Year in Review 2004
This Year's Card
This year's card is a simple winter scene entitled "Snowman in Village Field" from a painting by Alan Lathwell. Click on the image to see the inside of the card.
This has been a tough year for my father and my major focus this year has been on him. When I visited him in January, he was driving a car and living independently at his home in Dallas when the doctor diagnosed him with dementia, probably Alzheimer's. This meant he had to quit driving immediately and he needed help at home. He had driven a car for over 70 years and naturally loss of driving was very hard for him to accept. By April, he realized that we had to sell the car which we did that very day.
Unlike my father's health crises in 1996 and 2000 when I teamed up with my brother to decide what should be done, this time I was on my own since my brother died in 2002. I was fortunate to find the Community Senior Services organization. Working with them I've increased the level of help my father was getting at home as he has declined. By August, it had reached full time live-in help 24x7.
If you have cared for an elderly parent, you realize very quickly that this is not something that you are prepared in advance to do. There are so many issues that have to be dealt with very quickly. It takes a lot of time, patience and problem solving to sort thru the lists of issues. One disturbing thing I learned reading about Alzheimer's, is that by age 85 your odds of having it are 50%.
In addition to memory loss, Alzheimer's leads to other mental processing difficulties like time relationships. Your balance gets worse. My father has fallen several times this year and even fractured a bone in his spine that put him in a brace for 2 months. He was in the brace, when Erika, who grew up next door got married in June.
The positive news is that he has been able to remain at home. His picture above was taken on his 90th birthday. He really enjoyed his 90th birthday party - and looks forward to doing it again. Everything continues to get harder for him. The cold really bothers him; he isn't comfortable at less than 82 degrees. Although he is in fairly good overall health, he generally says that he doesn't feel well.
Travel really is educational. You learn things that you wouldn't otherwise know. The highlight was visiting Libya which just opened to American tourists after 28 years as a result of the Iraq War. Libya has some of the best Roman and Greek ruins anywhere. The achievements of the Roman empire are monumental. Much of what I saw was destroyed by the great earthquake of 365 AD. The resulting tsunami killed thousands in Alexandria, Egypt alone.
Libya was a chance to relearn the Arabic alphabet and to learn new things about Islam. Muslims were proud to report to me that Islam does not allow men to urinate while standing. Furthermore, they should enter a toilet with their left foot. In Algeria, I learned that during the insurgency between the moderate Muslims and the terrorist Muslims during the 1990s between 100,000 and 150,000 people were killed.
In 2004, I visited 5 U.S. States and
6 countries. I experienced first hand the shocking decline of the dollar when converting to euros. Ouch! I've spent almost
5 years of my life outside of the US. Most of my travel this year was to Dallas helping my father. My individual trip
reports are hyperlinked.
As part of my multi-year effort to join the all digital world, I converted my Macs to the wonderful OS X. It has a gorgeous user interface and is a joy to use. I did a 100% replacement of all of my software - OS and applications - and I had to confront the accumulation of issues since I got my first Mac in 1986. For example, there were thousands of files that had to be converted one by one to updated formats. All of my files and folders had to be reorganized. I am very pleased with the results. No crises! And I was able to throw away all of my floppies, old CDs, etc.
Prior to the conversion to OS X, I transferred from Prodigy DSL to SBC Yahoo DSL maintaining my almost 20 year old e-mail address and my website addresses. The result was a doubling of the DSL speed and virtual elimination of spam!!! To complete the picture, I replaced all of my phones and added caller id.
In addition to 5 ancestors on the Mayflower, I had ancestors on the first ship to Manhattan in 1624. These people were religious refugees and even lived in Leiden with the Pilgrims from 1618 to 1620. Their son was the first European male child born in Manhattan. I was thrilled to have the prestigious New England Historic Genealogical Society, the oldest genealogical society in America, published my article on the First Owners of Ground Zero for the 9/11 anniversary. I made this discovery in 2002 and documented it on my website. Do a Google search on these 4 words: "first owner ground zero" and you will get 985,000 hits. The first web page listed is mine! Please check it out! This year, I was contacted by Eric Lipton, Pulitzer prize-winning journalist from the New York Times, who used my research in an article published on June 27, 2004 about the history of Ground Zero.
This was the 7th year that the Anderson Scholarship, set up to honor my mother, was awarded to the salutatorian of the senior class of Sioux Rapids Community School. This year's winner is baseball athlete Kyle Rehnstrom who is now studying at the University of Northern Iowa majoring in Management Information Systems and accounting. The Iowa High School Baseball Coaches Association named Kyle Captain of the Academic All-State Team!
At the Texas Ex-Students Association's annual banquet in Austin in September, I met Jason Petersen, the 4th winner of the Parrish Computer Science Scholarship, and I had a fascinating conversation with Dr. Moore, the Chairman of the Department of Computer Science. He is one of those rare people who have something insightful to say on almost any subject. We provided Jason practical suggestions on how to succeed. I also had a delightful lunch at the East Side Cafe with Eleanor Moore and Laura Luthy, the two who helped me set up my scholarship.
I attended the summer seminar of the Objectivist Center. These are always intellectually stimulating, week-long conferences on philosophy and its application to today's world. They attract interesting, thoughtful people. This year the summer seminar was held at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, one of the most geographically beautiful settings on planet earth. In addition to lectures and in-depth conversations, I hooked up with a group of Objectivists going white-water rafting. It was my biggest physical adventures in years. See my trip report.
Last year, I became President of the Fox Valley Chapter of the Sons of the American Revolution. I have been working closely with the other officers to revitalize the chapter. As part of that process, I created a website for the chapter. One of our accomplishments was to locate and photograph the graves of the 14 Revolutionary war soldiers in our area and document their biographies.
We had two major dinner meetings with speakers this year. One of the highlights was a grave marking ceremony for John Gowdy, a soldier in the American Revolution. He lived to be almost 95 years old. Mike Johnston, our VP and Historian made a DVD of the event attended by 200 people. The photo shows me and reenactors at his grave. Seven of his descendants traveled hundreds of miles to attend the ceremony.
I remain active in the Circumnavigators Club and continue as Treasurer in Chicago. I'm also the webmaster for our chapter - www.chicagocircumnavigators.org. On January 23, 2004, I was elected to Life Membership in the Circumnavigators Club. My 1989 membership certificate was autographed by Astronaut James Lovell of Apollo 8 & 13 fame who noted I had 421 times to go around the world to catch up to him. So far I've made 3 circumnavigations.
September 23, 2004 was the 20th anniversary of the Heartland Institute, a well respected libertarian think tank based in Chicago, started by Dave Padden and Joe Bast, who continues to serve at the Executive Director. At the anniversary banquet, I was photographed with one of my favorite journalists, John Fund of the Wall Street Journal. During dinner, I talked to my old friend Scott Hodge, President of the Tax Foundation, who had the original idea for Heartland. I talked to many old friends among the 640 attendees at the gala held in the grand ballroom of the Chicago Hilton.
One of my perennial activities that I look forward to is the investment conference, started by the late Jim Blanchard, held each fall in New Orleans. This is a conference loaded with talent both on the podium and in the audience. As usual the range of highly independent opinion requires a lot of serious thought to sort thru.
The conference also invites people who make the news. Featured were Dick Armey, former Republican House Majority Leader and creator of the Contract with America, and George Tenet, former director of the CIA. Armey had the audience convulsed with laughter. He is a very skillful politician. Tenet reminded me of the newsreels of J. Edgar Hoover because he has a similar swagger. His speech was a rare opportunity to hear the CIA's version of history. I was especially interested to hear about the negotiations with the Libyans that resulted in their turning over to the U.S. Government all of the material from their nuclear weapons program.
Like most of you, I'm glad the 2004 Presidential election is finally over. Over $2.2B was spent on it and yet so little was really discussed in the staged debates! The same sound bites were repeated endlessly. Sigh! This year I was a delegate to the Libertarian Party convention in Atlanta, which after a spirited debate selected Michael Badnarik as the LP nominee for President. I wrote The Case for Badnarik published on the Atlasphere.
With the exception of the Libertarian Party, all of the 3rd party and independent vote totals were way down in 2004. The Libertarian Party Presidential votes totals (390,542) were up marginally from 2000 and exceeded the totals of all other third parties combined! Once again, the Libertarian Party is the third largest party. Badnarik who spent just over $1M almost out polled Nader (407,992) who got media coverage and spent over $4M!
If you didn't hear of Michael Badnarik, well that was due to the dynamics of the major parties (with the complicity of the major media) who worked day and night to convince you that the Republic would fall if the Other Guy won. Negative campaigning works well in a two person race, but is far less effective in a 3 or 4 person race. So if you are unhappy with negative campaigning and phony debates, there is a well known solution: get the Libertarian Party candidate in the Presidential debates in 2008.
I could see that Bush was going to win this year and it was easy to see the errors of the Democrats. They committed the fundamental mistake of underestimating their opponent. Bush beat them in 2000, 2002 and 2004, and they still think he is stupid. If so, where does that leave them?
I believe a key problem for the Democrats were the "reforms" in the 1970s that shifted the choice of their Presidential candidate away from their convention to primaries. Democratic leaders would have never picked a cold-fish Massachusetts liberal with a second wife worth a billion dollars and a pretty boy lawyer who made millions manipulating juries in medical malpractice suits by talking as if he was the dead fetus. What's outrageous about that last sentence is that it is factually true.
A cruel irony is that liberals, who use abortion more often than conservatives, have been reducing their ranks for a generation. Now the Democratic Party is the minority party in America. Politically astute Republicans realize they must protect a woman's right to choose or they will lose their lock on power - that is the other irony.
This year I finally attended the Kentucky Derby (alas in the rain!), shot serious rapids (grade IV plus) in a rubber raft in British Columbia, drove around in a segway on the Chicago lakefront and experienced the glorious grand opera Aida at the Lyric in Chicago. In Bonn, Germany, I visited the exceptional Tutankhamen exhibit on tour from Egypt.
If you enjoy intelligent thrillers, I recommend The Da Vinci Code and Angels and Demons by Dan Brown. For a journey of self-discovery with brilliant social commentary, there is A Man in Full by the gifted writer, Thomas Wolfe. This book may replace his Bonfire of the Vanities on my list of 50 favorite books. For non-fiction fans, there is Wheels for the World, the magnificent epic story of Henry Ford and how he changed the world, by historian Douglas Brinkley. In addition, there is the superb A Noise of War by A. J. Langguth which will amaze and astonish you with the scope and operation of the Roman Empire.
New Year's Resolution Idea: Three months ago, I got an Omron HJ-112 pedometer and my goal is to average 10,000 steps a day (about 5 miles or 8 kilometers). Now if someone asks if I get regular exercise, I'll show my spreadsheet! The beauty of a pedometer is that it converts all exercise to a common unit. The Omron pedometer is a handy device that I clip on my belt in the morning and take off at night. It stores 7 days worth of step counts. You can buy it on the internet or in your local drugstore. It is an easy way to motivate yourself to get more exercise.
On a sad note, I report the passing of Tom Greene who I worked with for many years at Bell Labs. We will also remember 2004 for the passing of Ronald Reagan and the outpouring of affection at his funeral.
All the best to you in 2005!