My prayers are with those of you recovering from Katrina. I pray it doesn’t take as long to recover as some seem to think it might. It scares me to think the worst is still ahead.

It started out to me to look like just another hurricane on its way to some place I’ve visited but never really felt invested. How many times has the image been like this, a satellite image that is supposed to tell me there’s a danger?

But the night before, seeing the police chief telling people to get the hell out, I knew this could be devastating. Beyond the science that predicted a Level 5 storm, there was a sense of something huge. When it did roll in, however, the photos looked similar to those I’d seen before from other hurricanes. The news reports were relatively low key. Katrina was only a 4. Bad enough, to be sure, but it could be worse.

Then we saw the photos coming from Mississippi, where the storm hit the hardest. The coastal town of Gulfport saw 30 people die in one building. People down there, I’ve heard, get used to the hurricane warnings and some take them as exaggeration. Some of those people are dead. Some of them who survived wonder how they did. Mississippi got it bad, worse than Louisiana.

Then the levy broke in two places. New Orleans, the Big Easy, became not just an alligator and snake-infested swamp, in some parts it became part of the lake. Canal Street is a river and it’s among the least flooded.

Any thoughts of traveling east are nixed by this image of Interstate 10.

This is how people are getting to higher ground now.

And this is the new New Orleans.

The Gulfport, Miss. shot and the Canal Street photo are from Getty Images.
The overhead shot of the flooded neighborhood, the hurricane shot of roof flying off are from the Dallas Morning News.
The skyline shot, the damaged freeway, the rescue photo and the satellite photo are from the Associated Press.

Field of Steve

We knew him when.

My explanation above that you should read my blog because you want that brush with greatness deserves some refinement.

Though I take great pride in pointing out people I’ve seen or met when they were already famous (George W. Bush, Arnold Schwarzenwhatever, Weird Al, etc.), greater joy comes in bragging about how I knew people when they were just as much wretched refuse as I am. For example. Cecil Fielder, who hit a ton of homers in the major leagues for a few years, was on my basketball team when I was 10. Rick Aguilera, All-Star pitcher for the Minnesota Twins, worked with me as a grocery bagger at Alpha Beta in Covina, California.

There are times when it’s not cool. I knew Brian Watkins before he got killed defending his mother on the subway platform in New York City. There was no joy in telling people about that.

My point is, however, clearly it is much cooler to talk about how you knew famous people before they were famous.

For example: Which statement will impress the chicks?

A. I used to go drinking with George W. Bush when he was just a (insert your own adjective here) college student.
B. As governor of the State of ____________, I get to meet with our (insert your own adjective here) President George W. Bush from time to time.

You tell me what’s more impressive. Clearly it’s A. Partying with the future president used to be an exclusive club. Now all it takes to meet a president is a fat checkbook, and who doesn’t have one of those?

Field of Steve

Rise and shout! We haven’t lost yet!

Every year at this time I get a little distracted. For the past three years it’s worn off by the end of September, at least October.

These days I’m not sure what I think of BYU the school. The journalism department is not impressive at all and I’m not sure I’d want my kids to go there. I guess it depends on what they want to accomplish.

On the other hand BYU was just ranked 71st best national school overall in U.S. News & World Report. Things aren’t all bad.

Then there’s football. Every year I get a rush anticipating college football season, particularly the prospect of BYU being good. At times I hate BYU overall and when the football team tanks I vow to never root for the school again. But my excitement for the Cougs on the football field just never goes away. It’s like an annual dose of Oxycontin. It sucks when it wears off.

This week BYU opens against Boston College.
BC is ranked, but that doesn’t mean anything now. Here’s what happens. If BYU wins, it means the other team isn’t that good. Only once did that not bear out, and that was when BYU beat Miami. The Hurricanes ended up being great and BYU was awful at the end of that year. Pittsburgh, Notre Dame, Texas A & M, they all sucked.

Rise and shout anyway, we haven’t lost a single game yet.

Field of Steve

Eggy takes the snap

PROVO — Egmedia Bucat, who helps operate a silk flower rental business in Poulsbo during the off-season, has shown incredible abilities running the new BYU offense.
Boston College played a bend-but-don’t-break defense Saturday in Provo, but Bucat took what the Eagles gave him and patiently marched the Cougars to their first touchdown under new coach Bronco Mendenhall.
The outcome was all the more surprising given Bucat’s age. He turned 66 in July, but ran the field like no one has since Steve Young played here.
The final play of the first drive, Bucat dropped back three steps from the 2-yard-line, faked a toss over the middle, then waltzed around the left end untouched to put the Cougars up 6-0.

Man, my dreams are cool.

Eggy helps his wife and daughter with their business, Everblooms. He is one of the nicest men I ever met. The business offers silk flowers for rental for weddings and the like. They run it out of an office right next to mine. It’s a good idea and when I go by the office on the weekends they seem to be very busy.

The story above was from a dream. This post marks the second time in a week I’ve retold a dream. That’s odd, because usually I don’t remember my dreams. When they’re this entertaining (to me, anyway), they’re worth repeating.

Field of Steve

Happy 73rd Mom

Today would be my mom’s 73rd birthday. This photo was taken at our desert property in Lucerne Valley, Calif. That same property is in the process of being sold so Dad can move up here and we can all live in the same house.

Field of Steve

Considering morals a healthcare hazard

Several months ago the owner of a nearby store had a stroke. He was a young guy, believes he got it because of some medicine he took at the direction of his doctor. He and his wife, as business owners, didn’t have health insurance. Their medical costs are well over six figures.

So here’s a guy who’s doing his best to live the American dream. One sickness and it’s over. They’re trying to sell the business, which does OK.

The U.S. medical system works great for me. I have to pay a deductible and we’ve had enough work on our kids and me done that we have to make our payments over time, but it hasn’t bankrupted us. My prescription for my high blood pressure medicine costs $40 a month, and that’s the most we ever have to pay for drugs. We have insurance. For 40 million other Americans, that’s not the case.

Malcolm Gladwell, author of Blink and The Tipping Point, wrote a great story in The New Yorker in which he discusses U.S. healthcare.

A country that displays an almost ruthless commitment to efficiency and performance in every aspect of its economy — a country that switched to Japanese cars the moment they were more reliable, and to Chinese T-shirts the moment they were five cents cheaper — has loyally stuck with a health-care system that leaves its citizenry pulling out their teeth with pliers.

An interesting point is made in describing “Moral hazard,” which Gladwell describes thus:

“Moral hazard” is the term economists use to describe the fact that insurance can change the behavior of the person being insured. If your office gives you and your co-workers all the free Pepsi you want — if your employer, in effect, offers universal Pepsi insurance — you’ll drink more Pepsi than you would have otherwise.

But later he dismisses moral hazard when it comes to medicine.

We go to the doctor grudgingly, only because we’re sick. “Moral hazard is overblown,” the Princeton economist Uwe Reinhardt says. “You always hear that the demand for health care is unlimited. This is just not true. People who are very well insured, who are very rich, do you see them check into the hospital because it’s free? Do people really like to go to the doctor? Do they check into the hospital instead of playing golf?”

Well, no. I don’t.

However, at a blog entry on the Marginal Revolution Web site, the author makes several valid points. The one that struck the most was a response to Gladwell’s point just above. Perhaps the notion that more patients will abuse the system isn’t the issue. A bigger problem is doctors ordering tests that aren’t needed.

Those who argue for tort reform claim doctors do this because they’re afraid if they don’t they’ll get sued. Another problem, however, would suggest doctors aren’t doing too many tests under the current system, they aren’t doing enough. Administrators dictate what can and can’t be insured and what doctors can and cannot do. In the case of a Bainbridge Island cancer patient I wrote about earlier this year, the reason she had been able to get care at all is because she left the managed care her provider offered and found a doctor not only willing to try different things, he’s good at helping get insurance companies to cover what he’s prescribing.

And on the other side of the border, Canadians have a healthcare system I’ve heard Americans love to criticize. It has problems. It needs more money. But here’s the thing. I’ve never met a Canadian who would trade their system for ours. And I’ve met plenty of Americans who would be glad to make the exchange.

The Kitsap Sun

Adam and Steve

I rode my bike from Boston to San Francisco, where I stopped long enough to catch a Giants game. I wanted to see if the stadium was all that. It was.

I rode down to L.A. where a couple of guys I knew from when I was a kid accosted me while I was showering at a gas station. They were both naked and one was trying to get his business done, if you know what I’m saying. Then a couple other guys walk in, one’s a big muscular Type-A jerk and the other one is smaller and more anonymous. They decide to join in the assault. What they end up doing, however, is distract the guys who are trying to deflower me. I elbow one in the chest and before long I’m outside the shower near the gas pumps dressed in nothing more than shorts and a towel. The two guys I knew drove off in a small truck and the other guys walked away.

Next I got my cell phone and called the police. The dispatcher wanted to be reassured that I got into survival mode. In other words she was wanting to find out if I fought my out or just let them have their way. I’m not sure why it mattered, but I soon grew impatient with the questioning and told her I’d call her from my house, where I could sit in a big comfortable chair instead of standing around in the parking lot in shorts and a towel.

Of course, I still hadn’t paid for the $2.37 in gas I’d received, for what, I don’t remember, because I thought I was on my bike. I go inside into the convenience store part of the station and wait in a line of about 12 people to pay for the gas. When I get to the front of the line the cashier leaves and the big guy that tried to join in on the gang rape is now the cashier. I’m hoping he doesn’t recognize me and I’m really glad he’s there, because when I go home to call the police I can tell them where he is. But I try to pay for the $2.37 in gas I bought and he can’t find anywhere that the station has sold that much in gas. So with a line of about a dozen more people behind me he sends someone out to verify that they sold that much. I ask him if he’s kidding and he continues his belligerence (all the while not recognizing that shortly before he tried to “have” me) and tells me that indeed he is not kidding. “So you’re going to make all these people wait while you try to verify $2.37 in gas?” He tells me in his best Bubba that it’s the way it works there. I tell him I will never buy from this gas station again and he says that will be doing the station a favor.

At this point I am so disgusted with him that I turn around and begin walking out and it’s around then that I wake up from the dream, because if there’s anything that makes me madder than being raped, it’s poor customer service.


1930s-style diversity

As part of the column I’m writing for the http://www.bainbridgeislander.com Bainbridge Islander, I’ll include this restrictive covenant. It was written for a subdivision in Shoreline, which is not far north of Seattle. I found it because it comes out of a Washington Supreme Court ruling that has an element that affects Bainbridge. The court case was a land-use case, involving density, but to get to the land-use issue they first had to pass this beauty:

{1.} This property shall not at any time, directly or indirectly, be sold, conveyed, rented or leased in whole or in part, to any person or persons not of the White or Caucasian race. {2.} No person other than one of the White or Caucasian race shall be permitted to occupy any portion of any residence tract or of any building thereon, except a domestic servant actually employed by a White occupant of such tract and/or building. {3.} No building or structure shall be erected, constructed, maintained or permitted upon this property except a single family, detached private dwelling house on each one-half acre in area. {4.} As appurtenant to such dwelling house a private garage, garden house, pergola, convervatory {sic}, servant quarters or other private appurtenant outbuildings or structures, may be erected, constructed and maintained.

It’s illegal now. No one argues that. State law made such covenants taboo years ago. Then you have the Civil Rights Act, etc. But this covenant was written when my own father was about seven or eight years old. Our grandparents grew up in a country where this kind of agreement was acceptable. Some in the U.S. still wish it would come back. I was amazed that such a thing existed, but somehow think it helps explain some of the racism that is still evident at times today. It may not look like this covenant, but it’s only a couple generations removed.


Blog ennui

I’ve noticed a pattern on the blogs that has been played out here on this one. A bloggers gets all excited about starting a blog and for a few days goes really gung-ho. It doesn’t take long, however, before the thought of writing another entry just isn’t all that exciting.

On Bainbridge Island there is a blog with a name I can’t recall. There is one entry posted months ago titled Peles vs. Galileos. It’s a discussion of the competing interests at Battle Point Park. There may have been one introductory post before that, but the park post was the first and last of its kind. A friend started one called, “Venting my Spleen,” in which he has posted two editorial-like posts. I just wonder, and actually kind of believe, that a lot of people who start blogs find out it isn’t as satisfying as they thought it would be.

For me, like my “Venting my Spleen” friend, I write for a living. I want to save my best stuff for the newspaper. If it’s opinion, I have to be careful about how far I jump into that. So I resort to writing stuff about my family, which frankly I don’t know how many people really care about that. Besides, they have a right to their privacy. They didn’t ask to be born into a journalist’s family. With the advent of blogs, everyone now is a public figure, which means anyone can say just about anything about them on a blog.

So I wonder how many people start blogs and really keep up with them. I’m sure there’s a study out there somewhere, but I don’t care to look for it now.