TopOfTheCircle.com

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Archive for Life

Sept. 21, 2017 — A refugee crisis with a significant twist

Over the last month, enormous hurricanes have criss-crossed the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean, leaving death and destruction in their collective wake.

When it comes to the Caribbean islands alone, it’s estimated that the devastation could affect 12 million people. That’s about the size of the dislocation of the Syrian refugee crisis the last couple of years.

Except it’s happening right at our doorstep.

And with donor organizations stretched to their limits, and with understandable donor fatigue settling in, the American response to this crisis needs to be something more than just filling sandbags, more than just a photo opportunity.

This is the kind of relief that should rival The Marshall Plan in terms of resources and people. National Guard, Coast Guard, you name it. It is going to demand a significant response not only from the government and industry, but people.

This is going to require an increase in blood donations, permanent repairs and hardening of electrical infrastructure, and, frankly, the sense that Americans’ capacity to give is not out of a sense of weakness, but of strength.

And I think it will also take a realization that people fleeing from the storm aren’t just islanders, but a significant number — namely Puerto Ricans and Virgin Islanders — are American citizens, with all of the rights and privileges thereto, save for being able to have voting representation in Congress.

Last night, I set up a Facebook chat between members of my family, who are in communication with cousins who are in Puerto Rico during the storm. My aunt, is, thankfully, inland and on high ground. My cousins are scattered all over the place, but we did get some good reports about their condition and whereabouts.

And then, the conversation turned to what our family could do in the aftermath of the storm. Offers of lodging were made; if necessary, our cousins could come to one of several of my family members here on the Continental U.S. and stay until they can get back on their feet.

I was proud to read the tone of the conversation.

Because this kind of generosity is who we are as Puerto Ricans; nay, as Americans.

And I hope politicians in Washington realize the same.

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Sept. 1, 2017 — A milepost for 19 years

It was 19 years ago this month when the first words of this website were first set to HTML code.

Of course, much has happened since then. We’ve documented some of the excellence that has occurred in field hockey and lacrosse, and watching the ways that teams like Voorhees Eastern (N.J.), the University of Maryland, University of North Carolina, The College of New Jersey, and Owings Mills McDonogh (Md.) have created dominant athletic powerhouses.

We’ve seen players and teams succeed, other manage spectacular failures. We’ve seen astounding growth in girls’ high school lacrosse which is just starting to flow through to the collegiate game. We’ve seen field hockey fighting to hang on with expansion in some places, albeit with retrenchments in others.

But something has also happened in the last couple of days that has given your founder sudden pause. USA Field Hockey has released the rosters of five women’s national Masters teams for upcoming international tournaments.

On these rosters are more than two dozen players whom the Founder has seen play in high school.

That’s when you know you’re getting up there in age.

July 4, 2017 — A declaration

This morning, me and millions of others will pause for nine minutes to hear National Public Radio’s recitation of the Declaration of Independence.

As should you.

June 13, 2017 — A telcom change

A couple of weeks ago, this site took delivery on a new mobile phone. It’s an outstanding and outsized piece of technlogy called an iPhone 6 Plus.

This new large iPhone is allowing me to change a couple of things. You see, ever since starting my newspaper reporting career in the winter of 1987, I’ve made it a habit of carrying a reporter’s notebook and pen on my person at all times. A few years later, I figured out what kind of large travel wallets I could use to carry a reporter’s notebook and a thin pen along with cards and money.

But as I started using the mobile phone as a reporting tool, I would keep the notebook/wallet separate from the phone, but would pack a very thin ink pen with a magnetic stylus on the end in the phone case.

The week before activating the new phone was an opportunity to look out for a new phone case for this large behemoth of a phone. Oddly enough, aside from a plain back case and a tempered-glass shield, I found that I didn’t have to rely on a special case made only for this model.

Instead, what I’m using is a wallet that I got from a second-hand store for $1.97. There are special slots for cards, bills, change, the phone, and even a pen with a magnetic stylus on one end.

At the same time, I also took the opportunity to change cell phone providers. My family and I have been loyal to AT&T even after the telecom breakup of the 1980s. But when AT&T raised its price on unlimited data for the third time, I decided to shop around for another provider.

As you can see from the list of this site’s suppliers in the third column to the right, we’ve changed to a company called MintSIM. We’ll see how well this partnership works over the next year.

As for the phone itself: it has a lot of gewgaws and features I’ll likely never use, but it will, as usual, serve as a great reporting tool. I’m expecting WordPress to work a lot better on the larger screen.

May 6, 2017 — It’s not just “young and healthy” vs. “older and sicker”

The debate over the nature and delivery of health care in the United States over the last 25 years has centered on two different kinds of people buying into the health care exchange systems: younger (and presumably healthier) Americans, and older (and presumably sicker) seniors.

Only it’s not that simple. This week, an acquaintance of mine in the journalism field died at the age of 25. She had a lingering illness which required some very expensive steroid treatments that altered her appearance.

Three decades ago, a co-worker, barely older than me, had to undergo cancer treatment. As our company did not offer health insurance for its part-time workers, he had to go into debt in order to survive. Regrettably, he died with a half-million dollars in debt.

Last week, a friend of mine from the dance world started getting IV treatments for arthritis. She’s barely 22 years of age. Fortunately, she works for a Federal agency, which has a level of health care somewhat better than what is offered for the average American worker.

These three people are examples of people who do not fit the dichotomy that the defenders of health care bills would have you believe.

Instead, there are two ways that you have to think about health care. One is the loss-prevention model, and the other, the pools-of-money model.

Health care is very much a battle over money, rather than the goal of good health for everyone. Think about the enormous sums of money involved: hospital corporations, big pharma, insurance companies, and malpractice insurance lawyers.

They are enriching themselves at the expense of the very people they are supposed to help. How do we know? Overall, the U.S. health care system ranks in the mid-30s when it comes to quality.

But this is where the loss-prevention model should kick in. Two of the biggest expenses in health care are (1) the last six months of life; and (2) waste, fraud, and abuse.

For true health care reform, there are going to have to be enormous questions answered. Is the health care system ready for more hospice and palliative care rather than using extreme measures to keep patients alive? Is America ready to police the delivery of health care so that fly-by-night companies offering free scooters and knee braces can be investigated?

Ultimately, it will also come to a decision as to whether we, as a society, expect that health care isn’t something Wall Street is allowed to make money from.

You’re already hearing a number of pundits, even from the Cato Institute, speaking of health care as if it is a right.

The conversation, it seems, is changing.

 

 

May 1, 2017 — Illustrative of a philosophy

If you were on the site early this morning, around 6:30 a.m., you might have noticed something a little strange with the header at the top.

A few minutes after one version of the header went up, another would be uploaded, all depending on how much white space there was around the illustration on the right or how much of the illustration bled over into the column to its left.

Following on from the time about five years ago when we used differently-colored illustrations of our logo, we’ve been doing a lot of experimentation with the logo. You’ll have noticed, for example, that the “TopOfTheCircle” logo has actually appeared within a circle of some kind the last few months.

A lot of this is to keep the concept fresh after 20 years, but it is also to experiment with many of the fine free photo applications that are available for your mobile phone. I have a couple of favorites, one of which I have used to make the opening and closing credits for “Inside The Circle,” our long-form interview show.

Yep, a mobile phone app.

Yesterday, I got to making a handful more logo treatments starting with some clean photos of the logo printed on nine different sheets of colored paper. More of this to come.

Apr. 3, 2017 — Closing a chapter

Today, I processed a form called a 1099-S.

It’s a form to file taxes that covers proceeds from real estate transactions.

With a quick scan of the criteria proffered by the software program I use to file, it was decided that the information on the form did not have to be entered because of the lack of a capital gain and the modest proceeds — far from being in the Trump clan’s income bracket.

And then, one click in a bubble was all it took to close this chapter of our family’s history.

The sale of the house had actually closed last September. Family had long since taken the goods they wanted — a soup tureen, stemware, chairs, books, pictures.

Our parents left behind, to put it mildly, a lot of possessions. I remember that, in our move from Mississippi to New Jersey in mid-1976, that we packed exactly 176 paper boxes aboard that Red Ball moving truck.

Some of the odd tchochkes are now in other hands, which is, frankly, for the best. People move around a lot more than they used to, change jobs with the ease of changing clothes, and, with longer commutes, spend a lot less time at home than previous generations.

I think we’re less sentimental of a people than we used to be. Fewer of us keep that one item from our childhood that encapsulates our sense of self. For my father, it was a hand-written bus ticket from 1937 that was the first time he left home to go to school across the island of Puerto Rico from his home town of Ponce. It was a trip across mountains that took the better part of the day, rather than what you can do today, which is take Interstate PR-2 just 71 miles to the capital.

Today, processing tax returns has also become remarkably speedy. Instead of mailing out separate forms to receive checks in the mail in about two weeks, the average person can e-File in just minutes and receive an electronic payment in a few days.

It is remarkable that, given what I thought was going to be my most complicated return, it took me less than 40 minutes to complete.

“Is that all?” I thought on a number of occasions. “This can’t be that easy.”

 

Yep. It’s a bit too easy to close a 39-year chapter of our family history.