Archive for November, 2011

On self-control and birth control

Running starts surpass standing ones. Beginning New Year’s resolutions on January 1 is a standing start. Beginning them December 1 is a running start.

Let’s be honest. Can it really hurt? How long did you make it into 2011? February, March maybe? A December dash of momentum may be just what you need to get to April.

Think how much easier losing twenty pounds will be if you don’t gain ten of them to begin with. Think how well you’ll do with your exercise, reading and rest routines during the slow months if you can maintain them during the busiest.

We frail, fallen, and fickle folks constantly look for ways to overcome our frailty, fallen-ness and fickleness. We strive to strengthen our feeble knees.

We buy stuff and do stuff and attend stuff. Groups, seminars, books, videos, apps. The silver bullet is out there, we’re convinced, though it always seems to lie beyond the pot of gold.

Some of us recognize that’s what grace is for. Trying harder is not necessarily the antidote. Doubling down and pulling up only works for so long. We desperately need someone to do for us what we can not do for ourselves. Thank God advent is upon us.

Still, there is a place for discipline, for making tomorrow better than today. For staying focused and setting goals, for hurdling obstacles with sheer determination.

Every success has a failure quota. Practice your New Year’s resolutions in December. If you fail, you’ll be one step closer to success in 2012.

******

The cost of irresponsible behavior is about to get cheaper.

Thanks to a little-discussed Obamacare rule, health insurance policies must consider contraception a “preventive” care item beginning in 2013. By definition, preventive care must be provided free of charge.

Intentional or not, the message is clear: Pregnancy is a disease; as a matter of public health, your government will help you fight it.

All benefits, no costs. This is the theme of the Obama presidency.

The cost of the free birth control (which includes “morning after pills”) will of course be spread across all premium payers. Wealth will transfer from the moral to the immoral. From the responsible to the irresponsible. From the self-controlled to the not.

While I am shocked by the policy, I am also unsurprised. I fully expect to pay for others’ stomach band surgeries by the end of Obama’s term. We masses have needs and instincts and desires, after all.

And so we conceive ways to reverse natural laws, to eat burgers and lose weight, to have more sex but fewer kids.

Kids can be a nuisance, I won’t lie. Particularly at four in the morning. But they’re not polio.

They are highly inefficient. They can do little for themselves. But they’re not the flu.

They’re expensive especially when you factor in the opportunity cost of wages lost. But they’re still not hepatitis.

Our culture minimizes youth. Many kids endure lengthy hours of “professional” childcare. They experience wide varieties of family and custody situations. They witness extreme scenes in everyday situations like TV commercials during football games.

It follows that minimizing youth leads to preventing it altogether.

We stand at the intersection of a culture that cares little for kids and a government that promotes their prevention. I hope it’s time for change.

Kevin Thompson writes weekly for The Boerne Star. Subscribe to his columns at http://www.kwt.info.

Who closed my window?

When the computer tech support agent asked the caller to close all her windows, she replied, “That could take awhile. It’s 70 degrees here year-round and I live in a 4,000 square foot house.”

Before my father knew how to attach a document to an email, he discovered that his scanner would attach a scan to a message. So he would type and print his correspondence only to scan it back in for electronic delivery.

Technology doesn’t always make us more efficient.

Gen X, Y and beyond could write volumes on the humorous ways their parents and grandparents have interacted with technology. Not unlike the faux pas a new language learner makes in a foreign land, technology’s intended use can get lost in translation.

Try explaining to a novice why a digital video recorder (DVR) can’t fast forward through commercials in live TV mode. As incredible as digital recording is, it has yet to propel us into the future.

Being a geek today doesn’t mean you’ll “get” the latest technology tomorrow. Dad had every techno-gadget known to modern man three decades ago. E.g., a code-a-phone with a Morse code beeper that allowed you to replay messages remotely; an RCA video camera that required half your VCR in tow.

Dad also owned man’s first remote control. The contraption fit over the channel-changing knob on the wooden box television set and connected by wire to a handheld switch. Why stand up to rotate between your three channels when a robot can do it for you?

But today, dad can’t quite comprehend how an overseas missionary posts daily blog updates for his stateside supporters.

It’s happening to me, too. I once never met an electronic device I couldn’t set. Now, it feels like my intuition has ridden off with the car phone. My second grader, a true native in the land, whips through Wii screens and Netflix downloads like he’s saying the alphabet.

How do you “reply all” on a text message? Do Facebook messages post to a friend’s public wall or get delivered privately? What is a hashtag? These are questions I now ask of my twenty-something sister-in-law. Obviously, I am not trending.

Which brings me to an e-book out by Erik Brynjolfsson and Andrew McAfee entitled “Race Against the Machine.” The gentlemen cite technological advancements as a significant contributor to current joblessness and a threat to future employment.

The irony is clear: the very advances that improve our lives are also putting some out of work. I used to laugh at people who lamented the passing of full service station attendants and switchboard operators. Now my eyes are opening to others affected.

Meter readers for utilities that network their customer usage to a central database. Paper boys whose publications move online. Factory workers whose plants automate. Lawyers whose firms buy software to scour millions of pages of legal documents in seconds. Well, maybe not them.

Technology will end up challenging us as much as it has helped us. A spiritual law of the physical world evidently plays in the digital one: You can’t have your cake and eat it, too.

On this week in particular, let us be thankful for technology’s benefits. But let us also prepare for its threats so our windows of opportunity don’t close prematurely.

Now, how do I save a document in this new version of Google Docs? Oh, right. It does it for me.

Kevin Thompson is a weekly columnist for The Boerne Star and a Vice President at Boerne-based Texas Heritage Bank. Subscribe to his columns at www.kwt.info.

Who closed my window?

When the computer tech support agent asked the caller to close all her windows, she replied, “That could take awhile. It’s 70 degrees here year-round and I live in a 4,000 square foot house.”

Before my father learned to do email attachments, he discovered that his scanner could automatically create a message with a scan attached. For the longest time, he would type and print his correspondence only to scan it back in for electronic delivery.

Technology doesn’t always make us more efficient.

Generations X, Y and beyond could write volumes on the humorous ways their parents and grandparents interact with technology. (My father-in-law recently asked me if I had an “Anthroid” phone.)

Not unlike the faux pas a new language learner makes in a foreign land, technology’s intended use can get lost in translation.

Try explaining to a novice why a digital video recorder (DVR) can’t fast forward through commercials in live TV mode. As incredible as digital recording is, it has yet to propel us into the future.

Being a geek today doesn’t mean you’ll “get” the latest technology tomorrow. Dad had every techno-gadget known to modern man three decades ago.

E.g., a “code-a-phone” with a beeper that you held up to a telephone handset to replay messages remotely; a portable RCA video camera that required half your VCR in tow.

Dad also owned man’s first remote control. The contraption fit over the channel-changing knob on the wooden box television set and connected by wire to a handheld switch. Why stand up to rotate between your three channels when a robot can change them for you?

But today, sadly, dad can’t quite comprehend how an overseas missionary posts daily blog updates for his stateside supporters.

Even more sadly, it’s happening to me, too. I once never met an electronic device I couldn’t set. Now, it feels like my intuition has ridden off with the car phone. My second grader, a true native in the land, whips through Wii screens and Netflix downloads like he’s saying the alphabet.

How do you “reply all” on a text message? Do Facebook messages post to a friend’s public wall or get delivered privately? What is a hashtag? These are questions I now ask of my twenty-something sister-in-law. Obviously, I am not trending.

Which brings me to an e-book out by Erik Brynjolfsson and Andrew McAfee entitled “Race Against the Machine.” The gentlemen cite technological advancements as a significant contributor to current joblessness and a threat to future employment.

The irony is clear: the very advances that improve our lives are also putting some out of work. I used to laugh at people who lamented the passing of full service station attendants and switchboard operators. Now my empathetic eyes are opening to others affected.

Meter readers for utilities that network customer usage to a central database. Paper boys whose publications move online. Factory workers whose plants automate. Lawyers whose firms buy software to scour thousands of legal documents in seconds. Well, maybe not them.

Technology will end up challenging us as much as it has helped us. A spiritual law of the physical world evidently plays in the digital one: You can’t have your cake and eat it, too.

Let us be thankful for technology’s benefits. But let us also prepare for its threats before our windows of opportunity close prematurely.

Now, how do I save a document in this new version of Google Docs? Oh, right. It does it for me.

Kevin Thompson is a weekly columnist for The Boerne Star and a Vice President at Boerne-based Texas Heritage Bank. Subscribe to his articles at www.kwt.info.

How do you define selfishness?

Not long after the presidential election of 2008, yard signs in the conservative enclave of Alamo Heights read, “No socialism.” The outnumbered but outspoken liberals there responded with signs of their own: “No selfishness.”

For the record, I oppose selfishness that goes beyond the “as yourself” part of “love your neighbor as yourself.”

I also oppose socialism that attempts to make everyone uniform. A uniform people aren’t free and free people aren’t uniform.

Modern media and the political left have equated support for budget cuts and entitlement reform with selfishness.

They want producers to pay more taxes to bridge this gap: for every 1 dollar the U.S. government spends currently, it takes in only 65 cents. Nationally-known economist Ray Perryman noted this striking disparity while addressing the Kendall County Economic Development Corporation last month.

But let’s expand the liberal definition of selfishness to include actions that have helped land us in the fiscal predicament we’re in today.

Social Security and Medicare passed into law with significant bi-partisan support more than four decades ago. Then, the ratio of workers to retirees far surpassed what it is today.

Still today, it goes without saying that a vast majority of beating hearts, not just the bleeding ones, want Grandma to live comfortably in her old age.

But things changed after those entitlements passed. Americans, encouraged by the left, got selfish. Their collective goal switched from raising a larger and more prosperous generation to maximizing time and prosperity for oneself. Abortion and birth control contributed to the trend.

Fifty years ago, the average American woman had nearly 4 children. Today, she will bear just over 2.

As a result, our nation has not created the economic engine of productive citizens required to output retirement and other benefits. To put it bluntly, we aborted or never conceived the machine needed to pay for what was promised.

It’s wrong to now spread onto today’s producing citizens a weight that yesterday’s legislators never intended them to carry. It’s wrong to make them pay in the form of higher taxes for the relative selfishness of a previous generation.

Before I get called out and written up by my friends with two or fewer kids, I am not calling them selfish. Many factors go into such family decisions. One size clearly does not fit all.

But we must be honest about the road our society has taken and the “tsunami” of baby boomers set to retire, as Mr. Perryman put it.

Workers with fewer children, less responsibility and more earning potential have greater capacity to care for aging parents. As such, the government should place greater responsibility for senior care in private hands.

This shift would potentially re-invigorate the centuries-old long-term care strategy of having more, productive children to care for you in your old age. Serendipities would be the re-populating of a nation, a more competitive private sector and a more fiscally sound public one.

Another serendipity: increased privatization would prompt more intact families. The average person would less likely let a bout of selfishness destroy a marriage or parent-child relationship if his or her quality of life in retirement were at stake.

In other words, nothing remedies newfound selfishness quite like old-fashioned self-interest.

Kevin Thompson writes a weekly column for The Boerne Star. He can be reached at kevin@kwt.info. 

Taylor Swift takes high road

The babysitter didn’t believe me.

“We are going to the Taylor Swift concert,” I reiterated, this time with added emphasis.

“Are you serious? Some of my friends are going. I went to Justin Bieber last year, so I’m skipping this one.”

What does Justin Bieber have to do with Taylor Swift? I wondered. The former’s for teeny boppers. The latter’s for mature music aficionados, though a black stretch Hummer gassing up at the Boerne Diamond Shamrock made me wonder.

The 12-year-old screams filling the AT&T Center last Tuesday night confirmed my suspicions. I was not target audience material. I don’t buy much from the tour’s corporate sponsor. Cover Girl covered the premises despite Miss Swift’s affinity for t-shirts and faded blue jeans.

Though I buy minimal mascara, I do buy an occasional beer and did Tuesday night, with heartfelt compassion for the beer man. His target audience being so small and all.

One graybeard in the crowd caught my attention. He was the only fan taking in the evening’s festivities through a set of binoculars. I left my pair at home, along with my homemade “I [heart] Taylor” poster.

Fortunately, the girls behind me loaned me theirs, complete with blinking Christmas lights.

I tried to text Taylor a message before the concert began. It would have appeared on the Jumbotron had I gotten a cell signal. I must have been holding my phone wrong. Or my chin.

The Jumbotron announced Taylor’s arrival by text message, a refreshing improvement on the annoying, t-shirt-peddling radio DJ for whom I had prepared myself.

Also refreshing, the next two hours seemed way more like a hit Broadway show than a sultry Britney Spears concert.

Taylor Swift gives pre-teens something of substance to look up to. She gives teens a subtle message that first kisses trump one night stands. And she gives post-teens a memory of when sparks flew anew.

More hopeless romantic than instrumental artisan, Swift still writes her own songs and strums some of them on the guitar. Her lyrics promote young love that’s grounded in more than just the shallow soil of lust.

For example, “Drop everything now, meet me in the pouring rain; Kiss me on the sidewalk, take away the pain.”

And, “She’s not a saint and she’s not what you think, she’s an actress; She’s better known for the things that she does on the mattress.”

Swift’s stage presence scented of gratitude. She at least feigned amazement that 14,000 South Texans gathered on a school night to enjoy her.

And enjoyed her they did. When she did her obligatory cruise through the peasants, teeny boppers zealously rushed her path. “Look out for my beer!” I grunted from my aisle seat.

On the drive home, I contemplated how Miss Swift reminded me of Faith Hill, generally full of grace and class and about the right amount of spunk. She is a celebrity I would not oppose my daughter lip syncing to one day.

I hope Taylor continues to take the high road in an often base entertainment world. And for her cathartic heart’s sake, I pray she soon finds her own Tim McGraw.

Kevin Thompson writes weekly for The Boerne Star. Subscribe to his columns at http://www.kwt.info.

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