Observations from a Long Weekend

From time to time, frequently on a spur-of-the-moment, Mrs. Crucis and I will take off on a trip. Our plans are usually vague…”Let’s go somewhere,” and we’ll pick a direction and go. A couple of years ago, during Thanksgiving, we went south to visit the Pea Ridge Civil War battlefield and Ft Smith, AR and it’s Territorial Court.

This time, we went north. Our daughter and her family went to the Omaha Zoo a few years ago and suggested it as an attraction to visit. However, my observations about this trip are not about the Zoo, although it was expensive—$14 admission (Senior) and the cost of refreshments ($3.25 for a small, 8oz. cup of Iced Tea.)

Our route took us through northwestern Missouri, southwestern and central Iowa, and eastern Nebraska…Omaha and its immediate surroundings. We drove to Omaha on I-29. That Interstate had been flooded out a couple of years ago when the Missouri River overflowed its banks.

Along the way in Missouri, near the Iowa border at an exit pointing to Corning, MO, Mrs. Crucis spotted an old brick church and wanted a photo. The church was in the remnants of a small town. No, a cluster of homes…former homes along a railroad. There was an old abandoned brick depot, a dozen or more houses, and a Lutheran Church. We parked to take photos of the church. The main building, according to the date over the front door, had been built in 1893. The photo below was found on the internet showing the church during the flood.

Lutheran Church, Corning, MO

Lutheran Church, Corning, MO

Most of the homes, with a couple of exceptions, were abandoned. Every building, including the church, had water-marks 3-4′ up the sides of the buildings—a souvenir from the Missouri River flood a couple of years ago. The main portion of the church was closed, the windows boarded but it was still being used. An extension, around the left cornerof the church in the photo above had been repaired and cleaned up.

The remaining houses in that small town were empty and heavily damaged from the flood. When we entered the town, we noticed a dozen or more small travel trailers, RVs and a small motorhome parked in a circle. In the middle of that circle was a collection of people sitting in lawn chairs surrounding a number of BBQ grills. A couple of kids were playing while the adults talked. We passed them again as we left town and it occurred to me those people were the residents—survivors of the flood. The flood may have ruined their homes, their small town, but it hadn’t ruined them. They were staying regardless. It was their home town.

We passed into Iowa and immediately ran into construction zones. The summer highway maintenance season was in full swing. The condition of I-29 through that stretch badly needed maintenance. I don’t know if it was due to wear ‘n tear or from flood damage, but the condition of the unrepaired portions of that Interstate needed work.

We arrived in Omaha in the middle of the afternoon, checked into a hotel near the Zoo, and still had time to visit the Durham Museum in the old Omaha Union Station. I don’t know how they did it…the Museum and the old Union Station was air conditioned and with 100% humidity! Before we left, I was drenched in sweat. My shirt was wet, my jeans were damp from sweat, I could almost imagine my feet squishing in my shoes!

The museum was in the lower level along with a small railroad exhibit—a steam engine, caboose, several vintage railroad cars—club car, Pullman, compartments and a meeting room with a large vintage conference table. It was a nice museum and appeared to be well funded. The names of contributors were plastered on every exhibit.

After the museum, Mrs. Crucis wanted to find a pharmacy, a Walmart, or a Target, to buy some items we’d forgotten to bring—like sun block for our Zoo visit. Here is where the observations begin.

Omaha and the surroundings we visited appear to be time-locked from the 1970s. We drove through a significant portion of Omaha and the downtown area. The last time I had visited Omaha was in the early 1980s when I was a field computer engineer. I had a number of clients in Omaha and made repair trips from KC to Omaha several times a month. Little had changed from my last visit to today. Oh, the Interstates had a few updated interchanges, a loop, I-480 ran up through the center of Omaha to the downtown area. But we saw few new buildings. The Interstates were bordered by sound and sight barriers and trees. It was difficult to observe anything beyond the right-of-way of the highway.

I supposed it would be more accurate to report what we DID NOT see rather than what we saw! We did not see any new homes. The ones we saw were four to five decades old. We did not see any grocery stores. I know there had to be some. People can’t survive without them. We didn’t see any and we spent as much time driving off the Interstate highways as we did on them. No Price Chopper, no Hy-Vee, no IGA or other brand-name grocery stores. We saw no Walmarts, no Target stores. I can’t imagine a city that size of Ohama without them but we didn’t see any. We saw no pharmacies, no Walgreens, no CVS.We’ve traveled through many states and never before have we been in a city that didn’t have a Walgreens/CVS on every third corner.

We finally had to take I-80 back to the Council Bluffs, Iowa to find a place to buy some sun block. Omaha appeared to be a city frozen in time. The highways were crumbling, the surface actually breaking up in some locations, even on the Interstate highways. The off-interstate roads were narrow and frequently blocked by empty city vehicles that were parked randomly in the middle of streets. Some of the streets were paved using bricks…very old bricks, not the trendy ones we see from time to time. These brick streets were fifty years old or more.

We spent the next day at the Zoo. We had driven by on our arrival and found the large parking lots full. This time we arrived at opening time and was able to find a parking spot a couple of hundred yards from the entrance. It was a very nice Zoo, well kept, clean, well maintained exhibits, especially the Cat House, the Aquarium and the Butterfly House. This was the first zoo I’ve visited that had an entire exhibit of free-flying butterflies. Entrance to the butterfly area was through an air lock arrangement. When you left the free flight area, you exited via another similar arrangement and you were examined to see if you unknowingly carried any butterflies with you.

Mrs. Crucis and I wanted to find a nice restaurant for dinner after the zoo. We did not take a laptop with us, relying on our android phones and tablets instead. Our hotel contained a steel frame that blocked GPS signals. We quickly discovered that Google’s search functions fail without GPS access. We tried to do searches for restaurants. Google locked up. I turned GPS off hoping Google would use IP location instead. Nope.

The hotel had a small small listing of eateries. Most were small, very small Mom ‘n Pop cafes. We picked one that turned out to be waaay out in the boonies. It was called, “The Roadhouse.” It was a nice, family-owned place—not a steak-house, nor a franchise operation. It too, appeared to be locked into the 1970s. We ate in the Cornhusker Room. The food was good, acceptable but it was no Applebees, nor Longhorn Steakhouse.

We left Omaha on Monday and returned home via I-80 to Des Moines and from there, I-35 back to KC. Iowa was dramatically different from Nebraska and from Missouri, for that matter. We didn’t notice until we were outside Council Bluffs heading east on I-80. Iowa must have banned roadside billboards. There was nothing to indicate what services were coming until the small sign next to the exits flashed by.

We wanted to stretch out legs, hurting after walking over ten miles the day before through the zoo. We missed several spots, gas stations, truck stops because there were no signs indicating their presence—until you were at the exit. By the time you’d read the small collection of logos on the sign, you were past the exit! The clear view of the country side was great. But when you want to find a clean restroom? Not so great.

I-80 had its sections under repair. In Missouri, the surface of the interstates, most highways in fact, are uniform. In Iowa, they are not. The highway surface in some areas produced road noise so loud we couldn’t hear the radio. Suddenly, we would reach a different section of pavement and the road noise disappeared as if by a snap of our fingers. A mile or so further, the quiet section of pavement disappeared and the high road noise returned.

Google must hate Iowa, Des Moines in particular. Do you know you can’t find the Iowa state capitol building using Google? We had heard that the Iowa Capitol had a golden dome. We planned to stop and visit the Capitol if it was open. I entered “Iowa State Capitol Building” into Google Maps. Nothing found. It did find “Iowa Capitol Tours.” I changed the search text slightly and it found the Iowa Commission for Social Services.

By this time we had reached the downtown area of Des Moines. We thought we’d see some signs pointing to the Capitol building but we didn’t see any. We parked in front of an older building that may have contained city or county offices. I used the time to expand the Google Map of Des Moines to see if the Capitol was shown. Nothing found. After driving around downtown, we decided to leave and head home. As I was on the ramp back onto the Interstate north of the downtown area, I spied the gold dome of the Capitol in my rear view mirror. Sigh. It was well after noon and we decided to continue home.

Another feature of Iowa appears to be their support for Mom ‘n Pop restaurants and businesses. We rarely, if ever, saw any fast-food places along the Interstates of Iowa. We did find some nice, family operations. We stopped for a late lunch off I-35 in southern Iowa. The local eatery was in a beat-up looking bulding. Inside was a bar and a restaurant is a side room. The prices on the menu were very reasonable. I ordered a chicken-fried steak, Mrs. Crucis ordered fried cod. Both items were well cooked and presented. My mashed potatoes were hand peeled and mashed, with home-made chicken-fried steak, not some factory produced product.

I like small family operations. I call them local greasy spoons—not a condescending label but a mark of quality, home cooking. When I was traveling, long ago as a field engineer, I had a long list of small, family-owned and operated eateries. I didn’t and still don’t patronize fast food joints. The best places are still those small places well off the interstate off-ramps.

In summary, from a casual observation, Missouri is decades ahead of Nebraska and Iowa. Iowa is trying to catch up. Nebraska has not realized there is competition between states for people and industry. Missouri roads are excellent compared to those in Nebraska and Iowa. Missouri has new homes, many built in the last decade. We saw none in Nebraska. The only new construction we saw in Iowa was apartment buildings around Des Moines.

In Missouri you can see new(ish) homes all along our highways. Not so in Nebraska nor Iowa. Most of the roadside farm homes appear to have been built sixty to seventy years ago. I do grant that many of those older farm homes in Iowa are well cared for and maintained. But I don’t remember seeing a single new farm home, as in built in the last three decades, in all of Iowa.

Nebraska had a sense of…ennui. We saw few people in the down town area, but it was on a holiday weekend. There were few cars on the streets in Omaha. The common language I heard during our time there was Spanish. I suppose the word I’m looking for,but am reluctant to use to describe Omaha, is…despair.

Iowa is faring better. There is a sense of industry in the state that is lacking in Nebraska. Still, Iowa is a decade or more behind Missouri. As much as there is that we need to fix in our state and in our state government, we only need to look closely to Nebraska and Iowa to realize how worse we could be.

I am a Heretic!

You read the post title. I am not a believer in, nor a practitioner of…The One True Way!

That’s right. I refuse to use a CPAP. I “supposedly” have sleep apnea. I was tested back in the early 1990s at a local hospital. They declared I had sleep apnea. It was the first time I’d heard of the condition.

I’d gone to my family doc for something. During the session, he asked how I slept.  At that time, I was in a high stress job, worked long hours and, yes, I didn’t sleep well. I’d go to bed at 10pm and still be awake at midnight. When I did sleep, I’d wake frequently. I also had a lot of back pain. When the Doc asked if how I slept, I naturally said not well.

I do admit that on occasion, not frequent at all, I’d wake coughing and once gasping. When the hospital tech said I had obstructive sleep apnea and described the cause, I accepted it.

Then he tried to sell me a CPAP…a very expensive CPAP. I said I’d talk it over with my doc.  He, too, tried to sell me on the idea of a CPAP. In fact I tried one out.

It was pure torture.

For me, it didn’t work. I could not sleep with that infernal device strapped to my face.

I’m an engineer. Engineers have a peculiar mindset. When confronted with a problem, they tend devise solutions. I found one that works for me.

Sleep apnea, according to wiki, is…a condition when breathing is interrupted by a physical block to airflow despite respiratory effort, and snoring is common.

The CPAP is supposed to force air through the nasal passages forcing the palate aside and allowing air to reach the lungs. I’m sure there are more technical definitions but basically that is what is done. It’s one engineering solution to a physical condition. And, it works. It works for tens of thousands of people, maybe more.

It doesn’t work for me.

When I examined the problem with my engineer’s eye, I found an alternative. The blockage of air by the collapse of the palate in the back of the throat is caused by gravity. If there was no gravity the palate wouldn’t collapse.

For me, that condition occurred only when I slept, tried to sleep, flat on my back. Given the conditions necessary to cause sleep apnea, what could I do to change those conditions?

1. Don’t sleep flat on my back. Sleep on one side or the other.

2. Change the angle of the pull of gravity, Elevate my upper body. That would change the direction of the pull of gravity. I don’t have any blockage when I’m vertical, standing that is. What angle is required that does not block my breathing when my palate relaxes? For me that was 15°. A surgical wedge available at medical supply stores would, when slept  upon, raise my upper body and fulfill that requirement.

Alternately, sleep in a recliner…one that raises the upper body, not one that lays flat when extended. That would defeat the purpose of preventing blockages.

3. All of the above.

My engineered solution works—for me. I do not endorse it for anyone else. It is a customized solution only for me.

You would think my doc and others would appreciate my design. It’s cheap, not like a CPAP. It doesn’t require frequent cleaning nor filters as do some CPAPs. It doesn’t require battery nor a electrical power outlet. It works. Most of all, it doesn’t require a CPAP.

Instead of having my solution accepted I have been called by some CPAP proponents ignorant, stupid for defying orders to use a CPAP, a murderer for proposing there was a solution that didn’t require a CPAP, and then the responses got personal.

My doc was more polite. He just didn’t believe my solution worked. He still asks if I want to be retested.

It seems that I endangered some rice bowls. There is an entire industry in manufacturing CPAPs, selling and marketing CPAPs and sleep testing. They have their lobbyists and supporters. They have sold the medical community on the CPAP as the ONLY solution to sleep apnea. Naysayers beware!

It didn’t occur to me until later that the organizations that conducted the sleep testing were also the same ones selling CPAPs. Most people would see that as a conflict of interest.

I have, over the years, asked people if they had ever had sleep testing. Many, many have. Not one ever passed the test. Most use CPAPs. Those who don’t are being constantly badgered to buy and use CPAPs. I’ve yet to encounter anyone who has been tested and didn’t have sleep apnea!

I was first tested over twenty years ago. I bowed to my doc’s insistence a number of years ago and was tested again. I knew more about the condition when I was tested the second time.

I arrived, was conducted to the test room and hooked up with all the expected sensors and told to lay flat on the bed. There wasn’t a pillow. I have bone spurs in my neck. I need some head support.

I asked for a pillow. One, a small flat pillow, barely a cushion, was provided. I asked for another because the single pillow didn’t provide enough support. At first the technician refused saying there wasn’t any more. At my insistence he found another.

Then he left.

I wasn’t sleepy. I’d had a full day working a problem for my employer. Like many, I continued to work the problem in my head. It’s one reason why I have difficulty sleeping.

I glanced at my watch from time to time. Thirty minutes passed. An hour. The tech looked in at one time. My back began to hurt. I couldn’t get comfortable. I tried to shift my position to relieve the pain. I rolled on one side. The tech rushed in. He said I had to lay flat for the test. My suspicions rose. The pain continued, growing. I still couldn’t get comfortable.

By now, over two hours had passed. I still hadn’t slept. The tech was supposed to be video taping the session. He came into the room every fifteen minutes or so. I made a game of waving at him whenever he entered.

At the three hour mark, the tech entered again and said the reading proved I had sleep apnea and that I’d stopped breathing, one time for over a minute.

What! How could that happen when I’d never been asleep?

He proceeded then to fix me up with a CPAP. They had a new model, he said. This one covered both my nose, like the old style CPAPs and my mouth. He tightened the straps—TIGHT!. The CPAP sealed my mouth and nose. I could get no air. That was the purpose of the design. Then the tech turned on the regulator and left.

My lungs blew up like two balloons! The tech must have put the regulator on high. The pressure was so great I had extreme difficulty exhaling. It was work to exhale every breath. At the slightest relaxation my lungs expanded again under the pressure of the CPAP.

I fought trying to breath for several minutes and was getting desperate. I was finally able to get the CPAP off. The tech was enraged. I’d ended his experiment. Now he would have to start it all over. He refused to listen to me.

I had had enough. I gathered my clothes put on my shirt and pants and walked out the door. When I looked in the mirror the next morning I had bruises around by nose, mouth and chin. I had large blue patches under both eyes like I’d had both blackened.

I called the testing company and spoke with the manager. He offered to test me again using another tech. I’d have to take a day off work to do so. I refused. I never went back. I wrote a letter to the testing company, copying my doc, and described by ordeal. I stated that I would not pay for the testing. They had run my credit card when I had arrived because my insurance wouldn’t pay. I was never billed.

I now have a note in my medical records. “Subject diagnosed with sleep apnea and has refused to use a CPAP.”

Every time I see my doc, he asks how I sleep. Much better now that I have a solution. I still wake frequently and like many my age, I have difficulty getting to sleep. Those conditions aside, I sleep reasonably well. The doc also asks if I wake with headaches? No. Do I wake gasping or dreaming of suffocating? No to both.

Will I use a CPAP? No. I don’t need one. I don’t have high-blood pressure, another symptom of sleep apnea. It was 121/72 at my last visit. I have no symptoms nor, according to my wife, do I snore when I sleep. I don’t gasp, nor stop breathing. She’s listened as instructed by my doc.

But that one statement is still in my medical records. My wife and I applied for some extended care health insurance recently. The insurance company had a nurse visit us. She weighed us. Had us fill out a medical questionnaire. Checked our blood pressure noting that mine was very good and gave us several tests to check our mental acuity. We both passed those tests with ease.

We received a note from the insurance company last week. My wife was accepted. I was not. Why? I was overweight and refused to use a CPAP. They would reconsider if I lost some weight and would use a CPAP.

I’m still a Heretic and the Powers that Be have not forgotten. I won’t bend nor bow to The One True Way.

2016: The Documentary

My wife and I saw 2016 yesterday afternoon.  The number of show-times have expanded dramatically from the weekend.  Last week it was shown at one time, noon. This week it has expanded to four times a day. Evidently the demand has been…surprising for theater managers.

I’m not going into much detail about the movie. It was based on Dinesh D’Souza’s best-selling book, Obama’s America: Unmaking the American Dream. One theme was the parallels in Obama’s early life and that of D’Souza. Obama’s early life was spent in Indonesia, a former Dutch colony. D’Souza was Indian and grew in in post-colonial India.  Both were products of colonialism and post-colonialism, or rather anti-colonialism shaped both—Obama in one direction, D’Souza in another.

There really wasn’t, for me, much new information in the documentary. I knew that Obama’s mother and father were married only a short time. Obama, Sr., left the family to attend a US university. Obama’s mother shortly after Obama, Sr.’s departure  married Lolo Soetoro and moved to Indonesia where Soetoro was employed by the Indonesian government.

That marriage didn’t last long either.  Soetoro moved, due to his job, to the Right while Obama’s mother moved further to the Left. When Obama was in the 5th grade, he was sent to live with his grandparents in Hawaii.

When Obama was older, his Grandfather arranged for Obama to have a mentor, Frank Marshall Davis. Davis was a card-carrying member of the Communist Party of the USA.

In his biography of Barack Obama, David Mendell writes about Obama’s life as a “secret smoker” and how he “went to great lengths to conceal the habit.” But what about Obama’s secret political life? It turns out that Obama’s childhood mentor, Frank Marshall Davis, was a communist.

In his books, Obama admits attending “socialist conferences” and coming into contact with Marxist literature. But he ridicules the charge of being a “hard-core academic Marxist,” which was made by his colorful and outspoken 2004 U.S. Senate opponent, Republican Alan Keyes.

However, through Frank Marshall Davis, Obama had an admitted relationship with someone who was publicly identified as a member of the Communist Party USA CPUSA). The record shows that Obama was in Hawaii from 1971-1979, where, at some point in time, he developed a close relationship, almost like a son, with Davis, listening to his “poetry” and getting  advice on his career path. But Obama, in his book, Dreams From My Father,refers to him repeatedly as just “Frank.” — Accuracy in Media

The documentary continues with Obama’s other mentors, Bill AyersRoberto Unger and Edward Said. None of this is any revelation to anyone who has been attentive to the news.  However, listening to some of the  comments from the audience yesterday, it was a revelation for some.

The core theme of the documentary is that Obama’s world view is that of an anti-colonialist. Socialism/communism is just a tool to be used to punish the colonial powers, to redirect their wealth to the 3rd world. “But,” you say, “the US is not a colonial power.” Obama’s viewpoint, according to D’Souza, is that the US is the inheritor of colonialism and is therefore equally guilty.

One bit of information that was new concerned Obama’s half-brother George in Kenya. Some of George’s comments explains why he has been ignored by Obama.  George is not an anti-colonialist. In fact, he stated that Kenya would have been better off, more developed, “like Malaysia. Singapore and South Africa,” if the “whites” had stayed longer. Kenya gained independence in the early 1960s. The whites” and educated blacks fled Kenya leaving the country to wallow in poverty. George clearly believes that Kenya was not ready for independence. When asked why Obama had not helped his brother who lives in poverty, George smiled and said, “He has his own family.” The inference is that it is George’s non anti-colonialist opinions are the real reason.

All in all, the documentary is well worth seeing. For conservatives, it confirms our views and opinions about Obama. For the average democrat, it will be a revelation. But, I don’t expect the mind-washed will bother to see 2016. It would break too many of their illusions.

Wednesday Quickies

I have an appointment this morning so I don’t have my usual amount of time to write a blog.  Here are a few things to tide you over ’til tomorrow.
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Obama finally says he has a jobs plan.  After two and a half years in office, he fiiinally has a plan.  I’m not surprised what it is.  He’ll tell us…as soon as his vacation to Martha’s Vineyard is over.  In a couple of weeks. Glenn McCoy explains…

Same ol’, same ol’.

***
Speaking of jobs plan, Chuck Asay chimes in…


Yeah, guess who’s paying for those black buses?  Us.  A friend of mine called Obama’s bus, Debt Star One.

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After the sellout by Boehner and McConnell, the opinions of the country is firming as Gary Varvel explains.


I think Gary Varvel is being polite.  Clowns is not the label I’d put on Congress.


Well, I’m off. Y’all play nice now.

A continuation…

This time of year is always full of celebration and expectation. As I said in an earlier post, I had a birthday over the weekend reaching another milestone. My wife will join me in a few months. In April, our daughter and oldest grandson will have birthdays. Yesterday, Mrs. Crucis and I celebrated our 43rd wedding anniversary.

We, like many, went out to dinner last evening and scarfed a “ton” of shrimp at a local seafood emporium. It had been a while since we were last there. I was surprised how much the prices had risen.

The price increase was not solely due to the damage of the Gulf scrimp beds. Transportation costs are also a factor. Our local greasy spoon now charges a quarter if you want tomatoes on your ‘burger. I supposed if you’re not inclined to pay the extra cost, you can always make your BLT just a BL.

All in all, this is a great time of year, April 15th excepted. We had 3″ or more of snow on Monday and today the temps will reach the mid-70s.

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With all the reports coming from Japan, what is not mentioned is as interesting as what is mentioned. Mentioned is all the contamination, full rods melting(?), explosions, reporters running in circles screaming and shouting.

What isn’t being mentioned is that the reactors shutdown automatically—as designed, when the earthquake hit. The cooling pumps continued while local grid power was available. When that was lost, the on-site generators took over—as designed, and the cooling pumps continued. When the tsunami hit and took out the generators, the cooling pumps continued for another 8 hours on battery backup.

What’s the lesson learned? The earthquake did not do all the damage. The plant survived that event—as designed. It was the tsunami that did all the damage. The lesson: Don’t build your nuke plant on the sea shore where it’s vulnerable to unprecedented tsunamis.