A Bright Hope for the Future

For the last few years, I have worked with a charity called Bright Hope International (www.brighthope.org). Bright Hope is a spiritually-based organization that provides hope to the desperately poor in Asia, South America and Africa.  Bright Hope works its miracles through indigenous churches offering food, nutrition, clean water, medical assistance, child care and disaster relief. Bright Hope facilitates educational efforts, job creation, microenterprise and the rescue of those in the clutches of human trafficking.  And Bright Hope offers a Christian message of love, care, healing and salvation.

Bright Hope International was founded 45 years ago by Dr. Kevin Dyer.  Initially efforts were directed to those in the Eastern Bloc — behind the Iron Curtain.  Today, under the leadership of Craig Dyer (Craig is a “boots on the ground” guy who is often on site), Bright Hope has expanded its mission to include those on the bottom rung of the economic ladder in Bolivia, Chile, India, Cuba, Haiti, Peru, Kenya, Uganda, Zambia and elsewhere.  As the website states, Bright Hope provides hope for today, hope for tomorrow and hope for eternity.

We are all challenged by the gnawing question of just what we can do to “make a difference” during our lives.  With our lives.  To help those in extreme poverty.   And we all feel the “tug” of many fine and worthy charities.   Over the last 2-1/2 years, I have had posts on four not-for-profit organizations.  Bright Hope International is a fifth.  You may enjoy checking out their website.  Bright Hope is making a big difference in a big way.  Let me take this opportunity to wish everyonebright hope for a healthy, happy, peaceful and wonderful 2014.           

A Race to the Bottom?

According to a 2008 study by the Illinois Education Research Council, Chicago Public School teachers scored an average of 19 (out of 36) on standardized ACT tests. This compares to an average score of 21 among all Illinois high school students and 18 of Chicago Public School students. Younger/newer teachers tended to have higher ACT test scores.   Conclusion?  Many Chicago teachers are likely unfit for teaching.   How about Chicago students?  A mere 33% of Chicago Public School students who enter high school will go to college.  Fewer will graduate.  In an article a few months ago (Philip Elliott; Associated Press), it states that only 5% of African American students are fully ready for life after high school.  Chicago’s educational system is dysfunctional and depressing.     

But there is a glimmer of hope.  When it comes to ACT scores, it was reported several weeks ago that academically the top 11 open-enrollment high schools in Chicago are charter schools.  This is reason for optimism.  I have a keen interest in education – and improving the “system.”  I’ve not been shy about editorial comment or criticism (e.g. see posts of 4/2/12; 4/5/12; 9/12/12; 9/17/12). 

Bottom line?  We need to recruit better teachers.  We need to dump lousy teachers.   We need more charter schools and magnets schools.  We need more tutors.  Mentors.  Accountability.  Family involvement.  Outreach to those who live in poverty.  We need to focus on non-cognitive skills as well as the cognitive.   If the Chicago Teachers Union and the politicians who support them continue to get in the way (which they do regularly on the issues above), they deserve the blame for our children’s failures.   As it is, they seem to be leading Chicago’s educational race to the bottom.  Are we there yet?  Giddyap. . . .

Christmas 2013

For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given . . . . and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.  Isaiah 9:6

And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judaea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; (because he was of the house and lineage of David).  To be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child.  And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered.   And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.   Luke 2:4-7 

I can’t believe it’s Christmas.  Again.  Time seems to move so swiftly.  The days are long but the years are fast. . . .

My best wishes to all of you for a Happy and Blessed Christmas, New Year and Holiday Season!!  

Tort Reform

When you go to the hospital emergency room, the first person you see after checking in is a triage nurse or physician’s assistant who will determine the nature and severity of your injury or illness. And then you will be treated accordingly.

In the judicial system, there is a triage system to determine the merit of criminal cases.  It’s called a “grand jury” or a “preliminary hearing.”  If a case does not have merit, a judge will throw it out (or a grand jury will vote down taking the matter further).  But for civil cases, there is regrettably no triage system for determining their merit.  Result?  Many of America’s civil cases have little or no merit.  Yet you hear plaintiff’s lawyers squealing like stuck pigs whenever someone talks about limiting their right to bring lawsuits — or limiting the fees they might collect.  Pardon me — I mean limiting the damages their client might recover.  Even in Plato’s Apology (399 B.C.), he explains how any case that one wanted to bring needed the threshold approval, of one fifth of the 501 jurors of Athens.  There was a triage system for new civil cases – 2,500 years ago.     

One of the biggest costs to America’s health care system is lawyers. But for lawyers, doctors would not perform needless procedures and order unnecessary testing.   But for lawyers, damage claims might be held within reason.  It is because of lawyers that tort reform and damage caps need to be put squarely on the table (especially if our ailing health care “system” is to survive).   Maybe loser should pay.  There needs to be discussion and implementation.  If there’s pushback from the lawyers, it may be Dick the Butcher (Shakespeare’s Henry VI) was on to something . . . . .   

Don’t Get “Tired”

My friend Al reminded me that in cold weather, it’s a good idea to check car tires since the cold will contract air pressure and tires can flatten out. I did and sure enough – my front two tires were low. Really low.  It was night.  Cold.  So I went to a gas station where they have one of those air pumps where you have to pop for 75 cents. I unscrewed the valve caps, had my air gauge at the ready and dropped 3 quarters. The machine kicked in and I applied the hose to the tire valve. Nothing happened.  Everything was frozen.

Now this is not an issue that I’ve dealt with before so I went into the gas station where a lone clerk sat behind a thick glass partition. I explained the problem. “Valve’s frozen,” he said.  Hoookayyy. . .  “Stick the hose up your exhaust while the motor’s running and . . . . [he grabbed a lighter from the shelf and passed it under the window] warm your tire valves if they’re frozen.”  “Bring back the lighter,”  he said. 

I went out and slid the hose a couple feet up the exhaust.  And let it sit for a few minutes.  And warm.  I lit the lighter and warmed the tire valves.  After a couple minutes, I took a breath, dropped in another 75 cents and applied the hose to the tire valve.  “PFFFFTT.”  It worked like a charm.  Whew!  The tire inflated and I brought the lighter back.  I thanked the clerk (offered him a tip – he declined).  “I used to drive a semi” he said.  “Used to happen all the time.  It’s one of those little tricks you learn.” 

Now you all know the trick.  🙂   


I am an anti-sparkle guy.  You know – those little shiny whatevertheheckyoucallthem thingees that get all over the table, all over the floor and all over everything.  I do not like “sparkly” Christmas (or any other kind of) cards.  I do not like sparkly ribbons.  I do not like sparkly paper.  And I most of all do not like those folks who – when they put their Christmas card in the envelope – think it’s festive to fill the card full of sparkles.  So when you open the card, sparkles fly into the air and fall onto the table.  Just think about inhaling a lungful of sparkles.  Or worse yet your child or grandchild inhaling sparkles.  Or eating sparkles.    

I remember having meat loaf a few years ago and I remember looking at it.  It sparkled back at me.  Meat loaf that sparkled.  Now the recipe called for Italian bread crumbs, seasoning, and salt and pepper.  But no sparkles.  Then I remembered having opened a Christmas card which was full of. . . .you know.  And I looked at my sparkly hands.  Since then, I have been on a campaign to ban sparkles from all ribbons, gifts, cards, wrapping paper and whatever.  Write your Congressman.  Senator.  The President.  If you have a sparkly card or a ton of sparkles, send it all to Congress.  Or the Senate.  Or the White House.  That may get some action. . . .   

Winning the Lottery

You hear about the Mega Millions Jackpot reaching 300 million dollars. The Powerball is 400 million dollars. Everyone in the world buys at least a “quick pick.” Hoping. . . .  But the big question is what happens if you win?  If you take the money (often paid out over 20 years), when all is said and done, your tax will be about 50%.  Or more.   So you win 300 million smackers — the feds and your state will karate chop your hand before you get a nickel.  And then anything you earn on the retained amount is taxed like there is no tomorrow. . . .

I have a theory.  Let’s say you win $300 million.  You pick your 5 or 10 favorite charities:  Salvation Army; Red Cross; Augustana College; the Boy Scouts of America; Misericordia; and so on.  And you belly up and tell them “Look.  Here’s the deal.  You agree between you to split the $300 million.  You pay no tax because – voila – it’s all charitable income.”  And you hand them the winning ticket.  Those charities will be on this like a football player jumps on a fumble.  But what about you? 

You tell the charities that their ownership of the winning ticket (don’t call it a “gift”) is informally conditioned on them providing you each year with a stipend (perhaps the max you can give an individual without tax consequence).  This amount can be paid each year to yourself, your spouse, children, etc.  It’s way more than enough to incentivize the charities.  The IRS will bite its knuckles and the state(s) will growl.  But who knows?  It might just work.  Everybody wins.  🙂  Accountants I’ve spoken to suggest that such an arrangement would be challenged.  But ain’t it worth the try?  I like this.  All the money is used for charitable purpose instead of paying off debt to China or paying the salaries of bureaucrats.  I look forward to considering this when I win the Lottery.  Again.    

The Doyle Family

In my post of December 16, 2011, I spoke of the Viking era (790 A.D. – 1066 A.D.).  And I mentioned that the Vikings who raided – and remained behind in Ireland (often because they had met young women) – were given the name “Doyle” which is from the Celtic Ó Dubhghaill, which means “son of the dark (or evil) foreigner.”  This is the name that indigenous Celts called Danish Vikings who started settling in Ireland and Scotland beginning in the 9th Century. 

Researchers in Ireland have distinguished two separate groups among the Viking raiders in Ireland.  The Lochlainn were the Norwegians who were described as “fair.”  The Danair were Danes who were described as “dark” because they wore chain-mail armor.  Beginning in 830 A.D., the Norwegians began sporadic raiding of the British Isles.  In 852 A.D., the Danish Vikings took control of Dublin and founded the Danish Kingdom of Dublin which continued for 300 years until the coming of the Anglo-Normans.  As might be expected over the course of occupation, the Vikings were absorbed into the social, religious and political life of Ireland.  They adopted the language and customs.  And they intermarried.  And it was those Danish Vikings who remained behind when their brethren left who were given the name “Ó Dubhghaill” or Dubh-Ghaill.”   The names McDowall, McDowell, McDuggal, Dowell, and McDougal all have a relationship to the Dubh-Ghaill – Doyle – family. 

When I referenced “Popeye” Doyle in my post about picking your toes in Poughkeepsie, little did you know that he was descended from Danish Vikings. 🙂

Don’t You Like Our Looks?

Some years ago, Donna and I were in Galway with some friends. We decided to go exploring with another couple.  We reconnoitered the town and saw a pub called the “Quays” (pronounced “Keys”).  It was night.  Raining.  The place was off the beaten path.  Donna and I and our friend Ivo and his wife walked in. The pub was dark and filled with smoke.  Big men.  Heavy.  Bellied up to the bar.  Beards.  Black leather jackets.  Noise.   Many of the occupants turned to give us the eye.  Have you ever been somewhere and gotten that feeling you just don’t belong there?  Once inside, we looked around and we all got that feeling.   

As we moved toward the door, a loud voice from a corner booth holding about 8 people caught our attention “what’s the matter?  Don’t ya like our looks?”  Ivo and I looked at each other and I – respectfully – pointed out that the place was “very crowded” and there was no room for us to sit.  The chap who’d called us out started to move – “sit here.  We’ll make room for ya.”   And people began moving.  Shifting.  All watching us.  I looked at my friend.  He raised his eyebrows like “let’s see where this goes.”  And we moved into the group – squishing ourselves into corner seats. 

They were curious about where we were from (Chicago/Edgartown, MA), why we were there (a meeting) and where all we were going (we detailed).  They bought us drinks.  More drinks.  And refused our offer of reciprocity.  After an hour or so, Morris – the chap who’d called out to us – invited us to join him and some of the others at another pub.  The Tribesman.  Where he was playing a horsehide drum in an Irish band.   At that point, how could we say no?   We walked a few blocks.  The Tribesman was packed.  Morris shooed people away as he pushed his way to the small alcove stage with us in tow.  He set two small stools right in front of the band.  Donna and I sat.  Listened.  Enchanted.  Then we traded seats with our friends who’d been standing in the back.  It turned out to be one of the most memorable evenings I’ve had.  It could’ve all turned out verrry differently if we’d said “gosh thanks anyway.”   And left.