Ode to An Old Cowboy

September 29, 2015 Leave a comment

Ode to An Old Cowboy

by Walter Dale Miller.
Walt (my grandfather) wrote this poem the evening his father (Walter A. Miller) passed away in March 1983

It was last Saturday morning
that he started his last long ride.
He crossed through the peaceful valley
and on to a great new divide.

As he passed amidst the shadows
he was not alone as he rode.
For he was stirrup to stirrup
with a Friend with whom he had long abode.

The snow was gently falling as
they started up the other side.
The trail will soon vanish
but his memories no one will ever hide.

His earthly chores he had finished
and his work here was all done.
His Friend was softly speaking
“Your race was well run.”

As he rides the hillsides of glory
old acquaintances he will renew.
His work now is in that “Big Roundup”
on that range beyond the blue.

For those of us still waiting
our “Golden Spurs” to receive.
His last chant still echoes
across the valley “Only Believe.”

He has joined that “Big Outfit”
of old cowboys with hearts kind and true.
The “Head Foreman” said to him
“Come, I’ve got greater things for you to do.”

There is an empty spot in many hearts tonight
and somewhere a Pinto’s head hangs low.
His old spurs and chaps hang on the wall-
he has gone where real cowboys go.

Someday he will return for that “Great Gathering”
led by the “Champion of Love.”
And those of us who are watching and waiting
shall ride again forever with him above.

Categories: Uncategorized

2016 Memorial Day Remembrances

May 25, 2015 Leave a comment

On Memorial Day I honor the loved and lost from our American Wars. On this day I send flowers to the graves of the following people who’s story I have come to know in different ways.

Example of the flower arrangement I order each year. Sometimes it is a basket with flowers, other times a wreath with banner “Hero” written on it.

I also share the story of each with my sons to communicate the real costs of war. I pray they NEVER advocate sending other’s into harm’s way without first considering the costs at this very personal, intimate level.

It is not a video game; people die. Others are wounded and lives are altered in incalculable ways.

I hope this helps explain to my friends why I wore this bracelet for 5+years until mercifully the combat mission officially ended December 28th, 2014.


This will not be the end of the dying or the pain and suffering of the living. But it will at least mark a significant milestone.

I hope this demonstrates to active military and veteran friends how much I appreciate the sacrifice of their brothers and sisters in arms. Also note,

On Veterans Day I honor those who have served in any of our armed forces living their lives in Tribute to the Fallen * text here. Memorial Day is for those who made the ultimate sacrifice. 

Here, with humility and supreme gratitude to them and their families for their sacrifice, are my real heroes…

Army Airborne PFC Cody Board

Afghanistan War –
Killed in Action October 4, 2010





Section 3 Site 977

Fort Sill National Cemetery

2648 NE Jake Dunn Road

Elgin, OK 73538 (580) 492-3200

Private First Class Cody Allen Board died on October 4, 2010 in Mirwais, Afghanistan from wounds suffered when insurgents attacked his unit with an improvised explosive device; he was 19 years old. He was assigned to 1st Squadron, 2w Stryker Cavalry Regiment, Vilseck, Germany. His Awards and Decorations include the Combat Infantryman’s Badge, and the National Defense Medal. He was posthumously awarded the Bronze Star and the Purple Heart.

How I got to know Cody: His father, Chris Board, a West Point graduate and Desert Storm veteran, moved with his wife and 3 boys from Coon Rapids, MN to McKinney, TX in 1999. This is the same year I moved with my 3 boys from Farmington, MN to McKinney, TX. Cody was 10 on 9/11 and it affected him greatly, according to his Dad.

“When a warrior fights not for himself, but for his brothers, when his most passionately sought goal is neither glory nor his own life’s preservation, but to spend his substance for them, his comrades, not to abandon them, not to prove unworthy of them, then his heart truly has achieved contempt for death, and with that he transcends himself and his actions touch the sublime. That is why the true warrior cannot speak of battle save to his brothers who have been there with him. The truth is too holy, too sacred for words.”

– Gates Of Fire (Steven Pressfield) posted on facebook by Cody’s Dad Chris Board.

Army Ranger SPC Christopher Gathercole

Afghanistan War –
Killed in Action May 26, 2008





Santa Rosa Memorial Park

1900 Franklin Avenue

Santa Rosa, CA 95404 (707) 542-1580

Spc. Christopher Gathercole, 21, of Santa Rosa, Calif., was killed while conducting combat operations near Ghazni, Afghanistan. He was a lightweight machine (MK46) gunner. Gathercole volunteered for military service and entered the Army in October 2005. After completing One Station Unit Training, Basic Airborne Course and the 75th Ranger Regiment’s Ranger Indoctrination Program training at Fort Benning, Ga., he was assigned to 2nd Bn. in June 2006. He served in Company C, 2nd Platoon as a M203 gunner and later as a MK46 gunner. In October 2007, Gathercole transferred to Comp. D, 2nd Platoon, where he continued to serve as a MK46 gunner. His mission that would eventually lead to Army Ranger SFC Leroy Petry being awarded the Medal of Honor

How I got to know Chris: My cousin, Marko Milosevic, is an Army Ranger and fought with Chris. Marko survived hundreds of missions and more than a dozen combat tours in Iraq and Afghanistan over 12+years. I am so thankful he survived; and equally sorry Christopher did not.

Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class (Hospital Corpsman) Jaime Suzanne Jaenke 

Iraq War – Killed In Action June 5, 2006

https://youtu.be/aqi9L_bAMzQ?list=PL3Nol341eZEdZhEGnOOU6PZ5BphkUuPsy – YouTube Video “To the Fallen” see her photo at 4:28 of video




Alden Cemetery

211 Main Street

Alden, Iowa 50006 (800) 464-2569

Jaime was assigned to Naval Mobile Construction Battalion 25, Fort McCoy, Wis. She was killed June 5 as a result of enemy action when her Humvee was struck by an improvised explosive device in Anah, Iraq. Also killed was Navy Equipment Operator 1st Class Gary Rovinski. She was Iowa’s first female to die in the Iraq conflict and left behind a 9-year-old daughter and other family who described the Navy reservist as a caring woman.

“Jaime is without a doubt the kind of person the world will miss,” said Tifani Eisentrager, Jaenke’s cousin. “Jaime’s life, without a doubt, was taken too soon. We mourn her death and will always remember her fondly.” Jaenke was activated in January and had been serving as a paramedic in Iraq for less than three months before her death. She was assigned to Naval Mobile Construction Battalion 25 at Fort McCoy, Wis. Her unit was involved in reconstructing the country, building infrastructure such as schools and wells.

A remembrance from then Chief Winston Kettle, BUC (now Air Force Master Sargent): “Jaime could hang with the wildest people in our unit (Scholl and Hieb!) and would never bat an eye! In fact, she demanded to be where the action was at. She actually insisted to be on that fateful convoy on 5 June 2006 because her ‘Seabees needed a Corpsman!’ That’s the kind of person she was. Long before women in combat were ‘PC’ Jaime was there supporting her Seabees in combat! Just like all the other great woman over the past 200+ years that have done the same in support of our Constitution and our way of life! Jaime is missed by all! Especially her daughter Kayla and mother Susan and father Larry!”

How I got to know Jaime: I went to high school with Winston and he wrote such a great remembrance of her I felt honoring the often overlooked sacrifice of women in combat would be a good addition to these tributes. As Winston says “Women have always been in around and through combat.” It is time to bring their sacrifices front and center along with those of our military men.

Army Staff Sgt. Juan M. Solorio

Iraq War – Killed March 4, 2005





Sect 26, Grave 264A

Dallas Ft. Worth National Cemetery

2000 Mountain Creek Parkway

Dallas, TX 75211 (214) 467-3374

A soldier’s story: the heroism of my friend Staff Sgt. Juan M. Solorio By Sgt. Andrew Spiess. (edited for space). Staff Sgt. Juan Solorio, or “Solo” as I knew him, didn’t die for some political aim. Solo died protecting the lives of his friends. Solo volunteered to serve in a Reconnaissance Platoon, a job that would put him in harms way with half the combat strength of an infantry platoon.

In mid January, our platoon was attacked while escorting a new unit in the city of Mosul, a mission that was suppose to show them the different routes and neighborhoods. A 107mm rocket hit the trail vehicle in our convoy, creating a huge explosion of fire, smoke and deadly shrapnel flying everywhere. My Platoon Sergeant, Master Sergeant Brian Mack was instantly killed, and most of the soldiers were wounded and unconscious. Solo looked up to see the machine gunner had fallen lifelessly through his hatch. Solo knew the gun had to be manned, and he had to get the casualties to the hospital immediately. Solo stripped his bulky armor moved the bodies of his friends to the side, reached the machine gun and started laying down suppressive fire. He was able to get those men to the hospital in eight minutes from when we were attacked.

One month later, Solo displayed great courage again, helping to save my life from what should have been a certain death. We were ambushed by gunmen shooting heavy machine gun fire and AK 47 gunfire. I was instantly pinned in a small ditch watching rounds impact all around me; it seemed as if a huge rain storm had begun pouring all over me. I was being covered by the dirt from the impacting rounds. I thought I was most likely going to get killed, until I heard Solo yell, “Stay there, I’m coming to get you.” He organized six men to fire on the machine gun that had me pinned, while the rest of the patrol engaged the rest of the gunmen. Solo saw the opportunity, ran to the gateway of a building behind me, and told me to come to him. I remember him waving me on, poised as if he was a sprinter on the line of a track, ready to grab me if something happened. I fell running through the mud, and he pulled me into the gate as tracer rounds flew passed flew passed us. A moment later, he organized an impromptu support by fire that allowed a few of us to flank the enemy.

One week later Solo was killed. Our platoon was doing a humanitarian mission in a neighborhood, and was heading back for the day. They received a warning that a bomb was in the area. It was about enough warning to let everyone know that they were going to get in the mix again. Sure enough, the bomb went off under his vehicle, knocking Solo and everyone else to the ground. An eruption of small arms fire was heard and Solo immediately jumped up and returned fire. Solo was giving much needed information to the rest of our platoon mates, firing, and then reloading his weapon. In the process of reloading he was struck by a round that instantly killed him.

You will never find the stories of Solo’s exploits on the news because he was a quiet professional, and only cared about what those around him thought. I’m sorry you never got to meet the man who had an uncanny ability to touch the soul of everyone he met. Other things Juan did in his life:

* Served in Scout platoon for HHC 3-21 Stryker Brigade 1-25 INF.

* Squad Designated Marksmen

* Instructor for 1-25 INF Ft Lewis.

* Instrumental in the Army’s transition of its’ light armored vehicle, the Stryker.

* Served in the 82nd Airborne Div with B co 2-505 PIR, in which he served as Jumpmaster with the Division.

* Served as a rifleman and squad leader for the WOLFHOUNDS with B co 1-27 1-25 INF and obtained his Air Assualt tab in this Unit.

* Scout master with Troop 62 Ft Lewis Wa in his sons’s troop.

How I got to know Juan: Juan is the brother of my friend Fabian Solorio. Fabian created the above video to honor his brother who had an unmistakable laugh and was always shown helping his troops learn how to fight and survive during their deployments.

Marine Cpl. Douglas Duane Janssen

Vietnam War – January 26, 1969



Garden of Memories

2901 Douglas Avenue

Yankton, SD 57078-4841 (605) 665-3645

Cpl. Douglas Duane Janssen entered the United States Marine Corps on August 12, 1965 at Omaha, Nebraska, first training at Camp Pendleton, California. Cpl. Douglas Janssen arrived in Vietnam on January 1, 1966, with the 7th Marine Division, for his first tour of duty. He returned from that tour in February1967 and in August of that year was stationed in the Mediterranean Sea until February 1968. He volunteered for a second tour of duty in Vietnam, leaving May 1, 1968. He was attached to H&S Company, 3rd Battalion, 9th Marines, 3rd Marine Division.

With 109 days left to serve before coming home, Cpl. Douglas Duane Janssen died on January 26, 1969 as a result of hostile sniper fire while on patrol in the Quang Nam Province in South Vietnam.

A little more about Douglas (aka YOGI) from Bernie Laguna: “I was in Vietnam, 3rd Marine Div., 3rd Recon Bn. from Aug. 1968-Feb. 1969 as a Squad Leader. I was also in a Combined Action Group also known as a Combined Action Platoon from March, 1969 to Aug. 1969 stationed in a hamlet called Nhu Le in Quang Tri Providence. I volunteered to live in that village supporting my fellow Marines who were attacked almost every night before I got there. I was stationed in Nhu Le Hamlet, outside Quang Tri City. The night patrols were under constant and predictable attack. That is why the call for volunteers. Two Marine squads and a platoon ARVNs to protect the village that was 50% VC. Sporadic firefights. Not enough is written or understood about the CAG’s effect on the war. Not one village was taken over by the VC where a CAG unit was stationed. The villagers, both farmers and VC (we could not tell the difference) benefited from Medical attention. It is a shame that it was not more widely used. We made a difference. I only hope that these lessons are applied to Iraq and Afghanistan.

How I got to know Douglas: Douglas was from the same part of South Dakota as my parents; some of our family members know some of Douglas’ family members.

Marine Air Force Capt. Troy G Cope

Korean War – Killed September 16, 1952



Dallas Ft. Worth National Cemetery

2000 Mountain Creek Parkway

Dallas, TX 75211 (214) 467-3374

Troy was shot down in MIG ally and missing for decades until a researcher found a Russian and N. Korean battle reports describing the exact location where his plane went down. The site was excavated in I believe 1996? and his remains were positively identified along with a few pieces of clothing. The above picture was taken just before his last mission.

How I got to know Troy: When I first heard of the excavation of the site, I prayed they would be able to find, identify and return his remains to his loved ones. The not knowing had to be very difficult for them.

Navy Gunners Mate Robert Olson

Word War II – Died 9/25/96

Lot311 Sect 26 Grave 3

Crystal Lake Cemetery

3816 Penn Ave N

Minneapolis, MN 55412 612-521-7619

Unlike the others, Robert Olson survived WWII. I include him on my list because he was sunk on the Lexington, was rescued but eventually died of lung cancer undoubtedly brought on by years of wearing an asbestos fire suits on the deck of the Lexington and from smoking cigarettes. Above picture of the Lexington. Bob (along with thousands of others) jumped overboard after the order to abandon ship was given and within about 2 hours of this photo being taken.

He spent about 8 hours bobbing in gasoline, fire and shark-infested waters. He heard many men calling out as they drown, burned or died of their wounds. Bob recalled he felt he survived because he cleaned off a silver watch (that he had won in a poker game a few nights before) and held it well above his head. The search lights hit the watch and reflected back his position even though the rest of Bob was impossible to see in all the oil. They threw a line toward the reflection and he was pulled aboard.

How I got to know Bob: He is my boys Great-Grandfather (on their mother’s side) and I first met him in 1988. I had a wonderful relationship with him and loved talking war stories with him.


God’s Will be done I would never have to add another war or soldier to this list. But knowing we live in a broken world, I am sorrowfully expecting more names to be added to represent future conflicts as yet unnamed and lives as yet not lost. I pray that I am proved wrong.

I am still looking for others:I have yet to identify a soldier killed in action in

  • WWI
  • Civil War
  • War of 1812
  • Revolutionary War

So if you have a relative and don’t mind sharing their story, I would love to hear about them.

Categories: Uncategorized

Stand Down on Gun Control

January 17, 2013 Leave a comment


To all prepper/survivalist, combat veterans and gun owning friends:

Respectfully I ask you to STAND DOWN from contributing to the current gun control hysteria. I know you believe Obama rules by fiat (I do not). I know you believe this is another step in the building of the New World Order (I disagree). I understand the tenants of sovereign citizenship, III%, Oath Keepers and Patriots. But your adversaries also know your views and are counting on you to overreact. Here is how NOT to fall for it.

Understand the SITREP?

The situation report yesterday was just a set of recommendations . There was not one Executive Order in there; just a series of verbal recommendations, promised written memos. They are NOT, I say again, NOT an imminent threat to which your response must be to load magazines and fill sandbags. There was proposed legislation (emphasis on proposed). And as evidenced by the utter futility of the last Congress, “proposed legislation” is almost never enacted as law. So why then was an assault weapons ban proposed? I believe it was proposed to incite some people to unbalanced conclusions and outbursts that make gun owners look more extreme to the “average” American (those we affectionately call “sheeple”).

Control Battle Anger

In combat we learn controlling our emotions is critical to mission success and sets us apart from other people. Why do we forget that when it comes to expressing opinions? Listening to the wing-nut-media-types suggesting this is the end or even the beginning of the end may be good for their media ratings and twitter follows (and the advertising dollars flowing into their pockets), but only incite unchecked battle anger. By restraining our initial response and focusing on democratic means, we avoid creating conditions where incidents (real or false flags) seem inevitable (and thus more believable).

Know Rules of Engagement

I agree with some tenants of patriots, militias, preppers and survivalists; but disagree strongly with setting any hard line beyond which the Government may not cross without a person(s) initiating armed conflict. Wherever drawn, the line will always be 1) arbitrary 2) capricious 3) seen by Government as something that must be crossed. Unless you have the rule book out when that time comes you will be prone to errors in judgment; and gun control advocates are depending on that. If nothing else recognize it is extremely poor OPSEC to draw your opinions out into the open for all (including NSA, ATF, CIA and FBI) to see. Think it will not happen to you? Watch Better this World or If a Tree Falls. Then ask yourself if you want to win the battle or the war.

If you want to win the battle, then I contend that was your intent all along: to go the way of AIM at Pine Ridge, the Weavers at Ruby Ridge, Branch Davidians at Waco and Timothy McVeigh in Oklahoma City. History will judge you harshly and your family will pay a penalty along with you. If you want to win the war, deck your weapon, get on your computer and “Petition the Government in the most humblest terms” as stated in The Declaration of Independence. The III% did not take up arms until there was more than a decade of grievances that went un-addressed. And they had no democratic process with which to vote out the King of England. Talk about patience!


As John Paul Jones famously said: “I have not yet begun to fight.” And, I would guess, neither have you. The situation today is far from the true oppression experienced by our Nation’s forefathers. Some gun control advocates are counting on you to spit flame on social media , rant on blogs and threaten people on forums. So counter their strategy and confound them by treating peoples’ opinions with respect and by questioning their positions; not their patriotism. 

Understand the SITREP, control battle anger and know the rules of engagement. Channel your action into the same democratic system you believe in protecting so fiercely. “Fight” by contacting your elected officials and make your voice heard. It works!

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Responsible Gun Ownership

January 11, 2013 Leave a comment

I am a gun owner, including several semi-automatic handgun and “assault” style weapons.

And I am in FAVOR of stricter gun control laws. But “control” is NOT synonymous with a “weapons ban.”

An attempt to ban assault weapons or high capacity magazines does nothing to ensure the proper “control” of the more than 350 MILLION firearms already owned by US citizens (and thousands more being bought at this very moment).

What we need is responsible gun ownership. And the answer to that problem is trigger locks and locks on ammunition and magazines.

Responsible Gun Owner Act

Felony (Class D) to possess, store or transport any…

  1. firearm lacking a combination, keyed or biometric trigger lock actively engaged
  2. ammunition outside of an approved, locked ammunition case
  3. magazines outside of an approved, locked ammunition case

Any of the above would be immediately confiscated from the defendant as evidence. If convicted the items would be forfeited to the government for proper destruction. The first offense could be argued down to a misdemeanor. A 2nd conviction would be a felony conviction. No convicted felon can ever own a firearm.

The only exception to the above. Individuals with an annually renewed Concealed Handgun License (CHL) for a “personal safety weapon.” A personal safety weapon defined: .22 caliber handguns with a barrel length 3″ or less with a capacity of no more than 5 rounds.

Why this will work.

  • Responsible gun owners should have no problem with this because they do this today without a law.
  • Irresponsible gun owners would become responsible or face losing their weapons, ammunition and magazines and possibly forfeit their right to own weapons in the future.
  • Gun manufacturers should like this because (like the Swiss Army knife makers with airport security) thousands of weapons will be confiscated and destroyed each year causing first time offenders to have to buy new. Gun manufacturers will also like the rush of CHL holders to purchase the newly classified “personal safety weapon.” by those who do not own that caliber or size of weapons
  • Law enforcement should support this because it ensures that regardless of the situation they cannot be “outgunned” by any lawful citizen when they attempt to detain the individual or make entry into a home.
  • Non gun owners should appreciate that trigger locked weapons, ammunition and magazines vastly reduces the potential ability of a gun owner inadvertently or intentionally harming themselves or others. It greatly reduces the chance of an impulse decision to shoot someone and having the immediate means to do so.
  • Mental health professionals should appreciate Concealed Handgun Licenses would have to be renewed annually allowing those with recurring mental health issues to be cross referenced and denied a new license.


I enjoy shooting sports and tactical training with the MOST responsible gun owners I know; military combat veterans, active duty service members and Police officers.

Many of them have seen the realities of gun violence up close and personal. Many I talk to believe locks on weapons, ammunition and magazines would separate the responsible gun owners from the irresponsible or unstable individuals.

The real problem is not the weapon or the magazine: that makes for good talking points and television but will be ineffective in curbing gun violence. The real answer is raising awareness about responsible gun ownership and enforcing the laws on those who are unwilling to meet that standard.

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99 Tips for Raising a Son

November 21, 2012 Leave a comment

By Orvin D. Burma, August 7, 1995

To Jason, my first grandson, who is the inspiration for this passing these on. And to Jason’s father, Craig Burma, who validates the value of doing these things in the way he lives his life every day. I love you.

In the final analysis, Jason will be composite of his choices. However, his ability to develop good choices and intelligently pick the best alternative will be influenced by the simple items listed below.

One is lucky whose son grows up to be his best friend. I am very lucky to have Craig and Lance as my best friends! I will continually pray for that success in Craig’s life.

  1. Be kind
  2. Be gentle
  3. Be fair
  4. Never punish in anger
  5. Read him a bedtime story each night
  6. Take him to a house of worship regularly
  7. Tell him that you love him
  8. Teach him to whittle
  9. Teach him to whistle
  10. Lay on your back with him on a clear night and wonder at the stars
  11. Take him camping
  12. Play ball with him
  13. Take him to work with you
  14. Let him make his own peanut butter and jelly sandwich – then help him clean up the mess
  15. Jump in a leaf pile with him
  16. Say you’re sorry when you’re wrong – but only when you’re sure you’re wrong
  17. Teach him how to love, and how to allow himself to be loved
  18. Teach him the value of friends
  19. Teach him the higher value of family
  20. Be quick to praise and ready to pardon
  21. Be sparing with rewards lest they become bribes
  22. Be proud of his achievements and tolerant of his weaknesses
  23. Teach him to love God
  24. Earn his respect through your actions
  25. When it is his turn to speak, LISTEN
  26. Treat him with dignity and respect; he should never have to earn it
  27. Teach him to refer to his elders as “Mr.,” “Mrs.,” and “Miss”
  28. Let him become an adult at his own pace
  29. Let him see you loving your spouse
  30. Involve him in family decisions
  31. Teach him the fun and value of learning
  32. Protect him from the world without isolating him from it completely
  33. Allow him to evolve into making his own decisions
  34. Stress the importance of truth
  35. Hug him when he hurts
  36. Nurture his imagination, but be sure he remembers the difference from reality
  37. Send him to summer camp
  38. Discuss his school subjects with him – make them come alive
  39. Measure his accomplishments by his abilities, not by your expectations
  40. Help him remember Mother’s Day, Mom’s Birthday, Christmas and other occasions
  41. Make your home the place at which he and his friends like to spend time
  42. Teach him to earn money
  43. Teach him to save money
  44. Teach him that it’s OK for men to cry
  45. Teach him respect for his Country
  46. Let him climb a tree
  47. Let him build forts in the family room
  48. Go sledding with him
  49. Carry his picture in your wallet
  50. Pin up a growth chart and date each mark
  51. Take him fishing
  52. Let him take his bike apart and help him put it back together
  53. See what he sees
  54. Feel what he feels
  55. Instill in him a thirst to not only see what things do, but how they work
  56. Let him have a puppy
  57. Write to him when he is in college and enclose a little money
  58. Go for walks with him
  59. Develop in him a taste for healthy foods
  60. Teach him to swim
  61. Take what he says seriously. Never laugh at him in a group
  62. Teach him to love books
  63. Let him choose his own career
  64. Teach him to play the piano. If he has no interest, establish a time limit of 2 years
  65. Play classical music for him and tell him about the composer
  66. Introduce him to your financial planner and your banker; let them know the his value in your financial planning
  67. Involve him in team sports
  68. Take him to the zoo
  69. Ride a roller coaster with him
  70. Take him hunting
  71. Let him help decorate the Christmas tree
  72. Teach, by example, the value of physical fitness
  73. Be accepting of his friends, but be honest in your opinions of them
  74. Show him how to make snow angels
  75. Make a snowman with him
  76. Look at the clouds on a summer day and see what images he can see
  77. Take a family vacation each year
  78. Attend as many of his school functions and athletic functions as humanly possible
  79. Walk with him in a warm summer rain
  80. Share an ice cream cone
  81. Let him fly a kite
  82. Pin playing cards on the wheel of his tricycle
  83. Color pictures with him
  84. Make home-made ice cream
  85. Teach him the value of sending “Thank You” notes
  86. Keep up his baby book and photo albums
  87. Keep a diary of his activities
  88. Teach him safety with equipment and firearms
  89. Hear what he is saying and why, not how he says it
  90. Teach him the beauty of poetry and art
  91. Teach him to take care of his own belongings
  92. Take a lot of pictures
  93. Trace his family tree, in writing, as far back as you can
  94. Subscribe to youth activity magazines
  95. Visit museums
  96. Play board games with him
  97. Don’t let him win in competition with you. He will legitimately beat you soon enough
  98. Buy toys which are both fun and educational
  99. Pray for him each day


    Coda by Craig Burma 

    Each time I read these I can remember the times my Dad and I did every one of those things; all 99 and probably a hundred more.

    My sons Jason Burma (17) Brian and Scott (both 15) are thoughtful, respectful, do well in school and activities. And they still hug me of their own free will every time they see me. My step-children Connor Keating (12), Madeleine Keating (10) and Joel Keating (9) are great kids and provide me “bonus parenting time” as part of falling in love with their Mom, Tina Burma.

    Being a parent is not a highlight reel; it is day-by-day actions that imprint a way of connecting to each other, helping their world and worshipping God that will guide them for the rest of their lives.

    Thanks, Dad. I love you.

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Why I Support President Obama for a 2nd term

November 5, 2012 1 comment

I decided not to copy campaign rhetoric but just sit down and write out why Obama has earned my vote in 2012. Here’s why: 

  1. The middle class is beginning to turn around. The gap between rich and poor is wider than any time since the Oil Barrons of the 1920s, entirely due to disastrous Bush years’ spending. Our financial systems grew a Meritocracy but the new super class has tried to shut the door behind them. As this article and the book Why Nations Fail describes, the super-rich are confusing their own self-interest with the common good and the system that helped to create them. I have read Ayn Rand (Paul Ryan’s favorite), and 99 titles on Riskless Wealth and Chronic Poverty. In the end , I believe, compassion is not weakness but an integral part of our humanity. 
  2. Obama has controlled government spending; not just talked about it. The big truth is Obama is the smallest government spender since Eisenhower. And actual government employment has decreased over 500,000 employees since Obama took office. Added to expiration of the Bush tax cuts, the savings of ending our wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and REAL entitlement reform will begin to address our future deficits.
  3. Obama’s Healthcare reform is controlling costs. It had to be done early on (even as he delt with financial crisis) to see the reforms take hold and help families struggling with healthcare costs (nearly the most cited reason for personal bankruptcy). “Obamacare” will be seen as monumentally positive for ALL Americans in the future. I believe Justice Roberts (one of the smartest minds in the world) understood the need for the individual mandate, his moment in history and allowed it to stand as a tax (the one word everyone contorted themselves in the commerce clause to avoid saying).
  4. Obama is ending our wars and “got” Bin Laden where Bush, Cheney and William Clark failed miserably. I personally know Army Rangers who circled above waiting to infiltrate Afghan/Pakistan border in Tora Bora and Green Berets who were less than ONE mile from Bin Laden in 2001. All were told to “stop and hold” until larger forces came in. They were infuriated. Obama has used and more importantly chosen NOT to use US military power the right way. He ended the war in Iraq (WITH a timetable) and will end the war in Afghanistan (WITH a timetable). He uses Special Forces, drone strikes and limited support in the Arab Spring countries to overthrow their own despotic leaders. Change was coming to these countries whether we helped or not. Clinton attempted to get Mubarak to see that before Egypt fell and he paid the price for a lack of quick reform.
  5. Obama has a genuine passion for equality . I was raised by a strong Mom who (though a Republican and Romney fan) taught me to believe in real equality presented by President Obama. He signed the Lilly Ledbetter Act allowing women to sue when they do not receive equal pay for equal work. Romney’s comments about letting women who work for him “go home early to make dinner” and “binders full of women,” betrayed his real feelings about equal pay for women. I encourage equal time off whether for men or women when a child is born. I cook as many meals in the evening as my wife does. And the full repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell successfully pealed back another layer of inequality while maintaining all the strength of force in our military.

In the end, I believe Obama will win, the pain of the fiscal cliff will largely be dictated by our ability to fundamentally redefine our standard of living away from consumption and in a delicate balance with the rising Brazil, Russia, India and China, balance our trade and debt with a renewed focus on manufacturing and living within our means. The environment will be the big winner in all of that.

Categories: Uncategorized

Root Cause of the Financial Collapse

June 6, 2012 2 comments

Search for the Root Cause. As an financial systems IT manager, I believe in finding the “root cause” of any breakdown of a system. Since it began I have looked for a “root cause” of the Financial Collapse of 2008 through today.

In a 2010 blog post, I wrote about the Dismantling of the American Dream. But this only dealt with the tactical decisions that lead to the financial collapse. It always bugged me not to know how reasonable people believed these decisions served the greater good of society or more selfishly their own desires for short term gain with long term stability.

In the last few years, I have read hundreds of books on

Throughout all of these I looked for common themes, events or trends that I could trace back to the beginning. I kept asking myself: “What started all of this?” I felt either there was mass conspiracy (unlikely) or mass-delusion based on some fundamental belief that fell apart.

One Core Erroneous Belief, I think, is the effectiveness of The Black-Scholes Model used to mathematically govern options prices over time as being a good thing for financial markets.

The key idea behind the derivation was to hedge perfectly the option by buying and selling the underlying asset in just the right way and consequently “eliminate risk.” As it turns out risk could be postponed, shifted and concentrated, but like any closed system, it is impossible to eliminate it.

From Theory to Practice. Invented in 1973, The Black-Scholes Model won the Nobel Prize for Economics in 1997. It won in that year because of its’ contribution to the then growing bubble of ever more sophisticated and opaque financial risk calculations.

All the following are abstractions of this same original proof:

  • Derivatives
  • hedge funds
  • mark-to-market
  • mortgage-backed securities
  • sub-prime lending
  • credit default swaps
  • collateralized-debt obligations
  • quants
  • flash crash
  • systemic risk
  • too-big-to-fail

Every one of the above are direct descendants of the Black-Scholes Model. This model transformed a very human decision-making process about investments, capital and risk into a very inhuman mathematical computation that could not continue ad infinitum.

I am not “blaming” the formula or its’ originators. Like the atomic bomb someone was going to invent this. The world has benefitted from its use short term. But like the arms race I believe the Black-Scholes formula (and it’s derivations) has brought us to the point of mutually assured economic destruction through the riskless concentration of income and wealth in the top 1% of Americans and the world as a whole. And the kings highway of the NYSE’s Jersey data center keeps the High Frequency Traders (HFTs) banging in and out of positions more than a porn star. And similarly the people getting it the worst barely feel the f’in they are getting.

Key to Financial Stability: The Middle Class. It is human decisions of a vibrant middle class that disperses risk throughout a population of rational economic actors. It dilutes gains and losses into a larger pool of people. It provides the chance for more people to make a little more money through good investment decisions and others to lose a little money as a penalty for bad investment decisions. Human decisions build the middle class and inhibits calculated-concentrations of wealth in those who possess the systems power to obtain it. Human decisions slows capital and keeps it from chasing the latest fraction of return anywhere in the world in a nano-second.

What we are seeing are a series of extreme financial transaction events. And I believe in this environment, a more standard t-distribution in place of Black-Scholes is a better basis for the valuation of options. That method requires the intervention of humans into the decision-making process for particular buys and sells.

Following again the nuclear weapons analogy, like the movie War Games (about a defense department computer system nearly starting a nuclear war), our future may largely be determined by how carefully we “unplug” some of the inhuman mathematical computations and re-introduce human decision-making with all its’ fragility, irrationality and blessed randomness.

Same disclaimer from 2010 post. Through some bizarre twist of fait I am a part of and benefitting from financial services work. Thankfully my employer is intensely focused on business ethics and doing the “right thing” not what makes the most money; those are not the same thing.

I appreciate and work very hard in my job and give money and time to as many causes as possible. Of all the lines on my taxes, Line 17 (charitable giving) is most important to me; far more important than my AGI.

My future is to demonstrate to my kids how to:

  • Reduce consumption
  • Maintain a skeptical awareness of their ego
  • Recognize media messages fueling consumerism
  • Travel internationally
  • Live frugally, simply and in peace (God willing)

Root Cause of Financial Crisis by Craig Burma is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 United States License.

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