll know that we’re in hell. To demand such protections in heaven would be the same as saying we can’t trust God.

via Walter Williams – GMU Econ Faculty

I used to love The Weather Channel. Every day it was the first thing I turned on when I get ready for work. I loved the “local on the 8’s” because I was sure I’d see the local forecast at least once while I was getting ready.

When NBC first bought TWC, they dumped all the on-air talent that had been with the channel for a long time. They’ve replaced them with Barbie and Ken-type “personalities”, some of which are pretty good. Others, like Stephanie Abrams and Jen Carfagno, make me cringe every time I see them trying to be cool and relevant. Spare me. I just want the weather.

Today, I turn on TWC to get news of the latest snowstorm in Virginia, and what do I see? Sam Champion (some other network’s long time weather retread) and two other dim bulbs chatting it up about YouTube videos or some other pop-culture idiocy. Torture. Just give me the guys and gals talking about the seven day forecast, and all the nuances of THE WEATHER, and leave all the pop culture BS to those three (or four, which is it? I don’t care) networks that have been doing it for years.

Thanks, TWC. Now I have to find something else to tune in to in the morning. I guess there’s still ESPN.

This is a fantastic kinetic sculpture by Chris Burden that pushes 100,000 toy cars per hour around a huge motorized set of tracks. It’s on view at the Los Angeles Museum of Art.  From the museum’s website:

Chris Burden’s Metropolis II is an intense kinetic sculpture, modeled after a fast paced, frenetic modern city. Steel beams form an eclectic grid interwoven with an elaborate system of 18 roadways, including one six lane freeway, and HO scale train tracks. Miniature cars speed through the city at 240 scale miles per hour; every hour, the equivalent of approximately 100,000 cars circulate through the dense network of buildings. According to Burden, “The noise, the continuous flow of the trains, and the speeding toy cars produce in the viewer the stress of living in a dynamic, active and bustling 21st century city.”

(via Colossal)

There’s a group of people who come here looking for…something. It has gotten smaller of late, and I’m having a hard time spending bmashburn-monkeythe time to find stuff to pass on, or about which to opine. It has gone on for a while now. There’s plenty of stuff to talk about, but I don’t have much of anything to say. I still get pissed off or care passionately about the stuff that I started this little soapbox for, and I yell about it from my even smaller soapbox in my own house, but they only want to hear so much before they tune me out.

It may have something to do with the death of my daughter-in-law back in January. She was 26, and was diagnosed with cancer only 9 months before. She and my son had been married for 15 months. Total. I sat down and prepared some notes to write about that back in early February, but I haven’t yet been able to put it to paper yet. I don’t’ really want to, because it will lend a certain finality to that truth.

Anyway, if you come here looking for stuff and don’t find anything new, I apologize. I may get my groove back in the next couple of weeks – or, I may not. I might switch to blogging about something else entirely. Or I might just quit. Economics and politics these days is mostly a lot of stuff to yell about, and nothing positive to say. Or maybe it just seems that way. I still find a lot of interesting things that I think others would find interesting too, so maybe that’s where I’ll focus.

Earlier this week, Harry Reid basically said stories about the millions of people being negatively impacted by Obamacare were lies made up by the Koch brothers, or something. The National Republican Senatorial Committee came up with a reply.

As an aside, isn’t it amazing how much power the Koch brothers wield? Those guys are the sinister force behind every revelation of truth that debunks another progressive lie. The libs have built them into a giant bogeyman, with powers beyond the realm of mere humans.