Doctor Eclectic

Doctor Eclectic
Doctor Eclectic

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

God Points

Mary and I were on our way to a music concert at the Segerstrom Center and were enough ahead of the start time that I had no problem slowing down and allowing a car coming down the ramp to merge into the after-work rush hour traffic.  That driver soon slowed to allow entry into her lane.

“That’s the true value of God Points,” I said, almost as if inspired.

“God Points?  What are God Points?”

Never one to be without an answer (I have a coffee cup that says, “Have a question?  Ask Dad.  If he doesn’t know he’ll make something up.”) I answered that it was my own concept that when we die, St. Peter will meet us at the Gate and total up our God Points to see which of the “many rooms” we get to occupy.

The concept probably came from my subconscious, which was recently re-treated to an old FatherSarducci YouTube clip entitled “Life Is Work”, which I have linked to this Post.  His concept is that we are paid a certain amount for every day we live, but have to repay for our sins.

My concept is that you get points for every act of kindness or thoughtfulness you do that no one notices, thus inspiring them to give back in kind.  For instance, when I was obviously in pain and discomfort, standing after my hip replacement surgery, a TSA attendant guided me not only to the First Class line, but to the Flight attendant line when we were on our way to New Orleans.

Big God Points!

Standing in line at Trader Joes when I suddenly remember I didn’t get my butter and the clerk says, “Go ahead, I’ll ring it up while you pick it up.” And the first of several people behind me smiles.

Double God Points!

But once I blurted out my theory, I began to reflect on it and, perhaps like Bill O’Reilly who explains his motivation for writing Killing Jesus (Mary’s new favorite book) as inspiration from the Holy Spirit (I still remember when he was the Holy Ghost) I have fleshed out the theory.

My theory now is that you cannot gain or lose God Point opportunities until you reach the age of reason, which used to be better defined by the Catholic Catechism, but has gradually drifted into an age possibly defined with when you start driving or when you stop depending on others to make critical decisions regarding your safety, financial security or marriage.

Once you reach the age where you can collect God Points you collect them at first indiscriminately and later, when you better understand the concept, you collect bonus points by either seizing a choice opportunity or by finding ways to secretly mask your effort so that it becomes less known.  Double points come from your inspiration to the person you gifted, if they in turn provide similar kindness.

In the two weeks following our trip to the theater, I understandably have tracked my progress in gaining points.

Conclusion: I actually have increased the number of points I have gained.  Of course the fact that I am retired and time is on a different scale for me than others helps, but I think I am actually doing better.

Others?  Not so much.

I am besieged by Caucasian women, aged 25-34, who seem recently made aware that an automobile is a lethal weapon for which they hold the trigger.  Lines show a better result.  Even having given up my cane (except for a soon-to-be trip to NYC) I seem to attract compassion from people in line who give way for mall purchases, old age, or the threat that they make have to give CPR.

Whether you subscribe to my theory of God Points or just want to do something to make living in our culture a little more dignified, I solicit your support.

My next post is a spin on my Eminent Domain Post, which I am entitling Privatization.  Please check it out.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

The Future of Football

Aaron Hernandez
As I write this there are ongoing investigations regarding three NFL players: Aaron Hernandez, from the New England Patriots who is accused of being an accomplice in a murder, and Jonathan Martin and Richie Incognito of the Miami Dolphins who are on opposite sides of a racist, bullying action that seems to be of more concern to the fans than to the players or their teammates.

NFL players problems with crime are nothing new, and the two mentioned are hardly the worst examples. Ray Lewis, recently retired with honors was charged with murder on his own part and escaped with a reduced charge of Obstruction when he finally gave up two “friends”, who were prepared to testify against him.  Probably the most famous was O.J. Simpson, who would be a free man today had he not decided to stage a Hollywood retrieval of his Heisman Trophy.

So what’s the big fuss now?

Helmet testing 1912
Much of it comes from the League’s own actions and rules changes, which are designed to demonstrate that concussions are unnecessary to the sport in spite of the growing awareness that more retired football players have brain injuries than boxers.

Junior Seau
The magnitude of the problem was exasperated by the death last year of Junior Seau whose cause of death was determined to be Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy. Since then there have been a litany of players and player’s groups expressing their concerns in the media.  One of the more recent was Jim McMahon, a scrambling quarterback who received more than his share of bumps and bruises.

Frank Deford
One of my favorite commentators, Frank Deford recently visited this subject.  While eschewing the brutality of the game he reminded us that this has become a multi-billion dollar enterprise, responsible for much of the funding for colleges and a significant chuck of television programming, with consequent advertising revenue.

My younger son is a Physical Education instructor at a parochial K-8 school, where they have an active after-school program.  The fall sport is flag football, and that suits Tim well.  He believes students should not play serious contact sports until they are sixteen.  Most of the advantages of football: team-building, speed and agility, strategy, ability to be coached can develop as easyly in flag football as in tackle, and he wishes parents would let their children play in diocesan league rather than Pop Warner.

My grandson is in his sophomore year at El Toro high school, which graduates about 600 students a year.  He expressed an interest this year in trying out for football.  The school normally is a champion contender but this year seems to have fallen on hard times.  Ryan grew five or more inches in as many months but still weighs less than 130 pounds at 6’2”.  For whatever reason, he or someone changed his mind and I don’t mind a bit.  I hope he instead stays with basketball.  Even in Southern California the games are more comfortable to watch.

When asked whether he thought football would survive these concerns (sports sales for football gear is down 16% over last year) he opined that if you put 100 mothers in a room and asked how many would allow their sons to play, if  thirteen said “no”, it would only be a matter of time. 

Sixty years ago when I graduated from Mason City (Iowa) high school only one of our high school players received a scholarship from the University of Iowa, which was nationally ranked at the time.  As it turned out, he didn’t make the team, but I think it was largely scholastic-driven.

Nowadays scholarships are real, valuable, and represent a way out of poverty for a large number of players.  But there are true concerns that the “free” education may come at a high price.
In my next post I will share an idea that came as an Epiphany while driving recently.  If Bill O’Reilly can claim that inspiration for Killing Jesus came from the Holy Spirit, I may claim Divine inspiration for what I am calling “God Point”.  Stop on by.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Medal of Honor

It seems appropriate on Veteran’s Day to write a post about the Medal of Honor.  The subject came to me when recently there was news that an Army Captain was invited to the White House to receive the honor for action in Afghanistan.  What made the event newsworthy was that he had been denied a nomination for the medal because he had criticized his superiors for failure to provide requested air support during the 2009 action where he displayed his recognized valor.

The medal was the first medal awarded by the United States and almost half of them were awarded during the Civil War, including the only one awarded to a woman.  There have been almost 3500 awarded since its inception, almost 2/3rds awarded posthumously.  This is likely because two of the required conditions for nomination are conflict with an enemy of the United States and acts performed under conditions of grave personal bodily danger.

At least that is true of those nominations coming up the Chain of Command, which may explain why Captain William Swenson had to wait to get his nomination.  As it was he was the first Officer to receive the medal since Viet Nam, with the caveat that President Clinton awarded in 2001posthumous medals to several Black and Asian soldiers for action during WW II.

The only other living recipient since Viet Nam was Salvatore Giunta who rescued a majority of his platoon from a Taliban ambush, including a Sergeant who was being dragged off by two Taliban.  The other ten recipient’s medals were awarded to surviving family.

Congress also has the authority to nominate candidates for the medal.  Not surprisingly they have done so almost 200 times.  Most notably on the list were Richard E. Byrd for arctic exploration and Charles Lindbergh for his trans-oceanic flight.  Since Byrd was Navy and Lindbergh Army Reserve they received different versions of the same medal.

In some ways it seems unusual that the United States was such a late comer to the bestowing of medals.  Medals have long been a recognized means to honor past exploits and provide a means to form a cadre of elitism.  From my 26 years of service I collected a fair sampling of “fruit salad” ribbons and a couple for distinguishing myself in other areas than combat.  Each of the ships I was attached to had their ribbons also and for many of the crew they were a personal badge of honor.

But, if you follow the links for Sergeant Giunta and Captain (soon to be Major if allowed to rejoin the Army) Swenson, you will note what is almost the universal feeling of the recipients: modesty that they do not deserve what should have been bestowed on so many others in the action.

For the past several years, the Bay Area Navy League has hosted a formal Dining-in for survivors of the Battle of Midway.  This year I believe there were still nine, although one invitee was unable to travel.  I try to attend the ceremony, held at the Marine’s Memorial in San Francisco.  In conversation with one of these guests I heard exactly that.  With a wistful look in his eyes, he said, “I remember most of the days and I remember some of the events, but I will never forget any of my shipmates.”

Football seems to be hot news lately.  In my next post I’ll share some of my observations.  I hope you’ll join me.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Eminent Domain

In my general “easy-drive shopping” area of Southern Orange County, there is a small extended leg of the Laguna Hills Mall that houses my Optometrist and one of my favorite unique restaurants, Break of Dawn.  The former is of note because Mary steered me there almost twenty years ago when I was wearing my contact lenses and reading glasses about 18 hours a day.  Dr. Scott Anderson found me a candidate for and provided me with bifocal contact lenses, the technology of which escapes me, but reading glasses have ceased to be necessary and I can read scripts I hold and boarded lines for scenes with equal ease.

The latter because a friend, fellow parishioner and excellent chef quit his job as a chef for the Ritz-Carleton and opened a breakfast-lunch restaurant to be able to spend time with his physically handicapped son, who is thriving, thank you very much.

I never quite understood the detached section of the mall or why it happened in the first place, but both these operations were doing well and serving my, and other’s needs.  So, when I learned that a purchaser, with Venture Capital money had purchased the lot, intending to raze this section and build apartments, I was devastated.  How unfair!

Recently there was a story on NPR about how the Chinese government was forcibly relocating many citizens in an effort to better control the water in the country; a project that has repercussions through Southeast Asia.  Some of the displaced were setting themselves on fire, preferring death to a relocation that would most likely inevitably kill them anyway.

Vaguely I remember this displacement process as coming from a tradition of Eminent Domain, a phrase that varies from government to government, but essentially means property rights of an individual can be superseded by a greater need for public good, or in the case of the United states, public use.

An excellent early example is when William Penn, who was given land to establish the Philadelphia colonies by Charles II to repay a debt, chose to buy the land from the Lenape, who had claim to it, rather than take it for no compensation.  This practice made its way into our constitution in both the Third (quartering of troops) and Fifth (requiring just compensation) Amendments.

For the most part the right is used to provide for public properties, but has often been used to provide access for highways and railways.  The latter was a huge fact in the growth of Southern California when the Southern Pacific Railway annexed huge portions of land to develop access to agriculture.  The practice is very current still, as we see when the new Los Angeles Mayor is attempting to provide access to the LA Airport, which would require relocation of some prime real estate.

And the expansion of the practice from federal/national, to local/municipal, brings into play exactly the issue with my two friends.  If it is perceived there is an economic advantage to the municipality to convert from one business or use to another, the pressure to surrender one’s property, or in the case of these two businesses, cancelling leases expected to be continued, can be overwhelming.

I recently talked to Dee Nguyen, my chef friend, who told me that another property, relatively close will be refurbished with appropriate leasehold improvements and a seven-year lease shortly after the first of the year.  Dr. Anderson is included in a similar arrangement, and the apartments may very well prove to add to their customer base.

So, I am more comfortable now than I was several months ago.  I am also glad that I live in the middle of a block with seemingly no utilitarian use other than residential.

My next Post should be close to two events that are dear to me:  The Marine Corps Birthday and Veteran’s Day.  So I think I’ll see what’s current with Medal of Honor.  Come visit.