Johnny's Corner

Reign Down USA

Projects — Posted by Johnny @ 19:57
A vision for revival in the USA led to an event in Washington D. C. on April 26, 2008 (More)

North Korea protest at Chinese Embassy

Politics — Posted by Johnny @ 19:39

On April 26th a group of us protested at the Chinese Embassy over their treatment of North Korean refugees

 

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Lazy Times

Principles — Posted by Johnny @ 18:44

Do you know anyone who is unmotivated? Under-responsible? Who expects more of others than of themselves? Who is not energetic or vigorous? Who has that don’t-care feeling (think: "whatever!")?

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Christians and Judging

Principles — Posted by Johnny @ 14:37
I know of no other Biblical quote flung at Christians more often in recent years than "Judge not, that ye be not judged," nor one that has been more misunderstood. So let’s breathe deeply and take a closer look, starting with the meaning of the word. (More)

2007 Meeting with Ameren UE

Viburnum — Posted by Johnny @ 19:34

Ameren UE Meeting in Viburnum February 1st

by Johnny C. Jones

It’s sad to watch a relationship go sour.

Sometimes one party wants to go on, but it’s too late; too many days of neglect, of not listening, And when they try to talk things out, instead of understanding, there is hurt and anger. "I’ve been doing the best I can." "It’s not enough! You caused the problems!" "Well, you’re high maintenance!" "You knew that when you got me; you wanted me then!"

Broken promises. Also, money issues. What a mess! And so close to Valentine’s Day! But, after Thursday night’s meeting I would have to conclude: Ameren UE doesn’t love us any more.

Since UE hosted the meeting, Wendy Tatro, an Ameren Associate General Counsel, began Thursday night’s meeting by introducing UE’s people there: Herself, Jean Mason (Manager, SEMO Division), and Joe Whitener, the Supervisoring Engineer.

Ms. Tatro began by telling us this meeting was not to talk about Taum Sauk, not a Public Service Commission (PSC) proceeding. The idea, she said, was to exchange information.

On a cold, snowy evening, on a day public schools were canceled throughout the area, over 80 people showed up. We wanted to be heard. And we wanted some solutions to problems which have proved, not just inconvenient, but already costly and potentially dangerous.

The meeting began with Joe Whitener’s explaining to us the difficulties Ameren has in serving us. The National Forest Service turned down some of their solutions; there are long single-phase lines through National Forest land; the Red Oak Beetle is working havoc with the trees. In fact, Mr. Whitener assured us, Ameren had a pretty good record, of just 17 outages in four years in some places; the worst record was 48 outages in four years’ time. He talked about flying over in a helicopter to assess damages, and said UE was looking at ways to lessen outages. They have the advantages of a large company, he said, to get power restored using crews from out of state when big ice storms hit.

In other words, UE didn’t get it. They were explaining to us why we were hard to serve; that we are high maintenance. So we could understand....and what? Be impressed? Forgive? Say, "Oh, we really didn’t know it was so hard!"

Since we were seen as electrical service problem children, the question arose: Why were we switched from Black River Electric Cooperative (BREC) in the first place, with no input about our preferences?

Turns out it was a marriage of convenience, like those in 19th century British novels. BREC and Ameren agreed between themselves to exchange some areas.

When this happened, a little over ten years ago, UE brought us flowers and candy kisses; they assured us they would be upgrading our system and providing us with big-time maintenance only a large company could provide. And money! Our city and school district would be receiving more funds now that they were in charge.

Did I miss when the part when the upgrades happened? Lance Mayfield, former Mayor of Viburnum says the part about the money was sweet talk, too. Lance said, "The city has lost $28,000 per year since Ameren took over, according to Ken Schmidt, District Supervisor in 1995."

So the suggestion that we switch back to the Co-op received hearty applause.

Jean Mason defensively explained that there is a flip-flop law preventing that action. But Lewis Mills, Missouri Public Counsel from the Office of Public Counsel (OPC), said that law was for a single consumer rather than a group, and that the legal possibility existed for our switching providers.

That was not the only time Mr. Mills clarified one of Ms. Mason’s statements.

Bill Blair asked, "If you knew about the 200-mile exposed line, why did you want us? And why can you not keep power dependable?" Bill told about a hole cut in a cedar tree through which one of the electric lines ran, and asked, "What do expect to happen in an ice storm when you have a line running through a tree?"

Robert Hicks asked why Ameren no longer has an employee in our area. Mr. Hicks, a City of Viburnum employee, broached the subject of the hot-line. Also a member of the Fire Department, Robert asked what he was to do when the power stayed off long enough that the City was without water, pointing out Stonecrest (a nursing home) is in the City. Robert also spoke about power surges that damaged a $40,000 City motor.

Brenda Hedgecoth stated that her call to Ameren UE resulted in their telling her the service she needed would be resolved in four to six weeks. Huh? Ms. Mason said that service not have taken so long. But then, she did not offer to investigate.

Steve Russell, one of Viburnum’s policemen and a member of the Emergency Management Service (EMS) team, tasked with planning for emergencies, was almost pleading as he spoke. He said all the departments which provide emergency service work well together, inside and outside Viburnum. But he added, "We are supposed to have hot-line numbers to call so that you can give us information when there is an emergency. The last two major outages, we were put on hold for hours at a time, or the phone rang and no one answered." He begged for a liaison to work with the local departments charged with provision for emergencies.

Everyone in the room seemed to have the problem Steve stated: "There seems to be a lack of willingness on the part of Ameren to communicate."

Mr. Russell pointed out that the nursing home’s being without power meant there were elderly people with serious health complications, and that the closest hospital is 45 minutes away –– by ambulance.

Others in the audience spoke of being with out power 6 days at a whack....9 days.....2 weeks or more total in 2006.

John Held said he lost his tomato crop (part of his livelihood) in July; many others told about their financial losses –– of the contents in their freezer (several times), of employment, of water.

Water is a big issue for people who don’t have a city water supply. Electricity powers water pumps in wells. So when there is no power, people lose both electricity and running water. Folks fortunate enough to have a stream or a pond use it to water their animals and flush their toilets. If they were well off enough financially, they bought and ran a generator (expensive not just for the cost of purchase, but for the gasoline it takes to power a generator). I was afraid to ask what everyone else did. The water issue is a huge concern, and I believe it should be taken into consideration when bringing customers back on-line.

But more than one family in difficult straits, without water and power, when they were finally able to talk to a live person either in July or December were told, "We have to get the grids with more customers online first." In the meantime, an elderly man with trouble breathing in the 101 degree heat last July slept in his pickup truck with the AC on. Unfortunately, cooling or warming centers don’t always work for people with animals, or for the elderly or disabled who rarely leave their homes.

Danny Wallis said that, if we were in a co-op, these long outages would not happen. Jack Tucker demolished Ameren’s argument about the severe weather's being the problem when he pointed out that customers of another utility just across the railroad tracks (less than a mile away), and other homes within 5 miles of Viburnum, were back on in a maximum of two hours. It took 17 hours for Ameren to get Viburnum online. And UE took days longer for many customers outside the city.

Mike Reed asked that Ameren send him their duty roster, since he is Doe Run’s man for electrical power, and Doe Run is one of their five largest customers. The utility, in the past, sent him this information.

One of the reasons Viburnum gets their power restored as quickly as we do is that Mike always goes out after an outage and pinpoints problems. Bill Grohs also spoke about his neighbor’s riding the line is his 4-wheeler when the power goes out.

Mr. Grohs used to be the computer wizard for Viburnum’s schools; monitoring their equipment was part of his job. Part of the software he used showed spikes in power that were astounding; many surges every day. The district called in a consultant who works with school systems throughout Missouri. The consultant was astonished, and said the power spikes were the worst he had seen in the state. This was confirmed by the experience of almost everyone in the audience: daily power spikes are part of our life here; they have become part of our culture.

I stood up and asked for information about how to file a complaint to Ameren UE, twice, and got....nothing.

As a trained facilitator, my husband, Chip, was amazed at the way the meeting was handled. Until Lance stood up front about an hour into the meeting, no one was running the meeting. There seemed to have been little preparation, little care given to details other than showing up.

Let me tell you our experience with local electric companies. We moved here in 1976. For the first 20 years we lived here, we were served by BREC. Power outages rarely lasted longer than two to four hours, and power spikes were rare. And don’t think bad weather occurred just in the past ten years, when we were switched to Ameren. In 1985, school was called off the entire month of January because of snow and ice. It was a rare winter when our children didn’t get to sled, sometimes all the way from Highway 49 down to our driveway (about four blocks).

Months after Ameren became our provider in 1996 we had an ice storm just before Thanksgiving. Amy was bringing two friends home with her for the holiday, and I was trying to figure out what to do about flushing the toilets, since the city was out of water; I took one of the last showers in Viburnum, (more like drizzle than rain) in preparation for teaching my sociology class at Southwest Baptist University/Salem. Power came on just before Amy, Andrew, and Saralyn arrived. Whew!

Everyone has stories. But the story about the meeting was neither a romance nor a fairy tale.

But let’s face it: This is the company that tore up Johnson’s Shut-Ins, where Chip and I hiked year-round –– where we celebrated anniversaries; where we brought friends from other states and other countries to marvel at the beauty. We have hiked up to the reservoir with our children. Had we been on the trail when the dam broke and the torrent of water washed down, we would not have survived. That’s not OK.

It’s also not OK that our EMS team does not have a working hot-line. Chip said, "That was a problem that should have been easy to resolve." It was hard to surmise anything other than that Ameren people were either so bathed in bureaucracy they are not allowed to make simple decisions, or they are inept. Or, third choice, they really don't care. Choice C, the not caring, was what most people thought. So it is difficult for us to grasp the advantages of having a large company as our utility provider.

Oh, and by the way....while I was writing this, there was a significant power surge. Enough for my dishwasher to display some letters indicating all was not well.

And this is interesting: UE offered the possibility of allowing us to buy generators and make payments for the generators through our electric bill. Michael Knight called that idea "insulting." No kidding! Is Ameren admitting their service is so poor that each of their customers here needs their own back-up power?

And about our electric service: The word "serve" is in there....but not in the attitudes or actions of Ameren’s boots on the ground Thursday night, nor in their provision to us during the past ten years.

I give them credit for this: They showed up. They stayed for two hours. But the seeming lack of willingness to communicate or resolve problems, the lack of understanding....let’s face it; the relationship has gone sour. Even if it is almost Valentine’s Day.


Missouri's Amendment 2 (2006)

Politics — Posted by Johnny @ 10:09

There is a vast difference between Adult Stem Cell Research (ongoing without the passage of Amendment 2) and Embryonic Stem Cell Research (allowed and funded by the Amendment). The cures to date have come from ASCR, not ESCR.

Also, Amendment 2 is not what it claims to be. While it claims to ban cloning, it bans, not the making of clones, but allowing them to be implanted. The Show Me State citizens need to follow the money; who is advancing this?

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School Ingroups

People — Posted by Johnny @ 11:40
Linda belonged to the popular group. But that's a misnomer. Actually, people like Linda aren't liked so much as feared. (More)

Scriptures for Handel's Messiah

Holidays — Posted by Johnny @ 12:21

We love "The Messiah," and play it every Christmas and Easter; in fact, we even have favorite versions of the music.

The oratic style means that some of the words are difficult to understand. Thatís why I wanted to print out the scriptures on which it was based.

Handel used the King James Version of the Bible. I have used the NIV, which is not significantly different for most of the songs.

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Amy in Seville, fall 1997

People — Posted by Johnny @ 12:50
Amy was robbed on a Sunday in Seville, but had an unusual experience afterwards. (More)

Dollison P. Cole part 2

People — Posted by Johnny @ 19:59

Doll Cole tells about his remarkable life in the Ozarks generations ago, from food to clothing to mining.

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Dollison P. Cole part 3

People — Posted by Johnny @ 19:58
Doll Cole tells of his deep faith in God, and about being called to the ministry. (More)

Dollison P. Cole

People — Posted by Johnny @ 07:45
Dollison P. Cole pastored seven churches on the old Palmer/Belgrade circuit in Missouri, and wrote about his life and his family in I'm Glad I Live in the Ozarks (More)

Canadian Rockies 5: Plain of the Six Glaciers

Places — Posted by Johnny @ 07:25
Last hiking day (More)

Canadian Rockies 4

Places — Posted by Johnny @ 07:14

It really is amazing how much you can see by foot. Cyclists groaned up the steep roads, cars whizzed by, passengers gawking, but we hikers are most personal with the landscape. We see rocks, or we trip over them; we examine flowers; we glory in the views; we crane our necks to see beauty in every direction, so magnificent it made us cry.

Helen Lake wasnít a great lake, so we decided to go for another one on Monday July 18th: Lake Annette/Paradise Valley. Again, the more adventuresome could go farther; Annette Lake was a 7 mile hike, but Paradise Valley another 4.3.

But our plans were not to work out. First, I left my hiking boots! I thought they remained in the van, but they were secured in the closet at our condo. Oops! Well, I figured with help on the downhills I could walk pretty far in my Birkenstocks.

After another beautiful drive, we got near the trailhead and noticed cars going the opposite direction. Weíd been teasing about bears all week so Vika said, "It was probably the bears."

After we got about a half mile up the trail, we found she was right! There was a sign warning of bears, and stating it was illegal to hike in groups of fewer than six, and that the six had to stay no more than a few feet apart.

We decided that if bears had been there (and, the girls decided, chewed the mauled sign!) That meant we werenít to go. We looked at the map and decided to hike up from Lake Louise, which was nearby. Itís pretty touristy, but this was not a weekend.

By then it was late afternoon and Lake Louise was crowded. We saw what drew the crowds: The amazing scenery: Glaciers, mountains, firs, lake Ė everything! It was a very international crowd, with few English speakers and even fewer Americans. Lots of Japanese.

We saw directions to Tea Houses, which inspired our interest for Tuesday, our last dayís hike.

We got home, had leftovers, and crashed. So far, we hadnít eaten a single meal out, nor had we wanted to.


Canadian Rockies 3: Helen Lake

Places — Posted by Johnny @ 07:05

Our family did other things than hiking in the Rockies; we played games ĖĖ Mexican Train, rummy, and a dice game Doug and Amy taught us, Farkle. Bryan and Vika brought Bible Trivia questions. We also had some nice devotionals, and we got to hear Dougís sermon and take communion together.

We shopped a little on Saturday, July 16. The rain was pouring all day, and our feet needed a rest, so we declared it a no-hiking day. Vika cooked dinner that night, a turkey poppy seed pasta dish, with chicken and with no poppy seeds Ė we had to go with what we could find. But the dish was still delicious!

Sunday was a great hiking day, but since it was a weekend we didnít want to go where the crowds were, near Banff or Lake Louise. So we drove 72 miles. The drive was a spectacle in itself, along the Icefields Parkway. We saw beautiful turquoise rivers, capped with white as they flowed over rocks or were stirred by the wind. The clouds were in the mountains, and sometimes we couldnít tell where clouds ended and snow began.

Everyone had a role: I was the trip organizer, Chip the hiking consultant, Doug the driver and mapper, Bryan and Vika the photographers, and Amy the exclaimer. She kept saying, "Look at those mountains! That is so beautiful!" Her exclamations made us look more closely and have more fun. Everyone was essential to the tripís success.

The hike was called Helen Lake/Cirque Peak. I wanted to see what I think of as gems, the high mountain lakes nestled in valleys. This was an 8.7 mile hike to the ridge above Helen Lake, then higher for the Cirque. My original thought on this hike was an "X"; I crossed it out because of these words from the book: "Cirque Peak is a scramble, because itís off trail and quite steep....Keep slogging up shifting scree and, with a little help from your hands near the top, ta da! Suddenly youíre looking down the glacier that swoops off the sheer north face."

Ta da! Or no, it sounded impossible for me, a dedicated non-scrambler. But Chip put it back on the list because "You donít even have to set foot of Cirque Peak for this to be a Premier hike. The meadlowlands of Helen Lake basin have high-caliber flower power."

Well, OK. The younger ones could scramble at will; we could sit at the lake and admire the meadows.

What we didnít expect were the views of Bow Lake below. It looked like a gem, and part of the time the snow reflected on its backs to change the color to an even lighter blue-green. As we went steadily upwards, the mosquitoes thinned out enough that we could sit on the rocks, look at the lake and mountains, and munch our sandwiches.

This was glorious. Best hike yet. And the meadow ĖĖ I canít imagine a better one. All those greens for the carpet, with delicate yellow, white, pink, purple, and red flowers brightening it even more. Some of the flowers looked like tiny bells; my favorite red ones had green spikes to emphasize their color. How easy it was to thank and praise God for what we were seeing!

Chip said you get more bang for the buck (or, in this case, for the foot of altitude) in the Canadian than the Colorado Rockies. You donít do 14,000 foot mountains (14ers); the mountains are lower. But you see more peaks and glaciers, and more wild things. Although we could traverse on paths to the top of Pikeís Peak (a 14er), we didnít see any mountains in the area we visited whose peaks we could reach. We saw no trails to the top. These mountains were an interesting combination of civilized and wild, with much more wild.

Doug and Amy were the youngíuns, who went for the adventure of the Cirque while the rest of us pulled off our hiking boots and looked deeply at Helen Lake. The Holmes didnít make it to the peak; this book said going up to the Cirque was "moderate," but I donít believe it. It was beyond the ability of our daughter, who has been scrambling on Missouri rocks since she was old enough to walk. She has great balance, a spirit of adventure, and a lot of fortitude. Really, it was coming down that was harder for her than going up. On the way, Amy called a marmot, and he came to her! The animals were beyond unafraid; many of them liked people.

We came home to Amyís rigatoni. It was a great vacation for those of us who watch our weight ĖĖ with hiking most days, I could eat ice cream every night!


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