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Wednesday, February 6,2013

Here’s some more of this, that, and the other thing

By Terry Smith
graduating class 2

Photo Caption: Ferris (Texas) High School, graduating class of 1919 (maybe ’20).

This is one of those days where your scattershot editor has a lot of stuff to talk about, so here goes:

The sheriff's new website: Athens County Sheriff Pat Kelly unveiled a new website for his office last week – It replaces the sheriff's former conventional website, which was to public Internet presence what penny loafers are to modern footwear. (If one had checked the sheriff's old site during the local power outage/heat wave crisis this past June and July, one would have found a helpful snow alert from winter 2012.)

The new site, thankfully, is a huge improvement over the old site, and its best feature is a widget to provide live updates from Sheriff Kelly's popular Facebook site. Right now (Monday afternoon), for example, the widget is showing a status update reading: "There is a possibility of more snow later this afternoon. Possibly up to 4 inches depending on who's prediction you believe…"

There's also a message crawler at the bottom of the screen.

Last fall during the bitter sheriff's election race, we (OK, mainly I) slammed the sheriff for having such a crappy website, and for instead relying on Facebook for nearly all of his public outreach. My concern was that a lot of people don't use Facebook, and that Kelly's site was more of a rabid fan page than a professional law-enforcement site. (I got chewed up and spit out after posting a criticism on Kelly's Facebook site, and haven't posted anything there since. I'm no glutton for punishment.)

The new website, however, addresses my concerns to a large degree, and I applaud the sheriff for it.

Fugitive Fest: Wouldn't you know it? We asked five random OU students in our "On Court Street" feature last Friday whether they agreed with OU President Roderick McDavis' decision to close the university after police reported an armed robbery of a pedestrian near campus earlier that morning. All five praised McDavis for the decision.

I wouldn't take that as an affirmation of the president's judgment, however, but rather an affirmation of the universal student attitude of applauding any decision to cancel class, if not the circumstance that precipitated the decision.

In my junior high school, a miscreant dropped an M-80 into a school's toilet, knocking out the plumbing system for the day, and sending all the students home. This flagrant act of mindless vandalism was universally cheered by my classmates (and me).

But that's not the same thing as concluding that McDavis made the right call. I thought it was absurd to spill more than 25,000 students and staff out on the streets, in reaction to one isolated armed robbery, where the robber disappeared into thin air shortly after the event. I'm not sure that the fact of classes being in session would have made any difference, even if the robber had still been around. There was still plenty of foot traffic in town.

Of course, it's easy to second-guess a decision like this, but it's also too easy to defend it by saying, "We had to err on the side of caution." A better idea would be to err on the side of common sense and proportion. Disrupting the days of 25,000 people as the result of one, singular criminal act is totally out of whack with reality and proportion.

Old family photos: Over the past year or two, I've been digitally converting a lot of the old photos and historical material that I inherited from my mother. For the most part, it's stuff that she inherited from her mother, and that her mother got from her mother-in-law (my great grandmother). It mostly involves the branches of my mom's family that homesteaded rangeland south of Dallas and Fort Worth in the 1850s.

I love scanning these old scrapbook photos because with many of these photos, once they've been converted to digital, you can see so much more detail. A photo that you would quickly flip past in a scrapbook can much more easily capture your attention. One that's been drawing my attention a lot lately shows my grandmother's graduating class from Ferris (Texas) High School, probably in 1920 or '21. Located just south of Dallas, Ferris today is a small town of about 2,500 people.

If you look at the photo, you'll see the usual assortment of vintage young faces, frozen uncomfortably in time, with some of the faces blurred because the shutter speed at the time would have been very slow. In the upper-middle part of the photo, you can see two faces that look different from the others. They have dark skins, and likely are either African American, Hispanic, Native American or some mixture. I've spend some time wondering how these two young people ended up in a "white" school in an area that likely had segregated schools far into the 20th century (this according to a friend who went to segregated Texas schools in the '60s).

And probably guilty of blatant projection, I look at the fellows behind the dark-skinned male student, and tell me I'm not imagining this: they look like they're glowering at them. On the other hand, some of the other male students are just glowering straight at the camera, so who knows?

Anyway, I probably spend way too much time pondering things that there's no way of ever knowing the truth about. (Incidentally, my late grandmother, in this cropped photo, is standing in the back row of girls on the far left.)

Doctor's appointments: What's the longest you've ever had to wait at a doctor's office before being seen for a scheduled appointment? Until this past Friday, I would have said two hours. Until five or six years ago, I would have said an hour. Going back to my childhood, I'd probably have said about a half hour.

After Friday, I obviously need to readjust my expectations of the American health-care system. My wife had a 3:30 p.m. appointment at a specialist in Columbus, and the doctor didn't see her until after 6:30 p.m. Previously, we have waited at the same medical office for two hours, so this obviously wasn't an aberration.

I can't think of any other circumstance in modern life where somebody can so heedlessly waste your time, and do it while you're paying them! That's three hours of my life that we could have used for some productive purpose. Such an extreme delay at a doctor's office is abusive; there's no other way to characterize it.

For years, I've been skeptical about claims that Americans enjoy "the best health care in the world." Or that somehow our health-care delivery system is far superior to say, Canada's. From the available evidence, it should be clear that our country's medical professionals are overscheduled, overworked and overstressed. I'm not sure how that translates into a quality health-care system.


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I recently waited over an hour in the exam room at my OB-GYN office. There I lay... freezing, pants-less and p*ssed off, wondering what was going on. After all, I was the first appointment of the day! An hour and 15 minutes later, I got myself dressed and traipsed out to the reception area. I explained that I'd been there nearly an hour and a half and had to leave, unseen, because I had another appointment. The nice receptionist, hearing the frustration in my voice, asked if anyone had informed me that just 10 minutes after my arrival, my doctor had been called away to deliver a baby. WHAT?! NO! No one had bothered to share that with me. Nor did the staff inform any of the other 3 physicians on staff that morning that I was there... waiting to be seen. What a waste of my time. And I was sure to thank the practice manager for caring so deeply about the value of patient's time.