Piper's News Comments

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Dow Stockholders Meeting

On May 12, 2011, the annual stockholders meeting for Dow Chemical was held.

I have attended these meetings, on and off, since I first started working for Dow back in 1962. I had missed the 2010 meeting, so I was anxious to see what had changed. The MCFTA (Midland Center for the Arts) has hosted the meetings for the past 20+ years, but earlier meetings were held in the Central Intermediate school auditorium. My wife Judy worked at a meeting in 1964 where she handed out gift packets to attendees. At that time the meetings were a social affair, with some of the female stockholders dressed to the nines in furs.

I always felt the early meetings were warm and cordial, almost a family reunion. One could mingle with the members of the Board before and after the formal meeting.

Then in the late '60s Dow started supplying Polystyrene to the U.S. Government for use in a new napalm formulation that was used in the Vietnam War. Napalm became a lightning rod for various war protesters, and these protests even went as far as the New York stock exchange in an effort to attack the viability of Dow stock. (I had a personal interest in this napalm issue since I spent 1.5 years in the Chemical Corps teaching soldiers, both domestic and foreign, how to fire a flame thrower, and then later had the job of writing the specification for the material that Dow supplied to the government as a function of my job as Quality Control Engineer in the polystyrene, Styron, plant.)

Stockholder meetings became a media circus, that ranged from sign carrying students from CMU to vitriolic attacks by proxy stockholders. Later issues of dioxin and Bopal, India, continued to fuel the protester's enthusiasm. A typical stockholder's meeting would consist of a one hour formal business meeting followed by one or more hours of 'questions' by various individuals, who purportedly represented some concerned group. The audience would listen to the first couple 'rants', but then they would start to drift out the exits. After a half hour or so, the remaining people with issues to raise found themselves talking to a nearly empty auditorium.

But 2011 was different. There were no protesters, either inside or outside of the meeting. I did not see any media cameras. The entire affair was over in 45-50 minutes. The question period, which in recent years has been limited to two minutes per question, had only five speakers. One question was complimentary to Dow, three others were financial in nature, and the fifth was an individual whose ramblings left us all to wonder what was his problem.

Two other issues did impress me. When I asked various acquaintances, both before and after the stockholders meeting, if they were going, every one said No! I do not understand this attitude. When people asked me what was said, I have only positive thoughts. The CEO, Andrew Liveris, who could sell refrigerators to Eskimos, always puts a positive spin on his message. Dow Chemical does look strong for the near future. My favorite quote from the meeting: 'The power of science is without limits.'

My final comment is that I did set off the metal detector at the MCFTA. I anticipated this ahead of time, and I had a copy of my recent hip X-ray to show the attendant. The really funny thing to me is that I am not sure which of the four metal parts I have (2 hips, 1 shoulder, 1 pacemaker) actually set off the metal detector!


Sunday, March 20, 2011

Nuclear Fears

Where has all the time gone?

We are 9 days into the 8.9 earthquake/tsunami in Japan. Four of the six nearby nuclear reactors are out of control due to various reasons. With the death toll exceeding 8,000 and the missing even higher, the loss of life connected with these reactors still seems to be ZERO. Yet the media gives the majority of its coverage to radiation fears.

West coast scam artists are getting $2,000 for a $1 bottle of KI pills.Almost no actual radiation levels have been reported, and certainly no comparisons have been given to background or medical radiation levels.

I thank my lucky stars that I passed on the Nuclear Engineering option back in the early '60s when I had made plans to go to graduate school.

Fear trumps facts. We've seen it in the dioxin scares, although much this issue seems backed by people and lawyers who see a way to cash in.

My solution? Marie Curie (two-time Nobel physics prize winner) said it best: 'Nothing is to be feared. It is to be understood.'


Saturday, November 08, 2008


The Zen of Healing: Bone, Muscle, Mind and Attitude *

Bone healing, short of compound fractures, seem to take four weeks. The doc says keep on the cast on for six weeks (that falls under the CYA category), and you are good to go. Hell, some bone injuries aren't even casted these days.

Now my surgery, while it involved bone reconstruction, seemed to have its own recovery schedule. Dr. Roth cut some bone away from my spine--the part that was pinching the nerves, then added some donor bone and finally retrieved some of my own bone marrow (presumeably with a LONG needle. Us chemical engineers would call this bone marrow a catalyst, but I'm sure the medical community has a much more esoteric name. This 'paste' was then plastered around my vertabrae to stablize his work. No screws or other instrumentality was used--because of the strength of my bones. The healing time of this bone paste is definitely much longer--in the 'one size fits all' mentality of the medical profession, I cannot get an answer of less than 90 days.

Now muscle healing seems to be an entirely different story. Modesty prevents me from giving you specifics--let's just say that I have more muscle strength in my back than you, and likely more than anyone you know. But it was a surprise to me that between 9 and 11 days after surgery, I had zero muscle soreness. Those first 9 days, however, did cause strange reactions with the Valium.

The mind recovery did come back much faster than I expected. I have always found that loss of cognitive function (due to anesthesia) has always been the biggest and badest, side-effect of any of my surgeries.

Now attitude is up to you. The hospitals, nurses, doctors and friends can all prepare you, but ultimately how you feel about recovery is solely up to you.


* The opinions expressed here are those of the author. Of course I could be wrong.
Also, my blogging technique consists of typing the rough draft into WordPad and then cutting and pasting the result into Blogspot.com

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Saturday, October 04, 2008

Update in Oct, 2008

Sorry to have lost track of this blog. Now I am creating a new blog about impending back surgery. This new blog likely will be titled 'LarrysProgress'.


The above picture is an MRI. The experience of one being inserted into this device is a 'significant emotional experience' -- sort of like finishing your first marathon or giving birth to your first child. Actually, the above picture has been sanitized--you normally are inserted with your head first. If you are at all claustrophobic, forget it.


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Friday, July 15, 2005

Tour de France finally discovered by local newspaper

Now that the Tour de France is in its 10th stage (Monday, July 11), the local newspaper finally began listing it as a 'sporting' event in the TV section. While the times are only partially correct, at least the casual reader of the sports section is aware that there is television coverage.

On the positive side, one of the six TVs in the exercise room at the Community Center now is set to the OLN channel. Even better, OLN has replaced VH1 or CMT channels!

The Tour de France is argueably the second most popular sporting event in the world (behind World Cup Soccer). Yet the parochial views of the U.S. and its media, particularly sports media, have shunned it entirely until Lance Armstrong started winning.

Trivial sports question (circa. 1995): What is the only day of the year there is no major sporting event? Answer: The day before the baseball all-star game! Now, of course, there is the home run thing. But always there was the Tour de France, held during the first three weeks in July (when the all-star game is played).

It is ironic that in a recent poll, conducted by AOL and MSNBC (I think) to identify the Greatest American of all time, only two athletes made the final cut of 25. One was Muhammad Ali (once the greatest recognized face on earth) and the other was Lance Armstrong.

Time will tell about Lance's long term influence.

This writer is, of course, pro-bicycling. The whole bicycle/car issue can take on red state/blue state proportions when it comes to riding on public roads. Ultimately, it can come down to a matter of life and death for those of us who share the roads with cars. Again, time will tell

Thursday, July 07, 2005

London Bombings - Religious Wars

As we absorb the recent bombing events in London, when will we stop using the sanitized, non-judgmental term 'terrorist' and start referring to these incidents for what they are -- an all-out religious war.

We have all seen the statistics over the past years of the perpetrators of these attacks--they are 100% Islamic background. We refer to these individuals as 'extremists', but it goes much deeper. We are not dealing with a 'few bad apples' here. We are dealing with a religious philosophy that denies the right of any other religion to exist.

The recent death of the Pope with the convergence of world attention upon Rome highlighted a fundamental difference with Islam. It has no central authority, no central leadership, no person or organization that can be held accountable. Rather it is a series of fiefdoms, warlords, and clerics that derive their power and authority strictly by fiat.

The same Internet that allows me to post my thoughts also allows these disconnected and unorganized 'religious cells' to spread their vitrolic words and pictures for all to see. It also allows them to conduct business in a non-traceable fashion, with no consequences for their actions.

So, what do we do?

I have no specifics other than to suggest we call a 'spade a spade'. Do we return to the Middle Ages and the Crusades? Only time will tell.