The Thoughts and Musings of Tom Allain

If this is going to be a Christian nation that doesn't help the poor, either we have to pretend that Jesus was just as selfish as we are, or we've got to acknowledge that He commanded us to love the poor and serve the needy without condition and then admit that we just don't want to do it

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(b.1964)

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Archive for January, 2009

Rest in Peace Aunt Freda

Monday, January 26th, 2009

When Nancy and I were on our way home from Yosemite we got a call from my father that his older sister Alfreda Theresa Allain Ladroga died. I had to ask him if I had heard it right because she was not the person I expected to be the one to die. My father is the youngest of seven children: Jeanne, Ed, Joe, Freda, Norman, Andre, and Donald (my father). Andre was always known as “Tonto” and I always heard him referred to as “Uncle Tonto.” He died in a drowning accident in 1964 and I’m too young to remember him. My father is 77 and his siblings are all in their 80s. I’ve known for a while that in the next few years I’ll be getting some calls with this news, but this call was a surprise. At 83 she was one of the younger ones and appeared to be in good health. On the other hand I found that the last time she had seen a doctor was when my cousin Rick was born in 1960.

As I understand it she was talking about abdominal pain and my cousin John noticed that she appeared weak. Last week he finally convinced her to go to the hospital. When she got there they noticed her liver enzymes were off and further tests showed she had advanced colon cancer that had spread to her kidneys and liver. In a few days she was gone. My theory is that she had known for a while she was sick and chose not to have it treated. I respect that as she was in her 80s and probably didn’t look forward to facing chemotherapy and/or radiation for the rest of her life.

In any case I will miss her. Earlier in my life Gardner, Massachusetts was an important part of my life as were my father’s siblings. A few times I visited Gardner in college I stayed with her since she had the room and she was very kind to me. She had also been important to my father as she could give him information on what was going on with his siblings (this may not make much sense unless you’re French and understand that communication is not our strong suit).

Here is her obit in the Gardner News:

GARDNER — Alfreda Therese “Freda” (Allain) Ladroga, 83, of 61 Lake Street, Gardner, died Friday, January 23rd in UMASS-Memorial Medical Center, 55 Lake Ave N., Worcester, surrounded by her family, following a brief illness.

Born in Gardner on March 18, 1925, she was the daughter of the late Calixte and Emma (LeBlanc) Allain.

Alfreda graduated from Gardner High School with the Class of 1943.

She was a Personal Care Attendant, employed by Worcester State Hospital, Worcester for several years, retiring in 1985. She was previously employed by Rutland State Hospital, Rutland and Gardner State Hospital, Gardner.

Alfreda was a member of Our Lady of the Holy Rosary Church, Gardner.

She enjoyed playing scrabble, crocheting and doing crossword puzzles “in ink”. Alfreda loved to cook and was generous with her special recipes. She most enjoyed her family, friends and church.

Alfreda was predeceased by her husband of 53 years, Zigmond Ladroga, who died in 2001.

She leaves two sons, John A. Ladroga and his companion Renee Haley of Phillipston and Richard K. Ladroga and his wife Tracy of Athol; one daughter, Kathleen A. Gallant and her husband Laurie of Gardner; four brothers, Edward Allain and his wife Eva of Gardner, Norman Allain and his wife Lempi of Gardner, Joseph Allain of Gardner and Donald Allain and his wife Claire of Woodbridge, VA; one sister, Jeanne Hetnik of Otter River; ten grandchildren; six great-grandchildren; several nieces, nephews and cousins.

She was predeceased by a son, John Henry Ladroga and by one brother, Andre Allain.

Funeral services will be held Wednesday, January 28th from the Boucher Funeral Home, Inc., 110 Nichols Street, Gardner with a Mass at 10:00 a.m. in Our Lady of the Holy Rosary Church, 135 Nichols Street, Gardner. Burial will be in Notre Dame Cemetery, Gardner, at a later date.

Calling hours in the funeral home are Tuesday, January 27th from 6:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. and Wednesday, January 28th from 8:30 a.m. to 9:30 a.m.

Memorial contributions may be made to Our Lady of the Holy Rosary School, 135 Nichols Street, Gardner, MA 01440.

Rest in peace, Aunt Freda. I’m sorry I’ll miss your sendoff.

The Day Has Arrived

Wednesday, January 21st, 2009

No doubt about it: yesterday was a historic day. I hope that years from now all of us will remember where we were when President Obama was inaugurated as our nation’s 44th President. Nancy and I, alas, couldn’t watch it as we were traveling to Yosemite National Park for our annual Chef’s Holidays trip. We were able to listen to it compliments of National Public Radio and we’re grateful for that.

Yesterday’s events held meaning for so many people on so many levels it’s hard, even a day later, to encapsulate all the emotions. As I said in a previous post, I always believed we would have a President of African descent in my lifetime and in that sense this isn’t much of a surprise. I was raised to always believe racism to be a sin and I believed that our nation wouldn’t keep excluding the gifts and talents of all our men and women of color. That said, perhaps the most moving part of yesterday was hearing from the aging generation who still vividly remembers segregation, and how grateful they are to live long enough to see this.

For me the inauguration of President Obama has less to do with race and more to do with hope. His inaugural address struck several chords with me. Here are a few excerpts:

  • On this day, we gather because we have chosen hope over fear, unity of purpose over conflict and discord.
  • In reaffirming the greatness of our nation, we understand that greatness is never a given. It must be earned. Our journey has never been one of shortcuts or settling for less. It has not been the path for the fainthearted — for those who prefer leisure over work, or seek only the pleasures of riches and fame. Rather, it has been the risk-takers, the doers, the makers of things — some celebrated, but more often men and women obscure in their labor — who have carried us up the long, rugged path toward prosperity and freedom. For us, they packed up their few worldly possessions and traveled across oceans in search of a new life.
  • The state of the economy calls for action, bold and swift, and we will act — not only to create new jobs, but to lay a new foundation for growth. We will build the roads and bridges, the electric grids and digital lines that feed our commerce and bind us together. We will restore science to its rightful place, and wield technology’s wonders to raise health care’s quality and lower its cost. We will harness the sun and the winds and the soil to fuel our cars and run our factories. And we will transform our schools and colleges and universities to meet the demands of a new age. All this we can do. And all this we will do. (emphasis mine)
  • Nor is the question before us whether the market is a force for good or ill. Its power to generate wealth and expand freedom is unmatched, but this crisis has reminded us that without a watchful eye, the market can spin out of control — and that a nation cannot prosper long when it favors only the prosperous. The success of our economy has always depended not just on the size of our gross domestic product, but on the reach of our prosperity; on our ability to extend opportunity to every willing heart — not out of charity, but because it is the surest route to our common good.
  • As for our common defense, we reject as false the choice between our safety and our ideals. Our Founding Fathers, faced with perils we can scarcely imagine, drafted a charter to assure the rule of law and the rights of man, a charter expanded by the blood of generations. Those ideals still light the world, and we will not give them up for expedience’s sake.

OK, maybe I should have included the whole address.

Finally, you can see some changes in this page. I did take down the countdown clock of the last President’s administration, but for the time being I’ve edited it to be the days since this inauguration. I may leave it up indefinitely or I may take it down after the first 100 days; I haven’t decided yet. I’ve also added the new White House blog under “political blogs.” I found it this morning; it seems that Macon Phillips, the Director of New Media, will be keeping a blog. I’ll be interested to read his stuff.

That’s all for now.

My Hopes for the Next Four Years

Saturday, January 17th, 2009

I’m writing this a few days before the Inauguration. As I’m looking over my web page I’m realizing that I should take down the countdown clock; I could take it down now, but I want to see “0″ just once. It will come down soon. I’m also thinking about taking down the Bert and Ernie terror alert level. It’s a spoof of the Department of Homeland Security’s Terror Alert Level. It’s an easy thing to spoof and I hope it’s one of the things that President Obama eliminates.

We’re hearing that the President Elect is planning on closing the prison at Guantanamo. This is nothing but good news; I’m one of the people who have been troubled by the fact that our government, in complete disregard of the 4th Amendment has imprisoned people without due process, representation, or opportunity to have their case heard.

There is much to write here as it has been a long 8 years. The bottom line is that I pray we once again become a country that lives its dreams and not its fears. We are in a bad place economically and I don’t expect we are going to inaugurate a Messiah who will fix things overnight. But I do think we are, at the very least, turning the ship of state back to a good direction. I ask that we all pray for him.

Electric Cars: Is This a Lateral Shift to Another Fossil Fuel?

Monday, January 12th, 2009

As everyone who reads this knows, I drive a Toyota Prius and my gas milage is in the low 40s MPG. I enjoy it (and especially enjoy the sticker that allows me to drive in the carpool lane even if I’m alone). But the drawback is that my gas mileage isn’t all that much better than the 35MPG I used to get in my 1997 Honda Civic. My Prius uses a battery that is recharged by use of the gas engine and isn’t running all that much.

In the last few weeks I’ve been hearing news out of Detroit that American car manufacturers are increasingly looking at cars that run on 100% electricity and plug in overnight. This would save us from lots of the oil we now convert to gas and burn and it would lower our dependence on OPEC. But it raises an obvious question for me: If, over time, we switch from gas powered cars to electric powered cars, where does the electricity come from? And if it’s coal, does switching from one finite fossil fuel to another really help?

I did some looking on the internet and found a page from the Department of Energy. It broke down all the energy consumption in the United States in 2006 and from my calculation, we used 1,990,926 thousand Megawatt hours in coal compated to 4,064,702 thousand Megawatt hours total. If my 3rd grade math is corrrect (Mrs. Moore, are you checking this?) we get about 49% of our electricty from coal. The numbers in California are dramatically different; I found a group called One Block Off the Grid that shows in 2007 California got only 16.6% of its power from coal, but 45.2% from natural gas, another fossil fuel.

I find this a little disturbing for three reasons: First, I’m not sure that in the long run we gain much from switching to another fossil fuel. Granted we have more coal and natural gas under our own soil and this would free us up from OPEC. But the bottom line is that we’re still burning a finite fuel and it, too, will run out some day. Second, coal and natural gas are also greenhouse gases. According to naturalgas.org all three release CO2 with coal being the highest, oil in the middle, and natural gas being the least. You can find the numbers there. Finally, it’s clear that the American car industry needs to change things and change things fast to stay competitive and in business. When they start making the switch to electricity, will the current grid be able to accept all the increase in demand? We here in Southern California know well that there are times during the summer where increased use of air conditioners has led to rolling blackouts because the grid just couldn’t keep up with demand. Granted if we do start switching over to electric cars it will be a gradual thing, and the industry is saying simply “The grid will have to grow” but can it? Can we mine enough coal and natural gas to keep up with demand?

We hear all the time about areas around the world that have electricity for only a few hours a day, if at all. Most of us have never experienced that. We expect, and have come to expect, that whatever we plug in, no matter how power hungry and no matter what time of the day, will work. Those days may be changing.