Posts Tagged ‘freedom’


Wednesday, October 3rd, 2012

It had been a nice morning.

Woke up early and walked over the hill to my predawn swimming workout. I could traverse the back way, even as early dark as it was at 4:45am; a bright full moon, directly overhead, illuminated. Cross-country, as the coyote goes; night owls flying silent on the hunt.

Enjoyed a great workout in the diving well, set up as it was for short-course meters. Even though the team is on taper workouts leading up to a meet this weekend, there were some challenging sets. Several 200’s pace, followed by four fast 50’s had my chest heaving. I was alive with exertion and consumed by the effort. The usual people were going faster than me, and the usual people were chatting up a storm between sets. Par for the course – like I said, a great workout.

I chose to walk back home, this time taking the “urban route,” i.e., on the bike path alongside Golden Valley Road. A longer route, but being paved in asphalt, it’s an easier walk, especially after the hard swim. Slow and steady, up the hill – traffic whizzed by frantically.

Halfway up the hill, after the point the redwood post fence takes up, I saw a small creature, still and lifeless, right in the middle of the bikeway – a little bird.

I don’t know how long it had been there, but I doubt it was long. I suspect it had been flying fast and low, swooping down. Unaware of the bustling traffic, it must have struck a windshield. I imagine it stunned, and upended. Then tumbling out of the sky and landing, coming to rest in my path, not too long before I got there.

I noticed the bird, but walked past – in the habit of being anxious to start my workday, soon to be pounding a computer keyboard at Starbucks – I steadied on.

Then it occurred to me that this little bird deserved more consideration from me. What would it take for me to pay some small respect? Not much, so why not? I turned back.

I pulled a paper napkin from my pocket (editor’s note: Michael never travels without paper napkins) and used it to grasp the bird by its legs, and I lifted it gently. Past the edge of the bike path, and beyond the post-fence, I leaned in and pried up a good sized rock. The void left by the rock, where it had rested in the soil, was the perfect size to lay the bird. Back went the rock, gently. I found about six other stones of varying size and I used them to shore up the edges of the site. On top I placed a nicely shaped, medium sized rock. The memorial was complete, a cairn that enshrines a small bird; I continued with my walk.

So what is the point? If nothing else let his be a reminder to pay attention to the cairns. They are all purposeful, whether to mark a waypoint for fellow travellers, to serve as an impromptu work of art, or as in this case, to be a memorial. You never know what may have prompted a person to stack rocks one upon another, but maybe it is worth contemplating. Also, what things in our lives deserve attention, but don’t get it? I don’t have the answers. All I know is that this small bird got some consideration from me today, and I am the better for it – I am enriched by not letting its passing go unnoticed.

As I said at the beginning, it had been a nice morning, and now – yes – it still was a nice morning. It was simply not the same morning it would have been had I not looked down and built a cairn.


Obamacare, Explained as if to a 5 year old

Monday, June 25th, 2012

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Recently I caught an Obamacare discussion on the Explain it to Me Like I’m 5 forum at The original post asked “What exactly is Obamacare and what did it change?” Because I differ with the most popular response, I will offer a brief rebuttal here on my own blog. That works out just fine because, not only am I chief cook and bottle wash, but I am also judge, jury and executioner. Aside from that I think I do have a legitimate point to make.

Regarding the original thread, and quoting from posting guidelines, ELI5 is “A friendly place to ask questions and get elementary school-level answers, without fear of judgement.” There are two rules and guidelines for answers most relevant: [1] no bias…, and [2] “Keep your answers simple! We’re shooting for elementary-school age answers…”

While I credit CaspianX2 with a fair and comprehensive response, I think it is significantly flawed in two regards. First, although reasonably fair, citing some arguments on both sides, it nonetheless reads as a extended defense of the bill and therefor fails the “no bias” test. Second it so far exceeds the guideline of “elementary-school age answers” that it outright fails the criteria. Specifically, most of the response, which is over 2000 words far exceeds the vocabulary, attention-span and comprehension level of all but the most sophisticated elementary school students.

Because it is such an important topic, and it should be reducible to the level a 5 year can understand, I am going to give it a try. However, I will take the other side of the argument, and will describe why Obamacare is wrong.

Even while just a child, the first thing I remember about the formation of my identity as an American citizen was that I had freedom. In particular, I had freedom of speech, and I knew at the time that it was an important concept. I also knew that this was insured by our US Constitution which was the basis for our government. I did not know much else about my others rights and responsibilities, but as a typical kid I did a lot of talking. As such, the “free speech” aspect appealed to me a lot. More than just being able to talk when I wanted, I also knew that I was free to speak my ideas. My ideas at the time where not that sophisticated, however I did understand these things when I was five; I was taught about our flag, the pledge of allegiance, the US Constitution and about freedom.

So, here is what I’d say to my five year old self, or any five year old for that matter: Obamacare is a law with many parts, that is intended to improve your ability to get care from your Doctor. Our country is considering if the law is valid, or whether it should be overturned. A very important part of the law is that the US Government says it needs to force your parents to buy something called health insurance, even if they do not want to buy it. The originator of the law, our President Obama himself, has said that the law can’t work if the US Government is not able to force your parents to buy that health insurance. The problem is that the government can only force your parents to buy something by taking away from their freedom. Obamacare is wrong because it takes away from freedom that is promised in our Constitution.

I will concede that a few of these words might be hard for a five year old, but not so much that any difficulties could not be addressed by a simple re-phrasing in more understandable terms. My premise though is that the concepts are basic enough that a child could understand them.

That’s why I’d be comfortable explaining to a young person that Obamacare is wrong, and that it should be overturned, because it takes away from freedom that is guaranteed in our Constitution.

It really is just that simple; even a five year old can understand.