Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Happy New Year!!!

What more could one ask for - cold and breezy! Only snow is missing to make it complete evening.

In keeping with the time honored traditions:
        The year past:  "could have been better."
        The year ahead:  "it will be better."

So now that I have all the standards out of the way, I can ramble on in a pointless manner appropriate for the evening. I haven't been a big New Year's Eve partier for years, so this is usually a calm and collected evening that many times ends before midnight with the siren call of my bed. Tonight is going to be no different. So

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

What do I do ...

... that drives my mother crazy. Heck, why stop with mom. It drives my wife and my MIL and at least half the people I know crazy. The other half just haven't run into the issue. Can you guess what it is?

What I do that drives everyone crazy? I know that at least some of you reading this blog know me in real life. So what is it? And no, it is not go for months without a shower. It involves none of my grooming behaviors, real or imaginary. It also doesn't involve drunken orgies or the ilk. Can you guess now?

Still puzzled? The next hint is that does not directly involve my intellect (or lack thereof). It also does not involve my appearance, sex, education, or current job. Can you begin to see through the mist which is slowly clearing from your mental vision? Got a guess now?

Now for a give away clue - it involves computers. Can you guess now?

Give up?


My deep, dark, and dirty secret that drives people crazy is that I am the Computer Whisperer. I can walk up to any computer, think a few good thoughts, say the appropriate words, and viola - everything starts working just fine.

If the computer has been freezing up on you for days, all I have to do is walk into the room and it behaves perfectly.

If you haven't been able to get that web site to accept your input and have resorted to sitting on hold for hours in the hope of getting through to customer support - let me sit down at the keyboard and all will suddenly work and your order will be complete in seconds.

If you've been trying to get your printer to power on and/or unjam - let me caress it and it will work like a charm.

You keep getting the BSOD (Blue Screen Of Death) - let me just touch the keyboard and the machine will run perfectly for hours.

In and of itself, being a Computer Whisperer is not calculated to drive people crazy. It is more calculated to make you really popular late at night around deadlines. The real issue is that people have been getting strange and irreproducible results for hours and have drug in other people to verify that it isn't working and I walk in and it starts working. You can see how that might rankle a bit. I have had my wife insist on other people coming over to see that her computer isn't working right because she knows when I walk in it will start working perfectly. And perhaps more annoying, all those vexed people know that as soon as I walk out of the room, their troubles will resume until I return. A good computer only responds to a Computer Whisperer it can hear and see.

The worst part is that I don't even have to know anything about the computer in question. I have been at sites with main frames down and waiting for the system engineers to arrive, walked into the computer room, and suddenly all is working again. Back in the early days of programmable calculators, my fellow graduate students used to come to my office so that their "broken" calculators would work long enough to finish the assignment. When I was at a national lab, I had a colleague that would drag me over to his area at lunch time just so his computer powered detector would work. (I got a lot of free lunches that way.) It's probably good I never became a system engineer - it's hard to repair that which works while you are there and then quits when you leave!

(This post is a response to Mama Kat's writer's challenge for Thursday - I just figured I'd get it done a tad early.)

Monday, December 29, 2008

Monday, Monday, ....

Today seemed like a Monday all day long. Which is pretty much normal since it was indeed Monday last time I checked. I could be wrong, but I really don't think so.

Today was one of those funky days where it was unseasonably warm, but the continuous breeze still made it feel cool. But at least it *was* warm (and sunny at times). While we were walking in the park, Molly was very disappointed that she didn't spot a single squirrel to bark at or try to sneak up on. I figure they were all up in the top branches of the bare trees sunbathing. Either that or they all mysteriously disappeared overnight.

As we walked around the park, there were a number of other dogs and their people out walking as well. (Note that I have told it as it really is for dogs and their followers.) Some dogs were taking their owners for a run, some were just ambling around hoping to meet other dogs, and one was jogging her off-for-the-break college student mistress in circles. That was the best pair to watch because they would jog for a bit and then one or the other would spot something interesting and stop dead in their tracks. That of course yanked the partner on the other end of the leash around in short order. Then the jog would begin again. I suspect that both the dog and mistress are going to be sore tomorrow.

It seemed to be a day when everyone was out to get some sun before winter gets serious again. Contrast that with the other day when it was cold and dark and dreary and the the wind was blowing all day. The only other people L, Molly, and I saw during our walk that day were the kids that moms drove up to the playground and shoved out of the car. The moms then remained inside on their cell phones. It was funny since there were at least three cars with a chattering mom in each and a dozen kids out playing. The ironic thing is that as small as this town is and as many parks as we have, none of them live more than 10 blocks from a park. Why not walk to the park with the kids and kill several birds with one stone. You could even talk on the cell phone if that was your desire. Sometimes I just scratch my head over the behavior I see every day.

This period of the year is nirvana to college football fanatics like myself. One or more bowl games every day for a week a time. I don't know that it gets any better than this. Contrast that with the ugly performances by the pro football players on Sunday and you can understand why I like the college game better. College football is one part skill and nine parts emotion. It all depends on which team gets emotionally up for the game who will win. And it also means that one emotional play can turn the whole game around.

L heads back to the mountains in the morning and I'm already missing her before she has gone. It is amazing how much you come to miss being able to just walk down the hall and share a thought after 33+ years of marriage. Somehow phones and emails just aren't the same. I have a college buddy who is a traveling salesman. I don't think he has spent more than a week at a time at home for years. In fact, I'm not sure he has spent more than a month without being out of the country in that time period. I don't know how he and his spouse do it. Now that their daughter is in graduate school, I suspect they will travel together on at least some of his trips.

Well, time to get back to reality. Don't do anything I wouldn't do. (I know that doesn't leave out much, but like I keep telling the reporter for the local paper - if you find me nude in front of the bar at 2am, I've probably decided that I am done being mayor.)

Sunday, December 28, 2008

How does he do it?

In todays Frazz (a comic) the suggestion is made that Santa can afford the toys he gives every year by licensing his image. At first glance, it seems like a pretty good idea. But then, the scientist part of me wants to check it out a bit more in depth. So ...

According to the International Database (IDB) , the current world population is between 6 and 7 billion people. Further looking at the age demographics for several countries and making an eyeball guess, we discover that less than a third of that population is "Santa eligible" (that is under 18 years of age). So Santa has to get gifts for approximately 2 billion kids.

Now let us be somewhat conservative and assume that Santa's burdened cost per kid for gifts is $25. That is, the cost of the gifts and delivery totals $25. (After all there are costs associated with keeping a team of reindeer and a supersonic sled in operational shape.) So Santa has to make
          ($25/kid)  X (2 billion kids) = $50 billion
just to cover the gift and delivery costs.

There are 365 days per year (ignoring leap years), so each day Santa has to make
          ($50 billion) / 365 = $136,986,301.37 per day =~ $136,986,301 per day
from his image licensing.

Let's be generous and assume that Santa gets his image out there 100,000 times each day on average around the world. Then he has to get
        ($136,986,301) / 100,000 = $1,369.86 =~ $1,370
 per licensed image display.

Now if we go to a site like Phototour and fill out the form for licensing as a full page cover photo in an ad for a press run of 100,000, we find out that the fee for a photo of a farm and barn is around $650. I assume that personal images like Santa would be worth more. Likewise, TV appearances would be more expensive. So coming up with an average of $1,370 per image exposure might indeed be possible. (Always assuming that Santa doesn't become so overexposed that no one will pay for his image anymore.)

So there you have it. Santa pays for the Christmas extravaganza by licensing his image for all the advertising every year. Now we know how he does it. {*grin*}

Friday, December 26, 2008

Christmas is past and what a blast ...

I took yesterday off from blogging, primarily due to the standard overeating of the day. It's hard to get motivated to blog when you're stuffed to the gills with food. Christmas dinner was one of those meals with way too much food - roast beef, ham, potatoes, yams, green beans, jello, rolls, ... and more. Then after the dishes were cleared and the fresh pot of coffee started, out came the varieties of fruit cakes. None of us are fans of fruit cake made with citron, but that just made it a challenge for Mom this year. So she had three different types of fruit cake she made with dried fruit and no citron this year. Couple that with some ice cream and you have the ultimate in heavy deserts. And of course you *have* to try all three kinds so that you can give an unbiased rating of different recipes. That's my excuse and I'm sticking to it.

Today was another example of adiabatic heating here on the plains. It was close to 50 degrees this afternoon as the cold front pressed in. About three the winds picked up and the temperature dropped as the front arrived. So tomorrow is supposed to be seasonably cool, but by Monday the winds will have reversed and combined to yield temperatures close to 60. At least if I believe the weather forecast. Nothing like living where the temperature can vary by 60-75 degrees in a few days.

It made it a nice day for L and I to take a walk in the park with Molly the wonder dog. The squirrels were out in force, driving Molly to distraction with their disappearing act in the trees every time she got close. One thing that has both L and I scratching our heads is the large numbers of robins still around. Normally by this time of year we are down to crows, sparrows, doves, and a few stragglers. This year there are still literally hundreds of robins in the trees and around the area. The question this brings up can be phrased as an or: Are we insane and this is normal and we just haven't noticed before, or is this something different that might have an interesting explanation?

Finally, it is time to consider the seasonal wonder of the research reported in a University of California San Diego press release. The title is evocative, but doesn't really convey the true oddity. In Eyes on the prize Brain-imaging research finds visual areas respond more to valuable objects , researchers from the Perception and Cognition Lab at UCSD reported on a study published in the Dec. 26 issue of Neuron. The main gist of the study is that if something has been associated with monetary value in the past, the visual system emphasized the object in the present. I.e. valuable things arouse more interest in the visual cortex and other areas of the brain. I think this explains a lot. Some of the speculation is that this brain processing oddity my be able to explain certain aspects of addiction. For example, the sight of drugs of food might be triggers to increased emphasis to the brain based on past rewards.

With that odd bit of research duly reported, I can now head off to the bed.

... and to all a Good Night!

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Merry Christmas

Walking home from the radio show this morning was a winter wonderland. Even at 9am it was still below zero and the hoar frost covered all the trees and bushes. Since the journey to the station and back is only a couple of miles, I usually walk to the park and do a few miles there before returning to the house. That way I get my daily mileage in and get some private time since I don't (or won't) answer my phone while walking in the morning. The only bad thing was the breeze that dropped the wind chill down to -35 or lower. Made it painful to take off my gloves to use my cell phone to snap pictures of the wonderland I was walking through. But I did it for you, my loyal readers. So without further ado, here is some what I saw as I wondered the park this morning.

Merry Christmas to All
And to All a Good Night

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Christmas is almost here ...

... and I just got home from the last city council meeting of this year. We had to meet tonight to have the second readings and public hearings on a couple of items that needed to be signed and in force before the end of the year. Mostly contract related. We also allocated some remaining funds for projects that can be done with money from this year next year. One of them is an eagle scout project in one park, another is an expansion of the seating at the veterans memorial in another park, and the last is the minimal buildout of a curb cut on a state highway whose permit will expire if not built shortly. Pretty much standard end of the year stuff.

You know you live in a small town when ... someone asks your mother if you are OK since you didn't blog last night. Just to alleviate any concerns, I am fine. I was busy working on some computer stuff last night and it was too late to post by the time I finished up. But thanks for the concern. Mom called this afternoon to finalize plans for Christmas Eve and she mentioned that she had been asked about the absence of a blog post and was I OK? That is encouraging to me for several reasons, not the least of which is that there are actually people reading what I write. I always have the underlying fear that my blog bears a closer resemblance to post-nasal drip of the brain than a readable flood of interesting words. It is also nice to hear that people care!

I am waiting for my wife to get home from the mountains as I write this. It will be so nice to have her home for a few days. This time of the year can feel very lonely when you are batching it. But at least I got most of the cleaning done and tomorrow we can finish decorating the tree for the group gathering tomorrow night. Christmas will be pretty low key here at the homestead this year. The son is up in the mountains working over college break, so it will just be L, Molly, and me along with our moms and maybe a few other guests that would otherwise be alone over the holiday.

Tomorrow doesn't look to be too busy. I'll get up and walk down to the radio station for the radio show early in the morning. Speaking of which, I sometimes think that people care more about the radio show that about the city council actions it features. I can't believe the number of people I run into that tell me that they heard the show and really look forward to it each week. That is amazing on several counts: 1) they actually listened to the show rather than turning that dial, 2) so many of them don't live in this town,  3) the topics that they heard on the show prompts them to ask questions, and 4) they will at least listen to the radio show even if they don't attend the council meetings. I was talking to the president of the local community college the other day and he was very complementary on my use of the radio show to keep the community informed. I found it kind of amusing. I do it because I like to hear myself talk! {*grin*}

After the radio show, I'll walk back home and get some last minute wrapping done.  Then I need to start our traditional Christmas Eve oyster stew cooking so it can simmer and be ready to eat early. There is the church service for people to attend and then the gathering of people here to snack and talk and await Santa. Any more, the number of Santa unaware kids has shrunk to a few, so I doubt Santa will show up here at the house. He'll catch them overnight at their own houses. On Christmas day we are migrating over to mom's house for Christmas dinner. My MIL and mom worked it out amidst themselves so Thanksgiving was at MIL's house and Christmas Day will be a mom's house. (It pays to live in the same town as your mom and MIL - there is some else to cook!)

Well, Molly seems to think she hears a car so L must be here. Later.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Cleaning, fur, and dogs

I finally finished cleaning the house today. All that is left is to wash a couple of floors and I'm done for the nonce. You know it's getting bad when cleaning the house is the exciting news of the day. My wife and son are up in the mountains, so it's just Molly and I here at the house. Molly doesn't say one whole heck of a lot so I am left to talk to myself. I figure as long as I don't answer myself I must still be sane. At least Molly puts her head on my leg and looks at me with big brown eyes as if to say "why are you lonely and sad, you haven't rubbed my head and belly eight billion times yet today?"

Molly is a Border Collie mix with long silky hair. Unfortunately, that means that she sheds year round in varying amounts. Nothing like dog fur in tufts and piles all over the house to make it clear it is time to clean. Dust devils on steroids is what I call them.  At least Molly has slowed down in her shedding as compared to summer now. During the summer, vacuuming the house would yield at least 2 cannisters of Molly fur. Now that it has cooled a bit outside, vacuuming only yields 3/4 of a cannister of Molly fur.  Long silky hair that sheds all the time is a characteristic of the breed. If she wasn't a stray adopted from the humane society, we would probably have looked for a short haired dog like all our previous pets. It is amazing to me that anyone could abandon a puppy down by the river to become coyote food. It is just fortunate that my colleagues of the local humane society found Molly before the coyotes.

That makes me think of the dogs we have been fortunate enough to have in our life through the years. In our married life, my wife and I have had three dogs. What is amazing is that all three have been very different in breed and behavior, yet they were all affection hounds. We haven't had a dog that wasn't up for getting rubbed and petted.

Our first dog was the very first pet that my wife had ever owned. Her mother and brother both suffered from asthma as she was growing up, so it was a pet free household. We journeyed to the Los Angeles dog pound and picked out the dog that looked like it needed us the most. The result was a Staffordshire Terrier mix we named Sam (short for Samantha since she was female). It was good that we really wanted Sam because Sam was a tough dog to get through puppy hood. We should have taken the hint when we brought her home that first night and put her in the tile floored kitchen with a plywood barrier to keep her there so she wouldn't poop on the carpet. Of course once we went to bed, she jumped over the barrier and pooped on the carpet, then hopped back into the kitchen to sleep. She devoured an entire wooded doghouse while teething and we spent weeks waiting for her to die from internal splinters. She just grinned and continued on, eating all of our rose bushes for desert. Sam was with us for a number of years until she suffered from arthritis and calcification  in the spine that left her paralyzed from the waist down. It was very hard for me to drive to the vet's to have Sam put to sleep. You know it is for the best, but it still feels like betrayal of a friend.

Our second dog was actually given to our son when he was a youngster. Some employees called grandma to bring our son down to work, introduced him to the dog, and then suggested that he ask us if he could keep him. Two guesses as to any possibility of us saying no. Thus we became the proud owners of King Beauregard III (Beau for short), a pedigreed Basset Hound. Beau was the first scent hound we ever had. If Beau couldn't smell it, he wasn't interested. No looking out the windows and getting excited, unless the window was open and Beau could smell something. Beau was also the first dog we had that was not very intelligent. Bassets are not noted for being trainable and Beau fit the mold perfectly. Beau was sneaky rather than devious or conniving. You could always spot when Beau had been sitting in the rocker, because he would hop out when you came into the room, but didn't connect the moving chair with us knowing he was doing something he shouldn't be doing. Beau was with us until he died of old age.

Our third and current dog is Molly. Beau had been gone for a while and we weren't sure we were ready to get another dog yet. Beau's passing was unexpectedly hard on our son. It hadn't been obvious how bonded they had been until Beau was gone. As a founding member of the local humane society and a member of the board, my colleagues knew that we were still thinking about a new dog when Molly was found as an abandoned puppy down by the river. The people of the humane society thought Molly would be perfect for us. It didn't take much to convince us. So we became the proud owners of a Border Collie mix. What a change! Molly is extremely intelligent, much more so than any other dog we have had. She has a large vocabulary of words and commands she understands. She is also a visual hound. If she can see it, it is important to her. Thus she looks out the windows all the time. She is of a breed that has a need to herd. Thus she will attempt to herd about anything: crickets, toads, birds, squirrels, you name it. There is nothing funnier that watching her keep five or six crickets within a small circle on the back patio. Unless it is watching her trying to leap into the air high enough to herd the squirrels running on the telephone wires. Of course the squirrels are not immune to teasing Molly either. They will sit on the wire and watch her run back and forth, trying to herd them. About the time she finally calms down and gives up, they'll let her lay down looking up at them and then throw a pine cone at her. That starts the game all over again.

Of course my mind in its peculiar way wanders off into the land of the odd at every chance. So when I see all the dog fur, it makes me wonder if our ancestors, when they first domesticated dogs, did anything with all the fur. Probably not, but it does leave me a bit curious. Can't you picture a woven dog fur coat? Time to give it up before my mind goes completely off the deep end.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

The wind is rising

After a dull and dreary day the wind is now coming out of the north bringing the cold. Oh well, it makes it seem less painful to be house cleaning tonight and tomorrow. At least most of my cold has gone with the wind. I figure it just didn't want to go out walking in the cold with Molly and me any more.

I spent part of the evening tearing open one of my monitors that has been developing a case of the jitters. I don't know about you, but I cannot stand a jittery monitor. Probably because it means that it needs fixing more that the annoyance factor of the jitter. It is amazing how much trouble shooting you can do with some knowledge, a heat gun, a can of spray coolant, and a soldering iron. (Of course having a set of drawers on the back porch filled with odds and ends and replacement parts helps.) At least I got the major part of the jitter gone - if I can find the right size and voltage of capacitor to put in the beast it should be good for another few years.

Every time I open up a piece of electronic equipment and see the excessive metal cages around the high voltage sections and all the safety interlocks, I am reminded how dumb people can be. Back in the old days, a simple label on the case was enough for people to read it and know that they shouldn't be opening the case if they weren't trained. And if they did open the case and electrocute themselves, we figured that was one less idiot in the world. Now we have the idiot label on the case, more labels and a metal Faraday cage on the inside, and more than one safety interlock. And of course as a society we don't repair them anyway. So why not just seal the case and prevent the idiots any entry? I suspect that it is a clash of ethics. The old ethic from the pre-IC days to repair and fix carries on in leaving the access pathways in the product, but the modern ethics of idiocy in a litigious society means that we spend heavily on adding the metal cage and interlocks and ... I have seen the same design principles carried out in even low-voltage devices. Given all the heavy metals used in modern electronics, I'm waiting for the requirement to put a label on devices like cell phones warning idiots not to eat the device. The first idiot to be diagnosed with selenium and germanium poisoning for eating the electronics will undoubtedly sue because it wasn't obvious that the device was not meant for snacking on. And in the brain death of our legal system, he or she will probably win.

Enough half formed ranting for now. I'll save it up until I have a full on rant.

Friday, December 19, 2008


My cold finally quit running my nose like a faucet, but then morphed into the ache and shiver stage.

It didn't help any to sit for five hours (we even had lunch in to keep on working) with several others all in various stages of recovery. But at least we won't have to do this again for at least a month. The bad news is that now the project costs have escalated to ~$24 million and 15% of our water due to additional requirements from the the EPA and CDPHE. At least we have identified some possible funding sources. If I were even more cynical, I'd believe it is all part of the mandatory water conservation plan that we have to file with the project plan. After all, if the water costs the citizens too many $$$s, they will tend to use a lot less. Probably one of the more effective conservation plans.

Today was as warm as it is going to get for the next week or more. The cold front is supposed to blow into the state starting tomorrow and settle in for Christmas. When I talked to my wife up in the mountains, she said they were predicting winds in the 40 mph range coupled with sub-zero temperatures. So the skiers and snowboarders may find it a bit chilly with wind chills in the -50 degree range over the weekend. It shouldn't be quite so bad down here on the plains.

Tomorrow starts the college football bowl season. On the down side, I need to clean the house  for Christmas, so it may cut into my viewing pleasure a bit. On the up side, it is early enough that it isn't the most interesting games yet either. All in all about neutral.

Off to have some hot soup and call it an early evening.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

I hab a cold!

It had to happen. I awoke this morning to the familiar runny nose and sense of displacement that could only mean one thing - I have a cold. Given that everyone I have been meeting with for the last couple of weeks has been in some stage of recovery from the cold going around, it was only a matter of time before I became the next victim. So now instead of a well planned post, you're going to get a random rant and thought as I honk my snorter between keystrokes.

I guess it's fitting given that I have a five or six hour meeting tomorrow with the engineering firm about our EPA mandated change in water treatment. May as well be miserable and as well as in sticker shock. We are going to have to spend somewhere between $15-20 million to remove the granite decay products from the water here. The levels in the water haven't changed in 2 or 3 million years, but because the congress critters changed (to levels even the EPA though were "unsupported by scientific evidence") the limits, all of us out here in the water scarce plains are being forced to spend like loons and waste precious water in the process. We are spending this money to remedy a problem that *might* lead to one (yes 1!) excess death every 300 years in a town of our size. Historical data from the 1900's on shows no statistical effect from the ever present granite decay products, but ... Even the official EPA stats claim that if you drank 2 liters of the water here every day for 70 years, you would increase your chances of getting ill by less than 1 in 10,000. Oh well. It just seems that there are a lot of ways of spending that much money that would produce much better results.

You may remember my words about the community benefactor from this post . Here (if you read this latter, select the 2008-12-17 link in the box at the bottom) is one of the official reports of the unveiling of the gift. They have chosen to honor their son (L and I's classmate) by donating and naming an oncology center in his name. Thank you Frank and Gloria and family! And here's to the memory of Dave!

I'm off to snort my honker and drink tea. At the rate of tea consumption today, I'm going to have to become English or give up my coffee drinkers card. {*grin*}

P.S. And I just looked outside and notice that it has snowed some more.


My post of yesterday put me in mind to write this post.

My lovely wife L and I were the oldest grandkids in our respective families. That meant that we knew our grandparents and even great-grandparents better than our younger siblings and relatives. It also meant that we were the first to do such things as graduate from junior high and high school, etc. That meant that whatever we got as gifts, we could predict with great confidence what the later kids would get. If I got a pen and pencil set for high school graduation, then 20 years later that was what my cousin was getting when he graduated. Our grandparents were never anything but scrupulously fair in that respect. Being the oldest also meant that we were blessed to have all of our grandparents (with the exception of L's one grandfather who had died in her childhood) able to attend our wedding. Those wedding pictures with grandparents, parents, siblings, and us are treasured all the more as we grow older and have lost so many of our grandparents and parents. My grandparents are all gone now and only L's grandmother is still with us on her side (at 100+ years of age no less). We have both lost our fathers, but if you have read this blog much you'll know that our mothers are both still with us.

Now that I have finished meandering down memory lane, I wanted to talk about my grandfathers - grandpa J and grandpa P. Two less similar people probably haven't been in anyone's life. Grandpa J was a small wiry rascal that cussed and drank freely, fished and hunted, and had a checkered career. Grandpa P was big and stern, I never heard him cuss and never saw him drink in my life. By the time I was a kid, he no longer hunted and so far as I know he never fished in his life. He was a lifelong farmer and steward of the land.

My favorite memories of grandpa J are from childhood when we lived across the street from grandpa and grandma in Nebraska for a few years and then in my senior year of high school and early years of college.
Yesterday I talked a bit about hunting on the creek with grandpa J. Growing up, we didn't have a television until I was 11 or 12. But grandpa J had one when we lived across the street from him. He would often come and sneak my brother and I out of our bedroom window and over to his house so we could watch cartoons. Often times to later face the wrath of a worried Mom. I can remember him sneaking us out to watch cartoons and then climbing up on the roof of the house to adjust the antenna during a rain storm to get a clearer picture. Basically, there was nothing that grandpa J wouldn't do for us kids. It was sad when we moved and he dropped back to a lesser presence in out lives. At the same time it was probably good, because we were getting older and grandpa J definitely fit into a certain part of life better than others.

Around the time I was a senior in high school, grandpa J suffered a stroke and was partially paralyzed. I still remember going to the nursing home, getting grandpa (I always pictured it as breaking him out of the place), driving to the donut shop to get a donut, and then off to park and watch the world pass by as he (with great effort and troubles at times) ate his donut, drank some coffee, and smoked a cigarette. He couldn't talk well, so I would carry on a monologue and he would let me know what he thought by grunts and gestures. That continued when I was home on breaks from college. It only seemed right given all the things he had done with and for me when I was a kid.

Grandpa P was a completely different person. Never one to talk much about himself, it was up to us kids looking through old pictures to discover that he was on his high school boxing team and evidently quite good. A farmer, he attended correspondence school to learn electronics and television repair when it looked like blood clots might end his farming career. He had a basement full of batteries and a wind charger setup before electricity was available at the farm. He built radios when my Mom was young to listen to the news from Chicago and other faraway places by kerosene lamp. He was an inveterate inventor/tinkerer and built many different types of machines for handling various chores and crops. I spent a number of summers staying with grandpa and grandma P on the farm, working and watching. All the neighbors would come to him to have him build them versions of his machines, to ask his advice, etc. His approach was seldom to tell you anything directly. When I was interested in electronics, he just handed me the materials from the correspondence school and said comeback when I understood it. He would never tell you that he was proud of you directly. The way you would find out is when someone he was bragging about you to told you about it. All the same you knew.

There are many things we did talk about. Grandpa P was the president of a local irrigation and reservoir company and was involved in water rights issues long before they achieved the overwhelming importance they have today in the American West. He served on several congressional committees related to water and loved to talk about it. Much of what he and I talked about back then form the hot issues I deal with as mayor today.

It was from grandpa P and his dad great-grandpa P that many of my Christmas traditions were founded. I remember as a little kid going to great-grandpa and great-grandma P's for Christmas Eve. Grandpa and his two brothers and all their families would gather for the arrival of Santa Claus. Given that grandpa and grandma P had 6 kids and grandpa's two brothers had similar numbers and then they all married and had kids, it was a zoo. All of us youngsters were on our best behavior because great-grandma P was a sharp outspoken German lady that didn't believe in unruly kids. (She also carried a cane and was not adverse to using it!) When great-grandpa and great-grandma died, the celebration moved to grandpa and grandma P's. With all the grand kids, I can remember unwrapping frenzies that left the floor covered two feet deep in wrapping paper. In grandpa P's last years, we moved the celebration to our house. And up until the youngsters of my cousins got old enough to not believe in Santa, he came here bringing packages. The only big change was that Santa here in town arrived via firetruck and didn't sneak up to the house.

It was not long after L and I moved back here from LA and had our son that Grandpa P was diagnosed with inoperable metastatic cancer. Typical of his stoic persistence, he checked out of the hospital and went back to the farm. It was spring and he wanted to see the crop planted, grown, and harvested before he died. Although I suspect he was in severe pain, he worked the fields right through harvest. Shortly thereafter, he decided that it had gone as far as it could, quit eating and drinking, and a bit later passed away. I still vividly remember driving out to the farm with our very young son to sit and talk or just sit. Typical of the man was the fact that he did it without pain killers because he didn't want his mind clouded and because underneath it all he harbored a fear of becoming addicted even as he knew he was dying. To this day the honking of the geese as they migrate in the fall brings back memories of grandpa P and his passing.

I think I had the best of all worlds from my grandfathers. One rascal that believed rules were meant to be bent and life was to be lived now.  One serious stoic thinker that believed in both practical and intellectual pursuits.
Both were honest and honorable. Both were good men. Both loved us kids. I miss them both.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

A favorite winter memory

Mama Kat's writer's challenge for this week allowed me to choose to write about a favorite winter memory. I figured I would also combine it with Christmas and kill two birds with one stone.

I remember the winter season around Christmas the year when I was 9 or 10 with special fondness. That was the year that I got my first shotgun for Christmas and my brother got a rifle. It snowed afresh a few days after Christmas. We were living in a small Nebraska town at the time, across the street from Grandpa and Grandma J. The fresh coating of snow and subzero temperature made for perfect rabbit hunting weather. The snow meant that the rabbit tracks would be visible and easy to follow in the overcast dimness of the day.

Grandpa, dad, my brother and I went down to the creek bottom and began hiking along the creek looking for fresh tracks. Looking back on it today, I realize that grandpa and dad didn't even bring their guns, a pretty sure hint that they were doing this for us boys rather than for table meat. Over the years I have become pretty certain that the whole hunting trip was more to instruct and check out how responsible my brother and I were with our new guns than to bring home anything edible. At the time, no such thought even entered my head. My senses were full with the crispness of the day, the joy of traipsing along the creek bank, eagerly looking for signs of game, the seemingly endless variations in shades of gray and brown in the dim overcast light, and the time spent with grandpa and dad.

Although we saw several rabbits, they remained safe from both my brother and I. Our aim was pretty poor, even considering how excited we were and the fact we were using brand new guns. My brother and I tried out each others guns with no better result. It didn't matter to us. We were hunting with grandpa and dad. The world was a good place.

After several hours of walking along the creek, it was time to head back home. We were happy and tired. And I think we all got something out of the hike and talking. Sadly, it was one of the only times I would ever go hunting with my grandfather. The next year we moved back here to the town where I now live and about 100 miles from grandpa J. By the time I was old enough to drive, he and grandma had begun to suffer ill health. They were eventually moved to a house down the alley from where we lived so that there was someone to take care of them.

(Writing this brought to mind how different my two grandfathers were and yet how they shared certain things when it came to the grandkids. I'll have to use that as a topic in the future.)

Editted to add: The next post, Grandfathers, does just that.

Monday, December 15, 2008

A little about even less

I sit here writing this post after warming up from the trip home from the energy conference. Attendance was good, even with the bitter cold and wind. It was kind of fun to watch the transmission line company guys bob and weave while explaining why they weren't getting the lines to transport all the energy from the wind farms out of the area. Fortunately for the local wind farms, FPL and others got together to build their own lines to the main interconnects. Leaves some of the other areas a bit frustrated with the chicken and egg problem (which came first, the transmission line or the wind farms?).

I hate this kind of bitter biting cold. Usually we only get it for a couple of weeks in January, but this year it is here in December. Oh well, I can dream that it means that January will return to seasonably warm out here on the plains. You know it's cold when I keep putting my feet out to the server farm blowing waste heat to warm up. The computer nerd's equivalent of the old yule log I guess. Instead of throw another log on the fire, just fire up a few extra processes on the servers. What do *you* do to get that extra warm feeling?

Off to do some laundry - at least the son put all the bedding in the laundry hamper after his weekend visit-by.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

They lied!!!

The "They" being the weather people. It was supposed to get up to a balmy 14 degrees today. Instead it peaked at about 6 degrees and the wind blew all day. The wind chill for most of the day was between -20 and -50 degrees. Contrast that with the 60 degree day we had yesterday. Lends credence to the old adage about the weather in the Colorado plains - if you don't like the weather now, just wait a minute and it'll be different. Right now the thermometer is falling past -3 degrees. (Since Google analytics says that about 50% of the readers of this blog are from metric based areas of the world - all the numbers are good old degrees Fahrenheit, not Celsius. [ -25 degrees F is ~ -32 degrees C ])

I finally decided that the wind was as calm as it was going to get about noon and went out to shovel the walk and driveway. Then I ventured over to the mother in laws and did hers as well. You could sure tell the difference in doing the two driveways. My house faces south, so shoveling the drive put me in the lee of the house out of the north wind so it was cold but not biting. MIL's house faces west, so shoveling her drive put me squarely in the north wind and it was definitely biting. You could feel your checks stiffening in minutes. One of the rewards was a plate of fresh from the oven cookies from MIL. Yum!  My mother and I were planning to attend the Master Chorale's Christmas sing this evening, but the cold, wind, and ice deterred us. All in all not a fit day out for man nor beast.

I see on the news that the temperature has already set a new low record for the date in Denver and will probably set a new one for tomorrow if it just stays as cold as it is now until midnight. (Denver International Airport is currently reporting -15 degrees) The silver lining out of all this is that the mountains are getting some great ski snow. Vail got 22 inches yesterday and is forecast to get another 22 inches tomorrow as the next front hits. Almost makes me wish I skied. Of course my wife is up in the mountains and is not quite as overjoyed as the tourists. I think she is conflicted - snow means good business for the mountain businesses, but it also means the ice and cold can get old if you are not skiing.

So what did I do to while away the cold afternoon and evening? Well, I made a casserole and baked a cake. Nothing like cold weather to make one appreciate the warmth of the oven and baking. I approach cooking as a form of experiment. Mix this and that and the other thing and see what happens. Sometimes it tastes good and sometimes it is a lesson learned (and a garbage can filled). The casserole turned out to be good. If any one is adventurous, here it is.

Squash Casserole

  • 2 cups grated zucchini
  • 2 cups grated star squash
  • 1 cup chopped green pepper
  • 1 cup chopped onion
  • 1/2 cup shredded cheese (mozzarella)
  • 1/4 cup oil
  • 1 cup Bisquick mix
  • 4 eggs
  • salt and pepper to taste (about 1 tsp of each in my case)

Turn oven on to 375.
Mix everything together well in a large mixing bowl.
Stir well with a large spoon.
Pour mixture into a greased 9x9 baking pan (at least 2 inches deep)
Cook until the top is medium to dark brown, about 35-40 minutes
Makes enough to serve 6-8

The cook time depends on how much moisture is in the zucchini and squash. I used  frozen shredded zucchini and it was pretty wet after defrosting. It took an extra ten minutes or so to cook. Fresh Zucchini shouldn't take as long, but this isn't summertime!

Next time I may try using cheddar or jalapeno jack instead of mozzarella. Be interesting to see how the taste changes.

Time to get ready for the meetings tomorrow morning. It promises to be a long day with meetings starting at 9am and ending with an energy conference from 6-8pm. If it's as cold tomorrow as it was today, I don't think Molly will be anxious to go for a walk tomorrow night. We'll see. Today she romped in the snow while I shoveled the walks and driveways. She isn't a lot of help as she likes to shovel snow with her nose and throw it back where you've already shoveled. She doesn't get that snow removal is not a game!

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Yo Ho Ho

I am contemplating just making my titles be something like Monday, Tuesday, etc. It seems that no matter what my intent is when I write the title, the actual blog entry morphs into something else in the process of writing it down. Does that ever happen to you?

Today was a day to enjoy the warm weather before the storm. The adiabatic heating got it up to near 60 today as the cold front pressed in. The forecast for tomorrow has it getting up to a glorious 10 degrees before falling into the minus numbers by 6pm. Quite a change from the 60 of this afternoon. (BTW, the link to a definition of adiabatic heating and cooling is for my wife and others that are curious what it means when I babble on and on.)

I fixed the front yard light, put up some Christmas ornaments, and went walking with Molly the wonder dog. It was a fun way to spend the day outdoors in the sun and warmth. I suspect even the squirrels know the weather is changing. They were all out sunning in the park today as we walked. Of course Molly wanted desperately to go say hi to each and every one of them. And of course they stayed just out of dog reach and chattered. The first dog that learns how to fly is going to be a real surprise for the squirrels.

The son rolled into town yesterday to see some friends. We talked on the phone for a bit in the evening and the next I heard from him was when got here to the house at 5:30 am this morning. He got up and took a shower at 1:30 this afternoon and left. I suspect I'll see him at early in the morning tomorrow when he gets back in and then tomorrow afternoon when he gets up to head back to college for finals on Monday. Such is the life of a college sophomore sneaking home before finals. Brings back memories doesn't it?

In other odds and ends, I haven't heard again from the AP reporter who was down here the other day. I suspect that when she gets the story done or if she has questions will be the next time I hear from her. It'll be interesting to see what she makes of it. The driving factoid that is behind the interest is that our sales tax revenues and other economic indicators here in the city are within .2% of last year. This is as opposed to the 30-80% drops in many urban cities. I have my own beliefs as to the reasons, but I'll wait a bit to expound on them.

Let me close by lamenting the lull in college football games. Other than the I-AA (as it used to be called) semi-finals, I'm suffering from withdrawal. I can't wait for bowl season to start!

Friday, December 12, 2008

Friday, Friday ....

A fitting capstone to the week. It has been busy this week and next week is looking to be even busier. I've never quite figured out why the weeks in December always seem to be so busy. At least part of it stems from the sudden realization by many people that if it doesn't get done *now* it won't get done this year. Another part stems from the seemingly random congruence of the universe as things one has worked on all year finally approach fruition. Yet another part seems to come from people in the holiday mood who suddenly remember they haven't said hi or talked to you in a while. I spent so much time talking on my cell this afternoon that I had to charge it this evening.  Add everything together and it seems like December is the busiest month of the year.

As the recompense for suffering through a call to the lawyers today about contract matters, I was fortunate enough to have coffee with a benefactor of the town, the college, the hospital, and just about everything else in the area. He and his family recently sold their company and being the type of people they are, he was already thinking about what other needs the community has. He has already given millions in the last couple of years to the community through the city - for an outdoor water park, for a new park, for the expansion of the library. He has made the city council and me as mayor look like superstars with his donations to the city and his trust in us. And he and his family don't even reside in the city proper. The most interesting thing is the modesty of he and his wife. I literally had to twist their metaphorical arms before being allowed to put a 6 inch plaque up acknowledging his gift on the water park fence. Even then it had to be in an inconspicuous location. He and his wife did it for the joy of seeing the kids enjoying the park, not for acknowledgment or acclaim or credit. Opening day we had free admittance and he and his wife were able to watch the kids stream in and enjoy the gift.  It was the closest I have ever seen he and his wife to tears.

Now that he has sold his company, there will be an announcement on Monday that will forever change health care in the area. And knowing him, if he can manage it, the gift will be from anonymous. If he can't remain anonymous, he'll just duck his head and say it was what anyone else would have done. But you and I know that isn't true. One of the greatest joys of being mayor has been getting to know people like him better. People that are fundamentally good. People who give back to the communities that they have lived in for years and years, where they had their families, raised their kids, and this case even buried one son due to the ravages of cancer. That son was a classmate of my wife and I.  And I suspect the son would be just as modest and good as his father if he were alive today.

Enough for tonight. I have to be ready to enjoy the semi-nice weather tomorrow because it is supposed to turn cold and snowy on Sunday. The forecast for Sunday is for a high of 14 and a low in the negative numbers with moderate to high winds and snow. A good day to curl up before the fire with a cup of soup and the Sunday papers.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Allergies and Dentists

The oddball title of today's post is brought to you by the letter Mama Kat's writer's challenge for this week. I actually have chosen to combine both allergies and worst dental experience in one.

I am allergic to three things: certain antibiotics and penicillin, certain dental anesthetics, and ivory soap. Working in order from least severe to most severe, the symptoms all basically come down to headaches and rashes.

The antibiotic allergy provokers include some of the old harsh antibiotics like aureomycin (one of the earliest tetracyclines). I basically break out in a very itchy and red rash whenever I take them. The same is true for penicillin. Because the reaction to penicillin gets worse with each exposure, doctors avoid giving it to me, saving that last exposure before anaphylactic shock develops for something deathly serious. Interestingly enough, I get the same rashy/itchy symptoms from using Ivory Soap. Some ingredient in Ivory triggers the rash and itch. It is not a minor itch either, it is an itch and scratch until you bleed allover itch.

Closer to the point of this tale, some of the old dental anesthetics used to cause me to get severe migraine like headaches as they wore off. Thus, when I was a teenager, I preferred the pain of non-anesthetic drilling and filling to the aftereffects of the anesthetic. Which leads (almost) naturally into my worst dental experience ...

I had to get a filling in a tooth. It wasn't supposed to be very deep carie and the dentist wasn't concerned that it would be too painful to attempt without anesthetic. This was in the stone age before digital X-rays and other such modern conveniences. X-rays were taken and then sent out for processing (on physical film no less) and often not seen by the dentist for a week or two. In any case, when the dentist started drilling, he found a crack that needed to be drilled and filled as well as the carie. But the crack ran deeper and a lot closer to the nerve than the carie did. So there I am squeezing the arms of the dentist chair and trying to escape into the floor while the poor dentist keeps on working trying to get done so we can get the filling in and the ordeal over.
It was the longest fifteen minutes of my life. I broke the arm of the dental chair into two pieces, but I never moved my head. Such experiences made me a classic dental avoider until I was in my late twenties and the newer anesthetics came into use. It must have been impressive to the dentist. I golf occasionally with the now retired dentist of that experience and he brings it up every time - he remembers the experience vividly.

I actually am pretty happy with my allergies. My mother and brother are both allergic to the novocaine/procaine family of drugs and react strongly to them. When my brother forgot to mention it before a procedure where they deadened the esophagus to run a camera down, they used novocaine and he went into anaphylactic shock and almost died. So I always figure I got off in good shape with simple to itch to distraction and abrasion.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Mid-week lull

Today was the lull in what otherwise has been and will be a busy week. The walk down to the radio station was cool to cold, depending on how the breeze caught you. Since it was a glorious 15 degrees and the breeze was gusting to 20 mph, I wore my sweat pants. Just a bit too nip for shorts. Drat.

For approximately the 30th time out of the last 255 radio shows, the only live callers were jokers. Today it was the auto parts store I pass on the walk in to the station calling to ask if I had convinced the council to resign so I could sell their council seats. I told them that lord knows I'd tried, going so far as to forcing them all to resign. But then I had to reappoint all the original council members when I couldn't convince anyone to buy their seats. (Somehow I don't think there is a huge pent up demand for small town council seats. Oh well.)

I spent about an hour on the phone with a nice reporter from the Associated Press who is going to venture out here to interview me and some of the other community leaders tomorrow. We're getting some attention because we are bucking the national trend of heading into an downward economic spiral. Because of the wind energy construction, relatively good commodity prices for the farm community, and lowered energy costs, we are actually experiencing some economic growth and a continuing labor shortage. It seems to conspire to make us noteworthy in the current economy. It will be interesting to meet the young lady. I am curious to see what her last name actually is because I haven't heard it pronounced the same twice. Then after a couple of exchanges of email with outside counsel for the city about some contractual matters, I was free to pursue my own interests. Of course, by then I had a splitting sinus headache, but what more could one ask for.

Tomorrow is clear for most of the morning and then I have a luncheon date with the 5th grade class at the local parochial school. Every year they invite the mayor to come and have chili and cinnamon rolls with them. The shy young gentleman who called this year was a bit tongue tied on the phone. I think it caught him by surprise that I answered the phone. It gives the fifth graders a chance to meet the mayor and ask questions and it gives me a chance to explain how local government works. At that age, the mayor is still a semi-mythical creature that wields unknown powers. It helps to disabuse them of that and start them thinking about how government really works. When the kids reach the seventh grade, we have the "If I were Mayor ..." essay contest for all the schools. The entries are judged and awarded scholarship prizes and then passed on to the Colorado Municipal League contest of the same name.

After the lunch, I have the meeting with the AP reporter and then a couple of other meetings. Oh, and during all this we are interviewing the finalists for the fire chief position. Fortunately I don't have a lot to do with that process right now. In the evening I have the local community college Christmas gala and then finally I am done for the day. And speaking of being done for the day ...

Tuesday, December 9, 2008


Yet Another Tuesday Again. The acronymic titling just keeps on coming.

Today I spent a few hours at the prison listening to the gang intelligence unit. Some interesting stuff and some stuff that leaves you scratching your head and going huh? Probably pretty normal for a non-gang person listening to stuff about gangs and gang members. They covered the gamut from bloods to crips to seranos to nortes to kkk to war ... Colorado is interesting in that the prisons don't segregate by gang like California and some other states do. They practice a zero tolerance "you are all prisoners" strategy and isolate only trouble makers. Doesn't make some of the gang members real happy.

The gang that was the strangest to me was the Juggalos. The key for membership seems to be a liking of the Insane Clown Posse, often acronymized as ICP in signs and tattoos, and a preference for hatchet or ice pick violence, and/or a liking in general for the music akin to ICP like Dark Lotus, Twiztid, Anybody Killa, Jumpsteady, Psychopathic Rydas, etc. They are one of the rare gangs that accept all religions and races and even allow concurrent membership in other gangs amongst their members. What makes them troubling is that they are a small subset (est. 15%) of all the people who follow ICP in a manner similar to the Deadheads that followed the Grateful Dead. That 15% subset is the actual violent gang, the rest are just somewhat demented music followers. It is also troubling that they are one of the fastest growing gangs in Colorado and in the prison population. The gang logo is a dread locked running hatchet wielding man, often stylized with dripping blood, etc. The iconic image of hatchetman looks like this
This gang is also troubling in that it has a strong middle school  following. The members like to dress in black, wear hatchetman regalia, have tattoos of ICP and the hatchman, and wear clown makeup. Not exactly an inconspicuous crew.

The city council meeting was of the normal variety.  We went through the agenda in a business like manner, had a brief discussion on a couple of upcoming topics, and adjourned. I did try to convince the reporter for the weekly news paper who arrived after the meeting was over that she missed the wildest meeting of the year. I told her that the entire council had stripped naked and danced the can-can on the council bench. She didn't believe me. She just said that she was really happy she missed it and proceeded to quiz me about the agenda items one by one. Oh well. Maybe I just need better lying skills.

Monday, December 8, 2008

The Cold Front (and Rear)

Today as Molly and I headed out to walk, it was about 40 and calm. A nice day for a walk.

So I have on my walking shorts and a sweatshirt and a windbreaker. Just fine for the weather at the start. Molly and I begin our trek heading North, directly into the little breeze that is about. As we walk, the wind starts picking up and the temperature dropping. At the half way point about 3 miles out when we turn around, the wind is up to about 20 mph and the temperature is dropping fast. Pretty much a typical storm from coming in here on the plains.

By the time we are within a mile of the house, the wind is gusting to 40 mph and the temperature is down to 30. Molly's fur is blowing forward on her face and has her tail whipping in the breeze like mad. I am walking a bit like a Keystone Kop from the old movies. You know, the hop-skip-jump-step that looks so funny in the movies. That is because the wind is blowing right up the back of my shorts and freezing what the TV commercials so politely call "that certain part of the male anatomy." Needless to say, Molly and I were both happy to arrive at the house and get out of the wind and into the warm. Our walk tomorrow will probably require sweatpants - it is forecast to be cool and maybe even have some new snow.

Tomorrow looks to be busy as I have a haircut and then am off to the prison for a gang activity briefing from the Department of Corrections intelligence service. It will be interesting to see what is going on. Events and trends in the metro and front range areas tend to migrate out here to the rural areas with a certain lag factor. Thus we get a bit more time to prepare for upcoming trends. I don't know whether to feel honored or insulted - I am the only non-law enforcement official invited. Is that good or bad? Assuming all goes well and I don't get stuck in a lock down, I have the council meeting tomorrow night. The agenda doesn't look too bad, but we are going to have to meet on the 23rd because we have a first reading of a contract ordinance tomorrow which means that we have to have the second reading and public hearing 2 weeks later for the contract to be in force by the end of the year (which it needs to be). The council members are generally pretty good about such needed formalities.

Well, time to see if this will post or not. Blogger has lost it's editing headers and the font controls and ... So I am not sure if enough of the function is present to successfully post or not.

Sunday, December 7, 2008


Time for a bag of miscellany here.

First, my lovely wife departed back to the mountains this evening. It always feels a bit lonely and sad as she goes. I feel it is one of the hardest parts of marriage to handle the absences. It has always made me wonder how my friends that have spent their entire marriages with one or both partners on the road handle the feelings. Maybe it feels different if that has been the pattern from day one. It has to be hard. Of course the same question and thoughts apply to our service men and women. I'm sure that knowing your spouse is not only gone for months, but in harms way while gone is very hard to deal with.

Next, Magpie of Magpie Musing is running a contest for a Wii Fit. Her requirement is that one post a tale of fitness (I suspect for her amusement) to be entered for the prize. The details are in her post here . So without further ado, here is my *sob* story as to why I want a Wii Fit.

I try to walk 5 miles a day year round. That and other activities are my modest attempt to retain some semblance of fitness as I grow older. Many a year ago, I used to jog, but that is not something that works right now. Anyhow, back in the snowy days of February several years ago, I was walking across a parking lot and hit some black ice. (In a continuing theme here, the parking lot happened to be at my dentist's office. Do you think I might have a dental obscession?) One second I was merrily walking along and the next I was airborne. Needless to say I hit with a thud. After sitting dazed for a bit I finally managed to get up only to find that my arm was not working. I made it back over to my pickup and got in, although it was a challenge to close the door with only one arm working. I drove myself home, all the while thinking I must have just pulled my shoulder out of joint. Got home and told my wife about the incident and then spent a while to see if the pain would subside, etc. After an hour or so, gave up and called my doctor. He says first thing is to go to the hospital for an X-ray.

So I trundle over to the hospital. The X-ray tech wants to know if I can lift my arm up and I have to explain that no, it isn't working. She says never mind and takes pictures. I begin to get the impression this may not be a simple dislocation when the tech invites all the other techs over to look at the pictures with words like "I've never seen one of these!" To make a long story short, I have managed to crush the top half of my humerus bone. To make a long story short, two surgeries, 2 months of immobilization and healing, 6 months of physical therapy, and a whole lot of pain meds later, I can lift my arm over my head again.

Now what brings this story up today is that yesterday afternoon, my wife and I and Molly the dog were walking home form the park where I had been putting in my daily mileage. It was a bit icy and slick in spots on the way home. A pickup truck pulls up beside us with the window down and a huge evergreen in the back. In the cab is Dr. S and his wife. Dr.S has been my doctor through all of the above. The first words out of Dr. S's mouth are "Well, if you fall, we know of at least one thing that won't break." I'm a bit confused and ask what that might be. His reply is "your arm - with that much steel and those rods in it something else will break first."

So there you have it. I want a Wii Fit to keep my arm from rusting in one position. {*grin*}

Friday, December 5, 2008


I took the quiz, how about you? (I think they are wrong, but ...)

You Are 70% Likely to Survive Another Great Depression

Even though you may not be expecting the worst, you're the type of person who prepares for the worst.

You live a relatively modest life. You don't overspend, and you aren't very materialistic.

You are also quite self sufficient and independent. You have many useful skills.

You can take care of yourself and those you love... which is crucial to surviving another Great Depression.

Friday and Loonies

Fridays seem to have a feel all their own. It makes no difference what the season of the year, Fridays have a certain sense of dreariness all their own.

I always suspect that it is because Friday is the day we get the agenda set for the next weeks city council meeting. That is so that it can go out to the council via the police force Friday night / Saturday. That way everyone has a chance to read any and all background information in the packet, consider the item coming up for consideration, and hopefully act as a more informed representative. Some weeks the agenda is easy to put together, other weeks it can be challenging, and still other weeks it is battle to pare it down to what is timely.

Friday is also the day that is usually used for meetings concerning miscellaneous topics. For example today I had meetings concerning economic development, land development, water issues, and state government relations. Sometimes interesting, sometimes a waste of time. And of course, no Friday would be complete without what I call the Friday loonies.

The Friday loonies are the people that have put off calling, on any and every topic, until Friday afternoon. They suddenly go loony and realize they need to call *NOW* to get that 4 hour job done today. And of course they want whatever it is to be fixed/changed/removed/replaced in the next hour. They always wait until an hour before the normal city labor force goes home and then call to request the solution be implemented immediately. I'm growing old and cynical now in my 5th year as mayor. I now ask when they first noticed the problem. An amazing number of callers spotted the problem a week ago, but now need it fixed in the next hour. Amazing.

Oh well. There is always the entertainment value. One of my favorite loonies was Mr. X.

I remember when I first became mayor. I had one true loony that called on the last Monday of the month, regular as clockwork, to ask when I was going to stop the flying saucers from buzzing his house, He wasn't talking about a child's toy either. He believed in full fledged UFOs buzzing his house. After several months of this odd pattern I finally talked to the local mental health clinic to see if the symptoms rang a bell with them.

The first words out of the director's mouth were "Oh, that must be Mr X!  His health benefit always runs out the last week of the month and so he goes off his drugs for the week."  He then went on to assure me that Mr. X was not violent, just suffered from this particular form of Xenophobia when off his medicine.

Relieved that it wasn't a violent loony, I came to expect and even enjoy the calls. After about a year, he finally called one night (he always called at about 11pm) and caught me in the wrong mood. So when he started in, I asked him if he had tried the aluminum foil hat since I had heard that aliens were afraid of people with aluminum foil hats. Stunned silence from him. Then a quick goodbye as he rushed off to try it. I spent weeks waiting before each council meeting to see if a man in an aluminum foil hat would be sitting in the audience.

Mr. X continued to call for another 6 months and then suddenly stopped. That concerned me - was he hurt or injured and needing help or ... I talked to mental health people to see if there was some way for them to check up on him (I never did know him by any name other then Mr. X). The director got this funny look on his face and then said he thought he could explain the absence of calls. Turned out that Mr. X had finally become eligible for a new program that covered his drugs all month long and so didn't run out in the last week of the month. Pretty good evidence for the efficacy of the treatment, at least to my mind.

Well, off to the excitement of bed. (No more loonies to keep me amused.) (Larry, see what fun you have in store when you become mayor?)

Thursday, December 4, 2008

High School Friends

(This is for Mama Kat's Writers challenge)

I am still friends with my high school friends. In my case that is easy because I only had three friends and one dedicated enemy in high school. Mainly that was because I was an a**hole and brainiac nerd who was also bigger than everyone else.  Not a combination conducive to the formation of friendships.

The three friends are my lovely wife L (yes we met in high school - it's a story for another time), S who became my friend late in senior year and is still a friend today, and G who has been my friend since grade school. All are still friends today and I carry on email conversations with S and occasionally G. L you hear about here from time to time.

S now lives in Montana, but we still see each other at least once a year. I have to wonder if that face to face visiting tradition will continue. His mother died last year and that was his last relative here in the area. S is a special friend because we came at things from diametrically opposite views, but still respected the others view. Our friendship really began with "Fiddler on the Roof" where I was stage manager and he starred as Tevye. He was also the only other National Merit Scholar in my high school class. Our relationship may now degenerate into a Christmas card and occasional email. It'll be interesting to see.

G now lives in Alabama and is back here at least a couple of times a year. We keep in touch and I suspect he will always be around since his sister and brother both live in the area. His dad died a year or so ago and his mom has Alzheimers that is getting worse. L and G talk about it since L's dad died of alzheimers and so we have been through some of the issues and emotions. G and I went through life as a Mutt and Jeff pair. I'm 6'5" and 300 lbs+ and have been since high school. G is about 5'4" and in high school might have made it to 120 lbs. We were in school together from fourth grade on, were Boy Scouts together, ... We were there to tease each other about our first crushes and our first dates and ...

It is more interesting to talk a bit about my dedicated enemy from high school, T. T and I went from apathy to dislike to outright hate over the course of high school. I attribute much of that to the effects of T's growing alcohol addiction. Of course I didn't have a clue about the alcoholism at the time. The relationship reached its nadir when I almost killed him one day our sophomore year.

T and some friends were teasing and riding me all through biology class that day. We we seated alphabetically by last name and they were behind me. We didn't get along well before this day, but it was more the normal nerd / alcohol crowd disjunct than anything personal. It takes a lot to make me mad, but this day they succeeded. When the bell ending the class rang, I was determined to have a word with all three of them. Unfortunately, I had T by one arm when the other two decided to try to get around me and out of the room. Without even thinking about it, I tossed T across the room as I reached to stop the other two. Even more unfortunately, there was nothing to slow T down as he flew through the air, broke the glass, and proceeded out of the second story window. I was immediately sorry. T. went to the hospital and got some stitches, but thankfully had nothing broken. T and I were dedicated enemies from that point on, at least on T's part. I just felt bad that I had let anything make me lose control like that. It was interesting that I had enough of a halo (top of class, football player, national merit scholar, vice president of the Colorado Wyoming Junior Academy of Science, etc.) that nary a word was ever said by the school administration about the whole affair. Which just made me feel even guiltier.

Fast forward about 20 years. L and I at a New Year's Eve party shortly after moving back here from LA. T is there as the designated driver for a different group. So T and I are sitting at the bar sipping club soda and begin to talk. I tell T how bad I still felt about the incident from long ago. He laughs and says not to feel bad, he deserved that and more. We forgave each other and talked. T pointed out that he had hit bottom and has now been clean and sober for 7 years. To make a long story short we become friends over the next year and have remained so now more than 15 years later. When T's son wasn't going to attend college, it was me that convinced him he could and should do it. When my son was having issues with life and needed to find out if he was mature enough to live on his own and go off to college early, it was T's basement he lived in. T and I are friends. Sometimes enemies can become friends, and high school enemies have the advantage of sharing a very formative time in our lives.

Enough for tonight!

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Wacky Wednesday

I saw this list of "Have you ever" questions floating around the web and figured it was a fun no brainer for Wacky Wednesday. I'm not sure where it originated. I traced it back at least four generations with no hint of the original author. Without further ado, here are my answers. (The questions I answered in the affirmative are in bold.)

1. Started your own blog - you bet.
2. Slept under the stars - yes.
3. Played in a band - yes - HS marching band was the last.
4. Visited Hawaii - yes.
5. Watched a meteor shower - yes.
6. Given more than you can afford to charity - close.
7. Been to Disneyland/world - yes - was disappointed in Disneyland.
8. Climbed a mountain - I've walked up a hill, does that count?
9. Held a praying mantis - yes - even had one as a pet for a while.
10. Sang a solo - NO - even my lovely wife prohibits my singing anywhere within 20 miles.
11. Bungee jumped - NO - 300 lbs + people do not generally bungee and blog about it.
12. Visited Paris - no - but my spouse has.
13. Watched a lightning storm at sea - yes - but only from shore.
14. Taught yourself an art from scratch - yes - if spool knitting counts.
15. Adopted a child - no.
16. Had food poisoning - no.
17. Walked to the top of the Statue of Liberty - yes - once.
18. Grown your own vegetables - yes.
19. Seen the Mona Lisa in France - no.
20. Slept on an overnight train - no.
21. Had a pillow fight - yes.
22. Hitch hiked - yes - once. Discovered that no one picks up a big ugly mean looking guy.
23. Taken a sick day when you're not ill - yes.
24. Built a snow fort - yes.
25. Held a lamb - yes - mainly at county fair time.
26. Gone skinny dipping - yes, many a time in my younger days.
27. Run a Marathon - no.
28. Ridden in a gondola in Venice - no.
29. Seen a total eclipse - yes, once.
30. Watched a sunrise or sunset - yes, countless times.
31. Hit a home run - yes, more than 40 years ago.
32. Been on a cruise - no.
33. Seen Niagara Falls in person - yes. In the middle of winter on the way back to college. Coldest I have ever been in my life.
34. Visited the birthplace of your ancestors - yes, some of them. Many of the sites are within 40 miles of here.
35. Seen an Amish community - yes, driving through Penn.
36. Taught yourself a new language - yes - but only if computer languages count. I managed to survive the language requirements for my degrees, but it was a struggle beyond belief for me to lean a language.
37. Had enough money to be truly satisfied - yes - I just wish it was now.
38. Seen the Leaning Tower of Pisa in person - no.
39. Gone rock climbing - once. My college buddy convince me to try it once. Never again!
40. Seen Michelangelo's David - not in real life.
41. Sung karaoke (badly) - no - see #10 above.
42. Seen Old Faithful geyser erupt - not in person.
43. Bought a stranger a meal at a restaurant - only by accident.
44. Visited Africa -no.
45. Walked on a beach by moonlight - yes!
46. Been transported in an ambulance - yes, in college once.
47. Had your portrait painted - not by anyone other than offspring.
48. Gone deep sea fishing - went out with a group but didn't fish - does that count?
49. Seen the Sistine Chapel in person - no.
50. Been to the top of the Eiffel Tower in Paris - no.
51. Gone scuba diving or snorkeling - yes, in Hawaii.
52. Kissed in the rain - yes.
53. Played in the mud -yes - even played in "mudbowl" game once.
54. Gone to a drive-in theater - yes.
55. Been in a movie - no. I've been on set and helped arrange access for film makers, but never in front of the camera.
56. Visited the Great Wall of China - no.
57. Started a business - yes! More times than the fingers on one hand.
58. Taken a martial arts class - no.
59. Visited Russia - no.
60. Served at a soup kitchen - no.
61. Sold Girl Scout Cookies -no. I have sold Boy Scout Popcorn.
62. Gone whale watching - yes.
63. Got flowers for no reason - no.
64. Donated blood, platelets or plasma - no. I suffer from a chronic condition that prevents donation. My spouse on the other hand gives often and has a rare blood type.
65. Gone sky diving - no. See #11.
66. Visited a Nazi Concentration Camp - no.
67. Bounced a check - yes, by accident.
68. Flown in a helicopter - yes.
69. Saved a favorite childhood toy - My favorite childhood book (Digger Dan) still hangs out here.
70. Visited the Lincoln Memorial - yes.
71. Eaten Caviar - yes. Much prefer fried American catfish eggs.
72. Pieced a quilt - helped some with Mom and the quilting ladies, but not on my own.
73. Stood in Times Square - yes.
74. Toured the Everglades - yes, for about 3 hours whilst attending a conference at FSU.
75. Been fired from a job - yes.
76. Seen the Changing of the Guards in London - no.
77. Broken a bone - yes - at least twice. Compound fracture of arm in grade school and crushed humerus a few years ago.
78. Been on a speeding motorcycle - yes. Mostly by accident when I pulled back on the throttle on a friends bike.
79. Seen the Grand Canyon in person - yes.
80. Published a book - no, closest was my PhD thesis.
81. Visited the Vatican - no.
82. Bought a brand new car - yes.
83. Walked in Jerusalem -no.
84. Had your picture in the newspaper - yes. Happened a lot when I played football and now that I am mayor it happens all the time - many times for no real reason.
85. Read the entire Bible - yes.
86. Visited the White House - yes.
87. Killed and prepared an animal for eating - yes.
88. Had chickenpox - yes.
89. Saved someone's life - yes. At least that's what he claimed. I always thought of it as being a friend.
90. Sat on a jury - questionable - I have been empaneled, but when the defendant walked in and saw us in the jury box, he turned to his attorney and plead guilty.
91. Met someone famous - yes. Many famous scientists, some pro football players, some politicians, etc.
92. Joined a book club - yes. Both Science Fiction and Mystery clubs at one time.
93. Lost a loved one - yes. My grandparents and my spouse and my fathers are deceased.
94. Had a baby - Well, we (my spouse and I) have. I'd be really famous if I had one.
95. Seen the Alamo in person - I can't remember. I've been in San Antonio, but don't remember the Alamo as a highlight.
96. Swam in the Great Salt Lake - walked along the shore in fall, never swam.
97. Been involved in a law suit - yes.
98. Owned a cell phone - yes. Unfortunately.
99. Been stung by a bee - yes. Multiple times.

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