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Location: Takoma Park, Maryland, United States

I'm now a 52-year-old American male raised as an Episcopalian, veteran of submarines, Peace Corps, and State Department. I like teaching people about what they can do with computers and have gotten by as an independent Microsoft trainer teaching networking, but I really hope to someday find a way to make a living traveling on my motorcycle, camping, and writing about places and people I meet along the way.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Another Evaluation for Susan?

Well! What is this?

Susan's says that her lawyer is surprised and confused. The Justice Department wants another evaluation, the judge has agreed, and even the prosecutor, Susan thinks, was surprise.

What does this mean?

Another visit to Carswell?

It is amazing, to me, that with so many people in need of medical care and who are not provided for their needs by our government, that somebody who does not want it is forced....

Ah! Here is what we don't think about. What if all medical care were in the control of the government? Would that not be another way for tyrants to govern? Anybody who does not get along with authority can be labeled as psychotic or delusional and institutionalized.

I will begin donating to the ACLU, today. I think that Thomas Jefferson, and maybe a few other of our founding fathers would.

Monday, January 22, 2007

On the DC Metro

Riding in, this morning, I had some memorization tasks to occupy my time that probably served well to wake me up a bit, even if I delayed breakfast and coffee for after arrival at work. At Union Station several people got on the metro, together, already engaged in a conversation. It was an easy guess that they commuted by MARC together frequently. A woman who had entered the car by the middle door pushed through the crowd to join them, near me, at the back door.

"We're just going to get another bunch of political appointees who are going to want to change everything again," said a man with a trim gray haircut.

A man in uniform next to him nodded. "We've had three different deputy assistant secretaries already, this year." Then after a pause, "Each one has had different funding priorities... different ideas."

Friday, January 12, 2007

Foreclosure Conclusion

Susan's brother prevailed upon the father to halt the foreclosure proceedings. Not only that, but he also pointed out that the trust the father was managing had been set up to benefit him and Susan, and not to impoverish them with loans at extortionist rates -- howbeit there be loans with more extortionist rates. The interest was then forgiven. A few days later the brother had another conversation. Perhaps he enumerated the benefits that he himself had received from their late mother's estate, perhaps he pointed out how he and Susan had been cajoled into rolling their immediate inheritance into the trust, and how monies from that had been employed by the trustee, their father. Perhaps those monies had not been repaid at interest. I don't know the whole story but Susan's account, though often full of anxiety, and I can never trust her convictions when she is in the grip of her fears, seems likely. The good news is that Christmas got her in touch with her brother who had little knowledge of what was transpiring, and however tired he might be of her afflictions, decency, and probably actual brotherly love prevailed.

Yesterday, Susan received word that the brother had further prevailed in a request that proceeds to her from the trust not be repaid at all. So, now she is closer to being solvent. The house may be quickly refinanced, given that it has a renter or two more than it had when the Justice Department sent Susan away. That additional income, thanks to friend Karin who invested thousands of dollars and time down on her knees cleaning and fixing the previously unusable bath rooms. That refinancing should pay off a few other debts.

She quickly got on the phone to a Fannie Mae mortgage backer, and tells of a wonderful program they have for strapped home owners, one that is designed to prevent bankruptcies by providing reasonable rates and incentives of better rates for good performance in repaying the loan. Now, she is asset rich and cash poor.

The current crisis is the car. My motorcycle broke down. Pieces that held a saddlebag to the frame broke off and required welding. Josh, the head of the service department at Bob's BMW, told me about a welder. The story of what that required is written elsewhere, but Susan met me at the welders and watched as I took my bike apart, then we put all the pieces in her car, leaving a stripped-down vehicle for the welding. The next night, she took me back out and watched in amazement as the bike, more-or-less came back together. Once I got the bike home, and after washing my hands, we went to dinner. Her car immediately began running with a lurch. At stop lights, we found that it stayed running at idle if we quickly got it into neutral.

I feared at first that it was a timing belt, since it was behaving differently under load. She said that it had been replaced only twenty-thousand miles ago.

"Well, maybe it's something as simple as a spark plug."

The recent, suddenly cold weather might also have something to do with it.

I went to work the next day and she took the car to a local service shop. It turned out that the car needed new ignition wires. Fifty dollars -- not bad. However, in her anxiety to fix whatever might be wrong -- her first thought was the transmission -- the list of roving requirements grew and the bill came to $400 that she doesn't have. Doesn't everybody know to ask for a diagnosis and an estimate before agreeing to service? She allows that the mortgage has not yet been paid, either, and that she needs transportation to get to a bank to cash a check that another tenant gave her, late.

There is a lesson in this, for me. If I were more thrifty I could more easily asist. I could have held off on the repairs to my bike. Perhaps I should stop riding it altogether until I have a bit more money in savings. In the last month, I completed a 60-thousand-mile service. That and the repairing of the saddlebag could have both waited until spring and better riding weather, I suppose. Truth is, however, that it is easier to ride to work, given the state of my back, than it is to walk to and from the metro. My back is generally ordering a halt after about two blocks. Standing in Metro stations waiting for trains, if I'm not fortunate enough to get a seat, doesn't help, either. Perhaps I need to start using a cane so that my need is more apparent.

A friend admonishes me that I need to stop living "paycheck-to-paycheck." That is true. However, I've previously prided myself on the notion that I live more by faith in God than faith in the dollar. It is no small coincidence that every dollar remind us, "In God we trust." Still, I perhaps tempt fate too much or at least need to desist in testing providence by foolishness.

I went to bed last night troubled that I could not help her. I did not sleep well. When I slept I had nightmares. Not the kind of nightmares with ghosts and such, but the kind that describe to me very real calamities. I hesitate to write about them as I fear that the notion of such evil will be learned by others and employed.

It nevertheless came to me that while men may have been successful in defining the tyranny of governments and to some extent devising means to limit them, we have not done as well in recognizing the tyranny of lenders. After my foray into self employment as a Microsoft Trainer, and two accidents that ended it and added an exclamation mark for emphasis, I have had a taste of what disadvantage the poorest Americans face although I had the benefit of somewhat marketable skills, and a security clearance at a time when employee candidates with them were becoming harder to come by.

A good mortgage and lending market are important to enterprise. The same for insurance. There is a point beyond which both businesses may exploit weaker parties and at which the business becomes one of more questionable motives and ethics. The profit motives of free enterprise should serve and remain subordinate to public interest, not the opposite.

I mention insurance because it is part of my personal nightmare. My only employment was self employment at the time of the last may accident, I had no health insurance. The other party's insurance company quickly admitted responsibility, but failed to be forthcoming in assuring medical treatment or compensation for time I would lose from my work, teaching. If it were not for a lawyer willing to represent me, I would have had no further medical care. Still, the aggressiveness with which insurance companies have pursued medical cost has resulted in a situation whereby doctors are less willing to prescribe comprehensive examinations. Despite complaining of head and back injuries, neither the emergency room or my doctor were willing to prescribe x-rays or MRI's. So it was that I lived with undiagnosed back pain through the months of June, July, August, and into September -- attending physical therapy until I was allowed to go back to work, in July.

It is also the case that I went weeks before symptoms of dizziness, headaches, and forgetfulness were diagnosed, and that due to a friend who worked at the Food and Drug Administration, who recognized them and instructed me to insist on seeing a psychiatrist -- not that the psychiatrist was willing to afford the expense of baseline studies required to document the consequences of a "closed head injury." This friend knew that such injuries are occurring more often in people who wear helmets!

Back on full-duty, I taught my first motorcycle safety class, since the accident. After a bit more than an hour walking and instructing on the black-top, I was bent over by a shooting pain down my left leg. This justified a MRI of the lower back and revealed several bone fragments that had broken off of disc's and were floating in my spinal column.

To this day, I have had no x-ray of my skull, no MRI of the upper back, and while doctors have been generally attentive to the injuries of the back, my comments that the right knee periodically is causing me some concern have gone uninvestigated. I tend to focus upon the more serious and painful problem, myself.

And so I see a problem. One part of the insurance industry hikes up the price of medical care, and another, when required to afford it to to an injured party who is clearly entitled, endeavors to limit it to restrain their costs. The citizen is caught in the middle.

A few days ago, I heard a radio program on NPR, interviewing a Democratic party politician on what it means to be a Democrat. He mentioned the "Jacksonian" notion that the health of a society is measured not in by the health of those at the top, but by the welfare of those at the bottom. While I worry that this notion allows a majority of freeloaders to prevail upon a minority of more responsible, productive workers for welfare, I realize also that human happiness drives all of us to find ways of being of service to others, and that perhaps freeloaders will never be in a majority even were it permitted to be so.

In my nightmare, I lived in a country ruled by casino owners. Many who came for entertainment ended up impoverished and enslaved. They were forced to perform for the entertainment of new people coming to the land. The entertainment was not particularly good although the performers struggled at their craft. The scripts were such that they had to portray their own indignity. Those who watched did so out of the lack of any better entertainment all the while thinking that their failure to recognize the merit of the performance was due to their own lack of culture. They strove to become more sensitive to the moral and theme of the story, but only became programmed to fit into similarly dysfunctional lives.

The horrors that were visited upon those who schemed to escape their poverty!

Upon waking I thought of the game of souls. Those who had lost theirs, endeavoring to similarly impoverish others. The only form of entertainment--way of feeling better--for those who have lost their own soul is the process of finding or creating greater unhappiness in others. Perhaps this is the business of vice. Let me consider how society comes to allow it and make it fashion.