Sunday, November 13, 2016

The Electoral College - Abolish, Keep, or Reform?

Recently, I’ve been giving a lot of thought to the Electoral College.  I hear some people saying abolish it.  I hear some say keep it the way the founding fathers intended.  The problem is that neither of these opinions show an understanding of the intent or the history.

The Continental Congress was concerned that the states with the largest population centers would dominate the selection process and the uninformed voters would make unwise choices.  The system they set up was not the electoral college and was entirely different from what exists today. It has been changed a number of times in the past and it is in need of changing again.

In the original system, there were no parties and no primaries to select nominees.  The population had no say in the matter. A select few educated men from each state recommended candidates for PresidentThe candidate selection was based on a count of the nominations by a combined meeting of the House and the Senate.  If one candidate was the overwhelming choice, he would become President. If there was no clear choice the deciding vote was made by the House of Representatives who would select from the five top nominees.
I doubt most people would be happy with that.
If we were to abolish the Electoral College, the 21 population centers around the country which comprise 50% of the nation’s population would have a disproportionate say in who is elected. Rural voters would be disenfranchised. 

The problem with today’s system is this. If a state like California is decided by a single vote, the winning candidate gets 55 electoral votes. That means 50% of the voters will be unhappy and feel their votes counted for nothing and heaven help anyone who says they didn't vote.  Friendships could be lost or worse.

If we abolished the system and just go with an overall popular vote. It would just be a different 50% who are upset.  Any way you look at those solutions, there will be many people who feel their vote was wasted. That has negative impact on voter turn out

There has to be a way to create a system that takes into account the popular vote and allows every voter to feel their vote is important. It must take into account the concept of majority rules, while at the same time accounting for population density.

Consider this. The winner take all system is flawed, because it can disenfranchise up to 50% of the voters in each state. Mind you, I haven’t thought this through carefully or run simulations, but I feel it is a good starting point. If it is actually workable, without question, it will need tweaking. 

  1. Get rid of electors. We are in a technological age. Award electoral votes according to the suggestions below.  The decision should be made on the bases of the votes cast.
  2. Evaluate the current allocation of electoral votes based on today’s population and make adjustments if necessary.
  3. Get rid of winner take all and allow for one of the electoral votes to be split in half based on rounding up (no other fraction).  Using California as an example. If the popular vote is 50-50, each candidate would be awarded 27.5 electoral votes.
  4. Give each state one additional electoral vote. Call is a super vote or whatever. It will be cast for the candidate who wins the popular vote. Staying with California, if the state is decided by one vote, that vote would be given to the winning candidate. Thus the candidate winning by a single vote would get 27.5 votes and the losing candidate would get 26.5. (More about this below)
A system like this takes into account population centers, gives more weight to the popular vote, and provides incentive to get out to vote because in a close election, because a single vote does count!
In terms of feeling that each vote counts, let’s stay with California.  At this point in time 9,922,340 people voted in 2016. Let’s just say that the impossible happened and each candidate got 4,961,170 votes. Then each candidate would get 27 electoral votes, but a single vote would change that to 27.5 for one candidate and 26.5.

Of course a dead heat is nearly impossible.  However, winning by only 49,613 votes is definitely  much more possible.  In that case, the result is exactly the same.  One candidate gets 27.5 and the other 26.5 and the one vote could flip those numbers. That puts tremendous importance on every single vote.

So there it is. Just my two cents. What do you think?

Monday, October 3, 2016

Ghosts, Spirits, Paranoprmal and Beyond

A little over a year ago, I began directing, filming and editing a TV show for our local cable access channel, RCTV.  Paranormal investigator, Bob McDermott and NH medium, Debbie Raymond, came to us with an idea for an interview show they had named Paranormal and Beyond. The idea would be to interview people on topics dealing with the paranormal.

I don't wear and tin foil hat. I was a biology major in college and the scientific method is how I evaluate the world around me.  On the other hand, having been on this earth for 72 years and have seen and experienced my share of things that just can't be explained by science or as coincidence. So I agreed to do the series.  I'll be talking about some of them in future blog entries.

During the first year, Bob and Debbie interviewed an astrologer, a psychic, UFO investigators, a Bigfoot investigator, paranormal investigation teams, a frequency healer, and someone who studies ancient artifacts and rock structures, as well as an investigation of our local historical society building.

As I filmed and evaluated what I was seeing I was saw a variety of approaches that were somewhat scientific in nature, but not always rigorous in the true sense of the word. On the other hand, there was no doubting that everyone we interviewed was 100% sincere and I have nothing but respect for each one of them.  They believe in what they are doing and are more dedicated in their pursuits than many people I know in mainstream occupations.

I consider myself skeptically open-minded. There were things I saw and heard that I interpreted differently that those we were filming, but there were things that left me scratching my head.

If you are interested in finding out more, you can visit our YouTube channel, or follow Paranormal and Beyond on Facebook.

My next blog will be about some interesting things that happened last year during the investigation of our historical society building which is a railroad depot that has been around since the 1800's and this week's investigation of the Exeter Parks and Recreation building that was a schoolhouse during the 1800's.

Monday, June 6, 2016

Condominium Ornamentation and Rules Enforcement

To my fellow residents and the Board of Directors of Sherwood Glen:

By now I'm sure you've seen the notice recently posted on the bulletin boards, asking residents to inspect their property and determine if it is in compliance with the rules and regulations. The notice also has check boxes dealing with modifications that might have been made without proper forms or permission.

There was one item checked on my form, but I don’t want this to be just about me. For now I want to talk to you about lawn ornamentation in general.

Oh, hell no! Actually, I don’t want to talk to you about ornamentation. In fact, I can probably think of about 100 other problems facing society today, that we could discuss or a 100 things I would rather do than write this letter. The idea that I even have to write this saddens me. However, for whatever reason, lawn ornamentation is front and center right now here at Sherwood Glen.

So where do I start? Should I talk from my experience as a board member and past president? Should I start from the perspective of a long time (relative term) resident of Locksley Lane? Should I start from the perspective of someone totally outside the community? I guess it will be a mix, but for now, I think the logical place to start is with the rules. Please take a moment and read this section.

Outdoor Ornamentation:

1. Outdoor ornamentation within the grass areas is prohibited.
2. Ornamentation must blend with landscaping and the buildings, and may not contain spinners, propellers, or other moving parts.
3. The Board requires the removal of all ornamentation from all areas by November 15.
4. The Board reserves the right to review and request the removal of ornamentation it deems inappropriate.
Now that you have read the four sentences, let’s interpret the sentences one at a time. Some of the rules can be interpreted simply and others are subject to a high degree of subjectivity.
1) SIMPLE… NO ornamentation within the grass areas.
2) SUBJECTIVE… Defining what blends with landscaping could be argued all day.
SIMPLE… If the ornament is wind driven, it is not allowed.
3) SIMPLE… What goes out in the spring, must be removed by November 15.
4) SUBJECTIVE… The board can deem an ornament inappropriate.

I would strongly encourage the board to vigorously enforce items 1 and 3. That leaves us with items 2 and 4, which are not as clear cut.

With respect to items 2 and 4, parts are crystal clear, and I would encourage the board to vigorously enforce a prohibition on wind driven ornamentation. On the other hand, defining and acting on whether an ornament blends in, is an entirely different situation.

In order to deal with what is and what isn’t appropriate, let’s start with something that is not specifically stated, but is perfectly clear. You CAN have ornamentation in the berms.

Ask yourself, why would motivate anyone put anything in the berms? To me that answer is two-fold. I think people do it to increase the beauty of the area and to put a little bit of individuality on display. That is certainly our motivation.

Some people may say that some folks have gone overboard. That’s would be the case of items that are clearly prohibited by the rules. However, in terms of the subjective determination of what should or should not be on display. Who is to say how much is too much?

I’ve heard people talking about ornamentation as if driving through Sherwood Glen looked like this.

I think we could all agree that this lawn ornamentation would clearly be out of sync with the community landscaping and deemed inappropriate, but as I walk our development, I see no clutter, no pink flamingos, no wind driven washer women, no six-foot inflatable characters, and nothing that remotely resembles this.

Personally, I see no problem with ornamentation that exists here at Sherwood Glen. I understand that people have a different opinion and I respect that. All I will do is express my view and ask you to consider it as you form your own opinion. It is not for me to say that my ornamentation is right and yours is wrong. Nor is it your job to tell me mine is wrong.

As I walk the development, I see absolutely nothing in the berms that offends me or that I feel is inappropriate. Then again, people will have issue with my tolerance of personal expression. The things I see are placed there to enhance the area and as a personal expression of those within that unit. It’s one of the things that drew me to Sherwood Glen and that I have enjoyed since moving in.
I get that there are people who want total uniformity and rules enforced to the max, but I don’t think that is a commonly held value here in Sherwood Glen. I also know our state motto is NOT, Live free and conform!

I ask you to drive through this development as I did on May 22, 2015, and look at it through the eyes of someone who has never been here

What do you think will stick with them? Will it be the beauty of the landscaping or will it be inappropriate lawn ornamentation? I bet you a thousand dollars, if a hundred people drove through here and were asked to comment on what they saw, there would be precious few who point to lawn ornamentation as a problem.

I think it is pretty clear the board wants to reign in some of the ornamentation that is clearly prohibited, and act to prevent people from being run over by a stampede of plastic flamingos. On the other hand, I hope they aren’t trying to turn the community into the visuals for a Judy Collins music video of Boxes, Little Boxes.

A balance must be struck. In my humble opinion, if the rules CLEARLY prohibit something, the board should deal with it and address that issue according to the rules. There is a clear process in place. Use it.

We have always had and ENCOURAGED, tasteful ornamentation. Therein lies part of the problem. As they say, there’s to accounting for taste, and beauty is in the eyes of the beholder. When it comes to ornamentation that is not excessive and specifically prohibited NO ONE INDIVIDUAL OR SMALL GROUP OF INDIVIDUALS, should dictate who I am or how I express my individuality.
To the board, I say, thank you for acting to maintain order. Please enforce those rules that are clearly being violated and avoid acting on the words of a vocal few. Your challenge is to come up with a criteria by which residents can determines what defines inappropriate. If I have an ornament I want to put out on the berm, I should be able to look at the rules and determine if the ornament is a violation. 

Yes, there have been rules that have been stretched, but clearly there are violations that can identified by clear language in the rules. The board must implement a fair and equitable solution to the issues at hand, and to strike a balance that conforms to community standards.

Monday, March 28, 2016

Apnea Dental Appliance

After more than two years of struggling with a CPAP_ machine, I had to either give it up or find another way to treat my sleep apnea. That led me to Dr. Jin, of Sleep Apnea Dentists in Weston, MA. to see if I would be a good candidate for a dental appliance.

For those of you who may also be having CPAP problems, this video will take you though the entire process from initial interview and assessment of possible success, on through the molding, fitting, and final adjustments. By watching this video, you should get an idea of what the entire process. More importantly, Dr. Jin's thoroughness and professionalism will serve as the gold standard by which you may judge the quality of other practitioners. I hope this can provide helpful information for anyone considering an oral appliance as an alternative to the CPAP machine.

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Comcast Increased Rates and Decreased Service

I recently ordered the new Xfinity voice remote for a one-time shipping charge of $5.95.  When I received my bill, I noticed it went up $15.24.

At just about the same time I noticed the unexpected increase in fees, while flipping through the channels, I received a message that meant Spike TV, which had been part of my bundle had been moved to a premium bundle.

I called customer service and found that the $5.95 was indeed a one-time charge, but ONCE AGAIN, Comcast has raised their annual fees.  This time there was an increase of roughly 100% in the Regional Sports Fee and Broadcast TV Fee, AND they did remove Spike TV to a premium package.

Spike happened to be one of about a dozen channels I watch. Losing it will not diminish the quality of my life or rob me of intellectual enlightenment, but that means Comcast has DECREASED my service but INCREASED my fees.  That does not make me a happy camper!

Being in a condo complex, I am trapped.  All I can do was to file a complaint with the FCC.  While they are not set up to handle individual complaints such as this, they do aggregate the data and if a trend forms, they may investigate. 

If you are fed up as much as I, you might consider filing a complaint with the FCC.  It is a short process.  I don't know if it will result in any action, but I know not acting won't solve rising prices. Just go to and select a filing method that works for you.

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Walk and Wave - Spread Hope, Not Hate!

A few days a week, I walk a few miles.  I don't have a big choice of routes and over time, the walks seem a bit boring.  Even listening to music, time drags and I notice little aches and pains, but this morning was different.

As I started out, my mind was on all the hate rhetoric and posturing that is going on in the world. It seems that over the past few weeks, the spotlight has been on the dark side of humanity and the elements in our country that promote hate and intolerance.

I began wondering what I could do to help change things.  I've been blessed to be associated with educators who know that individuals can make a difference.  We teach our students to act locally and think globally. 

Many times, I've told the story of the little girl walking along the shoreline where thousands of starfish had been stranded.  As she walked she would bend down, pick one up and throw it back into the water.  A man watching nearby said to her, "Don't you realize that's not going to make much of a difference"

Picking up another starfish and throwing it in the water, the little girl replied, "It made a difference to that one."

Then it hit me! There IS something I could do.  As the next car approached, I put on a big smile and waved to the driver.  The driver waved back, and so it went.  After about a mile of walking and waving, I found that the vast majority of people waved back. Before I knew it's I was at my halfway point where I stopped for a cup of coffee.  I realized that time had flown by and perhaps I put a smile on the face of one or two drivers.

As I sipped, my mind went to thinking about the little girl, the starfish, and Arlo Guthrie and his thoughts on starting the “Alice's Restaurant Anti-Massacree Movement”.  It seems only logical that I could combine the two and start the Walk n’ Wave: Spread Love Not Hate Movement.

So friends, if you walk, jog, run, stroll or roll you too can be part of the movement. As you see a car approaching, give them plenty of time to react, put on your biggest, best smile, and wave.  They may wave back.  They may tell their friends about the crazy guy or gal they saw while driving.  If enough people do it, they might realize it is a movement, and if they read this blog or came across the Walk and Wave Facebook page, they will KNOW it is a movement and they might join!

So, if you are tired of all the hate and negativity in the world, why not do something about it. Walk and Wave! Spread Hope, Not Hate. Visit and share your story and spread the love!

Saturday, November 7, 2015

Drug Side Effects or Medical Conditions

DISCLAIMER:  What I am about to write is not an indictment of doctors or the medical profession.  It is a complicated issue to which I do not have an answer.  

Earlier today, I wrote a blog talking about my apnea, the sleeping pill I've been taking, and side effects it caused.  It was simple for me to determine it was the sleeping pill, because I only take one other medication and I've been taking it for close to 20 years with no side effects. It was a case where the healthcare system and the patient were able are work together to solve a problem. Unfortunately, it doesn't always work that way.  That seems to be the case with my wife's medical problems, which are more complicated than mine.

Earlier this year, she  passed out while shopping.  Thus begun a long and yet unfinished quest to determine the cause.  It has been a parade of specialists, EKGs, Ultrasounds, EEGs, stress tests, blood tests, and endless forms.  In each case she listed all her medications and all her symptoms.

She takes a total of seven prescription medications and two over the counter products.  These have been prescribed to her by a series of doctors over the years.  Because many of her symptoms have come on gradually they have been attributed to the gradual aging process. Right now, her major symptoms are headaches, dizziness, and constipation.  She also has joint pain and drowsiness, both of which I've noticed have increased in severity.

They haven't manifested themselves over night and are the kind of things that don't set off alarms.  The passing out was the alarm.  While her doctors are looking for a physical cause for her symptoms, my non-expert opinion is that they are the cumulative result of drug side effects and interactions.  While doctors may point to the fact that the list of side effects on drugs is long and people don't display the vast majority of those listed, I don't think nearly enough attention is given to these effects one the alarm has been sounded.

Consider these facts:

5 of her medications list headache as a side effect.  She says if she can go three days without a headache she considers it a good week.  Headaches were one of the symptoms of the sleeping pill I was taking.  Prior to taking it, I had a total of about three headaches in 20 years.

6 of her medications list constipation as a side effect.  She takes a laxative about once a week.  If I don't count the time I was cutting weight for wrestling in high school and college. If I averaged one laxative a year for the past 45 years, that is a lot.

3 of her medications list insomnia as side effect, yet she is taking a sleeping pill for insomnia and of course that pills lists dizziness and drowsiness as possible side effects.

She also has other symptoms whose side effects are listed for 2-3 other of the medications.

She is being treated for high blood pressure, high cholesterol, osteoporosis, hypothyroidism, insomnia, and an irregular heartbeat, all of which are serious conditions in the long or short term.  They are certainly of more concern than any of the individual side effects.  However, if the cumulative side effect over time result in fainting and falls, the results can be very serious.

In my mind her symptoms are a result of one or more of these medications. That most obvious conclusion which is not being addressed.  It is much more expedient, profitable, and safe to look for a physical cause through a long and expensive series of tests and specialists.

As a scientist, I know the most likely hypothesis is the side effects of the drugs, but the only way to determine that is to devise a series of controlled withdrawals and to observe the results. Through no fault of the doctors, that option is actually the least feasible. In today's litigious society dominated by for profit drug and medical companies that course of action doesn't add to the bottom line and could result in law suits.

With one visit per year to your primary care provider, there is no way they can devote the time and resources necessary to run the controlled study necessary to eliminate the side effects ANY treat the more serious issues for which medications are prescribed.  I understand that.

I know if they were to take the systematic approach to determining if side effects were responsible for her fainting and she were to die of a brain tumor or heart attack, one very well might expect a law suit.  So what is the solution?

It certainly isn't simple, but in this case I think one more specialist will eliminate all of the obvious reasons for her fainting. Assuming Gregory House is not going to be on the case,  I will be bringing what I have written to the attention of her primary care physician this week, in the hopes that we can develop a plan to determine if side effects are responsible for her most serious symptoms of fainting and sudden dizziness.  If we can do that, we can begin going after the headaches next.