Navajo “code talker” tells his story of WW II

Yesterday, July 4, 2015, the last of the Navajo “code talkers” died. I listened his memoir, titled Code Talker: The First and Only Memoir by One of the Original Navajo Code Talkers of WW II, couple of years ago. Here is my review of this worthwhile book, speaking of his sacrifice and contributions.

Chester Nez shares his story of growing up near a Navajo reservation of New Mexico. He pursued an education to better himself but the education provided was designed to suppress his native language and culture. Fortunately, it did not succeed. The very complex and unwritten Navajo language proved the basis for an efficient and unbreakable code that saved 1000’s of American lives and sped the end of World War II.

While the story of the Navajo “code talkers” is history, this book is not a history book, providing little of the larger picture of WW II or even Navajo life. Instead it is one’s man’s view of these realities that he and others faced on the reservation and the battlefield. While I appreciate hearing his story in his words, restricting the story to his experience reduces the depth of the story.

Chester shares unapologetically of his Navajo upbringing, with its focus on balance and harmony with nature, and its impact on his attitudes and actions. He shares also of the mistreatment he faced which also prepared him for the sacrifices he faced in the war. Yet he does not dwell on these scenes much.

While I found the pace of the book slow at times, it is a story worth reading. While the book differs from others, it was for me another story of the “greatest generation,” of those that lived through the very great challenges of 1930’s and 40’s, doing what they had to do. Despite the prosperity and ease of the day, I am prone be ungrateful and complain when I have less of these things than others or when work or life expects more of me than I would like. I find stories like this help me get over myself and move on with life.

Christmas letter 2014

My wife and I wish you all a Merry Christmas. Below and attached is this year’s Christmas letter to family and friends. Click this link to see a pdf: Christmas letter 2014. The first page is a set of images shown below; page two is text highlighting the year’s news: two more grandchildren coming in 2015, our work lives, our books recommendations and more. Enjoy.

Pictures from the Barfields year 2014

The year’s big news: two more grandchildren coming in 2015! Our first grandchild, Ain, is approaching 18 months, a busy boy. Lord willing and the ultrasound is right this time, he will have a little brother in March. Recently we learned that Megan and Brandon are expecting their first child in June.

Our work lives

David’s job – David’s challenging work as chief engineer of Kansas’ Division of Water Resources continued to be intense but rewarding. The office made the transition to Manhattan this summer. So David is making the 90 minute commute about 3x/week (he telecommutes day a week or so). David has found he can be fairly productive on the van the agency is providing. So far the Division has retained key experienced staff and been able to recruit some good, young staff as well.

The interstate battles continue. David was able to attend oral arguments before the US Supreme Court this fall in Kansas case against Nebraska. With the conclusion of the last of 5 arbitration trials, Kansas, Nebraska and Colorado have finally started working on negotiating some disputed issues, developing three agreements for 2014-2015 as they work toward longer term solutions.

Cathy continues to teach science classes to Lawrence homeschoolers as well nearby Gardner. The three classes she is teaching keeps her busy. After developing PowerPoints for her Advanced Biology and Biology over the last 2 years, this year she is doing physical science (with Amy’s help).

More news

  • Our daughters and their husbands – Everyone is well. Betsy is gradually cutting back on her work outside the home with her growing family. Amy’s piano business is becoming well established and she is doing some part-time work as a “virtual assistant”, and she has a growing number of people following her blog. Megan works part time for a local radio station, KOFO Country, writing and reading the news.
  • Vacations – We got away quite a few times this year, mostly to our timeshare in the Branson area including a time in June with the girls and their spouses. We also enjoyed our annual 4th of July trip to Gene and Sara’s cabin on Long Lake in Wisconsin. Finally, we also did a Texas trip with David’s work that included San Antonio and Houston/Galveston.
  • We continue to make health a priority by regular exercise and eating well. David’s morning exercise routine has had to change due to his commuting. Fortunately, the office in Manhattan has a shower and he has been running more regularly and was able to take a minute off of his best 5k of last year. We have started a web site on how we stay healthy (org) with favorite recipes, exercise suggestions, and more.

Book (listening) recommendations:

  • David – The Boys in the Boat: Nine Americans and Their Epic Quest for Gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympics (D. Brown); Tale of Two Cities (Dickens); Red Moon Rising: Sputnik and …the Space Age (M Brzezinski).
  • Cathy – Elephant Whisper (L. Anthony);   I am Malala (Yousafzai); and   Invention of Wings (S. Kidd).

Wishing you the best in this blessed season.

David and Cathy Barfield and Bingley and Bear

New health site launched

For years we have made health a priority and enjoyed its benefits. Many have asked us how we have done this.

While we have bits and pieces of this near on this web site and on Cathy and my joint site, David’s, we have just created a new web site, HealthSimply.org for this specific purpose. As of this writing (December 2014), we have a good outline and a list of books we have found helpful on our journey, exercise options that we have used and recommend, lots of great recipes and more.

Over time, we plan to add detailed book reviews, a listing of health habits, short videos to make health practical.

I encourage you to check it out.

David

 

 

My favorite Android Apps for my phone

During January 2014 a Facebook friend said she just got a new android phone and wanted recommendations for apps. So here is a list ofAndroid icon many of the apps I use regularly on my phone. I will update it from time to time. Like ios, some many options.

But first, a link to recommendations of Lifehacker,

Here is my list, roughly in the order that I use them (note: I don’t do games on my phone; others might be interested in Pinterest or Instragram):

Daily or very regularly:

  • Any.Do or ReNotify – for your short “to do” list
  • Audible – to listen to books on my commute and when walking the dogs. See my page on this.
  • Chrome – web browser.
  • Facebook
  • Gmail and Gmail’s calendar app. Cathy and I share calendars so we can keep up with what is scheduled
  • Google Now – Android’s virtual assistant (Siri). Ask it any question. Get directions, sent a note to self, set an alarm, etc. do conversions, local movie list, etc.  For more.
  • Google Maps – an excellent program for locating an address, navigating you there (but it can use the batttery up so be careful if you do not have a phone charger.
  • Google voice – some work to set up.. But
  • Swiftkey – a keyboard that allows for more efficient typing.

Regularly:

  • Camera! – an upgrade from the version that is part of Android
  • Dropbox (if you are a dropbox user)
  • Google Keep – for keeping misc information. Easy to add; easy to search.
  • Logos Bible app (I have the desktop version as well; this gives me access to these resoures on my phone and tablet
  • NWS Mobile Weather and/or AccuWeather (I have both and use both)
  • OneNote (if you are a OneNote user on the PC..) or Evernote
  • Pandora – for streaming music.
  • Pocket – for saving web pages for later viewing
  • Quickoffice – allows you to open a word or excel file
  • Radar Now
  • RunKeeper (an excellent app for runners; it tracks your distance, time, rate
  • Smart Voice Recorder – dictate a note for later listening. I use this on my walks or drive.
  • Voxer (if you friends use it..). A walkie-talkie app.

Occasionally:

  • Brightest Flashlight
  • Compass
  • Crashplan – assess to my Crashplan backups.
  • Flickr – photo sharing and more.
  • PrinterShare – allows you to print remotely
  • Skype or Hangouts to connect with others video video
  • Time4Me+ – an excellent timer

Tablet apps (not mentioned above)

  • Flipboard or Zite – customizable magazine of web articles
  • Google Earth
  • Kindle – reading books

Audible transforms commutes, walks, more

A desire to learn more about nutrition 4 years ago took me to Topeka’s good library not far from work.  While there, I discovered their significant collection of books on CD and which transformed my daily commute from Lawrence to Topeka. After a couple of years, I began to have a more difficulty time finding books of interest and desired to listen to books on my two walks a day with our dogs. The answer: Audible.

David vacuuming and listening to Audible
David vacuuming and listening to Audible

While there are a number of way to get free book recordings, esp. of classic literature, Audible deliveries a great variety of classics and current best-sellers via purchase/subscription, conveniently and simply. Many of these recordings are excellent performances. For example I thoroughly enjoyed listening to an excellent rendition of Charles Dickens’ Great Expectations, a book I likely would not have been able to get through by reading.

The Basics

  • The most common way to use Audible is as a subscription service. The basic subscription if $15 per month. With it you get one credit per month, which is in essence, one  book per month. But this also allows you to buy any other book for a minimum of 30% off and to have access to other sales and specials (see more below)
  • Audible’s app is available for your smart phone, tablet, and computers. You can switch between devices and it keeps track of where you are.
  • As Audible allows you to have up to three phones or tablets connected to an account (as well a few PCs), you can share an account with other family members. I share my account with my wife and mom; I also pay for an account that my three daughters share.

Getting the most of your money

  • You can save 20% by paying annually rather than monthly ($150/year rather than $180 if you pay $15/month).
  • Sign up for their “daily special” email where once a day they deeply discount a particular book for 24 hours, typically at a price of $3 or $4.
  • I take time to read the reviews to see what others think of the book, both its content and the performance of it, to help me insure I am getting books I will enjoy.  Many of the classics are inexpensive and there are often multiple options.
  • If you buy a book that you end up not enjoying, return it. Audible allows you to return books you are not satisfied with for any reason for up to a year. .
  • Keep a wish list. Audible will let you know if any of these are on sale.

Getting the most of your time.

  • I listen on my commutes and my walks with the dogs.
  • I also listen when I mow the yard and vacuum the house. How? I use ear buds and the ear protection I wear when I mow the yard.
  • We equipped both of our cars with a mount to hold our phone (approx. $20) and an FM tuner/phone charger to allow you to listen to the book through the cars speakers (another $20).
  • We also spend $30 on a small Bluetooth speaker that allows her to conveniently listen to books which in the kitchen.

Hints:

  • Listen to a variety of genres. See some examples of our listening below
  • Don’t let listening dominate your thought life. We all need some in our lives where we are “processing”. If you fill every moment of every day with work, talking, TV, etc., etc., this important processing does not happen.

Our listening, starting with David:

  • Sci-Fi: Dune, Foundation, Ender’s Game and others by Asimov , Heinlein, Clarke, and more.
  • Classics: Hobbit, Christmas Carol, Great Expectations, Mark Twain’s Prince and the Pauper and Huckleberry Finn (read by Elisha Wood), Sherlock Holmes. I am reading Don Quixote now (40 hours)
  • Health: several titles.
  • Christian: CS Lewis’ Space Trilogy, and more; Lawhead.
  • History/Biographies: John Adams, Bonhoeffer
  • Self-help: Now Habit and more.

Cathy loves Jane Austin and has listening to some of her book club choices when time was short.

Obamacare ACA information

Researching ObamaCare (the Affordable Care Act)

Please send me helpful articles on the subject.  No politically-motivated articles, flaming  articles, etc. I want to understand how it will work so I can advise others who ask and determine what I can do to encourage its reform. I think we need healthcare reform. But it is apparent that the ACA has major problems. However, ut we need to work toward solutions, not excuses or political stonewalling.

Here are a couple articles that I have come across the help me understand ACA:

  1. http://www.kitces.com/blog/how-the-premium-assistance-tax-credit-for-health-insurance-impacts-the-marginal-tax-rate/

The article discusses the tax implications of ObamaCare.  Hopefully most of you understand marginal tax rates. As you make more money, you pay a higher % of tax on the additional income you make.  The first $17,400 of taxable income is taxed at 10%, the next $53,000 is taxed at 15%, and so forth.  Your marginal tax rate is the rate you pay for the last dollars of additional income you make. The higher your marginal tax rate, the more likely you are to look for tax breaks.

Under ACA, insurance coverage is subsidized for many Americans on a sliding scale via the premium assistance tax credit. As you make more money, the tax credit goes down.   The effect is to increase the marginal tax rate. See the article for more clarify and examples.

  1. http://www.theblaze.com/stories/2013/11/11/want-to-know-how-the-obamacare-site-should-work-three-programmers-made-a-functioning-version-in-days-at-no-cost-to-taxpayers/

    You have heard a lot about the problems with the health.gov web site. In this article and the link below, there is information on how 3 young people built a functioning web site to allow individuals to find out their options under the ACA,  how much it would cost, etc.  Here is a link to the site they built:
    http://www.thehealthsherpa.com/. The web site is nice, the premiums are not (but that is the cost of the American system).

Building websites

Here are tips on building your own web sites from my experience (there are many options; these work for me).

  • Define your purpose. It will shape many of the decisions that follow.
    • A personal blog. There are lots of free options (wordpress.com; blogger.com and more)
    • A web site designed around a topic of interest. For example, I am preparing to launching one on what I have learned on health.  So I am going to get a domain name and have a hosted site.
    • A business web site. Here you will likely want to go elsewhere for more help.

Note: The rest of what is belong explains my experience in the second choice above.

  • Get started
    • Decide on a domain name (e.g. dbarfield.org).
      • Give it some thought.  Unless it is really unique (like my personal domain, dbarfield.org) you may have to get creative in the name as there are a lot of domains already taken. In some cases, people register names to sell.
      • Is it available?  I have my domains registered at godaddy.com and they allow you to determine if your domain is available and if not, they offer alternatives that are.
      • For my health web site, I am going to register both a .org (as I am starting off with the idea of just sharing information, a non-profit reason) as well as the same name .com. There are two reasons: 1) who knows, some day I might want to use it for commercial reasons, and 2) many people might try the .com name when looking for my site; I want to keep someone else from taking it.
    • Register your domain name and find a host for the site.
      • These are separate tasks but I am listing them under one step as I do them both at the same place: godaddy.com.
      • Registering your domain. It usually costs about $15/year. Or if you do a .org and .com, it will cost you more like $30/year.
      • Hosting your domain .  With godaddy, I can host mulitple domains for about $50/year. Note you need one domain to be your hosting domain. Addiitonal domains are created as addin domains for purposes of hosting the files, but they will be viewed by the world as completely separate.
        • Web site Administration: I use cpanel. Godaddy has a simpler alternative. ….
    • Choose and install your web development environment. For hosted domains, I use WordPress.org, which godaddy allows you to install on its servers.
      • Installing.
      • Creating the user name and password for your WordPress site work (this is separate from the hosting above; once you set things up,  most of your work will be in worepress)
    • Start building your site (to come)

It is a boy

As is detailed in a blog post on Cathy and my blog at the link below, Cathy and I became grandparents for the first time recently.

http://dcbarfield.org/2013/07/08/a-surprizing-first-grandchild/

A sonogram at 18 weeks said that our first grandchild was supposed to be a girl. But the first words from our daughter Betsy was, “It’s a boy.” We thought she was kidding but Matt immediately said, “No, it’s a boy alright.”  See Now the grand-parenting fun, spoken of by many of my friends, is here.

Christmas letter and updated recipe and exercise pages

FYI, Cathy and I posted our 2012 Christmas newsletter  on our web site: dcbarfield.org.  It includes highlight from our full 2012 and our big anticipation for coming year: we will be grandparents (expected in June).

We have also and updated our page on healthy recipes, adding many new recipes and organizing them better.

Finally, we have also updated our list of favorite at-home exercise routines at http://dbarfield.org/healthdiet/exercise/.  The benefits to heart, muscles, brains and overall health are profound and well worth it.

Next time: a bit about my work.

2012 Arkansas River Compact meeting
2012 Arkansas River Compact meeting