Helping to save the world by recycling all your stuff.

•July 19, 2016 • Leave a Comment

Recently I made a new friend who recycles 95% of all her trash.  I was so impressed that I began the process of recycling all of mine.  When you think about it, although it’s not as easy or convenient as tossing trash into the trash can, recycling is the environmentally responsible thing to do.  Glass and plastic bottles, cans, paper, cardboard, magazines, newspaper, plastic bags and even kitchen scraps are all recyclable if you know what to do with it.  It took several months to get all my ducks in order.  First, I needed a special container in which to place all my biodegradable things, such as food scraps. Here is a picture of the item I purchased on-line, a stainless steel container that I place all my kitchen scraps in and then take to the compost pile every couple of days or when needed.  This keeps one from placing biodegradable stuff in the trash which only invariably stink up the house. It has a special lid with a filter that allows it to breathe without having the odor of food scraps escaping.  The resulting compost pile dirt is great to use to add to vegetable and flowering plants as soil conditioner and fertilizer.

July 4, 2016 002

Picture of canister

In addition, I needed several trash containers to place all the types of recyclable waste.  I have mine in the kitchen where it is convenient but you can place them anywhere, such as in the garage, basement or shed.

Picture of trash cans. The non-recyclable trash can is not in the picture.

July 4, 2016 001

In to addition to all of this I needed to be educated on how to do everything properly without having stinky decaying waste sitting around my house and yard.  With this in mind it is important to always rinse out anything that is being saved for recycling.

Below is the process I went through to decrease my trash footprint. I hope many of you join me in an effort to help save our world from trash.

Trash can #1

Here are all things that can not be recycled: metal and plastic lids, plastic storage bags, hard plastic packaging, #3, 4 & 5 plastic containers and other non-recyclables.  If you’re really conscientious about recycling, this trash can should take a long time to fill up with non-recyclables, and then has to go out for regular trash collection or transfer station drop-offs.

Trash can #2

All paper items that can be recycled: cardboard, newspaper, office paper, magazines and catalogs can be recycled at the old hospital grounds in Romney on Wednesday and Saturday from 8:00 am till noon.  Some of this paper can be used as kindling in your fireplace or wood stove.

Trash can #3

In this container you can place all your metal cans, which will be taken to a recycling center out of the area.  If you wish, you can take your aluminum cans to the Slanesville Ruritan on Saturday mornings from 8:00 am till noon where you will be paid a small amount for them.

Trash can #4

All #1 and #2 plastics can be placed in this container.  Some recycling centers require that the #1 and #2 plastics be separated.  In order to be a recyclable plastic, the opening must be smaller than the container; water bottles are OK; margarine tubs are not.

Trash can #5

This can is reserved for glass containers which usually needs to be separated by color (green, brown, clear) at the recycling center.  No light bulbs, mirrors or broken glass is accepted.  Fluorescent light bulbs can be recycled at Lowe’s stores.

In addition, plastic grocery store bags can be recycled at the stores where you get them.

If you make the effort to recycle, you’ll find that you have very little actual “trash” each week, and may find that you don’t need to pay for trash collection at your house, but instead can make occasional trips to the trash transfer station in Romney.

One of the closest places for Hampshire Countians to take their recyclable is Penn Mar Recycling at 975 Kelly Road, Cumberland, MD.  There are also recycling facilities in Winchester, but they may be only available to Frederick County residents or by obtaining a permit.

The Hampshire County Commission is working on starting a comprehensive recycling program for county residents, as required by a referendum that was passed in November, 2014.  The initial phase is the paper/cardboard recycling available at the old Hospital grounds in Romney.  Currently, a recycling center is being developed at the Regional Jail property in Augusta, using a $120,000+ grant received from the WV State REAP program.  Hopefully, this program will eventually expand to include all recyclables, enabling all Hampshire County residents to recycle.  This will be our small part in saving the world, one piece of plastic at a time.

 

The Trump effect

•June 1, 2016 • 6 Comments

 

trump

I think we are witnessing one of the greatest, most scary changes in American politics in the last several decades.  After looking at some of the results from the primaries, I would like to make a couple of observations.  South Carolina had a 30% decrease in Democrat primary voting and a 20% increase in Republicans voting. The same was true in Nevada with a 30% reduction in Democrats and a whopping 50% increase in Republicans out to vote.  New Hampshire had a 13% Democrat drop and a 14% increase in Republican turnout.  Iowa kicked everybody’s butt with the Democrats decreasing by 30% and the Republicans going wild with almost a 60% increase.  So, what is happening?  What has incited the Republicans to come out in record numbers while Democrats stayed home in what has often been referred to as one of the most important elections in recent history?

You might be surprised to hear that I have a theory as to what is going on with our politics.  Let’s just call it the “Trump effect.”  I have talked to many voters, and one clear theme seems to stand out.  Many voters are at the poles for one reason: to vote for Donald Trump!  Many think that the businessman turned politician has the best chance of fixing a broken legislative system.  No doubt our country and system of government have some major hurdles to navigate in the coming years.  I have heard many times that he is not connected with the establishment and so will bring a fresh, new approach to Washington, DC.  I have also heard him make slurs against Muslims, Mexicans, women and anyone who dares to say anything negative about him or his intentions.  I have heard him use the ‘F’ word while addressing audiences and have listened to him say things that no politician ever had the hubris to say and survive politically another day.  Oftentimes his lack of understanding of the diverse subjects a president needs to understand comes pouring out as he rambles through discussions like a bull in a china cabinet.

I do understand and share the total distrust and contempt that the American public has for our legislative system and how we might look for any conceivable alternative available, but, I question the logic and common sense putting a potential hot-head like The Donald in charge of the largest military and nuclear stockpile (22,000 active warheads) on the planet.  There is also the matter of his apparent blunders in the business world.  Currently he is involved with a case in which Trump University stands indicted of embezzling tuition from its prospective students.  Many of his companies, including several of his casinos that he brags about, have gone bankrupt.  He has refused to make his federal tax records available to the public which has raised many eyebrows.

So why all of this crazyness?  Why has Trump rocketed to the top of the Republican ticket?  Why has he become the most talked about politician in recent history?  The answer is: he is over the top; he is entertaining; he brings out voters even if they have no idea what his policies truly are.  As I have written before, we are an entertainment-driven society, and let’s face it; Trump is, sadly, entertaining.  It remains to be seen if it is a good idea to put a man of Trump’s limited political experience and questionable temperament at the helm of the most powerful country on earth.  Still, this is where we may be headed.  People who have never voted before are coming out to vote; folks who get their entire view of the world from a TV station that is not allowed to broadcast in Canada because it is not considered news!  It is difficult to point to any one factor that has led us to this time and place, but, there are several ideas that have potential.  Our education system and our parents are failing to produce students who are politically savvy and willing to get involved in the political process or understand much about it.  Our news cycle treats politics like entertainment rather than featuring a proven serious leader to take us into the future.  And finally, the Supreme Court: under the Citizens United decision, the court has opened up the flood gates for rich corporations to literally buy elections.  No one is sure just how much the money the wealthy Koch brothers and others have actually given to various political campaigns throughout the year, but I am sure it is substantial.

So here we go down untraveled waters into a new political realm that this country has not seen before.  The combination of broadcast media, internet communication, social media and what I will call repeat-it-until-it’s-true reporting, has enabled our country to elect people based on their wealth, appearance and ability to entertain a crowd.  No longer will we easily elect people who are educated and informed about world situations but someone who is able to reach into the psyche of a predominately uninformed and shallow thinking voting population.  I think it is wise to say this: beware of currents that may take you and our country where you may regret having ventured.

Maybe it was too soon

•May 3, 2016 • Leave a Comment

I was lucky to be able to attend the inauguration of President Obama at the beginning of his first term.  Even though I was there as a bus driver for the Washington, DC police, I was present at a historic event which in turn allowed me to observe a great diversity of people who ventured out for this once-in-a-lifetime event.  I witnessed tens of thousands of people of every color walking towards the inauguration, passing directly in front of my bus.  They carried signs and wore decorated shirts expressing their excitement over the upcoming ceremony.  The temperature was around 25, yet many of the walkers wore only t-shirts.  I was bundled up in my tour bus with the heat on, as requested by the police I was carrying. They did not want to return to a cold bus during their lunch break.  As I sat there watching the events unfold, I immersed myself in the grandeur of the moment.  This was something I could tell my grandkids or anyone else who was willing to listen.

So now move to the present and think about the events that have transpired since the beginning of the president’s term.  President Obama went on to win a second term, initiate universal healthcare, almost get us out of the middle east and reduce unemployment to historic levels.  All this was done despite a hostile congress bent on blocking any legislation supported by the first black president. For most presidents this would have been considered a successful stay in office but for President Obama, according to his critics, it was a total failure and brought about the ruination of this country.

This morning I read an article which stated that our colleges may be cauldrons of racism. This is quite disturbing!  I always felt that the college campus was a place where progressive ideas were nurtured, helping society move into a new and more humane direction.  Now I hear of increasing numbers of racial incidents on our campuses that take me back to the 60’s.  Just recently in Oklahoma college students were seen chanting racial slurs while riding on a bus. At Duke University students were faced with a hanging noose in a tree in a student area.  This brings back memories from a difficult time in our history when racism was common place. One could claim that these are random occurrences by a few crazy individuals and that we as people are not returning to an age of hatred.

I need to approach this issue from a different direction.  Societies are much like giant oil tankers that require large distances to change direction. The physics is simple: an object in motion tends to remain in motion unless acted upon by an opposing force.  Societies as well tend to continue in the same direction unless acted upon by opposing forces. Maybe the gentle nudging of society towards a non-racist agenda would have been more effective, for some people, than the shock of having a person of color in the oval office.  As with many others, I am afraid that there may be a backlash of resentment that will push us in the wrong direction.  Hypothetically we may create a sub-culture of racism that, like a cancer, destroys the body from within.  Somehow we must address this negative energy and reduce its effect!

As President Obama approaches the end of his time in office, we must reflect on where we are going as a nation.  My hope is that we are heading into an age of enlightenment, but there are many troubling signs on our horizon.  The degree of rancor, animosity and hate in this country has risen to levels unseen in recent history, and if it continues, there is no telling where we are going to end up.  There are some who think that Christ will reappear and help us find our way out of all of this, but if he were to actually return, he would be greatly distraught over what the world has become at our hands and the misuse of his name and teachings.

A man who lived in the future

•April 1, 2016 • 1 Comment

There are currently over 7 billion humans living on this planet, with most of them living day-to-day with little regard to what is waiting for us around the next turn.  That next bend in the road could be the curing of cancer, the invention of warp drive or the creation of a clean way to produce energy. There is a small number of people who do look to the future, who live comfortably in the future. We call these individuals visionaries.  One came from right here in Hampshire County: Edward Buckbee.  You can learn a great deal about Mr. Buckbee by simply Googling his name.  This Hampshire County native helped create the NASA visitor center in Florida, as well as working with astronauts in the early space program.

Recently, I had the pleasure of talking with Mr. Buckbee for the first time about his life in West Virginia and how our county helped shape him to go on to do big things.  When I told him the nature of the article I wanted to write, he said that no one had ever written a story about how he grew up.  He went on to say that most everyone wants to know about his time with astronauts on their moon mission.  I suggested that his growing up in Appalachia was an essential part of him that needed to be written about, and he agreed.  Our county taught him that dreams are to be faithfully followed and not easily forgotten. He represents the necessity for young and old to know and understand that anything is possible.

So the story begins:

Ed’s boyhood home was on Route 28, about 4 miles north of Romney, WV.  Born on Sept 15, 1936 at Cumberland Memorial Hospital in Maryland, he was the son of Odel ( Ed) and Jessie (Jake) Buckbee who were an important part of the fabric of Hampshire County. Ed senior worked at Pancake Chevy as a parts distributor as well as at the Romney Fruit Growers’ co-op store in town.  Little Ed spent many hours hanging out at these establishments after school. Jessie stayed at home with the kids and managed the gas station next door until World War II came, at which time she drove a school bus because of a shortage of males in the area. Little Ed and his brother, Robert, managed the gas station after school while mom prepared dinner.

As I listened to Ed tell childhood stories, I felt a bit envious of him and of his time growing up in a small town, which was in stark contrast to my first 10 years of life in Los Angeles and my 15 years in the sprawling Washington, DC suburbs. Ed had lived the childhood I dreamed of.

One of the things that became apparent while listening to him was his love of the South Branch River, the mountains and the freedom that country life gave him. He loved to hunt, and brought down his first deer, a nine-point beauty, on Break Neck Mt. at the age of 15 with a 32 lever-action Winchester.  He spent many hours with his Scout troop #32 camping, hiking and learning about the outdoors. He told me about one of his troop leaders who they referred to as ‘Kerosene’ because he would always sneak in some kerosene when trying to start a fire with a piece of flint. Everyone played along.  John Ailes was also a troop leader who accompanied Ed and his troop on many adventures down the South Branch River.  Frequently they camped at night along the river under the stars enjoying nature at its best. One scout trip that Ed seemed to relish the memories of was a trip to Washington, DC when they slept in sleeping bags at the base of the Washington monument for several days, and then during the day explored the many museums and sites that Washington offered.  At one point in this trip, he entered the old Smithsonian, and low and behold, hanging from the ceiling was the X1, one of the early supersonic jets, once piloted by Chuck Yeager who was also a West Virginian. Ed feels that seeing that prototype spacecraft planted something in him that led him into the space program later on. It was a very special moment!

He attended Romney Grade School untill the 8th grade and then went on to Romney High School where he played baseball and was also a manager for the football team.  During this time he came to love and admire Coach McElwee who in Ed’s words ‘coached almost everything.’  Coach had played football at West Virginia University and was a local hero for many people in the area.  Some think that McElwee was the most successful football coach in Hampshire County history.  He was also a very respected teacher who taught self-discipline and proper behavior to all his students and players. When the team traveled to other schools, they were expected to behave like gentlemen at all times; nothing less was acceptable.  Another person in Ed’s life who made a huge difference was high school principal Gordon Slonaker who ran a very tight ship.  Ed admitted to spending some time in the boiler room with Principal Slonaker as he was reminded of what proper behavior is; these were not fond memories!  Slonaker later went on to become the President of Shepherd College.

After completing his high school education, Ed went on to get a degree in journalism from West Virginia University.  Returning home, he worked at the Hampshire Review writing a column called Drug Store Quarterback. I suggested to him that that title would probably not be politically correct in today’s world; we laughed.  Later Ed was asked by Mr. Ailes, the Editor of the Review,  to cover the Hampshire Board of Education meetings.  When he walked into the meeting, he was asked to leave because they wanted to protect the privacy of the meeting, but he somehow managed to convince them to let him stay to report on the meeting.  Apparently when he wrote the article about the meeting in detail, many people ( including the Board of Ed) were extremely upset.  Since that time the Review has been painstakingly reporting on everything the Board does, much to their chagrin. Somehow Ed was asked to be a stringer for the Washington Post.  His assignment was to report on everything which involved “blood or floods.”  He recalled one such story when he wrote about a severe flood of the South Branch.  His article went something like this:  A small town in WV was destroyed by a treacherous flood as God watched from the banks of the South Branch River. His boss called to say: “Forget the river; get an interview with God!”  So, every time something bad happened in Hampshire County, Ed made $15!

I have to say that talking with Ed Buckbee was a real pleasure for me and I hope to meet him in person someday soon.  As we were finishing up, I asked him this: What did Hampshire County do to allow him to make a substantial difference in the world?  He said it was the feeling of belonging, knowing that there were people always there to help out and never having to face the day-to-day struggles alone.  Having never known what it was like to live in a community that watched out for its own, I was forced to return to my childhood and the feelings of often being alone.  Thank you, Ed, for sharing your life with our readers. By the way, Ed is still playing softball at the age of 79!

If you wish to learn more about Ed’s exploits after leaving Hampshire County, simply Google his name and read about all the neat things he did as a child and a young man.  He also helped write a book, SPACE COWBOYS by Ed Buckbee and Wally Schirra. I know you will enjoy it!

 

 

 

Peering into the darkness; a look into depression

•March 18, 2016 • 4 Comments

depression

As you all know from your own personal experiences, life is a crooked road that leads one through some pretty amazing times as well as some very rough times. Our task is to endure, keep smiling and enjoy all the good things that abound around us. Over the last 10 months, life has thrown me a sizable obstacle that has set me on a new life course. As in all life-changing events, there has been much pain and regrouping as I struggled to redirect my energies. But that is not what I want to write about, but it is related. Let me continue. As a teacher of 30 plus years and a life-long student of human behavior I have witnessed much suffering of friends, students and acquaintances and have counseled my students and friends, who by their own admission, were in deep depression. Since I have never before had to deal with feelings of this magnitude, I have always felt as if I were looking into depression as an outsider to this experience. I felt as though I had an idea of what they must be feeling but never truly felt the full fury of their darkness.

CycleComplex

Recently, I believe I peered into the dark hole of depression, if only for a short time. A series of unrelated events unfolded around me, and for a few long days, I burrowed deeper into this strange world that I have never ventured into. Because of this, I felt the need to share some ideas with others so that they might better understand what people around them who are dealing with this problem are feeling. Make no mistake, my time in this realm was brief, but it helped me begin to realize what other people who live their lives in a constant state of depression must endure.
I am going to attempt to pass on to you some of the feelings I encountered during this brief time. First and most encompassing was the sincere belief that no one could understand what I was feeling. I was marooned on an island with no escape that I could envision. The notion that I was alone was a heavy blanket pushing me to the ground! At times I felt as if I was in a large, deep, dark hole looking up at the sky with no perceivable way of climbing out. In my mind were ideas-some bizarre, some strange and some frightful- like automobiles moving by me at a high rate of speed on an interstate. They came quickly and left traces of pain and remorse in their wake. As I circled deeper into this funk, I imagined I was somehow drowning in my own weird way. I could go on and on about the crazy ideas that coursed through my mind but I think I have made my point. What I endured for a short time was trivial in comparison to the person who spends his/her life in this river of remorse. As I gradually reemerged from this terrible state, I could only think of what it must be like to live in this place full time! In our world, there are many people who suffer from this kind of intense depression. As a society we tend to push them by the wayside, ignore them, and hope that they take their negative feelings somewhere else. It is no wonder that we have such a high suicide rate in this country!
We live in a country that focuses on material things and power and so spend billions of dollars on marginally successful attempts at helping people who are suffering from depression. The basic idea of loving one’s neighbor has all but disappeared for many and been replaced with medicine and counseling. That is what this article is about! I feel that I am one of the lucky ones in that many of my friends and family have stepped up to help me through some of this emotional maze, but I wonder how many people are struggling with depression and do not have the support I had.
When encountering a person who is depressed, it is important to realize a few quick key points. You are not going to fix them! You are not going to say some cute words that are going to magically bring them from this area of darkness. All you can do is be a friend, let them know you are there if they need you. This too can be a problem because depressed people do not tend to call out for help in the traditional sense, so you must generally make the first move. Of course, getting someone else involved who is trained in this area will probably be very helpful as well. All said and done, this is an unlit corridor at best. There are no clear answers or sure-fire cures- only time, patience and love. If you know someone who is dealing with life-long depression, make the difficult decision to be there for them. You might make a significant difference or at least comfort them in their world of suffering.

Idiocracy

•February 29, 2016 • 3 Comments

index

It is hard to imagine that there is someone who is not enjoying, if not behind a tear or two, the current presidential election.  Although in recent history the Republicans have offered up some highly creative and entertaining presidential candidates, this election cycle tops all previous contenders for most entertaining.  Starting at the bottom of the heap, one has to consider Dr. Carson.

 

CNN reports: Republican presidential hopeful Ben Carson believes the

Egyptian pyramids were used for grain.

In a college commencement speech 17 years ago, Carson told the graduates of Andrews University in Michigan that it is his “personal” belief that the pyramids were built as storehouses for grain and not, as archaeologists say, for the interment of dead pharaohs

 This is the first time I have watched a republican debate and I have asked myself several times, why?  The answer, despite my reluctance to admit it, is Donald.  Let’s face it, he is a loose cannon, and that makes him fun to watch.  I catch myself laughing regularly while watching his antics. Now, would I want him or crazy Cruz in charge of the largest military on planet earth, NO!
So, if you would like to watch a movie that depicts this crazy political atmosphere we live in, you should watch IDIOCRACY, in which the World Wrestling Federation Champion is the President of our country.  If this seems silly to you, look carefully at who is going to win the republican nomination!  We have already had one actor become president, another become governor, a wrestler become governor and a comedian become a senator; do you see a trend?  Sit back and enjoy this ride because it ain’t over yet!  This could stack up to become one of the most entertaining elections in the history of this country, and let’s face it, America, we want entertainment!

Health care reform still not quite there or perhaps even close:

•February 1, 2016 • Leave a Comment

med bills 1

Recently a friend of mine experienced the pain and discomfort from a back injury.  Actually the injury occurred several months ago and since then he has been to several doctors, had a MRI, along with a few x-rays.  As of today he is not sure what is wrong with his back or if anything can be done to ease his pain.  He is stretching and doing exercises to help control the pain but is still not back to his normal active self.

Now enter, the healthcare system.  During his last trip to the doctor he was informed that the first MRI did not extend low enough to observe the problem.  I don’t know, dear reader if you have ever had an MRI, but they are terribly expensive in this country. So, he was instructed to have an additional MRI done.  After scheduling it at Hampshire Memorial Hospital, he received a phone call from his insurance company informing him that if he had the MRI done at Hampshire, which is part of the Valley HealthCare System, it would cost him close to $800 out-of-pocket; but if he was willing to drive an hour to Berkley Springs Memorial Hospital, (which is part of WV University Healthcare) then it would cost him less than $200 out-of-pocket. Valley Healthcare as well as WV University Healthcare are very large and ever-expanding mega-healthcare systems.

med bill 2

Now, I want to make sure you understand what I am getting at.  If my friend is willing to drive an hour to another hospital rather than use the hospital right down the street, he can save almost $600. He chose to drive an hour.  The question here is: why?  Why would one hospital work well with an insurance company and the other would not?  I assume the equipment costs are similar.  Their operating cost should be similar as well, so what is the reason for this huge difference in out-of-pocket expense?  Get ready for this! I was told by one individual that Hampshire Memorial Hospital was owned by an out-of-state company and the Berkley Springs hospital was owned by an in-state company.  The obvious question here is, why does that matter?  I have watched TV shows that explored this phenomenon of variations in cost, but never actually saw it in real life.  Stated another way, we need to shop around for a hospital system that charges more consistent reasonable rates.  This is rather bizarre if you think about it enough, but we never discuss money with a doctor when we have something done medical.  It is not in our culture customary to ask the hospital or the doctor how much a procedure will cost, so we just pay, along with the insurance company, whatever they ask.

To sum up, my advice is to shop around.  Ask the hospital what a procedure costs.  Ask the doctor that same question.  Talk to your insurance company as well about different cost options. As usual, you are the only one watching out for you!

 
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