Ryan Shinn

Here's a few of my thoughts
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  • Aunt Grace

    Posted on March 25th, 2016 admin Comments

    Schoolroom

    The other day I read an article talking about how the teaching of cursive handwriting is being completely abandoned in school, mostly because computers have made it unimportant.  I disagree, but largely because I was taught cursive, and use it primarily in my handwriting.  I can’t imagine how printing could be anywhere close to as efficient as cursive when you have to use pen and paper.

    I have never had beautiful handwriting, and I’ve never particularly enjoyed physical writing compared to typing on a keyboard.  Despite this fact, the story of my learning this skill  is an important one in my childhood.  It is a tale involving a discouraging 1st grade teacher, a converted home schoolhouse, and a really old woman.

    My mom made the decision to put me in school earlier than most kids.  I was almost a full year younger than many of my classmates.  This was because my birthday was in the beginning of October, just before the  cutoff in age.  In college this isn’t so important, but in early elementary school the gulf in development is huge.  I was a smart kid, and ready for school.  Intellectually, I was very ready.

    I remember my first day of Kindergarten quite well.  My mom brought me to the classroom and introduced me to my teacher, and then spent a ridiculous amount of time trying to assure me that everything would be ok.  I remember standing there thinking, “Why is she still talking?  Isn’t it time for her to leave and let me play in the sandbox?”

    Other kids were dropped off by their parents as I made beautiful castles, or as any adult would call them, piles of sand.   When moms would leave, invariably little Susie or Sammy would erupt into tears, their little faces looking like cooked crabs with pony tails and cowlicks.  I remember thinking (and I’m not exaggerating), “What’s wrong with those kids?”

    The problem with me being in school that early was not that I lacked the intellectual or emotional proclivity to be in class, but that I was a daydreamer.  I had no problem sitting in class for an hour, but I wanted to think creative thoughts, not learn how to stack blocks.  This is a problem that I still have.  I still daydream, although I discovered that block-stacking is actually prime daydream time.

    I also lacked some of the motor skills to do what children of that age group could typically do.  It wasn’t like I couldn’t stack blocks or finger-paint, but by the end of first grade my A’s looked very similar to my H’s, and my teacher couldn’t tell my q and g apart.  I suggested that she should use context to help her determine this, and she suggested that I spend another year with her in first grade.  Maybe she didn’t like me, or maybe she liked me so much that she wanted desperately to hold on for one more year—kind of like those crab-faced children.

    My mom was having none of this, and of course I didn’t want to waste another year with a woman who used handwriting as a basis for judging people. Plus, she was a little bit obsessed over finding out if I knew the Muffin Man.  She had issues.  I wanted to move with my peers to a classroom with a little more grounded leadership, and possibly less naptime.

    My mom worked out a deal with the school for me to spend the summer being tutored by my Aunt Grace in order to improve my handwriting.  If I could do that, I would be allowed to move on to the next grade, and I had to agree to stop accusing my former teacher of stalking the Muffin Man.  The school found this acceptable.

    My Aunt Grace was an ancient woman with wiry hair and that stern face of women who lived through the Dust Bowl Depression.  Her house was the stuff of children’s dreams.  The main part of her home was crammed with eclectic piles of old magazine clippings, strange antiques, and weird things she’d won in contests.  She proudly displayed a three-foot diameter replica of the Millennium Falcon that had working lights and sounds.  If you pushed a button, the landing gear would retract.

    Her kitchen was filled with large jars containing strange experiments, floating in off-green liquid.  She said it was something called “pickling,” but it looked like beakers of ectoplasm in a mad scientist’s lab.  The smells were strange, the sights were strange, and I was sure to never eat anything that came from that place.  I don’t recall her ever offering me food anyway.

    The backyard was a jungle, but this was not due in any way to neglect; in fact, it was quite the opposite.  Aunt Grace was an avid gardener.  She composted in massive quantities before anyone had really ever heard of composting.  The yard contained enough fruit trees to feed an army, and had row after row of vegetables.  In the center of her back yard was a large cement pond of murky water with strange fish and turtles.

    Crossing the pond was an ancient green bridge, with only flecks of fading paint there to prove its color.  It wasn’t big enough for a person to stand on, and rickety enough to scare off any crossers even if it had been.  The whole place was very surreal, as if a farmer had time travelled to the Jurassic era.  It would not have surprised me to see a monkey swinging from one of the trees, or a brontosaurus neck emerging from behind an outrageously large bush of chard.

    The final interesting thing about my Aunt’s home was the back den of her house, which she had converted long ago to a fully functional schoolroom, with 15 or so desks for the kids that she tutored regularly.  It looked exactly like any schoolroom I’ve ever seen, except a little homier. There were shelves of books, and a pencil sharpener on the wall.  On one wall were large windows that looked out to her jungle-garden.

    It was in that room that I spent many hours during that summer with Aunt Grace.  She taught me phonics (which was something she strongly believed in), and writing.  I read every Dick and Jane book ever written, and I sharpened my pencil until there wasn’t much left.  I learned a life-long love for reading, but I learned more about life itself by hearing the amazing story of a woman whose life was truly remarkable.

    My Great Aunt Grace (my grandmother’s older sister) was from Missouri, like the rest of the extended family.  When the land dried up, the economy crashed, and life turned as grey as it looks in the black-and-white pictures, they had packed up the whole extended family and moved to California.  Although in later years, I learned that the family migration took place over a long time, in my mind the whole family travelled together in some jalopy piled high with overturned furniture and rolled up rugs.

    She left and brought her only son out west with her.  In those days, women didn’t do things like travel alone or leave abusive, alcoholic husbands.  She had an adopted daughter and a single natural son, Norris Dale.  Norris Dale would later go on to be an important war hero, and German prisoner of war.  He died of a heart attack many years later while at his desk at the Pentagon.  I remember him from the one time I met him as a small child, and I remember his death as this big traumatic event to the family.  But I was also very young when he died, so I don’t remember much.

    Aunt Grace became a teacher when she was quite young.  This was back in the days when schools weren’t the big mini-cities that they are today, and more like what we’d see in an old episode of Little house on the Prairie.  Managing a room full of students before the age of In-School-Suspension and dedicated campus police must have been tough, and it created a tough old woman.

    She taught school and moved up the ranks until she was eventually the Assistant Superintendant of schools in the little town of Dinuba, the town I originally came from, and the town she lived in until she died.  Eventually, when she retired lifetimes past when people usually retire, she found that she couldn’t just sit alone in her home and quietly quilt until her time came due.  So, she converted her den into a schoolroom and tutored troubled kids full time.

    I suspect that she did this partly because her nervous energy would have driven her stir crazy otherwise, but she kept going mostly because she really did have a passion for education, and helping troubled kids get on the straight and narrow.  And she did that for many lives.  She took in a young Hispanic teenager who had decided to drop out of school.  He stayed, and when he became the first Hispanic Lieutenant Governor of California, he sent an official proclamation honoring her.  She taught my mom that a single mother can raise a kid successfully on her own.  She taught me how to write.

    She finally stopped tutoring kids when she was 98.  She had fallen and broken her hip.  They surgically repaired it, and the doctors told her that she had the bone structure of a woman in her 60’s.  I visited her in her home as she was ailing.  She showed me some tennis rackets that she had just won in a contest.  I asked her what she was planning to do with them, half-hoping she would give them to me, but in true Aunt Grace style, she told me that she was going to keep them and take lessons as soon as she got back on her feet.

    She outlived both her children, and all but one of her younger sisters.  Al Roker read her name on TV on her hundredth birthday, and she died at the age of 102, one month shy of the Millennium.  If she had squeaked out another month, she would have lived in three centuries, and two millennia.

    Many of us think of success and influence as becoming President, or the boss at our jobs.  We think of big families and people with boats.  But at 17, my aunt stepped into a schoolhouse with a handful of scruffies, nervous to try and keep order.  But by her last breath she’d raised a war hero, taught government leaders, shaped policy of a school district, and been honored in newspapers and national TV.

    During her life, she saw the dawn of electricity and telephones, horses became cars, and airplanes went from dreams to reality.  She walked in Germany before Hitler was Chancellor, and had her picture taken there before color was an option.  Not only did she see computers invented, but she learned to use them.  She lived a remarkable life, and changed lives of many, including mine.  Every time I put pen to paper, it is because of her influence.  A life like Grace McGinnis’ is very rare one indeed, and I am blessed to have sat in her schoolroom.  -Ryancopyright-notice

  • 2015 Predictions -Review

    Posted on January 3rd, 2016 admin Comments

    presdictionsheader

    Every year I create my predictions for the year ahead. Before I post this, I try to do my most thorough analysis of the previous year’s predictions.  Here is my analysis.

    1. Hilary Clinton will announce her candidacy for President, probably in late summer through the end of November. There will be a strong and active lead-up to this. They will also attempt to hide Bill as much as possible, at least until Summer.
      – On March 1, the Wall Street Journal announced that Hilary would announce in April.
      – She announced in a video to “supporters” on April 13th. Although, I am surprised no one noticed that she announced on the thirteenth of the month, I think the Ides of March would be more appropriate
      – Bill Clinton was noticeably quiet for almost the entire year.  At the very end of the year, he started talking again, which was really pounced on by rivals. +4 pts
    2. Republicans will announce throughout 2015. It will be a large group. Ben Carson, Carly Fiorina, and Rand Paul will all be really active in 2015. You’ll hear from them a lot. They will all likely run.
      – Rand Paul announced his bid for President on April 6th.
      – Ben Carson was on May 3rd.
      -Carly Fiorina was on May 4th.
      -There are a total of 17 Republicans who were in the race at one time, although 5 have since dropped out. +4 pts
    3. Who won’t run? Elizabeth Warren, and in a break with tradition…Joe Biden won’t jump in either.
      – I’m pretty proud of that one.  I was 100%. +4 pts
    4. Obama will veto lots and lots of legislation. The Democrat’s story will still be “the do-nothing Congress, that won’t work bipartisanly.” Interestingly, many Dems will vote on measures like the Keystone pipeline, but won’t vote to override the veto. Because of that, it will be surprising how few times there will even be post-veto votes. This is Democrat strategy so that the Dems can claim to have voted for issues that they never supported.
      – This is a pretty mixed bag.  Obama used 5 vetoes in 2015.  This is actually not a huge amount for a president.  However, most of Obama’s vetoes have been in 2015.  I did envisions more than that. They did vote on the Keystone Pipeline, which Obama vetoed, and Congress did not  override.  He also vetoed the Defense Authorization bill, which many Democrats voted for, but will not vote to override. Overall, the picture is more cloudy than I though it would be.  I give myself 50% on that one. +2 pts
    5. A Supreme Court vacancy will come up. Ruth Ginsburgh is looking likely to me. This will likely be tied to health-related issues. When it happens, it will happen fast.  
      – I was wrong on this one.  We’ll see what happens next year.  Maybe I was just a year off.  Either way, +0 pts.
    6. The Conservatives will get a big court win on either Benghazi, IRS bad behavior, Obamacare, Executive actions, and/or Obama’s immigration action.
      – Of course, the courts ruled very much against any logic on Obamacare, and are currently planning to hear his Executive action on immigration reform.  However, lower courts have all ruled against Obama and it is not sure that the Supreme Court will weigh in on the issue at all.  My intent was that one of these issues would go against Obama.  Because the courts have ruled favorably on Obama’s Executive actions so far (though it is not settled), I’m giving myself +2 pts.
    7. More gay marriage court action legalizing gay marriage. The Supreme Court will rule favorably to gay marriage, maybe steering clear of a sweeping legalization. Gay marriage states will increase.
      – Anyone who has not been under a rock in 2015 knows how this turned out.  Very very sadly +4 pts.
    8. Radio Shack bankrupt—and gone. ***I wrote this one down 5 days prior to the news on January 15th that Radio Shack would likely file for Chapter 11 in the first week of February. I’m not saying that it was a long shot then, but there had been no announcement.  – The previous was written as an update early in the year.  +4 pts
    9. At some point this year the Fed will increase the interest rate.
      – Squeeked this one out at the last minute, but I still get the +4 pts.
    10. The “Internet of things” will really visibly increase. This will also be due to the falling prices of Internet-connective things.
      – This one has been talked about throughout 2015 (although now referred to as IoT).  From Barbie dolls to cars, the story actually morphed throughout the year in “the hackable IoT.” + 4 pts
    11. There will be news of companies doing wacky viral-esque stunts. Some of these will be really cool (look for socially conscious stuff) and some will be massively embarrassing failures.
      -Starbucks decided to help heal the racial divide with #racetogether.  It failed miserably!  However, I think mostly because of the fact that this was so highly criticized, other companies did not follow suit.  I strongly think that if the experiment had been highly praised, there would have been a lot of this.  I give myself +2 pts.
    12. There will be a big number of attempted terrorist attacks in Europe and America. Some of these might be successful. The attacks this year in Paris are only the beginning. Europe will be the new front for a lot of Muslim violence.
      – Remember, when I was writing this in January of 2015, I was talking about different terrorist attacks than we now think of as “the Paris terrorist attacks.”  Two massive terrorist attacks in the US and Europe, as well as those in Turkey and throughout Africa and the Middle East, give me +4 pts on this.  However, let me be clear, that I take no joy in that.  Real people died, and that is a tragedy.  My predictions for the year are a game of sorts, terrorism is not a game.
    13. Iran will not follow through with its nuclear deal with the US
      – The main stream media has largely swept this under the table, but they have not followed the agreement, nor did they ever intend to.  This is what happens when you put a fool in charge of the western world. +4 pts
    14. Russia will have more military actions, possibly in Ukraine and maybe including Belarus.
      – I did not know it would be Syria, but I was undeniably correct. +4 pts
    15. A-la cart TV on the Internet will finally come to fruition, and not just with a couple of channels like HBO. Some channels will do this through their websites and some will partner with existing providers like Netfilx and Amazon.
      HBO announced on April 8th that they were offering untethered service directly to consumers.
      image
      – One of the even bigger moves was that Showtime, Starz, and more than a dozen others became accessible via Amazon Prime. +4 pts
    16. There will be much more talk from the Left on “income inequality,” minimum wage, the rich getting richer, especially in the first half of the year.
      – Does having a whole candidate for President count?   This is the whole presidential platform of the Democrats. If you don’t believe me, look at Hillary’s own website, but please don’t.  She’ll count you as one of the billions in America who will be voting for her. +4 pts
    17. You’ll start hearing the term “Fast-Laning,” This will be one of the words of the year. There will be a rise in no-wait services and products—many through company apps.
      – This did happen quite a bit in ’15, but you did not hear the term “fast laning,” unless you worked in the industry.  Starbucks, Subway Sandwiches, McDonalds, all have fast-laning options.  This is mostly through company apps.  Basically, all fast food restaurants have this now.  This has saved Americans minutes in the drive thru [sic] lane.  Because the term “fast-laning” did not take off, I’m only giving myself +3 pts.
    18. There will be a consumer backlash against product false claims. Companies will be held more accountable to what they say they can do.
      – I did not see this happen in 2015 in any noticeable way. +0 pts
    19. Early in the year expect a North Korean nuclear test, followed by belligerence, followed by an announced deal. All of this will take place before mid-summer.
      – At the end of Feb/ beginning of March, the US had military exercises and NK fired some missiles in response, coupled with belligerent rhetoric.  However, there was no nuclear test at all.  The North Koreans did talk about nuclear war with the West and threaten such action numerous times.  But, that happens every year. +1 pt
    20. Facebook will further monetize. Look for possible corporate deals. They will possibly develop in-Facebook shopping and/or “pay with Facebook” e-wallet technology.
      – This did not happen in 2015.  I am surprised.  I might just be a year or so off.  We’ll see.  +0 pts

    This gives me 58 out of a possible 80 points, or 72.5%.  Getting a C is not bad for a pre-test. -Ryan

  • Bicycle

    Posted on November 22nd, 2015 Ryan Comments

    Bicycle

    The other day I was called by a single mom and asked to assemble her son’s shiny new bicycle. It was his birthday gift, and the task of building such a thing was a little beyond her comfort level or ability. Since I have known them both for quite some time, and because I have become somewhat of an expert on handyman-type stuff, I was the guy she called.

    The project didn’t take me long at all, with my bag of tools and a glass of iced tea. And as I later stood and looked at the completed bike, I thought back about my own memories of my childhood BMX.

    bicycle

     

    When I turned 7, I came downstairs in the morning to see a brand-new BMX bicycle. This contrasted with what I had before in several ways. First of all, the banana-seated, yellow monstrosity that was in my family’s garage could have never been described with the word “new.” It was a faded yellow, and not a cool sports car yellow, but the kind of yellow that is not complete unless speckled with copious amounts of rust. It had a sissy-bar behind the seat followed by a large rear fender. But, the handlebars were really the coup-de-gras. I have never since seen such a deep U-shape, and they terminated in plastic hand grips that I’m sure at one time had streamers dandily flowing in the wind. No, I suspect the word “new” was barely applicable even when it was purchased from the Sear’s Catalogue sometime around 1963.

    I had acquired it on a Saturday morning when my mom returned home from a garage sale. Even though it was so early in my life that my memories seem like the dream sequence in a bad soap opera, I remember instinctively knowing that this had the potential of both causing me to be beaten up by other boys, but also to pay large amounts of money to therapists throughout my adulthood. I can’t blame my mom, though. She knew that I was a boy, and a boy needed a bicycle. She also knew that we couldn’t afford to buy a new one, and this was the best that a single mom could do.

    Also, this hunk of metal and rubber could not be called a “bicycle” either. It did have two wheels and pedals, but inherent in the definition of a bicycle is that it can be used as transportation, which this could not. While this art piece was a sight to behold, I could not actually ride it, no matter how hard I tried, and oh how I did try.

    After several months of flopping over, I decided that I was the sort of boy that was somehow just dysfunctional. I wasn’t the bicycle riding type, I was the—being pushed for a few feet and then falling into the rose bushes type. So, at the risk of death I decided to just look at it and avoid it, rather than spend more time de-thorning myself.

    What we didn’t know, was that whoever owned it in the past had been in some accident that left the frame bent, possibly an intentional crash to desperately avoid being seen riding it. Lance Armstrong himself could not have ridden it after such a distortion. This problem was finally discovered when my grandfather (who I never saw ride any bicycle before this or after—and could barely drive a car) hopped on and promptly crashed sideways into the aforementioned rose bushes.

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    Eventually, my mom began dating the man who after a time became my stepfather, and on my birthday a new BMX sat in our living room. It was beautiful. It had chrome everything. The handlebars were not U-shaped. In fact, they were beautifully straight. The seat looked like a bicycle seat, not a banana. There were cushioned wraps that protected you when you did awesome dirt-bike tricks that the neighborhood boys would gaze at in wonder and never consider beating you up…ever, and no sissy-bar at all, saving tons of future money on psychotherapy. It was amazing, and it was mine.

    Shortly after breakfast, we went across the street to a church parking lot to see if I could ride it, where my new step-dad announced, “He won’t need those training wheels. Let’s take them off.” And you know what? He was right. He pushed me for a bit, and then released me, and I rode…alone…without falling. The feeling of freedom was one I would never forget. I was the bike-riding type of boy. I could do it after all.

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    I’d like to say that was the start of many things my step-dad taught me about how to be a man, but that would be a lie. I can count on one hand the number of times he spent any appreciable time with me teaching me anything. The truth is, when I work on my lawnmower engine, remodel a bedroom, or assemble a bicycle for a friend’s kid, it is mostly because I’ve somehow figured out how to do it all on my own (or at least from watching YouTube). I’ve learned to enjoy doing those things out of necessity and challenge, not from some formative childhood apprenticeship, but I have learned to do them.

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    So, as I stood there looking at this boy’s new birthday bike I had great hopes for him. I know that I could never be to him anything like the father every boy needs. God has placed men in his life who love him and I have to trust God to follow that process through. And I hope that maybe someday he’ll get a call from some woman he knows, asking him to assemble a shiny new birthday bike. —Ryan

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  • Ruby 5

    Posted on March 6th, 2015 admin Comments

    This is the final installment of a multi-part story.  Please click on the article to view full, then click the series link in the area above in order to read the whole story.

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    When I went off to college most of my interaction with Ruby stopped.  I was far away from her.  She loved my mom and was fulfilled in her inner-dog.  I would see her from time to time, and she was always as happy as a dog could be for us to visit.  She was also always eager to prove that she knew all of her old tricks.

    She was never one to spend a lot of time outside and never one to wander away from home.  Some dogs are always trying to dig their way under the fence, or jump over it—but not Ruby.  She preferred a warm couch to the great outdoors.  This makes it very strange that she got out of the yard one day while I was away at college.

    In my head, I imagine that she must have been in the yard chasing butterflies, while the gate was somehow accidentally open.  Suddenly she found herself alone in the front of the house in a different place than her usual walking route.  She was scared and alone.  For her it was no different than if you or I woke up suddenly in Somalia.

    I know it sounds like I am really anthropomorphizing in this case.  I tend to believe all of the science that I read about animals.  Dogs don’t feel complex emotions like unfulfilled angst because their owner didn’t read them their favorite story at bedtime.  But anyone who knew Ruby could tell that she really did somehow operate on a different plane than other dogs.  She had deep emotions and complex thoughts.  This was a dog who would get her leash when you’d ask if she wanted to go for a walk.  And I’m sure this was less out of repeated training, and more because she just didn’t feel secure without this important safety device.

    This all meant that Ruby had never learned how to do the things that a city dog must know in order to survive in the urban wild.  She was hit by a car.  Her pelvis was broken in multiple places, her tail was snapped, and she had some internal hemorrhaging.

    Ruby was also indestructible.  What would have killed Underdog didn’t faze Ruby.  Yes, she had surgery, a tail-ectomy, and spent months in a cast and traction.  But she learned to walk again, got used to wagging a stump, and eventually was able to do most of her old tricks, albeit slower and lower to the ground.

    But Ruby, the wonderdog was not immortal.  She did eventually go the way of all flesh, but our memory or her goes on.  There is a special bond between a dog and her owner.  Argos, Hachiko, and Old Yeller are just as immortal in people’s minds as are the Founding Fathers or the great philosophers.  However, to me Ruby will always be greatest in the dog-pantheon.  She remains the best dog I’ve ever known.  I love her.  I miss her, and I can’t wait to see her do all her old tricks again someday in heaven.—Ryan

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  • Ruby 4

    Posted on March 4th, 2015 admin Comments

    This is part 4 of a multi-part story.  Please click on the article to view full, then click the series link in the area above in order to read the whole story.

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    Ruby made it through her bout with the disease.  The virus took a lot out of her, but she survived, and she eventually returned to the same pup we’d known before.  There was no doubt that she loved us, in an emotional and committed way.  There was also no doubt that we loved her and would never give her away again.

    As her strength returned, I decided that all of her innate talent should not go to waste.  I taught her commands in triplicate, English, German (which I was learning in high school), and hand signals.  She learned all of this effortlessly.  If I told her to stay, or held up my hand fingers up- palm facing her, she would stay for as long as I left her.  Sometimes something would happen and she’d forget, but not usually.  If I got distracted and left her there, sometimes I’d find her hours later asleep in the same spot.

    Her best trick was one that took a little more doing (she learned it in less than a day), and I honestly don’t remember exactly how I taught her.  She would jump through a hoop if I held it up and said “jump.”  But, if I took the hoop and crouched down, holding the hoop in front and over my head, she’d run, jump onto my back, and off my back through the hoop.  She’d do it every time, and the very instant that I told her to.

    Ruby grew to a little larger than her mother.  A mutt that I dubbed a “Schnoodle-Wieiner,” she looked exactly like Benji (the 70’s movie dog), except a bit smaller.  She had a dark brown tail, light red short hairs, longer somewhat curly blonde hairs that covered that, and sparser dark brown straight hairs.  On the whole, she was a light brown color with darker brown ears that flopped slightly forward, shorter than a dachshund’s but similarly shaped.

    She was a little neurotic.  She’d lick things, mostly the carpet, in a compulsive manner when she was bored.  And she was obsessed with having her chest rubbed.  That was where she wanted to be petted most.

    If I were in a chair, Ruby would walk up to my foot and move over it with her chest (between her front legs and under her head) and rub her chest back and forth on my foot until I would move my foot to rub it myself.  If I stopped, she would back up, take her foot and paw my foot to tell me to start again.  To her this was the best thing going.  It was just something that we shared, and a way that she wanted to be petted.—Ryan

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  • Ruby 3

    Posted on February 28th, 2015 admin Comments

    This is part 3 of a multi-part story.  Please click on the article to view full, then click the series link in the area above in order to read the whole story.

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    Weeks later, one of the women called us and told my mom that they just couldn’t keep Ruby anymore.  She said that it was all just too much for them to handle.  I suspect that I’ll never quite know the truth of the matter.  Had my mom called them?  Had Ruby just refused to acclimate and accept them as a substitute family?  Had they just decided that a dog just wasn’t right for them?  In hindsight, I’m sure they were more cat people.  Or could it be that they knew something that they didn’t want to deal with?  I’ll never know.

    Regardless of the reasons, they brought her back.  They had renamed her Murphy Brown after the TV character (a lesbian hero of sorts at the time).  They said they had taught her some commands, like “walkies-walkies,” which apparently let her know that it was time to take a walk.  Interestingly enough, I never could get her to respond to “Murphy” at all.  I tried some experiments to test it, but she didn’t even appear to hear me.  In fact, it seemed that I could get her to respond to all sorts of words that weren’t even close to her name, but Murphy was not one of them.  “Walkies-walkies” seemed to be no different.

    Dogs will respond often more to the tone of voice than they will to the actual words you are saying.  Some research has shown that they only actually hear the stressed syllable of the word you use.  But Murphy and Ruby both have the “y” stressed.  Whenever I’d say “Murphy” it was almost like she’d gone temporarily deaf.  I could say “dog” and she’d look up, or various even made up words that would catch her attention.  But “Murphy” even applying the same tone, and masking my disdain she would never even hear.

    They had returned our dog, but something was wrong.  She was lethargic and she wouldn’t eat.  She barely even acted happy to see us at all.  After several days of this, we suspected that something more was wrong.  So we took her to the vet and they did some tests.

    Ruby tested positive for canine parvovirus, a serious disease that dogs can get.  A virus, spread through infected droppings and even the soil it has touched, “Parvo” is fatal to about 50% of dogs.  The ones that survive often have lasting problems, particularly in the digestive tract.  Infected dogs must be isolated and medicated.  We left ruby at the vet for treatment and prayed that she would survive.Ryan

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  • Ruby 2

    Posted on February 25th, 2015 admin Comments

    This is part 2 of a multi-part story.  Please click on the article to view full, then click the series link in the area above in order to read the whole story.

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    Ruby quickly became an indispensable part of the family.  She would crawl on top of my back and fall asleep as I lied on the carpet watching TV each night. She would also wake up shortly before I would and start scratching at my door to get in.  My mom would usually get to her before that and would lift her onto my bed.  Ruby would wake me up by repeatedly licking my face.

    When she grew big enough, she would jump onto my bed herself and wake me up in the same manner.  Or, she’d just jump repeatedly at the side of the bed making a whining noise until I noticed her.  This mostly happened when I was lying too close to the edge for her to get up there.

    Waking up to something licking your face is strange.  It is sloppy and startling, but not at all unpleasant.  The blare of an alarm clock is a cold and sterile method as compared to a companion showing you how much she loves you and wants you to be with her.  I have never been able to cajole anyone into waking me in the same manner in my adult life.

    She would collect my socks if I left them on the floor.  I’d find them in a pile somewhere later, or under the couch where she’d hide them if they were exquisitely smelly.  I later trained her to put them into the clothes hamper when she found them.

    And that was really what made Ruby so special.  She was smart and easy to train, but less so because of her intellect.  It was all mostly because she would do anything to please me.  I never gave her treats as a reward, but if I told her “good dog” and gave her a rub on her chest she would continue whatever it was she thought she’d done to deserve it, and would never forget it.

    I loved Ruby.  My mom loved her too, but my mom is really sensitive in a way that I am not.  I insisted that we get rid of Ruby, because we had 2 dogs and a cat already.  Ruby would have to make some other family happy.  So we took an ad out in the paper.

    Two ladies responded to the ad.  They came to take Ruby home to their apartment.  A middle-aged lesbian couple (or so I assumed), they seemed nice and answered all of our questions reassuringly.  So we adopted Ruby out and she exited our lives.

    My mom took it hard.  I was sad too, but I knew that she would be happy and that we’d get over it.  But my mom never did.  Day after day, and into several weeks my mom was seriously depressed over this.  She’d cry and sulk.  It seemed like she’d never come out of it.  But Ruby’s story, and certainly our involvement in it, was definitely not over.—Ryan

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  • Ruby 1

    Posted on February 22nd, 2015 admin Comments

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    When I was about 8 years old I spent all of the paper-route money that I’d saved up on a red wiener-dog puppy.  We named the dachshund Cassie, and she quickly became part of the family.  She was everything a wiener-dog is.  She was loyal and strong-willed, loud, and heat-seeking.  She would wake up every morning at about 7:30, just 5 minutes before the pool equipment came on, begging to be let outside.  She would then spend the next hour chasing the automatic sweeper around the pool barking.  The neighbors must have hated us and we’d tell her to shut up, but she didn’t care.  It was her game, but truly she did despise that thing.  But this little essay isn’t about Cassie.

    As I entered high school it was one of the most difficult periods in my life, and we’d moved to a new house out in the country.  The nearest neighbors were a 5 minute walk from our door.  They had a small male half schnauzer-half poodle that occasionally got out of their yard.  He was wiry and skittish.  I never really knew him at all, but he clearly had an interest in Cassie.

    In the country it is easier for mischief, probably because of a combination of boredom and isolation from prying eyes.  But regardless of the reason, something illicit happened in the cover of the olive grove, and several weeks later we noticed that Cassie was growing quite a belly.

    She delivered her three puppies one evening before we’d returned from visiting my Great Aunt Ruby on her birthday.  Two of the puppies were larger than I thought would have even fit inside of Cassie, coal black, and stillborn.  The only one that survived was the runt of the litter, a truly odd looking animal.  She was pretty in a unique way, but developed 3 different types of fur in layers, a tail that never matched the rest of her color, and intense light-brown eyes.

    Cassie didn’t appear that interested in the new pup, which we named Ruby as our own sort of tribute.  I picked Ruby up in my hands and marveled at the little helpless creature.  I’ll never forget her little ears which were just tiny tabs on the sides of her head, like small extended folds.  Most mother dogs will growl if their puppies are touched, but Cassie didn’t care. In my mind, she was stressed from the birth, so removed from most animal instinct, and really just sad that 2 of her babies had died.  So she just didn’t care that I was touching her puppy.  I know this is anthropomorphizing, but that is what I thought, and I’m still inclined to believe that was true…Ryan

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  • 2015 Predictions

    Posted on January 31st, 2015 admin Comments

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    Every year I create my predictions for the year ahead. It seems like I’m beating an old horse to explain this, but once again this is not astrology or psychic power (as you might realize by reading my analysis of 2014’s predictions). I’m just making my best guess as to what the news in the coming year might include. No one reads this anyway, so I really just do it as a game for myself.

    I wrote these down on the first week of January because my website hosting has been a bit of a debacle lately. I have witnesses to this, if anyone wants to doubt me. So, without further adieu…

    1. Hilary Clinton will announce her candidacy for President, probably in late summer through the end of November. There will be a strong and active lead-up to this. They will also attempt to hide Bill as much as possible, at least until Summer.
    2. Republicans will announce throughout 2015. It will be a large group. Ben Carson, Carly Fiorina, and Rand Paul will all be really active in 2015. You’ll hear from them a lot. They will all likely run.
    3. Who won’t run? Elizabeth Warren, and in a break with tradition…Joe Biden won’t jump in either.
    4. Obama will veto lots and lots of legislation. The Democrat’s story will still be “the do-nothing Congress, that won’t work bipartisanly.” Interestingly, many Dems will vote on measures like the Keystone pipeline, but won’t vote to override the veto. Because of that, it will be surprising how few times there will even be post-veto votes. This is Democrat strategy so that the Dems can claim to have voted for issues that they never supported.
    5. A Supreme Court vacancy will come up. Ruth Ginsburgh is looking likely to me. This will likely be tied to health-related issues. When it happens, it will happen fast.
    6. The Conservatives will get a big court win on either Benghazi, IRS bad behavior, Obamacare, Executive actions, and/or Obama’s immigration action.
    7. More gay marriage court action legalizing gay marriage. The Supreme Court will rule favorably to gay marriage, maybe steering clear of a sweeping legalization. Gay marriage states will increase.
    8. Radio Shack bankrupt—and gone. ***I wrote this one down 5 days prior to the news on January 15th that Radio Shack would likely file for Chapter 11 in the first week of February. I’m not saying that it was a long shot then, but there had been no announcement.
    9. At some point this year the Fed will increase the interest rate
    10. The “Internet of things” will really visibly increase. This will also be due to the falling prices of Internet-connective things.
    11. There will be news of companies doing wacky viral-esque stunts. Some of these will be really cool (look for socially conscious stuff) and some will be massively embarrassing failures.
    12. There will be a big number of attempted terrorist attacks in Europe and America. Some of these might be successful. The attacks this year in Paris are only the beginning. Europe will be the new front for a lot of Muslim violence.
    13. Iran will not follow through with its nuclear deal with the US
    14. Russia will have more military actions, possibly in Ukraine and maybe including Belarus.
    15. A-la cart TV on the Internet will finally come to fruition, and not just with a couple of channels like HBO. Some channels will do this through their websites and some will partner with existing providers like Netfilx and Amazon.
    16. There will be much more talk from the Left on “income inequality,” minimum wage, the rich getting richer, especially in the first half of the year.
    17. You’ll start hearing the term “Fast-Laning,” This will be one of the words of the year. There will be a rise in no-wait services and products—many through company apps.
    18. There will be a consumer backlash against product false claims. Companies will be held more accountable to what they say they can do.
    19. Early in the year expect a North Korean nuclear test, followed by belligerence, followed by an announced deal. All of this will take place before mid-summer.
    20. Facebook will further monetize. Look for possible corporate deals. They will possibly develop in-Facebook shopping and/or “pay with Facebook” ewallet technology.
  • 2014 Predictions – Reviewed

    Posted on January 29th, 2015 admin Comments

    Every year as is tradition, I do my prediction for the upcoming year.  I think that 2014 was actually my worst track record so far.  Anyone wants to score himself well on this kind of test, but I promise to be fair.  So, before I show my 2015 list, let me do my best to score my picks from 2014.  My comments will be in purple.

    1. The Dow Jones Industrial Average high on January 1st was 16,500+.  On the last trading day of the year, The Dow will be a net loss (under 16,500) for the year.  I am guessing that there will be a large correction period this year, but it could also be from fallout from a major political event, or a world event.

    OK, this wasn’t even close.  The Dow Jones ended the year over 18,000.  There was one dip in mid-October to under 16,500, but other than that moment, the stock market was on a rocket upwards the whole year.  By the way, that is the case for every year since 2010.  It seems nonsensical to me, which is why I made the prediction.  It still seems like a house of cards, but in January of last year, I was…

    MrWrong

     

    1. There will be a major political change in North Korea.  I cannot see the Kim Jung Un regime lasting another 12 months.  I know that part of North Korea’s strategy is to appear weaker than it actually is (see Stratfor’s analysis), but I think the regime is more tenuous than many believe.  This regime change will likely come from an internal coup rather than an external invasion.  I must admit that this is more wish than anything, but I do believe this has a good likelihood.

    There was the time that Little Kim disappeared for a few weeks, but all-in-all the story of the year was North Korea’s quiet.  We barely heard a peep out of them.  They’ve got to be getting antsy, but at least for 2014 I was…

    MrWrong

    1. The NSA related security issue will be one of the biggest stories of 2014, just like it was this year.  However, part of 2014′s story will be about the private sector trying to both solve consumers’ desire for security.  There will be new products and maybe even new companies creating products and services to safeguard consumers’ private data.  Some of these will be mostly hoaxes, although there might be some new creative technology.  There will also be a rising popular push for keeping private information off of the internet

    I think I did quite well on this one.  The NSA and data was a huge story in 2014.  There was the launch of the new iPhone with data encryption (much to the consternation of the government) and there were quite a number of new businesses founded (see several interviews with Mark Cuban about 3 separate businesses he’s invested in over the last yar).  I count this one…

    Right

    Bonus

    1. There is a high likelihood of Israel being a much more significant newsmaker than last year.  The possibility of a strike on Iran has increased significantly after the last American and Iranian presidential elections.  The ramifications of this would also be huge.  Even if there is no Israeli strike on Iran, I believe there will be significant West Bank/Palestinian related violence, perhaps even another intifada.

    This is a perennial pick for me.  I am always bearish on the Israel situation.  It isn’t really schadenfreude.  But, as compared to usual, it was not a violent year in 2014, so I’m…

    MrWrong

    1. Gas prices will end the year lower than the $3.12 they are at now.

    Average US gas price on the last day of the year: about $2,20.  Enough said, but just for fun…


    Right

    1. Hollywood movies will be remarkably more upbeat in tone than they were in 2013.  This will be especially true of the Summer Blockbusters, which will feature less apocalypse porn than in recent years.

    Number 3 is harder to examine.  This is because a couple of the movies are mixed.  For instance, (not counting movies that started in late December, but earned their money mostly in 2015) the biggest movie of 2014 was Hunger Games: Mokingjay.  This was certainly an post-apocalyptic-type tale, but it is the turn of the story where things become hopeful.  So I think it doesn’t count for or against my prediction.  Of the other movies in the top 10, the only one that could be considered true apocalypse-porn is the Transformers movie (please stop watching Michael Bay movies, people).   It is hard for me to count that as even a true movie.  I think most would agree that movies seemed less angsty this last year.  So…


    Right

    1. Hilary Clinton will formally announce her candidacy for President this Summer.  She will announce this Spring that she is going on a “listening tour” and will announce her presidency surrounded by a sense that people are crying out for her to run.

    Give me some credit.  She did go to Iowa and around the country on a listening tour.  Everyone knows she will run.  There is a “Time for Hilary” Pac.  In 2014, everyone assumed that her presidency was a foregone conclusion, at least until everyone realized how much they hated Obama.  She didn’t declare, But at least give me 40% on this one. Let’s say…

    halfemptyglass

    I’m going to give myself a C on that one.  I get 3.5 our of 6  This is the worst I’ve done.  It seems to me that a D would be 50-50 in this case, and an F would be more wrong than right (I’m not going by true percentages).

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