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Friday, September 23, 2016

I must be 'old' because I'm reading the obituary page

The Advocate obituary for Mark Thompson in 2016 and his gay history book 'Long Road to Freedom,' 1994

PHOTO: A magazine obituary by Lucas Grindley, "Former Advocate editor, Mark Thompson, Dies at 63," The Advocate, Oct./Nov. 2016, p. 32, online as "Editor and Author, Mark Thompson, Remembered for Grasp of Gay Spirit," posted Aug. 13, 2016 is shown next to the gay history book edited by Mark Thompson, with a Foreword by Randy Shilts, "Long Road to Freedom: The Advocate History of The Gay and Lesbian Movement," St. Martin's Press, 1994. "The Advocate" obituary says, Thompson was "a founding member of the Bay Area-wide Gay Students Coalition at San Francisco State University, and it references his website. Thompson started writing for The Advocate in 1975 and would spend two decades at the LGBT magazine." The Website by "Mark C. Thompson - Biography," accessed Sep. 23, 2016 says he "is a world-renowned authority and top speaker on Leadership, Driving Change and Innovation, Sales Growth, and Customer and Employee Engagement. . . Mark has worked side by side with three of the world's most legendary disruptive innovators: Steve Jobs, Charles Schwab and Virgin Group founder Sir Richard Branson. . . Mark was Charles Schwab's former Chief of Staff and Chief Customer Experience Officer, and the Executive Producer of which today has assets over $2.4 Trillion." Thompson's colleague Randy Shilts was a University of Oregon graduate who in 1975 went on to work as a journalist for "The Advocate" before becoming a famous reporter for the "San Francisco Chronicle" while he was reporting on the AIDS crisis before he died of AIDS himself. Shilts reporting work was made into a major motion picture, "And The Band Played On." (See previous posts Randy Shilts 'Reporter Zero' on Logo (3/10/07), OSU mentioned in The Advocate 45th anniversary issue (8/18/12), Advocate Touching Your Lifestyle 1976 (9/16/06), Wall Street Journal 1975 Advocate Story (7/8/06)) and Advocate 40th anniversary issue (9/11/07)

Decades ago, when I still exhibited the arrogance of youth, I thought that reading the obituary page was something that only 'old people' did and so I would rib my mother about her constant reading of obituary pages. However, I must now be "old" too because I am not only reading the obituary page, but I now understand why I my mother did it. My mother's stated reason for wanting to read the obituary section of the newspaper was so that she "could keep up with the town gossip," but I now realize she probably read it for the same reason I do now -- to keep track of friends and acquaintances.

My older, retired neighbor, who lives across the street from me, explained her reason to me was because she and her husband know everyone in town and they were both getting of the age when many of their friends were passing away and she didn't want to miss reading about it in the newspaper.

A few years ago when I was working with an estate attorney to button up my estate plans, part of her process was for me to write an obituary for my friends and family to use, if they wished, and so it was that around then was when I started to notice the obituaries of people who I had worked with over the years. (See previous posts Obituary for Thomas Kraemer (1/4/12) and OSU Foundation Magnus Hirschfeld Fund Agreement (1/4/12) for more on my estate plans)

I more recently noticed how both the history of the Corvallis college town and Oregon State University were epitomized by three obituaries of people who had touched my life over the last half of a century.

The most recent obituary of these three was for Bob Adams, who was the 10th employee of the consulting engineering firm CH2M-Hill that started in Corvallis, Oregon, where he was born in 1924 and graduated with a degree in Civil Engineering from Oregon State University in 1948 after serving in the Navy during World War II. At OSU he became a member of Σ Φ Ε Fraternity (Capital Greek letters written in English as Sigma Phi Epsilon) and later became a lifelong member of the Corvallis Lions Club. (See Obituaries: "Robert R. Adams 1924-2016," Gazette-Times, Aug.17, 2016, p. A4 posted Aug. 16, 2016) His funeral was held at the historic Corvallis First Presbyterian Church, Est. 1853, 114 SW Eigth Street, Corvallis, Oregon and was streamed live on the Internet. (See First Presbyterian Church Corvallis, Est. 1853 (History page accessed Aug. 19, 2016), Bob Adams memorial service and reception Friday, August 19, 2016, 2:00 pm accessed Aug. 19, 2016, "Live Streamed Worship - Bob Adams memorial service and reception," accessed Aug. 19, 2016 2 PM and "Live Streamed Worship - Bob Adams memorial service and reception," accessed Aug. 19, 2016 2 PM at First Presbyterian Church Corvallis)

My first memory of Bob Adams was when he spoke to OSU students who were interviewing with his firm for engineering jobs and I was impressed by his "home grown" approach to things, as locals like to call it.

The second obituary that epitomizes Corvallis history is of a former colleague who taught me about the politics of disability (see her obituary Lynn Andrews Gibson (Dec. 18, 1956 -- Feb. 16, 2016) posted Feb. 26, 2016) as she suffered from multiple sclerosis (MS), which is a neurological problem that only a few decades ago was considered the "faker's disease" because of its widely disparate symptoms that doctors did not believe were possible to suffer from. This skepticism did not change until MS could be diagnosed more scientifically diagnosed with modern brain imaging technology, such as CAT scans and functional MRI machines that can show how multiple regions of the brain that are not functioning.

I learned from her how most doctors are trained is to look for diagnoses that are explained by a single cause and have a single effect, which are measured by blood tests, brain images or other medical tests such as a physical exam. Hoever, if a test doesn't exist yet, then the person is not ill as far as doctors are concerned, even if they are falling over for no reason, which doctors will usually dismiss as being due to a psychological or psychiatric disorder called somatization or worse, due to malingering, the legal term fo "faking it" for some personal gain from the system. Many early victims of HIV and AIDS suffered from this kind of assumption because there was not test for HIV and no proof that HIV caused AIDS, which led many doctors to dismiss their disability as an attempt to rip-off the disability insurance system.

For example, I witnessed her and other Hewlett-Packard employees' dealing with third party disability administrators who had been hired mostly to minimize the costs to her employer, instead of helping the employee continue to contribute at work. She was virtually blind, in a wheelchair, and unable to walk, before anybody would finally admit to the fact that she was too disabled to work and that she was deserving of the generous permanent disability insurance benefits that were provided by our employer.

Her experience with MS highlights how doctors can be blind to the reality of complicated medical disorders that have not yet been identified because medical technology lacks a scientific test to detect them or measure it. I believe the so-called psychiatric disorders that most doctors treat as not being real and "all in the head" will someday have a scientific test and explanation for it, similar to how the test for HIV and its linkage to AIDS was eventually developed by medical science.

For example, it is now well known that so-called "psychiatric symptoms" are common with many metabolic disorders, such as diabetes, but these symptoms are not yet easy to measure or trtreated as can be a diabetic's blood sugar level. As a result, symptoms often get ignored by medical doctors who dismiss the symptoms as being "all in the head." The metabolic system in the human body is more complicated than an electronic digital computer and it can exhibit strange and buggy behavior just like computers commonly do. Anybody who has debugged a computer knows that it is too easy for engineers and technicians to dismiss all problems with a computer program as being the fault of stupid users, instead of going to the trouble of digging into the design to figure out the complicated sequence of events that must occur for a defect to surface.

As captured in the above two obituaries, Oregon State University, the CH2M-Hill consulting engineering firm and Hewlett-Packard have had dominated the small town of Corvallis, population 50,000, including the more than 20,000 college students, for more than half of a century. There has been a cross fertilization of students and University researchers.

When I graduated from OSU four decades ago, I was fully expecting to move elsewhere for a job, but was lucky to land a job at the brand new Hewlett-Packard handheld scientific calculator division that HP had just moved up from Silicon Valley to Corvallis to keep with up with customer demand for this wildly successful product line. In fact, Steve Jobs, founder of Apple COmputer, was in love with this HP product and it inspired him to produce the Apple PC's and iPhone smart phone. In fact, Steve Jobs successfully hired some HP engineers to help him create his empire, and he tried to recruit me when I showed him in 1982 the HP prototype of a handheld cell phone with an LCD calculator display, along with the Objective-C dynamic linking programming solution HP had devised with a thrid-party company, which eventually became the basis for iPhone Apps.

The third obituary that epitomizes the history of Corvallis and HP was the one of "Ronald Ward Keil" (1940-2014) posted Aug. 16, 2016, who was the first engineer I was assigned to work with at HP in HP's research and development lab in Corvallis. (also see short version of obituary of "Ron Keil," posted Aug. 15, 2014)

Ron Keil had been an engineering college professor before coming to HP, where he was often made fun of as being too analytical by the more seat-of-the-pants engineers who like to learn by cutting and trying things out instead of over analyzing them. As his obituary documents, he retired from HP at the age of 60, and then went on to work as a Professor of Mechanical Engineering at Oregon State University for ten years, until retiring at the age of 70. Of course, this made him one of the retirees who are called "double dippers" because they get full retirement packages from two places, in his case the standard HP retirement package in addition to the very generous State of Oregon PERS (Public Employee Retirement System) that likely paid for all of his medical expenses before he tragically died of cancer just a few years into retirement. I can confirm that engineering students loved him for his practical engineering knowledge that he acquired while working in industry, which he could share with students who hated the typical engineering professor who is super theoretical and disinterested in the details of actually building something and making it work.

I accidently stumbled into Ron's obituary while working on an estate plan. (See previous post Obituary for Thomas Kraemer (1/4/12 revised 8/19/14 accessed 8/18/16))

Finally, an example of an obituary I missed because it wasn't printed locally, was the one for my mother's younger sister, Ann Baldwin Heck, published in The Washington Post on Oct. 1, 2015. She was born in 1931 and I recall visting her every summer when I was a kid -- my mother would take me and my sister to visit with both her and my Grandmother who lived in an an apartment building literally across the street from the U.S. Capitol building in washington, D.C. My grandmother's building was full of U.S. Senators and Congressmen who she would greet on a first name basis, and I would get a chance to learn about government service from her friendly neighbors. I never found out if she read the obituary page or not!

Thursday, September 15, 2016

OSU's endowment threatened by Wall Street and Congress

Berlin university students carrying away the library from the home of Dr. Magnus Hirschfeld on May 6, 1933 for a May 10-11 Nazi book burning. New York Herald Tribune, May 17, 1933

PHOTO: Berlin university students carrying away the research library from the home of Dr. Magnus Hirschfeld (1868-1935) on May 6, 1933 for a May 10-11 Nazi book burning, (New York Herald Tribune, May 17, 1933). (See previous post OSU Foundation Magnus Hirschfeld Fund Agreement (1/4/12), which I named in honor of Dr. Magnus Hirschfeld, and also my previous posts "PBS features gay Nazi Joseph Goebbels" (5/29/2006), where I mentioned the May 11, 1933 Nazi book burning after the May 6, 1933 plundering of the sex research institute, and Magnus Hirschfeld Book notes 37 to 39 - final post (11/2/2010) that includes a list of the previous posts on Hirschfeld's book.

Oregon State University asked 15 firms to bid for its $505 million fund this year, selecting a division of New York-based Perella Weinberg Partners to replace consultant Mercer, a unit of Marsh & McLennan Cos. according to an article by Michael McDonald , "Asset Management, Wall Street Bids for Endowment Billions," Bloomberg Businessweek, Sept. 5-11, 2016, p. 35-37, online as "Wall Street Redoubles Fight to Manage $100 Billion at Endowments," posted August 29, 2016, which also linked to related stories by Janet Lorin, "University Endowments," posted Aug. 29, 2016 and Janet Lorin, "The Pill That Made Northwestern Rich," Businessweek, Aug. 22-28, 2016, p. 39

Both of these business articles on university endowments prompted me to write the following opinion piece for the local professional newspaper in my college town:

As Oregon State University starts up the Fall Term of 2016, some members of Congress are proposing to tax OSU's endowment, which is worth over a half-billion dollars, as a way to pay for Obama's noble goal of free tuition at two-year community colleges.

Concurrently, Wall Street has been aggressively competing for a cut of the billions of dollars held in university endowments, including the one at OSU that in April selected the bid of a New York-based asset manager Weinberg Partners to run OSU's portfolio, according to a story by Michael McDonald in the Sep. 5-11, 2016 print edition of "Bloomberg Businessweek" magazine.

Wall Street "asset managers" promise a better return for an undisclosed, but estimated annual charge of roughly one percent of assets under management.

"Businessweek" quotes (on p.36) a University of Michigan business professor who cautions how this situation "is an old recipe for disaster and embarrassment."

I learned firsthand about the importance of endowments when I witnessed how the genesis of Silicon Valley (located in the San Francisco Bay Area) was fueled by Stanford University's endowment, now worth $22.2 billion dollars, while I was leading advanced research programs at Stanford for Hewlett-Packard, which is a company started by Stanford alumni Bill and Dave and whose offices were literally located on Stanford's land.

City of Corvallis leaders during the 1970's sought a similar synergy between OSU and HP, which at the time included the 1954 OSU electrical engineering alumnus and soon-to-be HP President John Young, but anti-growth Corvallis voters almost prohibited it from happening because they were still suffering from problems created by the rapid growth of Corvallis after World War II, which were problems much worse than those related to the more recent doubling of enrollment at OSU.

Four decades ago I was fortunate to personally benefit from a then scarce OSU endowment, which allowed me to obtain a graduate degree debt-free, without having to also work as a "Teaching Assistant," because it paid me as a "0.5 FTE Research Assistant."

After personally benefiting from an OSU endowment and then experiencing the importance of Stanford's endowment, I decided to become the founding benefactor of the OSU Foundation Magnus Hirschfeld Fund for multidisciplinary research at OSU in all academic disciplines, for example, research in subjects disparate as animal science and theoretical computer science.

I named this Fund in honor of Dr. Magnus Hirschfeld, whose Berlin research library was infamously burned by Nazis in 1933 -- an atrocity that my grandfather vividly recalled from when he was a visiting research professor of chemistry at Berlin University.

I am not a billionaire and all of my ancestors died almost penniless, therefore my initial OSU endowment is relatively small, but I am hoping it will inspire a generous addition to it by a billionaire who also cares about research at OSU.

Although it is true that research paid for by Stanford's endowment has led to companies, such as HP, Intel, Apple Computer and Alphabet Google, paving over orchards previously used to grow oranges and McIntosh apple trees between San Jose and San Francisco, I sincerely believe that a larger OSU endowment would not necessarily cause a similar urban area being built between Corvallis and Portland.

In fact, I'm planning on Corvallis remaining as a nice, small college town because I plan on living here the rest of my life.

Finally, while it is also true that much of OSU's endowment is kept in separate funds that are legally bound by contracts for specific purposes, it still must be protected from Acts of Congress and Wall Street profiteers.

(Quoted from Thomas Kraemer, "As I See It: Protecting Oregon State's endowment," Gazette-Times, Sep. 15, 2016, p. A7)

University endowments can be funded many ways other than rich billionaires, for example, over the last decade the Northwestern University's endowment of nearly $11 billion dollars grew from less than half of that thanks largely to the windfall of money they are receiving from their research that led to the Lyrica drug research, according to the article by Janet Lorin, "The Pill That Made Northwestern Rich," Businessweek, Aug. 22-28, 2016, p. 39.

A related issue for OSU is the possible drainage of funding toward the needs of a new campus that is being set up in Bend, Oregon, which is mentioned in the newspaper editorial by Mike McInally, "Think Too Much: Why OSU's Bend cmapus matters here," Mid-Valley Sunday Editorial page of Gazette-Times, Sun. Sep. 11, 2016, p. A8, which included a discussion of enrollment numbers at OSU -- see below. (Note: this was printed in the Suday paper, but it wasn't available online until Tuesday.)

One student praised the new OSU Bend, Oregon campus for having "Room for research," which was a sub-headline in the print edition of the article by Anthony Rimel, "OSU celebrates opening of Cascades Campus," posted Sep. 14, 2016.

See the following links and previous posts of interest:

Monday, September 5, 2016

High school jocks' homoerotic hazing not charged as a sex crime

Photo of Oregon sodomy laws circa 1951 in the book by Donald Webster Cory, 'The Homosexual in America,' Greenberg, 1951, p. 289

PHOTO: One of the former Oregon laws against homosexual sex was "OREGON 23-910. Sodomy" that stipulated: "If any person shall commit sodomy or the crime against nature, or any act or practice of sexual perversity, either with mankind or beast, or sustain osculatory relations with the private parts of any man, woman or child, or permit such relations to be sustained with his or her private parts, such person shall upon conviction thereof, be punished by imprisonment in the penitentiary not less than one year nor more than fifteen years." (Aas quoted in the famous book by Donald Webster Cory, "The Homosexual in America," Greenberg, 1951, Appendix B, p. 289. This is book is frequently recalled in reminiscences by gay people who came of age in the 1950s.) See previous posts Oregon blue laws circa 1950 (9/7/06 and Oregon sodomy law invoked in sugar daddy lover spat (11/23/14)


My local professional daily newspaper and several local TV channels' newscasts recently reported the story "Coach, six Philomath football players, cited in 'aggravated hazing' case at football camp," posted Aug. 30, 2016. My local newspaper also ran the related story by Jim Day, "Anti-bullying policies required by state law," posted Aug. 30, 2016.

I was surprised that the Philomath football players were charged with only Class A or Class B misdemeanors, instead of being charged with sexual assault or some other sex crime, given they are accused of "contact with the anus or anal area (or) aggressive contact with the testicles," according to the Benton County District Attorney John Haroldson, as quoted in the Gazette-Times Aug. 31.

Oregon's Legislators revised the State's blue laws in the 1970's to legalize consenting sex between adults, but they carefully left in place laws against all forms of nonconsensual sex, especially when minors are involved.

In my experience, most people will, at first, deny that this type of behavior is homoerotic in nature and claim it is "normal guy locker room humor," but they will see it as being homosexual after viewing the type of videos that are commonly shown in downtown San Francisco gay bars and sex clubs, which feature naked guys in gym locker rooms and scenes of dominance and submission of Freshman plebes' initiations to the team.

Sadly, largely due to Americans' homophobia and sexual prudishness, high school coaches are forbidden from educating students by showing them these videos, as a method to prevent future sexual assaults.

Sunday, September 4, 2016

Social Security forces paperless service shortly after reversing decision requiring text-message cell phone for online access

I wrote the following letter to the editor as a follow up to my previous letter Thomas Kraemer, "Letter: Federal government violates ADA," Albany/Corvallis Mid-Valley Sunday, Aug. 7, 2016, p. A8. (See previous post Social Security requires text-enabled cell phone for online access blaming President's order to use multifactor authentication (8/7/16))

The good news came from U.S. Rep. Peter DeFazio, who let me know that Social Security will no longer require a text-message cell phone for online access, in response to my Aug. 7 Mid-Valley Sunday letter, "Federal government violates ADA."

A few days after I thanked DeFazio's staff, the bad news arrived from Social Security in a very unprofessional, unsigned and no-reply-accepted email, saying that the annual change notice would not be mailed to me because it was online and would "save taxpayers' money."

As a taxpayer, who also paid into Social Security for decades, I found this penny-pinching letter disturbing and contrary to Social Security's original goal of better security.

Like many older people, I want all of my important financial documents sent to me via my locked U.S. Mail box, and if alerted to any unauthorized transactions, I will then use computer accessibility software to read them online.

As I become more crippled and blind, I must depend on others to check my U.S. Mail box for any unauthorized transactions, and I would never let anybody check online for me because it would require sharing my computer passwords, which would open an obvious security hole.

For security reasons, my bank provides "paperless services" only to people who actively opt-in, instead of forcing it on everybody like Social Security is doing.

Notices can be mass-printed and mailed for much cheaper, and with less impact to the environment, than a typical home printer that costs a dime per page.

(Quoted from Thomas Kraemer, "Good news, Bad news," Albany Democrat-Herald Corvallis Gazette-Times, Sun. Sep. 4, 2016, p. A8)

Upon further investigation, I believe there is a way to reverse being forced to go paperless, but the instructions are unclear because they don't say what documents will be paperless and if I will still be able to read them online, therefore I am not going to ask for anything to be changed or corrected for at least a few more months until I can observe what actually happens.