Sunday, January 15, 2017

Celebrating 18 years at Frog Hospital

Celebrating 18 Years at Frog Hospital
By Fred Owens
Frog Hospital started in 1999 as a paid subscriber email newsletter, publishing about 700 issues since that beginning. Many readers have been with us for all 18 years and we greatly appreciate that support. We try to keep it interesting. I rummage through some of the back issues and I find nothing to regret or retract. As for integrity, Frog Hospital adheres to two bedrock principles -- tell the truth and don't waste anyone's time.
It's always been one day at a time, but here's hoping for another 18 years.
Here's a story about Frog Hospital that appeared on the front page of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer on November 24, 2000, written by Candy Hatcher.

Life lessons via e-mail from La Conner. The story behind Fred Owens' Frog Hospital. 'It’s just how I think'

Friday, November 24, 2000 SEATTLE POST-INTELLIGENCER STAFF LA CONNER -- Lessons on life flow from here, and they're free for the asking. Once a week, sometimes not that often, Fred Owens fires up his computer, writes nine screens full of history and politics and wit, and sends the musings by e-mail to 300 friends, acquaintances and strangers.

Welcome to Frog Hospital, a reading experience that will take you from a parking lot in La Conner to a children's hospital in New York to the White House to the local library and back. It is journalism, in a sense, but not in the form we usually get it. Owens, 54, claims he doesn't even know how to write a true lead -- the opening paragraph of a news story. He starts with Woody Allen, for example, then rambles about The New York Times and libraries, which leads him to Franklin Roosevelt, which brings him to the subject at hand: courage. "I don't do this on purpose," he said. "It's just how I think."

Frog Hospital is like the Internet. "You can go from chairs to hippopotamus to spark plugs to China and back to chairs again. That's the way I write." "Thanksgiving is approaching in every family. It is the time to express gratitude and act in harmony, but we are faced with this damnable tie vote. If Gore had simply lost, I would stay at home and sulk and paint the bedroom, and let the other side have their parade -- at least I wouldn't have to talk with those people.

"The limits of accuracy and technology have already been reached in Florida. Out of 6 million votes cast, I estimate that 500 voters were legally drunk at the time and don't even remember who they voted for. Roughly 1,500 voters, highly informed and motivated, were unable to vote because of traffic jams or last-minute family emergencies.

"Error is a minor deity, at whose shrine we now light incense, because error will not be banished."

Owens, an unassuming, thoughtful man who still appreciates life's little joys, has been writing these missives, in one form or another, for 16 years. He's a fisherman, cook and landscaper, a storyteller and journalist. The words come slowly, carefully. He doesn't want to offend; he wants people to think, to laugh. Mostly, he wants them to talk to each other. He sends his thoughts from to childhood friends in Chicago, former neighbors in Boston and Africa, residents of Skagit Valley, anyone who asks to be on his mailing list. He e-mails the newsletter rather than posting it on a Web site. That way, he knows the people he's writing to. He loosely follows a format and includes no more than one local joke. The tone is friendly, sometimes conciliatory, sometimes frustrated, occasionally angry. He doesn't write about class issues, and he's careful about broaching controversies involving race. But most anything else -- foreign policy, country music, universal health care -- is fair game for this observer of politics and history.

Owens met President Kennedy at a rally in 1960. In 1962, he went with his high school class to city hall in Chicago on election night to help count ballots. Four years later, he participated in civil rights marches and, in 1968, he was in Chicago for the Democratic convention. He admits to being a Berkeley hippie, and there are telltale signs. He's still a student, studying at Western Washington University for a master's degree in history. He worked for the U.S. Forest Service, and on a daffodil farm. And he still yearns to create a buzz with his writing, to bring an issue to people and get them talking about it. "It's like a party -- introduce people, and they start talking." That's what he wanted in 1984 when he started a quarterly fishing newspaper, the Northwest Fishing Forecast. He'd been a sport fisherman, and when he wrote a story about it, he knew nobody would publish it "because it didn't fit the type."

"I wrote about sport fishing and tribal fishing and commercial fishing. I was writing about three communities that wouldn't speak to each other. I said, 'You guys ought to talk to each other,' " and he put their stories on the same page. Commercially, he said, the Forecast was a disaster. So he turned to newspapers, hoping they'd be more lucrative.

His monthly newspaper, Puget Sound Mail, lasted four years until he ran out of money. Then he turned it into a newsletter, which morphed as he moved from La Conner to Boston to Zimbabwe and back. In Boston, inspired by Malcolm Forbes' success with Forbes magazine, he called his publication Owens. He wrote about gardening and cooking. "I was cooking a lot of the time, so I wrote a cookbook. But it was more like a story with recipes. I kept a cooking journal and worked it up as a story."

In Africa, it was The Zimbabwe Edition, a marriage of horticulture and journalism. And then he moved back to the Skagit Valley and his missives became Frog Hospital.

Frog Hospital was a nickname for the old grocery store in La Conner, he said. That wasn't its real name, but that's what people called it. "There is a story behind this name, and I don't know it," Owens said. "It's a local name, a hippie name, an Internet name. With a name like Frog Hospital, I can be serious, but I don't have to be." His goal has always been the same: to put things in perspective and provide background. "The name's changed, and the focus, but this linkage is steady. The idea is to communicate. I've always seen relationships where other people don't seem to see them. So I stick with that. I'm happy to point them out, and if I do my work right, other people will see them, too."

"I know about autism. Years ago I worked at Rockland State Hospital (in New York) . . . a huge place back then, with thousands of patients, many warehoused. I worked in the children's autistic ward or 'cottage 4.' "I remember Randy, who was a small, very handsome boy, very graceful and coordinated in his movement, and he looked so intelligent. I just knew he was smart, but he never said a word to anybody, hadn't spoken in years. Randy liked to run away. He would scamper out the door, if he could sneak by, then streak across the lawn, and start taking his clothes off, and then run naked through traffic and down the street. It made me feel like a real killjoy because it was my job to catch him and bring him back, when I wanted to run naked through the street myself. "From autism, I learned two things: You can care about somebody even though they are not able, or not willing, to care for you. And you can ask somebody a question, and there is no promise on heaven or earth that says you are entitled to an answer."

It's important to care, Owens said. It's important to have fun but not to provoke people for no reason. He likes La Conner because he knows nearly everybody, and "because it's home, and I know how to live there." He's bought a house, finally. He's enjoying transplanting the rhododendrons in his own yard. That's what he does to relax. When things get too stressful, or someone sends hate mail, "it's time to play in the dirt."

There's some frustration with Frog Hospital. He has no editor to keep him in check. He has no affiliation, no publisher to back him or provide insurance. His landscaping paychecks don't provide the stability he'd like. Still, he perseveres. "I have never published anything without annoying somebody," he wrote in September. "Besides making a general apology and saying, 'Excuse me for living,' I'm going to proceed."

This feature story was written by Candy Hatcher. Her name didn't appear on the byline because the staff of the P-I was on strike at the time. Candy is still in journalism. She left the P-I and worked at the Chicago Tribune for a few years. Currently she is working for a daily newspaper in the tidewater region of Virginia.Candy has been a Frog Hospital reader all this time. She and I continuously disagree on the merit of mainstream journalism.
You can read almost the whole thing at Frog Hospital. The blog goes back to 2004. The years 1999 to 2004 are saved on the laptop and in printed form.

thank you,

Fred Owens
cell: 360-739-0214

My gardening blog is  Fred Owens
My writing blog is Frog Hospital

Fred Owens
cell: 360-739-0214

My gardening blog is  Fred Owens
My writing blog is Frog Hospital

Monday, January 09, 2017

Eugene Was Born

Eugene Was Born

Eugene was born in April of 1977 in Evanston, Illinois. We had an apartment on 121 Clyde Street. I remember that street and the view from the kitchen window where you could watch the cars switching on the RR tracks -- what we call the L in Chicago, L for Elevated.
The photo shows Eugene just born, not smiling, not yet. He was born at St. Francis Hospital, so his middle name is Francis. That reminded me that I was taught by Franciscan nuns in grade school... A happy memory... Maybe we should have stopped at Francis, but I thought we should also give credit to the Jesuits, because they taught me in high school so we added another name... Ignatius after the founder of the order... Then we stopped the naming and he became Eugene Francis Ignatius Owens. He was quite a healthy and uncomplicated baby, the nurses told us.
Writing about when Eugene was born is making me incredibly unhappy. It reminds me of so many things that were going wrong at that time, things I have not thought about in many years.
I will continue. We had been staying at my mother's house for two months but by that November we had enough money to pay the rent. We chose the apartment on 121 Clyde St. because it was such a solid building and there a lot of old ladies living there. Susan was pregnant and it was November in Chicago. The bitter cold was upon us. But I saw all these old ladies living there, and that means the landlord keeps the building warm. I was right about that. The apartment was warm enough to keep the kitchen window open a crack. Steam heat. You could grow a baby in a place like that. Mr. Muehler, the super, got up at five a.m. to shovel the sidewalk when it snowed. Then he went to the furnace room in the basement and turned up the heat when it got below zero outside.
We lived at 121 Clyde St. when Eugene was born, on the second floor, near the back of this u-shaped building. It was sturdy and warm. Clyde Street was not a sought-after address -- you can just tell things like that if you grew up on the North Shore of Chicago like I did. It was only one block to Howard Street where you had immigrants and cheap stores – “It’s not as nice as it used to be,” people would say about Howard Street and you knew what they meant.
Clyde Street had once been respectable, and in 1977 it was only a little bit shabby. That didn't bother me. What did bother me is that it was dark. The buildings and the sky and the trees just seemed a little dark, and our apartment, with other apartments on three sides -- you looked out the window but you couldn't see the sky, unless you almost peaked your head out the kitchen window and saw a little bit of blue sky over the rail yard.
We didn't have any furniture. A twin bed in the bedroom, a good color TV and a good stereo with some records in the living room, otherwise we sat on the floor. We could have gotten furniture, but we didn't bother. For records we had Neil Sadaka and Chick Corea. Our favorite record was Stevie Wonder, Songs in the Key of Life.
We had two folding chairs but we never used them, except that time my cousin Denny came over with his wife to visit. Denny had converted to being a Baptist, which was awful. In my family becoming a Baptist was worse than being a drug dealer. It was unthinkable, but he converted and he wanted to visit us with the hope of converting us too. So we let him and his wife sit in the folding chairs and we sat on the floor, and he talked at us until we went bananas, but finally he shut up and left.
Eugene was born in St. Francis Hospital, an old-fashioned place, yellow bricks. Evanston Hospital was the preferred location for birthing, but we went to St. Francis Hospital  where the birthing ward did not have too much business. Maybe that helped with payment because it didn't cost us. I told them we had no health insurance. I showed them my pay stubs and rent receipts. They said forget it, we'll just write it off.
The doctor was a young Indian man, which was not common in 1977. He was  quiet and undemanding. We showed up unexpectedly because Susan had only come in once for prenatal care. We apologized for that, but they only smiled. They gave her an X-ray, I think. Then they wheeled her into the delivery room for a C-section. It didn't take long. Susan was calm.
The baby was born by C-section. Afterward Susan was resting well. The nurse brought the baby into the room all bundled up and clean. She said here he is. Look at the top of his head, she said. We saw a big round sore spot on the top of his head. "That's where baby was trying to push through the birth canal, but he could not make it, his head was too big. He couldn't be born that way.
"You see, he's a dwarf. He has short arms and short legs and an overlarge head."
She explained it nicely because I had noticed something. I saw my son for the first time and I noticed something different and I was puzzled. The nurse explained -- his nose has no bridge. Dwarves are like that.
I really loved that nurse, the way she held the baby so tenderly, and then gave her to Susan. Susan loved him too.
I loved the baby but I didn't like having to explain him to people. Strictly speaking you never have to explain the fact that he is much shorter than everybody else, but you do get the double take when he walks into a room for the first time.
Eugene has his own way of handling this now as an adult. As a baby, adoring friends would lean over the carriage and smile, but with a slightly puzzled look. "Yes, he has a big head, He's a dwarf. That's just the way he is, otherwise he's normal in every way."
And he was a champion baby. A baby like Eugene should be given a trophy by grateful parents. Listen to this -- he began sleeping all through the night at the age of one month. Sleeping all night! Never waking up until morning. Such a good boy. He never got sick, never got colic or diaper rash or runny nose, or super poopy. He was mostly happy most of the time. We would have loved him anyway, but Eugene made it easy.
.  .  .  .  .

We are pregnant. People actually say this. No, we are not pregnant. I can offer evidence. In 1977 one Susan Owens was pregnant and one Fred Owens was not pregnant. Nothing could be more obvious. I saw it with blinding clarity every day. Her whole life and body was erupting into this very unusual situation and changing every day in ways that made no sense to me at all.
Well, it made some sense -- she could tell me in specific terms, and I might read some literature on the topic, about varicose veins and stretch marks and weight gain. Friends and relatives might advise me. But nothing was happening with me.
And then comes the very awful part. This was 1977 and the idea was just getting started..... the idea that the father ought to be included in the birthing process. He cannot actually do anything or help in any way or be the least be useful -- ah, but he can be "present."
Actually I had a job, which is different than being present. It was a crummy job, but it paid the rent. I could have gone to work and told the boss, "Look, I'm not going to do anything today, but I will be present." He wouldn’t understand that kind of thing.
It was still dark in the morning when I left the apartment at 121 Clyde St., walking over brilliant, crunching snow, a half-block to Howard Street, then turning left, going under the Northwestern RR tracks, and coming to Chicago Ave.
January in Chicago is very cold. I would get to the corner of Howard and Chicago and wait for the bus, freezing, slapping my hands, jumping up and down. But I didn't care about that because the bus was always on time and the lights were bright inside the bus, and the bus driver wore only a sweater because it was so blissfully warm in there. The heat embraced you like a mother as you stepped aboard.
It was a 15-minute ride to where I got off and walked over to the office and warehouse of General Printing. That was my job -- assistant shipping clerk -- the place where I went every day. I was doing something, and not being "present." Actually I was quite present in the sense of being mindful of the people and the boxes of paper, and the smell of the ink, and the clatter of the printing presses.
Meanwhile she's back there at the apartment on 121 Clyde St., stitching baby quilts and growing a baby. I'm loading large stacks of paper on a pallet jack to feed the printing presses. I knew I had the easy part, but I didn't know much more than that.

Man Wants Work. Call 251-4714

This was the ad I placed in the Evanston Review. "Man Wants Work" was my original composition. You would be amazed at how quickly you get hired with an ad like this, if you don't care what the work is or how much you get paid..... Right away they called me from General Printing. This was the winter of 1976-77. General Printing hired me as the assistant shipping clerk. My wife was pregnant. This was my first job in the new era. I was now Married with Children and about to achieve Fatherhood. I should have set me sights higher. But I had no plan, no dream, no hope and no ambition. We had been two months living at my mother's house -- I guess that was the goal. Man Wants Work -- so that he can make enough money to rent an apartment.
They ran three big offset printers. I was the guy who brought large stacks of paper from back in the warehouse, wheeling loads on the pallet jack up to the printers. I hated to think how much money those printers made -- union jobs. But you had to know somebody to get into that union. I didn't know anybody. I was thirty years old. I was already past my prime, if I had known that. If you're willing to take the job of assistant shipping clerk, then that is what you're good for. You are thirty, you are no longer on the career track.
I didn't know that. I was only Man Wants Work. The Magical Mystery Tour was over. I was not living in a teepee on a commune in California. I was renting an apartment on 121 Clyde St. in Evanston, Illinois, only miles from where I grew up, miles from where I left home and never came back. Except I did come back.
I could have blamed my wife or my mother. They were at hand and not innocent. But who wants to hear that? I decided to blame God. He can take the abuse. Blame God for taking my father away from me. I wished he had been alive in 1977, just when I was ready to actually listen to him. Dad, what should I do?
But I wasn't lost, I knew where I was. I was in Evanston. I was born in Evanston -- the leafy trees, the tall towering oaks and elms that shaded brick streets in summer. The Lake. Lake Michigan, but we always called it the Lake, so big and calm in summer, so rough and icy in winter.
At least I knew where I was, and Eugene could be born here. It would be all right.

Saturday, December 24, 2016

A Christmas Visitor

By Fred Owens
this story falls flat if you don't get the photo  -- let me know if you saw it

Here is Bobby, our Christmas Visitor with the children sitting on his lap on Christmas morning in 1984. We lived on Maple Street in LaConner. Eugene was 7 and Eva was 5. On Christmas Eve, before it got dark, we walked out to Fishtown just for fun. That's where we met Bobby. He was camped out in one of the empty shacks. It didn't seem like a good idea to ask him too many questions about where he was from and what he had been doing. My feeling is that he was on the run, not a hippie, more of a desperado, robbed a bank in New Orleans or shot a federale down in old Mexico -- something like that. But without thinking too much about it, we invited Bobby to come stay at our house for Christmas. ....... He came to our home and played with the children for hours and hours. It seemed he did not know about families and domestic stuff like that, but he was glad for the chance....... I don't know what his habits were, but I figured he could be on good behavior for a day or two. The day after Christmas, I gave him twenty bucks and sent him on his way..... That was 32 years ago. I might wonder where he is today.... Anyway, the nights get cold in December and you might invite a stranger into your home at times like this.

Are we a nation of good tippers? Are we a nation of good tippers? Can we be proud of this? I hope so. This came up at the restaurant last night. I said Canada is a great country and they have good national health care, but we tip better.

Three of my garden customers tipped me this week. Two with cash, one with a flash frozen silver salmon filet. All good. Thank you.

Another Homeless Story:

Martin the Arsonist and Paul the Schizophrenic
Martin was a Latino man of age 30, quiet, with good manners. He had served a prison sentence for arson, but I never got the details -- didn't want the details..... Mainly I noticed small things about him -- that he had no nervous twitches and he enjoyed petting the cat. You can co-inhabit with such a fellow.
At this point in 1989 I was separated from my wife. She and the two children were living a mile away and I had dinner with them most nights. But I was living at the old farmhouse on Martin Road. This was in Mount Vernon. The old farmhouse was on a forty-acre plot that once had a dairy, but in 1989 it was only blackberries and alder -- plenty of firewood from the alder, but not much else.
It was given to Friendship House, the homeless shelter, to be occupied. And Friendship House gave it to me. There was no rent to pay -- of course there was no running water and no electricity either, and not much basis to charge any rent.
The owner didn't care about the money anyway. He just wanted someone to occupy the house and keep the ruffians and vandals away.
So that was me and my wife and two kids. After a year's time I had the money for a waterline from the road. That cost $1,000 just to get the water to the farm side of the road. But how to get the water to the house involved digging a ditch 250 long. I did that, with the help of Singin' Dan from Fishtown.
Later we got electricity. And later the marriage broke up and my wife and two kids took the good apartment.
But the old farmhouse was good enough for me, and they asked me at Friendship House if I could take Martin and Paul off their hands. I knew Martin would be all right. But Paul was a challenge.
Paul was 22, big, fat, and jovial. His mental development was about age 10. He was schizophrenic and medicated.
The idea  -- and I really think it was me who was stupid enough to have this idea -- was to bring Paul out to the old farm and get him to work. A little fresh air and exercise would do him some good. If he helped me chop and load the firewood, he might feel a little confidence that he could do some honest work like any other man. He might lose a little weight. He might need a little less medication.
Worthy goals. But it wasn't easy working or living with Paul. It was like this -- he would look up at me with a big smile and say, "Fred, you're my best friend." Fine. Except he would say that again five minutes later. "Fred, you're my best friend." And 25 to 50 times a day, those same words. It got tiresome.
The problem is that I had Paul to look after seven days a week and that wasn't the deal. Friendship House figured if they left Paul with me that would solve their problem of looking after him. But they never gave me the backup they promised.
So sadly, I sent Paul back to Friendship House after about two months. Eventually they found him a good group home, so it was all right for Paul.
Martin was never a problem, but he had to leave when I had my two kids move back in with me and my ex-wife went down to Seattle for a while.
I was more involved with homeless people back then. Today if I see some fellow with a cardboard sign by the road I avoid eye contact.
Merry Christmas everyone.

Fred Owens
cell: 360-739-0214

My gardening blog is  Fred Owens
My writing blog is Frog Hospital

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Gordon Lightfoot is Not Dead

By Fred Owens

I was listening to a Gordon Lightfoot CD and thinking what a great singer he was, assuming he was dead.
We were in the car, driving back from Phoenix to Santa Barbara, after a four-day festive visit with friends. We were listening to Gordon Lightfoot sing the Early Morning Rain and the Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald.
Driving west on Interstate 10, it takes 8 or 9 hours to drive from Phoenix to Santa Barbara  -- 510 miles across the desert.

Gordon Lightfoot was singing his old tunes, plus so many that I had never heard before and he is such a good story teller.
I was driving. Laurie, my major, major girlfriend, was in the passenger seat and she has a smart phone. So I said to her, "Is Gordon Lightfoot dead?"
She answered, "I don't know, but I can look it up."
She found out that he is alive and well and still performing. "Still" is the word we use for our ancient ones. We say that he is "still" performing, meaning he might croak any minute. We might avoid using that word -- "still"  -- when referring to our elders. Still breathing -- you're goddam right and I will knock you on the head with my cane if you say that again.
Lightfoot, according to Wikipedia, was born in 1938 in Orillia, Ontario, making him 78 years old. He was married for 22 years to a woman named Elizabeth Moon, although they were separated for about half of those 22 years  -- no need for an explanation -- Lightfoot is a touring musician and the settled life is difficult for those folks.
One more surprising and endearing fact. Lightfoot has a son named Fred. Fred Lightfoot. That's a pretty classy name.
Winter in Aleppo
At 8 p.m. on Sunday night it is 32 degrees in Aleppo. I monitor the weather in Aleppo because it is a fact.

It is a fact of nature that affects everyone equally. It is 32 degrees in Aleppo whether you are a brutal killer or an innocent child. We are all the same under nature's sky -- 32 degrees means you need shelter and heat  -- whoever you are.

And 32 degrees is pretty cold if you are scrunched up next to a wall that blocks the wind, covered with one blanket, waiting for a green evacuation bus taking you to someplace unknown. Unbathed. Unfed. Cell phone battery going dead.... Cold.
When I was young and footloose, I often slept out rough, in the cold. It can be worth it  -- enduring the cold, sleeping on the hard ground -- if you want the freedom that comes with it....... But not anymore. I will accept obligations if I can secure a warm bed at night. And I am thankful for the warm and peaceful home I enjoy.

Driving Miss Mabel

It is not wrong to call someone an old woman. Mabel lives across the street from us. She is 95, born in 1921. She has a valid drivers license but she decided it was time for her to stop driving, so I take her to the grocery store once a week.
She is a sturdy old soul, born and raised in Montana, the 6th out of 11 children. She rode a horse to school in the subzero cold and did chores - living on a ranch. You learn to get along with people when you grow up in a large family, she said  And you learn to take things in stride. We were poor but we didn't know it. Everyone was poor. We had it better back then -- in some ways.
And in some ways it's better now -- she didn't say that, but I expect she likes indoor plumbing as much as anybody.
Language Facts
Here is a Wikipedia link to Maltese. Maltese is spoken by 520,000 people on the island of Malta. It is a variant of Arabic, but written in the Latin alphabet....... There is lots of cool stuff like that on the Internet. Over 5,000 languages are spoken throughout the world. I have a pretty hard time with just English.

Merry Christmas everyone !

Fred Owens
cell: 360-739-0214

My gardening blog is  Fred Owens
My writing blog is Frog Hospital

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Men at Work

By Fred Owens

Men at Work
It was a sign, a strong and beautiful three word poem. You saw it near a highway construction crew. You saw the sign. Then you saw the men working, or standing around. It was plain as day. There was nothing to explain. It said Men at Work.

But they took it down -- it was not inclusive, they said, so they had to take the sign down and then millions of men quit working.......

Okay, maybe those millions of men were kind of stupid to quit working just because they took down the sign. Maybe those millions of men were a little simple-minded because they saw the sign every day and that meant they were supposed to go to work.

They could have had a sign that read "Men, go to work!" because there are a lot of fellas that need a shove, otherwise they sit around the house all day playing video games, which is what we have now.

Then Trump comes along and says he will make everybody go back to work -- give them jobs -- so they voted for Trump, because they felt guilty sitting at home in their pajamas waiting for the phone to ring.

Trump comes along and promises them jobs. He says "I won't forget you." And they believed him. He said, "I will put the sign back up."
Millions of men are not even looking for work, according to this story in the NYTimes. Millions of men, sitting around the house all day, in their pajamas, waiting for the phone to ring.
Cool Apps, but no Jobs. California, Oregon, Washington -- the Pacific corridor -- we all voted for Hillary Clinton, by a margin of more than two million votes, a lopsided victory...... And we really believed she would win. We could truly say, "Everybody I know voted for Hillary Clinton, so she's certain to win."

But we kind of lost touch with the rest of the country, assuming everybody is just like us. We began to believe our own predictions.

California, Oregon, Washington -- the Pacific Corridor -- host of the new economy. Amazon! Microsoft! Facebook! Apple! Google! We are mighty, we are powerful, we are the future.

Everybody loves us. We have the coolest apps. We have everything that you ever wanted -- except jobs. Oh, jobs. We don't really do that anymore.

So those ignoramuses back in Ohio still wanted jobs. What is wrong with those people? Jobs are not happening anymore. It's all about cool apps.

What possessed these people to vote for Trump?
But it's a design flaw that Google needs to fix. They did away with the jobs, but they forgot about the rent. Maybe they should do away with the rent first, and then get rid of the jobs. Now there's a vision. That's a really cool app.
Thomas Friedman, the NYTimes columnist, knows that millions of new jobs will be created in the long run. Globalization and high technology are disruptive forces that first wipe out entire industries, and then rebuild them bigger and better. "In the long run we will all be better off." That is what Friedman preaches.
But what about the short run? In the short run we're screwed. We actually live in the short run, most of us. The long run is like a place in heaven, if we ever get there, by and by.
So the people voted for Trump, because he lives in the short run, like the rest of us.
Trucks with No Drivers.
Google and the others are developing driver-less trucks that will put many thousands of people out of work -- why is that cool? Why do we applaud these efforts? Google and others should be creating products and services that increase employment.
They should design a truck that requires TWO drivers. That puts a lot of people to work.
Trump promises that he will put people to work, and he got elected, but the software geniuses from Silicon Valley should have gotten there first. We still need jobs, because we still have to pay the rent.
You go to the landlord, and show him this really cool app on your smart phone. And he says, "Where's the money?"
Homeless people have smart phones. Try sleeping in a smart phone some day -- see if it keeps you warm and dry.
Men at Work. Look, we don't have to bring back the sign, but we have to come up with another sign that is stronger and better. "Persons Engaged in Productive Activity."  That's inclusive. That's diverse. But it sucks. Gotta come up with something better then that.. If you don't, Trump will.
Maybe this will help  -- clean energy jobs ....... Bloomberg is a pretty good source..... Bloomberg says that clean energy businesses now employ more people than old fossil fuel companies.
Gratitude. As always at Frog Hospital, I use reputable sources, but I draw conclusions that are speculative. I am not trying to prove a case  -- I just want to keep the conversation going. Thank you for your time and interest in my humble words.

Donations Requested. Stay with us and please help us out with your donation dollars. This income keeps the editor from endorsing a cause or a movement. This income keeps the editor from getting preachy or self-righteous.

Go to the Frog Hospital blog and hit the PayPal button with your contribution of $25 or $50.

Or mail a check for $25 or $50 to
Fred Owens
1105 Veronica Springs RD
Santa Barbara, CA 93105

Fred Owens
cell: 360-739-0214

My gardening blog is  Fred Owens
My writing blog is Frog Hospital

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

This is Maddening

By Fred Owens
This is Maddening. Alec Baldwin does a mock imitation of Donald Trump on Saturday Night Live. Trump challenges Alec Baldwin with a Twitter blast. So what will happen this Saturday? Alec Baldwin will spoof on Trump again, in spades, and ratings will go through the roof.... Trump Twitters and the ratings soar. They try to hate Trump at the networks, but he's good for business. This is maddening -- Trump wins again.
Freedom of the Press.
The President has no obligation to talk to the press.... No legal obligation, as far as I know ... It is in the best interest of the nation if he does talk to the press, of course, but I think he is not legally obliged ..... Trump can say whatever he wants to say, he can meet with whomever he chooses and the NYTimes is free to write whatever they choose to write about him ..... Is that correct?
What law says Trump has to talk with the NYTimes? It seems I understand freedom of the press in a different way than some other people...... No one can compel me, or the President or any other citizen to talk with a journalist. Journalists do not have the power to subpoena and compel testimony, It's all voluntary. And the journalist is free to write anything he or she chooses. For instance, I have the right to say that Trump is a jerk, an idiot and a threat to our democracy. The NYTimes might choose to publish words just like that, if they choose, and Trump could not stop them.. ... that's the freedom ...

A Part-Time President. We have only ourselves to blame for this -- how often have we praised multi-tasking? How often have we praised bringing the home to work and bring work to the home? So our new President will be occupying the White House for several days a week, flying in for a few meetings, and then off to one of his golf courses or resorts.
I support this. If he only works twenty hours a week being President, then he does less damage. The less the better. If he makes a few billion on the side, that is the least of his potential crimes.
Forgive me. I'm trying to approach the whole topic in a light-hearted manner. A lot of people are vigorously upset by the Trump Ascendancy and don't see the humor. Maybe there is no humor.

The Mexican Gardener. This morning I was doing some yard work for the neighbors. It's a part-time occupation for me. I charge by the hour. Vicente was working across the street. I wave hello to him. He waves back. He seems so friendly these days -- because he's afraid he might get deported? Maybe. I might ask him where he's from and he would tell me. When I meet someone I often ask where are they from, but I would not ask him if he was here legally. 
I want to calculate my self interest. Vicente and I are competing for the same dollars. I would get a $5 an hour raise if he goes back to Mexico due to the scarcity of labor. And I would like to make more money. That is my self interest, short term,  if the Mexican gardeners would leave Santa Barbara.
But the homeowner who hires Vicente would prefer to keep him, because he works hard for small dollars. The restaurant owner knows that half his serving staff is undocumented, but he wants to keep them working. The farmer wants to keep his field hands. This is not humanitarian, this is self interest and we can calculate that.
So I don't know what will happen to Vicente. In the long term and in the bigger picture we have room for him here. In the short term, if he leaves, I make more money.

Out with the Old, in with the New. For the first time in 24 years there are no Clintons on the horizon. Their day is done. This is a great opportunity for new people in the Democratic Party. The national media will surely notice California's new senator, Kamala Harris, age 52.
Identity Politics. Identity politics is a big mistake for the Democrats. One of my own beloved relatives praised the election of a Somali woman to the Minnesota legislature.... That's all my relative knew about the candidate, that she was female and that she was Somali and therefore that was a good thing .... That is identity politics in a nutshell and not a good thing..... Then I am tagged with an identity....older white low income male ... I'm sorry to not qualify as uneducated ... But I am a close fit to Trump's ideal demographic  -- he's pitching it right at me .... None of this is any good ...

Judge me on my behavior and my words and not for anything else.  ...

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Fred Owens
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Fred Owens
cell: 360-739-0214

My gardening blog is  Fred Owens
My writing blog is Frog Hospital

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Thanksgiving Plans

By Fred Owens
I called my daughter in Seattle. Eva and Lara are coming down for Thanksgiving  -- to stay with friends in Santa Monica. We will see them on Friday, the day after. On the day itself we will have turkey dinner with my girl friend Laurie's folks in Manhattan Beach.
Lots of relatives on both days. Cousins, uncles, aunts, friends. We are lucky  -- there are no difficult people involved.
I hear that people are heated up and divisive about the election. Maybe, but I don't see much evidence of that where I live.
Except Eric got a bit angry. I saw him at the coffee shop in Venice. The coffee shop is called Abbot's Habit. I don't think their coffee is very good, but the ambience is quite right. I go to this coffee shop whenever I come to visit my sister -- she lives three blocks down the street -- has lived in Venice for forty years, in that same house.
Eric has been in Venice even longer, more than forty years. He grew up in the
Bronx, and like many upwardly mobile young Jews at that time, in the 1940s and 1950s, he saw greener pastures in Los Angeles.

Greener pastures is the wrong metaphor for Los Angeles. We are five years into the drought. It is dry and dusty and brown in these parts -- but the economy is kicking, at least to judge by the pace of home and apartment construction. People still want to come and live here. Immigrants from foreign countries..... But maybe we should encourage immigrants from Ohio  -- they voted for Trump because they got depressed and the factories are closed. Well, why not just leave? To hell with Akron, come out here.
That's what Eric did years ago, coming from the Bronx, and my sister and I coming from Chicago. We came out here and voted Democrat.
But, as I said, people are getting along all right after the election, except Eric was especially vehement. He said Trump is a dangerous man, and it wasn't so much his words but his tone. Eric doesn't usually get angry -- sometimes cynical or sarcastic -- but last week when we were having coffee he was a little mad.
Eric said Trump is going to ruin the country. I said I hope he doesn't do that. Eric said I hope so too and let's talk about something else.
So we talked about his impending move to Petaluma, in Sonoma County north of San Francisco. This is a big change. He bought a house up there, to be near his daughter and the grandchildren. His whole life Eric has lived in the Bronx and LA, big cities from start to finish. I teased him about that. I said Eric, you're going to lose your edge. Everything is nice in Petaluma. Everybody will be nice to you. It will be so relaxing, living out in the country, There's no traffic.

I teased him about the widows. Eric is healthy, of a kind nature, and financially independent. He is devoted to his single status, his bachelor solitude. Women like him.
In Venice, surrounded by much younger people at the coffee house, he is protected against the widows.
But he will meet his match in Petaluma. I said Eric, they're waiting for you up there with trays of cookies. He said for damn sure nothing is going to happen. I said Eric, you're good, but you're not that good. They're waiting for you to move up there and we won't be there to back you up. Your bachelor days are over. He said not so fast, buddy.
Eric is facing the future. He is a realist, but also kind and intelligent.
Election Forecast.  I predicted that Hillary Clinton would win by a narrow margin. I was wrong. But Nate Silver, our most prominent pollster, was also wrong about that, so how come he gets paid so much more than me?
Nate Silver should have interviewed more cows. It was the cows that voted for Trump -- I mean the people who own the cows. They voted for Trump in very big numbers because nobody was paying attention to them.
They are called "uneducated white men."  I prefer to call them rural voters or country folks  -- or maybe rednecks, which is not quite insulting, but not quite polite. 

Well, you guys got your man in the White House and you have our attention now.
We have to take care of the cows, and the land, and the people who live on the land. They tend to be more conservative than us city folks. They got riled up this year because we ignored them. But I promise to never again forget about the cows. I love the cows, and the land, and the people who live on the land. Forever. Amen.

Donations Requested. Stay with us and please help us out with your donation dollars. This income keeps the editor from endorsing a cause or a movement. This income keeps the editor from getting preachy or self-righteous.

Go to the Frog Hospital blog and hit the PayPal button with your contribution of $25 or $50.

Or mail a check for $25 or $50 to
Fred Owens
1105 Veronica Springs RD
Santa Barbara, CA 93105

Fred Owens
cell: 360-739-0214

My gardening blog is  Fred Owens
My writing blog is Frog Hospital