Why Does It Matter?

“When I see the Confederate flag, I see the attempt to raise an empire in slavery. It really, really is that simple. I don’t understand how anybody with any sort of education on the Civil War can see anything else.“

-Ta-Nehisi Coates

confederate flag

I was returning from shopping yesterday when I noticed two flags displayed in a neighbor’s front yard. Looking closer I saw it was the U.S. Flag and the Confederate Battle Flag, presented at equal height and rank.

It shocked me!

I had mistakenly thought that Confederate flags had all been consigned to dusty history displays or to Bo and Daisy Duke Toy Collections. I did not expect to see one flying high in a small town in Minnesota.

I immediately thought, “What jerk would do that!” Aside from the breach of decorum of the flags flying at equal height, the symbolism of raising that old banner, in obvious pride, sickened me. Long after I got home the thought that someone in my town considered it proper to display that flag, gnawed at me.

I couldn’t help but think that so many people had died fighting against everything that flag stood for. As a family historian, I knew that two of my Great-Great-Uncles had died in a Memphis Hospital of dysentery after being pushed to the absolute limits of their endurance. One of them had only arrived from Germany five months before he joined up to fight for his new countries beliefs. In fact, he did not live long enough to learn English or become a citizen. When he died, the military listed his possessions as one pair of pants, a shirt, and a blanket. They buried him in a Memphis Union Cemetery and notified my Great-Great-Grandmother that her brother had given his all to his new country.

Then I thought of many of the people I knew, who were minorities that had told me how they resent the flags popularity. How they thought it allowed people to hide their racist hatreds behind a cover of false Southern Pride.

My wife asked me later, why I just couldn’t seem to let it go? Why did a small piece of cloth mean so much to me? Perhaps it had to do with the rancor that is occurring during this year’s election. The total lack of civility being displayed by some many politicians, the willingness to label races and religions as dangerous, not worthy of American Citizenship or worse, questioning the quality of those minorities who were citizens and the division of people by sexual preference or belittling of someone’s definition of love.

I guess I have come to equate that flag as the rallying cry of bigoted small minded individuals and can no longer stand to see it fly.

-Clarence Holm

Community Spirit

My wife and I have been at our new home in Ormsby, MN,  population 131) and its’ sister city, located 2 miles away, Odin, population 106. (From here on I will refer to them as “O-Towns”) for about three weeks now

“O-Towns” are classic examples of rural mid-western communities. They both have a declining and aging populations due to the changing agricultural market. Small family farms are disappearing as properties get snapped up by the larger farms that can afford the newer (and much more expensive) farming equipment. Unfortunately, these losses of farm employment opportunities have not been replaced by other means of employment that would keep younger people in the community.

This population exodus results in the loss of the retail support structure- As the population falls, businesses close. For example, grocery stores, coffee shops, barber shops that were traditionally part of rural living have all left “O-Towns”. Obviously, small cities need to replace these services with something and in our area, the answer comes with community involvement. In Odin, that meant a community club that sponsors a subsidized coffee shop/grocery store/bait store. The small business provides the opportunity for the men’s morning coffee/dice game club as well as a place to get needed grocery items like milk, ketchup and Campbell’s Cream of Mushroom Soup (main stays of Minnesota casseroles). It also provides a source of night crawlers for that afternoon of fishing on the small nearby lakes.

In Ormsby, that creative community spirit was brought home to me when we saw our 98-year-old neighbor on the street, pushing her stroller home one morning. She explained to us that she was just coming from her weekly morning coffee/women’s workout group held at the local tavern. The tavern is normally open from 12:00 to 9:00 P.M. five days a week, so there is plenty of opportunity for cross-purposing the space.

While the people of this area are naturally a very independent group, it’s apparent that individuals realize that interdependence is imperative. Cross utilization of resources is important, as well as having a willingness to take part in group opportunities. Yesterday we took part in city carnival in a neighboring town that featured a community lunch booth that featured a meal that included a pulled pork sandwich, chips, baked beans and a can of soda for $6.00. Afterward, we spent the afternoon playing church bingo for .25 cents a card, offering a chance for a shared payout of five to six dollars.

While we still are settling in from our move, my wife and I are already getting to know our neighbors and beginning to love rural small town living.

Social Media, Business And My Cat

"Let's talk about your photo fixation!"

My Cat (©2016 – Clarence Holm)

Although I do not often blog about my insurance career, I felt the subject of a meeting that occurred a few days ago with a marketing representative of a large property casualty insurance company was worth sharing.

Although I am basically retired, I do work with an agency part time (a few hours a week). My job includes writing insurance information for a website, working on computer issues and performing some basic marketing tasks. This week I sat in on a meeting with a company where the representative was speaking about social media and how their company offered great resources that we and our agents could use to build social media presence.

The resources she was referring to were a large amount of prepared content, which could be used on social media sites including our business websites, Facebook pages, Twitter posts and Linked In messages. It was all high-quality artwork and had articles that we could copy and post under our business name. By doing so, the representative suggested we could build a positive following that would result in more business. The rep stated that the company had social media experts writing and designing this content and they knew all about how to make social media successful for us.

What Absurdity!

I was shocked to hear a company representative suggest that I could copy and paste myself to social media success.

Before I rant, let me share some of my background. Early in my business career, I managed a Radio Shack during the time period the first personal computers hit the market. I cut my teeth on the TRS-80 and was intrigued enough with the technology. When I returned to college to complete my degree in English, I decided to take to some computer science courses (this was around 1980). During those classes, I learned programming (FORTRAN and Basic) on the North Dakota State College mainframe computer system. It was back in the days of computer punch cards and readers. At the same time, my brother in law was a graduate assistant in computer science at another college campus in a different city. We realized we could leave each other notes buried in the REM statements of shared computer code uploaded to the State’s University Computer System. It was a rudimentary form of social media (A very early forerunner of a bulletin board.) After graduating I worked for a number of businesses and cut my teeth in sales and marketing. I continued my interest in computers and was an early adaptor of email and websites. I used my knowledge of computers in my insurance career and went on to be recognized as an “Agent of the Year”  for a large insurance company. I also served for a number of years on another company’s national advisory council. Working with a multi-state insurance group, I introduced email concepts and procedures to hundreds of insurance agencies. I was privileged to have had a ringside seat in the growth of business marketing on the internet.

So it was surprising to me to hear a company representative be so completely naïve about electronic marketing in the year 2016. I was half expecting to hear about an emerging “Y2K” problem! It was disappointing to me to listen to a presentation that promoted social media success by foisting canned content on followers and representing it as fresh professional advice on Twitter and Facebook.

Never Tweeted

Of course, what should I expect from a company representative, who is probably not allowed to have a thumb drive for fear that company data might be stolen and are scared to death of the mention of the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act (GLBA). I’m sure they report to company lawyers who must approve all written communications.

I should have known that corporate structures are not fertile ground for social media expertise. In fact, when I questioned the representative she confided that she had never tweeted and wasn’t involved with Facebook or blogging. In fact, she had never seen a tweet and has certainly not kept up with the Kardashians. Yet she had been sent out on the road to give advice to agents on how to run a successful social media campaign.

The whole meeting brought to mind the words in Matthew 9:24 “Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle…”

The goal of social media is to communicate quickly and informally. The goal of corporate structure is to issue a scripted precise uniform message.

Not Exactly Viral Stuff

While arcane insurance law might not be a page turner for the general public, there is plenty of good insurance information that would be of interest to friends and family. While most of my relatives don’t want to get caught listening to me expound on the merits of higher physical liability limits, I do get phone calls on what to do after hail storms damage their roof. And while insurance will never have the same cache as a cat video, who’s to say an insurance blog couldn’t have the following of the car maintenance guru’s “Click and Clack”

But that success will never happen if all the industry does is endlessly ask agents to spit out homogenized articles. It would be much better if insurance companies would follow Justin Bieber, view a Vine and post a cat picture.

Social Media Haiku

passion shared with friends
rarely wasted as a gift
nighttime croak of frog
-Clarence Holm

Do I Feel Lucky?

2004 Ford Ranger Dash & Airbag Photo - Clarence Holm

2004 Ford Ranger Dash & Airbag
Photo – Clarence Holm

A few days ago, I received a message from the Ford Motor Company in the form of a recall advisory notice. It appears my little red Ford Ranger has a product imperfection that will be replaced – when the parts are available. I was told my local dealer will then contact me to set an appointment to have them installed.

Over the years, I’ve had a number of cars recalled to have vehicle repairs made and it was never a big deal. Once I had a door latch that locked shut, another time an emission control failed and a few years ago an additive was needed for the transmission. All these items were repaired with little inconvenience on my part.

That changed for me as I read the reason for the last recall notice. It seems my trusty truck has a defective airbag. Suddenly I didn’t feel real good about this news.

I had been aware of the Takata Airbag problem for some time and had seen the news reports detailing the eight fatalities and more than 100 injuries linked to these safety devices over 15 years (1987-2012). I had also watched a news report of a lady who had an airbag discharge when she was driving, sending bits of steel into her body and permanently blinding her. I thanked heaven that (at the time) none of my current vehicles was listed in those warnings. Unfortunately, Ford’s notice made my Ranger part of the recall.

Luckily Ford is working on the problem and because it is unlikely that one of these horrific injuries might actually happen to me, the company said not to worry (too much). Unfortunately the recalled airbags for all types of vehicles now total more than 34 million. So switching them all could take years, even as other suppliers race to support this recall effort.

According to Consumer Reports there are a number of things I can do to minimize my risk concerning this recall. I should consider:

  • Minimizing my driving.
  • Carpooling with someone whose vehicle is not affected by the recall.
  • Utilizing public transportation.
  • Renting a car.

These are good suggestions, as far as they go, but if you have to drive the vehicle, like I will have to you may wish to ponder these additionally tips I thought of:

  • Drive really slow
  • Place a Plexiglas shield between yourself and the steering wheel.
  • Avoid regions of the country that are hot and humid that may increase the risk of explosion and heat stroke!
  • Let your spouse do the driving.
  • Sell the truck to a Millennial (They don’t worry about anything!).

While these tips may (or may not) protect you from an airbag incident, you may want to consider this piece of Stanley Weiser’s advice; “A fool and his money are lucky enough to get together in the first place?”

-Clarence Holm

Love/Hate challenge

Adventures in Cheeseland (http://cat9984.com/) tagged me for the Love/Hate challenge. The rules are below.

  1. List 10 things you love.
  2. List 10 things you hate.
  3. Tag other people to take the challenge.


  1. Fresh Sheets
  2. Cool Pillows
  3. Bird Feeders.
  4. Perennial Flowers
  5. Estate Sales (Good to know some people have more stuff than me!)
  6. People who don’t care when I stammer
  7. People who take the time to be original
  8. Watercolors
  9. A well written short story
  10. Repairing and Painting Garden Gnomes

Hate (more intensely dislike, except #10)

  1. Facebook Jerks
  2. Cleaning three litterboxes and vacuuming up runaway kitty litter
  3. Finding sour milk when you want cereal
  4. Mosquitos
  5. Wasps that attack me!
  6. People who constantly play trivia games and are always asking for answers
  7. Having no place to hide when babies cry
  8. 4th Day of leftovers
  9. People who don’t care
  10. People who never make a mistake

Below are the blogs I tagged. This part is confusing. I’ve seen people list from zero to ten people. If you choose to accept the challenge, feel free to distribute your largesse in any way you choose. If you do not choose to accept the challenge, please ignore the previous sentence. J

Ontheland (https://ontheland.wordpress.com/)

Claudette (http://ceenoa.com/)

Theanne aka magnoliamoonpie (http://outofmymindimages.com/)

Daily Echo (http://scvincent.com/)

Annette Rochelle Aben (https://annetterochelleaben.wordpress.com)

Wild Daffodil  (https://daffodilwild.wordpress.com/)