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Thursday, September 29, 2005

Just Awesome!!! /click twice for largest size photo/






NASA Administrator says shuttle and space station were "mistakes; "

In an interview, a NASA administrator says that NASA simply lost it's way after the mission to the moon, and that the space station and the shuttle were essentially mistakes.

Click on the post for the story. What are your thoughts on this? You make the call.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Zweifel Corner: Opinion: Cap Times says time is ripe for National Guard Rethink

In an opinion piece, Dave Zweifel of the Cap Times says that Iraq has drained the National Guard. In fact, the best equipment they have is not available for response to national disasters. The system of state national guard helping neighbors is a patchwork of old plans that does not work effectively. He urges a rethink of the use of the Guard.

Click on the post for the whole opinion story. What do you think?

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Re: Mailbag: Adam Staver wins arm wrestling in three wt classes in Night Owl competition--


--

> Well the Arm Wrestling Event was Saturday Night
> Sept. 24, 05 at The Night
> Owl. It started at 8:30pm. Adam weighed in at 181
> lbs but they you give you
> 5 lbs for clothing. Adam won all his matches. He
> went up to extra weight
> classes and won those to. So he won 3 weight classes
> all together. He got a
> 1st place trophy. He even went against this guy that
> was 240 lbs and had him
> down in a flash. That is what the picture is.

Monday, September 26, 2005

CUUE begins drive for ballot initiative on War in Iraq

For Immediate Release:
September 21, 2005.






Citizens United of Union-Evansville to Organize Ballot Initiative on Troop Withdrawal


Evansville - Citizens United of Union-Evansville (CUUE) wants to give the citizens of Evansville the opportunity to be heard on the issue of ending the war in Iraq. On Saturday, October 1, 2005, members of CUUE will begin circulating a petition to do just that. CUUE's goal is to place a direct initiative on the Evansville ballot for the next general election. Results of the initiative will be sent to Wisconsin's Senators and Congressmen, as well as to President Bush.
The proposed initiative reads: "Should the United States Government immediately begin an orderly and rapid withdrawal of all military personnel from Iraq, beginning with the National Guard and Reserves?" The purpose of the law allowing for the initiative is to “implement legislative powers reserved by the people.” State ex rel Althouse v. Madison, 79 Wis. 2d 97 (1977).
Similar drives are occurring throughout Wisconsin -- in Kewaunee, LaCrosse, Madison, Oshkosh, Sturgeon Bay, Ladysmith, Superior, Racine, Manitowoc, Egg Harbor, Ephraim, Sister Bay, Amery, Casco, Luxemburg, Algoma, Sawyer County -- to name a few. The City Councils of Chicago, Philadelphia and San Francisco have passed similar resolutions, and one is pending in Milwaukee. More than 50 towns in Vermont have done the same.
“A recent CNN poll revealed that 63% of Americans want to see some or all of the troops withdrawn from Iraq,” said Sheri Ferrell, CUUE member. “This will let us tell our national leaders where we stand.”
In Wisconsin, a petition for direct legislation is valid when it bears the signatures of qualified electors equal to 15 percent of the total local votes cast for Governor in the most recent election. Wis. Stat. § 9.20(1). In Evansville, that means CUUE must collect at least 206 signatures for the referenda to be on the ballot. Any Evansville resident who is eligible to vote may sign. It is not necessary to have voted in the last election or to be a registered voter. All signatures must be collected within sixty days of October 1st, 2005. Wis. Stat. § 9.20(2m).
Evansville residents who wish to sign such a petition may contact CUUE by email at: citizensunitedue@hotmail.com. A CUUE member will bring petitions to the homes of interested persons. If anyone wishes to assist CUUE by collecting signatures, they may contact CUUE by email.

Citizens United of Union-Evansville is a group of citizens committed to fostering grassroots political action and education.

######

Sunday, September 25, 2005

11 Virtual Schools in Wisconsin; Background on the changing world of education; WEAC sues DPI

As the 11 virtual schools in Wisconsin continue to attract attention, this is an article that provides some information on how the virtual schools get the content of their instruction, how they are overseen and also the forces that oppose their operation.

Click on the post for the entire article.

Saturday, September 24, 2005

The New Bank of Evansville; The Ace of Milton prototype for Evansville Ace---click on pictures to get the larger version.






The bottom two pictures are of the Ace Hardware in Milton; The new Ace Hardware in Evansville is of similar design, with more brick in front.

In Praise of the new Bank of Evansville; On Beauty and the Beast; On why the New Ace Hardware might need more brick

The buzz all around town is the beauty of the new Bank of Evansville. Yes, the display and pictures in the design phase looked great, but the reality is just stunning. It is simply beautiful. Congrats to all the contractors that have done such a fine job. Just the entrance to Evansville that was hoped for.

In the next breath, locals are wondering on the building that will sit next to the bank, the new Ace Hardware. In the initial planning phase, the city had insisted (correct me if I am wrong here) that all four walls be of brick. The owner pleaded that since the land acquisition was so costly, he could only do one side, which was accepted.

Regardless of the past, in light of the stunning look of the Bank of Evansville, one has to wonder whether there might still be a way to get more brick on the New Ace. Other buildings, even the Citgo I believe, have applied for or been granted some funds to help in the "appearance" on the entrance to Evansville.

This idea has not been floated by the city or the Ace, but I am just wondering as the Observer whether there is some way to spruce up the Ace a little. There is nothing like the beauty of brick.

What are your thoughts on this? You make the call.

Friday, September 23, 2005

Terrorists were ignorant on Muslim teaching, alienated from both peaceful Islam and the West, radicalized by events

This article is from Algizera but has an interesting perspective of all the terrorists. In her view, the terrorists were not well founded on ideology as their pasts show they were ignorant of Muslim teaching. They generally were poor students of the Muslim religion and alienated from society in London etc. The one thing that did radicalize them was their view of images of terror from Iraq and Palestine in the media.

Click on the post for the entire story.

The New Textbooks have arrived; Or Congrats to Chris and staff at Logictran

Our family is celebrating the launch of the new Pearson Custom Textbook site produced by Chris Hectors's company, Logictran. In the final days of working feverishly to get this site up, the head honcho noted that there was a bug that staff had a hard time finding. He issued the brisk order that the staff should go home and get some sleep. Nothing like a little sleep to refresh the soul. Yes they found the bug.

Anyway, in the old days schools ordered large textbooks and then after each year sold them to the next class (college) after giving the first user a small fee. Only on the first sale did the author get a commission. Subsequent teachers were stuck with a textbook that only taught part of what they wanted.

Now with the on-line ordering, professors get exactly the textbook they want, with exactly the chapter content that they want, plus get to have their own notes published with it. Anyway.

Congrats to Chris and his staff. Click on the post to browse the new site of Pearson Custom Publishing.

The Insurance Hurricane; Or Was it Wind or Water Damage?

Most standard homeowner insurance policies cover loss from wind but not loss from flood damage. There is specific flood insurance offered by the federal government, but if you do not reside in the flood plain, you do not qualify. Much of the damage from Katrina was beyond the flood plain. Besides, the flood insurance is expensive and some cannot afford it.

The bottom line is that insurance adjusters have been blanket denying much of the claims from Katrina. It just takes a short visit and the conclusion of the adjuster that the damage was from flood. Homeowners are outraged. The solvency of insurance companies is on the line here.

Click on the post to read an article on this issue.

This is going to be an issue to watch. This is also an issue that local homewoners need to review with their insurance company. If you have damage from water in your home, not wind, and you do not reside in a flood plain, are you covered? You might check with your insurance carrier. Now not later is the time to know.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Potential Regulation of Bloggers under Campaign Finance Laws Alarms Internet Users

Even the discussion of whether to regulate bloggers discussing political issues under the campaign finance laws has alarmed bloggers nationwide as it could send a chilling message about political free speech.

Click on the post for the full story.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Evansville School District Holds Annual Meeting--Highlights

The nitty gritty of the annual meeting of the Evansville School Board is the motion to levy the taxes for the coming period. However, it also provides the District Administrator a chance to share the goals of the district for the coming year as well as the finacial details.

Supr. Heidi Garvin explained in the packet of information, that because the state of Wisconsin uses a "three year rolling average" formula, a growing district such as Evansville that enrolled 60 new students this year, only received funding for 20. That means larger classes.

In addition, she added, "We have been eliminating Reading Support and classroom educational asssistant positions at the k-5 level over the last three years to cover additional support needed in Special Education, and to add classroom teachers. We have cut those positions as far back as I feel we can."

Heidi Garvin also addressed the impact of energy costs on instructional improvements===The budget amount for heat has been increased by $67,000 for the 2005-06 school year. This has had to be taken from money that was to be used for instructional improvements. It looks like more of the same next year as the projected increase for next year is also 70 students.

Deb Olsen responded to one of the concerns raised by recent press from the Wis. Taxpayers Alliance, and said that the appreciation assumption of valuation in the property in the district was 4% per year and this was conservative. This seemed to calm any concerns about the the structure of the bond financing.

Heidi Garvin shared that as far as enrollment and space, the challenge for the district appears to be in 2015 in the intermediate school and the school has some ideas on how this could be dealt with.

Heidi Garvin also wrote in her packet that "The strategy of state government seems to be to pit the interests of schools and children against those of property tax payers who are trying to make ends meet. Meanwhile commercial and manufacturing are paying smaller and smaller percentages." The Observer agrees.

Other comments from the meeting can be viewed on earliers posts. Thanks to all who attended.

Monday, September 19, 2005

Wisconsin Taxpayers Alliance Warns of Housing Bubble in Wisconsin--Urges Caution for Schools and Consumers

Interesting article this morn which uses ratio analysis to point out the vulnerabiltiy of Wisconsin to a housing bubble. It cautions everyone, including school districts which have relied on the steady increase in valuation, to not assume it will continue.

Click on the post for the entire story.

I always thought of California when I heard the word "bubble." Could the problem be here? You make the call.

911 arose out of a swamp of hatred says Galloway

British anit-war activist George Galloway spoke to a packed Union Theatre audience on Sunday night. He asserted that 911 did not come out of the blue, but arose out of a "swamp of hatred".

Click on the post to see the story in the Wis State Journal.

The Magic of Geo-Thermal; or In Praise of those who together planned EHS in 2001

At the last board meeting of the Evansville School District, Superintendent Heidi Garvin made a passing reference to the fact that geothermal was going to be a big factor in helping the school district control heating costs, at least at the new high school.

I attended the meeting where a presentation was made about an initial design for the proposed school, back in 2000 I believe. A man stood up from the audience and suggested that we not only build a school, but be very state of the art and forward thinking and that the initial design was not the best we could do. Supt.Gary Albrecht responded by asking him to help form a group to get the best for the new school. Out of that openenss to input came our geothermal system for the new high school.

Click on the post to see the geothermal info for the high school.

Stay tuned to the Observer, where I hope to bring you more information about the progress Evansville makes in staying in the lead on the energy front.

Sunday, September 18, 2005

Katrina and Kelo-----

One Blog site, click on the post above, suggests that as a result of the Kelo v. New London case, governments involved in the Katrina hurricane could just seize all the homes affected and sell the property for condo development.

This may explain why some of the "pundits" interviewed were real positive on the idea of rebuilding on the low land. They could get great deals on the eminent domain land and would have an incentive for doing something crazy like building in the swamp and letting the cycle go on and on.

It may be difficult to get folks to have the incentive to get the proper buffer and build on new higher ground.

What do you think? Should government redevelopment money be restricted to the high ground? You make the call.

Evansville School District Annual Meeting--Monday, Sept 19th, 7PM, HS Media Room

This is the annual meeting where all the electors of the various municipalities meet to approve the tax levy for the Evansville School District. Usually they have some financial information available about what their plan is for the future.

This might be a good time to see whether the school district is going to address the looming crisis of space that will confront the district unless a concerted plan between the municipalities and the school district can restrain the unchecked building boom. The revelation last week that the 10 year Smart Growth Plan objective for residential housing has already been sketched in with the approved projects on the books, has raised questions whether the school district will continue it's reactive stance to involvement in the problem or will become proactive. Stay tuned.

Re: MAILBAG: Follow the money on Katrina rebuild

>
> Subject: Kellogg, Brownie & Root
>
>
>
> Bush allies getting Katrina work
>
> Companies with ties to the White House among the
> first awarded
> reconstruction deals.
>
> September 12, 2005: 2:48 PM EDT
>
> WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Companies with ties to the
> Bush White House and
> the former head of FEMA are clinching some of the
> administration's first
> disaster relief and reconstruction contracts in the
> aftermath of
> Hurricane Katrina.
>
> At least two major corporate clients of lobbyist Joe
> Allbaugh, President
> Bush's former campaign manager and a former head of
> the Federal
> Emergency Management Agency, have already been
> tapped to start recovery
> work along the battered Gulf Coast.
>
> One is Shaw Group Inc. (Research) and the other is
> Halliburton Co.
> (Research) subsidiary Kellogg Brown and Root. Vice
> President Dick Cheney
> is a former head of Halliburton.
>
> Bechtel National Inc., a unit of San Francisco-based
> Bechtel Corp., has
> also been selected by FEMA to provide short-term
> housing for people
> displaced by the hurricane. Bush named Bechtel's CEO
> to his Export
> Council and put the former CEO of Bechtel Energy in
> charge of the
> Overseas Private Investment Corporation.
>
> Experts say it has been common practice in both
> Republican and
> Democratic administrations for policy makers to take
> lobbying jobs once
> they leave office, and many of the same companies
> seeking contracts in
> the wake of Hurricane Katrina have already received
> billions of dollars
> for work in Iraq.
>
> Halliburton alone has earned more than $9 billion.
> Pentagon audits
> released by Democrats in June showed $1.03 billion
> in "questioned" costs
> and $422 million in "unsupported" costs for
> Halliburton's work in Iraq.
>
> But the web of Bush administration connections is
> attracting renewed
> attention from watchdog groups in the post-Katrina
> reconstruction rush.
> Congress has already appropriated more than $60
> billion in emergency
> funding as a down payment on recovery efforts
> projected to cost well
> over $100 billion.
>
> "The government has got to stop stacking senior
> positions with people
> who are repeatedly cashing in on the public trust in
> order to further
> private commercial interests," said Danielle Brian,
> executive director
> of the Project on Government Oversight.
>
> Halliburton ties
>
> Allbaugh formally registered as a lobbyist for
> Halliburton subsidiary
> Kellogg Brown and Root in February.
>
> In lobbying disclosure forms filed with the Senate,
> Allbaugh said his
> goal was to "educate the congressional and executive
> branch on defense,
> disaster relief and homeland security issues
> affecting Kellogg Brown and
> Root."
>
> Melissa Norcross, a Halliburton spokeswoman, said
> Allbaugh has not,
> since he was hired, "consulted on any specific
> contracts that the
> company is considering pursuing, nor has he been
> tasked by the company
> with any lobbying responsibilities."
>
> Allbaugh is also a friend of Michael Brown, director
> of FEMA who was
> removed as head of Katrina disaster relief and sent
> back to Washington
> amid allegations he had padded his resume.
>
> A few months after Allbaugh was hired by
> Halliburton, the company
> retained another high-level Bush appointee, Kirk Van
> Tine.
>
> Van Tine registered as a lobbyist for Halliburton
> six months after
> resigning as deputy transportation secretary, a
> position he held from
> December 2003 to December 2004.
>
> On Friday, Kellogg Brown & Root received $29.8
> million in Pentagon
> contracts to begin rebuilding Navy bases in
> Louisiana and Mississippi.
> Norcross said the work was covered under a contract
> that the company
> negotiated before Allbaugh was hired.
>
> Halliburton continues to be a source of income for
> Cheney, who served as
> its chief executive officer from 1995 until 2000
> when he joined the
> Republican ticket for the White House. According to
> tax filings released
> in April, Cheney's income included $194,852 in
> deferred pay from the
> company, which has also won billion-dollar
> government contracts in Iraq.
>
> Cheney's office said the amount of deferred
> compensation is fixed and is
> not affected by Halliburton's current economic
> performance or earnings.
>
> Allbaugh's other major client, Baton Rouge-based
> Shaw Group, has updated
> its Web site to say: "Hurricane Recovery Projects --
> Apply Here!"
>
> Shaw said Thursday it has received a $100 million
> emergency FEMA
> contract for housing management and construction.
> Shaw also clinched a
> $100 million order on Friday from the U.S. Army
> Corps of Engineers. Jim
> Bernhard, chairman and CEO of Shaw Group, is also
> the chairman of the
> Louisiana Democratic Party.
>
> Shaw Group spokesman Chris Sammons said Allbaugh was
> providing the
> company with "general consulting on business
> matters," and would not say
> whether he played a direct role in any of the
> Katrina deals. "We don't
> comment on specific consulting activities," he said.
>
>
> Find this article at:
>
>
http://money.cnn.com/2005/09/12/news/economy/katrina_contracts.reut
>
>
>

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Health Care Sytem Disintegrates as Family Premium exceeds $10,000.

The current medical system runs on "reimbursement" or payment by third party payors to ensure a consistent flow of cash to sustain the operation of all medical providers. With the news that the average premium for a family of four in the USA has exceeded $10,000, a new threat exists that as more and more employers are diminishing or cancelling their health care coverage, employees will take no or minimul coverage and face the threat of ruin----and providers of care will go back to earlier times when they had to rely on the patient for most of the payment, which led to financial distress for hospitals.

The consequence of all this is disintegration of society as we know it.

Click on the post for the full article. What do you think is the solution to the current health care crisis?

Planning Commission reiterates Drive-thru denial for BoE next user

The Evansville Planning Commission met in special session at 6:30PM Tuesday night and one of the items on the agenda was a motion by the purchaser of the old Bank of Evansville to reconsider the planning commission recent denial of a conditional use for a drive thru at the old location.

The applicant offered to put up mirrors and signs, but did not offer to reverse the traffic through the drive thru. The commission split 3-3 on the motion to reconsider and that ended it. In general, the feeling was that they preferred to end any unsafe drive thru uses in the downtown period, and in doing so was consistent with their handling of the recent request by the pharmacy for a drive thru.

Re: Special Plan Commission meeting---Thursday night---6:30PM

--- Karen Aikman <kaikman@mindspring.com> wrote:

> Dear Mr. Woulfe,
>
> In the interest of acting on the Councils desire to
> make
> our meetings as public as possible, I want to bring
> your attention
> to a special plan commission meeting that has been
> called for this
> evening. There is a public hearing on the agenda,
> and I haven't seen
> any notice on your blog site.
>
> We will be asked to consider a conditional use
> application for Jan
> Davis-Tom Davis Partnership.
> This will include a public hearing. It's for a
> contractor building on Water
> street and is probably not
> too interesting for most folks. But in the interest
> of full disclosure,
> especially right out of the box of
> declaring better public public hearings, I wanted
> to be sure you are aware
> of tonights meeting.
>
> Also, since we spoke a little about it earlier, and
> you had it posted on
> your blog, I want to draw
> your attention to the other item on tonights agenda,
> which appears to be
> another
> request to keep the drive through functioning at
> the B-o-E building on
> Main St.
>
> Sincerely,
> Karen Aikman

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

President Arroyo suggests interfaith dialogue as means to fight terrorism

Some of you may remember President Arroyo of the Philippines, who has lead her people in conserving energy---today she gave a speech suggesting the power of interfaith dialogue to fight terrorism. The Philippines has long battled a small fierce group of Muslim extremists and thus her words are timely.

Both the Muslim and Christian extremists believe they are called by God to kill each other. Maybe it is time to review that holy text one more time.

It's nice to see the Philippine President taking the lead once again.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Evansville Common Council approves final plat for Grand Orchard Estates; Question raised on all 52 lots built at once.

At the Evansville Common Council on Tuesday, although the Council approved the final land dividers agreement as well as the final plat for Grand Orchard Estates subdivision, questions arose when it was disclosed that all of the 52 lots of the subdivision would be built on at once.

Mr. Connors explained that the developer was restricted to 35 per year, but if the developer built the additional 17, the developer would just be allowed 18 the following year.

Mr. Sorenson questioned how this could be. The whole purpose of the restriction was to provide some control by the council of the pace of development, especially as it impacts the school district.

Mr. Connors replied that if the subdivision was 150 homes, the developer might well choose to build them all at once for economic reasons, but then would be restricted for the next 4 years.

No members of the school board were present at the Common Council meeting.

The whole discussion brought back memories of discussion during the Smart Growth about how the city was going to implement a concerted plan of growth so as not to create a school space crisis. This is a developing story.

Evansville City Administrator notes public dissatisfaction with public input process--looks for council input.

At the Evansville Common Council on Tuesday, Sept. 13, in the City Administrators Report, Bill Connors notes, " I have received many expressions of dissatisfication with the way the city allows citizen input through public hearnings. It has been suggested that the Common Council, Plan Commission, or committee discuss a proposed ordinance among themselves and with staff, so the audience can be better informed, before the public hearing. After the public hearing, the Common Council, Plan Commission, or committee, could discuss the matter further before taking action. The thought is that citizens attending the public hearing could provide more meaningful input if they were allowed to hear more about the proposed ordinance before opening the public hearing. I would be curious as to what the Mayor and Common Council think of this idea."

Well, what do you think?

You also need to voice your opinion to your alderman since this change would be up to the council and not Mr. Connors.

School Districts and Cities weigh energy adjustments

The Janesville Gazette print edition on Tuesday is running a story called "Fueling the Pinch" and goes over the large impact of rising gasoline prices on city and schools. It lists many schools but does not include Evansville. Most anticipate an increase of at least 30%.

At the Evansville School board meeting on Monday night, Dennis Hatfield asked about the energy related adjustments, and Supr. Heidi Garvin said that an adjustment on natural gas had been made and that evidentally there is an agreement with the local electric utility so the rate for electric will be fairly even.

Evansville residents are getting their budget amounts in the mail for WE energies and this is on their mind. As well as their tax adjustments if any that will affect their monthly mortgage amounts due.

The Observer hopes that the Evansville School District has made the budget adjustments so that this will not be a surprise later. Stay tuned.

Excitement Builds for Evansville Common Council Meeting Tuesday, Sept 13, 6:30PM; Let the Homework Begin

Excitement is building this weekend as all over Evansville council members are paging through their huge homework bundle of pink paper and preparing for a monster of a Common Council meeting on Tuesday, Sept 13, at 6:30PM in the 3rd floor chambers. Even Vegas is taking bets on how long this meeting will last....If you can attend this "historic" meeting, it is ok to bring coffee if it is properly covered, but no sleeping bags are allowed.

And----at the very end of the meeting, in closed session, the real excitement will begin---although the public will not see it.

The agenda printed for the meeting says,

"The Council will discuss the potential sale or other disposition of property owned by the city, the potential acquisision of property elsewhere in the city for, among other things, an expansion of the Eager Free Public Library, a new youth center, new senior center, or a new police station. ......"

The Observer has long argued that the four "walls" of the structure that is Evansville are the schools, the park, public safety and the library. I have also proposed a centralized EMS, FIRE and Police facility that would unite these folks. With proximity comes better communication. In some cities, these separate units all talk on diffeent frequencies. Eventually, Evansville is going to have to create something that shows how much we appreciate their service, and not just cheer them during the parades. So---I am all ears on the happenings of the closed session.

Stay tuned to the Observer for the latest news. You get the news when it happens, not a week later. The Observer, where you have answers....I have questions.

Reader Speaks: Why not make all of Evansville a TIF?

Yesterday on my bike ride, I observed a man waving at me vigorously---so I stopped. " Are you the Observer?, he asked. "Yes," I replied, not knowing what would come next.

"Well," he said "Why not make all of Evansville a TIF, and shorten up all these meetings? It would save a lot of hot air!"

Stunned, I had no immediate reply. Yes, I was speechless. I told him I would think this over and reply on the blog.

There would be lots of advantages....All East Main residents would be elegible for "historic siding" that would be covered under TIF even if it did not add one dollar of "tax increment" to the home value. After all, it is important to improve the entrance to Evansville.

After long and hard thought, however, I realized what the problem would be. In a city that is deeply concerned about conflict of interest, if all of Evansville were included in a TIF district, all of the council members would have to recuse themselves from the vote and hence none could occur.

I do want to thank the resident for the idea however. If you have ideas that you want to share, post on the blog. Thanks.

Consumers headed for Credit Card Woodshed--rising minimum pay plus barrier to bankruptcy

The Wisconsin State Journal is running an important opinion piece discussing the coming "crisis" for credit card users as minimum payments are scheduled to rise and at the same time the new bankruptcy rules are going to be effective.

Last month, as reported in the Evansville Observer, consumer spending rose but only because consumers dipped into their savings. Years of overspending may hit the tipping point as consuemrs face drastically higher energy prices. Homeowners in Evansville have received notices from WE Energy that offers to lock in their energy cost at much higher monthly amounts.

The Janesville Gazette is even running a story about a teacher that rode his horse to work. ok. That is one option.

Anyway, some serious adjustments to consumer spending are on the way. What is your take on all this?

Sunday, September 11, 2005

Mailbag: Watercooler: Bill Moyers Reflects on 9/11 and the fusion of politics and religion

Cueball has sent this interesting article of Bill Moyers, which is a reflection on 9/11.

It is a long reflection, but I leave it to the readers to give their observations.

Adam Staver Family Conquers Niagra Falls



The Observer is still working on the details of how exactly Adam and Michelle Staver occupied the kids during their long car trip to Niagra Falls, but they seem pretty relaxed on the Maid of the Mist in this photo shoot. Bravo.

Click on the photo for the larger version.

Katrrina arrivals energize Allied Drive neighborhood

Over $40,000 was raised and apartments were prepared for the arrivals in Madison last week from hurricane Katrina. Out of the experience, something else happened----folks in the Allied Drive neighborhood came together to accomplish something together and feel confident that they could do other projects together as well.

Click on the post for the whole story.

Saturday, September 10, 2005

ISM Index shows growth slowing--Fed may stop tightening

Financial Data out this morn shows that the rate of Growth, or the ISM Index has slowed, and combined with the news that consumers have dipped into their savings to keep up their spending plus the damage of Katrina, has prompted speculation that Greenspan, who is famous for only reacting to catastrophe rather than proactively avoiding it, will now cease raising interest rates.

I have been lookin for some good news, folks, and usually in the midst of terrible news it means good news in some perverse way, and most likely for bond markets, that rise when people can't bear the risk of stocks.

I hate to go over the inverted yield curve again, but this event or some bad event causing a recession, is exactly what the inverted yield curve predicts. It is rarely wrong. I had hoped it would be wrong this time. It wasn't.

Oh, the other good news is the generosity of Americans, who have begun to respond in their generous fashion that has made them famous.

Friday, September 09, 2005

FEMA leaders were political appointees; lacked experience--WASH POST

The political appointees of the FEMA were unqualified to do the job. Period. This according to a story from the Washington Post today.

Many of the most experienced folks from earlier disasters had left for various reasons. Click on the post for the full story.

What are your thoughts?

It's Show Time for the Evansville Energy Task Force

One of the most remarkable events over the past few years has been the Annual Energy Fair held in the Evansville Field House. Students from all grades, teachers, consultants from all over southern Wisconsin come and there is a real learning synergy. It has been a real happening. This all arose out of a desire to recognize Earth Day and the Green Movement started by Gaylord Nelson.

Out of all this interest has grown the Evansville Energy Task Force, which as I understand it, was involved in the windmill project at the high school, as well as the recent Evansville pool project. This task force has acted quietly below the radar screen in Evansville, but The Observer believes that this is the time for the Energy Task Force to take a broader role. All of Evansville's energy knowledge needs to be focused on how to not only meet the energy crisis, but thrive under these conditions.

We are on a growth bicycle, and it is in our interest to see that we stay on the bicycle. We have the chance of marketing our city as having both affordable housing and affordable transportation available. Plus, we have the experts to help retrofit homes that need it at affordable prices.

The release of the Petroleum Reserve is reserved for times of National Emergency. We are in a National Energy Emergency. Let's face this with our own energy and determination to use the resources of people we have to meet it. No need for panic. Let's move in double time to act. There was a reason that we have had "Focus on Energy" and other programs. It was for this challenge.

You make the call. What are your thoughts?

POLL: Majority of Americans urge New Orleans to Abandon Low ground; Urge folks to seek the High Ground

Yahoo News is reporting this morn that 54% of Americans believe that the low ground of New Orleans should not be rebuilt. They urge the rebuilding to occur on the HIGHER GROUND.

Click on the post for the entire article.

Should federal funds be spent on rebuilding on the low ground or not? You make the call.

WATERCOOLER: Should regulation be reimposed on the gas industry?

The Capital Times this morn has an interesting opinion article suggesting that in light of the price gouging that is currently taking place at the pumps, it is time for the government to restore regulations on price, mark up, and also on exploration, to insure that there is enough being spent on putting new energy sources on line, and that consumers need to be protected from exploitation. Very simply, deregulation has not worked.

In California, a Democratic senator has proposed legislation on a state basis to do just that.

In Wisconsin--- an investigation into price gouging being reported in the Wisconsin State Journal today---- the complaints about price gouging locally have been found to be valid.

What are your thoughts on this re-regulation idea? You make the call.

Feingold seeks to protect Katrina victims from harsher bankruptcy law provisions coming soon

The new more stringent bankruptcy law provisions are scheduled to take effect shortly and Sen. Russ Feningold seeks to make sure that the victims of Katrina are not subject to the stricter provisions of documentation etc that the law provides for.

The opposing view from the Republicans is that there are already exception provisions in the law for this. Feingold wants to make sure.

Click on the post for the entire story in the Janesville Gazette. What are your thoughts on the legislation that toughened the bankruptcy rules that was lobbied for by credit card companies and banks for almost a decade? Should the Katrina folks be subject to these or not? You make the call.

Home Heating Update---Natural Gas supply already in storage--Price to go up 30%?

Lots of speculation on the impact of Katrina on local home heating costs for this winter. According to an article in the Janesville Gazette, the local supply is secure, and in storage, although the price will go up. According to the article, even before Katrina, prices were scheduled to go up 25%?

Click on the post to read the entire article.

The facts seem in flux as we sort out the impact. Stay tuned to The Evansville Observer for the latest on this developing story.

Thursday, September 08, 2005

Researcher finds that youthful rebellion caused by brain changes---change back to normal at 17? Huh?

This post from Dublin might amuse you. The researcher found that biological changes in teen brains are mainly to blame for the youthful rebellion and that once they turn 17 this fad passes as kids mature.

Excuse me. Just from my data alone as a parent, my hair would have never turned white if my kids rebellion passed at 17. Further, from what I see from my peers, who are buying Harleys as their kids leave home, the rebellion thing is growing strong into the late 50's and 60's. I just wonder about all this research. What do you think?

Why Politics Matters; Why Government Service matters; Molly Ivans Speaks

Beyond the blame game. Beyond any discussion of investigations. There is a lesson for all Americans that comes clearly out of New Orleans. Molly Ivans hits it on the head.

As much as one might yearn for a world without politics. A world of total agreement. A big easy street of tailgate parties. None exists.

The decisions of our local leaders matter. And big time. The decisions on development matter.

Click on the post to read this important article.

What are your thoughts? You make the call.

On "Homework"

Anyone who attends Evansville Common Council or Planning Commission meetings notices that citizens who attend get a white agenda sheet, and council members get a thick pink packet of paper----they call it fondly, "HOMEWORK,"

Years ago, it might have been possible for those who serve local government to come to a meeting and just arrive at the meeting and "wing it." Not so today! The risk of embarrasment is high. Preparation is really required.

Thus, the Observer leaves to others to document via tape recording what the nitty gritty of the votes and motions are. I am just trying to figure out what is happening and what it might mean for my readers. It is not always obvious.

So, however one might disagree with any public servant on any one issue, one must respect the preparation time these folks have to endure just to function in a more complicated world. I do salute them for it!

The one thing I would like would be for that stack of "HOMEWORK" to be placed on the web site so that the public can do "HOMEWORK" too. The public does not ask ignorant questions by design----the public would like to understand what the proposed ordinance language consists of and can do this if the documents were scanned and placed on the web. This is very doable. I know cause my brother in law invented the software that does it. Bravo, Chris.

What do you think? Could the public handle a little more HOMEWORK? You make the call.

P.S. Ditto for the School District.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

EPA dragging its feet on gasoline waiver for Wisconsin

The Janesville Gazette is reporting that the EPA has been dragging its feet in approving the gasoline waiver to remove the required formulations that increase the cost of gasoline in Wisconsin. This may be causing a delay in the price of gas going down.

I did have the pleasure of driving in Minnesota over the holiday, and in northern Minnesota, the price is 2.79 per gallon. It seems that Canada is the major source for Minnesota. As soon as you cross the border, the price goes up.

Planning Commission resolves Sandwich Board Sign Saga--almost.

The Evansville Planning Commission on Tuesday night passed several ordinances that would resolve the handling of sandwich board signs on a regular basis and also during construction, in front of a business and also remote signs near the business.

The overwhelming feeling from all involved was frustration that this has taken so long. Jeff Vrstal pondered aloud why other items could be rushed through of major impact with little discussion whereas this matter has been such an agonizing process.

The final ordinance did allow for the historical preservation committee to review and comment on all sandwich board signs in the historic district. This, although, there are no standards established on what they would in fact review besides sign size. No other standards have been established. The role of the historic preservation committee would be purely advisory.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

City Planning Commission approves Electronic Sign for Associated Bank--requires it to be part of monument sign

The Evansville Planning Commission on Tuesday night approved the use of an electronic sign for the new Associated Bank, and although an amendment to restrict hours of display failed, voted to restrict the electronic display to one that is part of a monument sign. It would be digital, and have a classy historical look to it.

This would only apply to B4, which is the zone on the far eastern approach to Evansville and not the Citgo(b3) or the downtown (B2).

The electronic display would be black and white and not color, and not have movement which might be distracting but be text which could be changed every two minutes.

Planning Commission Cites Safety--Denies Use of Old Drive-Up Window at old Associated Bank for future use

Evansville Planning commission was consisent with its past finding that the driveway proposed use for the Evansville Pharmacy pick up window was unsafe and found that the proposed use of the current banking drive-up of Associated Bank for the next owner was unsafe.

There was much discussion on the issue, but the council was unanimous that safety was the big overriding issue and that it was clear. The driveway exit is a blind one and risks pedestrians every time.

Friday, September 02, 2005

Mrs. Heidi Garvin--Graduation Address--EHS--Class of 2005





Graduation 2005- Heidi Carvin address



Class of 2005, we are so proud of you. You are an incredibly talented group of students, some with talents you have yet to realize, but we know are there. It has been a privilege to have you in our schools.



An article in last Sunday’s paper explored the use of electronic bumper stickers. These are closing lines at the bottom of email where people try to humanize this somewhat impersonal form of communication.



As someone who does a great deal of my work via email, I have come across many such tag lines. I appreciate how they give me an insight into the person communicating with me.



For those of you heading on to further study after high school, I share this example. My daughter, who recently graduated from Beloit College, uses this quote from Leonardo Da Vinci: “Just as eating contrary to the inclination is injurious to the health, so study without desire spoils the memory and it retains nothing that it takes in.” It reminds me that force-feeding knowledge to our students is an exercise in futility. As teachers we have a responsibility to excite a desire to learn. As a parent, I also heard myself saying that my daughter has a responsibility to make the connections that will help create that emotional link that is essential to learning.



However, my favorite tagline comes from a friend and colleague and I believe it is relevant to all of you graduating today: “Be the change you want to see in the world!”



In the next several years, you will become increasingly analytical about your school, Evansville, your friends and your family. You may even blame us for what we didn’t do or didn’t give to you. Blaming is an easy thing to do. All of us could have done more or given more. But I encourage you to be the change you want to see in the world. Move quickly beyond the blame to forgiveness. When you think of things we should have done or things we should have given you, forgive us and move on. Move on to being and giving in a way that creates the change the world so desperately needs.



You are a very fortunate group of students. There are very few groups of students across the country graduating today that have the support and backing of a community like Evansville to rely on. You have many talents, you are full of wisdom. Forward!!!!

Re: Katrina Aid Yard Sale---to benefit Red Cross---Public Notice

--- dawn petersen <dawninger@yahoo.com> wrote:

> Hello Mr. Woulfe,
>
> My children will be setting up a "Katrina Sale" to
> raise money for the American Red Cross. They will be
> selling their old toys and Koolaid Friday afternoon
> 9/2 and Saturday 9/3. We are located on the corner
> of
> Water St. and Countryside.
>
> I don't know if you would be interested in putting
> this on the blog, but I thought it couldn't hurt to
> ask.
>
> Thank you,
> Dawn Petersen
> 159 N Water St
>
>
>
>
> __________________________________________________
> Do You Yahoo!?
> Tired of spam? Yahoo! Mail has the best spam
> protection around
> http://mail.yahoo.com
>

I See the Light; Or, Out of the Darkness I have arisen Commercial

Last night I had a bit of insomnia. I suppose it was from all the excitement of the weekend, with the opening of Hwy 14, the food and fun at Franklin Park and the good ole rock and roll at the VFW Club. Anyway, it was 2am. I decided to go out for a walk and read.....

Yes, READ. One might think that it is hard to read in the dark, but not here in Evansville. If you just walk from East Main up Union, the lights just keep getting brighter. It is truly inspirational. Uplifting.

Some might think it unfair that most of East Main is still in darkness. Unfair that all the grant money ran out before all of East Main could be lighted. Relax. It will be ok. It is so bright on Union that a guy might not be able to sleep with all that light streaming into his home. And besides, not everybody wants to go outside to read in the middle of the night like those wild and crazy folks on Union.

On "Unity." ; Or preparing for the Road Opening Party Saturday Oct 15th 4:30PM

Years ago I worked for Unity Hospital of Fridley, Mn. This was before Blaine and Fridley, Mn. were known for surrounding the new Viking stadium. So, I can speak freely of this since it was pre-Viking time.

Unity Hospital was a brand new hospital in a working class area of Mpls. One of my first questions of Mr. Haines, the head administrator was, " Why do you call it "Unity?"

"Well," He replied, "We fought about everything about this hospital for at least 5 years. When we finally agreed on the details, we made a vow never to be that far apart again. Many of the key folks from the early days are now on our board of directors."

As we open the Hwy 14, it is a good time to reflect that the final result of the construction at Union and Main, as well as the new lights, as well as the vision of the Smart Growth plan for that matter, were not the result of one person's dream, but fought over, in quite some detail. I have seen amazing strength come of amazing difference, and I hope that same strengh can arise from the experience of the recent construction. Now, it's time to party. See you on Saturday.

Thursday, September 01, 2005

"R" is for Robert

Each summer across America, young kids go to school. Four year olds who need to catch up and get ready for school. Kids who for various reasons, language, poverty, or whatever, need an extra boost to get ready. This is the fictional story of one such student.

When Robert came to school the first day, he was pretty nervous and shy. He was assigned to Annie as his teacher. She had two students. Robert of all the kids only knew one letter, R. When the kids sat in a circle, Robert sat on the letter R.
"R" is for Robert, he said.

Annie, who was a top college grad and who was great at languages, wondered how Robert would ever catch up. On the second day, however, when the kids all sang the days of the week to the "Adams Family" song, although Robert didn't sing any of the verses, he was very animated and chimed in perfectly for the chorus, "Days of the week." In fact, he even added some hand motion to provide a zestful emphasis to the chorus. "Days of the week!"

In the first few days, it was tense as students for one reason or another had trouble getting to school. Sickness, no money for gas, babysitters etc. Annie worried that maybe she had done something in her teaching to make them absent. Soon she relaxed as kids and families got adjusted and all were coming.

As the second week began, the art lessons began. The kids began to draw with glee, Annie noticed something unusual about Robert. Rather than choose a crayon, he had chosen a pencil, and was using very detailed shading, which was a skill way beyond his age. Furthermore, he seemed to be drawing something very large. Then Annie gasped. Robert was drawing with shading, the picture of a face. In fact, it was her face. Just as he was drawing her mouth, Annie began to beam with delight. Robert had begun to draw the mouth with a large frown. Then he glanced up and, seeing Annie smile, quickly erased the frown and replaced it with a large smile. Then he laughed. Then they both laughed.

The next letter Robert learned was A. He was to learn 13 letters that summer. And he loved school and the kids. The kids all crowded around at art time to see what new creation Robert was up to. Robert was excited about school and so was Annie.

Book Review by CueBall - A Theory Of Justice

Richard Woulfe has asked me to write a review of the book “A Theory of Justice”, written by John Rawls in 1971, which I had noted as one of my favorite books on my blogger profile. I first came upon it some 30 years ago in a graduate seminar on educational theory at UW-Madison. It has affected my thinking about how society can be organized.

I do not presume to have the intellectual capacity to write a serious review. For one thing, I’m not sure I understand the book well enough, though I’ve tried to. I think I understand some of its basic concepts, though, and I’ll try to flesh out that understanding with what I’ve read ABOUT Rawls’ thought in secondary sources. In some cases I have used others’ language without attribution, because I think it makes the points clearly. Any errors in exposition or understanding are mine, of course.

Another source for understanding Rawls is his later book, “Justice as Fairness”, published in 2001. I only recently discovered this book. A reviewer writes of that book: “Rawls is a rigorous, systematic thinker who demands a focused and patient reader with a copious memory. Nevertheless, this restatement of path-breaking earlier work sets a model for generous consideration and cogent response to the best objections raised over three decades by the most competent critics any author could desire. If you only have time to read one book by the foremost political philosopher of our time, read this one several times.”[emphasis added.]

To start with, Rawls assumes that free, rational, moral people in an initial position of equality will act in their own self-interest as they cooperate to design the society they and future generations will live in. They will “…develop principles which are to assign basic rights and duties and to determine the division of social benefits.” Further, Rawls assume that these people operate behind a “veil of ignorance”; that is, they do not know their own actual place in the society to be designed; they don’t know their race, their class, their gender, their natural abilities in intelligence, strength, creativity, etc. This is not the way the real world is, or ever was, of course. It’s important to realize that Rawls is setting up a hypothetical model, and projecting from his assumptions, speculating on the result to form his theory.

Rawls concludes that, if people don’t know where they’re going to wind up in the society, they will design it so that, even if they wind up the worst possible social position imaginable, they will be treated as fairly as humanly possible. This is not to say that, once the veil of ignorance is removed, all people will be equal. There will be those differences I indicated in the paragraph above, and over time those differences will manifest themselves in emerging inequalities. Given those differences and inequalities, how will the people on top treat those on the bottom, and visa versa?

Rawls writes, “Each person possesses an inviolability founded on justice that even the welfare of society as a whole cannot override.” He presents a political conception of justice, and carefully distinguishes it from more comprehensive doctrines, whether philosophical, moral or religious. I think his bottom line is this: a society is Just if it provides the most extensive set of liberties possible to everyone in the society and if it contains ways to balance social inequalities and provide equal access to desirable social positions.

The thoughts of John Rawls and the influential Christian theologian Reinhold Niebhur are often studied together -- in university courses ranging from Religion to Public Administration, Business Ethics to Political Science, from Philosophy to Education. I’d like to think that they would agree on the conception of justice Rawls presented, though Niebhur died just about the same time that “A Theory of Justice” was published. They both favorably quoted from Abraham Lincoln’s second Inaugural Address, which discussed both the evil of slavery and the ability of two sets of Americans to each take the Christian Bible as their justification for slaughtering each other during our Civil War. To claim certain knowledge of the divine will and purpose was for Lincoln the unpardonable sin. Both Rawls and Niebhur realized the natural disparities among humans and considered carefully how such imperfect beings can arrange society to be fair in the largest possible sense.

I believe Rawls can be read profitably (however difficult it may be, and it certainly is for me) by anyone who recognizes that we live in an imperfect world, by anyone who is concerned with treating fellow human beings as he/she would like to be treated, and by anyone who makes decisions about how government, at all levels, affects the lives of citizens. I think that includes anyone who has reached the age of reason. I recommend reading Rawls, in some form, to everyone.

Fred Juergens

Lake Leota Bridge---July 2005

The Power of "NO"; Or how to sculpt a David

Any parent who has lived through the "terrible two's" knows how long a day can be when a child first learns the word "no." Thank goodness those terrible days pass. They are a key time of awareness though as the child begins to articulate what he/she likes and dislikes and in the process becomes a unique person.

When Michelangelo was asked by a pundit, "How did you go about sculpting the statue of David?", Michelangelo just answered, " I just cut out the parts that were not David."

When we know what our goal is, the next key is to say no to the parts that do not fit with the goal. Whether it is athletic training or any endeavor, the power of saying "NO" to the habits and activities that are not part of the champion result we seek is what the game is all about.

Saying NO as a government to the poor and weak is easy. What is required is to say NO to the rich and powerful as well... To administer the law evenly regardless of position. As a community, saying no is important also. Saying NO to greedy special interests and those who disregard the public good for their own end is necessary if we are to sustain the public trust in a government of laws and not just politics.

Saying No to ones kids, ones friends, (insert your special no here) sure is difficult. In doing so, though, one finally defines who one is. Saying only YES does not define anything. Saying NO got to David. Saying YES alone would have created just a block of granite.

The CB Radio; Or, if you need help, call 911

Recently I have been busy cleaning out my garage. In an old faded box I found a CB radio I used to take on the road during sales trips in years past. The CB had an 800 number on it for customer service. Even though it had been 20 years, I thought I would dial the number. When the human answered the phone, "GE Service," I was stunned.

I have gotten used to all the recordings. You know the ones. When you call, even though you might call at the very instant they open, the friendly recording lets me know they are busy helping customers. If it is a medical provider, they are nice enough to say, "If you need help, call 911."

It seems that 911 is the total health care provider these days. In fact it seems that the attitude is that service is never included in the product. People are just too busy doing more important things than the business they are in.

On Lost Hubcaps; Or, Why Bent Rims Are deadly; Or Reflections of a Junk yard dog.

As any parent knows who has seen a young teen or college student return a car after a lot of use, it can be quite a shock. The lost hubcaps, the bent or broken side mirrors (insert you own list here).

A lost hubcap can be an expensive thing, if one buys them retail. Factory dealer specials. However, after losing several, I went to the junkyard..... my favorite being Prestige Salvage, cause I like the "prestige," I asked my junk yard dog, "How come I am losing so many hubcaps?"

"It is pretty simple," he said. "You keep losing the hubcaps, cause the rims are bent. You can bend a rim by hitting a curb, a big pot hole, running into a parking lot concrete barrier...lots of ways. When the rims get bent, the hubcap comes off, and more importantly, the tire can deflate cause the rim is bent. So.....it can be a DEADLY thing. Most of the cars here in the junkyard have bent rims. There were some deadly accidents. So, lost hubcaps are not just a small matter. They are a big warning flag.

When you drive through Evansville, look for all the cars that are missing hubcaps. Makes you worry. Makes you wonder.

( My editor, a woman, says she doesn't care about hubcaps. How bout you? You make the call.

Library Corner: 1776 by David McCullough

Just in at the Eager Library is 1776 by David McCullough. It may have been a while since you read a book about the American Revolution. This one traces in depth the development of George Washington as a wartime leader. At first, he had no battlefield experience. After a series of defeats, when it seemed that the cause of liberty was doomed, George Washington led his troops in a strategic withdrawal---and later led them with confidence in a brilliant counterattack. The year 1776 ended with two very improbable victories.

There is a waiting list for this book, but it is well worth the wait. McCullough won the Pulitzer Prize for this book.

The Know Your Customer Rule: Or, You have to hear it in their voice or you PAY

For anyone that works in financial services, one of the very first things you learn, is the "Know Your Customer Rule." Yes, in transactions over $10,000, it is important for money laundering stuff, but it is also critical even in small transactions, to absolutely know who you are dealing with. To know they are honest and will follow through on their promises.

In a large metro area, it is with identification. In a small town such as Evansville, we take knowing the customer for granted. For a financial services marketer who sells in four states, the rule is just as tough. No strangers. You have to know that the customer has the money to follow through on the transaction.

One day during the first week I was training to be a stockbroker, I saw on the "ticket" which was used for all transactions the words, " ERRORS COST YOU MONEY". Just a little concerned, being just relocated with a couple of small kids, I asked the boss about what this meant. He said that if I as a broker made an error at the "wire" on a transaction, and had to sell out a position, I would pay the error out of my net wages. Furthermore, as a broker, if a customer that promised to buy something on the telephone reneged on a transaction, I would pay the loss if the position had to be sold and a loss resulted.

"You have to hear the MONEY and the HONESTY in their voice," he said. " OR, YOU PAY BIG TIME "...... Trust me, I was upset.

Over the next six months, I began to listen more closely on the phone than every before. I found that indeed one could hear honesty. One could indeed hear honesty on the telephone in the breathing and inflection of the voice. I am pleased to say that I never lost a dime on any out of state sales. And more importantly, even though the financial services business is just a memory, I can still hear the money in their voices and the honesty too. It was an incredible gift. I value it each day.

The Day My named Changed; Or, the coffee is ready

As I have written of previously, during my college years, I lived in St. Paul with my grandmother. My dad had grown up in the vintage four square home on Dayton, similiar to the one I own today. My dad, Tom, was the only son of Michael Woulfe and Alice Barnes Woulfe, his first wife having passed away after giving him 4 sons.

One day, in my Junior year, I arrived home to find an ambulance in front. Shocked, I went inside. There was our friends, Buck and Betty Meyers, as well as a doctor. The doctor told me that Nana had had a slight heart attact and possibly a stroke, but was resting comfortably. Nana was very detrmined NOT to leave home and he had given her some aspirin. He said this was really all the treatment she would get at the hospital in 1967, and that I should just watch her closely and if I needed anything there would be a nurse that would come by in a couple of days.

I had a full course load in those days, as well as worked 20 hours a week, so I wondered how I could function without Nana. That night, as I listend to her breathe, I went over all I knew about health care. Pretty limited. Anyway, the future seemed at the end of each breath. It was a long night.

Then the alarm went off as it always did at 5:30AM. The Steve Cannon radio show on WCCO began. The usual cast of characters, Steve, and his impersonated characters, Ma Linger, Morgan Mondaigne, and Lash Laroo were all there that morn. Steve impersonated all of them. Ma Linger was the 80 year old woman who was always out all night carousing. Nana would talk every morn about Ma Linger. Marveling how she could keep up such a furious pace.

After the alarm went off and the Cannon program began, I heard the shoes, Nana's loud black shoes. Something was different though. They were louder. And after thinking about it, I realized that she had not tied them.

Then, I heard her voice. Just like always.

"The coffee is ready, Tom. ....

In a heartbeat, I made the adjustment. "OK, Nana, I am almost ready. I will be there in a second. From that day on, I was "Tom" and that was cool. I never had the heart to tell her the truth about Ma Linger.

On the strong finish; Or, why Q yells "focus" at the 2 mile mark

When my older daughters were in cross country, all the parents would be near the 2 mile mark. We all urged them to "finish strong." Q was there and always urged them to "focus, " but never said exactly on what. Anyway, one race at the golf course, my oldest, Amy, questioned my support. "What's the point, Dad? I am running terrible today; I feel awful. Who cares how I finish at this point?"

She did have a point. However, now that I have had some time to think about, like six years or so, I think the answer is that it is all in the habit of giving everything to the dream. The habit is more important than the particular time.

I think the finish might just define what a person is made of. Anyone can start a race. Most get to the half way point. The fade in the final stretch is legendary.

So, go ahead and FINISH STRONG. When I figure out the "focus" thing Q was yelling about I will write about that too.

Finance Corner: The Risky World of Bonds; Or," With a GinnyMae, you lose in Every Way"; Or, So little time, so many ways to lose money

If you are an experienced investor, or simply older person, you know that there are many ways to lose money in this world. Life is simply about "risk" and "risk assessment". Usually in times of economic stress, folks rush to secure investments. Or, more precisely, what they "think" are secure investments. That rush can be dangersous if the risk is not viewed properly.

So, I wanted to share a little jingle I learned on Wall Street many years ago. The jingle goes, "With a GinnyMae, you lose in every way."

The jingle highlights the perils of investing in bonds in a rising interest rate environment. The world we face right now. Usually bond investors are folks like my father, who invested monthly in bonds, and had a bond guide next to the Bible on the night stand. A child of the depression and WWII years. Back in 1973, it became necessary to review these bonds as interest rates skyrocketed in the Jimmy Carter years. It was not a pretty picture. Bonds took huge losses. It was a lesson I have never forgotten. It is one you need to know.

If you buy a bond as interest rates rise, say at 7%. You are pleased. The rate seems high. The next day, the rate goes to 7.5% Now if you hold the bond to maturity, you will get your principal plus interest, if the company does not default. However, make a note of it, most people sell prior to maturity. So if you wanted to sell that bond on the following day you would lose. After all, who would buy one at 7% when the 7.5% were available.

You may wonder about the GinnyMae jingle. The phrase "every way". In a decreasing interest rate market, people refinance the underlying mortgages and the bond trust usually gets paid off early--just what you don't want. Now you have money to invest with rates lower. So you have investment rate risk. So either in rising or dropping rates you tend to lose..That was the point of the jingle.

The overall point of the jingle is that you CAN lose with bond investments. If you don't understand how this can happen, ask your investment advisor. The purpose of the jingle is just to get your attention.

What "Brick" means to me; Or, On the deeper meaning of "brick.";Or, the story of the big bad wolf

When I was in high school, a few years ago, we had a great football team. The cornerstone of that team was a lineman, who we called "The Brick." Whenever the game was on the line, the stakes high, nobody got through the line when the "Brick" was there. We relied on him. He was always there for us.

It is those kind of people, the "Bricks", that we rely on as a society also. I remember well the famous city council meeting where we were confronted with one of the most pressing needs facing the growing city of Evansville---a drive thru liquor window.

In the city council meeting, one council member pointed out that the problem of liquor was one that affected every family in Evansville and it was certainly not on any reasonable list of needs that we needed a drive-thru. Finally, he said, "Is there no person here who will stand with me in recognizing that this is not in the best interests of Evansville?" Not one person responded. I was in the audience and did not respond and regret it to this day.

That is what "Bricks" do. They stand up to the winds of the big bad wolf who threatens to blow the house down. Bricks are strong and courageous.

Thus, the Observer is somewhat dismayed to hear that in the current assessment of homes in Evansville, if a home is made of "brick" it is instantly "historic." I can assure you I never learned such a rule in college. "Historic preservation" is really a legal, historical term and not one that can be simply assigned to "brick." It is not something that we may have overlooked and have to search for in the panic that maybe we have missed something precious. Excuse me.

So, I celebrate "Brick" whenever I find it. Not on the exterior. Not historic. Just the human brick that is the courage we need so much in our community.

The Power of Positive Thinking;

When I attended college, I lived with my grandmother, "Nana" ,in St. Paul, in a home my grandfather, Michael Woulfe, had built in 1912... identical to the one on East Main that I live in today. When I moved from White Bear Lake to live with her, she was 81.

One day I happened to mention to her that I had seen some of those old fashioned black, large, square heeled, shoes that she wore on sale at Dayton's. Anyone, who is familiar with the shoe styles of the 1890's is familiar with the style of these shoes. "Nana" had worn these shoes for a long time...she had made them last ...for at least 15 years. Anyway, I noted the size and she agreed that she needed a new pair.

As I was getting in the car to leave, she came out to the porch, waving wildly, like something was very, very wrong. She had recently had a heart attack and I feared for the worse. Quickly, I shut the car off and rushed up to the porch. "What's wrong, Nana?"

"Get two pair," she shouted.

In Praise of "Hogans Heros or; Why Sgt. Schultz is not a timeless role model

As a youngster, each day after school I rushed home to watch Hogan's Heros. Each day the forces of American freedom fighters matched wits with the totalitarian Nazi regime and won. In each episode too, the notorious Sgt. Schultz could save the day. He saw no thing! He heard no thing! He was my hero. It was just the time of day when after a strenuous day at school, doing nothing and thinking nothing was just what I needed and to think that it could be part of the freedom movement was just perfect.

Recently, I have mused with others how easy it is to avoid knowing, avoid seeing and above all, avoid doing anything about the events around us. It seems to be very easy. Very safe. Very Sgt. Schultz like.

I guess my role model, the wonderful Sgt. Schultz just could not be a role model for me for adulthood. I still really liked the show though.

Car Care and Cardiology

-

Update----

Yesterday, I had to take the green Mazda in to see if
I could get the air bag sensor light to stop flashing.
It has been a very draining couple of months with car
care expenses, so I was very aprehensive. The
estimate was about $400.

After waiting two hours, I asked what was up. The
service guy said they had put in the new air bag wheel
sensor and that the codes were still flashing and that
they would have to "Check further".

I said," No. No check further, take out the new part,
put in the old and give me my car back. Further, it is
probably a diagnosis error and I want you to cut the
labor in half."

I paced in the parking lot in 90 deg heat for 45
minutes swearing, praying and wondering what to do now
that it appeared that we would never fix the car.
Indeed, God was dead. So....I said...

"Yo...God...if you are around, big guy, I would
appreciate some help here."

Ten minutes later, Sue called telling me she was
working late. I shared my total despair.

On the way home with the car, the cell phone rang.
Sue had some words from Laura from cardiology. Laura
said to fill the gas in the car to full and force all
the air out of the tank. She had heard on "Click and
Clack" that the sensors were so sensitive that this
could set them off. I filled it up. The blinking
lights on the airbag disppeared.

Does God live? Well.... I do know when we get
our best car care from cardiology, something is up.

---Halloween---;Or, I believe in things Seen and Unseen; Or, Why Flip Wilson was wrong.

One of the amazing things is how all kids really get Halloween. There is no long textbook required. Kids all around the world have some sort of celebration like this.

As a youngster, in church, reciting the Creed....maybe there were some boring parts about the liturgy, but certanly not the words, "I believe in things Seen and Unseen." Yes, that was something that I could really believe in. Something I could understand at a young age.

Some think that Halloween is just about candy, just about sugar. I don't think so. Although I will grant sugar is pretty big these days.

How come when we get older it gets so difficult? So difficult to get from the Seen to the Unseen. We think of Flip Wilson. "What you see is what you get." Was Flip Wilson right?

It seems to the Observer that there is a whole lot more we get besides the obvious. Stuff we were not counting on. For better. For worse. In fact, in the holiday season, when I go back to visit with the old chums from high school and college, it used to be so easy to separate out the beauty queens and cheerleaders from the rest; So easy to know the jocks from the nerds. Not today. Seems they all look alike. It is pretty shocking.

Seems like Flip Wilson was wrong. The kids are right. You get a lot more than meets the eye. There really is Seen and Unseen.

Happy Halloween.

The Story of Marvin; Or, On heavy reading; Or, When you're buying, you're buying, selling, selling, never confuse the two.

I have always loved books. But at one point, I was curious as to the BUSINESS of books. I knew little about the art of buying, so I asked my friend, Marvin, a liquidation specialist, to keep his eye out for an opportunity for me to learn something about and possibly purchase a book inventory.

On July 31st, it was one of the hottest days of the year, with temps well over 100 degrees. Marvin called. He said he had an opportunity I might be interested in and to meet him at the warehouse of a notable publisher downtown at 4:00PM sharp." O.K.", I said.

As I entered the warehouse, I noted that the temp inside was about 130 deg. and quickly discarded my suitcoat and tie. When I met Marvin, he said, "Just listen, and let me do the talking."

We met the warehouse manager and in his cramped office the temperature seemed to get even worse. He explained he had some "remainders" of computer books and gave us a list of titles and numbers. They totaled almost 20,000. When I saw the numbers, I thought that Marvin was nuts. No way did I have enough to purchase all these. But I remembered his words. I remained silent.

The meeting dragged on forever. Marvin had questions, and questions and questions. Finally, the warehouse staff came in and punched out and left. It was after 6PM. Frustrated, the manager said, "Well, Marvin, I need to do something with all these books. My lease expires on Sunday, and I really need to do something."

Then Marvin spoke. " I am pleased that Dick and I can be of help in this matter. We will see that all these books are removed at no charge to you by Monday morning. The Manager was stunned, but quickly agreed.

When we were outside the building, Marvin took me aside and said, " When you are buying, you are buying; When you are selling, you are selling; Never confuse the two. When you buy, you begin at zero. Now go and rent a truck. We have our work cut out for us. "

The baby carriage and the paving bricks; Or the recent DOT meeting; Or the importance of being a vigilent reporter

Some of my most devoted readers have written me wondering why I am going to all these meetings. Yes, even I have wondered occasionally. But last week, in the midst of an otherwise sleepy DOT meeting, came a "What's it all about Alfie moment." It has energized me to stay alert always for breaking news even in the most tiring of times.

Yes, there were some facts at the DOT meeting last Thursday. The DOT listened to input and made no changes. No story there. The 2006, 2007, and 2008 sequence of repairs to Madison Street were the only possiblity. No skipping 2006. And yes, there was the possiblity of widening the turning lanes at Madison and Water, and also Madison and Old 92, but the City would have to pay for any land purchase and would have to let the DOT know pronto so the design could be changed.

Then, the meeting lurched into a long discussion of the mysteries of asphalt. And then about paving bricks. Just as I was starting to doze to sleep, one of our most distinguished downtown leaders was heard to wonder aloud, " I just can't imagine using paving bricks on crosswalks. That would be awful rough on a baby in a stroller, wouldn't you think? "

Startled, I grabed for my pen! The DOT engineering types were tounge tied. Nothing in their vast training had prepared them for a question like this! Any memories of youthful bouncing in a stroller had been purged long ago. Other junior alderman were also unsure of how to respond to such a profound question.

Finally, the old pro, Bill Hammann, took charge as chairman, and said, "Jeff, are you trying to tell us something? Jeff, a little startled himself, replied, " Well, no, we are not expecting a child or anything....not that we would not love to have kids....but....I guess it's just not in the cards. "

The tension was broken. Peace was restored. It was back to asphalt again. It had looked for a moment like a public works meeting was going to delve into private works, but due to the skillful leadership of Bill Hammann, order was restored.

But, I was there, and will be there, as The Observer, just in case something of interest happens on this story or any other.

Why Don't My Kids Understand?; Or, A Short Lesson in Math

Some years ago, I was bemoaning with a friend that it seemed that my kids had no clue as to where I was coming from. If men were from Mars, and women were from Venus, it was very unclear what planet my kids were from.

After listening intently, he said, "Well, I think I understand."

"Do you remember when the first time was when you really understood where your parents were coming from?"

"Oh yes," I replied. " I remember exactly. It was the momemt we brought our first born, Amy, home from the hospital at birth."

"And how old were you then?" he asked.

"I was 35."

"And how old were you when you graduated from college?"

"21", I replied.

Then he smiled and said, "Well, It took you 14 years from graduation till you had a clue, so I guess to be fair, you should at least give them that long, wouldn't you think?"

Differences Make Markets; Or the story of "Frug"

Some years ago when I was in the stock brokerage business, we were informed at the office that the "big kahuna" or "big boss" from Chicago was coming to the office for a review. A review of what was not made clear. He had a notorious reputation for being tough to please. We naturally cleaned our offices so it looked like we never even worked with paper. He was flying in from Italy we were told where he owned a vineyard just as a hobby. Yes, he did look a bit like Don Corleone. I was more than nervous and did not know what to expect. I wondered what we might chit chat about.

We were told to have our prediction for the best performing stock for the next year, as well as our prediction of the strongest sector and the final S&P 500 value for the year. He was to give us his view of the coming year.

When the morning arrived, we all gathered in the conference room. Then he said, " Well, let's go around the room and you each can tell me what your prediction is for the next year." As each broker stood and recited, I grew more and more impatient. I was well aware of all these guys and what they thought. I needed some answers please. I needed some guru stuff. Then I gave my speech and could relax.

When we all finished, it was time for "Frug" to speak. "Well" he said, I see you all have some real differences, and that is wonderful." There are certainly a lot of trades right here in the conference room. Dorthea loves medical, and Denis hates it; Denis likes technology and Dick hates it for next year. Dorthea loves utility stocks and I don't.

This is very healthy. In fact, these differences and your ability to see them quickly and act on them, is the very skill you need to nurture in order to be successful in this business. Do not for a moment be discouraged when you see differences. Differences are what make America great. Differences make markets!

The meeting was over. It was nothing like what I had expected. " What a waste of time ," I thought.

Over the years I have never forgotten a word of his speech, and yes I am very happy I did not go over my expertise in Boone's Farm Apple Wine.

"Let's keep everything just the way it was."

In my college years, I lived with my grandmother in St. Paul, in a home just like my home on East Main. It was in the suburbs in 1912, at the end of the trolly line, though it is in the inner city now.

One Sunday, my dad drove me in from White Bear Lake for the move. He said, "Nana likes things just the way they were when Grandpa died. Just remember----- it is her house." "O.K., I said," " No problem."

This was in 1963. Grandpa had died in 1930. The victrola in the corner of the living room looked right out of an FDR fireside chat. The radio dial was on a AM station that had died years ago. I expected any minute a breaking bulletin announcing a further chapter in the Pacific war. Anyway, all the wallpaper was mint original. True Historic Preservation stuff. The rugs were all oriental. And of course the floors were oak and the sliding pocket doors really slid hard, since nobody knew how to adjust them anymore.

The furniture was the problem--the living room furniture was vintage 1920's, but the springs had been shot for at least 30 years. So, nobody could sit on them or a serious back injury would result. The dining room furniture was useful since it was all oak
.
Nana had a story for everything. Yes, the green historic lighting was ok outside, but not as grand as when the "lamplighters" used to come each night on the wagon and reach up and light the kerosene lamps with a wick. Now that was grand.

Years later, I learned that folks occasionally react to loss that way. They will want to keep things just the way they were. There is therapy for it now. No need for a person to suffer that way....fixed in time and not being truly alive.

At the Homecoming Parade in Evansville this year, I had the opportunity to watch the parade from the true center of the Historic District. What a glorious day of fall colors. The residents I spoke too, however, were not too jovial. They had just gotten their assessments for being Historic and the assessments had gone sky high. They pleaded with me, "Can't we just be old and not "Historic?"

"NO, I replied," "That cannot be." We are old on East Main and proud of it. You are Historic. You have to keep things just the way they were."

Book Review: "Blink," The Power of Thinking without Thinking by Malcolm Gladwell

You may remember the book "The Tipping Point," which is the blockbuster best seller of Mr. Gladwell. In "Blink," Mr. Gladwell investigates how we really make decisions, as opposed to the way we think we make them. The book is stunning in that it forces one to review all the decisions in ones life, especially the major ones, and makes one wonder again at the choices and how they were made.

On a rational basis, we might think that we are like a youngster playing a computer battlefield game. Total information awareness is the key concept in these adventure games. The party that can array the best weapons and get the best information wins the game. The game of air supremacy. The game of business. The game of life.

So much for the theory. That is just NOT how decisions are made. When you think about the decisons you made as a teen at the sock hop, how long did it take to decide which of the girls you wanted to dance with, date,.... etc. How much data and time did you have to think it over? Do you know any more about how you made the decision today than you did then?

These decisions are made in a heartbeat. We need them to be made in a heartbeat. That't how fast the decisions need to be made when driving a car or in other areas of life. The book "Blink" explains when this decision making can be a good thing, and when it can be a bad thing.

At the onset of the Iraq war, there were two supreme battlefield comanders. Two presidents of large armies. One relied on total battlefield awareness and the best of computer systems. One did not. "Blink" reviews the two very different ways of decision making employed by these commanders. Turns out the outcome was very predictable.

"Blink" is a wonderful read. It is available at the Eager Free Public Library. It is also available in large print edition.

"A Tipping Point--a case study" or; Mark's 40th or; Lessons on Renting a Limo

Sometimes a very small event can change a life, or even in some cases several lives. A case in point was my brother in law, Mark's 40th birthday party. A little background. I married into a very competitive family where all the brothers and male inlaws revel in competing...well..in just about everything. During our 30's we competed on cars, mortgages, fishing, power boats...etc. In fact, the guys got together each year for an annual fishing trip which we billed as really a performance review. We held meetings with secret minutes where each of us could get awards for besting the others. I remember with fondness my special award for the lowest 15yr mtg rate, which was 4.375. I still treasure the award. Anyway....

For Mark's 40th birthday, his buddy, Mert, wanted to do something special. Like a gathering of all the guys in the company and a dinner out and nightclubing and to top it off, a special limo to take them from place to place, and expecially home.

Being competitive, Mert, wanted to impress Mark with how thrifty he was and negotiated real hard on the limo. He wanted the lowest rock bottom price in the world. Finally, thrilled, he got an unbelievable deal. An older stretch Lincoln limo with special suicide doors. It was a classic, not trendy, but at the right price.

It was truly a night to remember. The meal was great. The guys were in rare form. On the way home, however, the limo driver stopped at a gas station to use the rest rooms. When the guys in the limo tried to get out of the limo, they discovered that the door handles did not work. They could not get out.

I never did get the entire story, and that is rare for The Observer. What spiritual awakening really happened back in that limo of guys. I do know that Mark was heard telling Mert " I don't ever want to hear the word "deal" again. No "bargains". Never again. Ok?"

Mark now drives a Lexis. Has a huge home on a lake. And a huge powerboat. All the best. And, when he rents a limo, he always checks the doors first.

"Why Don't They Speak English?"; Or, The Story of the Pokie Little Puppy

Some years back, I wandered into a local store where the owner, suddenly asked me, "Mr. Woulfe, Why don't your students speak English?"

"Well," I replied, "I bet you were a great reader. Can you remember the first book you ever read?"

"I sure can," she replied. "It was The Pokie Little Puppie." "I remember it like it was just yesterday."

"Well," I asked, "Can you remember how old you were at the time?"

"Yes, I sure do remember. I was seven."

"And I bet your mother read to you each night?" "Oh yes," she replied.

"And I bet you were pretty sharp, too," I asked. "Well, I hope so," she replied.

"Well," I said, "It took you seven years and you were quite bright, so let's just wait seven years and we will see how my students are doing then."

On the Magic of TIVO; or Dreams of Noah's Ark

I must apologize to my readers for not being able to cover the dicussion of the amendment to the Evansville floodplain ordinance at the Evansville Planning Commission on Tuesday nite, Sept 6th. I did have a long day at the auto repair shop, and after the lengthy discussion on sandwich board signs, felt a need to retire. If the meeting had been on cable tv, and I had TIVO, I would have had full coverage.

However, as usual after these long meetings, I did have an odd dream.....Yes, Yodamom has warned me about these dreams, but I think this one is safe.

Suddenly last night in the dream, Noah appeared and shouted, "Build an Ark!" Being the obedient type, I quickly got started. The storm clouds were overhead, and there was a lot of pressure to get the job done to avoid disaster. I quickly searched for some cheap covering for the ark, and came up with some old siding, vinyl, as I recall. Suddenly there appeared before me, the historical preservation committee who wanted me to do the ark in appropriate historical wood---a lot more expensive. However, I was a resident and not a developer and hence could only qualify for a loan, not a TIF deal.

The storm clouds were growing and the pressure was mounting. There was a possiblity that if I rented out the ark, the historical preservation committee could get the TIF money for me, but time was short. I was a resident and not a landlord. I went with the vinyl.

What happened? Well, I don't know, cause I woke up just as I was loading the animals. I still have a bad feeling about the outcome, however.

What happened at the Planning Commission last night in the discussion of the ordinance to amend the City of Evansville floodplain management regulations to conform to the state model ordinance? I do not know.

I ask anyone who was able to stick it out to the end of the meeting to post and let me know what the details were. I will try to do a better job next time, and take some Real coffee to the meeting.

Do You Believe in Pinocchio?

One of the great journeys that we all seem to go through is not only deciding what we like and dislike, but also what we believe and do not believe. This journey is short for some, and long for others. Exciting for some, disturbing for others. The results are not always predictable.

Years ago, one of my kids, on the way home from church, said, "Well, Dad, I just don't believe that. It's just baloney. It's just a story."

I replied, "Well, I suppose you don't believe in Pinocchio either?" "Of course not," she replied," That's just a story too."

"Well," I said, " let's put the question another way. " Do you believe that when people lie they are changed and become a deformed person?" " And that the transformation is obvious to all around them?"

" I never thought of Pinocchio that way." she replied. " In that case, I guess I DO believe in the story of Pinocchio."

Then I said, " Ditto for the other stories that you say you don't believe in. Don't let the details of the story confuse you about the real meaning. You might be surprised in how much you really believe.

So how about you? Do you believe in Pinocchio? You make the call.

Memories of Fr. Erbe; Or, You are never too old to begin; Or, the new computer

Eight years ago, Fr. Erbe was still the pastor of St. Paul's Church. It was a "donut Sunday" which meant that after Mass everyone gathered in the lower level to have coffee and donuts and chat.

My mother-in-law, Alyce Hector, was visiting and we were celebrating her 72nd birthday. When Fr. Erbe came over to our table. I introduced him to Alyce and then asked her to "tell him the news."

"Well," Alyce said, " I just bought my first computer, and I am having all sorts of fun with it." Turning to Fr. Erbe, I said, "Do you know what that means for you?" "No," he replied, "What?" "Well," I said, "You are next." Fr. Erbe was 70 at that time, and did admit that he had been thinking of getting a computer.

Two weeks later I got the call. " Come quick." "I just got the computer and need help pronto," Fr. Erbe said. When I got to the rectory, I went to the upper study, where it looked like Christmas Eve, with boxes all over, with wrapping paper and manuals everywhere.

I had been in the computer business, owing a used computer store, and I recognized that Fr. Erbe had bought "The Works". He had even bought the typing voice recognition program. He had been a salesman's dream.

I cleared a path thru the paper and sat down at the computer desk, and said," I think we're a little late for reading manuals, so lets just plunge in." I installed the browser and opened up Yahoo. Then, as Fr. Erbe sat next to me, I tried to think of a way to explain it all simply. "Well, all of good and evil is here on the browser line. Just type in what you want, and presto it appears. Like magic. Where should we begin?"

"The Tablet," he replied. I typed it in and hit search. It is a British religious weekly paper covering events of the Catholic Church all over the world. After it popped up and he read a little, he was very, very excited. "Wow," he said, "This is going to save me a lot of money on subscriptions." Then he proceeded to show me a list of 20 other magazines or books that he had an interest in. I was stunned. Fr. Erbe had the range of interests and reading habits of a 30yr old.

Over the next two years, at Mass he would just say "See me" at communion and I knew that some technical consult was required. I was always amazed at the people around the world that he had met online and the books that he explored. "You are never too old to begin, " he would say.

Few folks know that after Fr. Erbe left Evansville, he began seeing patients at St. Mary's Hospital in his power wheelchair. Speeding in the halls and bringing his message of cheer to patients and families.

The spirit of Fr. Erbe lives on in Evansville. You are never too old to begin.

The morning of Chernobyl; Or why it's ok if thought comes before action

One of my favorite memories in the investment business was the Morning of Chernobyl. I got into the office early and reviewed my senior citizen clients who had purchased some utility trusts. I wondered what would happen at the open. I then wandered over to my guru broker's office, Bruce, of whom I have written earlier. He never came into the office that early so I figured something was wrong.

"What are you going to do this morn," I asked. "Well," he responded, while everybody is pretty scared about the Chernobyl deal, I will probably buy some utilities that I like if they correct at the open. "

Then he went on, " This is just life, in that we have to figure out the meaning of it all, only in this business, we have to do it by 8:30am. There is an urgency here so just get used to it. "

One of the things that I do miss about the investment business is that if you had an idea, there was always one of your competitive peers that would think you were nuts and disagree with you. That was very helpful. Believe me, there are some crazy things I have done, but there are a whole bunch that I avoided cause I listened to someone argue with me that the idea was crazy....so.

In many ways, in the morning, I am still doing what I did back in the 80's. I am going over what is in the news, trying to see what it means and COUNTING ON the readers to pick out the ideas that are just crazy so I avoid them. The farmers always had the morning coffee in town to chat---I always wondered what they talked about. It was really whether October beans were too high at 1.55. They argued over the issue. Is it best to close the position or hold? Out of the talk they avoided some solo crazy ideas.

In many ways, this is what the Observer is all about. And it is ok to talk and argue about ideas before action. In fact, it is far preferable to acting and then dimly realizing several years later that the plan of action was very, very, very wrong.