Tuesday, October 6, 2015

The 25-Year Adventure

Belinda D. Presley, Ph.D.
The woman I married almost a quarter a century ago had then recently confronted a crisis in her life, losing the chance to enter a doctoral program at Texas A&M in entomology.

Life treats us unfairly at times, but being the determined person she is, she knew she could reach her destination even though it might require a detour.

The destination: becoming a doctor.

She'd grown up with the ambition to become a registered nurse, but the Americans with Disabilities Act had yet to become law, and she had a significant hearing impairment. Nursing schools wouldn't accept her. 

She decided she would pursue an education despite being told science was no place for someone with that sort of disability. She obtained a bachelor's degree in biology. 

Then came the doctoral opportunity, but that door closed. 

She persevered. 

She enrolled in Missouri State University and earned a Masters degree in microbiology/immunology. Her sponsor happened to mention in the process, "A lab is no place for a woman."

She persevered. 

Next came certification in Medical Technology. That was another year of school. Then certification in Histo-technology. Both of these are certifications and licenses gained through the American College of Pathologists. 

Then a Masters degree in Health Administration and appointment as director of hospital and clinical laboratories for a healthcare facility serving multiple counties in southwest Missouri.

Why stop there? Why not a Ph.D.? 

And so it went. More studied. More perseverance. 

Although the graduation ceremony won't be held until January, Belinda's thesis was recently accepted and approved, and she can officially say, "Hello. My name is Dr. Belinda Presley."

Monday, September 28, 2015

Affair and Honor

Affair and Honor

Based on the True Story of JFK in World War ll

Reviewed by 
The early life and WWII adventures of Jack Kennedy entertain in this powerful narrative.

In Affair and Honor, Batt Humphreys sketches historical fiction by delving into the life of Navy ensign John F. Kennedy as he ships out from desk duty to captain PT-109 in the South Pacific, all while the future president is entranced by a woman who may be a Nazi spy.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

A Few Facts about the Alleged Area 51.

image linked from wikipedia
What use is the internet if you don't browse? Shopping? I don't buy much. I read a lot. And when I want to read about the quirkiness of modern life, I often go to The Chive. It's a fun site. Today I read this, "A Few Facts about the Alleged Area 51.
Employees used to enjoy a once-a-week steak night, with oysters and lobsters. They apparently tested military jets by asking them to fly cross-country and stopping in Maine to pick up the foods.

image linked from wikipedia
It reminded me of long ago when my father was assigned to an anti-aircraft battery guarding Fairchild Air Force Base outside of Spokane, Washington. To suggest how long ago it was, the bombers stationed there were B-36s called the Peacemaker and the weapons my father's battalion used to guard the air force base were M51 75mm radar-controlled automatic cannons called the Skysweeper.

On Fairchild AFB, we happened to live next door to an aircraft commander. In that era, as I recollect, the squadrons would often be sent out on "forward deployment," that is, spend a few weeks at air bases closer to those nasty communists. That had the effect of not only dispersing the aircraft but also putting a few of them closer to possible targets.

What I remember about that was the fellow next door bringing home goodies after a deployment. By goodies, I don't mean a nice piece of jewelry for his wife but rather crates of stuff for his family—furniture, bicycles, a motor scooter, etc. Apparently, while on TDY ("temporary duty) on Guam for example, the crew would load up with stuff to haul home to Spokane in the B-36's cavernous bomb bay, although probably not all 86,000 pounds of stuff. But after all, the B-36 had a crew of 15 men.

It was probably against ten regulations, and violated more than one customs code, but ... no one cared, and I cannot see that it did much harm. Eisenhower was president, and no one thought about drug smuggling or terrorists. The crews worked hard and were away from home and family for extended periods. It was, I suppose, "The CO turns a blind eye ..." situation.

And a good memory.

Thursday, September 17, 2015


Smooch the Boston terrier
Folklore says every little girl goes through a horse stage. They love ponies ...
I don't know if that's true. I've been around horses a bit. I have family who treasure horses. I always make it a point to watch horse racing when it hits the television.

For me, however, it's dogs. I love dogs.

Presently we have three, all purebreds. A Boxer. A Standard Poodle. A Boston terrier.

The Boxer is a neurotic. The poodle is too smart for her own good, as witnessed by food thefts ranging from the bread top of sandwiches left unintended to stealing a stick of butter (wrapped) when the refrigerator is left open.

Smooch the Boston is a different kettle of canine. Her predecessor was all bulldog, tough and fearless. Smooch is the opposite, wary, overly friendly, and yet not so needy of human attention.

I thought of these dogs recently on a visit to a local zoo. The zoo displays a coyote pair and a small pack of wolves.

The coyotes prowled the fence line of the enclosure, warily watching me, mostly over its shoulder.

The wolves gathered 20 feet or so from the fence line, with one—the dominant female, or male—patrolling the fence, watching me especially.

Of course, I use a wheelchair. If a wolf has memory,  I suppose it might have remembered seeing me previously, but this wolf was particularly curious about me. I was in a large group, but the wolf followed my every movement. When I turned an d headed in the opposite direction, the wolf followed.

I think these animals—and the big cats as well—are bored in zoo enclosures. No doubt they live longer, perhaps healthier, lives, but no matter how dog-like they appear in their behavior, I know they shouldn't be confined.

It may be necessary, of course.

I said to my wife, "I don't know why they don't feed them naturally."

"What do you mean?"

"Turn rabbits or chickens or other prey loose in the pens."

I know the authorities, let alone ASPCA or PETA, would not allow such behavior, and I suppose it's no more unnatural to stymie their prey drive than it is to pen them, but ...

I cannot see my dogs without thinking of those coyotes and wolves. Deep in the eyes of these pets, these tame companions, there lurks the glow of the wolf, and I treasure that.

Funnily enough, there are people who want wolves, or wolf hybrids, for the same reason other people want pit bulls—to fill some sort of psychological hole.

I don't. A wolf, a coyote, is a wild thing, and belongs in the wild. I will take Smooch the Boston, Pinky the Poodle, and Daisy the Boxer and the 10,000 years of domestication.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Shape Shifters

That's cell phone companies for me ...

There seem to be a big push now to raid customers from other providers, evening to the point of one cell phone company paying off contract fees to gain a new customer. That apparently means the end of the low-priced cell phone.

We renewed a contract, and I got a decent iPhone 5S for $49 "service fee." My wife didn't want one, then. She was busy with her PhD.

Now she wants one. We're eligible, but to get her the same iPhone 5S it will require $15 a month for 30 months.

Enjoy this conversation and tell me what it means, for I politely signed off without understanding how to get a one-generation-older cell phone without paying a monthly fee. I think it means I can get an iPhone 5S for a flat fee, but I lose some sort of discount.

Daniel C: Hello, this is Daniel C with AT&T! I'll be happy to help you today. May I ask who I have the pleasure of chatting with? 
Me: Gary Presley 
Daniel C: Hello Gary! It is a pleasure 
Daniel C: There is both time and cost associated with activating or upgrading a customer regardless of the contract type. The activation/upgrade fees help AT&T recover the marketing and operational costs associated with acquiring a customer. 
Me: So an upgrade to an iPhone 5S is $15 a month for 30 months now when I paid a $49 upgrade few three or four months ago to get the same phone on the other line? 
Daniel C: The upgrade fee depend on the purchase option you selected for your phone. 
Me: Explain that more clearly. We always take the 2 year contract. We stick with ATT. We like the coverage. We also like to upgrade at the end of the 2-year contract. So, there are no more "free" upgrades for long-time customers? 
Daniel C: Smartphones purchased with 2-year agreement savings pay the full upgrade fee of $45/mo. 
Daniel C: Smartphones purchased with AT&T Next or No Contract (full price up front) receive a discounted upgrade fee of $15. 
Daniel C: The upgrade fee is a one-time charge that applies when you purchase a new wireless device at a discount to replace an old device. It's added to your next bill. 
Me: I'm looking at a page that says I must pay $15 a month to get an iPhone 5S (not the latest phone) to upgrade. 
Daniel C: Can I ask what page you're currently on? 
Me: <give the page url> 
Daniel C: One moment please. 
Me: Okay 
Daniel C: Thank you! 
Daniel C: AT&T Next is purchase and upgrade system that gives you control of how soon you can upgrade your device, and how you pay. 
Daniel C: The tax showing due today is the estimated sales tax base on your zip code, and the retail purchase price of the phone that you have selected. 
Daniel C: You can select from the following installment terms on a smartphone:
* Next 24 - 30 monthly installments with the option to upgrade after 24 payments.
* Next 18 - 24 installments with the option to upgrade after 18 payments.
* Next 12 – 20 installments with the option to upgrade after 12 payments. 
Daniel C: When you’ve reached the upgrade mark you will give back your current phone and pick a new one to upgrade to. You’ll stop paying the previous installment plan and start paying on the new plan for the new phone. 
Daniel C: AT&T Next is not a contract, but you are agreeing to pay off the full price of your device over the course of monthly payments. If you cancel service, the remaining balance of the device will be due in full. 
Daniel C: You can upgrade even earlier if you choose to pay off the minimum installment balance early (24, 18, or 12 payments’ worth) in as little as two months from the start of your last AT&T Next plan. 
Daniel C: Keep in mind, your phone must be in good condition and fully functional in order to qualify for the early upgrade option. Otherwise, you’ll need to finish paying off the full balance before you can upgrade again. I definitely recommend adding our Mobile Protection Pack so that you can keep your phone safe and insured. 
Me: So there are no more flat fee, one time payments to upgrade if I agree to a two-year contract? 
Daniel C: Absolutely! 
Me: "Absolutely" Yes? Or No? I like ATT service. I intend to stick with ATT. I don't want a brand new phone. I want a one-time upgrade payment.
Daniel C: Yes. 
Daniel C: I also want to make you aware that by choosing to upgrade to a new smartphone with a two-year agreement contract, the Mobile Share Value plan discount you have been receiving will no longer be available for your line. Upgrading to a new two-year agreement contract removes the discount on the smartphone access charge ($15 goes to $40 on 10GB or higher or $25 to $40 on lower than 10GB plans). 
Me: Okay. That's all I need to know. As noted, I like ATT's service. I simply want to continue with ATT with the least amount of expenditure. Thank you for your time.

Monday, September 14, 2015

Oh, Say Can You See?

Apparently not, at least with the left eye, which cannot be corrected to better than 20/40. 


Never had eye surgery, and I'm a "squeezer," as the technician put it—the type who must have some pry eye lid open before I can put in eye drops.

I also have astigmatism. The opthamologist tells me the lens to correct astigmatism is $850 and will not be paid by insurance. It's considered "cosmentic."

The doctor wants me to pay the extra for it, even though I suppose he makes little from its sale. It's the same work, after all, to insert a regular lens or an astigmatic lens.

I won't need prescription glasses if I have it installed, but my right eye is 20/125 uncorrected, and I still need to wear glasses for its vision. My thought, "Since I'm going to need glasses anyway, why pay the extra?

His response? You're going to be so pleased with the left eye's new vision that you'll want the right eye done. I really don't need the right eye done, but it can be done according to the "payability" of cataract surgery.

Either way, I'll still need reading glasses, which he says, "Get a Wal-Mart cheapie. They'll do. I'll even be able to wear those trendy over-the-counter sunglasses—the Oakleys, the Raybans, etc.

I've never not worn glasses, at least as an adult. I begin wearing prescription lenses when I entered the seventh grade. 

[Mind boggler: if this had been available when I was younger, and if I hadn't gotten polio, I could have qualified as a pilot.]

I'm confused about the lens selection.

I'm worried about eye surgery. I do not like anything touching my eyes!

Most of all, I befuddled that here I am, all 70-plus-years of me, ready to appear without glasses.

[Mind boggler #2: my wife has never seen me function without glasses, nor for that matter, without a beard.]

Saturday, September 12, 2015

"The Question"

We have a new priest at our parish, one from a foreign country.

That was sure to bring "The Question."

"Why are you in the wheelchair?"

Many wheelers don't like the question. I don't like it when it's nearly the first thing said after meeting me, but this priest has been here from several months, and I know he's curious—and I know he's young enough to have been taught modern Catholic doctrine, which means he's not going to lay his hands on my head and command me to "Walk!"

But English is not his native tongue. How to explain? 

That's one of my foibles. I do not want to say "Polio" because the implication is that I was raised by parents who neglected my health. And I didn't want to go into the long, long speech of why I came down with polio.

"Vaccine accident," I replied.

I could see he didn't understand, and so I expanded to "I took a vaccine that my metabolism couldn't handle, or perhaps a vaccine that was contaminated in some fashion.

I could see his confusion, but like other folks who have rolled around for decades, "The Story" is boring to me. You? The priest? You both may be fascinated, but to me, the origin of "The Great Sit Down and Ride Out the Rest of Your Life" is old, old news.

I was kind. I was polite. But I didn't attempt to reduce his puzzlement. 

"How long have you used the chair?" he asked.

"Fifty or so years," I replied. 

When my Dad drove a '57 Ford Fairlane ... 
When we had a black-and-white television and one channel ...
When he scratched out a farm payment selling Class-C milk ... 
When the summer before I hauled milk and hay to get pocket money ... 
When the isolated hill community where we lived still had a local telephone company and an operator who ran the switchboard from her kitchen ...
When I walked down the line of high schoolers getting the Salk vaccine from the local county health department ...
When I woke up in an iron lung and thought, I'll be back in school in a few days playing basketball ...