Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Downhill All The Way

Saturday while playing corporate wife for L, we journeyed up the mountain at Vail in the afternoon for an ice cream social. Like most sane people, we took the gondola up the mountain to the top where the social (and various entertainments for the kids) were to be held. A short gondola trip for those used to multistage backbowl gondolas like the one at Keystone.

L and I had a pleasant trip up with the gondola car all to ourselves. Once up on top (at 11,000+ feet), we moseyed around and visited the eco-school display and generally putzed around killing time until the social. At the duly appointed time, we snarfed our bowl of ice cream and began preparations to journey down the mountain by hiking trail.

(A little background here. L is not noted for having mad map reading skills, but since she and the Son have skied the area before and returned to tell about it, I assumed she knew where she was leading me. Her words were that it was an easy 45 minute hike to the base of the mountain.)

We started down and it was indeed a beginner type trail at the beginning, avoiding any really steep descents. About a third of the way down, we were passed by a group of girls wearing school uniforms and backpacks. We had heard them following us for a while since they were all in the 13-16 year old range that cannot be silent. When we came to a widening in the trail, we stepped to the side to let them pass with the words "Go ahead, we don't want to hold you up." The response was "You guys are doing really good" with the unvoiced "for old fogies" muttered under breath. L. and I got a good laugh about that. We marvelled at how the girls could all be talking, wearing their IPods, skipping lightly along in tennis shoes, never looking down, and not trip or fall on all the obstacles on the trail.

Over the next half hour, the trail began to look more like an expert only trail in places. It had become clear that the 45-minute descent did not describe the trail we are on. Since a few turns back, the trail has begun getting steeper and steeper. Of course my toe gets torsioned and the nerve fires. (The story of the nerve that has been dieing for years due to diabetes is a thing for another time. Suffice it to say that when it fires, I will do anything to stop the pain.) I tried to protected the nerve by using mostly the other leg and pretty soon we are coming down black diamond slopes with both of my legs in danger of not working. Even L, who is built for downhill hiking (I am not. The combo of being 6'5" and wearing size 16 shoes does not make for a good downhill hiking experience on steep and narrow rocky and rooted trails!), was starting to falter a bit. The net result is a nearly four hour torture trip down the mountain, leaving both of us limping and in L's case blistered.

To make it all the more exciting, L and I are supposed to be at the formal awards dinner starting at 7pm. At that time we are just at the base of the mountain and still have to hike to the hotel and get ready. All I have to say is that it was really good that the cocktail hour lasted a bit overtime and that we had a room that was luxurious enough to have both a tub and a separate shower in the bathrom. We made it just in time to file in with the crowd (although I didn't have time to shave, so I had a bit of a white shadow over the face.)

Of course, this being a sales district meeting and awards ceremony, there were a lot of standing ovations. My legs hurt enough that I was waiting for them to quit working evertime we had to stand up and clap. L and I were basically cussing under our breath at each and every new occasion requiring us to stand up. We were very happy when the ceremony ended. We still had enough giddy-up go to make it to the post ceremony party (a hike of a couple of blocks) and to outlast most of the crowd. Proof positive you can make old warhorses hurt, but you can't make them quit!

What are the morals of this story:
  • Never believe anyone who says a trail is easy without proof.
  • Never believe anyone who says "this is a short cut when we ski here." Slopes and lengths are a lot different on foot versus on downhill  skies.
  • Never give up. You can make it even when it already looks impossible.

The Bird and the Mother-In-Law

I was over at L's Mom's house this morning. As I took my leave, she was standing in the open doorway talking to me. At that time, a bird decided that it would like a tour of the house and nose dived past MIL and into the house. Needless to say, I got recruited for bird chasing and removal duty.

The bird flew to and fro and finally came to rest in the living room behind the knick-knack tower in the corner. It looked to be an adolescent crow. It certainly had little fear of humans as it sat there daring me to make it move. After a few desultory hand waves and some calming words, the bird finally decided a change of venue was in order and flew across the dining room table to the desk on the other wall. After calmly walking across the papers there, it took a moment to sit on the top of the letter opener.

This time when I finally convinced it to move on, it flew into the kitchen and hopped up on the kitchen counter. After performing a strut along the counter, it then tried the lids to all the cannisters to see if they would open. When that failed, he hopped up on the cooking utensils sitting in the wooden jar on the counter. There are few things funnier that a crow giving you a quizzical look while perched on the edge of a spatula.

Finally tiring of the kitchen, the young intruder returned to the living room and perched on the wall tapestry, looking much like a wood pecker. Then he dropped off and flew over to perch on the magazine rack. At this point, the MIL and I figured the game was up. He was sitting at the juncture of one arm of a T shaped hall, with one of the arms leading to the now propped open door he had entered. I took one arm of the T and MIL the other and we crowded the bird on out the door, which we immediately closed.

What made the whole thing extraordinary was how little fear of humans the bird showed. Even after being chased out of the house, he proceeded to stay a few feet from me as I started walking home. Makes me suspect someone has been working on taming the young crow as a pet.. Crows are among the most intelligent and resourceful birds around and are known to form relationships with people, so I hope the bird finds his way back to his person.

Time to head for the sack. Goodnight.and don't let the birds get you.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Five Things I Won't ...

Time for

Five Things I Won't Be Doing This Weekend

  • Attending my only nephews wedding in Seattle. Between L and I we have four nieces, but only one nephew. So congratulations and best wishes to Josh and Lynn, his lovely bride to be, on their special day Saturday. May you both have many happy years together.
  • Playing in the Chamber of Commerce golf scramble. I was invited to play on the local newspaper's team by the publisher, but unfortunately I already had a prior commitment. The first time in history the local press has desired to give me something other than a hard time and I have to refuse. Life is just not fair.
  • Sitting at home sweltering in the heat and humidity.
  • Mowing the forest primeval otherwise known as the lawn. I did it today in the heat and humidity in preparation for my early morning departure. At least I am 10 lbs. lighter now after losing all that sweat.
  • Staying home period. I am off to play corporate spouse for L at the annual district meeting for her company. Thus I will get to attend rousing sessions such as "welcome" and "spouses meeting", eat too much at formal dinners, and otherwise fend for myself in the gloriously cool environs of Vail. I suspect that I fail the eye-candy test for a good corporate wife, but L is stuck with me. (Although I did suggest finding a good TV heart throb to sit in for me.) Nothing like the old sport coat and tie to clean up an old reprobate like me.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

How Do I ...

Time once more for Mama Kat's Writer's Challenge. This week the prompt I am going to consider is:
2.) How do you stave off boredom?
(inspired by Jenn's Pen)

This is a question with a million answers for me. I love to read (sci-fi, mystery, science, magazines, just about any genre), I love to golf, I love to noodle on my computer, I love to read text books for graduate level math and physics, I love walking the streets and parks of town, ... So for me, the real issue is seldom how to stave off bordom, but rather how to make enough time to pursue all the things I love to do.

You will notice that nowhere did I mention a love of attending meetings in my list. That is because I don't. But in the current job, there seem to be more of them that any one person should have to suffer through. So, since I spend so much time in meetings, many of them prone to being as interesting as watching paint dry, let's modify the question to "How do I stave off boredom in meetings?"

Some further restrictions to make it harder to avoid boredom:
  • No handheld electronic devices
  • No hidden IPod masquerading as a hearing aide
  • No Richard Nixon mask to hide your face
  • No holographic movie projection system attached to your glasses
  • No hiring a sit-in to take your place

Method #1: A pad of paper and a Pilot G-2 pen should always be in your hand as you arrive for the meeting. That way you can doodle to your heart's content with the smooth feel of flowing ink. Even if you have no artistic skills what-so-ever, you can enjoy making caricatures of the other attendees.

Method #2: Multiple games of tic-tac-toe. Even more exciting if the person sitting beside you joins in.

Method #3: Make up new and exciting quotes by famous people that they never said. For extra boredom avoidance, the quotes should be splices of the actual quotes from real people. E.g. "I regret that I have but one country in which I am not so famous." - Patrick H. Berger. (The two base quotes for forming this spliced quote are givin in the first comment.)

Method #4: Count the ceiling tiles, count the number of holes in one tile, then use the results to calculate an estimate of the holes in the entire ceiling. For extra boredom avoidance potential, estimate the size of a tile and form an estimate of the areal hole density.

Method #5: Strangle yourself with your shoelace. This can be especially challenging if you are wearing slip-on shoes.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Odd Things To Do

Tomorrow after I mosey down to the radio station for my "Mayoral Midweek" show, I'll venture over to XXX's to do her therapy and then I am actually free until 2:30pm. I like those days where I have a bit of freedom!

At 2:30pm, the local outlet of the state prison system is having their tenth anniversary and awards ceremony. I must be important since I got invited. I had assumed the other council members were invited, but it seems that only I got invited. Maybe it is because I am the one who has spoken at several graduations. Maybe it is because I am the one most likely to come for a long stay. {*grin*} Or maybe I am the only one that passed the vetting to get in past the gates. In any case it will be fun and I am hoping for good food.

Why good food? Well this particular branch of the prison system has a culinary institute training program as one of the rehab programs to ensure that inmates have viable skills when they are released. The program caters for many events in the community and will cook to order for non-profits. Thus some local churches sell cabbage pockets and other goodies to their flock that are made by the prisoners as a fund raiser. In any case, every time I have been out there, be it for a meeting, a graduation, to tour a program, or for education on gangs, there has been good food at hand. It is really interesting when you attend a graduation because one of the standards is that they have cake for the inmate/graduates following the ceremony. Outsiders go first, then the inmates. Given the treat free diet of the inmates, cake is such a rarity that the prisoners are on their absolute best behavior in hopes of getting a second piece. They are often more excited than a class of second graders by the thought of cake with {*gasp*} icing. Some of them will stare with anticipation and longing at their cake, eating it in tiny bits just to prolong the pleasure. Think about how sad it is to have a life so drear that even a piece of cake is a cause for tears.

In other odd news of the day, I now know when the Super WalMart here will be finished remodeling. I got a call asking me to speak at the Grand Re-Opening at 8am on July 1st. That should be interesting just to see the crowds waiting to rush in the doors. It's a good thing that they having it early in the morning since I had already committed to speaking to the Rotarians at noon.

It poured rain during the city council meeting tonight, culminating in a tornado warning. Since city hall is next to the fire station, we got to see all the spotters on the fire trucks heading out to be on station to watch for tornadoes. I suspect they didn't see much since the tornado was 15 miles down the road and moving away from us. Since we were basically through with the meeting when the skies opened and poured, we didn't adjourn and instead went through all the misc. business we could dredge up. That at least let us wait until we could see across the sidewalk before exiting council chambers. This is shaping up to be one of the wettest Junes on record here. Nothing like the shifting weather patterns from global warming to make life interesting.

Time to get some work done and then get to bed. That 6am rise and shine for the radio show can come awfully early.

Monday, June 22, 2009

My Speech

This post inspired by Jenners' Game 6. It is a late entry in the game, but I'm sure it is OK. {*grin*}

Jenners's contest was to write as if you were to be a commencement speaker. My version differs in that following are the notes for my graduation oration to the graduating inmates at a state prison. These inmates had completed their high school diplomas while in prison. Some had continued on to receive their bachelors degrees. I was the invited speaker for their combined graduation.

As an aside, the start of the ceremony was delayed for a nearly an hour so that the mother of one of the inmates could make it to the prison for the ceremonies. After the ceremony, she was in tears because she was so proud and excited. As she explained it to me via interpreter (she was from another country; spoke no English, and had been traveling for days to attend), her son was the first in the family to ever learn to read and write, let alone graduate high school. After listening to her pride in her son, I've always wondered how anyone could ever refuse to speak at a prison graduation ceremony.

Thank you for inviting me here today to share in the celebration of your educational achievements.

Setting goals is easy, attaining those goals is much more difficult. It requires motivation, hard work, and persistence. And you have faced the additional challenge of achieving your educational goals while  incarcerated. You set your goals, enrolled in this program, worked hard to master the necessary material, and now you're finally at the point where you receive recognition! You've mastered skills, implemented discipline in your daily life, and worked towards your objectives. The knowledge, skills, work habits, and work ethic you've learned will benefit you every day for the rest of your life.

I want to talk about life and success. Defining success can follow many tracks, but I think the critical part is to dream and pursue those dreams. Having an education allows you to dream. It allows you to dream of how to better yourself as a person, how to improve your situation in life, and ultimately how to improve the community in which you live.

Each person's life has many aspects. We are each many different things. I am many things: a dreamer, a tinkerer, a scientist, an entrepreneur, a husband, a father, a politician. Each of these aspects share a need of the ability to visualize a goal and do the hard work to pursue the goal. Each requires that I utilize all that I have learned.

Some of us were lucky and started young being able to read and write and do well academically. Others discovered the keys of knowledge later in life and only then came understand the beauty of knowledge and the doors it can open. All of us who dare to learn and dream and set goals will also at some point encounter the dread end point of failure and rejection. One cannot do great things without embracing the risk of failure and the pain of rejection. The measure of a great person is that they undertake the journey in spite of the risk of failure.

I'd like to share with you the path of two people I admire very much: Leonard Suskind and Theodor Geisel. Neither name probably means much to you.

I remember meeting Lenny when I was a young graduate student attending a scientific summer institute. He was attending the same program. Nothing odd about that, except that most of us were in our twenties, but Lenny was already in his forties. One night I happened to ask Lenny how he came to be in physics and his answer still inspires me. Lenny had dreams of attending college and graduate school. The reality was that Lenny ended up married with a young family to support. So he became a plumber's assistant and attended college while working full time. He graduated college as a master plumber, a father, and a family man. He started graduate school the same way, gradually earning research assistantships that allowed him to become a part time plumber. When I met him he had just become a full time physicist at Stanford. Today Lenny is a full professor at Stanford, the author of multiple books in diverse fields, a prolific author of scientific papers, and one of the top physicists in the world. Many would have let the dream die when facing these difficulties, but Lenny was persistent in working for his goal. His success is an example for us all never to give up.

Theodor Geisel was a very successful advertising agency executive, but wanted desperately to pursue his dream of writing children's books. (For those who are old enough, he was the creator of the Flit insecticide ad campaign.) So he wrote his first book. Seven years later and after rejections from 43 different publishers, that book was finally published. He went on to win every writing prize in the field along with two Emmys and a Peabody award. He changed children's literature forever. Even more important, he changed the way many of us learned how to read. You may know him better under his pen name of Dr. Seuss. That first groundbreaking book was "And To Think That I Saw It On Mulberry Street". Even his wife had urged him to just get on with advertising after the 23rd publisher had rejected the manuscript. But Theodor persisted in his dream. I had the opportunity to meet Mr. Geisel as a guest lecturer in college and the thing that sticks with me most is his firm belief that you are a success only if you are doing what you enjoy, no matter what others may think.

Both Lenny and Theodor faced challenges, overcame obstacles, and were rejected. But they used their own motivation to persevere. They didn't let fear of failure stop them and you shouldn't either. The difference between "making it" and "giving up" is often your own self motivation. You must believe in yourself before others will believe in you. And people must believe in you before thay can believe in your vision, your dreams, and your goals. And when people believe in your goals, they will help you along the way.

So dream big, make your plans, set your goals, work hard, and believe in yourself!
I congratulate each of you! You dreamed big, set your goals, and achieved success. You did it! You have taken the first step to even bigger dreams. So smile a little more today; feel good about your achievements. Most importantly, believe in yourself and continue on the path to your own successful future.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Five things I ...

Time for

Five Things I Could Have Done Without This Week
Getting up at 4:30am to make an 8am meeting 100+ miles up the road

Hoeing weeds from the garden (Don't they ever quit growing?)

The thunderstorm and tornado warnings for each night for the last week

The arrival of hot weather with high humidity after all the rains

Missing the opening of the time capsule from 100 years ago at the court house (where I was originally to speak) just to attend the meeting mentioned in the first bullet point

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

The Two Sentence Reader and ...

Time once more for Mama Kat's Writer's Challenge. This week's prompts are:
1.) Grab your current read. Let the book fall open to a random page and share two “teaser” sentences from that page, somewhere between lines 7 and 12.
(inspired by Heather)

2.) What do you aspire to be?
(Inspired by The White House)

3.) Share a piece of unsolicited parenting advice...only I'm soliciting it.

4.) Tell us about your blogline...how long have you been blogging, when did you start, what were/are your goals for your blog, etc.
(inspired by Corn)

5.) If you had 5000 dollars to give away or donate to a charity...explain what you would do with it and why.
(inspired by Hallie's letter)

So without further ado, lets start writing!

#1) My current read teasers. I am reading three books this week. The first is a reread of Alan Dean Foster's Spellsinger's Scherzo. The second is Vicki Pettersson's The Scent of Shadows. The third is Lisa Randall's Warped Passages.

Spellsinger's Scherzo: He wasn't feeling very optimistic as they led him back down into the bowels of the Quorumate, down below the water line and into the dungeons again. Somehow he had to regain possession of his duar.

The Scent of Shadows: And I forgot, or told myself I forgot, about the child. It also became important for me to escape Xavier's gilded cage, ...

Warped Passages: Although the German astronomer Karl Schwarzchild discovered that black holes were a consequence of Einstein's equations almost immediately after general relativity's development, it was not until the 1960s that physicists took seriously the idea that they could be real things in our universe. Today, black holes are well accepted in the astrophysical community.

#2) What I aspire to be. That is a good question. The short answer is the best me I can be. That begs the question since it leaves unanswered "What am I? What do I hope to be?". Those are questions that I could write page after page in an attempt  to answer completely. But, fortunately for me, I have a wise and good friend from the days of high school who has always proclaimed that all he wants to be is a wise and good human being. It seems to me that this is a good aspiration for me as well. Reaching for wise and good works no matter what phase your life is in, works with most religions (satanism might be hard to work into good human being), and results in a caring and forthright person. I don't think there is any higher goal that one can aspire to than to be wise and good, so that is what I'll go with.

#3) Parenting Advice. Be ready for the fiery changeability of the teenage years (not to mention the mental lapses and the conviction you are an idiot, especially on their part). And store up all the hugs and hand holds you can while they are young, because, when they get older, those physical expressions of love become rare.

#4) My blogline. I started blogging 244 posts ago, on Septemember 25, 2008. I have explained my reasons for starting a blog before in this post. To briefly recap, I started a blog because I needed to get back into the habit of writing something other than technical documents. So this blog is a place for me to practice writing and to attempt to express my thoughts in a coherent form. My goal was to once again reach that place where my writing could flow with my thought processes and not be a laborious effort. To that end, I try to blitz this beast out and not take proof reading too seriously. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't, but writing has become easier for me to do.

#5) My charity donation(s). This is the hardest question for me to answer. There are so many good possibilities that it boggles the mind to decide. I'm going to restrict the possible donees to groups that are active locally and who benefit the local community. With that in mind, I come up with two groups that top my list.

The first group is Cooperating Ministries. They made an appearance on this blog here. This is the organization created by the local churches here to coordinate supplying people in need with essentials. They run a food bank, clothing bank, supply emergency housing for those caught without housing, and other services. They also coordinate a large volunteer force that makes charity in this neck of the woods function. They also do thanksgiving baskets for the needy along with many other efforts. We (municipal government) support them as well.

The second group made a brief appearance on this blog here. They are the Blue Skies Theraputic Riding Club. They supply free riding experiences to those who are handicapped or differently abled. Someone who has very little control over their own body, either due to birth defect or injury or disease, can gain tremendous self confidence and sense of purpose by being in control of hundreds of pounds of horse. For many, it is the first taste of non-mechanical motion in their lives. Blue Skies maintains specially trained horses and a controlled riding area, once again with a crew of volunteers. If you haven't seen this type of theraphy in action, look for a local group in your area. It is amazing to see.

If I had to choose a national organization, it would be the Salvation Army. It just seems to me that while other organizations are still twiddling their thumbs, the Salvation Army is already there and helping. I've never had a bad experience with the Salvation Army - something that I cannot say about a number of other national charities.

Bonus: Thursday marks the graduation of L's and my niece from high school in far away Connecticut. Congratulations Sarah! (We'll see if she spots this all the way down here. She is another of those infamous silent readers.)

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

The Mind Is The First ....

They always say that the mind is the first thing to go. Maybe that is true.

A couple of weeks ago, I went to the grocery store with peanut butter on my list. I have very clear memories of standing before the peanut butter display and reaching for the jar of Skippy that was my choice. However, at that point a family friend walked up and started talking. After 30 minutes or so, I continued on with my grocery shopping. I came home and put up my groceries, then took Mom's groceries over to her house. Never thought a thing about it.

Last week I decided to pull out the peanut butter. I looked on the shelf in the pantry where the nearly defunct jar resides and there was no shiny new companion beside it. Since I could so clearly remember the peanut butter from the previous shopping trip, I decided I must have put it somewhere else. I searched the shelves, but no Skippy appeared. So then I decided that I must have left it at Mom's house when I dropped off her groceries.

I called Mom and asked "Did I perchance leave a jar of Skippy when I delivered your groceries?"

Her answer was short and sweet: "No."

After further pondering, I came to the possibility that L had taken the Skippy up to the mountains with her. There is no logical reason for that to have happened, especially since I am a smooth peanut butter fan and L is a chunky kind of gal. (Can you tell I was really grasping at the straws of sanity here?)

I called L and asked "Did you happen to abscond with a jar of peanut butter last weekend?"

Her answer echoed Mom's. Perhaps even terser a bit more emphatic.

At this point I was slowly coming to the fuzzy conclusion that I must not have purchased the missing Skippy. It bothered me that I had so vivid a memory of picking up the jar of peanut butter but that I evidently had not purchased it. So I pondered some more on whether I had indeed purchased the peanut butter. The pondering left me confused and as I had already disposed of the store reciept, there was no way of telling if I had indeed bought the Skippy. I finally convinced myself that the distraction of visiting with the friend must have led me to not put the peanut butter in my grocery cart. But then why had I crossed it off my list?

So when I went to the store last weekend, I bought a jar of peanut butter. And when I dropped Mom's groceries off, she called me a bit later to tell me I had left my Trident gum with her groceries. (Of course both she and L were up for razzing me at every opportunity about losing my mind.) But that I already knew about the gum since I remembered the bag it was in that I left with Mom's groceries as soon as I got home. This time when I unpacked my groceries, I put the peanut butter right beside the nearly empty jar in the pantry. Just to be sure.

Fast forward to last night. I opened the cabinet where I keep the cereal and some paper goods. And as I looked up to the top shelf well above my head where I never before have ever put peanut butter, I saw what looked to be a jar of peanut butter.
Low and behold, it was my missing jar of Skippy. (Pay no attention to the smiling pig paper plate. I know how it got there.) So now I have a bit of extra peanut butter and some faith that I am not totally losing my mind. I did indeed buy the peanut butter the first time, I just didn't remember where I put it. Does that count as half a mind lost?

I'll leave it up to you - is my mind gone yet?

Monday, June 15, 2009

What Is She Thinking?

Last night, as the thunderstorms moved through, Molly was a quivering scaredy dog, sitting with her head on my lap through supper and the hours after while the thunder claps boomed out. She was unwilling to get more than a couple of inches from me as I moved around the house. I felt a lot like I had a needy two year old tot on my hands. {*grin*} Molly eventually fell asleep at my feet in the office, jumping up ready to follow anytime she though I might be about to move. She finally deigned to go outside for her nightly ablutions around 11:30pm, but only after I stepped out with her.

This morning saw Molly transformed into an independent lady. With no thunderstorms in the area, she couldn't wait to get out into the yard. She sat on the patio looking out into the yard, waiting for the appearance of either a squirrel or the birds. She had no desire to come back in the house for breakfast, she was busy! As she sat there regally scanning her domain, I wondered what she might be thinking. What do you think?
(Sorry about the picture through the window screen, but you get the idea.) She lays/sits there on the patio with her head on a swivel, scanning her yard, just waiting for something to need herding.  When she thinks she has spotted something, she jumps up and sprints for the closest place to jump up and try to herd the airborne miscreant. Even after all this time, she still hasn't caught on that she cannot jump high enough to reach the flying birds overhead nor the squirrels running on the suspended cable wires. So after a bit, she resorts to stealth and attempts to sneak up on the marauders.
(What you can't see is the squirrel on the trunk of the tree opposite Molly.) At that point she will do a standing jump vertically and clear even the white fence in height. Doesn't do her any good, because the squirrels just scamper up the pine tree, out on the branch, and then onto the cable wires. There they will sit and taunt her. They wait until she has quit jumping and barking and then they throw pinecones down at her. That starts the whole process over again and it repeats until all parties call for a break and a snooze in the sun. The rules of the game seem to be understood by both sides, because when Molly does manage to catch a squirrel on the ground, she waits for it to get back up the tree before persuing. Likewise the squirrels always seem to end up with pinecones to throw down at Molly.

The other day, there was a young squirrel that obviously didn't understand this game that started crawling down the utility pole head first while Molly was standing and jumping and barking at the base. The squirrel would come down to within a few inches of the apex of where Molly was leaping, then wait for Molly to make an all out effort for a taller leap. Just as Molly would leap, the squirrel would reverse field and run up the pole. This cycled on and on for nearly 45 minutes until I called Molly in and the momma squirrel started chittering like mad at the young squirrel. I suspect I know what the momma squirrel was saying. It undoubtedly involved phrases like "be careful" and "don't go down that pole" and probably ended with "don't do that again". All I asked Molly was if she was satisfied now. She just grinned at me.

So what do you thing Molly was thinking? What do you think the momma squirrel had to say?

Thursday, June 11, 2009

The Joy of Youth

Time once more for

I had the privilege of being interviewed today by three twenty-somethings participating in the CU Denver Medical School rural experience program: a first year medical student, a P.A. student, and a graduate nurse working on her doctorate in psychology. In their honor I give you

Five Great Things About Being A Twenty-something

  • You have boundless enthusiasm and energy
  • You believe that all things are possible
  • You have the glowing spark of idealism shining in your eyes
  • You believe that life and the universe treat all fairly
  • You are willing to give all that you have in service to strangers without a second thought

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Writer's Assortment

Time once more for Mama Kat's Writer's Challenge. This week the prompts are:
1.) Describe something someone has done to make you feel special.
(inspired by Le Poppy Design)

2.)Name your current addiction...we can get through this together.
(inspired by Lula)

3.) What have you been busy doing that's keeping you from updating your blog? How hard is it for you to get back into the swing of blogging when you take time off?
(inspired by Sera)

4.) Write a letter.
(inspired by eyegirl)

5.) Where would you like to be?
(inspired by T.J.)

So off to the races we go!

#1) This one is both easy and hard. It is easy because there are so many things that so many people have done that make me feel special. It is hard because I need to pick just one effort to wax rhapsodic about. I'll go with an event from several years ago in my first year of being mayor. My birthday fell on the night of a city council meeting. Unbeknownst to me, L and the Son arranged with the city hall employees so that L and the Son could bring and serve cake at the meeting in honor of my birthday. That made me feel special that they would take the time and make that kind of effort to make sure my birthday was special.

<Assume soapbox> I've always felt that the true test of love is not what you do for each other when times are good, it is how you treat one another when times are bad. It can be easy to do something special for someone you love when all is coming up roses, but it is a lot harder when it seems like life has decided it is your turn in the septic tank. L and I have been through both good times and bad, but it is nice to have all the memories of good times like the above to cherish when times are bad. <Step off the soapbox>

#2) Way back in January when this was last a topic, I replied with this. Now I'm not sure I have a current addiction. Basically things are so fragmented and helter skelter right now that concentrating on only one thing for long is out the window. (Maybe I can claim the chasing and swatting of Miller moths is my current obsession. Yeah, that's it!)

#3) Nothing. I have been pretty regular in posting something during the week. I have missed some weekends and a few days when the schedule prevented me from getting to the computer. I don't know that I can really answer how hard it is for me to get back into the swing of blogging - I haven't been gone long enough to need to work on getting back into the swing of things. My problem tends to be that I have all these topics I'd like to write about or that I think are interesting, but the resulting article would be way too long to put up as a blog entry. Call it diarrhea of the mind and typing fingers if you will.

#4) Here it is:

Dear Ms. Salesperson:

I appreciated your cheerful insistence on talking to me today with that "important news" about better online storage strategies, but I did not care for the way you ignored my protestations of "Not interested!" and "Goodbye!" I especially did not care for the fact that you felt compelled to call me back after I pointedly hung up the telephone. It would seem that me telling you that I am not interested should be enough for you to cease and desist. Since it wasn't and you called to interrupt me yet again, I am taking the time to write you this letter.

Because of your ill-mannered and ill-considered actions, I will never consider the purchase of any product from you or XYZ, Inc. The lack of consideration for purchase will also extend to any of my clients who seek my opinion on the products of XYZ, Inc.

I hope you will share this letter with your supervisor and the president of XYZ, Inc. I have taken the liberty of assisting you in sharing by sending them a copy of this letter for their files under separate cover.


My Real Name

#5) I can think of several places I'd like to be right now. Hawaii sounds nice. I haven't been there in years. Likewise the mountains with L also sounds good. But the one place I'd really like to be right now is bed. Especially given that today started at 4:30am and ended with a meeting that finished just a bit ago, included doing the radio show, meeting with Senator Udall's staff, doing therapy with XXX, answering a few looney phone calls, and enduring a splitting headache (weather and blood sugar induced).

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

The Birds

Today we had another late in the day weather change from sunny to thunderstorms and windy, marking the onset of some cooler weather. It is only supposed to get to 60 or so tomorrow. Oh well, summer can wait.

One of the curiosities that has always made me scratch my head is the way birds like to settle on telephone wires before a storm arrives. It is not uncommon to see 10 or more between a couple of utility poles, just sitting there very quietly as the storm builds and approaches. Many times, the silent sitting birds are the first warning of an impending storm. Then the sky begins to darken and the clouds begin to explode into thunderheads and the lightning begins to flash. And if we are lucky out here, it also rains.

Now if I were a bird, I can't picture why I'd go out and sit on a high wire with no cover if I thought it was going storm. Why sit on a high, wet wire in a rain and lightning storm? But the birds do it. I've always wondered how hard it is to stay anchored by a pair of slick claws to a smooth and possibly wet sheath of insulation. I think I'd be cramped up tight after hanging on for the 45 minutes it takes for the wind and the lightning to pass. And you notice that you never see one of the birds hanging on to the wire upside down. That tells me they must have one heck of a grip on the wire.

So today as the thunderstorm brewed and I headed over to do XXX's therapy, I pondered the birds sitting on the phone wires and what a strange life it must be. I know that sometimes the wind becomes too much for the birds: they are the ones found dead on the ground after the storm. I also know that just as soon as the wind has calmed a bit, they are off and flying around. The robins are on the ground trying to catch the earthworms forced to the surface by the sudden downpour of water. The crows head off to scrounge for their favorite foods. And I am left to wonder how and why they do it.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Preaching to the Choir

Today was a day where I got to preach to the choir so to speak. The CU Denver medical program has a group out here who have indicated that they want to be involved in medicine in a rural area. So I was one of the speakers for their intro to the area today. It was funny to see such a mix of youngsters. (I'm approaching that age where everyone looks like a youngster to me. I am informed by both my Mom and MIL that it only gets worse the older you get.) The program has everything from medical students to physicians assistants to RNs to ... attending.

Since others were covering economics and existing programs in the area, I concentrated on the adaptation to living in a rural area. I started by asking for a show of hands of all those who grew up in area of 10,000 people or less. About 6 out 30 raised their hands. I then told the group to remember who raised their hands because they will undoubtedly have questions for them.

One of the big social differences in practicing rural medicine is the fact that medical staff and patients know each other outside of the medical relationship. Thus I know my doctor, where he lives, his kids, his wife, and I've even met his father once. On the other hand, he knows the same information about me. He sees me doing my walking and I see him coming back from the gym before 7am as I walk to the radio station on Wednesdays. In metro area medicine, you don't have that same personal contact. So I went through a little of that with them.

Then I touched on the issue of retention. One of the big problems in retaining medical personnel in a rural area is the spouse or SO. The medical person is having the time of their life, seeing and handling things over a broad range that they might never see in a metro practice. But the spouse is feeling like an outcast and quite possibly cannot find work in their chosen field. So in a couple of years, the resolution comes down that they will move to a metro area together or the spouse is going to move alone.

For the singletons, I also brought up some of the limitations of social events. As I used to warn engineers we were recruiting, "I can't ask if you are single or married, but be forewarned that if you don't like family oriented activities, church sponsored events, and/or cowboy bars, you may find your social life a bit sparse." One of the program coordinators asked about sports. I told them that yes, there are city sponsored leagues for about anything that can be dreamed up, but that many of the teams are sponsored by the aforementioned groups. It makes it a great place to raise a family, but a somewhat harder road for the unattached singleton.

And now for something completely different. (With apologies to Monty Python.)

This evening, we had our first official tornado warning of the season. The tornado stayed well north of town, but the warning sirens were blaring and the police and fire were driving up and down the streets warning people to take cover. Ah spring! We've had one tornado touch down in town in my memory, but you have to call wolf every time one is nearby just to be safe.

When I was a little sprat, we lived in town in Nebraska that got hit with tornadoes so often that some people started building their houses underground. I can remember riding in the car from Nebraska to Colorado and being able to see several funnel clouds in the sky at once. I thought it was interesting to watch then, now I'd probably be a bit more worried.

So how was your day?

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Sunday Yet Again

L has left on her return to the mountains and Molly has retired to her bed to mope. Pretty much a standard Sunday evening here.

Today was one of those days that it is good to be out on the plains. In Denver and environs they had 5 tornadoes this afternoon along with the severe thunderstorms that covered the whole eastern half of the state. Fortunately not too bad as far as problems, with plenty of warning. Mostly property damage in limited areas. This was different from most tornado occurrences since it was a result of cold air settling over Denver and then the normal afternoon thunderstorm build up accelerating as the cumulus clouds breached the top of the cold air layer and expanded rapidly, releasing a lot of stored energy. In fact, the national severe weather center had predicted *no* severe weather for today in Colorado. Just goes to show you can't trust those weather critters. {*grin*} Another interesting part was that the process generated a band of thunderstorms from Denver all the way out to the Nebraska border, about 170 miles, that dropped hail from 2 to 3 inches in size. That is hail larger than a baseball! Fortunately the storms went north and south of us here and all we got was some really loud thunderclaps and a brief flood of rain.

Today as I perused the Denver Post's Arts and Entertainment section heading for my beloved crossword puzzles, my eye was caught by small photo in the fashion layout. My first thought was "That looks like Summer of Le Musings of Moi!" So I sent her a copy so she could see that she was nearly famous. {*grin*} See if you don't think it looks like Summer in her fashion poses:
(From 6/7/09 Denver Post)
Other than that, a quiet day. What was your day like?

A Day In My Life

I got the lawn mowed with no interruptions today! Hooray!

This morning L got ready to head back out to the Annual Conference of the Business and Professional Women (being hosted here) where she was a speaker and a judge. So I headed out into the jungle that is the lawn and whacked it to a more reasonable length. After cleaning up the mower and trimming, it was time to get on to the task of repairing the garage door opener..

I had to journey to the hardware store for the bolts I needed to repair the garage door opener. I couldn't escape running into someone I knew there. Pat had just returned from a multi-month sojourn in Belgium on a consulting assignment, so we had to spend a few moments catching up. It is always interesting to see Pat. He was one of the early employees we recruited to our company close to 20 years ago. At that time he had been operating a liquor store in California. We recruited and trained him to do customer service and he hasn't looked back. Pat is one of those guys that will try anything - skydiving, bungee jumping, you name it. All with an impish Irish grin.

Came back and fixed the garage door opener. It only involved about thirty trips up and down the ladder. So tonight my feet ache from hanging off the rungs. No one designs ladders for people with size 16+ feet.

It was then time to head over to Mom's for some gardening. Some of the plants weren't ready, so did some checking on the squash, replanting what wasn't germinating. We've had huge (for us) amounts of rain in the last week, so the weeds are growing like wildfire. Makes me suspect it will soon be time to hoe my way to fame and fortune.

L got done with the conference and we headed to Taco Bell for supper. Colorado Taco Bell's offer 4 tacos for a buck the day after the Rockies score 7 or more runs. (You have to buy a drink as well.) It has become a family tradition for L and the Son in the mountains to have tacos when they can. So L and I parked and walked inside, placed our order and then had a chance to visit with the gentleman and his wife who farmed and eventually bought our farm. It is amusing because he was (unknown to me until after we had been in business for quite some time) the best man at the wedding of one of my aunts (before I was around). He has been a Rockies fanatic since the franchise started, so he never misses the Rockies Tacos events. He was overjoyed a few years ago that the Rockies made it to the world series at least once in his life time.

We gathered our tacos and came home to eat. Then we headed over to do another therapy session for XXX. Then it was time to fix the toilet at the MIL's and finally return home. That is where L and I suckered ourselves into re-watching one of the Home Alone movies. L sat in the recliner with the heating pad on her back since it has been out of whack all week and I sat in an arm chair fending off Molly the Dog who thought she should be petted for the entire movie. A nice time that is all too rare in our hectic lives.

Finally got showered and sat down to write this. Thus it is a wee bit later than normal.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Meeting A Lot Of Acquaintences

Today was one of those days when it seems like too many people know who you are and have something to tell you.

At noon, L and I went to the BBQ fund raiser for Relay for Life. One of the local accounting firms has been sponsoring the event for years, making it one of the more successful events. Probably 500-600 people eating a hot dog or hamburger and some sides, watching the dunk tank (which I was not in this year - thank heavens - two balls for a buck). From the time we arrived to the time we left it was one person after another saying high and talking. Since L is so seldom in town during the week, all of her acquaintances and friends were saying hi and likewise without the excuse of absence for me.

So after a visit to XXX to remove the nerve block canula and a therapy session, I headed to Wally World for groceries and to fill some prescriptions. I swear that there were people lurking in the aisles just waiting for my appearance.

I went first to the pharmacy to drop off the prescriptions and ran into Steve, who I haven't seen in close to a year. Steve is someone who went to high school with me and is not noted for being the crispest cracker in the box. A nice guy, just very dense between the ears. So a conversation with Steve oft times is like trying to talk a river into running uphill - the information is present but not ingested. The clerk is trying to explain to Steve about the pricing of his prescription and his insurance coverage and made the mistake of telling Steve to work out which way of filling his prescription is best. This left Steve trying to decide which was better between $119 for 60 days or $57 for 30 days twice. I left off my prescriptions after talking to Steve. He was still standing by the counter trying to do the mental arithmetic. He was still standing there more than an hour later when I finished grocery shopping. I took pity on Steve and told him he could save $5 if he accepted the clerks 30 day version. That made him happy.

Then as I am heading down another aisle, I ran into Terri who wants a full update on how the Son is doing and how L is doing and what I am doing. Then she wants to plan a get together of the old club that L was a part of. I finally escape as her ice cream begins to drip out of the box and onto the floor.

The story was repeated aisle after aisle as I shopped. Most of them were people I hadn't run into in months. I usually count on losing 40 minutes or so on any visit to the store as someone will want to talk about city business, But today it was at least an hour of just random "How are you?" conversations with people I haven't seen in a while. Pleasant, but it shots the heck out of scheduling.

The whole effort is complicated by the fact that our Super WalMart is being remodeled and so nothing is in the same location two days in a row. Add to that the fact that I have two grocery lists in hand since Mom is still not up to hitting the store yet. I dream of the day when I can organize the lists so I can just walk a straight path from item to item and be done. Only another 30 days or so according to rumor. Of course, rumor had it that the bakery part of the remodel would be done two weeks ago (OK, not a rumor, but a sign on the plywood construction barrier from Wally World themselves.). It's still not done.

Hopefully I can mow the lawn in peace tomorrow.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Can You Guess ...

Time once more for


Five Pictures That I Bet You Can't Guess The Purpose Of





Ready to give up yet? Figured out why Duckie and I are battling to the death on the grounds of city hall? Need a hint?
  • Hint #1: Duckie is the mascot of the Blue Skies Therapeutic Riding Club. Blue Skies supplies therapeutic horse riding experiences for the differently abled and physically handicapped.
  • Hint #2: These pictures are from several years ago.
  • Hint #3: Blue Skies raises money each year by challenging a community group or leader to a ticket selling contest. Each side sells numbers on plastic ducks for a float race on the city spillway. Prizes are donated and the big winner also gets cash prizes.
  • Hint #4: The city council and I were the challengees for this particular year.
  • Hint #5: The challenge typically involves not only insane publicity, but a supremely embaressing moment for the loser.

Figured it out yet?

What you see above are some of the publicity photos used to hype the contest and generate ticket sales. Blue Skies seems to win most years, maybe because they have and avid and experienced sales staff (the volunteers from the group and the people they help). The year of these photos, it was a close race but we, the city council and myself, lost. Our embarrassing moment followed a few weeks after the duck float race: we had to enter the city council chambers at the start of an official meeting wearing cowboy hats and riding broom stick ponies while singing a certain western tune. Needless to say, the press was there with glee along with a pretty good size crew of Blue Skies supporters. 

 Now where are all of your embaressing photos?

Overrun Wednesday

Although this is normally the time for Mama Kat's Writers Challenge, today has been a bit too overloaded for me to do the prompts justice. So I encourage you to visit Mama Kat and read the responses, I really hated not to be able to do this weeks prompts since they appealed greatly to my sense of the interesting.

Today started with me getting up 4:30am. I had to pick up and take XXX to the hospital for surgery check-in at 5:45. I took her over walked her in until until the admission process was underway, then escaped down to the radio station for the weekly radio show, came back and got a little work done until 10:30am when recovery called and asked me to be there for the instructions from the physical therapist and to bring XXX home once she was fully aware.

XXX was having some shoulder and arm damage from a fall on the ice this winter surgically repaired. I am somewhat the family expert on shoulders and the associated therapy since I crushed my shoulder a few years ago. (You know it is not good when you go to the hospital and the X-ray tech calls everyone in radiology over to look at the pictures with words like "You have to see this, I've never seen one of these before!") After three surgeries and months of some of the most painful therapy I've ever done, I have at least 90% of the function back. So XXX has my full sympathy for what is coming.

In XXX's case the bone was not involved and so she should be able to avoid the locked shoulder and other problems that are attendant with immobilized shoulder joints. Given that I have experienced what happens if the manipulation exercises can't be or aren't done, I am probably the appropriate fanatic do the manipulations four times a day for the nonce. It will be interesting to see what develops. I don't think that XXX realized how much therapy was involved early in the recovery process.

In any case, the PT had a set of four external manipulation exercises to be performed in sets of 10 on the joint 4 times a day for the next four weeks and a start on on "official" (as in at the rehab center) next week. So I am currently the designated "fake" PT therapy person for XXX to do the four times a day exercises.  L got into town this afternoon and so I got a chance to get some stuff done this evening while L stayed with XXX. Right now it isn't too bad because XXX still has a continuous nerve block running. It will get a bit more interesting after Friday when I pull the nerve block canula and she begins the standard oxycontin and vicodan regimens for the pain.

In spite of all that, I was all ready to respond to the Writer's Challenge prompts when I got a phone call from L over at XXX's where she is spending the night with XXX. They couldn't figure out how to rehook the sling and pads, so I ran over and performed some velcro magic. Given it is now close to midnight, think of me playing PT as you read the Writer's Challenge responses. I'll be back for the next challenge.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Running on Empty

Beyond the fact that it is a classic song from Jackson Browne, "Running on Empty" often describes some of my feelings in very nice language. For those who weren't around for the No Nukes rallies of the late 70's, give this a listen:

It took me a while to forgive Mr. Browne for his uninformed support of the No Nuke movement. But I still find many of the lyrics in this resonate even now 30 years later.I always liked the line "people need some reason to believe" from the third verse. That has always struck me as one of the truisms of the song that carries real meaning.

In my brief foray into politics, I have definitely found that it is true. People do indeed need and want some reason to believe. It doesn't have to be a logical reason; it can be emotional or even imaginary. But once some reason has been presented and latched onto, people are willing to commit and believe and do great things. I am grateful for that, because it means that even a mediocre leader like me has a chance to get important things accomplished.

So I guess I'll keep on running on empty. What are you running on?

Monday, June 1, 2009

Odd Thoughts

This weekend as I was mowing the lawn, I pondered the question of what, if anything, plants think. It is a common theme in speculative and science fiction that plants have thoughts. Generally, plants like trees are pictured as having deep and ponderous thoughts while weeds are pictured along the lines of the flitting hummingbird with short and frivolous thoughts. My suspicion is that both ideas bear more than a trace of anthropomorphism. So my question to ponder was: "What do the flowers on a lilac bush think?"

This chain of illogic was brought on by the sight of the dried and sere remnants of the flowers on the lilac bush in the back yard. Like all lilac species, the blooms on my bush last only for a few short weeks in the spring. During that time they are present in profusion with a wonderful and powerful aroma. However, by this weekend, they were mostly brown shells with somewhat less than one out of a thousand little blooms still living. So the question that came unbidden to my mind was what the one still growing bloom in a bundle of flowers on the plant was thinking. Was it celebrating the life of its brothers and sisters now departed? Was it living in fear that it too would soon pass from this world? Or was it soaking up the last of the sun's rays as it ended its brief life?

What kind of thoughts would go through your mind if you had to watch all your brothers and sisters die in a short span, but you were still hanging on like that lonely flower? I could picture all kinds of mental reactions. The real problem I had is that it is truly hard to escape the prison of our own anthropomorphism and attribute really different thoughts to the plant. Or to put it in the converse, it is really hard to think of a possible thought for the flower that has not already been expressed by or about some human being.

So I'll ask you - what do you think was going through the mind of the poor surviving flower? You can assume that the flower had a mind. I'm willing to grant that as a given. Call me a throwback to all the funky Russian journals full of Kirlian photography from the 60's claiming to see plants thinking. Or just call it a topic to consider. And please don't tell me it was thinking of schemes like those that fill my spam folder. I figure only humans are that depraved and gullible. {*grin*}
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