Shady Grove Eye and Vision Care Dr. Vicky Wong Review

Last year I decided to try a different practitioner for my routine annual eye exam and this year had my second appointment with the same optometrist.  A few months following my initial appointment, my wife had her annual exam last year with the same practitioner. The practice is Shady Grove Eye and Vision Care, and our appointments were with Vicki Wong, OD.

For those who are not among my regular readers, I’m a professor of US Political and Southern History by trade and a barefooted boy from the fields of the Hungarian Settlement, Louisiana, which is a rural community in Livingston Parish.  I have been blessed with what I’ll term excellent eyesight, but there is a strong history of diabetic retinopathy, macular degeneration, and other conditions in my immediate family.  Thus, I spent considerable time observing and listening to different optometrists including low vision specialists, ophthalmologists and other MDs in subfields such as vitreoretinal medicine.  Shortly after I began graduate school, I had an appointment with an ophthalmologist who had been a student of one of my Dad’s specialists.  He performed his initial examination so thoroughly that I later joked that he climbed inside my eye.  Even during my doctoral work, I would travel down to Baton Rouge for routine vision appointments and could contact him directly for assistance when pollen levels affected my eyes to a degree that I had not experienced prior.

I type that because the only corrective lenses I have used are the non-Rx over-the-counter minimum magnification readers.  It surprises many, but because of my professional field I have used these types of glasses for maybe 20 years.  That was another benefit of my early visits to this younger ophthalmologist.  He understood that I often encounter faded handwriting in my research along with fine print that I suspect fleas would need to magnify.  He told me it was natural to have difficulty seeing some of what I read and not to worry about the need to magnify specific source materials when there was no change in how well I saw other documents or things in general. (Be at ease because I won’t bore you by pondering the proverbial if could fleas read philosophic ramblings).

To clarify, even with my vision, I feel that I have enough experience to differentiate between not just bad and good eye exams, but also those that are thorough by the practitioner.  Keep in mind, however, that my opinions and observations here are through the lens of a patient.  My field is not healthcare, and I have never worked in any aspect of the eyecare industry.

Let’s start with the review:

I was impressed by Dr. Wong during my initial visit, and she earned my confidence in her abilities as an OD along with a genuine respect for her as a professional.  As noted, following my first visit, my wife had her annual exam with Dr. Wong last year, and I was returning patient this year.  Hopefully unneeded marriage advice, but be confident about your commendations when you choose to recommend someone to your spouse.

I’ll detail the reasons for my opinion about Dr. Wong later in this essay, but I want to begin with the practice for which she works.  While I’m not an established Marylander, Shady Grove Eye and Vision Care is an established practice in this area.  According to their website, the practice dates back to the year 1964 and moved to its present location off of Shady Grove Road in the year 1998.  You can read a brief summation of practice history along with that of Drs. Harold and Alan Glazier at the link below.

I do not know Dr. Alan Glazier and did not converse with him during my visits to his practice.  During my initial visit last April, I did observe him interact with one of his patients, a young man of who appeared to be of high school age.  Obviously, I wasn’t privy to their conversation, but it appeared to be relaxed yet professional amongst the doctor, patient, and who I assume was the young man’s mother.  My impression was that all seemed comfortable with each other, and I’m of that school where I think communication is key to any type of relationship.  It’s a two-way street, and both doctor and patient in this case share the responsibility.  I saw a mutual conversation and not a lecture and that is something I want, respect, and honestly need with any medical office.

For readers who are not in the Montgomery County area of Maryland or the Washington, DC, suburbs and exurbs and will likely not be visiting this practice for yourself, I encourage you to take a gander at their website because it may prove useful regardless of where you reside. If you click on the “News” heading in the top menu, there are a number of brief but informative and easy-to-read pieces written by Dr. Glazier within the subtopics of “Eye Resources,” “Common Eye Problems,” “Eye Care,” “Eye Health,” and “News.”  I’ve provided direct links below.

If in the future I would have a desire to conduct some oral history interviews about eye health, the care, and practice related to such, then Alan Glazier would be an individual with whom I would like to connect.  I have little doubt that such an interview would be informative, but I suspect that it would also be enjoyable based solely upon my brief observation, personal experience at his practice, and a cursory perusal of his writings.  One of my mantras is that attitude reflects leadership, and this practice of his exudes a positive and professional vibe.

This part of my review may not be the actual division of the practice as it exists, but I viewed the office as an interesting mix of retail and medical.  That observation is not a criticism.

At my initial visit to the practice, I wondered if I entered the correct office because it looked like the layout one might find at a bookstore or coffee shop.  Comfortable couches and other furnishings that do not give that vibe of a medical waiting room greet anyone walking through the door I entered.  As I expanded my view, I noticed the eyeglass frames displayed on the walls with workers at what I’ll term generically as fitting stations.  To the right near the center of the room is a circular station with multiple workers where patients check in.  Fortunately for me, one of the workers at this station saw me enter and called out asking how she could help me.  In no way am I suggesting any problems with the layout, but it is different from walking up to a sliding glass window or receptionist desk and signing your name to a piece of paper on a clipboard before being recognized.  It’s different from the chain eyeglass businesses where one tends to see the “check-in service” desk immediately.

I had completed the “new patient” forms online from their website.  At the location I merely reviewed a print out for accuracy, had my ID and insurance cards copied, and gave the individual checking me in a two-page document where I summarized my unique vestibular condition, the purpose for a couple of Rx drugs first prescribed by specialists at Johns Hopkins since I do not take these medications for the conditions for which they are most commonly prescribed, and a more detailed outline of my vision health and family history than asked for on the patient forms.  It was a quick and easy appointment check-in, some friendly banter about my accent (I reckon that my Louisiana boy self sounds to Marylanders just like some of these East Coasters sound to my ears), an offer of refreshments, and directions to have a seat in that center area amidst the frames.  The check-in for the second appointment was just as easy.

Both of my appointments were point on schedule, and my wife’s appointment was less than five minutes past the scheduled time which I consider as “on time” in a medical setting.  My impression is that few patients will experience even minor delays of less than 15 minutes, and only in rare circumstances will any patient encounter an extended wait.  For example, with any medical facility the practitioner may need to care for an emergency and doing so will throw everything behind schedule.  Personally, I want that type of focus in medical practices of which I am a patient.  Even if I’m the patient waiting, I’m still not the person in need of emergency care.  Needing emergency care is a far greater inconvenience than merely waiting for something routine.  I have no way of knowing firsthand, but I feel confident that I could see Dr. Wong without an appointment if I had an eye-related emergency.  Depending upon the degree of emergency, I suspect a patient would probably be directed to any of the practitioners available in the office at that time.

For the first appointment, I had arrived about 20 minutes prior to my appointment in case of additional paperwork, but I only waited about 10 minutes before being called by a technician.  Once on the other side of that circular station, it looked like a medical practice with various testing equipment visible along with some examination rooms.

The technician was friendly, and the testing equipment appeared to be modern, well maintained, and clean.  Even though things looked clean, she wiped the machines prior to my placing my chin into the little placeholders.  I liked that she explained the purpose of each test and described what I would see or experience with the test prior to beginning.

As most readers here know firsthand, the routine tests for a “normal” eye exam aren’t difficult for a patient.  They’re quick and pain free.  Even the “awkward” puff of air has more bark than bite or breeze than gale force to keep expressions in theme, but for me at least it’s reassuring to hear exactly what will happen in terms of air puffs, flashes of light, and even what you will be looking at when it’s your eye in close proximity to anything.  The technician did a good job, and one thing that I’ll note is that she encouraged me to blink.  To some that might seem minor, but I’ve seen some technicians and medical practitioners in the eye health area appear to get frustrated if the patient blinks.  I’ve had others who perhaps unknowingly start a sound loop of “don’t blink, keep your eyes open” which for me triggers a blink.  At Shady Grove Eye and Vision Care everything took place at a comfortable pace.

After the tests, the technician directed me to some seating on the “medical” side of the office and said that Dr. Wong would be with me shortly.  In less than 5 minutes, the technician directed me into a small examination room.  I had just settled myself comfortably into “the chair” when Dr. Wong appeared and introduced herself.

Now I had researched both the practice and the practitioners there, so I had an idea about how Dr. Wong looked and more importantly had a familiarity with her educational background and professional interests.   In addition to the brief bio on the practice website linked at the beginning, you can learn a little more about Dr. Wong from this introduction video linked below.

Another representation of Dr. Wong as a professional can be heard in this short video from New Grad Optometry where she was one of several attendees of what I believe was the 2016 International Vision Expo Conference who discussed some professional challenges.

Her video is linked below.

My experience as department chair along with observations of some of the distinct challenges that my wife faces as a younger professional woman provides me with some additional insight into the points made by Dr. Wong in this video presentation.  Some may disagree with me, but I do believe that a young professional woman may and often faces a few additional challenges than I have faced.

Here, I’m only referring to those encounters where a patient in this situation or a student in higher education doubts or questions the competency of the professor or practitioner based upon superficial perceptions.  Dr. Wong enjoys a youthful appearance, and is a woman who I think is very attractive.  Of course, those characteristics have zero to do with her ability or competence, but those aspects like so many others make everyone’s experiences unique even within the same environment.

Please don’t read more into the above.  I’m only stating that I have seen some women have their professional abilities at times overlooked because some in society place an additional focus on outward appearance.  Of course, an appeal, trust, or even reliance upon our personal confirmation bias isn’t limited to appearance, gender, race, or any single group.  We all have our own obstacles and advantages, and I hope that we as a society can view those specifically to an individual and not across generic groupings.

I did not look at the dates of her medical degrees or think to ask, but I would guess that Dr. Wong has been in practice somewhere in the ballpark of five (5) years.  I equate what I experienced in the office to what I felt at about the five-year period of teaching and what I’ve observed from my faculty at the same stage in their careers.  It’s a fun stage of professional life because you remember your training as a student, assistant, intern, or resident like it was yesterday, but now you are discovering how to apply yourself to what you learned.

My second appointment the other day confirmed my initial impressions even though I failed to ask how long it’s been since she graduated. While this appointment was not as thorough as my first since I did not have my eyes dilated, Dr. Wong appeared more “experienced.”  Do not take that observation as a criticism because at both appointments she was professional and confident.  I just felt like I saw more of her personality shining through.  The reasons for my perception are endless, but I know from my experience that she has voyaged beyond that “once, twice, thrice” cycle where it begins to feel natural to display both training and experience simultaneously without cognitive effort.  Perhaps, I saw the personality because I was a returning patient and not new.  Maybe it’s because I had my 10-year-old son with me for this appointment.  I don’t know the reason I mentioned “experienced,” but I feel that Dr. Wong is progressing professionally and will continue to improve at her craft.  Succinctly, she has not reached her apex as an OD.

Regardless of profession, I think we all experience similar transitions as we progress in fields.  With Dr. Wong, I respect her as a professional and I also like her as a person.  While I do not “need” to like someone personally to respect them, I find that a positive feeling decreases stress and anxiety.  When it comes to medical relationships, I personally do not need any additional stress.

I recommend the medical side of Shady Grove Eye and Vision Care to everyone.  You will receive appropriate and professional care from the optometrists and technicians in my opinion.  While I do not have firsthand experience, I feel that a patient would receive the proper referrals to an ophthalmologist, other specialists, or MD if necessary.  Dr. Wong knows the signs of conditions that are outside the realm of those in her specific area and is humble enough to not view herself as some self-anointed expert in every aspect of healthcare or vision care.  I asked plenty of specific and generic questions about eye health during my initial exam, and she handled herself as good as any I’ve met in her profession and better than many. There is an ophthalmologist with the practice according to the website, but I have not seen this individual during my visits.

An opinion of what I term “the retail” side of the practice is harder to discern.  It’s more difficult because the patient is in some respects more “consumer” than patient.  As a patient, my primary desire is competency.  Both needs and wants tend to broaden as a consumer.  Also, the focus is not upon service only but also tangible goods on this side of the business.

The frames displayed appear to be high quality and among what are the latest fashions and most popular styles judging from the marketing materials.  I suspect that the lenses offered reflect the most recent advancements in their craftsmanship.  Naturally, the price of the “latest and greatest” will be higher than older or more generic options.

If I were someone who had a complex Rx that required progressive lenses or unique medical aspects, I would most certainly look closely at the offerings at Shady Grove Eye and Vision Care.  Likewise, if I wanted the latest in styles, I could probably find something that I wanted here.

For some folks, however, the fit may not be the best match.  To clarify, I’ll try to explain via some comparisons.  If your computer usage is limited to a word processor and web surfing, you do not need chips like an AMD Ryzen Threadripper or 18-core Intel I-9.  Those would be overkill for your needs.  I would love to have a need, excuse, or the bucks to buy something like the Massey Ferguson 6700 tractor I saw recently on TV; heck I wish I had a need for the ole Farmall Cub tractors Grandpa had back on the farm.  Historical muscle memory has me leaning to the right to see the ground past the steering wheel. (Note: my favorite tractors were the post-WWII configuration where seat and steering wheel were offset to the right to enable a clear view of the ground).  Residing in exurbia, however, I do not have the need for any type of tractor.

What I’m saying is that there is nothing wrong with the style of a classic Rolls or modern sports car; sometimes you need the power of a modified V8, but sometimes any running vehicle will get you where you need to be.  Sometimes walking or public transit has its advantages.

For me, the eyeglass offerings at Shady Grove Eye and Vision Care are not a good match.  I’m lucky enough where I can find something to meet my wants and needs “off the rack,” but others may want or need the precise fit or look that a tailor can provide.

For example, my wife who has worn glasses for many years described her experience with picking glasses from this practice smooth and easy.  She liked the feel of her old glasses and asked the young lady assisting her for frames that were similar.  The employee directed my wife to one display, and she went to another.  My wife picked out two pairs, and the young lady came back to the fitting station with about four pairs.  Very quickly, they removed two pairs from the collection for different reasons and were down to three or four potentials.  Nose bridge didn’t feel right on one, but the overall fit felt better.  Her technician listened and retrieved what may have been last year’s model of that frame which had a different nose bridge.

My advice is to check out the “retail” section but realize that you have the power to walk away if the match isn’t there.  Walking away may mean to try another technician or going to another establishment.  The technicians have diverse personalities and tastes, so I think someone’s experiences might be as different as night and day.  If you sit in that central area while waiting for your exam, you cannot avoid hearing the interactions between technicians and people trying to purchase.  With some, it does sound like a used car salesperson pushing a specific model or package.  Others had personalities that seemed a better match for me personally.

If you have a negative experience with a specific technician, I recommend speaking to your optometrist about what happened.  I do not know the establishment’s chain of command, that is whether an office manager exists, but I know that the practitioners are a good resource.  Obviously, Dr. Glazier is the owner of the establishment and would be the “final voice” inside his business, but I would speak to whoever was your OD if they were available.

Shady Grove Eye and Vision Care can serve the medical needs of most and the practitioners there should be able to provide necessary referrals to specialists when needed.  I will continue to patronize the establishment and will recommend it and Dr. Vicky Wong.

If you are comfortable with your current eye doctor but have difficulty finding the “perfect” corrective lenses or frames, you might want to give the “retail” side of Shady Grove Eye and Vision Care a look.  At worst, you lose some time.  If you are comfortable with “off the rack” with limited special needs you might not find anything new in terms of retail.

With the quality of the exams, I think most will be satisfied.  With Dr. Vicky Wong, I think most will leave thinking that they have met a qualified and sincere practitioner.

A final thought for those “old school.”

If you are there just for an exam and feel out of place waiting in the “coffee shop” styled area listening to the talk about frames and lenses, I suggest just taking a seat over on the medical side about 20 steps or so from the machinery or if that area is congested there is a little hallway on the other side of building that has a couple of chairs and televisions.  I just feel more comfortable on that side, but I am sort of “old school” LouisianaBoy.

I’ll be seeing you (yep, bad pun intended) as I hope to return to more regular postings in the coming months.  Thanks to all who have inquired about “what’s up?”  Life does change with children and international adoption adds layers to the degrees of change.  It’s been stressful.  It’s been relaxing.  I’ve wanted to yell.  I’ve smiled and laughed more than I ever imagined possible.

Admittedly, it felt odd being the father on Father’s Day when it was the first Father’s Day after Dad passed away back in Louisiana while I was overseas.  It’s new.  It can be scary at times.  Even the mundane, however, have become adventures.

We’re wrapping up with paying off the bills related to international adoption such as the airfare and such.  I’ll include the Paypal link here because most readers will be local and many continue to ask about what we “need.”

For people who happened to find this review in a search engine, there are no obligations or conditions to read this or other entries.  If you choose to comment, I ask for civilness and no vulgarity.  Disagreements and discussions, however, are welcome.  Again, I do not reap any financial compensation from this blog, and I doubt if I’ll ever see another AdSense check from the cat fountain video on YouTube.  I just offer my opinions and like to keep the big lump on top of my shoulders from becoming more empty than it is.  I also like to patronize local businesses who at their core are the “Mom and Pop” style establishments that played such a role in my upbringing.

US Home Filter Review

My regular readers are familiar with my fondness for many things past.  I’m nostalgic, but being trained as a history professor often provides the necessary balance between sentimentality for the past and the realities that remain clear when everything is considered within context.

Regardless of our upbringings or ideologies, I think that at times we all lament what I’ll term an erosion of customer service in our retail transactions.  My colleagues over in business divisions have several metrics and KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) to gauge levels of customer service.  Me, I’m just the barefoot boy from the fields who wants someone who knows their products and can offer recommendations when needed, stands behind the quality of their products, seeks to make their profit from repeat business, and considers customers as people instead of a just a source of revenue.

Admittedly I miss the locally owned “Mom and Pop” stores with which I grew up.  Chains could often operate in the same fashion with a superior level of service.  For those back in Louisiana or the Deep South, who at some point doesn’t yearn for the purple, the “Personally Yours” from the K&B Drugstore in your neighborhood?  It wasn’t just the quality of the locally produced K&B ice cream, but the reality that you had cashiers at the pharmacy checkout in the back and on both sides in the front.  If lines started to form, a clerk from the floor or a manager would open the additional checkouts.  Need assistance on the floor, and there was a clerk either on that aisle or the next along with a manager near.

I lucked into finding similar customer service at a company through the unlikeliest portals, Amazon.

That company is US Home Filter which is the online division of Midwest Supply Inc., located in Belton, Missouri.  Midwest Supply is a family owned company established back in 1928 and today is a distributor of air filters that they manufacture and ship from their facilities near Kansas City, MO.  You can read a brief history here from their website.

Now I’ve never been to Kansas City so I haven’t seen the manufacturing facility or warehouse firsthand.  I’ve never met an employee face-to-face.  In fact, my experience beyond the product itself is from an email exchange and a single phone call from the company.

Why then am I writing a review of this company, praising their customer service, and recommending their products?

Let’s start with the last part first.

Air filters for air conditioning, heating systems, and heat pumps such as we have up yonder here in Maryland are one of those essential products that is easy to neglect.  Even the best industry jargon will not induce visions of excitement, mystery, or intrigue by replacing a filter.  Now failure to conduct such routine maintenance will likely result in some type of horror from the costs and hassles associated with repair or replacement, but I purposely try to avoid that genre in life and my reading and viewing habits because sadly history has ample non-fiction examples of horrors that negate any want to immerse myself in fiction.

Like most people, my goal with an air filter is a quality build, expected performance for a reasonable period per run time and conditions, and an affordable cost.  I haven’t conducted any tests to validate the MERV ratings on these or other brands.  I can only tell you that the US Home filters appear to capture similar levels of dust and particles as other brands I have used.  The physical construction is as good as, if not superior, to the “name brands” one sees in retail outlets such as Home Depot, Ace, Lowes, Target, WalMart, or your local hardware store.  The cardboard frames are strong and solid.  The pleated material of the filter is consistent throughout the entirety of the frame.  A backing of galvanized metal adds rigidity and prevents the pleated material from becoming deformed by the air flow.

You can read Amazon reviews for size and MERV ratings of the filters I have purchased at the links below.  Combined as of my typing there are approximately 200 ratings for the MERV ratings in this specific size with the average being 4.6 stars out of 5 stars.  Statistically any ratings that are not a 4 or a 5 would be outliers if one were graphing a curve.  I’m not the only consumer who has a high opinion about these filters in terms of quality and cost.

For additional information about the various types and sizes of filters they manufacture, please refer to their online website linked here and below.  I should note that the size I need is not found easily on most brick and mortar store shelves, but it’s apparently a common size for many of the newer household sized systems.  As one can see from their website, US Home manufactures standard sizes for many different systems along with custom sizing options if needed.

I’ll let readers do their own pricing comparisons to other brands and manufacturers, but I have found my filters to be a good value when doing my own cost comparisons.

Now why am I writing this and praising the customer service?

Well I placed an order with Amazon, received the tracking information for the package, saw that the package arrived at the Federal Express distribution center near me, and then remained at that distribution center for days instead of going out for delivery.

When we purchased our new heat pump few years back, I ordered a set of filters from this same company through Amazon.  The package arrived quickly in a sturdy box that protected the contents.  The next time I ordered a set directly from the US Home website.  I believe their listed price was lower than the Amazon price at that specific time, maybe I had a coupon code, or perhaps I was in some type of anti-Amazon or major retailer mood.  I do not recall, but I do know that delivery went just as smoothly.

This time, however, it appeared that my air filters received a visit from Rod Serling at the Fed Ex center and entered into the Twilight Zone.  I’m not sure if they are enjoying that trek, and I doubt if Mr. Serling or Mr. Burgess Meredith from the remake will be providing some closing words for me to ponder per the meaning and fate of these filters.

Thus, I decided to delve into cyberspace at the US Home Filter website where I clicked the “contact us” tab in the menu at the top, typed my name and some brief comments to include my Amazon order numbers in their online form and clicked “submit.”

From there you never know if your message will reach its intended destination.  If it does, will it be filed in that recycle bin that has replaced the older fashioned filing cabinet on the floor that could be used as a makeshift basketball hoop for written correspondence, apple cores, or just about anything for that brief respite from work at your desk?  Inquiring minds want and need to know.

Well it wasn’t long after clicking that submit button that my phone began to ring.  Naturally I checked what the Caller ID displayed before answering.  “Midwest Supply,” who is that?  I don’t have time for a robocall but then the better half shouted “I think it’s your air filters,” and I answered the ring.

It wasn’t a robot, computer, gremlin, Twilight Zone regular, or even a voice informing me to hold.  On the line was a person.

It was Ms. Allison Roberts, the Operations Manager for US Home Filter.  She was friendly, polite, and apologetic.  Very quickly she informed me that another package of filters was in the process of being shipped to me directly.  She had contacted Fed Ex and even though the portal to the Twilight Zone was in the Fed Ex distribution center, she wanted to send another package because most do arrive at their intended destination without embarking upon their own side vacation.

US Home Filter was not at fault.  All jokes aside, something just happened to the package after it left their warehouse.  She could have asked me to submit another order, complete forms with either Amazon or Fed Ex, but she just wanted me as a customer to have the product I purchased and apologized for the delay.  If by some chance the original box arrives, I have another box of filters.  It was that simple.  She provided tracking information for the new package along with her direct phone number and email address if I had any questions or concerns.  It was such a quick yet thorough example of customer service that used to be the norm, and today I no longer take such basic expertise in that area for granted.  Sadly, I do not take it granted because I’ve become a kinder and wiser individual with age.  As Robert Frost might opine, I am no longer acquainted with the experience as I once was despite more frequent opportunities for our paths to intersect.

Somehow my conversation with Ms. Roberts evolved to the point where she told me a little about Midwest Supply.  I was unaware that this was a family owned business.  Yes, I am guilty of not doing independent research before my first purchase where I relied on price and customer reviews.  I reckon laziness and karma sometimes works in one’s favor, although I am not planning to push my luck in that area.

Ms. Roberts is the great-granddaughter of the founder, and she said that operations are beginning to pass from her Dad’s generation to that of she and her siblings.  We spoke a little about “Mom and Pop” stores, and she related a few experiences that she and her husband have had with contractors and other businesses.  Our exchange was similar to what one would have had if standing in your local neighborhood hardware store where both proprietor and customers knew everybody by name and at the conclusion of the visit reminded you to say hi from them to another family member.

Ms. Roberts provided customer service.  It was an online transaction, interstate from Missouri to Maryland, but it was like watching my Dad with customers in K&B or likely what she experienced with her parents and grandparents at the family business.  I’m guessing that the latest generation is expanding their business as they must to compete in today’s environment. It’s obvious by their years in existence that the business has enjoyed success through different eras.  Regardless of storefront size, however, the focus remains on a quality product and being able to deliver prior to, during, and after a sale.  Customer Service is that key; that bedrock just like it was when workers and customers knew and interacted with one another in multiple venues outside a specific storefront or facility.

For those back home in Louisiana, professors and mentors from grad school at Mississippi State, friends and colleagues from my stops in Georgia and elsewhere, former students, neighbors, readers, critics, Saints fans, and everyone else, when you need to purchase air filters, please take a look at US Home Filters.  They’ll be getting my repeat business.  Now if only I’ll be able to enjoy the breeze (filtered in this case) coming from my vents as the Brees (Drew in this case) led Who Dats breeze (no injuries, consistent, balanced offense,  and a Dennis Allen coached defense along with special teams playing well in this case) into and to win another Super Bowl.  Even if that doesn’t happen this upcoming season I anticipate that I’ll be cool or warm (depends on this MD weather — the past couple of days we have had Louisiana styled humidity) with filtration by US Home filters.

Wow, can you imagine what it would be like if our son’s first Super Bowl to watch had the Saints?  Yep, I have thought about that what if he becomes a Dirty Bird fan. I’ll adjust because I’ll still love him, but in the wonderful life I pray he has maybe instead of his guardian angel being named Clarence, Hokie Gajan could play the part.  RIP Hokie

Again, Jen and I appreciate all the words of encouragement, thoughts, and prayers in our adoption process.  We hope that you will continue as we are in the final stages before traveling to bring home our son.  While certainly not a requirement or expectation for readers or anyone, but because a few have asked if you would like to assist with either airfare or other expenses related to international adoption, I did set up a PayPal account that I have linked below for that purpose.  While I do not want to discuss adoption in any comments, as always please message me directly if you have questions.

If anyone would like to donate to assist us with airfare or any other expenses related to international adoption, I have set up a PayPal account that I have linked below.  Please message me with questions or for any additional information.

PayPal link to support LAB LouisianaBoy adoption

Strawberry Fields of Dreams

Berry Montage

Montage from pictures courtesy of Joe Fekete’s Family Farm and Frank Fekete Farm

By:  Richard Haydel

The Sun rose in the brilliant blue sky with wisps of white floating off from a sole pillowlike cloud that looked as a ball of cotton.  The sun’s rays carried this comforting warmth that penetrated the skin and loosened one’s joints.  A gentle breeze tickled his face and the smell; the smell of ripened strawberries, sweet and tangy, permeated the air.  The boy stood at the headland looking east upon row upon row of strawberry plants.  Their dark green leaves, white flowers, light green buds, along with the luscious gleaming red of the ripened berries seemed to sparkle in contrast to the black plastic covering the rows from which the plants protruded.  The ground, dark, loamy, and fertile and the result of generation upon generation of careful usage, conservation, and preservation.

Was this Heaven or a reflection of fondness?  His own field of dreams.  Remarkable, breathtaking, and yet a prosaic felicity of senses and life.  For here past and present, heritage and innovation, come together like no place other.  Here his own sweat drips to the same ground that once drank the perspiration of his Dad and that of he and his siblings during years past. The Earth’s thirst is never quenched, but that itself is majestic. Those droplets of salty moisture tickling the callouses on his hands just as it had those of prior generations.  The hands, the mind, the soul, of the farmer’s being adorn such badges of honor in the present among pillars of history cherished and never taken for granted.

The work is not easy.  The physical labor tolls upon the body beneath the appearance of the inured hands and the uncertainty of mother nature always weighs upon the mind and spirit.  The lower back aches at times from the constant stimulation of the lumbar vertebrae.  The shoulders pinch at times, and the knees and hips stiffen.  Ah, that warmth from the sun’s rays.  Nature’s own infrared sauna soothes such complaints to nary a thought that discomfort will prevent what one must do before the sun reaches its apex in the sky.  The rising temperature will bring a natural break from working in the open where he will transition to beneath the shade afforded by a tree or a packing shed.  A simple structure, often open on three sides with a single unbroken wall beneath an H frame.

To the undiscerning eye, the images appear nondescript, but to his eyes it is a canvas upon which a field of dreams has unfolded in powerful yet subtle brushstrokes.  Each day the brush strokes become bolder, color more vibrant, and the air most succulent.  Nature can bestow ever so tender a touch between spans of efficacy unchecked.  That dichotomy, this is his world, his playground, his berry field, his time to preserve and pass to the coming generation just as the previous had to his and the prior to theirs.  A reflection, perhaps, yet a masterpiece of a boy turned man, a farmer, his heritage, tending the soil to coax the sweet fruits from within to emerge, to ripen in the rays of the Sun, and to be pinched at the stem, picked with care, and eaten from a field of dreams.

Lest We Forget, those who have passed are as near as our soul.

Hi everyone, after 10 years of marriage, my wife and I are in the final stages of adopting a son from an international orphanage.  We would most appreciate your thoughts and prayers for our son and us as soon-to-be parents to more than fur babies.  If anyone would like to make a monetary donation to help us with airfare primarily or other expenses associated with adoption, here is a PayPal donation account that I have set up.

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Want to Hear some Good Music?

It’s been a bit since we last posted, but the blog has not gone away.  Thanks to all who have messaged to ask about the lack of recent activity.  Work and life…what more is there to say.

One of the worst things about not posting is that I have not kept up with writings of others because that’s what I enjoy and more importantly where I learn on WordPress.

My original post contained a tangent about the election and education, but I just cut that out to emphasize the positive with this post.

I have no training or background in music although I did at one time build some really good speaker boxes for cars and trucks.  One in particular I remember resulted in not only incredible sound from the 6 X 9 speakers but a good back message from the 10 inch woofers housed within.  Ah youth….

Still I know music that I like, and in this case my opinion of the performer is based upon my experiencing interacting with students and interns about his age in the classroom and moving into different careers.

Here’s a young man who comes from a good family and is doing his own positive deeds for others.  He’s not my student, so no conflict of interest is present in that respect.  He’s tripped a few times just like most of us have, but he’s pulled himself back up which as we get older realize is necessary but not necessarily easy.

I’m really not doing anything special for my brother other than just being a friend.  In other words, his music and life are his and not the result of anything to do with me.  He’s working on some originals, but I want to introduce him via some covers.  One is just sitting down with his guitar and webcam; another was at a performance at the Music Café in Damascus, MD; and the last is some raw footage from an event here in Maryland that featured a number of musicians.  If you like his sound, please check out his Facebook fan page.

Note from 16 June 2017:

Hi Everyone:  Thank you all for the continued reading and sharing of posts from this blog for its 5+ years in existence and views of You Tube videos   I’m thankful that many have found the political commentary thought provoking.  Even when we disagree ideologically, the clear majority (I mean only a handful of discussions do not apply) of our conversations have been not only civil but edifying.

It’s been fun and humbling for me to reminisce about events from my childhood.  Many of y’all have found my business or service reviews helpful, and the DIY cat fountain remains near the top of internet searches.  While my man here hasn’t gone viral yet, he has some original songs in the works and the initial responses have been positive.  It’s a matter of being patient, positive, and continuing to work not just with his music but helping others by his words and works.

As most know I have never sought or accepted any payment or donations for the cat fountain.  More important to me is that I have never accepted offers of sponsorship or transforming the blog into one with paid advertising spaces for the political commentary pieces.  Those are written from my personal perspective as someone with a rural upbringing who has worked in various aspects of government but is also a professor of US Political and Southern history.  They are intended as analysis and opinion as opposed to firing up a specific base which many have asked me to do either on here or in other forums.

I wanted share some good news that also explains the decreased frequency of posts.   After 10 years of marriage, my wife and I are in the final stages of adopting a son from an international orphanage.  We would most appreciate your thoughts and prayers for our son and us as soon-to-be parents to more than fur babies.

My positions about sponsors and advertising have not changed, but a few friends and former colleagues have wanted to assist with our adoption journey because of costs involved.  If anyone would like to make a monetary donation to help us with the airfare primarily or other expenses associated with adoption, below is a link to a PayPal donation account that I have set up for that purpose.

He’s just a good guy with a good attitude, so readers of LAB LouisianaBoy please give a listen to my brother, Taylor Bowman.



Also, please allow me to give a shout out to those in the recovery and rebuilding stages from the flooding in Louisiana.  This band, Impaired Faculties, consists of non-music faculty at my old undergraduate institution.  One of the band members taught me in the basic Western Civilization survey courses, a “Modern” Russia course that covered the period from the last Czar through Glastnost, and some European History seminar courses.  This song, Waterline, is an original work with all proceeds going to flood relief.

The Louisiana Flood: Press, Politics, and People

Shock, stress, despair, disbelief, fatigue, exhaustion, more stress, perseverance, work at home, work at a neighbor’s, work at family member’s, work at a friend’s, work at a colleague’s, work at a stranger’s, disbelief again, more fatigue, exhaustion taking roots, and knowing that you will repeat this seemingly perpetual cycle.  That’s present-day life in Livingston Parish, Louisiana, for my family, lifelong friends, people who taught me, those who encouraged me, those I’ve battled, those who drive me up a wall, those for whom I would take a bullet, those I’ve yet to meet, and those who I may never meet.

Sheriff Jason Ard yesterday gave a preliminary estimate of 75 percent of the homes in the Parish impacted with between 2 and 8 feet of water, and with rivers in the southern portion yet to crest the numbers will likely increase.

Approximations are that between 15 and 20 thousand rescues took place although that number is surely higher considering the efforts of citizens using their own boats to bring people to dry ground.

With waters receding in areas, the number of shelters for the displaced dropped from 8,500 to 1,244.

According to the Twitter feed of Dr. Mathew Sitkowski of the Weather Channel, the total rainfall from 12 to 14 August over southern Louisiana was the equivalent to more than 4 trillion gallons of water, enough to easily fill 6 million Olympic size swimming pools.  In Watson which is located in the northeastern section of Livingston Parish and home to the Live Oak Eagles who back in school days was one of our district rivals, 31.39 inches of rain fell during this span of time.  Even more rain followed.

Where, What, How, and Why

The Parish is a bit larger than 700 square miles in area with a population of approximately 138,000 residents.  I describe the location as being at the top of the foot, near the ankle, of the boot shaped state.  The population has tripled since I was a kid running barefoot through the fields and doubled since I graduated from the public school system.

Yep the area has changed, and I’m not talking about an additional weight of what?

(1 US Gallon weighs approximately 8.344 pounds – the history prof asked the physics prof)

– a trillion has 12 zeroes following the 1 so the water weight would be approximately the result of this equation:

  • 4,000,000,000,000 X 8.344  =  33,376,000,000,000,000 pounds  (maybe)

– the physics prof has left, so she can’t grade my head figures, but correct or not that’s a heck of a lot of water.

Returning to my comfort zone and professional history hat,

I recall stories as a child and later conducting formal oral history interviews with folks talking about how much changed when portions of Interstate 12 opened in 1967, ten years after its initial planning.  By 1976, the approximately 86-mile span was completed.  I wonder how many interstate overpasses had cattle guards just before entrances, and those cattle guards stayed well into in adulthood.   It’s only in the past 10 or so years that large gas stations and convenience stores with chain restaurants inside appeared off the Albany/Springfield Exit 32.  In many ways that exit seems more like the Walker exit of old, but today Walker is like Denham Springs and getting off on Range at Denham is just like exits in Baton Rouge.  Did I say the area has changed?

It causes one to ponder how a nondescript area to outsiders stood through well-known forces of nature.  Before my time, Hurricanes Betsy and Camille left their marks but came and went.  For me personally, Hurricane Andrew is memorable because of the power outages for weeks and trees downed.  As I discovered recently up here in Maryland, operating a chainsaw and swinging an axe are really like riding a bicycle.  With Andrew I helped cut pathways through toppled trees on many a road for folks to be able to return to their homes.

There were other storms during my time in the Free State, but I wasn’t there when Hurricane Katrina ravaged the area.  I sat in my office in Georgia watching live feeds on the computer as students and other faculty saw me with that look of disbelief on my face.  Apart from my stress of not being able to contact family and friends for days and being unable to get to the state because of all the damage in surrounding states, my neck of Livingston Parish stood up well to Katrina’s fury.

Hurricane Rita hit the area a bit harder, Hurricane Isaac brought nearly 2 feet of rain as recorded in Hammond, Louisiana, about 8 miles to the east in Tangipahoa Parish, and Hurricane Gustav delivered the most damage to family and friends until…

Until rain.  No named storm, no high winds, no storm surges, not even a tropical system but just continuous pounding rain.

I know that many people think of Louisiana as flood prone.  It is in many areas, but that’s not the case in Livingston Parish.  Yes, the Parish has areas that flood even beyond the official flood zones.  Residents, however, know those areas.  They prepare, they sandbag, and most will evacuate with time to spare.

August 2016, however, was different.  It was historic.  It was unprecedented.  Rivers crested at more than double flood stage.

Areas that never had standing water saw not inches but feet.  My Dad’s house at the edge of my Grandpa’s old berry farm never saw any water from the little river running north and south about a mile to the east for at least 100 years.  This time, however, one could have floated a bateau over land cleared of pine 100 + years ago and farmed by generations.  Unlike the years before my birth, the property had the additional protection afforded by Hwy 43 running north and south at the eastern property line standing as a ley.  It’s really difficult to see photos of that land after this rain and flooding because the possibility never really crossed my mind.  I shudder to envision years past and the state of the property back then if the backflow flood waters did not have to breach about a 5 foot barrier as they did the other day.

Inside the town limits of Albany, the water reached levels that seemed improbable, no impossible, right up until it rose that high.  Homes and businesses that had never taken water inside the structure from every storm past, had floodwaters lapping over the peaks of their rooftops.  Prior to a few days ago, these businesses may have experienced inches of water standing in the parking lots.  Some even sandbagged “just in case” and for an additional barrier from the wake created by trucks on the highway.  With this “no name” storm, wake came from boats as one unfamiliar with the area might not realize that a road existed underneath the equivalent of being out on Lake Maurepas unless their prop struck the hood of a submerged 4-wheel drive truck.

Earlier I typed “little river” because we do call the Lil Natalbany a river even though the official classification would be as a stream.  A stream that is only navigable by boat a few miles downstream.  One can float a canoe or a pirogue under the Highway 190 bridge, but you would need to walk a bit before floating again near the Old Baton Rouge Highway bridge.  Launching something with a small outboard motor requires going further south to Springfield.  From there on the Natalbany one could eventually make their way into Lake Maurepas and then go to Lake Ponchartrain, Lake Borgne, and then into the Gulf of Mexico.  If I would ever want that adventure, I’d drive just a bit further toward Killian and start out on either the Blood or Tickfaw rivers and even then that would be quite a lengthy boat trip.

My point is that nobody is to blame for this natural disaster.

Nobody started a fire intentionally or allowed one to get out of control and spread.

The vast majority of people were neither negligent nor unprepared with their property.

People did not try to wait knowing that doing so would necessitate others risking their own lives to save the foolish or stubborn who failed to heed to evacuation orders or recommendations.

This devastation happened, and I don’t think any technology could have prevented it from happening.  Historically I know that one must twist, bend, and really break comparables to other areas or eras to make them seem applicable.

I think that Governor John Bel Edwards made the initial disaster declaration and the formal request for a federal declaration in a timely fashion.  I think that President Obama signed the authorization much faster than what has been the norm by both he and the living presidents.  I think that FEMA Director W. Craig Fugate has been responsive from the very beginning.

There is, however, little that the federal or state government can do in the early stages at least that are not better handled by local government.

I don’t recall ever meeting the current Parish President, Layton Ricks, but even though I haven’t seen him in years or spoken to him since becoming Sheriff I do know Jason Ard along with many of the elected officials in the local communities.  These individuals, their teams, and so, so, so, many volunteers worked to the point of exhaustion and then an additional 8 or so hours after exhaustion had set in before collapsing in worn out heaps before starting over again the second they caught their breath.  Nobody could have asked or expected more from these locals and the assistance they rendered to friends, neighbors, and strangers.  Volunteers coming from other areas did the same.

Nobody had time for photo-ops, and honestly using resources to provide for officials when so many were and are in need is a genuine waste in my opinion.  At the federal level it makes far more sense to have Director Fugate or Secretary Jeh Johnson of Homeland Security on the scene versus President Barack Obama or any President or Vice-President at this stage in the process.

I know that many people are creating political arguments by trying to compare reactions and press negativity between President George W. Bush after Hurricane Katrina and President Obama today.  I think both men were/are in that proverbial danged if they do and danged if they don’t as they’re caught between a rock and hard place and up “pit creek without a shaddle.” [I try to maintain a family friendly blog].

I’ll suggest another presidential comparison that makes more sense in a moment, but right now I think it’s fair to ask if a visit by President Obama would bring more press coverage to the natural disaster?  Perhaps, but the coverage would be focused more upon the President than the residents affected.

You see this disaster lacks the sensationalism because people acted like human beings with love and kindness to others instead of a selfish manner.

This disaster lacks the political opportunism to capitalize upon talking points.  That’s apparent when the major scandal is the President at Martha’s Vineyard instead of being in photos and distracting those with more pressing concerns than seeing the President or anyone for that matter who is not going to be doing a lot of physical labor.

This disaster as it is now will not sell ads.  The people affected directly are working ripping out floors, sheetrock, drywall, insulation, and shoring up frames and don’t have the time or desire to gussy up for TV or have their words taken out of context.  The entertainment and news limited to paragraph level attention spans can find people to criticize the President or anyone else without the inconvenience of seeing real people doing what they need to do.

In my opinion someone like Mike Huckabee with his Facebook post badmouthing the President is in direct contrast to what the people of Livingston Parish are doing which is pulling together.  As a historian, it’s sad to think that on and within this hodgepodge of disconnected islands surrounded by floodwaters the ideas expressed by Abraham Lincoln are being carried out while someone like Huckabee who stands under that GOP banner today relies upon blaming others.

I think the Advocate, the major daily in Baton Rouge, just printed the most ludicrous editorial in quite some time with “Our Views: Vacation or not, a hurting Louisiana needs you now, President Obama.”

Advocate editors, what can President Obama according to the Constitution of the United States of America do to assist the state any more than he has at this stage in the cleanup, rebuilding, and recovery process?

Do you really want him or anyone from outside to ruin all the work being done by the local officials and residents?

Do you want him to replace Director Fugate with Michael Brown so that there can be another FEMA cluster$#%^ like during Katrina?

If the Advocate wanted real assistance, why not use the power of the pen to encourage Congress to cut short their recess.

Yes I know that the House calendar deems the month of August as “District Work Weeks” of 5 days each, but editors you do understand that additional funding beyond what is already allocated to FEMA and the SBA will require Congressional approval.  The US Senate calendar terms recesses as days not in session, but either Mr. Vitter or Mr. Cassidy could show up and take control of the chamber floor during one of the pro forma sessions which SCOTUS declared were in fact actual work sessions.

In 1965 following Hurricane Betsy, US Senator Russell Long did reach out to President Lyndon Johnson to visit and see the damage for himself.

Senator Long did not want LBJ’s “best people,” but the President himself.  In 1965, however, I believe that more people respected the position regardless of who occupied the Oval Office.  People may have disagreed, and I’m typing sarcastically here but there were no differences of opinion about foreign or domestic happenings during the Johnson administration.  Seriously I think some college students today in the survey level courses seem to think of Vietnam and the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s like it was the Olympic games or disagreement about a traffic camera.

Unlike federal politics today, Russell Long had the ability to get things done in the Senate as did Allen Ellender.

Over in the House, the state had F. Edward Hebert, Hale Boggs, Ed Willis, Joe Waggoner, Otto Passman, Gillis Long, T. Ashton Thompson, and Jimmy Morrison of Hammond representing the 6th District.

Before someone tries the political party argument, keep in mind that this was in the age of the Solid South.  Although all members of the Democratic party, these men were part of the de facto two-party system in the state of Long and anti-Long Democrats.  Even mellowed by age, Jimmy Morrison remained a maverick between the factions.  This delegation had seniority.  This delegation played pivotal roles in most legislation going through Congress.  This delegation was visible in the small communities and responded to the poor farmer, shrimper, laborer, and the wealthy and powerful in the same fashion.  They represented their constituents, not special interests.

Today, I see very few members of Congress who command even an iota of the respect and influence of the any member of the Louisiana delegation during Hurricane Betsy.

Regardless, however, listening a recording of that conversation between Russell Long and Lyndon Johnson with Ed Willis listening in on the Long end, it’s about upcoming elections. Senator Long knew that he along with Senator Ellender and the Louisiana House delegation would secure financial assistance from Congress.  Today, I don’t think the Louisiana delegation can be confident of receiving additional assistance from their peers in other states.  In this case by not showing up, President Obama is keeping resources available for those in need and he has provided what is in his power as Commander in Chief as requested by the Governor.

You can listen and follow a transcript to the conversation between Senator Long and President Johnson at the link below:

I will note that Congressman Cedric Richmond penned at letter to Director Fugate and other members of the Louisiana delegation did sign a letter requesting expedited actions from the President.

Political posturing, we don’t need it.

The press, well I am grateful that we have a number of journalists in print and on television who do extraordinary jobs investigating, reporting, and informing the general public.

Their job is made harder by the public relations people and commentators who try to pass themselves off as journalists or are mistaken to be in that field by the general public.

Advocate why not publish a story like that of a lady who has celebrated her 90th birthday for the past 4 or 5 years?  She is sweet and generous as can be and has lived in the same home for 90 years.  In that house she reared I think 3 children, experienced the grief of discovering the body of her husband who passed away while plowing a field, loved many grandchildren, great-grandchildren, and great-great-grandchildren along with the children and grandchildren of others from her generation.  She can still bake bread, tend to her flowers, but at the moment doesn’t really understand why she cannot go back to her house.

As she responded to one of the great grandchildren:

Flood you say…sweetie that house hasn’t flooded in 90 years.  The river is way over yonder, and Pappy, that would be my Daddy’s Daddy so your really great and greater Pappy built up the banks years before I was born when he had to build a dam to conserve water. We took down that dam but that river isn’t going to stray anywhere.   This old house and land doesn’t flood, sweetie.

She’s right as always except that old house had about 6 feet of water inside, and when it requires a boat to get within sight of the house what can you say because she has confused the highway with the larger river about 5 miles away.  Honestly, from a photograph I mistook the highway for that river.  That’s how deep the flooding is.

Sorry editors at the Advocate, but your focus should be on the area and providing accurate reports to your readers and to the wire services.  This flooding is a disaster, and it really strikes home for me because that is my hometown.  Those are people that I know, love, and respect.

Even with the flooding back home in my neck of the woods, there is another disaster happening at the same time with those wildfires out in California.

I cannot guestimate the number of communities destroyed by tornadoes.

Not that far from where I live now, over in Ellicot City, MD, they experienced a dramatic flood that for all intents and purposes knocked out the entire downtown area.

It was a few weeks back and only now are business owners being allowed in to see what is left of their establishments.  In 5 days, the area will be closed for a month to repair the damaged infrastructure.  I’ve seen President Obama at some of these disaster areas but not all.  It’s no different with any other president.  The sad fact is that someone, somewhere is suffering at this very moment and at multiple locations quite a number of people are suffering at the same time.

The President is danged if he does and danged if he doesn’t and that will not change for whoever follows him into the Oval Office.  No man or no woman can be everyplace at once.

Editors at the Advocate, you will need to interview real people with real troubles and not pick soundbites from the President or anyone else.  Why not talk to some of the old reporters who used to work at the paper?  They were journalists and not media hogs focused solely upon profit.

So what are the people facing this adversity in Louisiana going to do?

They’re going to try their best, maintain their faith, and carry on.  They’ll be sad, hurt, angry, and frustrated.  They’ll unleash attacks upon others just as a means of coping.  They’ll also do what they can to assist others facing the same problems that they themselves face.

That’s not unique to my hometown, my Parish, or my birth state.  I’ve seen that everywhere that I have lived.  To me that’s the United States of America but to be more exact that’s human beings.

The people of my hometown, Parish, neighboring communities and parishes may be left with flooded homes, tons of building materials, possessions, and keepsakes destined for the trash, and if truly lucky a slab and perhaps part of a frame so that rebuilding does not have to start from scratch.  It’s not politics, partisanship, but it’s a sad fact of life.

All the result of some rain from a storm that never even warranted having a name.

Does anyone care?  Should anyone care? 

The people affected care, and We the People care but apparently that doesn’t sell advertising or provide enough for some in the media to know where to look, what to ask, and most importantly when to listen.

Why Black Lives Matter Does Not Diminish Me

I’m thankful for an exchange with a former high school classmate which made me think about something that might sense to some.  She posted a couple of memes with scenes from the movie Remember the Titans in response to some of the racial protests.  Remember the scene following the first victory where Sunshine took Petey and Blue into that business to get something to eat and to celebrate — his treat?  The owner walked up and said boys we are filled up tonight, Sunshine asked what do you mean there are free tables everywhere?  The owner replied this is my establishment and I can refuse the right to serve anyone and that means you too hippy boy.  Now if you boys want something to eat you can go around back to the kitchen.  Folks that was in the early 1970s.

A number of places at that time still proclaimed that “White Lives Matter” which had been the slogan with the majority of places 20, 15, 10, and even a year or two earlier.

That’s why the expression “Black Lives Matter” does not threaten me or seem racist to me.  It doesn’t diminish me because nobody has proclaimed or proven that “White Lives Do NOT Matter.”  I see it as “Black Lives Matters just the same as any other lives.”  When “White Lives Matter” was prominently displayed within society, it did not include any other lives.

A sad truth in US History is that during certain periods the lives of the Native American Indian did not matter; the lives of the Asian immigrant or even an American born of Asian ancestry did not matter; the lives of a Latino or at times even regions in Europe did not matter; women did not matter for all intents and purposes at times; Roman Catholics did not matter at times; the non-landowner did not matter at times; the life of a farmer did not matter at times; and we can just continue.

How many times have the same people upset about “Black Lives Matter”contended that Christians are being persecuted in the United States?  Much too often “persecution” means being treated the same as some other group.

How many times have you talked about suing because some business owner doesn’t like your politics and threatened to not serve you?

The count in the Albany and Springfield area was ridiculous because apparently some who opposed the ad valorem mill dedication to schools and lambasted a teacher who took offense at their challenge of the need for new schools also belonged to I think a health club operated by the spouse of that teacher who offered to cancel any or all membership contracts.  That wasn’t acceptable to those who opposed the tax and levied accusations discrimination and persecution which could result in a lawsuit.

If life were fair (which it is not) and privilege did not exist, then why insist that rules which have always been in your favor remain in your favor?

I don’t feel threatened or diminished because Black Lives Do Matter and matter just as much as the lives of anyone else in society today.  Historically that wasn’t always the predominate attitude and while we today should not be blamed for the past, the frequency by which we forget history calls for repeated reminders of history — both the pretty and the ugly, happy and sad.

How a local school becomes lost

I’m sad for Albany and Springfield today along with the Hungarian Settlement between the two schools.

Today there was an election in both areas of Livingston Parish to increase the millage rates for ad valorem taxes dedicated to the respective schools.  In Springfield the proposal was to build a new high school.  In Albany it was to build a new elementary school.  Neither area has paid ad valorem taxes dedicated to schools for the past four (4) years.  The new millage proposals would have resulted in a significant property tax increase for some.

Both proposals failed, but that is not why I’m sad.

I’m sad because of the lies, disdain, condemnation, jealousy, selfishness, and hate.

Me personally, I cannot offer a learned opinion as to whether or not new elementary or high school buildings are needed.  Why?  Because even though I did enjoy a girls’ basketball game during my brief trip back in January and pointed out the state championship banners to a distinguished academic and internationally known physicist who flew down from DC with me for a conference presentation in New Orleans, I did not evaluate any facilities.  Heck I cannot tell you what grades are at the old high school building or at the old elementary school.  I only recall being at the junior high campus once and that was to help judge a social studies fair and to talk to some students  with a watered down version of my “History in Your Backyard” presentation that I once delivered to a number of communities.

Down in Springfield, I know I attended a playoff game years ago there between Albany and Newman.  I remember Archie Manning signing autographs on torn paper cups, but I don’t remember if Peyton played on that basketball team or if it was Eli (it may have been Cooper).  I may have driven past the school on many occasions since including back in January, but I do not recall being on campus since.

Admittedly my gut feeling is that a need exists for the new and additional campuses.  It’s not because of the age of the structures or the fact that a good portion of maintenance over the years has utilized the donated labor of students, teachers, administrators, and members of the community.  Money came from donations along with school and community fundraisers because tax dollars never seemed to be enough.

My gut feeling is that new and additional campuses are needed because the area has grown in development and population.  Get off at ole Exit 32 and head north and it looks like you got off the interstate in freakin’ Walker or Denham Springs, and that impression has nothing to do with the removal of the cattle guard.  Such development has its positive aspects, but admittedly I’m a bit nostalgic for the way things were.

Still I’m sad today not because of the past, and I really don’t care if anyone favors or opposes the millages on the respective ballots.  They do increase the tax burden for many.  Regardless of vote here, this burden will increase for all due to the state’s budget disaster.  Blame the new governor all you want, but that blame should be directed to his time as a state legislator.  His votes at that time aren’t the issue.  The issue is that he along with 143 other people were members of a body elected to represent the people while Bobby and his minions dismantled and devoured the state like boll weevils in a cotton field.

Opponents can spout welfare, Obama, and all these other reasons, but remember that thanks to Bobby and the “trickle down” mantra your state tax dollars paid $2.7 million of the $9 million Tom Cruise made in salary to film a movie.  Your state taxes paid Valero $10 million to create a total of 43 jobs in Norco.  Your parish tax dollars help subsidize Bass Pro and who knows how many Wally Worlds.  Yes these businesses have jobs, but are they the same pay and benefits an employee earned at a local Mom and Pop?  Yes these businesses bring in outside business, but do the financials offset the breaks?  What happened to the local and Mom and Pop businesses who did not receive the tax credits given to these giant chains?

Combine all the free loaders in the state, and they take significantly less than what is doled out in “corporate welfare” at the upper rungs of the economic ladder.  Blame Obama and the Democrats at the federal level but realize that Louisiana is one of the states that receive far more in federal assistance than it pays in federal taxes.  My current neighbors see our federal taxes subsidize people of Louisiana, both working and the so-called free loaders, and many people I know in Louisiana have more money saved and buying power than we do because of the cost of living differences.

It boils the bile in my gut, and I want to explode in anger because when I hear Members of Congress talking about “lazy good-for-nothing” people living off the hard work of others, they aren’t talking about the people I labeled as “takers” back home.  They are talking about the hardworking honest people who bust their tails to put food on the table for their families; people like my Dad and Albany and Springfield classmates.  That’s bull@#$^, but it’s a fact of national politics.

Now why did I type “lies, disdain, condemnation, jealousy, selfishness, and hate?”

The amounts some claim that these ad valorem taxes will increase property taxes are insane and flat out lies.  This is a millage spike, especially considering that neither community has paid ad valorem taxes for schools in the past 4 years and rates before that were artificially low.  Still why lie about the amount?  If it’s an honest mistake on your part, I think that’s an argument in favor of both school millage increases.

I typed disdain and condemnation because it’s always someone else’s fault.  They claim that teachers aren’t doing their jobs.  Well in some respects that is true but they aren’t doing their jobs as teachers because they are forced to spend time trying to parent the students.  Some even want teachers to be the religious instructors as well even though these same people contend those teachers aren’t doing their jobs.

Folks I have yet to confront anything strong enough to kick God out of anything.  Now I think it’s possible not to let God in, but once God is there it’s the people who leave.  Nothing has ever prevented me from praying or worshipping whenever I choose.  My reason to pray or worship is not for others to see me in the act; it’s because I feel the need; have the desire; and have the hope and responsibility that my body of work as a whole will help and inspire others to treat others as neighbors and equals.  It’s not easy being the only person who looks different or believes differently than the thousand in the same area, but at times it is necessary.

Jealousy and selfishness because some are arguing well I have more property and will pay more than you so your opinion is worth less than mine.  Some propose why should I pay for others who will pay less or nothing.  It’s a dog eat dog world, survival of the fittest.  Start building levies then higher than the sky because if your small pond overflows or if something breaches your levy and you find yourself in a larger pond, remember that your survival of the fittest still applies.

Just because something was good enough for you or me doesn’t mean that others should have the same ceilings or be faced with the same limitations.  What if the residents say 25 years ago had not paid millages in the 80 range?  What if they had received that 4 year break of zero ad valorem taxes for schools?  Heck what if they had only agreed to pay initial rates below 50?

Hate is a strong word and perhaps unjust, but why didn’t people castigating those supporting these proposals now bring up their concerns back at the school board meetings?  If they were uninformed about what was happening, perhaps they don’t have enough knowledge or desire to learn enough to make them qualified to discuss the matter.  That’s why lies and innuendo are necessary to bolster their position.  It takes work to develop alternative measures, and just like national politics even locals are discovering that it’s much easier to just blame someone else, complain, wait for someone else to fix things, and find fault no matter what.

I’ve seen some well thought out reasons to vote NO.  Some of those I personally would not consider valid, but I certainly respect them because they are facts and honest assessments.  I can say the same about voting YES.  Some I consider as valid arguments and others are not convincing to me.

I do not have a vote.  Honestly I’m glad because I do not have enough information to make what I consider an informed choice.  I can say, however, that if I were vehemently opposed I would have been speaking out at the school board meetings prior to the election.  I’d bombard them with a narrative much longer this post, and I would have at minimum triple the amount of citations to the current codes, historical data, and comparative analyses.  That’s an ole fashioned approach, and it takes both knowledge and effort.

My opinion is that this election is sad result from many perspectives including the influence of inaccurate information, some possibly malicious in origin, but disheartening because of an apparent lack of knowledge of Louisiana constitutional law and Parish governance.  STEM disciplines are needed and should be stressed.  Many fulfilling and necessary vocations require skills and knowledge that are acquired in manners other than higher education.  Degrees do not equate success and multiple paths exist to careers to provide for one’s family and to be vital parts of a community.  Disciplines within Humanities and Social Sciences are often discredited for a lack of job specific training, but even rudimentary knowledge in fields such as history and political science would have minimized the effects of the misrepresentations and votes based upon false fears because the system has already negated that possibility.  Fields of sociology, art, languages, music, all help us to communicate which even with technology often seems a lost art today.

I’m not “friends” on social media with the people former classmates told me were some of the most vocal in opposition.  I do recognize the families because of last names, but most of these people I do not know personally.  Some screenshots sent to me, however, illustrate why we need to emphasize education in the Humanities and Social Sciences because many of those vehemently opposed had no clue about where to find election results before the late night local news out of either Baton Rouge or New Orleans.

I no longer reside in the area so I’m not qualified to offer learned opinions as to whether or not the new construction in both Albany and Springfield was in fact needed.  I’m just thankful that during my public schooling members of the community were willing to approve even higher millage rates dedicated to the schools than the amounts proposed on this ballot.  Thank you to people like Ms. Nancy and Mr. Russell, Mr. Jessie (RIP), my Mom (RIP), Uncle (RIP), who may have not been official teachers but gave and sacrificed for community, school, and we students because they wanted better for us than they had.

It’s funny to current colleagues how I can relate grades K through 12 as Ms. Mary through her brother Coach; principals along that path being Mr. Johnny, Mr. Gerald, and Mr. P; caring teachers too numerous to name without unintentionally leaving off some who influenced me well beyond the classroom.  Funny because despite degrees later earned, I still begin answering the question of where did I go to school by saying Albany regardless of my residence at the time or if the person asking answers the same question with a place like Doyle or Live Oak or today when their answer is usually Johns Hopkins, Harvard, Emory, or Duke.  See I was blessed to attend a community centered public school.

If it’s easy enough to just point a finger at someone, then it won’t be long or take much for someone to be pointing a finger back.  They were them right up until the point that we became one of them and then they and we were us.

Fabrications and Misinterpretations of Takers and “Takers” with Louisiana numbers

Numbers are transparent and “math is the language of objectivity” as Professor Corbello writes.  While he addresses the perils of data collection and interpretation but does not use the term statistics directly, he is astutely aware of how easy it becomes to skew statistics either to prove or disprove a given thesis.  One issue in both political science and political history is that too many tend to believe assumptions without even a cursory review of the numbers.  The issue then becomes not one of misinterpretation but one of fabrication.  In other words a lie keeps getting tossed about until it finally sticks.

Most of us who teach either political science or history can take the data provided by Professor Corbello and twist the numbers to support any point along an ideological scale.

It’s difficult; however, to use the numbers to sugarcoat his proposition.

“Imagine if we in Louisiana really did have to pay for our own spending!”

One thing I discovered only after leaving the Hungarian Settlement and for that matter other places not adjacent to either the Hill or K Street is that these “takers,” “welfare kings and queens,” and lazy good for nothings being blamed for all the ills of society are not the dope heads and scums of the Earth that do exist. Yes, those are harsh characterizations on my part, but there are many who demand something for nothing because they feel entitled.  Many of us can put a relative on that list.

Those folk I characterize above are different from those who have slipped and need a hand; those who have faced forces beyond their control; those who will return any kindness and assistance offered many times over as soon as they have the capability.  Let me make that point clear.

On the Hill or K Street I’ve discovered that the “takers” are usually people like me, like my Dad, my Grandparents, my teachers, my colleagues, and my friends.  These “takers” are people that I’ve seen personally spill gallons of sweat doing physical labor from before sun up to well after sun down.

The takers are those who have worked for everything they have and sacrifice to provide for their family.  To me these people are the heart and soul of America, and they come in different colors, genders, and beliefs.  At times you don’t respect specific things about who they are or what they do, but still you respect the person because you know that person.

Still, it is reality.  People like you, people like me, we are both “the takers” and takers.

The transparency of numbers makes it clear that we rely upon others for much of the government services we often take for granted.  We work.  We try to assist others. We are vital cogs within our communities.  Still, we cannot fund the building of new roads or even the repair of existing ones without government involvement.  Dollar for dollar may not equate but service bartered in exchange balances the ledger.  To appreciate that, however, one must be acquainted with the teeter-totter upon which most ride and know what it is like to share a seat.  For whatever reason those connections seem to fade as one goes higher.  A lot of truth resides in the saying of grounded in reality.

If you’re wondering where Louisiana representatives are as some sweat the fate of education, healthcare; as kids and their parents cry not knowing if necessary programs for their very well-being will be funded; as the elderly who built that which has been neglected to the state of crumbling watch their earned retirement get drained; these representatives are not laser focused on the special session; they have to make time to fundraise for themselves.

Note:  I did take an undergraduate survey level course from Professor Corbello at Southeastern years ago.

This little piece offers another illustration of why I thank the Good Lord for being a product of a public high school and universities coupled with what one discovers out in blackberries strung through hog wire, picking strawberries, gathering taters, listening in a packing shed, out on the river, out on the lake, standing in a K&B stockroom, and sitting on either a tailgate, stump, coke crate, or disconnected cement water fountain.  I’m thankful because all offer not just rote facts but adaptation and communication.  Arts and Science are connected along with the Humanities.

SLU associate professor says Advocate columnist can only arrive at state expenditure numbers by ‘making them up’

The Path of I With Invisible Illness

mountain sunset 2 The Path of I

Respect, yet fear not any mountains in the distance for they are only yet to be climbed –

When you reach that destination remember to turn around –

To see where you came from and to help the next in that line –

And to appreciate those travels before embarking toward the next unknown ground.

~RH, LAB LouisianaBoy

Beer, Boudin, Louisiana Legislature In Sanity not Session

Today is the day back home in Louisiana. A decade or so from now when I’m teaching a Modern Southern History course, I’ll probably paraphrase from Don McClean:

I can’t remember if I cried

When I saw what they’d done to that nutria’s hide

But something touched me deep inside

The day that sanity died

So bye-bye, crawfish and boudin pie

Paddled my bateau to the levee, while the water was high

And them fishin’ boys were drinkin’ Jax, Dixie, an’ Turbodog with their pie

Singin’ “This’ll be the day sanity will die

This’ll be the day sanity will die”

The legislative session ends at 6:00 pm. The state constitution mandates a “balanced” budget, and the $1.6 billion shortfall must be addressed.

In past years, “balanced” relied upon one time monies, non-recurring revenue, and creative and not so creative accounting switcheroos.   This year, however, those pots of money hidden in the marsh have sunk like Bayou Corne.  The silver and gold stored along the Gulf Coast has eroded faster than the Governor’s sand berms genius.

No today is the day when all the business incentives and tax breaks which were “good” for the past years are now “corporate welfare” in Governor Bobby’s talking point of the day in other states to try to pull the wool over the eyes of some GOP interest group in a delusional quest for the presidency. Well at least the Governor did time one “message of the day” correctly.  There are No Go Zones, except they are for many of the best scholars and entrepreneurs in Louisiana at the institutions of higher education and medical facilities given the efforts to transform all into waste dumps.




Members of the House Ways and Means Committee have already reached out to Grover Norquist and Americans for Tax Reform for clarification of how their oath to the Norquist Pledge can be upheld while everyone considers whether or not pledges of allegiance to the Louisiana State Constitution and the Constitution of the United States of America are applicable to elected representatives of the people of the Bayou State.  Seriously, that really happened.

I certainly respect the analysis of that letter by retired State Budget Director Stephen Winham, and observations by Tom Aswell at Louisiana Voice, and Professor Mann at Something Like the Truth.

Their analyses are certainly more credible in more ways than “Carter has liver pills” to the response received from Grover Norquist.

{It appears that the Norquist reply has been removed from the Americans for Tax Reform website as the link provided in the Picayune no longer works.}  The Hayride, however, pasted a copy of the reply which is linked below

Just review the following from the reply:

“Members of the Louisiana House of Representatives couldn’t even find the political will this year to pass legislation that would end the use of taxpayer resources for the collection of government union dues. The fact that such a commonsense reform couldn’t get done is disconcerting.”

Norquist is referring to HB 418.

In Louisiana one can decide to have practically anything automatically deducted from their state paychecks.  Like it or not that system has been in place for years so resources and costs in that area are practically nil.  Well practically isn’t zero some argue, but seriously it takes a bushel, handbasket, and a string of 3 yard dump trucks to get enough nils to equal a mill (1/10 of 1 percent).

This bill was nothing more than an attack upon teachers.  Please see the letter to the Advocate by Professor Dayne Sherman from Talk About the South linked below.

The Picayune article written by Professor Mann.

And the comments written by Noel Hammatt who was a member of the Baton Rouge School Board but who I describe as an academic researcher of educational issues who has the ability to discuss both in terms of theory and in practice.  Perhaps I am mistaking his current position and while I do not know the gentleman we have mutual friends, and I respect the amount of time and usage of citations in his opinion pieces and analyses.

Not even the sage nutria paddling a bateau beside the great gator riding a unicorn could guess what will happen today in the state legislature.

I’d rate the chances of a veto session taking place following the close of business today as anywhere between slim and none based upon historical precedent and the current membership of the state senate even more so than that on the House side, so without a veto session which honestly would still shudder state government for a few weeks in all likelihood until the session convenes the scenarios are these:

SAVE fails and Bobby Jindal vetoes all or parts of the budget to maintain his allegiance to Grover Norquist and dreams of living in the White House.

SAVE, as idiotic as the proposal is since it does absolutely nothing other than appease Norquist with a bad magic trick, passes the legislature and becomes law.

SAVE passes the House by a simple majority using a rules interpretation, gets challenged and is overturned.

Press in Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina, and “conservative” opinionators critique SAVE as the do nothing farce that it is resulting in a Bobby flip flop and veto to maintain his delusional presidential quest resulting in the continued cuts to higher education and health care services.

My sage nutria in a bateau get a reality TV show and donates all external revenue to the state.

I’m not holding my breath on the latter, and I anticipate, somewhere down the line, that I’ll be thinking of the Great BB King to ease my Blues with my memory of Don McClean as I croon:

I can’t remember if I cried

When I saw what they’d done to that nutria’s hide

But something touched me deep inside

The day that sanity died.