Read now, discuss Nov. 8



This is a plug for our book club coming up on November 8, 2014. the Avondale United Methodist Church book club will be meeting at 10 a.m. to discuss Witchfinder, by Sarah Hoyt. We will also have the special pleasure of having the author present — via Skype — to discuss the book with us.

If you are interested in joining us for the discussion, we have a limited number of hard copies available to borrow and read, and some electronic (both Kindle and Nook versions) copies available to lend. Please check and the church library for more information.



Winning the argument before it begins by proper framing


I just finished reading one of my textbooks for my organizational communications class. in the epilogue, as in most of the chapter introductions, I found statements I found so highly biased that I could tell the writer was totally blind to any bias whatsoever, it was so thick. Apologies for a long paste below, but I found it fascinating that if you are an individualist (such as libertarians), you naturally fall on the side of domination and control, and are very focused on magnifying group identity antagonisms,  as opposed to the communal people who don’t care a bit about group identity issues, who are all about encouraging meaningful representation for everyone.

Here is the quote:

It is also clear that social and organizational power relationships continue to privilege the interests of some groups while failing to meet even the minimal, basic needs of others. Indeed, with globalization and worldwide deregulation, these gaps seem to be growing rapidly. None of this is especially surprising, because it results from the fundamental tensions described in Chapters 1 and 2.* The problem – and the challenge  — is that societies and their organizations can deal with these fundamental tensions in one of two ways. They can focus on individuality, domination and control, and become more competitive and divided, with one group of members turning against another and magnifying long-held antagonisms based on organizational rank, nationality, class, race, ethnicity, and gender. Or they can focus on creating a meaningful global community that represents the interests of multiple stakeholders and meets the needs of all its members. But “societies” and “organizations” do not make choices – people do. Human beings are, after all, choice-making beings. It is our choices that will determine the road our society and our organizations take.  The strategies that all of us choose will determine the kind of organizations that we live in the rest of our lives, and the kind of society that we create for ourselves and for our children. Make good choices.

*Note: the fundamental tensions mentioned above are people’s needs for autonomy, creativity, sociability, stability and predictability versus the organization’s need for control and coordination.

It is just that I know a lot of individualist libertarian types whose whole goal is to “take over the world and then leave you ruthlessly alone.” These people would strenuously disagree with being fixated on domination and control. They would agree with the final need — to make good choices — but would disagree, as I do, with how the choices are defined above.

I have to put forth a question for class discussion based on the reading. Does anyone have a good suggestion based on the quote I had above. I’m ready to be thoughtful and contrary to the authors’ point of view.

“the economically fit are expected to drive the economically unfit out of existence”


“All of this (globalization) creates a problem for democracies. Democracy and capitalists have very different core values. Democracy is founded on equality  — one vote per citizen regardless of his (sic) intelligence  or work ethic. Capitalism, however, is motivated by inequality: differences in economic returns create the incentive structure which encourages hard work and wise investments. … The economically fit are expected to drive the economically unfit out of existence; there are no equalizing feedback mechanisms in capitalism.” — Lester Thurow


The above quote was one of the chapter leading quotes for one of my communication text books. It wasn’t put there as an example of something the authors disagreed with, either. From my perspective it shows quite a twisted perspective of expectations. There is the worship of democracy and equality on the one side, vs. the villainization of capitalism and competition on the other side.

What gets lost in the mix is the idea of freedom. When you live in a republic you have rule of law, you have freedom. When you live in a democracy you have equality but no freedom, the rule of the mob.  That is why the Greek philosophers rightly called democracy the depraved form of government that republics turned into.

On the other side we have capitalism as a cut-throat entity — survival of the fittest. But that is evolution, not capitalism. Capitalism is money going to make more money, expanding the pie, floating all boats, giving people more options and more freedom. It is when government starts to intervene and even things out that everything starts to sink — for everyone except the corporations that seek the government’s collusion in decreasing their competition (it’s called fascism, if you’ve forgotten).





Houston’s on the Plaza experience


My dad would have had a couple of interesting comments to say about the restaurant we ate at tonight.

We celebrated my father-in-law’s 75th birthday tonight by taking him out to one of the upscale steak houses on the Kansas City Country Club Plaza — Houston’s.

The ambience is the thing my father would have talked about — the sort of place where the lighting is adjusted because they don’t want you to see what you are eating. My dad never did take to high-class places where the lights were turned low.

But that sort of place is where we took my father-in-law. By that I mean his two daughters and their husbands, his sons-in-law.

Finding parking was fun, so our driver, the other son-in-law, dropped us off while he looked for a spot. We had time to get in, get seated, and have our drinks brought out before he arrived from parking the car.

When they gave us our menus we looked at them, and kept expecting to find a second page to turn, except their wasn’t one. Just one page front and back. The back was all drinks, so only one page worth looking at. There was enough light from the fixture above the table to see just the menus and the table, but not much else. The glare from the light on the menu meant you had to hold it at a slight angle — just enough to see the words while deflecting the glare to another part of the menu.

Houston’s was the choice for the steak. Particularly the Prime Rib. Both mom and dad chose the Prime Rib — medium rare. Mom said it was the best she’d ever had. Dad’s was a close second, to a prime rib he had years ago at Hereford House.

Neither of the daughters had steak. One had salmon, the other chicken. Both good. I ordered the Thai steak with noodle salad. Other son got black beans and rice.

When they came out with the meals the serving staff started by giving Dad the daughter’s chicken, but we quickly got that straightened out, and they served the rest of the meals — all 4 of them (5 total) — and then left. They had brought out 5 meals to a 6 person table and then left without a question.

It took us a few moments to realize they hadn’t brought all the meals, and a few more minutes to find our original waiter and apprise him of the fact. A few minutes after that we had my Thai Steak with Noodle Salad.

Near the end of the meal, before the check,  the waiter came by apologized for missing my meal, and mentioned that they pride themselves on a certain level of service, which they hadn’t met, so they were removing my meal from the bill. After the check came the manager came by himself and apologized for the service. One small flaw, taken very seriously.

We had a good evening, took a walk on the plaza, had dessert at Barnes & Nobles and came home.

Review: An Elfy on the Loose



Books shouldn’t be allowed to end with cliff-hangers like that.

An Elfy on the Loose by Barb Caffrey is part of the Elfy Duology, and as the first of a two-parter, ends at a point where you are building for a big confrontation, but it hasn’t happened yet.

Of course, you wouldn’t care about what happens, if she hadn’t drawn you in. But she did draw me in.

The world, or should I say worlds, that Caffrey built are a good setting for the story she places in it, of which I think only a small part is actually displayed in this first part of the duology. I kept reading to find out what happened.

Which doesn’t mean that I always found the reading easy going. I tried to figure why I sometimes felt labored at reading, and yet driven to continue. I think it had something to do with the dialogue. The conversations between the two main characters were a little odd sometimes, and quite extensive at the same time. It is that don’t show, tell, concept, but backwards, that my writing professors in college always pushed.

I mentioned how good Caffrey’s world construction was. That is true, but its presentation, often in the extensive dialogue sections, often had a slightly mechanical sense to it. It wasn’t quite as organic as, say, the world of Tolkien’s  Middle Earth. But that isn’t a fair comparison — especially of an author’s first published work against a literary masterpiece.

I expect both of these elements to smooth out and get better as Caffrey works on the second part of the duology.  I hope they come out sometime. I need to KNOW what is going to happen.

So go pick up a copy and learn about the Elfy world — and how the plural of elf is elfs, not elves.

$2.79 — and dropping?


This past summer I wasn’t thinking to ever see gas prices below $3.00 a gallon, and now gas is 21 cents below that price. I am sure that a lot of people are seeing this as a good sign — lower gas prices. But that isn’t the vibe I get from them. Sure, lower prices help when we fuel up each week, but the why of the lower gas prices, that is what is really important.

Some might suggest that an election is close, and that lower prices could help certain people, say those in power. I don’t disagree with the second part of that sentence, but the inferred idea that those people might be manipulating the prices, that I do disagree with. The sort of forces that move the prices of goods are not that easily manipulated (I am an Adam Smith school of economics type of guy).

No, if prices are going down, something related to supply and demand has to be going on.

Supply: Shale and other gas extraction methods in the US have made significant increases in our domestic supplies.  Increased supply should bring prices down.

Demand: Here we need to think world-wide. Economic engine in Europe seems to be stalling out. Even Germany, that has been keeping Europe running, appears poised to slow or stall.  And the petroleum futures market is uncertain about Europe, driving prices down.

Supply: Saudi Arabia. Usually Saudi Arabia is the world’s price regulator. Not being as dependent hand to mouth for their oil revenue, they will pump more to lower prices, and pump less to keep prices up.  Only they aren’t pumping less. They are pumping more, attempting to keep their revenues up. Which lowers prices, and causes them to need to pump more to keep revenues up.

So, from what I am seeing, these lower prices have one good cause — the increase in domestic production, and two bad causes — economic stagnation and Saudi oversupply. So, based on this logic, lower prices, caused by economic stagnation, might be used by people who contributed to the stagnation by their misunderstanding of economics to claim they are making the economy better and thus get themselves voted into office to continue the policies they instituted that helped fuel the stagnation.

So, how much lower will the prices go, and will it be for a good or a bad reason, or combination of both?