Friday, October 31, 2008

Halloween, Punditry, and Life

This is going to be a real disjunct post  don't try to find rhyme or reason in the topics or order!


The Halloween crowds were variable at the house tonight. We had 45+ trick or treaters from sundown until 7:45pm and then it slowed down a bit. The weather here was in the 70's today, so the downtown merchants trick or treat event was crowded with kids in costume. Early reports had crowds at other events like the recreation center and the nursing home as well. It was kind of nice to be able to answer the door without wearing a coat for the first time in years. To the right you can see a couple of pictures of a large group that was one of the last to hit the old doorstep. Note all the moms hiding in the background. If they can read my handwriting, they may even get a chance to see these poor quality pictures (someday I am going to have something other than my old cell phone camera in hand when a photo opportunity arises). For a change, the crowd didn't know who I was when I came to the door - proof positive that you *can* have some anonymity even in a small town. They seemed a bit surprised I was the mayor - could it have been the ratty shirt, holey shorts, and ripped up moccasins. A couple of bolts to the neck and I could have been Frankenstein's monster.

It is official, I am a pundit. I have been asked to speak to a  group on the implications of Tuesdays election. I had to laugh and ask the inviter if he and/or the audience had lost their grip on reality to invite me to be the pundit. What would I know about the implications of the national election? The group involved seems to think I have a "deep understanding and grip on the implications" of the national election races. Now I'm going to have to think of something to say. I wonder if that is how real pundits do it? Make something up on spur of the moment when put on the spot?

Sometimes life can surprise you. My wife actually arrived here early in the afternoon. It was really nice to be surprised by her arrival before the rush of Halloween trick or treating began. Small victories over the day to day trials of life are important.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Telephones, IM, Relationships, and Age

This article in the  New York Times had an interesting remark in passing:
"... But today, married women are more likely to spend late hours at the office and travel on business. And even for women who stay home,  cellphones, e-mail and instant messaging appear to be allowing them to form more intimate relationships, marriage therapists say. ..."
So it would appear that there are changes in relationships moderated by cell phones and instant messaging.

The last ten months has been an interesting time in my life relative to the above thesis. My wife has been in the process of opening a new business 3+hours drive from here. Thus she lives in another community during the week and we see each other only on the weekends, and not every weekend at that. Thus we spend a fair amount of time on the telephone (we are neither one big IM'ers, although we do exchange some email). The phone, in general, is not an implement well suited to conveying emotional messages, especially for our generation which grew up with the expensive AT&T monopoly during our formative telephone years.

By way of example, when we were in college, we could, if we kept and eye on the clock, afford to call home for five minutes once per week or less. Now with cell phone minute plans, it is easy to talk whenever and for as long as the spirit moves you. Unfortunately, I am not sure the old once a week method didn't lead to a better emotional connection than the every day anytime method. With the once a week call, you planned ahead, both parties arranged for the time to be free of distractions, and you very carefully mentally edited the topics of discussion to convey the emotional message most important to you at the time. Now with the anytime call, there is a lack of that planning and the addition of the random interruption factor as well. It can be very disconcerting when one is eager to convey something that is exciting and interesting and you either get shuffled off to voice mail or you get the other party but they are tied up and all you get is the old "I'm tied up right now with ABC. I'll call you back when its over. Bye."

The current situation is interesting because I can remember going through a similar thing in the early years of our married life when I was in California and she was in Illinois. Then the change in the AT&T monopoly was just starting and long distance was still very expensive (and cell phones but a gleam in the future with the first email message not due to be sent for a year of more). Thus it was the once or twice a week phone call rather than the call on spur of the moment. It meant that many upsetting events in day to day life were elided from the conversations. It also meant that the ambush phone call where one spouse or the other desperately needs emotional support *right now* didn't occur often and when they did you knew it was a very serious issue.

Now we can call each other at any time. Unfortunately, we both spend a lot of time in meetings with the ringer turned off. Thus we have adapted to a modified version of the old methods where we generally call each other at the same time every day. There are sporadic extra calls as things come up that need to be discussed. I suspect that if we were thirty years younger in our twenties, the patterns of contact (including IMing) would be completely different. What do you think? Does the presence of cell phone and IM really constitute a difference in the intimacy factor in relationships? Is the change for the good?

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Sunny Day in the Park

Remember the trees of green gold from a week ago shown in this post ? Well now that some real weather has passed through, they are starting to look a bit bare as you can see in the picture to the right and below.  Time to get ready to endure another gray and drear season before the explosion of green returns.

The temperatures the last few days have been getting down as low as 14 degrees at night, but today signaled the return to more temperate weather and it was 76 degrees this afternoon as Molly and I took our walk. You could tell that the cold streak had reminded everyone to enjoy every minute of this unseasonably warm weather - the park was full of people of all ages and types as Molly and I walked around. There were all the standard suspects that I normally see when walking in the park, but there were others I cannot recall ever seeing in the park.

 Having a friendly hairy beast like Molly with you in the park pretty much guarantees everyone is friendly and open when you see them. It seems like every pet we have had is a "oh we have to stop and pet this adorable creature" magnet. It allows a curmudgeon like me to appear to have social skills.

An elderly couple stopped to pet and talk to Molly. I was impressed with them as we began to talk and I could study them closer. They were in their nineties and had been married for better than 65 years. They said they tried to come to the park to walk each day if the weather wasn't too cold or icy. In the course of our conversation, it became clear the gentleman had gone blind in the last few years and that the lady could no longer get around on her own without a cane or support. It struck a deep chord in me to see how they had adapted so that they could still walk together. The gentleman supplied his arm to support the lady and the lady supplied guidance and an ongoing travelogue of sights to the gentleman. Together they continued on their way through life. Having been married for 30+ years, I can only hope that my wife and I will be so fortunate in another 30 years.

At the other end of the spectrum, Molly and I ran into a young family. They had a young daughter (I'd guess somewhere between 18 months and 2 years from the unsteady perambulation) who was fascinated with the og (as close as she could come to pronouncing dog). Molly wasn't quite sure what to make of this strange little person who kept screaming og at the top of her lungs, but was willing to get petted. Mommy and daddy were being kept pretty busy as the daughter teetered and tottered all around, interspersed with demands to pet the og and that daddy pick her up and give her a gee (piggy) back ride. Seeing young families like that makes me smile. I just haven't decided whether it is a smile of satisfaction because I have already survived that stage and don't have to face it anymore or if it is a smile of reminiscent envy.

Onwards - I need to get an openID server setup here to test some software, it shouldn't be hard but it may be interesting. Besides, you noticed the lack of t e e t h in this post? Wonder if Google will?

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

AdSense Oddities (part II)

(This is the follow on to this post .)

I don't know about you, but suddenly tonight the ads started switching from the dental mania to reflect some of the other posts. So for example right now I see the following four ads:

  • Volunteer at Food Banks
  • Vonnage Small Business
  • Fake Your Phone Caller ID
  • Frisco Lodge B&B
What a change from the dental mania. But still no car ads!

It is fascinating to watch the workings of Google's crawler and it's ties to AdSense and how it determines what to display with what page content. Right now I can see how it might connect this post with the Volunteer ad, and I can stretch to see how the Vonnage and Fake Caller ID ads tie to this post , but it is a stretch to see how the Frisco Lodge B&B connects to this post . One day I'll have to try showing only the current day's post on the page to see the workings in finer grain. 

Oops, just refreshed the page again and the dental ads are back in force. Those dentists must really have a hard time finding keyword tie-ins because one of them is in Las Vegas which is one heck of a journey from here to see the dentist.

Halloween Pictures

I saw this post from Happy Hour Sue and I though the doggy pictures for Halloween were hilarious. I encourage you to take a look.

Caller ID and the Unknown

Do you have caller ID? Do you get calls from the infamous unknown? Do you answer such calls?

I ask all these questions because one of my policies since I first got caller ID is that I don't answer any call marked unknown or private - they go straight to voice mail.  I have at times gone so far as to program my computer network to automatically shuffle the unknown and private calls to voice mail so I am not disturbed by a ring.  I can then call back if it is warranted. The reasoning behind this policy is straight forward - if you want to hide your identity that is your privilege, but I reserve the right not to answer if you choose to do so. This is because more that 90% of the calls I get that register as unknown or private are telemarketers or pollsters. Calling my phone is privilege and if you are wasting my time, you have no business calling. These people do waste my time and so have no business calling and so ... Note that this abuse persists even with the national do-not-call lists because of the political, non-profit, and "previous relationship" loopholes in the do-not-call legislation.

My policy works well for me and has not generally been a problem with constituents reaching me since I became mayor. The only problems arise from what I refer to as the telephony challenged organizations who have never set up their PBX or telecom system correctly and so show up as unknown by default. Usually such  organizations get a clue when no one answers their calls and eventually fix their system. However, there are two local organizations that seem destined to remain permanently clueless. Maybe they just don't think it is important. Maybe they don't want to talk to anyone and prefer to leave messages. Who knows?

The reason these two organizations are problematic is that they often need want to talk to me but haven't fixed their systems. One of them is the local daily newspaper and the other is the local community college. The publisher of the newspaper and the president of the college are the unknown callers who have to leave messages. At least one of them will call multiple times before finally leaving a message. Both have been informed of the problem. The problem still persists years after they were informed of the issue and how to fix it. Makes me suspect they really just prefer to leave messages.

I'll close by asking you - what would you do in such a case? Continue the current policy or give up time each day to telemarketers? I know what I have done, the question is what would you do?

Monday, October 27, 2008


The group at diner last night included my wife, my mother, my mother-in-law, and me. Somehow the discussion got around to games and in particular the generational and regional differences in games. The discussion was interesting, but I'm going to concentrate on just a few of the games discussed here.

First there was "Olly, Olly, Oxen Free ". The interesting thing here is that my wife and her mother, both Minnesota natives, remember it under the variant name of of "Olly Olly Otzen Free " (think of the scandahoovian diminutive of Olaf for the pronunciation of Olly). The MIL also remembered playing it under yet another variant name as "Olly Olly Otzenburger Free " My mother and I remembered it in the "Ollie Ollie Oxen Free " form. So there was a clear regional difference in the naming of what is the exact same game.

Then there was the perennial favorite "Duck Duck Goose ." Once again the split was by region with the Minnesota natives both remembering the game as "Duck Duck Gray Duck ", although I swear that my wife often pronounces it "Ray Duck" rather than "Gray Duck". From what I can gather, if you grew up in Minnesota or the Dakotas, you call it "Duck Duck Gray Duck " and otherwise you know it as "Duck Duck Goose "

Then came the first of the real generational differences. My mom and mother-in-law both recalled with fondness a game called "Auntie I Over " that my wife and I could not remember ever hearing about. If you clicked on the name and read the description, you probably understand why it is a game that has disappeared from modern life.  Throwing a ball over a building at the opposing team is not a game that plays well in an urban environment. Mom and MIL both remembered several variants of the "Auntie Came Back" call if the ball failed to go over the building. All I want to know is what the call was for the ball stuck in the gutter?

We ended the discussion by reminiscing about several games that seem to have disappeared from playgrounds today. We all remembered "Red Rover " and its "Pom Pom Pull Away " variant. My wife and I could not remember our son ever having played either of those games when he was young. I suspect the possibilities for malicious play have demoted both of these games from the school playgrounds. I can remember "Red Rover " being banned from recess in grade school when I was a kid, so it very well could be verbotten today. All it took was a couple of rousing games and the principal said no more - I suspect it was all the torn clothing that was the clincher. After all, we played dodgeball back then too, so it couldn't have been the violence! {*grin*}

All of this leads me to ask the questions:

  • What games do you know that have names that vary by region?
  • What games do your parents remember that you don't?
  • What games do you remember that no longer seem to be played by your children?

Sunday, October 26, 2008

AdSense Oddities

Do you ever look at the ads Google's AdSense puts up on your page? Looking at the ads placed on your page gives some real insight into how hard it must be to find suitable places for some ads and how some of the AdSense ad space auctions must go.

You might remember that I wrote about breaking my tooth a few days ago and then making my subsequent dental appointment. Since that time I have seen nothing but dental ads on this page. Given the relative paucity of dental terms amidst all the other possible terms in this blog, I'm left to conclude that dental ads must have some interesting attributes. After all, before I wrote about my dental issues, I got ads for things like automobiles and how-to setups. Even one about the joys of scabies treatment (and boy oh boy must that be a hard one to sell via keywords). And after all the occurrences of the words dental and tooth in this post, I'll probably be doomed to see nothing but dental ads for the next several weeks. Hopefully all my readers have bad dental health and will diligently visit the fine sponsors of the rampaging dental ads.

What do *I* deduce from the ads I see? Several things that may or may not be interesting to anyone but me in my peculiarly demented way of thinking. And for that matter the deductions may or may not be true. Caveat Emptor.

The first deduction is that the auction for dental terms must be fairly expensive relative to other ad types that might apply to this page. Otherwise the other terms should show up in preference to the current dental mania. Two other possibilities come to mind. It could it be that Colorado dentists are more ad happy than others and/or it could be hard to find occurrences of the dental/tooth keywords for ad placement. After all, I have only viewed the page from an ISP that can be attributed to Colorado. And I did use the words dentist, dental, and tooth.

The second deduction is that the regional division of the auction must be a bit coarse. I get dental practice ads for places like Summit county, Fort Collins, Greeley, etc. Given that those locations range from 250 miles to 100 miles from here, it hints to me that the auction may have included the word /region Colorado as a qualifier. At least one reader from the Summit county area emailed me that the ads must be prescient since they knew to target her with Summit county dental practices. I felt bad when I had to disabuse her of the idea of prescience by pointing out that *I* also saw the same ads out here on the plains. (For those who aren't familiar with Colorado geography/locations, I am located on the eastern plains of Colorado in the area sometimes referred to as the armpit of Nebraska. {Look at a map! } On the other hand, Summit county is in the mountains in the area of the Key Stone, Arapaho Basin, and Breckenridge ski areas. About 250 miles apart as the automobile drives.)

So let me pose the question to those of you who use AdSense on your pages or who read blogs with ads by Google - do you see such odd spates of keyword/region mania? I intentionally used the word automobile four times (including the two in the paragraph)  in this post. It will be real interesting to see if automobile ads start appearing once in a while. Likewise will "ski area" trigger some hot dogging ads with snowboards?

Saturday, October 25, 2008

The Return of Nice

Today is one of those oddities of fall weather on the plains - when it goes from cold and snow flurries to warm and sunny for a day. Unfortunately, it is predicted to be a one day warm spell followed by a return to standard fall weather. Gives a whole new meaning the phrase "enjoy it while you can."

The change in weather brings to mind the coming of Halloween.  It is now less than a week before the little munchkins show up at the front door. Why does it seem like Halloween is always on a day with utterly miserable weather: cold, wet, and windy? It can be in the 70's and lovely the day before Halloween, but the weather always seems to get worse right at Halloween.

We get between 30 to 100+ trick or treaters here at the house. The total number seems to depend on the press being given to the big local parties and the weather. The city sponsors a Halloween party at the rec center so that kids don't have to go out trick or treating. The downtown merchants feature trick or treating in the stores. One of the local nursing homes sponsors a big Halloween party so that the residents can enjoy seeing the kids in costume. So if the weather is bad, the kids tend to be at the nicely sheltered parties. If the weather is good (i.e. just cold or blowy) then they show up at the house.

Given the variability of head count, it is hard to get the right amount of candy to give out. Get too much and you have candy around for ages. Get too little and you run the risk of tricks. Such a dilemma. This year it is even more problematic since I will be forced to eat all the leftovers by myself {*grin*}.  I guess I might be able to save some until my wife gets home for the weekend!

Thursday, October 23, 2008


Tonight I was a guest at the volunteer appreciation banquet for Cooperating Ministries, a local services group. They do everything from aid stranded travelers, assist social services, and run a food pantry for the needy. Local government and an alliance of religious groups work together to help them provide these services. They have seen an increasing demand for their services in the last couple of years that has stretched their abilities to the limits. It is amazing how cheerful and hopeful all the volunteers are in the face of the trying situations they face.

The evening was pretty standard for such ceremonies - a great meal, some good visiting and companionship, a brief entertainment, and then the naming of the volunteer of the year. This years volunteer of the year winners (co-winners) were typical of the involvement of the volunteer corps.  One is a noted Red Cross volunteer, a sitting member of the school board, and of course a Cooperating Ministries volunteer. Makes you proud to know all of these people on a first name basis!

On a fun note, the theme of the evening was tropical. The theme sounded like a lot of fun until the last day or so as the temperatures dropped and the snow flurries hit. I was all ready to wear shorts and my Hawaiian shirt with a lei, but the coolness forced long pants. Mike Sperber, the director of the Cooperating Ministries program, is a fun loving joker and came dressed in Hawaiian shirt and pants. But then he was convinced by his staff to complete the outfit as shown. Note the hard shelled coconut bra and the charming grass skirt. Makes me wish I'd had a good camera with me. Mike shed the costume extras right after his welcome oration. Can't say that I blamed him! They offered me a grass skirt of my own, but I graciously declined.

I always wonder how long service groups like this will persist. Like most service groups here, the volunteers are mostly 55+ year old people and those who are retired. If I had to make a guess as to the average age of tonight's crowd, I'd guess 70+. What is going to happen in the next 20 years as the baby boomers in this service generation begin to pass into the sunset. There is a dearth of younger volunteers across all service groups in the area. Who will step up in community service roles in the future? It is a question that community leaders are pondering on a daily basis. Everywhere I go and talk to other community leaders, this is one of the hot topics. Some communities have already seen most of their service groups fade away. They also seem to be disappearing in populous areas even faster than here in the rural countryside. What's the status of service groups like Lions, Kiwanis, etc. in your area? Are they growing and active?

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Indian Lake

A clue to just how old I am - I remember The Cowsills doing that song in my formative years on {*gasp*} AM radio around the time of my first love crush. For some reason today just felt like that late summer/fall when the song was big in my teenage life.

I remember my sophomore speech class mime presentation using their version of the song Hair as the backdrop. That particular ordeal sticks in my mind even now close to forty years later. It was at the beginning of my metamorphosis from an absolutely shy introvert terrified of being in front of the class to the devil may care extrovert I am today. I had a "very important teacher" in my life for that class (Hi Ms. Dolan). The combo of Mr. Blandin from Jr. HS and Ms. Dolan from Sr. HS greatly impacted who and what I am today. Thank you to both of them. I hope that everyone has the good fortune to have had at least one "very important teacher" in their life. In honor of mine, I give you a couple of verses of Hair:

She asks me why
I'm just a hairy guy
I'm hairy noon and night
Hair that's a fright
I'm hairy high and low
Don't ask me why
Don't know
It's not for lack of bread
Like the Grateful Dead

Gimme head with hair
Long beautiful hair
Shining, gleaming,
Streaming, flaxen, waxen

Give me down to there hair
Shoulder length or longer
Here baby, there mama
Everywhere daddy daddy

Flow it, show it
Long as God can grow it
My hair

Let it fly in the breeze
And get caught in the trees
Give a home to the fleas in my hair
A home for fleas
A hive for bees
A nest for birds
There ain't no words
For the beauty, the splendor, the wonder
Of my...

Flow it, show it
Long as God can grow it
My hair

Now all you have to do is picture a 6'5" 300lbs.+ teenage football player with short hair miming to this while embarrassed to with in an inch of his life in front of a class of {*gasp*}, {*choke*} girls. Still with me? Hope you are as embarrassed as I was that day!

If you feel a sudden wave of nostalgic and need to listen to The Cowsills now, scurry on over to here and listen away. That's what I'm doing even as I write. Strange how an acid rock aficionado like me has these lapses of good taste to listen to some bubble-gum rock. Oh well.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Town in the News

As I have noted, I am the mayor of a small town in the rural plains of Colorado. This weekend there was a nice story in the New York Times about one of our denizens and a bit about the town. On page 19 of the New York Times Sunday edition was the story Sterling Journal. Note that I am not sure if the link will work if you don't have an account with the Times. Some do and some don't.

The story was nice because it concentrated on one of the long term residents of the area and his history. Campy has been a well known icon in the community since the days of my youth. He was originally a WWII prisoner of war who was captured and interned here. He eventually married and settled in the region after the war. Now at 87 he still works regularly doing what he loves best (repairing engines).

It's nice to see the normally overlooked people get their moment of fame in the big time papers! There was a strong element of chance in the whole story happening, as you would expect. The reporter, Kirk Johnson, was on a journey this summer and had engine trouble near here. His problem was fixed and along the way he met Campy and some of the other people mentioned in the story. So when he got back from his journey, he pitched it as a story to his editors and then returned to the area for follow up last week. You can't make up that sort of coincidence!

Glorious Fall

Today was beautiful as Molly the dog and I took our walk. The sky was just starting to get that dark and stormy look that precedes winter weather and the trees were still green gold. Probably the very last time this year that this will be the case!

Not only that, but for much of our time walking we had the entire park all to ourselves.  Seems that there just weren't many people out walking just after 5pm.

As you can see, the path in front of us had no one in sight. It was just us and the grass and the trees.

After a bit (I'm guessing about 5:45 or so) there started to be a few more people and dogs out and about. The next door neighbors and their daughter came and did a mile with their two little dogs. Several other people were walking around as well. Just a nice evening in the community.

The net result was an appropriately pleased Molly.

Monday, October 20, 2008


  • Got my dentist appointment scheduled.
  • Spend an hour talking to an irate senior citizen about forthcoming rate increases for the mandated project mentioned here. Not the first and certainly not the last.
  • The weather is turning cooler. Might even get snow and a hard freeze by Wednesday.
  • The Broncos play tonight. Go Broncos.
  • Mom's birthday is today. Happy Birthday Mom!

Big Brother

It had to happen. Given the Chinese demands on companies doing business in mainland China, someone was going to come up with automatic censorship.  And now it appears that the great unwashed god of computers is heading in with all guns blazing:

On Tuesday, the USPTO awarded Microsoft a patent for the Automatic Censorship of Audio Data for Broadcast, an invention that addresses 'producing censored speech that has been altered so that undesired words or phrases are either unintelligible or inaudible.' (From slashdot )

The patent discusses several options, from replacing the offensive words with less offensive ones to replacing the undesired word with a tone or blocking it completely. You always heard the rumors that that Microsoft was "Big Brother", but now you have the automated "Big Brother" direct from the the computer.

It will be interesting to see what impact this development will have on talk radio, etc. Will it eliminate the delay loop in favor of a rather lengthy dictionary of offensive terms? Will the FCC have to get involved to allow its use?  Am I just insane?

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Still OK

Just to let those who are concerned know, the tooth still doesn't hurt. (Hooray!)

Last night I had a training class for the tools involved in teaching an eCollege course. I can remember when the online education tools were primitive and the course content less than appealing. Now the online and in seat experiences are getting closer and closer.  I suspect that with time the differences may be entirely in the feedback mechanisms between student and teacher and the preferred learning method of the student. It will be interesting!

Today was what I hope was the last lawn mowing of the season. There may yet be one more mowing to go through. It hasn't yet frozen really hard and the parts of the lawn that haven't frozen are still exhibiting some growth. The leaves are turning and falling, the nights are crisp. It is the glorious season of fall. Time to go enjoy the sunset.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Fear and Loathing

I broke a tooth this morning and am now in that state of fear and loathing when you just know it is going start to hurt. (So far it hasn't!) Logically, you know that if it hasn't hurt so far, it probably isn't going to hurt for a while. Whats logic got to do with it????

Since there is no pain, I can't justify calling the emergency number for my dentist (his office hours are Monday thru Thursday). That means I get to spend the weekend in that slightly edgy state where you are sure that at some point major pain is going to arrive. Logically you know that you are not thinking straight, but emotionally you are certain that pain is a possibility. Oh well.

This is the second time in my life I have broken a tooth. The first was many years ago. I was one of those people *blessed* with two sets of wisdom teeth that erupted in full glory in in my early twenties. When they grew in, I could no longer close my jaw fully. Thus they were scheduled for removal at a convenient time in the near future. But that was several weeks away and I had to journey to Iowa to give a symposium at Iowa State. It was winter and the weather was turning bad as the plane left Chicago for Ames. About midway through the flight, one of the wisdom teeth broke.  Once again no pain, but deep fear and loathing. As we landed in Ames, they closed the airport because of the blizzard now going on around us. We can't even see the terminal out the plane windows as we parked because there was so much blowing snow. Now if you haven't been to the Ames Iowa airport, it is important to note that it is many miles from town. And as we enter the terminal, they announce that the only road exiting the airport is closed. We are trapped in the airport until further notice.  Now my fear really kicked up a notch. Nothing like being stranded in an airport terminal, nothing to do but worry,  no possibility of relief, to make you appreciate the fun if it does start to hurt.

To make a long story short, I was really happy to return home and visit my dentist all those years ago.  I suspect that by Monday I will have similar feelings now. At least here I know where my dentist lives and can go knock on his door. Another great thing about living in a small town.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

And now ...

The city council meeting last night was not too bad.  It ran a little long, but it didn't turn into a 6 hour marathon like they sometimes were before I became mayor. Thank heavens for small miracles!

Today was a Wednesday, and like every other Wednesday, I have a show on one of the local radio stations early in the morning. I am a brave soul and take all callers on an open mike (live, no less) about issues or complaints in the city.  Generally tends to be pretty quiet since things got under control a few years ago, so now I mostly use it to keep the community appraised of what happened in the council meeting and the issues of interest to the area. I am not noted as being one to call a spade a "portable entrenching tool" and my approach seems to work well with the people here.

The League of Women Voters gave a program on the ballot issues this year at a local church this evening. I was there to address the charter amendments for the city on the ballot this year. This is one of the longest ballots in local history with initiatives and proposals covering 46-59 and L-O on the state part of the ballot and a similar number of items related to the city charter on the municipal side. Add in the presidential, congressional, and county commisioner races and the ballot is beyond hefty.

One major concern is that people may not be able to complete their ballot in the statutorily allotted 15 minutes. We are all encouraging people to take their crib notes with them to the polls, utilize early voting, and use mail in ballots. Because of the presidential race, local congressional races, and all of the above, voter participation may be very high (some predictions in the >90% of all registered voters range.) This should be interesting. I'm certainly glad I'm not a county clerk who has to make sure all this runs smoothly and certify the results rather shortly after the vote.

I'm off to make my crib sheet for the election before I forget all the good information from the League analysis. {*grin*}

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Busy Season

This is the busy season for town councils in Colorado and ours is no exception. That is because there are statutory time frames for approval of the town budget here and the time is is now. So we all get really busy for a bit here.

The process at the council end is straight forward, if lengthy.  The budget is officially presented (in our case tonight) and then a public hearing is scheduled for 2 weeks hence. That is when the public gets their chance for direct input and to lobby for their favorite programs. Then the council must haggle it's way come to agreement and approve the budget for the coming year.  We are required to have the public hearing no more than two weeks after presentation and are also required to make the presentation essentially in this time frame. A lot of the hassling and adjusting have already been done through the discussion of preliminary and unofficial trial budgets before today. But tonight's council meeting may be lengthy as each council member tries to make the case to change the official presentation to their preferences.

Needless to say, it is an interesting time for financial affairs in general and the city in particular. It is complicated in our case this year by the requirement to undertake an upcoming project that will likely be in the $14-20 million range. Since the annual budget of the town is less than $20 million, we will have to bond the project. We have to start the project planning this year before the bond can be brought forth to the voters next year, so we have to find $480,000 in the budget to pay for the engineering studies that need to commence this year. This is a federally mandated project, but guess how much money they are supplying? 

DOH! Moments

I am sitting here, installing a new  operating system on one of the computer systems here. It is late and I am just happy that I finally figured out how to do what I wanted to do. I have done similar things for the other computers here with no problem, but this particular one has really odd hardware. The worst part is that once the light bulb turned on, it was trivial. And it is painful that this should have been done months ago if I wasn't stuck awaiting the DOH moment. All I can plead is that I am getting old and senile and having months long DOH moments. I suppose I could also plead to being a geek. 

It seems that the older I get, the more often DOH moments turn into DOH weeks, sometimes even DOH months. DOH moments are those times when you know that you just know you can do some task, but just can't quite figure out one critical step. And then the light turns on and it is obvious and you go around smacking your head because it is so simple. DOH! 

At least there is a happy geek ending here. {Remember, you are not officially a geek unless you have a network of at least three different CPU architectures in your office.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Meandering ruminations

While I pondered weak and weary ...

My apologies to Poe, but those words really sum up what the day has been like here today. It poured rain off and on last night and today has been wet and drizzly all day. What more could you ask for to herald the arrival of fall. Nothing like a wet, drizzly, overcast, cool day to bring home the arrival of that precursor to winter.

One thing that really irks me about this weather is that the paper delivery guy always throws the paper down on the front sidewalk where all the water flows. Thus, even though he bags the papers, the plastic bag just fills with water and the result is a soggy mess.  His predecessor was wonderful - he always put the papers on the front porch.  Not so with the new guy. You can tell when the old guy subs for the new guy because all of a sudden the paper starts appearing on the front porch. I guess I shouldn't complain - at least the paper gets here. Does your delivery person do any better?

It occurs to me that perhaps I should ask a different question first: do you even subscribe to papers in the physical form? I find that I use both online and paper versions. The preferred form  depends on why I read that particular paper and how often I read it.  I find that online versions of papers work OK except for crosswords and comics. Crosswords because I am not a fan of the electronic entry forms I have used. It is more acceptable to me to print the puzzle and then fill it in with pen. Then I don't to have to be tied to a computer to fill it in. Crossword puzzling is a time as available thing for me and the opportunities tend to be hit and miss, with more misses if I have do it on the computer. I like my comics in print because I tend to be a clipper. I like to cut out and pin on my bulletin board any comic which strikes my fancy. It just isn't the same to me when printed on the laser and then clipped and pinned.

In any case, it was late this afternoon before the papers got dry enough to get to my beloved crossword puzzles. I always try to do the New York Times crossword every day. I then do others if the opportunity presents itself. I find that the NYT crossword is always interesting and I like the ebb and flow in difficulty that matches the week. Monday is usually trivial and then it gets harder and harder, culminating in the Saturday beast. But then Sunday comes and the puzzle can be easy or hard, but always fun.  You can probably tell I'm an addict.

Well, I'm off to my now dry NYT crossword!

Saturday, October 11, 2008

New Layout

As you may have noticed, I have changed the layout and some of the artwork for this beast. Hopefully this will work better for some of you that were having troubles with the old format.

Let me know if you have any problems.

Soup Weather

It has definitely turned fallish (nice non-word, blogger's spell checker thought I might mean fullish or foolish), cool and misty. What I call soup weather.

Last night when Molly and I were out for our walk, it was misting, the wind was blowing and the temperature was already down in the 40s. It may have actually frozen last night, I haven't checked yet. In any case, it is the start of ideal weather for simmering a pot of soup. Not only do you get the joy of eating a warm and flavorful meal in the end, but since the house is closed up, you get the wonderful aroma of simmering soup throughout.

Given the weather, there was really was no choice but to start soaking the soup beans last night. Then I got up early this morning in time to chop the onions and veggies, wash the beans, and start the soup simmering. Even as I write, the soup is simmering away and the aroma is permeating the house. Ahhhhhhh.

I have a supper date tonight (Hi Mom!), so this soup is going to be lunch. I can't wait!

Friday, October 10, 2008

Fall is Coming

Today it felt like fall was really coming.  It was overcast and windy and cool. Made me want to curl up with a good book near a fireplace and Molly (the dog).  It was only up in the low 50's by noon and felt like snow was in the air. I figured I'd try to get the last lawn mowing of the year done later in the day and then see if I needed to turn off my lawn sprinkler (and my mom's and my mother-in-law's and ...).

So I walked over to my regular dentist visit for the joys of clean teeth (and the prevention of all the ills of decayed teeth).  I spent about an hour in the dental office because the dentist is a long time acquaintance so we visited for a bit after the exam and tooth cleaning. And then I walked out the door and my jaw about hit the sidewalk.

It is now a completely different day.  The heavy, ugly overcast of earlier in the day has mysteriously disappeared. Instead, it is sunny and fast approaching the mid 60's. So I mowed my lawn and finished winterizing the lawn mower under the assumption that the cold is coming. But I didn't have to consider shutting off the sprinkling systems yet. And it was warm enough to break a good sweat while mowing the lawn even as dusk set in.

This is one of the things I love about living on the eastern plains of Colorado.  If you don't like the weather now, wait a bit and it will be completely different.  Here's to hoping that this weekend isn't snowy! {*grin*}

Tuesday, October 7, 2008


This morning the accreditation team was in town for the local community college. As a local politician (and long time member of the college's Foundation board) I was invited to the community interview part.  Pretty much the standard thing.

College accreditation is one of those "voluntary" things that really isn't.  Almost all federal monies and scholarships require the accreditation.  So I have a deep suspicion that there are very few colleges who choose to not be accredited and make any claims to legitimacy.

Most of the accreditation process is verification - does the institution really have the facilities and faculty they claim, do they offer the programs they claim, etc.  But another part is advice for improvement.  After all, accreditation committees are fountains of experienced experts that make recommendations for future improvement.  Sort of like having a team of expert hired guns available for free.  And a final part is "challenges" in which the evaluators point out things that they think must be fixed if the institution is to remain viable.

The process is well organized and useful to the institution and to the consumer.  After all, you really would like some assurance that juniors education is really what it claimed to be. But the community interview part always makes me wonder about some things. Do community members (who are invited by the college to be interviewed by the accreditation team) ever really stand up and rip into the college?  It doesn't seem like it would happen often, does it?  How bad would the college's relations with the local community have to be to cause that kind of a rift.  And how insane would the community members have to be to down-mark one of the prime economic engines in their community? In every such meeting I have been a part of, the hard part is to get the community members to stop gushing forth on how good the college is for the community. I suspect that this is even more prevalent is a rural area like this where the college is a major community icon.

In my discussion with the leader of the accreditation team after the interview, I asked him if he ever ran into the rabid anti-college community faction during these reviews.  He surprised me greatly when he said that it happened from time to time.  Sort of like shooting your own foot off. Really makes you wonder at times, doesn't it. Were the community invites issued by someone at the college with an axe to grind? Was it a case of bad student/townie interactions? Or are there just a whole lot of insane people running loose out there?

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Label Rant

Why are labels becoming so idiotic?  Have we, as a nation of consumers, become so dumb and illiterate that we have no clue what ingredients are in the foods we eat?

Example number one:  the package of grated Parmesan cheese sitting in the refrigerator has the words "Allergy Warning: made from milk" right below the word cheese on the label.  The last time I looked,  the definition of cheese was 
cheese 1  (chz)
a. A solid food prepared from the pressed curd of milk, often seasoned and aged.
b. A molded mass of this substance.
2. Something resembling this substance in shape or consistency.
(From The Free Dictionary by FarLex)

Seems rather pointless to put the allergy warning given the definition of the product, doesn't it?

Example number two: the jar of peanut butter in the pantry has the words "Allergy Warning: made from peanuts" on the label just below the word peanut.  Once again a pretty simpleminded warning given the definition of peanut butter is 
peanut butter
A paste made from ground roasted peanuts.
(From The Free Dictionary by FarLex)

The only way that either of these warnings could serve a useful purpose is if the consumer lacked a basic understanding of the English language, knowing not the meaning of cheese and peanut butter.  But if that were the case, what good does it do to add the words allergy and warning and milk and peanut to the label.  Presumably, if one didn't understand cheese, one wouldn't understand milk.  And if you don't get what peanut butter is, will the words peanut, allergy, and warning convey anything more?

There might be a legitimate point in such redundant warnings on our food.  I just can't spot it. Those of us who grew up on farms and live in farming communities really wonder what sort of idiot needs those warnings. I suspect most of you are curious as well. We're all afraid to meet them because we have a deep suspicion they are related to that other class of idiots - lawyers.  

Oh well.  I guess they must be the same ones that needed the warning on the steak knives I once won in a raffle - Caution: Edges may be sharp and cause bodily injury! I  sure as heck hope the edges are sharp and cut things. Otherwise I might want to cause some bodily injury to the manufacturer.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Long lasting institutions

I was a guest of honor today as the local Masonic Temple celebrated their 125th anniversary. The Masons were actually chartered and established in 1883, one year before the town itself was officially chartered!

The program included an overview of the history of the lodge and of their quarters through the years, including the construction of the current building.  I remember the construction of the current building from visits home during my college and graduate school years. It also highlighted the many charitable causes and community efforts they have been involved in over the last century and a quarter.  An amazing body of work, especially the efforts related to children and their well being.

The fact that this organization has been an important part of the area for so long led me to think about some of the other community organizations that have been active over similar time spans. The only other organizations I could quickly think of that were started in the 1800's and are still an active part of the community today are all churches or church related.  Most of the other service clubs such as the Lions and Kiwanis all came later in the 1900's.  Even my own roots in the area trace back no further than the WWI era when my great grandfather homesteaded here. (An interesting story in its own right that I may explore in another post.)

Are there organizations in your town that are as old or older than the town itself? Are they still an active part of the community?  Tell me about them. I think it is fascinating to hear about such long lived organizations and their influences on the communities they serve.

Friday, October 3, 2008

The case of the oddly named dog

While Molly and I were out walking in the park this afternoon, we met a gentleman and his dog. They had stopped for a rest before continuing on down the road.  From what the gentleman said, they had been driving for about six hours straight.

You need to picture this - the gentleman was dressed in full conservative business outfit including tie and pinstriped suit.  I'm wearing jogging shorts and a ratty old golf shirt. His dog is a miniature dachshund and stands maybe 8 inches tall.  The dog has been groomed to within an inch of it's life and is a spitting image of its master.  The dog is so small he can walk under Molly as she stands beside the path as the gentleman and myself visit.  One heck of an incongruous sight to see all of us standing there talking and sniffing. (The dogs, not us!) I have to bite my lip to keep from laughing when the gentleman walks off and calls his dog.

So what does this extremely well dressed, conservative, long travelling business man name his diminuative dog?

Ready to give up?  The answer is in the first comment.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Another day, another ...

Yet another day passes and my todo list just gets longer.  Oh well.

I did get a chance to spend time in a park with the warm fall sun this afternoon.  The publisher and the editor of the local daily newspaper wanted to meet and talk, so I suggested we meet in the park.  We all thought the park was a great idea.  Killed an hour talking to them and then had to head back to real work.

Molly, our dog, and I got in our nightly 5 mile walk again tonight.  We try to do 5 miles in the morning or at night.  Gets a bit harder when the snow and ice of winter arrive.  Someday I'll have to tell about how Molly came to live with us and how she spent a month in the penitentiary being trained by a multiple murderer, but for now it's enough to add her smiling face.  Not one of her better pictures, but you get the idea.  At least it's not her mug shot!

I'm still waiting for the first freeze here.  The historical average here is for the first hard freeze to occur on or before October 10th.  I suspect it may be later this year.  Of course, this is Colorado, where the weather is unpredictable.  One year it went from 73 degrees in the morning to 20 below and 2 feet of snow by midnight.  I hated that year since it killed most of my apple trees.

BTW, for those who expressed concern for my lawnmower in my first post, there is good news I forgot to relay.  Three parts costing a total of $6.25 and an hour of my time and the lawnmower is as good as new.  All I have to do now is change the oil and drain the gas when the mowing season finally ends and it'll be set for the winter.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008


I got railroaded tonight and I don't mean that I watched the trains go by either. 

I was at a CML (Colorado Municipal League) district meeting and dinner in another town.  CML is an important group for mayors and council members in Colorado since they do lobbying and legal services to keep us on the ball and out of trouble and stop stupid legislation that interferes with local control.  They also coordinate information exchanges so that we all don't have to keep re-inventing the wheel to solve similar problems.

The mayor of the town that is the closest thing to our arch rival was there and all smiles as I came in the door.  During the social period before the meal and business meeting, he said he had something that would really surprise me later.  I was a already a bit surprised since our interaction is usually a hi/bye and an occasional dig at the other.  Low and behold, it turns out he was head of the nominating committee and presented me as the sole candidate and now newly elected President of District 1.  Just so you can understand why that might not be the plum it first appears, some of the cities in our district are close to 200 miles apart.  And guess who gets to go to all those places to attend the local meetings?  You got it - me.

I knew something was up when he was so friendly when I walked in the door, I just couldn't figure out why.  The only question now is what I can do to get him back.  He is term limited out of office this January and won't be around next year for me to stick him with an office.  I guess the only thing to do is make the 40 mile drive to his town and make him take me golfing.  Golfing with me should be punishment enough for anyone. {*grin*}  

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