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Friday, November 11, 2011

A generation passes

Above: I shot this in March 2007 at the assisted living place in Palm Bay, FL where I'd moved my Ma to in January 2005 after she could no longer safely stay in the house just a couple of miles away, where they'd retired in 1973. In July I moved her to Vegas (I'd moved my late Dad in May that year; he had serious dementia and was already in nursing home care since the fall of 2001). Below: she managed to clutter up that apartment pretty quick. That ugly roll-out bed couch was my swell recurrent Delta red-eye bunk 'til I moved her and Pop to Vegas.

My Dad came home from the war in Europe (minus a leg) and married my Mom in August 20th, 1944. I was then born in February 1946. Pop died in May 2008. I will miss them both greatly. They were loyal to each other and loyal to me and my sister and all the grandkids.

I owe everything to them. Above, circa 1974 or so. Below, Mother on her 88th birthday, January 18th, 2010. We took her to Olive Garden in Henderson, "Awlive Gawdin," as she put it in her finest Long Island accent.

That was her last marginally decent year. Below, Mom and Dad visiting at the nursing home where he resided in Melbourne FL prior to my bringing them both to Vegas.

A good, long run, both of them. UPDATE We had a celebratory supper Sunday evening at the Olive Garden in Henderson where we'd last taken Ma, for her 88th birthday. My sister Carole read for us a reflection she'd composed.

Marion Elizabeth (Dittus) Gladd, January 18, 1922 - November 10, 2011 How do you describe the life of your mother when you don’t pay attention to the details while you are a child and it’s all about yourself and not about the person who chose to bring you into this world? After having 5 children, I realized what my mom must’ve gone through raising two children. And she (and my dad) did a pretty decent job when you read about what goes on in families nowadays. I often think -- how did they manage to raise two children who generally are compassionate and reasoned people? It must’ve been their lifelong concern for us and our families. Selfishness was not part of their character when it came to their kids. My first recollection of my mom was in Morristown, New Jersey (George Washington’s stomping grounds!). I remember her taking me to a birthday party -- I remember being shy and not wanting to go but I didn’t have a choice. I remember kindergarten and her leaving me there and I remember being scared. Never gave one thought to the fact that she was now alone, both children in school. I wonder what that was like for her. My next recollection was our “farmhouse” in Hanover, New Jersey. What a wonderful home that was -- a big old home, with a wrap-around front porch and a walk-around attic to die for. Interestingly enough, years later as an adult, I was talking to my mom about that house and she said that she hated that house. Once again, what she must’ve given up so Bobby and I could have this interesting outdoors experience -- I think Bobby even built a log cabin in the woods and I remember scooping up frog eggs in this jellylike glob form from the pond in the woods next to our home. And that was the house where I got my first “cat” addiction—our landlord, Mrs. Weber, gave me a cute little black and white kitten and the same day she ran over it with her car! No pets after that one! That’s why I’ve been making up for it ever since -- in fact, Bobby has a bigger zoo than me. The next move was to Hillsborough right before I started 4th grade. We moved into a brand new development with the ranch homes and the split-level homes. Already, you knew the people who had split-levels had to have more money -- or that’s how I perceived it. My mom was the typical 50-60’s stay-at-home mom. Little did I know what a gift she gave to me. She made my lunches, she was always there when I got home from school, and I always had a very well balanced meal with the dreaded green vegetables. My mom was a great cook -- and I mean great when I compare it to my paltry cooking skills. And I hated to eat--I didn’t like anything -- I know it’s hard to believe when now there isn’t much I dislike. And both my parents were adamant that we clean our plates. And Bobby always got away with murder at the dinner table—pushing his mashed potatoes out of his mouth to make me laugh -- which I did -- and which I got punished for. My parents somehow got across to Bobby and I that you don’t get a free ride and you take care of yourself and be kind to others. It was expected that we do well in school. I know I feared both my parents -- but I can’t really remember getting disciplined except for the occasional swat on the behind with the rolled up newspaper -- and that was dad. I don’t remember Mom ever physically disciplining me -- but I knew when I disappointed her and that was enough punishment. Now it’s coming back to me -- mom was not happy when I said “shit” -- which is minor to what I’ve said in front of my kids. And mom never liked me calling her “Ma”. I guess it was considered slang, and not proper. Growing up, I thought my mom and dad were too strict and too “proper.” I remember having to go to St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Somerville, New Jersey; Dad never had to go -- and I used to wonder, why did I have to go and he doesn’t? But I never really questioned or fought the idea -- I just obeyed. And mom made sure I had all the fixings for church--dresses and white gloves. And the dreaded hats at Easter! I always wished my parents had done more fun things with my friend’s parents. Their houses were the fun houses. They had pools -- I wanted one in our back yard—but, no, couldn’t have one because of liability. Something I didn’t understand until I had children of my own. But I spent a lot of time at my friends’ homes. But here’s the kick -- while I was enjoying my free time at their houses away from my “strict” home, their families were falling apart. Little did I know at that time, that what I perceived as “being too strict” was that they were giving me security -- actually life long security. And then I went off to Bowling Green, Ohio, for college. Once again, it never occurred to me the loss for my mom -- having both her children, who she devoted her life to, moving so far away. And then Dad retired and made the decision to move the both of them to hot and humid Florida. And then my mom rose up out of her compliant 50’s mode, and started speaking up for herself. A lot of fights ensued between the “happy couple” but they miraculously persevered as a couple to become the most unselfish grandparents on the planet. Mom never gave me raising children advice. I remember when we had our first child David in 1975. And Tony and I knew nothing about raising babies. And mom was just as puzzled as us -- never made me feel guilty if I used a pacifier or picked David up whenever he cried. That was the first time I felt closer to my mom. My parents never missed one of my children’s birthdays, Christmases, Easter or the first day of school. There was always a check in the mail or a box filled with gummy worms, little Debbies, and all sorts of treats and clothes -- and it really helped us financially since I too was a stay at home mom. I remember in 1989 when April got so deathly ill and Tony had to drive with 4 kids to Ann Arbor. The brakes went on the car and Mom and Dad stepped up to the plate and gave us $2,000 for the repairs (must’ve been a few other things wrong with the bomb!). I know my mom was the moving force when it came to helping Tony and I. They came for every event in our lives too -- when Tony graduated, when he got his Master’s, when the kids were born, and finally for high school graduations. They always made the effort even if their visits sometimes drove me crazy. Regardless of all the pain my mom endured in her life, she somehow managed to carve out good lives for Bobby and I -- we wouldn’t be the people we are and we wouldn’t have the loving families we have if it hadn’t been for her love from the first moment we were born. She did a good job and I thank her from the bottom of my heart for what she gave unselfishly to my family and I. I will miss her silliness, her friendliness, her jokes and her patience. I will never forget the “digitized” TV, the trips to Patrick Air Force Base, the walks on the Officers Club boardwalk, the endless restaurants such as Friendly’s—you know, the one who banished my mom!!! And I remember my mom’s meatloaf -- a recipe I have from her--that I will make when I get home in her honor. Nathan will wonder what is wrong with his mom -- “she’s cooking a meal—really?” Well, mom, you obviously gave me the gift of gab, so until I see you again—I love you.Your daughter, Carole Elaine
Wow. SUNDAY, NOV 20th They Married in August 1944. Pop died in May 2008, my Ma ten days ago. Feeling rather sad today. Got my Mother's ashes Friday. I just shot that out on my driveway, on a piece of wood on my sawhorses. Good light today with the overcast.

The little blue and red thing beneath this photo arrangement is my "blankee" -- one of the few surviving physical artifacts from my young childhood.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

My heart goes out to Steve Jobs' family and friends

I hope others can step up to fill this void.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

To Nevada Governor Sandoval

Subject: Your proposal to eliminate the UNLV Department of Philosophy
From: Robert Gladd
Date: April 3, 2011 3:11:32 PM PDT
Cc:, Jon Ralston ,,,

Good day,

I first learned of the Nevada budget reduction proposal advocating the elimination of the UNLV Philosophy Department in the Las Vegas Sun on March 29th in an article by J. Patrick Coolican. I was aghast. I ask that you reconsider, and take this proposition off the table. It could not be more antithetical to the very purpose of an institution otherwise positioning itself as an "Up and Coming Urban Research University" with a goal of attracting excellent faculty and students via whom to help make this state and our world a better place. You have other viable alternatives at your disposal.

Let me first cite a salient excerpt from the March 23rd, 2011 letter from David E. Schrader, Executive Director of the American Philosophical Association:
"The AAC&U has done substantial work surveying the needs of America's businesses. AAC&U data indicate that 81% of employers want universities to place greater emphasis on Critical Thinking and Analytical Reasoning skills. 75% want universities to place greater emphasis on Ethical Decision Making. These are precisely the areas in which philosophy plays the most significant role."
Indeed, and the irony here could not be more acute. That we are now find ourselves in this painful circumstance of acute economic travail, both nationally and in nearly every state, is in large measure the direct result of a political, legal, and economic culture run amuck in Gresham's Law fashion, where -- absent effective and rational regulation driven by ethical acuity -- the Bad inexorably drives out the Good. The examples are by now legion (and dispositive, in my view). I need not cite them, but I do need to emphatically add my voice here for the ongoing -- no, heightened -- importance of critical thinking and ethics coursework offerings at the university level. We have no shortage of trade schools and otherwise career-dollar focused curricula. This is absolutely not the time for retrenchment in the reasoning and ethical arts and sciences.

I am a quantitative analyst and writer of long, broad, and deep experience spanning multiple domains (see I am also a mid-career 1998 graduate of the now-moribund UNLV Institute for Ethics & Policy Studies (comprised of faculty drawn mostly from Philosophy). I count the upshot of my experience there as an invaluable, cherished asset, and simply the best academic dollar value I ever received. It served to appreciably leaven my otherwise native polemical, iconoclastic tendencies with an indelible sensitivity to the continuing challenges posed by the inseparable attributes of both objective analytical reasoning and moral/ethical inquiry. I now try daily to bring these skills to my work in health care information technology as part of the national effort to improve our health care system. I blog about these topics here: (see health care post links in the upper right links column)

I am also a Senior Member of the American Society for Quality (ASQ), a 22 year veteran of that organization, and a person long committed to the ideals, strategies, and tactics of continuous improvement. The organizational literature is by now fairly replete with solid evidence of the significant cost-saving opportunities available to organizations of every stripe, public and private. Systematic, carefully implemented process improvements have repeatedly been shown to result in operational cost savings of as much as 30% or more (and I would speculate that academic institutions in general are in the upper range of quantifiable process improvement opportunity). This is wherein lies your opportunity for sustainable improvement and subsequent institutional budgetary viability (and not just at UNLV).

Let me be clear: I am by no means a reflexive apologist for the administrative or curricular status quo at the UNLV Department of Philosophy nor its parent institution. Nonetheless, what you are proposing will achieve little if anything of long-term benefit while introducing much of real short- and long-term harm. Please reconsider, and strike this proposal.

Thank you for your time.


Robert E. (Bobby) Gladd, MA/EPS

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Las Vegas: The next Anasazi Ruin?

Lake Mead, which now supplies the Las Vegas Valley with 90% of its water, has dropped 128 vertical feet since January 2000, and is now at roughtly 43% of capacity (I track these data monthly and drop them into Excel, from which I generate the above graph). It came back up 4 feet in December 2010, owing mainly to severe and sustained west coast and Rocky Mts watershed rains and snows, but, will likely again continue to decline. I shot the photos below in June 2009. The lake has dropped another 9 feet net since then.

When my wife and I relocated to Las Vegas in 1992, 1/3rd of the area's water came from the Spring Mountains watershed to the west of the valley, but the western watershed groundwater levels comprising that resource have declined significantly as well (for the most part owing to our sustained drought and -- until recently -- intense population influx). Below, Lake Mead at Hoover Dam during happier hydrological times.

In response to the dramatic lake level decline, the Southern Nevada Water Authority has proffered a plan to construct a pipeline into Lake Mead via which to obtain water from the northern rural ranching and mountain areas of eastern Nevada along the Utah border. But, the political pushback against this proposal has proved quite formidable. Critics call it another "Owens Valley" debacle, arguing that rural Nevadans (and nearby rural Utah residents). should not be sacrificed for the benefit of even more Las Vegas urban growth just to further enrich developers and the gaming industry.

Clark County, NV (the greater Las Vegas metropolitan area) is now home to some 2 million residents.

It is, long-term, an ecologically unsustainable region, and, absent gaming, would likely be another (perhaps slightly larger) Barstow -- one more dessicated, hardscrabble truck and rail stop of 30 to 40,000 people along the route between Los Angeles and Salt Lake City. Everything is brought in here by truck, rail, or aircraft. With the exception of water (for now).


[Click above to go to the story]
"Las Vegas was first settled for its springs, springs that made it an oasis in the desert. Although those springs have decades since run dry, water is still the most import resource to Las Vegas and the dry Southwest.

And by all indications the region is only going to get dryer. Scientists predict devastating effects from global warming, conservationists are calling for a halt to growth in Southern Nevada as a way to preserve supplies and water managers are looking to ever more creative ways to reduce reliance on the overburdened Colorado River. A Colorado River reservoir at Lake Mead is the source of 90 percent of the valley's water supply. Water levels there have fallen steadily for nearly a decade..."


Consider some attributes of sea water.

One acre-foot of sea water (325,851.4 gallons) weighs roughly 1,390 tons and contains about 40 tons of salt, and another 7 tons of lesser chemical constituents. The technologies for transforming salt water into potable fresh water are relatively mundane (albeit energy intensive). A net 96,500 acre-feet of potable desal water (100,000 acre-feet less the brine constituents) could serve perhaps 300,000 household per year. But, beyond the KwH energy cost of production, there would remain [1] the considerable expense of transporting it to the destinations of need, and [2] environmentally benign disposition of the 4.76 million tons of the residual chemicals (mainly salt), which are typically simply slurried back into the oceans proximate to the desalination plants.

You can just to a little transport arithmetic starting with a gallon of fresh water (post-desal processing) at 8.35 lbs: equivalently ~1360 tons per acre-foot. Use the rough rail freight shipping estimate of a nickel per ton-mile. Haul it 300 miles. About 20 grand, plus the cost of desal production. Pretty expensive alternative to the natural (and, of late in the west, chronically inadequate) hydro cycle.

Given that pipeline pumping of desalinated water several hundred miles up to higher elevations such as Las Vegas (2,160 ft above sea level) is a non-starter (as would be the use of rail tank cars; we don't have enough for just this singular "rolling pipeline" purpose), trade-off/diversion proposals have been floated in recent years in which Nevada would fund additional desal capacity in California in return for diversion of an equivalent volume of downhill-flow water from the Sierra Nevada range watershed inventory. But, myriad California agricultural, environmental, and energy concerns have thus far sufficed to stifle such initiatives. 


News from May 2008:

Spain's worst drought in decades has forced the city of Barcelona to begin shipping in drinking water in an unprecedented effort to avoid water restrictions.

For the first time ever, tankers began to deliver desperately needed drinking water to the parched region of five million people. Incredibly, Spain has seen almost no rain in the last eighteen months. Water levels have dropped so low in local reservoirs that a long forgotten medieval village has emerged from beneath a rapidly drying lake.

Sixty six tankers are expected to deliver water over the next few months. Meanwhile the Spanish government appears to have given up relying on rainwater. They are now constructing a desalination plant that will supply 60 billion litres of water a year to the parched region.


California drought: Can railroads come to the rescue?

(CNBC) As California's four-year drought worsens and water supplies dwindle in the state, an old technology—railroads—could play a role in alleviating some water shortages.

"We certainly have that capability today," said Mike Trevino, a spokesman for privately held BNSF Railway, which operates one of the largest freight railroad networks in North America. "We carry chlorine, for example. We carry liquefied commodities."
Experts say the East Coast's plentiful water could cost cents per gallon to Californians and provide a stable, potable water supply for small communities. Obstacles include identifying a state willing to share some of its water, and securing the construction funds for key infrastructure work, including terminals that can handle water....
See also my KHIT post "Upstream, downstream; what happens to health when there IS no more stream?"

More to come...