Photo by Edward F. Palm)

About Me

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Forest, Virginia, United States
A long time ago, my sophomore English teacher, Father William Campbell, saw something in my writing and predicted that I would someday become a newspaper columnist. He suggested the perfect title for my column--"Leaves of the Palm." Now that I have a little extra time on my hands I've decided to put Father Campbell's prediction to the test. I'm going to start using this blog site not just to reprint opinion pieces I've published elsewhere but to try to get more of my ideas and opinions out there. Feedback is welcome. To find out more about me, please check out my Web site: www.EdwardFPalm.com (Click on any of the photos below for an enlarged view.)

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

My Column for October 25, 2015

My Column for October 18, 2015

ED PALM | Wife and last name both alive and well

It’s Sunday and time once again for these thoughts that wander through Kitsap County.
Uppermost in my mind this week is an email I received from a long-lost classmate back in Delaware. We’re both looking forward to reuniting at our 50th high school reunion at the end of the month, and he wanted me to know how sorry he was to learn of the death of my wife.

To paraphrase Mark Twain, the reports of my wife’s death are greatly exaggerated. I immediately wrote back, affirming that Mrs. Palm is alive and well and likely to outlive me. As it turned out, on October 4, the News Journal, Delaware’s paper of record, had run an obituary for a Barbara Berry-Palm — formerly of Newark, Delaware — who was survived by her husband, Edward Palm.
Since we hadn’t stayed in touch over the years, I can see how my classmate would have assumed that I was the widower mentioned in that obituary, especially since “Palm” is not a common name in America. It’s the German version of “Palmer,” which is much more common than “Palm.”

In 2004, I chanced to pass through Hamburg — from whence my father’s grandfather had come — and looked for “Palm” in the Hamburg phone directory. There were two pages of them. But not so in any of our major cities in America.

And what a difference one little syllable can make. Over the years, in phoning various agencies and companies, I’ve learned to pronounce my surname name loudly and distinctly and even to spell it. Otherwise, the customer service representative is likely to hear “Tom,” or “Pam,” or “Baum.”
Moreover, I’ve also had occasion to wonder if someone highly placed in television writing or production has something against me. In one episode of the long-running police drama “NYPD Blue,” two of the detectives were discussing a particularly loathsome petty criminal named “Eddie Palm.” The writers could at least have made me a criminal mastermind.

As it just so happens, my wife and I are expecting our first grandson on or about the 24th of the month. We’re especially happy about that. Otherwise, our line of Palms would have ended with our one son Daniel. I’ve been suggesting some first names: Ethelred, Thurston, Throckmorton, Smedley, Poindexter. But so far our daughter-in-law doesn’t seem to be receptive.

In any event, as soon as our grandson is old enough, I’ll urge him to say it loud and say it proud when asked for his last name.

But wait! There’s more, as they say in infomercials. Two more semi-serious topics this week, and all for the price of one:

After 45 years, you’d think I would know all there is to know about Mrs. Palm. But a piece of mail she received from a veterans’ organization last year suggests she is indeed a woman of mystery. Who knew that in addition to being a wife, a mother and a registered dietitian, she was also a major general? That’s the way the letter was addressed — to “MajGen Andrea Palm.”

While still in high school, she rose to the rank of cadet major in the Civil Air Patrol, but she never served in any branch of our regular or reserve armed forces. Still, maybe Freud was right in maintaining there are no accidents. In terms of character, judgment, and temperament, I could credit Mrs. Palm with being “the very model of a modern major general.”

Would that I could put her in command of public education here in Washington, if not nationally.
Last Saturday, one of the local TV stations reported on an initiative undertaken by some precocious well-meaning junior high students. These youngsters have been lobbying Seattle’s City Council to require placing so-called “warming labels” on gas pumps. These labels would remind motorists that “burning fossil fuels contributes to global warming.” According to that news report, all but one of the council members is in favor of the plan.

I have no problem with the message per se. I believe that automobile emissions contribute to global warming. But what, if anything, we can do about it remains a difficult scientific, social, and economic problem. We should not be enlisting children in such crusades.

The adults encouraging these young people may think they’re molding them into concerned, responsible citizens, but they’re much more likely to be turning out self-righteous zealots and ideologues.

The better course would be to encourage these children to question all received truths, whether proffered by the right or the left. That’s the essence of liberal education.

Much of what passes for education today, unfortunately, is actually indoctrination. We need to be teaching our young people how to think, not what to think. We also need to instill in them the wisdom to understand that “a little knowledge” can be “a dangerous thing.”

Contact Ed Palm at efpalm@centurylink.net.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

My Column for October 11, 2015

My Column for October 4, 2015

ED PALM | All wet along Clear Creek?

This column represents a change of pace. I have to be fairly positive about a project the county has undertaken. I hate when that happens!

Regular readers of this column will recall how I’ve been loath to cut the county any slack over the Bucklin Hill bridge project. I was similarly inclined this summer while walking the Clear Creek Trail in Silverdale with my dog Phineas. We often walk along the western extension of the trail, the part between Silverdale Way and Highway 3. In early June, we noticed a sign along the far side of north-south loop of trail proclaiming that the county had closed an offshoot of the main trail for “wetland restoration work.”

Frankly, I didn’t see how the area in question was ever a wetland to begin with, much less one in need of restoration. It was a large open field, and more to the point, it was uphill from the existing wetlands at the beginning of trail. I could see that the area could be a watershed — but a wetlands? There is a difference between the two, is there not?

The sign further disclosed that area was being “restored” under the direction of the Kitsap County Department of Community Development (DCD) and that it was being “funded as part of a required mitigation for the Silverdale Trails Shopping Center located on Greaves Way.”

I kept tabs on the project throughout the summer and soon discovered that two large areas of at least an acre apiece had been gouged out with a bulldozer and that tree stumps and logs were being trucked in and dumped into these holes. Then, making matters worse, two-inch white PVC pumps soon appeared along the trail complex leading to the holes. Shades of the late John Denver and his concern about creating “more scars upon the land”!

As that sign invites people to do, I finally contacted the county for “more information and project details.” I wanted to pin down the county about whether they were restoring wetlands or creating new ones. I also wanted to know who was paying for this and how it was related to that new shopping center being built on Greaves Way.

I recently spoke to Steve Heacock, the DCD’s senior environmental planner, who was happy to fill me in on what the county is up to along the Clear Creek Trail.

At the turn of the century, Heacock explained, Clear Creek meandered throughout the entire valley where the trails are now located. There was also an extensive beaver-dam complex in the area. When the Schold family settled there, they trapped the beavers and straight-lined the creek by ditching. They also drained and cultivated the land.

Now that the county owns the area, Heacock said, the goal is to “turn it back to the condition of pre-European development for the benefit of the community.”

Frankly, that strikes me as a noble but an unrealistic goal. Clear Creek will never again meander throughout the valley. I can understand a nostalgic longing for the way it was before white settlers pushed aside our “first nations” (to use the Canadian term). But not all development can be undone, and a utilitarian, eminent-domain-type consideration should guide all such restoration projects: We have to look to the greatest good for the greatest number.

Of course, the one lingering concern I did have was who’s paying for it. Heacock assured me that the developer of the new Greaves Way shopping center is responsible for completing and for bearing the total cost of the project. This is required under Kitsap County Code 19.200, which is further underwritten by state and federal regulations. Heacock pointed me to the section of the code requiring a developer to create 1.5 units of wetlands for any one unit affected by development.

The contractor is also required to get state and federal permits, and the work is monitored by the county, Heacock added.

Regarding the aesthetics of the project, Heacock admitted that it will take about two years for these newly created wetland ponds to look natural. He further assured me that the PVC pipes are not a permanent fixture. They’ll be removed once the ponds have become self-sustaining wetlands.

So, is the county all wet with this project? I grew up in Delaware, where wetlands and mosquitoes are abundant. Hence my initial skepticism about “restoring” wetlands along Clear Creek. But since the project is limited to county land and does not displace or inconvenience anyone — and swallows and dragonflies should help keep the mosquitoes in check — I’m giving it the benefit of the doubt.

As for that other project, I have not softened my position. Today marks Day 96 of the Fishy Deal — the 14-month closure of Bucklin Hill Road for the construction of a new salmon-friendly bridge.

Contact Ed Palm at efpalm@centurylink.net.

My Column for September 27, 2015

ED PALM | Retirement life: Use it or lose it

Once again, Shakespeare put it best: “If all the year were playing holidays, to sport would be as tedious as to work.”

That line speaks to me and my condition. Except for this part-time gig, I’m retired now, and I have to tell those of you earnestly looking forward to it that retirement is tough. With occasional exceptions — mostly involving Mrs. Palm — no one else is determining what I should do or when I should do it. Having arrived at a certain age, and knowing that Alzheimer’s disease does run on my mother’s side of the family, I’m acutely aware that each of us is granted only so much life and lucidity. And now it’s up to me to make the most of my time and not waste it. In the words of another poet — taken somewhat out of context — “But at my back I always hear time’s winged chariot hurrying near, and yonder all before us lie deserts of vast eternity.”

I know. I’m just incorrigible. As I’ve admitted before, you can take the professor out of the classroom, but you can’t take the classroom out of him. Was Wordsworth right: Do the “consolations of the philosophic mind” make up for the loss of “splendor in the grass”? Retire and find out.
(That last was virtually a giveaway, but a free Palm Print to the first reader to correctly identify all four allusions in this column by author and title. No fair Googling them! God will know if you’re not identifying the allusions by memory.)

Actually, I think that Mrs. Palm would agree that I’m doing OK with retirement. I have my writing (not just this column), my reading, my self-imposed photo assignments, a volunteer commitment, my hiking and my dog. To those of you about to retire, my advice is to make a plan. The best way to grow old before your time, declining physically and mentally, and is to rest idle. I’ve seen that happen among family and friends. The old cliché applies: “Use it or lose it.”

I likewise have it on reliable authority that too much togetherness is not a good thing for a mature marriage. Mrs. Palm lives and breathes for bridge. A serious player, she earns master’s points — whatever that means. Don’t ask me. I don’t play the game. It’s too complicated for a mind like mine that wanders through eternity and can’t stay focused on what cards have been played and who played them. But I’m fine with her obsession, and she’s fine with mine, even though photography is more expensive than bridge.

But, fortunately, the digital revolution has made photography much less expensive than it used to be. So “even in that was Heaven ordinant.” (There I go again.) I must live right!
On the other hand, I have arrived at the age at which I’m expected to be a curmudgeon. I do have my complaints.

For one thing, as a lifelong eyeglass wearer, I am wondering if anti-glare coating on lenses is a plot. It seems like such a good idea at first. But, in my experience, by year two, the coating becomes increasingly hazy, making the lenses difficult to keep clean. The solution, of course, is to buy a new pair.

For another thing, I object to the television commercials in which a series of people detail what they’ve lost to cancer and then go on to anthropomorphize and threaten the disease. These commercials trivialize and oversimplify the problem. They give people false hope that a messianic fervor will yield a magic cure for the complex series of diseases lumped under the category of “cancer.” Donations to the appropriate agencies will certainly help. But so will a realistic understanding of what we’re up against. I recommend that people read Siddhartha Mukherjee’s “The Emperor of All Maladies” before deciding how they might be able to help.

Along the same lines, I can’t see the point in walking 60 miles to demonstrate my solidarity with cancer sufferers and my commitment to finding a cure. A good bit of the money such walks raise must go to pay for overhead and the salaries of the organizers. And now another organization would have us walk for Alzheimer’s disease. For the reason I’ve admitted above, that one hits close to home.

The problem is that retirement gives you too much time to think back over your life and to mull over your regrets. My Cousin Doris, ten years my senior, is now in the final stages of Alzheimer’s. She taught me to drive when my mother wouldn’t. She helped pay my tuition to an academically sound all-boys Catholic high school. I never repaid her or even properly thanked her for those and other kindnesses. It’s too late now.

Think about such things before you retire.
Contact Ed Palm at efpalm@centurylink.net.

My Column for September 20, 2015

ED PALM | Religious liberty vs. religious bigotry

It was Samuel Johnson who is reported to have said that “only a blockhead ever wrote except for money.” I’m pleased to report that I’m not that kind of blockhead. Truth be told, however, this gig doesn’t pay all that well. It’s mainly hearing from readers that keeps me going. I find it especially gratifying to hear from readers who like and approve of what I have to say, of course. But I also appreciate hearing from those who consider me a blockhead, my paltry compensation notwithstanding.

The most vehement objections I inspire, bar none, seem to come my way whenever I touch on the topic of religion. A case in point is the comment I made last month in response to the Iowa set-to between Ted Cruz and the openly gay actress Ellen Page. Cruz suggested that denying goods and services to gay couples intent on marrying can be justified in the name of religious liberty. Page observed that there is a fine line between religious freedom and religious bigotry.

One reader — a born-again Christian whose faith I respect and admire — posed a question that has helped me to refine my own position on gay marriage: How can those who support gay marriage justify imposing their will on those who don’t?

The answer, it seems to me, is that people who serve the general public may not discriminate against anyone on the basis of race, color, creed, ethnic origin, gender or sexual orientation. That last category is a recent addition, but as I understand it, each of those categories is now a matter of settled law.

The cause célèbre, of course, involved the Colorado baker who refused to bake a cake for a gay wedding. A cake is just a cake — a commodity — and it was not going to be put to any illegal purpose. To my mind, providing that cake would not have constituted an endorsement of gay marriage, much less actual participation in the event. And in the end that baker’s stand cost him much more than a sale. A Colorado judge determined that he did discriminate against that gay couple. He’s facing up to a year in jail.

Likewise, I cannot see that providing flowers for, or photographing, a gay wedding constitutes participation in the ceremony. The actual participants would be the gay couple, their attendants, and the officiant. (I didn’t write clergyman or woman because there is another distinction I’ll address anon.) Again, the florist would merely be providing a commodity and the photographer a service, both of which are ideologically neutral.

Regarding that officiant, a clergyman or woman whose denomination does not recognize gay marriage cannot be compelled to marry a gay couple. A justice of the peace or judge conducting a civil service, however, is a different matter. He or she is bound by the civil law, which currently holds gay people to be a protected class.

This same reader suggested that forcing merchants and service providers to participate in gay weddings is analogous to requiring a Jew or Muslim to deal in pork. That depends on the nature of the business.

A religious Jew who owns a kosher meat shop, or a Muslim who owns a halal, cannot be compelled to stock and sell pork — provided that he owns the business and that he clearly bills the shop as a kosher or Islamic establishment. Should either business fail and its owner go to work for Safeway, however, he would have to sell whatever Safeway stocks, pork included. Safeway, after all, is in business to serve the public in general, not just those who would recognize Jewish or Muslim dietary strictures.

As I’ve admitted before in this column, despite my Catholic upbringing, I don’t consider myself to be a Christian. But theology remains an interest of mine, and I do know enough about Christianity to recognize a glaring irony among Christians adamantly committed to reversing the Supreme Court’s decision legalizing gay marriage. Christ is reputed to have consorted with publicans and sinners and to have enjoined us to “judge not that ye be not judged.” I suppose he realized that he was more likely to win hearts and minds by engaging with people than by excluding or shunning them.

Fast forward to today, and like it or not, we live in a secular, pluralistic society. Allowing Christian merchants and service providers to impose their religious scruples on society in general is a slippery slope. It would be tantamount to the establishment of religion — which the First Amendment expressly forbids.

That’s the way it seems to me at least. As for me and my pay, not to worry. The love of money may indeed be “the root of all evil.” But the Sun has seen to it that I can afford only a venial sin or two.

Contact Ed Palm at efpalm@centurylink.net.