Monday, April 25, 2016


                                                                    Joan Blades

     Although I am addressing this to my fellow Kansans I believe that those outside the state could take a bit away from this.  I am addressing this to both the Republican and Democrats in Topeka and all the party faithful that end up giving us the slate of candidates to choose from each election.
     I have stated again and again that the only reason I register as a Republican is that 95% of the voters in my county are, and very often there is no choice from the Democrats running for office, that the winners are all in the primary.  I don't send money to a party, serve as a committeeman, or go to party meetings.  
     I am Independent, and if you must label me, I lean closer to Libertarian than Rhino.  I vote for a person and issues.  And most times I am not pleased with the choices I have to make.  So now for some advice.
     Right now Kansas is in as bad a shape as I have seen it in a long time.  The governor is not a shining example of what I would like to see in that office. And the choices offered by the other party seem to be just as bad.
     Right now there would be a Democratic governor if that party had just switched the candidates around.  The man who would have been governor may have been well known in Northeast Kansas and among those political junkies who do nothing but watch Topeka. But the rest of the state knew who the candidate for Lieutenant governor was and liked.
     So for those who get red faced about the election you only have yourselves to blame.  As for who the Republicans have, just knowing the name is not enough.  Even with the best of intentions things are in a mess.  So how can we make this a learning moment?
     I advise those in both parties to start right now and start looking for a candidate that the whole state knows, likes, and can support.  And bringing home politicians from Washington is not a choice. 
     Then start looking at all the real problems and quit the political posturing.  What is good for Kansas has nothing to do with the party.  What factors create jobs have more to do with people feeling confident enough to expand or create a business and jobs in the state.  It has to do with feeling that the jobs are actually wanted here and create the conditions that foster this.
     This is basic Economic Development principles.  The climate of business in taxation, regulation, education of workers, and access to markets all have the ability to create jobs.  Government can effect this by getting out of the way or putting up barriers.
     The annual hand wringing of cutting this and that because of shortfalls could be spared if there were things cut that actually make a difference rather than hinder the future.  There are facilities in small towns and rural communities all over the state that go unused or torn down because there is no business that can go into them.  Look at the thousands of square feet of Boeing Plant space, that was paid for by tax payer incentives, that need a good climate and innovative thinkers to fill.
     It takes a positive attitude, innovative ideas, and a cooperative climate to attract and keep new business to the state.  Lets put up a candidate on both sides that we can all feel good about. And stop the PC posturing.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016


                                                          Abraham Lincoln

          If you are like me, you are getting plain tired of all the politics and the lack of basic respect that we demand of those we deal with or allow around us on a daily basis.  We hope each political season that the mud slinging, lying, and hate will be replaced by thoughtful, insightful, and civilized discussion of the issues and listening to each other to solve the problems that we have in today's world.
     If you believe I am talking about the Presidential races, then you are missing the cause of all this.  Instead of putting our Sunday faith into our Tuesday actions the mess we are in stems from us.  This allows those who would take advantage of our weaknesses to jump into the middle of everything and agitate, stir the muck, and take advantage of division.
     Lets get down to basics.  I have stated this many times before, if you are incensed by the corruptness and nastiness of national politics, all politics are local.  What is accepted on a local basis works its way to the top.  And the cause of much of this is a lack of education. (here is the point when I will get flack from teachers).  We have allowed the revision of history, the teaching of government, and the confusion of basics not being taught and replaced with complex and frustrating procedures.  Much of this comes from Common Core but it started long before with the changing of educational standards.
     If as a teacher you use the excuse that "we have to teach for the test", I suggest that you are not teaching the basics that are necessary, and allowing an unsustainable situation to exist.  I am not saying that it is easy, but you owe each and every student to teach the truth of whatever subject you are engaged in.
     Our legislators have noticed the reaction of many constituents as to the dislike and distrust of the Common Core curriculum.  The comments, however, are that "the Kansas Board of Education is in the process of rewriting the standards as required every seven years.  Any actions by us would be wasted when the new standards are adopted."  I will leave your reaction to this after the next paragraph.
     Oklahoma had a vote by the entire registered voters of the state to remove Common Core.  This seemed a victory for those who want real education to be put back in place rather than confusing, edited, revised, political correctness.  HOWEVER, when the state put the new standards in place it was the same Common Core curriculum without the name attached to it.  So the voter was nullified by an end run around those who dictate what the children learn.
     There is outrage from the people I know down there who care.  I am just afraid that the new standards that Kansas adopts will be the same content without the name attached.  Then it will be another cycle of years before the legislature would step in and then the same excuse would be used.
     I know there are many good caring teachers and administrators that want to know that they contributed to the knowledge and building of young peoples lives.  I believe that they want to see their students become contributing members of society.  But I also believe that the excuse of 'teaching for the test' is getting old.
     The multitude of reporters and programs who do random interviews on college campuses and on the street has lost the comedic appeal that it once had.  Even one university went out and interviewed their own students to see just how smart they were.  They had the same results that the reporters did.  It would be embarrassing to me to see a former student and think that as a teacher I had nothing to help them have even a bit of walking around sense.
     But remember, all the problems start locally.  And after seeing the results of statements made by many in office it brings home even more that these people passed the test.  They walk, breath, vote, breed, and have a say in how we live our lives.

Thursday, April 14, 2016


                                                                      John Quincy Adams

     Many years ago a Kansas woman had a dream.  Being in love with her native state she wanted to share it with others who are her neighbors and beyond.  With an imaginative father and a whim they started a gathering at their farm near Inman to share Kansas with others.  She spent more than two years traveling to every spot in Kansas that had something interesting and a good place to eat and created a Kansas travel guide book.
     I have too little space here to list all that she has done for Kansas and many already know who I am talking about.  This woman has been a friend for more years than I can really remember.  She is a person that I sound ideas off of and always get an honest and kind answer.  She is one of a group who give me support even when my ideas are a bit off the wall.  She has nurtured in me a love of Kansas that is even more than I had.  Now she has been recognized in one more way for her work.
     When you say Kansas Sampler Foundation, Kansas Sampler Festival, Kansas Guide Book, 8 Wonders of Kansas, Big Rural Brainstorm, the Kansas Sampler Center, and much more you know I am talking about Marci Penner.
     Marci has been recognized by the Kansas University Emily Taylor Center for Women with their PIONEER WOMAN award.  The center started in the mid 1960's and they honor outstanding women from KU and from Kansas.  The definition of the award is for "women who are exemplary, who have made historic contributions local and state."
      Every April an awards banquet is held to honor those who have made the contributions to Kansas and Kansas women.  I find no other that is more qualified for the honor.  She would not say that though.  In this case it has to be said by all of us.
     Marci and I are not particularly on the same plane concerning politics, but then we don't discuss the subject much.  Only when there is a concern about the state of rural Kansas and what is good for all of us.  We always have so much to talk about in common there is no time for differences.
     What sets Marci apart from many is her sense of humor, tolerance, and a personality that allows her to talk to any one, consider their viewpoint, and take an action rather than sit and talk about it.  She has never been afraid to reinvent herself or the Kansas Sampler, or try something new.
     I want to add my voice to the chorus of CONGRATULATIONS that are going around the state right now.  Congratulations Pioneer Woman Marci Penner!

Friday, April 8, 2016


                                                              Alan Perlis

     I have been using the research and writing of a book in order to help pass the time in a useful manner while I deal with some health issues.  Of course the subject I have chosen will not have a wide national audience because of the regional nature of it.  And the subject matter is such that it is very difficult to find the stories on each subject.  The book is on little known facts about Kansas.  Those people, places, things, happenings, and folklore that have not made it into the mainstream history books.  Subjects that are not well known even in the places that they happened.
     So you should see a level of frustration in just the research.  But I love the stories and that is not as frustrating as the methods that have to be taken to get the information.  In many sources I find a mention of something else that sometimes leads me to another fascinating story, and then another, and another. 
     In the many things I have done in my lifetime and the many interests I have there have been stories told to me that was great to know about.  Thus the idea for trying to track down these stories was a natural for a book.  But along with all this comes frustration.
     Frustrations come in many forms.  I have been working along each day making some progress.  My goal is 500 stories.  I am at 83 now.  Sometimes I can hack out the research and do two stories a day.  Then there are the stories that the research gets bogged down and frustrating.  
     The recent fire has taken me away from getting much done on the book.  That is because of the mass of information happening, our proximity to everything, my interest from being a retired firefighter, and working on some ideas that I hope helps the community. 
     Then there is the countless emails that I send people and organizations that may have the tidbit or vital information I need for a story.  The frustration is the amount who never reply with at least an acknowledgment that they even read the request.  This builds frustration.
     Some frustration comes from someone that sends me a great story and no companion information on the subject or where they even know about it comes from.  Some give the subject and figure it is up to me to track down what they already know.  Just give me a little more direction!
     Some of my subjects come from people who clip newspaper articles and pass them on to me.  One lady is always sending me interesting things and she has where and when the clip was published.  Others clip articles so close they give no indication as to which newspaper they came from or when.  When I need to credit all my information this is a very frustrating thing.
     But what is my biggest frustration?  MY COMPUTER!  The very thing that makes research available when you are unable to travel personally to hunt down each item, gives you the ability to cut the endless hours spent in my library, and speeds the process up to 21st century proportions, is the source of endless frustration.
     If you believe everything we are told on TV, in the news, and by computer geek admirers, you would think that when you go to a search engine that all the information on a subject would be there at your request.  Well it is not that way.  When I put in the name John Milton Cross/ Bush Pilot, you would assume that the Kansas boy that became one of the most famous Alaska bush pilots would pop up on numerous sites.  Nope, after a couple hits the search engine starts flooding me with information on an attorney in New York by that name, John Milton the poet, and endless sites for the Bush presidents and families. AHHHH!!!
     For all the vast amount of information that is supposed to be online it is amazing how this faceless, soul less machine can load so much useless information on it.  And the most frustrating is the images for the subject which puts up hundreds of non relating pictures and some that border on pornographic. 
     So why put up with all the frustrations?  Maybe some computer geek will find a way to be our next billionaire by inventing a search engine that works.  My mind is forced to work beyond what it would setting around absorbing useless TV programming, so that has to be good.  I have made contact with some very friendly people who have gone out of their way to help.  My library is growing with all the books I am ordering.  And I hope the end result is something entertaining that is informative.
     A friend of mine in Wyoming calls his infernal machine the "confuser", I totally agree with that.  This confuser has cause a lot of heated moments and (when I hit something wrong) a lot of money.  So as I finish this on my 'confuser' lets hope that I will find that magic keyword that will make the search program actually work.
     Now that was good for me.  My rant helped with my frustrations, this morning.

Wednesday, April 6, 2016


                                                        Soren Kierkegaard

     Experience is the sum of what we learn in life.  Some are better learners than others.  The last two weeks have been a series of experiences that many down here in Barber County have had reality slap them in the face.  It is happening in other places.  I believe the most outstanding instance of not learning one thing from what is going on around you happened during the Anderson Creek Fire.
     When the common intelligence tells you that there are things that have consequences there is always someone who defies logic.  In the midst of the largest wildfire in Kansas history the sector fire commander gets a message from one of his units.  "There is a person here that is burning their trash!"  I can only imagine what the words were that he did not utter.  I will do it here as simply and cleanly as I can.  ARE THEY OUT OF THEIR EVER LOVING MINDS?  
     The sector fire boss had to go and reason with the person and point out that they had been spared by the fire and it was still burning around them, and they wanted to burn their trash barrel?  The tact and approach of that man must be something that would try a prophets soul.  The result, the can was put out and they were happy when he left.
     Sometimes we all need a good Dutch Uncle talk.  We hope that while in school critical thinking is taught and the ability to learn is instilled.  Some leave us wondering about that.
     As the results of the Anderson Creek fire are being tabulated and organized, more fires break out.  We have sent units to neighboring counties because of controlled burns that got out of control.  There is knee jerk reaction about why anyone would try to burn now.  A lot of it has to do with the contracts that landowners have with the federal government on their deadlines to burn or mow CRP ground.  Some counties are getting wavers from the local FSA office.  Many are not and the deadline is approaching.  There is a learning curve here and we hope that lessons will be learned and experience put in place to avoid these fires.
     Oklahoma is experiencing a series of fires as is other parts of Kansas.  Causes vary but the experience that all has learned is that much can be accomplished when everyone can work together.  It has been really refreshing that since I am paying attention to the fire situation (as retired firefighters do) I have ignored politics.  There will be a lot of politics to go around later.  Right now I am concerned with the politics that keeps our firefighters on stranglehold budgets, agencies that add to the problems, and gaining the experience as to what was done right.
     Our county commissioners authorized a new annex building to be built next to our courthouse.  Our health department was stuck in an old modular building that had gone past is best days, as a county we had no facilities for an Emergency Operations Center,(EOC), a place to vote, storm shelter, and public space.  As with all major expenditures the obvious advantages are lost by some who simply do not want any tax money spent.
     Our commissioners did what we elect people to do.  Access needs, determine the value to the citizen, and make the best choice.  Any decision is going to meet with opposition.  So an elected official has to make the choices that they were elected to do.  Thank goodness they did the right thing here in Barber County.
     I finally had the chance to get a tour of the new annex and see the operations center of the EOC while it is still functioning from the fire.  I had a chance to see how complicated it is to deal with these major events that many only hear about.  I am impressed.
     And if I am impressed it is only a pebble on a beach compared to the people who came from all over the state to work in the new EOC.  In fact there are counties coming back to look at patterning there own facilities after what we have done.  And we have learned how to make the facility even better. Experience is a great teacher.
     Consider the fact that the Annex in Barber county has been on the planning table for years.  It was moved into just one week before Anderson Creek Fire started.  A local commissioner shakes his head at the timing.  What we would have done with old facilities is a bit daunting.  Experience has been gained and we hope that we can share this experience with others.
     Experience is what we use to be able to make good decisions despite the very divergent views that we all have.  Right now I want the experience of a nice two inch rain over a couple days and let the experience soak in for those who have been overloaded with it.